Thursday, May 11, 2017

Writing Prompts

I belong to a local writing group and our meetings usually start with a writing prompt.

The fascinating thing about these prompts are how many truly different stories can arise from a single prompt. Since our group has horror, sf and fantasy authors; all three types of stories may well be represented.

If you gave the same writing prompt to 100 different writers, you would get 100 different stories. It's quite likely that some would be similar, but you have a few people who took the prompt in a completely different way. You would have a few people who managed to create a twist for the ending. Some of the stories would be short, others would be much longer.

A couple of the flash fiction stories I have posted on my web site started as a group writing prompt. They needed a bit of work, and usually a proper ending, before they could be posted. They were quite different from stories by our other members though.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Most recent story

Forgot to mention that a new short story Seven Years Bad Luck is available to read from my web site.

The story begins with a vampire who smashes a mirror. When this vampire's luck is bad, it's very bad indeed.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Finishing stories - can be harder than it sounds

As of now, I have about a dozen short stories in various stages of being written. A couple of them are just started, most are toward the middle of the tale in question.

Short stories need to have a good tale, well told, with just enough detail to allow the reader to see what you see. But given that you are asked for 3000 to 8000 words, if you want to submit it for publication, you have to keep verbosity to a minimum.

So, I tend to go off on a tangent, then start a new story rather than finish and fix the one I'm working on. This is a bad habit.

At least with novels, I do have a better habit of attempting to finish one before starting the next. Of the various novels I am working on, only one still doesn't have any sort of end. The others, generally need more work on both the first chapters and the final one, but they do reach some reasonable end point.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reflections

It's worth always double checking urls and online submissions before you submit. (I tend to start an email and work on it for days checking and double checking things before it's sent.)
So far in 2017, one of the book publishers I listed in my google spreadsheet has decided to close their doors. Today, I found that Australian Literary Management - has a base wordpress site instead of content. I had noted that ALM wasn't keen on representing Spec Fic - they had three fantasy/horror titles and the most recent was from 2006. The wordpress thing may be temporary or they may have just changed hosts but it could be that they've abandoned the site.
So, since my manuscript has been to the one agency in Australia currently accepting fantasy, it's time to send it overseas.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

New story online

From the Tales told by Grandfather Sammy we have The City of Gilgam.

Teaser


Literary Agents vs Direct Submissions



In the quest to become a published author, I have developed a list of publishers interested in the genre I write and are willing to online submissions directly from authors.

But instead of sending my first novel to all of those publishers, it's going to make the round of literary agents. Why?


  1. Agents have access to publishers that a new novelist does not.
  2. If an agent accepts your novel, you know that they are going to work at getting it published because their fees depend on it.
    (Subnote: do not ever submit to an agent who charges reading fees. Reputable agents will not charge a reading fee.)
  3. The agent should be able to advise on contract offerings from a publisher.
  4. As one agency site pointed out, you don't want to submit your novel to many publishers and use an agent as a last resort. Publishers are NOT going to want to see the work twice, so you are hampering the efforts of the agent.
The first two agents I have in mind will be seeing the manuscript exclusively. After that, it's time for the shotgun approach, find 5 or 6 agents will to look at manuscripts of the right genre from new authors and submit. Repeat as required.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Too Many Options

In a way, I think there are too many options for self-publishing these days.

What brought that thought on was my first visit to Patreon.com. Interesting platform and if you have the social media in place to build a following, it could be a great option. I even found two traditionally published fantasy writers who are now using Patreon to generate a steady income.

The main Patreon site isn't particularly friendly toward discovering writers though. It took a couple of tries to start finding fantasy writers - which is why I believe that you need good social media contacts. It covers all sorts of creative endeavours, and is far better than kickstarter for regular revenue streams.

Other platforms include Smashwords, Amazon has kindle direct and CreateSpace, and many more options. Of course, there are still vanity/scam publishers out there so you must be careful.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Celebrating David Bowie

My husband and I just came back from a mini-holiday in Sydney, the main purpose was to see this show.

Three hours of Bowie music, with a large number of performers many of whom had worked with David during his long career. This includes Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Adrian Belew, Mark Plati,  Sterling Campbell, and Holly Palmer plus Angelo Moore from Fishbone, Bernard Fowler from The Rolling Stones, Gaby Moreno and Scrote. Several Australian artists (Bernard Fanning, Sarah Blasko, Paul Dempsey and Chris Cheney) came out and sang. (List taken from the official Sydney opera house list)

I had two criticisms of the show. The balance between the band and the vocalists changed over the course of the evening and by the end of the night, it was really hard to hear the singers. If they weren't singing at full volume, they were overwhelmed by the musicians. The second is that they didn't play much from David's more recent work. There was one song from "The Next Day" and nothing at all from "Blackstar" or other later albums.

Those to the side, it was a wonderful show and I was glad that we managed to catch it. Several times the singers told the audience to get up and dance because this was a celebration. Some did, some didn't but a good time was had by all.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

End of year reflection

In a personal sense, 2016 was a fine year. I meet a new group of fellow writers. We traveled. I became a little more serious about becoming a published writer. This included redeveloping http://www.pibweb.com and getting stories published by Artgaze Magazine (http://artgazemagazine.com/2016/10/10/short-story-the-dungeon-competition-by-lynn-alford/ and in the magazine http://artgazemagazine.com/2016/10/15/artgaze-magazine-rebirth-is-here/)

In another sense, it was a less than stellar year. While every year sees the death of celebrities, this year seemed to take a few more that I cared about than some do. Plus the US election was the cause of a lot of angst. So glad that I live in Australia where election campaigns have short time frames.


Friday, December 09, 2016

The Weird World of Web Stats

Web site stats have always been problematic. For pretty much the entire time that web sites/servers started keeping statistics, there have been those trying to exploit them.

This blog, as an example, doesn't have that many real people per day visit it. And yet the blogger stats page says it gets 200+ hits a day. Most of this would be various spammer hits, bots that visit the page hoping that either a) you are silly enough to publish your referrers or b) that you will use the links left behind by the referrers. Bad news people, I am not EVER following those links.

Now for the actual sites, it gets interestingly really weird. My current host offers AW Stats. I also have my site set to use Google analytics. The two of them paint very different pictures. Some of that is to be expected. AW Stats has access to the log - the real hits to my site. While it tries hard, it does have a difficult time separating all the spiders/bots that visit the site from the real visitors. So it over estimates the number of people who visit.

Analytics, on the other hand, under counts. It relies on javascript to send information to google, so every hit without javascript is not counted. The true number of visitors would be a bit higher than analytics says but not as high as AW stats.

But where the story gets really wild are the referral spam. There are basically two sets, those who target normal logs/stats and those who target your analytics.

I do understand why there are those who target normal logs. Some web sites publish their stats, you can find AW stats out there. So any referral spammer in those logs might get their links published with the stats. Since my stat page is private, it makes little difference to me. I wish that they'd stop but that's not likely to happen this decade.

I do not understand why anyone specially targets analytics. I've had sites with fake languages show up in the language area. I've had sites that I know don't link to mine show up as referrers. I've even had to block some sites that used my tracking code on their page and showed up as one of my "most hit" pages. To me, that's just weird.

In particular though, the referrers that show up in the AW stats are mostly different to those that show up in the analytic stats. There are a few that are in both and a few that are ACTUAL referrers to my site. For the most part, they are different.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

As November comes to a close

I have won NaNoWriMo 2016. Not by a lot of words, though I can add a bit to my count by the end of the day.

It's an interesting process, trying to make yourself write 50,000 words in 30 days. I usually have a few really good days where progress is easy and a few really bad ones where each word is a struggle. The average day has good and bad moments.

I may or may not participate in 2017. At this point, I have 6 novels written. Only one of them is truly publisher ready. So my real goal for 2017 is to get at least two more novels to the point where I can let others read them.

I may also start a search for an agent. While I have a list of publishers who

  1. Accept fantasy novels
  2. Take unsolicited manuscripts
  3. Have an entirely online process for them
It would be nice to have an agent. Granted, they take a cut but they should be able to find markets for manuscripts.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Reading your novel to an audience


Having read some articles on how to read your work to an audience, here are my favourite tips.


  1. Practice the piece before hand. Get a feel for your reading. 
  2. Remember to smile at your audience and look at them from time to time.
  3. Speak slowly. You want to give the audience time to process your words. It's not a race. 
  4. Don't mumble either. Your audience wants to hear your words, speaking too fast or mumbling isn't making it easy for them.
  5. Give meaning to your words as you read. Emphasis some points, give characters their own voices.
  6. Pause as you read and don't forget to breath.
  7. Use body language to help emphasis points.
  8. Respect any time limits imposed at the venue.
As a personal note, one of the reasons that you may read too quickly or forget to breath is that you have a fear of public readings. I had this problem at one stage. I could practice my talk and have it take 8 minutes when I was alone and 6 minutes when I had an audience. Since talking in front of an audience was part of the assessment of the course I was doing, I had to keep doing it.

One day, the fear was gone. The fact that I was standing in front of an audience didn't bother me in the least and it's never bothered me since. So if you find that you are really nervous when talking in front of a group, you do have to remember that they want to hear what you have to say. Plus the practice may well help you get over the fear at some point.



For more, search for "reading your work to an audience"

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why I want to use a traditional publisher

When I first started writing and looking into publishing, a couple of decades ago, you either went with a traditional publisher or you went to a vanity publisher. Vanity publishers had a bad reputation and if you were serious about your work, you just didn't consider it.

That was some years ago and these days, self publishing is much more respectable. There's many places to go as well; Amazon has CreateSpace, there's Smashwords, and much much more.

But I would still like to go with a traditional publisher. Why?

Mostly, so I can work on writing and let someone else worry about

  1. Covers
  2. Layout
  3. Editing
  4. Distribution
  5. Promotion
I'm certainly willing to do my share when it comes to editing and book promotion. I'd like input in the cover art however good covers are for graphic artists/designers. But I just don't really have the network in place to self-promote effectively. Nor do I have the confidence required to promote.

There are downsides to traditional publishing. It's simply going to take longer for the book to be available. I will see rejection letters on a regular basis. 

I may seek an agent, just because they are professionals that know the publishing market. They get a share which they will have earned.

It is a long road though. No matter what, I will try.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The novel is going well

Right now, it could easily be mistaken for a historical novel based on ancient Rome. There are gladiators, temples and a pantheon of gods/goddesses.

Soon it should switch to being fantasy. Namely, a goddess is about to make an appearance in the novel and after that, nothing else will quite be the same.

---

In other news, this blog is suffering from severe referral spam that makes it look like it's getting a lot of hits. Annoying (and never ever hit referral spam urls in your blogger reports. It could get ugly.)

And the US is officially insane after the election results. I just don't know how that was allowed to happen.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

New November - New novel

NaNoWriMo is once again upon us.

I have spent my usual amount of prep time which is nearly none. I'm taking an idea that was a short story and expanding on the basic idea.

Hoping to keep my calendar green - and write the minimum words per day at least.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Why oh why?

After I moved my web site to a new host, one of the things I set up was for one email address to be a catch all.

Once that was set, I found that someone has been using the domain when setting up facebook accounts. Lots and lots of facebook accounts with a female first names.

I'm not sure what the point is. As far as I can tell, the accounts can't be used, you need to confirm the email address with facebook before the account can be used.

So, the domain will now bounce any such messages back to facebook. They aren't valid and they aren't useful.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

No web site today

So, my host had the ultimate nightmare scenario happen. A script to update a service ran overnight and deleted some key files. Now some of their shared services are down and my site is one of the victims.

Of course, everybody knows that you should be careful about running updates. But things slip through and the company will be much more cautious about automatic scripts running over night.

In the meantime, I have a dead site. Not that pibweb.com was being terribly active of late but this is not going to improve things at all.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

My Mac is back

My poor Mac stopped working a week ago. Given that the Mac is my primary writing computer, this is a worry just before NaNoWriMo.

The local repair shop found that the hard drive had died. So they replaced the drive and installed the base IOS.

Fortunately, I was using Time Machine to back up the Mac. So it's nearly back to normal.

Without the Mac, NaNo would be much harder. This is not an excuse now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Download the magazine

The Rebirth issue of ArtGaze magazine is now available via GumRoad.

It is worth noting that I know 2 of the other 3 authors with short stories in this issue. Also that they have set this issue to pay as you like. So you can download it for free, or throw in a few dollars to keep the magazine going.

The last story in the issue is mine - The Gladiator. If you haven't gotten around to reading it before, now might be a good time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ArtGaze publishes two of my stories

It is a local art magazine. One of the stories is due out in the next few days as part of the rebirth issue.

The other story is out now on the ArtGaze blog.

Nice to see that a story is appreciated and published somewhere outside of my web site pibweb.com/story/

Now, for my next trick, getting someone to buy a story.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

How to annoy a web site owner

It was very simple. Someone embedded an 100 k image from on old game on a forum post.

Because it was embedded, the image was being served from my site.  In two days, it had about 4,000 to 5,000 downloads. While my site does have the bandwidth to serve it for a while, I'm not inclined to be nice when there are no visitors from the forum to my site. I can see that all the hits were just the image - absolutely no one visited my site from that. Not even the review the image is linked to.

So the image has been renamed. When things settle back down, I'll change the name back.

The trick is definitely that I just don't want to find my site runs out of bandwidth for a month because someone embeds a game image. I would not care if they made a copy of it. It's an old game, it's an old review and there's nothing particularly tricky about the screenshot.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

More NaNo thoughts

One of the things that I consider important for my NaNo success is my NaNo writing buddy - Cami.

We both use Skype and send each other quick texts throughout the NaNo season.

We encourage each other, try to shame each other, and generally motivate each other to write enough words to stay on track. We've done word wars against each other. We ask each other random questions about plots.

We also complain about characters going off on tangents, how much we don't want to write today, why on earth do we do this to ourselves every year.

None of this may sound like much but it is part of my NaNoWriMo process and part of the reason that I've actually succeeded every year. The novels are never completed in that month, and they'll certainly need much editing at some point but they are 50,000 + words along by the end of the month.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

November approaches

So does the annual event National Novel Writing Month.

It turns out that I'm addicted to this challenge. You would think have several novels that need editing would be enough for me. But no, I can't resist the call of NaNoWriMo.

Some years, I do little prep at all. I go into the challenge with one or more main characters in my head. A basic idea of what the story should be but little more than that.

In 2012, I had a story line that I'd been posting to tumblr that I decided was part of a much bigger story. So that year, I had some of the world worked out and a clearer picture of the main character than usual.

This year is similar. Earlier in the year, I wrote a short story "The Gladiator". A couple of people remarked that they were interested in what happens next. Expanding this to a novel gives me the opportunity to better develop the back stories of the characters and then send them off to change the world. So, I have characters and I know how the first part of the story goes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Local writing group

While everyone thinks that writers seal themselves away and rarely come out of their office, the reality can be more complicated. You need time to recharge and contact with people

Though they have been around for some time, it was only earlier this year that I discovered a local writing group. Better, they are a speculative fiction writing group which means they write similar content to mine.

It's good because there are fortnightly meetings, writing prompts, discussions and feedback on projects.

So, I can recommend finding a local writing group. If you can't find a specific one that covers the sort of writing you do, there should be a general writing group somewhere in the area.

Monday, August 29, 2016

This story is proving tricky

It's based on a dream. By the time I woke up, all that I could recall of the dream was a magic cauldron producing thousands of maggots, melting symbols off the cauldron which also caused the sorceress who was using it to be sealed into a golden helmet.

It makes for an interesting story premise and I'm sure I'll sort it out at some point. But so far, I'm on the second attempt at writing it and I'm not happy with the result yet. So I will probably finish this version and then try again.

Weird for me, usually by this point, I should have at least some story that I can work with. Not this time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Late Night Encounter - a short story

Jen glanced at her phone as the train pulled into her station. “I have got to stop agreeing to impossible timelines,” she thought to herself as she realised that the time was 10 minutes to midnight. No matter what bonuses the boss promised, it just wasn’t worth the late nights spent in the office. A hastily eaten meal at her desk wasn’t helping her mood.


There was no one in the station when Jen descended from the train. She found the lack of sound to be far more disturbing than the usual bustle of activity. With a light shiver, she rubbed her hands over her arms. The thin business jacket she had on wasn’t enough to keep the chill from her bones. Why did places insist on keeping the AC at arctic temperatures all year round?


Jen heard the clatter as the train doors automatically closed. She could hear the noise of the train pulling away from the station and for a moment, the noise of the wheels scrapping along the track was all she could hear. The rumble of the train grew louder as it picked up speed and then started to fade as it sped away from the station.


“Is there anyplace sadder than a station with no one around?” Jen pondered. She pulled her bag to a more comfortable position as she walked through the deserted station. Heels were seldom the most subtle sounding footwear but sharp click of her heels echoed strangely as she walked. She crossed her arms and hunched over. It seemed even colder than it had been a minute ago. Jen walked faster to warm up, her heels making even more noise against the tile floor.


“Home. If it weren’t so late, I’d take a bath before bed. As it is, I’ll have to be up again in 5 hours to start another day,” thought Jen. “At least home is close. I don’t know how long I’d have to wait for a taxi.” The clatter of her heels seemed to be even noisier than before, it echoed all around her. Jen frowned in exasperation. She wished her job didn’t require heels but her boss had made it clear that they were.


Her stride slowed when the station lights behind her suddenly went off. “Annoying,” she thought. “Hey! Can’t you wait for me to get out, please?” she called. How annoying was it that she said please to an unseen janitor? Worse, there was no acknowledgement of her request but at least the lights stopped going out.


She resumed walking to the exit. The combination of having no lights left on at the platform and the weird echoing of her footsteps was beginning to spook Jen. She could swear that each click was echoed dozens of times. Jen looked from left to right. The shadows of all the equipment seemed normal but there was something that Jen didn’t like about it. “It’s late. There’s no one here. That’s all. There’s nothing to be worried about,” Jen told herself. Her mind darted toward stories of women being abducted from lonely places at night and a shiver went up and down her spine. She looked around again to reassure herself that there was no one else around.


Jen instinctively held her bag tighter. She breathed a small sigh of relief as her hand touched the door handle. “I didn’t think I’d ever reach the exit tonight. It’s never seemed to be quite so far.”


She was surprised to find she was still cold. It had been a balmy evening when she left the city. “I wish I’d worn the heavier jacket. Though my feet would still be frozen,” she muttered to herself. She was so engrossed in that thought that she failed to notice the car behind her until the driver honked the horn when he was just a few meters away.


The young men laughed when Jen noticeably jumped at the sound of the horn. Then the driver put his foot down and the car roared off into the distance.


Jen halted, her heart pounding hard in her chest. “Bastards,” she said. She waited for a moment, wondering what she could do if the car went around the block. She was still two blocks from home, there was no way to get there quickly enough. Jen breathed in deeply, if the car came back, there were a few trees that she could duck behind. Her heart rate slowed and she exhaled.


With a bang, the street light closed to her went out. Her heart rate resumed its frantic pace. “If I click my heels together, will I get home Auntie Em?” With a small sigh, Jen resumed the walk home.


A few steps later, Jen looked around, frowning. It sounded as though she was still in the station, the echoes of her clicking heels resounding through the empty building. But she was outside now, there was no way that sounds should still be echoing.


Jen looked all around. She didn’t see anyone nearby but something was off. It was like somewhere under the trees, something weird was there. But with the dim lights, she couldn’t make anything out. She set off again, this time at the fastest walk that she could maintain in her heels. Her heart was thudding painfully in her chest, her breath was in short puffs.


Jen kept looking behind her, trying to see what was making all the clicking noise. She was rewarded this time with a glimpse of a head. “A dog? That head would be almost even with my knee.” The dog had strange ears though, so long and thin.


She took another look and then Jen began to run instead of walk. That was no dog, dogs had ears and whatever the hell was following her had antennae. Also it had a lot of legs. She didn’t count but what she had seen was definitely more than four legs.


Jen cursed her high heels as she ran. They were awkward as all hell and yet she dared not pause to take them off. Not when that thing was racing along behind her. She stumbled for an instant and sprang up again. She was gasping for breath, her heart pounding in her chest. It seemed loud enough to Jen that she was surprised no one opened a door to find out what was wrong.


Jen would have sighed with relief when she was only two houses away from home, if only she had any breath to spare. As it was, there was a painful stitch in her side making it harder to inhale. Only the thought of the horror behind her kept her running at all. “Just a little further,” Jen encouraged herself. “Keep running just a little further and I’ll be safe at home.”


Jen started digging through her bag as she ran, searching frantically for the keys. Would she have time enough to unlock the door? A quick glance behind showed that the creature was closer than ever. Could she hurt it with the keys, at least a little? Jen shuddered at the thought of being close enough to hit it with keys. All those legs! The body of the beast looked scaly and not soft.


Jen had nearly reached the path leading to her door when another car drove down the street. The creature made a hideous shriek at the sudden light and vanished into the hedge next door. Jen dashed up the stairs and unlocked her door with a feeling of relief. Home at last.


















Thursday, August 18, 2016

My new endeavour - Inkshares

I've been thinking about how to promote some of my novels that aren't likely to be accepted by a traditional publisher.

Then one of our local writing group started talking about inkshares.com. Think of a kickstarter for novels. If your novel can gain enough interest, Inkshares will act as a traditional publisher.

For my first Inkshares project, I decided to put up the first of my NaNoWriMo novels, currently titled "The Weather Maker".

When I first was thinking about the story I wanted to write, I was thinking along the lines of the classic fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" in which the heroine has to travel to the four corners of the globe. By the time that I had written the first part of the story, it had transformed into something different.

Check out "The Weather Maker" on inkshares. Please follow the novel or follow my profile if all my writing interests you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The problem with a long holiday

Is simply trying to get back into the rhythm of things. We were gone for over a month. Now back for several days and my brain still refuses to concentrate on things properly.

I should be writing.
I should be editing.
I should be sketching.

I should not be spending all my time mucking about with mobile games and reading web stuff.

Sheesh.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Committing to writing a novel - some thoughts

I'm a veteran of NaNoWriMo - I've participated every year since 2011. I have also 'won' the challenge every time.


  1. Commit to writing every day. Set a minimum word goal per day and do your best to exceed it. To write 50,000 words in 30 days requires 1,666 words a day.
  2. A first draft is really just getting the basic story out of your head. There will be mistakes. Ignore them for now.
  3. It's all right to jump in your timeline to scenes that are more complete in your head. Just be sure to mark areas that you want to come back to.
       In Scrivener, I mark sections that I'm skipping or are really rough with a bright pink background.
       I mark sections that are okay but need to be moved at a later date with a blue background.
  4. Keep writing every day until you have completed the first draft.
      A well known phenomena is that at some point, you'll be convinced that your novel is the most pointless one to ever exist. KEEP WRITING. Stephen King threw Carrie in the trash at one point - his wife convinced him to keep with it.
  5. Set the novel to the side when the first draft is done. You need to let the first frenzy of writing calm down.
  6. Now, you have to commit to editing the novel. Remember, it was a first draft. There will be problems; those scenes that you skipped, things that need to move, things that need to change. Word counts are no longer as important - promise yourself to spend at least some amount of time per day editing.
  7. You need to remember to edit the entire novel. Don't just polish the first chapter and call the job done. 
  8. Once you have done a basic edit, you can let others read your work. Get feedback and do the changes.
  9. Once you have done all of this, congratulations - you have achieved novel. :D

Monday, June 13, 2016

Writing is easy

But editing is hard.

Well, that's how it seems at the moment. Editing a novel takes far longer for me than the first draft did. I should really concentrate on making the critical changes and then ship one novel off to a publisher. Just so I don't have to see it.

Been trying to write a short story but it needs polish before publish.