Listen to My Interview with Darker Days Podcast

If you’ve been following my work, you probably recall White Wolf Publishing released Scenes of the Embrace earlier this month. Just recently, Mike Andryuk interviewed me for the sixteenth episode of his podcast called Darker Days.

One of the things we talked about, was how Scenes of the Embrace, which was geared toward Vampire: the Requiem, differed from the 2005 release of The Giovanni Chronicles I: The Last Supper for Vampire: the Masquerade. Admittedly, the question threw me for a loop because I wasn’t sure how the two related. In my product, we developed a toolkit for Storytellers where an Embrace may or may not occur. It’s not an adventure, but a collection of scenes. Last Supper was a very specific storyline which fit within Vampire: the Masquerade, a game more heavily focused on metaplot than Vampire: the Requiem.

Mind you, I thought his questions about Vampire: the Masquerade were interesting. From my perspective, the two game lines are very different. Not only do they have separate themes, but they’re also developed and managed in unique ways. After talking to Mike I can see how a fan might be interested in exploring both lines. I’m just happy to help promote the product, because I enjoyed writing about so many different types of embraces; the transformation from human to vampire is a very powerful moment indeed.

Mike also brought up Devil’s Night, which is a free download on FlamesRising.com. One of the things I like about the new World of Darkness, is the ability to play a mortal character who doesn’t understand all the horrors around her. I thought it was really neat to hear Mike talk about the main character, Gabriella, the way I hoped players and fans would.

If you get the chance, you can listen to the episode via the embedded player below or by visiting this link. To discuss it, hop on over to the Darker Days Facebook page.

Enjoy!

From Writing to Platform and Back Again

A long time ago, when the internet was just starting to take off, I was at university studying the craft of writing. From research papers to marketing copy and competitions, I was immersed in words. I read. I told stories. I lived the dream. And I had a lot of fun. What was this pesky thing called money or career or contracts? I didn’t care.

Then I graduated.

Typed Characters | Sxc.huSince those glory days, I have joined the ranks of millions of writers out there who desperately desire they’ll make money doing what they love. While I’ve managed to do okay so far, I haven’t achieved my goals yet. Like anything else I suppose, it’s a love-hate relationship. I love to write, but there are times I hate dealing with the business aspects.

Enter Jim Frenkel, editor at Tor Books.

I met Jim a while ago at a convention called OddCon. Over the past couple of years, he and I have had the pleasure of sitting down to talk shop. I remember one of our conversations very clearly. I was saying all the things I “thought” was supposed to say and Jim scolded me. Gently, mind you. But it stuck.

Because I do not have a photographic memory, I can’t quote exactly what he said. The gist of it, was that I expressed myself in a way that sounded like I didn’t love to write. “Don’t ever do that,” he said. “Don’t ever let an editor hear that.” That bit, I remember very clearly.

At the time I was working full-time and, like everyone else, had one too many responsibilities. Worried about providing value for the clients I had, I was all about platform and visibility and experimentation, etc.

The thing is, Jim was exactly right. I know how much I love to write and tell stories, but do you? To generate readers and build a reputation as an author, the formula is a lot simpler than others would have you believe. Write, edit, submit, rinse, repeat. Over and over again, as many times as it takes, because I love to do it. Money aside, the repetition is necessary. Not because my hands are chained to my keyboard, or because I expect I’ll be a best-selling author some day. Simply, it’s to develop a following who will read and buy my work.

I am very fortunate that I have a professional background in online marketing, because I have knowledge I can apply to whatever I do. From analytics to SEO and social media, the skills I continue to hone are invaluable to me personally and professionally. I’ve garnered a lot of followers and friends on social media, and as important as they are to me, they’re people who I interact with online. They’re not a replacement for readers.

All this talk about the publishing business and whatnot is severely hurting non-established authors like myself. Instead of talking about writing and honing our craft, which should be eighty percent of what we do, these discussions give non-established authors the impression that the remaining twenty percent is more important. I cannot even begin to count how many discussions I’ve had with other authors about this, either. The focus is on getting ahead by increasing our marketing skills. The trouble is, online marketing doesn’t do jack unless you have a legitimate reason to do it. I’ve heard something like this time and time again.

    BIFF: “I need to be on Facebook and Twitter and blog and…”

    ME: “Why?”

    BIFF: “Because everyone else is doing it and agent so-and-so said I needed a platform.”

    ME: “Are you writing?”

    BIFF: “Of course, I am!”

    ME: “Are you published?”

    BIFF: “Not really, but agent so-and-so said my chances of getting published increase if I have…”

    ME: “So, let me get this straight. An agent said your chances of getting published increase if you have a platform. Where have you been submitting your manuscripts? Query letters?”

    BIFF: “Well, I haven’t gotten around to that yet. I’ve been too busy blogging and Tweeting and…”

    ME: *head desk*

I’m sorry, Biff, but unless you plan on going the self-publishing route, you’re missing the point. If you want to increase your chances of getting published, you still have to submit your work to a publisher. Online marketing is still important, but only if the core of your business is solid.

From tie-in fiction to my original work, I have a lot of fun doing what I do. I’m very happy with the work I’ve already published and the stories I have yet to tell. I am, however, extremely and expressly realistic about who I am, where I want to go, and what it’ll take to get there. Without readers, without a good reputation with other writers, editors and publishers, I might as well recite stories to my cats all day.

They’re not exactly the best listeners. 🙂

Branding the New (Old) Apex Book Company

Jason and I have had a few conversations about branding Apex Book Company that have resulted in a few, very positive changes. I reminded him that as a small press publisher he can really dig in and give something to his readers in a way that some larger publishers can’t.

You see, Jason has a valuable asset that he brings to the company: his heart. He truly loves and cares about his business because he’s very passionate about the stories he’s selling and the authors he’s promoting. While some businesses can afford to be more formal, I felt that Jason could not due to the size of his staff and the personalities of the people who help him.

Although there’s a lot of love here, the core business has to be soluble so he can strengthen his bottom line and grow the business. So Jason has an interesting challenge. How does he encourage people to buy without ramming his products down their throat?

So far, a number of business-facing changes we’ve discussed have occurred to achieve that goal.

+ Offer lower price-point products for e-readers (Alien Shots)
+ Set basic guidelines for bloggers to sharpen the overall focus and keyword market
+ Erase charity term “support” from terminology
+ Set monthly goals for subscriptions and internally express those
+ Tweak website to make it easier to navigate
+ Discuss internal rewards program for volunteers/interns

After two weeks, Jason is hearing excellent feedback and is already starting to see things move in a positive direction. The best part about all of this, is that Jason doesn’t have to do anything he feels uncomfortable with. In other words: my advice has been based on what he already had, not with what I think he should have.

Last week, he wrote an excellent post about Dru Pagliassoti talking about her new book release An Agreement With Hell. He’s still doing all the other things a publisher has to do to spread the word, but this? This is the type of publisher I’d want in my corner.

Check out his introduction:

The first time I met Dru Pagliassotti, she rejected me.

To clarify, this was years ago when I was a naive writer-wannabe (as opposed, you know, to now) and was cranking out crap short stories and shooting them off to publications without much thought or peer input. Good grief, I look back at those early submissions and cringe. Especially after running a short fiction magazine in some shape or form for the past 6+ years. But here I am making this about me when this is about Dru. –SOURCE: Dru Pagliassotti and Me

He then goes on to talk about Dru, her work and what he feels about it. The relationships that he’s building. The way he cares about books.

This type of messaging is what will permeate throughout the year in everything Apex does. While its readership will change, its core focus will be on highlighting and fostering relationships to strengthen its customer base and allow its dedicated cabal of readers and fans to grow.

Do Good Deeds. Submit a Story for Australia

Hi,

Just wanted to pop in today to mention that due to the massive flooding in Australia an editor has put together a charity anthology. To read more about what happened in Australia, check out my post on the Apex Book Company blog.

The fantasy and science fiction community has been affected by this flood. A charity anthology with one hundred stories is being put together as we speak by native Aussie Jodi Cleghorn to benefit Queensland. Apex Book Company has published stories by other authors living in Australia; we have not been able to confirm whether or not they’re in the middle of this, but our hearts go out to them anyway. Many of you may have recently traveled to Australia for conventions and may have met an author or editor affected by the flood, too. — SOURCE: Australia Flood Relief: Reaching Out to Friends Across the Sea

The details for this charity anthology have been posted in a press release. You can read that on FlamesRising.com.

100 Stories for Queensland is headed by Brisbane resident and co-owner of eMergent Publishing, Jodi Cleghorn, and UK author, Trevor Belshaw. The management team is made up of Maureen Vincent-Northam, David W Robinson and Nick Daws who all worked on the Haiti and Pakistan anthologies with McQueen. They are assisted by a growing band of 20 volunteer readers and editors from across the globe. McQueen is working behind the scenes, organising the audio book and podcasts in conjunction with UK author and podcaster Em Newman. — SOURCE: 100 Stories for Queensland: Writers across the world rally for flood victims

The deadline for submissions is January 31st. While they are asking for uplifting stories, the length is only 500 words. I hope you’ll consider donating your stories to this fundraiser.

Writing the Future, the Slow Creep of Ages

My friend (and incorrigible Scrabble player) Maurice Broaddus and I had a long conversation last year about setting goals. One thing that he tries to do is have twelve short stories out in the wilds. Good idea! I was up to half a dozen, but right now I’m back down to three, since the others got picked up by various publishers.

Two of those three are set in a far-flung future that was going to be a game. (That’s another story…) Anyway, this setting was developed about ten years ago. To create it, I took three basic elements: economy, politics, and overpopulation and spun them out about five hundred years into the future. For some of the physical setting elements to make sense, the time period is noted 1,000 years ahead.

Here’s what I predicted back then:

+ The Republican Party will splinter, creating new political groups. One portion will be based on a platform for gun rights and will be funded by the NRA. The other, a religious-based group with a heavy emphasis on Christian fundamentalism.

+ Credit card companies will collapse. Due to poor economic conditions, more people will rely on credit cards to survive. Unfortunately, their combined inability to pay these bills will result in a massive institutional collapse. This has a permanent effect on the economy and credit cards are no longer issued to most individuals.

+ Indentured servitude will return, replacing minimum-wage jobs. To erase debt and ease the financial devastation caused by massive debt, some corporations will offer indentured servitude in exchange for a clean slate.

+ Corporations will emerge as families. Instead of having a corporation that you work for, bills to pay, housing to find, etc. My characters have campuses they live on. Everything is provided for them as long as they are loyal to the corporation. It’s a skilled worker’s best chance at having a decent life.

+ Government will fracture into city-states. Five hundred years from now, the expansion of cities and the problems they deal with will be handled moreso on a local than a national level. My characters live in, for lack of a better explanation, micro-countries. While the government is still present, they occupy three spaces at that time instead of one in D.C. They’re in Chicago and L.A. specifically. Part of the reason why these centers exist, is because after a while our Federation of States begins to creep into Canada and parts of Mexico.

+ We ration. Everything. Overpopulation is a drain on all our resources, so goods–including water, basic foodstuffs, clothing, etc.–are not readily available. There is a very visible division between the rich and the poor. No middle class. No lower class. In most places, either you have or you don’t. Over ninety-five percent of the population has nothing. As as result, we do some interesting things to try to survive and help one another.

For this world, many countries degrade through a series of events and factors that we do not work together to prevent. Um, yeah… I did make predictions for multiple countries… The two that I focused heavily on were Russia, due to the huge find they’ll one day discover beneath Siberia, and China.

Now, this is fiction. None of these things may happen, but I feel that they could. Hence, as a writer, I feel I can provide a more realistic setting that you can really relate to. Here, there is no apocalypse. Just the slow creep of time and the aggregation of multiple events.

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