Do You Need Your Own Website? Read My New SFWA Article

If you’re an author or a professional freelancer who is weighing the pros and cons of having your own web presence, you might be interested in reading my new article over at the website of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.

Here’s a brief excerpt of the article:

    The Pros and Cons of Having Your Own Website

    Whenever I’m at a convention, one of the more common questions I am asked is: “Do I need to have my own website?” I always counter with, “Well, what do you want to use the website for?” Several have answered me either with the proud declaration “To get published, of course!” or “To sell my books!”

    Having an online presence may or may not translate to your desired action, in part because your presence really is about “you” as a person rather than “you” the author.

Be sure to visit the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America to read The Pros and Cons of Having your own Website.

Writing Reviews Can Help You, Too!

Writing a review of someone else’s work is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to learn how to do. Teleporting out of my creative mindset to critique a book or a movie was pretty challenging, because it forced me to deconstruct how someone else put together a particular body of work. So instead of creating something from scratch, I needed to get down to the bare bones of books, comics, and movies to look at their structure and target market. As a result, I’ve found my own writing had improved. Even though it was a bit awkward at first, I really enjoy writing reviews and it helps that I love to read, watch movies and play games.

When I was writing the submission guidelines for, we had decided to break out guidelines by format for a few mediums. How to Write Short Fiction and Book Reviews talks about elements you can critique as a reviewer:

Enter the reviewer. The job of the fiction reviewer has never been more challenging. Deciding whether or not a work is deserving of a reader’s attention is, arguably, a matter of opinion. So when writing a fiction review, maintaining a level of objectivity is essential. Reviewing fiction is, in essence, two jobs. The first is to judge the literary work, the second is to write about that judgment. There are lots of tools in a reviewer’s arsenal that can help lead to that second step.–SOURCE: How to Review Fiction

There are a number of different websites besides that seek out reviews. If writing reviews sounds like it might appeal to you, I recommend not repeating the back cover blurb as the main part of your review. Just like with any other writing that you do, reviews can help you establish a presence for your “brand” or in the area that you want to write — and they can be a lot of fun.

Here are a few reviews that I’ve written recently:

Those are just a few examples of some of the ones I’ve written. As you’ve probably guessed, everyone has their own style of writing reviews, too. Either way, it’s been a really fun writing exercise for me and I get to talk about books and other things I’ve explored.


GenCon 2009 and the Writer’s Symposium Wrap-Up

GenCon this year was a world of difference from last year, partially because instead of running a booth I was on several panels at the Writer’s Symposium. This selection of panels, organized by Jean Rabe was structured so that budding writers and game designers could get the help that they needed on a variety of topics ranging from world-building to their careers. In my opinion, even with my late evenings, I thought that the panels went really well because they were focused and pragmatic. Some of the panelists included authors like: Anton Strout, Pat Rothfuss, Mike Stackpole, John Helfers and Kerrie Hughes, Jean Rabe, Paul Genesse, Jennifer Brozek, Kelly Swails, Chris Pierson and more!

Part of the reason why I felt the panels went well, was because they were highly organized but didn’t limit the type of writing someone might be interested in. As you might be aware, game writing is different from writing in shared world settings, which is different from writing original fiction. Panelists came from a variety of backgrounds, and I felt that really helped provide a rainbow of advice and tips for upcoming writers.

Read the rest of my wrap-up at

AP’s New Pay-Per-Quote and the Power of Asking “Permission”

If you work in the business world, you might have heard the phrase: “Ask forgiveness, don’t ask permission.” This phrase is supposed to reflect how you, as an employee, might take calculated risks in your day job to “get ahead” in your career.

As a writer, the reverse is often true, especially if you’re writing for the internet.

The Associated Press released a press release late last week dubbed, “Associated Press to build news registry to protect content.” Additionally, they’re also charging a sliding scale of $2.50 per word for a quote from one of their articles per this Mashable article entitled, “Quote 5 Words from the Associated Press? That’ll Be $12.50.”

In an earlier post, I talked about the Top Five Writer Misconceptions about Online Publishing. You might recall Misconception #2: My article will only be found on the site where I published it. The recent decision by the AP supports that misconception, by even charging for what I would call “fair and reputable” by offering commentary and then quoting and linking to the AP article’s original online source.

Most of the internet’s content is structured in that way. You have original content which is then spread via social media and blogging; people often take a critical or an editorial approach to the content and build around it. Many of the web’s most popular sites, for example, are primarily aggregators that pull in content from other sources or find links on the web and talk about them. (Boing Boing, the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report just to name a few.)

Between potentially getting sued for libel and now this new action by the Associated Press, I believe it is now (more than ever) vitally important to protect yourself as a writer and ask permission when you’re quoting an article. When I wrote my article for SFWA about personalization, I contacted the authors directly and asked them for a quote. Why? Two reasons. One, I wanted to offer personal examples of SFWA members to support my opinion. In order to do that, I felt I needed to ask permission because I was talking about someone’s online presence, which may (or may not) support their platform or reputation as a writer. Two, asking for permission gave me the chance to touch base with these authors and ensure that I was acting professionally. Did I need to ask them permission? Absolutely!

Asking permission to quote someone’s article can also help you network, too. I understand that you may be on a deadline (Read my latest post about the Hazards of Getting There First) but as I’ve mentioned several times before, there is a lot on the internet that is still uncharted and unexplored. Internet law is not set in stone. By establishing good, professional practices you can protect your reputation and the reputation of the source you are quoting.

No matter what I may think of the AP’s recent practices, I feel that this will not be the first (nor the last) major publisher/company to go this route. Content on the web has been published unchecked for so long; the rabbit is already out of the hat. As a result, the potential for bad PR is huge because content providers and readers both have years of established expectations for consuming and producing content which is, in many cases, “free.”

Regardless, as a writer I will continue to ask permission, even if I have personal opinions about whether or not a particular ruling is a good one.

My GenCon 2009 Writer’s Symposium Schedule

Folks, things have been a bit crazy on my planet as I get ready for GenCon: Indy. This will be my first year I’ll be speaking on panels through the Writer’s Symposium, even though this is definitely not my first speaking engagement. I’ll be bringing along some mini-flyers for those of you that are interested in picking up the games or some of the fiction I’ve written for, with info where they’ll be at the con. I’ve received word that my latest contribution in Family Games: 100 won’t be available until after GenCon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pre-order a copy. (Shameless plug, I know. Please forgive me!)

Please keep in mind that there will be a ton of really great authors in the Writer’s Symposium that you might recognize. Jean Rabe, Patrick Rothfuss, Paul Genesse, John Helfers, Anton Strout, Mike Stackpole, Ed Greenwood and many other wonderful authors will be here, so be sure to bring your books and get them signed, too!

Without further ado, here’s my schedule for the GenCon: Indy 2009 Writer’s Symposium:

Thursday, August 13

    2:00 p.m. Main Hall – Author’s Alley – Come say hello! John Helfers and Kerrie Hughes will also be around in this area where you can meet-and-greet your favorite authors!
    4:00 p.m. The Marriott (Santa Fe)Switching Gears: Fiction to Game Writing and Back Again – Jean Rabe, Marc Tassin, Robert, Farnsworth, Monica Valentinelli – The genres require different styles of writing, and if you want to work in both industries you have to be able to switch gears…and don’t let them hear the dice rolling when you do it.
    5:00 p.m. The Marriott (Santa Fe)Shameless Self-Promotion – Paul Genesse, Donald Bingle, Monica Valentinelli – Web pages and blogs and going to conventions…oh my! Promoting yourself andyour writing is necessary in today’s market. But how far should you go? Just how do you promote yourself without sounding desperate? Our panelists offer their sage advice on how to draw attention to you and your work economically and ethically.

Friday, August 14

    9:00 a.m. The Marriott (Lincoln)Urban Fantasy – Anton Strout, Kerrie Hughes, Monica Valentinelli – Is there still room in the market? Can the public handle another vampire detective? Our panelists have written urban fantasy and discuss the ingredients, what makes a successful fantasy city yarn, and how you can try to break into the genre.
    12:00 p.m. The Marriott (Santa Fe)Author Reading – Anton Strout, Monica Valentinelli – Come and listen to us read from our published (and maybe even unpublished!) works.

Saturday, August 15

    8:00 a.m. The Marriott (Lincoln)Worldbuilding: Mythology – Chris Pierson, Sabrina Klein, Monica Valentinelli, Robert Farnsworth – The mythology of your world makes a huge impact on how your story is perceived. Should you lift a mythology from an ancient culture? Twist a current one? Or create one from scratch? Our panelists take on making mythologies convincing, realistic, and interesting.
    9:00 a.m. The Marriott (Lincoln)Worldbuilding: Magic, Technology and Evolution – John Helfers, Kerrie Hughes, Chris Pierson, Monica Valentinelli – We’re living in a time when technological evolution has made a tremendous difference in most of our world’s societies. What would your characters’ evolutionary paths be if they used magic instead of computers? How does magic or science affect a society’s evolution? We’ll examine how patterns of change affect your world and characters and how to twist technology with magic or vice versa.
    1:00 p.m. Main HallAuthor’s Alley – Paul Genesse and Monica Valentinelli

Sunday, August 16

    8:00 a.m. The Marriott (Santa Fe)Tough Guys and Gals in Fiction – Elizabeth Vaughan, Kelly Swails, Monica Valentinelli, Robert Farnsworth – Hard-edged characters are very popular…Conan, Xena, Laura Croft, the Terminator, and the Punisher. Why do we like the shoot first, ask questions later characters? What is their place in modern fiction, and how can we use them in our own stories?
    9:00 a.m. The Marriott (Santa Fe)Pardon Me, But I’m a Writer… – Kelly Swails, Robert Farnsworth, Elizabeth Vaughan, Monica Valentinelli – …and I’d like to know all about…Do you need to know what goes on in the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant? How a horse moves? Which everyday plants are poisonous? What ratlines are? Research in an important part of writing, and sometimes it involves approaching others for information. Join us for a fun panel on how to get information from mundanes without appearing to be crazy.

Special thanks to Jean Rabe for allowing me to be a part of the Writer’s Symposium this year. Hope to see you there!

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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