Ask Yourself the Tough Questions

Years ago, when I first started writing, I was more worried about seeing my name in print than I was about getting paid for my work. So, like many other “new” authors, I threw just about everything against the wall while I fulfilled my real life obligations. Would a part-time job pay my rent while I wrote at night? What about a full-time job as a writer? Or how about a volunteer position where I can write to build up my resume? What shortcuts did I need to take to see my name in print?

Red Question Mark | Used from Stock.xchngIf you’ve ever been in the “I need to pay rent and I don’t like junk food” place that I’ve been in before, you’ve probably had these same discussions with yourself. Then, when any and all forms of writing assignments start piling in, you get excited because dammit, you’re a writer. Did it matter you just worked for three weeks on an article and didn’t get paid for it? Did it matter you don’t own the rights to what you just wrote? No. What mattered is that you wrote and got published, so you start to let a lot of things slide.

Then, at some point, you wake up and you smell burnt coffee. You get burned. Badly. Someone republishes your work and scrapes your name off the credits and expects you to shove your angst under the rug. A partner manages to “forget” you signed a contract and drops off the face of the planet, so you never get paid for weeks of effort. The story you handed in is different from the story that got published and you were never notified. An editor lost your manuscript. The pitch you handed in years ago is now a multimillion dollar book and no one believes it was your idea. The list of crimes against writers goes on and on and on.

Here’s a tough question for you: Would you quit a job if your boss was being an asshole? Then why on earth would you allow yourself or your work to be treated like crap?

Quite frankly, the cost of making bad decisions is a lot higher than you might think because writers are not paid according to the time and knowledge required for a polished manuscript. Not only is your name and your reputation attached to whatever it is that you’re doing, the time that you spend dealing with crappy projects means that you’re losing money because you’re spending less time on the projects that have a better chance of succeeding. When you’re new to writing, it’s great to experiment so you can find out where your strengths and weaknesses are. But what happens when you’re no longer new? Have you thought about turning down projects you don’t want?

Now, some of you might think that there should be some sort of database out there to pinpoint who the assholes are. However, that is not a professional thing to do because while you may have had a crappy experience with one publisher, a different writer may have had a great one. Yes, patterns can develop, but every situation is usually different because there are two sides to every story. You may be pissed off that you didn’t get paid, but the company could have been filing for bankruptcy, experienced personnel changes or has a policy against paying for delivered work past the deadline you were supposed to meet. Remember, too, there are cases where bad things happen not because a publisher is an evil bastard, but because you’ve experienced a breakdown in your communication with them. That last bit is part of the reason why I believe good, two-way communication is so essential to any writer’s overall success.

So what happens when you get burned? Well, first you have to rant about it in private. (Yes, you really do!) While you’re at it, order a very large margarita, go for a run or play a game. Then, at some point you have to learn when to cut your losses and move on.

In my mind, I don’t believe enough writers ask themselves why they are working on projects that they’ve committed themselves to. To those of you who haven’t gotten paid for your work yet, I understand what you’re going through. You’re hungry to get their name out there. I get that. I really, really do. If you are happy blogging or writing fan fiction and now you’ve got a ton of readers then that’s great! Are you happy writing for free or do you want your readers to pay you? Have you ever asked yourself how much you want to get paid? Are you being realistic with those expectations? Do you know what writing you can get paid for versus what writing you can’t?

The quick response to these types of questions is to say something like, “Well, so-and-so author ended up making millions by bucking the traditional system this way…” While that is true, those experiences are not typical for most writers. What I’m trying to convey in this post, are the questions the rest of us need to ask ourselves. Lightning can strike, but I wouldn’t bank my career on it. Would you?

My Guest Appearance at Geek*Kon 2010

Geek*Kon Madison 2010Hi, just wanted to mention that I’ll be a guest at Geek*Kon in Madison, Wisconsin at the Marriott Inn West. Right now, I’m planning on attending during Saturday, September 4th and Sunday, September 5th, but that may change depending upon my professional obligations.

I will be on four panels, which I’ve listed below, and I will be milling about for the various events and whatnot. Come say hello!

    Saturday, September 4th

    12:00 pm to 1:00 pm — Game Publishing
    2:00 pm to 3:00 pm — Writing Panel
    4:30 pm to 5:30pm — World Building

    Sunday, September 5th

    1:00 pm to 2:00 pm — Being an Effective Reviewer/Critic

Be sure to drop by the Geek.Kon website to learn more about this Madison-based convention.

Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas is up for an ENnie Award

ENnie AwardsMany of you might have heard me talk about my short story “Pie,” which was published in the anthology entitled BURIED TALES OF PINEBOX, TEXAS. This work has already won first place for 2009 best anthology in the annual Preditors & Editors Reader’s Choice Awards. Now, I am pleased to announce that it is being considered for the ENnies, an award in the gaming industry.

The list of 2010 nominees for the ENnie awards includes some really fun games like ECLIPSE PHASE and DOCTOR WHO.

This year, we have some tough competition in our category of “Best Regalia,” because every product that’s listed there is outstanding. Now that the preliminary round of voting has passed, voting has now opened up to the public.

Cast your vote to decide this year’s winners for the 2010 ENnie awards

If you’re remotely familiar with these games and books, I hope that you take the opportunity to vote. These awards mean a lot to the people who work in this industry, because they’re not just decided by a panel of judges. They’re decided by our peers, our readers and our fellow gamers, too.

Good luck to everyone! If you’re interested in picking up any of these books or games, you can visit the 2010 nominees on Many of them are on sale, too!

New Guest Post at Apex: Creating a Language Based on Symbols

In this month’s installment of my Creating an Alien Language series, I take a look at how I would create a rudimentary, symbolically-based language. Here’s a quote from the article:

One of the concepts I mentioned last time was the idea that you need to have some sort of language key to use as your foundation. Before we get any further, I’d like to remind you that your aliens need to be able to create the symbols in the first place.

My basic requirements for a symbolic alien language are:

  • The biological ability to create a symbol
  • The proper instrument(s) to represent a symbol
  • The ability to understand what it means

Mind you, some writers have employed the use of an invisible symbolic language that can be seen either on the astral place or by manipulating subatomic matter. Whether or not your symbolic language appears to humans or other aliens is not something that you need to decide right now, because that could develop as a plot element for your story. However, you still need to know how your aliens will use your language. –SOURCE: Creating an Alien Language: Rudimentary Symbolic Language

Be sure to drop by and check out the full article at Apex Book Company. Word on the street is that they have a book sale going on right now, too.

[Video] Trailer for THE QUEEN OF CROWS e-Book

Hi everyone! I’m really excited to share with you the promotional trailer for THE QUEEN OF CROWS e-book. I’ve been blogging a little bit about the process to create this trailer over at One thing that I talked about, was the decision we had to make about the authenticity of the music. Here’s a quote:

The first thing we did was listen to various sounds and whatnot to decide what the feel of the music should be. Did I want the composition to be dramatic and tense or smooth and understated? Did I want an authentic, Native American feel or an inspired take on the music?

We decided that an inspired, more dramatic and textured take on the music was the way to go. We were both able to find some sound effects (Yes, that’s right! I said sound effects!) that will work well with the images and clips in the trailer. While I wanted the music to give you a Native American feel, I felt that it wouldn’t be a good idea to go the historical route for several reasons. — SOURCE: 2010.07.11 Setting Music to the Trailer

The music was composed by James Semple, a professional in the entertainment industry. In addition to his work in film, he also has composed soundtracks perfect for gaming including Four Shadows: Music for Trail of Cthulhu and Dissonance: Music for Esoterrorists.

Without further adieu, I hope you enjoy this trailer. We both had a lot of fun creating it and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit THE QUEEN OF CROWS e-book on

Hope you enjoy the video!

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