Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Closing Early

This is something that an editor never likes to do.  I'm sorry to say that I must call an early end...

I'll give you all a minute to take a deep breath.

Feeling better?  Okay, as I was saying, I'm afraid I must call an early end to the submissions period for Life of the Dead.

This is actually a good thing.  There have been so many qualified submissions for this anthology that I could have put together 2 books!  As good as it is to have a wide variety to choose from, it is also a bit sad in the fact that I have to say no to so many worthy authors.

The last month has been crazy, with submissions flowing in left and right.  At this point, I have pretty much all of the material that I need, and it would be unfair to ask people to keep sending in submissions, knowing that I really can't use any more.  There are a couple of slots left that aren't "locked down," but there are several stories vying for those slots, and unless something incredible comes in soon, I'll have to make the final selections.

The new submissions deadline for Life of the Dead is April 30, 2014.  If you happen to have something exceptional, send it along, but keep in mind the competition is fierce.  Some hard sci-fi would have the best chance of winning out at this point, just FYI.

The date of publication is now set for early July 2014.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Altered America Sales and Reviews

It has been an incredible week for Altered America.  Since last Tuesday (1 week ago as of this posting), we have been selling a record number of Kindle copies, currently sitting at over 500!  That may be small potatoes for the big New York presses, but for a little, unassuming publisher like Martinus, that is a thrilling accomplishment.  Readers are finally taking notice of our quality authors and entertaining stories.  Let’s hope this translates over onto other MP titles!

We are starting to see some reviews get posted to Amazon (US Link) (UK Link), and hopefully more will come across over the next few weeks, as readers get through the collection and form their opinions.  It's all positive so far, though I wouldn’t be surprised to run across a critic or two at some point, who has some nit to pick.

Let’s just grab some brief excerpts from the earliest Amazon reviews, to showcase what people are saying:

From Valerie Sharp (5-stars):
“This is a interesting collection of short stories, Interesting idea.. take one little thing in history, have it happen or not happen and then go from there.. It's like allowing Writers to take the "a butterflies wing flap can cause a storm half a world away".. and run away with it”

From kilny (5-stars):
“The authors of all these stories have a promising future ahead. Martinus Publishing has put together another winning anthology.”

From Ben Hutchinson (4-stars):
“A nice collection of stories, most of which are well written and interesting to read. Some of the stories are more validity fiction than alternative history.”

From T. Anderson (5-stars):
“I recommend this anthology to anyone who has ever looked back and wondered what might have been, if a single decision had driven them down a different road. And what is true for individual men and women is all the more true for the nations they inhabit.”

An encouraging opening salvo from readers!  It is always interesting to see good reactions, and to be fair I have rarely encountered negative press from anything I have published.  My own stories were always well received (by the few people who actually read them).  The only truly negative one that comes to mind is someone who thought The Guns of Mars was a bunch of “aha!” moments (whatever that means).  So, Altered America continues the trend of positive opinions, and here’s hoping for many, many more.

If you’ve read Altered America, be sure to post a review on (or your country’s affiliate, if you’re outside the USA).  Be as brief or elaborate as you desire.  Remember, every voice that speaks up is that much more exposure, and it’ll help us share these stories with even more readers.

Also, writers can now submit stories to Altered Europa, Martinus Publishing’s second Alternate History collection.  (Submission GuidelinesHere).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Advertise With Martinus

Those of you who have purchased Martinus Publishing titles in the past may have noticed that there are a few advertisements in the back.  Up until now, these have merely be “also available” books from Martinus, and a few of these will still be showcased in each new release.  However, as we move forward, and our titles are getting more exposure, it is time to share the ad space, assuming there is an interest.

I’d like to give fellow authors and other small publishers the opportunity to place an ad in the back of a Martinus Publishing book. Their ad will appear in both the print and e-book versions for as long as the title is in print.  You can find the affordable advertising rates at the Martinus Publishing website.

It’s a win/win proposition.  The advertiser gets exposure, and the publisher gets to defray some of the initial publishing costs.  There are limited spaces available in each book, as we can’t have the books becoming massive blocks of ads that overwhelm (get ignored by) readers.  So don’t think your ad will get buried in a massive pile of commercials.  It will be one of only a handful of such ads placed in the book of your choosing.  It’s first come, first serve.

Right now, I’ll be accepting ads for the 3 Martinus books that are definitely going to be released in 2014:  Life of the Dead (July), The Man Who Shot Thomas Edison (August), and To Hell with Dante (October).  If you want to advertise your book, zine, publishing company, or yourself as an author/artist/etc., consider placing your ad in one of these books.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Altered Europa

Writers, get your keyboards ready: A new Martinus Publishing anthology is hereby announced!

Altered Europa:
Alternate History... Divergent Realities!

The continuing success of Altered America has proven that there is a desperate need for more alternate history anthologies, so I am opening up submissions to this one immediately.  I had planned to announce this toward the end of 2014, but there’s no sense waiting, when there is clearly a demand for such a collection.

Altered Europa will feature stories of alternate history where something changed in European history as we know it.  Let your imagination run wild, and imagine how things might have turned out differently.  Any point in history is fair game, from Ancient Greece to near modern times, and perhaps even some tales slightly into the future, so long as the alternate history is exposed.  Show us what happened at the event, what happened shortly thereafter, or reveal how things are impacted much later on.  Give us something to think about, something that will thrill and entertain us, and reveal a Europe that might have been!

Depending on the quality and quantity of stories being submitted, this one might fill up quickly... or it may take some time.  As has become customary with Martinus Publishing anthologies, each contributor will receive a 2% cut of the profits, in addition to the pleasure of having their story in print.

Anyone who wishes to submit a story to Altered Europa must read the submissions guidelines at the Martinus website.  Do your best to follow these simple instructions, as it will make my job easier and it may improve my mood while reading your story.  It’s good advice when submitting to any market.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Martinus Publishing Joins Twitter

As sales of Altered America continue to rise, Martinus Publishing has finally ventured into new territory.  At long last, I broke down and set up a twitter account, something that I probably should have done years ago.  It was one of those things I just never got around to doing (at when it first started it felt kind of “trendy”), but now I am pleased to be able to say that the account is active.

Follow Martinus Publishing:

Though my name is the one on the account, this is going to be strictly about Martinus Publishing.  I’ll share news about the status of our books, tell you about new anthologies that are planned (giving following writers the first notice for future submissions), and I’ll point out relevant details about the publishing business.  As more people follow the twitter account, there will be special offers (and possibly giveaways) for said followers!

Anyone with a twitter account is invited to follow @MartinusPublish and tell your friends!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Racing up the Kindle Charts!

Give me a minute to bask in the glory of a good day.  I have to say that sales of Altered America have skyrocketed today, and that is good news for everyone with a story in this collection (as every writer gets a percentage).  As of this posting, the collection is sitting at #3,916 in Amazon’s Kindle Store, and #4 in “Alternative History,” and it’s still going up!  I know, for some big-time authors this is still a fairly minor showing, but this is the first time I have had the pleasure to behold such a buying spree on any book I have been involved with.  Here’s hoping it is the start of a trend, and it goes even higher!

I attribute this exciting success to several factors, the principal one being the quality of the stories and the authors behind them.  It was a lot of work to assemble such an entertaining batch of Alternate Histories, but the end result is well worth it.  I expect most, if not every reader of this anthology will agree that it is a bargain at $2.99.  Each writer involved with this collection did a great job, and this exposure will be certain to boost their careers, as well.

The other major factor is the subject matter of the anthology.  Alternate History is a popular sub-genre these days, and there just aren’t enough short story collections out there.  Martinus Publishing has hit while the iron is hot, and is meeting a demand for an under-populated niche market!

Even before the sudden success of Altered America, I have been planning to assemble other Alternate History collections, and if this sales trend continues I just might move such plans to the head of the line.

If you haven’t bought your copy yet, be sure to visit the Martinus Publishing listing, and pick the option that best suits you (Print, Kindle, or Nook).

Political Agnosticism for Aspiring Authors?

It has been a long time since I wrote anything political on my blog, which is kind of funny, since I’m really quite political in my personal life.  I have trended away from publicizing my views online in recent years, as my writing career has slowly advanced, and I don’t think an entertainer’s politics are terribly relevant to their product.  We all enjoy books, movies, music, and other things created by people of varied philosophical persuasions.  As an editor, I’ve published stories from writers who span the full spectrum, from diehard liberals to tea-party conservatives, and many sorts in-between.

During my early days online, I wore my politics on my sleeve.  I had an editorial column for a while on a little-known website and sparred daily on various current events forums.  While it made me feel better in my youth to battle it out in such a way, it really did nothing for my fiction writing career.  Oh, I met a few friends in the process, and actually had the pleasure of converting a few people on certain issues, but I can’t say it ever did a thing to help me sell any stories.  I have a lot of political “friends” in real life, but to this day I can count on one hand the number of them who have bothered to read my books.

This isn’t to say that people who share my beliefs aren’t apt to enjoy my fiction.  I’m saying it is a non-factor.  People are not liable to buy your books because you spout off some talking points or you vote for some politician.  However, there are some readers out there who will specifically avoid your fiction if you say something that rubs them the wrong way.  It may not matter when you’re already famous like Stephen King, but for those who are less well known, every reader counts.

So, over the last five or six years, I have shied away from broadcasting my beliefs online.  Oh, I still post things to my personal facebook page now and then, and I remain active in the real world, but on this blog I refrain from spouting off too much.  Many aspiring authors share this philosophy, and keep their politics close to the chest, others don’t.  I can’t say either is the wrong approach; it all depends on how you want to sell yourself.

I have read opinions to the contrary, that trumpeting your beliefs is a must to draw attention to yourself.  There is the school of thought that controversy gains you readers, though that hasn’t been my experience.  It may work if you’re going for a specific niche market, but my fiction is often less specialized.  Yet, it is something to consider, as well, as you venture out into the marketplace.  How do you seek to be seen as a writer?

Feel free to ponder this topic, and let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Postcards of the Week: Churches in Fort Wayne, Indiana, circa 1915

Today's postcards are from Fort Wayne around 1915.  The date is just an estimate, and they could be a bit older, though it's doubtful they're any younger than that.

First off, we have a view of the First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Clinton Street and Washington Street:

Here's another postcard of the same church, only a different distance. 

And here is the Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Postcards of the week: Nara, Japan

Today I'm sharing five postcards from Nara, Japan, taken sometime during the first decade of the 20th Century.  First up we have a look at Daibutsuden Temple:

Next is a look at Nigatsudo of Tdaiji Temple:

And here's a pagoda:

This is Sarusawa Pond:

And we wrap it up with a look at the Wakamiya Shinto Shrine:

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Publishing Philosophy

Believe it or not, it has been 1 year since MartinusPublishing's first multi-author anthology came out, and it has been almost 2 years since I first started reading submissions for that inaugural release of The Temporal Element.  I have to say, it has been a slow and steady ride so far.  I've had the pleasure to meet a lot of really talented and entertaining writers, and I've had the sadder job of turning down some others.  Overall, the job of being an Editor has met my expectations, and very little has surprised me.  It helped having spent many years beforehand on the other side of the coin, writing, marketing, and working with Editors to release several of my books.  This invaluable experience showed me the way, and let me know that I could take on the responsibilities of running a small press.

Of course, starting out, I had zero capital, and I still can't boast of having a big war chest.  That first anthology offered contributors a "token" payment, in the form of a silver Mercury Dime and a Buffalo Nickel per story (though I offered a few dollars via paypal for foreign contributors, due to international postage rates).  This was a novel concept, which the contributing authors enjoyed, though a couple of non-submitters actually wrote me nasty letters, saying I was ripping people off.  Apparently, if you can't afford to pay "professional" rates, you might as well not be in business, as far as some arrogant writers are concerned.  Maybe they would enjoy a world with only big New York City firms publishing things, but without small publishers like Martinus, a lot of aspiring writers would have nowhere to go with their work.  They would have to compete in the ever shrinking big-business marketplace that often has no interest in publishing the kind of sci-fi and fantasy that I prefer to publish.

Even before the criticism of my "slave wages" came in, I had the concept of paying authors something more for what they write.  The big problem with that is balancing fairness and profitability with my diminished financial situation.  That is where I came up with the idea of offering royalties.  It's not something you see from a lot of anthology publishers, because it is quite a bit of work to keep track of everything and send out dozens of paypal payments twice annually.  However, it is fair, and it's all I ever asked for when I was a young writer starting out.  I never dreamed of "big advances," I only ever wanted to earn my fair share, and earn according to my sales.  So, I have applied this philosophy to Martinus Publishing.  I can't promise contributors that they'll get rich off of their royalties, but I can promise that they'll get a cut of each book sold.  Of course, the biggest payout is that they have a publishing credit and can read their work in print; the royalty is just an added perk.

The whole reason I started writing all those years ago was because I wanted to produce stories that I wanted to read.  I hold onto that philosophy as I continue as an Editor.  I am publishing the sorts of stories that I want to read, and I expect other readers will enjoy them as well when they pick up those publications.  That is why I started Martinus Publishing, and that is why I will continue it, for who else is going to publish stories that I like better than me?

Monday, March 31, 2014

An Editor's Job

Altered America is now officially released.  The pre-ordered copies will be mailed today, and readers are already picking up copies from Amazon, in both Print and Kindle formats.  As we see this latest Martinus release hit online shelves, I'd like to make a few comments on the purpose of editors and editing.

First, let's examine the term "editing."  It is a pretty broad term these days, and it can mean anything from "proofreading" to "rewriting," depending on the extent of the process.  Now, an Editor—capital E for emphasis—is the person in charge of a manuscript at a publishing house, and they have traditionally been in charge of the 3 R's: reading, revising, and releasing.  They read slush (submissions), they edit the manuscripts to suit their needs when necessary, and then they publish them.

The extent of an Editor's influence over a story or manuscript can vary greatly, depending on the story involved and the Editor himself (or herself, as the case may be).  Some Editors serve as little more than proofreaders, fixing typos and moving commas.  Some Editors are true revisionists, rewriting entire swaths of text, and sometimes even changing plot elements to suit their needs.  The revisionist Editors were much more common in the old days, but most stories you read today aren't too different from what the writer had in mind to begin with.

Yet, there still comes a time when you run into a good story that just has one or two little nits about it, things that don't work or need to be changed.  This is when the true Editor comes in.  Perhaps a character behaves inconsistently, or takes that blow too easily (gets up and runs around without a care in the world after getting beaten to the brink of death).  Such little changes can take a story that is simply "okay" and make it great.

When it comes to novels, Editors most commonly consult with the writer on changes.  However, that isn't always the case, and it often isn't the case when it comes to short stories in magazines and anthologies.  Minor changes are common, and there are rare instances where more substantial edits are required.  Of course, without these edits, some stories wouldn't be published at all.  It all comes down to whether an editor feels like working on a story or not.

There have been a few stories I have been willing to "fix" because I enjoyed them, even if they had some grammatical or style issues that were a tad off.  This is why there is a clause in each Martinus Publishing story agreement, reserving the right to edit the material.  Still, I can think of maybe a dozen stories that have required more than simple proofreading and a few word adjustments.  Most of those were grammar issues, where some sentences or paragraphs sounded "clunky," but a few needed more.

One example of a story that needed a change was one that had a main character with no name.  It was a 3rd Person tale that only identified the protagonist as "he" or "him," which got confusing at times when other characters were put into the mix.  In this instance, I gave the character a name during the initial round of edits.  Another instance was a story that was all "telling," and in the present tense, which made for a very awkward narration.  I past-tensed it and rewrote some paragraphs to make it smoother.  A third example had a character behaving out of character during a conversation.  It made things a bit confusing, so I reworked the dialog to make things clearer, and make the character more sympathetic and consistent.

These three examples, and the few other changes I've made over the years, were entirely necessary in my opinion.  As Editor, I must make the call about what gets published and how it gets published.  Sometimes, I'll ask the author to make changes, but in many cases I'll take care of it myself.

Of course, some writers take issue with an Editor who wants to actually "edit" their precious words.  I'll call these "Verbatim Writers," the people who have a vision and want everything published their way.  To be fair, every single one of us who writes has a touch of that in us, but some have it more than others.  These Verbatim folks get angry and upset if you ask them to change things, and I had one fellow outright pull his submission because I asked for a very simple scene change.  It's a shame, because the story in question would have been a really great addition to VFW.

Then there are the "Nitpicking Writers," those who will work with you on a story, but argue that "I want this, this, and that left alone," or "Can't we do this and this instead?"  This takes up time and energy, and while some of this can be tolerable, it can get excessive when you're dealing with a bunch of different writers all at once.

Nitpickers and Verbatim Writers are actually the minority, and most writers who submit are quite understanding and helpful.  Most understand that an Editor is "the boss," and it is the Editor's job to filter through and make changes when they deem them necessary.  As an Editor, I sometimes have time to consult a writer on little edits, and other times I don't, or they simply slip my mind.  Really, when you're going over a 21-story collection and decide to rewrite a few paragraphs, there isn't always time to stop for a consultation on each and every one.  I do my best to keep writers "in the loop," but if you happen to read one of your stories and see that Character A says or does something that you didn't originally write word for word, please don't chew me out for making an editorial decision.

Editors generally have respect for writers, and this is why they do their best to "improve" stories when necessary.  If a writer doesn't want anything changed in a story, they should forego the submission process and self-publish.  Some Editors these days may act like glorified proofreaders, leaving submitted content virtually unaltered, but don't count on it.  Sometimes, we actually edit.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Postcard of the Week: Japanese Schoolgirls

This week's antique postcard is from Japan, hand colored, from about 1910:

And as a bonus, here is a vintage postcard of a solitary Japanese lady:

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Shows Cancelled Too Soon

In my second in the series of show exposés, we investigate a few shows that were cancelled early in their existence.  Each was dropped for various reasons, and in these brief commentaries I’ll explain some of my suspicions about why they were dropped.  Some people may find my feelings justified, some may deny them, and there were no doubt various other factors involved in each cancellation.  These are purely my opinions, based on my biased viewpoint and personal feelings.  Beyond that, I personally feel these shows deserved to be continued.  So, in no particular order...

Jeremiah:  A month ago, I’d never seen a single episode of this series.  Now, it is quite possibly the best post-apocalyptic series I’ve ever encountered!  The premise stirs the imagination; just think of the world falling apart when everyone past puberty dies of a disease—this is what the world could look like 15 years later.  The characters are well rendered and there is significant growth with them, and the acting is top notch.  There is some nudity/sex in some of the episodes, and they swear about as much as my father does (which is quite a bit), but if you can overlook these adult elements (or if you enjoy them), this show is incredible to watch.  It’s about surviving, rebuilding, and restoring hope.

It sucks that it only ran for 2 seasons.  There was so much more to tell!  I expect this show was cancelled because it was ahead of its time.  In the early 2000’s, there wasn’t as big a fan-base for this sort of dark, gritty future fiction.  Today, we have shows like The Walking Dead that prove there is a larger television market for character-driven dystopian survival stories.  Also, the “adult” elements hindered the show’s marketability.  If they’d gone for a PG-13 effect, they could have sold it to more broadcasters, even if it may have diminished its gritty realism in some respects.

Jericho:  Another post-apocalyptic show that I found quite captivating.  At the time it first aired, the theme may have been a bit too “9/11 Truther” for your average viewer, but now, with the exposure of the NSA spying, government surveillance, drones, and the continuing attacks on American liberties, the premise of factions within our own government conspiring to destroy the country, in order to “reform” it seems far more plausible—frighteningly so.  But, in 2007, it was only a few “conspiracy theorists” willing to buy into this premise, and that likely lowered the ratings.  Today, this show would be more popular.

Stargate Universe:  The final end to the great Stargate saga?  I hope not, but right now it’s looking pretty bleak.  SGU changed everything for the franchise, taking what had been a winning formula of action-adventure sci-fi and seeking to give us a darker, grittier series.  The storyline started out slowly, and after watching the first season I wasn’t all that pleased with it.  We had some good ideas, though also some real dud stories (I swear “Life” is the worst episode of any SG series ever).  Where the first season was lacking, Season 2 succeeded, bringing us back into the sort of imaginative, adventurous Stargate that I enjoyed in SG-1 and Atlantis, albeit with more “edge.”  The last 10 episodes are my favorite of any Stargate series, and I wish they could somehow bring this back, to continue the story.  Alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

The Job:  Denis Leary’s comedy about cops in New York City.  This show was hilarious, but its timing was wrong.  Its second season was due to air after 9/11/2001, so in the wake of the terrorist attacks nobody wanted to laugh about wacky NYC police officers.  They were “heroes” after that, so the cynical nature of this series was no longer funny for a lot of people.  If this had aired in the 1990’s it probably would have run for a few more seasons, as it should have.

Enterprise:  Well, at least we got 4 good seasons out of this last Star Trek series.  There was a lot to like about this “prequel” show, giving us a glimpse into events before the Federation.  The first couple of seasons were a little slow, and I think they may have tried to emulate the original series too much, giving us a lot of dry, moral lessons.  That all changed with Season 3, and by season 4 we had the perfect blend of action/adventure, think-pieces, and overall Trekkie-ness.  Some people found the third season to be somehow wrong, but I think it worked well (I just would have ended the whole thing differently, erasing the events from history via the temporal effects that went on—the attack on Earth at the end of Season 2 would never have happened because they changed the timeline by stopping the Sphere Builders).

The show’s decline and fall came about due to several factors.  One of those was the dry aspects of the first two seasons. I didn’t find them that dull, but others did, and some of the story elements were only interesting to bonafide Trekkies.  Another aspect, as minor as it might seem, was the theme song.  There was a lot of criticism of it, and there were actually people who boycotted the show over it.  Yes, it might seem ridiculous and petty, but when you have thousands of fans having a fit over you using “sickening soft-rock” instead of the traditional orchestration, it can cause problems.  I believe this alienation of a small percentage of the audience was just enough to diminish the ratings, and thus set the ball rolling for the eventual cancellation.

Believe it or not, there are still people pushing for them to make Season 5 of Enterprise, though I fear that starship has sailed.

Odyssey 5:  Another “adult-oriented” sci-fi show that got cut short with season 1 (and with an annoyingly-unresolved cliffhanger).  This show was a victim of Showtime’s short-sightedness.  There were a lot of fascinating elements to this show, and we were just getting a glimpse of how things were going to fit together with the finale.  I think this show would have been fantastic in its second season, but the first one was more of a set-up toward that end.  Sadly, it didn’t stir enough interest.

Firefly:  A must on any sci-fi fan’s list.  Canceling this series was the biggest mistake anyone in Hollywood has ever made.  This show had a solid fan-base when it was on the air for its single half-season, so much so that it justified the creation of a movie to help conclude it.  I have long held the belief that this show was shut down because it was too “anti-authoritarian.”  The characters came off as very libertarian, and not in the cool “mainstream” rebellious sort of way.  That was unacceptable to certain people in charge of programming.  Okay, enough of my conspiratorial rant.  This show should have run for years, not months, and it sucks that it’s gone.

Okay, there you have just 7 shows on my list of cancelled gems.  What are some of your favorite shows that didn’t survive?