Monday, February 25, 2013

Submissions Stagnate

It hasn't been that long since I announced the Veterans of the Future Wars anthology, and initial response was fair.  We had a few reprints and one unpublished story offered.  Of those, one is likely to garner an acceptance in the next few weeks, though I've already let the others go because they just didn't fit.

This past week, no stories have been submitted.  This is to be expected, as writers haven't had time to get qualified submissions written.  I have heard from several authors who are currently working on stories for this anthology, and as the word spreads about this collection there will no doubt be more than enough material sent in.

There really aren't enough markets out there for military sci-fi, so there is a diminished supply of unpublished short stories sitting on people's hard drives.  If there's no market, why write it, correct?  So, for the most part, I expect to see stories written from scratch specifically for this anthology, while in other cases people often write stories and then look for a suitable market.  In some ways, that's good.  We'll have stories truly tailored for the collection.

I am mulling over the possibility putting together several other Martinus Publishing anthologies on various themes, though I don't want to spread myself too thin.  Being an editor isn't as easy as it looks.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Interviews In March

As we near the official release date of The Temporal Element (April 1, 2013), I have several exciting features to spur interest in the collection of stories and the authors who contributed to this fantastic anthology.  One thing that will start on March 1 will be a series of interviews that I'm currently doing with the contributors.  So far, 19 of the 20 authors have volunteered for questioning (myself included—that ought to be fun, questioning myself).  This means we will have several interviews posted on the blog each and every week throughout March!

While many of the questions will be the same for each author, I'm also drafting at least one unique question for each person, pertaining especially to them in some way.  Believe it or not, it has taken quite a bit of planning to organize this.

So, I hope everyone will stop by the blog on March 1 to read our very first interview.  Remember, you can pre-order The Temporal Element anytime, and now order with a convenient paypal checkout!  Just click the button at the Martinus Publishing store.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Message for Edmund Wells (and other Temporal Element contributors)

This morning, I received an unexpected email from Temporal Element contributor Edmund Wells.  It seems he hasn't heard from me for over a week, and was concerned that he had somehow offended me.  This is hardly the case, and I have sent him 3 emails since February 10.  For some reason, my emails haven't been getting to his inbox.  I have tried an alternative method to get him a message, which will hopefully clear things up.  If that also fails, perhaps he'll run across this post, and know what's going on.

Every contributor should have received an email from me on Monday regarding the production costs of The Temporal Element.  If you have a story in this anthology and have not received an email from me recently, check your spam box.  If no email can be found after that, contact me immediately.  I expect most of you received the email, and I have heard from several of you about it.  Still, there are several who may be missing vital intel from me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Editor's Job

This weekend, I finished the final proofing of "The Temporal Element" anthology.  This puts me ahead of schedule in many ways, and some pre-orders will ship out in a few weeks, putting them almost a month before of the scheduled release date.  Contributors will also have the opportunity to see their work in-print early, before their words hit the marketplace.

Going over the collection of stories, I have to say that these contributors really know their stuff.  About half of the stories were so clean I didn't have to change a word, and most of the others only needed minor typos fixed.  There were a couple that needed a few sentences reworked for clarity, and one required a bit of cosmetic surgery, though all in all they were an impressive batch from the get-go.

Talking to the minor edits that were necessary, I'd like to take a moment to discuss my thoughts on the job of an "editor."  Back in the old days, that's what an editor did.  They "edited" work.  In some rare cases, that meant rewriting whole sections of text, performing creative changes that made the stories "marketable."  I can see where the drastic reworking of a story wouldn't sit well with a writer, and these days most editors have more of a hands-off approach, some even becoming little more than glorified proofreaders.  That isn't such a bad thing when you have a good story from a skilled writer, but I feel there are a lot of interesting stories out there that get rejected these days because an editor decides it's too much of a hassle to fix a few minor things.

That's not to say a writer shouldn't be on top of their game.  Of course it is the writer's job to learn how to perfect their manuscripts for an editor's eyes, but in some cases an editor should be able to meet them partway.  When you run into a story that shows real promise, it is sometimes necessary to lend a helping hand.  It's a fine line an editor must tread, knowing which stories are right for their market, and knowing which ones they must let go.  Obviously, with so much talent out there, it's impossible to accept everything that could be a good story.

In the case of The Temporal Element, I had different reasons for rejecting the stories I did.  Some just weren't a good fit, with themes or ideas that didn't mesh with the anthology I was seeking to create.  Another reason was a matter of weak writing, though it could have been a matter of style.  I read a number of stories that were confusing and very ambiguous, which may have been the author's intent, though sometimes it was impossible to tell.  A few submissions just rubbed me the wrong way, which dovetails with the first reason; they weren't a good fit.  There were some other reasons, as well, but those were the three that applied to multiple rejections.

There are many reasons an editor has for not working on imperfect manuscripts, and many of those reasons are good.  To be fair, a writer needs to know their craft, and if they are incapable of performing real edits on their own work, then they are not ready for publication.  Another issue is creative license.  Some writers can get really upset if an editor "tweaks" their work, changes their sacred words, and dares to print anything that isn't verbatim.  This leaves some editors sympathetic (they wouldn't want their words changed, after all), and it leaves other wary of the histrionics that might arise.

I've learned from working with different editors on my own stories that you often have to accept their perspective.  Sometimes, you have to rework a few sentences to make things clearer, and sometimes you have to drop that odd joke or perfect phrase that you think is so clever.  You're not always going to like the changes, but in many cases they are for your own good.

As I shift into the double-life of a writer/editor, I'm finding the job a rewarding one.  It is really what I'm meant to do, and with any luck others will appreciate that, especially the writers I work with.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Martinus Publishing's Week in Review

This past week has had some interesting landmarks for Martinus Publishing.

First off, I have done a fairly thorough proofing and formatting for "The Temporal Element," and with any luck that will be ready for the printers sometime next week (though it will not be officially released until April 1, 2013).  Once the final proofing is complete, I will have a cost projection, and other important data.

Secondly, I have received the first submissions for the "Veterans of the Future Wars" anthology.  There's one in particular that I'm seriously considering, and a few that I'll have to let go, for different reasons.  It's still early, but it's good to see some initial interest.  No doubt, the prospect of royalty payments is a good incentive.

I'd like to take a moment to discuss the idea of offering royalties for anthology contributors.  This is something that I have decided to start doing with future anthologies, despite the effort involved with keeping track of everything.

When it comes to the small press, nothing is terribly certain these days.  Some books sell thousands of copies, while others won't even crack 100.  In most cases these days, publishers buy stories with an up-front payment (and from most small-presses, it isn't a big pay-out, either).  If the book sells a lot of copies, the publisher makes a lot of money on that initial investment, but the author doesn't see a cent over their initial payment.  However, if the book doesn't sell well, the writer ends up making out better than the publisher.  It's an uneven gamble.

Now, with the royalty system, both the publisher and the writers will share in the profit, and everyone will get paid based on the number of books sold.  This is something that has come up on different occasions with sales of my own work.  One notable example would have to be "West of the Warlock."  During contract negotiations, Hall Brothers offered me the option of either royalties or a generous one-time payment.  I opted for the royalties, because it was fairer.  It was enough that they paid for the cost of producing the book in the first place.

So, for the time being, I'll be offering royalties.  With 20+ authors contributing to each book, it won't be a large percentage per individual, but everyone will get something.

Moving on the third bit of publishing news, I recently commissioned a new piece of artwork for an upcoming anthology.  This art isn't for either of the anthologies I have announced.  It will be for something special that is being produced by a select group of writers, and I'll have more information about this project as things progress.

There you have Martinus Publishing's week in review.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Truth Is Out There

There's a minor episode in my life that is due to be retold.  It's something I have related in the past amidst great ridicule and mocking, though I feel compelled to relate the story once again.  It's a common anecdote these days, something that many other people have also experienced.

It was late October 1995.  I was fifteen, and taking a short walk around the flooded gravel pit near my home.  It was late afternoon, maybe an hour before sunset, and the handful of clouds in the western sky were turning bright pink, as is sometimes the case for our beautiful evening skies around here.  While there were quite a few of the colored clouds behind me in the west, the east was completely clear, except for a single pink dot.  As I walked along, I slowed down and glanced at that speck in the sky as it grew larger, drifting closer.  After about thirty seconds, it came close enough for me to see its true nature.  Hovering several miles away was the unmistakable form of a flying saucer.

(I will now pause a moment so the idiots out there can laugh, and the close-minded skeptics can stop reading and shove their heads back in the sand.)

As I was saying, this object I witnessed was very typical of the disk-like UFOs that have been reported for decades, possibly centuries.  It was slightly domed above and underneath, and across its mid-section were symmetrical square panels with a round dot in the center of each (presumably lights).  The object hovered there in plain sight for about a minute, and then sped away so fast it looked as if it rippled away.

That's it.  There was no "lost time," no "abduction," and I've never seen the mysterious, unidentified craft again.  It was a single, fascinating experience.

Of course, my peers at school were less than enlightened back then, and when I foolishly shared the story with some of them, they just mocked me as they often did.  A few of the Native American kids seemed more accepting of my story, though they may have just been patronizing me.  Despite the ridicule, I felt then, as I do now, that it was something I had to share, because it was the truth.

A few lingering skeptics will now accuse me of having had a drug-induced vision, or something of that nature, so I'll point out that I have never, ever taken drugs.  I've never smoked pot, never done LSD or any other mind-altering substances, and I was completely sober and clear-headed at the time of this experience.  And I've never had hallucinations or other psychotic episodes in my life, either.  This was as real as it gets, and not a figment of my imagination.

I do not make any definitive conclusions about this mysterious object I saw in the sky.  However, having seen this flying saucer for myself allows me to be more open to the possibilities.  I do not require "faith" to believe in the presence of this sort of craft, for I have firsthand knowledge that it exists, whatever it may be.  I know what it looks like, and I know how it moves through the air, which is contrary to our current knowledge of aerodynamics.  That is the extent of my personal knowledge.

I share this experience for several reasons.  One is because the truth should be told, regardless of how it is received.  Another is that there are plenty of other people out there who have had similar sightings, and they should not be afraid to come forward.  You're not insane if you see something that others refuse to believe in.  Those who want to think the Earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it will continue to do so, but that doesn't make them right in their assessment.  The more people who admit what they have actually seen and come forward, the less stigma there will be to speaking the truth, and the sooner we'll get some real answers.

In conclusion, this has been 100% serious and truthful.  There is no punchline, and this isn't an example of my storytelling ability.  The fact that I write Science Fiction is entirely beside the point.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Blunt Art of Criticism

Over the years, I've grown accustomed to literary criticism.  I think that's true of any writer who has been in the trenches marketing their wares.  In the freelance field, it's important to grow a thick skin, and to let people think what they will.  A writer who cannot accept honest and fair criticism cannot grow, and they'll find it impossible to succeed.

I've gotten my share of negative reviews, both for my published works and for the unpublished works I've marketed over the years.  Beyond the fair criticism that aided my growth, I have been able to accept the negative comments as personal opinions.  Such things as "His characters [in The Guns of Mars] lack the depth and definition necessary to become real people" and "His [Fantasy Western] is really just a clich├ęd western trope" are just what some individual readers think, and it speaks to their personal tastes and preferences.

Yet, over the years, I've gotten a few particularly nasty reviews/comments, which I believe went above and beyond honest criticism, and delved into the reviewer's personal attempt to play "Simon Cowell."

I've found that the worst "reviews" I've ever received have come from writers of inferior ability.  I don't say this lightly, nor as an insult, but as something I've learned through experience.  I've run into quite a few "writer reviewers" who have gone out of their way to tear down other writers unjustly.  There are several reasons behind this; some are merely copying their own critics and seeking to share the misery, while others think they can elevate their own material by putting a negative connotation on the "competition."

One key example of trying to knock down competition came during the 2nd Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, when the Guns of Mars was in the Quarterfinalist stage.  There were a couple of people (fellow contestants) who reviewed the first 5,000 word excerpt and went out of their way to invent problems with the story, and complain about its complexity, all in the hopes of improving their own chances in the contest.  As a satisfying show of justice, The Guns of Mars advanced to the semi-finals, while my detractors had their stories dropped.  Yet, I do wonder if their negative reviews might have soured the finalist judges in their decision-making process.  Could the handful of 1 & 2-star reviews on my excerpt have made them wary of putting The Guns of Mars in the finals?  We'll never know.

The truth is, you can't control what other people are going to say about your work, and even the best writers get nasty, unfair criticism laid against them (amidst the fair, honest comments both positive and negative).  The right review at the right time can make a career, just as the wrong review can break it, though it's rarely that drastic.  Still, I end up feeling like Vincent Van Gogh all too often; mocked and ignored in my own lifetime, despite my true talent.

Yet, in the same vein, you can't go around challenging your critics.  Most of the time, you must ignore their slams.  I've seen some amazing "flame wars" that amateur writers have started, attacking their critics over negative reviews.  The most memorable had the writer eventually telling everyone to "F--- Off!" thus destroying her career.  We must show professionalism in our response to reviews, and stand above petty personal attacks.  If our detractors are fair, we should be grateful for their assessments; if they're not, we must hope that others will set the record straight.  There is no point in someone rebuking their own critic, for it comes off as self-serving and unbelievable. Yet, if third party voices challenge a critic's assessment, then you receive vindication.  That often requires tact and patience... and sometimes it never comes.  But, we must carry on.

I'll conclude with a piece of advice to readers.  Small press publications are often in dire need of honest online reviews.  This is especially true for multi-author anthologies, which get even fewer reviews than novels.  For every review that is posted, there are often a dozen or a hundred people who have read the book and haven't bothered to say a word about it.  This isn't a problem for the big imprints, but small press releases depend on word of mouth from readers.  It is important to share reviews, so people will know what you think.  It's also vital that a larger percentage of people post reviews, so the views of a few don't have an overwhelming (and sometimes unjust) influence on public opinion.

Friday, February 8, 2013

V.F.W: A New Martinus Publishing Anthology

An idea came to me the other day, and I feel there is no time to waste.  Therefore, I am pleased to announce another Martinus Publishing anthology which will be open to submissions starting tomorrow (February 9, 2013).

War is Hell; always has been, always will be.  No one knows this better than the brave souls who have worn the uniform and fought for their fellow countrymen—the soldiers of America, Great Britain, France, Canada, Australia, and many other bastions of freedom.  The veterans of the past have defined our present, and without their sacrifices we would all be slaves to evil regimes and petty despots who care nothing for liberty or human life.  Our veterans are true heroes.

Veterans of the Future Wars is an anthology dedicated to honoring those who fight (and have fought) for our country and our freedoms; telling tales of their future counterparts combating everything from alien invasions, to home-grown dictators, and all manner of enemies.  The future has untold struggles ahead, and we are ever in the need of those who are willing to serve and sacrifice.  They shall not be forgotten.

Within these pages shall be Science Fiction stories of valor, honor, and distinction, recounting the hard-fought struggles of future veterans, be they on the battlefield or on the homefront afterwards.  Tug at our heartstrings, make us cheer or cry, or share an exciting adventure to thrill the senses.

Speaking to the creation of this anthology, I've long held a great deal of reverence for our military veterans.  I have known many of them over the years, and I would like to create something they can enjoy.  Putting together a collection of futuristic sci-fi stories about people like them is my minor contribution to the world at large.

If you want to write for this anthology, follow the guidelines at the submissions page.

*Please note that this anthology is in no way connected to the satirical organization "Veterans of Future Wars," that existed for a brief period during the mid 1930's.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Authors of The Temporal Element

As the Martinus Publishing endeavor continues, I'm pleased to announce our "Authors Page," which gives you a brief look at the people behind the stories.  Check out their brief biographies and some of their faces here:

The list currently features every author who contributed to the Temporal Element, and as more anthologies are produced and more authors are published, the list shall grow!

I'm currently toying with the notion of several more anthologies this year, and I'll keep you up to date as we move forward with them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Profanity and Editing

In this modern age of free speech and foul talk, the concept of profanity is blurring.  It has been for a long time, really, but that doesn't make it acceptable.  You still can't stand in a public venue and start shouting expletives without risking a visit from a policeman (or psychiatrist).  Likewise, schools are still generally swear-free zones, and that isn't such a bad thing.  Do we really want our pre-teens shouting "F___ You!" on the playground?  Maybe a handful of burned out hippies might argue the point, saying "kids deserve free speech, too, man (insert joint-toking sound)."   But, seriously, there's still a certain negative connotation toward the use of certain words in our language.

When it comes to "literature," there is a certain level of creative license that people tend to exercise.  In the hopes of adding spice or realism to their stories, writers have the tendency to slip in the occasional swear word, and that's okay in some circumstances.  However, I've encountered some really good tales that would be perfectly PG if not for a handful of F-bombs and other shitty slang tossed into the mix.  Yes, sometimes these words add emphasis or an element of style, though in others the words just seem to be stuck there for shock effect.  We, as writers, should be cautious whenever we use such foul language, and make sure it is absolutely necessary and that we're willing to cut ourselves off from a certain reading demographic.

In my own writing, I have ended up censoring my characters to a certain extent.  While I'm not afraid to throw words that are acceptable on broadcast television or radio, I tend to avoid uses of the more extreme and offensive four-letter words.  That isn't to say I never speak said words in real life (I must admit, I curse more than is polite, though I'm working on that), but when it comes to the type of fantastic stories I write, curse words just aren't integral to the stories.  Also, by limiting my profanity, I open my work up to younger and more prudish audiences (yet, I doubt my Amish readership will ever be a significant factor).

As I enter the world of publishing, I find my editing prerogative weeding out profanity, though it's not something I do lightly.  Speaking to The Temporal Element specifically, most of the stories I received were free of extreme language, though there are a few instances (in particularly good stories) where I've had to censor a few words to preserve the PG-level collection I've strived to produce.  Though the stories are obviously written for adults, I expect an 8th grader to be able to enjoy the anthology, as well, without parental concern over language.  The curse words really weren't crucial to the stories involved, and I hope the authors in question respect my decision.

The point I'm seeking to make it this; just because a story is written for an adult audience doesn't mean we need to throw in a bunch of "adult" language.  Obviously, there are gritty and erotic stories that demand such language, but your average adventure story doesn't need the characters being that real.  Readers have imaginations, and they can read between the lines if they want to.   On the other hand, there's no need to offend those readers who might not appreciate the salty flavor.

With that said, one of these days I might assemble a profanity-laced monstrosity of an anthology, but then such language will be appropriate.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Temporal Element Table of Contents

Over the weekend, I finished the selection process for The Temporal Element, and have chosen the stories to be included!  Formatting is currently underway, but it is now time to reveal the names of those fantastic stories and talented authors who will be featured in this collection:

1:  A Thursday Night at Doctor What’s Time             
    and Relative Dimensional Space Bar and Grill
            —by Bruno Lombardi
2:  Harry and Harry –by Arthur M. Doweyko
3:  The Light Fantastic –by Edmund Wells
4:  I'll Come Back for You—by A. C. Hall
5:  Time Heals All—by Paul Lamb
6:  The Long View—by William R. D. Wood
7:  Back in Time—by Carolyn M. Chang
8:  Brigadooned!—by James Hartley
9:  A Home More Welcoming—by Tony Laplume
10: The Killing of Yesterday—by Martin T. Ingham
11: Temsy—by Robert MacAnthony
12: AMR-17—by Edmund Wells
13: Doing Time—by Barbara Austin
14: One Last Gamble—by Shawn Cook
15: What Would You Ask Yourself?—by Karl G. Rich
16: The City at the End of Time—by Jeffery Scott Sims
17: Paradox Lost—by Diane Arrelle
18: Extinction—by Steven Gepp
19: There's an App for That—by Chris Allinotte
20:  Is the Caller There?—by Jon Wesick
21:  Application of the Novikov Self-Consistency Conjecture
        to the Daily Commute of One David Jensen
            -by Lauren A. Forry

There it is, 21 exceptional stories from 20 different authors.  Remember that you can Pre-Order the anthology.  See details at the Store.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Martinus Publishing's Next Anthology

As the Temporal Element anthology is now closed to submissions and moving into the production stages, it's time to get ready for the next great literary endeavors.  Without further ado, I hereby reveal the next open anthology from Martinus Publishing:

Altered America
Alternate History... Forgotten Possibilities!

What if fate had been a little different in the United States?  That's a great question that speculative fiction writers have been exploring for decades, and the answers are endless.  Whether it's straight alternate history, seeking to explore the possible results of altered history, or more fanciful ideas of magic or aliens in America's past, these are the tales that let our imaginations roam.

Alternate America is an anthology that seeks to explore possibilities, with stories of divergent histories and uncanny possibilities.  Stories taking place in the past, the present, and even the near-future are sought—so long as they incorporate some "alternate" element, something that precludes the events from taking place in our own reality.

First, it was time travel, now it's alternate realities.  We're going through all of my favorite sci-fi devices with these first anthologies!

As the title implies, the stories will be based in these United States, though as always I'm accepting stories from authors worldwide.  I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot of "what if" stories, where people pick pieces of history and rewrite them for a wholly different outcome, but there will also be room for some more fanciful stuff.  Cowboys and Aliens, West of the Warlock; that kind of stuff.  It's about other realities, and anything is possible, so long as it's still somehow linked to America.

The submissions period for Altered America begins May 1, 2013.  Check out the Martinus Publishing submissions page for more details.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hit of the Month –February 2013

It's time for some free reading!

As I mentioned last month, Martinus Publishing is launching a "Hit of the Month" page, which will feature a story from one of our authors each month.  For now, these stories will be selections from our anthologies, though in future we may do other things as well.  The tales featured on this page will be a typical sampling of the content from our authors.  They're very talented, and worthy of more praise and adoration than I am capable of giving them.  Maybe when Martinus Publishing rises in the ranks, I'll be able to truly reward them for their greatness.

Our very first selection came in just days ago, and I'm pleased to share it with you now:

February 2013 Hit of the Month:
Doing Time –by Barbara Austin

Here's a bit of bio on this month's author:

Barbara Austin writes suspense novels and short stories.  She grew up in Houston and studied at The University of Texas, but has spent most of her adult life in The Netherlands and the UK.  She is a long-time member of two fiction critique groups in Amsterdam.  A recent story was published in The Amsterdam Quarterly.  She’s looking for an agent for her suspense novel The Wool Comber’s House and is working on a new novel.

Now, head on over to our Hit of the Month page, and read!