Sunday, November 23, 2014

Averting Rejection: An Editor's Perspective

As a writer, I've taken my share of rejections and will continue to be rejected. It's part of the process and I understand that. Sometimes someone else has a better piece similar to yours. Sometimes the judge likes another piece better or the judge just wasn't in the mood for my avaunt guard psychoanalytical thesis on the plight of the red gilled eel. Life happens. Get over it. Write more. Submit more.

However, as an editor, I'm now on the receiving end of entries submitted to my anthology Building Red: The Colonization of Mars, and I am the big "meaner" (as one of my former students put it) who has to send out those horrible emails, "Sorry, your piece doesn't fit the 'vision' of our anthology." The experience has been educational and humbling at the same time.

I've learned so far that I cheer for the great stories and groan for the ones who don't make it. Seriously, I'm a softie like that. I've learned that when faced with a sudden influx of 20 stories in one day that I'm not quite sure I can face my inbox, but a cup of hot cocoa and some soft electrotrance helps. I've learned also what I've known for a long time: people don't read directions.

That. Drives. Me. Insane.

Therefore, as an educator, it strikes me as my responsibility to share with anyone who cares to read such things, WHY so many submissions are rejected. Maybe it will help one of you get accepted next time.

1. READ THE WRITING PROMPT. If it's an open submission, you don't have this issue, but my anthology, you had to write about colonizing Mars. The writing prompt is specific in what I want and how I want it formatted. I received MANY well-written stories--publishable stories--that either had NOTHING TO DO with Mars or could have been on ANY alien planet. If the editor/publisher wants something specific, don't send them just any story. Send them what they want. And if they want prose, don't send poetry and vice versa.

2. USE STANDARD FORMATTING. Generally this is Times New Roman, 1" margins, double space, tab or 1/2" indents for paragraphs, but editors/publishers may have specific formatting they prefer for their reading ease. Yes, yes, I can, in a matter of 60 seconds or less, re-format a piece so it is readable, but then I'm already unhappy that the writer didn't follow directions. That predisposes me to not like your story. Most of us have full-time jobs and are doing this after a long day of work. We don't need one more annoyance. Hint, hint.

3. IF WE ASK FOR AN UNPUBLISHED STORY, DON'T SEND A PUBLISHED STORY. You see, this isn't just being persnickety, here, this is a matter of legal responsibility. If I ask for First North American Publishing Rights and you've published anywhere, including on a blog, it's possible there could be some legal ramifications, then lawyers get involved, and...nobody wants to deal with that. So, please, be honest, because in the end, everyone gets hurt if we have to go to court.

4. HAVE SOMEONE PROOFREAD YOUR STORY. Seriously. Don't throw down then send your first draft. Yes, I'm going to be working with my writers to polish their work, but I'm NOT going to mess with a piece that is clearly a first draft. I don't have time. I have a full-time job that pays the bills and this gig is supposed to be FOR FUN. In a few stories submitted I saw potential, asked for a rewrite BEFORE I accepted them, and when they sent in the rewrite, I saw that they could either 1. revise well or 2. still had a long way to go. The ones in the #1 category were chosen, in the #2 did not. It's a matter of how much time I have to help coach and a matter of how much time you're willing to do the work. Period.

5. BE SENSITIVE OF LANGUAGE/SEX/VIOLENCE PREFERENCES. Now on this one, I made the mistake of being too vague. All I said was "no erotica"  but I didn't define what I meant. Several stories described sex acts that to me crossed the erotica line. Another used the "N" word and lots of "MFs". (Thankfully, that one was NOT about Mars and I could reject it because it wasn't written to the prompt.) But, as I said, I didn't specify what I didn't want.

Here are two suggestions to keep in mind: 1. Consider that most anthologies written for adults are generally PG-13 to R rated, not beyond, and 2. Don't make the sex/violence/language THE story or THE focus. It's the setting. The window dressing. The color. When it becomes a distraction to the reader rather than helping tell your story, it's too much. And yes, I know, this is a subjective matter, so go back to point #4 and get some second and third opinions if you're not sure.

6. YOUR STORY ISN'T WELL-WRITTEN. There. I said it. I'm the big "meaner" and you can yell at me all you want, but many of the stories sent to me simply were poorly executed, head-jumping, shallow-character, grammar-error-filled nightmares. But in my defense, I've sent out a few stinkers in my time, so, I'm guilty of this as well. Writing is an art that takes years of practice and FAILURE to master. Yes. Failure. Bloody noses are the best teachers. Do NOT let rejection convince you that you're doomed to be a newspaper delivery person the rest of your life. Keep. Writing. Get in a critique group. Get in a writers' guild. Go to conferences. Practice. Get rejected more. I know this sounds like I'm advocating masochism, but you don't learn if you don't try.

I'm down to the last few entries to choose from and it's heartbreaking. I hate telling people "no" but again, it's a matter of what fits the prompt, how much time I have to work with the writer to polish the work, and the quality of the story. I can't wait to see how this collection turns out!

Revision. It's not just for writers. Editors have to change how they view the world, too.



Building Red is due to be published summer of 2015 by Walrus Publishing.
Watch for updates and announcements.

If you haven't yet, check out Paradigm Rift a new book by Randy McWilson.
Conspiracy, alternative history, time travel, sci/fi, and thriller never had it so good!

Looking for some steampunk? Check out Brad Cook's Iron Horseman
(I'll be writing a review of it, soon.)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Paradigm Rift: A Review

Debut authors are often one-hit wonders or flops no matter how good the story, no matter how good the marketing or platform.

I certainly hope that won't be the case for Paradigm Rift.

Yeah, I'm a little biased because I know the guy who wrote it, one Randy McWilson. Yeah, I'm a little biased because I helped him edit the book. But seriously, this is a GOOD book. You should read it.

And if you're a fan of conspiracy theories, government cover-ups, and time travel, well, we have you covered there. You should read it.

As for genre, it's science fiction/mystery/ suspense/alternative history...ah...well, a little of everything. But in good proportions. You should read it.

However, the best parts of Paradigm Rift are the depth of character development and the plot twists. As a videographer, and screen writer, Randy knows how important it is to have unique voices and plots that make your brain say, "What?" and scream, "NO!" and want to beat the snot out of someone but you're too busy flipping to the next page to find out what happens.

His meticulous research into historical events, into the real city of Normal, Illinois, into the sights and sounds that his characters experience, and the etymology of words and items make the historical passages and vocabulary in the book authentic.

Paradigm Rift is the first of four books planned in the series that parallels Randy's screenplays that are now being represented in Hollywood. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. You might be seeing this on TV in the next couple of years.

So what's my advice? Buy it now so you can say, "Hey, I knew about this before all y'all did!" Just click on any of the titles to go to Amazon and choose your format today.

Here's an awesome trailer he made for the books and the movie. Enjoy!


Upcoming announcements:

I'm in the final stages of choosing pieces for the Mars colonization anthology, 
Building Red, for Walrus Publishing.

Stay tuned for updates on the list of contributors, cover art, 
publication dates, and much more!

Friday, October 10, 2014

True Love = True Revision

The Impressive Clergyman: Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam.... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva.... So tweasure your wuv.

Prince Humperdinck: Skip to the end.

The Impressive Clergyman: Have you da wing?


As an early, cynical teen, I watched The Princess Bride for the first time and found to my heart ‘s delight a soul-mate in  William Goldman and Rob Reiner’s vision of “tru wuv” and the false trappings of Western romance. Buttercup was an idiot. Wesley only loved her for her perfect breasts. The Prince needed a helpless victim so he could justify going to war. Vizzini loved only himself. The only “tru wuv”s in the movie were the deep friendship between Inigo and Fezzik and the love of the grandfather for his grandson.

Which suited cynical me just fine. I cheered when stupid Wesley died in the first five minutes. My sister reassured me, “He doesn’t really die,” spoiling the rest of the movie for me. (I almost quit watching, but she insisted it got better, including the best sword fight ever, so I stuck it out. It was worth the sword fight.) I hated the fact it ended up being a “kissing book,” but when I read the REAL book and found out the REAL sad, depressing, heart wrenching ending, I cheered even more! Down with romance! Down with “wuv”! Romance is stupid!

So, I grew up, determined not to fall into the trap, determined to live single my entire life and, whoops, what happens? Uh, hmm. Yep. God has a sense of humor. Never say never. I protested too much. All that jazz hands. 

Seventeen years ago I married an amazing man who has cheered and suffered with me through all of what life has brought us. And not brought us. It’s been wonderful. It’s been awful. It’s been hysterical. It’s been depressing. But through it all, we’ve clung to each other, relied on each other, and supported each other with a singular focus: divorce is not an option because love is sometimes a choice, not a feeling.

Now I realize this is a philosophy not everyone can accept. I’m not going to judge, scream at, look down on, or make fun of anyone who disagrees with me or who had gotten a divorce. Everyone has to make their own choices in life. And it has to be a choice that BOTH parties make. For us, this is OUR choice and it has worked for us.

See, the Greek language describes love better than English does. We have this one word “love” and it covers a multitude of feelings. “I love pizza,” doesn’t really mean the same as, “I love Hugh Jackman,” and “I love my husband,” is in another category altogether. And when I say, “I love my neighbor,” I may not like them, but I respect them as a fellow human being and that is another type of love. 

In my opinion, Western love has been warped into this strange creature, flighty and unknowable, that changes with the seasons, is focused mainly on the act of sexual gratification, and carries little meaning other than what one feels in the moment: what is good for ME right NOW. That isn't love. That's selfishness. Greed. Self-gratification.

Wouldn’t the world be a strange place if—crazy concept—love was instead a commitment to creating an environment--a community--where other parties are uplifted and happy? Feel safe and secure? Where others' needs are put before the needs of the self? Delayed gratification for the self—especially physically—so that other people's needs are met first? Hmmm. A bit of life revision might be needed there. 

A strange thing happens when you serve others with this kind of love: you receive more love back AND you feel better about yourself. WHOA! I don't know if we're ready for THAT kind of world. No riots, no shootings, no rapes, no burglaries...I can dream, right?

But let's get back to reality. Can "tru wuv" exist in this awful world of ours? Can people stand each other long enough to live 20, 30, even 50 years together anymore and be happy? My parents have hit 50 and Husband's parents are close. They're happy. I know others with some time on their rings who are happy. Something has to be working for some people.

Therefore, I decided I would publish MY list of what I think are examples of “tru wuv” in my relationship. It might not be for yours, but it is real and it is raw and it is from the heart:

“Tru wuv” is:

  • A husband who quietly searches through laundry baskets for his clothes because the wife only does “emergency” laundry until there’s nothing left to do, then she does a panicked fury of seven loads in a day (the number of baskets we have) but doesn’t put the clothes up. 
  • A husband who patiently scoots over the wife’s piles of stuff to do his work. Note that “piles” is plural and that every flat surface in the house is covered with piles. Including sections of the floor.
  • A husband who calmly listens to his wife scream about how hard her job is, watches her fall asleep on the couch, makes her mac and cheese or chicken quesadillas for supper, then holds her as she cries and eats it. 
  • A husband who helps her find her lost keys. Again. And again. Did I mention again?
  • A husband who washes the dishes without being asked. And puts them away. Unlike the wife who forgets to put away the laundry.
  • Did I mention helping her find the keys?
  • A husband who knows when to comfort his wife, when to let her grumble in the corner, and when to ask her, “Do you want to go for a run, dear?”
  • A husband who is still at home when the wife doesn’t get home from work until 8:00 or 9:00 pm several days in a row. 
  • A husband who can discuss politics, religion, Dungeons and Dragons, Internet memes, and computers with the wife and not only keep up, but keep her intrigued. And teach her something. 
  • A husband who forgives his wife for what she can’t give him and lives with her depression and craziness when she can’t control it. 
  • A husband who isn’t perfect but tries to be the best husband he can, so the wife will reciprocate. 

I have to admit, I haven’t been the best wife I can be lately. My job, my writing, my editing, and my life in general have taken over and I haven’t been spending the time I should on my relationship. I aim to change that, though.

Revision. It’s what makes life interesting…and hopefully better.
To commemorate my step in the right direction, I decided to do something I’ve been putting off. Not out of any other reason other than forgetfulness. It has to do with that box up at the top. 

You see, when I started running, I began to lose weight. Soon, I couldn’t wear my wedding ring. So, I took it off and put it in my jewelry box so it wouldn’t get flung off or lost somewhere. Husband never complained but he did mention it a few times. I know he missed seeing it on my finger.

Last week I took it to a jeweler to have it resized. I didn’t tell Husband. During our anniversary dinner, I gave it to him to give back to me. He smiled, pulled it out, and slipped it on my finger.


Full-circle revision. The power of the One Ring.

See what I did there? (See last week's post.)

Now, you try.


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Metaphor of the Ring in Fantasy

One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them; One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Any fantasy geek that's read his or her share of lore knows where this quote originates. And he or she knows there's more to the story: there's not just One Ring. There are 20 total:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

And if you've read J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, not just watched Peter Jackson's masterful interpretation of the series, you know these rings pack a powerful punch. They also hint of powers we don't see in the books or on the screen.

My question is, though, why a ring? Why not a necklace? Or a brooch or a button or a earring? (Those do exist, but...) What is so mythical about a ring? You know Tolkien isn't the first to use this piece of jewelry as a foil for a metaphor for power don't you? Here are a few examples:

Classical Antiquity:
The Ring of Gyges was found by a shepherd and could supposedly turn the wearer invisible. He used it to overthrow the king and become ruler himself.

The Seal/Ring of Solomon or Ring of Aandaleeb was purportedly given to King Solomon by the Archangel Gabriel to control demons who were interfering with the construction of God's temple.

Norse Mythology:
The Kingmoor Ring detailed with Viking runes was supposed to ward off sickness.

The plot of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel The Rose and the Ring revolves around a ring that made the wearer beautiful to those who saw him or her.

Piers Anthony presents a ring of wishes in Castle Roogna (a popular theme reflected in modern role-playing games, but GMs tend to be picky on the wording and don't give out pure wishes anymore. The Wish of Bureaucracy may be the worst.)

Forgotten Realms and other d20 role playing games include a variety of magic rings.

Green Lantern's ring that harnesses willpower and the various other colored rings in his universe.

C.S. Lewis' book The Magician's Nephew has rings that allow transportation between universes.

So...why do writers choose rings?

Here are a few of my theories:

  1. It's easy for both friend and foe to see, therefore you can show your power without flaunting it. Or flaunt it if you wish.
  2. It's easy to hide with a glove unless your bling is large and gaudy.
  3. It's easy to access if it needs to be activated (twisted, touched, pressed, etc.)
  4. You can access it without anyone knowing (behind your back, as your arms are crossed, etc.).
  5. As most powerful objects are cursed, it's an easy location to either (a.) get stuck and not come off or (b.) accidentally come off at the wrong moment.
  6. Point and shoot if it's that kind of power.
  7. Rings signify eternity (an unending band of material) and if made of gold or platinum, nontarnishable material. That in itself is powerful.
  8. Depending on the finger where you place it, supposedly you access different power centers in the body (I won't discuss that here. Too much conflicting info out there. Cool stuff, though.)
  9. If you're a bad guy and the plot requires the good guy to get the ring, it's generally a matter of "hack off the finger/hand" and run. Gross, but highly effective as a plot device. Trying to hack off an ear for an earring or grabbing someone's chest for a necklace can get a little slapstick. Works if you're writing comedy, though.
  10. They're in general small. Easy to transport, hide, and steal. Another cool plot device.
But what does this metaphor mean?

Besides being a fashion statement, rings symbolize our tie to something. It may be a person, a memory, a place or whatever else. That tie, though, is powerful. Every time we see that ring, touch it, spin it, hold it in our hands, we think about that person, memory, place, or whatever. It's an eternal band of emotion wrapped around our hearts and minds that we can't shake off even if the physical ring itself is lost or if the ring is no longer worn.

Rings are powerful pieces of modern magic that when used by the right people in the right way can forge amazing bonds. I hate it when I see people blithely throwing rings at each other only to split up a few months later because they now "love" someone else. A ring is supposed to mean a commitment, not just a gushy feeling of, "Ooh, this person is HOT!" 

What does love really mean?

Where am I going with this? 

Next week is October, my birthaversary month. (You read that right. Husband and I married on my birthday.) I have a very special post for my very special person and I can't wait to share it with all of you, too.

Revision isn't just for writing. It's for life, too. And boy, have things changed in 17 years!

What does the ring metaphor mean to you (either in literature or in life)?


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
True Love = True Revision

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Writer vs. Author: What's in a Name?

I'm in marathon training. For those of you who don't know, a marathon is 26.2 miles. Always. So when someone says they're going to run a marathon, if they're serious, they don't mean some random amount of miles. They mean 26.2 miles.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the distance, 26.2 miles is a long way to run. If you're a professional runner, the world record for men is around 2:03, and for women is 2:15. That's two hours and three minutes (fifteen minutes) of body-breaking, sweat-pouring, lung-collapsing running. No rest, no walking, just one foot in front of the other at a screaming fast pace.

That's an average of 4:41 (5:08) minutes per mile. Seriously folks, running around five minute miles for two hours without stopping is god-like. I cannot imagine that feeling, although I do not envy the pain they feel the next day.

The average marathon times for "real" people are about double that: 4:26 for men and 4:52 for women. features/Articles/2011RecapOverview.cfm. This puts your pace into the more human range of 10:08/11:08 minutes per mile, but still, that's a long time and a long distance to run at that pace.

I have a few friends who have clocked marathon times in the three hour range. Awe. Some. They train crazy hard, watch everything they eat, and have very little body fat. They've even qualified to run Boston--which is super hard to do: have run in that marathon at least once.

Me? I'm faster than the average bear but not faster than the average human runner. I'll be lucky to hit 5:30, but each individual has his or her own obstacles to jump when it comes to facing a marathon. With bad knees, bad ankles, and exercise-induced asthma, if I can hit 5:30 or less, I'll feel accomplished. Honestly, I'm aiming for less, but a lot depends on race-day conditions, body conditions, and luck.

Why do I mention this in a writing/revising/metaphor blog titled "Writer vs. Author: What's in a Name?"?

Because the difference between a jogger and a runner is the same difference between a writer and an author. There are some stigmas--unnecessary ones, but life's rarely fair--to certain terms, but it's important to say what you mean with the right words.

For example, a jogger and a runner may have the same skills, the same abilities, but not the same goals. In GENERAL, a jogger is someone who runs for recreation. They usually don't sign up for races, they usually don't care to try to improve their time or distance after a certain point. They're out there mainly to improve or maintain their health, lose weight, be social, etc. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, there's a lot of good in that.

It's less stressful for one thing. Why put yourself in a race you know you can't win? Why punish your body with speed work and hill work and risk falling or injury? Why run long distances and risk being hurt out in the middle of nowhere with no one to help? Jogging for your health or jogging socially is a great way to improve your life.

But for those of us who are runners, we want MORE. We want the challenge of running in races we might or might not win. Losing fuels our desire to try harder, train harder for next time. We want to push ourselves to the limit of our heart rate with speed work, to shred our quads and hams with hill work, and at the end of the workout sigh with a smile of satisfaction that the next day we're going to hurt...but we'll be faster for it. We want to extend that distance further: 10k. Half-marathon. Marathon. 50k. Ultra. How far can we go? What are our limits? The possibilities of seeing what we can do excite the runner into pushing harder and running faster.

The same is true for the writer and the author.

The writer and the author may both be equal in writing talent. They may both have great ideas and great stories.

The difference is their goals and the pursuit of those goals.

A writer writes and...that's about it. A writer may share his or her work with a few people, may enter a few contests here or there, submit a few manuscripts here or there, but for whatever reason never publishes a lot and never makes that a goal. This may be a choice (fear of rejection, lack of opportunity, etc.) or maybe they cannot get published (wrong market, wrong presentation, myriad of other reasons). Sometimes writers choose self-publishing but then are hesitant or unsure how to market themselves because of their previous experiences (rejection, lack of knowledge, etc).

Again, there's nothing wrong with being a writer. You don't have to publish to be great. Sharing your stories with friends and family is wonderful if that's what you want to do. I have family members who have no desire to publish their stories publicly but want to format their works into a finished form for us and their friends only. If that's the goal, then great!

It's less stressful being a writer. The more I see about the truths about how difficult it is to succeed in publishing, the more I'm happy to have a day job! If you're a writer, you don't have to worry about platform, about marketing, about whether to use this service or that, about query letters or agents, etc. You write for the joy of writing, and isn't that why we write? Because it brings us joy? Because it brings others joy? Because we get to share our stories? So why not just stay a writer?

But some of us want MORE. Some writers want to become published authors. Some want the challenge. Some want it because they want the money. Some want the prestige. Some want the name of a big-house publisher on the jacket of their book. Some of us are willing to throw ourselves out there, take rejection after rejection, work daily on our platform, work daily on our marketing plan, work daily to build a readerships, and work every conference and convention to gather a network of agents and editors and writers who know our name and face.

Sound like work? It is. Sound like writing? It isn't. And it isn't fair that those of us who are or want to be authors have to work so hard at all this extra stuff just to BE authors and not get to do the one thing we WANT to do all the time: write. But that's life. It isn't fair.

But where is it written that life is fair? Pull up your big girl panties or your man pants and get over it.

So what are your goals? Do you want to be a writer or an author? Neither one is better than the other. Yes, there are stigmas associated to not being published, but so what? We're artists. Artists by definition are undefinable. Create your own definition. Don't let others pressure you into their idea of what you want. You decide and take your creativity where you want it to go.

Revise your definition: jogger, runner, writer, author. Have I changed it or do you disagree? I'd love to hear from you!

And yes, by the way, the 5k first place medal is mine. As a runner, I put my all into every race, even the ones I'm certain I won't win. Sometimes, when the conditions are right, I win some bling. You never know when persistence pays off, even when you're as slow as a turtle! (Yes, there were other women in my age group!)


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
The Metaphor of the Ring in Fantasy

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sci/Fi vs. Fantasy: YES, there IS a Difference!

(Author's Note: This was supposed to go out LAST week, but due to two newsletter deadlines, an emergency lesson plan scramble, technology fails at work I had to duct tape together, and a husband attacked by yellow jackets [yes, I'm serious about that last one] I had my hands a little full. Life interferes. So on with the show.)

I've had people say to me, "Hey, you write that science fiction fantasy stuff, right?" And you know what that means: they think "science fiction" and "fantasy" are the same thing.

I gently answer, "I write BOTH science fiction AND fantasy, yes." And then I smile and continue the conversation. If they continue. Usually they change the subject because either genre is either uninteresting or they don't understand why anyone would read it.

Yeah. Most of you know exactly the feeling.

This misunderstanding of differences bothers me. (The part about not accepting the genre as legit bothers me, too, but that's for another blog.) In chemistry, if you put sodium chloride in water, big deal. If you put potassium in water, it explodes. BIG DEAL! In a restaurant, if you order steak and get chicken, you're likely going to ask for a new plate or your money back. When you want a perm and the hairdresser gives you a buzz cut, well, you've got some growing to do (and perhaps a wig to buy!).

If other differences are so easy to see, why is it that science fiction and fantasy are so difficult?

1. They're both fiction. Most people when lumping unknowns into categories only get past one or two categories. It's too complicated after that.
2. Science fantasy, magical realism, science faction, transrealism, tech noir, weird west, new wave science fiction and crossover genres make the clear definition between the two gray at times. When you have a world with scientific elements that are based on magic or magic that is based on scientific principles, the line blurs.
3. People who don't read either genre don't pay attention. Period. ("Those freaks who read that crazy fantasy science fiction stuff...they're just weird in the head and that genre stuff serves no point!) Yeah. Hmmm... And where did you get that cell phone, that 3D printer, that iPad, your Google Glasses, etc. etc.?

However, if you look at SciFi (Skiffy?! Look that one up! HEHE!) and fantasy in their PUREST forms, you'll find this:

*1. SciFi - "...the label sf is explicitly or implicitly extrapolated from scientific or historical premises. In other words, whether or not an sf story is plausible it can at least be argued." (p. 844)
*2. Fantasy - "A fantasy text is a self-coherent narrative. When set in this world, it tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive it...when set in an otherworld, that otherworld will be impossible, though stories set there may be possible in its terms." (p. 338)

*Clute, John and John Grant. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. St. Martin's Griffin. New York.1997.

Really, it's this simple: Science fiction is the possible based on current scientific knowledge and extrapolation of what we could do in the future. Fantasy is the impossible based on creative imagination, but those impossibilities have to abide by the rules of that world. Where the crossover genres meet, the "abide by the rules of the world" tenant kicks in.

Except...this redefines A LOT of what we thought of as science fiction. Star Wars? Hmmm. Really SciFi? Or science fantasy? Star Trek? (Space opera, definitely, specially TOS!) Stargate? Firefly? Ender's Game? War of the Worlds?

Tell me, does this revise how you see science fiction and fantasy? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Writer vs. Author: What's in a Name?

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Playing the Hate Card

It seems to me you can't turn on the TV, open the paper, or click on your favorite news web page without seeing hate everywhere. I'm not going to mention particular countries, counties, or cities, but you all know where I mean. I live near one such place and it's disturbing. As a writer who tries to understand all sides of the issue, I can see the point the different sides are trying to make. I don't agree with the tactics of how any of them are handling the situation, but that's another issue.

What bothers me the most is the conclusion I've come to: every child everywhere is taught to hate someone. Yes! Even the most open-minded, kindhearted parents and teachers and mentors teach hate every day.

I said it.

I mean it.

Watch me prove it.

We start out our journey as little children learning opposites. Up and down. Left and right. Yes and no. It is part of the learning process of the brain to start dividing things into categories so we can understand what fits and what doesn't. That's how the brain works.

The next step is more subtle. We learn that one of those two things is BETTER than the other. Up is almost always better than down. Right historically has always had a better connotation than left. Yes is soooo much better than no.

When master these two concepts--categorization and elevation--and start combining them, then we start applying that code of learning to EVERY ASPECT of our lives. That's part of the learning process as well: applying past learning methods to new situations.

When we encounter new people--different people--we start categorizing them. Notice the word "them." I've already done it. I've already put someone in a category. I've already placed a barrier between me and my potential opponent. How awful! That someone, that PERSON, could have been the best friend I've ever had, yet because of the way my brain works in categorizing "same and different," "us and them," I've made someone a "them." I've just played the hate card out of my life deck.

Whoa there, Cannon! You didn't say you hated them. You just said you put them in a different group than your own.

Yes, but that's how it starts. When we see people as groups, as stereotypes, as masses, we forget that each individual individual. When we forget that, we start down the path of hate.

We all have a life deck of cards in our virtual hands. We have plenty of cards we can play in the game as we meet, greet, love, and learn. Why do so many people choose to play the hate card again and again?

  1. It's an easy play. You always "win" if you hate first, because you feel you have the power over the other person. Little do you realize you're wasting your cards because hate only breeds hate back.
  2. Hate garners attention. How many celebrities have flocked to certain places this past week to get their share of the attention? They don't care about the cause. They want the eyes. The accolades.
  3. Loving others is hard work. Helping others takes time, money and resources. Getting to know a person as a person is much more difficult than simply hating them and everything they represent.
Notice, my friends, I haven't mentioned any sides, any colors, any affiliations, any religions, or any political parties in this post. Every single person in this world--including me--is guilty of playing the hate card. It's horrible and I wish as a HUMAN RACE we could grow up and realize that up and down, left and right, yes and no does not apply to placing people into categories where we judge the character of their person by the groups they affiliate with or the color of their skin or the departments they work for or the political party they choose to vote for or which religion they choose.

What does this have to do with writing? EVERYTHING.

As a writer I want to change the world. I want my books to show people that stereotypes CAN be broken. That the norm ISN'T the norm and that's a good thing. I want happy endings and hope and even in the darkest hour, I want someone to believe they are not alone. 

People are people. Get to know them. They might surprise you.

It's time to become an adult, world. Revise your thinking.

Any other reasons you can think of that people play the hate card? I'd love to hear from you.


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Sci/Fi vs. Fantasy: YES, there IS as Difference!

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, August 17, 2014

When Reality and Fantasy Have a Baby...

Why is it that some of us prefer to read science fiction and fantasy over literary or modern fiction? Why are we not satisfied with the weird of the every day? Seriously, some of the real-life stories out there are pretty strange. Like the teacher who showed up drunk and took off her pants on the first day of her job. (Yeah. True story.) Or the epic shipwreck in 1997 that sent millions of Aquazone Legos (including octopuses [octopodes if you get Greek on me] and dragons) into the ocean which are now washing ashore in all sorts of crazy places. (Talk about ironic!) And what about the man who tried to impersonate superman by flying on a mattress? (Scroll down to Redneck Chronicles. Does that surprise you?)

For some of us, real-life strange isn't strange enough. Fiction escapism doesn't take us far enough away from the drudgery or misery or depression of our lives. We need space ships and wizards, hortas and fairies, stargates and unicorns to set our hearts on fire and our souls on a path of literary ecstasy.

But why?

I have theory. And it isn't bunnies. (Sorry. Had to.)

Those of us who think out of the box also need to imagine out of the box. Those of us who are seeking more out of this life than a 9-5 job, a life-mate, kids, and a mortgage want MORE out of our reading material, too. Science fiction and fantasy provide not only hyperbolic settings that ramp up the emotion, the visual impact, and the action, they also spur us to think deeply about the heart of the human condition. We question ourselves, our society, and our culture through science fiction and fantasy whereas in traditional "literature" it's not as layered. (Although it can be. Don't get me wrong. Great fiction writers *can* do it, but most modern writers don't. That's my point.)

What do you think? What's your theory as to why many of us choose sci/fi and fantasy over literary or modern fiction? I'd love to see your comments.

Revise my thinking. I'm open for opinions.


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Playing the Hate Card

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Writer's Platform Part IV: Blog Niche Blues all the resource books will tell you, writer's platform is the key to getting noticed if you're going to be marketable among the myriad of media available. (Oooh. Alliteration!) In previous blog posts I've discussed public presence and web presence. In this installment, I'm going to tackle publishing presence including what to put in your blog.

This week's resource suggestion, APE: How to Publish a Book (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur), is a free PDF download if you can find it on special, $10 on Kindle (and worth it) if you buy it off of their website, but you can also buy the hardback, or audio book. This concise manifesto gives you the down-and-dirty basics of what program to use/how to set up your text to write your book, what resources to use to publish your book, and how to sell your book. It has a huge section on platform. It's one of the shortest I've read but like Strunk and White's Elements of Style short packs an awesome punch. I'd recommend this one especially to those of you who want to go straight self-pub instead of indie or trying to snag a bigger publisher. Straight self-pubing is a tough road, but if you follow their advice and work hard, you will see results.

In the mean time, for those of us who are still building, building, building that platform, there's a third component most people don't think about: publishing presence.

Wait a minute! I thought platform was supposed to HELP me get published!?!

Yes, true. Platform is to help you get the major novel, major screenplay, major ???? published. Along the way, though, you have to prove you can put letters together in logical order to make words, then put those words into logical order to make sentences. Add logical punctuation. Throw in a little plot. Scenery for the visually-driven reader. Characters are nice. A few literary devices if you like. Post-modern questioning of truth. References to Shakespeare, Weird Al, or the New York Times. (Personally, I like to add Princess Bride quotes.) Then some of that has to get seen by the public and vetted by some publisher or contest. Make sense?

The following is what I have done so far. No, I'm not saying this is THE way or the BEST way. It has worked for me, it might work for you, or it might give you ideas that will help you. That's the point.

For the past few years, at least 12-20 times a year, (about once or twice a month as the opportunity arises) I've entered a contest, written an article for publication, or submitted a story for publication. I've received a HUGE number of rejections. I've decided to create a quilt (you can transfer paper designs into iron-ons) with all of them so when I'm a famous novelist I can snuggle up in it and take comfort in the fact that I didn't let the nay-sayers win. They'll get to keep me warm! Hehe.

Anyway, from all that effort, I have a nice selection of fiction and non-fiction publications I can show to any agent, publisher, fellow writer, reader, etc. to prove that yeah, I can write and yeah, I'm decent at it. And I've listed them on my website for all to see, some with links where you can read the stories: Writing Credits

That's all well and good, but writers also need publishing credits that reach out and touch more than just a few people that find their website or pick up the anthology where they're published. They need (evil sounding music) A BLOG!

Yes, for some people, a blog can be intimidating. However, consider these facts:

  • A blog that is consistently published will keep your name in the minds of your readership.
  • A well-written blog will attract more readers because of word of mouth (or clicking and sharing. ;-) ).
  • Sometimes you the writer need a break from writing on your main project and a blog is a great way to do that.
  • A blog is a published artifact. Yeah, seriously. If you post something online, it's published.
  • You can share your expertise through a blog. You learn more from teaching than from listening!
The question remains, how do you pick your topic?

That is one of the biggest hurdles to jump. With so many blogs out there, how do you pick your niche? How do you make yours unique? How do you platform your platform? (Whoa! Yeah, that's what you're doing.)

Here are a few things to consider when trying to pick you blog niche:
  • Pick a topic that is of interest to YOU. If you have no passion for the topic, you won't want to write about it.
  • HOWEVER, your topic should provide content for the reader. They don't care about your vacations, what your children drew, your grandchild's first words, or your "writer's journey." Give your readers something they can use or information that makes them think. (It's okay to mention some of the above so people get to know you on a personal level, but don't write an entire blog post about your life.)
  • The topic does NOT have to be directly related to your book. Some people choose tangents related to their book, some people don't. The key is to choose a topic that excites you AND provides something useful to your readers.
  • The topic should be FOCUSED and have a unique point of view. "Cooking" is not a good blog topic. You can find literally thousands of blogs on cooking. However, if you wanted to start a blog on Japanese/Southern American Fusion cooking, THAT would be unique. (By the way, I did a quick search and didn't find one, so, if you're interested, go for it!)
  • Once you think you have a topic you want to blog on, do some research. Are there blogs out there on that topic? If so, how can you spin yours so you can approach it differently?
After you have your topic, then you have to decide on how often to post. Make a schedule and STICK TO IT! Once a day, once a week, or once a month, but be consistent.

Then how do you come up with content? Find books on the topic and review them. Find people who know about the topic and interview them. Make lists. Explain how to do something. Write a series of blogs on one topic so you get people coming back for more. You can find more content by asking yourself, "What would I want to know about this topic?" and Googling your keywords.

Study successful blogs that are similar to yours. What type of content do they include? What do they NOT include? Here's a successful music blog by Swiss composer Adrian von Ziegler. Here is a popular agent's blog that helps writers, often on what NOT to do: Pub Rants. Like to read opinion columns? Here's a guy who's not afraid to share his even if you don't agree: Matt Walsh. Whether or not you like the websites, they are all popular because they've targeted their market, provided solid content, and stayed consistent.

How do you know when you are starting to have a successful blog? I've seen the term "1,000 subscriber milestone" bandied about on several websites. Not "viewers" but "subscribers." This is a daunting number, and it does seem to be more of a wall at times, but if you can get 1,000 committed people to view your blog every time you post, it's likely you're going to grow exponentially faster after that.

Am I at 1,000 yet? No. Not even close. ;-) But I will tell you that I've doubled my hits and my subscribers in the last couple of months simply by using the programs already know more efficiently and expanding my horizons to keep things fresh. 

By focusing on all THREE pillars of platform--public, publishing, and web presence--I've balanced my pre-writing career on a steady foundation. I'm almost ready to go. Now all I have to do is publish the book. 

Oh. Did I mention I'm getting ready to do just that? 

Shadow of Redemption, where monsters under the bed protect children and tooth fairies are no longer settling for leftovers, is still in editing and will be sent to my beta readers early next year. I'm so excited! Stay tuned.

Revision. It works for fairy tales, too. Bwahahaha!


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
When Reality and Fantasy Have a Baby...

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Writer's Platform Part III: Web Presence

The past few weeks I've been blogging about writer's platform: how we writers can stand out in the midst the crowd so people know our name, know our "brand" (genre/quirks/unique qualities), and know that we have a product worth buying, i.e. our books, stories, presentations, etc. I've also been listing resources you can consult for more information.

This week's resource is Christina Katz's Get Known Before the Book Deal. In plain, easy to understand steps she explains what platform is, how to build one, and gives lots of great advice. She's also written a number of other helpful books and offers writing services from her website. I met her at a conference and she's another very personable, helpful writer that knows her business! One of her big topics is a web presence.

A web presence is usually what people think of when the term "writer's platform" is mentioned. That's only one piece of the puzzle. You also benefit from having a public presence and a publishing presence which I've discussed in previous blog posts (links above).

In this post, I'm going to briefly tackle that huge monstrosity we call a web presence, then run away and hide. Why? Because building and maintaining a web presence is not only overwhelming, it's time consuming and a little dangerous. (cue flashback music)

Three years ago I was teaching Internet safety to children. (I still am, but that's off topic.) One of the things I stressed to them was the importance of keeping their identities and pictures OFF off the Internet. Everything is traceable. Everything is permanent. Every clue you leave is one more piece of the puzzle that Internet predators can use to track you down, find you, kidnap you, and hurt you. Do not start a Facebook page. Do not share your email address with strangers. Do not chat with people you don't know. Never, under ANY circumstances, agree to meet Internet friends in public. And on and on....

And the good teacher I was, I modeled my lesson. You could search for HOURS on the Internet and not find my phone number, my address, my name, my email address.... I had purposefully kept everything off of the public record and intended to keep it that way.


Lo and behold I went to a writer's conference and I found out that if I wanted to be successful, I had to (cue scary music) THROW myself onto the spit of Internet and roast my screaming carcass as often and as fast as possible over the fires of social media if I were to be taken seriously as an author. There was this thing called "platform" I was supposed to be building and so far, I had next to nothing.

Terrified yet determined, I started with mincing baby steps onto hot coals, then jumping over pits of flame, juggling fiery batons, and even tried breathing fire. I have asthma. That didn't end well. But over three years the process continued until I gradually felt more comfortable in the heat of the spotlight and knew what and how much information to put out there so I could both remain safe yet findable. It's a delicate balance.

So what was I doing? First I started a Facebook account and learned how to use that as a marketing tool rather than a time waster. Then I tried Twitter and found I'm not a Twit. (It works for some people but not for me.) Initially I failed to attract attention with my blog, but eventually I learned how to do it RIGHT and now I've learned how to double and sometimes triple my hits by picking the right topics and the right audiences. I started a web page. I surf and use Google+ communities (LOVE Google+!) Recently I've been dabbling with LinkedIn. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what's available for authors to use to build platforms. Other possibilities include:

  • Instagram
  • Pintrest
  • Flickr
  • Tumblr
  • Vlogs/YouTube
  • Book review sites
  • Genre specific chat/web sites
  • ...and others too numerous to list

Now the question is, after having NO web presence three years ago, what have I accomplished?

When I go to and type in "Janet L. Cannon writer", the first five websites feature something I wrote: articles for the independent press I work for (Walrus Publishing), a guest blog I wrote for a cool website that supports writers (WOW! Women on Writing), my personal website, and an review I wrote that got a lot of "this was helpful" clicks. There's also a sixth entry later on of a post from a chat website about science fiction and fantasy.

If you click on images, the first two are my picture and on the first page are SIX other images from my blog and my website, some picked up from re-postings of my blog from my Google+ followers.

You get different results if you type in different variations of my name, but I still get at least two or three top entries in both web and images in all cases.


Does it take three years to build a platform so that you're the top five listings in Google? No. Absolutely not. I made a bunch of mistakes including the fact I wasn't consistent with my name. I didn't put as much time into it as I could have, and I had no idea what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was until recently. However, this is still not an overnight affair. You're building personal relationships. You're learning new programs and new protocols. (I got a post deleted last week due to the fact I didn't read the fine print. Ouch! It happens!) Learning takes time. You're looking at six months to a year depending on what you already have in place.

Don't let that depress you. Let it spur you to work hard to prove me wrong. ;-) Google yourself right now. Write down or print the results so you know where you stand. Then start by looking at what media you're using now to figure out how to optimize your results:
  • Do you have a Facebook account? Start using it as a marketing tool instead of a time waster. How? #1: QUIT PLAYING GAMES. Sorry, but seriously, I know from experience how much time I've wasted playing stupid games on my tablet that I could have been using productively. If you need brain breaks, find something short and sweet and TIME yourself so you can get back to work ASAP. #2. Write short paragraphs, post motivational posters or pictures that fit with how you want others to see you i.e. your "brand" so that people start to view you as a unique individual, not just another person on Facebook. I like motivational posters about running because I'm a runner, but they also apply to writers and life events, too, so I pick posters that apply to a number of people. I also post silly things about myself so people can laugh and pictures of me so people can identify with me as a person.
  • Do you have an e-mail account? RIGHT NOW you need to go to Settings and add a Signature with your author name, contact information (preferred e-mail address, web address if you have it, Facebook account if you have it, links to any books you've published, organizations you belong to, etc.) This is one of the BEST ways to advertise yourself.
  • Do you have a web page? If not, make it your goal to set one up in the next six months. You can pay to have someone do it for you, but with free services like Wix and Weebly, for most folks, you don't need all the bells and whistles.
  • Do you have a blog? If not, start one. This article from PC Magazine might help get you started choosing a service. Most of them are free. (Don't pay for a blog!) Make a commitment to post on a regular schedule and STICK TO IT. You may only be able to post once a month, but post once a month. What should your topic/niche be? THAT'S in next week's blog. ;-)
What about other options? Here's my advice for whatever it's worth. About 80% of your time, spend it on maximizing your results with what you're already using. About 15% of the time, try something a little out of the box but not so much so that you feel stressed about it. Then every few months (5% of the time) try something crazy just for kicks and see what kind of results you get. It might work, it might not. However, that 5% will help you expand your comfort zone so you can get better results in your other categories.

And guess what? It's okay to fail. I tried Twitter and totally bombed. I hated it. I didn't understand it. The interface bothered me. The feed of information was too fast. Overall it didn't fit with how my brain works. So I quit. And I STILL succeeded in building a great platform. So don't feel bad if you try something, hate it, and try something else. That's okay and natural and the only way you're going to learn what works for YOU and what doesn't.

One more thing: don't trust offers to sell you "likes" or "viewers." Yes, they will most likely produce people to click the button and inflate the numbers on your pages, but will those people come back again to view your content or are they only going to click the button once and collect their money?

In conclusion: a web presence for your writer's platform doesn't happen overnight but some of you have more of a foundation to build on than others. Optimize what you already have then step out of your comfort zone to make it bigger and taller. A tall platform is one of the best ways to get noticed by readers AND by agents and publishers!

Revision. It's not just for writing.

(Oh, and BTW, do you like my new background? I'm learning how to use PhotoShop. I call this piece "Underwater Susans." PhotoShop is the ultimate in Revision, don't you think?)


Next main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: 
Writer's Platform Part IV: Blog Niche Blues

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website. 

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s