Out of the blue like a bird crap to the head.

Sometimes answers arrive after long and deliberate research, but sometimes they arrive as suddenly and unexpectedly as a bird shitting on your head. I’m quite tickled to say that I received such a sudden answer today to a question I never consciously knew I had.
The first drafts of my novel were set in a fantasy world, and it always bothered me that the world was on the bland side. After all, my novel is light fantasy, not high fantasy. There are no dragons or wizards. Things are as mundane as they are in real life. That didn’t make for a compelling fantasy world, but I was married to it, because I fancied myself a fantasy writer and that’s what I like to read.
Today I mapped out the premise for one of the novels that I’ll be breaking off from my overly long manuscript, and sent it to a fellow literary hobbyist. His reply when I told him it was fantasy was “… I didn’t immediately think fantasy when reading it.” That’s when the bird shit landed. This doesn’t need to be medieval fantasy! It could be absolutely anything. After all, a good story is not necessarily tied to the setting, the setting enhances the story.
I briefly considered sci-fi, then dialed back and settled on post-apocalyptic fantasy. After all, it’s a setting I enjoy (The Walking Dead, I Am Legend, Into the Badlands. Even Cantr II is arguably a post-apocalyptic setting.) Now I feel liberated. I’m no longer tied to the technology of a medieval, mostly magic-less world. I think this will lend my world the flavor it was so glaringly missing.
So, here’s the premise. Sorry for the last sentence, but sometimes, I just can’t figure out how to break things up for easier digestion.
“A bright, loved, and accomplished young woman suddenly finds her entire support network stripped away. Thrust by extraordinary circumstance into a role she never imagined and seemingly beyond her ability, she finds herself beset by enemies both foreign and domestic. Shunned by those who view her gender as inferior, plagued with grief and self-doubt, reunited with a lost sister with a sinister past, and her only ally a source of unending annoyance, she finds not only that true strength lies within her, but also must be modeled and passed along for the betterment of society.”
Is this a story you’d like to read?

Writing well is hard.


For a writer to create a work of art, it’s not merely a matter of arranging words onto a page, but also painting with them.

I came into the the Philadelphia Writers Conference fancying myself a writer.  I had no publications to my name, but I had a manuscript that I felt was polished.  It had flaws, of course; nothing is perfect, but I felt that I was pretty much done with it.  However, I didn’t fancy myself an artist.  Word art was poetry, and I left poetry behind in my angst-filled teenage years.  Yet after three days of sitting through Kathyrn Craft’s sessions on emotional engagement, after listening to her reading examples of prose that were so beautifully written that they brought tears to my eyes, I realized that any written word could be art.  I could be an artist as well as a writer, but I had to put in the extra effort. I’m a natural writer.  I’m not a natural artist.

I left the conference with the knowledge that while my manuscript was good, it was an amateur effort and not much more than words arranged on a page.  It was time to start over from scratch, fix all my mistakes, apply the knowledge I gained at the conference, and use words to paint my story in a way that would capture and engross my readers:  I needed to engage the reader’s senses.  I needed to show them what my characters felt, rather than telling them.  I needed to think more about word choice and sentence structure.  I needed to tighten up the plot.

I’ve spent the weekend laboring over the new opening to my novel.  Ten years ago, that time would have yielded two chapters.  Today, it’s yielded eight paragraphs.  A dove flies through the window.  How do my characters react?  How do they feel?  How do I show that feeling, instead of telling about it?  What do they see and hear?  How do I work their physical descriptions into this scenario?  How do I work in the conflict and tension that needs to be present to hook a reader, agent, or editor?   What details do I leave out for the sake of brevity?

Writing well is hard, but it’s still fun.  I want to be an artist now.  I think I have the tools to succeed, and I’m savoring the challenge.

My take home from the Philadelphia Writers Conference

I had a wonderful three days at the PWC and I learned a ton.  Ideally I’d have made a post for each day, but time, as always, was at a premium.  I’ll post a summary here, and post follow-ups to expand on certain points as time allows.

Platform lessons:

  1. I learned what a platform is (it’s your web-presence).
  2. I learned that today’s attention span for blog posts is 350 words, unless it’s a technical post, and then I need to go for 750-1000
  3. I learned that I need to use headers, key words, RSS feeds, and Twitter to get more exposure.
  4. I learned I need a mailing list, because this blog belongs to WordPress and not to me, but I’ll always own a mailing list.
  5. I’m in the majority among my peers.  Most of us that are starting out don’t have much of a platform.

On top of all this, I already know this website is sub-standard.  I need to put a lot of time into it.  I’ll paraphrase a female fellow writer from the conference: I wish I could go back in time to the 1920s; late enough to vote, but early enough that I didn’t have to worry about this social media crap. I could just write a book, publish it, and people would read it.

Writing lessons:

  1. My novel has too many stories.  While they all revolve around personal relationships, I need to focus on one and really make it spark.  A 200,000 page debut novel is not something an agent is going to swallow.
  2. Given #1, I’m going to entirely re-write the novel into two books.
  3. Given #2, I’m going to re-think every aspect of the fantasy world to make it unique and stand out from all the other fantasy worlds out there.
  4. I now understand the difference between a pitch and a query.

Miscellaneous lessons:

  1. I need business cards.
  2. I need to read more in general.
  3. I need to read a lot more in my genre.

That puts me at 343…349.   Bye!

Sylvie’s Story

Those of you who played Cantr when I did may recognize Sylvie Dill, who spent most of her time in Zuzi.  Sylvie’s life in Cantr began filled with wonder and promise, and it was very tragic for me to watch her innocence become lost and her life spiral into a despair so dark and thick that there was no escaping it.  One of my greatest wishes was that I could pluck her out of time and take her back to her early days.  I even tried to do that with a desperate attempt at amnesia.  However, as role-players discover and know well, characters are who they are; they are products of their world.  Sylvie’s soul was so tainted by her life’s experiences, even amnesia couldn’t scrub it from her.

However, plucking Sylvie Dill out of that world and inserting her into a new one has given Sylvie a second chance.  Below is a backstory excerpt from the novel I’m currently working on.  I hope I’ve conveyed the hope and innocence that used to define her; it’s been refreshing to have that Sylvie back.  Please feel free to comment/constructively critique.  You can also find this on DeviantArt here.  Clicking the link will help increase my page views, which helps me out since the internet is just a massive popularity contest. If you already have an account on DeviantArt, commenting there is easier than here.  🙂

Enjoy!  Sylvie  (image by Cantr player raspberrytea)


 At the edge of a field sat a lonesome, tiny cottage.  Once a shepherd’s shack, then abandoned, it had been lovingly restored by its new occupant, though not in an obvious way.  Old boards had not been replaced with new, but rather patched with hardened clay.  The decaying roof had been covered over with sod.  In fact, if one hadn’t known of the little cottage’s existence, one wouldn’t have noticed it at all.  The field, abandoned with it, was overgrown with hay, wild flowers, and weeds, mostly obscuring the little cottage from the rutted dirt road that ran nearby.  The parts of it that were visible looked just like the field itself, the same wildflowers growing from the sod roof.

Behind the house ran a low stone wall, and immediately behind that was a forest.  The confluence of these three distinct niches meant that the universe around the tiny cottage was teeming with life.  Chipmunks darted in and out of the stone wall, always on guard for the snakes they knew could be lurking just around the next stone.  Crickets chirped night and day in the field, while cicadas droned up in the trees in the hot months.  At dusk and dawn, deer would graze in the field, ever ready to bolt back into the cover of the forest.  Woodchucks, squirrels, and foxes could be seen scurrying about.  All manner of critters could be found here, from the biggest to the smallest, and Sylvie had become one of them.

She found solitude there away from town, the constant looks and insults that she received having left her in perpetual stress.  She visited the tiny cottage with increasing frequency, fixing it up a little bit at a time, until, one day, she stayed there.  Along with the tiny cottage, she fixed up a nearby well and had water readily available.  The inside was as small as you’d expect, with enough room for a bed and a stove, but Sylvie spent little time inside.  Meeps, her tabby cat, spent all his days exploring outdoors, so Sylvie thought that was the best use of her time as well.  Sylvie was horribly near-sighted, which made her albinism even more intolerable.  As if having no pigment wasn’t enough, she went through life squinting, and while she couldn’t see the others mocking her with their parodies, she still knew that she was an object of derision.

Meeps, perhaps due to that strange intuition that animals sometimes display, seemed to know Sylvie had difficulty seeing, and acted as her guide to the wilderness that surrounded their domicile.  She would follow him into the field or forest, and while he often did not stay with her, he always returned to lead her home.  After a few years, Meeps and Sylvie knew the area intimately, and Sylvie no longer required her sight, or Meeps, to get around.  Meeps regarded no longer being needed with typical feline indifference.  To Meeps, Sylvie was just a big white hairless cat, and cats, after all, didn’t need other cats.  However, needed or not, their worlds were intertwined, and their mutual presence became greatly appreciated.  Sylvie was a warm lap to lie upon and a reliable source of rubs, and Meeps was Sylvie’s only companion, and one that didn’t judge her.

Not all of Sylvie’s days were spent wandering.  She had become a keen herbalist, having read a bit about it before her poor eyesight made reading too much of a bother.  Nearly everything she needed for her craft could be found in the field or in the forest, and this allowed her to eck out a very modest income from those women in the town that braved associating with her.  It helped that Sylvie lived outside of town, that way, none of them would be seen in her presence.  Indeed, she never even saw most of her clients.  They would leave a note with some money, and Sylvie would leave the medicine in a hollow stump by the road.

Today was a day for wandering, and Sylvie was sitting in the field, the tall hay surrounding her like a wall.  She was watching butterflies flit about on the wild flowers as best as she could, the proximity needed for clear vision chasing off the butterflies more often than not.  Sylvie spotted a fluttering motion in the corner of her eye and turned to see a red blob moving about on a pink blob.  She leaned in, and, to her pleasure, the red butterfly was too engrossed in its nectar to notice her.  In fascination, she watched its proboscis poking into the pink flower’s depths. She liked these butterflies the most. She called them “slow reds,” because they lumbered about and didn’t seem to care about her presence.  She smiled to herself, a thousand questions circling in her head, when a brown blur shot in front of her face.

“Meeps!” She exclaimed.  The tabby looked up at her, a single red wing protruding from between his lips.  “It was pretty and you ate it!”  Meeps smacked his jaw several times, and the wing disappeared into his mouth.  He licked at his upper lip with a look of contentment.

“Yes, I know you’re pretty too, but you didn’t get pretty by eating pretty things,” Sylvie scolded.  “You can eat boring, ugly things and be just as pretty.”    Meeps gazed at her with a “well, you weren’t eating it” look.

Sylvie gathered Meeps up into her lap, his furry body being cradled by her skirt.  The sun was shining upon him, and he was quite content. Sylvie stroked gently between his ears and shoulders.  “Is that what’s going on with me, Meeps?  Am I just a white butterfly in a town of tabby cats, to be swatted and eaten?  If that’s so, I suppose I can’t be mad at them if I’m not mad at you.”  Her slender fingers ran up his spine, stopping to scratch the base of his tail, which he enjoyed immensely.  He let out a short “meep” as proof of his approval.  “But it can’t be that, can it?  I mean, you are a cat, and that was a butterfly, and cats eat butterflies.  That’s just the natural order of things.  I, on the other hand, am a person, and they are people.  I’m not their food.  I’m just different, and people don’t like things that are different.  They think I was cursed at birth or some nonsense.  Really.  They see a white stag, and the men fall over themselves to hunt it, but no one wants me. “

Sylvie sighed, and Meeps turned his head around and licked the back of her hand once.  She smiled at that.  “Thank you, Meeps.  I know you want me.  I meant other people. Don’t you miss other cats?”  Meeps narrowed his eyes, then licked his paw and began grooming behind his ear.  “Of course you don’t.  There’s so many wonderful and amazing things here for you to kill and eat.  But it would be so nice to talk to someone that can speak back, maybe…someone to hold my hand while we watched butterflies.”  She blushed at the thought.  “Surely not everyone out there thinks of me as a freak.”

As if on cue, the sound of talking could be heard on the breeze.  Sylvie turned her head in an attempt to better hear, but she couldn’t make any words out.  “I hear people, Meeps.  Let’s go see!”  She gently removed Meeps from her lap, and he walked off into the hay, clearly having better things to do than stare at other humans.  Now, one would be excused for wondering why an outcast like Sylvie would be excited at the prospect of seeing other people.  After all, society had branded her a freak and cast her out.  But the longer Sylvie Dill was excluded from society, the more she knew in her heart that somewhere, out there, in the big, vast world, was a place just for her.  A place of learning and inquiry.  A place where her contributions would be appreciated.  A place where she’d be respected.  So Sylvie Dill, with an optimism that only someone with faith and hope can have, strode out of the field towards the noise on the path.

Two teenage boys sat on a large, horse driven cart filled with various fruits and vegetables.  They were talking amongst themselves when a poor-looking albino girl stepped out of the hay field and walked right up to them, standing much closer than was wise or proper.  She squinted up at them, her eyes and cheeks squashing into her nose.  They boys had been taken off-guard, but they weren’t going to show it.  After all, it was just a girl.

“Hi, I’m Sylvie Dill,” she said in a mousey voice, a smile barely discernable through the squint.

“What’re you doin’ out in the middle of a hay field?” the taller of the two boys asked.

“What’s wrong with your skin and hair?” the shorter one asked.

Sylvie took another step closer, trying to get them into focus, and the boys, who had been dangling their legs off the side of the wagon, now pulled them in behind the perceived safety of the wagon’s sides.  “I live around here, and I was born this way.  I don’t know why.”  She put her small hands on the side of the wagon and peered in at the produce.  “Why did you stop?  No one stops, unless they want my medicine.”

“Our wagon broke an axel.  Father went into town to fetch a wainwright,” said the shorter boy.

“Oh, that’s unfortunate,” Sylvie said, looking under the wagon but not able to see the damage.

Testing a hunch, the taller boy grabbed an apple from the cart and casually tossed it into the field.  At the sound of the rustling, the boy exclaimed “what is that?!”

Sylvie turned, obviously not able to see herself.  It was an odd noise, not familiar to her.  The taller boy leaned down to the other and whispered.  “She can’t see!”

With an exchange of sly grins, they both began throwing apples into the hay, Sylvie turning this way and that until she overheard their giggles.  She turned back to them, a frown on her lips.  “You’re tricking me.”  It was at that moment, the same moment the words were coming out of her mouth, that a tomato exploded on the front of her blouse.  Sylvie stood in shock, fingers picking at the tomato skin stuck to her shirt.

“Oi, you done missed the grass and hit her,” said the tall one.

“Well, she was in the way, and look, she has some color to her now!”

The boys laughed.  “Maybe we can turn her into a rainbow,” said the taller one.  Laughing, they jumped out of the cart and surrounded her.  Sylvie looked from one to the other, her curiosity having turned to fear.  She couldn’t run, because she’d not find her way back to the tiny cottage.  “Here, try some blueberries!”  The taller boy took a handful of blueberries and smashed them, smearing the purple mess all over her back.  Sylvie tried to stop him, but the shorter one did the same with smashed strawberries when she turned.

Sylvie was powerless, and she couldn’t flee.  Even if she walked slowly enough to find her way back to the tiny cottage, she didn’t want them to know where it was.  So, with resignation, not wishing to give them any sport, Sylvie huffed.  “Fine, have your fun.” She sat down along the side of the cart path and, setting her jaw, let the boys to it without further protest.

A short while later, shorter than she had expected, the boys stopped their game, and Sylvie sat saturated in fruit juice, seeds, and pulp.  The boys had realized that their father would kill them for wasting so much produce tormenting a hermit, and now they waited with increasing angst on the wagon.  Sylvie sat there and stared at them.

“Oi, go on now, go away and leave us be!”

“If I leave, you’ll follow me,” Sylvie stated.

“Nuh ah, we won’t,” said the shorter boy.

“But you’ll make up lies about me to your father to justify wasting his fruit.  I wish to state my side of it.”

“It was a bear!” the taller boy exclaimed.  “A bear came to the wagon, and got into the fruit, and you came down and chased it off!”

Sylvie rolled the lie around in her head.  She wanted the boys to get into trouble for what they did, but, as far as she knew, their father was as big of a jerk as they were.  There was no guarantee that an encounter with him would have a satisfying conclusion.  Conversely, being made out to be a hero would have its benefits, even if it was a lie.  Neither solution was satisfactory to Sylvie, but, given that their father could do far worse to her than fling fruit, she decided to cut her losses, accept the lie, go back to her tiny cottage and pray that they stuck to their word.

Sylvie nodded to them, stood, and slowly made her way back to the tiny cottage, stopping now and again to make sure they weren’t following her.  Meeps greeted her at the door with a curious expression.  Her color and smell were all wrong.  Sylvie shut the door and bolted it.  She slipped out of her soiled clothing, and scooping up Meeps into her arms, sank down onto her bed and began to weep.



Sylvie in the Downpour

(anonymous Cantr player)

Well, the answer was pretty obvious…

While not exclusive to creative people, I’ve gotten the sense that creative people tend to have more than their fair share of demons lurking in the dark recesses of their subconscious. It’s these demons that keep me from starting anything ambitious, because “it won’t matter”, “I won’t finish”, “it won’t be good enough,” or whatever other reason it whispers in my ear.  The beauty of the situation is that, once you expose those demons to the light of day, it becomes readily apparent how absurd they are.  Kind of like challenging a boggart with the “riddikulus” spell.

My last post was such, to the point where I knew that my apparent fear of success was founded in a fear of failure before I even published the post.  I could have chosen not to published it, sparing myself the embarrassment of looking so silly, but that would have cheated you, the reader.  I said the purpose of this blog was to record my process and progress, warts and all, and so, there you go.  Warts.

I had some ideas in the last 24 hours that have me fairly excited.  It’s been bothering me that I’m putting myself out there to the world as a writer without offering anything for the world to read.  So, my next post will be an excerpt from the novel I’m currently working on.  It’s a character backstory that doesn’t give anything at all away, and it’s a scene I’m quite proud of.  I think it’ll be a good example of my writing.  Constructive criticism is always welcome, as well as your accolades.  I also had an idea for building my portfolio that intrigued me:  The typical process is that someone writes a story, and then someone illustrates it.  If it’s a novel, you’ll just have a cover.  A children’s book will be much more extensive.  But…we tend to take our talents for granted.  A painter may not think much of painting, yet envy a writer his ability to put words to paper.  What if there’s a world of illustrators out there that really wish they could narrate their own illustrations, but lack the talent to put that story to paper?

That is where my idea comes into play:  Writer looking to write the story of your pictures.  I’ve been lurking on DeviantArt for some time now, quietly collecting a list of artists whose work I like in case I need to find an illustrator myself.  I think I’ll try flipping the coin and seeing if, in that vast sea of visual talent, there’s a niche for my proposal.

Do I really want to be successful?

At least, at this point in my life?  That might sound ridiculous, but it’s been something that’s been weighing on me for a few weeks now.  There is one thing, in particular, that’s been bothering me, and that’s a deadline.  I know I put deadlines into the plus category in a previous post, but I’m seriously reconsidering.  First, I don’t want to ever be in a position where I have to write.  That would probably be the worst thing for me, since I really have issues doing things I don’t want to do, and my creative juices ebb and flow.  Second, I don’t want to have to give up other things in my life that I enjoy.

Consider that I have a day job, and then I have various domestic and community obligations after that until 9pm most days.  That leaves an hour, the last hour of my day, during which I’m, for lack of a better word, completely spent.  This hour, hour and a half (if I’m lucky), is when my wife and I sit on our bums and watch TV. This is also the only time I see my wife during the day in any sort of relaxed atmosphere.  If I were to be in a position where I was forced to write a page a day in order to meet a publisher’s deadline, I’d have to sacrifice the last free hour of my day to this endeavor.  I’d never see my wife.  I’d have to give up all television. Giving up sleep is not an option; I don’t get enough as it is.

That’s quite a steep price, and one I’m not willing to pay right now. Which means that the self-publishing route is looking much more attractive.  All that said, what is the reality?  Am I using this as an excuse to avoid failure, or is it a legitimate concern?  I really don’t know.  Much introspection ahead.

The First Big Step

Well, it’s been a while since I posted.  Initially, I held back because I didn’t want to burn myself out blogging in the span of a few days. Then life hit, and my literary pursuits were pushed to the back burner as frequently happens.  Now to get back on track!

My discovery of fantasy author Anna Kashina’s blog continues to pay dividends for me, as through it I discovered the existence of the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference (she’s presenting one of the workshops).  It’s three days, with multiple workshops per day, culminating in a dinner on the last day.  It seemed like a great way to learn something about the industry and meet people.  The only problem was, meeting people is a foreign concept to me.  Talking to strangers about stuff is a skill that was left out of my genome. Interrupt my solitude on the subway or train?  I’m mentally killing you.

So it was with both excitement and apprehension that I signed up to attend.  Surprisingly, I discovered for an extra $20 per, I can submit a short excerpt of my work to the professionals running the multi-day workshops I signed up for!  That’s pretty friggin’ cool, although a bit expensive on top of the base “tuition”. But still cool!  Honestly, if I get nothing more out of the three days than several enlighted and educated critiques, it’ll have been worth it.  And on top of it all, I can submit something to their writing competition to win free tuition to the conference next year.  Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what to submit to whom.

I’ve signed up for the following workshops:

  • Planning a Novel, by Rachel Pastan
  • Writing and Worldbuilding in the Genres of Speculative Fiction, by Anna Kashina
  • Maximize the Emotional Potential of Your Novel, by Kathryn Craft
  • Surviving Query Quicksand, by K.M. Walton
  • Building a Digital Brand & Creating Content, by Cecily Kellogg
  • Pitch Perfect – Sell your work to agents and editors, by Frances Grote
  • Grammar for Writers, by Courtney Bambrick

Except for Anna, I have no idea who these people are.  I suppose that’s a bit of homework for me to do before the event, especially if I’m going to be submitting my work for critique to any of the first three mentioned.

Additionally, there’s two food-oriented events, the Agents and Editors Buffet which, for introverted me, is incredibly terrifying yet likely one of the more important socializing events of the conference, and the Keynote Banquet by Cristin Aptowicz, which blessedly only involves eating, listening, and having people assigned to your table that you’re forced to talk to.

So, I’ve spent a lot of money to go to an event that will require me to utilize my under-developed social skills without coming off like Stork in Animal House.  Should be interesting!  Oooh!  I just discovered I can sign up for a 5 minute pitch/interview with an agent/editor the first night. Fortunately for me, I’m really great at interviews!

First step, get my work organized and submitted by the May 1st deadline!  Busy weeks ahead!



To self-publish, or not to self-publish?

Why publish at all?  I write because I enjoy writing.  It’s the process, not the product, that has me invested in this pursuit.  That’s the same reason why I rarely write things with “satisfactory” endings; the story is about the character’s journey, and a character’s journey only truly ends in death (at least in non-fantasy novels).  “Happily ever after” is a boring concept to me, and I’m very much one of the Joss Whedon school of story-telling.

So, if I’m perfectly content to write my novels, a viable option is to just dump it all on the internet for free consumption.  I know fans of my work would like that, and I’d have instant gratification.  However, it would be a flash in the pan, limited to my immediate circle of fans.  So, something further needs to be done.

Since I’ve “put myself out there” a mere 48 hours ago or so, I’ve gotten many enthusiastic responses, and it turns out that a lot of you know people who either have self-published or are in the business of helping people self-publish.  I want to thank you all for your offers and links.  They’ll all be filed away for the moment; I wont’ forget!

During my later years in college, my research mentor told me that when deciding on a career, I needed to prioritize between time, money, and prestige.  I think that distinction can be applied to publishing, with a bit of a twist.


Traditional Publishing:

  • A large-up front investment of time in manuscript preparation and submissions.  A typical review period can take three months or more, and the rejection percentage is fairly large.  It’s plausible that I could be submitting the same manuscript for ten years before I got lucky (since many places don’t allow you to submit to multiple places concurrently).  However, most of that is effortless time. I can spend it writing more novels while I wait to hear back.
  • Assuming my manuscript was accepted and modestly successful, I’d be under contract with a publisher who would impose deadlines.  However,  think I function better under deadlines, and I don’t have the ability to self-impose them. My kids will be older and more self-sufficient by then, meaning I’ll have more time to write.


  • No deadlines means no external motivation to write when the next episode of Grimm is sitting on the DVR.
  • Writing time eaten into by the necessity of marketing my own novel.
  • I can put my book out there for you to read right now and don’t have to keep it squirreled away.


Traditional Publishing:

  • Assuming my manuscript is accepted, I’d have the publisher fronting all the production and marketing costs.  This is pretty huge.
  • I’d potentially earn less money per sale.


  • I’d have to front all the production and marketing costs.  The thought of 500 copies of my novel gathering dust in my basement for 40 years is downright depressing, and I have kids to put through college.  Yes, I could exclusively e-publish and significantly reduce costs, but successful marketing requires an infusion of cold-hard cash.
  • I’d potentially earn more money per sale (unless Amazon dictates that I can only sell it for a $.10).


Traditional Publishing:

  • Let’s face it, there’s something pretty sexy about being able to drop the name of your editor at parties.
  • I’m pretty sure there’s an elitist club for authors in this category that I want to be in. At least, watching Castle led me to believe this.  There might be a secret handshake, but definitely cigars and cognac.
  • If I fail, I can blame the editor/publishing house/agent.
  • Months/years of soul-destroying rejection letters.
  • Getting picked up by a publisher is external validation of your work and makes you instantly feel really good about yourself.
  • I’ll get bombarded with manuscripts from strangers because they think I’m a “backdoor” into the industry.
  • May have to compromise my art to make the publisher happy (“We think characters A and B should be having sex at least once every 75 pages, can you make that happen?”).


  • If I fail, I have only myself to blame.
  • I’d have to accomplish way more to feel good about myself than I would if a publisher picked me up (see bullet five above).
  • Possibly still looked down upon by literary snobs even if I independently sold more books than they did while under contract.
  • Complete creative control over my work.

So, I’ve decided for now that Traditional Publishing wins.  While I do want my work to be out there “right now,” the benefits of having a publisher financially invested in my work is the right fit for my personality.  We’ll see how I feel once those rejection letters start rolling in, but that’s not in the immediate future.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I am a man with a fantasy novel, and I have no idea what to do with it.  I didn’t intentionally seek to write this novel, its creation came about as a way to cope with quitting my role-playing addiction cold turkey.  I take my role-playing very seriously, to the point where the division between self and character starts to blur.  It screwed up my life, and it needed to go away, and so it did (for a while, but that’s a story for another time). But, as smokers know well, you just can’t quit and that’s it.  Addiction leaves a hole that demands to be filled.  So I filled that hole by writing.

The purpose of the writing was to fill a need, so I just wrote, and wrote, and wrote.  I didn’t really know what I was writing.  I knew how the story began and finished, but the middle was unknown.  I didn’t create a plot outline.  I didn’t think it through.  I just let characters write the story for me.  I dropped it after a while and put it on the back burner, then picked it up again, repeating this process many times.  It’s been nine or ten years now, and it reminds me of this classic exchange from Animal House:


For me, the opposite was true: At some point, I read through my manuscript, decided it was pretty good, and thought “maybe I should do something with this.”  So I went backwards, outlining the plot I already had.  I’ve since been trying to make it more coherent, make the scenes more compelling, trying to give it that “it” factor that a literary agent will latch on to and demand to see more.  It’s been very hard, and I admit I’m not sure if I’ve accomplished that.

I just put on the finishing touches, and decided that it is “good enough” to begin the process of “doing something with it.”  But what to do?  I know nothing about the publishing industry, and little about the fantasy genre (I was a D&D player as a kid, not a consumer of fantasy novels).  When in doubt, Google!

When I was searching for clarification of DAW’s (in my opinion) vague submission guidelines, I stumbled across a blog post by author Anna Kashina interviewing the submissions Editor for DAW.  Score!  However, further reading of her blog began to clue me in to the wider world of writing and publishing, and it is, frankly, an introvert’s nightmare.  I needed to “put myself out there.”

So, this WordPress blog, which I barely know how to use, is the beginning of me “putting myself out there.” If the site looks like crap, please accept my apologies.  It’ll get better when I figure it out.  If you’re also a clueless hobbyist writer, you may find value in following my infantile steps.  If you’re not, it could amuse you anyway.