Category Archives: Guest Posts

Cream of the Crap by Jeffery J Micheals

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The following is an expression of opinions based on observations regarding the writing trade. They may be crappy opinions. They are my opinions and frankly, I may not even believe them completely myself. I try not to force my opinions on anyone.

There is a generally held belief that, in writing, or any creative endeavor, the cream of the crop rises to the top. It doesn’t matter that there is a plethora of content available to the buying public. It is commonly believed that things that are crap will sink.

As aspiring or even published authors, many creatives take comfort in this concept and work hard to perfect their craft, seeking to become known for their genius level skill set and integrity to the high road of ART. Many aspiring or even published authors are also working a day job whilst their less than artistically pure colleagues seem to be succeeding in spite of producing derivative garbage.

Surely the public wants higher forms of ART and they are merely unaware of your BRILLIANCE.

Perhaps not.

As a creative, you may have an entirely different, specific set of parameters by which you measure yourself. Different from whom? The paying public of course. And here is where we creatives get challenged in our perceptions. We think ART, but others think entertainment. The successful ones think, “Business savvy” and we keepers of the flame of integrity are sometimes left in the literary society dust.

In the writing game, the important thing to remember is that your perspective is not the one that matters. The masses chose the definition of “cream.” For example, Fifty Shades of Grey, Twilight, Sharknado, and Snakes on a Plane rose to the top. Arguably crap in terms of artistic merit, but in terms of the more valuable entertainment rating, they rock the world of the masses, those with disposable income. Perhaps those starving artist souls reading this might feel “flushable income” is the better term. But I bet most of you have read one of those books or seen at least one of those movies. You do not have to admit it out loud. I’ll join you in not admitting.

Understand that at the time of this writing Sharknado FIVE is released, for better or worse. Why? Money, of course.

Another way of describing this “cream of the crop” belief is to say, “If you build it, they will come.” Crap. If you believe this then the fickle public will certainly tread all over you in the rush to get access to whatever the newest highly promoted trend is that week. Now, I want to point out that this is one of those cynical moments where I make a statement that is harsh and dogmatic and later on try to retract or modify.

The fact is that sometimes, SOMETIMES, there is a moment when against all odds something gains momentum all of its own accord and proves to be an amazing artistic triumph that advances the causes of social liberty and human rights, motivating millions to take a new and unique action in their lives and adjust the world’s global karma. However, more often than not, it is something on the level of Angry Birds or Pokemon that attracts the audience.

In the not too distant past an author would sell their manuscript, receive a contract and soon an ad campaign director and a publisher would place a budget on a project, employ artists and copywriters to create a unique image or series of images to place in newspapers, magazines, on the side of buses, and often even billboards, alerting the public to the importance of your book. Well placed editorials and strategic marketing plans would create a place on Bestseller Lists or in “trending author” articles and you, the more-famous-by-the-moment-author and recipient of such attention, would get booked on PBS talking head shows, or perhaps if you were photogenic enough a spot on daytime talk shows like Dinah Shore or Merv Griffin. If you were witty and personable, Johnny Carson might even bring you on the Tonight Show (Yes, I am that old).

These days success is called Going Viral and relies heavily on algorithms called Bubble Sort and other interesting sounding titles (but really they are just counting hits) and placement of your brand and platform on the internet. It is all done by YOU unless you have a fair amount of money you wish to throw at this effort and can hire someone to do the work for you, results NOT guaranteed. It can all be exhausting. It can detract, discourage, and debilitate you into the status of permanent writer’s block. You can become sidetracked into this morass of externals and somehow never actually finish your books.

I know of at least two writer friends who excel at marketing. They have shiny websites that have won awards. They produce excellent blogs followed by thousands and display excellently reviewed sample chapters from their soon-to-come books. They garner rave comments from those who visit their website and read their blogs…but in over five years neither of them have moved a new word into their manuscript. Have they lost interest or just lost their creative way? Yet they have the appearance of success. They are keynote speakers at conferences, presenting their skills at marketing, social media, internet savviness, viralishness, and platform awareness stuff. They look real good, but there is no substance. At least to my perception.

To my way of thinking, if you wish to be called an author, you need to have written a book. All of the marketing gets to be important at some point, but…here is my opinion and it may be crap.

What you, as an author, need to focus on is creating the best product YOU can produce. Once you have that in hand, polished and finished, professionally edited and with a well-designed cover, then and only then is it time to focus upon making people aware of your best product. For the artistic individual, a person who is more than likely to be rather undisciplined or introverted, this gets tricky. You find yourself shifting from creativity to business acumen and often the two are polar opposites in terms of skill set.

The path to being a successful author is not one that can be completely defined and success can be a relative term. But there are two stages and it is important that creative souls face the reality early on that at some point they will find it necessary to get their work out there and sell their art. It is easier if the book, film, or any other creative endeavor fits an existing and recognizable-to-the-public genre. Selling a mystery series is easier than selling literary fiction, no matter how elegant your prose. People like mysteries (because good triumphs) and they like the same thing but different. Or maybe not so different. But they do like a well written, well-crafted mystery or romance or horror novel. And in that case, the cream really does rise to the top.

I sometimes think I am a snob when I look at the state of the creative business today. But at heart, I still recall the pure enjoyment of reading the old pulp novels from the thirties and forties (Reprints. I am not that old!). I admit, I have seen Sharknado (In my defense it was the Riff Trax version) and enjoyed the crude silliness of the dumb, stupid movie. But I have also seen My Dinner with Andre and Citizen Kane multiple times and even own the BluRay versions of each. I will watch those again and may even see another Sharknado film. I read higher quality these days than in my youth. Why? Am I such a better person for it? No. What I am is more experienced and less able to tolerate what is now, to me, predictable storylines. I want more from a book or movie. Most of the time anyway.

And when I write, I refuse to write downward.

I believe that a writer or creative of any kind can and should seek to show the audience the world in a better light or at least show that there is a path out of dark days of fear and the daily crap that occurs. And sometimes, at the end of the day, when the world is just heavy and the news is perpetually about confrontation and loss, I believe that a writer should entertain and brighten the audiences’ lives. A little well-written nonsense may be just the thing. And if you can make a buck or two while helping others rise out of the crap? Well, maybe I should just get off my high horse and keep my opinions to myself! I do have an idea for a funny zombie story…

jeffreyjmichaels4wendy2Jeffrey J. Michaels is a Gemini. As such he is deeply involved in whatever interests him at the moment. He describes his book “A Day at the Beach and Other Brief Diversions” as “metaphyictional,” combining fantasy and humor with metaphysical elements.

He is currently polishing a sweeping fantasy series of interconnected tales collectively known as “The Mystical Histories.” It is varied enough that he says he may even finish most of the stories.

In his real life he is a well-respected creative and spiritual consultant.
He does not like to talk about his award-winning horror story.

a-day-at-the-beach-book-cover“A Day At the Beach and Other Brief Diversions”

What if… …your perfect day never ended? …your life were to pass before your eyes, one person at a time? …the genie in the lamp had a wish? …you heard the perfect last words? Versatile author Jeffrey J. Michaels invites you to explore new ways of looking at your world and worlds beyond in this selection of metaphyictional short stories.

Motivation and Inspiration by Patricia Crumpler

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At a recent workshop, someone asked why I write. I’m not sure, but I am pretty sure of what makes me want to write. I read.

So far, all of the writers I have met, published and unpublished, have one thing in common. They read. Okay, almost everyone can read. I say almost everyone because since we have been utilizing our vacation cabin in the Appalachian Mountains I have become acquainted with a few folks who don’t read, either because they didn’t want to learn or didn’t have the opportunity. I digress to say these people get along just fine and probably can read more than they think; after all, they have the great educator—television— and words like “greatest sale of the year” and “pine-sol clean” and “Viagra” cannot have escaped being committed to the spongy vastness of anyone’s little gray cells.

No, I mean writers read voraciously. Like a pile of books stacked adjacent to a bedside table while dishes scream to be washed in the kitchen sink. That kind of reading. The kind of word-appetite that makes a person panic when she’s read the final offering of her favorite author. “Wait a minute,” she says to herself. “I can write more of that series.” And she does. That’s how fan fiction takes life and how one can discover her ability to create literature. That’s Inspiration.

Another inspiration is what I call “out of the blue” meaning, one day you are sitting in a rocking chair on the porch and an idea hits you. It keeps hitting you, NCIS Gibbs style until you fire up the computer and relieve the pent-up creation.

More examples of inspiration you say? Righty-right, then. You read a short story and it triggers a long-forgotten episode in your past that flares to life and the writer inside demands it to be consigned to posterity.

Or… Someone tells you about an odd happening and you say, “Wow, that is so weird it has to be written.” Luckily that person isn’t prone to writing, so you borrow it and love the result. In fact, you submit it to a contest and win first prize. You have been bitten by inspiration.

Or…How about, you are teetering on the edge of insanity and writing saves you. Now the monster (don’t we always need conflict in our writing?) also known as Motivation.

The motivation aspect could be simplified into two parts. The first is the easy part, the drive to create and the passion to give life to your inspirations. The second is the hard part; the enforcement of discipline that many writers talk about as being instrumental to writing. All the books and most of the writers I’ve met say the same thing: you must write all the time, even if you don’t have anything to write about. You must get your body and mind accustomed to that action so it becomes second nature. Even if you just churn out crap on top of crap, you are still writing and at some point, your habitual writing and inspiration will connect.

Inspiration or motivation, there remains the girl in my brain’s attic telling me what to do, mainly to click at the computer buttons until some of the words make sentences, and then paragraphs, and then, perhaps, make sense. And I listen to her. I click those buttons every day.

Please notice the blatant omission of memoirs. That’s another post.

Author Patricia CrumplerPatricia Crumpler is a writer and an artist with a life-long addiction to reading Science Fiction. Her space drama, “Benevolence” debuted in February of this year by First Realm Publishers.

In addition to a novella, “Sorrow Song” which features a very sexy merman, Patricia has published an anthology with her son, Christopher, and has a series of children’s stories called “Fins and Fables” volumes I, II, & III. All of her books are available on Amazon. She has had 15 short stories published in various anthologies.

Patricia lives in South Florida where her favorite hangout is the beach. Her website is Carpewordum.com. She’d love to hear from readers!

The Nature of Poetry by Dave Schneider

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Many people have defined poetry in different ways. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as ‘an arrangement of words in verse; especially in rhythmical composition, sometimes rhymed, expressing facts, ideas, or emotions in a style more concentrated, imaginative and powerful than that of ordinary speech; some poems are in meter, some in free verse.’ If I may paraphrase the others, poetry is the projection of emotion and experience to the reader through theme, imagery, rhythm, and form in finely compressed language. The poet uses distinct imagery, both literal and figurative, supplemented by the rhythmic arrangement of words and phrases in a specifically designed form to convey feelings and ideas to the reader. Like a snapshot photograph, a poem captures a moment of experience in words that can be shared with others through eternity.

What is the difference between prose and poetry?

The most important difference is the line structure. In prose, the lines run to the margins of the page and carry over to the next until they form a complete paragraph. In poetry, each line is specifically designed based on the poet’s intended effect. Poetry is also distinguished by vivid imagery, a lyrical rhythm that supports the theme, and compact language to create an intensity that evokes an emotional reaction from the reader.

Why should you write poetry?

First, let’s be clear. If you’re seeking wealth and fame, poetry is probably not the place for you. The market is very limited, and the question of quality is quite subjective, so your chances of selling enough to make a living are very slim. If you would like to express yourself in a community of people who enjoy doing the same thing, the world of poetry is the perfect place for you.

Poetry is an entertaining form of relaxing recreation. Searching for just the right words to craft a line of poetry is akin to an artist mixing pigments on the palette to achieve precisely the right hue of color for a painting.

Poetry can be a therapeutic outlet for pent-up emotions. Expressing those feelings in words on paper will help you deal with them in a manner that will promote better understanding.

Poetry is an effective means of expanding your repertoire of skills by training writers of all persuasions to be more aware of the intricacies of the language they use. The compact nature of poetry forces the writer to trim and compress the language for maximum effect in expressing the very essence of an idea.

You shouldn’t worry about whether or not you ‘are good enough’ or ‘have what it takes.’ Poetry is more about the journey than the end result.

What do you need to write poetry?

As with all kinds of writing, the first and most important thing you need to write poetry is the commitment to sit down and do it. Ideally, that will start with designating a specific place and time for your writing. The place can be as simple as a place to sit and a flat surface to write on. The time will depend upon the demands of your daily routine. If you are truly committed to writing, you will find some space in that routine for your writing, whether it be rising an hour early for a morning session or in the evening after the kids are tucked into bed. Being retired, I usually try to get all my chores and errands done in the morning to free up my afternoon for writing. I also carry a pad and pen with me to capture any random moments that may come available, such as in the waiting room of a doctor’s office.

Poet Dave SchneiderAfter many years of writing to the beat of someone else’s drum, Dave Schneider unchained his Muse and started traveling a more creative path. When the ghost of Mr. Poe’s raven whispered in his ear, he stepped through the portal into the realm of phantasmic tales. Pushing his way past the cobwebs in the vestibule of his imagination, he proceeded down a labyrinth of deliciously dark dreamscapes, where he encountered the serpent of writing addiction. The beast sank its fangs into his consciousness, and a ravenous passion for words started coursing through his veins.

Since then, he has been writing and teaching poetry on the Writing.Com website. His poems have been published in several small press publications, and he has written articles and essays for a local magazine. In addition to his professorial duties at The Poet’s Place on Writing.Com, he is the chief instigator for The Writers’ Nest at Sangaree in Summerville, SC.

Dave’s career has progressed through a series of evolutionary phases along a meandering trail of enchanting exploration. These ingredients have produced the concoction of his writing. He plans to continue sampling different cuisines as he ventures down new avenues as well as a few less traveled pathways.

Reprints by D.H. Aire

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Well, reprints have been on my mind lately. You see, once you publish a story in a magazine or anthology, you have sold either your First North American Serial Rights or First World publication rights (based on the contract you sign). If that magazine paid 8 cents a word or even 2 cents a word, or you sold the story for exposure, once the rights to your story have reverted, you can sell your story again; however, that’s only if the next market accepts reprints. If that’s the case, the industry standard is you’ll be paid a penny a word for reprints, though, I have started to see some offer 2 cents a word recently (competition in the marketplace in action, I guess).

A few months ago, there was a call from an online SF magazine seeking only reprints. I submitted one of my old stories and they accepted it – at a penny a word. The contract stated there may also be an anthology, and in that case, the story would earn a bit more. Being able to sell a reprint is nice, just not very profitable.

Something else to consider, if you publish a story on the Internet, publicly, that story is considered a reprint. What did he say? You heard me. If it is available publicly on the Internet it is instantly a reprint as far as the next market is concerned.

Okay, so how does that effect what you’re writing on site’s like Writing.com, where writing hone their stories, getting comments from other members? If you limit your stories to members only — it’s not officially already been published publicly. Working on a story which is changing? Selling a story that’s substantially changed will make the final version an original, not a reprint. Perhaps the story you want to submit is a lot longer than what you published on your website or in a blog – that, too, makes it an original never published piece (since the published part is only a small part of the whole).

One author I know has been repackaging stories she’s previously sold, making significant changes to them, and telling the editors that’s precisely what she’s done. They’ve accepted those stories as original and paid accordingly.

So, why have reprints been on my mind lately? I’m concerned about sales (as I’ve found that pretty much every published writer is, too) and I’m going to a convention in six weeks or so. Having a wider variety of stories to sell can help me market to a larger audience, who may not be interested in my epic fantasy novels, but science fiction — and I’ve sf novels, too I’d like to see introduced to potential new fans.

I’ve a number of old stories, whose rights have reverted (to which I’ve never “accidentally” sold my rights – I read my contracts very carefully – and are original works of mine) that I can monetize again, by, at this point, offering them in a collection. (A collection represents work from a single author, while an anthology offers works by multiple authors).

I’ve a short story that people ask me about that was published several years ago. By incorporating a collection of some flash pieces I’d published in on the Internet for blogger book fairs and exposure; stories I’d published in an ezine; and including some articles I’ve written online, I’ve enough to publish a short collection. Thing is, I can offer it at a better price than one of my paperback novels and still catch some more attention by those passing my table in the Dealer’s Room or a book festival, and offer it as an ebook at a great price, too.

My editor’s on board and my cover designer’s excited… Though, I’m concerned that like an anthology, a collection normally won’t sell as well as a novel can. So, I’m doing what I can to keep my costs down on this one. I’ve chosen one original story to include, but it’s part of my epic fantasy series. That story’s a perfect hook for a fan of the series, looking for more – or a good introduction to someone new. Of course, publishing it will make it a reprint. Then again, I’m likely to incorporate it into a future novel, so it’s a good choice to include.

So, there are things you can do with a reprint. Also, if one of your stories ends up in a pro level science fiction or fantasy magazine, you may get requests for it in anthologies soliciting it – at better than the penny a word rate. I know someone that’s happened to a number of times for just one of their stories, which has just kept earning them money without them having to submit it for consideration.

But being forewarned about the meaning of “reprint” is forearmed, which why I’m sharing this with you today. When you sell a story, be sure to read your contract to see when your rights revert or if they never do… It’s important. Being a writer isn’t just about writing, it’s about earning money so you can buy groceries, pay the rent, etc. (Which is why so many writers have day jobs, too). If you’re like me, looking to make a few more dollars isn’t a bad thing and may help you build your brand and sell more books at the same time.


D. H. Aire has walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home. He’s toured archeological sites that were hundreds, if not thousands of years old… experiences that have found expression in his epic fantasy series with a science fiction twist, Highmage’s Plight and new Hands of the Highmage Series.  In May 2017, he released a new short story collection called Crossroads of Sin and Other Stories.

An Author of eleven fantasy and science fiction novels, including those in the urban fantasy Dare 2 Believe Series and the space opera Terran Catalyst Series, Aire’s short stories appear in a number of anthologies, including in Street Magick: Tales of Urban Fantasy. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Aire resides in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

This article originally appeared at dare2believe.

The Importance of Reading by Lisa Gordier

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Many of us know the quote by Stephen King about what it takes to become a writer and reading – “Read, read, read. You have to read widely, constantly refining (and redefining) your own work as you do so. If you don’t have time to
read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

What Stephen King is referring to in this quote is the ability to read outside of the genre we write. It’s a very important key in how we shape our own writing. Knowing how other authors write allows us to see different techniques of our trade. From the Young Adult authors to the experienced (and perhaps no longer with us). There are thousands of authors to choose from.

Fantasy writers are a varied lot (myself among them). When we write we don’t always stick to just your normal, everyday wizards, dragons and elves. There are books in the fantasy section you may not have thought of before. For instance: Ray Bradbury, often known for Science Fiction, his book “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is classified as fantasy. Another book most may have thought of as more Science Fiction than Fantasy is “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Even Robert Heinlein wrote Fantasy for a magazine known as “Unknown Worlds”.

At this point, you may be saying to yourself that Science Fiction and Fantasy are two genres that really aren’t that far apart from each other and perhaps you might be right in some ways. Often times both genres take a lot of research into world-building, character development, and sometimes even technical research. But there is one slight difference between the two. With Fantasy you can do almost anything as long as you can make the reader believe it’s possible. Science Fiction you need to make the reader believe there is some kind of Science behind what is happening.
Mystery, Horror, and Suspense writers also come in an array of sizes. I will mention here that I’ve read some of Stephen King’s books (those that don’t scare me while reading during the day) and found them infinitely profound. I think the first of his I read was “Fire-starter” and I realized that though classified Horror, it wasn’t. I’ve also enjoyed several of Dean Koontz novels and a mystery series were written by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (who’s main character is a cat named Joe Grey). Of course, I must confess my favorite mysteries of all time are still “Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I believe the writers of these genres are somewhere between Science Fiction and Fantasy. They must delve into a bit of the unknown and fantastic. Researching things which are very real to us. Sometimes the horror or suspense may be more in the realm of fantasy, or they may have been case files of the police – rewritten to exclude names we might recognize. These authors walk a fine grey line to keep us on the edge of our seats.
I’ve been discussing Fiction but there are Non-Fiction books such as Biographies/Auto-Biographies, Self-Help, Essays and Journalism. Authors of these books or articles all want to either tell a story or help others with their stories. Some you’ll find on the bookshelf and others in magazines. It can be difficult to find an item in these categories that you enjoy, but they’re out there. I’m partial to stuff on space and the universe myself.

And last, don’t cut out Comic Books and Manga (Japanese Comic Books). Both are a large market here in the United States. I’ve found a few I really enjoy, both for the artwork and the story lines. For a comic book produced in the States I’ve started reading one called “Elephantmen”, a postwar science fiction sort of comic book. And with regards to Mangas I have several I enjoy, “Sayuki” being the top runner.

I do also try and read different magazines for articles and essays. I’ve recently subscribed to “The New Yorker” and I also read “Writer’s Life”, “Time”, “Natural Geographic” and occasionally “Life”. Each gives me a different perspective upon the world and how authors write.

In closing, as Stephen King said, don’t be afraid of reading outside of the genre you write in. It expands your horizons as an author, teaches you different techniques as a writer and at the least entertains you as a person. I have found, as I’ve followed this philosophy, that I’ve become far more open-minded in the kinds of books I’m willing to try to read. I no longer am drawn by just artwork or title in one genre. I’ll browse every one, read the synopsis of story lines and take time to see if a book will interest me. So far the only books I can’t seem to get into are Romance novels but even that may change in time.

If you’re interested in knowing about what genres of books are out there, here is a list of them all:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_writing_genres

Born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – USA. Lisa Gordier grew up as a Navy Brat, moving across the country with her family. The Navy settled them mostly in San Diego, California.

Her father started Lisa reading books by Piers Anthony and Robert Aspirin when she was around eight years old. From there she found she enjoyed not only reading but writing her own stories and poetry.

When Lisa was Eighteen, she moved from San Diego to Phoenix, Arizona to go to College. she married and joined the Air Force during the Iraq conflict. She served in Italy during her first tour of duty. When she returned to the States, it was to San Antonio, Texas and a divorce. Lisa was honorably discharged from the Air Force and moved to Phoenix once more where she soon remarried and began serving in the Air Force Reserves for ten glorious years. she continued to write and draw as an artist.

After twenty years of marriage, Lisa was divorced once more and moved to Tucson. The author currently works on a fantasy novel, working on artwork for a co-authored
novel and writing poetry.