Monday, May 16, 2011

Writers of the Future Awards Ceremony

As expected the Wotf awards were top notch. It was held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, and it was free for contestants to attend--anyone who submitted to the event, not just winners. There are  thousands of entrants each year from all over the world. The ceremony included Cirque du Soleil-type dancers, celebrity presenters, and a speaker from NASA. The event was awesome, but the most touching part was listening to the winners talk about the contest itself. The winners were just like a lot of us writers, nearly ready to give up, wondering if they had any talent at all, and hopeless that they could ever make a living at writing.  Wotf gives writers a shot and they do it with respectability, adeptness, and class. After the awards free hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and coffee were served in the lobby. Those in attendance also received a copy of the 27th edition of the Wotf anthology and given a pen to have it signed by the winners or the various gods of science fiction peppering the lobby: Larry Niven, Greggory Benford, Robert Sawyer just to name a few.
If you're a science fiction writer wondering where to go to start your career, this contest is for you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Writers of the Future

I'll be attending the awards ceremony tonight in Los Angeles for the Writers of the Future Contest. It will be streamed live on the WoTF website tonight at 6:30. I was lucky enough to receive honorable mention for my story "Progenitor." This was my first time entering the contest. I had never heard of it previously and had always been suspicious of writing contests, especially ones that charged an entry fee. But WoTF doesn't charge. Also, the stories are judged anonymously, meaning that the judges don't know the names of the writers, to avoid favoritism. The judges, by the way, are the who's who of science fiction: Larry Niven, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, and many more of sci fi's biggest names. I wish I had known of the contest earlier in my career. It's an awesome opportunity for writers looking to break in, and it also includes a helpful community. Winners are often catapulted to stardom: Dave Farland, Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Baxter and tons more. Check back later and I'll tell you how it went.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


   Yesterday I read Scott Sigler's blog and marveled at his success doing podcasts. He reads chapters of his books and posts them on his website and on various podcasting sites for free. He also sells the podcasts as a whole, which apparently people are buying by the buckets. And his fans love it. I've never done a podcast, barely even listened to more than a few, so I went to his site and checked them out. Growing up within the music industry I know what studio quality sounds like and this was it. It was smooth as silk; he even had some intro music and on some of them he did advertisements for Go daddy. The boy is cashing in. But it ain't easy.   
   I decided to give it a try. I read my short story "Progenitor." It's approximately 9100 words and takes about thirty to forty minutes to read. I'm told this is the perfect amount of time for a podcast. I don't have a series to read from, which would be ideal, but this was just as an experiment, just for fun. We've all heard books on tape and it seems pretty straight forward: The author reads his book, doing the narrative and all the dialogue.
   Take 1: I hooked up my Ipod headphones and microphone to my computer and used Sound Recorder. There was noticeable hiss in the background. Sounded like crap.  A little research suggested that I had either a crappy microphone or a cheap soundcard. Microphones range from $25 up to Elton John. Sound cards cost $200 up to Bill Gates. Already this is costing me money.
   Take 2: I hold off spending money and consider using the Voice Memo feature on my girlfriend's Ipod Touch. The sound quality is actually quite nice, no static, no hiss, my voice is clear even with the cheap microphone. So now I'm on my way.
   Take 3: One problem. I can't read more than a few sentences before I'm flubbing my own lines! The story I wrote is tongue-tying me! I think about doing it in increments. I start by trying to get through ten pages, then five pages, and finally two pages, but every time I flub at least one word, which ruins the whole take. Now I need editing software. $100 up to Phil Specter. I don't have PS money.  Next I learn, if you want to upload the podcast on a site like, they only accept particular formats, ID tags, and Bitrates.  More to know.   
   Moral of the story is that Podcasting ain't easy. You have to be Elton John smooth, Bill Gates savvy, and Phil Specter educated.  I just wanted to record myself reading my story so my readers could listen to it on their way to work.  I'll do it eventually, but it's going to take time to learn the craft first. Meanwhile I have a chapter to write.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Why Aren’t I a Millionaire Yet? Self-Pubbing Woes

I recently read a blog by a well-known self-published author who had hit it big. The author told his story about the many years it took him to get where he is, the difficulties, the trials, and the eventual fame and fortune he now enjoys those rare moments he’s not worrying about losing it. (Boo-fucking-hoo. Obscurity ain’t no pleasure cruise either.) The writer then went on to warn other writers about following in his footsteps: it’s not for the faint of heart--epublishing is fine if you’re willing to put in the hours and have low expectations, but don’t think you can write a quickie and post it on the net and make millions like he did. It’s more work than it looks like and you might be better off going the traditional route, so he said.
    That’s like John Glenn going to elementary schools and telling kids they’d be better off being plumbers because being an astronaut is “really hard.” It’s like driving up to the bus stop in a Ferrari and complaining about oil changes and insurance premiums! 
    I’m insulted by the parental advisory, but what I really take issue with is the undervaluing of the eBook revolution.
    I don’t think anyone smart enough to write a book thinks there’s anything easy about publishing, traditional or otherwise. Growing up in LA, everyone has a screenplay. The grocer, the guy who delivers you a pizza, all my neighbors, many of whom weren’t even “writers.”  If you’re born in LA, seconds after birth the doctor spanks your ass and then asks you who your agent is. Though some of the folks just off the bus think fame and fortune await at every corner,  people who live and work in LA know better than to expect to make it rich. Most just want to make a living. Less than one percent will. Not because their work isn’t any good, but there’s only one place for them to go and the roster is full. It’s nearly impossible to get in. Screenwriters WISH they had a way to make their movies as easily as authors can publish a book.    
    Writing is a calling. If there were replicators to make us food, we’d do it for free. For now we toil away like monks and live off of bread and water with the hope that one day we’ll make some cash so we don’t have to work a day job. Do we want stacks of coins? Of course we do. But personally, when I put my book up on the web, I just wanted to get my work out there. I was tired of the slow and painful traditional system of vetting authors. It’s fraught with silliness. Case in point: Paris Hilton sold more books than Jonathan Franzen. Case in point 2: Who won last year’s Nobel Prize for Literature? What about the year before that? Don’t know? But you do know that Snooky recently published an autobiography, don’t you?  You know this because the industry made sure you knew, because they are in the business of making money, not necessarily in finding and fostering talented writers who have something to say. The eBook revolution offers an opportunity for writers to get their work out there. It’s a time in literary history that will be the equivalent of the first manned missions to the moon. Not all of us can be John Glenn, but at least we know moon walks are possible, and maybe some day walking on the moon will be commonplace for anyone wanting to go there.
   Before the internet, a writer who couldn’t find a publisher had to pay vast amounts of money to have his book bound and printed. It was economic and career suicide. Now, for next to nothing, a writer can publish a work by himself and make it available to the whole world, even though the work may not have mass appeal. It’s now possible. That’s all that matters. Whether or not we get rich is up to the money gods. There are plenty of things that could be better with regards to epublishing, but the most important thing is that now, for the first time in history, it’s not just about the money. Epublsihing is an awesome opportunity and I say go for it. Take the leap.