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There’s a reason why one of the first lessons in the art/business of fiction writing is to read, read, read. Long or short, in or out of your preferred genre, good or terrible. Reading the works of others, even if the story is not to your taste, can give you new ideas, show you what to avoid in your own stories (*cough* the orgy scene in It *cough*), and sometimes how to write something you didn’t know how to write before.

Let me tell you a story right now: as many of you know, I’ve become a big ballet fan since last year. Consequently, a lot of ballerinas and dancers have been showing up in my story ideas lately. It wouldn’t be too crazy if I had to write a dance scene or dancing someday in the future. I figured it would be a good idea to find other stories where dance features prominently, in the hope that from reading about dance there, I might pick something up. I asked one of my writers groups on Facebook if they had any suggestions, and one woman recommended a book to me that sounded good, so I downloaded the audio book onto my phone and started listening this week.

The book, Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson, follows a young ballerina’s trip into the world of professional dance, while at the same time she encounters a particular aspect of that world’s dark side that changes things for her forever. It’s not horror, but it’s decent so far. And I have gleaned a bit about describing dance steps in prose, while at the same time learning a bit more about ballet culture (I had no idea ballerinas were called “bunheads.” Seems obvious now, but I didn’t know it until this week). And while I expected those, one thing I didn’t expect to find is a lesson in a type of character:

The story’s protagonist, Mira, seems on the outside to have it all. Her family doesn’t abuse her, she’s talented at ballet and has an upward-moving career. She even has a sort of mentor/sponsor in the form of Maurice, an older balletomane. She also seems to be mentally and emotionally all there. However, ballet and Maurice are really an escape for her. Her parents divorced rather suddenly; her airhead mother is a mess who can’t pay bills and takes in a creepy boarder; her dad is in a relationship with another woman who’s also in a divorce, and it’s moving a little too fast; and all this occurs after seeing her parents’ marriage erode for who knows how long. All that can really mess a kid up.

I’m sure even more will mess her up as the story goes on.

Mira’s a type of character I don’t see very often: one whom no one, not even themselves, would see as troubled, but is deeply troubled nonetheless. She’s a perfect example of this character type, the “seemingly untroubled troubled person.” I don’t know if there’s a proper name for this type of character like there is for others, but that’s the one I’m going to go with. And she’s teaching me quite a bit about writing this sort of character.

So like I said, reading a diverse amount of work can teach you all sorts of things that you can apply to your own writing. Sometimes you even learn things you weren’t expecting to learn, like how to write a certain type of character, or writing about a complex war in another world, or even just some random facts about Spanish history, religion, evolution, art, and technology (looking at you, Dan Brown). Sure, you might find some stories you’ll hate or that will teach you absolutely nothing, but then there’s a lesson to derive from those stories as well: what not to do when you’re writing your own work. I’m certainly learning a lot from Girl Through Glass and the other stories I’ve been reading lately. And I can’t wait to learn more.

Have you ever gotten an unexpected lesson from a story you read/are reading? What was it?

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Last year I had the pleasure of reading The Cronian Incident, a science fiction novel by my good friend and fellow writer, Matthew Williams. I found it a very engaging and deep sci-fi novel, and I was glad to hear that Matt had a sequel in the works. Last week, Matt released the follow-up to The Cronian Incident, The Jovian Manifesto, and I got my copy courtesy of Matt and the publisher, Castrum Press (my publisher too!). In order to celebrate the new book’s release, I thought I’d bring Matt back on for an interview.

So without further ado, let’s begin!

Rami Ungar: Welcome back to my blog, Matt! Tell the folks around here who don’t know you who you are and what you do.

Matthew Williams: Well, my name is Matt Williams, I am a resident of Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. I live with my wife and cat, and I am a writer for Universe Today. In my spare time, I write (obviously), teach Taekwon-Do and generally enjoy the place where we live.

RU: Tell us about your two books in the Formist series, The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifesto.

MW: Both novels are set in the late 23rd century, at a time when the human race has expanded to colonize almost every body in the Solar System. In the Inner Worlds – Venus, Earth and Mars – life is characterized by advancement, augmentation and post-humanity. In the Outer Worlds, on the moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, are the people who have chosen to live a simpler existence, one that respects the line between humanity and machinery.

The story begins with the kidnapping of a high-profile man from Mars who belongs to the Formist faction (hence the name). These are the people who are dedicated to terraforming Mars so that their citizens can finally achieve the dream of living on the surface without pressurized domes or radiation shields. The Formists hire a special investigator to solve the kidnapping, a former member of Interpol named Jeremiah Ward who’s serving out a prison sentence in a penal colony on Mercury.

In investigating the disappearance of the Formists’ associate, Ward will uncover a plot that is centuries in the making. In the end, he will have to make the ultimate choice between doing what is right, and what may keep him alive.

RU: What’s different about writing The Jovian Manifesto, both in terms of content and just in writing the story?

The Cronian Incident, Book 1 in the Formist series.

MW: For starters, TJM is the second installment in what is planned to be a trilogy. As such, it has a darker tone than the first book. There’s also much more action, which was an absolute must for me! After taking the time to build the setting in Book I, I wanted the protagonists to be thrown into the thick of it. Of course, this book also introduces a few new main characters and a few new settings. This gave me a chance to tell new stories and create some new worlds, which is always fun.

RU: TJM features a female-led cast, something we’re seeing a lot more in various media. Was that intentional on your part?

MW: Not originally, no. In the first book, most of the story is told from a single POV – Jeremiah Ward’s. I wanted the second book to be told from multiple points of view and had several characters in mind when plotting it out. As it turned out, all of the new characters were strong, motivated and independently-minded women. When this was pointed out to me – by my friend and colleague, Rami Ungar, no less! – I was quite pleased. I had not embarked on this book looking to make the cast female-led, but I was happy it worked out that way. I’ve often worried that as a male writer, I would default to writing male leads, or find that writing female characters was more difficult. It pleased me to see that this was not the case.

RU: This is your second book with Castrum Press, and you also have a short story featured in their anthology, Future Days. What’s it been like working with Castrum?

MW: It’s been excellent, really. As a recently-established publishing house led by experienced writers, they know the particular struggles that new writers face. It’s also very clear that they are interested in promoting new talent, which is something you don’t see a lot of these days in the publishing industry. Also, it gives me a chance to entrust my work to people who have been part of the industry and know what it takes to succeed in it. That’s very reassuring to a newly-established writer, and something that independent authors don’t get to enjoy.

RU: Science fiction is often described as a lens towards what the future could be, as well as what our society looks like now. Do you agree with that sentiment? And what do you think the Formist series says about humanity?

The Jovian Manifesto, Book 2 of the Formist series.

MW: Absolutely. Science fiction has always been about predicting what the future will look like, but that always comes down to how the world looks today. In that respect, science fiction books are an extension of the present-day world and are intended to convey messages about the direction it is taking. As for my own work, I believe they reveal that regardless of the time period, or the level of development we will have reached, humanity will always be facing the same basic challenges. How do we ensure our survival and our future? How do we erase the dividing lines and learn to live together? How do we ensure that our most cherished values also survive?

RU: What are your plans for the future at the moment? More books in the Formist series, perhaps?

MW: Oh yes! I hope to write a third installment for this series and very much want to explore the universe I have created further. This could involve some origin stories, since some of the characters I have created have interesting pasts that would require a whole book to explain. I also hope to write additional trilogies that take place farther down the road. But of course, that all depends on how the Formist series shapes up. And of course, I have several other ideas I would like to see in print.

RU: What are some stories, science-fiction or otherwise, that you are reading now and would recommend?

MW: I recently finished The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, both of which I would strongly recommend. I also finished Halting State and Rule 34 by Charles Stross, Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge, and House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds. I recommend all of these books to people who are fans of classic science fiction, space opera and near-future speculative fiction.

RU: Rule 34? I thought that was just an Internet meme. Should I ask or…? Moving on: if you could pick a fictional universe to live in, which one would it be and what would you do there?

MW: Good question, and one which I really haven’t pondered much. I suppose if I had to choose, I would live in the universe dreamed up by the late and great Frank Herbert – i.e. Dune. I figure I could help with the terraforming of Arrakis given all the research I’ve done on the subject. I have always wanted to try The Spice too, and I figure I would be able to look out for myself since I know how the series goes. Plus, I would absolutely want to see what travelling through folded space feels like!

RU: Final question: Look out! A sandworm out of the Dune universe is about to attack! What do you do?

MW: Ooh, that’s a tough one to answer! Deploy a thumper, stand back, and get your hooks ready, because we’re going for a ride!

RU: I’ll pretend I know what that means, because I’ve been bad and haven’t read the Dune books yet. Thanks for being with us, Matt! I hope both books do very well!

That’s the end of the interview, folks. If you would like to keep up with Matthew Williams, you can check out his blog, Stories by Williams. You can also check out his writings through his Amazon page and through his Universe Today page. And of course, you can check out his Facebook and Twitter pages. And I highly recommend you check out his books, The Cronian Incident and The Jovian Manifesto. I found the former to be a great example of hard science fiction, and I can’t wait to start on the latter.

And if you have a new book out and want an interview, check out my Interviews page and leave me a comment. We’ll see if we can’t make some magic happen.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully see you very soon with more to talk about. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve heard everyone from Stephen King to members of Facebook groups I belong to raving about this book. Heck, some of the latter were raving about it months before the book came out (how they were able to do that well before the book came out, I have no idea). I remember listening to the audio book of Tremblay’s previous book A Head Full of Ghosts a few years ago and liking it, though I didn’t find it scary (see my review for my full thoughts), so I thought this was worth a try. And I’ll agree with His Royal Scariness, this is definitely Tremblay at his best.

The Cabin at the End of the World centers on Wen, a young girl and her two dads, Andrew and Eric, who are taking a vacation off the grid in the deepest parts of New Hampshire. At the start of the novel, a man named Leonard appears before Wen and attempts to befriend her. He is soon followed by three others who claim that Wen and her family are the key to saving the world. But to do it, a price must be paid. Thus begins a tense story of belief, insanity, and violence as Wen and her dads are held captive in their own cabin and given an impossible choice.

Like I said, this is a tense book, and an intense one to boot. Like A Head Full of Ghosts, Tremblay focuses mainly on the psychological state of the characters rather than outright answering whether what we’re reading about is actually supernatural or the delusions of troubled individuals (and like the former novel, there’s an argument to be made for either one). The result is that you’re kept guessing as to which it is while getting a very personal look into these characters as they deal with the stress of the situation. It’s powerful, and makes you really connect to the characters and want to keep reading to find out how the story ends for them.

I also liked how unpredictable Cabin was. There were a couple of instances in the story that really threw me for a loop. Heck, following one of them, I kept reading for several pages sure I’d misunderstood what I’d read or that Tremblay was pulling my leg, heightening the emotional impact when this twist finally sunk in.

Add in that the novel was a great example of showing diversity in fiction without being patronizing or just showing diversity for diversity’s sake (Wen is from China and her dads are a gay married couple), and that an actual medical issue is portrayed with accuracy, rather than in 99% of other stories, and you’ve got yourself a decent novel.

I don’t have anything that I feel like saying detracted from the book. Maybe I wasn’t scared as others might be, but then again, I’ve built up a tolerance to being scared. I still found it extremely tense and emotionally powerful, and I enjoyed it for that. And that’s good enough for me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Cabin at the End of the World a 4.5 out of 5. Gripping with suspense and characters you truly feel for, you’ll have a very hard time putting it down while you read. Take a look and see why it’s one of the most talked about stories this summer (I’m hoping Rose will be one for this coming fall or winter). Believe me, you won’t regret it.

From left to right: Joleene, Charles and I in my apartment stairwell.

Last night I had two wonderful visitors come to visit me at my apartment: my friend and fellow writer Joleene Naylor, whom you’ve probably seen around the blog quite a bit, especially in the comments, and her husband Charles, who were passing through Central Ohio on a trip to West Virginia, and made a point to stop by.

I’ve been blogging and Facebooking and tweeting for over six years, so I’ve had plenty of time to make friends with numerous other writers, Joleene among them. Unfortunately, the distance between me and all these other writers often means we’re confined to online interaction. So when an opportunity to visit comes up, I get really excited (and a little nervous) and look forward to meeting them. And last night, I finally got to meet Joleene in person.

Joleene and Charles arrived in my apartment building sometime after eight last night, after having to navigate through a ton of construction on the interstate (don’t you hate it when that happens?). I greeted Joleene with a hug (normally I ask whether or not we should hug or shake hands, but here it felt natural), and shook hands with Charles, whom I’ve occasionally seen tagged on Facebook but never actually seen in photos or in comments before (apparently he’s one of those people who manage to get by without being connected to the Internet most of the day!). I took them inside and served them a homemade dinner of tilapia, garlic bread, and carrots (I like to pull out all the stop when I have guests over if I’m able to. Also, that was my first time making garlic bread, and it turned out very well). We sat down, and started talking and eating.

It was a very enjoyable time. Charles, whom I was worried I wouldn’t get along with, turned out to be very charming and funny. He talked about his job as a welder, as well as his previous experiences working in nursing homes, where he would learn about the cultures of some of the residents and occasionally play hilarious pranks on the nurses. I also learned that prior to living in Iowa, which is where Joleene and Charles were coming from, they lived in Missouri, where I was born and lived till I was two. I don’t remember much about my birth state, so I asked them to tell me about things I could do there besides visit the Arch in St. Louis. Did you know there’s a Titanic Museum in Branson, which is about four hours from St. Louis? Now that sounds like a place I’d like to go!

Of course, we also talked quite a bit about writing (how couldn’t we?). Joleene’s one of my beta readers for Rose, so we talked about what I hoped from the novel and what I hoped she’d find that would help me improve it. We also talked about our own individual writing experiences, including how we both got into writing in the first place (apparently we both link our starts to Harry Potter! What a coincidence), and a funny story involving how Joleene met a fan of hers through Pokemon GO. Joleene and Charles also tried to help me come up with a title for a story I’m developing, and while we didn’t figure one out, it was interesting to talk about this story I’m working on, and what might work as a title.

The bottle of wine Joleene and Charles gave me. I wonder what Purple Cow tastes like.

All in all, it was a great evening, and I was very sad to see them go after we’d finished dessert (pumpkin rolls, so deliciously deadly). I walked them out to the car, giving them some Buckeye candies as a souvenir of passing through Columbus (if you haven’t had them, I recommend them. They’re chocolate and peanut butter treats shaped to look like Buckeye nuts, a symbol of Ohio and Ohio State, and just plain awesome). In return, Joleene and Charles gave me a bottle of wine from a winery in Dubuque. Believe it or not, the wine is called Purple Cow! I’m not sure what that’s supposed to taste like, but the first opportunity I have, I’ll get some friends together and we’ll find out.

Joleene and Charles left then, after I gave some recommendations on which motels to avoid, and they sped off into the night. I returned to my apartment with my new bottle of wine, feeling like I’d had a wonderful evening and hoping I got to experience it again someday.

When relationships start online, you often worry that meeting in person can ruin things. However, Joleene, Charles and I had a wonderful time, which I think proves that people can just get along if they want to. You find common things to talk about, you tell a few jokes, and maybe add in a little bit of good food and wine, and amazing things happen. I’m really glad I finally got to meet them offline, and that we didn’t need to check our phones in order to feel normal or relaxed. And I hope I get to do it again someday.

If you’d like to check Joleene’s blog, click HERE! If you’d like to read about the other time I met one of my author friends offline, click HERE! And I hope you had a good time reading about my visit from Joleene and Charles.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares.

I believe every writer  I’ve ever read is a teacher of sorts to me. It’s rare though that any of my flesh-and-blood teachers are already writers. Not only is today’s interview both one of my teachers and a writer, but I’ve read his most recent book Late One Night, and I enjoyed it greatly. And in honor of Late One Night coming out in paperback this coming August, I figured now would be a good time to bring him on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome one of the greatest professors in Ohio State’s English Department (mostly because he survived teaching a class with me in it) and the author of several books, Lee Martin!

RU: Welcome to the show, Lee. Great to have you here. Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.

LM: It seems like I always wrote. As an only child of older parents who lived in a rural setting, I didn’t have many playmates around. I fell in love with make-believe instead. I loved living inside stories, so I suppose it was only natural that I start to tell a few of my own. Then at a certain age I decided to get serious about it, so I went to the University of Arkansas for my MFA, where I found out how much I didn’t know about the craft, but where my real apprenticeship as a writer began—an apprenticeship that continues to this day. There’s always something new to learn and to practice.

RU: I really enjoyed reading Late One Night. Can you tell us what inspired it and your writing process for it?

LM: Late One Night is based on a tragic news event from my home area in Illinois. A tragic house trailer fire on a cold winter night. I started playing the “what-if?” game. What if the husband/father of that family was living outside the home at the time of the fire? What if the fire was suspicious? What if the small town gossip started to swirl around what this man might have done? What if this all happened while he was fighting for custody of his children and trying to prove his innocence. As with most of my books, I started with that premise and then wrote a little each day, pushing the story along. I try to make myself curious, and then I try to satisfy that curiosity while not quite fully satisfying it until the very end of the book. That’s where readers of this novel find out what really happened, late one night.

RU: Your main character Ronnie Black is at times sad and sympathetic, and at other times you just hate him. Did you intend for him to be that way when you wrote him, or did he just turn out that way?

LM: I like to take characters who are put upon by life’s circumstances and their own ill-considered choices. Characters are interesting to me only if they have a balance of rough edges and redeeming qualities. An all good character isn’t interesting. Neither is an all evil one. I write realistic fiction that’s character-based, and the truth is we’re all made up of contradictory qualities. Those contradictions are what make us interesting.

RU: Who is your favorite character in Late  One Night, and why?

LM: I really didn’t have a favorite character. They all appealed to me because they were all human. They all felt great joys and sorrows, and they made mistakes, and they tried to do the right thing, but sometimes their own selfish interests got in the way. Missy Wade badly wanted children. Ronnie Black loved his own even though he was often a man of temper and poor judgment. Captain missed his own mother and yet had a big heart that led him to love indiscriminately and to even idolize Ronnie. Captain’s father, Shooter, wanted to protect his son. Brandi Tate wanted love and a family. All these characters, and others, were precious to me because of their imperfections.

RU: Are you working on anything right now?

LM: I have a couple of novel manuscripts that I’m working on, plus smaller things like short stories and essays. I have a craft book, Telling Stories, coming out in October.

RU: I may have to read that craft book. Speaking of which, can you tell us about your other books?

LM: I suppose my best known book is The Bright Forever, which was fortunate enough to be a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2006. It’s the story of the abduction of a young girl in a small Midwestern town in 1972. I suppose some would call it a literary suspense novel. My novel, Break the Skin, would fall into that same category. I like to take true-crime stories from my native southeastern Illinois and let my imagination turn them into novels.  I’ve also published three memoirs, From Our House, Turning Bones, and Such a Life. They deal with family and particularly with the farming accident that cost my father both of his hands and the way that accident came to settle in our family. My other novels are Quakertown and River of Heaven. I also have a story collection, The Least You Need to Know, and another one, The Mutual UFO Network, will be published in 2018.

RU: Note to self, put The Bright Forever on my reading list. Sounds like my sort of story. Now you have a number of students who have continued writing and publishing after college and have kept in contact with you (including yours truly), and have kept in contact. What’s it like seeing that happen?

LM: It’s always gratifying to see students do well. It makes me feel that I may have had a small part in that success.

RU: Do you think the role of literature in society is changing, especially as we become more reliant on technology and our attention spans seem to shorten?

LM: I think there will always be not only room for, but a necessity for, narrative.  The forms of that narrative may change, but the importance of it in our culture won’t. We understand ourselves, others, and the world around us via stories. Such has always been the case, and I don’t see that changing.

RU: If you could give advice to any writer, no matter background, genre or level of experience, what would you say?

LM: Don’t be in a hurry. Study and practice your craft without thought of publishing. Fall in love with the process and the journey will take you where you’re meant to go. Read the way a writer must—with an eye toward how something is made.

RU: And finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only take three books with you, which would you take?

LM: Richard Ford’s Rock Springs, Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and (I’d cheat and sneak in a fourth) Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

RU: You’re a university professor! You know the consequences for cheating! Anyway, thanks for joining us today, Lee. We wish you luck with the paperback edition of Late One Night.

If you would like to learn more about Lee Martin and his works, you can check out his website, Facebook, and Twitter. Or you can enroll yourself as an English major in Ohio State’s undergraduate or graduate program and work with him directly by taking classes with him (though that option has both pros and cons).

And if you’re an author who would like to be interviewed, check out my Interviews page and leave a comment. Who knows? Perhaps we can work some magic.

That’s all for now. Have a great day, my Followers of Fear.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m dividing my writing time between working on Full Circle* and working on short stories. And with my short stories, there’s been more of an emphasis lately to write them with the goal of getting them into magazines and/or anthologies. Why? Well, as many of you know, I’ve been trying the traditional publishing route again (though I will self-publish if I feel a story is better off getting published that way), and while getting published in magazines and anthologies isn’t absolutely necessary to getting an agent and/or publisher, they do help make you more appealing to them. Kind of like internships and volunteering on a resume during a job search, if you think about it a certain way.

That being said, getting your short stories in mags and anthologies is pretty difficult these days. Okay, the short story market has always been difficult (Stephen King said in his autobiography On Writing that he had railroad spikes full of rejection letters from mags/publishers/agents/etc. before he found success), but in an age where so much content is available for free, reading has to compete with movies, streaming, and video games, and even self-publishing is cutting into magazine’s readership,** magazines and anthologies are even choosier than they used to be. Especially the ones that pay. They only accept the best work out of all the submissions they receive.

So up against this market, how can an author increase their chances of getting their stories published? Well, keep writing, get other people to take a look at your work for feedback, and don’t take every rejection as the end of the world or as a reflection of your talents, of course. But is there anything beyond that to help one get editors’ attentions? Well, there are a few strategies, and I’d like to list them here:

  1. Research and target. In this strategy, an author should create stories geared towards a particular magazine or group of magazines. For example, if you find a magazine that prefers urban fantasy stories, write an urban fantasy story that the magazine would probably like. Look at the magazine’s website and/or in recent issues to get an even better idea of what sort of stories they prefer (maybe they prefer female protagonists, or they hate romances between humans and supernatural creatures). Once you have a good idea of what they prefer in their stories, write one in that vein and then submit it to them. Chances are that if the story is the kind the magazine specializes in and likes, they’ll publish it.
    I’ve actually used this strategy successfully before. My first published short story, Summers with Grandmother Fumika, is about a fox-spirit that takes part in a Japanese tea ceremony. It was written after I discovered a magazine that specializes in articles and fiction relating to tea! Earned $100 for that story, which to a high schooler who averaged about $28-$35 dollars selling tickets for basketball games, was a pretty big deal. And I recently wrote a short story that I wrote for a specific sub-genre of horror, so there’s a good chance that it could be published in any of the publications that like those stories (though time will tell, of course).
  2. Rely on your networks. We live in an age of social media, and that means we come across all sorts of people we might never have even known existed thirty, twenty, or even just ten years ago. That means if you have a blog, belong to writer’s groups on Facebook, or belong to an online critique circle, you potentially have dozens or hundreds of people who can help you find homes for your stories. For example, I asked one of my writers’ groups on Facebook if they had any suggestions for places I could submit another short story in a particular sub-genre of horror. Within a few hours, I had a couple of responses that I could follow up with.
    Sometimes your friends don’t even have to give you suggestions. Occasionally, they run magazines or anthologies! In the past three years, three short stories were published in anthologies where a friend of mine was one of the editors (you know who you are). Just from this, you can see what an amazing resource friends can be!
  3. Check your publications. There are a buttload of books out there that are meant to help the average writer write and publish their work. Most of them have sections full of listings for magazines, agencies etc, and a lot of them are updated yearly. The best part is, a lot of libraries carry copies of these great tomes with them. I highly recommend The Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest. They have great articles and listings (though never enough in the horror department, sadly).
  4. Google. I know, sounds like something that goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how often this doesn’t occur to people. Google is a remarkable resource, and if you’re careful with your search terms and what links you click on, it can open doors. In the past couple months, Google has led me to several magazines and anthologies that specialized in stories I could send them. At the moment, I’ve been rejected by one, but there’s a chance I could be accepted by two more. And if those don’t work out, there are all sorts of places I can still try out. All thanks to Google

Now, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll get into a magazine or anthology, even with using these tips. That’s fine, many successful writers have rarely or even never been published in these sort of publications. But if you think it can help your career, or you prefer short to longer stories, these tips might just help you get into that collection of winter-themed romances or into that magazine that likes hopeful stories involving space exploration and interactions with alien species. And that is a joy that every writer relishes.

*Speaking of which, when I’m working on that, the general policy is “get a chapter done, then work on a short story or a blog post.” So if you see a post come out on this blog over the next couple of months, it’s either because something big happened worthy of blogging about, or I just got a chapter of FC done. Like I did right before I started writing this post (only 22 more to go!).

**Dammit self-publishing, why do you have to–wait, what am I saying?

I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. When I do, they usually don’t last longer than a month or even a week.  But this year, I decided to break from tradition and actually make a resolution: to try new methods to get people interested in my writing. This decision was partially spurred by my earlier decision to try and find a literary agent, as well as from reading a book on marketing and realizing that I needed to change my approach to how I was getting people interested in my fiction.

It’s a hard market out there. If what you’re doing isn’t working, maybe you should try something new.

So if you’re still here and you’re not thinking, “Oh, this is just one of those posts where he blathers on about what’s going on with him and his life”, then you’re probably thinking “How is he doing with that resolution, then?” and “How did he change his approach?”Well, I like to think that so far, so good. This isn’t the sort of resolution that can be objectively measured, like losing so many pounds or bringing your academic scores up. I could measure it by new followers, but not all followers read posts frequently, and only a small fraction are willing to spend money on my books. Book sales can be an indication, as can reads on Wattpad, but to base my success solely on those factors doesn’t seem the wisest course to me. And finally, building an audience is a long and arduous process. This blog took five years to gain as many followers as it has, after all. An audience of readers interested in my books might take even longer.

It’s easier to talk about what I’m doing different. One thing I’ve done is that I’ve stopped doing ads through Facebook and Twitter. Unless you have of big budget like Coca-Cola’s advertising department, ads through those sites usually don’t translate into sales. At the very least, I’m saving money, and that’s never a bad thing.

Another thing I’ve been doing is related to my goal of trying the traditional route again and finding a publisher. That is focusing more on my niche, which is horror. I know, I’ve written and published a lot of sci-fi, but I prefer horror, and what I’m trying to do now is to write more horror stories and trying to get them published in magazines and anthologies. I’m still working on Full Circle, the final book in the Reborn City series, but I’m also devoting more time to horror. The hope is that I can produce enough work and get it published in magazines, building my name as all or a writer, thereby making myself a bit more attractive to horror fans and possibly literary agents and/or publishers.

As of yet, I’ve only submitted one short story, and I’m still waiting to hear back on it. But the next time I take a break from Full Circle, I plan to do some editing and writing, and see what happens. The goal here is to at least get a couple stories published by the end of the year (fingers crossed!).

A third method I’m trying, and this is already producing results, is I’ve started publishing through Wattpad again. Last month, I published my sci-fi novelette Gynoid on that website, and so far I’ve had a positive feedback. There’s been quite a few readers, a couple of votes (which is kind of like “Likes” for that platform), and even a comment or two. One of those comments was from someone who was very relieved to see a certain outcome for one of the characters. That particular comment made me feel very happy, because it showed that the story I wrote and the characters within had people invested.

Sure, Wattpad doesn’t make me any money, but it does give me an audience. And based on Gynoid’s success, I may publish more stories through the website in future, especially for stories that might have a hard time getting placed in magazines.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. It’s a multipronged approach, which is usually what is recommended for any big endeavor like this. Later this year, after I finished the first draft of Full Circle, I plan on editing Rose and shopping that around to agents. Rose really represents not only my growth as a writer, but it is a prime example of the niche I want to write for, so I feel that’s the best novel to shop around to agents and publishing companies. I’m also considering different social media platforms to try out, like Goodreads and Reddit (I know one person who is very active on one of those sites, so I may ask her for advice). If it can work, anything’s on the table.

For now though, I’m just focusing on focusing on my niche and finishing Full Circle. Any resolution that is to be successful takes time, proper planning, and patience. I want this to go well, so I’m not going to rush any of the steps I’m taking to further widen my audience. Will any of it work? Tough to say. But I’m an optimist at heart, and I like to think that this new approach will eventually yield results.

And if you are interested, I’ll give an update in a couple of months or at the end of the year, and let you know how I’m doing. In the meantime, if any of you have any tips on expanding my audience, or places I can look for an agent/publisher, or places that I could potentially publish my stories, let me know. If they work out, I’ll credit you in any post I write about it.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, so wish me luck. And thank you, as always, for supporting me as I work hard on becoming a great horror novelist.