Archive for 29 April 2012

A Slightly Different Kind Of Demoness

Succubus DrawingI seldom get reviews for my short story and essay ebooks. When I got a head’s up a few weeks ago that TeraS of Succubus.net was reviewing my recent short story ebook, “Some Bad Decisions,” where a serial killer finds himself rolling in a world of hurt with a “succubus” prostitute, I welcomed the full-length review even though I got skewered with a pitchfork for taking some obvious shortcuts with the succubus character.

More telling to me personally is that I just found it hard to care to know or see anything more about Jane when the story was finished with. She just wasn’t a Succubus that I could like in any shape, way or form. It’s rare for me to say that, but in this case it’s true. She was a means to an end, a direction in the story, a way to tie up loose ends in more than one way.

Guilty as charged. Plain Jane as a succubus—or, more precisely, a sexy demoness—tied up quite a few loose ends. Until I read the review, I haven’t given any serious thought about what a succubus was beyond being the deadly prostitute who takes revenge against a serial killer stalking prostitutes on the Las Vegas strip. I wrote a straight forward horror short story with a huge dollop of sex added, which is something I don’t like reading from other horror writers.

As a short story writer, I always danced around the sex scenes because most print publications didn’t go there. “The Unfaithful Camera” was my most “sexually explicit” short story to date, where a little boy comes home from school to find his father and older sister doing the “bouncy bounce” in bed. That’s all, folks.

Writing a sexually-explicit short story for an erotica horror anthology on a short deadline was a special challenge. The editor rejected the first submission as being too short and a requested a revision. I doubled the length of the story by playing the characters against each other and sharpen their personality quirks. The editor accepted the second submission without a peep about how I handled the sexuality of the succubus character. But that was also the general complaint about the anthology: too much horror, too little erotica.

I find myself wondering what Jane was really like… this image of her was formed, as I said, to ensnare Claude and I have to wonder if she isn’t more than just a being of terror as she was here. There is a hint of connections with the Vegas underworld in the story and I find myself wondering about that aspect of her, and where it would take her story in the future should the author continue the story from here.

I’m thinking about moving Plain Jane the Succubus out of the horror genre into the urban fantasy genre for a novella, novel and/or series. The short story will be rewritten as the first chapter from Plain Jane’s point of view as she eliminates a serial killer that she later discovers was the wrong guy. With the planted evidence implicating her, the homicide detective designates her the Las Vegas ripper, the supernatural underworld turns against her, and the chase is on for her to find the real serial killer before something really bad happens to her.

I’m going to take my time developing the longer story. Urban fantasy is not the same as horror. I need to know more about the supernatural creatures that inhabit the Las Vegas underworld, which I know little about except for the Godfather movies. I’m more confident about writing sex scenes now that my second sexually explicit short story is available in print. Maybe I can nail down the erotica part this time.

A Nonsensical Story About A Sleeveless Pineapple

Pineapple Has No Sleeves (New York State Education Department)

Pineapple Has No Sleeves (New York State Education Department)

You’re nonsensical writer if you sell a nonsensical short story to an educational testing board that turns it into a nonsensical multiple choice question for an eighth grade English exam. Something that Daniel Pinkwater, a popular children book author, is finding out this week as the state commissioner for the New York State Department pulls the “Pineapple Has No Sleeves” story out of the standardized test.

The crux of the passage is that the pineapple challenges the hare to a race, and the other animals are convinced the pineapple must have a trick up its sleeve and will win. When the pineapple stands still, the animals eat it. The moral of the story: “Pineapples don’t have sleeves.”

One of the disputed questions asked, essentially, which was the wisest animal. Some students said that none of the animals seemed very bright, but that a likely answer was the owl, because it was the one that uttered the moral.

Others worried that the owl was a distraction, because owls are supposed to be wise, so it would be the wrong answer.

The other tough question was why the animals ate the pineapple. Students were torn between two of the four choices: they were annoyed or they were hungry; either one seemed to work.

As Daniel Pinkwater mentions on his website:

OK, here is the deal. There are these companies that make up tests and various reading materials, and sell them to state departments of education for vast sums of money. One of the things they do is purchase rights from authors to use excerpts from books. For these they pay the authors non-vast sums of money. Then they edit the passages according to….I have no idea what perceived requirements.

The moral of this story: kids are smarter than adults when it comes to critical thinking skills, especially when a sleeveless pineapple gets involve.

Should Kickstarter Fund Your Next Writing Project? (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two-part blog post. Read Part 1 – The Wrong Way.

THE RIGHT WAY

Should Kickstarter Fund Your Next Writing Project? (Part 2)

 

The second project is from the artist/writer team of All New Issues web comic who wants $4,000 USD to publish a print book.

This Kickstarter is to raise enough money to pay for a print run of a 140 page perfect bound book, collecting the first 200 strips of All New Issues. The funds we raise would cover the cost of the print job, Kickstarter and Amazon fees, and help cover the cost of any extra shipping for the incentives. Any additional funds that we receive will be used to help pay for travel costs for conventions this summer.

This is a tightly focused and more realistic project with all the ingredients for success available from the start.

  1. If you check out the archive page, the source material is ready for book form.
  2. An established audience wants to see a web comic book in either PDF and/or print format.
  3. The $4,000 USD price figure is typical for a printed web comic book.
  4. Additional funds beyond the minimum goal will go towards traveling on the summer convention circuit to meet fans and sell signed books.
  5. A short video introducing the project sponsors, the web comic and the goals for the project also helps.

 

The initial $4,000 USD minimum goal got met within the first week. The project sponsors upped the incentives for reaching the new $5,000 USD and $5,500 USD funding goals. With less than a few days to go before the project gets funded, the $6,000 USD level is within easy reach. The project sponsors will have a busy summer traveling the convention circuit as they reach out to fans and sell more books.

Updated 04/21/2012 — The All New Issues Kickstarter project completed their funding goal at $8,111 USD, doubling the initial amount they were seeking. The completed book will be available in early May 2012.

IS KICKSTARTER RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you have a realistic plan, a proven track record and an established audience, Kickstarter might be a useful tool for funding your project.

If not, don’t bother. Raising money is an important aspect of the creative business. If you’re not willing to treat this as a business with a hard-nosed attitude towards defining your goals, you have no business asking people to fund your project. Don’t waste everyone’s time by throwing your project out there and hoping for the best.

With my content producing business model (i.e., blog postings and short ebooks), I really don’t have a need for Kickstarter. I’m still in the audience building stage. If I have written and self-edited a novel trilogy within the next few years, but don’t have the funds to pay for the professional editing, cover art and ebook formatting, I might give Kickstarter a try.

Should Kickstarter Fund Your Next Writing Project? (Part 1)

I came across two tweets last week about artists using Kickstarter to fund their projects. If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a social media website for hosting creative projects, setting a minimum funding goal, and offering various incentive levels for people to make pledges. If the pledges meet or exceed the funding goal within 30 days, all the pledge backers will have their credit/debit card charged to fund the project. If not, the project isn’t funded. This is a very clever mechanism for funding creative projects. The tweets illustrated the wrong way and the right way for setting up a Kickstarter project.

Kickstarter Logo

THE WRONG WAY

 

Should Kickstarter Fund Your Next Writing Project? (Part 1)

An unpublished writer wants to self-publish his unwritten epic fantasy novel for $20,000 USD.

[…] I will be working to create an epic fantasy. There will be warriors, wizards, possibly a damsel maybe a dragon or two, fights, and of course, mead. I’m planning to self-publish, which means that there will be many additional costs. Printing of the books (as I intend to have a limited print run), marketing, editors, more editors, the list goes on and on. That’s where Kickstarter and you come in. Your pledges will be used to fund all the minutiae involved in self publishing, like the purchase of ISBNs, having the formats converted to work with all the different readers, and other assorted minor costs. Also, these pledges will go to the larger costs as well, like the cost of editors and marketing. In all, these pledges take this self publishing dream from something that might be fun, but not truly profitable, to something that might make enough money on this first book  to allow me to move to writing as a full time job, once this book is published, instead of something I do when I have the time.

The rational for this project seems absurd. Give money for an unwritten novel from an unpublished writer without an outline and/or synopsis in hand? No, thank you.

Perhaps I’m biased from my experience as a short story writer. I had 200 rejection slips before my first short story got accepted for publication, another 100 rejection slips before my second short story got accepted, started publishing regularly in the genre anthologies not long thereafter, and recently started publishing my own essay and short story ebooks. That’s six years of hard work to develop my talent, learn the business and be somewhat successful. I’m still a few years away from quitting my tech support job to write full-time.

What made this unpublished writer so special that he could solicit money to write full-time without proving he’s capable of doing so?

Kickstarter allows you to send private messages to the project owner to ask questions. The lengthy reply that I got back to my question was that the bulk of the money would go towards editing and marketing as these are the two areas for why novels often failed to break out.

Having written a sprawling 700-page rough draft for my first novel (a postponed but not yet abandoned horror/urban fantasy/OMG-WTF-BBQ story), editing is a daunting and relentless task. This is why most epic fantasy writers sometimes go for years between publishing books. You shouldn’t bother with professional editing until your manuscript had gone through two or three drafts and spit polished to the best of your ability.

You shouldn’t worry about marketing until you built up your author platform via website and social media to establish yourself—the writer—before an audience. No brand, no audience. No audience, no pledges. At the time of this writing, the project had no pledges to get funded with. If you’re careful in laying down the ground work before your publishing your novel, the marketing should take care of itself.

An epic fantasy novel ebook with professional editing, cover art and ebook formatting can be done for $2,000 USD.  I would recommend that the project owner write his novel—and build up his brand in the meantime—before coming back to Kickstarter with a focused plan to turn his novel into an ebook. If done right, the pledges will come in. And even at $2,000 USD, success will still be a long shot.

UPDATE 04/13/2012: The project owner cancelled the project on the same day that this blog post appeared, which, presumably, was purely coincidental. A wise choice given that the project failed to attract any pledges after two weeks.

The Right Way  (Part 2)

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