JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

2017 in the Rear-View, 2018 Under the Tires

Jan
01
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2017 was mostly for my cats. I expect 2018 to be the same.

A PRODUCTIVE YEAR

2017 has been quite a busy year for me. I’ve done a lot of writing, and reading, more than I expected. While I wasn’t as successful as I had hoped, I did get a lot done.

Though I’m not exactly clear on the 2016/2017 divide, I think I wrote something like 40 short and flash stories this year, and received around 30 acceptances just in 2017. I finished the final draft of my novel In the Valley of Magic, started querying agents and publishers, though I haven’t received any positive replies. I finished a novella which will be published by Fantasia Divinity, though the release has been pushed back to April because the Editor-in-Chief has been going through some rough health issues. I’ve completed five draft episodes of Call of the Guardian, my epic fantasy series with Fiction Vortex, though we’ve also had to push back the release on that because our StoryVerse lost an author so the rest of the team has to cover the slack. Edits have started on my first and second episode, so hopefully we will go live in the next month or two. And of course I self-published my first book, The Adventures of Iric, though it has yet to sell. I need to get a few good reviews on Amazon, then things should pick up.

If I had to say where my center of gravity was this year, it was with short stories. Due to delays with my core projects, I spent a lot of time writing short stories, especially flash fiction.

If I had to choose my favorite, it would probably be “The Sorcerer”. This was one of the few stories I have written in first-person. I have written before how I think first-person should be a special case, not a default, and this story proved the perfect example. Unfortunatly, you can only read it by buying the anthology, The Great Tome of Magicians, Necromancers, and Mystics.

If I had to pick a favorite story that is available to read online, I would have to pick “The Performance of a Lifetime”. I really love this story, probably more than I should. I was disspirited that it didn’t make it into a higher-tier publication, but satisfied that I sold it for real money.

Which brings me to my biggest disappointment of 2017–no pro-rate, or even semi-pro sale. I thought for sure I would make a decent sale this year. Was it too much to expect to make it in a year? I’d love honest feedback from you guys on that question because I really don’t know how to feel about it.

I’ve got a few new stories I am wrapping up now. I think they are some of the best I have ever written. So maybe I can achieve my goal in 2018.

Which brings me to…

A FEW GOALS FOR THE NEW YEAR

There are many things I could set as goals for myself in 2018, way too many realistically accomplish. I think I will limit myself to five:

  • Read more. I didn’t finish as many books in 2017 as I would have liked. Part of the problem, at least in the past couple months, was slogging through Stephen King’s IT, which, despite being decent and despite my love of the story, just doesn’t keep me as engaged as other works. But I’ve told myself I need to finish it, so I will. Next in line will probably be The Lies of Locke Lamora, which I hope will read faster.
  • Finish Call of the Guardian Season 1. So technically, I only have a contract for the first season, but the StoryVerse head and I have already discussed a second, and my series is plotted for two seasons, so I fully expect a new contract with the current one is done. I can also already think of a few spin offs if this thing keeps going. What I’d like to see most is my book physically on the shelves at major bookstores. That is what Fiction Vortex does when the seasons are complete, and I’ve seen a fellow writer find his book at Barnes and Noble. That would be my first big release.
  • Write a Second Novella. I really enjoyed writing my first novella, The Nightingale, for Fantasia Divinity. It felt more reasonable than the novel, an easier beast to handle. I think I finished it in less than a month. It didn’t hurt that I was riding a muse the whole time. I already have a couple ideas for novellas tucked away. I think it will be better to try writing one of those than another novel, especially if I am working full time and also working on Call of the Guardian. However, I think I will shop any new novella around before settling on a publisher.
  • Get a Pro-rate Sale. One sale of a SF/F work at a rate of 6c/word or better is considered a pro-rate sale by the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). One sale makes you eligible for Associate Membership, which opens up a lot of resources and also can be put on your CV and submissions. This is still my main writing goal, and probably will be until I achieve it. On the positive end, I have a couple new stories that I think have a decent chance of making it.
  • Take More Time for MyselfThe past year was a bit hectic. When I wasn’t working, I spent most of my free time doing the blog or writing. That left little time for me. I didn’t take any trips this year besides a quit trip home that was long overdue and necessitated due to my parents’ ailing health. It wasn’t a personal trip. Even another hop over to Japan would be nice. Heck, even a road trip across Korea would be fun. Haven’t done that in a couple years either. Writing is important, but I think I need to realize that this is going to take a lot more time that I expected. I am not going to become a household name overnight, so there’s no need to write myself into an early grave with stress and disappointment. I need a better rhythm. I need to take it slow.

A FEW PARTING WORDS

I’ve read a lot of the New Year’s messages from the blogger’s I follow. It seems everyone has had some successes in the past year, to varying degrees. It is nice to know there are other people out there working hard like me, and finding a win here and there.

For anyone who has engaged or debated me here, or on the Facebook page, thank you. It has been great talking with all of you! I think next year is going to be a good one. I, for one, am going to hit the ground running.

I am wishing you guys all the best in the Year of the Justifiably Defensive Lobster!

~JM

Going AWOL

Oct
17

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be AWOL for a little bit. I am attending a legal symposium for the military–so I guess it’s the opposite of AWOL. But regardless, I am away from my computer.

Moreover, when I return in a week or so I will need to get hard to work on the next episode of Call of the Guardian and other projects that I have let slide recently. I am just starting episode four of that series, and our group has decided we need at least five episodes complete apiece before we even think about going live. I also need to finalize The Adventures of Iric for Kindle publication before December. The blog, and social media, have been a bit of a distraction lately, so I will be setting them aside for a while until I get caught back up.

So don’t take my silence to be anything ominous. It’s just a temporary shift of priorities.

~J.M.

Update on David K.

Sep
10

About a week ago I posted links to some of my favorite blogs. One of those was for blogger-mate David K. He has since moved operations to a new website, one that looks quite nice, in my opinion.

He still writes short fiction and poetry, and articles on writing. His new website can be found HERE.

A Few of My Favorite Blogs

Sep
04

I have not been keeping up with this blog as well as I should have. Sometime in the past couple neglected months, I passed two hundred followers. Knowing that I am not the most active blogger (understatement of the year), that seems like a decent achievement.

In the process of building this site, I’ve also discovered many other interesting blogs by follow fiction authors. So, I thought I’d take a moment to share some of them. Of course, it would not be possible to mention all of the awesome bloggers I currently follow in a single post. This is a just a tiny selection.

Fiction Blogs

Anyone who has followed my page for a while–and has seen the comments section–should know I have something going with writer David K. He was one of the first people I connected with when I started out on WordPress, and he has encouraged me constantly through my writing struggle. On his website, he posts great short fiction, writing tips–basically the same sort of thing I post about. Birds of a feather, I guess…

Another author and blogger I have always enjoyed is Shawn Cowling. I started writing seriously less than a year ago, after a years-long Terry Pratchett binge. So obviously, Pratchett’s humorous slant infected my sensibilities. I still find myself trying to write humor or satire into my work, though I can never be sure if it works. That’s the trouble with humor, everyone’s funny bone is different. All I can say is that Shawn Cowling makes me laugh. I think he does humor better than me.

Blogs on Writing

A lot of the blogs I follow discuss the writing craft and business. There are far too many to mention here. If you want to discover them the same way I did, use the tag “on writing” in the WordPress reader. There is one page I’d like to mention, though.

It should be obvious that I am big on fantasy. So I appreciate bloggers who discuss the mechanics of that genre. One of the best fantasy-writing bloggers I have found so far is Nicola Alter. Her site Thoughts on Fantasy is exactly what you’d expect from such title, a discussion of different aspects of the genre. She often examines genre tropes and suggests books that do them well. It just further proves that there is nothing wrong with writing tropes, as long as they are done well.

Flash Fiction Groups

There are countless flash fiction groups on WordPress. These sites provide a photo prompt with some basic writing guidelines. Then writers pen a story and link their page to the host page. This is a great way to meet new writers. I used to participate in several of these weekly groups, though I have not been able to keep up in recent months due to regular life rearing its ugly head.

My favorite of all of these flash fiction challenge groups, by far, has to be Three Line Tales. First, Sonya always chooses great photo prompts, which makes the writing easy. But the thing I like most about this challenge is the unique restriction. Most flash fiction challenges use word count as their key restriction, often 100-150 words. Word count limits are a great way to improve your writing. They force you to be conscious about word choice and efficiency. 3LineTales does things a bit different, though, namely the restriction is in the number of lines rather than words. Many authors who participate write poetry, which doesn’t interest me much, and others do not follow the line restriction as strictly as I do. I hold myself to three sentences, exactly three, no exceptions. The benefit of this is that I have been learning how to manipulate sentences in interesting ways, often with a lot of semi-colons, em-dashes and other funny punctuation. It lets you play with sentence length and paragraph flow in a very focused testing ground. I encourage you to give it a try, and to force yourself to only three sentences.

Best regards to all the other wonderful bloggers I follow which I could not mention here!

Are there any writing bloggers you follow that I should know about?

~J.M.

Look at This Shiny New Website!

Aug
08

Hello Blogosphere! I have finally transcended your little free world into the final dimension of full webpagedness!

As you can see, what inklings I had regarding minimalism with my previous blog have flared up to the maximum level. But I like it. This site–and myself by criminal association–is about writing, which is words, which are made of letters, which are those weird line things that make sounds, or at least we think they make sounds, but it’s really just us making the sounds as we please, really without much logic to the sounds we choose to make…

Sorry for my distraction. I’m just excited! My journey into this writing thing started just a little under a year ago. Now I am taking things to the next level. (Plus I got a great deal on web-hosting, 70% off for just not completing my order in like 2 minutes. Like what did they expect? Me not reading the fine print? That I’d be chomping at the bit to code?)

Apologies again. I’m not normally this humorous, I promise.

I’ve cleaned up my publications list. You can find it HERE. Look at all those stories! Now all I have to do is get a couple on there that actually make me money, then I’ll be in…the money, I guess.

I have made some feeble attempts at migrating my follower list to this new site, so hopefully all my old writing friends will get the notice and come by for a visit. If you do, you can sign-up for my newsletter, over there, lower right. I know you see it.

I have been quite busy lately with real work–yuk!–so I might not be posting that much in these initial days of new adventure. But I have a lot of things going for me right now. Several new acceptances have come in and many more are looking likely. Nothing pro-rated yet, but I’m only 10-months old. I speak damn good for a toddler.

If you’re wondering where the term “Rabble” is coming from, it’s ’cause of this guy:

It was an inside joke related to the too many of cats that I currently have in my tiny home. How many you ask? Too many. But “rabble” is such a great word. Why not use it for my band of rowdy followers?

So join my Rabble and come along with me! This is going to be fun!

Writing Updates

Jul
01

I’ve been pretty bad at updating this blog during the past few weeks. I’ve been on military orders and my work with the Army had been a lot more intense and rigorous than I expected. Add to that the deep academic nature of much of what I do, which tends to leave my brain melted at the end of the day. It’s an excuse, I know, but I haven’t yet figured out how to break through.

That’s not to suggest that things haven’t been happening with my writing. I have quite a few stories coming out this month in external publication. I’ve just seen the proofs for the two Bards and Sages issues I have stories in, and I must say, they look really nice. One is the July issue of the quarterly, which will feature one of my Iric flash stories. The other will be released in their Great Tome of Magicians, Necromancers and Mystics, and is related to my stone-age fantasy story that was published on Bewildering Stories. Both of the B&S works will be out in print.

I’ve received a couple more acceptances with publishers I’ve worked with before. Two stories will be published by Fantasia Divinity, one in their monthly magazine and one in an upcoming anthology. I also had another story accepted by Antipodean SF.

Speaking of Anti-SF, my story Webs was published in their previous ezine issue and will come out on the radio show a the end of July. I will post a link once the episode is out.

I’ve got another story awaiting a final read with The Centropic Oracle and some other stories pending with a few different anthologies. Nothing is set, but I have pretty good feelings about making most of them.

While a lot of things have been happening on the short fiction side of the fence, the book side is still a struggle. I haven’t received a positive reply from a single agent yet. I’ve queried about 50 agents in total, 19 are pending. It’s looking more and more like my innovative novel structure is too much for agents to want to take on. I might have to consider an alternate publishing route with this one. Maybe submitting directly to smaller publishers might be the better course.

My work with Fiction Vortex has also stagnated a bit. The Of Metal and Magic StoryVerse–which I am a founding member of–just lost an author. We’ve had to push back our deadlines and release plans, and this has taken a lot of the wind from our sails. Things are still progressing, albeit slowly. I have the first two episodes of my series Call of the Guardian drafted and plan to write the next soon, once I can get past this slump and get back into writing. The cover for my project is almost done as well, and I will be sharing that once I have it.

One of the cool things about writing for FV is that the company takes care of most of the marketing and publishing work. They get the covers made, provide editing services, and provide an app and website to distribute your work. They also have a marketting team that operates on various social media platforms. It really is a great place to work. If you are a sword&sorcery writer, why not submit a sample and try to join Of Metal and Magic? If our StoryVerse head lets you in, you’ll be working with me directly! If you’re interested, contact me on Facebook and I can help facilitate the submission process.

Well, that’s about all for now. I hope everyone is seeing progress with your writing projects. Keep up the fight!

~J.M.

Seeing Red

Feb
27

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Added status counts to my publishing spreadsheet today (Excel is so useful!). Oh boy, that’s a lot of red!

But I’m not letting that slow me down. I just got a new acceptance letter today, recently got a request for a rewrite, and have two other stories in the final round of selection at their respective publishers. As I evolve into a better writer, I can see the momentum of acceptance picking up. It took me months to get my first, now they are coming every couple weeks–volume probably plays a part in that as well.

The worst thing that has come out of all this so far is not the rejection. I’ve quickly grow Teflon skin. The worst thing probably has to be that AntipodeanSF asked me to record myself narrating “Webs.” Ugg…rolleyes

My Story on “Playing with Words”

Feb
04

Colleague and fellow blogger Kavita Chavda has set up a new website called Playing With Words that uses contributor content. It has a very minimalistic setup, which seems nice in an age of media and imagery overload.

Anyways, I wrote a story for her based in my Valley of Magic mythology, which I think turned out pretty fine. Though we have no contractual agreement, I want to give her some time of exclusivity with the piece. She also chose a nice cover photo for the story, which is something I usually don’t do.

So if you want to read my story “Aiyel, Daughter of the Sea” which is related to the Sorun mythology and also a tie-in to my upcoming book, head over to the site and give it a read. And maybe send her something to share while you’re at it…

STORY LINK

 *Other related stories on this blog:  Glacial Rage,  The Light of Tumin

3 Ways to Become a Better Writer

Jan
27

Most writers know two simple ways to get better at writing. They are the basic tips of any professional writing program or class. Stephen King summed it up quite well in his great treatise of the craft On Writing, suggesting “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

The writing part is obvious. As with any skill, you get better the more you do it. Reading is less intuitive, but still relatively straight forward–getting better at language requires exposure to language, becoming a better storyteller requires exposure to stories. King goes on to suggest that “reading is the creative center of a writer’s life,” meaning the place you decide what you want to create. He even claims to read 70-80 books a year.

But there is a third thing you can do to help you become a better writer. In addition to reading and writing, writing about writing is extremely helpful in improving your skills. This is much the same as when professional athletes and coaches watch other teams play, examining their strengths and weaknesses. By identifying someone else’s strengths, you can adopt them and make them your own.

Much of what I do with this blog is writing about writing. And to be perfectly honest, I do it mostly for myself. I don’t really have enough followers to honestly believe that I have a large effect on the public. But I don’t need to. Every piece I write, every analysis I do, helps to make me a better writer. That’s why I do it.

I often share stories and articles I like, but I also add my own analysis or point of view. By interacting with other authors’ work, I can tease out what I like–or don’t like–and examine what makes it so. Then I can utilize the skills I like, and avoid the habits I don’t.

Also, discussing writing techniques reinforces them in your own mind. We all forget the basics from time to time. Taking them out of your head, or away from the story, allows you to focus on them more clearly.

You do not need to be a language or writing major to do this sort of textual analysis. All it requires is focus enough to decide what parts you like or dislike, and a little effort to examine why. If you like a piece of writing, there is certainly a technical reason for it. The better you grasp that reason, the better you can emulate it. And in the end, writing is mostly emulation.

I started this blog several months ago, intending primarily to post my own short stories here. Over time, I started sharing other writers’ work and articles on writing techniques. Once I started sharing other authors’ work and doing some analysis, I found myself becoming much better. Even in the few months, I can look back at my first stories and see how far I have come (Go on, compare “The Adventures of Iric” volume 1 to volume 12 and try to tell me I’m not the slightest bit better). I am sure that writing about writing has contributed to that significantly.

Becoming a better writer takes time and investment. King is pretty rough on the point when he suggests “If you feel you must have the news analyst blowhards on CNN while you exercise…it’s time for you to question how serious you really are about becoming a writer….Reading takes time and the glass teat takes too much of it.” It’s harsh, but true. You need to devote time and effort to improving your craft, otherwise you won’t.

In the end, it comes down to three basic methods: reading, writing, and writing about writing. The more you do those, the better you will become.

 

What is success in writing?

Jan
23

What makes a fiction writer successful? No really, tell me, I’d love to know.

I’ve been at this writing thing for several months now and it’s a question I still cannot answer, particularly in reference to myself. I’m not new to writing. I have been writing since childhood, studied creative writing in college, and have produced complete pieces here and there. But this is the first time I’ve tried to make an occupation out of it.

In that case, does success merely equal money? If a writer manages to get a great book deal, or reel in a bunch of royalties, is that success? Is making enough just to get by and continue writing success? If so, I am an abject failure. And on a side note, there are a lot of writers with regular jobs that still produce, get published, and develop a following.

Is the answer then popularity? A lot of people seem to think if a books sells a million copies is the greatest mark of success. Even if the book isn’t technically good. I have been gaining some followers here on this blog, but nothing like other popular writers. One of my favorite fiction bloggers, Esther Davis, has over 3,500 followers! Man, I’m jealous. Though I do feel better since her blog says I’m “amazing” for following it. It’s nice to be amazing at something!

A big part of me feels like the mark of success for a writer is being published. To this end I have three works so far that have been accepted and/or published by professional magazines. But that’s less than one per month. In my defense, it’s hard when it takes most places a month or more to tell you anything–that anything usually being a stock rejection letter. I have been focusing on this view of success quite a bit, and have more than a couple dozen other stories out with publishers at this time.

Because of my focus on professional publishing, my blog does not get a whole lot of new material these days. When I write a new story, if I feel it has any chance of being published elsewhere, I keep it off the blog. Is that a bad habit? Should I be posting more here, focusing on creating an audience?

Success, and how to achieve it, is a question that still baffles me. I welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have. Please leave a comment if you think you have an answer for me.