the Unending Journey of the Wandering Author

A chronicle of the unending journey of the Wandering Author through life, with notes and observations made along the way. My readers should be aware I will not censor comments that disagree with me, but I do refuse to display comment spam or pointless, obscene rants. Humans may contact me at thewanderingauthor at yahoo dot com - I'll reply as I am able.

Location: New England, United States

I have always known I was meant to write, even when I was too young to know the word 'author'. When I learned that books were printed, I developed an interest in that as well. And I have always been a wanderer, at least in my mind. It's not the worst trait in an author. For more, read my writing; every author illuminates their heart and soul on the pages they write upon.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Thirteen Questions

JM of Fiction Scribe posted thirteen questions for writers yesterday. I began to reply in the comments, but the questions, and my answers, seemed just a little too interesting to bury in a comment. And my reply grew rather long, in any case. I hope she won't mind too much if I answer them here.

1: Do I write novels, short stories, poetry, fiction, non-fiction?

All of those... Whatever comes to mind, whatever I have a reason or an inspiration to write. And I write in various genres, although some more than others.

2: When did I start writing stories?

As soon as I understood it was possible; I began reading very young, and at first I thought books and stories were magical things that just existed. Once I understood you could create them yourself, I went wild. It was amazing to me that I could have such power, to accomplish such a wonder.

3: Did I start with fan fiction or my own creations?

My own creations. Fan fiction didn't really exist when I was young, or if it did, I was unaware of it. My first stories, of course, were heavily influenced by whatever I'd been reading lately, but I did make a deliberate effort to make them my own and not plagiarize anyone else's story.

4: What is the first story I ever wrote? (How long, what was it about...)

The first one I have any memory of now was written to enter a contest in fourth grade. It was a mystery, featuring a boy named John Balla as its hero, and it won the first prize in the (very small) contest. A little later, I entered a contest in the "Young Folks Pages" of the Boston Herald, and won that, too. That was about 100 words, science fiction, about monsters on the moon.

In junior high school, I started writing a novel, Journey of a Karmigan. It was very derivative, and while I didn't actually plagiarize Tolkien, anyone who read it could have told I'd read The Hobbit. Before it was finished, someone grabbed the only manuscript from me, tore it up, and flushed it down the toilet.

Shortly thereafter, I wrote Star Chill, a very melodramatic short story about a man who was the only survivor of a tragedy in space, and how he suffered from "star chill" due to his experience. That was the first one I ever tried professionally submitting, to Analog. They rejected it, of course, but failed to hire an assassin to punish me for exposing them to such an awful story, which is probably what I deserved.

5: Out of all the books I've read, who is my favourite character?

King Arthur stands out, and Gummidge the kitten (if I recall his name correctly), but to name a single favourite out of so many wonderful characters just is not possible. I could easily make this post twenty times as long discussing all the wonderful characters I've known.

6: Who is my favourite character from my own stories?

I will not play favourites with my characters; I love most of them (except the villains, and even then, I understand them too well to hate them). They are all part of me. As I work on various books and stories, certain characters fill more of my mind than others, but that changes with whatever I'm working on.

7: Am I seeking or will I actively seek a job in the writing & publishing industry, other than writing and hoping to be published?

I'd love to set up a small press some day... I struggled to do that for many years, before POD technology existed, using letterpresses and hand set type. The costs were just too high, and the process required too much time. And starting a magazine I could edit would be fun, too. In both cases, I'd seek to be my own boss, so I could make my own vision a reality. It will probably never happen, although stranger things have occurred.

8: What is my greatest "Achilles' heel" as far as grammar goes?

Long and winding sentences.

9: Am I published in any way, paid or not?

I have been published in unpaid markets, paid markets, including paid professional markets (not just contest prizes, in other words), and I've self published some of my work. None of it is well known, none of it is in print, and I haven't been published nearly as much as I'd like to have been.

Quite some time ago, I grew discouraged, both with my own ability, and with the apparent direction the publishing industry was taking, and turned all my efforts towards improving my writing, then self-publishing the results. I did improve with practice, but the expenses of self-publishing proved impossible to bear, and for a few years I tried to forget writing. I was miserable. It was one of the worst mistakes I've made in my life, which is saying a lot. Once I understood this, I gave in to the inevitable. I am a writer. I will go on writing until I die; I will seek publishers when I believe I have a chance of success, but whether publishing trends embrace me or reject me, I will not stop writing.

10: What are my dreams for my writing?

To learn to be as good a writer as I possibly can, to develop my skill and my talent as much as they can be developed, so I can do as good a job as possible of telling the stories inside me. I have so many stories, so many characters, so many worlds, all clamouring for attention inside me. I hope to leave behind as much of those stories as I can, as well told as I'm capable of, but I fear if I lived for a thousand years, I wouldn't be able to get the hundredth part of it all on paper.

I do hope to be able to move to making a full-time living as a writer, not because I have any illusions that will make me rich, but simply because, as long as I can even scrape by, that is the path which will allow me the most time to practice and develop my writing. I wish all writers could have the same opportunity.

11: If I could talk to any author, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Anne Frank, so I could let her know her writing was not lost, nor was it in vain; that her words triumphed over her murderers in the end. And so I could tell her that I mourn the loss of her life and of her potential - in murdering her, the Nazis stole from the world an incredible talent.

I have noticed certain keywords draw would-be commenters. Take note; I am aware the cause of Anne Frank's death was technically typhus. However, she would not have been malnourished, weakened, exposed to typhus, or broken by the deaths of friends and family, if the Nazis had not, against her will, done those things to her. The fact her murder was slow and agonising makes it no less murder. I've replied to your comments in advance, to save you the trouble of making them, and to spare myself the necessity of being exposed to your filth.

12: What inspires me?

In the broadest sense, every facet of life inspires me; in a narrower sense, cats, nature, sunsets, trees, leaves, the ocean, ruined buildings, mountains, fog, wind, the moon, tall ships, fountain pens, the act of writing, the act of printing, swans, geese, raccoons, otters, King Arthur, Winston Churchill, Anne Frank... even when I list specifics, the list could go on and on.

13: Why do I write?

That question implies an alternative - in my case, there is none; I cannot bear not to write. Asking why I write is like asking anyone on the street why they breathe.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Brief Update

Well, as my regular readers from the past can see, the curse is still in effect. Whenever I name a specific date I will post, something happens. In this case, it was a few minor crises, several planned get-togethers that lasted far longer than planned, and a brief but nasty little 'bug'. And, oh, yes, did any of you note my flippant comment in the last post?

I'm not sure if something at the back of my mind was already warning me of this, or if it was the action of the "curse", but the story I was working on may, indeed, turn out to be a novella. If not, it will be awfully close... I still want to thank my readers, and show my appreciation - I hope to put up a few stories, as soon as I can. (Note the new caution. Finally, the Wandering Author learns from experience - do not give a date!)

First, however, as I have a good idea all worked out in my mind, I hope to enter DBA Lehane's contest before it ends (the deadline is the 30th). And I am looking into an interesting idea I may follow up on, if I decide I can keep up the pace. I'll let you know more about that, one way or the other, once I decide how I will be handling it. Yes, and I do remember I have a few awards / memes to catch up on; some date back to last fall, when life (or, more accurately, death) put all my activities and plans on hold for a while.

I hope I will have the sense, from now on, to only promise a post on a certain date if the post has already been written. Ideally, I'll have it all set up in Blogger to auto-post on that date (yes, this is possible for Blogger users, and has been for at least a little while). If I forget, I hope you'll forgive me.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Mystery of the Missing Story

I promised to post a story sometime today, to show my appreciation to my readers on Blog Reader Appreciation Day. Yet this is not a story, and there is no new story below it. Where is the story I promised? Happily, the mystery is easily solved. I have over 2,500 words of the story written. It is turning out to be a bit longer, and a bit harder to wrap up, than I'd expected.

I choose to believe my readers would prefer, and would feel my appreciation of them was best expressed by, a story I didn't slap together just to meet the stroke of midnight. And some of you will no doubt go crazy if I post just the part I have done so far. So, I will be posting the story tomorrow, unless it turns into a novella :-D without warning. I am sorry for the delay, and hope you'll find the story, when it is up, was worth the wait.

Labels: ,

Winslow Farm Renaissance Faire - Helping Animals

I know most of my readers are too far away to take part in or visit this Faire, no matter how interesting you may think it sounds. However, I'd like to ask each of you to consider simply running a short post about it. Why? Well, perhaps one of your readers is close enough to enjoy the faire. More importantly, this is a first year effort, intended to raise money to help abused farm animals.

Since this is their first year, they need all the publicity they can get. So please help to spread the word: the Winslow Farm Renaissance Faire, also known as the Winslow Farm Renfaire, will be held on Saturday and Sunday, June 28th and 29th. It will be held on the grounds of the Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary in Norton, Massachusetts.

They are actively seeking volunteers, vendors, and independent acts willing to work for hat or the proceeds from selling CDs or items related to their acts. This is a non-profit faire, in its first year, and no funds are available to pay anyone for helping out or performing.

Still, this is an opportunity to gain visibility, experience, and perhaps a few bucks in your hat. And you are free to sell items related to your act, which could bring in a few more dollars for you. More importantly, this is a chance to do something to help abused animals find help and a decent home. If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, or plan to be in the area at the end of June, please consider taking part, or at least visiting the faire.

As for the rest of my readers, I only became aware of this, even though it is being held not that far from where I live, because I know the Faire's Director. They are doing all they can, but they could use some extra visibility, so please, take a minute or two to post about this. It may reach some of your readers who live in the area, and it will, at least, make them more visible on the Internet when someone searches for them.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Future Plans

First of all, tomorrow is Blog Reader Appreciation Day. Since most of my readers seem to enjoy my fiction, I hope to post a story for you tomorrow. I'm not saying what time, it may be close to midnight, but unless something really unexpected messes up my plans, I'll have a story for you tomorrow. (All my cats seem healthy, my computer isn't on the immediate brink of failure right now - I think it is safe to promise that.)

Second, I already posted about DBA Lehane's latest contest (you have to scroll down a bit). I also have an idea for an entry in that contest, so if any of you are interested in reading that, you may want to join his writing group so you can do so. I'll have that done before the deadline of the 30th, but I'm not making any tighter guesses on what date I'll finish it.

Much as I enjoy posting here, and reading all your blogs, I'm still posting a bit sluggishly, and reading and commenting on your blogs only occasionally. Why? I'm trying to "clear the decks" for action. That is, I have plans for what I'd like to do, and I'm busy struggling with all the tasks that have accumulated, and been put off, over the past number of years.

When I have less to do looming over my head, I'll have more time for writing. I intend to seriously pursue a full time writing career. The first step is to make sure I'll have time to write without being distracted by "that computer problem I noticed back in 2006 isn't going away, in fact it seems to be getting worse." In addition, I need to develop and improve my writing. No matter what you may think of my writing ability, writing is a skill which can always be improved.

I also need to develop a source of income that won't get in the way of writing more than necessary, one that I can step back from as I get more opportunities to write. One task I mean to finish, then keep up with, is looking over everything I've written so far, editing it wherever I see opportunity for improvement, making a catalogue of it, and tracking those novels and stories I've never finished.

It seems a useful discipline to work through the process of finishing, or of revising, those projects that are stalled. Only if I discover something that truly is beyond salvage will I set it aside unfinished. Then, I plan to keep up with new ideas: I know one writer who has a rule that she finishes everything she starts in a year by the end of that year. I may not adopt exactly that rule; I need to work out what will work best for me, first. But I do plan to adopt a similar rule.

I'll be keeping this blog for now, but over time I will be developing my own web site. I'll post a link to that once I have it up, and I'll be posting some of my new material there. Eventually, I will shift my blog to a WordPress (probably) blog hosted on my own site. Again, when I have a link, I'll post it here, and I'll leave this blog in place, so anyone following an uncorrected link can still find me.

I still need to plan my web site in detail, and I still need to work out the ways I hope to begin bringing in a little income by writing. Don't worry - even if I were to open up a subscription only web site (which I am not considering, by the way) most if not all of my readers here are also friends - I'd just send you free subscriptions and wait for paying strangers to sign up.

My options to begin with are limited to, first, taking on freelance writing work. I do plan to do that, but since none of that is likely to be very creative, it isn't my favourite choice. Editing work is a little more attractive to me, although I'd really rather have more time to devote to my own writing. (Yes, I know we can't always get the things we want. On the other hand, I am very conscious of the fact that the more time I can spend writing, the better I will come to be at it. And I think every real writer craves the chance to develop their potential as fully as possible.)

I will be doing (very limited) affiliate selling. I won't recommend anything just to make money from it. I won't pretend it is better than it is. In other words, I doubt I'll be the greatest salesman on the Internet. And I am at least considering the possibility of accepting advertising. I would be interested to know what my readers think of that idea.

As you may have guessed, my tendencies tend strongly towards the non-commercial - while I like the idea of getting paid for doing nothing more than drawing readers, I hate the idea my writing might lure readers into being exposed to an ad for some junk I'd never wish on my worst enemy. Of course, I could limit ads to, say, small publishers - but then I'd feel unjustified in charging them much and making it harder for them to pay their authors.

Finally, I am toying with an idea I haven't seen attempted yet. I wonder if there are businesses out there who would pay a fiction writer to write stories just to attract readers? It would gain them extra traffic, and goodwill from the readers who enjoyed the fiction. Or they could offer mini e-books with a few stories as a reward for loyal customers. What do you think? Is there any chance of finding even a tiny, niche market for such an idea? And, of course, it has the same problems as accepting ads on my own site. I'm considering all these possibilities because, in the end, I am the one who has to arrive at a mix I can feel comfortable with.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Another Writer Seeking Help

A member of a writing group I belong to recently faced an emergency. His cat was injured, and required stitches. The vet's bill used up all the money he'd been counting on for the month of April. I discovered that he lives on a fixed income, so this is a real problem. Now, I know a lot of you are struggling yourselves. I certainly don't have the right to say where your money should go. But I do want to at least mention the situation.

Before linking to his post, I'd like to make some comments of my own, referring to concerns that have already been voiced about this appeal. If you bother to go over and read his post, you will read some things that probably will upset you. My own perspective is a bit different; if you are willing to even consider a small donation to help him, I hope you'll give me a few minutes to explain how I see it.

First of all, in a later post, he makes remarks that suggest to me he has been criticised for feeding pets, and for paying such a large vet bill, when he has so little to begin with. One reason I am writing a post it makes me extremely uncomfortable to write is the fact that I can only respect someone who will help an animal without counting the cost.

No matter how poor you are, there are strays who can use your care, and you can use their love. Those animals deserve to be taken care of. For some time now, I've had 'negative cash flow' thanks to vet bills, medications, and fluids, on top of all the ordinary expenses, for a cat who belonged to a friend. The friend died, and I faced a choice: have him put to sleep, or have him treated. Even though he wasn't my cat, I couldn't look into his eyes and take him in to be killed while he still wanted to live.

The other concerns are ones I at least understand, even if I don't completely agree with them. When you read the original appeal, he has listed items he needs, and items he would like money for. Among those are some undoubted luxuries. CDs and comics are the two items that have attracted the most notice. Some have suggested those items hint this is just a scam.

When I first read the list, I suspected many people would think that, but in my experience, scammers wouldn't be that honest and obvious. They'd claim four or five fictitious, starving kids, or mention something more likely to evoke sympathy than outrage. Now, even if it isn't a scam, why should you buy someone else CDs and comics just because they'd like them? I'm not saying you should. Just please read on.

Yes, anyone has a right to put up a post, if they like, asking for CDs, comics, or anything else they might wish for. Anyone who reads it has a right to ignore their request. I have more money going out than coming in, so I'm not going to contribute to such a fund myself. What I am saying is, first, that he is at least honest about what he'd like, which isn't a scam, and, second, I'm worried that, as a side effect of his honesty, so few people will donate that he, his wife, and his pets will starve.

I'm sure most of you still see it as bold and rude, at the very least, to ask for luxuries from strangers. What I don't think many of you would consider is this: he is living on a small, fixed income and has been for some time. I have enough experience of such a situation to understand that luxuries are so scarce the line between luxury and necessity becomes blurred. You budget what you have to have, then fit in as much as you can beyond that. And you forget which is even which, sometimes.

Many people are struggling with money right now. Most who read this probably can't help. Even if you can help, you may not want to. That is your decision, and your right. I'm not trying to shame anyone into doing anything they don't want to do. If you're afraid of a scam, I can tell you that Sky has been a member of a mailing list based writing group I'm also a part of for at least a year. We live on opposite coasts, so I don't know him personally.

Other than that, I don't know anymore than he says in his post here and his update, here. I don't believe he's a scammer, and I've told you why. Those posts probably annoyed you; scammers would be more persuasive. Those posts, to me, read like a real person, in a real situation, awkward and with idea how to go about making such an appeal work.

You'll have to make up your own minds what to do, but I hope you'll forgive me for at least mentioning this. If there are any conspiracy theorists reading this, you might assume I'm a scammer, and the other posts are just ones I put up using a different identity. Whatever you think, I just hope that, somehow, two human beings and several cats and dogs manage to survive the month of April. If you don't feel able, or willing, to donate, I hope you'll at least add your prayers to mine that that will be so.