Category Archives: Writing and Publishing

Once More, With Feeling

At the Write Stuff writers conference next Thurs-Sat (March 23-25), I will be leading a 50-minute session on “Writing the Compelling Short Story.”

Additionally, the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group will launch their 2017 anthology, The Write Connections, which includes my vignette, “Once More, With Feeling,” about a dying man’s final conversation with his guardian angel.

The Write Connections marks my first publication of 2017. Hopefully, there will be at least two more short stories and a novella coming out from me this year.

 

The Write Connections anthology

 

 

Farpoint 2017 After-Action Report

We’re home from yet another fantastic Farpoint where I finally had the honor of meeting someone I consider an inspiration as a writer and storyteller—Nicholas Meyer. Mr. Meyer’s directing and/or screenwriting credits include Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryThe Day After (TV movie), and much more including the new CBS series, Star Trek: Discovery. He also wrote the Sherlock Holmes novel and screenplay, The Seven-Percent Solution.

I wanna be THAT guy when I grow up! 😀

After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at La Tolteca with Aaron Rosenberg, David Mack, Chris Kennedy, Glenn Hauman, and Eric Bakutis, it was time for the Friday night book fair, where I would have the opportunity to meet Nick Meyer.

Earlier in the day, I had purchased a replacement copy of The Seven-Percent Solution from a dealer. From my personal collection, I brought copies of the scripts for the aforementioned Star Trek movies while my wife, Evon, brought her hardback copy of A View from the Bridge, Mr. Meyer’s memoir of his time working on the Star Trek films.

As Mr. Meyer signed my items, I told him that he was one of my writing heroes, which actually brought him to a complete stop. He became momentarily verklempt, as did I.  He thanked me as he continued signing. Before having our photo taken together, I presented him with a copy of By Your Side, one of my paranormal mystery novels. He seemed genuinely grateful.

Phil with Nicholas Meyer

After that, I returned to my table where shenanigans ensued as Bob Greenberger began swapping name placards amongst nearby writers including myself, Aaron Rosenberg, Kelly Meding, Steve Wilson, and Lance Woods. Cameras, bottles, cans, even Steve Wilson’s  flask were not spared from the hide-and-seek hilarity. This added even more magic to the evening. You just can’t find a group of silly scribes like this anywhere else!

Phil and Evon at Farpoint 2017 Lance Woods and Steve Wilson at Farpoint 2017 Kelly Meding, Bob Greenberger, and Aaron Rosenberg Kelly Meding at Farpoint 2017 Bob Greenberger and Aaron Rosenberg at Farpoint 2017

My table was part of the Firebringer Press row that included Steven H. Wilson, Lance Woods, and debut author Diane Lee Baron with her novel, Gal WonderClick here for more info on Diane’s book!  By the end of the night, I sold a few books and signed one that a reader bought elsewhere (which is always a good feeling).

Gal Wonder by Diane Lee Baron

Saturday morning began with my wife and I taking our Star Trek II posters to Nicholas Meyer for yet more autographs and photo ops.

Evon with Nicholas Meyer Phil with Nicholas Meyer

My first panel of the day was Firebringer Press Presents at 11AM.  Diane Lee Baron chatted up Gal Wonder, which had a “soft” launch at Farpoint’s book fair, but will have a full premiere at Shore Leave in July along with the mass-market paperback collection of Steve Wilson’s Arbiter Chronicles SF novellas.

Firebringer Press Presents

I spoke about Like Mother, Like Daughters, my paranormal novella slated for release in October, as well as my second-place winning Rehoboth Beach contest story, “Tower Sixteen,” which was recently submitted (with its original ending) to a paranormal anthology slated for next year. If accepted, it would be my first story to be published in two different anthologies and with two different endings!

Firebringer Press Presents discussion panel

Michael Critzer chatted briefly about his upcoming non-fiction book, Heroic Inspirations, debuting this summer. Michael has taught courses on the mythology of superheroes and this book will represent a extension of that.

Afterward, Steve Wilson and I made our way to our scheduled readings at noon. Our audience consisted of Michael Critzer and my wife. Writer David Mack then arrived to finish the hour with his reading, but with such a small gathering, we simply yammered instead.

I was then free until 3PM when I shared a table with Peter David for our autograph hour. It was wonderful to spend time talking with him about his own work as well as the legendary Harlan Ellison, another writer who inspired me and has been close friends with Peter for decades. With no sales, and with Nick Meyer speaking at 4PM on the main stage, I packed up my books early, dropped them off in my room, and joined my wife who was saving a seat for me in the ballroom.

Mr. Meyer regaled an appreciative audience with stories of his first meeting with producer Harve Bennett about writing Star Trek II. A few drafts of the script (each a completely different story) had been written, from which Bennett and Meyer created a list of the best parts. From that list, Meyer wrote an entirely new script, but waived credit for it. This was after he had already signed on to direct.

Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017 Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017 Nick Meyer at Farpoint 2017

He also spoke about working with Ricardo Montalban (whose much-debated chest was actually his own, not a prosthetic), his vituperative relationship with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (who balked at the story for Wrath of Khan), and touched on the film adaptation for The Seven-Percent Solution.

Mr. Meyer’s presentation ended with a skit in which linguist and Farpoint regular, Marc Okrand—who developed the Klingon language for the Star Trek movies—read a “communique” from the Klingon Empire, translated into English by Nick Meyer,  honoring Gene Roddenberry and all of the main Star Trek actors that we’ve lost over the past 25+ years including DeForest Kelley, Mark Lenard, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy,  and Grace Lee Whitney.

At 6PM, I had the honor of moderating (somewhat nervously and perhaps ineptly) a discussion panel called “Avoiding Cliches in Your Writing” with panelists Lauren Harris, Peter David, and the reason for my jitters…Nicholas Meyer. However, the panel was entertaining and informative, but not without each of us veering off into tangents once in a while. Yet even as moderator, I would never have the temerity to interrupt Nicholas Meyer!

Avoiding Cliche in Your Writing discussion panel Avoiding Cliche in Your Writing discussion panel

My wife and I ended our evening with dinner at the Silver Spring Mining Company (love that place!) before calling it a night. Normally,  I would have stayed up late and joined my fellow con attendees at the Ten-Forward Dance Party in the atrium, but I was exhausted and wanted to get a few things done online.

Of course, in between the book fair, discussion panels, and autograph sessions, my wife and I caught up with old friends that we only see at the cons. This is an important reason why many of us attend. In fact, for some it is the only reason.

Since I was not scheduled for anything on Sunday, my wife and I departed by 9AM and made it home before noon to enjoy our first taste of spring weather. Sunshine and 65F degrees!

It should be noted that there was still a full day of programming on Sunday at Farpoint including a 2PM showing of Time After Time hosted by Nick Meyer.

Writers: Stop Constantly Taking and Start Giving

This is a topic that has been on my mind for a few years, but one that I’ve been reluctant to discuss. Perhaps I was concerned about the reaction or that it might burn some bridges, in which case I won’t be the one holding the flamethrower. I’ll leave that to whomever I offend here, because if you take umbrage at what you’re about to read, that’s on you. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. I’ve had enough.

In the seven years since I entered the professional writing arena with the publication of my first novel, I have connected with hundreds of other writers through writers group meetings, writers conferences, book signings, and social media. This is very similar to my experience in science fiction fandom. Since I began attending conventions on a regular basis in the late 80s, I‘ve made an enormous number of friends. Many have gone, but others have remained to become my family.

I genuinely value these friendships and connections and I enjoy working with many of my fellow scribes on various projects.

However, there are some writers that seem to have developed a habit of asking and taking while never giving back. When they have an upcoming release, they blast out requests for promotional help and I’ve happily obliged, repeatedly.

Yet, there has been very little reciprocation. When I’ve had a new release, or asked for reviews on my books that I’ve given or traded with them, the response from these same writers is little more than a “Like” on Facebook, maybe the infrequent “Share,” or in some cases dead silence—until their next release and then it’s “Hey, Phil! Hope all is well with you. Can you help…”

Yeah, I can help you again—for the fourth time—but I won’t. So fuck off. Where were you when it was my turn?  Funny, unless you need help from me, I never hear from you. It’s as if I’m insignificant or irrelevant and not worth your time.  When I’m releasing a new book, you completely ignore me. So please explain why I should keep being your good little drone?

If you consistently request help from other writers, you should be willing to give back once in a while. Perhaps you feel that you’re too busy and don’t have time, or that your time is more valuable than that of your peers, or maybe you’re so arrogant you even think that you’re a better writer than your peers and as such, you expect them to take the time to read your “amazing” work, but you can’t be bothered reading their “drek.”

Newsflash: You’re full of shit. Everyone is busy. Everyone’s time is valuable and you are no goddamn better than anyone else. If I slap you in the face, it’s going to hurt and some of you need to be slapped. So climb down off that fucking pedestal you put yourself on. You want others to make time for you? Try making time for others.

Now, you might be asking, “OK, Phil, so when have YOU taken time to help other writers?” Well, let’s review:

Over the past five years, I’ve read about two dozen novels and novellas from various writers, by request, and left honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. In fact, I’ll be reading another one in the next few months. On some occasions, those reviews were accompanied three-star ratings, because those reviews were honest. I’m not handing out four and five-star reviews like candy just because you’re a friend. PERIOD. Fortunately, most of what I’ve been asked to read so far has ranged from good to excellent.

I created a speculative fiction anthology called the Middle of Eternity series for Firebringer Press. I also edit and manage each volume. The entire purpose of this series is to showcase the work of as-yet unpublished writers with a few stories from myself and one or two other established writers. Two volumes have been published, we’re working on volume three now.  They are my way of paying forward what was done for me by the various small presses that published my work. Aside from my own new releases, there is no better feeling for me than watching a new writer autograph a book for the first time.

Whenever an editor, writer, or conference organizer asks me to take postcards, rack cards, or bookmarks to other conferences or conventions, I am all to happy to place them on my autograph table or the flyer table that many conventions set aside for just that purpose.

As a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, I volunteered as conference chairman of their 2015 Write Stuff writers conference and this year, I volunteered as a content editor for the group’s annual anthology. I’ll probably volunteer as editor again. Conference chair? Not so much. I don’t recommend it if you have a high-stress full time job.

I also frequently agree to critique and proofread manuscripts as a favor to other writer friends (and they do the same for me).

I do these things because I enjoy helping people. Do any of these activities cut into my writing time? Of course they do. In fact, editing and project-managing the second Middle of Eternity anthology kept me so busy in 2016 (in addition to other responsibilities), that I put aside a SF novel-in-progress for eight months. Instead, I focused on writing several short stories in between everything else. My writing time was constantly disrupted and I knew my novel would only suffer as a result. Only in the last month have I returned to writing the novel—just in time to start editing my third and final volume in the Eternity series. This is a labor of love and I knew sacrifices would be needed.

Have I ever said “No?” On occasion, absolutely! I can’t do everything and I’m certainly not advocating that you should help everyone at the expense of your own writing time or sanity. Sometimes, you will need to turn people away, but at the same time, don’t just keep expecting other writers to do for you constantly without reciprocation. No one likes to be used or taken for granted. There are many nice people out there who can’t say “No.” They want to please everyone. Coming from an IT support background, I used to be one of them, but not anymore.

I realize that most writers are a self-obssessed, conceited lot. I get it, we’re all looking to advance our own careers, but all too often, we don the blinders and disregard our peers.

I’m not your promotional “go to guy.” I’m not just a cog in your marketing machine. I’m also a human being and a fellow writer deserving of the same respect I afford to you.

You want help? Be prepared to give it once in a while. Besides, that leads to good karma…

 

 

 

Getting Closer To The Write Stuff

The Greater Lehigh Valley Group’s annual writers conference, The Write Stuff, is just over two months away.  The conference will take place March 23-25 at the Best Western Hotel in Bethlehem, PA.

Our keynote speaker will be Michael Hauge. Michael is a story and script consultant, author, and lecturer who works with writers and filmmakers on screenplays, novels, movies, and television projects. He has coached writers, producers, stars and directors for every major film studio and network. Read Michael’s interview on the Write Stuff Conference blog.

Kathryn Craft will be conducting workshops on Friday and Saturday of our conference. Kathryn writes stories that seek beauty and meaning at the edge of darkness. Rich with material for further thought or discussion, her novels make a great choice for book clubs. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, Kathryn served for more than a decade in a variety of positions on the boards of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, and volunteers as time allows with the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Read more about Kathryn’s workshops on the Write Stuff Conference blog.

From the self-publishing side,  Jamie Saloff speaks and coaches would-be authors helping them avoid the scams and money traps many fall prey to as they endeavor to self-publish a book. She shares insider secrets that separate the amateurs from the pros. She shows clients how to keep costs low and profits high, while stressing the importance of quality and professionalism.  Read more about Jamie’s Friday and Saturday conference presentations on our conference blog. 

Deborah Riley-Magnus—author of fiction and non-fictionfocuses on helping authors by teaching them how to bridge the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. As an Author Success Coach, she produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. Deborah teaches online and live workshops, clinics, and boot camps. She writes an author marketing industry blog and coaches authors, one-on-one, for sales success. Read more about her Friday and Saturday workshops on our conference blog.

As an Associate Agent and Author, Victoria Selvaggio knows firsthand that finding representation can be as hard as or even harder than becoming published. But…having a good understanding of the agent’s role, as well as your own, as the author, is just as important as advocating further, for the right agent-author relationship. Victoria will be presenting topics surrounding acquiring writers, composing the query letter, and what she’s looking for in dark, edgy novels.  Get more details about Victoria’s conference presentations on the Write Stuff blog. 

Look for more profiles and interviews with additional Write Stuff presenters in the coming weeks!

 

Write Stuff Conference

About This Writing Stuff…

Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a better and healthier start than mine. This year was less than 24 hours old when I was struck with a stomach virus that left me violently ill on and off (mostly on) for three days. At least it held off until just after the Sherlock season premiere.

It’s nice to occasionally resurrect what used to be a regular feature on my blog, this gathering of sagacious and informative articles from around the interwebs.

Although I’m not convinced that Laurie Gough’s rant against self-publishing could be labeled as either sagacious or informative. Certainly Kristen Lamb and Larry Correia don’t agree.

Over at Digital Book World, Chris Syme offers a four-step program to help authors market their books effectively on social media while Jami Gold is all about helping writers choose the best editors.

Finally, we get some perspective on POV from both Donald Maass and Chris Winkle, and Anne R. Allen explains why she writes first chapters last.

All that and a bit more. Enjoy!

Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word by Laurie Gough

Author Animal Farm – New York GOOOOD, Self-Pub BAAAAD and Generation Author Snowflake & The High Cost of Instant by Kristen Lamb

Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing by Larry Correia

4 Steps to Selling More Books with Less Social Media and Why You Only Need to Sell Your Books on One Social Media Channel by Chris Syme

Spend Less Time Marketing By Setting Up Social Media Outpost Channels by Chris Syme

Picking Editors: Tips for Finding a Developmental Editor by Jami Gold

Immersive POV by Donald Maass

Choosing Your Story’s Perspective by Chris Winkle

First Chapters: Start Your Novel with Your Reader in Mind by Anne R. Allen