Back from the Dead

Recently my wife told me that I “never write in my blog.”

She’s right about that. Mostly. I have written stuff sort of recently. Well, I wrote something in November of last year. That was only um… three months or so ago. That’s recent. More recent than my last dentist appointment anyway.

Most of my “writing for the internet” time has been spent with my fiction blog which is currently being using to tell the story of Nick, a teenager who ends up being a superhero more because of peer pressure than any other reason.

I’ve also ended up using twitter and Facebook more than I’d thought possible.

I originally started using twitter purely for the purpose of posting when my story got updated. I’d seen a number of webcomic and web serial writers using them for that reason and it seemed to work pretty well. Then something changed. A number of web serial writers connected with Web Fiction Guide started using it for personal purposes. Now I use it to let people know about updates, but also to comment on my life.

Facebook: I got into Facebook largely because it seemed like everyone I knew suddenly had a Facebook account. I’m still not completely sure what to think about it. It’s been very cool in that I’ve suddenly become aware of the lives of people I hadn’t seen in years. Many of them are from high school. Surprisingly few of my friends from college are on Facebook.

So far though, it seems as though I’m meeting a bunch of people I hadn’t known before through Twitter and reconnecting with people I already knew through Facebook.

I’m not sure if that’s most people’s experience, but that’s how things have happened for me.

In the meantime, I’m tempted to refocus this blog. I’m not sure what I’d refocus it to, but I’m tempted to do it anyway.

It may be that I’ll focus it on whatever happens to appear once I actually start writing regularly in it again.

That sounds like a good idea.

Web Fiction: The Slowly Coalescing Community

Once upon a time, most of the fiction on the web sucked. Well, I should take that back. There are novels by published writers online. Classics also.

Stephen King once serialized part of a novel online except that people didn’t meet the minimum number of donations or something and he didn’t finish it. If I remember correctly, it was called “The Plant.” Project Gutenberg continues to publish any classic novel they can publish for free.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that until recently much of the fiction I found on the web was pretty bad. I’m not talking about fan-fiction here because I haven’t read it and thus can’t judge it. I’m talking original fiction that I mostly found unintentionally on people’s personal websites.

Mind you, not all of it was bad, but I’ll just say that Sturgeon’s Law (90% of everything is crap) was in no danger of being proven wrong.

Part of the problem, of course, is that there weren’t any sites that gathered that fiction, indexed it and pointed out the stuff that was worth reading.

Stories Online
Okay… Well, that’s not completely true either. There were sites that gathered it. One example is StoriesOnline. It illustrates a basic truth of the internet: everything starts with porn. Well, maybe that’s not fair, but in this case, it might be a little fair. Though not all of the stories are erotica, each story in the listing includes a section called “codes” that indicates what sorts of acts one might find within. For example, “inc” is probably short for incest. I haven’t read much in it, but having taken a look at a couple of the highly rated non-pornographic stories, I wasn’t impressed.

Tales of MU and Monetizing the Story Blog
Within the last year, however, something happened that changed the whole situation. That thing is called Tales of MU.

Tales of MU tells the story of Mackenzie Blaise. She’s a half-demon who’s attending college in what’s essentially a high fantasy world superimposed upon twentieth century culture and values. That doesn’t sound all that impressive in some ways, probably because we’ve all seen that done unintentionally and badly.

In the case of Tales of MU it was done quite intentionally and well, managing to be a character based story with gripping arcs. The result was that Alexandra Erin currently makes her living off of writing Tales of MU. Some 10,000 people (or more) hit the site daily.

She makes money off the same combination of revenue streams that web comics do.
1. Advertising
2. Merchandise (t-shirts, books, etc…)
3. Donations: In Alexandra Erin’s case, she has the incentive of writing a bonus story if donations equal more than $300 in the course of a week.

One other thing about Tales of MU. It includes sex. Even if sex isn’t happening all that often, characters are talking about sex (one of the characters is a fertility spirit). The sex seems to happen in the service of the story, making it possible for me to read it, but sometimes end up wishing that there were less of it and even skimming the sex scenes for the character development.

Similarly, another writer Mei-Lin Miranda (author of An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom seems to have written a good story and has good business sense as well. Apparently she’s a blogger and web developer under another name and has experience making money off blogs. As you might guess from the name, An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom also contains a fair amount of sex.

I don’t know for sure because I haven’t read it, but I’m told the story is quite good and that again it’s sex in the service of a story.

Still, I can’t help but find it interesting that the fiction blogs that seem likely to be making the most money also contain more (and less typical) sex than average. I’m not meaning to demean the writers by that, I’m just wondering if (for example) les/bi/gay/transgendered sexuality appears so rarely in traditionally published fiction that online fiction fills a niche. On the other hand, it could just be that two people with good business sense happened to be writing stories that include a fair amount of sex.

I can’t think of any relatively traditional stories that enjoy similar success. Still, that doesn’t stop people (like me) writing more typical stuff from trying. Lately sites have begun to spring up listing the stories and reviewing them.

Pages Unbound
Alexandra Erin (abbreviated AE) started Pages Unbound to promote writers and the demand for online fiction. It was a major step forward both in making people (such as AE’s multi-thousand person audience) aware of other online serials and in making serial writers aware of each other.

Pages Unbound allows readers to review serials and serial writers to list and promote their serials. It also includes a forum where the writers discuss issues related to online writing.

Web Fiction Guide
Recently a group of authors that first became aware of each other on Pages Unbound (and even more so later in the Novelr forums) have started another review site called Web Fiction Guide. I’m one of them. It differs from Pages Unbound in that a group of editors reviews fiction, trying to create consistent standards for online writers and make it harder for “fanboy” reviews to dominate a listing. Readers can still review on Web Fiction Guide, but the editorial reviews are more prominent.

Web Fiction Guide also includes articles and interviews in addition to reviews — or it will at any rate. It just opened a couple days ago.

Community Voices
Finally, I should include community voices/critics in this article. The most important/visible of them at present is Eli James of Novelr. He writes about issues related to writing, writing online, and on issues of the online writing community. Novelr also includes a forum for writers to discuss various issues.

DustinM of Blog Fiction covers similar issues.

Both of them were writing about online fiction before the most recent growth in it.

A newer community voice is Wibblypress. Wibblypress is a group of writers, but the group also writes articles about online writing and does interviews with writers. It will be interesting to see what Wibblypress becomes.

With all the stuff appearing, it reminds me of the early days of web comics. The major difference being that I’m inside this one to some degree — which is kind of cool.

One of Those Horrible Catch-All Posts

As the title says, this is going to be one of posts where I write about all the things I ought to have written about if I’d been writing much of anything in the past few weeks.

The thing that sucks is that I’m not going to devote an appropriate amount of time to any of them.

Without further preamble:
1. I went to Florida around Christmas, visiting my younger brother and his wife and son. Also visited Disney World with my parents and sister while I was there. Saw an alligator from a distance. This is the best way to see an alligator.

2. Have been viewing season one of Heroes on DVD. I missed it while it was running. It is incredible. Hopefully it will survive the bad reviews of the first half of the second season and the WGA strike.

3. I’ve been writing a web fiction blog, currently devoted to a superhero web serial. It has actually attracted a few readers that I don’t know–which is cool. It’s also cool that a few people I do know are reading it.

4. The Michigan presidential primary is tomorrow. Thanks to our brilliant leaders’ attempt to beat New Hampshire and Iowa this year, the Democratic leadership will not allow the primary’s results to count. The state’s leadership claims that the Michigan delegates will ultimately be counted, but I’m not holding my breath. On the bright side (for Ed), this gives Kucinich the best chance he’s got to win an early primary.

To be honest, I’m not sure who I like most on the Democratic end of things at the moment. I have things I like and dislike about each candidate.

The Republican party does not appear to be punishing its people for disobedience and as such their primary does count. I’m tempted to vote in it. We’ll see. Given the choice, I’d prefer McCain to anyone else on the Republican side of the fence. If I thought of myself as Democrat, I might think it inappropriate, but as an independent I don’t have to feel guilty about voting in the Republican primary at all.

Promoting Myself

Just mentioning again. The second chapter of the superhero serial I’m writing is up.

For what it’s worth, though I’m not using any sort of particularly experimental literary techniques, I am using a technique that is experimental to me… I pretty much never write in the first person when I’m doing fiction and so this serial is entirely written in the first person. I’m also trying to have the main tension of the story being character based rather than plot based.

We’ll see whether I’m successful at that. I mostly do plot driven stories, so I might not be.

I’m thinking that the the next story might be a mystery set in an urban fantasy setting.

Actually, should you feel the urge to read the current story (or any story) and tell me what works (or doesn’t work) for you, I’ll be interested to hear about it.

In My Daydreams

So some people might remember a post in which I wrote about considering posting stories online. I’ve pretty much decided to do it.

“Pretty much” in this sense means that I’ve bought a domain and given myself hosting (I host web sites for small businesses), but, I haven’t bothered to put anything up yet.

Mind you, I’ve written stuff. Provided I go with my current plan of once/week updates, I’ve currently got a small buffer.

The URL will be, but it’s not currently worth the bother of looking. It might be in a couple days though.

Posting Short Stories (Or Perhaps a Serial) Online?

I’ve been reading stories online lately.

I’m thinking specifically of Banter Latte, but I’ve noticed other* places** that are doing the same sort of thing.

By the “same sort of thing,” I mean putting original fiction online–not fan-fiction or slash.

Sometimes I think it would be fun to post some stories myself. It would certainly be easier than starting a web comic. For one thing, I wouldn’t be limited by either a) the fact that I can’t draw or b) finding an artist that would be willing to draw what I write without pay.

There would, of course, be some things to consider. For example, the fact that I’d have zero chance of publishing whatever I post. Publishers want the right to publish things for the first time and web sites count.

Thus I’d have to come up with a concept that is simultaneously cool enough to want to spend time on but also unpublishable. That way I only gain in that whatever I write has the potential to create interest in my writing while not losing whatever (small?) chance it had of appearing in a book or magazine.

Another thing to think about though, is that the speed at which I write is pretty slow. Thus, writing much of anything and publishing it on my blog would probably take time away from my novel–something I’m not enthusiastic about.

Another possibility? Just serializing my novel and password protecting it. That way friends of mine who want to read and comment on it can and it wouldn’t officially be published. Plus I’d get feedback on what works for people and what doesn’t.

On the other hand, I’d also lose the benefit of posting online in the first place in that people couldn’t randomly come upon a story of mine, like it, and stick around.

Of course, I could do both…

So anyway, there’s something for me to think about. With any luck, I actually will.

* Star Harbor Nights is superhero fiction and partly responsible for my current urge to play superhero games. Banter Latte can be blamed for the other half of that urge.

** Tales of MU, though interesting and well-written, includes more sex than I’m really comfortable with. I guess that makes me a prude.

Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle died yesterday.

I’d write about her significance but I’m sure others have done it better. Still, I remember reading her books as a child and teenager, and, even as an adult. Despite being mostly categorized as books for children and “young adults,” her books are simply good books.

My personal favorites are “The Arm of the Starfish” and “The Young Unicorns.”

Interestingly, she attended my church on at least one occasion. I didn’t meet her at the time. I only know this because someone took a picture and they kept it up in the church for years.

The New York Times Obituary
NPR’s Obituary