Monday, September 27, 2010

Writer's Conference: One Day or Entire Time?

In today's short blog, I'll attack the two easiest sets of questions I posed yesterday.  I'm planning on attending a writer's conference, and to recap, here are a couple of decisions I have to make.
  • Do I sign up for the whole event (Friday evening to Sunday morning = $350 + hotel stay of $200)?  Or do I only go for one day (Saturday = $300 + no hotel)?
  • Do I sign up for NCWN membership?  It saves $100 on registration.
So many choices just in these two sets of questions!  Most expensive scenario: $550 for the full stay.

First off, I'm curious how much NCWN membership costs.  I check out their site and: wow!  It's only $75 for an annual membership!  Okay, this is a no-brainer.  It's almost as if they want me to join.  What's the catch?  If I join, I get $100 off of the conference - plus I get access to all the member-only things.  In other words, I'd be saving $25 bucks overall and getting more services.

Okay then - one decision down.  I'm signing up for NCWN membership tonight!

Then my most expensive scenario becomes: $250 (conference - full time) + $75 (membership) + $200 (hotel - 2 nights) = $525.

And my cheapest scenario: $200 (conference - Saturday) + $75 (membership) + $0 (no hotel) = $275.  (I save $250.)

Since I only live 90 minutes away from the conference, and it's my first time, the optimal choice may be the cheap-y route.  If I do that, I'd be missing the Friday-night welcome stuff including Micheal Malone's Keynote; and the Sunday stuff including two session workshops and the "Agents and Editors" panel discussion.

Or I could sign up for the full conference and skip the Friday stuff (one night in the hotel - total price = $425).

It looks like I still need to think about this one.  So many choices - and I'm only on the "easy" decisions!!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Do You Do at a Writer's Conference?

The North Carolina Writer's Network is holding a writer's conference the beginning of November in Charlotte.  I've never attended one of these before, so this will be my first one.  As I might have mentioned before, I have no idea what I'm doing.  I have no idea what to expect at a conference.  All I know is what I've read - that if you're a serious writer, then these conferences are a requirement.

Why have I never attended one of these before?  Boy, do I have a list of answers:
  1. Money - these things are expensive.  Supposedly it's possible to get published without spending a penny (other than mailing costs), but it's clearly not working for me.  I'm one of the majority who operates on a tight budget.  It would be nice to have royalties pay for these conferences - but you have to get published to get royalties!  Basically, we aspiring writers will have to come up with the money out of our own pocket.  Think of it as an investment.  Now that I have a small budget set aside for "publishing," I can plan for these things.
  2. Ignorance - yes, a year ago I didn't even know what a writer's conference was.  I had heard of them, but never knew these were a "rite of passage" for aspiring writers.
  3. Pride - like most aspiring writers, I used to think I was perfect.  "Everyone loves to read my stories, so why would I need to go to a conference?  What could a writer's class teach me that I don't already know?  Why should agents require an aspiring writer to meet them at a conference?  My books will sell themselves."  Then in the past year I've learned that there are no perfect writers.  I've been learning a few things through researching the net, and I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.
  4. Meeting People - I'm such an introvert.  I could see myself going to a writer's conference, attending seminars, and talking to absolutely no one.  Then what would I have accomplished?  If I learned nothing from the seminars, it would be a complete waste of money.
Well, now I'm ready to attend one of these things.  I've overcome the issues listed above, but still - what am I supposed to do at this conference?

I see three main goals.
  1. HAVE FUN - no matter what happens, I must resolve to enjoy myself - even if I approach an agent and fall flat on my face.  If I make having fun my #1 top priority, then I should be able to accomplish the next two goals.  If I show any fear, it'll be sensed, and established authors/editors/agents will just eat me for breakfast and spit my bones in the garbage.
  2. LEARN SOMETHING - even if I fail miserably in goal #3, nothing can stop me from learning something in the seminars.  Maybe I'll learn a new trick that will help me write better (which will increase the chances of me getting published later).
  3. NETWORK - there it is - the ultimate goal for the aspiring writer.  If I can get just one agent to look over my stuff and give me feedback, then I will have met this goal.  If I get a good agent to sign with, then that's an extra bonus.
Finally, there are decisions for me to consider over the next few weeks.  I'm sure that when you go attend your own writer's conference, you'll have similar choices to make.

  • Do I sign up for the whole event (Friday evening to Sunday morning = $350 + hotel stay of $200)?  Or do I only go for one day (Saturday = $300 + no hotel)?
  • Do I sign up for NCWN membership?  It saves $100 on registration.
  • What about signing up for a $30 Master Class?
  • Do I enter a manuscript pitch in their Manuscript Mart?  For $150, I would get helpful feedback from a editor, publisher, or agent.
  • Do I enter a sample of my writing in their Critique Service?  For $150, I get feedback from a writer.
  • Which "concurrent" workshop seminars do I want to attend?
  • Do I want to try for one of their scholarships?
  • Which agents do I want to approach - and how does that work?  Do I need to get business cards?
I'll be going over these topics in more detail over the next few weeks. 

Until then - happy preparing for your own next writer's conference.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Resting From Blogging

I'm still resting from blogging this week.  This post doesn't count.  I'm just going to say random things, but you can read if you want to.

First off, I noticed a clear theme from my posts last week: "I am an aspiring writer who wants to get published."  So, first thing I'm going to do is change the name of my blog.

Old name: Mel-o-rama's Writing Blog

New name: Mel-o-rama's Club of Aspiring Writers

I believe this new name better reflects what I hope to accomplish.  This week while I'm resting from blogging, I'm going to check out other blogs.  My wife says: "You know Mel, I bet someone else has already done the 'Club of Aspiring Writers' thing.  Maybe you should check them out."  I told my wife: "Yes, dear," and so I will go out there and seek out new blogs (new to me) that have anything to do with writing and subscribe/follow.

I also invite all you readers to make comments - make suggestions - join the discussion.

Let's see how my blog's doing so far.  I click on the "Stats" link, and this is what I see: I have 82 pageviews so far.  My most visited post is "Fun at Tab Williams", the human interest story.  (Take note: more people will read my posts when I don't talk about myself.)

Geography: US = 76; Canada = 3; Singapore = 2; South Korea = 1.  Wow - I'm international!!

Traffic Sources: It looks like Facebook wins with a count of 16 (whatever the count means).  Whoooo!!!  Thanks to my Facebook friends!

Then comes Google with a count of 7 - which means people are starting to randomly find my blog.

Last random thing:

A friend of mine sent this link about author head shots.  Very funny article!  I'm glad that my current excuse of a head shot doesn't fall into one of these categories!

See y'all next week.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Future Plans

Here we are - the end of my introductory week of blogging.  To finish off the week, I'll muse on my future plans.

All we aspiring writers have the same goal in mind:


We just don't know how to get there. 

It's a little scary, but it's also exciting.  If I do nothing, I'm going nowhere.  If I do anything, then I'm better than nothing.  So, I resolve to go where no Melvyn Windham has ever gone before.  I don't know how things are going to end up, but one day I'll find out.  It'll be like reading a book where the ending is not yet written.

Am I going to succeed and become the next J. K. Rowling?  Am I going to get just one book published and say it's enough?  Am I going to fall flat on my face?  We shall see.

So what am I going to do?  The first step is easy:

#1) Keep on writing.  A no-brainer.

Beyond that, I don't know what I'm doing.  But here's what else I'm trying:

#2) Send out queries.  This is hard to do, knowing that I'll mostly get rejected.  It's so easy to say: "What's the use?  Why waste the time and the postage?"

#3) Write short stories.  The last few years, I've been concentrating on my book projects.  Now I read that sometimes you need some credits behind you to rise out of the slush pile.  That is, if you can sell a few short stories, you can probably sell a book.  For me, these are harder to write, because there's so little room to put stuff.

#4) Get an agent.  I'm actually reading that in writing sci-fi you can do without an agent.  Some sci-fi publishers even prefer not working with agents.  Orson Scott Card has suggested selling one book first, but before you sign the contract - get an agent - then you're more likely to get a good agent's attention.  I've already sent out a few queries on my "Justice" book without an agent, and half of the publishers have already rejected me, so I'm thinking more seriously about finding an agent.

#5) Go to conferences.  I'm going to try out my first conference in November.  I'm sure that my blogs in October will talk about this one a lot - so stay tuned for details.  My biggest goal for November is to find an agent.

#6) Keep up this blog.  I wish a successful author had started one of these when they were a nobody.  It would help me out a lot if I could read about their experiences while trying to break into the business.  My wife says there probably is that kind of blog out there, but I just haven't found it yet.  Even if no one ever reads this, it will at least help me collect my thoughts and focus my energies toward meeting specific goals and getting published.

#7) Network.  I still don't know how to do this.  I'm on Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Classmates (though I don't go there anymore).  I have my own website.  I used to write on discussion forums related to actuaries and puzzles.  Do I need to join writer's discussion forums?  Do I need a MySpace page?  Is Facebook a good way to network professionally?  So many questions!  I'm going to have to devote a whole blog to just this one topic!

#8) Join writer's groups.  Okay, maybe this is part of networking.  I've been avoiding these guys before, as I'm such an introvert, and I'm scared to death to meet people just like me.  But now I'm thinking: Wait!  These guys are aspiring writers - just like me!  We could help each other out in getting published!  Now I just want to kick myself for not doing this sooner.  In my area, there are a few options: The Winston-Salem Writers' Group; the Triad Writers' Group; the NC Writer's Network; and nationally, the SFWA (Science Fiction Writer's Association) - I'll join this last one after I meet their requirements.

#9) Other stuff.  I have a couple of unique talents at my disposal.  Since I'm a music composer, and my daughter is an illustrator, I've been toying with the idea of putting together some video pitches and put them on YouTube.  I'm always coming up with strange ideas.  If anything gives me an advantage, I might as well use that idea and see if it leads anywhere.  Then again - anything too unorthodox may work against me.  One idea is to self-publish and come up with some crazy distribution scheme.  But I'd much rather go the traditional route.

Well, that's it for now.  Thanks for reading and letting me introduce myself this past week.  Now I'm going to take a week off and plan the next step toward becoming published.

Till then, I'll see you aspiring writers later.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bookmarks Festival 2010

Yes - no blog yesterday.  We had a day-job picnic and then a really good friend came to visit.  We played chess all night.  So, I'll do yesterday's blog today and today's blog tomorrow, thus ending my week-long blitz introduction.

Last Saturday I attended my first book festival seminar ever.  Or is it better called a session?  Or an author meet and greet?  See - I don't know the terminology.  I don't know what I'm doing!  I'm only an aspiring writer.  That means I just want to write and write and let the world discover me.  (If only it worked like that.)

First off, let me clarify: The Bookmarks Festival of Books is not a full fledged writers conference where you try to network with real writers and agents.  (That's something else I plan to attend in a couple of months - later blog on that.)  Rather, this was a festival - a more laid back event geared more toward readers and novice aspiring writers.  Let's see what their website says: "Novice writers and readers of all ages are inspired by and learn from authors, illustrators, storytellers and chefs through readings, workshops, panel discussions, cooking demonstrations, and creative and interactive activities for children and teens."

Oh, that's the word I was looking for earlier: workshops!  I attended two "workshops."

Workshop #1: Ursula Vernon was someone I had never heard of before.  Out of 44 presentations, I chose her's because: a) it was after 12 PM - we had a morning conflict; b) she does children's books - something I'm interested in; c) she does graphic novels - my daughter is a budding aspiring writer and also an aspiring illustrator - so I thought this would inspire her - I also brought my budding aspiring writer son; d) one of her series is called "Dragonbreath" - oh I was so hooked.

We were running late.  I said, "Get in the van, kids!  I don't want to miss this."  You should have seen me driving.  We were still a couple minutes late.

Now, let me remind you that I've never been to one of these workshops.  We were sent to the basement of the Millennium Center, which translates into "dusty old building."  They had set up a "red room" which was really one side of the basement next to the billiard tables.  It was set apart by hanging curtains.  It was an adhoc-y set up - just like in the movies.  Cool!

Ursula was already talking.  I could tell right away that she was an introvert, just like me.  She wasn't a smashing orator.  My kids looked at me saying, "Really?" with their eyes.  After a couple of minutes, we actually started listening to her.  She was telling a few stories about how she came to being an author/illustrator.  It was really interesting stuff.  I could see that my kids became captivated as well.

Take note: Authors may not be great speakers, but they certainly have a lot to say - and it really is interesting!

Here are some of my observations of Ursula.  She's gone past "aspiring writer" and is now "little known author" on the way to "boo-yah author."  All she wants to do is write and write and illustrate and let her agent take care of everything else.  (He was in the room - a real life agent in the room!)  She related all the silly things publishers have to worry about - like when in the year a book needs to be sold - what colors are cheaper to work with - etc.  All interesting stuff, I tell you.

Then there was the fan.  She sat right behind me, and when she asked her "question," she was jumping up and down with excitement.  When Ursula mentioned her new book coming out this week, the fan held it up and said, "I have one!"  At the end of the workshop, the fan jumped up and gave Ursula a big hug.

Take note: if I ever become even a "little known author," I will probably have complete strangers jumping up to hug me.

I would have liked to stick around and actually meet Ursula, but I didn't want to miss the next workshop on our list.  We left.

Workshop #2: How to Get Published.  This was another adhoc-y setting.  We met inside an art store, and all the seats up front were taken.  There was no microphone.  My kids and I had to stand up.

Judith Geary, an editor at Ingalls Publishing, gave all kinds of good advice on how to get published.  The most helpful (and depressing) advice she gave was this: If you want to get published, you need an agent; and the only way you can find an agent is if you know one or you know someone who knows one.

My first reaction: but I read on the internet that if you really, really, really want to write, and you're good enough, you will get published - even if you don't know anybody.  I didn't want to hear anything else Judith wanted to say.  But I kept listening, and I realized: if you really, really, really want to write, you'll find a way to know an agent or know someone who needs an agent through a process called "networking."

Now, I have no idea how to do this.  I'm an introvert!  And all I want to do is write!  Why won't the agents come to me?

Judith suggested to build up your internet presence.  She's the one who told us the suggestion to Google your name and see what comes up.

Thus you see the inspiration for my beginning this blog.  I know hardly anybody is reading this now, but perhaps one day... we'll see.  I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm doing it.  I'm tired of waiting to be discovered.  I'm going to try all kinds of different paths to getting published, and I only need one path to work.

After the Workshops: Then I decided to hit the festival booths with my kids.  It was raining, so we had fun to dodging the raindrops.  I met a director of the Winston-Salem Writers Group - I'll have to check them out further.  I tried to find a representative of the NC Writer's Network, but couldn't seem to find any.  I met Steve Kirk, the editor-in-chief of John F. Blair.  He was a nice man who was happy to talk about their books.  He gave me a catalog.

Take note: Editors are normal people - just like aspiring writers.

Lastly, we hit the WFU book selling tent.  There, they sold books from all the visiting authors.  I wanted to see what Ursula Vernon's "Dragonbreath" looked like.  At the request of my son, I ended up buying Book #1.  Of course, I wanted book #3, which featured Were-Wieners (the hot dog has teeth!), but my boy's a purest - we had to start with book #1.

I bought the book thinking we could have it signed by Ursula herself.  I've never had a book signed by anyone!  The book signing tent was conveniently located next to the bookstore tent.  But when we got to the tent, Ursula was gone.  A staff member said, "They're only here for an hour at most, and then they have to leave."

Take note: if you really want to get an author's signature, you have to actually follow the author after their workshop.  Next time - I'll be ready.

On the way home, my two boys were fighting over the book.  All week long they've been taking turns reading it.  My older daughter read it when I wasn't looking.  My kids are eating up the stuff, and they want the next book.  Problem is: we aspiring writers usually don't have extra money lying around.  Also, our county library doesn't carry the Dragonbreath series.  Bummer.

I had to see what the hubbub was about, so I started reading.  It starts with pirates.  "Arr" and "avast," etc.  I kept reading.  It's different.  It's cute.  It's funny.  Then I told myself, "This little-known author needs to become a boo-yah author."  So, look it up.  Check out the Dragonbreath series.  Heck - check out any of her books and see what it's about.  I think next time I see her, I may be jumping up and down with excitement.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fun at Tab Williams

Okay - I know I said I was going to cover "Internet Resources" today, but then I realized: what a broad subject!  I can do some of that later (don't have to do it during this one-week introduction blitz).  Instead, today I'll write something completely different.  I'll tell a story.

We had to choose a community service event.  Our whole department had to participate, but at least we got to choose our poison.  Some of us could work at the food bank.  Others could build benches at the children's home.  Yet others could bake goods for the needy.  I was one of the few to choose working at Tab Williams, our city's adult day center.  I had done it last year and I wanted to do it again.

Unlike the other events, Tab Williams involved interacting with people.  The other events instead required doing good things for people to enjoy later: sorting food, cooking, building things.  That kind of hard work is easy.

But interacting with old people is hard.  It's scary - because if we live long enough, we'll be old, too - and none of us wants to think about not being able to take care of ourselves.

Only five of us signed up for Tab Williams.  We made our plans: three of us would sing.  The other two would help with BINGO.  We practiced our music beforehand.  We gathered paper supplies to donate.  We decided what we were going to wear for "S" day. 

Then the day came.  I came wearing my green "s"equined vest.  Kyle wore a funny "s"ombrero.  Kaman wore funny looking green "s"horts.  I wonder if they belonged to his wife.  The other two didn't wear anything special, but that was okay, as they were funny looking anyway.

SpringHill Marriott representatives were there as well.  They brought the BINGO equipment.  As they set up, the seniors did their daily walk - at least some of them did.

I recognized one senior from last year: Sarah.  Last time, she was so energetic and so funny - cracking all kinds of jokes and making people happy.  She smiled at me as recognition came to her face.  I said, "Hi," and she joyfully grabbed my hand to go walking around the center.  Then she started talking to me.  It was gibberish.  She looked as if she understood what she was saying, but I had no idea.  I just nodded and talked about the weather as we walked.  I tried not to let her see the sadness I felt when I learned her condition had gotten worse.

Sarah pointed to the door to the garden outside, and we went.  She held my hand as if we were on a romantic walk.  She reminded me of my grandma who passed away a few years ago.  I wondered if I somehow reminded Sarah of one of her sons, or a past lover.  Whatever it was, she seemed happy.  I led her back inside and then she walked off on her own.  Just like that, she was done.

Then I recognized Sam.  I remembered talking to him a year ago.  He had seemed in full control of his faculties.  He spent most of his time reading a book.  He had described to me in frank detail about how he was mostly okay, except he would have sudden blackouts and couldn't be left alone.  He said he was getting better and perhaps in a year or so he'd be back to 100%.

Well, here he was one year later - sitting in a chair reading a book.  I said hi, and he said hi back.  We shook hands, and I could tell he wanted to get back to his book.  A little later when we started singing, I saw Sam get up to head to the restroom.  He was in a wheelchair - meaning that his condition had gotten worse as well.  I meant to ask him about it, but I never got the chance.  They must have picked him up early.

Before I continue, remember that Tab Williams is a "day center", and not an old-folks home.  No one lives at this center.  It's a place for seniors to go when their loved ones are off at work.  The center is geared toward stimulating social interactions and a few physical activities and promotes independence.  In fact, Tab Williams just won some kind of award recently for being the best adult day center in the nation.  Look up Tab Williams together with Bowling, and you can read all about it. 

I hoped to see them do some Wii Bowling, but they don't do that on Wednesdays.

Finally, there's one more lady I want to write about.  When we did our singing, one of the staff went around with a mike to selected seniors - whoever wanted to sing.  When we did a couple of hymns, a guy joined with his harmonica.  When we did "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", it was Juliet's turn on the mike.  She didn't sing words, but she vocalized.  It was like a heavenly voice full of innocence and experience mixed together.

About an hour later when I was doing the rounds, I approached Juliet.  She looked at me and asked, "Is it time to go?"  I answered, "No, not yet."

"Do you live here?" she asked.  I answered, "No."

"I'm from Sacramento," she said.  I answered, "That's a wonderful city."

"Have you even been to Oklahoma?" she asked.  I answered, "I drove through there once.  It took a couple of hours."

"Do you live here?" she asked again.  This time I was a little confused, because I already answered that question.

I decided to cut her off at the pass and take a different approach.  I said, "You're a wonderful singer."


"You have a beautiful voice."

She looked a little flattered, but confused.  She replied, "How do you know that?"

"I heard you an hour ago.  You sang 'Over the Rainbow.'"

This whole time, Kyle was playing the piano while another colleague, Fred sang hymns.  Kaman (who like me didn't know these hymns) was helping a couple of seniors in handling the mike.

Juliet turned to me and asked, "Have you ever been to Oklahoma?"  I then realized that she suffered from one of those short-term memory diseases.  I quickly learned to use this to our mutual advantage.  I learned which answers to her questions made her happy.

After a few minutes of answering the same questions, I was about ready to get up when she suddenly cut off our discussion and started singing along with the hymn Fred was singing.  It was one of those hymns I didn't know, but there was something about her voice and the words of the hymn.  I just wanted to cry, because I had never heard anything so beautiful, innocent, and sincere.  For a brief moment, all those stupid things we worry about every minute of the day just disappeared, and I caught a glimpse of heaven.  When the hymn was done, she told me again, "I'm from Sacramento."

I had to get up.  I told her, "Nice to meet you."  For the rest of the day, she kept looking at me as if she knew me, but couldn't quite figure out who I was.

We were only there for three hours, but so much happened that it felt like a full day's work.  I was exhausted.  There were so many great personalities in the room, and I saw that even with the troubles they had - they had never lost their souls.  It gave me hope - that what we are stays with us no matter what happens.  People are inherently good, and we get better with age.  We learn what really matters in life.  We adapt to whatever gets thrown in our paths.  We are human, and we survive.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Projects

What is an aspiring writer?  Let me check my dictionary.

    as·pir·ing writ·er (noun) \ˈən-pə-blish-ed drē-mər\ : a person who imagines thousands of ideas but whether due to a complicated life, a demanding day job, or an inability to get around gatekeepers, has no hope whatsoever of writing more than five of these ideas down on paper.

Hey, that's me!  Does that describe you as well?  Do you have thousands of ideas bursting to get out?  Are you frustrated that you never have enough time to write down the stuff that comes from these ideas?  Well, join the club!  You may have what it takes to be an author.

(Note - an author is someone who's published.  That's what aspiring writings grow up to be - kind of like that song "I'm just an aspiring writer sitting here on Capitol Hill" or something like that.)

Today, I will continue my introductions by listing projects I'm working on and some ideas sitting in the rafters.  In a perfect world, I would do nothing but push out my ideas; publishers would publish them; and I just keep on going until I run out of ideas.  <Yeah, right!>


Escape From the Planet Justice - This book is the closest to getting published, meaning I've written a 3rd draft, I've been sending query packages to publishers, and I'm getting rejection letters.  Click on the link and you can read the first three chapters.  See what you think.

It's your typical space opera, meaning a sci-fi action thriller with guns, robots, spaceships - well you get the picture.  Thomlin Hywater is stuck on the Prison Planet justice for a crime he didn't commit.  No one has ever escaped.  Thomlin wants to return to his former life and get revenge.

The Silver Lining - This is the first book I finished and I tried to get it published a couple of years ago.  I sent it to one publisher and got rejected.  I thought it was the end of the world, and I quit.  Boy, did I have a lot to learn.  The book is a 2nd draft.  Over the next few months, I'm going to revise and make a 3rd draft and send it out again - this time to more publishers.

This book is religious sci-fi.  It depicts the interactions between angels and humans seen from both sides.  One angel (who used to be a human) watches over his living family and tries to protect them from evil spirits, etc.  The sci-fi comes in the description of the heavenly world.  I personally like this book better than the "Justice" book above, as it has much more interesting characters and development - and is much more of a tear jerker.

<< Super - hero >>  - This book is a collaboration with a friend.  I've been given specific instructions not to divulge the character's identity until we're closer to having a book finished.  I only have six chapters in 1st draft.  You can read the first chapter by clicking on the link.

This book tells the story of a poor black disfigured boy who becomes a super-hero.  My friend created the character and the back stories.  I'm filling in the holes and making it a compelling read.  This isn't the story where once you're a super-hero, everything's fine and dandy.  This character has his struggles.  There are people who wrong him, and he must learn to use his powers for good and resist temptations, etc.

"Time Sleuths" - This is a relatively new idea of mine.  I'll probably use it for NaNoWriMo this coming November (that is, I must write 50,000 words during the month of November).  It's sci-fi humor about a group of detectives from the future who use time machines to help solve cases.  Of course, these sleuths must follow rules.  That's where the humor comes in.

"How Tall Does Your Grass Grow in Space?" - I really hate HOAs.  I'm thinking about taking real life HOA experiences and fictionalizing them in space.  I'm going to place this family on a Rama-like colonization rotating cylindrical spaceship, and some of the communities are going to have HOAs.  Eventually, I'll get to this gem.

"Justice - books 2 and 3" - yes, I have sequels planned already for my flagship book.  I can't say anything without ruining how book 1 turns out.  I'm not even starting these books until I get #1 published.  Oh - and all these books are going to be turned into movies (except for the Grass in Space epic).  I'm keeping the movie rights!

"Darkness" - needs a better title, but in this book, a race of people live on a deserted island.  They're all blind - but since the book is written from their point of view, they don't have words for seeing or blindness, etc.  So it takes the reader awhile to realize that these aborigines are blind.  The gods send a child who can see, and lots of fun things ensue during this child's life.  I already have the first sentence written: "The gods often made sound in the Warmth."  Oooh - can't wait to write this one.  But first I have to practice with these other books.

"Space Cadets" - in this book I take actual events from the 70s in my life and fictionalize them into a fun story.  It tells of struggles with life during the 6th - 8th grade period.  I guess this is more of a human interest story.


A Turn-screw tlhImqaH - I mentioned this one in yesterday's blog.  It's "Clockwork Orange" meets "Star Trek".  I entered this into the 2009 Actuarial Speculative Fiction Contest.  I'd love to see this story meet a bigger audience.  I may try to get it published in a magazine or something.

Sam McAtry - This was my entry in the 2007 Actuarial Speculative Fiction Contest.  Sam McAtry is an actuary turned detective.  This is one of my noir humor pieces.  If I can get away with it, I'll use this style in "Time Sleuths" mentioned above.

"When Time Flows West" - a story I just now finished and will start sending out this week.  It tells of a teenager who learns how to control the pace of his time line.  When he goes backward in time, lots of fun things happen!

"The Depths of Inner Space" - I have a 1st draft of this done, and will edit it sometime next year for publication.  In this story, three people embark on a journey into the earth.  The crew consists of a Russian, an American (two opposing sides), and the neutral Englishman scientist who created the technology to make the trip possible.  The Englishman's plan is to unite the two superpowers prior to giving the world access to his technology.  Little do they know what waits for them in the center of the earth...

"The World's Smartest Actuary" - my future entry for the 2011 Actuarial Speculative Fiction Contest.  I can't give any details (possible competition reading this very blog), but I'll say this much: it involves a direct descendant of Sholom Feldblum (famous actuary - ever heard of him?).  This time, I'm going for serious, as the judges basically told me last time that parodies don't win.

"Generational Communication" - needs a better title.  In this story, a scientist devises a machine that can send his consciousness forward in time through his genes.  Going through a line of descendants, he learns about the far future, and in some cases even helps his progeny remember things that were forgotten throughout the years.

"Time Shifting" - again needs a better title.  This tells of a guy who because of an accident experiences time shifts.  For example, when he crosses the road, he thinks there's no cars there, but he's seeing what happened a few seconds ago.  When he crosses - there's really a car there.  This story needs a little working out.

Well - I suppose I should stop now.  I have more ideas, but they're going to have to wait.  I'll be lucky if I only get through all these ideas in this lifetime!  Okay - now I'm depressed again.  I'm going to sleep.  I'm sure I'll dream up some crazy idea and maybe it'll trigger another thought I'll never get to.  (Last night was the idea of a man who cons people into taking his money.  Funny idea, but really?)

Aspiring writers, I'll meet up with you later.  Good luck in your projects, and may you get your ideas out before you die.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Who Is Melvyn Windham?

Introductions are in order.  New blog and all that, you know.

First off, yes - my name is Melvyn.  And yes, it's spelled with a "Y".  Why, you may ask?  Simple.  The name Melvin has so many jokes associated with it, so if anyone makes fun of my name, I just say, "Oh that's not my name.  I spell it with a 'Y'."  However, that argument never seems to work.  People still make fun of my name.

There's: Messy Marvin, Melvin the nerd, and my favorite one as demonstrated by this awesome video.

And wouldn't you know it?  I've grown into the Melvin stereotype so much that it's not even funny.  Ask my friends.  Look at those pictures I posted yesterday.  Yes, I know I look better than Orson Scott Card, but I'm still a nerd.  I know all the computer code; I've played the computer games (8-bit is awesome!); I can do everyone's homework; I can add 1+1 in my head.

If only getting published were part of the Melvin stereotype!

Then again, it doesn't matter, because I'm really a Melvyn.  That's with a "Y".

Last name: Windham, like in Windham Hill or Wyndham Hotel, but not with a "Y".  (Now I see why I can't get published!  My name is so confusing!)  My Korean friends used to call me "Blow-pig".  Put my first name with it and you get: "Nerd-blow-pig".

But I digest.

Let's see what Google says about me.  First off, let me point out that I know of only two "Melvyn Windham"s in the universe, and I'm one of them.  So when I search for my name, I know it's me.  Unlike John Smith, who when he searches for his name, he's going to find himself on page 214 somewhere if he's lucky.  If John Smith wants to publish books, he better get him a pseudonym!

Okay, I type "Melvyn Windham" in Google, and this is what comes up.  (Wow - Google has that new "search while you type" feature turned on!)

#1) Classmates entry.  Yeah - I signed up with those guys.  I hardly use that site anymore.  They make you pay for the right to read messages from friends, and that's just not right.

#2) Facebook entry - You can check it out if you want.  All you'll see is my face, but at least you know it's me.  I'm the only Melvyn Windham on Facebook.  If you want to be my friend, just tell me you're an aspiring writer like me and I'll add you.  We can suffer together.  If you're an editor or a reputable agent, I'll add you yesterday.  I signed up for Facebook a year ago as my first attempt at networking.  I connected with most of my friends, but no professional connections yet.  Supposedly, you can separate your Facebook friends into "Friends" and "Professional" and you can post "Friend" posts and "Professional" posts, but I haven't figured that out yet.  I have no idea how to use Facebook professionally.

#3) "A Trip Down Memory Lane" - hey this is a link to one of my stories!  It's the 2009 Actuarial Speculative Fiction Collection.  But don't get too excited.  Anyone who's an actuary can submit speculative fiction in this biannual contest.  My story is "A Turn-screw tlhImqaH", which combines "A Clockwork Orange" and Klingon.  It didn't win anything.

#4) A link to my day job.  I'm an actuary (if you didn't get that from #3).  It's a fun job that pays the bills.  They pay me to play with numbers all day long.  You should see what the current economy does with my numbers!

#5 & #6) Amazon customer review.  This was from the other "Melvyn Windham" in the universe.  He was my dad.  He was also an aspiring writer.  He was my inspiration.  He writes good reviews.  He never got published.  Now I'm depressed.

#7) Last Names ... something ... something...  Finally something that's not me.

#8) Actuarial Review: I solved a chess puzzle in 2007 and now I'm immortalized in this actuarial publication.

#9) US Puzzle Championship: every now and then, I try these puzzles.  I only scored 65 points in 2010 and placed 179th out of 304.  <groan>  You ought to give it a try.

#10) Replenishment Grant Recipient: oh yes, I went to BYU and I finally got someone to give me a scholarship!  Boo-yah!

2nd page: Now I'm starting to see entries that say "Melvin".  Now I'm mad.  I'm searching for something else!

How about my internet persona, Mel-o-rama?  I've used that name since 1999.  It's a name I gave myself during my Quake days.  I had lots of fun names like: "Mel-o-death" and "Death-o-rama", but no name spread fear like "Mel-o-rama".  I think it means something like "he who sits in a corner and shoots rockets".

To search for Mel-o-rama, you have to put it in quotes on Google.  Here's what comes up:

1st page contains:
First entry: Mel's Webpage.  It's my official webpage!!  (I wonder if it shows up first for me because Google knows who I am through these cookies it puts on my machine.  If you search for Mel-o-rama, you'll have to tell me what comes up first!)

Actuarial Outpost - Would you guess that I have 8000 posts to my name?  I've engaged in many an exciting discussion, but they don't like me anymore.  For some reason, they don't like "exciting discussions."

YouTube Videos - I have 75 uploads - mainly music videos.  Google shows "Where'er You Walk" and "Chopin Prelude op. 28 no. 4".  Both videos are classics.  I get about 150 views a day.  Man, if I could sell that many books that fast, I'd be rich!

Jukebox Alive - some music I composed and uploaded, including my Master's Thesis composition.  Whooooo!

2nd page contains: a sudoku post, my geocaching profile, my National Novel Writing Month profile.

Okay - I have a little internet presence (if you happen to be looking for "Melvyn Windham" or "Mel-o-rama").  Still not enough to get published, though.

Well, I think that just about does it for introductions.  Homework: try Googling your own name and see what comes up.  Do you like what you see?  Keep in mind that when you're trying to get published, people will Google you - at least that's what the editor said in a seminar I went to a couple of days ago.

Nice to meet you!
Mel (that's short for Melvyn)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blogging Fun

One thing I've learned so far: blogging is easy.  Very easy.

Why did I choose Google's Blogger service?  Mainly because I watched my wife do blog posts.  She's good at that, and I may need to ask her for a few tips.  On the most part, you just type things in a box and hit that "Publish Post" button down there and it does the rest.

Plus, if I want to upload a picture or video, it does that.  And if I want to use some of that html code I learned last year, I can do that, too.

Right now, my blog is kind of plain.  I had to choose a template.  I chose something that has books in the background.  I'm a writer - get it?  The template was created by someone called Josh Peterson.  I don't know who that is, but evidently he has a lot of templates.  I'm sure there are now a thousand blogs set up with the same exact template, so eventually I'll have to change it - we'll see.

First, I took a picture of how my blog looks now, so we can see a before/after.  Let's see if I can figure out how to upload a picture.  I could ask my wife, but I'm a guy.  Let's see what I can figure out on my own.  (Yes - it's true - I hate to ask for directions - no tutorials - no wife - one thing I'll have to get over if I want to get published!)

Here's a "Insert Image" button.  What happens if I click that?  It opens a popup window where I can Browse and choose a picture.  Here goes nothing...

Okay - it worked.  It only took a minute, but it put it between the wrong paragraphs?  Can I move it?  Let me try regular cut and paste...  Oh, that didn't work.  Okay - html skills going to work.  I'm going to click on "Edit HTML" and see what happens. Hey - that works. Now I can cut and paste - and now it's in the right place. Hey - while I'm in html editor, I can show off and put in a purple dividing line!!

Whoa - that was too much fun. I'm going back to "Compose" mode.  (Note that everything I typed in html is missing a space after each period - note for later: it's easier to type in "Compose" mode.)  Next up.  It needs a picture.  You want to know what I look like, right?  How fast can I do this?

Let's see - before getting my picture on the page, I see that my Profile is completely empty.  It has my name, but nothing else.

Okay, I'm in the profile.  I've checked yes on: "Share my profile", "Show my real name", and "Show my email address".  Know that I'm an introvert, and one of the hardest things is to make myself public, but I also know this: if you want to have any hope of getting published, you need to be public.  Yet, you also need to be careful.  I've chosen my Google email, which is only for business/networking/etc.  Never make your personal email public because you'll get all kinds of fun spam and crazy emails.

"Show my blogs": I have no other blogs - not yet.  So I'll skip that.

"Show sites I follow": Yes!  Very important for networking.

"Identity": Mel-o-rama is my internet persona, but in the interest of being public: my real name needs to go here.

"Photograph": Finally - here comes the big moment.  The picture!  The problem is, I don't have very many pictures where I don't have my mouth gaping wide open.  I hope I can find a good one.  Here are some candidates:

Man, so many decisions.  For now, I'll go with the last one - the "red shirt - looking to the right" picture, as it's similar to a well-known Orson Scott Card photo.  Let's see if I can grab that photo.  I'll try inserting a link.  I click the "Link" button and...

Oops - it added a link.  But I want the photo to show up.  Oh yes - I saw a URL Upload option on the Image upload screen.  So here we go: Insert image, chose URL and...

See the resemblance?  I don't know if I want to ask who's better looking!

Anyways - back to the profile.  I choose the image and within a minute... viola!

BTW, I'm noticing a few bugs in the "Compose" window.  The cursor does funny tricks, and I find myself going to "Edit HTML" a few times to fix things.  Still lots of fun!

Audio Clip?  nada.

General?  I'm Male, but I'm not putting my birthday.  I don't need to get that personal.  Besides, birthdays are good for helping identity theft-ers do their jobs.  Definitely no astrological signs - does anyone really believe that stuff anymore?

Homepage URL: I'll put my website in there.  For now, I'll point it directly to my Fiction page.  Though if I make other blogs (music / political / religious), I may have to change this.  I wonder: can I have a homepage URL specific to the blog as well as to my profile?  Something to look into later...

Wishlist URL?  What the heck is that?  Don't care - moving on...

IM Username: No thank you.  Unless one of you can convince me otherwise, IM is a terrible networking tool.  Everything you write is temporary, and it's a tremendous waste of time!

Location: I'll go ahead and put this in.  This will be useful for networking with others in my area.

Work?  I'll skip that section - who cares?

Extended Info: I'll put a little blurb in the "About Me" box, but that's it for now.  Getting sleepy!  And then "Save Profile".  Whew!  Hey - I have a picture now!  If I go to my blog - there it is!  Over to the right!  It's kind of little, though.

Wow - now I'm bushed!  Blogging is fun, but getting set up can really wind a dude!  Maybe later I can figure out how to get a bigger picture up at the top of the blog.  Since I'm done for the night, I'm sure my wife will read this and then show me tomorrow how to get that bigger picture up there.  <groan!>

Well, it was fun.  Till tomorrow...

Upcoming Blogs

My second post - I'm so excited!

I'll kick off my blog with a week blitz - introduce myself, describe my current situation, set the stage for future blogs, etc.  Here's a tentative schedule.

Tonight: Blogging Fun - join me while I have fun setting up my blog.  Whooooo!!
Monday: Who Is Melvyn Windham?  - a general introduction.
Tuesday: My Projects - an overview of what I'm working on and a preview of other ideas I have.

Wednesday: Internet Resources - an overview of the tools I'm already using on the internet related to writing.
Thursday: Bookmarks Book Festival - my report on attending my first ever writing seminars at a local book festival.
Friday: Future Plans - a summary of what I plan to do next.

Enjoy reading!

Hello World!

This is my first blog.  Ever.  It's even my first blog post.  My wife has a blog.  She has fun with it.  Everyone else has a blog - even my neighbor's dog.  (Not really, but everyone seems to have fun saying that.)

Well, it's my turn.  My blog.  My words.  My chance to say whatever I want.  My place to gather stuff from all over the web and tell you I like them.  Hey - this actually sounds like fun.

This will be my writing blog.  I'm an aspiring writer.  I've finished two books, quite a few short stories, and I've begun bothering publishing houses.  Currently, I'm nobody.  That means it's easy for publishers to reject my stuff.  But one day I'm going to be somebody.  I figured that along the way, I can document my path.  I'll share my frustrations, my successes, my journey to becoming an established author.

I know that I'm not going to have any readers - at least not at first - but if and when I do become famous, I'll have all these blogs archived.  Other aspiring writers can start at the beginning and read how I went from Zero to Hero <Walt Disney reference - groan!>.  Perhaps I'll inspire other writers to not give up.

Or perhaps along the way, I'll make friends with other aspiring writer bloggers and we'll support each other in getting our stuff published.

Or wouldn't it be funny if it's this blog that makes me famous?  Like: that Pioneer Woman, or that Seriously So Blessed woman.  (Okay, my exposure to famous blogs is through my wife.)

Whatever the excuse - whatever happens, here it is: my blog.  Take it for what it's worth.  If you like, tell your friends.  Make comments.  Have fun reading.

And watch out world - here I come!