Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Are You An Aspiring Writer?


Naturally, folks who’ve already been published could consider themselves aspiring writers.

Aspiring Writers

Image Courtesy of Rae Grimm ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/bloodylery

Looking at the word origins of “aspire” in my Oxford English Dictionary, I find “to breathe before”

So, even though a person writing their first book is usually considered an aspiring writer, I certainly need to breathe (a lot) before I write my seventh book :-)

And, to make even more sense of this aspiration, the root of “spira”—breathe—can also mean “fill with spirit”

So, all you aspiring writers out there, even the ones who haven’t yet sat down and tried their hand at this thing called writing-on-purpose—“being” a “writer”—gather ’round and consider:

Some Questions for The Serious Writer . . .

The Successful Writer

And, How Writers Handle Criticism

Just a few past posts on this blog that those who want to arrange words with a bit of spirit might find valuable

You could also check out the Top Tags widget, further down in the left side-bar, for other topics

And, I’ll also share a video with four aspiring writers—Orna Ross, Jessica Bell, Roz Morris, and Kevin Boothtalking about How To Write A Book


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4 Bloggers Have A Conversation About The Book World


Back on the 19th of January, I had an interview with author Philippa A. Rees.

Four Blogs Have A Conversation about the Book World

Image Courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/mzacha

Today, in her post, The Egotism of Expertise- Interior Conformity, she said:

“A few recent posts have been devoted to a collective wail about the impossibility of non-genre books ever being discovered in the goose step parade of all the others who polish their boots and take steps in synchrony with guidelines and expectations.”

But the story of this conversation goes back to January 5th on Vivienne Tuffnell’s blog, Zen and The Art of Tightrope Walking, and the post, The Loss of Joy. Here are a few brief excerpts:

“Did blogging drive away my joy in writing?”

“No, I think it started to go around the same time I began to explore the possibility of publishing.”

Then, she speaks of being “…drained by the demands from all the other aspects of self-publishing.”

And continues with:

“There is a vast ocean of books out there and a flotilla of rafts bearing authors all pointing their oars at a speck in the ocean indistinguishable from all the other specks, shouting, ‘BUY MY BOOK!’, all at the tops of their voices.”

A bit later, the riposte:

“And if you don’t sell, you’re a failure. You’re told to pull up your big girl panties, do your research, do the necessary work of learning new skills. Or give up and stop clogging the ocean with your specky books.”

There is much more to ponder in Vivienne’s post; but, I’ll leave it to you to discover an eloquent plaint that I feel many writers keep to themselves as they struggle through the landscape of today’s Book World

The conversation continues back on Philippa’s blog when she interviews Vivienne in the post, Defining the Gulf: The Debate: Writers seeking Readers. At what Cost? To Both?

Philippa:I get the impression from your blog that essentially you still believe that your original reasons remain intact. It is the gulf between expressing those truly and creatively and the erosion of the world that values books, or your kind of books. So essentially your despair lies in the so called ‘market’ and in its maelstrom the impossibility of finding readers. Is that the nub of it?”

Vivienne: “I think it’s a big part of it, for sure.”

Philippa: “If it is, would it be fair to suggest that it is the loneliness of being unwilling to compromise? You don’t want to write for the prevailing market. I don’t either, in fact I would not know how to, so is the essence of this problem the very uniqueness you want to write about?”

Vivienne“The prevailing market is founded on the very stale essence of what has already sold. It’s thrice chewed, and therefore pap. That’s not to say there’s nothing good or worth reading but the essence of much of it is tired and jaded. Some of the most famous and excellent authors have found that writing the same story over and over again is what their fans clamour for, and if they diverge from a tried and true formula there are howls of protest from readers and publishers alike.”

Again, there is much more of worth to read in that interview—two women discussing some sad and depressing qualities of today’s Book World

The next writer in this conversation is Ashen, on her blog, Course of Mirrors, with the post, … the gulf between writers and readers …

She says, concerning the above interview:

“This disrupted my sleep, in addition to lots of other stuff going on, so I tried stepping back for a wider perspective. No answers, only a few muddled reflections …”

And, later, these dynamite thoughts:

“In our present culture the commercial speed train whistles through every zone of life. Publishers are among many enterprises struggling to survive amidst overproduction. The ‘Road Closed Pending Repairs’ signs Philippa refers to in her interview grow like mushrooms….Plenty of people I know look beyond the more-is-better and cheaper hype, but their numbers won’t topple the algorithm-driven logic of mass-cargo firms like Amazon (click for latest newsletter.) Their long term strategy is to please the consumer, which, now, increasingly, includes writers who self-publish … To make profit in an oversaturated market requires ever-new smart inventions.”

Then, a bit later:

“I never shook hands with or exchanged a hug with Vivienne, but I empathise with her loss of joy, and her frustration with the ironic and antagonistic attitudes of people who belittle deeper strands of truth for fear of looking inside, and the sense of being a square peg that doesn’t fit the neat round hole of genres and algorithms.

“Many writers will recognise these obstacles, including Philippa, and myself. How do we attract and persuade people to sample the green growth in our plot? At the same time, I’m convinced we are co-creating artists of our continuous self-invention. Mourning a not-yet existing frame for our work  might hinder this process, which moves and dances naturally through each breath.”

Again, there is much more to ponder in Ashen’s full post

So, I want to add to the conversation by recalling something said in one of my past posts, What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?

I won’t pretend that what I quote from that post is the main point of this conversation about the Book World (spanning the minds of four writers); but, it is brought up and bemoaned—my response is personal, yet may resonate for other writers

From that past post, this quote from Tobias S. Buckell:

in business school there’s this point made that if you interview rich people who have won the lottery, you might come to believe that playing the lottery is the only way to become rich. I thought that was interesting. One of the things I’m constantly trying to point out is that we’re not doing nearly enough to highlight both median and failure modes, because that’s where the real lessons lie. As for myself, I find message boards where new writers struggle to sell more than a few copies interesting, and where I harvest data about the low end.”

And, to end this post, I’ll share a link, from my past post, to the post of Tobias, where that last quote came from:

Survivorship bias: why 90% of the advice about writing is bullshit right now
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Have You Read Any #VisionaryFiction ?


Yesterday, I wrote about Visionary Fiction; but, mostly, from the perspective of the writer. Visionary Fiction Alliance Book Store

Today, I’ll look at it from the reader’s perspective.

Let’s look again at the qualities of Visionary Fiction:

  • Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters.
  • The story oftentimes uses reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices.
  • The plot [or story] is universal in its worldview and scope.

Have you ever read a book that does those things?

Was it classified as some particular genre?

Margaret Duarte, one of the Editors with the Visionary Fiction Alliance, has a compelling argument in her post, What Is Visionary Fiction?, that makes VF a Sub-genre of Speculative Fiction (and, there’s a really cool genre-graphic).

The VFA website says this:

“Visionary is a tone as well as a genre. The ‘visionary’ element can technically be present in any genre and set in any time.”

I’ve written a number of posts about genre—a fairly slippery topic

So, with no intention of setting up a controversy (since questions of genre can be highly colored by many personal factors), I’ll make the bold statement that Visionary Fiction is a “Supra-genre”

Let’s look at some examples of VF, from the VFA site, and ask ourselves what other genres they also belong to:

The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield

Chocolate and The Girl with No Shadow  – Joanne Harris

From the Corner of His Eye – Dean Koontz

The Illuminatus Trilogy  – Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah – Robert Bach

Javid Nama –  Muhammad Iqbal

Jonathen Livingston Seagull – Robert Bach

The Journeys of Socrates – Dan Millman

Keeping Faith  – Jodi Picoult

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

Odd Thomas series – Dean Koontz

No Retreat, No Surrender – Corey Yuen

The Stand – Stephen King

Twelfth Insight, Thet: The Hour of Decision – James Redfield

Valis – Philip K. Dick

Way of the Peaceful Warrior – Dan Millman

What Dreams May Come – Richard Matheson

So, are those books Visionary Fiction first, then some other genre?

Some other genre, then VF?

Both at the same time?

See how slippery genre can be? :-)

Still, I think Visionary Fiction is a valuable Quality to consider when a reader’s tastes crave Universal Themes, Growth of Consciousness, and Metaphysical Plot Devices.

So, if you’re one of those readers, check out the Visionary Fiction Alliance’s Bookstore.
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What Is Visionary Fiction?


When I published my last book—Notes from An Alien—my Best Friend said it was “Documentary Fiction”… 

I still think it fits that description.

Visionary Fiction Alliance

However, I’ve joined an Alliance—The Visionary Fiction Alliance—so, perhaps, Notes from An Alien is Visionary Documentary Fiction?

One of my main characters had this to say in the book’s Prologue:

“My name is Sena Quaren and this book is a story told in ‘notes’. Even though some readers may think it is a novel or a history, its form is difficult to classify in what are called genres.”

Wondering what Sena would think of this explanation of Visionary Fiction:

Characteristic Features of  Visionary Fiction:

  • Growth of consciousness is the central theme of the story and drives the protagonist, and/or other important characters.
  • The story oftentimes uses reincarnation, dreams, visions, paranormal events, psychic abilities, and other metaphysical plot devices.
  • The plot [or story] is universal in its worldview and scope.

Let’s see:

Growth of consciousness is shown in the story of three planets’ people seeking a sense of Oneness.

Metaphysical plot devices abound.

The story is Universal since it shows aliens pursuing what earthlings should be doing

The book’s for sale but also you can grab a free copy.

Do you write Visionary Fiction?

Do you know any authors who do?

Perhaps you or they would be interested in these benefits when joining the VFA:

  • Your site will be listed in their VF author database
  • You will be added to their mailing list (this is optional)
  • You will have the opportunity to guest post on the VFA site to promote yourself
  • You can announce your giveaways etc. in the VFA authors section
  • You will be given priority for an interview

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Money from Writing Blog Posts


Many of you know I’m a maverick—in my writing and in the promotion I do… 

And, it seems apropos to share the etymology of “maverick” from my Oxford English Dictionary:

Samuel A. Maverick (1803–70), Texas engineer who owned but did not brand cattle.”

Branding is all the rage now for self-published authors—come on, get on the brandwagon—cereal is branded, cigarettes are branded, underwear is branded—why not books?

Well, I don’t brand myself or my books because I don’t brand my cattle—I’m a Maverick

Another thing I don’t do is overly concern myself with how many books I sell—I give them away, too (see the left side-bar…)—I want folks to read my books; and, those books are nowhere near any type of popular genre, which means most of the promotion “rules” just don’t work.

Still

There are a few things the “experts” say that make sense to me.

One of them is to use a blog as an author platform and the other is to solicit guest posting opportunities.

I, personally, never seek a guest posting opportunity in order to get paid

However, I’m sure many of my readers are not mavericks; so, I present to all interested folk, from Daily Finance, links to the first 10 of 25 Sites That Pay for Guest Posts:

$50/post at Make a Living Writing

$35/post at The Write Life

$100/post at Be a Freelance Blogger

$50/post at Write Naked

$50/post at Funds for Writers

$100/post at A Fine Parent

$100/post at Cracked

$100/post at Listverse

$10/post at Knowledge Nuts

$50/post at TopTenz

And, there are 15 more at Freelance Writing Jobs: 25 Sites That Pay for Guest Posts.

Also, you can find more paid guest post opportunities at Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs and at 110 Websites that Pay You to Contribute an Article, Instantly.

NB: The quality of any of those blogging sites can not be guaranteed by this writer :-)
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