Monday, April 9, 2018

Money Flows Toward the Creator

For the past few months, my fiancee Autumn and I have been posting sporadically to a shared blog called Pictures and Prose. Most of our posts have been light and casual, but when we first had the idea, we wanted to spotlight some of the conversations she and I have about our creative pursuits and the industries that wrangle them. Writers and illustrators have a lot of shared goals and professional overlap, so we thought this might be interesting to some folks.

This morning, we posted our first entry like this. It's a little long, but we hope it's an interesting read. It's about something many of my writer friends will be familiar with: Yog's Law, the idea that money should flow toward the writer (or creator), never away. In other words, unless you're self-publishing, you shouldn't be paying upfront for most publishing services. If someone asks you to violate this rule, it's probably a big red flag.

As a writer, I enjoyed hearing Autumn's take on this as an illustrator/artist. Unfortunately, it sounds like the art world is full of just as many predatory actors as the publishing world, if not more. And a lot of young artists find their coinpurses turned over by people claiming to help.

Here's an excerpt from the entry:

James: There’s an axiom science fiction and fantasy writers refer to called “Yog’s Law.” The name comes from an old internet handle used by author James D McDonald, who came up with it. Yog’s Law states that money flows toward the writer. Never away. In other words, the writer should never pay upfront for services necessary to the publishing process (at least not in the traditional publishing model–indie publishing is another story, since you’re playing the role of publisher, as well). When a writer gets an agent, for instance, they don’t pay the agent for their services. The agent takes a cut from the sale of the writer’s work to a publishing house (usually 15%) after the ink is dry and the check for the advance has been cut. 
The reason Yog’s Law is passed around is because it’s a helpful rule for new writers to remember to avoid being taken advantage of. If I know money flows toward the writer, then I’m going to hear alarm bells in my head if anyone comes to me with their hand out. Because if it breaks Yog’s Law, it’s probably a scam. It’s probably a predatory business trying to take advantage of someone new to the industry–someone they hope doesn’t know any better. 
But I don’t see why the law should cover just writers. Why shouldn’t artists of all stripes demand this kind of treatment? Why not say money flows toward the creator? We’re the “starving artists,” after all. We don’t have the money! We need to be paid for our work before we can turn around and dole it out. And we should be. Our work has value. 
But Autumn, I know you’ve told me before that in your experience, the art/illustration world is a bit different. There’s a different culture, where it seems more acceptable, if not normal, for people to take your money. 
Autumn: I think the art world can be very predatorial in that regard. There are a lot of people who convince young artists to throw money their way. I think part of the reason they get away with it is because the mindset of shelling out money starts before even setting foot into art college.  Art supplies aren’t cheap, but you can’t start without them.  Before you start applying to art school, you need a portfolio; the more mediums you display, the better your chances of being accepted–which means buying more supplies for each medium.  Many students also pay for pre-college classes to help them better their portfolios. Once you are accepted to a college, you need to borrow money and go into debt (unless you come from a wealthy background). 
When you’re fresh out of college, no one knows who you are. No one knows if you’re good or not, if you’re responsible, if you’re worth their investment. Then if you have trouble getting an honest agent who will find work for you, it can lead to a sense of desperation. That’s when a lot of predators will step in with their hands out, promising you the world. Some of those people even call themselves agents, whether it’s accurate or not. 

To read the rest, head over to Pictures and Prose!


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Read "Braving the Morrow Candle's Wane" in Beneath Ceaseless Skies

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a magazine of literary adventure fantasy, just released. Inside, you can find a story of mine called Braving the Morrow Candle's Wane.

Braving the Morrow Candle's Wane is a story about faith, war, and growth. When the initial idea came into my mind (prompted by a weekend contest on Codex), I'd recently read a comment somewhere on the internet complaining about short stories that are "mostly just two people in a room talking." The commenter claimed such stories are "always boring" and "all the same." Having written a couple flash pieces that focus on the dynamic between two people, I took a bit of umbrage--which ended up manifesting in this story. With Braving the Morrow Candle's Wane, I wanted not only to show that "two people in a room talking" can be compelling, but that you can do lots with that premise. If you check the story out, you might see what I mean. [Light spoilers incoming.] I attempted to build tension, nest multiple narratives, and layer mixed themes, all within the "limitation" of a story largely driven by a single dialogue exchange between two characters. You can judge for yourself if I pulled it off or not. I'm happy with the result. And I'm happy to see it out in the wild!

This is my first appearance in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. As a reader, it's one of my favorite magazines, so I'm very pleased to have my work featured there. Scott H. Andrews, the BCS editor (and cool dude), approached me at MidAmeriCon II and asked me to send him a story sometime. It took me a while to write something I thought would fit there, but it was worth the wait. You can read my story alongside a delicious piece by Siobhan Carroll. You can also listen to it on the BCS podcast if audio is more your thing.

And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t share one other awesome thing about this story. When you’re in a relationship with an artist/illustrator, there are certain perks involved. For instance, this:

Autumn interpreted the themes of Braving the Morrow Candle's Wane and painted this awesome piece, called Awakening. I love it. You can grab a print of it here, if you love it too.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Look at These Awesome Flash Drives With My Name on Them

I got a nice surprise in the mail earlier this week: a box full of flash drives with my logo on them! A company called USBMemoryDirect reached out to me and offered to send these custom drives in exchange for a shout out on my blog if I liked them. And I do! I think they look great:

I haven't decided yet what I'll use the drives for (other than stroke them vainly, of course). I may load them up with ebooks and stories, then take them with me to conventions, do a giveaway here on the site, or even leave them in random places around the streets of Philadelphia.

If you like them as much as I do, you can grab some yourself on USBMemoryDirect's website. They have a ton of different flash drive designs in addition to the nifty book-shaped ones they sent me.

That awesome logo, by the way, was designed by my partner (and illustrator-extraordinaire), Autumn Evelyn. She also designed the new header on my site, which incorporates the logo. Feel free to reach out to her if you'd like a logo, illustration, or book cover of your own. Then you too can have little USB books with your name on them!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"The Sun Falls Apart" is now available on Amazon

The Sun Falls Apart, the story of mine that won Writers of the Future in 2016, is now available on the Amazon Kindle Store.

The Sun Falls Apart is about a teenage boy named Caleb who has never seen the sun. Boarded windows and a fortified door have kept the outside world a mystery his entire life. The only way out is passing the strange tests his parents conduct on him–tests that require Caleb to grasp at a power he doesn’t understand.

"This was, in my estimation, sentence by sentence the best written story we had this absolutely first class piece of fiction." 

- Robert J. Sawyer, on The Sun Falls Apart

This is my first foray into self-publishing. I know the standard advice is that short stories don't sell well on Amazon (especially singles), but this is mostly an experiment for me. I wanted to familiarize myself with the publishing process on Amazon, and I figured the best way to learn would be to dive right in and publish something. I'm moving from short fiction to longer works now, and there may come a day when I want to self (or hybrid) publish a novel.

And hey, it's less than a buck! Maybe some folks will actually buy it. You never know.

That awesome cover, by the way, was created/designed by Illustrators of the Future winner Autumn Evelyn. She adapted the original illustration she made for this story in the Writers of the Future anthology, and I think it works wonderfully as a cover. I also have some exciting news to share that involves Autumn, but I'll save that for another day.

In the mean time, if you'd like to pick up a copy of The Sun Falls Apart for your kindle, click here.