Friday, April 25, 2014

"Real" Alternate History

You knew it had to happen.  Alternate America finally got a negative review, though it was actually quite entertaining.  Some people say you shouldn’t respond to bad press or negative criticism, and that is true in many cases.  However, it can be fun to play with it, so long as you don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t go after reviewers with a steak knife.  I’ve often made fun of criticism, as can be evidenced by my own “mock” review of The Guns of Mars excerpt displayed during the 2009 ABNA contest.

So, the review in question today is a 2-star review on Amazon which gives the reviewer’s opinion that Altered America is “Not Really Alternate History,” which is pretty funny in itself.  Of course, there are various types of Alternate History, though as this review explains “real” Alt. History has to focus on a specific historical event and change it to create a different future (and there can’t be any magic, time travel, or other such nonsense involved).  So, that’s his personal preference and he’s welcome to it.

When I put this collection together, I decided to include a varied assortment of stories, to span the full spectrum of the Alternate History genre (which, contrary to one person’s opinion, can be quite diverse).  There are a few stories in Altered America that include Fantasy elements, a one that includes Sci-Fi elements, but a majority of them are still straight up Alternate material.

For the sake of argument, let’s take a quick assessment of each story, and see what comprises it.  Anyone who wants to see some brief tag-line descriptions for these stories can go to its Martinus Publishing listing.

Rio Grande by Jackson Kuhl:  Straight Alternate History in the 19th Century, where parts of Texas formed a separate nation.
We the People –by Dan Gainor:  Alt History +Sci-Fi (cloning the founding fathers).
A Single Decision –by Bruno Lombardi:  Straight Alternate History about 9/11.
What if... The Louisiana Purchase Never Happened –by Edmund Wells:  Straight Alt. History.  During the early 1960’s, alternate political divides exist in America during JFK’s Administration.
The Orthogonian –by Sam Kepfield: Straight Alt History, early 1970’s, Nixon as an FBI agent.
Revolution 1865 –by Brad Hafford: Straight Alt. History, British still rule America.
Ship of Souls –by Erik Bundy:  Alt. History +Fantasy.  Vikings settle North America, and there are some ghosts and supernatural elements mixed in.
End of the Rainbow –by Dusty Wallace:  Alt. History +Fantasy.  Elves and Leprechauns in modern times, plus historical back story.
The Loyalist Washington –by Owen Morgan:  Straight Alt. History.  Washington stayed loyal to England.
Guns of the Green Mountains –by Ryan McCallStraight Alt. History.  American independence fails, Vermonters fight against England in 1802.
The Shining Path –by Jason Sharp:  Straight Alt. History.  America invades Quebec in the 1970’s, clearly defined historical explanation included.
The Union Forever –by Sean Menken:  Straight Alt. History.  Years after the Confederacy wins the Civil War, Maryland votes to join them.
Goodbye, Norma Jean –by William R. D. Wood:  Straight Alt. History.  Nuclear war during the early 1960’s, featuring Marilyn Monroe.
Wild Blue –by Jeff Provine:  Alt. History +Steampunk.  Balloon travel abounds in the Wild West (a plausible historical change is explained to justify it).
Avoid Seeing A Mouse –by James S. Dorr:  Alt. History +Fantasy.  Egyptian mythology and curses play a role during Y2K.
Thomas Edison Visits Selwood –by Martin T. Ingham:  Alt. History +Fantasy.  Magic competes with technology for supremacy in the 1880’s.
Divided States of America –by Lauren A. Forry:   Straight Alt. History.  America is balkanized by a dispute over the Constitution, and the various nations are at war during modern times.
A Girl’s Best Friend –by Cyrus P. Underwood:  Straight Alt. History. Marilyn Monroe didn’t die in 1962, and changed history because of it.
The Lights on Broadway –by Charles Wilcox:  Alt. History +Steampunk.  An alternate form of power is discovered at the dawn of the 20th Century.
The Black Blizzard –by Philip Overby:  Alt. History +Fantasy.  Elves, Minotaurs, and Magic exist during the Great Depression.
The Road Was Lit with Moon and Star –by Bruno Lombardi:  Straight Alt. History.  Apollo 11 crashes, and Apollo 12 (with an alternate commander) must land on the moon first.

So, let’s do the math.  That’s 13 “real” Alternate History, 1 +sci-fi, 2 +Steampunk, and 5 +Fantasy.  For a book that isn’t “really Alternate History,” it certainly has a lot of Alternate History in it—just in case anyone was wondering.

The reviewer’s other big complaint was that 3 stories involved either Marilyn Monroe or JFK.  They were all completely different and unique, but there’s no accounting for taste.  It is clear that the reviewer has no problem with the writing, as he has no complaint other than that the stories aren't his cup of tea.  Two of his three other Amazon reviews make a point of deriding poor writing, so, in this case, omission is a compliment!  Good writing and good editing must have earned us that second star!

So, in summary, if you hate Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or JFK/Marilyn Monroe stories, then you might not like half the stories in Altered America.  Though, if you enjoy a little speculative fiction, as well as solid, “real” Alternate History, then this collection is just the thing for you.  Pick it up and see for yourself.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Altered America Ranked #1

For those of you who aren’t yet following the Martinus News on the main page of the website, I’d like to share this brief accomplishment with you.  Late Monday night, Altered America hit the #1 Bestseller rank in Amazon Kindle’s “Alternative History” listing!  It maintained this position through Tuesday and into the early part of Wednesday before finally dropping back to #2, where it currently sits.  This is a great accomplishment, and it is my hope that it isn’t the last time we’ll see such success.

The next step toward winning more readers is to get some more reviews posted.  Out of the 600+ buyers of Altered America, we haven’t seen that many speaking up yet.  This is probably because a lot of them haven’t had the time to read the whole anthology yet, though I would again encourage anyone who has read it to post a review.  Multi-author collections have a hard time getting reviewed, even when they are popular.  It would be nice to see another batch of reviews, that could be highlighted on the blog in future weeks.

Don’t forget to buy your copy today, and help us get back to #1!  (Amazon Link)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Closing Early

This is something that an editor never likes to do.  I'm sorry to say that I must call an early end...

I'll give you all a minute to take a deep breath.

Feeling better?  Okay, as I was saying, I'm afraid I must call an early end to the submissions period for Life of the Dead.

This is actually a good thing.  There have been so many qualified submissions for this anthology that I could have put together 2 books!  As good as it is to have a wide variety to choose from, it is also a bit sad in the fact that I have to say no to so many worthy authors.

The last month has been crazy, with submissions flowing in left and right.  At this point, I have pretty much all of the material that I need, and it would be unfair to ask people to keep sending in submissions, knowing that I really can't use any more.  There are a couple of slots left that aren't "locked down," but there are several stories vying for those slots, and unless something incredible comes in soon, I'll have to make the final selections.

The new submissions deadline for Life of the Dead is April 30, 2014.  If you happen to have something exceptional, send it along, but keep in mind the competition is fierce.  Some hard sci-fi would have the best chance of winning out at this point, just FYI.

The date of publication is now set for early July 2014.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Altered America Sales and Reviews

It has been an incredible week for Altered America.  Since last Tuesday (1 week ago as of this posting), we have been selling a record number of Kindle copies, currently sitting at over 500!  That may be small potatoes for the big New York presses, but for a little, unassuming publisher like Martinus, that is a thrilling accomplishment.  Readers are finally taking notice of our quality authors and entertaining stories.  Let’s hope this translates over onto other MP titles!

We are starting to see some reviews get posted to Amazon (US Link) (UK Link), and hopefully more will come across over the next few weeks, as readers get through the collection and form their opinions.  It's all positive so far, though I wouldn’t be surprised to run across a critic or two at some point, who has some nit to pick.

Let’s just grab some brief excerpts from the earliest Amazon reviews, to showcase what people are saying:

From Valerie Sharp (5-stars):
“This is a interesting collection of short stories, Interesting idea.. take one little thing in history, have it happen or not happen and then go from there.. It's like allowing Writers to take the "a butterflies wing flap can cause a storm half a world away".. and run away with it”

From kilny (5-stars):
“The authors of all these stories have a promising future ahead. Martinus Publishing has put together another winning anthology.”

From Ben Hutchinson (4-stars):
“A nice collection of stories, most of which are well written and interesting to read. Some of the stories are more validity fiction than alternative history.”

From T. Anderson (5-stars):
“I recommend this anthology to anyone who has ever looked back and wondered what might have been, if a single decision had driven them down a different road. And what is true for individual men and women is all the more true for the nations they inhabit.”

An encouraging opening salvo from readers!  It is always interesting to see good reactions, and to be fair I have rarely encountered negative press from anything I have published.  My own stories were always well received (by the few people who actually read them).  The only truly negative one that comes to mind is someone who thought The Guns of Mars was a bunch of “aha!” moments (whatever that means).  So, Altered America continues the trend of positive opinions, and here’s hoping for many, many more.

If you’ve read Altered America, be sure to post a review on (or your country’s affiliate, if you’re outside the USA).  Be as brief or elaborate as you desire.  Remember, every voice that speaks up is that much more exposure, and it’ll help us share these stories with even more readers.

Also, writers can now submit stories to Altered Europa, Martinus Publishing’s second Alternate History collection.  (Submission GuidelinesHere).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Advertise With Martinus

Those of you who have purchased Martinus Publishing titles in the past may have noticed that there are a few advertisements in the back.  Up until now, these have merely be “also available” books from Martinus, and a few of these will still be showcased in each new release.  However, as we move forward, and our titles are getting more exposure, it is time to share the ad space, assuming there is an interest.

I’d like to give fellow authors and other small publishers the opportunity to place an ad in the back of a Martinus Publishing book. Their ad will appear in both the print and e-book versions for as long as the title is in print.  You can find the affordable advertising rates at the Martinus Publishing website.

It’s a win/win proposition.  The advertiser gets exposure, and the publisher gets to defray some of the initial publishing costs.  There are limited spaces available in each book, as we can’t have the books becoming massive blocks of ads that overwhelm (get ignored by) readers.  So don’t think your ad will get buried in a massive pile of commercials.  It will be one of only a handful of such ads placed in the book of your choosing.  It’s first come, first serve.

Right now, I’ll be accepting ads for the 3 Martinus books that are definitely going to be released in 2014:  Life of the Dead (July), The Man Who Shot Thomas Edison (August), and To Hell with Dante (October).  If you want to advertise your book, zine, publishing company, or yourself as an author/artist/etc., consider placing your ad in one of these books.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Altered Europa

Writers, get your keyboards ready: A new Martinus Publishing anthology is hereby announced!

Altered Europa:
Alternate History... Divergent Realities!

The continuing success of Altered America has proven that there is a desperate need for more alternate history anthologies, so I am opening up submissions to this one immediately.  I had planned to announce this toward the end of 2014, but there’s no sense waiting, when there is clearly a demand for such a collection.

Altered Europa will feature stories of alternate history where something changed in European history as we know it.  Let your imagination run wild, and imagine how things might have turned out differently.  Any point in history is fair game, from Ancient Greece to near modern times, and perhaps even some tales slightly into the future, so long as the alternate history is exposed.  Show us what happened at the event, what happened shortly thereafter, or reveal how things are impacted much later on.  Give us something to think about, something that will thrill and entertain us, and reveal a Europe that might have been!

Depending on the quality and quantity of stories being submitted, this one might fill up quickly... or it may take some time.  As has become customary with Martinus Publishing anthologies, each contributor will receive a 2% cut of the profits, in addition to the pleasure of having their story in print.

Anyone who wishes to submit a story to Altered Europa must read the submissions guidelines at the Martinus website.  Do your best to follow these simple instructions, as it will make my job easier and it may improve my mood while reading your story.  It’s good advice when submitting to any market.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Martinus Publishing Joins Twitter

As sales of Altered America continue to rise, Martinus Publishing has finally ventured into new territory.  At long last, I broke down and set up a twitter account, something that I probably should have done years ago.  It was one of those things I just never got around to doing (at when it first started it felt kind of “trendy”), but now I am pleased to be able to say that the account is active.

Follow Martinus Publishing:

Though my name is the one on the account, this is going to be strictly about Martinus Publishing.  I’ll share news about the status of our books, tell you about new anthologies that are planned (giving following writers the first notice for future submissions), and I’ll point out relevant details about the publishing business.  As more people follow the twitter account, there will be special offers (and possibly giveaways) for said followers!

Anyone with a twitter account is invited to follow @MartinusPublish and tell your friends!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Racing up the Kindle Charts!

Give me a minute to bask in the glory of a good day.  I have to say that sales of Altered America have skyrocketed today, and that is good news for everyone with a story in this collection (as every writer gets a percentage).  As of this posting, the collection is sitting at #3,916 in Amazon’s Kindle Store, and #4 in “Alternative History,” and it’s still going up!  I know, for some big-time authors this is still a fairly minor showing, but this is the first time I have had the pleasure to behold such a buying spree on any book I have been involved with.  Here’s hoping it is the start of a trend, and it goes even higher!

I attribute this exciting success to several factors, the principal one being the quality of the stories and the authors behind them.  It was a lot of work to assemble such an entertaining batch of Alternate Histories, but the end result is well worth it.  I expect most, if not every reader of this anthology will agree that it is a bargain at $2.99.  Each writer involved with this collection did a great job, and this exposure will be certain to boost their careers, as well.

The other major factor is the subject matter of the anthology.  Alternate History is a popular sub-genre these days, and there just aren’t enough short story collections out there.  Martinus Publishing has hit while the iron is hot, and is meeting a demand for an under-populated niche market!

Even before the sudden success of Altered America, I have been planning to assemble other Alternate History collections, and if this sales trend continues I just might move such plans to the head of the line.

If you haven’t bought your copy yet, be sure to visit the Martinus Publishing listing, and pick the option that best suits you (Print, Kindle, or Nook).

Political Agnosticism for Aspiring Authors?

It has been a long time since I wrote anything political on my blog, which is kind of funny, since I’m really quite political in my personal life.  I have trended away from publicizing my views online in recent years, as my writing career has slowly advanced, and I don’t think an entertainer’s politics are terribly relevant to their product.  We all enjoy books, movies, music, and other things created by people of varied philosophical persuasions.  As an editor, I’ve published stories from writers who span the full spectrum, from diehard liberals to tea-party conservatives, and many sorts in-between.

During my early days online, I wore my politics on my sleeve.  I had an editorial column for a while on a little-known website and sparred daily on various current events forums.  While it made me feel better in my youth to battle it out in such a way, it really did nothing for my fiction writing career.  Oh, I met a few friends in the process, and actually had the pleasure of converting a few people on certain issues, but I can’t say it ever did a thing to help me sell any stories.  I have a lot of political “friends” in real life, but to this day I can count on one hand the number of them who have bothered to read my books.

This isn’t to say that people who share my beliefs aren’t apt to enjoy my fiction.  I’m saying it is a non-factor.  People are not liable to buy your books because you spout off some talking points or you vote for some politician.  However, there are some readers out there who will specifically avoid your fiction if you say something that rubs them the wrong way.  It may not matter when you’re already famous like Stephen King, but for those who are less well known, every reader counts.

So, over the last five or six years, I have shied away from broadcasting my beliefs online.  Oh, I still post things to my personal facebook page now and then, and I remain active in the real world, but on this blog I refrain from spouting off too much.  Many aspiring authors share this philosophy, and keep their politics close to the chest, others don’t.  I can’t say either is the wrong approach; it all depends on how you want to sell yourself.

I have read opinions to the contrary, that trumpeting your beliefs is a must to draw attention to yourself.  There is the school of thought that controversy gains you readers, though that hasn’t been my experience.  It may work if you’re going for a specific niche market, but my fiction is often less specialized.  Yet, it is something to consider, as well, as you venture out into the marketplace.  How do you seek to be seen as a writer?

Feel free to ponder this topic, and let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Postcards of the Week: Churches in Fort Wayne, Indiana, circa 1915

Today's postcards are from Fort Wayne around 1915.  The date is just an estimate, and they could be a bit older, though it's doubtful they're any younger than that.

First off, we have a view of the First Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Clinton Street and Washington Street:

Here's another postcard of the same church, only a different distance. 

And here is the Wayne Street Methodist Episcopal Church:

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Postcards of the week: Nara, Japan

Today I'm sharing five postcards from Nara, Japan, taken sometime during the first decade of the 20th Century.  First up we have a look at Daibutsuden Temple:

Next is a look at Nigatsudo of Tdaiji Temple:

And here's a pagoda:

This is Sarusawa Pond:

And we wrap it up with a look at the Wakamiya Shinto Shrine:

Friday, April 4, 2014

My Publishing Philosophy

Believe it or not, it has been 1 year since MartinusPublishing's first multi-author anthology came out, and it has been almost 2 years since I first started reading submissions for that inaugural release of The Temporal Element.  I have to say, it has been a slow and steady ride so far.  I've had the pleasure to meet a lot of really talented and entertaining writers, and I've had the sadder job of turning down some others.  Overall, the job of being an Editor has met my expectations, and very little has surprised me.  It helped having spent many years beforehand on the other side of the coin, writing, marketing, and working with Editors to release several of my books.  This invaluable experience showed me the way, and let me know that I could take on the responsibilities of running a small press.

Of course, starting out, I had zero capital, and I still can't boast of having a big war chest.  That first anthology offered contributors a "token" payment, in the form of a silver Mercury Dime and a Buffalo Nickel per story (though I offered a few dollars via paypal for foreign contributors, due to international postage rates).  This was a novel concept, which the contributing authors enjoyed, though a couple of non-submitters actually wrote me nasty letters, saying I was ripping people off.  Apparently, if you can't afford to pay "professional" rates, you might as well not be in business, as far as some arrogant writers are concerned.  Maybe they would enjoy a world with only big New York City firms publishing things, but without small publishers like Martinus, a lot of aspiring writers would have nowhere to go with their work.  They would have to compete in the ever shrinking big-business marketplace that often has no interest in publishing the kind of sci-fi and fantasy that I prefer to publish.

Even before the criticism of my "slave wages" came in, I had the concept of paying authors something more for what they write.  The big problem with that is balancing fairness and profitability with my diminished financial situation.  That is where I came up with the idea of offering royalties.  It's not something you see from a lot of anthology publishers, because it is quite a bit of work to keep track of everything and send out dozens of paypal payments twice annually.  However, it is fair, and it's all I ever asked for when I was a young writer starting out.  I never dreamed of "big advances," I only ever wanted to earn my fair share, and earn according to my sales.  So, I have applied this philosophy to Martinus Publishing.  I can't promise contributors that they'll get rich off of their royalties, but I can promise that they'll get a cut of each book sold.  Of course, the biggest payout is that they have a publishing credit and can read their work in print; the royalty is just an added perk.

The whole reason I started writing all those years ago was because I wanted to produce stories that I wanted to read.  I hold onto that philosophy as I continue as an Editor.  I am publishing the sorts of stories that I want to read, and I expect other readers will enjoy them as well when they pick up those publications.  That is why I started Martinus Publishing, and that is why I will continue it, for who else is going to publish stories that I like better than me?