Dayan Martinez

In this new section, it would probably do to make a profile for each Inkblotter. But who am I to talk about you? You should probably talk about you. So here we go. I’ll jump in first and lead the charge.

 

 

Name: Dayan Martinez

Profession: Middle School Science Teacher

Ambition: To publish, become famous and rich (candidly speaking)

Influences: Stephen King (Dark Tower), Isobelle Carmody (Obernewtyn), Jim Butcher (Dresden Files),  Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (The Fall of the Kings), Anne Rice (Mayfair Witches), Neil Gaiman (American Gods), Gregory Maguire (Wicked series), Sergei Lukyanenko (Night Watch series).

Published? No yet

Seeking publication? Sure, but leaning towards self-publishing, now.

Writing Ideas? Half a dozen “good ones” awaiting development

Willing to co-author? Definitely!

Current Writing Projects/Ideas:

  • Books of the Shadowlight
    • Six novels in a series
    • About four people caught up in a mystic chess-game between two great magical forces in the world
    • Themes are responsibility, free will and the lack thereof, intrigue and trust
  • Novels of San Marcos
    • based on a pen-and-paper RPG played with friends, set in St. Marks, Florida
    • Many games and stories played, but probably shall be rolled into a few books only
    • Dark, magic, lots of ancient history bubbling up into the past, and a power everyone covets
  • The Darkheart Trilogy (YA)
    • Set in an alien world that’s tidally locked
    • Hypermutated, bipedal species ignorant of their role and purpose
    • Protagonist’s accidental (“fated”) connection to a powerful and coveted weapon
    • Technological magic system the natives don’t understand at all
  • A post-apocalyptic story tentatively titled “Our Killer Sun”
  • Counterpart (my first alien/scifi story)
  • Superimposition (story about alternate realities and madness)
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Let the carnage begin!

Visit our Critique Salon for the first story submitted for critique by our illustrious Society. Read the guidelines, but the story is below that. Leave critique in a comment.

Thank you!

E-book Sales Rise, Print Sales Fall

According to estimates presented by the American Association of Publishers in this Publishers Weekly article, the publishing market continues to shift as of the final quarter of 2011. Regular print books, like adult fiction hard covers and massmarket paperbacks fell by significant figures (in some cases, as much as a 36% drop). Even YA fiction suffered a decline in sales (4.7% for hardcover and 12.7% for paperback).

What does mean for us writers? If you take into account that this “decline” has been occurring for a while now, you can probably begin to see the writing on the wall. In these times of economic hardship, people simply cannot afford to spend the money they once had on books (it would be interesting to see numbers on public library loans). For us writers, it means that publishers are taking less risks and becoming far more skeptical about the potential of new writers submitting their novels. It requires a greater degree of talent, and yes, even more “prior experience” in order to break into the publishing business now-a-days.

For us, this is pretty bad news to hear. Most of our financial situations aren’t so cozy that we can dedicate 10,000 hours of concentrated effort to reach mastery (thank you Mr. Gladwell, Outliers). Which is not to say we are lazy and will not, eventually, over the course of our lives, achieve exactly that much expertise. No, that isn’t what I’m saying at all. I am saying that it creates an environment where less-than-masterful novelists are far more likely to cave in under the stress of daily life and financial ruin, and give up this time-consuming career option. Then, even if we persevere and forge ahead, the financial crisis of the publishing industry doesn’t guarantee a career at all. With less sales in general, any new (and many established) authors would be happy for their advance and not a penny more out of royalties. In other words, keep producing books fast or you’ll starve and go bankrupt.

If that was the only set-back, we could hope that eventually the economy will get better and sales would go up. Being an American writer could once again become a glamorous thing. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The economic stress of the American people is just one cause of the effect we’re seeing manifested. There is a new venue for writers, both amateur and experienced, to release their works and get paid for them, too.

E-Book sales numbers:

  • 117% rise for the fiscal year of 2011 overall
  • In December alone, ebook sales went up by 72%
  • AAP expects “seasonal buying patterns” to grow that figure even more in January and February

Now, mind you, these figures represent publishing houses that report to AAP. In other words, established businesses that also suffered a decline on their printed media (above). They have the power of instant recognition and are vouched by their many successes in times of boon. But the numbers still suggest a pattern. Cheaper books are far more likely to be bought by people struggling economically. Think about it. What would you rather buy? Grisham’s new hardcover for 20-something dollars, or the ebook for $4.99? It’s less risky, and if you really like it, you might even consider buying the printed version. (Which, in my case, has never quite panned out. I’m a cheap bastard.)

Places like Amazon’s CreateSpace also provide the opportunity for writers to simply publish on their own, if they think their work is ready for public eyes. I have gone through some of the process when I created and ordered a proof-copy of my first novel, Trapped In Stone (still unfinished) in 2010. After a lot of work, which is really all about patience and following directions, I was one step away from publication. I was intrigued by the fact I was asked to set the price for my book early on. After all the production costs of printing were added in, I could add as much as I wanted. However, the printing costs were pretty high to begin with, and the book would be a paperback, after all. How much could I really charge for that in a world swimming in $7.99 paperback novels? Would readers pay $12.99 so that I could make two bucks on the transaction? That seemed a bit much to ask.

Now, I have clicked my way through many self-published books on Amazon.com, and I must confess my usual reaction has been to click away as soon as possible, usually with an upturned nose in pure expression of disdain. Why is this so? Well, it isn’t because of any ingrained belief that self-publishing is inherently below my standard of quality (even though my standard of quality is actually quite high). I give them a fair chance.

The first strike against most of these books is due to my own superficial nature: Bad covers. Still, that usually isn’t enough to force me to click away. Not everyone is artistically gifted, or has friends to make a nice cover for them. I usually scroll down to the Description.  Unfortunately, the Descriptions are just as disappointing as the cover, most of the time. That’s usually where I stop by browsing and head elsewhere. If the writer can’t write a good synopsis, why bother with 395 other pages? Not to mention paying $12.99. (There’s also the fact that a lot of self-published authors leave their display pages very bare and sad-looking. Isn’t there a way to make it lively and awesome? I think there is.)

That last paragraph (especially when combined with the one before it), might be enough to put a stop to anyone’s dreams of self-publishing, but only if you’re going the conventional way. Sure, the problem of horrible covers and author’s descriptions still affect e-books, but I chose to see these as challenges rather than depressing realities. Don’t know enough Photoshop to put together a good cover? LEARN IT! Can’t write synopsis worth shit? LEARN TO! Hell, it your sweat and tears, baby. You want this or not?

E-Books really offer the best solution. A spiffy looking ebook, with a good description, and perhaps some web publicity to go along with it all sells. Plain and simple. How do I know? I know because that’s EXACTLY what the publishing houses are doing. That’s how they got a 117% increase in sales in the year 2011, even while consumers remain poor, and print sales are tanking.

Critique Salon

This is a public page.
Any work posted here is available to anyone browsing the blog.

Simply put, if we want to get better at writing, we simply have to do a heck of a lot of it–writing, that is! We have to put pen to paper, or keystrokes on a blank digital page. We have to produce something, no matter the quantity or quality of it. Worrying about value comes later, but all writing starts with the act itself and should not be interrupted by thoughts soliciting our doubt.

Quality, however, makes a writer’s career. It pays our bills or becomes that nice supplemental income we have to worry about come Income Tax Return time. This page, and the community that has access to this page, is here to evaluate your writing based on its quality–how good it is. Apologies if it sounds harsh, if it suddenly fills you with doubt, but how else could you learn if you’re doing anything worthwhile? Relax, though. Rest easy in your confidence that if you’ve been picked as an Author of the Society, you are “good enough” to pass muster. That is, if you put in at least a little bit of effort into your craft!

General Guidelines:

  • Only one short story, chapter, or writing sample will be submitted here at any time.
  • It should be no longer than 5,000 words, plus or minus 200 words for completion’s sake.
  • Submitted stories will be posted for thirty days and then a new piece of work will go up.
  • Use the “Leave a Reply” box below to leave your public critiques.

For those submitting your work for critique:

  • Please submit reasonably “finished” work whenever possible… Unfinished work is best considered in the “Private Section”!
  • Expect a reasonable “delay” between when you post your work and when you receive a critique.
  • Try very hard to never take anything personally… You asked for someone’s opinion, now you have it. Plain and simple.
  • Thank your critics, they are your best teachers in this craft.

For those critiquing a writer’s submission:

  • At all times, strive to be “constructive” when expressing your opinions. We all would prefer to do without emotional bruising, here.
  • Reply to a critique as promptly as it is reasonable for you. We understand you have lives, but these are our babies you’re reading! 🙂
  • Any replies containing uncalled-for, offensive language (especially directed at the writers personally) will not be approved.
  • Write at least one sentence in each of these fields: FIRST IMPRESSIONS, CHARACTERS, SETTING, PLOT, GRAMMAR/SPELLING, OTHER CONCERNS
  • Thank you for your critique! Live long and prosper!




For your critique:


Come on! Rip it apart!


The face looked molded to precisely fit the mask. The old man and the old mask–united in perpetual agreement of each other, no quarrels, no question as to who hid who, or why. The thing just was, and I could not think of a question to ask as Mr. Rodriguez walked by, tugging at one end and jiggling the other. He then walked through the door, and the frayed seams of the mask, by the hairline, seemed to melt into his skin. The late afternoon blaze came up defeated against built-in spectacles. I cringed, three feet inside a dark house.

He paused in midstride. Turned about and walked back inside, rummaging through the mess of old newspapers and coke bottle caps. I walked behind the conspicuous column that marked out the dining area from the living room and let it shield my face. The brightness stung my eyes even as refractions.

He collected a disjointed pile of junk, sometimes from way before my birth. There were rarities dating back to 2003–more than fifty years old and losing any gloss of what might have once been affluence. How Mr. Rodriguez got a hold of them, I could not guess and he never told me. Perhaps he dug them up from his time as a university Professor, or perhaps he pirated them online. Collection of recyclable, raw materials was forbidden after the law passed ten years ago.

“Too little too late, son,” Mr. Rodriguez said then, when we heard the news.

Mr. Rodriguez found what he was looking for—another doodad—and nodded to me casually. He closed the door after himself, and I heard his junk-mobile rattle away to the store. Not that I was watching the ‘toons flickering on and off the holotv. It foreshadowed the new VR machines through bad dialogue and researched product placement. They gather dust on bleached shelves, and some even melt in the intense heat. No one bothers with fiction when reality is about to break loose from a dope-fiend’s nightmare, taking all along, kicking and screaming and boiling to our death.

A short journey through a litter of junk lands me on the couch, stable of American furniture since ancient cathode-ray tubes pretended to be entertainment, and Presidents sweat a bucket for every lie on national television. There are the faint shadows of undeveloped heroes—mouthpieces regurgitating unintelligible jargon at a new generation. Sights, sounds and colors, mixing into a fantasy now easily outstripped by what plays on the news. China, Spain and southern France, east of the Andes in South America, basically all of Africa is a wondering dune-land of high winds and collapsing dreams. Carcasses of civilization littering an empty landscape. The frame reels away and half of the South Pole never freezes, and Canada is verdant green year-round. They grow olives now, and grapes. They grow tumbleweed and sage-grass in the Burnt Toast—our former basket.

He says his two children–Maria and Carlos–work for the government now, and do not even drop a call. Maybe their mobiles have been updated so many times that it is no longer compatible with the old communication ports, but he’ll never admit to that. No need to cut the kids some slack. The government isn’t busy spinning lies to knit a crumbling Union back together. So I get to spend time with him. And in return, I get all his collections, learn the old ways.

Besides, my own parents always work. Mother working with burnt patients she doubts will ever recover, dispensing some sort of chemical comfort before they move up to the cancer ward and begin with the needles and serums. When she gets home she doesn’t cook and reeks of hospital smell–of flesh and chemicals. Father is one of those “city people” Mr. Rodriguez tells me slaves day in and out, pouring their entire lives and souls into meaningless script and computer programs so that the city will function for another day. But I’ve heard mom and pa’ at late at night when they get home, fighting about what he has to do to keep the job.

Children in the neighborhood rarely come out to play since the sun is murder, now. There are almost no shadows, and very few trees to hide under and catch your breath. Besides, those face masks feel like a skinned cat and catch a bad whiff if you break out a sweat.

It’s been getting worse. There isn’t even hope the grass will grow—not the old stuff from the laboratories, and perhaps not even the new one they keep promising. The sun will kill that too, like fun and afterschool.

I’ve made it a habit to come here every day afterschool—another thin veil we wear for the sake of normalcy. No one is sure how much longer that will last, since it is simply a health hazard, and the government hasn’t yet come up with the promised sun-protection kit for school-aged children. One day, Mr. Rodriguez says, they will have to shut it down permanently, since not that many parents will be willing to send their kids to get sunburnt, or perhaps the teachers will just stop coming, or the air conditioning systems will give up and quit.

Classes were cancelled early in the morning today, only two hours after they had started. Mrs. Prolle shook her head as the Principal tried very hard to contain her panic. I could read her face like history books: they’d talked about this, feared it, and prayed. Everyone prayed and no one got anything for their bother. Before, the old man said, they’d prayed for gains in standardized test performance. Now they just keep us busy and a few teachers bother to entertain. What good is learning about the snow caps of Mount Everest if they all melted? Why bother knowing your rights this day and age? Dissidents beware—and wear your masks always. So I came to Mr. Rodriguez’s house. He was watching the broadcasts as I came in, and did not budge even when the harsh sunlight was let in. I began to worry–he rarely watched holotv.

“Sit down Mikey,” was all he said as I stood by the door, staring in disbelief and concern, wondering if I should have instead gone home. I sat down at the other ancient armchair, minding sharp bottlecaps.

A raspberry-skinned woman spoke into a microphone while parched yellow dust blew around her:

“As the magnetic field continues to fade, scientists have finally ended their silence and talked to the media about impending events. The brighter sunlight we’ve been experiencing for the past ten years is directly caused by the final collapse of the globe’s magnetic field–a process that started hundreds of years ago, but which had not received adequate publicity due to government hush-ups worldwide…”

Evidence of past sunburns clear above the brow of her left eye, snaking around her eye to her cheek, forming almost a circle.

“Due to the fading magnetic field, which is fading at a much faster rate than previously expected when the news were first made public, an excessive amount of sunlight is filtering through the atmosphere. Government officials, after their worldwide broadcast this morning, warned all people outside to return to their homes immediately and find shelter there. However, top scientists say that not even this will serve in the long run, since increased radioactivity could cause irreversible damage to not only our environment, but the very structures we live in–“

“Bah! I knew it! Idiots, trying to cover it up! I knew it!” Spat out Mr. Rodriguez after turning off the holotv.

“What’s happening?”

“It’s the end of this world, boy.”

There was nothing I could say to that. No ideas came to my mind, however imaginative I may have been thought of previously. I could not move, and I realized that I should have gone home. Maybe mother would have been there, perhaps even father. I looked around at the old confines of Mr. Rodriguez’s apartment and thought there was no worse way to die, than among these unfulfilled stories of the past—truncated at last by catastrophic myopia. I cried, and Mr. Rodriguez did his best to console me.

Then he went to the store to fetch something. I sit by the naïve holotv and wonder if he’ll even make it back, and even then, what for?

There is a knock on the door. But not a knock the way that knuckles against steel-insulated doors sounds. It is a knock of something big crashing against metal. A thud. I fidget with my mask and gloves. The knob is very hot, but I fear for old Mr. Rodriguez, who knew it was coming all along. The door swings wide and the blinding sunlight punishes uncovered eyes. I try a curse but manage a loud gasp, not even a scream. The heat sucks air out of starved lungs like an insubstantial soccerpunch.

Darkness is a soothing concept at first, but troubling with open eyes. Blistering heat turns to paradox and cold numbness takes away the burning. Flesh smolders. I reach up and touch the lids, but they’re not there, and there is something sizzling. A leaking orb slithering down red-shocked cheeks. I scream at the realization, cover my bleeding eyes with blistering hands.

Pay no mind to the burnt, crippled figure stumbling into the living room holding something in his hands. It gurgles, lifting the heat-resistance case with patches of plastic molded into space-shuttle foam. It grunts and collapses just as I collapse in time to hear words bubbling up from his throat.

“They still charged… for this junk… -ing bastards!”

The floor is sizzling now, catching on to the news that the world caught fire. My gloves melt, punishing flesh, not badly enough to rupture blood vessels, but stinging all the way back to a hypnotized caveman with a burning stick.

“.. take it, put it on… Use it!”

Vocal chords shut, but Why? I would ask him why. Crippled hands work to handle the object he is thrusting into them.

“Use it!” He croaks out and flaps to the skillet floor.

Object in hand, I scramble away from the dead body, his words echoing: “It’s the end of the world, boy. It’s the end of the world. It’s the end of the world!”

The box opens as my crisped hand rips at it. The pain! The sleek surface of the headset–I’ve always wanted one of these…

I place it on my head–but my parents couldn’t buy me one. He must have spent a lot…

I push the start button and the box comes online.

What good this will do? It is the end of the world!

Bliss is the momentary release from all ties that bind the mind to its reality. Bliss is the echo of forgiveness, rumbling down the mountain in soft, ephemeral whispers—haunting dialects of the dead. But bliss is always temporary, and even the flesh within the metal box burns. Perhaps it will remain as an ancient smudge of ash.

Oh, the possibilities!

It was a sunny day when the idea struck me.

Okay, fine, it didn’t so much strike as bubbled upward from a dark lair and somersaulted onto my consciousness, already speculating on revenue and expensive vacations on sandy beaches. It was a logical idea, the natural conclusion to a train of thought already triggered into existence the night before. My friend Chris segued into a rant about self-publishing (okay, so maybe it was provoked) and ebooks and stuff. We had been discussing our novel-writing ambitions and it seemed quite logical. Or perhaps everything seems logical in retrospect.

Many things had been floating around my head for days, now. Like how I am so hopelessly stuck in the revision/editing phase of my first novel (second draft, 90,000 words), and how so many of my friends were also amateur writers, and how broke we all were, some money would be nice after all, especially if it came from doing something I loved. And then I saw Dan’s post about wanting to start a writing project, asking Facebook-world about what idea he should go with.

So, when the idea came, I pretty much rushed to Facebook and wrote it all down. What a loser. Status updated it like my latest fling with the mouse and some porn-star’s casting video blog. And that got me to the next logical step on this critter’s evolution:

Hey, duuuuuuude, what if, like, you get a WordPress blog and add a forum to it, and spend all your time cultivating yours and your friend’s writing career?

Well, it would be a neat thing, if it ever paid up. The payout would be in someone to share this lonely-lonely life of writing with. They would all understand and we could all support each other.

Right! It’d be awesome.

I agree. Let’s do it.

Well, where do we start?

Why, of course, we start with a logo. Branding my friend! Branding!

But it probably shouldn’t be a public thing… Let’s keep it private.

Dude, everyone sees every keystroke ever pressed online. It has to look good. Plus, it’ll inspire us if we have a nifty internet-lair to call our own.

I suppose. What’s our color scheme?

Dunno, let’s skulk around a bit and see what pops up. I bet WordPress has some neat themes…

(Thirty minutes later)

Ooooooh! I likie!

Told ya this would be fun! I always know best… all logical and stuff, I am.

Sure thing, Smeagol. Just remember to stop ranting before they figure out this whole this is being written 3 days after the fact, and you’re just typing to yourself out of some dubious sense of hightened drama.

Teehee.

The boldface wasn’t lying. It’s three days later and nearly Friday. I want to be able to show my friends some product they can cling to. One of our proposed “bylaws” is to criticize (constructively) the heck out of each other’s works. Because we might as well beat each other up and build up callouses, you know, before the rest of the world has a go at us and our work. We’re sensitive folk. Don’t judge.

How will this all pan out? What will be the ultimate structure of this place? Will it even get picked up for a first season?

Who knows! I’m just writing the introductory post to erase the standard one WordPress comes with.