Friday, July 18, 2008

A Question of Motivation

An interesting topic came up in the Horror Library's main office recently. The question was asked, who in that particular setting, would be the next success story. Wow. That is a tough question and one I think some folks were hesitant to answer. Why? Well, if they didn't mention their friends then maybe someone would have some hurt feelings. But, you know, if you asks me, maybe NOT mentioning their friends could be a good thing.

What? I've lost my mind, you all say? No, no, I haven't. Hear me out, I say and if you still disagree with me then feel free to call me insane. It won't be the first time and most certainly won't be the last.

Yes, everyone wants high praise and a pat on the back, especially from their peers. Do you think it wouldn't do my ego good to have one of the name writers out in our genre say that I put out something decent? Of course it would. I would be elated if that happened. But, would that change things? Maybe, a little. I think hearing your work is good and that you have 'it' really stokes the confidence.

However, a question such as who, in your own opinion, will become a success from a group of people you know very well can be daunting to answer. You see enough of these folks and what they can do to kind of gauge them and their abilities, but overlooking someone, even though you do not mean to, could cause those hurt feelings that you don't wish to cause. If you're honest with yourself and with them, you will speak truthfully, but gently in some cases.

I sat back when I read the question and thought for a few minutes before typing up a reply. There are so many folks in there that I can see doing really well for themselves. There are also some folks I left off, simply because of participation—or the lack there of. But, as I sat back and thought about those I left off the list, I wondered what it could do to their psyche, their ego.

Well, let's see, it could have upset them that they were left off and then they would never talk to me again. Or they could shrug it off as it doesn't matter. Or it could make them try harder so someone would believe that they could be the next success story.

Hmmm . . . let's think about that last part for a minute. They could try harder so someone would believe that they could be the next success story.



Hmmm . . .

I've asked this next question when dealing with people I've trained in various jobs and I think it applies here: What is your motivation? What drives you?


True story: Not too long ago—maybe a year and a half or so—I was passed up for a position I really wanted. I knew I could do the job but I guess I was a little green under the gills. I didn't get the nod and I was bummed. No, wait, that's not right. I was BUMMED. Yeah, that's more like it.

I could have gotten discouraged, and to be honest, I did, for about ten minutes. Then, I told myself I wasn't quite where I needed to be for that position. I then set out to work harder and get better. About six weeks or so later, the person who had gotten the position I so coveted, abandoned it. Within a short time of his leaving, the position was offered to me. I was elated. Ecstatic. Excited and other E words I can't think of at the moment.

I've since moved on to other things, but I hold that feeling I had when I got bypassed that first time very close to me. It is not a good feeling, but I turned it into motivation. It made me want things more, made me want to work harder to improve myself.

Rejection has a way of doing that, but I'll save that for another time. In this case, being overlooked for something you feel you are capable of doing can be just as bad . . . or good, depending on how you look at it. I chose to use the feeling as a motivator to push myself a little harder. Did it work? Oh yeah, it did.

So, do you see what I am getting at? If you want to be on the list as the next big thing, you have to work at it. But, if you aren't on that list, don't get too discouraged. Instead, turn it around and use it as motivation. A lot of athletes do it. So do business people. And singers. Why not writers? Why not editors? Why not publishers?

Think about what discourages you when it comes to writing. Take that and let it motivate you. But, not just in writing. What discourages you in life? Use it for motivation.

I leave you all with this:

Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.
--Og Mandino

I'm AJ and I'm out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is Success?

What is success? Is it making lots and lots of money? Is it name recognition? Is it being able to live comfortably or even have a lavish lifestyle? For us writers, is it getting a story published for the first time or the thousandth time? Is it a book deal that makes you a good bit of money? What is it?

Define success?

In some respects it is defined as the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted (American Heritage Dictionary). But, is that really a good definition of the word?

I don’t know.

If you ask Stephen King or Gary Braunbeck or Brian Keene if they were successful, what do you think they would say? Well, I think they would say yes, they are. But, what if you asked that same question to someone who only has a handful of publishing credits under their belt? What do you think they would say? Most of them would say no or not yet or I’m getting there or something to that effect.

So, I ask you, what is your definition of success?

Do you want to know mine? First off, I would love to make a living writing. I would. I really, really would. But, if that doesn’t happen, would I consider myself a failure? Not even close. Have any of you seen my wife? She’s beautiful. How about my kids? They’re attractive and smart. My son is a pistol and my daughter is darn near brilliant sometimes. I’m successful already.

I know, I know, I’m stretching what this is all about, but it is important to understand what success really is. Sometimes success isn’t about the dollar sign or how many cars you drive or how big a house you have. Sometimes success isn’t measured by your name and how many people who know who you are. Honestly, right now, how about a show of hands from those who know who I am. Not a lot of you, I see.

I have a firm belief that if you believe that you can do something then you can do it. It may take you a little longer to learn how to do these things, but eventually, you will be able to do them.

For me there is a certain amount of satisfaction when I see improvement in my writing. It may not be something that leaps out at someone, but it is something I notice. And, when I notice the change, I feel like there is a touch of success in that—all the attempts at correcting a flaw or learning how to do something finally coming to fruition. To me, that is a type of success.

I measure success on how satisfied I am with the outcome. If I feel I have done everything to my ability and it still doesn’t work, well, it’s time for me to start over on that and try again. There is a measure of satisfaction in trying and trying again until you get it right. After that, it usually stays right.

I also gain a lot of pleasure from writing a story. Pleasure. Did you read that word? Read it again. Pleasure. I write a lot—sometimes too much, but I love doing it. It is my addiction and not one that I am willing to kick. When I write something that is good and I know it is good, then the pleasure is amplified and that leads to satisfaction of a job well done. Which, hopefully, will lead to getting paid for the stories on a regular basis.

But, if this life of writing never makes me successful money or name wise, then I will always have the pleasure of creating a story, enjoying the ability to do so and being successfully happy. That’s what it’s all about anyway, right? Being happy.

I’m AJ and I’m out

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interview with John Miller of Liquid Imagination

Liquid: A substance in a condition in which it flows…

Imagination: The ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially of things never seen or experienced directly.

Hmmm . . . with those definitions one could say that Liquid Imagination is the ability to form images and ideas in a manner in which it flows; fluent thoughts, lucid ideas.

Is it possible to fill the world with yet another e-zine?

Is it needed?

Who cares?

What if we made the world need it?

What if we made the world want it?

These are the questions that abound for the upcoming e-zine Liquid Imagination. Do we need another e-zine? Is it needed? Is it wanted? Well, that answer is really up to you, the reader. For me, the writer, I would like to introduce you to John Arthur Miller, founder of Liquid Imagination. Let's sit down with John for a brief moment and talk with him about his new endeavor.

Tell us a little about yourself, John, and then we'll dive on in.

I’m a single father with three beautiful children, all boys, ages 5-10—they are the source of much inspiration. I’ve had many jobs: police dispatcher (twice), salesman, manager of retail stores, telemarketer, worked in a refinery, and I work in a factory now. I thrive on change. The world is changing. Recession is causing a smaller market for novels and e-zines. We’re living in changing times.

Why another e-zine and what do you think will separate Liquid Imagination from the multitudes of e-zines out there?

Liquid Imagination isn’t just an e-zine devoted to fiction; it is devoted to fantasy in both art forms: the art of the written word (fiction and poetry) and the art of the painter’s brush. The goal is to meld the work of writers along with the work of artists so that, to those perusing Liquid Imagination, there is no distinction between the two. Each story must have at least two pieces of artwork. The artwork will enhance the story, and the story will enhance the artwork. There will be no separation between the artwork and the stories; a blurring of the two forms of art. Our goal is to unite followers of fantasy art and readers of fantasy fiction into one e-zine. Our target is AWE. If we miss our target, we hope to come close.

Liquid Imagination is a unique name. How did you come up with it?

I had two dreams in two nights. I don’t often remember my dreams, so this was unique to say the least. In the first dream I heard a song almost exactly like one by Finger Eleven. I don’t know the name of the song, but the lyrics go like this: "If your body matches what your eyes can do... you'll probably move right through... me on my way to you." It was the background music of the song, but the words were different. I woke with this type of song in my head, but the words were “Liquid Imagination is flowing. . . from me to you.”

The very next night I dreamed of an art exhibit. Beneath one of the paintings was the gold plaque with this title: Liquid Imagination.

What exactly are you looking for in submissions?

Kevin Wallis is the editor, and Lisa Peaslee is the art director. Together Kevin and I are looking for fantasy stories set in today’s world. Think of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Mythical creatures such as faeries and centaurs in the modern age. Other worlds coexisting alongside our own. Magical realism, surrealism, but fantasy. Not “high fantasy” like Medieval stories with knights and wizards.

We’re looking for three things:

2) AWE (we’re ALL shooting to awe the reader of fiction and the lover of art)
3) FORCE (we want it written forcefully, with as much clarity as possible)

Artwork is a huge component of Liquid Imagination. Tell us about it.

In the realm of fantasy, artwork has ALWAYS been important. Can you imagine a Conan the Barbarian novel without fantastic artwork on the cover?

We aim to do the same thing, only we hope to cement the two art forms. We want the artistic paintbrush to stroke the words of the writer. We want the writer’s words to build a foundation for the painter’s easel. We want both art forms to bleed into one: liquid imagination. From the reader to the editors; from the artists to the writers; all of us in one collective subconsciousness, something Carl Jung might call Liquid Imagination.

Help us tap into the flow.

Can you tell us anything about issue number one that may entice some folks into submitting to Liquid Imagination?

We’re looking for two interviews with powerful artists. One is, in fact, a traditional artist but we haven’t heard back from him. The other is our “mystery writer.” This person has won the Nebula and World Fantasy Award for fiction. It will be a very powerful interview, in-depth, from an author whose works have sold across America.

Briefly, can you give us some guidelines for submissions?

Fantasy set in the modern world. Surrealism. Magical realism. 12,000 word count. Microsoft word, standard format. No query letter needed or wanted; the stories will speak for themselves. 1st American Rites. We accept reprints as long as it’s fantasy. INTENSITY! AWE! Those willing to workshop at our Zoetrope Office will get additional consideration for their fiction/poetry.

Anything else you want us to know about Liquid Imagination?

The “Best of Liquid Imagination” will go into an anthology book every 1-3 years. We will also be getting into publishing novels, the best of fantasy. I’ve already been playing around with the first book, an experiment, to iron out all the kinks. I’m talking about Liquid Imagination as a publisher of novels and anthologies. Like the e-zine questions, with so many publishers out there, why another one? Because we will likewise meld art into the work of the writers’ novels.

We intend to fly without wings.

Thank you for your time, John and good luck with Liquid Imagination.

Feel free to check out their website here: Liquid Imagination