Friday, November 2, 2018

Halloween Reflections

 
Trick or Treater Pic
If there was one thing I regretted saying during the evening, it was, "You can have more than one piece of candy if you like." Sometimes, it resulted in a child agonizing over whether or not to choose an extra Butterfinger or Snickers; but, just as often, it turned into a costumed vagabond grabbing a handful or two of sweets, running to the street, and shouting, "Thank you!" as he or she made a getaway. Disappointing. Then there was the little girl that heard the words and started shoving fistful after fistful into her bag, all the while her mother screaming, "I don't care what he said, you can't have ALL the candy!" I was okay with it, though. That little girl understood - candy favors the bold.

Happy Halloween!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Books by the Banks - Meet Authors and (maybe) Learn How to Get Published

Southwest Ohio’s Free Book Festival

 

A Books by the Banks event poster.
                 What if I were to tell you that there is an event where authors and readers gather to talk about books, share experiences, and just enjoy each-others’ company in (relatively) small groups (small enough that everyone in attendance can usually ask questions and be heard) - would you be interested? Now, what if I added that there was also a specific set of talks at this event that are  focused on GETTING YOU PUBLISHED - would you be interested now? Finally, what if I added that entry to the event and the various talks is FREE - would you be excited now?


                The event I’m writing about is called Books by the Banks, and is southwest Ohio’s largest regional book festival. It is currently held at the Greater Cincinnati Convention Center (renamed Duke Energy Convention Center), usually in October. 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the event, which has hosted notable authors such as Marc Brown (illustrator of Arthur), Gillian Flynn(Gone Girl), and John Scalzi (Old Man’s War).

Books by the Banks Author Pavilion / Great Hall

Author Pavilion

Books by the Bank’s “great hall” is known as the Author Pavilion. This is the standard convention room, filled with authors looking to talk with interested readers (and possibly sell their books). While the Pavilion is the primary draw for many visitors, shrewd visitors know to look deeper into the convention center for....

A (blurry) picture of Books by the Banks spotlight author John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades,Redshirts, and many other works (and former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America).

Author Panels

                These free events gather groups of authors for various talks with convention-goers. Previous subjects have included   Appalachian Storytelling, Writing Nature, Children’s Books, and Cincinnati Authors.  Featured authors usually get the big room, and are in events called “Author Spotlights” that have only one primary speaker. Questions are always taken. These events are done on a first-come, first-admitted basis, so make sure to get to the room early if you want to talk with the more popular authors.

Participants prior to the start of a publishing panel.

 The Writing/Getting Published Panels

                A continually expanding group of talks, this area currently encompasses over five hours of program time on the schedule. Everything from how to find an agent, how to edit your work, and how to find readers has been covered in the past, and future panels promise similar subject matter. While many literary figures have participated in these events, editor/author Chuck Sambuchino (Writer’s Digest) has been a regular (and is probably tired of everyone asking him the same questions every year).


Banners near the various areas.

Kids’ Corner & Teen Scene Areas

                Books by the Banks is a great place to take the family, and features two areas for youths. Younger attendees should visit Kids’ Corner, which features events such as sing-alongs and author readings for the younger crowd, as well as hands-on crafts and various musical experiences. Savvier youths should visit the Teen Scene section, which has teen-focused authors as well as maker-projects and more complex craft projects.


A full schedule of events can be found at the Books by the Banks website at http://www.booksbythebanks.org. Or like them on social media for the most recent updates at https://www.facebook.com/booksbythebanks.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Upwork - Where Writers Go to Die

Upwork - Where Writers Go to Die - Brad Cole

(and students go to pay others to do their homework)



What if I were to tell you that there was a website with LITERALLY THOUSANDS of freelance writing assignments available? That there is a place where you get paid REAL MONEY to write novels, stories, and articles - all freelance jobs just waiting for someone to click on them. Would you be interested in that?

Oh, and kids also pay people to do their homework for them; but we'll get to that in a second.

The site is called UPWORK, and it is a website that connects freelancers in every field to those with jobs that need doing. One of those fields is writing. In fact, multiple fields are writing - article writing, creative writing, etc, etc... And, the best part is, writers get paid in REAL MONEY for their work (assuming you click the correct search box, that is). This is a writer's dream come true! Having used a freelancer-friendly article writing system in the past (WiseGeek), I was both happy and excited about my future prospects on this site. So, let's see the first set of assignments my search revealed:


My eye quick fell on "Elders." Would this be an internet article about the Elderly? Maybe an assignment writing entries for an older generation-focused blog? Reading the job description, I discovered the following:

Huh. Writing about "The role the elderly can play in our lives, especially the lives of high school students" is a very specific subject, but it just seemed odd. But, hey, the potential client was willing to pay $5 for what would be maybe a half-page of writing - that's hard to pass up. But I was unsure, so I clicked on the client's history to see what other jobs had paid people to do.






I've blacked out the names of the freelancers that did the jobs, but the list of past assignments made what was going on obvious: this kid was paying people to do his homework for him. Ingenious, considering how many schools now scan papers into plagiarism-detecting databases, but still not a particularly ethical job. And, to confirm my suspicions, one of the past assignments literally linked to this page:




Yes, this is an assignment for students in some sort of computer class. ::sigh:: I continued my search for a more professional job. The next one that stood out was....


This is actually an assignment I can understand, but didn't really see a future with - the potential client wants to pay a maximum of $70 for a 7000 word ebook on a non-fiction topic they supply every seven days. The assumption is this will go up on their website or amazon.com and generate them money long term. My comment would be: if you're doing that much writing, why not just put it out yourself on a website or Amazon and collect the royalties? But at least this is a decent job without ethical issues, and one for a client that seems legitimate.

This next assignment, though...


That's right - a MAJOR SHAVING BRAND that is going to work with ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST POPULAR ATHLETES is looking for a freelancer to pay between TEN WHOLE DOLLARS and TWO HUNDRED BUCKS to for a commercial script. Maybe they spent all of their millions on the athlete to do the commercial, and couldn't afford to pay the scriptwriter a real wage? It doesn't help that this client is listed as "NEW" in regards to hiring history. This definitely seems legit and in no way a SCAM (I'm sure the prince will pay me right after he sees the finished script and sells off those diamonds... and I send him $100 so he can pay the appraiser).

I felt thoroughly dejected now - were there no ethical jobs within my skillset that would actually pay a fair wage for my writing? This final assignment answered that question for me:


 This die-hard romantic wants to hire FOUR PROFESSIONALS to chat up potential love interests on various dating apps like Tinder, Hinged, and OKCupid so that he can get his freak on. I especially like that he is willing to provide the writer that gets him the most phone numbers (assuming per week) a CASH BONUS for his/her game-spitting skills (or whatever the electronic equivalent is). But, hey, $200 is $200, right?

There are no doubt MANY legitimate jobs for freelance writers on Upwork - and, by playing with the search settings and filtering out the vast majority of assignments, I was able to find a few. Still, the key word is "FEW." Best of luck to those of you with the courage to try - keep your sense of humor with you at all times, and make sure to get paid in advance.

- Brad Cole

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Best Rejection Letter I've Ever Received

The Best Rejection Letter I've Ever Received - Arbee Cole


Getting rejection letters is part of being a writer. Especially when you're relatively unknown, your stack of "do not want" replies far outnumber the acceptances. But, hey, even J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter was initially rejected by publishers - it is just part of the process.

Most of the rejection letters I get are of the form-letter variety - that is, they are usually addressed to some nondescript person ("Dear Author:") and contain little to no feedback. In the worst cases, they have checkboxes, and an editor will X-Mark whatever generic box they believe best sums up why the submission was rejected. A story I submitted to Darkhouse Books, however, received this very nice reply:

Hi,

I really wanted to take this one, but the narrative voice and
tone that developed for the anthology, and to be honest,
the length of the story, prevented a good fit.

You certainly demonstrate considerable writing chops and
I have no doubt you'll find a good home for it elsewhere.

I look forward to hearing of its publication and to reading
more of your work.

Andrew

I should backtrack here and tell you that the story (and the anthology) is set in a "retro-future" based on the 1939 New York World's Fair. What's that? Why, only a world of flying cars, smoking robots, and too-cool men in suits doing manly things! The setting is INCREDIBLE, but... I also knew that getting the story published there would be a longshot. After all, my story deals with... well, you'll have to read it for yourself and see.

Retro-Futuristic Robot wants HUGS!

"Invaders From the Other Side" is now available in ebook format on Amazon.com for your reading pleasure. It is 6200 words of wild science fiction that touches on the best aspects of the genre - flying cars, robots, social issues, and more. If you are a KindleUnlimited subscriber, there is no additional cost to read it - for others, there is a small $1.00 fee (at the time of this writing) to own it. Support fun science fiction and enjoy a romp through a future that never was with this great story! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DBQ3TZM

If you find yourself really enjoying the setting, also check out Darkhouse Book's anthology Stories from the World of Tomorrow. It is available in both ebook and print version on Amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B011OPW8YK




Enjoy exploring the World of Tomorrow (today!),

-= Arbee Cole

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Temple in the (Suburban) Woods

The Temple in the (Suburban) Woods - Arbee Cole


I've always been a fan of churches. Here, in the American Midwest, we have more churches within the city limits than can be easily counted: Catholic churches, Episcopal churches, Baptist churches, converted churches, mega churches, cathedrals, etc, etc, etc... Even our highways seem to act as advertisements for these locations, as a beautiful traditionally-styled mosque and a massive statue of Jesus (on the site of the legendary statue of "Touchdown Jesus") are just a few such structures that can be seen off different parts of interstates such as I-75.

What impresses me about these places? I'm not talking about being captivated by the Sunday services held in them (though a good preacher is always worth a listen); no, I'm talking about the structures themselves and the stories they hold within. Why it was built, how it was built,  when it was built - all of these factors go along with the artifacts held inside to create a unique experience for those visiting each structure.

So when I heard rumors that there was a massive Hindu temple hidden in the woods just outside of Cincinnati, I had to go. I mean, I grew up in the area, and I'd never heard anything about it - and that's the kind of thing that would stick out in a young adventurer's mind (like myself). Supposedly, it was nestled in the woods of an area known as Eastgate - home to numerous fast food places and that icon of the 20th Century, The Mall.

My trip started familiar enough, with me going down roads I had traveled hundreds of times. But as I started to navigate the less-familiar streets of deeper suburbs, I saw this:


Yes, in the middle of the suburbs and on a regular street sign in the heart of middle America, there was a sign with foreign (Hindi?) letters pointing to a temple. I followed it...




I followed it down a street to a seeming dead-end in the middle of the woods. Yet there were gates...




And, as I followed the road further into the woods, a structure appeared:


And, eventually, I was at the Temple in the Woods.



I brought along a companion for this trek - my cousin, a far greater adventurer than I, but one that had also grown up in the suburbs of Cincinnati. We parked, followed the signs which (at the time) instructed us to a basement entrance, where we took off our shoes and went further into the temple.

What occurred inside is a story for another time - or, better yet, one you can experience on your own if you choose to visit. All I will say is that the priest was very kind, and both willing to talk to us about the location and walk us through how the worship there works. We even received a piece of blessed fruit, and went on our way better for the journey, now knowing a little bit more about our neighbors in this expanded 21st Century community.

For those interested, you can visit this location at 720 Barg Salt Run Road, Cincinnati, OH (original entrance) or use the new (not pictured) entrance at 4920 Klatte Road, Cincinnati, OH. Their webpage is http://cincinnatitemple.com/ (which sometimes goes down), and their facebook is https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hindu-Temple-of-Greater-Cincinnati/189739154372829 .


-- Arbee Cole

P.S.: Interesting side note. The original pictures I took for this story were lost, so on a slightly drab Sunday in the beginning of spring, I went down to take a few more. To get there, I had to travel roads I'd been familiar with since childhood. On one, a somewhat steep one-way road with two lanes, I began to slowly pass a truck pulling a tank of what was marked flammable materials. As we rounded a corner, I saw a minivan driving the wrong way heading straight for me. I slammed on my brakes, but couldn't dodge due to the truck next to me. The minivan ended up swerving off the road. He ended up being fine and, with the exception of some muscle stiffness due to the sudden breaking, I was okay, too. It did make for a memorable morning, however.




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

** 21st Century Tales of High Fantasy Now in Print! **


Slot Machine Image

I'm happy to announce that 21st Century Tales of High Fantasy is now available both in print AND in eBook formats. You can see it here:

http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Tales-High-Fantasy/dp/1494498960

250 pages, 9 stories, and 2 great options for reading it (print and Kindle)!

http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Tales-High-Fantasy/dp/1494498960




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Google Hates Anonymous (and maybe me as well)


Yesterday was a bit rough for me, at least in the small part of my universe that exists within Google's sphere of influence. I had uploaded some new images to my AdWords campaign the day before (that is Google's internet advertising service for those that may not know), and logged in to my account to discover that almost every one of them had been "disapproved." Why? According to the small blurb (the only explanation Google provides) Family Status - Unacceptable Image. I kid you not. Here's the page below:


Checking a little closer, I found the only image to be approved was one in which the "Anonymous" character was mostly obstructed from view. That character is from a short story in the anthology called "Spirit of Anonymous," which briefly takes a look at the "Anonymous" subculture. That character certainly isn't doing anything adult oriented in the image (that's the exact one from the Amazon-approved cover!), but that was the only link between the banned ads. So I re-uploaded the images after editing him out. The result? Every one was approved. Apparently, one of the workers over at Google just doesn't like Anonymous. But judge for yourself: the banner on the left was Disapproved, the one on the right was later Approved:


I should also note that this blog's AdSense account (where Google puts an ad on the side of the page) was also "Disapproved" yesterday (can't they use "Declined" or "Denied" instead? Much less angry words). So maybe it isn't Anonymous they dislike, but me. :) Either way, I carry on. Until next time!


-= Arbee Cole
http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Tales-Fantasy-Volume-ebook/dp/B00H7MYJFQ


Friday, December 13, 2013

Hello, World! 21st Century Tales of High Fantasy is Released!

21st Century Tales of High Fantasy Released! - Arbee Cole


December 10th, 2013, marks a big day for me - it is the day my first book, 21st Century Tales of High Fantasy Volume One, went live and was published on Amazon.com.

If you haven't seen it, take a quick visit to Amazon and check it out: http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Tales-Fantasy-Volume-ebook/dp/B00H7MYJFQ

So, what is 21CTHFv1? It is a collection of modern (contemporary) fantasy stories written by yours truly that focuses on life in the early 21st Century. Yes, that means the characters deal with numerous current issues, including life in the inner city, high rates of unemployment, internet anonymity (or lack thereof), gambling, and the merging of magic and religion with an ever-more-scientific world. The stories range from the fanciful to the gritty, but all are entwined with those concepts. If this sort of fantasy literature sounds interesting to you, please check out my work (currently available on Kindle, soon to be available in paperback).

-= Arbee Cole
http://www.amazon.com/21st-Century-Tales-Fantasy-Volume-ebook/dp/B00H7MYJFQ

Book Cover