To Duotrope, or Not to Duotrope

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duotropeA few years ago, back when I used to spend a fair amount of my time writing fiction and under the deluded belief that I was one day going to be a successful author, I used to love wandering through the pages of Duotrope. For those that don’t know, Duotrope is an online resource for writers. Users were able to search the available markets for stories that they had written by running the very simple search engine, narrowing down the market bit by bit until they were left with a select few: An ideal list to submit to in the hopes of success.

Dating websites would work a lot better if they used the Duotrope model.

One of the great things about the site was that it was free. A well constructed, updated daily, FREE website that seemed to have been created by people that genuinely wanted to help people get published, as well as being created by writers, for writers.

Fast forward to 2013 and I am aiming to get back into the writing lark again. I’ve had an article published on the GEEKchocolate website and I have a few other things planned, both fiction and non-fiction (and, of course, this Blog and Geek in the Gym). It was only a matter of time before I drifted back to Duotrope, which I did in early January.

I was a little surprised to discover that it was now accessible only to paying subscribers. Once I had moved past my initial “What the FUCK?!?” reaction and actually thought about it for a while, I could completely understand why they had moved to provide a service for people that were willing to pay for it. Duotrope started in 2005 and ran for free until the last day of 2012. Unless the site was being run by playboy billionaires these people had “proper” jobs and, quite frankly, if they were playboy billionaires they should have been out fighting crime and injustice whilst dressed as creatures of the night instead of helping me try and get the latest piece of shit that I’ve written published.

They appealed for donations but, if memory serves, were always running short of their target. I’ll hold my hands up here and admit that I never donated a thing to them. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that they delayed and delayed going to subscription only for as long as they could but that, eventually, they either started charging or they closed the site.

Subscription to the site costs a whopping $5 per month. For me that works out to £3.28 – that’s less than the price of a magazine or a portion of fish and chips from the Chinese Take Away at the end of the road; both of which I would happily buy without thinking about it (unless it’s the last week before payday, in which case a serious debate might take place). So, cash wise, it’s hardly going to cripple someone. I suppose the question is what do you get for your money?

SEARCH
You’ve written your latest masterpiece but, like a lot of writers out there, you haven’t got a clue what to do, where to send it or how to find someone that might be interested in A) reading it, and; B) thinking it might be good enough for others to want to read. With the search facility you can pick the genre that you’ve written for. Say you’ve written a Zombie Comedy short story. You’d pick “Horror” as your genre, obviously. Then there’s the sub-genre; in this case “Zombie”. After that you can pick the style in which it is written. Here it would be “Humorous” (as American’s are not aware that it is spelled “Humourous”) and then for length you’d select “Short Story”. There are other criteria that you can select, but those are the basics. A quick click of the search button and you discover that there are 2 publishers that are looking for exactly what you’ve written. Personally I find that a more generic search yields much better results. Most publishers of fiction aren’t that specific with what they’re looking for. Anthologies, eZine’s and magazines are looking for a selection of different tales that your little zombie story might just fit into. Simply searching the “Horror” genre brings up, for instance, 363 (at the moment) publishers that are on the lookout for new tales. That’s not exactly a bad start for finding a home for your tale. Each listing has a brief description of what the publisher is looking for, a link to their website, the genres that they accept and Response Statistics, which is the best bit for me. The Duotrope community can track their stories from submission to acceptance / rejection, and here you find how quickly publishers do, or do not, respond. Do you really want to be submitting to someone that takes 3 months, on average, to get back with an answer? You will see what percentage of stories are accepted and how long it takes for a response. Say a website has only accepted 10% of the stories submitted: you’d better be pretty damn confident that your story is up to scratch before sending it there.

CALENDER
This is my favourite bit of Duotrope. Although I’ve decided to get back into writing I’m finding the muse a little harder to rekindle than the desire. The stories that I have bouncing around my brain are the same ones that I’ve had nagging at me for years. I can’t remember the last time I came up with something “new” to write, other than non-fiction. The Calender section covers the themes and deadlines for anthologies and themed issues / months that are coming up. At the moment there are 247 deadlines stretching to March 2014 and each one gives you a brief of what the publisher is looking for. Where else would I have found the anthology looking for fantasy, science fiction and horror stories from any style of writing where the theme was “Potatoes”? An idea instantly popped into my head when I read the brief, but unfortunately I’ve got 13 days to get the fucking thing written, polished and sent off for the deadline. There are plenty of others there as well which you can track at the click of a button. I’ve currently got 5 deadlines that I am tracking in my Control Panel and that’s after only a speedy skim through the deadlines.

There’s LOADS of stuff that you can do with a Duotrope account, from the above search facility to keeping an eye on anthologies that you want to submit to, to tracking those stories that you’ve already submitted, hoping for a positive response. Even if you’ve written something that you can’t find a place for you never know when someone might pop up wanting just what you’ve written.

If you’re at all unsure about whether it might be right for you, why not take advantage of the free 7 day trial they have going and see for yourself? Not only that, but you might be interested enough to buy an issue or book and, let’s not forget, if we as writers want to find places that want to publish unknown authors we have to support them as well. We can’t just let ‘other people’ spend their money when we refuse to do the same.

Click on the link below, sign up for the 7 days and see what you think. You might love it as much as I do!

 

Duotrope: an award-winning resource for writers

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Warm Bodies trailer

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Have I mentioned I luuuuuurve a zombie story? Books, comics, TV shows, movies – I’ll take what I can get and this looks like a lot of fun. Who would have thought you could have a romantic comedy with a zombie as the lead?

New Addition to the Family…

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The one thing that’s been missing from my life was finally fixed a couple of weeks ago. After 8 months of living on my own, it finally seemed like the right time to make that commitment again.

I bought an X Box.

It’s been on “The List” (shit I WANT for the house, but have to justify the expense since I don’t really NEED it) since I moved in here, but whenever I had any spare money it was always on the month with birthdays or Christmas so it always got pushed to the back. At the end of January I decided that enough was enough and took the plunge.

My son, Joseph, has his own X Box at House #1 and, although he frequently brought it with him, it was a bit annoying for everyone concerned (apart from me) to keep lugging it back and forth.

I am not a Gamer, really. “Geek” covers such a multitude that one person couldn’t possibly do everything under the banner. It’s like saying you play “all sport”. It’s just not gonna happen. I like some games, but I’m not hardcore. It’s a rare occasion when I will buy a new game for myself, preferring to head to the pre-owned section when the fancy takes me. This usually means I am way behind the curve on what’s cool. The kids love games, obviously, but for me the X Box is my portal to watching the movies and tv shows that I have on my hard drive without having to burn them to disc or watch them on the laptop. The USB is a wonderful thing.

After wandering around Oldham checking out the prices I ended up in GAME. Since I work in retail and know how vocal people can be when they get bad service I’d like to point out that the guys there are excellent. Friendly, not pushy and smiling. I explained what I wanted, the guy helped me out, didn’t rip me off and I had a decent chat as well. I might not spend much money on games, but you can guarantee that I’ll be heading back there when I want to pick something up. He even managed to talk me into filling out an online questionnaire when I got back home!

So I bought the X Box and Joseph brought up all (which amounts to about half a dozen) of my games. He was happy just to have something new to play with, even though it’s the same as the old thing that he played with. However… it quickly became apparent that my daughter, Grace, didn’t have a lot of choice in the games that I own. She likes the Arkham games (well, she likes the running about bits, not the fighting – she’s only 6 so she gets her big brother to do that stuff) but hasn’t shown much interest in Aliens Vs Predator or Dead Rising.

I ended up buying Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes for them both, because A) Lego is cool; B) Lego games are awesome to play and C) they bought me Lego Superman and Wonder Woman keyrings for Christmas so I thought it was a nice circular thing.

Grace: Happy as a Klingon with a tasty Rokeg Blood Pie and a nice pint of Chech’tluth.

Joseph: “Lego games are for kids”. This is despite the fact that he loves playing with Lego. And he’s only 11.

It took a grand total of about 10 minutes of Grace playing the game before Joseph started paying attention to what was happening on the telly. Grace loves playing computer games, but she’s not exactly brilliant at them, particularly if there’s any form of problem solving involved. You could see Joseph gradually start to twitch more and more as he watched her play (it really IS a good game) and he really can’t stand it when he thinks that he knows what to do and Grace keeps running about, not really doing much, and bursting into fits of giggles whenever the character bursts into pieces. On Lego Indiana Jones she once spent a good 15 minutes repeatedly throwing Indy off a cliff as if it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen.

Eventually the ‘advice’ started. “Do this…” or “go over there…” or “you need to pull the lever and the gate’ll open”. It was quite entertaining to watch. Grace can only take so much advice and, in the end, launched the controller at Joseph’s head with a “YOU DO IT THEN!”. It also became apparent that Joseph didn’t really know what he was talking about, but he was methodical about not knowing what he was doing. They basically both had the same result.

It reminded me of the time I bought them Soul Caliber – Grace used to whup Joseph’s arse time after time because she was just smacking the buttons however she wanted, while Joseph was trying to do proper combinations. Some of the special moves she came out with were amazing. “How’d you do that?”; “Dunno”, and she would win 90% of the time. Poor lad, being beaten by the sister half his age.

Two weeks down the line and Joseph has admitted defeat. He’s started the game on his profile and is adamant that he’s going to get past Grace as quickly as possible. They help each other out, of course, but Grace’s version of ‘helping’ frequently involves pushing Joseph off a building.

Sleight of Hand video

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This. Is. Awesome.

I love magic, and the skill with which this guy does “simple” sleight of hand is staggering.

 

 

It wasn’t me that found this. Credit where credit is due: I nicked it from the Facebook of Christopher Teague.

Evil Dead (2013) trailer

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I didn’t know what to think after hearing that they were remaking The Evil Dead. The original, and its sequels, are such classics that I couldn’t fathom why they’d remake them. After watching the trailer, however, I think it looks like it’s going to be outstanding.

It lacks the humour of the original, but that might just be the choice of the producers to focus on the horror aspect here. After Cabin in the Woods I expect great things from this: An old school horror movie with just balls to the wall scares. The kind of thing that I can show my 11 year old son if I want him to grow up slightly deranged.

Man of Steel trailer

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Is it going to be good? Is it going to be shit? Am I going to walk out of the cinema as I did after Superman Returns really WANTING to like the film but just finding that I couldn’t? I’ll have to wait until June 2014 to find out but the trailer gives me enough to rant about.

Superman has been my favourite comic book character for as long as I can remember. This probably explains why I have my kids names in Kryptonian on my forearms. Christopher Reeve IS Superman for me. I loved the first three seasons of Lois & Clark. I think that the DC Animated versions of the character are great and I tried my best to get along with Smallville but in the end I have to admit that I didn’t really like it that much.

The one thing that strikes me about Superman is that he’s an icon – an ideal. I don’t mean in the real world; I’m talking about the world of DC Comics. Batman is not an icon – he’s a guy that hides in the shadows dishing out justice. He wears a mask and the outfit to hide from the world. Superman is the opposite of this (it’s why the two characters work so well together when they team up). He doesn’t hide from the people, nor wear a mask. His costume is made up of bright, primary colours so that he can be seen instantly – it makes him a target for his enemies and draws the attention away from innocent civilians. People tend to ask why no one spots that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. If you wear a mask they think that you’re hiding your identity. With Superman the assumption would be that he would be “on the job” 24 hours a day.

The Christopher Nolan Batman movies have a lot to answer for in this trailer. Batman is a sombre, depressed character. Superman is not. After watching the trailer countless times it’s about the only thing that continues to niggle at me. The costume is too dark – the same complaint I had with Superman Returns. I can live with the new detail on the costume – in this world of Hi-Def, 3D Imax screens plain blue and red just ain’t gonna cut it. But why does it have to be such a dark blue?

To be honest he just looks… so… depressed. I understand this is a modern take on the character, which is what’s needed, but why does ‘modern’ mean dark and moody? The new interpretation of Pa Kent looks interesting, the special effects look awesome and I am oh so glad that there doesn’t appear to be a sign of Lex Luthor.

Quite why they’re doing ANOTHER origin story is a bit beyond me, but it’s worked for Nolan in the past. I have my reservations on what tone the film’s going to have but, like the first “depressed emo” trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man I have high hopes that the actual film will be completely different to this.

However: Where the fuck is Mild Mannered Reporter Clark Kent in this trailer?

A Good Day to Die Hard

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I was never aware as a child that Bruce Willis was known as a comedy actor. My mum used to watch Moonlighting but I don’t recall her ever allowing me to see it. My first exposure to Mr Willis was in the original Die Hard movie. This was back in the day when a 14 year old kid could walk into HMV and buy an 18 certificate video without anyone batting an eyelid.

Die Hard came out 25 years ago. Please excuse me for a moment whilst I go and sob in the corner of the room for my lost youth.

Right, on we go. Die Hard was followed in 1990 by Die Harder, which wasn’t very good but they still managed to make a third film in 1995: Die Hard with a Vengeance which, really was meant to be the end of it. It was also my favourite of the series. I LOVE the original, but I could watch the third movie over and over again. Samuel L Jackson and Mr Willis are an awesome team and the film is full of quotable lines. At this point McClane is no longer the ‘normal cop in extraordinary circumstances’ from the first two movies, but he’s also not the superhero of the fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard, which came out in 2007. It’s a fun movie, but McClane is nothing short of unkillable in it.

Which brings us to the new movie; A Good Day to Die Hard. Every time I hear / read the title I can’t help but imagine Michael Dorn in Star Trek: First Contact: “Perhaps today IS a good day to die”, but that probably wasn’t the intention of the producers.

In this McClane is now retired (well, he is 57 and deserves a bit of a rest after the same shit happening to the same guy 5 times) and travels to Russia to save his son, Jack, who has been arrested for a assassination.

The trailer has some awful dialogue: “You know what I hate about Americans? Everything” BUT it has some good lines too; “You don’t look like a lawyer” and Jai Courtney appears to be a good choice to play McClane’s son with his deadpan “Don’t encourage him” echoing Mr Willis’ straight faced quipping over the last 2 1/2 decades.

Rather than the realism of the first 2 movies, where McClane always looked like he was two steps away from getting killed, this will, inevitably, take the insanity of the fourth film and ramp it up to extreme levels. We live in a world where the next film in an action series always has to be BIGGER with MORE EXPLOSIONS and EXTREME CAR CHASES, although how they’re going to top the semi-trailer versus the fighter jet from the last one is anyone’s guess.

But the Die Hard movies have evolved from what they once were, and the new movie looks like fun. Mr Willis is still one of my favourite actors and he obviously loves playing the character. With another film in the planning we haven’t seen the end of McClane yet and the trailer definitely makes me want to watch it.

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