An Interview with Ralan Conley of

I think most of us know you from, which for my money is the best place to find markets for placing your short stories.  How long have you been running now and how has it assisted you as a writer? started in 1996 as "Ralan's Home on the Web." It had about 25 market listings and a few writing links. It's grown some since then.

Other than making me a "household name" (in those sorts of households which love speculative or humoristic fiction), I can't say that it's helped me much as a writer. The thing with selling a piece of fiction is the story. Unless you are a really top name (one whose very mention will attract a hefty number of readers to a zine) editors are going to solely judge your work as a story, not because of who wrote it. If anything, the web site has been a hindrance to my writing. Time spent maintaining, updating, and adding or dropping markets is time spent not writing. And the amount of time I spend on it has increased with the size of the thing.

How has social media affected your writing?

Finding time to write has gotten more difficult through the years I've been running As for social networking, my Facebook page is a ghost town. I get all kinds of offers to be friends or join this or that other social or business networking site, but I have no time for them. The demands of the Internet are enormous. I can quite understand the writers I've seen lately who have simply logged off the Internet for good in order to get back to writing. Not that I'm planning any such thing.

I've noticed from your works page that you've had a lot of stories published throughout the years.  Which one are you most proud of and why?

Of course I'm proud of them all, even those that have never found a home. They all have meaning for me. My story, Galactic Exchange, is one I am especially proud of. I wrote it for a contest for the 1999 EuroCon in Dortmund, Germany. It was the only story, out of almost 80, entered in English, and it won first prize. The cash prize was great, my wife and I got to attend the Con, I was treated as though I were a name author, met and became friends with several of my favorite authors including Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss, received my 1st Place Plaque in the packed auditorium, read my story to a room full of sleepy, hung-over people at 10:00 am Sunday morning (the day after the banquet!) and got a standing ovation. It truly was one of the most outstanding experiences of my life.

I also noticed a Piers Anthony quote on your "Tales of Weupp" page, how did Mr. Anthony come to review your writing?

Piers does an Internet review on his web site. I wrote him asking if he'd review and he gave it an excellent recommendation. We've corresponded since then, and in 2004 he agreed to be the final judge of my second "Grabber" writing contest. When my book came out I asked if I could send him a copy for review (he does this for many writers). He reviewed it in his monthly column and I got his permission to use the quote on the book's web site.

How much traffic does generate on any given month?

The web site gets around 7000 unique visitors per month on average. Each one visits more than twice a month, giving a total visitor count of around 15,000. In bandwidth that's over 7 GB per month.

Does your work with help open the door when you're sending in novel submissions?

No. Novel submissions are treated the same as short stories. As I mentioned above, it's the story that counts, not the author (unless you're one of THE top names, of course).

I notice there are no Google ads on your page (very few ads of any kind for that matter).  Do you make enough money on donations and the few ads you do have to make it worthwhile?

I have the one banner ad on my site, and a text ad in my monthly newsletter. Each September I have a fundraising drive, but I'm open to donations year round. Between these I get enough to keep the site running, to keep me in needed equipment, and to allow me to visit a Con or two to promote the site and put out the word to "Submit Smart," but certainly not enough to pay for all the hours I put in. I have recently started an online merchandise shop called Ralan's Stuff, but I'm the only one who has bought anything there as of yet. There are T-shirts for men, women, and children, coffee and travel mugs, a mouse mat, a can cooler, and a tote bag all with the Fil/Planet logo on the front and the, Ralan's SpecFic & Humor Webstravaganza text logo on the back. I think they're pretty snazzy. Apparently no one else does. Oh well.

What is your background as a writer?

I started reading and writing speculative fiction at a young age and continued into my early twenties, but it was pretty much all crap. I never sold anything, but then I was only submitting to the likes of Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, and Playboy, so my sights were set a bit high for my abilities. I didn't know much about submitting in those days either. Then life got in the way until 1992 when I went on extended sick leave. I was in treatment for 18 months and unable to work. To fill the hours I wrote my first novel. Then went on to short stories and began to sell some. The rest, as they say, is history.

Are you doing this full-time, or are you holding down another job as well (like the rest of us)?

I've had a lot of sick leave, and because of that am now retired. I have a lovely wife and a big old house to care for, and two grandchildren who rely on Grampa to come take care of them when they are feeling poorly.

What's the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers?

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. And "Submit Smart!"

What are your upcoming projects?

Trying to find more time to write. Getting my first novel back out in submission (I've had it professionally edited and need to write a new ending). I'm planning to attend the World Fantasy Con in San Diego next year.

Anything else about you we should know?

Watch out for my right cross.

Words with Kate Richards, author of "Finally, My Love"

1.Can you tell us a little bit about your short stories on Breathless Press?

I subbed my first story there and, to my great wonderment, was accepted. It was the first of four I have contracted with them in my Tales of Internet Romance series and is very special to me, because "Finally, My Love," is loosely based on when I met my husband online nearly ten years ago. I plan to continue to write in this series as long as Breathless and my readers would like me to.

2. What's your background with writing? 

I have always loved writing, but until this year never attempted to have anything published. I have a degree in English from USC, and like to think that my education helps me with my work. I know it helps in editing, which is another job I have in online publishing.

3. Who are your inspirations/influences? 

The people around me, really. "Perfect Partners Dot Com," which is another in my series, is about a group of coworkers who buy an internet dating site membership for a girl in the office who hasn’ t been very lucky in love. Someone I know actually did this for a friend and while the story is fiction, the inspiration was real.

4. How does Breathless Press work and what has your experience with them been like? 

I have the very best editor there, and having Clarissa Yip as my first editor was such a break for me. The publisher is very easygoing and responsive to authors’ requests and concerns.

5. Who was responsible for the cover/book design? 

I have had a few there. The first, "Finally, My Love," was designed by Annie Melton, who has since become a good friend. I have also had Dara England as well as Justyn Perry, the publisher himself, who still does some to keep his hand in I think.

6. What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity? 

Facebook, of course, I have my own blog and I blog everywhere else I can. As a co-owner of Got Romance Reviews along with Valerie Mann, we try to provide a site where we and other authors can share our work with readers and other people in the industry as well.

7. What genres do you like to work in? 

I primarily write contemporary romance, sometimes erotic and sometimes sweeter. Depends on the characters, really. I also like writing paranormal romance and am looking into fantasy.

8. What can readers expect to find on your blog

Right now you can find my Demons Love Cinnamon Halloween recipe contest. It’s lots of fun seeing how creative people are with their recipes for this fun and spooky time of year.

9. What projects do you have planned for the future? 

I have a few anthology projects in the works with some of my fellow authors who are very talented and kind enough to include me. Oh, and on December 10, "Pirate Lady Holiday" will be released, my Christmas story which I hope readers will like.

10. Is there anything else about you we should know? 

I began reading, apparently, at around four years old. I hope I don’ t stop until I’m 104. Or longer?  I adored Marion Zimmer Bradley’s "Darkover," I never walk away from an ‘end of the world’ novel…or preferably what I call an end of the world as we know it type. Yes, I preferred "The Host" to "Twilight," and dream of writing a really long book in that genre one day.

Words with Fantasy Novelist Lawrence Watt-Evans

Today I have a real treat for all of my readers. I was just browsing through my old book collection the other day and I happened to pick up a copy of "The Unwilling Warlord" by Lawrence Watt-Evans. If you haven't ever read Lawrence Watt-Evans, I highly suggest you run out and pick up one of his books...RIGHT NOW! I would have to say that of all the books read back in the mid-eighties and nineties, his are the ones that have really stood out in my memory (so do yourself a favor and read them).

Anyway, as I was finishing up "Warlord" I decided to do a web search on Mr. Watt-Evans (just to see what the critics were saying, etc.), and I happened to come across his marvelous web page "The Misenchanted Page" (the title references his most popular novel "The Misenchanted Sword" which is another must read--in fact, if you're just hearing about Lawrence Watt-Evans from this interview, THAT would be the book to buy).

"The Misenchanted Page" has all kinds of great articles and information both for fans and for those interested in the craft of writing. In fact, I plan to use some of his articles in my English class when I start student teaching this January. Also on his page was a link with an urgent message saying "email me!" so I took it as an invitation and sent him some questions. Amazingly, I was treated to a response within about 20 minutes!

So here is the question and answer session I just had with Lawrence Watt-Evans. Enjoy!

1. Many authors find their opinions of their own works change over time. How do you feel about "The Lords of Dus" series now versus the impression you had of it when you first wrote it? Are there things in it you would change?

I started working on that series when I was nineteen, sold the first volume when I was twenty-four, and finished it all up when I was twenty-eight. I'm fifty-six now. I would HOPE that my opinion of it has changed!

At the time I wrote it I thought it was brilliant and original. Now I look at it, and over all I think it's pretty good -- some nice bits in it, not bad for a kid, but rough in spots. I can see a lot of stuff I did wrong.

I can also see, though, an energy and freedom that I wish I still had. There are a lot of things in there I wouldn't do now because I'd have part of my brain telling me, "That couldn't work."

Back then, I didn't know enough to realize it couldn't work, and if I had, I might not have cared.

As for anything specific in there that I'd change now -- well, I started to list a few possibilities, but you know, I don't think I would change anything. The person I am now wouldn't write that series in the first place, and I'm not going to second-guess the writer I was then.

2. Garth is one of the few characters I've encountered in your books that is "superior" to other people. Most of the time you seem to go out of your way to establish how ordinary your heroes are (which is very refreshing). Was there something about how "Dus" played out that provoked this change? If not, what did?

Ah, here we get into the matter of literary influences. When I wrote the Lords of Dus I was playing with ideas from several sources, and one of them was Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone, who isn't quite human. I'd also been reading a bunch of non-fiction about human evolution, and old science fiction (e.g., A.E. van Vogt's Slan) about "homo superior," and I put all that together and came up with the idea of a fantasy version of "homo superior" -- overmen.

But five years later I was much more impressed by L. Sprague de Camp than by Michael Moorcock, and de Camp usually wrote very down-to-earth characters, so my later fantasy followed that model, and having tried both, I've generally found I prefer the more human, less exalted characters.

3. Your web page "The Misenchanted Page" is filled with great advice for both new and established authors. How much time do you spend maintaining your page, and what positive and negative things have come from it?

My web page is a mess. It's been accumulating for sixteen years, and every so often I try to beat it into shape, but it's gotten away from me. Honestly, I don't know what all is on there anymore, or how out of date some of it is.

How much time I spend on it varies. Sometimes I'll devote all my spare time for a few weeks to updating and improving it, and then sometimes I'll just let it slide, neglect it completely for months at a stretch. For a long time I'd put together a page about each of my novels well before publication, but I still haven't done one for A Young Man Without Magic, which came out last year, let alone Above His Proper Station, which will be out next month.

But on the other hand, I've been doing weekly installments on my latest serial. It's all very uneven.

As for positive and negative results, they've mostly been positive, or I wouldn't keep it going. I'm easy to find -- google my name and you'll find the Misenchanted Page, which has e-mail links on virtually every page, so anyone who has trouble contacting me just isn't trying. As a result I've gotten fan mail from readers, editors have been able to reach me to offer me work, and I've been able to sell off some of the books cluttering up my basement. I've been able to profitably self-publish online serials of novels my publishers didn't want. It's been fun.

On the negative side, not everyone who finds me is someone I wanted to hear from. I've probably wasted a lot of time tinkering with pages no one ever looks at -- the whole thing is more or less hand-coded, I don't use a modern WYSIWYG web design package. And because it's all just me messing around, I don't know how good an impression it actually makes.

But it's fun, and I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

These days, of course, it seems as if all the action's on Facebook, so I'm gradually trying to shift some of my activities over there.

4. Ethshar is an ever increasing world and I think the more you write about it, the more people are going to want to hear. I've always enjoyed how characters spring up again and again and heroes from one novel are referenced or appear in another. Can you comment on Ethshar's ever-expanding nature? Is there any chance that we might get a novel about Fendel the great (might he secretly be a "King in Yellow" type character)?

Actually, Ethshar isn't expanding so much as more of it is being revealed. I started designing it in high school -- possibly as early as 1968, I'm not sure -- and the basics of the World haven't changed in any significant way since 1981. I have reams of background information and dozens of story ideas I haven't yet used, much of it dating back before the advent of home computers -- it's typed or hand-written, and stuffed in manila folders. And it was all there before The Misenchanted Sword was published in 1985.

The setting has advanced in time, though; when I first created it I had its history worked out up to YS 5221, with a rough outline of the next five years. Now I'm writing a story set in YS 5236, so I've added another ten to fifteen years.

As for Fendel the Great, I know his entire history, including where he is now and what he's up to, and although he has plenty of secrets, he's not really a "King in Yellow" type. Whether he'll turn up in future stories I don't know; it's possible. I have lots of other stories I want to tell first, though.

Of Swords & Sorcery by Teel James Glenn

A few months ago I published a fairly extended debate/discussion with Teel James Glenn on heroes and anti-heroes.  It ended up being a pretty effective glimpse into Mr. Glenn's creative thinking (you can read it here).  In fact, I think there are sections in our little discussion that are almost identical to those found in the forward of "Of Swords & Sorcery."

If you're looking for a collection of "golden age" type heroic fantasy short stories, then "Of Swords & Sorcery" is the book for you.  Mr. Glenn's writing is driven by a frank urgency.  His stories tend to drop the reader right into the thick of the action and then sweep you along on a thundering ride.  In this collection, the stories are separated by short poems that provide nice transitions (and offer the reader a chance to catch his/her breath) in between stories.

It should be noted that this isn't an exclusive "Sword & Sorcery" book as some of the stories have a scientific element thus making them "Sword & Ray Gun Planet Adventures" (a distinction Mr. Glenn notes and attributes to Edgar Rice Burroughs).

But whether it's "Sword & Sorcery" or "Sword and Ray Gun," Mr. Glenn is completely at ease in his description of desperate but heroic men and women in their various confrontations set in basically every realm or region imaginable.  If you're a fan of classic style heroic fantasy, then I can guarantee you'll find something in this collection to enjoy!