I think most of us know you from Ralan.com, which for my money is the best place to find markets for placing your short stories. How long have you been running Ralan.com now and how has it assisted you as a writer?
Ralan.com 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 Ralan.com. 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 Ralan.com 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 Ralan.com 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 Ralan.com 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 Ralan.com 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.com, 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.