Friday, October 15, 2021


My little collection of previously published horror stories, Trio of Terror: Three Horror Stories by Richard H. Fay, has received another 5-star review over at Amazon. This time, it's through Amazon UK. Being a Britophile who prefers British literature over American literature, I'm always glad to hear someone from across the pond say nice things about my work. 

Here's a screenshot of the review:

That makes five Amazon reviews so-far for Trio of Terror, three of which rate the little collection five-out-of-five (the other two rating it four-out-of-five). All this praise might go to my head! It might also get me writing stories again. Lately, I've been concentrating on doing art and managing my print-on-demand stores. Knowing at least some readers love my work might be the incentive I need to get back into writing a bit. We shall see.

Shaggy Ink Cap Mushrooms

I discovered that some shaggy ink cap/shaggy mane mushrooms, Coprinus comatus, are growing in and around my garden. The ones in the garden are just about autodigested into black inky goo (which is what these sorts of mushrooms do), but a few along the outside of the garden are young enough that I snapped a few pictures to show them at three different stages.

Now, even though I worked for a time in a mycology laboratory working for the New York State Mycologist, I'm no mycologist myself. I gather, from what I've read, shaggy ink caps are edible when young. I'm pretty sure of my identification (autodigesting into the black goo is a pretty telling feature). Nevertheless, I'd never try eating them. I'd hate to be mistaken in my identification; that's one mistake you might not get to make twice!

I just think they look cool!

Revised Descriptions for Short Story Collections Over at Amazon

I revised the descriptions for my two little collections of previously published short stories, FOUR BY FAY and TRIO OF TERROR. I've added the information that they contain previously published works and where each work was originally published. I also separated the descriptions for each individual story into entries in a bulleted list. I think the descriptions are more readable now than they were before. I don't know whether or not the revision will lead to more sales, but it couldn't hurt.

Here's what the new descriptions look like:

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Writing vs. Art: Social Connections/Networking

I'm both an accomplished artist and a published poet and writer of short fiction and nonfiction articles. I've some experience in both the world of visual art and the world of writing. I've noticed similarities and differences between both worlds. One difference I've noticed over the years is that writing (for being such a solitary endeavor) seems to require more social connections and networks to gain any traction than does art. Perhaps that's because writing contains so many gatekeepers. Or, it may be because writers seem to get so hung up on the definition of "writer" that they wish to gatekeep further regarding who they let into their house.

Based on the fact that I've probably made just about as many enemies as friends in the writing world and have had trouble over the years gaining much traction in that world, I've concluded that social connections are important for really and truly getting anywhere in that world. To truly be an acknowledged part of the writing world, it seems one needs to gain recognition not just from publishers and editors, but from other writers as well. One needs writers to write blurbs for and reviews of one's works and nominate one's works for awards. It often ends up being a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" sort of situation.

Yes, I can say that I'm a published poet and writer of short fiction and nonfiction, but I can't say that many in the writing world truly acknowledge me as such. As a matter of fact, because I've butted heads with more than a few people in that world, I suspect some fellow writers and poets recognize me more as an opinionated ass than as one of their own. Even though, back when I was submitting written works on a regular basis,  I would frequently see works accepted with praise, I really received little recognition beyond publication. For instance, during the time when I was seeing speculative poetry published in various venues on a regular basis, during a time when I would have at least one a two speculative poems published each and every month, I cannot say any of my alleged peers in the speculative poetry community ever nominated a single one of my works for a Rhysling Award, the annual award given for the best science fiction, fantasy, or horror poem of the year. Based on what I noted about those nominations, I cannot help but to think there is often a bit of quid pro quo going on. It all seems quite cliquish, and a self-congratulatory clique, to boot!

If lack of positive recognition from my alleged peers wasn't bad enough, I've even experienced an instance when my works received negative attention. All of the poems of mine that were published in EVERY DAY POETS in the time period November 8, 2008 to June 26, 2009 received a number of low ratings, enough to pull down the overall rating of each and every poem. Considering the number of positive comments people left in reply to the poems, and the fact that some commenters said they rated the poems "5 out of 5", I'm convinced that the flurry of negative ratings each poem received was less a reflection of a lack of quality of my work and more a reflection of hatred toward me personally. More than likely, the ratings were in revenge for something or other I said online.

I actually posted an entry shortly after I discovered all of my poems in that particular venue received so many poor ratings:

All that being said, I know certain editors, certain writers, and the general public deem my works worthy. The editor of THE MONSTERS NEXT DOOR picked my poem "Life is the Life" as poetry winner in her "Through My Eyes" Writing Contest. As I recall, she said it was hands-down the winner. The public voted my wizardly fantasy story "Sing the Bones Alive" the best story of the January 2013 issue of BARDS AND SAGES QUARTERLY in the annual BARDS AND SAGES QUARTERLY Readers' Choice Awards. Of course, I pushed for that, and pushed for it hard! In another contest in which the public voted, one of my very fist poems published, "Midnight Sabbath", came in tied for first runner up in the DemonMinds Horror Poetry Contest. A college student half-way across the country sent me a message to tell me she felt one of my published dark poems of enough interest to use in a performance in one of her classes. I can also say that Ellen Datlow mentioned my horror poem "What Greets Me at the End" among her full online list of  608 honorable mentions for BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR Vol. 4. Additionally, those readers (many of whom are also writers) who have taken the time to review my two little collections of previously published short stories have raved about my writing. Currently, FOUR BY FAY has one "four out of five" and two "five out of five" reviews over at Amazon, while TRIO OF TERROR has two and two, respectively.

And yet...I still feel an outsider in the writing realm, and probably always will. I still feel my works are often forgotten and ignored by the greater writing community. Even though published thrice so far, I doubt my Halloween poem "Gathering of the Dead" ever gets included in other poets' and writers' readings of Halloween poems. Sales of my little collections of stories are few and far between. While they do have some reviews, as compared to works by many others, they really don't have that many. I  had one writer calling me a "Peddler Moonlighting as a Writer" because I'm honest about being an artist and print-on-demand store operator first, writer second. There was even a time I encountered an award-winning writer who declared "if you're a writer/something else, and writing doesn't come first, then you're not really a writer", which would make me not really a writer.

When it comes to art, there seems to be less need of recognition from editors, publishers, and other artists to be recognized as as an artist. There seems to be less need for that social network of fellow creatives to gain some traction as an artist. One can bypass all of that and go straight to the public and say "I'm an artist; here's my art". I know; I did just that!

I became a "professional artist" (meaning I sold my art to the public, and made a profit doing so) before I ever saw my first illustration accepted for publication, before I ever began associating with other artists online. Without building any connections to other artists, I started selling my art to the public, as framed art and bookmarks, in 1999. From 1999 to 2001, I was a regular vendor at a (now defunct) local medieval faire. Customers and fellow vendors certainly recognized me as an artist (one vendor felt I underpriced my art way too much), and I did sell my art. It wasn't until several years later, in 2007, that I began submitting illustrations to publications on a regular basis. I did so because an editor had nudged me into it after seeing some of my art on a website I kept back then. That was the same year I started seeing my illustrations accepted for publication. I pretty much didn't start associating with other artists online until after I had some illustration publication credits under my belt. In other words, I was able to gain traction as an artist before I did any sort of networking with fellow artists. As a matter of fact, I was already well along the path of accomplished artist long before any gatekeeper, any editor or publisher, deemed my work worthy.

I imagine connections in art may be of value, especially in the field of fine art, with galleries, and patrons, and the like. However, I can say that such connections are not necessary to gain traction as an artist. Simply creating art and presenting that art to the public can be enough. I might not be recognized within the local art community as one of their peers, but considering the number of interior illustrations and cover artworks I can now number among my list of publication credits, and considering the number of print-on-demand items featuring my art I've sold and continue to sell (often internationally), I think I've become an accomplished artist without such recognition. 

My art has certainly taken me farther than my writing has. I suspect my lack of social traction in the writing world has something to do with my lesser progress. I know some people in the writing world dislike me (the feeling is, in many cases, quite mutual), and in a world that requires various gatekeepers to unlock the doors to let you in, such dislike can cause friction and slow one's progress. Such dislike can also lead to fewer connections, which can mean less recognition (or even, as was the case with my poems in EVERY DAY POETS, negative attention).

All the more reason to continue to concentrate on art!

Note: self-publishing might be changing this dynamic a bit, but one still needs the support of fellow writers in the likes of reviews, blurbs, award nominations, and even help in promoting one's works.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

If I'm Not a Writer...

 According to some in the writing world, one should only adopt the honorific title of "writer" if one has a certain (indeterminate) number of writing credits under one's belt, a single written work not being enough to earn that honorific. Apparently, any writer who does not have the proper number of credits (whatever that may be) is a mere "hobbyist" or "wannabe". According to other writers, someone who writes cannot actually call themselves a writer unless they are a career and/or professional writer. Going even further than that, at least one award-wining writer has stated something along the lines of "if you're a writer/something else, and writer doesn't come first, then you're not really a writer".

If such notions were true, it would mean many writers (published or not) are not really writers at all! It seems there are a heck of a lot of "wannabes", "hobbyists", and "not real writers" out there in the writing world. Included among the list of "not real writers" would be a number of writers who espouse such notions.

Am I the only one who thinks these ideas ridiculous to the extreme? I certainly hope not! I have to wonder if writers who say these things actually listen to themselves, because they sound absurd!

Admittedly, I am first and foremost a visual artist. Since I left the health lab to pursue a creative career, there was only a brief time (a few months at best) when my creative energies were focused solely and entirely on writing. As soon as I started doing art for publications and then for print-on-demand stores, the focus once again began shifting towards art. Does the fact that I'm primarily an artist mean I'm not really a writer? Based on what some fellow writers have said over the years, I do have to wonder. 

The thing is, if I'm not a writer, who wrote my published works?

If I'm not a writer, who wrote the prose fiction pieces published under my byline (three of which appear online)?


If I'm not a writer, who wrote the nonfiction articles published under my byline (most of which appear online)?

If I'm not a writer, who wrote this post?

See how absurd it is?

Friday, October 1, 2021

"You don't have enough writing credits under your belt, so don't dare call yourself a writer!"

 Seen on Twitter:

Who exactly determines what makes a writer a "hobbyist" or "chronic wannabe"? How many works (10, 20, 30?), and what sorts of works (stories or novels?), are required to achieve the "honorific" of "writer"? Are there really gatekeepers in the writing world who concern themselves with such things? Probably, but more than likely self-appointed ones. It's actually gatekeeper crap like that that makes me think writers a terribly status-obsessed, arrogant, egotistical, and downright miserable lot.

It amazes me, someone who worked in an actual professional field (science), how goddamned status-obsessed some writers can be (a lot more than scientists, I can tell you). It's as if the overly fragile egos of writers need constant inflating by trying to tear others down. It's sick!

"You don't have enough writing credits under your belt, so don't dare call yourself a writer!"

Do some writers actually say that to other writers, or are they actually just wretched wimps blowing hot air? Seriously! Actually, based on how many time I've debated/argued the definition of "writer" with various writers, I already know the answer to that question. I suspect some writers DO say that to others! Do they even listen to themselves when they say such things, or don't they care? I suspect it might be a bit of both.

Admittedly, there are certain criteria to reach to be a "professional writer", at least when talking being a member of  a professional association. On the other hand, simply being paid is the old Olympic definition of professional. I have seen some writers use that very same definition (I do when it comes to art, but not when it comes to writing). However, one of the wonderful things about writing is that it doesn't really matter, you don't HAVE to be a professional career writer to be a writer. As I have said before, multiple times, the act of writing makes one a writer. Period! The dictionary definition of "writer" is literally "one that writes". Like it or not (and it seems a number of arrogant egotistical writers with chips on their shoulders don't like it at all), there is NO qualifier beyond that. Look it up if you doubt me:
I stand by the dictionary definition of "writer". I'm funny like that.

BTW, I don't write EVERY DAY, but I'm still a WRITER. I might not be writing a lot nowadays, but I still write on occasion (mostly blog posts like this one). When I was more actively writing for publication, I certainly wrote a number of works (poems, articles, short stories). Without question, I have seen plenty of those works published (in many instances, proof of publication can be provided if need be). If someone questions my status as a writer, then they have to answer the question " just who DID write all of those published works?" I certainly authored the works under my byline. Furthermore, even though none of my works have been published in pro-venues (closest I've come is semi-pro), I still wrote them!

I worked for and with scientists, people with PhDs, people who were acknowledged experts in their chosen fields, and yet I NEVER encountered such status-obsession in science as I do in the realm of writing. As an artist, I never encounter such obsession with status and rank and who exactly can call themselves an artist in the art world. Based on my experiences (and they have been numerous), this is something specific to the writing realm. 

Why is that? Perhaps because writers in particular feel a desperate need to sound important. Certainly seems that way. 

Poets and Writers of Short Fiction and Nonfiction are Writers, Too!

One thing I have noticed repeatedly in the writing world, especially in the Writing Community on Twitter, is a definite bias toward novel writing and novelists. So many discussions focus on novels or various aspects of novel writing that it seems poets and writers of short fiction and nonfiction are often forgotten, albeit unintentionally. People frequently talk about "your books", "your main character (MC)" singular, novel word counts, seeking literary agents for novels, pitching books, and book deals. Some even suggest things like one becomes a writer after reaching about 10,000 written words!

Sure, novels are a big deal in the writing world, but not all writers are novelists. Poets are writers, too. So are writers of short fiction. So are writers of nonfiction, either nonfiction books or nonfiction articles. So are screenwriters and playwrights. So are memoirists. Writing is a field that encompasses a lot more than just novel writing.

It seems to me that many of the tweets in the Writing Community on Twitter are quite novel-centric at times. As a poet and writer of short fiction and nonfiction, I notice this a lot. Nonfiction writing in particular seems almost completely forgotten. I almost never see anyone saying "link to your articles" or talking about various aspects of article writing. I rarely see "link to your short stories" or discussions about short story writing. Only some writers include poems and poetry in their tweets calling for links or discussions.

Whenever people ask various questions about "your MC", I want to ask "which one?" Just in my published fiction, I have several main characters, from a noble undersheriff to a sinister occultist. I have a plethora of characters that make brief-but-significant appearances in my poetry, from a human troubled by gremlins in his brain to a demonic brain-eating serpent.

Whenever people say "link to your books", the best I have are my two little collections (booklets, really) of previously published short stories. Even though I've seen over one-hundred poems published in various venues, and have seen multiple poems published in more than one venue, I'm still waiting on a publisher to finally publish a book of my poetry. One is currently, hopefully, in the works.

Whenever people suggest things like one can call themselves a writer after writing about 10,000 words, I have to wonder if they take into account how many poems a poet who might get 200 words a poem has to compose to reach that number (answer: 50 poems, which is a complete collection's-worth). I think a poet becomes a poet and a writer LONG before they reach their 50th poem!

The thing about poetry in particular is, even though poets tend to write fewer words than novelists, each and every word in poetry tends to carry greater weight. Word choice is hugely important to poets (at least, it should be). It's not about quantity, but quality. Word counts aren't as important as word weights. Some fantastic poems of the haiku-type are only a few words long.

I would love to see more balanced, less biased, less novel-centric tweets and threads, but I doubt that's going to happen. So many writers are so focused on writing books that it seems those of us who write others things will continue to be treated as poor ugly cousins to the ever-sexy novelists.