This is what happens when you don’t receive submissions for awhile. You neglect to check for new entries, and so you end up with a couple in the queue that you didn’t know about. But it also means is that “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com has two new stories up today – one from new contributor Linda Courtland about a kidnapping, and another from veteran FoS contributor Rod Drake about a secret mission of Sherlock Holmes. Go read, and leave a few comments for the authors!
Ok, apparently, I’ve been terribly neglectful of my blog these past few days. I’ve actually got two entries in draft form that I just haven’t quite finished yet. So, in an effort to catch myself up on some of my happenings the last few days, here’s a short bullet-list:
* Remember when I posted a “visual writing prompt”:http://shamuswrites.com/2007/09/14/writing-prompt-1/? Well, at the time I didn’t have any takers and so I just never quite found the motivation to post up another. The MasterKidderMinster “wrote a bit of flash fiction”:http://masterkidderminster.net/?p=46 that he told me about a few days ago. It’s a pretty good read and a lot of fun to see the direction he took the image. He’s requested that I continue the writing prompts, so plan to see a new one show up on Friday.
* My “Dune book giveaway”:http://shamuswrites.com/2007/10/24/book-giveaway-dune/ has been met with a somewhat lukewarm response – six entries. I’d love to see at least a few more folks enter the contest to win this wonderful science fiction novel by one of SF’s greatest. The contest is open until Wednesday, so there’s still plenty of time.
* Awhile back, I read Jayne d’Arcy’s lament on her blog about needing a new custom theme but having trouble finding someone who could produce one at a reasonable cost. Well, I volunteered to build one for her for free, since I love building WordPress themes so much, so that’s part of what kept me away from here so much last week. If you want to see the final product, head over to “Jayne’s blog”:http://jaynedarcy.us and check it out.
* I’ve also started a couple of new projects, which are the other parts of what has kept me from blogging much lately. The first is called “Mendicant Bias”:http://halo3.shamuswrites.com and is a repository of Halo 3 screenshots I’ve captured. None of these shots have been modified in any way, other than to resize them down a bit. There are a lot of creative ways of taking interesting shots in Halo 3, and it’s been fun trying to find them. The other project I’m working on is a Halo-based comic built exclusively from screenshots. This project is called “Reclaimer”:http://comic.shamuswrites.com and is something I’m planning on producing on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future. We’ll see how things go on that front.
* “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com has relaunched and there has been a pretty good response, both in stories submitted and in readers who have commented. I’m always looking for new writers, stories, and readers, so if you fall into any of those categories, head over there and find out how you can get involved.
There are a few other things going on right now, as well, but I’ll announce those as they present themselves. I’m looking forward to getting back to doing some actual writing, both blog-wise and fiction-wise. I’ve got a great dark sci-fi piece I want to start on this week and a couple of other small pieces.
Lots of good stuff happening. I can’t wait to share more of it.
“Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com has been awake again for less than 24 hours, and already I’m very happy with things. I’ve had a handful of past contributors declare their excitement at its revival, and I’ve had three new stories posted already, accomplished through new registrations and stories submitted for review. That system already seems to work more smoothly than the previous one. I’ve also had three stories submitted in the last week or so, which spurred, in part, my own expediency at getting the site back in motion. I can only hope that things continue to progress so well a week from now and even a month from now.
I love the new theme – “Trevilian Way”:http://thedesigncanopy.com/downloads/trevilian-way/. I had originally planned to design a new theme for the site myself, but then I saw this one and decided there was no need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak. Trevilian Way already does just about everything I’d wanted, anyway, and I have this thing about designers and coders who keep re-inventing the wheel. Sure, there’s something extremely satisfying about displaying your own work, but I also have no problem using someone else’s theme when it meets my needs. And I must say – Trevilian Way _is_ pretty.
I changed some of the more subtle elements of FoS’s archiving system. For starters, I dropped all the author categories and merged them into a single Stories category. My intention is to mirror the same type of archive system I use here – use categories as the Table of Contents and tags as the index. That said, I set up Trevilian Way’s wide left sidebar with a tag cloud by going through each story and tagging it with, at minimum, the story author’s name and the genre or genres into which the story fits. Select stories were also tagged with additional terms, such as vampires, demons, etc., for common elements that readers might be interested in. Many of the stories were more difficult to classify and index and so did not receive any additional tags beyond author and genre.
Category and Archive lists have also been pushed into a drop-down dialogue in one of the sidebars. This will hopefully help prevent the sidebar area from expanding into a 3-headed hydra, about which you may have heard. I expect it will still fluff out a bit as we add more tags, so that tag cloud will likely be limited in number and an actual Site Index built from a tag cloud will be added as a Page.
I’ve had a request for a small banner graphic for FoS, as well, that contributors and fans can use on their own blogs to advertise. I’d meant to play around in Photoshop a little last night and just never quite made it that far. I hope to produce something on that front in the next day or two.
There are some as-yet ephemeral ideas in my brain about ways to make FoS more community-friendly – contests, giveaways, etc. – but nothing I’ve given much thought to yet. I also want to make more of an effort to solicit flash fiction from writers, which is going to mean my finding good speculative flash fiction writers. I’ve got a few flash fiction sites on my radar that I want to browse through again – it’s been quite some time since I gave much thought at all to such sites – so it’s just a matter of tracking those down again and catching up on what’s new.
I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed working with FoS, so it’s good to have it up and running again. I’m curious to see if I can make a better go at it than on its first tour. It will, of course, demand a fair bit of pro-action from myself, but it will also rely heavily on the excitement of the contributors, since FoS is in place largely for them as a venue to display some samples of their writing.
This is all very exciting.
After a six-month hiatus, “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com is once more open for business. With the site’s re-launch comes an upgrade to WordPress 2.3 and a new, magazine-style theme, courtesy of “The Design Canopy”:http://thedesigncanopy.com/. I am looking for contributions to the site, stories that are no longer than 1000 words and fall into any or all of the sub-genres of speculative fiction – science fiction, fantasy, horror, alternate history, etc.
Additionally, contributors are now able to register at Flashes of Speculation and use the WordPress Dashboard to submit their stories. These contributions will then be reviewed before being published in order to ensure proper formatting and quality as well as to prevent spammers. Hopefully, this will take a bit more of the load off me in getting new contributions published, as well as make Flashes of Speculation a little more of the community project I’ve always intended it to be.
I encourage you to go check out the site again and contribute stories if you’d like. I would also be very appreciative of any and all publicity you are willing to give to Flashes of Speculation through your blogs and websites.
Well, I’m afraid that my writing time has been at a bit of a minimum the last week or two. In addition, I’ve had no time as yet to develop the new WordPress theme for “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com in preparation for its re-launch. This is due, in part, to the fact that I’m back to work full-time. Now I’m trying to get caught up on some new projects while shouldering new responsibilities for an entire database management system that our university uses. I think it will be enjoyable work in the long-run, but the task of getting up to speed on how some of the backend processes work is, quite frankly, a little daunting.
It also doesn’t help that Halo 3 came out for the Xbox 360 last week, and I’ve been as much free time as I can playing online with friends and “clan members”:http://tiedtheleader.com as well as playing around with the new File Share capabilities and dabbling a bit in Forge. I still want to write up a review for Halo 3 but that, like so many other things, is something I haven’t found time for just yet.
I do want to get back to writing here a bit more again, just as soon as things settle down at the office enough for me to be able to fit a little blogging in around projects.
In the meantime, don’t forget to comment on “my book giveaway”:http://shamuswrites.com/2007/10/01/book-giveaway-the-gunslinger/ and check out “my tumblelog”:http://tumble.shamuswrites.com.
I’ve been working on my navigation menus throughout the day today, in the few spare moments I get in between tasks. On my blog here, I’ve finally moved the entirety of my navigation menu up the menubar where it belongs. I’ve also finally added in the global navigation bits for my “photoblog”:http://photos.shamuswrites.com, “archive”:http://musa.shamuswrites.com, and “Flashes of Speculation”:http://fs.shamuswrites.com into the photoblog. I’ll be adding them in the both the archive and into FoS soon, but I may be reworking both of those themes, so I’ll wait until that’s been finalized.
I also finally changed the theme on my photoblog to one that’s easier on the eyes and easier to use for posting up new photos. I love the one that’s currently on the front page there. It’s one of the first new pictures I’ve taken with our new Polaroid digital camera, and I’m very pleased with the quality of the pictures (when I’m not taking photos that are blurry).
I think I’ve also settled on my blog, forum, photoblog, archive, and flash fiction site as the five modules that make up the entirety of Shamus Writes. I have a lot more installations of WordPress on my server, but most have either become obsolete or belong to friends and family members. I’ve also started to really use my Flickr site and incorporated it into my gallery here as an easy way to maintain those photosets online. I was originally going to host my image gallery on my own server but since at least one of the image sets is going to get posted in two different locations, I decided it was easier to upload them just one time on Flickr and then simply pull them into both WordPress installations with the use of one simple plugin. Saves me a little extra time and effort in the longrun and takes some of the load off my server.
So feel free to walk around the site a little more, now that the paths are a little freer of weeds. It’ll get better once I design the new them for FoS and the archives, but I’m really quite pleased with the way things are shaping up.
With the “Flashes of Speculation redesign”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/2007/03/08/fos-redesigned/ complete, I’m putting the callout again for “submissions”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs/submissions/. If you write science fiction, fantasy, or horror and are looking for an outlet for your writing, then please consider “Flashes of Speculation”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs. Stories need to be 1000 words or less.
FoS could use a little promotion, as well. If you’re a contributing author or a reader of the site (or simply a speculative fiction fan), I would be most appreciative if you could promote FoS on your blogs, websites, etc. Also, if someone has a little Photoshop mojo and time to spare, I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to banner and button graphics that people can put on their websites to link back to FoS. If anyone’s interesting in doing something like this, you can use my “Contact”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/contact/ page to let me know.
I’ve just finished a complete site redesign on “Flashes of Speculation”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs, giving it what is, I hope, a unique and attractive layout.
I built this template – called Speculation (for obvious reasons) – from the ground up, stripping the necessary files down to the bare code to keep WordPress running and then builing everything back up around that. The result is a light-weight, minimalistic theme that serves to display just three categories (four, technically, if you count the announcements field at the top) on the front page in a 3-column format. In this case, I wanted to separate out the three primary genres of fiction that FoS specializes in, give a single-line teaser, and a link to the full post. The archives are structured in a similar manner, albeit in a single column, and the page navigation can be found in the footer.
Unfortunately, this theme will not be offered for public release at this time. Due to the specialized nature of the theme, it’s a beast to configure, and I haven’t the programming knowledge at this point to automate everything in the Dashboard or make the selection of categories and pages in the various places more efficient. That _is_ something I will likely research for a 2.0 release to the public. For the time being, however, simply enjoy the theme on FoS and feel free to let me know of any bugs or glitches you notice.
I really _would_ like to get “Flashes of Speculation”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs into a much more active status – more submissions coming in, more interaction from readers (both on the site itself and on the “discussion board”:http://open-dialogue.com/bbpress/forum/3 I’ve created for it), more of everything that will launch it more into the public eye. Unfortunately, though, marketing has never been a skill of mine, and I’m just plain out of ideas of things to do to advance its visibility.
So, here’s where I’d like some help and suggestions from my readers. What could I do to advertise FS a bit more broadly and make it more well-known? Where are places I could go and sites that might be interested in doing link exchanges? And are there any graphicly-minded folks out there who might be willing to donate a couple of banners and buttons that FS could put into circulation for folks to post on their sites? Any other ideas that I’m sure I missed?
Ever notice how life seems to lump common themes closely together? For instance, I was chatting with a friend earlier today about his blog’s tagline, which originated from the Cheshire cat from Alice’s Wonderland. Then I receive a “story for Flashes of Speculation”:http://open-dialogue.com/fs/2007/02/19/cat-cunning-rod-drake/#comment-2726 that gives a nod to that famous feline, as well. This sort of thing happens to me all the time. ((I really need to start logging these things when they happen.)) Anyone else?