Publisher’s Note: The Magic of Machines

We live in weird times. Technology is evolving so fast that it sometimes feels like magic.

I recently had a conversation with an author who wanted my take on the evolution of AI, particularly as it comes to the creation of prose (such as ChatGPT).

That’s a complicated topic. I’m not just a book publisher; I’m also a professor. I think AI text generation has its uses. I think it could be sure useful for helping people write cover letters, reference letters, business correspondence, that kind of thing. Especially for people who struggle with those.

But I recently took a test the New York Times originally posed to education experts (and the venerable Judy Blume) to see if they could tell the difference between a student’s writing and ChatGPT. And here’s the thing: I spotted the AI every single time. It wasn’t always easy, but humans are, well, human, and their strengths and weaknesses in writing are fairly easy to spot if you know what to look for. It’s still hard for AI to fully mimic those. Especially kids.

But the extent that AI gets close? Well, that makes machines seem rather like they’re using magic.

Which brings me to steampunk. And our latest StoryBundle. Here’s what curator Kristine Kathryn Rusch has to say about The Fantasy Steampunk Bundle:

The best steampunk gives us fantasy with an attitude and weird mechanical somethings or other. When we expect magic, we get machines. When we expect machines, we get magic. Sometimes we get both at the same time. We called this StoryBundle Fantasy Steampunk because most of the stories here are either steampunk, fantasy with steampunk elements, or fantasy that feels like steampunk.

The bundle includes three books exclusive to the bundle, all of them brand-new. The Victorians make a big appearance here, although we also have a story set in the Old West during the Victorian Era. A touch of H.G. Wells (the original steampunk writer) and some Orcs working in the Motor City, which, even though it’s set during Prohibition, feels steampunk to me.

WMG has three books in this bundle: The Reflection on Mount Vitaki: A Prequel to the Qavnerian Protectorate by Kris, Card Sharp Silver: A Cave Creek Novel by Dean Wesley Smith, and Fiction River Presents: Sorcery & Steam.

Add in the seven other fantastic titles, and the ability get all of them for just $20 and contribute to charity all the while, and what could be better?

You can learn more about the bundle here.

Machines or magic. Or both. You decide.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: The Importance of Being Educated

Last week, as I sat through the longest two and a half hours I’ve ever spent in a theater, I was reminded why it’s so important for us to expose our kids to the arts.

My daughter was in her first high school play (her school is a 7-12, so they let the middle-school kids participate, too). It’s the first play they’ve done in years because of the pandemic. In fact, I’m not sure they did dramatic plays before the pandemic, either.

So, this was new territory for them. And the first play the well-intentioned but poorly reasoned directors chose for these 12- to 18-year-olds to perform? The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with that play, click here and read about it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

So, yeah. Heavy stuff for kids. Hard material for any actor.

Add to that the fact that they had basically a month to rehearse.

You guessed it. It didn’t go well. Only Nola, who had a smaller part, and one of the other main actors had their lines memorized. The rest had to have lines fed to them from the wings by the director. It was a small theater, so we all heard those in stereo. And one of the actors was so poorly prepared that he had to carry around a book the whole time with his lines in them. He didn’t look up once, not even when he was trying to strangle Dorian Gray.

It. Was. Torture.

And I had to sit through it because I love my kid. When I wasn’t trying not to gouge my own eyes out, I was jealously looking over at my husband, who can nap anywhere…

I don’t blame the kids. This is a poor community, and they probably haven’t been exposed to real theater. Plus, they didn’t have the time to prepare, and they were set up to fail by the material. I also don’t blame the directors (much) because they’re young and at least they’re trying to offer these kids some access to the arts.

But I did have plenty of time to think about how we can get these kids more exposure to quality art. I will be working on that.

A huge part of teaching is understanding your subject. Those directors did not. But when the teacher does: wow, is that powerful!

And if you’re a writer looking to hone your craft, have I got some powerful teachers for you! Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch are masters of their craft and will gladly share that mastery with you through online workshops and the occasional in-person one.

If you prefer in-person workshops, you still have time to sign up for the Romantic Suspense Craft Workshop or the Fantasy/Thriller Craft Workshop, both taught by Kris later this year in Las Vegas.

And if you prefer online workshops, Dean and Kris have hundreds of options for you through Teachable. Click here for the full list.

And this February, Dean has even resurrected two classic workshops to full workshop status, with homework and everything, in addition to the other regular workshops where you can Study with Dean. Click here to see those.

It’s so important to keep learning. Especially from excellent instructors.

As for me, I’ve learned never to go to a high school play again without my AirPods…

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: Middle School: What a Magic Age…

I remember seventh grade vividly. And not just because that was the year of the Challenger space shuttle disaster (because it was carrying a teacher for the first time, we all watched in school). Or because it was also the year for a more local school disaster when the third-floor ceiling collapsed in our science room, trapping our teacher under rubble and seriously injuring her (thankfully, classes were changing at the time, so all of the students managed to get out, albeit barely).

Those were the obvious traumas. But there were so many other traumas that, while not life-or-death, sure felt like it at the time: bullying, frenemies, puberty.

Seventh grade is hard. I knew it would be hard on my daughter. But I didn’t expect it to be so hard on me, too.

My daughter talks to me about most things. (It used to be everything, but naturally that has diminished some as she gets older.) And I will never discourage her from sharing things with me, even though my introverted nature really needs a break from the drama sometimes.

And whoa boy, the drama. I hated it in seventh grade. I hate it now.

But she’s figuring out who she is, and how to deal with it all. So, I’m doing my best to support her while not unduly influencing her—other than to make sure she’s not an asshole. That’s Parenting 101 in my book: Don’t let your kid grow up to be an asshole.

She’s not an asshole, thank goodness. She’s a great kid. And it’s bittersweet to watch her turning into a great mini-adult.

One good thing about the drama of these school-age years, however, is it’s wonderful fodder for fiction.

So much so that WMG has included a three-book bundle in the current offering on StoryBundle for the Magic School Bundle.

Here’s the synopsis on The Daughters of Zeus Trilogy by Kristine Grayson:

When Zeus tried to use his teenage daughters Tiffany, Crystal, and Brittany to destroy true love, they rebelled. So, he stripped them of their magic. Now they live with their mothers in “the real world.”

But magic cuts both ways; it can provide enormous power to any mage who knows how and when to use it, and it can backfire when used without the guidance of wisdom. This trio of Olympian offspring decide to take the on “real world” and reclaim their magic, one way or another.

This omnibus contains three novels, Tiffany Tumbles, Crystal Caves, and Brittany Bends.

Pay at least $20, and you can get this three-book bundle as well as nine other fantastic book offerings around the Magic School theme. Plus, you can choose for a portion of your purchase to go to Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers, charities aimed at helping kids develop their writing skills, and even perhaps nurturing future writers!

Click here to check it out!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must answer a text from my own little future writer about the latest seventh-grade drama.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: A Wonderful New Venue for Our In-Person Workshops!

I’m back in the office this week after a fantastic week in Las Vegas for the Fantasy Caper Craft Workshop. It was so good to spend some time connecting with our writers again.

We had to stop offering these workshops during the height of the pandemic, and then the venue we had used for years became undesirable for a host of reasons.

That’s all changed now!

We held the workshop for the first time at Resorts World Las Vegas. What a fantastic venue for a writing workshop! This new resort (it’s a Hilton property) focuses on entertainment in the greater sense rather than just the casino. In fact, the casino seems secondary. You can avoid it if you want.

The writers loved it. Even our writers with special dietary restrictions had places to eat. And it was quiet. Far different from the noise of our last venue and some other venues in Vegas.

We are excited to keep offering workshops at Resorts World now that we know how well they work. But we do have minimum numbers we need to reach to make these work from a business standpoint.

So, if you’ve been hesitating to sign up for the upcoming Romantic Suspense Craft Workshop in May or the Fantasy/Thriller Craft Workshop in July, I encourage you to get off the fence and sign up. These in-person workshops are one of the rare opportunities to learn the craft face-to-face from bestselling and award-winning writer and editor Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And Kris’ in-person workshops are legendary.

To view the full list of in-person workshops on offer, click here.

And don’t forget that the entire curriculum for all of our workshops (in-person and online) is available here.

The Year of the Rabbit hasn’t even started yet, but WMG is already hopping!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: What a Fantastic Way to Kick Off the New Year!

I’ll never forget my first adult fantasy novel. Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon. I was more of a Little Women and Jane Eyre reader up to that point, and The Eyes of the Dragon was a totally different kind of fiction for me (and for King, at the time, but that’s another story you should look up).

I was a freshman in high school when the book came out in mass market paperback. I didn’t connect at the time (or for years afterward) that it was by Stephen King. It’s a good thing, too, because if I’d known it was written by that Stephen King, I wouldn’t have read it. His horror was (and still is) too much for me.

But that first foray into fantasy fiction paved the way for my enjoyment of so many other fantasy works.

Including the many incredible short stories of Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.

And now we’re collecting their fantasy stories together into special volumes for this year’s Make 100 Kickstarter, just like we did with Crimes Collide last year for the mystery stories and Colliding Worlds the year before for their science fiction.

Kris and Dean have been writing professional fantasy short stories for four decades that have won awards and sold millions of copies, plus they have been acclaimed and enjoyed by fans over the entire world.

Now, for the first time, Kris and Dean are collecting 100 of their fantasy short stories together into a five-volume set called Fantasies Collide. Fifty stories from each author in the series; ten stories from each author in every volume.

In addition to such fantastic rewards as the five Fantasies Collide volumes in ebook, trade paperback and signed/limited hardcover, we have some amazing rewards for writers, and a special workshop series for writers is included in the stretch goals.

Check out the Kickstarter here, and be sure to watch Kris and Dean’s fun video about the project.

What a fantastic way to kick off the new year!

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.

Publisher’s Note: Looking Ahead to the New Year!

Well, it’s officially 2023! Back in 2020, we weren’t sure we’d get here, but here we are. It seems like we’ve found our new normal. It’s weird, but, well, I’m trying to look, as Monty Python says, “on the bright side of life.”

As such, I’m looking ahead to the coming year with lots of exciting changes afoot.

But first, a little insider background on the publishing industry.

For those of you who don’t follow all the ins and outs of publishing, our industry is, to simply things, divided into two factions: traditional publishers and indie publishers. Trad features the Big Five (who almost became the Big Four last year until the DOJ stepped in). The Big Five have long acted as gatekeepers: the theory being that only the best books get published.

We all know that’s crap, but bear with me.

The whole book industry is built around that assumption. Bookstores, online retailers, libraries, the list goes on. More gatekeeping.

But the indie revolution changed the landscape. As indie authors and publishers gained ground, new voices emerged that proved the gatekeeping was really, as gatekeeping is wont to be, oppressive.

Indie publishers are constantly fighting to find ways to allow more voices to be heard. WMG has long been on the front lines of that fight.

But the gatekeeping infrastructure is pervasive. It’s not enough to publish independent voices; we must also be able to allow those to be heard by getting the books to readers. Selling through retailers means going through gatekeepers. As we’ve already established, gatekeepers hinder. Those gatekeepers keep changing the rules.

So, how do you circumvent the gatekeepers? You cut out the middleman. What this leaves us with is direct sales.

WMG has already been investing in various direct sales delivery methods. Our Kickstarters are direct sales. So are our subscriptions (such as the weekly Every Day’s a Holiday at WMG newsletter). And we’ve long offered ebooks for sale directly on the WMG website.

But this year, that last is getting a big upgrade. We’re moving to a Shopify store to enhance and streamline our direct sales to make it more convenient and easier to navigate for our readers. (That store officially launches tomorrow but you can click here to get notified as soon as it’s live!)

We hope you’ll consider this new store as your go-to place to buy our ebooks. Because when you buy the books from WMG directly, you’re directly supporting the authors who write and edit them—that would be the two writers who own this company: Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith.

Those are the same two writers who give back so much to other writers through all the workshops they teach.

Speaking of workshops, another new thing we’ve done for this year is enhance the website to make navigating our enormous catalog much easier. Want to know what workshops allow you to study directly with the master (aka Dean)? We’ve got a tab for that. Looking to enhance your craft or change your attitudes about writing? We’ve got tabs for that too. And every workshop listing now has a link directly to that workshop on Teachable.

Check it out here.

And we’re just getting started. So many exciting things ahead.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer, working mother, and brain tumor survivor.