A Tale of Two Writing Platforms
NewsBreak versus Medium
Technically, I’m not writing for News Break. More like cutting and pasting like an insane idiot. Since I got an invite to join in January 2021 I’ve started moving my Medium stuff over there.
When I first received the email from NB inviting me to join I thought it was just another scam. I emailed them back and said something like, “Uh, have you guys actually read my stuff? Because I’m no journalist.” They responded by sending me another invite a few days later, so I said, “What the hell, if they are potentially going to pay me, I may as well give it a whirl.”
Lots of articles have already been written about NB, so this is just my take on some of the differences I’ve noticed between Medium and NB.
Medium: Like many creative writers on Medium ever since the new MPP was started my stats have been shit. More like shit that has been sitting at the bottom of my septic tank for over a year.
NB: So far the impressions and page views on NB have been skyrocketing. I often get more page views in one day on NB then I do in an entire month on Medium. I went from a high of 3500 impressions on Jan 1st to over 200k impression on Feb 9th. I had one short and silly rant rant hit 11,000 page views in less than a week. That is slightly lower than my all time monthly high on Medium (before the MPP change of course).
My daily page views on NB regularly match or exceed Medium’s monthly views by 2–3 times as much.
Medium: This is one area in which Medium has always excelled. Generally, most of the readers on Medium are also writers who understand good writing when they read it I think. (Unfortunately, Medium’s algorithms don’t see it that way most of the time.) I’ve had a hand full of nasty and stupid comments on my stuff since 2017, but it is pretty rare. Medium has what I think are some big flaws, but the quality of its readership isn’t one of them.
NB: If someone were to ask me based on the comments on NB who my target audience is I think I’d have to say as a writer it is probably best to imagine yourself ghostwriting Florida Man’s autobiography.
It is pretty clear from the comments that a lot of people using the app only read the headline before they let the insane voices in their heads start commenting. The comments sometimes feel like they are using a speech to text app and just screaming into their phones whatever crazy gibberish pops into their heads. It is hard to imagine many of them can actually read or write at all.
The comments sections might be a good place for a writer that feels like they need to toughen up. A Gordon Lish style work shop has got nothing on the comment section on Newsbreak. My best advice when it comes to comments there though is be the anti-Captain Picard, in other words, Don’t Engage!
Though if you feel like you need to build up a strong back bone as a writer NB is good for that. One run through the comments in that place and you’ll skin will be as thick as Klingon Hull plate armor.
Medium: Dismal. Need I say more.
NB: Well, here’s where things get weird probably disappointing since I imagine many of you wanted to hear about the earnings on NB. NB has a strange Fight Clubish rule about “The First Rule of the NB Payment System is that you Don’t Talk About the NB Payment System”. So, I can’t say much about it other than I earned way more my first month on NB than I ever have on Medium. Like, more in one month on NB than an entire year on Medium.
Will this continue? I have no idea. My first few months on Medium were my best ever too. Some other writers that I have read that are way more in the know about all things SEO and internet platforms than I am think that NB might just be a short term money grab for most writers.
I kind of suspect the same thing. They have already changed their “NB thingy that we aren’t supposed to talk about” once in just three months. My guess is once they identify who the top writers are in terms of page views they will use those gods as their standard to decide who gets paid and who doesn’t. I’m an idiot when it comes to these sort of things, but from a business perspective it would make sense to only pay those that are actually earning your business money.
Again, because of NB’s “First rule of NB’s Payment System” I can’t say exactly what the differences in earnings are, but I will say this:
One story on Medium that has earned exactly $0.00 since Oct 2017 has earned me as much as one of my very best months from Medium’s payment system in three days.
One side note though, if you are depending on a timely cash flow then NB will be pretty frustrating for you. Compared with Medium NB is like a sloth caught in a glacier when it comes to how quickly they pay out. Maybe this will improve with time, I hope, but for now you could end up shattering your finger bones stabbing the refresh button while waiting for NB to show that they have actually paid you.
Types of Stories that Do Well
Medium: I think most people writing on Medium already know which topics do well on Medium (read as favored by the fucking algorithms.) and which ones don’t. If you are a creative writer on Medium you are mostly shit out of luck when it comes to your stuff getting much attention compared with a tech listicle article.
NB: Despite claiming to be all about local news articles, NB actually really shines when it comes to short stories and personal essays. And, I have published some narrative poems on their as well. NB recommends 500–1000 word stories, but most of my stuff that is between 250–500 words seems to do the best. NB has been great for flash and micro fiction for me so far.
As many other writers have mentioned the weird stories are king on News Break. The weirder the better it seems. Or at least a weird headline since it is debatable whether most of the people using NB ever read beyond that.
Also, since NB is solely a US app and because NB allows you to chose where you want your story to be seen stories that take place in the US tend to get more attention.
Medium: None that work very well that I know of. Though you can bet your ass there are probably a dozen articles published every day that will claim they have the “winning strategy: this week.
NB: It is really hard to come up with one since things have changed dramatically in the last few months on NB. For now my plan is to post 2–3 stories a day until I burn through all of my content on Medium. That should take me into the next big change that NB has announced in about a month and a half at which point I’ll need to start writing brand new content.
Other than posting weird flash fiction stories that take place in the US I don’t know what works. Some writers have said that stuff about relationships and family seem to do well on NB too.
Looking at all the stories that have had 1k page views or more I’d have to say stories about guns, jet skis, Ninjas, the Vietnam War, and ease dropping on old Japanese men seem to do the best. Yeah, I know, try and make a comprehensive plot and publishing strategy out of that mess, lol.
Like I said, weird is king and so far there doesn’t seem to be any great techniques for attracting readers other than throwing a lot of stuff out there and seeing what lands and what doesn’t.
One thing I don’t like about NB is that there is currently no way to schedule your stories to be published. I assume this has something to do with the AI approval system they use. This makes it a little more challenging for me since I’m in Japan and I have to be online during the right hours to make sure people in the US are awake to read my stuff. I hope maybe NB will make some upgrades in the future that make the platform more like some of the better qualities Medium has.
Thankfully our back list of stories can still earn on NB just like Medium, so if an older story was to suddenly go viral you could still make a lot of cash from it.
Overall, as a creative writer, at the moment, I think NB is far better than Medium. In fact, NB, at least in terms if potential earnings, NB is far better than submitting your work to literary journals too.
The base pay from NB for stories on NB is about the same as say your middle of the road literary journal, but the difference is your stories on NB get accepted or rejected (though with some tweaking you can re-submit them and get them accepted) the same day. Whereas most literary journals take at least three months before they even respond.
I plan to continue putting my work on both Medium and NB for the foreseeable future, Medium for the great readership and NB for the higher earning potential, but I think once I have burned through all my older stories that I’m currently transferring to NB I will probably start putting stuff on NB first.
UPDATE: If anyone wants to try and join NB this is my referral code. Full disclosure, NB pays me $50 if you qualify and full fill some other stuff.
#writing #publishing #money #Medium #Newsbreak
The Book Homo Deus and My Head-Spinning Moments
One of the big ideas in Homo Deus is that in the future we will be ammortal, meaning you can still die if your body is subjected to something like being run over by a steamroller, but age and disease are problems tech will solve. At least for some of us.
On page 167 Harari talks about The Web of Meaning and objective, subjective, and inter-subjective reality. Objective reality is of course things like physics, chemistry, and biology, which all exist even if humans don’t. Subjective reality are things that I personally believe, but aren’t objectively true. I wore my lucky green shirt three years ago on Friday the 13th and nothing bad happened, so if I always wear it every Friday the 13th this will always be the case.
Inter-subjective reality though was a new idea for me. Maybe not new in that I understood that things like the economy and religion were not objectively real even though enough people believed in them and acted upon those beliefs to effect the world in major ways. It’s more about what that potentially means. Yuval Noah Harari claims that a lot of very wealthy people in Silicon Valley believe that being ammortal or at least the near indefinite ability to increase longevity is right around the corner. In fact, a lot of them are dumping tons of money into the research and development of it. And many of them also seem to be okay with the idea of using technology to augment and enhance our brains and bodies.
The important point though here is how we interpret “our”.
It’s possible that greatly extended lifespans and enhancements to the brain and body via genetic tinkering or through tech might only be available to the very wealthy. Even though things like cosmetic surgery are fairly routine it still remains out of reach for the majority of people in the world unless they are willing to go into debt or risk disastrous results to get it done cheaper.
So, what’s a parent to do and think? I think about it a lot, but have no idea what to do. In 2012/2013 the Anarcho-Socialist in me was starting to believe that things were heading more in the direction of Social Democracy and that with a leader like Bernie in the White House maybe the impending loss of jobs might be at least somewhat mitigated by Universal Basic Income, but the political tide has shifted massively around much of the world at least for the next couple of years and possibly for many more years to come.
If it were just me I’m sure I could just buy an RV and live simple and cheap off whatever retirement I end up with and be perfectly happy. But the thought of such a seismic Inter-subjective reality shift happening during my life time makes me truly fear for my son’s future.
End of the Year Post: 20 fucking 20
Well, that is one hell of a shitty ass wrap for a ball buster of a goddamn year. But, I think rather than ending things on a negative, I will end it with some of the positives I accomplished this year. Below are all thirteen books (with links of course) I self-published this year. If you are looking for some new books to read this year most of the ebook versions are only $1! Enjoy.
Hope this year wasn’t too bad for all of you and here’s to hoping 2021 is far better than 2020 was.
Find all my books here!
The Diamond River Passage
Lucas is a lost soul. His wife died in a terrible car accident while he was driving. Feeling responsible, he slips into a life of alcoholism and depression. He leaves his teen age son Joey with his brother, moves into a cheap run down apartment and spends his days fly fishing and his nights drinking himself into oblivion. After seeing a teenage boy gunned down in front of the apartment complex Lucas realizes he has to take control of his life, sober up, and return to Joey as a father once again. He embarks on a journey to the Diamond River in the high desert of Eastern Washington. While there he slowly begins his true purpose for coming to the desert.
The Gutter Punk Express: Gen X's Decade of Suck
In 1990 Boge a 17 year old former Hollywood teen TV star has lost his agent, his role on the TV show Tweenie Bopper Parade, and his home after his mom kicks him out Boge and his best friend Benny decide to abandon high school, Benny’s apartment, and almost any shot they might have of getting back into the film industry, to try and make it on their own as buskers. They hit the road in Boge’s ’66 Studebaker with little more than their acoustic guitars, a sandwich bag full of drugs, a battered old green tent, some camping equipment, and long shot dreams of making it as punk folk superstars. They quickly learn though that the gutter punk lifestyle and busking up and down the west coast of America is much more perilous than they could have imagined. The brutal reality of street life soon begins to slice them apart physically and emotionally. A few bright spots appear as they meet a studio musician wizard named Pork who believes their raw sound can be channeled into something great, but this proves to be tragically short lived and they spiral deeper into addiction, panhandling, and even prison. Having hit rock bottom, Boge must try and find a way to bring his friend Benny out of his heroin addiction, deal with his own alcohol and crystal meth addiction, all while still holding on feverishly to his dream to make it as a musician just as the Seattle Sound and Alternative Rock are blowing up in the early 90’s.
Mystical Meat Machines : Book One
New Interpol detective Cantor Silva tracks a mysterious rogue AI that is hunting and killing humans via the secretive and dangerous Dark Net in 2080 Nagoya, Japan. Relying on the help of fellow Interpol detective Fujimura, tech specialist Sequim, and Gamma, a Retro-Narcotics dealer Cantor must stop it before its killing spree spirals out of control.A gripping Blade Runner like Cyber Punk series that will appeal to fans of Neuromancer, Altered Carbon, and other Cyberpunk classics.
Mystical Meat Machines : Book Two
New Interpol officer Cantor Silva continues tracking a murderous AI through the Dark Net. Using here primary paid informant Gamma, she tries to find the mysterious genius Korpa Blythe to determine what he is connection to the AI might be. Despite her efforts the AI continues its murder spree even extending its reach to include Cantor and her associates as well. A gripping Blade Runner like Cyber Punk series that will appeal to fans of Neuromancer, Altered Carbon, and other Cyberpunk classics.
The Nor Cali Crash Stories: A Sort of a Memoir.
This is a work of Tricktion, some truth and a lot of fiction Also, it is some truth and some fiction that has been tricked out to make it a more interesting read. Some of these stories I experienced firsthand, many of them I heard second, third, and even fourth hand, if there is such a thing. All of them have been altered if for no other reason than to preempt any potential lawsuits or even attempted murders if revealing some of them happens to really piss off those that were involved. Most of these stories happened well over twenty years ago, so I have to rely on my far from perfect memory to dredge them back up and fill in the blanks creatively in the places where the wiring in my brain is far too burnt out to produce the truth. I’m pulling roughly from about 1984 (a nod to Orwell) to around 1994 (in sad memory of Cobain).I’ve put myself in some of these stories as the narrator in a quasi-journalist HST gonzo style, another nod to one of my heroes, though I doubt I will live up to his brilliance. But full disclosure here, I was never a journalist, not even for my high school newspaper. Instead, I was (and am) the quiet severely introverted near Rain Man like social outcast observer type. Hence the journalist persona. So, what you read here are the stories that dug themselves deep enough into the memory pathways and have been screaming to be dumped out onto the page ever since, nothing more, nothing less.
Sci-Fi Flash: a collection of science fiction flash fiction and short stories.
A collection of funny, frightening, fascinating and strange flash fiction and short stories. From the author of the Cyberpunk novelette series, Mystical Meat Machines comes this great little collection of some of his best sci fi flash fiction.A young serial killer plots his murderous escape from a lunar juvenile prison colony. A small farming town is attacked by intelligent mutant turkeys after a horrible accident happens in their community. A jealous AI runs amok in her owners lab. These and several others make up this thrilling collection.
Saya's Run and Other Stories: a short story collection.
Former Sumo Wrestler Bigu Edee turned private detective is hired by the Japanese mob to track down high end club hostess Saya. But as Bigu Edee digs deeper into Saya’s disappearance he realizes that he is being asked to do much more than simply locate Saya.Saya’s Run and many other stories make up this wonderful little collection.
Something Gaijin This Way Comes: a collection of short stories.
“Sublime, thought provoking, captures the Japan experience beautifully. Great read.” -Tim, screenplay writer, producer, director.
Broken, blistered, and busted tales about life in Japan. Take a look into the darker seedier side, an old woman waits to die in the summer heat, a homeless man flees Japan rather do prison time, an old man argues with his wife and things go really bad. These stories and many more.
Just In Case: A collection of short stories and haibun.
The Brother I Will Never Know
He never had a name. At least not one you knew of before you left Viet Nam. When the story of your son came up the only names that were mentioned were the derogatory ones she called you in English and Vietnamese when you told her you were being shipped home and she wasn’t coming with you.“Da Nang got overrun in ’65 a year after I left. Probably didn’t survive anyway,” you always said. Sentiment for that year was stubbed out long ago.
like burned cigarettes that overflowed your ashtray.
The Life I've Written : My Semi-Successful Writing Career The Life I've Written : My Semi-Successful Writing Career
I wish I could tell you this was going to be one of those “How to Write, Publish, and Sell Millions of Books” type rags, but like me I imagine you’re tired of getting burned by them. Truth is, if any of those kinds of books actually worked every writer on the planet would have bought their copy, followed the directions, and would now be happily counting their money as their book sales rocketed into the stratosphere.This ain’t that type of book. This one is more like a combo of Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, Pressfield’s The War of Art, with a dash of King’s On Writing stirred in for good measure. It is a collection of short personal essays I’ve written over the years about all the things I’ve learned as a writer during the past two decades.I’ve divided it into five sections, Nuts and Bolts, Building a Following, Promoting, and Marketing Stuff, The Rants and Some Misc. Stuff, Medium Stuff, and Inspiring Stuff. Nuts and Bolts is all about the practical writing stuff I’ve learned in the past two decades. Building is all about the little bit I’ve learned about getting your work out there and getting it read by people. The Rants is all about the frustration of being a creative type mixed with a very heavy dose of humor. Medium is all about the free blogging platform that I have been using for the past three years to get my voice out there. Though I bitch and complain about it a lot as well. Inspiring is all about the stuff that helps keep me going, keeps me coming back and putting in the work to get my words out there.I hope those of you that read this little book finding it helpful and maybe as a catalyst to either get you writing or keep you writing.
Neurological Gibberish Poems : a collection of poetry.
In this second poetry collection by Steve B Howard he explores such themes as the busted past, the stagnant present, and the burning future. Again, very much in the spirit of Bukowski the jagged edges of high voltage emotions are put through his word chipper mind and shredded out into the world as deep thought provoking blister poems.
Imagination, Conceptualization, Electricity: a Haiku and Short Poetry Collection
This collection of Haiku and short poetry explores such themes as depression, life in Japan, the difficulties and struggles of attempting to make it as a writer, as well as a few flashes of humor and joy here and there.If you enjoyed Steve B Howard’s previous collections of poetry, Diet of a Destitute Poet and Neurological Gibberish Poetry then you will love this one. Happy New Year!
The Life I’ve Written: My latest book
Alright, my latest and greatest Quixote-esque full on charge at a literary windmill I’ve mistaken for a dragon.
I wish I could tell you this was going to be one of those "How to Write, Publish, and Sell Millions of Books" type rags, but like me I imagine you're tired of getting burned by them. Truth is, if any of those kinds of books actually worked every writer on the planet would have bought their copy, followed the directions, and would now be happily counting their money as their book sales rocketed into the stratosphere.
This ain't that type of book. This one is more like a low grade combo of Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, Pressfield's The War of Art, with a dash of King's On Writing stirred in for good measure. It is a collection of short personal essays I've written over the years about all the things I've learned as a writer during the past two decades.
Hack the Moon
500 word Sci Fi Flash
Not much sunlight here on the dark side. The Luna Juvenile Detention and Rehabilitation Facility is cold and boring.
“Gonna eat that?”
A fourteen-year-old High Grav muscular two hundred kilo frame looms over me. Mood regulation implants encircle his temples. He offed four teens on a transport ship with a valve wrench I heard. Outer System kids always go big with High Grav exercises.
“Eat what, muscle brain?” I ask.
Pupils dilate, then he smiles. A dopamine dump saves me from becoming his fifth victim. He lumbers down the habitat tunnel.
“Psychos like that should be dark sided.”
Mine was just an accident, like a bad joke. I liked Gordo. He’d laugh if his exploded innards weren’t still drifting somewhere between the Moon and Earth.
He’d always say, “Hey Lin, coping time.” He’d bust out a canister of Hydro Hooch. “Best booze on the Moon,” Gordo claimed.
We were Hydroed out of our heads when we went into the Grav-less Solar Dome. Gordo’s dad was a tech. Gordo was a wiz at DNA-Security hacks and got us in. He taught me all about them.
“It thinks I’m my dad,” he said, laughing.
It was cold in there. We tethered ourselves to floor bolts on the observation deck that circled the center of the dome. Were floating gently above the silicon deck. A thin UV proof glass ceiling made up the dome. In the center of the dome huge clear silicon pillars rose from the floor seven stories to the top. Billions of tiny genetically engineered phosphorescent life forms swam inside the pillars generating energy. They glided up and down the pillars, reminding me of a giant blinking Christmas tree in a mall near Taipei I had seen once.
Hydro fueled thoughts and impulses hit so fast that I barely knew what I was doing when I unhooked Gordo’s tether and kicked him into one of the pillars. He was laughing when the static pulse around the pillars repelled him rapidly towards the top of the dome. I was just too out of it to realize how fast he was going.
I watched him burst through the ceiling. I saw his body balloon up and rip through his orange Carhartt Jumper.
When my tether snapped taut, my head hit the deck. Then blackness.
The courtroom didn’t want to listen. I tried to explain how the Hydro and the memory of the Christmas tree made me do it. They had the security cam footage. And my Algo-Psyche profile with its “anti-social tendencies” flag was all they needed.
Studied for my Bio-Technician’s certificate. They think I’ll be released back into society as a well-adjusted adult. But I found out me and the director are distant relatives. Close enough for a hack to get me to the Outer Systems. Just need to get director Chang alone.
Beyond the Break Lie My Broken Dreams
He paddles out of the calm marina into the dark open ocean chop that chills him despite his thick wet suit. His long board cuts cleanly through the water with each powerful stroke. Four hundred yards away a small red light atop a buoy bobs in time to the current. He pulls hard towards it. A typhoon south of Kyushu is pushing huge waves over the break, but he can’t see them in the early morning darkness yet. He can hear the roar though. Out to sea the horizon is just starting to turn blue.
As he makes his way to the buoy, he hears his father’s voice in his head:
“Hiro, this is your last year of goofing off. You had seven years of university, five in Hawaii. Time to put that MBA to use. The family business is waiting for you to take the reins.”
That was in June at the start of summer vacation. Hiro had spent all of July surfing as many of the famous California breaks as he could. At Mavericks, he’d fallen on a twenty-eight foot wave, the biggest he’d ever ridden, and was held under for over a minute. He didn’t surf for four days after that and nearly flew home early, but decided the risk was worth the extra time he would spend still free from what awaited him at home. In August, he was in Baja California catching his final wave of the summer.
A week later, he landed back in Japan and made his way south from Narita on the Shinkansen to Oita, watching the mix of bamboo forests, square rice fields, evergreen covered mountains, the dark blue of the Pacific, and all the villages, small towns, and massive squat cities with their temples, shrines, modern houses and skyscrapers tucked in between flash past in the window.
The week long Buddhist Obon holiday had already started, a time when most Japanese people traditionally went home to visit their families and honor relatives and ancestors who had passed. At Fukuoka, he changed to a local train and headed south towards his home town, but he didn’t stop there. His parents didn’t even know he was in Japan yet.
Instead, he kept going south to the south end of the island that jutted out into the Pacific. Hiro had come to this small fishing village three days ago and rented a hotel room, a long board, and a wet suit. He had originally planned to go straight to Oita to his parent’s home, but in Hakata Station in Fukuoka he’d seen the approaching typhoon on the weather report and knew if he timed it just right he could surf some monster waves to finish out the summer, monsters like the one at Mavericks or possibly bigger.
He reached the buoy and used his leash to tie his board to the small metal ladder before climbing to the top. He had surfed this spot one time with a friend about a year before he left for America. That time they had both floated together next to the buoy in the darkness waiting for dawn so they could paddle to the break. But after waiting half an hour they had felt something big cruise just below the surface under their boards. They never saw it, but whatever it was it was big enough to spook both of them up the buoy ladder until the sun was well above the horizon. Bull sharks and Mako weren’t unknown in these waters and Hiro had been nervous the rest of the day. He decided not to take any chances and stayed on top of the buoy in the cold wind.
His second year in college at the Honolulu Community College had nearly been his last. Three times he received progress probation notices because his GPA had fallen so low. He was surfing every day, all day and barely studied. The Pipeline Masters had been legendary that year and Hiro dreamed of turning pro. Surfing friends kept saying, “Ah yeah, Hiro shredding better all the time man,” which fueled his dreams.
When he had to spend an extra year at community college because he didn’t have enough credits to transfer to U of Hawaii his mother sent him a short letter that ended,
“Your father and I should have never taken you to Hawaii as a young boy. Learning to surf at that beach resort in Waikiki has been your downfall in life.”
The rest of that year Hiro barely surfed. And only at Waimea and only during its biggest and most dangerous swells. He would just drop in every chance he got onto those mountains of water and ride straight through or eat it. No shredding, no passion, just reckless fury down the murderous faces.
Three years later, he graduated from the University of Hawaii and applied for an MBA program at a small college in southern California. He spent those two years dug into his studies and working part time for a Japanese import/export business in Japan Town in LA.
“Good Hiro,” his father said. “Learn the business and come home and take your place here with us.”
On the weekends he had driven his battered old ’66 VW van up down the coast surfing every break the locals would let him. Any extra money he saved so he could spend his last summer surfing every break from Santa Cruz to Baja.
The sun was up enough now that Hiro could see the break clearly. He watched dumbfounded the gigantic shoulder of a wave rolled across the reef and broke five hundred yards later on shore. “Triple overhead at least,” he thought to himself. Moments later one twice that big rolled through and the first pangs of fear shuddered through his body. But he climbed down the ladder and untied his board.
“One more wave, one more monster wave and then I’m done,” he thought as he paddled slowly towards the break.
#shortstory #fiction #Japan #comingofage