Tweet Paul Anderson and Carrie Clevenger, I set myself up with an author profile on Goodreads. It seems odd to say that, to call myself an 'author'. I'm not sure why - I have had short fiction published sporadically online since July 2008, I have actually sold copies of my first e-book, The First Tale, and I now have a short story included in a bona fide anthology - the Chinese Whisperings Yin Book. If the definition of 'professional' is doing something and getting paid for it, then I must be a professional writer (even if it isn't my main source of income).
The very supportive Benjamin Solah was good enough to put The First Tale on Goodreads, and it's very cool to see that people are reading it. I genuinely blush when people send me tweets saying they enjoyed The First Tale - and it takes A LOT to make me blush. Yet it's so nice to know that people actually read what you do - and enjoy it. In a lot of ways, it makes the whole thing worth doing. I can't think of anything more sad than being a writer and never letting anyone read your work. I suppose I can understand the reasoning behind it - after all, if no one ever reads it then no one can ever tell you that you're no good. Besides, if you're writing for your own enjoyment and you're keeping yourself happy then it doesn't mean that you need to show it to anyone else.
Then again, writers tell stories. It's what we do. Whether we're novelists, journalists, copywriters or chroniclers, we're all telling stories. Is a story still a story if it isn't read? It's that age old philosophical question - if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound? I mean, I tell these stories for two reasons. 1) I write them because I have to (I'd go crazy from the voices in my head if I didn't write down what they said). 2) I write them because I want people to read these stories - I want to entertain people! If someone reads something I've written and can escape from the mundane drudgery of their existence for those few minutes it takes to read a flash, then I consider the whole endeavour worthwhile. If the readers learns something too, then brilliant.
The most momentous stage in setting up my profile was selecting what genres cover my style. 'Short fiction' was an obvious, if generic, term, and I felt compelled to put down 'science fiction & fantasy' as opposed to 'horror' because I feel a lot of my stuff comes under the 'speculative fiction' or 'urban fantasy' bracket, as opposed to 'horror'. I always wanted to be a horror writer, but I realised fairly early on that I was no Clive Barker or Stephen King. Indeed, an email I once received about my short piece Left convinced me of that - the author of said email told me my style reminded him of Neil Gaiman or Ray Bradbury. When I'd recovered my jaw from the floor, I realised that horror clearly wasn't my 'bag' unless it was based on reality. But more importantly, I finally nailed my colours to the mast and put down "historical fiction" as one of my genres. I really enjoy writing things that require research, so you can expect a few more historical pieces over coming weeks.
Of course, one of the many advantages of historical fiction is it covers such a wide range of topics. I can continue to write my tales about bodysnatchers, mental asylums or vengeful knights, but still continue to write steampunk (a genre characterised by its adherence to an historical 'aesthetic') and stories about pirates...