ESC!Webs Blogitorials

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Through the Desktop-glass

I first caught a glimpse of a new fad for folks-who-have-too-much-time-on-their-hands called "transparent desktops" the other week and thought it was pretty cool.

Check this out:

No, that's not a hole in the screen. This person took a digital picture of their workspace, set it as their desktop wallpaper on their computer and lined everything up just right so it would appear to be a "transparent" computer screen.

How cool is that? Now, if you want to see some real clever applications of this technique, bop on over to this site and check out some of the more extreme "transparent desktops."

Then, if you're like me, you'll be itching to give it a try yourself!

NOTE: Updated April 7th to point to a different photo site. The original site referenced ( now seems to be down.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Read The Guidelines

It's amazing how many people who aspire to be published writers forget the most important thing to do before sending their work in to a publication:

Read the Submission Guidelines!

Below are some of the most common errors in submission I see -- and I'm small press. I can't imagine what the "big guys" have come across their desk every day. While I do end up reading most improperly sent submissions, it's become easier for me to weed through the stacks and make the difficult decision to reject someone's work when the guidelines are not followed.

Read on to learn how to avoid getting your work rejected as well....

Send your work to the correct address

No matter where you're submitting, if you don't take the time to read the guidelines for submission, you will often be on the receiving end of ... silence. Failure to send your work to the proper e-mail address will not get your work into the hands of the person you most want to see it. Often, improperly addressed work will go straight to the trash (spambox) or, at the very least, remain unread for months until someone eventually gets around to reading the mail in the postmaster or webmaster accounts.

Remember that postmaster and webmaster accounts are "catch all" accounts and sometimes the best way to deal with all the junk that accumulates in them is to Select All and Delete. Be forewarned!

The result? Reject.

Include your basic contact information

When you do send your work to the correct address, please be sure to include your name and contact information as well as a valid subject line if submitting via e-mail. I'm stunned when I get a submission and the person doesn't have the foresight to include their name or address. All I'm left with is an e-mail address and the prospect of addressing my reply to "Dear ... ummm ... Dude"

I realize that not every small press has release forms, but ESC! Magazine does and if you don't include your basic contact information, then I can't fill out the form if I want to accept your work.

The result? Reject.

Submit work appropriate to the publication

Don't send me porn. Don't send me children's poetry or short stories. Don't send me fan fiction.

It seems a lot of people are content to submit blindly to a publication without having any idea what the magazine is all about.

In the case of ESC!, all of our recent issues are available for download from the web site in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. Before submitting, read them.

In other words, by reading the guidelines and the magazine, not only can you enjoy the works of those who came before you, but you can target your submissions appropriately. Submitting within the genres the magazine is looking for is critical if you hope to have your work accepted.

The result? Reject.

Submit in the formats requested

If a publication asks for submissions in Microsoft Word or formats, then don't submit in WordPerfect or Microsoft Works ... or Timmy's Super WordProcessor.

I accept a much broader range of formats than most, but then I've got years of IT experience which have given me the technical know-how to convert from foreign formats to one I can use. You can bet, however, that most small publications don't have this capability.

Oh, and while on this topic, please be sure to submit "clean" files. If you use Windows and submit to publications in Microsoft Word format, you better be running a high quality virus scanner (see this or this) and keep it up to date because I don't want to deal with any infections your computer might have.

The result? Reject.

Your work should be typed

Don't hand write your submissions.

'Nuf said?

The result? Reject.

Proofread your submission

I won't hold someone accountable for an errant comma or misused colon, or even the occasional (occasional - a word I spell incorrectly every time by the way) spelling error, but I do wish folks would take just a few moments and proofread their story for spelling errors, misplaced or misused apostrophes and capitalization errors. I get submissions chock-full of them and I don't think it's anything but simple laziness. I can't name a modern word processor that doesn't underline or otherwise mark spelling errors in real time these days. (Okay, now someone is going to call me on something I spelled wrong in this entry and rub my face in it. That's okay, I can take it....)

If you want me to accept your work, remember that for every misspelled word you have in your story, someone needs to fix it -- and that someone is me (see one-man show).

The result? Reject.

Just something to think about...

It won't result in outright rejection, but it sure would be nice if you could form complete sentences when composing your e-mailed submission's "cover letter." Maybe even follow the basic rules for writing a simple personal correspondence letter? Having a computer with the means to communicate in an instant doesn't mean the rules go out the window! I mean, after all, if you can't compose a simple letter, then what can I expect when I read your short story?

If you have questions ... ask!

If you do read the guidelines and still have questions, don't be afraid to ask. Guessing what the publication might be looking for or what a policy might mean is worse than taking some time to send an exploratory e-mail.

I am open to all discussions about ESC! Magazine's guidelines and have in the past made changes to the way I operate thanks to the input of contributors. Sometimes suggestions will work and sometimes they won't, but you'll never know if you don't ask first.

ESC! Magazine's guidelines can be found in a number of places but our main link is From there you can download copies of our guidelines and release forms in PDF format or just read them online. You'll also find a release schedule for the next few issues, submission deadlines and the status of acceptance for each upcoming issue.

I suspect most of you reading this don't do any of the things I've mentioned above and that's either because you're a more experienced writer and contributor or because you take the time to make sure you've crossed all your t's before clicking send. The items in my list are things that are most important to me. You may have some of your own pointers or stories to share and I encourage you to leave a comment below.

If you find you've committed any of the "submission sins" I've listed above, don't worry, I won't tell. You may not hear from me ... but I won't tell. ESC! Magazine was founded as a literary magazine for new and aspiring writers -- those who are just starting out and need a little help getting their first publishing credit. If by writing this I can help just one short story get a better chance when crossing some editor's desk because the author took the time and followed the submission guidelines, then I will have done my job.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How Many Do You Own?

So how many of the "Top 100 Gadgets of All Time" do YOU own (or have you owned)?

Check out Mobile PC Magazine's article here:

Monday, March 21, 2005

One-Man Show

I was asked again recently whether ESC! Magazine is a "one-man show" or if I have a staff of folks to help produce each issue. This is a common question I get and I thought I should share the answer with the legions of fans clamoring for the answer – all three of you.

ESC! is pretty much a one-man show. I have some folks who will occasionally read for me and some who help with layout issues I might come across from time to time, but, otherwise, it's just me, which, I suppose, is the main reason why the website design hasn't been updated yet – though this is in the works ... Really. No, really, it is!

It's my hope that ESC! Magazine doesn't come off as some cheaply produced rag or, as I commonly refer to them, the "stapled in the corner, photocopied 'zines' found at Tower Records." Though ESC! could certainly fit in the category of "zine," I take great pains to avoid that term unless absolutely necessary. Some have referred to it as a "journal" and that's a good way to describe it, though since 1992 I've consistently referred to it as a magazine, so I should stick with that for now.

As you might surmise, ESC! is a labor of love and not of profit ... or even a labor of "break even." In terms of stability and longevity, however, breaking even is ESC! Magazine's goal. As long as I can cover costs, I can keep producing the magazine. I discuss this very topic in my last editorial. If you haven't read it, you should download the issue and experience it firsthand, but to summarize: No one is purchasing the magazine. Issues are being downloaded – more issues than ever – but no one wants to pay for them. As I discovered in a brief but ill-fated experiment back in 2003, if I require payment before download, no one downloads it, therefore our wonderful writers and artists are not read. It's a tough situation, especially when postage and web hosting alone quickly consume the resources of our little production.

Just today, I came across a web site for a small press magazine named "Quanta." Quanta is a magazine that, according to their website, went on hiatus back in 1995 and, as of today, is still on hiatus. In a similar situation, ESC! Magazine went on hiatus in early 1994 but I was fortunate enough to be able to breath life back into it in 2001. In each case, though, the reasons for the break were time and money. From what I've seen of Quanta, Daniel did a fantastic job with it and it's unfortunate the magazine is still "resting," but if you visit the site you'll see that in 1995 he was fighting the same issues I am now. How do you get people to pay for something you're letting them freely download?

I'm still struggling with the answer to that question. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share them with me by leaving a comment below.

Being a one-man show, ESC! Magazine is a lot of work for me and, while I don't have a staff, I do have support from those around me and that is, after all, what counts the most.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

On Creating the Cover

So here we are just about one month before the next issue of ESC! Magazine hits the net and I've already got the cover! I know! I know! Amazing isn't it? Most of the time I'm scrambling the week before the issue is due to find something appropriate, but somehow the fates have stepped in and brought a cover image to me.

The artist, Claudio Parentela, is an illustrator and cartoonist from Italy who is very active in the underground scene of zines and comics. His works have appeared in such diverse publications as BGA Comix, Kerosene, Krimson Leer, Phony Lid Publications, Topaz, Entmoot and Pssst zine as well as many others.

I look forward to sharing his work with the readers of ESC! and invite you to check out his other works at In addition, I've found an interview with Claudio at the Lummox Press/Journal.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Firefox Support Broadens: Merriam-Webster Tools Released

After just a short time in general availability, support for Mozilla Firefox got a wonderful shot in the arm recently with the release of Merriam-Webster's collection of Firefox Tools.

This new set of tools consists of a Search Box Plug-in, a Right-Click Search tool, a new Sidebar, a Lookup Button and a new Toolbar. Of these, my favorites are the Search Box Plug-in and the Right-Click Search tool.

Before the release of these nifty little add-ons for Firefox, I was able to search the Merriam-Webster dictionary through the Search Box by using a third party tool, but the official tools go one step further by allowing not only a standard Dictionary search, but a Thesaurus search as well! Now whenever I want to look up a word, I simply type it into the box, select the appropriate M-W Search Box item and hit enter. Very slick.

In addition, I'm quite fond of the Right-Click search tool. Instead of needing to copy and paste a word from the web page I'm viewing to the Search Box, I can now right-click the word and choose "Merriam-Webster Dictionary Search for...." As with the other tools, a right-click Thesaurus search is also available. Be sure to read the installation instructions on this one though. Merriam-Webster is using a third party Firefox extension called DictionarySearch and its default dictionary is This is just fine of course, but if your goal is to use the M-W tools, be sure to read the instructions all the way through or all your searching will be done on the other site.

I also tried the Sidebar and like it, but I always look at these things from the end-user perspective and I find the execution of the sidebar to be a bit clunky. I'll look forward to future releases that might improve on this or make it a full on extension instead of just a bookmark that opens in the sidebar.

I have not installed the Toolbar or Lookup Button as neither of these appeal to me since I have all the other tools installed. If you are inclined to toolbars, by all means give them a whirl and let me know how they worked for you!

As writers, I'm sure you'll soon find the combination of these tools and the Mozilla Firefox web browser as indispensable as I do.

Still need to get Firefox? Click here to get your copy today!