Quick History 1998-2006. John T. Cullen (yours truly) launched the original Sharpwriter in August 1998.
My Personal Writer Desktop. My initial purpose in 1998 was to provide myself with a desktop of writer resources. Beginning in April 1996, I had been publishing my novels and short stories online. Constructing SharpWriter.Com (SWC, as I called this portal), I soon saw that these links were useful to many other writers and readers. So I kept building the portal out for myself and others, including a major book review site for mostly RWA friends around the world.
Genesis Years In the 1990s, before e-commerce and before cyber crime, the World Wide Web (WWW, or Internet beyond command line, including attractive user interfaces) was still virginal snow. Clocktower Fiction (later Clocktower Books) had an enthusiastic following of avid readers around the worlda historic fact that, a quarter century later, is almost forgotten. But I'm keeping the memories alive, and continue working, at my webplex that includes this Museum collection. The early WWW was sparsely populated and almost unorganized except for portals like Yahoo and some early search engines, so there was great utility in a writers' resource. In 1999, Writer's Market recognized SWC as "one of the top 101 resources on line for writers."
Amazon Affiliate since 1998. As I launched SWC in 1998, e-commerce was just starting to boom. I became an Amazon affiliate that year, and as I post this (2018) it's been an enjoyable twenty-year run so far, continuing with my new online shopping mall and bookstore linked sites.
Webplex: Linked Sites In recent years, I have brought into fruition a concept I had in the late 1990s. I have always had a lot of material, including entire novels since 1996, and this made for one large, cumbersome website. There are other work-arounds, but my webplex concept was to create a purposefully linked net of related websites that have simpler and shallower sitemaps for easy cruising. We've long known that readers browsing will generally not look past the landing page, so it seemed worth trying to have multiple landing pages, each purposed more narrowly to focused search needs. Such sites are much easier to maintain, the filenames are shorter, and hopefully it will all work very smoothly. I'm still watching and hoping for the best. that explains the rather unique navigation profile of my webplex, including linked subplex clusters of small sites. SWC has become at this time a museum page for historical reference. I am considering adding new purpose in the form of a writer blog (maybe; TBD).
Eight Year Run as Portal. Clocktower Books also, from 1998 to 2007, published the world's first online-only professional magazine of Speculative Fiction (SFFH). More info on our renowned, history-making magazine at the Museum. The magazine actually had a longer run (ten years) than SharpWriter.Com, which ran eight years. We made history on all sides, it was fun, and I continue building on those foundations well into the 21st Century. (JTC)
Aside: Piracy. You'll note a major link on SWC for Piracy. The piracy issue was an early problem online. If you think this is not a crime, look at the statutory fines per offense listed at the U.S. Copyright Office website (hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential fines per offense, if convicted). As pioneer publishers began to flourish in the new online freedom, so did the inevitable thieves and sociopaths among the general human race. That includes not only pimply teenagers who never get dates, dwelling in their grandmother's basement and living on cold pizza and warm snot, but in fact some prominent poison mushrooms and pretenders infesting the legitimate artistic community like invisible cancers. I had one novel stolen in 1998 (Heartbreaker, retitled today as This Shoal in Space) by some troglodyte in Texas, prominent local writers' group leader at a central library, who simply published it on his website under his name to impress his unsuspecting followers. He was dumb enough not to hide his crimes very well, let's put it that way without giving away any trade secrets. I found his fakery soon enough and shut him down, with the main effect that he ruined his reputation in his community. A similar thing happened with a short story by my good friend Dennis Latham, which was similarly appropriated under false pretenses by some fake literatus at a prominent Canadian literary magazine. As with my novel, enough Good Samaritan lawyers and supporters quickly rallied to expose him. In both cases, I might add, we had to first penetrate a predictable firewall of rage and incredulity by the well-meaning dupes whom these individuals manipulated as unsuspecting mentors and protectors. In the end, these individuals ruined their own lives and reputationseffectively, over nothing, since they stole the hard and sincere work of relative unknowns and pretended to be somebody they weren't and could never be due to their lack of integrity, hard work, and most importantly any shred of talent.
Writer Beware! These observations seem newly relevant in light of the rise of ruthless, mediocre, amoral, sociopathic, and murderous tyrants around the globe in the early 21st Century including a few in the West. A prominent Russian Internet criminal, who turned on his handlers to cooperate with U.S. investigators in 2018, states that in his opinion, between 10 and 15% of the human race are of this malignantly narcissistic, poison spider variety who dwell among us. I had assumed it was about five percent, but his numbers begin to seem more credible as I glance at the news on TV every day, especially since the stolen U.S. election (again) of November 2016. Even before Web commerce in the late 1990s, the presence of these spiders could be detected in the form of fairly clumsy, intellectual property thieves. Most of those pirates were mediocre amateurs in the day; today they are among the most clever, well-funded, often government and cartel backed criminals in history. Given that I also had two books stolen by ruthless New York City book packagers and middlemen a decade ago, which took me years and finally threats of court action to pry loose, it should be no secret that the publishing industry is a sewer filled with smelly bottom feeders who prey on hopeful and naïve struggling writers. Beware! If it sounds too good to be true, it's virtually always untrue. All of which is to say, SWC offered some critically important, relevant, and useful information for writers in its day.
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