Monday, June 21, 2010

Interview with Digital Dragon Magazine Founder T.W. Ambrose

AuthorCulture: When you first started Digital Dragon Magazine (DDM), you wrote at the time that stories with a Christian worldview were being passed over in the marketplace. Now that you've celebrated DDM's first anniversary (congratulations!), how's it going? Have you detected that stories with a Christian worldview have picked up any traction?

T.W. Ambrose:
Yes and no. I still think there's just not a place for Christian Sci-Fi anywhere in the traditional marketplace, and barely a place for Christian Fantasy. Yet with the growth of Indie magazines like Digital Dragon and Flame in the Dark (yes, a little self-promotion), and the emergence and growth of the small press publishers, there is getting to be more and more of a place for that Christian Worldview in publishing.

Speaking of DDM, how time flies. How'd your first year go? What was the greatest challenge and greatest victory the magazine experienced in your first year?

TWA: Well it has been a great first year, and if you swing over to you can check out our 1 year anniversary issue, which has to be our greatest victory. This year we learned that putting out a monthly magazine is difficult. I have seen several magazines that started the same time as us fall by the wayside, and yet a year in, we put out our best magazine yet. Our submissions are up, our readership is up, our staff is growing. Things are good.

I think the biggest challenge we have faced throughout has been the technical side of things, As many early fans know, we crashed on our launch day and were down almost a week. We have also struggled with several of the additional URLs we own getting them to connect. In the end, I am not a technical person.

AC: You've mentioned that Randy Streu is one of your oldest and closest friends. What's it like publishing a project like DDM with an old friend? What happens behind-the-scenes at DDM?

TWA: Working with Randy has been great. I got to know Randy my freshman year of college back in 1996 when we were both hopeful communication students. We later spent time hosting an amazing morning show together and doing "couples" things as we both each got engaged, and eventually married. Unfortunately, we eventually went our own way; Randy pursued a career in radio out East, and I stayed here working in counseling and ministry.

Luckily, with the wonders of the Modern Age, when I decided to do Digital Dragon, I knew Randy was the man I needed helping me. More recently, over the last six months, my wife has really stepped up out of just copy editing to take on a full third of the DDM responsibility.

Behind-the-scenes, I get to do the fun stuff: talking with writers, promoting the magazine, and reading submissions. Randy helps me make final decisions on submissions, as well as putting together our HTML version of the mag. My wife Jen then puts together the .PDF, as well as organizing our team of awesome Copy Editors.

AC: What do you look for from story submissions?

TWA: The first thing I look for is a story that catches my attention. After a year of submissions, that alone can be a tough thing to do. After that, I make sure it fits our family-friendly guidelines. I then try to divide stories into what issues they will be placed. I try hard to place a variety of stories in each issue, giving it a feel of modern and traditional fantasy as well as classic Science Fiction and Space Opera.

AC: I've noticed (with appreciation) that you feature a fair bit of Space Opera at DDM. How did you get into that genre?

TWA: LOL, fishing for compliments, are we? I have been a fan of Space Opera forever in areas like television, movies, and the long-form novel. I never realized that there was a large market for it in a short format until I ran into Ray Gun Revival. I fell in love with Ray Gun Revival, and it became the inspiration for Digital Dragon Magazine with its family-friendly feel, and amazing monthly serials. [Wow! I did not know this. -- Editor.] When I started DDM, I knew I wanted to include Space Opera as part of the magazine.

AC: I understand big things are in the works for the DDM folks for the next year. Could you give us an overview of what you have in the works?

TWA: One thing will always be true, when Randy and I get talking, things will always be in the process of change. However, we do have a couple things that are already in motion, which you should see at some point this year.

First, when we started DDM, we always saw it as part of something bigger. Randy and I have both been passionate about quality Christian media since the beginning, and we really saw DDM as the flagship of a company to do just that. That being said, by the end of the summer we hope to launch Diminished Media Group, which will be the parent organization for Digital Dragon Magazine, A Flame in the Dark Magazine, and Diminished Publishing.

Speaking of Diminished Publishing, that's another big change on the horizon as we hope to launch our first DDM anthology as our first print piece. We also hope to use the small press publishing house as another place for Christian Writers to look to get their work published.

Finally, we also launched our second magazine this June. A Flame in the Dark offers a unique look at Christian Horror. Randy Streu is heading up that project, and I give him a hand with submissions.

There probably half a dozen other things that are possibilities, but until things get nailed down more, we'll just keep that as my little secret!

AC: In light of your experiences this past year, if someone was interested in starting their own e-zine, what one piece of advice would you share with them?

TWA: It's not what you think. I got into the magazine because I loved to write and read. Now so much of my time is taken up with the editing that I have less time to write and read then I ever did before. That being said, I wouldn't change it. Every month, I get to be one of the first people to read our hit serial Windrider, I've met so many great people I never would have met, and put something out there that I can really be proud of.

AC: We've seen some startling changes in the publishing industry over the past year. You have a multifaceted perspective as a reader, author, and editor. Where do you think the publishing industry will go in the near future?

TWA: You know a lot of people are singing doom-and-gloom to print media, yet I don't see that at all in the near future. Books are not like VHS tapes with a solid run from the mid 80's to the mid 90's. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press sometime around 1439 and the printed word has been popular ever since. I think over the next years we will see a growth in the small press, and well as self published books. We will see most books come out in multiple formats, including e-readers. Large publishers will have to change to keep up with the times, striving to offer more choices to an audience who has realized they can get exactly what they want. One thing I do see dying is the local bookstore, which is unfortunate as it's truly a gem we will miss.

AC: If you could meet any one writer right now, who would you like to sit down and talk to over coffee?

TWA: Well, I guess that would depend on a number of things; living or dead, fiction or non-fiction. I will say one person whose writing has been a huge inspiration for me as well and millions of others is J.R.R. Tolkien. I've always felt he would be a fascinating man to talk to, and I think a cup of coffee would be the perfect way to chat with him. Although he's English, so we may have to sit down for tea. And he's dead so...

AC: What's coming up for you personally?

TWA: A lot, actually. I've been employed through the state as a Career Counselor for the past year or so, and unfortunately, with the lowering revenue base, that job will be ending. So over the next few weeks, I'll be trying to figure out what God has for me. Unfortunately, I am not yet to a point where I can make a living with DDM. One thing I do hope to do with the time is to get back and do some more writing again. I have a number of projects in the works including a Fantasy Epic, and a Space Opera serial, so let me encourage everyone out there to keep an eye out for them.

AC: How can we keep track of you and Digital Dragon Magazine?

TWA: Well the best place to keep track of Digital Dragon is at our website at: Also, check out our new magazine at: Finally, you can see what I have going on at my often not updated website:

In closing, I just really want to thank you, Johne, for taking a moment to speak with me about what has truly become a passion of mine. I hope you'll all check it out.
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