Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Chance Poll Encounter

I found a nifty poll today via Goodreads. I was updating my status to indicate that I had moved to the next book in the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series by Tad Williams when the status update for a friend taking the poll came through. I'll embed it below; I believe this should work:

Interesting that for a vast majority of readers, the publisher doesn't matter all that much (only 1% indicate it as a buying criteria). This isn't to say a publisher doesn't add value. It does, however, indicate that as social networking and computers allow authors to produce their own quality works as well as market them (and brick and mortar stores account for fewer sales), publishers will have to re-evaluate what they can offer... or simply improve royalty rates to make offloading that work more attractive. I don't think authors are unwilling to pay for their services, just that the cost/benefit ratio isn't all that enticing right now. It'll come around - it has to - but until it does, this is a golden opportunity for mouse-slinging, wordsmithing upstarts like myself.
Read more

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Write For The Ones

Here's a great line from Michael Stackpole:

There are upwards of sixty-three million devices on which ebooks can be read. If your book makes it on to just one in one thousand (1/1000) of those devices, that’s 63,000 sales. No author who isn’t already a household name is going to kick about those numbers.

I think, out of a thousand people, I can find just one who enjoys what I'm writing. I'm hoping for more, but I'm shooting to try and reach that one. To me, that is how you build a readership. Do your very best to find all those "ones" out there, and you'll do just fine. It's not about writing for everyone, it's about writing for the "ones," and doing it well.
Read more

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Social Media for Readers

I'll be the first to admit, I struggle with Twitter. First of all, it's nearly impossible for me to condense my thoughts down into 140 characters. Case in point, I got what is swiftly becoming a common question from my Aunt this weekend when I was showing off the proof of my novel: "How did you write all that?"  I guess I'm starting to recall how most people see stringing 100k words together akin to climbing Everest or running a marathon.  I mean, I used to look at books with that same aura of mystique until I'd written one.  Then, I realized that it's more like walking to the store.  You just put one foot after another and eventually you get to your destination.

I also pointed out a well-known fact among my familiars: I'm not exactly short of words.  In fact, some would say that I possess a gift for turning something seemingly simple into a rather lengthy discussion.  Usually with myself, as everyone else has long since lost interest.  Thus, Twitter doesn't really fit me.  I'm diligent about answering questions on there, mind you, and I like to poke my nose in conversations from time to time with a witty comment, but I'm hardly prolific. 

I'm all right with Facebook.  I was in college when that phenomenon began, meaning I've had an account since before it was available for those outside of colleges.  A lot of what people are just discovering is already old news to me.  Still, it's not as limiting as Twitter, though can be a bit more convoluted at times.  That, and it lacks focus.  You can do and find pretty much anything on Facebook.  I'm happy with my simple pages and "liking" things and keeping in touch with family.

Don't even get me started on Blogging.  Short story: Hook on Blogging worked for me.

Recently, I've discovered Goodreads.  In setting up my profile, I quickly realized the danger this social media outlet represents for me.  It's basically like Facebook for Readers.  I was drawn in initially by the simple fact that it lets you keep track of what you've read, what you're reading, and what you want to read.  Any heavy reader can tell you, there's nothing worse than when you're ready for that next book and you've forgotten the title.  Goodreads provides a pretty slick solution to this.

And then there's the social aspect.  You can friend people.  You can view lists.  You can join book clubs.  You can discuss.  You can review.  You can rate.  Books, books, and more books.  Is this Heaven?  No, it's Goodreads.

I've added 99 books in the last week and my to-read list has swelled to six (When, while writing, I try to average one a month and usually fail and knock out two.  Incidentally, I gave myself a goal of 12 books this year.  I'm pretty sure that's conservative).  Every time I think I've nailed my "already read" list, I remember another series, author, or entire genre I got sidetracked on.  Books are my drug.

So anyway, if you're a bibliophile like me, you may want to check out Goodreads.  I hope to link myself to my books eventually. You can find my account here.  Friend me, share recommendations, or just lurk in the background.  I'll be doing the same.  Pleasant trolling.
Read more

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Declaration of Independence

The car chortled to a halt as Damian twisted the key off. Gathering his trusty coffee mug sidekick, he opened the driver's side door. It squealed in protest, resisting him until he pushed past the rust. With a quick foot, he hooked the freed door before it could slam into the shiny BMW next to him.

You should have let it go, Inigo muttered in his brain.

Damian shrugged. Too obvious.

I believe those magnificent devices called automobiles can be moved, no?

The rust would have given me away, Inigo.

Ah yes, the rust. Of course.

With a deep sigh, Damian twisted his way out of the small, two-door vehicle. Not for the first time, he reflected that he really should upgrade. With his lanky frame, the beater wasn't really optimal. He'd be much more comfortable in a larger sedan. A beamer even. Or maybe a two-ton truck.

Unfortunately, he realized the futility of the thought even as it skittered across his mind. He was simply too cheap. He'd be stuck with the beater until it disintegrated around him, leaving him naught but a captain's chair and pleather-wrapped wheel clutched in his hands, skidding down the highway at eighty, sparks flying behind him like one of those Fourth of July whirligigs.

Such a destructive holiday, Inigo noted.

You don't celebrate the Fourth of July in Spain?

Inigo laughed at him. Silly American. No, where you celebrate your Declaration of Independence, we have Constitution Day in December. I would think it more logical to remember the establishment of one's Constitution, no?

Damian paused. I wonder when our Constitution Day is. We don't celebrate it, do we?

September 17. Though in 1952, your President Truman changed the name to Citizenship Day. By the typical measurement of celebration - a day allowed free of torture, or work as you insist on calling it - no, you do not celebrate it.

How do you know all this, Inigo?

Luck. I was aware of those dates. Also, I have been with you for several Septembers now.

Damian pondered that for a moment. He wasn't sure what to make of the voice in his head. When he was younger, his parents had taken him to doctors. They'd tried to get him to take pills, diagnosing him with Dissociative Identity Disorder. None of the treatments had ever worked. In fact, it seemed to Damian that the more chemicals in his body, the more voices spawned. Left alone, whatever afflicted Damian seemed to produce only Inigo.

Despite all the help he'd received, Damian had still managed to graduate from college. One of the first steps he'd taken on his own had been to quit all the treatments. His parents had been worried, but he hadn't don't anything truly insane yet, as far as they knew. They preferred to think he'd been cured. Damian saw no reason to correct them.

Juggling his trusty mug and overloaded key-chain, Damian found the correct key and unlocked the apartment door. He twisted the knob and put his hip into the door, backing his way into the dark room. Key in mouth, Damian fumbled for the light switch. The click was followed immediately by the clatter of the key-chain hitting the floor.

A single bare bulb burned above the living room. The other lamps that Damian had expected were gone. Where the couch used to be, only a dusty outline remained on the light, berber carpet. There were similar silhouettes for the end tables and the TV stand. The bookcase had been left behind, but all of the pictures that had adorned its shelves were gone, leaving only the actual books. Nearby, Damian's ratty old recliner rounded out the sad lot of possessions. Damian didn't even need to lean his head into the adjoining bedroom to know that its occupants had been similarly culled.

The worst part? He still had that awful metallic taste in his mouth as he nudged the door shut.
Read more

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fiction Fantastical

Yesterday I made the first of (hopefully) many posts that bear the tag "Fiction Fantastical." Then, I realized I should offer a bit of explanation about it since it may seem sort of random. Basically, the idea stems from something I've done for several years now on my World of Warcraft blog (on Fridays). Namely, I enjoy writing serial fiction.

Why Fantastical? In High School, I volunteered in our Library and often got stuck in the Periodical room. I lovingly called it The Morgue, since, with the advent of the internet, no one really goes looking for microfiche anymore. Okay, so maybe that's not completely true if you're talking about real libraries, but for High School students, it is. We couldn't get people to venture in there unless we specifically told them "no computers allowed." Then, they'd all come grumbling in, looking around like: "What's all this nonsense on shelves?" "Can't you just like, run a search? You mean I have to look through sequential numbers?"

Anyway, Fantastical is sort of play on Periodical (As opposed to just tagging the posts "serial fiction." *snore*) that I thought was fun. It also tells you that I'm going to be working within a Fantasy construct. There will be magic and weirdness in addition to oddball jokes and social commentary. I like to use my serial fiction as an area to have fun and experiment. It's worked out really well on the other blog, turning into some fun stories and good moments. I like to think it's also improved my writing quite a bit.

My goal is to try to produce one installment per week. I will still be producing the fanfic for World of Warcraft too, and even if you don't play the game, you may enjoy checking that out on Fridays (Look for the IC Friday tag over there). Some of it can be quite fun in its own right. Unlike the fanfic though, I'm not going to tie myself into any one day for this series. It's more going to be when my Muse strikes, so we'll see how it goes. To start with, I'm going to shoot for middle of the week. Fiction helps get me over the hump.

Where do you, the reader, come in?

Well, I do take requests. This can be interactive. If there's something you'd like to see, maybe I can do it (no promises). I also have a general overarching storyline in mind, so there is sort of a direction. We'll follow a completely meandering path to get there, though.

I also love feedback and comments on them. What worked? What fell flat? That's sort of the point behind these. It goes right along with my "learning on the job" mantra.

What's more, you could look at this as a sample of my voice. This is how I write. This is how my books will sound and feel (except hopefully more polished, as posts are all rough drafts by nature). There are going to be try-before-you-buy options though the e-book vendors, and maybe I'll post some excerpts here too, so these are just a bonus.

Finally, I hope you find enjoyment in the short stories. My overriding goal with anything I write is to entertain. Expect lighter fare. Oftentimes, I'm shooting for at least one smile. Even if it's small. The world could use more smiles.
Read more

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Kick In The...

There he sat, glaring daggers that shredded the air. Watching as the sausagey fingers of his sworn enemy hovered above a shared foe. This peaceable union would never last. It was a simple matter to slay the metaphorical Jabberwock between them and then go galumphing back to a meaningless and antagonistic coexistence.

With a smooth, practiced hand, the enemy of his enemy plunged that mightiest-of-all-weapons downward. Dry scratching filled the room as the wicked instrument of doom worked back and forth, grinding relentlessly until black blood stained in a pattern that was pleasing to the manipulator. Even so, the tragedy was not the sacrifice on the mahogany altar, but the tick, tick, ticking of the round observer on the wall, forever lost down the rabbit hole and funneled directly into Tick Storage Room A.

With a final snicker-snack, it was over.

"I've gone ahead and marked your performance as satisfactory for this quarter."

The Boss spoke in a flat monotone. His dry, ashen hair had all but deserted the apex of his head, growing ever thicker as one moved downward to where salt and pepper whisker battled with trembling jowl. Two chins rounded out a face schooled in multiples. Even the beady brown eyes seemed a copy of each other, as if only one had been faxed in by God with instructions to "go ahead and take care of that."

"Thank you, sir," Damian heard himself reply.

Now is your chance, Damian! Press onward!

He had named the voice in his head Inigo. Or perhaps the voice had named itself, he couldn't remember. It had been a constant companion of his since grade school. Either way, the name fit with the Spanish accent that the Spirit of Bravado wielded in his head.

"Is there anything you'd like to add?" The Boss asked.

Damian was pretty sure The Boss had a name too. He could dredge it up from his memory, but that would require effort, and he was loathe to give the man even that. It was rumored that, translated from its native Swahili, the name would roughly mean Door Mat. In English, likely it was Jim. Weren't all bosses named Jim?

"No, sir. Thank you."

The Boss nodded, pleased with the stability of the boat. "Back to work, then."

Damian felt himself nod. He watched from afar as he stood up and exited the office with its nice wood paneled walls, bright lights, and luxurious view of the corn fields that surrounded the compound. Feeling began its tingling return to his extremities only after the door was slammed shut behind him.

Once again, your cowardice shames me, Inigo said.

Damian frowned. It's not my fault, Inigo. There was nothing I could have done.

Lies! Inquiring about the raise you are due would surely have been an appropriate action.

At least I have a job. I should just be thankful. Besides, no one is getting raises, Inigo. The economy is down right now, that's just how it works. And you heard his review. "Satisfactory" does not translate to "raise." Even in Spanish.

Damian, you and I both know that Benjamin just got one last week.

Shhh, Damian hissed in his head, we're not supposed to know that. He stalked down the hallway, frustrated both with the voice in his head and with himself. Mostly with himself. It's all political, anyway. Ben has been here longer than I have.

Inigo snorted. Yes, a paltry six months, and he does nothing whilst you work.

"You all right, Gardner?"

The voice startled Damian. It belonged to his cube-mate, Ben Windsor. Tall, dark, and handsome, Ben seemed to lead a semi-charmed kind of life, riding the coattails of his suave demeanor and striking looks to success. Damian was only slightly jealous.

Ben raised a black eyebrow. Damian echoed his puzzlement at first, but then realized he'd been standing at the entrance to their desk area, mumbling to himself. Heat rose to his cheeks.

"Yeah, we're fine," he replied casually, cursing himself as he noticed the slip in personal pronoun postmortem. It had been a rough day.

Ben shrugged and shoved his ear bud back in. "Whatever, man."

The young man spun around in his chair to return his attentions to the glowing screen. Over one of Ben's muscular shoulders, Damian could clearly see the You Tube video playing. It looked like one of the denizens in the clip was about too... yep. Gratuitous nut shot. Ben let out a guffaw, oblivious to the various shades of work going on around him.

Inigo piped up. See?
Read more

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Open Door

hey say: "When God closes one door, he always leaves another open." Or maybe you've heard it with another window intead of a door. I'm sure you're familiar with it in any case, and it's a saying I strongly believe in. Well, at least with a bit of modification.

You see, to me it should be: "When God closes one door, he always leaves a metal covered vent somewhere in the room." You know, just enough so that we're sorely tempted to McGyver our way out of there. The door is shut and locked tight, and we're standing above this tiny vent thinking "there is absolutely no way."

I mean, if it were as simple as a door, we'd all be making all these radical life changes, right? I mean who sees this lovely alternative open door and says: "Nah, F- that. I'm just going to bang my head against this one for another ten or twenty years and hope wood decay has begun to set in. Maybe if I spit a lot, I can promote rot. Yeah, great idea. Forget you, open door." Or even if it's a window, I think we can figure that shit out. Latch one, latch two. Freedom!

Most assuredly we're staring at a tiny, just-less-than-wide-enough, dark grate. Even if you had tools to get the screws out and the faceplate off, you're pretty sure your swollen head couldn't fit in there. Plus you can vaguely sense a ninety degree turn in your vent traversing future, and you don't bend that way anymore.

Yet, if you're like me, you're still wandering around the room trying to fashion a reciprocating saw out of bath fixtures and piltfering a bit of copper piping to shunt it into the wall socket. You're pretty sure you're going to start a fire and maybe cut off a limb in the process, but both would be preferable to being stuck here. After all, the fire could burn down the door, and a severed limb would surely help the vent-fitting situation.

Then, right the time you finished building a step stool from the wooden cabinets, have greased yourself all over with someone else's toothpaste, and are standing on your tiptoes with one arm in the vent, the Kool-aid man comes bursting through the very same wall: "Ohhhh yeah!"

And as you're standing there with the metal rim that represents all that remains of that damned vent, dripping a shimmering blue like you were re-enacting Avatar, and looking quite the fool, you take a sip of the red liquid and feel a cool ocean breeze brush your face. The nearby waves promise to rinse you off and there are big fluffy robes on a rack nearby. The question then becomes: Do you have the courage to reap what your hard work has sown? Yeah, a giant cartoon helped, but what you don't know is that it was the parched throat you're sporting as a result of your labors that brought the thirst quencher on. Don't sell yourself short.

If this scenario is too fantastical for you, then by all means, continue to think in terms of a window or door. It's been my experience that anything worth having is certainly worth covering yourself up with Colgate. I mean, I wish it were as easy as a door or window too. I'm just sick of waiting on either of those.
Read more

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Good Old Joe

Like most writers aspiring to turn a hobby into a self-published reality, I follow the venerable Joe Konrath via his blog. Joe, being one of the forerunners of the whole e-revolution, offers great advice, great interviews, and most importantly, a whole lot of emotional support for some of the smaller authors out there.

He lives out his ideals of keeping "one hand forward and one extended back" (to both look to the future while helping those coming behind), and also "rowing in the same boat" with the rest of us (writers don't need to compete, we all sell more by promoting each other). There are a couple of his "famous" quotations that really resonate with me that I wanted to share.

First, from an older post, is one that really inspired me to get my mind right about self-publishing. For a long time, I worried, like a lot of writers, that the only legitamate way to succeed at writing was to score a big six contract. At the bottom of the linked guest post, Joe writes the following:
"Now, I don't discount that if a book is accepted by the Big 6, it meets a minimum quality standard. It is difficult for writers to judge their own work, and acceptance by an agent is a good indicator that the work is up to par. But guess what? Selling a shitload of ebooks is a much better validation. Getting a stamp of approval from readers is more important than a stamp of approval from a publisher."

That really resonated with me. I'm not a big one to buy into any sort of "gatekeeper." Like Joe, I won't go so far as to say that a traditional publishing contract doesn't add value or indicate a minimum level of quality. It's just not the only way to succeed. Especially today. I'm not against big publishing, but I am most assuredly for independent publishing. You don't have to be one or the other, but the choice does come down to what's best for both author and reader. Notice the lack of "what's best for the corporation." That's the neat part.

I believe big publishing will continue in some form, but that the e-revolution will continue to de-emphasize their important. This isn't a bad thing. They can still produce quality and help with distribution. They can still add value through professional services like editing and artwork. It's just not the only way to succeed.

A writer can also succeed simply by connecting with readers. Finding their own audience, no matter how niche. Turning a hobby into a living. It's great to have options!

A second was more recent. Reprinted in a collectioin of motivational quotations near the bottom of the post here. He says:
"When you're learning how to walk, you don't take classes. You don't read how-to books. You don't pay experts to help you, or do it for you. You just keep falling until you learn on your own."

I love this sentiment. Now, it shouldn't be taken to say that there isn't value or learning that can be gained through taking classes, reading books about writing, or consulting experts. The point is, at the end of the day, you really are only going to learn through doing. At some point, you have to take all the lessons and advice and apply it to something real. At the end of the day, you just need to write.

That's my plan. Write and share. (And absorb as much as I can through all the outlets that make sense for me). Hopefully I'll find my audience.
Read more

Monday, May 9, 2011

Grassroots Promoting

Over the years, I've struggled to come to terms with my writing. That may be an odd way of putting it, but it more accurately reflects my feelings. Writing was never just something to do, rather it was more a part of me, and as one matures, a natural part of the process is the struggle to understand the different aspects of self.

As such, my writing wasn't something I was really ready to share until I had grown used to it. Confidence is something that I think every writer is going to struggle with at some point or another, but there's a tipping point where you start to win more than you lose. That's precisely where I've just passed. Fortunately, another trait common to writers is harsh self-criticism. Thus, where I set the bar was probably a lot higher than an outside observer may have set it.

The problem with attempting to "break in" to writing, as I see it now, isn't so much with your confidence as a writer. There are a plenty of writers that develop a healthy confidence in their talents and never succeed in selling anything. No, the problem for me is when it comes to promoting. It's becoming easier for me to share my musings with people. The more I blog, the more fiction I write online, the more feedback I get... the more comfortable I am in my growing writerly body.

Promotion is something I'm new at, however. How can I, in good faith, ask people to pay me money for simply expressing a part of myself? I struggle with the idea of promotion. I'm pretty realistic I think when it comes to my writing. Some people are going to like it. Others, not so much. When I write my stories, I keep a very narrow audience in mind. It stands to reason, then, that I'm not going to please everyone. So how can I do the self-promotion thing if I really don't believe my stuff is for "everyone?" (Some days I still have a hard time believing it's for "anyone," but that's a confidence thing.)

I mean, I feel uncomfortable asking someone to read my books. That is a problem. But to me, reading is a very intimate relationship between reader and author. Like a vampire at the door, the reader must invite the author in, and with the invitation accept a certain amount of vulnerability. In my mind, I can't shake the vision that asking someone to buy my book is the same as going up to someone in a bar and asking to suck on their neck for a bit. It's just so personal.

The solution I've found has to do with framing. Psychologically speaking, we can do a lot of things if only we frame them correctly. As long as I look at the topic of self promotion through the eyes of a vampire, I'm going to shy away from it. As much as I may day dream of being an immortal, I'm really much too nice to force myself on people like that. Plus, I'm not really selling a good, rather I'm selling an idea.

So I looked toward the masters of idea selling: politicians. I'm sure you've heard the term "Grassroots" before. As in: "Oh, it's a grassroots movement." These type of political ideas tend to start of local and gain moment through the promotion of the members within the community, often through simple word of mouth. It's simply people talking to people, connecting on the common ground of the shared belief or idea.

I want to take a "grassroots" approach to promoting. It's not the quickest route to big sales, but I'm not going for quick. I'm shooting for loyal. I'm shooting for a community of readers that simply enjoy what I write and want to see more of it. That's what you'd be investing your money in: a cause you believe in. I'm not trying to drain anyone of blood, I'm trying to provide entertainment in the form of stories.

This mentality really reflects itself in the production of my books. I don't have a bunch of money to throw at the venture right now. I can't afford to spend a thousand dollars on a professional editor, or hire a publicist, or whatever. This is DIY. This is self-publishing as a "night job." (This is NOT an excuse for poor quality!)

When I took my first tentative steps on this road, I realized I didn't have any friends "in the biz." I don't know any editors or agents, or even anyone in a local writing group. My social network isn't plugged in to the "right" people. So I went outside the box. What did I have? I know a lot of teachers. I know a lot of avid readers. Those are the folks I'm going to for help. English teachers are really good at marking up a paper. Avid readers have seen a lot of successful novels and can give great feedback about what works and what doesn't. Art teachers can help me hammer out a cover design. Now, I know theses aren't professionals with professional experience, but they are what I have, and if I'm asking them to believe in me, I should start by believing in them. It's grassroots. That's what this is all about.

I'm sure I'll learn to be better at promotion. Along the way, I hope to gather and connect with people that can help me be the writer I want to be. But I don't expect it to happen quickly. Some of the best dishes are made by slow roasting over a careful tended flame. I don't need another pressure cooker in my kitchen. Life's got enough of those as it is.

I guess I just wanted to let you guys know where I'm coming from and how I'm approaching this. A lot of the successful self-publishers out there are advocating putting a lot of money into your book to try and get an extremely professional product. It's a great idea... if you have the money. I'd like to think that, with the support of the smart and talented people I already know, we could do just as good of a job. Nothing against the professionals, this is just where I'm starting. Maybe it grows into something bigger, maybe not. The point is that I've found a process I can believe in.

And I'm learning. Always learning.
Read more

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hail, Azerothians!

If you're coming over from my WoW-blog, Killing 'em Slowly, thank you so much for checking this site out! It will be slow going over here at first, as I work to get things up and running. I actually started building this site back in January, and I think it's turned out well so far. I plan to post at least once a week to start, maybe more. Eventually I'd like to get a fiction day going similar to what I've been doing over at KeS (only not see in Azeroth).

So please, pull up a chair, pour a beer, and open a book. This is our little corner where we're going to try and offer some fun reads and cool stories. Hopefully you'll enjoy the fruits of our labor. Feel free to offer advice and suggestions as we go, I'd love to hear from you! Also, let me know if you discover anything broken. This is still very much a work in progress.
Read more

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Writing For An Audience

One of the keys to good writing that I've come across repeatedly is to make sure you know the audience you're writing for. In practice, this can be a bit daunting. For instance, let's say I'd like to write an urban fantasy YA-crossover. Or, more simply, the next Twilight. Not neccessarily in terms of success, but in terms of that's the general audience I'm shooting for.

(Side note: Twilight was a large influence for my first novel. I really did enjoy the stories, but like a lot of people there were a lot of parts where I felt I would have rather seen this or that. And it always bugs me when people complain but offer no solution. In a way, my solution was to write my own book the way I wanted to see things. This isn't a criticism of the books, though, because you're never going to be able to please everyone. The goal then, is to hit more than you miss, and I think it's obvious that Stephanie Meyer did that. We may like each and every design choice she made, but overall the stories worked to the tune of millions of sales. Purests make take issue with the minutia, but writing is a business in addition to an art form and hobby. I would take an infinite amount of flak about sparkly vampires if I could achieve that level of success. I mean, how many people did she get to read? It's awesome.)

Anyway, that's a huge audience. You have everything from teenage girls to SUV-driving super-moms. How could you possibly write a story with all of those people in mind? When I first contemplated the project, I was disheartened by this. How could I ever succeed with so many people?

Then I remembered, the large following came after the novel was written. I don't think Stephanie sat down and thought: I'm going to write this for a million different people. The key, then, to this whole writing for an audience thing is to pick your ideal reader. Who are the one or two people you really want to like your story? Then, write for them.

For me, it was my wife and my sister. My sister was a fan of Twilight, being a teenage girl and all, but she is not your stereotypical Twi-hard. This may be a brother's love, but I don't see her as just another screaming fan. She's a very intelligent girl. She wasn't simply "Team Jacob" or "Team Edward." She could talk to me about the pros and cons of both. She was the whole reason I read the novels in the first place.

I'm 13 years older than my sister. Connecting and having a relationship with her is always going to be a bit of a challenge. We have the age difference. We have the sex difference. Books are one thing that really can ignore both of those. When she says "you have to read this," I now believe her. She's an excellent little literary critic in her own right, bringing in the unique view of a 12-year-old girl. And, as the industry has seen, that's not a demographic to scoff at.

Then there was my wife. She's always encouraged my writing, so I wanted to pay her back a bit. I wanted to write something she would enjoy too. She's not a big reader, but she loves stories. In particular, she is a big fan of anime cartoons. She used to watch them religiously in college late night on Adult Swim. (My wife is a nerd, and proud of it).

This is where the heavy influence of asian mythology comes from in my first book. I basically took the broad genre of "vampire stories" and combined a bit of "anime cartoon" and made a story of it. It was a whole lot of fun. I mean, I got to mess around with shapeshifters and samurai. If you don't think that is cool, then my books probably aren't for you :-).

In short though, that was my intended audience. Two people. If they enjoy the story, it has succeeded (and did). If anyone else enjoys it, that is just icing on the cake (which I'm hoping for).

In my second project, the more traditional fantasy I'm working on, I've added one more person to my intended audience. Well maybe two, if you include myself. A supportive friend has been helping me to navigate the fantasy genre. I've always loved fantasy, and it helps to have someone deeply familiar with the genre to point you to the "good stuff." I"m a voracious reader, so I'll burn through a genre in about a decade. I did Sci/Fi with a little fantasy in high school. I went for mainstream thrillers/murder mystery in college. Now, I'm coming home to fantasy.

In any case, if someone were to ask about how to write for an audience, the advice I would give is try to whittle it down. Write for people you care about. It'll invest you more deeply in the story and provide it's own reward. Quite frankly, they're likely to love your work anyway because they care about you. However, their confidence can help motivate you to do your very best. At least, it seems to have worked that way for me.
Read more

Monday, May 2, 2011

Hello World

Well, we're about a month away from the planned release of my debut novel The Binder's Daughter. Thus, I believe it is time to begin building a bit of content on this site. I've been doing the blogging thing for a while now, and one of the tricks I've learned over the years is that whenever you start a new blog, you want to have a good smattering of posts up before you announce yourself to the world. After all, no one is enticed by a dead site. So over the next month, I'll be posting irregularly with the goal of developing a good base of "starter" posts. Eventually, I plan to be a lot more regular with my posting, to the tune of perhaps two or three posts a week (more if I have more to say). For today, I believe it's time for the obligatory "Hello World" post.

Anyone who has taken classes to learn a new Software Language can tell you that the first step is almost always the ubiquitous Hello World program. The goal of such a program is usually to simply produce something in the new language that will print out "Hello World" on the screen, the mechanisms for which are often easily learned. To me, this seems like a good place to start this venture. In a way, I feel as if I'm learning a new language: the language of a professional writer.

Now, I'm not professional yet. Writing has been an amateur hobby for me for years. Mostly confined to blogs, journals, and personal projects (poetry and stories), I am not new to the English language. I am, however, new to the concept of producing something for general consumption. As such, the goal of this post is to set my course. I call the blog On The Job Writing as a play on the phrase "on the job learning." Ofttimes, in the world of professional Engineering (and many many others), we are required to learn as we go. That is, rarely does anyone begin a job knowing exactly everything they need to know. A big part of being a good professional is the ability to learn and adapt to any job. This is the mentality I plan to bring to this writing venture.

Nearly five years ago now, I graduated from college. Faced with entering an extremely hostile working environment in the midst of a recession, I turned to the outlet that has always been there for me: writing. It was in that first free fall that I began writing a novel. I had written stories in the past, starting and inevitably stopping at various points, but this time was different. This time I decided I would finish, come what may.

In the recession, I suppose I was more fortunate than most. I landed and kept a full time job that paid the bills. It was not exciting, the pay was pretty mediocre, but I was not struggling like I knew many to be. I found myself in an interesting position. I wasn't very happy with my station in life, yet I couldn't really complain either, certain it would fall on deaf ears (rightfully so). So I wrote, just about an hour a day, every day. On my lunch break, after work, whenever I found time. And eventually something magic happened: I finished an entire novel.

Make no mistake, there is a high to finishing such a long project. Especially one in which you invest so much of yourself. Yet, I'd never really shared my writings before. Sharing is a big step. But along the way I'd gotten married. Who better to be vulnerable before than your wife? That's sort of one of the perks, right? Also, I have a great family and a solid group of close friends. So I offered to let a few of them read as well (first, my 12 year old sister and a friend from work). These are people who kind of knew that I wrote, were supportive, and were kind enough to leap with both feet into a world of my creation.

To my immense astonishment, they loved the story. Cries of "you need to get this published" came after the very first reading. I'd never really thought of it before. I mean, publishing a novel to me was something you did after retiring later when you had all this life experience and time on your hands. No way was I good enough now. No way would I be given the time of day.

In the interim I began poking around in the world of publishing. I began to frequent the blogs of agents and authors, just trying to get a feel for the industry. The story sat for a couple of a years, and, thankfully, my originally readers wouldn't let it go. They kept urging me to fix small things here and there, always with the advice "get this published." The manuscript slowly got better, and in the face of unwavering support, I started to believe a bit in my talent. (I still have a hard time even admitting that. Chasing the dream of a professional writer for me was always somewhere in the same arena as trying to be a professional athlete. You don't "learn" to do it, you either are incredibly gifted or you aren't. And there is plenty of feedback for athletes along the way. Though you certainly need to work hard to develop talent too.)

Around that time, another magical thing happened: the publishing industry began to experience a revolution at the hands of e-readers and e-books. All of a sudden, you didn't have to be a Stephen King, Dean Koontz, or James Patterson, to sell a novel. You just had to be able to find your audience. You didn't have to be an established professional or extremely lucky to get published, you simply had to put in the time and effort yourself. You really could learn through doing, and produce something that people might enjoy. In my eyes, the most important thing that the e-revolution gave to authors was the opportunity to control their own destinies. To be able to learn on the job as a writer was formerly a decision by some publisher somewhere about whether they wanted to waste money on you until you "made it." Sure, some experience lightning strikes of immediate popularity, but for most, you had to toil away as a starving artist before you could experience success. It's just how things were.

I didn't really buy into all that. Most authors and aspiring writers would agree, there's a lot not to like about the way things used to be in the publishing world. There were some good things, don't get me wrong, but authors could never be in control like they can be today. There wasn't a viable way to make money while learning.

So where did that leave me? I had this manuscript that I was being urged to release to the world, and I now had the potential to be able to do it myself. It may not have been the wide open door that I was hoping for, but it was certainly a cracked window. What's more, I didn't have to be this super-accomplished professional writer person to approach the market. I could simply be me, and if me sells, then great. If not, then at least I've attempted to share my stories.

I love to write. I love to tell stories. I would like to share them with you. It's that simple.

The goal of my initial program here then is pretty clear: to find my readers. I have an inkling that there are people out there that will enjoy my writing. I don't pin my hopes on becoming the next Kindle Millionaire or winning awards or anything like that. What I want is simply to provide you, the reader, with several hours of relatively cheap entertainment. If you smile, if you laugh, if you are touched... then I've succeeded.

This is my Hello World. If you've found your way here, and you like what I'm writing, please consider supporting me. I would love to devote more time to this hobby (and potentially turn it into my job, isn't that everyone's dream?). Until then, I plan to learn by doing. I plan to take the criticisms that I'm sure will come as small lessons. And I plan to try to write the best stories I am capable of. At the very least, by the time I retire and get to the point where I used to think I could begin... I'll have already started. And hopefully I'll have picked up a thing or two along the way.
Read more