Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writing for the Sake of Writing

Greetings Fellow Readers,

Happy Tuesday!

For those of you still following, I issued a massive update to Shadow Galactic a couple weeks ago (almost 100,000+ words).  By now, the Amazon Kindle store should have issued an automatic update for everyone who still owns a copy.

I've also added Shadow Galactic to iBooks, Nook Press, and Google Play Books.  Yeah, I know I've been sitting on this book for a while now - it turned 2 years old on 1/22/15  - but between life and everything else that comes with it, it's been hard to find the time to complete something really new.  Plus, it's really a labor or love, as it turns out.  It's not a way to get rich, unless you're very lucky, very connected, or insanely talented.

But still I feel compelled to write.  Until now, I thought it was to write my own ticket, but since I've been chasing that rabbit for 21 years without any measurable financial success, I needed to ask myself why I really did it the first place, and why I still feel the calling every time I close my eyes.

Why?

Because it's part of who I am.  Writing is part of how I express myself, and it turns out I've always had great big stories to tell.  I know they're not perfect for everyone who reads them, but that's okay, because they're me.  They're a work in progress, just like me.  My writing voice cracks like the squeaky-voice teenager from the Simpsons, but the more I use it, the stronger and clearer it gets.

I've formed a writing group with my wife and best friends, and we're going over the prompts we want to work with tomorrow.  I'll be posting my pieces here, after they've gone through the wringer.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to everyone who still follows this blog.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Story Putty II

Below, I have listed my top ten most inspirational books (and series) and why.  Next, I'll post TV series! 

10. Sphere, by Michael Crichton - I picked it up around 10 AM one summer morning and set it down at 5 AM, 19 hours later, having finished reading it completely.  It was the first time I had ever read a scifi thriller, and it showed me how well fantastic elements paired with interesting characters to create a gripping page turner.  Not that Shadow Galactic could ever be called a thriller, but there's a lot more of that in the upcoming sequel, and a lot of my slow-reveal pacing was influenced by this novel.

9. Xanth (series), by Piers Anthony - From A Spell for Chameleon to The Color of her Panties, I followed this charming series.  Anthony's characters continually had to think their way through challenges, as opposed to shooting their way out of them, and it wasn't until I started writing scifi that I realized just how much that influenced me.  Plus, the puns.  Oh, the puns…

8. Forgotten Realms: The Moonshae Trilogy (series), by Douglas Niles - A Darkwalker on Moonshae was the first fantasy book I read by choice (as opposed to required reading for school).  At the time, I had been playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with a small group of friends, and a book set in that world interested me.  I don't know what I expected, but it definitely WASN'T a clearly high-level captain getting his head smashed in with a single hit by a rampaging firbolg!  What about his Hit Points?  What??  Regardless, Douglas Niles wrote a host of complex, believable characters within the parameters of an established world setting, and he taught me the value of extensive, persistent world-building.

7. The Riftwar Saga (series), by Raymond E. Feist - Pug is the epitome of unlocked potential, and Midkemia is such a magical, dangerous place.  It's epic, fantastic and brutal, filled with generous doses of humanity's best and worst, pitted against truly dark forces.  I learned a lot about consistency of character voice and how to bring disparate groups of people together in a believable fashion.

6. The Magic Kingdom of Landover (series), by Terry Brooks - This is my favorite fish-out-of-water fantasy series.  While Loud Foul's Bane was my first encounter with a real world person shunted into a fantasy realm, Thomas Covenant had issues, and he was a lot harder to relate to than Ben Holiday.  ;)  His love for Willow opened my mind to interspecies romance, and I will always count Questor Thews as one of the greatest wizards of all time.  The humor and sweetness of this series still echoes in my own writing. 

5. Glory Lane, by Alan Dean Foster - It may sound stupid, or even dumb (possibly even dimwitted) to claim that a book was the 5th most influential thing on my writing when I don't recall many of the details.  I suppose it's the details I *do* recall that give this assertion some legs.  This is another fish-out-of-water story, but this time humorous scifi.  I remember Izmir (the missing 12% of the matter of the universe, who could take any shape he wanted, including a bowling ball that did as the female protagonist wanted), and I remember Seeth and a valley girl, and a lot of escapes…  Also, some sort of epic interstellar conflict…  Squirrel!!

4. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (series) - Look, it's a whole school of fish-out-of-water!  This hilarious scifi farce has probably influenced, to some extent, every writer that's ever read it.  It's smart, absurd, and filled with a wealth of memorable characters.  So many of my favorite fictional people came from the mind of this brilliant man - the Vogons (who bear a striking similarity to the ellogons), Agrajag, Zarniwoop, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Slartibartfast, Marvin the Paranoid Android, Trillian and Deep Thought.  If you've read any of these books, I would bet cash money you just now smiled at the memories, at least once. ;)

3. The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan - I read this when AD&D 2nd Edition came out, when everyone else was reading (or re-reading) Lord of the Rings.  From the opening devastation to Rand's touching the One Power, it was all the drama and beauty I could have hoped for from any fantasy epic.  It jumped off the pages for me, and I think I had a crush on Moiraine. ;)  His description and courageous characters left an indelible mark on my fantasy voice, and eventually my writing voice as a whole. 

2. Foundation, by Isaac Azimov - Future history at its finest.  The scope of his vision was sweeping, telling the tale of a noble society dedicated to preserving knowledge in the face of an impending new Dark Age.  It was the first time I had ever experienced civilization as a character, and it unlocked my deep love for history.

1. Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), by Philip K. Dick - The single greatest influence on my writing style, this novel combined sympathetic villains, a desolate and believable near future with amazing technology and a vast moral gray zone.  It went toe-to-toe with the darker aspects of the human condition while at the same time filling my mind with wonder.  Dick is a master of taking the normal and making it fantastic: electric animals, the mood organ, and that poor (probably real?) cat…  Filled with action, intrigue and adventure, it is all I aspire to be as a writer.  Plus, it's one of the best movies.  Like, ever.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

When Amazon Invaded Goodreads...


As I mentioned last week, traditional print houses are going to need to take a page or two from the Amazon Playbook, if they want to survive.  Jeff Bezos is brilliant, and his acquisition of Goodreads confirms it.  With that social cornerstone, he is primed to control the vast majority of available digital reader information.  Reviews?  Amazon's.  Product placement?  Amazon's.  Opinions?  Amazon's, too.

The tides have changed, and traditional printing is the whale, beached due to inaction.  As print houses cling to the old ways of making money through paperback and hardcover sales, Amazon is strategically placed to crush them, utterly.  In the days to come, they'll offer assistance to select houses, but with zip ties around their wrists.  Other houses will flounder and fail, and those remaining in the Amazon Club will be forced to do Amazon's bidding.  They'll be reduced to figureheads or worse.  Sound unlikely?  Take a look at how Microsoft assisted Macintosh, or even more dramatic, how Wizards of the Coast lent TSR a hand.  It's a tried and true method for consuming a bloated corpse before it spoils.

The knells will toll for traditional printing, but it will have been completely avoidable.  Sadly, print houses suffer from extreme rigid thinking, like so many good old institutions.  They've convinced themselves that if they just scream loud enough, eventually everything will go back to the way it was.  If they just hold on tight enough, the ship will suddenly stop sinking.  But that's never how it works.  Again, don't get me wrong, I LOVE Amazon's KDP, but competition is good, and a lack of it has always -- ALWAYS -- been bad.  

Change is scary.  Age-old institutions are stubbornly inelastic, and it's precisely that tendency that brings about their demise.  But it doesn't have to.  When TV came along, the radio stars slipped away, but the music industry adapted.  It thrives, because it changed with the times.  If printing wants to survive Amazon's onslaught, it needs to create writing and publishing communities of its own.  It still has Big Money, and has the resources to create and nurture such communities.  Goodreads belongs to Amazon now, but TOR, Doubleday and Penguin can stake their own claims.  Unlike other wars, there are no physical boundaries to heed.  There is still an infinite number of countries that can be created to do battle with Amazon, as long as the money is still there.  But money goes where it can grow, and like the One Ring, it will abandon its bearer at a most inopportune time.

Printing can survive, but it needs to come down off its throne and reach out to the bourgeois.  It needs to, or it will become yet another entry in the history books, like the telegram or the radio star.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Hangman and the Print House

For those of you who follow this blog AND my Facebook page, sorry for the effective double post.  With that having been said...

I had a really good talk with my close personal friend and editor, last night, about how hard it is to get anything published through traditional channels (e.g.: the Del Rey's, the Penguin's, the Baen's...).  I personally chased that dream for 20 years, until one day a good friend of mine at work (and a fierce warrioress!!) suggested I give KDP a shot.

Yes, I love Kindle Direct Publishing.  LOVE it, but this isn't a plug for that system.  Not a vulgar one, anyway, so you may read further without fear of being bathed in corporate sycophanaticism.

We came to some interesting conclusions about the state of the publishing industry.

1) eBooks are real.  They're not a fad, and they're not going away.  Ever.  It's created an interesting environment for people with Kindles or the Kindle app, because it's a sea of largely unfiltered creative types who finally have a channel to get their work out to a large audience and make a little money on the side.  Most Kindle authors can't really afford to hire a professional editor, but still there is an expectation of professionalism from the readers who are posting reviews.  It's an interesting convergence of old expectations meeting current available quality.

I foresee the Amazon feedback loops helping authors to write better, but I also foresee overall standards taking a slide.  A lot of books that are poorly rated do very well in Amazon's rankings, because more and more of the masses are moving to eBooks.  The same criticisms that make it to the reviews are not going to be observed as keenly by most readers who just want to read *something*.  It is my opinion that Internet prose plays a big part in this.  When readers are accustomed to deciphering "brb," "smh" and "lolwut?" on the fly, piecing out a poorly edited book isn't as much of a hurdle as it used to be.

In the Kindle market, it's the concept that's king, and Amazon is banking on it.  Of course, a professionally edited work will stand on much stronger legs, but there's still lots of money to be made from a good idea and the dedication to see it through to completion.

2) Traditional print houses need to adapt and FAST.  For those of you who don't know, I work in the mobile advertising business, and the key to making a profit is staying ahead of the game.  Right now, traditional print houses face some dire straits: unless it's the next Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games, they can't afford to take a chance on anything that doesn't have blockbuster potential.  In the past, taking a chance on the professionally presented little guy was par for the course, but now, it's a risk they can't afford to take.  They count on the hard-copy readers for their revenue, and those same readers are turning more and more to eBooks.

Sure, print houses list digital versions on the Kindle store.  They also charge the same price (usually) for the printed version as they do for the digital version.  And they have to.  But that won't make them enough money to stay afloat for much longer.  It can't.  Not with their demographic becoming increasingly more divided, more willing to take a chance on a $3 eBook from an unknown author.

In the next few years, we're going to see more major print houses closing their doors unless they can get out in front of this train.  And they can, but they're going to have to reinvent.  Scraping Amazon's successful authors isn't going to get the job done fast enough.  If the big print houses want to stay profitable, they're going to have to learn a thing or two from Amazon and create programs that encourage new authors to submit.  New blood is the new black.

'Nuff said.

Thanks for reading!