Category Archives: Writing Adventure

Why I’m an indie author re-visited

I’ve been suffering “blog burnout” for some time. To counteract it I’m rewriting older posts with some new content as well.

If I was under a contract to a big company, I could only write the books that  I was under contract for. I could write other things, but I’d likely have to sit on them for a different deal,=  or have to publish them under another publisher, under a pseudonym.

As an indy, I can publish whatever I want whenever I choose to.

Example: I’m writing a short story for my email list (set in the ‘world’ of my novel) and have the outline for a non-fiction work after I’m done with the novel, as well as notes for another series… my mind is busy!

Advantage: indie pub

Independent Truck Company logo

Independent Truck Company logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I was under a contract to a big company, I  would be hampered to writing in just one genre, and just one style. If I was signed for one series, I would be forced to write for that series alone. If it was for novels (it often is) I could only write novels and not short stories or non-fiction (the exception being if they help to drive interest to your contracted novels, and if they don’t affect your contract time).

[Of course, Steven King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rawlings are exceptions to this rule.]

As an indie pub author, on the other hand, I can write and publish whatever  I want and when I want to. I can start one series, then another, then put out an unrelated short story or a non-fiction work. I have that freedom.

See what I said above.

Winner: INDIE PUB

People under contract to a big publisher have no control over how their work is presented.

Indie pub authors control every aspect. The cover art is what they chose, as are the fonts (for a hardcopy book; for eBooks it’s still not under your control) and even illustrations inside the book.

You can print on demand and/or e-publish on Kindle/Nook/epub/Smashwords/whatever you choose.

[If you pick the  Kindle KDP program you can’t try another for 90 days..]

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

Audiobook? Indy Pub authors can do this at will, and profit from it. Authors on contract can too — if they’re on the contact to get paid for it. Otherwise, the publisher might produce one, but all profits go to them.

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

To play Devil’s Advocate, there is a big negative: all the costs (art, editing, advertising, etc.) come to you. After your first work sells, you can set money aside for the next one, but that first one may cost a lot.

grudging win: traditional pub

Novels in a Polish bookstore

Novels in a Polish bookstore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one minus doesn’t outweigh the positives, though.

My final post of 2016: Reflections

Here are my reflections on the year passed…

I haven’t posted here since early October. Blog burnout is as self-doubt in writing. I’m experiencing both at the same time.

El domingo 20 de marzo de 2011, a las 17:00 ho...

Lucky me.

Part of the Bad Year

2016 has been a bad year for many of us. Music icons have died. Many.  Celebrities in many other fields died. Just 3 days ago as I write these words

Carrie Fisher at WonderCon 2009.

Carrie Fisher at WonderCon 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Princess Leia from Star Wars, Carrie Fisher, died of a heart attack.  A day later

 

her mother Debbie Reynolds died of a major stroke (though many say it was caused by heartbreak).

There were also far too many terrorist slayings (anything more than 0 is too many). Also, many hate crimes including the slayings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

I won’t even mention the recent US Election results… sort of. I won’t go into them in detail,  a) because this isn’t a politics blog and b) a good way to burn bridges with potential readers would be to tick them off with partisan rants — so I won’t do any. All I will say is that it was an ugly election, and I hope never to see one like it again anytime soon.

In terms of my writing, as I said 2016 was not great for me either. with these words, you may be wondering if this is meant only as a gloomy post. I’m only explaining part of why 2016 is a year we’d all like to forget, me too. I’ve already started steps to make 2017 a better year for me.

Things to Come

I already have an article ready for a friend’s fanzine, and I’m working on a second one for another issue. I will  =use this to galvanize me to relaunch my own zine from dormancy and to write a few letters for other zines that I’m a member of.

I’ve  created a new editorial calendar to bolster the regular posting of updates on this blog, to get the newsletter for my mailing list more regular… and (I hope) to help me to get my short story done and my novel after it.

Goodbye to 2016. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out – and may 2017 be a good year!

 

Definition of Dramedy, part one

My short story and novel – and the series that they’re a part of – supernatural dramedy, is fairly new to fiction (although technically Janet Evanovich does it in all but name), but it has a long history on television.

The word ‘dramedy’is a combination of ‘drama’ and ‘comedy’. As a genre, it combines them too: the subject matter is dramatic, with moments of humor mixed in.

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in ...

English: Joss Whedon at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joss Whedon has made his career in this genre; see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and more… but there were other series before them.

One of the most popular (although there were others) was LA Law. It ran from Sept. 15, 1986, to May 19, 1994.

 

David E. Kelley was showrunner until the end of the fifth season of the show, and it also gave new life to the career of actor Susan Day (Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family) as Grace von Owen.

The series was set in the fictional law firm McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney, and Kuzak.

What makes this an example of dramedy: the show deals with serious issues (AIDS, LGTBQ issues,racism,domestic violence, etc.) but wrapped around the issues were running gags and other bits of humor.

For example partner Chaney dies of a heart attack in the opening of the first episode, but at first, nobody knows because all we see is his hand clutching a tax manual. At his funeral, we learn that the secretary he last hired is transgender and that they met originally at a gay bar (this revelation comes to his wife just now). He paid for the secretary’s surgery, and the hire was meant to be the first real world test. One of the surviving partners fires her immediately due to his transphobia.

(This was in the late 1980s, and the firing character was an over-sexed womanizer. Regardless, I don’t find that funny now.)

This series was co-created by Steven Bochco, and it had a large ensemble cast. Rigger, Mortiz and Shivver doesn’t have as big a cast, but there is an ensemble nonetheless.

I’ll continue this in my next post.

YA: Today’s Buzzword

That’s an abbreviation for young adult fiction. It is also a descriptor because it can fit into nearly any genre. There is YA science fiction, YA Dystopian, YA fantasy, and so on. What makes it YA is just that the protagonist(s) is/are teenager(s). The main goal of this literary genre is that it gives young people more reason to read.

There are many subset genres of YA

There are many examples of this field, some of which I’ll cover more in  other posts on this blog, but they  include the Harry Potter  book series, the Divergent one, and the current big hit, The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games (film, YA hit)

The Hunger Games (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote one my third NaNoWriMo titled Introvert. It was my most successful to date, writing the most words per day and completing it in record time for me.

The one rule that I’ve seen to all YA fiction that I’ve seen is a rule that makes sense:

“No sex”

This doesn’t mean that all teenagers don’t; although frowned on, some teens do, even though they aren’t all mentally ready.

What I mean is that as a rule, you don’t describe it in detail (or at all). Doing so risks making your fiction seem to be child pornography, and put you at legal risk.

The field for this fiction (so long as you follow the rules) is huge, with the potential for the books to become films. It’s also a field that I have ideas for… I have to locate my file for Introvert because I have an idea for a sequel.

Photo by {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester}

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping aLED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 (I began this post before this event; I’ll state what I didn’t do.)

… or Camp NaNoWriMo, which I’m doing right now… which is why I haven’t updated this site in a week.

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O....

Camp scene, preparing for dinner, by Buell, O. B., 1844-1910 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some tips to achieve your word goal in the month (50, 000 for NaNo, variable for Camp – I’m writing a 20, 000-word project, for example):

1. Avoid distractions

Scrivener can do distraction-free writing via its full-screen mode. The text editor part  is all that you see. You don’t see the Binder, or the menus,  or anything else. All you have to focus on is writing.

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are more distractions that you should avoid. Avoid e-mail, Twitter, and (especially) Facebook; most of it is flashy graphics that draw your attention away.

Twitter

Twitter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I failed on most of this. My blog subject list is in Drive, so I was usually in Gmail. I had my Twitter feed open at all times and kept it open to check on. As to Facebook… there’s a good reason that it has the nickname ‘Wastebook’… I was on it constantly.

2. Word-Padding is Your Friend

Always write full character names. Don’t use contractions; spell each word. Your fingers accidentally space words out? Leave them in. You don’t need the word ‘that’ in a sentence? put it in anyway. Adverbs slow a sentence down? Doesn’t matter. Use them anyways.

For NaNo / Camp NaNo quantity is your goal, not quality. The next point will talk about that fact.

At first, I didn’t  fully embrace this. I tried to correct my typos. I got out of it eventually.

3. This is the First Draft

Cleaning up what Ernest Hemmingway said about first drafts, they are not pretty.

Feel free to write scenes that you will cut in later drafts. They will add words now; you can cut them in later drafts.

I did this one. I wrote some scenes that I know I’ll cut later.

4. Ignore Your Inner Editor

As you write you’ll hear a voice in your head correcting your words and critiquing your scenes. Ignore it.

It’s the voice of your Inner Editor trying to slow you down. It will stall you  if you let it.

I didn’t.

** update **

Here's a tip that some people use, but I don't:

Some people count the words that they write for other projects in this one. I'd consider doing this cheating myself.

conclusion

Use these tricks and (unlike me) you might win.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – How Did I Do?

Not as good as I’d like, but still good. Let me explain:

My final word tally was 9015 words out of a goal of 20, 000. That’s   the part not so good.

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to ...

The setup for NaNoWriMo at home, if I need to be portable. Long exposure lit by sweeping an LED flashlight over the scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t have my story outline done, so I lost valuable time ‘pantsing‘. Regular readers of this blog know I’m not effective at that.

Another problem is that I didn’t really get into my writing groove until the last week. If it had happened sooner I might have a different post here now!

How it’s still good: I realized that my story would be less than 20, 000 words. I wanted to revise my goal down, but I came to that realization 5 days too late to do it.

I’ll take 3 days off, then get back to it. I intended it for people to opt-in to my mailing list, and I still have that intention.

 

Why I’m an indie author

If I was under a contract to a big company, I could only write the books that  I was under contract for. I could write other things, but I’d likely have to sit on them for a different deal,  or have to publish them under another publisher, under a pseudonym.

As an indy, I can publish whatever I want whenever I choose to.

Advantage: indie pub

Independent Truck Company logo

Independent Truck Company logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I was under a contract to a big company, I  would be hampered to writing in just one genre, and just one style. If I was signed for one series, I would be forced to write for that series alone. If it was for novels (it often is) I could only write novels and not short stories or non-fiction (the exception being if they help to drive interest to your contracted novels, and if they don’t affect your contract time).

[Of course Steven King, James Patterson, and J.K. Rawlings are exceptions to this rule.]

Indy pub authors, on the other hand, can write and publish whatever  I want and when I want to. I can  start one series, then another, then  put out an unrelated short story or a non-fiction work. I have that freedom.

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

People under contract to a big publisher have no control over how their work is presented.

Indy pub authors control every aspect. The cover art is what they chose, as are the fonts (for a hardcopy book; for eBooks it’s still not under your control) and even illustrations inside the book .

You can print on demand and/or e-publish on Kindle/Nook/epub/Smashwords/whatever you choose.

[If you pick the  Kindle KDP program you can’t try another for 90 days..]

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

Audiobook? Indy Pub authors can do this at will, and profit from it. Authors on contract can too — if they’re on the contact to get paid for it. Otherwise the publisher might produce one, but all profits go to them.

ADVANTAGE: INDIE PUB

To play Devil’s Advocate, there is a big negative: all the costs (art, editing, advertising, etc.) come to you. After your first work sells, you can set money aside for the next one, but that first one may cost a lot.

advantage: traditional pub

Novels in a Polish bookstore

Novels in a Polish bookstore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one minus doesn’t outweigh the positives though.

 

Writing Multiple Novels at One Time

I read this written about elsewhere, and it’s a concept that makes sense for me:

When you’re writing a trilogy, you want there to be sub-plots that match up from one book to the next one. Also, you don’t want to make your readers wait a year or more for the next book. To solve this problem, you should write at least the first drafts of other books in a series at the same time.

I’m facing this situation: I’ve been writing the first book of a trilogy (within an overall series) for over two years. If I’m fortunate, I’ll have it finished this year (revisions, beta readers, cover art and editing). With this current pace, I’ll have this first trilogy finished before I’m sixty. That’s not acceptable to me.

That passage of time is another problem for me. I’m 49 in less than two months. I want to be known for a lot of books by the end of my life. I already have 11 RPG credits so far, but most of them are very small press, and that’s a small interest pool. Novels are in a much larger one. I hope to follow of game writers who also became novelists, like Mike Stackpole, the late John Ford, and an also-late friend Aaron Alston.

I won’t achieve that goal at my current output rate. Writing multiple books at once might, depending on my writing output speed.

A caveat, though: I won’t attempt this until after I’ve finished book 1. Friends bought into my attempt to crowdsource that book on Indiegogo. Even though it didn’t make the funding target I want to finish it for them (I used the platform’s Flexible Funding plan, and the rules for that are that I have to finish, but I planned to anyway). Starting other books before I finish this one wouldn’t be fair. Besides, I follow one of Robert Heinlein’s Writing Rules: always finish what you start.

Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After I finish Book 1, 2 and 3 I’ll work on together, and I’ll hope this makes them more consistent and my output grows.

Space Opera Examples Part 2

The Perry Rhodan issue that went into space. C...

The Perry Rhodan issue that went into space. Credit: ESA/André Kuipers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Perry Rhodan

This is seen as the best-known science fiction series of all time, accounting for more than 2 billion (not a typo) copies sold since its premiere in the 1960s, first creating a buzz in Germany, then being translated worldwide, but not ultimately succeeding in America in English.

It was originally published in German alone, but was translated into other languages over time. This is where the incredible publication and sales numbers come from. In Germany it’s a weekly novella in a magazine.

On the surface, this series has science fiction concepts: hyperspatial

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

English: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. Français : Peinture de Rowena Morill réprésentant Isaac Asimov sur un trône décoré des symboles de son œuvre littéraire. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

translation and positronic brains — concepts that Isaac Asimov created in his stories. The M13 cluster also exists. Everything else about this series (functional immortality — never aging, but violent death possible, multiple time-lines/realities, the psionic web, moralic code, many other fanciful ideas) is a made-up concept.

Part of why the series has gone on for so long is that, like many pulp series like The Shadow, The Spider, and even Doc Savage (and modern day series like Mack Bolan) many authors have written it.

Sci-Fi legend Forrest J. Ackerman championed English translation of this series. He said that serious German SF fandom said how it hated this series, yet it was still a top seller in the country. It proved the same case with the English translations by Ace Books, which ceased publication with 117-118 in the early 1980s (it’s over 2400 stories-long). Then-head of Ace Tom Doherty found them to be too juvenile in quality.

Good or bad, these books (and spin-off series) inspired music, film (George Lucas cites it as one of his influences), and is even an inspiration to other science fiction series. Would that other series could go so long!

Space Opera Examples, Part 1

These will all be long, so I’ll cut the post up.

Flash Gordon (soundtrack)

Flash Gordon (soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Flash Gordon

Originally a comic strip in newspapers then made into movie serials, a campy movie in the 80s, as well as a disappointing TV show a few years ago (many pundits have spoken of that already, so I won’t go into that here. Anyway it’s not a feature of this piece). Most of it was centered on the planet Mongo. For that, the space opera feeling came from the fact that Mongo had many climates and zones, but they had little in the way of scientific rationale; they just existed — and differing races… so there are barbarian birdmen and men with the heads of big cats, and so on.

His origins? Here’s the information from Wikipedia, with my additions:

“[…] the adventures of Flash Gordon, a handsome polo player and Yale University graduate, and his companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov.The story begins with Earth threatened with a collision with the planet Mongo. Dr. Zarkov invents a rocket ship to fly into space in an attempt to stop the disaster. Half mad, he kidnaps Flash and Dale and they travel to the planet. Landing on the planet, and halting the collision, they come into conflict with Ming the Merciless, Mongo’s evil ruler.

Flash Gordon (film)

Flash Gordon (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The character was often portrayed as an Oriental stereotype.

For many years, the three companions have adventures on Mongo, traveling to the forest kingdom of Arboria, ruled by Prince Barin Prince Barin and Flash; the ice kingdom of Frigia, ruled by Queen Fria; the jungle kingdom of Tropica, ruled by Queen Desira; the undersea kingdom of the Shark Men, ruled by King Kala; and the flying city of the Hawkmen, ruled by Prince Vultan Price Vultan. They are joined in several early adventures by Prince Thun of the Lion Men Prince Thun. Eventually, Ming is overthrown, and Mongo is ruled by a council of leaders led by Barin.
Flash and friends return to Earth and have some adventures before returning to Mongo and crashing in the kingdom of Tropica, then reuniting with Barin and others. Flash and his friends travel to other worlds and return to Mongo, where Prince Barin, married to Ming’s daughter Princess Aura  Princess-Aura,   has established a peaceful rule (except for frequent revolts led by Ming or by one of his many descendants) […]”
Flash has been redesigned over the years. He’s now a football player rather than a polo one.