Advice on Publishing from Published Authors

If you want to be successful, the saying goes, study successful people. Not that I go around creeping on authors or anything, but when one of them starts talking shop, I want to shut up and listen. That’s why I was quiet when I saw two bits of advice on publishing from published authors that popped up on Reddit this week.

First up, some real talk by Michael J. Sullivan on which is better – published, or self-published, and why. Everybody is chasing a book deal – including me – but is it the right move? He makes a compelling article either way, and the ensuing discussion is rather helpful, too:

Should I Self-Publish, or Be Published?

Next, grab a cup of coffee and read this discussion. Janny Wurts breaks down book sales and how selling too fast is actually a bad thing for authors. The counter-intuitive world of book printing and sales comes alive in:

How Selling Too Fast Can Hurt Your Book

Woo – failure comes in many colors, including success!

Sorry, too much coffee today. The point is, that I try to capture interesting pieces of information that cover my chosen vocation. I pass them along because, hey, someone was kind enough to do the same for me. Pay it forward, and stuff.

And if you’re looking for other ‘success habits,’ you can also study this article by Inc.com. I found some useful insights in there.

Tokamak – My Stories Are Coming to Life

This is pretty cool – I talked about tokamak fusion reactors in ‘The Battle of Victoria Crater.’ It turns out now that scientists have taken a step forward in making ‘stars in a jar.’ Here’s more:

“A tokamak (Russian: Токамáк) is a device which uses a powerful magnetic field to confine a hot plasma in the shape of a torus. The tokamak is one of several types of magnetic confinement devices being developed to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion power. As of 2016, it is the leading candidate for a practical fusion reactor.” – from Wikipedia

Looking at a tokamak, you can make the connection to Iron Man’s ‘arc reactor.’ The cool thing about this is, we might be able to see one of these come to life in the next few years. I’m glad I got a chance to talk about this idea in TBoVC before I read about it in the paper. Always cool to see your ideas coming to life. 🙂

The Post-Stupid Year

Sorry, forgot one. I need to include another wish for 2019 … I hope that this the  year of Post-Stupid.

With the success of Bird Box, Netflix has had to issue the following warning regarding the new ‘Bird Box challenge.’

Yes folks, from the civilization that brought you the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Tide Pod Challenge and planking comes an entirely new unnecessary fad, The Bird Box challenge! Here’s how it works: I actually have no idea how it works. Someone please tell me.

Is the Bird Box Challenge real? Is it clever marketing? Who knows. The main point I want to get to is that I wish for 2019 to be the year we stopped being dumb. No more challenges. No more ‘trending on Twitter.’ We’re all people, right? We all want to be loved and respected. There’s nothing creepier than a world that seems to re-route our attention at will, pointing our gaze at the gratiutous, whenever it chooses to.

I’m getting tired of it. I’m interested in people who are tired of it, too.

So let’s make 2019 the Post-Stupid year. No more fads. No more hot buttons. Latest pearl-clutching hot topic on 24-hour news? Not listening. You’re trending on Twitter? That’s nice, don’t care. It’s great that you went viral, but so did syphilis and Rebecca Black. That doesn’t make you a superior human being.

Living in a post-stupid world has its benefits – here are a couple:

  • You save time and energy – no more jumping on the bandwagon or complaining that people on the bandwagon are dumb. Nobody cares. It’s stupid, and we’re post-stupid. Let the stupid take care of the stupid, while we remain unto ourselves.
  • You save money – How much did you spend on ‘raw water?’ How much did those adaptogenic superfoods cost down at Whole Paycheck? How much did you spend on those moscow mule cups you never use anymore? It wasn’t an investment, it was a rip-off. It’s okay to say it, and resolve to put the Amazon Prime account down.
  • You save your health – Social media and fads aren’t just annoying, they’re stressful and potentially hazardous to your health. Nobody said you had to be an ‘Instagram influencer.’ Just relax. Let Kendall Jenner fall into a black hole while you go live your life. I promise you, I like you more than Kendall Jenner already.

Say it with me: 2019 is the Year of Post-Stupid. In fact I’ll write 2019 a few more times to get used to it. Let’s do it together! 2019. 2019. 2019. 2019. There, that should help. Too easy to write 2091 for some reason. Maybe that’s a subconscious wish to live in the future I’m imagining.

Welcome to the future. It’s time to be awesome.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Storytelling – Four Things Robert Zemeckis Teaches You

Baby, it’s cold outside. No, I’m not trying to be a creep, I’m just explaining why I’m inside the house, catching up on a lot of old movies. After all these years, I still enjoy the Back to the Future trilogy, among other classic sci-fi movies.

When you think about the guy who made BTTF, you realize that Robert Zemeckis can teach you a lot about the art of storytelling. I decided to jot down four things that his movies taught me.

Before you say, “But Zemeckis is a filmmaker, not a storyteller!”, remember that filmmaking is storytelling, using light and sound where the rest of us use pen and paper. Before he was a director, Robert Zemeckis was a screenwriter. His ability to craft authentic stories over the past forty years and his insistence on telling stories in a unique way is why Zemeckis will always be one of my favorite directors. 

So with that in mind, let’s talk about four things his movies will teach any person who wants to tell stories for a living: Continue reading

Don’t Tell Me How to Hammer

Dear WordPress –

We interrupt this blog for a quick piece of hate mail for you and this platform I’ve been blogging on for several years now. Not that I think WordPress knows or cares who I am, but I’m pissed off enough to say it anyway. Perhaps it’ll help other WP users who feel the same way realize that they are not alone. Re-inventing the WP editor in favor of this idiot ‘Gutenberg’ tool makes as much sense as re-inventing the hammer for a carpenter. You don’t need to tell me how to hammer.

Since the 80s, people have been tinkering with the UI of a WYSIWYG text editor. I can remember learning to type on AppleWriter years ago, and the commonalities of interface stretched through Wordstar, Wordperfect, Staroffice, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Write, Microsoft Works, Framemaker, Wordpad, and Google Docs. We know you aren’t perfect, and we were prepared to love you anyway, but this is too much.

Re-organizing the entire interface to support ‘media rich pages and posts’ ignores your entire raison d’être: WORDS. That’s your name, isn’t it? WORDpress? Not MEDIARICHPAGESpress. How are we supposed to write words when every single paragraph is in its own little box and all the tools for formatting said paragraphs are buried under an avalanche of non-intuitive clickthroughs that only make sense to people who aren’t actually trying to write?

Fixing this is really easy: give us the option to turn off Gutenberg and go back to the original editor, so we don’t have to run a plug-in to write like we usually do. If you’re so serious about making WP work for media-rich experiences, fork the code and give those black turtleneck-wearing dorks what they want. Give us our word processor back, you evil swine!

I just wanted to get this off my chest. This is why George R R Martin continues to write with Wordstar. Any more nonsense out of you fools, and I’m gonna port this whole site over to Mambo.

Mesh Update #11: New Free Wallpaper

Just in time for the end of the year, a new free wallpaper for Mesh.  I do concept art digital paintings of my stories – helps me inform my writing. For this piece, I wanted to try something different and focus on the characters of Mesh themselves.

Mesh Update #11: New Free WallpaperSo let’s do that. Tina is one of the ‘Snow Foxes,’ an elite group of techno-geeks that dominate the school and virtual reality. Let’s be clear: She isn’t a ‘damsel in distress,’ or ‘born sexy yesterday.’ I hate tropes that perpetuate mean-spirited stereotypes, so Mesh leaves them by the side of the road where they belong.

Tina isn’t perfect. She on the austistic spectrum. She’s also brilliant, athletic, witty, and brave. She’s a teenage girl who codes, plays basketball and practices jujitsu. She isn’t there to talk about the boys, or be talked about them. She’s there to be herself, like every person should be free to be.

Inside the Station, the massive VR system that contains our fearless geeky kids, you’re allowed to create your own sprites. Tina decided to transform herself into an anime princess as you’ll learn in Mesh:


“She looked up at two sprites that had just come through abusy communicating arch. “Watch it. Incoming nerds.”
“Huh?”
“Kids from the other team,” Tina said, morphing into a taller version of herself, now with red hair instead of blonde, and green eyes instead of blue. Her t-shirt melted into modular white plates, forming armor that belonged in some anime show. In the blink of an eye, she transformed herself into a warrior princess, ready for battle. “For these kids, you want to have your war face on.”

“I think I just fell in love with you,” Zeke mumbled.

“You’re cool, my sweet summer child.” Tina’s smile was somewhere between amused and flattered. Then she turned back to the approaching sprites. “Just remember that we’re friends. That’s all we’re ever going to be.”

Zeke nodded, swallowing so hard that his Adam’s apple bobbed like a yo-yo.

Mesh – Chapter 2.6

With that scene in mind, I started working with Photoshop. I started with a free open-source picture from Unsplash and with the help of some visual references and my trusty digital tablet, put the wallpaper above together to give away for free.

Love it, hate it, it’s still worth it to me. Making one thing in one way helps me make something else in another way. I hope you enjoy ‘Armorgirl,’ and the other free wallpapers I have to share.

On Originality in Science Fiction

The following words are criticism of the blockbuster scifi franchise ‘The Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins: derivative, borrowed, derived, imitative unoriginal, and copied. Yes, there is very little about The Hunger Games that can be considered new, authentic or original.

But guess what? Nobody cares.

In the world of creative expression, there’s a constant fear that someone will scream ‘plagarism!’ I know I worry about that. Thing is, originality is very subjective. Also, there’s a fine line between ‘original’ and ‘unreadable.’ For example, here’s a completely original story that I just wrote:

Radisarylldon boilty eminfat quitough reever. Donnine, salanded slentereposs chinve papereing and prodlationer admitervel santendaisms agilism overgospecest. Unificanothed fortan crosphing peculatory launhis within his frowskatined auguession aggently abated impredsgusions.

“Chellightly pograpprecling,” she said. “Amsoloblook cropenom dickaggisly uistnin recomms ceptordeemly crystaing whimburg.”

“But idensiter yamantag,” he asked. “Compliceitants dobeakens adulentiones ablemeaggrify sympucky!”

“Nicampting midive elynorms. Robloardintes mooducetter mizincied barban untefuringer.”

There you go, an original story. What’s the matter, didn’t you like it? Well, why not?? It’s original, after all! 🙂

Of course, I’m kidding. I just wanted to illustrate the same point that Ogden Nash made many years ago:


Here is a good rule of thumb; Too clever is dumb – Ogden Nash

And so it goes with all discussions about originality. The Hunger Games, for example, is a clear rip-off of older books and movies … some people want to say that it wasn’t but … whatever. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Suzanne Collins can tell a story that people can connect with. That’s what I want to do, that’s what every author wants to do. More power to her, to them, and to us.

Be original, be bold, be authentic. Be you.

 

Unbelievable Free Author Tools

A common myth among non-writers is that authors’ words just flow from some magical brain faucet with no assistance from anyone, anywhere. I wish! No, the truth is a lot more boring. Authors rely on tools and many of them are free. It’s unbelievable how many of them are out there just lying around. It’s like stumbling on a garage filled with parts, just waiting for a mechanic to go to work.

Well today, that’s you and me. Here are six resources I found and I’ll add more as I go along. Feel free to make use of them yourself as you work to improve your writing:

Wordhippo 

Wordhippo is a thesaurus on steroids. Works great when you’re tired and you can’t think of another way to say “sarcastic.”

List of Adjectives to Describe Tone, Feelings and Emotions
Other Ways to Say “Roll the Eyes”: A Word List for Writers
100 Words for Facial Expressions
Cheat Sheets For Writing Body Language
37 Ways To Write About Anger

Got any others? Send me yours and I’ll add them to my list!

More “How to Not Suck” Writing Advice

Just finished reading this Twitter thread about ‘raising stakes’ and story development, from the perspective of a freelance author. I’m passing it along because it’s one more piece of ‘How to Not Suck’ writing advice. You might find it useful, as I did:

Click the box to keep reading – Naomi has some great advice!