Book Magic

outliers-volume-1It’s been a long and very exhausting two months, but we finished it at last. Outliers: 2016 is now available in paperback. Forthcoming posts on the Outlier’s main site will cover more about the actual content of the series. I’m more drawn to the technical how.

Usually when people find out about publications I do, they approach with “hey, I got a story of my own.” I’m sympathetic to people who want to tell stories, but many personal experiences have educated me in the difficulties in producing quality books. I’m certainly not trying to crush anyone’s dreams, but I do think many folks underestimate the incredible amount of labor it takes to get to print.

I’ve come to suspect that events like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) have become more part of the problem than the solution. The event tends to promote an erroneous idea that writing a novel is easy. The timing creates a spike in material that builds slush mountains (not piles) at larger publishers, or hemorrhaging on Amazon and other self-published distributors throughout the winter.

Amazon and other services who promote NaNoWriMo do not care how much poor quality material is produced because even if only a few copies are sold to the author’s immediate family, they still make a profit. Or else they would pull the plug so fast, you’d wake up the next morning to discover indie publishing all but died overnight.

Instead, a lot of what goes into publishing is primarily about 1,001 magic tricks, such that readers never know, never spare a thought to every minor detail. To borrow from Christopher Priest…

The Pledge. 

Something ordinary, seemingly a book. These days, for a story to be exceedingly original is very rare, such that the description will sound similar to what others have written. This is fine, but there are unsaid expectations: hopes of proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, formatting, page numbers, etc, etc, etc.

The strange thing is that the more there are of these simple but professional elements, the more ordinary is the book in question. This is because of our expectations caused by prior generations of book publishing. And by applying these elements, we would not otherwise be distracted from…

The Turn. 

The pledge is the responsibility of the formatters and editors, to convince us of something grounded. But the turn, the second act in which an ordinary story does something extraordinary, that is up to the writer. The turn is the point where true magic is unveiled, when we are shown emotions that we didn’t expect to feel from reading.

Sometimes, that is to experience something in writing that we wish for ourselves.
Sometimes, that is to discover and explore an idea we had never considered.
Sometimes, that is the twists and turns of plots that subverted our expectations.

It is the most important magic, for it conjures something we never thought we could think or feel. And that is why we read until…

The Prestige.

All stories end. The extraordinary becomes ordinary again, and people have to go back to reality. Such is the demand of the natural universe.

But if the spell is good, then the magic will travel from the reader’s mind to their mouth. Emotions always want an outlet, or such we wouldn’t bother writing to begin with. And it is the goal to create something worth discussing, so that the magic can spread and live on. Thus the prestige is left to neither editor or writer, but the reader. They have to want to believe in that magic.

That’s what goes into creating a story. And I suspect, that’s more than most expected to weave.

Summer Reading List

The following is a list of classics I need to catch up on.

The Road

Drive

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The Illiad

The Wizard of Oz

Jungle Book

Treasure Island

The Canterbury Tales

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Othello

Moby Dick

Oliver Twist

Jane Eyre

Wuthering Heights

The Nuremberg Trials

Crime and Punishment

Grapes of Wrath

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

‘Under the Knife’ Available Now!

There's pretty much no healthcare joke I can make that won't anger somebody right now...

There’s no time for a second opinion! We must order now!

My life has been a whirlwind of work, work and more work. The job has been hard but rewarding, and the writing has been tough.

But there have been some developments for on the writing. I wrote a few good tales and am working on another two. I’d like to finish the month with three flash pieces. I foresee a writing break for half the month of June.

But there’s one really important tidbit. At long last, it’s finally out. Under the Knife from Cruentus Libri Press is finally out. Click on the picture to order!

Also available for Kindle.

The Coming Year…

Ahh, Merry Christmas everyone. Although I write these words exactly at 12:00 am on December 26th. Well, whatever. So Christmas has come and gone, and the New Year is almost upon us. It’s a good time to talk about the books and games I’m most looking forward to in the coming year.

Gears-Judgement

I had just finished Gears of War 3 for the first time tonight. While it was a damn fine ending to the trilogy, and more than satisfactorily completes Marcus Fenix’s story, I found myself missing some elements that were more prevalent in the first two games. More paths you could choose, the campaign could have been a dash longer either through an additional act, or more portions from Baird and Cole’s point of view, like they did in the first act.

On that note, I’ll certainly be getting more of Cole and Baird soon. Gears of War: Judgment is on its way. That game will probably be second on my most wanted list.

Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm is yet another one worthy of mention. Unlike most die hard Starcraft lovers, I’m just looking forward to the story and campaign. Multiplayer just isn’t my thing for RTS. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. I’m almost finished playing the first one and I am considering getting the DLC as well. I almost forgot Dead Space 3!

Finally, last and probably best of all, Bioshock: Infinite. I think that needs little explanation. But just in case, take a look at the trailer.

Now, for books I am choosing both previous and to be released books. But on my ‘most looking forward to reading’ list is All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. That latter was recommended by C.L. Werner.

Other books of mention include Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe, and Headtaker by David Guymer. Guymer I actually met at the Black Library Weekender. Having published a few short stories, Headtaker will be his first Warhammer novel.

Finally, movies. I’m going to be a bit conservative about this, and mention Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby. Truth be, there are many good sounding movies, like Oblivion, Thor: The Dark Worlds, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Man of Steel, Ender’s Game and Star Trek: Into Darkness. But truth be told, I haven’t seen most of the trailers nor done any research. I’d rather wait until near release to begin looking into them.

So that’s all for next year’s excitement. Stay tuned for my new years resolution, which I will immediately fail to keep.

Book Marketing and the Future

If I have any regrets the last year, it was that I didn’t start using Twitter until very recently.

Fact is, Twitter is a better marketing tool. Brief, to the point, easy to interact with. It can be linked to Facebook. Rather than engaging in ‘mutually beneficial’ friendship arrangements, you simply have followers which you must attract. There are fewer walls and the actual spread of information is way more ‘open’, where as Facebook applies an algorithm to reduce clutter on people’s walls (which can filter you out).

Twitter is actually kind of essential for those reasons. Without walls, fans can connect readily with authors and creators. Although one can get in trouble with the platform, there is quite a bit of power to be harnessed if used carefully.

As I move forward with the anthology, I’m also hacking away at other needs to promote it. I’m examining advertising costs on Facebook. But more importantly, I’m looking at various book reviewing bloggers. Although there are ‘big name’ critics out there in the newspapers, these smaller guys often tend to be quite niche, and really hit the reader bases that we’re writing for. In a way, the smaller guys can be a lot more powerful than the big names, because they know what they want.

This is why, despite an age where anyone can publish anything thanks to Amazon, publishing houses are not going away. They have the power to provide advertising and superior editing services. They usually know their market, and can tap top talent if need be. Self published success have occurred and will continue to happen, but there are services that publishers provide that simply aren’t available to the average author.

Business is really all about networking. Knowing the guy who can do what you can’t, knowing the right people for the job. All of us, especially writers, have to be in business for ourselves. And despite potential competitive aspects of business, a lot of it is also about working together.

Speaking of business, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll be doing next year. I’ve mentioned trying a few drafts against Everyday Fiction. But Narrativium will be in charge of the next anthology, Marching Time. If you’re curious what that’s about, you can check it out. Besides that, there will be the Black Library submission window, of which both myself and several of the Boltholers will have our strongest chance next year to be published.

The major question is whether to attempt my first novel, or self-publish an anthology of novellas. The latter is very tempting. My approach to being published has revolved around an ‘evolving plan’ of difficulty. Flash fiction and short stories started it. There has been at least one novella thus far.

An idea is to go ahead and write more novellas, and get used to longer tales before attempting a novel-length story. Length is a major factor. 300 pages is nothing to sneeze at. My approach has really allowed me to gradually increase the difficulty, while building on the skills I’ve learned in the previous steps.

What I learned from short story telling can be applied to novellas. What I learn from novellas could evolve into a novel. Thus far, that idea has been working. While I don’t want to be complacent, this approach is working thus far.

Need to Read

Faithless readers, I need your help with book selections.

In little more than a week, I’ll be on a plane to London. I’ve got some planning to finish up on, some travel and lodging arrangements to make that I’ll take care of tonight. But of more interest, the flight will be a good 12 or so hours of reading time, one way. That’s time enough to finish off an entire book or two.

At the moment, I’m four chapters away from completing The Return of the King. A friend of mine was quite surprised that this was the first time I ever had read it and not the dozenth. I have the Black Library’s Fear to Tread to read, but chances are I’ll take a chunk out of that before I ever board the plane. I would prefer to finish it before I leave for that reason, if only to have a fresh book on take off.

I still have Mockingjay and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, but my copy of Mockingjay is hardback and would not pack as easily as the latter choice. So I could use a hand in deciding what to read before take off.

So my fellow book cultists, I am open to ideas, suggestions, innuendo and insinuations as to further reading to cultivate my dark and evil mind. It is preferable that the books be of the Black Library persuasion, but any classic literature or modern (and good) pop culture hits will be fine as well.

Gears of Dredd

I haven’t had time this weekend, due to a wedding, to see Dredd 3D. Unfortunately, it seems that it has not done well in the box office during its most important weekend. At $6.3 million out of $45 million is a stiff bill to be stuck with. However, the later movie season is usually filled with either horror films or the Academy-aimmers. When you’re not raking in the dough, your time in the theater is cut. And when it’s cut, you make even less money. It’s a vicious cycle.

So I finished reading Karen Traviss’ Gears of War: Aspho Fields. Where Traviss isn’t the best action, she expands the characters and world marvelously. She adds everything I wish made it into the games. Thus it really takes reading the book to appreciate the game more. Perhaps I’ll replay GoW1 and 2 again while reading more books.

Hope everyone had a good weekend.