Reading Across the Genres

I think we all know how important reading is for our writing. I am willing to say that there is no way you will ever become a successful writer if you aren’t also an avid reader. What I want to open is a discussion on is the importance of reading multiple genres.

I had a hard enough time switching my writing style from technical academic research writing to fiction. Dialogue was an absolute pain for me to get down. The only writing I had done up to four years ago was purely for my college and research career. I wasn’t aided by the fact that science fiction was my only reading genre. I used to read only science fiction. Seriously, that was it.

As I mentioned a few blog posts ago, I have been gone for a while. I’ve been doing a ton of research and have outlined approximately four books that I am beginning to work on. During my time away, something magical happened. I began to read everything.

Genres

Over the last four years I have read everything except science fiction. Don’t get me wrong, sci-fi is my first love, but I am now in an open relationship with many other genres (to the complete dismay of sci-fi). I have read romance, fantasy, horror, suspense thrillers, LGBT, and young adult books across the spectrum. I have read books from the most basic, easy to read, to challenging brain-burners. From 200 pages to 1400.

I can absolutely guarantee that my writing has improved five-fold since then and it has everything to do with my new reading experiences. I have gone back and looked at some of the stuff I was writing four and five years ago. While it wasn’t horrible, it is nowhere near what I am producing now. Thanks to these last few years of massive reading consumption, over 250 books, I have been introduced to new worlds, new words, and new wisdom.

We all get stuck reading certain types of books. We have our favorites. We know what mine was. Your favorite might be everything Charlaine Harris and all things supernatural. Maybe you love Danielle Steel. Stephen King versus Dean Coontz. It is okay to have a favorite, but it’s time to challenge yourself to try something new.

I haven’t even discussed those who think reading fiction is a waste of time. These types stick to non-fiction books such as histories and biographies. This is a complete disservice to your brain. Non-fiction is essential as well, but it won’t stretch your creativity as much as fiction.

As writers, we have to do everything we can to improve our skills. Reading is the absolute best way to expand our vocabulary. Reading across genres helps us evaluate the styles used and take what works for us. How can you write a love scene for your kickass bank thief if you’ve never read a proper romance novel? If you intend to target and conquer the huge and ever expanding young adult market, you’ll never do so if you aren’t well read in the YA genres. They have their own style and pace.

If you already read across genres, help me out. Has it helped your writing? Leave me some comments. If you don’t yet read multiple genres, tell me what’s holding you back.

ALSO – tell me what your favorite genre is! We all have one, so let’s admit it. Like I said, I fall back on science fiction when I need some comfort.

I challenge you to go out today and buy a book that you know you wouldn’t normally buy. Give it a chance. Write a review for it. You might find you enjoyed getting out of your comfort zone.

Advertisements

A Southern Gay, Coming Out

Hello I Am Gay words on a nametag sticker to come out as a homos

I’m gay. Most people won’t ever have to say those words. Unfortunately, that means that most people can never understand the feelings and emotions that go behind having to say them. I’m writing this because it’s time for me to actually say who I am to everyone, regardless of what you may think. What anyone may think is frankly irrelevant to me at this point. I’m going to tell you a story and I’m going to get personal. Many of you have been with me for parts of this story, some have not.

I realized I was gay when I was twelve years old. That realization hit me one night as I was lying in bed. I remember thinking, “Oh no, I’m what they call gay.” All I knew at that point was that “gay” was bad. It had to be. When I was a kid, the only time I heard the word gay was when it was used to describe disgust with something. “That’s so gay,” is a phrase that was, and still is, commonly used. Now, keep in mind that it was 1998 and acceptance towards all things LGBTQ has come a long way since then. Also, I was born and raised in South Carolina. I love South Carolina. It is my home. But, most southern states aren’t exactly known for their acceptance on this subject.

So, a 12 year old who now knows he likes other boys. Was I particularly attracted to anyone? Not that I know of. How did I know I was gay? I just did. A very good, and very straight, friend of mine asked me that.

“How do you know?” he asked.

“It’s simple,” I replied. “How do you know you like women?”

“Touche,” was his reply.

At this point I need to say that this is absolutely not a choice I made for myself. It was made for me before I was born. I didn’t like girls then suddenly decide to like guys. That’s not how it works. I am simply attracted to guys. Think about it. Why would someone intentionally make a choice that would bring this much pressure on them for their entire lives? This is not something people choose.

So, I was in middle school and just beginning to develop friendships that were real. Most of the friends I made in the eighth grade are still my closest friends. To this day, I cling to them for my support. I even tried to date one of my friends when we were 13 or 14. She was my first attempt at a cover up.

As close as we all were, I still never told them I was gay. I didn’t tell anyone then. I was beginning to master the art of pushing that part of me down. As much as I would have liked to sing along to the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, I didn’t dare. I just pretended that Britney Spears was the hottest thing on earth. Hit me baby one more time. The eighth grade was also when I realized I had certain qualities that were “good” that could outweigh this “bad” quality I had. I realized that I could be a leader and excel academically. Though I didn’t know I was doing it at the time, I began the steps to try and be perfect at everything I did so that when it was eventually found out that I was gay, it would be forgiven because of all the great things I had done.

The high school transition went well. I joined JROTC, which turned out to be a haven for me. If there is ever a program in high school that can develop leadership potential, JROTC is it. I was awarded driller of the year one year and athlete of the year the next. I eventually rose to become the commander of the entire unit my senior year. My grades were good and I took college classes my senior year so I would have a head start. All of this, remember, in the name of striving for perfection. Another kind of cover up.

I had three girlfriends in high school. None of them mattered to me as they were all just cover ups. The last one was sophomore year and after her I decided I was through with that. It became too much pressure to do something with them that I wasn’t ever going to enjoy. It was also sophomore year that I came out to the first person.

I remember sitting in the hallway with her after school waiting for who knows what event. I’m not sure why I decided to tell her. I think I just needed to tell someone and we were quite close at that point. I told her I had something to tell her but it took me several minutes to work up the nerve. I couldn’t force the words out of my throat. They seemed to be stuck down in my stomach. Somehow, after a few agonizing moments, I managed to say it. She couldn’t have cared less. Let me tell you, it was a relief to finally tell someone. I finally had an outlet to explain all of the things I had been feeling. I could tell her about the crush I had (the first real crush I had). Just being able to talk to someone about being gay relieved some of the pressure that was really starting to build inside of me.

I’m not sure the order in which I told the next few people. I do know that I came out face to face with only females. Something happened during my senior year made me mad, but turned out to be a blessing. One of those female friends took it upon herself to tell some of our male friends. I went into an immediate panic until I called my male friends one by one and they all had the same response – “Who cares?” All of my friends knew me for who I was and that is all that mattered. They didn’t care that I was gay and I loved them for it.

By now you are probably asking yourself, “What about his family? Did he tell his parents?” No, I didn’t. While I can never fully explain why I didn’t tell them then, I will try to sum up what I’m sure goes through the minds of many gay boys and girls at this point.

  • What will they think?
  • How can I tell them they won’t have grandkids?
  • I don’t want to have to explain why I have these feelings because I just do.
  • What are my options if they don’t understand or think it’s not a choice?
  • Am I ready for this?

That last question is almost always going to be answered with a “no.” I really did intend to tell my parents. They are truly wonderful people. They are, and always have been, fantastic parents. They never gave me any reason to believe that they would be mad about this or not accept me. It is just something about taking that final step and telling them that terrified me to no end. So, I put it off. I made a deal with myself – I would tell them when I graduated high school. Unfortunately, I had to re-negotiate that deal. Graduation came around and I didn’t tell them. My new deal was that I would tell them when I got a boyfriend or when I graduated college.

So, enter college. I stayed close to home and even lived at home the first semester, though I moved into an apartment with some of my close friends shortly after college started. I enjoyed college, especially after I changed majors. I was in honor societies and went to many conferences. I loved my field of study. Unfortunately, I was never “out.” You would think that college would be the perfect place to find someone; to live a lifestyle where I could be myself. The problem was that I still hadn’t told my parents, the people that matter most to me. How could I be “out” at a local college without them finding out. Those were my thoughts anyway. Also, South Carolina. It’s not like I magically transported out of the South. So, I never had a boyfriend in college.

College graduation rolled around and I still didn’t tell my parents. At this point it became one of those long lies. You know, the ones that you know you’ve waited too long to tell the truth, so you figure it is just better to keep the lie going.

I graduated right when the market collapsed. Finding a job, at least one that I wanted, proved difficult. After lazing around playing video games for about a year, I went back to school for my master’s degree. I still didn’t tell them after I finished that. Mind you, I am 26 at this point in the story. Still not living as the person I truly was. The emotional toll of keeping all of this hidden from the wider world was bearing down on me in ways I didn’t fully understand at the time.

Many of you know the details of what has happened in the five years since, so I won’t go in depth here. My parents do know now and are my greatest advocates. I feel whole. I’m 31 years old and finally starting the process of searching for someone I can be happy with. The prospect of dating both terrifies and excites me. Nobody in my life has rejected me because of this. In fact, it has made us all closer.

If you are reading this and are gay but haven’t come out, I can’t tell you what to do or how to live your life. What I can tell you is that if you make the choice to keep this inside, you will be doing damage to yourself that you won’t even realize until a tragedy happens. As human beings, we aren’t meant to be someone we’re not. We can’t pretend that deeply. The sadness becomes overwhelming. You will end up feeling alone even if you’re surrounded by a hundred people. If you can’t get to the point where you are able to come out to the masses, find one person you can tell. It will lighten the load a bit and give you an outlet. It’s a start. You do NOT have to be alone. You can find support in various places that I will link to in this blog. Search for help somewhere if you ever feel overwhelmed. If you ever feel like you need to hurt yourself, tell someone. If there is nobody in your life you can tell, try the Crisis Text Line or this hotline.

Thing have gotten better, though I’m worried the current administration will undo much of the hard work. If I choose to do so, I can get married. It’s not abnormal to see gay couple on TV. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is gone, though we’ll see for how long. My point is that all of this is getting better. Had I been a teenager right now I think I would have had a much easier time.

This will be the first of many posts describing the things that I went through and what I will go through as I move forward. Remember, this is a part of who I am. I will never deny it again as I move forward.  Subscribe and check back here for future posts on everything from writing to my take on political news. Thank you so much for reading!

Resources

PFLAG is a great resource for parents and friends of gays and lesbians. It has resources for LGBTQ people, family members seeking ways to help and cope, as well as sources for friends of LGBTQ.

Human Rights Campaign has a great page for helping people come out to their family, friends, and coworkers.

The LGBT National Help Center gives resources and support for LGBTQ no matter your age.

Need advice coming out? Try clicking here for videos and resources.

Of course, The Trevor Project reaches far and wide with its support and resources for the LGBTQ community.

By far one of the most inspirational people in the community right now it Troye Sivan. Check out his coming out video from a few years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Types Of Bad Book Reviews And What To Do About Them

 

picard_ashamed Picard got a bad review on a Captain’s log entry

We’ve all chimed in on this topic and there are differing opinions on how to handle it when it happens. What do you do about bad reviews? This is a tough question to answer. In fact, it doesn’t have one answer. It depends on the situation. Unfortunately, receiving a bad review sets off a chain of emotional responses that don’t lead to clear thinking. Especially for self-published authors, because they rely so heavily on reviews and having just one negative one can hurt sales in the beginning of a book’s life. Let’s start by exploring the types of bad reviews and how I would respond to them.

The I bought the book by accident – Yes, people leave bad reviews for books if they bought it and didn’t mean to. They probably don’t think about the consequence of their review.

How to respond – Leave a reply offering to refund their money.

The it’s not my genre – These people bought the book, apparently not reading the description. Not sure how it happens, but they still leave the one star review.

How to respond – I would be tempted to ask why they bought it in the first place, but I would hold back. I’m not going to offer to refund this person. Tough break on the review.

The grammar and spelling complainer – Let’s face it, there will be errors in our work and someone will find them. Some of the people that find the errors will let you know about it, though they may sprinkle it in at the end of a decent review of the overall book.

How to respond – Thank them for pointing out the error (chances are we already knew about it) and let them know you have corrected it. Don’t offer money back on this one.

The this story doesn’t make sense or the flow is off – This type of review is probably legit. Sometimes the organization of our books makes sense to us, but not to the readers. If one notices, chances are that others have as well.

How to respond – I would thank them for reading and letting me know about their concerns. That’s it. At this point, there’s nothing we can do about this type of complaint.

The dreaded, this is a self-published author and it shows – Some people just do NOT like self-published authors, so whether the work is good or not, they will find a way to point out you are self-published. They may be right. Certainly there is less professionalism overall in the indie scene. Face it, teenagers going through love spells can publish a book. They may also be wrong and chose to leave a bad review simply because it’s self-published.

How to respond – Thank them for reading and let them know you are working to improve your work daily. They’ll feel like they did a good thing and you come off as a decent person. 

The I know this author and they are horrible review – Ever pissed someone off in your lifetime? Will anyone be envious of the fact that there’s a book out there with your name on it? They might very well leave a bad review just to get back at you. If they drop to the level of actually slandering you personally, it really hurts.

How to handle it – Don’t respond, especially if you know or suspect it’s from someone you know. They will make you eat any response you leave, even if you respond positively. They may even hunt out other places to slander your book if they know they got your attention. If I see a review like this for a book I’m scouting, I always find the author more dignified for not responding.

*One caveat – If the reviewer says something like, “This author hits puppies,” and the review gains traction or gets a response from other people thinking about buying your book, you should probably respond. Do it calmly and politely, explaining the situation. Address it once on the review site and then maybe on your social networks. That’s all you can do. Unless you really hit puppies. Then I hope you lose your house.

The this book sucked review – This person hated the book from top to bottom and it’s clear from the review that nothing will change their mind. Maybe the content sparked their little fingers to chop your book, maybe it was the fact that they didn’t like your name. You may never know.

How to handle it – I think this one should be left alone. It’s not your fault they didn’t like it, so don’t offer them their money back. Responding to a review like this would likely provoke another response from the reviewer that will make you look dumb. It’s like when I was teaching – as soon as I engaged a student in an argument, I lost no matter what the outcome was.

No matter what, if we see a bad review pop up, we’re going to hate it. We spend so much time getting our books ready to publish and are so proud when it finally hits the shelves (digital or otherwise) that hearing someone didn’t like it hits us in the gut. We get attached to our characters, so an attack on them it like an attack on our siblings. Heck, I recently got slammed on Reddit for my ideas about women writing science fiction. What I thought was a completely thoughtful blog post actually pissed some people off. That bothered me! I want everyone to love what I write, but I do admit that we can learn from bad review, especially constructive ones. It just sucks to get the bad review.

Bad reviews will happen and often we had nothing to do with the reasons. Many times the people leaving the bad reviews simply don’t think about the damage they could be doing. We have to live with it. Ultimately it is up to you to formulate your response plan, but be careful and think first. Let the review sit in your mind overnight before you choose to respond or not. No matter what, we should always work to improve our work. Also, as indies, we always need to help out our fellow self-pubbers

Have you gotten bad reviews? How did you handle them?

 

 

Related Articles

15 Steps For Dealing With a Bad Review

Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Being a self-published author, or indie author, does not simply mean that you write books and hit the publish button. Without the power of a publisher behind them, indie authors are forced to become much more than just writers. They have to become business men and women. They need to have great communications and marketing skills and they have to be relentless in their quest to get their books seen.

Indie authors have to do it all. There is no outside help. Sure they can, and should, hire an editor, but that comes at their own expense. They have to develop, or at least hire someone to develop, a quality cover. Another expense that a traditional publisher would normally cover.

You know what it sounds like an indie author is? A business in itself. Yes, an indie author is a person, but that person is their own business. Does that make sense? Yes. Okay, so now what?

Indie authors have to treat every day like a business day. They need a plan and they need to stick with it if they want to be successful. They need goals and they have to keep producing. They need quality material that never wavers and they need to gain and keep their readers. Treating it like a business will ultimately lead to success. What constitutes success for an indie? I wrote about the differing meanings of success for indie authors. Success depends on the author. Ultimately, though, it means having your books read and making a little money for it. It’s a business. You know what all businesses have? A mission statement.

What is a mission statement?

Mission statements are used in many different fields. Business, education, law enforcement, and churches. They provide for their stakeholders, or many times shareholders, to see that the organization has a clear direction with goals and growth in mind. They provide the employees or members of the organization with a constant reminder of the reasons for what they are doing. They usually discuss the values of that organization and try to distinguish themselves from the competition. Here are some examples of mission statements from various fields:

McDonalds CorporationMcDonald’s brand mission is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink. Our worldwide operations are aligned around a global strategy called the Plan to Win, which center on an exceptional customer experience – People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience.

Google Inc.Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Columbia University – Columbia University is one of the world’s most important centers of research and at the same time a distinctive and distinguished learning environment for undergraduates and graduate students in many scholarly and professional fields. The University recognizes the importance of its location in New York City and seeks to link its research and teaching to the vast resources of a great metropolis. It seeks to attract a diverse and international faculty and student body, to support research and teaching on global issues, and to create academic relationships with many countries and regions. It expects all areas of the university to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of its efforts to the world.

And here is one from a field more closely related to us…

Pelican Publishing CompanyPelican Publishing Company has been committed to publishing books of quality and permanence that enrich the lives of those who read them since 1926. With a backlist of more than 2,000 titles, Pelican produces art and architecture books, travel guides, holiday books, local and international cookbooks, motivational and inspirational works, business titles, children’s books, and a growing number of social commentary and history titles.

Even though those four mission statements come from different types of organizations, they all have common themes. They tell the stakeholders what they do and where they are going. Google is the exception. They followed their usual minimalist approach and stuck with a simple, yet powerful, sentence. It still tells you what they do and is probably more along the lines of what Sir Richard Branson would like to see from a mission statement.

Do you know any indie author with a mission statement? I don’t. That’s not to say there aren’t any with one, but I still haven’t seen them. As we strive to make self-published authors more respected, I think this could be a huge step in the right direction. We are all our own business, so we might all have different mission statements, but it will help. We will have something that tells people who we are, what we do, and where we are going. It will provide a promise to us and our readers. It will be a promise of quality and commitment. Does this mean that we can only focus on the indie scene? Heck no. Most of us have other jobs or are father and mothers. That still doesn’t change the value of having a mission statement.

Here’s my first draft:

Allen Watson is a self-published author dedicated to creating quality content for his readers. He has experience in politics, education, law enforcement, and emergency medicine and is an avid science fiction fan. He hopes to use his experiences and passions to write works that will engage a global audience and allow them to explore new worlds and ideas. Allen wants his work to inspire readers to become creators and allow their imaginations to run wild.

I’m going to print this out and tape it to my computer so I see it everyday. I’m going to put it on my blog under its own heading. I want people to take me seriously because I take my work seriously. I’ve written before about gaining respect from readers, and this is another way to do that. Professionalize yourself and it will transform to your work. If self-published authors work hard to ensure that they put forth nothing but quality work and they stick to a strong value system that their readers can appreciate, we will all be better off. At some point the people that refuse to read any self-published work will realize that they are really missing out on some good reading and the publishers will have to transform their methods even more than they already have. 

Don’t worry about making your mission statement perfect right away. Heck, I’ll probably change mine at some point. Just be sure to make one. Take a minute and do it now on a scratch piece of paper. You’ll discover something about yourself in the process.

mission-statement

Please share your mission statements in a comment!

Related Articles

Writing as a Business

If You’re Truly A Writer

Then write.

 

Write because you have to,

And write because you want to.

 

Write because somebody told you you couldn’t,

And write because somebody told you to go for it.

 

Write because your heart it broken,

And write because it’s starting to heal.

 

Write because you love your life,

And write because your life exists.

 

Write because of the bumps in the road,

And write to soften their blow.

 

Write because you lost your temper,

And write because we have, too.

 

Write because you’re an accomplished individual,

And write because you’ve got more to give.

 

Write because a relative died,

And write because they would want you to.

 

Write because your child was born,

And write because they’ll need your sanity.

 

Write because you can’t express your emotions,

And write because your emotions can’t handle anymore.

 

Write because you’re hungry,

And write because the hungry need you.

 

Write because you’ve tasted your tears,

And write because those tears are temporary.

 

Write because you’re rich,

And write because your wealth doesn’t define you.

 

Write because you’re fighting with your best friend,

And write so you don’t say something you’ll regret.

 

Write because you’ve hit the bottom,

And write to build the steps back up.

 

Write because you have a story,

And damnit, write because your story matters.

 

Writers lead different lives than the rest. Their words often come out better when they aren’t spoken, and that’s okay. Writers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders. Every writer has a different reason for writing. They all have different inspirations. Their reason for writing doesn’t matter, and their reason might change. What’s important is that they keep writing no matter what the situation or challenge.

Can Women Write Science Fiction?

Uh oh. It makes me cringe to think of how many people that title just offended. Honestly, it was meant to get you in here. Yes, I’m still going to talk about women writers in science fiction, but in a completely respectful way. Some of what I discuss might make you mad, but trust me, it makes me mad as well. I’m going to talk about the male slanted bias in science fiction and I’m going to be completely honest about what my thoughts are about women writers in the genre.

Until I opened up Destiny Allison’s book Pipe Dream, the only female science fiction author I recall reading was a Star Wars book by Christie Golden and Suzanne Collins. Honestly, I’m not sure I would have gotten Golden’s book if it wasn’t the next in a series that I had already started or Hunger Games if it wasn’t so popular. Why? Well, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have had an unknown bias towards reading male authors in the science fiction genre. I didn’t even know it. Seriously, it never dawned on me that I hadn’t read anything by female authors, but I obviously subconsciously avoided them.

It wasn’t until I was sitting with my good friend, Dr. David Powers, that I even mentioned it. We were going about our usual pre-Bible study routine (talking about science fiction, super heroes, and other things religion usually doesn’t like) and I asked him if he could recall having read a sci-fi book written by a female. He couldn’t. Following up with him for this blog post he said, “I have personally never read a single novel that I can recall by a female science fiction author, unless of course you count the Hunger Games trilogy as such.”

Dr. Powers went on to say that he doesn’t have a bias against female sci-fi authors, just that he hasn’t come across any or know of any. He truly wants to read some from them and is open to recommendations. Some of you might call Dr. Powers and I stupid. Some of you know how many great female sci-fi authors there are out there, but it really is saying something that Dr. Powers has missed out on them. He owns what is probably the largest comic book collection in the South East and is one of the biggest sci-fi nuts I know.

Let’s face it, the genre has a male slant, if for no other reason than the time period it became popular. Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas, though certainly not the first to come up with many of their ideas, were the first to bring it to the forefront of popular culture. When these came out, particularly Star Trek, women were just beginning to push into the work force and get away from their male created shackles. Thank goodness for the progressive movement. So, while both Roddenberry and Lucas both tried (come on, a black and female bridge officer in the 60’s?! Gene be crazy!) they were writing and producing in a male dominated world.

1icon-nichelle-nichols-as-lt-uhura-star-trek.boximg

Science fiction pretty much stayed the course as far as portrayals were concerned. Males dominated with the occasional powerful female showing up. Even then, the females eventually became sex focused. Seven-of-Nine, as bad ass as she was, never wore anything but skin tight suits. Imagine Captain Janeway wearing that every episode (well, don’t imagine that). Heck even Star Trek: Into Darkness had the very unneeded scene of Dr. Carol Marcus stripping down in front of Kirk. Come on, she’s a doctor. I didn’t see Bones throwing off his clothes. And this is all coming from J.J. Abrams, a man known for wanting powerful female characters (Judging by the photos below, I’m guessing the next Star Trek movie will involve an NC-17 Rating?).

seven 20130402-144127

So, why haven’t I read female science fiction material? I honestly don’t know. Okay, fine. I’ll admit it. I think I did purposely avoid female sci-fi authors. I didn’t think they could do it as good as males. I apologize. Really, I do. I debated not telling you, but there it is. I’ve amended my brain waves.

Is the genre still crawling out of its male centered culture? I don’t think so. In fact, attending the X-Con in Myrtle Beach, I honestly think I saw just as many females as males, so the perception and fan base has changed. It’s no longer just a boys club. Shows like Eureka, Warehouse 13, and Falling Skies all have great females in lead roles (though only one, WH13, has a female writer).

I’m willing to bet that female authors can do better with females characters. As hard as I try, I will never be able to tap into the emotion and mindset of the female characters that I write. I just don’t have the right body to understand the mindset of a female. No male does, no matter how much they think they do. Look at Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games. We fell in love with Katniss, a strong lead, female character. If those books had been written by a male, I really don’t think we would have gotten such great material. Katniss Everdeen made girls everywhere proud. There is no doubt that Katniss needs no male to get through her challenges and survive. She can make it on her own. If a male had written the character, Katniss would have eventually needed a male to live. Not once did I think, “Man, Katniss would have been better as a Korey.” Not sure Peeta or Gale could handle that anyway.

I’m reading a great book right now. Pipe Dreams, by Destiny Allison, is turning out to be fantastic. Now that I am consciously reading a female science fiction author, I keep catching myself thinking about whether or not I would write the same things she does. As a female author, she brings a different perspective to every scene (She will also be a featured guest poster on this blog tomorrow, so be sure to check it out). That’s what we need in the genre. A new perspective. We can still have our male heroes, but instead of it being the sexy, obligatory female with them, they can have a true partner that is just as capable of saving the day. I think the best way to get there, and to gain complete respect for female sci-fi characters, is to have more female sci-fi creators. 

Guys, if you are still on the fence about picking up a sci-fi book written by a female, then do it for your relationships. If you are as big of a science fiction nerd as I am, then you have probably had a hard time balancing your love life with your love for the genre. Science fiction controls us, but it’s not our fault. Use the genre to your advantage. Read female authors, learn this new mysterious perspective on sci-fi life, and you will begin to connect better with your partner. Maybe you can convince her that, hey, maybe this science fiction thing can be super cool for girls, too! Good luck!

What Your Support Means To Indie Authors

keep-calm-and-support-indie-authors

Authors have many different reasons for taking the self-publishing route. Maybe they’ve tried traditional publishing but got rejected. Maybe they didn’t get rejected but realized the possibilities present in self-publishing that might not be there from traditional publishers (percentage of profits). Maybe the authors simply want a way to share their work without having to go through the long process of submitting and having it sit at the gatekeepers desk for months or years.

No matter what your opinion of self-publishing, I think we can all admit that there is some seriously good work out there from the indie author scene. If you don’t think so, then you likely haven’t bought any indie work. As I’ve said before, there are many pieces of bad work out there, but who cares? Just like in music and movies, there will always be less than par work that gets into the mix. It honestly doesn’t matter to me. It doesn’t make my work look worse. If an author spends the time and puts forth a professional effort, as we have advocated, then the work will stand out. Many self-published authors take the time to do it the right way. I know that there are still some of you who will argue that unless a traditional publisher has vetted the work then it can never be as good. Fine. I promise that you are missing work that is often of higher quality than what is on the shelves of your chain book stores.

So, what should we do when we find work that is fantastic come out of the indie author realm? Well, we owe it to the author, and to ourselves, to let as many people know as we can. I’m talking, Tweet about it, Facebook about it, and tell your friends. Most importantly – LEAVE A REVIEW!

As I was reading some indie work yesterday, my main thought was about how much of a difference we can make in each others lives. 99% of self-published authors are nearly broke, but took the time to get their work out to the rest of us. It means something to the author, and if we find that it means something to us, we can truly make a difference in that author’s life. Let me do a little story and some math for you. Now, this may seem like I’m only writing this to make profits for indie authors. I’m not. I want you to know what a difference your support can make (because often, other indies don’t support self-pubbers).

Let’s say Ralph (nobody in particular) puts out his science fiction self-published book. If it had been printed, it would run about 300 pages, the normal size for a science fiction book at the local store. Ralph has two kids, a wife, and works 50 hours a week to support his family, but has always had a passion for writing science fiction. He decided to take the plunge and write a book. He writes it, re-writes it, gets it professionally edited, re-writes it, gets a professional cover done, gets it just right for Kindle (or other platform) and finally hits the publish button. Any of that sound familiar to anyone out there? He took the right steps to give us his story.

We buy Ralph’s book for $2.99, less than a gallon of gas or a cup of coffee. We start reading it and quickly realize that, dang, this Ralph guy has written a really good book! Upon realizing this, we should now have a responsibility to Ralph, particularly because he is an indie author. When we finish it, we need to review it. It needs to be a quality review. Something more than “Awesome book.” Write a paragraph encouraging others to buy Ralph’s book. Send out a link to Ralph’s book on your Twitter and Facebook pages. Even if only one or two of your friends pick up a copy, that is still a few extra dollars for Ralph. Let’s say that twenty people pick up Ralph’s book on day one and Ralph gets about $2.05 per copy sold.

20 x 2.05 = $41 – Ralph can take his family our for dinner or pay more on his credit card.

Now let’s say that each of those 20 buyers gets one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Now he has sold 40 copies.

40 x 2.05 = $82 – Ralph starts to feel good about his work and starts a second book, as well as pays down some more debt.

Now let’s say that some reviews start to give his book a boost and all the previous buyers get one more person to buy Ralph’s book. Maybe Ralph gets up to 250 copies sold

250 x 2.05 = $512.5 – Ralph used this to make his car payment, allowing him to possibly spend some more time with his family instead of at work.

How many of you would have your lives transformed just by having an extra $500 or so? All of us.

Most indie authors aren’t looking to become rich. They are looking for just a little extra to help out around the house. There are so many ways for people to make a difference in the world. In fact, because there are so many ways, many people get overwhelmed and do nothing. Instead, let’s play to our strengths – writing and communicating. We are in the indie author scene! Let’s use it and make a difference for our friends and fellow authors. 

When we find great indie work, we CAN absolutely ensure that the author gets that little extra to help them out. Imagine if Ralph’s book hit one of Amazon’s best seller charts for a day because of your help and he sold 2,000 copies. Suddenly he can take a vacation. You helped Ralph take a vacation and all it cost you was $2.99 and some tweets. The indie author scene can be transformed by all of us taking simple steps and recognizing quality work. We may not all be the next Hugh Howey, but dangit, we can still make a difference around the house. Take care.

iStock_000005693643XSmall

 

Your Indie Author Mission Statement

Self-Publishing Cover Secrets and Help!

Okay, this time I promise not to take such a long hiatus. I miss talking to everyone on a regular basis. I’ve been busy (even though that is not an excuse). My book, Journey of the Kings, is now finished and Kindle ready. I am now waiting for my wonderful artist, Jennifer Jordon, to finish the cover.

As she is working on the cover, I wanted to start a series of blog posts (maybe only a few, but who knows) about the process of creating the cover. We all know that one of the most important parts of the self-publishing realm of books is the cover. I’ve written about it, and any two minute Google search will give you any number of people espousing the importance of having a great cover. First impressions…we know they matter. How many indie authors, maybe even you, have said that if they could do it again, they would spend more time on getting a professional cover for their book.

Not that little Suzie’s art work or Grandma Pat’s skills aren’t up to par. We all know people that can produce art, but do they have the knowledge and skill set necessary to produce a cover for your project? Think about it. How long did it take you to write your book? You had to plan it out, write it, edit it, re-write it, give it out to editors, re-write, etc. THAT IS A TON OF WORK!

All said and done, we know how much time and effort we have invested in our books. Our books become part of us. Along the way, we dream of people choosing our book to read out of the thousands upon thousands they could pick from. Why, after all that work, would you slap a half-ass cover on the front? If you do that, I promise that all of your work will be for nothing. The only super-successful book I’ve seen with a questionable cover is Wool by Hugh Howey. We’ll chock that up to a minimalist success.

So, Jen Jordon will be helping me with a series of posts about the process that she is taking to create the cover for my book. Yes, she is a great friend of mine, but I didn’t choose her for that reason. She has an MFA in studio art from the University of South Carolina (GO GAMECOCKS) and I have seen almost all of her work in person. She doesn’t just specialize in one type of art. Jen has delved into a wide range of techniques that make her someone we (indie authors) want working with us. She knows the many processes and techniques that might need to be used for cover work.

The first post from her will be coming soon. It will probably have to do with the mindset she is taking to work on my cover. It is a science fiction book, so I would imagine her approach would be different than if she was working on a romance novel (maybe my next book will be erotica…make it a little awkward for her).

We also want you to ask her questions. If you have anything you want to ask Jen, about her artwork, experience, or cover work, ask in the comments. She will be more than happy to answer any question you have.

In the meantime, check out her pages! Her contact information is there, so if you would like to get a hold of her to help with your cover, let her know. You can also ask me to contact her for you if you would like.

Jen’s Website

Jen’s Facebook Fanpage

 247123_504796014060_6817_n

Jen and I from about 5 years ago

More on the Importance of Editing for Indies

laptop

Wow! Haven’t made a post in a while. I apologize, but I have been busy working on the second book in my series as well as a short story. It’s been one of those, ‘If I write something else now, I’ll lose train of thought’ weeks.

I’m on here today because I got back the fourth of five edited copies of my first book, Journey of the Kings. I gave it out in late March to my five gracious editors. As I said in a previous post, editing for self-publishers is definitely the most important things. No, I do not mean you reading it through one time. No, it does not mean handing it to your wife/husband. No way they will give you completely honest feedback. For indie authors to ever get on the same playing field as authors that go the traditional publishing route, they have to become their own gatekeepers. Self-publishing should not be a shortcut to getting your work the readers. It should involve just as much work. Write it, rewrite it, edit, edit, edit, rewrite, professional cover, beta readers, etc. Whew!

Editing, again, is the most important of all of those. It needs to be done by a professional. This is, unfortunately, where you will have to fork over some dollars, if you have some. Maybe you’re lucky enough to know an editor, but make sure they are good at what they do. I have been lucky enough to connect with some great professionals in my area that actually do this kind of work. Now that I have four copies back, I have begun the process of going through book one and making the necessary changes.

What is the point of me telling you this story? Well, I want to tell you just how different some of these copies are as far as what they found and what it means for you. Before I gave the copies to my editors, I went back through the book and read it very slowly and very carefully, making changes the entire time. Now, of course I knew I wouldn’t catch everything, but even I was surprised at how many errors I let slip through. I mean, I did well in undergrad and grad school. Very well. Looking at my edited copied, you wouldn’t think so.

Even funnier was that, out of the four I have back, each of them have caught different errors. Sure, they all caught the obvious ones, but sometimes each would find something different on a single page. Each of them had stylistic differences, but some of the things they found differently were legitimate errors.

So, I wrote the book and then re-read it very slowly to check for errors. That’s two times through. Now I have four more times through from the editors. In each of them, different errors were found. Are you seeing the overriding message here?

YOU CANNOT DO WITHOUT SERIOUS EDITING! If you think you can, put your work-in-progress down and stop calling yourself a serious indie author. I know it sounds harsh, but if we don’t work to professionalize and get others to do the same, we are destined to fall victim to the naysayers. You know they’re out there, so let’s edit and work hard to prove them wrong.

Making Dialogue Feel Real

Dialogue

I read a book recently, The Settlers, by Jason Gurley, that had fantastic dialogue. I wrote about it in my review. It was powerful and, more importantly, made me feel like it was REAL dialogue. Have you ever read a book in which the dialogue fell flat? Maybe like the words spoken between characters just didn’t seem right? Heck, maybe you’ve written some pretty bad dialogue yourself; I know I have.

When I’m reading a book, I love the dialogue. That’s what makes me feel involved in the process. With conversation, it opens up the characters to one another. As readers, we are gods. We’re omnipotent observers because we get to read the back stories. We know the characters thoughts. The other characters don’t know these things, so when the dialogue comes along, the characters are letting out the secrets that we already know. You know how hard it is to keep a secret!

I’ve said that the hardest thing for me has been character development. I think I have a decent handle on that now, but the second hardest thing for me is dialogue. In my opinion, dialogue is a very important part of character development, if for no other reason than it is what makes them seem real. I mean, Ian Fleming could have filled our heads with great backdrops, stories, and thoughts of James Bond, but it really is the suave way that Bond talks to others (particularly the women) that make us love him. Unless your story is going to be set up based around the life of a mime, then you have to practice your dialogue skills. It certainly took a good bit of practice for me.

Assuming that you already know and understand the rules of punctuation surrounding dialogue (no small feat if you are new to it or are not an avid reader), you have to have a certain flow. I almost don’t know how to explain it. Coming from an academic, research based writing background, my dialogue flow was rough. Contractions were so non-existent in my head that I didn’t know where the apostrophe button was. Unless you are writing a Commander Data or Spoke fan fic, you really need to know where it is. People usually don’t talk in proper English. We are all about some contractions.

Making the dialogue real is important, but you know it can go overboard. Very rarely can an author go full on slang and get away with it. Mark Twain could manage it, but I certainly can’t. Could you imagine reading a book base on characters from Boston or How about southern Louisiana in which the author tried to get every word phonetically correct? You can throw most accents and slang out the window, especially if you are new at writing fiction (like me).

Most of the time, dialogue can’t simply be the spoken words (I know that it pretty much the definition though). What you put around the spoken words is just as important. Conversations between real people usually are accompanied by some kind of hand or head movement. Real conversations are also filled with thought in the heads of the participants. That has to be shown through the dialogue. Here is a brief snipet of dialogue that I just wrote for two of the characters in my new book, but completely stripped down and flow inept:

“I still have not opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him a few months ago.

“I did not ask if you had,” said Raymond.

“I know, but I did not want you to get your hopes up,” said Benjamin.

“You will open it when and if you are ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Now, to me, that is about as ugly as it gets. Let’s look at what I really wrote:

“I still haven’t opened the Bible you gave me,” said Benjamin. Pastor Raymond had given it to him three months prior, probably hoping that Benjamin would gain a better understanding of faith.

“I didn’t ask if you had,” replied Raymond.

“I know,” said Benjamin, “but I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.” Benjamin smiled a little, hoping he could keep the pastor’s patience in check. He knew he didn’t have to worry about it, though. Pastor Raymond was the most patient person he knew.

“You’ll open it up when and if you’re ready,” said Raymond. “Rushing faith is an easy way to turn people away from God.”

Mechanically, everything that could be contracted is. That’s just how we talk. We’re not writing a research paper, we’re writing fiction. Also new to the second part it the filler between the characters speaking to one another. It tells you that they are not simply robots, but people that are having their own individual thoughts and feelings. In real conversation, this is stuff we do. We think about what the other person it saying and we wonder what they are thinking. Often what we are thinking is not what we say, and that has to be shown to the reader in fiction dialogue. If you want your audience to connect with the characters, you have to make them real. OH! Yes, I was hoping I could circle this back around to character development and there it is (I’m feeling a bit like the Doctor today thanks to my new sonic screwdriver).

New fiction writers, like myself, often rely on too little dialogue because it scares them. Sure, descriptions of the scenes are nice, and who doesn’t love to take a trip into a character’s past via flashbacks? But dialogue is where it’s at. I like to think of all the words in the book as parts of speech, with the dialogue being the action verbs. It adds the excitement and ups the tempo. Everything else is important, just not as much.

What do you think about dialogue? If you disagree, please let me know. On this blog, I just write things down regardless of whether or not it is right. Do you have your own way of making dialogue work? Put some of your own dialogue in the comments!