Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shadow Spies

I haven't posted to my blog for some time because I've been busy, concentrating on the writing, editing and publication of my new book in the Shadow series, Shadow Spies.
I look back at the very first book, Shadow Games, and I reflect upon the person who naively wrote that book, a person who used limited writing skills, but who nevertheless, managed to create a large book that many people found enjoyable. I'll likely go back to it and revise it someday, but I've got a lot more books to write and Shadow Twins, the next book in the series is my next project.
Shadow Games has done well on Barns and Noble and Apple, however, the crowd on Amazon is a tough, but mostly fair, audience. I'll have to do better to please them.
I reread Shadow Spies again looking for those small errors that the editor may have missed, and I had the strangest feeling that I was reading a novel written by someone else. I finally realized that I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't care who wrote it, I was having fun reading it. It was hard to connect the person who had written the previous book (a year ago) to the person who had written what I was reading.
The reason I started this whole career was because I wanted something to read. Cereal boxes and an occasional book borrowed from the library (when I could find one) just wasn't doing it. I found that when I was writing, I was reading, allowing the story to unfold in my mind and guiding (or sometimes following) the story to where I wanted it to go.
Now, I actually dream story-lines in my sleep, mentally back spacing over the dialogue or narrative to correct the flow. I know it sounds bizarre, but it's the truth.
Anyway, I finally had to quit tinkering with the book and publish it. I first published it on November, 11, Veteran’s Day on Smashwords. It will be available on B&N and Apple, when Smashwords releases it, sometime later in November, or early December. I'll cross my fingers and publish it on Amazon, November 25. I've a standing offer to provide a free copy to anyone who leaves a comment on my website. It's good until November 20. Here's the link to Smashwords. Shadow Spies

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Indie authors and “The Tsunami of Crap”

I recently read a Joe Konrath blog “The Tsunami of Crap” and it caused me to wonder why we Indies, as a group, should be singled out for poor writing.
I've read books by Legacy publishers that also deserve the same title, but somehow The NY big six seem to slither out of the appellation, somewhat like greased pigs.
Out of over six billion people in the world only a thimbleful can point to a collection of paper or a file on a computer, and proudly announce. “I wrote that”.
The announcement becomes more meaningful when the collection of words totals tens of thousands or more and the story has a beginning, middle, and end. The vast majority of people can't or won't do it.
Regardless of the quality of the work, the fact that an author sat down, slogged through the writing task, and in the process, created something never read before, is to me, a monumental accomplishment.
True, the result may be trite, riddled with mistakes, jumbled, incoherent, composed of poor grammar or just completely confused, but the fact still remains that the author created it.
Many people, proud of their newly born word-child, stop at that point and simply release the mess to the internet.
It's a really bad decision. Stop it.
Stop and think about the three most important aspects of the work you've created, grammar, style and content. These three elements are the building materials that constitute the structure of your work. If they're not applied carefully the building will fall down.
Grammar constitutes the bricks and mortar of the story. Crumbling bricks and poor mortar will doom even the most thoughtfully designed house.
One of the problems with grammar is the fact that we don't often use it. We may have been educated in public or private school systems where grammar was taught, but since it didn't constitute a significant portions of our lives the lessons were quickly forgotten.
Lessons learned well in schools tens of years ago, hardly apply to today's concepts of modern writing. For example, I was taught to always use a comma before a conjunction and today that's not often done. Passive voice was a common aspect of books, even classic works, when I grew up and today it's considered bad grammar.
We speak using poor grammar, fragmentary sentences, wrong tenses of verbs, slang, incorrect use of personal pronouns, the list is extensive. Frequently, using our voice, we write as we speak. Is it any wonder that a person, who has never before written a story, finds that they have unintended problems with grammar?
Most would-be authors find they must learn the concept of good grammar anew to be able to write what today is considered a grammatically correct book. If a “classic book” came under a modern editor's sharp knife it would most likely not survive the process intact, losing multiple commas, phrases, and entire chapter-length swaths of text. (Moby Dick is one good example.)
Many people have significant stories to tell, good stories, but even with the best of intentions, they must learn the “new rules” by trial and sometimes humiliating error. The serious ones don't give up. They learn from their mistakes, correct them, and proceed to the next work.
The concept of style is a tricky one. It involves multiple issues, narrative, dialogue, organization and plot, to name just a few, but mostly in hinges on voice.
Voice is a subtle thing. It's the element of your story that maintains the reader's interest. A book can be narrative style, composed principally of dialogue or some combination, but regardless of the type, a book without voice is a house about to fall.
Voice is the unique feeling you impart to your work. The element that identifies you as the story teller and makes the reader want to know what's next. Your voice may be flippant, humorous, sober, somber, threatening, romantic or sad, but it must be present throughout the work.
You can write the most complicated plot ever conceived and polish the grammar until it shines, but without your unique voice it's flat and lifeless.
I've read books that contained fragments of puzzle pieces that the reader must stitch together at the end to assemble a whole story, but because the author's voice provided the framework, the book worked and worked well.
I've personally read books that contained numerous grammatical errors but because of their content, I also witnessed they were widely popular with many readers. I've also read prosaic novels, in which the author lovingly crafted each word and must have spent years in creating the work, that were flat, lifeless and boring; frequently books in which the author took two or more long chapters to come to the point. (“Lord Jim” is an example.)
People may argue this, (and most likely will) but I think there are two types of readers. The reader who desires to escape into another world and the reader who salivates over words and symbols. The former reader constitutes the clear majority, while the latter reader occupies a small part of the market.
The first reader wants to escape the humdrum reality of life. He or she wants to experience new worlds, intriguing characters, interesting situations, romance, sex, violence, fear, ...the list goes on.
This type of reader could frequently care less about prose, in fact, it gets in the way of a good story.
He or she also wants to feel superior to some of the characters in the book, such as the tragic person from a dysfunctional family, the stupid heroine who enters the darkened hallway, knowing the monster's bound to jump out, and the drunken detective who can't or won't cope with life.
The escapist reader wants fun quirky characters, the type of people they could never emulate but who provide the spice that makes the content interesting.
On the other hand, the prose reader savors the caress of each word, looks for hidden meaning within the text and teases out the symbols cleverly embedded in the work. This type of reader is apt to be critical of a misplaced comma, an overlooked passive voice sentence or an incorrectly spelled plural possessive. To these readers a grammar error is like a verbal landmine and when it explodes, it spoils the whole work for them. Their meaning, when it comes to content, is the artistry displayed in the author's wordsmithing, the brush strokes of metaphor, simile, alliteration and onomatopoeia.
In the end, readers cross the lines, some more balanced in their tastes and some more swayed to one extreme or the other.
The “The Tsunami of Crap” doesn't apply simply to grammar. If you as an Indie author want to become successful, you would be well advised to excel in all three of these areas. Grammar alone won't do it, neither will style or content. A careful balance of the three should be your ultimate goal.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writing, reading and the price of my eBooks.

Authors spend long, frequently frustrating hours, writing a short story, novella, or novel. The writer may squeeze out writing time between the daily rounds of caring for children, the demands of a job and caring for his or her sanity, or, like myself, view it as a retirement occupation.
However it works, it's hard, harder on the young writer that must juggle the daily demands of life to pursue what most writers feel is a passion and an obsession, but also hard on the writer who possess the freedom to write.
Writing's not about riches and fame, although most of us harbor that hope tucked in the back of our minds, it's about filling a need, a need to create. We're like painters or sculptors but our brushes, pigments and tools are our words.
Like any artist, sometimes our art is frivolous and entertaining, filling the moment, but easily forgotten, and at other times it's a lasting treasure that endures over the years.
Many writers create art with their words, lovingly crafting each sentence, shaping the words, evoking feelings and images, laboring over each paragraph and talking years to craft a novel.
Others simply have a story to tell and use their skills to lead their characters through fun adventures across creative worlds and as a consequence, sweeping the reader for a while from the mundane world into a world of romance, passion, mystery and magic.
So, what do we as authors, want from this?
Many writers may argue this point, but in the end, we want you to read it.
In my opinion, all authors yearn to be read. We want you to read and enjoy our creation no matter how artistic or frivolous it may be. We rejoice when you like it and weep when you don't. It's that simple.
And that leads to the subject of pricing.
In the new Indie publishing world, prices for eBooks range from free to ten dollars or more. We all agonize over the subject of pricing. We want to be read, need to be read, but we also want some rewards from our efforts. How do we juggle the two conflicting needs? If the book is priced too high we won't get readers. If it's priced too low, we won't be rewarded. Some of us want to make a living from writing and quit or day-jobs to devote all of our time to writing. If the books don't sell, how can we afford to do this?
Many authors give books away for free. Why? We want to encourage people to read us, and then maybe they'll look at our other works and make the decision to buy something. A few authors give works away out of principle. They want to be read and don't care about rewards. Also some works that carry hefty price tags should be given away because the quality of the book is not worth paying for.
My decision in regards to my books was motivated by the fact that I was a new, untried writer. I didn't feel that my readers should suffer through my journey towards learning my craft and therefore the works were offered for free. I felt that at some future date, I would learn enough to write a work that deserved carrying a price tag and therefore a reward.
Well, that date has arrived. My new eBook “Sail beyond Tomorrow” is now available on Smashwords and Amazon. More accurately termed a novelette (it's 53,000 words) it's priced at $2.99.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dark Matter

For a science fiction author each new scientific discovery is like waving a piece of candy in front of a child.
We thrive on science but we never stop at just a new principle, we can't resist the temptation to ask the question, “What if?” What if a new discovery was tweaked just a little? What if the person who discovered it didn't interpret it properly? What if a discovery combined with others resulted in an entirely new principle?
One of my favorite programs on the Science Channel is “Through the Wormhole” (narrated by Morgan Freeman). I recently viewed an episode on “Dark Matter”.
Fascinating stuff, (“dark matter”) it's invisible but is attracted by gravity just as regular matter is supposedly attracted by gravity. Truly meat and potatoes for sci-fi authors.
So I thought about it, and it didn't make sense. Why should something we can't measure, can't see with our sophisticated instruments, nor hold in our hands, have gravity? And gravity is a must for dark matter because it holds the universe together. Coupled with dark matter is “dark energy” this force is causing our universe to expand and actually accelerate.
Dark matter is theorized to constitute 95 percent of the entire matter in the universe, 95 percent! Visible matter, the matter that comprises you and me is only 5 percent of the universe. In addition, dark matter permeates all matter and is prevalent when normal matter congregates together. That means our bodies are filled with dark matter.
Here it comes: WHAT IF?
What if normal matter does not have gravity as a property? What if the only matter with the gravitational property is dark matter? Your body is composed of 95 percent dark matter. What if your weight, your manifestation of gravity, is the weight of the dark matter, not the normal matter. No one would ever be able to tell. What if dark matter was a matrix that held the normal matter together and accompanied it at all times? Normal matter would appear to have gravity because the dark matter was clumped around it.
So what does this mean? Well for one thing it means that the people at CERN are wasting their time in the hunt for the Higgs Boson (the theoretical gravitation particle). They'll never find it because it doesn't exist in normal matter.
In addition, maybe the “theory of everything” stops at three fundamental forces and maybe Einstein's General Theory of Relativity must bend under the weight of dark matter.
Maybe there's not four fundamental forces maybe gravity and the strong and weak nuclear forces are a property of dark matter.
Could quantum principles be more a property of dark matter than regular matter?
The list goes on...
“What if” science fiction has driven our technology for a long time. We walk around with Star Trek communicators tucked in our pockets, Hal already exists, and “I Robot” is lurking just around the corner. The global network and it's viruses, were predicted by science fiction over 40 years ago by John Brunner and one day we may be able to store our minds in the net.
So, what's next?
I love “what if”...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Copyright, Library of Congress and Indie Authors on Smashwords.

Like many of we new, clueless, Independent authors/publishers, so many issues bombarded me when I created and published my first book online on Smashwords, that I didn't have the time, inclination or knowledge to worry about copyright.

I thought - “Hey! I put the little © and my name and date on the front matter, that means I'm the copyright owner – right?”

Weeell, a little yes, and a little no. The addition of the copyright symbol, your name and the date of publication, is the minimum requirement for protecting your copyright, but according to the U.S. Copyright office: “Mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, or any other copy or phonorecord does not give the possessor the copyright. The law provides that transfer of ownership of any material object that embodies a protected work does not of itself convey any rights in the copyright.”
In the bad old days of legacy publishing, one piece of advice given to authors of unpublished works was to snail-mail a certified copy of the original manuscript complete with the copyright statement to themselves before trying to shop the work to a publisher. Failing to do so, was like trying to sneak past an armored knight dressed in your underwear.

Sure, as soon as you create something, you own the copyright, but mere possession of a created work is not proof that you are the copyright owner. In the days of legacy publishing, someone could remove the copyright notice, wad it up, toss it in the circular file and claim ownership. If you had no evidence, how could you prove you created the work first?

Nearly all legacy publishers abide by a code of ethics and are unlikely to violate a copyright, but the world is full of scam artists eager to make a dishonest buck. A creative works needs copyright protection.

In the days of legacy publishing the publisher bore the expense of both registering the copyright and depositing the work with the Library of Congress. Indie authors are on their own in this onerous task.

Wait! Oops! – Did I just say, “Library of Congress?” What's that got to do with registering a copyright?
Weell, while researching the material in order to write this blog, I came across this gem:
“Although a copyright registration is not required, the Copyright Act establishes a mandatory deposit requirement for works published in the United States ... In general, the owner of copyright or the owner of the exclusive right of publication in the work has a legal obligation to deposit in the Copyright Office, within three months of publication in the United States, two copies ... for the use of the Library of Congress. Failure to make the deposit can result in fines and other penalties but does not affect copyright protection. If a registration for a claim to copyright in a published work is filed online and the deposit is submitted online, the actual physical deposit must still be submitted to satisfy
mandatory deposit requirements. ...Certain categories of works are exempt entirely from the mandatory deposit requirements, and the obligation is reduced for certain other categories...”

If you publish on Smashwords, even if you've taken the the offer for a free ISBN, Smashwords is your distributor, and you are the publisher. You've published your own works. (Sinking feeling, depression settling in, one more item to distract me from writing. When will it ever end? – damn!)

Now, before you go running around the room screaming and losing hands full of hair; expecting the Feds to appear on your doorstep with handcuffs in hand, there's more. It seems that the good-ol' Gov has finally entered the twenty-first century. The requirements are different for online works that are strictly online. Here's the quote on that issue:
“Effective February 24, 2010, the Copyright Office adopted an interim regulation governing mandatory deposit of electronic works published in the United States and available only online. The regulation establishes that online-only works are exempt from mandatory deposit until the Copyright
Office issues a demand for deposit of copies or phonorecords of such works. Categories of online-only works subject to demand will first be identified in the regulations; electronic serials is the first category for which demands will be issued. Demands may be made only for works published on or after
February 24, 2010.”

“Whew, dodged the bullet, I published at the end of 2010.” But – hold it – you're not out of the woods completely. If you've also made the work available in hard-copy (paper copy), the requirements change again:
“If a work is published both online and by the distribution of physical copies in any format, the requirement of the deposit regulations for the copies applies, not the options for online works given above. For example, if a work is published in the form of hardbound books and is also transmitted online, the deposit requirement is two copies of the hardbound book.”

So, you're back to square one.

I never once considered all the above when I wrote my books and I'm willing to bet may others are in the same fix. As to my copyright, it's true that publishing my work on Smashwords strengthens my claim to copyright ownership, but does not prevent a costly court battle if someone tries to violate my copyright . I've published my first two works for free, but it would make my blood boil if some dishonest jerk tried to sell it as a copyrighted book.
As to the requirement for deposit at the Library of Congress, I was clueless.

I'm not a lawyer, and I make no claims of advice. I'm just reporting what I found. As for me I'm going to pay the fee and register my copyrights and also register with the LoC. I might even adopt the old legacy practice of both snail-mailing and emailing my MS to myself.
If you do the same, keep it stored away, unopened. One way to make it easier might be to store all the drafts, notes, old copies and the current copy on a pen drive rather than print it out. Then snail-mail  the drive certified U.S. Mail to yourself. This is really important if you plan to shop the MS out to online publishers. An email can be intercepted. Since the publisher typically wants a bare-bones stripped down submission, the defenseless copy sans copyright notice can be hacked.

To try and understand the issues involved, I refer you to the U.S. Copyright Office site. At a minimum, download Circulars 1, 3, 7b, 7d  and 66. That will give you the basics and a reference to start from.

Friday, July 1, 2011

To my readers, an apology, shameless self promotion, and future books.

OK I originally planned to have “Shadow Spies” ready to publish by June 30 of this year, but illness and other distractions delayed my plans. “Shadow Spies” is much more action/suspense oriented with a little romance thrown in and I've introduced a new character I think you'll like. If anyone is interested, I could use some beta readers. Go to my Facebook page and send me a PM, or leave a comment here.
I apologize, but I caught a staph infection in my right arm and damn near wound up in the hospital. (Came close to losing the arm from amputation.)
Let that be a lesson. Never let any wound go untreated, no matter how small. (It was a minor scrape.) Anyway I couldn't type for nearly three weeks. At this point I hope to publish the book by August.
My current new release, “Sail Beyond Tomorrow”, is in editing, with a release date of July 30. The book is a paranormal romance novel set in San Diego. It involves the Mayan Cycle and the supposed apocalypse next year.
I don't know how often I'll do this because it's expensive. I have one of two choices. Either try my damnedest to make the work as error free as possible, or pay an editor to help. Since I feel strongly about the new novel, I decided on the latter, however It will be for sale (to recover the costs) and will be on all the sites, including Amazon.
Before long, I will remove “The Reality Plague” from publication. It's set to undergo a major revision, nearly doubling the length and making it the book I wanted in the first place. I had to truncate the book because I'd intended to submit it to a publisher and the length exceeded the limits set by the site. I've since learned that I have no desire to jump those hoops anymore and want to be my own publisher. I also plan to change the cover.

I takes anywhere from six months to a year for me to write a book. Based on that schedule, look for “Shadow Twins” next year and “Shadow Reflections” the following year. Maybe with experience I can get faster, but don't hold your breath. The outlines are written for both books, but I have a tendency of straying from outlines. The books are as likely to be a surprise to me as to you.
I also have two more novels in outline form but they are waiting until I feel I'm ready and I can do justice to them. They will be special.

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Self-Publishing

I love self-publishing, it's such a liberating experience. You become the master of your own destiny. The burden is yours and you succeed or fail on your own merits.
I think in the past, people who might have considered writing a story, novella or novel were discouraged because the effort it took to write with conventional tools and convince a traditional publisher to accept it, was so daunting they never tried.
Thousands and thousands of wonderful stories lay parked in people's brains never to be read.
Not any more, because you don't need to hurdle the publishers gate, you just lengthen your stride and arrive at the finish line. You self-publish. No waiting months for a dreaded rejection letter, no lengthy times from acceptance to publishing, and the work is yours to do with as you wish.
Are all self-published stories good?
No, but not all conventionally published stories are worthy either. They may be spruced up by a good editor, but trash is trash even if polished to a high degree. Readers know and punish both the author and publisher by ignoring the work.
Are many self-published books good?
A resounding yes! Over and over. Wonderful examples abound, actually more works than traditional publishers, and it will only grow larger because more people are self-publishing, truly talented people who write amazingly creative stories. Stories which would have never surfaced if the traditional publishers still guarded the gates.
Today readers have a huge variety to choose from. No longer are they burdened by exorbitant prices, paper books scattered throughout the home taking up space, or suffering from what the traditional publishers think they should read. They are finally free to choose.
Such a liberating feeling.
Many times I have heard that with freedom comes responsibility.
Nowhere is this more true than in the self-publishing world. The self-published author has a responsibility to his or her readers. You must make the work as free from error as you possibly can. The reader should be able to rely upon you, not upon your publisher.
When readers pay for your work they should feel confident that you put forward your best effort, and they will enjoy reading it. Nothing causes more dismay than a promising book riddled with mistakes.
If you write something that people like and you try your absolute best to make it a quality work, people will come.
If you don't, you can expect to fail.
Don't look for excuses. The internet contains ample help. With all the author's groups and informative blogs on the subject of writing, there's no excuse for shoddy work. I know, I belong to a few of them and learn from them. Even if you have limited grammar skills, you can learn. You must learn to use the tools of language before you finish a work and publish it.
Traditional authors and publishers argue that self-publishing is only an electronic form of vanity press. It can be, but so can traditional publishing. Their argument is one of the last barbs of a breed facing true Darwinism.
The readers will decide the issue. As a group they are smarter than all of us.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fiction, science and strange marriages of the two.

My first book Shadow Games, contains a scene in which a college professor discusses his theories of how my antagonists, the Shadows, are able to accomplish their seemingly impossible abilities.
I created the professor's fictional theories from strange things I had read about existing scientific principles, particularly quantum theory.

Many science fiction books use as a premise, mental telepathy, mind control, and a host of other talents related to the same concept. (Steven King is an example in Fire Starter) Most of the evidence for this is anecdotal.

It's a fact that the brain does not contain the power and external organization that could reach out from the skull and influence the behavior of others, at least at a macro level.

But, I thought, what about the quantum level?

The neurons in the brain contain structures called 'micro-tubules' These structures resemble computer memories in their organization, and they are quite capable of operating at a quantum level. At that level, they could not only influence the brains of others, but could also interact with space-time itself throughout the universe.

As a further argument, follow me in a mental exercise. Keep your eyes open and conjure the image of a childhood friend, family member or teacher from your memory. Can you see it? Notice that the image is not truly an image at all. It's more an impression of an image. It's still there, you can see it, but are you really seeing it? I can do this with memories from more than fifty years ago, and other more recent experiences.

But something else is happening. You can still view a three-dimensional, full-color image of your surroundings. You hear sounds, smell odors, feel the cloth on your skin. You can still move your arms and legs and react to the voices of others in your environment. You can still think of you, and are aware that you exist. All this is occurring simultaneously as you view the image of a significant memory.

The estimates of the number of neurons contained in the human brain vary, but the most often figure quoted is one hundred-billion neurons. Each neuron may have ten thousand connections. But even with all the neurons and all the connections, (a staggering number) it still can't account for the wonderful things that your brain can accomplish.

Imagine my surprise when I viewed a recent episode of “Through the Worm Tunnel” narrated by Morgan Freeman. (the Science Channel) The program was on life-after-death, the soul, and consciousness. One of the arguments for the existence of the soul and its continuation after death was proposed by Stuart Hameroff (MD) and Sir Roger Penrose (Nobel prize in Physics).

Their theory nearly mirrored the one proposed by the fictional professor in my novel.

Science? Fiction? Or maybe the truth? Who knows? It's a question that we all will answer when we pass this mortal realm. (But not before about a hundred or more novels later!)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

So you wanna be an Indie writer?

The road to self-publishing can be a lonely one, bordered on each side by self-doubt, frustration, insecurity, inexperience and lack of a shoulder to cry upon.
Frequently you wonder about your goals. Why are you doing this? There's so much competition. Can you ever find a reader for your work? Will anyone like your writing? Should you just surrender and collect endless rejection slips until someone recognizes your talent and gives you a break?

I often ponder multiple choices after I've completed a project.
OK, you've typed “The End”. Now what? After nearly a year of inspiration, blind alleys, despair, and not-so-good passages followed by blazing insight and blinding speed, you've reached the end. What do you do next?
First, you need to edit this mess but can you trust yourself? After all, you're the one who created it. Do you trust the idiot who made endless mistakes (you) to be the one to correct them? Do you know enough with your limited experience to be able to find the errors? Does someone, someone wiser than you, have the solution to your dilemma? Where can you go to find help? Can you trust him or her?
Maybe if you send it to a publisher your problems will be solved. After all, they employ professional editors. But do you want to see it gathering electronic dust while someone else holds your precious work in their hands, maybe for months or a year at a time, only to receive a mail stating “Dear ___ we are unable to publish your novel ...”.
Should you hire someone, fearing that the work may never sell, or not sell enough to pay for the costs of editing? Who can you turn to? You don't know any editors. Which ones are the good ones and can you afford them?
If you self-publish the book which service do you choose? Do you want to offer it in print? Will anyone ever read it? No one knows you. How can you convince a reader to take a chance on an unknown author?

The list continues, but at some point you need to stop agonizing over the choices. If you felt good writing it and you gave it your best shot, if you did due diligence, went back and corrected as many errors as you could find, then maybe it's the time to get another opinion.
Family and friends frequently lie, fearful of offending you. (Most of my grown, adult children will not read my stuff. They're too busy, they can't read a sex scene that dad wrote without blushing, etc.). However, it's important that your spouse or significant-other support your efforts (mine does, enthusiastically).
Find a stranger, in fact several strangers. Bribe, cajole, coerce, plead, or twist arms. Find a critical person who will be honest with you if you reciprocate. Get several opinions. If the consensus is, it's trash, rewrite it, or put it aside and tackle the next one. Don't give up. (Also remember, one man's trash is another man's treasure.)
Join a writer's group like the Indie Writer's Group on Facebook and become involved. There, you'll learn a lot of skills, gain good information and meet your fellow writers.
If you feel that you've done your best. You've weeded out all of the errors you could find, and most importantly, you love reading it and you're proud of your efforts, then choose a site and publish it. 
I choose Smashwords because it's free and gives you a reasonable presence in a large ocean of books. If you publish it for free or decide to sell it, be patient. It can take six months to a year before people notice you.
Finally, while waiting for reviews (which may never appear), reflect upon the goals you had when you started. Why did you do this? Did you want to make money and become a successful writer or did you do it for the fun and satisfaction? If the answer is the former, then I'm afraid your task has just begun, if the latter, relax. You've done it.
But maybe if I just put a web site up, a blog, a name on Facebook, and logged on to Tweeter, then maybe....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Changes in the publishing business.

You can't be self-published and not keep informed of the huge and often strident debate about the future of the publishing world.
Some authors contend that you're not truly “published” until you're accepted by one of the major publishers and see your book in paper, while others predict the demise of book-store publishing in favor of E-publishing and the importance of the connection between authors and readers.
Major NY publishers are like IBM back in the eighties when they ignored the importance of their own invention (the PC) and allowed an up-start company like Microsoft to retain the rights to the operating software. IBM was monolithic, cast in stone, convinced of its superiority, and unable to change.
I have a suspicion that the major publishers face the same challenge.
Three years ago if you had asked me if I would ever read a book on a computer or hand-held device I would have said “Hell no! I like the smell and feel of a book in my hands!”.
Today I will not buy a paper book. I've found that reading on my computer, Android, or Kindle is easier, more convenient, and fits with the fact that I am a reading baby-boomer. Publishers should take heed. We baby-boomers are in the market for good reading material, but our eyesight is failing, some of use cannot hold a paper book for long in comfort, and we are technologically aware. A Kindle or Nook is much easier to use than a cumbersome novel or paperback that clutters up the house. (I gave mine to the library.)
Major publishers are making another mistake. Numerous posts on Amazon have railed against the high cost of E-books and for good reason. If you buy a title in paper, expect to pay between $10.00 (paperback) to $30.00 (hardback) or more. Part of the high cost is the dead tree and its aftermath, and the horrendous expense of the equipment required to print it. A small fraction goes to the publisher. An even smaller fraction goes to the author. Add it all up and it results in high cost.
The cost of producing a E-book is nearly invisible in comparison. Just a computer and a site to display it on. So why do the major publishers charge nearly as much for an E-book as they do for a paper book? Well, greed for one thing. An E-book is nearly all profit. But a bigger reason is that they know that if the cost of the E-book is substantially less than the printed copy, they won't sell paper books, and book stores will go out of business at a faster rate.
It's gratifying to see the wide variety of quality authors that self-publish E-books. Major works as good as any block-buster touted by NY publishers are for sale, or free for the downloading. (I can prove it.) Most of these authors would never have passed through the screening process of major publishers.
Large publishers “think” they know what the reading audience wants, they supposedly have legions of marketing people helping to make those decisions, so part of the process is to choose works that fit that mold regardless of the merit of the book in question.
Yeah, Right! So I title like “Harry Potter” gets rejected by the big boys 72 times, and is picked up by a minor niche publisher who was willing to ignore the conventional wisdom and give a new author a chance!
If the petrified, fossilized, major book publishers want to save their industry, I have a few suggestions. I will list them.
    1. Stop killing trees. If some of your customers want paper, do print-on-demand. Control the costs of your brick and mortar book stores by shrinking them in size and making browsing catalogs and samples available to your customers in the store. Let other customers call the store, submit an order, and have the title ready for the customer to pick up or FedEx it to them. For other print copies, make them available in the Nation's libraries. It will give a good boost to them and the titles can also be available in online E-format on their computers.
    2. Find new authors on the net. Look for an author with a good book that has a huge following, good ratings, and who exhibits talent, and offer to represent him or her. (You can still take submissions.) This will encourage self-published authors because they always have chance of being noticed by major publishers while they are selling their works. (While you're at it, promote self-publishing as a viable alternative.)
    3. Work with on-line publishing houses. Give them a market, and take a cut.
    4. Include self-published authors in the main-stream world of publishing. Give them a chance to win awards, be highly rated, and in general, remove the imaginary divisions between you (the publishers) and us (the independents).

In my opinion, it's the only way you can survive. If you can't beat them, you need to join them.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Upcoming Novels and Novellas

Shadow Games
Shadow Spies
The Reality Plague
For those of you who have asked about a sequel to Shadow Games, my new book in the series Shadow Spies, should be published at the end of June, 2011. I will be a full-length novel with a new character, new twists, and (hopefully) more suspense, depth, and action. The problem is that as I learn more I keep revising and it seems to never end.
Add to the delay, the fact that I keep getting distracted by new ideas, and the resulting new novellas, and you get a picture of an author who struggles to keep on track.
The good news is that you soon will be the recipients of at least three new books. They are shorter, less than 40,000 words but I am polishing them to get them ready. The new novellas are: The Reality Plague, To Sail Beyond Tomorrow-Nate's Story, and To Sail Beyond Tomorrow-Susan's Story. At least two of these will be 'for sale' titles, and most likely published on Amazon and Smashwords.
All are science fiction or paranormal romance stories. I'm finding that romance is my most favorite genre, although I want to branch out to others.
Coming in the next four years will be four novels. Shadow Twins, Shadow Reflections, and two as yet unnamed novels that are parked, waiting for their turn, in the back of my brain. Along the way – who knows?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On writing stories.

Although new at this, I nevertheless learned a very important lesson early on.
Stories are about people.
Without people, there is no story. A good plot, excellent prose, and superior writing skills mean nothing unless the story is about people.
At first I thought I should write realistic stories. Stories about common ordinary people who were thrust into extraordinary situations and battled to find a way to triumph. My efforts were met with a “ho-hum so what” attitude.
I read stories of substandard quality that seemed to resonate with the reader and were consequently more popular than mine, and I started to question myself. What am I missing here? I re-read these stories, all about dysfunctional relationships; women or men who had miserable or abusive childhoods and who, consequently, were unable or unwilling to learn to cope with their adult selves, characters who seemed to be powerless to do the intelligent things or in fact resisted any attempt to learn from their mistakes, and then It came to me.
Readers want to be swept away from their mundane existence. They want to experience the bizarre, swept up by a muscular man with impressive sexual equipment, mesmerized by the antics of a harlot who doesn't have a clue how to live, frightened by the idiot who steps into harm's way, knowing that at any minute the monster that lurks in the dark will sink his or her fangs into their neck and drink blood. Readers want to escape reality and enter new worlds that may frighten them, make them weep, or disgust them. They want to be swept away to exotic places, terrified by violent danger, stimulated buy sudden, passionate romance, captivated by quirky characters who have shaky pasts they never experienced, and intrigued by new ideas and concepts. In the world of books, one can snap back, simply by putting the book down, back to sanity and safety. It's a hard job, but somebody's gotta do it.
I got the message...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Walk in the Park

At 67 years old, if I set at this damn computer typing for too long, my legs start to lose their ability to support my body. So, my wife convinced me to undertake a daily exercise walk. Here in San Diego there is a park, a wildlife preserve located in the southern part of San Diego Bay. The park has a trail for hikers and bicyclists that meanders through the marshlands. Since it is nearly Spring, the plants are green and flowers are blooming. Water is still flowing from the winter rains so there are streams burbling and connecting with the lagoons. It never fails to bring me peace. I look back over a lifetime, a lifetime I don't regret, and I remember the hectic pace that prevented me from enjoying moments like this. Then I think of all the young people who are flung headlong into the unrelenting demands of today's society and I can't help but pity them. They never have the time to just walk along with nature surrounding them, and enjoy existence.
What's worse, the younger generation is busily engaged in dismantling all the protections that my parents suffered and sometimes died for. Protections from bank failures, protections promised from Social Security, protections from the greedy bastards that manipulate the stock market, and protections from the environmental disasters such as the one that nearly destroyed Lake Erie back in the sixties, are all being threatened by the illiterate, moronic fools that call themselves the Tea Party.
When I was a young father and provider for my family. One income provided for home. Car, food and three children. Since I was an industrial worker, I was protected by a strong union that kept the predations of the companies from intruding upon my life. In fact, I never worked at a job that didn't have a union, including my time spent as a college professor. Never, that is, until just before I retied. It was a retirement job at an aerospace company, and as non-union, the workers were powerless. The pay was substandard, the workers worked seven days a week, sometimes twelve hours a day (I didn't, I refused to.), just like the miserable conditions of the early twentieth century.
As I say, I pity the younger generation. Now it requires two incomes to make ends meet, so the children must be left at a daycare center. Mom and dad may be required by the employer to work long hours so they're too tired to enjoy life or their families. This seems to be escalating, and I fear for the future. People can only take so much misery before they react. The Tea Party fiasco is typical of their reaction, but it is certainly not the right one, that will only make the problems worse.
The hell with it. I'm in my life's twilight. It's not my problem anymore. I think I'll just walk along the trail and enjoy the flowers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sex in Novels

Sex sells.
I've been in the business of writing novels for a little over a year, but I discovered sex sells early in my career. List a novel or a short story in one of the several categories provided by the web publishers such as romance, fantasy, science fiction, etc. and sure, you'll get a few downloads; but list it as erotic or adult content, and the sales will double.
Sex sells.
But why does sex sell?
Could it be because at any given moment, nearly half the world's population is engaged in the pleasurable act of making babies?
Half. – over three billion people.
Maybe more than half, if you count those people making love in the daytime.
So, why hold back on the one aspect of life that prevents the extinction of the human race?
In the U.S. We have a very skewed outlook on sex. This is a country in which a three letter word, describing the act of killing people, is considered heroic and brave, but a four letter word describing the act of making babies is considered obscene. Is that rational or sane?
So I put sex in my works. I don't do it to sell, I do it because it belongs there. Sex is an essential part of human life. It's grand and sometimes glorious if it includes love. There's nothing nasty, obscene or degrading about it. It's about the closest you'll come to experiencing heaven in this life. The French call orgasm the little death. They've got a point. If a good orgasm never stopped, I think I would die.
Check any novel, novella, or short story ever written and you’ll find sex ranging from either blatant sex or sex hidden somewhere between the pages. Even Harry Potter has sex in it and that's supposed to be a kids book. Lord of the Rings has the romance between Arwen and Strider, and between Sam and the barmaid. Sex is the natural outcome of romance. Everyone knows it, it hovers in the back of their minds and that's what makes romance work.
I studied psychology in college and learned about Adlerian Psychology. Alder felt there were two types of love. One, he termed agape and the other, Eros (from the Greek words). Eros is the love found in romance novels; grasping, jealous, heart pounding, sweaty, physical love, the really fun stuff. Agape is the distant, worship from afar, love of God, in other words, boring and unfulfilled. The old Jane Austin novels are like that. When you read these romances, you have to wonder how the human race survived. Surely someone, somewhere during the Victorian era just wanted to hop in bed and fuck, didn't they? Every happy-ever-after love story that ends with the heroine bouncing a new baby on her knee means the couple jumped in bed and screwed their lights out. It takes a lot more than one session to make a baby unless you're really, really lucky – or unlucky as the case may be.
I look at it this way, if two people fall in love, then sooner or later they'll have sex, make love, or in other less acceptable words, fuck. It's as inevitable as sunrise. So, if the end is a glorious, loving sex scene, then why not write about it?