Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Crazy Ass Christmas Season And My 2012 Writer Resolutions!

So the heralded 2011 Christmas season has come at last as has the much anticipated Kindle sales rush. I posted earlier in the year about the skyrocketing Black Friday Kindle Fire sales. As was discussed all year by many with dogs in this race a lot of phenomenally good things have happened for E-publishing.

Side note: I thought the pic here was hilarious and aptly illustrated how some writers are figuratively "getting some" this holiday sales season.

Back to the Amazon Kindle discussion. This news below is from Dec 15 but describes a pretty good precedent to assume sales up to today, read the Amazon press release here.

Here's a standout comment;

“Kindle Fire is the most successful product we’ve ever launched – it’s the bestselling product across all of Amazon for 11 straight weeks, we’ve already sold millions of units, and we’re building millions more to meet the high demand. In fact, demand is accelerating – Kindle Fire sales increased week over week for each of the past three weeks. People are buying Kindle Fire because it's a simple, fully-integrated service that makes it easy to do the things they love.

So, to overview some obvious ramifications:

1.) There are now a mutiple of millions of new e-reading devices and e-reading households out there right now.

2.) The silly little kiddie fad of E-reading is officially a cornerstone business of the worlds largest bookseller.

3.) More e-readers means more devices, more people reading, more people buying affordable and instantly delivered material. More "new favorites" being discovered and even more of those author's titles being bought.

4.) More book sales all with a royalty return (at 2.99$ or even more if at a higher price) comparable to that of a top priced hardcover. This is less and less dollars for Big 6 houses, not that I'm a DIE-BIG 6-DIE pundit but it's relevant to see how their declining profits affect their interaction with the digital market.

Easy math here. What E-commerce has been doing since day 1.

For a fresh example feel free to click over to Mr. Konraths site. He's always been open and vocal about his sales. Whether you think he posts his numbers to "stick-it" to the Legacy Man or to inspire newbs over what's possible is irrelevant. He's done very well in recent years publishing on his own.

This week though the man made 10k$ in one day!

So we all know what's possible and what can happen when planets align, whether those celestial bodies be comprised of luck, talent, perseverance or an amalgamation of all three, and an indie pub becomes a breakout...whether the overnight success took two months, years or decades.

Before my resolutions, this note:

I wanted my Novella "The Doomsday Door" (see "Coming Soon" for a description...that needs updating of course ) uploaded to throw my hat in this seasons sales and downloading rainstorm but it simply didn't happen. A highly qualified failure, I think, but I won't go into any long, painful overviews of my current personal and family challenges, no one likes a blogging complainer. So, having (seemingly) missed the boat this holiday season all I can do is to look ahead to 2012 and start drawing more lines in sand.

Which brings us to:

My 2012 "Goal" resolutions

- Finish my final revisions of "The Doomsday Door."

- Allocate funds for editing and cover design of "The Doomsday Door."

- Execute said editing and cover design for "The Doomsday Door."

- Upload "The Doomsday Door" and finally become an e-published author.

- E-market and promote the living hell out of "The Doomsday Door."

- Repeat this process for "Subversion", "The Ambassador" and "Holy War".

In short, meeting these goals will give myself a full length novel, two novellas and a (as of right now) one short by this time next year. Not a bad "footprint" for  first year of self-publishing I think. As is the mantra for setting goals...all attainable, are achievable by me alone and are not dependent on anyone else.

My 2012 "Writer" resolutions.

- I will write everyday, even if it's only 100 words or less or only for a few minutes. I need to keep my head in my stories everyday until they are complete. The words will all add up to finished works which is key.

- For the love of God I need to nail down some good, experience, non-family related Beta readers..can someone, anyone...throw me a bone here!

- Continue to enhance my web presence. I will expand and utilize my unused Twitter and my "writer" Facebook pages as I have with my much improved blog. Got two compliments on my blog this past month...still only at 5 followers as of this writing but it's 5 more than 0. Also more than some guys with actual books available online.

- Continue to formulate and analyze my marketing strategies and plans...IE: identify what book review and reader blogs I will submit to. 

- I will stay optimistic because while success is always possible it's rarely easy. The first month(s) or maybe even year(s) could be dismal in terms of readership and sales. If so...tough shit...that's life...I've had much worse problems in my 39 years. The readers are out there and it may take a lot of time and effort to breakthrough to them in any respectable number.

- I will analyze and objectively evaluate everything I do...plans need to be flexible and change should never be prohibited. 

- I will follow the examples of bestselling authors but not necessarily their footsteps. Every writer is a different creative entity and cannot expect similarities in how their work is received.    

- I will continue to evaluate my writing, always remembering that almost every creative professional out there has a story on how their personal favorite work is not their most popular. I will objectively evaluate myself as a Science Fiction writer, as a Thriller writer...as an Action Adventure writer. many writers have "switched" genre's and found true success. I will always consider all creative options. 

- I will remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If I do find some level of success this year it will be roughly 24 years in the making.

- I will believe in myself as a talented writer capable of delivering to a readership...first and always...I need to be able to fill in the blank areas when no one else does.
- I will truly love and appreciate my beautiful, young wife for always listening to my (thus far) bullshit posturing on how I'm going to be a successful writer someday (going on since about '98) and how she still endures me tapping away when I could be doing something else.    

That's it for now, best of luck and a happy 2012 to all!

Good Times.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hachette Job!

Another heated discussion topic in the ongoing Indie vs. Traditional publishing debate recently was, if you didn't already know, the now infamous "inside memo" leaked from Big 6 house Hachette Book Group.

As is often the case of late, a topic regarding Traditional vs. E-pub was first addressed over on Mr. Konrath's site and was commented on (dissected and thoroughly Fisk'd) by JA Konrath and Barry Eisler, here. The analysis and criticism was done so flawlessly by two top indie authors with substantial traditional publishing backgrounds (which I lack) and knowledge that I won't regurgitate or attempt to imitate it. I will however provide my own commentary here.

The main criticisms of the "memo" are that it serves to remind Hachette employees and customers of their "relevance" in the face of the exploding e-publishing market, a significant portion of which represent independently published authors.

Sounds OK, normal practice for big business, but the problem is the extremely vague, unspecific, unsupported and unsubstantive buzz-word laden bullet points of the statement. It draws (and justly deserves) scrutiny and questioning of what value traditional publishing still offers to aspiring authors seeking publication as paper distribution models continue to diminish and the merit of taking disproportionately large royalty shares, particularly in the digital format.  

Not having been traditionally published I can, however, offer these observations from practical work experience: whenever you need to remind someone what you do; you're probably not doing it.

Highlights of the memo included these competencies, which we can argue are wholly unremarkable attributes for any service based business:

- They curate and nurture talent, foster rich relationships and collaborate on content.

- Venture capitalist's, investing in ideas.

- Offering expertise in sales and distribution, ensuring broadest distribution possible.

- Brand builder and "excitement generator" (this one drew some particularly harsh and humorous criticism's)

- Copyright and IP protector.

As was discussed, virtually none of the attributes cited in the memo are unique to any publisher, or for that matter, most customer service or product generation business's. The primary questions and criticism's generated were how this memo was completely devoid of recognition for the e-publishing growth and the emerging issues traditional publishers will face against this growing market.

Barry Eisler went as far as to mockingly refer to it as Bullshit Bingo for the repeated use of unsubstantive, vague and general slogans and business buzz words while not addressing any of the significant issues facing traditional and why authors should still pursue them.

As a newb looking at the fork in the road I'll just throw out some random issues that concern me (and many others) when choosing an appropriate publishing path to pursue.

- Agency model and gatekeepers; It's understandable that a certain level of quality is required for any publisher, hence gatekeepers and submission guidelines, but what we're finding out time and time again from successful independents is that it's more or less a contest of appeasing individual preferences within this system. Editor loved it, marketing department hated it, sorry.

- The timeline: 18 months or longer to see publication.

- The value of publication itself: retail bookshelves are going away. Quickly! Where is the remaining value in pursuing a spot on one.

- The true value of the "creative collaboration". Cover design, formatting and editing can be gotten, easily and professionally, for a flat charge leaving the majority of royalties intact.

-  The Marketing Push! This time in their statement was met with criticism at best and outright mockery at worst by many writers with traditional experience that I have seen posts from.

- Windowing, part of the 18 month (avg) time frame that manuscript see during their publishing. This is a cornerstone argument by indie pundits like Konrath that the digital release is intentionally held until the paper release. The complaint is that this is done to maximize the sale of a paper release by restricting the digital distribution, thereby benefiting the publisher (and not the author) who still controls said paper distribution process.

What is also clear is that the profitability of digital distribution vs paper is very evident as publishers are now moving, aggressively, to produce more digital titles, either through back list titles still under contract or through new "services" such as Penguin;s Book Country Fair, which was widely discussed with much negative criticism.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The commercial challenges of "real" Science Fiction.

At the risk of being a lazy blog poster today I'm offering links to a trio of (rather brilliant) roundtable discussions from Locus Online, the magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

The table consists of of a panel of SF writer and editors discussing many of the issues facing SF. Also known as "hard", "speculative" or even "real" Science Fiction, depending if you lean that far to the end of the snob-o-meter.

Some discussion points on the intricacies of writing in genre that really stood out to me, not only as a reader but also as a writer still trying to find his place on the Sci-Fi---SF spectrum. A lot of the issues discussed in this rountable have been questions I've been asking myself about my attempts within the genre for a long time now.

- Should you write what's commercial...or what you like?

- Most SF books ARE NOT and DO NOT become break-out hits vs. other genere's. Why am I writing it?

- I will NEVER be as smart as a Brin, Bear, Baxter, Banks  (lot of B's, I know) Niven, Poul, Stephenson, etc. Why am I even trying to write in the same genre?

- Since I'm NEVER going to write from some brilliant arena of scientific extrapolation..won't I forever be a Sci-Fi HACK!

- Conversely...seeing as how the overwhelming majority of the "serious" SF bloggers and readers (and more than a few authors) regularly glare down their tenured, credentialed noses at the "cheap seats", the SF humor novels, the serialized Star Trek, Star Wars, Video game novelizations, space marines vs. an evil alien/bug/cyborg empire shoot-em-ups, etc...(most common criticism: ack...weak science)...why is the "real SF" consistently outsold by them?  

- What's the subject matter of the biggest grossing, most anticipated summer movies...sci-fi? Save fantasy standouts like Rowling and Meyers, why isn't this reflected more in the publishing world?

Here's the opening, links below:

A question came up: Has contemporary science fiction become too self-absorbed, or does it still have the capacity to cross over to a mass audience? If so, who are the authors and books that have managed to do so? And who do the folks in our Roundtable discussion group think are likely candidate to break out of the genre and find a large non-genre readership in the future–and why?

Cecelia Holland, Stefan Dziemianowicz, Paul Di Filippo, Ellen Klages, Karen Lord, Carolyn Cushman, Elizabeth Hand, N. K. Jemisin, Gary K. Wolfe, Rachel Swirsky, James Patrick Kelly, Jeffrey Ford, Gardner Dozois, Paul Graham Raven, Rich Horton, Russell Letson, and Guy Gavriel Kay all join in the discussion.

Roundtable #1

Roundtable #2

Roundtable #3

Extremely interesting reading regardless of your chosen genre regarding the issue of whether or not to write popular and commercial.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kindle Fire Black Friday Sales News

We we're all expecting to see huge sales for Kindles this season, especially from the new and highly touted Kindle Fire. Here's a press release for you:

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NASDAQ: AMZN) Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that this Black Friday was the best ever for the Kindle family and the popular Kindle Fire remained the bestselling product across all of Amazon since its introduction 8 weeks ago. The bestselling Kindle family – the $79 Kindle, $99 Kindle Touch, $149 Kindle Touch 3G and the $199 Kindle Fire – are available now at www.amazon.com/kindle and at over 16,000 retail locations throughout the United States.

“This was a great Black Friday for Target and for Kindle Fire, which was the bestselling tablet in our stores on Black Friday,” said Nik Nayar, vice president merchandising, Target. “We’re excited so many guests chose Target as their destination for the new family of Kindle devices and we’re sure Kindle Fire will continue to be at the top of wish lists this holiday season.”“Even before the busy holiday shopping weekend, we’d already sold millions of the new Kindle family and Kindle Fire was the bestselling product across all of Amazon.com. 

Black Friday was the best ever for the Kindle family – customers purchased 4X as many Kindle devices as they did last Black Friday – and last year was a great year,” said Dave Limp, Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “In addition, we’re seeing a lot of customers buying multiple Kindles – one for themselves and others as gifts – we expect this trend to continue on Cyber Monday and through the holiday shopping season.”

Four times as many kindle sales as last year and multiple devices per household!

I consider this monumental news for independent e-pubbers. I was sort of expecting to see sales perhaps not hit the stellar highs that were forcasted due to (some) poor reviews and public criticisms centered around how the Fire stacks up to the I-pad, that other super popular tablet.

Personally I thought these were unfair comparisons based on a number of points. First would be price point, they two devices may look very much alike but both are clearly marketed with a different end user in mind, Fire is clearly not designed as a PC replacement at any level, it's clearly designed as an advanced e-reader with web capability.

To me it's apples and oranges especially considering the next plateau for tablet PC's is to impart retina displays, an exceedingly high level of screen ddefinition that will enable technical professional use; for Dr's and pilots as an example. Conversely, no tablet, high priced or otherwise, has yet to deliver an effective e-ink display, which is what makes e-readers so much more enjoyable and desirable than say, your smart phone for reading!

As for an expanded picture of expected continued sales into Christmas and beyond: take a look at this report back in June from "All Things D" A WSJ web news site:

Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, a gawky novelty just three years ago, is now a big business getting bigger. Really big.

Jeff Bezos and company continue not to release sales numbers for the devices, but everyone else keeps guessing. Citigroup’s Mark Mahaney, an Amazon bull, has bumped up his sales estimates, and now thinks the company will sell 17.5 million devices this year, and another 26 million in 2012.

The big picture is that Mahaney thinks Kindle readers and books will generate $6.1 billion for Amazon next year–nearly 10 percent of its overall sales. Again, remember: This business didn’t exist until Thanksgiving 2007.

Full story here

All of this on top of news that traditional publishers are adopting more aggressive e-pub models, pay to e-pub services are sprouting up agencies are seeking out, contracting with e-pub services and vice versa.

Quick! Someone go over to Konrath's blog and tell him his tone sucks...or something else...not a lot else for anti-indie pundits to say regarding his long standing message and predictions.

Back to work...going to be a lot of new, future customers out there.

Good times. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Smashwords Seeking Agented Writers For Backlist E-publishing.

In a hot off-the-web PW release today, Smashwords founder Mark Coker is cited as being in the process of pursing agents and agented writers for the purposes (obviously) of providing additional content to the Smashwords e-list of available titles.

The explosive growth of E-pub has clearly made the case for the E-Pub commerce value of back-list, out of print, and midlist titles. "Never published" authors (B.V. Larson and Ms. Hocking anyone?) established authors with out of print backlists and completed works that were passed over by publishers have all contributed to the current "gold rush" of E-pub. These results are now very public in the movement that traditional publishers are now taking to adapt to more profitable E-pub models.

This is clearly an example of a smart market expansion on the part of Smashwords as increasing numbers of established writers are no doubt looking  at E-pub options, now that the platform is clearly out of the alleged "fad" stage (as was widely alleged by critics of the market and those resistant to the clear changes in reader preference) and is now poised for explosive global growth.

The questions that come to my mind are of the possible rewards, profitability and the beneficiaries. My thoughts in a sec but first: 

From PW:

"Smashwords, the California-based company that converts and digitally distributes Word files uploaded through its interface, is offering a suite of services to literary agents. The company will allow agents to digitally convert their authors' files, for free, and also provide agents with metadate on the files, as well as merchandising at Smashwords.com.

So the Agents handle the consversion, uploading and management leaving the writer free to write. Ok, sounds like a good deal.

Speaking to the decision to court agents, in particular, Smashwords founder Mark Coker said many authors, with out-of-print titles, would prefer to let their agents handle things like digital publication. "Agents represent the most commercially successful authors. These authors are now asking their agents to add e-publishing services to exploit the potential of their reverted-rights works and unpublished works. Although all authors have the freedom to self-publish, many would prefer to delegate the e-publishing and back office duties to their agent so the author can focus their energy on writing."

This practice is reflective of  number of predictions that have been made by popular bloggers regarding the future of publishing, one I believe in, that cottage industries will sprout offering writers the benefits of managing the plethora of duties required for successful 'independent' e-publishing. Most likely, for a cut. I think it goes without saying that the quality of the end result of such arrangements will depend wholly on the quality of the agent in question managing them.

Here's the rest:

Through a change in its metadata tagging, Smashwords will now have a field for publisher and agent, where previously there was only the option to indicate a publisher for a title. Agents, who can create an account for free, will also be able to have the titles they upload onto Smashwords appear in co-branded Smashwords bookstore that will group represented titles by agency.

Interesting visibility boost tactic though I doubt many readers search for work based on agency.

Smashwords does not charge to convert files, but does take a 10% commission on the list price of books it converts and then sells through other retailers, such as Apple and B&N; it takes a 15% commission on titles sold directly through Smashwords. A number of agencies have titles available on Smashwords, including Dystel & Goderich and the Beverly Slopen Agency.

Recently this October McMillan Bello and the Curtis Brown agency announced they were releasing 520 previously out of print titles starting in 2011 and into 2012. This raised eyebrows and criticisms alike as it seemed unlikely that any degree of quality could be applied to that many uploaded works in that small a timeframe.  It was also noted that a number of the authors were deceased raising some questions about who was best being served by this arrangement. At the outset it sounds likea good deal for widows and surviving children who'se deceased relatives work was generating 0 dollars to perhaps make something. Read the full story here.

This issue arose even earlier when Dystel-Goderich announced it's own e-publishing service which was touted by some as a conflict of interest and a "royalties" grab, full story on paidcontent.org here. with a link to a new release below it.

Are writers entering a new age of  predatory royalty and rights grabbers? To be sure there are a number of questionable operations in place attempting to lure new writers in (see my thoughts on Penguins Book Country Fair below) but I'll keep my opinions objective regarding Smashwords agent outreach for now.

Your thoughts?    

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pay to E-Pub...Seriously?!?!

If you're like me and have aspired to write (or better, you've actually gotten the job done) you've done the homework, read the "how-to" books and followed any of a multitude of trade mag's and websites on the subject.

This one has to be up there as one of the oldest professions.

"Pay me to get you published!!!" 

They've been out there forever in many forms; pay services and so-called agent's and editors. Whole websites are devoted to outing them.

And here's the latest, surprisingly enough, from Penguin owned Book Country. Heard it first from JA Konrath here

This is just a sample from their pricing page:

Books sold via wide distribution are subject to fees charged by the individual distributors. Books sold this way will earn the same percentage rate as those sold on the Book Country site, but those rates will be based on the amount actually received by Book Country minus the fees charged by the individual distributor. These fees are generally 30% of the price of the eBook and about 50% for a print book.

Here is an example of the difference in earnings if selling on Book Country versus Amazon:
For a $2.99 eBook sale on Book Country, the author is entitled to $2.09.
For a $2.99 eBook sale of a Book Country title on Amazon, Amazon takes $0.90 and then the author is entitled to $1.47.

So, to overview: you get LESS from e-pubbing through Book Country than you do publishing on your own and mind you these are their Royalties they're talking about...the money your book earns FOREVER! 

And this is in addition to their steep initial fees!

And in return? In essence, under the different (horrifically overpriced) packages you're getting book formatting, uploading and "tips" on marketing
Here's a very thorough overview of what you're getting (not much) over at David Gaughran's page here

This service is presented with all the refinery that a skilled corporate PR and/or Marketing department can deliver. Professional legitimacy oozes off the web page as the skill of their experienced professionals are promoted.

Folks, read any one of a hundred popular blogs from independent e-pub authors. Formatting, while potentially tricky and sometimes problematic...is BY FAR one of the easiest part of the whole process. Especially so when compared to the actually writing, editing and promoting of your own book.

The uploading itself is easier still (it's nicknamed "pushing the button" for a reason) and "tips and tricks" are available, for free, (from the biggest names in independent e-publishing) widespread on webpages and blogs-a-plenty. These are the poeple that have done it and made it the "hot new trend" you've been hearing about.

Penguins experienced marketing professionals, respectfully, have been watching the real trailblazers and experts from the sidelines all while the traditional publishing world has discounted and debased the indie community.

But now that e-pub sales are overtaking paper they want to charge you to join in. And they're charging a lot!

In short, it's clear to anyone whose spent five minutes researching independent publishing that Penguin (under the guise of Book Country, a site to help new writers, which they plainly own) is promoting the validation of the legendary Penguin publishing house...for  a steep fee. Without actually providing any legitimate publishing service of worth.


Making money publishing in any form is tough enough. Don't make it tougher by giving away your earnings for virtually nothing in return.

Good times

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blogging and my Indie publishing.

As my first post indicated, this blog was meant to be a journal of my self-publishing journey.  when I started learning about indie-pub through blogs from Konrath, Hocking, and others I also started learning about the marketing practices.  The standard advice was: "If you're not blogging or web-(fill in the blank) about your writing...start now, it's how Locke and Hocking did it!!!"

Sensible advice.  You need to create a web presence to promote your work like the big successful writers have or to build a web presence for when your work debuts and, ideally, people will be waiting for it.  So off I went into the Blog-osphere.  I haven't been the best blogging author lately (again, for those future readers that will look for past content to read) but will keep the blog updated with important stuff.

Namely, I would like to welcome Embrach! I've seen you over at Joe's blog and I guess you've seen me. If you read this, thanks for joining as follower #1.  If this Blog ever becomes something special you can say you were the very first here. Thanks for stopping by!

Oddly enough, as I'm starting to focus on my Blog more one of the big blogger's I follow, the incomparable Mr. Nathan Bransford, posts on how Blogging is dying down as a practice among popular publishing and writing bloggers.

Mr. Konrath is now on his widely known Hiatus, among many others it seems. The common trend is too little time to keep up with the universe of blogging activity present today and not only on individuals own Blogs, but with following others as well. 

It's something I definitely understand. I'm constantly finding new worthwhile Blogs everyday and subsequently and going weeks without even looking at mine and noticing how boring and featureless it still is.

In all, the popularity of Blogging seems to be on a bit of a decline.  Hmm, may be another party I came late to.  Story of my life.

I plan to stay here however, at least until I have work uploaded and thereby can add something to the indie-pub discussion.  On that account I'm in the final stages of drafting and revising what will be my first Novella available on e-pub channels. The Doomsday Door, will be a 20-30k word Novella about an aging soldier turned scientist battling in both the distant future, and in our time, to prevent an alien invasion that eradicates human society.

If I have something to offer for the, now widely discussed, Konrath "Indie pub guest post/article" project, discussed here, I imagine I'll be talking about the challenges of selecting a cover artist.  In the hopes of at the very least starting a cover design discussion with an affordable  designer I recently posted a Craigslist ad.

Results: It's been three days and I have over a hundred e-mail replies. Summary: virtually no one has a book cover design in their portfolio, they all want to sell me (because they're independent computer techies) web services, logos, branding and every other E service you can think of and no one seems to have a look or style that in any way is in the vein I was thinking of. 

And I thought the biggest problem would be convincing the wife to spend 100$+ on a 700x1000 pixel image.  So far, despite the hundreds of attached and linked images I've looked at this week, I seem to have gotten nowhere. Whatever solution I arrive at I'll be sure to share it.

Should be interesting and hopefully I'll be able to offer some advice for those who are steps behind me in the process.

In personal news, finally have been dragged kicking and screaming into 2009 and have a real no-shit smart phone. Not sure if I'm completely in love and will ultimately never knew how I lived without it...or if I'm actually terrified of its unlimited power over me and am only being deluded into satisfaction by all the pretty displays and touch screen buttons.  In any event I should be Tweeting soon like all the other tech savvy types so we'll see where that leads.

On the gratuitous plug front: my new e-writing pal Summer Daniels will have her second volume of Summer's Journey out soon. Spicy adult fun so be sure to look for it.

Good times


Thursday, September 15, 2011

The problem with this town...all the damn Vampires!

Grandpops classic final line from "The Lost Boys",  a genuinely cool Vampire movie (despite the Corey bros)with young, cool Kiefer Sutherland (who worked the mullet!) and a studly Jason Patrick before hair loss got to him. This movie was a hit long before vamps became our new goth/pop du'jour.  I think that every 10-15 years or so some new stylistic approach hooks the younger generation on the classic creatures and brings them back to the front of the entertainment fold.  The Ann Rice vampire novels were popular in the 80's and 90's and led up the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise movie most people probably know the story by and, very safe to say, inspired the current crop of vamp writers and show runners.

We now have the new YA vampire/supernatural book trend that has led to equally successful movies and TV shows.  My wife is hooked on True Blood which is almost a guarantee that the show will go off the air, especially now that they've killed half the cast. Always happens to her shows. The prime time  vamp TV show I've never noticed and, to be honest, I'm surprised we haven't had more thrown together vampire movies and shows featuring young, cool blood suckers.  

Now instead of Lestat and Louis (who was a "good vampire" but ultimately accepts his new, dark nature) we have "progressive" vampires. They ask before they drink from you or, having retained their morality and humanity, skip feeding from people all together and reserve their appetites for animals. They can go out in the sunlight and only twinkle and they have evening jobs in southern dinners to pay the bills vice pilfering the wealth of their victims. Awfully moral of them. Good upright citizens.

That's why Lost Boys and Ann Rice are so relevant now I think. They were, to my knowledge the first vampire stories where there were "good vampires" instead of the age old tale of men fighting monsters far out of their weight class. This was repeated, very well I thought, in "30 days of Night" where Ethan Hawke infects himself to gain their powers as the only means to fight the towns undead attackers.  

As for our current trend credit can clearly go to Stephanie Meyers. God bless her for her meteoric success but honestly, I'm not that well read on her.  My Tyler Lautner obsessed daughter has all the Twilight books and, again, honestly, I haven't been able to get through the first one.  So far they're just not what I'm used to reading hundreds of pages of.  There has to be something there though so I'll give them another shot I guess.

So we have a new generation of consumers eating up a new style of vamp. I'm sure a lot of purist's don't care for the new breed and my own personal jury is still out.  Maybe I'm just used to the traditional tales, which may, from a point of view, just make me an old fart.

Whose your favorite Vampire character?

Friday, September 9, 2011

In Memorium; L. A. Banks; I'm glad I knew you when.

Fast busy summer but I got caught up on a lot of blog reading (and managed to get some good writing done) while I've been gone; read up on the likes of the current Kindle Gods, Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler and others, and the success they've had reaching readers through e-publishing.  Very inspirational stuff.

Sad news came from this as well. I learned from Joe Konrath's blog that one of my friends from Temple film school, Leslie Esdaile Banks had passed away this August after a long battle with an illness.  I've been typing and revising this post since then. I was never lifelong, best friends with Leslie but I considered her a good friend during film school and to know that she's gone now is hard for me on a few different levels.  But as she would say: "Stop making excuses and get it done."

I met her as a grad student/adjunct supervising my workshop for Intro to Comm, for my very first Temple film class back in 1996.  The film department was abuzz over her recent publishing debut: Sundance, a romance with a supernatural twist.  After I learned this we had many conversations about writing and publishing.  Almost ten years before the YA genre launching success of the first Twilight novel, Leslie envisioned romantic themed stories involving young, hip and sexy vampires, spirits and other supernatural characters.  Remembering her vivid descriptions of her story ideas then, while I now scroll through her many works listed on Amazon, is surreal to say the least.  She never attained the meteoric success of Stephanie Meyers and others like her but I'll always feel that she deserved to.  She was that far ahead of the trend.

As one of the "chosen few" published authors (and the only one I personally knew at the time) I picked her brain on publishing for hours and was amazed upon hearing some of the realities of the business after having already read countless how to get published books.  I asked about her book tour during the summer which she had mentioned during class. "How great was it being given the 'treatment' by a publisher?" She would laugh and detail how she mapped out, coordinated and paid for her own marketing tour which included bookstores, libraries and other venues.  The noted standout where she said she often received the best reception: hair salon's and beauty shops where her core market, African American females, visited.  They were the last places I thought anyone would ever go to market a book but she always stressed that: "Wherever your audience is, you go."

She was so busy as a grad student, teaching,  making her own films and as a mom and community figure.   I'd ask "How do you find time to write?" I complained about never being able to write outside of my script assignments and papers.  She would laugh again and say that "Any excuse for not writing is just that, an excuse."  Leslie told me about an interview she read on John Grisham and how he got started writing.  He was working "crazy lawyer hours" with a new family to boot.  He did however have a half hour train commute to work,  full hour a day total, alone with his laptop.  That's when he wrote "Time to Kill." 

However Leslie managed her time her results are astounding and examplary, completing over 40 quality novels since her first in 1996.  If that prolific pace were to have continued to an older age she could have caught up to the likes of Nora Roberts and maybe even gotten close to Asimov. Simply amazing.

All in all she was remarkable. She was a vivacious and passionate artist and I'll always be inspired not only by her creativity but by her persistence and work ethic.  I'll always regret not staying in contact with her the last several years and I wish her family and close friends the best.

You can learn more about her her.


Not getting any younger here, and thinking about Leslie, so back to getting some writing done.

Good times, Dave

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The joys of outlining

So there you are...enduring your daily commute, sitting at work, stirring up dinner or staring at your bedroom ceiling at 3am. And out of nowhere there it is; a new idea for a story.

Stephen King wrote that his inspiration for the Dark Tower series was found in its opening line: "The Man in Black fled across the desert...and the Gunslinger followed." From that first thought or visual that he had his enormous series sprung. 

I'm in no way comparing myself to the King, but I'm the same way, I get an idea or a picture and off I go. I think it's safe to say most other writers, whether successful or aspiring, are the same. I've always loved that initial excitement as an idea starts to take shape, characters and plot points emerge and, in most cases, I can visualize scenes early on.
"The hero needs to get there but first he has to..."
"The Antag' was the hero's best friend, but turned against him because..."
"But then the Antag'...NO, the hero's PARTNER turns out to be the..."
"I have no idea how the hell they get there but they square off for the last time atop the..."

So after some healthy brainstorming I have loose ideas for a plot, some characters, maybe even a theme and a vibe for my setting.  Now what...

For me that's where outlining comes in. Nothing new or original, but for me it's something I enjoy doing.  I'm sure there are many out there that type a title page and just go from there and I've done that in the past but now I'm comfy having a road map.  I've studied and practiced writing for a long as I can remember and I remember asking for and getting Writers Markets and "how to write" books for birthdays and Christmas when I was as young as 14.  However my "real education", college, was in media and film making, not English or literature. The writing classes I took were in screenwriting not fiction.  Screenwriting teaches a lot of fundamentals in economy and structure that I think have benefited me as a narrative writer. 

Outlining is something that every screenwriter learns to do, you simply have to.  To efficiently work within so strict a format every scene, line and word has to fit.  If not you tend to have aimless, senseless crap.  The same rules of economy are supposed to apply to narrative fiction as well but you can argue that in most books there are bits of fat here and there.  If and when I'm ever published I'm sure I'll be no different. 

I've gotten in the habit of outlining and with it you can map out, at a glance, every scene, plot point and character arc.  Before spending your precious free hours detailing scenery  (you may not use) OVER building characters (who may not live past page 10) and painstakingly choreographing action or thriller scenes (that may not make any sense within your finalized plot and end up in the recycling bin) you can figure out more specifically where you need to go and what happens along the way.

So for me, I love to outline. It's safe, there's no pressure, has zero risk and, at that early stage, you can get away with anything.

Let me know what you think...how do you get your ideas off the ground?

Good times.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First Blogger Post Ever

Welcome to my first ever blog: One Writers Journey!  Name wasn't taken so I guess I'll keep it for now.  Why am I blogging: I remember being told a long time ago by someone really smart (High School guidance counselor I think, can't honestly remember) that one good way to help you succeed at any large venture is to keep a journal of what you're doing for that pursuit.  After awhile you can look back and learn from past mistakes and shortcomings and also get inspiration and motivation from former successes when the going gets tough.

Well, here goes; here I'll be posting about my work and efforts as a LONG time aspiring yet indecisive, frustrated and overall unproductive writer to finally get over my own mental and personal walls to get something of mine out there in the world.  Thanks to the Internet and the magic of blogging enormous amounts of insider info, personal stories and "click" specific knowledge bases are now available and in a lot of opinions (mine included) opportunities to field your work to the world and generate a readership are now unprecedented.  With all the dramatic changes in the traditional publishing industry I'll be looking to jump on the wildly popular Kindle bandwagon, as many formerly un-agented/published/recognized/paid writers have done in recent years.

I know what some of you may be thinking: technically anyone, anywhere can string a bunch of words together and hit the submit button (as I'm sure many have done) but there's really not much point to that I think. Go spray paint your name on a dumpster while you're at it.  I'll be looking to do more than that.  There are many inspirational success stories out there to be found on other writers blogs where they've gone into great detail on how they found success in the new and constantly growing e-publishing world. 

I'm looking to see where that road leads and you're welcome to come along for the ride.

Good times, Dave