Amazing Experience at the San Diego County Library

I went to my local library and was blown away by the technological enhancements that they utilized. First, I discovered that you can rent ebooks at the library, and they support all the major e-readers. For copyright purposes, they treat ebooks like physical books, so there can be a waiting list for an ebook, etc. To learn how to borrow ebooks from this library, they’ve prepared many helpful video tutorials! Watch this short one on how to borrow Kindle books:

Secondly, once I had my books and DVD that I needed for my school project, I walked up to the counter to rent them out. The librarian immediately pointed me to the self-checkout counter. She told me to scan my library card and then spread out the books on the table in front of the computer. The books just started popping up onto the screen! They now use RFID tags to checkout books; I was blown away!

I highly encourage everyone to check out your local library and check out all the technological improvements they’ve made, and share it in the comments below!

Advertisements

San Diego Comic Con 2013 – Book Promo Ideas

Comic Con is a 4-day event filled with booths, attractions, and more for every sci-fi and fantasy entertainment medium for all ages. Some say it is a celebration of the popular arts, but the industry uses this event as the mecca for promoting all nerd-related activities.

During my visit on Saturday (July 20th), I saw streets filled with people. I passed by screenwriters working on their WIP in a coffee shop, I saw celebrities, I saw numerous people dressed as their favorite characters, and I saw bloggers & reports capturing their experiences in photos and words. To get an idea of how huge this event is, in 2010 they filled the San Diego Convention Center to capacity (130,000) and ever since, they have been expanding the booths and attractions out into the public, taking over streets, occupying vacant business buildings, and taking over and converting restaurants and hotels. It’s a massive event, and when I was approached by 5 girls – all wearing red clothing and red wigs – they handed me the promotional bookmark and button for Pierce Brown’s next science fiction novel: Red Rising (published by Del Rey Books). The back side of the bookmark says it is the most anticipated novel in 2014, and contains a bunch of great reviews. This is a brilliant promotional strategy.

First, everyone at Comic Con is wearing a lanyard; whether it’s a unique one from the booth, or the standard one issued that holds your ticket, the lanyard becomes the location for everyone to show off their “flare”. It gets filled with buttons and pins. Secondly, giving everyone a functional promotional item – like a bookmark – is FAR better than a flier. It stands a much greater chance of actually being used, which creates longevity in the life of the promotion. I was really impressed at the thought that was put behind this simple marketing strategy, but it lacked one critical component…

Someone in a picture-worthy costume to pass out the fliers. Giving out a flier is one thing, but making it into a bunch of people’s photo albums is one of the greatest ways to inject yourself into their memory of their experience at Comic Con. Mark my words, as soon as I have a release date for The Soul Smith, I will hand-build an epic cosplay of Erador (the character on my cover) and walk around while passing out bookmarks and buttons at Comic Con.

Shifting Focus and Changing Plans

For most authors in search of traditional publishing, it is only after diving into the deep end head first that you realize that you can barely tred water among all the other authors in the pool. It is only then that you might decide to take a step back and survey the landscape so that you can find a more likely path. In my case, that’s exactly what happened, and now I’m changing course toward calmer waters. It’s not the shortest journey, but it’s become more apparent to me now more than ever that an author must have patience and, in my opinion, layout a series of stepping-stone goals.

It has been my goal to get my novel published. However, the path that I chose to get there was to submit to literary agents (the gatekeepers to the publishing industry). My reasoning was that I knew they could educate me on the process, negotiate for a fair deal (so I would know whether I am being taken advantage of), and sell my manuscript better than I could. However, submitting to literary agents as a new author is like trying to take a shortcut in the publishing world. Literary agents generally look to get their clients that highly desired hardcover deal which is not often achieved by first time authors.

So it is time that I “start small” and choose the other path. I’m going to submit directly to some of the smaller, more focused publishing houses that usually deal with paperback and ebook deals. This was somewhat difficult for me to wrap my mind around as any self published author can achieve those same things via Amazon’s Create Space or other similar venues. However, a publishing house does more than just publish. It’s the editing, the marketing, the recognition amongst the consumers of a quality product, the brick-and-mortor store distribution, and the commitment of a team that is involved in your success as much as you are.

I feel that now, with my short story published, my query letter will exhibit more confidence, and with my progress into book two, it’ll demonstrate my dedication. If successful, I’ll have to negotiate the terms of my own deal and manage my own career, but it’s all about the journey, and it will all be worth it in the end.

Conducting Research for Your Fantasy Novel

As every author must inevitably do, whether it occurs during the writing process or when an editor is fact-checking your work, research must be conducted. I would like to proclaim that no novel in existence has ever been written without a certain level of research. However, in the fantasy genre, I think many new authors feel that the genre itself is an excuse for not researching historical facts, which is something that I believe is hurting new authors.

There are ample amounts of historical knowledge that span all of the various medieval eras and cover what war was like, of what life was like (for nobles and serfs), and what knighthood was really like. George R. R. Martin has always touted that authors should read non-fiction as much as fiction. He has a list of reading recommendations in his FAQ page under the question: “How do you research your novels?”

As far as direct research is concerned for the fantasy genre, I recently stumbled across a few excellent books. The first (The Timeline of Medieval Warfare) details the strategies of war throughout the 11th – 15th centuries, while the second (Knight) details the training, the life, the chivalry, and the honor of what it was really like to be a knight. 

Books such as these are filled with the things that can bring your novel to life. Not only do these books provide a window into the medieval eras, but they can inspire entire stories too.

Though, inspiration can be found anywhere. It was after I watched the Chinese film Red Cliff, that I realized I wanted to convey a story of strategic warfare much like the film, where two generals are trying to outwit each other in a chess-like fashion of war. But in order to do so successfully, I began to read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Within the first chapter, I learned so much that I was overflowing with ideas for my characters!

Though books are not the only medium to provide research. I began using Netflix to search for medieval documentaries, and I found a great film called: Medieval Warfare: Agincourt. I learned a lot about the bow, and how far and fast an archer can shoot, what the different arrow tips are for, and how expensive it was for the king to employ archers in his army. Things such as these provide the realism that keeps your reader within their state of suspended disbelief. So be sure to use every medium at your disposal to absorb the information you need to bring realism and inspiration to your novel.

As my final caution to new writers, I’ll leave you with this: Learning so many things will make you want to insert all of it into your story, but you should know when not to say too much. The story always needs to be the focus of your writing.

Tips for Writing a Novel While Working a Full-Time Job

The largest and most critical issue that impacts one’s ability to write a novel is time. So when you hold down a full-time job and have a family, making your commitment to writing can be difficult to say the least. In addition, we all know that both reading and writing every day increases our skill, however, what if you don’t have time to do both? In my case, I work on average 45-50 hours a week, I go to grad school at night two days a week, I have homework, tests to study for, projects and research papers, plus I have a wife and two little girls. There isn’t time to both read and write in a single day; I must choose one or the other. So I’ve come up with some helpful tips to share with others about how I’ve found the time to write a novel.

First, wanting to write a novel requires raising it up on your list of priorities. Trying to find time to write everyday will be especially challenging if it has to compete with all the other activities and past-times that you would rather do. If that isn’t enough, try asking yourself, “What are you willing to sacrifice to be able to do all the things that you want to do in a day?” For me, I sacrifice sleep. I only do 6 hours a night.

Second, do everything you can to mobilize your writing. I use the free CloudOn app on my iPad to edit Microsoft Office docs that I keep in Dropbox/SkyDrive. I also made the move to a Windows Phone because it has Microsoft Office built in, and can edit docs stored in SkyDrive. All of these things have helped me to capture my thoughts as soon as I have them, and allow me to utilize any downtime (like waiting in a doctors office) toward making progress on my novel. Alternatively, if mobilizing your writing isn’t for you, then bring a book with you wherever you go (digital or print) and use the downtime throughout your day to read as much as possible.

Third, set a realistic expectation for yourself. Think about how much you should be writing a month. Do you know what your average word count is for your chapters? Do you know what your estimated word count for your novel is? 50,000? 70,000? 100,000? Try to do the math so that you can finish your novel within a year or less.

Words Per Year Goal Words Per Month Words Per Week Words Per Day
60,000 5000.0 1153.8 164.4
70,000 5833.3 1346.2 191.8
80,000 6666.7 1538.5 219.2
90,000 7500.0 1730.8 246.6
100,000 8333.3 1923.1 274.0

Fourth, just write. Don’t self-edit until the end. Get the words onto the page so that you can flush out the entire story. Save editing and revisions for later.

Here’s a Writer’s Digest article that adds some other suggestions: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Time  

Creating a Believable Hero

Within the massive umbrella of the fiction genre, many authors choose to tell the tale of the adventures of some incredible hero. That hero could be incredible for many various reasons and is also the perfect person to overcome the conflict at hand, but they don’t always exhibit the fundamental qualities of a leader. Is every hero a leader? No. But does every hero lead?

The crux of that question is what I want to explore here. In a vast majority of fiction novels that involve the protagonist as a “hero”, the hero is always thrust into greatness – despite their initial hesitancy. They either already have the power or are given the power to be triumphant and save the day, but despite all that, they are not a leader by any stretch of the word. Sure, they may have followers throughout the novel, but it is not because of their innate leadership skill; it is because of the power they wield. It is the circumstance of great responsibility that they find themselves in which forces them to do what they think is right (usually after being coerced by peer pressure) despite wishing they weren’t involved at all.

Now, while it is an interesting dynamic to show how a hero has matured as a result of the quest/adventure (such as a coming of age story), the character still only holds Legitimate power, when they should have Referent and/or Expert power to be a successful leader. (More on the 5 different types of power Here). In my opinion, this “regular person as a hero” is a paradox that is found over and over again throughout stories that even date back to myth and legend (of which I wrote about here: The Hero with a 1,000 Faces).

What about the hero that forges his own destiny? That grabs life by the horns? That has worked all his/her life for this one moment? Sadly, we don’t see many stories of heroes like that. In fact, don’t those seem like traits usually found in the villains of our novels? Why does our culture craft stories that reward the unprepared and unmotivated hero, yet thwart the dedicated, scheming villain? I’m not saying the villain should win; I’m saying the roles should be reversed. A hero – that is also a leader – should have prepared his/her whole life for the quest that is laid before them. This hero would have a powerful influence over his/her followers and would likely change the entire dynamic of the story. Instead of a one-in-a-million success story, the reader will be on the edge of a potential tragedy, where the heroes’ entire purpose in life might all be for naught if he/she does not succeed.

Every author should, at the very least, do some minimal amount of research when engrossing themselves into the role of their hero/heroin. I am currently reading The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell to understand the characteristics that a true leader should exhibit. To name just a few:

  • Unselfishness
  • Vision
  • Influential
  • Willing to Sacrifice
  • Self-Discipline
  • A Planner
  • Respect
  • Intuition

While my first novel depicts a classic coming-of-age story, my second book is going down this path of depicting a main character that is both a leader and a hero. Now, you might be asking, “Should every hero be a leader?” I think that is something that only you can decide.

The Long Road toward becoming Published

As a fantasy writer, I recently joined the Mythic Scribes forum boards to solicit advice regarding this purgatory state of being in-between having completed a novel and awaiting publication that I currently find myself in. This dead zone, if you will, could cause authors to get confused about what they should be focusing on during this time. For example, while I am waiting to hear word back from literary agencies, I focused a lot of my time toward developing my synopsis – which would be a necessary item for querying more agents/publishers in the future. The advice I received from the community of fantasy writers on the forum board really set me on a path forward that I think will help any authors that are also walking down the long road toward traditional publishing.

Like many others, I usually want closure from all the places that I’ve submitted, so I’ve really exercised my patience when waiting for a response. However, in this industry, literary agents are so overwhelmed that sometimes a non-response is your answer. Unfortunately, that has become a reality in this industry. For this one reason, it is important to not stay stagnate as an author. Just keep writing because you don’t want to misuse the time that you have.

In addition, if an agent/publisher does contact you after a long while, often times they are curious as to what other finished work or work in progress (WIP) you can show them. And if it has been a while since you submitted to them, hopefully you at least have a WIP that you can discuss. But if your answer is, “I’ve rewritten my synopsis three times,” that’s not going to cut it. So the lesson here is: Don’t get caught with your pants down. Having more work prepared is never a bad thing. It proves that you are serious as a writer and that you are ahead of the game.

I still need to rewrite my synopsis, but the community’s words of wisdom have really got me motivated toward writing my sequel. Hopefully, it will do the same for you too.