Book Review: Ender’s Game

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars – I highly recommend this book!

Overview: Ender’s Game is a science fiction novel written by Orson Scott Card in 1985. It’s the first book in a 5 part series.

Spoiler Free Plot: Ender Wiggin is a young boy genius and is recruited into an intense military tactical training school in preparation for the 3rd invasion against the buggers – an alien race.

Review: I grew to love Ender Wiggin. His character was very likable and instantly drew me in. I was always intrigued by his trials and tribulations throughout his tactical training school. Even more so, I was enthralled by his genius. Orson Scott Card brought his character to life.

The first 3 chapters used terms before the reader knew what they meant. I’m sure it was a tactic to draw the reader in, but I was a little put off by it. None the less, once I fully understood the meaning behind the terms, I was already drawn in by the story. Near the end of the conflict, I had caught on to the ending before it was revealed, though I don’t think that ruined the novel at all. The chapter after the end of the conflict that was supposed to bring closure to all the loose ends was a bit strange. It rubbed me the wrong way, just as the first 3 chapters did – but regardless, the book was wildly entertaining!

I am a dedicated fantasy fan. As long as there is a fantasy book I haven’t read, I would rather read that before I switch genres. But, with Ender’s Game being a sci-fi novel, I thought I should give it a shot because of the movie that has come out – and I was blown away. This made me want to check out other sci-fi books, and that’s saying something.

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.

Staying Focused as an Author

Many authors suffer from the greatness of their creativity, especially fiction writers. They will be in the middle of composing one manuscript that they have been working on for quite some time, and then Poof!, a MUCH more awesome idea pops into their head. They become an immediate slave to their creativity and begin fostering the new idea into something more, causing their first story to begin collecting dust. Worse yet, it most likely happens to them again and again. And in more extreme cases, their brain may be generating so many good ideas that they fail to even start on one. Does any of that sound like you or someone you know? I’ll offer some advice to help you stay focused on your project at hand.

So how does an author like this ever finish anything they’ve started? Well, it’s not easy, but no one ever said being an author was. Completing a manuscript is a long arduous process that requires self-motivation, determination, and focus. While it is possible to keep exploring every idea of your imagination, then you’ll be stuck with writing multiple books at once – which is a less than ideal situation. It’ll become a chore to remember the details and nuances of each of your works-in-progress. It’ll also most certainly degrade the quality of your work. Plus, if you are serious about becoming published, you will already be overwhelmed. One author described the publishing life as, “You will be marketing and promoting book 1, while editing book 2, while writing book 3.” Staying focused and concentrated on one book at a time is key to success. “But I want to have multiple completed manuscripts to increase my chances of getting published,” you say. Well, as someone that has tried multiple business ventures simultaneously in hopes that one gets traction, the reality is that it forces you to spread yourself too thin. Instead of having one great book/idea/business, now you have many crappy ones that don’t go anywhere. Pour all your energy and love into one book and success will follow.

If you are just overflowing with ideas and are having trouble just getting started, this is what I suggest:  Write down all of your ideas in short summary paragraphs. Compare them all to each other. Separate them by judging your own ideas so that you now have your “A-List” ideas and your “B-List”. Grade them using whatever criteria is important to you, for example, maybe one is better than the other simply because it would be more fun to write, or one idea could be made into a series, or perhaps one is more “commercial/salable” then the rest. The choice is up to you, but whether you think writing is an art form and shouldn’t be judged on it’s ability to sell, the bottom line that every author must recognize is that we are entertainers, and as such, we must please our audience. As entertainers, you have decided to choose a life of servitude, to create stories that are designed to captivate the imagination of the masses. And if you don’t judge your ideas that way, literary agents and publishers will. So now, looking at your A-List, most likely you have just honed your creative mind to concentrate around 1 or 2 (3 tops) best ideas. Pick one, then create realistic goals/milestones/deadlines for yourself and post it up all around your desk. Whenever you feel yourself getting distracted, look at your goals – they will keep you on a path toward success.

If you are a person that has no problem getting started on a manuscript, but gets ideas right in the middle of your novel, here’s what I do: I write down every new idea in a single document so they are never forgotten – I call that document my “bag of tricks.” Because I write in the fantasy genre (and because I am writing a series), many things can happen in my world. Whenever I have lost my muse/creativity, sometimes I will dig out an idea from my bag of tricks. It will help me create a scene, introduce a new character, or allows me to insert a minor conflict, etc.

While it seems like the mind can be working against you, you should never stop your mind from conjuring up new ideas. Find a way to work with it, to leverage your creativity while staying focused. You must create your own method or process toward completing your novel. Use my processes above if they seem right for you, but be sure you take steps to manage yourself, to corral your creativity, to focus your efforts. Feel free to offer any suggestions of your own in the comments section below.

It’s All About The Journey, Part II

Growing up, being creative was a big part of my childhood. I remember having drawing contests with my father to see who could draw the better monster. They were always monsters. We used multiple colored pencils for our artwork and in one of my dad’s drawings, I think he made it a point to try to use every single one. I must say though, he is a pretty solid artist.

In addition, my parents often arranged for a babysitter, Christina, to watch me in their absence. She was the older sister of my best friend, Donnie Karns. She was, and still is, a phenomenal artist. Creativity was flowing through her veins and she fostered that in me at an early age. Every time she came over, we invented a new board game. Each one different from the last. They all had a theme to them with a clear definable goal that must be accomplished. We would tape multiple pieces of paper together to form the board and then we would draw out the course; after coloring it in, then we’d play the game until one of us won. That usually marked the end of the night, but I owe her a great deal for forcing me to be creative and original with every game we made.

Fast forward to when I was in the 6th grade, my imagination was growing. I watched the cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and I remember thinking that the monsters that he had to fight were by far the coolest enemies ever conceived. They were original and they blew my mind every episode. Though, now after googling for pictures of the monsters, they all seemed to have spikes over their nipples. Peculiar. Anyways, this may mark the start of the Sci-Fi phase of my childhood. Watching 5 robotic cats connect together to form Voltron and then summon forth the great sword to slay the monster was definitely my idea of a good time. In fact, this cartoon, my babysitter, and my artist-contests with my father made such an impact upon my imagination that I can say with a certainty that they are responsible for the unique creatures that permeate throughout my fantasy novel today.

Despite my 4th grade teacher acting like a literary agent handing me a form rejection letter, and despite my principal banning the only books I ever read in my free time, I didn’t give up. I turned my passion for comic books into my first attempt at publishing an original work. ROM was my favorite comic book hero of all time. He was a mix of Robocop and Ghostbusters. He was a robot with a ray-gun that, when it hit his enemies, it sent them to an alternate dimension; so you can imagine how awesome it was when he got shot with his own ray-gun! I admittedly used the cover-art of comic #17 so that you might be impressed by his short-lived popularity. The X-Men made cameo appearances in only two issues (17 & 18). I own almost the entire collection of ROM comics, from #1 – 75 (the last issue)… and is probably the most complete collection on the planet. I’ve never met a fellow nerd that can even say he has ever heard of ROM before.

So in the 6th grade, my first attempt at publishing was a comic book: Mr. Scientificist. The name originated from my friend, Justin Deslauriers, who in his youth mistakenly said “scientificist” instead of “scientist”. It was an instant inside joke amongst my friends, and thus we turned him into an action super hero. He was a scientist with a ray gun that followed a frog-man into the sewer and they battled it out. I think it got pretty violent, if I remember correctly. My friends that were better artists than me (Alex and Lorenzo) were the main contributers to the comic. I remember that word spread amongst the school and the comic was generating a lot of interest. I even got approval to sell it in the school store, but without a means to mass produce copies, it went nowhere. I started making issue #2, but that never got completed. My dreams of inventing the next greatest comic book hero were dashed. Many years later, I found Mr. Scientificist issue #1 and gave it to Justin for one of his birthdays. Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.