Writing

The Endless struggle between Money and Community Building

Exclusivity is the bane of the industry.

I've spent the last couple days wrestling with what to do on March 16th. What is so special about that day? that is the day the exclusivity period with Amazon for several of my books comes up. I have the choice to reenroll them for another 90 days or take them out of exclusivity. I lose a lot by not giving Amazon exclusive rights to my work. The two most important are:

  1. My royalty rates drop
  2. The books are pulled from Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners Lending Library.

What's the upside? I can do whatever I want with my books. Things I feel like would be better for them and would help me build a community around my worlds.

Essentially, what it boils down to is that I make most of my money through Kindle Unlimited, but I don't have an opportunity to make a connection with my readers.

I would rather have a community...

In my heart, I know that is true, but it is hard to give up a known revenue stream on the hopes I can build a following on Patreon. It isn't that I doubt the power of the community. I love my fans, and they have gone out of their way over the years to show me they care. My problem is with me.

How does an introvert build community?

Every time I say that I am an introvert, people who know me from conventions call bullshit. I am. I live a very solitary life, and never know what to share on social media. It is hard enough for me to write this post.

Truth is: I feel most at home when I am writing.It is all the afterwards and in betweens that I struggle with. I like to think I am getting better about it, but I am still not sharing regularly. That is the first thing that I have to change.

I didn't write this to share some grand plan or to make an announcement. I really need some help here. What do you think I should do? If you have any ideas about how, I would love to hear them too.

World Building Online and the Writerly Text

What is a story?

For years I have studied and tried to wrap my head around what constitutes a story now, since the kinds of stories I read, watch, and listen to have changed a lot.  Blog novels, Twitter stories, Audiobooks, Webcomics, Podfiction...  I could go on listing things forever.

Over the years, as my taste in fiction has developed and changed, I find myself wondering what my fiction should look like.  I write short stories and novels.  They are available on the web and in ebook format, but is that really what I write?

It might sound like a strange question, but the truth is, the vast majority of my time is spent working on backstory and world building.  Isn't that story too?  It might sound simple, but I am one of those people who likes to overthink things, so let's dig into this.

Why do I enjoy Alt Shift X and CivilizationEx more than ASOIAF or GOT?

I have reached a strange place in my entertainment.  I find myself enjoying the videos of channels like Alt Shift X and CivilizationEx more than the primary Game of Thrones or A Song of Ice and Fire.  Why?

When you think about it, simple art like that on these channels shouldn't be able to compete with the millions of dollars spent on the HBO series, but they do.  Why?  Is is because they spend so much time on the minutia of the series?  Is it because they paint a more interesting world to me than either the books or the series, even though they are really derivative works?

I've started to wonder if it isn't just that stories get better with the retelling.  James Bonnet in his wonderful book, Stealing Fire from the Gods discusses a method for baking the qualities of a oral tradition into your world.  I wonder if there might not be a middle ground between his method and Roland Barthes theory of the readerly and writerly text.

Readerly Text

A readerly text, to simplify the idea, is a straight forward story that a reader can just pick up and follow the text without having to put effort into figuring out the story.  The story presents itself.  That is an overly simplification of the idea, but it is useful for this discussion.

The last step in Bonnet's method is to create a "sugar coat" so all the elements and metaphors are easy to digest by the reader and the work becomes a cohesive whole.  It would be possible to see this sugar coat as the production of a readerly text.

What if the novels, novellas, and short story collections are the readerly texts per se.  In other words, those texts were crafted in a way that they technically don't require anything other than themselves to follow the story, but the are also part of a larger writerly text.

Writerly Text

Again, this is another gross simplification, but a writerly text is work that requires the reader to produce the meaning of the text on their own.  While I am taking these terms out of Barthes original context, they are useful in understanding the nature of an online work.

What I enjoy so much about those youtube videos as opposed to the source material is that they are distilling a series (of books or shows) into their basic elements, translating them into an almost purely writerly text.  The video posits several possible meanings or simply focuses on a particular element in hopes of finding meaning.

The question is: if an author creates their own mystery texts as an exploration of the setting, stories, and characters as a way to better understand the world they are writing, how is that content presented in a way a reader can play with it in the same way?

Nothing new to see here...

I know I am far from the first person to build a website around a story or setting that I am working on.  My problem is that I can't find much if any public thought about the method and means of storytelling.

I like to have a method and guidelines to keep me on track.  I don't have them yet, but this is a step in that direction.  I will share more as I learn more.  As always music expresses the way I feel about this.  Enjoy:

If you have any thoughts on the subject, I would love to hear them.

Shouting in a Void: Loneliness and Writing

The last couple years haven't been easy.  After falling into the darkest depths of depression, I withdrew from everything,  By everything, I mean everything.  I stopped going out.  I stopped podcasting.  I stopped blogging. I stopped everything...

Things got better.  I got better.  I started blogging again.  I started podcasting again.  I started writing again, and that is where my problems started up again.

Writing is a lonely process.

That is my experience.  I started writing as a kid because I lived in the middle of no where.  All I had was my TV, my dog, and my imagination.  Creativity was a way for me to entertain myself.  I drew my own He-man and Transformers comics.  I wrote school plays based on my favorite books.  I even wrote poems for my elementary school graduation.  I loved to write.

After we moved to Maryland, I continued writing.  My storytelling flowed into AD&D, then into Vampire: The Masquerade.  I continued writing stories and wrote my first two novels. Through all that, my fiction was a private thing, just for me.  I may have shared one or two stories with a couple of friends, but I wrote for me, and didn't really share it with anyone.

Liquid Sky was really the first thing I ever wrote with readers in mind.  I wrote profiles of prospective readers, and tried to keep them in mind, but that didn't make the experience anymore isolating.  That isolation has always been a fundamental part of my process.

So, after the worse depression I have ever suffered.  I started reconnecting with friends, interests, and life itself.  I started podcasting again, which is something I love to do.  Then, I started working on a new book and universe...

I stopped using social media.  I stopped hanging out with my friends. I stopped podcasting...  I even stopped watching the series I love!

This has to change!

My life is a lonely one.  I live in a place I don't like.  The weather and allergies knock me out regularly.  I don't have a lot of friends around here because my cultures are not represented well in the area.  My husband works a lot, which leaves me home alone most of the time.  It might sound like I am complaining about that, but it is just how my life is.  My life is a lonely one right now.  I can't allow myself to fall back into my isolating habits I've built over the years.

When I was surrounded by friends and family, and regularly went to cons, time alone was a just a part of my life.  That isn't how I live right now.  Whether I am writing or not, I am alone most of the time.  Further isolation isn't healthy for me right now.

I have to change my relationship to words.

That is a lot easier said than done, especially when I'm not sure what that new relationship should be.  I have set many high minded goals in the past only to be thwarted by technology or time constraints.  Damn time.  I can't keep letting these weird things hold me back.

1. Stop holding everything in.

With everything going on in the world, I find it difficult to go on about the things that I love or that I am interested in.  That may be the stupidest thing holding me down.  Love and excitement are really the only cures for the hate, ennui, and cynicism of the world.  Staying silent is just giving in to the forces arrayed against us.  Besides, I have never really cared about what people thought about me or my opinions.  So, what is really holding me back?

I feel an obscene amount of pressure to produce content... to hell with that.  I need to just follow my own heart and do the things that make me happy.  Wow, that sentence almost hurt to type.  That is something I need to work on.

2. My world is my story.

While, yes, I need to be careful about sharing spoilers, I love world building.  Sharing that world building should be a big part of what I do.

3. If I didn't know something, others might not have known that either.

I have gotten this strange idea in my head that everyone probably already knows about the musicians, series, or trivia I find interesting.  Well, if I didn't know about it, there is a good chance that others didn't know about it either.  Besides, it never hurts to be reminded about awesome things.

4. Writing things out helps me things things through.

Posts like this might not interest anyone other than me, but they help me think things through. That is worth more than anything to me.  I just need to breathe and be myself.  It is hard to shut me up when I feel at home.  I just need to be that guy again.

What do you think I should do?  Have you ever had to reconnect with your life and loves?  I would love to talk about this in the comments.

Take back your life one thing at a time

It is T-17 days until I turn 40, and I am surprised at how that base 10 number is affecting me.  It is not that I feel old, it is more that I am looking back on my life to this point and wondering what (if anything) I have done with it.

This is a self portrait I made May 13, 2014, I think you can see how I felt.

I would never say that I have wasted my life, but the last several years have been empty and devoid of meaning and purpose.  I lost myself.  This isn't a midlife crisis or anything of the sort. A couple years ago I fell into the deepest depression I have ever experienced.  Through it, I disconnected from everything and everyone I ever loved.  I lost almost all of my friends, and I don't blame them. I was not a good person to be around.

Nothing made me laugh. Everything made me cry.  I couldn't feel anything at all.  I didn't/couldn't care about any aspect of my or anyone else's life.  It is hard for me to explain to someone who hasn't gone there what a black hole my life was.  I hope no one reading this has ever been in a place like that.  It was a vacuous pain no one ever needs to feel.

Since I came back, it has been really hard for me to reconnect to my life. Everything seems distant. Those connections didn't magically reform, and I don't expect them to.  I have to do the work, and that is what this series is about.

11 Years ago was my first Book Launch Party...

My Book Launch Party at the Wine Rack/Java Stop for Liquid Sky.

My first and only Book Launch Party was 11 years ago today...  When I think about it, it was my only book launch party.  Liquid Sky, my first novel had just come out.  You can see how happy I am in the picture.

If the depression I just talked about was the lowest I have ever felt, this was probably the best.  After years of writing, the fourth book I had written was right there in print for anyone to read.  Even now, when I think about it, I can't help but smile.

I don't know why I didn't celebrate the release of any of my other books. In fact, I hadn't realized that I hadn't until I started writing this.  That is something that has to change.

8 years after this, we bought the Wine Rack... Everything should have been great, but by January the next year I tweeted:

By July, I had completely fallen off the cliff.  It's not like everything was all good before that.  All this had built up for years, and the collapse took years away from me.  

Stopping Everything Stops Everything

Leading up to this depression, I had stopped podcasting, because I didn't enjoy doing it by myself.  I stopped blogging because I couldn't see the point of it.  I stopped writing because the stories weren't perfect.  I stopped going out because it felt pointless.  I stopped everything then everything stopped.

I am not saying my depression was my fault.  Depression isn't something that can be blamed on its victim.  What I am saying is that the problems mounted one on another until I was buried so deep I couldn't breathe.  I didn't see it coming. I couldn't see it from the inside.

Now that I am on the other side, putting my life back together has been more of a challenge than I want it to be.  Not like life cares.  Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Starting One thing at a time.

To get my life back, I realize that I am going to have to start up one thing at a time.

For me that means I have to start with my first love, writing.

I love to tell stories.  I don't care if they are books, short stories, podcasts, or prose poems.  I just love to tell stories.  Even in my darkest moments, I tried to write, but I allowed the perfect to be the enemy of the good.  I wrote nothing because the stories weren't the greatest thing ever.  How stupid is that?!

My stories are my stories.  They are my heart.  Whether or not anyone likes them other than me, they are my stories.  I don't have to care what anyone else thinks about them.  All that matters is that I like them.

That is where I have to start.  You might have a different starting point, and you probably will, but each and every one of us has something in our lives that gives us a sense of purpose or meaning. I have to write something, anything every day until that connection comes back strong in my life.

Every day, leading up to my 40th birthday, I am going to find one thing to celebrate or reconnect to.  I hope you join me on my journey.  I am taking my life back, and I urge you to do the same.

Please share your journey with me.  Let's walk this road together.

Write with your voice, not another's

When I read this article on the University Times, I shouted, booed, and cheered at my computer.  I am not going to respond to it directly or to almost anything said in it.  I just want to share my thoughts on the subject since it's something I have thought a lot about.

As a gender queer gay writer, my biggest fear when I got started was that I would be called or classified as a gay writer.  Needless to say, all of my fears came true while the Fate's Harrow serial was coming out.  I was cast off to the LGBT panels, and seemingly all of my fears came true... or did they.

I embraced the categorization, and my next two books, and found an audience that I didn't expect.  Admittedly, it wasn't a large audience, but it is so supportive.  Now, I have to ask myself, what was I afraid of?

Closeted Writer or Honest Stories

The real choice I faced in my writing was whether to be honest about the types of characters I wanted to write about or to stay in a closet of my own making and tell stories I thought other people wanted to read about.  While the latter may be a better strategy for my business, it was a betrayal of everything in me to write.

Not all of my characters are gay or gender queer, but that is my voice as a writer.  It is how I see the world and understand it.  To write any other way would be dishonest to my experience of life.

I am not saying this to judge other writers for their choices.  I understand what a personal decision this is, but if you are struggling with this question, I hope my experience helps you.

Write in your voice, not someone else's

Whatever state you are in, write in your unique voice.  That voice is flavored by your gender, sexuality, beliefs, and experiences.  Your voice isn't the same as your favorite writers', and that is a beautiful thing.

No one talks like you.  No one sees the world like you.  No one imagines the things you imagine.  If you are a writer, it is your duty to tell your own stories in your own voice which will always be colored by your own experiences.

Embrace your uniqueness and don't compare you work to the work of others.  If you were meant to write their book, you would have, and it would sound nothing like their book does.

Be strong in your own stories, and be open to the worlds bursting forth from within you.  They are your challenge alone.  

Creative Storms and the building of Worlds

Many worlds live behind my eyes, and each and every one claws at the edges of my mind to come into being through word and art.  I have played with them, dancing through the night.  I have tried to prioritize them so I can work on one world at a time, but the others shout and scream to the point where I can no longer hear the chosen one...

This year, I have been trying to change my relationship with my fiction and my career.  I want to write more short stories, prose poems, and vignettes, but I still want to work on novels, novellas, and novelettes.  The problem comes in when I try to choose one world over another.  

I used to think this was a problem with disciple, but I don't think it is.  Not really.

Sometime I am in the mood to reread Harry Potter (I am on book 6 btw), and sometime I want to watch Star Trek, and other times I want to continue reading the Pillars of Reality.  If my choice for entertainment can flip around from genre to genre, why would I expect that my imagination would fixate on just one thing?

Why should I feel guilty for loving many genres?

Because it feeds my resistance to keeps me from writing...

There is so much pressure on writers to conduct their business in a certain way.  Every writer who has achieved even a little bit of success, has a formula to follow.  They all have the same talking points.

  1. Write a series of books.
  2. Write them fast, releasing several books a year.
  3. Start an email newsletter.
  4. Sale, Sale, SALE!

So, how does a writer with too many ideas work?

I want to tell stories, and yes, I want to make money off my work, but I should not have to conform to how other writers do their work.

Writing is a craft.  Yes, it is a business, but I think we spend too much time, energy, and effort focusing on how to make money, and not enough time on our craft.

We have to tell the stories that are in us to tell.

For writers like me, the community consensus that I should be all about the money distracts me from the real purpose of my career.  I have stories in me that want to be told, and I need to spend my time, energy, and effort on telling those stories in the most well crafted ways I can, and then figure out a way to monetize that.

Stories must come before money.

If you are a writer like me with too many ideas and worlds in you fighting to get out, find a way to tell those stories before everything else.  

Our stories matter more than our income.

I have been here before.  I get to this point, and then slowly, I get sucked down the business road and worry more about money than craft.  I can only hope that I will not fall down that path again.

Join me.  

  • Tell your stories as I tell mine.  
  • Allow your imagination to carry you to where you need to be.
  • Put the stories and craft first, then monetize that.
  • Don't lock yourself into a system that is self/soul defeating.

I have faith in my craft, my stories, and my characters.  You should too.

Share the message:

One way to change the world is to act as if it’s already changed.

While I am still on the fence about the new Doctor Who spinoff, Class, showrunner Patrick Ness said something that made me smile:

Ness added: “Kind of astounded that having a gay lead on Class has been such big news. One day it won’t be, one day soon.


“BECAUSE IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. One way to change the world is to act as if it’s already changed. That’s how I roll, that’s how Class rolls
— Patrick Ness

I hope he is right.  After the events over the weekend, I fear that day may be further away than we want it to be.

This approach to writing is one that I adopted many years ago, and it is one I wan to see many other writers take up.  While a story about the struggle can be entertaining, after a while, they really do start feeling like the same story over and over again.

When I was a kid, I looked up to characters like Frank N Furter from Rocky Horror because he was the only genderqueer LGBT character I had ever seen.  The world amazed me because no one cared about Frank's gender or sexuality.  Everyone was delightfully bisexual. No one was judged for they gender expression.

Today, there are more role models for kids, but there can always be more.  When we create or experience a world without prejudice or that is already beyond it like the original Star Trek, it gives us not only something to aspire to, but an escape from the hate and abuse present in the world.

Hooray for class.  You earned my support.

What scares me about writing?

While going through my Twitter feed, I came across this question:

The question struck me in a very emotional way, and it made me think that I am not alone in the strange fear that has overshadowed my writing lately.

Am I creative enough or do I go too far?

That might sound like a paradox, and it is.  9 times out of 10, that is the one thing that stops me in my tracks.

Creativity is a strange thing.  To some it is that spooky hand of inspiration that rarely condescends upon us mortals and grants us the glorious gift of inspiration and writing flow.  That is not what I am scared of.

Creativity and the Illusion of Originality

It isn't rare that I have an idea for a story, but what follows is pure FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).  While the plots are never identical, it is hard to come up with a story that doesn't feel like something I have read before.  That shouldn't be a hindrance, but lately, it tends to stop me dead in my tracks.

Why do I care?  I don't know.  I really don't.  I understand that there is only one story that has ever been told, and that every story fits into that mode.  If you are generous, you can widen that out to 12, 20, or 36, but the fact is the number of possible stories is impossibly small.  But like all writers, I want to stand out.  I want people to not only like my fiction, but to love it.

I am trying to push myself to get past this and just write stories that I love, but it is hard to get through this block.

Creativity and the Curse of Too Many Ingredients

The other side of the coin is the question about how simple or complex should a story be.  When I let myself go, I get reviews that call my work dense and hard to get into.  When I simplify, I get reviews that say I didn't go far enough.

Maybe I am looking for that Goldilocks zone where I include just the right about of complexity while neither being too hot, or too cold.

I don't think that is the answer at all.  There is a difference between developing my craft as a writer, and conforming my work to an unseen audience.

Creativity and the Pure Joy of Writing

The one thing I have learned over my career is that I have to write stories I love.  Those are the stories my readers love too.  That passion flows from me into the words and worlds, and resonates with the readers.

The path beyond fear is in the stories I love to tell and sharing that passion with the world.  Only then can I write a fun story, and if they find an audience, that is a wondrous thing, but (as writers) we have to separate the audience from the work.

I would rather be unread for stories that I love than loved for a story I hate.  That is really important.

I get my fulfillment in life from telling these stories.  A fulfilling life is success greater than any other.  That is where I have to keep my eyes focused.  That is the real prize.

If you are having these same problems, let me know how you are getting through.  Are you afraid of something else?  How do you overcome your fears to find a better life?

The Big Friendly Giant and Seed of Creativity

Steven Spielberg is making a movie of The Big Friendly Giant. (squee)

The BFG was one of my favorite books when I was a kid.  It is hard to explain how much this book means to me. 

I grew fast.  I was almost always the tallest kid in my class.  When I read this book for the first time, I found two characters I could identify with, but so much more than that, I found a world that I wanted to spend more time in.  I pretended I was the giant, and acted out not only scenes from the book, but I invented new ones.

When I was in the third grade, I volunteered to write our class play, and of course, I based it on The BFG.  It was the first thing I ever wrote.  I even starred as the BFG, and I directed the play.  I even set up a foley artist (though I didn't know that word at the time) to do sound effects off stage.

This is one of those books that had such an effect on my life that I can say I would be who I am or doing what I do without it.

Igniting your child's imagination

Books like this one have a special power over our imaginations.  They are important for children, but in many ways, they are even more important for adults.

Somewhere along the way, many of us are taught to stop playing, stop using our imagination.  We are all lessened by this.  Imagination and play are tools to not only help us relax, but also to grapple with abstract concepts and work over problems in different ways.  Play is important.

I plan to see The BFG when it comes out, and I hope it awakens parts of me that went dormant long ago.  What reawakens your sense of childlike wonder and play?  If you can't think of something, what are you going to do to try to bring it back?

What can the Skeleton Warriors of Papua New Guinea teach us about Christmas.

I didn't expect to be blown away by the sheer beauty of a people that paint themselves as skeletons, but it happened.

What is it about these men that took my breath away?

They embrace life.  To paint your body with the visage of death reminds us of the precious and fleeting nature of life.  More than that, their willingness to play with their traditional art form.  This is a quality we have lost in the us vs them culture we adopted over the last several decades.

This is most evident this time of year with some people's reaction to Christmas.

Culture, tradition, and religion

It is undeniable that Christmas has a special significance to Christians, but it is also an American cultural institution.  Movies like Elf, The Santa Clause, and Miracle on 34th Street, not to mention Rudolf, the Night Before Christmas, and A Christmas Carol, all provide secular images that have become cultural fixtures over the years.  Don't even get me started with How the Grinch stole Christmas.

My point being, while, yes, there are some cultural institutions that should be abandoned in the name of inclusion and diversity, we as a culture need to learn to play with the images we have inherited, rather than reject them all blindly.

We have lost too much of our culture to hostile copyright laws to trash what little of the public domain we have left.

If a cultural image bothers you, ask what about it is so troubling.  Is it something inherent in the image, or is it baggage you are carrying with you.

There is too much either/or thinking.

Santa Claus can be both a Christian reminder of St Nicolas of Myra, and a secular figure who sells Coca-cola.  He doesn't have to be one or the other.

If we don't learn how to reconcile the contradictions facing us in these images, we will never be able to cope with more fundamental ones like how all life is sustained by death.  Hydrogen must die to give light to the plants.  Plants and animals must die to sustain our lives.  We ignore these issues by telling ourselves that plants can't feel or think, but they still have to die.

Truth often presents itself through paradoxes.  The sooner we get comfortable with that, the sooner we will start to find peace in our hearts.

Play with your culture

If we don't play with the images we have inherited, they will go away, and if we don't make new ones, we will follow soon after.  We like to think that we are rational creatures, but we are also emotional ones.  Logic speaks to our reason, but images speak to our emotions.  For too long, we have abandoned our emotional natures to fend for themselves, gleaning what little nourishment they can from pop culture.

We are the agents of our culture.  It doesn't belong to us. It has only been entrusted to us until we leave it to the generations after.  Leave it better than it was when it was handed down to you.  Don't short circuit the culture out of some short sighted need to react to the past rather than create the future.

 

Planning for National Novel Writing Month with Wattpad and Penflip

It might sound like a strange question, but it is something I think about a lot. Alright, I think about it too much. Since I am a writer it does matter, but there is a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that I might not be thinking it enough or in the right way. 

I look at tools like Wattpad and Penflip, and I start wondering how I should be telling stories. Part of me wants to start serializing my fiction, so I can get stories out quicker. 

I make analogies to TV.  The Wattpad release is like the show airing on TV or streaming, and the book is like the boxset.  The difference is that those studios make money off both the airing and the boxset.  It is hard to think about money, but I have to make a living.

So, I started a Patreon account.  I haven't given up on the idea, but the fact that my readers and listeners didn't move to support the project worried me, but I think it will take time and the right project to make it work.

The problem is, we are on the cusp of National Novel Writing Month, and I want to join in.  I love the challenge and the community, but I find myself wondering if I am just falling back into my old habits and working on a traditional novel.

I have an idea, and maybe it will work.  I am going to keep working on the outline for NaNoWriMo, and I will be the first to say that it is neither new or original, but I think this year, I will take part in NaNo, but unlike previous years, I will post each chapter as they are finished on Wattpad.  They will be raw and riddled with errors, but it would enable me to get some feedback quickly.

It would help get me into the habit.

I will post raw stories on Wattpad and run the beta group on Penflip.  I am excited about it.

Play like a kid, no seriously, do it!

I spent the day playing with my characters like I did when I was a kid. 

IMG_0747.JPG

I love this, and I recommend everyone find something they used to love to do as a kid and DO IT!  Reconnecting with that childlike magic is worth the effort. 

For me, I used to carry around all these journals and just write in them. It was one of my favorite things to do. It got so bad that in high school, I carried a second book bag around with me that had all of my journals and stories in it.  

I forgot how freeing it is to just write and play with ideas without being critical of the words I was writing. I feel amazing.  

Join me. What did you used to love to do as a child, and what was it like to do it now as an adult? 


Awake to Dream, overcoming fear and money to do what you love

With a lot of effort, I have worked through my struggles with perfectionism.  The stories will be what they are. 

I have even gotten past the horrible idea that my work has to measure up to some illusory standard of originality.  My stories will be mine, and my influences will inevitably show through.

Moving forward has been a struggle.  I bet a lot of writers go through this dark time, but they label it writer's block.  Sometimes that is not the problem at all.

It isn't always Writer's Block

I called my problem writer's block for such a long time.  I thought it was an issue with my creativity or maybe my project flow.  None of this was true.

The real problem was that I had reached an Entrepreneurial Dilemma.  I had an idea for stories I wanted to tell, but I knew that I wanted to be able to make money off them, and that paralyzed me.

After years of not caring about my sales numbers, I started to focus on them to the exclusion of everything else.  The question of how to monetize my fiction took over, and caused me to forget why I wrote stories in the first place.

Community is more important than money!

Over the years, I learned that if I told stories that people cared about, my readers would take care of me.  How did I forget this?  I decided to expand my craft in a way that cost more money, so I set up a balance sheet.  I started asking myself how I was going to make back the investment...

It is amazing how stupid money can make us.  I am not saying that I shouldn't have asked the question, but I missed some of the other factors that should have mitigated my concerns.

I love making art.  It is fun.  If I would have compared the amount I was spending on supplies to how much I used to spend on games and movies, I would have seen the value of what I was doing.

A story that a writer doesn't care about will never move a person to the same degree as a story the writer loved and enjoyed.

As I expanded my job description from writer to entertainment designer, I forgot that my first job was to entertain myself first.  Do I have to make my money back?  Yes, but if I don't, I spent the money as part of my entertainment budget. 

Entertainment Design is a way of Life

I am not saying that Entertainment is not a business.  It is, but it has to be born out of the heart of the designers.  You have to love what you are doing if you ever want others to love it.

I am sure if I searched my old posts, I would find a place where I said that before, but there is a difference between saying something and doing it.

The stories I have written came from my heart, and the new ones will too.  They will find readers if they are worthy.  All I can do is my part.  Stress is the death of creativity.  I will enjoy the road forward, and I hope you will join me on the way.

Popular is not the same as good or successful

  image by  The Comic Fan

image by The Comic Fan

I am getting a little tired of people equating popularity with quality.  Firefly was not popular, and if we compare it to Star Wars or Star Trek, that would make it a total failure, but is it?

I bring this up because on 4 separate occasions today, someone tried to win an argument by telling me that the project in question made a lot of money or that it was popular.  If that is the standard we are measuring things by then:

  • Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith was 14.9 times better than Serenity
  • War of the Worlds was 9.2 times better than Serenity
  • King Kong was 8.5 times better than Serenity
  • Twilight was 7.6 times better than Serenity
  • The Twilight Saga: New Moon was 11.6 times better than Serenity
  • The Twilight Saga: Eclipse was 11.8 times better than Serenity
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 was 11 times better than Serenity
  • The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was 11.5 times better than Serenity

I am not ready to turn in my brown coat for a sparkling vampire...

Popular is Common

That is why a lot of fans are starting to complain about Doctor Who (I am not one of them).  The show's popularity has come from a hollowing of the characters and shallower plots.  That is how you appeal to a mass audience.

It is not a guarantee of popularity, but it is nearly a requirement.  The only way to appeal to a broad audience is to lower the work to lowest common denominator. 

There are exceptions to the rule. Frank Herbert's Dune is one of the best selling Science Fiction books of all time.  That is the result of a rabid fan-base and curiosity spurred on by the Movie and Miniseries, both of which were over simplifications of the book.  Why?  To garner as wide an audience as possible.

Music video by Marilyn Manson performing This Is The New Shit. (C) 2003 Nothing/Interscope Records

There is nothing like over engineered pop Shock Rock to make the point.

Quality matters.

As media is becoming more disintermediated, content creators like myself have to focus on character, setting, and story.  While I would never say my stuff is perfect, I have followed my interests, and not what I thought would make me the most money.

Postmodern life has lost its flavor.  The homogenized, plastic fantastic modern world was sheathed with a pasteurized mock-rebellious and faux-individualistic veneer.  Manufactured rage like the Duck Dynasty publicity stunt are the new normal.

People can relax now, they did something.  Placation is simple.  One well placed manufactured crisis and both sides vent, and get to feel like they won.  Theatrics.

I took that tangent to point out that even our news is poorly manufactured.

If there is any hope for our society regaining any credibility and flavor returning to life, we have to start caring about things again.

Care about what exactly?

Honesty and integrity.  I may not be a great writer, but my fiction is honest.  It is what I love.  It comes from my heart.  I am not alone.  There are others.  Emerian Rich and Matthew Wayne Selznick, just to name a couple.

If fans are unimportant, because what will make them happy will not appeal to a mainstream audience, then the math is backwards.

We cannot afford anymore to give up on the things we love.  I love Star Trek, and that love is not being reciprocated, so I am creating my own scifi series to fill the niche.

Passion drives us, not money, not popularity.  We have to stand up for ourselves, only then, together, can we bring the passion back.

Struggling with Wattpad and the Return of Fate's Harrow.

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Coffee is life

Yesterday, I sent out the Newsletter, and started on the massive project to restart the zine next year.  If you didn't get your copy, you can read it here and sign up to receive it here.  I have so many irons in the fire, it is a great way to keep from missing something.

Calling all Beta Readers

I also added many of my previously published works to the Beta Readers group for a one last pass before the relaunch of my Scifi/fantasy series, Our Solemn Hour.

  • All 5 Issues of Fate's Harrow
  • All 4 Legends of the Jade Moon Novelettes
  • The full text of Shine Like Thunder

If you want to help with this read through and get early access to drafts of new stories, join the Beta Readers' GroupAs always everyone who helps edit these works will get a shout out in the Acknowledgements and a free ebook version of the final text.

The Return of Fate's Harrow

I know you caught that.  Yes, for the first time in 7 years, my bestselling book Fate's Harrow is coming back!

I am so excited to make this book available again.  I believe all the rights considerations have been taken care of, so I can finally get the book back into print.  If we can keep on schedule, it should be available by December 16th!

Stepping up on Wattpad

Wattpad is an interesting place, and I have dabbled with it from time to time.  I added a bunch of previously unpublished stories there to get your feedback.  Hopefully, I can get my head around the site and community over there.

If you have any advise for me on that, please share.  If you would like to follow me over there, here is my profile.

I am trying to open up

Openness is the secret power of the internet.  I know that is not a shocking statement, but it is something I have struggled with for years.  I am trying to be more open with what I am doing and how I am doing it.

No journey is worth taking if you have to take it alone.  If you want to walk this path with me, Join the Project: Shadow group and follow me on the various social networks.

When is Our Solemn Hour?

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Reboots and the Return of the Serials

So much has happened over the last year.  I have to thank you all for your support through these trying times.  The good news is, there is a light over at the Frankenstein place, and I am ready to do the time warp again!

Ok, there is no connection between what I am working on and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I am pretty sure I know how that bird felt in Magenta's hand.  After a year of ups and downs, the only consistent things have been my faith, friends, family, and all of you.

After all the work, and a steep learning curve in 3D art, it is time to open the flood gates and get you more stories.  A lot more stories. 
 

What I learned this year

You all have supported me beyond belief this year.  Your love and acceptance of Wand and Weaver: The Chain has warmed my heart.  In 1 year, it has sold more copies than any other individual book I've written!

I also learned that you like my $0.99 novelettes.  They have sold consistently throughout the year. 


So, now, as we move towards 2014, I am going to try something new.  Soon, I will launch the first of 2 new serials.  One will be set in Dragons of Night, and will pick up where The Chain ended, the other will continue the world of Liquid Sky and Shine Like Thunder.

With your help, 2014 will be even better.  Spread the word, and get involved.  There is a lot of work ahead, and I know that you will be by my side through it all.  Thank you for everything.  Your support means the world to me.

Is National Novel Writing Month the problem or a symptom

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 It amazes me the clarity a headache can sometimes give you.  My sinuses and I are at war today in this dry autumn air.  As a result, I don't have the level of patience  that I usually would have.

When I got up today, I went over my schedule to organize my workflow for the day.  Since I decided to take part in National Novel Writing Month, high on my list was to hit my word count for the day.  That is not what I wanted to do.

As the resistance mounted against me, I focused my attention on why I didn't want to write.

That was just the thing.  My problem isn't that I don't want to write.  The problem is I want to play in the setting.  I want to explore, frolicking in all the nooks and crannies that the world presents me.  So, in reality, it is not that I don't want to write, it is  yet again the constraints of the novel are working against the kind of story I want to tell.

Over and over, I tell myself that I'm going to break out of the mold of the novel, and time and again I force myself back into it.  It is comfortable, familiar.  I know how to do that, and as such it is the easy way out.

I have to stop taking the easy way out.

So, for me, National Novel Writing Month is both the problem and the symptom.  I'm not writing a novel, so why am I trying to make it fit the format?  I need to refocus, and plan my way forward.  Something different is trying to be born through me.  I just need to get out of its way.

Rejoining the Cult of Done

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  After I decided to reconnect with the things I love,  I went back to my blog to reconnect with my thoughts.

I realize that about two years ago I stopped posting about what it means to me to be a writer and entertainment designer.  In a lot of ways, it's about the same time I started finding it hard to write.

One of the things that I did discover, or should I say rediscovered, was the Cult of Done Manifesto.   I remembered how I felt the first time I read it.  I remembered how inspired I was.

Everything Is a Draft

I remember when I abandoned that principle.  At a certain point when I was writing The Chain, I vowed to myself that I would write the book that I wanted to read.  I didn't realize until today that I set a goal to pursue the Platonic ideal of the book I wanted.

That one unseen goal has paralyzed me ever since.  My drive to write a perfect book has kept me from working on the right book.  So I find myself with what feels like an unending wave of writers block.

Laugh at Perfection

I dabbled around a little bit with the idea of treating the story like it was software development.  The text I write would be the code.  There would be iterations, patches, updates, and development towards fuller and greater versions.  It is an interesting idea,

Perhaps what I need to do is pick up that idea again and see where it leads me.  Since I spent a lot of time tinkering with it, and not doing it, there's a good chance that it holds the key to unlocking my creativity.

Hopefully, you will join me in this grand experiment.  I'll share my experiences and theories with you, all I ask in return is for your feedback.  I know I don't have to ask for your support.  You've always shown me so much. Let the experiments begin.

I launched the Our Solemn Hour site and started writing

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There isn’t much there at the moment, but I launched the Our Solemn Hour site today. Hopefully, the story will start flowing with the same ease the characters are popping in my head. I want to thank you all in advance for your support over the next month writing. This world really wants to come into being, and together, we can make that happen.