Help Me Out Here, Or Don’t

As I perused the web for inspiring ideas and writer’s tips, other than the standard quotes your writer friends happen to have read online, I found myself reading a small excerpt from Stephen King’s “On Writing.” This book is definitely on my “must read” list. Not just because anyone who’s ever written a book or thought of writing a book has read it. I want to read this because every time I’m looking for inspiration, or every time I find myself stuck, something revolving around Stephen King jumps in front of my moving car and splatters inspiration all over the windshield. I hate and love King for this. Everything I’ve read, watched, or heard from him I’ve enjoyed, but damnit, let me enjoy someone else’s work for a change you entertaining, selfish bastard!

This excerpt I found from “On Writing,” makes the most sense of all the writing tips I’ve come across.

On-Writing“I want to put a group of characters…in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free. My job isn’t to HELP them work their way free, or manipulate them to safety—those are jobs which require the noisy jackhammer of plot—but to watch what happens and then write it down.”

When I write, or create something, I do so as if I’m watching the movie play out before my eyes. I often don’t know what is going to happen to the characters, even if I know what will happen to the main character at the end of the story, I never know what will happen during their journey to the end. Some characters may die, others may become crippled, or maybe they’ll fall in love. As a writer, my job isn’t to provide divine intervention on behalf of my characters.  It’s not to dictate what they will and won’t do. The characters must learn to help themselves, so that they may live or die dependent on their own actions. In the truest sense of storytelling, my job is to watch and record, then tell you the story of what happened to these people. Thanks again for the inspiring words, King.

Top Ten Stories On Television: Part 1

There are so many good stories on television these days. With the art of storytelling reaching its climax, it’s hard to choose favorites. But, in the spirit of storytelling, I’ve chosen a number of television shows from the last couple decades that, I feel, epitomizes the idea of amazing storytelling. Now, bear in mind that this is an extremely biased top 10 list, and while there are so many others that would make “top” lists across the globe, but these particular shows have story arcs built in that seem to do everything right and have left a lasting impression on me.

10. Vikings: Vikings is a show on the history channel that follows a father and husband as he proves himself as a warrior and a leader to himself, his family, and the rest of his tribe. This show is outstanding because of the historical authenticity that the history channel has to offer, while still presenting the show with game of thrones style cinematography. The writing really shines as we see the world unravel around the main character, even though he’s unaware of the betrayal that surrounds him. Although the main character is a bloodthirsty, savage, viking, you can’t help by relate to this loving family man.

9. Dollhouse: The writer of Dollhouse, Joss Whedon, is an outstanding science fiction writer, and although he’s moved on to bigger and better things, Dollhouse is no exception. At first the premise sounds a little strange, an organization that brainwashes “willing” individuals so they may sell their reprogrammed bodies as spies, assassins, companions, hookers, criminal investigators or the criminals themselves, or anything else a client can imagine.  As you watch the show and come to realize that, maybe the organization isn’t as evil as you first thought, and you’ll quickly be proven right and wrong in so many ways.  Dollhouse makes you question the validity of human rights and you’ll marvel as the characters create connections that bleed through their brainwashed personalities and sparks a worldwide conspiracy. Tell me that doesn’t sound intriguing.

8. Spartacus: The Starz show Spartacus is based on historical events, but given an… interesting presentation.  Spartacus is filmed in a style similar to the movie “300” and combined with excessive nudity, language and violence. While all that is great on its own, the story shines as everything he knows and cares for is ripped out from under the main character and no matter what he does to improve his situation, and to be reunited with his wife, things only seem to get worse. The story begins by exploiting the glory of combat and the death of slaves fighting in the gladiatorial arena, then quickly moving into a tale of revolution, love, freedom, humanity, brotherhood, and glory. It truly is a classic tale of tragedy and redemption, reminiscent of ancient mythos. And for those history buffs who know how the true tale of Spartacus goes, it becomes all the more interesting, knowing the fate of all those involved.

7. Doctor Who: Now, I absolutely love Doctor Who, and I would love nothing more than to throw this show into the top 5, there is only a couple things preventing this. The first is that there are still so many questions I have about the over arching story and the main character, the Doctor. The second is that a few of the most recent seasons have been plagued by a number “filler episodes” that hold little water against the episodes with climactic plot twists and huge reveals.

Doctor Who is the story of a Time Lord, an ancient alien race who can travel through space and time. The Doctor, as he is known, is the last of the Time Lords and spends his nearly immortal life traveling to and saving planets, lives, and entire civilizations. Little is known about the doctor, but throughout the seasons bits and pieces of the mysterious man are revealed, creating even more mystery while giving us a bit of insight into the eccentric, fascinating, “brilliant,” and amazing character he is. The unique thing about The Doctor is that Time Lords have the ability to regenerate when near death. This means that when they regenerate, they take on a new personality that has different looks, likes, dislikes, etcetera, while still keeping past memories. This is a great way to keep the story running and unfolding, but can be an issue when you become attached to a particular doctor and then they suddenly change into a new actor, but this does open the way for someone new to take on the iconic role and be a part of something amazing.

6.  Dexter: Dexter is an outstanding story about a blood spatter analyst working for the Miami police department, who enjoys murdering criminals in his spare time. Now, normally, a serial killer is the antagonist of a story, not someone you would root for, but Dexter is a special case. He’s one of the good guys. He rids the world of criminal trash, while trying to blend in by attempting to achieve a life of normalcy.  Dexter desires to have feelings, love, and to live a normal life, but his “dark passenger,” his serial killer side, prevents him from having these things, but it doesn’t stop him from trying.

The tale gets truly interesting as this ‘monster’ who could never achieve such things, begins to care for someone,  actually makes friends, has a family and is able to have a “normal” life.  Now, he struggles with his dark passenger competing for his time and attention against his everyday life.  If that doesn’t make you want to go buy the DVDs right now, then I’m sorry, but you’re missing out on what good story telling is. A past season did suffer from a bit of a dull streak, but the final season reared its head, started off with a bang, and ended beautifully, although some saw it as rather heartbreaking. I’ll say no more. But, life will never be easy for a serial killer; family, friends, police and even other serial killers aren’t going to let him go so easily. Good luck, Dexter.

Coming very soon, because I know you can’t wait to see which show has the honor of sitting in the number one slot, will be part two of this epic list. Some show placements will be obvious, others may surprise you. If you think you know which shows made it into the top five, or think one of these should have, speak up!

Write Your Own Story, Or Publish It

Over the last few months, I’ve been studying up on the art of publishing, and thinking to myself: “I hate waiting for and relying on other people to do things for me.” This thought really began to cross my mind after I started submitting my novel to publishers. I find myself checking my email every ten minutes hoping someone will send me an email reply . And don’t even get me started on weekends, when lots of companies are closed until the following Monday. Then, I can’t sit still as I wait anxiously for a response that is most likely not going to show up in my inbox. So, what does all this frustration mean?

Essentially, it means that I prefer when things are solely base on my performance. That I thrive when no one else is to blame but myself. To sum it all up, it means that I have been considering going the self publication route for my writing. Now you might be asking yourself a few questions:

First question: will I make as much money self publishing? That entirely depends on my effort and the quality of my work. If I hit the ground running and continue to market my work with my growing enthusiasm, then, I believe that I can make as much money. In addition, the royalties are usually higher. The royalties for eBooks when self publishing can, on average, net the author up to 85% of their list price.

When it comes to print books, the royalties may not be exponentially higher, but they are still much better, especially the books sold directly through amazon.com. Using their print on demand method of printing, authors don’t need to print ten-thousand copies of their book, and then find out how to sell them all. The author doesn’t even need to worry about printing at all, essentially, every time someone clicks “buy,” Amazon prints a copy and ships it to the consumer.

Second question: how can my marketing compete with that of big publishing companies? From all the author testimonials I’ve come across in my research, big publishing houses only do extensive promotion if your a previously well selling author, or someone really, really, believes in your novel. Otherwise they tend to leave the author to publicize at their own discretion. So, essentially, it’s a fairly level playing field. I’ve made a number of connections in my past and I plan on using as many as possible to help further my own goals, and maybe do a few favors to further some other friends marketing goals as well.

And the third major question is: how would I even get started? Major publishing houses have been around for nearly a century and have the market fairly well cornered. But, as I mentioned, I’ve been researching this quite a bit and there are a lot more resources available to authors on the subject, now more than ever. With the options mentioned above, I can sell my book through a number of venues and not pay a dime to get started. Through Amazon.com, I can sell a print version of my book by merely allowing Amazon to take a percentage of the sale each time a copy is sold. So, not costing me anything out of my own pocket. Additionally, if I choose to pay an additional $25, I can allow my book to be purchased wholesale by large retailers, such as Barnes & Nobles, which allows for greater distribution. When it comes to the eBook side of publishing, the two best sites I’ve found for publishing are Smashwords & Lulu. Each of these put your eBook up on on a number of sites and on all major eBook reader stores. And again, they only take a percentage of each sale, not requiring you to pay any upfront fees.

There are a few more steps in regards to self publishing that I have been working on and preparing for. I’ve written an ever growing, 15 page business plan, with market projections and production schedules. If i choose to self publish, I’ll want to make it a self publishing company, so, I’ll need to create a business name, register with the local government for tax purposes, and open a bank account to do business as that company. Websites will need to be created, contractors may need hired for work that I’m not as skilled with, such as cover design, and there are some more steps which I have been slowly working out as well. But so far, I’ve come quite a long way from anxiously waiting for someone to sift through an enormous pile of manuscripts, hoping they’ll get to mine next, to being ready to “write my own story,” so to speak.

I’ve moved on and I think I’m ready to take my future into my own hands and be responsible for my own success or failure. But anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t take kindly to failure, and that I will sweat and bleed for this opportunity, because I know it’s what I enjoy, it’s what I want to do, and if I can access a bit of my “good old fashioned Irish luck,” I may just hit the big time. That’s the end game though, and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience as a self published author, about the ups and downs, success or horror stories. Don’t hold back, I can take it, and I’m more than intrigued to hear what anyone has to say!