Monday, June 30, 2014

New Stories are up on Amazon!

So, it's been a little while since I've had anything new for people to read go up. Anyone that's kept up on this blog for the past month or two is aware I have a new book currently in the querying process, but even if it was accepted today, that's still a ways from being released. 

I am happy to announce though that today I have a new offer up on Amazon! A trio of short stories to make you think and to send shivers up your spine. Without further ado, I introduce you to: 

Only $0.99 on Kindle and soon to be my first work up on Nook as well! Check it out, and I hope you all enjoy it. 

Now, back to work.

~ Shaun

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Building a Book: The Wait

In addition to today's blog post, I want to point you to the Follow by Email link on the right, where you can sign up to get email notifications of new blog posts. Also, make sure you check out the Giveaways link above, I've got a free weekend for Class 5 coming up on Kindle this weekend.

So you've finished your book, revised it, shown it to beta readers, revised it some more, done your homework on publishers and small presses, picked a few out, and submitted your manuscript and your query letter. Now comes the really fun part. The wait to hear back. 

At this moment, my book "Hannah" is entering it's tenth week out of sixteen in the wait to hear back from the small press publisher I submitted it to. 

Now, I just want to explain something really quick. Most publishers have a waiting period, during which time they'll pass your work around until someone decides to poke at it and give it a chance. Then they'll decide if they think it's something that fits their genre's and if they think they can make money off of it. Very few publishers care about your "vision", how hard you worked on it, or about "art". If your book only caters to 70% of male pilots over the age of 60, good luck finding a publisher, you're going to need it. Anyway, as I said, most publishers have a waiting period. Usually between 12 to 18 weeks. What it means when the waiting period is up, is that, if you haven't heard from them, it is now acceptable to send them a small reminder that you sent your work in and you haven't heard back. That's it. 

So a lot of waiting, in order to just wait some more. 

That is one of the bigger issues of the route of Trade publishing. A lot of it is the waiting game. Sixteen weeks for a yes/no answer on your work. If you get a no, you get to start over with a different publisher. If you get a yes, you sign their contract and then wait for an editor to go through your work and send it back to you, which can easily take another few months. After that is more months while cover art is created, rejected, approved and added to the file. Even when you have a finished book that's ready to go out, a publisher has to find room in their release schedule to put it, which can take anywhere from a couple months to a year. 

That's a lot of time waiting.  

So what do you do? 

You keep writing. Do some short stories. Start another novel, novelette, or novella. 

That is how you become a writer and an author. You don't just sit back and wait until one work is printed to start another. You write, and you write, and you write. 

Your book can wait. If you want to be successful, you can't. 

~ Shaun

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Liebster Award (A blog-hop game)

The ever-gracious R. Donald James Gauvreau over at The Oak Wheel has named me and my sweet little blog here in his turn of the Liebster Award, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to take it and do my own little blog post on it. (As one is supposed to do.)

The main point of these blog-hop type games is to spread awareness of blogs you think people would enjoy and which are rather under-appreciated. I've been nominated in some of these in the past, and never really got around to them (or felt the need to follow through, really). I actually like this game though, as it's more like an interview than simply, copy, paste, and tag your friends.

The rules of the Liebster Award are simple.

1. Link back to and thank the person that named you.
2. Answer the 11 questions the previous person asked.
3. Nominate and link to other blogs that you feel are unknown and deserve appreciation. (It's supposed to be 11 blogs, but I don't think I even follow that many, and some of the ones I follow aren't exactly unknown.
4. Set out 11 questions for the next people to answer.

So, let's dive in, shall we?

11 Questions.
1. What is something new that you learned about yourself because of your writing?
I would have to say my capacity to learn. I've always known I had the ability to pick things up fairly quickly. Through my writing, I've actually discovered how quick that can be and how quickly I can integrate it into what I do. In my past works, my editors have pointed things out to me, and it really seems like once I've had something pointed out, I don't make that mistake again, even in first drafts.

2. Have you ever been surprised by a change in the direction of your writing in some fashion and, if so, what happened?
 Absolutely, and I love when that happens. When a story takes on a life of it's own and it becomes more a movie the writer is watching and recording as opposed to making, is one of the really magical things about being an author. That happened in my most recent work, what was originally intended to be a minor character ended up having a major influence on the progress of the novel and became a main character in his own right.

3. Do you have any kind of “dream project” that you would work on if only didn’t lack the requisite time, budget, or other resource needed to accomplish it?
I have several, but I think the real "dream project" would have to be an epic fantasy trilogy. I've got a bunch of notes and some character descriptions, but it just isn't really materializing. As much as its own story, I want it to be a homage to the fantasy that inspired and influenced me growing up, which isn't as much Tolkien, but Piers Anthony, the Final Fantasy series, and Anime. So it should be pretty interesting if it ever gets done.

4. Rather than ask which philosopher has influenced you the most— which philosopher’s ideas are most antithetical to your own? Or general philosophy, if there’s not one person in particular whose horribleness rises above the rest.
Er...what? I suppose I have to admit I DID take Philosophy in college. I also did very poorly in that class. I couldn't even tell you what my personal philosophy is.

5. What’s your biggest source of inspiration or influence that is not in your usual genre or style of work?
 Well, as I said above, some of my biggest influences are Japanese Anime and video/role-playing games like Final Fantasy and pen-and-paper RPG's like RIFTS. The idea of people reaching truly inhuman levels of ability just by dint of experience. Trying to translate that kind of visual action to paper and words can be extremely difficult to say the least, so I take great pride in one of my reviews which gave props to my action scenes, even if the rest of the review was more smoldering than glowing.

6. What is your favorite extinct culture in history? (since there’s some ambiguity there but I don’t want to weigh it down with paragraphs of technical detail, interpret as you please)
I would have to say the Aztecs. The obsidian weapons are just cool, and I've always had a soft spot for Quetzalcoatl.

7. What is the weirdest book that you have ever read?
This one's easy. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. The rambling style and the need to turn the book upside-down, sideways and in a mirror easily give it first place in that contest.

8. Where would you like to live more than anywhere else in the world, and why? If you’re already at your dream location you still have to explain how it’s been soaked in awesomesauce. You may be as broad as a continent or as narrow as a particular room in a particular house.
I like where I am quite a bit actually. Nestled up in a corner of the Pacific Northwest. No hurricanes, tornado's, massive wildfires and infrequent earthquakes. I wouldn't mind a little more excitement to be honest, but I can travel if I really want to see them. I'm also perfectly positioned depending on where I feel like being.  A half hour ferry ride to the East and I'm in downtown Seattle. A half-hour drive to the West and I'm on the border of the Olympic National Forest.

9. What book are you reading right now?
Currently on my Kindle is The Ruins by Scott Smith. Easy peasy.

10. This is for after you’ve written your own questions. Choose one of them randomly and answer it yourself.
I'm going to answer my #2 question. Giant Monsters or Viral outbreak. Giant Monsters, all the way. I've ALWAYS been a fan of Dinosaurs and Godzilla and giant robots and all that stuff where it's a one-on-one fight and yet they still manage to destroy an entire city.

11. Fenrir Loki's son’s imprisonment by the Aesir has been controversial, to say the least. Thor, spokesman for the Aesir, claims that this was necessary to secure the safety of many people, not least the All-Father of the Aesir, Odin, and that Fenrir’s violent nature was proven when he bit off Tyr’s hand.

Amnesty International and other sophont rights organizations, however, hold that his imprisonment was carried out on the basis of racial profiling and family relation, and not on any action on his part. They also note that Tyr was a principal participant in Fenrir’s illegal incarceration and that his wounds were received only in the course of these events, which involved no small amount of deception on the part of the Aesir. 
How do you feel about these events? #FreeFenrir
 I think Fenrir's original imprisonment was based on ignorance and fear. In this enlightened age, we recognize and respect the wolf's role in the natural ecosystem and we have ways to protect people from such creatures while still allowing them to live their lives in peace. I believe it is time for Fenrir's incarceration to come to an end and he should be released from his bonds. #FreeFenrir

Whew. Well, that took a little bit. And now, the other blogs I would like to send all you nice readers to. (Assuming you've made it this far.) Author of the excellent horror novel Turner
Easy Reader Notes and stories from Editor-for-hire Lynda Dietz
and...err.....that's pretty much it. :-P Yeah, not quite 11, but I said at the beginning I would probably be skimping here. 

And 11 questions for those two to answer (if they feel like it, of course.) 

1. If you could travel anywhere at all, where would you go for a vacation and why?
2. Giant monsters or viral outbreaks? 
3. Your neighbor is being unruly. What kind of fence do you build?
4. What book or movie is your "guilty pleasure" that people wouldn't believe you like?
5. Do a google search for Ink Blots, post the 3rd picture in the second row and describe what you see.
6. Did you cry when Bambi's mom was shot?
7. What game (Board or Card) do you pull out when the family is over?
8. What is your biggest pet peeve about some of the books you read?
9. What genre do you not work in that you hope to one day?
10. Are you familiar with Sailor Bacon?
11. Fenrir Loki's son’s imprisonment by the Aesir has been controversial, to say the least. Thor, spokesman for the Aesir, claims that this was necessary to secure the safety of many people, not least the All-Father of the Aesir, Odin, and that Fenrir’s violent nature was proven when he bit off Tyr’s hand.

Amnesty International and other sophont rights organizations, however, hold that his imprisonment was carried out on the basis of racial profiling and family relation, and not on any action on his part. They also note that Tyr was a principal participant in Fenrir’s illegal incarceration and that his wounds were received only in the course of these events, which involved no small amount of deception on the part of the Aesir. 

How do you feel about these events? #FreeFenrir

Have fun. 

~ Shaun

Monday, June 16, 2014

Character Arcs

Welcome, welcome, welcome. Please. Come in, have a drink, have a seat; we're going to be going over something very important to writing stories today. That particular topic is, as you may have guessed from this week's title, Character Arcs.

Many of you here today probably are already well aware of what a Character Arc is, but for those of you that don't, aren't sure, or just think I don't know what one is; I'm going to tell you up front anyway.

At it's most basic, a Character Arc is the journey of the main character through a story and how he changes from the first page to the last. There are three main types of arcs though, which I would like to list off before delving much deeper.

First is the Change. In this arc, the main character transforms drastically over the course of the story. Luke Skywalker from the Star Wars franchise is a perfect example of this. When we first meet him, he's just a bumbling kid, thinking about tinkering with his speeder bike with his friends, working and living on a moisture farm. By the end of Episode 6 though, he's a focused, powerful, and mature Jedi Knight, ready to face not only Darth Vader, but the evil emperor as well. (This is also a good example of how a Character Arc can span multiple stories, rather than just all happening in one.)

Then there is personal growth. This means the main character changes, but not drastically. They gain experience, new skills, tools, friends, and all the exterior things, but the things that make them who they are doesn't change throughout the story. As an example, I don't think there is one better than Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series. Throughout the entire story, spanning all the books and movies, he stays true to himself, even if he does stumble a little at times. By the end of the series, he's gained a lot of knowledge and experience, but his essence remains more or less the same as the boy who learned on his 11th birthday that he was a wizard. 

Lastly, we have the Fall, or the tragedy. This is the story that follows the main character in his fall from grace. They start at the top, or even somewhere in between and over the course of the story, lose everything, descending into madness, destitution, or even death. As you can imagine, this occurs in horror stories more often than others. It does pop up though. For a good example, we again turn to the Star Wars saga, specifically the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. (I'm only going through the prequel movies, as I know he does get redeemed at the very end, sorry if that's a spoiler to anyone.) He starts off as a young boy, full of promise and potential, and he does become a Jedi, albeit with an insufferable attitude. Then everything goes wrong, though. (POTENTIAL SPOILERS). He loses almost everything he has, his friends, his family, even his limbs, and he ends up the pawn of a dark power. And while he is manipulated, he makes the choices that brings it all about himself, which is what makes it all a true tragedy. 

So there. Those are the most basic, and the most common Character Arcs you'll find in fiction. I hope I've proved that I do know of these basic storytelling premises. 

But now I'm going to be somewhat controversial.

I don't believe a fully realized Character Arc is required in all stories. 

Particularly if you're going for any kind of realistic characters. Face it, people get into and go through situations all the time. We may not have high adventure and things happening, but we all go through individual stories in our lives all the same. A lot of the time, people don't change or learn an earth-shattering truth; they deal with the situation as best they can and come out the other side little, if at all, changed for the experience.

In stories where it's about being in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time, characters aren't looking to change who they are, they didn't set out on this quest to obtain something (at least at first). The story is about an event, and how characters react to it.  The story isn't about growth, change, or tragedy, it's about seeing how ordinary people react to extraordinary circumstances. Change, growth, and tragedy may happen, but it's not the focus of the story. 

Horror is the perfect genre for stories like that. Take Stephen King's The Shining for example. Little Danny Torrence and his mother are trapped in a horrible situation and are just trying to survive it. Few would argue The Shining is a great book, with some incredible characterizations, and you do see some tragedy with Jack's descent into madness, but that one facet isn't the sole focus of the story. It happens alongside Danny and his mother's (yes, I can't remember her name, sue me.) fight for survival against the demons that haunt the hotel and which drive his father insane. Danny and his mother don't particularly demonstrate any great change or growth, despite making it from beginning to end. 

So next time you're reading, or watching a movie, if it strikes you, try to pick out the arc plotted for the main character. You may even be surprised to find there isn't one. 

~ Shaun

As always, if you disagree and want to discuss, argue, or insult me over my thoughts here, feel free to do so in the comments. :-) 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Easter Eggs

I went and saw X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend. Very good and I highly recommend it, especially if your a comic book/X-Men fan. Of course, you should stay after the credits too.

What does this have to do with Easter eggs?

Well, for those of you who don't know, an Easter Egg in addition to being a colorful spring pastime, is when there's something hidden in a movie, TV show, or even a book, which is an inside joke, or hidden message. In the recent Godzilla movie, for example, when the main character and his father return to their house after 15 years, the camera pans past a terrarium which has a piece of tape on it with the name Mothra.

Now, Mothra is the other famous monster from Japan, who fought alongside and against Godzilla in easily a dozen movies. He's never shown, or even mentioned in the new version outside of that quick camera shot, but it's just a little nod to the monsters of the past and something to give fans of the older movies an extra smile.

You see a lot of these in movies, and some on television. Finding them in books is much rarer, though there are some authors who slip things in. The thing is, many people probably would never even consider such a thing in books.

The thing when it comes to Easter Eggs in books is that they have to be done just right. Slipped under the nose without being too obvious, at least for the first read through. After all, if a reader is happily skimming along through the story and sees a particular name pop out at them, it pulls them out of the story and interrupts their reading. One or two of those might be okay, but too many and the book becomes harder to read.

The best ones are the ones that slip by unnoticed, and are only discovered when pointed out or on multiple read-through's.

Such is the case with three little snippets I slipped into Class 5. In order, but without giving them away completely, there is...

A name from the British TV series Red Dwarf.

A line from the movie Evolution.

And a name from the Anime series Full Metal Alchemist.

So if you have a copy of Class 5 and you're familiar with any of those, feel free to go back, re-read, and see if you can find them. ;-) 

If you know of other books with Easter Eggs, feel free to share them in the comments section as well. 

Thanks, and cheers!

~ Shaun