Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This Blog Is Moving!

Hey there reader!

I'm moving this blog over to my super-fancy new domain:

See you over there!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review - DragonBall Z: Battle of Gods

Let me preface this review by saying that I am a fan of DragonBall Z since 2000 when my family first got cable. Even before then, I would catch this show on VHS tapes at sleepovers and even when I went to stay with relatives, I watched episodes of this epic anime series and was swept up by all the mythology and expanse of Akria Toriyama's world. Needless to say, I have plenty of DBZ merchandise in my apartment to keep me company and I'm still trying to collect all the manga to read it in its entirety.

This review is for the fans like me. If you haven't watched the show before and are thinking of seeing this film, it's not a great place to start. This film hits the ground running and doesn't stop until the last shot after the end credits.

I don't want to spoil anything for those who want to see the film, but here is a short summary of the premise. The film opens with our two new villains, Beerus and Whis, two gods who are destroyers of worlds. They are tongue in cheek like so many of Toriyama's greatest villains (Freeza and Buu come to mind) and they set a course for Earth where they hope to find the prophesized Saiyan god to challenge to a fight. Beerus has been sleeping for fifteen years. This course leads them to Bulma's birthday party which hosts all of the Saiyans in existence including Vegeta (one of my all-time favorite characters), Trunks, Goten, Gohan, and eventually Goku who arrives just in time to help out.

I loved this film. After a decade hiatus, seeing all these characters together was like coming to a family reunion - the type that you actually want to be at. The plethora of characters that were present had me giddy in my seat along with the many other people who were in the cinema with me. These characters are old friends to us, and we were pleased to see them alive and well. And what a fun celebration this is!

Toriyama is well known for his humor and Battle of Gods had plenty. This film is a sort of comedy-of-errors tale, complete with mistaken identities, forgotten acquaintances (who try to steal the dragon balls), and many revelations.

Toriyama admitted that he produced and co-wrote this movie as a stab at Hollywood for making the horrendous Dragonball: Evolution. I am so pleased that he did because this wiped all the bad taste from my mouth at that the live-action disaster had placed there. This film was full of everything that made DBZ one of my favorites, and I didn't mind all the fan-service because fan-service is the main reason this film was made.

The animation this time around is incredibly crisp and smooth. I was also impressed by the addition of many special effects during the fight scenes that weren't possible when the show aired on television in the early 2000's (1990's for Japan). All the energy blasts sparkle with detail and I was shocked at some of the destruction in a way that I wasn't when the show was on my small television set. But, then again, this film was designed to be shown on the silver screen, and boy was it impressive. It also benefited from the surround sound which made everything audibly immersive.

Now, to the characters. I was thrilled that the talented Sean Shemmel returned to voice Goku as only he could do. Chrisopher Sabbat also returned to voice Vegeta. These characters are my favorite anime characters of all time, and to see and hear them back together brought an authenticity to the film that would have been lost otherwise. Many of the other characters returned with their original voice talent, though even the replacements were a close match. The acting was superb, and you could tell that these actors were able to slip into the Z fighters as if no time had passed.

As far as the actual characters themselves, I was incredibly moved by Vegeta in this film. He has always been the Han Solo of the DBZ universe, which means that he's a stubborn Saiyan, but he also has a heart that he hates to wear on his sleeve. At one point, the mid-point of the film, Vegeta is provoked to fight for his family with not only his strength, but a sacrifice in his integrity, which spoke volumes for the father of Trunks. I'd see the movie just for these moments, and there are a lot of them.

But, it's Goku who shines as he does in all of the DBZ stories, and it's up to him to save the planet from total destruction - though it doesn't end in a way that I expected.

This is one of the most satisfying experiences I've had at the cinema in 2014. I'm a sucker for nostalgia, and it helps when that nostalgia is justified. Battle of Gods rekindled my love of DragonBall Z and proved to me that being rewarded as a fan by the original creator of a work that you loved is one of the greatest gifts that any storyteller can bestow upon their audience. If you don't get a chance to see this in cinemas (I believe the 9th of August is the last time it will be shown) then be sure to get it on BluRay.

Will this lead to more Z stories in the future? I'm not sure, but if the words on my fellow patrons' lips were any indication as we exited the theater, there is still a hunger for this world and these characters. For now, I'll enjoy the show on DVD as I rewatch from the beginning and reread (or in many cases, read for the first time) the adventures of Goku, Vegeta, Krillin and Piccolo as they defend our planet and their families from the forces that threaten to destroy them.

The one great thing that this film showed me is that you can always count on Goku. He's inherently good at heart, and that's something that we should all strive to be. Thank-you Toriyama for your sense of humor and your love for your audience.

The LEGOs Are Coming!

This post is music to my ears, and I gasped out loud when I read it.

Warner Bros. Pictures has announced that not only are they doing a sequel to the fantastic The Lego Movie, but they are reserving two other dates for two more Lego-themed films!

I love Legos. I have more than any person should, and I even have the sets that I built as a child back in 2001 for the original Lego Harry Potter line - admittedly, they are all mixed up, but I'm in the long process of finding all the pieces. I've got through "The Final Challenge", which was the first ever set that I built for Harry Potter, and I'm working on "Snape's Class". Yes, I am a nerd.

Lego is a brand that I have always loved. I was so pleased that their first movie was a fun and fast-paced animated feature that paid homage to a ton of their past themes and reinforced parents bonding with their kids. That's a message that I think is at the heart of Lego as a brand, and I support them fully in their film projects in the future.

Now, to find those new Star Wars sets at my local Target...

Read more about the movie developments at!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why A Netflix For Books Is WRONG

There has been a lot of talk in both the real world and the internet realms about a supposed "Netflix For Books". I'd like to add my two cents to that idea and explain why I think the entire enterprise is completely wrong.

Netflix is known as the little DVD distribution company that expanded into a streaming service almost exclusively a few years back. I remember being signed up for their disc option before the streaming plan was even in existence. Basically (for those of you who have been living under a rock) people pay a monthly subscription fee to gain access to as many of Netflix's streaming titles as they can stream within thirty days. You have access to two devices at a time so that your account can be used by more than one member of your family and enjoy two programs at the same time.

I will admit that this subscription was one of the best investments I made back in the day. In the beginning, Netflix solved my problem of constantly buying seasons of television programs and movies while running out of shelf space. I could watch a season of television and then forget about the physical product because there wasn't one. It was all about the experience and completely economical for a college student like me.

Looking now to the world of books - many people have been saying that libraries are, and have been, the Netflix for books - which is wrong. See the article by Kelly Jensen at BookRiot for the complete rundown. With that argument blasted out of the water, readers and the media are now turning to Amazon's new KindleUnlimited service and asking if this will be the mythical Netflix for books.

I highly doubt it.

Here's why.

When you, a reader, are searching for a book at a library, you know that you do not own any of the materials that you are borrowing. You are doing simply that: borrowing something for free. There is no risk because you are not paying money for a product, and if you are, it is because you are using a library that is not in your town (which I have done) and the fee is generally very small, splitting the one-time yearly fee into roughly $1.50 per month.

Your brain is already predisposed to the concept that you are borrowing these books, typically physical books for the most part, and have them for a week or two weeks at a time. This is fundamentally different from the Netflix model where you are able to select any single title from thousands of titles at any hour of the day. With the library, you are going into a physical building and planning ahead that the title you are taking home will be yours to read for the following week - not just at that very moment to be discarded in an hour or two for something else.

Books are long-term investments for your mind. They take time to devour, sometimes forty hours for a single title - or more (here's looking at you, Stephen King's It!). You don't simply flit from book to book, sampling bits and pieces as you please when you leave the library. That just isn't possible.

Looking at the idea of a subscription service for books as a purely mental experience, it isn't very realistic that you would need to pay to sample a bunch of eBooks or audio books as KindleUnlimited advertises you will be able to do. Already within, you are able to read the first ten percent of any eBook available via Kindle. You are also able to listen to three-to-five minutes of any audio book available through - without paying a dime. Browsing is free, even with you are looking to spend real money on a product.

What about the ability to consume books and audio books each month? Personally, having a time limit severely dampens my ability to focus on a work and enjoy it as I normally would if I owned the book or eBook. Readers with two jobs like myself are only capable of reading maybe three to four books per month if they commute an hour to work and listen to audio books during that time or ride a subway or other form of public transportation. Is it worth it for the $8.99 or so fee in that case? Perhaps. An audio book is generally much more expensive, averaging $25-$45 dollars (here's looking at you, JK Rowling and George RR Martin!).

But, when it comes to books, let me steer you to the key ingredient of the reading experience that most of these articles are leaving out, and that is ownership.

A book is not just a product to be thrown away once you are finished with it. A book is something to own, something to add to your own collection. If this weren't such an integral part of the process when it comes to books, why are so many people clinging to physical books that are threatening to overgrow their personal libraries?

A book, be it an eBook or a paper book, is something that you add to your shelf if you enjoy it. True, I have not loved every book that I purchased in the past, and this led me to get rid of a fair amount of titles in exchange for store credit at BullMoose. But, the ones that I loved - I added those to my collection. Books are a collector's item. Even on my Kindle, I have great joy in knowing that I own the complete Harry Potter series and can read them any time I please without restraint. I also own the complete physical library of JRR Tolkien - among my most prized possessions. They are just beautiful volumes that I had to own.

If I borrowed these items through a subscription program, I would have to return them. Furthermore, I would have to pay the fee once my month was up in order to enjoy them again. This is part of the process of reading that negatively affects my experience. I don't want to return the items that I love. I want to own them.

As far as Netflix is concerned, the media that is being offered up by them is cold media. That is, media that takes very little mental involvement to enjoy. Have I been tempted to purchase the television shows that I watched on Netflix in order to add them to my personal collection? Personally, no. That medium is not one that I am devoted to rewatching over and over again, except in very rare cases (LOST, Smallville, and certain anime series).

Have I been tempted to buy books that I loved from the library after I read them? Absolutely. My reasoning for this is that books are something that can be read over and over and new discoveries can be made upon second readings. True, watching an episode of LOST a second or third time may yield discoveries that I hadn't picked up the first time, but reading a book a second time is an entirely rewarding and mentally stimulating experience. Books can be referenced over and over and not lose their relevance. Why would Dickens be collected on shelves today if not for the timelessness of his work?

Books can be analyzed, and the rewards are great. Books are food for thought. Books are not meant to be read and thrown away. Furthermore, KindleUnlimited and other various subscription services have access to only a limited number of titles, narrowing down your selection as a reader. This is the same as Netflix having a constant rollover of titles, which is frustrating to me when a title I have in my queue suddenly expires because of a licensing expiration. A subscription service is not the ideal way to discover new literature.

As someone who took five years worth of Honors Writing and Literature Courses, I can tell you that the words in a book are worth more than any television program or movie that I have watched. Even when a movie was exceptionally moving to me, I have to go back and realize that the movie in question started out as words on a page - a screenplay, a book of scenes for the filmmakers to visualize on screen. Without these words, we would have no voice in the future - nothing to leave behind for future generations.

Will future generations still collect Dickens on their shelves, or Rowling, or JRR Tolkien? I believe so. When the choice to get rid of a book or some other piece of property came up in my move to the big city, I always chose to keep the book over the other property because of the mental and emotional connection I have with the book. Will people in the future hesitate on whether or not to keep their DVD volume of Keeping Up With The Kardashians or some other piece of property?

I highly doubt it.

Books are meant to be owned for a lifetime. This is why a Netflix for books is entirely wrong.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finding Your Inspiration

Most of the time when people ask authors - and even me, a newbie - where they get their ideas and inspiration, the answers are always stock phrases, like, "I go for a walk and the ideas just come to me," or, "I don't know. They're floating out in the ether until they end up in my head."

These answers aren't very helpful to budding authors who generally view the process of storytelling as some mythological, magical experience. (However, the tip about walking is great to help the writing brain!)

So, I thought I would write about what inspires me to write the often eccentric, undead-filled stories that I've been publishing as of late. Keep in mind that everyone is inspired in different ways, so some of these techniques may work for you, and the ones that don't can just be discarded.

The first step for me becoming inspired is to see or read a story that resonates with me deeply. What makes me hooked on something? Currently I am hooked on horror. To take that a step further, I am hooked and fascinated by supernatural horror.

What fascinates me about that particular genre?

I now go through and mentally come up with reasons for my addiction to the genre.

  • I'm interested in the unknown and what happens to people when they refuse to pass on after death.
  • I'm interested in the struggles of a family dealing with an entity that they cannot see.
  • I'm interested in the process of figuring out how to battle an invisible foe - if they can be battled at all.
  • What do you do when your house is no longer your home?
  • Where do these ghosts come from?
  • What is the history of an old home? How many life stories has it been witness to?
The list can go on for a while, but it's great to get those hooks into the front of my creative brain because those are exactly the hooks that I'm going to be using in my piece of fiction. Hopefully these hooks will also captivate a new reader.

What's also exciting about the horror genre is that I am free to create anything that I want. What terrifies me? As I said, I am afraid of the unknown. This allows me to write plots where unexpected and often times unexplainable phenomena will happen to my characters and they will react in ways that are human and realistic. When they were just coming to terms with their everyday problems, a supernatural problem will take the cake in their lives. This can be a zombie infestation, a rogue virus, or even a home invasion haunting.

Next in my journey of inspiration I will look for research and odd bits of information to fuel my imagination. Typically I will follow a thread on Wikipedia and follow the links deeper and deeper until I find something I've never read or heard of before. This is great practice because it will give you a well of information and anecdotes to sprinkle through your story. It also helps to read about real events that have happened to real people in order to ground your story somewhat in the real world. Even horror needs to be grounded for the audience to extend their disbelief, otherwise it becomes a farce.

Then from there I craft characters and their backstories and come up with the beginning of my plot outline.

This exercise is so rewarding. I highly recommend any new writers give it a shot and see how much more enriched their imagineering time becomes - and how quickly their notebook fills up with bits of information that can sometimes be too crazy to be real. But, you know the old saying that truth is stranger than fiction.

It's definitely spot on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Port Plague Is Now Available!

After a few months of hard work, my newest entry in the Can You Survive? series is now available on Kindle!

With plenty of new ways to meet your doom, be sure to check out Port Plague on Kindle. As with the first book, this one is also the low price of $0.99, which is cheaper than Starbucks.

If you're looking for a great beach read, or are camping (which I just was) then try this book out and see how far you can get before you run into a dead end.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

At The Publisher...

Port Plague is at the publisher - Amazon KDP - at the moment. I will also be publishing a Kobo edition later on, as well as a paperback edition. If you liked the first Can You Survive? book, stay tuned for info on how you can enter to win a paperback edition of Port Plague in the coming weeks. It should be pretty exciting.

Now I wait in anticipation as this newest volume is let loose on the world. I think I like it better than The Zombie Apocalypse! But, how can you choose favorites between your own children? ;)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Port Plague Synopsis Reveal!

Some of you have been waiting to see what the new Can You Survive book will be about, and today is your lucky day. Here is the official reveal of the synopsis for Port Plague:

Are you tough enough to survive the port plague?

The book you are holding in your hands is all about you. As you click to the first page, you will find that you are the central character and the choices that you make will alter the path of the story dramatically. It’s spring break, and you are doing what every college student has always dreamed of doing: going on a cruise! The Megantic is everything you hoped it would be. There are casinos to lose money in, laser tag arenas to challenge your friends in, and even…mysterious viruses you can catch?

In the blink of an eye, your cruise goes from paradise to a disaster. Are you smart enough to avoid contamination? Or will you be taken down by the invisible virus - or worse, be attacked by those who are infected?

Beware! Under no circumstances are you to read this book in order!

At the bottom of each section you will find a set of choices. Click on the hyperlink you desire and the book will take you to the next section of your journey. For those who like to keep track of their choices, they have been labeled with page numbers to aid you in your meticulous note keeping.

Are you ready?

One last note: This book is filled with many ways to die. If you are afraid of being lost at sea, drowning, and yes, zombies, you may want to read something else. Some of the sights you see may terrifying.

Still on board?


With all that said, good luck. Don't say I didn't warn you.

*  *  *

Progress on adding all the pages and hyperlinks is still ongoing this week, but I should have a publication date announced soon.

Also, if you have read the first Can You Survive book, The Zombie Apocalypse, stay tuned to find out how you can win a copy of the second book. I'm mulling over a sweepstakes for a copy of Port Plague, but I haven't ironed out all the details yet. Lots of exciting things to come!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Port Plague Is Complete!

I am excited to announce that Book 2 in my Can You Survive series is complete! Port Plague is completely written and I am very pleased with all the plot threads to choose from. This week will be devoted to typing all the lingering handwritten pages and adding the hyperlinks. Once I have fixed all the formatting, this one should be ready to release upon the world. Stay tuned for more exciting updates this week, including the publication date!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why I Love My Kindle Paperwhite

I'll start off by admitting that I bought my Kindle Paperwhite on a whim - which is how I make most of my purchases that do not involve food or financial obligations. I already owned the first generation Kindle Fire which displayed my eBooks beautifully, but the glossy screen and LED display were taking a toll on my eyes.

I already work a job where I am looking at a computer screen all day, and then I switch over to a computer screen to type in the evenings (been trying to handwrite things lately to give my eyes a break). So, when I saw that the Paperwhite used a traditional illuminated Kindle screen, I was thrilled.

The only thing that didn't thrill me was navigating my book collection, both while looking for what I wanted to read, and also while reading a volume.

Not any more!

Imagine my surprise when my Paperwhite was automatically updated with the latest software before I even booted it up this past weekend. Not only can I connect my Goodreads account to my Kindle (which I love, by the way) but, I can also see page numbers on all of my books I'm reading and easily navigate multiple bookmarks without fear of losing my current place. Who doesn't like to skip ahead just to see what is coming up? Now I can do that and go back to my place without all the hassle.

The Paperwhite is visually appealing, and I've found myself reading on it more and more. Nothing can replace the feeling of flipping the pages of a book, but now with my revamped Paperwhite, I feel like the digital reading experience has come closer to what I always imagined it could be.

Now, to try out the many fantasy novels I've recently downloaded for my eventual vacation reading...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway Is Over!

If you are one of the many people who entered my Goodreads giveaway, thank-you very much for your interest in The Zombie Apocalypse. This was my first promotional giveaway for a book in print, and it was a lot of fun - though nerve-racking as well!

Congratulations to the three winners! I have dropped your copies of the book in the mail and you should be getting them soon.

If you didn't win and you're still interested in reading the book, you can get it for the incredibly low price of $0.99 on the Kindle Store here. That's cheaper than a cup of coffee!

And for those who enjoyed the first book and are wondering how the next one is coming, I made great progress last night. There are some fun outcomes. It should be done soon, but I'm not giving it a set date yet. Chugging away!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Zombie Apocalypse Giveaway Entries Close Tomorrow!

Have you entered to win an autographed paperback edition of The Zombie Apocalypse? If you haven't, time is running out!

I just finished autographing the three copies of the first Can You Survive? book that are being given away. They look nice! Hurry up and enter to win on Goodreads by clicking here!

Check out the pictures of one of the autographed beauties below. I know, I know. I have the autograph of a doctor. But, no matter how hard I try, it always stays the same.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nothing Smells Like A Book...

...except a book.

For all the arguing over print versus digital, I still find myself overjoyed when I find a bargain bin paperback and take in that paper-and-glue aroma when I turn the pages. For some reason, fantasy always goes hand in hand with heavily worn paperback books in my experience. I love it!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Sneak Peek At The Port Plague Cover!

Since I hit the 75% mark on my handwritten progress on the new "Can You Survive" book last night, I thought I'd upload a surprise preview of the cover. Hope you all like it! I'm nearly finished with the main "good" ending, and everything else should fall into place after that's squared away. Happy Friday!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Can You Survive Book Two?

Or should I say, can I survive book two of the Can You Survive series?

I'm hard at work on a second "Choose Your Own Ending" book for adults and this time it's a much crazier scenario than The Zombie Apocalypse. I don't want to say too much about it yet, but let's just say that your escape options are limited this time around and there will be more chances for interaction with a bunch of secondary characters.

Writing one of these type of books has been very challenging in a creative sense and in an organizational way as well. I might try to document my strategy and write some posts about it if anyone's interested.

Until then, look for more updates coming soon! There may be a synopsis reveal in the near future...

Photo Credit:
Ben Earwicker
Garrison Photography, Boise, ID

Friday, May 23, 2014

3 Things I've Learned About CreateSpace Paperbacks

I recently put the finishing touches on my physical edition of The Zombie Apocalypse using CreateSpace and I've come away a little wiser than my first outing in November of 2013. A lot has changed, and I think there are some things that anyone going the physical route with their novel or book should know before diving in.

Are you ready? Here we go.

  • Choose matte over gloss cover finish.

Since the entire reason you're designing a physical printed book is to have something you can hold in your hands, you want that book to feel as professional and elegant as possible. No joke - I bought the 15th Anniversary Edition of the Harry Potter series in paperback because of the new cover art and the matted finish. They just feel wonderful to hold.

You want your reader to have the same reaction when they hold your own literary baby. You want them to show off your book to others and have them reaching for it the same way they do for someone's infant. It needs to be irresistible.

  • Choose cream paper over white.

Again, you're creating a physical printed book because someone wants to hold it in their hands (even if it's just your mom!) and the cream paper is thicker and therefore sturdier than the white paper. Especially for my game book where the reader will be constantly flipping the pages back and forth, I wanted something sturdy. This type of paper was just the ticket. (I also remember the guys over at the Self Publishing Podcast saying that they always go with cream paper instead of white after their own experiences.)

  • Lastly, don't choose the default size dimensions.

I went with the suggested book dimensions my first go-round with CreateSpace when I designed Macyntire & Hough. Although the book looks nice, it is pretty bulky to hold. I used the 9x6in size for that book and it felt strange, like it was a little too big to carry around comfortably.

I became enlightened when I walked into my local Bullmoose store and saw Morgan Rice's A Quest of Heroes sitting on the shelf - and it looked so good I had to pick it up. Compared to the bulky oversized paperbacks that I saw, this one was smaller and more appealing. The dimensions were 5x8in and it was a pleasure to hold. And so, I went with that trim size. Making it a little bit smaller complemented the cover finish and the paper weight. It just felt like it was better quality.

So there you have it. Those are the three things I've learned on my second printed book. Doing all this stuff yourself is hard work - but when you have a real copy to hand to someone technologically challenged, it makes it all worth it!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Diving Into Your Imagination

Well, it's been quite a while since I've posted on my blog, and I promise you that the reason is mainly because I have been very busy working on writing and reading!

What's interesting to me is the reading part since when, as a writer, you consider sitting down to spend an hour or two reading, it seems to be counter-intuitive. Why should I waste an hour reading for pleasure when I should be creating content? Do more work, damn it!

That is what my brain has been telling me. And it's basically screwed with my imagination for the better part of a week. Writer's block is basically the fear that you have run out of ideas. Essentially with my brain telling me to constantly produce, produce, produce, I was backing myself into a corner, afraid that I had run out of ideas.

This is not the truth. If you are struggling with this, don't let your brain do this to you! Our realistic and pessimistic side loves to tell us that we only finished that first book because we were lucky. I'm here to say that it wasn't because I was lucky - it was because I was inspired and my creative juices were flowing. When I was stuck a few weeks back, it was because my creative juices were too terrified to flow, and a drought was happening.

To continue to write inspired fiction or any type of writing, we need to feed our imaginations. This includes reading for pleasure and, in my case, forcing myself to enjoy reading for pleasure again.

And, wouldn't you know it - reading for pleasure also forced me to do something else that I haven't done in a long time, and something that is essential to being inspired - I read some books and authors that I've never heard of! It was so exciting! After being transported to some new fictional vistas, I wondered why I was so scared to create more of my own in the first place.

Then I sat down and started to write.

It feels good.

If you're checking out the blog, you will see that I've posted a widget to enter into my Goodreads giveaway for an autographed paperback edition of my latest book, (Can You Survive) The Zombie Apocalypse. It will be open for entries for a month, but if you don't want to wait that long, you can pick up a copy here. The Kindle version is available for the low price of $0.99 so that you can use that extra penny for something else!

In short, summer weather is here, and that means time to read, explore, and above all, write.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Horror & Comedy: Best Of Friends

What is it about horror that makes it such a great match for comedy?

I noticed this when I went to a haunted attraction last October, and now periodically as I experience new horror films and writing. When we are scared, there are two reactions: to scream, and to laugh.

You would think that these two reactions are so opposite that they can't possibly work together, but when you analyze what is happening while experiencing something horrifying or terrifying, it makes sense. For a jump scare, I know that it's coming usually. If I don't, then it still works the same. Something jumps out and causes me to react physically and audibly - usually jumping myself and then crying out. But, then the come-down part of that reaction takes place and I laugh at myself for being tricked into reacting in such a scaredy-cat way and also at the realization that I am safe from harm.

It's a great thing to understand when writing horror of any kind. Even though some variations of the genre have taken the comedy aspect too far into camp, I believe it is essential to have moments for your characters to both scream and laugh because without the humor, the horror becomes too dreadful. It's a good idea to have a nice balance between the two.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Give It Everything You've Got!

I've just reached another milestone in my writing journey and finished a new genre book, which I've been meaning to do for a long time: horror. It's a genre I love so much and at last I have my first horror book out there. It's also a humor book since it takes after the classic "Choose Your Own Adventure" series.

Don't be fooled by the simplistic idea of a "game" book. It stretched my creative muscles more than my first novel effort. This led me to the realization that writing is a tiresome task when you finish. Mentally it is the equivalent of running a marathon. I was exhausted when I finished uploading my Kindle file to the website, and I hadn't physically done anything other than type!

If I am going to continue to write, I believe this is a sign that the task is important to me. I will be drained by the end of it, but that also means I have given the story everything I have. That's what counts to me. Hopefully that means it's a fun and engaging read for the audience.

Now, to recharge and start something new!

The Zombie Apocalypse is available now if you are interested in fleeing the undead!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Self-Publishing Tricks

Okay, the title of this blog is a little misleading if you are one of those people who are looking for me to tell you some super-secret tricks that you can use to instantly boost your books (or novellas, or what have you) to the top of the Amazon Kindle charts. I will tell you one trick that I've learned, but it's only one, and you really don't have much control over the outcome.

The trick is this: To have a book or story or product that people are looking for in the right place at the right time.

It's not marketing that has worked for me. I'll explain my reasons for this "failure" in a moment. But first let me tell you the experiment that I have been doing for the past two months.

I am a noob to self publishing. I've been a writer since I could hold a pen, and even begged for a typewriter one year (which I still have tucked away for inspiration). I published my first book, Macyntire & Hough, last September to a modest amount of fanfare for me. Mostly people I knew read the book, and I admit that it wasn't a genre that I typically write, though I have read a bunch of paranormal romances and thought they would be fun to write. The big problem is basically that I am a man with a  book geared towards women. Despite my bio, my Twitter and Facebook, and everything else that I did by-the-book, Macyntire & Hough is lucky if it sells one copy a month - and that is mainly because I dropped the price from $2.99 to $0.99 this past month. There is a sequel that I am nearly finished, but that is not the experiment that I am talking about.

I decided to take a dare, related to something that I was meaning to try for fun anyway, and that was to write a genre that I could never publish under my own name and see what happens. I won't reveal the pen name or story that I wrote just because, but I will say that it was something funny to write and definitely stretched my imagination a bit. This book was short because it was just a test, and I finished the entire eBook in a week, including the hastiest cover I've ever created. For this book, I created a female pen name and decided that whatever happened would happen, and then I could move on with my life once my curiosity was squashed.

Well, I have to say that I am surprised by the results. The numbers I have to share are hardly groundbreaking, but for a young man struggling to find the time to write - let alone market - his work, seeing this experiment yield such great results really lit a fire within my creative mind. I only told one person about the book, and they acted as my proofreader. I gave them a copy for free because it was a fun keepsake for a few hours of laughter. However, even without advertising or a great cover, this book in this particular genre sold copies. Compared to the one copy of my novel that I sold in January, I sold nine copies of my tiny pen name work. I quickly penned a second book under the pen name, and surprise - that one started selling too.

The failure of my marketing for my novel was that it was a hard concept to sell (surprising when it comes to paranormal romances!) and my gender is not exactly inviting for the women who read that genre. I would be more successful writing horror or a more manly genre, which I intend to do for my own author name. But, it didn't matter what I threw out there as marketing for my novel because it wasn't something that people were actively searching for, and whatever it sells from here on out, I'm fine with that.

I am still conducting more tests with this experiment - specifically, I am attempting to write some longer works compared to my first attempts, but my point is this: The only trick to selling eBooks is to have a product that someone is looking for, for the right price, and at the right place at the right time. Who would have thought that people in other countries would see these tiny books and give them a shot? I'm hoping that they will try my newest attempts when they are finished (which will be soon, if I can keep up my energy and find the quiet time to write). There really are no guarantees that your work will sell, but every person who sets eyes on my work and deems it worthy to throw down a dollar to own gives me a new drive to stretch my idea of what writing truly is.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Harnessing Nostalgia

This is more of a personal post than anything specifically about publishing or writing, but I have been going through phases lately where I will see something from my past, usually related to media and books and toys that I had, still have, or always wanted, and will pursue these items online as a sort of obsession. I've only purchased maybe one or two of these items, such as Lego characters and old books, but the whole idea of chasing nostalgia is something that I can't get out of my head. We experience this sort of look-back often, most commonly in the form of our music. All it takes is one song to play unexpectedly on the radio and we are transported mentally back however many years to a place and time that connects with that song on an emotional level. For me, that time period is generally the '90s, and I loved every single one of them!

As I continue to run into all the many different forms of nostalgia in my daily and weekly life, I am attempting to connect these feelings of joy and respect to my latest writing work. (See? I knew I couldn't get away with writing a blog post without tying it to my latest project!)

For anyone interested, I was dared to write a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style book where the reader is the main character and they must choose their path based on different decisions they are presented with on certain pages. This sort of book is still on my shelf in my library, and I remember fondly the Goosebumps versions were so popular that one of them is cracked entirely in half and some pages had to be taped back inside! The nostalgia here is obvious - I used to love these books. Sadly, there aren't really any modern equivalents of these books that I can see. So, it makes sense that I could create my own - not using their copy-written name, but inventing my own. So, that's what I've been working on.

Essentially, I was prompted to make a story for a more adult audience and went with a story relating to zombies. I'll talk about that more as the book nears completion. What was really interesting to me was the amount of imagination that writing one of these books takes. You don't just simply sit down and start writing whatever you want. You can do that, but it will be very hard to complete! In order to write one of these books, you need to keep track of all the different story threads that the readers can go down, and you need to have a cliffhanger at the end of each page that leads into another cliffhanger. This is very demanding creatively, and my imagination has had plenty of exercise these past two weeks as I toil away on this book!

I guess what I'm getting at is this: If I hadn't been chasing my nostalgia, this book might never have started its journey into reality. If you are obsessing over something that you love, try to bring it into your work. The love that you have for the story or genre, whatever, will fuel a passion inside your own creativity and provide it with fuel to hopefully create something that someone else will love. Great art inspires new art, after all.

More on the zombie book to come!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Go, Speed Racer!

Lately I have been pondering a sense of urgency that I have been experiencing in the front and back of my mind. I have a full time job, a secondary job, family obligations, and still I feel like I am not moving fast enough when it comes to my writing. Mostly this happens because I am eager to have my digital shelf stocked with tales I have written and deemed publishable, but right now I am stuck mentally because the act of writing a book is not easy, and it definitely is not fast when it's not a full time job.

So, what am I doing?

Mostly my solution for now is to put aside a few of the massive novel ideas and practice some shorter pieces, or alternative pieces. One of these is a hopefully fun book that will appeal to readers looking for a change and a bit of nostalgia. Basically, I am trying to jump start my creativity when I don't have a ton of time for it, and so far it seems to be working. It definitely has kept my brain thinking when I'm not in front of the keyboard, so that's something, right?


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Positivity Is A Choice

Now that the rush of the holidays is over (and far behind me) and I have successfully began the new year - the gloriously freezing 2014! - I have come to a realization. There is an awful lot of negativity floating around in various areas, especially when it comes to writing and independently publishing. Reading too much about how impossible the odds are that anyone will want to read your work is always a disheartening activity, and I found myself getting down as I watched numbers and felt crushed under the weight of producing another manuscript. (Keep in mind that most of us are doing this on our free time, and the constant advice to produce! produce! produce! is not always realistic or helpful.) What am I to do when all the signs say that writing and publishing is a meaningless task?

I say remain positive. If you believe in yourself and your writing, the readers will follow. Mine have been a slow trickle, but I only have one full-length novel out, and I am generally getting more eyes on my how-to book than my fiction. Perhaps as I strive to change up genres a bit I will attract more eyes on other things. Positivity is not something that just comes naturally. It is something that we must work at and practice, even when the odds seem to be against us. Besides, even if it doesn't seem to help right away, it is something that we can control, and it will hopefully give us the courage to continue sitting at that chair and pounding away at our keyboards! Who's with me?

(Cue crickets)