Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Connecting with your fans.

I have to give credit to Sarah Allen for the idea to do this blog post.  Originally I intended to today's blog to be brief as I am almost finished with the first draft of Guardian.  I have about 5k words left to go by wrapping up the final chapter and epilogue.  So if I disappear from the blog world for a week, it will be from being out of town editing.

So lets talk about connecting with your fans for a minute.  I have not made it a secret that I am a gamer.  I play World of Warcraft, I watch the GSL and decades of pen and paper games have influenced my taste in books and movies.  This last weekend was Blizzcon.  I watched the convention online and it was awesome on a whole new level.  Attending Blizzcon is now one of my goals.  As cool as the announcement of the new World of Warcraft expansion was, or what changes Heart of the Swarm for Starcraft 2 is bringing and even better than Diablo 3.  None of these were as epic as the October GSL finals held at the end of the first day.  HOLY CRAP!

First off Blizzard is an anomaly in the video game world.  Every game they have made is pure gold and they are making bank from it.  They are not the gold standard, they are far past that, the Hope Diamond standard in the industry.  One of the main reasons for this is their connection with their fans.  I have been to CES in Vegas.  The hacker con DefCon for 6 years and seen the Star Trek conventions and others.  What I saw that Friday night was pure insanity.

The GSL or Global Starcraft 2 League is based out of South Korea.  Starcraft has been their national sport for more than a decade.  These kids play for prizes of up to $85,000 for first place each month.  I can hear some of the snickering stop after that.  Yes, some punk kid in Korea just won more money than you make in a year or two years from a single video game tournament.  Blizzcon this year was the first time that the GSL finals were played outside of Korea.  This is big, huge, and insane.  What if the Superbowl was played in Ireland this year?  And what if, more people from Ireland went to watch the Superbowl than any other Superbowl in history.  You will have to watch it, there is just no other way to describe it.

Back on topic, Blizzard has gone out of their way to connect with their fans.  As authors we try to spread the word about our books.  Most of us use social media like Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.  Its simple numbers as these mediums allow us to reach the most people possible with the smallest and cheapest efforts.  The downside to this is that even though you can interact with your fans, it's distant, and impersonal.  It becomes like a TV commercial.  I am not suggesting that we abandon these, but you need to connect with your fans.  I have seen comments of mine deleted from peoples blogs.  Other blogs only allow comments after their approval.  This really bugs me and I have stopped following blogs and forums because of it.  It's hard to explain why, but as my own career  moves forward, my time becomes more valuable and scarce and I have no choice but to spend it where I feel welcome and appreciated.

So with that, I encourage you to watch the GSL October finals, even if it's only the first ten minutes when they introduce the players, or the last ten minutes when John the Translator almost breaks down and cries because of the crowd reactions.  This is connecting with your fans.  What have you done to connect with your fans?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Ordinary vs the Extraordinary

First I would like to make a trio of announcements.  First, the local news paper did a small write up about Requiem.  It can be found by clicking HERE.  Second, Rachna from Rachna's Scriptorium posted a blog interview.  What I like about this interview is that it isn't just a interview to plug my book.  She asked some very specific questions regarding marketing, plotting, and the writing process.  Finally if you can see a glimpse of Guardian.

Today I want to talk a little bit about the Ordinary World vs the Extraordinary World.  I am going to shorten these terms to OW and EW.  There are countless examples of using the OW and the EW.  Most established writers know this, and probably don't have to think about them too much.  For example, Star Wars, Luke's OW is living in the desert, whining about power converters.  The EW is space, the rebellion, and everything that is not power converters and sand.  Because Luke is the hero, the story revolves around him.  However, don't forget other characters.  Take Han Solo.  His OW is one of crime, smuggling, trying not to get killed by Jabba the hut and keep his ship running.  This may not sound very ordinary, but for him it is.  In stumbles Luke and an old man and he finds himself thrust in an EW.  Battling the Empire, rescuing a princess, blowing up Death Stars.  Everything you wouldn't find an out for himself smuggler doing.

Knowing these details about your characters and where you want your story to go can make your writing much richer, and your characters much more real.  Also the OW and EW can be the opposite, or very abstract.  Take Princess Leia.  Her OW is everyone else's EW.  Politics, fighting the empire, getting shot and tortured is what she does every day.  So what is her EW?  We really don't see it until the second and third Star Wars movies, but it is her falling in love.  That is her EW.  She is so used to being in charge, knowing what to do, and leading the rebellion that when Han Solo with his scruffy looking grin and charm walk into her life, she doesn't know what to do.

The reason I bring up the OW vs the EW is because I watched a couple of good shows this last week.  The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad.  If you have seen these shows then you should have seen these transitions from the OW to the EW.  In The Walking Dead, we have the cops doing their normal jobs, complaining about marriage and girlfriends.  Everyday life for them.  Something happens and 15min later the hero wakes up in a zombie filled EW.

Same goes for Breaking Bad.  A high school chemistry teacher who is down on his luck, turns to a life of cooking meth to pay for medical bills and hopefully a nest egg for his family.  Breaking Bad has a nice polarity with the main guy and his brother in law who is a DEA agent.  They have opposite OW's and EW's.  Catching and dealing with meth heads is the DEA agents OW.  Home and family is his EW and he flounders here.  The exact opposite of the Hero.

But I don't write action or adventure I can hear you say.  Lets take a look at one more movie.  A romantic comedy that I like called The Proposal.  The two characters are Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.  The primary focus is on Sandra.  Her OW is being head bitch at a New York publishing house, she gets in trouble because she is from Canada and decides to fake marry Ryan Reynolds to avoid deportation.  Still ordinary world for her until she has to go to Alaska.  This starts the EW for her.  Alaska is not New York.  Dial up modems and dog eating eagles run rampant in a world where warm hiking boots are in style over stilettos.  Very obvious.  Where it gets better is that we don't realize until later that family is her EW.  Sprinkled throughout we learn that her parents are dead and she lives alone.  Being there in Alaska surrounded by his family is more difficult than dealing with no cell reception.

With some creative thinking you can begin to see how the OW vs the EW is used all over the place to enrich the environment and characters we write.  So the next time you watch a tv show, movie, or read that next best selling book, keep a lookout for these things.  And if you haven't opened the interview at Rachna's Scriptorium you can do it now.  I will be checking the comments there and answering any additional questions people may have.  Have a productive week everyone.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Outline writing.

I am an outline writer.  When I look back I can see this was the case long before I ever decided to try my hand in the writing/publishing world.  Lists, numbers, and outlines have been at the root of everything from school to my eight years working for Dell.  My test scores when I graduated from high school placed me in the top 98 percentile for math and mechanical reasoning.  When I taught newhire's for Dell, I created weeks of content and had everything planned down to a 15min window.  Regardless I have said it before in my blog and made several comments on other people's blogs that I have a fairly set method to how I write and some rules that I follow. (never edit or revise until the first draft is done)

There is no right way, or wrong way to write.  But writing is a skill first and art second.  Most everyone learns to write from their parents and their first few years of school.  Everyone can write, but not everyone can write.  Writing for others entertainment and asking people to pay for this is totally different.  Now I am not going to go into what writing method is better than another.  I am hardly qualified after four months to even think that I know all there is about creating a good story.  Here is a glimpse.

Many people have seen this picture.  I posted it on my Facebook page on March 22. 2010.  It is the first outline of The Eternal Gateway trilogy.  All 105 chapters of it.  Each card has nothing more than the names of characters and one or two words of what the chapter is about.

Ch1 :Confusion, who's bad, who's good.
Ch2: Fight
Ch3: Intro Hero

Requiem consisted of 35 chapters in note card form.  When it was finished, it had been condensed to 30.  Nothing is set in stone, not even an outline, it is a guide and it's my solution to avoiding writers block.  Jumping to book 2: Guardian, I am currently on chapter 19.  Chapter 19 is special for Guardian because it is about a quarter to a third of the book.  It has been broken down but looking at my original notes, all it says is "Big Ass Fight Scene".  I should finish chapter 19 this week.  I only have three parts left to write.

This picture is the outline for chapter 19.  The yellow paper is the first half that I had already written.  The white cards are what I had yet to flesh out before writing.  Before you roll your eyes and think that this is too much work to do for each chapter, remember that this is a third of the book.  Right now chapter 19 is 17,010 words long with another four or five thousand left to go.  Normally each chapter after it goes from being a note card, gets anywhere from half a page to a couple of pages when fleshed out for outline.

Now back to chapter 19.  The yellow notes were easy, I had two groups to keep track of.  group A doing their thing and group B doing theirs.  It was simple to bounce back and fourth between them to advance the story.  The second half (the white cards) things got much harder.  Both groups were now together and I had to weave them together and have some cool interactions.  Each card at the top says "Train" or "Air".  Then I lined them up and moved them around until I had it in an order that I liked.  Picture how a movie bounces around in a chaotic action sequence.  Heroes ducking for cover; Evil laughing; Starship Enterprise rushing through space; Random explosion; Eviler evil shoots laughing evil; Sad Keanu becomes happy. etc. etc.

It was much easier to outline what I wanted each group to do by themselves and then come back and mix it together like this instead of trying to do it in my head or on the fly writing.

So without making this blog post into its own novel.  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the madness of my writing method.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I am sure everyone and anyone who has any level of access to news media has heard about the new lineup of Kindle devices.  The only one that means anything in my opinion is the Kindle Fire.  The others are just more of the same with shiny new packaging.  I think Tychus Findlay said it best.  Hell, it's about damn time.

The only concerns I have with the Kindle Fire is it's marketing.  First is do not try to become a tablet iPad competitor.  It needs to remain an eReader first and a tablet second.  The last thing Amazon needs to do is piss Apple off and they pull the Kindle for iPod/Pad app and force everyone to go to Apples iBookstore.  With over 250 million iOS devices out there, this would be a serious blow to Amazon.  As far as self publishing goes, most of us won't be too effected because our works are already on the iBookstore.  The exception being that Amazon is king of the eBook and it would take quite a while for sales to migrate.  Amazon should focus on doing what they do best only better, not try and take on Apple who since the invention of the iPod and the iTunes store has single-handedly crushed all attempts at trying to compete.

So what does this mean for us?  My prediction is this holiday season, bad economy and all, Amazon is going to have a mega year.  There will be millions of new Kindles sold.  Some will be replacing older models, but a lot of them will also be new owners.  Nooks and iPads also will be unwrapped come December 25th.  This is something that you will want to leverage for yourself if you can.

My advice is to have something ready to go this holiday season.  If your current book is ready, consider delaying to December.  If you are almost done, put in some extra hours so it's ready to go for December.  Have a series already out?  Create an anthology.  Have a sale, something.  There is going to be about a two to four week window after Christmas that has everyone playing with their new eReader and you will want to take advantage of this.