Right or Left: Exploring Alternative Universes

Life is crazy.  There are never enough hours in the day. I have way too many interests and not enough time to spend on any of them.

The good news is that I am making progress on my writing. I’ve made this my year for rewrites and editing.  I’ve gotten a lot of work done in the limited amount of time I’ve been able to carve out of my day.  Still have lots to do though.

I’ve been working on not only the story arcs but on the series arcs. Yes the plan is to make this a multi-book series. I’m working on the world building that you have to do for a scifi series. For every part I finish, I find at least a couple more things that I need to world build.  Recreating a society from the ground up really changes the way you look at the world around us.

Religion, economics, education, politics, language, sociology, geography and so many different things all work together to shape the world around us. Think about all the different things that have to go together to make the world function. Then think about all the different things that had to happen at the right time and order to have what we have today.  What would happen to our modern world if something went in a different way or didn’t happen? How would that affect the outcome? What if there is an alternative universe for each and every pivotal moment that shows what could have happened if?

Doctor Who had a great episode called Turn Left if I remember correctly.  If you know the show this idea was shown really well.  I’ve been looking at this premise as part of my story. Not only what moments affect the world as a whole but each of our lives. Where would we be if we made a different choice at key moments in our lives? What were moments in your life where you had to make a choice? What would have happened if you had chosen a different direction that day or moment? What would have happened to your life?

It’s an idea I’ve played with all my life. The what if game taken to a different level. What if I decided to do something I wanted to do instead of giving up on it the way I did in my real life? How would my life have been? What would the changes have been? What if my parents hadn’t taken in my cousins when their mother died and I stayed an only child? How would that have changed my life? Better or worse? So many ways this could play out…

In a way, this is what writer’s do every day. We ask that question, What if? We explore it. We write it.

 

Final Days

We have entered into the final days of Derrick and Barry’s Awesome Comic Book adventure on kickstarter.com.  The guys have reached their goal and then some. They are closing in on their next ‘stretch goal’ with excitement and perhaps some trepidation. They are promising ‘some lame pics taken family portrait style.  (The trepidation may be on the part of the backers though.)

The final days are upon them over at kickstarter.com.

I wonder if we could get them to pose in leisure suits?

Give  them some love at:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ordinaryheroes/ordinary-heroes

Reader, Writer, Publisher

I’ve recently been following a discussion between the head of Kensington and several indie authors. The discussion has been very interesting. One of the authors is Joe Konrath, who has published both traditionally and as an Indie.

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/01/questions-from-steve-zacharius-ceo-and.html

The discussion between Joe and Steve has been quite enlightening. One of the things that I found most interesting is the disconnect between the way that Steve perceives the situation and the way that authors do. Part of it is due to the fact that Steve is running a business and the product he peddles are the stories that the authors write. As a business owner myself, I always look for ways to keep my costs down and maximize my profit margins. That means I’m always looking for ways to get my products and supplies as cheap as I can so I can price competitively. That’s why I ended up making most of my own products instead of buying and reselling someone elses.

In Steve’s case, he is working in a business where his product isn’t something he can make himself and sell. He has to purchase it from someone else. He takes a risk everytime he signs on a new author and pays them an advance. He incurs expenses for editing, formatting, cover art, printing(not authors get print books) and marketing(maybe). In return, he sells the author’s work for a percentage. His customer base is the booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple other bookstores (chain and independent) and big retail stores. They are the ones who are buying his books. The booksellers get a percentage of the cover price and the rest goes to the publisher. Out of what the publisher gets when the books are bought, they pay the author. The percent that the author gets ins  incredibly small. The publisher gets their percentage for as long as they are selling the book and the author has not gotten their rights to their work back. As long as the book is selling with the publisher they get the same percentage. It doesn’t matter if they sell 5 copies, 500 copies or 500,000 copies, they get the same percentage as does the author.

But is that really fair? Lets look at their expenses. Cover art and editing are finite expense. You usually only pay for a cover once, unless the publisher releases your books at a later time with new covers. Editing is a one time expense though the cost could fluctuate depending on how much editing a particular book would need. Proofreading should be adding to list of expenses. I can see this being a finite expense that may come up again if there are problems that slip by the first time it was published. Printing, distribution and marketing would be recurring expenses. Also accounting expenses.  As a business owner I want to keep my costs down and maximize my profits.  I need to hire people to do all of these things. I have to have a place to house them. I have to pay them benefits. I need to make a profit. That means I need to cut costs wherever I can to do so. The long term expenses are in storage of unsold books and the accounting for sales and paying the author once their advance is paid back.

Its basic economics, supply and demand. The publisher is the equivalent of a wholesaler where I buy a resell item.  There are multiple wholesalers I can buy from.  I am essentially the bookseller. The wholesaler buys from the manufacturers. Multiple wholesalers buy from an single manufacturer and there are always more wanting that supply. Where in the publishing business, the manufacturer aka authors are literally knocking on the door trying to sell them their books because there are a limited number of publishers aka wholesalers. The authors/manufacturers are abundant so there is no need for them to offer authors a better deal. If an author doesn’t like the contract then they can walk but they don’t have anywhere else to sell their books except another publisher whose contract isn’t much different. That assumes that they would be picked up by another publisher and there is no guarantee that they will.

I don’t know off hand the number of books published each year by the various big and little publishers each year. Not everyone is going to hit the various bestsellers lists. Not all of them are going to sell huge numbers of books. That’s why until recently a lot authors worked  at a fulltime job because they couldn’t make a living with their writing. That change was not brought about because of a change with the traditional publishers but by the advent of indie publishing through vehicles such as Smashwords, Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble.

For the first time authors had an opportunity to put their work out there in a way that allowed the readers to decide which books that wanted to read. The readers were no longer limited to what the publishers and the retailers thought they should read. They could now actually find books that were never available before and their favorite authors were putting more of the out. Finally the authors and the readers were connecting without the middle men.

As a reader, I am voracious. I’ve been known to read 3-4 books a day sometimes more. I’m lucky I don’t mind rereading favorite books because I couldn’t get enough new ones.  If I want to feed my reading addiction I need to read more authors. Traditional publishing and book stores couldn’t keep up with my appetite for books. I know there are others like me out there. We create a demand on a limited supply. We all know what happens when supply is limited and demand high prices go up. The limited number of publishers controlled the supply to the retailer and were also able to pick which of the manufactures aka authors would get their products to market. They also controlled how often they got their work published. The better your books sell the more often you get published. Supply and demand. 

 eBooks and self publishing changed the face of the market. Thank you Oprah for embracing eReaders. Authors now have the option of publishing their books as they finish them. Some write slower than others. That means if I can write a book every couple of months I can theoretically publish 5-6 times a year if I publish Indie. I can also hit almost all of the same retailers as the publishers when it comes to ebooks. I can’t easily hit print markets as a traditional publisher but I can still get to some. As a reader I get more books to chose from and new authors to discover.   

With the advent of new publishing venues opening up, authors aka manufactures are bypassing the traditional publishers aka wholesalers and going directly to the retailers of ebooks and readers. The world of publishing is undergoing a major market change. The traditional publishers are not the only game in town anymore.

Ordinary Heroes: An Update and Some Inspiration

Just wanted to give you an update on Derrick & Barry’s Awesome Comic Book Ordinary Heroes kickstarter project.  They have already reached their funding goal and then some.  On one of the updates they sent about their project, they demonstrated the process they go through to create their unique comic book. It’s really cool.

Every time I get an update from them it reminds me that we can’t give up on our dreams. Whatever they may be, if we believe in ourselves and we are willing to put in the work, we can find a way to make our dreams come true. Proud of you Guys!!!

It is also why I was up before 7a on a Sunday morning instead of sleeping in. Trying to take advantage of the peace and quiet to get some work done on my own writing. The year of editing is underway. Currently rewriting the first chapter and turning it into a short prequel I can use for promo. Then I can rewrite the intro chapter in the book to flow better.  Going is slow but when I feel like things are not going well I check in with my writer friends like Derrick and recharge my writing battery.

If you want to support the guys and their efforts, theirfunding window is open until March 3rd. Send them some love.

Avoidance: The Fine Art of Not Editing

My writing goals for this year are to finish edits on the novels I have already written and finish writing the scifi story that I started. I also want to move forward on the publishing front. Since I currently have 5-7 novels in various and sundry states of completion it has been a little difficult to focus on just one.  Three of my stories are romance novels. Two written third started but not quite finished. There are three scifi novels written with parts of two others at different stages of completion. Plus the scifi novel I started during Nanowrimo this past year. Two previous nano novels were written that covered the backstory and world building on this novel.

I have also been working on my blogging.  I currently have about six blogs but only 4 that I am writing on regularly. Writing blogs such as this one takes quite a bit of my time. I am trying to publish on them at least once a week but currently publishing twice a week or more.

I am also working on new product development for my business and end of year reports. I also updated software for the business and have a big learning curve. Then there are the long neglected hobbies including the genealogy one that includes writing the family book I had planned to have finished last year. I could keep going. Really I’ve barely touched the surface of things that I could and should be busy doing.  Yet I haven’t mentioned edits since the first line of this blog.

Yes I have a busy life. I find new things to do everyday. Most of its a way to avoid doing what I need to be doing. Editing my books and doing more fiction writing instead of blogging.

I have the fine art of avoidance down. I may even qualify for a world championship in avoidance. I know I should be working on other things but I would rather play on facebook than edit. Munchie time instead of editing. I needed to clean instead of edit. Everything and anything is more important than getting the editing done.

Why?

That’s the big question. Part of its fear. I was afraid I wouldn’t finish the first time I did Nanowrimo so I did an unofficial one first. Part of it is trying to decide on which story to work on. Part of it is legitimately finding time that I can work and not be interrupted every time I get going. But I think the biggest part is that I’m afraid that it just isn’t good enough or that it won’t be good enough. If I avoid doing the editing, I never have to face how awful it really is.

I have spent a lot of my life avoiding things that I am afraid of to the point its approaching an art form. I just managed to spend 3 hours of uninterrupted time that could have been spent editing. What did I do? Facebook, emails, blogging and a little reading. All things that I didn’t have to do but now its getting close to the time everyone will be getting up. I need to get started on the editing. I also need to get some paperwork filled in for the business.  I will edit for a while then paperwork then back to editing.  Oh darn I have the other stuff too do this afternoon. Okay editing time now.

Face Value: Looking for the Truth Underneath the Surface

I recently read a post by a man writing about the things that women say that drive men crazy in a bad way. I totally agree with 4 of the 5.  Clingy women who think that they should be treated like a princess are annoying. Even more annoying is when they think that they can change a person into someone they aren’t. It doesn’t work that way. I don’t remember the other one but I fond it annoying too. I don’t see any reason why anyone would want to date anyone like that.

But there was one thing that he posted that made me realize that he didn’t fully understand what he was seeing. The number one thing that he said men hate is when women say that they want a ….(insert your favorite description of the perfect guy here)… but then go after the exact opposite in the guys that they date. He saw it as us saying what we think is socially acceptable when in reality that isn’t what we really want at all. But is that what we really and truly are doing?

I think in some case women really do just that. But I don’t think its for the reasons that he gives. Sometimes it because they know if they tell the truth then they will be looked down on. Sometimes we just don’t know what we really want so we give a generic description. Sometimes we are still trying to figure it out. We always give ourselves permission to change our minds. Sometimes we see something in men that others don’t see. Sometimes we want to believe that the men in our lives have the qualities we want even as we ignore our fears that he doesn’t.

Sometimes we are so tired of being alone that even when we meet someone that we know doesn’t fit the description we have given before, we stay because we are afraid this man may be our only chance at being part of a couple. Sometimes the fear of being alone is enough to drive us into the arms of abusive, manipulative bastards that are nothing like our ideal guy.

It isn’t that we want to be abused, manipulated and treated like dirt. We don’t stay in the relationships because we secretly want to stay in that kind of relationship. We stay for those moments when we feel that someone actually cares for us. That moment when they make us feel that we are loved and cherished. We stay because we don’t feel that we deserve that dream man. That we aren’t good enough. We stay because our ideal man would never really want us. That we deserve the crap we are getting from the relationship.  Because we don’t believe that we deserve to be happy.

If we look at and take things at face value, then yes it would be extremely annoying to have someone say that they want one thing but take the opposite. But you have to look underneath the surface to the underlying motives to see the truth.

That is something that we as writers need to strive for in our work. We need to understand not only what motivates our characters but what are the things that drive them. We don’t want to create characters who always deal with their problems in a healthy way. We want to create characters who have flaws and issues but solve their problems in spite of them. Characters that screw up and regret it. Then find a way to fix it in the end even as they stumble along the way. No one is perfect, not even the characters in our stories.

We need to embrace our flaws and fears. We need to channel them into our writing. We need to spend time watching people as they go through their lives fucking things up and then struggling to deal with the aftermath. Watching them grow just as our characters need to grow in our stories. If our characters never grow even a smidgen would we find them interesting? if they were always perfect?

Personally I like very angst driven stories with characters that are learning to overcome their pasts and move forward. I also like funny humorous stories that are filled with all kinds of comedic escapades. It depends on my mood. Other times I don’t even want to think about happily ever afters. I want tough female characters that don’t take any bull from anyone but still have a softer side. Okay i like variety in my characters. I like to root for the underdog. I like to see a character learn to have confidence in themselves not just in their jobs.

In a scifi story that I amcurrently writing, my female lead has a truly crappy life. Then she finds out that she won’t be able to have the life that she has dreamed about because of her destiny. The life that she deserves. She is being asked to sacrifice her dreams and hopes for the greater good. The scene in which she finally begins understand just what she has to give up is very emotional. I think I have done a fairly decent job in the first draft. But I have to look beneath the surface of that character to understand the truth. The truth that underneath she doesn’t think that she deserves that dream life.  Because that is going to be the internal conflict, her own personal demon that she has to deal with to reach the happily ever after ending or its equivalent in scifi. She might get a temporary HEA.  We’ll see.

What are the personal demons that haunt you?

Ordinary Heroes Kickstarter Today

Today is the day! Derrick and Barry’s Kickstarter for their comic book Ordinary Heroes goes live!

Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ordinary-Heroes/218191081530890

Their Kickstarter page can be found here http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ordinaryheroes/ordinary-heroes

They have also been getting some recognition for Ordinary Heroes http://www.webpronews.com/ordinary-heroes-comic-creators-go-for-their-dream-2014-01

There is even a music video which is hilarious.

Best of luck!!!