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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rise of the Ebook Equals the Fall of the Print Book?

I’ve been studying the literary markets by reading magazines to see which ones my stories would fit in. I’m still considering self-publishing my book but I want to put some of my stories in magazines too since that’s how authors get their larger works exposed. Publishing both big and small can be very beneficial.

Fortunately, many of the sources I want to submit to are online magazines and so most of their fiction is free. If I had to purchase the paper magazines it would get really expensive as much as I prefer reading the paper ones. So far this summer, I’ve only bought one print science fiction magazine, issue 103 of Clarkesworld. The stories and articles looked so great that I wanted to read everything in hardcopy without having to print them up on my printer. Printing them on the printer can eventually add up to colourless clutter of papers that are held together by nothing more than staples.

The Nightmare of a World Without Print

This reminds me of an interview I saw on a re-run of a TV-hosted horror movie show called Cinema Insomnia. Even though this show mostly features cheaply-made horror and sci fi films that it basically makes fun of, the host, Mr. Lobo, interviews another horror movie host, John Stanley of the San Francisco area, about a book (The Gang that Shot Up Hollywood) he released at the time, which was 2012. They talk about how the internet and digital media was apparently (and still is) making print obsolete. They discuss the physical experience that a reader gets from reading a print book that he/she won’t get reading a digital version
.
For book nerds like myself, the ebook permanently bumping off the print one is a nightmare no horror movie can match. In the interview, Mr. Lobo himself puts it similarly when he says to Mr. Stanley: “We are living in a world where bookstores are closing and media is all breaking apart and consolidating and changing, and it must be a nightmare taking on [a project] such as putting out a book in this day and age.” To which Stanley responds: “It is. This might be the last book in a print paper format. . . . If I write another book two or three years from now, what is going to exist out there? What is the world going to be like? Is a paper book still acceptable?”

To that last question, three years after that interview, I respond: Yes, Mr. Stanley, I’m happy to say it still is. Although the majority may be turning to their devices to read their books, there is still a crowd of readers, especially of the speculative genres, that likes to read and collect printed books and that crowd will probably continue to be around for a long time.

Books are Like Music Albums


As much as I make my work available in ebook format as well as print, it doesn’t mean print versions have to or will disappear. Similar to many music lovers, especially of vintage music, who continue to collect vinyl records, and have been doing so since vinyl went out of popularity 20 years ago or so, there is a crowd of us that sees the printed book not just as a medium to convey story but as an art within itself. Reading for us is not just a mental engagement but a physical one. It’s a physical one that involves holding the material the story is printed on. This engagement is most intimate when the story from the book is represented on the front cover by wonderful art, as are a lot of science fiction and fantasy stories. Sadly, unlike years ago, much of that art is produced by digital means and so is too photographic, missing the interpretive aspect of the illustrator that freehand art often conveys. However, it is still part of the larger art of book printing and binding.  So we like to touch this art as much as we like to read and view it.

It’s About Collecting Things

Also, as sci fi and fantasy geeks, and as literary geeks in general, we like to collect things. Can you collect pixels and shelve them on your book case? Of course not. Pixels are only with you when you conjure them up at the press of a button on your hand-held device, similar to the way Aladdin conjures up the genie from its lamp. Then when we don’t want to read any more, also at the press of a button, we make the pixels disappear into some cyber netherworld. Hell, even the damn button in many cases nowadays is made of nothing more than pixels!


Comic book cover depicting a giant genie rising from a lamp and a young Arabic man and woman looking up at him.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons



We as speculative fiction fans, like to collect the tangible versions of what we see in movies, on TV and read about in books. We like Star Wars and Star Trek but can’t just stop with the movies and TV episodes. We want Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Capt. Kirk or Lt. Uhura in our lives. We want the aliens, no matter how weird or inhuman-looking (for me the more inhuman the better!), with us in our physical lives. So we collect things like the action figures of these characters, the posters for the movies and TV shows and the models of spaceships from them. Similar is true for our love of fantasy movies and TV such as Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones or Universal’s classic horror flicks.

The same goes with our books about imaginary events such as space battles, epic fantasy battles and dead people seeking vengeance. Many of us want the hardcopy books that convey these events of other worlds, and not just want to see them on a device’s screen where the book is going to be replaced by something totally unrelated.

So as long as there will be avid readers who are in love with the art of the medium the story is told on, there will be printed books. So what if demand for the printed book is small? That only means that much more money the author and publisher will make off of that million dollar best- seller. Every little bit counts, doesn’t it? If not, why not? If you think us small niche of hardcopy book lovers will become extinct with the hardcopy books themselves, why? Feel free to leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . . 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

4 ‘Fantastic Finds’ for Writing Fiction and Marketing It

Two aliens: one with one huge eye with a globe for a pupil, the other with two globes for eyes.
Photo Credit: OpenClipart.org



A very busy week, made even busier when you don’t have a car which is my situation. Even though I prefer public transportation and walking, sometimes those two things aren’t practical. So when I do have a car I try to reduce driving it as much as possible. I believe in taking care of our planet. Who knows when we’ll be able to find and settle on another inhabitable one. Even though scientists are discovering them already, traveling to them is a long ways off. I found this out when I was researching for the world-building of my recent short story that I talked about last time

I was researching interstellar space travel and the sources I looked at indicated that traveling to other solar systems, where many inhabitable planets are, won’t happen that soon. According to these sources, it probably won’t be possible until after AI has dominated the planet which probably won’t be for another 100 to 200 years. Keep in mind, this is all speculation, but speculation based on scientifically plausible theories and so is not scientific fact yet. So it looks like I’ll be setting my space opera in the pretty distant future since it’s set on planets outside our own solar system. Here’s a couple of the sources I used for my research:


And now for some . . .

Far Out Fantastic Finds

I found these four Far Out Fantastic Finds to be really informing about other authors’ writing processes, including marketing and promotion such as the one on book trailers. Also there’s a good one by Auden Johnson of Dark Treasury about using keywords to market your books. Speaking of world-building, Johnson is an expert on the subject and so if you want to know more about it then I strongly suggest you check out her blog. Now for the Finds:

“Keywords are important in getting your book found online. . .”
From Dark Treasury

“I’ve talked about it off and on in interviews and the like, but I cannot stress how big of an influence libraries have had on me. I still remember going into my first one as a kid. It was built into a former residence in a small Illinois town, the librarian still lived above it, and it was magic. . . ”
From Come Selahway With Me


“So, I've had people ask me, ‘What do you think about doing a book trailer for Thorn or Murder?’ . . . Here's the problem: . . . it wouldn't be a trailer for the books.  It would be a trailer for an interpretation of the books. . .”
From Marshall Ryan Maresca


“. . . All this chaos also slowed down my writing considerably. . . I was having a really hard time trying to decide where to take the next scene in the story.  I had several options but none of them were really going anywhere.  They seemed more like unnecessary side streets that did not lend enough to the main story. 
Finally I did the one thing I keep reminding everyone else to do...”
From Musings of a Creative Mind


That’s all for this week.


Until next time . . .

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

World-building: How to name your alien or fantasy world

Sorry for being so late with this post, again. Last week was kind of a bad one because I was having back problems and have been out of a car, so that slowed me down quite a bit. Also, some writer’s block may had added to it. Authors get writers’ block at different stages of their writing. Some get it at the rough draft stage, some in the revision stage. Some writers even get it outside of the draft itself, such as in the characterization and world-building stages and I’m one of those writers. Right now I’m working on a new short story and so I’m on the world-building part which is where I got the writer’s block on Saturday. It was when I was sketching out a world for an alien race in my story which is a kind of space opera-horror. So I’ll tell you how I got over that block in a little bit, but first a couple updates:


Updates

My Author Interview



If you haven’t seen it yet, my interview at HorrorAddicts.net is up. David Watson who’s on the Horror Addict’s staff interviewed me about my interest in horror and how I live “the horror life.” This second one is in light of Horror Addict’s new anthology, TheHorror Addicts’ Guide to Life, in which two of my articles were published in. So please check it out.


Photo Credit: HorrorAddicts.net

Last Week’s Post

I made a slight update to my post for last week. For those of you who had already read the post, you may had noticed that the text ran outside of the column, making it hard to read. I apologise for that. I missed that error completely because I was trying to make the photo of the concept sketch for the cover illustration for my upcoming book, The Hidden, large enough so the details could be seen. So I reduced the size which moved the text into the column.

World-building

A cover from the 1954 science fiction magazine "If" depicting astronauts climbing rocks on an alien planet.
Photo Credit: Kenneth Fagg/Wikimedia Commons


Well, back to developing the setting of my new sci fi-horror short. Particularly, I had been having problems naming one of the alien races’ planet. I tried thinking of a name based on the planet’s geography and the aliens’ overall institutions and customs. I looked to real-life myth first since I was thinking in terms of the race’s religious beliefs, in which being made up of warring city-states each state holds its own religion. But these aliens are imperialising, particularly when it comes to discovering new planets with rich resources (the ill rationale for just about all imperialism) . I didn’t want to reflect too much of our own world’s myths in the planet’s name so I turned to various languages. Unlike the world-building I did for my other story back in March, the world-building for this one involves naming a totally made up planet even though the setting is in our own Milky Way Galaxy. This is precisely how I came up with the planet’s name and how you can too for your alien or fantasy world . . .

1. Create a geography: Although this doesn’t necessarily have to be done first, this is how I did it and it helped me. I imagined what the planet’s terrain would be made up of. Since the story calls for a conquering race of aliens, I created a rocky, mountainous, relatively cold planet where mountains separate the societies and because the terrain is not very fertile, there is fierce competition between the societies.

 2. Create a language: Anthropology says that geography shapes a society’s culture and that goes for language too. So I needed to name my alien race’s planet, but in order to do that I needed to create a language for them. Because the race lives in an environment that has lead to harsh competition, their language system would be made up of hard sounds that are choppy and fast in tone. What cultures on our own planet have such hard-sounding language, all morals of the cultures aside? The Germanic cultures, and believe it or not, this includes our own English language (regardless of our ancestral cultures). 

So I took two words that represented the rocky, mountainous planet and those words were, as you might’ve guessed, “rock” and “mountain” and used Google’s translator tool to translate them into several Germanic languages. But unlike I did for my last story that I used the translator for, I didn’t simply translate the words. I combined different parts of the them to come up with a satisfying name that reflected the aliens’ language system. The translated words I came up with were the German word for rock which is “felsen”, the Finnish word for mountain which is “vouri” and the Norwegian one which is “fjell”. I tried several combinations of the above translated words until I came up with one that sounded harshest and most alien, and that was “Felvuric”. So, at least for now, I named my alien planet Felvuric. 

What emotions does “Felvuric” convey to you in its sounds? Does it convey fear, anger, aggression? For the fellow authors out there, what techniques have worked for you in naming the worlds in your stories? Please feel free to leave your answers in the box below.



Until next time . . .

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Concept Sketch for the Cover of My New and Upcoming Book

(Updated 7/11/15)

Happy Fourth of July, everybody!

Since it's a day to celebrate freedom and independence, including the freedom and independence to be the artists and art lovers that we want and also write and read what we want, I'm going to keep this post a little shorter than usual. However, I did say a while back that I would share concept art for the cover to my next book of short stories, tentatively titled The Hidden. So here it is (Click on it to enlarge).



Pencil sketch depicting silhouettes of a girl holding a club and a man walking down an infinite-appearing alley.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

I'm thinking about using red and black as the main colours. However, because the wall that the girl is standing against is supposed to be shadowed, I may make that blue in a tone that complements the red or mediates between the red and black. I'm not sure if I want to leave the club in her hand or give her a knife instead. I'm strongly considering the knife since it's more iconic of the horror genre which several of the stories in this book will be of to at least some extent. There will also be some science fiction, which is why I made the flying saucer-shaped eyes in the sky above. I'm also considering making the tops and far "ends" of the walls gradient to give them the effect of disappearing into the darkness. Please let me know what you think (e.g. any changes you think should be made, additions, etc.) in the box below.
Also, find out how much closer we are to science fiction becoming science fact in my article I published early this morning at Examiner.com. You may be surprised that we're a lot closer than you originally thought. 

Have a safe and fun Fourth of July!

Until next time . . .


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Words from the Wizard World and an Interview

Young man wearing a costume resembling the character Doctor Octopus.
An attendee in a costume resembling the Spider-Man villain, Doctor Octopus, at the 2015 Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento.
Photo Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.



Last week I talked a little about Wizard World Comic Con  and said it wasn’t all comics but other forms of popular media such as movies, television, video games and, to a certain degree even literary fiction. It ran the whole weekend, Friday through Sunday, but I only attended Sunday. But the one day alone still had more than enough to see. Because I wanted to look through the dealers’ room, which covered nearly the entire convention hall of the Sacramento Convention Center, I had to limit myself to three of the 14 panels scheduled for that day. All three were about storytelling to some extent, but I found one particularly helpful to writers such as myself. It was entitled “Where the Synergy of Video Games, Books and Films Collide”.


Wizard World Synergy

“Where the Synergy” was a panel of artists and writers, including screenwriter Adam G. Simon, photographer Denys Ilic and author Genese Davis who was panel hostess. The discussion was about how story is behind all media types, including books, comics, film, television and video games. There was a lot of talk about how these media types are coming together and influencing each other and how opportunities for fiction writing are opening up more in non-literary media such as video games and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

One of the most important points that were brought up was one by Simon who said that he normally does not write for other franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek because he believes a writer should create his or her own stories using original characters. To sum up his point, he said, “Write what you know and write from your heart.” This is something I’ve always believed in almost more than anything else about writing. There is so much franchise-based fiction out there which much of is written by really good writers but they are writing other people’s stories as far as over-arching storyline goes. One of the biggest examples is the Star Wars novels, in which, in many instances, the authors can’t even write their own stories within George Lucas’s story arc. That’s because under contract they have to develop the stories by certain standards that stay true to the franchise’s overall storyline. It’s almost like a form of fan fiction only at the professional level.

That’s why I never write fan fiction and never plan to regularly write for a movie or TV franchise. However, off and on, I’ve dreamed about writing an X-Files or Doctor Who episode. This was especially so with the former, especially when it was really big back in the ‘90s and I was in my X-Files phase. (But don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a great series and wish one of the TV networks, such as SyFy, would air reruns.) A lot of well-known and really good speculative fiction authors have occasionally written for television episodes, authors such as Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and, more recently, Neil Gaiman  (for Doctor Who). But I’m more into writing my own stories with characters I create. So I like to tell my own stories inspired by my own experiences, beliefs and perceptions on life. Which is the other point that Simon brought up: each of us has our own unique story to tell based on our life experiences. If written well and sincerely, these stories will attract an audience.

Davis also brought up an important point which was that it’s not so important what you create as what your creation does for other people. This lead to the discussion of the affect art and storytelling has on an audience. Davis’s point was generally agreed upon by the other panelists, although two said that certain movies can get “too” close to reality to the point of affecting someone in too negative a manner. Personally, I’m not sure if there can be such a thing as any kind of art affecting a person too much, at least not as far as the technical function of art goes which that function is to emotionally connect with the audience. I believe that’s one of the most important points of any art whether it be writing, painting, film or even video games. It should affect the audience to some degree, giving them a new perspective on life. But what I think the two panelists were really saying was that movies can get too close to reality in that they don’t put an audience in a world other than their everyday one. This particularly goes for the speculative genres in which the panelists did say audiences turn to in order to escape everyday life.


But no matter what the genre is, whether speculative fiction or realistic, the best storytelling is that which will affect the audience emotionally regardless of those emotions being negative or positive, as long as it gives them a new perspective on life. Perhaps the minimum effect on the audience should be the age old pathos, which the panel also touched on, in which by the end of a story the audience realizes they don’t have their lives as bad as they often think they do when they see characters going through so much worse.

One of the other neat ideas talked about, particularly in light of today’s multimedia storytelling, was what Ilicit referred to as the immersiveness of story particularly in games and that because of this they are becoming more cinematic. He said that for this reason video games are “the future” and so there will be a lot of opportunity for writers to write for video game companies and startups. And because of the emergence of more cinematic video games and V.R., there’s going to be a need for more stories and creativity in storytelling for these media types. So the heart of the discussion was not just story as the basis of all media types, but how these media types are influencing each other in light of storytelling.

Some of these points I’ve heard before at past convention panels, both at last year’s Wizard World as well as other conventions, but the great thing is that they serve as good refreshers and motivators. They help you to ask yourself, “Am I doing these things in my stories? And if I am, how can I do them more and better?” Plus you have the opportunity to ask the panelists questions that elaborate on these points.


Interview

To go off topic a little, I just wanted to let everybody know that I was interviewed by HorrorAddicts.net’s David Watson, particularly in light of my contribution to The Horror Addict’s Guide To Life. The interview is up at the HorrorAddicts’ site now, so feel free to check it out.


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con Returns to Sacramento

A Wizard World Comic Con in Manhattan, NY
Photo Credit: © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons




I know I said I would have a review of a Philip K. Dick short story for you soon but my writing project schedule has become a little jumbled this past week. I was especially held back when my Internet went out on me yesterday afternoon for no apparent reason. And it came back on, also for no apparent reason, but not until the evening. It was really frustrating, but the most important thing is that it’s back on so I can write and post this entry for you. So I’ll have to hold off the review until a later date because an event I want to tell you about is already going on. It is Wizard World Comic Con and it has returned here to Sacramento.

If you are not in the Sacramento area to attend Wizard World, there’s good news. This is a touring comic convention that hits several cities throughout North America so there may be one near you in the upcoming months. If you’re not in the U.S., well consider doing some traveling to see a new place because if you’re a big comic book or pop culture fan it may be worth a plane ticket.

Even though Wizard World specialises in comics, it also features many other areas of pop cultural interest--such as TV, film, video games, board games and animation--most of which cover speculative genres and some even non-speculative genres. For example, one of the celebrity guest speakers scheduled to make an appearance is actor Henry Winkler who played the “Fonz” in Happy Days.

The neat thing about this con is that it’s not all just cosplay and vendors. Several, what are called, “industry” panels are offered there. These panels consist of  presentations and discussions by and with professional artists and writers of books, comics, TV, film and games. These pros talk about their work and how to get into or move up in a field of specialty. No matter where we are in our writing or art careers, these experts are great to listen and talk to because they can offer new tips and, at the very least, inspiration and motivation to continue pursuing our own careers in the arts. And if you’re not an artist or writer but just a fan, then they can still be really interesting to listen and talk to because they often offer insight into their work and even give updates about it, such as upcoming movies or graphic novels. These updates may not have been announced in the press yet. So if you’re a journalist like yours truly, this may be the perfect event to get that breaking story on, who knows, a future Star Trek series or movie!
 
The last day of this three-day con is tomorrow (Sunday 21 June) and tickets may still be available. For more details about this convention, check out my preview at Examiner.com. I myself have not been to this year’s Wizard World but will be attending tomorrow. So you might see me there. If so, feel free to stop and say “hi”! I don’t have a table there but I’ll be wandering throughout. 

I’ll try to have highlights for tomorrow’s Wizard World events next week. Also, if you want a list of other cities this comic convention will be visiting, check out WizardWorld’s website


Until next time . . . 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Week In Review: June 7 through 12

Because there have been a lot of things going on this past week in the world of sci fi, fantasy and writing, I thought it would be a great time to do a week in review.

Sunday 7 June: Christopher Lee Dies at 93 Years

When I heard about this only a few days ago, I was both shocked and sad. Sir Christopher Lee has been one of my favourite actors since childhood. I first found out about him when I was a kid, around six or seven, on a hosted horror movie show called Creature Features. The host, the late Bob Wilkins, talked about Mr. Lee all the time, let alone featured his horror movies, and interviewed him on the show. Lee’s Dracula movies always inspired me in everything horror. He’s one of those actors right up there with Lenard Nimoy (who sadly also died back in February) who you wish were immortal. You even get kind of mad at the fact that death exists when famous actors like him die. Well at least in his movies he’ll be immortal and not just in his Dracula ones, which his high quality acting extended far beyond. May he R.I.P.


Actor Christopher Lee grins evilly, showing bloody fangs as Dracula.
Sir Christopher Lee, 27 May 1922 - 7 June 2015
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Monday 8 June: Writing a New Short Story

After several weeks without writing any new short stories, I finally wrote and finished one (first draft). Because I filed it away, as I normally do with my new stories for at least two weeks before revising them, I resumed revising two other stories. One I actually started revising only a couple days ago. But then I realised I had to slow down. When I work on too many projects at one time, especially projects of one kind (e.g. several short stories) they take forever to get done. So I’ve realised that I better take it one at a time and so since I save the weekends--especially Saturdays--for mostly working on my short fiction, I’m concentrating on one story this weekend hoping to get it done and ready for critiquing before Monday.

Friday 12 June: Jurassic World Releases

This is the latest sequel to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name) that came out in the early ‘90s. And to tell you the truth, as great as the original was I haven’t seen it since then. I’ll have to watch it before I go see this sequel. Maybe I can check it out at one of the libraries in the area. In fact, I haven’t even seen any of the other sequels. Maybe I’ll do a Jurassic marathon (private). Finally, after years of mostly directing historical dramas (please don’t get me wrong, I’m a big history lover) Spielberg is rolling out the sci fi films again. Hopefully he’ll continue doing so for a while.
 

Back to the Drawing Pad

I also finally got back to work on the concept sketches for my book cover illustration for my second short fiction collection that I plan to release by fall. So far, I plan to call the book The Hidden. I’ll try to have a photo of one of the final concept sketches by next week. Realistically speaking, I’m more of a writer than an artist and so my writing has taken up so much time to where I keep missing my allotted time to work on my book cover illustration. But, because I have a background in art, since it was what I first majored in in college before switching to English, I don’t want that training and studying in the subject to go to waste. I’m not so much talking about tuition money than talent, skills and passion. To tell you the truth, I’ve had a passion and talent for art even before I started writing, which is probably natural. We often don’t learn to write our ABCs until kindergarten (maybe some kids start in nursery school, I’m not sure). But kids will start doodling at least by the toddler stage of their lives (about 1 or 2 years old).

Throughout the Week:

I’ve been working on non-fiction/technical writing for clients, mostly relating to apps and software. As much as I like doing this type of writing, it can really be trying and wear a person out since some clients are very specific about what they want. The more specific they are, the harder it is to research the topic. There tends to be less content and resources out there for a topic that’s narrowed down so much. This is even the case when researching it on the nearly infinite Internet.

I don’t just go for any source. I want to put my best work into a client’s project and so, when I do research, I need to consider the credibility of the source. That’s because I want the client as well as the client’s audience to rely on my own credibility. But the Internet can be like the 19th century Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge’s poem, “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”:  “Water, water everywhere yet not enough to drink.” Except in my case it’s info, info everywhere, yet not a piece of it to rely on (or at least it seems). When you think how big the digital information sea is, there’s probably more unreliable amateurish sources out there than there are reliable ones. It’s a good thing I like to learn new things because if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t be writing research articles, if I would be writing at all. Even us fiction writers have to do our research if we want our stories to be taken seriously. (If you missed it, see my post on researching for world-building.)

Preview of Coming Attractions (No set dates for yet)

  • Philip K. Dick short story review (No, I haven’t forgotten.)
  • Possibly an Examiner.com article or two (link to) of sci fi related material. Now that the revenue seems to be picking up at Examiner, I can find it worthwhile to write more frequently for them again.
  • Sacramento Wizard Con highlights: especially look out for ones of writing and literary panels.
  • And I already mentioned the photo of a sketch for my book cover illustration.

I’ll leave you with that for now.

Until next time . . .