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Saturday, March 29, 2014

April Fool's Discount on "Fool's Illusion"--No Fool'in!




What's the worst April Fool's trick you've had played on you? It probably wasn't as bad as any of the ones the many characters in my short fiction collection, The Fool's Illusion, pull on their victims. But this one is no trick: from now through Tuesday April 1st (11:59 P.M. Pacific Time) you can have the print edition of The Fool's Illusion for $3 off the list price! This book has a little something for everybody: vampires; the living dead; magicians; deadly creatures from the deep; cyber, outer and liquid space adventures and nightmares; strange but fascinating characters. So don't fool yourself into thinking you have plenty of time to purchase this one at this great discount because you don't. April Fool's is only two days away, so get it now!

Go to https://www.createspace.com/4376356 and use the discount code DHYE2PQA to purchase your copy!

Until next time . . .

Friday, March 28, 2014

Writing Through the Block to Make a Living

I attended Wizard World Comic Con when it was here in Sacramento three weeks ago, the largest pop culture convention in the area so far. It was basically a mini version of San Diego Comic-Con: the lines were nearly literal blockbusters, both the ones for admission into the con as well as the ones to see big name celebrity guests such as Star Trek’s William Shatner and Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee. As has been done with celebrity appearances at San Diego Comic-Con, Wizard Con staff had to cut off admission once the rooms reached their capacities. Unfortunately, yours truly was in the cut-off part of the lines for Shatner and Lee, who must have been the biggest celebrities there. But while I dig seeing famous pop culture stars like them speak, while I dig seeing fellow participants in colourful costumes of their favourite pop fiction characters such as Spider Man, Wonder Woman, Batman and Thor, one of the things I attend cons for most is to talk to other artists and writers either like myself or who are more experienced.

Even though Wizard World is primarily a comic book convention, their were plenty of authors there whose work went beyond just comic books (even though comic books are lately becoming acknowledged as literature). I chatted with fellow Sacramento fantasy/horror author M. Todd Gallowglas at his table in the exhibit hall where he displayed his Halloween Jack and Tears ofRage novels. He and I exchanged some great ideas about marketing non-comic books at comic book conventions. So I learn from my peer authors as well as my senior ones. And there was one senior author there I learned some very valuable advice from: Michael Golden, who has written for Marvel and DC. Mr. Golden held a panel on making a living from fiction writing that I was sure to attend. One of the biggest gems he offered was how to deal with writing during those times you’re not inspired to write. And how do you do that? Simple: write through the writer’s block.

One of Golden’s most valuable advice he gave at his panel was that when you’re writing fiction for a living do not rely on inspiration. Inspiration is very momentary and so it happens when it happens which can be within a matter of days or even months if not longer. You can’t wait for the muse to drop you ideas when you need a regularly paying salary. Therefore, as Golden said, a writer cannot afford not to be in the mood to write. A writer must work every time they sit down to their writing session and so to do this, more often than not, they have to be their own inspiration. That means composing a story when you don’t feel like writing anything or when you feel you have nothing to write about. Along with this, he said to stick with original ideas, meaning that when you start a story you must continue writing it until you get to the end even if it means having to write what seems to be nonsense. He says that you shouldn’t start a story, stop in the midst of it and then go back and change it or toss the whole thing entirely to start a different story. To do these things will only delay the income you would make from your work and that means delaying your bills, your rent/house mortgage and maybe even your meals. Author William Saroyan said that writing for income should be looked at like it were a “day” job: you write even when you don’t feel like it in the same way you work when you don’t feel like it. A lot of us artists know what it is to work a non-creative job and to do our tasks from the beginning of the shift to the end when we care very little about the type of work the job consists of. Needless to say, we definitely like writing far more than our non-creative jobs (or most of us do, at least) but, even so, there are days that we just don’t feel up to writing anything. Those are the days we have to remember the income that we are writing for.

So you write through the writer’s block but then come out with a poor story. What happens then? You go through your one or two revisions to make the story presentable and communicable, but you don’t keep going back to perfect it like you would with a work of art that’s made to display in an art gallery, as Golden put it. Creating a story for aesthetic reasons is something you do secondary to your projects that would bring in a living income. You put your aesthetic work in its own time slot when money isn’t as crucial of a matter. With the writing you want to make a living income from you must write and publish on the moment. If you happen to catch that aesthetic effect in your work then fine. But if you don’t you can’t afford to go back to reshape the work in order to find that aesthetic effect. You must tell the story, and if the story comes out poorly even after making it communicable to the audience, then, as Golden advised, you send that one off for publication and just make a better attempt on the next story.

For me, thinking of fiction writing as a journey is a great way to avoid, or at least work through, writer’s block. In the rough draft stage, I put myself in the mind of a character that often starts off very flat. The character will develop as the story develops and also when I make a character profile after I’ve completed my first draft. And so, regardless of how flat my character starts out, I take that character on a journey and so move him/her through imaginary space and events. The setting and events keep developing and lead to other settings and events based on the character’s decisions and reactions. For example, I’ll put character Carlos in a train station where he walks to one platform only to discover he’s at the wrong one. So he runs across another track to catch the correct train but at a bad time: another train departs just as he’s crossing. This puts him in the hospital. Putting Carlos in one setting and his actions performed in that setting leads him to another setting.

Thinking for my character in terms of spatial movement, in terms of a journey, enables me to write the first draft spontaneously. I don’t go back to revise anything until after I have completed the first draft. And so even if I have to make my character do stupid or seemingly meaningless things, I continue that journey of words until I feel the character comes to an end of that journey by solving the problem he/she has been dealing with. That’s how I overcome writer’s block which many other authors will say is not really writer’s block. They say this because, even if you are writing what seems to be nonsense, you’re still writing; you’re putting something on paper or screen to work with. And as long as you have that and make it communicable and believable and worth the reader’s time, then you’ve succeeded no matter how poor the aesthetics of the story may be.

As long as you’re willing to write through those times you are not in the mood, as long as you’re willing to write through writer’s block, and as long as you’re willing to make the story communicable and interesting to the reader, you can make a living as a writer. Of course that living income won’t occur over night but if you keep working in that mind-state and with that intention, you’ll eventually make that sustainable income. The very experience of writing the stories you sell is practice within itself. No matter how successful or unsuccessful it may be, you learn from any mistakes you make provided you take notice of them and you do better on the next story, and then you do the same for the story after that, and so on. It’s like working any other job. You’re not going to get all the tasks down pat in the first shift or two. But the more shifts you work, the better you’ll get at the tasks. The same holds true for stories.


Can you think of other ways to write spontaneously under a deadline whether that deadline is self-imposed or set by an editor? Please let us know in the box below. 

Until next time . . . 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Wizard Con-ival

A page from America's Best Comics, issue 26, 1948
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Saturday I was at one of the fast food joints in town doing research on my smart horn (phone) for a topic to write this blog entry on when I discovered that Sacramento Wizard Con’s tickets for this coming Saturday were almost sold out. I jumped into my car and rushed home (within the speed limit) to register. (I don’t do monetary exchanges on my horn in public.) I had thought I would get in for free for the whole weekend with a press pass. But, after receiving a reply to my email request for one, I was told that the news media outlet I write for (Examiner.com) was not one of Wizard Con’s preferred outlets and they had to give preference because of the growing attendance of the con.

Wizard Con is a touring comic book and pop culture convention and so it makes appearances at various cities throughout the nation. This year Sacramento happens to be one of those cities. Besides comics, the con also features events related to movies, games, television and books. There’s a 10 dollar discount if you register online. For those of you who are interested in attending and want to save money (and, unless you’re a millionaire, who doesn’t want to?), I suggest you do it as soon as possible because tickets are selling fast.

Some of the most notable artists and writers are going to be there, including the legendary Stan Lee of Marvel Comics. Being a big Marvel Comics fan, I’ll definitely be there for his panel. Neal Adams who did much of the artwork for Batman comics in the late 1960s and early ‘70s will also be making an appearance. He’s been said to be the one who saved Batman from his campy appearance, which the ‘60s TV show was responsible for, and turned him back into the menacing night figure that he originally had been when Bob Kane created him in the late 1930s.

I’ll be sure to see Adams and hopefully get my Batman graphic novel signed by him. It’s a 1977 one that collects 1971 and ’72 issues of the Ra’s Al Ghul storyline. As some of you may know, such collections were not called graphic novels back then but that’s basically what they were. The only difference was that, instead of the waxy paper the pages that most of today’s graphic novels--let alone monthly issues--are made of, the pages of graphic novels back then were made from news print just like the individual issues they collected. Also the graphic novels of that time were around 13-and-a-half by 10-and-a-half inches and called “limited collectors’ editions” rather than “graphic novels”.

Besides creators of super hero comics, Wizard Con will also feature numerous writers and artists in the horror and science fiction genres. These include local best selling author, M. Todd Gallowglas who writes the Tears of Rage and Halloween Jack series of novels. I’ve had the pleasure to talk with Mr. Gallowglas at past events. He’s not only a writer of fiction but also a professional story teller at Renaissance faires and Celtic festivals. He has self-published numerous works, many that have been in ebook format and have been Amazon best sellers.  His book, First Chosen, was on Amazon’s 2012 Dark Fantasy and Fantasy Serieslists. His short story, “The Half-Faced Man”, was presented an honourable mention from the Writers of the Future contest. He has also written stories for the Call of Chthulugame series by Fantasy Flight Games.

Another Sacramento author who will be making an appearance at the con is Vincent M. Wales. Mr. Wales wrote the 2004 dystopian novel, One Nation Under God. Other writers on the guest list are fantasy author Davidson L. Haworth and steampunk author Madeleine Holly-Rosing. Mr. Haworth is known for his Prali Trilogy, of which his most recent in the series is 2013’s The Vampires of Prali. Ms. Holly-Rosing is known for her steampunk/supernatural mystery web comic and novellas that are set in the universe of the Boston Metaphysical Society.

One of the things I like most about a convention are the panels and workshops, in which Wizard Con will definitely have plenty. They include ones on writing and illustration for comic books. There will be a panel on Lovecraftin pop culture which is scheduled for Saturday at 7 PM and will include such topics as Lovecraft’s works’ influence on gaming, film, TV and comics. 

There will be many notable actors as guests, too: William Shatner of Star Trek; Billy Dee Williams of the Star Wars saga; Chris Hemsworth of Thor; Julie Benz of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead and X-Files; Bruce Campbell of the ‘90s cult film Army of Darkness. James Hong, who played the eye manufacturer in Blade Runner, the film adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, will also make an appearance.

Besides the guests and panels, there will be plenty of cosplayers in colourful costumes of their favourite pop culture characters. The costuming may be a little late for Mardi Gras/Carnival since Fat Tuesday (a.k.a. Shrove Tuesday) is today, but it’s always Carnival at a comic book/science fiction/fantasy convention! Or perhaps I should call it “Con-ival”.   

Speaking of Carnival, which often consists of jesters, I may even be able to give you an Amazon code for a 50 percent, or more, discount off The Fool’s Illusion simply if you come say “hi” to me. (Sorry, I wasn’t able to get a table, so you’ll have to look out for me.) I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday for sure, although I’m not exactly sure what time. Sometime in the afternoon, for certain.

Wizard Con will be held at the Sacramento Convention Center downtown, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visit their website for more details.


Until next time . . .