Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book-to-TV Series Sci Fi; PDF and Self-Publishing

A robot warrior and a cat-like creature overlook a misty landscape.

The last couple days in publishing my work have both been great and frustrating.

My Latest Article On Sci Fi/Fantasy Books and TV

I said a while back that I sold an article to an online science fiction/fantasy magazine called BuzzyMag but that it may be a while before they actually publish it. Well the wait is over! The article is now live. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” (as Dr. Frankenstein in Universal’s Frankenstein shouts.) It covers one of the newest trends in sci fi and fantasy television: TV series based on books in the two genres. With TV shows like The Expanse, American Gods and The Man In the High Castle, that are all based on best-selling or award-winning books, there are many more TV shows such as these to come in the near-future. I discuss those as well as past and current shows based on novels in my article entitled “TheTop 10 SF/F TV Series Based On Books” at BuzzyMag. Feel free to leave any comments either there or here.

“Circa” Print Edition Update: Resubmitting the Manuscript as a PDF File

Speaking about publishing, an indie author like myself doesn’t really know or remember how tough self-publishing is until they are actually doing it. Yesterday when I was trying to submit my manuscript for the print edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” to Kindle Direct Publishing’s beta paperback publishing program, I was going through a series of file types to get the manuscript to lay out correctly. None of them worked. Amazon suggests submitting manuscripts in PDF formatted files because is more compatible to the publishing program. I had been considering making a PDF version of my manuscript since yesterday afternoon when I started having the submission problems but didn’t have a PDF converter. Or I thought I didn’t.

I tried searching the internet for a free converter that was recommended by articles in well-known tech magazines such as Wired and PC Mag. Well, it was just this afternoon that I was looking at an article at that suggested Libre Office. I’ve been using Libre Office for typing my stories for the last year or so, ever since Microsoft stopped providing its own Office package with Windows. However, I didn’t know that it had a PDF converter or editing tool until I glanced through that article. I looked on the file menu of the Writer software of my copy of Libre Office and, sure enough, there was an option to convert files to PDF that was labeled “Export as PDF”! I clicked on that with the odt (open document format) file of my manuscript open and it created a PDF copy. Now to see if Kindle’s paperback publishing program will accept the file even if it’s been created by an open source program like Libre. Microsoft Word has seemed to be the standard for everything for the last 20 years.

I’ll update you next time and let you know how the PDF file of my manuscript submission worked out. If next week’s post’s headline reads something like “’Circa Sixty Years’ Print Edition Now Available” then that means it worked out.

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

‘Valerian’ and San Diego Comic Con ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Promos

I’m submitting my complete file for the print edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” early next week. Hopefully it will be available for purchase by Wednesday. I’ll post an update for the release on my Facebook page and definitely here next week. As busy as a weekend it has been, I’m squeesing in some time for a summer sci fi flick—Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.


I’m always looking for the Star Wars-type blockbuster each summer and it looks like Valerian could be it. In fact, according to TheHollywood Reporter, it even borrows from Star Wars. However, according to the bulk of critics, it hasn’t been much of a blockbuster on this weekend of its release. But it’s definitely blockbuster-like yet with its own style and vision from its director, Luc Besson, who also directed The Fifth Element back in the ‘90s and look what became of that. It became a cult classic, and hopefully this movie will too. The reason I say that is because the majority of our nation’s population seems to only want to see what mass consumerism demands and so what the majority of people are willing to pay money for. They say “Screw the director’s vision!” This is how Hollywood works, unfortunately. Because of that, a good many films of unique style and vision have been turned down.

Europe’s movie industry has traditionally not been like that, this movie having grown out of France like the comic book series it originates from. Surprise! Not even a European surreal style film can get away from the comic book movie craze of the past 10 years. But I’ll see this new release on the big screen over a Guardians of the Galaxy new release anytime. Yet, hopefully it will stand well on its own while staying faithful to the comic. Not that I’ve read the comic. But if the movie’s really good I may pick up an anthology of reprints of the comic series and read it. If it’s really bad, then I’ll still read the comic because it will probably be better than the movie. Here’s a good article that compares the two. 

Blade Runner 2049 Promos

San Diego Comic Con (which I have not attended any yet) has been doing a lot of promotion of the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, which continues the adventures of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and a new generation’s hero, K (Ryan Gosling), who takes the spotlight in this film. The movie is a sequel to the 1982 original that’s based on Philip K. Dick’s book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I read two interesting articles on the con’s promotion of the movie: one about a VR/ live-performance combo tease, the other about a timeline graph that shows the events between thefirst film and the upcoming one (which is due to release in October). Check them out!

That’s what’s happening this weekend. Next weekend will be two cons which I may or may not go to both but will attend one of them for sure. I’ll talk about that more then along with other topics in sci fi/fantasy reading, writing and viewing.

Do you think Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is destined to become a cult classic like The Fifth Element?

Do you think the sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner will be good even though it won’t be based directly on Philip K. Dick’s novel (since the novel itself never had a sequel)?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wizard World Con Report, Part II: More Writing Tips!

Two posts ago I gave a report of two panels that I attended at Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento. [link] I highlighted the fiction writing advice given at these panels. One of the panels was about the Satan myth in the dark fiction genre and the term for the genre itself. I said that author Richard Kadrey talked about his Satan character in the Lucifer comic book series and that he talked some more about it in his villain creation panel later that same day. That panel is included here in part two of the report of the writing panels I attended. I had also said that the report would be divided into three posts, but it looks like I can complete it in two, so this is the final part.

Three members of a disco band playing in a concert.
A "Disco Revolution" band that I watched before attending my first panel on Saturday, Day 2 of Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento. These guys are really heavy in keeping one of the earliest forms of electronica alive!
Photo Credit: the blogger

Day 2, Part II

So after the “Modern Mythology” panel, and getting lunch at the nearby 7-11 because I wasn’t going to pay nearly 10 bucks for one slice of pizza at the convention center, I attended the 2 P.M. panel entitled “Villains: Creating the Perfect Antagonist”. The panelists consisted of authors Genese Davis, Tricia Stirling (not sure if there’s any relation to Bruce Stirling), Maureen O’Leary, Eric Kieron Davis, and Richard Kadrey. This was a great discussion of what goes into a well-rounded villiain in fiction, whether prose, comic book, TV, Movies or games. One key suggestion that was given was when you create a villain for your story you should make them look natural and therefore realistic. Along with that idea, the villain should be hateful to the reader yet pitiful to some extent and so he or she should be made sympathetic to the reader.

Much of the talk about the complexity of a villainous character came when Genese asked Richard about his Lucifer character in his Lucifer comic book series. Richard’s response was that he didn’t consider Lucifer as a villain because he is a complex character. He pointed out examples of how the devil has shown good qualities (even though they may have been for evil ends) both in his comic series and in other depictions of him, including the Old Testament. In response to this, Ms. Stirling said that the more complex the villain is, the scarier he/she is. She said, “When they’ve lost everything, they have nothing to lose so they can do anything.” This means that the extent to which they do evil can be unpredictable and utmost destructive to others. Even so, as Genese said, the writer must give the villain’s side of the story (which to the villain him-/herself, they are not a villain). But going back to the good qualities the well-rounded villain has, you can see examples of how scary such a character can be. Look at Psycho, for example: the killer comes across as a very ordinary, hospitable young man. Yet when anger shows up even at a small scale when one of his guests asks about the insanity of his mother, we know something is not quite right with him.

Another great piece of advice the panelists gave was to think about the “villains” in our own lives while creating our antagonists. We’ve all encountered the “worst” of people in our lives such as unreasonable and unmerciful supervisors, corrupt cops or biased high school teachers. And so knowing the qualities of real-life people such as these can help us create the villains for our fiction. Erik Davis said that modern fears such as ones caused by war, disease, the vastness and mysteriousness of space, and overpopulation help to create a villain. Fears such as these often stem from the belief in a limitation of resources and from death and so leads to villains becoming obsessed with these fears.

The next writing panel I attended was at 4 PM and was called “Finding Time and Motivation to Write”. It was led by Genese Davis, Catherine Banks, Becky Chambers and Kelley York. They discussed how to make the time to write during our busy schedules. I got more notes from the motivation part of the panel than the time part. Some of the advice offered was breaking down your writing goal(s) into smaller or “sprint” goals (as one of the panelists called them). Doing this helps schedule your writing more easily as well as keeping on top of it.

One of the motivation techniques was one that concerned location. Genese suggested that to get yourself excited about your story you can write in a different location than you normally would. For example, if you normally write at home and feel like you’re losing the motivation to write, then work on your writing in a coffee shop on certain days. It was also mentioned that one cause of losing motivation to write is fear of the project not working out and what other people will think of it. It was discussed that this fear must be overcome or your going to lose interest in writing.

Other suggestions for motivation was to surround yourself with plenty of resources that would inspire you to write such as art or photos in your genre. With internet you can almost always find these. I commented on this by saying to everyone that what has helped me is reading bios or, better yet, autobiographies of authors or watching documentaries, interviews and talks by your favourite authors. You can find plenty of these on YouTube if you just put in the name of the author in the search box.

Another great motivator someone brought up was, what they called, an “award system”. It works something like this: set a goal to write so many words and then award yourself when you reach it. For a higher number of words, make the award bigger. For example, tell yourself if you write 500 words in one day then you’ll play ten minutes of your favourite video game; if you reach 1000 words in a day, you’ll spend a half hour playing that game, and so on.

But one of the most important motivators was stressed by Ms. Davis at the end of the panel and that was networking. Networking is an important motivator because it can be wearing and even discouraging to always handle our writing by ourselves. When we talk to each other either in person or online about our writing projects and give each other advice and ask for help, it takes the load off us a lot more than if we handled all aspects of our writing alone. It makes it much easier or at least manageable in handling our writing projects.

Also, I believe someone said that networking does include blogs. All writers, especially self-publishing ones like myself, should have a blog as well as visit other writers’ blogs and discuss what works for them and what doesn’t. Also leave comments on other writers’ blogs. So if you feel your lacking a writers network, you can start involving yourself in one right now and here! Leave a comment about the post. To help you get started, some questions you can answer are ones such as: of the above writing advice, which one do you find most helpful? What motivates you most to write? When you don’t feel motivated then what do you do to motivate yourself? Leave your answers in the box below.

Day 3

On Sunday of the con, I didn’t attend any writers panels, but I did attend a panel called “How to Build a Geek Brand”. However, I won’t go into it a lot because this was more of a marketing panel than a writing one but it helps in promoting your work. Just a couple of highlights were how to name your brand and how to finance it (which Patreon and Kickstarter were suggested platforms for)

The panels at Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento were mostly aimed at comic book writers and artists. But the above panels I mentioned can work both for prose fiction writers as well as comic book writers. That’s because both mediums are forms of storytelling and when writing is behind the storytelling the basic elements are all the same: clarity, connecting the writing to your readers, and keeping yourself motivated in your writing.

Next week, I’ll return to discussing the status of my seemingly never-ending writing projects.

Until then . . .

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cover Reveal: 'Circa Sixty Years Dead' Front and Back

I know, I said last week that I would have part two of the Wizard World Comic Con report here. But the last few days have been hectic with time sensitive book promotion projects and getting the pad (house) ready for family coming from out of town that I haven't been able to finish writing the report. And to make matters worse, I haven't released the print edition of Circa Sixty Years Dead. Liar, liar pants on fire me! Actually, there's a good excuse for delaying the latter: I thought it would be a good idea to so a cover reveal for the back cover summary, which I did finish as I said I would last post, and give you the opportunity to give your opinion of it before I release the book. Your comments about how well the summary itself works will be greatly appreciated, but I'm also open to any feedback about the overall appearance of the back cover. In order to see the cover's details more clearly, simply click on the image.

I'll have the rest of the con report with more writing advice here next week.

Until then . . .

Book cover, front and back, with a six-armed goddess statue on the front and summary on the back.
Front and back cover for Circa Sixty Years Dead, print edition (simply click the image to see the details better)
Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Wizard World Con Report, Part I

A backdrop with the Wizard World Comic Con Logo and the silhouette of a city.
Credit: Wizard World

I apologise for missing last week’s post. I was busy with a special writing project that was due any day and so I didn’t have time to post anything except to my Facebook page. You can visit my Facebook page for any updates in between blog posts. 

I promised you a fuller report of Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento in my last post and so that’s what I have here for you today. However, I don’t have enough time to go over all three days of the con in one post, so I’m going to break up the coverage into three parts. The con offered a lot of great events such as cosplays and panels on comic book creation, including art and writing. I’m not a costumer but I just dug seeing the people who are and that go way, way out with their apparel! And that’s a great thing. To see what I mean, check out the photos in my last post if you haven’t done so yet. 

But my favourite part about sci fi and fantasy conventions is talking to the other artists and writers as well as attending their panels. Panels by experienced writers and artists don’t only give you great tips for your own work or insight about what goes into your favourite comic book series or novel series, but they also give you motivation to create and read more. And even though this convention emphasised comic creators, many of the creativity panels--especially the ones on writing--work for fiction in any medium whether it be comics, prose books, TV, movies or even video games. So here’s the more detailed highlights of Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento that was held at the convention center in downtown Sacramento, June 17 through 19.

Day 1 of Wizard World

I don’t have a lot to say about day one, since I was only at the convention for a couple hours and only attended one panel and it wasn’t even the whole thing. I went there that late, hot Friday afternoon mostly to pick up my admission wrist band and check out the refreshing air conditioned dealers room which was almost the size of the Golden 1 Center arena. Dealer booths covered at least a good three quarters of it.

So after I looked around at some art and talked to a couple comic book creator friends at their booth, I sat down at the panel that was going at the Creative Stage set up their in the dealers room. The panel was called “From Beginning to End: The Art of Plot”. There were at least three panelists there. The main one was comic book creator Victor Dandridge and one of the others was novelist Todd Gallowglas. I did not take notes on this panel, because I was only there for about ten minutes, but I do remember Todd saying something like that one of the things he does to motivate himself to write and finish his books is that he puts his empty wallet in front of him at his work space and that reminds him of the bills he has to pay. And another panelist said that, for him, there’s no such thing as writer’s block and that it’s only a fear of writing. If I remember correctly, he said that the easiest way to handle it is to write anything no matter how much of crap it is. Whatever, I believe this approach to writer’s block and have heard of it from other pro writers. Just write the rough draft and complete it; there will be plenty of time for revision and even re-creation later.

Day 2

As far as Saturday’s writing panels I attended go, the first one was called “Modern Mythology, Classic Horror and the Devil Incarnate”. The main panelist was Richard Kadrey, writer of the comic book series Lucifer, which was no wonder they named the panel the way they did. But much of this talk discussed the dark genres such as horror and dark fantasy although Kadrey said he does not like the word “dark” because it’s a relative term and that he doesn’t like being labeled as a dark genre author. This is a problem that many writers have when their books have been published and marketed, especially famous authors because they tend to be looked at only for the genres they mostly write in. I don’t plan to limit myself to writing dark fiction or science fiction for the rest of my life, even though they’re my favourite genres and I’ll regularly write in them. But because I like literature that is dark, especially supernatural fiction, the word “dark genre” doesn’t bother me in the least.

The problem one of the other panelists, author Genese Davis, had with the genre label of “dark” was that it scares people away from buying, reading or watching things in that category. But my belief is that if it scares those people away, then that’s not our target audience and that’s probably a category of fiction not for them. That is why we classify fiction into genres. Personally, I want to know what I’m purchasing or checking out before I spend my money or time reading the book. I do read outside the speculative genre, but when I want to read in it I want to know where to find it in a book store or library.

Kadrey went on to give a really great writing tip. That tip was to that when we write to go into the project with as much ignorance as possible for better creativity. I believe what he meant by this was that if you write with as little conceived notion as possible about how you want your story to turn out, it will more likely come out as a unique piece. It goes along with my personal philosophy about writing, especially fiction writing, which is that it is a journey. It’s a trip that you take into a conceived time and space, into a setting of a sort, where you don’t know what you will come across or how you will get to the end. Approaching fiction writing in this way helps you to develop your story in directions other writers haven’t taken before and it makes it more enjoyable for you as the writer. I mean, who wants to take a trip knowing ahead of time exactly every detail they are going to see? That would be boring and unenriching.

The panel also discussed mythology in today’s pop literature, TV and movies. Richard talked about his approach to his Greek god characters in his novel, Sandman Slim. He said that every Greek deity “is a jerk” and that this makes their characters ambivalent and he wants to keep the continuity in that trait between his stories. This is why the Greek deities continue being popular in today’s story-telling because, unlike many of the other deities of mythology, they are flawed and very human-like. The difference between them and humans is that the gods are immortal and they have powers that exceed the strength of humans.

As far as the Satan character goes, Kadrey mostly talked about how the devil is depicted in his own work which is as a hero, particularly in Lucifer. So the version of his Satan derives, as he explained, from Milton’s in Paradise Lost. He discussed the Satan/Lucifer character more in his other panel I attended that day, which I will talk about in the next post.

“Circa Sixty Years Dead” Update

I just finished the back cover summary for the print edition of “Circa”. I’m going to add it to the back cover in the template and will submit the book for publication during the week. Hopefully it will be available for purchase by the next post.

Until then . . .