Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why my blog is named The Discovered Story

So you’re reading a novel, or watching a movie, and it is getting intense. The character, or characters, are in trouble, and your heart is beating fast, your adrenaline is pumping, and the slightest sound might make you jump out of your seat. Your body is responding as if you are there with the characters...as if you are in danger. Your physiological response is, analytically speaking, irrational. These characters do not exist, the situation does not exist, and whether they die or not will not have a physical impact on your life. And yet the response is real, and it can be delightful, because you’re not just reading a book or watching a movie—you are living in another world.

But this heart racing, palm sweating, gut wrenching experience cannot happen if the reader or watcher doesn’t believe in what is happening. The characters and the situation must seem wholly real and rational and vivid; otherwise, the sense of empathy is gone and you are no longer wearing another person’s skin. Once again you are just sitting on the couch reading a book or watching a movie.

The story can’t seem fabricated and it can’t be false...it must feel like a real thing discovered. The story must appear to be a Discovered Story or the ultimate story experience can never be achieved.

#writing #writers

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The World-Wide, Mass-Production Company of You

     I’ve read the discussions about how to price your e-book. Some people are very passionate about this. There are those that are outraged that indie authors are pricing their books for 99 cents or less. “Don’t you think your book is worth more than a cup of coffee?” they ask. 

     The problem with that question, to my way of thinking, is that it asks us to make an emotional decision on what price to ask. Your main premise in a business case shouldn’t be an emotional argument. 

     On the seller’s side, your e-book is a one-of-a-kind specially crafted product. On the buyer’s side, your e-book is the digital equivalent of a mass production product with world-wide distribution. Mass production items are priced low to maximize sales; the margin is low, but the return is good because the sales are high. 

     We may have worked for years on our books, writing and editing and rewriting. We may have paid graphic designers for covers and paid for editing. Maybe you’ve paid for marketing too. But we’re getting an insane margin—the worst I’ve seen is 33%. And the only person in your factory is you! In the mass-production business you’re making out like a bandit.

     I do know that the majority of indie e-book publishers aren’t making much money. Most of us are pretty much invisible to the e-book consumers. But pricing our books at a ‘fair’ value of $9.99 isn’t going to increase the odds of people finding (and buying) our books on the virtual shelves. 

     My opinion on this subject is still developing. I’ll be glad to hear what you think, one way or the other.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Story Behind Mimic

     If you tell me a ghost story I will listen attentively, because I enjoy ghost stories, but don’t expect me to believe you. As an engineer I believe in what I can see, hear, touch or what can be proven empirically. I have never read a document that produced a shred of evidence supporting the existence of ghosts.

     And yet...in our house there have been a couple of events that can’t quite be explained.

     My wife and I were lying in bed still awake though it was late. We heard our daughter running down the hallway toward our bedroom. She wore onesie pajamas and the plastic soles on her feet made a distinctive sound. When she reached our door she stopped. We waited for her to come and jump into our bed, as she’d done many times before. And we waited. And waited. Finally, I got up and checked. She was in bed sound asleep.

     If it had just been me I would have guessed I had a hypnagogic hallucination...but both my wife and I experienced this. To think this was a hoax by a two year old is ridiculous. Two year olds don’t have the coordination to tiptoe silently. They don’t have the acting skills to pretend they are asleep.

     Fast-forward ten years. My second daughter is sleeping in the top bunk of her bed. The bottom bunk is reserved for her friends when she has a sleep-over. She hears me come into the room and climb up the ladder. But it isn’t me. I’m out of town on business travel. And no one is there. It really disturbed her. After that, for at least a year, she always propped pillows up in the gap in the rails where the ladder goes.

     Two unexplained events in the course of ten years is hardly a haunting. What both events share is the sense of mimicry. And they mimic routines that held strong emotional power for me and probably for the other members of my family.

     I took these events and wove them into my Spear Bearer short story Mimic. As writers we are always recycling things from our lives to reuse in our stories, and this is just one example of that.

     Oh, and one last thing: My oldest daughter really did have an imaginary friend named Kracken. And don’t tell her, but he always kind of gave me the creeps.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

ABNA – It’s all over except for the crying

The Amazon Breakout Novel Award competition is closed. No more entries. No more editing of existing entries. It’s all over except for the crying.
My chances aren’t great…one in 2500 approximately for a First Prize award, about 1 in 10000 to win the Grand Prize. But heck, it certainly beats the odds for winning the lottery, right? 
I’m sure my entry isn’t perfect. I have gone over my MS numerous times and still I find those niggling mistakes. A few days back I was looking at the first page and I saw where the UPS guy delivers “a square brown box.” (Really Clary? A square box? Square boxes are so rare. And it is brown too?) Geez, I’m an idiot. How many more of these goofs are in there? How many will it take before the reviewer says “I’ve had enough!” 
So, my chances aren’t great. Besides, the ABNA award really isn’t even a ‘prize.’ It’s just an advance on future sales. It’s like a McDonald’s manager telling a pimple-faced boy, “Congratulations, you’ve won $12,000. Here’s your apron. Your prize will be awarded in weekly installments throughout the year.” Okay…not exactly the same. They don’t give the boy the $12,000 up front. (Would they see him again if they did?) 
Still, I want to win. I have fantasies about winning. I imagine Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos calling me, a tremor of emotion in his voice, saying that my novel The Globe is the best book he’s ever read. The fantasy is eerily similar to Ralphie’s in A Christmas Story when he imagines the teacher’s response to his Why I should get a Red Rider BB-Gun for Christmas essay. Remember the teacher grading the paper A++++++++++ with a dramatic flourish?
In any case, it’s been a good experience. ABNA really made me look at my pitch. Study it. Improve it. ABNA put a fire under my feet to edit and re-edit The Globe (and, yes, I know, I really should invest in an editor.) Finally, ABNA has encouraged me to work on my social networking. If, against the odds, I’m a finalist, my social networking platform will mean the difference between the Grand Prize and First Place. 
So…thanks Amazon. Even if I don’t make it past Round 1, the competition has really helped me.