author C.C.Cole's blog

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Beauty and Fantasy

As I continue to plow my way through George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” it reminded me of the importance of beauty in fantasy stories.  Even in dark fantasy, usually the heroes are handsome, the heroines are beautiful, and the home worlds are beautiful.  While I like a mix of beauty/plain/ugly with good and evil traits, many classics have good-looking leading characters, to say the least.

It’s hardly a deep dive into the human mind the reasons why beauty is so represented in fantasy.  What’s a world worth fighting for, if not loved for its beauty?  Who’s a heroine that needs rescue (I suppose that would be “damsel”) that’s not a beauty?  While I liked the original “Beauty and the Beast” story as a kid, what princess would not prefer a hottie guy to marry and live happily ever after in a world of filled with breathtaking scenery? 

To me, good-looking characters add to their good intentions, thus placing the finishing touches of a classic “fantasy.”  That hardly means that hotties are not effective as evil characters; though a wart hog-appearing hero would be a hard sell defeating a handsome enemy.  With female characters it’s similar; in your fantasy do you want the hero to rescue the Wicked Witch of the West?  If a homeland is hellhole, does it make sense to fight to the death to save something that wasn’t so great to begin with?

In fantasy, readers want to imagine what’s written in the pages.  Beauty remains a trait we all appreciate, so it plays an important role as we create our stories.  To see the beauty in fantasy makes us look back to the beauty in our lives.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

On Creative Shutdown

I’ve written about the challenges of motivation and writing, and the assistance “mental breaks” give us when we rest and play Angry Birds, but sooner or later, most writers encounter “writer’s block.”  It’s a good, common descriptive cliché, but I think of it more like a “Creative Shutdown.”

Be it work, personal issues, distractions of daily living, sometimes I find myself stuck in dry dock.  I’m not coming up with hot ideas for my next novel.  I can’t think of any clever tweets.  I can’t think of anything to share on Facebook other than being tired from work, and who wants to hear (read) people whining, especially people working during these times?  (Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful to be working).  I’ve seen “The Social Network” about a hundred times, and need to move on to another film obsession.   For those that think I’m not so creative to start with, back atcha!!  (joke, please).

So, when creativity shuts down in my mind, I feel like a part of my electricity is off and I’m on reserve power.  As a writer, I’ve gained so much from creative outlets; so the gap is wide during shutdown.  Daily routine is not a problem, but the time I keep to myself, where I can identify, as my little niche I’ve carved out of the planet is absent. 

How do we new authors pull ourselves out of “Creative Shutdown?”  Answer:  1) time, 2) books.  After mentally sitting in the blackout zone for a couple of days, I found my creative instincts pulling me back to where I started:  books. 

I picked up my e-reader, opened it, and started reading a few pages.  Not pushing myself, I’d turn it off but keep it nearby.  Later on, I’d pick it up again.  After a few days, I’m almost back to my baseline, thinking about ways to move the plot in my next novel, and deciding which new awesome Indie writer to read/possibly review next. 

“Creative Shutdown” doesn’t need to be long term.  But sometimes an evening of Angry Birds doesn’t cut it, sometimes, we need more time.  It’s OK, fellow new authors.  If you need a break, take one.  In a weird way us newbies to the industry have the freedom to not need to write on demand.  That’s not always a bad thing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On the Controversies of Not-So-Dark Fantasy

At risk of touching the hot stove with this article, I’ll declare early that, as a non-parent, I leave judgment on what young children should be reading to their parents.  However, as I continue to think about famous stories in fantasy, two stand out, famous for standing apart.

First, “The Chronicles of Narnia” is considered a beautiful story, and Christian-friendly.  Reportedly C.S. Lewis wrote this after conversion to Christianity as an adult, making it (mostly the character Aslan) an allegory of Christ, and the stories with undertones of Christianity.  I read these books as a little kid, and enjoyed the films.  Regarding fantasy, this series publicly is a near safe bet anytime; when anyone mentions fantasy, and if the answer is “My favorite is Narnia,” you can bet on lot of “Likes” on social sites. 

Second, when “The Golden Compass” film came out a few years ago, I admit I missed reading this one in the 1990’s.  I saw the film trailers, it seemed like a lovely film for kids, and then a person I worked with told me “It’s a movie made to kill God.”

Yikes!  Not much surprise that it didn’t break blockbuster records in the US.  I’ve read about author Pullman, and he’s a reported agnostic.  I watched it when it showed up on cable, and didn’t see anything incredibly demonic, though I liked “Narnia” better.  If the author had kept a lower profile, the film probably would have had a larger box office hit.

When I think about these not-so-dark fantasy stories, I mean “Gee, why is one rubber-stamped as acceptable for Christian viewers and one rubber-stamped as horribly atheist?”  The answer is obvious:  the publicity of the stories.  Question:  What if C.S. Lewis said nothing about making “Narnia” a Christ-allegory, and if Pullman simply stated he wrote a children’s fantasy book?  What would audiences think of the stories then?  Answer:  No way to tell now, as these stories carry such strong labels.  I posted a previous review about my first novella from a fundamentalist Christian reviewer suggesting only “Narnia” can be acceptable for children.  (I never marketed my books to small children; it was a publicist blunder.)  But is that really true?  What about all the great Indies with so many great books for kids like “Toonopolis,” Xannu,” and the “Allon” series? Do we need to analyze the Christianity of each author?  Answer:  Some parents may choose to do so.

I’m not going to tell parents or anyone else what’s right and wrong in what they choose to read/have their children read.  It’s a sacred freedom here and hardly universal.  But for adults to just read the stories as written will give more insight into right and wrong for them than the deep-seated labels they both carry.  Again, the readers decide. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Fantasy Family Values

Great houses of powerful families stand in the heart of many epics, such as the Atreides/Harkonnens of Dune, and the Lannisters of “A Song of Ice and Fire.”  Remnants of families reunite in LOTR and are well known in the Harry Potter series.

Though powerful families are not the center of my novellas, instead Shevata's family is a "non-family" given her breeding for the purpose of war.  However, the use of long lines of relatives enriches the stories, particularly in epics with large casts of well-developed characters leading to intrigue, action, tragedy, and victory. 

Families are usually opposed to each other for a variety of reasons, and often, if royal, use marriage to arrive at a consensual agreement to stave off war.  Some families are the “good guys” like the Weasleys in Harry Potter, the Atreides in Dune, and the Starks in A Song of Ice and Fire, which coincide with the Malfoys, the Harkonnens, and the Lannisters, respectively, as the “bad guys.”

Most of the fantasy families are not poor (exception the Weasleys, more middle-class), have some kind of political influence, and have their own brand of corruption and relationships.  In fantasy, most of them look alike, usually hair color, and when well written, they act enough alike to be consistent but different enough to be stand alone characters. 

The backgrounds of dark fantasy characters have almost as much to do with their development as their actions.  The tyrannical or benevolent patriarch, the offspring competitions for power, or the husband/wife marriage of love or politics make for excellent backgrounds in epic stories. 

New authors can get inspiration from fictional families, as well as historical family lines and even our own family units.  Every person comes from a family, and defining the family is defining the character.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

On The Clash of the Reader/Writer

As I note on the left side of my blog, I review short stories and novellas.  I also do some beta reading; usually for authors I’ve reviewed previous works.  Sometimes I review a book because I want to.  Also, I make it no secret that I don’t post reviews I’d give two out of five stars or less.

I’ve been criticized for that self-inflicted policy, understandably so, because it appears that I’m not honest.  But I’m a writer first and reviewer second, and I’m not a professional editor or an English teacher.  To me, when I review, I read, when I read, I learn, and when I learn, I write. 

I review a number of Indie books, but not exclusively; to me, it’s my way of promoting talented new authors.  And the talent I’ve seen has been much more impressive than not.

But all things are not equal to every reader.  I just came across a couple of books that I chose not to post a review.  Neither of them clicked with my line of thinking.  Was it their writing or my thinking?  Or lack of thinking?  I’m not sure. Like I always state, I handle my reaction by private email to the author.  Is that the best way?  I’m not sure, but at least I can say I’m not bashing their book on a sales site (sensitive stuff these days).

I want to be fair, and I focus on content.  So when the content of the story doesn’t grab me in a way that expands my mind, I feel guilty because I cannot give the writer what they’re seeking.  I understand it because I seek the same thing:  Approval.

Referring back to my article on “Finding an Audience” I think when books don’t ring my chimes, I find myself on the other end of the review.   I’m not a member of the audience.  To email an author saying I don’t want to post a review doesn’t make my day.  But fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, and I don’t want to miss out on any more great books out there than I have to.

And a gentle reminder to authors raw with me:  I usually purchase books I review, unless the author sends me an ebook.  If nothing else, they got a sale.

Monday, September 19, 2011

On “The Mordred Complex” and the New Author

As a writer of medieval dark fantasy, like many others, I’ve read several versions of King Arthur, including Sir Thomas Malory’s work, Mary Stewart, and Marion Zimmer Bradley (who focused on the women of the stories).  Of the films, my favorite is “Excalibur” with great actors, beautiful cinematography, and so what the amour was not of the period?  The scene as they charged through the cherry blossoms stands clear in my mind with a great accommodating score.

With so many versions and so many characters, it’s challenging to point out a favorite, other than Arthur and Merlin.  The women tend to be confusing amongst the stories as well, with Morgause, Morgan Le Fay, and Morgaine; sometimes they’re the same character, and sometimes not.  At least Guinevere is fairly consistent. 

To me, of all the characters, the most tragic and complex is Mordred.  His name is synonymous with “traitor” and “evil,” though not all of the stories have him in that context; in some he is “victim.”  My question is why was Mordred evil? He betrayed Arthur and was killed by him.  OK, I get it.  But was Mordred ever liked in the first place?  No.  Why was that?  In most of the stories he was a known child of incest, considered taboo then (and now) and was hated from the beginning.  Therefore, Mordred became a traitor because he was always hated; not for something he did, but for something he was and had no control over; meaning the identity of his birth parents.

When a character hates another character for hating them just for what they are, I call it “The Mordred Complex.”  Such characters never have a chance, and as born enemies are only destined to become greater enemies.  For fantasy, such characters make great tragic figures or horrific antagonists.  In my novellas, Shevata’s child-warrior equals were assassinated on the same day, because they were bred for a war that was long over.  The people of the Gastar hated the children for what they were.

“The Mordred Complex” can be seen every day in hard news, as conflicts either arise or continue around the world, and sometimes it’s just for someone being what they are at birth, instead of by deeds.  Whatever the reason, “The Mordred Complex” makes for a dangerous character, which stands nothing to lose by hating those who’ve hated him/her since birth. 

So again, new authors, create more great literature.  I think we can learn a lot from the classic Arthurian tales, and the story of Mordred can be related to on a number of levels.

I'm blogging for blog’s sake - are you? - Writing.ie - Guest Blogs

I'm blogging for blog’s sake - are you? - Writing.ie - Guest Blogs

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On “The Writing Zone” and the New Author

After being asked on several interviews the setting that I prefer to write, I decided to analyze the transcendence of the endless bombardment of creative thought processes to the translation into words.  Though in films and some blogs I see happy writers relaxing on the beach, or deciding to take a couple of weeks off to enjoy a creative inspiration, my schedule doesn’t allow that kind of flexibility.

Referring back to my article on motivation, even that isn’t always enough to get my most creative brain juices flowing onto pages.  As new authors, many still rely on jobs to pay the bills and use writing as our way to share our dreams or nightmares (for my horror colleagues). 

I can read almost anywhere, except when I feel the need to play Angry Birds.  But with writing, it’s not so simple.  I usually have the television on something I like, but not enough to divert my attention.  DVDs of films are my favorite, as I have most of them memorized and creative backdrops inspire me.  The most recent films I’ve used are “The Social Network” and “Black Swan.” Neither of these films is remotely close to my genre, but if I like them it doesn’t matter.  For “Children of Discord” the film “The Dark Knight” gave me great inspiration, but only after I’d seen it so many times I didn’t need to take my eyes off my computer.

Which takes me to the computer, a Mac, the first of my recent Apple product obsession.  I’ll clarify that I’m not selling a product when I mention my Apple preference; it’s just that PC’s never-ending error messages of viral invasions got to the point of intolerable.  (People tell me new PC technology is better, and that’s great; go for it.)  I tend to keep my Internet open in case I need a break to look for a shoe or Coach handbag sale. 

When I think back to the great writers of the past; Shakespeare, Austen, Hemmingway, and Dumas (whose work I’m currently reading), I think of how difficult it must have been to either hand-write or use a manual typewriter!  Talk about feeling coddled by technology of today!  I know some current writers still prefer to use longhand, and they have my respect for their diligence. 

I also require physical comfort, so a laptop while I’m on a recliner or on my bed, which has an upholstered headboard with little arm-rests on the sides making it resemble a couch.  House chores need to be caught up or ongoing, and I cannot write with bills pending to be paid.  Social sites such as Facebook and Twitter I like to check in case I need to follow up on messages or followbacks, and my author emails need to be cleared.  Without children, that leaves out a distraction I’d find to be very challenging and can only imagine the challenges of new author-parents out there.  Considering my struggle with migraine headaches, it’s a given that I must be on a good day.

So, new authors, find whatever will get you “in the zone” a term for writing based upon my husband’s observation.  He says he can tell when I’m writing on a novel or using the computer for other means, like social media.  It’s probably the laughing out loud at some of my clever, humorous Tweeps.  Though the stress of daily living makes it a challenge, find your way into the zone and write something awesome.  And don’t forget to tweet about it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

On Angry Birds and the New Author

On a recent airplane flight, I found myself as usual feeling crammed in the coach section, hot, and too distracted to read.  My husband played a computer game on his iPad, which lasted about five minutes until I borrowed it to play it myself. (Typical marriage thing).
I’ve been hearing of “Angry Birds” for a while.  Once I mentioned my books available as ebooks, and a friend said, “If I’m not working all I do on a computer is play “Angry Birds.”

Not much time passed before my husband downloaded the game on my iPad with the little irritated birds and the Rio version.  There I was, happily crashing structures down on evil green pigs, monkeys’ and freeing caged exotic birds.

Since I tend to analyze almost everything, I wondered why I waste time playing this game.  Or is it really a waste of time?  There’s something cathartic about feisty little obnoxious birds used as enthusiastic demolishers.  And when you win, they cheer for you.  Sure, it’s silly, stupid, and just challenging enough not to throw down in disgust, so it’s good short-term entertainment.

Now what could this silly computer game have to do with the new author?  I see it as a “brain break.”  Sometimes our imaginations need breaks.  Such innovations do the imagination for us, like music videos.  When I hear a song and when I see it on video, it’s usually a different effect.  When I’m down with a migraine, intolerant of light and sound, I turn the volume off on my iPad and play “Angry Birds” for a while.  It’s not a cure, but it gives me something mindless to do while otherwise feeling miserable. 

New authors, I’m not suggesting you should all get “Angry Birds” and let it take over your life.  Everything is moderation, and this little game is a bit addictive….until the next new fad comes out.  But sometimes our brains need a break, and be it a computer game or watching a film for the hundredth time, there’s nothing bad about a brief imaginative rest.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review of "Black Hill Farm" and the sequel, "Black Hill Farm: Andy's Diary by Tim O'Rourke

“Black Hill Farm” drops the reader into a dysfunctional family and a relative who joins them, resulting in a cataclysm of events that result in inter-family intrigue and murder.  I especially liked the story’s presentation, with the police inspector interviews driving the plot.  Living in the isolation of a farm near nowhere, and having few people to count on, the characters live and scheme in what appears to be a small world, but for them is the entire world.  I highly recommend this book to those that enjoy suspense where things are not what they seem.  Four stars!

The sequel to “Black Hill Farm” brings back to fascinating police inspector interviews of the first book, but the prior inspector finds himself on the other side of the law.  Most of the plot is carried by the point of view of Andy, a beautiful teenage girl whose parents owned the farm.  More mystery is peeled back to expose unexpected paranormal events. Overall, this is a good sequel, and my only critique is a bit of “redux” of the first book.  Three stars!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Deodorant and the New Author

I ran across a blog post this morning with the blogger stating that he’d stopped reading blogs except that a couple that he thought were awesome.  Reasons he gave were the on-line diary, preaching to the choir, same old stuff “Redux,” and some he followed for the “I follow you, you follow me” formula.  Then I saw my own blog drop one follower. 

I don’t believe this blogger ever followed my blog, but his article couldn’t have been timelier.  Am I just preaching to the choir? Are my articles redundant?  Am I a bad writer?  Did one of my posts offend someone?  Or, is a follower just trimming back and re-starting in cyberspace?  Am I wearing the wrong deodorant?

Other reasons may exist, but I’m not going to track down the un-follower of my blog.  (I couldn’t find a way on Blogger).  Also, I’d ask myself why the person dropped me.  Maybe I didn’t follow that person back.

But wait, let’s re-run the prior sentences:  I’m going to track them?  I want to know why they dropped me?  My writing? My preaching?  My articles?  My deodorant?

There it is: Me, me, me!  What about the un-follower?  What does he/she want?  Maybe he/she’s looking for more content.  Maybe he/she’s cutting back on what they can follow realistically.  Meaning, does it have to be about me at all? 

People have their reasons why they follow or un-follow anyone on a social site, be it Facebook, Twitter, or blogs.  I’ve noted the number of followers on a blog doesn’t reflect blog traffic.  On Twitter, I read blog posts all the time and comment by Tweeting, not by logging in and posting.  So a blogger can’t please everyone all the time, or perhaps followers found other interests. 

I’ve only un-followed one blog, which I found out too late didn’t like self-published books.  On Twitter, I do use apps to check un-followers, and I un-follow those that un-follow me.  The numbers are small, and I don’t follow everyone.  Keeping a common interest in the vast Twitter-world helps me learn what writers/readers are looking for, so I find it helpful and fun.  Also, please, Tweeps:  If you don’t state in your profile who you are, how is one supposed to follow?  A few writer/reader Tweeps un-followed me as well, maybe it’s when I’m on TweetDeck and tweet that I’m a Tribble from Star Trek.  To me, it’s all in good fun, but may not be for everyone.  A generous Tweep also informed me to unlock my Tweets to get followers.  Yes, me the Clueless didn’t realize what the little lock symbols meant.  (Not my greatest moment).

So, new authors, join us in cyber-space.  Please tweet who you are so we can follow back.  If you’re un-followed, that doesn’t cast you out of society; in some ways it certifies it.  Nobody can please everyone.  And to be “Sure,” in cyberspace, it’s not your deodorant creating un-followers.

Review of “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! By John Locke

Today I blew through author John Locke’s mega-e-book on how he sold a million books in five months.  It’s a fast; fun read that brings out some valid points.  First, he emphasized the importance of having an entertaining story.  He went through some of the high-dollar mistakes he made that didn’t help sell his books, which I could definitely relate to.  And when it’s all said and done, the recommendations are what social network specialists recommend, in general.  Promote your work, but not just your work.  It’s worth a read, but a lot of similar books are out there; just find the one that fits your situation.  Mr. Locke’s ambition and persistence paid off.  I say good for him.  I’m not sure it’s a fit for everyone, but I don’t see a problem with looking at book sales directly for what it is.  Four stars!

Monday, September 12, 2011

What Makes a Good Writer?

An Indie writer emailed me her new book to beta-read recently, mentioning that I’m a better writer than she is.  I’ve reviewed her work before, which is a compelling, five-star read.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate compliments from my Indie colleagues, but the question remained in my mind:  What makes one “a good writer?”

We know the classics:  Works by Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Austen, Tolkien, Orwell, Shakespeare, I could go on and on.  By history, the work of classic writers lasts and doesn’t lose its gloss.  (Though, I’ll be so bold to say Fitzgerald is a toughie.).  Are classic writers living today?  That’s debatable, so I tend to think of classics in the way the work stands up to history rather than “someone” telling me who’s great and who’s not. A writer shouldn’t require death to be thought of as classic.  That sounds morbid, but it doesn’t need to be.  The classic authors left us something to appreciate for decades and centuries.

Let’s move the literature to the works of today.  From the hardback copies of Clancy, Grisham, Rowling and Franzen, to the ebooks of relatively unknown authors Butler, Schaffer, and Ahlborn, just to name a few, give us excellent reads today.  Can we be so bold as to compare these new, especially the ebook authors to the hardback big names seen in bookstores?  Or can we go further and compare any of these writers to the classics?

As above, classics find their place in history.  The authors are not around to show their work on Facebook or Twitter.  The big name authors have some social networking, but I’d be surprised if it drove most of their sales.  (The huge billboard in the bookstore window or front-page features on our e-readers make it difficult not to notice them).  So where does that leave our talented Indie e-book writers?  Answer:  On the Internet.

As noted on other sites, Indie writers are “techy.” (Is that a word?  Well, so much for my writing!).  The longer we write and post our material, the more we learn how to find our own audiences, and the more networking we do, and yes, sales result.  Are our sales in the millions as Mr. Locke or Ms. Hocking?  Who’s counting? 

Indies, remember who you are.  You’re not writing to please a publishing company and can learn to find your audience.  Worried about being called “Vanity-writer?”  Stop worrying about it.  If having your name across large signs with huge spreads on major magazines, the word “Vanity” to me applies more in the literal sense for those authors.

Cutting through the fog, the readers decide.  Someone got rich off books.  OK, that’s fine, but what those authors do have little to do with what Indies do.  Write your story, and learn from the classics and the “pros.”  And last, but not least, don’t put your work down.  Reviewers do that for us. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

So much is in the media about the horrific events of the day thousands of people died because of a terrorist attack; I’m not going to suggest I can add much more to what’s already been and being told.  But like so many, I remember where I was when Elvis died.  I don’t ‘remember’ what happened on Sept. 11, 2001; instead it burned into my mind like yesterday.  The closest other memory I have is when I found out my sister had been killed several years before.

I was working at a hospital, arguing with a demented man who had several colorful names for me; the evil woman suggesting that he needs to stay in bed and please not remove his IV’s.  A hospital employee ran into the room, and pointed at the television attached to the wall saying, “Look at the World Trade Center.”  When I looked up, I saw the second airplane hit the other building.  I recall the shock, having nothing immediately to say, and even the patient lay quiet, sensing something terrible happened.

When I arrived at a clinic, the staff told me another airplane hit the Pentagon, and another one was still in the air.  Then it really hit me.  I called my family, and the whole office, patients and all, gathered around a nearby television as we heard about the crash in Pennsylvania.  Many patients went home, and the ones that stayed couldn’t take their eyes away from the news.  When the buildings collapsed before our eyes, everyone stood quiet in horror. 

That night was the first when my husband and I clung together to hear the President’s address.  The sorrow for so many was overwhelming.  We didn’t speak to each other for about an hour.  I found out later my brother barely missed being on one of the flights that hit the towers while returning from Europe.

When I visited my sister’s grave, as I always do, twice a year, I brought her new flowers and an American flag for her gravestone.  Above all, she stood with wartime veterans and never passed an opportunity to assist those that have done so much for us. 

Years later, I got up my nerve and listened to one of the 911 calls from a victim.  I don’t recommend anyone doing this without careful consideration.  I realized after listening the terrified people inside of the structures we saw on television. The crashing of the massive structures muffled the unheard screams. 

Nowadays, I don’t think about the events of September 11th on the yearly anniversary.  Like with my sister, I think about it every day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On “The Blog Farm” and The New Author by C.C.Cole

When I finally came to my senses and ditched my first blog put together for me by my first publisher in one of the non-cheap “promotional packages,” I searched for ways to improve my new blog, put together myself on Blogger.  While I’m still learning, I can say that I’ve come a long way in five or six months.

What went through my mind:  OK, I have a blog.  Uh, hey everybody.  Uh, check out my books.  Uh, here’s a fun video.  (I still like the one about making the little green lizard warriors).  Uh…hey, my next book’s “about to about to” come out.  Uh…well, you get the point.  Seeing my blog was almost as painful as the Seinfeld episode when they lost the car in the mall parking lot.

Somehow, during my cyberspace voyage, I ran into “The Blog Farm.”  I joined, liked the blogs presented, and threw my hat into the ring.  Syndication has a donation fee, and compared to self-publishing (what I did for “Act of Redemption”) it’s a Diet Coke.

A few weeks in I got an email from the administrator offering to return my donation because of my useless blog posts.  What?  Refund money?  Who does that? 

Reality finally hit that links and videos don’t make much of a blog.  People go to blogs looking for content.  So, I began creating content.  As time went on, The Blog Farm helped me with the graphics to optimize it visually while keeping my preference to keep it simple.  Since then, my blog hits are over 7K visits.  I don’t have hundreds of followers.  I don’t get dozens of comments.  Is that bad?  Well, I don’t usually comment on blogs either.  (Those security-code thingys weird me out, OK, stupid, I know).  Does it help sell books?  I don’t know and I don’t post ads.

Some publicists tell me a simple Blogger site isn’t really catchy, and they favor more comprehensive websites.  I understand that, but I’ve been there, done that, and so far prefer to have simplicity and user-friendly control of the content.  For a new author of two novellas and articles, it’s plenty for me at this point of my writing journey.

I’m not going to say, “Join The Blog Farm” or be a loser.  There’s hardly a shortage of sites/articles to help you blog.  For a new author, I suggest taking a look at it, maybe try having them syndicate your blog for a few months, and see if it works for you.  I know it’s helped me.  And I’m still learning.  

On The On-Line Slush Pile and the New Author by C.C.Cole

Like many new authors, as I’ve stated in previous articles, I attempted to publish the traditional route and moved to self-publishing following rejections.  While I don’t have a count of the number of query letters I sent out, I know it was less than ten.  My patience leaves something to be desired, and it didn’t take many rapid turnaround letters to convince me that route of publishing wasn’t for me. 

Now in retrospect, why was I turned away?  Was my query letter not catchy?  Was I soliciting the wrong genre?  Is it my misfortune that I don’t live in NYC so I can’t physically visit agents/publishing companies?  Did I use the wrong paper?  Did my five-sentence query have grammatical errors? 

The reasons do not help with analysis when the result is the same regardless.  Agents say on line they are overwhelmed.  Editors are overwhelmed.  Publishing companies want a sure thing.  New writers need not apply. 

A recent article posted on Twitter recently mentioned the issue of the self-published ebook era becoming “the on-line slush pile.”  Hmm….I’m a slush pile?  Are the Indie writers I review “slush pile?”  (To clarify, let me state the article favored Indie writers.) I’ve seen similar posts regarding self-publishing bashing on social sites.  Thanks for that vote of confidence, guys!

Arrogance isn’t a subtle trait.  Insults ring loud and clear.  A doctorate in Literature isn’t required to detect it.  Once exposed, it stands.  Condescension pierces the human psyche and brings out unpleasant emotional responses. People don’t like feeling insulted, and tend to dislike who’s dishing it out.

When I think about the Internet, I think about what it must have been like when the first printing press was invented.  I suspect there was a lot of concern about dispersing large amounts of information to “ordinary people.”  The Internet is the printing press on a huge steroid dose.  People can write what they want, publish it on line, and market it on line without agents, query letters, or publishing companies.  Someone can write a book and call it “Sleepytime” consisting of merely a bunch of Zzzz’s.  How outrageous! 

Outrageous or not, again the result is the same.  Why do writers self-publish?  Answer:  Because they can.  Why do people insult self-published authors?  Answer:  Because they can. 

New authors, do what you know you can do.  Write your original work and publish in the way you see fit.  And if you come across bad writing on line, it’s a mere click away to move to the next topic.  Naysayers in the writing industry aren’t going anywhere soon.  Neither are Indie writers.

If people want to label what I read and write a “slush pile,” that’s their right.  And it’s my right to ignore it.  Such cheap insults expose the location of the actual “pile."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review of “The House of Balestrom” by William Butler by C.C.Cole

Ace author William Butler delivers again in with a cast of characters beginning with a woman and her husband visiting the home of her recently widowed sister in the home of the late husband’s rich, powerful, and manipulative family, the Balestroms.  “Nothing is as it seems” gradually avalanches into a complex tale of love, hate, pride, and money.  No character is left unscathed as the eccentric family members’ secrets are peeled back revealing their dark history and darker plans for each other.  Butler delivers again with an unpredictable ride that doesn’t follow typical clichés of the wealthy dysfunctional family.  Five stars!

Friday, September 2, 2011

On The Self-Imposed Exile and the New Author by C.C.Cole

As I continue my journey as a new author, I’ve had the privilege of virtually meeting and reviewing many talented fellow Indie writers.  As we tweet, FB post, blog and email together, it feels like our own club of fiercely independent creators of new fiction.  In some cases, it is a club amongst Indie websites and groups.  I think many of us have some things in common:  we like doing our own thing and we’ve been turned away from traditional publishing routes.   We’re writers, we write, we market, we’re Indies, and don’t mess with us.  Want to join the party?  Don’t come over with your traditional publishing head in the sky!  Embrace your creative independence with us!

Are we new Indie writers in a self-imposed exile?  I asked myself as I turned on my Nook last night, noticing the featured books are all traditional-published.  Other than a certain blog or site that makes a point of featuring Indie books, are Indies featured?  I haven’t noticed it on amazon or any big magazines like Time or Newsweek.  (If I’m missing where Indies are featured on a grand scale, feel welcome to correct me). 

So while we’re having a great time tweeting, sharing, and reading each other’s books, what happens if/when any of us get an offer from a traditional publisher, Not offering the big bucks offered to Ms. Hocking?  (I’m not asking if we’re insane) So a small publishing company offers to pick up our books, and if we take the offer, are we out of the Indie club?  Or can we remain independently cool if we “remember ourselves?”

As I think about the books I write, the story almost fits into the Indie setting; Shevata’s independence, short novellas, lots of action, and nobody telling me to add this/subtract that.  I really enjoy the creative freedom.  What’s to say that a traditional publisher would change the story?  What if they don’t?  It’d sure be nice to off load the self-publishing costs and have a business market my books.  Would it be as satisfying a writers’ journey?  Maybe.

I think most/all of Indie writers think about this on occasion, which is perfectly understandable.  I don’t think any of us are in a position to pass judgment on the choices of our fellow Indie writers if he/she makes it into the bigger leagues.  Most of the time, I don’t think about approaching traditional publishers anymore, especially for a series, so I can keep the storyline as I think it should be.  Question:  If a traditional publisher offered to pick up my books?  Answer:  Would take into strong consideration.

It isn’t wrong to be a traditionally published writer or to be an Indie writer.  As for fiction quality, the idea of traditional-published books being higher ‘quality,’ give me a break.   New Indie authors, if you get a chance to go traditional, you have my blessing and congratulations.  I won’t unfollow you on Twitter.  Just remember us Indies still enjoying our self-imposed exile

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Non-Spoiler II: Review of “A Clash of Kings” by George R.R.Martin by C.C.Cole

Here’s round two of this juggernaut-explosive dark fantasy epic tale “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin.  Like in my review of “A Game of Thrones” I’m hoping to exclude spoilers, to give the curious a general idea of the progression of this massive story.

“A Clash of Kings” takes up where “A Game of Thrones” leaves off; anything and everything that happened in the first book goes on steroids in the second.  Only a few of the characters that survive the first story remain in the same place.  The intrigue escalates into brutal action of all-out war.

My continuous critique of this story is the incredible number of characters.  If only a third were mentioned, it would still be more than required for this massive epic.  Martin does list a series of the families at the end of the first two novels, but I didn’t find it particularly helpful in keeping up with all of them.  About ten characters dominate the story and move the plot.

The Lannister family, to me, steals the show in “A Clash of Kings,” given the strong characterization of “The Imp” (my favorite character), and the “loving” twins Jaime and Cersei.  They represent the extremes of a wealthy dysfunctional family, and the inter-sibling friction (some literal) gets outrageous enough to be humorous at times.   The Lannisters have the most wealth, have the most bizarre inter-family problems, and have the best lines of dialogue. 

The Stark family is not gone, however, though the situation changed, scattering the family members with them not knowing where the others are.  Generally, the Starks represent the “good guys” but Martin exposes the details in most of the main characters, leaving no one flawless.  On top of the war efforts made by pretty much everyone, the Starks suffer a severe blow by a trusted one who betrays the family. 

The platinum blonde continues her journey to enter the western part of the world busy making war upon one another. Meanwhile, the ice wall guards find more happening north than thought, leading to an escalation of events in an almost unknown part of the world to the reader.

Overall, the second installment of this epic is the onslaught of battle over old/new scores to settle, and the quest for wealth, power, and property.  As this layer peels back more details of the main characters, more paranormal events slowly make their way into this vast world currently in war and chaos.  I still give it five stars but Martin makes sure you work for every inch of it.  If you’ve got the energy to take in this grand epic, I highly recommend it. 

So far, I get two broad messages:  Too many “Kings” is a major problem, and you can’t pick your relatives.