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Always Look for the Magic

June 4, 2018

Not only is that good advice, it’s the title of a great book that I’ll be blogging about all week. Why? Because it’s FREE this week for Kindle, and Kindle Apps.

My company, Prevail Press, has made a commitment to win-win-win in all our books. Every Kindle version will be $3.99 or less, and every now and then we’ll offer a FREE Kindle version.

Why? You ask…

You, the reader, wins with a great story. The author wins through higher Amazon ranking, and honest reviews, which helps with sales. The publisher wins because we exist to make Authors and Readers happy!

See the source imageAlways Look for the Magic, by Bonnie Manning Anderson is a great book (and FREE for a week). I’ll tell you a little bit about the whyfor behind the writing of the book over the next couple days, but what you need to know now is that it is a charming adventure of a pair of brothers, their friend, and their family as they struggle through the Depression while Artie tries to become a magician, like his headlining hero.

This is a grade school novel, but don’t for a second think it isn’t enjoyable for older readers. Bonnie is a talented writer who crafts a story kids will enjoy and that has element that adults would recognize as truths for a family under stress.  Kids, families, Historical Fiction lovers, and the folks who lived through or just after the Great Depression would find tremendous value in this book.

Personally, as an author and parent, I look for books that will foment conversation between kids and their parents. Always Look for the Magic is one of those books.

If you don’t have a Kindle (why not?! They’re so inexpensive!), you can still read this book on tablets and computers with the handy Kindle App.

If you love a good story, and love FREE, hop over to Amazon and purchase (for FREE) today!

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Me and the Maniac – And Non-Traditional Publishers

April 2, 2018

Announcing Me and the Maniac in Outer Spacenow available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. 🙂  This is my second novel, and while it’s a rollicking good time, it’s not the kind of book a traditional publisher would accept.

Let me tell you about Prevail Press, a non-traditional publisher who encourages good, strong writing that may take an experimental bend. Like Me and the Maniac

English teachers will enjoy it because it is a middle-school novel that progressively MandMCover.jpgincreases the reading difficulty. The first part is pure middle-school fun. The second part takes on heavier themes, and the third part still heavier. This makes it enjoyable for kids and for adults. “Heavy” doesn’t mean leaden, there’s a lot of fun in those sections, as well.

 

(Psssttt… in the second part you’ll discover a technology that seems like outlandish fantasy. Except it already exists. I’m not going to give it away here, but in one of my other moonlighting jobs, I have interviewed hundreds of executives and have learned about world-changing technology on the trembling edge of production. One of the themes you’ll find in MatMiOS is technology shock–something we all suffer from already, and where is technology taking us? And it’s still something a teenager will enjoy reading).

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In today’s publishing climate, even great non-experimental stories, like the historical middle-grade book Always Look for the Magic by Bonnie Manning Anderson, might find difficulty landing a book contract. That’s why Prevail Press exists, to give voice to those great books that traditional publishers pass by.  Is that you? Check it out!

 

 

Go to www.prevailpress.com for more information, and head over to Amazon to pick up Me and the Maniac in Outer Space and your own copy of Always Look for the Magic.

The Three Phases of Story

March 9, 2018

Story is a chimera. There’s the story you:

  • Write,

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    Chimeras are kinda ugly. Stories aren’t.

  • That’s read, and
  • That’s remembered.

Each phase is distinct and wonderfully slippery. I’ve never had a story I set out to write be the same story I finish. Sometimes on purpose, and most times by accident, we map parts of our story to something in our life. We often have no idea we’re doing it, but it becomes obvious with a little analysis. As you sit and write, pliers at hand to pull teeth, something happens and you’re suddenly flying along in your story… consciously or unconsciously, you’ve just mapped your story to something internal, which acts like an accelerator, kind of like when the Enterprise goes into warp. While Sulu always knows where he’s going, your map may spin you off somewhere unexpected, and what was supposed to a simple adventure turns into an epic emotional journey.

What is a “map?” They are relationships, events or memories that serve as the bridgework under story scenes, themes, concepts. They are action progressions and emotional journeys; the linkages of the past become the accelerators of your story. They are throughout your stories and provide touchstones for readers, since proper mapping from reality means the story arc is “real.”

This is also different than the story that is read by a faithful reader. Just as the writer has structure beneath the story holding it up, a reader is hooking your story elements to their own maps, or touchstones. This happened acutely when I read my pastor’s book. His stories from early in his faith spirited me back to my own parallel memories. In Always Look for the Magic, Bonnie Manning Anderson allowed me to hook the adventures of her father to my own running around Seattle and neighborhood as a kid. The story I see is different than one written by the author. That’s the mysterious alchemy of story.

The third phase is the most interesting. Sitting on the beach with some family friends, I was discussing movies with a young man, who said he wanted a storyline from a comic book to be a movie. He described the comic book story, one I was very familiar with, and his memory of the story was completely wrong. He related sequences that weren’t there, character actions at odds with the hero’s established character, and settings that were not in the story. I suggested he hadn’t read the story in a long time, but he said he’d read it a dozen times and fairly recently.

Intrigued, I quizzed him on To Kill a Mockingbird, and a few other books, just to make sure it wasn’t a comic book phenomenon (stuff that happened between panels, maybe). His version of venerable stories was right in overall structure, but startling off in details.

So, the kid has a bad memory.  As do we all, then, because I began looking for it in later discussions with others. I know I’m not immune. It all goes back to that internal mapping done by writer and reader.

The comic he spoke of was older. In my day, heroes didn’t kill. In this kid’s day, and his favorites in particular, went on killing sprees. His version of Spider-Man was colored by his acceptance of more deadly characters. His “map” was different than mine.

While reading, the author’s words rein in the reader’s understanding (to a degree), but after reading, when thinking about it, their mapping may spin scenes a different way. Kind of like movies made from books, except the reader/director isn’t limited by technology. We do that with history, too, but that’s another story.

The three phases of story are the progression of the writer’s story becoming the reader’s story.

That’s what giving is all about.

Shhhhh! I Don’t Like Fantasy!

March 2, 2018

It was like I’d committed heresy. At my writer’s group, I mentioned that I don’t like fantasy. The genre, not the habit. I do so love stimulating discussion. When I admitted I never read the Lord of the Rings (just the Hobbit… didn’t like it) there was a loud room-engulfing gasp.

“You like science fiction!”

“That’s not fantasy,” I said.

General scoffing. Spirited discussion ensued.

A great friend and fabulous artist points out one of my screenplays is Fantasy, and he has a point. And doesn’t at the same time.

First, let me affirm that Fantasy is a valid genre. If you like it, more power to you.

Me, I like a tether to real life.

Fantasy, the kind I don’t care for, takes place removed from Earth. While I appreciate good world-building, I need a real-world tie. Sci-Fi that doesn’t involve Earth humans may as well be fantasy to me. I put up with Star Wars, love Star Trek because it’s an Earth ship with humans aboard, and while the aliens may be my favorite character, they’re still “real world” aliens.

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But it would be over in moments. Star Trek would kick robed buttocks.

Burning Meadows, my screenplay about a cop returning his wife’s remains to her native Ireland who gets twisted up in the shenanigans of the fey folk is fantasy, but note the real-world connection. This fantasy takes place on earth (or beside it). That’s important to me.

I didn’t read Lord of the Rings because I didn’t enjoy the Hobbit. I think I read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… at least the first one. It’s real-world connection was tenuous, but I loved the Space Trilogy, all by C.S. Lewis (love his non-fiction work, too).

Magic is another annoying thing. There aren’t any rules (maybe the story establishes them, but deus ex Machina is always a possibility, and that’s cheap).  Again, no tether to real things (okay, the deflector dish on the Enterprise may as well be magic, but it isn’t! Really!).

There is a parallel to my own life, from which all this springs. I am an artist with a strong practical side, which seems antithetical (even though it not; see my next book to find out why). See the connection? No? OK, I admit it isn’t rational, but I are human and need not be rational.

If you enjoy fantasy, feel free. If you don’t, be not ashamed. I’m not.

Introducing Prevail Press

February 2, 2018

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I’ve been too busy to write. I’m too busy now, but I have a story to tell…

Sitting at a book signing a few months ago, I looked down the line of fellow authors and realized none had traditional publishers. Some were self-publishers, others went the vanity press route (co-op press is their preferred name). And there I was, a micro-publisher.

I’d founded Prevail Press seven years ago for me and my ghostwriting clients. It has languished, me promising to do something with it, and unable to think of a way to make money with it.

Through a fortuitous sermon, the statement arose: “We don’t have to make profit off of EVERYTHING…”  And suddenly, I knew what I was supposed to do.

Self-publishing is complicated and most are writers who’d like to do anything but promote, but in self-publishing, that’s all it is promote, promote, promote, all by yourself. Often suffering from poor book and cover design, it is an uphill battle.

Vanity press, well that’s just darned expensive. You pay through the nose, have a giant print run, get promises of promotion, but quickly discover those cases of books are yours to sell.

Prevail Press, www.prevailpress.com, is a hybrid of both and caters to author needs. I don’t fault vanity press. They have tons of overhead. I don’t. And I have a day job, so I don’t need to make a ton of money from Prevail. Yes, authors pay, a fraction of what they pay for vanity press. Just enough to cover my time, and if you need designers, they’ll work at reasonable rates, too.

The goal is to build a community of authors, who together can promote everyone’s work as they promote their own. You keep the copyright, and should a traditional publisher discover you, go with my blessing.

But we won’t take just anyone’s book.  It must be a book that is well written; an author who should have been picked up by a traditional publisher, but wasn’t. I’ll tell you the brutal truth, in all things. You won’t get rich (probably), but you’ll do better than you could on your own, and we’ll handle the complex stuff.

And because you don’t know me from Adam, I have a principled board of directors who provide accountability and oversight.  I’d never cheat anyone, and they’ll make sure I don’t.

So, do you have a good book that can’t catch a break? Let’s talk.

Your First 10 Pages Are Important! 

November 13, 2017

I’ve been noticing a common problem with novels these days. I’m guessing the old advice “Your first ten pages are the most important!” is being misinterpreted.

The advice is sound. I used to read any book I picked up, but life has gotten far too full to waste time on bad books. So how do I decide? The description grabs me. The cover is attractive, and then I read the first few pages.

Here is what I’m looking for: I’ve jumped off the diving board and I want a big splash. Drive me into the story quickly. It can be character-based, plot-based, even setting-based, but it should be quick!

What I am NOT looking for: Overwritten tripe.

Too many books I’ve grabbed recently flood me with metaphor and simile, expansive description, overwrought emotions, burdensome detail (OK! I get it, he wakes up drunk in a field. Two paragraphs, not ten freaking pages!).

The first pages tell me what to expect. If it’s all going to be like this, forget it. It’s like swimming through concrete!  (See? One simile is enough to spice the writing, 58 are too many!).

After reading a few pages, you should provide the reasons to keep reading. “What happens now???” “Ooo, I’d like to follow these characters and learn more about them!”

Detail is best sprinkled; literary power-ups strategically placed. The first pages are not a sausage skin to be stuffed with every protein, spice and filler, but an appetizer that should wet the pallet and leave the reader hungry.

Writing non-fiction? Same rule applies. Intros should be short, if included at all. If you must go into why you wrote the book, and how wonderful your kids are, do it at the back. Your first couple pages should be raising questions, challenging viewpoints and beliefs… intrigue is the goal.

A held the book written by a new friend in my hand. I had a couple moments, so I opened the book. Intro: skip it, I was looking for content. The intro was 6 pages. Then the first chapter was more like an intro… it wasn’t peaking my interest. Skip ahead to where it began, fifteen pages in, and it asked a question. One that had no meaning to me, one I had never asked before, one I had never noticed before, and if was a key to something later to make sense, then put it there.

The actual subject of the book didn’t come into it until the third chapter. Two chapters of setting and time. I know for a fact the content was amazing. It just took way too long to get there, and if he wasn’t a friend, I would never have made it that far.

So, Cover, Description, First 10 Pages. If the taste in their mouth is, “Wow, I gotta read this!” you win. If it’s, “Wow, this writer knows a lot of words,” you’ve lost

Who Decides What a Genre Encompasses?

September 5, 2017

I ask this question because I have a different spin on the genre I prefer to play in.

Genre is a marketing tool to help pigeon-hole your audience, to make you easy to find for your readers. The problem is, we may not fall into the genre people think we do.

All three of my novels are identified by more common genres than how I classify my books:  Gemini Dreams – Thriller, Do Angels Still Fall? – Christian Fantasy, Me and the Maniac in Outer Space – YA Science Fiction, yet to me they are all Mystical Realism.

The “mystical” in Mystical Realism doesn’t have to be magic, it can be anything “other.”  Realism means it takes place in the real world; no worldbuilding here, at least not at the beginning.

He isn’t only wonderful, He’s Wonder!

Critics require political commentary to be a part of it, others, heightened or lyric language. If I’m strapped to either of those, then my books aren’t Mystical Realism, but I don’t feel a need to be strapped.

Genre is for marketing – your perspective may differ.

For my existing novels, my characters are realistic people in a realistic world. Then a single thing of “other” changes everything. For Gemini Dreams, Will’s average life is invaded with dreams of someone else’s life. In Angels, Bungy’s guardian angel reveals himself. In Me and the Maniac, the boys find an alien artifact.

There is major departure from “classic” mystical realism (the genre hasn’t been around long enough to be truly classic) in each case. In the first, Will has had these dreams all his life, Angels is told from the angel’s point of view, and Me and the Maniac end up in a vastly changed world.

OK, with GD, I felt like I was writing a thriller, but with the other two, I strove for the wonder of the mystical element while retaining the real life. MatM admittedly left that real life behind mid-stream, but to me it never felt like sci-fi.  I know full-well, a traditional publisher will market it as YA Sci-Fi and I’m okay with that.

For me, “wonder” is the key element, not political upheaval (except for in the politics of the individual). In traditional worldbuilding, the characters accept their setting. In mine, they are always in awe of where they are. Even the Western I’m noodling at has wonder moments.

What’s your go-to element and genre?