Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Frustrating Writing Industry

This one is going to sway a little off topic. I am not going to discuss my book series, its characters, or the pending release of the next book in the series. I am going to discuss about which so many writers vent and lament: the writing industry. Specifically, I am going to discuss the difficulties of getting published.

My first work was an espionage thriller about a pending terrorist attack on the United States. I invested over seven years, literally, researching and writing. When I finished the manuscript in 1997 my agent shopped it around numerous publishing houses. The results were pretty consistent: the concept of a terrorist attack in the United States is unrealistic and, thereby, not publishable. After the horrific attacks of 9/11 I was told the topic was, understandably, too sensitive to publish. Thus, I placed the manuscript in my closet where it still resides. After that I started work on my Dark Lands fantasy series.

Dark Lands occupied two years of writing and editing before I acquired a new agent to shop it to various publishing houses. That is when I became aware of the proverbial “Catch 22” in the writing industry: you cannot be published unless you are already an established author and you cannot be an established author unless you are already published. It was formerly not that way, but too many publishing houses lost money on authors, politicians, and entertainers whose stories and memoirs failed to produce. With too many such investments not coming to fruition, these aforementioned houses began taking the philosophy that they would only sign established authors, or politicians and entertainers who, though they may not be able to write, have a “guaranteed following”.

Ironically, this tact cost, and is still costing, publishing houses. The “guaranteed following” is not always “guaranteed”. Recently, a certain female politician, who may or may not be running for President of the United States, released her memoirs and the book sales did not meet expectations. Further, publishing houses are remaining with authors whose ideas are often becoming stagnate or retreaded and their respective audiences are fading. The proliferation of this has resulted in the evolution of self-publishing houses which, as a whole, are chipping away at not only the larger houses’ profits, but opportunities as well. Good, solid, authors who could not get the time of day with established publishing are self-publishing and finding an audience. I have often said there are authors out there right now who are far better than anyone who has ever put pen to paper, but because they are not established, the larger publishing houses will not invest in them.

However, there is another element precluding the advancement of new authors and that is the agent. Agents are the concurrent gatekeeper and key master of the publishing world. If you do not have one, then your chances of getting noticed are nominal. The problem is that agents too tend towards the “established author” philosophy. Those that do not are often predators who take advantage of desperate writers. I highly recommend that those shopping for an agent visit the “Preditors and Editors” website, http://pred-ed.com/. Even if you have been published there are still agents who just will not believe in your work. For example, I was Blessed to have a smaller publishing house take on my series. Alas, the house eventually folded. When shopping my book around after the aforementioned closure I made sure I let all potential agents know I had been published, received a five-star ranking on Amazon.Com, a four-star ranking on Barnes and Noble, and a list of positive reviews from other book review sites which I shared. I was met with a “not interested” reply. I had sold hundreds of books in a small amount of time, received great reviews, and I still could not garner an agent. Frustrating, but that is the writing industry in a microcosm.

If you pursue Accounting, Medicine, Law, Teaching, or any such field and are in the top of your class, you will get the opportunity to practice almost anywhere; not so in world of Writing. You can be the best at what you do and never be published. As was alluded it is not what you know, but who you know that suffices. The writing industry is one that can frustrate, depress, and crush at the same time, but if you are writing it is because of a passion, a story you have to tell. Keep writing, if not for you then for that one chance that your story will be read and it may very well change the life of that reader. God Bless.

What Does It All Mean?

I apologize if the title of this blog appears pretentious or alludes that it will delve into some sort of deep existential thinking. I am hopefully offering none of that. I am simply answering the question about what I want readers to glean from the Dark Lands series.

I am not under the delusion that my series will create a reading revolution or garner so many readers that my ascension to the Presidency is imminent. I will leave that to the more haughty writers. My desires are more straight forward and simplistic.

I want my readers to enjoy this series and have it whisk them away from this world and its problems to a world they have never experienced. I want them to care about the story and rage over the characters, both good and bad; and when they have finished the story I want them to feel that it has been worth their investment. That is my first and foremost goal and I believe it to be the first and foremost goal of all writers excepting the more self-absorbed ones I alluded to earlier.

Something else that I hope readers find, and appreciate, in my series is a strong sense of right and wrong. Sadly, our world has seemingly turned upside down, where people who would have been imprisoned decades ago are now considered pop culture heroes and those who actually take a moral stand these days are now mocked and shunned. That is why I am thrilled that series such as Harry Potter actually have a defined right and wrong, good and bad. It makes me feel like these attributes are still important. I am hoping that those who read the Dark Lands series find the same resolute values within it. God Bless.

 

 

Inspiration

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Inspiration can be very fickle. It is much like a painting: one person may find in it a grandiose story while another sees only a monkey staring at a banana. Neither are wrong in their interpretation. It is just a matter of perspective.

I am often asked what my inspiration was for the Dark Lands series and whether it had anything to with Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Though I wish I could ascribe it to my detailed reading of Dante I have to admit that my knowledge of his work is based mostly on an X-Men story written by Chris Claremont and drawn by John Romita, Jr.

Dark Lands came from my overactive imagination, commonly known as A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) in politically correct circles. I was in the middle of a Bible Study and one of the participants began discussing the concept of Purgatory. I suddenly began to imagine a world that not only existed between life and death, but time as well. Quickly I turned over a handout I had and wrote on it the basic foundation for the Dark Lands, its relationship to our world, who dwells there, how someone gets there, and what powers they would need to survive living there.

I then imagined what it would be like if someone from our world suddenly and abruptly awoke in the Dark Lands and how they would adapt. From there I created my two protagonists, Webb and Sundown, who would basically serve as the proverbial tour guides for the series, and subsequently created the characters, good and bad, with whom they would interact. Within an hour I literally had the entire series planned, scribbled on the back of a handout. I reviewed these notes several times, fleshing out some details, leaving others to develop as I wrote. I think that is one of the key points that all writers must understand: you will not write the great American novel in one sitting. You will write, rewrite, rewrite again and again. You will do this so often that you may actually begin to loathe your book before it ever gets published. A musician was once asked what it was like to have a number one song. Their reply was that “you had better be prepared to sing that song every day for the rest of your life.” Writing is the same way excepting it is on the front end. You need to be prepared to cultivate your story until it is as perfect as possible. Then, you hand it over to an editor who will tell you how fantastic your story is before completely dismantling it. That, however, is another story for another time. God Bless.