Saturday, April 30, 2016

Be a fan!

I have long considered the state of our culture of critique, and its impact on our collective soul. When I was young, I considered my opinion to be the epitome of my offering to the world. With intellect, and wit, I would offer my criticism of the art and opinions of the day. But, you know what? I was just an asshole.

I see this a lot in the way our culture takes in various forms of art. Whether it is movies, TV, books, paintings, poetry, or any other form, derision is the call of the day. Telling someone else they suck isn't about them. It is about you! I say this not having yet had to deal with a terrible review. Once enough people read my writings, it will come. Someone will just hate it, and they will feel the need to let me (and everyone else) know. The thing is...art is subjective. I expect some people not to like my writing. I got into writing plays in my mid-teens because I loved the work of Neil Simon. Some people just hate Neil Simon for the same reason I love his work. His dialogue driven, light wit tells stories that are deeper, but enjoyable. It is intelligent without being boorish, and it is fun.

In the early 1990's, I would rail against People Magazine's movie reviews. They seemed to only report on movies they hated. Everything they reviewed was just a heap of shit. I used to hate that they did that, and I stopped reading their reviews. But, I did the same thing to a much smaller audience. My casual dismissal of music or films that other people liked was a People Magazine film review on a smaller scale. Once I realized this, I was disturbed enough to change.

I am married to an amazing woman, who has taught me many things about how to live life. But, probably the greatest lesson I learned from her was to see the good first. She looks for the good in a movie, a TV show, and in people themselves. You know what? She finds it. We find that for which we look. So search for the good. Look at what is right with something, or someone, before you notice the bad. Trust me, if there is bad, you won't be able to avoid it. But concentrate on the good. Be a fan, without hesitance, and without reservation. When you love something, tell everyone. When you don't, keep it to yourself. Because in the end, the shit is not in the work, it is in our view.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

And the Rain Fell

Short story will be hitting Kindle exclusively later today for $0.99. Get your copy today!


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Creating Canon

A lot of science fiction and fantasy films created from books, have nerds like me bitching about "canon". Canon is quite simply the rules of the universe in which the story is set. If the story plays by the rules of our world, it doesn't need canon in the same manner, but some would argue that even character decisions create canon. So, it is not without reason that an author of this genre must be very concerned with creating canon.

Nothing will lose a reader like something that breaks canon. The nerdosphere will lose its collective mind if something does not make sense with what has been written before. Comic books get around this by literally calling it a completely different universe. The most recent set of Star Trek films have done the same. It doesn't always calm the raging beast of nerd-dom to tell them it is a different universe. We have moved beyond such simple manipulation. We need better manipulation, but I digress.

I tell you all of this because as a fantasy author, I must be concerned with creating canon. In the first story int eh universe, there is so much freedom to change the rules. But, as you get into more and more stories, the rules matter. There are a few ways to get around them. For instance, in the case of the Saga of Mystics, it is still new enough to argue that everyone was just wrong about how something works. I can report that I intentionally did this with certain aspects, so the reveal would be better later.

Understanding canon is simply an exercise in understanding the question, "IS Jon Snow dead and will he stay that way?" for Game of Thrones fans. Within the rich canon that George R.R. Martin created, there are at least four answers that would reasonably be "no." (even though we all saw him stabbed to death)

Creating that kind of canon, where there are different possible answers to a question is both a challenge and a true joy as an author. The more work you have, the more of a chance to give those readers who are really in tune with the story's universe, to figure things out. I find it do fun as a fan, that I want it for those who read my books. Unlike some authors, I feel that the work belongs to both writer and reader. So, if I have made rules, they must be adhered to by all stories within the narrative universe.

As such, I have just finished the first step in creating canon for Saga of Mystics. I finished a short story to explain the unexpected weather in the beginning of Age of Mystics. It sets rules for how things work. It came from a reader asking why the weather changed, and giving possible reasons she thought it might. It was such a great exercise, that I want to do more. So, if you see something that you want answered, or a character you would like to know more about (and their story is not already in the outlines for other books in the series), let me know and I will see if I can answer the question. And keep an eye out later this week for "And the Rain Fell: a Saga of Mystics Short" in the Kindle store.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Inspiration

There are artists who come along from time to time that change the way we understand art and culture. These icons are not driven by what is in front of them, but by that kernel of greatness that makes them step out in new ways and reveal beauty to those of us living in the gray. Elvis Aaron Presley was one of those. While his music was not particularly new, his expression of that music stepped boldly on to the stage and flashed across our culture in an entirely unique way. Centuries ago it was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One century ago, it was Robert Johnson and the Blues. For my Generation, it was Prince Rogers Nelson.

Prince was the kind of artist it was hard to discount. His music got under your skin, both in style and in substance. Listening to a greatest hits this morning still made the hair stand on end on my arms. He was what it is to be a great artist. He was often derided for his overly-sexualized lyrics. But it was in those lyrics, and the perfectly matched music, that he reached into your soul and connected with your heart. We all crave the attention of others, and we all have a sexual aspect of our beings. Prince and David Bowie were the two great artists for my generation that were willing to listen to their own soul and connect with mine. We have lost them both.

I am thrilled that the music doesn't die, and that I can continue to be swept up by the works of these men. I know that while the music lives on, these great artists are immortal. They are forever in our ears, reminding us of the depth of our emotions an the greatness possible for each one of us. But, it doesn't take away the vacuum of knowing that I will never hear new music from them. For that, I am sad. I don't know if you believe in Heaven, or not. But, I choose to believe that there is one hell of a jam session going on somewhere. I look forward to the day when I get to sit before that stage and listen to the sound of greatness in person.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The cost of free publishing

There is a saying, "there is no such thing as a free lunch." I think most of us have heard it, and most of us know the truth of the idea. Nothing in life is free, even those things that are sold to us as free. One of the touted benefits of self-publishing is that it is free. Let me dissuade you from falling for this. As we have already covered, nothing is free. Self-publishing an ebook is no different.

That is not to say that it is not inexpensive. When one considers the prohibitive cost of publishing in the pre-tech era, it would be silly to complain, and I am not complaining. But, I do want anyone who is considering a run at getting their story out to know the costs involved. If all you really want is to make your story available to friends and family, in the least expensive manner possible for them, self-publishing an ebook is the way to go. Basically, if you don't care about the income, you can slap a plain cover on a page, upload your words, choose a price of $0.99 and get everyone you know to read your story.

However, once you get beyond your friends, family and the acquaintances who are willing to throw less than a buck at Amazon to read your story, your book would head to the ebook graveyard. It would be available in perpetuity for anyone you meet to read your story until the internet shuts down. Actually building an audience is expensive in two ways. The first is actual money. Expensive is a relative term, it isn't too bad. But it isn't free. You need a cover. You need formatting. You need proofreading. You need promotion. All of these things cost money, unless one or more of them is covered by a gifted relative (thank you for the cover work, my lovely wife). Depending on your level of finances and commitment, you could spend anywhere from $2000-$25,000 to really get your book moving.

But, that is not the real kicker. Because the second cost to self-publishing is time and hard work. I mentioned before that I have to do everything within my power to attract each and every reader I can. From the research I have done, and the personal experience I am gaining, I would argue you have to be ready to spend the rest of your life in self-promotion. I look at it a little differently, as I feel like I am pitching the story, not myself. But the effect is the same. Wake up every day and come up with a new way, preferably one that does not annoy every person you know, to mention your book ad hope that someone buys it. Some days it is one book, some days it is a hundred. The work doesn't change. If you want more days that are one hundred, you have to work all that much more. The less money you spend, the harder the work will be. trust me.

But, I want to give you some good news. It is kind of fun! Also, you get instant gratification, since you can find out your sales daily.  I spend more days saying, "Hey, I got twelve new readers today. I hope they will connect with me and let me know what they think." And that is the biggest reward an artist of any kind can hope for, to connect with those who respond to the art. For that connection, the traditional publishing model simply can't compete. They can't even come close.  One person I know contacted me and told me they read the book in five hours. They couldn't put it down. I loved talking to them about the story, because I feel it was as much theirs as it was mine. Once you are hooked in, you are a part of that art. I really feel that way about readers.

So, if you read my book, leave a note here. Or, leave a note on my author page on Amazon www.amazon.com/author/cwalters , connect with me and discuss the story not only with me, but with other readers. That connection is a lot of what I seek in this pursuit.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Challenges

Technology has influenced not only how we live our lives, but the opportunities available to so many people. When I was young, I wrote plays on a yellow legal pad. Part of this was because I heard Neil Simon did so, and I thought it made me like him. But the main reason was that I didn't own a typewriter. It is now rare for an American to not have the ability to type, even if it is only in notes on your phone.

There are so many positive qualities and aspects to the technological revolution. Without it, I would not be able to self-publish. Nor would the other millions of people who self-publish. In the myriad of creative jobs in which I once was employed, I was a DJ. At the time, DJ's were generally determined by their access to equipment.  DJ equipment at the time was prohibitively expensive. Now, anyone with two speakers and a Macbook can be a DJ. The same is true for many other types of artists. Anyone can be a DJ. Anyone can mix music in their room. Anyone can take photos that are of decent quality. The technology makes these things easier. So, it isn't only that it takes less capital. It takes less skill.

And, this brings us to self-publishing. There is an extremely low barrier of entry into self-publishing. Traditional publishers still keep the barriers too high in my opinion, but self-publishing is by its nature, too easy. The fact that I have published my own novel says absolutely nothing about its value or quality. This fact brings down the reputation of self-published authors, and makes it harder to get people to read your books. As an unknown author, it is one of the biggest challenges I have ever had. There are pros and cons to this.

The con is, of course, that I must talk every single person into buying and reading the book.  I absolutely must beg, borrow, and steal to get reviews. Reviews matter because people don't know what to read, and with the barrier of entry so low, how could they? The pro is that I must talk every single person into buying and reading the book. It is just another side of the same coin. You determine whether or not a book is good, and that is a wonderful thing. While it is very true that many good, well-written books flounder in the sea of mediocrity that is out there never to see the success they deserve.  It is also true that it is much more difficult for a mediocre book to do well in self-publishing. One can (and sometimes must) buy reviews, and pay for marketing. But, in the end, the word will get out and a poorly written story will not succeed.

I want you to read.  I actually want you to judge my book, my characters, my setting and my narrative style. I believe in the story, and my ability to convey that story in a compelling manner. If the book succeeds, I will know I have done my job.  If it does not, it means very little.  So, if you like a book (especially mine), champion it. Write reviews wherever you can.Tell your friends about it. Take the challenge of promoting the things you like. because for that book, you are the difference between success and failure.

Oh, and lest I forget: Look for Age of Mystics on Kindle and soon in paperback!!


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Settings, or where the hell does this take place?

A question came in from a reader who asked how I decided on the setting. Assuming she meant where in the world this book takes place, I can say it is really simple. I live in Colorado Springs, and the book is set in Colorado Springs. Someone once said to write what you know. I know where I live, so it was the easiest place to put myself when writing about this situation.

I was talking with my wife today about writing some stand alone fiction, set in this world, under these rules, that takes place in other areas. While this particular series is really about this one group of people form this one place in the world, it is interesting to me to think how people in other parts of the world might respond to these challenges. For instance, on a Pacific or Caribbean Island, in a major Metropolitan area, or in the Wilds of the Yukon or Siberia.  How would those settings change what happens to society and individuals.

Where would you like to see a story set?

While you are thinking about that, tell your friends to pick up a copy of the book at the Kindle store for $2.99, and take a gander at the review below.


Monday, April 4, 2016


Hey, all! In case you missed the other post, Age of Mystics is FREE this week on the Kindle store.  Pick up your copy today!

How the Walking Dead got it Wrong!

Far be it from me, a man with only one novel to his credit, to criticize the brilliant writers of the Walking Dead.  But that is what I am going to do today.  Last night’s cliffhanger was nothing short of manipulative bullshit.  I don’t feel that they needed to do that in this story, and it does not achieve anything for the series.

First off, they have already left us with cliffhangers twice this season (at least).  The mid-season finale that seemed to show Glenn’s death was actually right on the verge of manipulative in my opinion.  Glenn is a favored character who dies around this time in the comics (we will get to this later), so there was some genuine consternation around his death. His ability to survive that moment was a stretch of my suspension of disbelief, but possible. I try not to judge other writers’ choices and accept the conflict they have created, and I was able to do so with the Glenn mid-season story.  Additionally, in the penultimate episode, we saw Daryl get shot and were left to wonder if he was okay. It seemed like a clear shoulder wound, so I wasn’t too worried, but it was also the normal use of a cliffhanger to increase anticipation of the next episode.  In my opinion, this was a good use of the construct.

Last night, trying to decompress, I did what I always do.  I watched the most excellent “The Talking Dead”.  On the show, the guests included Robert Kirkman (creator) and Scott Gimple (show runner).  The reasoning they had for the cliffhanger was clearly a rehearsed answer, because they both said the same thing word for word. “This season’s story was not about who got killed, that is next season’s story”. (Okay, that is not word for word, but what they said was, I just shortened it) Kirkman also talked about how one does something like this in comic books to make sure people buy the next issue.  But, let’s face it folks, we were all going to watch next season anyway.  No one who likes that show was about to say, “Well, I think I have seen enough of the Walking Dead.” So, I call bullshit.


So, let’s take a moment to talk about cliffhangers in general. Contrary to some of what I have read from fans this morning, they are not always about making money.  Honestly, I don’t think that was the case in this one (regardless of Kirkman’s comments). Cliffhangers are a narrative construct between the writer and the audience that builds tension and crescendo into the story line, which draws the audience in and makes them care more than ever about the story.  It causes the audience to have what are now known as “fan theories”, which engages the audience ever more.  And, this is where I think they went wrong. With all of the Hub-bub about John Snow this year (I am not buying your bullshit either, Kit Harrington, I am confident RT+LS = JS; you will be back), I think the writers of the Walking Dead wanted some of that John Snow love. I think they will find, however, that the conversations over the next six months will not be as much about who got killed as they will be about how the fans feel manipulated by the show.  I am disappointed by their choice on this one.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

FREE ebook on Kindle this week, so grab it while you can!

Age of Mystics will be offered for free for 5 days beginning tomorrow, April 4 and ending on Friday April 8.  If you do not have a copy, please download one for yourself. It does not do any harm to me to give away free books.  I want people to read it, so please get a copy today!!

Age of Mystics

Friday, April 1, 2016

The development of a Character

Story-telling is not the same as having a good story. The latter is having an idea and piecing together the action, I would still consider that having a good story. But, story-telling is connecting with people, often at a deep level. Creating a myth that is compelling to engage with the truths of this world is often difficult.  From what I have seen, one of the areas that many writers miss the boat on is their development of a character or characters.

Characters are the element of a story that makes it multi-dimensional and relate-able. When I write, all of my characters are in some way me.  Even the "bad guys". But, there is more to it than that. For each character I create, I have a physical manifestation in my head.  Sometimes these are actors who embody a certain look that propels the emotion I need in this character.  But, more often than not, they are people I know in real life; people with whom I have connected.

In my first released novel, Age of Mystics, the antagonist is a man named Eric Fine (some could argue the antagonist is nature itself, but that is another discussion). Those who know me well, are well aware that I knew a man with a similar name not too long ago.  I think it is fair to say we had a contentious relationship.  So, picking that image in my head for the antagonist certainly called on the emotions I had about this person.  There is catharsis in that. But, assuming that because Eric was inspired by this person means that Eric "IS" that person is a pretty big stretch. I just don't think of it that way, and you shouldn't either. If, as you read, you connect with one of the characters in a way that makes you think you know that person, then I have done my job.  In creating this world, it is my job to make you see yourself within this world. In that way, it doesn't really matter what inspired me.

I had a High School teacher who was counseling me about my writing one day.  Everyone just loved a poem I wrote and talked at length about its meaning to them.  After the class, I confessed to the teacher that it didn't mean anything.  It was an assignment and I had strung some words together in a proper rhythm. His words will always ring in my ears, "It isn't about you, Chris. It is about them. Art is subjective." So, as fascinated as some have been about who exactly was the inspiration for different characters, I am just as fascinated by who it is for you. When you read about Maxine Craven, do you know a little girl just like that? I mean, not the powers, of course.  But, do you know someone with that attitude, that charm, that innocence? In my head, while writing, she as inspired by a famous actress.  But, it doesn't really matter. It matters who you see, not who I see. If I have developed her character correctly, then your perspective is the only one that counts to me.


Surprise drop!

I am an impatient person. It is just something I have had to learn to live with. As such, keeping this a secret has been so damn hard! I am ...