The Fictorians

Do All the Hobbies!

23 June 2015 | 1 Comment » | Matt Jones

scuba
We give a lot of advice on Fictorians, but one phrase seems to come up again and again. “Keep writing.” It’s great advice, and I say it myself all the time. However, this time I think you should stop. Put your writing aside, temporarily, and go do something else. Take my word for it, and in the end, it will hopefully improve your writing as well.

I myself have taken this perhaps a little too far and I’m working on cutting back now. In the past couple years I’ve became the president of an astronomy club and a scuba divemaster. I’ve taken up projects like robotics which has forced me to learn how to weld, 3d print, and build electronic circuits. I’ve also taken flight lessons, learned to skydive, and have taken many other computer oriented courses. While this has taken up much of the time I could spend writing, it has taught me many things about the world and how we interact with it. I’m pretty sure I could write a far more realistic scene involving someone scuba diving or skydiving now than I could before.

It all comes down to writing what you know. I’ve had one author tell that he doesn’t write much about horses because he hasn’t ever been trained in how to ride or care for them. How could a real equestrian stay committed to a novel where the characters, who are supposed to be experts themselves, are making obvious mistakes? Instead, he glosses over the point and instead focuses on what he does know. Having a firm understanding of the mechanics of some parts of your book will allow you to gloss over other parts and still sound like you fully understand every aspect of what you’re writing about. Of course, as an author, you have to be careful to keep it interesting to those outside the hobby so you don’t limit yourself to a niche. Keep a close eye on your test readers. If you get positive messages from those who enjoy the hobby as well as those apart from it, you know you’re onto something great.

There is also the added benefit of gathering people who share similar hobbies. I was first given a copy of the novel “In thin air” by a rock climber. My marine biologist friend urged me to read “Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings”. If you can train yourself in a skill and really show that expertise in your novels it’ll attract others who share the same interests. It’ll give you talking points and possibly allow you to expand your reach to podcasts and blogs of those focusing on that interest. This is where you’ll be able to go into depth about those little things that would be too specialized to put into the novel. You can let your passions show, which will help attract new readers as well as spread your name in the community.

In the end, what we write is a culmination of all our live experiences. The world’s we write exist in our mind. Looking at the sky at night can give you ideas for your space opera, but it’s more like the broad swaths of color in the background. Listening to Astronomycast and joining your local astronomy club can help give you discreet knowledge that can build the foundation for your work. It’s like adding those fine strokes that can change your generic novel into a masterpiece.

That said, go climb a mountain, dive in the ocean, or fly in the skies. Go take a class and learn something new. Go do something amazing. And after you’ve finished that, come back and write something great.

Do you agree? Think I’ve been wasting valuable time away from the computer? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Expanding Your Convention Horizons

22 June 2015 | No Comments » | Guy Anthony De Marco

When I re-started my writing career after a long hiatus, I had to figure out how to get back into the convention circuit. My base of operations shifted from upstate New York to the Denver area, so I didn’t know any local authors and I had no idea what conventions were in the area. Most importantly, I didn’t know how much it would cost.

I wasn’t too concerned with meeting new local authors, since I figured once I discovered where they lurked, we’d say hello. I trundled off to Google’s House to search through their drawers of data. I wanted to focus my search on conventions that involved the genres I was interested in. My horrible search string was this:

+convention +(denver|”colorado springs”) +(comic|book|literary|steam|”science fiction”|”sci fi”|”sci-fi”|fantasy|horror)

Yes, it’s written in geeky Google-ese. Translating it to English: Look for conventions in Denver or Colorado Springs for any of genres I listed. (If you’re interested in learning some tips for using Google to research things, see my Fictorians post on Advanced Google-Fu.)

I found plenty of local conventions, and my conventioneering career was underway. I reached out to the contacts I found on the con websites, offering my services on panels. The ones who asked me to sit on a panel received my highest priority, assuming they compensated me with a membership ticket. The ones who weren’t interested I put on a check-next-year list. Since I had no problems talking to a large audience (I used to teach at the college level, which helped me with my public speaking chops), programming directors heard that I “gave good panel.” I made a page on my author website that covered what panels I attended for which con, and I even made sure to include a list of fellow panelists. Sometimes it helps to name-drop.

After a few years, I was known to a large segment of the local con-going crowd. Most didn’t buy my books (I would be writing this from my island paradise if only that were true), but enough people remembered the Guy in the grey beard who made people laugh on panels. Folks would stop me in halls to say hello, and even the occasional celebrity/Guest of Honor would interrupt a conversation with a fan to say hello to me by name.

I figured I had saturated the local market with my branding efforts. I was wondering what to do at that point when my brilliant wife, Tonya L. De Marco, suggested that I start expanding my convention horizons.

Cue a Homer Simpson “D’oh!” That made sense.

I had to figure out where I could travel and remain in my budget. I decided on expanding east of Denver, for no other reason than there was more real estate in that direction. I didn’t want to fall off of the edge of my map, since it’s turtles all the way down. (Bonus geek points if you got that reference.)

I picked a couple of cities in Nebraska and replaced Denver and Colorado Springs in my Google search statement. It turned out there were several vibrant cons in Lincoln and Omaha. The first one I went to, CONStellation in Lincoln, wasn’t interested in me at first. I attended as a regular Guy just to experience what the con had to offer. The second convention I contacted, Omaha’s OSFest, was interested, and I was invited to attend as a panelist.

I’ve only been back to CONStellation once, where I shared a dinner table and conversation with Elizabeth Bear. I had so much fun at OSFest that I talked to the convention chair and helped to build an author panel track. I asked around my gaggle of Denver-based author friends and came up with a group that was interested in traveling to Omaha. The group returned for a couple of years until this year, when they were no longer interested in having us set up the author track (the new programming chair decided to go with an online submit-your-own panel methodology).

No worries, I thought. Look, there’s more unexplored territory on my map! Utah has a huge convention called Salt Lake Comic Con (SLCC), and there’s one in the other direction near St. Louis called Archon

I opened my browser, found the names of the convention chairs, and fired off an email. I’m now attending SLCC as a Special Guest, and I’m waiting on a reply from Archon, one of the oldest fan-run conventions.

I’ll keep you informed as my horizons expand…


 

About the Author:DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker Award®; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer (Sojourner Tales modules, Interface Zero 2.0 core team, D&D modules); and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, RMFW, NCW, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at WikipediaGuyAndTonya.com, and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.

Laugh! and Get Noticed!

19 June 2015 | No Comments » | Ace Jordyn

We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own or to other people’s models, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open.
Shakti Gawain

Writers are fun loving people with countless interests, who love a good joke, and truly are kids at heart. Yet, we can feel overwhelmed when we’re in the public eye at book launches and conventions, or when we approach and agent or publisher. Our effervescent, perfectionist selves, our I-wrote-an-awesome-book selves, crumble in a public spotlight. It’s not about our craft (we work hard at that), or our ability to complete a project, nor is it about putting our literary babies up for criticism (we’ve jumped that hurdle a few times to get the manuscript ready). It’s that we’re perfectionists and we all strive to write the next best seller.

Ah, yes. I had written the perfect pitch and had practiced the perfect delivery. With my perfect pitch in hand, I went to my first convention and encountered a publisher’s representative. What was my book about? he asked me. Well, I was prepared, wasn’t I? I had polished that pitch, memorized it and practiced it until I could recite it anywhere. And then….

… FAILURE! For so many reasons it escaped me (I wasn’t doing dishes, taking out the garbage, reciting it to a blank wall – who knows?). I rolled my eyes back into my head in an effort to mentally read my perfect pitch and I was suddenly, totally mortified. I had blown the perfect opportunity! Solution? Run? Turn a deeper red? I looked him in the face and laughing, I said, “Now that that’s over, let me tell you what the book is really about.” And so I spoke from the heart all the while laughing inside over how silly I’d been.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
Eugene Delacroix

That encounter didn’t get me the sale but I got a great chortle from the publisher and I had a good conversation with him. But most importantly, I learned to laugh at myself and relax. Publishers, agents and book buyers don’t have it easy trying to find the perfect book either. So once you understand that they have as much at stake in the moment as you do, it takes the pressure off needing to be perfect. Besides, you just want an opportunity to submit the manuscript or for prospective readers at your sales table to buy the book to read later. How does laughing at yourself accomplish that?

Genuine beginnings begin within us, even when they are brought to our attention by external opportunities.
William Bridges

It’s about being true to yourself and sparking a relationship which in turn creates loyalty. Who are we the most loyal to? Those we are most comfortable around, not those who make us feel squeamish. Think of your best friends. You laugh, you discuss, even argue from time to time and you know what’s important or meaningful to them. So it should be with those we are trying to impress. Like with our friends, we need to listen, ask questions, converse and laugh at ourselves and with them. That’s what creates relationships and opportunities, not a perfectly recited pitch.

So, don’t be so hard on yourself. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. View your encounters as if you’re developing a friendship. Ask them what’s important to them. Ask about their interests. Don’t forget to smile. Above all, laugh and relax. But what happens if they aren’t interested in what you’ve written?

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is a reaction, both are transformed.
C.G. Jung

A negative response doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good or whatever the awful thing the voice inside your head is sniping. It simply means it isn’t for them or that you’ve got a bit more work to do to answer their questions. You can choose to address the issue or not. You can choose to purse the relationship or not. But what you can always do is laugh and revel in the wonder of how although we are all the same, we are so different.

I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy!
Louise Bogan.

If you’d like to read more great quotes and learn to overcome limiting beliefs and fears that inhibit the creative process (and keep you from laughing), I recommend you read The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.

The Importance of Reviews

18 June 2015 | No Comments » | fictorians

Guest Post by Petra Klarbrunn

 

“Please, sir, I want some more,” said little Oliver Twist.

It’s one of the best-known lines from Charles Dicken’s novel partly because it was shocking to the other characters. Nobody does that…nobody asks for something from Mr. Bumble.

Unfortunately, that thinking has spilled over to how authors something think. Honest, it’s perfectly fine if you ask for something from your readers, understanding that what you end up with might not be what you expected.

Books with lots of reviews act as a psychological influence on your potential readers. While they might be skeptical about 100 perfect 5-star reviews, it still makes them wonder what all of the fuss is about. If so many people loved a particular book, it must be good. Right?

Therefore, you should consider asking your readers to post an honest review. Here are a couple of suggestions for doing so.

  1. Ask for an honest review, not a 5-star review.
    Demanding a top review score is not only pretentious, but it’s rather gauche. What you’re looking for is someone’s opinion, no matter what rating they assign. If they absolutely hated your book, that’s fine. Having a low-rated review gives the rest of the reviews a bit more authority and makes it appear as though the rest of the reviews are a tad more trustworthy. Asking your readers to post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc. is perfectly acceptable behavior.
  1. At the end of your books, place a standardized blurb asking for a review.
    The reader just finished reading your book, so there’s no time like the present to ask for an honest review. E-books should have a link to places the reader can post reviews. You can combine the links to a single page on your blog for print books. In fact, you can add in some bonus material for folks who want to visit your website, such as signing up for your newsletter or posting additional story material that didn’t make it into the final published work.
  1. Give suggestions for reviews.
    Some folks are hesitant to post reviews because they don’t know what to say. Give them some leading questions to assist them. How did the book make them feel as they were reading it? Did the characters seem “real”, and were you concerned for the protagonist? If there was something they didn’t like, ask them to be specific. Ask them not to include spoilers, particularly the ending twist.
  1. Explain why you are asking for honest reviews.
    Most readers do not know how important reviews are for authors. Explain to them that it helps your novel ranking, it helps to sell more books (so you can continue writing), and it assists with the search engine ranking when browsing.

So, how does getting reviews help you get discovered? Glad you asked.

Books that have higher review rankings are rated higher with Amazon’s sooper-secret algorithms. The current estimates are that if a book has over 26 reviews, and those reviews are above 4.0 on average, you have a far better chance of getting your book in front of browsing readers. If your book is highly rated, you can easily get your book into some of the promotional websites such as BookBub.com.

Books with excellent reviews can provide you with blurbs for marketing and, if the reviewer is well-respected, allow you to update your cover with the quote. Having a blurb from Stephen King helped Jack Ketchum become a household name in the horror field. Getting a blurb from someone like George R. R. Martin would certainly help your fantasy novel take off. Review quotes can be gold for your marketing efforts.

Above all, don’t be a pushy author. Ask politely once. If your best friend doesn’t want to leave a review, respect that decision. If Mom says she’s too busy to review your latest erotica story, that’s certainly her prerogative. Hopefully, you’ll have enough readers who, on reading your request and why it’s important to you as an author, will post something after they’ve read your work.

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