Tag Archives: distinguished press

Star Wars: Return of the Love

Happy Holidays everyone!

Let me be the first to wish you all the best in 2016. I know it’s been a long time (well longer than usual). I’ve been busy editing, working, visiting with friends and family (more so the past week than the previous month) and of course obsessing over all thing Star Wars!

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I’ve also been smothered with a Christmas cold 🙁 But I’ve got medicine (and booze) so I’ll be fine. In case you’re wondering I have the shirt above and when you press the hat on the left it lights up! Lovely early Xmas gift from my wife =) Before I get too deep into Star Wars and how it’s affected my writing (and of course a few thoughts on the new movie) I wanted to let you know I did just send the latest version of third vampire novel “The Newfoundland Vampire book 3: The Gathering Dark” over to my editor (I’ll do a post on editing next month) so that means the great folks (which includes me, yay!) at Distinguished Press will hopefully make it available to you sometime in first the six month of 2016.

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Now back to Star Wars 😉 Seriously I have loved both Star Wars and Star Trek since I was little (Trek a little longer I’ll admit) and while my heart was broken and my faith shaken by those travesties called “the prequels”, once I learned George Lucas was out and Disney had taken over, I was ready to fall in love again. I got back into the Star Wars comics, read some of the novels (some are okay), played the video games (some of the new Star Wars app are a lot of fun) and even found myself writing a Star Wars novel (spoiler, I never finished it and I don’t even know what happened to it). Who didn’t imagine wielding a lightsaber and using the force?

When I was writing my first book my previous editor said (I’m paraphrasing of course) “how many times have you seen Star Wars? People don’t always need to have their hands chopped off during a fight!” While I write vampire books (and some short stories) I put in a lot of geeky references and Star Wars was no exception. In fact while my vampires fight with swords, I often imagine what the melee would be light with lightsabers. I also based one of my vampires powers on Star Wars, just as Luke can sense Vader’s presence on Endor (and Vader senses his old master on the Death Star), my vampires can sense each other from miles away.

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Perhaps more importantly though I have always been fascinated with the difference between good and evil, I’ve always wanted to explore what makes a person do terrible acts and I often like to explore the idea that no one is completely without hope or in other words “I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven from you fully.” Star Wars presents a fascinating idea, no matter how far you have fallen there is always the chance for redemption, the chance to make it right. While Vader or Emperor Palpatine are extreme examples (as are several characters in my books) there are others that have a taste of the dark side, ones that are tempted by evil or even straddle the line on more than one occasion.

I think for me Star Wars gave the important idea that characters (and stories) can have an arc, things can take an unexpected twist and ultimately end up in places (or acting in ways) you never imagined initially. I’ve always admired Star Wars for having the guys to develop a character like Darth Vader who (for over half of Episodes I-VI) is a villain and yet still be the main character. Vader often wins and ultimately is the hero once more by the end of Episode VI.

While Lucas (I believe) got caught up with technology and special effects far too much in Episodes I-III, he is still a great storyteller that presented a rich world full of interesting characters and ideas that continue to capture the imagination of audiences/readers all over the world.

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So about two weeks ago it happened (You knew I was getting to this) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens finally came out. I won’t get into my whole review (if you’re seen the movie my review is here, it has SPOILERS! You’ve been warned) but I’m back in love with Star Wars. The movie showed what good writing, action and directing in the right hands can do. Fans new and old alike (and yeah I’m getting old, whatever that means) can enjoy it once more, the arc is growing and the story goes on.

So does Star Wars inspire you? Do you love it? Hate it? Do you reference other materials in your writing? And more important, have you seen the Force Awakens? And if not, GO SEE IT! 😉 Seriously I hope you all continue to enjoy the holidays season and if you’ve ready this a little late, happy 2016!

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Words turn into pictures, when does it work?

Greetings again faithful readers,

(What can I say? I like old-fashioned phrases) I thought about what to say this month for a while. There are some big changes coming here at Distinguished Press but I ultimately decided this is neither the time nor the place. As for me, like everyone else I’m working on Xmas shopping (I buy what I can online), hoping snow doesn’t show up for a while (I lie, we’ve already had some here but thankfully it melted) and of course anxiously awaiting the new Star Wars movie (which I’ve had tickets for since October). Aside from all that I’m editing, doing blog posts, interviews and of course writing to you now.

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Which brings me back on point. With all the comic-book movies and TV shows I got to thinking, what is the successful formula for turning a book/comic book into a movie/TV show? I’ve seen hundreds of movies, my wife and I usually go at least 2 a month (often more) and I watch lots more on Netflix. If there’s a book I love, I often check to see if it was or will be made into a movie or TV show. I’m also a huge comic book fan, so the past 14 years it’s been a steady flow of comic book movie/TV shows/novelization movies, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to compare, admire and contrast.

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There are so many I can’t go through them all but I think I have to start with Lord of the Rings. This is perhaps the most well known fantasy novel series ever, they have been around for almost 80 years and have inspired countless writers, other stories, toys, authors and also an enduring (and immensely fun) game called Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve read and loved them since I was a child and studied them in high school and university. Suffice it to say I was very pleased to see them turned into movies.

When I watched them I knew I couldn’t help but compare them to the books, there were differences and changes I didn’t like. Overall though Peter Jackson did a marvelous job, I fell in love with the story all over again as I saw the people, creatures and stories I loved so much brought to life. Then there came the plan that the Hobbit (the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy) would be made into not one, not two but three movies!?!? For those that don’t know the Hobbit was written for Tolkien’s children, it was the shortest of the novels and certainly did not have enough material for three films.

Of course they said they would invent new material, take stuff from other Tolkien material and the appendices at the back the Hobbit, but really I knew the truth, 3 movies means a hell of a lot more money than 1. Don’t get me wrong I watched all three of them and I enjoyed them but I knew the truth, Jackson wanted get paid to do 3 movies and forced the story to fit. Sure the story of the Hobbit is there but it could have be easily told in 3-3.5 hours, not 8.

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Let’s take a different example where (at least so far) it wasn’t stretched out and an obvious example of Hollywood greed. I dearly love Batman (as you may know if you’re read my books The Newfoundland Vampire and Killer on the Road, both are on sale now for 99 cents!) and I was thrilled when my favorite comic-book story of his (well Frank Miller but you know what I mean) The Dark Knight Returns, would be made into an animated movie (I’m also very excited for the upcoming Batman VS Superman movie, which is also supposed to be loosely based on the comic). I loved this comic, I’ve read it many times and I think the movie (which was split into two parts as the comic is that long) was a masterpiece. I wouldn’t dare spoil the story if you’re unfamiliar with it, if you want to see story converted right into film, this animated movie is the one to see.

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I had a big discussion on this with a friend of mine. What’s the best thing for a director/producer/movie company to do? Be extremely faithful to the source material or due your own interpretation? I think being too slavish to the book/comic can be a determent (though as a fan I love it when that actually happens). Some things are just not able to be filmed and I know that a movie is supposed to make money, in many cases the general public hasn’t read the book/comic and they don’t care how faithful it is. Then there are the big fans who will scrutinize the movie for not being close enough to the source (and I know I do that sometimes).  I think ultimately it’s a compromise between what is in the source material and what will work/be successful on screen.

To bring it home, what do you think about movies based on your favorite stories? Do you clamor for more or think enough is enough? I’m always willing to give them a chance and always want more. And I can dream, I know it would be a dream come true if one of my books was ever made into a movie/TV show/play. I know there would be changes but as long as the important parts stayed I’d be happy, well that is as long as I was getting paid…kidding! The struggle between creativity/integrity/money is a topic for another time, until then I’ll eagerly await Batman and catch up on a really good show based on a comic called Jessica Jones (which is on Netflix now, don’t let your young children see it though!). Until then I bid you all good night.

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The Weird Part

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I am an introvert, through and through. I think that’s one reason I’m a writer. I’d rather communicate via email, letter, poem, story, or novel over actual personal interaction about 99% of the time. Because, well, PEOPLE. People wear me out. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a shy bone in my body. I am, however, very, very introverted.

What I’m noticing is that I’ve now reached the part of publishing a book where I have to go out and greet people. And talk about the book. And smile. And, oh lordy, these sillies want me to SIGN MY BOOK!. Me! That’s practically an autograph! It’s too much attention. I very much dislike being the center of attention, and it’s uncomfortable for me. I’d as soon the earth open up and just swallow me whole.

I had a lovely little author event last evening at my own personal public library, the West Wyandotte branch of the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library. I did some of the writing and researching for the book in that library, so when I thought about an author event, that’s where I wanted to go first. They loved the idea, and the YA librarians went out of their way to make it a good event. I had anticipated a schedule that involved a little talk on my part, a reading, and some Q&A, but folks seemed to be trickling in whenever they could make it, rather than showing up right at the start time.

I was okay with this because it meant I could be more the host of an open house event, and it would be more informal. I could spend more face-to-face time with those who had showed up. It was going great with the old friends who had dropped by. We were chatting, about life, about the book, about lots of things. And then it happened. Someone suggested that I do a read-aloud from the book. Even though I had initially been prepped mentally for it, I had already let it go and decided it was all going a different direction. I have no doubt that I had my best deer-in-the-headlights look on for a while. Then I sat down and read a bit.

It was fine, of course, but there was still that part of me that wanted to turn the spotlight OFF. How about I sit in an another room and read into a microphone? Or maybe phone it in? Anything just to get you to STOP LOOKING AT ME. And these were my friends there!

The thing is, a big part of indie and self-publishing is the promotion. Authors have to get out there and publicize themselves because there isn’t a high-powered, well-financed PR department doing it for them. I can get all that without relishing it particularly. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do it without being embarrassed, though.

All in all, I’d just as soon be writing.

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“Advice is a form of nostalgia…

…dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” That’s a quote from one of my all my favorite songs, “The speech song” by Baz Luhrmann. I’ve been listening to it since it came out in 1999 (and was even played on the radio a bit), if you ever get a chance, give it a spin. I’ve lived my life almost completely by that song (and I think I’ve done okay so far).

Hi everyone,

It’s  a cold, windy day here (there were flurries here this morning and it’s only October!). Halloween, Xmas shopping, Xmas and of course winter are fast approaching. People love the fall, not me, sure the leaves are pretty but I like hot, sunny weather anything else gets me down a little. But you’re not here to listen to me pontificate, today I’m going to talk about writers and advice, both giving and receiving.

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I’ve done lots of conventions, given plenty of talks, been part of panels, book signings, book launches and book readings. I’d say the most common question I get is, “what advice would you have for a young/new writer?” (ok they didn’t say /new but I’m too OCD not to be complete). Say what you want about his writing, I think he gives great advice. He wrote a book just called “On Writing: A Memoir of the craft” and I highly recommend it. I would, however, also tell writers to, however, not get caught up in style books and writing handbooks and classes. If you want to do English in University then do it but there’s no substitute for writing and reading every day.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the idea of a writer holed up in a dark corner spending years of his or her life working on a story with no input from others is (I hope) over with. Get to know other writers, I’d say in particular local ones. Local ones have the most time and interest (usually) to talk with you and are often very nice people. One of the best pieces of advice/encouragement I ever got was from a local author, one I had contacted when I finally got serious about writing.

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I know that picture above is a little blurry. What Hemingway (someone else who gives good advice on writing) is saying is that you can’t just use your imagination. You have to experience life, I think some of the best writing I’ve done is based on places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had. The world is full of wondrous people, nature can be inspiring, a place, even just seeing how people live in other parts of the world does so much to broaden your mind. Sometimes I feel that not becoming a serious writer until I was 34 was a good thing, I was lucky enough to have a lot of experience to draw on.  Even now I find when I get back from a vacation I have an idea for a story or chapter, a place that needs mentioning or a person that would be fun to incorporate. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to use your imagination, spice up the world, exaggerate events, or just plain kill people (in your stories of course! That’s not illegal.)

What other advice do I give? I tell people to work hard, write what you love (and don’t write unless you love it), be patient and get plenty of feedback (among lots of other things.) I also say that for 99% of writers (probably more like 100) you have to have an editor. King talks about how you need you to have an ideal reader, the person you really write for (besides yourself). For me that is my editor, I eagerly await her reaction (I’ve had 4 female editors and 1 male). I’ve learned plenty from my editors (currently the wonderful Kathy, who did a wonderful job getting “Killer on the Road” in re-release, ship-shape, available in November!) about grammar, writing style and lots of other important author lessons.

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To finish up, the quote above is true. People who give you advice usually mean well, they’re trying to help. I’ve found though that often times people are limited by experience or simply don’t understand what kind of writer/person you are. So be careful taking any advice, don’t act rashly. Think out any big decision, I once had someone tell me I should get rid of my editor because she wanted me to change parts of the story. That guy had no clue how writing works and I ignored his advice. Writing, like anything in life, is a learning process. Learn what you can from others and pass it on. I’ll end with this, nothing you write is ever perfect. If you have the chance (and the interest) to improve on someone you wrote do it, you’ll be glad you did.

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Why do you write?

Greetings all,

I’m back from a wonderful holiday around BC (Canada) and a cruise to Alaska. If anyone is thinking about a trip to either of those places I’d highly recommend it (though maybe for Alaska to go in July or August) and tomorrow I’m off to a convention (about 6 hours away from where I live), so busy times! For this month, getting back on topic, I’d like to talk about why I write, it was something that came up at a convention and in Stephen King book I read (and is an important question for any writer I think.)

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If you’re curious the book by Stephen King is called “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft“, I’d highly recommend any writer (or aspiring writer) check it out, if you don’t like King. Back on topic, I’ve always had a love of literature. It started (like lots of people I’m sure) with comic books (Archie and then superhero titles) and then novels (and some Hardy Boys and Choose your Adventure stuff). I love to be creative, at first I just wrote a journal but soon moved into short stories, poems and later novels.

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The above reasons are (mostly) true but there are more. You write any story you’re in control, the characters, the plot, the setting, it’s a great feeling to write something exactly the way you want (well if you want to be published it might be a little different but close enough). To see your ideas come to life (even just on the page or screen) is a wonderful feeling and fills you with excitement. I do also hope that my writing has an affect on at least a few readers, I have strong ideas about the world and how it could be better and if other people feel the same, then maybe the world can be a little better. I wrote my first book The Newfoundland Vampire ( the sequel, Killer on the Road,  soon to re-released by my most excellent publisher, Distinguished Press, what? You knew I always put in a plug!)  because I had a story to tell and something to say and I’ll keep writing as long as that’s the case.

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I’ll admit there’s another reason, I’m needy, in particular I need feedback, comments (hopefully praise) and even constructive criticism (please don’t come up and just say you suck, I’ve had that happen and it stings). I think most writers are needy and crave attention, it’s a big reason of you why get stories publish (or self-publish). I am thrilled when I get a new review of a book (especially if it’s a good one and goes on for a more than a few sentences).  I had a book launch party and having everyone show up because they care about your writing (I did a reading there) is also an incredible feeling, I’m looking forward to having at least one more.

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Overall though, I write because I love do to it. I’d tell anyone that writing for the money is  bad idea, sure it’s nice to be rewarded but the money should never be the goal. I’ve read about that writing brings you joy, healing your mind and body and make you a better person. I don’t know if all those things are true but I know that if writing is a chore or all you see is dollar signs, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

What about you? Why do you write?

 

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Why I Want To Be Successful

One of my favorite joys as a professor is writing a student a wonderful letter of recommendation. That’s one of the surprises for which no one prepares you. I love the moments when a hard-working (we hope) student walks through my office door and asks politely and hesitantly, “Do you think you could write me a letter of recommendation?”

I smile and nod. “My pleasure.”

And it truly is. I get to work with the next generation of ambitious leaders as they pursue their dream jobs, and there is little else that gives me the satisfaction of being able to help them achieve that. And not just through classroom lessons, but through that essential reference, the teacher communicating with a future employer and saying, “You’ve got a great candidate here.”

My first novel, Rabbit in Red, releases on September 29. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. “Is this really happening?” But it’s terrifying, too. I ask myself, “Do I need this? Do I really want this?” People are going to see the inside of my head! There will be critics—oh, so many critics! Can I handle all of that?

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One of my college classes. I’m in the back with the maroon shirt. This is my dream job!

Yes. The answer is yes because I think of the smile on a student’s face after they read the rave review I had written for them. I’ve worked hard to be in a position where I am lucky to help others get to where they want to be. I’m lucky to already have my dream job. But I made the decision to never stop developing and chasing new dreams. I set a goal to be a published author, and now it’s happening. I hope for success, of course, but I have to ask: “Why do I want to be successful as an author?” It’s not ego or pride, is it?

No, it’s more than that.

I dream not (just) of being on a bestseller list (although of course I’d be thrilled!). I dream of a day when I can help other writers and artists accomplish their dreams. Isn’t that what would be the absolute coolest thing about being J.K. Rowling or Stephen King? They could get on a Twitter account any hour of any day and make someone a bestseller with a single tweet. Can you imagine?

Oh, I’m sure it’s a terrible pressure, too. But what a beautiful gift.

That’s also why I’ve fallen in love with my publishing home at Distinguished Press. We fight for ourselves, sure, but we’re also fighting for one another. I’ve told my students that when we collaborate with others, when we strive to help others, then we also help ourselves.

If we fight for the success of others, then we, too, will find success.

One day I hope that I possess the beautiful gift of recommending an artist to the world and consequently am able to help that artist achieve all of his or her dreams. THAT is my dream.

Fan art for Rabbit in Red, which releases on September 29!

Fan art for Rabbit in Red, which releases on September 29!

I’ll look back on all the enthusiastic people that have always been my side, and I’ll do anything I can to help them out.

That’s why I want to be successful. That’s why I fight to share my first book with the world and hope to share a dozen more.

I’ll hope you be with me as I take my first steps as a published author.

About the author: Joe Chianakas, 36, teaches communication at Illinois Central College. His first published novel, Rabbit in Red, releases on September 29. Like him on Facebook here, and follow him on Twitter for the latest exciting news!

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My writing habits

Greetings once again all,

Summer is coming to close (for me in NL we’ve had maybe 4 weeks of summer weather but such is life here) and like when any season ends I get a little reflective. This month I thought I’d talk about my writing habits/process. Every writer has their own way of being creative, here’s my story (and details.)

For me writing is a time to relax, to dream, to fantasize about mythical creatures and imagine how my life could have turned differently if I had made different choices. I know some people can write in public places with all sorts of noise and people around but for me I need quiet, solitude and something to look at. I also find that generally I am at my most creative in the morning. My best writing occurs when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, get up at 6 or 6:30 and start writing by 7 or 7:30 AM. (Unless I’m on vacation, then it could certainly be later.)

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I also find that I need an outline. I like to have a clear idea of where I’m headed in a story so I always plan a novel at least two or three chapters ahead of time. (For book 3 “The Gathering Dark” it was the whole book, now for book 4 “War of the Fangs” about 12 chapters). Before I write I have a look at my outline (especially if I’m at the end of a chapter). Also at least once a month I look over the tips my esteemed editor, Kathy, gave me from book 2 ( and I try to keep in mind all I’ve learned from Karyn as well). I find that generally I only write in short bursts, 30-45 minutes tops then I’ll look out the window, possibly check my e-mail or pet one of my cats if they happen to be on the table with me. Generally I do most of my writing at home but sometimes I use my iPad for on the go. As I mentioned above if I have the time (and my laptop) I have also been known to write on vacation, in airports, at conventions and on weekend trips around the province (I live in Newfoundland, if you want to visit somewhere different, you should come . . .  in August or September only!).

LaptopWriting

With my first book published (by the wonderful people at Distinguished Press), I also find it useful to keep a copy of “The Newfoundland Vampire” nearby, it serves as both an inspiration and a guide as I work on further installments (there will be at least 4, after that, we’ll see). For me I try to write about places that I’ve been (or wish I’d been) and either way I like to look at pictures of that place before I write the scene, sometimes I read histories of a building or a town (for me info about my research methods for writing go here). As the main character, Joseph, is about 90% me, it is always a lot of fun to revisit these places in my mind and see how I would act differently in my imaginary world. For some scenes I try to imagine the whole thing in my head and then get it down on the screen as accurately as possible.

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When it comes to personal preference, I find I enjoy writing the sex, action and humor scenes the most. Action scenes in particular get me excited and then they writing comes faster. A friend of mine gave me a tip to just set a simple goal, write one page a day every day. I found this very helpful as even one page, single spaced, means a chapter done in a week and of course some days I get inspired and do more Thumbs up.

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The best scenes for me just fly out of my brain and I worry about cleaning up dialogue, punctuation and grammar at later time. While I’m certain writing could be taken with a scientific approach for me its artistic expression and the best way I have to communicate my ideas and feelings to the world. I read once you should write drunk and edit sober, I’m certainly not going to encourage drinking but writing drunk can be fun 😉  I hope you do something creative today and let me know you thoughts. What writing habits do you have? What scenes are the most fun to do? Do write better at certain times of the day? Inquiring minds want to know! Have a good one all, talk to you next month.

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Writing and the internet, a marriage made in heaven

Greetings all,

It’s what passes for summer here (I won’t get much into it, I’ll just say the average temperature for the month of  July here is 11C that’s just 52F!) and time for another monthly post. I’ve been slowly working on book 4 of my Newfoundland Vampire series (as book 3 won’t be out until sometime in 2016 I’m certainly not in a rush) and I was thinking how wonderful a tool the internet is for a writer.

I’m a slow reader and I can remember the days when doing research meant going to the library (or in high school digging through my parents encyclopedias/National Geographic magazines) and spending time first searching for a book that might be related to the topic, getting the book, the trying to quickly determine if it was any good for your research before too much time was wasted. It was a treasure hunt and I know for untold hours I would look through journals, textbooks, newspapers, microfilm or even taking the step of ordering the book from the library and waiting for it to come  in.  Sure I got better at it, more efficient and I certainly had help from other students and asked librarians often. Don’t get me wrong I love libraries and enjoyed 90% or more of the time I spent there but still I was thrilled when I did my masters so much material was available on the internet. At that point I had an office (well I shared it with other students but eventually it was just me) and reading stuff on my laptop was just so much easier and convenient but I’m starting to stray.

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When I started to write my first novel “The Newfoundland Vampire” (what, you didn’t think I’d put in a plug?), available now with Distinguished Press, I wanted a main character that was based on a real person from history. Catherine Mandeville Snow was the last woman hanged in Newfoundland in 1834 and seemed like a figure I could really work with. My idea was to get someone from Newfoundland who had a significant/unusual death and she popped up. If I had wrote this book 20 years ago who knows how many hours just discovering that fact may have taken me. In seconds I read a brief bio of Catherine’s life and after a few minutes discovered there was a local author who had written a book on her, I sent him an e-mail and he agreed to meet with me (I did have to leave the house to do that of course).

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To be clear  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with going to the library and doing research, it’s a great thing if you live nearby and have the time but I find the older I get the more time becomes precious to me. I’m also aware that it is certainly possible to find information on the internet that is exaggerated/half-true or complete lies. Just as you would with a book you check your sources and see if the same info can be found from various sources. It would slow my writing down tremendously if I decided to read a book on a subject I didn’t know about and makes you admire authors like J.R.R. Tolkien or Bram Stoker for the incredible amount of time and effort they put into researching a story. Fortunately for writers past and present (to be precise a those with a publisher) you also have the invaluable tool of your editor to double-check your facts. Ultimately if you’re writing fiction and changing characters (my Catherine is quite different from the real one in many ways) you don’t need to get everything 100% accurate and wouldn’t want to but still do your best.

I’ll finish with another example. This week I was writing a chapter set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I have not been to Mardi Gras and so I did a Google image search (if you’re a very young author make sure you have safe search on!) and within a seconds I had dozens of great pictures. I did a little more checking on interesting bars on Bourbon Street, thought about the chapter and I was ready to start. While most of the images have nudity, here is one I can share.

epa03580945 (left to right) A Christian Street preachers yells at a group hanging outside of a bar whiledrag queen Charles Loraine Wendell yells back on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter during Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 12 February, 2013.  Fat Tuesday is the final day of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.  EPA/DAN ANDERSON

How great is that? One extreme to the other right in this picture and it’s real. I could right several pages on what these two could say to each other but for me it was just a nice tidbit of what happens at Mardi Gras (besides the obvious beads/drinking/flashing everyone knows about). If Google didn’t exist I never would have thought to write about these two guys and my scene would have been lacking something.

So what do you think? Is the internet a great tool for writers? Should we instead spend untold hours in libraries and more time becoming experts on topics/history? Is there some combination/happy medium I’m missing out on? I’d love to see your thoughts, until next month everyone!

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Paper or digital?

Hi all,

So it’s me, Charles, back for my monthly installment.  I’ve been around a while (I’m 39) and I thought the other day of how much technology has affected what way we ingest our favorite writers. When I was young (up until I was 17), the only way to read was with paper (at least for me, PDFs did exist in 1993 but were only used then for academic papers). Aside from novels (which I have been obsessed with, even now I only have about one-hundred) I had a huge collection of comic books, probably around 3000 of them. I love comics (I still read them) and I thought my collection would be worth something someday . . . well it was worth something but not nearly as much as I hoped. Around 15 years later I started to sell it off piece by piece but I digress. My point here is that whether it was a comic book, a magazine (I used to collection Dungeons and Dragons magazines) or a novel, it was paper and it usually meant just carrying 1 or 2 with you.

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That changed back in 1996 when the first Palm Pilot came out and since I’ve always loved gadgets, I had one that year. With a palm pilot I was able to read books, e-mails and do some other convenient things whenever I wanted to. PDFs were only just gaining popularity any virtually any you found were ones you created yourself or looked high and low for on the Internet. Still though the idea that I could carry around more than one or two things to read and I was intrigued. Sure the display was crappy (it was not even in color but this weird monochrome LCD screen. It was a touch screen though and the ability to tab it with a stylus pen was neat, I had one with me 5 days a week for years, I found them reliable and fairly easy to use (though I went through two in four years).

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Before we go further I know that Laptops were available in 1981 and those with color screens were around by 1991 but they were expensive then and I didn’t carry one around me most of the time. I will add though while comic book subscriptions (or the Comixology app) weren’t around, there were many PDF and CBR (comic book reader) versions to be found, so by 1997 I was reading comics and PDFs on my laptop as well. By the way if you ever think about buying a laptop on Ebay with no warranty (and it’s as strange brand name) don’t do it! I had constant trouble with mine and in the end had to give to my friend for spare parts.

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For me I reached the point when I found that I was still printing stuff off of the internet and buying novels (though I found I could save a ton of cash by never buying hardcover and waiting for sales/going to used book stores). I used to go on binges and once while on vacation in Florida I bought 15 Star Trek books and read them all (most of them were crap if you’re curious. There is something about holding a book in your hands, no matter how cheap/convenient/easy eBooks get, I’ll never be able to give up print entirely.

Move forward some more, this time to April of 2010. My first book was released, “The Newfoundland Vampire” (you knew I was getting a plug in here somewhere! 😉 Oh it’s currently available from the great folks at Distinguished Press and is better than ever with a new cover and touched-up story. I gained a new perspective on books, comics, ebooks and audio books. I could see then that it hurt me when someone downloaded my book for free and I made a point to pay for everything I got from the internet. More relevant to this post, however, is that I got an iPad (it still works fine too!).

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The iPad changed a lot for me. Now I could carry around hundreds of books, the ability to download any comic I had purchased and of course with the internet purchase any book (that was available as an ebook) I liked and read it instantly. With this lightweight, handy device I found myself buy paper books much less, the same went for comics. I did also (just for completeness sake) also buy a Kindle. The reasoning is lost on me (I suppose it was an impulse buy) but I was impressed by the devotion of this device to books and it’s simple connection to Amazon (for free at the time as well) was a great piece of marketing.

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Now let’s bring it up to present day. I find that I listen to an audio book and I’m reading a novel on my iPad but yet I still buy my D&D books in print format and I have a good dozen print books waiting to be read on my bookshelf. For comics I still buy them at Flea Markets/conventions/comic book stores when I see a good deal (or something I can’t get in digital format) and I’m subscribed to four digital titles. So I would say I’m about 60% digital and 40% print. There’s something about the feel of paper and the ease of flipping through pages that I haven’t found a digital book able to replicate, until that day I’ll continue to support both.

How about you, do you think ebooks have print on the ropes? Is there room for both? Which one will win? Is it even a contest? I’m getting tired! Talk to you all next month.

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A CONventional Experience, Part 2

Happy Monday all,

It was a long weekend for me (Victoria Day, or as we call it 24th of May) so I’m happy to have a shorter work week and am feeling fairly rested but onto the post! Last month I told you all about my experience attending conventions, this month will be my experience being a guest/vendor/author at conventions over the years.

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My first time as a guest at a convention was at Sci-Fi on the Rock about 6 years ago. Back then I wasn’t an author but I was a huge geek and developed an interest in Klingons, more particularly how to speak Klingon. In high school I used to be really shy, while I had no problem speaking in front of a class (I knew all them after all), giving a talk in front of strangers terrified me. It took a whole degree and diploma at university and my girlfriend (who is now my wife) to finally get me out of my shell. Talking in front of a crowd still makes me nervous and have to rehearse for at least a week ahead of time. Being a teacher for a few years helped me a lot in this regard (I also have a Masters in Education) and I have observed plenty of other speeches by friends, strangers and acquaintances at conventions. I also got involved with this fan made Star Trek show called Star Trek Reliant, a friend of mine asked me to be in an episode and speak some Klingon. I did so and enjoyed it, I was in a few more episodes but eventually didn’t want to give up my Sunday’s, especially in the summer. It did lead me into an idea about turning my lines into a panel on how to speak basic Klingon.

After my Star Trek Reliant time ended I gave a little talk on how to speak basic Klingon phrases, it was fun and it got me into the convention for free. I changed my talk over the years and eventually included some audio clips and handouts. For those who don’t know me I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, I was president of a Star Trek society in University and even have a Star Trek tattoo, so it was a natural step for me. After doing this speech for a while (and having the experience of people walk out of my talk, always annoying) I got tired of it and moved onto my writing talk, “Adventures with Vampires and Publishing”.

The first year  I was a vendor/artist at SFOTR I was very excited and happy. It was April of 2012 and my first book “The Newfoundland Vampire” had just been released and I had my first chance to interact with the public as an author. I gave out candy to get people at my table (I still do that now), had a gift basket (people could put their names down for free) and some bookmarks to hand out along with many copies of my book. I think I sold about 36 copies over the whole weekend and while I was happy with sales, I immediately learned a few things. I wasn’t charging enough for books (they cost me about $10 and I was selling them for $10!) and there was no good trying to push for a sale.

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The following year book two hadn’t been released by I expanded my table with Magic cards and comic books for sale (and upped my prices). During that second year I had some wonderful experiences, people who had read my book came up to me to talk about it. Some young women asked me to sign them and even wanted a picture taken with me! My ego was through the roof and I had a great time, I don’t remember my exact sales, at this point I started to see that being an author wasn’t about the money but the memories and the people. I gave my talk again (changing the name to “Writing, vampires, and publishing oh my!”) and gave a sneak peek of book two (which came out in September of 2013, also from Penumbra Publishing).

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You can see my table in the above picture. Being at a convention where you have a table does have its downsides though, I don’t get to see most of the guest, or go to any panels (besides my own). While Friday and Saturday are usually the busy days, by Sunday you can be sitting around for hours with no one coming to your table. I’ve also seen that any time you give something out for free there are always people who take advantage. As it’s just me (aside from family and friends who occasionally stop by), you have to get to know the people around you so you can leave your table for bathroom/food/water breaks. Since then I’m not with Distinguished Press (and I couldn’t be happier! They’re a great bunch of people) and for the sake of length you can read about my latest convention experience here.

Moving on another thing I really enjoyed was being invited to conventions in other places. First it was Atlanti-Con in Corner Brook (about 6 hours from where I live). The main guy, Jeff, knew me from Sci-fi on the Rock and invited me to come to his convention. This meant a free table and a great opportunity to promote my book and meet some new geeky people.

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Sadly I couldn’t find a picture from that first year but the above gives you an idea. My book sold well the first two years (and I already knew some people who travel from St. John’s to Corner Brook as I do) and by year three my sales of comic books made up for declining book sales (I know places to get them cheap and had a large collection up to a few years ago). I also had the unique experience of doing a panel with another author (to increase attendance for both of us). I really, enjoyed that as it took pressure off me and let me have some fun with the other author (whom I’ve known for many years). Corner Brook is on the west coast of Newfoundland and has some amazing scenery here’s some of my favorite pics from nearby Gros Morne.

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Yes in case you’re wondering the above is a moose, they are featured in my books (for reasons you’ll have to read to find out!), the others are several places around Gros Morne, a wonderful place to visit if you ever get a chance. As if being at a convention isn’t enough fun I found that as I drove people there (I believe in carpooling) I would get to know them and even hung out with one women during the convention (Jana, who is really nice and helped me do my book reading later in 2013). I went to a party at a bar where vendors,guests and organizers at Altanti-Con went and I have a wonderful time chatting with one of the actors. I was lucky enough to be staying in the same hotel as the guest and got a chance to have breakfast with one and drinks with another on other nights. The person I’ve really had a chance to connect with at Altanti-Con though is the always hilarious (and really nice) Fat Apollo. Who is he you may be wondering? You’ll have to check on the link to find out. Moving on (I’m nearing the end, promise!)

Everything to (what I thought) a climax in November of 2013, as I was an invited guest to a convention outside the province, in particular Nova Scotia and the city of Halifax. Hal-Con is a much larger convention that Sci-Fi on the Rock or Atlanti-con (I’d say actually bigger than both combined). For first convention my wife came with me and she also experienced the madness of that con. I’m not going to dwell on it but this was probably the worst convention I attended, they didn’t have a author badge for me, a table and it took several people to even find me on the list! Once I was set up I discovered almost no one wanted to buy a book from me and due to a mistake with tickets the fire marshal and even the police had to show up to stop too many people from coming on Saturday. (They sold tickets as any day, not expecting almost everyone to try and come on Saturday). I look on the bright side of things though and I did have some wonderful talks with the other vendors around me and I won some money at a casino nearby.

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As you can see there were some amazing costumes and I always enjoy seeing those. I did also sell some of my more valuable comics (worth $50 each) and get to spend some time in Halifax (which is a cool city with some great restaurants and lovely hotels). I did also get to give my talk with the highest number of attendees (some of them asked some excellent questions that I had to work on for the following year) and had people buy my books right on the spot (which is always a feel good moment).

In the end I’m not sure what I enjoy more, attending conventions or being a guest. I certainly get to see and do more just attending, meet people I’ve admired for years, attend great panels but I don’t get the interaction with people and of course only spend money, not make any. They are both rewarding experiences and I’m certainly looking forward to another two conventions this year. Until next month everyone!

 

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