Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Self-Analysis: Recurring Themes

I'm guest posting over at Aaron Starr's blog today on the topic of recurring themes. Come see what I discovered about myself and tell us what your recurring themes are.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guest Post: Sunset on the Perimeter: Being a Brief Reminisce on Early Influences

And now, another episode from the imagination and background of author/artist Aaron Bradford Starr:

It was evening in the closing days of summer and I was being hosted by my good friend, Joyce Alton. She and I were launching sentry dirigibles over the mangroves that surround her family's secret estate and watching as the inflated shapes rose high enough to catch the last orange light of the day.

"And that," I was saying, "was how my first story came about."

"But," she protested, "surely you wrote something before?"

"No, no," I answered her, clipping stiff fabric above the gas jets and giving them a loud burst of flame. The final dirigible fluffed out, slowly filling with hot air thus created. "The first time I realized I might want to be a writer was in fifth grade, but it wasn't until sixth grade that my main influences were introduced to me."

Sitting on one of the upholstered chairs scattered about the security deck, I stretched out my feet and considered the fading light as crocodiles rumbled in the darkening swamps all around. The dirigible continued to fill on its own.

"My brother, David," I said at last, "is very close in age to me, but somewhat different in temperament. I would put him into a class far more ready to step off into new territory than I. He was always introducing me to the very newest music and literature."

"Disco?" Joyce asked, with a smile.

I laughed at the thought. "No, we were too young for disco," I said with a wistful sigh. "This was the eighties already, and metal was all the rage among the youth of the day. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, surely you remember these musicians?"

"Why, Bruce Dickenson and I used to play soccer in my London days," Joyce replied.

"Really?" I asked, startled.

"Perhaps not."

Puzzled and intrigued, I continued, "Well, it was not long before David had brought home daring new literary efforts by the rising stars of the day. Chalker, Anthony, and Donaldson were the main authors I remembered from that time. He was always reading something. I, as a youth, had eschewed reading, for the most part, save for comic strips and the occasional Dr. Seuss."

"Ah!" Joyce exclaimed. "I used to play whist with the good Doctor!"

"You did?" I exclaimed, startled anew.

"Not exactly," she responded, sighing. Brightening at once, she stood and worked the brass lever that released the last of the dirigibles into the sky. "So he was bringing home fiction for adults, was he?"

I nodded. "It took awhile for me to actually start reading one. I remember that the cover painting for The Source of Magic caught my eye, but I didn't read it for some time. The first book of adult SF or fantasy I remember reading was Quest for the Well of Souls by jack Chalker. It was book three of five, so I didn't understand a lot of the backstory, but the adventurous nature of it hooked me at once."

"And the sex might not have hurt, either," Joyce added, her eyes twinkling.

"Certainly not," I answered, "though I haven't emulated that in my own writing."

"Chaste as fallen snow, if I hear correctly," Joyce said, opening the hummingbird shelters and whirling the bird call over her head, silently summoning the tiny creatures from their daily rounds.

"As plowed snow, perhaps," I allowed. "But beyond the stories, I also found David and I talking about the books we were reading. He'd read one and then give it to me and we'd talk about them. Reading, he showed me, could be a very social thing, not simply lonely page-turning in some dim corner. Soon the entire family was at it."

"Cuts into dinnertime conversation, I imagine," Joyce replied.

"Entirely, some nights. I remember entire meals with all of us reading books one, two, and three of our latest series, and everyone waiting for the others to finish so we could all talk about characters and such."

"And reading habits are writing habits," Joyce said with a nod. Hummingbirds flitted near enough to whirr against her hair as they arrived at their cages. "I can see how this is an important writing influence."

"Yes," I nodded, musing. "Not only was I reading the sort of thing I would like to one day write, but was surrounded by like-minded people within my very own family. This was an important development. Who knows how many more years might have elapsed before I found these authors, if David hadn't brought them home from his many voyages overseas? I might have gone in quite another direction."

Joyce nodded, clipping the last of the bird cages shut. "Just so," she said.

Satisfied the night's perimeter was in good order, she suggested we retire to the billiard room, where fine brandy and cigars were waiting, and I thought that sounded splendid.

For more from Mr. Starr, see his previous post: What Justifies a Larger Word Count in Speculative Fiction. And What Doesn't.

Aaron can also be found at his blog, Imaginary Friend, or roaming the corridors of Agent Query Connect.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Marketing Power of One

When you think of one person and their impact on the world around them, for most of us, that impact is small. For authors trying to promote their novels, they walk a fine line between crass advertising and letting everyone know they've written a book. I'm not going to talk about self-promotion today. I have little experience with it. I do have some experience with promoting other people and recently I came to realize that my impact was larger than I had thought.

Everyone finds new books to read differently. For me, the library is my primary source of discovering new stories. So it makes sense then that the library is my easiest place to promote books and authors I enjoy.

A few years back I heard about a new book by a relatively unknown author through their agent's website. I don't normally find books that way, but this one had a premise that really intrigued me. I jumped online to see if I could reserve it at my local library. They didn't have it. They didn't have any books by this author at all. My library's pretty neat, in that they let people request books for purchase. I requested this particular book and in due course was able to borrow and read it. I really liked it.

About a year later the next book in the series came out. I again checked the library. They hadn't automatically bought it. Apparently the first book wasn't in high demand locally, although I knew it was making waves in reader circles elsewhere. So I requested the library buy the second book.

The same thing happened with the third, and the fourth, and the fifth books. By the time the last book came out this year, I finally didn't have to request that the library purchase it. They had bought four copies already and the series had caught on locally.

Now, that's not to say that my local librarians wouldn't have discovered this series (a New York Time's bestseller) eventually. But because I requested the books as soon as they came out, it gave them exposure locally much faster. I was helping to promote this author's books, helping them achieve that bestsellerdom.

I request the library purchase many books each year, either based on favorite authors, or premises I like the sound of. Some books have turned out to be duds, subjectively. Others have been great finds. Sometimes the library's brought in the first book but doesn't purchase the rest in a series. I'm then able to build up that author's presence through requests.

That's become my niche.

For other individuals there are lots of other ways to promote the books you love. We may not feel like anyone else will notice or share our enthusiasm, but we never know. Maybe you like to write reviews online, maybe you do shout-outs on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or Pinterest. (Which if you do, please try to mention the genre and what the story is about. Gushing over a title tells no one anything enticing.) Others join book clubs, or do in person recommendations when friends or relatives ask what to read. The point is word of mouth works. Authors can't really buy that kind of publicity, and it's what works the best.

Don't underestimate your sphere of influence, no matter how small it may be. If you like a book, you have the power to let others know about it. When the authors and books you like hit those bestseller lists, you were part of putting them there. Their success is also, in a smaller fashion, your success. Just another angle to consider.

So what's your promotion niche? How do you like to tell others about the books you love? What are you reading right now that you're excited about?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why Do You Write?

For anyone who'd like to answer that question in the comments, or who would like to find out my reasons, I've written a guest blogpost for The Write Time by Dean Rich. It turns out; it's not such an easy question to answer.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Music to Write by #6: OCRemix The Binding of Isaac 'The Clubbing of Isaac'

Time to go into high gear in the dead of winter!

The stakes are high, adrenaline's rushing, the clock is ticking, your protagonist has to pull of the impossible, things are about to get crazy ...

Have a moment like that in your story? Then this high powered piece might help you stay in the zone. The Binding of Isaac 'The Clubbing of Isaac' was remixed by Big Giant Circles. Check out the YouTube link below and remember that you can download OCRemix music directly from their website for free.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Blogging Break Continues ...

I promise I haven't forgotten about you. So much real life stuff has been going on I haven't had time to sit down, research, and write the posts I intend to. Thank you for stopping by the blog. Check out the archives. I'll be back to blogging as soon as I can.