Tag Archives: entertainment

Some never escape magic’s grasp

How do I celebrate my blog’s fifth anniversary? I write a guest post for someone else’s! Here’s the intro. Click on the link at the end to read the article in its entirety at PrincessMyParty.com.

What do princesses, superheroes, and space explorers have in common?

In a word: magic.

Perhaps that fact is most obvious with the princesses. After, the fairytales that inspired Disney’s roster of young royals are rooted in magic. Where would Beauty be without her Beast—not to mention his castle full of not-so-inanimate objects?

When princesses aren’t succumbing to sleeping spells, they’re conjuring up blizzards or breaking the Guinness Book of World Record for most impressive ponytail. Magic is in their blood.

Is it in yours? Read more at PrincessMyParty.com.

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Looking for literary love?

Blind dates are the worst. Maybe it’s human nature to want to know as much as we can before we commit—even if only for an evening.

The same can be said for books.

Our time is precious. We’ve all romanced read wonderful books before, novels that grab us by the heart and won’t let go. But there’s no guarantee the next plot you pick up will be a keeper. And if you’re judging a book by its cover alone, you’re bound to stumble onto dull, infuriating, or otherwise awful stories.

Banner ads and back-of-the-book synopses give only a glimpse at a novel’s personality. Often we crave more. Reviews help, though in some cases, that can be like asking the ex’s opinion of a prospective partner. Beware of bias.

Fortunately, we live in the 21st century. We have the internet. If you’re looking for a book to pal along with at the beach, a companion for your next weekend at the cabin, or someone with whom to share a rainy night, you’d better do a little research.

I can’t promise 29 dimensions of compatibility, but the following “dating profile” for my fantasy series is as earnest and true as anything on the web.

Fun-loving fantasy trilogy seeks loyal reader

The Renegade Chronicles print and ebook covers

As with most dating profile pics, this image has been Photoshopped.

Name:

The Renegade Chronicles

Nicknames:

I’m sometimes called TRC for short. I also go by #Renegades on social media.

Physical description:

Some days, I compartmentalize and take the form of three individual paperback or e-book novels (Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters). Other times, I put all of myself out there as a three-in-one e-book collection.

Passions:

I’m sword-and-sword fantasy, through and through. With me you get knights, wizards, pirates, priests, assassins, thieves, and monsters.

I’m a sucker for imagination, the supernatural, suspense, life-and-death situations, politics, battle, and acts of bravery. (But perfect heroes bore me. Everyone has flaws.)

Also, I love me some plot twists.

Quirks:

I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, which can be scary for some. Maybe I’m a bit of an excitement junky because I prefer high stakes.

Having said all that, I also have a healthy sense of humor. I try not to take myself too seriously, and I’m not afraid to throw out a joke every now and then.

Strengths:

I have a lot to say, so if you like sprawling narratives that encompass many people and places, I’m the fantasy story for you. Not to boast, but my battle scenes are pretty thrilling (though not too vivid), and dialogue with me always comes off as natural.

At the end of the day, I bring the fun. Setting, pathos, narrative arc—these things are important, but I want you to enjoy the adventure, every step of the way. Pacing is important. I prefer the right level of “epic”—not as academic as Tolkien or exhaustive as George R.R. Martin. I’ll make you think…but not too hard.

I promise I won’t spend an entire page describing a leafy glen.

Flaws:

I’ve been told that getting to know me can be a little challenging at first, but with a little patience (a handful of chapters, say), you’ll see I have a lot to offer. Chances are you won’t want to let me go.

Oh, and while I put a lot about myself out there over the course of three novels, there are some secrets I’m just not willing to share up front. I’m hoping to find someone who wants to get to know me for the long haul—in which case, I’ll be more than happy to provide future stories to fill in the blanks.

Deal breakers:

Readers who love invincible protagonists should look elsewhere. This is a rebellion, people. Dashed dreams, injuries, and fatalities come with the territory. I’m kind of complicated that way; while some characters will find happy endings, others…well…won’t.

I’m thankful for:

Folks who can appreciate a layered story with a large cast of characters in a world filled with shades of gray. (I’m speaking of morality, not the best-selling erotica novel. I’m not at all kinky; I prefer romance to be understated.)

Qualities of an ideal partner reader:

Did you grow up with Harry Potter? Are you ready to take the next step in the fantasy genre with a more mature match? If so, I think we’d be magical together.

Or maybe you’ve never looked twice at a book with a dragon on the cover. Maybe you’ve always thought fantasy seemed a little childish. I’m here to tell you that you’re never too old for a fun, action-packed story populated with relatable characters. If you’re a fantasy virgin, don’t worry. We’ll take it slow.

If you’ve strayed away from fantasy over the years, I won’t judge. I’m a great rebound series.

Share the love…

Another fun fact about blind dates: it’s a lot of fun to set up a friend on one. So why not forward a link to this dating profile blog post to anyone you know who might be a good match. The first book is currently free!

Adventure—and, hopefully, some literary love—await!

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Fun and games with book reviews

Sometimes book marketing seems like one big game.

Sometimes it feels like a joke.

In the spirit of positivity and productivity, I’ll eschew the plethora of ridiculous scenarios an author encounters while trying to promote his wares. But one paradox that made me smile (or, rather, roll my eyes) was when I was submitting information about my free Kindle promo and came across multiple paid services to spread the word.

That’s right: not only would I not make any profits on the book downloads during the promotion, but I’d actually be losing money in the process.

Any entrepreneur worth his home office knows you have to spend money to make money. It all comes down to ROI. But I personally believe there are better marketing avenues than pay-per-tweet networks.

OK, one more laugh: there are some online book reviewers who won’t read a novel until it has received a certain number of reviews on Amazon. I suppose professional/quasi-professional reviewers need everyday readers to make a decision before they deign it appropriate to crack the proverbial spine themselves. But from an author’s perspective, well, we need reviews on websites to gain exposure so that people buy, read, and, yes, rate the book on Amazon.com.

In an earlier blog post about the 5 ways to support the writer in your life, I brought up the importance of posting reviews. I’d like to revisit that topic today. Now. Because it turns out they are really, really important.

Also, I’m not too proud to beg for book reviews.

In case you need some convincing, here are a handful of reasons why book reviews can make a big difference in a novel’s success:

  • As mentioned above, some book review websites won’t bother with a novel unless it has at least five or ten or more reviews on Amazon.
  • Some book marketing services won’t include a book until it hits a certain quantity and rank of reviews on Amazon. For example: “Must have at least ten five-star reviews.”
  • Oftentimes, readers won’t take a book seriously if there are zero or very few customer reviews. Zero reviews just looks suspicious, and having less than ten is admittedly sad.
  • Amazon.com itself assesses the value of a book based on the number of reviews. Once a book hits fifty reviews, it makes an impact on Amazon’s search algorithm. In short, the more reviews (and the more positive the reviews), the more likely a potential buyer will be shown/recommended said book.
  • You’re also helping your fellow readers—which is why it’s important to be honest when posting a review.

So now you can see why those little yellow stars are so important—and why I’ve decided to make it as easy (and fun!) as possible for anyone who has read Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, or Martyrs and Monsters to compose a short yet oh-so valuable review.

Are you not entertained?

Mad Libs cover

Mad Libs: the epitome of fill-in-the-blank fun!

Just fill in the blanks, “Mad Libs style.” Then copy and paste copiously.

  • After reading (a previous book), I was looking forward to (expectations of this book).
  • If you like (adjective) characters and (adjective) plots, you’ll love this book.
  • This book reminds me (adverb) of (another book/series/author).
  • This book is at its best when (general example).
  • The pace of the story can be described as (adjective).
  • My favorite character is (proper noun) because (reason).
  • This book made me (verb phrase).
  • I can sum up this book in a single word: (adjective or noun).
  • I would (adverb) recommend this book to (noun).
  • I can’t wait to read more books by David Michael Williams (punctuation)

Party over here!

While Amazon is arguably the most important place to post book reviews due to its market share in the U.S. as well as other countries, there are many other places where folks buy books. Below are links to webpages where people can purchase The Renegade Chronicles, and they’re just waiting to be filled up with your brilliant comments:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

Note: you’ll only be able to leave a review at Smashwords if you purchased it via Smashwords.

CreateSpace

At CreateSpace, all you have to do is click the Facebook “like” button!

Goodreads

Are you a member of Goodreads? If so, use these links:

One more thing

If you’ve read any of my books, please, please, PLEASE post a review somewhere…anywhere!

(Told you I wasn’t too proud to beg.)

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Celebrating a writing milestone? Listen up!

When a writing project spans years, it’s important to acknowledge milestones along the way.

Earlier this week, I completed the heavy edits (read: rewrite) of my most recent novel, If Sin Dwells Deep. Considering the brainstorming for that book began five years ago and I finished the first draft 13 months ago, reaching the last sentence of the epilogue felt mighty fantastic.

Even though I still have to comb through the manuscript one more time for proofing purposes before sending it to my agent, I’m taking a moment to recognize this recent achievement.

And what better way to celebrate than with a song?

While working on my first entry in the Soul Sleep Cycle, I made a game of jotting down the titles of songs that contained themes in common my novel. In the end, I created a soundtrack of sorts for If Souls Can Sleep.

Now it’s become something of a tradition because as I was working on If Sin Dwells Deep, I found myself making similar notes. (I even have a couple of tracks tucked away for Book 3…)

Without further prelude here is my playlist for If Sin Dwells Deep:


“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As it turns out, that holds true for both protagonists and authors fiercely committed to pursuing their dreams.

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Art vs. entertainment

Jealousy is an emotion we unpublished novelists know too well.

Every success story of an out-of-nowhere-bestselling writer stirs up a storm of frustration, indignation, and, at times, incredulity.  Why not me?  What did that guy or gal do that I didn’t do?  Why does he or she get a lucky break when I’ve been working so hard for so long?

Never mind that in many cases, the wunderkind has worked equally hard, if not harder.

I had already considered myself a die-hard fantasy fan when J.K. Rowling came onto the scene.  I couldn’t believe how many people who had never picked up a book with a dragon on the cover were suddenly under the spell of this modern-day fairy tale packed with borrowed mythologies and tried-and-true tropes of the genre.

A self-purported purist, I refused to read a single page of that upstart’s story.

Eventually, I caved—in no small part because of my wife’s relentless insistence that it was worth my while to read the series—but I’m pretty sure my initial goal was to find evidence that the imposter and her Chosen One storyline could not stand up to the true fantasy authors I had enjoyed for years.

In hindsight, a couple of things have become clear: One, J.K. Rowling is a very talented storyteller, and it would have been a mistake if I had let my jealousy keep me from enjoying the epic tale of Harry Potter and pals.

But jealousy plays only a part in my wont to make snap judgments about “the next big thing in books.”  The other side of the coin is my presupposition that sudden popularity somehow invalidates the integrity of the literary work.

In other words, if the masses love it, it can’t be excellent.

Yes, even a genre geek like myself can be a literary snob sometimes.  I was wrong about Ms. Rowling, and I’m glad I gave Dan Brown and Suzanne Collins a shot.  However, I stand behind some of my other suspicions of overnight successes.

For instance, when 14-year-old Christopher Paolini’s Eragon hit big, I swallowed my skepticism and read the book cover to cover—and was bored out of my gourd.  The predictable story failed to draw me in, and I found the writing itself adequate at best.

How could this book have become a best-seller? I wondered, and then I attributed it to the hype of a his being a teenager author.  Perhaps his age was more of a novelty than his fiction.

To be fair to Mr. Paolini, I probably wasn’t the target audience for his books, and I know of some adult fans whose interest in the Inheritance Cycle has waned from volume to volume.  But if I had been a younger reader who hadn’t been introduced to certain fantasy themes in other series, I might have enjoyed his story more.

Then Twilight came out, and I found myself rolling my eyes all over again.  I could forgive angsty teen girls for falling under the garish and sparkly spell of a vampire-human-werewolf love triangle, but why were grown women so infatuated with this insipid story?  I even tried reading it to see if I were missing something obvious.  Nope.  The prose was amateurish; the plot, slow and simplistic.

Clearly I wasn’t the key demographic for that series either.

But it was some time during Twilight’s rise to fame that phrases like “guilty pleasure” and “mind candy” started popping up.  Fans of Stephenie Meyer’s fiction would claim that the books were just fun, and even if they were superficial in some ways, it was a fun escape.  And isn’t that what entertainment is all about?

In a word: absolutely.

But is that what art is all about?

Um…well…

And this is where I start sounding elitist all over again.  Entertainment tends to cater to the masses because most forms of entertainment strive to make a profit.  The more fans you get, the more dinners you get to eat at Red Lobster.  In the entertainment industry, the quantity of fans (i.e., customers) trumps quality of the work (i.e., product).

I have no problem with grouping television shows, films, and video games in this category (though many examples do much more than entertain), but somehow books seem like they should aspire to be something more than escapist fun.  Art shouldn’t just be about a rollicking good time on a page.  Art should be deep, its themes and cultural commentaries transcendent of the story itself.

Entertainment is bubble gum.  It tastes good for a while, but it loses its flavor quickly and has no lasting nourishment.  Art, on the other hand, is a savory feast that assails the senses with complicated flavors, an experience that sticks with you even after you leave the dinner table.  Sometimes that lingering feeling is the result of a satisfied stomach; sometimes it evokes a decidedly uncomfortable sensation.

Therein lies the problem: Art isn’t about making people happy.  It’s about making them think and feel a wide range of emotions, exposing them to different aspects of the human condition.  It’s not primarily escapist because that might preclude the possibility of empathy and internalization.

Alas, there is no “art industry.”  Companies that seek to make money pump promotional dollars into what a snob might call drivel but what the masses call a beach book or “a fun read.”  Companies publish what people pay for, and apparently, the people want steamy stories without a lot of substance.  Hence, Fifty Shades of Grey.

I’ve heard people say that writers shouldn’t get jealous when a book does well because there are plenty of readers for all.  Also, any book that gets people to read is a win for all writers.  I might agree if I didn’t suspect that superficial and salacious treats like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey (which, incidentally, started as Twilight fan fiction) were taking literature to the lowest common denominator.

I realize it’s bad form to criticize other authors, especially since my fiction has yet to be published.  We live in a democracy where people vote with their money, and thanks to e-books and social media, self-publishing and self-promotion have never been easier.  Anyone can be an author.  Allegedly, anyone can become a successful author as long as they give us customers exactly what we want.

But what about what we need?

Perhaps people need to escape.  Perhaps they need books (and movies and TV and video games) to shut out reality and lose themselves in makebelieve.  Perhaps books should encourage us to turn our brains off instead of turning them on.

No.  I just can’t buy that.

Then again, maybe even this cynicism comes right back to jealousy.  Maybe there are depths to today’s bubblegum fiction that simply elude me, and my fear for the fate of literature is unfounded.  Maybe it’s OK for books to aspire to be entertaining and profitable and nothing more.

Because if I ever become a bestselling author—if my novels prove appealing to the masses—no doubt there will be some aspiring author who pages through my book and questions the quality therein.  Maybe I’ll be accused of being shallow or a sellout.  That’s the thing about entertainment and art: brilliance is in the eye of the beholder.

I just hope the next literary triumph skews a little more toward artistic than entertaining.

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