Archive | February 2012

Ebooks: Boon or Doom

I got a droid razor this past Christmas. It came with a kindle app. I read my first ebook on it this past January. Overall, I found the experience quite positive. The small screen made the text manageable so you weren’t constantly twisting your head to read across a giant computer monitor–which is the biggest difficulty with reading anything on-line. There is less back light too, so there is less strain on the eyes. It’s easy to look up the definition of words you don’t know by just tapping the screen. Flipping through pages is easy too, just flick your finger–there’s no wrestling to separate two thin sheets that cling together, or anything like that; although, the first few times I used it, I sometimes flicked when I wanted to tap, or vice versa. I also had difficulty downloading an ebook from a site I encountered on my desktop. But after a few false starts, I figured that out too. Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. I was expecting a host of problems which never materialized, from eyestrain to who knows what. Obviously, ebooks are here to stay.

 

Still, I have several issues and concerns. I am an author who has recently published a vampire book, so realize I am coming at the issue from that angle. I have a vested financial interest in how things play out.

 

There is a preponderance of free ebooks available on the Internet, now, and I’m not sure that is good thing. Granted, it can be used as a marketing technique to get exposure for your writing, but it takes around a year (give or take) to write a single book. All that effort is then encapsulated in a document that, when in digital form, can be downloaded and copied in an instant. In the beginning, there was an attempt to keep copying books to a minimum with a special license that granted only a single copy per consumer. But apparently that too, is changing. Think about debunked myths 3 and 4 (on the linked to page). These two issues feedback on each other. If your book is free and you are releasing it only to get exposure, those two factors (ebooks can now be shared, and they can be checked out of a library) are great. Opportunities for exposure are increased many times. However, if you are expecting to make a monetary reward, or, god-forbid, support yourself with your writing, you may only be doing long-term damage to yourself (and to other authors). You don’t want your book to be copied for free and distributed easily by a library when you are supposed to be making money off of sales. The two stages of the author (beginner and established) are in direct opposition here. The beginners are flooding the market with free ebooks which have a vested interest in being self-replicating. The established authors are simply trying to survive by making sales, so they have a vested interest in maximizing cost for every copy. Who will win? I don’t like it, but I suspect the beginning authors are going to drive the established authors out of business (with, perhaps, a few exceptions). To further support my point, consider the following: the bulk of book consumers can read well, but do not constitute literary professionals. They can’t tell the difference between mass market literature and classic literature (or at least, not to the degree a literary professional can). As a result, there is a large group of readers who will have very little reason to “purchase” anything but a free ebook ever again. And who can blame them? If by reading, at no cost, the “Adventures of the Newbie Writer,” they get 90% of the enjoyment they would get from reading Mark Twain or his modern equivalent for $6… why buy Mark Twain?

 

Time will tell, if the ebook is a boon or curse to authors, but, historically, technology has a tendency to “obsoletize” certain professions, so I am anxious for the future of authors everywhere.

 

Now, having written all that, I’m debating if I want to be a complete hypocrite and set up a coupon to give my ebook away for free… In the meantime, the Grim Reaper is lurking over my shoulder (or is it the Scythe-Bearer?).

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Drasmyr, The Novel

My fantasy vampire novel, Drasmyr, is out. It is currently in ebook form only. I am debating whether or not to publish it in print form.

We vampires do not make easy prey. Our weaknesses are few, our strengths many. Fear is something we do not know, and death but a distant memory. So tread softly, pray to your god, and gird yourself with silver when the moons arise and night’s dark prince awakens. We fear not the wizard, nor the warrior, neither rogue, nor priest; our strength is timeless, drawn from darkness and we know no master save the hot lust of our unending hunger. We long for blood, your blood and no blade, nor spell, nor clever artifice, can keep us long from our prize. Feel our teeth at your throat, your life ebb from you, and know as darkness comes to claim you that the price of your folly is your everlasting soul.

 

Enjoy.

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall: Cliché’s in Fantasy Literature

Time to start a fight.

 

A few months back, I read a book on writing with excerpts from a variety of short stories. In one of the stories, the main character looked into a mirror and saw “her pale face, drawn and tired, with shadows encircling her eyes, etc…” Actually, that’s not a direct quote, but it gets the point across. Since I’ve started writing, I’ve been repeatedly warned about clichés. The above is an example of the infamous “mirror cliché” that many first time writers use–having your main character look into a mirror and see his/her reflection just so the author has a mechanism to visually describe him/her. Professional writers find such to be woefully uncreative. It is kind of surprising that I ran across the above description in the book I was reading, because the short story cited was from the Reader’s Digest a number of years ago, and Reader’s Digest was a reasonably big name at the time… but I suppose even the mirror cliché enjoyed a brief life when it was considered clever and droll.

Anyway, I know it will probably win few endorsements, but I want to point out a problem with labeling the mirror cliché a cliché. Yes, to a certain extent, I’m going to defend the mirror cliché. How? By pointing out the logical consequence. If we accept that the mirror cliché is never to be used, then no characters in stories will ever look in mirrors. Or, if they do, they won’t see anything, because to describe what they saw would be cliché. And so, looking in mirrors would become a forbidden action. Are we to say that a character cannot look in a mirror no matter what? Would it not be strange to live in a world populated by people who refused to look in mirrors?

I recently completed a vampire fantasy novel entitled Drasmyr (which should become available very soon). It is my first novel. I wrote the original draft in 1995. Didn’t get it published, went back to it a few times, still didn’t get it published… you know how it goes. Anyway, there are several mirrors in the book… that’s partly for atmosphere: you know, vampires and mirrors–they go together. Anyway, at one point in the original draft, one of the minor characters did fall prey to the horrible mirror cliché. After carefully reviewing it, I was forced to leave it in. The scene could not be removed. I saw no way the character could discover he was bitten unless he looked into a mirror or some other reflective device (unless someone else told him–but that would ruin the story line). After reviewing it, I made the decision that it was acceptable to use a mirror as long as it was being used for some reason other than pure description. For example, seeing the vampire bite on your neck, or hinting the character is going mad, or whatever.

I guess what I’m saying is that to a certain extent, I don’t mind a certain limited use of clichés. “The bone-chilling wind blew through the shutters.” I mean, how many different ways can you say “very cold?” As long as you’re not building the entire work around them and you make the effort to sprinkle the book with a number of delectable original thoughts, I think the occasional low-level cliché is fine. There are, of course, exceptions: some clichés you should probably never use because they are just beyond the pale. For example, “Clean as a whistle.” But even that could be used if it occurred in a dialogue as a means of developing the speaker’s character. When I encounter clichés in my own writing, if I think of something else to replace them with, I do so, but I’m not going to lose sleep over the “bone-chilling” wind–unless it’s the first sentence in my book; that would be bad, very bad. Anyway, those are my thoughts on the subject.

And now, I’m sure, I’ll be ripped apart. 🙂

Movie Review: Underworld: The Awakening

This is the fourth installment (I believe) in the Underworld series. I’m more a sword and sorcery guy, but vampires and werewolves suit me, too. I saw the movie this afternoon. Overall, I’d give it about three out of five stars. It was okay, wasn’t spectacular. I think the Underworld series is doing the opposite of the Star Trek series. In Star Trek all the even numbered members of the series were exceptional, the odd ones were pretty humdrum (except III–I think). In Underworld, the odd numbers rule, while the even ones are a bit lackluster.

There was a lot of blood, guts, and killing in the movie. That will appeal to some viewers; I, however, like a better developed plotline. This one had a pretty basic plot–which in some ways is good because it’s easy to follow–there were even a couple interesting… I’ll call them developments instead of twists. Logically, the movie held together well… those things that made me go, “Huh? What?” were explained by the end of the movie. And that’s good. Still, there were several incidents which I’d seen before in other movies particularly in the big battle at the end (can we say “Pirates of the Caribbean”–sorry for the spoiler–there was even stuff borrowed from “The Matrix” earlier in the movie). I guess the biggest weakness was that I think it was kind of formulaic. The “cool” developments I mentioned above were not enough to make the movie stand out. The plot was too linear and the movie only lasted a little over ninety minutes, so I walked away feeling that something was missing. There were really only four different settings and the movie as a whole seemed largely a compilation of shots of Kate Beckinsale looking “cool” in black leather, kicking butt, and taking names. Which are all good things, but not enough on their own to carry the day.

Anyway, like I said: three stars out of five. It’s all right for a single viewing and to pass an afternoon, but I’ll won’t go out of my way to see it a second time.

The Plan: Dragons, the Fantasy Genre, and other Literary Endeavors

I suppose I should dedicate at least one entry to my plans for this blog. As mentioned previously, it’s called “A Toast to Dragons” because, well, I like dragons. A lot. That said, I’m not going to blog just about dragons and nothing else. I am an author of fantasy stories. I have published a small number of short stories and am currently in the process of publishing my first novel… No, the novel isn’t about dragons; it’s about vampires and wizards and the epic struggle between them. Lots of blood, death and destruction. But no dragons… yet.

 

My intention is to use this blog to keep people up to date with respect to my literary endeavors. If I publish a short story, I’ll post a link here. When my novel is ready (which should be shortly), I’ll post a link here. I’ll also post information regarding the art of writing and publishing in the fantasy genre. Writing is hard work, and authors need as much help as they can get. Occasionally, I’ll post opinions on various literary subjects such as political correctness in writing, or the use of sex, profanity, or what have you. Finally, I read a lot and watch a lot of movies. I’ll review books and movies as I complete them–obviously focusing only on those that belong to the fantasy genre.

 

The plan is to post once a week or so. So, keep coming back. I’ll enjoy having you.

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