Publish Outside The Box!

When Amazon democratized publishing, they did a lot more than just turning publishing on its ear, they threw out the box for anyone ready to put some thought into it.

The traditional publishing world created a box around books. They had to be this size, this number of pages, all text, and even limited formatting to ensure offset printing efficiency.

Today, your job is to figure out how your passion can be published.

I’m blessed to have many friends who are wizards with pens, brushes, and styluses. Others with cameras. Funny thing about fine artists, they all have some IP floating around in them. IP, for the uninitiated, is Intellectual Property. Ideas that are all their own. Maybe they are ideal for movies, cartoons, merchandising, radio shows, and other media channels, and I agree.

They are also grist for books.

Wait, wait, when you hear the word “books” are you thinking 200 pages of text? Maybe you’re thinking of traditional picture books.

The truth is, the medium is ripe for reinvention. I’ll be the first to admit that Amazon doesn’t enable 3D popups, but art and words have been going together in some form or another forever. Memes are a new form of words and graphics. Who says comic books have to be 6 – 9 panels per page? Who says they have to only use word balloons?

I’m not a graphic artist, I’m not the one to define what those new designs should be, but I’d ask my artistic friends not to limit themselves.

Amazing Art wallpaper | 1680x1050 | #15211
If they can create a lion with lasers, you can create something equally amazing!

I know a young woman who doodles the most amazing art while she listens to a sermon. The art is drawn from the sermon, which is drawn from the Bible. I’d love to see her share those doodles (you and I would call them high art) with a paragraph or two about what they mean. It isn’t narrative, it might be a wonderful twist on a devotional, or maybe an amazing snapshot of a young artist’s mind.

Do you love to cook? What’s your twist on a cookbook? Going on a trip? What’s your take on a craft book for the kids?

A last thought for my friends sitting on strong IP; there’s nothing new under the sun (hard to believe after I’m preaching on the new, but even that’s based on what’s come before, just without the same limits). It just takes one published media piece to cement your copyright on the IP. You need to do it before someone else is too close to your idea.

Prevail Press is your gateway to publishing!

Expanding Our Art Line with Mermaids and Lady Pirates

You ever have people in your life with incredible talent that should make them rich and famous? I do. Several, and two of them a married to each other. Matt and Dawn Davidson. If creativity had weight, they’d sink the world out of orbit.

Let me prove it to you. You see, Matt has published his first book with us, Salty Sirens of the Seven Seas. It’s a coloring book for adults. You probably don’t want to use crayons for this one; colored pencils will work better.

Matt and Dawn, our other coloring book artist, are simply amazing. If they were singers they’d be Caruso, Jackson, that falsetto guy from Maroon 5… people at the top of their game. So good, you don’t know how they’d improve.

Matt toils away in a creative job and Disney and I’ve been begging him to produce, produce, produce! Finally, he has.

His theme is the seven seas, which means mermaids and historical lady pirates (who never looked that good in life).

Click to see it on Amazon!

I like to think Matt knows how good he is, but vast sales would help. Go, buy! Even if you’ve never colored before (remember to buy colored pencils and a pencil sharpener) give it a try. Or rip out the grey scale pages and hang them as is. They’re that good. Check it out!

Sifting for Motivation

If the events of the day point out one thing is that people can do the same thing for completely different reasons.

In the protests, we see people who are sincere about the pain they’ve experienced, others taking up offenses they don’t understand out of self-righteousness and cluelessness, and others with selfish ambition, political motives, nefarious purposes, and violent intent.

Motivation is vital to a writer. Why do your characters do what they do? Can people have opposite motives for doing the same thing, hoping for different outcomes?

what's my motivation - Meme by Jadensaurus :) Memedroid
Few over-eaters are motivated to get huge….

Motivation doesn’t have to be logical, but it MUST make sense to the character. You have to ask yourself how your character came to believe what they believe. Is the villain racist? Why? Examined beliefs? Scarring incidents generalized too wide? Self-loathing?

What about the hero? Why are they willing to take the blows and failures?

Every character must have motivation; not every character’s motivation must be explored. I’d suggest the main character and her major partners should be explored, and often the villain’s motives should be examined, too.

There are adventures where the bad guy is just evil. If you’re going for bubblegum fiction, this might be for you (and I’m not disparaging bubblegum fiction… it has its place.)

For enduring fiction, dig in. Our motives define who we are.

Ultimately, the antagonist, normally the villain of the story, promotes change. Their actions spur the heroes into action. Make the change more than just action; a villain can change a hero with their story. They still must be defeated, but a little understanding can change even the purest heart.

Be Real Be Careful

It’s hard to avoid, and probably we shouldn’t; the things going on in America right now are explosive and fodder for writing, but be careful please.

Avoid straw men.

Battling the Straw Men | Sojourners
No face on a straw man.

In telling the story of, for example, the protests going on, you have your perspective. Maybe you have incredible insight into the protesters and want to write their story. It would be very easy to paint cops as the unrepentant bad guys (or the protesters if you’re on the other side), but that isn’t reality. Every situation has a story and every person has a story.

Your story will be better if your antagonists aren’t monochrome; if your situation isn’t monochrome. Watching Facebook right now, it can be overwhelming. For every reasoned post there are a dozen one-sided posts or memes. You have the responsibility to consider all angles.

The protesters have solid points. The police have solid points. If you paint them as two sides facing one another, you’ve got it wrong. The situation is a vicious circle.

The police are there to maintain law and order and to serve and protect. They are trained in Police Academy that authority lost cannot be regained. Authority does not equal authoritarian, but it’s an uneasy balance. Treat a cop with respect and he’ll almost always treat you that way, but cops are human and cumulative disrespect can color any encounter. Consistently treated the with disrespect, not acknowledging authority and authority will respond.

People of community lose respect for police almost never because of the cop (though some times). Crime and drugs are rampant and “cops don’t do anything.” Upstanding citizens get discouraged, not recognizing that manpower distribution isn’t up to patrol officers, but to the brass. So criminals get more brazen, and community and police are endangered and disrespected. Drugs, gangs, crime, these spell danger to police. When they’re mocked or disregarded, reasserting authority is difficult, and so is safety. So they militarize. They generalize the threat, so any person of color is targeted and brutality becomes possible, as does retribution. How does one regain authority? If respect doesn’t work, fear will.

Meanwhile, gang-life is a requirement for some people in the community. Drugs are the only way to make money. Many feel their choices aren’t choices but foregone conclusions. They don’t see police as help but as foes. They feel picked on and constantly in danger from people who are supposed to be helping. From there, disrespect is easy. And disrespect is shown in many small and large ways that cops respond to. The vicious cycle is both “sides” coming at each confrontation with preconceived notions. Perhaps the fear makes a person resist arrest. Perhaps that flares a cop’s reaction, and a controlled situation descends into chaos. Throw in the strong threat of danger for both parties and things go wrong really fast.

We’ve watched this cycle for decades and it’s come to a head. We recognize PTSD, but what about CTSD? Continuing Traumatic Stress Disorder? Both Police and the community are stuck in this cycle. It doesn’t take much to trigger CTSD, and then reactions become dangerous.

Where does the writer come in? Telling someone’s story; showing the arc of understanding or destruction. You can’t move someone through an arc with straw-men bad guys.

The writer can’t afford a weighted bias, not if they want to tell a “true” story. Because the truth is, everyone is a little right and a little wrong. As the writer, you orchestrate the reveal, but nothing says only the hero has to change (and the hero can be a cop or a civilian), everyone can change.

Perhaps you cast this conflict with Elves and Trolls. You have to be able to see the perspective of both. Trolls think they’re right (and in their system they are), and Elves think they’re right (within their system).

Perhaps you’ve mapping a different story, perhaps about a contagion that brings out the worst (and best) of people. Consider The Core a movie about restarting the revolutions of the Earth’s core before life ends. I love it, though many don’t. There are several people on the ship taking them to the core, and each has their valid reasons for being on board, none of them the same and often at odds. What does that have to do with contagion and viruses? It’s the same story. Catastrophe must be averted by the actions of a few people. Even the vain, venal people matter.

Motivate all your characters, and to do so, you must understand the nuances of all stance, write that and you have a dynamic story that lives beyond the page.

First Edit is like Surgical Post Op

I had surgery yesterday.

Great word, surgery. It conjures images of operating rooms, nurses and doctors, scalpels, and knocked out patients. Not in this case, I only had a grape-size mass removed from my back. A local, some slice-slice, a few stitches and done. Quick, easy, no problem.

Then the local wore off 4 hours later.

It doesn’t hurt exactly, it just feels… wrong.

The back (and spine) is the junction of your body. If it’s a little out of whack, you know it and everything pulls. (“Don’t lift anything heavy.” “OK,” I said, forgetting I have a 20-pound puppy.)

The first-round edit is just like that. The “back” of the story is what it’s about. That’s a very powerful concept, “what it’s about.” It sums up your story, and better, it help you edit.

You’ve just finished your first draft. Congratulations! If you’re like me, the third act comes in a rush, so once you’ve typed “The End” (metaphorically or literally), your job is to get it out of your head. Go mow the lawn, pull some weeds, paint the house, bathe the dog. And celebrate!

Maybe start researching your next book. Maybe read some other people’s books. Try to forget the book you just finished. Then a month or so later, read it through.

Use a highlighter, add a few notes, but mostly just read it quickly. What you’re looking for is what feels wrong.

Consider: A great run of scenes where Atticus Finch finds true love. They date, they dream, they fall head over heals. Knowing the back of To Kill a Mockingbird, these scenes should feel wrong. They aren’t about what Mockingbird is about. Every scene should relate to what the story is about. Identifying such scenes is actually easy. Ask yourself, “If I remove this scene, does it matter?” If the answer is “no” remove it. To Kill a Mockingbird: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham ...
I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.
That’s what To Kill a Mockingbird is about.

This can feel difficult. A wrong scene can be written beautifully. It still has to go. A wrong scene is like a gratuitous scene in a movie where you’re hoping they get back to the story soon…

Also look for what’s missing. Are the steps to the conclusion clear? Are any stones absent? Does anything need to be clarified?

Remember, at this stage you’re reading, not rewriting. Take notes, mark any obvious typos (don’t slow down to look for typos), if you print it out, use colored pencils (not pens! You may need to change something later), online, highlight or comment (PDF is nice for this).

Remember, you’re looking for things that feel wrong. The ideal back condition is to be totally unaware of it, and so it is with your story. Wrong pulls us out of the story. Scenes that fail to tie into the back of the story need to marked and revisited. Is it extraneous? Cut it. Is it out of place? Move it. Is it missing? Add it in (or write a note about what should be in the scene). Could it work? Is there a genuine way to add purpose to the scene?

Do you have a long string of scenes that don’t fit? Can you turn them into a sub-plot that does tie into the back? If not, save them for another book.

That first read-through is get a handle on what goes, what needs to be added, and finding the right order.

Next is the rewrite following your notes. Then you can dig into language and pacing in your next edit.

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