Sunday, October 30, 2011

Writing Advice 19 — Combining the Real and the Unreal

Novels are by definition fiction, and fiction is made up stuff. It doesn’t matter if you write gritty police/courtroom procedural stories, or invented world fantasies, it’s the same. None of it really happened. An argument can be made that even if you were writing a non-fictional account of something that really did happen, your description would only form one perspective and would be seen by others with firsthand knowledge as “fiction.” Still, no one writes in a vacuum. No matter how fictional something is, it is always based on reality.

I write fantasy. The first books I’ve published are invented-world-fantasy, which is just about as out-there as you can get. I created a whole new world, which means I can make anything, anyway I want. I could implement Hollywood-Gravity if I liked. Magic can exist. Gods can recognizably walk among people. People don’t even have to be people, they can be something else entirely. Time doesn’t have to work the same as we perceive in our reality. There could be more colors, a seventh and eighth sense,  whatever I want. Given all this freedom one might expect far more creativity in the genre, and yet oddly, so many invented-world-fantasies take place in very similar settings most drawn from our own history.

There are a number of reasons for that. Authors are trying to replicate what they love to read; it is easier to write about something familiar; it is easier than trying to invent something completely new. All of these are writer-centric, but I feel there is another reason that is actually reader-based that holds more legitimacy—it is easier for a reader to understand. If your setting was too strange you’d either have to stop constantly and explain how everything works, or just accept that the reader won’t have a chance to grasp what is going on. To educate the reader well enough to understand the story, would be prohibitive to the timely telling of the tale. This would be a situation where the art destroys the entertainment.

There are dozens of reasons I choose to write my books in a medieval setting. Swords and arrows allow for more drama and greater flexibility than guns and bombs. Cell phones and the Internet are two of the worst inventions in the world for writers. Just a few years ago, it was so easy to build a story out of a person’s quest to find something or speak to someone. Now to do that you need to explain why they just can’t look it up on Google or call them on a cell. If your heroine discovers something crucial, she’ll be an idiot if she doesn’t just call your hero on the phone to let him know. Doing so will destroy the plot of course, but not doing so is obviously contrived and unrealistic. So historical settings make building plots so much easier. The age of knights, castles and dragons is also grandiose to the point of caricature. Billowing cloaks, towers, long gowns, primal forests, it has great built-in visuals and a wealth of pre-established forms that can be utilized to create any plot. I think only the Western can really compare in its open-source form that is both infinite in possible complexity and yet simple in essence. Between the two, I just think medieval setting are richer because it draws on a larger swath of history from more than one country.     

To get around the problem of repetition, of being seen as using the same tired setting, some writers just change the names. Knights, castles, elves and swords are just called something else. The readers is confused, but only for a little while and then they catch on, substituting in their heads what they know for the new terms. For those sensitive to traditional terms this apparently has a soothing effect, but for most everyone else it is just an unnecessary road block to understanding.

Some go through great effort to break with reality, to invent a new world so different it can be perceived as original. The problem with this, as I see it, is that readers find the greatest rewards from a connection to the story, not from a distance. Familiarity is what touches us. Witnessing an alien world, or individual can be interesting, but it often fails to move emotions. People like to make connections between themselves and what they read. When they do, it becomes personal and when that happens a wall drops, and that’s when you can get at their heart. That’s when you can make them laugh, cry, or scare the crap out of them.

This doesn’t just apply to invented-world-fantasy either. No matter what you write the more you can reflect a reader’s personal experiences, the deeper you can touch them. The obvious question is how can you do that to someone you’ve never met? How can you do that to more than one person when everyone has such different experiences? This is where what I call true magic comes in.

People are surprisingly similar. No two are exactly alike, but a lot of us share common feelings, and the deeper the feeling the more common it is. The way to tap those feelings is to be honest. To depict reality as it really is—even if that is in a fictional world.

In Stephen King’s It, and in his novella The Body (later made into the movie Stand By Me) he did a wonderful job of depicting the life of childhood. It did not matter that his setting was the fifties, the dynamic are universal and reminded me of my own youth. And it is this capturing of familiarities that has the power and magic to take the fantastical and breathe real life into it. I’m sure Mr. King was drawing on personal experience as it just rang too true to be wholly invented, and this very same thing can be done in any genre.

When I started art school my goal was to practice painting reality until I could do it so well, that I could then paint images that did not exist and make them look just as real. I don’t paint so much anymore, or rather I don’t paint with brushes much anymore. Paint has become words—so much faster and far less to clean up. Still the idea is the same. When I create a fantasy world I try to make it accessible to the reader by making it similar to what they might know rather than different. In paint I might depict a castle floating on a cloud, when both the castle and the cloud are perfectly believable the illusion is stirring, captivating. In words, if I relate the heartbreak of a dragon for the loss of its son, the feeling is what’s real, it’s what resonates. The more connections to reality the more real the writing becomes.

In real life there is copious amounts of humor, it is how many people deal with stress, how people hide, how they defend themselves, and how we enjoy ourselves, and yet I find there is almost no humor in non-comedic fiction. There is often a perceived dividing line—if it is funny it can’t have drama and vice versa. So all the effort to create gritty realism is lost because the tale feels artificial due to its own weight. In real life people have hopes and fear, goals and aspirations that often have nothing to do with what’s happening, but not always in stories. In real life people have good days and bad days, happy memories and tragedies, and even horrible places can seems beautiful at times. Yet a single-minded approach to characters and settings tell only half the story, that just doesn’t feel complete. The suspension of disbelief is hindered by the absolutism drawn by the writer trying to hype the sympathy, the fear, or the misery. This lack of combining the real and the unreal in an honest uncontrived manner, this distance between the two, can create a disconnect leaving stories interesting, but not moving, creative, but not believable.

To this end, I have often found that learning how to paint the real world well enough to be convincing, is a huge benefit. This is one of the reasons why I would advocate reading outside of your favorite genre, and even writing outside of it. If you write in fantastical worlds, learning how to write a realistic story will help lend that needed credibility. If you write in a realistic world, learning how to transpose real into the unreal results in the benefit of causing you to focus on the details that, in the real world, are often ignored, but in a fantasy world need to be accounted for.

I think it is when a writer invents a very different world that is surprisingly similar to our own, populated by people that remind us of ourselves, that fiction of any kind stops being fiction, and can truly tell us about ourselves, reminding us of something worth remembering.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Writing Advice 18 — Voice

Perhaps the hardest thing for a writer to develop, outside of an imagination, is their voice. It is also one of the greatest contributing factors toward making them successful. Some might call it a style, but I think it is actually more of a sub-set to style, just as fantasy is a sub set of fiction and urban fantasy is a sub-set of that and so on—so to, a voice is a specific style within styles that is unique to a writer’s personality.  

Voice is an allusive thing, and it isn’t anything you can be taught. Nor is it something you’re born with. It is something you have to develop over time, like self-confidence, which is mostly what the voice is. The courage to let who you are come through. It is the way you tell a story, the attitude of the writer.

Most aspiring writers work to be like others—their literary heroes. As such they miss the point and kill most of their chances of success. Readers don’t want to read the same thing, they want something new and they known when another author is being copied. The immediate reaction is to try and come up with something completely new, something—original. Only this is like saying that because you’re tired of the same choices of food for lunch, you’re going to try finding something to eat that isn’t in the food groups—maybe dirt? The fact is, there are an infinite number of ways to reuse story elements, but most importantly—it doesn’t matter what your story is about, how cliché, or tired so long as you bring a new voice to it.

Vampires—there I said it. How many books, movies and tv shows have reused this idea. Evil vampires, good vampires, evil vampires wanting to be good, traditional vampires, realistic vampire, funny vampires…there’s a lot of vampires out there. I thought the definitive statement on vampires was made by Stephen King back in 1975, when he applied the classic legend to the modern world in a realistic manner in his book Salem’s Lot. But then Annie Rice came along, and later Joss Whedon.

And certainly no one needed another fantasy coming of age tale about a boy destined for  greatness, mentored by a wizard, prophesied  to defeat a dark lord, but then you had J. K. Rowling. Same story, but very different way of telling the tale.

These are just as much examples of combining aspects of different stories to create a new thing, but they are also examples of voice.

Stephen King writes nothing like Bram Stoker. They both tell very similar stories using the same creature, but King brings his very recognizable voice to it. And just like a real voice, other writers can do impressions. I once re-wrote a story doing an impression of Stephen King and when my wife read it, she instantly recognized the imitated voice. King has such a strong voice it is like Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, or Peter Lorre—just about anyone can do it. I think the strength of his voice is also what made him so successful. People relate well to it.  

So what exactly am I talking about? That’s a bit hard to say since it is different for everyone. King’s voice is heavily reflective—all his characters think a lot, and in ways that are random-comparative, very blunt and personal, and steeped in their time. He pushes the technique, of how to define a character by how they see the world, to extremes, not only letting you hear the raw and deepest thoughts of a character, but also going a bit over the top. Few King characters are boring or typical, they all have extreme personalities.

Consider Arthur Conan Doyle for contrast. His Holmes series are all written in the head of Watson, but the presentation is very proper and hands-off. Watson may very well get angry, but the thoughts he thinks on paper are held in check. He doesn’t swear, or think “Man what an officious little prick Holmes is being,” the way a King character might.

Ayn Rand has a grandeur to her tone. Everything, no matter how insignificant is raised up to lofty heights. Hemmingway is the opposite of both King and Rand. I don’t think he ever even uses character reflection as a tool. His voice has the monotone, fact-based baritone of a news anchor or Joe Friday. And then of course there is one of the most definable and imitated voices of all—Raymond Chandler, who defined the tough-guy reflective voice to such a degree that it has become synonymous with film-noir  detective stories, even those written by other authors like Dashiell Hammett, who had completely different styles.

The fact that I can describe these author’s voices is a testament to their strength. By contrast many writers sound alike. They often hide their voice, too timid to let it come through. They write the story with no flourish, no style. J. D. Salinger, didn’t have that problem. Catcher In The Rye starts out with a ton of flourish.

Still, a voice isn’t something you can learn from anyone. It has to come from inside you—the accumulation of your own personality, your own view of life, your own attitude toward storytelling, and the distilled sum of all that you have managed to glean from other authors. Oftentimes, it is invisible to you until someone else points it out.

I copied the styles of dozens of authors looking for my voice. I failed to find it. It wasn’t until I was saturated with the experience of understanding the various methods and tones of other writers, but then cast them all aside and gave up looking in order to just write for myself, that I found it. And like listening to your own voice on a recorder, I didn’t recognize it and I’m still trying to define what I am hearing as me.

I’ve had other writers imitate me—I know this because they told me they were stealing my style. First I was flattered. Second—my style? I have a style? I read their imitation and just like hearing an impressionist, I thought, “really, that’s supposed to be me?” Then I thought about it and realized they’re right, I do do that, don’t I? Until that moment, I never realized I had a specific voice, but I realize now that those aspects of my writing are the things that come most easily, so easily, I never noticed. But those are the things that people point to—not what I thought were wonderful prose, not the great metaphors—those things I struggled with—no one cared about those things.

I know writers who achieved their first publication, and freeze up as they consider their next piece. After years of struggle, or trying every combination possible, like Edison and his light bulb filament, they finally captured lightning in a bottle. But how can you do that a second time, when you aren’t sure how you did it the first time? The pressure mounts when you realize that the second piece you do, whether it is a book or a short story, has to be better than the first just to be seen as “as good,” because everyone else is asking the same question that the author is asking themselves. “Can I do it again, or was that just a fluke?” The common mistake is that a sophomore author tries to write as good as they can, going back to imitating others, when what made the first work great was that they knew how to write. For that one moment they discovered their own voice and it clicked. The trick then is to trust in your voice, relax and just let it come through. I think that when the writing comes easy, you’re on the right track. You might not think it is significantly beautiful or impressive, because it is not similar to the style, or voice of other authors that you might admire or respect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Most likely, you won’t ever see just how good or distinct your voice is until someone else points it out to you and says, this—this is why I love your writing, and I just wish I could do that, too.

At this point you might blink and say, “Really? You liked that?”

“I love that. How do you do it?”

Then you’ll scratch your head. “I dunno. I wasn’t even trying, it just sorta comes out that way a lot of the time. It just feels right when I do it.”

So developing your style, or your voice, I feel is something that comes with time, with study and experience. It is the journey to find yourself in your writing, and once found, to accept and embrace what you discover. I know this sounds a bit metaphysical, but it sort of is. Writing a story is a bit like being Dr. Frankenstein. You collect parts from other bodies and sew them together, but when you’re done, all you really have is a piecemeal corpse. You need to breathe life into it, and to do that you have to give something of yourself. You need to draw from your own experiences, painful, happy, embarrassing, angry moments and have the courage to place them on a page. If you make yourself cry, you’ll touch others. Make yourself laugh and they will, too. Once you learn this, you’ll keep dumping more and more of yourself into the words and without knowing it, when you read it back it becomes a mirror, and that reflection, that thing you see, that is your voice—that is you. 

Next up: Combining the Real and the Unreal

Friday, October 21, 2011

Walking On The Moon

I recently received copies of the UK edition of Theft of Swords, and upon seeing it a friend remarked, “So this is it. This is what it all comes down to. Wow, you must really be proud.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen my book in print of course, but he’s right, seeing your book for the first time is incredible. When I got the very first edition of The Crown Conspiracy in the mail with a cover that none of you have ever seen, depicting a crown and dagger in a puddle of blood, I was ecstatic. I played with it like a toy. I sat down and read the whole thing. It is an amazing sensation to read your own book. I think it has to do with the familiarity with the physical act of reading a book. Sitting on the couch, turning the pages, seeing the printed words just as I had done with my favorites over the years, getting lost in the story, but knowing I wrote it, was surreal in an extremely pleasurable way.

This sense of associating good and bad experiences with things and places that makes the experience  of reading your own book for the first time so wonderful, I think lies at the heart of the whole ebook verses print book debate. I’m sure many theatergoers had similar issues when movies were shown on televisions, or when movies learned to talk. When I was a kid, I remember everyone discussed how television, and its three stations, were ruining the American family. Now no one talks about that anymore. It is the computer, and gaming consoles that are the new enemy.  And I find myself remembering the evenings when my family gathered around the tv to watch a movie, The Wonderful World of Color (back when color just debuted and Disney was capitalizing on it,) or a Jacque Cousteau special. And how the next day at school, everyone else had seen the same things. The very destroyer of the American family had actually, in retrospect, been the nexus, the replacement for the radio in the living room, or the piano in the parlor. I find that computers cause everyone to live more insulated lives, communicating in text messages instead of walking in the next room and speaking. But in thirty years, people will likely be remembering the good old days when there were only three gaming consoles and everyone played the same games together over the same network, and how that was a cultural bonding experience they regret having lost.

For people my age, printed books were huge. I started reading relatively late finishing my first novel at thirteen. I can still remember when books on shelves were mysterious things. Doorways into the unknown that I was intimidated by because I wasn’t a very good reader. Then when I finally discovered the joys of reading, it was by sitting in a chair, or curled up on a bed, or tucked in the backseat of a car with a small paperback book in my hands. Later, when I had the money I bought hardcovers—the luxury vehicle—and I felt ever so more worldly and sophisticated to turn those pages, even if I couldn’t tuck them in a back pocket.

I’ve heard people speak lovingly of the smell and feel of a book. This puzzles some as the smell of a  book isn’t necessarily a nice smell. It is usually ink, if it is a new book, or mildew, if it’s an old one. But I don’t think that’s the point. It isn’t the smell of the book so much as the smell of memory. I used to play tennis, and I had many wonderful times doing so, and to this day the smell of a recently cracked tube of tennis balls is like pine on Christmas morning. I suspect this very pungent scent is actually just glue and rubber, something that without context anyone would abhor as an industrial stench, but because it carried with it wonderful memories, I like it. In many books and movies similar comments are always made about the smell of a baseball glove, or the green of the grass.

I imagine an actor doesn’t feel they have achieved success until they sit in a theater and watch themselves on the big screen for the first time, or perform on a genuine theater stage—one where they once sat in the audience. Mothers may not truly feel like mothers until they hear themselves accidentally say something their own mother did that they never thought they would repeat. A man might not truly feel like a man until they look in a mirror and notice how much their gray hair makes them look like their father. Handling and reading a printed book is like that for someone like me who grew up with them.

That won’t always be the case. Searching though files and seeing the cover of your book and downloading it to an eReader will be the same thing for the next generation. And when books are read on retina lenses, or  uploaded directly into the brain via neural network jacks, they will laud the ease of use, the lack of needing to carry that old clunky eReader around with them, but they will lament the loss of tactile memories. How can it be a book if they can’t press the button to turn the pages? They will continue to carry their eReaders with them even after they can no longer download books because that little electronic slate is their friend. Beat and battered it is their most loyal pal who kept them company when they were bored, or who devilishly kept them up when they really should have been sleeping. It’s their buddy who taught them new things, showed them new worlds, and helped define what kind of person they would ultimately become. How could they throw that away?

Holding the new, fat volume of Theft of Swords and reading it, is still a rush, and I am glad I was published in time to see it—in the event print books become an exception rather than a rule. It takes me back to those days when I was thirteen and held an equally thick (or so it seemed to my smaller hands,) copy of Fellowship of the Ring, and reminds me of when I used a typewriter, poster board and stapler to create this very thing I now hold. And seeing my map, my table of contents, my chapter heads and feeling the magic that any book can cast, is like being that kid who played astronaut only to later walk on the moon.

So yeah…it doesn’t suck.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Writing Advice 17 — A Reason To Read

Recently I touched on the importance of making a good first sentence, and a compelling opening scene. The focus of that was to provide the gravity to pull in a new reader or persuade an editor to put your manuscript in the “to be read later” pile. That’s all very important, but what happens when that editor or that reader finally get around to reading the next fifty pages?

Mysteries Aren’t Just For Thrillers

I consider writing a book similar to coaxing a wild animal into a cage with bits of food. You put the food down on the ground in a line to the cage. Or if you prefer, and have seen the movie ET, you’re trying to lure an alien with Reeses Pieces. The problem is that you have a limited amount of candy, so the question becomes how far can you space the placement of food and not lose ET prior to getting him to the shed?

A great opening to a story is like offering a nice bit of candy. People taste it, like it, and hope for more. If you give them another, they will stand where they are and eat it, but you don’t want that, you want them to move. Besides, after too much candy, they will get full and no longer want to eat. So instead of giving them a second, being that they are humans and not a squirrel or rabbit, you can promise them one—if only they will go over there.

The fireworks at the start of a story catches a reader’s attention. Mentally they might think, “Okay, that wasn’t bad, I’ll give this writer a few more pages now and see if they can maintain my interest. You now have sort of a loan of time with which to build an interest. The investor is still very skeptical however, so you’d better show them something soon.

As I said another bit of candy won’t work so well, you need something more substantive. The best, I feel, is an interesting question or compelling proposition. In a mystery story, it would be the puzzle that the client tells to the sleuth—the mystery.

“My husband died while trying a Houdini escape from a submerged, sealed cement block wrapped in chains.”

“That’s unfortunate, but why are you seeking my help?”

“You don’t understand. He was shot to death. Five bullets, and no gun was found.”

After reading that, you want to know the answer. You want to find out how this is possible. You’ll go looking for that next Reeses Pieces.

Only that can’t be the whole thing. If the answer to that one question is the sum of your story, it is like spacing the candy too far apart. If I have to wade through three hundred pages for just that last treat, I’ll get bored and stop. So you need to add more treats.

If you reveal that the man was shot before entering the box, but then discover that the man in the cement box wasn’t actually the woman’s husband, you have allowed the reader to have their Reeses Pieces, but then promised them another. This end-to-end reward and promise method works well to move a reader much the way Spiderman swings through a city, shooting one web while swinging from another. Still I find it too simplistic. An extra layer or two can really help make the story richer and the need to turn the pages that much more intense. So running several mysteries at once, staggering their paths of reward and promise differently than the first ensures that the reader stays riveted. If done well, there will be short-term puzzles, longer questions, and story (or series) length mysteries. Each one working as a sail to catch the wind of a reader’s interest and move them forward.


In addition to the mystery, you’ll need conflict. Most stories are all about conflict. The protagonist has a goal, and the antagonist is in the way of that causing conflict. This is possibly the most basic definition of a plot. Without it, you don’t have much of a story. I’ve actually read pieces that lacked conflict, short fiction mainly where events happen, and a character reacts, but there is no dispute, no struggle, and the writing simply ends at some point.

My rule for determining if you have a plot or not is to see if you can describe the story without describing the events that make it up. If you can say, “It’s about Bob, who is desperate for money so he robs a bank.” That’s a story. If on the other hand your description is, “Bob has a hard life and I reveal that over the course of the story,” and feel that doesn’t really describe the story without explaining the events…that’s not a story, that’s a detailed character workup.  Or if you say, “It’s about a world where they have suddenly lost the use of electricity.” While this has an implied conflict of Man Against Nature, it isn’t so much a story as it is a setting for a story.  

This said, there are many books on the market that according to this breakdown would not classify as stories, which are very successful, so clearly this isn’t always a problem. I would venture to guess that stories with plots are more commercially successful, where as those without tend to be more critically acclaimed. I’ve actually heard rumors that lit professors denounce plots as inconsequential and annoying as they merely get in the way of the important aspects of a book which are theme, symbols, meaning, etc.

Conflict between characters will also generate a desire to read. Hatred for an antagonist can turn pages just as effectively as concern for a protagonist. In recent years there has been a resurgence of authors killing their protagonists and letting the antagonists win. This can result in readers throwing books, or in the case of The Princess Bride: “You mean he wins? Jesus, Grandpa, what did you read me this thing for?” On the other hand, a hero that wins the day, is a bit like a spoiler.

No matter how you chose to do it, conflict should be a large aspect of your story if you want to keep the reader reading.

Tension and Suspense

If Mystery is the cerebral part of this equation and Conflict is the physical aspect, then Tension is between the two. Tension is created when the two conflicted elements enter into the same proximity. Nothing has to happen, it is often best when nothing does, but the tension it causes will rivet the reader. This is derived from the conflict and can help keep the reader’s attention even when nothing is really happening, or can’t happen.

Suspense is lengthening an exciting scene, building emotion. The enemy draws near, the clock ticks, just seconds are left, but in the narrative those moments will take three pages to complete. And a reader will read every word, and ignore phone calls, dinner and sleep to finish them. 

Using each of these elements, Mystery, Conflict, Tension and Suspense and layering them like shingles so that they overlap leaving no gaps where something is not nagging at the reader to turn the next page, is how, as a writer, you keep your reader with you, how you get ET into the shed. No matter what your theme, genre, or how profound your message, if you can’t entertain well enough to cause your audience to finish your work, nothing else matters—you need to give your readers a reason to read. 

Next week: Voice

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Giant, a Fish, and a Cheerleader, Went Into a Blog Post One Day...

I had a good laugh today.

In case you don’t know, Scott over at Iceberg Ink wrote a very nice post about me. This isn’t the first time. He’s written reviews of all my books, and one on my move to Orbit. This one was a more comprehensive overview of my work and his association with it. And Scott doesn’t just compliment me, in his own words he “gushes” and he praises my wife as well.

If you read the SandyBeach post I wrote a few weeks back (and jeez did a lot of people like that post! Who knew.) You’ll understand what I mean when I say Scott qualifies as a Superfan. I know all of my superfans by name as a prerequisite for being one is having contacted me. Scott recounts his first correspondence with me in terms of “a teeny, tiny fish emailing a giant.”

That was the laugh.

First it’s funny because fish don’t email. Second…why a fish? But mostly, the sheer suggestion that Scott is tiny and I am a giant, was hilarious. It’s funny because I suspect he actually thinks this. The reality is that Scott is a very respected member of the blogging community who has done an enormous amount to help my career. I am one of thousands trying to catch the attention of people like Scott. I am a pimply-faced, teenage geek trying to get a date with a college cheerleader, and not only did he notice me, he went out on a date. Then he admitted to his friends he went out with me. (Sorry for comparing you to a cheerleader Scott when you were so nice as to compare me to a giant. And I’m assuming it was one of those handsome Nordic giants with the broad shoulders and billowing beards, not a Jack and the Beanstalk, potbellied pin-headed, Disney kind.)

I know that fans imagine authors, or actors, or musicians to be otherworldly—somehow more important than they are. That’s like an eagle thinking it’s more important than the air currents it rides on. (Just trying to keep with the metaphor theme of this post.) I suppose some of them even get to believing this is true—not eagles so much as artists. It’s not always their fault (still talking about artists and not eagles.) When a person tells you your greater than everyone else, and you hear that enough times from enough people, it can warp your reality. Lucky for me, I spent enough time being ignored and read enough bad reviews that I have a pretty firm insecurity foundation and it’s hard to be swept up.  

On my side of the fence, looking out my window at all of you, I’m just one more person who wrote a few books because I was bored. It doesn’t take a lot of upfront investment to be an author, just time—which is why I still love watching this video. I know a lot of people who have written a book and not gotten anywhere. I happen to like my books a lot, but then they are tailor-made to suit my taste. Still, I don’t expect other people will love them. Everyone has things they like in books and things they hate. (Pet peeves are one of my pet peeves—what the hell is a peeve anyway and do they make good pets?) I know this because I am a highly critical reader. I think that comes with being a writer. The better you get at it, the less you can enjoy the works of others. It’s like a ballet dancer who no longer sees the beauty of Swan Lake, but only notices the technical mistakes. (Yeah, another metaphor, but that was a good one.)

So I did this one thing, like another person might make a great dinner, or build a really cool snowman, or play a great game of chess, only somehow writing these books elevated me in the eyes of others—well at least those I don’t personally know. I had a friend who recently mentioned famous people, and then paused, looked at me and said, “well, your kinda famous.” It took me a second to follow what she was saying. Then we both laughed.

My point is that even if I really were a huge name in literature, I’d still only be this guy who makes up stories and writes them down. But I’m not even that. In the pond of indie authors, you might have heard of me, but in the greater ocean of publishing that I’ve fallen into, I’m that teeny, tiny fish just trying to make a splash. And Scott, you’re the really cool sea turtle from Finding Nemo calling me the Jelly-man, or maybe the pelican flying around telling my story.

However you metaphor it, thanks Scott.