You read comics, right?

I still read them from time to time, which is why I’m thrilled to be a part of two New Jersey events this month.

One is on 3/12/17 at the Clifton Community Recreation Center, 1232 Main Ave, Clifton 07011 http://www.njcomicbookshows.com/clifton.htm

The other is on 3/19/17 at the Toms River Elks Lodge 600 Washington Street Toms River, N.J. 08753 http://www.jerseyshorecomicbookshow.com

As a way of revving myself up for these events, I wrote a superhero vs vampire story exclusively for Wattpad.  (Description Below)

Force – Jeff Beal is unique. Balancing high school and a broken home, Jeff blows off steam jumping rooftops and taking down bad guys under the name Shadow, protege to Macro City’s superhero, Force. And when a string of gruesome murders grip the city in mortal terror, Force and Shadow swear to put an end to the bloodshed. But the Vampire Lavinia is no ordinary killer. Now Jeff must use every resource at his disposal to hunt down the deadly vampire before the sun sets … because he won’t survive the night.

Read the first few chapters here.  I’ll add to it every Friday night at 8pm.  Shoot me an email, post a response, or tweet me @J_Kleckner to let me know what you think.

Thank you again for your support. Happy Reading.

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The Author’s Shakabuku on Audience and Genre

For those of you who don’t know Shakabuku, it’s a “swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.”

It was introduced to me by Debi, Minnie Driver’s character in one of my favorite movies, Grosse Pointe Blank (IMDB).

I have been fortunate enough to have had two experiences with Shakabuku this year, only months apart.

The first one came in August, when my family and I binge-watched Stranger Things (IMDB) on Netflix.

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Stranger Things on Netflix – Photo Source

The second came just this past weekend while I was listening to the audiobook of Ready Player One, written by Ernest Cline and read by Wil Wheaton.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Photo Sources

During each of these experiences, I found myself saying, “At my best, I want to create work like this.”

It wasn’t hard to see the connection between the two.  They were both adventures with heavy pop culture references from the 1980s.  Even Grosse Pointe Blank fits neatly into the center of that Venn Diagram, just without the fantasy or science-fiction elements.

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Venn Diagram of Awesome – JeremiahKleckner.com

The weird part for me was that I never saw my nexus of interest so clearly before now.

Like many writers starting out, I dove into my writing.  I found an idea and attacked it without much consideration for my audience or what genre it would be until after it was done.

It’s worked out okay for me so far.  I have two series (soon to be three) for sale and a ton of ideas.  But I’ve struggled with identifying my audience and I’ve never had the same kind of thrill reading in my books’ supposed genres as I have during these past two months.

Am I nuts or have some of you had the same experience?  Comment below or come out and tell me about it.  I’ll be criss-crossing NJ these next two weeks for books signings and readings.

Here’s my itinerary.  Hope to see you there!

Building an Audience Means Taking the Next Step

People won’t just come to you.

Now that there are so many entertainment options choose from, people (rightfully) feel that they should to be courted by creators who want them to read/watch/hear their work.

In truth, it may have always been this way.

Selling the First Wheel

So, if these systems have been in place for millennia, then what can I do to compete?

Building An Audience

Step One:  Blog Regularly

The weekly blogging schedule I’ve taken up has helped keep me sharp and focused.  It doesn’t hurt that I changed my branding a little bit to better fit my personality and interests.  The Writing Teacher was fun and I liked the dual usage of the word “Writing” in the title as both an adjective and a verb, but it didn’t allow me to comment on the topics that most engaged me.

Cynical Sci-Fi gives me some range and helps me be truer to who I am, which is important.  This authenticity has contributed to an increased follower-ship on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Step Two:  Broaden My Market Base

It is hard to find new ways to promote old work.  Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan has had thousands of readers and I am very proud of how it has influenced the Peter Pan mythos, but it is a three-year-old book among many, many, many newer similar titles.

Therefore, I am working with the Audiobook Creation Exchange to make both Captain James Hook titles available on Audible and iTunes.  As of this post, I have one audition already submitted and I am using my audience base to promote this opportunity to others.  (Expect to get updates on this process as it unfolds.)

Step Three:  Collaborate With Others

Working with others in a creative field can be a real pain.  Many will actively try to cut you down so that you do not get a leg up on them or will try to rip off your ideas while discouraging you from pursuing them.

It is important to find a partner (or group) that will encourage you while being constructively critical.  I am fortunate that my writing partner is as talented as he is insightful.  Hundreds of thousands of words have passed between us:  read, commented, and revised.

This isn’t for work that we share credit for either.  These are solo titles, made better through joint effort.

The followup step is to get myself into book talks, social groups, and conferences.

Step Four:  Create New Work

This is often the hardest part.  You tweet.  You post.  Distractions pull you this way and that until hours have passed and you find that your daily word count is under 1000.  It doesn’t have to be this way, though.

  1. Develop new ideas
  2. Set a schedule
  3. Stick to it

This simple process has given me two new series of short fiction, the first titles of which are already done and ready to go.  More are on the way as July and August are typically big drafting months for me (teacher’s schedule).

Step Five:  Experiment

I’m taking a different route with the new titles.  Their lengths allow them to be submitted to genre magazines and I feel that they have a good shot, so I’m trying that first before diving into a self-publishing model.

As with the audiobook creation process, expect that future posts will include updates on which magazines each title will be submitted to and what the responses are.

New is only new for so long, then you have to learn what comes next.  These are both new journeys for me and I’m excited to take them on as a lifelong learner.

 

The Four Types of Sci-Fi/Fantasy Worlds in under 300 words

It all depends on how immersed your world is in the elements of that genre.  

Minimal Immersion

The world is just like the one we see, except the hero, the villain, and maybe some friends have a special power.  Perhaps they can see through walls or have an accelerated healing factor.  Other than this, the world that the story takes place in is no different than ours.   Some examples of this are “The Sixth Sense” or any Spider-man movie.

Total Immersion

The story world is identical to ours, except that there is a major change.  This is the basis for most alien invasion, vampire attack, or zombie films.  “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “The Walking Dead” are television shows that do this well.  Other examples are stories involving characters like Superman, the X-Men, Transformers, and Harry Potter.

The Secondary World

The story takes place on a completely different world.  The geography, climate, politics, economy, and species of life are specific to this setting.  This gives the author complete control, but carries the burden of making it seem real to the reader.  Obvious examples are “Star Wars” and The Lord of the Rings.

The Strange Visitor

The fourth type of fantasy or science fiction setting is when a person from our world visits another time/space or when someone from a different time/space visits our world.  Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan, and “The Terminator” all fit this type perfectly.

With a better understanding of the different types of fantasy and science fiction settings, it will be easier to distinguish which best fits the story an author is trying to tell.

Immersing story in genre.

Stories should be shaped by the elements of the genre.  

 SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY

When you tell a story in science fiction and fantasy, make sure you are using the genre to tell the story more effectively. Authors often use space ships, orcs, and aliens as window dressing for a story that could have just as easily been told on the streets of an American city. If the fantastic elements don’t enhance the story, then it doesn’t belong in the genre. The easiest way to tell if an author has done this is to try deleting the science fiction or fantasy elements in the story and see whether the message of the story is as effective.

 MYSTERY

Mystery writers know this rule and it is a lesson that all writers should follow. Don’t start writing until you have the ending in mind. The ending should be obvious from the beginning without giving away any surprises. This practice takes time and plenty of rewriting, but it is important.

FOR EXAMPLE

In Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan, thirteen-year-old James Hoodkins is torn from his home, nearly drowned, beaten, forced to kill, and made into a pirate all as a result of his chance encounters with Peter Pan. The fantasy elements of magic and a secondary world (Neverland) concentrate and enhance the story in a way that would be diminished if it were taken away. The ending, in which an adult Captain Hook confronts an eternally young Peter Pan, is obvious and anticipated.

Why Fantasy and Sci-Fi Writing is Important

The genres of Fantasy and Science Fiction are more than just about escape.  Artistic distance allows people who work in the fantastic to parody or critique the changes we see in our world. The idea is similar to why a comedian with a sock puppet can speak harsher truths than a politician or a pope. Sometimes we need to be shocked into seeing the bizarre nature of our world.

The view from the outside gives us a hard look at ourselves and our history.  For example, our access to technology has grown far faster than our maturity as a race, either emotionally or spiritually.

Looking ahead, countless Science Fiction and Fantasy books depict the plausible extremes of where our misuse will lead.  iRobot is a classic example of this.

Looking back, we’ve been able to process the damage we’ve already done.  The whole Godzilla franchise is rooted in the horrors committed during the atomic age.

Find the fantastic in the mundane.  We live in a world of extremes.  The problem for most authors is that the fantastic has become so commonplace that it may be difficult to recognize it when you see it, even if it is something that you are reading that first had to travel through space.

How Revisionist Fantasy improves perspective.

Revisionist Fantasy is a genre in which you remake an existing fantasy or fairy tale with added material or a different point of view.

When I told my wife that I most loved reading Revisionist Fantasy, I thought I was being clever. After I checked the term online, I found that it was (a) not new and (b) not typically used when discussing fiction. Political blowhards use it to discredit one another when they disagree on historical facts. It is the next step up from the insult of saying someone is relying on revisionist history.

So much for my wit.

Even so, the genre has an important place in fiction.

Revisionist Fantasy allows characters other than the hero to shine. Unlike politics, in which there are no villains (or heroes?), fiction has a clear protagonist and antagonist. Generally, the protagonist is presented with challenges and has to overcome them to get what he or she wants. This is the basic conflict of the story and it plays to one of the appeals of fantasy, which is the clarity of good vs. evil.

In reality, however, we are all the heroes of our own story. Revisionism allows the antagonist, and other characters, to demonstrate what their goals are, which makes them more interesting adversaries. With added points of view come added layers of conflict because more is at stake. Instead of a single story line  multiple tales are strung together, making each turn in the plot more meaningful.

Even if the perspective of the villain is told in a separate story, reading it changes the undertone of that character’s motivation throughout his or her fictional lifetime.

The most popular modern fictional revision is that of Gregory Macguire’s Wicked, in which the life of the Wicked Witch of the West is exposed. This story takes place years before the events in the Wizard of Oz and makes the famous villain sympathetic and heroic.

Another great example, and one that has been highly influential to me as a writer, is John Garner’s Grendel. Unlike Wicked, this story speaks from the monster’s misunderstood and lonely perspective during the events of Beowulf. Grendel is never made heroic, just sad and tragic.

Lex Luthor: Man of Steel takes the perspective of Superman’s adversary and makes it oddly logical. All of the gadgets and plots to take down the world’s greatest hero are born out of a fierce, humanistic belief and a mistrust of the largely unknown alien.

No, Revisionist Fantasy isn’t new, but it isn’t the sole claim of political pundits and angry bloggers either. Although it has never really been named, the genre has been present throughout our fictional history. Everything from Paradise Lost to “Once Upon a Time” has attempted to enrich existing stories. Sometimes they are pale reflections of the original, but when they are done well, they change the whole tone of the source reading and make us question our own perspective of right and wrong.