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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Outsourcing Jobs to Fiverr Leaves More Time for Writing

There comes a point when you have to admit that you cannot do it all.

Writing.  Editing.  Book Cover Design.  Book Interior.  Sales Copy.  Marketing.  Social Engagement.

The more time you spend on one task, the more you ignore the ones that are actually important.  As far as I’ve figured out at this point in my writing career, there are really only two ways out of this hole…

Get Published in the Traditional Way

One of the ways in which I avoid wasting my time is by submitting stories to magazines and contests.  If they accept your work, traditional publishers will create graphics for covers and do all of the formatting for you.  You’ll still have to market yourself and engage socially, but it beats the hell out of learning new programs.

Not only that, but the lag time that it takes for a publisher to review your work is a good window for you to get more writing done.  Even if they reject it, you’ll have more material as well as feedback on your old work.  There’s really no downside, especially considering that you can always self-publish if you get too frustrated.

Fiverr – A Self-Publisher’s Business Partner

Fiverr is an online marketplace for people to offer their services for as little as $5.  There are add-ons and extras that can bump up the price, but these are optional.  I’m not even going to bother mentioning the types of services, because they range from resume writing to graphics to advertising.  There’s even a whole subset of people who do amazing things with puppets.  (I’m not kidding.)

Recently, Jeremy Marshall and I talked about continuing to work on stories in the Captain James Hook series.  This required me to give our current books a facelift.  We needed covers and new sales copy, so I went to Fiverr.

I got two new covers and copy for both book descriptions for a total of $42.50 (that’s including $5 tips for each job).   I used Book Covers by PixelStudio & Sales Copy by Emmaki.  Samples of their work can be found on the updated CaptainHookNovel.com page.

Even if you have a budget of under $100, you can get some serious work done on this site.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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.

 

Light Speed for Writers without a Science Background

In my post Questions to Ask When World-Building, I wrote:

If you are writing science fiction, what physical settings or laws are different or exaggerated?  Is there space travel?  If so, how does it work?  Warp speed in Star Trek gets you to a distant planet at a different speed than a Star Wars hyperdrive.  These decisions make the difference between going from “one end of the galaxy to the other,” as Han Solo once bragged, and the entire Voyager series, in which the plot was centered on a near-hopeless trip across the galaxy back to Earth.

Well, now I’ve started writing a science fiction series that takes place beyond our world and it’s my turn to make some decisions regarding space travel.  Will there be hyperspace?  Will they use wormholes?  Will they have some other folding of space/time?

Warp Speed

There was recently a flurry of excitement regarding the possibility of Warp Speed.  It lasted about one month before the same site renounced the EM Drive because it would “produce more energy than is put into it, violating the law of conservation of energy, which (simply put) says that energy cannot be destroyed or created” (Elizabeth Howell, Space.com).

Quantum Entanglement

I also played with space travel through Quantum Entanglement, which is the idea that linked particles remain linked once they are separated regardless of distance.  There are some great ideas in the areas of using Quantum Entanglement for communication, but not for travel.  Decoherence, the decay of unity between once-linked particles, happens even at the atomic level.

Light Speed

I discounted light speed immediately.  In order to go that fast, you would need an infinite amount of energy.  It is, by testimony of all articles and peer-reviewed science, impossible.  Every forum conversation turns sour when somebody mentions moving at light speed, so I had a sour taste right away.

Then I started thinking about Near Light Speed.  After some consideration, I decided that this was the way I was going to go.

Are We There Yet?

According to Time Dilation, Yes!  A person traveling at near light speed won’t notice a long wait time between their departure and destination.  They could be en route for hundreds or thousands of years, but their trip will feel like hours or seconds if they are moving at 99.99% of light speed.  This is great for your main character, who will be the same age no matter where he or she ends up.  They are free to move about the universe, but what about those they leave behind?  They’re already dead.

Every Goodbye is Forever

While your characters are accelerating to near light speed, the rest of the universe goes about their business at their own rate.  Time passes for everyone differently depending on a myriad of factors:  gravity, speed, etc.  This poses problems for cultural interconnectivity between different star systems, but I prefer that writing challenge to some mystical and unexplained system of travel.

Why Bother Explaining At All?

For some, research is silly.  One of my friends said, “Just use hyperspace and call it a day.”  I can’t do that.  I need to know (at least to a layman’s approximation) how things work.  The Star Wars type of hyperspace is too convenient for my characters.  I need limits in order to work well.  Not only that, but I think Star Wars when I hear “hyperspace,” just like I think Stargate or Babylon 5 when I hear “wormholes.”  I’d like to carve my own path and cynically go where no massive property has gone before.

Fact-Checking

One of my reasons for writing this post is to put my ideas out to the world for fact-checking.  There are many who know more about this topic than I do, so please comment below if you feel I have made any great errors in my understanding or if you feel I am on the right path.  I’ll repost with corrections, if need be.

Grow (yourself) Locally

Everything is harder when you are doing it on your own.  That’s the first idea people need to understand before they decide to self-publish instead of seeking an agent or a traditional publisher. While working on your next project (book, painting, t-shirt design, etc.), you have to make it easier for people to find your work.  Authors who do not have a global reach need to start small in their home towns and build from that base.

THE PLATFORM FOR A GLOBAL PRESENCE

This is the easy part.  Anyone can set up a free website, run a Twitter/Facebook page, and purchase a cheap domain to bring it all together.  Those who are more advanced use email lists to focus the attention on their audience.  All of this costs less than you might think.  The greatest expense is time, which is always in short supply.

Amazon has been a great advantage for Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan.  As of this post, it has reached over 15,000 readers and is rated more highly than Capt. Hook: the Adventures of a Notorious Youth, Peter Pan in Scarlet, and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.  (Your days are numbered Starcatchers!)

Not one part of this is local, but it helps you to be seen as more credible when talking to local businesses.

LOCAL CAUSES

The first thing I did was hitch up to a worthy cause close to where I live.  The Metropolitan Community Church of New York specializes in caring for the needs of LGBT homeless youth.  Often, these kids are on the street because they were born into intolerant or abusive homes. You can read more about them here.  A major chunk of the money the book will make this year will go to them because they are truly great people and they can do more good with $1000 than I can.

LOCAL LIBRARIES

Jeremy Marshall and I are showing off our display at the "Tales of Our Cities" event in September 2013.

Jeremy Marshall and I are showing off our display at the “Tales of Our Cities” event in September 2013.

In the spring of this year, I contacted the Jersey City Free Public Library regarding their fall event.  The “Tales of Our Cities” event in September was a great way to gain exposure for the book.

We signed a few copies and I did a reading for the crowd.  In addition, the library bought ten copies for their use.  The platform was important, but the push behind our involvement came from my status as a local.

I read for the crowd at the "Tales of Our Cities" event in Jersey City.

I read for the crowd at the “Tales of Our Cities” event in Jersey City.

LOCAL BUSINESSES

Business owners are shrewd, and for good reason.  They need to be certain that what they are doing is good for them and for their customers.  Two places in particular have opened up to me and to the book.  Yes, the global platform gives me credibility in an anonymous and ambiguous way, but living in Jersey City is a key factor in our agreements.

Jersey City Free Books is located on Griffith Street in Jersey City Heights, blocks from my door.  Books are collected for trade in a manner that fits everybody’s ideal of a socialist utopia.  The concept is simple: take a book, leave a book.  There is no money exchanged and the books are generally not tracked or catalogued.  I dropped off a few copies for them to give away and, in return, the owner posted on his Facebook page.

The stand at JC Made where you can find our book for sale.

The stand at JC Made where you can find our book for sale.

JC Made is a store that sells work exclusively from artists who live in Jersey City.  When you walk in, you will see a collection of vases, t-shirts, lamps, cards, and now… books.  On Friday, I signed a contract to sell my book there, making it the first place where you can walk in, see a copy of Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan, and pay for it at a register.  Again, the Amazon sales and ranking gave me a platform, but my local status made this possible.

Building a writing career, while climbing in your main career, is hard when you are doing it on your own.  However, if you look closely enough, local opportunities are all around.

Why have a sidekick? 4 reasons in 4 minutes

When Jeremy Marshall and I wrote Captain James Hook and the Curse of Peter Pan, we decided that James Hoodkins (the young Hook) should have someone he is responsible for during his adventures (tragedies?).  We did this for a few reasons, but I never thought to explain why sidekicks are so important until now.

First, a definition.  A sidekick is a secondary character who furthers the story.  Although this is an unequal relationship, the sidekick is not a mindless follower.  Sidekicks have goals, dreams, and personalities.

The lazy pick would have been to use Smee.  The two are often paired in cartoons and promotions.  We went a different way and used Billy Jukes.  In Barrie’s Peter Pan, Bill Jukes is a tattooed cutthroat whose past is rumored at best.  We took the seeds of that character and made him the son of a close family friend and the younger brother of James’s love interest, Emily.  When both children (James was 13 and Jukes was 11) were lost at sea and fell in with pirates, James had a reason to keep looking for a way home.

There are inherent advantages to including a sidekick.

READER IDENTIFICATION

When using a sidekick, readers have an opportunity to identify with him or her.  This gives an author a wider range of readership.  Some may have found James Hook cold and a little distant, but liked Billy Jukes’s more reckless behavior.

WAIT.  WHAT HAPPENED?

If a hero is alone and figures out a solution, then he just does what he needs to do and skips the explanation.  If that information is important for the reader to know, you need a second character to draw it out.  This is a classic setup and it worked well with Hook and Jukes.

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE

This is an advantage if you are writing from multiple perspectives.  Your protagonist can’t see everything.  They operate from a single point of view.   Writing from a sidekick’s POV is a great way to give new information to the reader that you want to hide from the hero and show how wonderful the hero is without the hero sounding arrogant.  We wrote CJH from one POV, but this is a great tool if you decide to use it.

COMPLEMENTARY BEHAVIORS

This is my favorite reason.  As athletic and strong as Billy Jukes was compared to the sickly James Hoodkins, he was two years younger and a far slower thinker than his genius friend.  This made for an interesting brain-and-brawn pairing.  James was the clear leader of the two and there was no problem that their combined skill set couldn’t overcome.

Knights have squires.

Sherlock Holmes has Dr. Watson.

Batman has Robin.

Sidekicks matter.

Putting the SCIENCE in Science Fiction

The basic problems in science fiction revolve around the need to explain yourself to the reader.  It is a trust issue.  Science fiction readers want a certain level of grounding in their stories, otherwise they’d be fantasy readers.  Even then, there has to be an internal consistency to the rules of the magic you are using, especially the rules you make up yourself.  

Below are two areas that require the most attention when writing science fiction.

LIFEFORMS

This planet is perfectly suited to our needs.  Try rereading that sentence, taking notice of how self-centered and foolish it is.  Our needs arose because we developed on this planet and evolved to fit its conditions.  Recreating similar conditions on another planet or finding one that is identical to Earth is unlikely at best.  Even a 5% difference in the air’s oxygen content would dramatically change how (or if) we live our lives.  Different conditions yield different results.

Travel

Stories that take place between star systems require faster-than-light (FTL) travel.  Unless you want to abandon any sort of scientific authority, starships can’t accelerate beyond that limit.  It would take infinite energy just to match that speed and you’d be permanently frozen in (our perception of) time if you reached it.

How do your characters get around this problem?  Different franchises use different methods.  Star Trek uses warp speed to fold distances in space.  Star Wars uses a hyperdrive, as do the ships in the Saga of the Seven Suns.  Babylon5 and others, use wormholes.  The point is that each one has an explanation of how this is done, rooted in some fact or theory.

An author doesn’t have to go too crazy over these ideas, but simple awareness will help maintain credibility.