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Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Twilight Phenomenon

Money totals are rolling in for “New Moon”. The Twilight series is a blockbuster mega-hit. So how did Stephanie Meyers do it? I’ve been watching the phenomenon trying to figure it out. I did the same with the Harry Potter craze. Neither series is particularly well-written. I can list dozens of similar books that are much better plotted and crafted, but none of them were mega-hits. (No, this is not a ‘rip on Harry Potter and Twilight” post.)

Why even care, unless I’m just jealous of their success? I admit I am jealous, I’d love my books to hit that level of sale—which is the main reason I’m trying to understand how they did it. Neither woman had published anything previously. Neither woman had what the pros consider necessary to success. Yet they managed to do something very few SF/F/Horror authors ever have. Even Stephen King took years to build his empire.

As far as I can tell, J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers have two things going for them: really good marketing people and characters that resonate. Teen angst is a universal theme, wanting to fit in and belong is also universal. Harry Potter reaches both male and female audiences, drawing them into the teen drama of Hogwarts University where boyfriend/girlfriend issues take center stage just as often as saving the world from evil. Twilight pulls girls into a world of teen heartache. Edward is the epitome of forbidden love.

Neither series caught my interest for long. But I’m not the target market. I’m not a tween to teen looking for stories that resonate with my own inner anxieties and insecurities. As a writer, though, understanding how they became so successful can’t be anything but helpful in my own career. Perhaps more authors should care about their characters and stories and less about making a statement. I don’t think J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers set out to make political or religious statements. They were telling stories.

And doing it very successfully.

Friday, November 20, 2009

To Series or Not to Series? That is a Question

I’ve come across several discussions lately about writing series versus stand-alone novels. Both sides have valid complaints. With a series, the trend now is to write a cliffhanger and leave the poor reader dangling for two or three years, or even forever, before they get the next installment of the story which ends with another cliffhanger. I’ve heard some readers say they wait until the entire series is published before they buy or read any of the books. Other readers say they love series because the story is so long and convoluted that it keeps them hooked for a long time. They love the characters and worlds so much, they want to keep reading the saga.

Stand-alone books don’t keep you sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the next book. They have a definite beginning, middle, and end; something that series books don’t always have. But what if you fall in love with the characters? If enough fans demand a sequel loudly enough, the author may write one. Sequels usually fall far short of the mark, though, especially if they weren’t planned in the beginning.

I read both stand-alone and series. The ones that are most satisfying to me are the series where *each book* in the series has a definite ending. Each book is a complete story, but with the added bonus of familiar characters that I enjoy. The one exception? Tad Williams Otherland series. I waited until I could get all four books, though. It’s a series because the story wouldn’t fit in one volume.

My book, Nexus Point, is the first in a series. Yes, I said series. No, no giant cliffhangers. Each book is a complete story. The only plot point not completely resolved by the end of the book is the relationship between the main characters. You can read all but books 10 and 11 without reading the others first and they will still be good stories. They just have more depth if you know what happened in the other books.

My publisher, Cyberwizard Productions , has bought all 11 books. Their philosophy is to commit to the whole series. It’s unfair to a reader and the author to drop a series halfway through. Even if sales are lousy, which I sincerely hope won’t be true, they will publish the whole series. They have faith in my writing.

And for those of you hesitant to start a series, I have written all 11 books. They just need a good editing. Writing book one implies a promise to the reader that the author will finish the series. I make this promise in good faith. I hope you enjoy the series and the characters because I sure did.

So check out the first three chapters of Nexus Point. Email me if you have questions. Most of all, enjoy the story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stories are published!

I've got two publications this week! How often does that happen?

Check out "Glutton's Purgatory" for free at
Carl had a normal life, until his food began talking to him.

"Minor Details" is in the Halloween issue of Darwin's Evolutions at
Two teen "witches" sell their souls. Guess who comes to collect.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Defining Extraordinary

Extraordinary People

An acquaintance commented the other day that I was an extraordinary person. The comment took me aback. I don’t consider myself extraordinary. I’m just a normal person coping with life. It got me thinking, though. What makes an extraordinary person?

Many people idolize sports figures or celebrities. It’s easy to say they are extraordinary because you aren’t close enough to see the flaws. It’s easy to overlook warts from a distance. To me, the most extraordinary people are those in my neighborhood, those who cross my path in life. No, they are not perfect, but they have their moments where they shine brilliantly. The neighbor who friends the teenager struggling to define their place in life, lifting them to a higher purpose. The couple who stay together through tough times and still love and cherish each other into old age, never straying. The employee at the store who strives to treat each customer with courtesy and respect, meeting impatience and anger with an unwavering friendliness. These are my heroes.

So what makes a person extraordinary? The courage and conviction to live a moral life, no matter what others may say. The passion to reach higher, to keep trying. I have a quote in my office that I hope I live up to in my life. “People are like stained glass windows–they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in their true beauty is only revealed if there is a light within.” ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. May we all live with a light shining brightly. May we reach to become extraordinary through small daily acts of service, love, and kindness.