Context & Construct

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I visited with my sister this weekend and we spoke about my trilogy.  She has a masters degree in creative writing.  She has tried to read my trilogy but states all the other authors and editors do not write the way I write.  That you must hook people quickly into your story.  I understand completely her viewpoint, this is what the majority opinion is.  But I have to ask a simple question.  How creative is this? If we all march to beat of the same drums, aren’t we just robots catering to the machine?  Do you ever feel like you are reading the same story over and over again, with just a few new character names and locales?  Don’t you know what sex is by now?  How many ways can you spin eroticism and vampires?  I’m not knocking these authors or readers, but don’t you want a change of pace?

I am a CPA.  I am analytical, linear and logical.  I have done computer programming which must be controlled by logic with “”If this, then this, else this” type construct.  I literally despise stories without context and logical construction.  I have heard people say,

“I want a quick and fun read.  I do not wish to think.”

If this is true then my stories will not appeal to you.  If you like books like the The Shack or the Life of Pi, then you are seeking a book with a deeper meaning of life and spirituality.  Yes, it has to be entertaining, but don’t you want the ground work established first?  Here is how I constructed my trilogy based on my love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s wonderful and mesmerizing world of Arda and Middle Earth.

Book 1 – Rise of the Fallen, Chapters 1-9 are the history of the universe and Allivar.  Think of the Silmarillion in a compressed form.  A mythology must have an origin narrative. There must be a narrative on the source of evil and the history to create the myths of immortals and heroic mortals. These chapters establish the construction of all that follows and provides subtle clues to the surprising ending of the story.  If you rush through this, you will definitely miss the point of the story.  Sorry, I didn’t spend ten years just to have battle scenes, sex and a pointless battle over a throne.  My story is much deeper than this.

Chapters 10-16 begins the story of the hero in the dawning of the seventh age of Allivar.   Like the Fellowship of the Ring there is the bonding of characters of various races on a journey the Chosen One was selected for, which is to determine if mortals are worthy of life.  If you wish, just jump to Chapter 10 and begin there.  Then maybe one day you will want to go back and have context of the origin of my mythology.

Now this book cannot be more exciting than book two, nor can book two be more exciting than book three.  There must be a crescendo of action and emotions.

Book 2 Bound to Forbidden Lands ratchets the excitement after all the ground work was established in book one.  The Two Towers gave readers the thought that all would be lost, but that the faith in men would rise to counter the acts of evil.   We were left begging for the conclusion with the Return of the King.

Book two introduces romance and the continued rise of evil, an epic coliseum battle, fighting with dark demons and a journey through lands, guarded by dragons and watchers, the hero has been told to avoid.  But he has no other option.  The ending of the story must compel you to read the third story, so it has a cliff hanger unlike any you will ever read. He lives!

Book 3 – Last Stand of the Living is the culmination of the entire mythology with the greatest mythological battle ever to be written, where the fate of the universe will be decided, and where mortal and immortal alike come to battle. Here you will finally understand all that was written in the first nine chapters of book one.  I recall the Return of The King’s influence on the ratcheting of the battle scenes and emotions with the arrival of the Rohirrim and the eventual defeat of Sauron.  Readers who have taken the challenge to read my trilogy are utterly exhausted emotionally in this third story.  For the creator of the universe makes his stand with the seven mortal races.

I can guarantee you this much; you will laugh, you will cry, and you will cheer.  You may even contemplate life as we know it, for it is allegorical to our times.

But I am not done with you yet.  Forthcoming are the Chronicles of Allivar, sixteen stories, equally as intriguing as the trilogy. It introduces a parallel journey of the Armies of Light and the heroes of the six ages.  Here the compressed history is expanded, laying a blueprint for the construct of an equally exciting series.

You see, I have constructed a mythology using a linear approach from origin to the end of time, with proper context so that you don’t end the series wondering what happened to certain characters who dropped out.

You have a choice. Follow the cookie-cutter formulaic stories and construct that the masters and literary gods tell us that must exist, or take a chance on something new, independent, original, and frankly – creative.

My final point is this.  Many people take life way too seriously.  They seek affirmation from others of their worthiness in this lifetime.  They wish to dominate life by determining who is allowed to participate in the private clubs of industry and intellectual institutions.  They control who will be successful and who will not, through regulation, etc.  The publishing industry loves to bully, yes I wrote bully, to tell you another person’s attempt at writing is garbage because they weren’t involved in the editing, distribution and profit-sharing aspects of your creativity.  They belittle every person or story that reaches success independently.  I do not like erotica, but I applaud E.L. James for dispensing, once and for all, that only the publishing Gods know what stories will interest you.

Self-publishing has provided an opportunity for those of us who love to tell stories, even with grammatical errors, to remain independent and reap the potential success of our own risk. This was once referred to as entrepreneurship, not vanity publishing.  Vanity should be described as the envy of others who have not found a way to piggy-back on your imagination.

In the end, it is you the reader who independently defines what stories are good or not.  I am going to keep writing because one day I can tell them to my grandchildren.  Like Tolkien, these are the stories I want to read, but are not being produced by the publishing Gods.  I hope one day you will find my stories appealing enough to tell to your children and others.

To my sister, I have to say this, do not waste another second of your life looking for the accolades and affirmation of others.  Their aim is profit-motivated and honestly, quite vain.  The only one responsible for your happiness is you.  Life is risk and by not taking any risk, for the fear of the opinion of others, including your own family, is not living.  Stephen King said it best in his story, The Shawshank Redemption:

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Hey, I can do that!

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You see them all the time, little sayings embedded around cute pictures of puppies and kittens, or women without coffee (not so cute).  I always wondered how they did it.  In 2011, I purchased the Adobe Creative Suite Master Edition so that I could become a self publisher of my fantasy mythology.  I have been able to compose my book trailer and create my website.  Each day I learn something new.   Last week I began the process of editing and formatting my fourth book of the nineteen book mythology with Adobe InDesign.

Today I learned how to use images cropped out of a photo with PhotoShop  and imported into an Adobe Illustrator file.  There I added simple text and exported the result to a PNG format which you now see above.

As you can see Famous Hamish is now getting quite skilled at the art of manipulation.  What do I have planed next?  Is it a trip to Disney Land or Vegas?  No, it’s a project to start illustrating by tracing sketches of my creatures, maps, and scenes from the stories for the web and advertising.  From there I can then design my own eBook covers.

Where will this all end?  Heck, who knows, right now I am having a blast learning a series of software products that will bring one step closer to a dream of complete publishing prowess.  Only audacious haggis hurling Famous Hamish would dare such a journey.

The Madness of Photoshop

As an independent author and publisher, I have to wear many hats or kilts.  When I made the decision to control my creative universe, I knew I’d have to learn many new technologies for the task.  I invested in Adobe Creative Suite – Master Edition CS5.  Each day I try to learn something new.  Today’s task was to learn the art of combing text and multiple images using Photoshop.  Of course my creation had to be, well, deviously creative and be usable in later blog posts.

Here is the output of that creativity lesson:

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With Photoshop I will need to learn how to covert images for book covers, marketing materials, book trailers, website, on and on.  Here is what else I use in the Adobe Creative Suite:

InDesign:  eBook formatting and creation.

Dreamweaver: Website creation and maintenance.

AfterEffects: Create Book Trailers.

Adobe Media Encoder:  Convert the raw book trailer to various media formats.

Why go to all this effort?  I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and love to learn new and creative tools.  As an author, I wield power over worlds, but I am blown away by artists who can take the author’s vision and create stunning visualizations.  While I was in high school I was on the architectural design club.  I also drew landscapes free hand.  I hope within 2013 that I can devote enough time to sketch the characters, demons, monsters and the landscape of the world of Allivar.  To do this means I will need to learn the art of human and animal form and then learn new skills in the art of digital manipulation.

I am approaching the age of 54, where most people are content with their level of knowledge and fascination.  Many have resolved that life is about spending time at the lake house and golf course, which is fine.  It is my hope to never stopped having a fascination with how things work.  Hopefully along with physical exercise, I will be able to keep pushing all the gifts that life brings.  I prefer not to waste a single moment.

Why $2.99 for my eBooks?

For those that may not know, I am a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and an author.  Until I become widely known for creating great stories, I will remain an accountant.  In 2000 I began a journey of writing an epic fantasy tale.  Not just any tale, but one that had to be original with a premise that would touch the deepest human emotions.  Why are we here and what is our purpose.  The Chosen One of Allivar is such a tale.  Sure it is filled with adventure, romance and action, but the story has a deeper meaning. Consider the Tale of Two Cities, which at its basic theme is resurrection.

When I finished the three principle books it came to 273,000 words.  Although it will never be a literary classic, like Paradise Lost, or a Tale of Two Cities, it is a very involved story that requires careful attention to understand its underlying theme.  I had a decision to make, lose years looking for an interested agent and publisher, or take the self publishing route.  As a CPA I understand risk, benefit and the protection of intellectual property rights.  I reviewed the latest trends and followed the news on authors, publishing and eBooks. I am sure I will be chastised as a person of vanity by not going the traditional route.  Just know traditional publishers are all about profit, their name and thriving on the rights you allowed to pass to them under their model.  I could say the same about traditional authors, your vanity to be on a publishers list and sacrificing your rights also declares a sense of vanity.

When it came down to publishing  my works, I had a choice, make a name for myself, or stubbornly hold on to the belief that my book was worth more.  Then I had the matter of age to consider.  I am 53 years old.  Should I waste years wading through rejection after rejection?  The answer I came up with was a resounding “no.”  I’ve always been a risk taker and will continue to the day I die.  I’ve dealt with compliance all my adult and professional life.  These are rules established by someone else, because they felt the rules were absolutely needed, when in fact many of the rules were written to protect their own kind.

Writing a book based on my imagination belongs to me and me alone.  Not a guild, union, or a Manhattan publishing group.  In the end it is the consumer who decides the value of an author’s works.   As a CPA, I also know that with volume profit can be made with lower prices.  At $2.99 each, the lowest level I would accept, I retain 70%, or $2.09 per eBook sold.  You do the math.  I have three books, netting me $6.27 per the trilogy.  Assume 1 million copies sold worldwide.  That’s right, $6,270,000.  I’m not greedy, this is more than I would ever need in my life.  I love to write, it is my hopes that this story will take readers by storm.  $6.27 is far less than a movie.  Again, allow the consumer to declare whether the story is worthy.  It is not a literary masterpiece, I do not care for any literary awards, I just want to simply entertain a reader and give them thought.

I have over 35 books in premise phase.  The Chosen One of Allivar is my most ambitious project.  It consists of the completed trilogy and sixteen more “chronicles.”  Whether I am financially successful or not, is of no concern to me, I want to write, give you the reader a bargain and one hell of a story.  So as I take a risk to fulfill a dream, I ask you to take a risk by reading my trilogy and then to send me feedback.  You see, we authors do not exist because of the method or price we publish our stories, it is because of the reader and that is all that matters.