Monday, July 25, 2016

Indie Authors: How To (And Not) Ride the Lightning

Not too long ago, a successful indie author friend of mine found herself mired in conversation with a writer who could not, for the life of him, understand why he had not been discovered as the genius he is (cue Scar's "Be Prepared"). I asked for extrapolation, and she provided what was supposed to be one of his blog posts.

It was actually a thousand words of self-gratification that literally begins every paragraph with "I write". "I write this". "I write that". "I write."

He could not, for the life of him, understand why none of the big publishing houses had picked up on him, or why he had such a difficult time moving his books. He lamented;

"I can't wait until I become a real boy and one of these publishers picks my books up. I can't fight this demoralizing publicity battle by myself anymore."

Personally, I'm offended by this statement, but I hope he gets his wish fulfilled. Because this life clearly isn't for him.

He may be a great writer, but the problem is, a lot of us are great writers. The first mistake he makes is not realizing that it is the differences in our work that keep us from being picked up by the big houses. Publishing is a business, not an art, and businesses are leery to take chances on an unknown. They should be leery. Not because our work sucks, but think about it. How many of you think long and hard before loaning money to a friend or family member? Now imagine doing that with millions of dollars to a stranger.

The truth is, we indie authors have a better chance of being struck by lightning than succeeding as full-time indies. It is in no way impossible, the goal is far more attainable than it used to be, and there are ways to bring the storm to you.

1). Dedicate Yourself to Improving.
Read. Read everything you can on your craft. Study your market. Watch and learn from those pursuing the same endeavor from you. Write daily. Write outside of your comfort zone. Publish frequently. Learn. Unlearn. Keep learning. You will never stop improving, and your work will consistently get better.

No, seriously. Read EVERYTHING.

2). Stay Frosty.
Keep an agile mind. You'll be wrong more often than you're right, especially in the beginning. Adjust quickly. Don't get comfortable, or you may become stagnant. Always be on the lookout for something new, something you may not know. Continuously adapt your methods.

3). Stay Humble.
Publicly admit your shortcomings. Own your mistakes so no one else can. Don't brag your successes. Never forget those who helped you along the way, because you won't do it alone. Be ready to help someone else, and do so graciously.

Here's three things you shouldn't do.

1). Don't Whine.
We all struggle. We all have issues. But the internet has enough negativity on it. Don't add to that. Yes, your book missed a list. Instead of complaining about it online, write a better book.

2). Don't Point Fingers.
The worst thing you can do in a self-publishing endeavor is blame someone else, unless they blatantly ripped you off. But if you didn't make a list, it's not the list builder's fault. There isn't some grand conspiracy to keep you from being successful. Again, write a better book.

3). Don't Get Discouraged.
It's hard work, we know. It's mind-breaking, and we often feel as though nothing we do will ever be good enough. It's easy to get lost in the sea of noise. We all feel like quitting. And you know what? If you feel like you've given it your all, and you just don't have anything left, it's fine to walk away. It's fine to take a step back.
It's also fine to come back with new ideas and try again.

This is simultaneously the most difficult and rewarding thing you may ever do (outside of raising successful children). Know you're not in it alone, there is all kind of support for you, and if you're out here doing your best and making the reader's market a better place, then one day, the lightning will find you.

And you will fly.

Thanks for reading.

Avery K. Tingle is the author of epic dark fantasy Era of the Scourge: Reclamation and scifi/romance the Anniversary. Titles are available on Nook and Kobo too. If you’re new to Kobo, you can get both stories for free!
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Monday, July 18, 2016

What Dragon Age Inquisition Taught Me About Story Execution

Dragon Age Inquisition isn't supposed to be my kind of game. Save for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Also from Bioware), I avoid games that follow the dice mechanic of the pen and paper RPG. All I need to know is whether or not I hit the guy. Rolling this to the nth power to deciding the critical chance of success or failure is way too much math for me.

But after so much hype and  this trailer, I had to see for myself. I'm so glad I did. It feels like so few games care about story anymore. Not since Mass Effect have I encountered such layered, complex, morally ambiguous characters in such a compelling world. I don't remember the last time I agonized over every decision I made in a game. The world was so enthralling that, convinced I hadn't played correctly, I began a second playthrough that currently clocks at seventy hours.

Yeah, there's just one problem.

The game doesn't work.

On the first playthrough, the game froze so badly that I exchanged it.  A new copy did not resolve the issue. The game is downright unplayable. The glitches and crashes continued mounting to the point where I began to see the end coming. It was both infuriating and painful, watching a game that never should've been on the 360 try to force its way through archaic hardware. When that final crash came, seventy hours down the drain, I was really pissed off. I still am.

It got me thinking.

As indie authors we struggle to keep our voice above the din, to stay relevant. My preferred method is high-volume, where you consistently put out work to maintain fresh material and a high ranking in search engines.

The problem with this method is, when it's abused, a lot of people end up putting out complete and total crap. The market gets saturated with this crap, people get sick of this crap, and it makes it harder for the rest of us to get people to read our work.

So the question is, while you could churn out a number of short works to keep yourself fresh...

...if they're not professionally edited,
...if the cover looks like a toddler's first coloring attempt,
...if the story is poorly conceived and badly executed,

...should you?

Dragon Age Inquisition is an incredible game that should never have been on the 360. It's a flawed execution of an excellent concept that comes off as an attempt to cash in. Because of this, Bioware's brand is a bit damaged.

So just because you can do something, should you? Will it bring you more fans, more sales, more revenue? Is it a quality product that you would stand behind, that can withstand the most intense scrutiny?

Because if it doesn't, rethink your actions.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

To The Haters of Pokemon Go

One of the worst things you can do to someone is ridicule them for doing something they love.

Wrong. Bad Meme. To Whoever Did This.

I was invited to go Pokémon hunting with a group of friends after work last night. I was expecting, at the most, ten of us.

Yeah, I was wrong.

Downtown looked like a block party. I counted a minimum of seventy-five people scattered about the road. A few cars had been left running, they were actually blaring hip-hop. I thought I'd arrived in the wrong place.

No. Literally every single person there was buried in their phones, either hunting Pokémon or sharing hints about hunting and evolving Pokémon. A few people were actually running down the street in what I presume was an attempt to hatch an egg (note; it doesn't make a difference, whether you walk or run).

A lot of these guys could've been taken for hustlers. No one looked like your stereotypical nerd. I wound up in conversation with a guy who spends a lot of time in the gym.

The police were out there. They bothered no one. They waved to us. They knew what we were out there doing and they let us go about it in peace.

No animosity between anyone. No sniping at each other about color, skin or otherwise. For a brief moment last night, I actually watched a small part of the world defy the odds and come together to have fun.

There's a lot of hate going around directed at people who're into this sort of thing. This blog post is for the ones spreading it.

Yeah, our country may be in trouble. Depending on your point of view, the country is always in trouble.

But if you're one of the people openly condemning us for Pokémon Go, congratulations. You're officially part of the problem.

Pokémon Go is far more than a game; it's an opportunity. With all the issues concerning race in this country, millions of players have thrown racial tensions to the wind and come together simply to play. Beyond that, many are performing voluntary community service, like setting lures at children's hospitals or donating walked miles to shelters.

And that is how we put the country back together.

Good Meme!

So no one's saying you have to like Pokémon Go. You can think whatever you like about it. That's you're right. But from where I sit, if you think the country is in trouble, you can either bitch about it or do something about it.

And if you simply have to complain about something you have no control over, well, please know we were never interested in your approval.

I need to go hunting before hitting the gym and work.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

There Is Nothing Wrong With Ambition.

There is nothing wrong with ambition.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a little more from life.

There is everything wrong with placing yourself above people who don't share your ambition.

There is everything wrong with believing that your ambition somehow makes you better than everyone else.

You're not better.

You're not worse.

You just want something that someone else may not want.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

The future is yours.

Go get it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Can We All Take One Moment, Please?

My name's Avery. I'm an author and a gamer. I've been blessed to be given a fan base and platform from which to speak my views. Though I rarely speak out about something most find polarizing, I feel as though I'd be remiss if I didn't speak out about where I think my beloved country is going.

I am a black man. I have been a petty criminal. I have been arrested, I have been incarcerated, and I have spent enough time running afoul of the law to know that I never want to do it again. Nor do I ever want to be that person again.

I have also been accosted by members of law enforcement who judged me solely based on the color of my skin. I have been threatened by law enforcement for literally walking down the road. I have had one officer all but threaten to take my life if I ever returned to that town again.

I have also had members of law enforcement be far more lenient to me than I deserve. I have had members of law enforcement let me walk away when I was caught breaking the law. I've had police officers risk their jobs to cut me a break. One incident that stands out is when I was driving to work, many moons ago, with a suspended license and illegal plates (just to make things interesting). The cop not only let me go, he let me know the patrol times and routes of other officers so I could avoid them.

We approaching a moment of civil war, and I don't know, maybe that's what has to happen for us to wake up. I would like to believe that we can rise above these prejudices and hatreds before there is no one left to hate. I want to believe that we are not so far removed from rational thought that we cannot see the terrible destruction we are about to bring down upon ourselves.

If we all were to hate every member of a group that had done us wrong, I daresay this would be a lonely existence. We all have our prejudices, and as long as we're willing to see through them, that's fine (yes, I actually said it was okay to be prejudiced against something so long as you're not willing to kill the object of that prejudice).

Police need to be able to enforce the law without fearing for their lives. People of any color need to be able to walk down the street without worrying if they're going to be murdered by the people that are supposed to protect them. Movements need to see the ramifications of their actions before inciting more anger.

"Real America" is a nation of many faiths and ethnicities. You don't have to like this, but not liking it isn't going to change what it is. America does not belong to any one group. It belongs to every citizen of this great land.

And we are a breath away from killing ourselves right now.

So as you live your life today, I ask, I pray, that you take into account the lives of those around you. If you cannot agree, then please, leave each other alone. I ask this of all of our citizens because it is not us who will pay the price for our deeds, it is our children.

Love one another. Please.
Or at least allow the other to live in peace.
And if you break the law, then please, man the hell up and take the consequences of your actions because you brought them upon yourselves.
And if you're enforcing the law, then please, do so as you are supposed too. The badge is not a license to kill.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 4, 2016

What I Did Wrong On My First Book

Era Of The Scourge: Reclamation is my first real book. After about a year of publishing shorts, I decided to take the plunge and write an actual novel.

The concept was simple; a guy takes his wife back from the bad guy, just like the games I played back in the day (mistake one). The arches were a little more complex; an alternate history of our world, under siege by tyrannical demigods, betrayal by people we hold most dear, redemption from things we've done, and overt proof the gods haven't forsaken us. It's very much a dark fantasy, with violence, magic, creatures, the whole nine yards. The book was, by no means, easy to write, but I did finish and publish it. Amazingly, it generates steady income despite having no reviews.

However, while I did accomplish the basics in getting this project done, there were a whole lot of things I missed the mark on. It cost me both exposure and revenue, meaning I spend a lot of days playing catch up instead of focusing on the next book. So here, in my opinion, is where I went wrong with my first book.

1). Poor Marketing

I'm most successful on Facebook and Twitter. I should have spent much more time on both networks building hype. This is where I let fear and indecision get the better of me. Reclamation was originally supposed to be a flash series, and when I transitioned it into a novel, I eased back on blogging. The info I was putting out there was drawing interest, and I didn't follow up or stay with it. As such my day one sales were abysmal and I've struggled to keep the story in front of people since. Going into my next two books, I'm far more active on social media with what I'm doing.

2). Poor Market Research

Finding your target audience is one of the most difficult tasks you ever undertake as an indie author, at least in the beginning. Not only could I not compare my title to others on the market, I didn't think it was necessary to do so (BIG MISTAKE!). People would ask me what my book is about, and my best answer was "Castlevania meets Final Fight with more story". Now, if you're an old-school gamer, you may get that reference. If you're a reader, you may have no idea what I'm talking about.
You can't just write a story, fling it to the interwebs, and expect it to be successful just because it exists. My inspirations may come from video games but had I done more research, I would've discovered the other authors my work is similar too, used better keywords with Amazon at the beginning and had a bigger day one impact. Once again, I'm playing catch up.

3). No Humor

This may be my biggest mistake when it came to the actual content of the book. As an author, I specialize in action and dialog. I’m working on description and how to disperse info, but I did not provide any real comic relief throughout the story. Those who have read the book have praised it’s tension, pace, and action, but there isn’t much in the way of comic relief throughout the story. I pretty much yank you into this world and don’t let go until the end. So the next stories I do will have characters or arcs specifically designed for tension relief.

So these are my three big mistakes that I made with my first book. I’m grateful for the errors because it gave me something to learn and apply for my next stories.

Have you read Reclamation? What did you think? What mistakes have you made along your authorial journey? Leave a comment and I’ll repay the favor.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Stop Making TransFormers Movies.

Optimus Prime wants you to stop funding crap movies.

As a child of the eighties, the TransFormers have always held a special place in my heart. I still enjoy arguing over who was a better leader, Optimus or Rodimus (the latter. Keep it real, people. Who defeated Unicorn, the Decepticons, and reclaimed Cybertron? Optimus came back and the Autobots were on the run within a week).

But in the name of all that is good, please, stop making these damn movies. Seriously, they have become an embarrassment to the fans, the franchise, and creativity itself.

The first film was awesome and modern. I don't care if Hugo Weaving had no attachment to the role, his Megatron was the best version to hit the screen since the cartoon. The action was so visceral we could overlook the mediocre story.

The second film wasn't quite as awesome, and the story wasn't that good, but we got Combinerbot Optimus Prime and Devestator's scrotum. Everything else can be forgiven.

The third film was a beautiful mess that clumsily attempted to merge fantasy and reality, though the battle of Chicago and the subsequent Decepticon oppression were harrowing. Plus, Leonard Nimoy.

Age of Extinction was so bad it was almost irredeemable. If the combined skills of Kelsey Grammar and Stanley Tucci aren't enough to elevate your narrative, there is something wrong with your production. When Mark Wahlberg pulled out the beer from the vehicle he crashed into in one of the most blatant product placements in cinematic history, I was done. Yes, we got Optimus riding Grimlock into battle. But It wasn't fun anymore, the nostalgia factor had worn off. It was time to let go.

So as we follow the development of "The Last Knight", we have to ask, is there anywhere left for this franchise to go?

We know what's going to happen. The action will be over the top and at this point, predictable. The plot and dialog will be ancillary . There may be so much product placement the film could double as a marathon of commercials?

It will gross far too much money and we'll continue the sequel wheel of doom.

TransFormers has become a train wreck that refuses to come to a stop, and maybe therein lies it's appeal. Me, I am turning away from the eternal funeral pyre and moving on with my life. Maybe I'll give that new machinima series a shot.

Thanks for reading.