Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Authors are Fans of Their Fans Too

In my youth, I was always eager to join my parents for a trip to the local mall. Of course, the moment we stepped into the building, I would take off on my own with my first destination usually being Waldenbooks or B. Dalton Booksellers. With a mixture of anticipation and dread, I would run to the fantasy shelves to see if the latest book by David Eddings or Raymond E. Feist was waiting for me. When those hopes were dashed, I would peruse the shelves for the next hour, hoping to discover another author who might transport my imagination to a thrilling new world filled with magic and wonder.
Predating the Internet or email, discovering new books and new authors was far more difficult than it is today. Even worse, it was nearly impossible for this kid living in the sticks of northern Minnesota to have any sort of connection with the authors whose works I cherished dearly. Questions unanswered bounced within my head: What are they working on? When will it come out? What happens next in the series? How many times do I need to reread my favorite books until the next chapter appears on the shelves?
Thanks to technology, access to information and ease of communication has grown exponentially. Booklovers can now interact with their favorite authors in ways that were impossible twenty years ago. As a counterpoint, authors can establish a more open connection with readers, sharing their work and progress in a proactive way. One important tool that satisfies both sides is the Author Newsletter.
Sometime next week, I plan to push out my first quarterly newsletter to readers who have registered through my author website. Recipients will get inside information on my next book and awareness of the activities I have planned for the rest of 2016. This tool not only provides them with some insight on the release date and plot, but also offers more transparency about the writing and publishing process.
Do you have favorite authors? Are you eagerly waiting for the next chapter in a series? If so, I encourage you to visit said author’s website and sign up for their newsletter/fan club. Not only do you get the inside scoop on what’s next, but your involvement provides the author with a tighter connection to readers, encouraging him or her to write more books and to remain engaged in a more personal manner.
If you’d like to receive my quarterly newsletter, visit my website at and sign up at the bottom of the page. Don’t forget to accept the confirmation email from MailChimp.
Get ready, because news is coming soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Don't Let the Darkness Win

The darkness is seductive, luring readers into a world of ruthless and selfish characters. This has been particularly true in epic fantasy novels, as the moral gap between protagonist and antagonist has narrowed dramatically over the past two decades.
Years ago, the dark lead character was far less common. There was a time where most fantasy novels featured a protagonist with a good heart, imperfect but well intentioned. Somehow, the cynical nature of the real world around us has prevailed, compelling readers toward the morally ambiguous lead who would just as soon slit your throat as shake your hand. As an example, this type of character dominates The First Law universe. The edginess of it all can become a rush for the reader, making him or her feel that it’s good to be bad.
As a reader, I found myself caught in this fishnet, drawn into a sequence of fantasy series featuring dubious characters driven by their own selfish personal agenda. Not every character was outright nasty, some landed in an ambiguous region where black and white blurred to gray. Even worse, some authors opted to include a few honest characters for me to love, only to kill them off and leave me destitute and in search of replacement within the story. Yes, Game of Thrones, I'm looking at you (A Song of Ice and Fire series).
After a few years of enduring tales featuring individuals who were as bad as they were good, I decided I could take it no longer. It’s one thing to read a novel or series and find a character who is good at heart, but goes through a troubled period. A good example is the Wheel of Time series. There were times when I really disliked Rand, feeling frustrated by his arrogance and self-pity. However, he eventually got past it and found balance to show that he remained the good person we remember from when the series began. I get it. Behavior changes and internal conflict are natural human responses to the events that impact our lives.
However, I would like to know when and why it became unpopular for the main character to be a good person. Books featuring a protagonist who tries to do right, using a moral compass to guide them, often find reviewers labeling the protagonist as shallow or one-dimensional.
What is wrong with the main character in a novel being likable? Shouldn’t readers gravitate toward a likable character? I'm not saying that darker tales featuring cold-blooded lead characters shouldn't exist, it just shouldn't be at the expense of stories intended to inspire.
It’s obvious that a morally conscientious protagonist provides a good role model for young readers. However, I believe that even adult readers need a reminder that compassion and integrity are traits that define humanity and without them, we will at some point cease to be human. For the sake of making all worlds better, real and imaginary, I beg you not to allow the good guys fade from the pages that feed our imagination. Embrace the light, don’t let the darkness win.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Festive Experience

I spent the past weekend at the Bay Area Book Festival in Berkeley, California. Being my first foray into the convention scene as an author, it was quite a learning experience. 
Traveling from southern California, my son and I took an early morning flight, hauling heavy luggage stuffed with books, props, and supplies. After a 4:45 am rise, we arrived at the event at 9:45 am, just fifteen minutes before it opened. We quickly set the booth up and were ready for interested readers!
From 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday, I stood before my little tent and greeted attendees. I met some great readers and supportive fellow authors, handed out over a hundred bookmarks, and sold twenty-one signed copies of my book. While I had hoped to sell more copies, my results appear to be a bit better than average and were far better than many other exhibitors. 
In addition to the direct sales, I also was able to create awareness about my book and the upcoming sequels, doing so in a region outside of my local territory. Hopefully, the readers who purchased The Buried Symbol, at the event and afterward, love the book and tell their friends. Word-of-mouth remains the main driving factor for book discovery and purchase. You have to start that snowball somewhere, hoping it grows quickly and continues to roll forward.
Similar to any first-time experience, I learned a lot by attending the book fest. That knowledge will help me be more prepared for future author events. I'm sincerely looking forward to that first public event that includes fans seeking me out because they love my novels and wish to meet the author. That's the real reward for all the hard work that goes into being an author (although making money helps too). I love my readers!
Pictures of the event are included below for your entertainment. Yes, many people spun the wheel to determine their vocation. I found that many people approached me, just to ask what the wheel was and what the runes meant. That allowed me to tell them a bit about the book and spurred some added sales.
Post a message if you have any questions or comments about the event!