Some writers call it their muse. Some may just call it their inspiration. I'm certain there are many ways to desribe what it is inside us that prompts authors to write. I'm also certain that it is entirely different for each of us. So, I can't speak for other authors, but I can tell you what it is for me.
Being a devout Christian, as far as I'm concerned, what it is inside me that enables me to write a story is nothing less than a gift from my Creator. It is the spark he puts in me that provides me the flashes of inspiration that find their way out of my mind and onto my computer screen. Whether the story I'm writing is something dark, or something filled with joy, I still believe that it is God who gave me the ability to put it down into a story of fiction.
As I considered this self analysis, I came to the conclusion, at least for myself, that I am like my Father in Heaven. That is, I want to create worlds. I find great satisfaction in developing a complete world filled with lore and history, people and cultures, and all the trappings that make a world believable and alive. I want to be just like my Father, in that respect. Of course, my worlds are only worlds of imagination. Even so, I find great enjoyment in the process, and then creating stories within it.
This is the approach I used for my Rangers of Laerean series. First, I created the world, then a few characters, and then began telling their stories. Even though these first parts were tedious and took time, I still enjoyed every moment, and the process is far from complete. I'm still creating more and more in the world of Hir. I may never reach a conclusion. Unlike my Father, who finished his work of creation, and it was good.
The role of dragons in fantasy is as varied as the descriptions of dragon themselves. There are deadly dragons, evil dragons, friendly dragons, and heroic dragons. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and feature various abilities. But perhaps the most fearsome and touted ability of all is ... Dragon Breath.
Even the breath of a dragon can be described in many ways and with many varied results. I've read many stories in my lifetime involving dragons, and I've seen dragons that breathe fire, dragons that breathe smoke, dragons that breathe poison, and even dragons that breathe healing. The possibilities, as with anything in the fantasy genre, are endless.
When creating a dragon for my own stories, the first thing I always considered was, "What does this dragon breathe?" In my Rangers of Laerean series, the answer was fire. But not just any fire. For this story, it had to be a fire that rivaled the very depths of Hell itself. In fact, when the dragon appears, near the end of the first book in the series, A Whisper in the Shadows, he is composed of shadow and flames, having no physical substance. The dragon named Doomrage is the very essence of fire. When he reappears in the next book of the series, Where Shadows Fall, we see just how devastating the breath of Doomrage truly is.
Another series I've written, Dragonblood Throne, also has a dragon. This time, the dragon is the hero of the tale. In fact, the dragon is not a dragon at all, in the beginning. Delina must learn to become a dragon, which is her birthright. When she does, she is a very different kind of dragon from those in many other stories. Her breath is a white fire, but her breath is not the focus of her abilities.
A dragon's breath is just as varied as the dragons themselves, and I'm many of you have read stories of other types of dragons and dragon breath. If so, I invite you to comment to this blog post, and tell me about what you have read or seen, or even what you have created. I'm sure we'll all see there is no end to the possibilities for Dragon Breath in the fantasy genre.
While I've only been an author for a short few years, I've met many, many amazing authors and friends from all over the world. Literally hundreds of people I would never have known, if not for the Indie Author Community I discovered on social media. This is one massive support system.
As a new author, starting out, you may find yourself feeling daunted and alone, as I did initially. I had family and friends at home encouraging me, but I had no idea what was in store for me out there. What I found was the biggest support system an author can possibly have through social media. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, just to name a few, all bring the Indie Authors together in way no publisher could ever do.
The biggest majority of the people I've met are friendly, helpful and understanding of what it means to be an Indie Author, sharing their experiences and knowledge with others freely. This has helped me, and in turn I have felt the need and desire to help in return. I've found that helping other authors makes me a better author. It's a win-win situation.
If you're new to this author gig, I highly recommend you get on the social media and start joining other authors. As a community, we are able to help each other improve our writing, and encourage each other onward. We can help market each other as well, because we are not competitors, but partners.
With that, I feel I must at least mention two that have been a fantastic and impressive help to me; Aaron-Michael Hall and Patrick Hodges. Both are outstanding authors with wonderful books, and have helped me improve in many ways. There are tons more, but I can't list them all in this article.
So, get out there. Surround yourself with authors and become a better one yourself. Get help by helping. After all, what goes around, comes around.
Don't share. Copy and paste this. How many times a day do we see this on Facebook? Far too many, and I just can't help asking (to no one in particular, just asking a question aloud to myself), why? What's wrong with sharing? I mean, why do I have to copy and paste? What's the deal here?
So, this post today is a question to all who post this stuff on Facebook. I would really like to understand why we have to copy and paste, instead of share. It doesn't even make sense. If I'm going to repeat what someone else has said, I want to be absolutely sure that everyone knows that the words are not mine. You know, just in case of repercussions.
Another thing that gets me, are posts that indicate a Like is not a sufficient response. Such as, type something if you agree, or say something to show your on board. I'm sorry, but the whole point of the Like button is to indicate that we enjoy, or agree, or found favor with a post. Isn't it? So, as far as I can see, a Like is sufficient.
Now, please don't take any of the above as whining and complaining, which it is, but not seriously. I mean all of this in a humorous way, and just want to say that if you get a Like or a Share from me, then I definitely enjoyed reading what you've posted, and there's no need for me to jump through any more hoops to get that point across.
Happy posting! :)
What gives an author pleasure? That is a question I've asked myself, time and again, but I always get the same answer. Recognition of my creations, knowledge that someone, somewhere, enjoyed and appreciated what I have written. For this reason, I feel it is imperative that readers let authors know what they thought of their book.
Such recognition can come in a variety of ways. Which is what I would like to present in this article. How a reader can encourage an author they like.
1. Perhaps the best way to show an author you liked what they wrote is the Review. A review not only tells the author you like his book, it also tells other readers, and there is no better advertising for an author than word-of-mouth. If you really like a book, consider giving a review. The author will absolutely appreciate it.
2. Another way to show an author their work is appreciated is by joining their Mailing List. This tells an author you are interested in their work, and also allows you to keep up-to-date on what the author is doing.
3. Does the author have social media links you can follow? Liking their Facebook page, re-tweeting their Tweets on Twitter, or Following them on many other types of social media is always good. It also helps the author gain other followers, who see the number of Likes or Follows and may decide to check out the author's works.
Those are the most obvious ways, and there are certainly many more. The thing is, if you really like what an author is writing, it is vital that you show them. If readers just read and move on, the author never knows if their work is being read and appreciated. Yes, sales are good, but if the author is writing good material, shouldn't a reader let them know?
Speaking for myself, I would love to have lots of sales and make lost of money, but what I appreciate even more is a comment, a review, or some feedback that lets me know what a reader thought about my book. If you're a reader, and you like an author and their books, why not let them know. It's not time consuming or difficult. I know I would appreciate hearing from my readers.
So, last week I let everyone know that being self-published is not free. While there are costs involved, and it can get quite expensive, this week I wanted to share a bit about the rewards. I know many may not want to hear this, but ... money isn't everything, nor is it a measure for success.
When I was ready to publish my first novel, I did some research. I looked into what it would take to get published in the tranditional way, even though I was fully aware of self-publishing and already aware of the vanity press trap that many fall into. In seeking the traditional publishing route, I realized I would have to send out dozens, scores, or even more copies of my manuscript to agents, but each such submission required specific formatting and an eye-catching cover letter, just to get the interest of the agent in question.
Now, that may not sound so bad, but when I learned that literally tens of thousands of authors would be sending to the exact same agent, I began to realize that a publishing agent would likely never even glance at my manuscript, much less read it, unless I was standing out in some way from the thousands of others. That was a very daunting thing to consider.
I wanted my book out there, for people to enjoy reading it. I'd spent many, many hours writing and perfecting it. The thing is, I totally enjoyed writing it, and I wanted others to share in that joy. I knew not everyone would like it, but I knew some would. I didn't want to have to claw, scrape and battle my way through a narrow gateway (the agent) just to get my story seen and shared.
So, I decided to take the self-publishing route, and publish the book myself. I knew I could do it, and I learned quickly about the costs involved, and to avoid things like vanity publishers who take your money and do nothing for it. Instead, I chose to take full control of my work myself, becoming and Indie Author, and an Indie Publisher of my own books.
I have never, not even slightly, regretted that decision. I enjoy writing, I enjoy formatting, and I enjoy promoting my own books. I found a great cover designer and editor, and did my own formatting. So my costs were not totally outrageous. Still, I don't make more money from book sales than I spend producing. So why do it?
I can answer that with one simple phrase: Because I LOVE it! It's really that simple for me. I enjoy all aspects of being an Indie Author and Publisher, and I love to discover people who read what I write and tell me they enjoyed it as well. I guess I just love sharing, and that is why I became and Indie Author. Simply to share what I find pleasure in. A decision I will never regret.
When I started down this road of writer, it was with a blind-fold that I began my journey. I'd written stories in the past, even writing three issues of a comic book back in the late 1980s, but this time, it all felt different. I'd just finished a short story, and was told by my friends and family that it was good, so I thought, why not write a full novel? Thus it began.
My initial research into what it takes to get published was very disheartening, to say the least. I learned I had to send out manuscripts to dozens and dozens of agents, making sure to have enticing cover letters and obeying all the rules that each agent required, and then sit back and hope that out of all that, at least one might be interested enough to respond. It sounded like a lot of headache and disappointment, and it is, but that's how publishing works, or so they said.
Having been a software developer and long time Internet programmer, I know there were self-publishing options, and researched those as well. I wanted to write because I found I loved doing it. I had no expectations of becoming famous or even well-known. I just wanted to tell stories. So, I took the path of an independent, self-published author. I became an Indie.
Over the past few years, I learned many things. I learned to avoid the vanity press publishers. I learned that self-publishing had become a very easy thing to do, with Amazon KDP, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and many others out there. Yet, even with those services being free, I learned that producing a book, even on your own, is not free.
The costs involved are many and varied, but some are absolutely essential if you want to produce a real, high quality book. Here are the things that I found are necessary, and today I use every single one of these services, for every book I produce on my own.
1) Professional Editing - This is an absolute must, even if you are an editor yourself. It's imperative that qualified eyes, other than your own, read and critique your manuscript.
2) Cover Design - Another service that's truly essential. Despite how well I can make my own covers, a good, talented designer will make all the difference in the world by making your books appealing. People may not judge a book by its cover, but it's the cover that draws them in. A good cover is a must!
3) Formatting - Your manuscript must be properly formatted for the different venues you may publish through. Every one of my books has 3 different versions. One for Amazon (formatted for optimal Kindle display), one for Smashwords (for optimal ePub and PDF display), and finally one for CreateSpace (for optimal print display as a paperback). Each of these requires differences in formatting to make it look just right. It's not a one-size-fits-all world when it comes to book formatting.
4) Promotion - Perhaps the most vital aspect, if you want to actually make sales with your book, is promotion. While you can promote through social media at no real cost, it requires you build up a huge network. Ultimately, you're going to need to spend money on advertising. Some may need to actually hire someone to do the promotion, such as a VA (virtual assistant) or PA (promotion assistant). All of this will cost.
On average, for me, I spend anywhere from $400 on up on publishing a single book (I know many other authors that spend a lot more). That includes costs for editing, cover design, and promotion. I've learned to do the formatting myself, bit no one is going to be able to do it all. So if you plan to enter this realm of Indie Authors, be prepared. Self-published doesn't mean free.
What makes a hero a hero? There are likely many answers that would be given for such a question. Some might call it just being in the right place at the right time. Others may say it is an ordinary person doing extraordinary things to help someone in peril. The descriptions can be as endless as the people who give them. However, I have my own description and that is what this post is about.
Early in my life, I discovered books, and I found something in the stories I read that encouraged me and made me feel that anything was possible. What I came to realize is that I loved heroic tales. Tales where good won the day over evil, where light conquered darkness and the hero (or heroes) saved the day. I have found such tales are what I want to write, and thus I created a series about heroes.
My definition of a hero is not based on the background of a character. For me, a hero does not have to have humble beginnings, though that is often the case. A hero is not defined by their past, but by their attitude and character. In my stories, a hero has compassion, a hero has dedication, a hero has the courage to do what others would not, in order to save and protect.
This is the basis of the Rangers of Laerean, an entire army of heroes, dedicated and self-sacrificing, committed to the cause of protecting those who cannot protect themselves. To saving those who are who cannot fight the terrors and oppression that come against them. This is the purpose of the Rangers, it is why they were founded.
They are not perfect, they have flaws, but they are sworn to protect and to serve the people. They are dedicated to the principle that others are more important than themselves. For my own definition, this is what makes a hero. This is what the Rangers of Laerean is all about. This is how I want to live my own life, and I will reflect this in my stories. If my books are about anything, this is it. They are about ... HEROES!
One of the things that impressed me most from reading fantasy fiction was how the authors created entire worlds that provided a rich history full of legends and tales as a backdrop to their stories. When telling a tale filled with fanciful creations and situations, having a background is absolutely essential. For me, it is a natural requirement for the characters in the stories to come alive, and for the entire story to have that believable quality that draws the reader into the world as if they were one of the character's companions.
For the Rangers of Laerean series, I started out with map making software to create a continent for my new world. As I was doing this, I considered the entirety of the planet as a whole, though that would not really be something seen within the stories themselves. For instance, I considered the planet to be much like earth in size and proximity to the sun and moon, and in the tilt of it's axis. This allowed me to create a simple calendar for tracking time in the stories. I decided to simplify the calendar, so there are no leap years or odd days in each month, etc. A simple 30 days per month, and 12 months per year.
I did add one little quirk. The tilt of the axis and orbit around the sun would create an anomaly every 69 years, in which the northern hemisphere of the planet would undergo a colder than normal winter, called a Dread Winter. This is actually essential to future books about the world. The Dread Winter will play an important role in future stories and in the development of the history. That is for a future tale, however, so I am not going to elaborate on that just yet.
I named the continent Hir and began to place symbols on the map to indicate landscape features. The continent itself is quite large, so the northern areas would be a cooler climate than the southern areas. I then placed Major and Minor cities, as it would be beneficial for readers to see these locations on a map, rather than try to visualize it all from the stories themselves. I did not specify exact locations for villages, towns and homesteads or other similar communities. Nor did I indicate exact road positions on the map. I did not feel these were necessary, at least not at the beginning.
Finally, I began adding details using the Ranger Archives, to provide more background information about history, races, economies, politics and such. The whole process has left me with a backdrop of rich lore and history to draw upon and to provide life in the stories I have begun to write. As time progresses, I can easily add more if needed, including new continents if desired. This is the process I used to create the Lands of Hir for the Rangers of Laerean series.