2019 Year in Review

At the beginning of 2019, I set forth all the goals I had for this year, so now it’s time to reflect and see if I did everything I wanted to. If you’re following any of the posts I’ve made over the year, this might look familiar. If you’ve missed some of these announcements, this post is a handy recap of the content I released in 2019. So, without further ado, here’s the . . . 2019 YEAR IN REVIEW Cinema Connections Having re-released my first trilogy in 2017 and my memoir in 2018, I kept the streak alive this year by publishing my fifth book, Cinema Connections: a never-ending “6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon” at the end of September. Here’s an unboxing video for the paperback and hardcover versions: A passion project of mine that’s lasted almost seven whole years, Cinema Connections is the collection of the 400 posts I wrote for my blog of the same name that finished at the end of August this year....
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You may already be a writer

About three years ago, I decided that I wanted to take my writing seriously. In 2016, I had a bit of a gap in my self-publishing schedule, having published the Fluxion Trilogy omnibus two years prior. I learned a lot in publishing my first three novels, so this was part of the reason I was taking some time to ensure the future products I published would be of the necessary quality. I was still writing drafts of the books I wanted to write; I just realized it would take longer to get them into polished shape for publication. Since I still wanted to publish the stories I had backlogged, I needed to figure out a schedule where I would release one book a year for the foreseeable future—much like I had done with my first trilogy. This was my definition of taking my writing seriously. Expanding my bibliography of published works every year seemed like an achievable goal, so I started in 2017...
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My Love/Hate Relationship with Amazon

As a self-published author, one of the most frequent questions I get is, "Are your books on Amazon?" While some other questions like, "Is it an audiobook?" or, "Can I buy it at my local Barnes and Noble?" are increasing in frequency, the basic fact of the matter is that Amazon rules the online retail platform. Look, I get that people want to get free shipping on a copy of my book and I can't offer that via any other sales avenue. I understand there's an amount of trust that goes into buying books on Amazon. After all, that's how they got their start: selling books. Unfortunately, because Amazon is the ubiquitous place to buy practically everything, some people won't bother to head to other retailers or online sites to buy a book by a self-published author. For those independent authors who only want to do print-on-demand (POD) paperbacks and/or Kindle eBooks, this is great! I'll admit that I can purchase relatively...
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“Stranger Things 3” and Chekhov’s Gun

Television shows have come a long way since the late-1940s. Sitcoms and serials didn’t necessarily have the amount of world-building that we see today. Each week, the audience would get a single story that would resolve itself by the end of the episode. On rare occasions, there would be a two-part episode covering a larger plot, but it would always return to the status quo. In the early-2000s, TV shows started to become more movie-like. Shows like Alias and LOST would use the full run-time of each episode to advance the larger narrative of the story while also exploring smaller arcs to develop the characters. The trick with viewing a show released an episode at a time over a couple of months is that much of the details had to be memorized so the thread connecting them together would be understandable. This is why you’d usually see a “previously on [BLANK]” section at the start of these episodes to remind you...
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What video games can teach us about writing (3/3)

Over the last two months, I've written posts about how Breath of the Wild is an excellent example of how to do settings and how Shovel Knight reveals the depths of its characters through gameplay. While I'm sure the Breath of the Wild sequel will continue to advance its worldbuilding technique, and the final Shovel Knight DLC will give more insight into one of its boss characters, I'd like to spend this month discussing how Hollow Knight can provide writers with some clues on how to write effective foreshadowing, integrate ambiance into their settings, and provide steady and discernible character growth in their protagonists. Before we get into it, though, I feel a short explanation of the "Metroidvania" genre is in order. Hollow Knight is a platformer that abides by some of the basic tenets of games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (hence the genre of "Metroidvania"). There are two main aspects to a good Metroidvania: exploration and upgrades....
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What video games can teach us about writing (2/3)

Last month, I discussed how The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild could teach writers about world-building, travel time, and how to show (and not tell). Even if open-world games like Breath of the Wild can give the player any experience they want, there are still some weaknesses of the genre. It’s difficult to provide direction for a plot that can be experienced at any time and in any order. Older video games didn’t particularly have this problem due to their fairly linear format. Of course, there also wasn’t much in terms of a story either. While nostalgia can color our experiences with games like Mega Man and Super Mario Bros., one can find their influence on modern gaming in gems like Shovel Knight. With modern development tools, game companies can preserve the nostalgia of these older games while also advancing the “retro” style in exciting ways. What’s perhaps surprising about Shovel Knight is its ability to tell a story...
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What video games can teach us about writing (1/3)

Art inspires art. Sometimes a beautiful painting can give you an idea for a short story. Perhaps a beloved song is a jumping-off point for a novella. Maybe a great movie can get your creative juices flowing for a book of your own. Art can come in many forms, but one form most people don’t readily recognize is that of video games. I’ve already written about how games like Not Tetris describe my idea-collecting process, but recently I’ve played a few games I would consider artistic enough to pull some lessons into my own writing. Art inspires art. But, are video games art? Video games have come a long way from the days of Pong and Pac-Man. While these games were kept simple due to technical limitations, today’s video games no longer have these restrictions. I think one of the reasons why video games aren’t considered art is that most art is one-directional. You go to a museum to view paintings. You listen to music on your...
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When is a manuscript “good enough”?

Just like I was surprised to realize I had been journaling for ten years (now up to 12 years), I’ll be participating in my 10th National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) this November. It’s weird to think that I’ve written nine books with this challenge over the years, even to the point where I’ve used the experience I’ve gained in doing so to publish other books outside my self-imposed NaNoWriMo publishing cycle (like the Cinema Connections book slated for release this September). Back when I wrote First Name Basis, I was so excited CreateSpace offered me five free proof copies of my book just for finishing the NaNoWriMo challenge. I really wanted that physical copy of the book I had just spent six weeks writing, but I also knew it needed some polishing so I’d be proud of what I had created. I asked some friends to help beta read, and I took their notes and performed a number of edits before finally clicking that “submit”...
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How much should you write?

Writing is my hobby. It is not my full-time job. It is not paying to support my family. Sure, it can make some money on the side, but I generally write to be creative. I have stories and ideas that I want to get onto the page and out to the world. I started writing for fun in college, creating a series of intertwined short stories I wanted to collect into a novel-length book. Nothing ever truly came of these short stories, other than to convince me that they were possible. Then I wrote my first novel. I found it ironic that I didn’t pursue a thesis-based Master’s Degree, but ended up doing nine months of research to write a thesis-length book in roughly six weeks. This was the largest thing I had ever written. Unlike my previous short stories, though, a coupon to get five free proof copies of this book was the impetus I needed to edit and polish...
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