What a day!

20131015-194341.jpg

THE HARDCOVER COPIES OF “SOUTH POLE VENDETTA” CAME TODAY!

The first thought I had was that it seems so much more “real” now.

After everything that has happened with the book it doesn’t seem like this event should have been the pinnacle, the climax of the publishing phase of the work, but I really felt as though the final hurdle had been cleared when I opened the box of hardcovers. Maybe the word “final” isn’t the right one, because now marketing becomes the core of my life, but – seeing the hardcover – it seemed as though all of the pieces were in place to see the book move forward. There was just something different about these books and all the rest.

For that reason I began asking the question, “What was so special about getting the hardcovers as compared to all the copies received before this?”

I don’t know that I have a good answer to that question, but I do have some ideas; and some further related questions. 1. Even with the artistic abilities I have, the professionally-finished book has a certain feel that I didn’t get with the books I had done. Is it because of a certain level of familiarity, or something more? 2. There is something special about a hardback compared to a paperback version. Does that carry over to being able to sell hardbacks to potential customers? 3. I have waited on a large portion of the early sales techniques and ideas until I could share this special part of the process with those who have been so supportive. Have I given those copies too much power and potential, or am I trying to stay connected to those who have been so much help – whether it helps with selling books or not? I think, and hope, it’s the second.

Much of the reason for this blog is to share the things I have learned, and am learning, through the process of being published – so I’m not sure that I have any great insight into these things. But I do hope that it can help someone else through the process.

I don’t know if you are considering some of these things, have considered them at some point in the past, or are just getting ready for your debut in publishing; but I would be interested in hearing what you think of these questions and thoughts. If you have any insight or questions, please feel free to respond – and I will try to share those in future blogs.

Oh yeah – if you’re interested in a pre-release copy of the paperback or the hardback please let me know. The cost is $20 for paper, and $30 for hardback. You can reach me at chuckmyers2@me.com — so much for having marketing figured out!

Advertisements

Reality TV, Shallow Characters, and Book Reviewers

I HATE REALITY TELEVISION!

In my humble opinion reality TV will be the death of television. Obviously, not many people agree with me – as far as I can tell – but I still feel that way. Every week some new reality show is being proclaimed the next big thing on some station or another.

Is there really a need for another dancing show, another “family feud” show of some sort or another, or another “improvement” show about some off-the-wall subject or “fix it up” type thing? And do those same things really have to invade our books as well?

So, here’s my question: Are reality shows, in-depth characters, and complex characters more for the reader or the professional critic?

Before you completely disregard the idea, see if this makes more sense than you think.

I used to like home improvement shows. Watching a team go in and fix up an old house for a client was kind of fun. Not my favorite way to spend an evening, but interesting when I took the time to watch. Even watching a group change the life of some needy family was alright. But then came the company that couldn’t seem to live together as they flipped a house for resale, the team that fought for three fourths of the show before pulling off the impossible just before the hour ended. Shows that could have lasted for half an hour were stretched to a full hour as we watched employees fight with their bosses, friends come nearly to blows as they tried to accomplish some task, and companies who seemed to be totally dysfunctional until ten minutes before the end of the hour when they would suddenly get their act together just enough to finish the task for that week.

“Face Off”, “Hot Set”, “Flipping…Wherever”, and any of the car makeover shows would be pretty good – if they were only half an hour long and just did what their name implies. But instead we have to put up with half the show being all about who’s mad at who, which person involved is going to turn on what other person, and who’s going to be kicked off because they don’t “play nice”, or can’t work under pressure, or get too distracted to do their job because of some big emotional trauma. At that point I find myself throwing up my hands in despair and exclaiming, “It isn’t worth wading through the garbage to get to the good stuff.”

Now that “reality mindset” is invading other parts of television as well. With the “success” of “Lost” everybody seems to think that we have the template for designing a great show. The result is, we don’t seem to be able to watch a weekly serial that doesn’t possess a large quantity of “reality” elements – for those of us that don’t like those elements — tough, get used to the new reality (pun intended).

I realize that there may not be another person in the world that feels that it’s all a big, crazy “emotional roller-coaster”, but I have to believe that there are others out there that are wanting an escape from reality rather than more of the same when they watch a show, or read a book. Are you looking for an exciting, action-filled conflict between good and evil, a larger than life hero who is able to show us how things can be rather than how they are? If so, it’s you and me against the world, baby!

It may be shallow, it may be cliche, and it may be unacceptable in today’s market; but it’s a lot more fun. I grew up reading westerns that always had the same type of cowboy who could be counted on to do what was right, even if we didn’t know much of anything more about them. Is there really only a market for pieces that make you think real hard or concentrate intently to finish it? Is there a place for shallow?

And that brings us to “shallow” characters.

What defines a shallow character in a work of fiction? Is it a character that we cannot get “inside the head of”, or is it something else? There is no doubt that a well-defined fictitious character should be one that we can feel for, interact with, and root for as they attempt to overcome a larger than life obstacle. But do they have to be so “flawed”?

It seems like the characters that are “superior” and “well-rounded” are often the same type of characters that I really don’t want to spend a lot of time with. While a great villain is one that we can connect with in some way, do we really want a bad guy that’s like us? Is there something more “real” about a hero who struggles with character flaws rather than having a strong moral compass? Is a protagonist “deeper” if they see things in shades of gray rather than seeing them in black and white?

I have what I believe is a legitimate question for you; do we really need characters that are so “real” that they become people we wouldn’t want our sons and daughters to date? Is there a place for a simpler, purer, less “layered” hero or Main Character?

So, now that I’ve stated my case – and possibly turned off every published author who may choose to read this piece – let’s move to the main point. Actually, it’s just the third point (in true alliteration style), but maybe there’s some way in which we can make it the main point.

I have no idea what it’s like to make a living as a critic. To constantly search for the best of the best, to compare everything read or seen, must be a difficult way to live. I can’t imagine what it’s like to compare every book, every piece of music, or every bit of food, to some standard; but I can ask what the standard is.

I just watched a few of the early episodes of the serial “Survivors”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a small group of people who survive a world-wide pandemic. They are forced together as complete strangers, and must attempt to survive and start a new life and world. When I got done watching, my wife – who had just been listening as she worked on the computer asked a simple question, “Is there anything happy on the show?”

My answer, “They just had a birthday party, isn’t that happy?”

I was enjoying the fact that they were trying to learn to live in a way, in a world, totally impossible to understand. She was very concerned that a large part of the show focused on the unpleasant part of that quest for survival.

Now, the fact of whether you feel like I do or like my wife, it does bring up an interesting point: Is one right and one wrong? Is one better than the other?
If I were a critic watching the same show, wouldn’t I naturally tend toward one viewpoint or the other? Is it possible to completely set aside the way we would naturally respond, in order to address a conflicting way to respond?

So, here’s my real question: Have we, in an attempt to find the next block-buster, best-selling book, tried to establish criteria that only truly fits under the category of what we like?

Yeah, I know, that’s an oversimplification; but there’s usually some truth in the simple. It seems that if we have to come up with some elaborate story to explain something, it might have some problems.

So, what is it? Is there some particular criteria that determines a best-seller? Are there certain things that can be written into a story that will assure it’s success? Or is it much more subjective than that?

What’s your feeling on the matter?

20130428-001614.jpg

A Word about writing, or how to get your book published!

A word about learning to write or; getting your book published!

Ready?

Are you sure you’re ready?

WORK!

I told you it was a

word

about the subject!

So that’s not exactly what you were wanting to read?

I think every author has asked the question, “How do I get my amazing work, which I am sure I was destined to write, into the hands of those who were destined to read it, in today’s market?”

I’m nowhere near the top of the list of people you might want to ask about that, but I know this — it seems to be about a willingness to work at it. Work at being the best writer you can be, work at figuring out how you are going to approach the idea of traditional versus self-publishing, and prepare to work like crazy at marketing that amazing work – because that seems to be what today’s market is all about.

Let’s take a moment to look at each of these three areas individually:

What is the secret to being the best writer you can be in your genre? Work!

What is the “insider’s” view of traditional versus self-publishing? Yeah, it appears that it’s going to be all about — work, regardless of which direction you go. The idea of some publisher falling in love with your book and making you an over-night best-seller is long gone (if it was ever true to begin with).

What about marketing? No doubt about that one for me, it’s going to be a lot of — um, work.

Alright, so you could ask, “Who are you to know what’s best? You’re a newbie talking about something you don’t even know yet.” You’d be right. I decided to try to journal about the process, rather than wait until I was a success – if that ever happens.

There’s no doubt that I have a lot to learn about publishing a book in today’s amazing, you could call it frustrating, constantly changing market. Getting the words down on paper, or preserved on a hard-drive in our technology-driven society, is the easy part – I’m becoming convinced of that.

So, what’s my advice to someone trying to get a manuscript published? Prepare to do the work, take the time to allow your story to reach those that it needs to; editors, critiques, agents, and anything else that will move the process along. Then take some time to pray about it, God’s point of view on the subject is vital. Once you’ve done that, prepare to get back to work promoting, learning, interacting, critiquing, submitting, blogging, posting, and anything else that will move the process forward. After completing those steps, start all over and do it again.

Is it guaranteed to work? That’s a complex question. It will definitely accomplish a number of things, but whether or not it will get your manuscript published is beyond my knowledge. But I think it’s the best way to know you’re headed in the right direction.

Oh, one last thing. Be prepared for an amazing roller-coaster of an emotional ride. From high to low and back again. Sounds like the opening for a story like the “Hobbit” or something!

20130301-114240.jpg

Why “South Pole Vendetta”?

I would like to address the reason why I wrote “South Pole Vendetta”, and why I’m excited that it will be my first published book.

The quick, messy, answer is that I wanted a book that would have wide appeal in order to get my name out there. I simply hoped to write a good story that would bring in some revenue for Country Life Discipleship.

The more complex answer goes quite a bit deeper. There were three things that caught my attention in writing a book of this sort: 1. I love thinking about the newest, and even future, technology and weaponry of the US military, 2. I wanted to answer the apparent ease with which the liberal environmentalists have been able to “sell” the American people on the idea of global warming and a “hole” in the atmosphere, and 3. I wanted to address the Christian’s response to involvement in the ever increasing “unique” use of our military – in short, answer the question “What should a believer do in response to military service in ‘questionable’ circumstances.

While I look forward to selling books to as many people as possible, and hope that you will consider buying one, my target audience would be young people who are increasingly forced to address and consider these various issues. There are other issues considered in this story, single male/female interactions, submission to authority, the continent of Antarctica, etc. but I pray that the reader would consider sharing this story with a young person struggling with the issues of “militant environmentalists” and the issue of involvement in the military.

20130112-123950.jpg

“South Pole Vendetta” intro

Act 1

Scene One

The SCAR “special forces issue” machine gun skipped in my hand as I brought the ghost ring down to center mast and fired a double-tap. I smiled just a bit as I watched the spot of crimson spread across the white background on the body fifty feet down range. I knew what my weapon could do, so I was sure the figure sliding down the hill with a strange tail of red would not be moving again once it came to rest. Maybe a smile wasn’t appropriate, but I didn’t care, that alien-looking figure had just shot Tango, my partner.
“Take that you. . . .” I muttered to myself as I turned to glance around the corner for more targets after looking back over my shoulder at Tango. He hadn’t moved, and it appeared quite certain he would never move again.
Off to the left there was a splatter of gun-fire. I suddenly realized that it was directed at me because the tin shed next to me began playing a symphony of rat-a-tat-tat sounds near my head. Yeah, they were definitely shooting at me. As I spun to meet this new threat a shiver traveled up my spine. This other-worldly being had a very earthly-looking rifle pointed right at me. I watched the strange little blossom of flame from his gun as I pulled the trigger on my own. Another crimson flower appeared just beneath where his chin should have been.
Seconds later I lay in the cold snow feeling the throbbing pressure of the blood flowing out through the hole left in my side by the scorching bullet. Pain seared through torn muscles causing them to spasm. I winced as I turned back toward my attacker, the force of the shot had turned me half way around.
The alien had a mask covering any features but I wondered if he had a smile on his face like I had experienced moments before when I killed his partner. I wished desperately to tear the mask from his face and expose the animal that had done this. I wanted nothing more than to crawl to his side and bash his head to make sure he was dead, but I simply didn’t seem to have any strength left. Suddenly I was very tired, wanting nothing more than to sit for just a moment.
As I lay there I thought back to that morning in Captain Meeker’s office. I tried to concentrate on what I should do but my reflections wandered back to that fateful day.

“Why should I babysit a group of overpaid, underachieving tree-huggers and lab rats?” I wasn’t happy with the new assignment the captain had given me.
“I need to have someone with them, and I can’t go,” his eyes narrowed, letting me know that he wasn’t happy .

Hours later my boots descended the icy rungs of a rusty ladder thirty feet into a cocoon of snow and ice. The Old South Pole Station lay buried after twenty years of frantic activity monitoring the Ground Approach Tower for the LC-130 Hercules aircraft that supplied the groups and stations on Antarctica during the 1950s.
For twenty years the station hummed with the noise of activity as scientists studied the different secrets held by the coldest place on earth while soldiers like me watched their butts to keep them from dying. Then the ‘powers that be’ determined that there was no need for a military presence at the South Pole – and the US Navy abandoned the base. The structure fell lifeless and dark, and the constant blowing snow covered the unattended structure. Fifty years later only a few of the taller antennae were still visible.

The microscopic mites inhabiting the station had no interest in the piercing glow from our flashlights and cap lamps. Their light cast the shadows of dancing phantoms as we made our way down the vacant corridors.
Could even ghosts survive this bone-chilling cold?

Our New South Pole Station team was in the structure to clean out food left in the kitchen, parts left in the shops, and fuel left in bladders placed in various locations around the station. With the movement taking place as the ice worked its way across the buried continent deep below there was a fear that the ice’s dynamic force would destroy the station. No one knew, for sure, what would happen if the different types of garbage and supplies were just left, and no one was willing to take the chance anymore.
Three different factions were responsible for policing the closed station, the environmentalists, the Palmer Station scientists, and me, Jimmy Owens – the military’s sole member – brought along to babysit! The others had specific responsibilities, but I felt useless in the bone-numbing cold. No sane enemy would be worried about this group – in this cold!
No one listened as I said, “I’m going to go look around.”
I wandered down a dark hallway without thinking of the dangers that tons of ice and snow created. The room at the end of the hall had to be a science lab, the sign “Environmental Studies” was a dead giveaway. Opening the door, I stepped inside. The floor was buckled and bowed, and ice consumed one corner split from the pressure. Suddenly, my eyes picked up the faint outline of another door set back in a far corner behind a jumble of overturned filing cabinets.
“I wonder what’s back there?” It’s amazing how much talking to one’s self a soldier does when escorting a dozen people who have more interest in lifeless objects than human beings.
My heavy winter boots squeaked like a very chilly mouse as I clamored toward the door.
“What the…” I muttered under my breath. The door was twisted and jammed making me even more interested in its contents.
I slammed my shoulder against the door until it splintered, spilling me into the room.
“That’s going to leave a mark!” I booted the board that had kept the door from opening and received another sharp pain in my knee.
“Dad blasted, stinking…” my ranting stopped abruptly.
I suddenly realized that I must be in the private office of the science team’s leader and commander because the ruined room held a large desk that would never have been allowed if not for a very important person. It lay tipped over, its drawer spilling its contents like a deck of hastily discarded playing cards onto the slanting floor. Several science books whose titles I couldn’t pronounce littered the dusty boards. There was also a small, locked box. Other than that, the desk was empty.
I placed the items into my backpack for transport back to the new station even as I read the writing stenciled across the lid of the metal box — “Oil Experiments”.
“What an interesting title. I’ll enjoy having a closer look at these particular papers. Why Oil? Something odd was happening here.”

Upon returning to the new station I placed the items in a little used drawer of my own. Things were hectic for several months following that excursion, so I didn’t get a chance to do any studying. Then, one day, after I had finished all my work for the week; I opened the drawer, forced the lock and spread the contents out on my desk.
Three hours later, I leaned back in my chair – speechless.
There’s little doubt that there’s a vast ocean of oil lying underneath my feet at this very moment. There may be more oil here at the South Pole than there is in the Middle East.
I struggled to know how to respond because the implications were so extreme. The repercussions of the words staring up at me were beyond my comprehension. This stuff was the type of thing that had the potential to make people wealthy beyond all reason. The things that I now knew could make nations superpowers – or bring them to their knees.
Finally, I turned on my computer and made a report of the whole thing. As the words marched across the screen I wondered, What will be the outcome of all this?
Little did I know the can of worms my simple actions would unleash. If I’d known I would have thrown the box in the ocean! Life is always lived on the edge when one chooses to dwell at the South Pole, but the events that followed would take months to comprehend, and impact my life forever.

20130112-125511.jpg