my books

Book Update and Request for Advice

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My upcoming book, A Spark Ignites, is finally edited. The paperback version is formatted, and I am currently waiting for the proof copy to arrive while I work on formatting the digital version. I’m new to publishing and I’m not entirely clear as to what goes into releasing a book, so I’ve been doing some research for the marketing. I’m thinking some paid advertising (though I don’t have much of a budget), maybe some guest posts on other’s blogs, and possibly a review or two from other bloggers. Any advice from those with experience would be helpful.

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A glimpse at the upcoming book trailer.

Your One Good Idea

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(Not representative of A Spark Ignites. At all. You can tell this was written by a teenager.)

“Everyone has at least one good story in them.” I don’t remember who it was who said that to me (and no, I’m not talking about the Hitchens quote, who might I add was not actually the first person to use it), but I remember I thought about it a lot in high school. I had been working on a webcomic which would eventually become A Spark Ignites, and I was beginning to worry that Spark was my only idea, my only story. Allow me to explain.

003PromoWhen I was seven years old, I created my own comic book character, and began writing and drawing my old comic books. Every year until I was thirteen, through one thing or another, all my comics would get destroyed or go missing. And so, I’d start it all over again every year, promising myself to outdo the years previous. Mind you, I didn’t just try comics. I wrote scripts, animated cartoons, and even programmed video games, all about Spark. By the time I was halfway through high school, I began to wonder if that one lone idea was all I had.

002PromoPieceSo I stopped. For a couple of months, I didn’t work on Spark at all. I just let my mind wander. I kept a small journal where I’d jot down whatever popped into my head. And by the end of those two months, I’d had ideas for a book, a television show, and another comic book (and not one of them involved superheroes). That’s why every year I’d allow myself a break from whatever it was I was working on, just to think. Sometimes I would revisit the journal and play with those ideas (I’ve taken the old tv series idea and used it to outline six books, which will be my next project after the third book in the Spark series), and other times I’d come up with entirely new ones, like the animated short below:

The trick is to just stop working on what you’re working on. Think about another genre. Something totally out there. Brainstorm. Read. Watch. Listen. Daydream. Just get your head out of you “one good idea.” Focusing on the one thing can be stifling to your creativity. You shouldn’t be afraid to let yourself get out there, out of your comfort zone. You cant worry about failure. Ultimately, while I decided to write my first novel based off what evolved out of what I considered my first good idea, I know it wasn’t my last, and that there will be many more to come.

The thing is, no one is uncreative. Everyone has an original thought. An original story to tell. And who knows, if you just push yourself away from your first idea, maybe you’ll find you have more. You won’t know until you try.

Free Ebook!

Now when you sign up to my mailing list, you will receive a free ebook of my short story, A Sparked Interest. This is not the free short ebook (Walking the Wire) that will be given away on Amazon and Smashwords when my novel, A Spark Ignites, comes out. It will only be available for free here (elsewhere it will be 99 cents). Unlike the novel, which is a straight up superhero story, this short story is in a totally different genre. I was apprehensive about releasing it (at least the widely distributed free short story will be closer in content to the novel), but it just flowed out of the characters as I was writing them, even though it didn’t fit in the book itself. So it became a short story, which I now give to you. Enjoy!

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Description: Dan Raye finally has a date with the girl of his dreams. When the date doesn’t go as Dan planned, he realizes that dreams and reality are two very different things.

Disclaimer: This is a short story that takes place after the events of A Spark Ignites. It is a stand-alone story, however, and it does not require knowledge of A Spark Ignites to be understood or enjoyed. Another thing to note: despite this story taking place within the universe of The Spark Superhero Series, there are no superheroes or mention of superheroes within the story. It is simply the story of a date that doesn’t go entirely as expected.

They Stole My Idea!

You’re sitting there, reading a book or watching a movie or TV show, when something happens that is eerily similar to something you’d thought of ages ago, perhaps even written down. So naturally you exclaim, “Hey, they stole my idea!”

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Not exactly what I’m talking about.

I must’ve heard this line dozens of times. Heck, I’ve used it myself one more than one occasion. The truth is, of course, that nothing is original. As King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Chances are, no one stole your idea. You and whoever wrote the other work were likely influenced by the same thing, and as a result came up with a similar concept. The question then is what do you do next?

There’s an aspect of the story in my book, A Spark Ignites, which was done to similar effect in a film that came out last year. When I saw it, I was quite disheartened, especially as I had written the outline that included that very plot point well over half a decade prior. What I ended up doing was keeping the plot point, but downplayed it. It no longer played as big of a roll as it did before, and I figure by the time people read it, enough time will have passed, and the story is different enough, that no one will notice the similarities. That isn’t the only option though.

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It isn’t unusual for two movies with the same plot to come out around the same time, such as Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down, Deep Impact and Armageddon, or Madagascar and The Wild. But why is it that only one of those movies are remembered, while the other is often forgotten? And notice that it isn’t always the movie that comes out first that’s remembered. What will stick in people’s mind is what was executed better. So just because someone ‘stole’ your idea is no reason to throw it out. Come out with it anyway. Just make sure you do it better.

Using Brand Names and Pop Culture References

There are two different paths folks take in writing. Some folks use stand in brands, such as MyFace, while others will use the actual brand names, such as Facebook. I personally prefer when real names are used. There is a problem with this approach, however. Let’s look the the example I used earlier, but say that instead of Facebook, the writer used MySpace. If you’re reading it today, the book instantly feels dated.

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I was actually reading a book that came out fairly recently. The book specifically mentioned Radio Shack a few times. Radio Shack closed all its stores in 2015, and thus the book itself becomes something of an oddity. Despite the fact that it is supposed to take place in contemporary times, the book is stuck taking place during or before 2015.

When mentioning brands and technology/websites, it is important to keep it vague. For example, using MyFace may sound fake and stupid, while using Facebook may make it dated once Facebook dies, which it inevitably will (though it looks like it’ll be around for the time being). The compromise would be to call it simply a social media site. That type of site will always be around and will not be outdated. (Then again,  if you think your book has a shelf life of ten years or so with relative certainly that Facebook or Google will still be around then, by all means just go for it.)

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You’ve got to be careful using pop culture references. Never use a modern pop culture reference. You don’t know if it’ll stick in the public contentiousness, and it could make your book outdated within a year of its release (please don’t quote Borat). It’s best to stick with older ones that have stood the test of time, like Star Wars or Back to the Future (basically, the 80’s is pretty safe). In the book I mentioned above, with the Radio Shack reference, there’s actually a line that reads “[a]ll four Pirates of the Caribbean movies posters.” Which was accurate when it was written and accurate now. But with a fifth film coming out soon, its about to date the book. So when it comes to referencing a movie series, try to use something that’s been long finished.

Then again, who could’ve ever predicted there’d be more Star Wars? (Basically, unless you’re writing a period piece, you can follow all the rules and still get screwed.)

Collaboration

There are many pros to collaboration when it comes to writing, but it is not something everyone can do. Peter David, who is best known for being a comic book writer, said that he found writing prose novels much more fulfilling, as that’s a product that he completes all on his own, as opposed to a comic which is a collaboration with an artist.

Jeph Loeb is another comic book writer (though he’s written other thing as well, and currently heads Marvel’s television decision), and being a comic book writer, his work requires much collaboration. He used to be known as an amazing writer, until his son passed away. His work was never the same again. Some people say it broke him, and he never recovered. I don’t know if that’s true. But something I found interesting about his work, specifically in comics. It became very obvious after a while that he was writing for the artist, often at a disservice to the story. There was no reason for a time traveling Kingdom Come Superman to show up in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, but the artist wanted to draw him, so he was written in. Batman: Hush, another one of his works, is overly crowded with villains, but most puzzling of all was an appearance by Jason Todd, a former Robin who was dead at the time of it’s publication (don’t worry, he got better. Comic books and all that). It was later revealed that it was Clayface impersonating Jason, but the only reason he was there was because the writer wanted to draw him. And in Loeb’s Supergirl book, he has Supergirl fight the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl, who was paralyzed at the time and thus no longer Batgirl (don’t worry, she also got better). The only reason that was written was so the artist could draw a character he wanted, even if it didn’t make sense in the concept of the story. (Again, it was revealed to be Clayface in disguise. Boy, Loeb sure relies on that Clayface gimmick a lot.) A successful collaborator should put the story before pleasing his or her partner.

Having two names on a book is good, if only for marketing purposes, as it would lead fans of one individual author to check out the other author’s solo work. But honestly, I don’t know how two people can write a book together, other than switching off chapters or something.  Plotting though, can be done together with another. I enjoy talking through the story with my wife. Its fun, and we get to bounce ideas off each other. In fact, my favorite part of A Spark Ignites was actually her idea (or taking my idea and pushing it one step farther). Using a collaborator can also help you catch plot holes. There are some people who have to do everything by themselves. I used to be one of them. But even if you want to do all the writing yourself, I’ve found that when it comes to working through a story, two heads are better than one.

A Spark Ignites – Synopsis

I have posted the synopsis to my first novel, A Spark Ignites, on the ‘Books’ page of the website as well as below:

Matt was just a regular teenager, dealing with homework, hormones, high school drama, and an obnoxious older brother. He found his life complicated, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. Then, when Spark, the city’s greatest superhero unexpectedly dies, Matt finds himself in possession of the hero’s costume and gadgets, with a note asking him to carry on the legacy. Finding himself unable to refuse, he reluctantly begins his superhero career, hoping he can live up to the name of his predecessor. Not knowing the first thing about being a superhero, Matt soon finds himself overwhelmed. Will he find himself in an early grave, just like his hero?

Meanwhile, an aging supervillain, the Inventor, creates a powerful device capable of killing thousands. An elaborate plan is put in motion that could lead to the destruction of everything Matt holds dear. Will he be able to figure out the how to stop him in time? And when evidence arises which indicates that Spark’s death may not be the accident everyone believes it is, Matt finds himself consumed with trying uncover the truth. Will he be able to get to the bottom of this mystery? And if so, will he be able to handle the dark reality behind it?

Matt’s journey is a rollercoaster of action and adventure, although he suspects it will be short lived. And he’s probably right. When you’re the kind of kid who’s never gotten into a fight, how can you be expected to face supervillains and survive? With lives on the line, Matt will have to step up and be the hero Spark knew he could be, whatever the cost.

A Spark Ignites is currently set to come out sometime in March.