Category Archives: Promotion
Greetings once again. This week, I found a surprise announcement- that Disney is planning a relaunch of a beloved program of my childhood, Ducktales. While I was glad to hear that a new generation could enjoy a favorite of my childhood, I also found myself thinking about why Ducktales, along with so many other of my childhood favorites, found the strength to return in recent years. So today, I want to explore an aspect of writing that is both simple and impossible to achieve- timelessness.
To start, no writer can ever say if their work will be considered timeless. A large part of what makes a story timeless is the strength of the tale, and therefore the ability of the writer. The tales of Charles Dickens and other Victorian writers endures because the stories themselves are strong, with characters and themes that have survived the ages, despite the fact they are set in an era some two hundred years removed from modern times. A more recent example is the film They Live, which John Carpenter made in response to the greed and corruption of the 1980s. But obviously, greed and corruption are notions that live on, which is a large part of why the film still resonates with people today. The satire and message of the film, (in which an alien invasion is sublimely wiping out mankind), still works, especially in today’s post-Recession world.
So having a universal theme that people of any time can relate to, is a strong part of timelessness. But time itself can also be a role. Getting back to Ducktales, I originally watched the show as a part of the Disney Afternoon, a syndicated block of television owned by Disney. For many of my generation, the block is a hallmark, with it’s programs remembered fondly as intelligent, well-written, and genuinely well done children’s programming. In large part, this was because these shows each existed in their own worlds, and made no attempt to alter them to fit the era. Even the shows that existed in ‘modern times’ made their setting general, so that viewers would focus on the story. In fact, the Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his review of the block, that things began to go downhill when Disney attempted to make Disney Afternoon more ‘current’ and to fit the interests of children in that era. Some copied animation style (Schnookums and Meat), while other followed popular trends and movies (Goof Troop, Mighty Ducks, Aladdin). This resulted in a lessening of quality and shows that either pandered or imitated, until the Disney Afternoon finally ended.
But the original shows, as well as some highlights of the later years, are still spoken of high regard, simply because their concepts were not tied to the early 90’s, but could be retold again and again for any generation. Even many of today’s ‘reboots’ such as Transformers or Ninja Turtles have succeeded by taking a solid core concept and applying it without pandering to the current audience (though some healthy nods are given to older fans). So for any author looking for a timeless story, work hard but remember, have a strong core concept, and keep the focus off events of today, so that readers can enjoy them tomorrow.
And as a last reminder, this upcoming Saturday, March 7th, I will be appearing at the Big Apple Comic Con in New York’s Penn Pavilion. It’s a short walk from Penn Station so if you can make, be there!
Welcome back to the blog. This week, I’d like to reach out to follow authors working to put their books out into the world. As I’m currently preparing for my first major convention appearance, I thought about all the preparations that go into getting ready for any kind of appearance for an author. So today, I’d like to present a check-list for any author making their first major appearance, from a local signing to a full con appearance.
- Books- let’s start with the most obvious part of a con- the actual product. You need to make sure you’ve got a good amount of books. The worst feeling of an appearance is to run short early and miss potential opportunity. However, you also don’t want to over-order, and be left with a huge number of books. The best thing to do is to plan for your appearance and decide how much to bring based on just where you’re going and how many people will likely be there.
- Money-Box- besides books, the most important thing you need at an appearance is money. You need to have loose cash to give change to people that pay in cash. You may also want to invest in a credit card reader, which are often small enough to work with a smart phone and will make it easier for people to pay. Regardless, you must always have a cash-box, a small, lockable container that holds your change and your profit. This is one of the two most important things to bring to any appearance.
- Props- another important part of any event. You always want to appear professional and to attract attention. Some simple props can easily accomplish this; a poster of your book or even of yourself can help steer people in your direction and get the first initial interest. As with the book number, this should be adjusted for your appearance. You don’t want to overcrowd a library or undersell a crowded convention.
- The Right Attitude- no one wants to go to a signing for a grumpy author. Be prepared for the event you’re going to- if it requires you to speak, be polite, informative, and most of all, approachable about your work and as a person. If you’re going to be in a group, be inviting, but without seeming like a carnival pitchman for your book. Above all, be prepared to be in one location for a long time, friendly to the people that approach, and above all, grateful for people that purchase your book.
- Preparations- this seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Whatever event you are going to, know the details. Know when you need to get there, make sure your give yourself time to set up, know the setup, and make sure all your materials are ready.
- Help- something many authors don’t think of. Appearances are built around the author, but they can require more then one person. Don’t be unafraid to ask for help in setting up appearances, especially at cons. The larger the event, the more pressure is on to get customers, so don’t be afraid to have someone else there to help you out.
- Research- we end with the most important step of appearances, finding one. While your publisher may aid you in finding events, you will likely need to do some work on your own. Some events are easier to schedule- local signings, events at libraries, are usually happy to host you. Events like cons however, will take more work and require your efforts to find them. So get on your computer and find them, it’s the only way to be able to get your book out there.
Hopefully, this checklist will make it easier for new authors to navigate the difficult waters of their first major event. And don’t forget about my appearance at the Big Apple Con in a few weeks, on Mar. 7th, at NYC’s Penn Pavilion from 10-6 pm.
Greetings once again. Today is the first step of the promotion for Equites, as I announce my first Goodreads giveaway! It’s simple- all you have to do is enter at the link below, and you’ll be entered to win one of ten copies of Equites. The only thing better then an epic fantasy is a FREE epic fantasy, so don’t delay. The giveaway is open until March 2nd, so hurry over and enter!
Greetings to all. Today, I have great news, as my second novel, Equites, has been sent to the printers, and is finally live and available for purchase! Currently, it can be purchased on the iUniverse website (link below) in hardcover, paperback, and e-book, and will soon be available on mainstream book sites such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.
This marks the beginning of a busy year, as I will be doing even more promotion for the Lightrider series. This will include giveaways, a national Book Exhibit, and my first venture into conventions, at the Big Apple Con on Mar 7th in NYC, and the Garden State Comic Fest in Morristown NJ over the summer. More details will be released as time goes on, so please, keep checking back for info and my usual writing entires. Here’s to a successful New Year.
Greetings once again. I currently find myself in a lull as the Lightrider sequel is being edited. As such, I’ve found a new project to occupy time between books. As with many children of the 80’s and 90’s, I am a major fan of Back to The Future and Ghostbusters. As both films are either at, or nearing their 30th anniversary, I’ve been working on a comic book script to bring the two franchises together. The mere concept script has thus far gotten great reviews from fans of both francises, and as such, I have decided to implore the studios invovled (Columbia and Universal) and IDW Publishing (the current publishers of the Ghostbuster comic) to bring these two together through my work. I’ve created a peition on the link below, as well as a basic outline of the story. If you check it out and want to see it, then please, sign and help get it to the attention of the people involved. We’ve got nothing to lose and plenty to gain so please, check it out, and help bring two 80’s icons together.
Welcome back. Last week, I discussed being different as a writer to stand out, and the difficulties involved. In doing so, I mentioned one of my favorite types of films, horror-comedies, and how they stand out by going against the grain to make people alternately laugh and scream. Since these films stand out as excellent examples of being different, I would like to spend today going over a few of my favorites, to show how to blend two very unlikely genres together.
What is it
As you might infer, a horror comedy mixes the premise of a horror film with comedic moments. To be clear, films like Scary Movie don’t count, as they are satirizing the horror genre. Real horror comedies treat both areas with respect, giving both frightening moments and comedy equal footing. This can be a difficult concept, as making horror humoruous can be a disaster in straight horror films (see Nightmare on Elm 6, which involves Freddy Kreuger making oneliners and rolling a bed of spikes out for a falling man to land on, ala’ Bugs Bunny). Small moments can work, such as Jason Voorhees’ sleeping bag kill, but to make an entire film with the two require a lot of planning.
Arguably one of the greatest horror comedies ever made, Tremors is the story of a desolate Nevada town attacked by huge worm like monsters called Graboids that eat anything that causes seismic vibrations. The film is full of frightening buildup, such a man on a telephone who died of dehydration rather then come down and face the monsters. The Graboids attacks are also full of suspense and blood, as every step the characters take could be into a Graboid attack. However, the characters bring a good amount of humor to the mix- the heroes are two handymen that are relatable, sarcastic, and just intelligent enough to fight the monsters. The real comedic gem however, is Burt, a paranoid gun nut that is fully prepared for WWIII and uses his home’s immense firearm supply to fight off a Graboid attack. The scene of Burt and his wife going through at least twenty guns to kill the rampaging monster adds the perfect blend of humor to this monstrous situation.
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil
A recent entry into the field, this is a film that is deceptively clever, as it reverses the classic scenario of college kids on vacation vs. murderous hillbillies. Here, the two titular hillbillies are genuinely good people, while the college kids are shallow, prejudice and judge solely on appearance. This leads to a long series of misunderstandings, which generally end with the kids being the architects of their own destruction, albeit with ridiculous methods (watch the woodchipper scene. That’s the best way to sum it up). However, the movie still keeps things frightening enough with an insane, murderous college boy, filled with a hatred of hillbillies that goes after the heroes with all the passion of Leatherface.
Fright Night (2011)
Based of a 1980’s horror film, this modern retelling pushes the film into the comedic with a pair of excellent performances. While the main story of a vampire moving in next door is kept, and given much more gore, suspense, and death, the film is balanced thanks to the humor of Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a vampire hunter teenager turned wisecracking bloodsucker, and David Tennant as a David Blaine style Las Vegas goth ‘magician’ that is knowledgeable but drunk on fame, guilt, and initial cowardice. Their work balances the horror aspects and makes the film entertaining and well done on both fronts.
A film that expertly builds on a common fear (spiders) and still manages to add some humor. This films focuses on a doctor moving into a new town that is slowly overrun with hybrid spiders birthed from a deadly South American breed. The townsfolk are slow to deal with the threat but when it becomes overwhelming, it is easy to be creeped out (the queen spider is the size of a baseball mitt). And the scene of spiders swarming over a house is horror enough for most viewers. However, the film is balanced by the light tone of the ‘new doctor’ story and by John Goodman’s performance as a less then intelligent but fully trained exterminator.
Easily the most disgusting film on this list, this is the tale of a space parasite that infects a West Virginia town with brain slugs that turn victims into drooling zombies, or into raw-meat eating breeders for more slugs. The film alternates between moments of extreme gore (a man literally being slit from belly to forehead) and humor (the incompetent mayor ranting about not getting his Mr. Pib soda after a monster attack). Much of this comes from the excellent performance of Nathan Filion as the sheriff, as well as the ungodly makeup used to create the mutated human hosts. There is even a well told love story thrown into the mix, but nothing feels forced and the film flows well, creating a slimy but enjoyably so good time.
In general, horror-comedies are played for entertainment, which is certainly true. However, when done well, they manage to speak to two strong impulses in readers- our desires to be both scared and be made to laugh. These are powerful impulses that require expert care to both be sated. So if you have any sort of genre-mixing story in your head, watch some of these films and see just how much goes into balancing two opposing forces in one story.
On a seperate note, I will be part of an author showcase this week at the Plainfield NJ Public Library from 2-4. Stop by if your in the area to talk and pick up a book.
Last week, I discussed how to bring an established literary character into your work. However, I neglected to mention perhaps the best example of this process to date, which I plan to rectify today. This work comes from the mind of British comic writer Alan Moore, who achieved tremendous fame with both his licensed work (Batman: The Killing Joke, Swamp Thing, For the Man Who Has Everything) and his original stories (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell). However, he has also done an intriguing mix of the two, merging classic characters of largely British literature, with stories and plots that could easily be part of any modern comic. This is that tale, the story derived from so many others- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Beginning right in the aftermath of Dracula, the graphic novel begins with Mina Harker, now divorced and disgraced, being recruited into the British government by Campion Bond (grandfather of Ian Fleming’s James Bond). She is assigned to recruit a team of literary characters- Allan Quartermain (from H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mine), Dr. Jekyll (Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Hawley Griffin (H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man), while being guided by Captain Nemo (Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). Once assembled, the League must do battle with Fu Manchu for a deadly substance, only to unknowingly hand it to their dishonest employer, Professor Moriarty (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes). The Leauge is able to wrestle the substance back, with Mycroft Holmes taking over as employer, just as meteorites fall towards London (hinting at H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds).
What Writers Can Learn- Adaptation, Revival, Character Study
While some may be familiar with this title through the disastrous film adaptation (which Moore has decried, along with all other adaptions of his work), the source material is truly amazing. Moore’s stories wisely focuses on very well known novels, but throughout the volumes (the above story is only volume 1), he sprinkles in various characters from Dr. Moreau to John Carter, making this comic a tremendous grab for literary minded readers. And rather then simply name drop, Moore makes sure each character has value- the members of the League each bring something special to the team, John Carter forces the Martians from Mars and onto Earth, and Dr. Moreau has knowledge of a compound needed to stop the Martian takeover.
However, Moore also works to portray these established characters in their original light. Captain Nemo is portrayed as Indian, a detail from the original text usually ignored, and is, true to form, quick to leave the League upon a seeming betrayal. The Invisible Man, who suffered from anger and madness in the novel, is shown with the same issues, being found in a convent where ‘immaculate conception’ is occurring. He proves to be a traitor in later volumes, where he attacks Mina, and hands over Britain to invaders. These traits are also expanded as the story progresses- Hyde, for all his savagery, is shown to be capable of civility and heroism, and becomes friends with Mina (who, as in Dracula, shows quiet intelligence as leader and is desired by ‘monsters’). Quartermain, the rugged hero, has aged and while still of value, is generally underplayed and seems aware of his age. There is even a stab at modern works, with an unnamed take on Harry Potter that is likely to shock fans. But at the same time, seeing these characters together in a group is a true treat for readers. Plotting a group story means making sure that the characters are strong enough to stand alone, but bring value to a group. Here, we have an established group that has never before worked together. Readers are familiar with the names, but are able to see new takes and look at how such a ragtag group might both succeed and fail to work together.
LOEG is a worthwhile read simply because of the strong writing of Alan Moore, but it offers a wealth of literature as well. Writer can learn about expanding upon established characters, and with luck, find new sources to draw upon for their work. At the same time, they will see strong group dynamics, some rather dark twists, and strong character devolpemtn for iconic heroes and villains. Simply put, this is a not to be missed literary tool that will open doors for newer and stronger writing from anyone who reads it.
Before I go, a Happy Thanksgiving to my readers, and remember that my giveaway will end after the holiday, so be sure to register if you haven’t already. And finally, I will be appearing at the Cranford NJ Library next week, so be sure to stop by if you’re in the area. Happy Turkey Day!
Greetings once again, frightful readers. We’ve been going over horror stories all this month, and seeing as how today is All Hallows Eve, it seems fitting to head back to the crypt to unearth one more story. Of course, as I said last week, this is a story that’s a little hard to find. It could be anything- your dog, a bug, even YOU, reader. And no one would ever know until it was too late; for that is the power of today’s entry, one of my all-time favorite horror films- John Carpenter’s The Thing.
A remake of the 1950’s horror film, The Thing From Another World (itself an adaption of John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There), The Thing takes place at an Artic research base, which is suddenly invaded by a stray dog and a pair of Norwegian scientists trying to kill it. The Americans kill the scientists and take in the dog, then travel to the Norwegian base. There, they find a ruined building, and a horrific, two-headed human corpse, along with a long hollowed out block of ice. They realize the Norwegian scientists unearthed something in the ice, which is made readily apparent when the new dog mutates into a horrific creature. They subdue it, but realize the alien creature can perfectly adapt into another being, and even a cell can make a perfect replica. The men slowly devolve into paranoia, as they realize that the creature may be posing as one of them, and must be prevented from infecting the rest of the world.
What Writers Can Learn: Setup, Suspense, Paranoia, Unhappy Resolution
While much of what makes The Thing a success is it’s special effects, which are gruesome and yet amazing to behold given the limitations of the time, that same success is equally due to the film’s excellent setup. Placing the film in the Artic gives us a sparse, empty environment with no connection to the world at large. As such, when the Thing begins its attack, we know that no help is coming, and even if it did, it probably wouldn’t reach our heroes in time. Therefore, it is up to our small band of men to contain and eradicate the Thing before it can return to sleep, or infect the civilized world. However, there is one thing that is preventing them from doing so- each other.
Remember, the Thing is capable of perfectly imitating any living being, including humans. Therefore, the men are highly suspicious and paranoid of each other, heightened by lack of sleep. This means that even the slightest hint of an impersonation is met with open hostility- MacReady, the main character, is left outside in the cold when a torn jacket with his name is found. When they attempt to perform a blood test to check for the Thing, the blood samples are destroyed, leading to suspicion of all those with access to the med lab. One man is even shot and killed because of the rampant paranoia without showing any signs of infection (he is later proved to be fully human). And since the audience has no idea which, if any, of the men are infected, we feel that same fear and paranoia, which heightens our fear, and our reactions when the Thing does reveal itself.
Still, the movie wisely avoids any chance for a sequel (and as proved by the 2011 prequel, no additional story is required) with its ending. Here, we have a rather nihilistic conclusion that still manages to keep our questions and paranoia going. With the destruction of the Thing, the base, and the majority of the crew, we are left with MacReady and fellow survivor Childs sitting in the ruins of the base. They cannot prove that either of them is not infected, but it is a moot point, since without shelter, the freezing temperatures will kill them before any rescue team arrives. Therefore they sit facing each other, taking their last drinks, as the film ends. It is a dark and chilling ending, and leaves many questions unanswered. But regardless of whether or not the Thing still exists, it is frightening to believe that these two men will be rewarded for saving the world by freezing to death. Of course, the viewer will also wonder if they are even still men, and whether a rescue team would unleash a greater horror by saving them.
The Thing has received many adaptions over the years, but minus the afore-mentioned prequel, it still stands as a sci-fi tale with Hitchcock level suspense. Even without the effects, the idea of men cut off from civilization and facing an evil that they cannot see is more than enough to drive the story. Writers can easily take the suspense and paranoia and its effects for various other stories, such as thrillers, adventure, and obviously straight horror. But perhaps the ending offers the greatest lesson. In too many stories, major problems are resolved with a forced happy ending. This serves as a reminder that, just like in life, characters can do everything right, save the day, and still die as a result. But the fact that MacReady and the others accept that, helps makes this ending even more memorable, and even more chilling.
Well, that’s the last coffin for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip around the graveyard, and don’t be afraid to pick up any of the stories I’ve mentioned (either the original or this version of The Thing are excellent films, though the suspense and effects drive each differently). And remember, tomorrow is the start of the Lightrider Giveaway contest, so be sure to use the Lightrider Facebook page to enter. Happy Halloween!
This edition of marketing advice is a more recent invention of the social media age- the blog tour. As social media and the internet has become more prominent, it has become easier and easier to post opinions online, hence the tremendous amount of people writing blogs and posting videos on everything from movies to politics to, obviously, books. A writer has to use this new avenue to expand their book across cyberspace, which is a far speedier way to get a lot of attention then having signings. But obviously, reaching out to individual blogs one at a time takes patience and effort. Therefore, setting a blog tour to post info about your book is a surefire way to reach a large group of people very quickly.
What It Is and How to Do It
A blog tour is basically a book tour done electronically- a large group of blogs all reviewing your book in sequence over a period of time. How many blogs and how long the tour goes are affected by a number of things, but the first part of the tour is to get a solid number of blogs to work with you. In my experience, this is best achieved by a blogger that already sets these tours up and has a large number of connections. Many blogs are independently set up, and therefore work in a community, depend on each for promotion and materials review. As such, a blogger that can use connections to promote both an author AND their fellow bloggers are vital assest. And this should not be a hard step- most bloggers are eager to review, so they are skilled with promotions like this, to boost themselves and others.
That said, it doesn’t make the process any easier. I was fortunate in that I was able to get a blogger that already had set up tours for authors, and did the work herself to get the bloggers a copy of my book (which saved me some expense). She even set up the dates for the promotion to take place, so that I could post information myself and bring more views to the blogs (another reason for bloggers to support these tours). Obviously, if you don’t have that source, you need to organize all the dates and blogs yourself, so ideally you want to have someone helping you.
But beyond setting the dates and getting the product (sometimes), an author is also responsible for providing some information. To help make the tour stops more informative, I filled out several interview sheets for different sites, with questions ranging from inspiration for my book to what foods I liked. It might seem strange, but it’s still good prep work for future interviews and strange questions in future interviews.
All In all, a blog tour is a great tool for an author to reach a large audience quickly. Many of the blogs that hosted me were actually in other countries like Australia, so I was also able to reach an international audience as well. But the best part of all was that aside from the interview sheets, I didn’t have to go tour those far-off places and my book was still promoted. And while that might not be the case if you don’t find the right person to set things up, it’s more than a reason to try and set up a tour for yourself.
And on a personal note for the readers that are also fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Nostalgia Critic has finally posted his review on the unholy abomination that was the film adaption. Please go and support this wonderful takedown of one man’s failed adaption of my most important writing influences.
In today’s marketing piece, I’m going to speak on a promotional method that has become a large part of the writer’s resources- the convention. While think of cons as massive places to debut films, TV, and comic books, there are still many smaller cons that authors can use to show off their work and gain fans and notoriety. While the Internet and social media are incredibly important for building a fanbase, cons allow for personal connections that will help to strengthen your name and help to get your book across.
The Con- What it is, How to find It, and What to do
Conventions are large gatherings, usually built around popular media that take place across the country. The most well-known is the San Diego Comic-Con, which draws fans from around the world and has become the mecca for panels on upcoming films, TV, and comic books (I personally went a few years ago, and can truly say it lives up to the hype). However, you’re unlikely to start there. Many smaller conventions take place across the country, and it is easy for writers to check into cons that are happening in their area, which are usually advertised. The Internet is your best bet, but local papers and comic shops will also help, and the closer you are to a big city, the better your chances.
When you have found a con, the next step is to get a seat there. This usually involves calling the con and getting a booth to display your work, but this can be expensive for a first time writer. A better suggestion is to find a con with an Artist’s Alley, which showcases a group of local artists/authors and is far less costly. Once you are set, you will need to promote your area, usually with posters, a display of some kind, something that will bring attention to you and your work. Make sure your display is of good quality, so that it can be reused and save you money in the long run. And of course, you will need to order copies of your book to sell. However, remember that this is your first con, and you do not want to over order. Try to make a reasonable estimate given the size of the con and how many fans you feel you can attract.
This leads to the most important part of a con- being social. You will be standing at a booth all day, with people stopping by the whole time. These are your potential fans and buyers, so you must be ready for them. Answer their questions, be friendly and sociable, and do as much as you can to appeal to them without going into salesman mode, because that will drive fans away. Hopefully, you can find that balance and use it to promote your book efficiently. I can personally relate to this being effective; at Comic-Con, I was fortunate enough to meet Brent Maddock, one of the writers of Tremors. While I did pay for an autograph, he was gracious enough to speak to me for almost fifteen minutes about Tremors rumors and the state of horror movies today. When I got home, I almost immediately went out and bought the four Tremors movies and the short lived TV series.
While the Internet and social media are of far greater reach, cons offer that personal, one on one experience that bring you a greater connection with fans and help you to build your reputation as an approachable writer that fans will pay to see. And it can lead to some surprises, as I ended my day at Comic-Con playing guitar in an Irish pub with Lindsay Ellis, aka the Nostalgia Chick from ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (I’ll post the photos after I finally get them on file). So look for cons that will work for you; be smart, be realistic, be frugal as needed, and above all, be social and friendly, and you will build a new army of fans (though some may be dressed as Megatron. Just roll with it).
• Special thanks to Derrick Fish, writer/artist of the Wellkeeper, artist for Lightrider, and con veteran, for his invaluable expertise in writing this piece.