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Everything I Need to Know about Writing I Learned from Korean Dramas

Well, maybe not everything, since I didn’t discover Korean dramas until my children were grown.  However, Korean dramas have heavily influenced both my writing and style.

* If you want to learn how to write fast-paced, exiting plots: watch Korean dramas.

* If you want to learn about incorporating plot twists, watch Korean dramas.

* If you want to learn how to “grow” or change a “static” character into a “dynamic character, watch Korean dramas.

* If you want to learn how to wring the most emotion out of a scene, watch Korean dramas.

Today’s blog, however, isn’t about how to write; it’s about the gatekeepers that hinder or block writing.  If you watch any K-drama long enough, you come to recognize that gatekeepers are part and parcel of all good plot twists. Just when you think the hero/heroine is going to succeed, up pops another gatekeeper to sabotage everything.  Sometimes the gatekeeper can be a rival, a parent, an old enemy, someone in authority who is crooked or has a lot of power, even tradition.

Writing has the same kinds of gatekeepers. Sometimes a parent or teacher discourages us from following our gifts. “Very few people make a living writing books.”  “The industry is highly competitive.”  Maybe so, but that’s no reason not to write.

Sometimes the gatekeeper is our own lack of knowledge or skill; however, that particular gatekeeper can be easily overcome. A much harder gatekeeper is the “location” where we find ourselves.  Writing science fiction in the middle of rural America isn’t going to be easy, nor is writing rural westerns in a metroplex. Often times we find ourselves surrounded by cultures or people who just “don’t get it,” and thus finding our market or niche becomes something that seems insurmountable.

Time and reality are also gatekeepers. In 30 years I have written 8 novels. That may not seem like much; however, I’ve been a wife, raised four children, been a missionary, newspaper editor, and school teacher. Working full time leaves little room for anything else, especially if one is going to have time for family and self. I “make” time to write, yet the demands of reality often get in the way. Still, eight novels are eight more than most people have written.

The last, most powerful gatekeeper is the publishing industry itself.  In the first 20 years of my writing “career” I ran across the reality that just because a book is good doesn’t mean it’s marketable. (not my idea, I borrowed it from another indie writer). This truism means that publishers don’t always publish good books; they publish what will make them money.  I know that hundreds of excellent books languish in reject bins due to this mentality.

Yet thanks to Createspace and the self-publishing industry, this monster gatekeeper is slowly being overcome. Indie authors still have to battle “published” authors and their attitude that somehow self-publishing makes us “not good enough.” It reminds me of Tomorrow’s Cantabile, a school filled with prestigious musicians who looked down on the “leftovers” as not being as good enough to make the A team. Until one courageous conductor transformed those opinions into a remarkable orchestra where every “voice” blended into perfect harmony to create a unique cantabile.

Writers are unique. Our voice, our message doesn’t have to garner the spotlight to be meaningful—or respected.  A library is filled with a plethora of books, old, new, innovative, traditional, factual, fantastical, opinionated, educating. Some have worn, dull covers hiding exquisite stories. Others are all flash and bling and not much substance, but popular with readers. Some are priceless tomes that cannot be removed from the library, while others spin through the paperback exchange like a revolving door.

Everyone has a story. Some writers may not be as skilled as others in telling their stories, yet they deserve a chance to sing and a even minor chord can touch a heart.

 

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction

Back when I was growing up in rural America, I didn’t realize what a remarkable time period I lived in. My dreams always leapt to the future in far flung galaxies or excavated in the past amid ancient or fantastical civilizations.  I practically lived in the library where I had free access to these worlds through the pages of books.  Yet I always longed for the days when I could afford to buy my own copies, when books would be as free and plentiful and accessible as the air I breathed.

Fast forward to the 21st century when all my dreams seemed to come true: books are plentiful and accessible thanks to e-readers and publishing platforms like Createspace; however, the writers have changed.  Back in the Golden Age of science fiction, writers wrote series of books, not books of series. They created marvelous worlds and characters and spun countless episodes of adventures like an ongoing television series.

Today, however, writers take one story, pump it up with useless backstory, bland dialogue and wasted pages of description in order to stretch the one story over a dozen books. And I am left back in the exact same desert as before—unable to satisfy my thirst for imaginary worlds and larger than life characters.

But back to the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  In the decades leading up to the 1970s, science fiction had a positive outlook—even the most thought-provoking stories left the reader with a gleam of hope at the end, a chance that humanity could learn from their mistakes and move forward into a glorious age of space exploration.  Even the cautionary tales, the woeful predictions of gloom and doom were offset with stories detailing the best humanity had to offer. There was also a slew of juvie lit (not necessarily about high school kids), but written for high schoolers that showed we could overcome our base nature and rise to join the vast and glorious civilizations that spanned the galaxies.  It was a time for encouragement and enthusiasm to explore the cosmos and every kid wanted to be a huge part of it.

At least, those of us who read science fiction.

I miss those stories. Even going to the library today finds precious little on the shelves worth my time and investment. Oh, I know Tom Corbett, Andre Norton, Ray Bradbury, and the Heinlein juvie novels were formulaic – that’s what made them so great! In spite of the peril and danger we knew our heroes would succeed. In a world fraught with real dangers and problems, losing myself in an uplifting story was a sorely needed form of escapism.

I think we’ve lost something vital with today’s version of science fiction. We are breeding a generation that has no imagination, that expects aliens to plot the destruction of humanity (and thus expects humanity to plot its own demise), that hasn’t the gumption to reach outward to the stars because of all the obstacles that must first be overcome. Today’s science fiction does far more to defeat the exploration of space than to entice young people to boldly go where no one has gone before.

With our passion for “realistic” stories we have lost not only a piece of our history, but a piece of ourselves. And a society that lacks imagination, can never prepare for the future.

Shameless Self Promotion

In case you didn’t catch it from the title, I’ll warn you again: I will be talking specifically and in detail about my books. I figure after 70 something blogs, I can relax a bit and talk about a subject near and dear to my heart….my own creations.

So what sets my novels apart from the ocean of books out there? Probably not much. Such a question is as pointless as debating whether apples are better than passion fruit. Or whether a Ferrari out “oomphs” a Lexus. The delight is in the eye of the beholder…in this case, the reader.

What you will find in all my novels is a predilection for the light side of storytelling rather than the dark side. Not sorry for the Star Wars reference…I grew up with the original trilogy before it went dark side. So swashbuckling, fantasy, and space opera like Star Trek fueled my imagination from a young and impressionable age. And I’ve had over 30 years to perfect it. I like a fun read, one that leaves me feeling happy at the end, which is what I write because ultimately I do believe in happy endings, even in real life.

You’ll find my stories have a familiar feel to them, bits and pieces of other authors and genres you’ve read, all blended together into a unique, yet comfortable universe. Thanks to a fan who took the time to review one of my stories, I now know what makes my stories special isn’t the scientists or royalty or upper echelons, but the ordinary folk dealing with what life throws at them in a rather unique setting. And sometimes the ordinary folk don’t get to solve the problem; the answer comes from outside their socio-economic group simply because they don’t have the resources or answers or power—much like real life, although we don’t want to admit it to ourselves.

While Amazon tries to please readers with specific information about books through genres and age groups, my stories really don’t fall in those categories. How do you categorize a book that both teenagers and college professors enjoy? Amazon doesn’t have an All Ages button. Unfortunately.

Merely saying my books are “science fiction” isn’t enough since the various sublevels are as plenteous as the asteroid belt on the other side of Mars. My stories recombine the types of science fiction and fantasy the way Snapple flips juice: Japanese western on Mars? Ninja fantasy? Space opera without a fleet of ships? I take an idea and find a home for it without stressing about what “genre” it falls under.

Then there’s the whole price thing. Ninety-nine cents. On Kindle. Every day. Always. Not because I don’t think my books are worth it, but because I grew up a poor kid making 50 cents an hour babysitting to buy $3.50 paperbacks. No wonder I got most of my books at the library. So I remember what it’s like to be a reader with a voracious appetite for books and unable to buy them. I wish I could keep the paperback price down, but it’s a necessary evil to make the books available to library databases. Yet another reason to keep the Kindle price as low as it will go.

See it’s not about money for me. It’s about readers. I’d rather give a reader a couple hours of pleasure than get a royalty. Don’t get me wrong. If ever I build a large enough reader base that my books take off and I make several thousand dollars, I’ll be whooping and hollering. But I’d rather have the readers.

As an added bonus, I finally figured out how to promo my books as FREE Kindle books, so for the next few days until Aug 5, Redline is free on Kindle. Go grab a copy and enjoy.

So I challenge you. Take a look at my book list, pick one out, and take a gamble. If you like it, pick up another one, or write a review. If you don’t like it, drop me an email. I’d love to visit with you. No strings attached and I won’t get mad. Promise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for a Good Book

Most of my favorite childhood memories are centered around libraries. I love the smell of paper and ink, my fingers running along the shelves looking for that one particular book to snag my imagination and accompany me home. Scrolling through the never ending lists of freebies on the Kindle site is like browsing through library shelves.

The free books on Kindle are this generation’s public library. Free books equalizes the haves and have-nots of the world, bringing unimaginable wealth to even the lowliest of readers. As someone who scraped together babysitting money for every single book I purchased (so I only purchased those I would read and re-read), libraries were a treasure trove. So what if the book I selected fell a little short? I got to enjoy a story I would have never been able to afford. I shared a link with authors I would never meet, or might have never known about. I delved into worlds of imagination that were as far removed from a small rural town in Oklahoma as Pluto is from the sun.

Scanning the lists of freebies reminds me of looking through the card catalogue–something today’s generation misses. It’s not the same as looking up a title on a computer. To do so, you first have to know the author or the title. With a card catalogue you can browse all around a title, author, or subject finding unexpected gems you never would have encountered otherwise. I might be looking for a sci fi book and stumble across an archaeological tale that sounds fascinating. I might equally be researching a subject for a class assignment and uncover a science fiction tale I never knew existed. Oh, the possibilities!

The possibilities are why I love the freebie list: new authors, new tales just waiting to be found. And every once in a while I discover a new author with a slew of books that I put on my to-buy list. Something to think about: authors who are more interested in making money won’t show up on the freebie list, but authors with a story to tell will. Thanks, guys for sharing. You may never be “successful,” but your story will not be forgotten.

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