Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fan Fiction

I’ll admit, I am not a fan of fan fiction. 
I’ve seen fan fiction where the writers truly have talent. I’ve seen novellas written by fans that could truly stand on their own. Truth be told, some of these should stand on their own. The writers should write to the publisher, ask about licensing to produce a book in the world of a given series of fiction and/or offer their manuscript for consideration. I’ve seen other fan fiction pieces that paled in literary comparison to essays I wrote in the fourth grade. (Not a kind remark, trust me.)
I myself have read stories or watched movies where I would love to write a story of my own in that world. Something about the setting or the world just really grabbed me. To ply a character or a plot line into a series I enjoy whets my appetite. Often, such stories inspire story ideas in me.
The problem is, using someone else’s characters or world violates that person’s copyright. If I tried to sell such a story without permission, I’d get myself into a heap of legal trouble. Hence, fan fiction can never see the light of day.
I know the effort that goes into creating a story. The work that goes into creating the rules of the world that the fabric of the story is woven. That each character has a unique backstory supporting and driving that character’s motivation and actions in a story.
All that effort, plied on something that will simply be placed in a back drawer, or a file that will be stored on a backup drive and forgotten, just breaks my heart. The writer puts in all that effort and can never gain from that effort.
That’s why I am not a fan of fan fiction. I see so many people who truly do have a talent for writing, yet their efforts go to waste. It did make me wonder why someone would waste their time like that.
A friend of mine is a fan of fan fiction and she put forward some very good arguments. For one thing, she pointed out that it was good practice for writing. Second, it was a way to indulge in trying to work out a plot line that didn’t occur in a series, or one that the writer wanted to go in a different direction than was portrayed in the original.
“More importantly,” she stated, “not everyone has the ability to pull an entire universe out of their head like you do for such a story to exist.” Writers of fan fiction piggyback their story ideas into a universe that someone else already created, making it easier for them to try out their story ideas.
Truth be told, how many times have I wanted to walk the decks of the Millenium Falcon or the Enterprise? Burn thread on the back of a mighty dragon? Or ‘tesser’ through time and space from world to world with no more effort than thinking about it?
When a writer is inspired to write a story, often the seed for the idea is inspired by another story. Romeo and Juliet becomes West Side Story, Cinderella becomes Cinderfella, Pinocchio becomes Data. This has been going on since humans began telling and writing stories, and will continue on into the future.
Even Aggadeh Chronicles has elements that were inspired by other stories; including Shakespeare, mythology, some fairy tales, and a video game. One key element in my story was the interaction between humans and dragons. Dragons in my world only interact with a select number of humans. So much so, that to the humans, anyone that a dragon will interact with is considered to be elevated above all others, even to the point where they could be considered a successor to the throne. This idea of exclusivity grew out of when I read Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea series. In it, her protagonist, Ged, spoke with a dragon and that marked Ged as a great wizard. In my world, there is a reason dragons will only speak to certain individuals. (As that will eventually be revealed in the next book, I won’t give it away.)
My advice to people who wrote fan fiction has always been to look closely at what it was in the original story that drew them to write their own story. Then remove the elements that were part of the original and replace them with your own and make your story original rather than a spin-off. This is pretty much what authors do when they derive a story idea from some other source. Pare that story down to the bare essentials, the primal foundation that you wanted to write about. Then, create the details from your own mind and create a unique story.
Now, my whole argument that fan fiction was wasted energy because it could never be published without permission and licensing from the originators, has just been blown out of the water! Amazon just announced a fan fiction publishing service that gives fan authors the channel they need to write and actually publish their fan fiction!
The upcoming service is called Kindle Worlds by Amazon Publishing. While not active yet, Amazon will soon be opening the service for submissions.
Amazon Publishing negotiated licensing from several franchises that are popular among fan fiction authors. This licensing allows Amazon Publishing to publish pieces written by authors based on those franchises. So, at last, a fan fiction writer can actually have his or her piece published and collect royalties! At last, those who wanted to pursue the notion that Bella should have gone furry instead of parasite can now have their story published for real on the Kindle. What if Apollo discovered that Starbuck was actually Adama’s lovechild?
Royalties on the sale of fan fiction are split between the fan fiction writer and the originator of the series, which basically covers the licensing fee. This is an easier solution on an amateur fan fiction writer, who ordinarily would be unable to afford a direct licensing fee from a publisher.
Naturally, there are some limitations to be aware of before you jump into writing your fan fiction.
You have to remain true to the world in which you are writing. Crossover titles such as Harry Potter and the Pretty Little Liars are probably not going to happen. But maybe Hermione’s Secret Diaries could work. Also, you will have to keep your story within the guidelines that the originator sets for the series. This is the same thing that a professional author would have to deal with to write for a franchise like Star Trek or Star Wars
The world you want to write in must be one of the franchises with which Amazon Publishing has an agreement. Currently, only a number of Warner Brothers franchises are available. Amazon says there will be more coming.
Last, when you submit your manuscript to Amazon Publishing, you are granting Amazon Publishing exclusive world rights for publishing your material. This agreement holds for as long as the copyright is valid. In other words, if you write a magnificent masterpiece that turns out to be a big hit, Amazon is the only channel that can sell your book until you willingly expire the copyright and make your work public domain. Of course, once you make your title public domain, anyone can publish it without having to pay you royalties.
Still, this could be a good way for a wannabe author to test the waters. From what I gather, the service is geared more towards short stories and novellas than full-blown novels.
I’m sure more detail will be available when Amazon activates the service.
Of course, this begs the question: would I license Aggadeh Chronicles into this program? Possibly—when I’m done writing all the stories I have for this series.

Friday, May 10, 2013



Many friends of mine in the writing industry are having a good chuckle over that statement. They know the reality of it.
The manuscript is finished. But it still has to go through the meat grinder of editing before it can be declared a book. This entails pulling out all the notes everyone has written pertaining to the various chapters, and going through it all and fixing the errors and problems they found. Then, I have to assemble the manuscript as a whole and it must be read through again to look for continuity errors, apocryphal scenes, story flow, etc. Then it must be adjusted again, and read through again in order to ensure I didn’t introduce new errors while fixing the earlier errors. It’s like a tennis match with the manuscript bouncing back and forth until there is nothing more to do with it.
THEN it becomes a book. Sort of. Once the narrative is fixed and ready for reading, I then have to construct it into an ebook. With The Pirate Arc, I discovered that discrepancies appeared in how the ebook was rendered aross the various ebook reader platforms. Because the file I created renders fine on each of the units I own, I can only surmise that the various distributors applied some sort of post-processing that altered the formatting of the EPUB. Amazon annoyed me the most, because that is precisely what they did.
I need to do a little experimenting to figure out what I can do on my end to avoid this issue from happening when Nobody is released.

What a strange mood to be having—almost surreal.
I really started developing Aggadeh Chronicles around 2008. The idea had been bouncing around in my head for longer than that, but it was 2008 that I started writing out the notes for it. By the end of 2009, I had a story that was significantly more complex than I thought it was going to be when I started writing it out. After a long conversation with my brother, he echoed what was bouncing around in my head: that I should break the story into multiple books.
So, 2010 saw me start rewriting my notes and beginning to write out the new outline and narrative for Nobody, the first book of Aggadeh Chronicles. It was my hope that I would have Nobody completed and ready to go by the summer of 2011.
It didn’t work out that way. Life has a way of happening, and sometimes what it brings you is serves as a huge distraction from the course you’re trying to follow. Also, I am not a multitasker by any measure. Trying to do other things other than writing were constantly distracting me from actually getting any writing done. Oh, sure, I’d get a little done here and a little done there, but nothing that would really amount to anything.
I realized that if I wanted to write a book, I would have to go all in. No more working part time jobs, looking for full time work, or trying to start various businesses. The economy pretty much killed off any chance I had of succeeding in any of those ventures.
I looked at my situation. No employment prospects before me. The T-shirt shop I was running with friends was pretty much destroyed by the economy; our customers were primarily civic and charity organizations, two groups that were slammed by the economy. No money, no T-shirts.
I did have fairly significant savings set aside, so I looked long and hard at my situation and realized in that moment, I had the opportunity to make a go at writing. No job. I had enough savings to last me for a couple of years without income.
What I expected would take a year-and-a-half has actually taken three years. As I said above, life has a way of getting in your way sometimes.
The biggest problem was the knowledge that I was running out of money. My original plan was to get the book out while I still had at least enough money in the bank to make minimum payments on bills for a year, so I would have enough time to work on Plan-B in case sales of Nobody flopped. (Keep note of this paragraph; there is an inside joke about this in Privateer when I release that book.) 
I’ve gone way past that point. When Nobody is released in a few weeks, I now only have enough money to last until the first check gets paid out from royalties. I’ve no buffer left. No Plan-B. I have always told people that writing a book is a huge gamble. I really have gone all in on this project. As in a poker game, it’s time to show that last card…

So, after three years of this, it was such a strange feeling when I completed the last sentence and it slowly hit me that I had just finished the story.
And I do mean slowly.
It took hours for the feeling to sink in. I wrote it, put down the computer and walked away from the desk. Took a walk to stretch my legs. Went out to run errands. Had scheduled obligations to deal with in the evening. I said I am not a multitasker, so all this business kept me from really contemplating the significance of completing this task.
When all was done and I finally had the chance to head home and sit quietly, only then did I have the chance to ruminate on the fact that the book was done.
Only then did the reality of it hit me.
312 pages, 17 chapters, containing 104,162 words.
It’s done!
I am no longer writing a book. I have written a book!
Right there in front of me is the entire manuscript. Ready to go [get edited].
I don’t have to write anymore. I have nothing more to do. After three years, that is a strange sensation.
This also means that the release is coming soon. An exciting and terrifying thing. Exciting, because my book will finally be out there at last. Terrifying, because my offering is going to be laid on the altar of literature and I can only hope that readers accept it.
When I put out the excerpt of the first six chapters, I got an enormous amount of positive feedback from people. Heck, I even got fan mail!
For the moment, a brief pause is in order. The lilacs are blooming, it’s time to go sniff the flowers.

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Silent Protest

There was an uproar in the media about the remains of bomber #1 being brought to my town of North Attleboro. In all honesty, if the media had just kept their mouths shut, there would have been no controversy at all. The whole thing was a non-issue.
Instead, they turned the solemn and private celebration of the life of a young woman who fought and succumbed to cancer into a media circus with helicopters and news vans orbiting around the Dyer-Lake Funeral home. Then, as the grieving family members exited the funeral home, they were confronted with reporters sticking microphones into their faces and asking them, “What did you think about them bringing the body of •••••••• •••••••• to the funeral home while you were having the service for your family member?”
Now, stop and think for a moment: the grieving family didn’t even know that •••••••• ••••••••’s remains were in the building until the media shoved microphones and cameras into their faces and proclaimed it to them.
Next, the media were pointing fingers at Dyer-Lake Funeral home and saying, “How dare they honor bomber #1 by receiving its remains?”
I have some news for you: it’s their job to do that! They were not honoring the bomber, they were doing their civic duty to assist the state in moving the remains. As any member of the police, fire department, the military, and many other public services can tell you, sometimes in your duty to God and country you are asked to handle distasteful problems and people that no one else wants to touch. (Trust me, that’s an understatement. Just ask Mike Rowe. Listening to his comments is well worth your time!)
People complained about doctors treating bomber #2. Again, that is their duty is the treat the sick and wounded. Not to pronounce judgement and sentence on people.
So what can people do?
Actually, the media had the answer in the beginning. Laughably, because they couldn’t pronounce the names of the two bombers. So the media simply referred to them as “suspects 1 & 2” or “bombers 1 & 2.” This is what we should be doing. Do they deserve the honor of having their names spoken by you? Do they deserve to be turned into celebrities and have their names become legend by the law-abiding public?
No, they do not.
Remove their names from the American lexicon. Simply refer to them as inhuman objects: bomber 1 and bomber 2. (The lack of capitalization is intended.)
Anonymize them. The names of the bombers should never be raised above those of their victims. Leave the bombers to be lost to obscurity, never to affect the flow or a change in society ever again.
I will never use their names. Not even in use to describe removing the residue from the lugs of my boots after stepping in animal excrement. They do not deserve such elevated status in civil society.
Instead, let them be forever marginalized in failure. Forgotten in silence, never again to bother society and civilization with their existence. Shun them and leave them alone in their shame.
Instead, look to all the people who heroically stepped in to help those stricken by the violence. Exemplify those who have turned to helping rather than harming others such as the students of Boston College who today did a fund-raiser for the victims of the bombing called A Walk to the Finish. The walk was five-miles-long, representing the last five miles that many of the Boston Marathon runners were unable to finish because the race was called off due to the bombings.
Instead, when you are having a bad day, don't use that as an excuse to ruin someone else's day. Hold open the door to let someone else through. Let that car cut you off rather than try to teach the driver a lesson in civility. Be the example, not the complaint.
Instead, watch this video as an example of how real people should behave. Russian drivers get such a bad reputation due to all the bad videos, this makes a good example of how it should be:
(link by way of tywkiwdbi)