Wednesday, April 25, 2018

An Interview With Megan Mackie, Author of "Finder of The Lucky Devil"

I go to a fair number of conventions, and the most recent one I attended was Capricon in Chicago. A smaller sci-fi con, there's always a lot of friendly faces and new (or at least new to me) talent on display. While I was on a lot of panels, and walking through the dealer hall, I shook a fair number of hands, and exchanged more than a few business cards. And one person whose acquaintance I made is author Megan Mackie.

And this is her book!
Since it's always nice to meet fellow authors in the local area, and since it's impossible to have too much press, I thought I'd sit down with Megan and get some basic information out of her for all the fine folks out there who are looking for a genre-blending book that mixes magic, mystery, and some of the most expensive technology her world has to offer.

Question #1: What Is Your Latest Release About?

The Finder of the Lucky Devil is set in an alternate Chicago where magic and technology are in economic competition with each other. We follow Rune Leveau who has a magical Talent for Finding things. She meets a cybernetically augmented corporate spy who wants her to help him find a wanted criminal called Anna Masterson. The problem is Rune IS Anna Masterson. And he’s not taking no for an answer.

2. What Makes It Unique In The Genre(s) It Falls Into?

It is an urban fantasy/cyberpunk book, or cybermagic.

3. How Did You Get Your Start As An Author?

I was a playwright previously, where I learned about characterization, arc and dialogue, then for novel writing, I started describing things more.

4. What Advice Would You Give To Authors Looking To Publish?

Don’t look to someone else to tell you, you are an author. (I couldn't agree with this insight more. Also, to add my own two cents to Megan's, I'd also point out that you shouldn't look to someone else to tell you when you're good enough to get paid.)

5. What Advice Would You Give To Authors Trying To Sell More Books?

Get more than one book out there. Your first book is the hook.

6. What Events Will You Be At Throughout This Coming Year?

ACEN, Windy City Comicon, Mighty Con Chicago, various others, see my Facebook page or join my newsletter to be up to date.

7. Do You Have Any Other Projects You Want To Give A Shout-Out To?

My second book is coming out in June 2018 called The Saint of Liars, the sequel to The Finder of the Lucky Devil.

8. What Is The Biggest Misconception About Writing That You Hate?

That finishing a first draft is impossible. It is if you decide that’s true. Get it done!

9. Do You Have Any Final Words For Readers Out There?

The best way to support Independent authors you like after buying their books are reviews, social media likes, and telling your friends about it. We don’t have big marketing companies helping us so every one of the above things counts a hundred times more to us.

10. Where Can We Buy Your Book(s)?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Applebooks, Draft2Digital, or me at your local convention!

Also, don't forget that if you want more information about Megan's upcoming projects, and previous releases, check out her author website!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing. If folks enjoyed it, I might expand the number of interviews I do in the future. For more of my work, feel free to check out my Vocal archive, and to keep up on all my latest releases follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support my work, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Ko-Fi! Either way, free books and my gratitude shall be yours!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

You Don't Have To Be Good To Get Published

I've met a lot of writers who want to take a crack at the big leagues. Some of them were really good, some of them were mediocre, and some of them were outright bad... but they all said the same thing when I asked them why they didn't act on their desire to send their books off to a publisher.

"I'm not good enough to get published."

You might be surprised.
While I'm all about being self-aware about your skill level as a writer, this is a common misconception that I think holds a lot of people back. Because we look at the books that inspired us, or that awed us, and we think that's the standard we have to meet before we'll be given a publishing contract.

If you want to disabuse yourself of the notion that only great authors get published, go dig around in the bargain bin at your local bookstore. Because I promise you there will be some stinkers in there. However, those books were written by someone, published by someone, and put on the shelves by a company who expected to make money.

There is also something else you're not seeing, though. That there are a lot of really good books (or at least really successful books) that get rejected over and over again. Many times to the point where the authors either stopped submitting them, or considered giving up. If you've heard the stories about J.K. Rowling's first Potter book, or the crazy circumstances that led to the Eragon series being published the way it was, then you've got an example of both ends of this spectrum.

Take A Chance (Because Skill Is Just One Part Of It)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; success as an author is largely a matter of luck. While being a good writer helps, you're more on the whims of fate than ever before. For example, if you had a steampunk novel right around the time the genre was first blowing up, then chances are good you got snapped right up off the slush pile. Not only that, but people would be looking for exactly what you'd put out, and there wouldn't have been a great deal of competition at the time. On the other hand, you could write a compelling narrative with all the bells and whistles these days, but that genre just isn't in demand.

So, through no fault of your own, your timing might have been the difference between victory and success.

Does the mob love Thracian gladiators this season? Bully for you!
While being "good" in terms of storytelling chops, narrative flow, and unique style are all helpful, those things are not enough to guarantee success all on their own. At the same time, being workmanlike in your story construction (or even blisteringly mediocre), are not things that will stop you from being successful if other factors are in your favor. Popularity of your genre, catchiness of your title, lucky marketing breaks, and even positive reviews from unexpected sources (which is why every Clive Barker book has a positive quote from Stephen King on the cover) can all be what makes or breaks your attempt to publish, sell, and succeed.

Spin The Wheel... What Have You Got To Lose?

You might be right about not being as skilled as your idols. You might have a long way to go when it comes to reaching your full potential as a writer. However, if you have a complete story, there's a better-than-even chance there's an audience out there who would like to take a look at it. You've got nothing to lose by sending it to a publisher (or just publishing it yourself).

And, of course, the more times you spin the wheel, the better your chances of hitting it big are.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing post. While less about specific structure in your writing, I mostly wanted to let people know not to focus too much on meeting some arbitrary goal before they decided to send their work out into the world. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive. To stay up on all my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, to support me and my work, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or click here to Buy Me A Ko-Fi!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Community Content Programs For RPGs Are Another Avenue For Authors To Get Paid

If you're an author, you know there are basically two roads to make money when it comes to writing stories. The first is to submit your work to a publisher, have them do the brunt of the heavy lifting (formatting, art, editing, distribution, etc.), and share the profits with them. The second is to go it alone, and to self-publish your work. You don't have to share the profits that way, and with the variety of tools available today there are all kinds of roads you can take to getting your books out there.

Pick your path, and start storytelling.
However, this hasn't been the case in the past for roleplaying games. For creators who've wanted to work in this field, you've either had to design your own game from the ground up, or work with a publisher who was willing to let you use their intellectual property. Sometimes they would have an open game license (or OGL) that lets you use parts of their game to make your own, but even those licenses don't let you use everything in an existing game.

If you've ever wanted to try your hand at writing stories for games like Dungeons and Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, Pugmire, and others, though, there are some community content programs you should be aware of, though.

Who With A What Now?

A community content program is, essentially, a way for anyone willing to put in the time, energy, and sweat to create supplements for a roleplaying game, and sell them. These programs allow you to use the rules, setting, and other intellectual property as part of your supplements, giving you the creative freedom to add your own touches, flair, and stories to the setting.

Within the rules of the agreement, of course.

And then money?
Yep. As long as the content you create falls within the program's guidelines (every program has its own specific rules about what you can and can't do within their specific games), you are allowed to publish it through the community content program, and to sell it to the gaming community the same way you would other self-published work.

There are a few caveats, though.

The first is that if you create something through these programs, you don't get the rights to that material. It's made as part of that game's setting, and with their intellectual property, and all the rights to that content stay with the company. You'll still get paid for your sales, but the company might decide to make reference to your work in other editions, or outright re-publish it in later releases. And the parent company is more than allowed to do that without consulting you. Secondly, you can't just throw up anything your heart desires. Each community has specific rules about what kind of content you're allowed to make, and what sources you're allowed to draw on. In some cases you may be allowed to write additional rules, for example, but you may not be allowed to create new races, or to make new locations that have not been detailed in the game's canon. You may also not be allowed to put up fiction.

If you can work within those guidelines, though, and you're willing to sweat the details in order to create attractive, fun, playable content for some of your favorite games, then you should check out the Drive-Thru RPG Community Content Program rules. Remember, each one is unique, so make sure you read the fine print before you get started on your next project.

Also, if you'd like more information on tabletop RPGs (playing, running, and working in the field), tune-in to my sister blog Improved Initiative. And if you'd like to open up your options for making money writing whatever you want to, I'd also recommend taking a look at my previous posts Make Money Writing (By Joining, and Want To Make Money Writing? Check Out Vocal!

That's all for this week's Business of Writing. If you've got advice on how to work within these programs, or if there's something else writers should know, feel free to leave it in the comments below. For more of my work, check out my Vocal archive, and to keep up with my latest releases follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to support my work, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Ko-Fi.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

What Would A Woman Do? (Ask Deeper Questions About Your Characters)

As I've mentioned before, I lurk in a goodly number of online forums where writers and hopeful writers congregate. Places where we share updates on our work, gripe about markets, and try to offer constructive criticism on each other's work. However, there is a constant question that crops up in these groups that always makes my blood pressure rise a bit. Not because it's a bad question, but because in order to ask it in the first place the writer has to have already missed the point so completely that no answer will be helpful.

What would a woman do in this situation?

Gee, I wonder...

You're Asking The Wrong Question

To be clear, the above example is just one of the thousand heads on this hydra. It might be asking what would a Muslim person do in a given scenario. It might be asking why a man might not want to have sex. It might be asking what an Indian man, or a Chinese woman, would do in response to a certain event.

That isn't specific enough to get any meaningful answer. Go back to the drawing board.

Time to read the fine print.
If you want to understand what makes a person (or a character) take a certain course of action, you have to understand who they are as a whole. You can't identify one aspect of them, and then use that single aspect to dictate the entirety of their behavior. Every person is an individual, and the same stimulus might cause wildly different reactions in different members who fit under the same umbrella.

Let's go back to the guys and sex thing. First up is Jake. Jake is a deeply spiritual young man, but in addition to this he wants to make sure that any actions he takes (including physical intimacy) is an expression of his affection and love for his partner. So, while he might be a handsome young man with a lot of admirers, Jake isn't going to respond to a come-on at a bar, or someone trying to get into his pants at a party. Because those kinds of things are not what appeals to him, and he is repulsed by that sort of shallow interaction.

Next up is Shaun. Shaun is very sex positive, and he supports other people's right to do what they want with whom they want. However, Shaun himself is asexual, and he has no real desire to have sex with anyone. So no matter how physically attractive society might find someone, or what kind of romantic attachment he might have, sex is never going to be something he's really down for. He might have tried it in the past, or be willing to do it for a partner he cares about, but it will never be near the top of his to-do list.

Those are just two examples of how two characters who share a single trait (both are men, in this case) might have totally different reasons for similar behavior. And you get the same thing no matter what single trait you're using. Because yes, someone's age, gender, personal tragedies, family status, nationality, appearance, etc. are all individually important... but you can't figure out what actions they'll take until you know how all of those traits interact to cause a decision.

Make A Fully-Developed Character (Then Ask What They'd Do)

You need more than a single feature of a character before you can predict their actions. Even if it's something specific, like being an ex-paramilitary CIA operative. If you put two individuals in the same scenario (let's say they're walking past an alley, and they see a guy getting physical with a woman, who is clearly saying no), you'll get two very different responses.

This might be one of them.
Adam has seen this before, and part of him wants to help. But he knows he doesn't have all the information, and acting might lead to worse problems. There are too many variables, so he puts his hands in his pockets, and walks away. He puts it out of his mind, but the next few days he avoids watching the news. He doesn't want to add that woman's body to the bill he's already carrying, just in case something did happen. On the other hand, Katherine doesn't hesitate. She comes up behind the man, slams her heel into his knee, and when he cries out, hammers the side of his neck. She puts an arm around the distressed woman's shoulders, and leads her out of the alley. A good deed done, and something to soothe her conscience when the bad dreams try to come for her.

So, the next time you try to figure something out, don't ask what a woman or a Christian, or a teenager would do. Ask what Cathleen, or Clarence, or Henry would do, when faced with a given scenario.

And if you don't know enough about them to answer that question, keep digging, because you haven't unearthed the whole of their character yet.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing. Hopefully it got some wheels turning. If you'd like to check out more work from me, then take a look at my Vocal archive. If you want to keep up on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you want to support me so I can keep making content like this, head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Coffee. A little help, goes a long way!