There are a variety of challenges – finding time to write, making daily word counts, keeping up with the promos for your books, staying alive on social media networks, and a hundred more which could be listed…But I’m not talking about any of these.
Let’s fast forward ahead in life and say you already have a couple of novels under your belt. They received good reviews and you feel you’re on the road to churning out more literary greats. The challenge I’m referring to here is: “Have you really given your best writing to your readers?”
Writing is a creative process and a tough one to boot. Possibly you only remain within one genre or like me crossover into several…but regardless of the genre, your novel needs to be compelling. The dialogue must have sufficient meat to it for a reader to chew on for days. The action must course a reader’s veins with the force of a raging adrenaline rush. And when the last page arrives, the reader must be addicted to your words and direly in need of more, so much in fact they go in search of your next novel.
At any moment in time there are hundreds of free eBooks you can download to fill your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. As any writer should, I read a variety of these works. I’ve found diamonds in the rough with these free eBooks, and I’ve discovered a lot of junk promoted as “5 Star Reviewed” books. I found the common denominator in the “5 Star” junk was quantity and quality: the author appeared to have been writing solely to accomplish some daily quota of word quantity rather than write for daily quality. There was evidently no personal challenge to push the author. The author seemed to be rushing to make parts fit, rushing to get to the end, and definitely rushing to get their book released.
The authors did not challenge themselves. The writing was bland or mindless. It didn’t make the reader pause and think about the passage just read. And of course, the poor writing was another nail in the proverbial indie-author coffin.
To challenge yourself as a writer means to create to the fullest extent of your mind’s abilities. Do your readers feel your book as they read? Have you given them something that truly sticks in their minds? Good books do that. Good books are not written based upon fads of the day. They withstand the test of time and make their readers return another day to read them once more.
I’ve repeatedly read “The Assyrian” by Nicholas Guild and “The Wolf’s Hour” by Robert McCammon. With Guild’s books I always wondered if he mentally burned himself out with that book because of the strength and depth of his dialogue, and the thought processes he put into their creation. McCammon’s book was intense from beginning to end and maintaining such an energy level throughout the entire book must have drained him as well.
Challenge yourself to write a novel that is not your normal genre. You would be amazed at what you will learn about yourself and your ability to write.
I read an article by McCammon about how horror novels had moved away from being what ‘true’ horror novels should be. In brief, he stated they had become nothing more than blood and gore spectacles because that was an easy way out for the writers. His complaint was that writers were failing to invoke the mental terror aspect which should be ever present. Failure to do so only left a ‘rubber-stamped’ bloodletting which was the easy way to write…. When the writers couldn’t think of good storyline to invoke fear in a reader, they simply had some nutcase run around slashing throats. As I read McCammon’s article it struck me: the authors had not challenged themselves to create the best story possible.
Take some time to examine your work. Look at your recent writings and be brutally honest with yourself about it overall. What separates your novel from a great writer in the genre you’ve chosen? What is missing within your writings? If you look hard enough, you may find it is the level of creativity – the challenge to produce a better work than the last.
Q: What was the inspiration for your novel “The Cobra and Scarab”?
A: Watching a television documentary about the beautiful Egyptian queen Hatshepsut and her questionable rise to power as “King” and Pharaoh, I became intrigued by the gaps within the story. She supposedly stole the kingship from her stepson, the rightful heir Thutmose III, and announced she would relinquish control once he reached an adequate age. But she didn’t and hatred grew between them. She suddenly died; he became Pharaoh and then had her name and any references to her smashed from everything in Egypt. Thutmose III went on to become one of Egypt’s strongest military rulers—and the documentary ended. There was no further information about the cause of Hatshepsut’s death except hints of treachery and murder. Now hooked, I continued to research that period of history and kept finding the same basic storyline. It was then I realized my novel, “The Cobra and Scarab,” lay within those historical gaps.
Q: In looking over your work I find it difficult to place them in a certain genre. What category would you say best suits your work?
A: My novels are a blend of action adventure, historical fiction and suspense. I will probably always have some aspect of history as a foundation for my books, but believe readers of almost any genre will find interest in my writings. I say this with confidence because I’ve had several readers tell me that there is something for everyone in my books.
Q: Your book “Solomon’s Men” has been published in print, but not as an eBook. Is this a marketing strategy, a dislike for eBooks, or the publisher’s decision?
A: As I answer this question, I am awaiting the online arrival of “Solomon’s Men” as an eBook for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and Apple iPad. When “Solomon’s Men” was originally published, there were no eBooks. My writing career came to a screeching halt at that time due to cancer, which is now in remission, and the events of “9-11.” The demands of my security manager career with a global oil corporation magnified ten-fold and never slackened until I retired. Having been asked for years by faithful readers when another novel would be coming, upon retirement I chose to renew my writings. I found the publishing world had drastically changed and discovered eBooks were a new avenue. From the beginning then I wanted “Solomon’s Men” released as an eBook. It just happened to fall as the latest book to be released due to the volume of work involved with publication of multiple novels. “Year of the Ram” and “The Cobra and Scarab: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” were recently released in print form. “The Cobra and Scarab” is also out as an eBook.
Q: The Amazon.com shows only 1 of your books left in stock. Are we to assume they have been selling well?
A: I recently saw that on Amazon.com and was quite pleased. With my return to writing there has been a resurgence of interest in my novels so I hope this is an indication of the future for all my writings.
Q: While you have a limited number of reviews, you have received nothing but the highest marks. As a writer, how does this make you feel?
A: “Solomon’s Men” has truly been received well. It has all the reviews at this time because the other novels have just come out. I know readers have begun ordering them so hopefully more reviews will be forthcoming. As for receiving the highest marks, it is an excellent feeling! It gives positive validation to my overall creative efforts as an author. I want readers to undergo a roller-coaster ride of emotions with my novels, and the great reviews to date tell me I have been successful.
Q: How much research have you done for your books?
A: I generally spend three to four months performing intense research for a book such as “Year of the Ram” where I included actual ancient war devices invented by the Chinese. During those months I am also mentally perfecting the overall storyline I want. Once I actually start writing the novel, the beginning to end process is over one year. My office becomes a disaster zone due to books, magazines, notes, photos and drawings scattered throughout the room. My wife looks in, shakes her head, and walks away.
Q: Your other new book “Year of the Ram” sounds very intriguing. It also sounds very violent. Would you say it is suitable for all age groups?
A: My novels are written with a historical foundation and history is often far more cruel than I write in my books. “Year of the Ram” is set against the backdrop of a savage war after the Mongols captured China as its own. It is an epic novel of a man torn between his allegiance to his father—the Great Khan, the struggle to save their nation against the onslaught of a massive greed-ridden army, and the discovery of a son he never knew had been born.
I do not write children’s books or for young adults, but I find it odd that a historical fiction novel is thought violent while novels and movies of paranormal, horror, gory zombies, blood-sucking vampires, and throat-ripping werewolves are so widely acceptable for today’s teenage youth.
Q: Do you feel the ability of authors to publish independently without the use of an editor has in any way degraded the overall quality of books in the marketplace?
A: There is a definite need for quality filtering of some form, whether it is an editor or an author’s well-disciplined pre-publication review process. The degradation in quality of books due to a flood of indie published works, especially free eBook publishing, has become a major heated point of discussion on many book seller forums, such as Amazon. This is creating an unjustified backlash against all indie authors. On almost every forum you read postings which state indie writers should be filtered/separated from “the good books” (referring to major publishing houses) because of their poor writing skills. Based on the volume of irate comments, you realize all indie authors, good or bad, are being lumped into one pile labeled: “Stay Away.”
Q: What has been your most successful marketing tool/strategy for your novels?
A: Social media networking is a tremendous tool. But I also find simple word of mouth recommendations from one reader to another, giving those reviews about your novels that you will never know of or hear, is the strongest marketing tool.
Q: Where do you see yourself as a writer ten years from now?
A: I see myself writing, still trying to feverishly get the hundreds of ideas out of my head and into books. I want to develop a strong readership and following that will be anxiously awaiting my next work. I definitely see myself demanding that the next novel be even better than the last.
This is a rare opportunity for me, one that will probably never happen again soon. But I am happy to announce that two of my novels, THE COBRA AND SCARAB: A NOVEL OF ANCIENT EGYPT and YEAR OF THE RAM have been published— and released almost on the same day!
Not only were they released in print as softcover and hardbound, but THE COBRA AND SCARAB was also released as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, Sony, iTunes and others.
Normally, I do not write about my novels with any depth in my blog because each novel has its own page here on the website, but today is different and it is a great feeling. I know my fellow authors fully understand the raging river of emotions you undergo when you see your book hit the market – but for two books to do so at the same time is a pure adrenaline rush.
Authors know the volume of work and effort that goes into the making of a novel—research, the writing, more research, the editing, the worry, the mental fatigue, finding a publisher, the marketing, and more marketing….
So, excuse me, because for today (and maybe tomorrow) I’m going to howl about how happy I am to have two more of my novels released. You can find them on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other book sellers. And I also learned that another will be coming out soon in e-book, but I have to wait a few more weeks.
My sincere gratitude to fellow authors and friends that have been so supportive— especially to the readers that have contacted me asking, “How much longer before we can read another book?”
Well, I can now answer, “They are released and ready for you!”
One of my aunts telephoned to remind me of another aunt’s birthday. Horrible as I am at remembering such important dates, I gladly accepted the information.
“Glenn, you know how much she loves to receive one of your letters….”
The telephone call came from the same aunt that had saved letters I wrote to her long ago from Vietnam as a young Marine. While one aunt cherished letters she often referred to as ‘mini-novels,’ another aunt eagerly awaited her annual ‘birthday’ letter from me. I knew a nice Hallmark birthday card with flowery phrases and artwork would be acceptable to send, but it would never be as highly valued as a personal letter. I realized how amazing it was that a personal letter, well-written and comprised of family events and incidents, could bring happiness to someone. The thought kept churning within me for hours.
As a society, we are possessed by the insatiable hunger for advancements that allow us to communicate faster and with greater ease. We are in a technological race we will win in the long run, yet in the end, will have lost the value of one-to-one personal contact, and the importance of our written word. Take a moment to consider the evolution of our communications with loved ones. For this writing I am solely referring to letters to family members or dear friends, not business activities.
We began by calling a letter “snail mail” when sent through the postal service. Delivery took too long, so we introduced email into the equation.
Email was found to be fast, arrived within seconds of clicking a ‘send’ button, and you could address it to as many family members as you chose – and they in turn could ‘forward’ your email on to as many people as they wished. Often you received an email with multiple headers consisting of dozens of addressees, all before you ever received it. That really had a ‘personal’ touch for you, didn’t it?
We were not satisfied though and developed ‘texting’ to one another via cell-phone (which should not be performed while driving.) Next in the mix came Facebook whereby families and friends used it to keep in touch, ‘post’ notes of their activities, to say ‘Hello’ and inquire about each other’s lives or tell of special, personal situations. And of course, all your ‘friends’ were able to read what you posted. Twitter had a similar usage, and Google has joined the technological race as well.
With letters, we typed or handwrote each using full words and sentences to express ourselves, our emotions on a subject. The letters were sent from one person to another, not copied to you on a string of addressees.
When cell-phone texting came about, entering full words became too slow so abbreviations were given birth which spread and became a norm. Facebook allows for full words and sentences, but as we know, Twitter restricts users to 140 characters, forcing U 2 chop ltrs 2 simply say, “OMG, TY” or “O I C U 8 1 2.” I hate being forced to use such abbreviated codes to express myself. It feels like the ‘dumbing’ of America which I also compare to a long list of ‘reality’ shows on television.
I read an article which discussed how high school and college students had difficulty writing required papers because they were so accustomed to daily usage of texting abbreviations. Another article stated a school district in Indiana was considering not teaching cursive writing to students anymore because of the reliance upon computers. I recently learned the school district in my hometown is discussing the same action. If our youth cannot properly write a school paper or do not know how to write in cursive, where are we being led in terms of private, personal communications as a letter is from one person to one another?
While a mailed letter may be considered old-fashioned to some in this day and age, it still holds an important place in our society. The same as a reader may prefer to physically hold a book in their hand rather than a Kindle or Nook, a well-written letter held in some people’s hands is equally valuable. Throughout my life I have grown with the various trends and electronics as they came along. I experienced the evolution of technologies and used them to the fullest in both personal and corporate life. But there is an older generation of people who did not, and they still find happiness in the arrival of a well-written letter addressed to them. I do.
Have you ever witnessed a loved one or elderly friend open a special box and retrieve a bundle of letters, all tightly bound with a ribbon or string? Did you ever watch as their eyes grew wet and their fingertips gently brushed across the envelopes with reverence? Somehow the moment would be lost if they were to open a folder and pull out printed emails to show you.
We are writers. We compose novels and short stories with a variety of events and spectrum of emotions. Our books often overflow with characters and their quirky actions. Writing a letter to a loved one should be nothing more than a simple creative exercise in which you fill it with personal news they should know or would find humorous. Write about the stupid things you did such as locking yourself out of the house or the car. Grandparents love to hear about the antics of their grandchildren. They miss them and want as much news about their grandchildren as possible. I have an aunt who dearly loves animals. She enjoys my tales about our dog chewing and destroying everything in the backyard (and a ninety-three pounds Labradoodle can do a lot of damage!)
Consider your letters to be ‘mini-novels’ for the greatest readers of all, your loved ones.
Granted, not every communication should be a handwritten or typed letter. There is an appropriate time for those special writings, but we need to pause and consider when a personalized letter might bring joy or create a fond memory for those we love.
Don’t let the art of letter writing become lost to society.
Photo credit: Boy writes with pencil, The University of Iowa, ca. 1920-Fredrick Wallace, 1894-1984