100th Post!

Photo Credit: newblood.com

Wow. How in the world did I manage to reach 100 posts? When I started this blog all the way back at the beginning of June last year I did so because I wanted an outlet to discuss the ups and downs of writing my first book. I loved sharing that experience with every one of you who happened to follow along. And now it’s growing faster than I can churn out relevant posts. Before I continue, I would just like to say thank you for spending your precious time reading this thing. I write my posts for me, but I love knowing that there’s always someone out there who will read them.

So, let’s see what the heck I’ve dedicated these 100 posts to.

80 – the number of posts about my own book/writing! Holy crap! I honestly didn’t know it was quite that many. What the heck are y’all doing reading so much about that? Can’t be that great.

15 – the number of posts about reading, publishing, or books in general. These have pretty much all come in the last month or so. And a few of them are way up on my list of most popular posts ever.

5 – the number of posts about miscellaneous topics. I can actually think of all of these off the top of my head.

The most popular post by far, and I mean it’s gotten like five times the number of views as the next on the list was Print vs. E-Book: Which side are you on?

The longest post in terms of its word count was A Valentine’s Day Duel: Ron & Hermione vs. Katniss & Peeta at 966 words.

The second, third, fourth, and fifth most popular posts were:

2. My Book, Divided Within, Available N0w!

3. Amazon’s List of 100 Books Everyone Should Read

4. Self Publishing with CreateSpace: My Experience

5. Cover Art Revealed: Divided Within

I’m currently at 131 WordPress followers and I’ve had 254 Likes on this bad boy.

So that’s it! 100 posts down and oh so many more to come! Thanks for reading! It’s been a blast so far.

Finding Time to Write

Photo Credit: Andrew Lazo

Before I begin I would first like to tell you all a little about myself that you may or may not already know. I work 16 hours a week Friday-Sunday. The other four days of the week are supposed to be my ‘writing’ days. Now we can begin.

Generally speaking, we all have a million things going on that always seem to get in the way of our writing time. I’m no different. It just happens that my hours are not spent at a job like I know most of yours are. But I assure you that there are countless things that pull me away from my writing time, because it’s not like we can sit down and write for five minutes and get up. That’s not what I call serious writing. Personally, I can’t write for less than about an hour, and I often write for longer stretches of time than that.

Sleep

But the point of this post is not to tell you how long I write, it’s to tell you why I often find myself not doing so. I hate to say it, but I have an absolutely horrendous sleep schedule. I’ve never put a clock to it, but I figure I sleep somewhere between 10 and 12 hours every 24. Ever since I earned my degree last May I’ve not had that concrete sleep schedule that I had for the previous 16 years of my life when I had to wake up for school everyday. I always find myself napping even after just waking up. I don’t know any other person who sleeps as much as I do. Maybe a baby somewhere?

TV

I’ve reached the point at which I consider myself a TV-holic. Seriously, there aren’t enough hours in the day for the number of TV shows I watch. Here’s what’s currently on.

Monday: The Voice, The Following, Bates Motel, Switched at Birth, The Fosters, Jeopardy!

Tuesday: The Voice, Ink Master, Marvel’s Agents of Shield, Jeopardy!

Wednesday: Nashville, American Idol, Best Ink, The Americans, Jeopardy!

Thursday: The Crazy Ones, American Idol, Jeopardy!

Friday: Jeopardy!

Saturday: Cops

That’s 20 different things waiting for me to watch on my DVR every week! What am I to do with all of that other than watch it?! I have a confession. I usually watch the shows on their original air dates just a short time after they’ve begun so I can skip the commercials. I don’t think any more needs to be said about my TV watching, because I’m sure after looking over that list that it’s apparent I have an obsession.

Gym

I’m a bodybuilder. Truthfully. Even though my training sessions don’t typically last more than about 70 minutes or so, the last thing I want to do after getting home from the gym is sit down and write. I’d rather shower and eat and lie down and watch one of my many TV shows. That isn’t changing. I work much harder than most people in the gym, and frankly, I’m tired afterward. The creative juices just aren’t running.

Reading

I read A LOT. Not so much recently, but I read more than anyone I know personally. I have to, right? Because you can’t be a good writer without having first been a good reader. I love reading just as much as I love writing, but sometimes another author’s book pulls me away from working on my own. It’s a little unfortunate, but my reading is what got me here in the first place. I can’t just give it up.

Just a bunch of excuses

At the end of the day these are all just my excuses not to write, because if I want to write then I will and if I don’t then I won’t. It really is that simple. I may have the next chapter or two or ten played out in my head, but they’re nothing if only rattling around up there. I’m always thinking about my story, but it’s much more difficult for me to sit down and get fingers to keyboard.

So I ask you, what do you do to find time to write?

My Letter to JK Rowling

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

Dear JK Rowling,

I would first like to apologize on behalf of Lynn Shepherd for the piece that she wrote for the Huffington Post recently about you. I realize that people don’t always like others and feel that their personal opinion should be known, but I could not believe that a fellow author would tell another more successful author to stop writing because they have been unable to find a place in the market. It’s both unprofessional and saddening to see the lengths that she has gone to in order to make her very idiotic opinion known.

If you’re like me then you’re likely wondering who in the world is this woman who calls herself an author of ‘literary mysteries’ anyway? Well, to be honest, I had no idea before any of this came about either. She has apparently written three books, none of which have been well-received by her readers as evidenced by the rather harsh reviews that I came across on Amazon. I’ll tell you right now, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to this woman. She’s about as likely to become a NYT bestseller in the near future as someone who doesn’t write books at all. This woman, by writing the piece for the Huffington Post, has compared herself to you and her writing to yours. It’s a comparison that no other sane person would make.

Now to her point about whether or not you should continue writing for adults. I have to be honest, I have not read any of your books, though I’ve seen every one of the Harry Potter movies. And I also must admit that she’s right about your books becoming instant bestsellers as soon as they’re released, but I just don’t see what’s wrong with that. You’ve worked just as hard as every other successful writer to get to where you are today. How is it bad that you’ve built up a fanbase of millions that wants to read everything you write? How is it bad for writing that you get millions of people reading? How is it bad that you wrote a book under a pseudonym that only became a bestseller after it became known that you were the author and not someone else?

It isn’t. Keep writing. Because you have millions of fans asking for it.

Sincerely,

John Guillen

Literary Adaptations: TV or the Big Screen

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago titled Has Hollywood Run out of Ideas in which I discussed the nature of the relationship between Hollywood and bestselling authors. You may want to take a look at that post once you finish or before you start this one because the relationship is somewhat fascinating.

Let me ask, if you happen upon an article discussing a new adaptation of your favorite book or series, would you prefer a full-length theatrical release or a TV series? I won’t wait until the end of the post to give my answer because it doesn’t matter to me. Both mediums have proven in recent years that it’s all about the product. A bad movie is no different from a bad TV show when it comes down to adaptations.

TV

Books that are adapted are often hundreds of pages long, no matter the genre, right? One of major advantages of a TV adaptation is that it allows for more of the story to be told. I don’t watch Game of Thrones but I do know that it has been wildly successful on HBO. I also know that the books have been VERY successful. TV gives the reader/watcher more of what he/she wants, the story. What is it that we always hear after going to our neighborhood movie theater to watch the most recent literary adaptation? “I can’t believe they left that part out.” As readers it’s hard to justify leaving ANY part of a great book out of its movie adaptation because that’s part of the reason why we liked it in the first place. But we also don’t know a thing about writing a script or making a movie. Things are left out not because those working on the movie wish to upset fans, but because there are very real constraints to making a movie.

A TV series also gives viewers something new each week. It isn’t a one time thing that goes and comes in a matter of an hour or two.

Movie

I would guess that authors prefer their books be adapted into full-length movies over TV shows. I don’t particularly agree with this sentiment because movies are limited in how long they can be, they cost A LOT of money and guarantee no return, and not everyone is willing to dish out ten bucks for a movie ticket. I’ve done so myself only three times in the last two calendar years, two of those were for The Hunger Games movies. But I think there is a great amount of pride for an author to have one of his/her books adapted into a theatrically released full-length movie. J.K. Rowling had eight. Stephenie Meyer has had five. Suzanne Collins will have four by the end of next year. These are some of the bestselling authors today who keep making their books into movies. AND the money made by these authors from their movie adaptations is something we can only dream of. I mean, J.K. Rowling became the first billionaire author recently, until she fell below that threshold after taxes and charitable donations the following year. Movie adaptations of books enable authors to get their product in front of millions more people than ever before, because let’s face it, not everyone is a reader.

I’d love to know what you think.

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing: And the winner is…

One of the major questions new authors face upon completing their manuscript is trying to decide whether traditional or self-publishing is a better fit for them and their work. Some authors will never self-publish because of their own beliefs about the self-publishing industry while others will try to go the traditional route and then self-publish after countless rejection letters from agents and/or editors. But is it even worth it? Are there enough advantages to self-publishing to justify taking that course? Let’s see.

Self-Publishing

The self-publishing industry has taken the book market by storm in recent years. There are seemingly companies popping up everyday that guarantee this or that for your newly released title. Mostly these are just to get you to take a look at their site where you’ll be bombarded with their so-called ‘success’ stories. You’ll read about one author who has sold enough books to quit their day job. Then another who became a NYT bestseller within their first couple of years of self-publishing. By this time you’re starting to get more and more interested and you’ve now begun looking into the packages and services offered by this particular company. Because in your head your book is just as good as any out there so if someone else can become a self-published bestselling author then so can you, right? Wrong.

Before continuing on further I would like to ask a question of you. How many self-published authors do you know by name?

It’s a simple enough question. So think about it. I’ll answer first…two. Kinda. Cause the two that I know are Hugh Howey and E.L. James. Both of these authors started out in self-publishing and experienced such success that traditional publishers came knocking at their doors. But they’re the exception. There are likely thousands of other struggling self-published authors for each of the major successful ones. For the record, I could probably name 50-100 traditionally published authors just off the top of my head.

But back to the point of this post. There are plenty of advantages to self-publishing. The author is finally able to say “I wrote a book.” The author has far more creative control when it comes to the manuscript and cover than he/she would if it was being done by a traditional publisher. The author will likely have a book available from the world’s largest bookstore Amazon.com. The quality of the books printed by self-publishers today is often no different than the quality of traditional publishers. Remember, I’m talking about the physical book and not the story itself.

Traditional Publishing

If this were a David vs. Goliath sort of post then the traditional publishing industry would be Goliath, accompanied by a vicious dog. The big five traditional publishers of Simon and Schuster, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Hachette, and HarperCollins maintain a stranglehold on the publishing industry that can’t be overstated. But in reality it’s not much more different from the top few companies in any industry. I’m thinking Wal Mart, Safeway, Kroger, and Costco in grocery or ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX when it comes to broadcasting major sporting events.

Before going further let me define what it means to go the ‘traditional’ publishing route. The author queries an agent. The agent reads through and decides to represent the manuscript and pitches the story to editors and contacts that he or she may have at a traditional publisher. Eventually the story gets picked up, or it doesn’t.

The traditional publishing industry is loaded with gatekeepers to keep the lesser writers out of the industry, because it all comes down to the publisher making money from selling the books it publishes, right? It’s hard to make money not selling books or by publishing books by just okay writers. It’s a business and their business model has worked largely unchanged for a long time. I read recently that only about 2% of all authors are able to successfully go the traditional publishing route. 2%! If you ever wonder why there are so many self-publishers and self-published authors out there today then take a look at that number right there as partly responsible.

But let’s not forget that traditional publishers take all the risk when it comes to publishing. All of it.

My Take

This is coming from someone who self-published his first book through CreateSpace. It’s simple. Traditional publishing continues to rule the publishing world, and it’s not even close. Sure there are a few authors who have managed to gain critical acclaim and sell thousands upon thousands of books through self-publishing, but the more persistent trend is that the author will sell a few hundred copies of their book and then fall by the wayside. It’s just how it is.

So when you finish that manuscript you’ve been working on and you go through and rewrite and rewrite some more and then come to this particular question, I would suggest sending out a few queries to some agents before self-publishing. But that’s just me.

100 WordPress Followers!

Now I fully realize that there are blogs out there with tens of thousands of followers, and that’s fine and dandy, but my little piece of cyberspace now has 100 WordPress followers! It’s an exciting number because I come across blogs each and every day with even less than I have. It’s great knowing that 100 people are interested in what I have to say on this wonderful thing. And to make it all the sweeter, the VAST majority of my posts have had to do with my own book writing process. And ALL of the posts have to do with either books, writing, reading, publishing, or something that falls within one of those categories. How cool is that?

I mean, it’s one thing to follow and read the posts on a wildly popular blog where every post gets 30 comments and 50 Likes. That’s easy. I think it’s different to follow and read the posts on a blog with a rather small following, because you may find yourself wondering if you’re the only person reading the posts with no Likes or comments each week. Well, now you know you’re one of at least 100!

So, I thank you for your time the last few months. Here’s to the next 100!

Male or Female Protagonist: Why does it even matter?

male-or-female

This is one of those questions that really irks me. And I think it goes into the larger question of male or female author. By the way, I hate saying ‘male’ and ‘female’ because they are social and not biological terms, but it doesn’t make sense for me to say man protagonist, so I’m going to stay with the social terms for the rest of this post, but just know that I don’t like them.

I mentioned that this question is part of the larger question of whether or not you or I or whomever the reader is prefers books written by men or women over the other sex. If you happen to be one of those individuals who says, “I only like books by men. They tend to be better written with better stories.” you can just stop reading this post right now, because I do not fall into that category and you’ll find the rest to conflict with your tastes. But if you’re not like that, then let’s discuss the question a bit more in depth. Here is my question to you.

Do you prefer to read books written by men over those written by women, or vice versa? If so, why?

This would be my answer if asked this particular question.

“Is that a joke?” There is no hint of sarcasm when I say that this would be my response. It’s a ridiculous question that merits no response at all. I mean, let’s think about some of the very best authors writing today, no matter the genre. Stephen King. J.K. Rowling. Lee Child. Suzanne Collins. Mitch Albom. Veronica Roth. See what I did there? For every great writer today who happens to be male or female there is a great writer of the opposite sex. So for someone to sit there and say that men write better than women or that women write better than men is simply inexplicable. And there are so many more authors that I could have mentioned, but for the sake of this post chose to limit the list to a handful.

Now that that’s out of the way, why don’t we go into the titular question of this post.

Do you prefer to read a male or female protagonist?

I think some readers would say that women mostly write women leads and men do the same with men. Maybe, but that has nothing to do with your own personal preference, right? Don’t mistake this question for asking if you have a favorite author or two, because I definitely do, the question I’m discussing is whether or not your reading habits tend to involve more protagonists of a particular sex because you have mindfully made that happen.

You see, my list of favorite authors includes James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Suzanne Collins, Robert B. Parker, T. Jefferson Parker, and Marcus Sakey. You’re probably telling yourself that I just named six authors, and only one of whom is a woman. I did that on purpose because I hoped that you’d catch onto that. Yes, my favorite list of authors may only have one female, but let me tell you about the books on my shelves right next to me. I have several by Sue Grafton. I have even more by Karin Slaughter. I have all of the books Michele Martinez has written. I have a book by Tess Gerritsen. I have several by Karen Traviss. I could continue but I think I’ve made my point. Yes, my favorite authors happen to mostly be men, but my reading tastes include plenty of books written by women with female protagonists. I just happen to read what I read when I read it. I don’t log into my Amazon account thinking, “Oh, I can’t buy any books with female protagonists right now. They’re too emotional and clueless.”  And I hope no one else does that.

For example, I’m currently reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. My third favorite book ever is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, which we all know has Katniss Everdeen as the protagonist.

The point that I’m trying to make is that there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books with protagonists of a particular sex. And there is no real reason to go out of your way not to read books written by authors of a particular sex. I understand that we all have our preferences, but there’s something to be said when you look at your shelf of 200 books and only a handful are written by either a man or a woman. There are bad books and bad writers, but they are absolutely not limited to one sex. So if you find yourself with far too many books with male protagonists and not so many with females in the lead role, I challenge you to go to your neighborhood Barnes and Noble or log into your Amazon account and a find a book with a female protagonist. If you haven’t read any of The Hunger Games books then I would highly recommend you take a look at that trilogy. If you happen to fall on the other side of the stick with books starring mostly women, then I challenge you to do the same thing and find a book with a male protagonist. The first in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson is Along Came a Spider, I’d recommend it.