You used to give me a hard time about self publishing, and now you seem to have embraced it – what changed?
Honestly, the business model changed. It used to be disastrous; now it’s really awesome. I knew, once I heard about publishing for free online to ebook readers, I knew the race would be on. I won’t claim to have the same insights as Joe Konrath, but I knew self-publishing had become something reasonable. It stopped being a money-pit where writers desperate to get their work to readers would be taken advantage of and bilked out of a lot of money.
Being able to allow anyone to publish, without penalty of cost, is a great business model. And readers finally have real choice, real options. Nothing else has changed — only my mindset. I gave up a long time ago on the notion that making it through the gatekeepers meant being a better writer somehow. It doesn’t. It just means being a luckier writer. I don’t think someone’s opinion should stand in the way of someone else’s dream. Those who felt the opinionated ones validated their ability somehow I pity the most.
Writers can write and reach their audiences directly, without anyone making a free buck from their labors and “screening them out” of publishing. Maybe some who are publishing now won’t be up to public standards in terms of skill, but the readers themselves vet those things out.
Now, rather than sitting around for years hoping and praying, and instead of having to cough up hundreds of dollars and having to buy their own copies as a minimum order, writers can write the way they believe their audiences like their work to be, and publish it, and see it for sale within days or hours, not years.
I like that.
What is your very favorite book about writing and why?
Tough choice! If I had to pick just one, I’d have to go with good ol’ Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style“. I believe it is still the definitive guide to writing good, solid, vigorous prose. It’s a small, non-threatening book which delivers rules in punchy, one-sentence capsules you can embrace as a writer. Find the nuggets particular to your quirks and style and hold on to them, work them into your prose, and before long you’re a stronger writer. It worked for me, it will work for most who give it a chance.
I also loved James Scott Bell’s book called “Plot and Structure“, but if I can only pick one, I have to stay with S&W (not Smith & Wesson, though they’re a good choice too).
How did your affair with Scrivener start?
Well, it’s funny. A few months ago my wife and I were surfing around, and I found several writer-specific software programs which could accommodate my “new story structure method” (which isn’t “new” at all, but that’s another story). My method, of course, was the Larry Brooks adaptation of the Three-Part Story Structure. He changed it to FOUR parts, which makes it a LOT easier to digest and manage, and then there are five milestones to which the writer moves the story. I wanted software which could manage Acts, Chapters and Scenes.
Well, when I heard about Scrivener (long before this), I was instantly jealous because the feature set sounded great, but it was Mac-only at the time. About a year after that, I heard they were producing a Windows version. When they released free trials for beta, I tried it. I didn’t know what I was doing, and figured the software wasn’t what I wanted. Like yWriter, it was just too complicated for me. So I shelved it for a long time.
So, here we are, shopping for writing software again. My wife gives me the go-ahead to buy several, try them all, settle on one and have done with it for once and for all. So I downloaded the three and found myself instantly drawn to them because they could indeed be broken into Acts, Chapters and Scenes, just like I wanted. I could structure the outline in a sidebar to meet my Four-Part structure, insert placeholders for the milestones, and start pecking.
I wrote my latest WIP using one called Power Writer, and I really enjoyed it. I loved managing my outline directly in the document. When it came time to revise, though, I found myself exporting to Word so I could work through the document. (Word 2010, by the way, is a very nice piece of software and it’s outlining capabilities are fantastic.) I did all the edits in Word, then I had to jump through all the hoops to turn my Word document into an HTML file which could then be fed to MobiPocket Creator and THEN uploaded to Amazon. Whew! Lots of work!
Well, for my next book I was torn between which two packages to use. I chose Scrivener because no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get “into” the other package. So I took a look at Scrivener’s documentation. I saw a few books on Amazon written about it. I then found out — because I didn’t explore their web site well at all — they had _video tutorials_! Well! Being a visual learner, this was the pot o’ gold for me!
I watched the videos and the more I learned, the more I liked it. Last week, I took my short story “Lucky Caller 7″ from the collection “A Fine Cast of Characters” and imported it to Scrivener. I compiled it as a .mobi file directly from Scrivener, without having to go through Word or MobiPocket Creator. It uploaded beautifully to Kindle Digital Publishing, and the next day was for sale. It formatted fine, and what I didn’t like about the formatting I’ve since learned how to change. It’s brilliant. Complete control, and in the end, I’m a control freak where my fiction’s concerned.
So, it’s a long story, but that’s how my affair with Scrivener began. I see us being happy long into the future this way.
Tell a bit about your new book Scales of Justice.
It’s about a guy who lost his family to a dragon attack. In his world, they’re common. He became a dragon hunter to find and kill that dragon. But he’s been riding the canyon where he first encountered it for 20 years and hasn’t seen it. Then he comes to a little town at the far side of the canyon, where he’s not been before, and he meets someone who’s also lost his family to the very same dragon. He reluctantly partners with the old man, and together they set off to find and kill that dragon. But there’s a lot they don’t know about each other or their adversary, and finding out the hard way could cost them their lives.
Scales of Justice is set in a world very like ours, but not. I wanted to be deliberately ambiguous about the when and where, but drop hints about those things along the way. I hope it worked! I also wanted plenty of action, so this one moves a little faster than I expected. I also tried new stuff with characterization, so hopefully that went well too.
It seems to be a bit of a departure from your previous horror work. How did it come about?
A couple of years ago, I got into cowboys. BIG time. I watched “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” “High Plains Drifter,” “Tombstone,” “Wyatt Earp” (which stunk, btw), and “Silverado” (also bad). I watched “3:10 to Yuma” (the remake), I watched “Unforgiven” again (love that one), and basically anything western I could get my hands — erm, eyes — on. I even tried reading a Louis L’Amour.
While I was in this mode, I got this weird idea — what if cowboys had been faced with dragons? What if dragons were wild in the old west? How cool would that be?
I wrote a short story, a vignette actually. Just one. And I loved it.
Then, I got this vision in my brain about a guy standing at an old hard-pack dirt road while his wife and kids get on a carriage. They ride off into the sunset. And against that backdrop, the black shadow of a dragon swoops out of the sky to spew fire on the carriage. I wrote that, too, mostly as a character study, but just to see how it went.
It was only a vignette too, but I ended up turning it into a short story. And I loved it.
Those two vignettes, less than 5,000 words together, became “Scales of Justice.”
What’s next for you?
Well, I have one book mostly outlined and another two are on deck. The next one and one of the two in planning are definitely horror. But the third one is sort of a paranormal-fantasy thing. I think the manuscript I wrote back in 2007 — the one through which you and I met, actually — is going to get an overhaul before too long, too. It’s got good bones, but needs a little touch-up here and there, like an aging beauty. Me, for instance. But that and its sequel are fairly complete stories. I need to outline them, add some Dramatica touches, and then start pounding the keyboard.
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