Being a ‘Non-Conformist’ Author: You Don’t Always Have to ‘Follow the Script’

In the mid-1990s I joined a local far west Texas writer’s group called ‘Texas Mountain Trail Writers.’ While working on the first printed novel I would call Battle of the Band, I needed ‘tutoring’ so-to-speak on absolutely what had to go into the novel to make it a legitimate novel, to market and sell the thing–that is, get some literary agent to ‘sell’ it to a big time publisher. No literary agent came a-calling, so I had to do it myself.

And this was what I picked up in all of these discussions and even annual writer conferences, which I will now list:

  1. ‘Show, don’t tell.’ Anyone who writes novels or books knows what this means. And I believe in ‘show, don’t tell,’  but there are times the ‘tell’ part has to be used perhaps  more than some would find acceptable, as I discovered finishing up my first book.
  2. Your setting must be a setting one is familiar with. After all, aren’t most of Stephen King’s novels set in Maine, where he is from? (And why do I always use Stephen King as an example? Because other than literary genius Kurt Vonnegut–from Ithica, New York (quite a few of his books are set in that part of New York state)–no writer has influenced me to write than the best suspense-si-fi-horror novelist in US history.
  3. Your characters must be from the setting you use that must be one you are familiar with.  Not all, but many of King’s characters are from Maine, or at least New England.
  4. Your characters, because you must know your characters–especially the main ones–must be part of you and even as you are. (Characterization)
  5. Dialogue–your characters must speak in a way that characters from a particular setting would speak, thus you must know how these characters would speak, which is why they ought to come from a particular familiar setting. Further, you characters must speak in a way that it is obvious for that character and the reader knows that is how the character talks. Use catch-phrases as well.
  6. Genre–this is the item that has and will give me the most headache. My books are not genre specific, but a mix of spiritual/satire/adult-rated R not X/horror/suspense/fantasy, so that could be why no literary agent touched my books–literary agents tend to be genre specific, or at least that’s what I was told by the first published author I ever met, a romance novelist (with plenty of the required ‘sexual tension.’)
  7. Theme–The only way I can describe any theme in my books is this: good triumphing over evil. If it isn’t ‘good vs. evil’ in fiction, then I am not writing it-ultimately, good vs. evil is the only issue that matters to me.
  8. Plot–Within the realm of the physical and mental and real and spiritual worlds, the plot revolves around an 80s-90s rock and roll band that, upon achieving great success, must choose their good vs. evil path, with triumphs, trials and tribulations along the way. Because they are ‘rock stars,’ they are ‘gonna do what a rock star is gonna do.’ Which is why these novels are adult–sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll–and not young adult or Christian or rated G. Sorry about that, but if my characters are going to be real, they’re just gonna have to cuss every now and then, or engage in free sex–and one of my characters is bi-sexual, by the way.

Did I miss anything?

So, here is where I ‘go off the reservation’ so-to-speak. ‘Show, don’t tell’? Who gets to decide if you I don’t show enough and tell too much? Folks, I have NEVER read a novel without some ‘tell,’ okay? Read JRR Tolkein’s “Silmarillion’ some time…there is so much ‘telling’ in that book that one would think one of the greatest novelists ever couldn’t write a novel to save his life! But of course, he has to ‘tell’ about how the elves and what not came to be, from what heavenly spirits, and the rest. Then you have books loaded with dialogue–in fact, one friend-turned-book-critic once told me that my two printed books had too much dialogue! “Too much telling,” she told me. After all, dialogue is kind of like telling, right? In my opinion, however, nothing SHOWS a character like his or her dialogue, and how he or she says it!

Where I really go off the reservation though is setting, for actual setting and in terms of where the characters are from and how they speak. I intend to fully explain the whys and what-fors of this issue in posts I have already written and just need the right time to post (since I am busy re-typing/re-writing my two printed books for e-book formatting purpose for sale on Kindle, Nook, Lulu, etc). But for now I will sum it up–since my characters are in a rock band of the 80s and 90s, and since I grew up in the 60s and 70s when British rock reigned supreme for the most part (beginning with the Beatles), and since I spent about two months there in mostly the southeast (Brighton area) and also met three twenty-somethings from Tyneside (Newcastle, of course) and I just loved hearing that Geordie accent… Okay, you get the idea. But just to make it a bit easier for me to deal with creating these books, roughly half of the settings in all my novels are in the US, either New York City or California between LA and San Fran. I grew up on Long Island and lived in NYC. I have visited southern and central California and know several folks from there  (and my brother and his family used to live near Silicon Valley). A number of supporting characters are Americans. Finally, for the most part, my Brit rocker characters spend most of their time in the most affluent part of England, which just happens to be the part of England I am most familiar with–the southeast, including the affluent county called Surrey. Thus, one really cannot accuse me of not knowing the settings and the ways of speaking (though I do use slang words every now and then that are more American than Brit, and one big mistake I made originally in the printed books was listing the dates American style instead of Brit style: instead of writing ‘the 15th of July’ I wrote “July 15.’ Or used the term ‘called’ instead of ‘rang’ on occasion…any slang terms I screwed up in my first two books will be rectified, I hope, in the e-books.

Finally, as I will explain in my posts that will be posted as soon as possible, my entire life generally does not ‘follow the script,’ and I’ve been for the most part a non-conformist my entire life.

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The OmegaBooks Project, Part 2

After I got The Prophesied Band published and printed in 1998, I began to work on the final book in the trilogy around the year 2000, but got sidetracked having to home school my two children–I am also a Texas certified secondary math and English teacher as well as Texas certified guidance counselor. So I put off working in any novels until both children were finished with “grade school” and off to college by 2014. In the meantime, I was hired in 2010 by my local POA (Property Owners Association) to run the office and do the bookkeeping, dues collecting, bill paying, quarterly tax forms, and so forth. I retired from that job in the summer of 2015, and began working earnestly on the new books in 2016 going on Social Security at age 63. I am now 65.

Sixty-five? Now who ever heard of an “entrepreneur” at age 65? Well, why not? Because my entire life has not exactly followed “the script” if you know what I mean, and my faith in Christ doesn’t either–I am not a “churchian” and have no “denomination” and in fact think “denominations” are not a good thing–all “denominations” do is divide the faith! So that while I have nothing against Catholics (I grew up Catholic), Baptists, Lutherans and so on, I just don’t think denominations are aiding the cause and in fact are hurting the cause of belief in Christ.

And just in case one reading this is Muslim, for instance–does dividing Islam between Sunni and Shiite aid the cause of Islam? I don’t think so! Any possible war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia makes no sense, Islam-wise, just like the various wars between Catholics and Protestants such as the Thirty Years War made no sense either. Even Jews have this issue–reform vs. orthodox vs. ultra-orthodox…some Jewish sects even think Jews not in their sect are no better than non-Jews! Then you have Buddhists fighting Buddhists (particularly in places like Nepal, and once upon a time in Tibet), etc. So that is why I do not do “religion.” Even though I believe in Jesus Christ, and always will.

Back to the project. Here it is, the age of online everything, including book publishing, and, while I have issues with Amazon–its treatment of 3PLs is appalling IMHO–their Kindle Desktop Publishing service is a very good thing, and, from what I have read, their Kindle sales have been a boon to self-publishers. That is, self-published Kindle books have sold like hotcakes. There are other venues as well, such as Toshiba Book Place which uses the SmashWords format (as do other online publishers).

Now, being 65 and all, I tend to be a bit “old school”–but NOT when it comes to doing my part in taking down “Big Publishing” which for as long as it has existed has SCREWED AUTHORS left and right. Take the mega-selling author Stephen King. Before he became a mega-seller, a superstar in the literary field, he was given–if my writer’s group info from the late 90s is correct–ten thousand dollars for his first four books, one of which was Salem’s Lot. Imagine! Ten thousand measly dollars for a million-seller–Salem’s Lot–and three others I don’t remember the names. Now how much money did the publisher of Salem’s Lot make on this book alone? Millions, folks, millions! And this publisher pays Stephen King a paltry sum? King, of course, got his moolah on the re-signing deal and is one of the richest authors in the US today–but his novels are worth it of course! Especially with many movies and series (such as The Stand) making him deservedly so even richer (and like I said, the man deserves it!). But what if King did not take the road he took, and just figured oh well, the industry screwed me outta millions, so…

Well, thanks to literary agents not giving me the time of day because I’m some “never heard of her” author (who has been writing since age eight or nine), because I’m not a “celebrity,” I have taken (on a much smaller scale) Stephen King’s route–do not give in and give up doing what you know you can do best–write, and write novels.

Because in “Big Publishing” these days, any “celebrity,” good writer or not, can become a million-seller just because (and doncha know, most “celebrities” can’t write worth a hill o’ beans so they hire ghostwriters and likely pay them zilch, and take all the credit!).

And to wind up this past, let me say it is NOT my intention to become a “celebrity”! I do NOT want to become a “celebrity.” I do not want to succumb to “toeing the line” of Big Publishing, which will STILL rip me off even if I do become a “celebrity” “best-selling” author (hint: the game is rigged, okay? If Stephen King proved anything, he proved this!)

Note: if what I wrote about Stephen King being ripped off is not true, prove it an let me know, because above all else I seek the truth.

More to come about this project in a few days.

Update: According to Wikipedia, Stephen King was paid $2,500 for his first book, Carrie, published by DoubleDay. While the Wikipedia post does not say he was paid $10,000 for his first four books, the person who told me he was, a published romance writer herself, is likely on the mark since $2,500 times 4 books equals $10,000. Again, if someone has verification that this is nonsense, please let me know.