Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This Is How You Become Great...

...You hang your balls out there.

For those who don't recognize it, that's a near-quote from the Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire. (The actual quote is "That's how you become great, man. Hang your balls out there.") Of course, the movie is best known for the catchphrase "Show me the money!" but it's this lesser-known line that has always resonated with me.  It's uttered in a scene when Jerry is picking up copies of this manifesto that he's written from the copier, and the guy who works there has seemingly read it and is singularly impressed:

For me, that line has always meant that in order to reach your full potential, you have to risk failure - and often a huge, embarrassingly public failure at that.  But let's face it: there's risk inherent in almost everything that we do. You want to play basketball for your school? Then you have to go out for the team and risk being cut. You want to be a lawyer? Then you may have to take on mind-boggling debt to make it happen, knowing it might take you decades to pay it back. You want a beautiful wife? Then you've got to have the stones to ask her out in the first place and possibly get rejected.

In short, very few of us are going to be able to play it safe and get everything we want out of life. It simply doesn't work that way. It's certainly true in terms of writing. After you finish writing something, you have to be willing to put it out there - let the world see it, smell it, critique it, etc. Lots of people will probably call it awful. Some will say they hate it. Others will say they had to finish reading it at gunpoint.

But guess what? Someone will say they liked it. A few people may even say they loved it. And at that point you'll be grateful that you didn't let fear of failure (and the accompanying risks) keep you from personal and professional fulfillment - or at least striving for them.

In the old days, they would say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." You've got to be willing to let it all hang out there if you're going to get where you want to be (or anywhere at all, in some instances). No one's saying it's going to be easy, but few things that are worthwhile in life are.

In retrospect, don't be afraid to take risks, accept the challenge, or run the risk of failure, because that's how you become great...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Book Release: Infiltration (Kid Sensation #3)

At long last, Infiltration: A Kid Sensation Novel (Kid Sensation #3) has been released! (As usual, I released both a paperback and ebook version.)

This is, obviously, the third book in the series and has been the one that has taken me the longest time to complete. I had originally planned to have this one done months ago, but life got in the way. As the old saying goes, "If you want to make GOD laugh, tell him all about your plans..."

Truth be told, I had a lot of things going on personally and professionally that made it difficult to get this one done. At times it felt like I would never get it completed.  Thankfully, that was not the case, and hopefully fans will enjoy this installation in the series.

As has become the norm for me, I once again neglected to do almost anything to give anyone a heads-up that the book was coming out (other than state in a comment on this blog that the book would be released before year's end - and I barely made the cut). I keep telling myself that I'm going to start doing a cover reveal (or something of that nature), but usually by the time I get the artwork it's essentailly time to publish, and I'd feel silly revealing the cover one day and then using it again in a blog post a day or so later.

Speaking of the artwork, the cover was once again done by Isikol. He really is a great artist, and every time I see his work I'm thankful that our paths crossed. 

Finally, for those interested in such things, I need to point out that the print version of the book is 301 pages. For some reason, KDP always shows the initial page count on the ebook edition as being significantly less than what it actually is. (It's showing 219 pages for the ebook edition at the moment.) They eventually correct it, but in the interim someone usually points out to me the discrepancy in length, so this time I just decided to address the issue head-on.

Other than that, I just want to say thanks once again to everyone for their support, and I hope you like the book.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bad Books, And Why They're Good For You

Recently, I was drawn into a discussion about bad books and the policy that some people have of returning them. Personally, I've bought thousands of books over the years and never returned a single one. Moreover, even when a book is absolutely horrid, I generally make it a point to slog my way through to the end once I've started.  (There are maybe three books that were so bad that I couldn't finish them, but in each of those instances at least part of the reason for my failure to finish was that they were actually library books that were [thankfully] due back.) From my perspective, the bad ones that I own add to the diversity of my collection. However, the more I think about it, the more it occurs to me that reading bad books can actually be good for you from the standpoint of being a writer.

First of all, books can be bad in a lot of ways. From cover art to editing to plot development, there are a million ways for the written word to leave a terrible taste in your mouth.  That said, I think that reading awful books can be a learning experience, because there's a lot they can teach you. For instance, a book with a bunch of typos will probably cause you to associate the author's name with crap. Assuming you don't want the same type of reputation with respect to your own work, reading such a book will teach you to never settle in terms of your own writing; you'll realize the value - and necessity - of proper editing. It's sort of a bookish version of Scared Straight:


In short, there are some places that you just don't want to go with respect to being an author, and reading bad books will firm up for you many of the things you definitely do not want when it comes to your own writing, whether it be bad storylines, underdeveloped characters, what have you.   

In addition, reading terrible books can be help you by being an inspiration, after a fashion. Have you ever been to a movie and left the theater thinking, "Egads, what a crappy film! I could have made a better movie than that - and for less money!"

Bad books can provide that same emotional spark. If some hack can get a traditional publishing deal and sell a bunch of books that are basically crap, surely you can eek out an existence as a writer of quality material, right? (It may not necessarily work out that way, but we're talking inspiration here - something to keep you motivated and enthused while writing - not the end result.)  Thus, every time you start to doubt, you can look at that awful book and - knowing that you can do better - feel encouraged.

In essence, I see reading bad books as a character-building exercise, the literary equivalent of having to eat your veggies.  I'm not necessarily saying that you have to go out there and actively seek out bad books - one or two (quite likely more, if I'm being honest) will eventually cross your path in the grand scheme of things - but don't just toss them aside as if they have absolutely nothing to offer. 

They say that experience is the best teacher, that you learn best from your own mistakes. However, I say that the best student is the one who can learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from the bad books around you; they can help make you a better writer.

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