Monthly Archives: August 2012

Straight from the Dragon’s Mouth (Interview with James A Owen)

When I first decided to do a blog my original idea was inspired by well known artists who had gone outside of the usual channels of their respective fields, and tried to bring out pieces in collaboration directly with the audience that was consuming it.

Comedians, Writers, Musicians and Film Makers all of them looking to talk directly to their audience and skip the establishment.  Each had their own reasons and methods to accomplish their ends, but all were blazing their own trail.

I then realized that this was only a small amount of information to be putting in a blog that was going to be going out on a regular basis.  what else could I write about, well the only other thing I have to talk about is myself.  And only my readers can be a judge of whether I am of any interest.  So I set out to contact several named creators in order to get them to agree to work with me on this project.  To say the least I have not received a huge swelling of support.  Being an unknown blogger and indie author does not put you high on many a publicist list of important people.  I don’t blame them, however I was thrilled to have one of my personal heroes, James A Owen agree to give me an interview in regards to his experiences.

I first encountered James Owen’s work back in the early nineties when he was doing his Starchild series, His work was one of the things that challenged me to expand my writing beyond the boundaries I had placed on myself.  He followed up his comics with some short prose work with the limited edition Tales from the Two Penny Inn collections of short stories.

After being out of the Storytelling business for several years he seized on an opportunity to work with a German publisher on a series that they were embarking upon. So he branched out into full length novels with the Mythworld series which were released primarily in Germany.  In 2006 he released his first novel in the US through Simon & Schuster, his YA book ‘Here there be Dragons’.  He has since released five additional books in his Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, with the Seventh book due next year.  In 2011 he release the first book from his meditations series. Based on the motivational presentation that he gives to schools and libraries.  It was released as a self published eBook through the same imprint that had originally used for his Starchild comics, Coppervale Press.  The book was called ‘Drawing out the Dragons’  he has since done a kickstarter project to finance the hardcover edition of ‘Drawing out the Dragons’ and released a follow up ‘The Barbizon Diaries’ and he will soon release the third book in the series ‘The Grand Design’.

What made you decide to self-publish your meditation books?

Initially, it was because we’d just pulled out of a possible deal with a potential producer on the HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS movie project.

She tried to pull some pretty hardball stuff at the last minute, and I simply walked away from the table. BUT… we’d been counting on that deal going through, so money was tight. I’d been doing the DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS presentation for a couple of years, and there was a good recording of one of them. I thought if it was transcribed and cleaned up a bit, it would make a fine eBook. I was right. The requests for print editions followed, and so we did the Kickstarter which worked REALLY well. Then I followed up with the eBook for THE BARBIZON DIARIES, and both books have gotten such glowing reviews that I’m now being offered all kinds of deals from publishers. We’ll see what happens.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced and what was the most unexpected reward?

Biggest hurdle? Hmm… that HAD to be the car accident (editors note: for the full story of the accident see Owen’s ‘Drawing out the Dragons’) – because I didn’t even have a name, then. No track record. And to seemingly lose my ability to draw, too, meant that almost NO ONE believed I could build a career. The most unexpected reward was discovering how many comics greats like Will Eisner and Colleen Doran and Craig Russell believed enough in me to help me get on my feet again.

With your prior experience self-publishing the Starchild Comics what was the biggest difference with producing the meditation books?
The availability of Kickstarter to finance the publication, and the fact it was reader-funded. If we had had a mechanism like that in the 90’s, Jeff Smith, Colleen and I would own Mars by now.

You used Kickstarter to finance the hard-copies of the Drawing out the Dragon do you see this as a valid avenue for less known creative types.

Not really, not at first – because it’s not just the cool factor of the project that draws support and money, as much as it is pitching something to the Tribe you already have. If you haven’t already started to build a name and a reputation, then Kickstarter will be harder. But even if you start small, you can build up to it – and it could be part of the expansion plan farther down the road.

 

What advise would you give to someone who was just starting out as a self-publisher?

Get the book done. Then do another. Then another. Do prints. Do postcards. Create your identity, so that you can start to build your Tribe.

Do you think that the advent of eBooks will make a change in the way books get published?

Absolutely. It let me test DotD for basically no cost – and then start getting income again at no cost. It let me build up a market and interest for the book before I had to risk a penny on print. Basically, with webcomics and eBooks, you can start building an audience with a fraction of the expense that it used to take. And you can find out faster if a project has legs, or is simply going to just sit there. And I think a LOT more changes are coming.

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Just a low down Cheap Little Punk

So this week we are doing something a little different.

If you look back of the last several months the majority of my post have been examining my past influences and how my creative flow brought me to the story that I am trying to tell with the novel that I am writing, also occasional reports regarding things that I am working on to get the novel ready for publication.  I have been promising also to do some interviews with people who have produced their own work whether it be writer, film, or music.  Unfortunately those have been delayed.  I am going to explain what has been the lest creative point in my life, as far as writing goes, by reviewing a book that explains things better than I ever could have in a million words.

The book is called Confessions of a Transylvanian by Kevin Theis and Ron Fox.

It is the true story of a year and a half from 1982 – 1983 when Kevin joined Ron and the rest of the ‘Wild and Untamed Things’ cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Deerfield Beach, FL, and how it changed the rest of his life.

It is a story about love, innocence, growing up and most importantly family.

I lived through a lot of the same experiences that Kevin and Ron write about and I knew a lot of people just like those they talk about in the book.  From 1997 – 2001 I was a cast member of the ‘Full Body Cast’ from Cambridge, MA.

Most people look at you funny if you told them that you spent a large majority of your younger years on stage shadowcasting RHPS.  If you are lucky people will nod and say they went a few times and they had fun.  But to understand the way it changes your life and the bonds that last a life-time you have to be involved.  Kevin and Ron give you a grounds eye view sparing no details of what their life consisted of for the year and a half that they were on cast together.  The good the bad and the ugly.  they let it all hang out, and give a realistic picture of the relationships that form.  If you have ever wondered what would cause these kids to get up do this ever week or every other week for years at a time, this is the book to read, if you have ever felt like you didn’t belong this is the book you need to read.

Near the end of the book as Kevin updates his audience on what his life and the life of his fellow cast members is like back around the thirtieth anniversary of RHPS, he talks about how they have all kept in touch due to the diligence of one cast member.  I don’t think that is true.  RHPS and being a member of a cast, especially for more than a few months creates a bond with people, you live, laugh, cry, hate and most importantly love with them.  And you will always find yourself able to reach out to those people and catch up because that bond never changes.

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The bad news is time flies…

So I was reviewing my last couple of posts to review what I have been writing about and what I have been neglecting.  I noticed that I have not gone over the status of my book and where it stands in the process of getting it to publication.

To review my goal is to have the book ready to released as an e-book by the first of February 2013.  As it stands that gives me less than six months in order to have the book ready to go.  Right now I am half way through the second draft of the book.

This means that in the next six months I need to finish the second draft, possibly have it professionally edited, and write a third draft, get the book cover designed and the final book laid out.  This does not sound like a lot of work to do, but any of my writer friends out their will tell you this is no time at all in which to accomplish this amount of work.  Especially since I still have to have time to work a full-time job in order to pay the bills.

This is the point in time where I start to have a nervous breakdown.  Now I’m hoping it is mostly the side effects of finishing my prescription to Chantix, but I still am faced with a large pile of work to be finished before the planned release date of the book.  I have to ask myself am I going to be able to reach that goal or is it time to consider the possibility of moving the release date back.

I did not pick the release date out of the air.  It is based on a pivotal date of importance in the storyline of the book itself.  It was a parallel that I wanted to emphasize with the release.  It is a large amount of work that needs to be completed as soon as possible, but I really think that If I can stay focused then I still have a chance to meet the date that I have already set.  I will need to try to remain focused on moving things ahead as much as possible.  I have to admit that this is not one of my strongest traits.  In the next couple of months the drop dead date will arrive and I will have to make the hard choice.  I hope when that day finally arrives that it is easy for me to say that I have done enough work to release the book as originally planned.  But we will have to see how much I can do before that date arrives.

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Here is the interview that I did with AJ Race from the Cult of Racewood

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What has happened to this world

Okay I know that I made an extra post this week in order to vent about something that has been bothering me.  And if you want my opinion of the responsibility of self-publishers when it come to their work read here.  I had planned out a lot of things that I wanted to do with this blog before I started.  None of my ideas included venting my frustrations.  However in this case my frustration connects directly with what this blog is about.  Books.

Earlier this week a friend had mentioned online that his new book will be out at the end of the month.  It is the sixth book in a series and I have only had the chance to read the first three.  I decided since I needed to get out of the house I would go over to the nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of the forth book.  Now to clarify this is an author who is being published by one of the major publishing houses.  In the past I have had no trouble locating his books in bookstores, although sometimes they don’t have the one I am looking to pick up available.  I stopped off at the local Barnes & Nobles, and immediately went to the section the book should have been in.  Scanning to his name in the alphabet I could not locate any of his books.  So I checked an other section that it might have been in.  No sign of any of his books.  I went to Customer Service and checked.  They did not have a copy of the book I was looking for in stock at that or any other of their stores in the area.  The nice young lady that helped me offered to order it for me.  I declined and told her I would check elsewhere and if I could not find it would let her know.  Up until this point I was not bothered or annoyed

I headed out and tried to think of where the nearest other bookstore was located.  I was not sure so I decided to just head over to the nearest mall and see if the bookstore there carrier what I wanted.  I made my way over and found a good parking space, went inside and located a directory of the mall.  Bookstores were listed in the section with gifts & accessories.    Brookstones, Spencer’s, and two different tobacco shops, but no bookstore.

Anyone who knew my brother and I growing up will understand  We were always stopping off at the local bookstore.  Whether it was the one downtown or at the local mall.  I remember days spent after high school sitting on the floor in the back of the
store reading the first chapter of a book before I purchased it.  To this day I can tell you the exact location of the bookstore in three different malls that I have not been in for twenty years.  Of course they probably aren’t there any more.  What will surprise more people probably is that I am writing this at all.  I am the one who for years has screamed the virtue of ebooks.  I have owned a kindle since before most people knew what they were, and yes I did end up buying the book on my kindle.

This is not a rant about the loss of books to ebook, and it is not about the lack of competition in bookstores.  The market has not changed enough that it has caused what I am talking about.  A mall is the first place that many people in this country go to shop.
I lament the fact that it is not a higher priority for a mall to have a bookstore to service it’s customers.  Their are several different Movie theaters in most towns in this country.  Hollywood puts out enough movies to have dozens of screens per cinema, but the people are not clamoring to have more bookstores.  I makes me doubt the times we are living in.

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I say that any boob can take and shove a ball in a pocket

Alright, I knew sooner or later I was going to feel like saying something that will rustle a few feathers.  I think that today might be the day.  So what is it that I have to say that is going to offend people.  I try to not speak in generalizations, but I have been noticing an unfortunate trend.

A lot of my time while I have been reading blogs and websites by writers who have decided to self-publish I have notice that very few of these authors are willing to seize the reigns when the options present themselves.

Control.  I have a need to control my work.  This is why I have become a novelist.  I have had opportunities in the past to work on comic books, plays and movies, and I have dabbled in all of these in the past and will probably work in each of these sometime in the future.  The reason that these are not the primary focus of my writing is that they all require that the vision of the final product is a collaboration of myself and others.  I am not willing to accept that.  I want to be able to control the product that I am putting out.  I want the reader of my books to experience the best product that I can produce.  I want to make my books that I can be proud of with not having to rely on anyone else.

The current market for self-publishing assumes that as the writer I am going to write the book and just upload it to some site that will handle formatting the work into an ebook.  That places my work in the hands of someone whose name will never appear in any connect to my work, who will still have a job regardless of the quality of the final product.

I am not a graphic designer, I am not an artist.  But I will promise anyone who purchases one of my books be it ebook, hardcover or softbound,  it will always represent the best that I can offer.  I will edit and design my books to the best of my ability, hiring people to help me where I can afford it.

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