Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Study shows people desire but reject creativity

I was editing a couple articles at my day job when I came across this Cornell University press release with the headline, "People are biased against creative ideas, studies find."

Essentially, the researchers looked at two studies from the University of Pennsylvania and found that even though people say that they want new and creative ideas, they don't actually accept them. Anything that is new raises feelings of uncertainty, and therefore fear, and then dislike, and thus rejection.

That sorta brought to mind this guy:
No one can deny that recently retired Steve Jobs and his "little" company have changed forever how we consume information. Whether you own an Apple product or not (this post comes to you from a Mac), the technology has influenced you in some way or another. I mean, you know what an iPad is, right?

And Pixar fans wouldn't even know these guys...

...these...

...or this one...


...if it weren't for Jobs' visionary expertise. By the way, did you know he was fired for a little while from Apple? He founded another successful company in his down time before Apple asked him to come back.

So, if we wouldn't have some of the things we enjoy if it weren't for the Edisons and Jobses of the world, why are we still resistant to creative ideas?

In short, we're human. We think it makes us look cool when we say we like change and creativity, but as this study shows, we're really only fooling ourselves. And that's why there was only one Edison and there is only one Jobs. It's not enough to have a great idea. People like these have proven you also have to have the guts to endure failure after failure and rejection after rejection until that one perfect moment when the stars and planets align and you can break through. And then, there's the work to keep that momentum going.

Simply put, no human likes creativity. But only a handful are willing to challenge that until they win.

Naturally, this same concept can and does apply to publishing books. Now, especially for indies and self-pubbers, that doesn't give us leave to put out crap and not put our work through beta readers and professional editors first. But it does make sense why some books get through and others don't in the traditional realm. And it's not all the agents and editors' faults. Almost every editor at every conference I've attended has several instances of books they would've died to publish but couldn't because the rest of the house didn't think it would be a profitable project.

Humans are predisposed to reject creativity. It's in our DNA.

Fortunately, we live in the age of Apple and Adobe and Amazon and Google and so many other things that have changed the game. Suddenly, all those great book ideas that couldn't find a place on agent and publisher lists are finding a place in hearts of the readers themselves.

No, we can't all be J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking. Just like we can't all be Steven Jobs. But we can certainly learn from their success as we try to carve out our own. If anything, they showed that despite DNA, it is possible and it is worth a shot. Or two or three.

(Images courtesy of Apple and Pixar.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Seranfyll 2 update and new character

I'm taking a short break from working on the second book. I'm about a third of the way through, so I'm still on schedule to get the first draft completed by November and have the book ready to launch by Christmas. Still bouncing around title ideas, but I think I'm getting closer to settling on one.

It's quite exciting :) C.S. Lewis once said, "The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation." I feel very much the same way about writing a story, or taking a road trip with friends, or reading a good book, or baking my red velvet cupcakes of awesomeness. The joy is in the journey/activity as much, if not moreso, as in reaching the destination.

With that said, I thought I'd introduce a new character who will appear in the new book. Her name is Mai Mai, and she's a half-pint-sized mage from the country of Sai-Ahn. I wish I had a picture of her to show you, but I haven't had time to do any drawing for a while--I haven't even drawn characters from Seranfyll yet, save for Rain.

Anyway, Mai Mai met Domrey several years ago, and she thinks that the stars say that he is supposed to be her destined husband. She's quite the little ball of energy, but don't let her cute and spunky exterior fool you. She can control lightning strikes with her folding metal hand fans, and she will singe your tail quicker than you can blink if you cross her.

I can't wait for you all to meet her. But I suppose that means I need to get back to writing her scenes. Right then, off to it...

(Image courtesy of...someone. Probably HarperCollins.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Congratulations Annis, winner of a signed copy of Seranfyll!

Annis from Belgium is the winner of the Creative Reviews giveaway! A signed copy of Seranfyll will be heading your way very soon :)

If you didn't win in the Creative Reviews giveaway, no worries. You can still enter the big Goodreads giveaway running until September 2, 2011. But hurry and get your entry in by clicking on the link above, because over 300 people are currently trying to get their hands on one of THREE signed copies!

And there will be a couple more giveaways hosted by a few lovely book bloggers, so stay tuned to hear about those :)

Also, I'm participating in the Indie Book Collective's Indie Book Blowout, which runs September 2-5, 2011. Go visit their site for all sorts of independently published ebooks (including Seranfyll!) priced at only $0.99, and find out how you can enter for a chance to win a brand new Kindle and all sorts of other great prizes!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Congratulations Denise Z, winner of a signed copy of Seranfyll!

Denise is the lucky winner of The Unlocked Diary's giveaway of a signed copy of Seranfyll! That'll be heading your way very soon :)

If you entered and didn't win, don't worry! The Creative Reviews giveaway ends on Tuesday, August 16. So head over there and comment on the post to enter for a signed copy.

There's also a chance for you to win one of THREE signed copies of Seranfyll on Goodreads until September 2. Just click on the widget above to enter!

Congrats again Denise, and thanks to everyone who entered!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Character Interview and GIVEAWAY at The Unlocked Diary

A lovely human being by the name of Cambria is currently running a giveaway of a SIGNED COPY of Seranfyll over at her blog, The Unlocked Diary. Her blog also features a fun interview with Domrey.

Here's a sneak peek:

Do you think that you will ever ‘settle down’ and get married?
Hmm, I wonder that myself sometimes. And I guess the common answer is whether or not I meet the right person, but I'm not quite sure what the "right person" will consist of. And there are things in my past that have prompted me to question the whole issue of marriage. But I'm still in my early twenties, so I'm sure I have time to get it sorted eventually.

Read the rest over at The Unlocked Diary, and comment for a chance to win the giveaway! It ends soon, so don't miss out!

But if you don't win in Cambria's giveaway, there's still time a little time to sign up for the Goodreads giveaway, in which you can have a chance to win one of three signed copies of the book. Click the widget above to enter!

And if you miss out on that one or just want a guaranteed copy of the book, you could just go buy it, hint hint ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

On Writing: The Plot Skeleton

Back in 2007, I had the opportunity to correspond with a literary agent in New York City. He's long left agenting, and I'm not sure where he is now. But he enjoyed the premise of a piece of work I sent him then, and he offered me some very good advice on writing.

I've kept all the emails we exchanged, and among the host of useful information that he gave me, there was one in particular that has been quite helpful. He called it the "plot skeleton," and it goes sort of like this:

An identifiable lead character MUST do something BUT CANNOT due to a series of rising complications. ONLY BY that character's inner strength and resolve (typically gained through facing those complications) can he/she pull through.

Yeah, that's pretty much it.

It sounds simple, and that's because really, at their base or skeletons, stories are pretty simple. All the other details in the characters and the world-building/setting are the muscles, tendons and tissues, but none of that can stand without a skeleton holding it up.

Let's take a look at some popular examples using this plot skeleton:

The Lord of the Rings 

Frodo Baggins MUST take the One Ring to Mount Doom in order to destroy it, BUT HE CANNOT because Lord Sauron and his minions are constantly buffeting Frodo and his entourage. ONLY BY staying the course and not falling to the temptation of the One Ring can Frodo destroy it.

See? That massive, million-page, 12-hour-long epic can be summarized in two sentences. Granted, you can pull more skeletons out of this story because it's certainly big enough (i.e. from Aragorn's perspective). But for this example, I focused on Frodo because his story was the bigger one, and Aragorn's was secondary to it. But either way, everything else, like the other characters, the other conflicts, the other stories, the elvish, etc. supported and added to this skeleton to make it the remarkable (albeit lengthy) story that it is.

Let's look at another one:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter MUST find the Chamber of Secrets and destroy the monster that is plaguing the residents of Hogwarts, BUT HE CANNOT because a series of petrifications, rumors, and schoolwork stand in his way. ONLY BY following the clues and breaking a few rules can he solve a 50-year-old mystery to save his friends in the present.

I chose to dissect the Chamber of Secrets rather than the other books because...well, there was a flying car involved, and I thought that was bleepin' awesome. But anyway, the premise is the same for both Harry and Frodo. They both have to do something, but they have to pass through a series of challenges before they can accomplish that something, and it's questionable they will make it. It's the same story! But it's all the bells and whistles that make them unique.

One more, this time a straight-up movie with a female heroine:

Spirited Away 

Chihiro/Sen MUST find a way to turn her parents back into humans from pigs and return to their world before they are eaten, BUT SHE CANNOT because she's also enslaved in Yubaba's bath house with them. ONLY BY overcoming her fears and figuring out the clues can she break the curse on all of them and find her way home.

Getting the hang of it? It's pretty cool, but then you have to remember to turn it off when you're reading or watching a movie for fun. But it is a useful tool to have when you start writing because it acts like a compass and gives you direction (which helps ward against writer's block).

And there you have it, the plot skeleton. And a hint: Plot skeletons can sometimes make good hooks, pitches, and blurbs. Something to think about.

Adding a little bit of fluff to an already noisy publishing world.

(Image courtesy of Merriam-Webster.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Character Interview: Domrey from Seranfyll


Christina Daley: Welcome everyone, and have I got a special show for you today!

Well, the paperbacks are finally IN! So if you've been dying to get your hands on a Seranfyll that you can touch and smell (and lick, if you so choose), then head over to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and get yours.

I'm also hosting a GIVEAWAY on Goodreads! It runs from August 4 to September 2, 2011, and you can enter to win one of three SIGNED copies. Visit the good folks at Goodreads for all the details, and be sure to find my profile and "friend" me if you haven't already!

And if that wasn't enough, have I got a treat for you. Domrey Seranfyll is in the house today! Please everyone give him a warm welcome!

Audience: [Wild, crazy, girly screams!]

Domrey: Thank you very much! I'm delighted to be here. But, ehm, might I inquire about these unsavory looking fellows standing to either side of me?

CD: Oh, don't mind them. They're fine.

Domrey: Are you sure? I fear they want to break my legs. Or eat my pancreas. Or both.

CD: They're Snevil's brutes. I hired them for the day. They're actually here for your protection.

Domrey: They are?

CD: Yes, didn't you see that rather large horde of hormonal girls camping outside the studio? Not to mention the ones that actually got tickets to be in the audience?

Random Female Audience Member: I LOVE YOU DOMREY!

Domrey: Oh, hello. Ehm, thank you. I love you too, I think.

CD: I think it's nothing but girls in the audience today. Anyway, let's get on with the interview. First off, you're sort of a big deal. You're the title character of Seranfyll. Has the fame gone to your head yet?

Domrey: I certainly hope not, but I don't think I'm that popular. Then again, I'm quite famous in an entirely different light back home.

CD: You're talking about all the rumors, right? Why do you think people like to talk about you like that?

Domrey: I'm not sure. I don't recall ever giving anyone reason to think ill of me. Then again, I think sometimes people are bored and like to have something or someone to poke fun at, and they just happened to choose to target me.

CD: You think the rather outrageous wardrobe has anything to do with it?

Domrey: What do you mean? Is there something wrong with what I'm wearing?

CD: Not really, but then again not a lot of dudes I know can rock the lime green suit and the orange ascot. And you also have an enviable shoe collection.

Domrey: Then I am uncommon! I take that as a compliment, actually. And yes, I have a rather extensive shoe collection of which I'm quite proud. It's very important having the proper shoe for the proper occasion, I believe.

CD: Well, take me shoe shopping the next time you go, haha! But moving along, tell us about the time you bought Rain and the other slaves.

Domrey: Actually, there's not much to tell. I was utterly intoxicated at the time and hardly remember a thing. I recall it was my birthday. I had a huge feast for a party set up, but no one showed. I guess they were too afraid of the rumors.

CD: So you went looking for guests and bought a bunch of slaves instead?

Domrey: Like I said, I was smashed. You don't do very many sensible things under the influence of any abusive substance.

CD: And what did you think when Rain and Coal decided to stay?

Domrey: I was very surprised, but I was also thrilled. After all, they're only children, and yet they had decided to stay besides the rumors and the odd things they experienced at Seranfyll Manor. And I'd never had siblings before, so I was quite excited about the possibility of finding some in them.

CD: Well, we are doing a little something different for today's show. Since you're a rather popular character, we are going to be taking some questions from the audience today. Let's have the first one, shall we?

Female Audience Member #1: Do you have a girlfriend?

Domrey: Ehm, actually I don't at the moment. Wow, that was quite straight to the point, wasn't it?

Female Audience Member #1: Do you want one?

CD: Okay, let's move on to the next question. Yes ma'am?

Female Audience Member #2: Will you marry me?

Domrey: Ehm…

CD: Can we please have a legitimate question? Sheesh ladies, show some control. Next!

Female Audience Member #3: What is your favorite food?

Domrey: Ah! I can answer that. There are actually few things that I won't eat. But whatever the meal, I always enjoy eating in the company of friends and family. I would gladly be the poorest man in the world sharing a crumb of bread with people I care about than be the richest man with a feast by myself.

CD: Thank you very much. All right, next?

Female Audience Member #4: What are your favorite hobbies?

Domrey: I like to knit, as odd as that may sound. And when you read the book, you'll see why. And I do enjoy going for rides with Valiance. But most of all, I like spending time with Rain and Coal. They are quite wonderful when you get to know them. With Coal, you have to give him time to warm up to you. But Rain is an absolute joy to be around. I still think that she has some kind of magic in her that we don't know about yet.

CD: Thank you. Next?

Female Audience Member #5: If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?

Domrey: Oooo, that's a tough one. There are so many things I wish for, but they're quite nearly impossible. Then again, my mentor used to teach that nothing is impossible. I'm still learning what he means by that. But to answer your question, if I could have one wish granted, it would be…

ZZRRGGHH!

CD: What the heck…? What happened to the lights? Can someone check the power please?

Audience: [Screams!]

Domrey: My, this is unfortunate!

CD: Everyone, please stay calm. It's just the lights, and we'll get them back on in just second. Hey, does anyone know if we're still on air?

Domrey: …Hey!

CD: What? What is it?

Domrey: I think someone just tried to grab me…ay! Hands off the goods there, love…!

CD: What happened? I can't see a bloody thing! Domrey? Domrey, where are you?

Brute #1: Girls got him.

Brute #2: Taking him away.

CD: Then what the crap am I paying you for? Go get him and bring him back safely!

Brutes: Yes, ma'am.

*cricket chirp*

CD: Well, seeing that both my guest and my audience have utterly cleared out of here, I guess that's it for today's show. Thanks for tuning in! [Memo to self, never hire brutes again.]

Monday, August 1, 2011

Seranfyll PAPERBACKS available!

FINALLY.

Well, after two months of me goofing around (not really), the paperbacks are available!

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading ebooks very much, but there's something nice about also having a hardcopy that I can flip through and hold.

If you've been waiting to get your hands on the paperback version of Seranfyll, visit Amazon.com or B&N.com and get it! And of course the ebook is still available, and you can click on the Seranfyll tab at the top to find out where to buy and download it.

Have a nice day :)