Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Notes: The Last Legend

  • My fantasy novel TheLast Legend was inspired more by The Hobbit than by The Lord of the Rings. I read The Hobbit at least half a dozen times from 1979 to 1982. Those readings culminated in the writing of a short story, “The Enchanted Sword,” in early 1982, when I was 13.
  • In seventh grade I was in a class for gifted students called Project Potential. One week the teacher had each of us do a creative project in our spare time at home, just anything we felt like doing that was somehow creative. I told her I’d write a short story. I had just finished writing “The Enchanted Sword,” so at the end of the week, I handed that in as my creative project, pretending that I had written it in my spare time during that “creative” week. So I guess I sort of cheated on that assignment, since I never really completed it. But the teacher loved the story, and her assistant typed it up for me, since I had hand-written the story. (We didn’t have word processors back in those days, and I didn’t know how to type).
  • In 1984, I wrote a series of one-page vignettes that were basically descriptions of various historical events in the history of the world of “The Enchanted Sword.”
  • In 1988, I wrote “The Power Scepter,” a short story set in the world of “The Enchanted Sword.”
  • In early 1995, I decided to continue the story that was begun in “The Enchanted Sword.” Years earlier, I had realized that I had left the story open-ended. The whole point of the story was that Beamer had been given the Enchanted Sword for a reason, but I never said what that reason was. He just put the sword up on his mantel and forgot about it. I guess that was acceptable to my 13-year old mind, but the unfinished nature of the story had begun nagging at me in the early 90’s. So in 1995, I added a few details to the story and made it chapter two of book one of the novel The Last Legend. “The Power Scepter” became the prologue.
  • I originally named the main race in The Last Legend the Munchkins, but a few years later, I realized there were Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz, so I renamed them the Little People. Soon after, I realized that name was too reminiscent of Darby O’Gill and the Little People, so I again renamed them to “falliwagns.” The name is pronounced fowl-ee-wans. The g is silent. I have absolutely no memory of why I named them that.
  • The falliwagns are, of course, the hobbits of my novel. Beamer is Bilbo. The Brown Lands are the Shire. Baldurn is Gandalf.
  • Chapter two of The Last Legend, “The Enchanted Sword,” is almost exactly as I wrote it when I was 13. It hasn’t been edited. I did add the part about Beamer bottling the “miracle water” from the stream in his cellar and floating it down the river. I also changed the last hundred words a bit to make it easier to continue the story.
  • The Last Legend originally ended with chapter 10 (Second Coming) of book one. I thought the story was done with, so I patted myself on the back for having written my first novel.
  • I actually dropped out of college because of The Last Legend. I was writing notes and portions of the book in classes, when I should have been listening to the lectures. One day during a biochemistry lecture, I looked down at all the story notes I was scribbling on my notepad, rather than notes related to the class, and I had an epiphany: I didn’t belong in school. I belonged in front of my computer, writing books. A few weeks later, I dropped out and finished writing book one of The Last Legend.
  • A year later and a half later, at the end of 1999, I realized that The Last Legend still wasn’t finished. So I wrote chapter 11 of book one (Salvation of Malhar), then banged out book two in December and January of 1996. I wrote book three over February and March 1996, which finally brought the novel to a close.
  • I’ve never been satisfied with the way the story turned out. I had always intended to continue the history of the world of The Last Legend, with other stories and novels planned. But the ending of The Last Legend ruined all those plans for me, destroying all my plans of continuing in that world. The Last Legend ends with the complete destruction of the world, and then its recreation by the main character, who becomes God of the resurrected world. I don’t know why, but even though the resurrected world is supposed to be completely identical to the old one, it never seemed like the same world to me, so I lost interest in it. I kind of fouled my own nest with the end of that book. I don’t think it’s a bad ending for the story; I just look at it as a bad ending personally because it spoiled my interest in continuing the world. After the ending of The Last Legend, the book’s world seemed too impermanent and unstable, and I just didn’t like the idea of building a fantasy history that could be so easily swept aside and rebuilt, if that makes any sense.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Demonspawn map

Here is a map for my fantasy novel Demonspawn. FYI, the dashed lines are roads, not country borders. Click to enlarge, right click to save.

The Last Legend map

Here is a map of part of Skalar, the main continent in my fantasy novel The Last Legend. Click on it to enlarge, right click to save image.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Book Trailers - Good Idea or Bad?

Book trailers - good idea or bad?

I think book trailers are probably a bad idea. At best, they're probably an ineffective marketing tool.

Your ultimate goal in marketing your book is to get people to read your sample. If they like it, hopefully they'll buy the whole book. So all your marketing efforts are basically intended to make potential readers aware of your book and entice them to read the sample. Once they find your book's page on Amazon (or wherever), the main tools to drive them to read your sample are your cover and your blurb. You need a decent cover and a decent blurb. If you don't have those two things, the potential reader probably won't download your sample and you've lost the sale.

I think book trailers are similar to the blurb and the cover. That is, a book trailer is a third way to jeopardize a sale. If they don't like your blurb, the odds of sampling decrease, and if they don't like the cover, the odds further decrease. Do you really want to add a third method to decrease the odds of sampling? If you're doing everything yourself and you're unable to make a decent cover or a decent blurb, odds are your book trailer won't be decent either. Or you may have a decent cover and blurb, and then your sucky trailer blows the whole thing. Then again, having a decent trailer alongside a bad cover and blurb may save the sale. But why take chances by adding a trailer to your marketing arsenal?

Readers want to read. Trailers are another medium entirely. Why mingle the two?

Let's say you do make a trailer. Isn't it hard enough marketing your book? If you're successfully able to make a potential reader find your book, you've already won the battle. Why waste time trying to make them aware of your trailer? Why not bypass the trailer and send them directly to the book?

I'm thinking along these lines: if you're talking to a potential reader, whether in a forum, on twitter, facebook or wherever, you've already got their attention. Why send them to a book trailer? Send them directly to your blurb or your sample. As a reader, I want to read, I don't want to watch a video. You may make a good trailer, but that doesn't mean your writing doesn't suck. In my quest for something to read, I'm looking for a good writer and a good book, not a good filmmaker. You're trying to sell the written word, not the visual picture.

Suppose you're a great writer but a terrible filmmaker, and you send me to your book trailer, which sucks donkey balls. You've turned me off and I probably won't sample your book.

If you're thinking of using a trailer on youtube or some other video-oriented site, then you've got the same problem you've got in trying to market your actual book: you've got to market your trailer. Because you can't just throw something up on youtube and expect it to go viral. Your video won't get many hits at all unless you make some sort of marketing effort. You then have a choice: do you want to spend time marketing your video, or would you rather spend time marketing your actual book?

Having a good trailer would be an asset, I suppose. But it's risky as to whether you'll actually make a good trailer. I think your time is best spent on making your cover and your blurb the best they can possibly be, because those are your two main tools. Adding a third is a big, unnecessary gamble.