Friday, June 24, 2022

Building Worlds in Fiction

Often, world building refers to creating cast/setting/story line for a fantasy series. I'm in awe of those who do this well -- Tolkien with The Lord of the Rings, J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter, and C.S. Lewis with Chronicle of Narnia. Star Wars and Game of Thrones (based on the books by George R.R. Martin) come to mind for movies.

I work in a middle school part-time and fantasy books are those most often checked out from the library.  So much reading is to escape, and what better place to bolt from homework than a fictional realm?

There are lengthy treatises about world building in fiction. If you want an overview, a Wikipedia article is a good start. 

There is a degree of world building in some mystery series. By that I mean the characters and setting are so strong that readers look forward to reestablishing relationships as much as following the story line. I especially like Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey works and Jeffrey Archer's Clifton Chronicles. 

I also enjoy the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C Beaton and Virgil Flowers books by John Sandford. Hamish largely works in the same setting (with the quirky residents of Lochdubh and nearby towns in the Scottish Highlands), but Virgil is all over Minnesota. His approach to crime-solving can be unusual: don't take the gun out of the car safe unless you'll definitely get shot at, and involve civilians by telling people what you've found and getting them to help you. His nickname is also striking.

What keeps me looking for new books in the Virgil Flowers series are the relationships among several character (Johnson Johnson, Shrake, and Jenkins, and now Frankie) and dry humor. I would love to see him solve another murder in the fictional Tripton Minnesota, but I suppose it's too much to hope for another crime wave in that small a town. And yes, one character is Johnson Johnson, whose father liked outboard motors. He has a brother named Mercury Johnson.

I'm not as fond of series in which the protagonist has superb skills and ties to powerful organizations. I like my lead characters to be more fallible. 

Blogger K.M. Weiland talks about world building in various posts on story structure. Naturally, I couldn't find a specific post, but the entire site is worth going through.

I challenge you to find a series that is so good you put aside writing your own book. Or at least doing laundry.

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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Why Buy Directly from Smashwords?

Though this 12+ year-old company was recently merged with Draft2Digital, Smashwords still operates. One reason D2D gave for their interest in the acquisition was the Smashwords Store. What is that?

Ebook publishers not connected to a retail site that sells more than what they publish themselves, such as Amazon and BN, may choose not to sell the books they produce. For example, D2D has not. Other, smaller sites may get your books formatted so they or you can independently load them to online booksellers, but don't maintain their own store.

Smashwords does not publish as many books as Amazon, but nearly 600,000 is nothing to sneeze at. Here are some reasons to buy directly:

1) Books can be downloaded in multiple formats, including epub and pdf, and you can download a book in varied formats multiple times. 

2) New books may be available on Smashwords a day or two earlier than other sites.

3) Smashwords has sales several times a year.

4) Smashwords lets authors give coupons for free books on that site, even if the book is sold for a much higher price on other sites.

It's this last point that is a special benefit. As an author, I make coupons available to readers of my newsletter for a few weeks at a time. If you see an author on Smashwords, you can ask them for a coupon to try one book. They can say no, but you could also get a discounted or free book. 

As a reader, Smashwords sales let you buy a book for less than at other retailers without that retailer requiring the author to lower the price on their site. It's a benefit for readers and gives an author the incentive to periodically reduce prices. It's a great way for readers to find new authors and for authors to attract new readers.

Publishers can use Smashwords, but most who do are self-published authors or those who run a press that largely publishes their work (as I do, with Lifelong Dreams Publishing). However, you'll also find authors who have gotten the rights back for older books and are reissuing popular titles. Check out Leigh Michaels. Or authors who publish prolifically with traditional publishers and add some independent titles via Smashwords. Check out Heather MacAllister or Jeffrey Marks.

I've used Smashwords to download a bunch of children's books so I have them on my Kindle when I'm with very young friends or nieces and nephews. You email yourself the book to your Kindle email address or jus on a computer. 

If you haven't looked at the Smashwords bookstore, check it out. You could find a new author to love.

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To learn more about Elaine, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter.