RT-conventionI asked people to tell me of their experiences in attending book or fantasy conventions, and although I didn’t receive many responses, the ones I did receive were interesting.

Among the replies, I received two that described the responder’s experience with some detail. Their stories showed me that, while their attendance at these conventions was in part exhilarating, exasperating, interesting, and nerve-wracking, it was also costly and probably didn’t gain the hoped-for results.

The costs associated with attending one of these conventions as an author can near $500, and that’s not including travel, accommodations, and food costs. Then there’s the time factor. Evidently, if you want to make the most impact, you need to be there for the entire event, or at least the key days of the event. That means, taking time off from work (if you have a regular “day job” other than author), which can be a long weekend, or a whole week (depending on the convention).

It seems as if there are two main goals of those authors who attend these events:

  • Network (with agents and publishers, and other authors)
  • Recognition (give away free copies of your book(s), give away other free items with your brand/logo on them—t-shirts, pens, coffee mugs, etc., get noticed—give a speech/reading, make an impact on potential readers)

While these seem like worthwhile goals, the second one (especially) can be done for less money and with less hassle via the Web. If you want to give stuff away, create a web site and announce free stuff; list your book(s) for free with Amazon (or other online vendors) for a day or two; announce a contest and the prize can be a free mug, t-shirt, or book, or even lunch with the author; create posters of your book covers and offer them on some of the art sites; create an electronic newsletter or blog and build an audience via your writing.

If you really crave the spotlight and want to give a speech or reading of your material, you can arrange to do so at local gatherings (libraries, country clubs, social clubs—red hat society meetings, reading clubs, schools—present yourself at career day for high school or middle school students or college campuses, give a history or writing lecture for school students or local college, etc.). If you can afford the travel expenses, then you can pursue these same types of venues in other (further) locations from where you live.

As for the networking angle…well, I’m all for meeting other authors, I think most of us are a great bunch of people. However, I’m not all that stoked about landing a contract with a “real” publishing house, and I don’t really see the advantage of sharing what few commissions I make with an agent. Now, I might be willing to share my commissions with someone who could actually help me do the marketing of my books, but since most agents and publishers don’t really help you out with that, I’m not really interested.

As it is, I’m too busy trying to build my readership and develop some name recognition to really spend time cultivating a network of agents and publishers. Nearsighted? Maybe, but I’d rather shake hands and socialize with those few people who just might want to read my stories.

So, to sum up:

Pros of Attending: Lots of chances for networking, opportunities to listen to and learn from more experienced people in the industry, possibilities for building readership recognition

Cons of Attending: costly, crowded (easy to get lost in the crush), not a great venue for introverts

Therefore, I think if I were to attend, I would go as a guest. I would get a day pass and attend conference sessions, lectures, and demos; speak with other authors; and make connections with potential readers. However, I don’t think I would bother with the hassle of renting a space and a booth, and then hoping that people would find me. I think I’d rather go out and find them.

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1

Posted by: TA Sullivan | May 11, 2015

The Magic of The Starstone

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1There’s a certain amount of magic that goes into creating a story—whether that story remains short or turns into a full novel, the magic is still there. When you first start to write out your ideas, the story world and characters have little more substance than ghosts or shadows. The world itself is no more than a set propped up on the stage in your mind. But as you continue refining the story and reworking it, the characters become more real, and the world itself becomes something that you can actually visit. You can see the rocks, trees, and animals. They are so real that you can actually touch them, or so it seems.

In writing and developing The Starstone, I spent days on the lanai talking to people that no one else could hear, immersed in a world that no one else could see. It was surreal both for me and my spouse. There were times he would step outside to ask me something, and then struggle to figure out whether my response was to him or to something one of my characters had said. Even while walking the dog, the conversations continued. I can’t even begin to guess how many neighbors crossed the street to get away from the mad woman carrying on crazy conversations with herself, the dog, or no one. Yes, it’s magical, but it’s also intense and all-encompassing.

My life became so enmeshed with the world of Danaria that it sometimes became impossible to tell them apart. I was immersed not only in the world, but also in the lives of the characters—sometimes as an observer, and sometimes as a participant. But even as an observer, it wasn’t always safe. There were sword fights and arguments, kidnappings and escapes. The flight to Darkwind’s castle on the back of one of his wyverns left me nauseated and gasping for breath (I do have a distinct fear of heights), yet the trip was necessary if I was to write about it.

But worst of all, I think, was when the characters took umbrage at something I wanted them to do or say. They turned their backs to me and refused to respond to my queries, or else they simply walked off and disappeared from the world I had so painstakingly created. It hurt. They had become more than just characters, they were my friends. Yet, when I figured out that I was wrong, they would step back into the drama as if nothing had happened.

It was very difficult each time I had to put the story away, and it would take days, weeks, and sometimes months for the world I had created to fade away. There were times I would come around a corner of the house, and find myself not in the kitchen, but in a canyon. I would quickly look over my shoulder to see whether the ice beast was skulking behind me, before realizing that I had let the magic of the book out again. I would then bundle it back up and tuck it into a corner of my mind, until I had the time to let it out to play.

This time I not only let it out so I could play in Danaria, but I’ve let it out there so others can play, too. So, come immerse yourself in my magic land of Danaria. Feel the rush of the wind against your face as the wyvern you’re riding swoops down to within inches of the white caps, and laugh at the antics of the tree-runners as they scamper from branch to branch. It’s a wonderful world to get lost in.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | April 30, 2015

Why do you write?

readerEvery author’s “How-to” book that I’ve ever read always has these 2 basics somewhere in the book’s depths:

Write what you know
Write for yourself

The “write what you know” part has never been an issue for me. While I love fantasy and the freedom it gives you; the story still has to be somewhat believable or no one will accept the premise and, thereby, the story. Therefore, writing what I know (or can at least research) is always the best course.

However, for the longest time I struggled with the “write for yourself” part of it. I mean, I didn’t need the story written down if I was writing for myself. I could picture the story in loving detail in my own mind, so why spend time scribbling it down unless I was planning on sharing it with someone else? And thus my dilemma. If I’m writing for someone else, then who? And if I’m not writing for someone else, then why bother?

It was very frustrating. So, I went through all those reasons of why write (it down). Why be a writer (of stories)? Fame…I don’t care if I’m famous; in fact, I prefer my privacy. Glamour…writing isn’t glamorous, it’s hard work. Riches…well, that one still grabs me. Sure, I’d like to be rich, or at least rich enough to quit my day job and do nothing but write and read stories. But then the stories become just another job. You have to create the stories to make sure the money machine keeps churning out the dough.

No, the real reason I decided to write the stories down was for those lonely, geeky kids whose only friends are those they meet between the covers of the books they read. This was a reality I knew very well. These lonely, geeky kids I saw in my mind’s eye were very much like me when I was young. (So, in a way, I guess, I was writing for myself.)

I was the kid whose best friends were the Hardy Boys, Ann of Green Gables, and every character that every piloted a space ship designed by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, or Andre Norton. My friends lived in the local public library, and every week I would invite a half-dozen or so of them to my house. They would take me on the most wondrous adventures, and it would no longer matter if I wasn’t invited to some classmate’s birthday party, or if I wasn’t asked to participate in the games at recess. It didn’t matter because I was solving mysteries, stopping spies from taking over the country, or saving the world from some technological catastrophe.

Therefore, when I decided that I needed to share my stories, these were the people I had in mind as my audience. The kids who prefer (or need) to find their way through childhood and young adulthood by reading books. The kids whose imaginations can’t be contained inside of movies, but rather need to explore worlds of their own visualization but with the help of a good story and one or more characters they can relate to.

Once I figured this out, I realized I was writing for myself…just not in the way I initially thought or understood their statement to mean. It took me a bit of pondering and soul searching, but I really think I’m a better writer because of it.

I think every wannabe-author needs to take a look at those two questions. Then they need to really look inside themselves for the answers. Be honest with yourself; it’s not easy, but I think once you figure out why you really want to write stories and books, you’re ready to be a real author and not just a writer.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | April 21, 2015

Dante’s Equation

emerging2A universal wave that defines our reality…that is the key plot item to a book I just finished reading. The odd thing is, that although it’s a book of fiction, it brings together several concepts I have researched and studied for years.

If you believe some of the studies I have researched, we (as individuals) are a composite of frequencies, and one part of our individual frequencies contain the “universal frequency” of our reality. It’s what links us to this moment and this place. If we altered that link, that universal frequency, we might suddenly no longer exist in this reality. Instead, we would be in a different reality—perhaps one that is so close to our current one that we would be hard pressed to identify the differences, but it would be different.

If we alter that linking frequency in one way, we’re in an alternate reality; if we alter it another, we move from the physical plane to what? The astral plane? After all, the physical plane is only separated from the astral plane by a small shift in frequency. For instance, if all of physical reality (all the streams of physical reality that exist) exist within a frequency range of 0 – 100, then the astral plane is probably 100.1 – 200. And each reality within the astral plane is a separate frequency, just as each reality in the physical plane is a separate frequency. So, while astral matter is more pliable than physical matter, I would image that there are still some common realities that people go to in order to learn certain lessons, such as the reality of a brimstone and fire hell, and the reality of clouds and angels—how common are those? Perhaps there are realities that mimic the various realities on the physical plane, so that experiences can be reworked and revisited and the lessons learned.

But back to Earth and this reality. If the whole physical reality is in a frequency between 0 and 100, then where is our reality…50 – 52, or 48 – 50? Maybe it’s not so close to the middle, maybe it’s more skewed than that…maybe we’re closer to 35 – 37 or 60 – 62.

And what happens to the me in the reality I shift to (provided there is a me there), if I’m able to shift my linking frequency? Do we meet and cancel each other out? Does my moving into the next reality, push the me that’s there forward or backward, creating one big chain reaction of pushing ad infinitum? And if I push the me from that reality out and take her place, then when (and if) I shift back to my own reality, does the other me slip back to her world, too? My mind boggles (which is an interesting game, by the way—do we have a headache yet?)

Another concept I found in this novel that was interesting, was how the astral plane worked. Now the author didn’t call the realities where the different characters ended up the astral plane, but to me it was so obvious that no label was needed. When the protagonists were subjected to a pulse, it shifted their universal frequency link and each of them then found themselves in a world ideally suited to showing them their main life lesson.

Two found themselves in a world of wondrous technology, but what they found was that people didn’t matter, only the technology did. At first, this was great because they loved technology. However, the more they realized how little people meant, the colder and less ideal their “chosen” world seemed to them.

Another character who believed he knew what God wanted and never thought people showed enough respect (to him and to God) found himself in a world where the rules were so rigid and so strict that only blind obedience was acceptable. He soon found that this was not the type of faith that he wanted, nor the type of faith he wanted to foist onto others.

So, it went for each character, as they confronted the worst in themselves and came to realize how narrow and shallow they really were. Exactly the types of lessons you would expect to encounter in the astral planes.

Once they acknowledged the blinders that they had worn, they were able to return their individual frequencies to what they needed to be in order to return to their own reality.

Now, while the author took some liberties in the way she got them back to their own reality, and in how they actually get to the astral plane (she had them traveling to the astral plane as full physical beings), it was still a very thought-provoking and intriguing book. More than anything it makes me want to ask the author which of Nick Herbert’s publishings she has read, and what gave her the idea in the first place. I think it would be utterly fascinating to sit down and discuss some of these concepts with the author, to see where she got her ideas from, and what her feelings are about multiple realities.

So, if you love a book that will make you question and think, then I highly recommend that you read Dante’s Equation by Jane Jensen.

Posted by: TA Sullivan | April 9, 2015

Is there proof of an afterlife?

My Life as a PsychopompTNT has a new show starting in June called “Proof”. I must admit, I am intrigued…from the little bit I’ve been able to find about it, it sounds as if it could be interesting. The premise is this:

Rich old guy, afraid of death and dying, hires young doctor to research life after death and bring him proof that there is some sort of existence beyond this world. So, she investigates NDEs (near death experiences), psychics, mediums (and yes, there is a difference—psychics can read people’s energies, intuit possible future events, and sense other people’s emotions (among other things); while mediums speak to dead people), reincarnation reports, OBE reports (out of body experiences), hauntings, and other paranormal and death-related happenings in an effort to find “proof”.

Depending on how they treat the subject the show could be helpful in bringing death and dying out of the closet and into the light, or it could simply push it further into the corner of that dark, cluttered closet where no one will be bothered by it. I understand that it’s TV, which automatically indicates that any information it provides will be diluted and inundated with melodrama. However, there’s melodrama and there’s high-camp. If they go the route of camp and ridiculousness (ala the TV show, Ghost Hunters, or the movie, Ghost Busters) then they will do nothing to improve people’s understanding of physical death and spiritual life (not to mention, losing me as a viewer ;-}. However, if they stick with the melodrama, they might actually be able to help people understand that death is not scary, and what happens after the body dies is not scary.

As an escort to those newly transitioning from and to physical life, I can assure you that life goes on…in a different way than what we experience now here on Earth, but it does continue. I don’t know how anyone could actually prove that consciousness and “life” exists beyond the physical world, though. It’s not as if you can scribble it out in a formula, or build a measuring device that would definitively prove to everyone that life doesn’t end when the physical body dies. But then again, what is acceptable as proof is different for everyone. Some will accept only what they can see, hear, taste, or feel, while others what all the scientific jargon and formulas to back it up. That’s the type of person that even if you could them across the border into death and bring them back, they would find some other explanation for what they experienced. After all, people can only accept what they wish to accept; it’s the way our brains are made. If it’s outside our experiences and expectations, then we can either expand our acceptance factor and acknowledge it as something we never experienced, but could be true, or we can block it and find a more reasonable (to us) explanation to it—something that will fit within our mental model of what is real, possible, and true.

That’s why for some people there are miracles, and for others common occurrences. A child becomes gravely ill, and is treated by a modern healer and is cured—this can be a miracle to someone not familiar with or accepting of modern medicine; while for others it is just the natural occurrence and result of taking antibiotics. So, what proof would you need to accept that physical life isn’t the be-all end-all of existence, or do you already accept that this isn’t all there is?

Posted by: TA Sullivan | April 5, 2015

WooHoo!

The paperback is now available, and the ebook is too. And to think, it only took 25 years!

For better or for worse, it’s out there now, just waiting for readers to find it.

 

Happy reading, Friends!

Posted by: TA Sullivan | March 23, 2015

The Slurvians are Among Us!

panicLast week I received an email from a grade school teacher and friend asking for gently used clothes and household items. She went on to explain that these “hammy downs” would be used to help “diss dressed” families. (Of course, if these families were dissed for the way they dressed, I’m not sure any of my contributions would help.)

Then, over the weekend I read a newspaper health column about the dangers of high blood pressure. It seems that if you leave it untreated you could be susceptible to “my grain headaches.” (It wasn’t clear to me whether that was related to being allergic to gluten, but it certainly made me rethink my choice of having cereal for breakfast.)

While this is only two of the most recent incidents, it made me realize that the Slurvians were here, and they were beginning to take over. In fact, if you take the time to notice, you’ll find evidence of them almost everywhere.

Go out to Google and check…there are 202,000 results for “lactose and tolerant,” 178,000 for “all in tents and purposes” (and that wasn’t including the camping stores), and 16,000 hits for “infer structure.”

It’s the Slurvians…they’re taking the English language and turning it into…well, Slurvian. They’re hell-bent on taking our beloved English language and twisting it into something strange and bizarre. They have no regard for tradition, rules, or structure. They can take the simplest of words and phrases and make them into something unrecognizable.

We have to band together and stay strong. It’s the only way to keep the language safe. The difficulty is in recognizing these Slurvians. They’re insidious and clever, yet completely normal looking. They could be your friend, your co-worker, or your next-door-neighbor. But, no matter how innocuous they seem, you can’t trust them. If you’re not careful, they’ll take over your writing and turn you into a Slurvian, too.

 

[With special thanks to Richard Lederer, who introduced the term “Slurvian” in his 1987 Dell book Anguished English.]
Posted by: TA Sullivan | March 17, 2015

The Whisperers…

healer

A swirl of energy guides me nowadays

Is it positive thinking, or just a foolish refusal to face reality? I wish I knew.

There’s an energy flow that is swirling around me right now that no matter how hard I try to ignore, I just can’t. It’s an odd energy (for me) to deal with. You see, I consider myself a realist, and sometimes even a bit of a pessimist. I may joke about striking it rich someday, but in my own mind I know I’ll always be a worker bee, not a lady of leisure.

Yet, whenever I turn my focus to my novel and everything I still need to do to get it ready for publishing, that glimmer of energy starts up again. I feel as if someone is whispering in my ear, giving me gentle nudges, and helping me find the right steps along my path.

Sometimes what they whisper to me is cautions and reminders (like “remember to check the subplot to ensure that it was picked up properly by all the participants”), and other times it’s reassurances such as when I start doubting myself (and I do that a lot). And I know you could say that it’s just my own inner voice talking to me, but that’s just it…it’s not. I’ve heard my inner voice, and it doesn’t sound like this. Especially, the reassuring voice that has been helping to keep me calm and on track.

When it comes to time issues, I’m very much an impatient, DO IT RIGHT NOW type of person. Yet, every time I feel that person starting to emerge, this gentle, calming voice whispers to me and my impatience seems to fall apart and dissipate…but only in relation to The Book. The voice doesn’t whisper to me when I’m sitting in traffic and ticked off about being late for my doctor’s appointment; nor is it there when I’m standing in line waiting at the grocer’s when I’d rather be outside enjoying the lovely sunshine.

It’s all about The Book lately, and I’m not sure why. But something inside of me, along side of me, watching over me, keeps telling me that this book is different. This book is important. And no matter how many times I say to myself, “…but it’s just a novel…”, that whisperer responds that it isn’t just anything, that it’s much more than I realize.

Now, don’t get me wrong…this whisperer isn’t telling me that The Book will make me rich; it’s not even saying that The Book will make me famous. However, the feeling I get is that there is something important about the story I wrote; something that needs to be told. It’s as if the story I wrote and the events occurring now in our world are somehow intertwined. Yet, the book doesn’t even take place on Earth, but [shrug]…I don’t know. I can’t really explain it, and I make my living using words to explain things so that others can understand. But this…well how do you explain something, you’re not really clear on yourself?

I guess I’ll just keep plodding along, following my path, and letting the whisperers help me along…after all, they haven’t led me astray at least so far.

So, if you see someone standing in the middle of the sidewalk, head cocked to the side as if listening to someone who isn’t there…it’s probably someone (like me) listening to his or her “guides” whisper directions and suggestions.

Front Cover Concept for The Starstone

Front Cover Concept for The Starstone

 

Posted by: TA Sullivan | March 14, 2015

Oooh, a new marketing toy…

I couldn’t sleep last night, so I decided to use my time to research ways of incorporating blatant ads into my blog. I know, I know…no one likes commercials. But let’s face it, if I don’t push my books, who will?

I may never make a living off of them, but I’m still proud of them, and want to share the information. So, I tried creating a short audio…I know the quality’s not great, but I thought I did pretty well for being over tired, bleary-eyed, and up waaaay past my bedtime.

try this

I also played around with a free presentation software available from Google. The results are fairly basic, and hardly of the quality of most of the vids available on YouTube, but then again, it’s my first attempt, too. So, have listen, take a look…

Book synopsis

 

My Life as a Psychopomp

 

Posted by: TA Sullivan | March 8, 2015

Can you hear me now?

liteningI lost my voice 2 days ago. I’ve looked everywhere for it, but it’s just not here.

I think it went on holiday…can’t say as how I blame it. I mean, it’s not like I ever really let it out much. Most of my communication is (and always has been) via my writing–letters, emails, notes, texts, stories, books. I seldom actually speak. I can go a whole week and only speak to one person (my husband)…and yes, I do have a full-time, 9-to-5, corporate job. However, even with the full-time employment, I communicate via email, post-its, and other means of written documentation.

It’s strange, to me, though. I thought I would miss having my voice, but I really don’t. A few more people (than normal) think I’m rather stuffy and snooty because I didn’t respond to their “hellos” as we passed in the hallway (well, I did respond, just not verbally…I twiddled my fingers or nodded to them). But overall, being unable to speak hasn’t really changed my life at all. My husband is enjoying the brief respite, and my cell bill may be a bit higher since I’m unable to use the phone feature and have to rely on texting and email instead. But, then (as I said), that was always my preferred method of interaction anyway.

I always wondered what it would be like to lose one of my senses–hearing, sight, speech–but trying to imagine it isn’t quite the same as actually experiencing it. I always thought, losing my sight would be the worst (no more books, movies, or nature sites), and sound the least problematic (I so love the sound of silence). As for speech or vocalizations, they weren’t really in the running at all. But now that my voice has gone on holiday for a while, I’m beginning to realize that I really don’t miss it at all.

I remember reading in Stephen King’s “The Stand” about how life is incomplete without communication. You can have a thought, but if you have no way to communicate or share that thought with someone else, then the process is incomplete. But there are ways of communicating other than vocalizations, and I’m partial to writing. So, if I were to lose the ability to write, text, or type, I might be more upset, but obviously losing my ability to speak isn’t that a big deal (at least to me).

Therefore, I’ll keep my sight and my hearing (still love my music, after all), but the voice…well, I just hope that it’s having a good time wherever it has taken off to…I imagine it sitting on a beach somewhere, soaking in the sun and drinking mai-tais. But hey, for all I know, it’s out skiing somewhere; racing downhill and screaming for all its worth. Whatever it’s doing, and wherever it is, I certainly hope it is enjoying itself. After all, I fully expect it to stick around for a while once it finally decides to come back home.

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