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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Knowing Your Place

Everyone always says that if you want to get well-known you need to have an angle, a niche, and a brand.  In the acting word, they talk a lot about "type" and finding roles based on that particular character or personality.

Writing is the same, it seems.  People find one genre or a set of similar genres that they fall into and can write about and build a following around that.

Some say once you find your place and build a foundation on it, then you can branch out to different subjects and new types to make yourself versatile.

I've never been sure on whether or not I wanted to go that route.  It seems like a lot of people who create a place for themselves have a difficult time breaking out of it.  For example, Adam Sandler is known for his over-the-top-often-annoyingly-loud characters and sometimes crude and off the wall humor.  When he did Punch Drunk Love, it flopped.  People hated it.  They weren't used to seeing Adam Sandler in a drama, and because of the expectations they had of him being funny, they had a hard time seeing in a serious role.  Robin Williams is similar- people have grown to love him for his comedy, so when he does a serious role people don't like it as much, even though he has a tremendous talent for drama.  But if he hadn't become known for his comedies, he probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to do the dramas.

Could you imagine if Stephen King suddenly decided to write romance books similar to the works of Nicholas Sparks?  I don't think his readers would know what to do.

If you're looking for fame, I think you need to almost always find a "type" and use that to create a fandom for yourself.  Frankly, some people are just looking to get famous in any way they possibly can- they don't care about what it is they're doing, they just want the following.  That's fine; to each his own, but that's not for me- I don't want to be famous just to be famous: I want to have something I'm good great at, something I can pass down to future generations and inspire them to create something even better.

Realizing that all my best ideas are in a genre I would have never consciously picked for myself made me question where I think I'm going with this.  Do I want to be a horror/thriller writer?  How hard will it be for me to break out of it in the future?  I'm not sure, really.  I don't want to always write horror- I've got adventure, fantasy, romance, and sci-fi ideas that I would love to develop into fruition.

It's also had me asking myself what I want in the long run- do I want fame?  The honest answer is that I have no clue whether or not I want to be famous.  The upside to fame would be having an influence and being able to bring awareness of important issues to fans, but the downside would be losing some privacy, having the pressure to live up to what's expected of you on a much grander scale than most, and being open to criticism (often not constructive) from so many more people.  I'm just not sure I'd want that, really.

What I would like, ultimately, is to be able to write stories that entertain and inspire people.  I want to make people think about themselves and the world around them, ask themselves about who they are and what they would do in certain situations, and create places for people to escape to when they need a break from reality.  And I'd love to make a living doing it, so I could do it all the time.

I admire Johnny Depp- he is entirely devoted to his craft and his family, but never wanted fame.  Often he seems to detest his celebrity.  It wasn't something he ever wanted, and because of his devotion to acting, it just happened.  Some people are like that, and I've met a few of them.  Those are the people who are so good at what they do that you know they're going to be famous whether they plan to or not.

So what's my type?  Where's my niche?  Right now, it seems to be horror/thriller.  After that, who knows.  My goal is to create great characters with depth, interesting conflicts, and the best story I can.  I don't care if I get famous or rich or neither because of it; I just want to be the best me I can.

P.S.- My Amazon Author Page has been updated.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Positive Results Breed Positive Motivation

When I first published The Secret Room, it was an amazing feeling to see so many people downloading and reading my work.  During the first five days it was available, I put it on a free promotion in order to get the word out about it and I had about 1,800 people download it in the five-day span.  Right now on this promo it's at 572 downloads, in just the first day!

When Shadows in the Window went up, I put it on a free promotion for its first five days, just like I did with The Secret Room.  It sold around 1,200 copies during that time.  In this promo's first day, it's already at 313 downloads!

Since it is a holiday weekend and many are off for 3 days, I decided to put both books on a free promo since Amazon gave me a few more promotion days to use.  The Secret Room and Shadows in the Window both went up for free a little after midnight this morning.  Now, they are currently BOTH in the Top 100 in Kindle's Horror section!  Shadows in the Window is #67 and The Secret Room is #6!  Having one book in the Top 100 is amazing enough, but to have TWO is completely indescribable!

I'd love to have this keep going, and if any of you would be willing to share the links to my books on your blog, FaceBook (check out the brand-new author page), Twitter (I'm @smober on Twitter), or anywhere else I would be most appreciative! 

This has been such motivation for me to work more and work harder on my zombie novel. It's getting closer to completion, and I'm loving how it's flowing!  Some of what's happened has even surprised me- certain elements and events just come organically when writing, seemingly out of nowhere.  When that happens, I just let it come and see where it goes- if I don't like it, then I can change it, but most of the time when it "just comes to me" it seems to work much better than when I try to force something.

Even though it is a three-day weekend and most people are off, I'm spending my time writing my novel.  I didn't get a chance to do any work on it on Thursday or Friday, so I've made this a work weekend.  I love writing, and I'm so inspired based on what The Secret Room and Shadows in the Window are doing right now that I wouldn't want to be doing something other than writing!  I am getting close to picking a title, and Danny already has some ideas for the cover.  You'll all be able to read it very soon!

Maybe this will sound corny, but sometimes the story just takes you away and even though it's coming from your imagination, you're hanging on to the edge of your seat waiting to see what develops.  Writing is a thrill!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Always A Work In Progress

I don't know why, but lately I've been very reflective.  Frequently, I find myself attempting to gain more knowledge and a better understanding of the human experience.  (I've been like this as long as I can remember, and I think it's been very beneficial.)  Maybe it's a mental Spring-Cleaning of sorts, or maybe it's just the fact that there's been so much going on lately, but whatever it is, I'm craving knowledge and enlightenment on a deeper level than I have in a while.

But no matter how long I live, I will never know everything there is to know, do everything there is to do, see everything there is to see, taste everything there is to taste, read everything there is to read, or meet everyone there is to meet, even if I were to (somehow) live to be 500 years old.  It may sound kind of sad and limited, but it's actually quite the opposite- there is always going to be something new for me to do, see, read, experience, etc.  We will never run out of things that we haven't experienced yet, no matter how much we fit in to each day or how many days we're alive on this earth.

That is why it is okay to not know something, and it took me a while to realize that.  I don't have to have the answer to every question, I don't have to know about everything (and no one ever will know everything in this life), and I don't have to have done everything.  It takes a lot of pressure off when you realize that you don't have to always be right and always know.  If we ever did get to the point where we had done, learned, completed, experienced, and saw absolutely everything, it would mean this earth is a lot more simple than we thought, and it is very much not.  Besides, if we were able to get to that point, I think we'd eventually just say "Well, I've done and seen and learned it all.  Nothing left for me to do with the rest of my life but sit here and twiddle my thumbs."  BORING!

Life is so incredible, and so endlessly beautiful and astounding.  Maybe I believe that to a naive degree, but it keeps me positive and happy and always open to new ideas, knowledge, and experiences.  I've have gone through tragedy, heartbreak, judgment, hardships, and  have seen things that I hope other people are never forced to see, and yet I always come out of it a little wiser and more appreciative of what I do have.  Those things, sorrowful as they can be, are a part of the richness and vastness of human existence.  At some point or another, we will all experience the positive and negative aspects of life.

Whether they're big or little, life experiences make us who we are.  We are a work in progress up until the last breath we take, and maybe even after that.  We all have infinite amounts of growth potential, no matter how smart, experienced, wise, kind, or compassionate we already are.  There is always room for improvement, and even though some people see it as a burden, the fact that we always have the capacity for growth is an incredible blessing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Sometimes when I'm driving and go on auto-pilot I get completely lost in my thoughts.  That's one thing I love about driving- I'm not distracted by my phone, the Internet, or text messages- it's just me and the road, some good music, and my thoughts to keep me company.

While I was driving the other day, I had a totally epiphany about an aspect of myself and how I handle the relationships in my life.  This epiphany, which had to do with how I conduct my relationships (friendships, spouse, family, etc), made me realize the reason why I feel so drained when it comes to relationships and why I'm not close with some people I would love to be closer with.

After realizing my flaw, I saw that I could really consciously do something about it to improve my relationships and make myself and the other people in said relationships a lot more fulfilled and happy.  It was pretty satisfying to have this realization in itself, let alone be able to put it in play.  I've already seen an improvement in some of my relationships, which is incredible.

No matter how long we live, I think we'll always discover new things about us.   Sometimes it seems like the one person it is hardest for us to get to know is the one person we can never get away from: ourselves.

But I think it's not so much a matter of finding ourselves as it is a matter of defining ourselves.  What do we think is right?  What do we think is wrong?  What are we willing to do?  What are we not willing to do?

I love learning about myself and creating who I am.  It's an incredible feeling to be so happy with the person I am and know that I still have so much more learning and growing to do.  In my opinion, the people who think they know it all and have nothing more to gain from life are seriously missing out (unless, of course, they're old and have lived their lives, but still- my grandpa used to tell me that the first day you shouldn't learn something new should be the day after you die).  Closed minds don't get the benefit and joy that open minds do.  Closed minds seem to have trouble connecting to other people, to understanding things outside of their preexisting beliefs, and don't seem to gain as much joy from learning new things.

I also think that we can reduce so much stress, improve our relationships, and find a higher state of happiness when we give up the unquenchable desire to always be right.  No one knows everything, and we can learn something from every single person.  When we act like we know it all, we lose a lot of important parts of being human.  First off, we lose a lot of credibility with others if they see that we spew a lot of B.S. because then they have no idea when we say something that's actually accurate.  Second, we stop asking questions, and when we stop asking questions, our minds stop exploring.  There's nothing wrong with not knowing everything.  I mean, I think I know quite a bit about a lot of things, but what I know is barely even a frozen drop of water in the tip of the iceberg that is the knowledge of the universe.

Open minds also seem to be the most creative minds; probably because they're always searching and asking and trying to see things in a new way.  Like Danny- he loves his job, and has probably one of the most amazing and insightful minds I know.  He's been working on so many incredible projects, and I love hearing about them.  Sometimes I feel a little jealous that he gets to work in such a creative environment at the studio, because he comes home every day and talks about what he did with such enthusiasm.  He listens to everyone, and is never afraid to ask questions.  I aim to be more like him; he's my inspiration to improve who I am.

Friday, May 4, 2012


You know what's awesome?  Reading.

If there is one thing that helps me to improve my writing, it's reading.  There are so many benefits to reading, especially if you're a writer.  For me, I often find things in stories that work well and see things that don't work so well.

I learn new words when I read.  Which is good, because then I'm not using the same words over and over again when I write.  Something I'm always afraid of is sounding repetitive.

But beyond that, I just love reading.  It's so exciting, so relaxing, and finishing a good book feels like a tiny bittersweet accomplishment.

I finished reading the novel a friend of mine wrote, and it was spectacular!  I can't wait to read what he puts out next.

I believe we should read about all sorts of subjects.  Reading about the same thing continuously will make you well-versed on that subject, but opening it up to more subjects can expand your understanding of so many other things.  Even things you don't necessarily believe in can give you an understanding of what other people do and think, which is why I plan to read up on all sorts of religions and belief systems.  On that note, I'm reading a book called Children Who Remember Past Lives by Dr. Ian Stevenson.  It's about children who have memories of a life they purportedly lived before their current incarnation.  I just started it, but the ideas are fascinating.  Up next, I plan to read On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

My reading list is two dozen books.  Maybe I should keep the list shorter, but I love reading.