Thursday, October 11, 2012

Making of an Indie Fantasy Author ~guest post by James Eggebeen

We're pleased to welcome author James Eggebeen to The Speculative Salon. He's sharing his interesting path that led him to become a fantasy author. Please check out his releases below.

Making of an Indie Fantasy Author

There is a video of Steven King floating around the internet. He says read - read lots - One day you will be reading and you’ll stop and say to yourself ‘I can do better than this.’ In that magical moment a writer is born... In my case it took a little more than that one magic moment.

I was always a reader. You know what I mean. If you’re a reader, you squirrel books away like nuts against the coming winter. I have thousands of them, stacked everywhere, almost enough to make me worry that I might be a hoarder. These books are stuffed full of wonder, and portray worlds that are fascinating and exciting, much more so than the mundane world of computers and programs that I inhabit.

As a kid, it was almost exclusively science fiction for me. Science seemed to be the key to everything. Advances came at a mind boggling rate and everything was getting better, faster, and smarter. Technology had it all, and science fiction captured the imagination of everyone, regardless of his or her background. Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark, Herberts, Pohl, Niven, Pournell, I couldn’t get enough. The Science Fiction book club could barely keep me supplied. It was those authors who dominated my bookshelf for years.

As many of the things science fiction only speculated about became real and common place, the frontiers of science fiction seemed to draw closer. No more could we dream about going to the moon or mars, and wondering what it would be like. We knew. Science fiction had lost some of that sense of wonder for me. Not completely, but now nothing seemed that farfetched anymore.

I missed the sense of wonder that I’d found in the early science fiction novels, but I found it back in Fantasy. No, not Tolkien - Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time. I read that book long before I was introduced to the Hobbit. There was something captivating about the worlds of Fantasy. Watching the author paint a picture of a world that was not real, one that could never be. It was a wonder to me. I read and re-read my favorite books until the covers fell off, and I had to tape the pages back in. Each time I re-read a book, I saw more fine grain detail, more complexity and richness to the world that I’d missed on the previous pass. It satisfied my hunger for a sense of wonder.

It was about then that I started writing fiction. It wasn’t really my choice. I always hated English in school and avoided it at all costs. That’s probably why I put off the last required English class until it was all that I needed to get my degree. I had to pass an English class, or fail to graduate.

When the books arrived for “Chief Modern Poets of Britain and America”, I ran for the counselor’s office, begging for something else, anything else. I just knew I would never have survived that poetry class. All of the horrors of every painful English class I had ever endured came rushing back. I feared I might not graduate just because of one class.

The only other option available was “Creative Writing”. I figured it would be an easy credit, I could slap together a few papers and pass the class, and that would be it. No longer would I have to worry about grammar or proper paragraph construction. I might yet survive that final English class.

The first day of class, the professor told me that I was going to learn to write stories. I remember her showing me how a story arc worked, how characters were developed, and how to create and control tension. These were things that I recognized but couldn’t put into words. This is what was in all of my favorite books, the ones I’d read and re-read until they fell apart. I realized there was something magical to their writing, something I could learn, and I was hooked. Somehow that idea got inside of me and just never let me go.

I wrote short stories for years, working with other writers on the Internet, back before most people knew what the Internet was. We wrote and traded stories on a cycle. Write for a week, critique for a week, and start again. We kept at it, six or seven of us honing our skills, struggling to get a handle on the craft of writing. We read everything published by the writer’s digest, devouring and applying all that we’d learned, eager to share and grow, to polish our craft. Theme, plot, characterization, dialogue and even manuscript formatting; nothing about the craft of writing escaped our attention.

It was about then that traditional publishing took its first big hit. If you want to know what happened, research “Thor Power Tools and Publishing.” It looked like there was no longer a viable career for any but the best writers in the business. Publishers were cutting inventory and shrinking print runs. Many of my favorite authors slowed down, or left the business, because they could no longer make a living at it. It was sad to realize that any dream I might have harbored about becoming a writer might be only that; a dream. There would be no market clamoring for anything I wrote. Publishers were in trouble, and few writers were being accepted for those precious print runs.

It didn’t matter; I was infected with the author virus. I kept writing and kept honing. I tried several times to write a complete novel, but I just couldn’t get a handle on all the details. I’m inherently disorganized, and it just overwhelmed me. That is until I found a great software package that did all that organization for me. That, and a fabulous online class in How to Write a Novel. Now I could keep track of the timelines, characters, locations, themes, character arcs, and all those things that made up my imaginary world. A world that I did not at first know fully, but one I was creating as I wrote.

My wife went to visit her family overseas for two months and I had the house to myself. A married man left alone and unsupervised can get himself in a lot of trouble. I disconnected the cable TV and started writing. I wrote the kind of story that I’d been reading for years. Fantasy. I wanted to write a great big epic fantasy novel, set in a large world full of strange and wonderful places. I was consumed with it. Now I could keep track of all those details until I had them committed to memory, until my imaginary world was as real to me as my own. I could see it all as it came together and it was no longer an insurmountable task.

As the book took shape, I researched the current state of the publishing industry, and found that it had changed yet again. With the advent of print on demand and eBooks, the inventory valuation problem had vanished. Now a backlist could live forever, but it looked like the traditional publishers were under assault again. Not by the IRS, but by eBooks. The kindle and nook were challenging the demand for print books. It looked like the market for new authors at the traditional publishers was even tighter than it had been before, and getting worse every day.

I spent months polishing my fledgling book. I found a writing group that met in person and joined it. I work-shopped my chapters, recruited beta readers and hired an editor. I revised and re-wrote anything and everything that didn’t make sense, or come across the way I intended it to.

Months crawled by as I polished and refined the manuscript until one day it was ready. In the mean time I had had learned how to format files for Create Space and the Amazon Kindle. I built my web site, created my twitter and FaceBook accounts and got active in the community of writers. I had done everything I could to prepare.

It was time.

Time to push that publish button.

With great trepidation, early one morning, I pushed that button. I was no longer a reader. That one simple click transformed me into an indie author, and there was no turning back. There are more worlds in my head, constantly screaming to be written about. There is a host of characters that clamor for attention, demanding that I write their story. How can I disappoint them? I’m an author. I have to keep writing.

Author Bio:
James Eggebeen is a serial masochist repeatedly taking high tech companies through the growing pains of converting from a garage shop into a sustainable and profitable mature business.

He learned the value of hard work by being raised on a farm in Wisconsin where he learned auto mechanics from his saintly grandfather who patiently tolerated him and his siblings always under foot. His most frequent comment growing up was "Why did you people settle here when there are much warmer places to live?"

He confounded his teachers and most grownups at a young age writing incredibly powerful algorithms for phenomenally underpowered computers at the dawn of the computer age. This is a skill he has employed throughout his professional career and still take great pride in (the confounding part mostly).

At 17 years of age he made a deal with the US Navy "Teach me about airplanes and computers. Take me anywhere it doesn't snow and I'm all yours." They kept the bargain and started him on a world traveling adventure that has continued far beyond his six-year enlistment.

He continued his world traveling adventures as a businessman frequently logging one fourth of his time out of the country. He feels as comfortable abroad as he does at home and has developed an appreciation for a wide range of cultures and cuisines.

He settled in Southern California after his service was complete and studied Engineering, Business and Finance at night while working at a series of start-up firms by day. He claims that growing up on the farm and the Navy has ruined his ability to sleep late and habitually gets up well before the sane portion of population starts their day.

Author Website:

Books by James Eggebeen: 

Foundling Wizard
For over a hundred years the priests of Ran have been killing young wizards to take their power. When Lorit learns that he has the Wizard’s Power he becomes targeted for special attention by the Temple.

Lorit must learn magic in time to save the sister he infused with his own power to save her life. He must find a way to overcome their stolen magic without resorting to their tactics.

Together he and the Sorceress Chihon battle to make the land safe for magicians everywhere. Can they defeat the Temple or will they succumb to the plot that would turn them into the most powerful of their enemies?

Available at Amazon

Wizard's Education
Coming in November~


Anonymous said...

Well said, sir. And congratulations to you on your books. =)


E.B. Black said...

My love of fantasy started with C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling. I love the wonder of fantasy as well and realized lately the extent, in which, I enjoy world-building.

Learning how to organize the events of an entire novel is hard, but I think I've finally gotten started to get the hang of it. Now, I just need to learn how to organize the events of an entire book series.

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