William H. Johnson

Archive for the ‘Motivational’ Category

Writing Out the Fear

In Motivational on May 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm

A Guest Post by Kathryn Magendie

Before I was published, whenever I’d read about an author who wrote a book and never wrote another one, I’d say, “If I had the chance, I sure wouldn’t be hesitating. I’d sure be writing to beat the band!” I simply couldn’t understand why a writer who had the chance to have his/her next book published would not jump on that chance with all the glee and energy and writing writer write they had, especially if that book was a success.

Until my own books were published. Then came the understanding of how fear plays such a part in this business.

An artist and I were in a conversation about not letting the negativity get in the way of creativity. I said to the artist how we have to have the dark and the light in our work, but we have to make sure the dark is not someone else’s shadow. Much of what you hear after you publish your book is Everyone Else’s Opinion—if you are not careful, you begin to listen to too many voices/opinions. Finding a way to separate the “should not listen to” versus the “this will help me in my journey” is a difficult one.

After my first book, Tender Graces, was released, I woke up with anxiety so fierce that my stomach tied in a snarl of knots. Fear of what someone may say about my work. That I’d disappoint readers. That faded as time went by, because I stomped over it—how else could I go back to work? But it came again with the release of the Secret Graces, and then with Sweetie. Will people still love me and my characters? Did I do okay? Are my words reaching anyone? Will I be loved?

My friends, I understand why some writers do not write that second book. An author can become paralyzed with fear. That fear can permeate and penetrate and become so prevalent that creativity is stifled. Imagine writing a book and being compared to other writers—but—imagine writing a book and being compared to yourself! Harper Lee, Stephen King, Oscar Wilde, Gail Godwin, Ralph Ellison, Margaret Mitchell, Elizabeth Berg—all have one thing in common: they wrote a book. What they don’t have in common is some went on to write more and others never wrote another book, or at least one that we know about.

If I had not stomped over my fears, skirted around the dark that is someone else’s shadow, ignored my terror, more work would not have come to me and then to readers. Writers and artists and singers and dancers and actors—all those whose work is out for public consumption and review and deliberation—must find a way to stop the: “I have to be loved by everyone. My work must be adored by everyone. I am afraid of what will happen. I am afraid of success/failure/mediocrity.” And instead, we must do what we love and do it the best we can and do it with love and hope and strength and honesty.

Of course, we must also do it in a way that sells, don’t forget that. Art aside, love of books and reading and writing aside, it has to be deconstructed into the business side of things as well. Heart and Brain go hand in hand in this business. What a terrifyingly fascinatingly wonderful business!

Am I still worried about the books I write to be released into the hands of readers? Well, yes. But am I letting that stop me? No. Step out from that shadow and show yourself. Be brave and hearty in whatever you love to do. How will you know what you can create until the creating is accomplished?

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Kathryn Magendie is the author of Tender Graces, Secret Graces, and Sweetie. Her novella Petey will be released in the anthology The Firefly Dance along with authors Sarah Addison Allen and Augusta Trobaugh in July 2011. Her final Graces novel will be released fall 2011. Visit her at www.kathrynmagendie.com, www.tendergraces.blogspot.com, follow her on twitter @katmagendie, or on Facebook at Kathryn.magendie


FIRED UP to be the Featured Author on This Friday’s LITCHAT!

In Indie Publishing, Motivational on June 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Bring on the HOT SEAT!

This Friday from 4pm ET to 5pm ET, I will be the featured author on LitChat – All Book Chat as part of a week-long INDIE AUTHOR SHOWCASE. I can’t tell you how fired up I am about this. Fired UP!

It has been a great week with such smart Indie minds as Dan Halloway and D.R. Whitney playing this role during Monday and Wednesday’s chats respectively. Two hours and over 1200 tweets of pure energy has resulted as writers from around the world are coming together to share ideas about how we can take an empowering role in the future of our work. Musicians are doing it. Filmmakers are doing it.

So. Can. We.

So far we’ve been posing questions about the business of publishing. We’ve talked about the benefits of creative control, working fluidly with the timeliness of our material, and preservation of artistic voice.  We’ve talked about some of the nuts and bolts of production: What is POD? How does it differ from off-set printing? What are recommended approaches to the editorial process and what are the costs? We’ve even talked trends on the final format – ebook vs. trade paperback vs. audio novel.

These are great topics and require discussion. As indie authors we must be educated. We can no longer be in the dark. We need to know what it takes to make a book if we are going to be the CEO of a book release and distribution project.

On Friday I want to talk about what it means to connect with a reader as an Indie Author. What is that like? What is it you have to offer them in a competitive market of potential reads? If you decide to publish you are doing so because you want to share your words with people. Is it to entertain them? To provoke them? Why do we do it? And why will the reader benefit by entrusting their precious reading time to you?

Here are some questions I will be posing to the guests while fielding questions from the illustrious Debra Marrs who will be moderating LitChat in place of our usual fearless leader.

Q1: Are there ways that an Indie Author can deliver a satisfying reading experience better than a trad pub? If so, what are they?

Q2: In indie film, prod value is often sacrificed out of necessity. Does this happen in self pub and how does it affect the reader?

Q3: What are people going through or have they gone through that your book or writing will speak to?

As artists we are rewarded in a powerful inexplicable way when we have the opportunity to share our work. Whether we’re musicians, filmmakers, authors, or theatre artists there is something about sharing that completes the sacred circle. Let us then remember how important audience, readers, listeners are to our craft, our business, our overall operation. If we dedicate ourselves to giving them our very best, wonderful things will follow.

See you in LitChat!!!


To join the chat go to www.tweetchat.com, sign into your twitter account and enter LITCHAT into the hashtag field.

For transcripts of the chats during Indie Author Showcase week, visit http://litchat.net/past-litchats/

My First Sixty Days as a Published Author

In Motivational, Reflection on May 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Hundreds of books sold. 5-star reader reviews on Amazon. Interviews with my hometown paper and an online columnist. Booksigning events in four cities. Reviews on the way from a sci-fi fantasy website and a book review blog. Positive, supportive communities on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and Youtube.

The first 60 days of being published have truly been a whirlwind.

Meeting new people has been amazing; like the freshmen at my alma-mater who aspire to be talent managers, screenwriters, novelists. Or the bartender at my favorite restaurant in the town I grew up who, though not a fan of fantasy, read the prologue and decided to give THE DARK PROVINCE a try. From the woman at the local print shop to new friends across the world I’ve met on Twitter – sharing this novel with people has been like sharing a secret with a friend. For almost seven years these characters have been known only by my wife and I – and now people I’ve never met can refer to them intimately by name.

Then there are the people who I’ve not seen in over a decade. Like my college roommate who was so excited that I’d written a book he immediately took out a laptop and shared it with members of his bowling league.  Ten orders were placed.  An old football teammate from high school attended my Virginia booksigning event with his fiancé. I had always admired his gifts as an athlete and his social savvy. Here, seventeen years later he shares with me he’d like to write. Still another friend I’d not seen in years shared with me how the book’s premise spoke to him as he’d been spending a lot of time reflecting on how his own faith and religion conflict. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so inspired.

Sure, there have been the detractors. Those who are determined that indie publishing is the greatest waste of a writer’s time and money. Admittedly, being human, I’m not immune to their passionate cries. I’ve been here before. In the past I have started something new and innovative, and have seen initial success but allowed myself to be intimated by the work ahead and convinced by those who might be threatened by my pursuits to slam on the brakes and abandon ship.

Last night just before drifting off to sleep I wrote a pledge in my “positivity journal” – I will not quit. I will not back off. I will not surrender to my or anyone else’s doubts. I will not be intimidated by the greatness of the task ahead. I will pursue this to the end. I’ve come too far, seized too many moments, been touched by too many people to abandon my dream just moments off the launch pad.

Today is the beginning of the next phase of marketing. I leave my virtual small town and head out to a sea of predominantly unfamiliar faces to share my work.

Ironically, similar to novel’s protagonist, I have to make a choice between my own “religious tradition” of doubt and intimidation and my “faith” that I have written a work worth sharing with everyone who enjoys reading fiction.

Today, I choose faith. You’re welcome to hold me to it.

Mom calls THE DARK PROVINCE my “freedom piece”

In Motivational, The Dark Province on February 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm

My mom and I have a running joke about THE DARK PROVINCE: SON OF DUPRIN. It’s that she, being a devout Pentecostal Christian from the old school, is my greatest advocate despite the fact that it is still undetermined whether she’ll actually read the book due to its mature content.  Deep down that very content causes my own well-trained inner moralist to raise a brow.

Last Sunday, having spent the day in bed with a cold after stress and workaholism over launch plans and preparations had worn me down, I thought it a good time to reach out to my mother.  As I had done many times before, I shared with her that indeed some nervousness lingered in me as I prepared to share this work with the world.  After all, I am her son, and was raised quite strictly in her and my father’s traditions.

At this my mother paused and said, “Well—this is your freedom piece.”

Freedom piece.  I liked the sound of it.

She elaborated.  And frankly I was kind of shocked.  I grew up in a home where dancing, movies of all ratings and secular music were forbidden. Yet here my own mother, the matriarch of that very home was very casually counseling me on my creative breakthrough and how I had finally gotten to the place where I felt like I could say the things I had always struggled to express.

Hm.  Another check in the never-doubt-the-wisdom-of-moms category.

After we got off the phone I thought about what that meant: freedom piece. A declaration of freedom is a momentous occasion. It happens when a person or people proclaim their bondage ended and greet the next phase of their collective journey with exuberant arms.

Indeed, this is a breakthrough for me as a writer that will pave the way for more growth in the honest way I’ve always wanted; despite my inner conflict I chose artistic integrity over some form of moral censorship. This is the beginning of a new phase of my life, however things turn out.

I’m reminded, therefore, that I get to choose to be exuberant just as I chose artistic truth over sugar-coating. I’ve pledged my best effort and am willing to let the rest happen as it is best for all.

Damnit, that’s what I’m going to do…or “Darn it”…if you’re reading this, Mom. 😉

Why I Dumped Screenplays to Write a Novel

In Indie Publishing, Motivational on January 26, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Coming out of college I had my mind pretty set on screenwriting. I saw everything visually and frankly watched more movies and saw more plays than I read books. For years I slaved over spec scripts for television drama and feature film while at the same time working on my own personal projects that I wanted to produce and direct myself.

The more time I spent working for the studios, the less interested I became in using that path to fulfill my dreams. I became inspired by indie films and decided the way to go was to produce and shoot my own pictures without having to lock horns with a studio executive editing my work to look like projects past in order to increase the bottom line.

I wanted the freedom to create something truly original, but things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. The costs and collaboration needed to shoot short films at my desired standard marred my ability to experiment with the medium. To film even a simple drama set locally in present day was beyond what I had access to. Not to mention the new budget I’d need to create the finished product into an indie DVD! It was really depressing.

My wife, who had been working on a manuscript for a number of years, suggested I try writing my work as a novel. With nothing to lose I wrote a chapter or two and it came out nicely. But I remained unconvinced. I yearned for the big picture.

Then a friend turned me on to iUniverse and I began researching self publishing. I was shocked to find how easily one could publish and distribute a book. Mind you, this is coming from the perspective of an indie filmmaker…compared to the half million dollars needed to produce a film on the cheap, the cost of self publishing a book looks like a few pennies in a bucket.

In the film world, it would cost somewhere between the budget for The Dark Knight and Avatar to make my debut novel into a movie. Another piece I’m working on would be closer to the budget of Cider House Rules. But as books they cost precisely the same to make: a few thousand dollars.

And I get the freedom to write any story I want. I get to be the writer, director, and production designer. I get to design the sets and sculpt every expression on all the actors. Talk about a control freak’s paradise! All I needed to do was sit down and do the work. And that I did. I began writing the first draft of the THE DARK PROVINCE in June 2006 and was finished by Thanksgiving and I will get to see it released next month!

Today it’s easier to produce and sell your book than it has ever been. Access to the best editors, cover designers, and printers are just a click away. Though the apparent cutbacks in acquisitions by traditional publishers are enough to leave a writer in despair, a simple change in perspective can send that same writer into the streets, dancing like nobody’s watching.

Writing Heaven

In Inspiration, Motivational on December 8, 2009 at 11:56 pm

I wrote my very first short story in a high school writing class.  It was about a mother who lost everything she had: her husband, her child, and eventually her own life only to have it all returned to her upon ascending into heaven. It was kind of a Job-ish tale only without the God and Satan characters jawing at each other like old poker buddies.

Oddly, I described heaven as a vast, open ballroom where multitudes of people could mingle and dance freely.  It was a space quite different from the world I knew then – a place ruled by restriction and restraint, and the Word of God took a back seat to the Word of Should:

You’re a Christian: You should do this, you should think like this, you should believe only what this says and should never want that.

You’re black: Man, you should talk like this, you should act like that, you should be friends with them, and stay away from her.

You’re smart: You should want to be this, you should be good at that, you should focus on being this so you can have all these things.

Even as an adult writer living on my own, the great Word of Should loomed over my work like a guardian, applying miniature electric shocks whenever I would wander into taboo territory.

You’re a Christian: You’re writing should reflect our values.

You’re black: You’re work should reflect our struggle.

You’re smart: Hello? GET A REAL JOB!

Despite the peer pressure (that is, me pressuring me), I began developing in 2003 the work that would one day be my first novel – ironically – a tale of a man who must defy his religion to honor his faith.

Little did I know as I completed those first character sketches and imagined a new world to set them in, I was entering my own ballroom.  And when I wrote that first manuscript in 2006; longhand, in pencil, on cheap spiral notebooks, and completely out of chronological order, a slow dance had begun.

Don’t be afraid to wait for fulfillment while pursuing your dream with your whole heart.  A well nurtured dream can outlast its critics and decriers, even when those critics are you and you.

I am roughly two months from the independent release of my first novel.  I’m not only proud of the writing, I’m grateful for the dance as well.