Why we need heroes
When I was much younger, I lived in the city of Aurora. As a senior in high school, I was looking forward to moving out of town, going somewhere different, becoming an adult.
This was 1999, the year of the Columbine High School shooting.
Understand that I was a young man, I read comic books, and watched the occasional anime. In the wake of such a terrible tragedy, I was reminded that even though we have a powerful military, a reliable police force, and individuals who are brave enough to put their lives on the line, that we still suffer from a terrible case of mortality. No matter the situation, we all experience some level of helplessness that is mitigated primarily by luck and our own ability to act under pressure. When faced with a situation involving gunmen and students, we saw stories of both triumph and sadness. As children, we rely on our parents when we are scared. As adults, we only rely on ourselves.
Recently, I moved back to Aurora (temporarily). After being here a month, a gunman opens fire in a crowded movie theater, killing at least 12 and injuring many others. While police have been praised for reacting quickly, and stories of heroism pour through the media, we still experience that same sense of helplessness. Could anything really have been done to avert such a tragedy? Even with a room full of human beings at the pinnacle of human ability, could someone have reached the gunman in time to prevent such a thing from happening?
Okay, so stay with me on this. I just saw the latest Spiderman movie, and will see Batman on Friday. The question at hand is "Why do we need heroes?" I'm not talking about our own real life heroes, but the idea that some human being is given powers and abilities that allow them to even the playing field. I think that, instinctively, we want to believe in some universe where there exists some sense of balance, some form of justice that goes beyond what our own government can provide. We like to see the villains of our world with their roles reversed, powerless when compared to these individuals.
When we watch these movies, or read these books, we expect to see our heroes given the chance to crush those who give us that lack of power. It helps us to feel better, perhaps even safe, in a world full of random acts. How amazing would such a thing be if the likes of Superman graced our earth, always saving the day where we cannot? When we hear about these things on the news, we like to wonder "What if?" Or, at least, I do. I think we need heroes to give us hope and security, even if such a thing can only be a dream.
Where fantasy begins
Nintendo Power, 4th issue, Jan/Feb of 89.
I've had a lot of time to think, lately. Don't assume this means I sit around doing nothing; instead, realize that this usually means I am doing something which doesn't occupy my brain enough.
For lovers of fantasy, sci-fi, horror, whatever, there is usually some initial spark that ignites your imagination, leading you deeper down the rabbit hole. As a child, I grew up on He-man and Thundercats. Sure, I thought GI-Joe was neat, but those toys didn't compare to the Sword of Omens, or the Thundertank. I like to think that this was my first exposure to fantasy worlds that ignited a passion in me. I even dressed as Lion-O for halloween when I was six (or seven-my youth is kind of a blur).
However, it occurred to me today that there is a more profound moment in my life that led me to my current love of fantastical adventure. I played games as a child, spending hours on (and hours grounded from) the NES. Sure, I knew that each game had its goal, some form of victory that told me I had accomplished the task at hand. However, I believe that the cover of Nintendo Power's fourth issue was my fantasy breaking point.
Looking at the cover, you can see Link staring at the Princess Zelda, asleep in her bed. Now, I had seen Sleeping Beauty, so I immediately assumed he was there to kiss her and break the spell. However, the glowing sword in hand gave me pause. Why would he have it out? Was he there to kill her? Excited by the possibilities, I opened the issue and read about the upcoming game, Legend of Zelda, The Adventure of Link.
Now, let me describe this scenario to you. I read all about how the evil wizard Ganon had put Zelda under a spell, and was threatening the safety of Hyrule. It was up to Link to defeat him and bring peace to the land. I had played the original Legend of Zelda, not even considering that those little pixelated people had some sort of a story. No longer was I simply slaying monsters, I was slaying them for a reason.
I spent hours considering this cover. Of course, I had to wait to get the game, knowing that if I couldn't beat it, Zelda would remain asleep forever, her hero having failed her. I begged for it, and eventually got it some time later. When I died in the game, I would stare at this picture, hoping that Zelda would know I would try again tomorrow. For Halloween, I wanted to be Link. I remember begging my mother to make the costume for me, balking when she made me wear tights instead of actual chain-mail leggings (which I assumed were readily available for purchase almost anywhere). The kids at school teased me about wearing tights on Halloween; nobody even knew who Link was (I was in second grade). I had a sword, I had a shield, and I wore the green tunic. I remember how powerful I felt. I was a hero. I wore that tunic constantly until I outgrew it, playing games of fantasy with my younger brother where we always saved the princess in the end.
Now, these years later, I can still remember that feeling of excitement, booting up the game and watching Link stroll away from Zelda, asleep on her dais. It is the same excitement I felt when the Ohmsfords left Shady Vale in the Sword of Shannara (fun fact: after reading the Druid of Shannara, I dressed as Par Ohmsford, complete with the Sword and Elfstones of Shannara). It is that same excitement I try and capture every time I write, that sense of wonder for what is going to come next. I hope that someday, the stories of Kimberly will inspire somebody the same way this gaming cover inspired me.
As for Zelda? I never did beat the game; upon reaching the final boss (and never beating him for months), my younger brother dropped the cartridge and it never loaded. You better believe that Ganon took a pounding in A Link to the Past for the SNES, I was hungry for justice.
So, for the foreseeable future, my paperbacks will only be available on Amazon. While it wasn't an easy choice, it became necessary.
I distribute through Createspace, an affiliate of Amazon. Opting for expanded distribution, I had to raise the price just to make certain that I could actually distribute. After createspace took their cut, and the affiliate (like Barnes and Noble) took their piece, I was making 10 cents a book. Because of the higher price, I made much more if I sold on Amazon. To put things in perspective, I would have to sell 10,000 books on B&N compared to 500 on Amazon to break even on production costs. Yeah, that's pretty huge.
Now, maybe some people think that such a decision would make me greedy. Keep in mind, though, that I had to raise the overall price a whole dollar just to ensure that I could actually distribute. I was pricing my paperback at 7.99, which was higher than I wanted. However, by dropping expanded distribution, I was able to drop the cost of the book a dollar.
Now, a dollar doesn't sound like much to most people, but I really want to make sure that I provide a great product at a great price. 6.99 isn't that price, but it is the lowest I could go if I ever want to see a return on my investments. Yes, I do make more on the eBook version of Inheritance, and that is priced at 2.99, the lowest I can go and still make back my returns.
Now, you keep hearing me say returns, and let me tell you why they are so important. Right now, I am in the middle of writing my third novel. I am far from popular, and my sales have, so far, been just enough to afford a nice dinner. Since I pay for editing, cover art, and everything else associated with a book, it comes out of my pocket to write my books. One of these days, I hope to start making enough on my current books to continue producing new work without dipping into my own pockets. Once this happens, I hope to find a better means to distribute, hopefully at a better price to the consumer.
For anybody coming here who wonders why my book is no longer available in paperback everywhere, that is the reason. I will, however, ensure that the eBook versions of my work will be available for the eReader of your choice for as long as the market will allow it.
As a last aside, for those of you seeking bargains and kind enough to read all the way through, my books are all part of the Summer sale at Smashwords, so get them while they are free! (Sale ends July 31st, 2012)
Coming Soon: Pursuit
Rough Draft of the cover of TLOK:2
So, it looks like everything is going faster than planned, because The Legend of Kimberly: Pursuit is coming out soon.
The cover art is almost complete, final revisions are currently in the works, and within the next month, the adventures of Kimberly will continue. Until then, here is a sneak peek at the rough draft of the cover.
Also, book 3 is in the works. With any luck, that one will hit the digital shelves sometime in february or march. That's an extremely early estimate, but the editor is scheduled for December, and we will see some exciting things in the land of Auviarra.
The latest news and my opinions.