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Facebook Advertising... No Good for Writers

I recently did an experiment with Facebook Advertising promoting one of my paperback books and have come to the following conclusions:

#1. You are basically paying 50 cents per Like and it will cost you a minimum of $10 just to experiment.
#2. There is no guarantee you make any book sales.
#3. It is time consuming to setup the ad to an audience that is more likely to buy your book and then you waste more time monitoring the results.
#4. You are better off using free methods of self promotion. Takes less time and money.

#5. Complete waste of time and money.
 
I have been sharing the results of my experiment on Facebook, Twitter and other sites using the following graphic.
 




Ahem.

The book I was promoting was my Lilith Bloodstone Omnibus, an anthology of nine dark fantasy short stories featuring the titular necromancer Lilith Bloodstone.

Included in this volume are:

  1. The Black Rose
  2. Rise of the Red Moon
  3. The Baby & the Village
  4. One to be Reckoned With
  5. The Night of the Dead
  6. On Death's Door
  7. The Emissary of Darkness
  8. The Astral Plane
  9. Out for Blood

The paperback is currently $6.99 USD on Amazon.com. Regularly $8.99.

USA
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1081864583

CANADA
https://www.amazon.ca/Lilith-Bloodstone-Omnibus-Charles-Moffat/dp/1081864583/

UK
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1081864583


 

The Pros and Cons of Morally Ambiguous Characters

By Charles Moffat

One of my favourite characters I wrote about from the time when I was a teenager was a cutthroat named Pothax (pronounced "Poe-thaks", not to be confused with Pot-hacks or Poth-ax).

Ignoring the fan confusion about how to pronounce his name, Pothax is interesting because at the beginning he starts off as a Morally Ambiguous Character.


Moral Ambiguity is when a character or situation lacks clarity regarding whether the character(s) or the situation they are in is morally good or evil, often the result of the author being deliberately unclear about whether a character is good or evil.

SPOILER ALERT, IGNORE THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IF YOU HAVEN'T ACTUALLY READ THE LAST HARRY POTTER BOOK.

So for example Severus Snape from the Harry Potter franchise is a Morally Ambiguous Character because for the longest time he appears to evil or selfish, and yet he has sided with Dumbledore and Harry Potter against the main villain Voldemort and acted as a spy for the goodies vs the baddies. It isn't until close to the end of the final book that it is revealed what Snape's true feelings and intentions were, so for 6.9 books he stays Morally Ambiguous and then upon his death we the readers finally learn why he was a spy and where his loyalties lay.

Spies in books often fall into morally ambiguous roles.

As do Assassins.

James Bond is a highly celebrated spy and assassin, and he is frequently morally ambiguous - largely due to a lack of back story until recent decades when new writers have started giving him more back story about his parents, his dead wife, etc.

And in Pothax's case, a cutthroat who becomes an assassin (sorry, no spoiler alert here) and later switches sides (again, sorry), his morals are questionable at best.

But that is just in the Paladin Assassin book. A book which is really about morality in many ways, as the name suggests.

By the second book Ice War and later the third book King Culprit the morals of this cutthroat character change over time. His goals become much more about friends and family. He goes from killing people for money to caring about other people over his own life.

It is a long transformation of his character from moral ambiguity to family man, and it takes three books to do it. (If it happened in just one book it would be rather unbelievable in my opinion.)

I should note that Pothax is just a supporting character in The Crimson Companions Trilogy. He isn't even a main character. He is an interesting supporting character, but he is not a main character. There are many other characters within the trilogy with varying degrees of moral ambiguity. Assassins, members of organized crime, corrupt leaders, leaders who have allied themselves with criminals because they are desperate.

Pros of Morally Ambiguous Characters

  • You can focus more on the action, less on character development. This makes the character(s) more exciting.
  • When you later focus on character development, the character benefits from having undergone a transformation.

Cons of of Morally Ambiguous Characters

  • Criticism from people who dislike Morally Ambiguous Characters, because they don't understand the point of characters who have little or no morals, or they are easily confused by characters whose morals are unclear or confusing. In other words, they are missing the point about morality. That is the point. The author is telling a story about morality using characters who either lack morals or have unclear morals.
  • It is also possible the author isn't actually telling a morality story. They might simply be telling a story about an action character, possibly one motivated by vengeance. The vengeance fueled action hero is a staple of Hollywood and pulp fiction, so this is normal.

In other news I recently changed the pricing of the Crimson Companions Trilogy of books. I wrote the books back in 1995-1996 and at some point I want to go back and update them to make a Second Edition version. (The links here are all for the First Edition / Classic Edition version.)

  1. Paladin Assassin is now $2.99.
  2. Ice War is now $5.99.
  3. King Culprit is now $5.99.

Or you can buy all 3 in The Crimson Companions Trilogy for $9.99.

Exact price may vary by country or region. So for example if you are in Canada you may get a better deal by purchasing via Amazon.ca as opposed to Amazon.com.

If you shop on Kobo you may also find a better or worse price there. I may at some point eventually remove the books from Kobo so if you are a fan of Kobo it is recommended you buy now before I make the books Amazon Exclusive.



Five Tips for Drawing or Painting Archers for Fantasy

Amongst those of us who are archers we have some serious pet peeves when it comes to drawings/paintings of archery in fantasy art (and also applicable to fantasy book cover art and fantasy movies).

Namely it is the often completely unrealistic drawings / paintings / depictions that really annoy us.

But at the same time we do recognize that the artist doesn't know anything about archery and that is why they are making such mistakes in the first place. (If only the artist took photos or used photographs of real archers as a reference point that would be at least a step in the right direction.


That said, here are Five Tips for Drawing or Painting Archers for Fantasy Artists


A Realistic Painting of an Archer
#1. Ideally, you should learn how to do archery yourself, so you have a better idea of what you should be doing so you can be accurate. The more you learn, the more you will understand better how and why archers do what they do.


#2. When possible, use a photograph or ask a friend who does archery to do some poses for you. This way you have references for what a proper archer does in terms of form. (Do not copy films, comic books or other fantasy sources... Such sources are frequently flawed and you could end up copying something that is just plain wrong.)

The sketch below is based on a photograph. It isn't a fantastic sketch, but it is a realistic depiction of a skilled archer shooting a Scythian horsebow.

Having photographs and realistic sketches handy during your creative process will allow you to make artwork that won't be mocked by the archery community.

And yes, we totally mock artwork and movies when they get it wrong.



#3. Pay attention to the details... The arrows, the shape of the arrowhead, the nock, the fletching, the bow string, how the bow bends more as the archer reaches full draw, the elegant shape of the bow, the position of the archer's drawing hand on their face (known as the anchor spot), the positions of their elbows and shoulders, the full draw with their bellybutton pointed 90° away from the bow, the three fingers on the bowstring (split finger style), and the relaxed grip of their bow hand on the riser handle.

For example there are many different kinds of arrowheads. Archers typically don't use "just one" style of arrowhead either. They might use many different kinds because each arrowhead has a different purpose. A broadhead might be good for hunting, but useless for shooting at someone with chainmail armour. A bodkin arrowhead slices through chainmail armour easily, but it would suck if used for hunting. An archer wouldn't want to use a broadhead for small game, for fishing, or hunting birds either... again, they would use the correct tool for the task they are doing.



#4. Don't add ridiculous things to the tips or limbs of the bow. The more weight bow limbs or tips have, the more sluggish the arrow is on release. An elegant bow is more powerful and shoots arrows faster (usually measured in FPS - feet per second). What archers do often add is dampeners to their bowstrings, little puffballs made of fur which makes their bow quieter (less twang noise).

The bow in the photograph below has dampeners made of sheepskin. They help to make the bow quieter, which makes it better for hunting or stealth.



#5. Don't copy someone doing Olympic style archery and give them a longbow or a traditional recurve, etc. That would be the wrong archery style for the wrong bow.

eg. In the Hunger Games films Katniss shooting Olympic style with a longbow = Ignorant Filmmakers. She should have been taught how to shoot a longbow or traditional recurve properly.

There 5 major styles of archery and each has different form, postures, release method, the use of gadgets, etc.

Traditional Recurve - North Anchor (on the corner of the mouth), split finger draw, rarely cant the bow. (Some archers also shoot "Three Fingers Under" instead of split finger, but that is more rare.)

Longbow or Flatbow - North Anchor, split finger draw, often with the bow canted and the archer leaning in to the shot.

Shortbow or Horsebow - Anchor Varies, split finger draw or thumb ring, the bow is always canted. When released they do a "horseman's release" to better balance themselves / prevent themselves from falling off their horse.

Compound Bow - Peep Sight, Sight, Stabilizer, Mechanical Release, zero canting.

Olympic Recurve - South Anchor (under the chin), split finger draw using a tab, Sight, Stabilizer, Clicker, zero canting.

Happy Drawing and good luck to anyone who decides to get archery lessons!

If you live in Toronto Canada I recommend getting archery lessons from www.cardiotrek.ca/p/archery-lessons.html

Samurai Jack meets Wong Fei Hong

Hello and welcome!

The video above (Samurai Jack meets Wong Fei Hong) was made on May 3rd 2004, at 12:25:40 AM. Just 25 minutes past midnight I finished saving the final version of the video.

At the time in 2004 I was living in Jeonju in South Korea, where I was teaching English, and I was studying Korean, archery and taekwondo. I was also spending a lot of time mountain climbing and visiting Buddhist temples. And fun fact, Samurai Jack was animated in South Korea, which is something you can even see in the landscapes depicted in the show and when touring the mountains of SK. So when you look at the landscapes in South Korea it felt like I was living inside the world of Samurai Jack.

While there I also watched an unusual number of Korean, Chinese and Japanese films - including Wong Fei Hong - so it was really just a matter of time before I sparked on the idea of combining the song with Samurai Jack. Does Jack actually meet Wong Fei Hong? No, of course not. It is just a figure of speech.

It wasn't until almost 3 years later, January 21st 2007, that I uploaded the video to YouTube. Prior to that I had been sharing the video on one of my websites. The fact that the video was so small also meant that it didn't eat a lot of bandwidth for sharing the file directly to people.

Now I made other videos obviously, but none of them became quite as popular as the Samurai Jack meets Wong Fei Hong video. It has since garnered 1.3 million views on YouTube (as of August 2019), despite having the sound removed a few years ago due to copyright issues with the music.

For those people who want to see the version with the music however they can find a copy of the file floating around on internet, or you can watch it here. Both works. The genie is out of the bottle on this one so it isn't going to go away. The video is too popular that the Chinese cannot get rid of it. So now in August 2019 I figured I might as well add it to my Nerdovore blog.

And to put that popularity into context, the video used to be the most popular Samurai Jack video on YouTube for many years - until the new fifth season was finally released - at which point 30 new videos shot up in popularity and surpassed SJMWFH. The new champ is the Samurai Jack Season 5 trailer with 5.9 million views (as of August 2019).



As a fan of both Samurai Jack and the Wong Fei Hong films I cannot help but enjoy the music video. I didn't make it for money. I made it for fun because I love the storytelling and genres depicted in both Samurai Jack and Wong Fei Hong.

So I share with the intention that other people will get to enjoy and appreciate the visual storytelling in the video.

And I hope that maybe the Chinese owners of Wong Fei Hong will stop caring about petty things like copyright over a song. We are living in a post-Napster world. Get used to it.

Writer Conferences

The Mysterious Globe
I think it would be interesting to go to maybe 1 writer conference per year and talk to other writers. For various reasons:

1. Other Genres

To see what other writers are doing within their respective genres. I usually only write fantasy, but it would be interesting to talk to writers who prefer mystery, adventure, romance, or other topics.

2. Networking

It doesn't hurt to meet other authors, make friends / new colleagues within the industry, and then later keep tabs with them. And this can be very beneficial.

"Networking is key. Almost every author I know—and certainly myself included—can trace their publishing success back to someone they met at a writers conference. If you want to get published, I can’t think of any better advice." - James Dashner, author of 'The Maze Runner'


3. Co-Writing / Collaboration

I would love to meet an author with similar tastes to my own and co-write a book together. Maybe not something like the Trillium Series - the infamous collaboration of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Julian May, and Andre Norton - as critics panned it for being poorly executed. Too many chefs in the kitchen in that one. But it would be nice to collaborate with one other author and see what we can cook together.

eg. If I met a mystery writer who enjoys fantasy perhaps we could work on a "fantasy mystery" together. The detective in the story could be a mysterious creature with special abilities that make it a better sleuth.

4. Meeting Publishers

Publishers are a tricky lot. Some of them are looking for specific things and thus reject anything that doesn't fulfill their preset criteria of what they are looking for. Meeting publishers in person you can ask them "Hey, what are actually looking for?" and they can just tell you. Then, if you're lucky, you can pitch them an idea you've had for a standalone book or a series and see how they feel about it.

5. Marketing

Sometimes other authors will spill on the marketing tips, especially if they know you write in a different genre. A romance author isn't going to care so much about spilling their marketing techniques to another author who writes horror.

6. Learn Something.

You will probably learn something. Not necessarily about the craft of storytelling, but also important details about the industry. You might learn the best way to get a literary agent, how to avoid book publishing scams (they take your money and make copies of your work, sure, but they also just took the rights to book, including film and TV rights). You might learn how easy it is to self-publish and skip the traditional publishing industry. You might learn how to build an author platform. And many more things that you could in theory learn online, but if you don't know what to search for how would you know what to type? Being at a conference would be a crash course in many of things you haven't even heard about.

7. Find an Agent

One of the things authors can do at conferences is to pitch their writing projects at agents. Normally this is done by email / snail mail, but at a conference it is possibly to sign up to get 5 minutes with an agent and pitch your book with them. If they like your pitch then they will request to see more of your work. With luck you could find yourself with an agent and later a publisher.



In Toronto Canada? Here is a few sites to check out:

https://www.dreamerswriting.com/creative/canadian-writing-conferences/

https://torontowritingworkshop.com/

https://festivalofauthors.ca/

Study Archery in Toronto

So you want to study archery, but you are having difficulty finding an archery instructor who is local. However there is a solution. If you are willing to travel you can take a crash course in archery in Toronto, Canada. 10 lessons over a two week period will take you from archery novice to an experienced and capable archer.

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