Monday, January 23, 2012

A Hero to Cheer for

I’m in the process of writing my second book, and for a moment, I want to pause and think about what makes a good hero (or in my case, heroine).
Take a look around in real life, or pull a book off the shelf to find someone who makes you want to cheer wildly. While you do that, here’s my short list of what I think makes a good hero – fiction or non.
A hero leads without fear. By that, I don’t mean that a hero never gets afraid. That’s unrealistic. No, I mean that he leads without fear for himself. He lets go of self-love and purposes someone else’s good instead.
Anyone who has bravely served in our military belongs to this category, my older brother included. These men and woman have given up so much – their homes, their families, their normal lives, sometimes even life itself – because they want to protect the interests of the people they love.
A hero does what’s right, no matter the cost. I’ve been listening to the story of John Bunyan on my ride home from work each day, and as I’m thinking about what makes a good hero, he comes to mind. Here is a man who was unfairly imprisoned because he refused to compromise his faith and stop preaching – because he believed that God had called him to preach.
He spent 12 years in prison. Twelve years! But God didn’t forget him. Instead, God used this hero of faith to write – while in prison – the best-known Christian allegory of all times: Pilgrim’s Progress.
A hero doesn’t want the glory. I would never call myself a football fan, because anything I know about the sport I owe to my dad. Nonetheless, I am a fan of Tim Tebow.
He probably wouldn’t want someone to call him a hero, and ironically, that is probably what makes him one. I saw him in an interview where, in response to the media’s flattery, he gave the credit to his team, acting as a spokesman rather than taking the spotlight. Ultimately, he gives God the glory for his success. Anyone who follows Tebow knows he is famous for his references to John 3:16.
A hero fails and gets back on his feet. Scratches make heroes stronger. A few weeks back, I watched the old Tyronne Powers’ movie The Mark of Zorro. In a dual against his antagonist, Captain Pasquale scratches him on the shoulder. “I needed that to wake me up,” Zorro says before finishing off his foe.
Heroes will fall. They will get dirty. They will make mistakes. And that’s what makes people relate to them and care about them.
A hero sacrifices himself. Ask my family, and they will tell you that I can cry at a pin drop. Yes, I even cry for Pixar movies. But I have to say that Pixar finally got a hero right with Tangled and the character Eugene Fitzherbert, alias Flynn Rider.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t mean to spoil it for you, but Fitzherbert nearly dies so that the girl he loves can be free. “You are my new dream,” he tells Rapunzel with what appears to be *sniff* his dying breath. (And yes, since we are talking about Disney/Pixar, you can guess there’s still a happy ending.)
All heroes aren’t the same. There’s not a one-size-fits-all mold, which is certainly the case with Abby Grant, the protagonist of my Wings of the Dawn series. But ultimately, there is one common thread they share: they make us want to cheer for them.
Who are the heroes you love and why?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Will Self-Publishing Compete with or Complement Traditional Publishing?

I ask myself this question after reading a variety of articles on the future of self-publishing. The statistics show that it isn’t something traditional publishers can ignore any more. Publishers Weekly shows that in 2009, 76% of newly released books were self-published.
Self-publishing has certainly come a long way. An article from the Wall Street Journal made this observation: “Much as blogs have bitten into the news business and YouTube has challenged television, digital self-publishing is creating a powerful new niche in books that’s threatening the traditional industry. Once derided as 'vanity' titles by the publishing establishments, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”
But is self-publishing really a “threat” to traditional publishing? In a Wall Street Journal poll, the majority at 49% said that it is a “big threat” – probably due in large to the increasing popularity of digital books and electronic devices that lend themselves well to accessing self-published works.
Yet there also appear to be ways in which the two poles are trying to connect.
HarperCollins launched a writing community called In their FAQ page, they explain their purpose is “to find new, talented writers we can sign up for our traditional book publishing programmes.” The community invites unpublished and self-published writers to participate.
There’s a novel idea.
Yet a community like this does run the risk of becoming a popularity contest with writers vying to reach the editor’s desk. Author Carla Acheson warns of some potential problems users could encounter with the community in her post Is Authonomy just a Con-omy?
Will traditional publishing and self-publishing camps continue to compete or find ways to work together? Will traditional publishers get creative and discover fresh talent from the pool of self-published authors? Will self-published authors start to view themselves as independent of traditional publishing or look to publishing houses to one day pick up their works?
I don’t know the answers to those questions, but one impression my research left me is that digital publishing is going to play an ever increasing role in how books go to market.
Would you agree?
Perhaps digital publishing will be the tool that brings self-published works a larger readership and the attention of the traditional publishing establishment.
Time will tell.