Is Barnes and Noble a Lost Cause?

I hope not, but after what went down last week that involved firing 1800 full-time employees, things don’t look good. Almost four years ago, I wrote about Barnes & Noble reinventing itself (which was a rewrite of a 2013 post).

Yet little has changed, and much has gotten worse.

Amazon is opening stores, indies have thrived, but Barnes and Noble continues to falter. It seems bound and determined to hold on to this sell-everything-do-everything model from yesteryear. Even Wal-Mart doesn’t do that anymore. Just closing stores and cutting people – without changing your model – doesn’t promote longevity. Just ask Sears and Kmart. Barnes and Noble should be doing this:

Focus on strengths. Narrow the focus back to basics. Be the local, neighborhood bookseller.

Not fire your most experienced people.

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Something Amazing Ends Soon

The amazing prices of $2.99 for the ebook, and $12.99 for the paperback of Among the Shadows, ends in a few days. There has never been a better time to choose a side in the War Among the Shadows. Join the six Watchers while you still can.

What was locked in shadow stirs, and where darkness has laid dormant, evil awakes.

This is not some mythical land, nor the distant past. Our own world, our own time, will face malice not seen since ancient times. Once, when the world was new, the Fallen battled the Light over the destiny of humankind. Civilization was left in flames, the Scourges turned back by the Watchers in the last hour. The Darkness, though, was not defeated.

Now, there are six that will decide the fate of us all. A new generation of Watchers, gifted by the Light.

Ethan, with unmatched strength and speed, has walked unafraid among the shadows. Milena is his equal and can command the life around her. Kyra, but a child, can see into the minds of men. The Darkness fears what she may become. Conrad can sidestep time and pass through the veil. Kane must conquer his fears even as the energy of Healing surges within. Duncan wields the substance of life as a weapon none can survive.

Those they face, the Dark One’s Followers, are also gifted. Their skills were forged in blackness.

The depraved seek lost relics infused with unimaginable power. Through portals of time they will raise an army of nightmarish creatures once lost to myth and legend. Collapse and ruin they will bring.

A war of the worst sort has begun. The six Watchers must stem the tide, or will they be drowned by the flood of darkness that ends the age of man?

 

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Finding Angel

Whenever publishers find a trend, they ruin it through repetition. Brooding, malcontent teenagers. Dystopian worlds where the kids are about to revolt against the man. How many more of these stories can we endure? Hopefully, someone will come along and give us something different.

Someone has come along, to quote Professor X, and her name is Kat Heckenbach. She launched her fantasy series, Toch Island Chronicles, with Finding Angel.

What if you had magic in your past, but couldn’t remember? Your homeland of fantastic beasts is unknown to you other than in fairy tales. Worse, you don’t know your real family or what happened to them.

This is the life of Angel Mason, a life that is about to change. Gregor, who is from her forgotten land and has answers, arrives in her life. He also has a Talent, and Angel will soon learn of hers, but her magical homeland isn’t a paradise. Darkness is there, and it seeks Angel.

Finding Angel pushes aside the curtain on a hidden, enigmatic world. A world where people among us have Talents of magic. Through Gates most cannot see, exist creatures thought lost to myth. Join Angel as she journeys home and seeks her identity before darkness takes it all away.

 

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War with Resistance

Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, chronicles the war against Resistance, a war in which all writers engage. Indeed, it’s the on-going battle everyone must fight to achieve their purpose:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within. Between the two stands Resistance.

Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic?  Ever quit a diet…wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless…? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still, small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times before, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you..you’re no closer to taking action on it that you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.

What I Do

…It’s about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I’m getting tired. That’s four hours or so…I wrap up for the day. Copy whatever I’ve done and stash the disk in the glove compartment of the truck in case there is a fire and I have to run for it…How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it…All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.

 
More from Steve soon. In the meantime, identify Resistance and tell it you won’t go down without a fight.

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Do You Have to be a Scientist to Understand?

Molecular biologist Douglas Axe, whose credentials include U.C. Berkeley, Caltech and Cambridge, has written quite the clarion call for us to return to sound science in Undeniable. As the subtitle How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed indicates, a central focus is the debate on the successes, or failures, of Darwinian biology to explain life as we know it. Indeed, Axe brings some detailed and technical science to bear on this topic, but he is using that discussion to explain how science is not unreachable or unknowable by the masses. We need not blindly follow experts or celebrity scientists unquestionably. To do this, we first must rid ourselves of flawed views of science.

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Equality and Diversity of Humans…and Elves?

Fantasy tales are often populated with a wide array of beings. Elves, humans and dwarves are a common trio, along with trolls, orcs and countless other variations. Not all authors have filled their stories with these fantastic races to purposely tell stories of diversity or race-relations.  However, long before terms like diversity were buzzing in everyone’s minds, two masters of fantasy had made a statement on equality among people. Joseph Loconte writes in A Hobbit, A Wardrobe, and a Great War:

[J.R.R.] Tolkien and [C.S.] Lewis encountered the horrific progeny of [eugenics] in the trenches and barbed wire and mortars of the Great War [World War I] — and it gave them great pause about human potentiality…the characters in their novels possess a great nobility, creatures endowed with a unique capacity for virtue, courage, and love. Indeed, a vital theme throughout is the sacred worth of the individual soul in Middle-Earth and Narnia, every life is of immense consequence.

The “races” of Narnia and Middle-Earth are very much like us, always at odds with each other: Elves hate dwarves; elves look down on humans; hobbits are obviously different from their larger human cousins; orcs once were elves.  And yet the fellowship of the ring throws together polar opposite, feuding races in a quest to the save the world.

Against all odds, they succeeded.  A powerful message among the many in these stories.

Tolkien and Lewis began writing during a time when eugenics was on the rise. This misuse of science and philosophies pretending to be science was rationale to cleanse humanity of undesirable races, beliefs or attributes. People remember the result of this horror in World War II under the Nazis, yet don’t know that this thinking had been promoted among the “elite” thinkers and governments across the world for decades.

While many many post-WWI writers saw hopelessness, and others turned to Progress as a god to right humanity, Tolkien and Lewis saw the importance of every life. They wrote of evil that couldn’t be reasoned away — and could be hidden behind “science” and “progress.” The equality of peoples doesn’t automatically equate to the equality of ideas and actions. Even Tolkien’s “dreadful orcs are presented as rational beings” — but being rational isn’t the same as being on the side of virtue.

Middle-Earth and Narnia showed how mankind, even with its capacity for wrong, has innate qualities that can defeat the most terrible of evils; qualities that transcend superficial differences among people, and show that we are much more than a result of randomness and fate.

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Myths & Monsters

Why do myths from centuries and even millennia in the past still fascinate us? Why does the quest of the Hero find its way into so many stories? Can these legendary tales still help us find our purpose? The new 6-part documentary series, Myths & Monsters explores these questions and the myths that have endured for countless generations. Check the trailer out here:

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Is Masculinity “toxic”?

The past few weeks has seen the endless parade of deviants being outed in Hollywood and government. This nuking of the swamp is long overdue and hopefully marks permanent change, but in-depth discussion of all that has occurred is lacking. I know this is a bit off-topic for me, but for those who are interested, what follows are some reflections on some of what has been debated in the media.

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Dark Snowfall

The following is an all new story — a Lost Tale of sorts — set in the world of the Watchers of the Light that was first revealed in Among the Shadows. Readers of AtS will have met Milena before. Those who have not are about to learn why the Darkness fears her. Enjoy…

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Rules to Follow, and Break, to Begin Your Story

Moby Dick. The Hobbit. A Tale of Two Cities.

All have classic beginnings, ones many readers know by heart. And therein lies one of the great challenges of writing: The beginning. The hook. Finding a way to convince people to continue past the first sentence in your Moby Dick length epic in this soundbite world

So are there hard and fast rules to help your catchy first sentence to not turn away readers? There are many recommendations that can keep your first lines from sounding clichéd, as Joe Konrath lists in “How Not to Start a Story.”

After reading his article you may, like I did, start pulling books off the shelf and seeing how many examples of rule violations you discover. There are always exceptions, but many of his points concern avoiding clichés and not boring the reader. Creative writing should be, well, creative. However, be careful to not throw the baby out with bathwater.

Take the “no prologues” rule that many swear by. It isn’t that prologues are bad book structure, rather it’s that many people don’t know how to write one correctly. The Prologue, like a Chapter 1, must kick off your narrative, but it does so while adding some additional layers. Quite often, it’s part of the story that is out of time sequence with what follows. The connections should be clear in the chapter that follows the prologue, or it isn’t a prologue. This, combined with the fact that the prologue must also launch the story, makes execution a little more difficult for the writer. The payoff can be worth it, especially if you also include elements that foreshadow plot points deep in your narrative.

Typically readers could care less how you label your chapters, but a writer can use this old school, traditional structure to set something apart. It’s a subliminal way to place something in your reader’s mind. Ultimately, if your Prologue works as a Chapter 1, it probably isn’t a prologue.

A good one, though, may help pull your reader into your Hobbit hole from word one and not let go.

Categories: Fiction, Writing | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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