More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

Why I publish independently

Offline at Barnes and Noble

Yes, you can get your independently published book in bookstores.

When I finished my first novel Offline in 2004, I had a choice. I could have gone through the traditional route and found an agent, who would find a publisher, who would take the book through the production process until it wound up in bookstores. Or I could publish my book independently and get it out to the public right away. I chose the latter route.

Unfortunately, the discussion about independent and traditional publishing has turned into an “Fandroid versus iSheep” style flame war with John Green as the latest to throw some NSFW fireballs. Although I feel the same way he does about Ayn Rand, I find his attack on independent publishing disappointing — especially when you compare it with his comments about independent producers versus the establishment when it comes to TV.

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Advice to fathers

My daughter and me, 1993Twenty years ago, I became a father for the first time. When the doctor handed me my newborn daughter, I wished he also handed me a manual that told me how to be a father. But if such a manual existed, it would have to be revised monthly. Errata pages would be released on a daily basis, entire sections would be missing, and half of it would not even apply. And who would be qualified to write such a manual? A number of people have tried, and some of them have done more harm than good.

I doubt that I could write such a manual. I know I’m not a perfect parent. In fact, a number of things have happened in the past few years that make me question my own competence. But there is one piece of advice I can give that I know works.

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How not to be an “Ugly American”…when abroad

US Passport

“Ich bin ein Amerikaner. Wo ist eine Starbucks?”

I’m about to take my first international trip. So, I can no longer say that I’m one of the majority of Americans who don’t have a passport. The need not to be an “Ugly American” is even more important when you’re a guest in another country. As Americans, we want to make a good impression on our hosts and represent our nation well. It’s also a safety issue: Standing out too much as Americans can make us targets for crime and violence.

The rules I gave for not being an “Ugly American” at home apply when abroad, with some additional guidelines when we are the guests.

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How to write about heroes (and be one)

Superman encouraging Red Cross donations during World War II.

True heroes show others how to be heroes. (image from Comic Book Resources)

What makes a true hero, at least in a story?

Joseph Campbell had many great things to say about the hero’s journey, and we can see them in popular works such as Star Wars and the Harry Potter series. I think that the heroes we enjoy the most are people like us. We can relate to a hero, even one with extraordinary abilities, if we see him or her struggle through the same types of challenges and inner weaknesses we do. In seeing or reading about such heroes, we are inspired to root for them — and become like them.

The journey of this type of hero has several aspects that help us relate to him or her. (Spoilers ahead.)

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The gift of feedback

Marked up manuscript from George Orwell's 1984

Even George Orwell benefited from editing (image from Working Partners).

Feedback is valuable and, when presented properly, inspirational. Feedback can help us build upon the things we already do well and give us direction on how to do better.

How do we give feedback that helps someone, and how do we use the feedback we get?

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