Monday, July 26, 2010

Publisher Clearing The House

Me thinking out loud...

I don't know that much about it really. I don't know how Publishers think, operate, or seek out new talent. I think about my own adventures so far, becoming a writer, writing a book, and looking for the means to publish those works. I contemplated a traditional publisher for all of ten minutes before I realized a few things.

Bear with me, it's a story I've told before.

Five or six years ago, I bought a house. Went to my Bank for a HELOC to consolidate a very small amount of debt. House was paid for, totally free and clear, nothing leaning on it whatsoever. My bank told me I wasn't in enough different kinds of debt, and that the balance I owed was far too low. They wouldn't do the HELOC unless I took out a couple of credit cards and maxed them out.

I don't have a Finance Degree, nor do I understand how the Banks operated at the time. I knew based on what the rep at my Bank was telling me that their days were numbered. Insisting that you only lend to people who can't possibly pay you back is dumb. Needless to say, Washington Mutual went down as the biggest bank failure in history.

What the traditional publishers seem to be doing is no different. They are betting that writers will continue to come to them, surrender their copyrights, get paid a small percentage, in exchange for a small amount of exposure and promotion. I wonder how many writers are looking to the emerging ebook market and giving serious consideration to looking for a different road.

When Amazon reported that they sold more electronic copies of books than hardbacks, the Traditional Publishers were reportedly unconcerned. Now Ryu Murakami (big name in Japan) has skirted his own venerable publishers to release his latest book ahead of any print deal in the form of an iPad App. He'll have to sell 5000 copies of the App to break even from the article I read. Three and a quarter million iPads in circulation... totally possible.

The value isn't in money though. The guy is making a bold statement.

If skirting your publishers and going to the electronic medium is a sure fire way to get millions in free publicity from the press, how long will it take for some of the bigger names in the US to take the plunge? Stephen King already has (sort of). What do the small no-name guys like me have to lose taking that same road?

From my perspective, nothing.

There are now a plethora of highly affordable eReaders, and Apps (mostly free) across almost every mobile platform. One has to assume that some of the traditional publishers are hip, maybe even feeding this trend, trying to put themselves at the dead center of it all. Then again, maybe they're just like everyone else... just trying to figure this thing out.

I look forward to watching it all unfold from my own quiet corner of the world.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Standing Out

Put a link on my site today allowing people to download the Actor's Guidebook for my Storytelling Sciences RPG. I intend to eventually publish and link it all under a Creative Commons, no derivatives license. It's really hard to put something out there, that you've worked so hard on, spent hours testing, for free, allowing anyone to download and look at it. My play test crew will all get a hard copy, hand bound by yours truly, but it feels good to let go of it a little.

I had held so tightly to that project, had so many good memories associated with it, and spent so much time with my friends getting it just right... it's hard to share. Feels good to let it go though, everything I've put into it. I can close the door on that project one book at a time and let it stand out there on it's own. As I publish novels, I'll also put out RPG setting books allowing people to run RPGs in those same worlds. They'll be able to look and see how everything works, the SS technical language making all plain.

I think there are some mysteries that I've already written about, those things in life you can't quantify, that'll always be guarded secrets. Not by me. Just things we weren't meant to understand in this life.

I like not knowing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Miffed

I've been reading pretty much every headline on Hewlett Packard excited to see what they do on a couple of fronts.

- Palm Acquisition
- HP Slate Device

According to a couple of recent articles on Engadget, Palm is getting the kick to being a sub-brand and the Slate will arrive for enterprise in the fall. There aren't really any words to describe how I feel at this moment. Angry. Disappointed. Baffled. Those three seem to work really well.

So um, Asus. Go Asus. (Strongly recommend watching the video with the sound off.)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Road Is Everything


Had a good talk with my family today. Just sort of worked out we were all in the same place at the same time. I don't know how it came up, but my mom asked me how I fight the uncertainty that seems to pervade our lives. I have my own method.

I start with myself, because it should be the realm where I have the most control.

Journaling

This blog, my own personal log, my Things App, page count, and iCal all serve to grant me a sort of intellectual clarity. I can look back at what I have or haven't done and take some of the guess work out of where I am mentally. This removes some of the uncertainty relative to my thoughts, and to some degree my emotional status.

Exercise

Knowing our physical limitations, regardless of what we do helps. It is a tiny amount of uncertainty removed relative to the big picture. Still, knowing how far you can walk, how many push ups you can do, and similar adds to one's personal knowledge of themselves, therefore eliminating uncertainty. A person's got to know their limitations.

Prayer

Just the nuts and bolts here. Even if there is no God and no one listening, it is the one time a person can be totally honest with where they are in life. Prevaricating with a supreme being is pretty pointless, thus we tend to be brutally honest during prayer. Listening to ourselves say things aloud we might not otherwise can take some of the uncertainty out of our spirituality.

That's all I'm going to say about that.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Monday, July 19, 2010

Left For Dead




I use my RPG tables quite a bit to develop characters for my books. There are a number of characters I use over and over again to fill the gaps in stories just beginning to find their roots. Taking a character that originated from a story told orally, to be embodied by simple text has advantages regardless.

To that end, since the LARP days, I often speak aloud as the characters I'm writing about, in the shower, in the car, and alone in my office. Verbally speaking every line of dialogue doesn't always make something clearer for the audience reading the story, but it does work to give the character a distinctive voice.

My notes are full of characters that never made it into a story. In a way they were left for dead, never to be a part of a larger story. Makes me wish I had kept the boxes and boxes of material I wrote for LARPs. Hundreds of letters and instances of dialogue that would probably serve me well now.

Curse me for not being more of a pack rat.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Apple Fanboyisms

Did my usual Monday evening tech site/blog/web entity readings about the recent goings ons in the tech world. I marvel at the number of people who have been attributing the success of the iPad to some sort of fanboy phenomenon, or people are buying them just because they love Steve Jobs. If the folks outside Apple's circle of influence are just as clueless, God help Microsoft and Apple's other competitors.

If my Facebook friends list is the sample, less than 5% of my friends work in the tech industry. Only one third of those people own something, other than an iPod, made by Apple. None of them own an iPad. The people on my friends list who own an iPad, or intend to get one, know how to use a computer better than most average users. They aren't the clueless majority, or techie minority, but somewhere in the middle.

The one constant I find in folks who want an iPad, they all benefit from having a mobile computing device with them at all times. They are the sort of folks who would use it to work from their beds after the lights went out, while waiting in line at the DMV, or at a restaurant while waiting for food to show up. Their time is extremely valuable.

Also, every one of those people has sought to push the envelope of what the device was intended for. For instance, using it as one's primary computing device, getting it adopted on an institutional and commercial level, or figuring out how to use it to create media instead of just consuming it. Also, there is the intrepid user who managed to bridge the gap between their iPad and MS Office. The iPad was something different to each user.

If there seems to be some mindless solidarity among iPad users, it is because we (among the folks I know) are each inimitable people, who don't like being lumped together in a single pile over any issue.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Monday, July 12, 2010

MS Windows 7 Tablet Trouble

I've read a little about Microsoft's WPC 2010, and several articles on upcoming Windows 7 Based Tablets. It'll be interesting to see what gets unveiled in the near future, but I don't have high hopes. That so many companies, from Asus to Toshiba think that putting Windows 7 on a tablet device is a good plan scares me a little. It's like the entire tech market has fallen completely out of touch with what the consumer wants.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Putting a Desktop OS on a mobile device is pretty much setting the device up to fail.

It's all about the three B's. Boot-time, Battery Life, and Buttons.

Mobile Devices with a Desktop OS will (in my opinion) have...

... a longer Boot-time.
... (ounce for ounce) shorter Battery Life.
... more buttons making for a confusing off-screen interface.

Put simply, this will be BBBad for any of those devices when they get held next to someone running a Tablet with an OS designed for mobile, touch screen devices.

There's hope out there though.

RIM allegedly has a 7" Tablet running a custom OS to hit the markets soon. Given how popular the Blackberry is, such a device stands a chance of being adopted by a variety of folks who already own the popular handset. Hopefully it can reach out beyond that and find some gamers, developers, writers, artists, and other folks who find it useful.

ExoPC is working on a Tablet that sports a custom interface that lays over the top of Windows 7 allowing it to be easily navigated with a finger. Has the same basic stats as a netbook with a 32GB SSD, and from all the video I've seen runs pretty snappy. While riddled with pointless ports, it doesn't have a lot of buttons. Advertised battery life? 5 hours. Fix the battery life, screen viewing angle, and push up the pixel density so the thing can sit under 10" in diameter?

Might be a winner, but the fact remains that in order for Windows 7 to be a viable option, the manufacturer had to put touch capable buffer programming into the mix. If I know Asus, they'll probably do the same thing ExoPC has done, and craft some custom programming to lay over the top of Windows 7 allowing it to be touch screen friendly. MSI and Foxconn will probably make some incredibly nice hardware, that basically requires a bluetooth mouse and keyboard to be functional. I hope I'm wrong.

What I really want? Microsoft to /cast resurrect the Courier Project.

Web Comic, iPad Style

It's cheesy, but if I used Sketchbook Pro to render, Photogene to letter, and Diptic to arrange, I could pretty easily craft my webcomic entirely on my iPad. As a gimmick, it would give me a little traction in the search engines and something else to put my name, links to my books, and so forth beneath. I just gotta pause long enough between the pages of the books I'm writing to actually paint some more Chitterlings. Being able to work on it anywhere will definitely help.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pursuit

I told a friend recently they ought to drop everything, pursue their dreams, live like a rockstar, in the moment. Hold to the stewardships they can't or won't escape and chase whatever it is they want most in life. I told them they only get this one life to do whatever it is they were meant to do.

My friend is special. I just want them to seek out a happiness they richly deserve. The very next day my friend gets a call informing them a friend of theirs is dead as the result of a freak accident.

I feel like I should quote Marcus Aurelius here, regarding the relevance of a person's will relative to their mortality and the meaning of life, or something like that. Think I'll just go to bed and try like heck to write books tomorrow.

-- Sent from my Tech Envy Generator

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Project Update


By my own reckoning I'm:

50% of the way through the 2nd draft of my first D&E book.

25% of the way through the 1st draft of my second D&E book

30% of the way through the 1st draft of my Amnesia Project.

90% (and hovering) on my SS RPG.

I still have six good months this year to finish these projects and publish them. I'm having a really good feeling about the progress I've made recently and look forward to marking up an outline for a book containing several short stories about Grubbs and Nippy. I think there's a lot of good stories to tell in the 15 years previous to Sephone becoming a Sheepdog.

I'm going to put up something about my outline and development process for novels. I'm thinking I'll start steering away from this blog relative to certain projects and put that information on my website. Not for any particular reason, it just helps me keep things compartmentalized in my head. I keep doodling for my web comic, but none of the concepts I've done so far really grab me. I like the outcome, but the strip would take too damned long between updates. I'm a slooow painter/drawer person.

Regardless, I feel like good things loom in the immediate future.

Everyone Needs Friends

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nightmares and Ambition

I've gone back to the second draft of my first book and begun adding in several thousand words worth, adding to Paragon's own musings at the beginning of Chapters. Without giving to much of anything away, suffice it to say, Paragon is utterly evil. Even as the musings for the book occur in the aftermath of his own reconciliation, he is still difficult to portray in the medium.

Trying to provide the audience with a glimpse into the inner workings of someone like Paragon is marvelously difficult. Fortunately, I never painted myself into a corner where I had to role play him at any of my D&E SS Tables. He's frighteningly intelligent and sensitive, capable of understanding a person with frightening clarity after only a few moments conversation.

Providing someone like Numenarch with a worthy adversary was a painstaking process. Even in the earliest incarnations of the 6th House, people in my audience were enchanted by the idea of what they could do. For my own part, I was always relieved whenever participants would seek to learn more about other parts of the D&E world, leaving the 6th House to sleep unmolested.

I've put off writing the better part of Paragon's musings because I always lose sleep any time I have to try and think like him, or write like him. His writings would be filled with callow remorse lacking the temper of a truly penitent soul. Even as he writes to warn other shades to avoid the road that brought him to ruin, he speaks of all he did with a disquieting reverence.

It is said many times during the course of the story, that not all that has been done, can be undone. Paragon wasn't the source of that saying, but he certainly leant it great credence with his actions. I've been careful to avoid the specifics of his crimes, because I want a decently young reader to still have access to the book. When I write the book devoted to his own travels, I'll have to tip-toe around most of what he did leaving it up to the reader's imagination.

Where I used to delight in writing about all things morbid and bloody, I have quickly lost any taste for it doing the pages and pages of background works for the 6th House and Paragon. It is as if I took all that was ugly and terrible that resided within my mind and poured it into the paper for that particular project.

So much the better.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Blog Retrospective

I took about an hour and went back to read my blog from the beginning. I hadn't taken a long look back since January. It is always illuminating to look back and remember vividly where you were at the beginning of a journey. This blog had a purpose in the beginning.

Brutal introspection.

I think that mission has been largely fulfilled. I won't claim that I've refined my craft to a razor's edge or that I've found any peace with the road I've chosen. I can't say that having finished one book, I'm any better prepared to write a second. I can indulge in only the stretch of road I've already walked.

Quiet retrospection.

There are no words for how I feel right now. There are destinations in life that cannot be given to the page as mere text, and only conveyed in person. Does your favorite story sound better when you tell it? Does anything rival the first time that yarn was spun between you and the person relating the tale? Yeah, you totally had to be there to get it.

The writing I am most proud of, has an oral tradition. Much of the exploits of the characters in the first book I wrote, were related first verbally to an audience. Such is the basis for all my recent works. I have known for some time this would eventually be the case, as is the natural progression of storytelling.

I've done more than my fair share obfuscating that fact with the people closest to me. Not to say that I didn't state my intent. It had been said to me many times, "You really ought to write all this down." Should I meet any of those folks in the future, I can honestly say that's exactly what I've done.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Angst

Pride is a marvelous virtue, and a deadly vice.

I'm not even inside a year writing professionally and I've already suffering from the best and worst parts of Pride.

I haven't made a single dollar doing what I do yet.

None of my works have escaped the editing process yet.

I don't even feel comfortable telling people I'm a writer when asked what I do.

Even so, I get mildly peeved when someone marginalizes or trivializes what I've decided to do. I don't think people mean to mock what I've probably trained my whole life to do, in one fashion or another. It happens sometimes when I tell someone what I do. They sometimes respond with the intention to write their own book, like it would be an easy affair, taken care of in a single afternoon.

One writing workshop taken at the U of I over a summer while I was still in Elementary School set me on the path. It is a road I've walked ever since. I've overcome a lot to be able to do what I do, more than some, less than others. Irrelevant ultimately.

Just because someone can drive a car, doesn't mean they'd be a rising star with NASCAR. Because someone knows how to use a computer, doesn't mean they could provide IT for a large corporate entity. Likewise, just because someone writes every day, doesn't mean they could pen the great American Novel.

I don't care if people like or respect me. I just hope I can bring a sort of reverence to my chosen profession.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Writing Fiction w/o Friction Part 3


I've found being a writer often requires finding some sort of intellectual stimulation that won't taint your creative palette. Reading fiction, watching television, movies, comic books, and similar can influence my ability to craft original works. I spend a great deal of time depriving myself of media unless it is for research or objective analysis. Here's my rotation to keep my mind fresh without polluting it with external media.

Physical Activity

I do a lot of Shovelglove, which is working out with a sledgehammer. I also have a couple of 25 lb. free weights that I use to fill the gaps the Shovelglove misses. I walk a lot, and I ride my single speed bike whenever I get the chance. Yard work, laundry, and light house work doesn't really count. I put that stuff under drudgery rather than stimulation.

Pets

I have a guinea pig (Lucy) who is very good at demanding my attention.

Music

I have 17 gigabytes of audio, including white, pink, and brown noise. I strongly recommend Immediate's "Trailerhead" album, E.S. Posthumus's "Unearthed" album, and most everything done by Corner Stone Cues or Kerry Muzzey for writing music. Basically these guys make that epic sounding stuff you hear playing during the previews at the movies. For people who like background noise that's just a notch under actual music I'd recommend Darkroom's "Fallout 3" album. If you like metal music, sans lyrics, I'd recommend the Black Mages, Powerglove, or Jeff Loomis.

Drawing

I'm not an artist, but I love painting on my iPad. I strongly recommend procuring a cheap Wacom Tablet, Sketchbook Pro, and an hour a day just doodling. I like the digital medium because it doesn't require the regular purchase of materials or an additional workspace beyond the computer I already regularly use.

Conversation/Interaction

I rarely turn down the opportunity to be near or interact with people, even if I'm just an observer. Table Top RPGs, meeting friends for Coffee, talks over pizza with your grandmother, or a phone call to someone I haven't talked to for awhile are great ways to engage people. This type of stimulation is really important if whatever I'm writing is heavy on dialogue.

Reading

This is so important. I don't read nearly as often as I should.

When I'm seeking inspiration the worst place to get it is from the works of other modern writers. The shelves are full of commercially successful, but hopelessly derivative works. Try to find something in the young adult section written about something OTHER THAN angst filled teenage vampires, or prepubescent prognosticators of the mystical arts. (Barf) I personally want to write stuff that makes only the vaguest and accidental references to external works. My library of fictional works is very small as a consequence. Minus Shakespeare's works, I have probably less than ten works of fiction.

I love reading John Milton's "Paradise Lost", Tennyson's "Idylls of the King", and a book on Swedish Fairy Tails. These works are difficult to approach by modern readers and require I do a good deal of research. Finding just the right version of older works is important too. My copy of "Idylls of the King" was published in 1896, with every other version I've found being watered down or edited for a modern reader. I have more than a few books that are in that age range procured at independent booksellers and junk shops because modern equivalents have been dumbed down for a less-than classically educated audience.

I also read a great deal on philosophy. The US Army-Marines Counterinsurgency Manual, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Leopardi, Emerson, Gracian, Montaigne, James Allen, Ayn Rand, and Sun Tzu are regulars on my reading rotation. I think that anything that didn't relate specifically to the modern world, the subject matter of your writings, or the work-a-day world would work. Like any book of this sort, don't just grab the one off the shelf with the prettiest cover. Having the right version and or translation is very important when the original work was penned in something other than english.

I have three element encyclopedias, one each on Secret Societies, the Psychic World, and Spells that I read whenever everything else holds no interest. I have a book called the Complete Dictionary of Symbols which is fascinating to read. I also have a few books on ancient civilizations, art, religion, and mythology. These relate heavily to my writings and often work both as recreational reading and research materials. Multifaceted works of this nature are always better if they possess a good index and lots of pictures. My copy of "Civilisation" (yes, the British spelling) by Kenneth Clark is wonderfully written, but would be impossible to read without the pictures to help me visualize what he's talking about.

Avoid

...needlessly searching the internet for random stuff.
...a messed up sleep cycle.
...drama both personally and interpersonally.
...food that freaks you out.
...a hopelessly cluttered workspace.