Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wednesday Wobblers

Sorry about that title, I’m a huge fan of alliteration.

To take a break about all the ‘me’ stuff this so far this week I thought I would take a minute to talk about …er… universal truths. No, wait. I mean I want to talk about me some more.

I was thinking about how blind I can be to the quality of my own writing and then it hit me - today is my birthday. I forgot all about it and there it is. I just got a whole bunch older today. 

 Where was I? Oh yes, I believe self doubt is something common among writers, I’m at a point now in my current work in progress where I’m thinking I might have a toxic dump on my hands - and I can’t tell. I worry that I may be telling a story with too complicated a background to parcel out over the course of a single novella.

How detailed is it? I have this timeline that I started a long time ago. It goes from the moment of creation all the way into the deep future. I have these cool little points to indicate major events that happen, who they happened to, and so on. The thing is, it’s all backstory. I don’t have any real intention of having that timeline ever make its way into my created universe. So far, I’ve written a draft of a novel, the self-published novelette I’ve been pimping for the past two and a half weeks, my current novella, and another short story, all within this larger tapestry I’ve created.

So I wonder, when is it a Tolkeinesque thing of beautiful worldbuilding and when is it a giant mess? Stephen King has said previously that all his books (or maybe it was most of them) are all related through the Dark Tower novels, Larry Niven had all those Known Space novels, which included his Ringworld novels and his Man Kzin wars, so there was tons to explore. Scott Sigler tells all his stories in a single shared universe, his is very impressive to me because the tone and subject matter of his novels can be so different – he has modern day techno horror books and far future YA football stories, and they all share a common history.

I think it’s great, I love that I can read a novel, enjoy it, then pick up another story, set centuries apart in time, separated by vast distances, and have characters that are often unaware of one another each tell their self-contained tales, all while unveiling something much larger.

Oh, I guess Star Wars may count too – but with the number of writers and properties involved I’m not sure that’s good for my example… they just aren’t the creations of a single individual anymore.

So, that’s what I want to create, that larger universe that feels so real, that has its own history, so many things happening off stage that the reader just knows the author (me) has it all worked out – and it will prove to be amazing once the whole thing is made known.

You can't read that can you? Because this is the entire content of my brain

Big dreams, too ambitious perhaps. So there I am, writing happily away on my novella and it hits me, how much of this backstory is necessary for the reader to understand enough to enjoy it. Then a second revelation hits me. Are the characters and conflict even interesting enough in their own right to carry this story anyway? I mean, I’d hate to figure out that my 20,000 word story contains an 18,000 word long infodump with people staring into the distance and eating rabbit stew. Hmmm… I need perspective.

So, I think I’ll take the advice of many a writer, including Stephen King, and put this one in a drawer for a while after I finish. See how it feels when I read it again later.

I got some other stuff I need to be doing anyway.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Again with the Book Covers

Yesterday, I talked a bit about book covers and specifically about part of the process that went into making the cover for Andrew Leon's new book, The House on the Corner: First Person Edition

Today I wanted to talk a bit about my own cover, the novelette I released a couple of weeks ago had another cover that I painted, I was particularly proud of the final image I used for a pretty stupid reason. I didn't bother with using anyone for reference when I painted the guy. I just thought he ended up looking pretty good. At the last minute I decided it was much more dramatic to put him (mostly) in silhouette, striking his dramatic pose.

But then, maybe a week after I had the book out I noticed something, something odd. I'd created a bit of an optical illusion. You know, like the thing with the single vase or two people thing

I don't even know what I am
Optical illusions are funny things, sometimes once you see an image one way you can't unsee it. It's there forever. I'm sure there are reams of data that describes what seeing optical illusions have to tell us about how our brain works, in fact, I've read a ream or two myself on the topic. Very interesting.

If anyone hasn't been aware of these wonders, please spend a few minutes on google, you'll be amazed at some very amazing illusions.

Mine on the other hand, isn't amazing, just annoying. Sigh. Sometimes I just can't win. This illusion I created is bad because although subtle, to me, if you see it the way I didn't intend, the image becomes much less dramatic, much less powerful, and much less of what  I wanted. So I want to ask everyone a simple question.

In the cover below - where is our cowboy looking?

I'll give you a hint, if you don't think this is awesome, you're looking at it wrong.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Optical illusions and Book Covers

Hey all, over the weekend, the worst kept secret on the internet was made public, Andrew Leon announced the release of The House on the Corner: First Person Edition.

And it was great for me because several months ago when I asked if anyone needed some help with covers for their books to let me know, he was the first to ask.

I know I've talked about covers some in the past, and I don't really want to go all goofy talking about them again. The goal of any cover is to make someone pick up your book (or click on it) after they get that first glance.

That's it. Sometimes an ass ugly cover is perfect if it makes you pick it up and look at the book. I've been known to take pictures of books when I fall in love with the cover (I could look them up online, but it's easier for me to just snap a pic with my phone - then I don't have to do anything else later to try to remember).

So, when Andrew gave me a synopsis of this book, and the first few chapters, I thought of the perfect book cover - but I thought  there might be some legal issues if I sent him the movie poster for Monster House with existing title scratched out and his written over the top. So,I had no intention of copying the movie poster. But I did think it felt right for the book he was writing. So I emailed him and asked if that  was the 'vibe' he was looking for.

A quick yes and I was off to brainstorm. I initially thought I would do the cover using a photo of an existing house - so I ran out one morning just as the sun was coming up and took a few photos and fired this off to Andrew, asking what he thought of something like this:
Clicking makes it bigger

Now, I was surprised at how easily the concept seemed to come. In fact, at the time I did that I was thinking this whole cover art thing was such a breeze that I might be able to crank out 3 or 4 a day. I told him I would find a house that fit the descriptions inside the book a bit more closely and we'd go from there.

And that's where the problems started, I had some difficulty finding the right house. I was unhappy with them, all of them. I had issues with finding the right place to stand to take the photos, with the lighting, and once, when I was more than a mile from my car, walking through neighborhoods and looking for the perfect photo I got caught in an unexpected rainstorm that came down with more ferocity than any I'd seen in recent memory. It was a very long walk back to my car after that.

This went on for some time, I spent hours and hours looking for just that right house and I couldn't do it. I had nothing. So I made a reluctant decision.

I would paint it.

I thought of that from the very beginning, but rejected the idea right off the bat as too time consuming. But at this point I had already spent many hours with nothing to show for it. Andrew had mentioned before that the house was based off the real home that belonged to his Grandparents when he was young so I asked him if he had a photo. He sent me the Google street view and it was there. That was the house.

So, using that picture as a reference, I was able to paint (digitally, btw) what eventually became the final cover.

There is still a thousand little tales here, decisions made, or rejected, about fonts, sizes, clouds, trees, colors. Each one was agonized over, all in the hope that somewhere, somebody will see the above, shrunk down to the size of a postage stamp, and click on it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekend Goals

*Edit - for anyone interested, this has been updated to reflect who I did*

Okay. I've got lots of goals set for this weekend and I mean to achieve them. Writing stuff down like this does help me get things done. So here goes.

  1. Finish my damned Novella: That is, finish my first draft. I've enjoyed writing this, as it's the first thing I've ever done that I actually outlined before hand. I got to tell you, it makes things way easier. If I ever go off on a tangent, I at least know what my end goal is. It helps, it really does. I'm thinking it'll end up between 20 and 25k words long. I might edit it down to half that much, but whatever. I'm just concerned with getting this damn draft done first. Feels like I've been working on this all summer. Not finished, getting close though. I didn't get as much time to write as I hoped I would. 
  2. Put my existing novelette up on Smashwords: I can't forget to make sure they don't post it to B&N though. After that I think I can wash my hands of it and call that one done. Complete.
  3. More cover art: I think I'm going to have to quit stressing and just do it. Let's not talk about this.
  4. Wash clothes: My wife and I are still trying this deal where she does the yard stuff and I do the washing. I hate to say I like it, but I think it's a whole lot easier than the yard. I'll probably feel bad and help her though. It isn't fair. I did wash clothes, not as much as I should have. But it counts.
  5. Sigh. Take another look at my rejected novel and see if I should query it, en masse, to everyone on earth that has anything to do with a big publishing house or trunk it, or maybe self-publish it. Would you believe I forgot.
  6. Finish A Dance With Dragons: It's the other thing I've been working on all summer. I'm around 800 pages in so far, only a few hundred more and I won't being reading anything else about Tyrrion, Jon, Jamie, or any of the rest for the better part of a decade. I'll be sad when I'm finished, I really will. This may have been the reason I didn't get more of the other things done.
  7. Buy more beer: Cause I'm out. As some commenters mentioned, this one makes completing the others even harder. I was a teetotaler this weekend. 

If I post again over the weekend I'll be quite mad at myself. I need to be writing, not blogging, someone call me on it if I do. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Old Times

I'm burned out on a lot of stuff right now. I'm feeling very much like I'm in a rut in life. I thinking of growing the hair out long again and starting a new band.

Wait. That would be a real bad idea. I just miss being a kid for some reason. Weird. I've been thumbing through the archives (i.e., Facebook) and reminiscing about my youth. So, enjoy a photo of me from 20 years ago. When I was cool, and I was the one doing the mocking. Make note young people, you'll be standing around one day, scratching your head and trying to figure out when you stopped being awesome.

Before I discovered beer and tacos

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sales Report

I think I mentioned that I would put up sales numbers from time to time, I think a week out from the release of my novelette is long enough to share, just in case anyone is interested.

Amazon Sales - U.S. = 12
B&N Sales   -   U.S. = 2
Amazon Sales - U.K = 2
Total Sales    -          16

That's pretty not bad I think, I have this up for sale on Goodreads too, but have no idea how that thing works, or even recall choosing to put it up there. I meant to put it up on Smashwords this past weekend, but some out of town guests put a wrench in that plan.

Now, I would count Michael Offutt, Alex Cavanaugh, Cindy Borgne and Ellie Garratt as mostly responsible for those 16 sales. In fact, I think I can account for at least 14 of those 16 sales just from folks who mentioned they got a copy when visiting this blog. So I think it's a bit unrealistic to expect sales like that to continue forever. However, I will post numbers again so we can all see for ourselves how I am doing.

The story I'm working on now, which when finished will be a novella, was something I began with the idea of self publishing firmly in mind. It will be a great deal longer than the previous story. Once it's out there I'll see if I can get them to drop the price of the original story to nothing and see if that causes changes in the number of sales/downloads. That will be at least a month from now though. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself.

Again, not complaining, not bragging, just trying to be open about the process. God knows I've not been able to shut up about any other part, don't know why I would start now.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Star Trek Blogfest

What a weekend. I did nothing I intended, and tons of stuff I did not. Figures. A few weeks ago I signed up for the awesome Star Trek blogfest hosted by Ellie Garratt and couldn’t wait to really get cranking on it. I wanted this to be the best blog post ever.

Yeah, well, that didn’t exactly work out. So I threw a bunch of crap together at the last minute.

The stated rules of the blogfest are to list 5 Trek things that I love, episodes, scenes…songs? Books?

Ooh. Books.

I may (or may not) have mentioned in the past that Star Trek was my gateway drug into sci fi. Now, that isn’t to say that I encountered Trek first. Although, I actually think I did, I believe my first ever memory has an episode of Star Trek playing on the TV while I confessed to having a potty training accident. I was 16, no, probably younger, the years get all blurry after a while.  

But I had a pretty wide, if shallow, exposure to science fiction as a kid. I read comics when I was young, watched movies and TV, loved Star Wars, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Man from Atlantis, The Incredible Hulk, E.T., it was all great. But those weren’t the things that turned me on to reading. As a young lad I also read real books, Asimov, John Varley, Those awesome Riverworld books, all terrific. But nothing really got to me. I read them and forgot them. As I got older I moved away from reading, instead doing other things with my time, especially during my teenage years.

These guys changed my life!
Flash forward to the summer before my junior year of high school. We didn’t have anything so fancy as cable, but we did have a TV. And on that TV, every single night at 11:00 I got to watch reruns of the Original Series. I watched those episodes and loved them. I had seen all the movies and miscellaneous episodes over the years. So that summer I fell in love with the crew of the original series. But what I didn’t know was that it was all a prelude to TNG premiering that fall (I am doing this by memory, don’t shoot me if I have the dates wrong here, it's going on 25 years). I was hooked right away. I remember those early episodes so well, despite the fact that I cringe at the cheesiness they had in such abundance. But wow. When Starfleet was infiltrated by those scorpion parasite things, when the Romulans made their return in that epic looking Starship that dwarfed the Enterprise, those were goosebump moments for me.

I almost did a countdown of epic TNG episodes, I almost wrote about how that summer that separated Best of Both Worlds I & II changed my life. How the appearance of Spock later in the series made me cry like a baby. God, all those memories.

But still, Star Trek did something else for me, something I can’t begin to express my gratitude for, something that made me the man I am today, for better or for worse.

It made me love to read. Now, you have to understand that the governing body of Star Trek came out at some point well before my time as a reader and categorically decided that anything written was non-canonical. Stupid choice. But, maybe because of that, they let some stories go that clearly have no place in the larger Star Trek mythos because the events or history they portray were later touched on by the movies or TV shows, many times those shows did things much more poorly. But whatever, just keep that in mind as you read this list below.

So, here it is folks, a list of 5 star trek books that changed my life.

5) The Romulan Prize – I found this used a few months ago and picked it back up, it was .10 cents. I haven’t tried to read it again, and I’m not sure I will. This was the first ST book I ever read. It was new when I got it the first time, and was just having a hard time waiting for the next episode to air. I do remember that Picard and the crew explored a manufactured worldlet filled with sci fi wonders. Specifically, nanotech. This took the concepts way further than the show did with Wesley’s nanites. I was enthralled and I wanted to learn more about them. In those pre internet days it wasn’t that easy. I wrote a short story years later that was published in a local anthology about two kids discussing the possibility that the unknown metal canister they found is holding nano technology that will run amok if released… that story had its genesis from this book.

4) Dark Mirror – Before the Mirror Universe got done a lot in DS9, it was explored in this novel. I don’t remember much about it except that it rocked. I don’t know why, but this book made me want to write, something I had never seriously considered before. I believe this inspired a fanfic about an enlisted guy trying to get the replicators to produce an authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza, and then stealing ship board equipment to just cook one himself… then nearly gets the enterprise blown up because they actually need that stuff to, you know, not die. Anyway, it was an idea that was better than my ability to tell it, it was my first short story. I’ve since lost it.

3) Federation – Kirk and Picard – before Generations – I thought this was so epic. Like most of these ST Novels, I don’t remember a damn thing about it, except that the two captains never actually get to meet. But the narrative was told by taking the reader back and forth through time as the plot unfolded. If memory serves, this was one the better Trek novels I read.

2) Vendetta – Best ST Novel I ever read, makes me think of Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space books, back when the Borg were still more or less mysterious, and way before the TNG episode, I, Borg, took the same concept and did it much less epically, or Voyager turned the concept into the 7 of 9 character. This one told the tale of a girl saved from the collective and all the screwed up things it did to her. Bad. Ass. It was the first time I realized a book could tell better stories than the TV show could. 

1) The Devil’s Heart – This is what killed ST Novels for me. At the time I read this, I didn't think it was possible for reading anything ST related to be bad. I changed my mind while in the middle of this mess. It also prompted me to think that I might be able to write something worthy of publication one day. Because if shit like that can see print with huge fanfare, then it’s fair game for me too. Anyway, I recall being so excited while I waited for its release. There was even a big story about the release in my local newspaper. I was so there when it came out. I had poured over all the previous TNG Novels (that I had access to, I did miss some, and the more romance related ones weren’t as enticing to me, although I did read Imzadi, so, um, there you go.) and was itching for more. While waiting for this to come out I got desperate and bought and read Ring and Timelike Infinity, by Stephen Baxter, Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama, and a few others that I’ve forgotten, and started finding some of the ideas expressed in those books were hooking me in much the same way ST had, but delved into those subjects much more deeply… I was moving on.

I try to watch the show from time to time now. It doesn't feel like it used to, that 'wow' feeling I used to get each time the opening sequence would air is gone. It's sad. But I'll always love and support Star Trek.

Thank you Gene, you made my life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly... Except Without The Good

I got an email yesterday from a big time publisher rejecting my novel along with the following comment:

“I realise that this is not the news you were hoping for, but I hope you will take some comfort from the fact that yours was one of just a handful of novels we requested after reading the initial submission.”

For those who didn’t know, the “initial submission” they mentioned was during said publisher’s open door month where they solicited queries and a few sample chapters from the unagented. They wrote me back a few months after I sent them a few sample chapters and asked for the full manuscript.

But the email I got today was it. No notes, no, “Hey, here’s where it fell apart.” or "This is where I stopped being interested." Nothing, just the above note implying that I was really close. I need more than that. Do I rewrite, expand, change? Keep it as-is and send it back out to everyone else on my wishlist? Self-pub this and try to sell something completely new to the big boys? If I were to self-publish a novel though, I’d like a professional editor at least give it a pass before I put it up. Hiring one freelance isn’t cheap though, for the hours they put in, even one that offers cheap rates will cost nearly a thousand dollars – I’m not quite ready to go there yet.

Anyway, to get back on topic. Quite honestly, I would think the only kind of rejection I would be okay with would be one where they A) asked me to submit something else, which they didn’t. Or B) Tell me what went wrong so I can fix it, which they also didn’t do.  In all honesty, more than anything else, I’m bummed that I won’t get to work with an “A-list” editor that can tear apart my manuscript and mold it into something epic. Or at the very least, make it better than it is now.

Because, as it stands, I feel like that story I submitted has opportunities for improvement. I might be able to expand some things, cut some things… I just don’t know though. I’ve had my nose in it for so many years, cut so much away, added so much back in, that it feels like Frankenstein’s monster to me. All patch-worked together with some spackle to cover the cracks where different sections join.

Wait, did Frankenstein use spackle?

Instead, I got the nicest possible form rejection. Crap. What that tells me about my writing is that I’m still a minor leaguer, but one who’s unsure what parts of his game he needs to fix to get to the majors. I’m stopping by the liquor store tonight in order to cope with my disappointment. Then I’ll try to come up with a plan of action going forward.

Dammit, things would have been much simpler if they just sent along a copy of a contract.

Hello square one, nice to see you again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Attention Visitors From Beyond

Follow the arrow to Earth

Haven't posted anything space-y in a while. This is Titan, apparently after a giant with a can of spray paint ruined the thing. It'll take weeks to get all that scrubbed clean.

Happy day people.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How To Win at Twitter

Anyone who finds me on twitter, and has ever read my feed, knows that I hate Monday’s, I hate them bad.  In fact, if I have a reoccurring theme, it’s that I hate Monday’s. I think I’ve been known to talk about it on almost any given day of the week. It's probably a byproduct of when I first started on twitter and no one followed me. It was quite freeing to just say whatever I wanted, knowing full well that no one would read it. So I started complaining.

I can’t help it. Everything sucks, I can’t stop doing it. Anyone who follows me has to deal with it.

That said,  I try to read every tweet from every person I follow. I can’t do it, it’s too much, but I do still try. I am, after all, following them. 

I figure, if I’m following someone, then I’m agreeing that what they are saying is important, or funny, or informative. The sheer number of folks I’m following makes it difficult to read everyone’s, but doggone it. I give it the old college try. It didn't take me long to start seeing different types of tweeters emerge. In fact, I've put them into one of three categories.

The Commenters*
The Linkers
The Repeaters

Now sometimes things can be mixed up some, almost no one is one thing alone. I count myself as a commenter, someone whose typical tweet might look like this:

“What’s the deal with street signs? I mean, they’re so angular. Why don’t we have more curvy ones?”

See? What I did there was make a comment on society, or people, or things, whatever. I’m a commenter. It’s what I do.

Linkers, on the other hand, have turned their twitter stream into a gateway into the internet. Like this.

“Hey, ever wonder why a wombat is neither a woman, nor a bat, yet shares its name with both? Learn more here http://www.wom/...:

Or, “What gives with politicians being jerks? http://www.politi/....

You have to watch for those folks that you do not know that mention your name and offer a link, nothing good ever comes of that. Ever.

Then we have the repeaters. Now, writers can get drawn into this because it can be seductive, very seductive. Repeaters offer up the same tweet, usually with a link (yes, I see the problem with my categories even as I write this), asking you to visit their blog, or amazon page, whatever. Generally the thought is that since so many people only check their feed intermittently that a single tweet will get lost in the noise.

I’ve come down on the side of not being a repeater, I’m on twitter a lot, and probably read further back than most people, but I will sometimes see the same tweet like, 8 or 9 times in a day from a single person. I think it’s probably a bit too much. It makes me tend to not read any of their tweets because I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before… Yes, a writer can cause folks to glaze over whenever their name comes up in the feed. Their very effort to avoid being passed by caused them to get ignored. Oh irony, you get us all in the end.

Now, I won’t argue that any one way is better, or worse, that the other. Much like people with a healthy diet will tell you, variety is the key. I know some folks that hate repeaters with a passion. Although I've also read ‘how to use twitter’ lists that cite those pithy commenters as the blight that ruins twitter for the rest of them (that’s an awful attitude, my pithy comments are all I have). And I’ve even heard folks complain about the linkers (beyond the scammers), as being shallow and not getting twitter’s point in existing.

Me, I don’t know. I’m probably doing it wrong, but when I signed on I spent my time entertaining only myself. I’m particularly proud of the time I got high at the dentist’s office and then forgotten. After that tweet-a-thon I picked up half a dozen new followers… all of them bots that sold dental supplies, but I found the whole thing fun, I decided that day that I wanted to use twitter to be a smart-aleck first, everything else second.

I won’t even comment about the whole, ‘follow me and I’ll follow you” thing, or other “how to gain followers” strategies that have filled the internet, that’s all stuff for a different day. Well, and probably from someone who actually knows something about it.

*Now, there is a sub category of tweeter that I didn’t mention that I like to call the conversers, those folks like to answer tweets, carry on conversations, that sort of thing. I didn’t include them as a category all their own however, because I wanted three, not four. It’s funny how arbitrary things can be. Although conversers can be part of any group, I think of them as a subset of commenters. Mostly because I think it’s funny to think someone might throw up a clever, biting tweet intended to be rhetorical, but then have the comment used as an opening for a conversation.  However, sometimes they can be linkers to, as the aforementioned tricksters that try to suck you in to their evil plots.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Web Stuff

Hi again, not much to say this morning, but I did find myself in a few places on the internet. Thought someone might be interested.

Let's see. 

Alex announced the release of my Novelette today, thank you, sir. Always a good idea to stop by and see his site, the guy is everywhere, it can be... unnerving. I'm glad he has chosen to use his omnipresence for the cause of good.

Ellie Garratt also made mention of the new release on her post today, I'm a bit new to Ellie's blog, but she is hosting the Star Trek blogfest, which of course forced me to to drop my ban on participating in them. I mean, I can't not participate in that, Star Trek was my gateway into Science Fiction.

Let's see, Michael Offutt did a review of my novelette and posted it today as well. He's recently joined the ranks of the "I'm kind of a big deal" people when he signed a publishing contract with Double Dragon. I'm glad he still takes time to hang out with the little folk. 

Still, his review is very kind, I thank him for it, it's a curious thing to know someone is reading what you've written. The experience can sometimes be, well, I already said unnerving earlier, so it can be... disconcerting.

I hate that the weekend is over. It goes by so fast.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Sticklers

Well, Sunday again, another week in the books. I managed to doing something like a dozen loads of laundry. So, damn. Also managed to get my novelette up for Nook,and on Goodreads. Although I don't know what happened at Goodreads, I thought I was putting up a sample and then it said it was on sale for for $.99. Um, okay.

Watched a bit of TV with the missus, read for just a bit. All in all I think I've been pretty productive. Still may go to the movies too, maybe. We'll see.

Anyhow, the real thing that made me want to post something today is that I was posting a comment over on Andrew's post about Captain America (see here) and why a single anachronism from that movie bugged me so much. Now, I won't rehash my convoluted thinking again here, but it took me on an interesting diversion for a few minutes this morning.

I made mention that the genetic code was unheard of during WWII and then thought, was it? I mean, the concept of genes had been around for a while, the whole Eugenics movement started back in the late 19th century for crying out loud. Was the term really anachronistic, or has the meaning just changed with it's usage over time.

So, off to check Google.

I'm sure everyone has played around with Google's ngram tool, which is awesome. In case you haven't, the short version is that it lets you search every book Google has scanned as part of it's enormous digital library and look for trends.

I tend to use it in the simplest possible way, typing in a word and seeing when it begins to appear in the literature. As you can see below, when I typed in Genetic Code we can see that it came out of nowhere in the late fifties and exploded in usage up through the mid seventies. All part of the revolution in biology that followed Watson and Crick's discovery of DNA in, oh damn, I should look this up, Google is still open in another window... I won't do it... I say, 1953*.

Except for that one little blip in time, from around 1900 - 1910. What was going on there?

Well, part of the power of this tool is that it lets me see the results. So I just refined my search to show me every mention that they had between 1880 and 1910. Genetic code was mentioned 13 times during that period according to the data compiled by Google**. And I could look at all of it, well, most of it anyway.

What did I find? Around 13 instances of books that were mis-labeled, I suspect all should have begun with 20 instead of 19, they're just data errors.  Anyway, the things one learns while doing laundry.

Happy day people.

*I'll be damned, I was right. I swear I didn't look it up until after I posted this.
**Google says they normalize the data, and that you won't even see a blip on the graph unless it's been used at least 40 times in a given year. I don't know what that means when it comes to the search results. All I know is I got 13 hits. I'm doing this on a whim, not as a science project..

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Friday

I appreciate everyone's patience while I obsess with the ridiculous minutia of my just released kindle-only novelette. I just wanted to share this little sight from the Amazon when I went to my book page:

In case the image is too small to make out, the two sales last night (Thank you Alex and Julie) put me into the top 100 for it's category. I was just ahead of a short story collection by Larry Niven.Wow.

I say wow because that's a grand total of 5 sales since Monday. For some reason I thought it would take a few more to break the top 100 in any category.

That ranking will slip as I hit longer dry spells between sales, once I run out of regulars on this blog that give me pity purchases and it's forced to stand on it's own. I'll soon be able to get on with my life and quit wasting so much time on this. I think it's the newness that really has been distracting for me.

And yes, in retrospect, were I to give this week a title, it would have been Narcissism Week. I'll be a bit less over the top after my weekend. Thanks again everyone.

I hope everyone has a happy Friday.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You Can't Buy Time

As my Kindle release week continues to explode into the interwebs, I thought I’d take a quick look at my sales again, just so we can know where I stand.

3 (this includes me)

Um, that’s about it. Thanks to everyone who’ve taken the plunge, and to everyone who intends to. I hope to make this available in more places this weekend, although I’m thinking I’ve got a ton of things I think I’ve promised to get done by then. Someone will be disappointed in me. Let’s see, what do I have to do this weekend?

1)      Laundry - that’s my promise to my wife, she’s taking care of the yard and the garage. She hates laundry and I like not doing yard work, or reorganizing the garage. Laundry it a weird thing because there are down times, between loads, that you can do stuff. But I’m guessing there is going to be a lot of stuff to wash. We tend to wash just enough to get through a week and be done with it. Over time the pile slowly grows. We’ve got a room dedicated to long forgotten clothes. It’s time for me to go in there and get to work – estimated time to launder clothes? 12 hours.
2)      Football – My son has some Football jamboree this weekend. I’m not even sure I know where. But I’ve got to have him somewhere at 9 o’clock Saturday morning. That’s actually bad, because I will be doing laundry, and it’s his last weekend before school begins, and he was supposed to help do other things around the house. Bad planning. Estimated time for football activities? 3 hours.
3)      Writing – I still have goals to achieve. I’m working on a short story that I’m dying to finish up. I guessing it will be between 15 – 18k words before I’m done. I’m around 10k right now. That’s an odd length because it’s too much work to do over a weekend, and it will have enough typos and plotting issues that I can’t just do a quick pass and call it done. I have to work it like a novel, doing numerous passes and spending tons of time self-editing.  But, if I’m going to meet my writing goals for the summer/early fall, I need to have this more or less done by the end of the month. Estimated time to write (this weekend) 6 hours.
4)      Art – I do love me some graphic art. I’m trying to wrap up a book cover for someone, and trying to at least hammer down a concept for someone else. That sort of work is pretty enjoyable for me, but it doesn’t go as quick as I’d like. Estimated time spent doing cover related things? 6 hours.
5)      Entertainment – I missed last week’s Eureka and need to watch it, I also have a Netflix disk that my wife has patiently been holding off on watching until we can do so together. I also really want to go see a movie at the theater. Estimated entertainment time? 5 hours.
6)      Reading – I don’t count this as entertainment. As someone who pretends to be a writer, reading is important. I’ve begun A Dance with Dragons and am less than a hundred pages in so far. My current pace will put me at finishing somewhere around Thanksgiving 2014.  I devoured the first three books, and the fourth started with a lot of enthusiasm from me, but I didn’t enjoy it as much and now this one feels a bit like work. I need to read a minimum of 50 pages a day to know what’s going on. It’s sort of a minimum daily allowance for me, any less and it doesn’t take up enough mental real estate to get read. I’ll quit it altogether if I don’t do that. I’d rather put in at least a hundred pages daily, because I have a two week window to read books too. More than that and I start to forget things that happen early. So, estimated time spent reading? 3 hours.
7)      Sleep – 12 hours, I tend to get up very early on Saturday’s and sleep in on Sundays, I have no idea why. It’s just how I work.

So how many hours (non-sleeping) will that be total? 35. That’s a lot. Granted, I can write while clothes are in the dryer, but it’s choppy and unproductive that way. But the point stands that I might be able to double up some things. I can read while my son does his football thing (his time playing I’ll watch him, but there’s a lot of down time in football). 

I’ll try to revisit this on Monday and see how I fared.

Oh, and I noticed that I have some new followers. Um, I’m known as a bit of a loser when it comes to following back, sorry. If anyone cares to make mention in my comments that I’m not following them and they’d like me to, I’d be happy to accommodate. I’m crappy at visiting, but it isn’t on purpose. I always start with noble intentions and run out of gas really quick. I’m trying to be better.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Things I've Already Learned Self Publishing

Well, after Monday's huge, earth shattering premiere of my new kindle-only novelette I learned several things rather quickly.

* That "if you build it, they will come" thing might be true for baseball fields, but if it happens for ebooks it might take a bit longer than two days.

* Speaking of slow, my book description had a small typo, I quickly updated it and 48 hours later it still hasn't changed. Weird.

* I bought and read the story again. It's weird, what I put up was way more awesome than what I read. I think Amazon monkeyed with my file to make it more lame. It's the only explanation I could think of.

* That single sale, from myself, put me up to around #100,000 on the kindle sales chart. which could only mean there were nearly a million other books that sold nothing that day.

* I can't one hundred percent confirm this, but I'm pretty sure that Cindy Borgne was my first sale (Edit - as Mike pointed out in the comments below, he did purchase a copy as well, it is possible that he was the first person to purchase. It's only fair that I thank you both). Thanks Cindy, for throwing me that bone.

* I spent about 4 hours staring at my stats page, hitting refresh every 15 seconds or so. I could have cared less before I put the thing up, now, each hour that passes that I don't have a sale I take it personal. I need to just get over that. It was an unexpected feeling from me. I'm not used to feeling entitled to stuff.

* I'm glad I've got that under my belt. But I do have other commitments. I suppose I need to get to work on those.

Um, that's about it I suppose. I hope everyone is having a good week.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Page Views and Dead Gods

Blogging is a most curious thing. I have often thought of conducting some experiments to see if my chosen topics generate a difference in the popularity of a post. If I correlated popularity of a post to comments received I’d think that talking about my pets were my most popular. If the past is any indicator, then I would think that would make that a good topic for every post I ever do going forward.

On the other hand, if page views are my indicator, then I see something else. The most popular post I’ve ever done, which predates any crusading for followers or anything else I’ve ever participated in in hopes of gaining additional viewers for the blog, is nothing more than a YouTube video. (click to see) which is, admittedly, extremely awesome.

Weird. Also interesting to note I’ve never gotten a single comment on that post.

So, I’ve tinkered about and tried to notice things I do that turn folks off – I think my book reviews/reports have been less than stellar, as they seem to generate less interest than most anything else. My complaining about how much everything sucks seems to get a few views. I find the whole process mystifying. I’ve not learned anything. I think my next goal will be to spend a couple of weeks and post at different times, different days, and differing frequencies, just to see if anything stands out.

Of course that means I would have to get blogger to start posting my stuff when I tell it to. I mean, the scheduling feature is nice, but it would be a much more powerful tool if it actually posted the damn thing when I scheduled it, I think I would be a much happier camper if that were the case. I know, keep dreaming.

And then I wonder, what’s the point? By any objective standard I’m a pretty lousy blogger. I mean, my posts aren’t as well narratively pleasing as Andrew’s, I’m not as sociable as Alex (seriously, do you visit every blog on the internet?), I don’t rant as powerfully, or often, as Rogue, and I certainly don’t talk about anything compelling at all. Hell, I usually can’t be bothered to visit here sometimes, I don’t know why I would think anyone else would want to.

But then I remember, I’m doing this in support of my writing, ah, building a platform, you know synergy, cross media marketing, fan base stuff. Whatever. In fact, I caught myself the other day thinking that I should start a podcast. Then I thought. Maybe I should actually have something for someone to read. You know, since that’s the point.

So, I’m proud to announce that I’ve put up a short story on Kindle. Wait. Did I say proud? that's a strong word. I'll say I'm nervous enough about missing out on something that I went ahead and did it. I'll do Smashwords, B&N and all that later I suppose, but I'm lazy, and stayed up until 4 a.m. trying to get the formatting right. It also sucked because I intended to include a bunch of sketches and character notes, but, in what I'm sure is only the universe mocking me, having all that included at the end in a "extras" section screwed up the formatting for the whole story. Stupid computers. I can't even put a larger version of the cover that I worked so hard on into the book, so all anyone can see is that stupid little thumbnail. Dammit.

Regardless, I'll put up a link to it soon on one of the sidebars, and you may have noticed that I changed my background here into something blindingly tacky and in your face, you know, to promote myself. I'll leave it up for a week or so and switch it back to something a bit less... confrontational.

And the more I think about it, I really probably should have done one more full edit of that manuscript before I put it out there. Oh well, too late.

With that said, here's the link.

So, whatever. Give me money. Or don't. I have tentative plans to put something else out in the next month or so, when I do I'll probably drop the price of this one to free. Assuming of course, that I can.

No stock photos for me. All from scratch baby! Er, don't ask about the guns though.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Video

I'm always mesmerized by stuff like this. Beautiful

Adventure Concept Art Set from Torturr on Vimeo.

Hope the weekend was good for everyone.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Friday! Let's Get. It. On!

When I was in high school, my Friday’s were a time to socialize, from around the time I was 14 until I was about 24, I tried to be out every single Friday night. I figured that folks who chose to stay at home were to be pitied. Funny how things change.  Now I get tired by 8:30 and am usually looking for a hard drink, not so I can party, but so I can go to sleep. Since I’ll be up at the crack of dawn no matter when I get to bed, I’d rather feel rested when I got up.

Yep, not so cool now, am I?

So, I dedicate this Friday night blog post to those of us who have dared to hang out on the weekend and not do anything. Borders has been liquidating for weeks now and have just decided to give us 25% off of their inventory. Wow, only 15% worse than how I could do shopping at Amazon. I spent nearly $30 for tickets for two to see a movie a few weeks ago. Buying alcohol at a bar is way too expensive now days. Nope, the only sane thing to do is stay home and either write, sleep, see what’s on Netflix, or maybe, just maybe, go out to eat.

So, sit right there and enjoy the movie…

Anyway, to show how far the mighty have fallen. I want to share a magical video I watched recently. I find watching an artist work to be very fascinating. As one who has dabbled in the fine arts I can't help but be wowed by this guys skill and dedication.

So, sit right there, take your shoes off for the next half an hour or so, and enjoy the movie…

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

I hope everyone stops by Michael Offutt's blog to wish him congrats on being offered a contract from a publisher. It's kinda big deal. So I offer him up my best wishes. 


My wife was away this past weekend. It was just me, my teenaged son, and a few dogs. I naively thought that would mean a weekend full of storytelling genius was about to unfold before me. What it ended up being was a weekend coddling a teeny little dog that hasn’t been away from my wife for more than a couple hours since we owned it. That dog is very needy. It whimpered, whined, cried, and mostly tried to sit on my lap, or crawl down my shirt, for the few days my wife wasn’t around. Wow.

I realized that while both my dogs are pretty cool, there is a down side. My big girl, Lucy, is in a lot of ways, the best dog I’ve ever had.  Two things about her make her higher maintenance than I am comfortable with.

She lays down for like, 10 seconds...
...and she gets up and leaves this behind.
1)      Her fur: This dog produces more hair than is possible, period. It can’t be true. That doggy fur is long, like hair, and gets wound into the carpet and has managed to ruin two vacuum cleaners, and one wire brush that I started using to try to get that stuff out of the carpet with. I have to do something daily or it will get out of hand. Anyone who thinks I just need to brush her more is wrong, brushing makes it worse. Why? Because if I don’t brush her, her hair will get matted. Matted hair means less stuff falling out all the time. Actually, I’ve tried both ways and it doesn’t matter. I brush her out for an hour and I have enough hair to stuff a pillow. The next morning when I wake up and equal amount of hair will be in my carpet.
2)      Her slobber: Ever see Turner and Hooch? My breed was a cross between something (I forget) and a Saint Bernard. I get all the slobber that comes with that. She’ll come into the house and start shaking those jowls and huge wads of mucus like slobber will go everywhere – the TV, the Laptop, the Couch, the Stove, anything left on the counter, the walls, and of course, on any person. I’ve gotten accustomed to wiping everything down after she comes into a room. The smell of cooking food makes it a thousand times worse.

Those are pretty big things, I cleaned the floors of the house twice this weekend, and cleaned slobber off of everything as well. It won’t matter, I guarantee you that after she’s been in the house for more than a couple of hours that everything will be covered in slobbery hair. I’m so tired of it. Ugh.

Then we move to the little one, that thing has a whole suite of emotional disorders, mostly tied to his need to always be around my wife. He’s actually a playful, friendly little thing. Not really given to much barking or growling. He just always needs to be on someone’s lap, or chest, shoulders, whatever. If you’re in a chair, sitting up, he will jump between you and the backrest and find a way to make himself comfortable. WTF? Why would a dog do that? It’s weird. It’s like the irony police have sentenced me to be punished for saying the main reason dogs are so much better than cats is because of their love of attention and social interaction. Yea, but this dog is like an emotional black hole, just sucking up all the joy you have and still wanting more. I’m so tired. Here’s the thing though… that isn’t the worst part.

1)      He isn’t potty trained. This dog seems uncommonly smart to me. I don’t know how it can be, its head isn’t any bigger than a large nut, I’m not sure how much brain one could fit inside that little skull.  That thing knows that no one wants it to take a dump in the hallway, in the kitchen, in the living room, the closet, or anywhere else. But it still does. The worst part. He spends so much time wearing you out by always getting up in your face, that as soon as he leaves you think, “thank god, I can take a breath”. What happens of course, is that he’s pissed in the corner, and has taken a dump on the pair of socks I took off 5 minutes ago.  After 15 seconds he’s back and I’m thinking, no way in hell that dog could possibly have gone to the bathroom, it’s only been a few seconds. Trust me, it’s too late.
I could totally crap here and everyone would think he did it.
2)      Related to the above point, he does it on purpose. I’m sure of it. I said before he’s smart. He also is lazy, like a little kid that can’t be bothered to go potty because if he craps himself he knows his mother will just clean him up. He doesn’t care. My wife has done all this stuff that’s supposed to make dogs want to go outside, sprays, pads, um, treats, whatever. That damn thing just doesn’t care.

I took the little one over to my mother’s house on Saturday, I said, ‘I only need you to keep him for a few minutes, I’m just going to get a bite to eat, and I’m afraid he’s suicidal and don’t want to leave him alone’. My mother laughed and assured me she could handle him.

She called me a few minutes after I left and said, ‘your dog crapped on my carpet’.

Of course he did. That dog uses crap the way most dogs use pee. It’s like a marker for his territory or something. I claim this land as my own! I will prove it by crapping all over it. Dumb dog.

The result of these two together? A carpet that looks like it’s been salvaged from the dump. I’ve got crap that I find from one dog that has drool and hair all over it from the other. It’s like they combine their powers to ruin the house. We have to keep those pet stain removers stashed in almost every room of the house. These pets, without the missus around to take up a big portion of the baggage that comes with them, are very stressful. It’s like having a couple of toddlers that just screw everything up if you so much as turn you head to cough.

Geez, I should probably end this rant now. I do love the things, but after this weekend I’m not sure I can say I think it’s worth it. I need a vacation from my dogs.