Createspace is Going Away…

I started the week not knowing what I would post this week, but figured — with Dragoncon happening, and roughly half of my Facebook friends at Dragoncon — I would have something to talk about by the end of the week.  Turns out I do have something to talk about, but it has nothing to do with Dragoncon after all.

It’s been rumored for months, but the shoe has dropped and its no longer just a rumor. The POD service that does my print editions, Createspace, is being phased into KDP Print.  Now, you could go through that link to read some of the details, but honestly it’s probably more than you want to know.  It won’t be happening right away, though, as apparently they’ve been having issues with the migration and the “tools” needed for authors to make the transition smoother are being restricted to specific authors in batches; I still don’t have the ability to access those tools, and it may be weeks before I get them.  However, by all accounts Createspace will be no more by the end of the year.

So, what does it mean?  Not much to you.  Depending on how smooth the transition goes, there may be zero disruption of sales or it may be my print books will be taken off the market for as much as two-to-three days.  Most likely, it’ll be offline for a few minutes and that’s it.

To me, for now, it means a little administrative work.  Some of my record keeping might need to change.  I don’t think this will have any effect on any of my eBooks, so if you’re like the majority of my customers it won’t matter (the ratio has improved slightly, but I’m still selling something close to a 200-to-1 ratio of ebook to print book).  If you want to buy print copies of my books and you live somewhere OTHER than the United States, there’s a greater likelihood you’ll be able to get it (KDP Print and Createspace have had two different “territories” they would distribute books to; those territories are being merged along with the two companies).

This won’t effect me much, but the distribution merger can result in some oddities you might find from other indie authors.  For example, IF I had a Japanese-language translation of my books, you could get it in Japan… but only if the text is written in Romaji (the English-language alphabet and not kana or kanji (the Japanese ‘alphabet,’ or rather syllabary).  Japanese characters and fonts are not supported, even if distribution to Japan is.

That doesn’t mean the only changes you’ll see are a few minutes when my books won’t be on sale and some added distribution.  The other changes may not show up for a while, however; they don’t need to be done right away, and they’ll take some doing, so they can wait until I’ve finished the current projects I’m working on.

From my previous experience with KDP Print, I know that they have slightly different cover design requirements (things like KDP Print is less flexible with where you place the ISBN code).  So, some time in the next few months (probably to coincide with the release of In Division Imperiled, the third book of the Law of Swords series) I’ll be tweaking the cover a bit so that the designs of the new books and the old books will match better.  The old cover art will be used for all of the old books (well, with the possible exception of The Kitsune Stratagem.  I like the current cover art, but based on the criticism I’ve received, I’m coming to the conclusion that one big reason it has been such a slow-seller compared to my other books is the cover art), but there will be slight differences to all of my major print books to conform better to KDP Print design standards.

The interiors should remain the same, though, regardless, so if you already have a copy there won’t be a point in buying another one… though I won’t object if you do.  If you were thinking of buying one, though, and haven’t, (for any of In Treachery Forged, In Forgery Divided, The Kitsune Stratagem, or The Merrimack Event), and you would like the old cover, you probably should buy one now.  (It shouldn’t matter much, but if my books ever become collectables these older covers should be worth more).

Now that they’ve added many of the features I was missing the last time I tried it out, I think KDP Print will work out fine once the transition is complete… but I’ll miss Createspace.

Link Exchange

Just two things again, this week.  And I was worried this link exchange thing was going to bury my blog…

From Cyn Bagley, the third book of her EJ Hunter series (the previous two having been featured in prior blogs), Diamond Butterfly.

From Holly Chism comes a short story collection, Normalcy Bias.

Taking Inventory

While I haven’t heard anything from it since I was told I would be part of the event, I’m still looking ahead to the “Eat Local, Read Local” event, which will be at the Cascades (Loudoun County, Virginia) Library on September 29th. It will be the first sales event I’ve been to as an author (sales events typically involve print books, and while I do have print editions for most of my books they aren’t a big part of my income, so it’s never been a priority), and while I know how these sorts of things work (more or less) there are a few details I don’t know.

For example, I have no idea how much inventory I will need. The advice I’ve read always seems to suggest I refer to “similar events” or “past performance of others at the event” (I’ve never been part of a “similar event” as this, and I have no idea what other people who’ve been part of this event in the past have sold), so it’s pretty much useless.

Maybe, if I could track down some other writers from last year’s version of the event, I could get some sort of idea… but that would take time, and (given Createspace’s infamously slow shipping times) I need to decide, soon, if I need to order more copies of any of my books.

I almost always buy a batch of my own books right after publication, even if I’m not selling then. Having a few copies I can give away to friends and reviewers, or show off in front of a panel at a convention, etc. just makes sense. So I have some in stock… but I’ve not really been keeping track of how many I’ve given away, nor (off the top of my head) do I know how many I’ve ordered. All I been concerned with is “I’ve still got enough.” So, I had to take inventory.

According to that inventory, available for sale at this coming event I have:

In Treachery Forged: 8 Copies
In Forgery Divided: 6 Copies
The Kitsune Stratagem: 7 Copies
The Merrimack Event: 7 Copies
Worlds Enough, Fantastic Defenders: 6 Copies (actually 7, but the seventh isn’t for sale as it’s the only copy I have signed by some of the other authors)
This Book Cannot Make Any Money: 0 (uh… probably should order a supply of those)
Total:  34

(I also have a supply of old proofs and misprints for all of those books, but they aren’t for sale).

With the exception of “This Book Cannot Make Any Money,” I think I’m actually fairly well stocked for now.  I don’t want to lug much more than that around with me, at any rate.  Do any writing veterans reading this think differently?  Should I buy more copies of anything?  Could I leave some at home and lighten the load?

And, for those who AREN’T writing veterans, I’ll let you know how things go. But that won’t be for a month, so keep this post in mind…

LINK SHARING

As last week seemed to work, I’m going with text links only.  The only two new link-share requests, this week, are sequels to earlier link-shares, so I won’t bother breaking them down by genre.

As the sequel to last week’s “The Godshead,” Holly Chism presents “Highway to Tartarus.”

And as the sequel to last week’s “She Called it, Wolf,” Cyn Bagley presents “Dark Moon Rising.”

Enjoy!

 

Library Services

I’ve long tried to write this article before, either on its own or as part of a larger article, but I always seem to get side-tracked and never seem to get my point across.  As related, below, I wound up doing something this week that may finally help me get it out there.  Here’s hoping it works, this time.

Earlier this week, I took my mother to a particular branch of my local public library. As background, my mother is an competitive art quilter (if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll probably have heard me mention that point before) who incorporates some pretty high-tech tools in her quilting. Sewing and embroidery machines with advanced computerization, a long-arm quilting machine, computer-aided design software and hardware (including printers which are designed for printing on fabric, scanners, Wacom pen-tools and tablets, and lots and lots of embroidery and quilting software).

One thing she doesn’t have, however, is a type of cutting tool called a curio or cameo cutter.  But, it turns out, one of the local branches of the public library does

I’d never been to this particular branch, so I went along.  I was surprised to find that the librarian was actually quite skilled with the device (my past experience with public libraries — as opposed to academic libraries — is that often they acquire interesting pieces of technology or software, but the librarians find themselves out of their depths when it comes to using them), and my mother managed to get everything done with it that she needed it for.

But the library has more there than just the cameo cutter.  If you notice on that list of “features” in the library branch, there’s something there called a “sound studio with electronic instruments.”  I went and took a look at it, again just expecting a large room with glass walls (just like most of their “Study Rooms”) with some low-end recording equipment and maybe a couple cheap electronic music instruments in it.

What I found was a room the size of a small closet… but also high-quality sound-dampening insulation on the walls, a special, heavy-duty sound-proof door, and recording gear that was actually professional grade.  I think there was also an electronic piano or something like that in there, but I couldn’t go in and take a look at the time.  Whether there was a piano or not, however, it wouldn’t be acceptable as a recording studio for musical performances — it was far too cramped.

But it would be absolutely perfect for audiobook recording.  And (unlike something I was told when querying about an older recording studio in another branch of this library system, which was much like how I envisioned this studio would be) they have technical expertise, there, to help people get set up.

I am thinking of trying to shop my larger books to Tantor (as audiobooks only; I’m not planning to sell them my other rights), so that they will be produced by the same people who did the successful audiobook version of The Merrimack Event, but I don’t think my shorter fiction will go there.

I still haven’t quite finished book 3 of The Law of Swords, but once that’s done I think I might see if I can’t record myself reading A Gun for Shalla.  And now I know where to record it.

So, if you’re a writer, or some other type of creative, and you’re missing resources for some aspect of your career, you might want to check your local library.  Not every library system is as well equipped as mine, but some are even better… and maybe, even if they aren’t, your librarians may know where to go.


Link-Sharing

Well, after some technical issues from last week’s link-sharing post (it seems ad-blockers were preventing the links from showing up for some people), I’ve decided to change the links from text-and-graphic to just text.  That should also help reduce their footprint, which should make the link-sharing section less likely to take over the whole post.

Science Fiction

By Laura Montgomery comes a pair of what I believe should be classified in the “Sword and Planet” sub-genre of science fiction, though perhaps with harder science than some.  She is looking for a boost among sci-fi readers, especially:

Sleeping Duty
Out of the Dark

Fantasy

By Cyn Bagley, an urban fantasy novel dealing with werewolves.  She says that she’s pushing it as a re-launch, after heavy revisions and updates.

She Called It, Wolf

By Holly Chism, another urban fantasy novel, this time dealing with a forgotten god from the mythological pantheons (or at least the North pantheon, because the summary mentions Loki).

The Godshead

Linksharing

Remember how, last week, I mentioned a Facebook effort for authors to share links to their books? It’s now active.  VERY active (I’m hoping the volume dies down as time goes on; it seems to have, but whether it’s hit manageable levels or not, I’m not sure).  If the volume doesn’t go down, I’ll have to think about how to handle this.  I originally thought this would all be a footnote to this week’s post, but it grew so long that, even restricting it to fantasy, science fiction, and alternate history, it became an entire post itself.  I don’t want this blog to become nothing BUT link-shares, so either the group needs to slow down some or I need to revise how I’d planned to do this.

Keep in mind this is merely link-sharing, not endorsement (got that, Amazon?  It’s JUST link-sharing, not endorsement, not an attempt to “manipulate the sales rankings” (whatever that excuse for de-listing authors was supposed to mean), JUST sharing a bunch of links), so I suggest you use the blurbs and sample chapters to help you make purchasing decisions.  That’s what those features are there for, right?

Fantasy:
Kenton Kilgore describes his debut YA Fantasy novel as “Little House on the Prarie… but with dragons!”

L.A. Gregory presents her debut novel, a YA “Sword and Sorcery” fantasy novel dealing with shapeshifters.

In the subgenre of “YA Medieval Fantasy”, a book by Blake Smith.

In the Sword and Sorcery subgenre, a book by Cyn Bagley.  The first book in this series was well received and sold reasonably well, but its sequel hasn’t caught on, yet:

Science Fiction:
From Cynthia Bagley, the author describes this as a short fiction piece with a comedy component.

From Stephanie Osborne, this (the seventh in the series; the Facebook group also had other books in the set listed, but there is no one link to the series at this time) is described as “Spy SF with a touch of Space Opera.”

This Two-fer is listed as a science fiction on Amazon.  From the description, I’d think it was fantasy, but I’m guessing the author knows the difference….

Described by the author as “part mil-sf, part space opera,” a book by Amanda S. Green (under the not-so-secret psuedonym Sam Schall).

Hey, it’s another Space Opera!  By Pamela Uphoff.

Alternate History:
The author (Ron S. Friedman) lists this as ‘Science Fiction\Alternate History,’ so I’m inlcuding it here.  It sounds like it’s really time travel, though.

Kacey Ezell’s Minds of Men. This is already up for a Dragon Award, but is out-of-genre for her usual audience, and she’s particularly hoping to ‘train’ Amazon’s also-bots to recommend her book to readers of Alternate History instead of just her usual military science-fiction readers.  So, for this next week or so, she mostly wants to push this at people with a history of reading other alternate history novels.  Keep that in mind if you’re checking it out.

Odds and Ends

A wrap up of a number of things I’ve wanted to talk about over the past few weeks, but which I didn’t have enough to talk about to justify a seperate blog post…

1. Author Earnings recently made a “state of the market” presentation to the Science Fiction Writers of America at their annual Nebula conference. There’s been some discussion that the market for science fiction and fantasy was dying, but that doesn’t appear so. Seems instead that it’s the untracked market of self-published\indie writers taking over to explain the supposed “decline.”

2.  I had a moment where I was worried my books had completely dried up — no sales and almost no page reads for several days in a row.  Turns out reporting was just down (or broken, in my case; I was showing a slight trickle, but only a small fraction of what I should have been getting) and page reads and sales went back to my typical numbers once it was fixed… (though it still seems a bit unstable).

3.  While I occasionally express controversial opinions on some subjects on this blog, I have a policy of never discussing anything contentious from a political or religious perspective.  (I may occasionally mention sports, but not to argue).  Occasionally, things come up I REALLY want to talk about, but… no.  Not going to say anything.  I will say, though, that I think while some people on all sides have had success bringing real-world politics into the BUSINESS and or MARKETING of their writing, but unless you’re already well-established, I think in a long-term sense it is a poor strategy for MOST writers.

4.  It’s been out for a year, so I just got my first royalty payment for Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders.  It hasn’t sold very well, so far, but it’s been well-received by those who have bought it.  Also, the period of exclusivity for my short story (novella, technically, I think) in that anthology is over, so I can publish “A Gun for Shalla” elsewhere, if I want.  Hm.  It would require its own cover, probably need to be re-formatted, etc.  I’ll think about it, but it’ll have to wait until I’m done with the next Law of Swords, first.

5.  Apparently, there’s been some kerfuffle about someone claiming a .PDF file is not an ebook.  This is foolish, because it IS an eBook, and has been an eBook format longer than any of the more common eBook formats used, today.  It’s not a great eBook format (at least, unless your eBook has certain technical requirements), and the format is far better used to prepare your print book, but that doesn’t negate the fact its an eBook.

6.  I met up for lunch, earlier today, with David Keener, a fellow author (who was also the project manager) in the aforementioned “Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders” anthology (there was someone else there, too, but I’m afraid I didn’t ever catch his name).  We criticized a few authors who are wildly more successful than we are (heh), talked some about where each of us are in our writing careers, recommended the odd book\movie\TV show or two to each other, etc.  As we were leaving, he mentioned another anthology project he was thinking of that my silly story involving the robot cook-turned-burger flipper-turned-detective (which you can find a portion of in This Book Cannot Make Any Money) might be a good fit for.  So maybe I should finish that up, at some point… but, uh, first I think I need to finish the next Law of Swords and Shieldclads novels.  At any rate, it’s nice to be able to talk shop with other authors, now and then.

7.  I’m on a particular writer’s Facebook group who is talking about setting up some sort of link-sharing for authors’ mutual book releases or something like that.  I may get involved in that, in which case I’ll be sharing some of those links on this blog… but we’ll see whether this effort actually turns into anything or not.  She just sent out the feelers for it today.

And that’s it for this week.  Tune in next weekend, same blog time (roughly), same blog URL (well, you wouldn’t call it a channel, would you?).

Titular Inspiration

This post will be one of those dreaded “status report” posts I mentioned last week; sigh.  At least there’s some actual news in this one.

I’m approaching the end of the next Law of Swords manuscript, and earlier this week I was distracted a bit by thinking about “What’s next?”

Well, what I WANT to work on is the sequel to the Kitsune Stratagem, or maybe the Rink of War novel-length expansion, but the success of The Merrimack Event has bumped the next installment of that series to “highest priority,” so that’s next in the queue.

There is still quite a bit of work I need to do before I can get started on that, however. First off, I need to finish the next Law of Swords book, and fast — my editor has an unexpected opening in his schedule, but if I don’t finish it soon I’ll have to hire someone else.  But once that’s done, I’ll have to immediately go into planning out the Shieldclads series.

I do have an outline for the next several books, but it’s been untouched for the past 13 years.  I’ve grown as a writer since then, and see lots of weaknesses in those outlines, so I think I’m just going to start over.  I’ll cannibalize those planned elements from the outlines that I THINK (13 years; I have a good long-term memory, but not THAT good) I was setting up, mind you, and I intend to keep the gist of the story each outline tells together, but I’ll need to re-do them as if from scratch.

And I’ll need a title.  Even if it’s just “Untitled Number (#N)”, I need at least a working title before I can begin.  It’ll just bug me if I don’t (and even having a working title can be a distraction).

Well, I DID need a title.  Even knowing I was going to re-do the outline, I have some idea of how the rest of the series should go.  I spent a large part of a day, this past week, working out titles for the next several books in the series… and would up coming up with a few other ideas along the way.  Each title has a historic reference which you can probably guess relates, in some way, to the book.

With that in mind, the next few Shieldclads books will (at least for now; I may re-arrange the order or change other things about them along the way) be entitled:

Book II:  The Farragut Affair

Book III:  The Casemate Incident

Book IV:  The Lissa Experience

But, as I said, I came up with some other ideas along the way.  Researching the titles themselves inspired some other ideas, which may (MAY) result in a set of short stories set in the same universe, as well.  These would be:

I.  The Gwiseon Enigma (A prequel story about earlier experiments in creating Shieldclads, named after the first-generation Korean Turtle Ships).

II.  The Keokuk Occasion (Named for the USS Keokuk, and set between The Farragut Affair and The Casemate Incident.  I’d explain this one but, uh, spoilers.

III.  The Manassas Mishap (Named for the CSS Manassas, and set during The Casemate Incident)

IV.  The Novara Farewell (named for the SMS Novara and set during The Lissa Experience).

So, that’s the big news:  I am thinking of writing a set of short stories to go with each new Shieldclads book… and I’m thinking about giving them away for FREE!  (Okay, if you’re any kind of reader of indie books at all, you probably have seen a ton of “FREE” books, and have downloaded so many that you couldn’t possibly read them all)  At least they’ll be free at first, and exclusively off of my website (FennecFoxPress.com, though with the limitations of the site my internet provider imposes, the actual downloads may need to come from somewhere on Maelgyn.com (note this blog’s URL).  That’s why my website is spread across two URLs — some features are only available on one or the other.  But that’s a technical issue I’ll resolve when I get to it, not something you need to know right now).  Then, at some point not TOO long afterwards (say, a week or two?), I’ll be uploading them to Amazon.  KDP requires a minimum of $0.99 per “book” (short story, or whatever), so I’ll then be pulling the free copies down.  So, it’ll really only be free for people who follow my blog (hi!), my newsletter, and\or my Facebook\Twitter\Etc. pages.  So… stay tuned.

I have other news, however.  My local library is hosting an “Eat Local, Read Local” event (note that the website is referring to last year’s event; they don’t have a website for this year’s, yet) and as a local author I’ve been invited to participate.  It will be held at the Cascades Library on September 29th, from 10am to 1pm, and I will be selling my print books (signing them, if you want) at the event.  I’ll present more details as we get closer to the event (and I get them, myself).

And… that’s it, for today.

Inspiration for the OTHER Parts of Writing….

I wasn’t entirely sure what to write for a blog this week. Most of the things I could think of were too involved to complete in a week, and doing yet another status report (I’m still working on the next book. I hope to have the next installment of the Law of Swords series sent off to the editor by August (I better; he has an unexpected opening in his schedule, and if I get it to him by then I may not have to find another editor for this series, after all), which should allow for it to be published by year’s end, and for me to move on to the second Shieldclads book) when I had no real news felt a little boring.

Fortunately, I was saved from having to either skip this week or do just that when a certain crowdfunding project popped up in my newsfeed and inspired this post. It is an effort, by one of the original creators, to produce the sequel to one of my favorite computer game series… from the 1980s: Starflight (well, technically, Starflight 2 was the only one I played back then). The campaign is not fully launched, yet (they’re trying to get a handle on how much funding they need), but it’s looking like a direct sequel to the originals. I haven’t had time to play an involved computer game in quite some time, however — it’s been months, I think, since I even opened a game significantly more complex than the “Reversi Free” game on my cell phone.  Despite that, I did make a small pledge to support the game, already.  The earliest it will be out is 2020 (and if they actually make that deadline, I’ll be shocked; I’ve never known a crowd-funded computer game that was delivered on time), so maybe I’ll be able to fit it into my schedule by then.

I loved those games. Some of my other favorite games from that era were the Ancient Art of War (and its sequel, the Ancient Art of War at Sea), Sid Meier’s Pirates!, Red Storm Rising (also by Sid Meier, curiously enough, but based on the Tom Clancy novel), and (squeaking in at the end of that era) the Wing Commander series.*

One thing all these games had in common: Absolutely fantastic, well-designed, well-illustrated, and heavily lore-filled… manuals (sometimes not just manuals; some games came with other material that just added to the fun of getting a boxed game edition.  Nowadays, it seems every game manual you get, even with a boxed game, is little more than what the quick start guide was back then). In the days before every lore-rich game has its own fan-compiled Wiki and computer games had their own novel series written for them (and sometimes even after they started getting their own books), the game manual would often be the definitive source of canon for the lore.

The Ancient Art of War included a complex discussion of strategy and tactics (and the differences between the two, and it included an abridged version of Sun Tzu’s original text). It’s sequel had textbook-level discussions of many of the greatest naval battles in the history of the age of sail. Sid Meier’s Pirates! had bits of humor, a discussion of the different types of ships and arms and bits of history from the era of the early colonization of the Caribbean. It explained why they programmed the ships in the game to react to wind the way they do, and they made it FUN. I learned more about the history of fighting sail from those game manuals than I EVER did in school (and later would read quite a bit more, and learned that while there were some inaccuracies, these manuals were closer to the scholarly accepted truth of these events than any account I could find in my high-school era or earlier texts, including some produced by the US Navy for JROTC). They weren’t novels, nor were they textbooks, nor were they scholarly texts. I’d hesitate to say they were even manuals (at least, compared to what most people think of when they hear the words “software manual”). But they were brilliant examples of writing. I’ve saved a couple of them until today… (I would have saved all of them, but I think the Pirates! manual fell apart from over-use).

I’d say the same was true of the Starflight manuals, and the Wing Commander manuals. These were fun, small texts, again filled with lore, and were excellent examples of worldbuilding.  The Starflight manuals opened with briefing notes on the state of the universe, before discussing the game functions in a less “in-character” way.  (Just curious — does anybody know a term for the inverse of ‘breaking the fourth wall,’ where you’re writing a non-fiction account of a fictional matter, then switch “in character” to the fiction for a moment?  Because these manuals did just that, once or twice).  They would describe the mechanics of the game, give touches of gameplay advice, and intersperse all of that with snippets of fictional “transmissions” and “captains logs” and the like, which were meant to give you clues on how to solve various puzzles throughout the game.  Then it would have an appendix with charts, illustrations, etc. regarding the materials that could be collected in game.

The Wing Commander series manuals (and, curiously, the Red Storm Rising manual) started out in similar fashion (If I recall correctly; I was able to find a copy of the original Starflight manuals online to verify my recollections, but I couldn’t with these).  Their appendices instead were more like “Janes Fighting Ships” entries, detailing the various fighters, capital ships, and equipment you could encounter throughout the game.

I won’t say these sorts of game manuals have gone away completely (I don’t buy NEARLY enough games, nowadays, to say anything of the sort; I do know the 2004 Pirates! remake had a similar style manual, but I’m coming to believe that was a rare exception), but I think a lot of what used to be in the manuals aren’t there any more.  The material’s still around, but its been moved inside the game itself, like the “books” your create-a-character can read in the Elder Scrolls games.  In some ways, this allows for even more of these worldbuilding bits to be included in the lore.  You can’t curl up in bed with them like you can a book (or a Kindle), though (don’t be pedantic and mention laptops; yes, technically, that can work, but laptops generally aren’t that good for gaming, and are harder to “curl up” with than a book).

Again, I’ve tried to keep these books around, but I think I was a bit less successful here — the Starflight 2 manual was once dropped in a bathtub (don’t ask), and I haven’t found the game manuals from the Wing Commander series since my last move.  While I had them, though, they were fun reading — sometimes, even after I stopped playing the games, I would pull them out, curl up in bed, and read these manuals just for nostalgic fun.

So what is the point of all this?  Well, as much as I was waxing nostalgic, it isn’t just to lament the long-forgotten art of computer game manuals.  It’s to talk about applying writing lessons from unexpected sources.  In this case, those old computer game manuals proved to be an excellent model of worldbuilding, for me.

Were I to do a touch of editing (and some additional reconstruction; a portion of them were lost in one of the incidents that delayed The Merrimack Event’s release, and while I reconstructed the important bits I did that a little haphazardly), the notes I wrote up for my own use in the Rink of War universe would greatly resemble the Wing Commander\Red Storm Rising\etc.-style appendices.  My outlines will sometimes include little diary entries\captains logs like you find in the Starflight manuals — things which likely won’t ever make it into the books, themselves, but which help me figure out what the characters are thinking.

You often hear people say “Inspiration comes in many forms” when it comes to story ideas, and writers often take experiences from real life to plot their books around. I’ve come up with childrens book ideas (which I’m not sure I’ll ever have time to write) just by watching the birds at our birdfeeder, myself.  I don’t think most writers think to apply the same thought process to other aspects of their writing careers, however.  When veteran book designers are giving advice to amateurs, they often say to “look at books you like” as examples to base their books around, but there are a lot of self-publishers who still have no idea how to go about formatting their books.  So how many writers would think to apply the lessons learned from game manuals from the 1980s when it comes to writing up notes for their books?

Just a thought.

*- I’d also like to mention the Sierra Classic games, which are also favorites of mine from that era and also contain lots of good examples of good worldbuilding and complex lore. Most of the best examples of the writing of those games were IN the games, not the manuals, however. Oh, and while I’m at it, I might as well mention “Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego,” which I think was the last game I bought for my old Commodore 64; I didn’t play that game for very long (I switched over to a PC not long after), but it came with a copy of a (real, unadulterated for the game) desk encyclopedia I still have and may occasionally still use now and then.

On Easter Eggs…

(I had this post in mind to write months ago, last Easter, but it wasn’t possible to write and post it back then for a variety of reasons.  Even though it’s no longer Easter, there’s no real connection beyond the name, so I figured I’d go ahead and write it now)

In 1979, a programmer for Atari, working on the game “Adventure,” was fed up with not being credited for his work. In secret, he added a feature that could be used to display his name, and never told his bosses even after he left the company. When Atari management learned of it, they considered removing the unauthorized feature, but instead decided to leave it in. Atari started adding more ‘hidden’ features for customers, calling them “Easter Eggs.”  (I pulled this bit of history entirely from the link; I’ll just assume it’s the truth and not apocryphal)  These of often fun little inside jokes, though sometimes (in software, at least) can add quite a bit of enjoyment to the game.

I like to have fun with my writing, even when writing about serious things.  Among other ways of doing so, I include ‘Easter Eggs,’ ‘Inside Jokes,’ whatever you want to call them.  Often, for me, this is in the form of ‘fantasy’ languages (for example, mid-way through In Treachery Forged, the characters partake in a Dwarven ‘Fu’Ro Bath‘), making subtle references to my other books and stories (such as when, in one draft (not the first) of The Merrimack Event‘s prologue, the archaeology expedition was digging up a building which greatly resembled the Royal Castle of Svieda; those details did not survive to the final draft, however), or giving characters certain meaningful names (like when I use one of the monuments in the city of Norre to add a expy-like tribute to the 1974 Washington Capitals season (and, in an earlier draft, to a certain Monty Python movie, but again that didn’t survive to the final version).  In my fantasy novels, many of the names I use are derived from names pulled off of international hockey rosters, and the Washington Capitals have long been my favorite team (WE GOT THE CUP! Uh… sorry; it’s been weeks and I’m still quite happy about that one).  Their inaugural season, in 1974, was an exercise in futility, however).

The difference between an inside joke and an ‘easter egg’ (at least, in this context) is that an easter egg is hidden away, but could be recognized if you know to look for it.  Most of the jokes mentioned above?  I try not to give any indication that they’re jokes, when seen in context, but it might be obvious to people in the know.  If you know Japanese, the ‘Fu’Ro bath’ was probably pretty obvious.  The archaeological dig’s discoveries might have been a bit obvious to my regular readers, if that scene had survived intact.  I’m not so sure casual fans of the Washington Capitals would recognize that particular tribute, but someone who was particularly knowledgeable on the team’s history might see it an go “wait, what?”

The trouble comes with what happens if you want your Easter Egg to refer to one thing, but readers might think it refers to something else.  I really, really wanted to name a character of a recently-written scene Ubleck the Unbreakable, who would have had an odd fondness for certain types of custard-like puddings, but would readers (those who recognized the reference, anyway) think of the non-newtonian fluid, or the Dr. Seuss book it was named after?  Or would people recognize the reference at all?  Does it even matter?

Well, sadly, Ubleck the Unbreakable will NOT be appearing in the next Law of Swords book — I’ve already cut the character and merged his role in with someone else’s, so the pudding fiend will be saved for another time… perhaps.  But at least he reminded me of something I wanted to blog about, so there is that.

Well, that was fast…

When I wrote last weekend’s post, I was thinking the decision of which convention I would attend would be a long way off. Libertycon had just ended, and there’s no way to apply to be an “attending professional” (or even to buy tickets to attend as a fan) for Dragoncon 2019 until Dragoncon 2018 happens in September.

But Libertycon was quick to start selling badges for their 2019 convention.  And Libertycon has a limited attendance (of 750 people, which includes staff and guests).

Now, the EARLIEST Libertycon has ever sold out, in previous years, was March (for a show that has usually been in late June or early July).

At about noon, ET, on the day that badges for Libertycon 2019 were first offered (July 4th), I heard that there were under a hundred badges left available, and they were going fast.  So, instead of waiting until September at the earliest (as I’d planned), I had to decide which conference I’d be going to right then.  And, well, I just barely managed to pick Libertycon before all the tickets sold out.  Libertycon’s Facebook page says that it took 5 hrs, 52 minutes and 50 seconds to go from just going on sale to selling the last badge.

I suspect there are a number of factors going into why Libertycon sold out so much faster than usual (Such as:  There is a new hotel hosting it, announced during the closing ceremonies; the hotel they were at this year was a placeholder while that one was undergoing renovations and the hotel before it was widely hated.  There was apparently a new method of ticket-purchasing that made the early “run” on tickets more visible, so where in the past the initial wave of sales would peter out at about 1/4-1/3 of the available tickets on the first day, and then all the rest of the tickets would be sold at a much slower pace over the course of the rest of the year, this time people SAW the initial rush and panic-bought (sort of like I did).  There was a date change, for this year only, moving it back a month and into a time that might be more convenient for some people.  And so on).  Regardless, I managed to get a ticket before it sold out.

At this point, I haven’t gotten a hotel room (I usually never buy a badge for a convention until after I’ve secured a room, but the hotel the convention is hosted at is under renovation, and rooms cannot be reserved until September, at the earliest).  I don’t know whether I’ll drive or fly (confession time:  I’ve never flown in a plane, before; a balloon, yes, as a kid, but never a plane.  I’m thinking of changing that for this trip; however, I can’t even book a flight, yet, because the dates are a touch too far out), though I know I won’t be taking the train (despite there being a famous train museum in Chattanooga, I could not find any train rides that go there from where I live).  Meanwhile, according to Google Maps, it’s an eight to ten+ hour drive.  The most I’m comfortable driving on my own in a stretch is five hours, and at present it looks like I’ll be going by myself, so that would probably make it a two day trip (though if another person were going along, we could take “shifts” in the driver’s seat and probably make it in a day).  Or I could (as one person suggested) take the auto-train to Atlanta, and then drive the rest of the way… though that might take longer than either of the other two options.

As far as other considerations go, it’s far too early to worry about anything else.  I suppose I could try and apply to convert my badge over to a guest badge at some point, but I think it’s a good idea to attend a convention as a fan at least once before applying to be a guest there.  Maybe I could get a table in Author Alley?  Although that would require bringing books with me (which, if I fly, might be problematic), and I still haven’t attempted an Author Alley-type of sale at one of my more local and familiar cons.  We’ll see, I guess.

But, at least for right now, it looks as if I’ll be going to Libertycon next year.

I’d better finish my next book so I can afford to pay for it all, then.  (And if you want to help, you can always buy one of my books).

Deciding on Conventions…

(Once again, I’m a day late posting my blog.  It seems I’m always doing this, nowadays — I’d make the switch from (ir)regular Sunday postings to (ir)regular Monday postings official, but then I’d probably not get them out until Tuesdays!)

Libertycon (the science fiction convention, not the political one of the same name) was this past weekend. Much of my Facebook feed these past few days has been all about it (coincidentally, I’m sure. It has nothing to do with the fact that many of my Facebook friends are authors, and almost all of the Facebook groups I’m a part of are writing or sci-fi\fantasy related).

It’s been fun watching everything that’s been going on. There’ve been pictures of interesting panels galore, stuffed manatees and mastadons, and even a dancing cow. (No joke — an author was selling her books by agreeing to dance around in a cow onesie for thirty seconds to a minute (depending on product) each time someone bought one of her books).

I have never been to Libertycon.  I’ve wanted to go (precisely BECAUSE so many of my Facebook friends are regulars, there), but every year I’ve tried to budget for it, I’ve had something major stop me — for example, an air conditioner failing at just the wrong time, forcing me to instead spend that budget on a replacement air conditioner rather than a convention (it’s 100 degrees outside, as I’m typing this, so I REALLY hope that doesn’t happen again, any time soon.  As it is, the AC is barely keeping up).

I’m still hoping to be invited back to Ravencon as a guest in 2019, but after seeing all the Libertycon-related posts I thought I might try, one more time, to go there as well next year, even if I can’t go as a guest.

I felt much the same, last September, when Dragoncon was happening and so many of the same people (and then some!) were attending.  Unlike Libertycon, I’ve been to Dragoncon before (once).  It’s utterly massive, and while quite fun it’s also a lot of work, even if you’re just attending (as I was).  I generally prefer smaller conventions, and it can be a bit overwhelming, but at the very least there was no lacking of things to do the one time I went.

While it’s too late for 2018, I was thinking of applying to be an “Attending Professional” (what many smaller conventions call a guest) of Dragoncon in 2019.  If accepted, it would be a big step in my career — the largest con I’ll have been a guest (or “attending professional”) at, and the first “non-local” convention I’ll have guested at.  Assuming they accept my application, that is.

The thing is, Libertycon is a small con, like I prefer (they have an attendance cap to ensure that).  I’d probably have a lot more fun there than I’d have at Dragoncon (though it’s not as if going to Dragoncon would be a huge burden — I’m sure I’d enjoy attending there, as well).  It’s a more social event — I’d probably be able to do more socializing than I have since a couple years before I published “In Treachery Forged.”  Just attending such an event (even not being a guest) would probably be pretty good for business.

I can only manage two to three conventions a year, and I’m already planning on Ravencon next year.  Due to the efforts and costs of traveling, I’ve only got the budget and time for just one of those two events, not both.  Assuming I go to either, that is — I could stick to just one convention next year, or try for somewhere more local where I have a better shot at getting a guest slot.

Decisions, decisions….