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The most dangerous opponents

I’ve practiced various martial arts for most of my life.  I don’t claim to be a master, by any means, but you don’t spend this much time at something without picking up a few pearls of wisdom.  Here’s one of mine: new students are far more dangerous to spar with than any black belt.  8)

Maybe I should amend that statement to say “allowing yourself to treat an opponent as a new student” is what is dangerous.  The process used often entails … (more)


On March 18th, “BigAl” of “BigAlsbooksandPals” reviewed a novel by Jacqueline Howett  on and gave it a two star rating.  Ironically enough, his review was relatively complimentary.  He said her story was “compelling and interesting”, but “spelling and grammar errors, … come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant.”

Not willing to let the review go, Ms. Howett went after the reviewer on his own blog and absolutely lost her mind!  Over the next ten days, her rantings pretty much proved his point, as they were full of the same kind of misspellings and punctuation errors.  Almost immediately BigAl’s blog, his review, and Ms. Howett’s ravings went viral through Twitter and then to various writing websites.  It has been hailed as the ultimate in how NOT to react to a poor book review and was so bad that the poor woman will likely never be able to sell another thing under her own name.

Poor woman.  It almost made me feel sorry for her.


Back in the saddle

I’ve been languishing a bit with regards to my writing. I’m in unfamiliar territory here, having completed edits on my novel and now turned it over to my beta readers. That means I have nothing to do on that particular project except wait on notes from them in preparation for the next (and hopefully final) round of edits. Common sense tells me I need to be working on my next project, but I’ve been wishy-washy on determining what that next project should be.

I pretty quickly narrowed it down to one of three that I’m working on –

Behind door number one is Soul Eater. This one is trying to mold itself into a paranormal romance, and I’m not really sure I have the chops with regards to that sub-genre to pull it off. I can possibly rework the story line to bring it in line with more of a mainstream macabre vampire tale, but there’s no denying the very strong romantic angle in this one. As a matter of fact, the romantic angle is vital to the plot of the story.

Door number two contains Streets of Payne, the cyberpunk serialization I was working on before Rebel Tales went belly up. I have 40k words invested in this one, but it’s formatted as a serial, and I think the only way to salvage it is to rework it into a novel (or possibly even a series of novels).  The thing is, that means throwing a lot of it out and reworking the story lines. I know I can do it, but it also means wrapping my mind around a totally new way of looking at a story that I invested a few months into already, and pretty much throwing those months out the window. I know it needs to be done, but I still find myself reluctant to take the plunge.  😦

And behind door number three is Warrior Clan, a relatively new story that I came up with a year or so back. I came up with the idea, did a LOT of research, wrote the opening scene, and then shelved it for later. It has the potential to evolve into a trilogy, but it’s also going to require constant research due to the military nature of some of the story elements.  As I have it currently envisioned, it looks to be a military SF novel based in the near future in which Earth is caught between two alien cultures at war with one another and should encompass a lot of military tech, as well as quite a bit of UFOlogy.

My first thought was to get Soul Eater going again, but I almost immediately hit a wall. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get the story working in my head again. I have the thing outlined, and know the various plot points that I need to work towards, but when I opened the damned thing up it just laughed at me. Last night I broke through the freaking wall.

Well… that’s not entirely true. It’s more like I went around the wall. You see, I was having a real problem with a particular scene transition and couldn’t for the life of me get through it. Finally it occurred to me that if the scene didn’t work for me, then it probably wouldn’t work for the reader either. So I girded
my loins, picked up my sword, and slashed a few thousand words of useless prose.  Then wrote a quick paragraph to cover that transition (with notes to myself to come back and fix it later), and picked up with the next scene. The next thing I knew, I was twelve hundred words into a fun verbal sparring match between my protagonist and a minor antagonist.

It still needs a lot of work, to be sure, but it was FUN! 😀 More importantly, it freed me up to make some real progress in the book.  Now I see some more of what needs to be written and it looks like the story may start moving again.

Hooray for progress!

Boxing drills are evil!

Boxing drills are evil! I’ve missed a lot of classes lately, and jumped back into it last night. Lucky me, I was the only one in class, so my instructor decided to mix class up a bit. We did a lot of basic knife & puño drills, then mixed them in with some empty hand and hubud. Once I had a basic grasp… (More)

Yep.  Another part of the marketing plan.  Time to find a site to host a real web site.  I’ll need to find something that allows me to build off of this blog, letting me add more as my writing developes.  Eventually, I hope to have a site where folks can:

1. Read the blog (if they’re crazy enough to want to).

2. Download audio podcasts of my writing (if they’re crazy enough to want to).

3. Interact with myself and each other (forum?).

4. Link to the Amazon site that I don’t have yet.  (Hey, I did say eventually!)

That all means that I need to have a site that will allow me to blog, upload and download files via ftp, store said files for an undetermined amount of time, install various widgets such as progress bars and book cover carousels, set up a secure sales point.

It all sounds a little daunting, quite honestly.  But I figure if I start now, I can start small and build it a little at a time.  It’s not like I’m about to start posting podiobooks or selling e-books tomorrow.  I just want to make sure I get a host that can support me when I do get to that point.  After all, why start a site now with a host that can’t handle my plans for the future?

In my initial (uneducated) research, I’m looking at GoDaddy’s “Ultimate” plan for three years.  It comes to roughly $250 for three years of unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, 1000 email accounts (though I’m not sure why I would need 1000 email addresses), and a free SSL certificate.  Plenty of research still to do, and I realize I have a lot to learn.

On a related note, after talking with a few new authors, and working as I do in the computer field, I think I’ve decided to begin writing under a pseudonym.  I’ve discussed with the family and together, we’ve chosen a nom de plume.  I’ve checked, and as of this morning, the name is available for domain registration.  Guess that adds another wrinkle to my writing life.  🙂

Just what I need, more complications.  Better that, though, than some of the worries I heard about from some other writers who are beginning to gain some success.  Had one guy who had received some frighteningly “innocent” emails from a fan who sounded more like a serial killer, and another who had been sent a bottle of his favorite scotch from a fan who managed to track down his home address through clues he found on the internet.

That, coupled with some of the things I already know from working in the field, makes me think it’s probably a good idea to take on a disguise.  I guess that also means that “Sm1ley” will have to change some of his blogging habits in the near future.  I may even go so far as to drop this blog completely, and pick up the new persona instead.  I haven’t really thought it all the way through, so I don’t know if I’ll have to go that far.  If I do though, and if I want to do it for security’s sake, then I have to make sure this new persona is completely disassociated with my real name and with Sm1ley, since the two can easily be linked with minimal research.

I guess it sounds a little paranoid, but I don’t want to do anything that could cause any additional worry for friends or family.

Conjour is over

Conjour was a lot of fun.  Even though it was billed as a SF/F/H convention, the way the panels were laid out, I was able to select my own “track” and concentrate on the ones specifically geared for writers.  Panels I attended were: Mining Ideas from Myth and Folklore, Character Development 1, A private reading and discussion by Paul Cooley, Character Development 2, Plot Development 2, Podcasting, Critiquing for Others, Revising Your Work, and Publishing.  I missed the first day, and it turns out that I missed another writing panel on I had intended to attend (Writing 101), but it was from 9:00 to 10:00 PM & I was just too beat to hit one that late – especially considering the hour-long drive I had to get back home.

One of the highlights for me was meeting Paul Elard Cooley, a local horror writer and podcaster.  He was pleasant and down to earth.  Gave me hope, seeing one of the good guys making it.  Oh, and speaking of “it”, here’s a picture of Paul clowning around.

And by the way Paul – the pony tail goes in back.  🙂

Since I’m looking at podcasting my novel, I took the opportunity to talk to Paul and Dead Robots Society co-host, Terry Mixon to glean what I could from those who have gone on before me.  There was a really informative panel on the subject that I attended on Sunday also.  It was hosted, of course, by Paul and Terry, along with author and podcaster Jody Lynn Nye (her profile lists her as the author of more than forty books, including collaborations with Ann McCaffrey and Robert Asprin).  It was a really informative panel.  Topics they covered included the equipment they used, software, and techniques for using them.  There was also a bit of general advice regarding voicing characters and protecting your voice while doing so (something I hadn’t considered).

  I should mention that this panel seemed to have the most active question and answer section of all the panels I attended.  Seemed we all wanted to know something more about podcasting.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time before the panelists were able to get to all our questions.  One of the main topics I wanted to find out about was licensing, and it was of course, one of the things they didn’t have time to get to.  I guess I’ll have to contact Terry on The Dead Robots Society forum for more information when I get ready to go forward on that aspect.  I need to get a better understanding of the differences between copyrighting and creative commons licensing.  Still, for now there’s no need getting ahead of myself.

     Besides the writing “track”, there were of course the typical SciFi, Fantasy, and Horror fan activities.  One of the most interesting groups to me were the Steampunk folks.  I find steampunk really fascinating, and wish I still had access to a machine shop.  Some of the items they had were things I could have whipped out pretty easily back in the days when I had a Bridgeport mill available to me.I saw several folks in really intricate steampunk costumes, and would love to try my hand at creating some of the accoutrements that many of them sported.  A particular item that caught my attention was a “rifle” that one of the dealer tables had for sale. 

If I heard correctly, the thing was going for $2500!  

It sported an after-market paintball gunbarrell, brass gears and fittings, wooden stocks, a bipod, some lights and other electrical doodads.  It really looked cool, but I hope I heard the price wrong.  It was nice, but I don’t know if it’s $2500 worth of nice.  Maybe the maker doesn’t really want to sell it and is pricing high to keep it? 

Who knows?  All I can say is it gave me several ideas on how to make similar devices.

All in all, Conjour 3 was a blast, and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in any aspect of SF/F/H or gaming, from writing to participating.

Attending Conjour today

Today, I’m attending a local SF/F convention at the University of Houston – Clear Lake called Conjour. It is a small con, nothing like the ones I used to attend a few decades ago, but they have some surprisingly good and high quality speakers for a convention this small.  Sat in and recorded a panel earlier called “Mining Ideas from Myth and Folklore”.  It was moderated by Patricia “P. L.” Blair, and speakers were: Bill Fawcett, Michael (Mickey) Finn, Robert Stickmanz, Beverly Hale, and Lou Antonelli.

The panel was informative and a lot of fun, and I can only hope the recording turned out all right.  If so, I’ll pass it on to the guys at The Dead Robots Society to podcast if they want.  Going to go now.  Probably grab a bite for lunch before the 1:00 panel on “Character Development”.

Finally!  I finished my first rewrite of Phoenix Rising, bringing it down from just over 130K words to just over 115K.  I may be able to bring it down some more, but I’m not really sure I want to at this stage of the game.  Yes, I need to give it another editing pass or two, but I’m less concerned about the word count than I was.  After all, the advice I was following (“new writers should keep their word counts under 100K”) was geared toward the old publishing industry model.  And while I’m not under any illusions that the old brick and mortar model is about to disappear, it is no longer the only game in town.

There is a growing and thriving community of indy writers and self publishers that are actually making money with their work, and I’m leaning more and more towards the idea of joining them.  No, I’ll never be a famous “household name” author like Steele, or King, but a decent writer has a decent chance these days of getting their work out to share with others, and maybe making a bit of spending money at the same time.  🙂

Last Christmas my kids all got together and bought me a Kindle 3 Wireless.  Let me start by saying, if you want an e-reader, and are trying to determine which one to get – I love mine.  I have since read reviews comparing the Kindle, Nook, and Nook color – and the Kindle 3 blows the others out of the water.  Kindle 3 has four weeks of battery life (with wireless turned off) compared to ten days on the Nook, and eight hours for the Nook color!  It also has 4GB storage compared to Nook’s 2GB.  In theory, that allows the Kindle 3 room for more than 3000 novels.  I currently have eight or nine titles on mine (including a PDF copy of my own novel) and it barely registers that there is anything stored on it.

I also love the fact that the buttons to turn the page are so freaking quiet!  Since I’m about to begin recording my novel for podcast, that’s a huge advantage.  I have taken the advice of so many podcasters before me, and have set up a small recording area in the guest room closet that has a mattress and some clothes to act as sound buffers.  In a few practice sessions, the main problems I have run into is the sensitivity of the Zoom H2 mic.  You see, attempting to read in front of the computer picks up the sound of the fans and hard drive.  Granted, in the case of the hard drive, it was an unusual thing.  For some reason, the TB drive on the system I recently built out as a replacement for my trusty old Dimension has a knock in it that you don’t notice at first.  But when listening to a recording made while sitting in front of it, it sounded like a faint tapping on the water pipes.  It took me several sessions to figure out that it was the hard drive.

But I digress.  🙂

Like I said, to get away from the computer sounds I’ve taken to recording in the guest room closet.  The sensitive H2 picks up all sorts of background noise. The closet eliminates most of them, but I have found that I still catch the occasional rattle of paper, since I have been reading off of printed pages.  Using the Kindle should eliminate that.

I haven’t tried it yet, as I am still working on edits for the novel, but I’m looking forward to the experiment.  I anticipate great success.

What have I been waiting for?

Watch out.  More angst-y, emo, soul-searching follows.  🙂

With the untimely death of Rebel Tales I have spent several days now deep in thought with regards to my “Plan” for my writing.  You see, there has actually been this nebulous plan in the back of my mind.  It goes something like this….

I get a few short story credits under my belt.  These will serve the purpose of presenting the first hints of my “brand” out there in the writing community.  At the same time, I continue work on Streets of Payne and (hopefully) get it published in Rebel Tales, continuing my inroads into the writing world.  You see, at that point, I am no longer “just” an aspiring writer.  I would then become a serialized author with a regularly featured story in a bi-monthly e-zine.  

While all this is going on, I also would continue work on “Soul Eater” and finish at least the first draft on it.  I would then be poised to enter the writing world with some established short story credits, and not one, but two novels that I can podcast and use as a launching point into the sights of some agent and/or (again hopefully) a small press or mid list publishing house.

Yeah, that was “The Plan”.  🙂

But with this latest setback, I have taken some time to re-evaluate, and it occurs to me that “The Plan” requires considerable time and a fair amount of kismet.  The first is a commodity that I have very little of these days, and the second is something over which I have little to no control.  In addition to that, part of “The Plan” is also dependent on a trend that is now so popular that it is rapidly becoming blasé – podcasting.

It is now pretty common for aspiring authors to podcast their work, sacrificing the “first audio” rights, in order to get their brand established in the public eye.  The idea of course, is to parlay that name recognition in hopes that getting several thousand followers to the podiobook version of the novel will impress potential agents and publishers enough to invest in you as a writer.  It works.  Scott Sigler has proven it.  Philippa Ballentine has proven it.  P.G. Hollifield has proven it.  Many others have proven it.

But the numbers are beginning to come in and in most cases, the podiobook to written book sales figures don’t support the model.  It seems that even those podcasters with thousands of followers to the audio version, have trouble translating those numbers into paying customers for the brick and mortar houses.  There are simply too many problems when it comes to combining the two marketing styles.

While there is little doubt that the potential payoff for selling through traditional publishing is considerably better, the reality seems to be that it is still mostly just a potential.  Unless you are one of those lucky lottery winners like JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer, it is still just as unlikely as ever that you will “make it big” with traditional publishing. 

However, all hope is not lost.  Whether or not you believe that traditional publishing is in its final days, it is impossible to deny the fact that electronic publishing is on the rise.  New authors are now blazing the way in this new field, and are actually making a decent wage doing so.  While the traditional publishing model requires that you bow to an antiquated regime of publishing houses, waiting for them to decide the fate of your work, and hopefully put it into brick and mortar stores within a year or so, all while promising you a single digit percentage of the sales, the new model allows enterprising new writers to embrace their entrepreneurial spirits and bypass the old model completely.  Today, one can write their stories and go to Lulu, or Smashwords, or any of several other self publishing sites, sell their work for less, and make a much higher percentage of the take.

These are no longer the once shunned “vanity” press sites that plagued new writers in the nineties.  They are legitimate sites that allow you to publish in multiple venues at once, and offer you the ability to choose your markets, publishing methods, and offer services such as editing, cover art development, and even filing for your ISBN.  So far, Smashwords seems to have a slight edge in offerings to the aspiring writer, as they appear to be the only one able to offer a single ISBN that can be used in e-publishing, print, and audio.

New authors are now appearing all the time, publishing their works through Kindle and Barnes & Noble e-book services. New authors who, despite not being listed on the New York Times Best Sellers list, are in some cases actually outselling authors who are.  As a matter of fact, as of February 10th, NYTBS finally began listing e-books.  They still refuse to list independent publishers, but it’s a step.  I find it interesting to note that the Amanda Hocking novel “Switched” has been in the top 100 on the Kindle paid bestseller list for 89 days now.  But she isn’t listed on NYTBS.

Because she’s an indie.

So I’m throwing out “The Plan”.  The “New Plan” is going to be more like this….

Get going with what I have already written.  Quit waiting for the elusive “right time” to begin my marketing campaign.  Finish editing and podcast “Phoenix Rising” (although it looks like I’m going to have to change the name now, since Philippa Ballentine is now publishing her new novel, “Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel”).  Still, podcast it, get the damned thing into Smashwords.  From there, format it for Kindle, B&N, i-Phone, etc.

In short, I need to get my ass in gear.  Quit trying to come up with some grand marketing plan that will boost me into the game, and just step on the first rung of the freaking ladder.

I plan to begin work on the podcast by the end of next month.