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The Empire Strikes Back (Episode VI): The 2nd Date
Star Wars (Episode IV): The 1st Date
OMG. She's amazing. She like drives super fast spaceships, she wields swords made of light, she's adventurous and yeah, she whines a bit about her farm background and "getting off this boring" planet, but everything she says and does is so new and exciting. I love her wild hair! She's the type who shoots first. She even makes getting her trash compactor fixed sound sooo interesting. And at the end of the meal: Wow! Wow! Wow! Everything just explodes and she gives me a "First Date" medal. I am totally going to see her again.
All the potential of the first date is realized and then some! She is deeper and more interesting than I thought. She likes snow vacations, but would dive into a swamp for adventure (heck she even once scooped out the innards of a large animal to survive the cold--now that's hard core). She knows even more groovy zen things and martial arts. Yeah, she has some father issues, but that just makes her sooo much more interesting. When the date ends it feels unfinished. She just leaves me wanting more. I HAVE to see her again. We are SO going to go steady. We might even get married.The Return of the Jedi (Episode VII): The 3rd Date
It starts off like the first date all over again. Excitement! Action! She rescues the conversation when some rather sizeable fellow stumbles into our table. Then things get a little weird. Her friend who she almost dated is really her brother. She spends the last twenty minutes of the date talking about her cute stuffed pets and concocts an unbelievable story about how they could take on an army and win. Yeah right! But then things explode with excitement (again) at the end of the date--alas it's not as cool as last time. She still looks great though. I'm sure that was just a lull. I'm gonna move in with her.The Phantom Menace (Episode 1): Going Steady
Okay. We're living together. Finally! It's been a long wait. But then she starts talking about politics and trade taxation and everyone she mentions has a hard to remember name. And she buys about ten thousand of those robot vacuum cleaners and makes them fight each other. Boring! Then her cousin, JJB, keeps hanging out at our apartment. I can't understand a word he says. Like who invited him? She gets a little spacey at times and talks more Taoist philosophy and about the virgin birth of her father. Huh? I tell myself be patient. Every relationship has its rough patch.Attack of the Clones (Episode 2): The What? Moment
It's really hard to remember that first date now. We just sit at home in our apartment in our sweats. She's still talking and talking about politics and voting and clones and plots against her life ...you know I can't pay attention. The robot vacuums fight each other again. At least her cousin isn't hanging around. She just can't stop talking about her dad having to marry her mom in secret. It would be interesting if I wasn't already so bored. I'm starting to look at other women...there's a cute one with pointed ears who catches my eye. I don't do anything about it, though.Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3): The Breakup
I am so tired of hearing about her past. It's completely, mind-numbingly boring. I think she's joining a republic. Apparently her dad didn't get some promotion he wanted and he went all wacko. What a suck! I look at her and think: can't we just go on one more high speed chase in space? Please? Or swing across a chasm with stormtroopers shooting at us? But no, she is so full of angst and hatred. I guess her mom died giving birth to her. Sad. She starts wearing black armour. At first, I thought, "kinky." But now it just freaks me out...plus she has a bit of a skin condition and all her hair falls out. And she rasps everything she says. Everything.
I move out. I'm never coming back. Ever.
I don't see her for years and years.
Then I hear that she changed her hairstylist and she wants to get back in touch with me. Yeah, sure. Maybe I'll see you again, darling--just don't bring your cousin.Arthur Slade
is the author of seventeen bestselling novels for young adults and the soon-to-be released graphic novel Modo: Ember's End
Okay, it's hard to put "referral" in the title of a blog and make it exciting.
How about this: whoever refers the most people to our Modo: Ember's End
page on indiegogo.com will receive a page of original art from the comic book. A collector's item that is only available at the $150.00 "perk" level. You could win it shipped directly to your door by steampunk storks.
All you have to do is sign up at indiegogo.com
and click on our campaign page
. You'll see something like the image below:
From there you just hit the "tweet" or "like" or any of the other "share" buttons. Indiegogo will do the rest (alas you do have to sign up with indiegogo
before you share the campaign because that's the only way we can track who has done the referring...but hey, you don't have to buy anything). The more people you refer to our campaign the better your chance of winning (at this point the highest referrer is at 12 people referred).
It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway--Chris Steininger and I are really thankful for all the word of mouth that is going on with this campaign. And this is a concrete way to reward one of you for that help.
I love comics! And I've always wanted to do a graphic novel inspired by The Hunchback Assignments
series. So I'm kicking off the Indiegogo campaign for Modo: Ember's End.
It's a stand-alone graphic novel that takes place in the wild west--72 pages of fabulous full colour in hardcover. This is going to be one beautiful collector's item!
The artwork is done by the awesome Christopher Steininger
, who did the Canadian covers for the novels (and has been working in the comics industry for years now). He's chomping at the bit to get to work! Please drop by the campaign page
and check out his artwork. And feel free to leave a comment, too. We'd love to hear your opinion. And if you want to help out, please share this information with your own networks. Every little bit counts.
The story takes place in Ember's End, a wild west town built by a mad scientist. Intriguing? Well wait until you meet his beguiling daughter. And then there's the ruthless mercenary Ogden Bull who has come to town searching for a device that will either end all wars...or start them. Oh, and did I mention that there'll be a steampunk ninja? Modo is going to have his hands full.
As you can tell I'm excited about this project. So excited I feel like shouting out expressions like, "this is root-tootin' fun!" But, um, that would be very unclassy.
For those of you unfamiliar with indiegogo.com, it's a crowdsource fundraising website. What that means is that people fund a project before it's created. It's a way of supporting some of your favourite artists and of getting a collectible item out of the deal. We've added some real sweet deals to the pot.
It's great to dive back into the world of Modo and Octavia, especially in this format.
Cheers and all that jazz!Art
What? Where did those two years go? Back in February 5th of 2011 I launched my novel DUST as an ebook (for sale in the US and UK, because those are the countries where I owned the rights myself).
Those were heady days! But I've blogged about them on previous occasions, so I won't retread that ground. Just start reading from the beginning
or skip ahead to the amazing 1 1/2 year report.
Well not much has changed in the last six months. Overall I've sold 8406 copies of my ebooks. Last year that grossed me around $6000. That's like sixty iPods! I could wear them as an iPod suit. Anyway, I expect my ebook income to drop this year. Why? Because as I've noted before there has been a downward trend in my sales since my last report. Here's an amazing graphic to show that...
Hey, that number in the bottom keeps going down each month. 249 copies seven months ago. 53 copies sold last month. I do think there is much more competition out there now and that there was a big blitz on sales while everyone and their pet got an eReader then filled it up. And the drop in sales is also because of the algorithmic changes Amazon made to how they weight the price of books on the sales chart (if you sell a 9.99 book, it'll jump higher up the sales chart than a .99 cent book). It became harder for my books to climb the charts and get noticed by buyers.
Yet, I'm happy with the sales. It's still passive income for me that will go on as long as there are eReaders in the world. I really don't do much extra work to earn that income. And I'm very much a less work for more money kind of guy! Art
As a public service I'll attach these clickable links to my books, including the two "grown up" books I've published under the name Stephen Shea. If a book isn't available in your area as an ebook, it's because I'm still negotiating the erights for that book. So sorry for any confusion.
There is a relationship that develops between the reader and the writer, or more specifically, the reader and the writer's words. How you treat the reader and this relationship is one of the most important decisions you can make as a writer. Do you trust in your own work? In how it will be received and interpreted? Or do you feel that you have to lay out every single detail. Often if you don't trust in your words you'll end up writing dialogue like this
He gently ran his fingers across the marble tabletop. "That's a gorgeous table," he said, happily.
What this sort of adverbial description shows is that you don't quite trust the reader to receive the message so you tell them exactly what is happening. But it's important to remember that this is a give and take relationship and that the reader is paying very close attention to what you're writing. So instead you could create the scene this way
He gently ran his fingers across the marble tabletop. "That's a gorgeous table," he said.
Only the word happily has been dropped from the scene. But because of that, the reader does the work. They assume that the "gorgeous" statement is made in a positive manner. They know this because h gently ran his fingers across the table. It indicates what his feelings are about the table.
As the writer one aspect of your job is to get the reader to do much of the work. It's the perfect relationship that way. Yeah, you might have some heavy lifting to do, but they should be lifting along with you. Or, for that matter, if you're painting a beautiful portrait of a scene with words, let them finish the painting. Don't give them every single detail, slowing down the story. Pick the pertinent details. They will automatically create the rest of the scene
Everyone was gone, but Robert sensed a presence. At the landing he peered around the corner, saw nothing but the kitchen table, the tall, red vase by the window, and a cloth flour bag on the counter. The De Laval crea separator, with all its bowls and pipes, loomed on the cupboard like a Martian instrument of torture.
Notice that this doesn't describe the floor. But you likely pictured it because...well...kitchens have floors. Nor is the colour of the cupboard mentioned. Though you likely filled that little detail in. And by reading about a cloth flour bag on the counter your brain may have been twigged to the fact that this is written in the past
This could have easily been
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There is a relationship that develops between the reader and the writer, or more specifically, the reader and the writer's words. How you treat the reader and this relationship is one of the most important decisions you can make as a writer. Do you trust in your own work? In how it will be received and interpreted? Or do you feel that you have to lay out every single detail. Often if you don't trust in your words you'll end up writing dialogue like this </div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
</div><div style="text-align: left;">
<em>He gently ran his fingers across the marble tabletop. "That's a gorgeous table," he said, happily.</em></div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
What this sort of adverbial description shows is that you don't quite trust the reader to receive the message so you tell them exactly what is happening. But it's important to remember that this is a give and take relationship and that the reader is paying very close attention to what you're writing. So instead you could create the scene this way </div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
<em>He gently ran his fingers across the marble tabletop. "That's a gorgeous table," he said.</em></div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
Only the word <em>happily</em> has been dropped from the scene. But because of that, the reader does the work. They assume that the "gorgeous" statement is made in a positive manner. They know this because h <em>gently</em> ran his fingers across the table. It indicates what his feelings are about the table.
As the writer one aspect of your job is to get the reader to do much of the work. It's the perfect relationship that way. Yeah, you might have some heavy lifting to do, but they should be lifting along with you. Or, for that matter, if you're painting a beautiful portrait of a scene with words, let them finish the painting. Don't give them every single detail, slowing down the story. Pick the pertinent details. They will automatically create the rest of the scene </div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
<em>Everyone was gone, but Robert sensed a presence. At the landing he peered around the corner, saw nothing but the kitchen table, the tall, red vase by the window, and a cloth flour bag on the counter. The De Laval crea </em><i>separator, with all its bowls and pipes, loomed on the cupboard like a Martian instrument of torture.</i></div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
Notice that this doesn't describe the floor. But you likely pictured it because...well...kitchens have floors. Nor is the colour of the cupboard mentioned. Though you likely filled that little detail in. And by reading about a cloth flour bag on the counter your brain may have been twigged to the fact that this is written in the past </div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
This could have easily been </div>
<div style="text-align: left;" <em>Everyone was gone, but Robert sensed a presence. At the landing he peered around the corner, saw nothing but the old, tired-looking kitchen table with its fou </em><i>spindly legs, the wooden floor, the tall, red vase by the dirty window, and a grey and torn cloth flour bag on the green counter. The massive De Laval cream separator, with its three bowls and seven pipes, loomed on the cupboard like a giant and frightening Martian instrument of torture.</i></div><div style="text-align: left;">
The reader doesn't need all that extra info. Our job is to get ride of the distractions in the scene. And then we let the reader finish the painting </div>
<div style="text-align: left;">
It's their job, really </div>
<div style="text-align: left;"><a href="http://arthurslade.com/">Art</a></div>
One of the curious things about writing is that we often get to write about dead people.
By that I don't mean the living dead, or vampires (though they take up a lot of fictional space on the shelf), but real human beings who once existed. Who walked in the real world. Who were loved or hated, held or rejected. Our interactions, our love, our frustrations with the people who once breathed the same air as us cannot help but have an influence on our writing. And that influence, that presence, allows us to draw inspiration from them and to honour them (or, if they were not the most pleasant of souls, at least recreate how they walked in the world).
When a friend or a family member has lost someone dear one of the kindest gifts we can give is to say the names of the dead. Often something simple will suffice. "I remember how much Tim enjoyed laughing." Or "Shelly had a real knack for finding the right word and the right time." Why is it important to say their names? Because for those few moments for the listener it will feel as if that person is still alive. By saying a name we essentially say, "Yes, he existed--yes, she was here on this earth." It is a way of paying honour. That's why we put names on gravestones. As long as the person is named and not forgotten, in some small way that person still exists.
Writing can be another way of naming the dead. I could not have written Megiddo's Shadow, a world war one novel, without being moved by all the deaths I'd read about in my research. But I drew most of the inspiration from the death of my own great uncle Percy, who was killed a short time before the end of the war. His death still ripples across the shared memories of my family. His photograph is on the wall in my parent's home, beside the letter that was written by his sergeant to say that Percy had been killed in action. We name Percy every Remembrance day. We honour who he was. Obviously I never knew Percy since he died a long time before I was born. But we have spoken his name enough times that he is alive in my family's shared memory. It is that loss, both the imagined and real, that helped compel me to write the novel.
David, my eldest brother, was killed in a car accident in 1980. Though I never want to draw direct lines between real life and my fiction, I do know that the loss that Robert feels when his brother Matthew disappears in Dust is echoed in my experience of loss. As is the loss Edward feels when his brother Hector is killed in Megiddo's Shadow. All of that is echoed. My daughter, Tori, who died in 2008 due to complications from Leukaemia, had Down Syndrome. Her presence in my life had been one of several things that inspired me to create The Hunchback Assignments, a book with a hero who had a handicap. I don't know that I would have been able to approach that story without knowing what her world was like and how the outside world often reacts to those who have a disability. Of course, the book itself is not about her. But as writers we can't help but draw on the knowledge and experience we gain from the real world. And by this I don't mean we have to recreate the person we loved (though I did, for my own purposes, place my own version of my grandfather briefly in Megiddo's Shadow).
Of course, you never want your writing to become a rote story, a lesson to the world. We should always be loyal to the story first. Instead use that knowledge and emotion you've experienced in your loss to make the world of your writing a deeper and richer place. Take that emotion and let it be the engine of the new worlds, new characters you want to create.
We should never be afraid to name the dead.
It turns out the doomsday theorists were right. The world will end.
Not today. Or tomorrow. They just had the timing a little bit off.
In 4 to 7.9 billion years the sun will become a red giant. No, this is not a character from D&D with a thousand hit points (though that would be awesome). It means the sun will blush, turn red and slowly expand outwards as if it had just consumed 10 trillion turkeys. Speaking of consuming things, this giant red star will either consume the Earth or the Earth will be knocked to a more distant orbit. No, the Earth won't go flying around the galaxy like the moon did in Space 1999. That was a TV show.
Anyway, The good news is that we (as in humanity) won't be around on the planet to see the red giant effect. We will likely have died off long before that. Maybe in as little as 600 million to a billion years from far too much heat on the surface of our planet (unless someone invents a really great sunblock lotion).
But don't worry about that. Before any of that happens ET will phone home and call in the flying saucer cavalry and save us all.
Meanwhile, wear a hat on sunny days.Art
Ideas come from odd places. And the idea of having a shapeshifting hunchback as a main character was a doozy (that’s an official writing term, btw). I had been wanting to write a series inspired by the Victorian age and had been toying with a Sherlock Holmes-type character. Since I happened to be reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the same time, I thought, “Why not combine the two by turning the hunchback into a Victorian detective?” There was something fun and intriguing about mashing those stories together. And so Modo was born.
But, I soon realized that I had a big problem. If the hunchback was a detective then any time he walked into a room people would recognize him. Murderers and thieves would run away, never to be caught. So I had to find a way around this problem. Disguises would work, except it would be hard for him to disguise his body. So then the idea dropped into my head, “Why not give him the ability to shift his shape?”
This solved several problems at once. No one would recognize him because he could take any shape that he wanted. I decided that there would be time limits on how long he could be in that shape, thus creating more drama. I could explain it all as an evolutionary trait, a very Victorian idea. And, of course, there would be that Beauty and the Beast thing...except he would be able to become the beauty for a short time before returning to his hunchbacked state. This created one very important question for me to explore: would he someday be able to stay in a more pleasing shape or would he learn to accept who he was and not care about how the world saw him? It is the overarching question of the series.
This shapechanging ability meant that I could insert Modo into a variety of situations and his own friends and, more importantly, the reader wouldn’t recognize him until he was revealed. So it added an extra sense of intrigue. That was the fun part. The difficult part was always finding a new thing for him to do with these abilities. After all if he kept imitating the same people over and over again, that would become boring. I also soon realized that it would be best to turn him into a secret agent. There would be far more interesting situations for him to explore.
My research was mostly in my own head. But I was concerned about having a plausible scientific reason for his ability and so researched the variety of fish, chameleons, and insects that easily change their colour or even their shape to fool predators. It was a much longer list than I’d realized.
In the end it has been a grand adventure. I’m so thankful that the idea came to me out of the ether or out of the blue or from within the pages of Sherlock and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Now that I think of it, ideas are the real shapechangers--always changing their shape until they take a form that an author can use to create a story. Art
This post was previously posted on http://mochalattereads.blogspot.com/
Over a year and a half ago I released my collection of short stories as an ebook under the title SHADES: Sixteen Startling Stories
Here's the original cover:
I designed the cover myself and thought it was serviceable, but not really eye catching. After all this time, I decided I'd revamp the book with a brand new look. Here's the cover by artist Carl Graves
It's a far more powerful cover. The character on the front reminds me of the woman in the short story titled Fairytale. And, as you can see, I've changed the subtitle to: Tales of Fear and Wonder. I find that a more interesting subtitle.
So this is the official reboot of the book! Let's see if it grows new wings, or legs, or...whatever it is that books grow.
Here Ye! Here Ye! The United States of America (formally known as that place with all those colonies and such) has just opened its gates and its ports and its mailboxes to the fourth and final novel in The Hunchback Assignments series: The Island of Doom!*
Yes, that's my long winded way of saying that today is the official release day of the novel in America. Here's the cover:
|"IS that the Island of DOOOOOOOM?"|Here's the official description: After previous assignments in London, the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Australian rain forest, this final adventure in the Hunchback Assignments series finds our hero, shape-shifting, masked spy Modo, on his most personal quest. Along with fellow spy Octavia Milkweed, they search for Modo's biological parents. But when the Clockwork Guild find Modo's parents first, Octavia and Modo chase them across Europe and North America to the Island of Doom. Joined by memorable characters from the first three books--some loveable, and some who are terrifying and evil--Modo and Octavia dash towards a thrilling conclusion.
Here are the accolades. Err, well accolade (this is the only review so far--ahem--of course the book is only a day old): "By turns touching and pulse-pounding, this conclusion will leave fans fully satisfied." Kirkus Reviews
And here's what all the books look like together. One big happy family!
It is so very odd to be done this series. What will I do with my time now? And all my steampunk outfits? I'll figure out something.
I'm very proud of how the whole story turned out. And--sniff--and now they're all grown up and out there in the world. Have fun with them America! Watch out for Hakkandottir!
P.S. Yes, the series is over. It's done. Sorry that it had to end. I won't be writing another one, alas...well, then again I did have this idea of putting Modo in the wild west and....hmmm
*Island of Doom should always be said in a loud voice so as to attract the most attention possible. And please carry the vowel sound in doom. Like this: "ISLAND OF DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!" Also, set off a few firecrackers and maybe a roman candle or a blunderbuss. That'll really add to the overall impression.
First, let me define gazillions. It is not as high as a bizillion. And yet not as low as umpteen. There, now that we have that out o' the way, here are my latest stupendously interesting eBook sales findings.
You may or may not remember that my last posting was at the one year mark where I was basking in the glow of selling 1785 books in a month. Here it that post: click these highlighted words and be amazed.
A lot has changed since those heady days. In fact sales have slowed to a factor of umpteen dozen.
Here are the books I have for sale (with clickable links because, well, we live in a highly clickable world):
Aren't they pretty? Don't they just say purchase me and save the universe? Anyway, things have gone downhill since my last update. This can be illustrated in a very fancy chart:
Okay, first thing to notice is that nearly 8000 books have sold since I started this experiment. That's a big Woo Hoo!
Second thing to notice is that those little columns that represent monthly sales are getting smaller and smaller (that's a big sniff sniff
). September of 2011 and January of 2012 are my two biggest sales months. The reason for that is I used the "free" method. That's where I'd give away a book for free on Kindle. Then when I switched it back to "paid" status it would rocket up the charts (DUST made up most of these sales...it's the blue colour in the columns). Alas, that "free" method is mostly dead. Due to several changes in Amazon's algorithms books don't tend to get the same bounce after being free. It may be helpful if you have a very specific genre novel that has the name Shades of Grey Throney Games
, but otherwise the free method is not so helpful. Also it used to be if you sold a .99 cent book or a 9.99 cent book they "weighed" the same on the charts. But now the higher priced books get a higher placing on the charts. So it's not just numbers sold but it's the price of books that makes a difference in where you end up in the rankings. Why not price all my books at 9.99? Well, because then there aren't as many sales. I'm still trying to find that happy medium.
Hey speaking of sales, here's what they were for the last six months:
Wow, there is a downward trend. Part of that is timing. People buy more books in the Fall, not so many in the Spring and Summer. So I do expect sales to pick up starting this month. And generally I'm making about $200-300 a month from books that were out of print or weren't being sold in foreign markets. Since I make the majority of my income from my traditionally published books this eBook income is still a nice stipend to receive every month. And I don't seem to have to do that much more work to get that $. Someday I hope to do no work and receive trunkloads of money, but that's not happened to me yet.
So, there's my update. Live long and prosper, everyone. Or is it party hard and prosper? Hmmm. Art
P.S. I've also gone back into the vaults and released two of my unpublished novels. But since they were written for a "grown up" audience (swearing, sex, and well... gore) I decided to put them out under the name Stephen Shea. I published them totally to satisfy my own curiosity about how these novels would be received by an audience that didn't know me. I have touched them up a bit, but tried to keep them as true as possible to the writer I was back then.Damage
was written in my Stephen King phase. Much later I took the frame of the story and turned it into Draugr.
And The Not So Simple Life
was written during my Tai Chi/Martial Arts/Comedy stage. Doesn't everyone have one of those stages?
Anyway, I have been having fun with the books. And I was particularly pleased that Not So Simple Life
has received a few great reviews. From people I've never met before and they aren't even related to me!
So 4 AM this morning as I lay (dying? writhing?) in my bed at Emergency, I was passing a kidney stone and thinking: how will this experience help my writing?
I was also wondering when the morphine would arrive, but that's not pertinent to this blog.
The first thing I noticed is that extreme interior pain tends to reduce one's (let's say a character's) conversation skills to one word grunts. "Painkiller. Now. Please." Also, it is a cliche, but one cannot help appealing to higher powers: "Mother. Mother. Make it stop." (Many a dying soldier in World War One cried out for their mothers in the end). Another reaction, even if that character is not religious, is to still pray between clenched teeth: "Dear God, please make it stop." And finally, the third reaction is swearing. Which thankfully I (err, I mean the character) refrained from while the health personell were in the room.
The other thing I learned was that even in real life some symbols can hit you over the head. While alone in the room, staring up into the far too bright fluorescent light, a large fly began to buzz around me, sounding a lot like a B-52 bomber. It would land on my knee and stare, divebomb near my ears, or quietly tickle my arm. I couldn't help thinking that this fly was way to obvious as a symbolic piece of this all too real story. That fly = death. I did inform the fly that he had come far too soon and was being a little too obvious. He laughed. He knew he was safe. After all I couldn't get him with my IV hand. And various other medical cables meant that I couldn't move. I was happy when he finally left through the open door.
I also learned, thankfully, why Coleridge and other poets liked morphine so much. But I did not write Xanadu once I'd had my hit. Instead, I slept.
And there is a happy ending. The stone is passed. And I am home. Now to use all this new knowledge to my advantage.
P.S. AC/DC is also a relatively good painkiller. Place iPod earphones in ear. Crank up to 11.
P.P.S Stay hydrated folks. Please.
The U.S. version of Island of Doom
has arrived! So like a proud papa I immediately took photos of the books. This what we authors do in our spare time. I was going to put little hats on them, but thought that would be demeaning. Plus, I couldn't find any steampunky enough.
Anyway, it's so wonderful to see the complete series side by side and pile atop each other. Don't they look snazzy? And they practically scream "adventure!" And the other great thing is that they--
--hey, how does that Ringwraithe end up in all my shots? Don't let it intimidate you. I can hear it saying, "Buy this book or to Mordor we will take you." Ha! You can't even capture a couple of hobbits, Wraithy. Get on your horse and ride back to your master.
Anyway, as I was saying before the Tolkienesque interruption, it's great to have the series all done and the books in my home. Hard to believe they're real. Island of Doom
is already out in Canadian bookstores and will be released in the U.S. on September 11th!
|Original Cover of Summer Tree|
Someday, I hope to make a long list of the books that changed me. And on that list, taking its turn at the top, would be The Fionavar Tapestry
by Guy Gavriel Kay.
I remember it like it was yesterday, though the year was 1985. My graduation year. All the usual teenage things happened. The bad hair. The parties. The awkwardness.
The awesome heavy metal.
One of the highlights of that year shines through quite clearly: buying The Summer Tree
at a bookstore in Swift Current. I was a constant loiterer in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section and the cover caught my eye. Then, when I picked up the book, the words caught my eye. I didn't know the writer. Had no idea he was Canadian or even that he had connections to Saskatchewan. No, I knew, almost instantly that he could write. "After the war was over, they bound him under the mountain." That's the first line. And who would be so powerful that he'd have to be bound under a mountain? I had to read on.
I won't go blow by blow through my reactions. I know I was a kid looking graduation in the eye and contemplating four years at university. This story that involved five university students visiting a fantastical realm rang perfectly true with me. I was also a kid with Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander running through my veins. Fionavar
was the next step. The transition story. A series with depth and, somehow, it was more real than any other fantasy I'd yet read. Yes, Gandalf was amazing. So was Frodo (even if he did have hairy feet). But I could never BE one of them. But Dave Martyniuk or Kevin Laine or Paul Schafer. I could BE them. The three books in this series are burned into my memory. There are several scenes that burn bright all these years later (gee, I sound old when I say that--just imagine me with a cane and a derby hat). The story lifted my spirit, taught me about humanity. Surprised me. Also the books broke my heart, damn them. But a good book can break your heart and still get you to keep reading. To find hope again. And to believe in the power of story.
I haven't read the series for several years. Not because of a fear that somehow they won't measure up to the joy I felt when I was reading them as a youth. No, I keep waiting for that time when I can sit down and read them all in a row without interruption. In other words I want a deserted island and a comfy chair. Time to buck up and go back to them again.
I think the highest compliment I can pay these books and the author is this: I decided to only buy Guy Gavriel Kay's work in hardcover from that point on. He is one of the authors whose work deserved--no demanded to be read, preserved and treasured
I did get to meet Guy Kay years later at a festival in Moose Jaw. I nearly brought all of my copies of his books to be signed, but didn't want to appear too fanboyish. But I do cherish the first book in the series that he signed:
Why do I have a picture of me digging a hole in my backyard (it's for the fish pond, you DEXTER fans, it's for the fish pond)? Well, sometimes when I'm writing I feel like I'm stuck in a rut that's inside a deep hole. Or that I'm treading water without waterwings. I've found that all the other "demands" of being a writer (clever Facebook updates, amazingly insightful tweets, googling my own name) do tend to distract from my main goal of writing. So I wanted to change that. Or...to redirect my distraction.
Recently, I was re-reading Stephen King's On Writing
and he mentioned that he works every day except for Christmas and his birthday. What a lazy bum! Just think about how much more he'd get done if he worked those extra days. His goal is to write 2000 words a day (thankfully, he didn't say whether or not they had to be clever, perfect words). 2000 words! I can do that easily. Just as soon as I get around to it. I have to put the finishing touches on a tweet. Oh, and check my Amazon rankings and...oh, wait...there I go again.
It suddenly occurred to me that I could do half the work of Stephen King in the same amount of time. So I set up a little goal for myself and made up my own rules. I must write 1000 words of new
work every day. Yes, new
is the important part. No matter what rewriting is needed, no matter whether I have a reading at a school, a deadline or a dentist appointment, the very first thing I must do is write 1000 new words. No tweets. No checking the hockey score on my virtual hockey team
(Authored Destruction). Those words must be written. All of my rewriting, redrafting, pretending to plot, are all on hold until the new
words are done. The reason I want to write new words is that I do believe those brand new, sparkly words and sentences that come flowing out of your mind in that first draft are as close to the subconscious as we get as writers. And I think it's important to be in touch with your subconscious first thing in the morning (right after waking). There is a caveat to the rule. I can stockpile words. So if I'm going on a holiday, I will actually take a holiday, as long as I've written my quota for the time that I'm away. But I'm gonna work on my birthday and Christmas (take that Mr. King).
Heck, I made a splendid chart to keep track of it all. And to motivate myself. As you can see I'm ten days into my schedule and I've written 11,000 new words. I'm 1000 words ahead! And I even took last Sunday off.
I have found that the buzz I get from creating that new storyline carries on to my rewriting that I do 2nd thing in the morning. It's like jumpstarting my mind. It crackles. It sparks. Then the creative engine roars into verbtacular life.
So if you see me tweeting early in the morning you have full writes...err...rights to say, "What's up, Dude? Didja get your 1000 new words done yet?" And, I encourage you to do 1000
"Why didn't I win a box of priceless Slade books?"
I know. I know. It's a question millions of people are asking themselves right now. Along with questions like "Is Brad Pitt in love with me?" "Should I floss" and "Did dinosaurs walk the earth at the same time as humans?" (the answers in order are: Maybe--is your name Angelina?; Yes, and brush, please; No...unless you're living in a movie).
Last month, in my clever newsletter, I had a contest that said: "Win a bunch o' books. To win just reply to this email with a creative answer to this question: "A+Y= X""
Of course, you have to subscribe to the newsletter to win! Maybe that's why you didn't win. Rectify that by clicking the amazing link below. The newsletter comes out 4 times a year and there's always a prize. Plus, your IQ will go up. Free IQ!http://eepurl.com/kEDdb
Here are a few of the entries:
"Arthur + YA = Xcellent"
"Art + Youth = Xcited teens."
And the winner, by both volume and creativity, was:
" A + Y = X. Hmmm! Reeks of algebraic equation. Shudder! Please Art, you are appealing to one whose mathematical career ended with an ignominious exam result of 19%. And it's Saturday! I could wait, I suppose. Wait until my brain wakes up. The problem is my mathematical brain never woke up. So I'm doomed, utterly doomed. The storeroom stash will never be mine.
Deep breath, courage, Clo. Must carpe the diem, no matter what the cost in the mathematical or even grammatical failure department. Hmmmm and other sounds indicating heavy thinking and the occasional slurp of lemon and ginger tea.
A must equal Art (please note the upper case A. This Art is also very creative but is not, in and of himself, an artistic endeavour, at least I don't think he is, and never in a grammatically incorrect sentence, of that I am certain).
But I digress. If A equals Art, Y must equal You. Is it therefore possible that X equals the massive storeroom stash? Alright! I've cracked it. Art + You = storeroom stash or should I say Storeroom Stash, considering the importance of said stash? Wait up, here's a dilemma. If Y equals You, then You isn't Me. That means Me, Myself and I will not win the Storeroom Stash because collectively we don't equal You.
Hmmm (= more thinking and slurping) And eventually a lightbulb, not a Kodak, a lightbulb moment occurs.
You must equal someone you gift the stash er Stash to. If that is indeed the case then I have the solution.
My #2 son turns 17 on 27th April. The very day that Art of the uppercase A announces his winner.
It just so happens that #2 son is almost as much of an Art (o.t.u.A.) fan as his poor demented mother. It also happens that his p.d.m. is off to an auction today and will probably blow his birthday present money on a Victorian commode or an overstuffed chaise longue. Even if his p.d.m. is somewhat abstemious in her auctioneerial dealings, a Stockroom Stash of Slade would make the most stupendous birthday present.
So to conclude yes, finally. Arthur, wake up, I'm concluding. Slurp tea in the hopes of attaining clarity.
Clearing of throat.
I conclude that Art + #2 son = Storeroom Stash of Slade. There! Sound the trumpets. Alarums and excursions throughout.
PS Was there a word limit on this contest?"
AH, more questions that authors get...with perfectly rational answers.
Q: Is it okay if I come to your house and watch you write?
A: Is it okay if I give the FBI your address? By the way I've moved to
Antarctica. Turn left when you see the marching penguins and you'll be
there. Don't worry about dressing warm.
Q: Are you sensitive to bad reviews?
A: No. No. No. No. No. NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
A: Oh, you're a writer? What do you do as a job?
Q: Writing is easy and doesn't take much time and is really more of a
hobby, so I spend the rest of my hours as a serial killer. What's your
Q: What is the most fun about being a writer?
A: I get to wear pajamas all day.
A: My only boss is my muse.
A: Playing jokes on people by naming characters after them. Like my
friend Cheryl who complained that I never named any characters after
her. So I invented Cheryl the Sasquatch for one of my books (true
Q: What is the worst thing about being a writer?
A: I wear pajamas all day. Even to readings.
A: My only boss is my muse but she's seven feet tall and smokes cigars
and demands 20,000 words a week and bacon. How much bacon is there in
A: A real Sasquatch showed up one day. Her name was
Cheryl. She was not happy that I turned her into a comical character.
She was very good at MMSA (Mixed Martial Sasquatch Arts). I was not.
Last Friday, being a dutiful Mac cultist, I drank my iCool aid and headed down to my local Mac store to buy the latest version of the iPad, creatively titled The new iPad. I already owned a first generation iPad (which I blogged about here) and had found it absolutely essential to my life as a writer. I waited for the 3rd generation because I was looking forward to the rumoured retina screen (a fancy way of saying a very high-def screen) and the camera (which was lacking from the 1st generation iPad). I bought the 32GB white wi-fi, because I thought that would be enough storage space for me and I don't need a G4 connection. Wireless is most everywhere (and I do have portable Mifi wireless when needed).
Let's start with the screen. It's amazing. There, we're done with the screen. Okay, I'll leave it to others to explain exactly how many pixels it takes to make your eyeballs vibrate with explosive colour. But side by side it's very clear how much more "high def" this screen is. The icons for the apps have no pixelation. Does that make them easier to tap on? Nah, but it somehow makes them see more real. Netflix looks clearer. Movies sparkle. Youtube is ... well, still full of freaky videos. But they're even clearer and grosser now.
I'm an ebook-a-holic (along with a paper-book-aholic and an audiobook-a-holic). My apps on my iPad for reading (and buying books) are as follows: Kindle app, Kobo app, iBooks, Nook, Nook for kids, Play Books, Stanza. These apps are pretty simple so I didn't notice a big difference in the speed in which they open. There is a difference in the fonts and how clear they are now to read. And I am especially impressed at how much more colourful the picture books that I have on my iPad look. Nothing replaces a "real" picture book, but the images on the iPad do leap off the page (Especially in Splat the Cat). I do have a few kids books apps that were designed for the iPod and I never noticed a big difference in clarity when they were on my old iPad, but now that I have The new Ipad, the blurred edges of the images becomes very obvious. So reading is even more of a pleasure on The new Ipad as long as what you're reading has been optimized for the iPad (though if I'm reading an ebook I often choose my Kindle because it's smaller and I'm not tempted to zoom around the internet). The new iPad is heavy enough that I usually have to prop it against my legs when I read.
Facetime and Skype
This machine is brilliant for using both these communication programs. The speaker on the back is able to put out more volume than the 1st generation iPad so it's easy to hear whoever you're Facetiming with and the mic seems to pick up fine. One could easily use this to Skype with a classroom just sitting in your reading chair or out in your back yard (assuming there wasn't much background noise). And, last night, my wife's bookclub was discussing Meg Wolitzer's latest novel and she was kind enough to do a Skype visit with the book club. It worked perfectly and in the hour and a half talk it burned 18% of the battery power. I set up a battery-powered speaker s
Last month I uploaded a post about "A Year of Selling Ebooks" (read it here, it'll change your life!). It was my 3rd most popular post. As per my usual modus operandi, I posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Here is the tweet that I came up with for twitter:
"Well, I've been selling ebooks for a year. Here are my stupendous results! ow.ly/95zkC #kindle #amwriting #kobo RT plz"
I tweeted variations on this message over three days adding in different hashtags so that it would be visible to various groups. I also used an "owly" link so I could track how many people clicked on that specific link and what countries they were from. I do keep track of stats just so I can get a general impression of what sort of impact my posts are having. It's impossible to know how many people saw this tweet but I did keep track of how many people retweeted it. It was retweeted 46 times by other twitter people (you have my eternal gratitude). And it reached:
91,000 people! That's 182, 000 eyeballs!
Well, that's how many people were following the various people who were kind enough to retweet my tweets. As we all know only a small percentage of them would see the tweet and an even smaller percentage would click on the link. The results that I could measure were that I had around 3000 hits on my Blogspot blog. I also sold 20 or so books on Amazon in the space of those few days (it was only selling 5 or so in the same time period before I did my blitz). And I gained about a hundred twitter followers.
Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. It got my name out there a bit further. It's proof to me that what people are looking for is information, not so much "sales" (my tweets with a more direct "buy my book" message get very few hits). And having new followers is always invaluable.
P.S. I bet you're dying to know what my 2nd most popular post was. Well it was: How to Write Novels and Lose Weight.
P.P.S And my most famous post is... Treadmill Desk: How to Make Millions and Write More Weird what you become popular for, eh?
These are inspired by a few questions I've been asked...actually some of them are real...
Q: I have this great idea. If you write it, I'll split the money with you, 50/50. What do you say?
Answer #1: No.
Answer #2: No. And don't come to my parties anymore.
Answer #3: I'll think about it. What? You're a brain surgeon? Well, is it okay if I perform half a brain surgery on you before we begin? It shouldn't take long.
Q: What's your address? Do you have any children? What are there names?
A: You're scaring me. And I think you meant "their names."
Q: Will an agent steal all of my money?
A: No. In fact an agent will make you more money. But you have to get the right agent. There's an easy formula for figuring out whether an agent is the right one. E=MC2 x .15% x worldwidesales x your talent quotient / the chance of a Hollywood movie - your personality quotient + your agent's personality quotient x luck. Easy to figure out, eh? Oh, but make sure you don't get the wrong agent. A small percentage of agents will take 15% of your life force and use it to feed their gerbils. Good luck!
Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: 60,000 minutes to start with. That's if you dedicate a minute to each word in the average length book. You also have to dedicate a minute to each sentence. That's another 8333.33 minutes. There's another 65,000 minutes for rewriting each word. Add 2500 minutes for computer malfunctions. Then another 4700 minutes for fretting about characters you're going to kill. And 2700 minutes killing them. Only 250 minutes for crying about them, though. I mean, really they were getting on your nerves. Add in the minute that you hover over your email with the MSS attached before you press send. That's 143484.33 minutes. Or about 59.785 work weeks. Maybe add in about 2467 hours of depression if your book is rejected. Then start all over again.
Q: Will I make a million dollars if I publish an ebook by myself?
A: Yes. You only have to sell 1 a day for the next 487,804 days. If you sell two a day you'll make the money in half the time.
Welcome Curious Readers,
I am posting here about a whole year of selling self-published ebooks. Many wonders will be revealed to you. Many non-wonders, too. There may even be inadvertent rhymes (at no extra charge).
To recap. Exactly a year ago I began putting my out of print backlist up for sale on various ebook vendors (Smashwords, Kindle, iBooks, B&N, Kobo...). I've been religiously (or obnoxiously) blogging about it ever since. Here are the books I have available:
Yes, Dear Mindful Readers. You are correct. Those links are clickable (though depending on what country you're in, you may not be able to buy the books). Each one of my ebooks that you purchase saves the life of a butterfly in Guatemala. Oh, and the money helps me to buy porridge for Oliver Twist. He's looking skinny! Now that my clumsy and somewhat cheesy sales pitch is done let's continue examining the glorious year of ebooking.
Last month, January, was my best ebook sales month yet with 1785 copies of my ebooks sold. Most of the sales were generated by DUST which was selling for the modest sum of $1.49 and twice was in the top 25 for horror on Kindle. The jump in the charts was the result of making the book free then switching it back to paid a few days later (I posted about that process here). I also added another book Northern Frights Omnibus. This book collects all three Northern Frights novels into one volume (which only took a few minutes to do, one of the nice things about ebooks).
That's a quick look at last month. Now here are the overall numbers month by month for this stupendous adventure:
Every once in awhile I have a semi-deep thought. I often compare writing to digging ditches. The idea, to me, is that the artistry doesn't come into the process until much later. I think digging for coal is an even better comparison. We have to grunt and crawl our way into the subconscious layers and the semi-conscious ones banging away with our picks at the rock until the coal comes loose then haul it all back to the surface. It isn't until the rewriting and the compressing of language that we finally come out with a diamond.
Or do we come out with a greenhouse gas producing fuel? Hmmm... better rethink that comparison.
Hello and welcome to my ebook navel gazing! What frabjous joy it brings! What slithy toves it creates! Okay, before you all pull out your vorpal blades I'll stop quoting Jabberwocky. In a snicker-snack that is!
December was officially my 2nd best ebook sales month since I started last February. Yes, that's 11 months of self-publishing. Funny how the time passes when you're navel gazing. We're almost at the 1 year celebration where I'll spend all my massive royalties on a party in the South Pacific. Or a party in a corner of my garage. Depending on funds, of course.
Herewith is the graph you've all been waiting for:
No new and amazing conclusions this month. Dust did take off and was in the top 100 for horror on Kindle US for a short time. That accounted for most of the sales (Dust is the blue colour on the graph). The Hunchback Assignments continued to sell moderately well in the UK. Total sales across all platforms was 833 copies (Dust sold 570 copies, so that gives you an idea of why there's so much blue in the above column). And total sales since February is 4554 copies (divided between the 9 books I have for sale). Kindle is still about 90% of my sales.
All in all I'm pleased with the response to the ebooks. And every little bit of money I make is going against my mortgage. If someone would just buy about 50,000 books it would all be paid off.
Well, it's a new year! We've all likely made resolutions. Some of us (okay, me) have already broken a few of those resolutions (but who could stick to a "not eating a Turtle before 9AM" resolution? It's the evil toffee chocolate goodness that gets me).
But I've stuck to my treadmill desk addiction. Since January of 2009
I've been using a treadmill desk as my main means of work and exercise (I blogged about it here
). I still average four hours a day at 1.6 kph (or 1mph--that's 6.4 kilometres a day or 3.97 miles). The remainder of my writing time I stand at my treadmill desk. I only sit to put my shoes on. In fact my un-treadmill desk is becoming lonely.
Since that first small step on the treadmill desk two years ago I've geekishly kept track of far too many numbers:
1. Walked 108,174 minutes.
2. Traveled 3342.3 kilometres (2076.8 miles).
3. Burned 207,333 calories (equivalent of 2591.7 Turtles).
4. Written 190,000 words.
1) More awake while working and able to work for a longer period of time without fatigue.
2) Able to eat more turtles.
3) Consistent exercise combats depression.
4) Able to eat more turtles.
5) Now able to entertain guests with amazing treadmill desk stories.
6) Generally in better shape.
I've decided to issue a call to action for all you treadheads and treadhead cadets out there. It's right here in this amazing and inspirational video (including some subliminal advertising):
Rise up. Press your start buttons. Live long and prosper...Art
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Recently, I was going through a few old VHS tapes and I—what why are you interrupting me? Oh, what's VHS you ask? It's the video recording format that conquered Beta—what's Beta you ask...ah, just Google it. Anyway, I discovered a dusty tape of the award ceremony for the Governor General's awards in 2001. My novel Dust won the award for Children's Literature that year and that meant a trip to Rideau Hall in Ottawa to see the Governor General and attend an extremely fancy ceremony (Oh, and pick up a cheque for $15,000.00). Money, free food and a mini-holiday! It's every author's dream. Here's the video:
Oh, wait! I wish I was at that ceremony! Actually, the Governor General's ceremony is the closest I'll ever come to getting a medal from Princess Leia. Here is the actual video. The two hour ceremony has been edited down to 5 minutes (in other words I cut everyone else's presentation out).
This is still the highlight of my career. Ten years later I'm surprised that all of this happened and that Dust received so much attention. When I finished writing the book I remember wondering who would want to read a slow-building, dark fantasy?
Ten years! I'm a little grayer and waiting for that wisdom that is supposed to come with age.