Posts Tagged Home Again

Story Trailer

Fellow Memory Eater contributor Justin Swapp is working on a series of story trailers for the anthology.  Mine went live today, and includes Carly Sorge’s fantastic artwork for the story, which I’ve previously only shown to select people on my iPod screen.  So I figured I should show it off to everyone:

Before I talk more about book and story trailers, let’s go through all the standard ads.  We still need a lot of support to get The Memory Eater funded.  We’ve had an awesome first week and the 1/3 funding threshold is already in our rear view mirror, but it’s still a long road ahead.  $8 gets you an eBook, $15 gets you the print edition, cheap for either and both help support us.  There are also still four original pieces of story art available for purchase.  The sampler, including the start to my story Home Again, is still live.  There’s also an interview with the editor up.  Go check it all out.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around book trailers.  I’m not going to pretend I know the full history of these videos, I only know my personal history with them.  It’s a history of jealousy and distrust, just as all good stories should be.  Long before I was on the internet, the only book trailers I ever saw were those very few books that got television commercials.  They would be Tom Clancy books and James Patterson books.  Hell, Patterson still shows up regularly, even in commercials that aren’t actually for his books.  I’m not sure where the feelings first came from, but as I got older I rolled my eyes more and more at book commercials.  Something about the kind of books that were being advertised to the much lower common denominator of the television audience.

Yes, I was a snotty little brat at points in my life.  Perhaps still am.

Do I begrudge James Patterson of his success?  No.  Do I wish I had it for myself?  Absolutely.  Even if that meant feeling like I was selling my soul and engaging in the kinds of writerly activities that I’ve rolled my eyes at in the past?  You better fucking believe it.

But I don’t, and so I still roll my eyes whenever I see James Patterson threatening to kill of a character from a series of books I don’t read if I don’t read the new one.  Or using words like “unputdownable.”  Which appeared in two different commercials, so I suspect he’s trolling us.  Which I can begrudgingly respect him for.

I’m not sure when I first saw a book trailer on YouTube.  I do know it was recent, because I think the book trailer for last year’s Phoenix Rising was the first I actually sat down and watched in its entirety.  When I first came across these trailers, I lumped them in with the Patterson and Clancy commercials, and dismissed them as a whole.  However, there’s one very big element to the commercials that set them apart from the trailers.

How many authors can you name that get commercials?  Beyond the ones I already have in this post.  It’s not something that happens for a huge, vast, overwhelming majority of writers.  Seriously, the number of writers who get television commercials is a rounding error away from 0%.  It’s just an avenue of advertising not open for even the biggest name writers, and certainly not for those who are relative unknowns in the field.

I’m going to stop right there, because you all see where this is going.  This is me waxing on about how the internet democratizes communication, allowing individuals to reach out to individuals in a way never before possible.  Yes.  That’s exactly what I’m saying, and I know it’s not any kind of grand revelation.  Hell, this entire blog is one fledgling writer reaching out to people that he wouldn’t have any way of reaching out to before the internet.

So instead, as someone who has viewed a couple of book trailers now, some thoughts I’ve had.

  1. Use all the resources available to you.  If all you have is a program that lets you put up some simple animations with some clip art, do it.  If you have friends with any kind of film making experience who owe you favors, cash them in.  The better it looks, the more likely someone is going to stick with it long enough to see the publication date, or share it with friends.
  2. Remember it represents you.  Check the spelling, check the grammar, take some time to edit it and make it something you can be proud of, and something that will represent you positively.
  3. Get it out there.  Youtube isn’t going to send the link out for you.  Yes, the internet blah blah democratization blah blah.  It hasn’t gone THAT far.  Get the word out there.  Zero views does no one any good.
  4. Don’t spam.  I’m trying to be good about this myself during the Kickstarter campaign, and I certainly hope people will say something if I’m going too far (this is not only permission to do so, but an actual request).  I’m limiting myself to a tweet a day and a blog post a week, where the blog post has to use the Kickstarter to segue into another topic.  Diminishing returns are a real thing.  You’re talking to largely the same audience each time.  I have personally hit that unfollow button on the writer who keeps posting the same blog post or video four or five times a day every single day.

Get out there.  Self promote.  It’s the power of the internet.

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The Memory Eater, Kickstarter, and the New Patronage

First, the obligatory advertisement.  The Memory Eater anthology has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its initial print run.  This anthology features the works of dozens of both writers and artists, myself included.  Each story revolves around how a the ability to delete memories from an individual affects society, influenced history, and ultimately goes horribly wrong.  Each story is coupled with a full-page illustration, several of which are displayed on the Kickstarter page.  If you would like to see a sample of four of the included stories, including my story “Home Again,” the publisher has posted a sampler on the anthology’s website.  I hope you’ll consider pre-ordering a copy through the Kickstarter, and perhaps consider one of the premium rewards being offered.

I promise I’m not going to turn this blog into all Memory Eater Kickstarter all the time (not counting the sidebar widget), but I do hope my readers understand we’re in the critical first few days of the campaign.  In its first 24 hours, the anthology raised $343 towards its publication, or 8% of its total goal.  If we can average even half that per day the rest of the way, the anthology will more than exceed its funding goals.  I’m excited to take part in this campaign not only because I have a direct investment in the final project, but because I’ve been fascinated with Kickstarter for the past several months.  I’m doing my best to pick and choose my projects, but have made contributions to projects as big as the record smashing Double Fine Adventure, or as small as the Dinosaurs in Space role-playing game.  The most recently successful campaign I’ve been part of is a push to digitize old science fiction books that are largely forgotten and have no eBook formats.  I’ve never had my own idea, my own project that needed Kickstarting, so it’s fascinating to experience this from the other side.  I’ll probably make a few more blog posts about the experience as we go.  So far, it involves a lot of F5-ing and deciding if I want to be one of Those People who begs appropriately chosen celebrities on Twitter for Kickstarter retweets.

I’ve written about Kickstarter once before, over on my blog-away-from-home at Unleaded.  At the time I called Kickstarter the “Modern Patronage,” and I stand by that assessment.  It’s odd how modern technology reinvigorates old ideas and makes them new again.  Classic patronage typically involved going to a few rich individuals for a large influx of money to fund a creator’s creativity.  A painter, a writer, an inventor, someone who is trying to feed himself with ideas rather than through traditional labor.  Kickstarter represents the social media version of patronage, reaching out not to a few people but to everyone.  The goal isn’t to find one person to fund a year of a creator’s life, but to find dozens, hundreds, or occasionally thousands of people to believe in an idea just enough to promise a few dollars if and only if enough other people will also contribute just a little.  This is the amazing power of crowd sourcing, the idea that enough people doing little things can fund massive projects.  Get enough people to pitch in at an average of just $38, and suddenly you’ve got a company with $3.3 million to create the best video game they can.

In that Unleaded post from last October I said,

This isn’t the future of the publication industry.  I feel rather confident in saying that.  But it is an interesting take on the old patronage system, and could provide some deserving artists, writers, creators, and designers with the funds they need to get over the hump and see some form of success.  It can also provide an absolute kick in the teeth for that artist who falls just short or, worse, gets no support at all.

I suppose the better phrasing is that I hope this isn’t the future of the publication industry.  I don’t relish a future where all literary projects have to go through microfunding in order to exist.  However, I would like to walk back some of my cynicism from that earlier post.  While I would hate to see the entire industry go this direction, I’ve seen several individuals do it with fantastic success.  Chuck Wendig, he of the foul mouth and weekly flash fiction challenges, has had success in not one, but two recent Kickstarters for his longer fiction.  SFWA pro market Bull Spec successfully used Kickstarter to fund their third year of publication.  Laura Anne Gilman has successfully used it to fund publication of one novella, and is well underway on another project.  It’s a new step in self publication, and one fraught with all the same perils.  It requires a presence and a willingness to push and pimp and advertise.  I’m not going to post failed projects, but they exist.  Click into Ending Soon, and you’ll see plenty of projects with full green bars, but plenty more that have miles to go and only a few short hours left.  The free market giveth, and it taketh away.

I’m hoping not to get experience with that part, but this is all experience, and it’s all fascinating.

So wish us luck as we push forward.  Check out the samples.  Consider pre-ordering.  You’ll have our eternal gratitude.  Remember, it’s never a handout, there’s always something for the money.  Keep an eye on this space as I provide occasional look-ins on a Kickstarter project from the inside.

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Looking Back, Looking Forward

I’m going to actually link to my resolutions post from 366 days ago, just to keep myself honest.  And I’m going to be honest with some responses to it.

Resolution 1: Finish the first draft of Capsule.  This did not happen.  Largely because I hit a point where I realized the book I was writing was not the right book to write.  It needed to be divided into two books, because I was telling two completely different and unrelated stories.  I’ll come back to both of these books one day, but probably not until 2013 in all honesty, certainly no earlier than October 2012.  But I learned a lot from walking away, such as recognizing when something isn’t working and why it isn’t working.  I also stepped away to work on a novel that has a lot of promise, so again I can only beat myself up so much.

Resolution 2: Three short stories out at all times.  This was a lofty goal for someone who went into the year with a limited number of stories ready to go out.  And then came the fantastic problem of having two taken off the market by sales!  Yay!  I tried to keep the stories that were ready for publication circulating, but probably could have done more.  Some of them, like Sleep, are just hard to find markets for.  I do have two out with long-response publications right now (Vampires of Mars and Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 3: Write from-scratch stories for six anthologies.  I did five.  One sold (Home Again), one wasn’t sent due to quality problems (Back Half), two were rejected (Vampire of Mars and Beyond Light), one is still out for consideration (Face of the Serpent).

Resolution 4: Fortnightcaps.  This was a fun project for a few months, and I had intended to keep it going through the year.  What stopped me?  Discovering other flash fiction contests, and realizing that I was burning story rights without anything to show in return in terms of readership.  So anyone who was paying attention might have noticed they stopped in September, but since I never had a single person ask me “hey, what happened to those Fortnightcaps,” I suspect no one was really paying attention.  This showed in the readership dips on those days.  I’m not blogging solely for readership numbers, but it is nice to not send stories out into the void where no one is reading them when I could make something more out of them.

So it was a mixed bag, but even in my failures I feel like I learned a lot about writing in general, and specifically how I write, in this past year.  I wouldn’t trade a single bit of the experience.

Last night at CVS we sat down and talked about resolutions going forward.  I wrote down five at Day‘s insistence, but it was secretly just three.  We followed the SMART acronym used by most corporations in determining yearly objectives: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.  For example, writing 10 novels is specific and measurable, but isn’t attainable or realistic.  So from that perspective, my resolutions break down to the following categories:

Completion.  Complete Nickajack to a condition where it can be queried, then query it.  There are a lot of steps involved in this (such as, ya know, finishing it), and “Query Nickajack” really is my overarching resolution for 2012.  Each month’s State of the Writer for 2012 will start with those words and my progress towards that goal so I don’t lose sight of it.

Research.  I’ve made a specific goal of reading three non-fiction books about pre-to-post Civil War era, and two fiction books with as similar a setting as possible.  Which is tough.  Southeastern US Steampunk is not a common market segment.  One of the fiction books will likely be How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.  It’s not Steampunk, but it is Alternate History, and I’ve always preferred Steampunk that falls under Alternate History more than Fantasy.  Recommendations are welcome!

Man Up.  I need to get over my crippling con introversion, the one that border lines on social anxiety.  To make this goal measurable, I’ve taken it upon myself to find 6 people to provide prompts for the 2012 Flashathon.  With the event being expanded to 18 hours, that means I’m on the hook for a third of them.  This is, by far, the hardest of the resolutions I’ve set.  Which says a lot about me that I consider talking to six people, just six, at a convention as more of a challenge than finishing a fucking novel.

And with that, this blog will likely be dark until the New Year.  Everyone enjoy the festivities.  I’d caution to not do anything I wouldn’t, but that would make for a boring weekend, so go out there and do at least one thing I wouldn’t but is still legal.  It’ll be more fun that way.

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State of the Writer: July 2011

I’m going to come right out and say it: the state of the writer is good.

On a writing front, I’ve got three stories out the door to anthologies and contests that had deadlines at the end of June, and plan two more submissions this coming week.  That will mark the first time I’ve ever had five stories out for consideration at once.  Hell, this marks the first time I’ve had three stories out for consideration at once.  Out the door already are Face of the Serpent, Beyond Light, and Vampires of Mars, and getting ready to head out the door are Sleep and Home Again.  I have high hopes that one of those will land in its current market, with a potential ceiling of three of them landing.

Yup, I’m getting all excited and optimistic, but I already wrote that post.

July is going to see a change of direction.  I’ve been working on short stories for awhile, and I’ve really enjoyed it.  But I’ve left Capsule languishing for far too long now, and it’s time to get back into it.  Especially since I’m already starting to world build my next novel, and I don’t want Capsule to get steamrolled and forgotten.  I like the story too much to let that happen.  So it’s going to be back to work on that, trying to keep a strong pace going.  Really, I’d love to have the first draft finished by no later than the end of August, and then it’ll be a process of figuring out what to do next.  That might be turning right around and editing Capsule, that might mean making another go at Conqueror Worm, or it might mean starting Nickajack.  Really, that’s going to be more a subject for September’s State of the Writer.  I hope.

It’s an exciting point in my push to be something more than just an amateur writer.  First short story is still due out soon-ish (though I’m honestly thinking July is unlikely, even if the anthology hasn’t officially said so), and so much more hopefully on the horizon.

State of the Writer’s Blog: June was a great month for readership.  I didn’t quite hit the record views of May, but I didn’t miss by much.  This was aided by the last day of June being the best single day for viewership since the relaunch of this blog back in December.  So yay!  Google Analytics also tells me that I collected my first views from six states this month: Hawaii, Idaho, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio, and South Carolina.  That leaves 13 states that have never visited my blog: Alaska, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine.  I’m hoping to hit all 50 states before too much longer, so look for me to start pandering!  Woo!  Do you Dakotans know just how sexy and intelligent you are?

But seriously, I’m going to try to set my two July Fortnightcaps in states that have yet to show up, just to see if I can’t push viewership.

Update: Hello, Omaha!  That’s another state down.

State of the Writer’s Beer: We have now drunk 4 of the 24 bottles of Mustache Cat, and it’s getting better with each bottle.  A few more weeks, and I’ll be glad to share some.  The bitterness that it had when brand new is mellowing out nicely, and there’s a very strong strawberry aroma and aftertaste.  This weekend it’s going to be bottling time for Lazarus Ale, which I’m going to try and have the self discipline to not crack a bottle of until August.  Next batch is still being planned, but I may take a week or three just to give us time to catch up on the drinking process, because this is becoming a lot of beer.

So.  We’ve passed the solstice, the days are getting shorter but no cooler, what better time of year to avoid the outside, and instead write?

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If At First You Don’t Succeed

My wife is absolutely awesome. I say that because she put up with me yesterday as I went on an emotional roller coaster ride trying to get a short story started. Here was my rough schedule:

  • 2pm: Start work on new short story.
  • 3pm: Finish first draft, having written fewer than 900 words.
  • 4pm: Decide that it’s utter crap and needs to be completely rewritten.
  • 4:15pm: Try to figure out why every story I start recently has needed to be started over.
  • 4:30pm: Decide I’m clearly the worst writer ever and give up.
  • 4:45pm: Figure out what was wrong with the story and where to start over.
  • 5pm: Start over.
  • 5:30pm: Decide that those 200 words are also crap, just crap in a different direction.  Give up on story.
  • 7pm: Figure out why those 200 words were crap.
  • 7:15pm: Restart story fixing that problem, though only writing first sentence to avoid ending with more frustration.

I know that I’m not the first writer in history to have that day, or that story.  Where you just want to tell a story that’s running around in your head, but it just won’t tell itself right.  It gets confused, jumbled, comes out all wrong.  You start off with the wrong main character, the wrong voice, the wrong absolutely everything, and the only way forward is to go all the way back and begin again.

But there are two things that I’m happy about with yesterday.  First: I saw and diagnosed the problem.  Earlier in my writing, I might have been happy with the 900 word original, chalked it up to just being a short plot, and gone about editing it.  Second: Ultimately I didn’t give up.  In the end, I still might not be able to tell the exact story that I want to tell, but I didn’t just give up, tuck tail, and decide to completely scrap the concept.  It was a rough day, but I saw it through to the end, and I think the third approach is going to make for a story worth actually telling.

So.  Back at it tonight, and hopefully get things on the right track.

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