Monday, January 31, 2011

what's so indie?

from what i can see, most so-called indie writers want to make money, so they write the kind of stuff that people want to buy - in other words, the same old shit. they're just cutting out the paperback middlemen, that's it. woo hoo, another fucking serial killer thriller. that's so indie!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

reads

right now i'm reading my best friend's auto=biography (Family Romance, by Christopher Lee Haight), and at night I'm reading aloud, to my son, a fantasy novel written by my best friend from high school (Wildflower by Dave McNicholas). It's quite a treat. I've been very fortunate in my friends over the years!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

teasers

All of my books are available as free ebooks from Smashwords and Feedbooks, including several science fiction titles, mainly in the comic vein. I'd like to link to a few of them here along with some small descriptions:

Renegade Robot
Most stories I've seen about the mythical "Singularity" are doom-laden. This is the opposite. This one's about what happens when a supposed Singularity gets caught up in a frenzied Fox-like media cycle, with an oddball religious sex cult thrown in for kicks.

Death Ray Butterfly
A bit of a detective story as well, when a detective is on the case of a murderer who flees to alternate universes where his 'other' did not commit the crime in question

Orange Car With Stripes
Can science fiction include "defunct" sciences? This story introduces the desperately needed genre of comic atheist sci-fi pulp fiction.

Unwritten Rules of Impossible Things
Could a giant stuffed moose in somebody's bedroom be an elaborate trap set up by aliens who only want to borrow some bodies long enough to get back to their own planet?

Friday, January 28, 2011

First draft complete

I've written the rough draft of Jimmyland. This thing practically wrote itself, in barely more than a week, only four or five actual writing sessions. "When the fruit is ripe it falls from the tree."

It's around 16,000 words as it is. Now it will be a matter of a) revisiting and revising and b) learning more about screenplay technicalities so I can do more of the expected things in terms of 'shots' and 'actions' and those kinds of breakdowns.

Continuity, read-aloud, timing, acting it out, all of those element of revisiting and revising ...

I'm still pretty pleased with the thing - at some point I might turn it into a novel as well, based on the screenplay which was based on the short story which was based on a novel ... and so on ad infinitum. It's a decent story if I say so myself ... but can I "maximize" its potential? I doubt it :-}

renegade redux



just because i feel like it, and because i posted it on a new Smashwords forum

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Promo

I'm working on a Sci-Fi Dystopia screenplay based on a short story I wrote some time ago. The new version is called Jimmyland, and it's about a group of settlers who are abandoned and marooned on the distant planet and don't even know it. Sent to establish a colony to prepare for the arrival of a larger settlement, they wait for that day which never arrives.

There are some elements of Three Stigmata and The Man Who Fell To Earth (not to mention Frog and Toad are Friends) and many surprises along the way.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jimmyland

following the sage advice of my wife, I'm calling the screenplay 'Jimmyland' ( a google search for this title only turned up some teenagers' blogs). The title refers to the naming conventions on the (unnamed) planet - everyone has a juvenile-type first name (and no last name), and most of the business too (such as Freddy's Fine Foods and Bernie's Deli). The protagonist is Billy. The first two scenes are partly written (and can be read on the link above). A lot of changes since the original story was written a couple of weeks ago (Phantom of the Mall) ... For one thing, I'm going to consolidate Acid Reign and the doctor into a single character - Doctor Null - who makes appearances in a variety of guises. A lot of other elements of the story are being made more explicit, and the screenplay begins two days before the story does. A lot is different - I'm incorporating a Western Book of Changes I put together more than 20 years ago - The Sphairos - and expanding the role of holographic images, as well as adding new characters and scenes and activities. The general trajectory of the film is the same as the story, though. Some people may find it celebrating alcoholism, in a weird way. That would be one possible interpretation. I put it this way in the promo:

"In a world built to perfection, a fall from grace could be just what the doctor ordered"

Could it be that Paradise was too much for Adam and Eve? They just needed to get the fuck out of there, and even if it messed them (and all of us) up for good, it was still worth it. Alcoholics and drug addicts get such a bad rap these days, anyway. Who celebrates their achievement, of getting out of this world while still remaining in it? I'm being facetious, of course, but it really does seem that this incredible world really isn't enough for most people, who need religion or other narcotics to wish it all away. I think the Jimmyland story will resonate on several levels - alienation, the artificiality of superficial relationships, the absence of meaning in absolute reality, escapism, and a fall from grace as a rise in consciousness ...

okay, all that and a milkshake too

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

notes on Phantom of the Mall

The original story was all about shopping - nothing at all about an off-world colony or anything like that. It wasn't sci-fi in the least. It had this guy, Francis Cosine, who was a total self-control freak, with his lists and his do's and don'ts and his likes and dislikes etc ...  He woke up without having prepared a list and freaked out, decided to go shopping, because for every mood there's a thing you can buy. He proceeds to go through the entire city, store by store, until the anti-climax, where he's found nothing and breaks down. At the same time, there's a second thread to the story - the nightmare he had the night before. This is filled with exotic scenes, pirates and homeless children and living manakins and a demon, who takes the form of a "shopping assistant" in a huge department store-from-hell. In this store, you don't buy shoes, you buy feet. You don't buy hats, you buy hair, and so on. In the end this devil talks him into buying a very large empty box, for the price of his soul, more or less. He wakes up from the dream at the end of the 'subway" portion of the book, which is the beginning of the 'surface' portion. I still have a fondness for the whole thing, but it required drastic surgery.

Also, I found the very same plot - more or less - in a kid's book called 'Frog and Toad' - where one of those two wakes up without having made a list for the day so he doesn't know what to do. Imagine my dismay when I first read it to my toddler!

While considering what to do with the story, I was somehow reminded of two of my all-time favorite sci fi stories: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, by Philip K Dick, and The Man Who Fell To Earth, by Walter Tevis. It occurred to me to mash up those three stories (including Frog and Toad), with the alcohol/alienation from ManWhoFell and with the PerkyPat pseudo-world from Three Stigmata. In this version, humans would have sent out robots to colonize a planet, and set up a nice little Earth-like situation for the people to comfortably settle into once they arrived. The robots would go about emulating people's activities to make everything seem nice and familiar.Unfortunately, for some reason, the people never arrive, and the robots are left to go about this simulation indefinitely. A failsafe program kicks in to ease any anxieties that might crop up among the robots. The Null doctor is the embodiment of this program, taking care of one-after-another robot emotional breakdowns.

Acid Reign is also some kind of a robot program, aimed at discovering and picking out those machines susceptible to this nervous condition. I don't think I even really hint at that in the story as it is right now. It's something you would have to think about. I do like leaving things for people to consider. I don't like to spell everything out. If a reader did think about it, they would realize that all of the settlers are machines, including the doctor and Acid Reign, so what would be the implications of that?

I'm like most people and don't think too much about little stories once I've read them, but my favorite books and movies tend to come back to me later with nagging questions such as these, which is why i like to put things like that in my own books

thinking about a screenplay based on this - pure sci fi dystopia - any one who cares to follow the notes and work in progress can go here

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Believable

Of Snapdragon Alley,. a Smashwords reader wrote:

Review by: Brandy Hunt on Jan. 14, 2011 : star star
While well written, the characters come across as a little too unbelievable. More character development would have been welcome.


Um, okay? A vacant lot that's a sentient interdimensional wormwhole is just fine, but the characters are unbelievable? Really?

As someone said in the fine movie, The Secret in their Eyes, "fiction doesn't have to be believable" 

on the other hand, as my son said, if it's make-believe, you have to make them believe!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Come Clean

Had to put this on Curve's new Facebook page:

I had a whole mythology about 'Come Clean' (my favorite album) and still think it'd make a great movie/soundtrack about a brilliant woman who gets snared into a cult, nearly goes mad but fights her way out. I'd love to know if I was anywhere close to any grains of truth! I doubt it, but you never know :=}

Monday, January 10, 2011

assneck

Had a dream about the search for a famous writer's missing assneck (jack london?), a global hunt was on and only when someone put an ass and a neck together did they realize it was all a joke
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Saturday, January 08, 2011

mass retweets

was looking at the twitter stream about the Arizona murderer Jared Lee Loughner and noticed that the same 2 tweets are being repeated en masse:

One is:
So, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed kills people, all Muslims are evil. When Jared Lee Loughner does, it's an isolated crazy person. Got it.

The other is:
KTLA TV Reporting..Friend who knew Loughner " As I knew him he was left wing, quite liberal"

One from the left wing, the other from the right wing, each trying to amplify their theme in an effort to dominate the story line

what strikes me most is that this is the exact same tactic I "document" in my science fiction novel, Rampant Pheromonix, some twenty six years ago. In that story there is an epidemic of clairvoyance, and two particularly strong transmitters propagate their simple messages through repeating minds - one is all for peace and love, and the other is all for chaos and violence. the dark side breaks through first, but neither wins, as they are all subjected to an even stronger transmission, but still, it's an interesting parallel.

more indie notes

There seems to be an 'independent author' community, and at the same time there seems to be no such thing. Anyone who puts anything out there by themselves is an independent author by the new definition, especially if they go through the major channels (Amazon, Wattpad, Feedbooks, Smashwords etcetera), and this covers such a wide range of writers and books that it's impossible to find any kind of coherence. When I look at the stuff coming daily out of Smashwords, for example, I find it encompasses the whole realm of published books in general. I don't know if one can even talk about this group as a whole and make any kind of sense out of it.

The question of how people find independent authors online is really interesting to me.

From my years of working in bookstores, I know that a lot of book discovery can be visually driven. See it? Buy it. For a long time we kept putting a book called 'Black Indians' in the window. It was a book about the complex history of African-American and Native American interactions, and we always sold out the dozen or so hardcopies we had whenever we did this. One day the publisher's representative showed up to find out why our one store had sold so many more copies of the title than any other bookstore in the country! Ebook websites have to fill the role of bookstores in this sense. Which are the websites that will be the 'place to go'? There's an opportunity there.

Word of mouth is often said to be the most powerful driver of book discovery - people hear about it from their friends. Social media are the latest mechanisms for propagating information like this, which is why so many independent authors are being told that tweeting and posting on facebook are the new great marketing tools. I have to wonder about the signal to noise ratio, though, which has to be pretty similar to other internet phenomena as well, such as youtube. It's easy to get lost in that kind of space. It's like shouting into a vacuum.

Another word of mouth channel are independent author blogs. I have to admit this is the only way that I have found interesting independent writers, such as Lenox Parker (who I found through a comment by Moxie Mezcal posted on www.selfpublishingreview.com). But is the way that readers in general will ever find independent authors, or only the way that independent authors will find each other? Independent writers supporting each other is all very good, and once you catch hold of one you can follow their links to find others.

People can also search and sort through the aggregators' categories and lists, for example to find Amazon's top 100 teen vampire sex trilogies. I'm guessing that a lot of e-book discovery is occurring this way. Search and sort tools on those websites are probably the likeliest way an independent author's book is going to show up. I know this has been a key for people finding my titles. I had some luck with my 'Zombie Nights' (which is an counter-traditional zombie-genre story, to the dismay of many of its readers) because enough downloads were generated by a listing on www.getfreeebooks.com to put it high in the Smashwords most downloads list, and also put it into the top Horror and Science Fiction category listings. Once a title shows up relatively high in such places (such as Aldiko's Feedbooks listings), it gets more downloads and so on.  I've heard recently that some authors have been known to 'game the review system', by posting favorable reviews on Amazon, which gets those titles pushed up on some searches and sorts.

The point is, I guess, that every book has to be brought to people's attention somehow. I call it the 'needle in a haystack' problem, and I don't think there's any one magic formula. But even though the haystack is growing larger at an exponential rate, I have to hope that the number of needles are keeping pace.

Every good find is worth the effort

I don't think that independent authors face any more daunting odds now than previously. It's always been a needle in a haystack challenge. There's no shortage of stuff out there, that's for sure. My guess is that the quality-to-crap ratio is probably some kind of universal constant!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

success

Another Indie Author celebrated for being a 'success' because she has sold X number of books.


I guess this was kind of inevitable. "Self-publishing" is a new media darling story, like "grunge" et cetera before it. The themes of the story seem to be a) money and b) social media.

"So-and-so made X amount of dollars using Facebook and Twitter to market her teen vampire sex trilogy!!!"

Kurt Cobain killed himself over shit like this!

Since it's the buzz we have to get used to it. It makes me even more glad that I give away my books for free, because there's no possible way they can ever become a "success" on those terms.

Sigh ... It's going to be a long year :}

(actually, I'm happy for everyone who's making money this way, making money is good. it's why i have a job)

Monday, January 03, 2011

recipe4dystopia

0 stigmata minus men who fell from earth plus a little frog and toad. Phantom of the Mall
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phantom

The settlers were dispatched to a distant world to prepare the way for the great migration. Everything went according to plan, a little too smoothly, perhaps. Now there's only one thing missing in New Town, just a minor detail.

Dystopia in G Minor. The Phantom of the Mall.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Phantom of a Book

I was thinking of sending an old novel to my recent editor to see what he thought of it, but then I decided to take a look at it first. Oh my god, it's crap (and it's not even Scottish). Then I decided I could re-purpose it, make it tell a completely different story, so I spent the evening doing that. I threw away more than 22,000 words and added about 2,000 new ones, but it's not so good. It needs more throwing away of old, and more new added, so that it might as well be a completely new story entirely. but man, it sucked! and i used to think it so good. well, that just goes to show you. never believe anything you tell yourself, or anything anyone else tells you either!

Addiction to Narrative II

Reading this blog post by J Seliger, combined with this old blog post of my own, prompted this thought about the old question, 'why do writers write.

For me I think it comes down to what I call "addiction to narrative". I like to go around with a story bubbling in my brain. I think about one chapter at a time and once I've thought about it enough, I write it down so I can move along to the next one. Once I've finished a story, I soon get to jonesing for another. Eventually I come back around to do more revising and editing - usually when I'm between stories and need something to do. I'm not proud of my addiction, but it does seem somehow necessary to my mental health. I'm happiest when I've got a good one going on.

highly selective censorship

Amazon made a little splash recently by censoring some incest-themed erotica ebooks, including some by Smashwords author Selena Kitt. I really wonder why they did this. Three possible explanations come to mind.

1) They are mere hypocrites: appearing to be moral but only messing with relative small-fry, while never touching any big fish like 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'.

2) They are modernly "moral": disapproving of adult consensual incest, while  brutally violent, forced incest/child-rape (as in the aforementioned Girl+Tattoo) is just fine with them.

3) All of the above

Saturday, January 01, 2011

blekko for search

came across this article in TechCrunch describing a new search engine, Blekko, which is a revelation. you can add slashtags to your search, such as /date, which will order the results chronologically from most recent. in other words, search
  Feedbooks /date
and get the latest interesting links

it's also not dominated by commercial interests, like Google, so there's a much better chance of finding relevant information

you and your money

what is it with indie authors and how much money they made? do you go around giving a shit how much money people make doing whatever it is they do? do waiters announce their tip totals at the table? does your banker brag of her bank? do you like a book more when you know how much money filtered through to the author? i am really so sick of it, my new year's resolution is to stop paying attention to indie authors and their cash flow. as soon as any one mentions it, I will cross him or her off my linkage and follow lists. just keep it to yourself, won't you please?

while i'm at it, my other resolution is: no more marketing from my side. no tweets, no links to twitter or facebook on publishing sites, no more of that. 2010 was an experiment in indie publishing. now i know what is what. i'll continue to write and put my books out there and that's about it. they can float on the waters however it goes. no more throwing stones after them, trying to make a little splash to push them along. it made little difference. no reviews on blog sites. no 'interviews' either. since i give them all away for free, what difference does it make how many are taken? the numbers game is just as annoying as the money game.

In Constant Contact

this book is maybe one-third first-draft complete, but in pause mode while i completed re-editing earlier books. in the meantime, its cover art ...