Now you can listen to my son’s music

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My son put his music on Soundcloud, which is apparently a place where people can post their music for free, where you can listen for free. If you’re the sort of person who goes for electronic music in general or dubstep in particular, give it a listen. He recommends people start with the song “Cavernous” although I think that one, while it has a strong drop, isn’t as strong as some of the music he hasn’t uploaded. It certainly has an unpromising start, IMO, but it’s his music.

And lest we forget, he’s 12. so please don’t be rude about the work he’s doing.

Writers inspired by D&D, from the NYTimes

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Everyone’s linking to this NYTimes piece about a whole generation of writers who were influenced by playing D&D when they were young, and they offer a nice, broad cross-section of writers. It’s not just sf/f people, but literary writers and playwrights and plenty of others, too.

It’s a nice article, if a bit fluffy (which, what else would I expect, given the subject). I’ve said before that gaming had an influence over me, especially because it taught me that the characters I was so used to seeing in movies, books, and on TV did not seek advantage as ruthlessly as characters played by actual people who were invested in their success. The old standby is the spy escaping from a holding cell, knocking out a guard, and not taking anything from the guard’s body, not a weapon, communicator, key, nothing.

More interesting to me is that the authors seemed to have a much more theatrical/improvisational experience in their gaming. We spent So. Much. Time. going room to room killing things, with little more story than that. In fact, we’d play so much that it was impossible to make up an actual story, and when I tried I often found the players utterly uninterested in exploring any of it.

By the way, we played “The Fantasy Trip”, not D&D, because we though the armor class rules were incredibly stupid.

Anyway, I continue to believe that, with the right players and genre, an rpg session could be worthwhile art. Not just “I bash the orcs” sort of thing, but an actual exploration of character in a partly improvised narrative, with added random outcomes due to die rolls and an earned ending. They could even do the closeup camera thing for the die rolls, the way poker shows show the players’ hands. The two-part Tabletop episode was a good proof of concept, even if they didn’t take the narrative beyond “I swing my mace at the skeleton.”

If you watch that video (I thought it was interesting) you’ll see that the story is compelling when the players have their characters talk like themselves. When they try to talk pseudo-medieval fake fantasy stuff everything becomes stilted and awkward.

Anyway, I’m a little envious of the writers in that article, because the games I played as a kid never managed to pull together any kind of story. In college and afterwards, things were better, but not in those early formative years.

Randomness for 7/12

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1) The best one-star review ever.

2) Ingmar Bergman’s THE FLASH. Video. #lol

3) 25 Pictures Of Lesbian Sex According To Stock Photography #15, wtf?

4) A film from 1943 or 1944 with a British major demonstrating knife-fighting techniques. Dubbed into Greek but subtitled in English. Video.

5) Books with almost identical covers.

6) Baking projects that didn’t turn out like their photos.

7) Top ten pictures of pie eaters.

Shannara makes the jump to (M)TV

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I’m not first with the news, but MTV has finally, after holding the rights for… well, a long time, given the greenlight to a ten episode season of the Sword of Shannara TV series.

It’s an interesting counterpoint to GOT, which is the project that everyone is going to compare it to, and why not? Martin’s success on the small screen made a path for Brooks’s work to follow, just as Tolkien did for the novels.

John Favreau was originally announced as the director of the pilot, but he’s apparently stepped back into an Executive Producer role. Now it’s going to be the guy who did the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I guess? The writer/producers (who are much more important in TV than the directors) are Miles Millar and Al Gough, the guys behind SMALLVILLE.

Also, the show’s not going to be based on THE SWORD OF SHANNARA (because Peter Jackson already made that movie, maybe?) but on second book THE ELFSTONES OF SHANNARA. Obviously, there’s an epic quest and an important magic item, but unlike LOTR, they aren’t trying to destroy something toxic. They’re trying to retrieve something good.

Which is part of the reason so many LOTR imitators felt so thin, but nevermind. Who are they going to cast as not-Aragorn? What about not-Gandalf? And I’m sure they’re not going to stick with not-Gandalf’s name, Allanon.

By the way, Mr. Brooks is local to me (Deadline calls him “the second-biggest-selling living fantasy book writer, after Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling”) and I’ve heard him interviewed on the local PBS station. He explained that it’s not pronounced “Shah-NAR-ah”. It’s actually “SHAN-uh-ruh”. That’s straight from the man’s mouth.

Still, it’s the book that launched Del Rey, my former publisher, and it was the first fantasy novel to hit the NYTimes trade bestseller list.

I’m not going to be watching it, though. I read the first book in junior high, when the buzz around it was huge. My friends loved it, but I didn’t–I don’t even remember why–I didn’t read the rest. ELFSTONES… might be original and compelling light fantasy, but I’ll never know.

Then again, I don’t watch GAME OF THRONES, either, because I don’t have cable and don’t torrent things. What’s more, I can’t exactly bring home the DVDs when my kid is always underfoot. Maybe I’ll borrow them from the library when he’s old enough to watch creepy incest with his fath–when he moves out.

One thing I’m curious about: how explicit will they be with the post-apocalyptic setting? Will there be a crumbled Seattle Space Needle? Old transformer stations? “Wands of Sniping” (I just made that up) and who knows what else? In my opinion, the more like THUNDARR, the better.

But seriously, I hope it’s super-successful (I have an epic fantasy of my own coming soonish).

First week self-pub book sales: the numbers

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It’s been one week since I released the ebook of Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths And Other Tales Of Dark Fantasy (aka BLGDHDAOT oh, forget it) and I thought it might be interesting if I shared sales numbers. If you aren’t a regular reader of the blog and just like sales numbers, there’s more detail here, consider picking up a copy. It’s only three bucks.

First, we have the Kickstarter backers. There are 1166 people who pledged at $12 or above and who should have already gone to the download page and snagged a copy of this book. According to Google Analytics, there have been 1665 page views of the download page, and only 729 730 unique views (good job, late visitor). IF YOU BACKED THE KICKSTARTER AT $12 OR MORE BUT HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE DL LINK, CONTACT ME THROUGH MY KICKSTARTER ACCOUNT. You deserve to have your first book. Come and get it.

On a side note, releasing BAD LITTLE GIRLS… prompted eight unique views to the page where backers could get a copy of Twenty Palaces.

But what about readers who wanted the book but couldn’t/didn’t back the Kickstarter? Well, as you’d expect, Amazon generates the most sales. For this first week, there were 41 total sales: 16 on that first day, low numbers over the holiday weekend, then another 13 on Monday, when I posted an updated announcement post and a reader linked to the book on reddit/urbanfantasy. Later that day:

Broke 100 in Dark Fantasy

Hey, I’ll take any excuse to celebrate.

Using Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press, I’ve sold six copies. In Smashwords: three copies. Apple iBooks: one copy.

Of course, it took several days for me to get my book on Smashwords and iBooks. Those went on sale much later than the others, Smashwords because their formatting requirements are so complicated and iBooks because they take a long time to approve the books for their store. In fact, iBooks just made Bad Little Girls available yesterday, so that’s only one day’s numbers. If you’re an Apple partisan with an iPhone or iPad, you could swing over to iBooks yourself and bump their numbers. (Any benefit to me would of course be incidental.)

Other sales channels like Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, etc will be fulfilled through Smashwords’s distribution channel, and that hasn’t happened yet. Still, from experience I know those sales channels will be pretty thin.

Anyway, as expected, Amazon is readers’ preferred choice when it comes to buying and reading ebooks. I know short fiction collections don’t generally move a lot of copies, but I’d hoped the numbers would be higher. I received quite a few tweets and emails from people who had missed the Kickstarter and wanted to make sure they could get the books, especially the Twenty Palaces story BAD LITTLE GIRLS…. How to reach those people, though? I hesitate to send out a newsletter because I anticipate sending one in August for The Great Way. Few things will make people drop a newsletter faster than feeling that they’re getting too many emails. I’m planning to combine those newsletter announcements into one.

On top of that, there’s… what? Ads on reddit/r/Fantasy? I’m told reddit is one of the few places that ads will work. Maybe I could add comments to the five-star reviews on the other 20P novels, letting readers know there’s a new story? (Nah. Bad idea.) I’m planning to organize a blog tour for The Great Way, so I can’t do an extra one here.

In short, I wanted BAD LITTLE GIRLS… in my backlist when The Great Way came out, but I don’t want to do so much promo for it that people are sick of hearing from me when my trilogy comes out.

Fingers crossed.

Randomness for 7/8

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1) How to save a rusty ruined cast iron skillet.

2) Dad photoshops young daughter into sf/f movies.

3) Insights from a real sword fight.

4) Authors dress up as their favorite characters.

5) “There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.” Frankly, I say this fossil isn’t scary enough for the name.

6) Ten ridiculous Kickstarter campaigns people actually supported

7) Conversation with Twitter bots draws in Bank of America. #lol

I’m looking at map art for The Great Way

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I can’t share the actual images, because they’re just sketches and that’s not fair, but they are genuinely awesome and amazing. My wife and son have to help me choose between a beautiful traditional map and one done to look like a mosaic, which is very different and very cool.

The map is being created by Priscilla Spencer, who has done maps for Jim Butcher, Myke Cole, and Saladin Ahmed, among others.

I can’t wait for a finished version to share.

My First Short Fiction Collection (20 Palaces-related)

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I announced this last week, but I think I did a really terrible job of it. Let me try again:

One of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter I ran last fall was a short fiction collection that would include a new Twenty Palaces short story. We hit that goal and the book has been delivered to Kickstarter backers.

It’s also on sale as an ebook right now for only $2.99. Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Smashwords | More to come

The book is DRM-free on every site. If you buy the .mobi file format from Smashwords, you can put the book on your Kindle without worrying that Amazon will take it away from you. In other words, you’ll actually own it. (Just back it up elsewhere.)

Some details:

  • The Twenty Palaces story is called “The Home Made Mask” and it’s actually a novelette, being about 10K words.
  • Four of the stories are reprints that have been published elsewhere. Their rights have reverted, so I’m self-publishing them for the first time.
  • Two are stories that I previously sold on Amazon for 99 cents each.
  • Five have never been made available before, including “The Home Made Mask.” (It was important to me that people who had bought those short singles not feel ripped off when buying the collection).

Some of the stories are straight fantasy adventure. Some are much darker, bordering on horror (but aren’t straight horror). Some are humorous. Some are grimdark.

Honestly, I don’t consider short fiction a natural length for me, but I’m proud of the work here. Also, I keep thinking I should offer a free sample in my blog (maybe of the title story). What do you think? I realize comments are off on my main blog but you can drop me a note via Twitter, LiveJournal, Facebook, G+, or whatever.

Cover art for Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths And Other Tales Of Dark Fantasy

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Only $2.99 Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Smashwords | More to come

Hey, pick up a copy, maybe. You’ll like it.

Regarding petitions and joining teams.

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I’ve been mostly offline this week for my birthday stuff and to prep the release of my new book, so I’ve missed most everything going on lately. I even missed the pro-Amazon petition that’s been making the rounds.

Other authors stepped in though:

John Scalzi on treating publishing as a business:Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People

Chuck Wendig picks through the absurdities of the petition itself: THE PETITION TO PAINT AMAZON AS UNDERDOG

Fellow Team Caitlin author puts some numbers to the cost of publishing his books, self-published and not: The Cost of a Good Book

The petition itself is not Hugh Howey’s work, but he’s part of the group of authors who created it, and since he’s got such a high profile, people are attributing it to him.

That’s a little unfair, but the guy has made himself the public face of pro-Amazon partisanship, so it’s not exactly surprising. He turns up in the comments of Chuck’s piece, too, arguing his piece and explaining that his support of Amazon is provisional on their good behavior.

Sadly, he still hasn’t learned that publishers compete with each other. He claims they’re a cartel because they don’t compete on the royalty rates they offer writers, completely missing the fact that they compete on the advance they offer and the rights they take. This has been explained to him before, but it doesn’t do any good. If they don’t compete on royalties, he doesn’t believe their competing. It’s ridiculous, but you can’t force a person to understand.

Personally, I think Scalzi’s post comes closest to the point of the petition: It’s the creation of a team sport mentality to rally a fan base. I’m not even sure it’s something they do consciously, but there’s a positive feedback loop to crying “Revolution!” and “We have to stick together against the enemy!”

There’s no other point to urging others to support a corporation that sees you as an ATM. If boycotting Amazon means that readers will not be able to buy some authors’ work, those authors ought to be diversifying their business.

Look, I’m not against Amazon. Just yesterday I put a new book (with Twenty Palaces fiction inside) up for sale on their site! But it’s also with Barnes & Noble, and soon other places, too. I skip KDP Select because I don’t need Amazon’s basket for all my eggs.

Also, skipping Select means that Amazon takes a 65% commission on all sales, no matter what the price, in certain territories like Mexico and Japan. I don’t want to pay them so much, so I don’t let them sell in those countries. Readers there can still find my work in iBooks or on the Nook.

Have I mentioned that I worked there for a while? I did, in the warehouse “fulfillment center” way back before they opened a bunch of them all over the country. I liked (most of) the people, but didn’t stick around. There were just too many people who were GungHoOurCompanyWeMustBandTogetherToConquerAll! (One of the supervisors told us that Christmas was going to be a “war” around there, and we should be ready to put our personal lives on hold. At Christmas. For a corporation. I shit you not.)

And now I find the same attitude from people who don’t even work there.

Last week, I got into a Twitter conversation about whether Howey is “pro-writer.” The other person thought so (I’m sure Howey feels the same way) but to me he’s always pro-Amazon. The way he talks, you’d think writers’ and Amazon’s interests were so close together you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between them.

They’re not. Obviously. And I don’t mean “they might diverge at some point in the future.” They’re different right this very second, and no pro-corporate boosterism is going to change that fact. It might spread around the web like a meme and motivate fans to buy books, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

On an unrelated note, this is totally my latest earworm.

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! anthology now available.

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Hey, not only do I have a new book of short fiction coming out very very soon (like, when Amazon et al approve the files I already uploaded and start selling it) there’s a new anthology out right now with a new story by me.

Actually, the story I wrote for John Joseph Adams’s HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects (it’s Amazon-only for the moment).

There are other stories by Seanan McGuire, Tobias Buckell, and a whole helluva lot of other terrific writers. Check it out.

AND! If you’d like to read my story–for freeyou can do that right here. The theme of the anthology is “stories told through the format of a Kickstarter campaign,” and mine is about a plan to summon the Taco God, with a bit of Lovecraftian pastiche, recipe pledge levels, and a religious schism in the comments. It’s fun and short.

It’s also the second story I wrote for the anthology. The first one (rejected for being too dark) is in the collection I announced in the post previous to this one.