I answered a ton of questions, some about Ansel Zahn, some about ebooks, some about my upcoming project, and some just about writing books and telling stories. It was fun! It was also a lot of typing.
Anyway, head over there if you think someone might have asked a question that you would also be curious about.
Just click this link:
and ask me anything you want.
And it’s going to be tomorrow, the 15th.
For those who don’t know, AMA stands for Ask Me Anything. Basically, people will post questions in a dedicated thread, and I’ll answer them.
That’s it. Not complicated, but very cool. I’ll post a link tomorrow to the actual post where you can do the actual asking.
This week my wife’s workplace is shut down for their annual week of cleaning, which means that she can take kid patrol duties from me. A whole week.
I haven’t been around much lately but this means I’ll be on the internet even less as I try to get work done. My list
Finish and send short story
Finish KS video
Get KS up and running
Finish Lightning Source Registration
Start revising The Great Way
Not in order of importance, obviously.
I expect this will keep my hopping while she’s gone and while she’s here, too. Hope you guys are doing well.
The insides are even prettier, but you’ll have to buy a copy to see those. You can pre-order it now from:
Or, you can win one of the copies in that box. I’ll be holding a giveaway AFTER Stephen Blackmoore’s Khan novel comes out in August. (King Khan is a standalone sequel to his Khan of Mars.) Of course, you can order his book too: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound
In case you don’t know Stephen’s work, his debut urban fantasy novel City of Lost Things was one of Kirkus’s Best of 2012. Recommended!
making books personal: a blessing of monsters i look bad moi? progress the wife
by Harry Connolly
It was just Monday that I blogged about how grateful I am that folks are supporting me in the Clarion West writeathon and that I was taking those pledges seriously and hoping to get a lot done.
Then, later that day, I broke a tooth in a big way.
Tuesday, I discovered that I could not get in with my dentist that day.
Wednesday, I learned that I will probably need a root canal that I can’t afford.
Today, my wife found out that a very old friend of hers passed away. She’s processing it as best she can and I’m trying to stay close in case she needs support.
Guys, this week sucks. As soon as we can put this one in our rear-view mirror, lets.
On top of that, I realized too late that progress on the book had grown sluggish because my subconscious was telling me that I’d made a structural mistake. The book felt flat and I couldn’t keep pushing through it any more. This realization felt almost Strossian.
So, it’s late in the day but I’m going to go back and redo those pages in the proper way, and hopefully they will help to build the climax the way it’s meant to be done.
Week’s not over! It’s possible that tomorrow will be non-shitty. Let’s hope so.
Based on the search strings I’m seeing from people searching for my site, I should make it easy on folks to find out this piece of information:
I’m not going to SDCC this year.
What’s more, I’m not planning to attend ever again. I’ve tried a convention or two and I mostly didn’t enjoy them, so I decided some time ago that I wasn’t going to go. Maybe if I’d started at 15 or something, it would be different. Now I’m an old guy and I just don’t have the interest.
Sorry. I know this is the sort of thing some readers expect, but it’s not the right thing for me.
People who have been reading me for a while (and who have good memories) know that I celebrate my not-birthday today. Since my wife and I have the same birthday, and since sharing the day with your spouse sucks, I moved mine.
And hey, at the bottom of this post I’m going to ask you for a present.
My wife will be at work most of the day, but the plan is:
Write in the morning.
See Man of Steel (which no one else in the fam wants to see).
Come home and play a video game, if you can fucking believe it (alternately: write some more).
Delivery Indian food for dinner.
Giant fruit salad instead of cake. (We are not people of the cake.)
Best part: no nasty melon in the fruit salad. Everyone puts melon or cantelope or something in fruit salad, and it always ruins it. We’ll have cherries, apple, pear, nectarines, and some other fruits that are not on the reactive list. So incredibly good. I can’t wait.
From you, good reader, I will ask for a birthday present. As you know (professor) I’m going to be Kickstartering and self-publishing my latest book. I would ask you knowledgeable folk to post three or fewer links to the most instructive blog posts and articles that you know about the process.
If you don’t know of any good Kickstarter articles, no worries.
I’ll turn on comments on my main blog for this. Hopefully, the spam won’t be too overwhelming. Not working. Reader, I sigh. You can also comment on my LiveJournal, on Twitter, on Facebook, or any of my social media.
Have a great day, you guys. I plan to.
The thing about being in a family is, you get assigned a role within the family. They decide you’re a certain kind of person and, for the most part, treat you that way for most of your life. Growing up, I was the lazy kid who always made as little effort as possible just to get by. Even when I was a grown man, getting up at 2 am to write before I went to a 5 am dayjob shift, I still believed that’s who I was.
Anyway, we have family roles in our home, too. For instance, my wife is the one who Won’t Throw Anything Away. We live with a lot of clutter. I’ve always told myself that, if it were up to me, I would pitch out a great dumpster full of stuff so we would have more room. Can’t do that, though, because my wife collects blue glass bottles that she will Do Something With Someday, and jars of stones that she collected on a trip somewhere, which reminds her of the people and that time.
And it’s a touchy subject. From her perspective, we have a lot of useful things that could be kept neatly if we could just put them away. From mine, there’s no way I could know where everything goes and it would be like a wizard’s medicinal shop around here, with a thousand little drawers and shelves and boxes and cabinets. My failing is that I’m good at cleaning but terrible at creating order out of chaos. If it’s not simple, I can’t deal.
So imagine my surprise last Friday when my wife just went nuts on the kitchen, digging out all the old equipment that we never use and will never use, so she can donate it.
The result: our kitchen is much nicer than it was. Other result, I had a mild hoarder’s reaction to seeing all my old cooking stuff in plastic bags marked “BLIND”. The insulated cookie sheets that are genuinely awesome (but we don’t bake anymore). The potato cutter that never really worked. The plastic mandolin that’s just too fragile. That old pan! I used to cook with that pan all the time! And… this thing? What is it? It might be useful if I figured out what it’s for.
Essentially, the family role that I’d imagined for myself was taken by my wife, and I found myself fighting the same urge to hold on to possessions that I’d always attributed to her.
If she’s ready to let go of things, I think it’s great and I support her. I certainly don’t want to undermine the work she’s doing. I just have to guard against playing her “role” now that she’s letting go of it.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters moi? progress
by Harry Connolly
My agent just confirmed that she received the new version of THE WAY INTO CHAOS. That’s just the first part of a long-ass story that’s not even finished, but I have post-project blues anyway. Christ.
As a followup to yesterday’s post about our bias toward survivors, skill, luck, and the creating of luck, I wanted to make one little note here about how wrong I’ve been on one aspect of book marketing.
It’s often said that publicists and marketers will do all sorts of things to get the word out about a particular book, but they know that 90% of it will be wasted effort–they just don’t know which will be in the 90%, so they do it all.
For me and a lot of other people, I suspect, this sounds like a poorly-researched, poorly-planned activity. How can you not know what works and what doesn’t? Why not just find out what’s effective? Do polling/market research/whatever to answer questions like: Do book reviews in Locus sell copies? Do convention appearances? Do radio interviews?
Obviously, this wouldn’t be easy but it sounds doable. What’s more, there’s money on the line and if there’s one thing that begs for careful research into the acquiring of it, it’s money.
But that’s because I hadn’t really thought about it correctly. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, people who are lucky tend to put themselves into new situations often. They’re flexible. They don’t try to control situations. They try new things.
Yesterday, while I was mulling over the prospect that it was my own damn choices that made the Twenty Palaces books so unlucky, it dawned on me that the whole point of “90% is wasted effort” is that it’s luck-seeking behavior. It’s putting information out into the world hoping that it starts catching people’s attention in a big way. People will say things like “I took out an ad on Reddit Fantasy” or “I did a guest post for [Name Author]” or “I got a nice review on [Non-Book Site]” but that’s a kind of suvivorship bias, too. The book was marketed and publicized in a lot of ways, but those were the times that luck hit.
Maybe that’s obvious to everyone in the world but me, but this is my blog, so…
Here I’ve been thinking that most marketing is Not Useful. Maybe I should rethink.
Actually, not all that much that was knew. Too much of my online time is rat/lever/food pellet time. Twitter is most interesting and most fun but also most time-consuming. Tumblr is a site I never thought about except that I get to see my in-laws’ art there. Google pluse and Facebook are mostly interesting for the links I find on them.
Also, I get a fair amount of email but very little of it actually requires a response. Most of it I can skim and delete.
Yes, I did make a lot of headway on THE WAY INTO CHAOS but it’s not finished. Much more needs to be done. For right now, though, I’m going to post something stupid to Twitter.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters moi? progress publishing
by Harry Connolly
So, this is a little embarrassing and I just have to come out and talk about it.
I haven’t released a new book in a long time.
Duh, right? It’s not like you guys don’t know this. My last novel was CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, which came out Labor Day 2011. What’s more, I’ve already mentioned that I finished the first draft of CoE in 2010, before GAME OF CAGES came out.
So what the hell have I been doing?
Well, the first thing I did is write A KEY, AND EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, which I had high hopes for but screwed up badly. I could probably whip it into shape in a month or so once I figure out how to manage the voice, but it’s back-burnered.
There’s also the Spirit of the Century novel I wrote for the game company Evil Hat. Kickstarter backers have already received their copies, but everyone else has to wait for this fall.
And there’s some short fiction, which I plan to collect and release as an ebook next month.
So what the hell? Where are the books?
Here’s the thing: When I started THE WAY INTO CHAOS (originally titled A BLESSING OF MONSTERS–you can decide which title you hate more) I’d planned to wrap up the whole story in 120K words. One volume.
That hasn’t happened. I’m at 270K right now and the end is in sight. However, I’ve stopped forward progress and gone back to the beginning for a major revision. It’s taking up a lot of my time and driving me a little nuts.
The whole thing is taking too long. I need to finish this and move on to another project; it hasn’t even sold and I’m sick to death of it. Also, it can take a year or more from the time my agent sells something to the time it’s released. Do I want my next novel to hit the shelves in 2015? 2016?
That’s too long.
So, in order to get more done and focus in on this project, I’m going on an internet fast. It’ll be at least this whole week, possibly longer. I will check my email once a day, but that’s it: no Facebook mentions, no Twitter replies, no LJ comments, nothing.
In the meantime, I will be doubling down on this book. I won’t finish in that time, but I plan to double my progress, at least.
I’ll also have some time to do some much needed chores.
In truth, I really enjoy social media but I feel over-committed at the moment. It’s become a bit of an obligation, so I’m shedding everything for w bit. When I come back I’ll take stock and see what I’ll need to change.
Funnily enough, just as I decided to do this, a guy hit the internet with his big “I just took a year away from the internet, and it didn’t solve all my problems” article. I understood the dude’s urge to change his routine, but is it really any surprise that his problems were internal rather than external?
Anyway, I’m not trying to fix my life here. I’m just freeing up time to work. There will be a couple of blog posts that will go live while I’m away, but you know.
Wish me luck.
Now that season one of Veronica Mars is over, the family finally had a chance to play RACE TO ADVENTURE, which I backed as a Kickstarter.
Here’s the layout near the start of the game. Of course I played Prof. Khan.
You can see I’ve collected the passports for the USA and Switzerland, while to the right my son has collected USA and GB. However! I am about to collect Nepal in that very turn, while my son was hoarding clues at the Library of Congress.
Yeah, that’s my kid giving the thumbs up.
My wife… I’m not sure what she was doing. Let’s just say she had a busy day and wasn’t concentrating too well.
Here we are at the end of the game, when I had returned to the Century Club, said (house rule: no shouting) “I have returned!” and won the game.
The others also collected all of their passports (and rescued the prisoner from Atlantis) but, having saved Egypt for last, they were still cursed. They were also way behind. Mwah-ah-ah-ah!
As for the game, it was terrific. I think I’d like to play it once or twice more on the tan side of the tiles before flipping them to the more advanced “shadow” game. We stumbled a little bit with the rules at first, like we do with every game, but by the end the turns were flying by. This might be the first game ever that says it takes 30 minutes to play and really means it.
The nice thing is that there’s no luck involved (no blowing your plans because of a lousy roll of the die) and the strategy elements were light but still effective. It’ll be a good fast game when we just want to play something fun without a ton of calculation.
On a day when the news was filled with blood, horror, and people coming together to help each other in dire need, it was good to sit with my family and play a game.
Ten years ago tomorrow was the start of the Invasion of Iraq. To my shame (not chagrin, not embarrassment. Shame.) I was an early supporter of the war.
I had long believed that war never be taken on as an adventure overseas, but I let myself be turned by the propaganda leading up to the attack. Did I believe the evidence supporting the presence of WMDs? No, actually, but I thought Hussein needed to allow inspections to continue. Did I believe Iraqi oil reserves were part of the reason we went to war? Yes, of course I did, but I thought there was good to be done anyway.
Which is completely ridiculous. Of course it is. How often are the tools of empire and destruction put of a positive use?
What’s more, I was a grown man who knew better. So what happened? I let myself get caught up in all the talk of chemical weapons used against Iraqi citizens and “rape rooms.” I let myself be convinced that the Iraqi people would be grateful.
At the time, there were anti-war marches in the streets. I remember looking out my window at them as they passed the office building where I worked: they were the usual far left hippie types with their giant puppets, long hair, and birkenstocks. They agreed with me that the war was about oil (a stance that was sneered at in the media at the time) but they were sure it was a huge mistake.
Of course they were right. Of course they were. At the time I thought their protests were ridiculous and self-marginalizing. They seemed more interested in confirming their cultural cred as outsiders than in winning people to their side. The civil rights marchers in the sixties wore coats and ties; these people were in tie dye and sandals that showed their dirty feet. These people don’t represent me.
And that’s utterly ridiculous. They weren’t trying to represent me. They were warning us that the nation was about to make a huge mistake, and they were 100% correct.
Shortly before the invasion, when talk of war was ever-present, I remember Hans Blix coming to the media to say that Hussein had knuckled under and agreed to allow inspections again. I spent half a day foolishly thinking that the invasion planning had done it’s job… until Bush administration officials declared that it was too little too late and the invasion was going to happen anyway. That’s when I realized what an immature asshole I’d been, although I still held out thin hope things would turn out all right.
What I realize now is that I should have been out in the streets with those protesters. I should have held on to my beliefs and my mistrust and marched against the war. It’s not the responsibility of political protesters to make themselves palatable to me; it’s my job to recognize right from wrong and speak out about it.
Remember last week when I mentioned that I had taken my family to an EMP event to see a specific panel and the room was so packed we missed it? No? Well, you better click on that link then.
I never did get an email back, but I did get a phone call. The dude was quite apologetic and very nice. Unfortunately, there was no recording of the event; apparently the companies many of the presenters work for had a bug up their butt about what could be recorded and what art they were going to show. Understandable, really, except that the panel we wanted was two local educators, so I suspect they would have been cool with a camcorder or two, but never mind. It’s done.
On the plus side, EMP intends to refund the cost of the tickets.
That’s very nice of them. While they might have made an error in planning their event, their customer service was pretty great.
On Twitter, @JoshDaws asked me to explain my reasons for not buying my son an Xbox and I figured it was too involved to do it in a few 140-character messages, so I’m putting it here.
Everyone is a consumer. Everyone consumes culture of some kind, whether it’s radio, TV, games, books, movies, theater, whatever. For some people, it’s Honey Boo Boo. For others, it’s sitting on an overturned bucket in a warehouse while they watch a play about women in Afghanistan. For others, it’s that one Merle Haggard album they just can’t get enough of. And for still others, it’s a whole weekend shooting zombies on the Xbox.
Now, I don’t have a problem with any of this, right? God forbid, considering some of the movies I’ve wasted portions of my life on. Consume what you want. Enjoy it. With my son, he’s latched onto things that I thought were dumb enough to kill brain cells (like Garfield books) and other things that were mostly a waste of time. But he enjoys them and I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.
However! When he came to me to say he wanted to buy an Xbox–with his own money–I told him he couldn’t. (FYI: he’s 11.) He was pretty upset (and is still trying to wear us down) but I was adamant. It’s not that I dislike video games. He has some right now and has played them ever since he was small; Minecraft is his current obsession. Yes, it can be difficult for him to stop when we ask him to, but that’s true of any kid doing any activity that they love. We also have a Wii (which was supposed to be used for the Wii Fit, but nevermind) although he doesn’t much like the games we have.
It’s not that the games are violent. There are plenty of sweet, non-violent puzzle/platform/whatever games. Besides, we’ve watched every episode of Burn Notice and he’s played Call of Duty (and #2) on the iMac.
The question is: how much of his life is spent consuming, and how much is spent creating?
See, when he was small, he would spend hours making things. As a toddler he would make endless lines of tiny blocks all through the apartment. As he got older, he made comic books, then baked goods, then finally short animated Lego movies.
And they were all terrible. The comics, actually, had some effective layout and design, but the food he made was a random mix of whatever he could grab and it tasted like poison. “For you, Mom!” (and she would always taste it.)
The Lego shorts were always busy but there was never a plot that made sense, half the snaps would be out of focus.
They were good for his age–actually, they were excellent for his age. Look at the “novel” of his I published last year on the blog; I couldn’t write with that much verve at his age.
But he lost all that when he went to school. The biggest lesson he took from public school is that “fun”, “projects”, and “learning” are all separate categories. He still likes to make things, but only in Minecraft and it’s been a long time since he set aside several hours to create something. At best, he’s been putting in an hour or two a couple times a week with Garageband to make electronic music.
I don’t much care what he wants to do with his time, as long as he spends a good portion of it making things. Any asshole can spend every weekend of his life shooting baddies in a video game (and I’ve been that asshole, sometimes). I want him to have more than that. It’s not enough just to consume products made by some corporation, even if they’re cool products. He has to turn that around, too.
To that end, we’ve suspended regular homeschooling so he can work with me on a “book trailer” for THE WAY INTO CHAOS. We’re shooting it in our living room with Lego figures. It’s completely inappropriate for the tone of the novel, if you know what I mean, and would be terrible marketing if I were remotely impressed by the marketability of trailers anyway.
Still, it’s a project. He’s throwing himself into it with his old enthusiasm, and I love him for it. I just wish we could return to the days when this was a habit.
Anyway, that’s why I won’t let him buy an Xbox. He has games already, and Netflix, and DVDs from the library, and books, too. That’s a lot of opportunities to consume. I don’t think he needs enough to fill his whole life.
Last night I took my wife and son to the Experience Music Project for the opening night of their “Game Nite” exhibit, which is their new video game project, I guess. Let’s start by saying it didn’t go well.
My wife has zero interest in video games at all, and I really enjoy them but try to keep my distance. I can be a little obsessive about things, and video games sometimes take over my whole life. However, my son loves them and has been making noises about creating some. Unsurprisingly, we want to support that.
The main feature of opening night was a series of talks given by game professionals and educators who teach game-making. That page is gone from EMP’s website but you can see the Google cache while it lasts. We were especially interested in this one:
So You Want to Make a Video Game?
Raymond Yan, Senior Executive at DigiPen Institute of Technology
Jason Pace, Executive Director at University of Washington Center for Serious Play
Now, I know there are resources online for creating games. I’ve looked. We were especially interested here because it was two guys who were local to us and because they would have a chance to bounce ideas off each other. I wanted to see a contrast between them. I also wanted to ask questions.
To that end, we skipped the tour of the actual games and got in line early for the keynote speech. We even got ourselves some good seats. The keynote was fine if not life-changing.
Unfortunately, because there was a line of people waiting to get in to the theater, they make the audience exit the room and get back at the end of the line. Because we had good seats we were one of the last out. The line went around two corners and up a flight of stairs.
We did not get into the one panel we most wanted to see.
Much of our time was spent standing beside game stations waiting to play one of the DigiPen games on offer. All the games were made as student projects and they are all hand-coded–no engines at all. You can play any of the games in their gallery for free. Most of the kids were playing a driving game I didn’t learn the name of, but “Solace” and “Nous” were other good ones.
My son did get to play some and so did I. My wife was interested in eavesdropping on some of the sound designs but nothing more beyond that. However, the largest portion of our time was spent playing a board game in the lounge. Pandemic. Damn, that’s a great game.
Anyway, I sent an email to EMP pointing out how frustrating it is to drop $35 on an event and then be barred from the think you most wanted to do. With luck they’ll post video of the event and someone will have asked the questions I wanted to ask.