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.
Todd Lockwood, who illustrated the book, will also be there. If you follow science fiction and fantasy art, you’ve almost certainly seen his work, and if you bought the Tales of the Emerald Serpent anthology, which contained my story “The One Think You Can Never Trust,” then you definitely have, along with one of his short stories.
Anyway, I’m not exactly a raconteur, but if anyone wants to come out and say hello I’d be happy to shake your hand.
evergreen posts making books personal: moi? publishing the twisted path words
by Harry Connolly
Along with the release of the sales numbers of my self-published novel has come a flood of requests that I turn to Kickstarter to fund The Twisted Path (that’s the working title of the next Twenty Palaces book). Currently, I have no plans to do that, and I’m writing this post because I want to explain my reasoning to you guys and I want to have a post I can link to when people broach the subject. Because they do broach the subject. A lot.
I want to be a best-selling author.
What’s more, I want to do it on my own terms; I want to write the books I think are cool, and I want a hundred thousand readers to snap them off the shelves the first week they come out. I want to write thrillers with good characters and magic, along with A Few Things I Want To Say. I mean, not to jump up and proclaim that I want to be Stephen King, but I want to be Stephen King. It’s not about making a whole bunch of money, it’s about having my books in the hands of lots of readers from all over the world.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to copy Stephen King, or Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin or Gillian Flynn. I wouldn’t even try. I intend to write books my own way because honestly believe the things I think are cool will be cool to bunches and bunches of readers.
Or maybe not. We’ll see. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway.
How does this tie in to Twenty Palaces, a series that you, the person reading this post, quite possibly read and enjoyed? Well, 20P has dedicated fans, but not very many. As mentioned in the Twenty Palaces sales post, I sold over 3700 copies of my book, self-published. Couldn’t I sell at least that many if I self-published The Twisted Path? Or maybe even more if I turned to…
Well, sure. Maybe. Maybe I could write two 20P books a year (or three in two years), and quite possibly the readers I have right now would be willing to pony up the cash I’d need for an editor, cover artist, copy editor, and the disreputable author himself (not to mention covering Uncle Sam’s and Kickstarter’s cuts). A Thousand True Fans, right?
Here’s the truth: I could do that. I could live on that money. I’d probably have to depend on 2.5K mostly-true-occasionally-false fans, but I’m still living on the advance money Random House started paying me in 2008, okay? I live cheap. I have no car, no cell phone, no new clothes, no new glasses…
Oh, wait, that part sucks. Anyway, I’m cheap as hell, I don’t need much money, and I could make that work, right?
Yes. Yes, I could. But you know what? That would be another year of not making my goal. That would be another year of working on a series that didn’t get me where I want to be. Every Twenty Palaces book I’ve written has sold fewer than the one before; do I want to keep going after fewer and fewer readers every year?
Several people have suggested that I could get new readers with a Kickstarter campaign, but I don’t consider that realistic. Take a look at these guys: their campaign has been fantastically successful. At the time I write this, they’re over 11,000% of their goal. However, they have fewer than 8,500 backers.
That’s huge for a Kickstarter but Circle of Enemies sold more copies than that and it’s considered a failure. When I look at fiction projects run by novelists, especially ones who are more successful than I am, the number of backers is usually in the low-three figures.
So no, a Kickstarter campaign won’t bring in new readers. It would sure please the readers I already have, though, and you know what? I want that. Wanting to be read by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world includes the people who already know and like my work. I’m grateful for everyone willing to buy a copy of my books or to recommend Ray Lilly to their friends.
But to stay with Twenty Palaces when I know the reading public at large–not just the ones who enjoy my work, but the wide audience–has rejected it would be to never move beyond my starting point. It would mean standing in this small safe place. I would be giving up the chance to grow and try something new.
If I were a different writer–someone who could put out 20,000 finished words a week–I’d write Ray Lilly books alongside whatever new things I came up with. I can’t do that. I’m not prolific. It has to be one thing at a time with me.
I just can’t get past the opportunity cost. Twenty Palaces novels are challenging: each one took me a year or more to write, and you know what? I’m not young. Look up at that third paragraph; did I say I wanted to be the next EL James or JK Rowling? Nope, it was “Stephen King.”
Because I’m old. Life is short, and I need to spend my years wisely.
So here’s my plan: I have already written a book in The Auntie Mame Files which needs to be revised. I’ve also written about 200K of The Great Way, which is the series name for my epic fantasy. Everything I’ve written so far has been aimed at publication through New York. Yeah, I know it’s possible (maybe not likely, but possible) to make more money by publishing books myself, but more money isn’t enough. I want more readers, too.
If I Kickstart or self-publish a new novel, it will be one of those books.
I won’t be returning to the Twenty Palaces setting until I’m honest-to-god successful. It’s only when I have, say, 100,000 eager readers buying my books that I’ll reintroduce 20P to see if the series can find new life.
So that’s it: the final word. I could self-publish or Kickstart The Twisted Path, but it’s not going to happen until after I succeed with something else. If you liked the Twenty Palaces books, I hope you’ll like the next thing I write. If not, that’s cool, too.
But please don’t argue with me about continuing the series, or try to explain to me what Kickstarter is, or insist that yes, in fact, truly, it would be the right move for me to write The Twisted Path next. The series is dead. It was starved of sales and died. I won’t be trying to revive it anytime soon.
Sorry if you’re disappointed by that–believe me when I say it hurts me even more–but that’s how it’s gotta be.
Added: As if he used his powers as SFWA president to read this unfinished blog post, John Scalzi put up a terrific post about writing for a living. It’s not just an art, it’s a job, too, and we all have to make realistic choices.
Plus, I’m convinced the dude has installed spyware on my computer or used a time machine to read this post in the future and then come back and pre-empt it. Hmf.
I recommend reading his thoughts on the matter, plus the comments from other pros in the comments. As an addendum: keep in mind that, looking at the numbers in this post, where he’s talking about the sales figures of Redshirts, John Scalzi, as successful as he is, has not yet reached the threshold I set myself for returning to 20P. Just sayin’
As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, I’m pretty iffy on the subject of “talent.” People say “That writer is SOOO TALENTED!” based on the work they produce, and there’s really no way to know where the work–not to mention the expertise that created it–came from. Multiple revisions? Strong editorial hand? A childhood spent ear-deep in books? Years of study?
As I said before, if it feels wrong, I revise it. The question is: how did I learn to recognize good from bad? I mean, it’s easy to talk about teaching the rules of grammar or plot cliches, but those are intellectual lessons. For me, I know it’s wrong before I really understand why. It’s the feeling that makes me give it a second look.
So how do we train writers to have this instinctive response to things that suck in their own work?
Here’s how I understand it works:
1. Make sure they’re exposed to good work.
1a. Make sure they understand what makes it good.
2. Make sure they’re exposed to terrible work.
2a. Make sure they understand what makes it terrible.
3. Tease out the good from the bad in problematic works.
(None of this is exactly revelatory, is it?)
4. Expect writers to explain for themselves why they respond the way they do.
It’s number 4 that matters most, I think. It’s important for mentors, peers, and teachers to point out not just good from bad but good from great, but it’s even more important for writers to acknowledge and analyze their own responses to work. What they feel, not what they ought to feel.
Eleven-plus years ago, when my wife and I were expecting, we did a lot of research on proper parenting techniques. Let me just say, there’s a lot of bullshit out in the world about raising your kids. Most of it is about discipline and far too much is faddish, but we were happy with John Gottman’s teaching. (Yes, this is a digression. I’ll bring it back to the topic at hand soon, I promise.) Actually, we borrowed a DVD from the library featuring a lecture he gave on “emotion coaching.”
Essentially what he explains is that it isn’t enough to love your kids or to be warm to them. It’s also important to teach them about their emotions. You set boundaries for proper behavior. You pay attention to those times your kids are feeling angry, frustrated, sad, etc. You don’t try to change their moods to something else with jokes or play or tickling. Instead, you teach the child an age-appropriate name for what they’re feeling and make sure they understand that it’s okay to be sad or angry or whatever.
And so on. The important thing is, when the child understands and trusts their own feelings, they get a host of benefits not the least of which is to trust the little feeling of alarm you get when you meet someone sketchy and manipulative.
To bring this back to writing, there are a lot of responses that people have to narrative and language that, left unexamined, lead them to make really shitty story choices. They may know what will evoke a particular response in a general sense, but can they predict the response accurately? Do they understand their own responses, and have they developed the empathy to incorporate the responses they’ve learned to expect from other people?
Because that sort of accuracy is what people call “talent.”
You can tell I think that previous sentence is important because it’s got its own paragraph. Here it is again in bold: Talent = Accuracy. If you can evoke a response from the reader that you intended to get, that’s what people call talent. If you can do it while avoiding cliches like beautiful-but-klutzy-heroines or villains-shoot-the-hero’s-dog, people will think you’re even more talented. If you can make the reader feel something compelling but unusual, coming out of a narrative they can not find anywhere else, they’ll think you’re extraordinarily talented.
It doesn’t have to be something you’re born with. It doesn’t have to be something that makes itself known before you turn 18. It can come from hard work and close study and long sessions spent gabbing with other writers. No one can really tell, because the only thing they can see is the finished work.
That’s why I think that creating a talented writer is a pretty straightforward process, if the writer is willing to do the work: Examine their own responses. Understand how and why others respond as they do. Practice getting the responses you want. Become lauded as “a talented writer.”
The best(worst) thing about it is that people will see the end result of all that hard work and declare that it must have come from something innate within you, and they could never manage it themselves.
 Having already spent too much of my day on this post, I’m going to throw it onto the blog as a vomit draft. No revision! I fully expect to regret this at some later point.
 “The Reader” = Not every reader everywhere but a fair proportion of them.
This blog (LJ, DW, whatever) has been pretty much neglected lately. In truth, I’ve been battling a post-holiday case of the blues. A number of authors have been talking about this lately, including Danny Marks on his YouTube channel and Cat Valente on her LJ, and hearing about their symptoms and struggles makes me feel a bit of a whiner. I’ve never come to the point of collapse or been able to get out of bed, but I am frustrated, impatient, short-tempered and otherwise unhappy with human interaction. Even Twitter, which is a pretty easy place for me to hang out online, has been off-putting lately.
I wish I could say that I’ve been perfectly cheerful and charming with my family, but that isn’t true, either. I’m also not hitting my daily word count goals every day (and I should be working right now) which is frustrating. I’m not sure what I need, except possibly more reading time.
Anyway, this blog has never been terribly active but I’ve been neglecting it lately. That’s why. Things will get more active, I think. Maybe in the spring, if I can’t get my shit together before then.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters internet moi? progress the auntie mame files the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
I’m going to keep this short.
The most popular entry on this blog is the one where I dissect the reasons why my series was cancelled. I’m not what you’d call excited about that, but the fact remains. With luck, I’ll have a post in the new year that will finally draw more attention.
The year itself has been tough. I’d hoped to sell A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark but my agent was reluctant to send it out and I took her advice. Thank god. Last fall I took another look at the manuscript and realized I’d blown it. The novel needs major revisions and christ but the moment for it has pretty much passed. I’ll still finish it, eventually, but that leaves a big hole in my schedule. I put out no new work in 2012.
As for 2013, the only novel I expect to put out is King Khan, the tie-in novel for Spirit of the Century. If Epic Fantasy With No Dull Parts sells, it’ll probably be scheduled for 2014. In any event, life is short. I am working constantly. I don’t have a lot to show for it right now.
On a personal level, my family life has only been getting better. I am a very, very lucky ugly fat man.
And that’s it. I don’t do New Years’ resolutions, because they carry the cultural baggage that no one keeps them, and I never wait until Jan first to make the changes in my life I think I need. But I’m going back to work now, and I’m going to keep working on a sequel to a book that hasn’t even sold yet and which probably won’t come out until 2015.
I don’t even know what to say about this except that I can muddle through it.
Let’s start by saying this was a Card Kingdom Giftmas. Between the three of us, we must have dropped almost $600 there for card and board games, plus the never-ending Pokemon purchases. Curious what we got? Here’s a pic.
Except that’s not everything. We forgot to include HIVE, which is a two-player game best described as “nature chess” except with fewer pieces and no board. The other game we forgot is FRIDAY, a solo deck-building game about a Pacific Islander who finds himself saddled with a hapless European shipwrecked on the island. You have to teach him how to survive and defeat pirates (by building the deck) in order to rid yourself of him. 
Also, the pic does not include the Pokemon stuff we go, including an entire booster box which went over… well, see footnote 1.
We haven’t played all the games yet, but there isn’t a dud among them. Some of the new Dominion cards are brutal, Munchkin Apocalypse is just as funny as the base game, and Guillotine is a surprise favorite.
Dixit is great but will play better with four players. 7 Wonders promises to be great fun but we shouldn’t have tried to play it when we were so exhausted. And even though Gloom promises to be great fun, I would have never bought it if I’d known the cards smelled like perfume. It’s a sunny day today, maybe I’ll air them out outside.
We finally replaced our ailing 19″ CRT television with a 32″ flatscreen; that’s not as large as most families have, but to us it’s a huge treat. Naturally, the first thing we watched on the big screen was the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (I received the extended editions last year)
After that, we hooked up the Wii. My son got DJ Hero 2 and I got Lego LOTR. Yes, we’re hardcore gamers over here.
The two best-received gifts were (first) the Sensu iPad paint brush we bought for my wife. Theoretically, the art programs on her tablet should let her make art anywhere and anytime, but she hated using her finger because she couldn’t see the mark she was making. With the brush, that’s all changed. It will be a challenge for her to work on such a small surface, but that’s a challenge she’s willing to face.
The second gift was the laptop my son received for his birthday. He was born on Boxing Day, and we do our best to carefully separate the two celebrations. Anyway, his new computer is better than either of mine and he’s already pushing for Call of Duty or Skyrim for it. In it’s way, this is also a gift for me, since he won’t have to do his schoolwork on my desktop all damn day.
So that’s why this blog has been dormant lately: holidays and birthday. Plus I’ve been working hard on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS. Sorry if I’m not around as much as I normally am but there’s work to do and fun to be had.
 Or is there an end? The boy is taking a break from Pokemon; he’s bored with his deck and bored with the game. As much as he likes the kids he plays against, it’s just not doing it for him the way it used to. We’ll see if he’s permanently moved on or if he just needs some time off.
 I’m convinced there’s another game that we left out, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it would be.
 I’ve decided I prefer the extended editions. There’s more room for nuance in them. Boromir is not just this desperate, untrustworthy character, he’s also the hero who offers words of kindness to Frodo when their needed. And he has scenes with Aragorn, a ridiculous omission from the theatrical releases. However, I could have done without the avalanche of skulls bit and the orcs who use grapple attacks in the middle of a battle.
 As if his mom would let an 11yo sit in his room playing first person shooters. As if.
personal The outside world: moi? the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
1) My wife is okay. Her bicycle accident (mentioned in the last post) is going to cost north of 200 bucks to fix, but she’s recovering nicely. In fact, she was planning to loiter around the bike shop while they worked on it so she could ride home. She really, really loves to ride her bike.
2) My son is okay, too. He slept all morning yesterday and woke with a smile. At first, he credited me with magical healing powers, then he immediately started being annoying. He’s still not 100%, but he’s getting better.
3) Will he be well enough by tomorrow evening to try my newest recipe, the reuben salad? Time will tell.
4) I have a tumblr now, but there’s nothing on it. Yet. It’s here.
5) I’m just going to go ahead and say it: this has been a stressful week. I may take tomorrow off from writing.
6) My wife asked for this, so it’s not exactly going to be a surprise, but she’s getting it for Giftmas.
personal: a blessing of monsters moi? the boy the wife
by Harry Connolly
I’m typing this on my wife’s iPad, so forgive any weird autocorrect or capitalization issues.
Yesterday, about 20 minutes after sending my wife off to work her evening shift, I got the call I’ve been dreading for 19 years: she’d had an accident on her bicycle.
Luckily it happened on the bike trail (all hail civilized cities and their off-road trails) so there were no cars involved, but she was still banged up pretty badly. The accident happened because the bolt holding her seat to her seat stem sheared off and she fell backwards onto the rack. One of her pedals gouged her knee pretty badly and she struck her cheekbone on her handlebar. There will be other lingering aches and pains, but those were the worst.
So, no head injuries, no broken bones, no hospital visits. We’re very fortunate.
I convinced her to skip work to stay home and ice, elevate her leg and go to bed early. She was already nursing a cold, so there’s no reason for her to exhaust herself.
Then, after dinner, my son began to complain of stomach pain. We figured it was just gas but at around 10pm the vomiting began.
There’s always that hopeful moment after the first barfing that makes you hope everything’s all cleared up. Nope. He was sick on and off throughout the night.
My wife, who had gone to bed around 8:30, woke naturally around midnight. She took over for me a little before one then woke me around 5:30. The poor guy had been waking every half hour with pain and vomiting and couldn’t even keep water down.
Finally just before 7 I told him that h was still in the worst of it, that he needed to sleep so he could recover enough to hydrate himself.
He crashed out as though he was implementing a plan and has been sleeping for nearly 2.5 hours, with only minimal moaning and stirring.
Have I ever mentioned that he found me passed out on the bathroom floor once due to flu-related dehydration? He couldn’t have been older than four.
Have I also mentioned that, when my wife and I were first together in the nineties, I used to get up a 4am every day for my crapy job, but would be unable to sleep at night because I would be worrying about her nighttime bike commute? I used to lie in bed, staring at the ceiling while I imagined terrible accidents. Then I would hear the distinctive sound of her brakes out front and I’d drop right off.
So, yeah. A couple of mildly stressful days, especially since I’ve started falling behind on EPIC SEQUEL WITH NO DULL PARTS.
Anyway, I’m going to sneak out of his room and make myself more coffee. I hope autocorrect hasn’t done anything embarrassing to this post.
Tomorrow (or today, depending on when you read this) will be Black Friday, a day of doorbuster sales, consumers trampling each other for bargains, and sales at gigantic corporate retailers who undercut independent stores.
Or they would, unless the stores beat them at their own game. If you insist on doing some shopping, I’d like to point you back to my previous post about an indie game store that’s local to me, called Card Kingdom. They’re offering great prices and free shipping on some very popular board and card games. Check it out.
If that doesn’t seem like the right place to shop, you can check out this post from a few months back, Things I Would Buy Myself If I Were An Idiot for some unusual gift choices.
Yes, I’m going to do some shopping. Writing, too. Try not to get trampled.
Today’s holiday will be a private one. I hope you have a great day, whether you celebrate or not.