Randomness for 3/15

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1) Movie posters redesigned using only circles.

2) Completely amazing: All the silences in an episode of Dr. Phil. Video.

3) An analysis of one of The Dark Knight’s action sequences, to examine why so many people found it incoherent. Video.

4) Concepts With Which Boys at Parties Have Asked Me if I’m Familiar: a Spreadsheet

5) Best OKCupid profile ever.

6) A brand new thirteen-story apartment building in Shanghai tipped over. Only one death, because the building was so new it was unoccupied.

7) Ten “Things You Didn’t Know” about Led Zeppelin IV.

The Blog Tour Continues, Part Next

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Continuing from the first post.

Over at the Skiffy and Fanty blog, I wrote an entry for their “My Superpower” series. My superpower is an unusual kind of invulnerability.

“It’s Dangerous to Go Alone” is a post about figuring out why most people didn’t like my old series, and what if anything I should change for The Great Way, hosted by David B Coe.

“Let’s Fail On Our Own Terms” is about making ridiculous creative choices and standing by them, no matter what.

On Nick Kaufmann’s blog, I wrote about The Scariest Part of the trilogy, which is also the longest chapter in the trilogy.

Also, author Joshua Palmatier interviewed me about the series. I talk here about the hardest part of the trilogy to write, among other things.

An amusing review posted over at reddit.

And not to bury the lede, but once again here’s that starred review in Publishers Weekly.

More links in part nexter.

If you found any of that interesting, please share.

Randomness for 2/8

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1) A Choose-Your-Own adventure game based on Twitter accounts.

2) Photographs of an iceberg that had recently flipped over to reveal the gem-like underside.

3) A very long exposure photograph of a rock climber wearing glow sticks.

4) Seattle sidewalk art that is invisible until it gets wet, aka “rain art”.

5) Amazon readers post troll reviews of anti-vaxxer’s “pro-Measles” children’s book.

6) Eight tips for studying smarter.

7) Leave aside the association of “white” with good and “black” with bad, this is just terrible phrasing.

Let me tell you about something cool

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Back in 2012, Fred Hicks, the big wig over at Evil Hat game company (and I can’t type “Evil Hat” without adding an “e” to the end), and Chuck Wendig, author and editor, invited me to write for an anthology based on one of EH’s games. The game was called Don’t Rest Your Head, and it was an rpg about insomniacs who suddenly find themselves trapped in Mad City, a nightmarish dreamscape full of evil shit that wants to eat you. Plus side: the characters also get lucid-dreaming-like powers, and the whole thing is very weird and cool.

The story I wrote, called “Don’t Chew Your Food” was reprinted in my short fiction collection, but there are a whole bunch of terrific writers in the table of contents: Mur Lafferty, CE Murphy, Laura Anne Gilman, Stephen Blackmoore, and more. Check it out, seriously.

Which brings us to today. Evil Hat is putting out a “Don’t Rest Your Head” card-building game, and a creature that I invented, the Shameful, is on one of the cards. (!!!)

Image behind the cut.

Continue reading

Randomness for 1/10

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1) A random comic generator. NSFW.

2) Things said by and to a two-year-old, as graphic design posters.

3) Was 2014 the Year of the Video Essay? Who knew? How to make a great video essay: Video (naturally)

4) A long run down a concrete luge in New Zealand. Video.

5) Artist adds cute illustrations to photos on Instagram. So cool.

6) Google maps for fantasy spaces. Cute.

7) Questions posed to librarians before the internet.

Today is my son’s birthday

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My son was born on Boxing Day, and his mom and I have always made an effort to make this day special for him. Not just a little christmas, where he gets a few more gifts but everything is all colored lights and decorated tree. My wive and I used to strip all the Christmassy stuff off the table and replace it with a bright yellow table cloth, balloons, and birthday pie (never cake).

But he’s turning 13 today, so it’s unlikely we’ll be spending the day together like we used to. He got a new gaming keyboard and mouse yesterday, so I expect he’ll want to spend at least part of the day trying to get used to his new “rig.” (God, I can’t believe he calls it that.)

Still, we planned lunch at a local Japanese place that he likes, and we have gifts to give him: a couple of books and some Tshirts from Threadless.

And I have work to do. Some folks are having problems with the books I published, plus I’m trying to work out some publicity, plus I have end of the year payments and tax stuff to do. Will I be online, doing all that stuff, or will I be press-ganged into a co-op game or something?

Time will tell. In the meantime, if you received bookstore gift cards, you can pick up a copy of The Way Into Chaos. Order a paper copy now and, like the Kickstarter backers, you’ll get the version with the massive but invisible proofing error on the back cover. Seriously, readers send me typos all the time, but no one has caught this. (I certainly didn’t!)

“Superheroes are not a genre.”

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Over at io9, Charlie Jane Anders has a post about lessons learned by the entertainment industry in 2014, and her number one lesson is that subject header above. And I think she’s wrong.

There are two ways to come at the question. First, do we pin the blame of a box office failure on a poorly-used plot structure? Well, you can try, but it’s not very convincing. Eventually, we’ll have something like Raimi’s version of Spider-man which, for all its flaws, made the structure of super-powered-nice-guy-vigilante-with-two-identities-trying-to-stop-crime-in-secret really come together. Audiences went nuts for the first one, and if they’re less enthusiastic now it’s because later iterations have been really, really flawed, and far too familiar.

But are superheroes a genre?

What unifies the books in the horror genre? The emotion they invoke.
What unifies the books in the mystery genre? The central plot question.
What unifies the books in the western genre? The setting.
What unifies the books in the fantasy genre? A plot element.

Some genres are easy to mix. You write a scary story set in the Wild West: Horror western. You write a romantic story with fantasy elements: Fantasy romance.

So the real question becomes: Are superheroes a “plot element” genre or are they a plot structure genre? While it’s true that there’s a standard plot formula that has become associated with superheroes (true with any genre, really), the remainder of the “superheroes are not a genre” argument Ms. Anders makes demonstrates how well they mingle with other genres.

Notice also that those other genres are mainly settings and plot structures: dystopian time-travel, space opera, etc. That’s because the superhero genre is a “plot element” style. You wouldn’t say that Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier isn’t a superhero movie because it has spy thriller plot. It’s both, in the same way that Romancing the Stone is a romance and an adventure.

BTW, did you know that I’ve been pitching my new trilogy as “Epic Fantasy that reads like a Thriller”? It’s epic fantasy because of the setting and the inclusion of magic, and it’s a thriller because of the pace and tone. Genres based on different things are easy to mix. Genres that are very similar can be really difficult.

Looking at numbers, part 2

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Part 1 is here and it talks about the numbers without giving specifics, but this post will.

No, not sales numbers. Clicks. And not clicks for something I’m trying to sell. This is a situation where “click” = “something people already paid for.”

Obviously, I’m talking about Kickstarter backers getting copies of my new book, plus.

Some background:

Because I had to get ebooks to almost 1200 people, I couldn’t send a flood of emails, especially ones with attachments over 5 or 10MB. That would have gotten me blacklisted by a bunch of ISPs (don’t ask me how I know that).

So I set up a newsletter program that would automate the emails, spreading them out over many hours. I also uploaded the ebooks to a folder on my website so I could send download links instead of attachments.

Finally, I did my best to make things as simple as possible. The email subject line was “The Great Way ebooks are here!” to be totally unambiguous. The list of books included cover pics. The download links were alone in their own section with a single line of text for each of the links. This is what it looked like (behind the cut) for people who backed at $25 or above. Backers at $12 had two fewer covers. Continue reading

Randomness for 12/21

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1) Get your rage on with this complete ranking over every Star Trek episode ever.

2) 22 pictures that prove we live in the future.

3) There’s an “atmospheric river” flooding California.

4) What colour is it? The time of day expressed as a hexidecimal color.

5) Pixel art illustrations that tell a personal story.

6) The relationship between coffee and mesmerism, and the importance of morning rituals. Video.

7) Unused audio commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomnsky, recorded summer 2002, for the Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition) DVD.

Bad Book Marketing Ideas

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Cracked has an article on outrageous stunts people have pulled to get their books out in the world, and it’s way way worse than the endless streams of promo tweets most people adopt.

Weirdest of all are the people who think public stunts will get them a publisher. That shit is just sad.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to crash a motorized hang glider into the Space Needle, then shoot myself.