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Archive for July, 2011

Discovering Wattpad

I joined Wattpad last year, when Eden was new. Basically, I was looking into any and every way to get the word out there. Unfortunately, I never went back to the site after creating my account.

It appears to be a very popular site for reading and writing content (free & otherwise). From what I can gather, it’s a great place to follow serialized writing endeavors and talk about fiction. Awesome!

Aside from listing sample chapters for my novels, I’m going to use it to perhaps make some of my other content available to y’all – published stories on defunct websites and perhaps other short stuff that was never good enough (it appears) for publication. I dunno – need to do some thinking.

So, check out my Wattpad profile here. If you are active on there, be sure to link, add, favorite, gush over my novel samples. 🙂

Fuck it, I just decided — head on over for a formerly published piece of flash fiction on a now dead website (Flashscribe.net). It was the first piece of fiction I ever published (even got paid), and I’m happy to give it a new home. It remains one of my novel ideas… someday. Linky.

Enjoy!

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Believe it!

Evan Jacobs had this brilliant idea to make eBooks a tad more personal. So, he created the site (kindlegraph.com) to allow us writers to send you Kindlers a small personal message and signature for our books. I’m pretty sure there’s a 15 cents delivery fee per 1 MegaByte of the sig (no, I don’t know how big they are yet). And I think you need a Twitter account. Why? Dunno… but, it’s a good chance to follow me on Twitter too 🙂

My books are already available for Kindlegraphing and I think this is an awesome way to be connected to my Kindlers. I’d like to publicly thanks Mr. Jacobs for making this service available. Fantastic idea, sir!

Anywho:

1. Go here.

2. Login with yer Twitter account.

3. Find Eden/AL and click “request Kindlegraph”:

4. Profit!

(edit: you can get right to my Kindlegraph author page here)

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No, please don’t grab my bag.

Lots of great stuff in here! Globetrotters, interviews, pricing updates, contact from a publisher, Babylon update and more! Strap-in and open wide. Hot lunch coming up:

Choose or Die!

What? You’re not reading the current choose-you-own-adventure story about the cop and the Globetrotters? Shame on you! I wrote a “kill scene” so get to reading! Start with the link I provided and be sure to choose this at chapter 3: “B. Tell the ‘Trotters to meet you at the address of the guy who hired Paul so you can sweat some answers out of him?”  

Podcast Interview

As you may or may not know, I’m part of a most excellent group of indy writers known as The Literary Underground. We share info and help each other with all things publishing & writing. It’s just a great bunch of folk.

Well, we also have a podcast! If you wish to hear my sultry voice (not really), check it out! We cover everything from my books to self-pubbing to cancer to the age old question: ping pong or tennis? (and: wife or writing? — yikes!)

Babylon

My wife and editor are so far up my ass on this project, I can feel them coming up in my throat. I’ve flinged all kinds of excuses as to why it’s taking me so long, but the time for bitching is over. The story is finally in a state where I can move on from the “middle.” Like I mentioned previously, I’m aiming to have draft #1 done by the end of the summer (really, it’ll be draft #4 for the first half, as I’ve been stopping/starting quite a bit ala Eden). My head is down and I’m focused. It will happen. My goal is to move VERY fast once the 1st draft is done and maybe have another early fall release. It’s aggressive, but perhaps doable. Maybe late fall.

Maybe I’m just lying.

If y’all are good little boys & girls (and whatever else), perhaps I’ll post some teaser content once draft 1 (4-ish) is done. Perhaps…

Funny thing happened – I got a little lost (in a bad way) in the story and had to rework it a few times before it was “right.” I know I preach about writing without an outline and I still believe in that approach. But this time it certainly caused me to backtrack a few times as things just weren’t clicking. Bah, it’s on course now and that’s all that matters. I guess it’s worth mentioning that no approach is ironclad. As a writer, you will find what works best for you preparation-wise. I still believe outlines don’t work for me.

Little known fact: I was contacted by a mid-size publishing house about Eden

Gosh, this was 3 or 4 months ago now. I was quite excited, to say the least. This was a real house with some excellent books under their banner. The owner seemed genuine and I quickly sent Eden over to them at their request. They told me I’d hear something in a month at the most.

I waited 1.5 months.

Sent a quick email – “Hey, I was just following-up on Eden. Did you guys have a chance to review it yet?” (or something equally benign/short like that)

No response.

Waited another month.

Sent another quick email: “Well, thanks for the opportunity.”

Still haven’t gotten a response to either email. This is exactly what I’m talking about when it comes to professionalism (or lack thereof).  If they didn’t like Eden, then a quick rejection letter is all that is required. If they read more about me and thought I was too much of a loose-cannon, again – tell me that! You contacted me, and I don’t even warrant a follow-up? I know they are still in business. I checked my junk mail. Nothing.

If I did this to my potential clients I would be fired from my job. It’s bad business and douchiness to the extreme. That *some* publishing companies/agents feel they can treat writers like garbage under their boots boils my blood more than Massachusetts drivers. If you listen to the podcast interview, we somewhat mention my outspoken stance on traditional publishing. Did my hollering hurt me here? No clue, but I’m not going to lie about what I have experienced first-hand in “their world.” I see something wrong, I call it out. If that gets me blacklisted, so be it. At least I’m the one being honest & professional. Someone has to.

Physical Edition Price Drop!

Both the hardcover and paperback editions of Eden/Antaran Legacy have had their prices reduced (Amazon might take a while to reflect the new price)! I really haven’t looked at them in a while, and I’d like to get more paperback sales. Maybe this’ll bump them into another tier. I’d love to do $9.99, but it bounces me out of the “expanded distribution” channels that Amazon has. In the end, I think it better the books are more visible for now.

Well, you can always get the paperbacks for $10 at my book signings… of which I need to have another one. Soon. Maybe a combined Babylon, Antaran Legacy bonanza later this year. I dunno. My peeps should just schedule one and tell me to arrive.  🙂  (yes, I am that  lazy sometimes)

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Everyone’s writing about this. But I can almost guarantee nobody else’s article will be full of monkey-math, unbased hypotheses and midgets!

 Okay, I’m lying about the midgets… or am I? Guess yer just gonna have to read to the end.

So, what happened? According to the news stories I’ve read, Borders declared bankruptcy earlier this year. They closed a bunch of stores but kept some open in hopes an investor would come along to save them. All the while, they didn’t pay all their contracts for their inventory sold (they couldn’t) and this caused some publishers to stop sending them shit. That was the final spiral that spelled their doom.

At the 13th hour, nobody came to save them. They were forced to announce total liquidation and the loss of ~10,000 jobs and ~400 storefronts (I just saw a tweet about Books-A-Million maybe buying up a few dozen stores, so maybe it won’t be complete destruction).

Why the total failure by such a longstanding idol of book-buying and browsing?

Well, I can’t say for certain, but my gut tells me they held on to the brick-and-mortar life-raft for far too long. Also, others have researched and written about it far better than I could. Like it or hate it, the market has changed with the evolution of mobile devices, social media, the interwebs and publishing industry revolution. I blogged about Borders’ bankruptcy earlier this year and many of those feelings still ring true in my heart. If you want to read about my feelings on the social change aspect of this whole mess, that post is better.

The loss of in-person browsing will certainly have an impact upon all book sales, not just paperback. I’ve read posts and responses from people who would enter a Borders to find a book, and then go buy it online. Without a physical location to camp, these people may purchase less books. Of course, that act of browsing at the store and buying online speaks to the retail reality around us – there are better deals online. Heck, when you don’t need to maintain hundreds of physical locations along with rent, utilities, insurance, maintenance, sales force, theft, etc etc — of course you can offer something a brick-and-mortar cannot.

Following the liquidation announcement, the Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF) fired a shot into the media slipstream:

“Special treatment for Amazon.com is decimating job providers like Borders and countless small businesses across the country. It is simply not fair that one business is able to operate with a government-sanctioned advantage that allows it to undercut its competitors forcing lost jobs and business closures. Lawmakers need to level the playing field and end the special deal that gives Amazon a competitive advantage over Main Street,” said Danny Diaz, spokesperson for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF).

They claim the ability of Amazon to sidestep sales tax gives them an unfair advantage in the book-selling game. I wasn’t so sure, so I conducted a Matt-Monkey-Math survey yesterday! I asked my peeps what would most make them NOT purchase a book that catches their eye. Here’s the results:

Iffy on the “blurb”: 6

High Price: 5

The format they prefer is not available: 4

The quality is “suspect”: 1

Yeah, I know 16 responses isn’t actually a viable sample size, but I’m not exactly being paid for my research skillz. 🙂 So backdafuckup.

Maybe AMSF has the kernel of an argument here (many of my responders cited “price” as a deciding factor). I’d go as far as supporting them in the sales-tax thing if I knew more about it. I have no freakin’ clue how it works (Amazon must pay some sort of tax, right?), but I would argue the addition of sales tax to Amazon sales wouldn’t change my purchasing methods. Amazon can still set a better price because of all the things mentioned before – they have leveraged technology and business acumen (“people who bought this also bought this” is killer) to achieve superior results. *Shrug* They beat Borders (maybe), good for them. Isn’t that what our free market is about? (minus the sales tax thing – even it out if it’s not fair, makes no diff to me) I just don’t believe the sales tax issue is majorly responsible for Amazon’s success and Borders fall, that’s all.

One interesting fact from my lame survey was nobody picked this option: “Publisher you don’t know.” I’ve actually heard some opponents to self-publishing froth about readers “trusting” publishers and caring about that NYC print on the title page.

Yeah… riiiiight. I’m still not buying that argument, try again fuckers.

We’re moving into a book-buying age where some books can succeed based upon social support and peer review. Imagine that! Your book can sell on its own merits, rather than wallow in obscurity because it didn’t fit some publishing house’s plans for the year. I don’t know about other self-published authors, but this fact excites me. I’m nobody and I’ve sold (with the help of my underpaid, awesome team) just under 2,000 copies of my books to complete strangers in less than a year. So far, I’ve yet to get a negative review – yeah, I count the “sacrilegious” Eden review as a positive. While those numbers are quite laughable to successful writers, I’m proud of them. The online age has allowed me to reach readers who enjoy my fiction. Sharing my work with even just 1 other person is all I ever wanted in my storyteller’s heart. 2,000 (and growing) is just a bonus.

I am quite transparent in all my research & self-pubbing numbers. If you have a question, please contact me. I love helping others and sharing useful data!

All the “data” aside, I still feel the online marketplace has much more to offer (including price) than a traditional bookstore, and that’s why Amazon rules the school. When you are about to make a purchase, isn’t more information better than less info? Online, you can see what other readers have said about the book, author info/links and (in Amazon’s case) similar purchases which may be in-line (or not) with your likes/dislikes. Heck, who wants to waste their money these days? While I think it’s noble to support “Main Street USA,” I like to have all the info I can before spending my entertainment dollars. Amazon just delivers on that front better than a bookshelf at a physical store can.

I dunno. At its most basic parts (less bookstores), I don’t like it. But, I’m also not one to fear social change. I actually despise those chain emails that talk about how the next generation is fucked/different/deprived, and our days of youth were full of nostalgic perfection. Times change. The world changes. Bookstore closings are just another symptom of this social flow.

You can express your gratitude and support for the Borders employees on Twitter: #ThankUBorders

Okay, okay… I promised a midget:

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Ode to my iPhone

So, yeah… blackberry died and I never knew my phone could be an actual “partner”, rather than this fucking little thing I fought with.

If any of you Apple whores try to tell me “I told you so,” I swear to freakin’ God I will kick you in your balls or girly parts (or both)…. swear to God.

Anyway, just like my earlier ode, this one is full of extra-marital/frightening overtones. Enjoy!  🙂

—–

My iPad and me are close
But I’m not about to put a plate to my ear.
So I needed someone new,
Someone to my belt I can adhere.

For years I have fondled small blackberries in between my fingers.
Low battery, lame to the touch, everything a chore-
Gosh I hate those dirty little thingers!

But now I have something that works.
As I slide my fingers across the screen,
I have a problem in my shorts.

If only you could talk,
I would finally have a thing large enough in my hand in which to boast.
And If we aren’t careful,
You will soon be the thing I hold in my hand most.

So please forgive all the hate I have given you before we met.
Now that we are together, there ain’t no one who can tear us up,
Not even zombie Boba Fett.

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More on P-L-O-T

I reviewed Hunger Games recently and I left this bit out of my review. Mainly because it would have spurned me into a tangent from which I may have never recovered. There are less spoilers here than in my review, so it’s quite safe to read if you haven’t gotten to the book yet.

As I mentioned in my review, I liked this novel. Despite my subjective wants (a more fitting ending) and personal tastes (I wasn’t too invested in the POV character), I still enjoyed Hunger Games.

But.

There was one little thing that irked me once I put the book down. One nagging tug at the back of my writer’s brain that refused to be ignored. And you may not agree with me here, but I believe this is a perfect example of why I believe fiction shouldn’t be plotted & planned.

I find the entire premise of “The Games” to be complete and utter bullshit.

Hear me out. And for those of you who haven’t read the book, knowing this shouldn’t spoil your fun.

The “Hunger Game” in the novel is a televised sporting event, of sorts, where the oppressive Capitol selects 2 contestants from each district to pit into mortal combat. It’s like the Thunderdome, but with more people and less Tina Turner. 24 people enter, 1 leaves victor.

Matt, that doesn’t sound so bad!

I know. Just wait.

Okay, so I’m kinda digging the premise and where this author (new to me) is going to take it. And then we get more detail and I actually put my phone down to wrinkle my nose. Did I read that right? Double-check and yup, I got it: The Games are orchestrated by the Capitol as a punishment for the other districts, who lost a civil war against the Capitol ~75 years ago.

Yes, the ruling government comes to each district once a year and selects 2 contestants to send to their deaths as a reminder of how much control the Capitol wields and how powerless the districts are to challenge that authority.

Hmmm, really? I’m not sure which part stresses my ability to suspend my disbelief more: the unbelievable douchebaggery of the Capitol or the idea that a government can basically murder innocent civilians each year without repercussion? Take your pick.

Now, I suppose the winner’s district gets rewarded when they win, so there is some amount of “sport” and chance for gain. It’s maybe not outright murder, like in The Lottery. But, the premise of The Lottery made more sense – too many mouths to feed (that, and it was allegorical). I just felt the believability factor was reduced in The Hunger Games by revealing that everybody seemed to know of the supreme evil behind the Capitol’s motives.

This is exactly what I mean when I continually say “don’t plot your stories.” Without this act of utter what-the-fuckness by the dystopian government, much of the tension and need to see the villain (the Capitol) punished wouldn’t exist. I cannot stretch my disbelief far enough to accept this premise, I’m sorry but I can’t.

If the coal miners, their families and all those who do business with them have been oppressed in this way for 70+ years, wouldn’t that district do something a little more believable by now? Like, I dunno, tell the Capitol to mine their own coal? (or grow their own wheat, etc etc) Can any government destroy their own people to the point where they cannot function as an organized body?

Or, if the Capitol just has that much control and nobody dare oppose them in the slightest, is everyone living in the clean Capitol a total douche? Are they all okay with the televised, sanctioned slaughter of their neighbors in the districts? I would perhaps buy this if so many people in the districts weren’t so moved to sadness by The Games. It’s clear the social mindset isn’t full of bloodthirsty arena-goers just yet. The Capitol even forces everyone to watch – as further reminder that they can do whatever they want to the districts.

With so many rickety supports for the basic premise, my brain tells me that there is just no way the people in the Capitol nor the people in the districts would have allowed The Games to continually rape the population. Sympathizers from within and massed workers from below would have put a stop to such an overtly evil act long ago. When every citizen knows that The Games are just a way for the Capitol to exert its dominion, I just cannot swallow it.

Actually, this is the same problem I have with many good vs evil, overthrow the government works of fiction. To believe a government is evil right down to every last soldier is just not good fiction. I have many current and former military friends. If their commanding officer told them to shoot a 12 year old American citizen “because it will be fun to watch them die,” I’m pretty sure none of them would follow that order. To me, it’s just like asking that same soldier to go round-up a citizen to bring to an arena “because it will be sporting to watch them die.”

I think I would have “bought it” if the people of the Capitol/districts were portrayed as truly believing some sort of lie – that these games are needed for some functional purpose. That taking your 12 year old daughter from you was somehow mandatory for the continuation of the society. Then, I could look upon this work as an allegory and marvel at the lessons within.

Instead, I’m asked to swallow a too-large pill (for me – your mileage may vary). Disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer – this is just my takeaway from the book, perhaps the author meant for different feelings to be impressed upon me.

I’m going to end with stating that I did enjoy this book. The writing was clean, quick and entertaining. In the end, I got over myself and had a great time in this world. I just think the premise is a tad contrived and I think it makes an excellent case study in the evils of p-l-o-t (a 4-letter word in my house). Don’t rip your readers from the fabric of your story with manufactured plot. Get them there naturally, naturally.

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Yet to be finalized & colorized, but shit:

Artwork by Andres Cornejo

We’re still hoping for an end of year release.

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