Blimprider Times, No. 15

Featured Site of the Week

Today I give you Metapunk

MetapunkHeader

Metapunk is a ten-year old European blog covering steam-, cyber-, and all the other punks under one fascinating roof.  We have all heard volumes about the GDPR, and seen the endless cookie notifications everywhere we go, but there is more to it than that.  Under the new rules, Metapunk (and quite probably many more personal blogs) found itself classified as a business and subject to stringent restrictions and fees.  Its last post before the current one announced its impending demise, but before that came to pass, the operator, a brilliant young man named Gilman, thankfully decided to jump through all the hoops necessary to keep his rating as a Personal Blog.  This involved removing a decade’s worth of links, and relinquishing his Patreon account, but he did it all for us.  As he stated, he has made $5.12 from his blog over the last eight years, so no great harm was done, but he still had to do all the work of cleaning out the links.

The net, the blogosphere, punkdom, whatever you want to call it, is a little richer today for Gilman’s continued presence, and my hope here is to thank him by driving a little extra traffic his way.  Anyone care to help?  Metapunk!

View from the Blimp

The Darklighters is my current project du jour, though you wouldn’t know it from the lack of progress.  The book is envisioned to comprise five linked novellas of about 20,000 words each.  The first one is done, and I have finished Part I of the second, which is where I have been most frustratingly stalled for at least a week now.  I can point to real-life issues stealing my time, and overcommitment on my part to a number of projects that don’t get words on the page, including this blog, but those are just so many worthless excuses.  The bottom line is that it’s on me to create time to write, and I haven’t been doing that.  I will.

Then there’s this other issue of where I’m going with this writing gig.  In my last article I made it clear that I wasn’t in it for the money, and put my literal money where my mouth is by reducing the price on every book in my catalog to 99¢.  I made it clear that what I want as a writer is to be read.  A number of people commented favorably on that post, and shared it around the internet, but it hasn’t led to one additional sale.  The fact is that despite my relentless marketing on every platform I can access, including Facebook and Goodreads with their tens of millions of subscribers, I haven’t made a sale since April 28th, when the first and so far only copy of The Stone Seekers was purchased.

Here’s what my plan is at this moment; regular readers will know how that goes, but as of this writing:  I’m going to finish The Darklighters.  It seems to move at its own pace, but I’m thinking by the end of the year it should be done and up on Amazon.  Then I’m going to take a vacation, right now I’m thinking 90 days, during which time I will continue to blog and promote as usual.  If at the end of the 90 days I’m selling a book a month, just one book a month, I will continue writing.  If not, then I’m going to close the book on all of these groups and blogs and sites and pages that I run around servicing like my hair’s on fire, and get on with my retirement as a rather more private citizen.  There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to quit doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for different results…

Interesting Reads

VicariousView

Vicarious View by Brian Barr.  With the help of powerful mind-link technology, the bed-ridden Nishiyoka gets another chance at life through the eyes of the attractive actor Tanaka.  Women, drinks, and the glamourous life offered by Japan’s film industry are all at Nishiyoka’s fingertips, which allows the old man to forget the cancer that eats away at his own body in a lonely hospital room.  Just as Tanaka assumes his roles in popular samurai dramas, Nishiyoka can feel everything Tanaka feels, as he experiences life not only in Tanaka’s mind but his body as well.  With such a rewarding second opportunity at life, what could go wrong?  Paperback only, $5.99.

SUVI

SUVI by Prudence MacLeod.  Enslaved as a child, her DNA altered until she was barely half human, Jeannie Sorenson still managed to engineer her escape back to the ship that brought her to that deadly planet.  Could the humans accept her now that she was half alien?  Could she learn to interact with them and still retain her freedom?  And why the hell did they keep asking her for answers when they didn’t want to hear them?  $5.99 on Kindle.

PacificationReeducation

Pacification and Reeducation by Jason Frahm.  For nearly two millennia Humanity has been exploring and colonizing the galaxy.  During their explorations the Star Cruiser Verona discovers a rare gem, a near perfect world teeming with life and ideal for colonization.  Unfortunately it is already inhabited by primitive and mystical peoples and societies bent on eventual self destruction.  A decision is made.  $4.99 on Kindle.

JohnnyOClockCosmicMan

William J. Jackson makes the list again; I won’t apologize… he’s very active!  After a long hiatus, he has returned with a vengeance to his weekly series Atoms & Shadows, his double helping of sci-fi and noir.  This weeks he goes in-depth with 1959’s mysterious sci-fi offering The Cosmic Man starring John Carradine, and 1947’s noir melodrama, Johnny O’Clock, dishing up a healthy helping of noir master Dick Powell.  Both movies can be watch in their entirety right from his blog, so grab the popcorn and settle back for an evening’s nostalgia.  And while you’re there, check the blog for deals.  William is a prolific steam- and dieselpunk author, and always has one sale or another underway.

Jeffrey R. Gund of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing Collective, is distributing the info on what looks to be a great gathering for folks of the nerdy persuasion, and really, how can my nerdy self not help to spread the word?  Everyone check out the Pre Comic-Con Bash in LA set for Thursday, July 12th, just before the main event.  Make yourself present and mingle with producers, creators, executives and stars, and quite possibly enjoy the time of your life!

And that’s 30 for today.  See you back here Monday.  Until then, read well and write better!

 

Come Fly with Me!

Today it is my pleasure to make the official announcement that the Kindle versions of my entire catalog are now, and will permanently remain on sale for 99¢ each.  This will include all future works, of which several are under consideration, and one is making good headway.  The Beyond the Rails trilogy (so far; more is planned!) is a series of steampunk novellas set in colonial Kenya in the 1880s.  One reviewer described it as “Jules Verne meets Firefly.”  The Stone Seekers is a cozy sword and sorcery story that hasn’t received much attention yet, but has been praised by those who have read it as being “epic fantasy without a hint of Tolkien.”  All are available now and forever on Amazon for 99¢ each.  I also have a short story in Den of Antiquity, a wonderful anthology of steampunk goodness that still sells for $2.99.  I recommend it as a primer for readers curious about steampunk, as it contains a dozen stories from the far-ranging pens of innovative writers in the genre.  My contribution, Brass & Coal, is offered as a free sample among the tabs above; the rest you’ll have to pay for, and I highly recommend it!

And what is the philosophy behind this price reduction?  It’s simple.  I don’t have many sales, and that’s a shame, because I’m good.  Immodest, you say?  Maybe, but it’s true, and so are most of my writing acquaintances.  I once harbored that nebulous dream of all writers, that I would become rich and famous while working in the middle of the night in my robe and slippers.  I gave that up years ago, decades!  We now live in a world where everything becomes more expensive by the day, and I want to say to you, “Here is a product where you can spend a dollar, and get many times that dollar’s worth of entertainment value.”  I’m not getting rich from writing books, and I’ve long-since come to terms with the notion that I never will.  Let me see if I can at least become widely-read.  Free samples of all my works are in the tabs above, so check out one or two, and see whether you think that dollar might buy you an enjoyable ride.

Allow me to continue this train of though by commenting on a trend I’ve observed.  This was first placed on my radar by fellow indie C.W. Hawes, who tends to be deep around the insights, and is very much worth adding to your reading list.  The subject is the creeping up of book prices on Kindle.  As C.W. points out, e-books used to range from 99¢ to $2.99, which is reasonable.  As a Kindle author, I know that $2.99 pays a reasonable royalty to the author, and 99¢, while the royalty is lower, will generally sell  more books.  I also know that there are no truckloads of paper to buy, no 55-gallon drums of ink.  There is no requirement for enough power to light up Chicago to run printing presses and binding machines.  There is no postage to be paid to deliver heavy books.  The “book” exists as an electronic file.  When a customer orders that book, a copy of that file is sent to a reading device that translates the ones and zeros into a human language on a screen.  That’s it.

So, what’s driving these price increases?  Well, let’s look at the process.  When a Kindle book is sold, Amazon.com keeps a portion of the price to pay workers, maintain infrastructure, and earn a profit, which is completely reasonable.  It’s how business works.  The remainder after those charges goes to the author as a royalty.  As a Kindle author, I post a formatted file which is, in essence, my book.  After I’ve set the cover art, the typeface, and all that, I am shown the pricing screen.  It shows a minimum price, usually 99¢, a recommended price, usually $2.99, and there is a blank where I fill in the price I want to charge.  C.W. pointed out that e-books are often selling for $3.99 or $4.99 these days.  I saw one the other day for $11.00.  There is no inflation in e-books, or if there is, it’s measured in fractions of pennies, so what is the mechanism that keeps these prices rising?

I have no idea.  I am a Kindle author, affected, I assume by the same market forces as all the others, and have observed nothing that warrants a continuum of ever-escalating prices.  What have the others seen that I haven’t?  I have no idea, nor any intention of telling them how to run their business; all I can do is run mine.  What I am going to do is to make two separate but related pledges:

First, as an author, I will never sell an e-book whose price I control for more than 99¢ (or the minimum price, should Kindle raise it).

Second, as a reader, I will never pay more than $3.00 for an e-book.

Furthermore, that’s $3.00 for a full-size book, as I must point out here that, given the nature of e-publishing, it is quite possible to publish a novella or even a short story as a stand-alone work, and put any price you want on it.  Bottom line, if you’re going to price your e-book at $3.99, $4.99, or $11.00, don’t look for me to read it.  I urge you to consider adopting my reader’s pledge in your own life, and to discuss it with your reading friends, because if we continue to reward this behavior, it’s only going to get worse.  ‘Nuff said!  On with the show…

Interesting Reads

SciFiGenres

Author B.K. Bass has begun a series on Sci-Fi Genres, their history and development into all the wonderful and varied styles and formats we enjoy today.  Definitely worth a look!

TalesFromForest

Tales from the Forest by Johanna Sarah Aldridge.  The Forest Realm is a magical world within our own.  You cannot see it, nor can you hear it, and only very few might be able to feel it.  The realm feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, and protects the hunted… so long as their hearts are pure.  Recently orphaned, two heartbroken brothers are at risk of separation by the government…  A black Labrador leads a colony of rabbits away from danger…  A destitute family of rats seek a new life away from the pollution of the big city…  All have been rescued by the realm of magic, and their lives are truly about to change.  Come and join us in The Forest where magic thrives, adventures are rife, and friendships last forever.  £5.99 on Amazon UK.

StoriesLastSafePort

Stories from the Last Safe Port by John and Carine Freeman.  Can you tell much of a story in just 101 words?  Each of the stories in this collection does just that:  We find out why the Elves really left, follow the pranks of a little girl stranded on the last Moonbase, learn why magic mirrors should beware Snow White, and a lot more.  It’s fiction-as-tapas and, yes, there’s a slightly strange seafood dish (Cthulhu gets lonely don’t you know).  There are a hundred of these tiny tales inside, and if you don’t like one… well, hey, it’s cost you less than a minute of your time.  So why not take a look?  Between neurotic angels, giant slugs, drug dealing fairies, and all the rest we’re sure you’ll find something here to entertain you…  99¢ on Kindle.

CherylLawson

Like most authors, Tom Johnson maintains a blog, and his subject on this outing is a promotion of the work of one of his own favorite writers, Canadian Cheryl Lawson [left], author of We Are Mars, which looks to be a hard sci-fi work.  Whether you’re into that or not, be sure to check out his blog, Pulp Den, because he does a lot of this sort of promoting across genres, and there are some excellent reads waiting to be discovered there.

And that’s 30 for today.  I’ll see you Friday with a featured blog headlining another edition of Blimprider Times.  Until then, read well, and write better!

Multiple Personality Order

Writers seldom choose as friends those self-contained characters who are never in trouble, never unhappy or ill, never make mistakes, and always count their change when it is handed to them.”

~ CATHERINE DRINKER BOWEN

1976 gave us Sybil, a film starring Sally Field in a tour de force as an unfortunate young woman who played host to thirteen personalities.  She won an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of this confused and tragic figure, and it was richly deserved, but of course, I write here about the Craft of writing, and the writers who pursue it.  So, what can we take from this movie, and the disorder it portrayed?

As writers, we have multiple people living in our heads all the time, and far from being a problem for us, they are there by invitation.  As writers, we must be focused on the plot, the story arcs, the presentation of grammar, speech, and setting, and yet as writers, we also have to manipulate the characters.  Characters who come with quirks, foibles, agendas, and complete personalities.  Characters who exist only in our heads.

I am not Patience Hobbs.  I am neither a dirigible pilot, a graduate of finishing school, nor even a woman.  I never lived in the Victorian era, and when watching a show like Downton Abbey, I am constantly astonished by the rules, customs, and mores that these people not only put up with, but wholeheartedly embraced.  They claim to accept these things out of their sense of duty and honor, yet if someone spoke to me the way some of the junior servants are spoken to in this show, I’m afraid duty and honor would require me to punch them in the snout!

Yet I must “live” in this world to write in it, put aside my 20th-21st century sensibilities, and inhabit the lives of multiple Victorian personalities, male and female, because steampunk is at its core Victorian.  I don’t have multiple personality disorder (though I may be a bit bipolar), but I have to act like I do in order to breathe life into them.  And so do you.

How do you manage it?  Of course, character sheets are indispensable if you hope to keep any sort of continuity between a dozen characters or more, but what about the world?  I find Victorian slang and customs creeping into my daily life.  I talk with many people on the internet, and I nearly always address women as “Milady.” Beyond the Rails was set in Kenya, and many of the characters were fluent in Swahili.  I often greet people in person with jambo, and thank them with asante.  That’s the level of immersion I need to achieve to bring life to a world I’m working in.

How about you?  Does your writing bleed into your real life, and in what ways?  Do your friends think you a little “off,” or do they find the weirdness charming?  What impressions do your friends have of a person who goes out of their way to cultivate Multiple Personality Order?  Curious minds want to know!

View from the Blimp

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Now we’re officially into summer, and to welcome it in (though the welcome is nowhere near as warm as San Diego’s back country in the summertime), I thought I’d share a little photo essay.  Our kitchen window overlooks our driveway, and immediately beyond, a dirt hill where we have so far been unable to get anything to grow; it’s like the Romans came through here and salted that little patch of ground.  So our crafty daughter, to improve the view, made this pair of flower baskets and hung them on each side of the window.  The baskets are wire and the flowers are artificial; they’ve been there for years.

But they have been discovered by a dove.  I believe this is the third year now that she has made a nest in the top of one of the baskets and raised her brood there, usually two chicks.  It’s perfect.  Cats, squirrels, snakes, and other assorted villains can’t get up there, people can’t see into it looking up from the ground, and the hawks and crows that patrol the skies can’t see anything but the top of our carport, which also protects her from the direct sunlight.  She’s completely used to us, and while she won’t perch on a finger or anything like that, she doesn’t panic at our approach, and cocks her head to listen when we talk to her through the kitchen window.  To my way of thinking, that’s pretty cool…  About the only cool thing around here this time of year.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Look between the yellow and orange flowers at the top of the basket, and you’ll see two little gray-speckled bodies.  At 10:00 o’clock to the yellow flower, one of their heads can clearly be seen keeping an eye on the suspiciously-acting hairless ape.  Really fun to watch the generations come and go here.

As to writing, I have long been considered a freakishly detailed planner.  Even other planners have tended to look at me with suspicion.  I’m going to touch briefly on a “new” method that I stumbled onto (certainly didn’t invent!) after reading some blogs and experimenting with my Office program.  It involves maximizing the features of the Excel Worksheet.

Since I have come to focus on the writing of themed novellas assembled into a book, I tend to outline them in the form of scenes, and the outlines have shrunk to a couple of sentences.  The worksheets allow me to use a line for a scene, and the columns, as well as holding the one- or two-sentence description of the action, can track who is in the scene, the time and date it takes place, and even the ongoing word count as the story comes together.  You can color-code for whether the viewpoint is hero, villain, or subplot, what scenes are finished, which need more polish, where a detail needs to be researched, which are action and which are passive “reaction” scenes, change scene order with a mouse click, and anything else your busy writer’s mind can think of.

This has been a profound discovery for me, and I plan to discuss it in detail in about two weeks.  That will give me a chance to solidify what is rapidly shaping up to be the most useful organizational tool I have ever encountered, and perhaps most importantly, to learn to post a screenshot of it here.  Believe me, I’ve tried index cards, loose-leaf notebooks, and have worked in spiral notebooks for years, and nothing I’ve ever tried can compare to this!

New Releases

EighthDwarf

The Eighth Dwarf.  Blacksmith Tiberius is dissatisfied with his lot in life.  Convinced he deserves more, he’s become resentful of the other dwarves.  He’s motivated by coin, and to a lesser extent women and power.  A chance encounter with a beautiful and mysterious witch, whose plans include the removal of the current queen, result in an unlikely partnership.  Soon he’s living the life he’d always dreamt of, whoring and drinking to his heart’s content, far away from the cramped cabin he’d shared with the other dwarves.  But after an unexpected connection with a young princess named Snow White, and as the witch’s demands become more extreme, Tiberius questions the strength of their friendship and wonders how far he’s willing to go for titles and riches.   $2.99 on Kindle.

Interesting Reads

BookofSchemes

The Book of Schemes.  Simply defined, a “scheme” is nothing more than a systematic plan of action.  Like snowflakes, no two of them are exactly alike. For example:  A grieving mother seeks revenge upon a family of werewolves.  What if you were getting a truly unique prom speech from a necromancer?  What if there was a college for super villains?  Within this 2nd Edition collection is a bizarre grouping of 25 short stories.  Each of them revolves around a scheme.  Some are brilliant.  Others are stupid.  A special few of them are utterly warped.  So kick back, leave your conscience outside of these pages, and step into the world  of the schemers.  $3.00 on Kindle.

Richard Schulte writes profound ultra-short stories that he loves to share, but doesn’t ask anyone to pay for; he posts them on his blog, Short Stories by Richard.  He posted another tiny masterpiece yesterday titled Skeleton Forgiveness.  It’s a five minute read that will have you thinking all day!

In Other News…

LuxembourgSteampunk

I have a few readers in Europe, and some of them may be interested in this:  Luxembourg is holding a steampunk convention to run September 29 – 30.  Hosted by Minett Park of Fond-de-Gras, it will be held at Industry and Railway Park, 6790 Petange.  There will be concerts, a market, exhibitions of steampunk creations, historic trains, and much more.  Further information may be gleaned here.

The Following Books Have Recently Been Reduced to 99¢ on Kindle:

Beyond the Rails

Bodacious Creed

From an Irradiated Crypt

Here’s the challenge, in this world where everything costs more and more and more every day, and all anyone seems to be interested in is harvesting the contents of your wallet:  Spend a dollar, and see if you don’t get a dollar’s worth of entertainment value in exchange.  Please note that some of these offers are for a limited time, so strike while the iron is hot!

And that’s 30 for today.  Join me next Tuesday when I’ll have a special announcement about my own book catalog, and most likely some more entertaining reading recommendations from other authors of my acquaintance.  Until then, read well, and write better!