Amazon Storybuilder and Storywriter

I found some new writing tools tonight and they got me so excited I figured I’d give them a quick review. They’re called Amazon Storybuilder and Storywriter, they’re free, and if you think Amazon is out to get us all, you probably want to stop reading right here.

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This looks like another way for Amazon to break down the walls of traditional publishing, this time for TV and movie scripts, much the same way they’re doing with book publishing. Like its Kindle Scout program, it looks like you can write and submit scripts for review and possible production. That is cool and all but what has me most excited is their Storybuilder tool, which allows you to create and manipulate virtual note cards on a virtual cork board, much like Scrivener does. Except this is free and it works on your tablet as well as your desktop (mostly; more on that in a bit).

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Here’s a test outline I made really fast to, well, test the functionality. As you can see, this is designed for script outlines off the bat, with Act 1 set up at the start, but you could set it up however you want.

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It is really easy to drag and drop scenes to reorder them. The picture above doesn’t show my cursor, but I’m in the middle of moving the 3rd scene down.

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Now that I’ve gone wild and moved the 3rd scene after the 5th scene, I put Act 2 in front of Act 1. I guess this is going to be a pretty experimental film.

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You can also click on Collapse Cards in the bottom right corner to just show the titles of the cards, and you can click on Manage and select Print-Friendly View to export the outline in list form for easy printing.

I tried opening Storybuilder in Chrome and Safari on my iPad. Both allow you to pull up your outline, add cards, and write/edit cards, but if there is a way to drag and drop cards to rearrange them, I couldn’t figure it out. That’s the one feature I’d like (or if it already exists, the one I need to learn how to use).

So is it perfect? No. But for me it’s pretty damn useful, because at least I can access it when I’m away from my desktop, unlike Scrivener. Plus, it’s free, so that’s hard to beat.

Since Amazon is also offering the Storywriter service as well, I opened it up and messed around with it. It’s basic, and you should probably know how a scripted page should look already, but for the price of free I had nothing to complain about it. Here’s a quick test I whipped up to showcase some of the different elements.

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I should note that once I was inside Storywriter, I couldn’t find a way to exit it other than going back in my history to the Amazon Studios page again.

So hey, free tools and a possible path to getting your script turned into an Amazon TV show or movie. Not bad at all.

RPG Post: Far Away Land for my Kids

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One of my hobbies recently has been to work on using the Far Away Land RPG rules to run a game for my young daughters. To that end, I’ve been building a world and pondering ways to make the game more friendly (read “less deadly”) for young players. I am thinking about modeling it on battle anime, where despite whatever else it might be about, it usually involves one or more fight scenes each episode, like One Piece or Naruto. Despite deadly foes, there is rarely real character death involved. People may be thrashed, but they recover, train more, and go to battle again, perhaps with some new wisdom or a trick up their sleeve.

This is not to say that I am planning on running a game that is nothing but battles, but when they do fight, if they should happen to lose, I am not going to pronounce their characters dead and cut up their character sheet. Instead, they’re going to be set back. Some time will pass. NPCs will have time to act in the PC’s absence, so goals and adventure hooks will have changed.

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I am considering the conceit that this game world is a shared world that the PCs enter in their dreams, an idea that always stuck with me after reading the Lovecraft short story, “Polaris.” So this world the PCs visit will be as real as our own, but they need to figure out why they are going there (if they want; I suppose they could just enjoy the freedom of adventuring). Death in this world, however, results in dissolution and waking back up in the “real” world. When they return to sleep and the dream world, time has passed.

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It’s just an idea and I’ll have to see how it stands up to the reality of gaming with 5-year-olds, but I’m having fun drawing up maps and populating the world. For that, the Far Away Land setting and creatures work perfectly. There are enough creatures for variety but not so many as to be overwhelming, and it’s fairly easy to create my own creatures as needed.

Silkin

The PCs are going to start off in the small village of Silkin, and then I’m going to leave it up to them what they’d like to do, although sandbox play with 5-year-olds can be difficult, so I will guide them toward adventures if needed. Here’s what I have so far:

Silkin, a remote village: A rock-iron giant fell to Earth here and remains in a deep pit in the center of the village, where its rust has colored the earth beneath it a dark red. There are a few large circular buildings in town, which have low walls because the rooms are actually underground, accessible by a staircase that leads to a main door. The rectangular meeting halls are above ground A-frame buildings. The smaller one is the men’s hall and the larger one is the women’s hall. Both can also be reached by the warren of underground passages that lies beneath the village.

Silkin is made up of dwarves, simians, and ratlings who live together in peace under the guidance of an elderly Orka named Mokranus. They are all outcast from their respective societies. In the case of the simians and ratlings, it is because they are peaceful folk. In the case of the dwarves, it is because their people were long ago exiled from their home under the mountains to the east. Mokranus took up residence to study the iron-rock giant and has grown old here awaiting the moment when the giant will awaken.

The simians and ratlings tend the farmland surrounding the village, while the dwarves dig beneath the earth for ore to make tools (and because they like to dig). Beyond the farmland is deep forest, although to the north and south the remains of an old trail remain, marked by a crumbling wall. The people of Silkin rarely receive visitors and are suspicious of outsiders, but if the PCs can prove that they mean no harm, they will find a place to rest and, in Makronus, a source of information about the world they suddenly find themselves in.

Adventure Hooks:

Seeking knowledge: If the PCs want to discover why they might have been pulled from their realm into this one, Makronus suggests that they seek the mountainside Temple of Ajurna to the northeast. He warns, though, that the path is perilous as the mountains are home to all sorts of foul beasts. If the PCs have befriended any villagers, they might find some amongst them who are willing to travel with them. Dwarves especially would be useful companions.

Something brewing: The dwarves report that in their underground excavations, they have run into some underground folk who are constantly ruining the dwarves’ work. So far it hasn’t gotten deadly, but the creatures triggered a cave-in the other day that might have killed someone. The dwarves are ready to deal with these creatures by force if need be.

Civilization to the South: The crumbling wall and the path that runs alongside it is more intact to the south, and the villagers say that there are larger cities in that direction. Although they don’t advise traveling, they do admit that if the PCs want answers, perhaps some wizard or ruler to the south might have an answer.

Stepping Out of the Cave

Inside a Cave

The writer, bleary-eyed and squinting, makes his halting way out of the cave in which he has spent the entire summer. It wasn’t always pleasant in that cave, but it was cool at least. Here the writer finds temperatures in the 90s, which he hadn’t counted on. Didn’t he smell pumpkin spice on the wind? Surely the leaves should be turning colors under an overcast sky, and a cool breeze should be riffling the writer’s wild hair. Instead, bright sunshine and baking heat. Shaking his head, the writer removes his sweat jacket and throws it back down into the cave, careful to miss the stack of pages from a summer’s worth of work. It’s not hard to miss, that stack: nine chapters, about 25,000 words.

The writer sighs as sweat drips from his brow. It was supposed to be a bigger stack, the kind that you’d knock over if you swung your jacket at it as a result of unseasonably warm weather. Still, it was a stack, where it might have been nothing at all. It had been dark in that cave, after all, and nine chapters wasn’t something to sneeze at. (The dust that the writer had allowed to collect in the corners and high shelves of the cave? That was another matter entirely.)

Outside the cave, trees rustle in the breeze, the chittering leaves passing judgement on the writer’s lack of progress. Or maybe that’s all in the writer’s head, which is thick with the oppressive warmth. The writer looks back in the cave, considering a quick retreat, then turns and marches away before he can change his mind, reaching the relative coolth of the shade beneath the trees. From there, he leans sideways and peers around the great trunk. A passing bicyclist sees the writer’s head pop out from behind the tree, squeaks in fright, and veers away, narrowly missing an elderly man crossing the road. The man rears back in fright, and the thin plastic bag he holds tears apart, spilling its load of canned meats and fruits. They clunk onto the road, denting and rolling hither and thither. The man gets slowly to his knees and shepherds the cans back into his arms.

The writer, pulling a face, hides behind the tree with his back to it. He is red-faced and not just from the heat. He forgets how close he is to civilization, because down in the cave it feels very far away. Maybe he should return to the cave, he thinks. After all, he knows where the book ends, and a lot of the events that need to happen to get there, but much of the book remains a mystery to him. The only way to solve that mystery is to write, even if he doesn’t know what the next sentence, the next word will be. He grimaces. Yes, back to the cave. It’s dark down there, but there’s work to be done.

Before he goes back, he carves nine notches into the rough bark of the tree, where a summer ago he had carved a rough rectangle with the words Book 3 at the top. Nine. There’s room for fifty marks. The untouched bark stares at him and the writer turns away, trudging back to the cave. On the way, the hint of a cool breeze tickles the back of the writer’s neck. Taking a deep breath, the writer pauses, stretches, tries to release some of the tension in his neck and shoulders. Then it’s back down into the cave and back to work.  This time, though, the writer tells himself he’ll check on the outside world more often. As long as the weather changes soon.

Guest Post: Samantha Bryant and Going Through the Change

Today I am happy to host Samantha Bryant on my blog. I know Samantha through Google+ (home to many a fine writer), and I jumped at the chance to have her guest post here. For me, a writer who chose to self-publish, it’s really good to see the thought process of a writer who published with a small, independent publisher, and to see the results. Food for thought.

So read on to find out about Samantha, her book, and her path to having it published. And then pick it up for free, today and tomorrow (see details at the bottom of this post)! Congrats, Samantha!


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Small, Independent Publishers: Neither a Jet Plane, Nor a Slow Boat to China
OR
My Path to Publishing

You hear a lot about how slowly the traditional publishing world moves. It’s been described as glacial in speed, and in the midst of it, that doesn’t feel inaccurate. It’s a source of frustration, especially for eager new writers who are anxious to get their words into the hands of readers. The slow pace is part of why many writers choose to independently publish their works. (Though impatience can lead to a poor product in some of those cases, too).

I didn’t self-publish Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, though I was looking into it, and might well consider that route for other works in the future. For me, it came down to whether I had the money to do it right–hiring editors and artists to make my book the best it could be–and whether I had the chutzpah to market it completely by myself. I came up short on both those fronts. My day job is not lucrative, at least not in dollars. (I’m a public middle school teacher). My marketing knowledge can be boiled down to, “Well, I know what I don’t like.”

So, I took a sort of middle road, shopping my novel around to only small, independent publishers. For those considering a similar route, here’s how it went for me.

Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel, from conception of the idea to a book people can now buy was almost exactly three years.

In March of 2012, I was struggling to finish the first novel I ever actually finished (unpublished as of yet, His Other Mother, women’s issues fiction). It’s a dark story and it was emotionally hard on me to finish it.  So, part of my brain was trying to escape.

My husband and I were talking while we walked our dog one night about how superheroes all seem to be teenagers and if that meant that hormones cause superpowers. I said something like, “Well, if hormones give superpowers, then menopausal women should be the most powerful people on the planet!” He laughed and told me to write it down and a novel was born. I came up with the general concept and some rough character descriptions for a superhero novel, escapism at its best. I filed them away and used them as a carrot to make myself get to the end of that first book stick.

In July of 2012, I finished writing His Other Mother (that one took four years just for the writing of the first draft, and several more months for rewrites), and let myself start writing Going Through the Change. I finished the first draft in August 2013 (somewhere in there, I picked up my Magic Spreadsheet habit, a tracking tool for a daily writing word count which really increased my productivity). By the end of 2013, the book had been through my critique group and some beta readers and I had rewritten it. Keep in mind I also had a demanding full time day job (middle school teaching) and a family (husband, two children and a dog) during this time–there was only 1-2 hours per day I could get for direct focus on writing, often less.

I started querying it and submitting it in January 2014.  I won’t make you suffer through the rejections, requests for full manuscript that still got rejected, and no-answer-answers with me. But I did only try small and independent presses and found that the response time was usually a month or less. The querying process for His Other Mother at bigger, more literary focused presses, for contrast, took roughly six months each time I submitted it.

The story for Change ends happily with a book contract from Curiosity Quills Press in August 2014. I found them via an online friend who also publishes with them. I liked them because they had a focus on speculative fiction, and had published a very popular supervillain book already. The covers of their other publications looked good, and I am shallow enough to judge the quality of the product at least in part on the cover.

I also liked the transparency of their terms. You could see what the contract terms would be without even submitting anything. It made me feel like I knew what I was getting into. I also checked in with Preditors & Editors and cyber-stalked them a little to make sure no big red flags went up before I sent in my work.

CQ had a really quick process. From my initial query to a request for a full and then to my contract offer was only a space of about two weeks. Compare that to my submissions of His Other Mother to larger presses. I often waited six months for a non-specific and unhelpful “No.” The process from there was initially very busy with two editing passes, proofreading, formatting, marketing planning, and cover design, followed by what felt like a very long lull, until ARCs were released and I could start seeking reviews and promotional opportunities. Book release day was April 23, 2015, almost exactly three years to the day since I thought up the idea. In traditional publishing, I’d call that speedy-fast-quick!

For my debut novel, I don’t think I could have asked for a smoother, more comfortable process. CQ has a very family feel and the other authors, editors, artists, proofreaders, etc. have been nothing but supportive, helpful, and kind. Working with a small publisher didn’t free me from marketing responsibilities, but it did give me partners and support through that, people to ask questions of and trade favors with. It opened some doors that maybe would have been harder to open otherwise, like getting on shelves in bookstores or featured on certain blogs and review sites. Because I had a publisher behind me, I didn’t have to fight as hard to have the book taken seriously in some settings.

I’m happy with the quality of the product itself. I’ve got a wonderful cover that works much better than any of my own ideas would have (artist: Polina Sapershteyn). After all, I’m a writer, not a graphic artist. The book was professionally edited, formatted, and proofread on the company’s dime and seems to play well in all formats as a result. I’m not sure I could’ve done that on my own or afforded to hire it done.

Only time will tell if I’ve made the right decisions for my debut novel, but right now, I’m feeling good!


Going Through the Change is going through a change in price for a couple of days in early August. On August 5th and 6th you can get the Kindle edition for free on Amazon. Check it out at: http://bitly.com/face-the-change

Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills. You can find her online on her blog,  Twitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+.

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Indie Ebook Bundle

I am pleased to be part of an ebook bundle by a group of wonderful authors I’ve met on Google +. The details are below. I’ve read and enjoyed at least half of these books already and the rest are on my To Read list. Please enter and share to help independent authors get the word out about their books. Thank you!

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10 authors, 12 ebooks, 5 winners! That’s 5 people who are going to win this excellent Indie Ebook Bundle, valued at over $40! The more you share your unique Lucky URL, and the more people who enter this sweepstakes using your Lucky URL, the more chances you have to win!

With novels, novellas, and stories that include science-fiction, fantasy, superheroes, the supernatural, mysteries, and a coming of age tale, you cannot go wrong with this bundle by a group of wonderful independent authors.

5 winners will receive the following ebooks:

The Red Road
by Jenni Wiltz
Link: http://jenniwiltz.com
Genre: Literary fiction / Coming of age
Description: Honor student Emma knows college is the only way out of her gang-riddled hometown. But when a gang targets her father, can she resist the desire for violence and revenge?
Retail value: $3.99

The Judgement Conundrum
by Lacerant Plainer
Links: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/169931and http://www.amazon.com/Lacerant-Plainer/e/B0087OTXPY/
Description: The Judgement Conundrum is a short story about alien invasion. It was created in a post-apocalyptic world, which holds both hope and despair for the human race.
Retail Value: $2.99

Lotus Petals
by Gina Drayer
Link:  http://ginadrayer.com/books/
Genre: Supernatural Mystery
Description: ‘Lotus Petals’ is at the crossroads of crime procedural and supernatural/paranormal.
Retail value: $4.99

The Minus Faction, Episodes One, Two and Three
by Rick Wayne
Link:  www.RickWayne.com/books
Genre: Science Fiction/Superhero Fiction
Description: Superheroes for grown-ups. The Minus Faction is a sci-fi thriller about extraordinary abilities and how not to use them.
Retail value: $6.97

DERELICT
by LJ Cohen
Link: http://www.ljcohen.net/derelict.html
Genre: Science Fiction/Space Opera
Description: When Rosalen Maldonado tinkers with the derelict space ship, she doesn’t count on waking its damaged AI or having three stowaways on board. If the accidental crew can’t figure out how to work together, they’ll die together, victims of a computer that doesn’t realize the war ended decades before any of them were even born.
Retail value: $4.99

Crooks & Straights
by Masha du Toit
Link: http://masha.co.za/crooks_straights/crooks_straights_infopage.html
Genre: Contemporary fantasy
Description: A contemporary fantasy set in Cape Town, South Africa.
Retail value: $4.99

A Noble’s Quest
by Ryan Toxopeus
Link:  https://prcreative.ca/ryan/
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Description: Thomas and Sarentha, two poor lumberjacks, get into a fatal fight at work and are forced to flee. A nobleman takes them in to do his dirty work, teams them up with his niece Eliza, and sends them off on a quest to uncover a terrifying truth.
Retail value: $3.99

Chrono Virus: Fall of the Horizon
by Aaron Crocco
Link:  http://www.aaroncrocco.com/books/chrono-virus-fall-of-the-horizon/
Genre: Science Fiction
Description: Sam Martell’s friends and crewmates are dying. So is his ship, the Horizon. Tasked by the captain to find an answer, he’ll learn their deaths occurred long before serving on board. Now he’ll have to fight the past to save his future. Will the crew of the Horizon discover a way to save their dying ship or is it already too late? The clock is ticking toward disaster… or is it?
Retail value: $2.99

The Only City Left
by Andy Goldman
Link:  http://atgoldman.com/?page_id=2557
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantastical Sci-Fi
Description: Eighteen-year-old Allin Arcady only wants one thing: to reach the Roof of the World and see the Sun for the first time in his life. The problem is, he’s lost in the depths of the ruined planet-city called Earth, fleeing the horrors of his past.
Retail value: $4.99

River of Possibilities: A tale of death, deception and the paranormal
by Marti Lawrence
Link:  http://www.amazon.com/River-Possibilities-death-deception-paranormal/dp/1461074819/
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Description: Elizabeth Cunningham watched her parents applaud and smile as she graduated college. Two months later she watched their caskets being lowered into the ground. She becomes involved in searching for the cause of their death and discovers a link to the paranormal.
Retail value: $2.99

The winners will receive ebooks separately from each author. Delivery of the ebooks may require sideloading the ebook onto the device of your choice. Entry into this contest grants permission to the involved authors to add your e-mail address to their mailing lists. You may unsubscribe from the mailing lists at any time.

Anthology Opportunities: June 2015

Depositphotos_7200270_originalThere are quite a number of science-fiction and fantasy anthologies looking for submissions right now, so I thought I’d share some of the ones that interest me, in case you might find them useful as well. (Of course, these are all time-sensitive and subject to change.)

Clockwork Phoenix 5

Looking for “stories that sidestep expectations in beautiful and unsettling ways, that surprise with their settings and startle with the ways they cross genre boundaries, that aren’t afraid to experiment with storytelling techniques. But experimentation is not a requirement: the stories in the anthology must be more than gimmicks, and should appeal to genuine emotions, suspense, fear, sorrow, delight, wonder. I will value a story that makes me laugh in its quirky way more than a story that tries to dazzle me with a hollow exercise in wordplay.

“The stories should contain elements of the fantastic, be it science fiction, fantasy, horror or some combination thereof, [but] bring something new and genuine to the equation.”

6 cents/word,  stories under 5,000 words STRONGLY PREFERRED. Submit by July 26, 2015.

Defying Doomsday

Looking for stories of “apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled characters. (One of) the protagonist(s) must be a character with disability, such as physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters etc. We will consider stories with characters experiencing all kinds of disability and hope that submitting authors will be creative with the possibilities.”

7 cents/word, 3000-7000 words. Submit by June 30, 2015 to clear the July 1 Australian deadline.

Futuristica Volume 1

“We prize diversity, specifically stories that include multicultural backgrounds or lead characters of atypical ethnic origins. Basically, while we have nothing against heterosexual white American males, we feel they are already adequately represented in science fiction and we want stories about the rest of humanity.

“We are interested in character-oriented fiction.” They stress their desire for women-positive, sex-positive, and science-positive stories.

7 cents/word, 3000-10,000 words. Submit by August 31, 2015.

Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History

“Your story must be set before 1935 C.E. (NO exceptions), and take place primarily in our world or an alternate historical version of our world. (Travel to other worlds, other dimensions, Fairyland, the afterlife, etc. is fine but should not be the focus.) Your protagonists must be young people (under the age of 18) who were marginalized in their time and place.”

6 cents/word, 2000-8000 words. Submit by July 31, 2015.

SNAFU: Future Warfare

“We want ORIGINAL military-style combat with strong elements of future technology/sci-fi, and we want horror. Give us fear… suspense and tension… we want originality and speculation about future aspects of war. Most of all we want action, action, ACTION! We want something jaw-droppingly amazing.”

4 cents/word AUD (so 3 cents/word USD, per Google), 2000-10,000 words. Submit by August 13, 2015 (or August 12 to be safe again, because Australia).


Header image purchased from and copyright innovari/depositphotos.com.

The Only Sweepstakes Left Follow-Up

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Recently I tried a KingSumo giveaway in order to build my mailing list in advance of the release of my new book, The Fifth House. In The Only Sweepstakes Left, I gave away one Pop! toy (the winner could choose from three available) in exchange for signing up for my mailing list. Of course, not everyone who signed up would be interested in my mailing list, and it’s easy to unsubscribe from it, but I wanted to experiment with a new way to build my mailing list, so I did.

Now that the giveaway is over, I wanted to look at it and see what worked and what didn’t.

Was it a success? It was a modest one. I got 33 e-mail addresses to add to my mailing list, and 37 total entries. If you’re not familiar with KingSumo, it is meant to encourage people to share your giveaway on various social networks because if Person 2 uses Person 1’s Lucky URL, Person 1 gets extra entries into the giveaway. In this manner, no one is penalized for sharing the giveaway. The more they share, the better their chances of winning might be (assuming people use their Lucky URL to sign up). The end result, ideally, is that one’s giveaway goes viral.

So did my giveaway go viral? No. There were two entries in which contestants used another contestant’s Lucky URL. Those entries were probably ones I would not have otherwise gotten, but I wouldn’t say that was viral. A minor cold, maybe, or a case of the sniffles.

What lessons did I learn from this giveaway? There might be any number of reasons that this wasn’t a bigger success, but here are my conjectures. 1) A single Pop! toy was not enough to entice people to allow me into their inbox. If I had been willing to give away all three, that might have been more attractive. 2) There wasn’t enough of an overlap between readers and toy fans. If I shared the giveaway in book communities, the toy didn’t attract book fans. And if I shared the giveaway in toy communities, I wasn’t necessarily getting contestants who cared about my books at all.

What will I do going forward? I could try to get my money back for KingSumo, since they have a 60-day Satisfaction-Guaranteed refund policy. However, I think the cost of the service (a one-time payment) will pale in comparison to the long-term use I can get out of it.

However, for my future giveaways I will probably stick to giving away books, especially ebooks which have zero additional costs to me. If I have a large mailing list at some point, I would consider giving away a toy to a randomly-drawn person from that list to reward loyalty, but I don’t think I would use one to entice new fans to consider my books.

What about you? Have you tried anything unusual to promote your books or build your mailing list? What worked and what didn’t?

Review: Crooks & Straights

Crooks and StraightsCrooks and Straights by Masha du Toit

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a wonderful read which I suppose falls into the YA category but suited me just fine as an adult reader. It is the story of a young girl in a magical version of South Africa who gets caught between the magical and non-magical world around her. The world itself is full of everyday magic, but also tension as it becomes increasingly clear that magical people and creatures are an oppressed underclass. As such, the book deals with civil rights issues and the topic of children with special needs, through the lens of a world uncomfortable with magical or odd things.

The book is full of inventive magical details and feels very real and well-constructed, and the writing flows well and is often quite beautiful. I recommend Crooks and Straights to fans of Harry Potter, movies like Howl’s Moving Castle, and the books of Neil Gaiman.

View all my reviews

Nerdstalgia

A question was recently posed to me: what are the key ingredients in your own story of nerd nostalgia (aka nerdstalgia)? Full disclosure: the question was posed by a company called Man Crates, a company that ships gifts for guys in custom wooden crates (they include a crowbar for you to open them with, which can then be part of your Gordon Freeman costume later). But this isn’t a paid advertisement (although, hey world, I will write for money). Instead, I’m going to use this post to really think the question through.

What made me the nerd I am today? So many things contributed. Video games and comic books, action figures and Choose Your Own Adventure books, role-playing games and Star Wars and Transformers and Spider-Man and the Flash and and and :head explodes:

Okay, so as a kid I was always more inclined to be playing a video game than a sport, or to be covering a room in a complex G.I. Joe battle than, you know, learning how to talk to girls. But this is all mere surface nerdiness, really, so I’m going to try to dig deeper to get to what solidified my lifelong nerdiness. (I won’t even get into the social pressures that forged me. That’s a less fun topic for another time.)
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When I really think about it, I have to single out Star Wars action figures as being a major factor in making me the nerd I am today. In fact, I recently saw an online friend’s picture of his collection, which he still has, in the Vader case, and I felt a pang of jealousy and regret, but also one of overwhelming nostalgia.

You see, I used to* have a lot of those same figures (although I think I had the C-3PO carrying case). I would play out the scenes in the movie with the figures, sometimes while watching the movie at home, but other times from memory. Or I would make up new stories, like that time Han and Luke moved into Castle Greyskull. (There were a lot of crossover stories like that.) The amount of figures helped in this. It was like having a roster of actors who would do act out whatever scene I wanted them to.

It was no suprise, then, when I began to recount their stories, first on wide-ruled paper, with every other word misspelled, and then on typewriter, click-clacking one-page adventures one letter at a time. But when I left those action figures behind, for G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in turn, the need to write down their stories stayed.

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And when I stopped writing what was basically action figure fan fiction, I switched to homages of my favorite writers. When I couldn’t get enough of Slippery Jim DiGriz from the Stainless Steel Rat books, lo and behold, all my stories were about a suave spy named Doug Corbett, who always had the perfect sci-fi gadgets to get him out of any scrape. And when I devoured new comic books each week, especially X-Men, X-Factor, and New Mutants, well, it was no surprise that I had a roster of misunderstood super-powered heroes going off on adventures, too. (And thanks to Chris Claremont, they all came from different parts of the world and had different accents, too.)

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That’s my story of nerd nostalgia, then. Loving nerdy things so much that I wanted to make them my own by writing my own stories. I’m still doing that to this day, blending the stories and characters I love into my own characters and tales.

Star Wars action figures, X-Men comics, science-fiction/fantasy paperbacks, and a typewriter. Those are the ingredients that made me the nerd I am today. What about you? What radioactive nerd spider bit you and transformed you into the supernerd you now are?


*If you’re wondering what happened to my Star Wars figures, well… To my eternal regret, when I was about eight years old I directed them through a climactic battle scene in which everyone shot everyone else. Not content to imagine the effects, I bent their heads back and forth until the plastic tore and their heads broke off. I think once the battle was over, I came down from my berserker frenzy and realized what a terrible thing I had done, but it was too late. (G.I. Joe you could repair, at least. Star Wars figures not so much.) If I still had those toys, un-beheaded, they’d be worth so much, and I wouldn’t sell them for anything.