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Playing In My Own Sandbox (part 2) April 13, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, Free, ideas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Nothing is certain but change. That’s the way of life, but not necessarily so in series. If you intend to do a limited series, say a trilogy, your protagonist can have a character arc where all kinds of flaws are corrected or augmented by the end of the series. The protagonist usually grows as a person and responds to the vicissitudes of the plot thrown at him/her. This makes for a satisfying conclusion but presents a problem if the series stretches to more titles.

Readers get invested in the character. Watching one grow and change is fine if the series ends in a predetermined number of titles. If the series has multiple entries, this isn’t such a good idea. A reader coming into the series after 5 or 6 titles (or 50 or 60) can fall in love with that character, go back to read earlier titles and find the character doesn’t measure up. End of interest. Ebooks have the advantage of always being in print so a reader can scrounge up the first book and ride the wave through all the titles and enjoy the character development. But in a print series, this isn’t an easy thing. Print books go OP (out of print) in a few weeks.

Some many-authored long-running series like the Jake Logan books insist that the main character (in this case, John Slocum) never change from the traits listed in the series bible. Authors don’t have to deal with changes or details a book or a hundred books earlier. But what’s an author to do with a static protagonist?

The answer comes in the secondary characters. They can change (or even die). The protagonist carries the plot and everyone around can learn and grow or devolve. End of book, satisfying character changes, but not in the protagonist who moves on, as is, to begin a new adventure.

I am trying something a bit different in a western series starting in October. The protagonist in The Great West Detective Agency is a gambler and something of a wastrel whose liking for the ladies always gets him in trouble. It’s a print series so Lucas Stanton’s not going to change much, but I hit upon the idea of publishing short stories using secondary characters to augment the plot. What are the histories behind the characters in the book? The dance hall girl or the bartender? The sidekick or the femme fatale? The curious “source of all information” or the hellfire and brimstone preacher or the sweet young thing who entices Stanton into a new mystery? This volume (the first will be called 4 Lives) will be an ebook and maybe PoD. But it gives a chance for the behind the scenes look at the characters and how they got to where they are in the book, leaving the protagonist free to push the plot.

If you want a free copy of 4 Lives when it is ready in a month or so to see what I’m doing, drop me a line via my website at http://www.cenotaphroad.com and mention it. Be sure to tell me what your preferred format is.

Great West Detective Agency

Great West Detective Agency

Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox (Part 5)(mosaic series) March 16, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, ideas, outlaws, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Imagine a stained glass window, only every piece is cut and installed by a different artist. That’s the way a mosaic novel is done. Each author writes a chapter or two in an overarching plot, then the pieces are strung together like a pearl necklace. (A single author can also do a mosaic novel, loosely interconnected short stories telling a greater story. My favorites in this technique include Edward Bryant’s Cinnabar and Joe Landsale’s The Magic Wagon.)

But that loose congregation of stories isn’t exactly what happens in the Western Fictioneers’ series, Wolf Creek. Editor Troy Smith, a Spur Award winner, comes up with a plot and then each author takes his own special character and stirs it up in a chapter or two to advance the story.

Each novel stands on its own but the entire series progresses well in developing not only the town of Wolf Creek, Kansas, but also the major characters. That each book stands on its own allows change in the characters but readers choosing “out of sequence” won’t be too shocked by differences. My character is a lowlife named Wilson “Wil” Marsh, the town photographer always on the outlook for the quick (and shady) buck. He takes blue pictures of the town’s most prominent women because he knows their secrets. He sells lurid photos of dead outlaws and slain Indians to magazines back East hungry for such notoriety. And he even manages to get photos of bank robbers, not to use as evidence in court but to blackmail them. He’s not a nice guy, but he drops money in the poor box at a church he hates and has some empathy for the downtrodden. Why is slowly coming out as I work in my miniature stories within the mosaic novels.

To date I’ve done chapters about Wil in The Quick and the Dying
and Kiowa Vengeance with a new story about a Sand Creek-like massacre on tap. And yes, Wil has a new way to profit off his photographs not involving blackmail but still fraudulent as hell.

What is strange about this for me, at least, is that my Jackson Lowry pen name, has a pen name (Ford Fargo). Others taking part include some of the finest writers working today in the western field. Frank Roderus, Robert Randisi, James Reasoner, Matthew Mayo, LJ Washburn, Cheryl Pierson, Jory Sherman, Meg Mims, Bill Crider, LJ Martin, Jacquie Rogers and a whole lot more.

What you get in every book is a spectrum of top writers and a complete novel-length plot. And an exciting read.

Wolf Creek #2

Wolf Creek #2

Slap Leather, Pilgrim October 7, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, history, iPad, New Mexico, outlaws, Texas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West, writing, zeppelin.
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The past few days have been spent getting a talk ready for the Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium coming up at the end of the week. I’ll be on a panel Friday morning, give my talk on New Mexico railroads both Friday and Saturday afternoons. For me talking that much is a marathon event and I’ll likely end up hoarse (horse? Sorry!)

From a writing standpoint, I’m trying some new marketing ideas. I’m turning my notes into an epub for easier use on my iPad, then will post the ebook on my store next week (for free, of course) for anyone wanting to see more details since I don’t anticipate going too deep into any one part of the talk.) Along with the talks, I’ll be selling copies of Karl Lassiter and Jackson Lowry westerns, hyping Karl’s upcoming China Jack
because it is about railroads and specifically railroads in that region of the country, and seeing how a special project goes.

Just for the getogether, I’ve done a mini-anthology of three stories about Texas Rangers, past, present and future. A memento for the event. Something easily carried (as opposed to a copy of The Traditional West)

If this experiment works, I’ll do something similar, Tales from New Mexico, for the SW Festival of Books next May. Targeted to the regional interests, relatively inexpensive, a keepsake for remembering the event. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Who knows? I might even take pictures at the symposium and lost a couple here, but it will have to be next week. Still working on finding tidbits about railroads in NM (including the 1880 tale of a fish-shaped hot air balloon dropping blue origami flowers and a teacup on the Galisteo railhead. Most inexplicable.)

More soon. Until then you might want to check out

Just Playing Around September 19, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, history, outlaws, Texas, VIPub, westerns, Wild West.
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I finished the mini-anthology, Tales From Texas, and will debut it at the Lincoln County Cowbowy Symposium before going wide/public with it. Let me know what you think of this first attempt at doing a book trailer. Limited to 30 seconds, no control over the fade or effects, but I think it works pretty well for a first effort from an aesthetic idiot.

texas tales video

And here’s a look at the cover.

Forthcoming TALES FROM TEXAS

Boo…Boo…Bubonicon. 44 August 23, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, Billy the Kid, conventions, e-books, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, New Mexico, nostalgia, science fiction, sense of wonder, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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This weekend. Starting tomorrow! Coming amazingly fast this year–and anticipated even more since I missed last year.

Brandon Sanderson is GoH and via reports from GenCon he will make one fantastic guest of honor. Michael Cassutt is the TM and Ursula Vernon artist GoH. Wow. And George RR Martin and dozens of other writers will be there, too. But you can read all about this at the convention web site.

Want more info? Great article in the UNM student paper about us.

My schedule is packed to the gunwales. First out of the chute on Friday (that’s tomorrow as I write this!) is the Crazy Buck Rogers panel. 4-5pm. Following that I have a reading or discussion or whatever you want for an hour, 7:30-8:30PM. I’ve got a trio of stories I can offer up. A horror story (Avian Evisceration Device) from Career Guide to Your Job in Hell,, a fantasy (Memory of Wind) or a mystery mashup with Sherlock Holmes and Sir Denis Nayland Smith (Adventure of the Greenwich First Light). I don’t like to read so I am quite willing to talk about writing in general, ebooks, e-making your own, what to e-expect and all that good stuff. After all, my ebooks are now available in India via the Kindle. I can even be paid in rupees. If they offered royalties in a hard currency (say, Canadian loonies) that would be better. But I’ll take it in soft currency, ie, USD.

But wait, there’s more. There is the Cheesemagnet Panel at 9:30-11PM, if you don’t get enough cheesy movie talk in your workaday life.

Saturday the 25th? Why, yes, I have a panel 4-5PM on marketing sf via stuffing it into a teeny little niche. Instantly following that in the same room is the 5:20-6:30PM mass autographing, if your Higgs boson provides you enough mass to autograph. I don’t anticipate having much in the way of books to sell, so stock up from Nina and Ron Else in the huckster room (Who Else? Books), but I will have a copy or two of some titles (credit cards accepted). If you ask during the autographing, I will tell you how to get 44% off e-titles from my online store. Ebooks only, please, for this offer.

For most fans this would be enough. Not for yhos. Sunday.1:00-3:30PM auction. Super stuff. Super silly stuff, all auctioned off by the Bcon team of crazies (sans Gordon, alas–doctor things prevent him from attending this year)

This is coming up over the weekend. The past couple weeks have been filled. Finished 1.5 stories in a min-anthology I am doing before I speak at the 23rd Lincoln County Cowboy Symposium.

Also finished copyedits on China Jack, due out Dec 11 (you better read it quick–only 10 days from release date until the Mayan Apocalypse). And almost done on the edits for the final Star Frontier title, Black Nebula.

And work proceeds apace on the final touches for God of War 2.

Plus work on tax accounting stuff, student mss and generally goofing off. I leave you with this. My very first published book has been e-reprinted. This is it! Grab it at this low price while you can.

My first published book!

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&index=blended&keywords=sandcats%20of%20rhyl%20kindle&link_code=qs&tag=roberevardesc-20

Time Enough For…Time August 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, fantasy, Free, movies, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, VIPub, web & computers, westerns, writing.
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Woefully absent from these pages during the past 10 days or so, I have experimented with time management and trying to see where It All Goes. A good 3 hrs a day can be sucked up by kitty videos, Facebook and other nonproductive pursuits. The question is: do I garner enough enjoyment from these online time wasters compared with dealing in real world stuff.

While I’d rather watch the cat videos or guys getting smashed in the balls in new and extraordinary ways more than cleaning the garage or doing bookkeeping, they ought to be treated as candy. A little bit is good, a lot will ruin the waistline. I am getting more work done (and amazingly enough, looking forward to doing it) and not missing the blog quite so much.

A momentary diversion. About FB. I have been nailed finally with the Timeline format. Don’t like it, don’t see how it is an improvement, but Zuckerberg can flip us all off and there’s nothing we can do other than stop using FB. I find it useful to let everyone know what’s going on in a timely, concise way that stays around (unlike Twitter, which I have also cut waaay back on) such as the release of Sandcats of Rhyl and how it was free last week. And only $3.03 now. But I don’t want to play games and I will delete anyone posting to my page (I hate that feature letting anyone else post to my page) anything I deem unsocial. This can include but is not limited to calling anyone a Nazi (and I don’t even agree with Godwin’s Law), politics, and how “fill in the blank” is a baby killer who wants granny to eat dog food before shoving her over a cliff to steal her wheelchair. But that’s just me.

All that eats away at my time, hitting that delete button. I would rather be writing. I suppose in the old days watching TV was the time killer. Now it’s the Internet. Another fun tool to be managed. I do have the odd picture of time wasted on the Internet swirling down a drain that clogs up and then the temporal pressure gets so immense that it explodes in a Big Bang and creates a new universe. Maybe the Internet does have a purpose

How have I used my freed up time? Four titles in the Jade Demons Quartet are prepped and getting ready to be posted. A western short story is about half done. The synopsis for a new sf book is shaping up and another western synopsis is about ready to launch into writing phase. Western Fictioneers has a fabulous new project in the works, of which I intend to be a part with my novel contribution. And Empires of Steam and Rust is showing signs of life once more with new stories promised because of my time shiftings so I can pursue this.

I never thought of my time as being wasted reading, but I do watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet. Why is that? More to think about until next time.

If Insanity is Doing the Same Thing Over and Expecting A Different Result, Would You Buy That for a Quarter? July 29, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, ideas, sense of wonder, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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The original part of the title is attributed to Einstein, but he never heard of chaos theory or how boundary conditions alter outcomes. Where you start is important to how you end up. The latter part is from “The Marching Morons,” which I heartily recommend since this is yet another sf cautionary tale that has come true.

It’s been a week or two since my last blog. I had to finish a western (entire book done in 10 days–just like the “good old days” of writing). The accomplishment is certainly there and more than this, I found I wanted to write. It excited me again. What had changed prior to this stint?

Doing a blog every day, checking FB and Twitter, following other blogs, responding, taking the time to sift through my email, all that takes close to 3 hrs a day. By the time I finish, it’s around noon and I don’t want to write any more. I’ve written. That made whatever I did the rest of the day a chore rather than an excitement. Since I’ve finished the book, I’ve fallen back into tending the web stuff and . . . the thrill is fading again.

Dean Wesley Smith said the best way to promote your work is to write more of it. I agree and more so now than a month ago. I see little or no bounce on sales from blogging or FB or any of that other stuff people claim is “necessary.” Preaching to the same choir is fine, but if the choir isn’t increasing… I enjoy the blogs and the other the same way I did writing fanzines and fanac, but I need to survive in a world increasingly entropic. I think I will cut back on the blogs and FB in favor of the kick I get out of actually writing.

Where the writing will appear is something of a question. Westerns are going well but they are mostly to legacy publishers (the exception will be detailed later), which means they are theirs, not mine. Increasingly, the legacy publishers are closing rank and demanding all rights in perpetuity for anything they buy. That makes every novel a work for hire. Been over the trade-off between this and VIPub. Both have their place.

I had been doing an almost daily blog. Now it’ll be whenever something moves me enough to write, and it doesn’t intrude on the fiction.

I must get onto a nifty short story I’m doing for the Sherlock Holmes Crossover Casebook, “The Adventure of the Greenwich First Light.” The crossover in this case is Holmes teaming up with Nayland Smith (more accurately Watson with Petrie). And from there…more to be revealed!

One of the commercial space companies will send a pinch of your cremains to the Moon. I love the idea. I might put this into my will, if Mars is not an option. On that note, here is a Dilbert I mightily enjoyed.

Ash-stounding idea!

Quick on the Draw–2012 SASS End of Trail July 1, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in awards, Billy the Kid, conventions, history, hobby, New Mexico, outlaws, westerns.
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Turn left at the mailbox painted with Bill the Kid’s face, another left and a right and you’re at the End of Trail, the annual Single Action Shooter’s Society getogether. All this in Edgewood.

Come on over, pahdnah!

They have built up a great facility over the years, with a main street lined with permanent buildings. Newly added this year (or maybe in the past 2 since I missed last year’s) is a white church with a steeple. For those rootin’ tootin’ two-gun weddings, betcha.

I think something went wrong with their online coupon. Scott, Pat and I got out there and entry was free, no parking charge, the awards presentation was in full swing. The public is pretty much welcome whenever as long as you don’t cause a fuss, but the paid entry days have more of a rodeo/sideshow atmosphere. But all the shops were open. Scott and Pat are inveterate clothes shoppers. Me, I was wearing a shirt I got 30 years earlier. But they actually wear the stuff they buy, so it isn’t “costume” as much as daily wear for them.

By the big Red Rider

After meandering up and down in the hot sun, Scott suggested lunch in Edgewood at Katrinah’s East Mountain Grill (spellings are all accurate, btw) to partake of the Thunder Burger, a deep-fried hamburger. Deep fried anything is a tad repulsive sounding to me, but since I’d never done it, why not? I sorrowfully admit the Thunder Burger was not only good, but I would order it again (maybe with more green chile). The meat had green chile and cheese mixed into it before the deep frying, but it came out more like meatloaf. From the heat, I assume. Most tasty. Today, hamburgers, tomorrow…deep-fried Snickers? I hang my head in shame even as my arteries harden at the mere idea.

Me and Red Rider gunnin’ for the bad guys

Warning: the awards are for marksmanship

Last stage ot Albuquerque

The new Old West

Writing the High Desert June 17, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, conventions, e-books, history, movies & TV, New Mexico, outlaws, Texas, westerns, writing.
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The Western Writers of America convention ended last night after a 5 day run. I passed up some of the events only because this is home territory for me (I’ve seen enough of Santa Fe, thank you, which was the field trip this year) and I had impossible amounts of catchup work to do. The Albq Comic Expo ended last Sunday, Monday was “off” for me and WWA started Tuesday.

A huge tribute to Max Evans provided some rare moments of insight into the movie biz, along with jokes and reminiscences that were touching and informative.

Max Evans at WWA

The outstanding panel had to be the innovative “New Mexico vs Arizona” faceoff since 2012 is both states’ centennial of statehood. Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble and editor Bob Boze Bell vs the NM team of Centennial Historian Don Bullis and former feature reporter Ollie Reed. Trimble ought to be a standup comic (he comes from a town in AZ that’s so small its sister city is a Taco Bell in Nicaragua). Cowboy Mike, Sherry Monaghan and I were chosen (and bribed) as a jury by judge Johnny Boggs. After great tale telling and, perhaps not a little tall tale telling, the winner was declared to be … Iowa.

Ollie Reed, Don Bullis, Johnny Boggs, Marshall Trimble, Bob Boze Bell

The writing western mysteries panel lacked a microphone and I lacked hearing acuity so I went to what proved to be a great presentation on the Civil War and various backwaters of its history that have been unexplored (or under-explored). Fascinating listening to Boggs talk about baseball and Pati Nagel on the war in NM, Jerry Poole on medicine and Terry del Bene on, well, just about everything I never knew and ought to have.

There were two autograph sessions, one I arranged at Page One Books for Chuck Tyrell (aka Charlie Whipple from Chiba, Japan), Courtney Joyner and Jackson Lowry to plug The Traditional West

Newer writer Rob Kresge was there, too, with a series of mysteries set in the west.

The other autographing, this one WWA sanctioned, happened at B&N. 73 authors officially participated but some, like LJ Martin, were signing but not at formal tables hawking their goods. This pointed out another problem with big dead tree bookstores: books they refused to order but sold on consignment will take 6 weeks to 3 months to be accounted. I am not sanguine about our chances of ever seeing money off those sales, or at least an accurate accounting.

The final panel I took in was on promotion with Steve Law, a rancher from WY, Jim Frenkel and David Morrell. You’ve heard all this via me or Mike Stackpole or Kris Rusch or Dean Wesley Smith. But simple things like QR codes were new to most of the audience. The rancher seems to have the finances to pay $800/mo for a media consultant and $300/mo to have someone do his tweets. Must be nice and, sorry, “you can start out paying less” doesn’t make it for me or most of the folks in the audience. As they say, YMMV. I am also less sanguine about doing autographings in grocery stores (I did one once sitting next to Tony Hillerman–the display of Pennzoil next to us did far better sales). High traffic, yes, but directed interest traffic seems more productive to me (such as the Albuquerque Comic Expo, the upcoming Cowboy Symposium and next year’s SW Book Fiesta.)

I survived, had fun, met lots of new people and am looking forward to doing it all again next year in Vegas (and then Sacramento and still thenner, in San Antonio). Masochistic me testing to destruction. And I love it.

Top nf writers Don Bullis and Leon Metz

Thern and Texas June 6, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in fantasy, history, iPad, movies, movies & TV, outlaws, sci-fi, science fiction, Texas, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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Or maybe Thurn and Taxis, if you are a Crying of Lot 49 fan.

But therns. I saw the supposedly awful John Carter movie again on Monday. 2D this time, a better look for the movie (the colors die in 3D, it appears). I say “supposedly awful” because that is a critics’ opinion, not mine. I liked it even more the second time. I might even try for a 3rd view before it leaves the big screen, or as big a screen as the $1 movie theater has. This is a movie that deserves to be seen in IMAX.

The look of the movie is good, the pacing is off, taking too long to get moving, but the plot is heroic fantasy and the sfx are lovely. (That adjective can be applied to Dejah Thoris, too). Taylor Kitsch (what a name!) might not have been my pick for the John Carter role, but he does fine. I even liked Woola a lot more this time around. The reworking of the original book plot makes it into a stronger movie–face it, a 100+ years makes astral projection kinda clunky. Go for that Stargate!

An entertaining movie which comes out in Blu-ray today (or soon–I don’t have a Blu-ray so don’t pay close attention). I’ve heard that there will be an iPhone/iPad app that will add to the experience. No idea what it is but this pushes the connection of home theaters and iPads a bit closer together.

Also of note are the new westerns. History Channel did Hatfields and McCoys starring Kevin Costner and Bill Pullman. I enjoyed the first 4 hrs or so but began to tire of the repitition in the final 2 hours. All this killing over a pig. Sort of like the War of Jenkins Ear. Lots of background to what sounded like a trivial reason to go to war.

Better is A&E’s Longmire. A modern day western with cowboys and sheep herders and Indians and six-gun totin’ marshals set in Wyoming, or maybe Montana. The pilot was a bit contrived, making me think the bad guy would never have been caught if he hadn’t used an antique rifle and instead relied on a .30-06 but the show has promise. I’ll tune in again.

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