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Chasing Away the Dust Bunnies…For Now April 20, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, contest, e-books, End of the World, iPad, New Mexico, outlaws, sci-fi, science fiction, Second Life, VIPub, weather, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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No specific theme today but a lot of tidbits that have accumulated during the past few days. It’s been a busy time for me. The last science fair judging of the year is past and, as before, the Manzano Day School kids had some great projects. This was the year when high tech really kicked in. One budding scientist had a video (taken underwater!) showing the effect of drag on swimmers. Another surveyed cooking pans to find which baked the best chocolate chip cookies (I told her bribing the judges with the cookies would have worked well–didn’t really matter. She did a good job. I didn’t know the high-end cooking pans were dual layer with air between. And yes, they seemed to cook the most evenly.) Analysis on the cookies included using a cellphone gizmo to evaluate color which correlated with even cooking. Amazing.

These were 4th and 5th graders.

A couple days ago I got a surprising call from my agent. Last year Berkley decided the Slocum Giant books weren’t selling and eliminated the annual book. My last royalty statement was extraordinary. And I have a new Slocum Giant to do ASAP for likely publication in November. Working title: Slocum and the Silver City Harlot. Others in Western Fictioneers have commented on improved royalties for their westerns. If you live long enough, the wheel always spins back to you. Do love those westerns.

I also love my sf. Check out this review of Moonlight in the Meg from Virgil Kelberwitz of Second Life fame. His reaction to the protagonist not being named until late in the book is interesting. Final Blackout used this technique to even better purpose, I think. Best use of the techniquye–ever–was in The Prisoner.

As you know by now, I didn’t win the $650m Megamillions lottery (I did win $2, though. BFD) However, someone who did win something of both worth and usefulness is Terri D, the winner of a Kindle Fire in Scott Gamboe’s contest. A great prize and I’ll try to get Scott to do a guest blog here on how the contest helped his numbers on Amazon.

Check out another Scott’s new blog. Scott Phillips is now doing a daily blog. Very funny stuff. And touches on a lot of nostalgia. If you remember 8-tracks and hate spiders and…well, read it for yourself. Rattle and Blast.

After 30 years I have stopped receiving a daily newspaper. The $200/yr was a factor but realizing I can get all the news and features on my iPad convinced me to save a tree and cancel the Abq Journal. Their national news is always 2 or 3 days late and local news tends more toward pet adoptions now. I will miss the Trever cartoon on Sundays, but he used to do more and is mostly retired. Having lunch with John on occasion will have to suffice.

I am not sure how many new blogs will be done in the next couple weeks since I am heading over into Tornado Alley. Trust me, I want nothing more than to get back to this keyboard in sunny, dry, twister-free Abq as soon as possible.

Things Have Changed (as well as FB) September 22, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, cats, e-books, food, movies & TV, music, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, writing.
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A couple days ago I blogged about reviews and reading/not reading them. Since progress always marches on (and sometimes over us, as witnessed by the “upgrade” in Facebook) what’s a reader to do without a reviewer?

The answer is pretty obvious if you read ebooks. There is a sample function that lets you read the first few pages of the work. If you like what you read, go for it. If you don’t, you’ve gone to a primary source (your own likes/dislikes) and spent about the same amount of time as reading someone else’s review. The latter requires you to decipher the reviewer’s opinions and use them as a filter. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a bad review, this is pretty worthless since the best s&s would get the same level of contempt. If the reviewer hates s&s and gives a good review, you might have to dig further. Reviewer a friend? Having a good day? Something else? You still don’t know.

Read the sample chapter yourself and decide. What a concept, forming your own opinion rather than relying on an outsourced one.

Last night in Mike Stackpole’s office hours (Second Life) he made the point that we writers are entertainers. A long time ago Poul Anderson famously said we are in competition for the reader’s beer money. Do they buy our book or a six pack? Cost is about the same. This is an example of indirect competition. We are indirectly in competition with all forms of entertainment, video games, movies, amusement parks, music, baseball games, tv, even that six-pack. (Think of this as an example. You want to go to a restaurant and there’s a McD’s at hand. Next to it is an Applebee’s–indirect competition. They both serve food but different kinds in different atmosphere. Next to that is a Burger Thief. Direct competition since both food and ambiance are on a par with McD’s. Which do you choose? This is the heart of direct & indirect competition.)

Direct competition comes from other authors, other books (pretty much in the same genre). It’s always good for a business to identify both customers and potential customers. How do we do things better than tv or movies? How do we give the reader a superior experience to another author? This is all part of VIPub and the business of writing.

The Brighter the Light, the Darker the Shadow May 26, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, movies & TV, science fiction, Second Life, serial fiction, steampunk, westerns, Wild West, writing.

It must be “steam engine time,” the notion an idea that pops up in one place will become apparent in another. Or perhaps it is like having your attention drawn to, say, the number 23. That number suddenly crops up everywhere. Look around. You’ll see that it does. (Even outside bad Jim Carrey movies).

My musing on theme and modern sensibilities was taken in a different direction by Mike Stackpole last night in his Second Life “office hours” discussion. He is working on a VIPub WWI alt history steampunk story and said he found that nicotine is a very good in-the-trenches drug. Easy to carry, simple to administer, calms the nerves, heightens senses–just what you want for a solider. So he is putting in a lot of smoking by the good guys (it has become utterly trite now that anyone who smokes in a movie or on TV is the bad guy. One exception: Westin’s mother on Burn Notice). But Mike also said that he didn’t want anyone thinking he advocated smoking so was putting in a surgeon general’s disclaimer at the end of his story.

How far do you have to go? In a western putting in a disclaimer that you shouldn’t shoot anyone? Or drink to excess? (Whiskey was the most common analgesic back then–and there was a whole lot of physical pain from daily living). In a science fiction story, that you shouldn’t build a rocketship in your basement or fly to the Moon in it?

I have the feeling that getting sued for not meeting someone’s preconceived (or intentionally outrageous) belief is skewing our entire country. A disclaimer in fiction? It’s fiction! That means it’s not real, a product of the imagination, something that is not real. The author contributes about 75% to a story but the reader brings 25% that is completely unknowable by the author. Good, bad, it doesn’t matter–the author should not be held accountable for any of that.

Propaganda is something else (The Turner Diaries is meant to incite). I’m talking fiction intended to entertain. How you get the entertainment value is something of a mystery but writers can only try. But disclaimers that you don’t endorse behavior by some/many/one of your characters? That’s going beyond the pale because there can be no end to such rending of the clothing and wearing of the ashes. In this day and age, there will always be *someone* who is offended, no matter what you write.

Mom? (Abortion!) Apple pie? (Alar!) America? (Superman!)

It’s fiction. Suck it up, live with it, and maybe you can enjoy it in ways that don’t require you to be outraged.

What Do We Really Know? April 1, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in education, ideas, nostalgia, pranks, Second Life, weird news, writing.

The name for that, something Greek like epistemology (not to be confused with episiotomy), gets to heart of a day like today, April Fool’s Day. In the past hoaxes have been great fun and today would garner life in prison sentences. Poe’s Great Moon Hoax comes to mind and yet the so called news outlets have no trouble passing off equally irrational things and doing so because “the public has a right to know.” The world has changed, mostly in a decreasing sense of humor.

Here is a great list of April Fool’s Day jokes. I was especially taken with #7 because it was perpetrated by a CESE member. The obvious way to make such things work is to have just a tad of “sure, that could happen” mixed in.

The harmonic convergence ought to be listed but the planetary alignment reducing gravity enough so you could float around the room certainly qualifies as how you can convince yourself of anything.

Some were scams like the Cardiff Giant but Nessie dead body washed up on the shore is of a kind.

I’m not sure UFOs or the chupacabras fall into the hoax category as much as delusions, as in willingness to suspend disbelief in spite of all evidence. But they make for good stories. Bigfoot, too, zipper or not. What fascinates me most about the chupacabra is how recently it came into being. What’s next? What can be next? Therein lies the task for the inventive writer.

Somewhere PT Barnum is laughing at us

VIPub at Bubonicon September 1, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, contest, conventions, e-books, ideas, movies & TV, podcast, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, web & computers, writing.

Saturday saw a quick seminar with Pari Noskin Taichert talking on ways to promote and advertise and me holding form on e-publishing. The differences between POD and e-books was addressed but having only 20 min (each), everything was highly condensed. If you’ve read my blog for very long, and if not for shame!, then you know what I had to say about e-publishing.

Here’s what Pari had to say about getting your work noticed. She’s a former (for 20 years) PR media type who found true love writing mysteries. Go figure. Who’d give that up (or being a physicist) to just, you know, write? 😉

Two elements are necessary to keep in your PR cross hairs:
1) consistency. You need a single simple message and to keep at it. Call it branding or simply presenting the same face to the public, you can’t be all over the place. I see this as something of a problem since I do westerns as well as f & sf. Mysteries, too. Concentrating on just one would be best. Multiple contact is needed to reinforce your presence, your very existence. A single isn’t going to work. There has to be a lot of them, all saying the same thing: look at me, I have something you really really want. (I put in a discount code in the Bubonicon 42 Program Book–distribution, over 600. Response. Zero. Luckily it cost me nothing but I know this type of ad isn’t working. I have more hope for the e-mail addresses gathered at the Golden Reflections panel).

2) use the 2 or 3 promotional techniques you like most. If you like to go to the mat getting newspaper coverage, do it. Or TV. Or radio. There’s podcasting. Social networking like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs. Second Life. Website. (You really need a website. If you can’t handle that, hire it out.) You own online store. Book trailers. Ads. Autographings. Book tours. Promo items like bookmarks and posters, maybe author trading cards to autograph for the e-book readers. Newsgroups like Bryant Street. Con appearances. Speeches to various public groups. Writers groups and co-ops like BookView Café. Newsletters. Book reviews. Skywriting. The Chain Story Project. Who knows what else?

You can’t do them all. You wouldn’t want to. So choose what you can keep up with. There’s nothing worse than getting going and then finding that it’s a terrible drag, a drain on your psychic energy you need to write.

Most of all, find the balance you need between the writing and producing of product and promoting it. VIPub, gang, VIPub.

More of what Pari had to say in a later blog.

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Up Goin’ On July 14, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in conventions, geocaching, iPad, nostalgia, sci-fi, Second Life, sense of wonder, space, web & computers, westerns, writing.
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But I hope not in San Diego since I’m off for the seaport tomorrow morning. The 100th Anniversary Tom Swift convention is the reason, but other things are planned. My Camera Is Ready. I’ll post a pic or two somewhere, believe me.

And as these things always work out, I’m Temporary Current Editor (TOE) on SlanAPA this month, so have to delay publication a bit until after I return.

Tonight at 6SLT I’ll be guest hosting Mike Stackpole’s office hours. Drop on by Wind River Territories for a while and say hi.

Sad news. Fermi Lab didn’t find the Higgs boson after all. Vile rumor.
Too bad.

And I ordered my iPad yesterday. Yea! Well, not so much, maybe. I’ll get the other parts I ordered (keyboard, etc) over the next week but the iPad itself will be delivered in 5-7 business days. On July 30. They must have graduated from Abq high schools with math like that. But I am anxious, even if it has dragged out a month longer than I anticipated. So much for jit (just in time) supply chains.

Thinking seriously about joining a new western writers group, the Western Fictioneers.

Hmmm, a fire up in the canyon (Embudo) where I geocache and just hike. It’s been burning for 24 hours now and is only 20% contained since it is so remote.

Heard about a fantastic iPhone app yesterday. Point the iPhone at a mt and it uses facial recognition (and probably GPS) to give you stats on the mt. Height, etc. This is almost as cool as the app that turns your iPhone into a Star Trek communicator.

The next few days ought to be automatically posted since I’ve scheduled them, but it’ll be interesting to see if any actually show up. Always experiment, right?

I leave you with this inspiration (from days of yore when spaceflight was what NASA was about rather than make-nice feel-good). Happy 12,000 days, Voyager.

Saddle Up, Amigos June 10, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Chain story, charity, conventions, Second Life, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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I’ve been lax about posting for a couple days but it’s because so much else has been going on behind the scenes, so to speak.

First off, I am delighted at the response on items put up for the American Cancer Society auction (RFL) on Second Life. I’ll be getting in touch with the winners of some of the physical items (God of War and Genetic Menace) as well as mentoring on a story for the Chain Story project. Many thanks to Kat Alderson of Second Life for spearheading this fine event. Close to U$D1000 was raised in this one auction.

Taking care of stuff on the crummy jobs anthology. Still time to drop a title for that. It’s nearing the end of when it’d be possible to change, so…hurry hurry hurry. And the first of four Fantasy Football magazines is ready for the printer. Look for Fantasy Sports ProForecaster in a month or so on you favorite newsstand. Three more to go. Check out http://www.FootballDiehards.com if you’re into such things.

Friends from Phoenix were in town and we took in a favorite restaurant yesterday morning. And tonight Cirque du Soleil will hold a command performance of Alegria for me. Well, ok, not exactly so. I have tickets and will be gawking at the wonder of the show.

And my agent called to let me know the editor wants another western. Great. That was yesterday. Today agent calls and says editor wants another western. Great (and this is a 2nd book, so I have Nov 15 and Jan 15 deadlines on them). I hope I’m not getting boxed in like I did last year with impossible writing schedules around the holidays. It looks as if I may well be.

And then there is work on the Jackson Lowry website. I’m gearing it up and getting things ready. I think rather than the first chapter of Sonora Noose, I might write an original story or two of Marshal Mason Barker’s other adventures. Tales from Old Mesilla is a working title for the entire group of stories.

The Sleeping Giants May 2, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, fantasy, ideas, podcast, sci-fi, Second Life, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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There are variants on “when it’s steam engine time steam engines will be built.” Right about now I think many (more) sf writers are coming to realize the publishing world is in a death spiral and that things must change. I read this at the blog Big Lizards which reinvents the wheel (see any of Mike Stackpole’s
comments about writers and their stupidity. In Big Lizard’s case, Dafydd abHugh isn’t stupid–quite the contrary. But he is covering ground Mike already has–a year and more ago.

We’re talking about VIPub, Vertically Integrated Publishing, where the author is everything along the food chain. Has some great ideas and is putting them into motion. The Chain Story will be up and linking in a day or two–small clink from a link. It will not only be great fun for writer and reader but a way of cross-advertising our work to a wider spectrum of fans. My store is slowly rebuilding and I am thinking of new and different ways of using it. Since up for the newsletter, if you check it out. There are freebie stories as well as others for sale, including nifty stuff from Scott Phillips where we’re exploring ePub and Kindle formats.

Scott and I are co-editing an anthology about crappy jobs that is shaping up to be incredible. Fiction (SF, fantasy, horror), psychological and a couple of the funniest nonfiction pieces I’ve come across since PJ O’Rourke. The print edition will come out under the Frantic Tentacles imprint but will be available in a wide variety of e formats and locations. Look for the announcement on this–we’re hoping to have it ready for debut at Bubonicon in late August.

If you missed my podcast in Second Life last week, give it a try here at Radio Riel More advertising under the VIPub rubric. Mike does a regular podcast on Cover-2-Cover. I’m running down a local radio show host who has a syndicated show reaching 200+ stations to see what can be dropped out there.

And sometime in the near future I’ll be doing a Q&A for the Del Rey e-zine, along with some work on their forum for God of War 1. (And it seems that my God of War 2 is already scheduled for January 2011!)

VIPub. Learn it, live it, love it for the wave of the present that it is if you’re an author.

Filling the Aether April 26, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, podcast, sci-fi, science fiction, Second Life, Uncategorized, VIPub, web & computers, writing.
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Yesterday was a busy day all around. Lots of mss to edit/correct and need to get them into the mail today. Also (yea!) Contracts. As happens from time to time, I turned in the book before I saw the contract. Can you say trust? Thank you Mr. Rogers.

I also went into Second Life as my avatar Goran Draconis for an interview. Through the miracles of modern technology and the wonderful folks at Radio Riel, here is the link I sound weird but I realized somewhere through it that the reason Art Bell tells his callers to turn off their radios is the 10 second delay. Weirdness is hearing what you’ve just said echoed. I was on Skype and a few seconds later the voice came out in Second Life.

But wait, as they are so fond of saying, there is more. I’ve mentioned Michael Zapp’s wondrous Legend Maker program for turning your dull, lifeless manuscripts into sparkling ePub and Kindle files. Here’s a write up about the program that gives the lowdown. Sure, you can do all the work yourself. But Legend Maker gives consistent output and makes sure you’re not to overlook that one little code that can drive you nutso trying to find and correct.

I have also launched my online store after much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Or is that whaling and noshing? The original store was hacked and I had to move it from the server to prevent the insidious climb from my ebooks all the way to the server root and disastrous hacking on a lot of other good people. Leif is a good guy and didn’t deserve to worry about this on my part. The new store’s been in the works for weeks so is still a bit skittish in places. Let me know. And sign up for the newsletter while you’re logged in. I intend to offer free fiction (on occasion), discounts (on occasion) and other goodies to nl subscribers.

To work. The wild wild west beckons.

Listen! April 25, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in Second Life, web & computers, writing.

I have a podcast today in Second Life at 1PM PDT.
Listen here http://moto.slserver.com:8020/listen.pls
or here http://radioriel.blogspot.com/

Y’all eavesdrop, ya hear?