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Of Alien Worlds…and Adjectives and Nouns January 12, 2014

Posted by bobv451 in e-books, history, iPhone, movies & TV, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, Wild West, writing.
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I have mentioned before that writing westerns is now equivalent to writing sf. Science fiction envisions new and different worlds filled with characters unknown or unimagined by the reader. The traditional western set in the post Civil War era through 1890 and the closing of the frontier is now the same. Growing up, my oldest relatives lived at the edge of that time. Now that the WWII generation is shuffling off its mortal coil, firsthand stories are lost. With iPhones, 3D printers and wifi our everyday reality, the 1880s is completely unknown to modern readers through personal experience of family story. That means the same techniques we use to bring sf alien worlds alive are now necessary for westerns. We need to take the reader to a time and place completely beyond their ken with vivid description–and explanation of why the world is as we write it with “alien” elements like horses and cattle drives.

The style of writing has changed immensely in the last 25 years, where idea driven stories have fallen out of favor to ones with character driven plots. Westerns need to gear up, too, but a lot of writers already understand this and are working to give depth and motive (other than “revenge”) to their characters.

Along with this change is the broadening (I hesitate to say diluting, but that is part of it) with so many cross-genre stories. The noun is always the dictating form. For instance, ranch romance is a romance with all those conventions set in the west. If you happen to come across a romance western, you will have found a rare entry. Most all “…” romance is above all a romance. Paranormal romance. That’s romance with creepy happenings. Historical romance. A romance set in some other time period. And so on.

One interesting backwater is the western steampunk story. It can as easily be steampunk western. Adjective defining the type of western. Or the weird western. There aren’t many other sub genres that let us do a western with different overtones (there might be western mysteries like Longmire but check the adjective and the noun) but to maintain the structure, the very world of western lore requires us to understand what we are writing.

I love traditional westerns, but they were/too-often-are action driven with little regard to the characters. The best in the field like Elmer Kelton either consciously or unconsciously realized a western becomes more vital with living, breathing characters doing things the reader can identify with. With this additional writing technique, we now have to describe a world so far removed in time and space that it has become science fictional.

For your perusal, check out this Western Fictioneers series centered on individuals in the Old West. My Jackson Lowry title The Artist is an example of what I have been rattling on about. It is set in the Old West with a real character with a history, motivation and depth to bring him alive to today’s readers. It’s on sale right now, so you won’t be out that much to see what I mean. You won’t go wrong with the other novels in the West of the Big River series, either.

Happy trails, buckaroos.

A story of Charles Russell

A story of Charles Russell

Welcome to the New Mayan Long Count December 22, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, Free, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Survived the last 5125 and unfortunately the new page on the Mayan calendar doesn’t have any of those frisky Mayan maidens with cavorting jaguars, either. Next time.

For those of you looking forward to the next end times but unsure what to do until then, let me remind you I’m having a super duper post-apocalyptic sale in my store on all sci-fi titles. Only a couple more days so hurry hurry hurry.

Today’s Lio cartoon sums up so much so well so quickly in 2 frames.

lio121222

You Only Live Twice…Things Done 2x May 24, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in autographing, business, charity, conventions, fantasy, iPad, steampunk, writing.
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Thanks to Mike Stackpole for letting me sit in for him again (even though he was there) at his office hours last night. But the title of this blog is things done twice. I will be reading in Second Life (second time in 2 days) tonight for Relay For Life. Which is the second time I have participated. Come by at 6PM SLT for my reading of a short story, “Memory of Wind.” Maybe even contribute a few pennies for cancer research.

In response to my “Strategy and Tactics” blogpost of a few days ago, I received this from Copyblogger. Sonia Simon has written an article on “the difference between ‘work’ and work that moves you toward your goals.'” Good stuff in the article and in general on Copyblogger.

For some reason the term “sprocket watch” keeps rattling around in my head. Sounds rather steampunkish. Might just be in anticipation of Steve Sullivan posting his entry into Empires of Steam and Rust–this will be passage two.

Also my second gig at Albuquerque Comic Expo is coming up fast. Get your tickets now!

The burdens of work hardly qualifies as 2x since it is pretty much constant. I need to get the story I’ll read tonight all gussied up and into epub format so I can read it off the iPad and not drop pages like I did last time I read. On this note I leave you with a Calvin and Hobbes that seems especially appropriate

Calvin the writer, waiting for his Muse

Packing Up, Moving On Down the Road April 22, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, sci-fi, science fiction, steampunk, writing.
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I’ll be away from the blog posting for a while as I venture into Tornado Alley. I hope there are no “stories” to tell when I get back. I don’t want “adventures” or “thrills” due to dodging F5s or being pummeled with grapefruit-sized hailstones. If all goes as planned, I’ll be delivering a big screen TV and that’ll be as exciting as it gets.

Until then I’m leaving you with a bunch of links. While I’m gone, buy my books. Help me pay for $4/gal gasoline out on the road. My online store has lots of great stuff. Some free stories, a couple novels under $3 (in the case of Lord of Death and Life, only until I return) and super fantasy, sf and other genres. Sign up for the newsletter and be eligible for a promotion after I change hosts in a couple weeks.

You like sexy spy books? Hot Rail to Hell is what you’re looking for.

Steampunk? You can’t go wrong with the initial story in the Empires of Steam and Rust series.

Great fantasy? You can read the complete Accursed trilogy, which has never been published in the US before (only in the UK).

Or here is the entire 9-book series, Swords of Raemllyn.

SF? Space opera? Give the complete Weapons of Chaos a read.

Or the entire Biowarriors trilogy.

Check out the comprehensive catalog on the Kindle or the Nook

And I’ve done some editing. Want a sampler of some mighty fine writers? Try this one…

Career Guide to Your Job in Hell

Report from the Frontlines January 13, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, fantasy, Free, science fiction, steampunk, VIPub.
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I tried out the Amazon freebie promo route on anthology Career Guide To Your Job in Hell and my standalone sf novel Moonlight in the Meg. The former was put up for three days, Moonlight on January’s full moon for one day. Question was if giving away copies somehow increased visibility and sales.

After almost a week here is how it comes down. But first the number given away and where.

Career Guide:
US(924), UK (28–and one poor soul actually returned a free copy, maybe thinking he could get $4.99 or Brit pound equivalent refund in the confusion?), Germany (21)

Moonlight in the Meg:
US(315), UK(37), Germany (4), Italy (1)

Since then each book has been loaned out once (which is a good thing since the lending pool has been increased to $700k. Prior $500k pool equalled about $1.70 per loaned copy.)

Breaking into the Italy market is good though this is not a sale (and so far I have sold only 1 book, Hot Rail to Hell in Germany)

I have sold 3 copies of books since the end of the promotion. I’d say nothing moved the sales needle with the giveaway, since the books sold were part of the Swords of Raemllyn series and reducing the first book (until Feb 1) to 99cents as a different promotion.

That seems to have worked better, since I saw a slight uptick in sales on that series.

Summary: the free promotion doesn’t work. Possibly reducing the price for a limited time on the first book in a series does. Still to be determined: whether giving Amazon exclusive listing for 90 days into their lending library will be worthwhile compared with combined sales on Nook, iTunes and my own store. That will be reported later, my droogies.

I leave you with a glimpse at a new project.

Empires of Steam & Rust: The First Passage

Are You Being Undercheesed? January 1, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, End of the World, movies & TV, sci-fi, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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That’s what an ad for a pizza joint asked me. I had never considered life in those terms, perhaps because I drop in on Cheese Magnet regularly. But “undercheesed?” If so, I need to watch more cheesy sf movies. (I did watch This Island Earth last night and no, it is not a cheesy movie. It’s pretty decent and one year Santa will bring me an interocitor.)

I doubt the world will end, but watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ NY last night made me think it is possible. Poor ole Dick looked like a zombie. Any year that begins with Lady Gaga and Michael Bloomberg co-pressing the lever to drop the ball already has 2 strikes against it. My option was watching “Hair Removal at Home” on Ch 2. Or watching metaluna monsters menace Faith Domergue.

The year is already filling with projects. Have 2 westerns under contract, have agreed to take part in a Western Fictioneers project of a story collection set in Dogleg, Kansas and have lots of other projects begging to be done. No lack of work. Now all I need are sales, so pitch in, everyone, do your part, feed those e-readers you got for Christmas.

I have a small window of opportunity to work on the first of the Empires of Steam and Rust stories so will cut this short. Already up to 15k words in the “First Passage” and just getting into the plot after introducing the situation, the bad guy and the two good guys. And the compressed-air powered dog, Fulton.

Off to see if yet another brick and mortar bookstore has bitten the dust. I leave you with this snarky cartoon hope for 2012.

F-Minus by Tony Carrillo

Technology Trudges On December 29, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, iPad, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, writing.
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Over on FB Bobbie posted this about an iPad USB drive. Amazing wifi connection to the iPad. The price tag at $160 is steep but if you need it, you need it. That it can be read 150 ft away makes me hope the security on it is topnotch. But progress!

Not so much progress on my part came in finding Thunderbird no longer sent my replies or new emails. Rather, it claimed they were sent but the recipient never recipped. I have no idea what trouble this has gotten me into but I suspect I will find out since I use the comcast email account as a business clearing point. The mail was still coming in (I think–how would I know?) But sending was not happening. Two days spent playing with security protocols and all that availed me nothing. I was in hot water anyway with Thunderbird since it updated and erased all my address book and archived emails. I suppose they are still on my computer but simply changing the profile did not reveal them and now I can’t do even that small fix.

I changed to Outlook Express. Things seem to work ok there.

And this morning Firefox went berserk on me. Rabid firefox. Bad firefox. Loading endlessly and erased my homepage and…it was not working and nothing I could do even got me to the Mozilla help page. After such frustration with Thunderbird (I had tried to change to Eudora and found it is a Mozilla product, too, and migrated all the same problems I had with Tbird), I bailed fast. I changed to Chrome, which seems to suck up more memory but works faster and has less functionality. I liked being able to go to Twitter off the Firefox toolbar and get stock quotes updated every few minutes. At least I can’t seem to find add-ons for Chrome. And also it seems to assume I want to use Google as a search engine. Fancy that. I use ixquick so it doesn’t keep an 18 month record of everything I look up and report me to attackwatch as being a terrorist for wondering if it’s potassium permanganate or potassium manganate that blows up. I’m a writer. I need stuff like this. Last night hunted for types of German WWI era machine guns (yes, have started writing Empires of Steam and Rust: Passage One).

On VIPub front, have shifted A Career Guide to Your Job in Hell and Moonlight in the Meg exclusively to Amazon Select. Check ‘em out. And if you want to give me a present that doesn’t cost you anything (but time), how about reviewing some of my work and posting it on Amazon and B&N? Tis appreciated.

Non Sequitur 12/29/11

Gangrene Sunday November 27, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, e-books, Free, gummint, ideas, iPad, iPhone, steampunk, westerns, writing.
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Well, why not? We have Black Friday and Cyber Monday. I am officially appalled at the goings-on to get a bargain. Fisticuffs over a $2 waffle iron? A shopper pepper spraying others so she could get a better shot at the goodies? (Pepper spray is now officially a vegetable–look it up on the gummint’s new food pyramid). Camping out for days prior seems so meek and mild now. I’m afraid I don’t need that 51″ plasma TV that badly. Or at all, if truth be known (more and more I’m finding the iPad works just fine for me–and no, I wouldn’t bayonet another shopper to get a new iPad2 0.8 microseconds sooner. Maybe 0.5 microseconds…no, not even then.

This is the year the ereader has come into its own. With the Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet out there now, ereading is going to maybe double in the coming year (my guesstimate. Like all economic forecasts these days, the actual number will be “unexpected.”) For us VIPubbers, tis the season to plot and plan and market like fiends.

Luckily we don’t have to do it in the midst of bargain-crazed TV buyers. Some goodies you can get for free right now:

Michael Stackpole’s At the Queen’s Command on the Kindle. Yes, free, for a while longer.

steampunk screensavers or whatever they call them for the Kindle (free)
Some nifty free steampunk stories here, too.

the 40 best Android apps (for free)

Of course, you should check out my online Cenotaph Road Store for free stories like “Me and Mr. Jones”

100 Kindle ebooks for $3.99 or less

And you simply *cannot* pass up this collection, The Traditional West, at $3.99 for a limited time. Over 100k words of traditional western stories. Imagine that.

Isn’t shopping this way better than getting poked in the eye or trampled?

Traditional West by Western Fictioneers

The Best Way to Kill Time November 21, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in fantasy, iPad, steampunk, writing.
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is to work it to death. Being on jury duty means a lot of sitting around. The iPad is wonderful for doing some work, such as this blog, but there isn’t a wifi connection in this courthouse, though there is in the one down the street. Mostly I sit here, watching the History Channel and their special on the V-2 rocket program, how Patton was assassinated and reading.

Reading has proven to be the best use of the iPad so far. Finished the RAH book For Us, The Living and Viridian, a Steampunk romance. Downloaded Clementine! A Steampunk spy book with stuff about Allan Pinkerton and the Civil War, all sure fire topics for me (finished it, too!), as well as Mike stackpole’s first book in his Crown Colonies trilogy. The way things are dragging–which seems to be the usual way they go–I can read Mike’s and even think about something else. Maybe an old Sax Rohmer?

Somehow, playing endless games of solitaire doesn’t appeal to me because I keep thinking I need to be working on the western. Deadline less than a month off now and I need to print out, yes, actual hard copy, another western sold to Avalon and ship it off. It was in the contract they wanted hard copy and not electronic unless specifically stated. And it wasn’t.

But all this still takes me away from work on the new western since I haven’t mastered the techniques of actually producing serious work on the iPad. The cold glass virtual keys under the fingertips remains an alien way to work. For short pieces, great. For a novel, it’s much the same as trying to dictate using Dragon Naturally Speaking. I can do it but it doesn’t feel right.

Insamley Different November 18, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in business, Chain story, fantasy, ideas, movies & TV, science fiction, serial fiction, steampunk, VIPub, westerns, writing.
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In the old pulp magazine days, it was claimed that there was so little difference between sf and westerns that you could find stories about the rangers heading the outlaws off at the pass…and the same story rewritten to read that the space rangers headed off the bug eyed monsters at the galactic rift. Maybe true. Probably true.

But whether it happened it shows the connection between westerns and sf. Action. Adventure. Derring-do. This carries over to present day and how the same techniques might be used to market westerns and sf. Give this blog from Jim Clay a read. Serial westerns. Action. Adventure. Good reading. And it is exactly what Mike Stackpole, I and others have been saying is an effective VIPub technique.

Give the story out one chapter at a time. Episodic fiction. Archive it for people who don’t want to wait for the next thrilling episode. Or maybe get 75% of the way through and publish the entire piece for a couple bucks while slowly putting up the remaining episodes for free. Want to finish before the end of the month? Buy it now. Will this work? The only way to see is to try it. No harm, no foul since nobody is getting miffed because you have failed to publish it all.

Serialized fiction can build anticipation but you have to leave every chapter with a cliffhanger. Remember the old Republic serials? Gene was always being chased by the Thunder Riders from Murania or in danger of losing Radio Ranch and having to sing before the radium thieves stop him. Or the Copperhead’s car was going over the cliff. Or the robots were attacking and the door to his super-secret lab was locked. You get the idea. Leave the reader/viewer with a reason to come back. It works. At least it always worked for me.

Others do similar things. Check out James Reasoner’s (and Bill Crider’s and…who else?) more ambitious Rancho Diablo. And maybe the poster child for this is Lee Goldberg’s Dead Man books. Those are longer (novel length) work but the idea is the same. You want to get more of the character, to find out what new and horrific challenge will be faced and how he/she/it escapes? This is the heart and soul of serial

“After I pulled myself off the poisoned spikes at the bottom of the pit before the tiger ate me, I climbed the glass slick walls to escape in time to rescue the Princess of Mars!”

A Space Islands story