Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sidetracked

I have only give about half a dozen entries in my game book written up, because in the last week I have been distracted by another writing project.

I decided to enter a "one page dungeon" competition hosted on the Role Playing Geek web site. During the creation process of a dungeon, I actually not only invented a dungeon but also the bare bones of a whole role playing game. That sounds like a lot of work, but wasn't really. The one page dungeon itself was knocked up within an evening...and so this wasn't really the distraction.

What the distraction was, is that the bare bones RPG I came up during that process deserved to be fleshed out into a real full length game. This is where I've been spending my writing time.

It's interesting to note that the one page dungeon competition is not a money making project, but that short diversion has set me off on this RPG project which will be a money maker.

Anything "Cthulhu" or "Lovecraft" is extremely popular at the moment so the RPG I'm writing is themed that way. A completely opposite direction from the original one page dungeon.

I think that this proves that taking the occasional diversion can really inspire the muse. As a bonus this project is shorter than the game book project so will be finished quickly.

Monday, 26 March 2012

A good weekend

It's been a good weekend for me.  My short story "Incursion" has sold three times on the Kindle.  I'm very happy with that, but surprised at the same time.  I put Incursion into the KDP select scheme on the Kindle store so that people could borrow it.  My hope was that people would like it and then go on to buy my other stories in the same line.  Turns out instead that three people have bought it!

I wonder if I've done something wrong during the sign up, or if the story is getting lost in amongst all of the other free stuff.  A quick look on the Amazon store seems to confirm that the story is free to borrow. Strange happenings indeed!

My other good news is the "Cthulhu and How I found Livingstone" book, which has sold 9 copies at DriveThruRPG.  This is because the book is currently on the "new in the store" page. Within a week or so, it will slip off that page into obscurity and the realm of zero sales (well, maybe one sale every few months).

All in all a good weekend.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

It's started!

I have just completed the first two paragraphs of the game book, the first draft. Actually it's not paragraphs, I should say "entries". In the old Fighting Fantasy game books, most of the entries were paragraphs.  In my book most entries will be more than one paragraph, and indeed featuring a lot of dialogue, which will make the "paragraph" terminology redundant. So henceforth I will try and say Entries.

Word count on the document is at 3000, but at this early stage that is mostly a junk number. The majority of that is the headings for each entry and the "go to ..." that appears at the end of most entries. After this however the word count will allow me to see how much it's growing by. Yet, now I think about it, word count hardly matters in a game book. Progress is really measured in entries that have been completed.  So in those terms, 2 down and 119 to go.  Boy oh boy that sounds like a lot.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Progress, at last.

Tonight I completed my first editing pass over my AMRAT story (giant fighty robots).  I was horrified at how awful that first draft was.  Commas instead of full stops, missing capital letters, incomplete sentences "as" instead of "is" and any number of straight forward typos.

Still, that's twenty pages knocked into a legible state that I'm not embarrassed to pass onto my editor. It felt good to get that out of the way, it's cleared the decks for the next project.

On the small pile of outlined works is a Lovecraftian short story and pulp era detective game book. The Lovecraftian story is a "kind-of" sequel to my "Incursion" story which is currently locked into a six-month exclusivity agreement with Amazon, so I'll leave that to the side for the next few months.

That means the game book is the next project. I plan on following the same process as with the last game book, in that I will aim to write two or three entries every day. The current outline has 121 entries so that means I should have the first draft done in about 40 days.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"Things"

There are many reasons that a writer may not write. One of the most amusing situations appeared in the film "Throw Momma From the Train". The writer in that case couldn't find the perfect word for his opening sentence and this hung him up. Time and again he would try a word but it was never quite right.

A writer might be prevented because his is suffering from "writers block".  Where the muse has left them, they feel uninspired and simply unable to put the pen to the paper.

Practical things have a hand in this too.  The power goes out, or your last number 2 pencil snaps. Whatever.

Then, there are cats.

That's right. Cats.

The writing I had planned for this evening is wiped from this plane of existence because of a cat.

Why?  You ask, why?

Today my wife trapped the last of the wild cats that visit our garden. She's been trying to trap it for over a month. All the others have been trapped and neutered, one by one. Yet this one, this female has been so nervous and cagey that she just wouldn't enter the cage...until today.

So this late night trapping has caused phone calls, visits, socially engaging with the family, and all in the name of getting this one wild cat neutered.  Sure I'm still itching to get back to writing, but in the end getting that cat was worth it.

 That said, the night has still been productive to some extent. I uploaded "Cthulhu and How I Found Livingstone" to the kindle store where it should appear within a couple of days.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Back to writing...almost

It's been quite a while, but finally I'm getting back to writing.  I had two big jobs that were keeping me away from pounding the keyboard properly, and now they are complete. The annotation project is completed and up for sale at one outlet (more to come later, but they can wait!), and the formatting-job also is done and up for sale.

This means I can get back to writing... no wait!  Not writing, but editing!!!  My sci fi short story (working title "AMRAT: The Bank Heist") has been sitting await a damned good edit for weeks.  Now it's going to have its chance as I turn my editing scissors on it. It's 29 pages, about 8700 words, so my first editing pass will take a couple of evenings effort. Then I'll be handing it on to my editor, who will no doubt "rip the crap" out of it.

I'm not writing... but I am working with my own creations, and that's something.Still, a couple of evenings looking at this baby, and then I have to decide on which of my two outlined stories to start working on.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

One step closer to some actual writing

Last post, I was moaning about the non-writing things I have to do. Well one of the jobs at leas,t is now out of the way.

The ePUB version of Cthulhu and How I Found Livingstone is now available. After much swearing and angrified typing, the ePUB was finally completed and uploaded.

I pushed it up to LuLu, they also submit the eBooks to Nook and iBookstore so over time it will make its way onto their digital shelves too. Tomorrow I hope up upload to a couple more places, including the Kindle store.

I am constantly amazed just how much non-writing work there is in writing! The formatting for the various stores is hours and hours of dull boring work.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sigh


I'm starting to think that I'll never write again! Other projects seem to be piling up and getting in the way.

One of the tasks on my plate at present is getting the Gamebook "Barsoom! Rise to Power" through the submission process for the Nook store and the iBookstore.  These two places are really picky about how you build your ePUB file. Despite the book looking good and passing all of the validation checks there are always a number of things they want fiddling with.

At the moment I'm having to hand-edit the NCX file in the ePUB to add sections in that aren't really sections, they dont having headings indicating they are sections. Yet their people have examined it and arbitrarily decided they should be sections... so sections they shall be. It's not worth the fight.

The really mind bending part of the process, is that its takes anywhere from 3-7 days to get the rejection, and when they reject a book they stop checking after the first problem. So even if they book has 5 problems they only tell you about one. And each one has to go round the cycle. Ho-hum.

The other task currently getting in the way, is the job of formatting another ePUB. This time it's the recently finished "Cthulhu and How I Found Livingstone" book.  Although it's now ready in paperback, I'll get more sales as an ePUB, so now I'm slogging through converting it.

I have a short story and another book all plotted, but I just don't seem able to get to em!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cthulhu and How I Found Livingstone

My "annotation" project is complete.  What was it you ask? You've probably been asking every time I mentioned it.  I didn't want to speak plainly about until it was done, in case someone else stole the idea and got theirs out first. Now it is complete and the first version released for public consumption...oh... what is it?

It's called "Cthulhu and How I found Livingstone". What I've done here, is take the public domain text of Henry  Stanley's book "How I found Livingstone", and have annotated it for readers who role-play.

The original book tells how Stanley carried out an expedition to relieve an explorer called Livingstone, and you must have heard the famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", well this text is that story told in the words of the man who did it.

The expedition was a genuine darkest-Africa adventure, and I've added a series of graphics and over seventy footnotes to the book. Each footnote looks at the people, the locations or the events and explains how the role-player could take that incident and turn it into an exciting plot element for a horror role playing session as part of an entire gaming campaign.

If the term "role play" or the phrase "campaign" mean nothing to you then this book is not for you!  Anyone who runs a game of "Call of Cthulhu" or a similar role playing game might well find it interesting.

The job of annotating was a long one. The book was four hundred odd pages which I had to carefully read and then consider, determining if any incident/person/place was worthy of a footnote, and indeed what that footnote would say.

This is actually the second book I've done this to.  The first was called "Cthulhu and the River of Doubt", which followed Teddy Roosevelt along an uncharted river in Brazil. That too was a long project. In both cases it's not the writing that takes so long, its the reading, re-reading and time spent pondering. Unlike straight fiction writing, where I follow an outline, I had no outline to follow, and had to spend more time thinking than actually writing. The exact reverse of my usual writing process!

I've added details to the Books page and it's available to buy as a P.O.D. paperback. ePUB, Kindle, Nook etc will follow over the coming weeks.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Resurrection

It's back! The Gamebook that I and my collaborator had released only to quickly withdraw from sale, is back on sale.  At present, only in ePUB from LuLu, but the other formats and locations will come online over the next week or so.

What was the problem, you ask? We decided to write a book set in the "Barsoom" universe, it seemed like a good idea what with the upcoming release of  the "John Carter" movie. We thought ourselves safe to write in that universe as the John Carter books are in the public domain. Alas and alarms! Be warned!

We opted to star in our book, and indeed name the book after, a secondary character in the first book (Princess of Mars) by the name of "Tars Tarkas".  Having written the book and even started to sell it, did we realise that the words "Tars Tarkas" had been trademarked!

What did this mean to us as authors. Well to start with, we are both hobbiest writers, so getting into anything "legal" was not in our remit, we wanted no part of any court case, so we immediately withdrew the book from sale.  Although the book (Princess of Mars) is in the public domain, once a phrase or name is trademarked it can be legally protected forever if the trademark owner wishes. So we would have had no standing in court anyway.

Back we went to the drawing board. We decided to stay "true" to the Barsoom universe, but avoid the trademarked names. Unfortunately for us changing our protagonists name meant that the relationships between the characters established in "Princess of Mars" no longer applied. So we couldn't get away with just a cut and paste name change in our text.

We changed our protagonist be a tertiary character from the original book then set about the editing the story line to match the position of the new character. Fortunately this only required a minimal number of edits, a few changes at the beginning and and at the end of the book, with simple name changes being sufficient throughout the rest of the text.

So here we are a month or so later just starting to put the book back on sale. Detail of outlets will be added to my Book page as they come online.

15th July 2012 :A footnote to the above : We have decided to not sell the book in ePUB format. Although we initially created a fully working ePUB we found that on some devices the navigation from entry to entry failed.  It worked fine on Sony readers but would fail on some of the others. For instance, when navigating backwards on the Nook, from page 200 to 105, the page would  be aligned with the bottom of the page rather than the top. At times this meant you could not see the text. We found this issue insurmountable and have decided that the ePUB format is not ready for bi-directional navigation.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Entering the KDP Select scheme

Having finished the edit of my tongue in cheek Lovecraftion short story called "Incursion" I decided to try an experiment.  I've enrolled a Kindle version of the eBook in Amazon's KDP Select scheme. This scheme gives your book away for free, or rather, lends it for free.

So now "Incursion" can be downloaded for free, for the next three months. What do I get out of it? As the story is the latest in my "Lovecraftian Shorts" series I'm hoping that by getting one for free, readers might be inclined to purchase the other stories in the series.

On a side note the I created the scene you see on the cover, using a free piece of software called POV-Ray which is a ray-tracer.  It allows you to build CGI images using a scripting language. A very cool tool with a great manual!


Friday, 2 March 2012

Giving "Incursion" the once over

I decided to take another break from the big annotation project and instead get go through the edits I had back from the editor well over a week ago for my story "Incursion".  There was a lot of red text in the story.  I didn't agree with all of the red lines.  Some lines that were scored through with red, I left in as I think them essential to get over the attitudes of the characters.  There were other things too that I left in or slightly reworded.

I always look at the editors returns as informed opinion rather that a rule of law. I read the suggested change, and consider what it means and why the editor put it in there. Only after that do I apply the change.

In the end I implemented lots and lots of the changes, massaged a couple, and did re-write the ending which was ,as the editor suggested, a bit weak.

Dealing with edits like this always takes it out of me.  The story is only 19 pages of  double spaced text, but it still took me the whole evening to work through them.

I do have a better story now, and send out my unending thanks to Mrs The Editor.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Re-editing complete

After the whole trademark issue with the Gamebook , mentioned in a previous post, we had some serious thinking and work to do.  First off, we had to check that none of the other names we were using were trademarked in the same way. Then as the main character had changed, some of the secondary characters names had to change too as they wouldn't made sense to anyone familiar with Barsoom. We also found that the objective of the book, the "mission", had to change!

None of these were/are major changes, and I've just completed my required edits.  I also took the opportunity to fix a couple of minor issues that I had spotted in the P.O.D. version that had slipped through all of the proofing.

I've handed the work back to my collaborator so that he can do his changes.  He's actually got the most work to do for this revision.  Not only the text edits, but he is also "cover man", and he is going to have to remake the cover using the new title and cover blurb. He's very good at that sort of thing, but I appreciate it is a lot of work.