I made a Spotify playlist for Asteroid Made of Dragons! It was fun for me to do. FUN I SAY. I’m a recent expatriate from Songza (RIP) and I hate Google Play Music, so I’m fairly new to this as my streaming music font of choice. I’m — okay with it? Still learning my way around and making this playlist was a good venue for that. One thing that is annoying is there doesn’t seem to be a way to control the order of the songs on the playlist, so I can’t put them there in proper ‘I burned you this CD mix’ order. SO – below I’ll put them in the intended order, along with a little description of which character, scene, or concept from AMOD made me pick it.
Fair warning, this is heavy on late 90’s and early 00’s pop, as that was when I was in high school and college and a lot of my musical inclinations coalesced. This whole exercise started when I realized that ‘Freak of the Week’ by the Marvelous 3 was an excellent backing track for the Rime and Jonas plot line in the book. Probably some light spoilers below if you want to be 100% PURE for your first read of the book.
Hit Parade – BRADIO
If anyone’s curious, my mental image of the book is flat-out anime – so I would want the feel of an anime opening theme. I also keep my age-old tradition of beginning and ending the mix with the same artist. I would have put ‘Flyers’ up front, but Death Parade beat me to that pretty soundly, but I’ll steal it as my closer. This song is just super goddamn fun, the anime titles would have the Players in the cart, arguing over props – while inter-cutting images of the Main Characters doing whatever they were doing 5 minutes before they appear in the book.
Science Genius Girl – Freezepop
Xenon! The best – my archaeologist goblin with a heart made of nerd. I was determined to have a brand new main character for this book, one who does not express their might through any sort of combat – only in her quest for knowledge and prodigious drinking prowess.
Freak of the Week – Marvelous 3
Our Heroes, Rime and Jonas – this would play during the fight scene with the golem after the semi-botched bank heist.
My Name is Jonas – Weezer
Burden in My Hand – Soundgarden
The Squire’s Dark Secret. This song doesn’t quite fit the tone for all of the revelations about what made Jonas flee from Gilead – but it’s a song that will be important later, so I’m wedging it in. Side note – in Aufero this is a song from Gilead, something of a Low Ballad that soldiers sing when deep in their cups.
Karma Police – Radiohead
The fight scene on the ship, where Rime goes a wee bit too far involving lightning and half-ghost pirates.
Postcards From a Midwestern Salesman – Dayroom
Linus, the dread knight of duty. The lyrics don’t quite fit – but the feeling of age, of time, and of being completely weary do.
Gotta Be Somebody’s Blues – Jimmy Eat World
Ah! In the anime, we would use a TOTALLY different art style for this flashback to the ‘caging’ of the dragons – mimicking the ideographs and stylized depictions on the urn, with this rad, RAD song in the ground.
Are You Jimmy Ray? – Jimmy Ray
Sideways’ theme song. Also perfect for when he’s drunk and sunbathing between murders on the cruise ship.
Longview – Green Day
Just for whenever Rime and Jonas or Mercury and Xenon are just kind of wandering around. Lyrics don’t fit, but it’s my favorite Green Day song, so deal.
Fuck and Run – Liz Phair
Rime loves this song. Just sits in her room, with her headphones plugged in and listens to it on repeat.
Desperately Wanting – Better Than Ezra
I like this song. Yep, that’s it. There’s precious little romance in the book – some beginnings, some endings, and a good deal of platonic connection.
Low Man’s Lyric – Metallica
Jonas returns home. Lots of dog imagery for this kid. Just a song about feeling like dirt for all the crap you did. Also good for while he’s in the dungeon.
Gimme Sympathy – Metric
Xenon at the Weary Titan bar. Just kind of drunk and lost, man.
Pacific Rim (Main Theme) – Ramin Djawadi ft. Tom Morello
Rime IS A JAEGER AND THE ASTEROID IS A KAIJU.
Gotta Get Up – Harry Nilsson
Asteroid Response Team.
So Clear – Junip
Entering the Asteroid, also the feeling of unraveling all the weirdo Precursor mysteries and secrets that are crammed all over the damn place.
Power of Two – Indigo Girls
No comment. Probably about Mercury and Xenon, but also applies to Jonas and Rime.
“You know a lot of things. I say it, so you can hear it. It is very important that we all know this about you, yes? You know a lot of things. Things and springs and wheels and the click-clack of numbers falling in a row. But music?” Geranium tapped a staccato beat, two fingers on the pulse of his wrist. “It cannot be known. You can’t contain it, you can’t weigh it, you can’t put it safe on a shelf or bury it down in a hole. There is a reason that the Songs of the Lost still haunt us, that the simple melody in children’s games hum and burn in our temples as we clutch the pension-staff and stumble our way towards the grave. There is a reason that I walk penniless and proud down dark roads, with only my guitar as companion, as every true Bard of Gate City must.”
“What does –”
“Quiet now,” the bard raised two fingers to his lips. “Listen and remember. It binds as it breaks, it slips up the tallest castle walls and shivers its way into the darkest of hearts. It burns as bright as the sun, warm as an oven while I stand on the stage. I sing and every eye is mine and every heart is mine and every secret unfolds and the music drinks tears and shines and shines and shines. One song, the right song, one song for every heart. Even if they’ve never heard it, even if the song hasn’t been written yet, there it is, quarter notes and red blood on the parchment. And when the wind is at my back, I can see it. I can hear it.”
The bard’s eyes shut tight.
“And if I can sing your song, I can break your heart.”
As is often the case [and as my Beloved can attest] I have no memory of any of the specific details. I don’t remember the name of the city, or the name of the reporter, or the name of the country it took place in. All I can remember is the shape of the story.
A city on a crossroads, a mix of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Musicians found each other in tiny bars, in parks, in hidden nightclubs. And they played. They combined their styles into something new, a new song, a new kind of music. I remember it sounded like a kind of heartsick jazz, but electric and wandering. A crossroads of melody, an exploration more than a fusion. It was new, so new — and it only existed in one city in the wide world.
Then the War came. I don’t remember the dates or the enemy or the cause. The musicians fled, or hid. Their religions or creeds or skin colors a danger. And the new music was gone.
War crushed the music under his boot.
Years later, a wanderer came to the city. A woman, a musician’s child. She stumbled into an antique store to buy a mirror, a memento of her journey. Her father came from this city and had filled her young ears with tales of the time before, and the music he had once played. The peddler wrapped the mirror for her and the woman told him about her father. The peddler stopped and laid the mirror down on the counter. He vanished into the back room and returned with a box, a box of old photographs and sheet music.
[Almost none of this was in the broadcast, this is what I saw in my head while I listened.]
“I played with your father,” the peddler said.
And the woman had an idea. She asked the peddler if he knew if any of the old musicians were still in the city. He did. Her idea grew brighter.
Phone calls and letters and emails and the woman’s feet pounding down the dusty streets of the city.
The musicians came together again. They came together and they played. For the first time in decades.
The new music, the melody of the crossroads, the forgotten jazz of the dusty city.
The NPR story played clips of them performing in New York, apparently they’ve been touring for the past several months. But that’s not the point of this story.
The point is why I had to turn my head away from my carpool buddy, so they wouldn’t see me tearing up. This story got me, even though I can’t remember any of the details.
Because the shape of the story is this: the Music won. Just like it always does, like it always will. War and Death and Time and Decay and Rot lost. They fucking lost. The primal powers of the cosmos defeated by a melody. The last magic in the hands of the human race, the best product of our wayward minds and stutter-light souls.
And that’s why it moved me. The NPR story that I barely remember.
I don’t talk about my beliefs. But let me say this. I believe in the Music.
Let all we make be the Music, that turns aside the grip of the universe, that outpaces the weapons of War and Death, and shines brighter through Time and the Dark.
Labor Day Weekend and some change. It coincides neatly with my trip to Atlanta for Dragon*Con — I’ll be wearing my Self-
Promotion Helm of Shamelessness +3. I’ve printed up a ton of business cards to give to people letting them know about the deal.
The ebook has always been free to Amazon Prime members, and DRM free to boot — but now I’m doubling down. Anyone and everyone can own my book at no cost other than the time it takes to download it. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you’ll be able tor read it on your Mac, PC, iPad, smartphone, tablet, etc — via the free Kindle app.
I’m too busy learning lines to work on Riddle Box this week, I’m behind schedule and that sucks for me.
But it’s good for you — I’m talking to you, the Joe Abercrombies, Neil Gaimans, and Patrick Rothfussessess of the world.
I’m giving you a break – I’m slowing down my minotaur-octane fueled march to genre supremacy, for like two weeks or
something. You have some time without me BREATHING DOWN YOUR NECKS.
Use it wisely. Build the walls of your worlds tall and strong. Give your protagonists the most fiendishly devised magical weapons, backstories and clever sidekicks. DRAW A FANCY MAP OF YOUR BEAUTIFUL CITY WITH ITS RICH PAGEANT OF HISTORIC LORE SO I CAN KICK IT DOWN.
Because I’m coming. Me, Jonas, and Rime. And Sideways. And the pigs. And the magic chickens. And my rock and roll bard crooning on his ebony guitar, Lady Moon-Death.
WE ARE COMING. SWORDPUNK IS AT YOUR EXQUISITELY CHISELED AND WELL-WRITTEN GATES.
With each line, each lyric, each spatter of paint, each glob of clay we cast it. Careful and mad we summon the spirits once again, the true power of our race, that we may act as conduit to the Unknown. Even the dullest brute among us calls out to the demi-god of the television remote, the demon of the freeway, the howling eidolon that lurks in stones and stars and the thousand turns of dumb luck.
But artists are the true shamans.
We need it to mean, we need it to matter. With matter we shape the energy latent, the paths untaken. Some see God in the scratch of the violin, some seek God in the twist of wire and glass. Others just want to show the pain, the rain, the song of the train. All energy, all magic, passing through our hands in an instant then gone.
But if we cast proper, cast careful, cast well…the spell can linger. The shape and form of enchantment can suck in air, and its hands close as if by reflex and it shambles forward into the world to wait for a new victim, a new audience. What we make with true hearts can ward and weave the world, sing it quiet into a better form, shine as a light in the dark, cage the dark beast for a time, hum and giggle like a wine-drunk fairy.
So take it serious, take it real, pound your bones to meal. Stomp and stammer and crash and clamor.
Sing a song, write a tale, draw a thing. Dance or build or break or live.
Make it. Make the thing. Cast your spell and keep your eyes clear. Open the gate in the back of your spine and let the magic work.
What, your friends don’t put on avant garde puppet shows?
Get better friends.
I contributed a couple of monologues to the project, so I’m beyond excited to sit down and see them performed. I was also working on a rockabilly theme song for the show, which sadly won’t be recorded in time. Here it is, for your entertainment pleasure.
[This is a work in progress, to be updated and amended as curious folk ask questions that I haven’t answered here. Let me know what questions you have or clarifications needed in the comments below.]
So, you can now buy my book on Amazon — in Kindle and Paperback format. Just like a ‘real’ book! Or rather, just like a traditionally published novel. My book is sitting on the same virtual shelf as books published by Tor, Daw, and Random House. It’s a cool feeling. Maybe if I’d published five years ago I would be bothered by the fact that Spell/Sword will never appear on a shelf at a physical bookstore — but with paper going the way of the utahraptor or dodo it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
So how did I get here? A lot of research, a lot of trial and error — there’s a lot of navigation and study required when you’re piloting the ship all on your own. When I first got started I spent a lot of time reading other author’s posts on publishing and found them tremendously informative.
Joe Peacock’s The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Bookwas incredibly helpful and motivating. I strongly recommend you take some time and give it a read — it’s straightforward, concise and utilitarian. It de-mystifies the entire process, which was invaluable for me at the beginning. I’m going to try to not go over the same ground here, but focus more on my specific experiences with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. I’ve begun to think of Joe as the Older Brother to the Internet — can be an overbearing prick, and he’ll kick over your GI Joes — but he always has your best interest at heart.
This guide is going to be part step-by-step How To — and partly me pontificating about my rationale for making the decisions I did. I hope it’s reasonably helpful.
Level One: Write a Book. [Grasslands]
In whatever manner you prefer. It took me about nine months to bang out the rough draft in between day job, nerd pursuits, other creative endeavors and various life calamities. I’ve only done this once, so I’m in no position to offer advice on how you get this step done. Just some paltry bullet-points.
Self-imposed deadlines were invaluable to me.
Now that I’ve gone through the entire process, I CAN say that this is the most fun part. Remember that and enjoy it.
Level Two: Edit a Book. [Ice Cavern]
To the greatest level that your pocketbook and Friend’s List will permit. I employed over 20 Alpha Draft and Beta Draft readers to catch all my bonehead grammar mistakes and weak narrative. I know that this can never truly equal a professional copy editor — but I am completely confident that I’m extremely close. I have some serious heavy hitters in my rolodex: college professors, Shakespearean scholars, creative writing savants, genre nerds, gnomes. Depending on how my finances fare, I may consider going the pro route next time around. I can’t stress enough how important this step is.
To put it in perspective, I wrote the draft in 9 months. I edited for 13 months. Thirteen long, grueling months of Not-Fun.
It sucks. It’s boring. It’s frustrating.
Level Three: Prepare to Publish a Book [Fire Volcano]
Paper Version — I did a fair amount of research onto several online presses. The other main one I considered was Lulu.com. They are really great if you want to order in bulk and warehouse the product yourself. They have tons of paper and trim options – soft cover and hard back. But that’s a pretty big if – especially when you’re in my position. A total unknown pushing some wacky genre fiction. As much as I would love to have a hard cover of my book, it just didn’t make sense to lay out the startup money for something that was going to sit stacked in my breakfast nook.
I slowly shifted my thinking towards CreateSpace as they print on demand, and sell directly through Amazon.
You establish the cost of your book through the size, page count, etc. — then you set the list price at whatever you want. Anything above cost is your profit. [Pro Tip]: The cost of your book increases if its sold through Amazon, instead of bought directly through CreateSpace. This wasn’t an issue for me, as I really wanted the legitimacy of an Amazon storefront, but it may be something to take into account if you have your own webstore.
Finally, the website was easy to navigate, except for a few minor snags — I’ll talk more about that later.
Kindle Version – Or rather – Why not on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. etc.?
One reason: the Kindle Lending Library. It makes my book free to the thousands and thousands of Amazon Prime members. At this phase it is far more important that people read my book than people buy my book.
I know there’s a lot of discussion about Amazon’s draconian domination of the e-book Wild West — but from my perspective it’s hard to argue with that kind of market share. The Kindle is the dominant e-reader on the market, and anyone with a smartphone or tablet can read just as easily using their free app.
Level Four: CreateSpace [ Sky Platforms]
Okay. You’ve got the book all edited and shiny, now it’s time to set everything up with CreateSpace for the paperback. The site is very user-friendly if you are reasonably proficient with the internet and simple online interfaces. I’m a giant dork so I had little trouble, only occasionally having to use the forums, Help section, and one quick phone call to Customer Service. It leads you step by step through the process.
1. Birth Certificate – Name of your book, author name, synopsis, all that sort of thing. Pretty self-explanatory.
2. Print Specifications – Selecting the size of your book, whether or not you have color images to print inside, etc. I didn’t have any interior artwork for Spell/Sword so I selected Black and White printing — and the smallest book size, because my novel isn’t particularly long. I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons for all the different sizes, but I didn’t put much thought into it. I like the size my book is, end of story. Take that reasons.
3. ISBN Number – This is a little complicated. And once you decide your book is locked to that number [oversimplification, I know] so give this some serious thought and research.
CreateSpace owned ISBN: Free! But…it sets the publisher of your book as CreateSpace, and limits your distribution options later. There is a little bit of a stigma to services like CreateSpace and Lulu, and if in the very remote chance that you want to sell your book to a traditional publisher later you can’t just move your ISBN, you’d have to make a whole new edition with a new ISBN number.
CreateSpace licensed ISBN: $10.00. Same problems as above, but frees up most of your distribution options.
Personal ISBN purchased through CreateSpace: $100.00. But you personally own the ISBN number for your book, and can set the publisher of record. My book is published by me under the name Lodestar — which is the small business I’ll be setting up to handle my paltry revenue. It also means that I can move my book to any other printing service, or use another service concurrently with CreateSpace whenever I need. I’m also thinking about having it tattooed on me somewhere.
Personal ISBN purchased directly: I…didn’t do much research on this. You can get it cheaper buying it yourself, then inputting it into CreateSpace . But it meant using another site, and another process so I just went ahead and bought my personal ISBN through CreateSpace. To me, the convenience was worth whatever markup they have.
4. Cover – Now, CreateSpace does offer a free cover generator as well as professional design services. I used neither. Don’t be a chump and use the free cover generator — it’s fine if you only want your mom to read the book. I’m sure the professional services they offer are fine, but I’d much rather give the artists that I know personally my money.
The layout of the cover is extremely important as CreateSpace needs it to match exactly with the specifications for the cover — most importantly the spine which is a function of page total. There were lots of numbers and jargon, my designer knew what they meant and put it all together for me. I’ve noticed that many self-publishers take the DIY part of this route a little too much to heart. I recognized that I knew virtually nothing about layout and graphic design and paid a skilled friend to handle it, same goes for the actual cover design.
5. Setting up the Template – Okay, this part was a little convoluted.
You need to have your book laid out on a PDF to upload to CreateSpace for review. When I first started playing around, I just exported a PDF from my Google Drive and uploaded it to see what it would look like.
It was a hot mess.
My mother is a graphic designer and printer, so I have a vague understanding of margins — but clearly not enough for these purposes.
Luckily, CreateSpace offers Word document templates. It took some grunt work copy and pasting each part of my book, chapter by chapter into the template — but it ensures that the printed page comes out correctly. Also, print is set with a ‘justified’ margin as a default. I had to go through several times to find all the places where the spacing was weird and correct.
Review the template again and again … then five more times. You’ll never catch everything, but you have to put in the sweat equity to get as close to flawless as possible.
Once the template is complete, you save it as a PDF, then you’re ready for upload.
6. File Review with CreateSpace
Once the files are uploaded, you’ll be able to view the book page by page online.
You can’t directly adjust anything at this step. Anything you want to change, you have to go back to your template — make the change — then upload a new PDF.
Spell/Sword doesn’t have any interior images — so I’m no help there.
Once you submit everything for review [Interior and Cover], CreateSpace takes 24 Hours to review and make your book ready for proofing.
You have two options here:
Paper Proof: This is what you want to get the first time around. An actual, honest to god copy of your book. You get it, you hold it in your hand. You get to go through it with a colorful marker, hunting for every typo and spacing issue that you missed on the template. It’s truly a wonderful moment. [You do have to purchase your proof, it’s the established cost of your book plus shipping. ]
Online Proof: It’s identical to the Interior Reviewer you used earlier.
If you need to make changes after reviewing your proof, you have to back to the template and resubmit it all again, and wait 24 Hours again. For Spell/Sword I got the paper proof first, then after making all the corrections I felt confident that the Online Proof was sufficient.
PRO TIP: Even after your book is published you can ALWAYS make corrections and go through the process again — it will just mean that your book is not available for sale while it’s being reviewed and proofed again.
8. Final Thoughts/ Issues
After you approve your proof, your book becomes available for sale within 24 Hours. In my case it was up on CreateSpace itself within an hour — than on Amazon later that night. The site was very helpful guiding you through the rest, deciding on distribution channels, etc. I freely admit I kind of glazed my eyes and picked the standard options.
Now, some grousing!
Shipping through CreateSpace is a little stupidly expensive — especially when you’re an Amazon Prime member, used to getting 2 day shipping for free. I understand that it probably has something to do with preventing you from purchasing too freely through them instead of Amazon, their parent company — but still! Spell/Sword is 8.99 on Amazon — if I want to buy someone a copy and send it to them, it’s actually cheaper and quicker to buy through Amazon then get copies at cost through CreateSpace.
Friends have ordered copies through Amazon, and they arrive in a standard Amazon box – but the books are completely loose. None have been damaged so far, but it made me raise an eyebrow.
Royalties: I actually haven’t been published long enough to get my first check — I’ll update this when I have more experience.
Level Five: Kindle Direct Publishing [Ghost Carnival]
Almost as an afterthought, CreateSpace guides you into the warm clutches of KDP. They export all of your information about the book, the interior, and the cover all in one go. All of the info and cover exported fine — but I quickly discovered that the layout for the print version looked crazy weird on the Kindle.
I actually found an easy workaround – I directly uploaded my CreateSpace Word document to KDP, and it looked fine. I’ve experienced a fair amount of paranoia, because the Kindle comes in so many sizes [including native apps on iPad and PC] that making sure that there were zero formatting issues. I’ve read the book on my 3rd gen Kindle and it reads just fine at various sizes, and none of my E-Readers have complained YET. YET.
When you start obsessively searching your book on Amazon [not that I did, that would be silly] you may notice that the Kindle and Paperback versions initially have different pages — just give Amazon 48 hours, they automatically group them together. I also noticed that initially when searching my book titile, it came up fifth — but after a few days of sales, it populated first. Admittedly I picked a weird ass name for the book — that slash in Spell/Sword plays hell with some search algorithms.
Yowza! This thing got involved . I think I’ll keep this going as I plunge further and further into Self-Publishing RPG. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!