I/O Tower – General Spell/Sword Shenanigan Update

1. I’m getting the final 50 pages of copy edits for The Riddle Box this weekend! With any luck I’ll be able to have the ebook up for sale sometime next week.

2. Which means I need to start the shilling. Eh, I’m not as bothered by it this time around — which probably just means I accept I’m not any good at it, and will be incredibly lackadaisical about the whole process. WHATEVS. I’ll put some posts up here promoting the book when it goes live.

3. Publishing Book Two means I get to start work on Book Three : Asteroid Made of Dragons very soon. Oh man, I’m practically slavering. There is slaver all over this place. It’s kind of a loose grab bag in my head at the moment, but I know the first scene requires the most absurd action sequence I can possibly manage. Exploding buildings, dragon mechs, ninja stars made of Pure Hate – it’s all on the table people. We’re going to see a lot more of the world next time around because Jonas and RIme Are Getting on a Boat [original working title].

4. I might try my hand at writing a script for a short film. Some friends are looking for a new project and need some script fodder. Could be fun? Interesting to write something that will have no budget to shoot. I’m thinking secret agents that work for minor deities.

5. Go NaNoWriMo! Good luck to all you typers out there.

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The Pitch

An act of salesmanship is never an act of truth.

That’s not to say that it is a falsehood, or a pure fabrication. Certainly there are many who call themselves salesmen that deal in outright deceit, but they’re just liars. Plain ordinary liars.

No, salesmanship is all about awareness. Complete knowledge of the product: it’s particulars, benefits, problems, logistics and idiosyncrasies  and your most reliable perception of the character of your customer. Everything you say, everything you withhold is an attempt to calmly weave the product into the customer’s needs and desires. You concentrate on what you know about the product, and carefully present only the parts that you intuit will be attractive to your mark. You are creating a narrative, a workaday tale — a story with purpose. To make the sale. To win.

This is antithetical to the creation of art. An act of art should always be an act of truth. Individual truth — the opening of the inner eye and allowing the energy of your private whirlwind to express into your medium:something. Anything. As long as it’s true. Or real. Or important.

I’m still a ways from publishing Spell/Sword — but I’m already thinking about how I am going to sell it. The plan remains to self-publish, then grassroots my ass up the zeitgeist to something more than a blip. Financially and culturally. So I need to be able to sell the book. To other artists, to family, to friends, to total strangers, to people who love fantasy, to people who hate it, to people who never read. But every time I approach the problem in my head, I feel this enormous lassitude. It feels wrong.

In my day job, I am a salesman. I’m extremely good at it. But the key seems to be my total lack of concern. Apathy towards the product, and disinterest in actually making the sale. It allows you to be dispassionate and objective — truly focused on reading the situation and the customer. But with the book, where I’m hopelessly invested in the product and emotionally overwraught in the sale – it’s much more difficult.

It doesn’t help that I’m specifically trying to find my own little niche in the genre. It feels cheap to say “Oh, it’s just like ‘X’ and nothing like ‘Y’, and if you like ‘Z’ then buy, buy, buy!” But when I try to pitch it on its own terms, it just sounds hollow and uninteresting.

There’s a guy, and he has a sword. And there’s a girl and she’s got magic. They don’t like each other, then some shit happens and then they do. Also: hi-jinks.

I could do a laundry list of the random things in the book.

Electric-Eel Powered Jukebox. Prescience. Dwarven ghosts. Lesbian bards. Sweaty wyverns. Hangovers. Friendship. Mailboxes. A devil-spawned assassin. Fairy tales. Horse euthanasia. Wizard duels. Mysterious backstories. Prophetic dreams. Cheese. Plot-holes. Garden plots. Sorcerer bondage. Magic swords. An ogre with red boots. A blue fish. A white bridge. A first kiss. A last breath. Hyper-intelligent frogs with steam-powered roller skates. Banter.

Okay, I wound up kind of liking that one.  But still, the problem remains. All that sounds fun, but I don’t know how convincing it is. Part of me wants to sell the book the same way that I wrote it. Honestly, with great love and with no artifice. Well, maybe a teensy bit of artifice.

This is important. This is true. This book is real. It matters. Or at the very least, I need it to matter.

So, yeah. Buy it or whatever.

Oh, my. This question is in bold. On WordPress, that’s like a Tumblr post dissing Doctor Who — it demands a response. What do you look for on the back of the book, or in a sales pitch for a book, when you’re considering reading something from an unknown author?

Lodestar

What is Lodestar?

Oh man, do you have a few minutes?

Put on your story hats.

Just over a year ago, being an inveterate nerd, I started a simple Level 1 tabletop campaign. We used the Pathfinder system, because Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 is icky. The players were all D&D neophytes — either having never played before, or only tried it out in video games.

It was a very basic first game, heavily cribbed from a lot of fantasy tropes. All the players are in prison, crime they didn’t commit, blah blah, a new charismatic prisoner arrives, blah blah, prison break, blah blah, arcane poison dumped into the prison’s water source that devolves all humans into beast men, blah blah, new prisoner tries to kill party, escapes on badass golden roc, blah blah, party finds crashed airship outside of prison, gets it to work in the nick of time, roll credits, blah blah.

You know, pretty standard.

The whole hook of the campaign was to get them on board the airship, the Lodestar. I have a giant boner for airships, and make no excuses for that. Final Fantasy VI is deeply embedded into my psycho-creative pleasure centers, as well as Star Trek and Farscape. I love the idea of the hub of the story being mobile, freedom to travel, the whole world is accessible.

So, after the first game – I was bored at work.

Really bored.

And I thought – Hey. They need to explore the ship, and that might be a little boring at tabletop — so how’s abouts I just email everyone, and they can explore it right now? And then I won’t be so bored!

You are standing on the deck of the Lodestar as the boosters shudder to a halt. You are still aloft, but your forward momentum quickly dissipates. The strips of magenta light flicker and go out. A quick survey of the wheelhouse reveals that the console has gone completely dead.

So we did. I described the ship room by room, as they explored — adding fun little details, reacting to what they investigated. I even added a couple of little challenges. It was a novel way to pass a few slow days at work, in the week or so before we could play again.

And then we didn’t stop.

It was basic at first, very “Choose Your Own Adventure”. But unbeknownst to me, my players were writers. Like WRITERS-writers. Like, understand proper verb form, tasteful use of imagery, dialogue, tone, figurative language. It got real.

I moved us to a RP/Storytelling site Obsidian Portal, just so we could have stable forums to keep track of everything. It also offered us places for maps, and art, and a wiki. It kept growing, and growing and growing.

The result of a half-dozen budding novelists finally getting an outlet.

Here we are, a year later. At a low estimate, we’ve written 550,000 words together. That’s 11 novels.

Suck it, NaNoWriMo.

It is the longest sustained creative project of my life.  It is absolutely the reason this blog exists, the reason that I’m taking my first faltering steps into making writing my day job. It’s really empowering to look back and think about the massive amount of content that has been generated.

Thank you, crew of the Lodestar. This is all your fault.

Long explanation, I know.  A lot of the scenes, and short pieces I’m going to put up here are from Lodestar, so I guess I felt an explanation was in order.

And it’s not done. It’s still going. You can read all of it, if you dare.

Lodestar

Such a tiny link to a massive world.

39 Pages, y’all.

Yeah! Feeling good, up to 39 pages on That Thing. I have a deep-seated terror of referring to it by a more proper name.

Shout out to everyone doing NaNoWriMo — I’m not on board myself, but consider me on the sidelines waving a fanciful pennant in your general direction. I’m directing a production of Jesus Christ Superstar right now, and I’m not even going to try to juggle two projects that require that level of creative intensity and commitment at the same time.

Plus, I was already at 30 pages at the beginning of November, and that just felt like cheatin’.