Paradox Headache

[Pro Tip: Don’t EVER get me talking about time travel.]

Time manipulation can produce many unexpected and strange effects.

Several of which have only been hypothesized by researchers in the field. Eyewitness accounts are rare, and are almost completely discredited. The problem with this esoteric study is that it requires a unique vantage point — one would need to be able to observe multiple points in time simultaneously, using a common frame of reference.

Which is impossible, of course.

However, theoretical time researchers have postulated the following scenario.

*The Apple Tree Scenario.*
Premise: Time travel exists. One can witness the full life span of an apple tree, from seed to sawmill. The researchers choose two

Artist - Dani Azahed
Artist – Dani Azahed

points of reference, to limit the variables. The tree is 2 Years Old [a sapling] and the tree is 50 Years Old [full grown].

Experiment A: A researcher travels to the sapling and cuts an ‘X’ into the bark.

Result: An ‘X’ appears in the bark of the full grown tree.

Experiment B: The researcher applies a salve to the cut that accelerates natural healing and bark repair.

Result: The ‘X’ disappears from the bark of the full grown tree.
This scenario suggests that time seems to have a certain amount of elasticity. Cause rippling forward to effect – the observed node, or foci of attention alternating between multiple states dependent upon the actions taken in the past.

Of course this is a very basic thought experiment, which was not nearly exciting enough for these esoteric scientists. They began to hypothesize, what if the tree were a person? What would that person experience as they suddenly manifested a scar? Would memories of the assault appear in their mind, or could they simultaneously remember the previous continuity? And how would they feel when the scar disappeared? Can the human mind contain multiple concurrent events? Different versions of the same event all of which happened, and didn’t happen?

It gave the researchers a headache. So in a fit of self-mockery, the researchers dubbed the possible human effect, the *Paradox Headache.*

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Genre Legends Given Brief Reprieve by Vainglorious Upstart

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

The devil's gaze!!!!
The devil’s gaze!!!!

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.

But you know, not for a week or so.

Consider yourself advised.

Runeclock – The Ferris Wheel

[Hey, remember that book you’re working on — remember that?]

[Yeah.]

[You seem to be spending a fair amount of time on this side project. Shouldn’t you…?]

[SHUT YOUR FACE.]

The Ferris Wheel waits, a grand circle enclosing the horizon.Even the children who have never been to the Fair can recall the grand spectacle when it is operational. A thousand lights and the turn of the wonderful machine.

The Midway leads to the Wheel, a hundred blind alleys and elaborate devices of fun and excitement that could hide a furious overweight green-guard and his allies.

“Of course it still works,” Crim laughed. “It’s robot-steel, nothing can break robot-steel. And we’re going to get a bunch more closer. The toy cart with the unlocked door, where I found all my stuff. It’s right at the base of the Wheel.”

“Must. Get. Toys.” Mark’s hands clutched the air with desire.


The portly guard pounded through the streets of the Fair after the children, but soon lost them. He leaned against the side of a Funnel Cake stand and panted and wiped runnels of sweat off his brow. The silver name tag on his shoulder gleamed, the name “KANLEY” neatly etched.

Two more guards pounded into view. A tall, lanky man who was a friend — and a broad, bearded man who was not.

“Kanley, you alright?” his friend asked with diffident concern, trying to avoid the anger-fueled gaze of the bearded man.

“I’m….fine….Jak.” Kanley panted.

gal-oktoberfest10-jpg“Fine. I’ll show you fine.” the bearded man, who was his superior officer, slammed a hand into Kanley’s shoulder. “A Rune-discharge? Here?!? At a bunch of ragamuffin children?”

“I’m sorry sir. There was a cat, and the running, and I thought…”the fat guard began.

“You thought nothing. Like you always do. Private Jak. Pull up your fat friend, Private Kanley, by the buttons if you have to, but get moving. Find those children. They have no idea the danger they are in. We must find them, and find them now and remove them from harm’s way. If they encounter the Target…” the bearded man pulled the communicator from his right breast and barked into it. “All units, scramble. 5-8 minors have been spotted in the Fairgrounds, must be detained and removed to safe distance. Priority One. Keep an eye peeled for the Target, and don’t take any risks – but we have to get those damn kids out of here on the double.”

The anger-gaze turned back to Jak and Kanley, the latter weakly tried to snap to attention. “You’ve put those children in danger with your incompetence, Private. We’ll speak more of this at the barracks. But remember, nothing will save you from me if anything happens to those children. Dismissed.”

“Yes, Sgt. Towerlock!” the two guards cried in unison.


The green-guards moved quickly, eyes darting as they searched the Fair. Hands checking their runes at every dark alley, at every can that rattled in the wind. They did their best to cover the vast area of the Fair, but they were stretched too thin.

They feared to find their quarry, and they feared that they would not find the group of children that had wandered into the fair at the most inopportune of times.


“Hey, look!” Nora pointed. “A node!”

A blue Observer Node appeared, a few short steps away from the gazebo.

Abracadabra

Art is a magic spell.

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.

I Need Reviews!

lightbulb

On Amazon, on Goodreads, on Facebook, scrawled on butcher paper and taped to the side of your car.

Those of you who have already finished reading — please take a second and post a review online. Even if you had problems, especially if you have legitimate criticism. I’m starting from zero promoting the book, and my best ally is word of mouth. This is the quickest and easiest way you can help me – especially with an Amazon or Goodreads review. It helps boost the visibility of the book, and helps new readers make an informed decision.

Negative reviews are no problem — what you hated about the book may be the thing that convinces a new reader to give me a shot.  The initial word of mouth from the book’s release has officially subsided, and now I need to dig in for the long haul. INCREMENTAL GROWTH, BABY. So, if you’ve read the book — please, please take a moment and click some stars and type a sentence or two online. You do that crap on the regular anyway, right?

And, now on to some more unprofessional behavior, tinged by desperation.

I have copies of Spell/Sword to mail out. I will send it to your house. TO YOUR HOUSE. [US only, please.] I can also hook you up with the Kindle version if that’s your preference. If you read this far and you want to give it a shot, just drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get one shipped out. Do I want a review in return? Absolutely — but you can make it as mean-spirited as you desire.

I know the hustle’s hard, but we gotta enterprise, the carnival

-Wyclef Jean

Spell/Sword Giveaway Final Moments

Okay, okay — I know I’ve been quiet here on the blog, but I just wanted to remind everyone of my Goodreads Giveaway! Click the image below to enter — the contest ENDS IN JUST OVER A DAY AND A HALF!!!!

 

Gundam Pilots not eligible to win.
Gundam Pilots not eligible to win.

You do have to be a Goodreads member to enter, but who isn’t these days. Also, add me on there so I can be nosy and see what books you are reading.

I promise to actually blog a bit in the next week, updates on Riddle Box progress, nerd matters, etc. etc.

Self-Publishing Strategy Guide I

[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 Book was 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,18a 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.

  • Write.
  • Self-imposed deadlines were invaluable to me.
  • Write.

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]

Frozen_cave_by_CORinAZONeTo 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.

Do it.

Level Three: Prepare to Publish a Book [Fire Volcano]

I used two services for publishing my book.

CreateSpace for the paperback.

Kindle Direct Publishing for the digital version.

Why?

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.

Artist - Hugo-H2P
Artist – Hugo-H2P

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]

19858-103095-LHSE1jpg-468x

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.

Cover Design/Layout: margaretpoplin.com Illustration:poopbird.com
Cover Design/Layout: margaretpoplin.com
Illustration:poopbird.com

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.

7. Proofing

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!

Future Topics

  • Marketing
  • Begging
  • Winning the Internet
  • Deceit
  • Tomfoolery