18 April 2015

Self-publishing and SFF Awards

It's SFF awards season!  And very, ah, exciting it's been so far.  Since I published no eligible novels in 2014, this seems like good timing to talk about how self-published books stand in regards to SFF awards.

There are a lot of SFF awards out there, and the good news is that unlike many non-SFF awards, self-published books are eligible for almost all of them!  Very few SF awards restrict entries according to manner of publication, being far more concerned with criteria like year, length, place of publication and, sometimes, theme or content.  You can view a full(ish) list of SFF awards on the Science Fiction Awards Database, broken down into a number of categories.

So can a self-pub win any of these awards?  Well, yes.  Self-published authors have already begun to pop up on nomination lists, and even to win the occasional award.  What are the chances?

To understand that, we need to get into an additional major division for all awards: voted or juried.

Voted

Unless you're a well-known figure in the SFF community, or have had a blazing break-out book, a voted award is not an easy bar to hurdle for a self-pub - or, for that matter, the average trade published author.  You're just one of the horde swarming the foothills of Discoverability Mountain, staring hopelessly at the genre's luminaries blazoned in countless reviews across the blogosphere.

The results of voted awards can vary wildly each year, because different groups of people are nominating the books.  Some are open to anyone with an internet connection who knows about the award (such as the Locus Award) and some are only open to a restricted group, such as the Norton Award (SFWA members).  Some combine a limited nomination field with an open voting pool (eg. the Gemmell Award).  One of the absolute biggest is the Goodreads Awards, which merely has SFF categories, rather than being dedicated to the genre, and is weighted heavily toward those books that are already the most-shelved.

Of the 'core' SFF awards, the best-known voted award is the Hugo, which is an endlessly confusing award run by a new set of people every year (each year a different group of people hold a World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention (WorldCon), and a combination of attendees and supporters of that individual convention, and the previous convention, can nominate).

There are some people who go to almost every one of these conventions, and some who go to the occasional one (I've been to four).  A solid percentage of WorldCon participants are industry professionals (authors, publishers), who are positively overwhelmed by the flood of books released each year.

Frankly, for many voted awards, most SFF books published each year will not have been read by more than one or two voters (if any).  On the flip side, for many of these awards the nominating pool is relatively small (particularly in some of the short fiction categories), so if your work happens to be known and liked by a group of voters, there's always a chance.

Juried

Juried awards, like the World Fantasy Award, invert this system. The judges read all the work submitted.  Who wins will depend entirely on the particular tastes of the judging panel, and that could just as easily be a self-published work as a trade published work.

Technically.  There are still several hurdles for self-pubs with juried awards.

Cost of entry is big factor.  Most legitimate awards have no entry fee or only a small entry fee, but many still require or prefer physical copies to be mailed to various parts of the world.  Looking at the addresses on the World Fantasy Award list, it would cost me (in Australia, one of the most expensive places to mail things from) a couple of hundred dollars to send physical copies.  While I see that the WFA has opened up to e-submissions, the hard copy is apparently preferred.

Which leads into the second point - perception of your book.  Will the judges seriously read/consider self-pubs?

As the occasional wins of self-pubs on juried awards show, the answer is yes.  Oh, sure, you may get the occasional judge who is actively negative toward self-pubs, but it appears to me that most people who get on award juries make a solid attempt to work their way through the entries and judge without fear or favour.

At the same time, I'm not going to pretend that judges aren't human.  A person who has been hearing buzz about a particular book all year, who has read multiple trusted reviewers claiming that X book is award-worthy - they'd have to be a paragon to pay exactly the same amount of attention to a self-published book by some author whose name they don't recognise.  They are almost certainly going to spend more time on the highly-lauded book, while the unknown will need to "prove worthy" of a full read, and prove it straight out of the gate.

Because this is a numbers game.  I don't have the stats on how many books get entered in the World Fantasy Awards each year, but it would be a rare judge who could wade through them all.  And every year, more books are published.  Can any judging panel realistically give all entries a fair shot?

The YA-oriented Cybils Awards uses one possible solution to this very problem.  Instead of one overwhelmed jury labouring through hundreds of books, two stages of juries are formed.  Stage one involves multiple juries reading an allocation of the eligible books and passing a set number along to the stage two jury, who chooses the finalists.

But are overwhelmed judging panels the biggest barrier to self-pubs winning juried awards?

Here's an interesting statistic about the Kitchies.  198 submissions.  8 self-published.  I read that, and then read it again in wonder.  Only 8 self-published authors entered the Kitchies?  I mean, I know it's a relatively new award, but it seems there were 190 non-self-published works entered.  What the heck's going on there?  Where's the tsunami?

But, you see, where trade published work is concerned, it's often not the author entering the work.  It's the publisher.  Over and over again I've seen self-pub authors (and, heck, creators of all stripes) talk themselves out of entering or drawing notice to their award-eligible work because to do so looks arrogant.  When you're a self-pub author, well aware of the stereotype of the deluded self-pubbed writer unable to judge the quality of their own work, do you really want to be so tacky-embarrassing as to put your own name into the hat?

I personally had the chutzpah to enter the Australian version of the WFA, the Aurealis Awards (and I've made the finals list a few times).  But there are a lot of awards out there.  Take the Tiptree Award, which recognises "science fiction or fantasy that explores and expands the roles of women and men for work by both women and men".

The last book I released featured a highly competent woman suffering from a variation of imposter syndrome, who falls in love with her country's Crown Princess.  Although the country is relatively egalitarian, I deliberately set out in that book to break down gender roles and expectations, starting simply by showing the majority of people in positions of power as female.  I am always exploring the role of women in my novels.  I usually write egalitarian worlds. Sometimes they're binormative worlds.  You'd think I'd be throwing myself at that award.  Yet I've never put my work forward for consideration for the Tiptree.

Because?  I guess I ran short of "FIGJAM".  How many other self-publishers are doing the same thing?

Does it matter?  In the grand scheme of things, awards are an ego-boost, with very few awards making a noticeable difference in sales.  But since making the finalist list a few times in the Aurealis Awards, I've seen the resulting reviews of my work that start "I don't usually read self-pub work, but...".  And award lists (when they're not melting down the internet) are fun - I like talking about SFF, and I'm not going to pretend I don't like my work being talked about.

One thing all the dramas in awards over the last few weeks have made clear is that, in this broad, diverse and fragmented community, if there's a book you want to see on award lists, talk about it, nominate it, enter it, put it out there.

Awards are part of the literary experience.  You may never win one.  You may think yourself a hack.  You may think that you won't be considered fairly.  But don't count yourself out at the start - become part of the discussion.

11 April 2015

An Experiment With Gender Numbers

You may already be familiar with Geena Davis's Institute for Gender In Media.  Discussing the results of the Institute's studies, Ms Davis has stated:
“If there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50.  And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

Now, in SFF we're sadly familiar with stories that barely manage one or two female characters, often with background characters strangely almost completely male (even when the story is ostensibly focused on women - such as the Pixar film Brave - they're apparently set in worlds where men outnumber women 100 to 1).

In my own books, outside the main characters, I usually aim for a roughly even split: if the last passing character was male, the next will be female.  If there are two guards, one will be male, one female (or alternating sets).  If the Chamberlain is male, the Captain of the Guard will be female.  I don't use a precise split, and have never counted them up, but I've always aimed for an equal 'feel'.

When drafting The Pyramids of London, I decided to try something different.  I would skew the background character numbers female to see how a book would read with 33 percent men 'in the room'.

Pyramids is set in an alternate Britain (Prytennia) where there's a legal equality between men and women that has grown out of a near-unbroken rule by a Trifold under the aegis of the goddess Sulis.  Only women can become one of the Trifold, and so no man can rule Prytennia.  However, while the country has become matrilineal, it is not strictly a matriarchy, but one where both men and women are equal partners in marriage, and where gender is not a factor for most roles in society.

Reader reaction (and keeping in mind that most people who have read Pyramids come from a background of my already woman-heavy other books) has been mostly positive.  Readers notice that there are a plethora of women, but find it novel or enjoyable.  Only a minority of reviewers comment negatively on the balance.

Anyway, a while ago I read this post by Marie Brennan about the absence of women in a particular fantasy work and I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take with Pyramids

And it was!  Very interesting, in this book where I'd set out to to achieve a 70/30 skew in favour of women, I created 82 female-presenting characters and 83 male-presenting characters.

I don't think I'll do this exercise with the books that I thought were 50/50.  That may bring embarrassment.

I suspect that one of the reasons that Pyramids feels so full of female characters (beyond our apparently ingrained perceptions) is that the skew of powerful women to powerful men is much more distinct.  Prytennia's Trifold is always made up of women.  And when making clear that both men and women could hold important office, I did so by mentioning men formerly holding the roles, but naming current women.  With the exception of Lord Msrah and Lord Fennington (and the foreign Gustav) all the people shown to be in charge of groups and organisations in Prytennia 'just happen' to be women.

I ended up with a meeting where I added a male secretary just so the vampire wasn't the only man at the table.

Quite possibly Prytennia is, in my subconscious, biased against men in roles of power.  But would a reader even notice the skew if it was all powerful men, plus Lady Msrah and Lady Fennington?

I'll be returning to attempting relatively equal numbers in the next book, Tangleways, and hope that doesn't mean I accidentally produce 30/70 F/M.  I don't think I'll count them, but I'm glad to have done this exercise.  As eye-opening as a white-gold/blue-black dress.

For those who love detail, below is the breakdown of characters (divided up by importance in the story, and taking gender presentation at POV character assumption in regards to less binary gender identities).  I also chose to count all characters, even those identified only as "a girl".

Critical to the plot (F: 4/ M:3)
One Aunt (F)
Two Nieces (F)(F)
One Nephew (M)
One Vampire (M)
A Suleviae Princess (F)
An Alban (M)

Important to the plot (F: 2/ M: 4)
Another Suleviae Princess (F)
Another Alban (F)
A Swedish Prince (M)
A Bound (M)
A Roman friend (M)
An Eccentric (M)

Plot role/several paragraphs of dialogue (F: 26/ M: 11)
Another Bound (F)
A collection of Royal Heirs (F)(F)(F)(M)
Two Sphinxes (FF)
A Consort (M)
A Suleviae Queen (F)
Another Vampire (M)
A Cab Driver (F)
A Dragonfly Rider (F)
A Daughter of Lakshmi (F)
A Warden of the Borough (F)
A Family of Grocers (MF)
An Eccentric's Assistant (M)
Two God-touched (M)(F)
A Pharaoh (F)
A Curator (F)
A Police Commander (F)
Conspirators (F)(M)(F)(F)
A Wisdom (M)
A Coafor (F)
A Page (F)
A Minister (F)
Fulgite Conspirators (MFFF)
A Custodian (F)
Gods/higher powers affecting plot (M)(F)(M)(Unspecified)

Brief role/appearance/dialogue (F: 22/ M: 27)
A couple on a train (UU)
Station Master (M)
Train driver (F)
Two train guards (MM)
A Courser Rider (M)
A Workshop Manager (F)
A gawp of Warehouse Workers (MMM)
A Shop Gossip (M)
Volunteers and Grove Visitors (FM, U)
A Warden's grandchildren (FM)
A gift dog (M)
A horned serpent (F)
Various triskelion (N)(N)(N)(N)
Various other horned serpents (U)
Folies (U)
A current First Minister (F)
The Daughter of a Pharaoh (F)
Hotel doorman (M)
A Roman Engineer (M)
A Palace Factotum (M)
A Sacred Mare (F)
A Wind Stag (M)
Hounds, Owls, Mice, etc (U)
A Grove Administrator (F)
Three Potential Students (FFF)
A Fencing Instructor (M)
A Brace of Drunkards (FMF)
A Hand of Huntresses (FFFFF)
A Secretary (M)
Day Staff (M)
A Foreman (M)
Roman Expert (M)
Cart Driver (M)
Minister's Second (M)
A Chauffer (M)
An Attendant (U)
Dead People (MMFF)
A Caracal (F)
Siege Fellows (MUUUUU)

Mentioned, but do not appear (F: 28/ M: 38)
Niblings' parents (MF)
The Three Sisters (three former Suleviae) (FFF)
Three Prytennian Dragons (FMF)
Aunt's parents (MF)
Cantankerous great-uncle (M)
A Dacian Proconsul and his son (MM)
A French Princess (F)
Mayor Desh-aht (not specified)
A former First Minister (M)
Train passenger (F)
Hotel staff (not specified)
A former Keeper of the Deep Grove (F)
Aquitanian Hoteliers (FF)
A Lawyer (U)
An Apprentice (F)
A Vendor of Patent Medicine (F)
An Egyptian King (M)
A Student Artist (M)
Wisdoms (M, unspecified)
A Coafor (M)
A Karnatan King (M)
A dog walker (F)
A French Great-Aunt (F)
A Taxi Driver (U)
Palace Guards (F, U)
A Princess' Grandfather (M)
A member of the Tuatha De Danaan (U)
A King of the Tuatha De Danaan (M)
A Dragon Emperor (M)
A Tutor (U)
A Kitten (M)
A French Prince (M)
A Roman Consul (M)
An Auction Purchaser (M)
An Artist's Model (U)
Feuding Siblings (M)(F)
A Deiographer (M)
An Estate Guide (U)
An Art Teacher (M)
A Drink Inventor (F)
Four Nephews (MMMM)
An Avid Driver (F)
Unlucky Child (M)
Fulgite Dealer (M)
Artists (UUUF)
A Captured Driver (M)
Nomarch of the East (F)
Gods/higher powers (M)(M)(M)(F)(F)(F)(F)(F)(M)(F)(F)(M)(M)(M)(M)(F)(M) 8/9


31 March 2015

D&D vs Otome

I've played far more D&D based games than otome games (otome is a Japanese term for 'girl').  The majority of otome games I've run across are variations on visual novels, where you mostly endlessly click Next, with very occasional decision moments.  There are also massive amounts of games in Japan that have no official English language release and which I'm far too unmotivated to try and play.  Some of these seem to be quite dark.

The otome games I have liked tend to be a combination of "life simulation" (where you raise skills) and some kind of fantasy or SFF plot (like God Save the Queen).

So, anyway, last weekend I downloaded on Steam both a D&D game, and an otome game...and the otome game was better.

The D&D was Pillars of Eternity, a kickstarted revisit to a classic period of D&D gaming - if you played Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale you'll have met this sort of game before - you control a little party, running around various maps, killing stuff, exploring dungeons.  These games were a precursor to what we have with Dragon Age today - an early level of party banter and epic plotting, but without quite the level of detail.

Pillars of Eternity was neither brilliant nor entirely bad. But along with the things that were really good about this period of games, it also features some of the more frustrating problems - boring trots slowly across the map, giving the gameplay a feeling of crawling through mud, and combat that simply isn't fun.  I don't entirely dislike games with tough combat, but PoE requires a level of micromanagement to survive even minor battles on the easiest setting and, yeah, maybe I'll grind my way through this game eventually. Maybe I won't.  Hopefully the other game of this type I backed on kickstarter, Torment: Tides of Numenera, will balance all this more on the side of 'fun'.

On the other hand, the otome game turned out to be a lot of fun.  With the rather unwieldy name of 1931 Scheherazade at the Library of Pergamum, this offers the usual harem of bishounen for our intrepid heroine to stumble across (yes, including a mummy), but is just as strongly focused on Scheherazade (or Sadie) carving an Indiana Jones-esque path through a half-dozen historical locations in between studying at university in 1931.

The archaeology and mythology aspects are remarkably detailed (though with a rather hilarious trip to Australia to track down Mary McKillop's relatives), and the dialogue is often rather amusing.  The skill management, once I figured out how it worked, was challenging, but not impossible and it even makes me interested in doing more than one play-through (with judicious fast-forwarding), to see through some of the other character plotlines.

So, yes, still not doing much writing - in part because there is so much I want to write - short stories, Tangleways, and the siren call of my Singularity SF series.  Pyramids has had a rather quiet launch, but one of the true strengths of self-publishing is that I can keep writing what I want to write, without any pressure to kill myself jumping through promo hoops out of fear that the series will be dropped.

25 March 2015

Various games

The Swapper

Of the various puzzle games I've recently purchased, The Swapper is the most playable.  It's a relaxed pace platform puzzler (my preference since I don't like the ones where you have to constantly run) and starts with you, an identityless, voiceless figure in a spacesuit, wandering about in the aftermath of a disaster that has left a mining installation abandoned.

The plot is mildly interesting, but the strength of this one is the puzzles, which involve getting into difficult places by creating a clone of yourself, transporting your consciousness into the new copy, and abandoning the old body (or positioning it strategically on switches).  The atmosphere is also nicely spooky, and I've been working my way steadily toward the end.

Never Alone

Never Alone is both similar and virtually the opposite of Swapper.  It's another puzzle platformer (with some required running, but not constant momentum).  Again it's very atmospheric, and relies on working together to get through, but the puzzles so far are not as compulsive, and the main draw is the sheer cuteness of your arctic fox companion, and the slow discovery of Alaska Native culture.

It doesn't have the same forward drive as Swapper, but I'll continue it on and off to the end.

The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan combines a fairytale story book narration with a mechanic that involves throwing blobs of paint in all directions to reveal the location of walls/floor/objects.

This is very cool for the first couple of rooms, but then begins to pall a little and even though they mix up the paint-throwing mechanism later, there's no real narrative or puzzle interest to pull me through.

I may finished it.  Maybe.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2

I've played a lot of different Resident EvilsThis one takes Claire Redfield, pairs her with a less kick-ass girl, and gratuitously kidnaps them to some sort of experimental facility where someone appears to be channeling GLaDOS, but without the entertaining passive-aggressive snark.

I'm only at the beginning of the first episode of this, and not sure I'll buy any more.  [One advantage of these chapter by chapter game releases is you save money when you discover you don't find a game interesting.]

Final Fantasy: Type 0

A pity Final Fantasy: Type 0 hadn't been released on a chapter by chapter basis!  This is a remastered PSP port, so I expected low-rent graphics (and got them).

You sure do get a lot of different characters to play with - you're an entire elite classroom, named for a deck of cards.

Unfortunately the gameplay is entirely uninteresting, and the story not much better.  I doubt I'll play more than I have.

Final Fantasy XV (Boyband): Episode Duscae

Type 0, however, came with a demo of FF XV, set in a region called Duscae.  XV has been in development for something like six years, and was long considered vaporware until the past year or so, when new trailers and now this demo have been released.  And, from the demo at least, it's a solid step forward in the franchise, leaving behind the turn based gameplay for a quicker, smoother experience.  Timefillers like the way FF combat traditionally started and ended have been removed, and the process of finding and embarking on quests is much more fluid.  And there's some funny additions, too, like cooking for buffs.

The game is also unutterably beautiful.

Of course, being Final Fantasy, there's some inevitable negatives.  I call this "Boy Band" for a reason - all the known playable characters are male (breaking a long tradition of having at least a female healer character) and during the demo the only female given any time on screen might be a mechanic, but she's a mechanic in Daisy Dukes, suffering from camera angles focused on her hips and cleavage.



 However, at least one promo image suggests there are two important female characters in the game, and while one is the typical FF ingenue, the plot outline suggests that she's an ingenue that can match the main character in battle.  [Inevitably to be defeated, of course.]

Anyway, I was already interested in playing FF XV.  I've now moved it to the top of my list of games I'm looking forward to.  The demo was that good.

08 March 2015

Life is Strange (game) - minor spoilers

I'm using my post-release break to play a few games.

Life is Strange is an episodic adventure game about a photography-obsessed girl name Max who has returned to her home town on a scholarship - and discovers she has time-rewinding powers.  Into Max's life we introduce a rich boy with a gun, an old friend with problems, a security control freak, a new friend with white-knight tendencies, and a disappeared girl.  And many varieties of bullying.  And a coming mega-tornado.

The production values are very high, and it's a nice, playable game, with puzzles that revolve mainly about choices leading to social consequences.  And I enjoyed playing the first episode of this game, and liked Max, and I'm probably not going to pick up the rest of the episodes.

Two issues - there's so much powerlessness going on here, so many different vortices of bullying, that I just feel no anticipation for the play experience, even if the likely end result is vindication or escape.

And - particularly in a game where the main character runs around taking photos of everything - I kept having to keep myself from shrieking "Take some video!  Gather evidence!  Video the creepy home surveillance system.  Video the rich boy with a gun!  Video the bullying security guard!"

The mega-tornado also feels weirdly unnecessary given all the other stuff going on.

Anyway - I do recommend this game to anyone with higher tolerance for this kind of story.  It's very atmospheric and interesting.  Just a not-for-me game.

Mildly spoilerish bit..
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Willing to bet that the all-around-wonderful photography teacher is a creepy murderer and video-taper of girls.

28 February 2015

Pyramids Release

Out at last!

This was one of the more challenging books for me to write, just because when you start with an alt history of _our_ world you suddenly find yourself with the problem of how complex our world is. So many countries, so many different peoples, so many stories.

It amazed me, doing the research for this book, how much I didn't know about my own world. A million layers of civilisation, most forgotten, or half-remembered, or barely understood. I've read and seen stories about Egyptians all my life, but until I started properly reading about it, I didn't know what mummies were actually _for_. [And even the most knowledgeable Egyptologist can only have an imperfect understanding of a culture lost to sand.] So, anyway, alt history=HARD.

The story itself is going to sit across a dozen genres. Alt history, because I started with Earth. It's steampunk because dirigibles, but it's certainly not Victorian. It's going to read YA or even middle grade to some people, but one of its protagonists is thirty-six. It's science fiction (apparently that's where steampunk sits) and it does amuse itself with a technological impact, but it is, of all my books, the most full of the numinous, the strange and wondrous things that fantasy uses to catch your breath and then turn it to dragons.

There are quite a few dragons.

Anyway, this is a big venture for me - the first time I've embarked on a long series (five books, plus probably some shorts). I hope you all enjoy it!

Links

Ebook:

Amazon USUK, DE, FRAU, CA
Barnes & Noble (coming)
Apple (coming)
Google (coming)

TPB:


25 February 2015

Dragonates

Pyramids is set in Prytennia, which is divided into three dragonates.  Through the magic of Julie Dillon, here are Nimelleth, Dulethar, and Athian...


17 February 2015

Pyramids giveaway and cloud

Nearly there!  So looking forward to the release.

Time to set up the giveaway. :)


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Pyramids of London by Andrea K. Höst

The Pyramids of London

by Andrea K. Höst

Giveaway ends March 01, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

And here is my semi-traditional wordle of the book!


08 February 2015

Mildly spoilerish visual preview of Pyramids

Pyramids is rather creature-heavy...


My favourite is Dimity, who is not pictured, but entertains me enormously.

Still on track for end of February release.  Busy doing my traditional end-of-book kicking of heroine. :D

08 January 2015

Groceries

Kickstarter pays for groceries.

The last day or two has been full of debate about this fact, but fact it is.  Yes, on the surface Kickstarter is a way of crowdfunding arty projects - for buying paint, or cover art, or renting theatre space or what-have-you.

But pigments pay for the groceries of pigment manufacturers.  Cover art pays for the groceries of artists.  Theatre space pays for the groceries of the theatre owner, and also the construction guys who built the place, and way too many other people to list.

The reason I'm talking about this at all, as some of you have probably already guessed, is because there's been some debate over whether Kickstarter should pay for the groceries of writers.  [And whether anyone should support Kickstarters at all because there's no guarantee you'll get the product you're funding.]

This was sparked by one particular author starting a Kickstarter to fund her next book, and listing her living expenses as one of the things the Kickstarter was paying for.  Met with a debate over whether Kickstarters should only cover "production costs" of such a book, and whether the time spent actually writing the book counts as a production cost, the author promptly took the Kickstarter down.

After that she wrote a blog apologising, with an addendum about the vitriolic nature of the YA world/internet, and from there debate has raged into the usual talk about "bullying" and "entitlement" and all the things these dramas usually touch on.  [There were some problems with the wording of one of the rewards of the Kickstarter, and I feel that the words bullying and vitriol are thrown around way too quickly when what's happened is more like "push back".]

I usually stay out of internet dramas (because I don't have the energy, am not directly involved, or am supposed to be writing), but in this particular case my feelings are strong, and so I thought I'd share my opinions of Kickstarters.

First, would I ever run a Kickstarter so I could write full time?  Not very likely, since:

1. I would feel totally stressed about then writing the book.
2. I would probably just play computer games all the time and then feel stressed AND guilty.
3. I don't think many Kickstarter backers would want to pay me the hourly rate of my day job.

So I write on the train in the morning, and usually feel too tired in the afternoon and my readers wait a year or so for each of my books.  However, I fully support other people running Kickstarters so I can get the things they want to make.

The first Kickstarter I helped fund was the DoubleFine Adventure game called "Broken Age" - or "Broken In Half Age" as the developers promptly overran their budget and have so far delivered only half the game.  I'm pretty sure the first thing those Kickstarter funds went to was champagne.  I'm still happy I funded it, and am confident I'll get the rest of the game.  One day.

Another Kickstarter I funded was "Put a TARDIS in space!".  That little blue box still isn't up there, and the Kickstarter organisers post occasionally apologising because the satellite launch people keep pushing back the launch date.  I'm still highly entertained by the idea of a TARDIS in space, and will sit back and wait for it to get up there.

I've supported at least three books on Kickstarter, and have received all but one of them.  The last was a bit delayed (though not nearly as delayed as Diane Duane's several years overrun early experiment in crowdfunding), and I'm confident I'll get it.

Probably one day I will back a project where the organiser takes the money and runs.  I understand how the model works.  I'll be annoyed, but it won't stop me backing Kickstarters.  I'll continue to support Kickstarters for books I particularly want, whether they've been already written, or are still a gleam in the author's eye because - while the people who run Kickstarters seem to chronically underfund the cost of their own time - their time is just as much of a production cost as anything else in those Kickstarters.  And the time of people who write books, just like satellite launch companies, and computer programmers, eventually translates to groceries.

"Groceries" are just another way of saying "what it takes to make this thing happen".

31 December 2014

January SFF Sale


If you're looking to sample some Indie SFF, then this 1 January sale is a great place to start!  There's a wide range of sub-genres, and even a few compilation/box sets.  I haven't read all these authors myself, but can recommend Patty Jansen if you're looking to try another Australian writer.

Some of these specials will only last for a few days, and I'll be switching my prices back starting from 3 January, so get them while you can!

22 December 2014

13 December 2014

A Year's Passing Gift

To celebrate another year successfully negotiated, I've set all my (non-compilation) ebooks to $0.99 (USD/your currency variation thereof) for the remainder of 2014*.

The price changes will show up slowly over the following days on:
  • Smashwords.
  • Amazon.
  • Kobo. (changing the price seems to make this briefly appear 'unavailable')
  • Slower than the others: Apple/B&N/other vendors.
So if the holiday budget is pinching, hopefully this will at least give you some cheap reading.  Meanwhile, I'm knuckling down and heading toward the end-run for Pyramids.  Tentative release date of late February 2015 (but no guarantees there - depends on the beta and editing cycles).

* These prices will probably meander over into 2015 for a number of vendors, because it can be a real pain to get the prices back to where they're supposed to be with the way Amazon price-matching works.

17 November 2014

Update and giveaway winners

I'm now back in my own house, with a couple of weeks to play Dragon Age rest before heading back to work.  While I made progress on Pyramids, and have a much better idea of how everything works (I'm very amused by the idea of 'allegiance' in this world), it's extremely unlikely I'll get through the first draft before the end of the year - but I will play Dragon Age push on diligently and try to get a reasonably early release next year.

The winners of the Five Thousand Stars giveaway are:

  • Dave V
  • Jessica C
  • rachael

I will email to arrange prize delivery.  Congratulations!

14 November 2014

Four Cities

The last bit of this holiday is cities (arranged for the end on the basis that cold autumn weather and tromping in the country aren't that attractive a mix).  So a complete change of pace as we returned the rental car (fortunately checking the return location a couple of days beforehand so that the fact that that branch had closed down didn't throw us into a complete panic), and switching to trains to go briefly to London, then Paris, Zurich, Venice - and then flying back to London to at long last actually explore it a little.

In each city we took an open top bus tour (well, in Venice we rode the vaporetto - water bus) and ate stereotypical local food (crepes in Paris, fondue in Zurich, pizza and pasta in Venice, and high tea in London). 



And chocolate and cake.  Lots of chocolate and cake (the kirsch-soaked cake in Zurich was probably the closest to drunk I've been on this trip).  The high tea was entertaining but filling.


You can't really get more than impression of a city spending only a couple of nights there - especially when constantly tired from the hauling suitcases-travel-adjust-haul suitcases cycle.  But there were plenty of highlights along the way.  I got to walk along the Seine:


We also visited the Louvre, which was freaking enormous.  Not just lots of artwork (so much, so many) but this great big spread out building with huge staircases and endless hallways.  


That was really the impression I took of Paris overall: sweeping, sprawling and festooned with statues.

Zurich, by contrast, was a more compact, keeping close to the river and lake that forms its centre (an impression increased because we were staying in the Old Town, with lots of narrow streets).  Far fewer statues, and rather persistent rain, but we ended up quite happy about this when our bus tour ended in a cable car ride up a small hill and into the first snowfall of the season.  [Only the second time in my life I've been in snowfall, and made a short walk through a forest to a chalet cafe magically lovely (and wet and cold).]


The train ride from Zurich to Venice was particularly spectacular, with lakes and dramatic, snow-kissed mountain slopes in every direction.  But it was warmer in Venice, which was also good.  Our hotel room overlooked a canal.



Each day singing gondaliers would pass below our window, and there were beautiful bells, and...sirens.

We didn't know what the sirens were about until about midday of the first full day there, when we discovered that in November and December in Venice, high tide is often....high.


The sirens are to let the locals know that today's high tide will flood the low-lying parts of the city.  The shops all sold these things called "high tide boots".


It wasn't a tremendously difficult thing, once you knew about it, and we proceeded to get ourselves lost in winding alleyways, and to goggle at the sheer variety of masks, and glasswork.  On the second day we returned just after what appeared to be a school graduation, and the streets that night were full of a different kind of singing, roistering and joyous.

After a short plane flight (so cramped after the much more comfortable trains) we were back in London, and apparently it was Christmas.


Barely scratched the surface of London, after five nights, but did enjoyably 'research' things for Pyramids (still slowly progressing, but definitely not out this year), and buy lots of tourist tat, and stumble around, not at all lost thanks to Google Maps, but rather footsore.

Next up, 24 hours of purgatory, and then...Dragon Age! :D :D

Fish