Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Smallest Update Ever, a Day Late

  1. I have not read anything new or exciting this week, sorry about that.
  2. NaNoWriMo is coming. Way sooner than I hoped, as my new goal is to finish (or nearly finish) Codestone book 5 draft 1 BEFORE November. 
  3. Help me make #NovemberisComing the next big NaNo hashtag please and thank you.
  4. I might be doing some proof reading for a Seattle publishing house in the near future and just sent in my proof reading test. Please wish me luck!
  5. I have become addicted to the excellent podcast Welcome to Night Vale. My mind is consumed with Cthonic mysteries.
Cheers, happy weekend, and don't let the shoggoths bite.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link

I first encountered this book of short stories in one of my fiction writing seminars at Western Washington University. My professor who assigned the book wasn't particularly in love with it, but it had been recommended by another professor, so she taught it. I am very grateful that she did. I am not normally very interested in short stories. I figure that's why I often find myself daunted by the idea of writing them; because I don't read them often enough to write one well. But I'm getting off track, and short story long, pun unintended, without this book being assigned to me, I might have never known it existed.

Pretty Monsters is perhaps best characterized as Slipstream (a nicer and more accurate name for the western-appropriated portion of Magical Realism). The worlds put forth by Link's stories range from ones that largely obey the rules of our world to full-on worldbuilt fantasies (three guesses which settings I prefer). Many of these characters are really solid. The concepts are intriguing, and the language is casual but masterfully crafted.

The only thing which put me off was the structure of some of these stories. One or two that I can think of off the top of my head introduced conflict, rose to a climax, and then stopped abruptly. I understand from my classwork that this is a somehow "fashionable" move in fiction, but Link's application of it seemed a little extreme. I could spout some existential defense of the cutoff ending, saying it mirrors life because we never know what will happen or what is to come, making the stories more relatable, relevant, resonant, whatever you please. However, I personally prefer a story that answers - or at least acknowledges - a few of the questions the body of that story raises.

SPOILERS FOR SAKE OF EXAMPLE FOLLOW. PLEASE HIGHLIGHT IN ORDER TO VIEW THEM. In the story "The Library," for instance, things get pretty strange toward the end. There is some indication that the main character has passed out of his reality and into a reality where the television show he and his friends are addicted to, called "The Library," is real. He arrives in a location where, as a reader, you have no idea whether the people he interacts with are human or not due to this potential reality shift. These characters, and whether or not reality has shifted at all, are not addressed in the end of the story. Every question raised by the story is left to hang. The same thing happens with "The Specialist's Hat."

In contrast, stories like "The Constable of Abal" and "The Faery Handbag" raise lots of questions in the body of the story, but each picks at least one and gives it a solid resolution before cutting off. I think the reason this is more effective for me as a reader is because the sense of resolution in the one answered question lends a sense of resolution to the whole story. "The Faery Handbag" doesn't answer its biggest or most important question - in fact, it answers its least important question - but that leaves the open ending much less frustrating because the story still feels complete. The fact that the main character has the majority of her adventure ahead of her by the story's conclusion, where the reader cannot see it, isn't relevant because the story feels as though it has come to a natural conclusion.

Perhaps this convention is just a part of short story-telling that I don't understand. I plan on reading several more collections in the future, so hopefully you'll see more analysis in the future. I'm open to changing my stance, depending on what I see. And even though I was frustrated by the endings, many of the stories in Pretty Monsters I strongly disliked right after reading them somehow grew on me. Perhaps they just need time to breathe.

If you like short stories, and even if you don't like them, Pretty Monsters is worth more than a gander. If you give it a look, let me know what you think! I would love to discuss it with you. Cheers everybody, happy Saturday, and have a great rest of your weekend.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ticker Factory - Fertility Tracking turned Productivity Tool

Based on the website, Ticker Factory was originally designed to help women keep track of their fertility (don't ask me how that's supposed to work because I'm not actually sure). But either way, they've expanded their functionality and customization options so that you can use a ticker to track basically whatever you want. In my case, wordcount. I'll be participating in NaNoWriMo soon, which means that I'll be shooting for 50k words in 30 days. That's 1667 words a day. It'll be painful. It'll be brutal. But if I can make it, it'll be worth it. I might even finish the damn 5th book.

Either way I'll be participating in the spirit and writing as much as I can, and I've found that NaNo helps me generate content because I want to see my wordcount graph rise. After NaNo, I'm not nearly as motivated because I don't have graphs and trackers to interact with - maybe Ticker Factory's counters can be a placebo/replacement for the other eleven months of the year.

Happy writing, everybody.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Once-Majestic Cities that Sank Beneath the Ocean by VINCZE MIKLÓS via i09

A quick reblog of a stunning article with stunning photos and videos. The concept of sunken cities has always fascinated me, perhaps because of the threat of ocean levels substantially rising, perhaps within generation Y's lifetime, perhaps because there is a sort of romance involved with the concept of something being preserved in its destruction.

Pavlopetri, Greece

It's the same way with mummies, or artifacts found in peat bogs - carefully preserved, whether by accident or by design, but ruined. By no means does that necessitate that the ruination make the thing (or person) less beautiful - ruins can be gorgeous.


If you are equally interested in sunken forests (which I heard referred to as ghost forests once, which of course stuck in my head), there's also Best 7 Most Incredible Sunken Forests on Earth, which covers forests living and dead and has some lovely pictures. I'm of a mind to set some sort of fiction in a drowned forest, though not sure how.

Happy scuba-ing, everyone.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Epic Weekend, Part 1: Tegan and Sara and FUN at Edgefield

I am so lucky. My dad has always been a huge concert-goer, and because of that I tend to reap some pretty incredible benefits. One of them is that sometimes he buys extra tickets and I get to coast in on his metaphorical coattails and rock out. That will happen three times this magical, ear-rending, epic weekend. The first show was last night, where Tegan and Sara opened for Fun..

Now, I was excited for both bands at this show. When I walked in, Tegan and Sara were a band I knew about and liked, but didn't know well enough to remember many lyrics or be able to identify what album which song came off of, etc. So we were standing around on the lawn drinking alcoholic beverages and schmoozing with my aunt, who is just as much of a music fanatic as we are, when there they were. (Truth be told I was actually in line for the ATM when they physically came on, ugh, but I heard wonderful sounds coming from the stage and hurried back.)

After about half a song something magical happened that has happened to me before. I will have the incredible opportunity to attend a concert which features a band I like, and seeing them live transforms something in my brain. My synapses light up. Something clicks. Words and chords get branded into my neurons. And then I'm hooked. That is what happened with Tegan and Sara.

Needless to say, you should go listen to their newest album, Heartthrob, which I've been playing on loop all day. Their voices are very distinct, their harmonies and layering are great, and they're running heavy keyboard and a dance beat under several of their tracks. It's catchy as hell. Good luck getting it out of your head.

We were a little sad to see Tegan and Sara go, especially because we wanted an encore from them. But Fun. was the main event, and they definitely put on a good show. 

The first time I saw Fun. was when they were opening for Panic! at the Disco in what looked like an old warehouse in Seattle. Fun. hadn't hit the radio heavily yet and "Some Nights" was still largely an unknown (pushing up my invisible hipster glasses here). I distinctly remember laughing with my friend about the name - I mean come on, how many bands can you think of that use a single word, and an adjective at that, as their name? - and then being thoroughly put in my place by a ragtag bunch of talented people dressed like Hoods from the 1950s. I was never so happy to the put in my place, because honestly, Fun. is fun.

They're a little bit bigger now, if you hadn't noticed.

I mean, come on, you know you've made it big when you have a confetti blizzard and your backdrop plays live footage of your band like in a stadium show. At first I was a little offput by their stardom; they were hot shit and they knew it. But as the night went on, it was clear that they hadn't lost what had put me in my place that night in Seattle. They're talented, they're tight, they play well together, they banter a little but not too much, and they're obviously having the time of their lives. That, I think, earns them their name all over again.

Thanks for coming to Portland, everybody. I'll see you Saturday night on the lawn for Death Cab for Cutie.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies

Fire Bringer is one of those titles that sticks with you, one of the ones you heard all about at one time or another; it was the book that all the cool kids had read and that everyone knew about. For me, this was a middle school sentiment. It was with those memories in mind when I took it down off my shelf, where it has waited patiently for years.

It's also worth mentioning that I had read The Sight, also by Clement-Davies, when I still was in middle school. About the only things I can recall about it are that all of the characters who mattered were wolves, there was a prophecy and a chosen one, en epic adventure, and I loved the heck out of it.

Fire Bringer is exactly the same book, except with deer and minus the dazzlement.

To be fair, I've come a long way since then. I read things differently now, and to give credit where it is justly due, The Sight is almost certainly better crafted than Fire Bringer simply because it was not Clement-Davies' first book. This didn't necessarily make Fire Bringer any less painful of a read in terms of the prose. My biggest complaint was that the action in the novel was sorely lacking; there were many times where something was told where it should have been shown - left to summary when a scene would have been much more effective.

Despite this, I read all four hundred and ninety eight pages of it. Even though the presentation made me cringe and the story's conventions are (in essentials) exactly identical to The Sight, somewhere in there I found myself invested. If I figure out why I'll let you know. In the end I suppose it comes down to a good story. The prophecy convention is about as nuanced as a parlor trick, but like a parlor trick, it still, against all odds and my best intentions, works. Rannoch's quest, his denial of his role as the chosen one, his desire to learn who he is are all questions basic enough and yet resonant enough to carry the story on its circuitous journey around the high- and lowlands north of Hadrian's wall.

There is also one more point on which I ought to give credit: Clement-Davies is brutal with his characters. There are members of the cast I expected to have main character privileges who were brutally and abruptly murdered throughout the course of the novel. There was a cold sort of reality to his treatment of death (which was one of the themes anyway and probably the point of the whole book) that was due in large part to this abruptness. There are definitely kudos to be had there, because I didn't see most of these deaths coming, and that is definitely something to write home about.

Bows and Arrows are the Best

I mean really. As one of the more underappreciated weapons in terms of its effects on the battlefield, let's examine for a moment the fact that in the 14th and 15th centuries the English deployed longbowmen by the thousands, resulting in devastation compared to that wrought by a machine gun (see Military History: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Objects of Warfare73). Or the fact that if you were arrowshot you were almost certainly done for due to infection because archers often lined their shot up at their feet with the arrowheads stuck in the ground. Or that the only safe way to remove an arrow was to push the damned thing through to the other side, since pulling it out would only make a larger wound or would cause the arrowhead to be lost in the body.

I clearly have a lot of feelings about this so I'll leave you with some cool links. First, a video of Kevin Hicks of the History Squad demonstrating how to shoot a longbow.

Second, an article about how the introduction of more sophisticated technology, specifically the bow and arrow, caused advancements in ancient civilizations from The Columbus Dispatch: 'Bow and Arrow Forever Changed Ancient Cultures'.

Happy shooting, everybody.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Systems of Magic

Hello readers! It's Saturday, so I thought I would actually post something on time! Isn't it funny how that goes?

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to visit the lovely and wonderful and amazing Experience Music Project museum, which is located in the perpetually socked-in-and-raining haven of Seattle, Washington.

This insanity right here is a museum.
Though it does house some incredible exhibits about music - specifically Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Women of Rock, which are all pretty awesome - it is also the home of exhibits on science fiction, horror, and fantasy. There is literally something for everyone to geek out about in this building, from the first models of electric guitar, Lady Gaga's first piano, and Nirvana's In Utero stage mannequins to Data's uniform, the Alien, original manuscript pages of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the plot chart for the Lord of the Rings penned by J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

But, as the title of this post suggests, I'm here to talk about a specific part of the Fantasy exhibit: systems of magic. There was a portion of this  exhibit which was set up like a library. Unlike typical libraries, it housed a table, the surface of which was a touch screen. You can click on the "books" floating around on it and they open to reveal various things. One such book outlined the different classes of magic typically found in works of Fantasy. I have reproduced them below. Please understand that all material in quotes does not belong to me and I do not claim that it does. 

Capiche? Good. Read on.

Ten Types of Magic: Overview. "Many types of magic that appear in fantasy fiction [today] are rooted in older traditions, as well as some rituals that continue to be practiced today in religious settings. Some fantasy stories stay true to long-held beliefs about magic, while others run wild with new rules and techniques. Because magic can work for the forces of both good and evil, it is up to the practitioner to determine what kind of effect their actions will have."
1. Nature-Based Magic. "Nature-based magic is grounded on theprinciple that the universe it made up of four elements - earth, air, fire, and water - and that the universe can be controlled through magical manipulation of them. This system of magic is common in much of today's fantasy, including the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Some stories, like the Final Fantasy video game series, integrate additional elements beyond the basic four such as ice and lightning."
2. Sympathy. "Sympathy magic creates a link between two like objects and allows the practitioner to control one object through another. The most famous example of this is the voodoo doll, which allows a practitioner to remotely affect a person by manipulating a doll. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, Among Others by Jo Walton, Enchanted by Orson Scott Card, and A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin all depict variations of sympathetic magic."
 The photo which accompanied this caption is of a "Haplit doll, coffin, and needles used in Filipino folk medicine".
3. Transmutation. "Transmutation is a form of magic that transforms one object into another object. The most common practice is alchemy - the pursuit of transforming common metals into gold. Transmutation sometimes requires the use of a magic circle, a sigil with an arrangement of symbols, which is meant to contain and concentrate the energy summoned by the magic user. This practice can be seen in the anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, and The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce."
Alchemy is one of my favorite concepts, but more on that in another post…
4. Transfiguration. "Transfiguration relies on similar principles as transmutation, but involves the magical transformation of living things rather than inanimate objects. This practice was prominent in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, in which Professor Minerva McGonagall describes it as "some of the most complex and dangerous magic you [students] will learn at Hogwarts". Other examples of transfiguration appear in Neil Gaiman's novels American Gods, Stardust, and Anansi Boys, and in classical literature including Ovid's Metamorphoses and Homer's The Odyssey."
5. Divination. "Divination, or fortune telling, involves the use of objects, either natural or specifically designed, to predict the future. This can include reading tarot cards, star charts, tea leaves, and crystals. A prominent example from fantasy literature is Lyra's alethiometer in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series, which combines magical ritual with the interpretation of symbols. Psychic visions, such as those experienced by Fiver in Watership Down by Richard Adams and Tiresias in Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, are also divination experiences." 
6. Name Magic. "Name magic involves a process of learning the "true name" of a person or object in order to gain control over them. In the film Spirited Away, for example, the witch Yubaba steals the names of her workers in order to prevent them from leaving her realm. Other fantasy stories that show examples of name magic include The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and the comic series Fables by Bill Willingham."
7. Conjuring and Invocation. "Conjuring and invocation magic includes everything from invoking gods to conjuring demons, and these rituals can be simple or elaborate. Morgaine's invocation of the old gods in The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Aragorn's invocation of the power of his ancestors in The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien are both forms of this kinds of magic, though the latter is particularly subtle. This practice may require a pre-determined space, in the way that the invocation of an Endless in the Sandman comic by Neil Gaiman requires standing in a gallery and holding a special sigil." 
8. Concoctions. "Concoctions are magical potions created for specific purposes, often healing or transformation. The three witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth famously mix ingredients including eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog into their boiling cauldron. Magical concoctions also appear in The Odyssey by Homer, "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Anderson, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and the Broadway musical Wicked."
9. Object Magic. "Object magic involves the use of physical objects such as amulets, talismans, charms, and magical jewelry for certain goals. These objects can be magically charged for specific purposes, including healing, protection, or curses. An example of this is the spindle in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale "Briar Rose", which has been cursed by an evil fairy as a weapon against the princess. Other examples of object magic also appear in One Thousand and One Nights, The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
See also Brom's The Plucker.
10. Symbol Magic. "Symbol magic involves enacting change by drawing specific symbols. Symbols can also be evoked with energy, or drawn with specific objects. These symbols, the most famous examples including a five-pointed star or a circle, have esoteric meanings and each has specific properties. Symbol magic appears prominently in the Abhorsen series of fantasy novels by Garth Nix, in which a practitioner can create spells and bindings using special marks such as the Charter Mark."
A friend recently recommended the novel Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson, and told me that it uses symbol magic.

This is all so fascinating to me not only because of my love of fantasy, but also its basis in folklore and in religion and spirituality. For example, from my little experience thus far, many pagan practices are based in nature magic, any may also involve the making of concoctions or potions, divination through use of a pendulum or otherwise (object magic), and the use of sigils. Sympathy magic makes me think of reading an article about witch bottles or witch jars. Name magic evokes the faery tale Rumpelstiltskin, or any faery tale, really.

Anyway, I hope that this is a good resource for those of you who are magic enthusiasts, fantasy enthusiasts, or just curious. I'm hoping to delve more into the traditions that are the basis of these systems; hopefully more of that material can appear soon.

Have a good rest of your weekend everybody, and happy magicking!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Poetry and Index Cards: Project Update

For now, this is my working title for my index card poetry project. Not the first card, not the best card, but a card for you nonetheless. More soon to come, and enjoy.

Inspired by Robert Grenier's Sentences

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Quick Update

Hello, everyone! Hyperbole is back online, if you couldn't tell by the abrupt activity spike. Now that I've spammed you all, a few housecleaning items:

1. I am going to be looking into constructing a mailing list SOON. If you want to be a part of this, PLEASE comment on this blog post or contact me in another fashion. That way updates like this one can be longer, more personal, and they'll go directly to the people that are actually interested. Capiche?

2. Camp NaNoWriMo was a wild success, mostly in that it was super inspiring and fun. I met my revised goal of 20k for the month of July and have been terrible about keeping up since. Must get back on the bandwagon, because book five draft one of my fantasy series, The Codestone Sequence, is not finished yet.

3. After book five draft one IS finished, I will be going back and reworking book one. The game plan here is to push book one to production. I might also attempt to draft book six simultaneously, but that might make my brain explode.

4. I am going to undertake a poetry project! It is inspired by Robert Grenier's excellent interactive poem, Sentences, which you can read online here. The idea is that every phrase or series of phrases is written on an index card. There are five hundred of them, and the reader makes a poem by drawing them at random. Ergo, my project will revolve around the same idea. At least, the same physical medium. Except bound in a stab-binding book. Perhaps.

5. If I ever finish any visual art that's worthwhile maybe I'll put it up here. And on Tumblr, as it's more picture-friendly. Would anyone be interested in seeing some original characters here?

6. I'm sorry I'm so bad at posting on schedule. I mean it. It's not okay. I'll try to be better at it, I promise. With that in mind, I'll see you Saturday.

Thank you for reading, and goodnight!

Meeting Neil Gaiman

So I have some catching up to do.

Several weeks ago, okay more like a month ago now, I had the extreme good fortune of being a ticketholder to what Neil Gaiman called his last US signing tour. It was in honor of the release of his novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and was held in my personal favorite Portland venue, the Crystal Ballroom. Or at least, it's typically my favorite.

We aren't sure who ordered the sweltering heat, but it certainly wasn't us - the Crystal Ballroom has no air conditioning, the ballroom is on the top floor, and they typically don't even open the windows upstairs - and it certainly wasn't Neil, who was in his customary all-black and long sleeved ensemble. Oops, Neil said that he was going to keep it a secret that Portland had days like that; I guess the cat's out of the bag.

Either way, it was a delightful afternoon with approximately nine hundred people packed into one room, which Neil informed us was about the maximum comfortable number to sign for. Apparently the event the night before had gone from 8:00 PM until 2:00 in the morning (ouch). He read from chapter three of Ocean at the End of the Lane as well as an excerpt from his upcoming children's book Fortunately, the Milk (which I will shamelessly purchase without having a little one to give or read it to).

However, one of the best parts of the afternoon was the question and answer portion. Every guest had the opportunity to write a question on an index card which could then potentially be drawn at random and asked on stage. The best, or at least most memorable, question went something like: "Summarize your writing process in three words or less." He thought about that one for a long moment, and then responded, glaring, "Glare," and finished with a nod, "Drink tea." Which just about summed up the feelings of everyone in the room, including mine.

And then of course came the moment of truth. The room was divided into sections based on colored slips of paper in the copies of Ocean at the End of the Lane we were given as we arrived, and each  group was called up to cue for the signing table one at a time. I had looked forward to meeting Mr. Gaiman, even for a moment, since the second I realized that tickets for the event had gone on pre-sale. Everything of his that I've read I've enjoyed, but just as importantly, he is an incredibly encouraging person. Many of my closest friends are writers and artists of some capacity, and there have been many times that we call or message each other looking for support; insecurity seems to come with most creative territories. And then, one magical day, we found Neil Gaiman's tumblr. He spends a lot of time answering asks from fans, which has always struck me as generous, and many of those responses have to do with encouraging others not to give up on their passion because they are afraid or nervous or insecure about their work, their education, or basically anything else. So going up to that table, I wanted to thank him. Not only for the encouragement and confidence I had personally taken from his internet outreach, but for the fact that he seeks to support everyone he can. It is so easy to feel constricted or crushed by the concept that you are not good enough, or that art is not worth your time because it will not make you any money, or that nothing is ever original, and seeing an author who is so successful express so much support is not only refreshing, it's vital.

I had all these things in mind when I went up there. I was calm up until the moment it was my turn. I was good and remembered that he's a person, not the clout that his name carries. But then I was there, he was signing my books, I got my thank you out, and my mind went blank. He was a good sport about it, of course, and after I stammered something else I asked if it would be alright if I got a quick hug, and he waved me over. And I am so, so grateful for that.

Just in case, I'll try again: thank you so much, Neil Gaiman, for visiting my city, for making such a long trek around the country, for bearing the hand cramps and long hours, for sharing your newest work and your stories, for answering nosy questions, and for listening to all of us blunder our way to telling you how awesome we think you are. Please never change.


If you are interested, and you should be, go visit Neil's Tumblr at and get inspired!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Quick Reminder that Life is Beautiful

Especially here in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the reasons I love living in this part of the world so much is that there are little pockets of wilderness everywhere. They have to be protected and segmented out into parks, conservancy land, and other divisions, but they deserve to be cared for. I can tell you the precise hikes and parks that inspired specific parts of my book, and going out into the world can be like stepping into another earth, if you just know how to tilt your eye right.

Where are some of your favorite hikes?

These photos were taken by me at the Lackamas Lower Falls Trail in Camas, Washington.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Self Publishing Success: A Panel

Good morning, everyone! I am currently sitting in a lovely Starbucks in Tacotown (translation: Tacoma) about to start the next leg of our automotive journey to the University of Washington in Seattle. My girlfriend and I are en route there this morning to attend a panel put on by called Self Publishing Success at the Urban Center for Horticulture. The panel will feature ten New York Times Bestselling authors, who will talk about publishing, the state of the industry, and self publishing.

For those of you who have not heard of before, it's a social networking site for professionals and freelancers who have any skill relevant to the publishing process, from writing to editing to photography and graphic design. The idea is that, as an author, you can put out a project, designating what you need and what budget you are looking for. People looking for the kind of work you are offering can then bid on the project, and you, as the customer, can choose who you want to do that work. It's a very cool concept, and I've been meaning to talk about it here at Hyperbole for a while now.

In terms of the event today, I have this crazy idea that liveblogging might be a good idea. So this is installment number one. Here's hoping the panel room has wifi! Time to hit the road, Jack.

[Update 9:50 AM]

Well at first we didn't think we would make it, Seattle traffic being Seattle traffic. But here we are! The UW Center for Urban Horticulture is beautiful; to enter the building you, appropriately, have to come in through a garden. If we weren't in such a hurry to get inside we would have lingered, I'm sure.

According to the event page for the panel, the lineup for today includes authors Jasinda Wilder, Jack Wilder, Tina Folsom, Jana DeLeon, Liliana Hart, Debra Holland, Theresa Ragan, Jane Graves, Denise Grover Swank, Colleen Gleason, and Dorien Kelly. The panel will be moderated by Kelsye Nelson, the CEO and Co-Founder of So far people are chatting and partaking of the best kind of swag, namely free pens and copies of The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing, which is credited to The Indie Voice: 10 NYT Bestselling Authors.

After reading William Hertling's Indie & Small Press Book Marketing, which I blogged about here, I'm really excited to see not only what other suggestions this book has to offer, and especially what these panelists have to say. There's quite a bit of stigma lingering around the Self Publishing Industry, an atmosphere which showed markedly in many ways in my own education, and I'm hoping that today will dispel some of that.

[Update 10:05]

Panel: Begin!

FYI there is a signing event at the Seattle Hilton from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM with the authors of the panel, for those of you interested. It is located on 6th and University. All of the ticket sales today are going to Seattle Freelances, which is an organization which has been around since 1921; it supports writers with events such at this one. Big companies like Amazon and Kickstarter are going to be holding events for writers through Seattle Freelances in the future, and they sound like a really good organization to follow.

[Update 10:10]

Many of these panelists are series authors; more than one have brought up fantasy and vampires; other keywords include cowboys, steampunk and Sherlock Holmes! This is exciting to me for obvious reasons.

It also bears noting amid introductions that more than one of these authors has mentioned the fact that they have sold over a million copies of something they have written, and many of them have mentioned writing prolifically, one of the members has written twenty six novels! Moral of this story: write. A LOT.

[Update 10:20]

Q: How many books did you have before you had a book that gave you a sustainable income?
A: Answers vary. Examples are 4 books, eight months after beginning publishing; 6 books; first two books.

Dr. Debra says there is a lot more competition for self-publishing now than there were when self publishing first began; she puts an emphasis on niche marketing. Another member claims the most difficult thing is to try to be successful on writing with only one title. "It's not that hard to do well if you have a good product...and multiples of product. It's really hard to sell one book to anyone." (Quotes are going to be unlabeled - sorry! I wish they had their names posted over their heads!)

Q: Difference between publishing traditionally and self publishing
A: Authors control all the marketing and the pricing. They have more control.
As an author self-published, you can make 10-30 times as much money a month because as an author you can tend to your product, advertise for it. "The greatest thing about self publishing is the control. ...Nobody's ever going to be a better advocate for your work than you are."

"You MUST HAVE A GOOD,  PROFESSIONAL NEW YORK...COVER. ...You don't have control over that in traditional publishing. ...Cover must be exceptional for [your work] to stand out in the market."

Q: Who is on your Self-Publishing Team?
A: Developmental editor, copyeditor, proofreader, professional cover designer. Other roles include translators, eBook formatters, print formatters, assistant, etc. This does not have to be a huge expense; you can trade these services with other artists and still put out a product that is marketable. You can also do it all yourself. One panelist makes a good point; when first starting, that's just it, you're starting "from the ground up" - you invest very little at first, but once you are making money, it's more cost effective to pay another person to do these sorts of jobs so that you as an author can spend that time writing another book which you can then make more money on.

One panelist brought up that you don't have to get prizes or have high rankings in lists to be successful. Tina had mentioned that she has made two million dollars on a title, and the panelist pointed out that she has never been in the Amazon top 100 or USA Today. "You can be successful in this and not be in the top 100 lists. You can be a Tina Folsom."
Tina: "Trust me, [no one can know your name and you can still make a shitload of money every month.]"

There is a lot of emphasis on hard work. Jasinda and Jack Wilder apparently worked 20 hours a week on their writing and churned out over ten books in three months. Time to saddle up, folks.

Q: For people who don't have rights back on their books, or for a person whose house no longer exists, how do you get your rights back?
A: "I have an agent who is a Barracuda."

Q: How do you price your eBooks?
A: "As authors, we have a tendency to be needy. ...We want people to read our words... "What we do has value, and takes time and talent. ...Price to make a living." She sells at $3.99 - 5.99.
Compare prices with the top 100 competing titles. It's important to understand your competition and what is selling. "You have to be a good businessperson as well as a good writer." (My note: I have a lot of feels about this distinction, of writing to sell and make money or to write what you feel you must because it's in you to do so, but more on that later.)

[Update 10:46]

Q: What is a loss leader?
A: The loss leader is a free or $0.99 book, usually the first in a series, but the important part is that the loss leader book must be good. If it's very good, then people will buy the other books for whatever price you set, but if it's not a good book, then you're killed your own venture from the beginning. I would like to think you can recover from this foot-shooting if necessary, but hey.

Q: What are some of the most effective marketing techniques?
A: BookBub - 1.2 Million people on the mailing list; the people there will read your books and look at your covers. If you are rejected from BookBub, there is something wrong and you should fix it.
Pixel of Ink, eReaders to Date are also places to run ads for your book that will jack up sales.
"If you do not have books to promote and market, don't waste your money. [The best thing is the next book.]"
Have shelves on different virtual bookstores, as many bookstores as you can have. "You have to put that money into your business in order to get it back out." Invest in the people who are working this industry to make a professional, competitive product. If you want to be noticed on a professional level, you have to operate on a professional level and employ professional level people.
"It comes back to the book. If your book starts selling, people start coming after you. Write a book and start making sales, that's the best [marketing strategy]."
"Newsletter list. ...Collect the names of all the people who will immediately buy your book." If you are writing, get a newsletter NOW. And then make links available so that people can add themselves to your list.

Q: Personal assistant for social media, etc?
A: Assistants do whatever you need them to, and they seem to be really really important because they take some of the pressure off.

Q: Street Team?
A: Once you gain momentum, a street team is essential. They are your core group of readers. "Anything I can do for those guys" - they are selling her books all over the world. Ever street teamer gets promo materials (swag!) and they distribute it around and plant these materials. It finds more readers. She rewards them; for example, they helped boost her onto a list and she sent everyone on the street team a free signed copy of one of her books.
You can also have a street team who does not take that much fiscal input.
Street Teams are great because you can do things like send advance copies in return for honest reviews on the release date. Not all Street Teams have to be organized or formal.

Q: Where do you find your professional team?
A: Word of mouth, through becoming part of a community. There is a list of resources in the book. Also you can do it yourself; for example, if you find a self-published book with a bangin cover, find out who created it and find a way to contact them.
Look inside indie books; the names will be credited.

[Update 11:10]

On Traditional Publishing: "What are they doing for me that I am not already doing?" The general atmosphere in here is that the publishers can woo you, but that they do not really have that much guarantee of anything and, ultimately, publishing traditionally means relinquishing a lot of control.

"Series sell!" They feed on each other, that's the nature of them; snowball effect, readership style.

Quantity is actually key in self-publishing, it appears: "If you put multiple titles out at the beginning... it will take you much less time to start drawing in income." She put emphasis on the fact that it can be anything - novels, short stories, etc, but that places like Amazon do not include you in the email blasts if you do not have a certain number of titles.

But remember to keep your goals in mind. What are your goals and expectations? If you want to sell sell sell and make money, do the aforementioned, but "If this is a book of your heart, and it's very important for you to write it, then do so. [But know that it might not make you money right away.]" -Dr. Debra Holland.

Q: What is the one thing you wish you knew before you started this?
A: Wish we had known to research what was selling and what was popular.
Wish I had known to drop the other series in favor of the one that sell the best, in order to focus on it (she has multiple series spinning).
Wish I would have started writing and self publishing earlier; I struggled with focusing and sitting down and actually writing. (An exercise: Sprinting. Post your wordcount every hour on the hour and sustain it for a long time!) -Dr. Deb
Wish I had focused on one genre and then jumped into others once I was established.
Wish I had focused on one thing; I was too scattered.
Wish I had a plan: when to release books, how to release them, pricing, timing. "You've never heard of me, but I make good money. You can do this."
Wish I had moved into self publishing earlier and write faster. I wish I had known to protect the joy in writing more.
Wish I had known what I loved to write more. "Believe in your stories. Don't let anyone tell you you can't write a story about a one-legged cowboy with a lisp. Believe in yourself."

Q: What are your words of encouragement? What is our battlecry?
A: Don't push yourself so much that you lose your joy in writing. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally; be ergonomically correct so that you can continue to work effectively.
"It's too much work to write a story that doesn't sell." DO NOT THINK THIS. If you find yourself squashing your creativity, find out why, and work toward not doing it.
"It's not a competition." Remember that the writer sitting next to you is your best ally, your best support system. There is no competition. There's no reason to not help each other. "You're not in a race for the finish. Write the book."
"Write the book. And don't have writer ADD...even if you have another great idea. Sit down and write the book. ...Nothing else matters but writing the book."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Writer's Retreat! Well, Sortof.

If you're looking at this and saying to yourself "NaNoWhatMo?" then you might just be in luck. 

NaNoWriMo, the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, is also the internet home of the craziest version of the month of November you will possibly ever meet. The idea is to write 50,000 words - a novel, or, if you're like me, part of one - in one moth. That means 1,667 words every day for thirty days, which will result in approximately eighty single-spaced Microsoft Word pages. Founded by Chris Baty, author of No Plot? No Problem!, the community's tagline is "Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon" and participating is one crazy ride. 

You can imagine, then, what Camp NaNoWriMo is in essence. It's the same idea: write a whole lot in a short amount of time. The cool part about camp is that, if you're interested, you can participate in an online cabin, and you can set your own world goal anywhere between 10,000 and (I think) 99,000 words! There are multiple sessions of Camp, and July is one of them.

So if you were wondering where the heck I was and why I'm so bad at blogging, there's part of your answer. 

Cheers, everybody, and happy writing!


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Fun Fact:

The Gladius, the short sword that became the signature weapon of the Roman legions, was designed for stabbing and thrusting and only weighed between 25 and 32 ounces—only 1.56 to 2 pounds! That's less than most laptops! Even my lovely new machine (a Macbook Air, which is absurdly light) weighs 2.96 lbs, almost a full pound more than a Roman legionary's sword.

For some interesting gallery images, visit Roman Legions' Military Equipment page, here.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Raven, by Dean Whitlock

I picked up this book at a used book store for maybe two dollars. It turns out it was a two dollars well spent indeed. Raven, by Dean Whitlock, is a fantasy romp through an industrial revolution-adjacent land where the rivers dictate power, the ruling class is composed of land-holding Barons, and magic is stronger the higher you climb into the reaches. Raven is a headstrong girl and a bird mage, hence her nickname, and she is one of the most unwitting heroes I've ever come across, which only adds to her charm, really.

It's worth mentioning that this novel is also one of those rare gems where two out of the three main protagonists identify as women and are noted to be women of color. To see that kind of representation in a stereotypically male and often whitewashed genre is refreshing, in a big way. Equally as important, the characters are really well written. Their slang and curses aren't quite as easily recommendable to everyday speech as Scott Westerfeld's "Barking spiders" and "clever-boots," courtesy of the Leviathan trilogy, but I wouldn't be surprised if I caught myself saying "blazing mages" a time or two.

Another aspect worth noting is that Raven is, technically speaking, the sequel to another of Whitlock's novels, Sky Carver. From what I can tell, Raven also appears in Sky Carver, though not as the main character, and Raven takes place four years after the events of its prequel. That I didn't realize this fact until after I began filling out an entry on Goodreads says a lot. This book stands on its own, which strikes me as both unusual and skillful on Whitlock's part.

If you're a fan of fantasy, mages, ravens, cranky anti-heroes, and steam boats, you should probably give this a read.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Found Article: "Fight Write: Art, Sport, Subdual, and Lethality"

Tumblr bears great gifts. One of them from today is an article by bloggers ObsidianMichi and StarkeRealm, which rolled across my dash. It can be found at their Tumbleblog, How to Fight Write.

This is such a useful reference because it breaks down Martial Arts (MA) in terms of the intent behind the style: Art, which is primarily about introspection and spirituality; Sport, which is pretty self explanatory; Subdual, which is about injuring and incapacitating; and Lethality, which is about killing, quickly and effectively.

Though this is a great reference in and of itself, it also makes a good point about all characters who incorporate training or fighting into their daily lives, regardless of whether or not it has to do with Martial Arts. Based on their situations and their lives, they would look at fighting differently.

For example, my two main characters are a mix of subdual and lethal. Brother No.1, who was exposed to fighting early in his life, started out with a sport-based outlook; he was made to fight for money. But after some plot-related things he became more entrenched in a mindset that has two options: defend and run, or, in the event that escape is impossible, stand and kill. Brother No. 2, on the other hand, exists entirely in a subdual mindset and is trained with only that in mind. I wouldn't have considered the nuances of their mindsets without this article.

In short, it’s a good read. Go take a look.

Arms and Armor: Let's Talk About Triremes

Apology/Preface: This is very late, and I am very sorry. I will try to have another post ready on time tomorrow! But now, on the what you're really here for: Triremes!

Possibly one of the most iconic Greek war assets was the Trireme: long, thin ships built for ramming. They had sails for cruising, but were actually operated in battle by 170 oarsmen – you heard me, 170 oarsmen - in three tiers. They had named ranks, with the thranites on top, zygians in the middle, and thalamians at the bottom. They sat on small seats, not benches, and were packed in so tightly that “Each seat was level with the shoulders of the oarsmen below” (31). The ships were fast, maneuverable, and equipped with a bronze-covered ram at the prow built specifically for breaching enemy hulls. The one pictured, on the reconstructed ship the Olympias, weighs 440lb (200kg).

As though that wasn’t a large number to accommodate already, there were also around thirty other crewmen, including marine hoplites (those fellows you see forming phalanxes, named for the shield they carry, which is round and called either an aspis or a hoplon) and archers, as well as a helmsman to work the tillers; there were two tillers, and they were normally operated by the same person. On triremes “There was room to carry only a few basic supplies and insufficient space for the whole crew to sleep on board” (30), so the solution to fitting all those people was simply to overcrowd them.

However, all the oarsmen were free citizens, people who had chosen the work and were compensated for it based on their seat. For example, the thranites had the toughest job because of the angle their oars entered the sea, so they enjoyed higher pay.

And it makes sense, in a way, for the free citizens of Greece to want to row for a trireme – Greece was famous for its navy, and it’s not difficult to understand why:

“In action, a trireme with a skilled helmsman and a disciplined crew could ram an enemy vessel or ride over its oars, then reverse and leave it crippled in the water. If its own hull was holed, a trireme would not sink because it was made from buoyant wood such as pine, poplar, or fir.” (30, emphasis added)

In short, the Greeks had a navy that could mess up your navy and sail away from it, even if they’d suffered what would, to other ships, be considered serious damage. And that is pretty badass.

I am currently reading Military History: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Objects of Warfare, with senior editor Gareth Jones and published by DK Publishing with the cooperation of the Smithsonian, ISBN 978-0-7566-9838-6. In case you wondered where this information was coming from. 

Photos of the Olympias found through Google at