Thursday, November 7, 2019

Collaboration: The Journey of Contributing in the Viridian Gate Online Universe

In 2018 I was offered a chance to join a growing Small Press, Shadow Alley Press, and contribute to a world I already loved reading, Viridian Gate Online. I jumped at the opportunity, and off took my author career with the care and guidance of my new team.

It took nearly 9 months to write the short story for the anthology "Side Quests" and the three books in the series; Firebrand, Embers of Rebellion, and Path of the Blood Phoenix (shamelessly adding links to all of these so you can see how beautiful the covers!). In that time, I learned so much, and I can't wait to share it all with you, but today we're specifically going to talk about Collaboration.

So, I joined the team and was instantly thrown into a world I understood fairly well at a reader level, but there was a lot more beneath the surface in the Viridian Gate universe, and another three authors who were also jumping in to contribute. Communication became essential, and collaboration was indispensable.
BUT, collaboration and communication are both hard. In the beginning, there were times I would be working on a game mechanic/feature for the series that I thought was completely harmless, and once I shared that information with the group at large, realized I was wrong. There were many times I shared something that contradicted someone else's rules that they'd set up, and thus, a deep discussion was born around who's feature/mechanic would win out and be adopted in the Universe as truth.
The most important factor here in keeping us all aligned were a few simple ground rule laid out by the Primary Author, James A. Hunter. I encourage that you adopt something similar if you plan on allowing other authors into your universe.

The Rules

1. Create the most rad thing you possibly can, and have fun doing it

Rule #1 is simple. You have to enjoy what you're doing, and you have to be excited about what you're creating, or the reader will know. They'll feel your dislike, or apathy, throughout the work. It is so important that we first create something we love, and second make sure we can make it fit into the bounding boxes of Universe and Genre rules. Making something you love will make it easier to follow rule #2

2. Bend the rules, and if you can't, just wave your hands

Bend em

If you've got this thing that you love, and it's amazing, but there's an established rule that prevents you from doing that thing, it's time to get the team on board for bending the rule. Create a new game mechanic, add a new ability, make up a minor deity, open a dimensional rift where time passes more slowly... Do whatever you can do to make your awesome thing come to life, without breaking the rules.
The character I wrote for, Abby Hollander - fire slinging badass game developer, was with the Primary Author's character all the time. It was SO hard for me to develop her own story, because her path intertwined with the main character from the primary series so much. I resorted to many of the above things I listed, including the "dimensional rift" where time passes more slowly and creating new deities (four to be exact). This was all in service of getting out a story that I really loved, every step of the way.

Wave those hands

When I couldn't bend the rules, I was forced to wave my hands. **MINOR SPOILER ALERT FOR THE BOOK SERIES - SKIP ALL THIS IF YOU WANT TO READ AND NOT BE SLIGHTLY SPOILED***
In the primary series (MC=Jack), Abby and her companion Otto take off for this giant library, and, according to Jack's story, they spent FIVE DAYS in the sewers trying to escape the city because the bad guys caught up to them. That would've been a VERY boring book. No. I couldn't write that. So, I didn't, and then when it came for the characters to meet back up and admit how they were lost in the sewers for forever, I just said "We filled him in on the details of our trip, and how Carerra's goons caught up to us," so I didn't at all have to LIE about what Jack's book said Abby did, and what Abby's book said Abby did... I waved my hands and got away with it. Literally no one, even people very familiar with the primary series, did not call that out.
**SPOILERS DONE**

3. Use every tool anyone else has developed to your advantage

There were many a times I would go to our group slack channel and ask "Does something exist for the tailoring talent tree" or "Does anyone have the light cloth armor bonuses." It is a BIG universe, with lots going on, and James Hunter did not want all of us reinventing the wheel every time we wanted to go for a spin. In this case, collaboration was key. If there was something in progress, we'd work together to tailor it to fit our needs. If something was already created, often times I'd leave the things I didn't need to use quite vague (like the talent trees for the 3 other sorcerer classes that Abby did not choose to go down). That particular example came quite in handy when another contributing author, N.H. Paxton, needed a specific type of ability to be available for a specific character. We were able to tailor the Frostlock (ice sorcerer) talent tree to fit those needs, and let him use the rules to his advantage instead of having to bend them, or wave his hands.

4. Don't be a butthole

Fortunately, we didn't encounter many issues collaborating and compromising on incomplete features, and I think it was because of how strongly Shadow Alley Press believes in this rule. If you're a butthole, you don't get to join the team. If you act like a butthole once you're in the team, you get a talkin-to, usually by the very person you were a butthole to, because we're all open and honest with one another about what's going on. In every case I was aware of where butthole behavior occurred, it was the standard "I am a human and have bad days and sometimes I get upset" problem. No one was actively trying to prevent anyone else from getting to do the things that made them happy, and made their story awesome, because we knew that Rule #1 was so important to Shadow Alley Press' mission.


So, that was a small snippet of my journey from self-pub to small press author, joining a huge universe, and making three amazing stories that I love.
There were so many other moments throughout the process where I got to work with the other authors, and help them develop their own stories, and get great input from them on mine... and I even got to write in an awesome crossover with N.H. Paxton that tickled me purple with delight.
That's NOT to say the whole endeavor was sunshine and rainbows.
IT
WAS
HARD

It was the hardest writing thing I'd EVER done, and one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life. Communicating is hard, and never perfect. You can't know when you're going to need to tell someone something, what they're doing, what they've done, until you read their book and understand it. I think going forward, if I were ever to participate in another huge universe collab like that again, I think weekly meetings with the authors of "here's the new things I changed from the outline, here's an important tidbit, and here's an idea I'm thinking about adding" would be instrumental in ensuring we're all doing the talking thing good.

Obviously I'm all out of words at this point. Writing is hard. Communicating is hard. Trying to do both is REALLY hard, but if you follow some good rules and everyone respects them, you can make something amazing.

Peace out kiddies.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

What can happen in 2 years?

A lot.

A lot, a lot.

Where do I begin?

In 2018 a great couple named James & Jeanette invited me to be part of their team at Shadow Alley Press. I was elated, because I'd known them a few years and knew they were awesome, and what they were doing was awesome.
I started writing Firebrand for them straight away and suddenly realized my day job took too many of my f***s on the regular. I came home thinking about its problems, how to solve them, and so on... leaving me little time to solve my own creative problems. I did the ballsy thing and put in my notice before I even had another job. I just knew I had to get out so I could clear the day job garbage out of my head. I landed a new job that doesn't present me with problems I need to be up thinking about all night, and actually paid me more, so... win win (except I lost a great community of friends, so that sucked)
Three books down in the Firebrand series and I'm off to my new adventure with Shadow Alley Press, another LitRPG series of my own making.
The super secret dialogue project was no longer fitting into my life the way I needed it to, or the way the client needed it to, so we parted ways amiably. It was a good lesson in accepting a back-end percentage on a project that takes too long to get off the ground instead of an hourly or monthly rate... a post on that to come, for sure.
I've started taking on more freelance writing offers, and I like it a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. There are definitely some posts to come on this, too.

That leads us right back around to why I'm here now. If I'm really going to do this, you can bet your sweet tooshies I'm not going to do it without sharing the details, my failures (hopefully some successes too), and my lessons.

I'm back kiddies. Prep your butts for knowledge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MALCon 2017

Hey kiddies. I feel like we've gotten out of touch... I apologize for my absence here; life is crazy! Let's get right down to business and talk about Myths and Legends Con 2017!

This was my second year at the con and to be totally honest, it was worse than the first in terms of sales. I was trapped in a corner behind a guy with shelves 8ft high and games stacked up to make it 9ft. There was no space between the games. I was invisible...
I had many people say, "Oh, didn't even notice you back there!" So, here are my...

Pro Tips for being a Con Vendor


Location, location, location

When looking at the map and picking your "3 favorite spots", make sure none of them are at the end of the row where there is a corner to turn. Reasons:
  1. In a busy con, people will stop there and jam up traffic to gab about this and or that. People who may have been interested in your stuff will likely search for an alternate route.
  2. In a slow con, people will peal off from the row before the end of it, or start looking in the direction around the corner.
Plan to have your booth maybe second from the entrance if you can (at a small con). This will give people a moment to step in and take a glance, but you will be one of the first things on which their gaze falls. =)

Make sure your spot is also not located next to someone selling something wildly different from you. I know it sounds weird, but it's the truth and here's the next round of reasons:
  1. People who come to look at corsets are maybe interested in books, but maybe not...
  2. People who come to look at books, are interested in books. They might not be interested in your books, but this is at least a start.
It seems counter intuitive, but place yourself next to the "competition", it will be much better for you. If someone is going down a line of books and doesn't see anything in their genre, then suddenly there you are and it was a match made in $20 worth of book sales. Wonderful.

Put yourself out there

Despite my complete inadequacies and failings as both a human being and a writer, they thought I was pro enough to speak on panels about writing. Things that were great about that:
  • I got to get away from the booth for a while and chat with fellow writers.
  • Some of these writers had really interesting knowledge that I didn't have... now I do.
  • I got to meet some cool con goers, which resulted in a few of them passing by my booth, and two of them buying three books!
I did an author reading, for which I was shitting my pants because who reads their work out loud ever? I know I will be doing much more of that... Some things just sound strange when you say it not with your brain voice. In any case, that experience was a hand basket full of problems of its own, like the room directly behind us, which was divided by those mobile lunch room walls made of cardboard, was doing karaoke. It was 11PM. They were all drunk, and loud, and it was really hard to read, but I powered through, and that netted me a sale! It also gave me some valuable experience reading my personal work out loud to strangers, so I'll be better equipped to do it again. Yay!

Get out there

Go to other panels. I went to one by my friend James A. Hunter (pro human being, prolific writer) called... shit I can't remember... but it was about how to make Amazon do all the heavy marketing lifting for you. I won't give away any of his secrets because he might want to charge for them one day, but let me tell you, it was super crazy unbelievably valuable. All of my publishing actions from here into the future have changed, my release strategy just got a huge upgrade, and I'm now listed in about 12 categories for all my books instead of the 4 I was previously. Tits.

I think that's just about all I have time for kiddies. I gotta get to my next project, and my in progress project. I want to reveal some info about it SO BAD, you have no idea, but you must wait. Patience, my precious'. However, the newest new hotness I just started is a short story for Young Explorer's Adventure Guide 2019 (I love that antho series) and I will be sending out the BETA reads! Expect those in September.
If you don't know how to become a BETA reader, join my mailing list and reply to the "welcome to my very small fan club" email saying you want on the BETA reader list. Then you get free words whenever I'm done writing and editing them. Hooray!
Aight, peace out kids!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dear gods... WTF am I doing

This will probably be the shortest post I've ever written. I apologize. I love you guys. Thank you for reading my blog and caring.

So, wtf am I doing?

  1. I'm working on a secret dialogue project for a very very very cool thing that I'm unbelievably stoked to be part of. I'll be able to share more details of that with you guys in November or December this year.
  2. Earth's Peril vol.2 YAAAASSSSS!! Eli and Vendum are getting into some serious shit, the Coalition is revealed, and Bedelcast will have his revenge.
  3. A new two part project tentatively named "A New Strain". I will give no further details because the "wow" moment is too good on this one.
  4. LitRPG???? Yes... yes I will buy in on this. A writing compatriot of mine was like "You better jump on this bandwagon, yo." and I was like "nah it's cool, I'mma stick to what I do." and he was like "Yo... you're an idiot." and now I'm like, "Yeah... oops." Not only that, but this LitRPG project will be PG. What? Yeah... PG. Fuckin, PG.
  5. To follow up on the PG comment, I'm also writing under a new pseudonym in NC-17. I refuse to reveal details. If you really want to know, you know how to find me and ask about it. If you don't know how to find me and ask about it... you'll figure it out.
As for all the other things that go on in a normal human life... shit's busy. Busy AF. I wish I had an extra three days every week to just write because I so badly want to crank out some new, quality content for you all. Alas, I have a day job I love that takes up a ton of time. I'm the lucky one.

Ta' for now. Must return to the written word.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Critique/Writer's Groups - Part 1

HI GUYS! Haven't seen you in a while... sorry about that. Life sometimes turns upside down and you gotta roll with the punches.
I'm preempting this with Part 1 because I assume there will certainly be a Part 2, maybe even 3. There's lots to talk about here, so let's dive into the beginning.

Do I Need A Writer's Group?

Do you write? If yes, then yes. If no... probably still yes.

Picking a Writer's Group

So, you need a writer's/critique group, but how do you find the write(😉) fit? There are many things to take into consideration, but here's the top for me:
  1. Get a writing sample from them, and give them one of yours.
    You need to know if they:
    • Are on the same skill level, above, or below you. You don't want to pair with a group that's full of people below your skill level because you likely won't grow with them. You want a good mix of people below, above, and at your skill level so you can help mentor, and grow, at the same time. Win-win.
    • Write in or around the same genre. You don't need to get into a group that's strict Slipstream Cyberpunk if that's what you want to write, but you need to at least get into a group with a few Sci-Fi people, or else you're gonna have a bad time.
    • Differ in background. You want a good mix of people from different age groups and genders. You want to be able to get at least ONE person in the group to be from your target market, or close to it, so when you bounce something off them they can say if it resonates.
  2. Do they meet near where you live/work?
    This one is important for a few reasons, but mainly consistency. If you have to drive 20 miles out of your way to get to them, do you think you'll be able to stick with it? Probably not. You want a group that meets in a super convenient place so it's harder for you to opt out of meetings. Not just for your sanity's sake, but you want to build a rapport with these people, and if you're not showing up, they're not going to know you (I experienced this one a few nights ago with my group, but I won't cry about it here).
  3. Along with the sample writing, you probably want to get and give a sample critique, or treat your first meetup like an interview-ish. You want to know that the members in the group actually receive criticism well, and if they give it well too. Nothing worse than writing up a thousand words of critique on an eight thousand word submission to get literally nothing in return. It's like a kick to the balls (if I had any), and you always get a bit salty... it's like, "I spent fuckin two hours reading and providing feedback for your work. Even if my feedback is poop to you, at least give me the same effort..." Oooh... am I salty right now? I think I'm salty.
Cutting you guys off there. I've got a fuckin' killer script to be working on right now. Peace out kiddies! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

iBoy - A Movie Review

Holy... hell...

A Netflix Original for the ages. But of course, before that it was a story by Kevin Brooks (which I will be reading shortly).

I loved the heck out of this. I'm writing these words as the credits start rolling, that's how excited I am to share it with you. I'm so excited I don't even think I can find the right words to tell you how cool I thought this movie was. Netflix is friggen killing it recently, I'm so gorram impressed.

Ok. As for the overall theme, it was your typical boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl gets hurt, boy gets superpowers, boy tracks down the people who hurt girl and exacts beautiful revenge.
But it's so much more than just that.

~~~Spoilers~~~

The main character (Tom), while a high school student, thinks outside the box and finds elegant solutions to his complex problems. He still makes silly mistakes, as an human can and will, which adds an element of realism to the whole thing.

I guess trigger warning... the theme of the damage to the girl is a rape. The rape was not shown in any detail, but it is what it is. While that is in progress, the main character runs into her house to say hello, and catches the perps in progress. This leads to him getting shot... in the head... while on the phone with the cops.

He wakes up in the hospital with his grandma holding his hand. The doctor tells him he has fragments of his phone lodged in his brain. Tom asks if it hit any of the important parts... the doctor then says "Being a neurologist, we find all of the brain to be pretty important." I loled...

After getting home, Tom realizes he can accesses electronic devices with only his mind. The movie goes on to showing Tom training himself in hacking, hand to hand combat, and more. He communicates with "girl" (Lucy), to see if she's ok, and to let her know the perps would be getting theirs.
The dilemma rages on as she tells "iBoy", the vigilante attacking the gangs of the burbs, not to continue, to let it go. Tom must choose if he loves Lucy, or loves vengeance.

Soon Tom discovers there's more to it than just gangs beating up nerds and raping girls, there's drug lord undertones and a huge crime circle going on. I'm actually quite pissed, because we never get to know who the main perp is... every time Tom tries to hack his profile, he gets errors, and unknowns... WTF is that about!? I want to know so bad. I want there to be another one. I want Tom to be a superhero, because he totally is... AGH it was so good!

~~~End Spoilers~~~

The cyberpunk theme is maintained strongly throughout, and is a fantastic element in the movie. It's so well executed, I'm f*ckin jealous. Dear Netflix, please adopt me as your long lost daughter. I'll write for you endlessly. I love you. Bring my brain to life on the screen T_T

In closing, this movie was so cool, I'm going to watch it again tomorrow. Thanks Mom for chilling with me after my busy work life finally wrapped up. Ugh... I need to figure out how to replicate myself.
Night kiddies...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Networking & Genuine Fans

Hola kiddies! Months and months ago I was on Author's Row at MileHiCon; my best con so far for networking, sales, and fun. I'm calling out networking in this post because recently I've been chatting with one of the authors (James Hunter) who was near by at MHC and we've struck up conversation about what he's working on, what prospects look like in other genres, etc. These things are vitally important for authors to share with each other, and here's why:
When a market is about to explode, readers are hungry for the genre and consume everything in it too quickly. If demands aren't met, they start looking for the next genre to catch their interest. However, if there is a higher volume of available content, they'll stay in the genre. Proof of that, you can see on Google Trends.

Paranormal Fantasy popularity:
You can see there was a big spike for it in October 2009, and that date we saw a few paranormal fantasy/romance type books come out. However, the author community didn't respond with enough vigor, quickly, and the readership got bored. (I'd also like to call out that Kindle Direct (launched in 2007, not popular until late 2009) and other self-pub/indie-pub options were not as viable as they are now, so that could've hurt the market too.)

Because I wanted to share more of these interesting learnings, here's a light off-topic veer for a second.

Sci-Fi has spikes in November:
But only just recently when they started figuring out the release cadence, and they've slowed the degradation of the genre readership, possibly even turned it around.

This is a really good thing.


Fantasy has Spikes in September, and is very stable, whereas Urban Fantasy specifically has spikes in August and is tapering off.
So then, know when I show you this next chart what it could mean for the genre if we don't hop on the bandwagon fast.

Literary Role Playing Game, or LitRPG. James has already written and published his piece for the genre, and it's the best received book he's ever had. Here's the pudding, you find the proof:
What other graph does this remind you of? Paranormal Fantasy?
Let's not allow that to happen. Rally up, author's. It's time to blow the doors off a new market and bust in there! (but not get her pregnant because that would be rude)



There's obvious data about release cadences, they're structured and planned to keep readers locked in a genre loop, or genre juggling (reading the new stuff from one right as a new one comes out in the next genre).

Alright, enough about that. Next on the docket is Genuine Fans. Though maybe I should've broke this out into multiple posts, because I have plenty more to say on the above (I learned a few things at COSine! Which... I guess I'll blog about next >_>)

I met a gentleman named Vincente at MileHiCon, and he first approached the author next to me. I stood by quietly and allowed my boothmate to chat him up, see if he could make a sale. Vincente mentioned he liked sci-fi (my boothmate had none), which was right about the moment I noticed his SpaceX jacket.
With a little too much enthusiasm I exclaimed in a flurry, "ARE YOU WITH SPACEX?" No, he said, but he liked what they were doing. We discussed the recent launches, and what we were excited for, and then a magical thing happened. He asked me about my only sci-fi book on the stack.
We chatted a bit more and he decided, to my surprise, to buy it. I'm always a little surprised when a male buys my books since they typically feature strong, independent ladies (a girl's gotta have role models... and mentors... but that's another post).
Then another magical thing happened, he, of his own volition, wrote a review on amazon. And not the "It was good, 4 stars" review, but he looked at it critically, and gave (I hope) his honest opinion about it, which included some space for improvement and more research on my end (happening in the next book, promise).
Lots of parenthesis happening in this post.
So, you thought it was as magical as it could get at that last bit, right? Wrong. Turns out Vincente lives near Colorado Springs, which was where COSine is held. Magic and sparkles: he showed up to chat with me about Sway's Demise, and then bought both books in the Verge of Desolation series! It's less sci-fi in the first volume, so I'm hoping it doesn't bore him to death, but vol.2 is most certainly my most polished work so far (except maybe Inamorata which I love to death).
Wow! For the first time ever, someone came to talk to me about my book, and buy more of them because they liked the first! Someone other than my mother or friends, that is. I know it may sound silly for me to be so stoked, but this feels like finally crushing a 4 in bouldering when I've been trapped at 3+/4- for 6 months solid (that happened too, but I rarely talk about climbing, so I guess you guys aren't in the know about how much awesome that was for me =p)
I did it again. Seems like this has gone on for long enough, with way too many parenthesis. I'm off! Peace out kiddies, and thanks, Vincente, for being totally awesome =)