video: Publishing Revolutions

I’ve just finished a new video, on some of the exciting changes taking place in the publishing world (I recommend you watch it in High Quality & full screen, if possible):

If you watch it a couple of times (once to absorb everything I’m saying, then again to absorb the production techniques) you’ll see that … at the beginning of working on this video, last Monday, I had never done any 3D animation and only a modicum of modeling (mostly in SL), and had never used Kinemac before.  (I bought the Macheist 3 bundle earlier this year, for access to that and BoinxTV, mostly.)  As I worked for about a week and a half on this video, I became more and more experienced with the software, more aware of what it was capable of, and more comfortable doing more advanced things with it.  So at the beginning, the big 3D text is pretty neat, but by the end I have an entire bookcase of individually hand-animated books leaping in and out of a box.

There’s things I’d like to change about it.  Not just improving the animation in the first half, either.

On Demand Books is now saying they’ll have two million titles available by years’ end, rather than one, for example.  Plus, I feel like I may have represented the kindle more strongly than the iPhone – while I believe the 41million iPhones/iPod Touches in circulation worldwide, each with hundreds of individual book apps and at least 4 different major eReader apps, each with robust eBook catalogs and (coming soon) in-app purchasing will do significantly better and reach wider and have more of an impact than the roughly half-million, all-US-based kindles.

I’m already working on the script for the next couple of videos.  More thoughts on what it means to have over 1400 new titles published every day.  More thoughts on print on demand.  Something about eBook pricing.

Contest, contest, who’s got my contest?

As you may already be aware, my last contest (Tell me what Forget What You Can’t Remember is about, and win a prize!) didn’t reach as many people as I’d have liked, didn’t have as broad a response as I’d have liked, and didn’t give me as many well-thought-out answers to the question as I’d have liked.  There was a lot not to like about how it went.  Since that time, I’ve been thinking about what to do about it.  I’ve only recently responded to the two winners, letting them know they’ve won and requesting their information so I can send them their free books.

Now, I’m going to try to turn something disappointing into something a little bit better.  I’m going to change the nature of the contest, and the reward.  The idea now is to have an open-ended opportunity for anyone who reads my books and wants to try another.  Anyone, at any time, for any of my books, who can provide something to help me sell my books that’s better than what I’m currently using can win a free paperback of one of my books of their choice.

If that’s a better answer to the question “What is this book about?” – great!  If that’s better marketing copy, a better “elevator pitch,” a blurb from another author that I can put on the cover & the website, or even an entirely new cover image – wonderful!  If that’s an insightful blog post, or a detailed review (not necessarily positive), or a thoughtful analysis of character, theme, plot (or lack thereof) – I look forward to it!  Be creative!  Write a spin-off or sequel, a short story in the same universe, a song or a poem, shoot a video, or create any other derivative work (automatically allowed for non-commercial uses, since all my novels are available under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license) – and you’re a shoe-in!

As before, simply email your entries to me at – perhaps containing your entry, or perhaps linking to your blog / a review / a video – and I’ll consider all entries using my personal judgement as to whether you’re doing a better job marketing my book than I am (which shouldn’t be hard – Marketing is not one of my strengths).  Every time I receive an entry that I believe will help sell books, I’ll send out a signed paperback copy of one of my books (their choice) to the entrant, and I’ll get my marketing efforts updated to incorporate the new materials.  So go, read or listen to one of my books, and think about how you might let someone else know about them.

Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary: You can read the eBook or listen to the podcast for free. Officially open to US Residents only – but only because I don’t want to deal with shipping books internationally. You can still enter from anywhere and, if you’re willing to help me with international shipping, get your free book. Winners will be selected by whatever method I want – probably I’ll just pick the entries I think are best, but I’m not ruling out asking people on Twitter or some such. Contest runs until I don’t feel like it anymore – which probably means it never ends, since when wouldn’t I want to sell more books?  By submitting an entry you are granting me an unlimited, nonexclusive right to use your entry and any derivations thereof for any purpose, including commercial – ie: the point of having better marketing material is to be able to get more people to read and/or buy my book, so I need the right to use the best entries to that end.  If you create a derivative work & would like to license it for commercial use (ex: you want to be able to make money by writing a sequel and selling it yourself), we can talk. I’m open to that, too.

Contest: What’s FWYCR book about?

“What’s the book about?” – It’s the question everyone asks, and they want a quick and easy answer. People who think like marketers want it in the form of an “elevator pitch” and people who browse in book stores want my book covers to fit neatly into the patterns they expect – but everyone wants a fast, easy way to make a snap decision about the book.
The problem I have with this is that if I could have expressed what I wanted to express in a hundred words or less, it wouldn’t have been a book, it would have been a business card!
So, I’m having a contest:
Tell me what my book is about, and you could win a prize. As Forget What You Can’t Remember draws near to its final podcast episode and people all over the world hear its convoluted conclusion, I thought the time was right to ask readers and listeners this oft-repeated and oh-so-important question. But what are the prizes?

  • One (1) First Prize: I’ll name a character after you in my next novel & let you decide whether that character lives or dies, plus send you a signed paperback copy of one of my books (your choice).
  • Two (2) Second Prizes: I’ll send you a signed paperback copy of one of my books (your choice).

How to enter:
Email your answer to the question “What is Forget What You Can’t Remember about?” to The deadline for entry is May 1st, 2009, two weeks after the final chapter goes live at
Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary: You can read the eBook or listen to the podcast for free. Officially open to US Residents only – but only because I don’t want to deal with shipping books internationally. You can still enter from anywhere & if you win I’ll still name a character after you… and… I don’t know, maybe look up international shipping rates & customs paperwork? Winners will be selected by whatever method I want – probably I’ll just pick the answers I think are best, but I’m not ruling out asking people on Twitter or some such. By submitting an entry you are granting me an unlimited, nonexclusive right to use your entry and any derivations thereof for any purpose, including commercial – ie: the point of having a better answer to this question is to be able to get more people to read and/or buy my book, so I need the right to use the best answers to that end. I will be running a very similar contest for both Lost and Not Found and Dragons’ Truth in May, in case you want to go read and/or listen to those books & prepare your answer in advance.

ForgetWYCR is Not a ‘Zombie Book’

Originally posted at

Forget What You Can’t Remember is a book that has zombies in it, but it is not a zombie book. It is not a horror book. It is not a science fiction or a fantasy book, either, despite the existence of a flying city, robots, and elves in the world where it takes place. It is not an action book — in fact, it may be the antithesis of an action book, when you step back and look at the whole experience. What is Forget What You Can’t Remember, if it is not these things?
It is a novel about people. Some of the people in the novel encounter zombies and, in fact, survive a full-scale zombie outbreak in a major US city. Some of the people in the novel, after becoming rescued rescuers, find there are gaps in their memories; whole swaths of their lives and their histories that are entirely lost. Suddenly given limitless possibilities for the future and robbed of their pasts, each charater reacts -and interacts- in different ways. Some follow their dreams, some try to continue living in the past they’ve had to leave behind, and at least one loses his grip on sanity.
The bulk of the story is told, not through description of actions, settings, and characters, but through the dialogue those characters have about the settings they find themselves in and the actions and events they’re experiencing and planning. This is simultaenously so intimate that a reader can lose track of the boundaries between characters and so distancing that it can give the impression that you are only experiencing the story second-hand. That feeling of being both present and distant at once mirrors the way more than one of the main characters’ minds reacts in the wake of tragic, traumatic events. In the scene in chapter 17 which inspired the cover image, two characters discuss this experience which could probably be diagnosed as depersonalization disorder:

“Huh.” Paul couldn’t identify personally or exactly with Brady’s experiences, but somehow understood him, in a way. “Are you experiencing this disassociation from reality right now?”

“No, I,” Brady paused to consider whether what he was saying was true. He stopped walking, and stood in the street for a moment looking down at his body and back up to the world around him. He held his right hand up in front of his face, staring intently at it. “I’m trying to decide if it feels like I’m staring at my own hand or if I’m watching me stare at my own hand.” Paul was now also staring intently at Brady’s hand, trying to more consciously notice his own awareness of perception. “Though just being present enough to be able to think about the difference is probably both a sign that I’m not experiencing it, and what truly surreal experiences even its memory allows me now to have.”

“Truly.” Paul was now staring at his own hand and contemplating the separation between perception and awareness as though for the first time. “Consciousness itself is clearly not mere eyes and ears and instincts, but the thought of being able to be conscious of one’s own consciousness is a sort of Klein bottle with no boundary, zero volume, and which despite seeming to be immersed in the visible world always keeps some critical part in a higher plane of being, beyond our grasp.”

Brady now took his turn to stare at Paul, though more like an examination of another’s sanity than one’s own perceptions. Brady stood there, staring at Paul staring at his own hand, apparently deep in thought, then spoke. “I have no idea what you just said.”

Then, when the narrative takes a dramatic turn toward long description and to action, the character experiencing and initiating the action is turned increasingly away from it by his own apparent memory loss and the philosophical line of thought it takes him down. A strange and difficult twist near the end of the book then seems to erase all evidence of his action -of everything described in detail rather than in dialogue- from the book, leaving nothing behind but the second-hand and the distant. The reader, if they realize this post-modern slight of hand at all, is left in the same situation as the characters; what you thought happened hasn’t, and what has happened is at least out of arm’s reach.
In trying to create this meta-experience paralleling that of the characters, the book loses the ability to easily serve the expectations of mainstream readers. It loses the ability to meet the expectations of readers looking for a traditional zombie book. It loses the ability to serve those looking for it to fit neatly into a genre slot, any genre at all. Instead, it serves the mind. It encourages thought. It attempts not just to describe a thing, but to deliver it into the reader’s consciousness. Forget What You Can’t Remember is not a book for everyone, and it may not be what you expect, but it may be the only book you read this year that is what it says.

working out an idea

I’m working on an idea.  I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ve worked through a couple of iterations, since.  The idea has evolved significantly, as I’ve worked, and thought, considering the meaning and the purpose of such a project.  And the meaning of my life, and of my work, in general.  I like the direction it’s taking.  Don’t know how capable I’ll be of either selling it, or of marketing it -each of which holds unique challenges- but I’m going to keep working on it anyway.

I’ve been vaguely considering designing a custom deck of cards, akin to tarot cards, for many years.  I’ve never really wanted to simply design a tarot deck, as so many others have done before me, simply putting my own artwork on the traditional 72 cards.  This has something to do with my understanding about about divination works, and what part cards tend to play in it (not to mention the other roles such cards tend to end up playing on the side).  I’ve wanted to not just create artwork for an existing system of divination, but to create a new system from scratch.  A wholly original deck.

Of course, I’m aware that Leviticus 19:26 makes it clear that God would prefer if I didn’t practice divination at all.  The context that Isaiah 2:6 gives divination is as a “superstition from the East.”  I’d effectively given up the practice a few years ago, after a brief, intense period of giving in to the temptation, but it’s been on my mind again, lately.  Not in the context of wanting to do readings or divine knowledge/wisdom/future, but in wanting to design the cards, and to publish a book explaining them.  So I started designing.  I want through a couple of interesting ideas, did dozens of sketches, and decided to go a different direction.

I’ve been working on steering my creativity in a direction toward more Christian writing.  Not entirely effectively, yet, but I’ve been trying to at the very least avoid going further in the direction of the sex, violence, and apparent lack of morality that the Untrue Tales From Beyond Fiction was pointing me in (though that changes character in the final books).  I have a partially completed book that literally explores the concept of the unforgivable sin mentioned by Jesus – with violence, sex, action, and all sorts of other apparent sins (and exploration of the meaning of ‘sin’) along the way.  I would like to write several explorations of the complex, interesting, and challenging things I have found in scripture and in my own Christian walk.  But first, I think I’ll start with something unconventional:

I’m designing a deck of Christian cards, and writing a book to explain them.  As I conceive it now, I expect the book to have three pain parts: One part, the expected breakdown, card by card, of how to read the cards for divination – what this one means, what it means ‘reversed’, how to lay the cards out and to interpret them.  One part, a theological and biblical exploration of divination, ‘Eastern superstition’, and related new age beliefs as a temptation for modern Christians, especially as for new Christians who prior to being born again practiced such things.  One part, an alternative breakdown, card by card, that uses the deck of cards as a sort of flash cards for learning about Jesus, Christianity, and the early church.

Part of the idea (which will certainly be included in the book) is that most things of this world are neither inherently good or evil, but it is our individual choices, day by day and moment by moment, that we do right or wrong.  That we imbue the things of this world with the good or the evil that we do with them.  A deck of cards -the ones I am designing, or any deck of tarot cards- is not evil.  It is not a tool of the devil, in and of itself.  It can be used to do evil, but the cards themselves are not evil.  If I do a good job designing them, if I write a clear and well-organized book, both of which I believe can only happen through him who gives me strength, then my cards will be able to do good by those who choose to use them for good, and to likewise allow those who choose to do so to use them for divination.  A tool.  A choice.

The production, distribution, and sale of the book is easy for me, right now.  I’ve got 10 books in print already, and adding one only takes a couple of weeks, once it’s written.  The production, distribution, and sale of the cards -especially as part of a bundled item with the book- looks challenging.  There are several options for getting the cards printed.  I could pay for a huge offset run, warehouse them somehow…  There are a couple of companies that will do short-run decks of cards (hundreds instead of thousands or tens of thousands of decks).  I found one place that will do “print on demand” of custom cards, but not like POD book printers do -they aren’t doing wholesaling, retailing, distribution, and won’t do one-offs-  but they’ll print as few as 10 decks at a time, and they’ll print (but not assemble) deck boxes, too.  And I found a place that sells microperforated playing card paper, so I can print a test deck or two on my own printer.  So I’ll probably go with that last one at first, get the cards how I want them.  Then go to the POD printer and get a small order (they have a price break at 50 decks) & have a matching print run at Lightning Source (who also has a price break at 50 copies of a book).  Then try to get them carried by Christian and new age stores, I guess.  

I’m considering some options like:  Putting the book out with a high cover price & one page being a coupon you mail in for a free deck of cards.  Doing all the distribution myself, so I can bundle them manually, and don’t have to worry about people who buy the book through other channels & don’t get the cards.  Writing the book in such a way that it stands alone, without the cards, but tells you how you can order the cards, and using the same distribution setup I have for my other books.  And… uhh… do you have any other ideas?  I’ll be thinking about it for a while.

The current plan is to do the research (ie: read the bible, concordances, and other bible resources) so I can write 2-4 pages (minimum) for each of the cards (at least 1 page for each of the two parts that break down each card), and to paint an individual painting for each card’s art.  I’m hoping to do each painting 8×10″ or less, so I can do a high resolution scan with equipment I already own, do additional work in Photoshop as necessary, but then to have an original painting for sale that corresponds to every card.  To make packaging & distribution easier (and because it fell together in the designing of the deck), I’m doing a 52-card deck, currently as follows:

  • 5 ‘Major’ cards: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Death, & Devil
  • 14 Apostles cards: 1 per apostle, including both Judas & Matthias and Paul
  • 11 Miracles cards, each featuring one of Jesus’ miracles
  • 11 Ministry cards, each featuring one group of people to whom Jesus ministered
  • 11 Message cards, each featuring one basic, foundational, repeated part of Jesus’ message

I think the hard cards will be the Apostle cards.  I need to do the research, but I’m pretty sure there are a few of the apostles there isn’t two pages’ worth of information about in the bible.  Hopefully I’m mistaken.  Either way, I’ll have to figure out how to represent each of them visually – I plan to research how they’ve each been traditionally and historically depicted in the last two millennia.  Still, they effectively represent 14 paintings of “a man,” which, if you’ve seen my art, you know hasn’t exactly been something I’ve been perfecting.  So probably 14 abstracted expressions of what each man represented or something they did or … inspired by whatever was used to depict them historically.  Your suggestions are, again, welcome.

I have a list, a flexible, mutable list, of what I expect the 52 cards to be.  I’m thinking of creating 52 blog posts -perhaps in a separate instance of WP, or perhaps merely in their own category- one for each card, where I can write out my explorations of the concepts.  I’ll have to think about that, too.  What do you think would work best?  Are you interested?  What would hold your interest?  What would annoy you about blogging it?  

Up late again.  Didn’t do any audio work today (now I’m not actually “ahead” of the podcast, anymore – a lot of recording done, but no finished episodes ready to go from here on out), but absolutely have to do some tomorrow.  Who wants to try to get me up in the morning?  Say, around 8?  sigh.