Brymlight Kickstarter is Live!

Brymlight Kickstarter is Live!

Kickstarter for 5 short stories in the Brymlight world is live and on its way!  Reward tiers to fit everyone’s pocketbook and reading style – yes, we have ebook *and* printed versions.  Higher tiers add some fun art options.  Premium tiers are there for someone interested in more unique experiences, like story dedication and livestreams.

Both Chris from LoreSmyth and I will be monitoring the comments and fielding questions throughout the campaign – come join the fun!

Kickstarter for Indie Authors

Kickstarter for Indie Authors

A Kickstarter for my short stories set in the Steampunk Western “Brymlight” world is off and running and I have no idea how well it is doing!

Which is weird for me.

I have more than a passing acquaintance with Kickstarter having been involved on both sides of the platform though the /Games/Tabletop Games category.  I have seen the Tabletop Games category evolve from funding the development of games to an incredibly sophisticated marketing platform funding the production of games.  And with that, the expectations of what is included in your campaign is much higher: play through videos, review videos, completed rules, supporter avatars, demo of the game on online gaming platforms, etc.  There are also some norms around funding tiers, exclusives, and stretch goals that the community has debated endlessly in comments and seemingly reached a grudging consensus.

Using Kickstarter for funding an indie publishing project is forcing me to learn a whole new set of rules.  I think.  Still not sure.

Doing the compare and contrast in my head I am seeing similarities, but I also take caution in apply the lessons and expectations of the Tabletop Games category to the /Publishing/Fiction category.  Here are a few of them:

Funding Pace – Tabletop Games places a huge emphasis on funding in the first 24 hours.  It has also been my experience that most of the funding comes in the first 24-36 hours and the last 48 hours after the reminders go out.  So far, in Fiction, the pattern seems to be holding true: off to a quick start then flattening out.  Obviously, I am curious to see if that holds up throughout the campaign.  I have seen varying attempts, with varying level of success, at solving the mid-campaign lull in Tabletop Games and will be interested in whether that will be needed in Fiction.

Funding Goals – This is a *lot* different between Fiction and Tabletop Games, almost an order of magnitude.  Tabletop Games have a lot of upfront content, manufacturing, and shipping costs that just don’t apply to Fiction.  There are similarities, don’t get me wrong, but printing several thousand copies of a game and shipping them around the world is a lot different then sending an eBook, even that of a printed and bound copy of a book.  Tabletop Games updates about shipping including the name and tracking information of the container ship crossing the Pacific Ocean are not uncommon!

Funding Tiers/Stretch Goals – Tabletop Games offer a much broader range of options for adding tiers and stretch goals.  Upgrading card stock through multiple levels, including premium components, UV finishes, art books, added play modes, playmats, quick reference cards, etc.  Fiction?  So far the funding tiers that are most popular in the Brymlight campaign are eBook and paperback.  The other goodie tiers just don’t seem to be pulling in much attention.  Certainly, that could be a lot to do with the goodies themselves and the pricing… or just that the Fiction is more interested in just the goods, not the added goodies.

Regardless, I think leveraging Kickstarter for marketing and costs is still a great thing for indie authors and publishers, but I know I still have a lot to learn!

The ‘Punk’ in Steampunk

The ‘Punk’ in Steampunk

One of the reasons I enjoy writing in the Steampunk tradition is its focus on social and economic disparity.  I have tried in my writing to emphasize what I believe to be the ‘Punk’ part of Steampunk.  That part that focuses on the disenfranchised, the fringes, oppressed, and under represented classes and conditions.

I wrote many of these stories several years ago and they reflected my opinions and feelings at the time, probably no different than the classical writers like Verne and Wells did in their time.  As I review these stories getting them ready to be published, I am struck by how relevant, if not more so, that they are now.

Conflict, either direct or indirect and sometimes inadvertent, is the key to writing.  I have heard and read that many times and it rings true for me.  There are many forms of conflict, of course, ranging from character conflict with the setting to character vs character, and character conflict within themselves.

My favorite, as is my desire to write character driven stories, are the latter two.

Character vs. character in my steampunk western world is represented by the rich and elite oppressing the lower class to maintain their lifestyle all the while still being entirely dependent them.  Economic oppression, exploitation of workers, etc. is not a new theme by any stretch.  I like to toy around the edges with the interdependencies.  Are the privileged dependent on those they oppress?  Would they cease to exist if they could not oppress?  Do we create our own elite?  Do we need these elite we create?

If oppression is integral to the Punk part of steampunk, it clearly is not new either.  Captain Nemo was funding rebellion and hated imperialistic nations (Steampunk v1.0?).  Moorcock brings forward the same theme of oppression, that of colonists, in The Warlord of the Air (Steampunk v2.0?).  Yes, finally getting around to reading what many consider the inventor of Steampunk (v2.0).  No spoilers, Land Leviathan and Steel Tsar are queued up!  Can I really add anything new to the oppression theme?

My favorite is internal conflict – Character vs Self.  Self doubt, self esteem, anxiety, depression, maintaining control.  These themes are also as relevant now as they were when I first started writing in my world.  Weaving these themes into my stories and creating the flawed characters will, hopefully, let me put the grim reality into what I feel is my version of steampunk – what my publisher coined “Grimpunk.”

Anyways, heavy thinky post behind me, I would invite you to checkout www.brymlight.com for more information an upcoming Kickstarter to fund a small anthology of my short “Grimpunk” stories.  There is a place to sign up if you are interested in receiving updates on the KS campaign.

Writing and Boardgames…

Writing and Boardgames…

Ok, this may be a stretch, so bear with me…

I find writing, the structural part of writing, a lot like designing a good euro-style strategy board game. For those who know me, or taken a look at some of the other pages off the main of my blog, you may be aware of my work in the board game industry.

The definition of “euro-style” is applied to style of strategy board games that rose to popularity in Europe late 1990s that prefers indirect over direct conflict and has very low level of luck.  It has seen a huge growth here in the hobby game market, particularly with the last 15-20 years, more so recently with the emergence of Kickstarter.

In a strategy board game, generally speaking, each player is trying to execute their plan to win the game.  As part of executing their plan, they are disrupting the other players’ efforts to execute their plans.  Better games typically have a high level of interaction whereas those with very limit interaction are considered “multi-player solitaire.”

Applied to writing, I see the interaction between the characters much the same way.  Each character has goals and needs to overcome challenges.  I think it makes the story better when in the process of achieving an individual character’s goals, they are creating the challenges for the other characters.  Sure, challenges can come from the setting or the plot, much the same way a game can throw other obstacles at a player to overcome, but it really the interaction between the characters, much as in boardgames, that make it more interesting.

Again, hats off to Michael Stackpole who introduced me to character interaction in his character driven “21 Days to a Novel” methodology.

If you are interested in hearing more about the upcoming Kickstarter to fund publishing a number of my short stories, and to be notified when the campaign goes live if you are interested, check out: www.brymlight.com

Collaborative Editing

Collaborative Editing

Another thing I had to work out with Paul (my editor) (no, saying “my editor” still hasn’t gotten old) was how to work together.

I do all my writing in Scrivener, a fantastic tool for creating, but when it comes to working with alpha readers or an editor, not so much.  Remember here that my work with Paul and my publisher is still very much in the world of indie publishing with little or no budget!

After trial and error, it seems that I have found a consensus: Google Docs.  Here’s the key features that I believe are making it so:

Ability to ask and answer questions: Is this the word you meant? This doesn’t make sense, what were you trying to say? etc.  Docs lets you highlight a chunk of text as a question, have a 2-way conversation, and ultimately mark it as “resolved.”

Concurrently working on the same document at the same time: This is a little one, but extremely helpful – I don’t have to worry about stepping on an alpha reader or editor’s work when I am responding and updating.  None of the save the file and let the other person know which version they should look at.  Handily even marks changes made by the other collaborators.  You can also open two copies of the same document if you need to look at something else without wanting to lose your place.

Chat: If you do happen to be working on the same document at the same time… you can online chat with your collaborators (in my case my editor) and sort things out on the fly.  I didn’t realize you could even do this until Paul (my editor) (nope, still not getting old) hit me up one evening while we were both looking at the same doc.

Versions and showing changes: This one seems pretty obvious, the the cool part for me is never having to think about it – it just does.  While not as powerful as revisions in Word, the ability to look at versions created over time is a great help in seeing what was changed.  And not having to fuss around with other settings is a plus.

Where is the Save button??? I add this mainly because I have had to get used to the autosave.  Even more dramatic, before I really knew about Google Docs, was not understanding why my daughter lost a term paper when borrowing my computer and using Word.  “What? You didn’t hit the save button?”  “Dad, what is a save button? (big mood)”  Point taken.

Mechanically, it is a little bit of work to use Google docs effectively.  Specifically, I export my writing from Scrivener in Word format to my Google Drive (which is shared with my editor)(…), open the document using Google Docs, re-save it in the new format.  Then I blow away the original Word Doc.  Going back the other way, I make a Scrivener snapshot of the scene and copy/paste the updated content back in.  A little bit of work, but well worth it in my opinion!

Apologies for the long post.  If you are still with me, my publisher (also not getting old) is planning a Kickstarter for the end of July to publish my short stories.  For more information, and to sign up to be notified when it goes live, head over to: www.brymlight.com

Character Driven Stories

Character Driven Stories

My writing preference is character centered stories – focusing on the characters, their challenges, their triumphs, and their despair rather than on plot and setting.  I go even further in my stories – prejudices, dark motives, hatred, and jealousy.  Good raw emotions.  Don’t get me wrong, I think plot and world building are also important, but I don’t want them to be central focus of my stories.

Some of this, of course, is based on the “21 Days to a Novel” from Michael Stackpole which helped me plan for and successfully win my first NaNoWriMo thereby solidly guaranteeing that it will be a guide post for my writing.  Tip of the hat to Mr. Stackpole I think he gets it right on a number of levels.  My first encounter was in a seminar where his opening premise was the importance of character vs. setting driven stories – his recommendations was character driven all the way.

Another rationale I have heard for Character vs Setting is based on the adage: “show don’t tell.”  I apologize that I cannot credit the source for this because I haven’t the foggiest where it came from!  Basically, it goes like this:

Focusing on characters is engaging the heart, whereas setting and plot being central is engaging the brain.  Similar to show vs. tell.  Telling requires the brain to be engaged where Showing lets you engage the emotion.  Connecting emotionally engages and connects better with the readers than intellectually.

Applying to my own writing preferences – the deeper, more intense the emotion, the greater the engagement (by logical extension) (at least that is my theory!)

Ok – so many more established writers are thinking of course that this is all obvious, but for me, I am seeing it play out as I struggle to write my own stories!

My publisher is planning a Kickstarter for the end of July to publish my short stories.  For more information, and to sign up to be notified when it goes live, head over to: www.brymlight.com

Voice and Editing

Voice and Editing

My first, introductory call with Paul (my editor) went great.  Total transparency here, I have never worked with an editor that would be taking a more technical look at my writing.  I have alpha readers, and I have greatly appreciated their feedback, but this feels like a whole other level for me.  In amongst geeking out on various things that we are, well… geeked about, we got to talking about writing and “voice.”

Before going any further – I have to say: I’m really excited about this project!  (bet you can’t tell)

One of the things we discussed was Voice and the use of colloquialisms. As an editor, this can make it hard for Paul to sort out whether I meant something to be grammatically incorrect as a colloquialism, or whether it’s just grammatically incorrect.

Stepping back for a second, its pretty cool looking at my writing through the eyes of someone else, an editor that is interested in preserving my writing style but also in cleaning up it and making it better.

We came up with a couple of basic rules (that I will also have to keep in mind as well!)
Grounders (lower social classes) generally walk on characters, will speak pretty heavily in slang and colloquialisms. Main characters, will be better spoken, but may slip into colloquialism when speaking with other grounders. Narrative voice will be the same. Highborn upper classes will be more formal.  I have read stories with slangy narrative voice and it just gets annoying pretty quickly.