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.

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.

Technical Plausibility

Technical Plausibility
One of the things I described to Paul (my editor) that I hope sets my writing apart from the usual steampunk is the plausibility of the technology.
The Brymlight stories rely on hydrogen as the source of energy – no crystals, alien substances, or other unexplainable magic. I tried to ground my writing in science and reality, if a bit stretched at times to make it work.
Hydrogen provides the lift that keeps the massive estates of the aristocracy afloat high above the plains of the American Colonies western frontier.  Ironically, those estates are both literally and figuratively tethered to the ground and their dependence on the lower classes that produces the hydrogen.
Production of the hydrogen is based on steam reforming, or steam methane reformation of natural gas.  One of the most common industrial approaches to manufacturing hydrogen and a number of other related products.  In the Brymlight world, the Whitley Hydro-Works is one of the largest producers of hydrogen, what our boffins are going to call “diprotium” and the more common term everyone else regularly uses: Brym.
Just for fun… steam reformation, in a deeper meaning, also refers to my break from the more traditional steampunk doctrine.

Tales from the Brymlight Observer

Tales from the Brymlight Observer

Official revival of my long neglected blog… because through happenstance, luck, karma, and long odds, I have stumbled into a small independent publisher who would like to publish my steampunk stories!!!

Where we stand right now:

  • We have settled on the “Tales from the Brymlight Observer” to be the umbrella name for the stories that are set in the steampunk world that you will see referenced through earlier blog posts as the setting for the West Wind and Due West.  The Brymlight Observer is an underground subversive newspaper that is proudly “Shining the Light on the Truth.”
  • Five short stories that are publish ready (they were originally submitted to various horror and other short story anthologies) are being edited by Paul.  My editor.  Paul.  Yes, my *editor* (sorry, still trying to get used to this!)  One of the five, Forgotten Memories, was previously published in a ghost hunting anthology the subject of other posts here.  A second was accepted, but the publisher ultimately did not release the anthology.  All of the short stories will be receiving new titles and cover art.
  • A kickstarter is in the works that will be publishing the five short stories in eBook format, a printed anthology, and some other goodies.  This is to help build awareness around publishing of the West Wind, which will also be receiving a new name and cover art.  A webpage has been setup that will be the home of the Brymlight Observer that includes an email sign-up if you want to keep up to date on the kickstarter and other goings ons: www.brymlight.com

Hunting Ghosts: Thrilling Tales of Paranormal Investigation

I am excited to announce that my short story: Forgotten Memories will be included in “Hunting Ghosts: Thrilling Tales of Paranormal Investigation!”

As the title of the anthology would imply, it is a ghost hunting story and it is set in the Steampunk Western world introduced in “The West Wind” and its sequel-in-progress “Due West.”

For all my Friends on Facebook – head over to Hunting Ghosts Facebook page and give it a “Like.”  You will also find the full table of contents and excerpts from the stories being posted.  More to come!

Timelines

Insert usual apologies about not updating blog more frequently…

I received a question from a reader regarding how I constructed my timelines – any special software?

When setting out to write The West Wind, I knew I was going to need something to create timelines.  I had never written something so big and complex but knew that I needed something to organize the multiple story lines.  I am also a very visual person – I often find myself drawing a picture to help describe some point I am trying to make.  Notebooks are fine, but I really needed something a bit more specific.  There were several features that, at the time, I thought I needed:

  1. The ability to capture a short description – these ultimately became my writing prompts for scenes
  2. Some way of tagging or creating meta data
  3. A way of showing relationships

I looked at the writing apps that had timelines built in, e.g. yWriter and even basic notecards.  They covered most of my requirements, but ultimately lacked a fourth item that I discovered along the way: flexibility!  Notecards, I need to point out, was a horrible experience.  I didn’t have enough space for all the cards, couldn’t keep the relationships, and most importantly, couldn’t read my handwriting.! My romantic notion of  a writer staring at a cork board plastered with notecards was quickly dashed on the rocks of practicality.

Then I started using Visio.  I use it in my professional life and in the design of boardgames, the other often referenced hobby of mine on which I will blame my lack of writing…   I put together timelines for each of my characters, a timeline for the world, and connected them all together with the dynamic connectors.  I found the flexibility I needed to move things around without losing anything and had control over cutting and reconnecting the relationships.  I also found I didn’t need to use any tagging, like an action vs reflective scene, instead I used colors.  Worked just fine…

Until I found out how much I was missing using the Windows Beta of Scrivener and, as luck would have it, demands of my professional life gave me a great excuse to invest in a MacAir.  Darn.

I finished writing The West Wind in Scrivener on my new Mac but then found myself wanting to re-arrange my timelines.  No, nothing really easy or cheap for importing Visio documents into Mac drawing programs that I could find.  I also didn’t want to go back and forth between platforms.  I wound up re-building the timelines in OpenOffice.org Draw which, as it turned out, was needed anyway due to the amount of drift from the original story timelines over the year that I wrote the story.  Re-building the timelines got me back in touch with the story and allowed me to implement an idea I had for telling much of Rachel’s backstory through a couple of key flashbacks.

To give some context, here is about the first third of The West Wind timeline as it was orginally in Visio:

First third of the West Wind timeline in Visio.