Saturday, July 26, 2014

Kickstarter Update: Good News, Bad News

The short version goes like this:

The bad news is that I’m pretty sure at this point I’m scrapping the “sidekick-style storytelling” bit.  Which means that the final version of Hungry Gods won’t include a bonus short story, just the primary novel.  So what does that mean for everyone who’s contributed at a level where they’d have gotten that story ($10 and up)?

That’s the good news.  Instead of a bonus short story, you’re all going to get a bonus whole darn book of short stories.  I was already collecting up and still writing shorts to publish as an “Identity Crisis companion” and have decided that I’m going to transfer that would-be sidekick over into this collection.  And, of course, it would be morally and ethically wrong to cheat you all out of that story, so I guess I’ll just have to give you the whole collection of five stories instead. 

Now the wait on that item may take a bit longer, so I’ll still make good on providing a short story from that collection when the time comes to pay out the rest of the Kickstarter rewards.  Then I’ll just let you all know when the companion collection is published and we’ll work it out at that time.  Mostly likely, the ebook versions will be free to everyone who has it coming, with a signed paperback option at minimum cost (but still free for the $100 contributors).  

So, in a nut shell:
  -- There will no longer be a “sidekick” short story included with the novel.
  -- But you will still get a short story when the time comes.
  -- And you will get the short story collection in the not-too-distant future.

(sucking it in so hard I can't breathe...)
The longer version/rationale goes like this:

When I first envisioned and sat down to start writing Hungry Gods at the tail end of 2013, I thought it was going to be a 5,000 word short story.  (That’s about 20 pages.)  Wow, was I wrong!  Then, after I got the first couple of scenes done, I thought it might end up being as long as 10 or 15K words, as much as 50 or 60 pages.  Again, not an accurate estimate.  

At this time, as I am working on revising it and further developing some of the scenes and characters, the novel itself is going to be at least ten to twelve times longer than that first estimate.  I’m not done yet, so I can’t say for sure.  But I’m more of an adder than a subtractor when it comes to revisions. 

So I first came up with the “sidekick-style storytelling” as a way of fleshing out the page depth between covers.  I figured it’d be a short novel, so why not add a short story to help it out.  And then I would do the same for all three books of the Identity Crisis series.  I now realize that I don’t need that extra story to fill the book.  And as I begin to develop the next two books in my mind, I already know they’ll both be longer than this one, so no sidekick padding needed there either.  Thus, no sidekicks necessary.

Where I could use that padding, however, is in the companion short story collection.  I have four stories planned for it now, the longest one (I’m estimating again, and we know how good I am at that) being probably 10 to 12K words.  So throwing the Hungry Gods sidekick into this mix would be more beneficial than adding it to the first novel.

So there you go, all my thought processes and excuses laid bare. 

Right now I’m hoping to have the novel Hungry Gods out by the end of 2014 and the companion collection out by the middle of 2015, as well as a science fiction murder mystery novel that I wrote ten years ago and plan to revise for final publication (also by mid-2015).

The embarrassing pictures: Halloween 2010, photo-altered to look like artwork.  I figured everyone was tired of the same HG image on these posts.  But you can still click any of them and go to the Kickstarter campaign Go ahead, try it...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

EBook Prices: Comparative Shopping

The price of ebooks is a very active topic in the writing community and I sometimes have to convince myself that, "Yes, it's okay to charge a few dollars for your years of work."  One trick that makes a solid argument for me is making comparisons, like these...

The easiest thing to compare my ebook pricing with--or those of any independent author or small-press publishing house--is the ebook prices of the big boys.  The Big Five publishers, the guys who decide for us ignorant masses what is and isn't worthy of being read.  So if I open a window on my desktop here and browse through Amazon for some high-quality, mega-corp published genre fiction, what are the high-end prices that I might discover...?

-- Stephen King's latest Mr. Mercedes comes in at $11.99 for Kindle.

-- King's ebook Revival goes for $12.74. (Of course, several of his books are up right now for anywhere from three to eight dollars as well, but the newest ones are getting twelves bucks a piece.)

-- Asimov's The End of Eternity is going for $9.99 (and this book first came out decades ago).  Several more of his books are being reprinted and sold at $8.89.

-- James S. A. Corey's Expanse books: $9.99 for each of the first three, $12.99 for the latest.

-- Kim Harrison's latest The Witch with No Name and The Undead Pool: each $13.99.

-- The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and company. Not out yet, 336 pages of history on his now legendary fantasy world. Guess how much for the ebook? $24.99!!! Wowzers!  Only five dollars less than the hardcover edition!

This is kind of fun.  And reassuring.  Now I don't feel so bad for maxing out my pricing chart at $6.99 for my longest work. 

"Well, you're not Stephen King," you might say.  Remember, I'm not comparing my work to anyone else's, just the prices assigned to ebooks that you may not have read yet, don't know if you'll like it yet, may or may not be worth the money to you.  It's purely up to the reader to decide what is good and what isn't, and what was worth the time and money for that particular reading experience.  After all, how do you know if that book is worth fourteen bucks until after you've already paid for it?

Okay, I'm not quite done yet. 

Some people say that an ebook isn't worth spending more than three or four dollars on.  So let's expand our comparison beyond books.  What about other things we buy in our day-to-day lives?  How much do they cost, how much enjoyment do we get from them, and how long to they stick with us? 

-- A gallon of gas.  Right now, in Texas, about $3.50.  Do I enjoy it?  Enjoy gasoline?  No.  Does it have staying power?  Does my experience with that gallon of gasoline stick with me in my memories or bring new ideas or horizons into my life?  Well, I guess if I'm traveling to new exotic places with it, then it might, but for the most part I don't even notice that it's been spent and is now gone.  Unless it was the last one in the tank; at that point, I'm definitely not enjoying the experience.

-- A cup of Starbucks premium coffee.  Shall we say about $4.00, give or take?  Did you enjoy it?  Sure.  By now, for many people, it's a requirement to get their day started.  Takes you maybe twenty minutes to drink it if you take the time to savor it.  Caffeine buzz sticks with you for a while, depending on your tolerance.  But sooner or later, you pee it all back out and it's gone.  (In fact, the caffeine tells your kidneys to open the flood gates.)

-- Cheap fast food meal.  Big mac, fries, and a coke: $5.69.  I might enjoy the first few bites, then start to feel guilty, then disgusted.  I don't finish it but still feel sick for the next hour.  About a year later, I forget how crappy I felt and think, I haven't had one of those for a while...  Repeat nauseating experience annually.

-- Inexpensive, decent meal out.  Ten to twelve bucks a person.  Tastes good, gets me and the family out of the house, relatively healthy, worth the price.  Does it stick with me?  Well, I remember I like to eat there, but the meal itself gets introduced to the Tidy Bowl Man sooner or later.  Flush and it's gone, along with the money.  Took me an hour to eat it, if I really enjoyed it, and fifteen to twenty minutes to excrete it, if I took my time and enjoyed that too.

-- Moderately expensive meal out.  Let's say at Olive Garden, where I was recently shocked to see what it really did cost for my wife and I to have a night out.  Just you by yourself, an entree, drink, and appetizer: about $25.00, probably more.  Was it good?  Sure, very tasty, but nothing to write home about.  Gets flushed eventually, but maybe I carry an extra inch around my waist for a while.  Not really the kind of lingering effect I'm looking for though.

How about a good book?  Costs you, say, five to eight bucks in electronic form.  Takes you a week or two to read, maybe more.  Sticks with you forever.  And even if it doesn't, you can always go back and read it again.  For free this time.  As many times as you want.  What's that you say?  It wasn't as good as you expected?  Neither was that fancy meal you ate, and that cost more and gave you the runs for two days.

Suddenly the pricing on indie ebooks seems like a pretty fair deal to me.

* * *

*Images stolen from around the internet.  Sorry, Google made me do it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kickstarter Superhero Novel: Halfway There!

Our Kickstarter campaign is now officially halfway through and we're more than halfway to our goal!  So far we have $280 of our $500 threshold for success, which calculates to 56% there.  If everyone spreads the word to real and virtual friends who you think might be interested, it can help push this project over the finish line!

Here's the book description:

America’s premiere superhero team has been missing for days. So when a mutant monstrosity goes on the rampage, it’s Spitball to the rescue! He’s a third-string hero today, determined to be first-string tomorrow. And the Army may be giving him just the chance he needs. Spitball's been invited to undertake a secret mission into America’s heartland. What he’s about to discover, however, is not a chance at stardom but a horror movie come to life...

(But you can skip the video...  Not really worth watching.  Just read the stuff below it there...)

There are only 15 days left.  If you think you might want to be part of it but aren't quite sure yet, click the "REMIND ME" button on the site and you'll get an email in the last few days.

By chipping in you are not only helping to get this project completed to the highest standards, but can also buy ebook versions, signed paperbacks, and might even get your own name used as a character's secret identity!

THANK YOU for your support!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Green Tide: Orks vs. Chaos Battle Report

Without having actually read the new Ork Codex myself, I can at least attest to the fact that the Green Tide is still quite effective...  The only change I noticed on the receiving end of this fight was the new Mob Rule, which I still don't quite understand, but I kind of like the mechanic of it.  Basically, if the orks fail a morale check they roll on a table.  I do know that it prevented my faster units from performing a sweeping advance a couple times.

J and I played a 1750 point game of 40K on Sunday, and that's a lot of orks!  I wanted to try out a Typhus/zombies combo, plus my usual Slaaneshi theme, so I played a list I dubbed "Love in the Time of Typhus: Zombie Eidtion."  It looked something like this:

-- Typhus (warlord) with plague marine cadre
-- Selene (my Lucius stand-in, pictured above) and her sirens (noise marines)
-- zombie horde (20), cultists with autoguns
-- mutilators, helbrute
-- havoc squad (MLx2 with flakk, HBolter), Predator (autocannon and HBolters)
-- Daemon allies: Keeper of Secrets, daemonettes, seekers of Slaanesh

The Ork horde was two complete detachments and in total looked something like this:

-- Two warbosses, each running with a pain boy and 18 boyz and riding in battlewagons
-- big lootas unit shooting from the back
-- two foot-sloggin boyz units
-- stormboyz, deffkoptas
-- dakkajet
-- deffdread

As is the goal of the greenskins, once they got close enough to swarm the forces of chaos, it became a war of attrition, which was in their favor.  Though it was a good match and a close game!  It also took FOREVER.  In SIX hours we only got through four complete turns before calling the game ended.  This was in large part due to a lot of activity and distractions at the game shop (busy day there with lots of friendly folks coming by to chat) and having so many models to move and so many complex combats going on. 

The orks seized the initiative in turn one and came on strong, barreling forward in their battlewagons and firing at range with their lootas.  I lost a couple zombies straight away and my greater daemon took 3 wounds from loota fire and deffkopta rokkets, which spooked me right off.  But by the end of my turn one I felt pretty good!  I cashed in all three of my objective cards and got First Blood: I took objectives 1 and 4 and my Keeper wiped out the deffkoptas in close combat.  I also scored a few kills with ranged attacks from my noise marines and havoc squads.  So at the end of turn one, I had a significant lead.  But the first turn, I'm afraid, was end of that.  That's when the Green Tide swept in...

J played the greenskins to great effect.  His armor 14 battlewagons drove up and spilled forth their warbosses with feel no pain and a swarm of angry boys.  Much of the game was one combat to the next with me picking off a few nodels here and their with ranged attacks, though most I couldn't shoot at because they were all locked up in combat.  Turn two started with the WAAGGHH!, giving all the orks the ability to both run and charge, which got many of them "stuck in."  It also gave the newly arrived dakkajet a bit of extra firing, which it used to glance my helbrute to death, peppering it with heavy supashoota machinegun rounds.  Orks spilled into my mutilators, who were tough to kill but had too few attacks to do significant damage to such a horde.  Another band of orks and the deffdread attacked my zombies, while the the second warboss (the warlord) and his crew charged Typhus and his plague marines.  The board was instantly drawn down into thick combats that took multiple turns to finish out.

On one side, the mutilitors and greater daemon did battle, later joined by Selene (my female Lucius).  My measley five models held up a long time against 20 orks though.  The last mutilator finally died just as Selene joined the fight and the Keeper was killed by the weight of puny boy numbers.  Selene actually routed the last handful of orks, who were then shot up by the noise marines, who were firing from nearby ruins.  Then Selene caught up and finished them off with her sword and lash.  (This was about the high-point for me, finally seeing her and her Sirens prove effective in battle.)

On the other side, the ork warlord charged Typhus and his six plague marines.  I deployed the Destroyer Hive that first round, which might not have been the best move, but I figured the large blast would be good.  It hit nine orks and three of my own, killing one plague marine and only three orks.  Fortunately the ork warboss rolled poorly and so next round we were all still there.  This time Typhus tried to use the daemonic Man Reaper... and rolled a 1.  The possessed weapon rebelled against him and so he got virtually no attacks and had WS1 that turn.  We were both sucking on the rolls, but eventually the orks won out.  The warboss powerklawed Typhus with a S10 instant death crush (doubled out his toughness), then went on to charge my outflanking seekers, followed immediately by moving upstairs to attack my havoc squad.

In the middle of the board, my cultists and zombies died slowly but were eventually done in by boyz and the deffdread.  The ork dreadnought then lumbered off to find new prey and was shot in the back with two krak missiles and a heavy bolter from the Havocs.  The remaining boys moved to attack my deep-struck daemonettes, and I think that combat was still going on when the game ended.  In turn three my predator made an all-out charge to claim an extra objective point before being wrecked by loota heavy weapons.

We decided turn four would be the end.  The score ended very close--6 to 5--and the orks declared victory.  I only had three units left on the board, one of them likely dead the next turn.  Had we gone on it might have tied up the game due to the objectives I needed to snag being close to Selene and her sirens, but the orks definitely dominated this game.  The Green Tide drowns all!  Good game, J.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Gone Viral: Typhus Conversion

In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, there is one servant of Nurgle, Chaos god of pestilence, that stands above all others as a vessel of disease and bringer of destruction.  I'm speaking of course of that man of contagious laughter, Typhus of the Death Guard.  The classic Typhus model is one of my favorites, but I figured I'd have more fun making my own.  (Besides, unlike a lot of Chaos players, I don't field him or any plague marines very often, so didn't really care to spend $22+ on a single model.)

I've had the old metal Chaos terminator lying around for a long time waiting to be used.  I actually have another one with an exposed face wearing a gas mask-like respirator that has a good plague-look to it, but the big tusks are way more intimidating.  The other main components are a grey knights halberd, a powerfist with the scrolls filed off, and the spikes on top leftovers from a seekers of Slaanesh kit.  And of course, some green stuff wound around in pock-marked tendrils.

Now let me check my painting schedule...  Hmm, yes.  Looks like I'll get him painted sometime late in 2032...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Capital City Comic Con: The Big Let-Down

Last weekend was the very first Capital City Comic Con in Austin...  Is that why it was such a ghost town, because no one knew about it?  After spending a lot of money on a table, a tank and half of gas, 6 hours of driving back and forth, and my entire three day weekend, I do not feel like I came out on top from the experience.

Actually, the experience was good.  And I made some friends and connections that I hope last (most notably cosplayer Amy Thunderhawk).  But the Con was a big bummer.  The Con itself was good.  The idea was for it to be artist-based rather than celebrity-based, which sounds good on paper, but...  Nobody showed up.  There were a lot of great artists, including comics legends Neal Adams, Simon Bisley, and Josef Rubenstein, but without the Hollywood name draw there just weren't enough convention-goers to make it successful.  Attendence was dismal and so all the artists spent a lot of time and money nad had a net loss for the trip.  Not that it's all about the dollars, but to make an investment into a weekend like that you hope to reach fans and make new ones.  Hard to do when there are more exhibitors than visitors.

After the first two disappointing days, I decided I was going to enjoy the third.  So I spent more time walking the convention and talking to folks than manning my table.  I hopefully didn't miss too many would-be readers by doing that, but it's hard to spend six-plus hours sitting in a chair doing nothing.  Some of my good scores from the day include:

- This awesome Harley art, rendered by John Armbruster.  I also got 3 really cool bookmarks from him (I collect bookmarks--and yes, I know how pathetic that is) featuring some characters he and his wife invented for a future book they're working on.

- The amazing Batgirl art pictured above from artist Jason Oakes, who, it turns out, lives just down the road from me. I'm really drawn to his flash-bang superheroes done in paint-splatter style.  He also did these TMNT pieces which he just gave to me.  Thanks, Jason!

- A starter pack from Overground Comics, a new company with it's own philosophies about what comics should be.  The package included the eight issues over their three new series (serieses?) and some other bonus goodies.

- And a trade paperback of Ursa Minor, bought from Big Dog Ink themselves and sold to me by one of the owners of the company.  They have a few other titles that look like a lot of fun too, including one that makes The Wizard of Oz into a weird western.  (I like westerns.)

It was also basically Turtle-Con with the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles being a big focus.  Kevin Eastman was there all weekend.  He's the TMNT creator from 30 years back--literally, this is the 30th anniversary.  Congrats to him for creating a handful of characters that continue to revive their populary decade after decade.  Here's a bad pic of the TMNT themselves, who were also in attendance.

Overall I'll look back on my first convention as an exhibitor as a good experience, but...  It was definitely a big let-down.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cosplayer Amy Thunderhawk

I'm happy to announce that cosplayer Amy Thunderhawk has joined the team to produce my next novel, Hungry Gods.  (A story of superheroes, conspiracies, and zombies -- right up your alley, wouldn't you say?) 

She will be the model/cover girl for the book by portraying the beautiful badass of the story, Silk Spider.  (And, by the way, you can help make that happen and get your own copy by supporting the Kickstarter that's on right now.)

To discover Amy's Facebook page, click here.

To view the Kickstarter campaign, decide if you want in and to weigh your options, click here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

HUNGRY GODS: Superheroes, Zombies, and Kickstarter

Announcing the launch of my new Kickstarter project: Hungry Gods.

Here's the blurb on the book:

America’s premiere superhero team has been missing for days. So when a mutant monstrosity goes on the rampage, it’s Spitball to the rescue! He’s a third-string hero today, determined to be first-string tomorrow. And the Army may be giving him just the chance he needs. Spitball's been invited to undertake a secret mission into America’s heartland. What he’s about to discover, however, is not a chance at stardom but a horror movie come to life...
Hungry Gods is a fast-paced adventure of costumed heroes, government conspiracy theories, and flesh-eating zombies with sidekick-style storytelling.
Kickstarter is an entrepreneur website where you can chip in a few bucks to help an artist with the funding needed to complete a project, and then reap the rewards of the finished work.  In this case, you can get a variety of prizes (averaging out to a signed copy of the finished paperback novel) in return for pitching in to help pay for editing and other expenses.  Check out the Kickstarter by clicking the word "Kickstarter" or the picture above.  
THANK YOU for your interest and your assistance!  Even a dollar helps achieve our goal.  Project ends August 7th at 4pm Central time!  

And here's the complete book cover as it stands right now:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Logan's Run: Space Wolves vs Eldar in 7th Edition

This weekend I played with J in my first 7th edition game of 40K.  We played 1500 points of his Wolves against my Eldar.  I think the game ended in Turn 4 with no more wolves standing on the board.  So this is less a battle report and more just me commenting a bit.

As far as the battle goes, J's biggest disadvantages were an old codex and expensive units.  I hope that the 7th ed version of Wolves gets a lot cheaper and catches up with everyone else in their badass-ery and diversity.  J basically had four units and three vehicles on his list.  I had two HQs, all six of the classic aspect squads, two vehicles, and some bikes.  He was already outnumbered in Turn 1, and then in Turn 2 I jumped out of my transport and brought three more units in from reserve--hawks, scorps, and my walker.  Not pretty.

The Avatar was without a doubt my MVP of the game.  J spent a full third of his points on two models: the Land Raider Crusader and Logan Grimnar, over priced superhero of the galaxy.  My 205 point Avatar killed both of these with one blow a piece (thanks in no small part to some great rolling on my part and bad rolling on his).  Turn 1 Old Avvie waded up to the Land Raider, threw two melta bolts at it for no effect ("fast shot" warrior power), then drove his flaming Doom That Wails monster-sword (AP1) into the assault cannon ammo mags.  This was a smash attack, which is just one attack now in 7th ed (an understandable change), but it was enough.  I rolled a 3 to hit, a 6 to pen, and a 6 for damage.   KA-BOOM.

(J's awesome Logan conversion. Super-badass!)

The explosion killed a few bloodclaws inside and pinned the squad (thanks to Lukas the Trickster being a bad influence and bringing their leadership down to 8).  Turn 2 the Avatar attacked, along with his squad of howling banshee cheerleaders.  Logan was itching for a challenge so I gave him one...  and killed him before he could even swing back.  (That's 525 pts worth of crap the Avatar killed in the first two turns.)  Lukas did kill the banshee exarch in a challenge though, and then went on to challenge Old Avvie, hoping to trap him in his stasis bubble when he died.  And he very nearly did, but I rolled a 5 vs J's 2, so Lukas was forced to die alone.  The banshees finished the bloodclaws and the Avatar went on to give Steve Austin (J's bare-chested, wavy haired, bionic lone wolf) the monster fight he was looking for.  Unfortunately for Steve, he was out matched.  He did, however, manage to inflict a power fist wound on the Eldar god, which was more than anyone else had managed at that point.

The other Space Wolf units--two grey hunter squads and their rhinos--didn't stand much of a chance against the vast number of guns and scorpion chainswords I threw at them.  By Turn 4, the Wolves were wiped out.

The score, however, was a tie!  I did like the new tactical cards and changing objectives.  We also played the secret mission, so we didn't know what the other was after, which is how I think it should be every time.  J scored more with his objective cards, but I tied it up with line breaker, first blood, and slay the warlord.  We figured tabling the wolves was a tie-breaking result.

The only other noticeable difference for us this game between 6th and 7th was in the psychic phase.  He didn't have a psyker, but I brought a farseer and a warlock (both on jetbikes) just so I could play with the new rules.  And I liked it for the most part.  It's fun to budget out your dice and decide what powers you want to gamble on.  I did end up with a perils result, but the farseer's ghost helm nullified it.  (Wasn't sure how to proceed with that either; the rule is you cancel the wound by spending a warp charge.  I figured the fair way to do it was to spend dice from my pool and roll.  So it was more like a saving throw by way of spending a warp charge.)

All in all it was a quick but fun game, and from what little I've seen of 7th (I must admit), I like it.