Tour Stops

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, early March involved a lot of me bouncing around the internets promoting Probability Angels.

I’m not sure yet how, or if, the tour is effecting sales but I wanted to share with you the stops I’ve made. There’s tons of fun interviews to read.

Juniper Grove had me discussing the last movie I had watched at the time of the interview, which was some god-awful made-for-the-SyFy-Channel monster movie, and what I learned from it.

At Darlene’s Book Nook I discussed my wonderful “Cats in Wigs” stationary.

Morgen  Bailey had me discussing how my collection of rejection slips once destroyed a door.

At The Book Faery Reviews I was asked what my favorite line from any book is.

MK McClintock got me to reveal who my favorite character from Probability Angels is.

Me and Reading gave a short review and asked me what’s on my nightstand right now.

Beauty in Ruins was delightfully surprised by my new take on an old genre in their review.

Meredith Allard and I talk about how the middle part of a book is the worst thing ever.

And Ricochet Reviews got me talking about the debate on whether Matthew is a tour guide or a hero.

Man that’s a lot of interviews…

 

The Joy of Research

ElephantsI’m starting to do research for the third book in the Matthew and Epp series. Technically I research things constantly in a “Look at that guy! Could I use that guy in a story? Did you hear that noise? Maybe I could use that noise somewhere!” sort of way.

But recently I’ve started to actually do reading research to prepare for the upcoming books. I need to learn about ancient Rome, clothes, Australian penal colonies, and a few other tidbits.

A lot of people, when I tell them that I write fiction, get a mad gleam in their eye and say something like, “I’ll bet the best part about that job is doing the research.”

In their minds, if I have to research criminal under-lords or whatever, then I actually join some criminal society and rise up through the ranks, participating in dazzling jewel thefts and midnight gunfights aboard a zeppelin somewhere or god knows what.

In reality I purchase or download an absurd number of books and I sit and I read, and I read, and I read.

Yeah. It’s awesome.

Here is the book I read to research Isaac Newton for Probability Angels:

It was a thrill-a-minute page-turner full of explosions and sexy international intrigue.

Oh. Wait. No it wasn’t. It was the most boring book in the world and a good third of it was FILLED WITH MATH EQUATIONS.

But there were some good, invaluable even, nuggets hidden in this tome of boredom and the read was well worth it for my work. That’s what research really is for me, not an attempt to learn the topic I’m researching backwards and forwards, but a sifting process where I pluck out striking images, quotes, moments, and mindsets to graft onto my writing and give it the flavor of reality.

And, to be fair, not all of it is boring. The ancient Rome stuff has been full of goodies.

My favorite thus far? The Greek general Pyrrhus once attempted to intimidate a Roman ambassador by inviting him into a room where he had an elephant hidden behind a curtain and then, in mid-conversation, dropping the curtain.

Oddly the ol’ elephant behind the curtain trick didn’t work. The visiting diplomat didn’t even flinch when a fucking elephant appeared behind him out of nowhere.

Which is sad.

I really wish that trick had caught on.

I know I’m so using it if I ever hold office anywhere.

“So, you think there should be a stop sign on the corner of Main and Oak streets? Well have you ever thought to consider LOOKATTHISITSAGIANTFUCKINGELEPHANT!!!!!!”

Results From the PARPG Play Test

MeatSo @Rolling20s and I were finally able to discuss his visit to SCARAB two weekends ago as well as the results of his play tests of the Probability Angels RPG. As I mentioned last week, the whole concept of attending smaller, regional conventions was scrapped. @Rolling20s ended up leaving the convention and driving north to a house full of friends where he was guaranteed a play test.

First, I want to thank, @celeloriel, @daniel14159@TheUniverseGM@cadorette, and @nezumi_hebereke for agreeing to be guinea pigs. Helpful, fun, witty, and intelligent, they proved to be most able guinea pigs indeed. Please give them a hand, ladies and gentlemen.

Their play test was recorded and I finally got a chance to listen to it this morning. There was a lot more good than bad, in my opinion, but clearly lots of things need work.

For starters, there’s a ton of information to get across before the players can dive in and actually start playing. This is normal for any game, you have to get a sense of the rules before you can play, but briefly explaining a new dice system and the world of Probability Angels is quite a challenge. @Rolling20s had his hands full. I mean I cant even explain my world.

We’re attempting to build this so it can be run at conventions, so I think some front loading of information is to be expected, but a much quicker and cleaner version needs to be worked out. One of the players came up with: “You’re immortal justice ghosts! Now start rolling dice!”

Which isn’t too bad.

I’ve learned from writing synopsis after synopsis until I want to barf that the urge to put in every cool little detail you’ve come up with has to be quashed. You have to know that you can’t cover everything. You should put in enough to hook the reader, even if it’s somewhat misleading or glosses over some big details, and then trust them to catch up. Same concept needs to be implemented here.

Secondly, some of the mechanics on the dice side of things need to be tweaked. That is something that happens on into infinity for games like this, you can always tweak things. So that wasn’t a surprise.

The worst thing to come out of this experiment, though, was that @Rolling20s has decided that he can’t represent me, with the attention that a sponsor deserves, at future conventions. He is currently working on two other games of his own design, Shadows of the Collegium and School Daze, not to mention anything else he comes up with (most of which is quite awesome), and he came to the conclusion that his attention was too split to run the PARPG as per our current arrangement.  He still wants to shape this into a workable game and run it, but as a fan not as a marketer. This wasn’t a big shock to me as his to-do list has been growing and growing recently and I’m glad that we both realized it.

That being said, in my mind @Rolling20s is still the guy, even if he doesn’t think he can be the guy. He’s just the guy. I have no other guy in the wings, for starters, but, also…he’s just the guy. So I’m calling this a hiatus. I don’t know what word he is using.

Anyway, the plus side of the play test was listening to all of these strangers have fun in my world. And I think they were having fun. Interruptions and confusion and gaffs aside, there were some moments of pure awesome buried in this gaming session (not to mention a reference to one of my favorite shows, Archer).

There is meat here. Succulent, delicious meat. Currently, how best to prepare and serve this meat is a mystery. But there is meat. Do not doubt it.

I’ll put it like this. @Rolling20s and I have managed to put a game together where people were laughing and having fun for an hour and a half while their characters wrestled with the notion of whether or not a dragon running amok inside of an iceberg was real.

I consider that quite an achievement.

Probability Angels Role Playing Game

Playing HeroWhile noodling over the results of sending my friend @Rolling20s to a gaming convention to do some marketing, which you can read about here, a lot of ideas have been tossed around. Some in my head, some with @Rolling20s in conversation, some with my tarot card masseuse.

One very fun idea has taken root and will become a full grown idea tree in the coming months. @Rolling20s and I are going to put together a one-off adventure for him to run at gaming conventions of Probability Angels as a Role Playing Game.

Players will get to step into the shoes of a tester, or a rotted thing, or a Guardathing, or…well whatever they want, that’s sort of the point of a role playing game, and play around in the world of Matthew and Epp. Actually, I’ll amend that even though it’s only one sentence old: since this is a one-off adventure there will only be a few set characters for people to play and, no, nobody gets to play any of the main characters.

But for the adventure I have in mind it should be a fun mix of personalities which then get inhabited by a fun mix of real people *playing* those personalities as they interpret them, and then dice get rolled. Also, players will, in the current plan anyway, be interacting with some of the higher up muckity mucks of my world. Possibly with an ex-samurai. Possibly.

Even though it’s still in rough draft form it has been a great creative stretch to do this. I’ve never made a game before so there’s a fun freedom involved. However, I want this to carry the mood and tone of the books so there’s a lot of pressure too. I had to learn a dice system, we’re using FATE if you’re curious, which took some time to get familiar with. And currently I’m very slowly figuring how best to represent the various quirks, attacks, quantum mechanics, philosophies and such in a playable game involving dice.

Weird but definitely fun overall.

For example, while brainstorming player skills, I just started writing down phrases that sounded like they fit in with the world of Matthew and Epp.

Some player skills that have already been discarded (or were written down at 3 AM and proved to be utter nonsense in the morning) are:

Condensed Gravity

Ocular Manipulation

Quark Magnetics

Bone Spur

Atomic Humonculous

So…yeah. This should be hella fun by the end.

 

 

Probability Angels – Now with More Pumpkins!!!

PumpkinsOn the one block walk to get my coffee this morning I was assaulted by no less than three different adds all telling me that someone was selling their normal products, only now they was crammed ass-full of pumpkin. You’ve got pumpkin coffees at Starbucks, pumpkin muffins at the corner muffin place, pumpkin doughnuts at Dunkin.

Everyone’s suddenly fucking nuts for pumpkins.

I mean, I understand why, the whole winter gourd phenomenon isn’t a new thing, but the sheer number of pumpkins being crammed into my eyeballs during a one block walk got me thinking.

Maybe I should try and cash in on this…

So I’m releasing a special edition copy of Probability Angels, only it’s got pumpkins all over the motherfucking place.

Probapumpkin Pumpkins

And we’re not stopping with mere cosmetic changes to the cover. Hell no.

You all remember that early scene where Matthew goes to meet Epp in the park? Epp has the tape set up and Matthew steps into it and watches as sound drops away and a lone firefly freezes in time?

Guess what. Now it’s got fucking pumpkins everywhere:

The first difference was as immediate as it was obvious. All noise ceased. Also pumpkins were all over the place. Pumpkins…luscious, sexy, orange pumpkins everywhere. It was like a god-damned pumpkin D-day. As Matthew straightened himself up there was no more wind in the trees, no more muffled sounds of traffic from Central Park West. You know what there were, though? There were some pumpkins all over the fucking place. He continued walking down the path that had pumpkins on it, the second change slowly sinking in as he realized he was no longer walking through a post-midnight darkness. And also he realized how many pumpkins there were. The air was now mellower, lighter, like it was only a little past dusk. You know what color the sky is around dusk? It’s orange. Like a certain winter gourd that right now you wish you could bake down, puree, fill a hot tub with, and sink into like some crazy-ass spa treatment. Then he stopped short and walked a slow circle around a single point of light, smiling as he recognized a firefly, its bottom flashing electric green, frozen in time, hovering in the air. Probably there were some pumpkins here, too. I don’t know. Fuck it, the firefly’s name was Pumpkin. How’s that? He reached a finger up and slowly pointed it towards the glowing beetle, was about to tap it to see what would happen when a voice spoke up behind him.

“Pumpkins.”

Matthew jumped and turned, then smiled and shook his head. “Jesus, Epp, you scared the hell out of me. And why are you slathered in that gross orange mucous crap that’s inside of pumpkins while wearing a pumpkin-orange suit and eating a slice of pumpkin pie and standing on a pumpkin and reading the scene from Cinderella where her stagecoach turns back into a pumpkin?”

Thrilling, isn’ t it?

This version should be hitting stores soon…

Experiment Results

Last week I talked about a little experiment being run by me and a Twitter friend, @Rolling20s. You can read about it in detail here, but the short of it was that @Rolling20s attended Con on the Cob, subsidized by me, and ran a vendor table there selling all things Matthew and Epp.

Here’s the table:

Matthew and Epp table

Frankly I think it looked awesome. As you can see there are the books, some magnets leftover from giveaways, and I also printed up various works of fan art that have come my way through the fan art contests or stuff I’ve commissioned.

The results?

We sold 13 books, a few magnets, and a print or two. The entire weekend came in at a net loss of around $400.

Clearly not a home run, but was it worth it? I’ll get into that in the next paragraph. I will say this, though, I once purchased an ad on Amazon that cost well over $400, ran for a month, and resulted in exactly 1 sale. So this experiment was not a home run, no, but it’s nowhere near the worst idea I’ve ever tried.

Okay, dissection time.

This was, without a doubt, totally worth it. For a first attempt 13 sales is respectable, plus I expect a few more sales to trickle in from people who @Rolling20’s spoke to throughout the weekend. First attempts at anything are going to be clusterfuck’s, that’s just how it is. You can’t expect to walk into a game you’ve never played before and get the high score your first time through. That’s just asinine.

Far more important than the actual book sales was the Skype conversation I had with @Rolling20’s last night recapping the weekend. I am damned lucky to have him as a fan because he’s a natural salesman and we work well together. Plus, we have a near perfect win-win relationship set up. He loves attending conventions rife with one of my target audiences, gamers, and is happy to continue trying to sell my books in order to defray the costs of his convention addiction. And I, obviously, am happy to have a salesman out there pushing my stuff at said conventions.

Attractive Woman with Business CardThis is, ironically, where two of our biggest mistakes occured this time around. First of all, and this was such a boneheaded mistake I can’t even…ugh…but first of all I never managed to get business cards to @Rolling20’s. He had nothing to hand out to people he chatted with, nothing to give to people who came up to the table, nothing for potential costumers to slip into their jacket pockets and pull out a few days later to cement my name in their head. I waited to order cards until I chatted over their design with @Rolling20’s and by the time we managed to chat it was too late to get him cards. Just a dunderheaded move on my part, but I have a problem pulling the trigger on ideas if I haven’t bounced them off of someone first. I honestly think business cards would have made a massive impact on post-convention sales.

The second thing we did wrong, and this is going to sound weird, but we put @Rolling20’s at a vendor table for most of the day. Oddly, this may have been the worst way to go about selling books. Foot traffic was low and the people wandering through the vendor hall tended to have set destinations in mind. I’m learning that every convention is different, but I think I was picturing more of a sidewalk fair mentality. We have those a lot here in New York, you’ll be strolling to the drug store and suddenly you’ll be in the middle of a smorgasbord of tables selling all kinds of crap. And you slow your feet down and you dawdle and you maybe buy a jar of honey, or something, that you in no way set out to buy on your way to the drug store. You wind up enjoying the browsing aspect of things and almost all the booths have a little crowd of spontaneous browsers around them.

Street Fair

I’m learning that this is not what conventions are like. Some people browse, yes, but a lot of people head to the booths they’re excited to see. Maybe Company X has a new product out and they just want to see that before moving into the convention hall to mingle and game.

Plus, again, foot traffic was slow. I trust @Rolling20’s retail abilities and, having having talked to him a ton, know that he gets the symbiotic nature of our relationship: the worse one of us does, the lower the odds are of us teaming up again (I mean for conventions, pal, not general chat and gaming and stuff 🙂 ). So I know he was actively engaging with any potential sales that wandered by, and yet he said he spent a lot of time with nothing to do and being bored. There was just no one there to sell to. Frankly, hearing his recap of the vendor hall activity, 13 books sounds like a heroic accomplishment.

Both of us came to the agreement that this might have worked better if we had just set him loose (WITH business cards) to be his normal charming self and an active representative of Joseph Devon Industries chatting up our products. This would have gotten word out far more and deducted the cost of the vendor table from the weekend. Not to mention @Rolling20’s would have enjoyed his weekend more. Again, symbiotic. The fact that he was bored most of the weekend is a negative for both of us.

That was lesson one, my main instrument of sales, @Rolling20’s himself, was poorly misused.

Lesson two was…confusing. I sent off the prints of art and the magnets purely for marketing purposes, just to dress up the table and maybe to giveaway to people who bought books. Somehow some of this stuff wound up selling. That baffles me. The fact that someone would buy a magnet with a quote from a book they’ve never read on it is just weird. To be honest, I have yet to figure out what that means, but it means something. Plus I have to believe that someone who sees my magnet on their fridge every day will, eventually, check out the book itself. I also have solid proof that the quotes I chose for the magnets are winners. But there’s some other idea on how to use this information that’s niggling away at my brain, it hasn’t quite solidified yet, though.

Epp's Watch, by Jack DaviesThe prints selling was surprising but not confusing at all. I know that all my fan artists rock and I love their works, that’s why I sent them along, I knew they would be eye catchers. But those were lower quality prints that I made up at Kinko’s on a complete whim. And yet some of them sold. And not only did some of them sell, but they represented, by far, the largest profit margin at the table. Now, technically, I own the rights to some of those for marketing purposes only. But you better believe I will be sending emails out to all my artists asking for the rights to sell their work for a percentage of profits. And just like that a revenue stream I never saw coming with the potential for a higher profit margin than my books themselves has popped up. That was a big win.

So, 13 books and some magnets and a print or two at a $400 loss.

Sounds horrible when you only look at the numbers, but when you try something like this you need to be realistic. You need to understand that the learning curve is frighteningly steep. You need to realize that you’re spending money to gain information. And you need to get your business cards ordered earlier (by the way, 500 business cards costs, like, $20 over at Vistaprint. If you don’t have some, get some).

You also need to be able to take a risk like this, get clobbered, and get back up again.

Plans are already in the works for @Rolling20’s next convention appearance.

Cheaper, better prepared, better used…and with business cards.

 

Soul Glow and Probability Angels

Every so often I go searching through the internet for myself, checking to see if any interesting reviews have popped up or if a forum somewhere might have been discussing me. It’s a little scary sometimes how little of the internet one actually sees.

During these searches, in which I wander far far far far into the google results of various queries, I find that, like, 80% of the internet makes no sense.

It’s just pages of babble or crazy-ass products crammed together or complete mirrors of Amazon, only crappily laid out and with zero hope of generating any traffic.

I usually can get some small grip on how some of these sites came into existence.

Then I came across this and my brain stopped:

Black Hair Weave – Your Discount Weave Store

I give up. I don’t understand the internet.

My Blog Tour

Recently I went on a tour of the interwebs, giving interviews and writing guests posts at various sites.

I’ve posted some of them in some places but now that all of them are up I wanted to list them in one place for convenience’s sake.

Thanks so much to everyone who hosted me!

First there was an interview at Back of the Book Reviews in which I my thoughts on Snooki came up for some reason. You can read that here.

Second was Donna’s Blog Home who actually interviewed Matthew. That was a lot of fun for numerous reasons and can be read here.

Then I arrived at Jacqueline Paige’s site for another interview. There I discussed how aliens implant their ideas into my head and that’s where my stories come from. You can read that here.

Laurie at Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews managed to score an interview with Epp himself. Check it out here.

At Sherry’s Fiction Writing Tools I gave another interview in which I waxed on about the Aenead. Oh yeah. Nothing gets ’em going like ancient Roman epic poetry. You can read that here.

Finally, I wrote down three quick tips for writing effective horror for Curling Up by the Fire. Fun stuff.

Thanks again to everyone and thanks to Fangtastic Books for organizing.

 

The JD Art Contest Winner

So here’s the winning entry. Please click on it to view it full size.

This entry is from Saher Imran and, as far as I’m concerned, needs zero introduction. However if I don’t type something up here the home page of this site goes bonkers, so I’ll babble a bit.

I fell in love with this as soon as I saw it, and every judge who I showed it to replied with, “Wow!” (or a similar succinct superlative)

Saher has taken one moment from my words and turned them into an iconic image. The attention to detail is remarkable (notice the cross in the upper right?), the contrast of the polished shoe and the splashing blood gives me the chills, and using no more than a foot and an ankle she has captured Epp more fully than I think I even did.

Congratulations Saher.

Amazing entry. Again, CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A LARGER VIEW.

And give Saher some love in the comments or by linking to her work around the web, please. Wow, does she deserve it.


Joseph Devon Art Contest winning entry from Saher Imran

Fan Art Contest: Honorable Mentions

The votes have been tallied. The phone lines are closed. The intricate network of satellites set up to collect opinions has been dismantled. I have my winner for the Second Annual Joseph Devon Fan Art Contest.

But that’s for next week.

This week is for the honorable mentions.

First we have another entry from Jackson P. Some of you might remember Jackson’s genre bending entry, “Cupcake,” from earlier in the contest.

Jackson P Entry for JD Fan Art Contest

I include Jackson’s work partly as a joke, but partly in earnest. A lot of people tell me they want to send an entry in but are worried that it won’t “be as good” as the other entries.

I can assure you I don’t care. I love everything that gets sent in that isn’t a drawer cleaning exercise. That’s why I have a committee pick a winner, because I don’t want to decide between entries.

Right. Enough with the warm fuzzies.

Click on the pics for full size views.

Here we have a rendition of Matthew by Wade Rasmussen:

JD Fan Art Contest from Wade Rasmussen

I rather like this take on my lead character (Wade opted to draw a “zombie Matthew”). He’s a lot older than most versions and he’s got a bit of a Sigmund Freud thing going on. I also like the way the otherworldliness is rendered, with the humans drifting along, off-color and ghost-like. Pretty cool.

Here’s a piece from Ethel Kambourian.

JD Fan Art Entry from Ethel Kambourian

Photography is the only medium that gets submitted here which I have the slightest experience with. That being said, I have no idea how Ethel did this. I don’t do much photoshopping but the etherial feel of this city street is a wonderful match for the mood of my books. Good stuff.

It says something about me that I always giggle when I look at this entry from Jack Davies.

I don’t know what it says about me, but it says something. Jack has a nice knack for picking out some of the more fun imagery in my books and rendering it in a metallic hyper-realism. Gross, isn’t it?

Here’s another, much less gross, entry from Jack:

A lot of readers have mentioned their love of Madeline’s scene in the park and I think Jack has a nice little work here capturing that. And please do look at Jack’s cartoon version of Kyo and Matthew.

We’ll end with this one. It’s from my sister so she can’t win. But she deserves mentioning too:

Tune in next week for the winner!