Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Warning About James Frey's Publishing Scheme

Linking to Mr. Scalzi here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/11/13/the-man-in-the-frey-flannel-suit/

Not that I get more hits than he does (I'm not even sure this thing is on) but the more people that hear about this, the better.

In a nutshell: This guy offers you $250 up front and $250 on delivery of a manuscript. You get 30 to 40 percent of anything it makes. BUT! (and this is yo' momma's huge but!) you can't audit his books, and he owns the copyright.

That's right: HE OWNS THE RIGHTS! Meaning he can do anything with this at any time without your permission. And there's no way for you to know if you're getting paid for it or not.

There are no shortcuts out there. Good work sells. Poor work does not. If you're not selling, up your game. There are many many ways to do this, but recognize that they all take time and effort. People like this Frey are not going to help you. They're going to take all of your self-worth and use it as their own. They do this because they have none themselves.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Starship Bridge Simulator

Something worth blogging about!

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2010/11/artemis-spaceship-bridge/

Talk about cool! Cryptic games had envisioned this as Star Trek Online, but that doesn't work so well in a networked MMO setting. Can you imagine the nightmare when a PUGged bridge crew loses the helmsman to an unexpected AFK? "Sorry, guys, had to take out the trash."  Or "Pizza's here" just as you give the order to engage the enemy.

Anyway, these are my kind of gaming innovations. It's rare to have something this unusual appear.

What no blog entry?

No, not really.

In response to a question, I rarely post up just because it's 'been two weeks with nothing up here'. If something strikes me as bloggable, then I'll say something. Otherwise there's enough to be getting on with. Superfluous entries just seem like a semi-disguised way of waxing the cat.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

EA, Mythic, and Warhammer: Decidedly NOT Led Zepplin

Largely in response to: http://ealouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/and-another-things/ wherein an ex-EA/Mythic employee has been laid off due to reportedly managerial incompetence.

Responses are somewhat divided. Some applaud the EA Louse and its moxie in telling things like they are. Others denigrate the EA Louse for revealing confidential information and breaking an NDA. Whatever your thoughts on professionalism and the legalities of NDA's, the deed is done: http://ealouse.wordpress.com/2010/10/12/hello-world/

For my part, I especially hate to see the modern US corporate culture hard at work destroying games I've enjoyed. Not that I particularly liked Warhammer, but it had some serious potential, and EA has a consistent and proven track record of failure in that department. Earth & Beyond, The Sims Online, and Warhammer. Of these, only Warhammer is still active, and it barely clinging to life. I wouldn't have been caught dead playing The Sims Online, but I really quite liked Earth & Beyond, and was very sad to see it go. The writing was on the wall when E&B lost a vast number of subscribers after their storylines went live in January of 2003. Reason? Well the stories weren't bloody finished, were they? The game itself was only barely stable, wasn't it? Content (farming content, I might add) had only *just* been added to get a character to max level, hadn't it?

In that vein, massive props to  Frank Mignone for a post back in July of 2006 on mmorpg.com regarding the acquisition of Mythic Games by EA: http://www.mmorpg.com/showFeature.cfm/loadFeature/764 Way to call it, Frank. Those other writers had their buttocks planted firmly around the fence posts, didn't they? Nicely done.

This rush-to-market model is very typical of the modern MMO. EA doesn't win the award for premature publication (sounds like a medical condition, doesn't it?). When a game isn't ready, it just isn't ready. Thing is, publishers have GOT to realize that if you're going after Warcraft, then you need a *finished* product. Mark my words: I would *love* to have some other games to obsess over. I would *love* to see a bit of Warcraft's market share spread around. I would *love* to have a consistent subscription for 5+ years to another game. None of you have the balls to do it. You want the return on your investment Right Now, and your impatience is your undoing.

Incidentally, so is crap like this: http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/54958 I quite enjoyed the quote at the bottom: "Excellent comparison. Led Zepplin ripped off all their (the Beatles') best songs." Let your players decide where you fit on the analog scale of garage band to Beatles. Spend more effort on your game.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Tudors: Historically Dramatic

Occasionally hysterically dramatic as well, but overall I'm enjoying the show.

I'm quite glad they didn't go with a true historical representation of the life of Henry VIII. See, thing is, he was married to Catherine of Aragon for close to twenty-five years, taking issue only towards the end there. It was only when he got older (heh, early 40's being 'older' at the time) that he started obsessing about having a male heir. Yet, that's really all anyone seems to remember.

Well, it's not the calm, happy times people want to hear about is it? That Chinese curse about interesting times is true on so many levels. Conflict. Must have it in all good storytelling.

So, the show really plays fast-and-loose with events, and it's come under some fire for that. For my part, who cares? Keep it interesting. One shouldn't be silly enough to turn on Showtime and expect a documentary. Criticism of the nudity and sex should be similarly dismissed. Showtime, right? It's not Skinimax, but pretty close.

Now, my complaint (if we even term it such) is the rather obvious nature of the intrigue. Buckingham plots openly in front of servants and staff against the king. And for some reason this never makes it back to the king's ears? Sure, the guy got whacked eventually, but it took a direct betrayal by a co-conspirator.

The obvious plot against Woolsey is another. The archbishop's detractors are well known at court. Yet Henry seems surprised at their revelations to him about Woolsey's failings. Perhaps this is an attempt by the writers to make Henry seem a very young king, but he's been in power nearly ten years by that point.

That aside, I'm still quite enjoying the show. And in doing a little research the vast differing opinions between the critics and the fans is perfectly predictable. I sometimes wonder if critics ever actually were fans themselves. Hell, I'm a trained writer. It's true that I have a hard time simply reading a book for pure enjoyment without analyzing technique, form, etc. Yet I can still find myself swept along with the story. Critics, with their entire job to be critical, must suffer from the phenomenon even more so. Can't help but feel sorry for them.

And that's my cat-waxing for the day.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Stackpole on eBook Publishing and Me on ePublishing in General

Here's a fine article on negotiating electronic rights with an actual publisher, not a self-publishing contract with Amazon/Smashwords/iStore. So, take note, this doesn't directly apply to self-published material.

http://www.michaelastackpole.com/?p=1626

Solid info. I particularly value the advice on translations. I would not have considered this.

He's right. We're in a seller's market from the writers's standpoint. A big motivator behind this change is readers buying stories for half to a quarter what publishers need to charge for them. Note the word 'need'. Save it for later.

Plus, the writers can see more cash go straight to their pocket. In this way, it becomes possible for authors to make a living in their chosen field.

It never made sense to me that many professional writers can't afford to write full time. Farmers farm. Teachers teach. Police police. Carpenters... carpent. You know what I mean? Writers, in comparison, work IT, or instruct at the university, or blog, or a hundred other occupations, few of which have anything to do with writing.

How did we get here? Lots of reasons, which is a good topic for another post for when I'm riled up. A forum-goer from Absolute Write (who is herself a rather successful non-fiction author) said it best: "Most money spent on marketing doesn't go to getting the book in front of consumers". This comment stemmed from a discussion of high book prices and low author royalties.

Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive?

Remember 'need' from earlier? You need cash to get the book to reviewers. You need cash to get the distributors to stock it. Heck, Barnes & Noble charges a cool six figures for front-window space. Hey, it's their space, right? Why not charge to get the book good placement? It warms my free market heart. So does Amazon brutalizing B&N in revenues.

Innovation heads industry. Improving availability, distribution, or price can lead to a significant profit in any business. Epublishing does all three. I note no one is arguing the first two points. The money is where the battle is waged, and consumers wield all the power. They're voting with their dollars. The early polls show this new innovation to be a real winner.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ebook Piracy

So I was watching a long, involved forum thread the other day, and one of the posters admitted to stealing eBooks simply because they couldn't afford to pay for them. The morality of what he does as an aside, and avoiding the pitchfork-and-torches crowd, it got me to thinking of the times in college when I'd grab a game from the still-swaddled Intertron or crack a friend's copy.

Yes, that's right, I've done this. I'll be down to face the guillotine shortly. Just let me finish my post.

I remembered not having money, but I also remembered that somehow I managed to purchase the good games that came out of the list of pirated games. Thief, Unreal, Duke Nukem, and System Shock, to name a few. Now, this was before having a demo was accepted wisdom. Publishers argued that users would simply play the demo over and over and never buy the game. Sure, that was possible, but the demo is hardly the full game. If I enjoyed that game, I wanted more. These are the ones I bought.

The good games.

Now we move forward to a time when most games have a demo and I have (or rather had) the cash to buy just about anything I wanted. I no longer pirate games. I can try before I buy. For the few games that have no demos, I either know that it's one I want, or I just don't play it, or I wait for it to hit the $5 price on STEAM.

And now I consider that behavior as it applies to eBooks. How does one decide to press the Purchase button?

Is the description concise? Do I know what I'm getting? If I'm in the mood for action-adventure set in a fictional tenth-century Europe and the book turns out to be the author's Dark Age version of Pride and Prejudice, I'm going to be annoyed.

Are there free samples? Is there a demo, as it were? If I can read the first chapter, I'll know if I'm interested enough to continue. Description aside, nothing says more about the book than the actual prose. And, again, it's another way of letting me try before I buy. I know what I'm getting.

Is it expensive? If I'm still waffling on any of the above points, the price can tip me one way or another. $2.99? Impulse buy. Sure. I can get a couple of two-liters of coke, or I can buy a book. Probably going with the book. $14.99? Okay, just what kind of scam is this? I really don't care how much the publishers shelled out for the cover, editing, and (most annoyingly) the marketing and shelf space for the physical copies. Not my concern. I do know that I can enjoy a good lunch at a decent restaurant and a couple of beers for that and read my $2.99 book. Think I'll go with that second option.

Yet, all of this can be trumped by truly amazing work. If that chapter is really intriguing, I'm much more inclined to put down the $15. (Though I doubt there's a description good enough to pry that cash from my fingers without a sample chapter). If it's part of a series that I've loved (note, not enjoyed: LOVED!) then I'm inclined to pay more. I'll curse their greed, but I'll still put down the green. Again, that's the key.

The good books get bought.

Now, how does it all relate to the piracy problem? Well, let's look back at why I used to copy out games. I wanted quality games. I wanted to know what I was buying. I wanted a fair price. The first two points are on the same coin. The price is negotiable based on my wants and desires.

Good work will get purchased. How does one know it's good? A sample chapter and positive reviews.

Marginal work will also get purchased, but only if the price is right.

Now, one man's good work is another man's garbage. Give your readers the tools to decide where yours falls in that spectrum, but price the work towards the lower end. Just in case.

George Galuschak: The Big Splash

http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20100816/splash-f.shtml

George Galuschak is a good friend and a superior writer.

If you've got beloved pets, this one will tug the heartstrings.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Star Trek: These Captains Are Too Damn Good

Yes, I'm bashing on Captain Picard.

You're a madman, Kelley! You'll kill us all!

Yes, very likely, but that's not the subject of this post. My complaint about Star Trek is that their characters are too perfect in a military sense. Starfleet doesn't make any mediocre captains. The institution is a complete meritocracy. Anyone in command has fully and completely earned the right to be there.

This is incredibly unrealistic, and can give readers very unrealistic expectations.

Now, you may think I'm complaining about a lack of realism in a science fiction franchise. No, no. I'm complaining about a lack of realism in these characters. We humans are broken things. The dictionary is filled with words to describe our negative character traits. In a captain (the position of ultimate authority in an isolated community) these traits magnify, create conflict, create interest in a story, and Star Trek robs us of that.

A vain captain may require more effort put into the appearance of his ship than in her functionality. A tyrannical captain creates a sluggish, mutinous crew. A grasping or ambitious captain can create an atmosphere of destructive competition.

Yet, we've all grown up watching Star Trek. The captains we've seen have no significant flaws. Captain Picard is the very Avatar of Command. He never loses his temper. He never reaches for glory. He's not shy about combat. He never blames others for his mistakes. For that matter, he almost never makes a mistake. Seriously, can you think of any? I can't. He's an exceptional officer, and we're all quite familiar with him and his habits.

And the other two captains are no better. Sisko hates to lose. In fact, his personality fractures when he starts to lose. But, that sort of flaw works out pretty well when you're fighting a war. Janeway demonstrates obsessive single-minded pursuit of a goal. Well, that's okay if you're millions of light years from home and your task is the safe return of ship and crew. That's like saying in a job interview that you 'work too hard'.


Now let's take your scifi reader. Odds are good they're thoroughly familiar with these characters. These perfect characters. A captain who abuses his authority, even trivially, begs the question from the reader: Who would put this person in command? Without an answer, you run afoul of the reader's suspension of disbelief, and it's all Star Trek's fault.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What's All This Then?

Port Terra is the blog for writer Eric F. Kelley. And that's me!

Port Terra is where I post up new releases, muse about industry things, link to other blogs, and generally make a digital nuisance of myself. In effect: graffiti.

I'm very poor with introductions, so, I'll just settle with telling you a little bit about myself. I write books for a living. Over the last fifteen years I've written six novels. Two of them are okay. As for the other four, well... let's just say there's a reason babies are cute. Mine weren't. They got eaten.

The current project is entitled For Empress And Empire, a space opera set in what I'm calling the Age of StarSail. If you like Patrick O'Brian, C.S. Forester, Star Wars, and/or Star Trek, you'll probably like this. Take tall ships, fit them out with shiny technology, and let them sail the dark places between the planets. There's prizes to be taken, pirates to be hunted, and a war to be won. When the first book is on sale, you'll hear about it, and there'll be links. Lots and lots of links.

On a more personal note, I've got three cats, a lovely girlfriend, like movies about sailing ships, and play way too many video games than is healthy for a man my age.  You will often see posts about games here. Fair warning!

A note on moderation: I've got the authenticator enabled. Serious apologies for that, but the gold farmers love to spam blogs. Can't stand that myself.

I will also not tolerate the usual boilerplate list of things and blah blah, etc etc, and so on. I will occasionally post the odd controversial topic, so, at those times especially, I retain the right to moderate posts, people, and offensive commentary.

Thanks for dropping by!