Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Weird Wednesday - The Evolution Machine

First, check out this article from New Scientist about The Evolution Machine. It's OK, I'll wait.

I love the description in the first paragraph of what sounds like a mad scientist Lego Machine mixed with Dr. Frankenstein designer labware and tormented bacteria. And, it would all fit on the desk in your dorm room or spare bedroom:
"Say hello to the evolution machine. It can achieve in days what takes genetic engineers years. So far it is just a prototype, but if its proponents are to be believed, future versions could revolutionise biology, allowing us to evolve new organisms or rewrite whole genomes with ease. It might even transform humanity itself."
That last line is pretty bold, but it's the aim of a geneticist from Harvard Medical School named George Church. His group has created this machine designed to "evolve" biological organisms using "highly directed evolution." This method of genetic engineering has been christened MAGE - Multiplex Automated Genome Engineering.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mythik Imagination #1 Reviewed

There's a good review of Mythik Imagination #1 at Frida Fantastic. Frida really knows her speculative fiction, and has a good breakdown of the three stories in MI#1. I like these kinds of reviews because they give you such a great idea of what the stories are like, you can decide if they might be for you or not.

While the above is for the readers out there, this next bit (also from Frida) is for you writers: How To Get Book Reviewers To Ignore You. I can't believe there is even a necessity for such a post, but apparently many Indie Authors have a problem with following directions and common sense. So go read it and don't let it happen to you! Er, wait... Better go quick before I take the link down - I just realized the more people who eliminate themselves from the writer gene pool means better odds for me ;)

Anyway, check out Frida Fantastic.  Even if you are interested in none of the above, she has great in-depth, insightful reviews. She really cares about reading and readers. And probably has too much of a soft spot for Indie Authors. Just remember Lester Bangs' advice from Almost Famous. And that's my review of the reviewer :)

Coming up tomorrow: Another exciting edition of Weird Wednesday.

Monday, June 27, 2011

FYI - Barnes & Noble and iTunes Added

It looks like the distribution to Barnes & Noble and iTunes has finally gone through for Mythik Imagination #1. So that's the good news..


Since this blog is the "behind the scenes exclusive view" of all things Mythik (we are all about transparency, right?) I will say that I'm still not entirely happy with what the Smashwords Meatgrinder and I came up with in regards to the formatting of all the Smashwords versions of MI#1 (which includes iTunes and B&N.) I am a bit hesitant, though, to upload a new version to "fix" what isn't really broken. I might make it worse (haha, a very minor version of the "Unintended Consequences" scenario from the last Weird Wednesday.) Anyway, the problem is that sometimes the chapter breaks seem to cut off the titles. I was sure when I first downloaded and tested, it worked fine, but now it looks like it doesn't. It's very frustrating, after following the Style Guide so carefully. Anyway, I will try to make improvements with #2. On the flip side, I was very pleased with the Kindle version.

And in other FYI news, I'm making the final revisions to the print edition of MI#1. I think it will look really cool. So stay tuned for that.

I'm really excited about the MI#1 Podiobook. I'm behind schedule on that, but it should be a cross between the old CBS Radio Mystery Theater and a spoken-word Twilight Zone. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to "make use of time, let not advantage slip." Ha that's Shakespeare - who says the SF genre isn't literate? But I've got some good actors lined up and hopefully will get it done soon.

I'm still struggling to get MI#2 finished. So much to do, so little time...

What projects are you working on?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Disco Friday

Ha, fooled you. It's not Disco as in late '70s music and ducks, but Disco as in Disco-very. Get it? I know, whatever.

Anyway, here are a few things I've discovered in my virtual travels that you might find interesting:
  • Book Trailers for Promotion - Yay or Nay? - This is a nice little overview of the Book Trailer Phenomenon. Okay, cool. But you really have to look at the hilarious videos at the end of the post. I mean, really. Right now. I know everybody always says everything is hilarious, and everybody always says look right now blah, blah, blah, but in this case it really is really funny. If you've published a book or even considered it, these vids will be especially hilarious. Okay, I'm not going to use the word hilarious any more. Thanks to Lindsay Buroker.
  • How to rise above the self-published slush pile - A great point-by-point guide that any Indie Author would do well to study. Thanks to Frida Fantastic.
  • - This just might be my favorite place on the internet. Which might seem odd, considering I haven't been there in ages. To tell the truth, it is a bit overwhelming to me, and I could easily spend hours there. You can find me as Jon Mac and check out some of the stuff we've RECorded. Now with work and writing and publishing and whatnot, I don't have the time, but hopefully that will change soon. You are no doubt very busy, too, but you should still try to check it out. If you are a creative type at all, HitRECord will make you feel like a kid in a candy store. It's a treasure trove of artists, writers, videographers, editors, singers, musicians and more. Everybody can use everybody else's stuff and there are always a lot of amazing collaborations going on. If you like to be more of a looker than a doer, then there are plenty of projects/art/music/conversations to see, hear and feel (yes, they even make physical objects as well as media of the electro variety.) You can take part as little or as much as you want. Thanks to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (aka Regular Joe.)
Do you have any cool links you'd like to share?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interviewed by Nicholas Olivo

I've been lucky enough to be interviewed by Nicholas Olivo. He also has funny posts and very good Scrivener tutorials, so I recommend you check out his site even if you skip my interview.

Since we're being all personal and whatnot, I'll take this opportunity to say "Thanks, Nick!" It is actually really cool that somebody I didn't know took the time and interest to find out more about Mythik Imagination and me.

All right, I need to get back to work.

Thanks, stay Mythik and stay tuned :)

Weird Wednesday - Lifeboat Foundation

At first, I thought the Lifeboat Foundation was a made up thing. Maybe some kind of J.J. Abrams-esque fictional web site along the lines of the Hanso Foundation. But nope, it appears to be the real deal.

The purpose of the Lifeboat Foundation is to protect humanity from, well, just about everything. From nano-plagues to asteroidal extinction, they have a plan to save the day. Heck, they even have backups for backups.

Ark-I, a self sustaining space colony, is their "fallback position in case programs such as our BioShield and NanoShield fail." That's some serious safety! The foundation is a treasure trove of sometimes weird, but always fascinating, emerging technologies such as: smart dust, space guns, and space elevators. I also like how they apply Murphy's Law to artificial intelligence. You just know that can't end well.

And I love how they connect SETI with the reason why you really need to have somebody keeping an eye on you. Check out this quote on their Security Preserver page:
"There's a long-standing problem in astronomy called the Fermi Paradox, named for physicist Enrico Fermi who first proposed it in 1950. If the universe should be teeming with life, asked Fermi, then where are all the aliens? The question is even more vexing today: SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence with radio telescopes, has utterly failed to turn up any sign of alien life forms. Why?

One chillingly likely possibility is that, as the ability to wreak damage on a grand scale becomes more readily available to individuals, soon enough just one malcontent, or one lunatic, will be able to destroy an entire world. Perhaps countless alien civilizations have already been wiped out by single terrorists who'd been left alone to work unmonitored in their private laboratories."
So the reason we are alone in the Universe is because ET mad scientists always blow everything up before they can say "Hi." If that isn't grist for the pulp mill, I don't know what is!

The quote is actually from science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, which the Lifeboat Foundation uses to illustrate their point about how there should be debate about the role of surveillance in the future.

One very interesting (heck they are all interesting) LF program is the AI Shield. One of the greatest threats we may face is the age-old problem of Unintended Consequences:
"Consider the simple case of an AGI that has been given the uncontroversial goal of eradicating malaria. A reasonable human expectation would be that such an AI would complete its goal by conventional means: perhaps by developing a new anti-malarial drug, or by initiating a program of mosquito control. The problem is that there are many other ways of eradicating malaria, some of which are undesirable. For example, an AGI might choose to eradicate malaria by eradicating all mammals."
Thankfully, The Lifeboat Foundation is on the job to avoid just those kind of situations. That may be bad news  for HAL, Colossus, and Sky-Net, but good news for us. Umm, assuming you aren't an artificially intelligent silicon-based life form. And if you are, please like my Facebook page.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Step by Step Scrivener to Kindle Tutorial

There are many ways to get your content onto a Kindle. But it's not so simple finding a way that produces satisfactory results. For Mythik Imagination #1, I used an .html template (shout out to Derek J. Canyon "Thanks for the template!") and formatted by hand. It seemed to work pretty well, but is tedious if you have to do a lot of unusual formatting. For instance I needed a lot of italics, so it was a pain to add the many, many, many HTML tags by hand.

My goal was to find a program I could use to write all my drafts, then be able to export to send to the proofreader/editor, then paste in the final locked words, then export to a nicely formatted and professional looking Kindle file, ready for uploading. I think I've found a one-stop method of doing all that, using Scrivener.

Scrivener is a great little program that has big capabilities. It is really amazing with all the things it can do. I don't know most of those things yet, because I've been focused on just one thing: Kindle formatting. You can Google dozens of Scrivener tutorials (and heck, even read the manual haha,) and you can also go see Nicholas Olivo for good Scrivener tutorials.

You should know the basics of Scrivener before using this tutorial. I also have a disclaimer. This method seems to work really well in my tests. But, I'm paranoid, so I won't be entirely convinced until I actually upload to Amazon, then buy the finished product and see what the buyer sees. So, I'm not guaranteeing anything just yet. But it should give you a head start to see for yourself if you like this technique or not. - UPDATE: So I have now used this method on The Human Ate My Pumpkin! and it worked great :)

For convenience sake, here are some helpful links before we start:

All right, you have written your masterpiece, and now you want to get it on a Kindle, using Scrivener. Here's how to do it:

First, you will need to download and install two programs (available for Mac or PC) from Amazon:

The first is KindleGen, which is the program that Scrivener will use to do the actual converting to .mobi format.

The second is Kindle Previewer, which will let you see how your newly created .mobi file will look on a Kindle device or app.

So download those now and install them. It's okay, I'll wait.

I'm going to assume that you've figured out the basics of how Scrivener works, including the Compile command. But, if you haven't, I'll give you head start:

Select File>Compile…

Then select Compile For: Kindle eBook (.mobi) and select KindleGen from the Compilation Options.

Now you need to tell Scrivener where to find the KindleGen program. So, just point it to wherever you installed KindleGen. There's also a handy link to the Amazon KindleGen download page if you haven't downloaded it yet.

Okay, now you are ready to rock. Cancel the compile window and let's get down to bizness!

Here's a new, blank Scrivener project:

Organize Scrivener's binder the way you want your Kindle book to look. You will see I used a combination of folders and files. In the Scrivener Universe, folders and files are essentially the same. They are both containers that you can also write on. But when you compile, you can set each of those types to do different things. So here I have six sections that will be in my book:

Front Matter (folder)
Contents (folder)
Chapter 1 (file)
Chapter 2 (file)
Chapter 3 (file)
Back Matter (file)

Front Matter is just a fancy way of saying "All the stuff that comes before your actual story," like the title and copyright info, etc. The consensus seems to be to keep the front matter short. The Chapters are, well, chapters of your novel, but in my case, they will be my short stories. The Back Matter is whatever you have after your story, such as an Afterword, links to your website and other books, excerpts from other books, whatever.

So here is what I will have for my book:

What you name these folders and files is very important, because the Compile settings will use these names to automatically title each of your sections using the folder or file name. It works like this: The title of my front matter will be Mythik Imagination #2, which will also have the text of the copyright etc. The title of my contents page will be Contents: and it will have the text of my table of contents. Each of my chapters will be titled with their respective names and contain the text of the actual story. Got it? Good.

Also, remember that that folders can have text, just like files. So, my front matter folder (called Mythik Imagination #2) will have the text of the front matter written on it. (You can think of it as an empty folder, since it doesn't contain anything inside it, but it has the text of the front matter --copyright etc.-- written on it.) The Contents folder is the same. Make sense? No?Don't worry; it will all become clear.

Next, we are going to create our Table of Contents. I select all of my chapters, which are The Silver Skull, The Schofield Crew, Requiem For The Wild West, and Author's Note.

Then I go to the menu bar and select Edit>Copy Special>Copy Documents as Scrivener Links:

Boom! Now I select the empty Contents folder:

Then right click (control-click on Mac) in the editing area and select Paste:

And viola:

There is our table of contents. Note, this screen shot is after I selected Align Text Center and I have Show Invisibles turned on, which is why you see those backwards "P" symbol things. For more detail about creating an eBook table of contents, you can look at the Scrivener User Manual, at the bottom of page 252.

There's one more thing to do before we compile. You've already got your cover art, right? Right? Please say yes. Good! 

Here's some bonus info on the interior Kindle cover. First, do not confuse this with the Catalog Cover. The Catalog Cover is the super-duper high quality image you upload when publishing on the Amazon KDP site.

But forget that for now. Right now we are concerned with the actual cover image that will be the very first page of your Kindle book. This is known as the Cover Image Within Kindle Book. Oddly enough, help for that can be found on the page titled: Formatting Images Within Kindle Book

You don't know it, but I just backspaced over a bunch of info that would have turned this into a graphics tutorial. Instead, I'll just say this:

Cover Image Within Kindle Book specs:
Format: .jpg
Dimensions: about 600 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall
File Size: 127KB or less

That's a pretty small file size, so you may have to tweak the export settings of your graphics program to get the size right. It's worth the effort, though. Try to get as close to 127KB without going over, because your image will look better. My file size was 125KB, and it looks sharp and clean. Theoretically, if your image's file size is too big, KDP will do extra compression to reduce the size and it may not look very good.

Now, name it something logical, like Interior_Cover.jpg and save it where you can find it. Now drag it into the Research folder in the Binder of Scrivener:

Very good.

Okay, so now let's say you have all the content of your front matter, chapters and back matter. It's all been proofread and edited and is word perfect, right? Right. Now let's make it a Kindle book!

Go back to Compile:

Compile: Contents
Make sure you have selected Compile For: Kindle eBook (.mobi) and then select Contents under Compilation Options:

We are going to include all of our folders and files. We want to checkmark Pg Break Before for everything except Mythik Imagination #2 (our Front Matter.)

Compile: Formatting

Here, we are going to include the Title and Text for Folders and for files. We are not checkmarking anything on the middle line, because those are File Groups, which we aren't using. Here's why I made the front matter and contents folders instead of files. Because now we can set the Folder Title to "Heading 1" and set the Page padding to 3 lines.

AND we can set the Files Title to Heading 1 (or a different Heading if we wanted) and set Page padding to 8 lines. Heading changes the size of the Title, and Page padding determines how far down the page the Title is. So we end up with different settings for our Files, which are also our chapters.

Compile: Processing Options

I'm not going to get into all of the reasons for the various settings (yes, we are trained monkeys pressing buttons.) Just make sure it looks like the pic.

Compile: Separators

Section breaks determine where the Kindle will start new pages. The way our layout is organized, we want to have a Section break between everything. Just do it, please.

Compile: Cover
Now we get to use the cover image we worked so hard on in Step-4:

Just select the cover image. It's pretty straightforward, especially if that's the only image in your Research folder.

Compile: E-Book Options

Copy these settings. Make sure that whatever text you type into the "HTML table of contents title:" field matches exactly the name of your Contents: folder. Note that here I used "Contents:" with the colon. That is because my Contents: folder actually has a colon:

When Scrivener compiles, it will automatically add the folder and page names, remember? so my final contents page will look like this:

Okay, we're almost done…

HTML Options

Make sure "Convert Scrivener links to HTML links" is checkmarked.

All the other Compilation Options should be fine to leave in their default settings.

Hit the Compile button.

When you save it, you will have a file ending in .mobi. That is your Kindle book :)

Open up the Kindle Previewer and drag your newly created .mobi file into Kindle Previewer. You should see a nicely formatted, professional looking Kindle book. Check it over and over again to make sure everything turned out the way you planned.

That's it. You should be able to upload the .mobi file to KDP and be good to go. Theoretically. I will make an update to this once I've done it. But in the meantime, this should give you a good idea of how to format your Kindle book using Scrivener.

So test it out, experiment, and have fun!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Great Indy Summer Read Giveaway

Guess what? It's time for The Great Indy Summer Read Giveaway!! Katja at is hosting this cool event where you could get some free books.

Of course, one of those books just happens to be of the Mythik variety ;)

You can also check out the books at Goodreads.

There will be a LOT of winners, which will be chosen randomly. Find out how you can increase your chances of winning by reading the instructions page.

1st winner will receive 10 different books

2nd & 3rd winners will receive 5 different books
4th & 5th winners will receive 3 different books
6th – 10th winners will receive 2 different books

So have fun and good luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Weird Wednesday - The Flying Wombat

Welcome to Weird Wednesday. Today we feature what I think is one of the most surprising cars of all time: The 1938 Phantom Corsair. If there was ever a real-life Pulp Hero-mobile, this is it.

It was nicknamed The Flying Wombat, due to the part it played in a 1938 movie, and you can bet I'll be having some pulp adventure character flying down a moonlit midnight road in this baby.

I debated whether it was actually weird enough to be featured in a Weird Wednesday. But imagine how wild it would have seemed to other motorists who pulled up next to the Flying Wombat in 1938! Designed by Rust Heinz, an heir to the famous ketchup fortune, and Maurice Schwartz, the Phantom Corsair was supposed to be the Motor Car of Tomorrow.

It had such futuristic features as air-conditioning, push-button doors, electric 4-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, tinted non-glare windshield, aircraft-style instrument panel with over 20 dials and switches, a radio with dual speakers, and a 4.7 liter V8 engine. And it could comfortably seat a hero and five sidekicks while racing along at 115 mph with no wind noise.

But sadly, it was not to be. Rust Heinz died shortly after the first car was completed, and plans to put the design into production were dropped. We can only wonder how history might have been changed if the Flying Wombat had been able to compete with the likes of Cadillac, Nash and Studebaker.

For some really cool eye candy, check out these amazing pics of the Flying Wombat.

Today you can find the one and only Phantom Corsair in the biggest little city in the world, at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The eBook Revolution and the New Writer - Part 2

If you've already read Part-1, welcome back. If not, don't worry. I'm sure you'll figure out what's going on. On second thought, this is a bit of a tangent before I bring it all together, so maybe read Part-1 first after all.

Here's a short tale, beginning with a quote from Peter Egan:
"In any contest between the two, doing beats having every time."
I've been a gearhead for almost as long as I've been making up stories. In my misspent youth, I used to devour every issue of Road & Track. The first thing I would read in every issue was the column by Peter Egan, called Side Glances. The columns easily equaled (and many times even surpassed) the thrilling racing reports, luscious Lamborghini photos, and retrospectives on such classics as the '38 Phantom Corsair. Side Glances often had humorous stories about old sports cars (usually British) combined with little nuggets of wisdom about life. It always related to cars in some way, but you never knew exactly where it would end up. A side glance as you travel down the road of life, I guess.

I liked some of the columns so much I would cut them out and put them on my fridge. One of my favorites was when Peter told the story of what happened when he and his friends were testing some cars at the local race track. It's been a while, so my apologies to Mr. Egan if I get the details wrong.

Some guy rolled up in a 300ZX or maybe it was a 944 (I told you it was a while ago.) The guy started chatting with them about cars and racing etc. Then he said something to the effect of "Ya know, I've always wanted to go racing..." Which of course, pushed the wrong button for Peter's friend (sorry, nameless friend, Google wasn't much help this time.) Peter's friend had probably heard some version of this a thousand times. One thousand and one was apparently one too many. He said to the guy: "No you haven't. You haven't always wanted to race." The point being, if this guy had "always wanted to go racing," he would have. But he didn't.

Instead, this guy chose to do other things with his time, money and effort. Which is perfectly fine, of course. But he enjoyed believing that someday he would choose differently and actually go racing.

The rest of the column was about how we all have things we might like to say we've always wanted to do. But truthfully, we really didn't always want to do them. Instead, they were just things we'd idly think about once in a while. And usually that thought would involve the word "someday." But you can't put "someday" in your iCal, can you?

I'm sure many philosophers or self-help gurus have already covered this ground, but it seems to me that people eventually end up just where they really want to be, whether they want to admit it or not. So Peter told about things he'd thought he'd always wanted to do and the things he actually did. Some things, like skydiving, were just occasional thoughts he would have, but other things, like racing and writing, were passions. You see, life can interfere with the best laid plans, but where passions are concerned, you find a way.

It may involve sacrifice and setting priorities. It might even take a long time. I'm sure when Peter's friends were going out to dinner, driving brand new cars, and buying new houses, he was perfectly happy with the beat up old station wagon that doubled as a tow car and spending all his disposable income on used tires and other parts for his race car. Instead of having stuff, Peter chose to do his passion. I'd think he'd say it turned out pretty well. By the time he wrote that article, he was living his dream, testing cars on a race track and getting paid to write about it. Something he probably would have gladly done for free. He's continued to live that dream in the decades since then.

But, it's not as if he just magically woke up one morning and found he was working for Road & Track and suddenly living his dream. He'd been living that dream all along, even when subsisting on PB&J while sleeping in the back of his station wagon on race weekend, before he "made it big." And it was all because he believed doing beats having.

So the moral of this little tale, and how it relates to ePublishing and the New Writer, is this:

If somebody (such as imaginary Bart from Part-1 - see, go read Part-1 if you haven't) has written a book and published it on Amazon & Smashwords, etc., that's only the beginning, not the end result. Bart is already beyond the "someday" phase, which is great. But he needs to keep going. If his passion is writing, then he needs to just do it and not worry about sales and how many followers his Facebook and Twitter accounts have. What he does need to do is write more books and have an idea what he will be writing next month and next year. Writing and finishing a book is a great accomplishment. I am sincere when I say "Congratulations." I am sarcastic when I say "Now go celebrate it with a million other people in exactly the same boat as you."

Note: I am not saying "Build it and they will come." I'm not saying marketing isn't important. But look at the big picture. Don't get caught up in the hype of this new thing called ePublishing. If writing is your passion, then make it your career. You're not going to be able to quit your day job overnight. But have a plan. Literally make a business plan. Google it. Figure out where you want your writing career to be in a year, three years, five years, ten years from now. If you want to have the success of a pro, then act like a pro and be a pro. Set your goals, then make a map of how you want to get there one step at a time.

None of the ePublishing success stories happened over night or in one month. They all required a lot of hard work, time, and effort. You might have to sacrifice some things. Maybe you have to get up an hour or two earlier to find the time to write. Maybe you will need to pass on that new TV and invest in better cover art or editing for your next book. Doing beats having.

The New Writer is the same as the Old Writer, except now we have more options, and more control. With this new power comes new responsibility. Instead of getting caught up in who has what sales, take charge of your own writing. Make it as good as you can. The New Writer is their own CEO and the head of their own marketing and art departments. Delegate to others if you have the budget, but remember it's all up to you, so you better be prepared.

So I would say to Bart, don't worry about whether you sell 10 books in a month or a hundred. You will do fine if you think long term. If this is your passion, then you're here to stay. You're doing your dream. If you keep doing that, then success will come.

But, what do I know -- it's taken me 30 years just to get three short stories independently published ;)

Monday, June 13, 2011

The eBook Revolution and the New Writer - Part 1

And now an unsolicited Mythik editorial:

Let's dig deep into the ole' Mythik mailbag and see what we can find. Okay, here is a good letter. It's from Bart in Nacogdoches, Texas. Bart writes:

Dear Mr. Mythik,
I'm an Indy Author and I just published my first novel on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and a bunch of other places. It's been over a month, and I am still not on the best-seller lists. What am I doing wrong? Please help!
Bart -- Distressed in Nacogdoches  
First of all, Bart, enough with the "mister" stuff. We're pretty casual around here. Second, how should I know? You've been doing this longer than me. Third, you're in luck, because I do actually have a very simple answer to your question. Ready? Pay attention, because it goes by quick. You want to know what you are doing wrong? Okay, here's the answer:

Nothing. There ya go.

All right, I have to admit there is no Mythik mailbag, and nobody is sending letters (how very 20th century) to Mr. Mythik. But if they did, I would give them the same answer as I did to imaginary Bart.

I know what you're thinking. What do I know about this stuff, right? Why should I be talking about this? The reason I bring this up at all is because I've noticed a lot of things flying around the invisible airwaves of the internet about the eBook Revolution, and what I am terming the "New Writer" (which will soon become like "New Media" i.e. not "new" at all after a while.) There's tons of speculation and advice about ePublishing and even a few facts here and there. One fact you may have noticed is all those people who are suddenly toting around these anorexic Tricorder-like devices called Kindles, Nooks, iPads etc. And, much like cell phones in the late '90s, I don't think they are going away any time soon. As a speculative fiction writer, I love to, um, speculate on the real-life trends of our world of the future. So I give you my (no doubt, unasked for) 2 cents of opinion of ePublishing in two easy parts:

I will assume imaginary Bart isn't involved in some sort of eBook Get Rich Quick Scam. It goes without saying that people who use software to automatically self-publish thousands of spam and plagiarized books are bad apples that just irritate readers and add noise to the electronic bookshelves, making it hard to find the good stuff. This is why I prefer the term independent rather than self-published. I know, a label shouldn't matter, but here's why I make the distinction: Any yahoo with a computer can self-publish an eBook. Even if they aren't actually scamming or spamming, there's no guarantee they aren't just uploading random words. I've hit the "send sample" button and received a book with 20 blank pages (well not totally blank - some of them had a few dashes on them. Modern art, perhaps, or maybe a secret code, but it definitely didn't entice me to spend $2.99 to find out how it ended.)

I like the term independent, as used in independent film, because it just means it is produced outside of the Hollywood major studio system. It does not mean unprofessional. It doesn't necessarily always mean low budget either, although it usually is when compared to the average Hollywood movie. In the ePublishing world, I define independent as outside the much maligned big publishing system. It can be a first-time author on a shoe-string budget (or no budget,) or it could be an established writer with dozens of backlist books. I'll get into this a bit more in a future post, but here's my definition of an Indy Author:
"Someone who does all the things a "traditional" publisher would, only on a smaller scale. (And theoretically, faster, cheaper, and hopefully better. Not better because of some magical "Indy Spirit," but potentially better because of an attention to detail that should be possible when the artist has all the control and is willing to shoulder all of the responsibility.) They may do the artwork, editing, formatting, marketing etc. on their own, or hire professionals to do these tasks. The end result is professional and should be as good or better than traditional publishing companies. The reader should be unable to distinguish Indy from traditional based on format and presentation."
Notice, there is nothing in the definition about quality of story content. Hey Bart, your historical comedy-romance about the Black Plague may outsell J.K. Rowling and Stephen King combined, who knows. That's for the reader to decide. But if you get a 1-star review, then just deal with it. As long as what the reviewer complained about was lifeless characters, dull setting, and boring plot, you will be fine. If writing is your passion, you'll either adapt and make the necessary adjustments or decide that Black Plague comedy isn't that particular reviewer's cup of tea. Critics disagree all the time. Art is subjective, especially when people spend their hard earned money on it. But if the critics complain that your book is equivalent to a bad YouTube video shot on a cell phone in a dark room with unintelligible audio, you're in trouble.

So, let's also assume that Bart's book is not plagued (ha, get it?) by wordssmashedtogether  wit-h occ-asion-al hyp-hens in the wrong places or wŦŒird charaĦ■◗cters and all the other things (misspellings, atrocious grammar, etc.) hard working readers rightly complain about. Let's also assume that the book does have a potential audience somewhere out there. That brings us to Part-2.

Which will be continued next time :)

Go to Part-2

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Weird Wednesday - The Lenticular Reentry Vehicle

Imagine that you wake up early one morning in the 1970's. You walk into your kitchen, which is filled with avocado green & mustard yellow appliances. Your space-age Mr. Coffee machine has already percolated a nice cup of joe. You take a sip and set the cup down on the bright orange countertop. You smile and look forward to the adventure of the coming day. For you are an astronaut in the Space Bomber Force, and today's the day you will ride a flying saucer to outer space.

This was the scenario dreamed up by cold war planners in the 1960's. The US Air Force was considering the use of a top secret orbital weapons system way before Star Wars was even a glimmer in George Lucas' eye. The command post for this "Minuteman in space" concept was the Lenticular Reentry Vehicle, also known as the Manned Bombardment and Control Vehicle.

This  little known piece of spacecraft history was kept secret for decades. Details are sketchy, since only bits and pieces of this project have been declassified. The LRV had a crew of four and probably would have used the Apollo Saturn V to boost it into orbit. Then it would park in the vicinity of several weapons platforms, each containing clusters of thermonuclear missiles. The job of the LRV crew was to scrub off alien "Moscow or Bust" graffiti, check for meteor holes, top off the fuel, and otherwise make sure the ultimate doomsday machine was in perfect, shiny working order. And, of course, they had to be ready to push the big red LAUNCH button if the wrong people decided to go all Dr. Strangelove. Then after six weeks, they'd hand off the keys to armageddon to the next shift, and return to earth in their saucer.

Who knows, if a few quantum variables had gone a bit differently, we might have had Air Force flying saucers going back and forth to a nuclear sword of Daedalus Damocles hanging over planet earth. The storylines we could have with that are endless. You could have an alien wander by and mess with the minds of the crew. Or maybe one of them goes crazy after too many weeks of never-ending games of Yahtzee. Or maybe there's a Crimson Tide scenario where a solar storm interrupts a message that says "This is a t___. Get ready to L___." Then our hapless crew needs to decide if they are supposed to start a nuclear war, end it, or just have lunch.

One real-life possibility is that the LRV actually reached the prototype stage, and could account for some "UFO" sightings. There are even claims that debris from a crashed LRV was found in Australia. Maybe the LRV actually made it off  the drawing board and routinely makes trips to the secret base on the dark side of the moon. Only the janitor at Area-51 knows for sure.

With the imminent retirement of the Space Shuttle, maybe we should revive the flying saucer that almost was, and bring back the LRV. Only without the potential nuclear winter part.

Here's to the LRV. It may have a boring name, but it sure looks cool. What other weird things do you think will be eventually declassified?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fun And Games Monday

Well, it's time for Fun & Games Monday!

Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for this cool blogfest!

Unfortunately, the computer I do my blogging on is part of a machine room that has undergone a quantum fusion meltdown. So, I am posting this with my phone. I'll try to do a proper post when things return to normal.

For now, though, let's have some Fun & Games!

My entry in this blogfest is about baseball. Baseball?? Yep, I know, it doesn't sound exciting, and it's not high tech and has nothing to do with science fiction or writing.

Let's go back in time to a summer of my youth. One day, friends and relatives all congregated at a local park. Everbody was laughing and joking and having fun. Somebody had an idea to play baseball. I don't think I had ever played before. But that didn't matter. It was amazing. Standing on the green grass under an incredible blue July sky, the sun seemed to smile on everybody. We all played hard, but the important thing was the "play." The important thing was to have fun. You know, it wasn't the end of the world if you dropped a fly ball or threw to the wrong base. What mattered was being part of the team and actually having fun.

No other sports experiences were quite as fun as that day. I'm all for healthy competition, but I think sometimes the fun & games part is forgotten in sports. But on that one perfect summer day, friends and family all joined together to play a game the way it was meant to be played.

Hmm, maybe I could work that into some kind of time travel story ;)

Update: Wahoo, the Mythik HAL 8999 computer is un-melted. Of course, I now have to rush like crazy to finish everything that was thrown off schedule by the meltdown. But I'll sneak in here now to finish this post. I will be checking out all the other Fun & Games blogfests as soon as I can!

The next game is probably my favorite video game of all time: Joust. How good was it? Good enough for me and my best friend to walk a mile in the snow to get to the only place in town that had a Joust machine. How can you go wrong with flying ostriches, pterodactyls, and a lava monster that would reach out and pull you in to the lava if you flew too close? The sound effects were amazing, including what is probably the funniest/scariest sounding pterodactyl ever. And I don't know if there was anything more stressful than rushing to gobble up all the ostrich eggs before they turned into evil ostrich riders. Long live Joust.

And finally, one of the greatest games of all time is Guess The Story Of The People At The Airport. Also known as GTSOTPATA. I'm at the airport, waiting to board my hopefully stress-fracture-free plane. A man and a woman meet and sit down next to each other. What's their story? In my mind, it goes something like this:

   Woman: "Did you get it?"
   Man: "Yes."
   Woman: "You weren't followed, were you?"
   Man: "No. But that dorky guy over there is looking at us like we are KGB agents or something."
   Woman: "Forget about him. He's just playing a stupid airport game. Give me the formula."
   Man: "Wait. You won't double-cross me again, like that time in Prague, right?"
   Woman: "Of course not. Now give me the formula."

Then I get distracted by an announcement that the plane will be five hours late. When I return to the game, the mysterious man and woman are gone!

Okay, that's it for fun and games! Happy Monday :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mythik Imagination #1 - Three Pulp Sci-Fi Short Stories On Sale Now

Wahoo, Mythik Imagination #1, the first in a (hopefully) long series of Pulp Sci-Fi Short Stories is now on sale at Amazon and Smashwords :)

It will also be available at Barnes & Noble soon, as well as a few other places.

But you, dear readers, shall be rewarded for having eyes on this screen. Umm, at least hopefully it can be seen as a reward... Anyway, just for being a cool Mythik Blog Reader, you can get MI#1 for free! Just check out the Free Stuff page for details. You don't even have to do anything for it. Really.

If ya wanna see the blurb and whatnot, check out the Press Release page. And for an up-to-date look at what else is coming down the ole' Mythik freeway, take a look at the Books page.

I have to say, it has been a heck of an interesting (and totally fun) experience. Those of you who have already been through the process know it's not just a simple matter of writing something and then hitting the upload button. I've definitely had to learn a lot of new things in the past few months. One very cool thing about the internet is that you can almost become an instant expert in a new field of study (although I use the term "expert" very loosely, and "instant" is an exaggeration.) But you know what I mean.

We're not quite to the point where we can become a Kung Fu master overnight or learn how to fly a helicopter in a few seconds like in The Matrix. But, by visiting the right web sites, you can learn a heck of a lot about independently publishing an Ebook. I've had a lot of help from people who have been successful at this sort of thing and very graciously willing to share their experiences with the rest of the world. So I'll be having an upcoming post with some thank-you's to those kind folk. For those of you who might be considering a dip in the indy epub world, I'll also try to give back a bit by sharing my experiences, workflow, and tips and tricks. Ha, not that I'm an expert, but I can at least point out some stuff that seemed to make things easier, and things that were mistakes ;)

Since I started this blog (which I think is about  6 years ago in "internet years" - kind of like "dog years" but goes by even faster,) I've had the notion that the line between reader and author is very blurry. I still think that's true. After all, it seems that everybody has a blog about something, which makes everybody an author of some sort. So I'm thinking the Mythik Blog audience is:
  1. Readers of my books (ha ha, well hopefully)
  2. People with curiosity about the blog posts
  3. Other writers
What I think has the most potential for coolness about all this is the possible interaction between all three types. Readers can suggest new things and also get a peek at the behind the scenes writing world. Writers can chime in with their observations. The curiosity seekers can demand that Weird Wednesday not be postponed again. ;) It could turn into an alchemical mix that becomes magic. Ha ha.

Finally, I have a funny story. When I was (ahem) somewhat younger, I was in a race with Isaac Asimov. You see, I had read somewhere that he sold his first story when he was 21. (Ha, I just looked it up. It appears he was only 19 when he made his first sale. I lost the race before I started and didn't even know it.) So my ambition was to sell my first story before I was 21. Well that came and went. Heh, it's been a few years since then - okay a lot of years since then, but check this out: As I was publishing to Kindle, I noticed that someone had made a purchase from the UK store. So I took a look, and for a fleeting instant, my little book was in the UK Science Fiction/Short Stories top 100. Here's a pic:

Yep,  #94 just ahead of Phillip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov.

Thank you, unknown UK Amazon customer :) 

Well, MI#1 is out there, as good as I can possibly make it. Hopefully, it won't be too embarrassing. When Terry Gilliam first screened The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, he said "Remember, keep your expectations low." He can get away with that - heck, he's Terry Gilliam. If I say that, people will think, Sure, I'll keep them so low I won't even bother to look.

But I will just say that if you do give Mythik Imagination #1 a try and don't like it, well hopefully it will get better and you'll like the next one ;)

Thanks for reading!