New Feature: Quarantine Posts. Here’s QP1

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Author Mindy Klasky has been writing Coronavirus Diversion posts, highlighting interesting stuff on the internet for people stuck at home who need a pleasant diversion. I think that’s a brilliant idea, and I recommend everyone go ahead and click that link above to check out what she’s sharing.

I don’t want to copy what she’s doing, but I thought I’d try something similar-ish. A little music. A little cooking. Comics or shows or something. Who knows? Something mellow and casual. I can’t promise to post every day, but I’ll try not to let this space go fallow.

To start, today’s song.

My Twitter timeline is full of people talking about baking, and the grocery stores are sold out of flour, so it seems like a lot of folks have stocked up for baking. If that’s you, check out this episode of What’s Eating Dan:

Having made this recipe myself, I can say the results really are amazing. They’re so fluffy and light that they almost feel like they’ve been made by a machine or something. Maybe that doesn’t sound appealing, but it really is.

And now I’m thinking you must be wondering how a tangzhong works in a pizza crust recipe. Not well, it turns out, because of course I tried it. Tangzhong makes a soft interior rather than a chewy one, and that’s okay of the bones at the edge of your pizza are very small, but feels insubstantial if they’re large. I’d only use it (again) if I was planning to make a stuffed crust pizza.

Take care. Keep washing those hands. Don’t forget to check out Mindy Klasky’s posts linked above.

Key/Egg Giveaway for You and Anyone You Choose

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Lots of folks are self-quarantining at the moment, and there’s a lot of tension and anxiety out there. My family feels it the same as anyone else.

There’s not much I can do about that, and I don’t have much to offer folks to make this difficult time easier. However, I can do this:

Until the end of March, you can use coupon code

HX57G

to get a free Smashwords ebook of A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark, which is probably the most upbeat, least harrowing book I’ve ever written. Just go to the link above, click the “Buy” button or the “Give as Gift” button, then add the coupon code in the provided field. After, you can “Update cart” to be sure the price has been set to zero dollar and zero cents.

Key/Egg is a pacifist urban fantasy about Marley Jacobs, a sixty-five-year-old woman who’s a cross between Gandalf and Auntie Mame, and it’s set in modern day Seattle. (Or, at least, “modern” to the time it was finished, about six years ago. In construction-happy Seattle, some of the locations in the novel no longer exist.) There are lots of books out there that feature vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, but I like to kid myself that I’ve created an usual take on them here.

Plus, this is my most upbeat, light-hearted book. I figure folks don’t need another harrowing angsty bloodbath right now.

Finally, there’s no limit on the number of times you can use this coupon, so if you want to pick it up for yourself and make a gift of it, please do. All I ask is that you only send it to people who might like this sort of thing.

And that’s it. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Quarantined

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Like a lot of people, I’m spending more time than usual inside my home. What’s extra weird is that my wife’s workplace has shut its doors until the end of the month so she is stuck here, too. Me, I like being at home. She’s currently on day two and is already a bit stir crazy.

But there are only so many evenings you can while away with board games. To that end, a self-quarantine is an excellent time to binge the TV shows you meant to watch but never got around to. And for this list, I’m only naming shows that cost only the price of a subscription. Lots of us are struggling to find work at the moment, after all.

I have suggestions:

Amazon Prime:
This isn’t the first streaming service I think of when I fire up the TV, but for quality shows of the (recent) past, it has some serious heavy hitters, such as

The Wire
The Sopranos
The Americans
Deadwood
Orphan Black

Not all their offerings are so critically acclaimed, though. Space: 1999 is a seventies cheese fest and a lot of fun. Dead Like Me captures that disaffected 90’s slacker style that is overdue for a come back. And Eerie, Indiana is pure and adorable in its low-budget earnestness. Concentrated comfort food.

Netflix:

Netflix doesn’t lean as heavily on the critical acclaim, but they have some solid gems, like

Original Twilight Zone
Mad Men
Monty Python
Twin Peaks

When people want to know if I prefer Star Trek or Star Wars, I tell them Person of Interest. The first season is fun but not promising. By the midpoint of season three, we were shouting at the screen. Also, all the Star Treks are here, too. For lighter fare, they have Pee Wee’s Playhouse, which is anarchic fun (and also my wife worked on the NYC set, building several of the props, including Conky the Robot and Chairy, which is why I have a soft spot for this weird show). If you’re feeling stir crazy, Ash vs the Evil Dead is bloody and hilarious and over the top. If you need to be soothed, Father Brown is concentrated gentility.

Hulu

If Amazon Prime is home to Big Prestige TV About Terrible Dudes, Hulu offers a wider variety of stories with a wider variety of leads.

Killing Eve
Veronica Mars
Atlanta

They also have Legion, which is BPTATD, but has a non-naturalistic flair that I thought was fascinating, even when it didn’t totally work. Also, I know lots of folks binge Law & Order as a sort of comfort view, but that’s not streaming anywhere at the moment. However, Hulu has Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Finally, if you need something gentler, you can find Steven Universe here.

Disney Plus

Then you have this channel, where you can find… all the Star Wars cartoons? Agent Carter is lots of fun, but they never really let that terrific lead character shine. And… what? The 90’s X-Men cartoon? Gargoyles? If I’d written this post about movies, D+ would have more to offer.

Anyway, I’d originally planned to only list shows that had finished their run, but then I saw Killing Eve and that went out the window. Personally, I’d love to binge a few of these myself, but my wife hates to binge shows, so I’ll have to enjoy them vicariously through you guys.

One a personal note: We’re self-quarantined until the end of the month at least, and we’re taking the time for family and art-making time. One Man was released a few months ago, so we’re expecting that money to come in at the end of the month. So, yeah, this is going to hurt long term, but in the short term we ought to be okay.

But the economy is going to take a big hit. It might be time to rethink your Patreon and Kickstarter pledges. I appreciate the support I get through Patreon, for example, but I want everyone facing hardships of their own to cancel their pledges before they come due at the end of the month.

Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Things to Watch and Things to Listen to: Audiobooks, Plus Other Stuff

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First, courtesy of Greg Van Eekhout, author extraordinaire, the perfect nine-second YouTube video for our times.

Second, if you’re one those good people who backed my Kickstarter for new Twenty Palaces novels, you’ve already seen the update with this news, but: Tantor Media has signed on to create audiobooks for all the Twenty Palaces books I’ve self-published. That’s Twenty Palaces, The Twisted Path, and the two Kickstarter novels.

What do I know about audiobooks? Not a lot! I just hope things turn out well.

As for the 20P books published by Del Rey, they still hold the audio rights. Will they also sign with Tantor? Or handle them in house? Or something? Or nothing? I dunno. That’s up to them.

Third, what the Kickstarter backers don’t know is that Tantor has already signed up to create an audiobook for One Man.

I’ll let you know when the books are available, obviously, and when I have definitive word on who will be doing the narration. It’s exciting! Audiobooks are big deal, and even though they don’t fit neatly into my life, I know they matter to a lot of you guys out there.

And finally, thank you everyone for the kind reviews, especially the ones saying you thought One Man was the best book of the year. That brings a slight flush to my cheeks every time I read it.

Also, it prompts others to buy the book.

Thanks again.

5 Things Make a Post (nostalgia remix)

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1. Remember the old days when a person would simply turn to their blog and record a bunch of thoughts, instead of giving them away to a profit-free social media company like Twitter? Man, those were the days.

2. I’ve reached a tricky part of The Iron Gate. That’s not a bad thing (the exact opposite, in fact) but this is a part of the narrative where I’m going to be second-guessing myself and jumping around, trying to iron out a decent sequence of events so that things are fun and also cool and also make you want to keep reading. Every once in a while I see writers talk about writing a first draft and just going out with it, and I wish I could do that. Never happen, though.

3. Watched Ernst Lubitch’s final completed film last night: CLUNY BROWN. It’s a rom com that doubles as a satire of upper class British manners. (“Darling, if I trust you now, I’ll always have to trust you. And I won’t.”) Often, when a movie criticizes social mores, it makes itself a period piece. Its much more palatable (marketable) to GREEN BOOK racism than to address racism in the here and now. But CLUNY BROWN, released in 1946, was set in 1938. Anyway, it’s a funny, clever film with terrific performances. Worth watching.

4. Two weeks ago, I asked you guys to please review One Man and my other books, too, and you have really responded. Before I that blog post, sales for all my work on the Kindle store were in the mid-20s. Almost immediately, they jumped to the high 50s or low 60s, and now One Man is only 8 ratings/review from that sweet 100 mark on Amazon. Thank you all. It really makes a big difference to discoverability and to overall sales. If you’ve been meaning to post a review but haven’t gotten around to it, the links at the bottom of the main post should make for easy clicking. Thanks again.

5. My son has been working on a novel and has given me his first draft. It’s pretty good for a first effort, although no where close to ready for public consumption. But every moment I spent doing something other than editing his book or working on my own makes me feel guilty, like I’m slacking off. Luckily, guilt has never stopped me from being super lazy, so I’m going to log off, make a couple of notes about our respective works, and then put in the library dvd for TITANS, which I’ve heard is terrible. If so, I can turn it off after ten minutes or so and never be tempted by it again.

One Man Reviews and Discoverability

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One Man has been on sale for nearly two months, and while sales have not been life-changing, they’ve been holding fairly steady. And that’s mainly because of the reviews.

The reviews so far have been very positive, with a number of people saying One Man was the best fantasy they read all year. To which I have to say:

Wow, thank you.

I spent two years on this book. I’m not what you’d call prolific, and I thought it might be wise to stop trying to be. What if, I thought, I stopped streamlining and started dawdling. What if I gave it extra time and attention to make something complex? What if?

Well, publishers said Meh, which has me thinking that what I want to see in a second-world fantasy is not exactly in the mainstream. (Like all my other books, I guess.) But still! There’s space outside the mainstream if I can connect what I love to the readers who would also love it.

Which is why I’m so grateful for the reviews you guys leave, and why I keep asking for them. Last week, One Man passed the fifty review mark over on Amazon, which is a huge boost to discoverability. Amazon likes to prioritize books that get a lot of reviews, and I’m hopeful that One Man will pass the next level for Amazon’s algorithms, which is 100 reviews. Child of Fire has over a hundred, and so does The Way into Chaos.

However, Game of Cages, Circle of Enemies, and several other works of mine have not, so I have to keep coming here to talk about this and ask you to drop a review if you haven’t already.

Amazon makes that easy. When I enter the book title “One Man” into their search function, the results actually include books with that title. It puts them at the top, even.

It’s different for Goodreads, though. Goodreads’s search algorithm seems like it assumes you don’t actually know the title of the book you’re searching for, and throws up a lot of weird results. For example, when I type “One Man” into a search window, the auto-complete looks like this:

autocomplete includes book titles unlike the search string I entered

What you get before you press enter

I get that Camus is more popular than I am, but are they really putting in a book that I didn’t search for instead of one that I did?

What happens, you may wonder, after I press ENTER to see the results?

Search for One Man, get a lot of books with a different title

It’s like they’re ignoring the title I actually entered.

This shows the scroll bar on the side, and you won’t be surprised to hear that my book doesn’t appear on that first page at all. In fact, it doesn’t appear on pages two through five, either.

The reason I bring this up is that some folks have said they had trouble finding the book on Goodreads, especially when it first came out. You’ll have to throw my name in there to actually find the right page, at least until Amazon brings the search algorithms on Goodreads up to the standards of their online store. Or click this link.

And thank you again for the reviews you have already written. I’m incredibly grateful.

By the way, if you want a direct link to an online vendor to drop a review, see below:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Indiebound | Kobo | Mysterious GalaxyPowell’s | Smashwords

Stop Killing the Redeemed Bad Boys: Veronica Mars and The Rise of Skywalker

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Spoilers for Star Wars and of Veronica Mars. FYI.

Before we get into the meat of this post, I want to point out that, four years ago, I made this awful prediction:

Along with a few ten thousand other people, but the important thing to point out is that this was supposed to be a joke. Seriously, I thought making Rey a Palpatine was a ridiculous idea, and it turned out that I was right.

But there’s no idea so ridiculous that someone won’t rub their chin and go “hmm”. Sometimes, on Twitter, there will be huge hashtag pitch sessions where people will tweet out a log line for their screenplays, and I used to make up ludicrous story ideas for it. No matter how outlandish, there was always someone interested in something I made up.

Terrible ideas! They’re everywhere!

Let’s seque back to the new season of Veronica Mars, on Hulu. Personally, I enjoyed it, but many die-hard fans were furious at the way they killed off Logan, Veronica’s true love.

After three full seasons, the show felt unfinished. With the Kickstarter-funded movie, Rob Thomas brought things around to an ending the fans could get behind. Veronica was a PI again. Logan had his shit together. They re-started their romance as adults. Boom. Ending. They even left things open for those awful novels.

But once Hulu came knocking for S4, Thomas didn’t know what to do with Logan. He has this idea that a romantic relationship had to be about the conflict. What would they do with Logan now that his issues with Veronica were resolved? He said he didn’t want to include Logan in the mystery of the season–nevermind that he did exactly that for S4 and it worked out fine. Nevermind that Veronica has plenty of other low-conflict relationships with people she loves. Thomas wanted her to be free for upcoming seasons, which meant Logan had to go.

And when he went, the fans went too, and they weren’t quiet about it. They were furious, vowing that they were never going to watch again.

The fallout? No Current Plans for Season Five at Hulu

There was similar fan interest for sexy villain Kylo Ren/Ben Solo to be redeemed during TRoS and have the romantic relationship with Rey that almost came about in The Last Jedi.

Personally, I thought TLJ settled that plot point. They had an opening for romance. Each thought they were going to turn the other to their way of thinking. They were wrong. Ben Solo chose to be Kylo Ren, and he was not going to give up his giant fascist army. He even declared himself Supreme Leader. Kylo Ren was established as the villain.

But the fans wanted Kylo and Rey to come together, which meant Kylo had to turn into a good guy, which meant they needed a new villain for the third act, which meant they brought brought Palpatine, which is why they decided to connect him to Rey by blood and undo the very best scene of The Last Jedi (“You’re nothing… but not to me.”)

But after fighting on Rey’s side and saving her life, Kylo gets a single kiss from Rey. and then he dies.

The replies to that tweet are a catalog of misery. Fans wanted the poor, abused, handsome young guy to be redeemed and have a happy life. Preferably with Rey. They didn’t get that.

Now, I’m not sure I’ve ever shipped a pair of characters, ever. Not Sam and Diane. Not David and Maddie. It just doesn’t occur to me. But lots of fans engage with shows this way, and they do not endure disappointment quietly. And there’s something–don’t ask me what–about that reformed evil boyfriend trope. People find it wildly compelling. (And yes, a small percentage can be over-the-top about their favorite ships. I’m not interested in using outliers to represent a group as a whole.) There’s nothing wrong with that, but any really vocal segment of an audience can have an outsized effect on the future of a show.

And this new Star Wars movie is making lots of money, but reviews have been dire. The movie is pretty, it’s fast, and it’s filled with peril, but the story is a disaster, and the even the lead actors just seem done with the whole thing.

Remember the energy and excitement in The Force Awakens? Remember Rey and Finn together? How much energy they had?

Well, all that is gone, and they couldn’t even redeem their sensitive bad boy correctly. The ReyLos and the LoVes are not happy.

Randomness for 12/8

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1. Domestic abuse: Killers ‘follow eight-stage pattern’, study says.

2. The real reason hearing your own voice can make you cringe.

3. Water isn’t the most hydrating beverage according to new scientific study

4. Twenty Years Later and the Women of ANGEL Deserve More.

5. The Trajectory of Fear – or How to Use Horror Tropes Effectively in your [TTRPG]

6. What happens when you eat like the Queen of England for a week?

7. People Are Confused About the Usefulness of Buying Fancy Things

One Man at One Week

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Publication day for One Man was Tuesday, November 26th, which means that yesterday marked the end of the first week of sales. Honestly, it’s the most important week.

So how has it gone?

Honestly, not all that great!

First Week Sales for One Man

 

“But Harry,” you say, “that’s eight days.”

Yes, but I’m on Pacific time, and the pre-orders ship out on midnight of publication day, so people in New York, for example, were getting their pre-orders while it was only 9pm on my time. Therefore, 211 pre-orders out of 249 were delivered (and registered) on the day before.

My usual practice when posting these sales graphs is to cut off the Y-axis to obscure the actual numbers. That’s because I usually talk about trends. But let’s talk numbers

Ebook sales through Amazon for the first week: 492
Paperback sales through Amazon: 4
Ebook sales through B&N: 19
Ebook sales through Kobo: 24
Ebook sales through Smashwords: 14 (higher than expected, honestly)
Paperbacks shipped from Ingram Spark: 26

Those Ingram Spark paperbacks are heavily discounted and fully returnable, so they should also be available to anyone who walks into a bookstore and asks the clerk to check for it on their computer. I’ve also added Powell’s, Mysterious Galaxy, and Indiebound to the bottom scroll of online vendors to give paperback buyers a few options other than Amazon.

What does this mean? Well, my newsletter, which is designed specifically for people who want to know about my new releases w/o following me on social media, went to 1349 addresses, announcing the pre-order. These are the people who presumably want to buy my new work, and I was hoping to turn at least half into sales.

One Man is, I believe, the best work I’ve ever done. The thought that it might reach a portion of my existing readers and only a scant few beyond that is, frankly, disheartening.

On the upside, that graph slopes down and then up again. The upsurge in sales corresponds with the appearance of early reviews.

I don’t have a big marketing budget here. The book is out for reviews at a few places, but the only way it’s going to reach new readers is through word of mouth. Reviews, recommendations to friends, a thumbs up on social media… that’s what drives sales.

So, if you have bought the book, please read it. Then please give it a review. I think this is the best book I’ve ever written, and I hope it reaches the widest circle of readers possible.

I think that’s called “burying the lede” but there you go.

Thanks.