…And the saint spoke to them, saying “All, all, all are mad, all things that crawl upon the earth or swim upon the waters, all creatures that draw breath, all are mad and there is no sane one among them.” And the people hearing this were sorely vexed and there was no tea to console them.
— The Book of Wonder
Digital, 8 x 16.
So, I meant to post about this earlier, but it kinda got away from me. Fortunately, there’s still time!
The online storytelling…game? system? interesting hybrid thingy? Storium is running a Kickstarter. They’ve been in beta for awhile, now they’re gearing up to launch.
It’s a nifty online role-playing game system, and I’m not sure how else to describe it. Think of the really good bits of a play-by-mail RPG, with an easy to use on-line interface, and with pre-made cards and worlds and whatnot, and the ability to write your own as well. My buddy Mur Lafferty is one of the people working on it, and I’ve been playing with her, and it’s really very cool.
Because Mur’s my buddy, and she loves me…or something…she convinced me to be one of the many (many many) authors who are signed up to make worlds for Storium. So I was all geared up to make a post about how I was a stretch goal, and the Weird Fruit world would be fleshed out and made available for all y’all to play around in and have adventures in and tell stories in and whatnot.
Then my stretch goal kinda funded overnight, so it took a little bit of the urgency off. Also I couldn’t figure out how to explain it.
Actually, I still kinda can’t.
But the guy running it, Stephen Hood, has been very nice about the fact that I am proposing a truly demented world. I mean, everybody else is doing swashbuckling fantasy or dark cyberpunk or whatever, and I’m like “So, you’re a rodent in this jungle overrun by killer vegetables…”
“Playful,” I believe is the word he came up with. Let’s go with that.
So…err…yeah. Basically I’m grabbing a bunch of stuff I’ve cooked up over the years that always seemed like they SHOULD be part of something, and finally trying to weave them into a cohesive whole. (Finally, I know where Frog Tribe lives…!)
So the theory is that you play as one of a village of rodents in a very strange jungle, full of Squashbats and Manticorn and the deadly Dragonfruit. There’ll be a good bit of existing art–I’m not building a world this big from scratch!–but I’ll also be cooking up some new stuff as time permits.
Now, I have no idea whether anybody is going to want to play in this world. (Worst. Pitch. Ever.) I mean, I like it, and people buy the art, but does it have anything beyond the gimmick? Is anyone going to WANT to fight Dragonfruit or Cobrachini? Is a selection of rodent races of interest to anyone? I don’t know. It may be I create this world and people are like “You’re insane and that’s too weird.”
Or maybe people will be like “I have always wanted to slay Dragonfruit! And I always thought I’d make an awesome guinea pig!” I don’t know! I have no idea what people like!
But hey, suppose you HAVE always wanted to slay Dragonfruit. Or other things. You have the chance. And If you’re playing in the Weird Fruit world, you can totally make your own as well, so if you want your group of mouse adventurers to be set upon by Piranha Beans or whatever, do it! (Hell, you can ditch the mouse adventurers and all play as frogs. Or fruit. Or whatever. For all I know, you want to be a bunch of plucky vegetables slaying the rodent oppressors.) You get the basics of worldbuilding and a bunch of starter stuff, but you are not limited by whatever weirdnesses I’ve managed to come up with.
I mean, I can put in a card for the Radishes of Paradise, but if you want to go on the Quest of Seven Mountains to pluck the tailfeathers from the Glorious Radish of Paradise, you can and should and I think that’s awesome.
Anyway, you don’t actually need to pay money to get the Weird Fruit world into Storium, because it happened already, but there’s a lot of other super neat worlds out there by authors who do amazing work. Go! Check ’em out!
And when it’s live and I’ve got a world of demented vegetables and plucky rodent villagers, you should totally come and play around and make your own crazy killer-vegetable adventures. Let’s tell a really strange story together!
Among the birds I saw on my recent trip to Texas, the Green Jays were one of the most effortlessly spectacular. I have honestly never met a member of the jay clan that wasn’t ridiculously beautiful, but the Green Jays were just incredible, almost luminous. So of course I had to paint one.
Not a saint I’m likely to encounter in my garden, but a marvelous one all the same.
That’s right, as of…well, sometime last week, probably, I haven’t been checking that closely…we cracked 2000 copies of Nine Goblins sold! How cool izzat?
Thank you, everybody who ordered a copy! You’re awesome, and I hope you enjoyed it!
The following bits are probably only of interest to self publishers, but I wanna contribute what smidgeon I can to an often opaque set of numbers, so read on if you like that sort of thing!
In terms of numeric breakdowns, after expenses (mostly editing services and coffee) we’re looking at around $5.5K. For self-pub, that’s not the extreme end of the bell curve, but definitely a very respectable success. If you figure it took about 100 hours to write, that’s a very good wage (although if you figure that it took since 2006 to write, the numbers look…um…less good. And it’s not like you can just sit down and put in a 100 hour work week and have another book. Well, I can’t, anyhow. You know, trying to work this out like this is probably a fruitless exercise…)
Anyhow, as far as I can tell–and I am extrapolating from VERY little data here, so I could be very wrong, anyone with more experience, feel free to chip it!–the initial sales burst comes in the first month or two, then it begins to taper off. I’d guess there’s a spike in sales when you put out a new book (or at least, so I am told!) but as the next Goblins book may take another couple years at this rate, we’ll find out if it applies to other releases by the same author.
Around 90% of sales were via Amazon Kindle. Smashwords is definitely worth it, though, as there’s a lot of readers who, for whatever reasons, will not use Amazon and it sucks to leave them in the lurch. I’ve heard from friends that direct sales from their website do very well, and that’s something to consider, although I dread the tech support aspect there. Suspect that may be the wave of the future, though, as Amazon eventually will start to squeeze.
The nice thing about slow taper, though, is that while it’s not paying my rent as it did for the first two months, it’s still solidly buying groceries, and even as we slither downward, I can probably expect it to keep me in hard cider money for awhile.
That is due entirely to the readers, let me hasten to add–I’m not promoting it beyond posts like this one and links on the website, and it’s the plethora of good reviews and (gasp! the legendary!) word-of-mouth that’s moving copies. I am super grateful for that–I even had a fan tell me the other day that they bought a copy and loved it and didn’t know it was by me. Which, I mean, pen-name and all, but that means the book has a life of its own beyond just yours truly, and that bodes very well for it.
So all in all, my first self-pub adventure has been a rousing success, despite all the weeping and bloodshed that it took to bring it into the world. Thank you, everybody!
And yes! Promotion! I can do this! If you want to buy a copy:
So there we are, at a hawk watch station, asking for directions to the nearest Aplomado Falcon.
And we got them, but they were Birder Directions, which are a special kind of instructions similar to country directions, only worse and more so. “Go down to the end of the road, turn left at the scary-looking goat, look for a house with a green roof, and there’s a tree in the yard there, and if you wait five minutes, an Oak Titmouse will pop up.” There are directions like this in books.
These were delivered unto us by two elderly gentlemen, one of whom was as sharp as a tack and one of which was a trifle fuzzy, but could tell a hawk from a handsaw when it migrated overhead.
Needless to say, the fuzzy one was the one primarily giving directions, while Tina took notes.
(As I cannot remember the names of the two elderly gentlemen involved, I shall call them Bob and Frank.)
BOB: So you come out of here and you get on the big road…ah…511. 510? Maybe it’s 510. Does it have a number?
FRANK: 511, I think, if it’s the place I’m thinking about.
BOB: Right, right. So you take 511 and you go past the battle.
URSULA: …the battle?
BOB: Ah, you know, the old battle. There’s a marker. Maybe it’s a national park. Can’t think of the name of the battle. They’ve got a marker, though.
FRANK: Palo Alto.
BOB: Right, right. Don’t know why I couldn’t think of that. Anyway, it’s on the left. I think. There’ll be a marker or a park or something. Anyway, go past that.
TINA: Past it. Got it.
BOB: I don’t know how far past…couple of miles, I guess. You should pass Port Isabella Road. Not Port Isabella, though, the road. The old one. There’s a new one, but not this one. Actually, you could just take that road if you wanted…Do that. It’s easier. Well, anyway, so you pass the battle, right? Couple miles, I think. Do you know, Frank?
FRANK: Not that far.
BOB: Right, right. Okay, so then you come up on a road. Named that that fellow. Emerson Road. Is it Emerson Road? Doctor Emerson, that’s it.
FRANK: Thought it was Hugh Emerson.
BOB: Definitely Doctor Emerson.
FRANK: If you say so.
BOB: So you go past that, there’s a stoplight.
FRANK: Two stoplights.
BOB: Four stoplights.
FRANK: I don’t know if it’s that many.
BOB: Anyway, then you’ll see a bridge to nowhere.
BOB: It’s an overpass. You’d go under it, right? Except you don’t. Don’t go under it. There’s a frontage road, right? You know how they love their frontage roads here in Texas. Go on for miles. Every on ramp is like a mile long. They love ’em.
URSULA: We’ve noticed.
BOB: But not this one. It’s short. Up to the bridge. Which doesn’t go anywhere.
TINA: Does it just…end…?
BOB: Sorta. Anyway, you take the frontage road and then you turn left and go over the bridge that doesn’t go anywhere–
URSULA: *has horrifying visions of the rental car hurtling off a cliff with Tina yelling “DO YOU SEE A FALCON!?” as we plummet to our deaths*
BOB: –and it’ll turn into a gravel road, right? And then you go–lord, Frank, how far is it? A mile?
FRANK: Not even.
BOB: Maybe a mile.
FRANK: Not a mile.
BOB: Well, anyway, there’s a railroad track. The old railroad track, they don’t use it any more. Maybe a mile down.
FRANK: *gazes upward*
BOB: And you go over the railroad track up to the bend in road–is it a mile to the bend, Frank?
FRANK: It is not even close to a mile.
BOB: And at the bend in the road, you stop and look left.
FRANK: There’s a nest box on a pole.
BOB: And a bunch of palm trees.
BOB: Yuccas. Right. Don’t know why I said palm trees. Anyway, there’ll be a falcon in the yuccas.
FRANK: They eat the yucca blossoms, and don’t ask me why a falcon eats yucca blossoms, but they do. It’s very strange. You’ll need a scope.
TINA: *stares at directions in mild dismay*
URSULA: *begins laughing with quiet hysteria*
So we did. We didn’t mean to, but we got lost trying to avoid a toll road and suddenly there was Dr. Hugh Emerson Road, and we passed it and the world’s shortest on-ramp (we had to actually reverse on the highway to get to it, it went by so fast) and the overpass did indeed go to a gravel road almost immediately, and nothing like a mile past the railroad tracks we stopped the car and looked to our left.
Sitting in solitary splendor among the yuccas was an Aplomado Falcon.
So, y’know. Birding.
So Texas was wild and crazy and I stepped in a chigger nest, and boy, that’s a thing, isn’t it? My feet and ankles look like I have chicken pox.
But it was worth it! We saw marvelous and strange birds. Lots of them. 35 lifers* for me, out of over 150 species seen, between the hill country and the Rio Grande valley.
Of particular note–the Tropical Parula is beautiful, the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler is stunning, the Common Pauraque is…um…a freakish mutant bark bird, and the Ringed Kingfisher is noble and magnificent. Green Jays are wonderful, Great Kiskadees are stunning. Wires full of Green Parakeets preparing to roost (in the trees around a Walgreen’s, corner of 10th and Dove in McAllen, Tx) are bizarre and delightful.
But the dawn chorus of the Plain Chachalaca is really unbelievable–a half-dozen chicken sized dinosaur-birds, at the top of a tree, screaming a very unmusical “Cha-ka-cha-ka-cha!” A few of the birds do a kind of descant over the top–“Eee-ow-ee-ee-ee!” We stood in the parking lot watching several trees full, which would go in sequence–Tree One would scream for about fifteen seconds, then stop, Tree Two would scream, then stop, Tree Three would scream, then stop, and Tree One would start up again. It was a sort of round, done by an utterly tone-deaf choir.
Obviously I fell deeply and immediately in love with them.
Since they prefer dry scrub and I cannot immediately import an entire flock to North Carolina, I returned home with a somewhat heavy heart, and also I was exhausted because I’ve been getting up at variations of 4:30 for a week. But I came back to the best season, when the trees are full of new leaves and there is a blinding green haze of leaves and the dogwoods are blooming and the moss phlox is covered in flowers, which always surprises me, and the groundcover roses I’d planted around the birdfeeder to discourage cats have come back from the dead with a vengeance. And I am terribly, terribly glad to be home.
Could do without the chigger bites, though.
*In birding terms, that’s a bird you’ve seen for the first time, and now enter into your lifelist, the record of all the species you’ve ever seen. My life list stands at around 450, with 427 of them what are known as ABA species–those appearing in the US and Canada, as recognized by the American Birding Association. If you keep such a list, you are what’s known as a lister (and not all birders are) and you can aspire to see over 700 ABA species, although to get there, you have to chase after a lot of rare birds blown in from Asia and Europe. (Not counting rarities, there are probably 650 species that actually live in North America or immediately off shore.)
A lifelist at or over 700 ABA birds is very difficult and requires a great deal of dedication and travel. My buddy Tina is over 600, and the joke is that that puts her halfway to 700. At 427, I am in a respectable neighborhood, but not a terribly elite one.
I was supposed to be working, but there was a thing going to draw yourself as a pokemon trainer, and…well…
Poke-verse Ursula is a gardener who grows Grass-type pokemon in an effort to attract provide rare Bird and Insect types with a safe haven during migration. (That these occasionally chew holes in the Oddishes is, after all, the reason she grew them in the first place. Fortunately Oddishes respond well to pruning and many sport punk haircuts as a result.)
She writes a regular gardening column “Beyond Butterfree: Habitat Gardening For Less-Charismatic Pokemon.”
She is prone to collaring strangers at parties to inform them that Tall Grass has declined in the last century to unsustainable levels. “Do you realize that less than 5% of Tall Grass remains untouched in this country?” she cries, brandishing her mojito. “If something isn’t done to stop habitat loss, wild Pokemon may become something only seen in zoos!”
(She will also tell you things about the mating habits of Gyrados that you were probably happier not knowing. It’s best just to nod and back away slowly. Depending on the number of mojitos involved, there may be hand gestures.)
When not documenting the migratory habits of Mothim, she occasionally goes off to watch Bird-types, accompanied by her faithful Quagsire, Quag-Bob.