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July 21, 2009 — 103 words

Open Question: Connecting with fans


All right!  Brainstorming time! Put on your thinking caps, cause it's time to use that noodle!  The question is this: what can I be doing better to connect with my fans?  And by fans, I mean people that read my books on purpose.  Very broad definition, I know.

I already reply to tons of email every day, make fun of people on Twitter, and comment on other sites here and there.  But is there something else I should be trying?  Some otherwise obscure idea that might work?

Email, comment or twitter.  I want to experiment with some new ideas.  Nothing is too crazy.

July 21, 2009 — 156 words

Me on Novelr


This is a post by me to recommend a post by me.  On the excellent site Novelr, though!  So it's a little different than usual.

It was a fun post to write, and hopefully a fun post to read.  In it, I explain all the ways I've tried to sell books online.  Lots of interesting stats.  More fun than... well, anything I've ever written here.

I’ve tried PayPal buttons in various places around my sites, and this is what I know: a link in the right sidebar gets clicked 0.21% of the time. The same button in the left sidebar gets clicked 0.01% of the time. The link can be “below the fold” (not visible when the page first loads), but too far down and your click rate drops to zero.

Check it out, and ask me some questions!

July 20, 2009 — 356 words

Quick Vector FAQ


I've received a bunch of questions today about The Vector and I want to cover some of them before I get too distracted by shiny objects.

Why aren't you publishing on Smashwords?

I will, but not quite yet.  The problem with Smashwords is that a) their conversion engine makes me shiver, after all the work I put into careful design and pagination; and b) synchronizing their "preview" feature with my serialization is tricky.  I have to do things by % of total words, and that doesn't usually connect to a chapter very well.  I'll probably put the book up there in some form soon, but it'll take me a while to massage it until it works the way I want.

Why aren't you publishing on Kindle?

Funny story.  To publish on Kindle from Canada, I can go through  But first I need to send Mobipocket some special forms.  The forms require me to send a US tax form that takes 4-6 weeks to process.  The tax form requires a copy of my passport, which is expired.  To process my passport application takes 4-6 weeks.  And all of that depends on my remembering to get the photos taken.  So I probably won't be on Kindle until Amazon lets Canadian publishers into their store.  So, like, shortly before Hell freezes over.

Why aren't you publishing on Shortcovers?

I love Shortcovers, but I haven't got my publisher account authorized yet.  I sent in the forms months ago and forgot to follow up.  I will get on that as soon as I can.  Sorry!

Why isn't there a print version?

There will be.  I'm going to offer a paperback version for $12.99 sometime in September, and a limited edition, signed and numbered hardcover (with bonus features!) for about $60 shortly thereafter.  The reason I don't have print versions NOW is because it costs $100 to prep the book for press, and I'm not made of money :)

There were other questions about racism and writing style I want to address, but they'll need their own posts.  Happy reading!

July 20, 2009 — 288 words

The Vector (6 to go!)


Today I am happy to announce the release of The Vector, the first serious novel out of 1889 Labs.  This is a book I've been working on for years (on and off) and I'm so relieved it's finally out!  Here is the back cover description:

It’s the age of the home-made virus, and humanity is dying. It just doesn’t know it yet.

In Prague, a young woman named Eva returns home to escape the plagues, only to find her mother missing and the police blaming her for the worst outbreaks in recent memory. Events are complicated by the appearance of a Healer — a merciless Chinese agent — sent to neutralize a new strain that may bring Prague to its knees.

With only days until the launch of a super-virus, Eva must navigate a hostile city and escape to safety before she becomes another faceless victim in this global, slow apocalypse.

Because this is a very different beast from my previous projects (at 400+ pages), my release theory is a bit different.  It's being serialized on the Reader site, with a new chapter every Monday and Wednesday (until it wraps up in January 2010).  If you find that pace too slow, you can buy the full version for $5, and read all the way to the end.  I'm anticipating creating a print version sometime in the next few months (depending on interest).

As always, please spread the word, and I hope you enjoy the story.  It's big, complex and serious, but my preview feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, so it's safe to say you won't be disappointed.

July 17, 2009 — 250 words

Press Release: Book Policy Adjustment


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  1889 Labs today announced it has changed its mind about the consumption of its books — especially the evolving crime novel Fission Chips — and is henceforth revoking all public reading rights to its catalogue.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time, having an audience," said Smithers Winston, president-in-chief of 1889 Labs.  "But when you really think about it, if people can read what you've written, they might feel some sense of satisfaction, which goes against our corporate policy of 'Make Everyone Suffer'."

In addition to the removal of all copies of the books from the internet, the new rule applies retroactively to all versions back to early 2006, including those stored in unconventional media such as human brains.  Experts will be dispatched under cover of darkness to retrieve all memories of having read the books, using a special device known as a "bone saw".  There will be a customer complaints line set up for survivors.

The program is the brainchild of noted copyright scholar Dr Gluben von Sinister, whose widely-adopted DRM techniques made news last year after causing Kindles to explode if the user tried to re-read any page more than once.  Dr von Sinister is the recipient of the Publishing Industry's highest accolade, the Godwin Award, for "crimes against humanity for the benefit of the bottom line."

"We're committed to an enriching experience," added Smithers Winston.  "Just not for you.  You are filthy thieving heathens.  Now get out of my office."

July 17, 2009 — 1,198 words

The Chaos Book: Episode 1 Intro


Every week, I'm going to post a new intro for an episode to The Chaos Book.  It will provide a bit of backstory for what's coming up, and then you can submit and vote for the elements that'll become the foundation of the story.  You should see the final product around 2-3 weeks later.

The Chaos Book: Episode 1
Day 100,424 / Des Moines, Iowa

The sun is low on the horizon as another five zombies fall into the trench.  They flail around a bit, but once they’re on their stomachs, it’s game over for them.  There’s about a hundred of them down there, rolling around in the water, squawking and groaning, generally useless.

Finn is rubbing his temple, eyes locked on the bridge two feet away from where all the zombies are falling.  There’s an army of them coming across the field, but they’re all aimed in the wrong direction.  Finn sighs deeply, puts on his best salesman face, turns to Dr Regent.

“All right,” he says smoothly.  “So you see the issue I was talking about at our last meeting.”

Dr Regent doesn’t say anything.  He looks like he’s going to cry.

“Well it’s not all bad news,” Finn continues.  “For one, they’re already dead, so once you clean ‘em off, they’re good as new.  So it’s time wasted, but not money.”

Dr Regent nods unhappily.

“So here’s what I’m going to recommend, given today’s experiment.”  Finn starts jotting notes on a small pad of paper while another ten zombies plunge into the trench.  “I’m giving you two numbers here.  One is for my good friend Hans, who specializes in werewolves.  Now I know how you feel about your zombies, but I have to be honest here: a werewolf isn’t going to get tripped up by a bridge, and he’s going to scale that wall over there in seconds, not… you know… months.”

Dr Regent glances over at the small fortress of a mansion across the bridge.  A pair of snipers are laughing at the zombie horde.

“Now if you’re really set on your zombies, the other number might help some.  My pal at the Pentagon can get you some exoskeleton frameworks to help guide your guys more efficiently.  Think of it as remote-controlled carnage.  Plus, they can punch through walls.”

Dr Regent sniffles.  He’s avoiding eye contact with the camera.  Finn puts an arm over his shoulder, turns him away, speaks softly.

“Listen,” he says.  “There’s nothing wrong with a misstep or two at the start.  You think Dracula got it right the first time?  Hell no.  Nobody’s going to remember this day, ten years from now.  All they’re going to remember is what you do next.

Dr Regent is sobbing.

“Now listen: I’ve got a plane to catch, but I’ll be in touch by email if you need anything.  We can have another sit-down, hash things out, draw up some process maps… anything you need.  You just call, all right?”

Dr Regent nods.  He pats Finn on the back and heads over to the trench, avoiding the camera’s glare.  Finn straightens his back, turns toward us.

“Sometimes they’ve got to learn the hard way,” he sighs.

“How’s he going to get them out of the trench?” I ask.

“Hell if I know,” Finn says, scrolling though messages on his iPhone.  “Not my idea, not my problem.  How many meetings did we have where I told him zombies were a no-go?  Five?”


“Seven!” he spits, rolls his eyes, then puts the phone to his ear, waiting while it rings.  “You guys good for tape?” he asks me.

“We’re fine,” I say.

“Not like Amsterdam?” he jokes.

“Not like Amsterdam,” I reply.

“It’s me,” he says into the phone, turning a bit.  “Yeah, no, exactly what I said.  Yeah, couldn’t find the bridge.  Let me send you a pic, hold on.”  He clicks off a photo with the phone, mails it.  “Got it yet?  Yeah?  I know, right?  Add it to the case studies, I guess.  What’s the point of hiring an expert if you’re going to ignore the expertise.”

He rolls his eyes at the camera.

“So,” he says happily.  “What’s the scoop?  Anything good?”

Dr Regent has fallen into the trench.  Another ten zombies topple in on top of him.  He’s screaming, but it’s muffled enough that it doesn’t interfere with our audio levels.

“Nope,” says Finn.  “Nope, nope, nope.  Boring.  Tribbles?  Betty, come on, you know those are made-up, right?  Next.  No, wait.  What was that?”

He looks towards the camera with a twinkle in his eye.  He wants that shot to be part of the opening titles when we go to air, but it’s not as catchy as he thinks.  I need to get my producer to veto it soon.

“You’re kidding.  Fucking Austria?”

Note: bleep in post.

“Fyooking, fooking, fucking, whatever.  What’s in Austria?  Love their food.  Moreso since the empire collapsed.”

There’s a pause, and then Finn’s face goes wide with a smile so big you can see the teeth clearly.  He hangs up the phone, and heads back to the truck with a bounce in his step.

“What’s in Austria?” I ask as the camera tries to keep up.

He stops, grins at us over his shoulder, pushes his shades down over his eyes.

“Something awesome.”

What IS in Austria?  Help me find out... add to the chaos by clicking here!

July 16, 2009 — 441 words

Scraps for Thursday


I know I say this every week, but things are getting really exciting around here.  Big releases and new projects and a daring system I hope a lot of you like.  I'm squeezing this post in now because tomorrow is my younger daughter's birthday, and I won't have much time to waste between the presents and cake.  Mmm, cake...

Fission Chips

Chapter 12 is up and ready for voting.  I have received many emails calling it the best one yet, which is funny because I was worried it was weak.  I only finished it an hour before it went live.  Yeep!

Another question that's been asked is what happens with the story when it's done.  That's easy: it'll go up on the Reader site, and a few weeks later, I hope to have it available in print form too.  So if you were wanting to give it to someone as a gift or something, that's on the horizon.  Though honestly, I think it'll be at least another 6-8 weeks before we're through.

The Chaos Book

You voted, so I'm working hard on the story about a supernatural efficiency expert.  Tomorrow morning, you'll get your first taste of the story, and you can already add some chaos by visiting the special chaos page.  It's going to be fun.  FUN, dammit!

The Vector

The big one hits Monday morning, so be ready.  I'm guest posting at a bunch of blogs next week (I'll give details on Monday), so you can see my silliness in a new locale.  Again, if you have a blog that can use a guest post, let me know.  Or an interview.  Ooo, I'm good at interviews.

Xander and the Wind

I'm 80% done the artwork for Xander, and I'm loving it immensely.  Hopefully you will, too.  I still think it'll be an August release, so you have time to prepare yourself.

Percy's Perch

If you haven't already, please consider donating for Percy.  He's getting decent traction thus far, but he needs some lovin'.  Pass around links or whatever you can do.  Kari and Jehan worked really hard on it, and I want them to feel like it was a good choice.

So that's it!  I'm outta here!  Have a great tomorrow, and I will see you again on Monday (and/or the weekend)!

July 14, 2009 — 410 words

Tuesday Update


Lots of things on the go today, so let's get right into it before I get confused again.

TorrentBoy: Pirates Attack

The second chapter of TorrentBoy 2 is up and ready to roll.  This is where we're introduced to the Protectorate Guard and the Pirates, and things get very dizzy in the process.

I am very close to finishing the artwork for the cover, and once that's done (and I tweak the last few chapters), I will be switching this book over to the Serial+ model, where you can skip the release schedule by purchasing the final PDF.  Look for that in the next week or so, I hope.

The Chaos Book

The winner of the Deathmatch was quite predictably the Chaos Book, with 2104 more votes than D'Myr.  I'm going to start creating the foundation for the series over the next few days both here and on Twitter, so watch for my #tcb posts and reply to them.  They will hold the keys to this book's future...

The Vector

In less than six days, The Vector will be launching.  This is 1889 Books' flagship title for the year, and I'm really excited about it.  You can read the first chapter online now, with new chapters added every Monday and Wednesday thereafter.  I have it on good authority that it's a really fun read, so don't miss it!

rms Reads the Pig!

rms, otherwise know as Richard Stallman, wrote to me the other day to say he read the Pig book, and today I've added a quote from him to the product page!  I cannot express to you how cool this is for me.  It's like John Lasseter complimenting RollBots.  Happy day!

Blog Tour

It's not as well-organized as a proper Blog Tour, but starting next week, I should be appearing on sites around the internet.  I'll post links from here when it happens.  As a reminder: if you've got a blog that could use a guest post, I can write in almost any style, and am looking to expand my horizons.  Also, I don't eat kittens.

Things are getting exciting again (not that they really stop being exciting), so don't go far!

July 14, 2009 — 1,043 words

Disassembling the World (6)


Next Monday, 1889 Books will be releasing The Vector, a science fiction novel about people trying to survive a slow apocalypse.   When we start the book, things have already been deteriorating for some time, and no time is wasted explaining why.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a series of background articles that fill in the back story.  You don’t need to read these to understand the book, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to know.

Read Part I here.
Read Part II here.
Read Part III here.
Read Part IV here.
Read Part V here.
Read Part VI here.

Part VI: The Russian Wars

While China suffered terrible losses in its containment efforts, Russia was gutted by a lack of coherent strategy.  The outbreaks that had kicked off the virus age worsened as incubators fell further down the criminal food chain, out of the control of the already-overwhelmed police forces.  Within six months, the number of known viruses in Europe tripled, all thanks to Russian coders.

The Free Incubator Network (FIN), in a hotly-debated referendum, voted to filter Russian IP addresses out of the system, to prevent viruses to spread outside Russia, but also to prevent virus programmers from exchanging ideas.  It did little to slow down the spread.  Either the perpetrators found ways around the admittedly-flawed filtering routines, or they weren't collaborating in the first place.  A third, protected network called S-FIN (Secure FIN) was set up with trusted nodes that needed to be re-authenticated daily, but they were simply no match for the spread of viruses.

The Russian government, fearful of the collapse of their nation, begged the international community to help treat their sick.  It was a stunning admission of weakness that moved many nations to immediate action.  But while the Russians had been expecting medical personnel on-site, all they got were loans and investments in technology.  As one politician put it: "All the medicine in the world can't help us if there are no doctors here to administer it!"  But this was as far as nations were willing to commit, fearful of becoming targets themselves.

Into the gap flooded organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which deployed hundreds of highly-skilled volunteers from all over the world, in an effort to stop the plagues before they eradicated Russian civilization forever.  The doctors, nurses and technicians sent into Moscow and St Petersburg were welcomed as saviours, but even with all the technology they carried with them, they were only able to ease a patient's suffering in his last hours.  Within months, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were added to the "Black Zone" list, of countries deemed too dangerous to visit.

When a case of Moscow-22 was detected in western China, events became more urgent.  Having just returned to stability itself, China was not willing to risk another serious outbreak.  They demanded a 50 kilometre "buffer zone" around their borders.  When Kazakhstan balked at the unprecedented request, the Chinese tabled a UN resolution to remove the territory rights to any Black Zone nation while it was under quarantine.  The demand met with stiff opposition from Russia and the United States, killing it before a full vote.

Two days later, China mobilized troops along its north-west border, and delivered an ultimatum to Russia: either support the buffer zone, or China would wipe the former Russian Federation off the map.  In papers filed with the UN Security Council, China argued that the Russian plagues presented an imminent threat to their nation, and as such were justified in taking pre-emptive action.  Any doubt as to their resolve was quickly clarified when a civilian convoy near Zaysan, Kazakhstan was destroyed and burned for crossing within 25 kilometres of Xinjiang.

Against the wishes of American diplomats, Russia agreed to the Chinese terms, supporting the buffer zone and going further to ask China for any support it had in coping with outbreaks.  After a two-week delay, the response came in another UN resolution: China requested special non-interference guarantees as part of an initiative it called the "Healing Program".  It had equipped its former PHEU agents for travel abroad, and would bring its special brand of treatment to the world.

By the time the first PHEU agents reached Russia, they had earned the bitter nickname "Healers", infamous not for the infected they killed, but because they never actually cured the sick.  They were the diagnosticians and the hunters.  Others cared for the sick.

The MSF contingent in Russia had suffered staggering casualties.  By some estimates, all the top-ranked medical minds of the world had died in the space of a year.  Those that were left were desperate, unorthodox, and largely discounted by their colleagues at home.  When the Healers arrived at their doorstep, fireworks were to be expected, and on November 23 of that year, a Healer was killed by a mob of patients at a hospital outside St Petersburg.  Reports quickly singled out the leading physician, Dr Alberto Gauss, as the instigator.  When China demanded punishment, MSF argued Dr Gauss, for all his faults, was an integral part of maintaining order in St Petersburg, and could not be removed.  The Russian government, fearful of large-scale reprisals, went against popular opinion and arrested Dr Gauss for murder.  He was convicted in a hastily-arranged trial and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.  China was placated, but the public (and MSF) were furious.

The first wave of Healers spent three years in Russia before moving further west.  The world they found there was nothing like they'd expected...

The story continues next Monday, July 20, in "The Vector".  You can read the first chapter now, with new chapters every Monday and Wednesday.

July 12, 2009 — 696 words

A Month With the Terio TX-i9 Sonic Toothbrush


Note: I wrote this in about 15 minutes as part of a contest at Boing Boing Gadgets.  I wanted to post it here in case any of you enjoy it.  The rules were simply: flash fiction, about gadgets.  This is what my mind gravitated to...

“You’ve gotta try my toothbrush,” Jeff said breathlessly, shoving the shiny plastic tube between Laney and her cereal.  She made every effort to not kill him on the spot.

“I keep telling you,” she said, pushing it away.  “I’m not risking my dental hygiene based on some techno-fluff marketing bullshit.  I don’t care how the sound waves supposedly detach plaque from your teeth.  If it doesn’t taste like mint, I don’t trust it.”

Jeff looked ever-so-slightly hurt by this.  He displayed his gum line proudly.

“It really works,” he said.  “No cavities.  Not a one.”

“You haven’t been to the dentist since you got it.”

“Well, all the same.”

“No thanks,” she said, shovelling another spoonful into her mouth.

He didn’t give up.  He pulled his chair closer, leaned close to the extent that Laney really wished the sound waves somehow conveyed a minty smell somehow.

“It’s not the teeth,” Jeff said quietly.  “It’s something else.  It can do something ELSE...”

She stared at him a moment.

“This isn’t sexual, is it?”

“No.  No!” he said.  “Nothing like that.  Okay.  Wait.  Let me show you.”  He turned back towards the bedroom, cupped a hand to his mouth, and called: “Digby!  Here boy!”

In a second, their six-month-old black Lab was tearing across the hardwood floor, tongue flailing in anticipation of whatever made his owner call him.  Jeff pointed the toothbrush at the puppy’s head and pushed a button, and in an instant, Digby collapsed to the ground, sliding the rest of the way to Laney’s chair.

“JEFF!” she yelled.  “What the hell?”

“Don’t worry,” Jeff laughed.  “He’s just sleeping.  It’s nothing serious.  See?”  He pointed the toothbrush again, and this time, Digby bounced back to life, ready for action.  Laney patted his head absent-mindedly, eyed the toothbrush.

“How did you…”

“Total accident,” he said.  “I was holding it upside-down and Digby was right there, and next thing I know, he’s collapsed on my feet.  Pretty amazing, right?  I guess the frequency they use must trigger something in simple brains that shuts them off!”

“Wow,” gasped Laney.  “That’s… that’s pretty amazing.”

“I know!  God help us if Gizmodo finds out about this…”

Laney put out her hand, eyes narrow with skepticism.

“Let me try,” she said.  Jeff put it in her hand, leaned back in his chair so he had a good view of Digby.  His chest puffed with pride.  He could barely cook his own ramen, but he’d gone and discovered something IMPORTANT.  He was a MAN, dammit!

Laney stroked Digby’s head, and he licked her palm.

“Good boy,” she said, pointing the toothbrush downward.  “Good little doggie.”

Before he knew what was happening, Laney swivelled the toothbrush around and zapped Jeff in the face.  His head dropped backwards, eyes rolled, mouth hanging open stupidly.  He began snoring almost immediately.

Laney dragged Jeff from the table to the bed, threw the covers over him and closed the curtains as if he’d slept in.  It was so much easier doing this at night, she thought.  She should have seen this coming weeks ago.

She hid the toothbrush in a pack of tampons, tucking it in the corner of the bathroom closet next to the soap refills, where Jeff would never, ever look.

It was going to take a lot of work to convince him that it had all been a dream, but it had to be done.  “I have a headache tonight” just wasn’t cutting it anymore.