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July 24, 2009 — 638 words

Announcing The Vector in Print


Updated to include the new Limited Edition Lite option.

You asked (and threatened) and I listened.  And then I forgot.  And then I remembered, and now I'm doing something.  Announcing The Vector in print!

No, it's not available right now.  It needs some tweaking first.  A better blurb for one.  A few typos people have found.  And then there's this: there are going to be two three editions...


The paperback version should be available via Amazon in the next few weeks.  I need to check the proof, but after that, you should be able to snag a copy.  It's 300 pages and has a taller version of the cover you see on the Reader site.  It'll retail for $12.99, and will make you happy in places you never imagined.

Limited Edition

The Limited Edition is something even better.  Due in October, it will be hardcover, with a polished compilation of the "Disassembling the World" posts I made here (telling the backstory to the Healer and international plagues), plus "The Virus Coder's Girl" and a few other surprises.  It will also have a new cover by the amazing artist Nykolai Aleksander... a shot of the Healer, battle-worn and weary, alone in a bleak world.  Mind-blowage will ensue.  The LE version will cost $75 (including shipping), and come signed and numbered.   There will only be 300 of them made.  Presales will start shortly after the cover art is done (see below).  If you bought an eBook version, you get $5 off the LE price; whatever you donate for the cover fund also counts against the LE price.

Limited Edition Lite (New!)

By popular demand, I am adding a third kind of print book to the mix.  The LEL version will be paperback, with the new cover, but none of the bonus materials of the LE.  It will be signed and numbered, so there will be a limit to how many I do (I hate shipping), but I won't set a cap just yet.  They will sell for $35 (including shipping), and go on sale at the same time as the LE.  This way, you can get something special, even if you're not stupendously rich.  As with the LE, if you bought the eBook, you get $5 off the LEL; whatever you donate to the cover fund also counts against the LEL price.

Speaking of not being rich...

Help me fund the cover

The cover art is going to cost $500, and I need some assistance paying for it.  If you had been holding off donating for some reason, this is an excellent time to try!  I've set up a Fundable page where you can chip in to help me reach my goal.  Any money you donate will count towards your LE or LEL purchase (because you know you'll want one with this artwork!), and you'll also get a digital copy of the cover as a poster, so you can adore it forever and ever.  You'll also be thanked in the LE/LEL editions, so everyone else will know how cool you are.  So think of this as an investment in art, and an investment in your LE/LEL ownership.  Donate $20 and the LE is only $55!  Donate $30 and the LEL is $5!  Donate $100 and the LE is free!  Bonus!

To conclude

A big thank you to everyone that's given me so much support over the last 5 days.  To recap: over 9,000 reads, 700 RSS subscribers, 105 ebooks sold, and close to 300 emails demanding a print version, or they will kill me.  You guys rock.  I will do my best not to disappoint.


July 23, 2009 — 795 words

Why Books Don’t Need Pages


This will into things a lot of people won't care about, but some will care very passionately about.  It's the future of books, and more specifically, the technical and UI considerations of how pages work in eBooks.

The thing that got me was this post on the always-exciting eBook Test.  In particular, this bit:

For example, while held in landscape mode, an eBook reader could display two pages, side-by-side, just like this current online software at The Internet Archive:

Now, The eBook Test is a very forward-thinking place, with lots of great ideas about the future of books, but in this regard, they feel strangely behind the times.  Look at it this way: writing used to happen on scrolls, right?  It's like if someone invented the bound book, and said "we must write all the content with the binding at the top, down through the pages, to better simulate the reading experience we're used to".  It's silly, and it makes no sense.  We're talking about a dramatically changed medium, and we should be embracing it.  But how?

Forget pages

This is one of the things that bothers me most about ebooks.  We're doing massive amounts of work to create artificial pagination which will never stack up to a properly-typeset page, to what end?  So people find it familiar?  People read emails onscreen, in one long stream.  They read blog posts the same way.  People are used to non-paginated content.  In fact, when you're reading a post on  a site and it's broken into multiple pages you need to click through, doesn't it ANNOY you that someone is obviously misunderstanding the conventions of the web?  Like it was designed by old-media nutters who refused to accept the world had changed?

Forget pages.  They're useless.  Relics.  They don't provide any benefit, and they destroy any semblance of quality design.  Make page breaks according to thematic shifts, not because of an arbitrary word count.  Pages of a picture book?  Sure, that's fair.  Pages of a novel?  Why?

The major complaint of this system is that it's easy to forget where you were when you were reading.  Fair enough, but easily fixed.  I added a little javascript to my Reader site that records the reader's scroll position as they read.  Bookmark the result and revisit, and you are automatically put back exactly where you were.  It's better than a page.  You pick up exactly where you left off.  A reader can read all the way through the chapter without an artificial page shift — and believe me, every page you ask them to flip is a chance they'll decide to come back later — and thusly, we're moving the exit decision to chapters, not pages.  We're buying more time to convince the reader to stay.

Look at the idea of a side-by-side presentation.  Reading in columns.  Again: why?  How does that improve the experience?  How often do you look at a printed book wide open, just to see the two facing pages at the same time?  To appreciate that they exist?  Or do you read the one page, then switch to the next, then turn the page?  You're reading within the columns.  The columns are a limitation of the medium, not a feature.  If I used Windows, I wouldn't be using it for the Blue Screen of Death.  That's insane.  Trying to recreate the flaws of one medium into the next makes so little sense, you'd think it was coming from the RIAA.

Look: short of a standard pixel size for all ebook screens, you can never really know how your content is going to fit.  So you're left with a certain amount of guesswork, but certainly no more than the web has already overcome.  Focus on making your books make sense in the medium.  Design them appropriately, design them beautifully, and forget the old ways of doing things.

I remember designing sites ten years ago, being told: "We have to make sure it prints well!" and cutting back on our techniques to match.  These days, we have sites that are so fundamentally un-printable that they're truly amazing to behold.  But you know what?  That's GOOD.  We've started designing for the medium at hand, and it means there are some gorgeous sites out there.

We need to do the same with ebooks.  We need to break free of the paper mindset, enhance the capabilities of epub (giving it proper rendering capabilities for a change) and replace old-school typographers with web designers.  We're not talking about paper books, or websites either.  We're talking about ebooks, and they need the attention they deserve.  We need to do something new, something amazing, something that says "this is what an ebook is".

July 22, 2009 — 193 words

Contest Time!


So you may have seen that The Vector was mentioned on the incomparable io9 today.  Seriously, the highlight of my month.  Really great write-up, except for one tiny thing...

What this blurb doesn't capture is the creepy, dark feel to the prose in this well-crafted novel.

The blurb doesn't capture it.  Bugger.  See, this is why you should never write your own blurbs.

WHICH IS WHY... I am having a contest!  Write me a better blurb for the book, and you can win the very first paperback copy of the book!  Yes, I set it up today, so it should be ready to go soon.  So you'll get a free copy of the book, plus your quote on the back cover.  How's that for a prize, eh?

Right.  So email or comment me your submissions.  I'd say about 400 words is the max for this kind of thing.  Brevity is key.  Punchy is key.  You know, the kinds of things I apparently suck at.

I'll give you all until next Friday (31st of July) at 9PM Pacific to submit, and then I'll choose.

Good luck!

July 22, 2009 — 551 words

Wednesday Fun


Random things for a happy, sunny Wednesday that I will only see through the window because I never leave my computer...

Guest Posting!

Today, I have guest posts up at Brian Spaeth's site and also at Dyscultured!  I have been a busy bee.  Please read them, and comment extensively.

Best Conversation Ever

A TV producer acquaintance (who shall remain nameless) gave me permission to post this summary of this discussion we had yesterday after he looked over my website.

Producer: I saw your website.  That TorrentBoy idea is cool.  Is it available to option?

Me: Well, technically you could do that, but it's open source, so you don't really get to own the rights.

Producer: [random expletives]!  Why would you do that?  It'd be perfect as a series!

Me: Um... sorry?

Which just goes to show you that sometimes, people don't like it when you make your stuff free.  We had a great conversation after that, though.  I just wanted to share it, because it was really funny to hear a passionately negative reaction to TorrentBoy for a change :)

My Damn Schedule

Looking ahead, I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing next.  Fission Chips will wrap up by mid-September, I think, meaning I will have a Thursday timeslot to fill.  I have another Marx and Richardson story I'd like to do, but I think we need to give Gare a rest for a little bit.  So looking at the week, it runs like this:

Monday: Vector
Tuesday: TorrentBoy: Pirates Attack!
Wednesday: Vector
Thursday: ???
Friday: Chaos Book

Looking at the options, I have no clear answers.  Typhoon would be fun, but it's still not done and with all the subplots and mysteries, it'd be hard to release regularly unless it was polished.  A Quiet Life would be fun for me, but I think the rest of you will need some time to appreciate it.  Maybe  something like "Liberty Bell", if I changed it into a voting story.  It's about the most hated man in the open source world, wanted for a murder he didn't commit, in a city so wired he has nowhere to hide.  That could be fun.  It's almost 15 years in the making, so maybe it's time to write it down.

Anyway, here's the question: what kind of story would you like to see?  Comedy?  Action? Romance? (ha!) or something totally different.  Am I right in assuming the interactivity would be worthwhile?

Testing Premium

Over the next few days, I'll be testing my premium subscription service on the site.  This means you should be seeing a post or two that you can't access.  Do not panic.  It is only a test.

A video for your enjoyment

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!