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jester on fire

October 2010



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Oct. 26th, 2010

jester on fire

It's Gotta Start Somewhere

I was reading a really interesting article this morning which discussed the inertial blindness affecting the various publishing industries - specifically music and literature, but I believe this can be seen in many more industries as well. It's basically the realization that people tend to trust word-of-mouth more than blanket napalm advertizing and that more industries need to learn how to shift their marketing model from the one they currently employ and adopt one that more closely follows software development.

In software, anyone can invent anything. They can "mass produce" it (in other words, distribute electronically) and build up a target audience and use that to gain credit with the larger distributors or developers.

But with music and book publishing companies, they will only invest in the sure things - - creators who they know - KNOW - they can make a buck off. And these creators are usually desperate enough to sign away their rights to getting that brass ring contract. Most musicians, for example, don't start making any money off their albums until they're 2 or 3 albums in, and usually only after they're able to re-negotiate their contract to something more favorable.

I saw a recent statistic that addressed the number of iTunes downloads you would need each month in order to sustain it as a career. Literally, it was in the hundreds and thousands. But as an independent producer, it goes up dramatically. It's not unusual for first-time musicians to make literally pennies off each unit sold through a major publishing company, most all of which gets absorbed back into the production and marketing costs and their advance. The number of bands who declare bankruptcy after selling millions of albums isn't even unusual anymore - if anything, it's become the average experience. How sad is that? Meanwhile, RIAA is blaming illegal downloads as the cause of their financial ruin.  Nice.

So this is where I come in. I've now written two novels, and am preparing to start my third - but as I don't follow the old school structure of marketing (as I don't have $150,000 to simply toss around), I turn to you for help.

My two novels - "The Morrow Stone" and "Reaper's Flight" are presently framed up on two sites: Amazon.com and Goodreads.com. They're actually sold on the first site (paperback and Kindle versions), while Goodreads is set up as a reader/author site - - - think Facebook but with an absolute focus on reading. Now, I know times are tough - - so if the 11 bucks (for the paperback; the kindle versions are around 6 dollars) is too much an investment, it's not a worry.

What I'd really like are reviews, feedback; that sort of thing. In fact, if you're interested in doing a review, but haven't read the book but would like to and don't have the extra cash to purchase a copy, let me know, and we can work something out - perhaps a pdf review copy, that sort of thing could be exchanged. Amazon is a great place to put those reviews, as well - - all good feedback helps get my books higher up and more visible.

Additionally, on Goodreads, there are opportunities for leaving reviews or simply adding the books to your "To Read" list. There are also genre lists that feature books of a like vibe, and voting for these is not only free, but it's easy and can make a supreme difference in other people's decisions to invest in the books. For example, The Morrow Stone is currently on these lists, and simply voting for it can give it a new level of visibility and recognition, either one of which can help it to be picked up by other readers.

Also, there's a book by a fellow independent author friend of mine, HL Reasby. Her Egyptian-themed contemporary fantasy novel "Akhet" can be likewise found in both places - feel free to give her book some props, too. She's in the middle of edits on her next book, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind a bit of positive attention for her first one. Edits suck; she could use a little applause right about now, I'd wager.

Lastly, if you're an author or musician or artist, etc, and would like some additional internet praise, please let me know - - I will happily share the good word with my peeps and take one more giant leap for independent content creators.

So there's my plea and my offer. Thank you for - if nothing else - reading this; thank you twice for anything you can do to help get the word out. And thank you thrice for being involved at all, whichever way the process unfolds.

Be well, peeps.

Sep. 28th, 2010

jester on fire

my latest book!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reaper's Flight: Book 2 of the Aerthos Trilogy (Volume 2) by Ren Cummins


Reaper's Flight


by Ren Cummins


Giveaway ends October 10, 2010.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


Sep. 12th, 2010


Life Lessons in Ferryworld

I learned a very important series of lessons yesterday, and felt like I should share them with you all.

1) When getting in line for a Washington ferry, you must drive all the way back to the end of the line, even if there's only two or three cars back there.

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May. 26th, 2010

jester on fire

Writer's Block: Cat talk

If your dog or cat had a mobile phone, who would be listed first on her or his speed dial?

My cat would have me listed first. That way, he could call me all day long: "You need to give me food. Now."

The dog would have me listed first, too, though, so he could tell me: "Dude! The cat just called you again!"

May. 24th, 2010

jester on fire

Was there a more appropriately-named series ever?

Okay, gonna talk about the ending of Lost here, and there will be spoilers. I'll put it all behind a cut, but don't read any further if you haven't yet watched the finale.


May. 11th, 2010

jester on fire

Death and the Maiden

It might have started with the zombies.

Yesterday afternoon, the Bean and I were talking about this and that while working on her homework, and the conversation turned to zombies and ghosts. She asked me if I'd ever seen a ghost, which led to another conversation - one that I'll save here for another time, perhaps.

Then she asked me why I thought ghosts were here at all - this led to another series of topics involving ghosts vs spirits vs angels, empathy, reincarnation, and, well, death.

This is a tricky conversation to have with a 9 year old, let's be honest. But the Bean has always been very sensitive to the concept of death - it's been kind of surrounding her since she was very young - with Lizz's parents and uncle Stan having passed away, it's just become a sort of thing present in the background ever since she was born. But also, it has really impacted her in general.

I made a kind of breakthrough, I think, in that we were able to address the concerns of life and death and life beyond in a way that didn't involve religious considerations, but still embraced the idea of faith and belief. Those are things that I had feared forever tainted by my exposure to religious indoctrination, and it was liberating to see that they were really only as inextricably bound as I allowed them to be.

I was able to tell Jillie what I believed, and it gave her something to consider - something that she realized she also thought was a good thing to believe in.   We even talked about the scientific principle about the conservation of matter and energy; about how something can never be destroyed nor created, but can only be converted and processed. It gave her something to wrap the unwrappable in, and gave her a toehold to believing in the immortality of the human soul.

Belief really is a tricky thing. It's even stranger to think of how much it's been a part of my life, but, stripping away all the extra trappings of it all and leaving it in its primal, simplest state.... it's a very beautiful thing.

May. 6th, 2010

jester on fire

Let There Be Life

Ah, Evil. Evil evil evil - - it's such an intriguing concept, and one I've examined from far too personal a perspective for far too long. A very good friend of mine - also a writer (and you should check her out, she's AWESOME) - has been talking with me about the struggle to balance the concept of being an evil god in the worlds of our own construction: specifically, on writing fiction and doing all manner of wickedness to our beloved characters.

It can be a sort of soul-reducing internal conflict, this balance of both loving and brutalizing our protagonists. And something she wrote in her recent blog made me look at it in a fresh new light.

For a bit of background, I'm at the end of the halfway point for my current trilogy: quite literally in that I'm at the halfway point of the second book, so I'm taking a moment to review where we've come from and where we're going to. Do the paths and arcs mesh? Do they progress evenly and surprisingly enough to remain engaging and logical? Most importantly, do we care what happens to our heroes? Avoiding spoilers, let me just say that I've presently dropped them into a very precarious situation. Bad things have happened to them. Anguish will ensue with my main character, someone who I've struggled to maintain as a fairly capricious and unrepentantly spontaneous youth. This troubles me as to who she is and where she now is: she's effectively charged with the management of souls, and yet she's still basically a 14 year old girl. How does a girl balance this and that?

And how does a person who is often considered too young to have to confront issues like life and death going to manage those very concepts when forced to do so? Forced, in fact, by the very nature of who she is? How DOES, in essence, a 14 year old girl confront the truth of her very Self?

I stumbled upon an analogy the other day - and was a little disturbed that it hadn't really Occurred to me like this before - that, really, being an author is a bit like being God. Even if you're writing non-fiction, you're inventing every tree, flower, bird, insect, cloud and human that ends up flowing from your pen (or digitally appearing on your computer monitor, whichever the case may be), and forming them. You say "let it be so", and it is, and you (or your editor) says "it is good", and there it is. Day One.

So what does it say about me as a writer to put my poor little constructs through the daily hells I invent for them? Why would I - who loves these beings so much that I have given them life - proceed thus to torment and torture them thus? Honestly, I'm one horrific god-author. I can't even suggest that I'm doing this for their own good, to make them stronger, or to one day give them happiness. I'm doing it all to tell a story. Okay, well, yes, I do care about their "character arc" - I want them to become more, to develop and grow, and I see these obstacles as a means to an end.

But I do seem to take a malevolent, nearly psychopathic glee with beating the crap out of them. And one day, when their stories will end, I will stop writing them, effectively letting their lives fade from my fingertips as I turn my focus to new characters and new stories. How cruel is that?

Well, I've dawdled long enough, need to get back to things. It looks bleak for Rom and her friends, and I'm not sure they're all going to make it. Light a candle, folks, it's gonna get a bit dusty in the next chapter or so.


Blatant plug: "The Morrow Stone" is available through Amazon.com in paperback and kindle versions.

May. 4th, 2010

jester on fire

Tweet blind

I've been kind of distracted by twitter, damn that thing.  And - I don't know if you've heard of this phenomenon, but there's some substance to it - once you've gotten into the rhythm of tweetification, it's not easy to think of complete sentences - or at least, nothing more than 140 characters long.

Which is sad, because I think I'd dropped some decent sentences there, and I've been subconsciously resistant to coming over here and actually spilling my thoughts out.

For example:

Why has it been more than 25 years since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and we're still petrified of using nuclear energy, and yet after billions of dollars in damages in intolerably gruesome environmental abuse to the world through oil-related accidents, we're still just content to mop it up and keep sucking at the petroleum teat? Was the damage by 3MI and Chernobyl worse than the Exxon Valdez and the dozens of other accidents up to and including this latest oil spill? I guess we like the earth. We can just kick her in the guts and she just lets us drill deeper. We're the worst tenants EVER.

Speaking of life on earth, all the talk lately about extraterrestrial life has got me wondering if Stephen Hawking isn't actually on to something. Yes, okay, let's set aside the fact that he's one of this generation's most intelligent brains not already in a glass jar - - but his recently described theory that we should probably lay low out here in this corner of the milky way, lest some of the galaxy's bullies find out we're here, come over and rough us up....well, it's actually got a lot going for it.

Specifically, just look at the track record we've got going for us. Let's just look at how nice we were to the people who lived on this continent before the white man showed up and completely killed a huge chunk of them off. "Oh, hey, nice place you got here, how about we just take it off your hands! Here, you can have these plastic beads and smallpox."

I wonder what sort of disease-riddled trinkets ET will show up with?

On the brighter side, still chugging along with the book. Passed chapter 12, now. Officially the halfway point, I think.

This puts book 2 well over the 100k word mark at this rate. Good times. Onward and upward, mi cavalleros!

Apr. 15th, 2010

jester on fire

Tea Time

To be completely honest, I've really tried to stifle my knee-jerk reactions to a lot of the political commentary I've been seeing/reading/hearing lately.  And, oh sweet gods, it's been tempting and difficult to resist. All the talk of health care reform, economical woes, nuclear threats, international fearmongering, civil war, socialism, nationalism, blah blah blahbitty blah.

I've kept a pretty open mind about it all - I never want to be so staunchly loyal to any elected official or administration or political party or even a philosophical position; circumstances require a modicum of flexibility and moderation in all things, including moderation. Even though I voted democrat in the last election (for the most part), I'm in truth pretty moderate in my political leanings - which is, strangely enough, one of the reasons I felt strongly in my decision to vote Obama. That being said, I'm by no means ignorant of a president's failings - this is a misconception a lot of people I talk to seem to jump to. I don't expect deification, sainthood or perfection from my presidents, but I do expect them to be able to read the signs and do the best they can within their limited scope to guide the course of the nation towards improvement and a better life; I expect them to consider our best interests, and to not shrink away from doing "what must be done" both as a nation and as a kind of "top of the heap" among most other nations. We have a responsibility, I believe, both to ourselves and to the rest of the people with whom we share this planet, to not only protect our own rights and freedoms as we hold them to be self-evident, but to allow other nations to seek out their own evolultionary steps (provided those steps do not require the assault of another sovereign nation or the enslavement of their own people).

I don't think my expectations are too extreme.

But apparently, the expectations I have towards (or against) the rest of my countrymen are.

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Mar. 22nd, 2010


Health Care Reform

Let's play a game, shall we? I know a lot of folks have been talking about how the Health Care Reform bill would either SAVE or DESTROY the world. And the predictions - oh, the predictions!

Well, let's do an HCR Time Capsule, then. Since folks are SO SERIOUS about it, let's write down our predictions, shall we? We'll jot them down and set them aside so that, in, let's say one year from today, we can look back on this and read with marvel and amazement how right or wrong we are! Wouldn't that be fun?

You see, I keep reading blogs and comments and FB statuses and signs along the roadside about how Health Care Reform is going to lead to communism or socialism or fascism (these three seem to get used interchangeably, but who am I to point out the glaring flaws in their statements). While the other side says it's going to make all our health care problems magically disappear, JUST LIKE MAGIC.

I, for one, see a lot of possibilities, but most of them depend on this current health care bill being only the first step. So I honestly don't know what will happen with health care itself.

But I do know that a lot of politicians are going to try and use this as a notch on their political belts. And, honestly, if there's anything we should just by default vote a politician out of office, it's that - - putting their own election needs ahead of our needs. You see, that's the concern I have here. Everyone is whining and moaning about their own perceived losses or wins, or how the run-amok-y government is becoming a fascism regardless of which way the pendulum is swinging. Well, here's the dealio, boys and girls:

It's our fault. Not the democrats or the republicans, but BOTH and all of us. We're letting things get out of hand because we keep letting the government do things that they think we want, as opposed to stepping up and making the tough choices ourselves. We want to beat the other guys SO MUCH that we don't, in effect, care who gets taken out in the process.

For example:

Who here, by a show of hands, really thinks that our current (okay, prior to sunday's HCR vote) health care system was perfect? Honestly - as in, you wouldn't have touched a hair on the tender noggin of health care, that it ate sunshine and farted rainbows.

Okay, yes, that's a trick question. Of COURSE the health care system is busted up. It's too expensive and even health insurance is unpredictably successful at best. Compensatory lawsuits are too aggressive, malpractice insurance as a result is overly burdensome on doctors and hospitals... it's all one big clusteryouknowwhat.

But, really, in spite of all the enormous problems impacting our ability in this country of ours to have halfway decent health care is the fact that we're too busy arguing over the semantics of health care and clutching our personal moralities (ie abortion, medicare, socialized medicine, you name it) like insane raccoons with our shiny tin can lids, while the world crumbles around us.

In short: More shutty uppy, less crazy weasel political screaming.

Let's stop screaming at each other and fix this.

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