The Bestseller Reality

This post continues on from my last blog about the launch of the Bestseller Experiment of their Back to Reality book. The book successfully became a best seller, gaining the special orange tag on Amazon!

During the livestreams on launch day there was discussion about what is next for the two Marks. One of the authors I follow is Gavin G Smith, who introduced me to the podcast, and he suggested making the future of the podcast about winning a Man Booker Prize for Fiction! Given the success of both the podcast and the book, it does not sound ridiculous to suggest such a goal.

I found the book launch on Monday to be quite captivating; I joined in two livestreams and watched the other two after they were broadcast. I admit that a few months ago I was not certain that the experiment would be a success. With the final week’s daily podcasts, plus the frenetic activity by the beta readers (Experimentalists), the momentum for the launch convinced me that they’d succeed. It was great to see Neil Gaiman tweeting about the book, followed by this funny moment:

So many great writers were involved in the podcast, and I plan on going through the summary in their epic PDF Vault of Gold again soon. Given then typical busy lives of writers, and the many demands for their attention, it is understandable that some of my favourites, like Mr Gaiman, were not able to join in; another reason to keep the podcast going, even more epic guests!

As normal this week chronic pain has interfered with my sleep, but at least my mood is high, in part due to channelling the success of the two Marks in to my own writing this week. I am working on the Gingerbread competition that was announced on the Bestseller podcast; I am currently writing two different stories, since I really wanted to write both. The wife and I’ve nearly finished our caterpillar cake:

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You can keep up to date with what happens next with the Bestseller Experiment at their website.

The Bestseller Experiment Mark Stay Mark Oliver (Desvaux)

 

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Back to Reality

Today is the launch of the book by the Bestseller Experiment, a wonderful podcast that I have been following, and written about before. The hard work that Mark Stay and Mark Oliver (Desvaux) did on the podcast has really paid off with regards to the book. The great banter in the podcast was a big hint for what they were writing, and I think the Mark’s delivered their signature style well.

The good news is that the book has already reached number 1 in music:

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It will be interesting to see how things develop over the next few weeks. As well as what will happen with the brilliant podcast; in the first live stream for the book launch, Mark Stay explained there will be a podcast break.

As a member of the beta team (Experimentalists) I got to read the book before its launch. The launch team was amazing, and a very interesting experience. Sadly I was not as quick as my fellow Experimentalists in regards to giving feedback. The team is another example of the many things a professional author should consider.

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My review is:

This feel good story initially starts out following the unhappy life of Jo, her dull life degenerates further, but then Yohanna turns up and things get weird! It’s certainly a page turner, as Jo deals with a comedic level of problems. Despite the scale of the protagonist’s problems, somehow the two Marks manage to maintain a light tone and some great humour.
Be warned this funny story also has character depth, interesting scenes all wrapped up with some heartfelt profundity. This good mix of fun and seriousness helped with the books pacing, I was intrigued to know what would happen next. In the spirit of this books good use of nostalgia, the story has a Play Your Cards Right feel: “Is the next scene’s emotion higher or lower than a 7?”
I recommend this fun read, particularly to anyone wanting a good balance of joy, sadness with a good sprinkling of gravitas about life choices. I rate this book a caterpillar cake, definitely worth consumption.

I am greatly looking forward to what else the two Marks do. In the meanwhile tracking the books position in various charts will be fun. You can get your copy of the book now via the smart link at http://bestsellerexperiment.com/backtoreality/

The Passion of Landis

I detest our celebrity obsessed culture. I respect hard work, as well as talent that works hard. If we put someone on a pedestal, idolise them, we are denying them their humanity. They will struggle like the rest of us, and sometimes fail; they shouldn’t be denied this reality. I’m not interested in learning about people’s personal lives, or fixating upon their every utterance, looking for either perfection or errors. This post is about Max Landis’s art, not the person, who I don’t know. I respect his work ethic and passion, plus his informative/fun videos.

Blimey, this latest Max project is bizarre, intriguing, and fun. It’s probably brilliant, I’m not sure, I’m still analysing it since it’s grand in scope.

I rarely get excited about forthcoming releases, particularly films or computer games, like most people I’ve been disappointed too many times. I appreciate the importance of advertising, and the reality that the big game or film studios are about big business, that the art comes second. Max Landis is somebody that talks about the realities of screenwriting and TV/film production. Some people claim his career is built upon nepotism, I believe it is a career built upon relentless writing, practice & study, combining passion and hard work; like most great artists. Max’s latest project is something that he’s been building up to for a while, and I’ve been looking forward to this more than any film release.

It’s strange that I’ve been anticipating this project so much, since I’m not a follower of Carly Rae Jepson’s music. Over the years I’ve probably heard about ten tracks, I thought they were good, but since I have so much music, as well as podcasts, competing for attention, Carly’s music isn’t on my radar. Yet when Max passionately announced this pattern project I was intrigued, suddenly Carly was on my radar, I even watched a bunch of her videos. I then waited, and waited, and now it’s here! What I’ve read of Max’s analysis so far has already resulted in me switching between reading something, then watching a Carly video; the next few days are going to be quite fun.

Besides Max’s great advice on writing, I love recommending his other special projects. As part of the release for the movie Chronicle, Max released The Death and Return of Superman video. I’ve watched that video many times, as well as linked it to so many of my friends. Overall I like comics, so it’s no surprise that I’d love both of these products, as well as Max’s Superman: American Alien series, which is a delightful low powered take on the Man of Steel. Yet despite not being a fan of watching professional wrestling, I thought Max’s Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling was spectacular, funny, and a beautiful summary of why professional wrestling is a legitimate storytelling art form, especially when done well.

Every time I’ve watched Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling, the ending really moves me. I think the build-up and release is masterful, a documentary equivalent of Chvrches: Clearest Blue; I’m sure Max would appreciate that association 😉

While a few people accuse Max of being any number of things, only a fool would dismiss his passion. I have found this project to be another example of Max’s attention to detail, as well as keen insight in to narrative. I now listen to Carly with a newfound depth, for me, like Max, there is something more to her music now, and I want to keep digging. I have avoided spoilers, just hinting at Max’s remarkable analysis, dive in and check out the fascinating The Jepson Pattern, A Scar No One Else Can See #ascarnooneelsecansee. You can also read Max’s scripts, or visit a collection of his notes at: http://www.maxlandiswrites.com/

 

Bestseller Experiment & Gingerbread

Back in April I wrote the Bestseller Experiment podcast in a post called Writing Curious/Crazy Experiment. If you are unfamiliar with the podcast then I’d recommend reading that first.

Since April a lot has happened with the two Marks, I’m not going to write any major spoilers here, although a minor spoiler is perfectly fine 😉 As their big deadline approaches the work on their novel has continued and really blossomed, along with an ever increasing sense of urgency. So the chaps were recently surprised by needing to make a major decision, whether to release the work under their own names: Mark Stay & Mark Desvaux, or a pen-name, since the story has a female lead, and their names are clearly male. Once again the two Marks do a wonderful job of discussing the situation, as well as presenting feedback from their editor. Given that there is no easy answer for this dilemma, the drama of this curious experiment has reached an interesting twist; definitely check out Episode 48 for more information.

It was a surprise to receive a bonus episode last Friday, they normally come out on a Monday. Episode 50 was to announce a writing competition with the charity Gingerbread:

We’re the leading charity working with single parent families. Supporting, advising and campaigning with single mums and dads to help them meet their family’s needs.

The competition is:

Are you an aspiring writer with experience of single parent family life?

We’re thrilled to be launching the ‘One in Four’ new writer competition, in partnership with Trapeze Books and The Pool. Together, we want to find a new talent to write a novel that celebrates single parent families.

I was raised by my father in a single-parent family, so I have plenty of personal experience in regards to the sorts of problems that a single-parent family faces. In particular the time and financial constraints, as well as the social stigma, which exists even to this day. My own story has what sounds like a scene from a movie: when I was very young my dad had to go to court to fight a custody battle with the state, which was planning on placing my sister and I into the care system. I assume this is no longer the case for single-parent males, but this highlights an important point about how it is easy to assume social stigmas have been beaten back in our lifetime. In reality I have no idea, and maybe it hasn’t, because so many social stigmas still exist, as well new ones being added. Like most things in life, we typically take an interest when it affects us, since we all normally have so many concerns already. Another thing to research 🙂

Fortunately for me, a few months ago I made notes about a character from a single-parent family in my current writing project, so I was immediately hooked on the idea of entering this competition. The Bestseller Experiment episode’s conversation highlighted how writing about such personal experience could be emotionally difficult, but also rewarding. So another project has been added to the pile, but with an all-important deadline, so the top of the pile it goes.

If you’ve ever pondered whether to give writing a go, even a few seconds, then I highly recommend checking this great podcast out, all of it 😉

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http://bestsellerexperiment.com

Health Before Word Count

Recently I’ve managed to make a blog post weekly, but this week I’m a few days behind. I have done some RPG design work, but as I wrote about an idea I realised I needed to be explain something else first. The next part of my series Role-Playing Game Types is a summary of things that I wrote years ago for my role-playing guide, but those ideas were about 200 pages in, which is why writing a synopsis has proven so time consuming for me.

On Monday I had the urge to rush something out; the thought kept stressing me out. Even though I had written things, I wasn’t going to complete anything in time, and I was trying to stick to a deadline about posting at least once a week. Sadly the stress caused a severe pain spike to my normal pain levels, meaning more breaks were needed. As I mentioned in Healthy Pacing for Deadlines, personal goal setting can only work if the person is realistic about the pace they can set for their work, which also has to take into account health considerations. Estimating how much that is, is a daily struggle, as my health can still fluctuate a lot each day.

Whilst my improved workload is not a return to the vast amount of work I used to do, like a lot of 80 to 90 hour weeks I did whilst at KJC Games, at least things are a bit better than they were a few months ago. I think I am getting better at the daily appraisal in regards to determining how much work I can do before further aggravating my body. The Spoon Theory is a good way of explaining energy management, it mostly applies to my situation, but explaining what my thoughts on this is a blog post all to itself; yep another one for my TODO list.

BatIdeaLoop
A dangerous loop to avoid, finish things, iterate, iterate, iterate.

Thankfully one strategy that improves my odds of reducing problems is to lie down whilst dictating. Sadly this method only really works for my fiction writing, or when discussing a design idea out loud with myself, since I don’t need to keep looking at a screen. If I had the money, maybe I could setup a screen on a very adjustable stand. Or something outrageously expensive:

I am also doing a lot more around the home, as well as looking after my dad whose health recently has rapidly declined, all of which takes time and energy. Each activity is a chance for me to do a bit too much, and as per The Spoon Theory to run out of energy (spoons). I believe the fact I am doing what I’d previously consider to be pathetic levels of physical activity is the area that I have been badly estimating, but I am thankful that I am doing more in general.

I have blogged about The Bestseller Experiment before Writing Curious/Crazy Experiment; I am still thoroughly enjoying the show and will blog more about it soon. Word count is a subject that has been discussed a lot, and the many outstanding authors being interviewed have given great advice about this subject, which so many writers obsess over. So, even though I know about the arbitrary nature of tracking my word count, I still fall victim to it. I really appreciate Ben Aaronovitch’s advice, which is roughly that quality words are what matter.

Although it’s been a year since I wrote my mission statement for the blog, I haven’t changed my opinions for blogging, and what I am slowly building towards. Life still comes down to carefully allocating priorities. Although I’m not in a position to return to professional game design and writing yet, I am striving towards that goal even if my work rate is currently terrible. I was amused that the writer Max Landis, whose work I love, posted this video whilst I was contemplating this blog, and what to do about the days when I end up with a low word count.

Writing Curious/Crazy Experiment

As mentioned in my last blog about CampNaNoWriMo I’ve been listening to The Bestseller Experiment podcast. I first came across them via the author Gavin G Smith tweeting about them in October 2016, but I was busy, so I didn’t allocate any time to check them out. I was reminded of the podcasts existence in February by Gavin, who had once again tweeted about them; a shoutout to Gavin for his recommendation. I also owe Gavin an article in response to his recent interesting Cyberpunk article: The C Word.

For those that are not familiar, read this intriguing and crazy premise:

“Could you write, publish & market a Bestseller in one year?”

I wrote crazy because, well, it seems like it is. The thing is, it’s not entirely crazy, incredible things can happen with any work, and this premise has a clever marketing aspect to it. As I finished the first episode I was quite optimistic that this could work. Just take a look at the guests that they’ve had, it’s an extremely impressive line-up, and they give such brilliant advice.

It’s not just the guests that matter though. The show is hosted by the two Marks: Mark Stay and Mark Desvaux; check out their information at http://bestsellerexperiment.com/about/. At the start they discuss ideas from quite different perspectives, and they don’t always go easy with each other’s opinion. Since they are collaborating, they have a lot to figure out, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I think it is okay to say that a listener can imagine that writing with someone else could result in a big impasse. It quickly became evident to me that these interactions would also be a big draw for me, and likely other listeners. For most of us writers it’s a solo affair, so hearing two people discuss their approaches is quite useful.

At this point I think the Vault of Gold needs to be mentioned. This is a currently free ebook containing lots of information from their episodes. It might not be free for long, so this is another reason to at least give the show a listen.

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As I listened to more episodes, I was pleased to find that the two Marks have discussed so many writers concerns. I think they have done a brilliant job of building up their project, carefully not revealing too much early on, just snippets, adding to the mystery of the show.

By the middle of March I had listened to all the episodes currently available, and I eagerly awaited their next release. I don’t have a particular favourite, I think each is noteworthy; I noted in my previous blog that the Ben Aaronovitch episode is a popular one. Personally I think all the interviews were interesting, useful and enjoyable, and I don’t want to post spoilers. Since people like favourite lists so much, here is mine:

  1. Sarah Pinborough‘s wonderful energy, humour, some different takes on classic advice, and strong language. I plan on listening to this again soon, something I rarely do, so that’s very high praise from me.
  2. The Ben Aaronovitch bollocking, plus how they’ve responded since. Besides the outline issue, Ben gives heaps of good advice, it’s also an overall outstanding chat, don’t let the bollocking overwhelm the rest of the gems. This also deserves a second listen, there was just much in this episode.
  3. Having recently read seven books by Joe Abercrombie, I was really intrigued to hear what he had to say. Joe’s professional approach in particular was inspiring to me, again Joe gives a lot of good advice. Overall it’s brilliant, for example:

Be persistent. The longer you dance naked in the rain, the sooner you’ll be struck by lightning. Joe Abercrombie

I have a special mention in regards to Joe Hill. He gave a great interview, good advice, and it felt like friends chatting. I do have a confession, despite owning and reading several of Joe’s books, and loving them, I had no idea who his dad was. Even for someone like me who rarely looks in to the life of any artists whose work they love, I probably should have known that piece of information; if you’ve no idea what I am on about, like I didn’t previously, check out Joe’s picture. I think Joe would be amused, but also glad that his approach of making a name for himself has certainly worked with regards to me. I also now follow him on Twitter.

My rule when i get to a second draft is, ‘What’s awesome about this scene?’ I’m absolutely ruthless. Joe Hill

You can check out more guest quotes here:

We are now at the halfway mark for The Bestseller Experiment, I’m sure we can look forward to more superb guests, giving excellent advice. As for the two Marks, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say that things are happening, and who knows what drama awaits?

I should probably update my iTunes review of them, I gave a good review before, but I am sure I can write something grander now. I’m convinced they’re not crazy, that this could actually work, even if for one of their audience, which they have said they’d be okay with, but still they are going for it. If you don’t try, you definitely cannot succeed.

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Be sure to check them out. What do you think of this experiment?

I should get back to #CampNaNoWriMo

CampNaNoWriMo Preparation

CampNaNoWriMo starts on the 1st April, an appropriate date for all the self-deprecating writers who think their work is a joke. Thankfully over the last few months my chronic pain has reduced enough that I have started having some good sleep, generally not at night, it is more a case of being at random times; I have tried to establish a regular sleep cycle, but since I still have pain filled days this has proved unreliable. With the sleep improvements, energy levels are improving, and crucially the mental fog diminishes. I am confident that I will reach the CampNaNoWriMo 50,000 word count by the end of April, and I even optimistically envision smashing this target.

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I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking 15 this month. Although I found Dragon 13 was good, since I have so much writing to do in a short time span I want any extra dictation accuracy gains I can get. I have noticed some big differences. I also found that Apple’s Siri is based upon Dragon, one of these irrelevant but interesting facts. Even after all these years the temptation to manually edit is still there, as it is still quicker, the habit just hasn’t faded. Whilst my arms are always in pain, having my RSI pain levels skyrocket due to writing frustration would be silly, never mind my current chronic pain in left shoulder.

In March I started listening to the http://bestsellerexperiment.com/. I have really enjoyed these episodes, and I was partly using them to get me super-inspired for this April’s CampNaNoWriMo. There is too much to state about them here, so I’ll write a blog about them this weekend.

I’ve been working on my world setting for about two years. Due to health reasons I’ve done what I can, for the first year I was bedridden. Over time I have worked out the setting history and since it’s a fantasy setting the all-important metaphysics; this has been engrained in to me due to working in games design, I appreciate some authors don’t think this matters. Typically for me it is a complicated setting, which I think really matters due to the big focus on mental health, plus I do love my fantasy fate stories. I also have a lot of story outlines for important historical events, as well as a collection of scenes.

Basically, I’ve not just done a lot of outlining I’ve done a shocking amount. This is somewhat similar to Mark and Mark at The Bestseller Experiment; I’ll just hint that the Ben Aaronovitch episode alone makes the series for many listeners, plus how they’ve progressed since.

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I decided to write something new in my setting, not obsessing over old ideas and trying to connect scenes spread over centuries. By starting fresh I feel like I am going to be better focused. In theory I won’t get distracted by indulgent fantasy designs like working out how memory & magic in my setting will work; I’ve already worked that out. The world building is done, a lot of it, now is the time to write.

Besides having the CampNaNoWriMo deadline, I have the additional pressure of finishing a board game. I will be visiting some friends, so I need to get this game to a playable state; I’ve had a mini playtest and I feel this game is at least on the right track. The board game work was going well until I strained the muscles around my right ribs at physiotherapy on Tuesday, resulting in two days without sleep, which is accompanied by the usual increase in mental fog. Thankfully my passion for this project, plus the fact I’ve been playing around with ideas for this for years, has helped me dictate a lot of ideas, even if half of them are gibberish at least I can edit the half that are good.

Sadly I haven’t completed some of the blog posts I’ve been working on, mostly due to these new deadlines. Well, technically I wrote the third part of my Lessons from Watching Role-Playing Games two weeks ago, but I had a funny idea for some graphics for that post. I won’t ruin the surprise, but I will say that organising a Skaven photo shoot has proven to be a bit difficult.

I briefly pondered writing a blog every day, but I decided that I should focus on writing. With the board game deadline approaching I already have enough to do, and I do still have health issues to manage.

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#CampNaNoWriMo #AmWriting