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:

Back To Reality Bat

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:

Back To Reality no 1

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.

Back To Reality Bat

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

#RPGaDay 01

Chatting with role-players online and researching is something I quite enjoy, although like most people I do worry about the time sink factor. Yet despite that I’ve decided to take part in #RPGaDay, which was started four years ago by Dave Chapman:

A few years ago I felt there was a negative undercurrent in our hobby. Sorry to say that, but I felt it was there, and inspired by one of those “aDay” things for bibliophiles I thought that I could try to get the world talking about tabletop RPGs in a positive and encouraging way.

Besides the fact it is something I find really interesting, I debated with myself about the time factor. I have so much going on currently, plus my health/energy management to consider, but I finally convinced myself using the following key arguments:

  1. It will be more good writing practice, since RP is my primary passion. I will want to write a lot, but also not just waffle.
  2. Given the number of tweets, I am likely to come across interesting points.
  3. A few friends have recommended that I blog more.

Since leaving KJC Games I have too many unfinished projects. Of course I have run a lot of other peoples’ games, but until recently not my own. I imagine a few friends will remind me of previous conversations: “Finish your RPG Guide, and stop procrastinating by doing another decade’s worth of research.” Although I’ve not double checked with them, I think they will be happy that I am using this month as extra motivation. I believe it will provide me many chances to re-examine ideas from a fresh perspective; due to lots of editing I am somewhat sick of reading my own stuff.

The following is the list of questions for this year:

#RPGaDay

My answer to the question for day 1: What published RPG would you like to be playing right now?

Anyone who has read my recent blog posts on Cryptomancer won’t be too surprised by my answer involving that lovely game. Although I’ve not blogged about Legend of the 5 Rings (L5R) yet, it is one of my favourite RPGs; I’m one of those people that has 10 favourite RPGS, 10 favourite bands, etc. I’ve been running the same L5R campaign since the game came out, so my group and I have a lot invested in the game; one player has the same character he started back in 1997. As my campaign has ‘featured’ the Shadow a lot, and secret organisations, I think Cryptomancy would fit right in; I’ll expand on this idea another time.

I nearly choose Tales From The Loop, as I am quite intrigued by that. I love the book Roadside Picnic, the Stalker computer games, and of course Stranger Things. A friend backed the Kickstarter, and loves the finished product. There are so many other games I’d like to be playing: Numenera, FATE, WoD, Aberrant, plus many more to get in to; we are living in an RPG rich age.

Although I have written a lot about this today, I am not planning on writing so much for each of my answers. I likely will, but this will be another chance to practice: if I had more time I’d have written less.

If you are interested in #RPGaDay, and you’d like to know more, then check out Dave Chapman. Also of note is Brigade Con, as Dave mentions on his page, they have been helping to run #RPGaDay, also check out Casting Shadows blog. There is also a webpage https://rpgaday.com/ providing a feed of the numerous tweets.

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.

Healthy Pacing For Deadlines

As I attempt to slowly escape from my pain tunnel, and return to a consist level of health, I have resumed working on projects that have lain dormant for years. This is in addition to my very slow writing. Whilst speech recognition really helps, it is also annoying since there are still errors and navigating is a pain, plus I used to be able to type so quickly, thus it just feels slow.

Over the last two years whilst I’ve had a lot of bedrest I contemplated how best to make use of my time once I was a bit better; sleep deprivation didn’t help with thinking, but at least I did have a lot of time to think. Making plans was difficult, since for a long-time I had no discernible improvement. When I did have a day where I felt a tiny bit better, there was an urge to instantly declare it a breakthrough. I eventually learnt that those days were not something to base plans upon. So ultimately I made plan making itself a goal, to make small goals, to make tiny notes.

Healthhourglass

I am now at the stage where I can work at a computer for a short while without instant agony. I came to realise that my problem about goal setting is not much different from a healthy person’s situation, that it’s all about pacing and being realistic. Clearly I need to be more careful, to take constant breaks, and keep to small tasks. If I am lucky I can manage what used to be a few hours of work, is now spread out over the whole day, maybe even a week. Doing work like this is also a form of physiotherapy, I need to get used to being more active, and since my level of activity is so low, this makes a big difference.

This means I am now able to implement realistic deadlines, albeit feeble ones. As I get a better understanding of my new pathetic work rate, I can alter my deadline projections to better reflect things. Then as my health hopefully keeps gradually improving, I can adjust further.

The urge to do more is ever present. I have already plenty of experience of slowly healing, then carefully going back to work, to find out that it was too much. It’s odd to think that whilst being careful, I was in fact rushing. There is a difference between a typical injury, even breaking a bone, and chronic problems, but understandably most people have not grown up with chronic problems so we haven’t learned about the differences, and how that affects recovery. When long-term bedrest, and thus atrophy, is a factor, things are further complicated.

health chart

I made the chart above to help remind myself to be careful. The vertical axis represents a hypothetical percentage of health. I didn’t think there was any point tracking my progress over time, since my healing has been so slow, and it’s only recently I can realistically do a variety of things. Even when I get to a theoretical average health level, I’ll be far from fit. I have broken the habit of exercising a lot, but my mind still wants to make comparisons, and of course reminisce about my old healthy days; as much as people say mind over matter, and focus on positive thinking, I am not in a position like I used to be of simply training hard to get stronger.

My recent story writing has been very slow, due to doing other things. It’s not that I feel burnt out, it’s that I have a deadline for the end of this month to make progress with my Elemental role-playing game I am started running in May. Although I started work on this project thirteen years ago, there is still way too much to do, my own fault for designing something astronomical in scale. I have also started work on a comic for a PBM style role-playing game. More on these two projects soon.