Your First Audiobook Part 2

The stress of preparing an audiobook can be high. Sometimes you need to cut loose. Sometimes it's enough to tie Wymore to the grill of a car take a little joy ride.

But that's neither here nor there.

The second week of recording went better. I practiced Friday night again. This time, I added a new practice on Saturday. I didn't read aloud. I didn't whisper either (whispering is worse for your voice than reading aloud). Instead, I mouthed through all the text without vocalizing. When I hit a trouble sentence, I repeated it over and over until my mouth and tongue got used to forming those words, in that order.

I don't know if it was that or if I just got better at the process, but at the recording the next day, my error rate was much lower, more like four a page.

Maybe I should be more accurate about describing that, in case anyone out there laments they can't do as well. When I say four a page, I mean four times we had to roll back. When I restart if I flub it again, it's trivial for the audio tech to delete that and give me another run at it. I probably averaged two tries per edit, maybe two and a half. It's easy to call foul and try again on the subsequent retries.

We probably covered about as much ground on that second day, but I think we only got an hour or so of real recording in. So the time was more productive, we just didn't have as much of it.

The third week doesn't warrant a full post, so I'll cover it here. I practiced Friday. I practiced again Saturday. Sunday morning I woke up in agony with some kind of stomach bug. For four hours I couldn't sit or lie down for more than a few minutes at a time. I was miserable, and I finally got to the point where I could sleep again about the time I was supposed to wake up. Since we don't have a hard deadline, I cancelled the recording rather than producing crap. Since there were only three of us on Hold 322 that day, I did go in for that.

As I write this, we're soon going to do week three for real. However, I expect to start having less new information about the recordings to post, so next week, I'll probably discuss Salt Lake Comic Con and cons in general.

Until then.

Your First Audiobook Part 1

So you've sold your first book. You've signed the contract in blood and you've been entered into the secret cabal. On one terrifying night, you stood in James Wymore's basement, ceremonial knife in your trembling hand, covered in Muppet stuffing and my little pony hair. You are in.

But like SOME people I could mention, you negotiated a percentage of audiobook sales so high that there's no upside to your publisher recording one for you. Then you played your existing version of the audiobook for your sound guy and he asked if you would second him in a quick seppuku ceremony.

So. You need to record an audiobook.

After intense negotiation with the sound tech, you settle on a price for his work. That's all right. Everyone screws up with their firstborn kid anyway.

These events happened to me of course. You might have read about some of them in my Publishing Your First Novel posts. So the time arrived. It was time to start recording.

I've planned this to take place over 10-15 weeks. I know some people do it in three days. I might be able to do that, but we're ahead of schedule and there's no reason to push it.

Every other week or so, I'm on the Hold 322 Podcast. There, I pretend to know about comic books. JM Bell, the master of audio, is the producer of that show as well as the audiobook, so we decided to just meet two hours early every Sunday for a bit. I'd be on Hold 322 a bit more often for a few months. We'd record the audiobook. His wife would use me as a test subject for low-carb treats. Everyone wins.

You usually start an audiobook with prep work. This is no different, but the fact that I've written the book shortens some of it. I don't have to study the thing for subtext. I don't need to carefully consider the character arcs to make sure I don't mess up a voice in the early sessions. I know all that stuff already.

But that doesn't mean there wasn't prep.

The first thing that happened was Bell gave me voice homework. He had me buy Fox in Socks with instructions to read it three times a day, as fast as I could. This is about as easy as talking a horse into unspeakable acts with an aardvark. (Things HAPPEN in Wymore's basement. You are changed.)

I didn't want to practice the night before because I was afraid of the effects on my voice. So Friday night I read the first four chapters or so. I read them aloud. I practiced how I was going to handle the voices. I ran through the tougher sentences a few times. I share one thing with George Lucas. I can write that crap but I can't say it.

The day of, I didn't sleep enough. I don't like waking up two hours earlier than normal on a Sunday. I do not like it, Sam I am. Still, I blearily pulled up in front of his house two hours early.

He took me down to the studio (or his daughter did, I think he was still showering). He showed me where I'd be sitting so that the thousands of books he uses as baffles would absorb the most echoes. He got me to know the new mic. He expressed happiness that I had the book on my iPad, so he wouldn't have to manually remove page sounds.

Then we started recording. We used "Punch and Roll" editing, meaning that whenever I screwed up, he would roll back the recording, clip the inevitable breath sound off the end, and we'd try it again. I think we had agreed on a signal for when I screwed up, but about five minutes in, it degenerated into me saying a line, stopping and saying, "Hmm" as I considered what I had just said, and him chuckling and rolling us back.

That first day was painful. In the two hours, we got about 20 good minutes recorded. I'm sure we only recorded an hour, but my error rate was something like 12 a page. A good professional can get down to about one a page.

We saved each chapter in a separate file. We recorded three seconds of silence before every new chapter, five when the tone of the room had changed. Bell would need those later to remove the background noise. Otherwise, the gating might sound like... I don't have a good gating joke. It would be bad. Look up bad gating on the internet. There are samples you can listen to.

At the end of the period we were in the middle of chapter three and the dogs announced that the rest of the podcast crew were beginning to arrive. We cut things off. Bell told me he was going to make me call it quits after that chapter anyway. He could hear the strain beginning in my voice.

But it was a good session. I had gone from assuming we'd have eight sessions to fifteen, but we made progress. We'd hammered out the process and fell into efficient work patterns.

Better yet, he laughed out loud three times during the recording. It's not easy to make him laugh, so I considered that a win. We even had to stop the recording twice because of if. Best yet, one of the lines I'd worried about most had cracked him up. So my confidence, both in the rewrites and in the process grew.

I sounded terrible on the podcast that day. Or sexy. Depends on what you're into I suppose. I suspect that will be the case for the next several podcasts. You should start listening to see if you agree.

Your First Published Novel: Part 13

Death by Cliché.

Well. It's been a bit. My series on plotting is done now done. In the mean time Trump has become a thing, Syria exploded, the Cubs look like they'll get a wildcard spot, and James Wymore found out how to use the broken dreams of orphans as an alternative fuel source. The boy's got pluck.

But none of that is really relevant to these posts.

Since we last spoke, I received the copy edits from my book. These came from Matthew Cox. Evidently Matthew was one of the readers that recommended buying the novel in the first place. I knew the edits were coming because I began getting Facebook messages from him, explaining how to read them. "I marked the double tags." or "I marked repetitive words, but I marked them all in different colors." Or. "You use the word 'just' a lot and I have a gun, a big trunk, and a discrete friend. Stop it."

His Facebook messages were, overall, very encouraging. I know that copy editing is a job for him, and as a game designer I understand how quickly something you love can become a chore, so it was great to see how excited he was to pick up the edits again.

The edits were very different than I expected. Matthew considers repetitive words, overused structures, and passive voice all the domain of the copy editor. Some of his notes required ground-up restructuring of entire paragraphs. That made the novel better, but it did leave me a little worried.

I went through his notes in a couple weeks. They were too extensive to just use the review feature to accept and reject everything. I did pull him into a long Facebook message discussion one night because he was having trouble with a scene in general and I wanted to try to understand why. Most of the rest of the time I tried to leave him alone.

Eventually, I finished and turned it in. I have a vague disquiet about the whole thing, though. I know that I introduced new typos in those edits. They were just too extensive for me not to. My fear is that I introduced more than we corrected.

I asked the publisher about this, and he told me the thing would just be sitting in his inbox until it was time for layout. That gives me a little relief because now I can use my audiobook prep as a second big proofing pass. I found three typos in the first night.

There should be more chances. I'll get ARCs, etc, at some point. The book isn't finished until it's published. And if you take the Hobbit as your example, not even then.

I think this is the point where I'm feeling the most angst because there is so little left to go as far as the text is concerned. I've been working with this text on and off for something like nine years. Now it's in someone else's hands.

So I'll be insecure. I'll worry. I'll fret. I'll do any other synonyms you like.

But it's off.

The bright side is we turned it in earlier than they expected, so they moved the publication up to their first available date. The book is now scheduled to release on May 30th. The same month as my birthday. Unfortunately, that makes my book a Gemini.

Next week we're going to talk about audiobooks. My voice is already scratched.

That post will hit while I'm at Salt Lake Comic Con, so the post after that will probably involve conventions and a writer. That might be a new series. We'll see how much I have to say when the time comes.

Plotting Your Next Novel: Part 4

Look. I don't have all the answers. All I know for sure is that James Wymore has the secret location of Lincoln's Gold written down in his daytimer. He's just forgotten where he put the thing.

Other than that, this entire process is just what works for me. We're almost done, so let's get into the final, optional step.

Stage Four: Dramatica

At this point, I open Dramatica. I go through it step by step. Including the part I did during stage zero, this can take me twenty or more hours on a short book. When I get to the Scene Design, I use my one line scene descriptions to fill out every scene.

After this point, Dramatica has me go through and assign certain story drivers and events to scenes. For instance, all the dynamically paired characters get at least three interaction scenes where they conflict on viewpoint. I also assign tertiary elements: such as when I’m going to tackle my themes and when I’m going to bring out crucial story elements (like whether the Main Character is a do-er or a be-er.) I’ll probably hit these items more often in the actual writing, but this makes sure I do it at least the minimum amount necessary to make my point.

When I’ve assigned all of these, I will make another pass on all the scenes. This time I actually try to flush them out into a coherent story. I look at the story drivers I’ve included and try to understand how they will come out in the scene. This will turn my one line into a short, narrative description for each scene. In this stage I also make sure that I fill in the last of those placeholder spots. (Although sometimes I discovery-write parts of the climax...that’s just a personal preference).

Then I’m done. I print out or export my story treatment report from Dramatica and I have my plot outline. Then I start writing (or more likely I continue writing, because I often finish this process after I’ve written the first chapter. :) ).


That’s it. You have now walked down the deep labyrinth of my plotting process. If you have lost you mind, take it up with your local Elder God.

It’s important to think Outside the Box. It might seem like this method pegs you into certain inevitabilities, but really it just forces you to cover your bases. You still have to take these ideas and present them in a new and interesting way. This process doesn’t, for instance, give you your act II twists. It doesn’t tell you what your end of act Revelation is. It just reminds you that if you skip these elements, your book will probably be a lot more boring than if you don’t.

It’s especially important to be creative during Stage One. This is when you brainstorm all your best ideas. This is when the creative juices really need to flow. I usually don’t even start stage one until I have a lot of these ideas in place. I know most of the secrets of my plot, most of the twists and maybe even turns. I have a pretty good idea of the general shape in my mind. I've probably been thinking about it for months.

But I don’t stop there. I force myself to brainstorm new ideas, to try to push my plotting envelope. I try to think about would surprise the audience most and what would surprise the audience least. I try to arrange things to hold the former in front of the audience while I get ready to smack them with the latter. Of course, this means I have to walk a fine line between revealing my secrets too early and making things different enough to keep them interested, but that’s a matter for another post.

My Salt Lake Comic Con schedule came in. For those attending, you can find me at the following:

Thursday Sep 24th:

2:00 pm

The Hobbit Movie Trilogy: Ending the Cinematic Journey Through Middle Earth

Julie Andelin
Larry Curtis
Robert J. Defendi
Paul Genesse (Moderator)
Jennifer Jenkins
Shallee McArthur
James Wymore

Friday Sep 25th:

1:00 pm

Writing Action: Fisticuffs, Guns & Things that Blow Up Real Good

Larry Correia
Robert J. Defendi (Moderator)
Charles E. Gannon
Cindy Grigg
Frank Morin
Eric James Stone
Aaron Lee Yeager

3:00 pm

Cord Cutting: Is it Right for You?

Robert J. Defendi (Moderator)
Bill Frost
Daniel Swenson
Scott Taylor
Dan Willis
James Wymore

Saturday Sep 26th:

1:00 pm

Live Plotting: Build-a-Story

Larry Correia
Robert J. Defendi
Megan Hutchins
Chad Morris
Jennifer Nielsen (Moderator)
Dan Willis

7:00 pm

What We Know and What We Think We Know About Rogue One

Robert J. Defendi (Moderator)
James Floyd
Aaron Hastings
Brooke Heym
William Pace
Damon Ricks

Plotting Your Next Novel: Part 3

There are three unassailable truths.

  1. Over a long enough timeline, everyone's chances of survival are zero.
  2. James Wymore has only once been beaten up by a toddler.
  3. And finally, the inventor of clamshell packaging will burn in hell for all eternity. I don't believe in Hell. I believe God will make a special exception just for him.

But that's not really relevant. I just wanted to make sure you all know Wymore had been beaten up by a baby. I have video.

That said, back to plotting. Things are moving along nicely. So it’s time for stage three.

 At this stage, I go through and color code all my plots, a different color for each one. Then I start integrating them together. I take each plot and I sprinkle it through the Overall Throughline. I do this for each of them till I’m done. I’ll notice often that some of these scenes end up filling in placeholder scenes I had. For instance, in one book I had three scenes for the love interest that would fit well in the climax. I placed them in the relevant Integrated Climax spots and found I only needed a couple extra scenes to complete that arc. I filled those in during this stage, because it was convenient.

I also often find that many of the scenes duplicate from plotline to plotline. If so, I integrate them into single scenes with multiple goals.

When it’s done, I give it a last read through, make sure it seems like a coherent plot. If there are timing issues, I fiddle with them. This part takes Tim Powers a long time to complete. Me, not so much. I’m more likely to see the problem when writing, and then I just fix it at that point (a plot is a living thing, remember?)

With the new book, I looked at it when this was finished and thought, "Huh. This is a hot mess." The problem was I had writing goals for almost every scene, and some jokes, but almost nothing on what should actually happen. I decided to go back and check the original Death by Cliché, since that one turned out pretty well. And it wasn't a hot mess. Now, I've become increasingly confident in my ability to make these plot outlines work, but not that confident.

So I spent a half hour going through scene by scene and adding notes on what everyone was actually doing, letting story and setting emerge to flesh out plot goals like, "Introduce Theme" or "Discuss Damico as God." or "Spy stuff!"

By the time I got to the act two twist, I was feeling pretty confident. I left the second half the way it was, because I have two set pieces defined in the second half of the book and by then, the momentum I have from the first half should rocket me through any issues. Writing is often about momentum, and I like the plotting to be a little looser toward the end, since if I didn't I'd be likely throwing out parts of it as better ideas emerge from the first half of the book.

Finally, at this point, I’ll compare the entire thing to a generic plot they have in the program Dramatica (for books other than this one, where I already used Save the Cat). I’m not actually trying to imitate that plot at this point, I’m just looking for holes. For instance, that plot has you restate the novel’s goal a few times. I often forget to do that when writing, so I get that into my plot structure. I also use it to make sure that my antagonist has enough scenes and I see if it generally stimulates any ideas.

That done, I’m pretty close to finished, in one way, although the last stage takes me the longest. My plot looks like a plot, although big sections of the climax are still just placeholders. Time for stage four.

I'll end with noting that if you don't use Dramatica, this is all you need. You're done now. When I do my Plot a Novel in an Hour panels at conventions, I stop at this stage. The rest is all fine tuning. At this point, you have an honest to goodness plot outline.

Plotting Your Next Novel: Part 2

Phase Two: Organizing

So now I have a document full of chaos, angst, and self-doubt. It's not unlike James Wymore's high school yearbook. Seriously, this document is made of pure, distilled fail. If you don't feel terrible about it, you probably did it wrong.

There is an old saying about movies. I say old, but it was coined by a contemporary film-maker, I just can't remember his name. There are three movies. The one you set out to shoot, the one you shoot, and the one you find during editing. Novels are the same. You'll see in this section that even at this stage, you're plotting, you're actually shooting at a moving target.

But let's get on to the real work. So now I have all my plots listed. Now it’s time to check to make sure they’re complete.

I start by reorganizing them. I often have plots with bits like:

  • MC travels to location one.
  • MC travels to location two.
  • MC travels to location three.

All the important stuff is listed elsewhere. So right now I start by going through each through-line and putting the events in order. Now it will look something like:

  • MC Travels to location one.
  • MC meets bad guys
  • etc.
  • MC travels to location two.
  • MC gets captured by bad guys
  • etc.
  • MC travels to location three.

Once I feel like all my plots are roughly in the right order, I move on to make sure they are all complete.

I have a couple books on stock plots. My favorite is Ronald Tobias’s 20 Master Plots. This book divides all the plots in the world into twenty basic plotlines. Then it describes what is necessary for each of those plots. From those, I’ve built plot cheat sheets. Something like this:


Type: Forda


Act I

1) Point of Origin

2) Motivating Incident

Act II

3) Character-Changing Obstacle (Repeat as necessary)

4) Act Two Twist

5) Character-Changing Obstacle (Repeat as necessary)

6) End of Act Revelation.


7) Character Revelation: Obtain/Deny.


  • ‘          Make sure that the object of the search draws a deep parallel to the protagonist’s intent and motivation.
  • ‘          Plot should contain a lot of orchestrated movement.
  • ‘          Consider bringing the plot full circle.
  • ‘          Make the character substantially different at the end of the quest.
  • ‘          The object of the journey is actually wisdom.
  • ‘          At least one traveling companion.
  • ‘          Consider including a helpful character.
  • ‘          What the character discovers is usually different from what he sought.

The checklist is paraphrased from one in that book. I recommend buying it.

Anyway. At this point I find all the through-lines that have full plot arcs. For instance, the Overall, the MC the IC, the MC vs. IC and the Love plotlines should probably all have complete arcs with their own twists, revelations, climaxes and resolutions. My plotline on ways of dealing with grief, on the other hand, didn't have an arc, so I left it alone. Another note, you might want to consider trying to attach Forda plots to plotlines with character-motivated drivers (like Manipulation) and Forza plots to plotlines with body-motivated drivers (like action). I haven’t played with that much myself, just an idea I’m kicking around. In one of my books, I think every plotline was Forda. 'Cause I’m hooked on character change.

So I take each of these plot-lines and assign a master plot to it. I then copy my cheat sheet from that plot underneath the through-line and I make sure that everything is there. I check that each of the major events happens (and put the type of event in parenthesis afterward) and I run the checklist on the plot. If necessary, I might copy a checklist item into parenthesis after scenes where I need to remember them. For instance, if I had a pursuit plot, I might have after every item on the plot the following note: (Make sure that the chase is more important than the characters involved.)

When I’m sure all the plot-lines are more or less complete, I move on to the next step.

So how did that turn out this week?

First of all, I used my Cat Saving for Fun and Profit plot point list to assign a structure to my overall plot. I numbered those scenes as heir own chapters and put the target chapter in parenthesis after each point. For instance, my major subplot is supposed to come around chapter 19, but now it's around scene six, so I know that I get to add around thirteen chapters before that point to get the scene in the right place. I'm interested to see how this method works out. (Also, my comedies have very short chapters)

As I built the plots for the next book, they started feeding into and informing each other. As plots developed in my mind, they started to connect. Right off the bat I threw out my master theme, which I thought was about people thriving in conflict. Now if I squint really hard, I can kind of see another theme in there. It has to do with the effects of free will and great power. There might be some god stuff in there.

I agonized about that a bit, but finally decided that I don't need to find it yet. I have enough of an idea to explore it as I write and find that theme organically.

That's not the only time I broke the rules. Be ready to break the rules when you need to. There are some plots that I want to unfold more like a metaphor than a plot with twists. I didn't assign a love story to this one at all... I felt it would be too contrived after everyone ended up happily ever after at the end of the last book. The relationships don't need artificial conflict and the natural place to put in a new one would have undermined the story I'm telling with those characters.

Also, there's a spy plot that still consists of line after line of "Spy Stuff." I intend to riff that one as I go and use it to build course corrections into the greater plot. I've never tried that before, but I feel like this one is going to be tight and I'll probably veer off course from time to time. It might be useful to have room for fixing stuff as I go.

So, it's done. I have my plots. Next week, I see if they fit together or if I'm up in the night.

Plotting Your Next Novel: Part 1

Last week I spoke about my preliminary work I do before real plotting. I also explained how James Wymore abuses our national symbol and terrorizes other writers in their homes. Also, I reduced my diet coke intake by half, so I might have been hallucinating a wee bit.

But that's neither here nor there. I also did the prelim work for my next novel, sketching out characters and themes. This week, I take those initial ideas and bang them into the foundation of a plot.

Phase One: Real Brainstorming.

In this phase I write down everything that might help me in plotting. Names of groups and places (maybe). Concepts. I assign all the archetypes to characters if I didn't in the last step, even if I’m going to use a more complex character model, because I want to make sure that every Point of View is covered at least generally at this point. If all the main ways of looking at the world aren’t covered, then the book will make an incomplete argument. In the end, I’m making a statement about which of these conflicting forces are better than the others (but not always with the same answer from book to book). To ignore an argument is to shortchange the reader.

In one book in the past, I wanted to use greek names for things, so I started a list at the top of the document where I listed all the words I might need in the book and that they meant. For interest, if I wanted to remember what a greek general was called, I'd write Polemarch=General a the top. I used this list all the way through writing that book.

After I get those initial notes down, I brainstorm all my plots. Some of them have to be there:

Overall Story Throughline. . .

Main Character Throughline. . .

Impact Character Throughline. . .


Main vs. Impact Character Throughline. . .

Some don’t have to be, but usually the book will be worse without them:

Love Story . . .

Then I might put down ones that are specific to this story:

Drug use plotline. . .

The Secrets of the Main Group that must be revealed . . .

Antagonist Plotline . . .

Plot coupon plot line . . .

I might have a theme I’m trying to cover. For instance, this book will be a comedy, so I created a list of all the terrible gaming clichés that didn't make it into the first book. This will be put in as a list of gags to build into the overall scenes.

If one of my themes was loss, I might have:

Ways of Dealing with Grief . . .

Like the joke plotline, this one wouldn't have a full arc, but I’d be looking to make sure everything on the list is seen in one character or another through the book.

Now I go through and I brainstorm a plotline for each plot or subplot. They might look like this:


Bad guys start killing people.

Good guys are standing against them. (Are they really altruistic?)

Bad guys start slaughtering good guys.



  • MC loses everything. Gets closed off from his feelings
  • MC becomes a smith.
  • MC must try to heal young girl.
  • Etc.


  • Impact character plagued by nightmares, show why.
  • Impact character’s nightmares go away whenever he fights the thing that terrorized him as a kid, but can’t see that himself.
  • Etc.

MC vs IC:

  • IC convinces MC to try to save the world.
  • MC sees something that makes him agree.
  • MC figures out the secret of IC’s nightmares, tries to convince IC of the truth.

At this point I don’t even care if they are in order. I might have:

  • Travel to locale 1
  • Travel to locale 2
  • Travel to locale 3

...Just because I know I'm going to hit a lot of places. I can shuffle them into the right places in the next stage.

I might make sure that at least the following happens:

  • Act One: MC enters new life at the end.
  • Act Two: MC moves toward goal.
  • Must have a mid act twist, bring the whole story into a new light.
  • Must have an end of act revelation or twist.
  • Act Three: Must be really exciting. Probably involves intercut storylines.

I might not even fill these out. I could have those very lines in the plot as placeholders.

In fact at this point, there are probably a lot of placeholder scenes. For instance, my entire climax might look like this:

  • Love Interest POV: Integrated climax.
  • Contagoinst POV: Integrated climax.
  • IC POV: Integrated climax.
  • MC POV: Integrated Climax.
  • Love Interest POV: Integrated climax.
  • Contagoinst POV: Integrated climax.
  • IC POV: Integrated climax.
  • MC POV: Integrated Climax.
  • Love Interest POV: Integrated climax.
  • Contagoinst POV: Integrated climax.
  • IC POV: Integrated climax.
  • MC POV: Integrated Climax.

I don't care if a plot is complete now. I'm just getting everything I can on paper. I might even turn on numbering so I know how many ideas I have.

As a general rule, the first act shouldn’t be no longer than a quarter of the book (I like shorter, if I can swing it. In a movie a half hour of setup is fine, but in a big fat fantasy, 150 pages of it might be a little much.) The third act might well be the last quarter of the book (150 pages of running fight scenes aren’t too much if you do them right, just make sure you do.) The second act is everything in between.

If I have a small amount of chapters, like 12, I actually start the climax one chapter early and leave the last chapter for the denouement. If I have a lot of chapters, I just start the climax at the three-quarter mark.

Another thing I often do in this step is copy the sample novel plot out of Dramatica. In the next stage, I'll look at every scene in that plot and make sure that its represented somewhere in one of my plotlines. I don’t want to put in a love story that has no complications, for instance. How boring is that? Plus, I know that some things have to happen in certain types of stories. For instance in action story, the MC must meet the bad guys early on and kick some minion ass, so the reader gets that dose of wish fulfillment that makes them want to be lik the characters. After that, the MC must have his ass handed back to him by the bad guys in some way, or else the threat isn’t big enough. They need to get out alive, but it should seem like they couldn’t do that again. Finally, the MC should probably have his moment of doubt and fear.

My version of the Dramitica sample plot, in the next Death by Cliché, is going to be a bit more cinematic. I want the book to be paced just like a movie, so I stole the beat structure straight out of the great movie plotting book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. I figured out about how many chapters the book will have, converted that to number of pages in a screenplay and wrote it out as a plot called "Cat Saving for Fun and Profit." That gave me a list of what chapters should mark what major plot developments.


Finally, I want to do a bit on the terrible tropes we see with female characters. I didn't want to miss any big ones so I went ahead and groupsourced that on Facebook, putting the question out there for all my female friends to answer. This generated a healthy list.

It's not pretty. It doesn't make any sense. This is the point where I'm most likely to be convinced that this book just won't work. But it doesn't matter. This stage isn't about good ideas. It's about lots of ideas.

We'll start making them make sense next week.

Plotting Your Next Novel: Part 0

Or, Publishing Your Second Novel... Prologue. I don't know if I'll start blogging about the second novel yet. Or if this will be my second novel (I'm writing it on spec). Or if I'm going make tomorrow a cheat day on my diet. Really, the future is a giant blank slate.

But it's time to start plotting a sequel to Death by Cliché. Partially this is because I looked at the size of the current novel I'm working on and realized that I won't finish it in time to write this book, so I need to move it up. Partly because I've run out of material on my main blogging topic. Partly because: screw you, I don't need a reason.

So I thought I'd start blogging the process here. It involves, I don't know, four stages? It's in flux. I'll know when we're done. It's in flux because of a project I did with James Wymore. Now there are three things you need to know about Wymore. He's written the Actuator series, which is a damn fun playground to visit, I've seen him tear the food from the mouth of a baby eagle with his teeth and punch babies for looking at him funny, and he knows where I live and pretty much all of my contact info.

So when he offered me a spot in his upcoming anthology, I jumped at the chance. Actually, it goes back to a late night pizza after an evening of Life the Universe and Everything (a local academic symposium). I was completely stoned on fatigue poisons, decompressing from the day, and I drunkenly suggested that his next anthology needed a story that was "Sailor Moon meets Godzilla."

Sailor Moon and Godzilla are both trademarks of companies I haven't bothered to look up.

Anyway, months later he said to me, "Remember that Sailor Moon meets Godzilla story you pitched? I totally want you to write that." To which I said, "I pitched what now?"

So fast forward to me plotting a story I never intended to write. It's times like this (and by this I mean times when you don't know what you're doing) that you engage in the great American passtime. You procrastinate.

In this case my procrastination took the form of starting with the last step first. Because all I had was a list of characters I stole from an anime archetype webpage and the begining of that last step is just about me bullshitting for three hours. Win/win, right?

So, this last-now-first step involved going into a program called Dramatica and answering some questions. As I answered those questions, a story started to gel in my mind. It was as if a program designed to help you plot better actually started out by helping you plot better. Holy crap. I'd discovered paydirt. Also, I was a genius. Throw a parade.

So if you've read one of my posts about this before or seen me talk about it at a con, you may notice some differences.

Now I'm going to go into some boring disclaimers. Bear with me. I'll start being clever in three, four blogs tops.

My System


How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Plot

Phase 0 (Pre-plotting Prep):

Poe said to write the climax before you write anything else. Burgess, on the other hand, says he starts at the beginning writes through to the end, then stops. So there are a lot of different ways to approach this, even among experts. I’m not saying this is the best, merely that it’s the best for me.

I'm also not saying that you shouldn't discovery write. (Discovery writing is a method where you just start at the beginning and figure out what you're doing as you go exploring the characters and situations as you go). I'm just saying that there's a word for novels where I discovery write. That word is "failure."

Tolstoy (or however you spell it) said something about fiction that I’ve followed for years, he just said it better. He said, in essence, that good vs. evil is boring. Real literature comes from good vs. good. Because of this, I like to make villains or villain henchmen that readers want to see win. Shakespeare did this well, but for a modern example, see The Rock. The genius of that movie is that Ed Harris’ motivation to hold San Francisco hostage is so noble that you can’t really root against him. You want both sides to win. To hell with character conflict. Reader conflict is the heart of good fiction.

And a final note before I start. Ronald Tobias says that a plot is not a skeleton of a story, and I agree with him. Skeletons are too rigid. I use this process because it works for me, but if you adopt any part of it, don’t let it get in the way of good plotting. If you’re driving home from work one day when you’re halfway done writing the book and you suddenly realize, "Oh my God! The talking plum should really be the reincarnation of his father!" Go home and change the plot. It’s not set in stone until the book is set in print (and maybe not even then...ask Tolkien).

So here’s my method:

First a couple premises. I use the Dramatica theory of the Grand Argument Story. I swear by it. I like Ronald Tobias too, but I don’t like his theory of character triangles. The GAT (Grand Argument Theory) is set up with dynamic pairs that work well for me, and usually triangles arise out of it anyway.

Tobias does talk about Forza and Forda, from Dante’s Inferno. He takes this into plotting by saying there are two basic plots. Forza, which is external conflict, and Forda, which is internal. I think you need to include both types in a story, and richly.

The basic character pairs from the GAT are something like:

Protagonist (Good guy) -- Antagonist (Bad Guy)

Guardian (supports) -- Contagonist (Distracts)

Sidekick (Faith) -- Skeptic (Doubt)

Reason (Thought) -- Emotion (Feeling)

You can get MUCH more complex than that, but those are the general archetypes.

You have a MC (Main Character) and an IC (Impact Character). The IC tries to convince the MC to take a different path and all GTA stories revolve around this conflict and its outcome. Luke wants to join the empire and be a pilot (He did. Really.) Obi Wan wants him to become a Jedi, and screw those imperial bastards. We think, at the beginning, that Obi Wan’s point has won, but it doesn’t really win the argument until Luke turns off his targeting computer at the end of the movie and does not just what Obi Wan wants, but how.

I’m trying to give enough information that you can understand where I’m coming from without diluting the value of buying these products, BTW. Also I link to their web version of the theory later on.

Goal: Your main goal here is to make an outline with two qualities. One, it should be specific enough that you always know what to write next. Two, it should be general enough for you to indulge your creative whims. If you can do both these things, you can never use writer’s block as an excuse. :)

So that’s a general idea of where I’m starting from.

Let's begin.

Death by Cliche 2. We'll title it Deathier and Clichéier. Because if I give it an unpronounceable working title, that title can't possibly stick. I'm not contracted for this novel, but I've had people asking for it long enough that I should probably get around to actually writing it.

I have two things to think about in my preliminary work. The obvious one is the general shape of the novel. The other one is what I'm going to do with the chapter quotes. In Death by Cliché, the chapter quotes are a running meta-joke about bad writing, where I quote myself laying down writing rules and then play off them in some way in the chapter. It worked great. People seemed to like it. Unfortunately, those same people would stone me to death if I did the same thing in a second novel. It's a joke who's lifespan can't possibly extend beyond a single book. It had probably outstayed it's welcome by the end of the first one.

So those are my goals. I think about the chapter quotes and I have a lot of ideas, and they are all mostly one-book ideas. How about a book where every quote is a complete non-sequitur, like US presidents saying things the sound dirty out of context, or incredibly poignant statements from Miss America pageants. I don't know, but I am getting the feel that every book is probably going to have its own chapter quote running joke.  It's also clear to me that this might not be sustainable, so every book there will be at least one comment about how I might continue doing quotes in future books. I'll never forget Robert Asprin saying that coming up with a funny quote for every chapter in the first Myth book was a fun game, but by book seven it was just an awful chore.

But first I need to know where I'm going. I know where Damico ended at the finish of Death by Cliché. Now I need to start him from there. I ask myself is he happy where he is, or is he welcoming the inevitable adventure? How about the other characters, lockstep or at odds? What about new characters?

Death by Cliché has an interesting structure because I have characters who's POV's I can never enter. They aren't free willed creatures as manifested in the world. They controlled from the outside. So while it might be interesting to give Arithian a sidekick of sorts, and I probably will, my hands are tied by the fact that I can't tell those jokes from Aritihian's POV. I have to choose Damico or the sidekick himself.

I pick my villain. I'm going to play on a religious theme, since religion is so inherently borked in this setting. So far the gods listed in the world are very few. Ralph the Porcelain God for instance (because everyone worships at the porcelain altar at some point in their lives.) I did a thesaurus search on Prophet, came up with "Weatherman" as a replacement and my plot started falling together.

In Dramatica I start filling out he questions. It asks me some leading essay questions to get general ideas down. It asks me one-sided questions where my answer determines the answer for another character. For instance Dramatica has the Main Character and the Impact Character. One of them is always a do-er. One of them is always a be-er. That way they complement each other. Questions about if it's a happy ending. By the end of that I have some general ideas what this book is about.

It has me create my characters. I've done this before so I know I'm using archetypes and I make sure I have each of the archetypes covered. It asks me some questions about the Main Character and the Impact Character (in this case the Impact Character will be the Weatherman).

Then it has me make some choices on the MC, followed by the book's theme. As I'm answer questions, other answers are being filled out. What I decide for the MC also answers questions about the IC. I don't see the implications of all these yet. The program knows I'm not ready for it yet. It also asks me some basic plot questions.

To make a long story short, Dramatica asks more and more questions, drawing ideas out of me, until I'm at the point where I'm ready to start working out actual scenes. That's when I print out reports from Dramatica on all the things I've decided so far and sit down to do Phase 1 of my actual plotting system.

One thing did come up out of this. I realized that the MacGuffin in this story was a little too much like the artifacts in the last novel. I think that they'll read different enough by the end to justify the plot (I take it to a different place in this book, where the MacGuffin is closer to a true MacGuffin and not the tools used in the final climatic battle), but still, I fear readers will rebel early on. So I have my chapter quotes. I'm going to comedically deal with all the similarities between this book and the last one in a long, running commentary with my self throughout the quotes.

So that's one more book they've survived.

Now you might ask yourself why this is stage zero? Because all of you don't use Dramatica. You can handle all the brain storming and the themes yourself, although I'd recommend reading their Grand Argument Theory. That link will get you started.

But you can plot without Dramatica. You can even use the Grand Argument Theory without Dramatica. Dramatica just tracks it all for you.

That was a long stage, but the real core of my system, I regularly go through in my Plot a Story in an Hour panels at local cons. So you can do those in an hour. Obviously. Now, those are pretty crappy plots, but that should give you an idea about how things can move once the juices are flowing.

Another long post. I'll see you next week for Phase One.

Your First Published Novel: Part 12

Death by Cliché.

Now that that's out of the With this post, I should catch up with our current status on Death by Cliché. That means that barring major developments this week, the kind that just demand a blog post, I'll start a new series next week that will run in the same weekly slots, but on weeks where there're no new developments on the novel. This will be a series on plotting. Maybe I'll plot the sequel to Death by Cliché as I write it, (but without spoilers). That will force me to actually prepare the novel. Also, I learned some stuff doing a short story for James Wymore's second Actuator anthology that I'm interested to see integrated into my novel potting process.

I don't have a name for it yet. I suspect it will be something earth shattering, like Plotting Your First Novel: Part 1.

But back to the subject at hand. It only took a few weeks, at the most, before I received the edits back. In that time, I continued to work on these blog posts. I also received the news that I needed to move my hosting my hosting away from Verio in the next year. My entire life is pretty entangled with that company. I used to work for them, as did my friend Gary Llewelyn. Gary had been their longer, and that meant he had a free reseller account. So when I was laid off, we moved my free server to his reseller account and I started paying reseller prices for my hosting. Later when his free employee server was deleted, along with two of my site, I consolidated them onto that one server. That's why it's called Robert J Defendi's

Anyway, Verio had always suited my needs, and honestly, I was getting more server and wider capabilities than I can for comparable money in most other places because I wasn't paying retail. I considered both Godaddy and Squarespace, and Godaddy seemed like the better deal, but I've heard a lot of bad buzz about them in reviews and in my tech news feeds, and everyone seems to love Squarespace.
So I told Clare at CQ that I was moving my hosting. Everything to date had been linked to and that made it all very convenient. I'd build on Squarespace, point the domain there, and then after Clare had redirected the links on all the old posts to that site, I'd start repointing my other domains. Since I probably needed to rebrand back to my name, the perfect solution. All of that went without a hitch.

Now Tim Powers once told me that it's a terrible story to watch a man changing a tire competently, so you might ask why I told you that story. I told you that story so I can tell you what happened to me later that week, but we aren't quite there yet.

I got my edits back from Michael Cristiano. They were minor enough that he mentioned that there probably won't be a third round, we'll just go straight to proofreading (although I think that's technically copyediting since I don't think the book will not have been laid out yet).

So I dug in. It's interesting. I've spoken before about how I didn't want to change the text very much at first because of the audiobook, and I've spoken about how that was a mistake. This is when that fact became the most obvious to me. At this point, we had cleared enough away, both in the text and in my emotional connection to it, that I could see phrasing issues I'd never seen before. So when it comes to editing for style, this was probably my heaviest pass. (I don't know yet whether that has made Michael angry...he might have assumed that we'd cleared all this stuff previously). A lot of it was in the text I'd added in the first pass, to answer his issues, but there was still a great deal in the stuff I'd written back in 2006-2008.

There were some small hitches. When we did our first pass, I turned off track changes before doing my edits because in my arrogance it didn't occur to me that Michael needed to know every change I'd made. I called out the important ones in comments, but I didn't think he'd need to see everything else. My only excuse is that I'm used to getting back edits as a publisher, not as a writer, and the next person to see my edits, in the past, was almost always a different person from the one I'd just received them from.

So I kept it on, this time.

Michael pointed out more words I overused. I had some form of "look" about 400 times in the novel and 100 "moments". A lot of "sighs" too. Michael told me to check to see if each sigh was really a time when a person would sigh. Evidently, I sigh a lot more than he does, because they all were, but I decided that leaving them in would let me reader know that I was secretly some kind of sighing monster, and so I cut about three-quarters of them.

This is an important point. I bounced a few things back at Michael the first time, and the ones he backed down on I called good, but that was only a few. Far more of them he dug he heals on, and I looked at them deeper. Your editor is always right.

That sentence was important. So I'm going to pull a Strunk and White here.

Your editor is always right. Your editor is always right. Your editor is always right.

Here's the real catch. Your editor doesn't always know WHY he's right. Sometimes, the reason why your editor THINKS he's right is completely up in the night. I mean bat-shit crazy. You know he's bat-shit crazy because you did the exact same thing elsewhere in the book, but he didn't call THOSE out. So why the hell does he think that rule applies here?

I'll tell you why. Because we sometimes know something is broke, but we don't know how.

For example. I do not italicize thoughts in my books except in very special circumstances. I've had people claim that they think in complete sentences, but I don't believe them. I can't think that slowly myself. But more to the point, when you're writing third person limited like I do in almost every book, when you're deep in the character's head, every word and description is a part of his thoughts. There's no difference between the description of the door and his thoughts about how he needs to do something for his wife. We experience both of these things entirely through the filter of his conscious mind.

Also, italicizing thoughts when out in the 80s. Not everyone has figured that out yet.

So Michael insisted that this one thought of my main characters be italicized. This confused me and not just because it was wrong (because even when I'm arguing, I know the editor is always right). My biggest problem here was that this is the only novel I've written that isn't almost exclusively in a third person limited point of view (I should do a post on point of view and tense). This book slips between third person and an omniscient, smart-assed narrator. So maybe my normal rules didn't apply...

When my main character thinks a thought that is an essentially first person, Orson Scott Card would tell me that it's grandfathered in by the line before it and you don't italicize it. My editor insisted that this instance needed to be italicized, but I knew for a fact that I've done similar things throughout the whole novel and this was the only one he noticed.

And that's the crux. He noticed. Your editor very rarely notices when you do something right. That's your JOB. Your editor notices when you do something wrong. But since he didn't notice all the times you did it right, he might not immediately just how exactly you screwed up.

So I cut the joke. Who's going to get a purposeful Jimmy Hendrix misquote anyway? Old people like me? Bah.

I do two passes on any edit. The first time I argue with Michael shamelessly in my comments. No one ever sees that pass. Then I go through and quietly fix everything that's wrong, deleting the argumentative comments and knowing that I'm doing God's work.

So I turned in the edit around Monday or Tuesday.

And now we get to the end of the week. I had all my domains redirected. My hosting was now entirely handled by Squarespace. I'd removed all my files from my Verio Server. My domain hosting was there, but I was less than a month away from a hosting bill. So it was time to turn it off.

I found the place in the hosting to turn off my servers, but all my domains seemed to be attached to it. So I put in a customer service ticket asking if deleting that server would affect my domain registrations. They said it would not. Confidently, I deleted the server.

They didn't actually lie. Verio still held all my domain registrations. However, when you delete that last server from a reseller account at Verio it deletes all the zone files, which is the DNS equivalent of that line in an address book that tells everyone how to find you.

So I went dark. Web sites, email, the whole works. The websites could wait, but email. Can you live without email?

I put in a case immediately with Verio and texted Gary. The first thing he mentioned was that if you delete your last server it deletes your zone files. It would have been GREAT if the customer service people had thought to mention that as well.

I decided there was no going back. I wasn't going to buy a new server just to get zone files again, so I did some quick research and found that Hover was rated the top registrar in the latest survey, and they give valet transfers for free (basically, someone there does the heavy lifting if something goes badly). So I quickly initiated transfers to Hover.

It took less than four hours. When the transfer went through I got my email up right away and I took care of the business websites when I got home late that night.

Why did I tell you THIS story? Well all of my thinking about his hosting switch boiled down to one simple fact: switching my hosting was bound to have at least one bump and that bump COULD NOT happen when I was making a big push on my book. This is the time to have a messy house. Next year, everything needs to be in perfect order. When you are publishing your first novel, think ahead. Take care of everything you can in the build up, because once that book hits the shelves, every minute of down-time could lose a potential sale.

And this is the longest post I've done. But I REALLY want to talk about plotting next week.

Your First Published Novel: Part 11

Death by Cliché. Death by Cliché is a novel that I have written. Death by Cliché is a novel written by me. Death by Cliché comes out next year from Curiosity Quills.

Okay. So now I don't have to worry about making sure I mention the name of the novel I'm talking about in this post.

I'd started edits. I'd realized that there were some holes in the explanations that you can't see if you've ever played a role-playing game. I'd decided to throw out the old audio book. I was about halfway done.

In many ways throwing out the audiobook was a release. A revelation, even. You see, when you read a book that you wrote 7 years previously, you're reaction will probably land somewhere between, "Hmm. I was in a different place when I wrote this," and "Ah!!! Kill it! Kill it with fire!".

So now I no longer had to worry about whether or not the Whisper Sync people would start building car bombs with my name on them. I already have places where the text of the book will likely differ from the text of the audiobook, because the joke "..." only works if you can see the ellipses or you can see my face when I deliver it. In an audiobook, it just sounds like an editing mistake. The same with writing something in a really small font. I actually don't know how that works, but I'm told the whisper sync people want it to be exact, so I suspect either some jokes are going to fall flat or I'm going to earn a fair bit of Amazon agro.

So. I'm a different person now, but more importantly. Damico came off, when read in 2015, as a little more of a "bro" than I mean him to be. I mean, he's supposed to be a bit of an ass, but the tuning wasn't quite right. It's all about the jokes coming out of his mouth. As hypothetical example, if Damico had made a joke about gay marriage in the 2007 version, it would probably have a very different structure than one that was written after legal developments this year. (He didn't, but that's the easiest way to illustrate the issue). The same would be true for a joke that referenced women gamers, post gamergate. He comes from a different world with different issues than the Damico as originally written. The bad guy's jokes? They didn't change since the world he came from didn't change. Damico's have to represent who he is as a person, and the things that are funny in one year are just a little off in another. If you pick up a book, you can see what year it was published. You have no idea what year it was written.

I don't mean to say that the edgy humor is out. It's still in. The somewhat controversial scene late in the book is essentially the same (just better written now). There was a joke about sticking a stake through the heart of Bill Cosby that has a very different connotation now than it did then, but my editor seemed to like it and just thought I'd written it to be topical, so I left it as is. So I wasn't trying to make the book less edgy, I just made sure Damico's level of asininity was properly tuned for a contemporary reader.

It's the reason I love writer's groups. They tell you what your words mean. You know what you intended, but the writer has only secondary control over the meaning of his own work. The meaning is extracted by the reader, through the reader's lens of experience. For instance, when Martin Freeman played Bilbo Baggins, he said in one interview that he played it as if using the ring was painful or at least unpleasant. Now, I think we can all agree that this interpretation of the character is so wrong that we should invent a special squad of Thought Police just to follow around Martin whenever he gets to close to cherished canon. Because that is just unspeakable.

However, his performance reads perfectly for any right-thinking human being. It looks like Bilbo is sensing the growing hold the ring has over him and like a nascent alcoholic has started to sense, on some level, that something isn't right. That is the meaning his performance conveys to any people who aren't clinically insane. We are lucky in that Martin has no final control over the meaning he imparts. He has his intention, but once it's out in the world, it isn't his anymore. (Also, I suspect Peter Jackson didn't care what Martin thought on the inside, he only cared about the performance on screen.)

I love you Martin.

Same is true for Tolkien. Or C.S. Lewis. Or Vonnegut. Ever see Summer School? In it, Rodney Dangerfield hires Kurt Vonnegut to write his English paper about Kurt Vonnegut. His teacher, in a later scene, yells, "I don't know who wrote this paper, but he knows nothing about Vonnegut!" I don't know what the writer intended, and the meaning that most audience members got from that joke was that English class is silly and literature professors are talking out of their asses, but I've always taken a different meaning.

An author is often the worst judge of the meanings and themes of his own work.

We'll talk a good storm, but we're talking out of our asses. Sideways. With a lisp. We can only say what we intended to convey. If you've ever emotionally wounded a loved one with a casual joke, you know what I mean.

If you want an interesting physiological experiment, write about ten books. Show them to a group of people who are willing to talk straight to you. Ask them what your themes are. It's from my writers' group that I figured out I feel guilt far more deeply than anyone I know. From them I learned that my idea of happiness is radically different from theirs. We also learned that one of our members doesn't understand insecurity the way the rest of us do.

It's from my writers' group that I've learned how I view death and grief. It's from my writers' groups that I've learned that I have something to work through where the subject of sexual assault is concerned. It's from my writers' group that I've learned countless things about who I am as a person. Once, during a critique, a new member once commented that one of my characters had hit rock bottom. A more senior member of the group laughed. "This is a Bob Defendi book," he said. "You haven't seen rock bottom yet."

Well, the topic on this post has drifted. What was I supposed to be talking about?

Right! My edits. I finished my edits. I turned them in. Took a little more than two weeks.

Your First Published Novel: Part 10

Cliché. So there.

First off, some business. We're not out of material yet, but we're catching up. I don't want the blog to go off the weekly schedule, and I haven't decided what I'm writing in the off weeks. Perhaps, "Plotting Your Next Novel." Feel free to ping me on twitter (@robertjdefendi) or on Facebook (just Robert J Defendi) and chime in. (If you're a member of the Curiosity Quills Hegemony Mind Trust that stands above me in the hierarchy, I SUPPOSE you can vote too, assuming they let brains in a jar use social media.) I suspect we have somewhere between one month and two before I catch up entirely. Although a good crisis could pad that out.

So. I got my first edits. With quivering hand and questionable bowels, I clicked to open.

You know what? It wasn't that bad.

Don't get me wrong. I'm an author. I try to be professional, but part of that is never saying the first thing that comes to mind, because it's almost always defensive, self-centered, and objectively wrong. I sent my editor an email clarifying how certain parts of the process work. I believe there was a carefully worded question or two about the generalities of what happened if we disagreed. His response was equally polite.

BTW, I'm not linking anything in this post, because I suspect I'm in the middle of switching hosting and all the Wymore hyperlinks in Part 9 were messed up in the transfer. Or, for those who don't care how the sausage is made, I'm not linking because: screw links, that's why. Look at the last post for links to Wymore and my editor Michael, and the only new person in this post doesn't have an industry-relevant web presence any longer. Although, if you're looking for a real estate person in Utah, you could worse than Judith Engracia. (Who, on rereading this, I know realize that I never mentioned, so "Hi, Judith!")

But I digress.

Wymore assured me, during one of those drug-induced trips to Vegas that I probably imagined, that the manuscript was solid. It wouldn't need many edits. Logically, I knew he was probably right, since Michael wasn't the first editor to dig into the manuscript. That still didn't mitigate the Kaftaesque existential angst that comes from opening a set of edits the first time.

But Wymore was right (I mean even a broken microwave flashes the correct time twice a day). There were no soul crushing edits. There were some that were annoying, sure, but I brought almost all of those on myself (Damico sighed something like 25 times in the version I sent in, and don't get me started on the word "Leap,")

I left the line-item crap for the full pass, but I read through all the general comments first, because if Michael misunderstood something on page 100, it's likely that the fix needed to go on page 5. I also noted the words he thought I had overused and so I did a find and replace, replacing "jump" with "***jump", and so on, so that they'd all stand out. By the time I was done with that, his email had come back to agree with my overarching question: could I leave threads open for a sequel? My intention was to address them but not resolve them, so the reader would know I was an ass, not an idiot. He replied that yes, indeed, that was fine. Also, he agreed that I'm an ass.

So I started.

Do you know about Murder Your Darlings? Well if you don't, google it (because to hell with links). The first darling was my prologue. I loved my prologue. In it, I depict for those with an encyclopedic knowledge of gaming history (because I never name the characters involved) a fictional version of the conversation between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson that spawned all of modern gaming. I don't remember his note on that scene, but it was obvious Michael didn't think it was carrying it's narrative weight. Then, as I considered it, I realized that it offered an explanation for the rest of the novel that would suck all of the tension away for a really astute reader. Also, it was an interpretation I might not want to use, going forward. So I pulled out the machete and killed it in cold blood.

Want to know what the best thing about Michael is? Well, it's probably his soulful gaze, but for the purposes of this book, it's his complete lack of knowledge in all things table top gaming.

There are aspects of this book that are so integral to the core concepts of gaming that not one reader has ever asked me about them. I assume that's because anyone I've bumped into where this novel is concerned has at least some tangential connection to the hobby. Michael had none of these.

And that's why he's the best person that could possibly have edited this book. Why would a character in a game need to sleep? What's happening at the table when this is going on? How can a character in a game have a family, does that mean his family came into the game? Are you insane? These are just some of the most basic questions that I stupidly assumed everyone would already know. Not even my mother caught them.

But here's the thing, I want this book to be accessible to people who have never gamed before. I want this book accessible to people who've never had family members into gaming. I even want this book accessible to people who've never been cornered by a looney gamer at a convention. I want ANYONE to be able to understand this book. So I had some core concepts that needed a better explanation.

I started work on the process. I did about six chapters a night, usually starting after 10. Five nights a week (so that I could work on writing group stuff on Thursday night and have an online gaming night on Mondays). That would take me two weeks and change. Wymore was right and the edits weren't super heavy, so that was a sustainable pace.

Now there's an audiobook version of this novel already out in the world and I went and negotiated a contract that guaranteed that CQ would not, under any circumstances, fork out one penny of their own money on rerecording it. I just made it so there was too little financial benefit in doing so.

So while I started the edits, I kept notes on which sections I'd changed enough to warrant re-recording. Meanwhile I sent the audiobook to my audio guy so he could see what would be involved in building a chimera recording out of the two versions. See, his rate doesn't changed based on difficulty (at least I assume it doesn't) but it's hourly, so something ten times harder will still cost ten times more. I needed to start getting an idea of what that involved.

He did not like the current version. He did not like it at all.

I re-listened to it and I could see his point. Matching the room quality of that recording to the quality of his studio would be a monumental task. We couldn't even just go record where the original had been recorded, because that building literally no longer exists.

So thinking about it, I realized that the book is probably less than 8 hours of finished recording (maybe 24 hours of total work on the outside). It was probably cheaper to rerecord the entire thing than to try to match two sets of recordings. Also, I didn't want him to hate me by the time we were done.

So as the minor changes in the edits snowballed, I lost the ability to use the audiobook that had gotten me this far. I had to start from scratch, and I'd negotiated a contract that made sure that all of that fell on my shoulders.

Because I'm brilliant, that's why.

P.S. Dammit. I typed that whole post and didn't once say the name of the book is Death by Cliché.

Your First Published Novel: Part 9

Cliché. There, now that’s done and I have something to copy and paste.
So we signed contracts. Everything was all squared away. I was a contracted novelist.

A lot of things happened in a very short time. First, there were the introductions. I received an email from Lisa Gus to me about a dozen other people. In that email, she listed each person at curiosity quills and their area of expertise if I should need some help. What came after were a flurry of replies, people saying hi, introducing themselves, welcoming me. At the same time, they added me to their super-secret Facebook group. The one I haven’t told you about.

That came with a second introduction, so I not only had a dozen people on the business end introducing themselves, but I have a couple dozen authors. It was a great time, of course, but the fact that I came out of that experience remembering six new names is something of a miracle. A miracle, I tell you.

Of course, I knew a few of the authors. I already knew James Wymore, Jason King, and Holli Anderson from convention work. One of them may have helped me bury a body. You’ll have to guess which. I met Nathan Croft at the local convention Conduit, but I believe that was after we signed contracts. At any rate, the rush of well wishes and introductions was a little overwhelming, and I squirreled away more than one email to help keep it all straight.

One thing Curiosity Quills is pretty clear about is that the lion’s share of the marketing falls on the shoulders of the writer. They set up a lot of things for you, of course, but you have to do the actual work. So with these introductions also came a whole knew phenomena.


I expected the editing passes. I was not ready for the level of other homework. There are two questionnaires and a cover worksheet they tell you they aren’t going to use (Insert smiley face here).

The purpose of the cover worksheet is to figure out what your vision of the cover is, but more importantly, you supply them with a list covers that inspire you and covers of books that are similar to yours. They tell you they probably aren’t going to use your idea for the cover itself, but that your notes on other covers will be crucial (for instance, I showed them Pratchett and Asprin covers that I thought had a style that might inspire the cover artist for my book.)

The new author questionnaire is a pretty extensive Q and A. In it they ask you things like bios, credits, more questions on covers (they ask at least one in all three pieces of homework), marketing text and many many other things. I filled those out, some of it painfully, and sent it in.

Nikki Tetreault, marketing guru, was vacationing right about the time this all started, so I put the full marketing questionnaire on the back burner. However, by that point I was writing this blog series, and while my first few emails about it were spam filtered, Clare Dugmore, social media guru, found them and decided they warranted going on the CQ site. She also told me they needed the cover worksheet and questionnaire right away. They needed to make me a person who actually exists on their site. Of course, they still haven’t done that, but it’s the thought that counts. (Second smiley-appropriate location)

Also in there, they assigned me my editor, Michael Cristiano, so things were moving. I just needed to get back my edits.

I hunkered down and prepared to be bloodied.

Your First Published Novel: Part 8

The biggest argument against putting the word “Cliché” in your title is having to copy an paste it into every blog an bit of social media that doesn’t have an auto-correct feature. I know. You weep for me.
So lets take a step back in time. I wanted to end the last blog post on getting the contract, but a whole lot of work happened before then. The entire time I was waiting for the final contract reflecting all our negotiated changes, I was getting a jump on things. Remember that 26 page contract that was half style guide? Well, the style guide wasn’t going to change and I was pretty sure everything was going to go forward at this point. So I started going through it.

I started by getting a good final of the document.  My last official draft had been the 4th, but I was sure I had, at the very least, caught typos when laying it out for self publication. So I started by copying and pasting all of that into one document. I keep draft folders for every book, usually with each chapter as a separate file, so I created a 5th draft folder and I put the document there. Then I started going through the style guide itself.

The majority of the guide was done in the first two or three nights, at two to three hours work per night. That wasn’t the majority of the WORK, but large portions of the style guide can be done either by selecting the whole document with CTRL+A or by running it through Find and Replace.

But a lot of the style guide can’t be automated. For instance, there’s a rule in there about putting the action of one character in the same paragraph of another character, something I have been known to do. There are sections on commonly confused and combined words. Essentially, there’s a whole lot of stuff that takes a full draft of the document to achieve.

Implementing the style guide, all told, probably took me 20-40 hours, spread over a month or so. At the end, you could fairly call the result a new draft.

There was an added wrinkle with this book, however. I already HAD an audio book version. I didn’t know if I was going to need to do rewrites extensive enough to invalidate it, but there was no reason to throw it out unnecessarily. Also, they’d already bought the book, so I knew that my work there wouldn’t lose me the sale.

Was I sloppy? Yes. Would I do it differently? Absolutely, but it wasn’t a huge mistake and it certainly wasn’t the worst one I’ve made in the process. In the end, it was inertia and laziness. I didn’t want to go through the process of re-recording the whole book, and I wasn’t quite at that “murder your darlings” stage of editing yet. One can gain a certain driven momentum when working on a book. There will be a fair amount of darling murdering in the time to come. Not as many as most books I’ll write, but enough.

In my only bit of defense, I’ll say that this book had been through an editing process. My editor for Final Redoubt Press, Josh Peltier, had done extensive work on the novel, and most of the things I saw things I would differently now, and philosophies where I thought differently, but they were a decent representation of who I was when I wrote it, so it occurred to me that there was an argument for keeping it as is until told otherwise. Heinlein’s Rules and all that. (That links to the website of my arch nemesis. He barely knows I exist. Good post, though.)

I made some minor changes to take out things I just didn’t want in the book anymore. For instance, there was a throw away line about the damages of sexual assault that could be read wrong and are really worthy of their own book (and I might have to write a whole series of blog posts justifying that sentence). But for the most part, I kept the entire thing as is and mostly just fixed line item issues.

Finally, it was done. The contract hadn’t arrived yet (If I have the timing right) so I sat back and waited. Things would get hectic again soon enough.

Next week: the frenzy begins.


Your First Published Novel: Part 7

It’s one thing to have accepted the offer for Death by Cliché. It’s another for to finalize the deal. You see, there’s a lot that goes in to buying a book. For a publisher of any size at all, it isn’t the decision of one person. So once I’d accepted James Wymore’s offer, there was still a lot to be done.
First thing was first. He had to convince the other people in the company to buy it. I’m not sure how many people are involved in that decision, but all of them had to read the book (or listen to it) and weigh in on the decision. It took a few weeks, but finally the official offer came back.

I’ve heard that Curiosity Quills has long contracts. It’s true that contracts I’ve had in the past were six pages or so, but they were also a much smaller font and they were work for hire contracts. Also, CQ’s contract includes a style guide. Anyway it was 26 pages long.

I’ve mentioned before that I had been querying an agent. It was Lisa Rodgers at JABberwocky Literary Agency. I sent her an email and asked if she wanted to negotiate the contract. She replied and agreed to look at it, so I sent her the book and the contract.

It took a bit of time. She doesn’t monitor her query email address on a daily basis and then she had to read the entire novel. James was getting a little worried about the time it was taking, CQ had pulled offers in the past, but Lisa got back to me before a month had passed after their official offer.

She had decided not to represent the book.

But here’s where Lisa is just a stand up act. She’d already read the contract and I suspect that she’d taken notes (if she put those notes together after deciding not to represent me, she’s even a better human being than I gave her credit for). She sent me those notes in an extensive email telling me exactly what to fight for when negotiating the contract. The email was pages long. It listed every clause she didn’t like and told me which ones I had to fight for and which fights I could afford to lose. For someone who’s never negotiated a contract like this, it was a god send.

So I was sad she wouldn’t be representing me, but I was armed for battle. I sent back my counter on the contract to James, listing everything she’d objected to. That started a back and forth that lasted days.

I had another weapon in my belt, of course. I had been ready to self publish. It’s far easier to stick to your guns when you have other appealing options open to you and you’ve already done the prep work.

Anyway, I stuck to my guns. I got what I wanted, relented on things that didn’t matter as much. In the end I was happy with the result.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t pushing for more money in most cases (she did suggest I ask for a higher percentage of audiobook sales since they wouldn’t be producing the audiobook…kudos to Lisa for remembering that on a non-client as well.) CQ’s royalties are generous. Mostly we argued over nuts and bolts clauses about the process.

Anyway, they told me that they’d get me a revised contract in a week. I started going through the style guide and relaxed.

There must be such a thing as karma, because it took much longer than that, but I got my final contract.

Next week: editing!

Your First Published Novel: Part 6

So I had an offer on Death by Cliché. That might seem like a slam dunk. Here’s the thing, though: I wasn’t sure that it was the smartest business move.
If Curiosity Quills had been one of the Big Five, It would have been an easier decision (but still not a slam dunk). You see, I have access to a rather large audience. I am a part of a podcast network that tops out at more listeners than our local ABC news affiliate. On top of that, I’m friends with multiple authors with blogs that gathered more than 50,000 visitors a day. If everyone I knew got the word out, It would probably exceed any marketing push Curiosity Quills is likely to rally. Heck, Orbit Books just asked one of these people if he’d like more review copies after seeing the bump in sales on a book he blogged. This doesn’t mean that these people will all buy, but to get as many interested eyes on the book, Curiosity Quills would need one hell of a marketing push.

For those who didn’t follow why that made self-publishing appealing, let me explain. It comes down to the royalty split. Say for the ease of discussion that I get 25% of the cover price of a book. All things being equal, that reduces the money I make off the readers I bring to the table by 75%. The publisher would need to bring three times as many new readers to my book to earn their split. If I get 50%, they have to bring an equal number. If I make 75%, they have to bring a third. You see how that works.

On the other hand, I don’t know these people are going to blog about the book. Most of them only mention books they really believe in and their are spectacular books they never actually blog. They are too tactful to commit to anything. I’m too tactful to push matters. So while my potential marketing reach is huge for a new writer, there’s no guarantee that my practical marketing reach will come anywhere near that.

There’s another, less tangible benefit to going to Curiosity Quills. There is a credibility that comes from a third party thinking that your book is worth buying. There are many very successful self-published authors, but when you say you’re self published, there’s always that moment where the person you’re talking to thinks, “Oh. Well, a five-year-old can technically self publish.” Again, nothing against that option, obviously I was seriously looking at it myself, but if you’re traditionally published the book shows someone else believes in it merely by the fact it exists.

And then there are a dozen other little perks. Having someone else deal with your cover. Having an editor and a proofreader go over the book without having to hire them seperately. Marketers. Publisher’s Marker subscriptions. Facebook groups filled with other authors from the same publisher. These add up. I couldn’t decide.

So I did what any good writer would do. I stalled.

I had just submitted a manuscript partial to an agent, so that was a good excuse. I told James I’d get back to him when I heard back, but I didn’t want to make any big decisions with a book she might want to represent.  A few months later, she responded and passed on that partial, but asked for another (I always mention what I’m working on in my queries so the agent knows I have more than the one book in me). She rejected that one as well, but I never received the rejection. It was about nine months before I confirmed that with a follow-up query.

I don’t recommend leaving a publisher hanging like this. I think part of me was hoping that he’d have to withdraw the offer and I wouldn’t have to choose. I had the book entirely page-made when he’d asked to buy it. With one evening of work, I could have pulled the trigger on self publishing. I will point out I run an indie RPG press. I have the tools to self publish. I agonized over the right thing to do.

I kept him hanging for over a year.

I put out tentative feelers to my blogging friends, but at least one of them seemed to come back as a very polite refusal to blog about the book . This later turned out to be a miscommunication, but it cast doubt that anyone would be willing to blog a review. I would almost certainly have the podcast network for an ad, but I just couldn’t count on the others.

But while all of that brought me closer to the decision, none of it really made up my mind.

My mind was made up by the Comic Cons in 2014. During that time, I felt an increasing resentment among the writers I respected toward the self-published crowd. A lot of them were borish on panels. There were instances of cash transactions happening during the panels themselves (not before or after). It was a few bad apples causing this shift, but the shift was there. Self publishing proliferated through the cons. I’ve spent years building up networks with these people. I didn’t want to categorize myself with an annoying element.

And there was that implied credibility. For every Michaelbrent Collings out there, there are dozens of self published writers with almost no sales. When I’m buying a book, unless it’s from someone like Michaelbrent, my first question is to try to verify if other people found the book worthy. This might be done through reviews and recommendations, but the easiest first question is, “Did someone else find this book worth publishing?”

So I finally decided that having another person invested in my career was worth it, even if the royalty split meant less money. It showed the consumer that I wasn’t the only one to think the work had value and it meant someone else out there cared about whether I succeeded or failed.

In spring on 2015, I told James I’d accept his offer. Luckily, it was still valid.

Your First Published Novel: Part 5

In the years leading up to 2014, I didn’t give Death by Cliché a whole lot of thought. I had other projects and I was trying to secure an agent. Still, the book never entirely left my mind. Over the years I more or less pagemade the entire thing in InDesign. Sometime in there as well, Nate Shumate put out an offer to do book covers for the ebooks of people who followed him online. I secured a cover from him and my friend Dan Willis offered to help me get the thing up in the ibooks store (which requires a Mac). Still, the iron was no longer hot, so I wasn’t particularly motivated to get the thing for sale as an ebook.
It was still my biggest credit, but I’m not huge in listing my credits at cons when I’m not promoting something. If they are relevant, sure: in an RPG panel, I’ll usually list all my RPG credits. If we’re in a panel on contests, I’m certainly going to mention my Writer’s of the Future win. If we’re discussing Robert J Sawyer I’m going to point out that he’s my arch nemesis. If we’re talking about Middle Grade novels I’ll point out I have the heart of a ten-year-old child (in a box on the mantel).

So I’d mention Death by Cliché if we were talking about self publishing or podcasts or audiobooks. I probably mentioned it in comedy panels and if someone asked me about.

I actually have no idea how James Wymore found out about it. James does these comedy game panels, such as Choose Your Apocalypse where the contests are each trying to convince the audience that their end of the world is the most desirable. I assume the order of events went something like this:

1) James and I were on some panel or another together. I was damn funny.

2) James hung out with me or others in a green room. I was funnier.

3) James went to dinner with me and a bunch of authors. I was less funny, but so tired that it was still impressive.

4) James invited me to be on one his game panels. I lost with spectacular hilarity.

I didn’t know that James was an acquisitions editor for Curiosity Quills. I wasn’t trying to schmooze him. He probably asked somewhere along the line how he could listen to Death by Cliché. If he did, I didn’t take much note of it. It’s the kind of things authors ask each other all the time at these things, and I don’t think many of us actually follow through most of the time. Hell, by that point the itunes feed had long since gone defunct, so he would have had to listen to it on a computer or sideload the whole thing manually. Not the kind of effort I expect someone to put out for a book I wrote six years before.

I suspect that James really decided to listen to it during a sleep-toxin-induced pitch I totally don’t remember, where I suggested that his Actuator universe needed a story that was “Sailor Moon meets Godzilla.” (This conversation must have happened because he made me put my money where my mouth was and write it some months later.) At any rate, James listened to the book over the summer in 2013.

(From James: “Actually, I heard you talk about it in a panel I attended but was not part of. I did have to download it manually. Then I didn’t listen to it for a few months after that.”)

So we were at Salt Lake City Comic Con, 2013, in the green room most likely (because where else would I be) when James told me he wanted to buy Death by Cliché.

For the life of me, at that point I didn’t know what to do.

(You’ll have to wait for next week to find out why. Unless you’re binge reading these after, in which case you can just click now, you lucky thing, you.)

Your First Published Novel: Part 4

With Death by Cliché released, our story starts accelerating rapidly. Not because things start taking off, but because of the opposite. Over the next years, not a lot happened.
In that first year, I was high on the hog, as it were. My downloads never completely took off, but they topped off at a respectable 5,000 downloads. I had something to talk about when I did the convention circuit. It gave me a little cred.

See, back around 2003 I was one of the winners in Writers of the Future. I was asked to be guest of honor at the local academic symposium, Life the Universe and Everything. Not for writer’s of the future (although they didn’t tell me that), but for my work in RPGs. I’m a pretty charming guy. I’m fairly reliable and you can put me on any panel. If I don’t know the subject, I’ll keep the audience laughing while the smart people dole out knowledge. I spoke of some of this back in Part 2.

Once I was well-liked at one convention, others in the area started asking me to speak or do panels. I ran workshops. I pressed flesh. But there was an unspoken clock over my head.

About the time I stated, I would hear about people who won Writer’s of the Future and never accomplished anything else. They would hang around the cons until they were quietly written out of the schedules. So I had gone, at that point, 5 years without a major achievement in fiction. RPGs, sure, but nothing in fiction. Part of that was that I had high standards. Part of it was that I was still learning my craft.

So the moderate success of Death by Cliché came as a welcome relief. A little cred, at last. Self-published, yes, but few podcast audiobooks hit those kind of numbers. I wasn’t Scott Siegler, but I’d done a second thing and found it relatively well received.

The next few years I had minor moments that brought me joy. Occasionally, I’d find a new review of the book. At one point I found it referenced a few times on The status of the book gave me joy from time to time, but my ability to record a new audiobook had withered away, so there wasn’t much more to do in the area. Also, mentioning it at conventions became less and less relevant as the years went by.

In there sits a long period of time where I didn’t write much, either. I worked on my RPG stuff, but I no longer had a writing group and without a writing group (or some other external deadline) I don’t write.

I eventually started another writer’s group with some local pros, but by then Death by Cliché was old news.

By 2014, I had moved on.

Your First Published Novel: Part 3

On the release of the second episode of the podcast audiobook of Death by Cliché, Howard Tayler’s fans brought my server to its knees. For hours, you couldn’t get the page to come up, much less actually download the episode. I had over ten thousand downloads in those first few hours and my little server wasn’t enough to handle it.
At the time I was working for the web hosting company that hosted the site. They sold processing power, but not actual bandwidth. Fortunately when you work at a company like that, you know other employees with servers of their own. By the time episode three came out, I had two mirrors set up to take the stress off the server. It worked well. For the rest of the run of the podcast, every time I released an episode, my server would have about half the downloads and the mirrors would divide the other half between them.

Things went well for the next few podcasts, although I realized right away that I’d made a terrible mistake. Somewhere around episode 2, people started demanding a way to buy the finished book. I had none. Of all the financial mistakes I’ve made in my life, this was probably the worst. If I had been thinking, I would have had e-book and lulu print on demand versions of the book already sitting in my store. Want to find out how the audiobook ends? No sweat, just click here to buy. But I had nothing. Stupid.

I don’t know if what happened next was a mistake exactly, because I don’t see a way to have avoided it, but the next hitch came around Christmas when Carolyn went on vacation. I believe other family issues cropped up at the same time. Obviously, there was no reason for her to vacation-proof the podcast, she wasn’t making any money off it, after all. So when she left, there was nothing we could do but wait for the next episode to come.

A podcast has momentum. Once you take the anomaly of Howard’s stress test for episode 2 into account, my downloads had been steadily building throughout the release. If things had continued, I probably would have hit that critical 10,000 download mark where people start noticing just how popular your audiobook really is. But I didn’t. It was a month before we released that next episode.

In that month, I lost it all.

My downloads dropped to almost nothing. People had walked away from the book. I was at the halfway point and everything I’d done that far had just evaporated with the month off.

I spent the rest of the podcast rebuilding those numbers. In the end, I was close to the numbers I’d had before the break, maybe even a little above them, but I’ll never know for sure how big the book could have gotten if I hadn’t missed a week.

And possibly more critically, although I’d been building an ebook version, it became obvious I wasn’t going to finish it in time to capitalize on people wanting to know how the book would end. So when the podcast ended, it was over. There was very little left to do but note the numbers I did get and move them into my query letters.

It was over. For a second time.

Your First Published Novel: Part 2

My friend W Dan Willis has the theory that any given road to publication works once, because they plug up the hole after you get through. It’s certainly true that most writer’s I know have some unique aspect to their story. I, for instance, have never been rejected by a publishing house, only by Agents and Magazines. That isn’t to say that I haven’t submitted to a house. It also doesn’t mean I have a half dozen novels out. It means that historically, if I submit I’m either accepted or they never reply at all. Everyone has a twist to their story.
Mine came shortly after I gave up on Death by Cliché. A member of my writer’s group, Carolyn Nicita, decided that she wanted to build herself a portfolio of audio work. So she offered to record and edit for free if I read. Traditionally, I haven’t been big on self publishing. Even when I have gone the self publishing route, it involved starting my own game company and soliciting licenses from at least one company where I already had a fan base. I would not normally even consider this, but in the end I decided why not Death by Cliché. People seemed to enjoy it and it was unsaleable. If anything it gets funnier when read aloud. If there was ever a book for the experiment, this was it.

So late in 2008, we began recording Death by Cliché. I believe that was the same year that I moved, but I seemed to recall all the recording sessions happening in the old house, to we must have done all the sessions relatively closely together in a big push. Just about the time I actually moved, we were pushing out the first episode.

Howard Tayler has a panel he does called it “Charisma is Not a Dump Stat.” One point of the panel is to make sure writers know that while writing is a solitary task, marketing is not. I’ve always believed this myself. In fact, when I go to conventions, I only attend panels when I’m flying the colors for some topic or another. I do the panels where I’m speaking, and otherwise I spend my time in the green room, networking. I have been accused of holding court, but I like to believe that has more to do with the fact that my back injury makes getting up and sitting down fairly painful, so I spend a great deal of time ensconced in a chair. The more throne-like the better.

At any rate, I didn’t know Howard before I started conventions. I didn’t know any of my writing friends before that. Brandon Sanderson once told me that the first year we met, before he’d published, he hung out with Dan Willis and I in the halls because we were the “real writers.” In retrospect, that’s pretty funny.

At this point I’d been doing the local convention circuit pretty heavily since LTUE made me a guest of honor through a wacky set of hijinks and misunderstanding. I’ve been told that the way I handled that convention has a lot to do with my popularity with the LTUE staff. For instance, at the banquet after I was sitting at the table with the con committee when I won a child’s toy tiara in a giveaway. I don’t know what kind of guests they had in the past, but they were all terrified that giving me a little girl’s toy would insult me, and I was still Guest of Honor for about another two hours. I claimed the prize, put it on my head, and in my deepest and most manly voice declared, “I’m a pretty pretty princess.”

The point is, a great deal of my success can be attributed to the fact that I take great pains to make certain that people WANT to be around me.

So it isn’t terribly surprising that when we released the first episode, Howard Tayler wanted to talk about it on his blog. I believe at the time he had about 50k unique hits a day. The first episode saw a large amount of downloads. The next week, for the second episode, he asked his crowd, “Let’s break Bob’s server.”

And break it they did.