[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”1483441245″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/51bL9Qlj8wL.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”333″]Dragon/Human Hybrid Protagonist For The Win
I wrote a post awhile back about how I actually do judge books by their book covers. And when I saw the cover for Child of the Daystar, my money was spent. But despite the awesome cover art you can see here, it’s not just the quality of the artwork that sold me.
What actually sold me was the concept that the cover conveyed.
Lets be honest: Dragons are Cool. You know it. I know it. We all know it. So human/dragon-hybrid-warrior in a dark fantasy setting is an easy decision for me.
Of course a great cover and even a great concept are no indicator of writing quality. Thankfully, Child of the Daystar is very well written, and Bryce O’Connor is definitely on the track to win some fans over with this strong debut dark fantasy novel.
Get Readers To Care About Monster Protagonists with this ONE CRAZY TRICK
Bookplanner Manages Publishing – “The Cure For Publishing Paralysis”
If you’re a self-publishing author, hopefully you’re aware of Joel Friedlander’s work at thebookdesigner.com and his must-read mailing list. Joel recently announced a new service called Bookplanner, and he calls it “The Cure For Publishing Paralysis.”
Bookplanner is project management software made specifically for publishing books (ebooks or print or both). The software guides you through each task in the book publishing process. The tasks are divided into functional areas:
Prerequisite Tasks (Social media accounts, ISBNs and such)
Production (Print and ebooks have separate production areas. Depending on your project, you may have one or both of these.)
Bookplanner requires very little info to get started. Pregenerated templates create the task list and due dates for you.
Templates based on different project types get you started quickly by auto-generating all the tasks required, including their start and stop dates.
Because it’s super easy to create and delete book plans, bookplanner encourages you to experiment with the different templates available. Create new book projects from the templates, then explore, tinker, and compare the plans. Keep whatever works best for you, and delete the rest. You can have an unlimited number of book projects.
Once your project is in place, the master task list leads you through the steps of creating, editing, and publishing a book.
Bookplanner Master Task List
Bookplanner at the Top Level view shows all the tasks for your book project divided into functional groups.
Listmakers rejoice! The master-task view shows all tasks in order, broken down into the groups or functional areas mentioned above. The order of the tasks cannot be changed. Completed sections can be hidden, which keeps the current active group of tasks easily available. Hidden sections of the completed task groups can be unhidden with a click.
Bookplanner Task View
The task view in bookplanner provides a description of the task at hand, and a simple text field for your notes.
Selecting a task takes you to the task view, showing a pre-generated (and uneditable) description of the task, and a giant field for entering notes. The feather-pen in the upper-right can be used to edit the duration of the task. This will adjust the deadlines for all other tasks auto-magically. The duration is the only part of the task you can edit.
The notes area is EXTREMELY simple. Text and links only. No graphics, and no html. As someone who works under a wordpress menu for hours, the notes section felt limiting to me. I hope updates to the software will allow users to add external files like graphics and manuscripts. (Although one could work around this by linking to files in google drive…)
Scroll down from the notes section to find three more task-specific resources:
Expert Guidance – Provides relevant info on the task-at-hand.
Additional Resources – Link to relevant articles, primarily on Joel’s extensive website thebookdesigner.com
Referrals/Partners – Links to bookplanner partners providing task-specific services (Editors, reviewers, etc.) who can help you check that task off the list.
Bookplanner Calendar and Gantt View
Bookplanner’s Gantt Chart view provides a top-level view of your publishing plan
The Gantt view offers a top level overview of the entire publishing process, showing only the functional groups, not the individual tasks. This is the kind of 20,000 ft view that is lacking in many project management systems, and I really appreciate that bookplanner includes it.
Calendar view shows each task on the calendar as you’d expect.The calendar gives single week or month views only. Clicking any task in the calendar views takes you right to the task! Nicely done!
Calendar View in bookplanner
You can only view the calendar or Gantt chart for one book project at a time, which is probably a good thing. Even individual projects can get pretty complicated. Both the Calendar and Gantt charts open just above the master task list, so you can easily shift between views by simply scrolling down the page.
The paint isn’t even dry on bookplanner, so some minor issues are to be expected. The software will be improved as it gets used and receives feedback. The issues below are things that directly impact the functionality of the software. I’d expect them to be fixed asap:
Edit/Delete To Do Items – Any “To Do List” items you manually add to a project cannot be renamed or removed. You also can’t set the due date or duration for them, as there’s no edit/delete button!
Task Ordering with To Do Items – The available templates are nice, but they can be limiting. If they don’t include steps that you use, you can manually add them as To Do Items within the functional area, but they are segregated from the main task list. There is no way to ‘insert’ your tasks into the chain of events.
For example, if you do a third round of edit/revisions instead of two, that is not an option included in any of the templates. Adding those tasks as To Do Items won’t affect the timeline of that section. And you have no control over the time for manually added “to do” items, as I mentioned previously. There is also no way to insert your “to do” items between other tasks.
Furthermore, there is no way to arrange the order of your own To Do Items. If you want to see them in order in the project then you’ll need to enter them in REVERSE order, as each new item entered goes on top of the list.
Task Dependency Is Not Enforced – I was able to mark tasks as completed when they still had unfinished prerequisite tasks. For example, I was able to check off the “Final Interior Proofread” when none of the other interior tasks were complete. In some cases, I was able to ‘break’ the Gantt chart view by doing this.
It makes more sense to me for a warning or question to pop up, or perhaps auto-complete previous tasks in the dependency, or grey out the option to complete tasks which have unfinished prerequisites.
Achievements To Unlock
Here are some areas where bookplanner could improve their already awesome product.
Google Drive Integration and/or File Storage – Currently bookplanner does not have any kind of file storage. You can’t add any kind of files to the project. You can’t even graphics to the notes section. This is almost a deal-breaker for me. I want a system which manages the entire book project in one place, ideally storing all the project files, including every revision, every word doc, every version of the cover art, every updated version of the epub. Worst case, bookplanner could connect to Google Drive’s API, and save links to the files stored on google drive.
Cost Tracking – There are no tools I know of that will let you do publishing project management AND allow you to track expenses. The first person to make that tool for book publishing is going to hit gold. These are the questions it should answer: How much will this book cost me to publish? Where did I spend all that money? Where can I find areas to reduce cost on future publications?
Google Calendar Integration – Would be nice to have book project calendars sync to google calendar so I could see where I’m at in the projects without logging into bookplanner.
Personal Service Provider Database – The Partner Referrals section is nice, but not editable. I work with my own group of editors, reviewers, two different crit teams, street team, etc, and it would be ideal to be able to store these contacts within bookplanner and select them for the relevant tasks for easy access.
Edit/Crit/Reviewer Integration – Sending manuscripts out for crit, then collecting the crit, then revising the manuscript is a pain. Same with editors/artists and their revision files. Same with ARCs and beta readers. Same with reviews and bloggers. Much of that pain could be remedied by a system which allows external collaborators to upload their critiques/artwork/reviews/etc., right into the book project.
Distributor Integration – Dreaming here, but once the file integration is in place, it’s a button-press away from uploading the finished files to createspace, ingram spark, lightning source, smashwords, etc.
Community Forums – The task-specific ,expert guidance and related info sections are nice, but they won’t answer all questions. There is definitely some value in having a community resource to fall back on.
Service Provider Ratings and Reviews – There are many service providers out there. So many, that I’d like to see reviews on them, preferably by people who have used their services. The ability to add service providers manually and rate their services within Bookplanner would be very helpful.
Analytics and Reports – I’d like to see how my finished projects stack up against other metrics. Which section of the publishing process took me the longest? How fast did I publish this book compared to my previous books? Compared to other bookplanner users? Compared to the industry average? This data would become more useful/meaningful as I completed more and more projects to get more accurate baselines. With that kind of reporting, I could work on tightening my process, and make my publishing business more efficient.
Overall Review of Bookplanner
The software just went live on Monday, but I can already tell that Bookplanner will be an absolute dream for self-publishers. Bookplanner is like hiring a project manager’s assistant for your book publishing project.
Bookplanner makes creating a book publishing plan impossibly easy. Tell it what kind of project you’re working on, and when you want to start. Give it a name and push a button. Bookplanner creates a task list, expert guidance, links to related articles, links to service providers, and puts all the tasks on the calendar with due dates. You won’t find a VA to do that for you at $5.99 a month. I used to do this all myself with free project management software, but bookplanner will save me a ton of time, which makes it well worth the price to me. (Especially since I’m tracking seven book projects at once!)
Hats off to the web designers. Bookplanner works great with touchscreen or a mouse, on tablet or smarphone. The interface is clean, responsive and intuitive. Everything is just a click or a scroll away, from big picture Gantt chart to the task details. The software is available as a web-based service only. There is no app or standalone software.
Bookplanner may not be for everyone. It will not store files of any kind, and it does not provide reporting. Some of the value of Bookplanner is in the advice and resources. If you already have a working publishing plan and don’t need advice/resources, then you’d only be using Bookplanner as a task list/calendar/gantt chart and it may not have as much value for you.
Those who want to do things differently may be frustrated by the templates (which must be used, and cannot be adjusted, with the exception of task durations) You can add your own ‘to do’ items, but you cannot make your own custom plan by choosing tasks à la carte. But, with over 35 years of publishing experience and over a thousand articles on the subject, the team behind Bookplanner know what it takes to put a book together. I personally like the fact that someone who knows the path to book publishing has provided a well-tested plan for getting there.
Bookplanner is just starting out, and I know that it will grow and improve as more author/publishers use the tool and provide feedback.
Bookplanner Charter Member Pricing Ends Dec 14th
Bookplanner was just released on Dec 7th, and they are offering charter memberships at the guaranteed lowest price of $5,99 per month until Dec 14th. (Less than that, if you pay yearly.) These reduced rates are guaranteed for life to charter members, regardless of future price increases.
For just a few bucks a month, I’d say if you plan on taking a book from the rough draft stage to published stage, bookplanner is well worth the price.
Open Letter to Adrian Swartout, Owner and CEO of Gen Con, LLC
My name is Conrad Zero, and I’m a dark fiction author, lifelong RPG gamer and Gen Con fan living in Minneapolis, MN. I grew up attending Gen Con when it was held in Milwaukee, WI. I’ll never forget being surrounded by 30,000 fans of role-playing games, board games, video games, card games, fantasy, sci-fi, horror, anime, manga, writers, artists, cosplayers and furries (before they were called cosplayers and furries) and anyone who simply wanted a venue to let out their inner geek in a place where they would be accepted in all their glorious diversity.
I remember bringing walkie-talkies to stay in touch with my friends while we lost ourselves in the massive dealer space. I remember the breakout gaming sessions, the art show that took hours to browse, and the auction that ran nearly nonstop the entire weekend.
I remember hanging out with 30,000 other geeks at a convention where wearing your squee on your sleeve was not only allowed, but encouraged. You can imagine how disappointed myself and a lot of other Midwesterners were when Gen Con moved to Indianapolis in 2003.
When Gen Con left the midwest, it left behind a hole that has never been filled.
In other words – an opportunity.
When I read this letter from you, and this one, and heard that you were considering relocating Gen Con because of Indiana Senate Bill SB101 (AKA the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”) my first thought was, “Hey Adrian, why not hold Gen Con here in Minnesota?” But I bit my tongue, and watched. Looks like you’ve patched things up with Indiana, and the 2015 Gen Con pulled in 61,423 folks. Nice work. And I understand that you have a contract with the city of Indianapolis until 2020. So you probably aren’t interested in moving GenCon to Minneapolis. Fair enough.
But maybe you’d consider opening a division of Gen Con in Minneapolis like you did with Gen Con West. And Gen Con South. And Gen Con East. If my geography is correct, it seems like you’ve missed a spot.
I sincerely request that you consider Minneapolis as a potential location for Gen Con North.
I’ve gathered up the following information which you should find helpful.
Is There A Market For Gen Con In Minneapolis?
Gen Con pulls fans from all over, but it makes sense to host it in a city with an existing local fan base.
Minneapolis has two fan-run conventions that would be most like Gen Con: Con of the North and CONvergence. CONvergence is a sci-fi/fantasy con which pulls in almost 7,000 people on the 4th of July holiday.
Just in case you missed that last part, I’ll say it again: a fan-run sci-fi/fantasy con competing against the 4th of July holiday weekend pulls in 7,000 attendees. (I wasn’t able to find numbers for Con of the North online.)
RPG Gaming, card games and board games are all huge here. The Twin Cities Roleplaying Association has over 1000 members. The Minnesota Pathfinder Society has over 700 members. And there are more comic book, card game, and gaming hobby stores here than you would want to count. And they are always busy. Fantasy Flight Games (recently acquired by Asmodee) is based here in nearby Roseville, MN. Their business is growing with no signs of stopping. They have expanded their store to include a massive gaming room for holding events, including regional card game tournaments.
The answer is Yes. There are not only a lot of gamers here, but there are a lot of passionate, artistic and (let’s be honest) weird fans here. They would devour a convention like Gen Con. They’re just waiting for someone to book a venue and open the doors.
Could Minneapolis Host A Large Event Like Gen Con?
I know what you’re saying. “Minneapolis is flyoverland, right? Lakes, cows, and cornfields right? Is Minneapolis large enough to handle a crowd of 60,000 hyper-caffeinated con fans?”
Do not let Minneapolis’ population of 400K fool you. You’ll want to take into account the conjoined twin of St. Paul (we call them the Twin Cities) which makes for a population of 700K, compared to Milwaukee’s 600K and Indianapolis’ 852K.
The Mall Of America brings in 40 Million visitors per year, and is currently undergoing an aggressive expansion project to increase that number.
Minneapolis hosted the World Series in 1987 where over 55,000 people attended. It hosted the Super Bowl in 1992, and over 63,000 people attended. We just built the U.S.Bank Stadium which will hold up to 73,000 fans, and you can expect it to be filled when Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl in 2018.
Target Center just got approval for $127 Million in renovations, which will be completed in 2017.
Between the new stadium, the Super Bowl coming to town, the Target Center renovation, and the Mall of America expansion, the city of Minneapolis is up to it’s you-know-what in upgrades and new construction. You can’t parallel park here without hitting new restaurants, hotels, condos, coffee shops or craft brewpubs.
The answer is Yes. Not only does Minneapolis have the capacity to handle a Gen Con right now, it’s in a period of huge renovation and improvement, so this capacity will only increase to grow along with Gen Con.
Venues For Gen Con In Minneapolis
Does Minneapolis have venues that can handle a convention of 60,000 attendees?
The Minneapolis Convention Center has 475,000 square feet of exhibit space and 87 meeting rooms. It hosts the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, which brought in 75,000 people just last summer.
I’ll pick you up at the airport and we’ll tour the Convention Center and have lunch. Perhaps the mayor will join us if she’s interested in $50+ million in revenue, which is what Gen Con currently brings to Indianapolis.
I think you’ll find that Minneapolis would make a great home for Gen Con North.
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”0990815765″ locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/514loVdSQL.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”313″]Joy to the Worlds is a delightful collection of eight Holiday-Season-Themed Speculative Fiction stories written by four authors.
Maia Chance, Janine A. Southard, Raven Oak and G. Clemans serve up an entertaining variety of dark fiction, science fiction, mystery and fantasy stories to spice up your holiday season!
From The Publisher
What do you get when you mix mystery and speculative fiction, then toss in the holidays for good measure? A mobster Santa, genetic hanky-panky, Victorian villages, time-travelling detectives, Krampus, eerie bell spirits, and more–this collection of short cross-genre fiction is the perfect counterpoint to traditional holiday reading!
This collection stars four authors, each with their own distinct style. National bestselling author Maia Chance, who is famous for her cozy mysteries, dazzles with humor and folklore. IPPY award-winning science fiction author Janine A. Southard beguiles with unexpected time-travel science. Science fiction & fantasy bestseller Raven Oak offers a look into the gothic past. And for a whole new perspective, debut fiction author and art expert G. Clemans dives into the intersections of creativity and mystery.
Joy to the Worlds brings together eight short works that explore mysteries across time and space. Ranging from dark dystopian worlds to comedic retro-futures, four diverse writers find new ways to combine these disparate worlds.
Review of Joy to the Worlds
Wild Hunt by Janine A. Southard
An undead detective solves a supernatural murder mystery in this western-flavored dark fantasy. Would have loved some illustrations with this, the world was as interesting as the story itself.
Escape From Old Yorktown by G. Clemans
A quaint Victorian village is not what it seems in Escape From Old Yorktown. This Y/A dystopian tale, blends M Night Shamalyan’s The Village with The Hunger Games and The Twilight Zone. Revolution! Secret Societies! Hidden knowledge uncovered by those darned kids! Great reveals at the end make this story worth the read.
Odysseus Flax and the Krampus by Maia Chance
Yes, that Krampus. Now that Hollywood has discovered Krampus, it’s safe for Americans to recognize that KRAMPUS IS A THING, but I digress. Odysseus Flax and the Krampus has it all – great writing, a snappy pace, great characters, and small-but-clever twists. It’s like your favorite Holiday Cookie – short and sweet, and leaves you wanting more.
Ol’ St. Nick by Raven Oak
Holiday murder mystery… in space! Think Santa Claus vs the Martians crossed with Firefly and a dash of The Sopranos. The pace was like my ex, a little too fast and loose, but still enjoyable.
Bevel and Turn by G. Clemans
A time-traveling Christmas toy and a terrible family curse are at the center of Bevel and Turn. I really enjoyed the awkward, Y/A protagonist, and the relationship angle was well done.
Death Node by Janine A. Southard
This time-traveling cop adventure left me feeling a bit disjointed, but I imagine that’s what time travel does. Would do. Could have done. Ahem. Death Node was smartly written, showing the repeating effects of changing things in the past. Reminded me of The Butterfly Effect, but in a good way.
The Ringers by Raven Oak
A young magician and her family pass through a dead forest and get trapped in an even deader town in The Ringers. Although our hero’s fledgling magical abilities are no match for an evil necromancer, she won’t stop until the town is free from the “Ringers,” bell-ringing horrors who are anything but jolly as they search the town for a different kind of Christmas spirit.
I loved the ideas in this story. Raven Oak really managed to turn holiday traditions on their heads.
Mr. and Mrs. Mistletoe by Maia Chance
My favorite of the stories, Mr. and Mrs. Mistletoe is a hilarious cross between Fido and The Jetsons. This retro/future mystery sends a prudish town librarian out of her routine life to solve the disappearance of the town’s prized scepter. (For medicinal purposes, natch.) Quality writing and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, mixed with some clever jabs at society -isms. Not nearly long enough.
In the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, we often discuss our current projects. Can’t tell you how often I hear of people getting hung up in author traps. They’ve been working on their first manuscript for years, (sometimes decades) determined to “get it right the first time.”
Translating from Author to English, this means, “writing which goes through an endless series of revisions, but never gets finished.”
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve been there yourself. Ever get stuck in author traps like these?
Reading books about writing process, then applying your new-found knowledge to your old-and-never-released manuscript…
Sending your story in for critique, then taking all the feedback and revising your manuscript again. And again. And again…
Buying a new software tool, and porting your work into the new system, hoping it will help you finish…
Revising your story to make it more like that hot, new bestseller, so you can cash in on the rising trend…
Revising your story to make it less like that hot, new bestseller, so you don’t get accused of plagiarizing ideas…
I’ve been to every one of these places, and every one of them will slow your author journey to a crawl.
The good news is that just knowing about the traps might prevent you from getting stuck in the first place. Here’s the author traps I’m aware of and how to avoid/escape them. [Read more…]
My friend Saveau has a great saying. “You Deserve The Gods You Worship.”
Likewise, I’ve long said that you deserve your social media streams, email inbox and many other areas of your life that you forget that you control. But let’s focus on one of these input streams in particular – your artistic diet.
The art on your walls
The music on your playlists
The books on your shelf
The background on your desktop
That thing dangling from your rear-view mirror
The colors and embellishments in any personal spaces you alone control
Essentially, all the art in your life that you consume on a regular basis.
“What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
These things say something about you, in the same way the lines in your skin speak to a palm reader. It reminds me of what the main character of Fight Club says,”What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
But is this Nature or Nurture? Prescriptive or Descriptive? Do you define your artistic choices, or do they define you? And how can you use this to make your writing better? [Read more…]
[easyazon_image align=”right” height=”500″ identifier=”B012EI9M4A” locale=”US” src=”https://conradzero.com/wp-content/uploads/41YjDU7S1AL.jpg” tag=”zero00b-20″ width=”337″]Blade of the Destroyer by Andy Peloquin is an exciting new novel in the Grimdark genre. Spectacular fight scenes, wonderful world-building, and an interesting plot all add up to a dark fantasy story you won’t want to miss!
From the Publisher:
The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.
When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?
For such a small movie, Ant-Man carries a lot of weight.
As someone who grew up on a steady diet of Marvel comics, it’s hard not to be a fan of the Marvel series of movies. The latest entry, Ant-Man, did not disappoint. In fact, it had all the light-hearted, actiony fun of Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney would be proud.
But as someone who enjoys (and writes) kick-ass heroines in my fiction, it’s hard not to be ticked off at Marvel (and DC, and Hollywood in general) for leaving the ladies on the back burner. Sure, Black Widow, Rogue, Storm, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, et al. are definitely included, and they do kick ass, but by now it’s blatantly obvious they are in supporting-roles-only, and they don’t get their own movies.
Fans have been begging DC for a Wonder Woman movie for over a decade now. Instead Warner Bros coughed up Catwoman. And Marvel isn’t helping.
I’ve attended the 4th Street Fantasy Convention several times over the last five years, and I have to say, this year was the best year yet.
Topping the list of what makes 4th Street awesome is Janet Grouchy, (who actually only gets grouchy if you don’t pick up after yourself.) With several hundred people attending 4th Street, I don’t know how she manages to make me feel special every time I go, but she does. 4th Street is lucky to have such an awesome dose of Southern Hospitality in human form.
But there are many other things which make the 4th Street Fantasy Convention a must-go for writers of all types. [Read more…]