Clickbait revealed

June hasn’t been a great month for achievements – I haven’t completed my latest play, haven’t published the e-book I’ve been editing for the last six months, haven’t written any new sketches or advanced the DIY projects in the house.

Because of this general sense of failure, I thought I’d save other web users a little frustration, and reveal what’s behind some of those irritating clickbait posts – the ones that you know won’t be worth your time, but are phrased so artfully you really DO want to see what they’re about. We all know we’re only being dragged to the site so we can see (and hopefully click on) the revolutionary new diet pill, or weight loss regimen that’s paying to advertise there, but still… What DID those puppies do that was so adorable it would make your heart melt?

Raspberry baby

http://www.newslinq.com/dad-blows-raspberries-on-wifes-pregnant-stomach/

The baby moves away from the raspberry blowing, distending the lady’s stomach. Everyone laughs.

Life saving

http://www.newslinq.com/lifeguard-saves-child/

The lifeguard saw a boy in difficulty and saved him.

Cow leg

http://www.weloveallanimals.com/this-cow-is-saved-from-slaughter/

It was given a prosthetic leg.

Old man punch

http://www.trendzified.net/old-man-boxer/

He knocks both of the would-be attackers to the ground and remains unharmed.

Leopard lunch

http://www.suggestedpost.eu/mouse-steals-lunch/

The mouse chews at the leopard’s lunch. The leopard tries to nudge the mouse away, but the mouse doesn’t leave until it has eaten enough. There is a series of photographs of this encounter.

As a public service, if you have encountered any clickbait that you’re curious about, but don’t have time to watch, send me the link and I’ll check it out for you, summarize it and publish it in the next clickbait roundup.

A year of citizenship and a new publication

Just over a year ago, we took our oath and became Canadian citizens.

Just over a year ago, we took our oath and became Canadian citizens.

So, what has changed for us in that year? What does it mean to be a citizen, as opposed to the Permanent Residents we were before?

Well, not much. We have shiny new passports that mean we don’t have to stop at the border and get visas to cross into the US (saving time and $6 each!). We do get to vote now, which is a privilege and a responsibility, and means we have to think about what our politicians are doing, and how we might get them to stop doing it.

However, even a year on, it still feels like more of a statement than a tactical move – we were saying “we’re here to stay”, and since we’re still here, I guess we were right about that.

It’s been a few years since I published my first e-book, and while I’ve had a few sales and things, I’m not rolling in cash and movie rights offers. While discussing online publishing with some friends, I realised I’ve only used the Amazon Kindle programme to publish with. Since I was hoping to run a talk at my library on the nuts and bolts of E-publishing (A “how-to” rather than a “Write an e-book and become a Bazillionaire!” type of talk), I thought I should check out the other options.

The main counterpart to Amazon is Smashwords. After asking around, most people seemed to be of the opinion that Smashwords is harder to use than Amazon, but they place your e-book in a wider variety of places, electronically speaking.

I dug out an old manuscript, then downloaded the Smashwords style guide to format it correctly. It was not easy, or fun. I use Word a lot, but I don’t do much that is creative and exciting, so using the Smashwords Template and altering the style of each paragraph and manually building the hyperlink chapter headings was actual work for a change (Amazon requires less formatting, but this simply means the ultimate look of your typesetting is up to you. Mine is, therefore, dreadful.) The end result was a little quirky, with each first paragraph after the Chapter Heading in a different font to the rest of the text, but I thought that might be how they roll at Smashwords.

Odder than that was the fact that I hit “Publish” and a few hours later got a congratulatory message saying it was done. Then I got a message saying there were errors with the text and the cover image. I changed the cover image size to the required dimensions. Nothing. I changed it to greater than the required dimensions, and that was ok. I fixed the text and got the congratulations message again.

Seven people downloaded the free first 20% of the book. I’m fairly sure two of them were me. None of us noticed that I had left a chunk of placeholder text at the end of the book, because that wasn’t part of the free download. None of us bought the whole book as a result of the free sample.

I noticed a button that would let me enter my book into the “Premium Catalog”, so naturally I pressed it. This generated a new message telling me about errors that didn’t matter before, but were critical now I was playing in the big leagues. All these errors, by the way, were simply that my formatting did not match up to the requirements of Smashwords – they had nothing to do with the quality of the prose itself. Smashwords cannot detect one dimensional characters, hackneyed plots, on the nose or trite dialogue, or clichèd situations. I can state this with utter certainty.

Having reformatted the whole book once more (and removed the placeholder text at last) I achieved the dizzy heights of the Premium Catalog. Twenty four hours later, I’m still poor as a church mouse, but my book is theoretically available through Barnes & Noble online, iBooks, Kobo (which powers the bookstores of multiple other retailers such as FNAC in France and WH Smith in the U.K.), OverDrive, Flipkart, Oyster, txtr, Baker & Taylor (Blio.com and the Axis360 library platform), and others.

If only it was a good book.

You’ll notice there’s no link to my newly published book. This is because I am not kidding about the quality of it, and I was publishing it simply to try out the process. My conclusion is this: If you’re a wannabe writer and you have some basic skills, go with Amazon. It’s easy and most people will find you if they go looking. If you are serious and you know your way around a Word Processor, it’s worth using Smashwords because of the range of places they can put your book. With some active marketing on your part, you could reach a lot of people.

If you’re really smart and have some time on your hands, write two different series of books, and place one series on each platform.

In Character

Damian Trasler:

If you’re writing a script, you’ll need a character list, and if you’re writing your character list, read this post from Lazy Bee first!

Originally posted on beewaxing:

At the start of every play there is (or at least, there should be, even for a monologue), a list of roles.  The main point of this list is to tell the reader who’s in the play.  The reader might be a producer, director or actor, it might also be the publicist for a show.  I have some strong views about what should be in this list – and what should not.  These are opinions, of course, but they are based on some degree of rationality…

They’re Characters

I take the view that ‘cast‘ means the actors who play the characters.  The list should therefore be headed ‘Characters’.  (You could also say Dramatis Personae, but only if you want to sound pompous.)

Name Names

I know it sounds obvious, but the character list should list every character, preferably by name, but certainly with a clear tie to the way…

View original 804 more words

New sketches available (at last!)

Frog Man's mild-mannered alter-ego, the millionaire playfrog....

Frog Man’s mild-mannered alter-ego, the millionaire playfrog….

The Amazing Adventures of Frog Man and Amphibian Boy

The Non-Emergency Call

Minimum Security Holiday

For all my talk earlier this year about knuckling down and producing more stuff, I feel like I’ve been running behind. April was the month for editing “Eddie and the Kingdom 2″, and while I’ve done the proofreading part, I haven’t managed the re-writing, or finding a cover artist. Should be publishing it, actually am not…yet.

But this week I got a welcome series of emails from Stuart at Lazy Bee Scripts saying that three of my most recent sketches have been published, giving me the necessary kick up the ambition to get on and complete my latest one act play idea this month.

Yes, I may be building a stormtrooper helmet too….

It will look better when it's finished, obviously...

It will look better when it’s finished, obviously…

…but I’ll be knuckling down to work on “Under the Hood” any day now.

Ooh! Something shiny!

Spotlight on: Brooke Johnson, Author

TheBrassGiant

I’ve blogged before about Brooke Johnson and her books, but she’s recently reworked the book I reviewed for real-world publication as “The Brass Giant” and so I thought I’d ask her some impertinent questions.

1: When did you start writing? 

I started writing seriously (with the goal to be published) when I was about fourteen. I started a fantasy novel that was a horrible conglomeration of Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, that thankfully died after its eighth or ninth iteration when I decided to write something else five years later.

2: What was your path to publication? 
In a word: weird.
When I sat down to write the book that would eventually become The Brass Giant, I made the decision to self-publish  because 1) I really didn’t want to go the query route and face the months of rejection on that path; 2) I felt that steampunk was “in” and I didn’t want to waste time with traditional publishing when it would be at least a couple of years before the book saw print; and 3) I just really felt like it was the right decision at the time. So that’s what I did.

A year later, Harper Voyager put out an open call for submissions. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to enter, I submitted the book and promptly forgot about it. Fast-forward another year and a half, I got an email from a Harper Voyager editor saying they wanted to publish my book. After much flabbergasted squeeing, I decided that I’d done what I could with self-publishing and signed a contract with the publisher. In the months since, I have been prone to varying degrees of stress and madness, and will soon have a traditionally published book to show for it.

3: Who was your biggest influence when you were starting out?

It was always a mixture of things when I first started writing, elements from my favorite books, movies, and video games, all cobbled together into one story. Stylistically, probably J.K. Rowling. I still primarily write third-person point of view and I will always write dialogue tags with “said” before the name of the person speaking.

4: What is your favourite piece of writing advice? 

I’ve gotten a lot of bad writing advice over the years, and very little good advice, so this is a tough one… probably “Write the story you want to read.” It’s the one dictum I’ve actually been able to stick to throughout the years.

5: If you could send one Tweet back in time to your past self, what would it say? And would you listen? 

Oh gosh… Um… “Stop wasting time on the internet and get to work. You won’t have the luxury of spare time in a few years.” Would I listen? Probably not.

6: What’s the logline for your latest book? 

When Petra Wade meets Guild engineer Emmerich Goss, she finally has a chance to prove her worth as an engineer building a top-secret, Guild-sanctioned automaton, but as their project nears completion, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy within the Guild … and their automaton is only the beginning.

7: Do you take part in a writing circle, either online or in real life?

I did when I was in college, but I never liked it–I’m not much of a group person. I also had a critique partner once, but it fizzled out when life happened. These days, I write all by myself and rarely read other writers’ work before publication, though I do often share scenes or snippets with a few close friends to get initial feedback.

8: Finally, what word do you always type incorrectly? 

Jeopardize. Receive. Mischievous. Judgement. Privilege.

So, what about the book?

The Brass Giant: A Chroniker City Story

Sometimes, even the most unlikely person can change the world

Seventeen-year-old Petra Wade, self-taught clockwork engineer, wants nothing more than to become a certified member of the Guild, an impossible dream for a lowly shop girl. Still, she refuses to give up, tinkering with any machine she can get her hands on, in between working and babysitting her foster siblings.

When Emmerich Goss—handsome, privileged, and newly recruited into the Guild—needs help designing a new clockwork system for a top-secret automaton, it seems Petra has finally found the opportunity she’s been waiting for. But if her involvement on the project is discovered, Emmerich will be marked for treason, and a far more dire fate would await Petra.

Working together in secret, they build the clockwork giant, but as the deadline for its completion nears, Petra discovers a sinister conspiracy from within the Guild council … and their automaton is just the beginning.

Releases May 5, 2015

Preorder now ($1.99)

Amazon US: http://amzn.com/B00M719Z06

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00M719Z06

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brass-giant-brooke-johnson/1121123553?ean=9780062387165

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-brass-giant

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-brass-giant/id904017054?mt=11

HarperCollins: http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062387165/the-brass-giant

About Brooke:

Brooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving writer. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes to one day live somewhere more mountainous.

Website:

 http://brooke-johnson.com

 Social Media:

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/brookenomicon

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+BrookeJohnson

Tumblr: http://brookenomicon.tumblr.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brookejohnson.writer

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5320239.Brooke_Johnson

Renovations and the Great Worm Ouroboros…

The Great Worm Ouroboros, a symbol of infinity, since it's eating its own tail. Although Renos seem to go on forever, I actually had a different metaphor in mind. But it was harder to Google.

The Great Worm Ouroboros, a symbol of infinity, since it’s eating its own tail. Although Renos seem to go on forever, I actually had a different metaphor in mind. But it was harder to Google.

This is not a post about the library renos, they’re done. Also, way too late, I realised that I wasn’t thinking of the Great Worm Ouroboros, but of the infinitely recursive nature of Critical Path Analysis, but I thought the first title was better, semantically speaking. Votes in the comments section please.

We got lucky, finding this house. It needed work, it was old, and they showed it while work was still in progress on the basement, putting a lot of people off. We didn’t exactly pick it up cheap, but we got a bargain. We’ve sunk a fair amount of work into it, but now we’ve been living here five years, we’ve really thought about the changes we want to effect. Things we’ve been putting up with for a while have reached the point where we’re going to DO something.

That’s where we encounter the infinitely recursive nature of Critical Path Analysis. Our bedroom faces the street. In the summer, when the nights are warm and the windows are open, we’re occasionally woken by people chatting as they walk past the house late at night. So we decided to swap the bedroom and the room behind it, which is currently used as the study. Before we can do that, I have to take down the closet in the corner, because it’s not a useful one.

How hard can it be, right? Oh...It's lath and plaster, not wall board...

How hard can it be, right? Oh…It’s lath and plaster, not wall board…

Two weeks later, and there's still loads to get rid of. Plus, we're still using the study, so every destructo session has to be followed by cleanup.

Two weeks later, and there’s still loads to get rid of. Plus, we’re still using the study, so every destructo session has to be followed by cleanup.

Another two weeks... But progress, right?

Another two weeks… But progress, right?

So far, so traditionally linear. But removing the closet is simply the first thing I have latched on to because it’s something I can DO. It doesn’t need measuring, or wiring diagrams, or forward planning (except vaguely wondering if that’s a supporting wall I’m whacking on with my lump hammer…). Because if we’re moving the bedroom, it only makes sense to sort out the shocking bathroom on the main floor too. So we found a new toilet  on sale, which is just as well because our old cistern is on the way out, but before we can put in the new toilet, we need to redo the flooring, and we can’t do that because we haven’t got the new tub, which we can’t install anyway because we have to shift the shower plumbing to the other side and we can’t do that without a builder to advise us. And we can’t get the builder in until we’re ready to move ahead with the next phase of changing the windows in the new bedroom, because it makes sense to get the guy to quote for several jobs at once so we can prioritise our expenses, right?

Recursive critical path. Before this, there’s that… And at the same time, I’m wondering how much it’ll cost to move the Internet Access point from the current study to the old bedroom, and if we can use this opportunity to split off a cable running direct to the Living room so I don’t have to run my TV internet off the wireless, which is still on a party line with next door, and while we’re at it why don’t we go for a new dedicated fibre optic line into the house to triple the internet speeds? But to do that we have to go to another supplier, which means changing our email addresses, and they are linked to about sixty  per cent of the web services we use, aren’t they? So, can I change them BEFORE we move to a new supplier, or can we get them changed automatically? And what happens to the inevitable one or two things that get missed in the changeover and send sad and lost emails to the old address for five years while we remain in blissful ignorance? And we can’t be the only people doing this, can we?

Ok, maybe the idea of a worm who eats his own tail forever was the right one. And thinking about this, I have a strong urge to just pick up the hammer again, and take a few cathartic swings at this wall right…here…

Fan Expo Vancouver 2015

Cosplay girls and Fett

This was our Third Fan Expo – we don’t count that first trip because we didn’t actually get inside the building. I’d made several bold claims about how I was definitely going to wear a costume this year, but for various complicated reasons, I didn’t.

It’s a big thing to decide, actually. Some people go to events like SDCC and Fan Expo for the big name stars. This year Fan Expo wasn’t stinting on those, bringing out William Shatner, John Barrowman and Carrie Fisher, as well as other big names from series like “Once Upon a Time” and “The Walking Dead”. And, of course, there were big names I had no clue about, like the voice artists from anime series and real comic book artists.

Other people go for the costumes – they want to see and be seen. At least, I think so.

Can you name all the GoT characters here? Quick, before GRRM kills them off!

Can you name all the GoT characters here? Quick, before GRRM kills them off!

But say you have your costume. Maybe it’s as stunning as this one:

In case you were wondering, I added the blur afterwards....

In case you were wondering, I added the blur afterwards….

She looks fantastic, and as far as I can tell, it’s a spot-on match for the game graphics. But you look a bit daft carrying your bag of loot too, so you have to put that down every time someone wants a picture. And lots of people will want a picture if your costume is this good…

Spy Vs Spy! Now that took me back a few years...

Spy Vs Spy! Now that took me back a few years…

And what if you’re a masked character? When do you get to have a drink or a snack?

We met this guy carrying his helmet, and only putting it on for pictures. He said he could see fine, it was just breathing that was a problem....

We met this guy carrying his helmet, and only putting it on for pictures. He said he could see fine, it was just breathing that was a problem….

This year we helped Tiniest Weasel with her costume – Pippin the Hobbit.

She's the one in the middle

She’s the one in the middle.

It was a good choice – she was warm enough for the times we were outside, and though her custom made hobbit feet were a little uncomfortable, she put up with them for a couple of hours.

One does not simply take the escalator into Mordor....Unless you're showing off your custom Hobbit feet.

One does not simply take the escalator into Mordor….Unless you’re showing off your custom Hobbit feet.

It was a practical costume, easy to make and maintain throughout the event, and she was comfortable enough.

Eldest Weasel went one better, going for the “Minimalist 11th Doctor” look.

There's always a TARDIS at these things. Hey, maybe it's always the SAME TARDIS?

There’s always a TARDIS at these things. Hey, maybe it’s always the SAME TARDIS?

But Middle Weasel got the best of the deal. Thanks to a massive cosplay malfunction on the night before, her Astrid costume morphed into a Sherlock minimalist affair that looked cool enough to be recognised, but not bothersome enough to be hard work.

She's the blonde Sherlock. And no jokes about that, please. I'm in enough trouble....

She’s the blonde Sherlock. And no jokes about that, please. I’m in enough trouble….

I went as me, wearing my Darth Vader t-shirt and some badges I’ve accumulated over the years, and there was a wonderful freedom in NOT being dressed up. I could wander the stalls, take pictures of the others, and trade duties with Mrs Dim, since we had our three Weasels plus two friends on loan for the day – that meant lots of phone tag and texting “Where r u? We at T-shirt stall…” etc etc

What other costumes were there? Well, I’m glad you asked:

This was one of very few Lara Crofts, and she was brilliant - I played the game last year, so I know....

This was one of very few Lara Crofts, and she was brilliant – I played the game last year, so I know….

My 11th meets a pretty good 4th.

My 11th meets a pretty good 4th.

Amy Pond and Rose Tyler

Amy Pond and Rose Tyler

The one, the only, Captain Jack Sparrow! Well, one of several that day, as it turned out...

The one, the only, Captain Jack Sparrow! Well, one of several that day, as it turned out…

Brilliant Weeping Angel

Brilliant Weeping Angel

I haven't seen "The Book of Life" but I can tell these guys are good. And one of them is Captain Jack Sparrow again...

I haven’t seen “The Book of Life” but I can tell these guys are good. And one of them is Captain Jack Sparrow again…

Another 4th Doctor... It's the scarf, isn't it? Or maybe the jelly babies...

Another 4th Doctor… It’s the scarf, isn’t it? Or maybe the jelly babies…

More memories from my childhood...ok, from last week. It's Mean Machine Angel and a Judge.

More memories from my childhood…ok, from last week. It’s Mean Machine Angel and a Judge.

Pippin meets Tauriel.

Pippin meets Tauriel.

Huntress and Black Canary

Huntress and Black Canary

Oh, come on guys... Starlord? The famous outlaw?

Oh, come on guys… Starlord? The famous outlaw?

Nightwing and Young Thor

Nightwing and Young Thor

Lady Loki

Lady Loki

How does Luke Skywalker get across the road? Ewoks!

How does Luke Skywalker get across the road? Ewoks!

It wouldn't be a FanExpo without Rimmer, Arnold J.

It wouldn’t be a FanExpo without Rimmer, Arnold J.

Filli, Pippin and Killi

Filli, Pippin and Killi

Sherlock is not impressed by Jango Fett or Bossk.

Sherlock is not impressed by Jango Fett or Bossk.

The Book of Life crew don't rate a smile either.

The Book of Life crew don’t rate a smile either.

The same goes for this Nightwing.

The same goes for this Nightwing.

...And if you're not impressed by this bunch, what hope is there?

…And if you’re not impressed by this bunch, what hope is there?

These costumes were top notch...

These costumes were top notch…

As was this ShadowTrooper

As was this ShadowTrooper

When I was a kid, THIS was what Batman looked like. None of your modern Kevlar and nightvision.

When I was a kid, THIS was what Batman looked like. None of your modern Kevlar and nightvision.

These guys proved you don't need to look to Superheroes or television to find great cosplay ideas...

These guys proved you don’t need to look to Superheroes or television to find great cosplay ideas…

Gandalf, Pippin and Aragorn save the day!

Gandalf, Pippin and Aragorn save the day!

We’ll be back at Fan Expo next year, though it’s going to be in November in stead of April. I might dress up, I might not, but I know I’ll have a great time there. It’s a wonderul atmosphere, and we all agreed – when you see a cosplayer, you smile. It doesn’t matter if you know the character or not, you can’t help grinning like a loon. They’re happy, they’ve worked damn hard on their costumes, and no mater hoe tired, hot or hungry they are, they’ll take a second to pose for your camera.

(But if I do go in costume, I’ll look an awful lot like this:

I got the whole thing finished and ready to go...

I got the whole thing finished and ready to go…

So watch out next year for Shakespearean Darth Vader!

So watch out next year for Shakespearean Darth Vader!