Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sundry Sunday miscellany

Sunday finds me working on LORDS OF HARBENDANE, and taking half hour out right here to answer some readers' questions.

This first, from a lady in Toronto, Canada: when the [expletive deleted] will the rest of HELLGATE be putting in an appearance?! Good question, with a simple answer: soon, because I'm doing the prep work for the entire rest of the series at this time. Right now, I do believe I'm cutting seven books to six, and just as I wrote CRY LIBERTY and PROBE back to back, I'll be doing the last two the same way. They'll be released singly, a few months apart, and I'm hoping to get them out in 2009. Afterwards, we have a pet project: the six HELLGATE books will be partnered by twos, and you'll be able to buy the whole lot in three big hardcovers which will look amazing on your bookshelf. (Few science fiction novels/series look like that ... and it's an absolute first in gay publishing. Three monstrous hardcovers, being a 2,200 page epic tale of love, war, espionage, death, high technology, survival, freedom and friendship? I'm actually racking my brains to think of any other such project. There's a number of big, huuuuuge fantasy novels ... the Wheel of Time, for one. But nothing similar, in hard SF. And absolutely nothing in gay SF or fantasy. Let me get this done, guys, and we'll make some history here.)

Next, from a gent in the UK: does the NARC riot armor look like the suit in IRON MAN? Actually ... no. Which is not the same as saying I don't really like Tony Stark's design -- I do. However, the NARC armor is very different. To begin with, it doesn't have a "face" on the helmet; the visor is featureless. Floodlights and sensor packs are concealed in a smooth fairing around the helmet. The NARC armor is mirror-black; there's a powerpack mounted between the shoulders, containing a superconductor unit. Those shoulders are big -- think ice hockey pads in mirror black. The joints are "smart seals" so you don't have massive, "swollen" elbow and knee assemblies ... when you put it on, piece by piece, the armor's joints nano-seal themselves, as securely as welds. I would love to be able to tell you I know exactly what the NARC armor looks like, but all I can tell you, really, is ... what it doesn't look like. I had an absolute blast at IRON MAN, and I like the armor a lot. But the NARC armor is very different. We're still working to get a design I, uh, like.

Next, this from a very nice reader who wants to know, would I take on an editing job? In fact (sorry) I have to say no. Editing is an incredibly time-consuming job, and at even minimum-wage rates, it gets very expensive. No writer trying to crack the market can afford to pay so much, and also, if you do shell out and pay a pro to do the work, you don't learn nearly as much as if you did the job yourself. I realize it could take months to learn this job, but at the end of that time you still have your money, and you've assembled a suite of skills which will benefit you the rest of your writing life.

The other downside to editing is that writers (especially new ones) can get very upset during the process, when it often seems there's something wrong with every second word. Someone once said, it takes a million words of creative fiction under the belt before one's work will be "good enough." This is not true; but the gist of it is ... it takes a hell of a lot of very hard work and practise to reach the point where the writing is (and I hate the term) "good enough" to pass muster in the pro arena.

Is there a study course I would recommend? Again, not really. There are hundreds out there; pick the one that suits you best, at a price you can afford. One word of caution: beware of the "we want to read your novel," and "get published fast and easy" type ads. You can be in print by next week, and you don't need to drop five hundred bucks to one of these companies to achieve this result! What none of these schemes guarantee is that anyone will buy your book; or, if you do get buyers, that your work has been polished to the point where it's ready to "fly solo." If it's not ready, this kind of "automatic self-publishing scheme" is a recipe for disaster. Sorry to be a killjoy.

It's much better to work with a smaller group -- a writers' workshop or a circle of friends -- until you're sure of your skills, *then* give the pro market a shot. There's almost certainly a writers' workshop in your area. Your local library would know -- and might even be the meeting place for one. It often happens. Writing for a group gives you the chance to bounce your work of other people before you have to start putting down a lot of money. When you're in Aus or NZ, a submission to a publisher in London or New York will cost upwards of $100. You have to print out, airmail, and pay return shipping on the whole 300-400pp manuscript. This is something that can wait till you're pretty sure of your skills. When you KNOW how good you are -- time enough, then, to start putting money into the project. Even if you're lucky enough to be close to the world's publishing capitals, it can still get expensive, especially if you blunder into an "editing agent" who wants $75 per hour, and more, to edit for you. The bottom line is this: the better you are before you run the gauntlet of these people, the easier it'll be and the less it will cost. By all means take a course. Also, find a writers' workshop or similar, and have some fun along the way.

And now, back to THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE. It's a cold but sunny Sunday, and everything in the world is in bloom, leaving you with fuzzy eyes and sneezes. I'll leave you with these images, which illustrate what I mean:



Saturday, August 30, 2008

Walking backwards in the right direction

An interesting snippet was forwarded to me the other day:

Opinion in L.A. Times --
A new measure of tolerance for gays?
The Zogby polling organization has released a startling finding: More than 60% of American voters say they would elect an openly gay president.

It's just unfortunate that Zogby International is rather (in)famous for being ultra-right, ultra-con, with an unenviable reputation for frequently being dead wrong. I long to believe that this time, in defiance of their track record, they're dead right ... but even if they're as incorrect as they usually are, something very good comes out of this, to my way of thinking.

Politics, society, the public mind, the great heaving ocean of Jung's collective subconscious ... they all have their eddies and tidal patterns. Politicians have their ear to the shore, and they know when to move their feet to keep them dry. I *think* the tide is coming in, and Zogby, as a massive international entity whose mission statement is (!) "To Offer the Best Polling, Market Research, & Information Services Worldwide Based on Accuracy & Detailed Strategic Information," just shifted its feet.

Being by nature ulta-right, ultra-con, Zogby itself wouldn't be caught dead in the liberal camp which welcomes and celebrates the GLBTIQ community (also political, social and religious free-thinkers, such as dissident poets, and the pagan community -- which, believe it or not, has as much or more reason to hide in many places in the US than the gay community! And yes, it drives you nuts, but what can you do about it?)

However, though Zogby would be reluctant to subscribe to the liberal camp, and pitch a tent where "PLU" means being different (if that isn't too Irish for you), they're not about to show a prejudiced, bigoted face to the same voting/polling public that keeps their CEOs in the Ferraris. This would be too politically uncorrect to be borne.

Time to rev up the marketing division, get in the spin-doctors. Get the corporate makeup artists to paint a fresh face on the old bus. You can think anything you like, but *say* the right things to the right people -- and when you say 'em, smile!

Which offers a valuable perspective on the shifting, ever-changing, powertful tidal force of the American collective subconscious. (Who am I to argue with Jung?)

What can I say? Great going. Terrific ... keep trundling in the right direction ... and (uh ... well; and you may hate to hear this, and you might not even believe me, so I'm going to provide the provenance for what I'm about to say) you'll catch up with South Australia in the fullness of time. Another thirty years or so.

That's how long it is since South Aussies elected ourselves a gay State Governor. (In this neck of the woods it's called State Premier; same difference. The Guy In Charge of the State. Like Big Arnie in California.)

Say, what?!!!

Yep. It was way back in the 1970s. His name was Don Dunstan. He wore pink hotpants to open Parliament one time. He had a boyfriend, and bouffy hair, and ... the whole nine yards.

Well, it was the Seventies! And South Aus has always been the place that made changes decades ahead of the rest of creation. We were the first place in the world to give women the vote. The first place in the world to ratify the "rape in marriage" laws. So it makes sense that, if anyone is going to elect a gay State Governor yonks ahead of everyone else, it's going to be us. We also have the biggest, most active, happiest, most open pagan community. Hey, this is a great place to party.

One of the many things you had to applaud about Don Dundtan was that he was a campaigner, an "Aussie battler," who got out there and did his damndest to change things. He took up the causes for several minority groups -- homeless people, and Aboriginals, for example. Also gays.

Now, back in the Seventies the gay community more or less "came out en masse," but there was a hell of a lot of counter-current swimming to be done. As late as 2000, I'd have to say the GLBTIQ section of the population was still feeling the current, but by then the swimming was a lot easier.

In 1999, Don Dunstan was posthumously remembered with the birth of a Foundation to continue his work. The speaker at the launch was The Honorable Justice Michael Kirby, AC CMG. Read the whole speech as a PDF here, and let me give you a small quote from it:

    "For myself, I was particularly glad to see in the documentation of the Foundation a proper, honest but not disproportionate reflection of Don Dunstan's pioneering and reforming work for his fellow citizens who suffer discrimination for their sexuality: Australian citizens who are homosexual, bisexual and trans-gender. It was a source of real pain for many who knew Don Dunstan well to attend, or hear accounts of, the official memorial ceremony in Adelaide where his partner of late years, Stephen Cheng, was excluded from the principal platform guests. And where politicians who spoke, although paying tribute to his work for women and Aboriginals, could not somehow get their magic lips around the little word ‘gay’.

    The game of shame which oppresses homosexual Australians is now crumbling. And part
    of the reason for this, is the reforming work and life of Don Dunstan. To the very end, staring death in the face, he was a stirrer and a shaker. He rejoiced in our democracy. He enriched it immeasurably."

[Source: DON DUNSTAN'S REAL LEGACY, spoken by The Hon Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, Delivered at The Don Dunstan Foundation NSW Launch, Sydney Opera House 28 July 1999. Source URL.

I'd say Mr. Justice Kirky said it all, and said it right.

There's still a long way to go, politically at least, in this country. We keep on electing Federal Prime Ministers who thump the Good Book and can't get past the notion that "marriage is an institution between ONE man ands ONE woman." Not only does this exclude gays, but it also excludes Moslems, Mormons, Bohemians, and the scattered, obscure peoples of Micronesia and other regions, for whom polygamy is traditional. (Can we say, "exclusionist language?" Yet both the current PM of this country, Kevin Rudd, and the previous PM, John Howard, were pleased to quote these very words, or close enough to them to make no matter, on public radio. Hmmm.)

Here's more on Don Dunstan, for those who are interested in a real, true-blue political reformist ... and gender-bender ... who got things done, big time:

Late South Australian premier Don Dunstan back in spotlight.

Mike Rann on Don Dunstan.

What a character. If he'd been in a movie, you'd have said he was overwritten and impossible to believe, though he was a hell of a lot of fun. But no, he was real, it all happened, elephant and all.

Got to get some work done now. THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is open in another window on this screen, and I have these two guys yelling at me to get back to them (being stranded up a creek without a paddle between them, and the savage tribes from the arctic hinterlands bearing down on them, and all ... they make a good point).

Cheers,
MK

Friday, August 29, 2008

Groundhog Planet

You know the Bill Murray movie, where he's a network weatherman, and every day he wakes up on the day of the blizzard that isolates Punxsutawney (and yes, that IS how you spell that), and has to live the same day thousands of times over, and in the course of that time he transforms himself from the jerk to end all jerks into a nice guy, who Gets the Girl?

Yep, that's the movie. Of course you know it. Everyone knows it, and half the shows on TV have done "homages" to it. But here's the question to ponder ... is it the classic "chick flick," or is it a science fiction movie, where the cameras shut down about an hour before the sh*t hit the fans, world-wide, in a manner as dramatic as INDEPENDENCE DAY crossed with OUTBREAK?

I'm inclined to say -- the latter.

If your viewing tastes are as ecclectic as mine, you've probably seen essentially the same story on STARGATE, and STAR TREK, and several others. Not that Bill Riker is desperately trying to win the hand (fin, tentacle, claw, whatever) or this week's guesting humanoid (you notice he'll romance anything female, and species doesn't matter a darn in their world? It's gender that's the big taboo, still, even across the species line, four centuries from now -- don't get me started). But the "McGuffin" driving the story is the same.

In SF, it's called a closed time loop. When they did it in Trek (next gen variety), everyone dumped their RAM when the temporal field reset itself for the next go-around. But when they did it in STARGATE, there was a real, genuine Tardis-type phenomenon, which put Jack and Muscles slightly out of synch with the temporal shift, due to a weird alien hickey in the gate's wormhole generation mechanism and tarqet acquisition sequence, probably due to a power surge in the superconductors serving the ... yeah, right. Whatever.

The practical upshot of all this dazzling repartee is the Jack and Teal'c (see, I can spell that, too) are not only condemned to ride the 24-hour closed time loop until they can figure out how to get out of it ... they know they're doing it. They don't dump their RAM when the sequence sesets. They're aware of every tortuous moment of what's happening.

Like Phil Connors, that jerk of a network weatherman with more brains than manners. Yep ... GROUNDHOG DAY.

Now, get past the fact it was written, directed, produced, cast and acted as a chick flick. Look at it from the SF point of view. Bill Murray and Andie McDowell and company are stuck in a closed time loop, doing the same day maybe ten thousand times, before something, somewhere reset itself on a cosmic scale and the town of Punxsutawney (no, I didn't type that again; I'm using cut and paste in the interests of sanity) was allowed to get over the ruck in the fabric of spacetime and go on. Nice. Neat.

And here's where it starts to get interesting. If [ctrl-V] Punxsutawney was looping, out of phase with the rest of us, it would have absented itself from the rest of the timestream. In other words, it would have "done a Brigadoon," and vanished for years...

Did it? It might have. We never get to know this, because the picture is concentrating on the romantic aspect of the story. Bill and Andie are making nice and, having just gone ga-ga, they neither know nor care what's happening in the rest of the universe...

Meanwhile, just off-camera, fleets of US Army choppers, cargo planes, tanks, the lot, are converging on [ctrl-V] Punxsutawney (okay, I'll stop being twee), because as far as the rest of the planet knew, Punxsutawney had vanished like Brigadoon, three or five or ten years ago. Who knew which town would vanish next? Had Punxsutawney been spin-dizzied right out of here by space aliens? Had it been sucked through a wormhole into the distant future? Had it been destroyed? Would Washington or New York or (gasp) Los Angeles be next? Was this terrifying event happening in other parts of the world simultaneously?

Well, was it???!

And now, Punxsutawney just reappeared ... from a wormhole to the future, or another world? Are the people returning loaded with deadly interspecies viruses? Have they been infected with alien nano? Were they brainwashed by ETs? You KNOW the Pentagon would be down on them like a load of bricks. CDC would be in the, and probably also Dustin Hoffman's outfif from OUTBREAK (speaking personally, Dustin Hoffman can come 'round and take my bloodpressure any time he feels like it). The whole town of Punxsutawney would be under military lockdown. Gallons of blood taken for testing; CT scans of everything and everyone. Everything imaged. Everyone and his uncle psychoanalysed. Brain scans. Hypnosis, polygraph tests...

There's one other possibility in which Punxsutawney gets away scott free -- because there was no point going there with this three ringed circus ... because (!) the whole world was looping. The whole planet was stuck in a 24-hour loop. Civilians wouldn't have any idea anything had happened at all, when the ruck in spacetime smoothed out and let us go on, but --

Astronomers would know, because the stars themselves move over the course of years, albeit infinitesimally slowly, and measurably. So, about the time Bill and Andie are making nice at the end of the movie, the sh*t is hitting the fan globally. Was the whole planet hijacked by ETs? Have we been through a wormhole? To the future, the past, the other side of he galaxy? Did the Russians or the Chinese do it?!!! What happened to us while we were gone, that we can't remember? What was done to us, what were we used, or abused, for?! Are we the same people we were when we left?! How would we know if we were different?

In our paranoia, the globe's major powers would start arming themselves to the teeth, and ... oh, boy. The world goes nuclear, with ever gun aimed at the sky. Groundhog Planet.

Cool.

Oh -- last note for today. Remember yesterday's post, where the very title was designed to capture the attention of the Googlebot searching blogs? It worked. Yesterday's post, entitled 'Gay Books: a title designed for the Googlebot' is, today, ranked #1 on Page 1 of the Google Blogsearch, and here's the proof, if you needed it ... click on this to see a full-size screen capture. It works. Not bad, to rocket from "nowhere in the top 100" to #1, in one shot...




Ciao for now,
MK

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gay Books: a title designed for the Googlebot

On a whim, we were taking a quick look to see if the blog ranks on any of the Google searches just now -- and if so, how high, and if not, why not. This post is for all you bloggers who would kinda like casual visitors to find you, regardless of your main theme; and for indie publishers (of gay books, straight books, ebooks, ANY kind of books) who are using your blog (or trying to) as an extra "hook" to help potential readers find you; and for avid readers who bloody KNOW there's hosts of great GAY BOOK BLOGS out there, but you'll be damned if you can find them, because --

Well, here we are on The World According to Mel. This is a Gay Book Blog. Or a (Gay) Writing Blog. or Gay Publishing Blog. (Gay) Independent Writer's and Publisher's Book Blog. Whatever.

But if you go to Google Blogsearch (which is admittedly still in its Beta phase; give the guys a chance to fix it before having a monster tandtrum) and run a search with the parameters (!) GAY BOOKS, you will not find this blog in the top 100 search results. And it's not because there are so many gay book blogs that we can't get our noses in there ... those Top Ten SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages; don't you love acronyms?) contain abstract links to 10th level comments left on blogs that might, occasionally, have a tangential reference to a gay book.

Meanwhile, this blog is invisible. Hmmm. Time for some serious head scratching, and a little bit of analysis.

We worked day and night for quarter of an hour, and collated the results of our labors. Let's share data right here. You writers will benefit, you readers might actaully start finding things, and you publishers will thrive just a little bit more, from a bit of data sharing. (Being all three, I'm delighted with the data.)

Turns out (from what we saw in the results to maybe 20 different searches; results were absolutely consistent across the board), The Googlebot reads ... no, not tags. That's what we had thought, too. Nope, not page content (ditto). The bot reads mostly the individual Titles.

For example, if you run a Google blogsearch with this parameter: frilly knickers ... well, yesterday's post from MK turns up #1 on Page 1.

If you run a blog search on "Planet of the Apes" (!), this blog pops up on Page 3, out of something like 660,000 possible results, for the post "Postcards from the Planet of the Apes." We score high-ish because the keyword is in the title.

Meanwhile, (it gets curiouser) a blogsearch with the parameter "indie publishing" turned up my post "Brokeback Gymhunks" on page two, out of around 23,000 results ...

Ah, so. Patterns starting to emerge from the data.

It's not until there are comparatively few results to play with that Google starts to look at page content. Let's try that again. Like this:

A blog search on the parameter "gay ebooks" returns "only" 14,650 or so ... and on page one, the results are already straying into jewelery, clothing and so forth -- nothing to do with ebooks, really. So, on this search, which came up exceedingly lean, the bot HAS to look deeper, and "weeds" the real, genuine content references. The weeding process brings my post "Beware the ides of ... August, I guess" up to #4 on page one, probably because it contains the following line: "You could go to The Goog and search on "gay thrillers," or "gay ebooks," and Mel Keegan OnLine would pop up, as high as the first page in The Goog's search results page." AND it's inside the last ten days.

By contrast, the blogsearch on "gay books" turns up 90,600 results ... and the bot gets lazy. It reads Titles -- probably for sheer speed (which is understandable).

So here's the experiment. You've seen the title of this post. THIS should whang our blog into the Top 25 Gay Book Blogs (where it belongs!), and maybe once a week we'll do something like this, on an ongoing basis, which should keep us there.

So, for visitors finding The World According to Mel for the first time, on account of the Title -- welcome! Please riffle through the tags and archives, because there's a great deal about gay publishing, indie publshing, writing (gay and not) book covers and design (gay and not) ... and much more. This post with the curious title is the hook, which we hope the searchbot will swallow like a trout taking a juicy fly. We hope you enjoy the reading here, and that you'll bookmark us, or do the RSS thing, and return!

Cheers to all,
MK

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gremlins, source code and frilly knickers

If you've been hopelessly confused when trying to order the screenreader version of APHELION ... well, you're far from alone. So was I. What, Keegan was confused?! You clicked on the button, and Payloadz asked you to confirm your purchase of (!) a guitar strumming chords manual. Oh, sure -- no question about it: big gay SF novel, guitar chords manual? Totally interchangable, you couldn't tell them apart with a flashlight and a magnifying glass. Not.

At some stage, the gremlins got into the numbers, and latched their fangs into this item. Now, the APHELION screnreader ebook is one of about 80 items in stock, so ... the little dears managed to get a-hold of less than one percent of our inventory before we caught them. Hmm.

The next 30 minutes or so was interesting. Having caught them red handed, we were honor bound to go through every piece of code and check the lot -- which is how I can tell you, the fuzz-butts only got into one of the APHELION versions before the sword of Damocles fell on them. Gone. They are now an extinct species 'round at Keegan OnLine, and with luck they won't be back for a while.

Technology is grand, isn't it? It's the only system anyone knows, short of magic, which can shapeshift a huge gay science fiction romp into a guitar chord book, by changing a single digit. Marvelous, when you think about it. Or appalling, depending on your point of view --

Which reminds me of what I thought was a hilarious story, but other people seemed to find utterly shocking -- this is a real-life tale which took place on the user forums (and in the code ... gremlins again; the way they get around, they must have bikes) at Lulu.com. This story is a beauty -- stay with me.

Now, Lulu.com is the monstrous clearing house for scores of digital printshops across the world. As a publisher, you (or I, or Uncle Jim, whoever) go to Lulu.com and open an account, start a project and begin throwing materials into it. If it's a novel, you toss text and cover pictures at the system, and when you're done, you literally hit "print." The copy is manufactured by printing robots on the other side of the world.

On the other hand, if you're doing a picture book, you chuck dozens or hundreds of images into the project before you start shuffling them. It usually works like clockwork. Usually...

Then came the day when this Christian Books publisher checked his (her?) project just before hitting the button to print 25 and send them to a Christian Books store that was waiting for them. Apparently the project was one of those inspirational books full of smiling faces and sunsets, and puppy dogs and closeups of flowers, and dusty sunbeams and old folks turning their adoring, craggy faces to the sky, or heaven (or whatever floats their personal boat).

At least, that's what the pictures were supposed to be, and I'm sure 80% of them were. The problem was, the gremlins had tied a knot in the logon codes between this Christian Books dude, and a big, hairy trannie with a full-on biker beard and its corresponding beer gut, who liked to pose in ladies' undies. I gather he looked a lot like a tarantula tied up in pink ribbons as he reclined on a plush king-sized bed in his high heels and ... you get the picture.

The photos were intended for HIS project, either for a GLBTIQ book store or as a private project for a bunch of friends. But the gremlins had gotten the logon code so far twisted up, our biker in high heels pal had his pictures dumped right into the middle of the Christian Books project, with predictably traumatic results.

The Christian Book publisher was petrified (I mean, PETRIFIED) that this had been going on for some time without his notice ... because he'd been shipping books direct to his client stores, sight-unseen.

Imagine this: little old lady of the Christian persuasion, in her very favorite Bible store, wanting to buy a lovely inspirational picture book for her pal or hubbie or whatever ... opens up this book --!

You can imaging the scream. Now, some folks might fall down laughing at the pics ... or else flip right to the back of the book to see if this cutie-bear had thought to list his number or email there, and a quick note as per his preference between smoked salmon canapes and baked beans on toast. The world is full of surprises. And we like it that way.

But, hey, have a little compassion here, guys. There's people out there who get uptight if they don't put knickers on piano legs. Seriously.

Natutually, Lulu fell over themselves to set the situation right, and probably some actual breathing, palpitating human went through the trembling guy's files and made sure they were no hairy bikers in frilly pink undies, or folks of whatever gender bonking (or pretending to). I imagine there was hell to pay.

Me? I laughed for a week. Then again, I didn't have the gremins give me any heart attacks while I was doing any kind of picturebook. However, I'll just bet there was one question left utterly unresolved at the end of all this, because no one was about to ask it.

If our hairy biker in the frilly undies and high heels found his way (courtesy of the gremlins) into the hallowed pages of the Christian Inspiration book, did any Christian Inspirational pictures wind up in the hairy pages of the other book...? And if so, did out hairsuite friend in the frills and spikes also scream, or laugh, or write in and complain? In the interests of fair play (as well as humn compassion) did anyone even bother to ask?! And I'll just bet they didn't.

Cheers,
MK

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Book Launch: Aquamarine


Welcome, one and all, to the book launch we've been promising for the last few weeks!




The pilot copy arrived sizzlng off the digital press yesterday, and we've been ready to launch for ten days or so. It's ready to go, so let's check it out.

Here's the "blurb" from the back cover:

    Mel Keegan's new story is set in the late 21st Century when major land masses have been submerged by rising oceans and the Earth is a world of water. Russell is a hydrologist, based on the great floating platform of Pacifica. Eric is one of fifty Aquarians, a new sub-species of human who can breathe underwater. When the pair refuse an attractive offer for Eric's services on a suspicious salvage, Eric is kidnapped and a fast-paced intrigue unfolds on the "acorn principle" ... a small event turns out to be the key to a major war which would involve the whole Pacifica region.

And if that isn't enough to whet your appetite, have the first 10% of the book on us:

Read the first segment of the novel in PDF format...


And, getting right down to the business end of the booklaunch:

Get the screenreader style ebook, for iLiad, Palm, Pocket PC and Adobe Reader...

Get the PC/Macdesktop style ebook ...

Both ebooks are $9.95, which is a handy saving over the paper version. But we know many people prefer paper, so:

272pp, 6" x 9" trade-size paperback;
full color ccover by Jade


Price:
US$22.50
US$9.95(eBook)


Buy the paperback here:


Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.


AQUAMARINE is a book with a publishing history. Rather than go into the whole thing again (it's a long and rather frustrating story), I'll refer you to this page, which tells the whole thing (and you can also look at various pages on the blog here, which go into a bit more detail, and with a tad bit more emotion):

the Aquamarine page on the website...

...of the blog posts that rattle on about the "publishing misadventures" of this book, here's the best: books getting printed without being proofread? Hey -- I'm not alone, it happens to the big boys, too!

Suffice to say, the DreamCraft version of AQUAMARINE has been proofread to death. It's been done at least half a dozen times, and we're confident of the proofing and copy editing to let it go out on its own. It'll be 99.999997 right this time, and all here are breathing great sighs of relief.

It's fantastic to have this done done, finished, "out there and cooking." Were I to sum up AQUAMARINE myself, I'd tell you there are two parts of the year when it makes very good reading. The dead of winter is one ... you're longing for tropical beaches and blue-green water...

...and the other time is the height of summer when it's hot and still and sticky, and you're longing to be submerged in the aforementioned blue-green water...

Well, I can't actually transport you to Tahiti (where the waters are warm and clear beyond your imagination, the beaches are white, and the most beautiful of the girls turn out to be boys), but AQUAMARINE will do instead, and cost you a heck of a lot less than a plane ticket!

Incidentally, the images above are, at full-size, 800x600 -- they were designed as wallpapers, or desktops. To get them to fit the larger size 1024 monitors, set them to "stretch to fit" when you install them. Enjoy. And -- did you get your screensaver, a couple of weeks ago? In case you missed it, here it is again, in versions for XP and Vista:

Get your AQUAMARINE screensavers right here!




This about wraps it for the book launch. Lulu is shipping immediately, and of course with the ebooks from Payloadz, it's instant gratification. As for me, I'll be devoting the whole afternoon to THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE, and the next book launch you see on the blog will be that one. Please enjoy AQUAMARINE ... for the first time in history, meticulously proofread, thoroughly copy edited and wearing a blazing, full color jacket. The pilot copy looks nothing less than gorgeous.

Cheers,
MK

Monday, August 25, 2008

Extra, extra!

The news bulletin a lot of people have been waiting for: the pilot copy of AQUAMARINE was in today's mail drop, and it's perfect. No corrections to be made to the layout, cover or content. It'll be online with "buy me" buttons tomorrow. Phew.

It's taken a fair while longer than I'd originally though -- then again, everything does. Someone wise once said, "Everything takes longer and costs more." (I wonder if it might have been Benjamin Franklin who said that? He also said, "Time is money." And Malcolm Forbes must have been in a droll, condescending mood when he went on record with this one: "You want to succeed? Try hard enough." Duh.)

Also worthy of note and apropos of a recent post: Spring has definitely sprung, as witness these guys:



The garden is full of them -- we're being invaded by small furry creatures.

Back to work, guys: THE LORDS OF HARBINDANE await.

The Noble Art of being Dead Wrong

There are times (and this is one of them ... and one like this is worth three ordinary ones) when your instinct is dead wrong.

About a month ago we were tweaking the whole sales machine thing, on the website -- this is going to be fascinating and chilling to the writers among you who are looking at marketing your own books on the internet, or are maybe doing it right now with more or less success. No need to learn from your own mistakes. Take notes here ... learn from mine!

I take full responsibility: it was Keegan's Idea, and one of the few which fall into the category of Not Very Good Ones. Mea culpa.

You see, I've always believed that if you want to sell applecake, you give people a slice of the thing, and make it a good, big slice, so they get a taste for it and just HAVE to buy the rest of the cake. On this same theory, if you want to sell books, let people read enough of the book to fall in love with the characters and HAVE to get the rest.

Maybe 12 or 15 years ago, this theory was put to the test (not by me) and worked fine. There were several sites where you could get 75% of the story free and gratis, take it away with you ... but if you wanted The End, to see how it turned out, you had to pay a few dollars. For a fee, they'd give you access to the last 25% either on a webpage or a password-protected file.

It was a good idea, and at the time it worked. I don't think it would work now ... perhaps because the Internet is so satiated with fiction of every description??

Anyway, following along in the wake of this theory (which I could see the sense of), I decided (mea cupla) that it could only be a good thing to "get readers hooked" with a large slice of each novel, online for the clicking.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we know things now that we didn't know before. (What's all this "we" business?! Okay. I. Me. Myself.)

Now, like me, you'd have thought that if you were given 40% of DEATH'S HEAD or DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT, you'd be hooked like a trout. Right?

In fact, readers probably are. But apparently these same people read sloooooowly. In fact, they read so sloooowly that before they've finished the sample (and hence might be expected to buy the book and finish it), something called Real Life has invariably intervened, stuck in its nasty snout, and distracted them. By the time they get back from the Emergency Room, or get the car back from the garage, or get the computer fixed, or nurse the kid through the pneumonia, or get the TV fixed, or settle into the new job, or [fill in the blank, ad nauseam ... you know what Life is like; we've all been through it], they've completely forgotten about the book they were just about halfway through and were supposed to buy.

And this is fair enough. No one understands better than me how Life can go utterly haywire and stay that way for weeks, months. Longer.

To be honest, I've noticed in many places (for example, Diesel Ebooks, which is my own favorite ebook bazaar), the vendor's idea of "read a sample of this book" is about two pages. And I do believe the penny just dropped. Keegan's pet theory had been along the lines of the web publishers of the mid-90s: you get readers hooked, till they can't stop reading, and they'll buy a lot of books. In the real world of physical bookstores and in-hand copies, this is probably still fairly true. But the virtual world of the Net is very different. Ephereral is a word leaping to mind.

Okay. This one is a fairly easy fix, and it's being done today. We've reverting to a chapter or two as the samples, which is is how we had the samples organized before (and sales were very good).

Oh -- all the Adbrite code is gone from the site; Google Adsense is up and working, and the ads are sorta kinda contextual, in a way. The engine is keying on the word 'books.' Never mind the fact that the keyword 'gay' appears maybe 20 times on the page while 'books' appears maybe 5 times, and the whole keyword is 'gay books.' At least the SF pages are getting ads for an SF bookstore, and get your book publised, and buy ebooks. We're maybe halfway there. Maybe. And (!) we got our traffic back, and more besides. Traffic on the website is very good now, and can only get better.

So, Monday morning finds me gnashing my teeth a little bit about the marketing side of the business, but the good news is --

THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is flying along. Delicious gay heroes, loads of meaty human angst, fantasy backdrop, magicks about to happen, battles on the way and, right now, an in-depth exploration of cultures in collision, some of them primitive, even savage, others fantasy-mediaeval.

Stay tuned for delevopments.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spring has sprung

I do believe spring just arrived. The bird population certainy thinks so, and the introduced (alien, as in, not native?) flowering trees are all going gangbusters. The Christmas decorations will be in the stores in about five weeks (!) as our hours of daylight increase and the longer days get rapidly warmer. We have a thermometer in the backyard, and it's reading 62 degrees (F) in the shade in a part of the yard that doesn't get the sun. It feels almost balmy...

Now, having said all this, Nostrakeeganus, he predicting prompt return to winter for three more weeks, with freezing temperatures and leaden-gray skies.

So, just so you know I'm not pulling your leg, here's the evidence: (click for a larger view. In order -- almond blossom in the yard; flowering native shrubs in the hills; a koala, actually awake for a change -- note the blue sky! A kookaburra -- note same!! And wild flowers, something like forget-me-nots)







Now, having posted these, we are absolutely certain to lapse back into winter for weeks. Did I just put the kiss of death on spring?

Someone noticed that I haven't said much, if anything about the Games of the 29th Olympiad. Um ... I've been busy. Seriously. I actually enjoy the winter games more than the summer games, but I do follow the cycling (road variety rather than track,) and one or two other events ... none of which have been given any TV coverage down here. Fans of swimming were well catered to, because the Aussies always do very well in those events. However, swimming ain't my thing. And for events where no Australians are competing, they just don't seem to send the cameras.

There was a somewhat critical little ditty going around at the time of the Sydney Olympics. It went like this:

    Here's thanks to the Olympic Committee
    For sending the games to a city
    Where you can't eat the food,
    The locals are rude,
    And the TV coverage is totally ... Aus-centric.


Like the US and Canada, we're a nation of immigrants. Less than half the population was born here, and although -- yes -- we "bond" with the country, we call ourselves Aussies and take an almost inordinate pride in this country's achievements ... there remains a fondness for the old country, and an enduring interest in it. Some of us remain staunch supporters of teams from the old country, and thanks to the internet (and SBS) you can actually keep abreast of Manchester United, or the Raiders, or whomever.

And sure, we enjoy watching the events in which the Green and Gold are going great. We LOVE to see Aussis win. But wouldn't it be nice to see some of the other events, even though Aussie stars aren't competing?!

This country has folks from every corner of the planet: we're very probably the first true cosmopolitan culture, because we don't have ghettos or reservations inside which indigenous peoples are required, culturally and socially if not legally, to be. Just once in a while, I'd like to see Aussie Olympic coverage recognize the truly cosmopolitan nature of the audience to whom they're broadcasting. It'd be nice.

Having said that: the athletes were great, the stadium is fantastic, the opening ceremonies were dazzling, the Chinese government doesn't seem to have put its foot in it *too* deeply or too often, and the Chinese people have been great. I'm told Beijing by night is glorious, you have to see the city lights to believe them (no, the TV coverage didn't extend this far either), and the Games themselves have been remarkably smooth. For those of us who are old enough to recall Munich 72, the idiotic political boycotts of Los Angeles and Moscow, and the depressing though critically necessary Black Power statements back at the end of the Sixties, beginning of the Seventies ... well, the Beijing Games have been laid back, relaxed, open, friendly. Nice. Kudos to all concerned ... except maybe the TV directors, who concentrate on the Green and Gold to the exclusion of virtually everything else. They've done a fine job in technical terms (kudos to all concerned there, too), and if they'd just remembered their cosmopolitan audience, we'd have been unanimous in our praise.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Goggle Ad-nonsense and Gay Keywords

I know I've already posted today, but I've GOT to share this latest piece of Google-related idiocy with you. If you've been keeping up with the story of our misadventures in the wonderful world of web advertising (webvertising?), you'll know what I'm rattling on about. If not, take a look at "Give a Good Goggle at this, Guys," and "Beware the Ides of ... August." They'll bring you up to date about the homophobic behavior of the biggest, most powerful search engine in Creation, and one's complete inability to do anything about it. We tried. We failed.

Okay: so we vowed to go with the flow and get Adsense. Done and done: contextual ads are in place on all the webpages except the book browsers and reviews -- that's another 60pp or so, and they'll be converted tomorrow.

So here we go with the Adense contextual things, right? Right.

Now, understand: these pages are SCREAMING in silent code, GAY, GAY BOOKS, GAY FICTION, GAY NOVELS, GAY PUBLISHING, GAY STORIES, GAY ROMANCE, GAY THRILLERS ... the HTML part of the pages (and there's a lot of it) is thick, heavy, with all the right keywords in all the rigHt places ... yep, the homework has been done about this.

Our pages are screaming their poor little heads off, but The Goog ain't listening. Here's just some what we've had so far -- get ready for a chuckle.

PRELUDE TO CRY LIBERTY ... Buy a secondhand Honda Prelude.
READINGS ... Bible studies.
BOOKS ... Windows XP Drivers.
EBOOK KIOSK ... buy a mobile phone.

...and so on. So far, the contextual matchmaker at Goog has hit the button once out of about 50 pages -- calendars. We have a page called "calendar.htm," the ads are for popup calendars. From which you might conclude, it reads page titles. So why is "books.htm" pulling up Registry Cleaners and XP Drivers? I mean, BOOKS. (And yes, the Title, Description, Keywords and ALT tags all over the page are stuffed so full of the pertinent keywords, two more of the damned things, and it would be called "Keyword Stuffing," which is not even ethical!)

So -- please, when you visit my webpage, treat the whole thing like a word game. See what sheer nonsense the matchmaking algorithm is coughing up today. And please don't get upset with us (!) if you get offered Bible studies on my Readings page. That one really was a beauty.

Keep your eyes open for real Ad-nonsense-blots on the Keegan OnLine landscape -- post them here. I might even have a competition for the Best/Worst and Most Stupid ... give away a copy of THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE, perhaps!

Happy hunting,
MK

Brokeback Gymhunks

I used a gym once.

This effect did NOT happen:

I'd caption this "Before and After," but whoever pasted up the photos in some magazine did the job backwards. After and Before. Screws up your concept of linear time, doesn't it?

I didn't walk properly from the next three weeks (remember Postcards from the Planet of the Apes? I'm still not out of that particular wood. Ouch.). I kid you not: Keegan has a "trick back" but, fortunately, it's not too common among the general population. If it were, Hollywood would be SOL. Arnie and Sly and Brad and company would spend half their lives in traction.

You notice, Hollywood loves muscles. The action stars have 'em. The actresses have 'em. The cameradudes have 'em. The ladies who run the sewing machines, making up the costumes have 'em. The makeup artists have 'em.

I wonder if the writers have to have 'em? Now, that's just plain not fair. I think I have an allergy to something they use in the gym. Possibly the floor cleaners? Or the stuff they wash the windows with. Maybe the barbells or punchbags. Some people come out in a rash when they come into contact with these allergens; I seem to come out in a bad back. At least you can stand up straight when you have a rash ... or mostly straight, not counting the odd little dance routine they do, hopping from foot to foot, when they're desperate to scratch SOMETHING, and can't, because they're in a public place.

Seriously, cheers to Jake Gyllenhall on the above. It's all for a movie, something called PRINCE OF PERSIA, which apparently started life as a game, like TOMB RAIDER. I know nada about the game, but if the movie is anything like KULL, that was a lot of fun, with Harvey Firestein (another of my Very Favorite Gay Actors) as a character called Juba, who used to hang out and party with the muscle-bound Kull at one time. I'll have to keep an eye on this one of JG's, and try not to miss it at the theatre.

Cheers also to the movie industry, post-LORD OF THE RINGS, for getting its teeth into some fantasy projects. Right now, I'm taking a keener than usual interest in fantasy, because I'm writing one. THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE is coming along nicely. At the moment I'm polishing up the new opening to the novel, and trying to visualize a cover. I have some ideas, but it'll be a little while before anything gels properly. Jade has the patience of a saint, and as for me -- I know how fortunate I am to be able to participate in the cover design process. With more conventional publishers, you have no idea what's going to be on the cover till, with trembling fingers, you open your package of presentation copies...

The publisher usually gives you six or eight, right off the top of the palletized load which was just delivered from the printshop. You break the bubble-wrap, take a deep breath, and hopefully you don't shudder too much.

Covers can be curious creatures. Take the Millivres edition of FORTUNES OF WAR, for example:

A couple of semi-juvenile gymhunks, to be sure ... and one of them is wearing (get this) an eyepatch. Huh, what, now? I had one reader write in with an odd comment, wanting to know where the character with the eyepatch went. She had been waiting throughout the whole novel for Dermot to lose an eye. Now, whose bright idea was it to stick an eyepatch on a semi-juvie hunk, and call the result Dermot Channon?

That was one occasion when I indulged myself in a small shudder. Not that I dislike gymhunks, you understand (me being of the broken-backed variety, I have a certain amount of respect for people who can actually survive the torture devices upon which these institutions base their astronomical subscription fees). But nowhere in my novel did I describe any of the characters as having any kind of "punk" look whatsoever ... and I don't recall anyone, anywhere in the novel, wearing the bloody eyepatch!

Okay, Keegan, calm down. (Steam puffing out of both ears.) Calm blue ocea, calm blue ocean...

And here you have another great reason for being involved in indie publishing, so long as you have the inestimable good fortune to sign with a studio which wants to work in partnership with the writer. You retain some creative control over the packaging -- and when you remember that the packaging goes a long way to selling the book, you realize how important it is.

Lately, for the sake of interest (as I'm also working on the other "write a novel of your own" type website), I've been having a look at the submission policies of several other online indie publishers of the more-or-less gay variety. There are some big, busy online publishing businesses, and part of me (being a writer) goes oooh, ahhh. But a close look at the fine print shows how little participation the writer would have in the process.

You ask yourself, would you sell more copies with a bigger online publisher? Probably. Would you earn more money? Probably not, because they have a complex business to run and can't possibly do real profit sharing. They'll pay royalties, which are never much. Would it be as gratifying a process as the deal I already have? Definitely not. I'd be back on the old tenterhooks, wondering what tripe was going to land on the cover, and how many YEARS would go by before the book finally went into print (or went online, in the case of an ebook). So ... I'll be staying with DreamCraft, having found my niche and settled comfortably into it.

Last note for today: the pilot copy of AQUAMARINE has not yet arrived, and we're on the weekend now. The earliest you can look for the book to go on sale would be Monday our time, because Australia Post doesn't deliver on weekends.

I'll post the news on the blog here, as soon as we get the copy and give it the "OK" for release, and a day or so later, you can look out for a newsletter from DreamCraft.

Here's hoping for Monday.

Ciao for now,
MK

Friday, August 22, 2008

If it's all Greek to you ... read on!

A bunch of symbols is about to appear in the right margin:














...and numerous people will be wondering what the hell it's all about. It looks a little like something borrowed from an obelisk ... and you're starting to see these squiggles appearing all over the web.

It's all about something called the "creative commons license," and rather than blather at length about it, I'll give you the link to go right there, if you have the slightest interest, and check it out for yourself:

Creative Commons

The symbols basically tell visitors what they can, and can't do with the materials posted to this blog, although that's a terse, argumentative way of putting it. I'd be more likely to say, "If you want to use stuff posted here, please give me a citation when you re-post it somewhere -- a link would be nice, to bring visitors to this page; and you're welcome to repost the stuff, so long as you don't make a buck out of us, and we get the credit ... and, most importantly, you don't muck about with the materials before reposting. Meaning, please don't change what I said here, or rewrite the poetry!

Alack and alas, it's actually become necessary on today's web to put these legal symbols on a page, because the content of one's page is quite likely to get (and I use the proper term here ... though it sounds like a nasty medical procedure) scraped.

Scraped. Isn't that a horrible term? It basically means, unscrupulous people tour the web, thieving whole pages here and there as they go; they then plunk the pages down on their own sites and, voila, park their Google ads on them, and they're in business without writing a single word, taking a photo, doing some artwork, of their own.

It's illegal, of course; it's also very hard to stop. There's a new service which has just come along, called Copyscape, and to one degree and another, it should help protect people's websites and blogs. The Copyscape service scans and compares pages so, theoretically, if the content were identical, it would pop up the comparison and kick the case back to the legal publisher (on the understanding that the thief ain't the one using Copyscape, obviously).

Okay. It's nice in theory. But there's something else out there called "remixing," which is where multiple websites are "scraped" and content pasted together to make something new. And I seriously doubt there's anying much Copyscape will be able to do about that.

Anyway, the symbols are appearing on this page for obvious reasons. I'm uploading a lot of original stuff, such as Jade's artwork, Keegan's poetry and photos. And it turns out, you have to make some kind of a statement, sooner or later, to protect yourself against scrapers.

I don't like the sound of being scraped. It sounds like they tie you down to a surgical table and do something horrific to the most vulnerable portions of the human anatomy.

So, here we go with the icons. Now, what the hell do they mean?

Content covered by the Creative Commons License. Duh.

Gimme a citation, or accreditation, if you use the work: a back-link would be nice!

Don't "remix" the work ... meaning, don't rewrite me, changing what I said.


Don't use the work for profit. I don't make a buck out of it, why should you?!

Uh ... this one speaks for itself, right?

(The rights being reserved are set out by the symbols ... always supposing you can interpret the symbols. Hence, this half-baked Rosetta Stone.)

It's interesting that the whole problem of "scraping" has become so prevelent, but one could hardly call it surprising. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned there are now more webpages than there are people in the world -- and at the same time, anything you can park Google ads on (except gay-friendly sites: we went through that already!) will apparently earn "nice money." Add in one more factor (the sheer inability, or unwilingness, of unscrupulous people to create their own site content), and you have the scenario in a nutshell. A lot of webpages exist to carry the damned ads, and if you can "scrape" the content for the pages, you don't have to do any work. Great.

Makes legit writers, artists, photographers, poets and webmasters cringe ... and DreamCraft has just decided to at the very least start plunking the icons on some pages, to (mildly) deter the scrapers. We do use Copyscape, too. But it's the "remix" people who are almost certainly going to slither through that net, because I'm 99.999% sure that Copyscape doesn't read PARTS of a page; it compares whole pages. Hmmmm.

If you're interested, or have online intellectual properties to protect, it's Copyscape.com, and it's worth a look.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

And on the seventh day --

KDO: acronym - Keegan's Day Off. And it's more like the fourteenth day since I took one off! AND it it shouldn't count, because I'm still walking like Galen (see yesterday's post), getting conversant with the floor ... and what use is a day off when you have a bad back? That's not a day off, it's what is called, in this country, a Sickie. (As clearly distinct from a Ciggie, which is a cigarette.)

Thanks to those who kindly mentioned yesterday's Planet of the Apes humor ... yes, I was always a big fan of the concept, going back to the original Charlton Heston movie, which I saw as a wee little tyke. The tv series of the 1970s was actually quite well done -- esp. when you consider what they had to do on a tv budget and weekly schedule. Makes you shudder.

The 2001 Tim Burton remark was terrific ... and I don't actually give much of a stuff about what the critics say about it (I know they hated it unanimously). I grew up with Apes movies, and as per critics as a subspecies of mankind ... I do believe I established, about a dozen posts ago, how ridiclous the whole field of film criticism is (see this post, apropos of Beowulf). With Tim Burton's POTA, the little bast-dears are at it again. Here's an unutterably stupid comment from film critic on Tiscali: "While the stunning make-up failed to disguise Tim Roth's sadistic enjoyment in the role of Thade, Wahlberg seems altogether too real to operate in such a fictitious world although his understated strength at least gave his character some credibility." Say, what? I wonder what this individual made of 300, and The Dark Knight?? Now, shoot over to scifi.com and hear Tim Roth on the subjec: "I think the whole [scenario] is funny. We would step back occasionally, me and Paul [Giamatti] and just laugh ourselves silly because it truly is absurd." In other words (before I shut up about the whole subject) every single one of us has a completely unique way of seeing anything at all ... but, usually, only critics get to foist their uniqueness (read: utter subjectivity) on the public, AND get paid for it, AND have a fair percentage of unsuspecting readers take what they read as gospel. [sound of barfing]

For those who liked the Apes movies, here's a good interview: Director Tim Burton and cast have a big adventure reinventing Planet of the Apes, and for everyone else --

Onward to other subjects!

(But, lunch first. Like the man said in the movie, "I'll be back.")

Pasting in the link to scifi.com reminded me of another interview I read there, a little while ago -- their interview with Samuel R. Delaney, who has become rather iconified in the field of ... I won't say "gay SF," but rather, "experimental gender and human relationship SF." It's a very good interview on may levels. Delaney speaks about his life experiences as a writer, a creator of speculative fiction, and a professional author in the 1970s, when SF underwent its epiphany, and its revolution.

Is anyone else reading this old enough to remember the New Wave?! You may not believe it, but put away somewhere ... plastic-wrapped and packed flat ... I still have some issues of the English magazine, NEW WORLDS. It was a newspapaper sized magazine, with humungous pages, and no binding ... so, the color printing came out of the mgazine like so many posters. And the stories -- woah. Weird.

One of the most refreshing areas of the New Wave was the simple fact you could talk about sex and display the "undraped human form" and not be shoveled into the same pile of stuff as the porn rags. Sexuality had, by that point, gained a kind of respectability; the inclusion of sensual material in a story did not get the whole thing labeled as porn.

But, going back to Samuel R. Delaney's interview, the discussion regarding DAHLGHREN is interesting, even though SRD didn't seem to want to settle down and talk about the novel in much depth. At the time it was published, it was contentious to the point of being difficult to publish, not merely because it was one of the first sorta-kind-mainstream books to tackle being gay, but because it also didn't shilly-shally and beat around any bushes -- it was specific and explicit about it. Also, it's a long book, even by today's standards at 800pp, and for an SF novel of its day (mid-70s-ish) it was monstrous.

And there were problems galore, apparently ... the sound you hear now is Keegan chuckling wickedly, because (aha, Eureka, and so forth) it turns out I'm not alone in being victimized by the Universe (!). "IT" has happened to someone else too!

The "IT" I'm referring to is the thing which has been the flea in my ear since 1999: AQUAMARINE went to press without being proofread or copy edited. There have been times when I really did think I was the only serious writer this had happened to. Not so. Let me give you a quote from the very end of the interview with Samuel R. Delaney -- and then I'll give you the link to go over an read the whole interview...
    Scifi.com: But you've been continually correcting typos, as can be seen by your essays on it and published correspondence in 1984 and elsewhere. Getting a more perfect Dhalgren has been more difficult than getting a more perfect Babel-17.

    Delany: Often that's just different publishers. Dhalgren is so large that it's more difficult. Some books come out with remarkably fewer typographical errors than others. Dhalgren had more than its share from the very, very beginning. I was never sent the copyedited manuscript to read. Dhalgren, when it was a manuscript, it went off, and the next thing I got were galleys, so I never had the copyedited manuscript. And I only had the galleys for four days. You try to correct 800 pages of galleys in four days; it's an undoable task. And given that that's how it was done, I think Bantam did a remarkably good job. But there were hundreds of errors in the initial publication. And slowly but surely they got it down to a reasonable number of errors. And when Wesleyan redid the book, again, it was done a little too fast, it was rushed and nobody proofread it, with the result that suddenly there were another hundred-odd errors that crept in. And Vintage is very nice. Most of the errors of correction at this point are done not by me, but by other people who call up and say, "Hey, on page 373, there's no period at the end of this sentence." And I look, and sure enough, they've left out a period.
[Source: SciFi.com, issue 217; Samuel R. delaney interviewed by Scott Edelman]

...sounds of wicked chuckling issue, once again, from Keegan!

And here's the link to the whole interview. It's a very good one:

Samuel R. Delany exposes the heart of Dhalgren over a naked lunch

Ciao for now,
MK

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Postcards from the Planet of the Apes

Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. So much to do: crash-landing, dodging gorillas, eating bananas, getting bashed by crazed chimpanzees --

At least, that's what it feels like. Two days of house cleaning, and I've "done" my back. I mean, I've ***DONE*** my back. Can't stand up straight ... am walking like Galen. (You remember Galen. The cute chimp from the tv show, not the homicidal maniac from the Mark Wahlberg movie.)

So, anyway, that's my principal means of locomotion at this point it time, and it gives one a whole new respect for Roddy McDowall and Tim Roth (in fact, particularly Tim Roth, who utterly submerged himself in the insane chimp. High wow factor).

And -- you know me by now -- I'm trying to figure some way to spin-doctor this to my advantage:



Hmmm. Now, that has possibilities.

Fortunately, the house cleaning is finished now, and since you usually write while sitting down, it won't (or shouldn't) put the mockers on work. The fantasy novel, THE LORDS OF HARBENDANE, progresses smoothly, and we're steadily thrashing out a cover -- which you'll see here on the blow, some time before it appears on the book. Work on the website continues, with the Adbrite code having been removed completely as of this moment. Rats. Adsense will replace it in the next few days, and ... we'll see how we go as per sales. Already, I can tell you this much: the offending competitor's code was halfway erased yesterday, and a portion of our traffic (with associated sales) automatically came right back overnight. Makes you cynical, doesn't it?

Or, to put it another way, Google ain't there for our benefit!

Speaking of the Goog, I read a fairly fascinting bit of search engine and internet related trivia. Of all the traffic -- page views, research, schmoozin' and cruisin' -- that goes on, online ... 90% of it happens on the search engines. The rest of us (the actual websites, pages, features, phots, art, content) are squeezed into the last 10%.

And this is no mean feat, when you consider that (another mildly appalling fact) there are now more webpages than there are people in the world -- not counting blogs. God knows what happens when you count in blogs. I think we melt down.

So, Wednesday evening finds me respecting Tim Roth and Roddy McDowall (who was one of the best British gay actors you could name ... and a long-time personal favorite of mine) a whole lot, and getting a great deal more acquainted with the floor than I cared for, and wondering where I left the Tiger Balm.

Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. The weather in Ape City is grand, and they have terrific bananas.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Beware the Ides of ... well, August, I guess


And now, the tale of intrigue I promised yesterday!

This is actually Part Two of a continuing mis-adventure, so if you haven't already read the first segment -- Read this first ... at the very least it'll help to make a shred of sense of the tale of woe which I am about to relate.

And grab a coffee ... or something more fortifying. If you're here because you have an interest in marketing your books (or any stuff, I suppose) on the Internet, and having the site pay for itself with (aha!) contextual ads, then like me, you probably have a lot to learn.

On the other hand, you might also be snorting with evil humor at this point, having known for ten months what we just learned. (If so: sound of ripe raspberry.)

Speaking personally, I could use a margerita made according to the zombie recipe (50% tequila, 50% triple sec, a sqeeze of lime juice and three ice cubes ... served in a tall glass and KEEP THEM COMING.

Now, I assume you've read the "Give a Good Goggle at This, Guys post??? And we're sitting comfortably? Then, we'll begin.


When you're on the internet, do you ever feel someone breathing down your neck? You should, because they do. Google KNOWS. The engine knew the instant we decided to duck the homophobic attitude of Google and go with Adbrite for the contextual ads on Mel Keegan OnLine. Ten days later, we know for absolute sure that Google knows ... and in about 48 hours from now, the engine will know that we know that it knows.

Seriously, we were "winning" a lot of generic searches up until the day the Adbite content went up. You could go to The Goog and search on "gay thrillers," or "gay ebooks," and Mel Keegan OnLine would pop up, as high as the first page in The Goog's search results page. Things were fine and dandy, and sales were not just good, they were very good. But we knew Google's homophobic, so we used Adbrite as the ad server for the contextual ads...

Mistake. We use Statcounter for website stats, so we know when the Googlebot spider visits. It paid us a visit about 18 hours after the Adbrite code was uploaded, and like throwing a switch, Mother Goo stopped sending us visitors. Nada. Not a one. We stopped winning searches well within 24 hours of switching to Adbrite. You can imagine what happened to sales. No visitors means no customers, means no income, means a lot of research to figure out what the hell happened, and...


Fortunately, we have the Statcounter data to work with. If we hadn't, we'd be paddleless, up some creek. We could pinpoint the moment when the Big G stopped playing nice.

And I suppose (sigh) that's fair enough. It's a fact that Yahoo! punishes web publishers for carrying Google Adsense, so why shouldn't Old Gooey punish publishers for carrying Adbrite?

The problem is, The Goo is so homophobic, they actually -- according to their own TOS -- don't allow you to put Adsense on a gay-friendly page ... but, by gods, they'll pull the rug out from under you if you carry anyone else's ads.

Now, in your travels around the web you'll have noticed that gay friendly sites carry Google ads, even though the TOS says you're not allowed ... even though a click on one of your ads earns you under a penny ... and you have to wonder why. Here's the reason, and it's painfully cynical. Actually, it's two reasons. One: The Goog will send your gay friendly page lots of traffic if you carry their ads; because they get paid a ton of money every time someone clicks on one, and they don't pay the publisher worth a damn. This much is fact. The other fact is that Ma Goog will send the spider to crawl your gay friendly site in a matter of hours after the Googie ad code goes up ... because they have a vested interest in your pages, now that you're carrying ads making the aforementioned ton of money for them.

So here's the routine. You play by Google's rules, or you don't play at all. Switch to a competing ad server, and, like throwing a switch, you stop winning those searches that keep your business buoyant. If you're a gay site, sure, you can carry their ads ... just don't expect to get paid!

And here's what we're doing. Having untangled the data, we know the competing ad server has to GO, and fast. Jade has invested a good few hours in a raft of new artwork to fill the spaces which had been set aside for ads. (You're looking at a selection of it on this post.) We'll be switching to The Goog tomorrow or the next day, to get our traffic back. We know we won't earn enough from ads to buy a candy bar, but Ma Google will give us back our visitors ... and there's no law says we have to put their ads in places which will offend the eye with cynical commercialism.

These are some of the misadventures you get up to, when you're marketing your book, or books, on the internet. Good golly, you learn something new every day ... and the lesson is quite often rough. From the little guy's perspective, it's dirty pool, because in order to get one up on companies like Adbrite, Google -- which earns so many billions, it's absurd -- really hurts a small business enterprise. With luck, they'll let us get our oars back in the water fairly quickly, but at this point, we don't know how long the engine keeps up the punishment. We're hoping it'll play fair, because it's dumb past believing to punish the gay friendly pages carrying the very ads that make them money, and for which they don't have to pay out, on account of their homophobic TOS!

Now, where's that margerita?!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Joys of Gay Poetry (hey, it even rhymes!)

Monday finds us working on fresh artwork for the website, and wondering at the cynicism of the search engine world ... I'll tell you THAT story in a day or two!

There are things called 'Search Engine Wars.' In this corner, Google, wearing the Darth Vader helmet. In that corner, the Alien, having just assimilated a Kodiak grizzly and now standing nine feet tall. In the third corner, the Predator, priming his weapons and wanting both of the others stuffed and mounted on his office wall back home. In the fourth corner, King Kong, and in the middle, you and me, trying to figure out how to get the hell out of the ring -- and how we got there in the first place!

It's a long, complex and somewhat confounding story, and I don't have time to tell it right now, but return in the next day or two, and all shall be revealed. [sound of barfing] Seriously, you won't believe this, and if you're in any way interested in marketing your books on the Internet, there's a whole bunch of stuff you have to be aware of, lest you get shot down in flames and wonder why! (Indie publishing is rough enough at the best of times without getting caught in the cogs and gears of online monster machines.)

For the moment, I'm on the run, but call this the 'preview,' or the 'trailer' for the main feature which will certainly make you blink.

For today, being on the run, I'm not going to ramble, nor tackle a serious topic which warrants a lot more time than I can give it! Instead .. something so new, I'd say the ink was still wet, if I hadn't written it in pencil in the back of a notebook. A new poem -- gay poem, at that.

(For those who can't stand poetry, gay or not, skip the next part and scroll down to the artwork which was uloaded yesterday: I promise you a full-on intrigue tomorrow or the next day. For myself, I actually classify poetry as a kind of art. Painting pictures with words, as a friend of mine once remarked, a long, long time ago. So forgive me if I goet arty-tarty on you again. I don't do it very often.)

I don't often write poetry these days, but when I do, I like to share it. Enjoy...



    He said,
    "Who are you, stranger?
    What brings you to this town?"
    I said,
    "I come from far away,
    The wind has brought me down
    From mountains where the trees
    Cling on beneath the autumn sky;
    I'm searching for a place
    To call my home, before I die."

    He said,
    "I keep a cabin in the woods
    Not far from here.
    Don't get too many visitors,
    Cuz folks have too much fear
    Of people who're different ...
    I'm different -- you've been told."
    I said,
    "You're not so different,
    And as for me? I'm bold."

    He looked into the autumn sun;
    He looked into the wind,
    He touched my face, he touched my hair --
    And if I'd never sinned,
    I'd have fallen, fast, from grace...
    But I've been there before,
    And when he set his lips on mine ...
    Well, I was home. I swore --

    Here was home, for all my days.
    Here was kith and kin,
    And all the things I've wanted,
    And all the love within.
    Here -- a place for weary bones
    To take their rest awhile,
    And learn to watch the world spin on...
    And learn, again, to smile.

    He said,
    "You're not so different,
    Not if we're both the same."
    I said,
    "We always have been,
    And nobody's to blame
    That we just never met before
    I wandered here, this fall."
    And I gave him, then, my hand to hold --
    My life, my heart, and all.



Cheers,
MK

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ars gratia artis

You might recall me saying that cover concepts are being kicked around for the new fantasy novel. It's never as simple as saying, "it's going to be like this, so just paint it, okay?" You go through scores of sketches, some color, some monochrome, trying to thrash out the "pallet," and the body lines, the face, the details.

The first color work has been done, and I'd like to share it right here -- it's probably nothing remotely like what will be on the cover, but it's spectacular in its own right, and deserves to be seen.

There's always a burst of inspiration when you see the first cover work, especially when it's done on color. In this book, I'm playing an intricate "game" with cultures and languages, and geography. Getting into a fantasy realm gives a writer so much to explore (so long as you don't want to just play video games, run about having sword fights and zapping monsters with wizard rays. That's fun, too, but I'm weird. I actually prefer playing with culture, language, social protocol, the etiquette of places unknown).


There's a saying, that good books aren't written, they're REwritten, and if it's true, this one ought to be a beaut, because this is its third or fourth incarnation! A lot of the action takes place in the far, frozen north, and I couldn't resist giving the place names a kind of mock-Scandinavian sound. There's not really anything "Viking" in the book, save for the landscapes.

One of the chores I attend to first is getting the "sound" of a location tied town before I even start to write. You often notice, in SF and Fantasy novels, characters seem to be named willy-nilly (even some of the very best novels can suffer from this syndrome). Basically, rather than creating a whole culture from the ground up, the writer named the characters and places on the fly, as a name became necessary to fill the gap and keep the narrative moving along. You can do it that way, and a hell of a lot of writers do; but ... me being me ... I like to know a little bit about the culture I'm writing about. Makes a difference, when I come to fill in the details later.

Then the fun starts, because you can mix up cultures and locations. Imagine that you have a kind of Afro-Latin people, perhaps from an island chain in the tropics. Now, figure they were overrun by Celtic peoples a thousand years ago. Their place names and their own names will show a thread of their own long-conquered culture, with a thick overlay of the Irish, Scots, Manx, and so on. They might even have a predisposition to wearing kilts, playing bagpipes and tossing around telephone poles, although they have the genetic look of Jamaicans.


Anyway, that's where Keegan's brain is, this Sunday afternoon. I'll be talking about the book during the next month or so, as I go through the final draft. The first thing it's getting is a whole new Chapter One, possibly two chapters ... also, I have to decide how much magic, sorcery, wizardry, is going to wind up in the published version. (Incidentally, people, don't be shy: go ahead and leave your own thoughts, if you have an opinion. Freedback is always more than welcome.)

Last note for this post: the pilot copy of AQUAMARINE is in the system, and we're expecting its delivery by the end of the coming week. I have to say, I'm delighted with the way the book "came out" in this incarnation.

More tomorrow ... got to go back to work now.

Cheers,
MK

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Next: "Terminator - the Musical"

Apropos of yesterday's post ... about mind control, augmented soldiers, rat-brain-robots and just who in the heck are the good guys supposed to be these days, Them or Us? Well, have a look at this:

Doctor Horrible's Singalong Blog.

It's a short-feature serial by Joss Whedon, uploaded in chunks (they have the first three online right now, with a total running length of 30 - 40 minutes, I think), starring Neil Patrick Harris as the Doc, and Nathan Fillion as his arch nemesis, Captain Hammer. It's a whacked-out SF musical which is hilarious, poignant, and deeply philosophical, at the same time as being deliciously klutzy, gloriously dorky, spectacularly clumsy ... all-around delightful, in a weird kind of way.

It's interesting that Whedon got Nathan Fillion into this production. They worked together on FIREFLY (is it me, or is that show carpeted with gay undercurrents and stitched-through with gay references?) Mr. Fillion has put on a lot of muscles (now, who's complaining?), and shows a keen comic timing. In Part 3, he has (!) a musical number which has to be heard to be believed. Grab a coffee and enjoy.

Neil Patrick Harris is good as the wannabe evil Doctor Horrible himself, flinging himself into the spirit of the production with almost as much verve as Fillion, who seems to be relishing the part of the not-so-super hero. (Incidentally, did you catch NPH on After Elton? Here's the link: Neil Patrick Harris Lets It All Hang Out. Cool story about an extremely cool coming out. (Hollywood's answer to John Barrowman? Good one.)

What's going on in the Mel-o-Sphere? Not enough to post about, that's for sure! Hence this brief diversion into the eddies and drift-currents of Hollywood's more offbeat moments.

Yes, I'm working on the fantasy novel. No, you won't be seeing it before the end of September at the very earliest. Yes, it will be available as an ebook in both formats, and yes again, we'll be doing a booklaunch for it. It's the first major work from Keegan since APHELION, and only the third full-on fantasy to see print, so we'll be giving this one some serious promotion. We're actually thinking of making it available in hardcover too. Speaking entirely personally, I like hardcovers, especially for fantasy and historical fiction.

We're starting to kick around cover ideas already, and we might even put it to a poll here, let readers choose which cover art they prefer, and also which format, the paperback or harcover. (I've also been seriously considering a poll, either here or on the website, letting readers give some feedback on how crackling-hot they prefer their fiction. It might be interesting to collate results.)

For the moment: I am NOT making it up ... go see for yourself!

Doctor Horrible himself.

Friday, August 15, 2008

All part of whose Master Plan?!

Yesterday I mentioned getting The Idea which will not only rescue my haunted house book, but make something special of it. It needs more work, as I said -- which leads me into a little judicious research into the world of parapsychology.

So I got online and started looking at spooky stuff...

There's a lot of weirdness out there, guys.

Not the ghosts. They're perfectly normal. I mean, they're dead, but otherwise they're as normal as you and me. We have it on the best authority of mediums who work hand-in-glove with the FBI and the CIA: they basically hang out in places they either liked or hated while they were alive, and try to make contact with the dense humans, which is virtually impossible to do when you're transdimensional. (It even gave phase-shifted Star Trek characters a challenge, and god knows, if they can't do it, what hope is there for the rest of us, dead or alive? Anyway, the bottom line is that dead people are as normal as the rest of us.)

No, the weird ones are the military scientists. OUR military scientists. As in, the USA and the West, the free world, you and me. We. Us. A shiver runs up my spine as I type this, because I've written a lot of this stuff. I really can say, as can many an SF writer, "Been there, done that. Didn't like it, had my heroes punch out the Bad Guys at The End." But this time around, WE are the bad guys. (Who's going to punch us out? Now, there's a nasty thought.)

A couple of days ago a report was issued, with the offbeat, euphemised title, "Emerging Cognitive Neuroscience and Related Technologies." What the hell do they mean by that?

Dig a little deeper (which is to say, bother to read the damned thing) and you discover that these bast-charming folks are experimenting in mind reading; mind control; mind-machine interfaces (I coined the term "biocyber," and gave this field of research to Dr. Yvetter McKinnen in the NARC books ... she who was the burr under Jarrat's saddle and the thorn in Stone's foot, until time and necessity made them work together and, hey, they discovered they're on the same team).

Now, you know me. I'd be the last voice on the planet raised against the kind of high-tech you see in IRON MAN ... I love the AI interface depicted there -- Tony's computer. And I have something of a vested interest in empathy (again, NARC), and by extension, telepathy. I have to tell you, I've had a few strange experiences myself, which keep my mind w-i-d-e open on the subject.

But, mind control? That's the 'noir' aspect of SF ... it's never been something the good guys (you know: us) did. Mind control was something foisted on us by THEM, those out there, the Bay Guys, the nasty ones the heroes and sheroes get to flatten in the last reel.

Here's a little outtake from the Wired Science blog I catch up with once a week: "Mind control. Largely pharmaceutical, for the moment, and a natural outgrowth of cognitive enhancement approaches and mind-reading insight: If we can alter the brain, why not control it? One potential use involves making soldiers want to fight. Conversely, "How can we disrupt the enemy’s motivation to fight? [...] How can we make people trust us more? What if we could help the brain to remove fear or pain? Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands?"

Sure there is. I'm 99.999% positive we can make our enemies bark like chikens and cluck like dogs. The problem is, this sort of iffy, dodgy technology never stays under wraps for long. Espionage. Bribery. Theft. Super-spies ... 007. Suddenly the technnology is in the hands of THEM, the Bad Guys, and --

It's us who're doing the clucking and barking. Hmmm not so good. It gets worse, too.

Drugs and "cognitive enhancers" that make soldiers want to fight. Ooooh, boy. There's an old SF chestnut, but here's the thing: the people who were responsible for creating "heroes" like the poor guys you saw in Kurt Russell's SOLDIER, were the Bad Guys. Mind control, drug-induced jingoism, is what we resent them for ... it's the reason they get their nasty butts kicked.

Robots under thought control. Another SF classic. Automata the size of towns, controled by the minds of the aforementioned drug-modified soldiers. Yep, I've seen this one before; but we were always fighting against the robots, because where's the honor in mashing teeny little civilians under your monstrous treads?

And mind reading -- ditto. Here's a direct quote: "In situations where it is important to win the hearts and minds of the local populace, it would be useful to know if they understand the information being given them."

It certainly would. But what about if they understand oerfectly well, and just don't agree? Let's say they don't want to be commies ... or do want to be gay, or don't want to be Republicans, and do want to be peacefully pagan and go out on a tree-hugging expedition?

If the thoughts in your head aren't secure, you're potentially in deep doodoo. And if "they" decide they don't like what you're thinking, they can use the aforementioned mind control to change you into whatever they want you to be.

I'd love to tell you that this page is a hoax, but it ain't. Get the potted version of the report here: Uncle Sam Wants Your Brain, and chase down the report itself.

While you're on that science blog, take a look at something else: Military AI Could Rule the Internet. The military morons are actually trying to develop the SkyNet computer which SF predicted decades ago --

Thing is, SF predicted it as being an enemy so mean and rotten, Big Arnie couldn't knock it down, and it's gone to a fourth movie rematch! It's going to take Christian Bale to sort it out.

My point is, SF has predicted every last thing the military is currently proposing ... but our side, the Good Guys, were not supposed to be doing this stuff. We were fighting against it, in the novels and movies.

You have to ask, what goes on here? One bunch of our military genii is hard at work, using rat brain cells to drive little robots (same blog -- Wired Science) while the masterminds behind this stuff try to figure out ways to make SF's most bleak and horrifying scenarios into reality.

Like I said, it ain't the ghosts who are weird. The CIA's and FBI's own psychics report our deceased comrades to be entirely normal, albeit dead, life forms, (dead life forms? That's a good one), nothing to get one's underwear into a knot about. But the military scientists??? Chills down the spine.

One can only hope that something can be done about these idiots before we are ALL perfectly normal ghosts, phase-shifted into another dimension by being killed stone dead by a rat-brain-driven robotized jet-fighter controled by a drugged-out soldier using telephathy to target us for our non-conformative thoughts!