Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Updated book covers and profile page title image

So I've been going over a number of ideas in my head for ways to bring in a few extra dollars. Since my job pays $5/hour for most of every shift, and the tips haven't exactly been stellar the past couple of months, I'm barely breaking even each month. I've been pursuing my dream for over twenty-five years and in all that time, I've had only two very small successes (as far as actually getting published is concerned), and they haven't really led to anything bigger. My YouTube channel hasn't exactly taken off. And so I'm seeing what I can come up with to change that.

Since I have my real name on my YouTube channel, and it's a pretty boring, unmemorable name, I gave some thought to changing it to something more attention-grabbing. Maybe my gamer tag. Maybe more people would check out the videos just to try to find out what the hell a "Feel Boss" is. (For anyone who doesn't know, it's a reference to something near the beginning of Saints Row: The Third. The player character and another character are walking down a street and pass a guy holding a sign reading, "FEEL BOSS $5." The player character asks what that is, and the other says, "You don't want to know." I'm assuming it's a repulsive sexual act, but the game never explained it, which I think makes it even funnier.) I figured I could try to turn it into a personal brand and draw more attention to my work.

I looked into it and it turned out to be too much of a pain in the ass. Looks like I'd have to delete my channel and set up a whole new one, or change my Google ID, and I'd prefer to keep that as it is. So I decided to put together a new title image for the channel, something a little more eye-catching, and maybe use variations on it for my Twitter and Facebook pages, and whatever else. And now that I've figured out styles in Photoshop (CS2, the really old one Adobe is giving away for free), I decided to slap together some updated versions of cover images for my older books.

Aside from that, I've got a few ideas for blog posts and new videos, some of which I've been pondering for quite a while, and I've been looking into using CreateSpace for selling hard copies of my books. I almost used Lulu for that, but I would've had to set the prices too damn high just to make a couple dollars from each sale. If I can use CreateSpace without paying any fees, it might be worth a shot.

Since I don't have any money to spend on advertising, this is just about all I have to work with.

Anyway, here's a look at the new title image. I'm kind of surprised that I remembered to leave plenty of space around the text for cropping. Usually that's one of the first things I forget due to my chronic brainfart syndrome.

Here's the new cover for Load. Amazing what a big improvement comes from such a small change.

Load is currently available from Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Up next is the new cover for Downtime, a novelette which is set between Load and its sequel, Fifteen Minutes.

Downtime is also available from Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Here's the new look for Fifteen Minutes.

This book is also on Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Up next is Project Revenant, the third book in the Neon City series.

I submitted this one to Baen two or three months ago. Still no reply, but the guidelines said it usually takes nine to twelve months, so I'm in for a long wait. Probably get carpal tunnel from keeping my fingers crossed for that long, but I'm hoping it'll be worth it.

And finally, here's a cover I slapped together last night for the fourth volume in the Neon City series.

This one's in the planning stage. I haven't started writing it yet, and the title is just temporary. I'm hoping I can think of something better once I get started on it.

What's it about? Well, aside from various plot threads from Project Revenant continuing in this one, the "A" plot will focus on first contact with a robotic alien species. The working title comes from the way robots and AI are usually portrayed as cold, emotionless, calculating, etc -- if not actively hostile toward organic life. As I often do, I'm kind of going in the opposite direction with this species of machine life. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that they have a massive guilt complex due to horrible things they did before they became sentient and grew beyond their programming, and are devoted to atoning for their past actions. Many humans, however, for a variety of reasons, (particularly due to growing up with the "AI is a Crapshoot" trope ingrained in their psyches from stories like The Terminator) will not exactly be willing to welcome the visitors with open arms ....

As far as writing goes, I'm currently working on the next chapter of Freelancers and hope to finish it today or tomorrow. Depending on how soon I can finish that up, I may actually get started on The Warm Machines, or whatever the hell I end up calling it, before I have to go back to work. And sometime soon I really need to get to work on the sequel to GI Joe: Reactivated.

For now, though, I'm off to the bank to deposit my meager tip money so paying the rent and internet service won't cause an overdraw. Another eight-mile bike ride, hooray! :(

Friday, August 26, 2016

Funny scene from "Fifteen Minutes"

Here's an excerpt from my second Neon City novel, Fifteen Minutes. An odd development led to Jack, Taura, and Corona moving into a huge house with cameras mounted in the walls, along with several of their friends and a hayseed named Dale, as part of a reality show streaming online. The scene focuses on teenage hacker Otto Fellatio as he and several other housemates return home to discover that Dale has thrown a drunken party and it's still at full throttle.

"Wait." Shakira pointed again as she parked in front of the house next door. The driveway and the area in front of their own house were packed with cars and trucks – none of which she'd ever seen before. "What the hell? They're having a party? In our house?"
"Blasting the whole street with shitty music." Otto looked at Shakira. She turned to gaze back at him and both of them spoke at the same time.
"Dale Halvorson!"
"That fucking hillbilly," Otto added. "I wonder if anyone's called the cops yet."
Shakira shook her head and got out. "Just what we need." She reached into the back seat, grabbed her bag, and waited for Otto.
He picked up his bag from its spot beside hers and headed for the house, looking over his shoulder in time to see Ramirez park her car behind Shakira's Humvee. Ramirez, Kim, and Hiro got out and followed him and Shakira.
"Jesus Christ," Ramirez muttered. She pointed her cigar off to the left. "Look at that dipshit."
Otto turned and caught a glimpse of a fat guy wearing a football jersey – and nothing else – staggering across the lawn, staring at the ground as if searching for his missing pants and underwear.
Otto looked away quickly. "Augh! My eyes!"
Shakira scrunched her face up. "Oh, no, I saw his ass!" She grimaced. "His horrible, misshapen ass!"
"I know. Gravity has definitely taken a toll." He shook his head and continued on to the porch.
"Gawd," Ramirez drawled. She shuddered and held her left hand up to her eyes like a horse blinder. "It reminds me of the kind of stuff you'd see on Torchwood. Like … repugnant, alien meat curtains."
Shakira snickered and clamped her free hand over her mouth.
"Eww!" Otto spasmed, as if he'd just found himself covered by spiders. "Thanks for that. I may never be able to get a hard-on again."
"Puberty, remember? You'll recover soon enough." She nudged him. "Well, don't just stand in the doorway. Let's go survey the carnage."
Otto pushed the door open and stepped forward, wincing at the sudden volume of the … music. He sometimes liked it loud, but only when it wasn't something that made him worry about devolving seconds after it violated his eardrums. He caught a line that sounded like, "If Ah wuz you Ah'd fall in love with me," before he could tune it out. A cacophony of shouting voices, laughing, and occasional screaming and whooping was audible under the aural torment thundering from the speakers under the wall screen.
Is this for real? Otto stared, slack-jawed, at the partiers as they mingled. I hope it's just a put-on for the show.
"I hope they don't spill any of that beer on the carpet. Or vomit on it." Shakira rolled her eyes and headed for the stairs. "I'm gonna lock myself in my room until this is over."
"Hey, yer that Otto Fell … Flatus … Fellini … "
Before Otto could turn around, a beefy arm landed around his shoulders, almost knocking him over. His nose was overwhelmed by the stench of cigarettes, beer farts, and crotch. He kept his head pointed forward; in the corner of his eye he could see a hickory shirt and a cowboy hat, and that was all he needed to know about the lummox who'd suddenly started manhandling him.
"Oh, no." Ramirez sounded as if she were trying not to laugh.
"What'n the hell's yer name, again?"
"Otto Fellatio." And if you value your testicles, you'll let go of me right now.
"Haw haw haaaaaw! Yeah!" A sausage-like finger prodded Otto's chest. "Hey, you really mass … masserbate a lot?"
Otto arched an eyebrow. "Dude. I'm thirteen. Hormones raging. No girlfriend at the moment. So what do you think?"
Somewhere behind him, Ramirez laughed. "Atta boy."
Otto prodded the lummox's ample gut with his index finger. "Say, have you ever ejaculated so hard that it made you cry?"
Ramirez burst out laughing. "Oh … Jesus!"
The lummox froze – well, semi-froze, swaying a few inches back and forth while staring blankly at Otto.
Heh. Look at the gears in his head grind to a halt. Awesome. Otto slipped out from under the guy's arm and walked after Shakira, who'd stopped to watch the brief exchange.
"Hmm," Kim said as she, her mother, and Hiro followed him. "Have you?"
"Every day." Otto grinned. "It's better than heroin."
Ramirez muttered something that sounded like, "Ehhhnng. Well, whatever keeps you off drugs, I guess."
"Just keep watching the live stream," Shakira said. "You'll get used to conversations like this."
"Marvelous." Ramirez took a slow look around the room. "When Jack and the girls get home, Dale's gonna have some explaining to do."
"There's something really off-putting about that guy," Otto said. Which is probably the exact reason he's here.
"I'd say it's pretty much everything about him." Shakira started up the stairs.
"Well, for one thing, he seems like the kind of guy who gives his penis a name."
"Wouldn't surprise me."
"Say, Otto," Kim said, "if you were that kind of guy, what would you name it?"
Shakira stopped in her tracks. A wide range of horrified expressions crossed her face in a matter of seconds before she shook herself out of it and charged up the stairs. "That's it. I'm pulling the ripcord. Goodnight, everybody."

Otto ended up being one of the characters I have the most fun writing. From the beginning, he was intended to be very much not the usual arrogant-hacker type or "wise beyond his years" kid like Wesley Crusher, and also very different from the kids I went to school with when I was that age. He's smart, certainly, and has a lot of common sense and a level of maturity most kids his age don't have (at least, going by my distant memories of growing up), but he isn't condescending toward other people. And he's pretty Zen about his raging teenage hormones, which is also very much not what I remember from being that age, myself.

There's also something else going on with Otto, which is hinted at throughout Load and this novel, with his recurring dreams that feel more like memories of past events, and some rather extraordinary abilities he discovers in the sequel, Project Revenant. He may not be entirely what he appears to be ... and he's barely beginning to understand that.

And, as he demonstrates above, Otto Fellatio takes no shit.

Fifteen Minutes is available for $4.99 from Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Project Revenant has been submitted to Baen Books and is awaiting a response.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Some thoughts on the 30th anniversary Transformers: The Movie Blu-Ray

Just heard about the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Transformers: The Movie, and got a little nostalgic for my childhood ... while at the same time remembering the time I saw the movie and the original TV series as an adult. And wow, what a difference a couple of decades makes.

I didn't see this when it was in theaters because I was around the age where I started thinking that cartoons were only for little kids, so I never begged my parents to take me to see it. I loved the original series, though ... until I tried to re-watch it a few years ago and realized it was terrible. I could barely sit through the first episode.

Before that happened, I picked up the 20th-anniversary DVD when it was released, and that's the first time I got kicked right in the nostalgia. Terrible script, awful dialogue, and most of the movie made no goddamn sense at all. And that one robot who looked like he had fucking dicknipples haunts my nightmares to this very day.

Some time after the letdown of seeing part of my childhood ruined, I decided to watch the TV show over again, figuring it couldn't have been that bad. Holy shit, was I wrong. Like I said, I barely got through the first episode. Tried to watch another later on, and just couldn't. If someone had walked into the room and seen me watching it, I would've been embarrassed. Even more embarrassed than I would've been if someone had caught me jerking off.

As for the movie ... eh, I guess you can make the argument that it tackled subject matter that was really dark (the deaths of major characters), yet it's a part of everyday life. But those deaths were in the script for completely cynical reasons -- getting rid of familiar characters loved by the kids who watched the show, just to make room for new characters and therefore new toys to peddle.

But then, even when I was a little kid, I already understood what death was and what it meant. My parents never tried to restrict my television viewing while I was growing up, so I'd already seen characters killed off all the time on Star Trek and Doctor Who (which sometimes had an astonishingly high body count) and other shows. Even when I was five or six years old, I could see a character's death, see the reactions of others when it happened, and put two and two together. I was around nine when I saw The Wrath of Khan in the theater in 1982, and understood exactly what Spock's death meant -- that he was gone. He no longer existed. I had no idea back then that he'd be brought back in the next movie, but that's another topic.

So, if I'd seen Transformers: The Movie in 1986, it probably wouldn't have traumatized me like it did so many other kids, at least in the sense of a loss of innocence. It would've definitely been emotional for me, though, seeing a character I loved killed off. It was a tragic, sad event, and would likely have been a profound moment for me ... if not for the awful movie that surrounded it. A moment of such gravity deserves a far better story, and it needs to happen for far better reasons than just to make room for a new line of toys.

I was never able to get into any other iterations of the franchise until Transformers Prime came along a few years ago. I decided to check out the first episode just to see if I could stand watching it, and was surprised to find myself enjoying it.

Aside from a few moments here and there, most of the time I could watch it without feeling like I was being talked down to. It ended up becoming my favorite series in the franchise, despite a fair number of missteps, and I was sorry not only to see it come to an end after only three seasons, but also to see it replaced by Robots in Disguise, which is every bit as awful as Generation 1. I wanted to like the new show, but it's aimed at a much younger audience and is more lighthearted and just plain silly. Maybe it got better as time passed, but I pulled the ripcord when I got to the fourth episode and saw that the villain of the week was a giant robot lobster. I only liked one of the characters, Strongarm, but couldn't stand the rest. Whereas, with Transformers Prime, I liked almost all of the characters, as well as the more serious "war is hell" approach the series took, and imagery that was often genuinely frightening.

And in the above clip there's something else -- something that would never have happened in the original series. While no deaths are shown on-screen, it's pretty obvious. Just think about that huge metal fist slamming into a human body at that speed, and you know every bone in the guy's body was shattered and his organs turned into pulp. Some people probably complained about that sort of thing happening in the series, but let's face it -- those guys were trying to kill her just so they could get their hands on a piece of alien technology. So she took them the fuck out. I love that the show didn't shy away from that kind of thing, when G1 and most of the other cartoons I watched as a kid almost never did anything more than show one character toss another into a pile of leaves or hay or whatever. I can respect a show that's willing to go there. The show also did a really good job of being about something, rather than just a thirty-minute commercial for a toy line like the original.

And then there's Airachnid. Jesus Christ, Airachnid. While I really didn't like her swan song in the final season (or much else about that whole episode), she was one of the most sinister villains I've ever seen. Just the sight of her was extremely creepy (in no small part due to the fact that spiders give me the heebie-jeebies). Then she'd open her mouth and prove herself to be pretty much completely insane. I don't remember the exact line, but in one episode she said something that amounted to, "When you kill me, make it hurt. I'd do the same for you." Seriously, that's a fucked-up thing for a character in a kid's show to say.

So. Yeah. Now that my skin's finished crawling ...

Transformers Prime may have been aimed primarily at kids, but definitely not at young kids, and I can watch it as an adult and not feel embarrassed that I enjoy it. G1 and Transformers: The Movie ... not so much. I'll be giving that Blu-Ray a pass, unfortunately. It's much better as a distant memory.

I'd love to see TFP revisited as a big-budget movie, someday, however. If it had good writers and Michael Bay wasn't involved, there are still plenty of good stories that can be told with these characters. Not that I hate Michael Bay or anything. I really don't. It's just that his movies are largely the same thing over and over again.

But that's a whole other rant, and I've gone on and on enough for one night ....

Saturday, August 6, 2016

First appearance of a new badass character

I finished and posted the latest chapter of Uncharted Territory a few days ago, and the new character I mentioned previously made her first appearance there. I made several attempts at inserting the image from the previous entry into a background, but never managed to get it to look right. One of my friends gave me some tips on how to blend the two pictures together, so I tried again this afternoon. Don't think it's quite there yet, but it's a vast improvement over my previous attempts. Still need to play around with it a little and see what I can do with it, but here's the current version.

I figure this image might work as a biographical card, with the character's info in the space on the left. Also, the right half would make a good book cover, and the left half would work as the back cover with a descriptive blurb and whatnot added. So, that's pretty cool.

Coming soon: a new chapter of Harbinger, followed by another chapter of Uncharted Territory, if all goes well.