Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: 1500, Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
So, yesterday’s post was #1,500 here. The last Big Round Number was posted on December 9, 2010. Since I started the blog in January 2007, that means that the pace has actually been fairly stable, in terms of my posting — about 250 a year, more or less.
I never really expected it to last this long. But I’m glad it has. And I’m glad that so many people have shared some or all of the ride with me. Have been witness to my efforts to get Communion of Dreams published conventionally. Have shared my experiences as a care-provider for someone with Alzheimer’s (and the subsequent book). Have supported me when I decided to self-publish CoD. Have helped to spread the word about that novel. Have encouraged me to write the prequel.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, Augmented Reality, Connections, Feedback, Google, Health, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, April Fools, blogging, Communion of Dreams, feedback, Google, Google Nose, health, Her Final Year, humor, jim downey, Kindle, reviews, Science Fiction
I usually refrain from posting anything on April Fool’s Day. I mean, seriously, why would you want to? My sense of humor is quirky enough that most people don’t *quite* share it. And the competition for a good April Fool’s gag is really stiff. But on the other hand, if you try and post anything ‘serious’ — particularly the odd or innovative stuff I like to blog about — there’s a fair chance it will be either ignored or dismissed.
So I usually just don’t bother.
But today there’s three new reviews up on Amazon, and I thought I should share. Even if they do leave me wondering whether they’re a gag in themselves.
Well, not this one. At least I don’t think so.
Loved the premise, but the in my opinion, the book fell short of delivering. “Set up a meeting Seth, set up another meeting Seth” seemed to be a lot of the dialogue. Might have been better as a short story. Took me a long time to read as it never “grabbed” me.
That’s the whole of it. Well, other than the two stars and the title of the review: “borderline boring“
The next review isn’t much longer. In fact, it’s even a bit shorter. Here it is:
Jim Downey is evocative of Arthur C. Clarke at his best. Downey has taken Clarke and led us to the place where Clarke left us. i can’t remember a book of this genre that i’ve recently enjoyed more than this one. MORE please!
Nice, eh? Particularly with a five star rating and bearing the title: “Clarke left us, Downey is taking us onward now.“
now, with parents getting older, mother with alzheimers, father with rheumatoid arthritis and stupid doctors, this book was perfect! i passed it on to the sister that’s handling all the problems since we live over 300 miles away. she and i agree that it is invaluable for caregivers.
But that sounds serious, so …
Damn. I hate April Fools Day. It always leaves me so confused.
Say, did you hear about Google Nose?
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, Connections, Feedback, General Musings, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: architecture, art, arts, blogging, Communion of Dreams, construction, D. Westry, feedback, jim downey, literature, painting, predictions, Science Fiction, Scrivener, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
A number of friends and others have asked me how the writing is going on St. Cybi’s Well. It’s a natural question, but it’s a little hard to explain. Here’s the gist of what I have been telling people:
Using the Scrivener software, it really is a different process than what writing Communion of Dreams was like. It’s less linear. But it’s more balanced & comprehensive. Let’s put it this way – I have components now done in all 19 chapters of the book (plus the prelude). Some of it is just landscape descriptions, drawn from my previous travelogues. Some of it is character sketches. Or specific scenes. Or notes about something which needs to happen. It’s different. It feels more productive. But it’s kinda hard to explain.
This morning, after I got up at 3:00 for physiological needs, as I was trying to get back to sleep I was thinking more about this (well, and thinking through some scenes for the book — I do a lot of that in the middle of the night), and I came up with a couple of analogies which may help non-writers understand what the different processes are like.
First is constructing a building. Writing Communion, the metaphor would be that I picked a nice location for my building, leveled the ground, poured a concrete pad of sufficient size, and then started building a brick wall on one corner, working my way around the entire pad brick by brick as I went, making determinations as to locations of doors and windows and whatnot according to a rough plan I had in my head. Once the exterior wall was completed, I put a roof on it, then proceeded to do much the same process inside the building for interior walls and all that, using the mostly set exterior as a hard limit to what could be done internally.
With St. Cybi’s Well, the metaphor would be that I went to an architect/engineer, and did all the design and layout of the building in advance. Before a single footing was dug, or materials ordered, I knew pretty exactly how I wanted the entire thing to look. Then once all that was sorted, the actual construction was done entirely differently. Footings were dug, concrete poured. Then a steel framework was put in place for both the interior and exterior walls, and roof trusses positioned. Once this internal skeleton was finished, then I would start to put up sheathing material for the walls and roof, proceeding to finished surfaces.
See the difference? One feels almost organic, and makes sense to the outside observer from the very start. The other feels a little more arcane or artificial, and it isn’t obvious what the finished product will look like until well into the building process.
OK, let’s try another metaphor: art. Specifically, painting.
Some artists work in a way which seems natural and obvious. They pick a subject, usually do some rough sketches on their canvas to help get all the elements sorted out & proportioned. Then they’ll start to apply pigment according to their particular style or technique. Some of which may be a little hard to understand for a casual observer, but the basic process makes sense — you can see the different aspects emerging organically.
But there are artists who work in a completely different way. They have a concept in their head, and will proceed to do a series of fairly random strokes of paint. Each stroke is crucial, each one in the perfect place, but the end result isn’t clear to the observer until the final moments, when the last few elements are done and suddenly the artist’s vision breaks through. Like this:
Now, don’t try to over-think these analogies, or to take them too literally. They’re just intended to help illuminate some of the differences in process between this current novel, and the last one.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work on my building.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Arthur C. Clarke, Book Conservation, Connections, Feedback, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Music, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: aesthetics, Amazon, art, Arthur C. Clarke, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kindle, literature, Moody Blues, music, predictions, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, Stephen King, writing, www youtube
So, a couple of things to share this morning …
One, the decision has been made: we’ll be going with a design for the leather bindings which includes raised cords on the spine. In terms of the response I got from people, it wasn’t even much of a competition — “cords” were the favorite almost 10 to 1.
But that doesn’t mean that the book has to have an old look. Not at all. I’m playing around with some design ideas which will incorporate the cords, but which will feel more modern. Watch for some preliminary posts on that in a couple weeks.
Two, if you are expecting to get a leather-bound copy of Communion of Dreams, but haven’t yet told me of your color preferences, do so soon. Further, if you didn’t get a confirmation response from me acknowledging your choices, then please contact me again. Because I had something of a book conservation emergency drop into my lap 10 days ago, things have been delayed a bit — but I’ll still be ordering leather and starting on those bindings before the end of the month. Please don’t delay.
And three, there’s a new review up on Amazon you might want to check out. Here’s an excerpt:
this book is very well worth your time if you love classic sci-fi. i would say that so far it is a combination of arthur c. clarke, isaac asimov, and a little stephen king. not too shabby for an unknown author. not sure if this is a series, and don’t want to ruin anything for myself by finding spoilers in reading others’ reviews. i’ll finish this book first. that may be soon- already lost most of a night’s sleep reading it. this is an original alternative universe, populated by humans and their robots, being created here; that is why it reminds me of asimov.
As always, I invite you to produce your own review, rate the book or other reviews, or just leave a comment in any reviews which particularly engage you. And you don’t have to do so only on Amazon — if you participate in another venue where such a review or recommendation would be appropriate, the help is always appreciated.
One final note: yup, the writing is proceeding apace. More on that later.
Filed under: Art, Book Conservation, Feedback, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: aesthetics, art, blogging, book conservation, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, jim downey, leather, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well
Well, I’m getting ready to do the actual “normal” edition of Communion of Dreams, and I need to make a decision. The hand-bound, cloth-covered version will look just like that, except with everything done the usual way. Like this:
But I need to make a decision about how the leather-covered versions will look. And I am going to ask the people who have already ordered copies of said versions, but I thought I would also throw open the question for others — particularly if you think that at some point you would like to order one of these (or the same kind of binding for St. Cybi’s Well when that is done).
The question is this: would you prefer a smooth-spine, modern-style leather binding similar to what is shown here:
Or would you prefer a more classic-style leather binding with raised cords on the spine, such as this:
It largely comes down to how the books are sewn together. The cloth-bound edition is sewn on tapes (as seen in the images in this post). I can put the same binding into a leather cover without a problem. Or I can sew the books onto cords (as seen in this entry on my professional site). I don’t mind a little extra work — which would be the case for the raised-cord bindings — but wonder whether the aesthetic is out-of-step with a modern work of science fiction.
Edited to add: The two different leather bindings shown just demonstrate the differences between the structures on the spine of the books. In each case, the overall design was determined by *that* project. The final design for my books will be different — and related in theme to each book in a way I think is appropriate.
Filed under: Feedback, Health, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction, tech, Travel, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, direct publishing, jim downey, predictions, Science Fiction, Scrivener, St. Cybi's Well, technology, travel, Wales, writing
I haven’t been doing a lot of blogging the last couple of weeks. Partially, that was due to my having actually come down with the actual flu — and getting that shortly after I had finally gotten rid of the last vestiges of the previous illness really sorta sucked my energy level down.
But there was another reason: I’ve been writing St. Cybi’s Well.
Well, kinda. Kinda-sorta.
See, I’m using Scrivener. Which I like a lot, but which is completely different from my previous work habits in writing a book. In an odd way, it’s more comprehensive, more systematic. I’m still learning how to use it, and it is taking some fumbling around and a bit of mental re-organization to get the hang of it. But rather than just having an outline and building one chapter after another, I find I’ve been constructing a framework and then working on individual scenes scattered through different chapters. By the time I finish with St. Cybi’s Well I’ll really understand how to use these tools efficiently, and hopefully that will mean more books, sooner, after this one. We’ll see.
I hope to have some solid things to share in a month or so. But in the meantime, I would invite you to browse my 2003 and 2006 travelogues of trips to Wales. You’ll get a pretty good glimpse into the locations and descriptive language for St. Cybi’s Well, since I am basing a lot of the book on those very real experiences. Consider it something of a sneak preview, just because you read the blog.
And thanks for that, by the way. It’s good to know I’m not just talking to myself here.
Filed under: Amazon, Art, Brave New World, Connections, Feedback, Humor, Isaac Asimov, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Amazon, art, blogging, bookbinding, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, humor, Isaac Asimov, jim downey, Kickstarter, Kindle, literature, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
A couple weeks ago, when I was setting up the price change and promotional stuff for the one-year anniversary of Communion of Dreams, I was again confronted with something I had pondered and then ignored previously: was this book part of a “series”?
See, when you’re going through the interface to publish a book with Amazon, that’s one of the questions you need to answer. The helpful little dialog box explains the idea this way:
A series is a connected set of books. If this book is part of a series, identify where the book exists in the sequence with a volume number. We only accept volume numbers in numerical format (“1″, “2″, or “3″). Magazines and journals are also often grouped as a series. Identifying the series helps customers find other books in the series.
It makes me jealous.
Well, OK, it doesn’t really. But it does make me wonder. What would I call the series for the slightly-altered-universe in which Communion of Dreams exists?
When I first published Communion of Dreams, I thought that I would eventually like to write several other related books, but I didn’t know for sure whether I would ever get around to doing so. I mean, we make plans, and have hopes & dreams and all that, but it seemed both a little presumptuous as well as potentially risky (in the “tempting fate” sort of way) to claim that I was going to write a series of books before seeing what the response to the first one was.
And then there’s the complicating fact that at least for the time being I consider Communion of Dreams to be the end of any such series. St. Cybi’s Well is a prequel — the start of the so-called series, in fact. And I have some rough ideas for other books which would be related to the overall story arc, about one per decade of the time between now and the setting of Communion (2052). But those are just approximations. How can I number the books in the series when I have little confidence in how many there will be? And wouldn’t it be confusing to number the books in the order they are written, since they jump around in chronological sequence?
Anyway, this is all by way of saying that I could use some help and suggestions with this. If you’ve read Communion of Dreams, you have some sense of the overall arc of the series, at least as the history is outlined in that book. And I’ve chatted a fair amount about St. Cybi’s Well. Knowing those things, what do *you* think would be a good ‘series name’ for these books?
I’m serious — I’d like suggestions. Post it here in a comment, drop me an email, say something over on the FB page. If I use your suggestion, I’ll credit you with it and send you a hand-bound copy of either Communion of Dreams or St. Cybi’s Well depending on your preference (and if you’ve already got those coming as part of the Kickstarter rewards or something, we’ll work out an equitable substitute).
Filed under: Art, Arthur C. Clarke, Artificial Intelligence, Blade Runner, Brave New World, Connections, Expert systems, Feedback, General Musings, Humor, movies, Music, NPR, Predictions, Psychic abilities, Religion, Ridley Scott, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A.I., Arthur C. Clarke, artificial intelligence, Blade Runner, blogging, Christoph Bartneck, Clifford Nass, Communion of Dreams, deva, Expert, feedback, HAL, humor, jim downey, movies, music, NPR, predictions, reviews, Ridley Scott, science, Science Fiction, Seth, Siri, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Vangelis, video, writing, www youtube
One of the things I’ve been a little bit surprised by has been just how many people have volunteered to me (or in reviews) just how much they like the ‘Experts’ in Communion of Dreams, and in particular how much of a favorite character Seth becomes to them in the course of the novel.
I don’t mean I’m surprised by how much people like the Experts, and particularly Seth. Hell, I intended the Experts to be likeable. I mean that this is something which people find remarkable enough to, well, remark on it.
That’s because humans tend to anthropomorphize just about everything. Our pets. Our cars. Our tools. Even nature. It’s one of the basic ways that we make sense of the world, as can be seen in religious and spiritual beliefs. Long before Siri there was HAL, and inasmuch as Communion of Dreams is an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey I knew that Seth would resonate as a ‘real person’.*
So this morning I was amused to hear a story on NPR about how giving computers/robots more human characteristics tends to cause humans to develop a greater sense of empathy and socialization with them. Amused, but not surprised. From the article:
Many people have studied machine-human relations, and at this point it’s clear that without realizing it, we often treat the machines around us like social beings.
* * *
What the study demonstrated was that people do in fact obey the rule of reciprocity when it comes to computers. When the first computer was helpful to people, they helped it way more on the boring task than the other computer in the room. They reciprocated.
* * *
“The relationship is profoundly social,” he says. “The human brain is built so that when given the slightest hint that something is even vaguely social, or vaguely human — in this case, it was just answering questions; it didn’t have a face on the screen, it didn’t have a voice — but given the slightest hint of humanness, people will respond with an enormous array of social responses including, in this case, reciprocating and retaliating.”
On the NPR website version of the story there’s also this delightful video showing what happens when a robot with cat/human characteristics begs a research subject to not switch it off:
Interesting. But again, unsurprising. Consider the whole sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL is shut down — a powerful and poignant part of the movie. And referenced at the end of the video above.
Lastly, I laughed out loud once the story was over on NPR, and the transitional bit of music started up. Why? Because it was an instrumental work by the artist Vangelis, composed as the Love Theme from the movie Blade Runner.