Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Updates: Indie Publishing, Games, and a Screenplay

This month my plan was to post an essay on the Problem of Evil. But that essay is growing longer and more involved than I expected, and it looks like it won't be done until next month. So stay tuned.

Instead, here's a brief update on what I've been working on.

I've been spending most of my free time preparing Progress Debunked for publication: proof reading, formatting the Table of Contents and section headings, choosing fonts, and the like. It's starting to look more and more like a book. This is my first time publishing, so I'm still not sure quite how long it will take. I need to get permissions to publish quotes, find a graphic designer, get an ISBN, and several other odd things. It could be a month, or it could be autumn of this year. I'm committed to having digital, paperback, and hardback versions all available by the end of 2017.

The more I read about independent publishing, the more convinced I am that it is the way to go. It's faster, it gives you more control over the process, it earns you better royalties, and it is now more common for new authors to make a living by self-publishing than by "traditional" publishing. What's interesting, if you look at the history of publishing, is that self-publishing was actually the most common sort of publishing before about 50 years ago. It is the real tradition in publishing. It's only been in the recent era of mega-corporations and mass marketing that people have been convinced (mostly through advertisement) that you've got to publish through one of the handful of companies in New York that dominate the business. But a revolution is sweeping through; that era is ending.

I'm not so sure anymore that it will be impossible to make a living by writing. Tens of thousands of indie writers you've never heard of are supporting their families on book sales.  So we'll see. My first goal in writing is still to express relevant, important ideas as clearly as I can. Money is a secondary concern--and only pertinent because it might make it possible to write full time.


I've also made progress on a number of side projects. I'm re-writing the end of Part I of The First King of Montana. What's coming out this time around is more human, more emotional, has more grit, and feels more real.

Over the past several months I've merged several of my boardgames into an semi-cooperative, Tolkienesque, epic fantasy game: Bloodline of the Eldar. Each player is a different fantasy race, and you play over several generations. Characters can create magical artifacts and realms, marry, pass on magical abilities to their children, and teach one another ancient skills and crafts. The victory conditions are different for each player -- some players may have selfish motives -- and the game typically climaxes with a epic war between good and evil. It's fun, but it generally takes 5-6 hours. I've started coding a computer version of the game, which should speed it up.

My kids keep asking to play my fairy tale game, where you can choose to play a hero, princess, or monster. (Usually I play a dragon or giant, and they play the good guys.) As a hero or princess, you go around the map rescuing people. As a monster, you steal their treasure. Eventually, if the good guys make enough friends and find enough useful items, they can work together to defeat the monster, either by making it into a good monster or chasing it away. The game is set up so that it is almost impossible for the good guys to lose, though you can get into some sticky situations--for example, as last time when BOTH kids' characters were transformed into frogs. You might also get locked in a tower, wounded, or put to sleep by magic. For all the possibilities, the game goes quickly. It only takes about 15 minutes, but usually the kids will want to play again and again. Definitely worth it to try and publish, I think.

A couple months back I read Walter Scott's Ivanhoe for the first time and loved it. It's a story about feuding between Saxon and Norman knights in the era of Prince John and Richard the Lionhearted. My wife and I watched the 1952 movie version and after listening to me rant about how the film had dropped all the most compelling aspects of the novel and everything I would put in a screenplay if I wrote it, she said, "Well why aren't you writing it?" So I wrote my own screenplay. It turns out that two of the main plotlines are romantic (one tragic and one happy), and as a fan of Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, my wife has helped me enhance these. To do this I've had to deepen one of my antagonists -- Bois-Guilbert, a Norman and Templar knight -- and make him more sympathetic. The screenplay that has emerged (to flatter myself) is more tragic, more Shakespearean even, than what Scott originally wrote. We'll see. I've got to sit on this one for a while.