The Creative Process

Just a warning here; I’ll probably be spoiling Zemlya, Katawa Shoujo or anything else here. I’ll put a break in shortly so that if you’re looking forward to those things that you won’t see anything that might turn your temper.

Then again, I think I’ve mentioned that I might spoil something only to not mention anything of note. So it’s up to you. Before you proceed, this is mostly a discussion about the tools I use when trying to write, and how I’m trying new things. That’s not really a spoiler unless you’re really into twist ending in blog posts. tl;dr I bought Scrivener and I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Going to Comiket

I realise that my last post was kind of negative. And, I guess that is just kind of how I am. Sometimes I just brain dump here because I know that at least someone will hear it, and that there is only a minimal chance that anyone I work with will find it

 

But I need to be honest with you – I actually am pretty content with life. I’ve had a great run of luck (apart form the Zemlya results…) and I’ve now managed to experience a huge range of things. I should probably drop this fiction racquet and pick up autobiography. But that’s a little too pretentious for me.

Anyway, I’ll be at Comiket this winter, and Weee and I are working on an adaption of Dreamer for the 4LS booth.

 

Because I wanted to get rid of the negativity of the last post, I thought I’d post my comments (and my half-a-bottle-of-wine translation) for you. If you want the updated story, you’ll have to come by our booth at the show!

 

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would have a booth at Comiket, I would have called you a liar. And yet, here we are.

Being a part of 4LS has been a journey for me. When I left in 2009 I thought I would never return. So, even though this is only a short story, it feels good to be producing something with the team again. Unfortunately, I have more ideas that I have time to write them, but I hope that I can at least bring a few more ideas to life in future.

Of course, this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of you; the fans. The reason I write is because I want to make people “feel” like I do when I read a good book or watch a great drama. There is something about the raw emotion in fiction. We root for heroes even though we know they don’t exist. We gasp at the unexpected. We cry when our favourite characters are in pain.

That’s what I hope I can make you feel.

This is only a short story, but I hope to see you all again soon. If you want to get in touch please follow me on twitter @OneillCam or at https://cplcrud.wordpress.com

Thanks to @weee_desu for the illustrations, @ksjpproject for the translation and my friends at @fourleafstudios for providing the support for this work. You’re all great.

Cam “Cpl Crud” O’Neill

 

10年前、俺に「コミケットにブースにある」と言ったら、「あなたはあほじゃない?」と返事することでした。なのに、ここにいるでしょう。

Four Leaf Studiosに入ったから長い旅になりました。2009年辞めた時、絶対に戻らないと思いました。だからこの短編小説はなんか大事にしていました。4LSの皆様と一笑に働いてるのはすごく嬉しいです。俺の頭の中で、書ける時間があるより「Idea」がありますので、将来にまた小説を書ける可能性があると思います。

もちろん、ファンがいなっかたら、この短編小説を書くのは無理です。俺が小説を書くの理由は、他人が、素敵な本を読んだり、感動するのドラマを見たり、踊りたいおんがくを聞いたりしてる俺と同じの「感じ」をさせたいのことです。フィクションは、心からの感じを出せることです。この世界の中がいないの人を応援する。突然ことに喘ぐ。好きなチャラが傷着いたらなく。

あなた、そのことを感じさせたら喜びます。

今回、短編小説しかなかったが、また会えてほしい。連絡したいなら、俺のTwitter は@OneillCamとブログはhttps://cplcrud.wordpress.com です

絵を描いた@Weee_desu、小説を翻訳した@ksjpproject、応援してくれた@fouleafstudiosの友達に、まことに感謝しています。皆がいなっかたら、何も書けないことになるはずです。

Cam “Cpl Crud” O’Neill 

 

Drinking the Cool Aid…

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I’m sure that you are probably aware of Jonestown, even if you’re not exactly sure what happened there.

Long story short, this was one of the eponymous suicide cults, where about 900 people drank Flavour Aid (often misquoted as Cool Aid) that was laced with a bunch of nasty crap.

It’s a story of paranoia and blindly believing the stories told by those around you, even if it makes no sense, and of following orders blindly. I know that some people here might not like that kind of story, so I’ll spare you any more details, but if you’re interested, I’ve read through the Wikipedia article at least a dozen times and it still gives me chills. I only was able to listen to the audio once.

 

In the corporate world, “Drinking the Cool Aid” has become shorthand for companies, usually the executive suite or the board, becoming so involved in their own version of reality that it ends up killing the whole company. To “Drink the Cool Aid” means that you are so devoted to the company and the internal ideals that you are basically willing to sacrifice yourself for them. You hear about it a bit in books like “Disrupted,” which goes into life in a tech company in silicon valley. And it’s funny how many times you see it happening when you look at case studies; executives, disconnected from the real world, start to believe what they are telling themselves, even when evidence to the contrary is mounting.

I could probably write quite a lengthy essay on why this happens, but it’s mostly to do with natural bias, and also thinking that you are somewhat better or more perceptive than the average person. However, there are many more people with a much deeper understanding of those mechanisms that have written much more fascinating versions of this story, of which I would suggest Thinking Fast and Slow. However, before you start to think that most highly-paid executives have some sort of prescience that mere mortals don’t, I can tell you that they don’t.

Now, I’m lucky enough to have climbed high enough up the corporate ladder (albeit in a niche market sector)  to see this first hand – and to be faced with my own decision about drinking from the poisoned chalice. I know that a fair portion of my current position was due to luck – being in the right place at the right time, but I would like to also think that there was at least some degree of skill involved. Maybe 20% or so. I’m now an executive in my company and managing an interesting amount of people and money. It’s nowhere near the amount that stock traders shuffle daily, but it’s enough for me.

But I can see that our niche is coming up against hard times. Already we’re seeing a huge number of acquisitions, meaning that companies are starting to drop, and instead of being completely wiped off the map, they choose to be eaten by a bigger fish. And there are new entrants coming from previously unconsidered markets. Those are not good signs; so you could say that the writing is on the wall for us in the long run.

And yet, our executive meetings seem to go around in circles. I’m always either on the end of a Skype call in the middle of the night, or in the room but jetlagged to hell, so I usually don’t try to extend the meetings any longer than they need to be, but at the same time this means that I’m not really ringing the alarm bells long enough.

The same is true for many of the others. We’re all aware of what is coming in the next 10 years, but there is little that we can do to change the whole company. It’s kind of annoying, really. We know that we want to make sure that the company survives, but to do that almost everything that we stand for today (and a proportion of the people we employ) need to be left behind. So at what point do you call it quits? One of the things that we stand for is bringing everyone along with us, and not downsizing for the “fun” of it (and, be sure, restructuring is a hard call for many managers).

So, sitting at that table, I can either choose to drink the Cool Aid and try and run the company as it stands today as effectively as possible, until that day in 5-10 years that we get acquired. Or I can keep standing on the battlements and screaming about the incoming invasion, failing to raise the city. Neither is really an appealing option, but now I can kind of understand how those people who you read about in case studies that appeared to do nothing.

 

And, at the same time, there is my “personal” chalice. Changing jobs for me would mean keeping the same salary or increasing it. In reality, that might not be an option, especially if there is another recession. So maybe I either stay with the company now, and probably be loathed because I’m not content to keep things “the way they are” simply because it is easier, or I decide to leave and end up compromising somewhere along the aspects of freedom, pay, or title.

 

I’m not sure what I wanted to say here. Maybe that I have first world problems. At least my kids are cute and healthy and (apart from the mortgage) I’m debt free. That’s more than I can say for a hell of a lot of people that I know. And maybe that’s what it’s all about; remembering that sometimes it’s not all so bad, and that just having a job, even one as unstable as management, is a good thing.

 

So I guess you could call this a pep-talk to myself. Apologies but I just wanted to post something here as I know that it’s been a while.

 

Donation!

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Ok, I’ll admit, I feel good about this. I was originally expecting to donate more, however I guess it’s better than nothing. So any of you that wanted to donate to MSF in the past but never did, if you bought Zemlya, know that I’ve kicked in a bit on your behalf.

However, there is an interesting side-effect of posting this. I’ll admit that I’m trying to avoid constantly checking the stats of Zemlya (it’s about as disenchanting as checking the stats on this blog), so I’m avoiding the page. I didn’t realise that I’d already run a couple of fruitless ad campaigns and a count-down deal… Anyway. Maybe I just need to do that Kobo version I’ve been putting off for a month now.

But when I checked the page so that I could get a link, I noticed this:

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The Zemlya Conspiracy is totally self-published and print-on-demand. I also know that the “5 used” means that someone is either lying, or maybe that Zemlya is just that bad that a high percentage of the people buying it want to get rid of it. And a total of 15 paperbacks, I’m sorry to admit, is almost the entire print run so far.

 

It appears that when you list an ISBN that some shops are simply able to list those books on your site, regardless of if you actually own the physical book or not.

In a way I’m grateful, it means that slowly the wheels are turning and maybe sales will pick up. If there were a few more reviews that would be great (a side note: if any of you have purchased a signed copy, the last mailing was done last week so you should have them soon), and then maybe this is just an experiment in the Long Tail; that darling theory of digital sales that basically says “leave things available forever and maybe get a return.”

 

 

Anyway, even though it was all a small donation, it felt good to give to MSF. As I mentioned in the release post, I haven’t managed to make a donation to them before, so I think this is the start of something good.

 

And, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve put up an “Easter Egg” page for Zemlya. I’ll probably put more things there once they come to mind…

 

In other news, I’ve finished the script of the short (about 10-15 page) story that Weee and I will be presenting at Comiket. I’d like to do a dual-language version (English and Japanese) but we’ll see what happens. If anyone will be at that show this year then please drop by the 4LS Japan booth. I’ll also bring a dozen or so copies of Zemlya just in case someone wants it there…

 

 

The next step…

I guess I should warn you all – I’m going to keep pushing the Zemlya barrow until it gets popular. So I’ll likely embed questions etc into each post until I get more than a sale a day…

 

But, I also know that I need to think about the future. At the moment, my life feels a little like a 24-hour carousel. Shortly after I wake up at 0600 it’s already midnight and I’m trying to go back to sleep. Such is life in an international company and with kids.

 

I’ve been basking in the glory of finishing Zemyla for some time now. I mean, I finished my first editing pass over a year ago (I wrote a note in there to myself to remind me of the occasion), but I kind of thought that I would want to have a follow-up novel as a partner to the Conspiracy. I’m thinking “Confederacy” would be a good angle.

Then I think about the mountain of work that goes into it, especially because this time, like the re-writes of KS, I have a much better idea of what I’m doing and how to do it, and it doesn’t start by randomly bashing out works and then changing character’s genders half-way through the editing process.

 

Also, I’m thinking about what to do here. I’m thinking that I should stop moping here (as I’m not actually a mopey person) and start to post interesting things that I see around the world. I mean, I have the good luck to have a packed travel schedule (it feels weird to be home for more than 2 weeks) so I should share that luck with y’all.

 

I can’t have nice things

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For a long time, I’ve craved things that are usually beyond my ability to purchase them. Yet, whenever I really wanted something, I would somehow find a way (this would usually involve eating nothing but rice for weeks on end, taking on extra work where possible and shunning all sense of a social life).

Since the things that I “want” are usually damned expensive, it takes a while to save for them and then even longer to commit to buying them. For example, my headphones were about UD$800; that’s not the kind of thing you buy on a whim (I did also once fall into some kind of insanity spiral and buy a $1800 set of headphones, but sold them to buy my current camera).

And in that time, I research the crap out of what it is that I want. Before I buy something I can pretty much recite the spec sheet and also the opinions of the relevant authorities on whatever thing it is that I want to buy.

It’s also kind of what I used to do for work when designing big systems, and in that sense it worked out well for me.

 

However, there is a downside to this.

There are a couple of sales fundamentals that are being broken here. The first is exciting the customer, the other is under promising and over delivering. If you’re in sales, these are golden rules, no matter the industry.

But, by knowing everything about a product before you buy it: when you get it, it’s just not that exciting. And this always happens to me. I get so wound up about buying something, and then when the stars align and I make my purchase, I am happy for about 30 seconds and then I go back to wanting one of the other things on my list. It’s actually enough to make me not want to buy things, even though I kind of have the means to do so now…

Either that, or I just start buying stuff randomly.

 

Anyway, another point here is reviews for Zemlya. Where do you guys get your information about books? I’m a terrible example as I’m only really getting books through word of mouth. So if you’ve read Zemlya and think it’s all right, please jump on the various message boards around the world and let people know.

But if you know of a good review site or something, please let me know and I’ll post it there.

 

Cheers!

Selling is hard…

Ok, so I should know better. It’s the internet, asking people to pay for stuff is a stretch. And I do thank all of you that have supported me by purchasing the digital or the paperback copy of Zemlya.

For any of you that, for some crazy reason, want me to write something in a paperback, please contact me. I have a few copies that I ordered for print checking that I can sign and ship for about the same price as ordering a paperback.

Otherwise, do yourself a favour and get the paperback! Doom’s cover looks great. Or jump over to one of the other subreddits like /r/cyberpunk (for upvoting) or /r/books (for posting a new thread – self promotion is banned there). Reddit has the greatest pull-through to this blog of all of the other channels that I frequent, so that always helps.

 

 

But I wanted to ask a slightly more serious question here. Of the people that found this blog due to various posts, about half will then click the Amazon link. But after that… nothing.

So, I’m curious. What’s stopping you guys? Is it the blurb? The format (e.g. would you prefer Kobo?)? Or, please no, the price?

I’m happy to make some changes. The Paperback is about as low as it can get (due to the print on demand nature), and the digital edition has to stay at the same price for 6 weeks (Amazon does some kind of auto-promotion thing). But it would be really great to know why the trail runs cold at the Amazon page…

 

Cheers!