I Love Amazon but the Fire Phone…Snore….

I followed a bit of the Amazon announcement during lunch yesterday, then recapped it later. I’m not exactly in the market for a new phone, I’ve had my Note 3 for almost a year and enjoy it just fine, but I was interested to see a new player on the market. Apple and Samsung have been conquering as far as smartphones go, and frankly it’s just sometimes fun to find a new gadget to want that I can’t necessarily have.

After seeing what they’re offering though, I’m nothing but underwhelmed. Amazon is a fantastic company and I use them for a number of things. I’m a Prime subscriber (though I do prefer Netflix for streaming) and I love them for ebooks and music and most everything else. Oh, yeah, and they’re my numero uno for selling my own books. Nevertheless, they’re not the best hardware maker. I have a Kindle Fire but I hardly ever use it, preferring the simplicity and familiarity of my Note. I found the Kindle Fire to be alright from a hardware standpoint but a little clunky to use.

It looks like the Fire Phone (which is a stupid name) suffers from a lot of that. I don’t really know what they could have done extra that Apple and Samsung haven’t already nailed down, but it mimics a lot of what’s out there, promising a better 3-D experience and interface that, at least from my standpoint, most people don’t care about. Until it’s a watch or brace that emits a full blown hologram (I want an Omnitool, damnit!!!), 3-D means nothing.

Part of the reason I’m disappointed is due to the speculation I read beforehand. One of the most interesting things I heard, that I don’t see anywhere, was the possibility of free data with a Prime membership. Even if it were only for Amazon applications, being able to stream movies and music without tearing a gaping maw in my data plan would have been a pretty good reason to buy the phone.

Forbes had an article (that I can’t find now) about it just being another platform to buy Amazon stuff with, and I’m afraid they’re correct on this. Actually, it seems like a lot of people are having the same comments and general disappointment. I’m not saying it’s going to fail, they have the money to make it succeed, but there were a lot of missed opportunities and I think it’ll be a few iterations before I’m interested.

Updates On a Few Things

Yeah, I know, I know, been awhile since I posted anything. I’ve been involved with a work project that has tied up a lot of my time, just one of the joys of writing with a day job.

I wanted to update on a few things, and since people tend to go to Story Arcs as well, it’s up there too.

First, the writing is lagging hard and that’s my fault. FayTown Calling is a good month behind. I was hoping to send out a final call for beta readers the end of February and have it edited and out by May. That’s not looking on track though, I won’t send out to beta readers (which you can still be a part of, just comment or email me!) and don’t think I will until mid April. I have many things to change, tweak, and add, and a final polish to make it readable. That moves publication to June (God, I hope…)

On my other writing fronts, I have a short story and a novella that are coming along. I haven’t touched the novella in a month, but it doesn’t need much. I really just need to tie together all the elements and I’ll have a brand new 25k+ story to release. It’s quite a bit different than anything else I’ve written and I’m pretty proud of it.

The short story came as a bit of a surprise. I had written it under a completely different context, then reworked it to be in Virgil’s world. It started at just under 2000 words and now is coming up on 10k. It’s been fun as well and has raised an interesting opportunity. I can’t go too much into it without giving away details of the story, but it deals with an aspect of Virgil’s world that I love. I mean, I love it. I had everything laid out for Sorcerer Rising, probably 9/10 of the story completed when I came up with this idea and I nearly scrapped it all to pursue this idea.

Believe me, Virgil would be a bit different in that context.

I ended up not doing it because I still love Virgil and his perspective on his world. He has a more centralize role that gives him exposure to more of the world. This other perspective is polarized and not as able to freely go about the world. It’s also an aspect of the world that is currently…hidden…from Virgil.

Let’s just say this, people are finally going to be shown what the Coven is.

I’m gonna send this short out to my mailing list, so you’ll get it for free if you’ve signed up. I’ll detail this a bit more there, but I would really like feedback. This aspect of the world is ripe with possibilities and I’d like to see where it can go. I’m thinking of a sort of episodic serial with multiple characters. I really think it could be fun but don’t want to commit to the logistics until I’m sure.

Lastly, my update on the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award).

I didn’t make the cut on this one.

I was hoping to, at least, make it into the second round but can’t win em all. I guess. It stung, not gonna lie on that. Oh well.

Keep on writing. That’s the best way to deal with rejection.

The First Chapter

Anne R. Allen put a post a few a week or so back (I am so glad to be caught up on Feedly now…) that discusses what all should be involved in a first chapter.

The moment I saw it, I groaned. Here we go, something else to tear everything I think I know to ribbons. But I read it, because this was a new blog I added to my reader, and I nee to get a feel for it, and much as I didn’t want to admit it, these types of posts are important. Nothing is concrete, but the thing about being a new writer, one who hasn’t written for anyone I wasn’t related or married to, is not having the ability to gauge what is concrete and what is quicksand. think I know my stuff, but who knows what that will mean to readers?

And the first sentence, paragragh, page, chapter, of a story are essential. I know for myself, I have tried to force myself to read books (especially those ones I am supposed to like) but can’t usually make it stick. I have to get hooked, and rarely does it happen if it fails in the beginning. This is reflected in my buying behavior. The way I buy books is with Amazon’s wish list. When I am looking for a book, I go through this massive To Read list and check out the samples. Some look great until I open that first chapter, and those are the books that don’t get bought. Occasionally, I will revisit the book to read the sample again if I really like the description or have heard really good things about it, but usually I just cut it from the list.

I don’t want my book cut from anything.

This was one of those few posts that set me at ease instead of driving me into a panic and causing me to tear into into my manuscript like a Civil War surgeon. I’ve had those panic moments. I’ve also had to go back and stitch together what I lopped off. That’s partly why I’m pretty confident my intro to Sorcerer Rising is solid and will achieve what I want.

Much like Ms. Allen discussed, I didn’t write it from the get go. I went back and added it last summer when I set out to finally complete this. The original is still there, in fact its the third chapter, but I wanted a better hook, a more organic introduction into the world, and to set the stage for some of Virgil’s problems.

All that said, I’ll probably have to do it with the second book as well, I don’t know yet. I knew how I wanted to start it, but that may not set everything up the way it needs to be.

We will see.

Parallells Between Video Games Industry and Publishing Industry

Gamepolitics published Microsoft’s FAQ for the Xbox One today, and it’s really interesting to see some familiar ideologies.  Ones I’ve been reading about in publishing. Namely, paranoia.

Basically, if you don’t connect to the internet every 24 hours, it won’t play games. Publishers will have the option to disable used games. They can also choose what retailers will be able to participate and whether or not a fee will be applied to the trade in. They will have the option to disable allowing your friends to borrow games. They will have the option to disable game rentals.

Now, it’s really too soon to tell, but if this is true, it reeks of a paranoia I would usually ascribe to Apple. They want to monitor every purchase you make and ensure they don’t lose one solitary sale.

And if it were were digital sales only, it wouldn’t be as big a deal. Computers have pretty much already moved to that point. Steam basically requires everything I listed above, and I buy from them regularly. I haven’t bought a physical copy of a PC game (that was made this decade) in over two years. But I’m not doing it that way to give them a solid. They won my business through convenience and making the price right.

So far, no game system has done that. You can go on Xbox Live or the Playstation store and see games that came out years ago for fifty and sixty bucks. You have a few sales, but it is nowhere near as apparent as what you find on Steam, Amazon, or Gamestop’s digital catalog. It takes up the limited space on the machine, takes forever to download and often times they don’t even have what I want.

I’m not coming at this from the angle that you should be able to resell anything. I think the ability to resell a digital only copy is pointless and would create a lot of chaos. With a used game (or book for that matter) sale, you are getting a lesser price for the risk of a used product. Scratches, dings, creases, wearing. A digital copy is the exact same thing as the final product in the same quality, and the only person who gets to sell that is the person who produces it.

What I am really more concerned is the hassle that will be associated with this. It’s a pain in the ass to use my PS3 sometimes. I have to download the new update, download the store update, download the game’s update, and rarely is this to add anything to my experience. It’s just making sure I didn’t pull one over on them.

This is the reason for piracy. It sounds as if Microsoft has convinced themselves they’ve built the perfect piracy blocker. But it also sounds pretty damn inconvenient. That drives people in one of two direction. Piracy, or they just don’t buy it. I’m not condoning piracy by any means, but if you fail to put your product on the market place, put stumbling blocks and wraparound lines to get it, treat the consumer as if they are a thief before they’ve even had a chance to be your consumer, and then act as if they should be happy to be getting this much, well, yeah, you pretty much deserve what you get.

Publishing is seeing a similar attitude in failing to keep up with the consumer. Major publishers price e books the exact same price as their paperback counterparts and the only convenient way to get a digital book is through one of their booksellers, primarily Amazon. I don’t buy from them because of price, I buy for them because I can do it in seconds. Barnes and Noble’s website is terrible and the Nook is just lackluster. So is their app.

What was truly disturbing to me was the talk of “disruption”. Ebooks, digital sales, and e-commerce were a disruption? Really? Really? For everyone else in the world it was an opportunity and a big one at that. Retailers with a physical product jumped on board. They aren’t beating Amazon, but they’re not treating them like Godzilla either. No more than they would any big competitor like Wal-Mart. Why couldn’t they, the people who have a product that is purely data, compete?

There is a desire for control that is scary in both these industries. Both industries have seen major collapses from bad business practices in the past. I know I’m an outsider, but I’d say I’m pretty well versed in the gaming industry. Publishing not as much, but when a global industry is controlled by five and a halfish companies, and they’re all acting like the ground is falling out from under them, well…what am I supposed to think?