My Experience With Medical Marijuana

                Although I’m usually more known for my love of booze, given that today is both a blog day and 4/20, it seemed if there was ever going to be a fitting opportunity to tackle this topic, this is the best window I’m likely to get. We’ll start with a few caveats, the first of which is that if you’re unfamiliar with the fact that I have psoriatic arthritis, you might want to catch up on that first, it plays a part in today’s blog. Additionally, while society as a whole has gotten pretty chill about marijuana in the last decade, our Attorney General is a doll made from racist dog turds and brought to life through dark magic. So, for the sake of legality, let’s just assume any time I talk about using marijuana below, it was in a state where such actions were legally permitted, even if I don’t add details. Cool? Cool.

                It might surprise you to learn this, given my overall “shitshow” demeanor, but I was never much of a weed guy growing up. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t as much in the small town where I grew up, so opportunities to try it were limited, maybe it’s because I came from a heavy drinking culture, but regardless I made it through high school and college without ever really going down that road. I don’t say that as a brag, so much as I do to establish that when I finally did turn to cannabis, it was for actual medical purposes.

                As stated above, I have psoriatic arthritis, and have for about six or seven years now. The problem was that for the first three of those, I went improperly diagnosed due to not presenting the psoriasis symptoms. Unfortunately, being misdiagnosed meant I was also being mistreated, and regular arthritis drugs generally do dick all to help with PA. For those three years, I was more or less living in some level of constant pain. Not to shock a ton of you, but my drinking also picked up in those days, trying to numb the ever-present ache in my joints, yet even that wasn’t especially effective. With the months wearing on and the pain not subsiding, I eventually decided to try something new. I’d been hearing for a long time that marijuana was good for this exact kind of situation, so after reaching out to a few friends who I knew smoked, I decided it was time to give going green a whirl.

                Much as I would like to tell you I took one hit and suddenly the world exploded into pain-free magical unicorns, I can’t. The purpose of writing this is to talk about the drug and its effects honestly, and the truth is that smoking didn’t make all my pain vanish. It did, however, make it ignorable, and I really cannot say I could distinguish much between that and the unicorn magic version after lugging that pain around for years. It was the first evening in a long time that I had managed to get a good night’s sleep, without my hip and shoulders searing at the slightest movements. I felt true, genuine relief, the kind that booze and the parade of pointless prescriptions could never manage to offer.

                Despite what you might think, I didn’t suddenly go whole hog onto the marijuana band wagon. Giving it a try was one thing, but at the time I still had a day-job where testing was possible, and certainly wasn’t living in a state where I had regular, legal access to a supply. Would that have been different, in our current climate? Now that you can get CBD just about anywhere and lots of states are opening up legal options… maybe. I can’t really say what I would have done in the past with different circumstances. But the point is that even though I didn’t jump all the way on to weed treatment, just having it as an option made a difference. I knew that if I really, really had to take a break from my pain, there was a method out there. Although that might not seem like much, when you’ve lived for years without that option, it makes a huge change in your mentality. Having at least one thing that works gives you hope that maybe someday, you’ll find another.

                In my case, I eventually did. Once I was finally diagnosed properly, I was given Humira, which almost completely obliterated my symptoms. Now, that drug has a few issues of its own, but compared to some of the side-effects from the meds I was getting they’re basically negligible, and it’s a shitload better than just living with the pain. I’m lucky, though. Not every form of arthritis out there has a silver bullet drug. Hell, for plenty of people with PA, even Humira doesn’t always give such stellar results. Thankful as I am to have found my treatment, I know a lot of folks out there are still gritting their teeth and bearing through the pain, because its literally the only choice they think they have.

                Eventually, I did get more into marijuana on a recreational level, my goal here is not to try and claim some moral high-ground (unintended pun) of how to use. No, my point is to simply to serve as one of countless examples to those who oppose it entirely and truly don’t think there is any purpose to this drug beyond the fun recreational use celebrated today. My journey wasn’t easy, yet there are so many going through so much worse, and I can’t even imagine how much that small patch of relief means to them. As we move toward legality and usage becomes common-place, it can be easy to forget about the reason that got this push going in the first place: there are people out there who sincerely need this treatment.

               Whether you use medically, recreationally, or not at all, I hope you have plenty of fun today. And if you’re someone struggling with a condition, still searching for some method that offers respite, and today is the day you finally give weed a try, I hope it helps, even just a little. Because sometimes even a little relief makes a huge difference.

Revisiting Kindle Unlimited

                As most of you know, I’ve recently been working within Kindle Unlimited (KU) again since I needed to be in the program to do promotion of the Super Powereds series for the Year 4 release. It’s been a while since I lasted talked about the system of KU, and its undergone some changes, so it seemed a good time to re-look at the program, assessing its strengths and weaknesses. KU probably won’t be the right fit for every person or project, but it is a useful tool in the correct situations, and one you should certainly consider when evaluating new releases.

 

From Borrows to Page Views

                To start things off, the biggest change from the old KU is the way authors are paid for their work. In the original version, you were paid for each borrow of one of your works, and then at the end of the month the pot of cash was split up between the total number of borrowed books. So, say you had 1,000 books get borrowed in a month, the fund had a million dollars in it, and ten million books in total were borrowed across the whole program. That means each borrow is worth $0.10, netting you $100 in KU royalty for the month. Fair as that seems at the outset, not all books are of equal length, which caused friction, and there was an influx of scammers pumping out one page pamphlets that flooded the market and watered down the fund.

                To combat this, Amazon changed the system. Now, the payout is determined by pages read. So, again, let’s say there’s a million dollars in the fund for a given month. A hundred million pages are read, and of those 10,000 were from your books. Same formula applies as above, meaning each page is worth substantially less than a full book, but longer works are now compensated proportionally so long as they can keep a reader’s attention. Of course, this system has issues as well, especially for works that lean heavily on illustration such as children’s books or comics. It does at least strive for a higher level of fairness though, and had the added benefit of turning the scam-pamphlets worthless. Those numbers are all theoretical, however. For actual payouts, we have to look back at recent history.

 

Does it Pay?

                I always dislike leaning too hard on these parts of the blogs, I know most authors picked this career out of passion, because there are much easier ways to make rent. Still, when one goes full-time it’s a consideration that must be taken into account, so we need to dig in at least a little.

                Because the amount of money in the fund is based on subscribers, and it is doled out by number of pages read, there’s never going to be a perfectly consistent rate-per-page on KU. That said, looking back through the years it tends to fall between $0.004 - $0.005 every month. Since we’re simplifying for the sake of brevity, let’s use $0.0045 as our number today. That means if you write a 300 page (roughly 100,000 words) book, every time someone reads it cover to cover you make $1.35. Depending on your price point, that’s probably less than you’d make from a normal sale, however there are two things to consider: 1) Amazon doesn’t take 30% from KU like they do royalties, meaning the two numbers are often closer than it seems, and 2) Not every KU read would have translated to a sale. We’ve talked about it before, but it is important to remember that some folks will take a risk on a “free” (KU costs $10 a month) book rather than one they have to pay for. It gives writers an in they may have otherwise missed, and has the potential to create new fans.

                So, as I opened this section by asking… does it pay? Yes, to varying extents, especially if you write longer books. In fact, for some books it’s actually more profitable to have them read on KU, although you usually have to be either pricing them very low or producing books of my length to see that. Whether it will pay for you individually is of course a case-by-case basis, but hopefully now you’ve got enough information to run some estimations. Ah, but there is the catch, and it hasn’t gone anywhere.

 

They Still Demand Exclusivity

                Honestly, if not for this, I think KU would be one of the greatest options available to writers. While sometimes the money doesn’t even out on a specific project, the gains to be had from being able to do promotions, getting visibility, and enticing new readers with a free option would still easily weigh hard in KU’s favor. But that damn exclusivity makes it all more complicated. It means going KU cuts off all other avenues, retail and free. You can’t be on Nook, can’t be on iTunes, and, as we all can see from the currently unavailable sections on this very site, can’t even post the content for free on your own venue.

                The stints are only for 3 months at a time, at least, which does allow you to play with other venues and see if outside sales can off-set the loss of KU funds. I should also note that the exclusivity applies to ebook only, audio and print versions are free to be distributed through whatever avenue you like. Nevertheless, this bit is a real sticking point for a lot of people, self-included. Not just because it feels dangerous giving one platform that much power, which yeah holy shit trust me when I say authors are concerned about that, but also because I hate taking away any potential reader’s preferred method of delivery. I know a lot of people love their Nooks/Kobos/etc and don’t want to switch over, which is completely fair. And while it’s true that Kindle is an app available on virtually all smart devices, that’s still going to be limiting for some folks.

                I’m not saying this one is an automatic deal-breaker; obviously there are times when the sacrifice is worth it. But it is a real knock against the program as a whole, and one that should absolutely be considered when deciding whether or not KU is the right fit for your project.

 

In Conclusion

                As with most publishing/advertising options, this isn’t a one-size fits all. For certain books, it will make sense to be in KU, for others it works better to go wide. You can even do what I’m having to do with the serials, which is jump in and out as promotional needs demand. Just make sure you do your research so you can feel confident in whichever direction you take. And keep abreast of changes, because KU is an ever-evolving beast, and what’s true in this blog may not be so forever.

What is Success?

                Fair warning upfront: this one might get a little esoteric, so I hope you’ll all bear with me. One of the weirder parts of writing for a living is that there really aren’t many consistent career checkpoints to be aware of. In a corporate structure, your career is often defined by such markers in the proverbial road. Every year, you’ll sit down with a manager, talk about how you’ve been doing, and look at the career path you want to be on. Are you angling to run a certain department? Then you should already know the promotions and accreditations necessary to make it there, and are likely working toward it daily.

                Working in the arts is different. While I’m sure this is equally true for those who paint, sculpt, act, etc, I only have professional experience in writing, so that’s what we’ll focus on. Go onto the Kindle forums and a frequent topic you can find with little searching is someone asking how many sales it takes before you are considered a “successful” author. That’s because “success” is so ill-defined in this business that it’s hard to have any idea where you fall in comparison to others.

                Momentarily setting aside the fact that comparing yourself to others can be problematic in a lot of ways, there is something to be said for an idea of scale. I’ve talked about it before, but there’s a persistent conception out there that writers are either rich as shit, or so poor they are chewing on dry ramen to survive. Obviously it isn’t true, most of us doing this full-time are in the middle, paying rent but keeping an eye on our budget. The trouble is, you don’t really hear about writers in the middle, so the only ideas of success most of us have are the ones frequently talked about. Rowling, King, Gaiman, Pratchett, people who are household names with (well-deserved) fortunes. And good for them, they honed their craft to make works countless people enjoy. But as a writer in that middle, the idea that they are the only version of success is insane. Virtually none of us will ever reach that point, yet that doesn’t mean we aren’t successful at what we’ve set out to do.

                Since our industry sets an almost impossibly high bar for what’s considered success in the form of our top achievers, we can’t look there for a standard. In a lot of ways, that’s a blessing. Having no clear form of what success means for 99% of writers means that there are no expected standards imposed upon us. In a corporate environment, success is easily quantifiable. Did you get the promotion/raise/account you were up for? If yes, then your success level increases. If no, then you are failing to move forward. Not much wiggle room in there, and while of course someone can have a rich personal life with a stalled career, today’s discussion is specifically focused on the jobs.

                So, with no reasonable industry standard and no system through which to progress, what is success to a writer? Well, success is whatever you decide it is, and if that sounds like a copout of an answer, trust me, it isn’t as easy as it seems. If, to you, being published at all is a success, then you’ll achieve it the moment your first book is out. Maybe you want to be published by a press though, or perhaps you’re holding out for a book with the Big 5 before you call yourself successful. Hell, maybe you’re aiming high; nothing short of a movie deal is going to let you feel like you’ve made it. There’s nothing wrong with any of those, your dreams are your own, and that means you are free to aim at whatever heights you like.

                There’s a problem with this strategy though, and it’s us. By us I mean the writers, the humans behind the keyboards stuffed with uncertainty and self-doubt. Part of the reason I try to peel back the curtain on writing books as much as I can is that I remember what it was like from the outside looking in. The idea of writing a book, getting it published, it seemed so arcane and impossible. Maybe that isn’t your exact experience, but I’ve talked with more than enough people to know I’m not the only person who has felt that way. And that’s part of the success issue. Publishing a book is not some ancient, unknowable process. It’s a thing that can be done, and, in the case of writers, once we have done it the task doesn’t seem so hard in retrospect.

                To be fair, I think that’s true of most daunting tasks. In hindsight, they always seem easier than when we were staring them down, often we even remember them simpler than they were. Yet, that hindsight is still a problem, because when we look back it becomes so very, very tempting to downplay our accomplishments. “Well, maybe I should aim higher than just writing a book, if I was able to do it then it can’t be that hard.” “Yeah I’m published, but if that press was willing to take me, are they really setting their standards high enough?” “Sure I got a series, but then it tanked in three episodes. I meant I’m successful when I have a show that does well.”

                Basically, most writers have at least a little of the old “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member” kicking around inside of their heads. Imposter syndrome is so ubiquitous among those in the arts I almost take it as a given that every writer I talk to has it. We doubt, we minimize, and what seemed like such impossible goals from the outside now don’t feel like they were hard enough to be proud of. Success through goals is an admirable idea, but often we’re the biggest obstacle to feeling a sense of accomplishment through that method.

                With all that said, we come back to the question that started this blog: what is success? I meant what I said a while ago, that’s up to you to determine. The only real council I can offer is what has somewhat worked for me. And make no mistake; I’m definitely included in many of the groups I’ve talked about. This job doesn’t come with a roadmap for anyone; I’ve had plenty of wrong-turns. Lately, though, I’ve begun trying to define success not by the career itself, but by the life it permits me to lead.

                One of the things I wanted most in a job was freedom. To set my own hours, to work when I was most productive instead of on a company’s timetable, to be able to travel without fear of asking for time off. And this job gives me that. Yes, there are downsides, but that’s true in any career. I’ve been working on leaning into the things I love; hence why I’ve been traveling to more cons. It reminds me of one of the things I enjoy most about this gig, and allows me to meet readers from all over while seeing new cities. Obviously at my career level I’m not on the road every week, yet even doing the occasional one is a nice, tangible reminder that I’m living my life the way I’ve always wanted.

                To me, that is a mark of success. What will work for you is a question I can’t answer. You’ll have to look deep within and figure out your own ideas of success. It’s okay if you don’t find an answer right away. It’s okay if your answer changes over time. Our industry offers minimal measurements of success within itself, so as long as you’re staying true to what you want to be writing and doing then you’re a hell of a success. And don’t let anyone tell you differently.

The Easter Drinking Game

                This Sunday is Easter, which means aside from the fact that a lot of people will be able to indulge as Lent comes to an end; many of you will be spending that day with family. For lots of you, I’m sure it’s a day of worship and comradery, and to you folks I say have a great time, I hope it’s the best Easter yet. For others, however, Easter is less than thrilling. Not everyone is down with the religious institutions they were raised in, and being around family can be stressful for some folks even at the best of times. Given our current social and political climate, I’d bet every Golden Corral in the south has at least 3 screaming matches apiece on Easter.

                So, as a helpful coping method for those of you in the latter group, I decided that today’s blog would be dedicated to making Easter into a drinking game, turning all the annoyances and oddities you deal with into reasons to nip from your flask. Oh yeah, this requires bringing a flask with you to your Easter celebrations. Don’t worry; a lot of people are there with you. Look, Grandpa just took a sip of something while no one was watching! Eh, you missed it. Point is, if you need a way to distract yourself through the holiday, give the game a whirl!

 

Drink Everytime…

-Every time one of your cousins/siblings/etc is mentioned because they won’t be making it to the church service. Double drink if the tone used implies that no one actually believes whatever excuse was offered up. Triple drink if the excuse is incredibly valid, such as being stuck at work or in the hospital.

                Extra: If your cousins/sibling/etc is able to join up later in the day, go ahead and give them a pull from your flask. They’re going to be dealing with passive aggressive shade for the rest of the day, they deserve at least a shot.

-Anyone in your family uses the words “those people” in any context. I mean, there’s technically a small chance this won’t be racist or political… but we all know it’s going to be.

-As we all know, Easter lunch is generally a later in the day affair, and many people skip breakfast due to the impending big meal or early mass. For this rule, every time you see someone breaking down and eating one of the hard-boiled Easter eggs because they can’t hold out for food any longer, take a drink. Maybe offer that person a quick nip too, because they are clearly not having a great day.

-Since Easter and candy go together like… well, Halloween and candy, it goes without saying that any children in your family will be sugared to the gills before the morning is done. But with a sugar rush comes the inevitable crash, so take a drink every time one of them passes out in the afternoon. Double drink if they conk out somewhere not generally used for sleeping.

                Extra: If you’ve got a few others playing the game with you, maybe try creating a race for the kids while they’re all sugared up. It will be a fun way for them to burn off some energy, plus you can bet drinks about who you think will finish first.

-When lunch finally comes, time the grace. Under thirty seconds and you’re clear, drink once if it goes over the half-minute mark. Add a drink for every additional ten seconds from there. If you reach a full minute, feel free to just pull your flask out and openly waterfall until the grace is over. No one will blame you, they’re hungry too, and maybe this ridiculous antic will hurry things along.

-If you live in a state where marijuana has recently been legalized, take one drink for every older relative that has suddenly calmed way the fuck down since last time you saw them. Double drink if you actually catch them ingesting something. Also, offer them a few sips, perhaps sit down and have a talk. They might appreciate the company, and honestly this is probably some of the least dramatic conversation you’ll have all day.

-If you live in a state where marijuana is not legalized, take a drink for every relative that goes off for a walk and returns later with vacant stares and red eyes. Be subtle about it though, you’re clearly getting hammered today, no reason to bust someone else just because they prefer a different way to power through. Also, if you aren’t already, make friends with those people. Methodology aside, you are all obviously on the same Easter wavelength.

-Every time there’s a fight, you guessed it; you’re up for a drink. This counts anything with shouting and beyond. Screaming, name-calling, all the way to actual punches, take a drink for any of it. Then stand back, because you do not want to disrupt your chill Easter by getting into someone else’s drama. Unless it actually comes to blows, then maybe help break that up. These people have to see each other at the next holiday, after all.

-This is only for those who are really feeling brave and brought an extra deep flask: drink every time you see a new cross through the day. In church, on the walls, as jewelry, any of it is fair game. If your family is predominantly secular or celebrates differently, feel free to swap out crosses and instead drink to pastel colors. You’ll still be drinking a shitload, and you can find those hues in just about any Easter gathering through the nation.

-We’ll close out with a classic that’s applicable at every family gathering, not just Easter. Take a drink each time you get asked an uncomfortable, probing question. Some classics include: Why aren’t you working a job that uses a degree? Why don’t you just ask for a promotion? Have you tried walking into offices and trying to talk to who does the hiring? No girlfriend/boyfriend to bring? Or, if you do have a partner, why not married? When are you having kids? Why don’t you go into finance like Cousin Dmitri?

                Extra: Drink every time someone tries to get you to explain Bitcoin to them. Double if it’s Uncle Jethro, who thinks he can really make some money with that.

 

Hope this livens up your holidays, or, if you don’t need a drinking game for Easter, that you have a great time sober. As for me, I’ll be participating in the same Easter tradition as always. Lying in wait, wearing full camo and a pith helmet, in hopes of tracking that bunny back to his chocolatey hoard. Someday, Mr. Floppy Ears, I shall be victorious. Someday.

Too Good To Last 2: More Doomed Great Shows

                A few years ago, I did one of these, and out of the three shows I talked about (Limitless, Muppets, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) two were indeed dead within the year, while the last became a smash hit. I’m calling that a pretty successful evaluation of both the shows’ quality and the market’s ability to sustain them, so now that we’ve had long enough for new stuff to fill the airwaves, it seemed like a good time to turn you on to more under-appreciated gems.

 

Great News

                This one is on its second season, hence the early placement, but I’m putting it on this list because aside from like the maaaaaaybe 3 people who told me to check this show out I can’t really find anyone who watches it. And that’s a shame, too. Despite a weird premise and rocky start, once the show hits its groove in mid-season 1 the whole thing really starts to sing, and it’s only gotten better as the show evolves and the cast has better interplay. Basically, we’ve got a Parks & Rec situation, where the first chunk turns off so many that they don’t get to the goodness, only Great News doesn’t have the easy fix of saying “Just skip season 1”.

                For those who don’t know, Great News is about a modern news station where the protagonist’s (Katie) mother (Carol) joins her crew as an intern. Insert wacky hijinks. As far as pitches go, I’m well-aware it isn’t the strongest. Honestly, the show is at its weakest early on, when it tries to lean way too hard on the Katie/Carol dynamic. Much like 30 Rock before (Tina Fey is a producer and eventual guest on Great News) it’s at its best when working as an ensemble comedy. They’ve got some spectacular talent in their cast, including Nicole Richie who legitimately steals the show from more seasoned actors with regularity, and it’s once the show pulls away from Carol and Katie a little that we’ve got enough fun personalities to create a good episode.

                What’s running now is genuinely enjoyable, one of my favorite things to watch each week, but I fear the sluggish kickoff and hard-to-sell premise has started this show too far behind the line. Maybe it will see a resurgence later in its life if it can last that long, however if you want to check this one out while the getting is good, Season 2 and (sometimes) Season 1 are both on Hulu.

 

A.P. Bio

                I almost didn’t even bother to consider this one, I just assumed a comedy with Patton Oswalt as a side-character would be kicking ass, especially with It’s Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton in the protagonist role. According to the ratings sites though, it’s not doing great. The numbers it’s putting up would be good for a new show debut if it starred nothing but unknowns. Given the star-power and sizable push from NBC, the results are probably not what the network was hoping for, putting it in at least enough jeopardy to qualify for this blog.

                Aside from the obviously experienced cast, this is a program that strives to flip expectations on their head, or use them against us, although not in nearly so subtle a way as we’ve seen from shows like The Good Place. The intent is declared in the pilot, where our main character (Jack) says he will not be secretly teaching the kids biology, nor is he going to be learning more from them. And, to its credit, AP Bio backs up that promise. Every hokey, school-aged plot line is sent spiraling off in unexpected directions because of Jack’s dedication to living life his way.

                A lot of this show is hung on Jack himself, as he aggressively dances the line of unlikability. Here, it becomes apparent why they needed someone like Glenn Howerton, as he has years of experience selling audiences on characters that should be unlikable. I think the deciding factor on this show, at least for me, is one core character concept the writer’s gave to Jack: his honesty. Jack tells it like it is, exactly how it is, without pulling a single punch. At first, this reads as arrogance and feels off-putting, but over time we see that this is something he’s legitimately dedicated too. Even when it involves taking unflattering looks at himself and his actions, Jack still brings the same level of no-nonsense honestly. The more you see it in action, the more we grasp that this really is the way Jack chooses to live his life, not an affectation to keep people at a distance. It makes things objectively harder, yet he keeps at it, and eventually it’s hard not to kind of like the guy.

                I’m not sure where this one will go in terms of long-term story-telling, it’s still quite new, but there’s so much potential here that I really hope we get a chance to see what they can do with enough time.

 

LA-To-Vegas

                Trust me; no one is more surprised than me to have this thing on the list. When I first saw ads for this, I didn’t even bother remembering the name of the show, that’s how sure I was it would be shit and gone within the first two weeks. But then, on a day when I was bored and it popped up as a suggested next episode, I decided “what the hell” and took a 20 minute chance on entertainment. It was good, too. A strong first opening, setting everything up nicely for a solid, traditional sitcom run.

                Then, in the next episode, they blew up or paid off half of what I expected to be longer running threads, all while upping the depth of dialogue and characterization. The pilot of a show is often the weakest episode, since no one is on steady ground, from the writers to the actors to the director. It’s all new, and people are finding their feet. That said, this show has one of the sharpest improvements after a pilot I’ve seen, and remember, the pilot was already pretty good.

                The premise of this one is that some people, for a variety of reasons, fly back and forth between LA and Vegas every weekend. Since they see each other often, it becomes a half-office/half-community where people familiar with one another must sit together for several hours every week. As the show goes on the sets expand, it’s not a whole slew of bottle episodes or anything, but it all keeps coming back to the characters interacting with each other. Strong as the writing is, with another cast I think this show might be a total piece of shit. Everyone on screen fills and expands their roles with unexpected ease, and there’s literally not a single member of the core cast I’m disappointed to see get some spotlight, because they’re all great. That’s extra impressive given that, aside from Dylan McDermott, most of the cast is either relatively unknown or a “hey I know that person!” kind of recognizable.

                Like Limitless before it, this is a show where I know it shouldn’t work, but it fucking muscles through on pure charm. They took a drab premise and build a weird multi-color castle on top of it, complete with drawbridge-slide and drunk town crier yelling from the armaments. You can watch the whole thing on Hulu right now, and I highly urge you to do so.

                If history is any indication, most of these won’t be around for long.

Saint Patrick's Day Drinking Survival Tips

                As a major drinker staring down the barrel of a major drinking holiday (this goes up one day before 2018’s Saint Patrick’s Day) I am filled with excitement. St. Patrick’s Day is a lot of fun when spent with good people, and if my story about going into the Dallas purge didn’t give it away, my fellow drunks and I make a big day out of it. However, I know not everyone went to college in a town so boring it was compulsory to major in speed-chugging with a minor in keg-stands. Therefore, as a veteran shitshow, this seemed like the ideal time to throw out some tips to make sure you get the most out of your Saint Patrick’s Day, and don’t end up spending it over a toilet or in a cell.

                1) Wear green. Just… just fucking do it. I don’t really care how much you hate “conforming” or “going with the crowd”, this is not a battle that’s worth the effort to wage. I see it every year, someone at the bar skips the green and gets progressively more annoyed through the night as each conversation they try and begin kicks off with a pinch or a question about why they forgot to wear the festive color. I treat these people like giant red flags, because dollars-to-donuts one of them will be getting into a bar fight when their patience snaps. Don’t sabotage your own night, put in a bare minimum of effort so that you can enjoy yourself in peace.

                2) Slow and steady. Remember that, unless you drink aggressively with some frequency, you are not equipped to slam five shots and chase it with a beer as a way to kick things off. More likely, what you did instead was assure that you’ll be passed out or puking within the next hour. I know this is a big event, and it’s really tempting to go hard on those, but keep in mind we’re discussing Saint Patrick’s Day here. As in, it goes all day, or night, or however you celebrate; the point being that you’ll probably want to keep conscious and having fun for more than a couple of hours. Stick to beer, wine, or light cocktails early on, get a gauge for how everything is hitting you, and make your moves from there. If the group wants to take shots and you know you won’t be able to hang, decline. Or, in case your friends are dicks, tell them you have to use the shitter. They’ll be too drunk to try and take apart a lie that simple, and much too impatient to wait. Your body is your own, your pace is unique, and you don’t want to go all in before the day has properly kicked off.

                3) Rotate Beverages. Statistically speaking, most of my readers are not in the exact perfect range of early 20s where you can drink without getting a hangover. To those of you who are, enjoy it while you can you bastards, eventually we all lose that super power.  For the rest of us who’ve already started paying for fun with the brown bottle flu, it can be easy to get lost in the swing of things and go way too hard on the booze without supplementing. On behalf of your own body on Sunday, I implore you to put a little effort into drinking more than beer. Water is ideal, I personally double-fist on almost every drink, downing water after booze before I’m allowed a refill. It doesn’t stop hangovers; however it does make them more tolerable. Don’t forget a little caffeine in the rotation as well. I’m not “saying” mix booze and alcohol, because after Four-Loko we’re apparently all supposed to pretend we never heard of vodka and Red Bull, but again this a day-long event and you’re downing a depressant. If you want to make it all the way to the evening, you might want to take an occasional pause to throw down a soda.

                4) Don’t pinch strangers. I know, I know, I accounted for this happening in the first entry, but there’s a big difference between saying “A lot of cars are stolen in this town” and “Hey it’s totally cool if you steal cars here.” Knowing its common doesn’t make it okay, and generally speaking it isn’t great to grab a piece of someone’s skin and squeeze without permission. Maybe it takes a little of the fun away from you to lose that power, but it also minimizes your chances of inadvertently getting involved in a bar fight and being tossed out, or worse, having the cops called. A lot of people are having a lot of booze, so low-key assault isn’t the best way to break the ice. Just steer clear of the non-green people and their drama if possible, but if conversation is unavoidable then keep your hands to yourself unless you’ve got consent to do otherwise.

                5) Plan your travel. If you’re doing a house-party, this might seem less relevant, but remember that every guest you have still has to make the trek. In the event you and your friends are doing the usual move of going to a bar, it’s even more relevant. Can’t exactly crash at a bar the way you can at a friend’s house. Rideshares are going to be jacked up, and driving while drunk is not an option. Public transportation is a solid boon, assuming you’re fortunate enough to live in a big city, although of course that’s far from universally applicable. Should you have to be driven, then forethought is your ally. Figure out the bar you want to go visit, and what friend lives the closest to it. Meet at that person’s place before the boozing starts, and then split an ULW (Uber/Lyft/Whatever). Being close will minimize the cost, and dividing it between multiple people should soften the cost of surge pricing. Alternatively, if one of your friends is super-awesome, you might have a designated driver. Treat that person like fucking gold, because they are, and make sure to take care of them through the day. Otherwise, just think through your options before you hit the sauce, because once you start drinking none of that will be easier.

                That should be enough to see you all through tomorrow in one piece, even if that piece is incredibly drunk. Remember these tips, down some green beer for me, and try not to puke indoors if it can at all be avoided. Hope you all have a safe and fun Saint Patrick’s Day!

Publishing Method Drawbacks

                In the past, when dissecting publishing methods, I’ve focused largely on the benefits each system offers. There are some mentions of drawbacks, but it’s never been the central thesis to any of these blogs. I tend to keep a positive tone, so it’s not surprising my analysis usually puts the spotlights on each method’s upside. However, in answering the questions of newer writers, I’ve come to realize that might be doing a disservice. The drawbacks in each method are as important as the pluses, and deserve to be evaluated when considering what publishing path is right for your project. So lower your guitars an octave, push your hair down in front of your eyes, and break out the pitch-black nail polish. Today, we’re digging into the downsides of indie and traditional publishing.

 

Indie

                If I’m going to talk shit, it’s only fair I start with the method I’ve used most frequently, championed publicly, and generally love doing: indie/self-publishing. And honestly, that “/” between “indie” and “self” is probably the best place to start. Going full-indie means accepting that to some people in this industry, you’ll never be a “real” writer. They’ll always see it as self-publishing, and nothing short of insane levels of success will convince them otherwise. Even if you pull that off, they’ll call you an exception, distinguishing you from the rest of the indie crowd. Are these people stupid assholes? Of course they are, but that doesn’t mean they can’t also be people you respected or hold positions of power. Being indie means you didn’t go through the proper vetting and submission process, you haven’t been blessed by the sacred gate-keepers, and you should be ready to deal with people who think that makes you lesser.

                Another downside of indie: time and energy. As a friend once said: “What I wouldn’t give to go back to the days when all you had to do to be a writer was write books.” While I’m not sure I’d fully agree with that, the truth is that you will have a lot of drains on your time when going indie. Writing is on you. Editing is on you, to either do or outsource, and outsourcing still requires effort to find the right people, not to mention monetary costs. Same for covers, and formatting, and the big one: marketing. Social media, guest appearances, side-projects like podcasts or blogs, all of it takes time. Traditional publishers don’t really haul the marketing weight they used to, there’s still a large onus on the writer, however they’re at least somewhat helpful. Plus, they cover most of the other areas we discussed. Now if you like handling some of that (in my case I turned marketing into doing stuff I already enjoyed) then it’s not so bad, but you definitely need to understand that you’re biting off way more than just writing when you start an indie book.

                Lastly on indie, at least for this blog, is the simple fact that you’ll be mostly on your own. Maybe you’ll be lucky and have some other writers to turn to, but that’s not quite the same as a built-in support structure like what traditional publishing offers. Going that route, you have experienced professionals you can talk to, dedicated channels of communication that make it simple to get answers or resolution to issues as they occur. If you’re indie, it’s all on you. Formatting fucks up? You have to figure out how to fix it. No sales? Guess you better find a new marketing method. Editor shit the bed and missed a ton of typos? Tough shit, the buck stops with you. I’m certainly not saying traditional publishing offers a concierge to solve every dilemma you encounter, but just having someone to get guidance from can make a big difference, especially in the early years, and unfortunately that’s an area where indie can’t really compete.

 

Traditional

                Okay, so after slamming on indie for a while, let’s talk about the old school version: traditional publishing. And if we’re talking drawbacks in that industry, we have to start with money. I’ll keep it brief since I know we’ve hit this before, but it’s a big one. Most authors are not rich; we live on a budget like everyone else. That means the margins we make on our books matter if we want to keep rent paid and the liquor/inspiration flowing. No publisher out there will, or could, match Amazon’s 70% royalty rate. It would be fiscally irresponsible of them to even try. So going traditional means betting that the publisher’s reach will be large enough to cover for the lesser royalty, making it up in volume. Make no mistake, however, that is a risk. Publishing in general is a bit chaotic right now, and no one can promise a hit book. If you go traditional, you roll the dice on selling to the same amount of people for less overall money, which could make or break your budget. While the lack of investment in covers and editing (every publisher should cover this stuff, if they don’t, run) does offset the risk somewhat, time still has a cost, and if you spent a year writing a book that only ends up making you a few hundred bucks, that’s not a great return on work hours.

                The next big con that jumps to mind: control. Control is something you have to be willing to let go of when dealing with traditional publishing. Now obviously, that’s a blanket statement, some publishers will be more willing to let you have creative freedom than others, but the fact remains that you are no longer the final authority on your work. For some, that’s a trade worth making, for others, not so much. Just keep in mind, you don’t only lose control of what ends up in the books. Your publisher decides the marketing, the target audience, the categories, even the ability to continue. The first time I saw another writer post about hoping to be able to do a sequel, I was genuinely confused. Hoping to find the time or inspiration, sure those are hurdles we all have, but they were talking about actual permission. Because when you go traditional, you don’t necessarily decide whether or not a series runs the full length; that’s determined by sales. Sometimes, if you’re fortunate and have a good contract, the author can keep the series going as indie release, but even that depends on the publisher having limited rights. For me, this has always been the largest sticking point, hence why I work with publishers who offer a lot of creative freedom, but it can be worth the trade-off if you can find a publisher with a good balance.

                For our final traditional downside today, let’s tackle timelines. Indie publishing tends to run on a rapid release schedule; hell, the reason my audiobooks are always months behind is that I’m putting out the ebooks as soon as physically possible. They’re only fully ready a week or two before the release. Traditional publishing is a whole other ballgame. To go that route, you need to have a finished book that you’re comfortable sitting on for up to several years. First, you’ll need to find an agent, which is a lengthy journey all on its own. Assuming that goes smoothly, you’ll then have to shop the book itself around. Let’s keep being optimists and say that your book finds a home (although it easily might not) with a solid publisher. Being responsible business people, they’ll of course want to do their own edit of your work to ensure quality, which is another process of indeterminate length based on how much revision is needed. And then, when it’s finally done, you’ll need to be slotted into the release schedule. If we’re really generous with the timetable, let’s say each aspect of this takes 6 months and you drop into the release schedule immediately after edits are wrapped. That’s still a year and a half to get out a book that could have been released and helping keep you fiscally above water all this time. If you’ve got the patience and income to take this one on, there are very real benefits to it, just don’t walk in expecting any kind of quick turnaround.

 

                I hope this didn’t turn off any of you hoping to break into the publishing world, that’s not my aim today at all. Rather, I want everyone considering this career to go in with as much information as possible, the good and the bad, so that they can choose the right fit for their projects. Just remember, no matter what route you take, a good book is a good book in the eyes of the readers. Keep that at the forefront, and you can be successful using any publishing method.

Drew's Anticipated ECCC Antics

                As I really hope most of you, the ones paying attention to the Upcoming Events section of the site, have noted, next week I shall be in Emerald City Comic Con with fellow A&D player and talented author: Joseph Brassy. Now while I don’t have a full con schedule yet, when has that ever stopped me from speculating wildly? Never, no matter how much the con organizers beg me not to plug events that don’t exist, and I can’t see why we’ll stop that trend today! So, if you want to come hang out at Emerald City Comic Con (Seattle, March 1st – 4th) then try and catch me out and about.

                1. Fish-Fighting. Some might see an open air market where fish are hurled about as a neat display of efficiency mixed with marketing showmanship, but I think we all know Drunk Drew will see the invention of a new sport. Come watch as Drunk Drew flails about, trying to punch a fish from the air while he is hindered by intoxication and pre-existing terrible reflexes. I predict he’ll knock a sturgeon across someone’s shoulder by pure luck, then sprint away into the freezing waters, only to emerge with a new fish caught in his teeth. I realize that could seem like a stretch for some, but Drunk Drew pulls that move around once a month, and we’re due.

                2. Play the Rain Drinking Game. I don’t know much about Seattle, in fact I know insultingly little, despite how excited I am to visit. One of the few tidbits I am aware of, though, is that it supposedly rains a lot there. Like Texas is known for its sweltering, oppressive, unforgiving heat, Seattle is known for its high amounts of precipitation. Thus, the Rain Drinking Game was born. It’s a simple task, every time you notice the sound of rain anew, you take a drink. Maybe a fresh storm just started, maybe you weren’t paying attention to the noise in your environment, either way that’s going to cost you a sip. Based on what I know about Seattle’s weather and my own attention span, I expect this game to get me fish-fighting drunk within the first couple of hours.

                3. Do a Panel. Yes, there won’t just be tales of me wandering Seattle in a haze, challenging post-boxes to break-dancing competitions. I’ll actually be at the con too, including doing a panel. Appropriately enough, I’ll be talking about web-serials on Thursday, from 4pm – 5pm on The New World of Old Stories panel. After that, you’ll be able to find me wandering about the convention; consider it a scavenger hunt! You get to roam around and hunt me down, like tracking a wild writer on the plains. Or you could just follow my social media and events to see where I’m doing stuff. Yeah, that might be the better plan.

                4. Spontaneous Meetups. That’s what I’ve decided to call this feature, although in reality it will just be me talking to fans and followers on social media about what bar I’m visiting and when. Since I won’t have a dedicate table at ECCC (but will bring books for those who want them) this is my way of making myself available for those who want signings, pictures, or just to chat for a while. Plus, there’s a bar, so you know that always makes for more fun at a con. I should also clarify, since these blogs are generally a mix of humor and truth, that this is a real one. In theory, anyway, we’ll see what the bar scene is like when I arrive.

                5. Weird Weed Stuff. Yes, relax, I’ve read the emails and messages; I know some of you want to see me party with Seattle’s more native flavor of mind-altering substance. I feel like folks think I’m purely a booze guy because of my love for it, but that’s because booze is my passion, I’m still familiar with weed. I’ve done some twitter-rants on the medical side (for the new readers, I have psoriatic arthritis) of the subject. But hey, if I’m going to a new place, I should be open to new experiences, so I may as well try some of the stuff unique to your legal situation. Fancy edibles, concentrates, the oil pens, that kind of jazz. When in Rome, as they say.

                6. Commandeering a Vessel. Look, I don’t know when this will happen. I don’t know why it will happen. I certainly don’t have any idea how it will happen. But rest assured, at some point, Drunk Drew will switch to rum, and when that happens he’ll begin staggering steadily toward the scent of the sea. By morning, he’ll have returned as the captain of a ship that wasn’t originally his, snoring at the wheel and surrounded by crew. I really have no explanation to offer for this, the rum purges all remnants from my memory. Still, stick around the docks on the right night and you might get to see a very entertaining landing from a ship with a new captain.

                7. Challenging Joseph Brassey. Of course, as is customary when two A&D authors are at a con, we must engage in duels. Each will choose a contest; Joe’s probably being something with swords and mine of course being an endless Power Hour until someone quits. The winner of each duel will receive nothing, save for bragging rights over a contest they were already obviously good at. There’s no real prize or point to any of it, except that a crowd always does love watching me flail on the ground as Joe utterly destroys me with a prop blade, so I suppose the entertainment value is good enough justification.

                8. A One-Man Show. Should the crowd around our battle of duels ever begin to thin, I’ll have just the fix in mind. A rendition of my one-man show entitled “No, You’re Drunk!” which one Broadway critic called “An intoxicated man screaming at the sky outside of a gas station.” So yeah, clearly this is some high art if even fancy literary magazines aren’t getting it. I can only imagine the sort of audience we’ll draw in from the higher-minds of Seattle. Yes, pun intended, very obviously.

                9. Having a Great Time. All kidding aside, I’m super jazzed to visit Emerald City Comic Con, and I hope all of you folks who are making it out will get to stop by and say hello. Meeting readers is always the best part of doing these, and I can’t wait to see how many I get to greet at a con this size. See you there!

Podcasts Worth a Listen

                It occurred to me recently, while doing some behind-the-scenes work on Authors & Dragons, that as much as I love podcasts, as frequently as I listen to them, and as large as the general audience is, it’s a little crazy that I’ve had 2 blogs about my favorite audiobooks but never even touched on some of the great podcasts I love. Today, that changes! If you’ve got a long trip ahead (maybe to Emerald City Comic Con) then here are some free, great shows to help you pass the time along the way.

                Bonus Blog Sidegame: If you’re a subscriber to the A&D Patreon, take a drink every time I talk about a podcast we copied on Mimic Chest.

 

Doughboys

                As a man who loves comedy, fast food, and self-loathing, this podcast hits a great sweet spot for me. Hosted by Mike Mitchell (Love, Birthday Boys, Hidden America) and Nick Wiger (Funny or Die) these two eat their way through chain restaurants from all over, sacrificing their health to deliver meandering reviews that go way too deep on restaurants very few people even consider to be food. It’s fucking fantastic, and I tune in every week. There are also recurring bits that involve guessing what mystery food they’re eating, trying unusual foods listeners send in, and trying to figure out what kind of pie is in a bag. The style is very loose, the guests are almost always great, and the hosts have solid, if combative, chemistry. If you want to see how to do a podcast that’s a good mix of structure and free-flowing conversation, this one is a great case to learn from.

 

Bad with Money

                I’m 99% sure this is going to be the only podcast I discuss today that has the chance of actually teaching you something other than trivia about bad movies. Bad with Money is hosted by Gabby Dunn (Just Between Us) and covers a wide array of topics dealing with finance. There is also a lot of social commentary about the role money plays in our culture and the institutions that use it, but even if that isn’t your jam its worth tuning in alone to hear the frank discussion of managing money and finances, especially from experts.

                While I don’t talk about it much, mainly because it was super fucking boring, I used to work in the finance world. That came in really handy when I first started out doing the writing full-time, as I had a good grasp on budgeting, pipelines, self-employment taxes, and other things that come up when you run your own business. Now, a few years into the job, I better understand how fortunate I was to have that background. A lot of folks can do the writing work of this gig just fine, it’s managing their income that causes problems. If you’re thinking about taking a gamble on living off your writing/art/whatever, then I’d recommend listening to this one, as there’s a lot of good information that will come in handy.

 

How Did This Get Made

                I know, I know, most people are already keenly aware of this one, but just in case, I’m giving it a quick plug here. Hosted by Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas (they’ve all been in way too much shit to list, just imdb them) it’s a podcast that dives into movies that are outright insane. Sometimes they revel in the madness, such as with Crank, and sometimes they just ogle at it, such as with Chopping Mall. No matter the film in question, its three great comedians and a talented guest, so they always deliver on something worth listening to. Bonus: Adam Scott comes on every time they talk about another Fast and Furious movie, so that’s a fun perk to keep an eye out for!

 

Unpopular Opinion

                In truth, this is almost closer to a channel than a single podcast. Hosted by Adam Tod Brown (formerly of Cracked.com) this was originally a podcast on Cracked before Adam left the company. Once he did, he branched out the podcast into several different shows, most of which are hosted behind a Patreon paywall. The main show, still titled Unpopular Opinion, has always been free though, and it’s a entertaining listen.

                Since Adam is working as a stand-up comedian in LA, most of his guests and cohosts come from that world, which makes for a constant stream of fresh, funny people to discuss various topics with. Their subject matter can be more or less anything; to give you an idea of the topic range they’ve done an episode dedicated to the glory of the McRib and one talking about the ethics of drone strikes. This show can be kind of a grab bag depending on the subject matter, but if you see a topic that sounds fun to you then give it a whirl.

 

High and Mighty

                Technically, part of me wants to count Action Boyz in this one too, but since that’s Patreon exclusive we’ll stick to the free one. High and Mighty is a podcast hosted by Jon Gabrus (Guy Code, Adam Ruins Everything) who is a character actor and comedian. The format is… well, there sort of isn’t one. Aside from reading reviews in which listeners roast him at the top of every episode, the whole show is largely just free-flowing conversation. I actually found out about Jon Gabrus from the Chicken Nugget Power Hour episode of Doughboys where he was a guest, and followed him to his own show after laughing my ass off at his nugget eating skills.

                This might be the hardest one to pitch, both because right now it’s my favorite, and because I’m really not sure what the key selling point is. There’s minimal structure, the whole thing is often one giant tangent, and nothing of value is taught. I suppose Gabrus himself is the selling point, as the man just has a talent for putting his guests at ease and getting everyone in the room laughing. Listening to the show is genuinely fun, and that, more than anything else, is what keeps me coming back.

                For those wondering, Action Boyz is a Patreon podcast that’s sort of like High and Mighty swirled with How Did This Get Made, as Gabrus and a crew of fellow comedians spend hours reveling in the glory/horror of classic action movies.

                Hopefully this helps you folks find some new shows to try, and if you’ve got any great podcasts that you think deserve more love then share them in the comments below for everyone else to enjoy!

My Outlining Process

                Part of writing is outlining, and even if you don’t choose to do it in the more concrete ways of writing it down, we all outline to some extent. After all, if you start a book with literally no idea where it will go or end, odds are strong that won’t be a good book, or one that even gets finished. So we all outline, and as we gain experience we find the way that works for us and refine it further and further, learning to get the most from our planning methodology. And, when you’re lucky enough to do the work full time, sometimes people will ask about how you outline in hopes of getting a jumpstart on their own process.

                Today, I’m going to talk about the way I currently outline works, but only with the very strong caveat that this is my way of outlining that works for me. If you read this and it sounds like it would be a terrible way to do your own work, then feel free to ignore it. Outlining is a process we all have to find out our tweaks and methods for, mine is no more or less effective than others, it just happens to be the one that meshed well with my books. Now, with all the warnings out of the way, let’s jump on in.

                I use a method of outlining I tend to call “checkpoint outlining” although in all honesty I don’t know if that’s the real name or just a slang term that got adopted somewhere along the way. Checkpoint outlining works first by figuring out the major turns you want your story to take. A big fight at point X, a love scene at point Y, a jailbreak at point Z; you get the idea. The ending is especially important here, since all of your major events in the book need to be leading toward the finish. I should also add that by “major” events I mean events integral to the story, even if the scenes aren’t big ones themselves. Passing off a key item in what seems like a trivial scene in a gum factory would still be a checkpoint, for example.

                Once you know your major events, plot them out chronologically. What leads to what that in turn leads to what. Get those down, and you’ll effectively have a road map of your story. The start, the end, and all the major points in between. And here is where my outlining process in terms of story tends to stop. For me, part of the joy of writing a story is not knowing everything I’ll type. The thrill of discovery keeps things fresh and unpredictable on my end, which in turn makes the writing experience more fun. I always know where I’m going, heading toward the next checkpoint, but having space in between those events to play with is where I get to do my character exploration and find the most natural ways to take them to the next checkpoint.

                It does bear saying, however, that writing like this usually means some heavier work in the post-writing edits. Since you didn’t have every detail plotted out in advance, there are bound to be a few false starts or pointless elements in the book. Part of editing with this kind of outline is either stripping those bits out entirely or re-working them so they foreshadow the proper plot points. Remember, it doesn’t have to all be perfect and cohesive on the first draft, that’s why we take our time to edit and re-write, sewing things up and making sure it all flows smoothly.

                Honestly, that more or less explains my outlining process; it’s a fairly straightforward one. That said, we’re much too short on content to end the blog, so let’s tackle a different aspect of outlining: character creation. I’ve talked before about building superheroes (or similar) for high-powered stories using RPG mechanics to ensure they don’t come out overpowered, but there’s really some outlining work to do for all characters, regardless of genre or role.

                I like to keep notecards about my characters, first in paper, now using a site called Trello. On those cards I do basics: names, ages, distinctive parts about their looks, things that I’ll want to keep straight at a glance. Beyond that, I also like to include details about them that are important to the core of their character. Fears are useful, alliances and friendships doubly so, the more history the better in general, but there is one aspect that I consider absolutely essential to the card: what does the character want?

                It doesn’t have to be a big, emotional desire, like to pay for their sick grandma’s surgery. Few people are motivated daily by something that grand. No, this is the question more centered on what gets through the weekly grind. Are they saving up for a new car? Paying for night school to get a better job? Hoping to afford rent? Plotting to overthrow a guild of superheroes? Dreaming of opening their own shop one day? There isn’t a wrong answer to any of these; it’s just a question of knowing what that character desires. Because if you know that, then every time there’s a conflict for them, a choice to face or a task to clear, you can look back at what they want and decide how that desire coupled with their personality would have them choose. If they’re the self-denial type, maybe they go away from their desires for the good of others. If they’re ruthless, maybe they move forward regardless of the cost. Knowing a characters wants doesn’t necessarily give an automatic answer to every question they’ll face, however it does provide you with a compass so that at least the direction of their actions should be consistent through the story.

                That’s a pretty good rundown of how I outline these days, although as I age and get more practice some details here and there will surely change. Give it a shot if it sounds like a good system for you, or go read about other forms of outlining if you know this won’t work at all. And don’t be discouraged if you have trouble finding a tactic that clicks, we’ve all got to find our ways to do this job. Keep trying new things, and eventually you’ll find yours.

Thunder Pear Publishing Orientation Letter

                This week, our source inside Thunder Pear Publishing (definitely not Grant, for sure) has leaked an internal document we’ve never seen before: his Orientation Letter. Very few of these make it out of the company, because… well, you’ll see. Regardless, we appreciate his sacrifice, and are thrilled to share this rare behind the scenes peek at the inner workings of a company that potential investors have called “a trash fire that has come to live and is determined to burn down the world” and “not a good investment.” Enjoy!

 

Hello There!

                Welcome to Thunder Pear Publishing, the world’s drunkest publisher for three years running (suck it Random House!) and purveyor of fine fiction in multiple formats. If you’re reading this, then you’re one of the lucky few to make it through our grueling interviews, assessments, and keggers to prove you have what it takes to work here. Someone from HR will guide you through the office and show you to your department, but first, there are some essential ground rules you’ll need to know in order to safely navigate the Thunder Pear Publishing facilities.

1) Thunder Pear Publishing accepts no liability for any injuries, be they mental, physical, or spiritual, incurred on their property. This includes, but is not limited to: liver damage, bite marks, poisoning (alcoholic and normal), possession by ghost, assault by ghost, insult by ghost (our ghost is kind of a dick), mental fatigue, soul-displacement, stubbed toes, and dimensional transfer.

2) Battle Karaoke is strictly optional, despite what others will try to convince you. Subterfuge and trickery are two well-honed weapons in our ongoing fight, so be wary of anything others tell you beyond this point. Oh, the one exception is, of course, the Golden Microphone. Should you be presented with that item, you are forced to participate at the next tournament, but victory will allow you to claim ownership of the Golden Microphone. Failure, however, will result in trashcan punch.

3) Thunder Pear Publishing defines “trashcan punch” to be random liquors thrown into a (cleaned, we won that right in a prior Battle Karaoke tournament) plastic bin and stirred no more than four times. Or whatever is in Mr. Hayes’ coffee cup at any given moment. The proof of such concoctions will be variable, and should a sip accidentally dissolve the inner linings of your stomach, please refer back to Point 1 on your Orientation Letter.

4) Thunder Pear Publishing is not a drug free workplace. Much like restaurants, bars, and particle physics labs, we know the kind of talent we attract and are fully aware that a random drug screening would likely see us firing 90% of our staff. However, since “the man” is still a fucking buzzkill (Mr. Hayes’ words), we do ask that you at least give the company reasonable deniability. Smoke on the outdoor patio, and if you’re going to down mysterious substances in the bathroom, at least do it in a stall so no one has to walk in on you at a sink. Also, should you take hallucinogens, please don the inflated water wings available by every elevator. It’s not about judgement, it’s about figuring out who we’re actually talking too and who is having the same conversation with a nine-headed imaginary dog named Fluffer-Nutter.

5) Snitches get Stiches. But aside from our Quidditch equipment policy, don’t narc on your co-workers. After a few months working here, you might very well be the one who needs a mind-altering day off.

6) The hot tubs on Floor 3 are open to all for use 24/7, except from 3 am – 4 am every morning when they undergo regular maintenance. We understand that this is inconvenient for those pulling all-nighters who need some relief, but trust us when we say you do not want a cleaning session skipped on these. Again, they are open to the whole office, and you know what kind of people we hire here. I mean, look at yourself. Would you get into an uncleaned hot tub a whole building full of you has been in? We thought not.

7) The champagne hot tubs on Floor 7 are only accessible to senior staff, anyone who currently holds a title within the company no lower than Baron, and of course anyone who wins executive rights for the quarter by completing Mr. Hayes’ Triple Threat Power Hours. These events are a quarterly gathering where Mr. Hayes holds three Power Hours back to back. As a newcomer, you’ll no doubt want to participate, but heed this piece of advice first: bring a large bucket. Vomit is a very real concern, and attempting so many Power Hours in a row is tempting fate. Also, you’ll be pounding liquid for 3 hours so… yeah, just have the bucket on hand to be safe. Our cleaning staff cannot stress that enough.

8) Any door marked with a red “H” indicates that inside is an employee or entity who requires no less than 3 years and a full certification in the mystical arts to deal with properly. Please do not attempt to enter these doors on your own without the aforementioned training, unless you are in the care of a senior staff member. The doors marked with a slightly lighter shade of red “H”, however, contain free food and liquor, as well as the chance to advance your career. Also, the “H” doors will randomly change during the night, so there’s no use trying to remember which is which. We have asked Mr. Hayes repeatedly about giving more distinction between the shades of red, but his reply is a resounding “No risk, no reward” so it is what it is.

9) Throughout the year, there will be regular office events. While these are meant to be fun for employees, please keep in mind that some level of coordination and self-control is necessary, so heed any missives sent out by the HR department in regards to what rules and expectations apply at each particular event. That said, should Mr. Hayes suddenly scream something that contradicts information given in an HR memo, default to assuming that Mr. Hayes is correct. Since it is his company, only he ultimately decides what constitutes an infraction of the company rules. Our investors have tried to discuss this with him; however none of the board has been able to out keg-stand Mr. Hayes, meaning they weren’t able to officially speak at any of the board meetings thus far.

10) Finally, please remember that Thunder Pear Publishing is a unique company, one with its own sets of challenges, metrics, and methods of advancement. It will be a confusing first few days for you, but if you survive and keep showing up, you may find it to be just the fit you were looking for. Additionally, at any time after your first month of working here, you may present this letter to an HR employee to be granted a week of executive privileges. Mr. Hayes likes all of his dedicated employees to experience what lies further up the corporate ladder in hopes of keeping turnover as low as possible, and Thunder Pear Publishing only promotes from within. Of course, that’s largely because no one without proper preparation would have a liver and spirit capable of surviving their first executive board meeting, but it still means there is ample room for advancement here.

                We look forward to working with you, and hope you enjoy your tenure here at Thunder Pear Publishing! Now you should probably hide under the desk, the HR representative coming to pick you up will likely be armed with either a confetti or tequila canon.

 -From the desk of Carol Dempsy, Thunder Pear Publishing HR Coordinator and Halloween Liaison.

Discussing an Actual Writer's Retreat

                A few weeks back I made a humor post about doing a Shitshow Writer’s Retreat. And while that might have been redundant (every retreat I’m at will be a shitshow regardless) the truth is a writer’s retreat is something I’ve actually been wanting to put together. After the popularity of that post and the messages I received, it seems like a topic many folks wanted to know more about. So, today I’m going to discuss what would go into doing an actual retreat, what the potential ways I’ve found to make it happen are, and what challenges are keeping it from becoming a reality. Maybe putting it all down and allowing folks who might know more than me to chime in will be what we need to make it a reality. First things first, though, we should talk about…

 

The Actual Retreat

                Having (admittedly) limited experience with these, the ideal setup for mine would be one that allowed both solitude and community as people required it. The sole retreat I’ve been to, a wonderful, very affordable place I found out about from Rob Kroese called Norma’s Villas, accomplished this by having individual homes/cabins for each person, as well as central places for meals, classes, etc. While I would love to do something similar, maybe a remote spot with loads of cabins, unfortunately in my research I’ve found few locations with such accommodation, so the most likely way to fulfill that would be by renting rooms in a hotel. Sidenote: if you know of or run a lodging that would fit these needs, hit me up, I am certainly willing to take recommendations.

                Now, the content itself would be, shockingly, not too far off from what I outlined in the joke version of this blog. Since I’m the one spearheading it, I would take on doing a daily class for all attendees, probably in the mornings. Depending on who I could get to join in, we would also have supplemental lessons where you could learn from other authors on their particular specialty. Afternoons would be sectioned off for workshop groups (assigned randomly upon arrival) and personal writing time. Evenings would be social events, dinners, maybe outings depending on where we were and how close fun stuff was. There would also be on-site events like jeering at bad movies, gaming, and of course at least one Power Hour.

                While we could pack more into the schedule, I want to leave a lot of time free so people can work on collaborative projects. You can listen to advice anywhere, and writing is a thing you can do from home, so the real drive of this should be the chance to interact with other authors. Making videos, talking podcasts, maybe even laying out the groundwork for an anthology, however you want to spend your free time is up to you. Personally, I’ll be active and about, especially if I can coax some of the other A&D guys into attending.

                That hits most of the conceptual notes for a retreat, more granular issues like meals would be determined based on where we ended up staying, so I can’t really dig in any deeper on those without knowing more. So, with the outline done, let’s touch on…

 

How It Could Be Done

                At current, the only way I’ve found that might be viable to make this happen is something like Kickstarter or IndieGogo. The biggest hurdle is, obviously, ensuring that there’s enough cash to cover the cost of the event. If I could find an ideal location, then I would need to make sure adequate space was booked, which would be tough to do before knowing how much actual interest there was in such a retreat. Going out of pocket on that kind of cost is a little more risk than I can bite off for a fun side-project, so crowd-funding with the lowest tier being a room at the retreat would ensure everyone who wanted to attend would have the chance to buy a ticket. If things went well and more folks were interested after the funding ended, we could talk to the location about opening up more slots, but our early folks would be locked in.

                I like this method better than trying to pre-sell tickets for a simple reason: it’s cut and dry. If we make enough to fund the retreat then we hold it, and if we fall short then no one gets charged anything, saving the trouble of having to manually refund everyone for a cancelled event. This also makes things very transparent, so that anyone wanting to attend could watch the numbers tick up and see whether or not it had a chance at happening. That said, this method does present challenges of its own, so if you more internet savvy folks have better ideas for how to gauge interest and collect funds, I am certainly open to hearing more about it.

                That feels like as good a place as any to transition to…

 

The Challenges

                Just from the paragraphs overhead, you can already tell that finding a spot is a hurdle that hasn’t been fully cleared, and funding the event itself is more a sketch of a plan than a plan itself. It should also probably be mentioned that my lack of experience also counts as a challenge. Yes, I’m good at figuring shit out on the fly, but I’m also someone who learns by experience and failure, which isn’t necessarily the best person to have heading an event like this. Everyone remember stories about Dash-Con or Fyre Festival? I can’t imagine we’d be quite that bad, but failing to account for the possibility of mishaps would be pure hubris, especially given my experience at this. Now that can be mitigated by inviting and talking to people more knowledgeable about retreats than me, but until those people exist and are on board I still have to count my inexperience as a challenge.

                Another issue is that, as mentioned above, running a crowd-funding campaign is in itself a hurdle to clear, as many folks expect a level of polish and showmanship that might be hard something as simple as funding a retreat to match, especially since I wouldn’t be able to spend as much time on the campaign as I might like. Still have to keep writing, after all. This one could be fixed by (again) consulting those who know more than me, so the risk is slightly minimized.

                Sidenote: any of you who are noticing that a lot of my solutions to problems are to ask people with more expertise, you have now found one of the main reasons to host and attend these kinds of events. This industry is huge, and making friends with those who have different specialties is one of the best ways to navigate it. Never be embarrassed to lack knowledge or ask for help, on another topic folks might be turning to you for guidance. It’s a core aspect of learning.

                Okay, I think that runs down the plan pretty well. I hope this gives more information for the folks who were really excited by the idea of doing a retreat. If you’re one of those folks, and/or you have input on some of the challenges posed in this blog, feel free to comment below or email me (NovelistDrew@gmail.com). While this started as more whim than plan, the more I think about it the more fun I’m sure it would be. Who knows, if enough people feel the same way we might just be able to get something off the ground.

Common New Writer Questions

                Since we’re still in January, a new year finally getting properly underway, I thought this would be a good time to do something like an Q&A or an FAQ, but specifically for issues folks new to the publishing game, or even hoping to be new to publishing, will often grapple with. These won’t apply to 100% of you, obviously, since every author takes their own journey. However, I’ve been online long enough to see these questions/issues pop up with substantial frequency, so hopefully this will help some folks who are out there working their way toward their goals.

 

1) When do you call yourself a writer?

                Maybe this isn’t the best one to start with, since the answer will be highly subjective, but I already typed it so here we are. Making the shift from a more traditional job to writing has a lot of hurdles in itself, yet this is possibly the most existential of them. At what point is it okay to start telling people you’re a writer when they ask what you do? Or, in a broader context, when do you start owning writing as part of your career, rather than a hobby you deeply enjoy? Of course that’s going to be different for everyone, up until the moment where you actually go full-time at which point it becomes the only honest answer.

                Some writers don’t mention being writers until they hit that very point, feeling that only the distinction of living off their work makes the difference. I’ve talked before about what makes someone a writer, so I won’t rehash too much here, but I don’t think you need to feel forced to wait quite that long. If that’s what you choose, more power to you, however the advice I give people in person is simply this: Once you’re comfortable showing people your catalogue, that’s when you should include writer among your jobs. This way you can answer specific follow-up questions that are likely to come, and have something you can point at to reassure yourself that yes, you made this, you deserve this title. Again though, there is no hard and fast answer here, so remember that the rules are fluid and you should go with what makes you comfortable.

 

2) When do I feel like a real, professional author?

                For some of you, this question is a redo of the one above it, but for many it likely made perfect sense. While I’ve talked about this before, it’s something that can’t be repeated too often: Imposter Syndrome impacts tons of authors. Pretty much every author I know, honestly, self-included. In case anyone doesn’t know, Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you don’t deserve your own success, and a fear that eventually there will be an “Emperor has no clothes” moment where everyone realizes you actually suck. That’s part of working in a subjective medium. If you make an engine and it runs, you’re a good mechanic. If you make a book or a painting, everyone who experiences it will view it as a different level of good.

                All this culminates in a lot of people who have achieved respected levels of success feeling like they don’t belong. So, to answer the question of when that fades and you really feel like you’ve made it… there’s no answer to give. I don’t know when that sets in, when the doubt about your base abilities finally fades. It very well might never go away. Instead of worrying about it, though, I find it helps to take a minute and realize that all the authors you love and respect, all the names who came before you, almost certainly have felt or still feel the exact same way. We’re all just people doing the best we can to make something others enjoy. So long as you’re doing that, you are absolutely earning your spot, no matter what your doubt wants you to believe.

 

3) How many sales does it take for a book to be successful?

                I think part of this ties in with the Imposter Syndrome issues. Lacking a true objective measure, sales are often used instead as a judgement of quality. The idea being that if one can hit an arbitrary target, they will feel as though they’ve reached a tier of success. While knowing the numbers can be important when you’re aiming to take the top spots in categories or make the NYT Best-Seller list, those concerns are generally years away, at best, for newer writers.

                Rather than look outward for sales targets, I would coach most writers to examine their own histories. The goal of every new release should be to try catching the attention of a few more people, and hope they enjoy the story. If your first book sells 100 copies, and your second sell 125 copies, that is a successful book. You grew your audience, and ideally a large portion of that number are people who enjoyed your first work and wanted more. This won't happen every time, different books will appeal to different people, and not all are guaranteed to find the same audience. Still, if at the end of the year you can see that more people are enjoying your work, then that’s a success, regardless of how big or small the numbers might be.

 

4) How do I get published?

                This is a classic, but one that still warrants addressing, especially as the options for new writers grow every year. For today, we’ll focus purely on the ebook market, since other avenues have unique challenges that would require more space to address. I won’t try to get detail-heavy with this one, rather just offering up a quick overview of the main methods. If you want to go deeper, you’ll have to pick your method and start researching. That’s part of the job too.

                Self/Indie Publishing: No publisher or agent needed. All the work is on you, the author, to either do or outsource. You can upload to Nook, Google Play, or one of the other smaller sites, but you must upload to Amazon.  I’m not saying you have to go exclusive, only that Amazon is the ebook market right now, whether we like it or not.

                Small-to-Medium Press: Many of these will accept submissions without agents. When you find those, be sure to pay close attention to their requirements, genres, and other details to ensure your work is a good fit for them. Much of the work will be handled by the publisher, especially editing, formatting, and cover art.

                Medium-to-Big 5 Press: For these, you’ll almost certainly need to get an agent, and be willing to hold your book back for some while as it is shopped around. I would recommend pursuing this in tandem with another method, since the process to find an agent, shop a book, and eventually see it published can take years, and doesn’t always end in success. If you do get accepted, you’ll have access to skilled professionals, so be sure to listen well and take as much as you can from their experience.

The 1st Drew Hayes Shitshow Writer’s Conference

                As part of the ever-growing necessity to expand one’s brand, here at Thunder Pear Publishing we are committed to doing whatever is required to stay afloat in the chaotic seas of the modern book market. Whether it be Drew Hayes brand scented beer soaps (for when you want the DUI smell without the risk) or Drew Hayes brand megaphones (now you can be as loud as Drew!) we are going to keep solvent no matter how we have to shill. And in the spirit of that, I am proud to announce the first ever Drew Hayes Shitshow Writer’s Conference.

                Yes, now you too can sit in a room with Drew, asking thoughtful questions about serious issues and hurdles about breaking into the publishing industry, only to be met with a vacant stare and eventual intoxicated rambling. Lest you fear that might get old, worry not. This writing conference will be stacked with activities and classes to help you hone your art! Not excited yet? Well, how about I mention:

-There will be an open bar. However, the bar will only serve trashcan punch, which Drew will make more of whenever the cooler has been finished. Depending on how drunk he is will impact the potency, from “deeply flammable” to “definitely illegal” so every sip is a game of Russian Roulette with your liver. You are also welcome to BYOB if you don’t want to put your body at risk for a free drink.

-Drew will have a class specifically on how to succeed in self-publishing. We’re not sure how he’s going to stretch “write a shitload” and “be lucky” into an entire discussion, but we’ve seen him blather for an hour about the new Ducktales, so really it shouldn’t be too tough to accomplish.

-After substantial market research, we have decided to hold the event in either Colorado or California, for their… scenic views. Okay, look, we’re marketing this to writers, and there’s a bit of overlap in that group and the ones who are suddenly big fans of Colorado. Got to put asses in those seats however we can.

-You will have the opportunity to work with your fellow writers! Every night, there will be some form of writing competition. If your team wins, you are given an extra helping of whatever dinner has been cobbled together (probably sandwiches) and first pick of the beds for the evening. We’re not going to spend a lot on a nice location, so work hard or you’ll probably end up on a lumpy couch. Motivation!

-There will also be daily drinking challenges. We don’t actually have anything planned for this, but it’s Drew, with a crowd of writers and a barrel of trash can punch. It doesn’t take Sherman Holmes’ 5-minutes of brilliance to put the pieces together on that deduction.

-We’ll do more than just help you write, too. There will be classes focused on the other aspects of working full time as a writer. These include:

                -Explaining to people that you’re not rich or famous just because you publish.
                -How to covertly cry in the shower when the market is tanking.
                -Sadness and Fear: Unbeatable foes or reasons to get turnt?
                -Politely turning down your parents offers to set you up on job interviews.
                -Oh shit, you forgot a deadline. Writing sprint!
                -How to slap together a shitty conference and pad your bottom line.

-Lest you think you’ll be weary of writing and writing related-talk, there will be classes covering other subjects as well. Learn how to create a podcast, followed immediately by a class on market saturation. We’ll also talk video work, as well as other ways to expand your brand in the hopes of sticking out amidst literally countless other authors all fighting for the spotlight.

-Let’s be honest here, there will be Power Hours. You know it, Drew knows it, really anyone who hears about this event knows it. Some of you will be invited to film Drinkalong Power Hours with Drew, creating an exciting opportunity to plug your own work while getting impractically drunk on the internet. For our, ahem, Colorado enthusiasts, substitute substances are also allowed when Power Houring. We’re all getting old, and Drew respects that some folks have to take it easy on their livers after too much fun in their 20s.

-For one night, and one night only, Drew will arrive sober and have a serious discussion about major hurdles many authors need to overcome. He will touch on finding freelancers, how to constantly produce content, dealing with imposter syndrome, and managing the uncertain levels of income. Once that session has completed, he will drink deeply from the trash can punch for a solid minute, then proceed to try and fight a telephone pole. You may place bets, but be warned: the odds will heavily favor the telephone pole.

-Outside of just learning and writing, you’ll have opportunities to bond with your fellow writers. Meal times (sandwiches), conversation corner, nightly dances, shot races, daily battles atop Death Blood Mountain, ice-breakers, and many collaborative project challenges. When this conference ends, you won’t just have new lessons to incorporate into your writing, you’ll also leave with several new friends. And, if we’re being upfront, a couple of enemies too. Have to keep things balanced.

-On the final night, with the full moon high overhead, Drew will lead you all deep into the forest. There, he will draw a dagger blessed by the nameless monks who serve the gods hidden between the stars. Drew will plunge this dagger deep into the heart of a hundred-year-old oak. When blood pours from the wound, you will each be invited to drink. Those who can do so without vomiting shall be marked, and in the coming decade their careers will swell. But someday, the price for their success will come, and it will be their turn to find a forest with an ancient oak during a full moon. Some contracts cannot be broken, only passed on.

-After the tree thing, we’ll kick off our S’mores Jamboree! Trust us, you’re going to want something to wash the taste of oak blood from your mouths.

                If you’re sitting there, screaming at your computer about where to click, have no fear. We’ll have tickets available as soon as a final location is secured. The cost will be a meager $10,000 per person, although if you’re one of the first five people to book we’ve cut the price to a shocking $5,000 per person (plus you have to bring six bottles of booze. Real liquor, too, not Triple Sec or shit like that). We look forward to seeing many of you out there, and hopefully sending you all back home safely! That’s not really in our hands, though. That choice belongs to the oak.

                PS: I know some folks are aware I’ve talked about doing an actual writer’s conference sometime in the coming years. This isn’t that. That one probably won’t have the word “shitshow” in the title. Probably.

Great Group Games

                It’s been kind of a heavy week on the site, what with SP wrapping up and all, so I thought for this blog we’d do something simple and fun. Many of you presumably have gift cards to burn since the Christmas season has come to a close, and from the comments during the game night sections of the story I know lots of readers were interested in the fictional board games that the Melbrook crew played. While those were all made up, I have been playing a lot of board games with friends lately, and this seems like a good time to do a rundown of a few really fun ones, for those into that sort of thing.

 

Red Flags

                This is one of the more interesting takes on a judge-system, the method used by Joking Hazard and Cards Against Humanity where everyone has to impress a single player. Rather than just tossing cards into a pile, though, this is a game that demands a little theatre. The premise is that you have good traits (white flags) and bad traits (red flags), and the judge player is choosing which one they would take on a date. You have to sell your good traits (is a billionaire, can travel through dimensions, celebrity) while making your bad traits (has 100 teeth, sounds just like your mother) seem inconsequential. It demands a lot of thinking on your feet and reading the judge, plus the rounds go quick.

Drinking Game: If you ain’t first, you’re last. (All players but each round’s winner take a drink)

Rage Potential: Minimal. If you get mad playing this one, it’s on you.

 

Sheriff of Nottingham

                You get to lie to your friends. Okay, okay, its technically “bluffing” if you want to be pedantic about it. Basically this is a game where each round one person is the sheriff, and the others are trying to smuggle goods/contraband through in pouches. Whether or not you’ll be busted comes down to an array of lying, bribing, trickery, and general deception. It’s a ton of fun, especially as you learn your friend’s tells and tactics. It’s also a very easy game to pick up as you play, since almost all of the mechanics are interpersonal.

Drinking Game: Liar liar, cup on fire. (If you get caught lying, you drink. If you’re the sheriff and you wrongly accuse someone of lying, you drink)

Rage Potential: Some. Slip a really good hand of contraband past a sheriff and they may briefly lose their cool, but since everyone is a liar it never lasts long.

 

Elder Sign

                This one is a classic for a reason, and it’s also way more complex than the previous games mentioned so I won’t try to delve much into the details. What you need to know, and why I like this game so much, is that it’s Players vs. The Game, meaning everyone who plays is on the same side. You’re working together to stop an abomination from rising, so it’s the kind of game where you all win together or lose together. Cooperative games hit a good spot with me, it makes the table more communal and means that good or bad, the tide turns for all of us evenly. That’s also the same reason that I like playing craps more than any other casino game.

Drinking Game: DOOOOOOM! (Drink everytime a Doom or Elder Sign token is added)

Rage Potential: Minimal. While there will be bad breaks, and you might lose, the anger is always aimed toward the dice/game, since that’s the actual enemy.

 

The Voting Game

                You’ll need a decent group for this one; I’d recommend 5 at the smallest to keep things interesting. It works well with both friends and strangers, although they probably won’t be strangers for long when playing this. The game is simple, a card gives a prompt (Who is most likely to kill a case of beer in a night?) and then everyone anonymously votes for the player they think fits the bill. Some of the prompts are dirty, some are silly, some are just off the wall, but it’s usually all in good fun. This is the only game that I will say I strongly recommend adding the drinking game too, however, because it tacks on an extra layer that really adds to the experience.

Drinking Game: Who said what? (Guess who voted for you. If you get it right, they drink. Get it wrong, and you drink. No confirming or denying accusations until every player has made their guesses.)

Bonus Drinking Game: They know about you. (If every other player votes for one person on a prompt, there are no guesses and that player takes a shot.)

Rage Potential: Moderate. I mean… yeah, nature of this game. Just try to keep it all in good fun, and maybe skip over cards you think might hurt your friends’ feelings.

 

The Red Dragon Inn

                Let’s close this off with a game that’s actually about drinking. In this game, you are a party of adventurers who have just wrapped a quest, so now you’re getting shitfaced in the bar with your friends. Like Elder Sign before, there’s a lot to delve into on this one, but once you get the hang of things it’s pretty straightforward. Unlike Elder Sign, however, you are very much playing against your friends on this one. There are countless ways to screw your other players over while helping yourself, and who is in the lead changes with sudden and constant frequency as the game goes on.

Drinking Game: Duh (You drink when your character has to drink)

Rage Potential: Holy shit. This isn’t quite as high up there as Munchkin, but the constant swing of momentum means you’ll see people go from first to last in the span of a few turns. So yeah, put on some soothing music and maybe slip your more high-tension players a little tea to mellow them out.

                As an aside, I love learning new games, so if you have any you love throw them in the comments below. Especially if they have drinking games attached!

2017 Wrap Up

               Oh 2017. For the world as a whole, you were a god damn shitshow, but other sites will be covering that with more skill and research than I could ever hope to, so instead we’ll keep this more self-focused. Otherwise, we’ll all start drinking now and not stop until 2019. For me, this year seemed to fly by, as I bounded from one ambitious project to another. Thankfully, I learned my lesson in years prior and didn’t over-extend, so it was a very happy bouncing as I wasn’t completely crushed under deadlines.

                Per the usual format, I’m going to take a couple of paragraphs to look back at all I managed this year, and I would encourage you to do the same. Consistently, I go into these thinking I’ll have nothing to write, and by the end I am shocked at all that has happened. Make a few lists for yourself; you might be amazed at the memories that spring up when you start digging for them.

                In a lot of ways, 2017 was the opposite of 2016. Whereas last year I only released sequels to existing properties, in 2017 I launched a new series with Forging Hephaestus, and released my first standalone in years with Second Hand Curses. Second Hand Curses also marked a new experience for me as it was my first time working with Audible as a publisher, and my first audio-exclusive book. That’s not to say it was all new though, the fourth Fred novel, Fangs of Freelance, was my other book this year and marked a significant change in Fred’s life (that’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers). My own life changed as well during 2017. I moved out of Deep Ellum and managed to buy a house in the suburbs. I also learned my neighborhood takes Halloween fucking seriously, which is rad as shit but means I have to bring it hard next year! Outside of just Texas, I had a lot happen as well. I stepped up my Con game, hitting places like Charlotte, Denver, Phoenix, and Austin. In Charlotte, I got to do a live A&D podcast with every member present for the first time. I also got a hangover that could slay a god, but that’s just part of the experience. Speaking of Authors & Dragons, we launched our Patreon in 2017, and started producing our bonus content with the Mimic Chest. I got to meet Gordon Korman, one of my lifelong literary heroes, as well as the talented Kirby Heyborne who does the voice of my Fred books. And, lest we ever forget, I made some new Drinkalong Power Hours.

                And yet, busy a year as it was, come January 1st it all fades into the rearview mirror, so let’s turn our eyes toward the horizon and the year yet to come. As most of you probably know by this point, I believe in New Year’s Goals, not resolutions, and I’ve got a few in mind for 2018!

 

2018 Goals

                1. Publish Super Powereds: Year 4. Now from the announcement blog a few weeks ago you know this is on track, but it is still very much a big part of my 2018 plan and I’m giving the book a little space here.

                2. Finish and Publish Fred #5. This is going to be a fun one, and while there’s still a bit while to go I’m excited about getting this one out to you. As always, since I use a publisher for these they are out of my hands on the release dates, but if we keep the same time frame as usual then you should be getting this one sometime in summer, with the audio version to follow months later.

                3. Write and Publish a new Spells, Swords, & Stealth book. That’s right my RPG fans, the first book I’m working on this year (after Fred #5 is wrapped) will be the continuing adventures of Thistle, Eric, Gabrielle, Grumph, Timuscor, and, of course, Mr. Peppers. The goal is to have it out by fall 2018, though we might slip into winter depending on how long everything takes.

                4. Writing Villains’ Code 2. I’m not thinking this one will hit the market in 2018, given the size of these monsters and the fact that it has another book ahead of it in the queue. Still, I’d feel good if I got this one completed in 2018, both because it will let the editors get moving so we can pull off a 2018 release, and because I just can’t wait to jump back into that world and tell some new stories.

                5. Do a Full Year of Shingles with A&D. By this point you’ve learned about our new project, and honestly this one is almost cheating as a goal. Given how many we’ve got locked and ready to publish, there’s little change of us failing on this one, yet it is still something I want to see through, so damnit that’s a goal!

                6. Focus My Cons. With writing planned out, a big goal for me this year is to use what I’ve learned and start doing cons more intelligently. Instead of pinging around, I’m hoping to hit a few bigger ones in large geographic areas, allowing me to meet with the most number of fans and hopefully give most of you a con that’s quasi-nearby if you want to say hello. So far the only ones I know for certain are Emerald Comic Con and 90% ConCarolina, so if you’re around Charlotte or Seattle I’ll be out there. As for the rest, watch the Events page and I’ll make announcements as soon as I get confirmations.

                7. TV/Movie Deal. Hey, just because it hasn’t happened in years before is no reason to stop trying. Every year is a new opportunity, and besides, if I was going to give up easy this is not the profession I would have chosen.

                8. More Live Events. By this point, I’ll have done the Wine Walk with readers down in Deep Ellum, but I hope to have more in the year ahead. I’ve got a few ideas, like doing an actual launch party for Year 4 somewhere in DFW, and my general goal is to make myself a little more available to readers. Expect some missteps and false starts as I get my feet wet in this area, but eventually I’ll figure things out and hopefully put on a few great events for everyone.

                That feels like enough to take up a big chunk of the year. What about you all, though? Tell me your New Year’s Goals in the comments below, as well as if you accomplished any you set for 2017. Thanks to all of you for making this year so adventurous and entertaining, I can only imagine what 2018 has in store for us all.

Drew's Holiday Cocktail Guide

                As you all may have figured out by the site, books, blogs, Power Hour videos, tweets, and general lifestyle: I’m a fan of booze. Not to the extent of my younger days, but then we can’t stay flammable all the time. Got to have something to look forward to on the weekends. Now with the holidays upon us, I know many of you are off to see families or work events where pounding a full bottle of wine is seen as “unprofessional” or “a desperate cry for help”. Well fear not, readers, for I am here to provide you with some festive drinks that celebrate the holiday season while also allowing you to get torn up when your racist uncle starts getting political.

 

Eggnog

                Hang on, hang on, don’t call me fucker and click the “X” just yet. I’m not talking about store bought shit. That is basically flavored milk… which to an extent is true of all eggnog, but it’s really true in those cases. Homemade Eggnog is a whole other entity unto itself. I thought I hated eggnog for the longest time, then my family started crafting its own, and that shit has become a holiday staple. Without fail, every year, we whip up a batch only to have a guest say they don’t like eggnog, to which we reply that yes they do; they just don’t know it yet. And we have yet to be proven wrong.

                Now, for our purposes what makes eggnog so great is that you must put booze in it. Literally, it’s a core component. The alcohol cooks the raw egg yolks like lime juice in a ceviche, ensuring no one gets sick. So with a drink that’s going to smell like bourbon regardless, you can easily slip a floater of whatever size you like in there and it will look/smell about the same. Eggnog is a perfect concealment device for hooch, allowing you to chug however much is necessary to forget about how itchy that “ironically” ugly sweater you’re wearing is. Plus, when made well, it is fucking delicious. In fact, I think I’ll have some now.

 

Fire-Cider

                This is the easiest thing to make, because it’s two ingredients and one cooking apparatus. Ready? Take a bottle of cider, pour it into a crock pot, and then add Fireball (or cinnamon whiskey if you have a different preferred brand). How much Fireball? Well, how good do you want the party to be? I like to start with half a bottle then allow people to add floaters as needed, but you do you. Turn the crock pot to low, leave it for about 20 minutes, and when you come back you will have a delicious warmed cider that has a hint of a punch, but doesn’t betray the powerful amount of hooch inside.

                As mentioned above, this is a great one to pair with floaters as it will smell/look the same as the normal glasses people are drinking. Be wary of this drink, however. Make it too strong, and the rest of the family might accidentally get tipsy as well. No one needs to hear Grandpa start talking about what words he used to be able to say back in the “good” old days. You know your family and their tolerance, choose your amounts wisely. Mmm, this has put me in the mood for Fire-Cider though. Be right back.

 

Wine

                Man, wine is great, right? So tasty, comes in bottles, and hey, drinking it is considered classy. You can go whole fucking hog on some wine and who’s going to notice? I’ve got a bottle right here, well what’s left of a bottle, and damn does it vanish quickly.

                You can also fortify your wine with a little clear liquor; let’s say vodka, to bring on an extra punch. The taste is… hang on let me take a sip. Yup, that’s fucking terrible. But hey, it still looks like wine, and that’s what really matters. Just pound it fast and try to disguise the wincing on your face with every sip. After the first few gulps, the enhanced wine actually gets easier to drink. Weird how that works, huh? Hey, is this room hot to anyone else? How strange. And where did the rest of my wine go?

 

Shots

                You know what, fuck it. Rather than hiding what we’re doing, let’s own that shit. Sit at the dinner table dead-eyed with only a bottle of booze and a shot glass, steadily downing one drink after the other. If that doesn’t scare away conversation, I can’t imagine what will. And this booze is delicious, it goes down smooth, there’s really no downside here to-

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Mimosas

                Shhh, not so loud. Okay, so perhaps my earlier entries on this list were a tad ambitious. After an intentional nap, definitely not a drunken passout with my face on the keyboard, I’ve considered that perhaps one doesn’t need to hit it quite that hard at family gatherings. In the event that you do, however, then you’ll be faced with mankind’s oldest and most powerful enemy: the hangover. Here, we turn to our ancient guardian, the mimosa. Its delicious carbonation makes the act of drinking it feel good, and the orange juice’s acidity hides the flavors that might trigger our hangover into rejecting more booze.

                Should you, somehow, be in the mood to still really fucking crush it, then one can easily turn a mimosa into a screwdriver hybrid by adding a splash of vodka. But maybe do that sparingly, it is the holidays after all. Unless your family also parties, in which case go fucking nuts. As for me, I’m taking mine normal now; the last few entries showed me the folly of pride and ambition. No more hard drinking for this fellow today.

                I mean… unless anyone else is in the mood for eggnog?

 

Post-Script: As much as this blog was obviously a joke, I really do advocate the deliciousness of eggnog. I can’t share my family recipe on here as the elders consider it a secret, but I can point you to the one person whose recipes I trust implicitly, Alton Brown, and he happens to have a recipe for this very drink. Enjoy! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/eggnog-recipe2-2013745

Super Powereds: Year 4 Release Date/Info

                I know this one has been a long time coming. Ever since I announced the book was fully written a few months ago, this has been the topic I get questioned about most often. So, rather than drag things out, let me hit the main point right here at the start, then use the rest of the blog to discuss reasoning and other useful details. Everyone ready for the big part? Here we go:

                Super Powereds: Year 4, will be released in ebook form on February 20th, 2018.

                Okay then, now that 90% of the people who will read this blog just clicked away, let’s tackle some of the questions I know you’re all going to have about this announcement!

 

Q: Will the serial really be running until February?

A: No, it will not. In building this schedule, I had to account for the longest-case scenario, meaning the longest amount of time it might take for the serial to finish from the point I started planning for release. The goal was to make sure the story was finished online so that no one felt required to buy the book lest they fall behind. Since we’ve hit the Bonus Chapter goal so consistently over these last few months, y’all are ahead of that situation, meaning you’ll wrap well before the launch date. My editors and cover artist still need that time though, so it can’t really be moved up.

 

Q: So how much is left for the serial?

A: I’ve actually made a conscious decision not to tell anyone that. I think not knowing where the end is makes things more thrilling, because you never know for sure if things are really concluding or if there’s another twist in the road ahead. It’s one of the unique features of web-serials that I enjoy, so I kept it going. But we’ll wrap before February.

 

Q: What about the audiobook?

A: Yes, there will be a Super Powereds: Year 4 audiobook. In fact, Kyle McCarley has been so generous as to agree to join me for the Year 4 Digital Release Party, meaning you can talk to him about the great work he’s done on the series so far! That said, he’ll at most be getting the manuscript a couple of weeks before the ebook goes live, so please don’t expect him to have an audio release date by then. The audio company itself makes those calls, and until they do we’re no more in the loop than you folks. As always, the best guess I can offer based on history is that the audiobook will come 3 – 4 months after the ebook.

 

Q: Will it be on non-Amazon sites?

A: That’s very unlikely. I will have epub (non-Amazon e-reader files) copies available on the site as usual, but most of the other systems aren’t super easy for self-publishers. Working within them often requires a huge chunk of time and energy to change formatting, especially for longer books like these. The much more efficient version is for me to toss them up on here and allow folks who want them to pick one up.

 

Q: Will there be print versions?

A: Yes, although maybe not on the same release day. Folks, let’s be real here, Year 4 is fucking huge. I strained the limits of Createspace to get Year 3 on there, and it was about 2/3rds the size of Year 4. My only real hope is to make a hardcover version through Ingram-Spark, the same people who do excellent versions of Forging Hephaestus. Their turnaround isn’t as quick as Amazon, however, and since I can’t start on it until I have a finished manuscript as well, I don’t want to promise a print version will be available on the same day since that might be out of my hands. Hopefully not too much of a release difference though.

 

Q: Will you be doing signed pre-orders again?

A: This will also depend on turnaround time from Ingram-Spark. Let’s say that I probably will at some point, but not until the print side of things is up and running. I’m starting to realize why most authors don’t write books that are nearly half a million words long: sheer fucking logistics.

 

                I think that knocks out the main ones, but feel free to leave some in the comments below and maybe I’ll do another blog or add them on a Q&A. In all honesty, I’ll admit that if I’d been more aggressive on the schedule, we might have been able to get the book out a hair sooner, but I’ve run so many tight deadlines through the years that I thought just this once I’ll try giving us some breathing room. As these things tend to go, I’ll probably still be down to the wire.

                I’m glad the release worked out like this, though. Most of you probably don’t remember this, but the first Super Powereds book hit the Amazon store in February of 2013 (Yes, I know the Amazon listing has a different date; I had to do some updates later on). It was an early birthday gift to myself, taking the plunge and putting a book on Amazon’s shelves, and I like that we’ve come back around to the same timeframe for the end of the series.

                What a difference 5 years can make, huh? Back then I was working in the cubicle, writing in my spare time and dreaming of so much more. Cut to February of 2018, and Year 4 will be my 16th book released. That is crazy to think about, especially when I look back at the version of me who wasn’t sure he even had it in him to finish a single novel. I won’t get too introspective, since we’ll save that for the annual year in review, but there is one thing that needs to be said as we move towards the end.

                Thank you. Thank you to all of the wonderful readers who asked for that first ebook, and who then put their money down to help make it successful. Thank you to all of the people that have taken the time to leave reviews on my books through the years, because that really does matter more than you might expect. Thank you for your support, be it financial, personal, or just putting your eyes on the page. All of it counts, because without you all I’m just sitting here telling stories to myself. Thank you for making these last 5 years an incredible journey. I know things are changing; the end of the serial and my first series is a major milestone/shakeup over here as well. Regardless of how the format might alter through the years to come though, trust me that I love this job and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can. You continue reading, I’ll continue writing.

                And together, we’ll see what the next 5 years has in store for us all.

Non-Writing Shows That Teach You About Writing

                The time drawing close to us is a hectic one; I know that as well as the rest of you. Between travel, family, decorating, holiday shopping, and countless other practices that take time out of the day, I suspect many folks will go from the high of putting out words every day during NaNoWriMo to struggling in the vain hopes of finding the time to put out a couple of sentences. Such is the burden of post-NaNo December, but worry not my friends.

                As a devourer of all media, I’ve stumbled across a few gems in the past, things that are both enjoyable to watch and also give greater insight to what the writing process entails. That probably wasn’t the intent with most of these, yet they deliver all the same, so as you’re stuck in a car or family gathering, wishing you could sneak off to write, you may take some comfort in streaming one of these selections through your phone. It might not be actual writing, however it does offer a chance to learn, and that’s helpful too.

 

How WWE/Movies Should Have Booked

                I’ve mentioned these before in passing, but the series really does warrant its own entry. And fear not, my non-wrestling fans, because they also have some of these that deal with popular movies as well. Essentially, the host (Adam) breaks down an old existing plot-thread, analyzing why it didn’t work, what parts it failed on, and where it managed to shine. Then he repackages it, using only the available talent/characters from that era, and books the angle in a more satisfying way. On the surface, it’s a simple concept, but these are videos I tell a lot of writers to watch because of how much insight they offer.

                Re-booking an old match or movie means really digging into the cuts of the story. Dissecting plots, understanding characters, pulling out choices and tropes to turn around in your hand and examine from all directions. Seeing the components of a story laid bare is excellent training to do the same in your own works, clinically dissecting every aspect to make sure all the pieces fit together well. Beyond that though, the re-bookings are a fantastic breakdown of long-term story-telling. Suspension is built, false-starts occur, some wrestlers are made to look strong while protecting those around them from coming off weak, character threads are developed, it’s a really in-depth process.

                Whether you go with movie or wrestling versions, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of storyline development, especially if you write anything related to action. Plus the episodes are entertaining in their own right.

 

Extra Creditz

                Now for this one, you have to pick and choose a little more. Since this video series is about games and their industry as a whole, not all of them are writing related. Be discerning as you choose your episodes, it won’t be hard to find the ones related to stories or writing. Much like our first example, these often focus on breaking things down to their core elements, examining what works, what used to work, and what is starting to work now.

                The biggest difference is that rather than do this to an existing story, the host (Dan) applies the process to larger concepts. My personal favorites are ones where they break down different genres. What makes good horror? Is it jump scares? Escalating tension? The unknown? All of these are looked at, as they have established places in the genre. But drilling a genre down to its key elements is a great experience for anyone hoping to write in it, because doing so ensures we’re using the right tools to draw the appropriate reactions from our audience.

                I’ll also add that even the non-writing episodes of this one are interesting as someone who merely purchases video games, for those of you even tangentially related to the industry I imagine it would be highly entertaining content, so don’t be afraid to branch out and try a few of the others if you like what the writing ones offer up.

 

The Good Place (Season 1)

                To be upfront, I’ve loved all of Season 2 so far as well, but if we’re talking about learning how to write then Season 1 is the best example I can offer up, for the simple fact that I know it pays off. I’ve talked about this show before in context of a “shit you need to be watching” article, however at the time I was trying to convey how enjoyable it was. The truth is, it’s also a damn masterclass in multi-layered writing.

                The dialogue is more than quick and funny, in context of a few characters it’s also literally people having two different conversations at the same time, with those in the dark not understanding what’s going on. Aside from the quality and the lines, what I think shines most about this example is the forethought. This is a season that went in with a specific, planned out goal. Every action, every bit of wacky development or dialogue, served to move us closer to that big finish. And while it does leave us on a cliffhanger, the power of the reveal still leaves us feeling overall satisfied with the journey to get there.

                People talk a lot about how shitty Lost was because it opened up ideas and plot threads that it never properly closed, and The Good Place is the polar opposite of that. It is so neat and tidy that every time I watch it, I think about how I could streamline and better direct my plots. This one doesn’t teach you explicitly about writing as much as it demonstrates the power of thoughtful plotting, and personally I think there’s a lot to be learned from such stellar examples. Fingers crossed that the rest of the series plays out so well, but after Season 1 they have absolutely earned the benefit of the doubt.

 

Drew’s Drinkalong Power Hours

                Okay, so these won’t teach you jack about writing, but they will give you a chance to pound booze with me and friends being silly, and sometimes that’s what you need to get through the holidays. Happy watching!