Monday, December 29, 2014

Overqueue - Muppet Vision 3D

The Overambitious Overflow Queues of Walt Disney World - Muppet Vision 3D

This new series is going to take a look at parts of Disney World that (for the most part) aren't off limits, but are rarely seen.  First, here's what we're not talking about.

Many popular rides get lines longer than their queues during busy times.  For most of these rides, the solution is to put up temporary rope switchbacks outside.  Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and It's a Small World regularly do this.

We're also not talking about rides that just have a queue way too long.  The Seas With Nemo and Friends comes to mind.  Aside from New Year's Eve, this one has always been a walk-on for me, and making my way through the queue takes almost as long as the ride itself.  However, you get to see the entire queue.

The subjects of the series have themed overflow queues that are not part of the regular queue, and for the majority of these, the demand for such queues has been a titch overestimated.

The first one is an exception, as it is a part of a popular attraction and is actually used from time to time.  This is the overflow queue of Muppet Vision 3D in Hollywood Studios.  This is a simple switchback that snakes along the side of the building to the right of the entrance.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adventures in Self-Publishing - Amazon

I'll get back to covers later, but I'm making a slight detour to talk about where to sell your ebooks.  The first and most obvious place is Amazon, via their KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program.

First, let's talk about the bad things people have said about Amazon.

They're an evil corporation that is using it's size to undercut other businesses, like Walmart or Blockbuster.  Once they have total control of the ebook market, they will raise prices and lower royalties.

This is more true for brick and mortar stores than ebooks, I think.  Unlike physical stores, it doesn't take near as much infrastructure to sell ebooks.  If Amazon jacked up the price of ebooks, someone would step in and undercut them in turn.  In general, Amazon can be compared to a benevolent dictator - harmless for now, but not to be trusted.  I can understand someone taking a principled stand and not selling at Amazon.

Amazon screws publishers

Maybe.  Amazon does the same thing cable companies do when they're having contract negotiations, and it makes them sound like a divorced parent in a custody dispute.  Amazon delays shipping for a publisher that won't play by their rules, and the publisher illegally colludes to raise prices.  I have a hard time feeling sorry for publishers that want to sell ebooks for more than paperbacks and screw their authors in the process.

Amazon won't let me post my book for free

I'd love it if they did, but they don't.  There is a hack (give away book for free somewhere else, ask Amazon to price-match), but it hasn't worked for me.  Other markets (B&N, iTunes, etc) have no problem setting books to free right out of the gate.

Amazon posted my book for free when I didn't want them to

The opposite of above.  There's this nasty trick that publishers and/or author's do, where they post a book for free, but it turns out it's just a sample chapter and they don't tell you this in the title.  This has fooled me before, and evidently it's fooled Amazon's "price match" computers, causing the entire book to be free until the authors complained.  Serves them right.

Amazon censors arbitrarily

Amazon can drop you or your books for pretty much any reason they want.  They're a bit vague ("What we deem offensive is probably about what you would expect.on what is allowed and what isn't"), and people expect to have an objective measure.  This is their actual, unstated policy: "We want to make money off your book, but if it gives us bad press or possible legal attention, we will cut if off".  They don't care if the Greeks did it, or it's in the Bible, or whatever.  I've published some pretty vile filth myself, so I kind of shudder to think what might get authors "banned".

I think it just autoflags (or puts it under an Adult filter) by keyword, which is why we get terms like "multi-species" or "inter-generational".  I also think there is a plagiarism filter - the times I've packaged short stories separately from previously published collections, its taken an extra day to be approved.

Just remember, nobody at Amazon is reading every book that gets submitted.  There is maybe a computer program that searches for suspect text, and I imagine some poor intern has to scan the covers looking for dirty pictures, but that's it.

Amazon will proclaim they don't allow pornography, then add erotica categories at the same time.  They ban various genres wholesale after a bad news report comes out, and then quietly allow them
My attitude is: if they sell it, they sell it.  If they don't want to sell it, I'm in the same place as if I didn't submit it.

Amazon starts new programs without letting you know or letting you opt out

I was chuffed with this myself.  I get an email, as a customer, letting me know about the new Kindle Unlimited program.  A couple hours later I get an email, as a publisher, letting me know about the program, and that my KDP Select books have automatically been included.  I look at the KDP website and there is a page that said authors may opt out of their KDP Select contract if they wish, providing directions and a link.

I was in the process of trying out other markets, so I followed the procedure to opt out early.  The response was that I couldn't get out early, and the original web page had been taken down.

I'm sure in their terms and services they have language allowing them to do it, but I was annoyed at not being informed earlier, and by the illusion that I had some say in it.  Other authors that actually sold books, and sold them for a higher profit margin than KU gets them, would have even more reason to be pissed.

Amazon sucks at mobile apps

I've heard someone else describe their phone as a great method for buying things from Amazon, not so great at being a phone.  The same goes for everything else Amazon does in the mobile world.  They gave me $10 to spend in their app store and I ended up having to contact support to get back real money and delete everything Amazon related from my phone.  You don't have any control over payment methods, they spam you with push notification ads, apps disappear from your home screen every update, and their Kindle app WON'T KEEP YOUR F%$&ING PLACE in the F%*#%ING BOOK!  What should be a glorified text reader loses my place and occasionally deletes all my bookmarks every time it gets updated, which is like three times a week.  I don't even try to use it anymore, it's so frustrating.

The actual Kindle works fine, but as tablets get cheaper they're going to go the way of PDAs and MP3 players.  Reminds me of the days of paying money for PC games, only to be forced to download the hack to get around the absurd security features.  Third party ereader software works so much better.

Of course, anyone can read multiple formats of whatever they want, but it's easier to stick with one format and one ereader.  If I only read books off the Kindle app, I would have switched to Nook a long time ago.

Amazon is ripping me off!  My facebook friends and the janitor at work and the lady that rides my bus and the barista at my Starbucks all told me they bought it, but it's not showing up!

Yes, they're also blocking your phone and deleting your texts, which is why you can't get a date.

These blogs are all written by Amazon apologists trying to get affiliate $!

Yes, they are, and thanks to someone buying some absurdly overpriced Legos a week before Christmas, I finally broke that $10 barrier!

Seriously, if you don't want to sell though them, don't.  If they piss you off, you can leave anytime you want.  Talk to any author about how hard it is to leave a traditional publisher and ask them if they could leave within minutes and retain all their rights.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Queue Review Finale - Star Tours

One of my favorite lines, but maybe not the best subject for a finale as three are almost exactly the same.

Disneyland Paris



I believe they are getting a 2.0 upgrade soon, but here is the original version of Star Tours, pretty much the same as the interior of the previous version at Hollywood Studios.  The exterior has a giant X-Wing fighter.

Walt Disney World - Hollywood Studios



All the 2.0 queues are roughly the same.  The exterior is some Endor thing, but when you're in it, it's just rope and wood.

Disneyland



I can't tell what's outside the main entrance, as I know there has to be more line than this, but anything is better than Hollywood Studios.

Tokyo Disneyland


At first I didn't like the switchbacks, but at least they're indoors.  I think there might be a few more droids as well

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Adventures in Self Publishing - Covers Part Two

Before going to the nuts and bolts of making covers (or rather, I link to people who can actually explain things), let's take a look at some of the cover elements.  For physical books in a physical store, covers were like miniature billboards that first got the reader's attention.  Things aren't too much different today, but now we're looking at thumbnail images on Amazon.  This means that your image needs to look good at this size, and (most) text needs to be readable.  Let's look at some particular elements.

Title:
Simple enough.  Just make it readable.  Even if readers already know the title, it looks bad to have some kind of smudgy nonsense on the cover.  The title can also be the major visual element of the cover.

Author:
If you look at bestsellers, the author's name will be bigger than the title.  That's because Stephen King or James Patterson or whoever can sell a book on the basis of their name/reputation alone.  You are nobody.  Nobody will buy a book because of your name.  One could make an argument that if you put J.O. Nobody on the cover you could fool people into thinking you're more important than you are, and sadly that me be true.  For me, I'll say that the author's name is the least important element of an ebook cover for beginning authors.  If someone is looking for you, they'll find you through the search box, not by browsing covers.  And your name will pop up anyway below the cover in those coveted "You might like" thumbnails.  You do want to have the author's name there somewhere, though, as some retailers require it.  Smashwords has kicked back my stuff sometimes for not having it.

Subtitle:
These are optional, but are often used as a way of sneaking more keywords into the Amazon metadata.  Here's where you'll have your "In the tradition of a [enter real book here]", or "If you liked [actual writer], you'll love [your crap]".  Or my favorite, "By the Bestselling Author of a Book That Made it to #99 on the Free Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Settings/Mountains list for two hours that one time".  I hate those techniques, but they probably work.  You are excused for something like "A Curvy, Were-Walrus Menage Fantasy" or the like.  If you want to put it in the "Subtitle" entry when submitting it to KDP or wherever, it needs to be present on the cover.  Note that if you're just using a subtitle to get in more keywords, it might not be as important to have the text readable at thumbnail size.

One difference between physical books and ebooks is that readers may be more critical of ebook covers.  If a book is in a store, there's an implication that it's passed some kind of editorial scrutiny before getting there.  An ebook, not so much, and the competency of the cover may be a warning sign for the rest.

Keep in mind, you can change your cover whenever you want.  I've done so several times, and it takes mere seconds to upload, though it does sometimes take several days for the changes to take affect on the various websites.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Queue Review - Space Mountain

I love all of the Space Mountain queues.  It tends to be one of the longest lines, and they had to get creative on how to lay it out.

Hong Kong Disneyland



A cardboard box overlay at the entrance, way too many safety spiel screens, and a teeny tiny load area.  This is the last time I'll pick on poor Hong Kong.

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom



Both the entrance and exit run underground, underneath the Walt Disney World Railroad.  The TTA PeopleMover runs above the exit speedramp, and I believe the exit runs directly above the entrance.  I love this line for this reason alone.

There is a modest attempt to establish the ride as a space port at the beginning.  There are some video games that might ease the wait for thirty seconds, but unfortunately you end up dumped into a sea of switchbacks.  In the dark.  There are some OK visuals on the ceiling, but not enough for the hour wait from that point.  I haven't gone in a few years, but I imagine it's nothing but glowing smart phone screens.

Load area feels very efficient and is separate from the unload.  Has the best music of any version, or indeed almost any ride.

Disneyland Paris - Space Mountain Mission 2



I'll forgive the outdoor switchbacks as this really is a lovely area.  Tomorrowland needs more water features.  A nice dark windy hall, a not at all steampunk ride video, and then back outdoors to a 19th Century train station, which misses the whole point of being engulfed in dark cramped tunnels.  It all looks very nice, but that jarring theme change messes it up for me.  Also, aside from the banners, the train station is too generic roller coaster for me.

Tokyo Disneyland


Coca Cola!

They still have a speedramp as part of the entrance, which runs even when the line trails way outside the ride.  The theming doesn't get particularly spacey until right at the load area.

Disneyland



Perhaps more than any other land, Tomorrowland lends itself to being one discrete place, though the execution is usually lacking.  Space Mountain here does an excellent job of feeling like a part of a bigger whole, rather than just a distinct ride by itself.  Though the entrance area does feel a bit like a shopping mall.  There's a nice elevated outdoor area, the indoor area feels like a space station, and no switchbacks!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Adventures in Self Publishing - Covers

I love book covers.  Up until around 1990.  You can share the love with these websites:

Too Much Horror Fiction

Pop Sensation

Women Running From Houses - Gothic art with a similar theme

Good Show Sir - a celebration of bad sci-fi art, but its still wonderful

Everything after around 1990?  I hate.  Hate, hate, hate.  Ebook covers?  Forget about it.  Worse than useless.  I've almost missed reading fantastic stuff because it had cover art someone's Mom wouldn't even magnet to the fridge.  There used to be websites for bad book covers, but that's become such a redundancy that they stop bothering.

At best, they are inoffensive.  Author, title, maybe a silhouette of something.  At worst, they look like clip art being beaten to death by fonts.  There are some decent artists, but even they just make decent graphic novel covers, which I think should be different than novels.

I am also the last person to ask about this, as my tastes are clearly different from other authors and readers.  I've seen semi-professional printing houses brag about the artwork they've commissioned, only for it too look like Lawnmower Man level computer graphics.

Read this instructive yet soul-destroyingly depressing blog post by our friend Lee Goldberg about updating his covers.  The original .357 Vigilante covers were great.  Not the best out there, but good covers, and ones that probably set the publisher back some coin.  Now look at the new covers.  Competently done, but I hate them, they aren't as good as the originals, they are bland, uninspired, look like a million other covers, and I know that they were done in around 15 minutes.  Thing is, when judged commercially, ie. how many books they sell, they are objectively better covers.  Readers liked them better and they sold more books.

If you can manage to figure out a little bit of Photoshop, GIMP, or the like, you can try your hand at doing it yourself, which I'll address another time.  I'm not the best person to address commissioning cover work, as I've never done it myself, but here's where you can start.

Do you want an original piece of art?  If not, you don't need an artist, just a graphics person, which is a different skill set.  There are a lot of places that will put together a cover at various levels of  cost and competency.  I don't know how they operate, but I can guess - they have a few dozen set ups of stock images and backgrounds, and they literally just change the cover text for your name and title.  Probably takes them all of thirty seconds once the basic design is sorted, which itself probably took two minutes.  I haven't used any myself and can't vouch for anyone, but you could start with fiverr and work your way up.

If you want some original art, there are a few routes to go.  If you find modern covers you like, find the cover artist and check out their website.  I did this with the Hard Case Crimes artists and it looks like they started at $3000, so that's as far as I got going that route.

Someone suggested that I look for someone on Deviant Art and contact them, but I didn't find anybody I liked.  Be warned that no matter what you search for, you'll end up with pictures of Transformers banging My Little Ponies or some such.

You can also look around for a professional or semi-professional artist, but they can run a good four figures.  If you're one of those internet social types you might be able to network your way into a cheaper deal, or find someone just starting out.  Honestly, you can find high school kids from third world countries who will probably do a fine job.  People throw together these stupid meme things for free and this doesn't take that much more work.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Things I Didn't Finish - Bio of a Space Tyrant - Refugee by Piers Anthony

Bio of a Space Tyrant - Book One Refugee 
by Piers Anthony
1983 Avon Books


In future year 2615, Hope Hubris - hell, I should have stopped right there.

I didn't stop this one because of the supposedly graphic sex and gore - hell, that's why I picked it up.  The opening gang rape scene was miserably done without a drop of menace or exploitation, just a pile of cliches and distracted musings.

The main problem is that this a first person memoir written four hundred years in the future that uses what would be anachronistic turns of phrase and feels obliged to explain them in excruciating detail.  To me this is particularly obnoxious, as people today use turns of phrase from previous centuries with origins in their obscurity, and we don't have a problem.  That's how language works.

Example: "Faith attracted men the way garbage draws flies in the incredible films of old Earth" - because, presumably, either trash or flies no longer exist in the future.

I tapped out when I got to a scene where a rich man basically calls a poor woman a two dollar whore.  The narrator then goes on to explain that the dollar is still currency, and that due to various revaluations, two Jovian dollars in 2615 has the same buying power as two American dollars did 700 years previously.  And further, he had to explain how he learned these particular details of economic history in school.

What he didn't explain is why someone writing to a presumably contemporary audience would care what $2 was worth 700 years ago.  The whole thing reads like he was trying to win a no-prize from himself.  He ends up just making the inconsistencies worse instead of, I don't know, maybe rewriting it?  "You're worth two space credits, which is the price of a cup of space coffee."

I can only imagine that Anthony got lots of long, ranty letters from neckbeards complaining about these things and wanted to head them off at the pass, as the cow herders from a previous century would say as often portrayed in Earth films several Terran wars ago.  Or he had more OCD and self loathing than he did imagination and writing skill.

Sorry, this is giving me flashbacks to nerd school.  People ate this stuff up.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vampires of Mars by Gustave Le Rouge

Vampires of Mars
by Gustave le Rouge
Translated by Brian Stableford
Black Coat Press
Originally published 1908




Been a while since I read this one, but it's a great ride.  An engineer goes to Mars by means of an orb surrounded in ocular fluid (ie eyeball juice) that is propelled via the psychic power of a bunch of yogis.  On Mars he explores the bizarre wildlife before discovering the invisible bloodsuckers that prey on the living, who are not topless ladies.  In the weaker second half the vampires follow the engineer home, but the ending didn't leave any impression with me.

There are a lot of great old French scfi books being translated by Stableford for Black Coat Press, but there was a bit of a pedantic afterword literally listing all the dropped plot threads and inconsistencies.  I'm used to this kind of thing with comics, but here it seemed overboard, as if the reader won't be satisfied unless every tiny aspect of the story is explained.

Coming from more of a pulp background, I kind of know what to expect from a hundred year old scifi magazine story that was probably written in less than a month in one draft.  I enjoy scifi, but I never got into hard Science Fiction, mainly because of their fan base.  Not all of them, but I knew plenty of folk that hated all forms of fiction because it wasn't realistic, but would devour science fiction.

Mainly bringing this up in context of my next post, another thing I didn't finish.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Butcher

The Butcher
35 Books
Pinnacle Books 1971-1982
by Stuart Jason (house name): James Dockery 1-9,12-26; Lee Floren 10-11; Michael Avallone 27-35


The Butcher is Bucher, who only has one name like Cher or Sting, and is pronounced more like "booker", so it doesn't really work.  He was left on the doorsteps of a Knoxville church and named after a 16th century theologian.  He fell asleep in a train car at the age of ten and ended up on the streets of Chicago.  He befriended a mobster's kid and was adopted into the family after the child dies of leukemia.  He worked his way up to heading the East Coast division of the Syndicate.

Bucher has an attack of conscience and quits the Syndicate, resulting in a bounty on his head.  He was approached by the mysterious government agency White Hat and given an offer to use his skills against the Syndicate.  He agrees under the condition that he plays by the Syndicate rules, because having an attack of conscience shouldn't mean you have to stop murdering people.

The Butcher is the first (I think) cash-in on the success of the Executioner, but it has a closer feel to the James Bond knock offs that preceded it, with a bit of Matt Helm and Mike Hammer.  I've only read two so far, and they have a weird, almost beat poet vibe to them.  They also followed a very specific formula.

In the first chapter Bucher dispatches a team of two Syndicate hitmen, both with depraved back stories.  No real action, he just takes them out cowboy style.  There is then a country threatening menace that ties into the Syndicate, although the Syndicate doesn't actually make another appearance.  In both of the books I read, there is a red herring about scientists creating body doubles.

Reading the Butcher I'm reminded of some of the riffs in the MST3K version of Agent From H.A.R.M.


Mainly about how there are big budget ambitions done on a shoestring.  Things like setting and location cost money when you're making a movie, not so much for a book.  If anything, I would think it would be easier to write a giant underground base than it would getting into the minutiae of rural Alaska.  The Butcher books I've read start off with large scale menaces, but Bucher mainly ends up puttering around and failing to keep people around him from being murdered.

The Stuart Jason name was also attached to several Mandingo style plantation exploiters, presumably also written by Dockery.  I've heard the Avallone books are an improvement, so we'll see.

Much more at Spy Guys and Gals.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Queue Review - Pirates of the Caribbean

Disneyland


Chained outdoor switchbacks.  Go straight to hell.  Note that this isn't the overflow queue - the line is designed to be 90% outdoors.

The line leads into a house (groan), where it runs parallel to the boats themselves.  This would be incredibly awesome if not for the fact that the boats are floating through a freaking house with drywall ceilings.  There's a marginal attempt at theming as you get closer to the load area, which is the same as the unload.  I mentioned my attitude towards this kind of thing, and this is perhaps the worst offender.  While Magic Kingdom has the sense that you're getting your own boat, this one rubs in the fact that some other sweaty rear has been rubbing into your spot, as well as heightening the impatience of both parties as people are eager to get on or off.  I don't know how they keep kids from splashing water out on folks.

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom



Starts with a nice covered veranda, which is roped into lines during busy periods.  The line splits in two, each with it's own minor scenes within a Spanish fort.

The unloading area is on a completely differently level than the load, to the point that one has a hard time figuring out how they relate to each other.  As it should be.

Disneyland Paris



Just brilliant.  The American parks have modest exteriors, while Paris almost makes it it's own mini-land fitting the status of one of their best attractions.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Table of Contents

Almost forgot!

There's a bit more formatting that you'll need to do - add chapter headings.  Even if you don't have an actual table of contents, you'll want to do this to help the reader navigate.  Do yourself a favor and ignore most instructions you'll find online for this, as they are needlessly complicated, even on the official KDP style guide.  Don't use the built in TOC creators in Word.  Don't try to integrate a NCX file.  Don't mess with styles and headers.  This method is the easiest and will cause the least amount of headaches.

Go to where you want your chapter breaks or have your chapter headings and highlight the chapter title or first few words - this is what will show up in the ereader when someone brings up a menu.  Insert a bookmark and name it something that makes sense to you - you won't be able to put in spaces, so CHP1 or ChapterOne, etc.  These are your chapters.

It's a good idea to have a Table of Contents at the front of your book, even if it is just "Chapter 1, Chapter 2" etc.  Just type out the contents in plain text - chapter #s, story titles, whatever, like:

Chapter One - The Dawn Breaketh
Chapter Two - Thus Cometh the Horseman

,etc.  Highlight your first line and click on "Add Hyperlink", then click on the option to choose from within the document.  Your bookmarks should be listed there.  Click on the right one and you have your first link.  Do the same with the rest of the chapters.

For Kindle, put in another bookmark titled "TOC" at the beginning of the Table of Contents.  You don't link to this one, it just helps the ereader software locate it.

That's it.  Just highlight, insert bookmark, highlight, insert hyperlink.




Friday, December 5, 2014

The Death Mercenary by Jason Rosencrantz

The Death Mercenary
by Jason Rosencrantz
TNT Books 2014


Imagine a thirteen year old kid that reads a lot of Mack Bolan titles.  Now imagine that he just figured out how to download butt stuff porn from the internet.  Now imagine he opens a KDP account.

Taken in that spirit, you might like the Death Mercenary.  Cheesy, lurid, amateurish, but with its own honest charm.  And just short and cheap enough to be worth the time and money.

The plot - cat lover Calvin Jackson is the Death Mercenary, an assassin who works for the CIA at 10,000 TAX FREE dollars a kill, later changed to $100,000 TAX FREE - I didn't know 13 year olds had to pay taxes.

Mobsters kill a hooker.  The hooker is the sister of one of Jackson's friends, and he promised to protect her.  He's doing a great job so far.  Jackson kills all the gangsters.  He flirts with his cougar boss at the end for way too long, the end.

Not a whole lot of action, as only one guy fights back, but lots of sex, though not quite enough for this to be an attempt at erotica.  Very by-the-numbers.  The mob boss is Don Capone, the lackeys are Gonzo and Rat, the black stud is Jerome Washington, the lawyer is Shelly Silverstein, since Jewy McJewJew was already taken.

All told, though, worth my 99 cents.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Adventures in Self Publishing - Seriously, Don't Spend Any Money

Just read a depressing thread of a guy asking if the company he was about to shell out $4,000+ to package his book was worth it.  He mentioned that a friend did everything himself and spent $40,000.  The comments told him not to spend more than $1,000.

Honestly, I don't think I could spend 40 grand on a book if I tried.  Having a book fail is a soul crushing experience.  Having a book fail and going into debt over it, I can't even comprehend.  Before shelling out any upfront costs ask yourself -  why do you want to publish a book?

If you want to share your story, fluff your ego, be cool, or just have it out there, great.  There are tons of places to give away your book for free at no cost to you.

If you just want to make money there are a billion better things to invest in if you have that kind of cash.  Yes, a handful of folks have made it big self-publishing.  You won't be one of them.  I'm too jealous to look up their success stories, but I'm guessing shelling out a few grand to charlatans was not part of their rise to fame.  From a pure investment point of view it's not a good risk.

Or, if you're like me, you enjoy writing, you like the process of putting a book together, you enjoy the petty thrill of seeing your own work up there on Amazon, you like making enough to treat the family to ice cream once a month, and despite yourself you still hold on to an irrational dream of some day making it big - you can do that on the cheap, free even.

Here are the total expenditures I've made in my illustrious career:

$8 on a prop chain, my only pre-published expense.
~$25 on proof copies, but these are more a gift to myself because it's an awesome feeling, and cheap enough that I'm not being a pathetic schmuck for getting them.
$20 on ten stock photos, my first self-funded expense.

Even those were all optional.  You might counter that my stuff sucks and isn't selling.  True.  But if I sold my car and got a team of pros to work me over, it would still suck, just maybe with fewer typos and a slightly less crappy cover, though seeing the quality of some of these companies, probably not.  And it still wouldn't sell.  Maybe better, but not enough to cover expenses.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Book Creations Inc

Book Creations Inc, also called the novel factory, was set up in 1973 by Lyle Kenyon Engel.  They concentrated on series books and were positioned between authors and publishers.  Engel and his staff would create series characters and farm out assignments to various authors, giving them synopses or outlines.  The works were edited and in house before being sold to publishers under house names.  BCI would split the proceeds 50/50 with the author, and they were involved in the marketing as well.

They seemed to have their best success with historical dramas, but there were a few Men's Adventure series as well, including:

Baroness
John Eagle: Expeditor
Nick Carter

According to an article at Glorious Trash, BCI seems to be inactive as of 1999 and they seem to have no interest in publishing reprints.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Trash Menace authors in ebook

One of my favorite things about ebooks is they allow my favorite (and not so favorite) authors (or their heirs) to keep their backlist in print and at a reasonable price.  Some don't quite get ebooks and price themselves out of the market, while others don't have the rights to particular series characters or have other complications.  Others, sadly, just aren't being reprinted and will languish until they go into public domain or get bootlegged.

Many times the books have been stripped of their series number or title, and almost all have a new (and inferior) cover, so there may be series favorites from the 80s that are hiding under a generic "thriller" packaging.

Below are some of my favorites, to be updated as more become available.  And yes, I want your affiliate percentage.

Jerry Ahern: The author page for Ahern is incomplete, so you'll want to browse by name.  Includes the Survivalist, Defender, the Takers, They Call Me the Mercenary, Surgical Strike.  Too pricey with most at $9.99 each.

David Alexander: Including the Phoenix and Nomad series

Ian Barclay: The Crime Minister

Mike Barry: The Lone Wolf

Chet Cunningham: The Penetrator series isn't here that I could tell, but there are a lot of westerns and stand alones.

George Gilman: Piccadilly western house name for Edge, Steele, and the Undertaker

Lee Goldberg: The Jury series and some TV thing

Donald Hamilton: Matt Helm

William W. Johnstone: There are a billion here, most of them from after he died.  The westerns, recent thrillers, and Ashes garbage fill up most of space here, but it looks like many of his horror books are finally becoming available in 2015.

Len Levinson: The Rat Bastards, the Sergeant, Butler.  His stuff isn't up to date on his author profile, so you'll just want to browse by his name

Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir: The Destroyer - first one is free

Marc Olden: Another one without a good author page.  Includes Black Samurai, Narc, and Harker Files

Don Pendleton: Unfortunately, his stuff is mixed in with the hundreds of later Mack Bolan titles, and there's not a good way to sort out the real Pendleton.

John Russo: This one's hard to sort through, as the author page only has two titles, there are multiple authors with this name, and he has a habit of re-titling his books.  Just look for "From the Author of Night of the Living Dead".

Barry Sadler: Casca, way too pricey at $9.98

Guy N Smith

Randy Striker: The MacMorgan series

Monday, December 1, 2014

Queue Review - Haunted Mansion

The three Haunted Mansion rides and Phantom Manor all follow the same pattern - Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland is kind of an equivalent ride, but the queue is completely different.

There is an outdoor area, a foyer, the stretching room, and the final queue to the loading area.

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom



This one is kind of vanilla.  Nothing outstanding, but nothing offensive either.  A long stretch to the foyer, with a detour to an interactive area.  I'm indifferent to the interactive stuff, but you can skip it entirely, making it inoffensive.  The door to the foyer is usually closed until the stretching room is open, so guests end up marching right through it.  We have the non-elevator stretching room (ceiling goes up) before being released to a short queue in near darkness.

Disneyland Paris - Phantom Manor



The outdoor area is appropriately decrepit, and you get a better feeling that you're entering an actual house.  Paris loves their switchbacks, and there's an ugly mother right there, though it appears to be used for overflow purposes.  This would have rated higher, but I hate their jank stretching room portraits.  Mainly, I don't like how they reveal things in the foreground as opposed to things vertically lower - misses the whole point in my opinion.


Disneyland Tokyo



I like the outdoor area of this one the best - looks like the place is falling apart.  Once you're inside, appears to be about the same as Magic Kingdom.

Disneyland


Well laid out outdoor area, but not spooky enough.  This is my favorite because the stretching room is a real elevator, and the second queuing area is more of a walkthrough attraction than a line.