Feeling Seen, Not Yet A Marketing Machine

I am becoming loud & proud about my self-pub procrastination. I was ashamed of it for a long time. I was constantly making excuses, and assuring friends/readers that yes, I will have the books for sale soon.

No.

In reality, here it is: I hate the concept of turning into a marketing machine.

Once I set the ball in motion on Amazon, I will have to transform into some kind of savvy businessperson if I want my epic series to have any chance in hell at being noticed. The fate of most self-pubbed books is that they drown in the ocean of obscurity. There’s a new book published every minute on Amazon. The self-pub success stories pour a ton of ad spend and marketing efforts into their series. This article about the failure of the long tail  says it well.

Instead of diving into book marketing, I’m very comfy serializing online. Readers kind of show up without me having to deploy ads or pour effort into newsletter swaps or study the dark arts of email campaigns. Readers say wonderfully nice things to me. It fulfills the part of me that wants acknowledgement/recognition for the magnum opus I’ve created.

So I’m admitting that I am procrastinating. I am freely telling people that I’ll get around to publishing and marketing my Torth series eventually… but I am enjoying the serialization life for now.

Also, I am probably going to do one more Hail Mary pass with literary agents. Yeah. Masochistic, I know.

At least this time, my expectations will be so low they’re subterranean. I’m aware that my series has no accurate comps, it does not match hot trends, it does not have a gimmicky angle that can be summarized in a sentence, and oh yeah, it’s not a stand-alone with series potential. It’s a full-fledged epic. Book 1 is an eternal problem. I was never able to make it behave.

But a few adventurous readers did take a chance on it, and some kept reading. So Book 1 does work for some people. I just don’t think that most literary agents are adventurous readers. They’re looking for “the same but different.”

Ah well. Why not collect at least 150 rejections, amiright?

Meanwhile, I have the excuse of chemotherapy for being lazy and not turning into a self-promotion marketing machine quite yet. I’m halfway through treatment. Hair is falling out, blood pressure is low, and I get very fatigued every third week due to oxaliplatin infusions. The other two weeks I can function pretty much normally. Hopefully there will be no trace of cancer after this.

Oh yeah! My new stand-alone novel-in-progress is a BREEZE in comparison to the Torth series. I’m not zooming ahead with passion on it. But dang, it’s easy and enjoyable. I think it may be easier to market, as well.

I’m also having a lot of fun creating 3D low poly art assets for my husband’s indie game. It’s his magnum opus, in the same way the Torth series is mine. His abilities with programming are blowing my mind.

Wheel Of Time: Ep01—03 on Amazon Prime

I watched the first three episodes of the Wheel of Time, which is an adaptation of one of my favorite book series. Is the internet ready for my hot take?

First off, let me acknowledge that a lot of time and work went into creating this show. That is true for any show, but it is particularly true for a big budget epic fantasy with an international audience. They spent that budget. Efforts were made. It is easy to be an armchair critic. But…

I am a writer who went to pro fiction boot camps and film school, and my inner critic never shuts off. I wish someone would hand me that budget to create my own series, because yes, I thought they made a few mediocre and poor decisions.

Without giving away spoilers? Here’s my take. 

Their writing team forgot that rule number one is to make heroes likable. It’s a simple guideline, but it’s easy to overlook when you’re juggling ten thousand other concerns. The film adaptation of my favorite series made the main heroes kind of … meh. They’re not admirable. They don’t do anything that would cause a viewer to root for them. To the contrary, a few of the heroes seem like pouting ingrates. A few of them make stupid decisions without any explanation given on screen, such as shouting in a situation where bad guys might hear and then attack them. That sort of behavior is not going to win over viewers.

The show also takes itself very, very seriously. Too seriously. Every song is mournful. There are no moments of levity between tense scenes. There is no wit, no jokes, not much fun. The books had a tone of playfulness and sense-of-wonder and adventure. The show would have done well to break up the tension with a few moments of kindness or fun moments (not only emo moments) between characters.

Even the scenes where crowds are laughing come across as false, like advertisements for a Renaissance Faire. It’s like the cliche of “women laughing while eating salad.” If the background bystanders in every tavern are having an apparently uproarious time, it doesn’t seem believable.

HBO’s Game of Thrones had its own problems, but one thing they got right was the artistry. GoT went above and beyond with costume design, sets, and musical score. I don’t see that in Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time. The costumes, sets, and music are okay. They work for the show. But they’re not outstanding on the same level of GoT, despite having a similar budget.

The WoT characters look like they went shopping at only the best outlets for faux woolens. Instead of living in a remote medieval-style village, they look like tourists who enjoyed a spa day and who are now hanging out at a high end Renaissance festival.

I don’t have a problem with the show’s pacing. I see reviews complaining about that, but I think it’s a factor of other problems that can look like pacing issues. They are sticking to the books in a loose way, and that’s fine.

On to my specific problems, solutions, and thoughts about each hero.

 

Spoilers ahead.

 


Perrin

I get why the TV writing team chose to make Perrin axe his pregnant wife by accident. They’re setting up his central character conflict, which is whether he should use the axe (be a violent warlord) or forge a hammer (be a gentle blacksmith). The goal is to make Perrin afraid of his own violence. It’s a good idea to set that up as soon as possible with his character.

But they could set it up in a way that makes Perrin look heroic rather than dangerously and stupidly reckless.

For instance: Have him go into berserker mode while killing Trollocs, using up all of his finely forged weapons and then seizing crude implements to continue the slaughter. Have someone he loves (his wife or his mother) look at him with absolute disgust. Show how that look cuts him and makes him ashamed. Show that loved one flinch away from him. Then show his guilt and shame.

There are several problems with setting up his conflict by making him a wife-killer.

1) Wife slaying is not a good look for a hero.

2) Perrin’s wife on the show seems way more competent than him in every way. She’s a better blacksmith, and she’s better at killing Trollocs. In contrast to that, Perrin comes across as a loser: a dangerous, reckless person who should not be trusted with weapons.

3) The show undermines his Axe vs. Hammer inner conflict in the second episode, when Mat gives Perrin his dagger. Clearly, the writing team thought that was a clever way to set up Mat’s need for a new dagger. But when Perrin accepts a weapon of violence which was forged by his dead wife, that implies that he is already accepting of the violence within himself. It also signals that he has emotionally moved on from “oops, I murdered by wife by accident.” It doesn’t make him look good.

Rand

Rand starts to become likable in the third episode. He steps up by taking responsibility for himself and Mat both. That is a glimmer of heroism right there. Yay! Finally.

It’s canceled a bit due to his apparent helplessness against an aggressive female innkeeper. He’s terrified of her. He can bust through an iron door, but he can’t face a woman who stole his sword?

And he acts not-so-bright in the beginning of this episode, shouting for Egwene where Trollocs might hear him. That sort of thing makes viewers lose respect for a character. And Rand isn’t doing anything smart to counterbalance his brainless moments. 

Unfortunately, Rand is quite unlikable in the first two episodes. The show gives no reason for his bitter distrust of Moiraine, after she literally saved Rand’s father from death. Rand shows zero gratitude for that. To the contrary, he accuses Moiraine of being manipulative and possibly evil.

And his character is all about pouting after being friend-zoned. Rand and Egwene have zero chemistry on screen. They are a crying emo mess, and Rand doesn’t come off as respectful and kind. He comes across more like a stalker than a friend.

Mat Cauthon

I totally get why the show’s writing team chose to establish Mat’s kindness right away, rather than wait two full seasons for Mat to get healed from that ruby dagger. His character doesn’t become a fan favorite until Book 3 of the book series. Until then, he’s an adolescent prankster who turns bitter and nasty due to an enchanted dagger. So the show went for the quickest and easiest way to set Mat up as a hero: Have him selflessly protect his impoverished little sisters from his terrible parents. Voila! Now he is an instant hero.

It was just too quick and easy. To a jaded viewer, it comes across as a cheap way to work in some character dev. 

Like Rand, Mat comes across as not-too-bright several times, particularly when he goes off exploring by himself in Aridhol (ep02). Not a good look for a hero. That kind of behavior needs explanation, or else it just looks stupid.

Egwene

Of all the heroes on the show, Egwene comes across as the best one so far, and that is only in contrast to the rest of them. She hasn’t done anything egregiously wrong. She isn’t reckless with an axe, no bad life choices, no pouting or blaming the wrong person for her situation. But she is bland. She hasn’t done anything heroic or kind, either.

Nynaeve

I like how protective of her people she is. That comes across, and the actress has enough fiery passion to sell it. But she has a moment in ep01 where she freezes in the battle, and it makes her look cowardly. The show could have handled that better. Her hatred of Moiraine also seems irrational, and could use more of an explanation.

Thom

They gave Thom a theme song. Or a guitar chord, anyway. That seems hokey, and it contrasts weirdly with the tone of the show, which is otherwise somber and taking itself ultra seriously. 

Moiraine and Lan

No comment for now. I think they’re doing all right. Lan looks very Samurai, and I think the show would have done better to give Borderlanders more unique fantasy costuming. But I would say the same for all of the costuming on the show.

Missed Opportunities 

Where did all the Trollocs go after the heroes escaped from Aridhol? In the books, Mashadar (the creepy black stuff that turned that horse into dust) killed the Trollocs who had been driven inside to grab the heroes. If they had done that on screen, it would have emphasized how badly the Dark One wants the Dragon Reborn. What a missed opportunity. Instead, the viewer is left to surmise that Trollocs aren’t such a big threat, since apparently they just randomly give up when the plot calls for it.

At the end of ep01, Moiraine flat-out tells the heroes, “The Dragon has been reborn. And it’s one of you.” This would have been a great opportunity for character development plus exposition. “The Dragon has been reborn.” Then have the characters react, like “Blood and bloody ashes!” (or “WTF!”) and “Do you mean the guy who broke the world 3,000 years ago? That Dragon?” Reactions such as these would show what our heroes know of the world lore, as well as how seriously they take it. Then Moiraine could say, “Yes. That Dragon. And I believe it’s one of you.” That way, it ratchets up unspoken tension between the characters. It’s more dramatic. But the opportunity was missed.

Overall, the show feels very scripted. The world seems to be conveniently full of adventurers and significant people who are fated to teach our heroes what the Whitecloaks are, what a Gleeman is, and what an Aiel is. I’m sure that is a byproduct of promising a short TV season. The solution would have been to make the first season ten episodes instead of eight. Oh, and to prioritize a few scenes meant to lighten the mood and seem fun and spontaneous.


I will continue watching, of course. One can learn a lot about cinema and storytelling from watching adaptations, whether they are good or bad!

To be clear, I don’t think this one is abysmal. It’s functional. It could be better, it could have been worse. Three stars. Maybe the characters will gain some interpersonal chemistry or fun moments in later episodes. 

Wedding! August 2021

We got married!

Abby & Adam

Abby & Adam

Here’s our wedding website, if you want details about how we met and all that.

Adam has definitely changed my life for the better. He challenges me intellectually and creatively, he gives me excitement and a sense of peace, and he reads my books and supports my author career aspirations as a #1 fan. I’ve loved him for 9 years.

Nothing has really changed, but we made it official, with a rubber stamp and a meeting of our families. This was just the right size of wedding for us, small and casual.

Here is the recorded video of our marriage ceremony:

Afterwards, we stayed in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains, we drove up Pike’s Peak, we bought some artwork in Taos, and we watched the sunset in White Sands National Park. A beautiful week!

Thank you to everyone who showed up in person, and on livestream, and to everyone who sent us gifts and cards!

Epic Series Writers group

A lot professional advice aimed at novelists doesn’t quite apply to writers of epic series. Everything about a major series is different from stand-alone novels. The approach, plotting, and methodology are different. The pitching, audience building strategies, and marketing are different.

I want a place where we can find on-target advice and support, without needing to dig through a morass of posts aimed at other types of novelists. So I made a focus group.

Epic Series Writers on Discord

Epic Series Writers on Facebook

Come join if you write epic series! Lurkers are welcome, but I want this group to stay very focused on the unique challenges and concerns of writing a series with 3+ books, totaling more than 150,000+ words collectively, that has to be read in the correct order.

Icepocalypse 2021

Greetings from the disaster zone that is central Texas.

Don’t worry about me. We were in a better position than many Texans, since we had camping gear, plus we grew up in cold climates. So we endured several days without electricity, heat, or running water, but we found workarounds. I even managed to get a little bit of work and writing done—between huddling under blankets and putting food in the snow and figuring out how to recharge devices.

Let me tell you about the Icepocalypse! Songbirds froze to death. Cars were stranded on every road, as people desperate to buy food or water ventured out of their freezing homes. “Open” signs remained in the windows of stores that were closed and abandoned, including major chains. No one had time to take the signs down. People went skiing or snowboarding or sledding on hilly streets that normally carry tons of traffic. People chopped ice out of swimming pools in order to be able to flush toilets.

It’s pretty surreal. I grew up in a place where ice storms were a regular thing, but obviously, Texas ain’t prepped for that. Southern homes are not well insulated. They get cold easily, and apartments have sprinkler systems with delicate pipes that are not designed for deep freezes.

I’m not going to pretend to have answers about how to strengthen the electric grid. I’m sure it’s complicated af.

But I will voice my criticism about the electric utilities’ poor communication. Millions of people got one text message that said: “Expect rolling blackouts that may last up to 40 minutes.” That was it. Nothing more. The second-most populated state in the U.S. lost power for nearly a week without any warning, with no updates, and no apologies. Who’s in charge of public relations over there?

The icicles started to melt today. It will be in the 60s F next week, and we should have running water by then. Yay!

Written Serialization Hubs

Where can you reach readers with your written serialized fiction? Here’s a list.

NON-EXCLUSIVE SERIALIZATION PLATFORMS with MONETIZATION OPTIONS

 

NOT MONETIZED SERIALIZATION and CRITIQUE FORUMS

 

MONETIZED ONLY / ROYALTY-PAYING SERIALIZATION

 

And what if you want to self-host?

PAYWALL HELP FOR WEB SERIALS / SELL ADVANCE CHAPTERS

 

FANFIC FOCUSED SERIALIZATION

    • Ao3 / Archive Of Our Own (popular fanfic site with a section for original fiction, apply to join)
    • Quotev (old community)
    • FictionPress (pre-dates Wattpad, may want exclusivity)
    • Mibba (section for original fiction, young writers)

 

NON-ENGLISH / FOREIGN SERIALIZATION MARKETS

    • Belletristica (mostly German)
    • Pratilipi (Indian)
    • Novello (Hong Kong)
    • Joara / Full Novels (Japanese)
    • Honeyfeed (Japanese)
    • KakaoPage (Korean)
    • Snack Book (Korean)
    • Bagle (Korean)
    • BookWalker
    • Livory (German, owned by Tapster)
    • MoboReader (Changdu’s English outreach, requires application)
    • CreativeNovels.com (webnovel translation site, requires application)
    • WuxiaWorld.com (China webnovels translation)
    • Gravity Tales (China/Korea translation)
    • Scribay (French)

 

EXCLUSIVE / INVITE-ONLY / TOWARDS TRADITIONAL DEAL

    • Galatea (an Inkitt venture)
    • Realm / SerialBox (SFF audio, hard to get in)
    • FierceReads (rebranded Swoon Reads, Macmillan YA sourcing site)
    • ThePigeonHole (sources from trad publishers)
    • Boke Technology (romance only)
    • Episodic Reading (2yr exclusive)
    • Alexi Books (sources from trad publishers, looks defunct)

 

CHAT / TEXTING STORIES

    • Hooked.co (texting style stories)
    • Tap by Wattpad (texting style stories)
    • Lure Fiction
    • Viber
    • MessageInk
    • Peep.jp (was Taskey.me; Japanese; crowd-sourced translation if you serialize for free, texting style stories)

 

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE / BRANCHING STORIES

    • Episode (primarily romance)
    • Scripts: romance episode
    • Sana Stories
    • Dorian ($2m funded, Lionsgate Films)
    • Tales (learning curve)
    • Choice of Games / Heart’s Choice
    • 4thewords.com (Costa Rica based, international)

 

SKETCHY / SCAMMY / POSSIBLY ABANDONED

    • Webnovel (China, Qidian’s English site) and Boxnovel
    • Tencent / Qidian.com (huge serialization platform in China; they may take all rights)
    • EMP Entertainment and A&D Entertainment (3rd party distributor, Singapore partner for Webnovel)
    • GoodNovel
    • CreativeNovel (foreign, iffy on rights)
    • NovelHD (steals stories from Wattpad) owned by contabo.de
    • Foxteller (ghost town, may be iffy on rights)
    • HiNovel (rights grabby, contact daisy@hinovel.com)
    • iReader, Fictum, Bytedance Group (reports of selling work without permission, Writer Beware)
    • NovelFull
    • EStory (grabby contract)
    • authorbitz (founder: Lucinda Hawks Moebius, looks abandoned)
    • www.orton.io (sketchy w mispellings)
    • Movellas (looks sketchy, possible plagiarism?)
    • taylz.com (short fiction critique site, free, UK-based)
    • 2Tale (may be abandoned)
    • EGlobal Creative Publishing
    • Tapfun PTE
    • BabelNovel
    • Libri (will take all your rights)
    • BravoNovel (theft)
    • Friver group
    • NovelBee (plagiarism)
    • BeeNovel (red flag, they steal)
    • NovelCat
    • LITeReader (nonpayment)

 

CLOSED / DEFUNCT

    • Curious Fictions
    • LitHive.com (fanfic)
    • Describli (seeking backers on IndieGoGo)
    • ReaderCoin (audio focus)
    • Sweek
    • JukePop Serials (crowd-funded)
    • SparkaTale
    • WriteOn (Amazon; more like a critique group)
    • Book Country (Penguin Random House; more like a critique group)
    • Authonomy (HarperCollins)
    • CloudyPen
    • Figment
    • Story Pony
    • Readitt.com

Self-Publishing Before E-Readers And Apps: 1998—2006

In the early years of the internet, before Amazon was open to self-publishers, distribution for independent authors was very limited.

Print was still king.  Ebooks and Audiobooks did exist, but they were quite niche.  Tech-savvy people might read a PDF on their computer.  There were no smart-phones or tablets, and laptops were a rarity.  There were no apps.  Sony produced the world’s first popular e-reader device in 2006, with Amazon following that up with its Kindle in 2007.  Barnes & Noble was late to the game, offering its competing Nook in 2009. 

In the late 1990s through 2007, Audible was a boutique company that had yet to be purchased by Amazon.  Its selection of audiobooks was even more limited than what you could find at your local Barnes & Noble.  Since audiobook production runs to many thousands of dollars per book, it was prohibitively costly for small presses and independent authors, and besides, Audible only bought from major New York producers who worked with the Big Six.

So in the brand new internet era, print was still the most desirable format. 

If you lacked the patience or the desire to impress big publishers in New York City, might there be another way to get your books into print and into bookstores?

Enter print-on-demand services.

A tech-savvy author-entrepreneur or a small press could use Adobe QuarkXPress (the precursor to InDesign), or freeware tools such as Sigil or Calibre, to format their manuscripts for print (and for e-reader devices, once those became a thing).  That author could then upload the PDF to a niche retailer for independent books, such as JukeBox or NoiseTrade.  One of the largest was a site called Lulu, a darling of micro-press and small press publishers, which survives to this day.  Once your book became part of the Lulu catalog, it had a sales page.  It could be purchased, printed, and shipped to a paying customer.

Independent authors began to take advantage of these services. 

They were shy about it, at first.  Self-publishing had a major stigma attached to it, since at the time, it was synonymous with so-called “vanity presses.”

A Vanity Press meant pay-to-publish.  No publisher would admit to being a vanity press, but in plain English, they only published paying customers and they did not pay royalties.  In other words, the money flowed from the writer to the publisher, instead of from the publisher to the writer.  This arrangement was fine for mom’s cookbook, or for dad’s book of nature photos and poems, or for grandma’s genealogy book.  If you wanted a nicely bound version of those books, someone had to provide it. 

But for fiction?  No.  Booksellers steered clear of anything printed by a vanity press.  If you published your romance or your science fiction with a vanity press, you would never receive royalties.  You would never get it into bookstores.  The venture could only lose you money.  Fiction books from vanity presses were sneered upon as the province of complete failures.

Print-on-demand services such as Lulu were a new thing.  They offered fiction writers the services of a vanity press without the downsides, and—many hoped—without the stigma.  You, as an author, did not pay Lulu.  Lulu simply hosted the file of your manuscript, and if a customer bought it, the customer paid for printing and shipping.  That lent self-published books an aura of legitimacy.

It was supposed to, anyway. 

Unfortunately, many author-entrepreneurs in the brave new era had never tried to improve their craft.  They were hobbyists or amateurs, their books never workshopped or edited.  Some weren’t even proofread.  This was before proofreading tools such as Grammarly existed. 

A handful of these self-published authors solicited massive numbers of people, via email, to buy a copy of their print-on-demand books.  I got suckered in by two such emails in the early 2000s.  The idea of indie authors was a new and exciting thing, so I remember being eager to try their books.  After reading each one, I had regrets about supporting those authors in any way, shape, or form.  They were truly awful.  If that had been my sole experience with self-published authors, it would have left a very bad impression—and it did, for many people.

However, extraordinary innovations were happening on the digital frontiers of online serialization, fanfic, and podcast novels.

Creative hubs formed online.  If you sought free fiction that was more accessible, and fresher, than anything at your local library, then you would find sites such as FanFiction, ElfWood, DeviantArt, and LiveJournal.  These sites and their ilk were less popular, and perhaps less reputable, than today’s Tumblr, YouTube, Medium, and Wattpad.  However, they were the precursors to today’s biggest hubs of amateur and experimental fiction content offered for free. 

As far as I knew at the time, there was only one site where podcast novels were gathered and showcased.  I visited Podiobooks on a regular basis. 

I was skeptical, at first.  There were a bunch of authors on Podiobooks whom I had never heard of, and not a single big-name author or best-seller.  So why did I go there?  The answer is simple.  I ran out of audiobooks that I wanted to listen to, and I craved more.  I had upgraded to MP3s sometime before the year 2000, and I found audiobooks on cassette tapes or even CDs to be old-fashioned and unwieldy, not to mention expensive.  I subscribed to Audible around 2002, but all they had at the time were major best-sellers and classics, nothing edgy or new.  And I had a day job which involved 8 to 10 hours of animation artwork per day.  I needed audio-only entertainment, and I needed lots of it.

Nor was I the only digital artist who listened to audiobooks all day, every day.  Several of my coworkers and friends were almost as obsessed with audiobooks as I was.  I can’t remember if one of them introduced me to Podiobooks, or if it was the other way around.  One way or another, a bunch of us became fans of the site.

Sure, some of those random podcast novels were terrible.  But they were free—unlike print-on-demand books.  They were episodic, too.  If you listened to the first episode, you could pretty much tell whether it was worth listening further.  The site incorporated fan votes, much like Wattpad does now.  The most popular books ranked high and were the most visible.

That was how I discovered Scott Sigler, the first indie author whom I became a fan of.  His works dominated the sci-fi category of Podiobooks.  When I ran out of Sigler books to listen to, I tried just about every other book on the site, hoping to find another author like him.  And I did find a few other gems which stick in my mind to this day.

The year was 2005.

The way Scott Sigler marketed his books caught my attention, because it was utterly different than anything I had ever seen an author do before.  He thanked his readers by offering stuff.  In the opening of every podcast episode, he recorded a skippable ad which included a coupon discount code for a product which a tech-savvy reader might desire.

10% off a domain name at GoDaddy.  5% off a SquareSpace website.  $50 off Nike shoes.  Sigler respected his audience enough to guess what demographic of people they were.  He recorded his own ads, as well as narrating his own audiobooks.  He did it all in a professional manner, with intro music and high quality audio, which was edited and produced by a team of people, whom he credited. 

When I listened to Sigler’s podcast novels, I began to understand what might be possible without a traditional publisher.  Sigler gave away every audiobook for free.  Yet somehow, he seemed to be earning enough income to pay a team of friends to help him produce a high quality podcast of his own novels.  Somehow, he had wrangled partnerships with major corporations such as GoDaddy and Nike.  They were allowing him to advertise for them.

Mind.  Blown.  How was this possible?

I visited his website, and saw that every one of his books was available for sale as a print-on-demand book.  Want to see them on the shelves of your local Barnes & Noble or Borders?  Well, then tell them, silly.  Write to their headquarters.  Oh, and also, you could buy Sigler merchandise.  If you wore a baseball cap or a T-shirt with a logo from one of his books, it was basically a counterculture signal to other fans.  It was sneaky.  And it was fun.

By the year 2006, I openly yearned to become a best-selling author, traditionally published by one of the Big Six.  At the same time, secretly, I also yearned to be like Scott Sigler.  Those two desires were at war within me, and caused a lot of internal confusion and conflict. 

So when Amazon opened its floodgates to everyone and anyone in November 2007, I was paying attention.

This article is part of an ongoing series I’m posting on Wattpad.

iLasik Post-Op, Day One

I’ve needed glasses since age six, with -10 vision (which translates to 20/1000), plus mild astigmatisms. Yesterday I got Lasik surgery to correct my myopia and astigmatisms, with an Intralase Wavefront excimer (molecular) laser.

From what I understand, this super-accurate laser was developed in the last 10 years. Prior to 2009 or so, I wouldn’t have been eligible for Lasik. There would have been blades involved, and a recovery period of months, if I could do it at all. This is a new kind of iLasik, which should have me recovered and seeing 20/20 within a week, and fully healed within 3 months.

You may be wondering what the procedure feels like.

First, they gave me a Valium and two Aleve. I sat in a waiting room with Adam (my significant other) with Disney-esque music piped in, so I felt like I was going to visit the land of Tomorrow, or maybe a theme park.

While those meds took effect, an assistant cleaned my eyes with drops and iodine around the skin. The surgeon came in and used drops to numb my eyes, and then used a marker to draw directly on my eyeballs, showing where the astigmatisms were. I was getting super nervous. The surgeon left and came back in to check on me. I must have been freaking out a little, because he backed out, saying, “We’ll wait a little longer for that Valium to take effect.”

Sure enough, I felt calmer after a few minutes, although still freaked out. The assistants put a surgical cap on me, and surgical booties on my feet. They led me to the operating room, which is kept chilly. A large window enabled Adam to sit outside and watch the procedure; he took the featured photo.

Three people were in the operating room, besides me: The surgeon, the surgeon’s assistant, and a laser tech. They lay me down on a bed that can rotate between two large laser machines. One machine makes the incision in the cornea. The other machine corrects vision. While the surgeon worked, the assistant talked me through everything that was happening, and made sure I followed the directions, which was very helpful and prevented me from completely freaking out.

They filled my eyes with numbing drops. Then they prepped my eyes, and began surgery on my right eye first. They used tape to keep my eyelashes out of the way, and a glassy monocle thing to keep my eye open. They used suction cups on my eyeballs, too. It’s a very fast and uncomfortable procedure, where I had to gaze at a blinking orange light while I felt weird pressures on my eye. No pain, due to the numbing drops.

Then that eye was covered, and they lasered my left eye. For some reason, I had trouble focusing on the orange blinking light with my left eye. It was so out of focus, it seemed to fill my vision. The laser stopped a few times, since it was having trouble tracking my eye. But soon it was done.

Immediately after surgery, my vision was streaky and steamed up, as if looking through warped and wet glass. I had to keep my eyes closed. A driver is necessary for Lasik, and Adam led me to the car and drove me home.

The Lasik place gave me eyedrops with antibiotics and steroids to help the inflammation, and told me to use those, then sleep for 4-6 hours, or to rest with my eyes closed. They told me there would be some pain once the numbing drops wore off.

Pain woke me up after about an hour of sleep. It was very intense pain, and I think that may be because I had such a high prescription. My eyes felt badly sunburned, as if I had witnessed a nuclear explosion up close. I’ve had eye pain before from contact lens problems, which felt like hydrochloric acid. This was more like burning. It was very intense. I took a Tylenol, and was alarmed enough that Adam called the Lasik center to make sure it was normal. They said that they pain should go away around 8pm.

Sure enough, it did!

I ate dinner, and noticed that my eyesight was improving in weird ways. It wasn’t 20/20, but it was definitely better than 20/1000. I estimate it to be somewhere in between, maybe like 20/200. Things up close were clear, but things beyond 5 feet or so were foggy and indistinct.

I went to sleep. Friends who have had Lasik say they see very well the next day, and I was hopeful that I’d be able to drive myself to my post-op eye appointment in the morning.

It isn’t quite like that. I woke up seeing much more clearly, and the pain was gone. Far distances still look blurry. Everything looks like it’s though a soft light filter, the way wedding photos are softened. My right eye is seeing much better than the left. This is creating a weird, disorienting effect. If I close my right eye, this computer screen (as I type this blog post) is barely legible due to blurriness. If I close my left eye, it is crystal clear.

My post-op appointment was with my regular optometrist. He said the eyes heal at different rates, and the difference may also be due to inflammation. My high prescription meant they burned away a lot of cornea. He said I am healing well.

For now, this is pretty cool. I can use a computer and read without glasses! We will see how things are in a week, with my next appointment.

Putting the Science in Fiction

I’m stoked to be part of this anthology! It’s wonderful when real life crosses streams with my writing, proving that my job experience in animation counts for more than just having an income (pshaw).

Thanks to Dan Koboldt, the editor who put this together. And thanks to Writer’s Digest Books for taking it to publication and distribution across all major bookstores. Chuck Wendig, who’s been making waves in the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, wrote the foreword.

Have you ever wondered how sci-fi screenwriters and authors get their research right? And how many get it wrong? Every article in this book explores a branch of science that is often misrepresented in popular mass media. My article, “CGI is Not Made By Computers,” covers how the human labor component of special effects is often glossed over, or erased, in stories with a virtual reality or video game premise.

Every article I read in here turned out to be fascinating, and I’m honored to be included with so many engineers, physicians, and scientists.

“Putting the Science in Fiction” will be available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Writer’s Digest Store, and other major retailers starting Tuesday.

The Wheel of Time Turns, and Here Comes Amazon Prime

I was thrilled when HBO picked up “Game of Thrones”, one of my favorite fantasy series of books. But my all-time favorite fantasy series is “The Wheel of Time,” and I figured that would face bigger hurdles to TV adaptation. It’s a much longer series (yes, much longer than GoT). It’s going to require major visual effects (yes, more than GoT). It has a huge ensemble cast of characters (yes, more than GoT). And the author, Robert Jordan, is deceased, so he can’t have any input into the creative translation from books to screen.

When GoT proved successful, other TV studios began to experiment with book series adaptations, and then we all knew it was just a matter of time until someone tried to adapt the WoT. But I’m sure something this colossal is a hard sell. I mean, it’s colossal. If HBO threw $100 million at the first season of the GoT, and all the copycat series were less successful, then how can any studio justify giving a gigantic budget to yet another fantasy series adaptation? If the money managers are not fans of these books, they won’t necessarily understand why this one has potential to be as popular, or more popular, than Game of Thrones.

So Amazon Prime wants to make a big splash into the land of original TV content. Maybe they see the potential here.

According to this article, Amazon signed a director/producer who is a fan of the WoT books. So that’s good.

It sounds like they are going to focus the first season on Moiraine rather than on the main characters in the books. That may work, or it may end up coming across as boring. Moiraine is a female Gandalf; she isn’t the most personable of characters. However, the books have a great ensemble cast, which is key in making a great TV series.

“Game of Thrones” got an excellent adaptation, in part, because George R.R. Martin knew the TV industry well. As a former director and executive producer, he was able to recognize the kind of talent who would do his story justice in TV format and negotiate contracts with them. That won’t be the case with the “Wheel of Time.” And while I admire Amazon as an innovative company, they also have a rather industrial and non-artistic approach to their ventures, which could be an impediment to top-notch film-making.

The source material gives this TV show great potential, but there is also great potential for screw-ups.

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