Category Archives: Creepy Luny Inn


I’m answering questions over at AF Stewart’s blog! Come stop by to say hello!

🙂  See you there.

Does Amazon’s lending service help or destroy authors?

Amazon Prime members can now borrow a book for free with no due date.

There seem to be mixed feelings among writers about this offer. What does it mean for authors and publishers?

Complaints about this are similar to debates regarding ebook pricing and giveaways. At what point are authors pricing themselves out of business?

Assume that it takes about six weeks for a seasoned author to write a strong first draft of a novel. Depending on the writer’s process, research may come during these six weeks (lengthening this time) or after, when revisions take place. Critique partners read the chapters and make comments. Changes are made. This may take several more weeks, depending on deadlines and other issues.

If the writer already has a publisher waiting, then it’s time to send the work there to be read, marked up, and sent back for final revisions. Tack on some more weeks and hours of work on the author’s part.

If the writer does not have a publisher waiting, then begins the submission process, which can take months or even years to complete successfully. Finding the perfect match in an editor or agent is a notoriously difficult thing to accomplish, and many writers never find that “best fit.”

Count up the hours and weeks/months/years it took the author to write, research, revise, promote, query, revise, submit, revise, and finally realize publication, and then that $0.00 price tag looks a bit low.

But is it a killer for the industry?

Amazon’s new lending service is technically a subscription model, since borrowers must be Amazon Prime members – they must also own a Kindle to participate. This reminds some users of the Netflix structure, where subscribers are able to put some films in their “instant” queues indefinitely. I have over a hundred in mine right now. Some I have watched multiple times.

I also already have an Amazon Prime membership; it gives me deals on shipping and renting films online that I can’t find on Netflix. In addition, I own a Kindle and am constantly purchasing new titles to save for a rainy day. Amazon Prime lending is definitely a service that is intended for a consumer like me.

When I consider the debates surrounding Amazon’s lending subscription, I take the writer’s process very seriously. My YA fantasy finished its contract with its original publisher after a good two-year run, and I decided to indie publish it to keep it out there while I work on other titles.

The opening week cost was a choice I had to make carefully. Should I go for a standard rate of $2-3 for a full-length novel that has been thoroughly edited and vetted by readers and reviewers already? Or should I lower the price to attract new readers who might be willing to take a chance on something when the risk is only $0.99?

For my opening week, I have offered From Light to Dark at under a dollar because I ultimately decided the extra readership is my most important asset. This isn’t the only work of fiction I will want to share with audiences. The larger my audience grows, the better my returns will be – and, consequently, the more I will write.

I wonder whether the Amazon lending service will provide a similar result for authors. It’s worth noting that many of the major publishers have rejected this new borrowing plan and will not offer their books as part of it. Are they making the right decision?

I keep thinking of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which he released for free as part of Creative Commons, and his description of Neil Gaiman’s question to fans:

“Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free ­­because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash.”

According to Doctorow, it was the freebies that made life-long fans of writers. These people came across a title by paying no money at all, but after that they bought several copies of each title the author put out, some to share with others, and they attended book signings and generally spread the love.

So, readers and writers, what do you think? Are authors pricing and lending ourselves out of business? Or are we taking a loss up front to expand our readership down the road?

From Light to Dark

Anonymous, Shakespeare, Nerdiness… and a book!

I’m guest blogging over at the Madhouse! Come see what I have to say about Shakespeare, the new film Anonymous, and generally being a nerd.

And, speaking of Shakespeare, have you seen the release of my book yet? It has a Romeo and Juliet theme — with magic! What could be better for a fall read?  🙂  Get your copy now and let me know your thoughts.

From Light to Dark


I’ve been a bit quiet lately for a reason: I’ve been gearing up for the re-release of my book, From Light to Dark!

This Halloween, get your romantic fantasy fix!

(cover artist Justin Togail)

Violent Gaming

Game designer Jane McGonigal appeared today on a radio broadcast about how gaming can change the world. Partway through that broadcast, a caller informed her that “I’m a professor and there are more than 100 studies linking violent videogames to real-life violence.”

McGonigal tweeted about this, asking followers for links to these studies. I’d like to see the studies, too.

Now, I’m no quantitative researcher on the psychological effects of gaming. But I am a video gamer. I’m also a pacifist. I’m also friends with many other video gamers — all of them either pacifists or wholly uninterested in leading violent lives.

That, of course, is only my personal experience.

However, to say that people who play video games are likely to behave violently is like saying that children who read Harry Potter are likely to jump off their roofs on a broomstick. … I’ve heard that argument several times.

Are we unable to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction? Do we automatically do what we see our favorite characters doing? This seems like an important conversation to have, actually, as what McGonigal creates are not so much video games as they are transmedia experiences: her own version of alternate reality games. The line between fiction and nonfiction gets a bit blurred in ARGs.

By the way, it should be noted that McGonigal generally makes non-violent transmedia experiences for people to play. In fact, much of her work is aimed at improving the way people interact with each other and the world in real life. See her totally cool “Gaming can make a better world” talk here.



So, what do you think? Do games change the world for the better? For the worse? Not at all? Is there a line that game creators should not cross when it comes to depictions of violence, or is it up to us to know the difference between right and wrong?

The Style Divide: Mike Pynn guest blog

~Today’s blog comes FROM MIKE PYNN!~

I’m a big fan of peer reviewing. There’s a pleasure and pain that comes with having my ideas critiqued. As long as I trust the person looking at my work, there’s no better way for me to find a breakthrough than to have them pick my work apart. That’s where my big sister, whose blog you obviously love, comes in.

My entire nuclear family writes. They write well, they write for money, and their writing is their best creative product. As you may have noticed, Irene writes at a prodigious rate (see: Transition Village).

Having that many good writers around is a sweet deal. No matter which of them is too busy to help me, there’s always a fantastic writer who’ll feel obligated to look something over. I’m like the freeloading family member who doesn’t want to get a job and crashes on couches and cleans out refrigerators at a rotating set of relatives’ homes. As long as I don’t rely on any one of them too frequently, they’ll always let me mooch some of their considerable talent.

Unfortunately for Irene, she’s the one on whom I most rely. Even more unfortunate for her is that I struggle when I write anything that isn’t funny. I’m uncomfortable when my fiction stops making people laugh. As a result, her usual dark and mysterious style has to be tucked away for a bit while she reads my work.

The other night, Irene needed my help. She has a great new idea she’s been working on, and she wants to add a transmedia/alternate reality element to the mix. Since we collaborate on exactly those kinds of projects, she asked me for some help coming up with a plan. Sounds sensible enough, right?

Well, it turned out to be much harder than either of us expected. I found myself completely unable to generate effective ideas. The ones I produced were either modifications of stuff she’s already done, or too similar to campaigns other folks have done — and I’m usually full of ideas.

The problem was that the tone of this project is decidedly NOT funny. It’s quite serious, actually. I was hopelessly out of my element, and Irene was left swinging in the wind (until November?). It’s still bugging me that I can’t come up with something good for her.

It’s a testament to her talent that she frequently and ably helps me with my ideas despite the stylistic divide.

So whom do you trust with your work? Do you have a stylistic tone out of which you have trouble breaking? Got any ideas for helping me ditch the comedy when I need to?

The Everlasting ARG

I don’t like it that alternate reality games have to end. Call me clingy; sometimes there’s just a really good game out there, and I want to keep experiencing the world it offers for years and years. Many say that what I really want is an MMORPG, but I think that’s only partially accurate. I believe what I want is an interactive, transmedia soap opera. I want an everlasting ARG.  🙂

And we’re really big on story; we’re really big on narrative. So what we’ve been doing for the last two and half years, more or less, is plotting a story that spans lots of different media. It’s got back-stabbings; it’s pretty much a traditional soap opera. You’ve got murders, babies, betrayal, affairs – there’s a really great audience out there for that kind of thing.” ~ Adrian Hon

The following are excerpts from a paper I did for a class on Texts and Technology. The focus of my paper was the everlasting ARG. I may post more of it later, but I’d like to begin with the positive stuff:


Several attempts have been made to market novels with ARGs, most resulting in ongoing games that provide few updates and little interactivity. By many player admissions, this does not constitute a “true” ARG, but instead is what some have referred to as an “extended” story. The joy that comes from new, interactive material dies when it is used to market certain products. What players get instead is either a proper ARG that ends, as with I Love Bees, or an extended experience that is a solitary game instead of the collaborative social network that makes up a standard ARG.

On November 1, 2009, Adrian Hon said on Remix Fiction, “It’s obviously difficult for – well, it’s impossible, really, to play a normal alternate reality game after it’s finished.”

Microsoft’s Halo 2 continues to be available. Xbox continues to release new games. But the time, money, and creativity invested in the associated ARGs no longer pay dividends. The finite quality of the ARG experience dictates that, once played, the game has no afterlife, no value either as promotion or as entertainment. For potential players who hear of I Love Bees, there is no possibility of future engagement beyond reading what it was once like.

LonelyGirl15 hit YouTube in 2007 as a webisode/ARG that became viral almost instantly. This show/game/experience became an example of how ARGs can reach all types of audiences and have a profound effect.

David Spark, founder of Spark Media Solutions, posted about the Lonely Girl model and what made it work. One reason for the show’s success? “It’s a soap opera – People get attached to characters and need to find out what happens next. And LonelyGirl15’s melodrama makes Days of Our Lives look like the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour.”

In April of 2009, CBS announced that Guiding Light, the world’s longest-running broadcast show at 72 years (recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records), was to be canceled.

“The endurance of this show is a testament to the enduring popularity of the soap opera genre in general,” said Daniel R. Coleridge, soap columnist and author of “The Q Guide to Soap Operas.” “Viewers become emotionally attached to the characters, so much so that they often feel closer to them than to their own families. Soaps are broadcast five days a week, 52 weeks a year. They don’t go on hiatus for the summer. This gives the viewer a lot more time to get to know the characters and become attached to them.”

The same can be said of Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs). These forms of entertainment use the same model described above, where fans are able to access the fictional world daily for as long as the servers support the experience. MMORPGs take immersion to an even higher level, allowing players to create own identities in a virtual world such as EverQuest or World of Warcraft, interacting with other players and participating in missions every single day.

This regular interaction can provide strong levels of fan loyalty over long periods of time. As soap opera fans believe they “know” the characters in their favorite shows sometimes better than their own families, MMORPG players are able to develop and carry out alternate lives with social circles and personal goals, all within fictional universes.

Interaction is an essential part of our storytelling today, and fans of many genres, rather than preferring to passively experience fiction, express an interest in participating in the progress of their entertainment.

The conclusion we can reach from these examples is this: interactivity in all storytelling genres may assist in increasing the longevity of individual stories themselves.

Perhaps the most obvious practical benefit of long-lasting or perpetual ARG storytelling is the opportunity for lengthy relationships with sponsors. In addition to that, ARGs that provide lengthy experiences can also reach out to new companies as the story shifts, bringing in fresh sponsorship to match the changing technologies and audiences.

The constant collaboration between author and audience builds viewer loyalty and interest. ARG players who fail to save a character from a terrible fate rush to message boards to express their sorrow and even guilt after the fact. Such a strong connection is reminiscent of the viewers of Guiding Light, who felt closer to the characters on the show than they did to their real families. Guiding Light provided longevity, while ARGs provide interactivity. Both appear to have a profound impact on audiences.


This is just a small section of my paper, but I decided to post the positive-ish side of things first.

So, am I crazy? Clingy?  🙂  Is it possible (or even desirable) for an ARG to go on… and on… and on?