Saturday, December 31, 2011

Numbers from a Newbie Writer's First Year

Here's the latest post I put up on the Self-Publishing Revolution blog detailing how my first year as a self-published(ish) writer has gone. Thanks to everyone who supported me through buying my books and I hope you enjoyed them! More to come next year!

I had a nice early Christmas present when my third quarter royalties came through. I was expecting this to be fairly light, but it also included some October sales, which was when my third collection of short stories, A Succubus for Halloween, came out. The amount this quarter was $600, a nice little sum right before Christmas.

That takes my total profits, after taking out initial setup costs, author copies and seller’s/publisher’s cuts, to $1,300 for my first (kind of) year as a writer. Obviously this is nowhere near the same ballpark as self-publishing titans Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath, but this is all money in the black, with the only outlay being my free time spent in an activity I enjoy doing anyway.

I put out three collections of short stories, with A Succubus for Christmas coming out October 2010, A Succubus for Valentine’s Day coming out February 2011 and A Succubus for Halloween arriving October 2011. Christmas and Valentine’s Day were originally priced at $5.99 and this was dropped to $3.99 about halfway in the year after eXcessica head honcho Selena Kitt did some experimenting on pricing. Christmas and Valentine’s Day sold just under 200 copies and Halloween just over 100, making 500 books (print + ebook) in total for the whole year. It’s a modest amount, but not bad considering collections of short stories rarely sell well and my subject matter is about as far from the mainstream as you can get! :)

More promising is the growth. Christmas and Valentine’s Day sold nearly 200 each over the whole year. Halloween came out at the end of the third week in October and my royalties run up until the end of October, which meant it managed those hundred-and-so sales in the first week. Baby steps, I know, but they’re going in the right direction.

Unsurprisingly, the lion’s share of these sales was through Amazon, but they are not the only game in town. I can understand why some might think Amazon’s current dominance is a cause for concern, but I suspect if Amazon really started to abuse that dominance to the detriment of writers and readers, they’d quickly find themselves outstripped by one of their competitors in the way Nintendo was usurped by Sony in the console wars of the ‘90’s. For the moment they’re fantastic and a budding writer would be foolish not to take advantage of what they have to offer.

Writers shouldn’t restrict themselves to only Amazon. Having their own webpage for direct sales can be very useful once they’ve built up a following. By promoting eXcessica’s coming soon link for A Succubus for Halloween heavily on my personal blog in the month leading up to its release I was able to generate 40 sales, nearly half of the total for that book, directly through eXcessica’s own store (which also took Halloween to the top of their bestsellers list, yay! Now if only I can match Selena’s sales out in the rest of the big bad world. :)).

For people looking to self-publish as a route to fame and riches, these numbers aren’t very exciting. If I was trying to make a living as a full-time professional writer, 500 sales and a return of $1,300 for the year would be horrifying. Thankfully I’m not, so I can feel chuffed about the numbers instead of worrying about what I’m going to live on next year.

Next year I plan to put out my first novel and a fourth collection of short stories. I don’t know where the path is going to take me, but it’s going to be fun to find out!

All the best for 2012!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Monster Girl Quest Ch.2 - A Review

Hurrah for とろとろレジスタンス (hope I pasted the right characters there) and Monster Girl Quest Ch.2. Mention of that always triples the number of hits to my blog. :D

Now if only I could persuade all those people lured here like victims to the alluring, pulsing, moist sack of a pitcher plant girl to check out my stories...

Now that the shameless book-whoring is out of the way, let's get on with the review.

Monster Girl Quest is a hentai RPG game. You play Luka, a young man on a quest to bring peace and harmony to his world by slaying the evil Demon Monster Lord. His companion on this quest is Alice…the Demon Monster Lord.

The majority of the hentai comes from the combat encounters. Luka’s world is filled with monster girls, and all of them want to rape and do unmentionable sex things to the poor lad. Have Luka lose a fight (conveniently, the game makes this very easy with various assorted commands that exist purely to suicide poor Luka) and you’ll be treated to an ending scene where the monster girl gets to have her wicked way with the hapless hero. The game also features an unlockable encyclopedia of monsters encountered so far and gives the player the option to…erm…“battle” them again at different difficulty settings.

There are 85 encounters in the second chapter, each with one or more Game Over scenes. That’s a lot of choice and variety. As with the first chapter the creators have tried to cover just about every fetish imaginable (and a few you might never have known previously existed). The monsters vary from the traditional sexy humanoid types such as succubi, elves, fairies, cat girls…

Oh Alma Elma, we'd have such a future together if you didn't keep killing me...

…to some truly WTF! creations.

We strongly recommend your next action be "Guard".

The only true constant is they’re all female and have a pair (or more!) of boobies. As with the first chapter, the artwork is of varying quality, but some scenes, especially in the succubus village, have a lot more artwork per encounter than before.

While the number and variety of hentai scenes is impressive, the creators have also taken the time to make it a proper game with a decent storyline to stitch the fights together. This isn’t a visual novel where the only interactivity is clicking “Next Page” over and over. In the first chapter a lot of the fights were puzzles where the player had to work out which sequence of attack options to use. The second chapter adds extra complexity through the addition of elemental spirits Luka acquires on his quest. Refreshingly, the game steers clear of the clichéd elemental Jankenpon mechanic and instead each spirit gives Luka new abilities.

When summoned, Sylph allows Luka to dodge status changes and some OHKO attacks, while Gnome boosts defence and allows Luka to break restraints faster. Undine gives a kind of temporary invulnerability to most attacks and Salamander boosts attack and resets special points to full, but prevents Meditating to restore Hit Points while she’s out. The game compensates by making the encounters much harder. In the later battles Luka will need to summon Sylph and Gnome just to be able to fight normally. Failure to do so will result in being hit by restraint attacks he can’t break out of and special attacks that will defeat him in one hit.

The storyline continues the humour and strong characters of the first chapter. Luka is a decent and likable protagonist. Alice continues to be sarky and make fun of him at every opportunity, but it’s clear her respect and affection for him grows during the game. (Tip: Pay attention during the last fight otherwise you’ll need that box of tissues sitting next to you...and not in the way you thought!)

I played the game using AGTH and auto-translation software. It was enough to follow the action, but I suspect I missed a lot of the jokes and swipes at mainstream RPGs. Thankfully, RogueTranslator is working on putting together a full English translation. Progress on that can be followed at his blog here.

I love this game. Obviously I’m biased through my own predilections, but it’s great to see a piece of entertainment with porn as its raison d'être not take the lazy way out and actually aspire to have playability, plot and decent characterization as well as the obligatory Tits’n’Ass (or rather Tits’n’Orifices-of-questionable-function).

With around 9,000 downloads in the first week (9,000! Why am I wasting my time writing dusty old books!?), it’s also great to see the creators have been rewarded for their time and effort. Hopefully, its success will pave the way for other similar games in the future. It would be interesting to see the concept expanded to incorporate random battles or branching paths through the story.

I always did like those old game books… ;)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Feedback / Q'n'A for "A Succubus for Halloween"

A Succubus for Halloween has been out for a month or so now. Thanks to everyone who bought it, I hope you enjoyed it.

I thought I'd use this post as a general request for feedback. Let me know your favourite/least favourite story from the collection and what you liked/didn't like. This will give me a chance to tighten the screws on my internal filth compass and make sure it's still pointing in the right direction.

I'm going to continue killing 80% of my protagonists off regardless of what's requested. It's an addicton, I can't help it. :D But I do want to make sure the stories are still sexy and entertaining, and I haven't been tempted down the dark and dangerous path of trying to write fancy-and-pretentious-like.

Also if you have any questions about any of the new stories fire away right here (or to my email address if you'd rather not comment in public).


Saturday, December 03, 2011

A Thing of Subtle Beauty (Not!)

Oh Anne Billson, you are such a tease. I saw a link titled Six Reasons Why The Thing Prequel Is Better Than John Carpenter’s 1982 Film and feared the worst. The film critic and horror author formerly known as Anne Billson must have been consumed, digested and copied by an alien shape-shifting horror. Fetch the flamethrower before it can infect others!

Then I read the article and all was right with the world.

I saw the film back around Halloween and as low as my expectations were, they were not low enough. My criticisms are the same as Billson’s—The needless introductory scene for Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character, her cute-but-clever scientist character coming straight out of the big book of Hollywood monster movie stereotypes, the evil scientist dude from the same boring book of clichés, the bland CGI fx, and the many many moments of bone-headed stupidity.

The biggest shame is this wasn’t a case of They Just Didn’t Care. Someone went to a great deal of effort in recreating the look of the Norwegian camp from Carpenter’s film and explaining how the camp ended up as it did right down to an axe embedded in a wall. Unfortunately, it seems like all that care and attention was thrown out of the window when it came to the script.


Hollywood, you need to value writers and storytellers. They’re the people that link the flashy CGI explosions and fx together in a way that makes sense to people with more than a two-minute attention span.


[Spoiler Alert!] The tooth-filling test is a nice idea, but it’s crying out to be subverted later in the film. Even if the Thing cannot duplicate inorganic material (but apparently always has a spare set of clothes on hand. Either that or it somehow managed to eat and copy Joel Edgerton’s character without shredding his woollies), it should be smart and amorphous enough to realise it needs to put the earrings and tooth fillings back in afterwards to beat the imperfect test.

The main strength of the Thing concept is no one knows who a Thing is. This would have been a perfect opportunity to ramp up the tension as the audience has their safe conclusions on who is or isn’t a Thing rudely shredded. In John W. Campbell’s original Who Goes There?, characters make an initial assumption a person attacking a Thing couldn’t be a Thing as a Thing wouldn’t attack another Thing. They’re wrong.

This also highlights John Carpenter’s genius. His 1982 The Thing is a much more faithful adaptation of Who Goes There? than the 1951 film. Most of his characters have the same names as in the book. Now, considering the main strength of the concept is no one knows who’s a Thing, this could be a serious drawback. If he follows the source material too closely, anyone familiar with the original is going to know all the twists.

So what does Carpenter (or Bill Lancaster, the man responsible for the screenplay) do, he shuffles the characters around. This is best exemplified in the blood test set piece, where Kurt Russell’s MacReady has the rest of the crew tied to a bench as he tries to establish who’s a Thing. MacReady’s sure it’s the station commander Garry, the audience thinks it’s probably Garry, anyone who’s read the book knows damn well it’s Garry. So they sit there with a smug smile on their face as the film attempts to build tension.

Windows…MacReady…Copper…Clark…Palmer…What The Fuck!

Take that Mr Smug, I-Know-The-Original Man. They’re even more blind-sided than the regular viewer!

The remake should have aimed for that spirit. Instead it retreads the set pieces from the 1982 version and plays them straight, failing to realise that completely diminishes their effectiveness. If you only watch American films and love monster movies, these are very lean times indeed as Hollywood seems to have forgotten or lost the people who knew how to make horror click.

One day I will write my pornified homage to The Thing. I already have the rules for the monster sketched out in my head. It will work and there will be rational explanations for the gratuitous amounts of sex. If you thought "The Orgy of the Pink Flesh" was squicky…