Well, it’s been actual months in the making, but on February 7 – that’s a week from tomorrow, as I write this – The Lair of the Clockwork Book will start its run at the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual web site.
Everything, in fact, is ready now: I’m just giving myself a little additional time to do some revisions, make new site banners, and redo a few of the illustrations (like the one shown here) in a higher resolution, for reproduction as prints and posters.
The story will update on Mondays and Thursdays through sometime in April, 2012, and like Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves it’ll also be available in print.
Also on February 7, when everyone else has something new to look at, I’ll be diving into The Toaster With TWO BRAINS for a couple of months, after which it’s back to the Clockwork Book for me – for a further two months, after which I will rinse and repeat. Sort of thing. It’s an adventure in scheduling!
So about a week ago I started in on the site revisions at Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual. I had a list of tasks in my hand and a smile on my face, and I said to myself:
"Well, self! This won’t be so bad!"
…without realizing that these were the exact words spoken by Xerxes when he led his army up the Pass of Thermopylae.
Like Xerxes, I now know that a few days of hard work, relentless cursing, and some treachery can take you a long way.
Whenever it was possible I isolated my little explosions from the public areas of the site… but despite that, there were plenty of momentary glitches (sorry!) . I had to keep the site’s cache turned off for most of the week, too, and that slowed things down a bit.
But now…. now…. I stand atop a heap of dismembered bugs, glitches, misunderstood syntax, and incomprehensible documentation as though they were so many fallen Spartans. The dripping blade of my text editor is raised in triumph. A harsh, humorless smile creases my face. Now, is that Thebes over there?
Before I do the final two housekeeping tasks, there’s just one thing that I think could be better optimized… and since it’s the page that’ll display the most recent entry in a (linear) story, I think it’s an important one. It’s that page you’d want to bookmark to see the latest updates immediately. So, like I said, important. I’m pretty sure that if I can be just slightly smarter I can make it load faster.
But there’s some neat stuff that finally works. The linear stories have an additional set of navigation links that make it easy to go forward and backwards through the story, or to go straight to the first or latest page. (The normal Save/Restore system works, too, just like in the interactive tales.) I’ve also added a comments panel to the linear story pages, which is neat and pretty well secured against spam. The comments panel is hidden by default, but with a click you can unfold it to read or add comments. And though I know you don’t care about this one much, I can now define custom rotating ads to appear on individual static pages, or have unique ads for each story.
The other major revision was a big change to the way the pages are built, so that they’ll be better indexed by the search engines. That was the first thing I did and it went live early in the week, so that as the search engine bots come through they’ll be finding what they think is new and better content on all the existing pages. It’s the same content we’ve been looking at all along, of course: those poor bots just didn’t understand that it was there.
So I’ve got just a few more days to go before it’s all done and (even more) tested, and then I can begin to add the actual content for the first thirty-three pages of The Lair of the Clockwork Book. They’ll be time-released to post on Mondays and Thursdays, starting sometime in the first half of February. Honest!
If that’s me, with my faced scrunched up against the window of the airship’s gondola, it only means that I’ve just finished the first illustration for The Lair of the Clockwork Book… which in a remarkable inversion is also the last one I needed to do before I had enough illustrations to start posting the pages at Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual. That’s thirty-three, so far, for anyone who’s counting. Well. I guess that’s just me.
Click on it to see it bigger, unless you’re reading through RSS or syndication: the popups, alas, work only at my blog.
So my next step is to work through my task list, making a bunch of changes to the Thrilling Tales site so that it can support this new non-branching story and while I’m at it I’ll also make a number of other enhancements to the way the whole unlikely thing works.
Still on track for the launch of the Clockwork Book story in early February!
Now your first choice, the way I see it, would be to buy my own retro future art calendars; but if you’re looking for something else (and for free!) you should fire up your PDF reading rocket pack and jet on over to The Website at the End of the Universe, where you’ll find a downloadable, printable calendar for 2011 whose theme is "sexy women and the mad scientists that love them" or, possibly, "sexy women and the mad scientists that love to keep them in tubes".
It’s sort of low fi, which is my way of saying "low res", but it’s still a full twelve months of demented research and scantily clad dames. Which is all you can ask for, really, isn’t it?
It’s as official as I can make it… without popping ahead to February to check, anyway. But since I’m down to the last six and a half of its first set of illustrations I’m confident that if you check back in early February you’ll find the first of the semi-weekly updates for The Lair of the Clockwork Book at the Thrilling Tales web site. It even says so on the site’s front page, so it must be true.
I should have all 32 of those first illustrations done quite soon. Then I’ll need to put on my web development hat so that I can work through my list of web site changes to support the new linear stories, streamline some story-specific features, and make the site easier to index. That’s a long and complicated story in itself; but I decided to gamble a bit on exactly how smart Googlebot is, and, well, it turned out to be more of a chimp than a mad scientist. Poor old bot.
So ’round about the beginning of February, look for new Clockwork Book pages on Mondays and Thursdays. I’ll have swiveled in my seat at the same time, spending eight weeks on Part Two of The Toaster With Two Brains, after which it’s back to the Clockwork Book for me.