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Monthly Archives: September 2012
Thrilling Tales – What’s Coming Up; also, What’s Not; and Tales of Woe

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Slaves of the Switchboard Cover ConceptSeptember 6th saw the final update in the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual Feature "So! You’d Like to See Retropolis!" This sort-of a serial was a filler feature that picked up immediately after "The Lair of the Clockwork Book", and I’d hoped it would give me some breathing space during which I’d be able to get more work done on Part Two of "The Toaster With TWO BRAINS", and get the manuscript (and a few illustrations) done for the next Thrilling Tales serial.

It was a good plan: really, it was.

I did make some more headway on the illustrations for "The Riddle of the Wrong Brain" (that’s Part Two). And I did make a sizable start on the next serial, whose tentative title is – this week – "Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom". I got a bunch of character modeling done for the new Switchboard characters, too.

It’s been about four weeks since there’s been a story update at the Thrilling Tales site; so it’s pretty clear that I missed my self-imposed deadline.

Why is that? There are a couple of reasons.

Let me tell you about "Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom", or whatever its title is by the time you read this. Whereas "The Lair of the Clockwork Book" ran to about 37,000 words, the first draft of "Switchboard" is currently at just over 67,000, and it’s only about two thirds done. And… it’s a first draft. The second draft is going concentrate on vicious editing. The third draft, I hope, will go back over the wreckage and polish it up into a finished manuscript. Because these plans sometimes surprise us, there could easily be a fourth draft too.

So the first problem is that where "Lair" was a novella, this one’s a full length novel. And so in terms of building and finishing it, it turns out to be a completely different sort of beast: compare building a cottage, say, with building a skyscraper. Throughout – and even if there wasn’t that structural difference – I’ve wanted to spend more time with it, because in my need to feed the Thrilling Tales web site I’ve rushed the writing on all of its stories, and that’s curious, since the illustrations were always the genuine bottleneck. This time I’ve wanted to spend all the time it takes to make the story more worthy of the months of work that goes into its illustrations.

"All the time it takes", when it comes to something this much longer and larger, turns out to be quite a lot of time indeed.

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual: The Riddle of the Wrong Brain

Of course the longer length of this book – taken together with its black and white illustrations, which are so much more economical to print – means that it might rouse the interest of a traditional publisher. In view of what follows, it might be worth my while to try to attract a mass market publisher.

Because, and this is the second problem, the Thrilling Tales site is an experiment that I’ve been running for three years now – well, over two and a half years since it launched, anyway. It’s an experiment along the lines of popular Web Site Theory: give away a whole lot of content for free, and people will buy a little bit of stuff from you in return.

The Thrilling Tales site is based on the format of a web comics site. It’s just got more words, and fewer pictures. Web comic sites depend on their readers to buy books and to click on ads, because it’s only through those book and merchandise sales, plus the ad revenue, that the sites make any kind of return on the artist’s investment of time. In my case, all the ads on the Thrilling Tales site lead to other web sites of mine where I hope to shake all the change out of my readers’ pockets. But the model is still the same: a small percentage of readers will buy something, or go to an external site and buy something there, in return for all that wonderful free content. Even in the most successful sites the percentage of people who "convert", or buy something, is very low. That math is pretty much the same for everybody.

So the successful sites are the ones that attract tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of visitors every day. With that kind of traffic even the low conversion rate can result in an income.

It’s very rare for the Thrilling Tales site to see even one thousand visitors in a day. So it ought to be pretty obvious that the math is not on the side of Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual. If it’s not as obvious to you as it seems to me, it’s like this: in order to be successful, this kind of web site has to attract a very, very large audience, and sadly that hasn’t been the case.

Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual - The Riddle of the Wrong BrainIf we were to ask "Why?" then I guess the answer probably wouldn’t flatter me. So we’ll avoid that, and instead we’ll look at the results.

During the fourteen months that "The Lair of the Clockwork Book" ran on the site it was effectively my full time job. Just keeping the site fed while trying to make more progress on Part Two of "TWO BRAINS" ate up almost every hour that was available in my day.

So during the feature that ran this summer I cut the number of updates down to one each week so that it would run longer and I would have more time to work.

As we’ve seen… that wasn’t enough time to keep feeding the web site. Like I said at the start: it’s been about four weeks since the site’s last update.

So although the Thrilling Tales web site isn’t dead it still won’t be seeing any new content for awhile. The next thing to appear may be Part Two of "The Toaster With TWO BRAINS", because what I now have to call The Novel is a long term project. It’ll likely be several months before it’s ready to be read – and then, of course, there are the illustrations. When the manuscript is done I might – instead of posting it to the web site – start it on the always depressing rounds of editors and literary agents. In the meantime I also have to pursue freelance work – or any kind of work – more aggressively because my Secret Laboratory’s finances are in a sad, sad state.

You’re not here to hear my Tale of Woe; in fact, there are more than enough Tales of Woe to go around, these days. It’s enough to say "I have one."

I do hope to be able to update the Thrilling Tales site in a while, but even I don’t know when "a while" is. It’s certainly farther away than "soon".

Morno’s Dice of Fate Calendar: Art from the Early Days of Fantasy Role-Playing Games

Filed under Works in Progress

Morno D&D Art Calendar So if it’s 1975, and you hand a teenager a woodgrain boxed edition of Dungeons & Dragons along with a stack of paper and some pens, well, you just sit back and see what happens. Here’s what happened to me. I turned into Morno.

From right around 1975 to sometime in 1978 I drew illustrations for some of the earliest D&D supplements, modules and fanzines, and even had one cover and two illustrated stories in TSR’s own The Dragon magazine. I also did some of the covers and illustrations for Dave Hargrave’s Arduin rules sets and for a great many products, some peculiar in retrospect, for Wee Warriors; that included the first commercial D&D character sheets and the very first module for the game (Palace of the Vampire Queen). There’s a huge, long and complex history of those products that I frankly don’t remember very well after all this time. But in this age of eBay and the Web it’s not too hard to ferret that history out.

People actually collect these things now, and you have no idea how old and crotchety that makes me feel.

Fantasy RPG art by Morno

If you want to understand how I feel about all of that… well, imagine that something you did when you were seventeen was remembered, resold, and talked about decades later. Yeah, pick a thing you did when you were seventeen. I dare you. Chances are you’d rather the world just forgot about the things you did at that age, and I wouldn’t blame you. So I can’t forget that I was just a kid, doing the kinds of things that kids do, and that even five years later I had a much more respectable set of tools and experiences and was making art that was a lot more accomplished; and for many years I’ve been glad that I did all of this work under an alias. So that, you know, it couldn’t find me.

Farmer Maggot and the Black Rider, by MornoLike I said, though: age of eBay, age of Web. People tracked me down.

So I’ve tried to make some kind of peace with the fact that I was once a kid with a woodgrain D&D set and some pens and paper. It hasn’t killed me.

Part of that inner peace has led me to put together a little retrospective of that very, very, very early work in the form of this calendar, featuring acts of drawing that I committed between 1975 and 1978 when I was using the “Morno” signature. A couple of these will be new to everyone but me. Because even if I tried to get away from the kid I couldn’t entirely cut him – or his old drawings – loose. It was something about his eyes.

Save 60% on posters from Retropolis – today only!

Filed under Works in Progress

Science: Giant Robots

Today only – that’s September 17th, if you’re temporally challenged – you can get any or all of my posters from Retropolis at 60% off. That’s a me-chokingly sixty per cent. And I have the choke marks to prove it.

Just use the coupon code 60FALLINSALE during your checkout to get this insanely innovative discount.

So if you’ve been meaning to get a New, Improved SCIENCE: Now With Death Rays poster, today would probably be a really good time to do it.

While you’re at it, that same coupon code will get you 15% off the coffee mugs, customizable business cards, greeting cards and other Retropolis Travel Bureau merchandise from the site*. It’s all because September 17th is National Insane Discount Day. Someplace. I heard it somewhere.

Oh, and the same sale is on, over at The Celtic Art Works, for similar items from Ars Celtica.

*The discount applies only to merchandise under the “Retropolis Travel Bureau” tab.

[tags]retropolis, posters, celtic art works, sale, we gotta be crazy to mark down these here giant robots[/tags]

New at Retropolis: The MAD SCIENCE Calendar, with rolling starting months

Filed under Works in Progress

MAD SCIENCE CalendarHot on the nonexistent heels of my rebuilt calendars (I couldn’t squeeze in that last minute "heels" upgrade) comes the MAD Science Calendar; that’s twelve months of Things that Man Was Not Meant to Wot of, But Wotted of Anyhow. Because we’re sort of like that, when it comes right down to it.

This Calendar from Retropolis includes the year’s new favorites (the "SCIENCE" series) along with more pages that I’ve lovingly adapted from the T-Shirt designs at The Retropolis Transit Authority.

So in addition to "New, Improved SCIENCE: Now, With Death Rays!" in one month you’ve got "Tell it to My GIANT ROBOT", "Certifiable MAD GENIUS", and nine other months of merciless experimentation, unfortunate lab assistants, and Things Gone Wrong.

Like my other new calendars this one has rolling start dates: you just pick the month you’d like to start the calendar on and it automatically churns away to spit out twelve months beginning at that point, in a timey-wimey manifestation of That Stuff We Wotted Of.

Still to come, maybe: a couple of new calendars for The Celtic Art Works.

[tags]mad science, calendar, retropolis[/tags]

New Calendars from Retropolis & The Celtic Art Works, now with rolling start months

Filed under Works in Progress

It’s time for my annual calendar revamp, and this time, it’s serious: now you can pick the rolling start month for a calendar, and that means that you can buy a 12 month calendar at any time of the year without wasting any of those precious pages on months you’ve already used up.

So now when you order a calendar from Retropolis or The Celtic Art Works, you just select your starting month from a dropdown list and you get exactly the 12 months you need. Sweet!

Rolling 12 Month Calendars: pick your own starting month
Retropolis Calendar Brain Thieves Calendar Clockwork Book Calendar
Celtic Art Calendar Modern Mechanix Calendar WPA Poster Art Calendar

Yep, that’s right: at last you can assume mastery – or mistressy -of the space-time continuum just by buying something. It’s a wonderful world we live in.

[tags]calendars, 2013, rolling 12 month calendars, retropolis, thrilling tales of the downright unusual, celtic art, wpa, modern mechanix & inventions[/tags]

Thrilling Tales – Amazon reviews, please

Filed under Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual, Works in Progress

Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves
The Lair of the Clockwork Book
Celtic Knotwork Borders
I don’t usually try to promote my books at Amazon; that’s because I make quite a bit more from sales through my own web sites compared to what Amazon pays me for a sale. But the strength of Amazon is its great big pile of customers and the idea is that you make up the difference in volume. But you’re not likely to reach all those customers without good sales ranks and reader reviews.

So if you happen to have bought one of my books, either the Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual books, or the second edition of my Celtic Knotwork Borders in Repeating Sections (and regardless of where you bought it) then I hope you’ll consider visiting their product pages at Amazon and writing a review there. It does a lot to push a book up in the rankings on the Amazon site. With enough pushing, maybe Amazon can make up in volume that difference in what I’m paid for a sale. That’s the theory, anyhow.

So here they are:

Trapped in the Tower of the Brain Thieves

The Lair of the Clockwork Book

Celtic Knotwork Borders in Repeating Sections

See how lonely they look over there without a single review? If it was me, I’d want to reassure them somehow.

I’m trying to get caught up on several fronts in what are some pretty trying times, here in the Secret Laboratory, where the Recession is still Recessing its infernal brains out no matter what I do. So any help up there at Amazon is much appreciated!

I should be posting more regularly here in the near future. Like I said: trying times.

[tags]thrilling tales of the downright unusual, the lair of the clockwork book, trapped in the tower of the brain thieves, amazon, bradley w. schenck[/tags]

a Visitor’s Guide to the Future That Never Was

Filed under Thrilling Tales: Page Updates

A new page has been published in the story So! You’d Like to See Retropolis – a Visitor’s Guide to the Future That Never Was, at Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual.

You can read it here.
A new web site for author Matthew Hughes

Filed under Web Development, Works in Progress

Matthew Hughes' Web Site

Matthew Hughes’ new web site went live a week or so ago, and since I built it I’m pretty happy to say that it hasn’t blown up since then. Except for a few minutes this morning, anyhow, when I dove in and tinkered with it in an almost non-destructive way.

(I can remember a day about fifteen years ago when I really did say "I wonder what this does…." just before I pushed a button that I really, really should not have pushed.)

But all that aside, I’m an admirer of Hughes’ books – particularly his Archonate stories – and so it was a genuine pleasure to work on his site. If you don’t admire him yet then the best way to change that is to visit the site yourself; there’s a large collection of excerpts from his books there, among other things.

"Other things" will eventually include an online store where you can purchase digital versions of his back list novels. We’re just waiting until the first couple of them are ready before the store goes live on the site.

Also of interest is a series of posts labeled "On Writing" which are just what you’d expect, but better.

This project gave me a chance to get to know a lot of the more recent additions to WordPress and coincidentally gave me a chance to swear like a sailor over a long period. “Coincidentally” doesn’t mean that there’s no connection there, of course.

[tags]matthew hughes, archonate, science fiction, fantasy, books, ebooks, excerpts, news[/tags]

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Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.