A Video Game Should Be FUN

Last night, I finished a major rewrite of the most problematic chapter in The Veil. I decided to unwind by playing some Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Number 1. I just picked it up for a bargain).

I’m a child of the 70’s. Star Wars was the first film I recall seeing in a theatre. The toys were the only thing every kid in our neighborhood could agree to playing with. There’s a very special memory of my mom tied to the Star Wars series. When I say Star Wars is important to me, I’m making an understatement.

So it’s natural that a game that supposedly ties into the Star Wars story should intrigue me, yes? And since I can now play it with the glorious graphic capabilities of the PS3, it’s even better.

So I sit down and start to play. I confess, it kept me up until 3:45am. But here’s the thing, I didn’t have fun. Yes, the story was engaging. In particular a certain plot twist early on that changes your perception of the whole original trilogy was pretty sweet. But the story was the ONLY reason I kept going (that and I’m cheap & don’t want to waste $20).

The most annoying aspect is that you can fall anywhere. I mean, if you’re standing next to a river and 20 enemies attack you, they can push you to your death into the water. WHAT? Since when did an action RPG do such a thing? I played the far superior Castlevania Lords of Shadow and it never allowed for you to die so easily. It understood that when you involve combos, jumping and enemies that can push you back, it’s pretty unfair for you to die just cause of a ledge. Especially maddening in Force Unleashed because you have to start a hella long way back. It gets frustrating that you can complete all these tasks, battle hordes of enemies and then you get hit with a laser blast and since you were too close to the ledge, kiss your ass goodbye. The frustration level elevates more when you consider that if you do get hit, your character is useless and takes some time before he’s responsive to the controls.

I only stopped because it was the fourth time I had been pushed into water and died and I was about to do harm to my PS3.

As I stomped up to bed (OK, not stomp exactly, didn’t want to wake the kids) I thought this was a good lesson about writing. Story is important. Hell, it’s why we write, but what if it isn’t fun for the reader? Yes, I know, we don’t always want the reader to have fun, but the reader should be having an emotional experience that is complementary to the story. They shouldn’t be frustrated with odd language usage or poor formatting, or for us indies, poor editing. Playing that game last night reinforced in my mind what I said yesterday about needing patience. I have to make it right. I have to ensure my audience feels what they should be feeling. I don’t want them throwing the book because it’s needlessly frustrating to get through and they got pushed in the water again.

Even An Indie Needs Patience

When viewing people’s reasons for self-publishing, one I often see is ‘I can get my book out faster.’

Today, I have to say this feels like bullsh!t to me.

In some ways, I’d rather a gatekeeper hold on to my book and say “No, you can not release it, because it hasn’t had enough edits/beta reads/marketing etc.” Instead, I need to be the sole person who tells myself that.

And it’s not easy.

I received a book on InDesign CS4 in the mail today. My wife’s had the program for two years and I finally have a reason to use it. Looking at its power, knowing I can set up my book the way I want and have it printed that way is empowering and very tempting.

In the back of my mind I think, “I have a finished book. It’s had some editing. Why not get this party started and publish the damn thing?”

But my calm, rational self has to intervene. It says “But you want this to be a long game. If you put out trash and kill your reputation from book one, this whole dream is over.”

Still, a boy and his toys are a hard force to control.

I’m probably more frustrated because my rewrite of Chapter Four is being a bear; that I woke up during hibernation season.

Don’t poke the sleeping bear….

I have to keep repeating my mantra,

“Better to have it ripped apart in Betas and put out a finished project people will love.”

I have to consider my GI system’s feelings when it reacts to a review on Amazon that could’ve easily been prevented if I had just taken a little more time.

And that’s what it boils down to, time.

I need to have patience. I need to tell myself that these steps are making the book better. Refer to the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Will my book see the light of day faster than a traditionally published book? Yes. But just as I need to learn some things about marketing and book construction from the Traditional industry, I also need to learn from them about taking my time.

Becoming a Publisher

During my post on my decision to go indie, I mentioned that I had also decided to create a publishing company, Red Bucket Publishing.

I’m going to discuss this decision and some of the hoops I’ve found while working on this the past few days.

First off, I’m in Ontario, Canada. My initial decision was whether I go all out and incorporate a new company or whether I just register a Sole-proprietorship in Ontario.

Had to give this some thought.


Incorporating a business means that, as far as the federal government is concerned, it is a separate and “living” organisation. This means you need to file taxes for the company itself. It also means that any judgements of liability rest mostly on the company’s shoulders. On another note, when it comes to dealing with suppliers & such, being incorporated can add a bit more weight to your credibility.

However, the incorporation process is more involved. Most people will suggest you have a lawyer walk you through it (although, you can do the whole process online yourself if you wish). Since the corporation is a separate entity, regardless of income, you must charge, and remit to the government, taxes.  It also means that should you end your business, there’s more paperwork to file to cancel the whole thing.

I incorporated a business years ago. The business never went anywhere and I found the constant additional obligation of the corporation a bit of a strain.

Sole Proprietorship

The simpler, cheaper, choice. For $60, you can register a business online with the Ontario government. This allows you to operate under the business name, but all the income is declared on your own taxes. It also means that so long as you keep below a $30,000 a year income level, you do not have to charge your customers taxes.

You do not gain the same level of cred with a sole-proprietorship that you do with incorporation. You also don’t have the same legal rights and protection for your company name.

In the end, I decided to go with a sole-proprietorship. It was cheaper and for now, since I don’t know how big this thing will get, easier to manage.

The other thing I realized is that dealing with the suppliers I am, they really don’t care a bit whether I’m incorporated or not. Library and Archives Canada has no care whether you are a sole or inc. All they care is what you are publishing. Lightning Source? Same thing. In fact, Lightning Source is meant for indies and small presses as opposed to big corporations.

For now, Red Bucket Publishing is a sole-proprietorship. But, if the business gets large enough, I will give serious consideration to incorporating. Incorporation does provide some legal shields that being a sole does not. Also, if the money really comes in, I don’t know if I want my personal taxes taking that kind of a hit. Being an incorporated business does allow some tax perks that being an individual does not. But for now, I’ll wait to see if that comes to pass.

Finally, let me say that my decision to start a “publisher” was not born out of necessity. As far as I can tell, there’s no reason you need to do this if you want to self-publish. For me, it was a decision based on who I am and what I want to become. My wife is a photographer. I would one day like to publish her work. I also hope to produce a variety of series and novellas. I wanted a single point of contact for all the works we intend to produce and I didn’t want it to be this website. I’ve also longed to own my own business. Red Bucket Publishing fulfills all those desires.

However, it also means I not only have to market myself, my latest writing, but it also means I need to promote a company as well. More work? Maybe, but I think the rewards in the end will outweigh the extra effort now.

I’m still working on things, but if you want to bookmark for future reference, or just see the work-in-progress, you can head over to redbucketpublishing.com

So fellow indies, what do you think? Do you have your own publisher imprint?

Getting ISBNs in Canada

Self-publishers have it good in Canada. We can get our ISBNs for free.

If you’re unfamiliar, ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number used to identify your book. Most places that you will publish, be it physical or Ebook, will require you to provide an ISBN for your work. As I understand it, some companies will allow you to pay an additional fee and they will provide you with an ISBN.

In Canada, the process is rather simple.

Go to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and click on Join CISS on the left hand side. There’s a form you need to fill in that asks about your publisher information as well as one of your current or upcoming publications. Once you’ve submitted that form, you wait. They say it can take up to ten days, but I think I waited for three.

An email arrives with your username and a temporary password. You login to their site, and fill out some more paperwork. The process is simple and can be done all online. If you need an ISBN, you just login, provide information about the book and within seconds, you have an ISBN.

If you’re using a service like Lightning Source, you will need at least one ISBN in order to complete the signup process on their website. The great thing with the Canadian system is that since it is all online, you can complete information for your first book before it’s published, yet you can go back and edit that information at any time. This means you can obtain an ISBN for signups, but go back and edit it when you know actual details like book size, weight & page count.

As I said, an easy and painless process in Canada. Dear readers, how are things done in your part of the world?

Going it Alone or Call me “Indie”

So I’ve given it a great deal of thought, and I’m finally ready to say for certain that I am going to self-publish.

Almost every indie writer has a blog post where they justify their decision to skip the traditional publishing model. I suppose this my post. But instead of belaboring the point, I’ll sum it up in two words, three syllables; Control Freak.

After all the work to write a book, if someone were to decide the title or cover design of my book for me, I think I might explode. To me, a book is artistry. Not just the words, but the design, the cover, the layout, even the font used. These things are elements of a book’s creation and I want my hand in all of it.

There’s other reasons as well, many that merit little mention. But the overall deciding factor here is that I want to call the shots. If this series succeeds or fails, I want it to rest firmly on my shoulders.

Yeah, I was the kid in school who hated group projects too.

Simply put, I believe in this series. I think it can do well. I want to be there for every step to see that it does.

So where do I go from here?

My first step was to create my own imprint. I wanted to publish my works under a publisher name. I suppose that’s vain, but to me it was just one more step in the creative process. Not only am I creating an identity as an author, now I get to forge an identity as a publisher.

To that end, I present to you Red Bucket Publishing. No logo yet, no live website yet, just a registered domain and a Paypal account. More will come, just as I will officially announce the name of my series and book one specifically in the next few days (remember, The Veil was just the working title).

I’m looking into Print-On-Demand companies to do physical copies, and I want to learn how to format ebooks myself (told you I wanted to be in on every level of creation).

As I go along in this process, I’ll post the things I learn. My writing journey is growing from just writing the books to also include publishing the books. I can’t explain how much that excites me.

So wish me luck. If you have any wisdom to impart, please do so. This is going to be a huge learning experience for me and I’ll need all the advice I can get.

When Did You Become a Writer?

A bit of a personal blog entry this morning.

Was there a defining moment for you? A point where scraps of stories hidden in folders became work aimed at being published? When was that moment that you started including “Writer” in bios of yourself?

When I was in grade school, I loved to write. There was only one type of assignment I looked forward to and that was creative writing. I was that kid who was assigned a “short” story and turned in a binder with chapters. In those creative and heady moments of youth, seeing my name on a book cover was my singular goal.

But as with most dreams of childhood, I strayed from that path. Other interests and influences pulled me away. Over the years I wrote less and that vision of my name on a cover dimmed.

Fast forward to me in my thirties. I had rediscovered writing, but had no focus. Every story I started was left only partially completed. I had ideas, pages and pages of ideas, but I couldn’t translate that into a finished product. My wife developed a look that said “Will you just shutup and write” that I saw on regular occasion when I started a conversation with “I had an idea for a story…”

My defining moment, the thing that finally made me focus on finishing something, anything, was the death of my father.

My dad left an impression on people. Even now, two years after his death, I still have people that stop me in my work life and tell me how amazing my father was and how he influenced/helped/changed/supported them at some point. I have a set of morals that I can easily trace to my father.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my love of science fiction, fantasy and reading I can trace to hours spent sitting next to my dad watching classic Star Trek and Doctor Who.

When my dad took early retirement, he looked forward to trips with my mom and had thoughts of writing a book about his paramedic days called “Life Under the Lightbar.” You can imagine his dismay when he was diagnosed with lung cancer two weeks after his retirement party. And then a year-and-a-half later, he was gone.

So much planned and dreamed. So much left undone.

As the grief subsided, I realised that dreams shouldn’t be put off. I looked at my pile of half-finished writing and loose ideas and thought, “If I die tomorrow, I don’t want a bunch of half-realised dreams left behind. I need to finish something.”

And now, a first draft is done.

My dreams are larger than just one first draft. What I truly want to leave behind is still incomplete. Which is fine, because I intend/hope to have more time to finish it. But I’m on the road. I feel that I can call myself a writer. I feel less unfulfilled than I did before.

Did you have a defining moment? Was there something in your life that finally pushed you hard enough that you were able to type “The End?”


So I’ve decided to take the plunge and enter into the world of Facebook.

I mean, in a different capacity I’ve been mulling around Facebook for years, as many other people have.

But it occurred to me that if I was truly going to give this writing thing a shot (especially if I go Indie) I’m going to need some presence on Facebook. After all, it’s only one of the largest social networks on the planet, right?

I suppose my two biggest fears are that a) Few people will like my author page and it will turn into another vehicle for self-pity. b) It will become a massive time-suck that will pull me from other, more important, tasks.

What do you think community? Is jumping into Facebook a wise move? Will my writing/publishing career suffer or benefit from it? I’m wondering what your thoughts and experiences are.

In the meantime, I’ve set up an author page. Going to make it just one more place that people can find me.

If you feel so inclined, you can find it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justus-R-Stone/250724508276754 Give it a LIKE, I’d appreciate it. And if you have your own Author page, let me know, cause I’ll return the like in return.