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What's Up?

I haven't posted here in a while so I thought I'd give an update on my status for those who are interested.

It's been a busy couple of months with a forest fire that forced my family to evacuate Magnolia, Texas for a couple of days and kept us anxious for many more. A family illness was thankfully resolved well, and I've been working a few short-term jobs on the side.

In the meantime, I have been writing "book three" - the second book in my Hadanum SF series of books. It is very close to completion, and is actually fully written out, but I want to make sure I have it absolutely right before publishing it - so I've been revising and cleaning it up over the past few weeks with the help of a good friend.

"Book two" - my A Commodore 64 Walkabout book has been very successful sales-wise, and I've garnered some very nice reviews around the web.

Overall, this year has been a very good one. I finally got the chance I wanted since college - the chance to write and get my work out there for people to see. The experience has been very rewarding, and I think I'm in a place now where I have the system down enough to write in my spare time and publish at a pretty good pace. Soon I'll have 3 books on Amazon and other sites (for print versions, check out Blurb) and I am writing a novella now as well for NaNoWriMo.

Due to popular demand, I may write a follow-up to the C64 book (or at least a "second edition" that adds more material), and I hope that after some effort at promotion on my part I'll see exposure of my SF books rise as well, because as much as I enjoy writing about the retro computing, writing fiction is my lifelong passion. I hope you'll check out Globe-Hurler!

Drop by from time to time, friend me on Facebook, or check out my other sites:



Globe-Hurler: A Review by Red Haircrow

Would you like to read a review of Globe-Hurler before making a decision on whether or not to pick up a copy of my (very affordable) Sci-Fi eBook? Check out the site at the "read more" link below for a full (and very nice!) review:

The story of “Globe Hurler” is engaging, and the settings and landscapes are very imaginative and realized as the author presented a strong vision of the world creation, Hadanum. It’s fairly fast moving, action packed and detailed as we follow Balon, a young watchware searching for his exiled father sensing that the self-serving and overbearing judgements of the hierarchs wrongly sent him and others away to their likely deaths.  READ MORE

Gnome's Lair: A Commodore 64 Walkabout Book Review

Here's a nice review of my second published book (available as an eBook or in print) A Commodore 64 Walkabout. See the full review at the link below:

Gnome's Lair: A C64 Walkabout Book Review: As I love books, care for retro games, deeply appreciate the Commodore 64 and don't have the disposable income to entertain myself in m...


Author Interview: Robinson Mason

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the Indie Book Lounge and asked to provide answers to an author interview. I'm the featured author today. Here is a portion of the interview. Read the rest at the link below!
  • IBL: What was the first book you read that inspired you to become a writer?
RM: Rather than primarily through books, I became interested in second person storytelling and reader immersion through text adventures on my Commodore VIC-20 and ghost stories told around the campfire as a boy in the early 1980s. I also devoured horror-themed short story anthologies, Marvel Comics, and Norse myths and made my first attempts at writing books and comic books when I was around ten. For many years I was content to dabble in writing, mostly for myself.

I first took writing novels seriously after reading The Fountainhead in high school.

  • IBL: Did you try the traditional publishing route before going indie and if so, what was that experience like?
RM: In the 1990s, while living in Japan, I submitted a completed novel to a few publishing houses, but the form letter responses, cost of sending manuscript packages overseas, and the unchanging rules regarding printed submissions that ignored the rise of e-mail put me off. I was surprised to find that printed submissions are still preferred when I completed my last novel, Globe-Hurler this year. Being a computer user since the early days of home computing, the anachronistic and stubborn refusal of some publishing houses to change with the times only reinforced my decision to go with eBook publishing instead.

You can read the FULL INTERVIEW HERE.


A Commodore 64 Walkabout, a new eBook by Robinson Mason

My new book, A Commodore 64 Walkabout, is out and available as an eBook at Smashwords.com! Like this site and the blog and podcast by the same name that came before it, the intent of the book is to encourage people to enjoy the many aspects of the C64, VIC-20, and other 8-bit Commodore computers.

I've filled the pages of A Commodore 64 Walkabout with personal stories, interviews, game reviews, and recaps of things I've covered here in the past along with the fresh and new.

I hope that you'll check it out! Currently it is only available at Smashwords.com ( http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/65936 ), where you can sample a portion of it. Unfortunately the online samples don't look as good as the .PDF and Kindle (.mobi) versions do, but they'll give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to purchase a copy.

Who is the target audience? This book was written primarily for people new to the C64 scene or those who are eager to return to it after many years. It's also written for people who don't go outside of their C64 niche interest often, but would like to, such as a C64 remixer who may know little about playing the games he remixes, or the hardware tinkerer who knows nothing of C64 remixes or getting a SID player to work with proper song lengths. I try to touch on most of the niche enthusiast communities in the wide world of the C64 (and VIC-20). Many of the questions I've had posed to me over the years here have been from people who remember an old program, peripheral, or game and would like to know how they can enjoy it once again. Each chapter is written with that sort of novice in mind, but with something for C64 veterans as well.

Do you know someone who is on the edge and considering joining you in your C64 hobby? Someone mildly interested but put off by words like "emulation?" If you "gift" them a copy of the C64 Walkabout, my hope is that they'll understand and come to appreciate the enthusiasm behind the old computer platform and decide to give it a try. Accessibility is key. I don't review games that would leave a new user stumped or confused, and I'll offer tips on getting the programs running smoothly if there are any anticipated hiccups (say, for example, if the game only runs in NTSC mode and their emulator defaults to PAL, I point this out and how to fix it).

What about experienced C64 owners? I've written game and product reviews in a way that I hope will be of interest even to veterans. Tips and tricks for gameplay, advice, and interviews with personalities in the C64 community were written for consumption by old and new fans alike. I also hope that you'll enjoy my personal insight and stories.

The eBook was also meant to be affordable at $0.99, so I hope you'll consider getting a copy of your own!

If you'd like to gift a print copy to someone, I am working on getting a print version up at Blurb in the next couple of days.

Who knows, if this book does well enough, I might write a sequel of sorts, and I'm more than happy to hear your feedback!


My Smashwords Experience

Since publishing my book Globe-Hurler through Smashwords in April I've been asked several times about the process and what it entails. Now that most of the dust has settled and my book is available in multiple stores across the Internet, it's a good time to reflect on the ups and downs of publishing my own eBook. There are some misconceptions about what Smashwords is exactly, so I hope I can clear those up as well as give you an idea of what awaits you if you decide to publish through Smashwords.

First off, I chose Smashwords as my publisher and distributor, not as an online store to sell my books. Some call using Smashwords "self-publishing" (I've probably called it that myself in the past), but it's not like writing a book and offering it here on my website with a PayPal button and a download link I send you via e-mail. That would be true self-publishing. No, Smashwords is the publisher of Globe-Hurler, not Robinson Mason, and they are not an old-school "vanity press" where authors pay gobs of money for stacks of print books they may or may not be able to sell. Smashwords publishes and distributes your books for free.

Don't get me wrong, unlike a traditional publisher I still have the right to sell and distribute my book elsewhere. Smashwords does not own my book. As for selling through them, Smashwords does a fine business of selling eBooks, and I've sold some with them myself, but where they really shine is their ability to automatically send eBooks out to a much broader customer base.

Smashwords "ships" to multiple eBook stores. They currently partner with and distribute eBooks for sale at Barnes & Noble (Nook), Sony, Kobo, Amazon (Kindle), Apple, Diesel and Scrollmotion. You can opt out of any or all of these, and sell your books only through Smashwords if you desire, but unless you already offer your eBooks at one of those other sites I don't see many reasons to opt out of those channels. One possible reason to go direct to Amazon to sell your eBook is that Smashwords currently pays every quarter, while Amazon pays every month. You can opt out from Amazon only at Smashwords (keep the rest) and go to Amazon's DTP site if you think that's a better path for you. Royalties can also be slightly better if you go direct.

In a nutshell, Smashwords is a free launching platform for your eBook. By listing them as the publisher you'll even get a free ISBN. You go with Smashwords because you want the maximum eyeballs possible on your book with the least hassle.  You could go and submit your eBook to every one of the retailers listed above, but then you'd end up managing your relationship with each one. Going with Smashwords is a convenience.

I wrote "automatically send" above, but you must meet certain quality standards of formatting before your book will go beyond the Smashwords gates to other sites. It cannot look like a mess, or be something you scanned in lazily from print and dumped into a Word file. You can still sell such books exclusively on Smashwords as part of their standard catalog of titles, but they won't get sent to any other eBook stores. If you take the time to follow the Smashwords Style Guide, you will eventually overcome the types of formatting woes that separate easy to read eBooks from digital catastrophes that no reader should be subjected to anyway. One reason for all of the hurdles is the sheer number of formats Smashwords will auto convert your manuscript into. Your book might look find in Adobe Reader, but have five pages of blank space in Kindle format. I counted seven current formats including such popular formats as pdf, epub, and mobi.

For writers who overcome the formatting hurdles, Smashwords adds well-formatted eBooks to its so-called "Premium Catalog". Having a title in the Premium Catalog means that Smashwords will "ship" your eBook on Thursdays and Fridays to the various eBook sites that it has partnered with. It might take a while for that to happen. As of today, my book has shipped to all of the other sites I mentioned earlier *except* Amazon.com, arguably the biggest and best site for eBooks with its Kindle Store. I'm not sure why it has taken so long for Smashwords to ship my book to Amazon, but at least they got my book to the other sites.

The biggest hurdle for writers who use Smashwords comes later. What happens when your book goes into the catalog with 40,000+ other titles? How can you stand out? How will anyone know that you published a book at all aside from randomly stumbling upon it with a search? You won't have a traditional publishing house backing you up with advertisements and direct e-mails. You won't have a spot on a website like this where your book is promoted alongside other media. You won't have radio or TV commercials like Stephen King's latest release. All of the work in promoting your book comes down to you. You can read the Smashwords Marketing Guide, but unlike the Style Guide, no results are guaranteed.

Maybe you're like me and you just want people to experience the world you created. You can even offer a book for free. I plan to release a free eBook in the coming weeks. That said, I don't think that the current price for Globe-Hurler is standing in the way of my success. I have only 24 samples of my book downloaded so far at Smashwords (I have no visibility to what's going on at other sites), and a good percentage of those who downloaded the sample also bought the book. Perhaps you'll decide to do the same after checking out the sample pages HERE Yes, that's a shameless plug for my book, but you need to be a little shameless if you're going to get your book out there and read.

One method I tried was using Smashwords coupons and sending free books to reviewers. You'll find that some of the sites the Smashwords Marketing Guide suggests are not open to temporary coupons and want free e-books only. Other sites are swamped with titles and may or may not ever get around to yours.

A good suggestion is to review the works of other authors and get reviewed by them in turn.

If you would like me to review YOUR book that was published on Smashwords (or another site), please send me a free "coupon" for the book or a PDF copy of the manuscript and I'll be more than happy to read and review it. In return I ask that  you do me the same favor and read and review my book (I'll also provide you with a free copy of my book, of course). I'll read pretty much anything. I'll post the review over at Hadanum.com and if you like my review I'll add it to whatever sites you'd like (Smashwords, Amazon, etc.). You can contact me at (replace dot and at with the appropriate symbols): robinson dot mason at swbell dot net.

My journey with publishing through Smashwords won't be over until I can figure out what it takes to get more people to try reading my book. Perhaps the book description itself isn't as enticing as it could be. I like it, but maybe the book cover is too abstract for people who want concrete characters and imagery laid out for them before deciding to read the sample. If I do figure out any effective tricks for self-promotion, I'll be sure to share them here!


Globe-Hurler an eBook by Robinson Mason

The Book

 More than 20 years ago I wrote a very different, very early draft of Globe-Hurler, a sort of "Sword and Planet" type of SF novel, and followed it with a series of other unpublished and half-finished books and short stories that I banged out on an electric typewriter and my Fujitsu FM-Towns. All books in the series were set on the world of Hadanum, a barbaric planet where genetically altered human colonists struggled for survival. I never did seriously pursue publishing, however, and in the mid 90's only sent out a couple of manuscripts of a later book in the same setting to publishing houses. The only interest I got back was a small sci-fi magazine that wanted to print one of my related short stories (before it went under). Technically speaking, my writing needed more polish, even if the ideas were there. What I really wanted to do was tell stories, not chase down publishers, though, so I gave up on pursuing the idea of a printed book for a long time.

Around 2008 or so I started getting back in to writing at a good pace again, fascinated by the idea of bypassing the "gatekeepers" and getting my stories out there on blogs and the like. I considered going with CreateSpace to print my first book. I did some audio of a short story set on my world and put it up on my retro computer blog, the C64Walkabout. It got thousands of hits/downloads, so I was encouraged.

Enter 2010. eBooks were finally out of their decade-long infancy and were becoming more popular and easier to read on a variety of devices. iPads were number 1 on X-mas wish lists. I started taking this approach seriously.

Dr. Marc H. Miyake, a long time friend and writing companion, expressed his interest in the new and revised backdrop for my stories. I presented ideas and he put them through the wringer, throwing them back at me with question after question, helping me firm up the lore. With Marc's constant feedback I ended up taking the world of Globe-Hurler in a creepier and more deadly direction. Where there were once green terraformed fields, nightmarish crawling "mega" flesh carpeted and stretched out across the land, threatening the home of the hero. Energized by the new setting, I wrote it in roughly two months and spent the last month or so tweaking and revising, again with Marc's input.

After finally taking 3 months out of my life to get the first story out and onto digital ink, I'm very happy with the results. Marc, a linguistics expert with experience in the comic book industry acted as my unpaid editor, reading extensively every bit of what I wrote. My father, a fan of similar settings like Planet of the Apes and Dune, offered his input as well on my early drafts.

I went with Smashwords, a site that has exploded in popularity, that allows authors to self-publish for free and get assigned ISBNs. It also acts as a gateway to other digital publishers if you meet certain style guidelines and get into their "premium catalog". The eBooks get sent off to Amazon, B&N, etc. and are sold there as well.

For now it is here, available at Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/51238

Now that it's finally done, I look forward to writing more!

Reading It!

"Do I need an e-Reader device?" people have asked me. No, you do not. If you are reading this text on a computer now, then you can read an eBook.

The "Online Reading" option at Smashwords is the simplest and requires installing nothing. You can read a preview of the book right now using that method, here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/51238

If you decide to buy the book (many thanks if you do!) I recommend a free e-Reader software download. A local copy / download of the book file allows you to read the full book without a connection to the Internet or logging in to Smashwords.

An e-Reader like a Kindle is a portable convenience that can be easy on the eyes, but many devices can act as eReaders. Smashwords has already ported my book to multiple formats including support for mobile phone readers.

Chances are that you already have Adobe Acrobat for reading PDF files on your PC right now, but if you don't:

A nice free eReader for your laptop or desktop is Kindle for PC: http://tinyurl.com/yja443f  Just click the big blue button and run the install program. Easy peasy.

If you don't have the Adobe Acrobat Reader already, it's also free, and available here: http://www.adobe.com/products/reader.html

Both are simple download and run installations that take a minute.

Once you've downloaded them you can take advantage of all of the cheap and sometimes even free eBooks and short stories at Smashwords.

I hope you enjoy my book!


Interview in a Japanese Newspaper

Back in December of 1992, while I was attending the University I graduated from in Japan, I taught conversational English at various schools, students' homes, and even at government funded recreation centers.  In the article below I was interviewed while in the middle of such a class at the equivalent of a YMCA there.  The interview, on why I enjoyed Karaoke, made it into a newspaper, and I was sent the clipping after it hit the press.  "Tanoshiku utatte, nakama wo hirogeru" - the big quote in the middle says "Have fun singing, and make friends".  I had my favorite leather jacket on and what passed for a young guy's fuzzy facial hair.  I spoke about how I had fun as a vocalist in a band in high school and enjoyed the convenience of Karaoke bars/boxes. I recall the article not being 100% accurate as to what I actually said, but it was just something I thought I'd scan in before it gets too old.  Speaking of which, 1992?!  Yeah, I feel old now.  Heck, even the paper looks old...


My Band Days in Tokyo, and Lyrics

I was the lead singer of a Japanese pop band in the early to mid 1990's called "Unit Bath".   The band had been going for some time before I joined with Shingo Katano, the bassist as the lead vocalist, but he wanted to focus on his bass and songwriting, so I was asked to perform vocals after a friend heard me at a karaoke bar.  I also was asked to "translate" lyrics more or less (emphasis on less), and as time went on my choice of lyrics became largely unrelated to the originals until they were all original lyrics I wrote.  The band members wanted me to sing in English as it was a bit unusual and fun for them.  I co-wrote the music for one song "Come Alive", but the rest were pre-existing tunes that Shingo wrote.  He was a great guy to work with.  We practiced weekly for about a year and had some studio recordings done by a pro agent who insisted that we not spread them around freely.  We only had one live performance, however (many of our practice sessions were just for the fun of getting together and live performances didn't really enter our minds until much later), and the band members went their separate ways after I graduated from college and went to work translating and teaching.  Scans of a handout from our live performance can be found below.  Click for larger sizes.  The option to "zoom" should appear when you click the individual images and follow to Image Shack.

Web Player:

Magazine Article Scans From Japan

Back in the late 90's I had some articles printed in a Japanese gaming magazine. I established ties with the publisher prior to leaving Japan for a temporary stay in New York where I worked for a while, hence the title of the series: "Correspondence from (a) New York Gamer" (pink text near the bottom of the cover above). The magazine was primarily for Magic: the Gathering, a collectible card game that was popular at the time in Japan, but my articles focused on different alternatives and other games. I've written other things, but this was the most fun I had with published articles in Japanese.

See scans from two of the articles below: