Sticking the Landing – the Lost Finale


It has been more than two years since Lost came to an end and I believe to date, I haven’t yet given a proper opinion on the ending. If I am honest, I’m not certain what my real feelings are toward the ending.

Lost came to an end… so what?

At the height of its powers, I freaking loved it. The first season was slow going but from the second season on it just ramped up as the mysteries became more and more.

My favourite season was a toss-up between season three and season four. I suppose that should show just how much I liked the show – I had a favourite season. I had my favourite characters and the characters that I despised. I’ve always taken the characters as a gauge for how well a series is written – if I can relate to characters and they make me want to root for them, I like the series. The characters in Lost were what made the show – remember that bit, it’ll come back into play later.

My interest in Lost started to wane after season four until it finally became the kind of show that I would tape and when I had the time to watch it later I would. The first four seasons made me schedule everything else around them. The last two could wait until I could fit them in. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse had decided to put John Locke in the coffin at the end of season 4. Terry O’Quinn was still in season five and six, but instead of being the man of faith as cast in the first four seasons that character had been snuffed out and the mysterious man in black had taken his resemblance.

In that instance, when they killed off Locke they ended the Man of Science versus the Man of Faith struggle which had been the underlying basis for the first four seasons. They let the Man of Science win by default simply because the Man of Faith “kicked the bucket”. The Man of Science had won and the last two seasons were really focused on Jack Shepard and his attempts to get back to the island and then save it. I suppose you could say that my connection with the show was destroyed in that instance because if there was any character that I wanted to be grabbed by that mysterious smoke monster it was the better-than-thou Jack Shepard. For me, he had always been the villain in the story because there was never any fair play – it was his way or no way. A spoiled brat who threw his toys out of the cot whenever he didn’t get what he wanted. Suddenly after the real John Locke was killed off, I was supposed to root for this guy.

Here’s where that character reference from earlier comes in. I couldn’t give a damn about whether the man character (and his love interest, Kate) lived or died. Actually, scrap that – they could have been sacrificed to a great volcano and I would have been more interested in the show afterwards.

The series ended with everyone getting together again, happy as clams as they move out of a purgatory they had created and which all of the side flashes in the final season had been showing. There were little or no answers shown in the final series for all of the questions raised during the course of the six seasons. The huge uproar after the finale aired was that none of those answers were there and I can understand the angst, although some of the answers were answered obliquely and required some thinking to get there.

The final scene in that finale was Jack closing his eyes (although you only see one) and then it’s credits. It was a nice bookend to the series because it started with Jack opening his eye in the pilot. It certainly made me happy – Jack the self-righteous had finally died. It had only taken six seasons of wishing for it to happen.

So did they stick the landing to series’ finale?

Definitely not… for me they missed the landing strip completely and crashed in the jungle with no survivors. They had so many interesting characters that they built up and killed along the way (they must have taken a course from GRRM – not that it’s a bad thing) and when it all came down to it, we all had to root for one character – Jack. Yes, Hurley became the guardian in the end but he was almost a secondary character in how they treated him – a little bit of comic relief.

Thank You Lightspeed


I just want to thank John Joseph Adams and Lightspeed.

 

I submitted my story, Necromancer, to them on Tuesday and I had my reply by Thursday – a two day turnaround. The story was rejected but the story has been rejected by other publications with similar policies against dual submissions where they took almost three months before responding. By having a standard two day turnaround it helps the writer know where he stands and he can then submit it to another publication to try find a home.

 

So once again thank you very much John Joseph Adams and Lightspeed.

A General Update


Pecan Hill

For some reason, I just can’t get Pecan Hill out of my mind. It has been almost six months since I put the project aside and dropped it into the trunk and I still can’t get it out of my mind. It really does drive a person insane. I should really just put this project out of mind, but it still crops up from time to time.

 

Necromancer

This short story, for which I got an honourable mention for the Writers of the Future Q4 is being sent out to possible publishers to find a home. I have sent it to one market and have waited longer than they asked, sent a reminder and have still not heard anything so the next step would be to try to find another possibility and submit there without waiting for the last one to respond. It has been three months for a story which is just over four thousand words.

 

Lords of the Apocalypse: War’s Regret

I have finished the first draft for this project. Although I’m more inclined to think of it as Draft Zero because of the massive amount of issues in it that need to be changed. A short list would be:

  • Make sure everything tracks and that it just doesn’t jump around too much.
  • One storyline was changed in the middle of the story – I have to get the storyline right from the beginning until the end
  • One of the protagonists is far too passive – I will probably have to remove them entirely and reduce their plot line from being one of the more predominant ones to one which is in the background and viewed from the outside.

That, of course, excludes any line edits and all of them are pure story edits.

 

Reading

This is probably the one thing which is holding back my writing the most at the moment. I am about seventy percent of the way through George R R Martin’s A Storm of Swords and am pushing to try and finish reading it. It’s one of the novels I have enjoyed the most this year and has really grabbed me entirely.

And so my apathy makes a comeback


I have never been so uninterested in rugby as I have been between the end of the World Cup/Currie Cup and the start of the Super 15 tournament this year. I wasn’t really able to say why except to maybe suggest there was a little bit of rugby burnout after having watched every single game in the Sharks and Springboks tournaments the whole year. It made for more than forty four rugby matches analysed in excruciating detail. That also doesn’t include watching other random games of other teams. In the end, for both the Sharks (in the Super 15) and the Boks (in the World Cup) the referee decided to blow his own rules on the day to allow the other team more of an advantage and win the match.

Am I suggesting that shoddy refereeing cost the Sharks the game against the Crusaders? To be honest… no. The Crusaders would have won that game regardless of what the referee did, but it would have been more of a spectacle had he decided to be consistent in his rulings. He did cost the Springboks the game against the Wallabies with uneven calls in the rucks. Maybe it was frustration toward an environment where one individual could so influence the game. After all, I have noticed that I don’t watch the cricket or am so interested in the sport (as so many others also appear to be) after Hansiegate

Roll on the Currie Cup final with the Sharks playing against the Lions. Did the referee unfairly influence the game? No. And yet we still lost to a team which had less superstars than the Sharks supposedly had. It’s not a knock against the Lions, because they deserved to win. The Sharks arrived at the match probably expecting to be able to walk the result and in the end were humiliated by the Lions. Maybe it was this lackadaisical performance which frustrated me.

Ultimately, it meant that the off season wasn’t as frustrating as it usually had been for me. I was able to find other things to do and not be bothered with the lack of rugby. I wasn’t even concerned with the kick-off of the Super 15 when the Sharks took on the Bulls, a team who lost almost all of their superstar players. And guess what? We blow it and lose the game! In fact, the next time we won was two weeks later against the Lions who thumped us in the Currie Cup final. We won, but it was unconvincing, especially considering that the Lions had been hit heavily by injuries and had 15 players out injured. We beat the defending champions, the Reds, the next week but only after they went to a 17-0 lead and then lost their backline to injury in the second half.

Roll on, this last week and the game against the Waratahs. It was the best game of rugby we’ve played all year and we still lose. We were leading all the way through the game until the last three minutes before the Waratahs scored a try in the corner to steal the game. There have been many excuses, but that’s what they are – excuses. Was there an element of exhaustion from jet lag? Of course. But we lost the game because the coach had a brain explosion and made substitutions for the sake of substitutions. Our best defender and the player least affected by jet lag (at least visibly) was Meyer Bosman. What does John Plumtree (Dumbtree) do? He sends out the shepherd’s crook and yanks off Bosman for the defensively inept Marius Joubert. The man has the defensive nous of a wet tissue in a hurricane. After that the Waratahs were able to almost break our line at will and scored points a plenty. Could we have scored more points? Definitely. Our captain decided that instead of focusing on the basics and passing normally he wanted to throw passes out the back of his hand, which no one expected – not even his own team mates.

My solution:

  1. Chase Marius Joubert as far away from the team as possible – even into the sea so he has to swim back to South Africa; and
  2. Drop our illustrious captain until he learns to do the basics first.

 

It’s my believe, therefore, that my apathy, is due to my team’s failure to respect the game of rugby and the basics needed to play the game.

The Cost of eBooks

The Cost of eBooks

There has been a lot of debate over the last few years over how much publishing houses should charge for their e-books. Some people are adamant that the e-books should be significantly less than the physical copies of the same book. Being an accountant (blah), I’ve sat back and tried to think of how much should a company (or an individual) charge for their electronic books. The days of an author writing a novel, submitting it to the publishing house and walking away are long gone along with the dodo. The advent of electronic publishing has helped to establish a new market for authors and companies to explore.

There has obviously been some difficulty in the formative years, as there will be in any new ventures or markets. I won’t bore you (or me) with a lengthy explanation of business practices or breakeven points which is important in any sort of business decision. As an author/business, you need to make a decision whether you want to publish for fun and maybe make some money out of the venture or if you want to take it seriously and want to make money. At this point, everyone is screaming at me that of course they want to make money. Am I retard? No, I am not. But that decision plays a key role in everything else which follows.

Skin in the game
If you want to produce a quality product, you are going to have to put some skin in the game. By skin in the game, I mean that you’re going to have invest something into the novel in order to give it the best chance out in the wild world of publishing. The first step is to obviously write the best damned book you can. But people can only do so much by themselves and you’re going to have the manuscript looked over by an editor or maybe two. Then you’re going to have to get someone to do the perfect cover for it. Some of us are gifted with the ability to this for ourselves, but the vast majority of us will need someone who can do it for us.

Then there is still the advertising you will have to do for it. Some of it, like virtual blog tours, will be for free but if you want to do any sort of marketing for it you’re going to have to fork out some cash to do it. All of this adds up to the capital investment in the project.

As below, so above
The same costs described above are all costs that are covered by the bigger publishing houses. But they also carry other costs which a self-published author won’t necessarily factor into their calculations of how much it costs to develop a book. Publishing companies have to pay things like rent and salaries, something which the average self-publisher won’t have to think about – unless they really want to go big with staff and a separate office to do all of their writing in.

Variable expenses
There are some variable expenses which can be eliminated when the transition is made to the electronic format which can be removed from the equation. But they are not the largest expenses in the whole process. I have worked out an example using “actual” figures. They’re actual so far as you can see their effect, they are by no means actually how much any publishing house pays for anything. If you assume it will cost $0.50 to ship a book and $3.50 to print a book, a company’s costs to produce a hundred thousand books will look as follows:

Office rental

$200 000.00

Salaries

$500 000.00

– Editors

$100 000.00

Other fixed expenses

$100 000.00

Shipping costs

$50 000.00

Paper costs

$350 000.00

Total costs

$1 300 000.00

 

I’ve highlighted the variable costs for ease of reference. If you look at the above figures, it works out that it will cost the company $13 to produce a single book. If they charge $15 per book, they will have to sell 86,667 just to cover their expenses. If you remove the variable expenses:

Office rental

$200 000.00

Salaries

$500 000.00

– Editors

$100 000.00

Other fixed expenses

$100 000.00

Total costs

$900 000.00

You can see that it will cost the company $9 for a hundred thousand books without any actual books being prepared. Therefore, if you look at electronic publishing there are a few additional expenses the company might have to expense before they produce electronic books. In the table below, I’ve only included the salaries for the additional employees who will be needed to set up the books in the electronic format. You could probably look at training some of your existing staff to do it, but then you’re going to have to pay them additional money because their job role has increased… along with their knowledge base. I have highlighted the additional cost.

Office rental

$200 000.00

Salaries

$500 000.00

– Typesetting

$100 000.00

– Editors

$100 000.00

Other fixed expenses

$100 000.00

Total costs

$1 000 000.00

In this example, it’s difficult to say that it costs the company x amount per book because electronic books don’t have to have a specific print run. It is their advantage.

However, it has to be assumed that you’re not going to sell any more copies simply because the book is in electronic format. The market for any book is only so big. So let us assume that the electronic book will also sell 100,000 units (that would mean the market for electronic books is as big as the demand for physical books, but let’s just assume). We’re also going to assume the company is going to sell either physical or electronic and it isn’t going to mix the types.

Taking that into account, it would cost the company $10 per electronic copy. That means that if it sells for $12 a copy, the company will have to sell 83,333 copies just to cover its costs. Admittedly, it is a little smaller. But in auditor’s parlance, it’s not material.

If you split out the costs for electronic and physical into separate streams but you assume that the TOTAL books sold will still be 100,000 but with 80,000 being physical and 20,000 being electronic. The total cost will be:

 

Total

Physical

Electronic

Office rental

$200 000.00

$160 000.00

$40 000.00

Salaries

$500 000.00

$400 000.00

$100 000.00

– Editors

$100 000.00

$80 000.00

$20 000.00

– Typesetting

$100 000.00

$0.00

$100 000.00

Other fixed expenses

$100 000.00

$80 000.00

$20 000.00

Shipping

$50 000.00

$50 000.00

$0.00

Printing costs

$350 000.00

$350 000.00

$0.00

Total costs

$1 400 000.00

$1 120 000.00

$280 000.00

       

Volume

 

80 000

20 000

       

Cost per unit

 

$14.00

$14.00

I’ve split the costs that can be allocated to both 80/20. Both costs per unit of expected sales is exactly the same.

I know I was as shocked.

 

Getting Back into it

Getting Back into it

I have to admit that for the longest time after the World Cup last year I felt seriously uninterested in rugby.  Maybe it was just inevitable after a year in which rugby was completely oversaturated the sporting calender.  The 2012 version of the Super 15 starts on Friday when the Sharks take on the Bulls in Pretoria and up until Monday I wasn’t too interested or cared too much that it was about to start.  But this week, with the knowledge that rugby is starting again I’ve started to feel excited again.

Eastern Province Kings

Luke Watson - future captain of the Kings

It’s going to be a very interesting year indeed as whichever South African rugby team that ends up at the bottom of the South African log will be ejected from the competition to make space for the Eastern Province Kings.  Should this happen?  Absolutely not! All of the teams in the competition are top flight rugby teams in the premier division of the Currie Cup, while the Kings couldn’t even win in the First Division.  In terms of strength, they don’t belong in the competition.

So far are they being forced in?  It’s an easy answer – political expediency.  The Eastern Cape is seen as the area which develops the most black rugby players.  I suppose that could be understood to give transformation a bit of a boost.

The laughable thing is that when the question was posed how they are going to be competitive in the premier regional rugby competition in the world, the answer was that they were going overseas to get players who were coming to the end of their contracts in the Northern Hemisphere.  What happened to all of the development?  All they’re doing is grabbing players back from the north – many of whom are white.  So much for the vaunted transformation.

Changes

Captain Keegan

Gone is Captain John Smit and the old man at the back, Stefan Terblanche.  Keegan Daniel has been selected as the captain for the team for the season with Bismarck du Plessis as his vice captain.

Players like Tim Whitehead and Riaan Viljoen who will add some strings to the Sharks bow.  Tim Whitehead is a particularly pleasant boon to receive as one of the Sharks’ biggest areas of weakness in the past few years have been the centres.  Tim impressed so much that he has hopped ahead of some of the more senior players to start on Friday against the Bulls.  JP Pietersen, our star wing has also shifted in to cover outside centre and with his pace can make life very difficult for the opposition.

Riaan Viljoen, a fullback with a booming boot, played age group rugby for the Sharks before moving on after finding his way into the senior team blocked by Frans Steyn.  Steyn has moved on and Viljoen has come back.  He slots straight into the starting team at fullback on Friday and will be sure to send great return kicks against the Bulls who love the tactical kicking game.

It’s back.

The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss


Unfortunately, Goodreads doesn’t allow zero stars for a book and so this one gets a bonus star.

Following on The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear is like the really attractive blonde that you just want to spend more time with. The sad realisation is that one you start to spend time with her you find that the only thing she can talk about is the same old topic as that other blonde, her sister. She knows the conversation downpat and recites it verbatim. But nothing ever changes in the conversation and she can’t shut up. She just talks and talks and never gets to the point of any story she’s trying to tell… ever!!

If you’re looking for something with a plot forget about reading The Wise Man’s fear. As already mentioned, this novel prattles on and on and never gets to the point. Rothfuss defies critics by saying that in life there are no convenient plot points, no easy to define split between the different acts. He argues that because his book is about the life of Kvothe that there needn’t be such literary contrivances. He loves the details… like giving you a grocery list of what Kvothe goes to buy while they’re hunting bandits.

The author forgets that people read to escape from the mundane facts of life without plot points or easy to define splits between the different acts. There are enough lists in normal life without having to get another meaningless list.

The book jacket provided a brief history of what we can look forward to in the series and after two tomes in the series, I believe we may have touched on two items. Isn’t this a brilliant example of breaking promises to the reader?

Gone is the fantastic writing that was present in The Name of the Wind and its place is more than a thousand pages of waffle.

I doubt whether I will be back for the third novel, or the fourth, five or fifteenth that it might take before the story is finally done.