Nov 252014
 

Odds of my being able to hit my 80,000 words-for-NaNo target are diminishing rapidly, sadly, but the standard 50,000 word NaNo target remains well within reach. I hadn’t expected to lose as many days as I have to A) allergies prompting early bedtimes/late rises, B) Bruins games, C) holiday travel, and D) holidays generally, but lost them I have. Short of hitting a consistent word count well north of anything likely for the remainder of the month, 80k is out of reach. That said, I’m solidly in the swing of the story now, so there’s at least no reason that my current momentum should abate as November turns to December.

I have to wonder at the wisdom of placing NaNoWriMo in November. October culminates in Halloween, which makes much of the month costume project time (at least, for me!). November culminates in Thanksgiving in the U.S., forcing a choice between family time and writing time. December is much the same, but with your-winter-holiday-of-choice and New Year’s. September, on the other hand, is devoid of such obligations in its entirety. If I decide to do a month-long writing push again next year (as opposed to a much more sensible lots-of-writing-all-the-time-regardless-of-the-month approach), I think I’ll kick it up two months and do it in September.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Sat, Nov. 1 0 0 19271 NaNo begins, but I don’t!
Sun, Nov. 2 2709 2709 21980
Mon, Nov. 3 2769 5478 18823 Notable removal of some stuff from the existing manuscript
Tue, Nov. 4 966 6444 19789
Wed, Nov. 5 3049 9493 16349 Another big chunk of existing text removed
Thu, Nov. 6 3441 12934 19790
Fri, Nov. 7 473 13407 20263 Beer o’clock on office Fridays doesn’t do good things for my word count
Sat, Nov. 8 2145 15552 22408
Sun, Nov. 9 0 15552 22408 “Write every day” is good advice. So is “don’t work every day.”
Mon, Nov. 10 1873 17425 24281
Tue, Nov. 11 729 18154 25010
Wed, Nov. 12 0 18154 25010 Crushing Bruins loss to the Maple Leafs.
Thu, Nov. 13 2133 20287 27143 Managed to write in the morning before work, but crushing and dispiriting Bruins loss to the Habs killed evening writing.
Fri, Nov. 14 0 20287 27143 Sick, but worked from home. Called it a night pretty early.
Sat, Nov. 15 0 20287 27143
Sun, Nov. 16 3400 23687 30543 That’s better.
Mon, Nov. 17 4666 28353 35209
Tue, Nov. 18 2416 30769 37625
Wed, Nov. 19 4021 34790 41646
Thu, Nov. 20 358 35148 42004 Four hours of work here, to boot.
Fri, Nov. 21 956 36104 42960 Allergies kicking in. Fell asleep on the train home (usually the more productive of my train rides). Epic Bruins game against the Caps, ending in a 7-round shootout.
Sat, Nov. 22 0 36104 42960 Packing, travel, Bruins loss to the Habs (again!). Literally no unallocated time.
Sun, Nov. 23 2180 38284 45140
Mon, Nov. 24 2054 40338 47194

Previous Writing in Public post here.

Nov 112014
 

Taking a page from Dean Wesley Smith‘s Writing in Public series, I’m going to start documenting my NaNoWriMo-driven push to finish the first draft of Alour-Tan II.

The typical NaNoWriMo goal is to write a short novel from scratch through the month of November, totaling at least 50,000 words by the end of the month. I’ve modified those parameters to better-suit what I need to do with this book. My goal is instead to write 80,000 new words (supplementing the 20,000ish I had already written for a total of ~100,000) over the course of the month, completing the first draft in the process. I don’t include the preexisting words in my NaNo total, as that would most definitely be against the “rules” of the “competition”.

Date Written NaNo Total Overall WC Notes
Sat, Nov. 1 0 0 19271 NaNo begins, but I don’t!
Sun, Nov. 2 2709 2709 21980
Mon, Nov. 3 2769 5478 18823 Notable removal of some stuff from the existing manuscript
Tue, Nov. 4 966 6444 19789
Wed, Nov. 5 3049 9493 16349 Another big chunk of existing text removed
Thu, Nov. 6 3441 12934 19790
Fri, Nov. 7 473 13407 20263 Beer o’clock on office Fridays doesn’t do good things for my word count
Sat, Nov. 8 2145 15552 22408
Sun, Nov. 9 0 15552 22408 “Write every day” is good advice. So is “don’t work every day.”
Mon, Nov. 10 1873 17425 24281
Tue, Nov. 11 729* 18154 25010 WC as of 0900 this morning; more planned for this evening.
Nov 052014
 

Oh right, hello there.

Some snippets, in no particular order.


I’m 30 now. I don’t generally pay much attention to age, getting older, and so on. So it is with the beginning of my fourth decade. 25 was the last age to herald any practical impact (namely, the reduction in costs renting vehicles, which I so often do–oh wait). From here forward, there are no specific age-based milestones about which I am much concerned. As someone that expects to medical science to soon usher in multi-centennial lifespans, I still consider myself awfully young. Other than things that can come out of the blue and cut life short — most of which remain true at any age — I’ve still got a long way to go.


Writing is happening. Since my last update, I hadn’t made a lot of progress in terms of word count because I’d been devoting all of my writerly efforts toward figuring out plot issues. I continually ran up against the wall of knowing what I wanted to happen in the book, but not feeling rock-solid on the scene-to-scene progression. When November rolled around, bringing with it NaNoWriMo, I decided that I knew far more about my story than I had when I set out to write Ashes and should stop being a giant baby about the whole matter. I started a day late, but have already produced 7400 new words thus far despite great deal of textual reorganization of what I already had consuming about half of my writing time. Alour-Tan II is happening. By the end of the month, the first draft will be done. There, I said it.

For the sake of NaNo, I’m only counting words written since the month began. The total word count is north of 20,000 (plus another 15,000 that I chopped out along the way), which represents roughly 20% of the projected length.


I started playing STO again. One reason you haven’t seen much in the way of 3D art updates lately is that the time I would have been devoting to modeling has gone back to Star Trek Online. I’ve been sinking far too much time into playing in an effort to finish off a number of milestones I left hanging when I stopped (achieving Tier 4 in all the Duty Officer commendations, achieving Tier 5 in all of the reputations — and this across all 5 of my characters). I’m finally starting to get some of these completed (one character has fully finished all Duty Officer commendations and only one character has reputation stuff left to do), which will in turn “free up” time for other pursuits once more. Yes, yes, that time is always technically “free” because it’s mine to do with as I please.


The Stormtrooper project has made great strides and encountered great setb–learning experiences. I had hoped to at least finish the helmet in time for Halloween, but that didn’t come to pass. It almost did, but I ran into a mechanical issue with the CNC carving machine, which left me somewhat dispirited. Specifically, I had prepared four final carving templates that, when finished, would complete the positive mold and set the first of them running — a seven hour carve. The board feeding rate appears to have been registering incorrectly, which lead to cross-sectional slices that were too short by nearly a centimeter along one axis. Seven hours wasted, after a ton of enthusiastic and positive feeling going into it. I finally worked up the gumption to deal with the problem by disassembling the machine, cleaning it, correcting some minor mechanical issues, greasing everything, and reassembling it. I still need to ensure that its sensors are all correctly calibrated before I try again, but signs are positive and the time pressure is off. Next Halloween’s a whole year away.

Here’s where things stand presently:


Hockey is back. I haven’t specifically posted about this here, but Cody and I have become pretty big hockey fans over the last year and a half or so. It started with the Boston Bruins‘ 2013 playoff run and has continued and increased to this day. We’ve been to several live Bruins games, we watch (almost) every game1, we went to Providence to see the “Baby” Bruins several times last year and are season ticket holders this year, Cody now owns a Tuukka Rask jersey, etc. Ain’t no pink hats here, even if we are relative noobs! We also joined our friends’ fantasy hockey league this year. After triumphantly crushing my first game, I have been summarily crushed twice in a row in return, which is fitting. On the plus side, my “draft players I know and like, most of which are Bruins” strategy continues to feel rewarding, even when I lose.


I’m timid about posting. This, more than anything else, is actually why this place has been so silent lately. I have plenty of things I’d like to talk about, to share, to pontificate on, to wonder over. My desire to post those things is opposed by what amounts to fear of backlash. Not only do I worry about engendering enmity for posting something in general, but since I’ve made the profile of this blog somewhat larger (it cross-posts to my Goodreads author profile and my Facebook author page, both of which are listed inside Ashes itself) I’ve more or less directly attached any potential reading audience for my books and for following me as an author to the things I post here.

The last thing I want to do is turn off a reader because of some rambling, half-formed, incomplete polemic that happened to inflame some passionate desire to express whatever thought flit through my head in that moment. There are a great many topics on which I would love to share some thoughts. Having done so in a limited, ostensibly “safe” environment and having garnered the reaction I did, I’ve become even more gun-shy about expressing them. So, instead, this place stays pretty quiet. C’est la vie.

That said, I relayed this very frustration to a friend of mine yesterday:

I just have a crapton of pent-up feelings about…well, every aspect of [many topics, though this particular one related to art and sexism] that I tend to keep to myself because not doing so tends to end up (by my hypothetical reckoning) with me screaming at every other participant for how dumb and narrow-sighted they’re being. And I suspect said pent-up feelings are getting closer and closer to a spillover. Have not been very successful at calming them, despite efforts to do so.

So, who knows? Perhaps said frustration will break a dam in the near future and all sorts of things will show up here for people to read!


The Flash is a lot of fun. I’ve been watching Arrow since it premiered and was delighted to hear that it would be spinning off a Flash TV series. So far, it’s been a lot of fun!


Holy crap, Marvel is out to rule the universe. Between the announcement of the upcoming movie slate and the marked improvement in Agents of SHIELD since its intersection with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel has rather clearly marked its territory. While I am delighted to live in the era where comic book movies are emerging left and right, I have to confess to shades of the Marvel/DC rivalry coloring all of this for me. Given the preceding remark, I am by no means a loyalist to either “side” but it takes a great deal of mental gymnastics to compare any of the DC offerings with Marvel’s existing and future catalog. Perhaps Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Really, guys? That’s the title you went with?) will surprise the hell out of everybody, but I’m not holding my breath.


That should just about bring everyone up to speed! That said, I generally post something on Twitter at least once a day, which you can find in the sidebar here on the blog and which also cross-posts to my personal Facebook profile (but not my authorial one…wonder if I should change that). Follow me there if you want your daily dose of, well, me.

  1. Sometimes, we’re just not home; as long as we are, the game is always on. []
May 272014
 

I suspect the rash of 3D modeling posts have left many of you wondering, “Yes, yes, that’s all well and good, but what about the writing?”

Last time I wrote about writing (hm…), I felt much more optimistic about how the science fiction novel — okay, fine, it’s code-named “Prime” — could be redrafted into something more to my liking based on the invaluable feedback from my beta readers. As I went along, though, I realized that the revision process felt perfunctory. Not that the story didn’t need revision — it did and does — but rather that none of the planned and effected changes were providing that revision. After a great deal of soul-searching (and about a third of a revised draft written), I realized that the idea of the story had simply gotten away from me. As I feared back in October, what I had written wasn’t what I wanted to have written. It wasn’t the story I sought to tell.

Coincident with this realization, my wife passed on a comment from one of her aunts who had finally gotten around to reading Ashes and loved it. Just like everyone else, she was eager for the sequel and wanted to know when it would come out.

The next day, I chose to shelve Prime for now.

Instead, I turned my attention to Ashes’ sequel, for which I now have a much more solid outline, timeline, list of character motivations, and over 10,000 words written. The third Alour-Tan book is also in the late-stage “back-of-my-mind” percolation stage and my plan is to segue directly into working on it as soon as Alour-Tan II goes out to betas, which I’m angling to happen by the end of June.

I’ll return to Prime at some point, probably starting from the ground up but with an eye to using the collapsed rubble as the bedrock for the new version. For now, though, finishing the Alour-Tan series feels like the right thing to do.

Oct 312013
 

Now that I’ve had a chance to read through and digest all of the feedback on the New Book, I feel much better about it than I did. The deep flaws are still present and the text is going to require a substantial redraft, but I think I have a good handle on how to approach that. It’s going to require a complete overhaul of one character, a refocusing of another, some delayed reveals, some increased stakes, and a bit more attention to event planning, but I think the core of the story is strong enough that it’s worth doing it right.

In the interim, I’m just shy of 10,000 words into Ashes’ sequel—henceforth referred to as Alour-Tan II until I reveal the book’s real title. My writing time of late has been divided between that, organizing the New Book feedback, and getting my writing folders into a more coherent and backed up format, so I haven’t made as much new writing progress as I’d like.1 Still, the time hasn’t been spent idle and I think it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

My current goal is to hammer the New Book into shape during November2 and send back out to my Betas for a new read-through in December. That will, I hope, free me up to continue working on Alour-Tan II throughout December and complete a draft of that by early January ’14. The New Book and Alour-Tan II would both, then, be 2014 releases, with Alour-Tan III hot on their heels.3 I don’t quite want to commit to Alour-Tan III coming out in 2014 at this point, but I wouldn’t call it a completely outlandish notion, either.

I’ve also received the New Book’s cover art that I commissioned from friend and former 38 Studios coworker James Ball and it is freaking awesome. I can’t wait to show it off. Thanks, James!

  1. Assuming a target of 1,000 words per weekday, I should be at 23,000 words on Alour-Tan II by this point. []
  2. I won’t technically be doing NaNoWriMo, but it seems a good timetable to use for the rewrite. []
  3. Assuming Alour-Tan II doesn’t need the same giant rewrite that Ashes and the New Book both have. I have high hopes for it, though, since I’ve known for a long while where this story was/is/will be going. []
Oct 032013
 

The feedback from my Beta Readers has been flowing in and it paints a rather bleak picture, confirming many of the quiet misgivings I already had but nevertheless hoped were merely the voice of self-doubt that plagues anyone involved in an artistic pursuit. No, not this time. That was the voice of my unforgiving inner critic telling me that while the world I’d crafted held great promise, the story I ultimately told had massive flaws. Contrary to my goal of releasing the New Book this year, it sounds like it’s got at least a month (or more) of serious rework ahead of it before it’ll even be worthy of another read-through.

As I said to Cody the other day, “I can tell you exactly what Ashes is about. I can tell you exactly what [the sequel to Ashes, the title of which I haven’t yet announced] is about. I can’t tell you exactly what [the New Book] is about.” That really encapsulates the problem. I can tell you what it was supposed to be about, what concepts I wanted to explore with it, what personal struggles I wanted my characters to deal with, but none of that ends up in the text in a clear way. Bits of it are there, but they don’t come across to the reader in an effective manner.

One of my Betas, on hearing me express my woe, reminded me that I had asked for harsh criticism and that Beta was absolutely right. My frustration is not at all with the criticism received; I am glad to have it and delighted that I know people who are capable of giving it. My frustration is with myself, for having spent so much time putting together a work that doesn’t ultimately meet my own standards, much less prove sufficiently entertaining for others. I’m disappointed, but not with the feedback or those giving it; if anything, the quality of feedback is a silver lining.

Speaking of the sequel to Ashes, I started writing it on the 1st of the month. I plan to continue working on it until at least the 21st, which is when I’ve asked my Betas to have submitted all of their feedback. At that point, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do. Stop [Ashes‘ sequel] to retool and rewrite [the New Book]? Keep working on [Ashes’ sequel] to let [the New Book] breathe for a bit? I don’t know. Part of me is tempted to simply shelve [the New Book] and call it a learning experience. The rest of me is telling that melodramatic inner teenager to stop moping, man up, and fix it.

I’m taking a slightly different approach to planning for [Ashes’ sequel] that I hope will make the story and characters more immediately engaging. One problem that plagued Ashes as well as [the New Book] is that things don’t really start happening until about a third of the way into the book. That’s a great way to kill off a reader’s interest. While I  enjoy writing the “let’s play out all of the steps that arrange for the action” scenes, it leaves a reader asking, “What’s the story, though? Why do I care?” I know why I care, because I know where they’ve all been and where they’re all going, so the “director’s cut” is of sentimental interest to me. Kill your darlings, the saying goes.

On an unrelated note, I’m giving some thought to writing some short, few-thousand word stories–vignettes, really–to better polish both my characterization and streamline my plotting. Historically, I’ve been very leery about approaching short fiction of any sort, feeling more suited to writing what I like to read: novels. But I think there are some lessons I need to learn to improve my storytelling and some of those lessons might come more quickly if I force myself to write in short bursts; if I don’t have a whole novel to flesh out a character, or build up a plot. TBD. I’ve got a lot of irons in a lot of fires right now.

Anyway, that’s where things stand on the writing front for those following along at home.

May 292013
 

Ashes of Alour-Tan has now been out for just over six months. When I launched the book, I made the decision to pay little-to-no attention to my sales figures for that span of time, at which point I would look at the numbers and decide what they might indicate for future strategy.

A couple of notes before we dig in:

1. I am very happy with Ashes’ performance. As a debut, self-published novel my expectations for sales were quite low and it exceeded them handily. I would have been happy with one sale and made substantially more than that.

2. Ashes’ performance to date means little in the grand scheme of my long-term writing goals. Every self-publishing success story has the common thread of an author with many titles for their readers and I am not aware of any success story that centers on a single breakout title. Until I have at least five titles out and available, I don’t anticipate significantly better sales figures than Ashes garnered, and I am quite content with that. Of course, I do hope that each subsequent release will show progress.

3. I did very little in the way of promotion for Ashes. I announced it here on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Tumblr, on a handful of non-writing forums where I also added a link to the book to my forum signature, created author pages on Amazon and Goodreads, and…that’s it. I did not submit it to any book blogs, writing/author/self-publishing communities, or any other major venue for promotion. This minimal promotion decision was deliberate.

Right, let’s get to the numbers.
Continue reading »

Nov 262012
 

I just got the notification that Ashes is now available for download on Amazon!

The physical CreateSpace copies are still being processed, but I expect they’ll be available within the next few days.

In related news, I also posted announcements about the book’s release to the two CG forums I visit, Foundation 3D and SciFi-Meshes, as well as tweeted Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Nathan Fillion, and The Morning Stream in the hopes that it might catch their eyes and prompt further spreading of the message. Odds are pretty slim, but doesn’t hurt to try!