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. []
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. []

Welcome to December

 Posted by at 13:06  No Responses »
Dec 022010
 

November has come and gone, and with it so has another NaNo. This year, I didn’t “win.” In point of fact, I chose not to win after a pile-up of circumstances. I started the month without a clear idea of what I wanted to write. Then, I started writing about a half-formed idea that intrigued me. About 10,000 words in, I realized that the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought-out in its current form to sustain a novel, so I tabled it. Instead, I decided to try and write what amounted to fan fic in a genre wherein I would have no trouble at all going on for 50,000 or more words. I reached 10,000 words yet again, and then it was time to drive out of state for Thanksgiving. That’s when I forgot my laptop bag in the house. At that point, I decided that spending the holiday churning through 40,000 words that I would never actually try to publish wasn’t worth it and abandoned it.

I’m okay with that decision. The first NaNo novel I wrote is unpublishable (probably ever), but it proved to me that I could write that much of a single story in a short timeframe. I had the second NaNo novel’s concept in mind well before starting, and was excited about writing it. I’ve only just started the massive editing work required to make it something I feel is agent-worthy, but I continue to be excited about it. In other words, my second NaNo novel proved to me that I could write something I was proud of and thought worth publishing. That set a new bar for novel #3, and when it became clear that the things I was writing weren’t going to be at that level, it lost its worth. Besides, there’s always next year. There’s also every other month in the year.

So, there’s that.

In other news, the guild has been tackling ICC of late and we’ve been running smoothly until we hit Sindragosa, who we’ve been stuck on now for three weeks! However, we got very close the last time we attacked her1, so I’m confident that we’ll down her next time. Then it’s on to Arthas. We’re all hoping that we can take down both Sindragosa and Arthas this time2, because that’d mean we achieved the entire point of Wrath of the Lich King just before Cataclysm comes out this coming Tuesday.

NASA is set to announce something in a few hours that a lot of people are speculating is the discovery of bacteria here on Earth with DNA that differs from every other known lifeform on the planet. Namely, this bacteria has arsenic in its DNA rather than phosphorous. If this is true, it fundamentally changes our concept of DNA and means the possibilities for life are much broader than we’ve known until now. It also means that at least two distinct types of life evolved on this planet alone, which in turn dramatically increases the chances of it happening elsewhere. My favorite quote from the article is this:

To my mind, this is the one of the major differences between science and religion: scientists get wildly excited and happy when someone proves our basic dogma wrong.

To round out, I want to share this blog post. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were completely successful. I don’t mean in the sense of toppling the WTC towers, which were also obviously successful; I mean in the sense of defeating us. On 9/11, we were attacked by terrorists. We had, essentially, two paths to take on that day: we come together and continue living life as Americans, or we cave to the fear of another attack and throw away our way of life. The recent, absurd “security measures” implemented by the TSA are just another nail in the coffin that prove we caved. We lost. They won.

  1. Only 2% health remaining! []
  2. That’s a tall order. As hard a fight as Sindragosa is, Arthas is even worse. []
Oct 082010
 

I had this whole plan for what to write about today that congealed as I drove to work. It vanished when I actually sat down to write it.

Yesterday marked Cody’s and my second month as a married couple. So far, so good! It seems a little silly to celebrate these milestones, given the four-closing-on-five years we’ve been together. The relationship is solid, we love each other just as much (if not more) now than we did when everything was exciting and new, we live together well, etc. It still feels like an achievement anyway. Marriage! It’s this big, important word that, for us, represented no functional change in our relationship toward one another that nevertheless bestowed a reaffirming, reinforcing strength that I didn’t even know could exist. I heartily approve.

I decided to bite the bullet and forgo worrying about writing a tailor-made web app for play-by-post Firefly-inspired Star Wars game I’ve been planning for a few months now. Instead, I went with MyBB and will adapt it as the need arises. I’ve used phpBB in the past, but it’s always felt a little clunkier than it ought to. MyBB is very smooth by comparison. This doesn’t obviate the need for a character creation web app, but it’s one less technical hurdle to starting the game than I had before. It’s been a long-standing desire of mine to play/run a Star Wars game that used an adapted version of the 7th Sea rule-set, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out. Play-by-post is an odd fit for such a dynamic and fluid system, but one never knows until one actually tries.

November is bearing down on us, which poses two annoying problems. The first is that Cody and I are still at a loss about a concept for Halloween costumes this year. There isn’t enough time to do anything complex1 in the time we have—next year, for sure—but even within that constraint, it’s rough. The second problem is one of time management: NaNoWriMo is going to eat my time in November, which presents something of a blockage on both the aforementioned Star Wars game as well as the heavy WoW-playing fronts. Oh, to have just six more hours each day.

Hell, I’d settle for two.

  1. Like the various costumes I’d make with a vacuform table []
Nov 302009
 

For the second year in a row, I have “won”1 NaNoWriMo. What’s more, I even have this last day of November to relax. Last year, I was frantically writing right up until just a few minutes before midnight. Though I did a fair amount of writing last night2, none of it was frantic. It all simply happened.

I walk away from this NaNo feeling proud of what I’ve written. It’s unpolished as hell, with several large inconsistencies that need to be massaged away, but that’s perfectly acceptable for a “zeroth” draft3. I’ve turned it over to Cody for her first review of it while I take the next week or so to decompress. Once she has a read through and tells me what she thinks, I’ll start working on the next draft. One of the first things I’ll do is draw myself a map of the area in which the story takes place. There’s a fair amount of traveling in this story and I want to make sure I have consistent timescales for that travel.

There are five central characters, drawn together through circumstance over the course of the story. Three of these characters make up the central triumvirate4, one of whom is the point-of-view character for the entire duration of the story. He also happens to be dead5. The real joy of these characters is that they’re all fun. The protagonist is a man discovering a world he never knew. His “id” counterpart dashes head-long into any situation and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. His “superego” counterpart engages him in philosophical discussion. There’s also a Crowning Moment of Awesome for one of the characters. I burst out laughing when I wrote it. A good sign.

Once I finish the next draft and Cody gives it the nod of approval, I’ll distribute it to some friends for a wider review. The draft resulting from this collective critique will find its way to agents. With a little luck, it will then find its way onto bookstore shelves and into your hands. A guy can hope, anyway.

NaNo, to me, is about pushing yourself to see what you’re capable of. Last year, I learned that I was capable of writing a novel. This year, I learned that I was capable of writing a novel that entertained me. I think this is important: you should write to entertain yourself. If you like it, odds are someone else out there will too. Trust to that, rather than trying to fill some artificial quota.

  1. Yes, it is called “winning”.
  2. Over 6,000 words in one sitting.
  3. This is a term Justine Larbalestier uses to describe the absolutely raw first output of a story. I’ve also stolen her idea to use superscript footnotes in blog posts.
  4. I realized last night that this triumvirate mimicked the ego-superego-id triumvirate of Kirk-Spock-McCoy, or Harry-Hermione-Ron, or any number of other famous fictional triumvirates. I didn’t intend to set it up that way, but it sort of fell into place all the same.
  5. No, he’s not a vampire—sparkly or otherwise.

Moving Forward

 Posted by at 12:45  No Responses »
Sep 282009
 

This weekend, Cody and I finally finished the last milestone in making the house “livable:” painting the kitchen. The kitchen’s modification has been a long, arduous process that started in mid-June.  The first hurtle was getting rid of its hideous pineapple wallpaper. This took an army of people to do (who have my everlasting thanks) over a period of several weekends. Once finished, we still had to patch some substantial holes and cracks, sand down spackle, prim, and finally paint.

To celebrate, we threw our first proper house party.

It’s a little odd to walk through the kitchen, dining room, and sunroom now. They’re so open. Before, they were cluttered with boxes, tools, and debris. Now, the floors are clean, the walls are brightly painted, and the boxes have been tucked away. It feels like a home.

With the major house construction projects out of the way–the pantry still needs the same treatment the kitchen got, but it’s a small space and low priority; the upstairs bathroom just needs to be repainted–I can start focusing on writing. NaNoWriMo is still a month away, but I’m going to try to amp up my daily wordcount and plow through a novel by the end of November.

The trouble is, I have yet to decide which story is the most promising. I’ll probably end up writing both at the same time, depending on which strikes my fancy at any given moment.

Sep 042009
 

The problem with my writing the previous night had nothing to do with the material. Though the setting has been percolating for a long time, the story itself has never been there. Like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, if I may be so bold as to draw that comparison, I’ve got a world and some events rather than a story. A few events do not a story make. This has ever been a problem for me, as those familiar with my vast graveyard of stillborn RPG concepts can affirm.

Fortunately, I did have a character. Continue reading »

Tonight, He Writes

 Posted by at 13:39  No Responses »
Sep 022009
 

I’ve been trying to write a short story every other night or so for the past few weeks, with moderate success. However, the urge to build something more concrete has crescendoed. Thus, tonight, I’m going to start writing my second novel.

The first novel, written last year for NaNoWriMo, is not something that I would ever dream of publishing in its current form. The story is far too linear, the protagonist too inconsistent, and the ultimate theme not something I’m happy with. I might revisit the premise at some point in the future. The objective of that novel was not getting published, anyway, but rather to prove to myself that I had it in me to write a novel. I did, so it achieved its purpose.

The novel I start tonight is the result of a story that has been percolating in my head for about 13 years, in various forms. It’s a sci-fi epic in the best tradition of sci-fi epics.

We’ll see where it takes me.

Writing Professionally

 Posted by at 10:20  No Responses »
Apr 072009
 

The first career path to which I gave serious consideration was authoring fiction.  The driving motivation behind this idea — telling stories — drives a disproportionate number of my hobbies: independent film-making, movie/TV-watching  and game-playing (on the receiving end of told stories, in this case), role-playing games.  Every other career I entertained the notion of pursuing held storytelling as a key component: acting, directing, visual effects for film, and now game development.  Within the last year, I decided that having a “day job” by no means precluded professional writing.  Author John Scalzi, internet-famous for his Whatever blog, cemented this decision by restating my own conclusion in as many words.  This led to my involvement in NaNoWriMo 2008, which I completed within the designated timeframe.  Though the resultant short novel is not something I feel is worth publishing (contrary to prior statements I’ve made about it), the simple fact that I wrote it armed me with the confidence that I can write a novel.

Pursuant to my goal to be a professional writer, I decided yesterday that I would take another page from Scalzi’s playbook and try to write a blog entry every day from now on.  My morning routine includes perusing a number of websites (a task made much simpler thanks to Google Reader and the wonder of RSS), which often have several interesting stories worth pointing out.  My hope is that readership here will grow beyond the small circle of friends that now read it and that it can become a community unto itself.


What do I mean by professional writer?  I don’t mean quitting my day job.  Scalzi (yeah, you’re going to see him name-dropped quite often) makes the observation that unless you can guarantee annual income from writing that’s 30% above what you make at your current day job, your financial situation will be worse if you quit your job to focus on writing.  The only reason to quit your job for writing is that if holding the job impedes the income you could otherwise make from writing.  

Professional writer, in this sense, is synonymous with Stephen King’s definition of a talented writer: if you wrote something and someone paid you for it, you’re talented.  It doesn’t matter if the writing was technical, analytical, editorial, or fictional — if you wrote something and got paid, you fit the definition.  Take it as a forgone conclusion that my ideal world would have me waking up at noon to eat breakfast and surf the internet for an hour, writing fiction for the next five, eating dinner with Cody, and then spending the evening on entertainment, all while making much more than I make now.  It’s not an unrealistic fantasy, but it’s not one that will come without time and effort.  

Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to elect to do things you otherwise might not choose to do.  To that end, I stopped procrastinating last night and bought myself a copy of Writer’s Market 2009.  This book is the ultimate go-to resource for writers, listing every publishing outlet for every topic available.  I plan to find a small outlet that publishes articles I might be able to write about with some intelligence, and submitting.  Without some incredible luck, it won’t be fiction.  I would be more than happy, however, to be paid for writing movie reviews, technical reviews, game reviews, or any other number of topics on which I tend to pontificate anyway.

As with every other industry, you first need to get your foot in the door.  Prove that you’re publishable in a small way before you can hope to hit big.