Friday, December 28, 2012

Happy Holidays and a New Book Out

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays! I think I'll have one more post up by the end of the year, mainly just reflecting on my experiences as a writer the past few months. After that my hope is to be a bit more regular with my posts, though I suppose I have made that promise before.

Also, I've published the next book in the Hector Kingsley series! The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley: Murders in Whitechapel is now up on Amazon, and my hope is to have versions of all my books up on Createspace before the end of January. Here's hoping that life does not overwhelm me entirely before then. See you around!

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Fallout

Okay, I have a confession to make. Though I am a fan of all sorts of RPGs, I have never played any of the Fallout series. It just always seemed to be on the edge of my attention while other videogames or projects took up my time.

Then I saw that the game, along with several of its sequels, was on sale at Good Old Games, and decided to give it a try, especially since it had been made by the same people who made Arcanum.
Before I played the game, all that I knew was that it was a post-apocalyptic RPG that had built a pretty big fanbase, and quite a few sequels. The background to Fallout's world is that the USA and other modern nations took a different path in history, which ended in the Great War wiping out most of humanity in a matter of hours. It's kind of like a look at a world if the Soviets and Americans had actually pulled the trigger and started World War III.

Of course, it's not all doom and gloom. A lot of the game has a bit of tongue in cheek humor to it. The Pip-Boy illustrations are hilarious at times, and the retro feel to a lot of the world can be pretty amusing as well. I mean, we've got two-headed cows, hideously oversized iguanas and scorpions, and robots with brains for CPUs. How can that not be awesome?

One of the main draws for me is the opportunity to effect the ending. Fallout gives several different endings depending on what choices you make throughout the story, and how quickly you complete the games main objectives. I like the feeling of being able to contribute something to the story; it was something I enjoyed in Arcanum, and I liked it here too.

Alright, time for the nerdy portion of this analysis. The mechanics behind this game are extremely well balanced. I feel like I can enjoy this game as well when I build a muscle-bound guy with a sledgehammer as when I focus on sniping skills. The whole SPECIAL system is very interesting to me, and half the replay value is from making a new character and seeing how the whole experience changes. Each variation is almost like playing an entirely new game, even if you try to trigger the same endings. Although the game is kind of short in some ways, I can see why this game was the first in a major franchise.

All in all, it was a game that was definitely worth the small amount of money I used to purchase it. Now I just need to see how the next couple of sequels lived up to the promise...

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Kingsley's New Cover

So we officially have a cover for the next Hector Kingsley book! Here it is. It has once again been provided through the skill of Mr. Robert Ennis, who has once again outdone himself. The book is now off to the copy editor, and I am hoping to have the thing ready before the end of the year. Here's hoping nothing drastically terrible happens, right? Aheh.

Heh. Yeah... Seriously, it would be nice if that didn't happen.

In any case, the other news is that Kingsley's first novel is now on sale. I think that I will leave the price this low through December and January, in the hopes that it will get people excited about the sequel. If you haven't bought it yet, go ahead and try it now! I think it's a really good story, though I suppose I am a bit biased.

Anyway, hope all is going well for everyone, and I'll see you around!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

On Thanksgiving

So it's Thanksgiving again! It's the time of pumpkin and holiday pie, the time of turkey, yams and even cranberry sauce. Yes, cranberry sauce, even though no sane person likes the stuff. I suppose it has to have something to do when it's not busy getting in everybody's juices (thank you Brian Reegan).

I have to admit I've always liked Thanksgiving, and it's always kind of bothered me when it gets overshadowed by Christmas. Christmas is nice and all--don't get me wrong, I like that holiday just fine. But does Christmas shopping and jingles and frantic holiday rush need to start in October? I think of Thanksgiving as a great time to just pause and reflect a little, rather than running flat out from summer to Christmas. Our society could use a little of that, but these days it seems like Thanksgiving has become more about shopping than giving thanks. It's gotten to the point where the infamous Black Friday shopping craze is not only killing and trampling people, it's starting one day early in some stores...during the holiday that's supposed to be about gratitude. When did that start making sense?

So in a personal effort to hold back the crazy, and appreciate the holiday as it was meant to be, I'll list a few things I'm especially grateful for this year.

First off, my family. Emily has been a wonderful wife, and better than I deserve, for more than five years now. She's been with me through hard times and everything, and I couldn't be happier that she's stuck around. Even better, we have a daughter now, who, although she has a tendency to make things interesting, is a bright spot in my life. I'm grateful for both of them, and for the parents, siblings, and other relatives who have always been there for me and supported me, despite my many varied flaws.

I'm grateful for the friends and co-workers who've not only put up with me, but gone out of their way to look out for me. I'm thankful for the readers who have bought my books and made it possible for me to succeed at something that I love doing. I'm grateful to be able to live in a country where my voice is heard, where my rights are secure, and where I have the freedom to believe and to do as I choose, and I am humbly grateful for all those who have sacrificed and suffered to make that freedom a reality.

Most of all, I'm just grateful to be alive. There are so many opportnities in this world, at this time, and I am glad to have the chance to experience it, to be a part of the craziness that is life. The chance to continue forward and keep learning, keep growing, is incredible to me, and I am glad that I have it.

So there's my little Thanksgiving post. Hope you and yours are having a wonderful day! See you around.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Background: Hector Kingsley Landships

So you tend to learn very interesting things about history when you are researching a steampunk book.

One of the things I was researching recently was the introduction of tanks during World War One. The reason for that is the tank gets invented a lot earlier in Hector's world than it does in ours. The Distillation kind of speeds up or alters a lot of scientific advancement, so the Germans (unified much earlier than in reality, and allied with the British during a fight with France) roll out their version of the tank during the 1860s or so.

Except they don't call it a tank. They call it a landship.

You see, the reason that type of mechanized war machine gets called a tank in the first place is due to some interesting stories behind its development. The British who were working on the device didn't want the enemy to know what they were making. After all, tanks had the potential to finally break the terrible stalemate of trench warfare; they didn't want to tip their hand too early. So they mislabeled the product of the Landship Committee as a 'water carrier', supposedly destined for Russia or the Middle East.

At which point they noticed that the acronym for water carrier is WC--otherwise known as the British abbreviation for toilet (water closet).

Probably knowing that soldiers would come up with enough off-color names for the things on their own, the British then decided to change the name to 'water tank'. Eventually the name was shortened to tank, giving the weapon of modern warfare its distinctive nomenclature. Not every language uses it of course, but English typically refers to the vehicles by that name consistently.

Unfortunately for me, in Hector's world that particular series of events would not have happened. Tanks would have come to the British through their German allies, so they wouldn't have had to resort to disguising the invention themselves. As a result, they probably would have stuck with the original term for the device--a landship. Interesting what changes a little tweak in history could create, isn't it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Five Life Lessons From FTL

1. Failure will happen. No matter what you do, no matter how carefully you prepare, something you're counting on will go horribly wrong. If it doesn't you're just as likely to screw it up yourself. Their boarding drone might hit your weapons room, they might randomly hack your shields, or you might forget to stop firing when your best crew members are boarding the enemy ship. There is no reason to dwell on it or mope about it. Stuff will just go wrong. That's life; you just pick up the pieces and move on.

2. Make sure you know your priorities. Sometimes life can get distracting. Problems can pop up and crowd out what is truly important. For example, that your ship is on fire. Or that you turned off your oxygen supply to power your laser cannon. Or that there is a mutant alien insect gnawing its way through your pilot. Make sure that you don't get so caught up with what is happening now that you forget about what is truly important.

3. Persistence is everything. This one relates back to the first lesson. Stuff happens, and things hit the fan on a regular basis. The point is to keep going and not just throw your hands up and surrender. It doesn't matter that your boarding party just blew up; don't hit the reset switch automatically. If you give up every time you hit a rough patch, you're never going to find something worthwhile at the end. And the little things--like the explosion that marks the dead enemy flagship--will make every bit of stubborn persistence worth the work.

4. Everyone can do something useful. There's something for everyone to do. The Rockman you just brought on board may not move very fast, but he'd probably do well against boarders. Your robotic Engi ally might not be able to storm the enemy ship, but all that damage you've been taking could probably use his touch. Don't count anyone out.

5. The Challenge makes it worthwhile. Sure, Normal mode might be hard. Okay, a little worse than hard. Maybe we should be referencing XCOM or Ninja Gaiden here. It sucks to have your ship get blown away time and time again. Maybe you're getting tired of running out of fuel and then having to rely on treacherous Slugs to creep along until the rebels get you. Or it is extra hard to get some of the various achievements that the game gives you awards for doing. If it was easy, you'd forget about it immediately. The challenge you struggle through. makes your victory all the sweeter.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

On Birthdays

Well, I'm old now.

Or at least, I'm older. I've now officially turned twenty-eight. That puts me so much closer to thirty than I ever wanted to think about.

At this point it's probably time to give up any illusions about being a young adult. Closer to middle age at this point, which is...disturbing. Somehow it seems like I should have a much more stable lifestyle at this point, that things would have settled onto a more predictable track. Obviously, that has not been the case. :) At least not yet.

That said, I have been fortunate to have so much go right in my life. I've managed to publish four books, have a wonderful wife and a beautiful little daughter, and we aren't quite living at the desperate edge of poverty anymore. Big achievements in my book! I suppose that a lot of people aren't doing as well, and it is always better to look on the bright side... or so I always get told. :)

So in this case, I should say that I am quite glad to have made it this far. Hopefully I can look forward to another productive year! See you around!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

On Voting

Oh yeah, there's an election this year.

That sentence kind of sums up my feelings about this term's election. In fact, I'd say it sums up a lot of people's feelings. Nobody seems very excited about either candidate; I'd actually say that even the ones who are excited are more about hating the opposing candidate than they are about supporting their own.

Normally, my feelings are much less ambiguous. Part of that is the candidates tend to have pretty soundly different foreign policies, but I haven't heard a lot of difference between the two this time. The focus seems to be far more on domestic policies, especially economic stuff. Of course, I am not entirely convinced that any president has a large amount of control over the economy, which means that most of this is a smokescreen they're blowing for their core support groups. Blergh.

At the very least I am registered and everything. Unfortunately that means I should probably start researching what these two doofus' have been saying about their plans for the past few months. Not the sort of reading I'm looking forward to. Sigh. At least in this country we get to choose which idiot leads us, right? Too bad they're usually still an idiot...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


So here's the game I've been playing for the past few weeks. I got it based on the recommendation from Penny Arcade, which is a webcomic that I enjoy on a regular basis. Usually I lack the console access, cash, or taste similarity to take them up on the games they play, but FTL was up for sale for about ten dollars, and seemed like a pretty fun game. Besides, they told me it was ludicrously hard, extremely enjoyable, and a spaceship game. I couldn't refuse.

In FTL you basically try and pilot a single ship through the maze of star systems ahead of an enemy fleet. Your goal is to make it past pirates, rebel ambushes, and other disasters in good enough shape to take on the monstrous enemy flagship at the end. The game gives you a limited amount of power  to run the systems on your ship, so you often have to make decisions on whether or not you want to charge one more laser cannon, divert more power to your shields, or keep your oxygen supply running. Not as easy a choice as you would think.

The fun doesn't stop there. As in most games, you have a limited amount of missiles and drones you can use, and the scrap the game uses as cash is always in short supply, but one of the most critical resources I've found has been the crew itself. You can hire more crew or gain them through special events, but you'll often find yourself losing crew to fires the enemy starts on your ship, breaches in the hull, enemy boarding parties, or just the old fashioned problem of taking one too many missiles to the face. If you're not careful, you can easily end up watching half your crew board an enemy vessel, be within seconds of capturing it--and then the laser cannon you left to fire automatically blows up the enemy ship with your guys still on it.

FTL is hard, or at least it is to me. It has two difficulty settings, Easy (haha, nope) and Normal (as in, death is pretty normal). I've occasionally managed to beat it on Easy. I still haven't even seen the final boss on Normal. Part of the difficulty comes from the challenges mentioned above, but the creators of the game throw in another twist. You can't save your game. Every playthrough is permanent, which means no hopping back to the last save point when you accidentally beam a raving, homicidal madman onto your ship. It does let you save if you need to stop mid-game, but you start right where you left off, and you can't ever go back. Worse, every playthrough is entirely unique. Every level is randomly generated, the consequences of each decision or the contents of each store are determined randomly, and the enemies are quite varied. The replay value is inexhaustible, but from another perspective, it can be incredibly frustrating to watch about half an hour's work go up in flames because the random pirate you fought happened to get you good with a fire bomb.

Then again, I like that sort of punishing gameplay (see Dwarf Fortress, Spelunky, and others) so I've been enjoying the crap out of it. Definitely worth the price, and I can see myself relaxing with this game for a long time yet. So there you go, that's my perspective on this one. See you around!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

On Another One Down

So, yeah, I haven't been posting here, mostly because I've been a bit occupied. Broken Halo's first draft has more or less consumed my free time and thinking space since I finished publishing Badger and Iron Angels mid-August. It is a good sign that the story kind of caught me up like that, or at least I hope it is. In any case, I managed to write like a maniac the past few weeks and put the finishing touches on the rough draft last Friday. On a related note, I think I've actually crossed the magic one million words of rough drafts mark that is supposed to mean I won't suck anymore. So for everyone who has been enjoying (or by the reviews, not enjoying) my work, don't worry. It will get better. :)

Anyway, finishing Broken Halo means I'm able to shift my focus to other projects now. First up on the list is going to be Hector Kingsley: Murders in Whitechapel. The book has been sitting on the backburner for a while, mainly due to my preoccupation with other projects, but I think that now that I've more or less overdosed on space operas for four months, some steampunk is in order. Fortunately, I've been cooking up quite a few interesting ideas for our stuffy, erudite investigator, and I think the upcoming draft will provide a much better story than I had before. My goal is to pretty much rip through the revisions in about three weeks--a pace which kind of intimidates me when I think too much about it, but it feels right. Here's hoping I don't screw everything up!

Eagle is going to need a bit more pondering before I'm really ready to start into it. I'm hesitant to get really in depth on it now, both because of the risk of burning myself out, and because I am worried about getting obsessed with it like I did with Broken Halo. I need to revise stuff sometime, and that means I will just poke along for a bit with the rough draft until I can turn my full attention to it.

Other than that, my progress seems to be going fairly well. Books are selling, I'm somewhat less close to utter and complete madness, and I think I am doing alright. Thanks for your patience with my little update here; I will try to get a few more posts up if I get the chance. In any case, I will see you all later!

Monday, September 3, 2012

On Working With a Background

One of the more interesting aspects of writing a sequel is the fact that I have to work around a background that I've written in another book. I have to remember the characters' names from the other book, even if they were background characters. I need to make sure that the universe is consistent; I can't have ships changing the number of guns or missile bays between installments. It's kind of overwhelming at times, and at this point as I'm hopping between series, it can get annoying to have to refer back to my own book for information.

Therefore I need to start a background notebook for each of my universes. Have one for Hector, one for Jacob, one for Iron Angels and so on. The problem is that so far I've been keeping all of my worldbuilding notes in little tiny notebooks. These things are a mashup of pretty much every series, though. On one page I have the weaponry for a Banner-class dreadnaught from Jacob Hull's universe, and on the next I have the order of battle for a Directorate fleet in Broken Halo. That's not even including the side projects I do for the fun of it, or the random notes I take it in for trips, to-do-lists and everything else that pops up. It was worse before Emily managed to convince me to start using these little books; before that I would just use random bits of scrap paper and hope that none of them got lost.

The whole digging through the tiny notebook thing isn't going to cut it now, though. I need to start collecting my little story bibles into separate notebooks. It would be so much easier if I had everything organized, and if I was able to find everything I needed. Although... maybe a binder instead of a notebook? That way I could just slip stuff in whever I needed it? Gah! This is going to be such a mess...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On What Happens Next

Well, four books are up! That is good...

Soooo, now what?

My focus on getting Iron Angels and Badger done has kind of consumed my attention for the past few months. I've literally spent every spare hour that I could on those projects, but that has left the ground in several other areas a little bare. My blog is, shall we say, a bit out of date and shabby, I've done little in the way of promotion, and my other books have been a bit neglected. Now I finally have the time and energy to devote to them, but I'm faced with the need to choose which one!

So in terms of my main writing goals, I think that Murders is my next revision target. That book was originally supposed to come out near the end of 2012 and cap my efforts for the year. Even though Hector Kingsley has not been my most popular work, I think that I will at the very least finish up this sequel. Besides, while explosions are nice, I think I need a short break for a while so that I don't burn the action side of my brain out.

New projects will include Broken Halo (Iron Angels' sequel) and Eagle (next book in the Jacob Hull series). I'll be poking along with those while I get their stories set up, and hopefully will finish both rough drafts before the end of the year. That should give me plenty of time to get both books out during 2013.

Of course, there's always the side projects. My blog needs to be reorganized and such. Maybe there should be time set aside for that on Saturdays? I don't know. Bah. Too much to do and not enough time... See you around!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Two More Down, One to Go

Iron Angels and Badger are both now live! Hurry, go buy them. :)

On a more serious note, we've gotten two books closer to my goal for the first year of publishing. My initial plan was to publish four books over the course of a year; with Wolfhound, Badger, Iron Angels and the True Adventures of Hector Kingsley, we've pretty much done that. Now the last part of that goal was to publish four books in 2012, which means I just have one left to work on, the sequel to Hector Kingsley.

I can't help but feel a little accomplished. We've done a lot of work the past few months, and hopefully we now get to see it pay off! Of course, there's also that panic and mania that sets in at times like this. What if they don't sell? What if I messed them up somehow? That sort of thing will probably mean I won't get very much sleep anytime soon, but such is the price of chasing a dream...

Anyway, I hope that you guys enjoy the stories, and I will see you around!

Monday, August 6, 2012

On Deadlines

Just in case you guys are wondering where I've been the past few weeks. :)

Badger is starting to look more and more done. We might be a little close to the wire at the end, but I still think we are going to have it out by August 14th. If not, I will let everyone know.

Until that point though, back to work...

PS. And of course, all credit and thanks go to my distinguished cover artist, Paul Hamblin, who has been kind enough to bear with me on a second book. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On Early Mornings and Productivity

I've recently made a change in my morning routine. Said change involves me getting up at five thirty in an attempt to get some writing done before the chaos of my day comes crashing in.

So far, my little experiment has been a resounding success. I've gotten an astonishing amount done in the past few weeks, even with the intrusion of a chaotic vacation and a few other difficulties. At the same time, I've been sleeping a little better, and I've felt like there has been a remarkably positive change in my mood. Crazy what a little advice from Benjamin Franklin can do, huh?

As a result, the crushing amount of work I've been facing has declined to somewhat managable levels. Both books look like they are going to come out more or less as planned, and I've even been able to head off some interesting problems before they've started. New intro material is ready to go into the back parts of my books, setting up a schedule for Eagle (Jacob Hull's next book) and Broken Halo (Iron Angel's sequel), as well as Murders in Whitechapel. I'm still debating on the schedule for some of the projects for 2013, but that's probably for another post. As things stand, I'll just be happy to finish 2012 with two Hector Kingsley novels, two Jacob Hull novels, and one Iron Angels book out, and it is looking like I'll actually be able to pull that off.

That is, if five thirty doesn't kill me first. Seriously, it's productive, but just seeing that number hurts...

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Badger

So as I'm finishing up the rewrite of Badger this week, I thought I would give you guys a preview of the cover for it. It was once again drawn by Paul Hamblin, the artist who drew the cover for Wolfhound. He tells me it is just about done, just a few small tweaks and we are ready to go. That puts us on a pretty good schedule, since the plan is now to release both Badger and Iron Angels on August 14th. Now if we could just get the book done as well... See you around!

Monday, June 18, 2012

On Arcanum

So here's a blog post on what has been consuming my free time recently. And by consuming, I mean devouring without mercy or end of appetite.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura is an RPG. Worse, as you can tell, it is a steampunk RPG. There was absolutely no hope that I would be able to avoid buying it when I saw it, but at the very least I hoped that I would be able to finish it quickly and move on.

As all good RPGs do, this one crushed those fragile hopes. Arcanum can be described in one word: deep. I've read epic fantasy novels with less developed frameworks for their society and backstory. It is set in a world of magic and industrial revolution, where the various races of elves, dwarves, orcs and humans all coexist and thrive. Magic in this world is anathema to technology; a magical artifact can cause havoc with even the simplest technological device, while technology can make spells fizzle and fail. You can sense the tension between those two forces everywhere in Arcanum, from the political debates to the backstory for each nation you enter, and Arcanum does a very good job of immersing you in the conflict. As for backgroun, well, the manual comes with its own treatise on how the various races of Arcanum evolved or were magically morphed, along with detailed explanations of everything else in the game. That should give you an idea on how well thought-out this world is.

The balance between those two forces has shaped not only the culture and politics of Arcanum, but effects the gameplay and plot. People will react to you differently if you are a half-elf mage, an experienced dwarf blacksmith or a gun-toting human bandit. Combined with the different backgrounds you can give your character, you can play this game in a hundred different ways and have a new experience each time. The game gives you a freedom that allows you to choose your own story and shape your experience as you play. Plus, you get to make your own Molotov cocktails, repeating rifles, and forge dwarven armor, or just blast the enemy with arcane magical force. What could go wrong with that?

The character development in this game is very well done; it doesn't seem like any particular path is inherently superior to the others. I've had fun playing any of the various roles, and half of the fun has been designing new characters and seeing how the game changes. I think the technical term for what I've got is 'alt disease', which means I still haven't finished the game yet, but I have like five different characters about a quarter of the way through the story. The funny part is that the options available and the balance of the various elements mesh a lot better than most modern games. Aside from a few issues with combat (unless you play it in the turn based mode, real-time combat gets you stomped on by monsters pretty quick.) and the annoying fact that when you die without having saved you lose everything, Arcanum is one of the funnest games I've played in a long time. In fact, playing through this one has given me some very interesting ideas for my own, paper based RPG design... but that will have to wait for another post. Mwaha.

So there you have it! I got this game over on Good Old Games, where it does not cost nearly as much as it is worth. If you are a fan of steampunk, RPGs, and extremely good videogame storytelling, give it a try! See you around.

Monday, June 11, 2012

On Restructuring

So I've made a few changes to the blog! I'm probably going to keep making the occasional modification to the layout here over the next couple of weeks. The way things were arranged before just grew a bit stale, and I don't feel like it was working out very well. Let me know if you like it/hate it/gave a great big "meh" when you saw it.

Along with that, I've been trying to reorganize how I will be doing my work over the next eight weeks or so. Over the next week or so, I am anticipating a lot of the penultimate revision of Badger to get done. In fact, if I can just manage to buckle down and get to work, I may actually get the revision done this week and send it out to the copy editor early. That way we can have a secure deadline to publish it by August 14th.

While the copy editor has Badger, I will be turning my attention to other projects. Namely, I'm going to be pushing through Eagle as quickly as I can. I wrote Badger's rough draft in a crazy rush last year about this time, and I turned out to have a pretty good book at the end. I hope to do the same this time, so that we can have that book ready sometime in early 2013.

At the same time, I am going to try and get chunks of the Iron Angels final draft done. That way, by the time Badger comes back and is ready to rewrite, I can have Iron Angels done and ready to put up at exactly the same time. No muss, no fuss, just two more books done, and one left to go to meet my goal of four books in 2012.

Well, that's all the news for now. Hope everyone's doing well, and I will see you later!

Monday, June 4, 2012

On Alpha Centauri

So based on the recommendation of my friend, Joe Vasicek, I had downloaded a copy of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri from a handy little place called I was a rabid fan of the Civilization series by the same publisher, and my childhood is marked by periods of extreme obsession with Settlers, Railroads, and Wonders of the World. I'm still convinced that I learned more about the process of technological advancement and historical monuments from that game than I did from most of my history classes, but that may just say more about me than it does about my teachers. :)

Anyway, for those of you who have never played a 4x strategy game like Civilization or Alpha Centauri, let me give you a picture of how the thing works. You're basically given a civilization where you have to build cities, develop technology and create military units as your people expand over the course of a few millenium/centuries. You get involved in the diplomacy side of things once you run into the borders of another civilization. Given the nature of the game, things typically either degenerate to a point where all those military units come in quite handy, or the other civilization, cowed by your awesomeness, petition to become your allies. The level of difficulty chosen at the start of the game can often determine how decidedly unfriendly these other competitors are, as well as how quickly they develop, grow, and fight.

There are a variety of ways to win, whether by convincing your various competitors to choose you as their leader through diplomacy, completing a particular construction project, or even by simply wiping out all the other civilizations on the globe. The term '4x' is kind of derived from that fact--you're supposed to compete with the other players on several levels, the four main ones being how much you've explored, how much your civilization has expanded, how well your economy can exploit the available resources in your territory, and, of course, how effectively your military can eliminate your competition. This type of game is typically a very long term, involved process which can take days just to finish one simple game. You think that RPGs are bad for being near-abusive time sinks? You've never tried one of these babies.

Basically, I should have known what I was getting into when I bought this game, but I'm stupid enough to get a game like this when it is cheap and cool. (See Dwarf Fortress and Spelunky for a comparison.) Alpha Centauri does not disappoint. You basically are a portion of a colonisation crew sent to Alpha Centauri. The crew gets broken up into factions due to a disaster in orbit, so you're competing against six other groups right off the bat. You can chose the different factions, which each have their own benefits, from the militant Spartans to the enviromentally sound Gaians to the diplomatic Peacekeepers. Each one has their own playing style and feel to it, and it was fun trying them all out.

I had to say that the game was definitely a great experience. There were some low points; the global warming mechanic seemed to kick in at precisely the wrong times no matter what I tried, the scientific progression seemed a bit hard to understand, and some of the military progression just seemed to be a bit uninventive. At the same time, the improvement in the barbarian/alien mind worm challenge was awesome, the chance to customize your own units only made things better, and I loved the flexibility that floating cities gave me to expand. Definitely a worthwhile buy, though I'm sure I would have been a bit more productive if I hadn't been playing it... See you around!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

On Schedule Changes

So I suppose it would be good for me to admit something at this point. Iron Angels won't be coming out in May.

That might be kind of obvious, given that we are on the last day of the month. Hope springs eternal, I guess. :) Unfortunately due to delays caused by our move to Pennsylvania, other projects, and the unavoidable craziness my life seems to attract, the possibility of getting the book out this month wasn't very high.

Which, of course, means I now have a decision to make. I can either continue to work on Iron Angels until it is in publishable condition and get it out during the month of June. That would mean putting off the revisions on Badger until Iron Angels is completely done, possibly delaying that book as well, which is something that might get me mobbed. :) Alternatively, I can shift my focus to work on Badger and finish up the work on Iron Angels at a later point. One way will minimize the delay before Iron Angels hits the market, while the other preserves the rest of my schedule for Badger and the other books.

As I've been thinking about it, though, the best option seems to be the second one. Iron Angels is in the final stages; that means it will only need a short, final revision to touch things up before it is ready to go. I think that if I get Badger ready during June, send it to the copy editor by the end of the month, and turn my attention to Iron Angels after that, I can have Iron Angels ready before I get Badger back at the end of July. Then I can pour my efforts into getting Badger ready, which I will hope to get out by the middle of August. That way, instead of stressing myself to my limits and possibly rushing the development of these two stories, I can take each at its own pace, and probably have both of them ready by mid-August. They'll be released at the same time so that they can support each other, which might be a benefit that I won't complain too much about.

There are benefits to doing things the other way as well, but I think they are more than outweighed by the costs in time, effort, and most importantly, sanity. Putting too much pressure on myself to get everything done at a preset time, without consideration for the usual chaos that infects my life, will do more harm than good in the long run. By taking a more measured approach, I can have both books out before the end of the year, and hopefully arrive at my next project with my wits intact.

So yeah, if you are waiting for Iron Angels to come out right now, I apologize for the let down. It has taken me a while to admit it, but it turns out I am human too, and can fail. Blergh. Rest assured, however, that my schedule for Badger remains unchanged. My rewrites on that are starting as we speak, and the alpha readers have pretty much all gotten back to me. That project has me both excited, scared half to death and ready to start. Let's hope no more crazy hops in the way this time.

In any case, I'll see you around!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On the Zombie Apocalypse: Location, Location, Location

Alright, so part two. Mainly because I get a bit...focused... on things sometimes. Yeah. That sounds better than obsessive!

Anyway, part of what would make any successful survival effort during the zombie apocalypse would be where you choose to settle down. All the weapons and planning in the world won't help you if you are in the middle of a rampaging horde of zombies. So how to avoid that shambling, biting mass of disaster?

One of the most popular solutions is to load up a vehicle (or actually, probably more often a horse) and ride on out of town. Running for the hills seems like a good option. After all, less people means less potential zombies, and that means less potential bite marks. Plus, farms should provide some food right?

The other option is just to fort up in town and hold out against whatever comes. You'll hopefully have some food storage, and you'll be able to scavange something from the local supermarket once things run out. You won't have to travel anywhere, which is good because the main ways to travel are going to be clogged with people...people and probably zombies. Sure, there will be zombies around the city, but you can just barricade the door and wait til they rot, right?

So I think there are problems with both of these scenarios. Sure in the countryside there will be less zombies...for a time. As the zombies spread out from the cities, you'll start getting swamped eventually. Plus, since when do I know how to farm? Unless I mysteriously pick up tilling-the-earth skills, I'm pretty sure food will be pretty scarce. Especially if I have the fortune to be in the lost and forsaken deserts of Utah or something. There will be a few awesome country refuges, but I imagine cranky farmers/squatters/survivalists with guns will get there first and not want to share. Probably best to avoid that situation--most people die from other people in zombie movies rather than the zombies themselves.

In the city, though, there will be no food either. Ever. If the stores are stripped bare two days in advance of a Houston hurricane, imagine what will happen once the dead start to eat people? Besides, the giant armies of undead walking the streets will be obstacle enough to get to any food storage. There might be some people around willing to band together and beat back the horde, but we're probably talking about millions of undead versus a few hundred humans. Seriously bad odds. One time I tried to estimate how many zombies Houston's metropolitan area alone would produce if every third person turned. That was upwards of six million undead. Yikes. Definitely avoiding the cities.

No cities, no urban areas. Where then? I think that of all the places to be, a multistory house in the suburbs would be the best. A little surgery with a hammer or an axe would remove most of the stairs, thus preventing zombie infiltration. There would be places for gardens and a moderate food supply for the short term, yet the ravening hordes of zombies wouldn't have reached us from the cities yet. We could probably build up a food supply, then wait out the wandering hordes when they came. Wildlife would be more common as well, giving us the chance at meat. Also, most people in the burbs would probably head for the hills, clogging the roads and leaving behind their well stocked houses, ripe for salvage and/or defense. It wouldn't be perfect, but this is an apocalyse we're talking about. Better a slightly crappy place then no place at all.

So yeah, more thoughts on random stuff. See you around!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On the Zombie Apocalyse: Weapons

So, based on the in depth discussion at our recent writing meeting, I have felt it necessary to clarify my general strategies for the eventual coming of the zombie apocalypse. After all, one can never be too well prepared for those sorts of things...

In any case, my choices of zombie hunting gear would not, in fact, be a shotgun and chainsaw. Too much (infected) blood flying everywhere. Besides, if you ever find yourself at close range fighting a pack of zombies, you're probably going to go down anyway. Especially if the infection can be spread with just a simple bite. Better to keep things at a distance.

With that in mind, my primary weapon would probably be a kind of sniper rifle. Given my previous predilections, I would probably try to go with a Mosin-Nagant sniper rifle. The accuracy is something that would be needed in a world where bullets are rare and the shots are critical, and it is a very effective gun. And really, could you go wrong with the gun the White Death used? I think not. In addition, the gun could be used for hunting; in Texas that would have meant shooting hogs. In Pennsylvania I don't know, deer maybe? Anything better than going herbivore...

For the occasional, unavoidable close range encounter, I think a splitting maul would work the best. With a zombie, the main threats are the teeth, the numbers, and the fact that they are infectious as a sewer drain. Not to mention the 'dead already' thing. So weapons like knives aren't going to cut it (pardon the pun). Not enough damage done fast enough, the stupid zombie's not even going to notice getting slashed. That's not to mention the fact that the more blood you spray around, the more you risk getting infected anyway.

The best way to down a zombie is with one big hit, hopefully one that does the kind of damage that breaks bones and knocks it down. That way if you need to, you can run without having to worry about it hanging on or coming after you. A hammer doesn't break or dull, and the worst I have to worry about is maybe making a new handle for it. Plus, the sledge/axe combo can help with all kinds of work outside of combat, from splitting wood to pounding (dare I say it) fence posts into post holes or something. Of course, carrying around something that heavy would be a drag, but the benefits would totally be worth it.

So yeah, now you know both my primary and backup zombie apocalypse weapons. Good times, right? Of course, to use either of these two, I would probably need to be more experienced. As in, actually owning the rifle and practicing with it, or not being a scrawny, pipsqueak cross country runner. You know, little details. :) The best defense is probably where you would live during something like this anywa, but that's a post for another day...

Anyway, hope you are enjoying the weekend, and I'll see you around!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

On Tweets and Meets

So we're back from the LDS Storymakers conference! It was an awesome experience. We got to meet a lot of people (including Ailsa from our writing group! and Aneeka, also occasionally from our writing group!) and listen to a lot of incredibly interesting lectures on writing. The entire thing took pretty much two whole days, so I will try to distill some of the best parts into a five highlight list.

1. Yes, Howard Tayler, I will work very, very hard. Enough said.

2. Sandra Tayler managed to make finances both scary enough to pay attention to and managable enough that I am not totally panicking. Not bad for someone with a Humanities major.

3. Per David Wolverton, sci fi is about a sense of wonder. I should make an extra effort at including that. Heh heh heh...

4. No matter how well your day went at a writing conference, it will always still suck to come home to water leakage and fans trying to dry out your carpet.

5. I won a door prize! It included a discount for a content edit through Eschler Editing. Now what would I use that for... :) Mwahahahaha!

So those are some of the highlights. It was a lot of fun! I will probably write more about the whole thing later. Just giving a quick update.

Speaking of quick updates, I am now on Twitter. Not sure how I like it yet, but we will see what pithy remarks I can make to win the respect and admiration of the entire world, 140 characters at a time. Shouldn't be hard, right? Muttter, mutter, mutter...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

On Cool Stuff and Getting Stuff Done

Alright, so first things first. Iron Angels second to last draft is finally done. Yeah! Now it is off to our esteemed copy editor, Tristi Pinkston. Hopefully that means we will be on track for a publication date in May, which at the moment looks increasingly likely.

That also means that I am now free to work on other projects again, namely The Social Contract's first draft and the Badger rewrite. I will hopefully have the alpha readers go over Badger during May, so that I can then spend most of June tearing it apart. Let me know if you want to help out with the whole process! As it is, Badger has a target publication month of August, and I think we have a very good chance of making that date too. After that, the only other book to get done during 2012 will be the sequel for Kingsley, subtitled Murders in Whitechapel, which hopefully will be ready by November.

Five books in less than a year. That's possible and not entirely crazy, right? Aheh heh...

On to other things. We have a cover being done for Badger at the moment, again by Paul Hamblin, our awesome artist from Wolfhound. He's sent me a few rough versions, and says he'll have the finished prodcut done soon. I'll post it when it's ready, so get excited for it!

We've also had an ad up occasionally on Girl Genius, and things have been going moderately well for us. I don't know how cost effective ads are for ebooks; perhaps it is the fact that we need people to buy the book and not just visit a comic? At the same time, Kingsley's been doing a bit better as a result, so I'm not complaining at all!

Also, at the end of this next week, Emily and I will be off to Utah to participate in the LDS Storymakers conference. It will be the first time going as an actual professional writer, so I'm kind of nervous. At the same time, we'll get to meet some of our writing friends and attend some cool panels and workshops, so it is totally worth it!

Finally, whoever did this is awesome, hands down. I'm on a freaking wiki! Huzzah!

Whew, lots of news, huh? Perhaps I should post here more often... oh well. Off to work! See you around!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

On Tough Stuff

Soooo... yeah. I'm sure you might be wondering where I've been for the past month or so. At least, what's been keeping me so busy that I haven't been posting here. It's a funny story, you see little elves from the future abducted me and... okay, so you're not going to buy that one. I guess I will have to tell you about the mission the CIA sent me on to...not that one either, huh? Well fine then. I suppose the truth will have to do.

So, first off, Iron Angels. This book is supposed to be published in May, which makes time a little bit short on that one. I've been working like crazy to finish it up so that my copy editor can have it (thanks again for your patience, Tristi!) and the story has been a tricky one to resolve. At the very least I think I've got the hang of it now, which means that I will be able to get it done this next month and have a third book. Hopefully the payoff is worth all the agony it's put me through!

The next thing that has been taking up my time has been something called Tough Mudder. No, not the Firefly thing. Tough Mudder is a race where you go through twelve miles of obstacles, mud and various other pleasant stuff like electrical wires and burning bales of hay. No, I am not making that up, and definitely no, I am not running in it. At least, not this year. :) However, my dad and a bunch of the guys from the ward are running the race in a couple of weeks, and so I've been getting up early every Saturday morning to work out with them. And by work out, I mean getting up early enough that the sun isn't out and running through freezing cold mountain streams.

On top of all of that I have the cutest little girl in the world who wants nothing more than to have her daddy read her the pidgeon books. Those unfamiliar with the pidgeon books written by Mo Willems should acquaint themselves with these works of art. Otherwise we will be sending Sera over to make you read them to her.

So yeah, it's been a bit busy, but we are still moving along. I wanted to provide photos in this post, but for some reason the internet is not cooperating with me tonight. Oh well. Grumble grumble grumble...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Re-finding the Balance

So I have to confess that recently I've felt the temptation to get into a new hobby. Writing was once my main hobby, but now that it has morphed into a career, I've kind of been left hobby-less. It wasn't quite so apparent in Texas, since between my job and my writing I didn't have enough time to contemplate it. Now that I have a bit more breathing room in my day, I find myself returning to the concern.

This post might sound like it contradicts my previous posts (read: whining) about not having a whole lot of time. It's not quite that, though. The problem I'm having is more that I don't seem to focus very well anymore. I might have time, but it certainly isn't productive time, and when I finally get around to being productive, I'm either exhausted or distracted or both. Part of that has to do with the fact that I have been left with only a few main hobbies, namely videogames and reading. I can be rather obsessive about both, and both tend to lead to me wasting time on the computer, so I find myself needing to branch out.

So, solution one has been to restart my habit of running. The weather here has been cooperating nicely, and I'd have to say the exercise has certainly helped me feel a lot more at home here in Pennsylvania.

Solution number two is a lot nerdier. A whole lot nerdier. Which is why I will post about it on Thursday. Both because I am a terrible person, and because this post is way too long already. See ya. (Mwahahahaha...)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On Adjusting the Balance

Alright, so the past couple of weeks have not been the best for writing. Some of this can be blamed on the move. Packing and shifting every ounce of your crap over a thousand miles can be rather...disruptive to a person's creative process. My shift in work schedule, workload, social interaction and family circumstances can all bear their share of the guilt as well.

Not everything can be blamed on that one choice, though. I am starting to worry, just a little, that I am crushing myself with my own expectations. Wolfhound succeeded so spectacularly that I began to get a bit carried away with delusions of grandeur and hopes of being a self sufficient writer by the end of 2013. Realistically, as Wolfhound's sales start to settle down a bit from the post-Christmas writing craze and Kingsley continues to poke along at the okay-to-good level, I am glad we haven't left the day job just yet.

Right at that same moment, when my wildest dreams are fading back to a more humdrum practicality, I've landed in a pretty comfy spot. My new job is no longer an exercise in crazy, I can sleep, attend church and act almost like most normal people, and I now live rather close to family instead of a time zone away. That is a level of comfort that we haven't had in a long while, and I worry that it is lulling me to slack off on my writing almost as badly as my crushing burdens in Texas were.

But perhaps all of this is merely an example of excuse finding. Maybe I simply need to regain my focus, settle my shoulders, and get back into it. Yet where do I begin? Any ideas? Blergh.

In any case, I will get back to work on Iron Angels. No rest for the wicked...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On Downtime

Argh. I promise I will post something on here on Thursday. Still trying to get the hang of the whole moving thing. For now, I will hide and hibernate and try to distract you with a poor Jedi mind trick. You aren't noticing that I'm lazy, you aren't noticing that I'm lazy...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On Boxes

Soooo many boxes... Why so many boxes...

Moving in isn't fun. Blergh.

Monday, March 5, 2012

On Finding the Steampunks

So Kingsley is still doing pretty well--not quite Wolfhound well, but not incredibly poorly either. I think the reason that it hasn't quite taken off yet is because the audience for Wolfhound is very different from the audience for Kingsley. One is a spaceship, railgun action adventure, while the other is a steampunk mystery with a lot of character and banter. While there might a few fans who crossover between the two genres, it is not as much as I imagined at the start.

So my evil scheme to net more readers for Kingsley has moved to the ever-dreaded marketing phase. (Mwaha!) My plan is to run an ad or two on Girl Genius and see if I can attract people from there. Before I can do that, though, I need to use ads that will catch people's attention. For that I'm probably going to need your help, as I couldn't artist my way out of a paper bag. :)

Fortunately, my friend Aneeka, of Not a Villain fame, has lent me a hand. Below are a couple of her ideas, using concept art from Mr. Bob Ennis, the artist behind the cover for Kingsley. (Man, what is with me and links today?) They were actually good enough that I almost want to use them without taglines, but let me know what you guys think. After all, Kingsley is kind of counting on us to make this count! See you around!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On a Review for Kingsley!

So we have a review for Hector Kingsley that went up! Emily Mah Tippets was kind enough to read over the book and offer her thoughts on it. You can find her review on Amazon, Goodreads, and a longer verion on her blog. She liked it! Always a good thing. Thanks to Mrs. Tippets for her support, and I hope she enjoys the rest of the series! You know, once I've gotten to the point where it is published and all...

Also, I have now added the link to the Kingsley hardcover. Sorry about the brief delay there.

See you around!

Monday, February 27, 2012

On Baby Steps

So first off, and most exciting of my current news, is the fact that Sera has officially began to walk. She took her first steps on Friday, and she has been practicing every day since then. Her record so far has been four solid steps in a row. She is quickly catching on to the fact that this is a BIG DEAL, especially with her grandparents joining her parents in the congratulations. She is growing up way too fast, but every little smile she gives makes the entire journey.

Also, I am proud to announce that we have put the hardcover up for Hector Kingsley's first book. This copy has the excerpt that I included as bonus content for those buying the more expensive paper edition. Given that it is pretty much just an appendix with extra background material, those who choose to read the electronic version will not miss out on anything relating to Hector's adventures, nor on anything relating to Patricia, Benjamin, or the rest of the Kingsley crew. It is, however, pretty cool background, so if you like the world of the Distillation, then feel free to investigate a copy.:)

In all honesty, I plan on publishing all the excerpts, along with more material, in a companion book someday, but just not yet. So if you really want to read the stuff, you will get the chance to see it electronically. Just not until the series is done. Heh heh heh...

In any case, we are starting to get settled in here in Pennsylvania. My job has been going pretty well, and as I get adjusted to it, the oppoortunities I have to write and develop my ideas increase. Hopefully that will lead to some progress this week. I will let you know! See you later!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On A New Schedule

It's different when you get home in the late afternoon.

I knew that already, intellectually at least. I had braced myself successfully for the tiredness in the morning, at least initially. During high school I was a bit of a morning person, so I kind of hoped that I could recover and start to push back against my own weariness sooner rather than later. The work has been more or less what I expected.

What I hadn't anticipated was the wholesale shift in my schedule after work. It has been a bit difficult to adjust to having hours of free time available and still being able to get a good night's sleep. For some reason, that's thrown me off a little bit, but hopefully my befuddled state will wear off soon.

In any case, I am still plugging away on Social Contract, and my work on Badger's partial rewrite has gone well. I just need to get back in the swing of things, and I think things will go entirely well. Here's hoping I'm not overly optimistic about that; then again, optimism is something I have only rarely been accused of. :) See you around!

Monday, February 20, 2012

On A Successful Move...So Far

We made it! It was a frantic rush, especially near the end, but we've managed to get the stuff from the apartment all packed, the cars shipped, and the family flown to Pennsylvania, where we will now be working and living. Our hopes are that a change in situation will help encourage us in our efforts to both raise Sera and continue to publish. We have a new job up here that is offering a lot of opportunities we did not have in the emergency room, and I am hoping that a more consistent schedule might relieve a little of my own personal stress. But we will have to see!

In any case, as a quick update, the books are doing well. Wolfhound continues its march, and Kingsley seems to be finding its audience person by person. As I'm looking back on the move we just went through and the past couple of months, I can only be thankful for all the blessings we've enjoyed and the fact that in spite of everything, we've managed to pull it off.

Now if only we could find an apartment to rent...

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Moving Soon

In less then seven days, my entire house needs to be packed and ready to move cross country.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

On Revisions and New Stories

So I've started on the revision schedule that I had planned for February. The fact that I'm moving in less than two weeks has kind of complicated things, but not too badly. The plan is to do a quick readthrough of Badger, mainly to remove characters that shouldn't be in some of the scenes, refine some of the relationships, and organize the whole book a bit better. That part of the effort has gone well so far, and I am happy to say that I think I will finish that pretty soon.

Revision plan number two is to move on to Murders once Badger is done. Murders needs a pretty similar treatment, with a few more detailed revisions to iron out some of the inconsistencies. My hope is to finish that by the end of the month so that I can dive into a revision of Iron Angels after that.

As far as new stories, I've started Social Contract now in earnest. I guess a lot of my obstacles in that story had to do with what kind of a story the book was turning out to be. It's very hard to write a book that touches on societal conditions and politics without turning preachy, and the initial sections of the story seemed to be headed in that direction. After a few weeks of writer's block and a lot of pondering, I think I've got the direction of the story figured out, though, so hopefully I can dive right into the meat of things! My goal on that one is to have the first draft done by the end of March, so that I can start on Eagle, the third Jacob Hull book.

That's the plan for now, at least. I'm sure the move will require some...adaptations...but I remain confident that I can get all of this done on time. After that, it should be a pretty straight shot from here to the beginning of May, when Iron Angels will launch, and after that I just have Badger and Murders to get up in the summer and fall respectively. Meanwhile, I need to be working on the novels that will hopefully be ready to launch through 2013, namely Social Contract, Eagle, Airships Over London, and Iron Angels 2.

Sigh. When did the hours of the day get to be so few...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On A Bit of a Change

So, yeah. In two weeks we will be moving from Texas to Pennsylvania. We did not know this fact two days ago.

You see, I had been interviewing at a company in Pennsylvania. Friday morning they called and told me we got the job! We kind of start fairly quickly there though, so a crazy rush to move is now in order. We need to find a new apartment, organize our exodus, hopefully find a new renter for our apartment lease, pack our stuff, figure out how to get two cars to a state thousands of miles away with a baby in tow... You kind of get the idea.

At the same time, I'm trying to support writing and all that. I had even worked out a schedule on what I was going to revise and write over the next two months or so. :( My best laid plans may get waylaid a bit, but the best part about this new job will be the fact that it will give me more time to write and a much shorter commute. So hopefully that will go a long way to making up for the lost time in the next couple of weeks.

So both excited and nervous about the change. Wish us luck, and I will see you around!

Friday, February 3, 2012

On Progress and Cover Art

So Kingsley is off and running! It's doing well for now, but I am hoping that it starts to rev up and reach the level of success that Wolfhound continues to enjoy. I just need to find the mental energy and time to promote it a little bit more and I think it will catch on pretty well.

So on another topic, we have the cover art for Iron Angels! James Curwen was kind enough to provide the artwork, and he has done a wonderful job. Go check out his other work, and I highly recommend him to other authors looking for covers! He's great. Now I just have to revise the book itself until it has similar quality... At least I have until May this time! See you around!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On A New One Up!

So The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley will now be up on Amazon! Just a few hours for Amazon to review it, and it will go live. That makes book two of this little publishing effort, and book one of the year 2012. I'm just hoping that the story manages to shine as much as Wolfhound has. Hopefully those little voices murmuring at me that it will all end in failure can shut up now. Blergh.

In any case, go read the book! We will be getting more versions up today and tomorrow. See you around!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On Delicious Treachery

So the past couple of weeks I've kind of been struggling with some health issues. Eating was difficult, I kept getting chills and shivers, and I was generally weak. Acid reflux seemed to be a major problem as well. I figured it was just a flu at first, then I kind of started to worry as it continued to last. I lost a little weight and started to get a little desperate to find something my throat would tolerate. I won't lie, I was kind of starting to worry that I was on the edge of a major mental breakdown over stress or something. Or maybe that something incredibly serious was wrong with me.

No, it was not stress, nor was it disease. It was poison!

You see, in my family we have this weird hereditary trait that makes all the males develop food allergies in their twenties. That means we could be eating food that's never hurt us before, such as avocado, and all of a sudden our throat swells up. Once we figured that out, we've kind of been tracking my dad's allergies and avoiding them preemptively, just to avoid the problems he's had. These include cats, avocado, tree nuts, apple skins and a few other things.

We had wondered if my problems lay in my allergies, but we couldn't figure out what I was eating every day that would cause the issue. Guacomole has been banned, I don't eat apples fresh anymore, and I don't eat cats (though that does sound delicious). And its not like I was chomping down on a brazil nut every afternoon. So we gave up on that idea.

Which is why it wasn't until yesterday, after I had an attack of cold sweats and sudden weakness, that I checked the packaging of the granola bars I've been taking to work. You know, the ones I've eaten at work as a snack or a side for my dinner for nearly two years. Guess what they have in them? That's right. 'May contain traces of tree nuts.' So now I can confirm I've got that allergy. Believe me, I've been poisoning myself with it for the past two weeks, and the symptoms are nothing I want to go through ever again. Blergh.

Treacherous little nut-filled granola bars. Why couldn't you have stayed loyal? Mutter mutter, ungrateful hippy food mutter mutter...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Relief

There is nothing better than finishing the copy edit of a book. Kingsley's ready for the final readthrough, and that's more about enjoying the story and the tone and all. Maybe another week and the madness will be over.

Relaxing sighs on three, two, one...


Friday, January 20, 2012

On Initial Obstacles and a New Interview

So for the past three weeks or so I've been trying to get the beginning of Social Contract written. I say trying because it seems like I keep running into some kind of mental block.

It's hard to figure out why that is at the moment. Maybe with Wolfhound's success, I'm a bit worried about branching out into another type of story. Like I won't be able to duplicate my success if I don't stick with the same formula. Or maybe I'm just juggling too many projects again; between the Kingsley copy edit, somes revisions on other stuff and the emergency room, I don't seem to have a lot of time to spare. Another possibility is that I've simply exhausted myself again. I wrote four books in thirty nine weeks last year, and that kind of a pace can leave a mark. Maybe I just need to slow down? Or maybe this is going to turn out like another New Realm, and I'll have to cut my losses. Then again, I always have trouble with beginnings, so...

Dilemmas like these seem to be part of a writing career. Sometimes the problems and obstacles aren't as cut and dried as they would be in another career. As I continue to write, though, I think I will get better at identifying them and resolving them. For now, I think I just have a bit too much on my plate, mixed in with a bit of plain old fatigue. My focus is going to shift a little so that I can clear some of that away. Then maybe I can return my progress on new words to my usual, semi-berserk pace.

Oh! Also, I have an interview up! It is over at Sarah M Eden's blog. It was a lot of fun to do that one, and I hope you enjoy it too. In any case, I have just two chapters left to revise and Kingsley will be ready. Come on, focus...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On the First Ammendment: SOPA

So Hollywood wanted Congress to help stop online piracy of videos they made. They wanted Chinese websites and the like to not post the movies they'd spent millions creating. The obvious solution is to lobby Congress to get a new law passed, right?

And in true Hollywood tradition, that law calls for the establishment of a blacklist for websites that illegally use copyrighted material. The copyright holders--or, by pure coincidence I'm sure, the Attorney General--could obtain a court order to basically attempt to wipe these sites from search results and domain names worldwide. There are also provisions for holding search providers and other companies liable for assisting the sites which are in violation.

While I am all in favor of copyright law--as a writer who plans on making a career out of his copyrights, how could I not be--this is freaking insane. How this law couldn't be horribly abused straight from the outset is a mystery to me. False accusations could mean retaliatory suits against the people who shut down non-violation sites, but what if that person was the Attorney General? You know, the one who participated in arms smuggling recently and still hasn't even been indicted? Or what if the small business site is simply unable to raise the funds to make a case for itself? Do they get to claim reparations for their lost business? What happens if a business hires someone to post copyrighted material to a competitor's website, and then reports it to SOPA? Is there a difference between the use of a single uncited photograph, and the streaming of a whole movie? What if, perish the thought, the Attorney General is politically motivated in which sites he blocks, and targets opposing political sites, or sites for businesses which contribute to his opponents?

The worst part is how incredibly ignorant the members of Congress seem to be about this whole thing. At the hearing discussing the bill, it seems like absolutely no one was actually qualified to discuss Internet filtering, and the broad base of opponents to the law were generally excluded. The opposition to SOPA comes from virtually the entire political spectrum, from Tea Partiers to Politico. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit and other web based companies have taken a stance against this abuse of governmental power, to the point where some of them have blacked out their sites in protest today.

This bill, and a similar one called PIPA, are complete and total violations of everything the Constitution and the Bill of Rights sought to provide us with. If the bill sought to provide an opportunity for the Attorney General to burn a printing press accused of printing things in violation of copyright law, or shut down a newspaper accused of sedition or copyright violation, the reaction would be the same, because the abuses would be pretty much the same. I sympathize with Hollywood--you guys spend a lot of time and money to create entertainment for the world, and having it stolen by people and posted on the web has to be devastating. The fact that things like Twitter and Facebook have started to effect and change your industry can't be comfortable either. The fact is, though, that this bill is a disaster that will not help the situation, and even if it was effective, the cost to free speech and the abuses it would make possible for government and business officials would be too high.

In short, kill this bill. Kill it with fire and never look back.

Thus concludes the political rant. Will get back to more interesting things on Friday. See ya!

Blacked out Google image provided by, well...Google.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Changing Focus

Okay, so I promised myself I wouldn't talk about how well Wolfhound is doing with this post--something about beating a dead horse, I think--so I will confine my comments on that book to a single word.


There, now that I've got that off my chest...

The copy edit of The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley is going well. The plan is to finish that edit by this Thursday or Friday, and then go back and do the final readthrough next week. That would give us about half a week or so to get the formatting everywhere all set up, so that hopefully we can just put it all at once instead of going at it piecemeal. The book should be out by February 1st, with the sample chapters up here a little bit before that. It would be a major relief to just have it up and done now, but I believe the book deserves just as careful a look as Wolfhound did, and I really want Kingsley to have his time to shine. Jacob certainly has...

Fortunately, my editor, Tristi Pinkston, has given me a lot of help in that area. The work by Bob Ennis on the cover art certainly doesn't hurt either.

It's just really hard not to focus on the numbers for Wolfhound the whole time. Checking the sales numbers like fifty times a day probably won't change anything, but it makes me feel like I am. So I need to put a stop to that and change my focus to what needs to be done. Wish me luck...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

On A Turning Point

So, Wolfhound has been doing pretty well lately.

To be honest, that's kind of an understatement. December was about twice as profitable as we had expected, and as of right now, we've already passed the dancing-in-the-street threshold for January. We've gotten six different reviews from people with really positive comments, which is always encouraging, and made it pretty solidly onto three of Amazon's bestseller list categories which will probably help us continue to sell. Plus, we've even managed to put together the Smashwords version of the book! The one thing we haven't been able to deal with has been advertising--I've been so busy trying to keep my writing schedule that ads and stuff have taken kind of a low priority over writing itself--but I guess that can be expected when I've got a full time job to worry about and a family to help. Hopefully at a future date I can make the whole ad thing work, but for now we are doing good!

I suppose that in a lot of ways we've now reached a turning point because as of now, Wolfhound has repaid our initial investment in the book. The copy edit and everything else is now paid for. Anything we make from here on forward is pure profit. On top of that, we've managed not to just rest on our laurels. We're now about to publish a second book, which might possibly grow just as fast as the first one did, which means that in a couple of months they might be both paid back. We've become profitable as a small business! I didn't expect to reach that point until next year. It's incredible.

Of course, this means we're going to have to adjust our expectations going forward. My standards of success have been kind of inflated, and I'm wondering if that means I'm going to face a few disappointments later on. Still, it will be worth it to see this opportunity go forward. What's life without a little risk, right?

I just want to thank you guys for all of your support. It's been a great ride so far, and it's only going to get better from here! See you around.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Decisions

Alright! So the excerpt is now done for the first book of Kingsley. Now I have a small choice of projects that I should work on next. I can either launch myself into the copy edit of Hector Kingsley, or I can do the revisions on Edawku.

Hmmm. I'm already a little bit in the Kingsley mindset, and it would be a relief to get some of that out of the way before the end of the week. Maybe just the three first chapters so that they can be ready for the sample?

But wait, what is this? Megan has already finished the alpha read on Iron Angels! That puts my two month dawdling on her story to shame. Bitter, eternal shame. How could I not read through her book now?

Man, there are just never enough hours in a week...

Monday, January 9, 2012

On Keeping Perspective

So the book thing is really moving forward! We're kind of shocked at how well Wolfhound seems to be doing, and we've already gotten two more positive reviews. It's been great seeing what people have enjoyed about the story, and I'm kind of looking forward to that kind of feedback in the future. Something I could get used to! :)

We've even been selling a few copies of Killer as well. For those who don't remember, Killer is the short story I wrote and entered in the Mayhew Short Story Contest at BYU. It did pretty well there, but it hasn't sold a lot on Amazon while it's been up. I guess some of Wolfhound's success is pulling it along though, which is kind of fun. We'll have to see what happens with both of them once Kingsley's first book goes up!

While that's been going on, I've been readjusting to going back to work in the ER, getting far too little sleep, and frantically trying to juggle writing projects. Between writing the Kingsley extras, writing the new material for Social Contract, getting ready to do the final revisions on Kingsley and a bunch of other stuff, I'm going kinda crazy. The fact that I keep obsessively checking Amazon to see if I'm failing yet doesn't help. :P

At the same time, I've needed some help to keep things in perspective. Luckily the other day I got to take my daughter on a walk. We just wandered around the bike paths near our apartment and visited a local park for a while. It was  lot of fun to watch her experience the world; just grabbing a leaf and playing with it was like a wonder to her. Seeing the world through her eyes and being able to enjoy those little moments reminded me of simple and straightforward life can be, and how important it is to just sit back and take a breath of fresh air. Otherwise we get lost in the mess of things, and that's no good for anyone, least of all us.

So that's my rambling report for the moment. Hope all is going well for you guys! See you around

Friday, January 6, 2012

On the Roller Coaster

Yeah, it's definitely been up and down these past few days.

My book has been selling really well! In fact, we're doing well enough that it's kind of inspired a paranoia level paradox in me. Am I just building my hopes up to be brought down hard later on? Will a bunch of the new readers decide it sucks now and one-star review me? Maybe it's all just a government conspiracy meant to lull me into complacence? (You can tell I've been writing cyberpunk, huh?) I am excited and uncertain and jumping up and down over this success in something I've dreamed of forever. It's kind of like a dog actually catching a car they've been chasing for years. What do I do with it now?

On the other end, somebody found a typo. Left an extra word in that needed to be removed. Crud. At least it is only one in like 120k words right? I just need to change that up.

Also, had a wonderful interview today that should be going up on the 20th. I will post the link when it does. Look forward to it.

I've been able to start work on the bonus material for Kingsley, and I am enjoying it immensely. For those not in the loop, I've decided that people who buy the hardback and paperback versions of Kingsley will get an extra little bonus at the back of the book, mostly as a reward for buying the more expensive version. My wife has been reading it over my shoulder and I've won a few appreciative head scratches, so it should work out well!

Also, I've been plugging away at Social Contract. Somehow all the success that Wolfhound is enjoying has put a lot of pressure on me to not screw up the new book. That stress is relatively frustrating at this point, because every first draft has giant gaping holes in it that need to be resolved. I should be worrying more about how to set up the setting and lay groundwork for the future character development, but then the realization that people are going to expect a good story out of me now intrudes. Grg.

Yeah, you can see how chaotic things have been. My own private little roller coaster. So far it is turning out to be a fun ride though, so I can't complain. Hope everyone is doing alright out there, and as always, thank you for your support. See you around!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On Bleh

You never realize exactly how much you are on the internet until your modem dies and you suddenly don't have the internet to be on. :(

Fortunately we were able to fix that problem fairly quickly, which is why I once again have a steady, glorious connection to the interwebs. All the better to obsessively check on Amazon with.

Speaking of which, we got another review! And it was another good one! Sales for Wolfhound are still going fairly well; I've been impressed with how the book is doing, and I've come to the conclusion that December and January are golden times for a new book. If things keep going like this, then Wolfhound will have paid itself back easily. That sort of early success definitely does wonders for my self confidence.

Of course, now the more neurotic half of my brain is chipping away at that confidence by making me worry that I will let these people down with my next book. All of a sudden I have expectations to live up to, and that was an unexpected burst of stress to deal with. At least Iron Angels is now out, Social Contract has been started (Mwahahaha!) and I have a few days to pound away at Edawku before I dig into the Hector Kingsley copy edit. No pressure though. Right?


Monday, January 2, 2012

On A Good Start

So here we are in 2012. Has the apocalypse started yet?

Wolfhound has been out for almost a full month, and I have to say we've been doing pretty well! The book has officially hit the "good job" mark and kept going strong, though I don't think I will post actual sale numbers here. Pride goeth before the fall and all that. :) We've also got a review up, which was pretty positive and very encouraging. I had been getting a little worried as to why we hadn't got any before then, but I guess people were just taking some time to get through it. I just want to meet those expectations in the sequel!

Iron Angels is pretty near the completion of the next draft, with a bunch of helpful alpha readers set up. That's always nice to have, especially since I suspect the schedule for that book is going to be cutting it a little close. My goal is to have it ready by tomorrow and out to the readers as soon as my fingers can hit the keys. Wish me luck!

The final copy edit of The True Adventures of Hector Kingsley has been delievered! That means that my next project, outside of doing an alpha read, will be to revise that book and get it ready for publication in early February. I'm getting both excited and nervous about it, but I think it will do at least as well as Wolfhound, if not better!

In any case, I suppose I should get back to work, shouldn't I? Hope all is going well for everyone, and I will see you later!