Settling into the Rhythm

Well, it seems like once again I’m moving into one of the lulls after a big release. Shadow of an Empire is out in the world, which means I’m trending back to relative silence as I sink into typing out the next big project.

It is kind of a weird feeling. There’s this brief moment when launching a book—more of a window, really—were everything is huge and in the open. You’re out in the public mind every day. You’re doing all this promotion and talking about what’s coming, the fans are excited and you’re eagerly watching for reviews …

And then it’s over. The book is out there, and you’re still noting it from time to time, but life resumes its old pace. You hunker down and get back to work. The next project starts. You watch the royalties collect, hoping they’ll arrive before your bank account finally makes that dangerous switch from black to red.

Yeah, that bout of the flu I had about two weeks back did a number on my paycheck. Let’s just say I’m glad I can subsist off of rice. Royalty money is delayed by several months, so while Shadow of an Empire and Colony are both actually doing great right now (between Kindle Unlimited Reads and sales, I’ve got a few copies of both going out every day right now, which is fantastic), I don’t actually get to see the fruits of that for … oh, another two months or so. Going to be a tricky few months ahead, especially with hours at my part-time being reduced.

Straying off topic here. Point being, this “lull” between the excitement of getting a most recent book out and the beginnings of the next project always feels strange.

But … despite my silence, that’s only because I’m working on the next project. I got the opening laid down last night, and today I start rolling through chapters in earnest.

Speaking of which, I’d best get to it. I’ve got a lot to accomplish today, and a chapter or two on the next project is high on the list.

Actually, one second. I do have a question for the readers of this site. Aside from the Monday Being a Better Writer posts, what sort of stuff are you looking for from Unusual Things? Discussion pieces? Places to chat about my books? Weird social commentary? Comment and let me know!

Being a Better Writer: Chekhov’s Armory

Welcome back readers, to another installment of Being a Better Writer! This week, I’m picking up right where I left off from last week’s discussion on Chekhov’s Guns, and moving on to another type of … Well, I guess we could call it a foreshadowing tool? Preparatory Plot Device set-up? Honestly, I’m not certain there’s an official name for this kind of thing past “Chekhov’s Armory,” but foreshadowing tool does work, though in the short term.

But that’s me getting distracted by terms, which few of us are here for. We’re here for Chekhov’s Armory, which I’m going to point out right now, Anton Chekhov did not invent. Rather, it’s simply the name that has become attached to the concept given its growth out of Chekhov’s Gun.

But again, getting sidetracked. So let’s dive right in. What is Chekhov’s Armory?

Well, to answer that question, I’m actually going to show you a youtube video. Hopefully you’re at a location where you can watch it, because this is one of those cases where showing you what something is and then talking about it will be far more effective than simply trying to explain it first. The video in question? The famous “Flying Wing Fight” from Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. If you haven’t seen this film, rectify this ASAPRaiders is one of the most famous films in cinema, and it’s not hard to see why once you’ve seen it.

Continue reading

The Tabletop Report: Gears of War Campaign Update

So, I doubt any but a few of you noticed, but there hasn’t been an update on the Gears of War tabletop campaign in a few months.

It’s not because the tabletop game stopped, or the campaign ran out of gas. No, it’s actually been moving along at a good weekly clip, with the players really getting the hang of things and figuring out the system. Which doesn’t mean that there haven’t been a few missteps: There have been a few systems I’ve made small changes to, and the system has turned out to be a little overly complicated in some situations. Some streamlining could be done.

At the same time, however, it’s proven fantastically flexible in adapting itself to a wide array of player choices and actions. Players needing to make multiple successful rolls to pull something off, for example, as opposed to just one make-it-or-break-it roll has led to a lot of interesting moments and tense countdowns among the players. Enemy encounters remain threatening as well, with the players often coming quite close to not making it out alive.

So why did the tabletop reports stop if the campaign has actually been going quite well? Well … pretty much because no one was reading it, so it wasn’t worth the time investment. Writing up these weekly reports about how the campaign was going was fun, but at the same time it was a fairly large time investment once a week on top of how much time I had to spend being ready for each weekly session, plus work and everything else … And when it was only garnering one or two views a week (yes, that few) it was clear that I should just focus on getting each week’s session ready rather than providing updates on the adventures of my gaming group.

That said, for those curious, no one has died yet … though they’ve certainly come close. They’ve also put themselves in some hair-raising scenarios due to underestimating the intelligence of their foes: The week before last they tried to set an ambush, not realizing that their ambush they were trying to pull was inside of someone else’s ambush … Theirs! Which they then escaped by, I kid you not, slamming the boom of a construction crane atop a skyscraper into another nearby skyscraper and running across it. With safety clips so that they wouldn’t fall nine hundred feet to their deaths if they slipped … which several characters did.

Their opponents responded to this by blowing up the base of the crane, which led to the players frantically running down the boom and into the next skyscraper over … and the boom twisting and falling away, leaving the last two swinging out into the abyss, connected only by their safety rope (yay for that!) before being pulled in.

Is it a perfect roleplaying system? No, there are definite flaws to it. It’s a little complicated in places for one; I’d definitely simplify a few things before doing a second run. And there’s a lot of pressure on the DM when it comes to leveling, unlike something like DnD.

But it’s working so far, and the players have been having a good time adventuring through the ruined world of Sera. Don’t expect weekly updates to resume, but know that it has been a fun weekly adventure thus far.

The Cycle Begins Anew

This one might be a little … scattered. Why? Well, I just got back from the dentist.

hate going to the dentist. Nothing against dentists, actually; they’re some of the kinder doctors I know. And it’s not because I’ve had a traumatic experience in my past or have horrible dental problems (I take meticulous care of my teeth because I don’t like the dentist). I just have a weird, paranoid, irrational fear of people messing with my teeth.

Weird, right? Go figure. I know it’s irrational, but that doesn’t stop my body from flooding me with enough adrenaline that my hands shake during a checkup. Those poor dentists. I put on some tunes and zone out as best I can, but even then they can tell I don’t want to be there.

Point being, I’m coming off an adrenaline rush right now. Which is fitting. Because coming off of a book launch feels a little similar in a lot of ways. Just … more spread out.

So then, how is Shadow of an Empire doing? Well … it’s doing pretty well.

Continue reading

The Official Spoiler-Filled Shadow of an Empire Discussion Thread

This post is not for those of you who have not read Shadow of an Empire yet. Why? Because it’s full of spoilers. Or will be. I’m not going to be the one posting them.

Yeah, this is a bit experimental, but it’s my site, so I try what I like. This post is for all those readers of Shadow of an Empire who want somewhere to talk about it, open for spoilers. You can geek out about the ending, discuss your favorite characters, whatever!

Obviously, I recommend not reading these comments unless you’ve already read the book, or you really desire to have one of the best books you’ll read this year spoiled for you. Because these comments? There will be spoilers.

That’s all there is to it. Read the book? Looking for someplace to chat about it with others that have finished it and unable to find anything on TV Tropes? This is the place to be! Hit comments and go!

Being a Better Writer: Chekhov’s Gun

Welcome back readers! Guess who had a real breakfast yesterday morning? If you guessed me, that’s correct. If you’re wondering why that’s significant, all I feel I need to do is point you at the title of my last post, the self-explanatory Flu.

Yup. The latter half of this last week was fun. And compared to that, being able to have real food is absolutely wonderful.

On another note, you know what else is wonderful? Seeing the first reviews and feedback start to trickle in for Shadow of an Empire. It’s official: Shadow of an Empire is an awesome, gripping read, and people love it! This also marks the first time I’ve ever had people contact me over Twitter to tell me how much they loved the book—right on! If you’ve not gotten started on Shadow of an Empire yet … well, what’s the hold up? Click that book cover on the right and get going! Knife-fights, horseback chases, shootouts, and more await!

Grabbed your copy? Good. Now that you’ve done that, we can move onto today’s topic: Chekhov’s Gun.

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of this one. Chekhov’s gun is one of the more universally known writing rules. Named not for Chekhov of Star Trek fame but rather for a book on writing advice by one Anton Chekhov, Chekhov’s Gun has become an almost universal law across fiction. It’s simple, easy to remember, and most of all, works. Writing a story? Keeping Chekhov’s Gun in mind will not only help you keep track of important narrative objects, but also trim out unneeded descriptive elements and clutter. Not bad for a straightforward, easy to remember quote.

Now, at this point those of you who can paraphrase the rule off-hand are probably already jumping ahead, but those of you who cannot, and are either new to the rule or inexperienced with it may be wondering exactly what it is or how pulls this off. So, as we start our discussion of Chekhov’s Gun, let’s revisit the rule itself. Like I said, it’s pretty simple, and easy to remember. You ready? Here goes:

Continue reading

2018 Dragon Awards Nominations are Open!

It’s that time of year, readers! The nominations for the 2018 Dragon Awards are open! You can click the link and nominate this last year’s (July 2017-End of June 2018) best Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels for the running of … well, the best!

I’ve supported The Dragon Awards every year since they’ve opened, because it’s an open award, decided by the public. Anyone can vote, not just a select few. Anyone can nominate, not just a select few. And the more people vote and nominate, the more representative the award is of what fans consider the year’s Best Science-Fiction and Fantasy.

Speaking of which, unlike last year, this year I’m eligible! That’s right, Shadow of an Empire‘s release date puts it squarely in this year. So if it was your favorite Fantasy novel this year, it’s 100% ready for your nomination! You know, just in case it was (and I’ve already heard from some that yes indeed, Sali and Meelo’s adventure was definitely in that category).

But either way, nominate for the Dragon Awards!