Colony Beta Progress + A Distraction

Just the usual quick update for all you readers out there! Colony‘s Beta is progressing at a truly impressive rate. So impressive, in fact, that my current crop of Beta Readers have outpaced me in both their eagerness to finish the story and their heeding of my own words about my time constraints. Outpaced to the degree that they have now finished their Beta 1 read-through, while I find myself just over halfway through my own meticulous read-through.

On the plus side of things, however, that’s half of Colony‘s length edited in just four days (as my weekend was otherwise occupied). Another few days, and I’ll be ready for the Beta 2! Then the copy edit … and the cover … and I’ve got another finished book.

Wow, that just sunk in. I’m really, really close.

Anyway, it’s close. Start saving your spare change. Colony is coming at last! Hopefully I’ll have a cover to show off in the next week or so as well!

And now, a distraction!

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A 2016 Halibut Trip, With Pictures

So about a month ago I disappeared for a while. Posts stopped for two weeks, and no one could reach me.

Thankfully, it wasn’t without warning, at least for those who had kept up with my prior posts. I’d been offered a lucrative trip to Alaska to make some quick funds, and it was funds that would be greatly appreciated. In the end, despite losing a few weeks worth of writing work, I decided to take the job.

And along the way, I took a bunch of pictures.

So, you guys already know about my adventures getting to Alaska (I wrote about it here), by one thing I left out of that account was a write up of the actual fishing experience itself. Well, you’ve waited long enough. Patreon supporters got it, and now you’re getting it.

So, what was my fishing trip like? Read on.

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And the Unusual Events Giveaway Winner Is …

Peter Vanella!

In a blind drawing of eight entries (4 entrants, 2 entries apiece), Peter came up the winner to take home a copy of Unusual Events for kindle! The copy has already been sent, so Peter, if you’re reading this, check your e-mail, it should be there somewhere (it’ll come as a gift from Amazon). May you enjoy the adventures contained within!

To the rest of you who entered, thank you for participating! If you had your heart set on getting a copy, don’t feel too despondent. There’s still the future (or you can always buy a copy).

So, congratulations to our winner; may you enjoy your prize!

Metro Contest Entry – The Ride

A bit of a forward, first, by way of explanation.

This story was written for 4A Games’ 4ALives Metro 2033 contest. The goal was to create something (a story, piece of art, etc) set in the universe of Metro 2033 (which I had just recently beaten at the time the contest was announced). Interested in exploring the Metro universe, I spent some time thinking about it and then put together this experimental little story as an exercise in my talents (and I am aware that the series is based on a book series, but alas, I have not read them yet).

Enjoy.

Oh, and as you might expect … just a small language warning. It’s the Metro, after all.

 

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The Big One-Zero-Zero

Whoa.

So I just counted, and Monday’s Being a Better Writer post? The one about writing warfare?

That was my 100th Being a Better Writer post. As in one, zero, zero.

I’m honestly shocked. I knew I’d written a lot of these things, but 100? I feel like I should be looking around corners for some sort of surprise for myself. 100 posts … that’s a lot of work. Even going off of the average post size (which seems to hover around 2,000 words), that’s 200,000 words worth of content over the last two years! That’s the length of my current draft of Shadow of an Empire. If I were to collect all the BaBW posts into a single, ordinarily clad book, with no frills, that means it would be at least 600 pages long. And let’s be honest, when I do get around to that it’s going to be longer so there’s room for notes, extra examples, and the like. Oh, and probably split into several books.

100 BaBW posts. It happened surprisingly quickly. Maybe I should look into a long side-bar listing each and every one of them.

So here’s to 100 more. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. To those of you who’ve read, learned from, and enjoyed them, you’re going to see many more coming in the future.

The only thing that’s bugging me now is looking back, I can’t pick a favorite.

Here’s to the future, guys. Here’s to another 100 BaBW posts, more books, and more fun.

Captain America: Civil War

Spoilers will be below the break. Don’t pass that point if you don’t want them.

So, I literally, just now walked in the door from my showing of Captain America: Civil War. So, as this is above the break, here’s my spoiler-free thoughts.

First, the movie was great. If you liked the last few films from Marvel, and in particular The Winter Soldier (Cap’s last solo outing), you’ll like this one too. Especially if you liked Winter Soldier. That knife’s edge it walked, of tension, humor, lightheartedness and seriousness? Civil War walks it as well. Even better, personally.

Cinematography was great, especially for the fights. Yes, there was a little shaky-cam in the opening that had me a little worried, but it turns out to be a stylistic choice only for that portion of the movie. The rest of the film is clear and concise with its camera work. The music? Also pretty good. It didn’t do a great job sticking in my head the way Winter Soldier‘s theme did, but at the same time there was nothing dead about it either. It complimented the on-screen visuals and emotions pretty well.

The film honestly does a great job with its storytelling—better, in fact, than the last Avengers film (Age of Ultron). Ultron had its moments, and it was grand, but there was a faint sense that things were moving to fast, that parts of the story were whizzing along at a pace that was just a little to much for the rest of the film. Which, to be fair, isn’t hard to understand. Ultron dealt with what, almost a dozen characters and plotlines, bringing them together into one big collision?

Well, Civil War shows that Marvel has taken lessons from what did and didn’t work with Ultron, and the results are excellent. This is actually a complicated story—moreso than the trailers would ever lead you to believe, but I never got the sense that anything was being rushed. Instead, the story flowed from point to point incredibly organically. Maybe it’s just that the movie clicked with my storytelling style, but Marvel did a great job taking a bunch of different plot threads and weaving them together tighter and tighter until you go “Aha! So that’s what’s going on!” And there were several such moments in the film, judging by the noise from the audience. Marvel’s learned from Ultron, and what it did wrong, Civil War does right

But with that … there are a few caveats. First is that for a Captain America film … it’s really Avengers 3. Some might disagree with me, but for a film that’s under the name of Cap himself … a lot of time is spent on all the other members of the team.

Is this a bad thing? Well, no, and like I said, they handle it masterfully. But by about fifteen minutes into the movie, I did find myself wondering “Is this a Captain America movie? Or an Iron Man movie? Oh wait, maybe it’s Avengers.”

You still get a lot of Cap, don’t get me wrong. And like I said, the movie isn’t bad. But don’t expect to just see Cap’s angle of this story. In fact, I’ll be curious to see what the results are when someone breaks down the screentime of each character.

And that plays into my other caveat: Marvel’s films should not be digested standalone, and Civil War is moreso that than any other film so far. Seeing Civil War without watching the rest of the Marvel film mythos at this point would be like watching Return of the Jedi first: you’d be left with a lot of character development and plot threads being tied up that you didn’t even get.

Watching Civil War at this point without having watched the prior films would be similar. You’d be out in the cold on a lot of what’s come before. Sure, you’ll enjoy the fights and the spectacle, but a lot of the interaction between characters would be empty without those prior experiences. If you’re not the type who has watched the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, either wait until Civil War is out on DVD or go catch up. Otherwise, you’re going to walk out of the movie thinking that it was all action and no real story or character. That, or be that person in the audience who asks everyone around them questions most of the audience already knows because they did see the other films.

Right, that’s my two cents. Awesome, but definitely deeply into the Marvel lore. Now, for spoilers.

Oh, one last note. Despite what the internet claims (at least as of my showing), there is an after-the-credits scene, so stay in your seat, okay? Wait until the very end.

Spoiler thoughts below the break:

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Epics and the Details – A Short Post

Extra Credits is a great Youtube series. In fact, at one point, they were even featured on my Links page. I tend to rotate things there from time to time, and maybe I should be giving them another go.

Anyway, I wanted to draw your attention, please, to what I find to be my particular favorite sets of their videos. A good chunk of Extra Credits is talking about game design and development. Mostly video games, which if you have little interest in, doesn’t make them that appealing.

But then there is the other set of videos they do, which I absolutely, positively recommend: Extra History. A series which sets out to talk about (and discuss) history you may not know, understand, or recognize.

And these are great, especially because they often focus on small details that most history books don’t. A generic history book may tell you that X ancient ruler went to war with their neighboring country. Extra History, on the other hand, will delve into the reasons why, bringing up things such as “this adviser to the ruler knew that their neighboring country had access to a trade route that could make them all very wealthy, and therefore pushed for the war for economic reasons.”

Why am I bringing this up? Mostly for the writers of epics (or would-be writers of epics) among us. One of the requirements for an epic is capturing the full scope of a conflict, rather than just a small, tiny facet of it. An action-adventure fantasy war novel will simply be about the protagonists awesome, butt-kicking actions in a couple of battles, probably presented in a way so that they are responsible for the final blow that ends the war. An epic action-adventure war novel, on the other hand, will delve into the details of the war as a whole in some manner: the political ramifications of a battle, the decisions that lead to each deployment of force, the reason locations are held and kept, etc.

And before you can write about such things, you need to understand them. You need to understand the complex myriad of decisions that can and will go into a world-spanning conflict so you can put that to work in your story.

And where can you start to get a taste for such things? Why, Extra Credits‘ Extra History videos, of course! They go into all sorts of interesting details that, for most, happen “behind the scenes.” Why did X country go for this location and not another during a war? What sort of political diplomacy had an effect on what decisions? It’s a series that is great for broadening the mind and opening up the kind of critical thought that’s necessary for writing a true epic, and not just a really long action story.

Looking for a good place to start? I’d recommend the first of their three video series on how WWII was “The Resource War,” which talks about how much of that war’s strategic and tactical decisions were shaped by needs for basic things, such as access to aluminum, cobalt, oil, and food. It’s a great primer for looking at what sort of details you can put into your epic to make it a real epic.

If you’re still hungry for more (and not just about war), then I’d recommend watching second their series on both the Punic Wars (which shaped the world in impressive ways) and the South Sea Bubble, followed by the rest of their material. It really will help you look at history in a new way, seeing the complexity that goes into each and every step of decision.

And once you’re looking through that lens, you’ll be able to turn it to your writing as well.

Enjoy!