Update: I have been doing stuff and also things

on Saturday, November 20, 2010
So I've been planning Steelgods during this brief respite from writing, and so far it has been going...decently. I've constructed a document with character information (where I just name off characters and write everything I know about them). This exercise in the past has proven helpful during my actual writing of the characters, but then I'd save the document and never look at it again (exactly what I did with Where Gods and Mortals Dance). In either case, writing down things helps get the ol' brainstorming going, which has never hurt.
Next, I made a new document where I have all six Steelgods books, and I've begun an attempt to outline them. There are a few major issues with regard to the series that I need to address, but I am beginning to see a few possible answers to them.

1. The series needs a main, obvious antagonist. The first book had an antagonist, but it was not an enemy that would last the entire series. And while I know who the final antagonist will be, that is not going to be revealed until near the end of the series. So, for the next couple books, I need to have a clear enemy that will drive readers to continue reading because they want to see him/her/it fall.

2. The series needs more side-characters. I considered this while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (decent, but not great HP movie). As those books come to a close, you see many key characters die. Many of them aren't main characters, or even side-characters, but minor people that you met once or twice. However, because you met them (and Rowling made them endearing), when you hear about their deaths you get a twinge of sympathy. As Steelgods will be only one book shorter than Harry Potter, I need to get some more side characters that I can do horrible things to.

3. The series needs clearer focus with regards to time and the main characters developing. I have ideas for what happens to Cevan, Devent, and Rosemary, but it can be hard to determine exactly where those ideas go. This can obviously be fixed by better series plotting overall, but doing extensive plotting was never really my strongpoint (discovery writer, ho!). Planning one or three books? Easy. Planning six? Not so easy.

These problems aside, Gears of Anbar itself has a few quirks, and in fact many of these quirks are issues I had with the first Steelgods while writing it.

1. Lack of progress. The issue here is: what is the drive of the characters? What happens that causes the end to be the climax of the novel? Who is the bad guy? Steelgods finally got one after about a week and a half of writing (he was already in the novel, I just wasn't sure how it all pieced together). Gears is having this same issue: how does it end?

2. Needing to outdo Steelgods. This is the second book. It needs to be bigger and better than Steelgods was. So far, at least the first third of the book (the amount that is plotted) seems to be much more exciting and interesting. But I am still troubled as to how the climax and end of the book will be. Can it outdo Steelgods? Can there be enough development and exciting things to beat Steelgods? My gut on this points to yes: Steelgods was very much a first book in a series. The scale of the issue was small (though its implication will reach out across all six books), focusing more on a Hero's Journey rather than a large series problem. The thing is: Gears needs to start the series' conflict. And though I have an idea, the lack of a solid antagonist (see above) is troubling.

3. What the crap happens in the second half? I wish I knew. I have about 200 ideas, but none of them have that "Eureka!" factor going for them.

There are a few things I can say, though.

1. Gears is going to be considerably longer than Steelgods. I'm guessing 150% of what Steelgods is, probably 150k? Maybe?

2. Gears is going to start a much larger conflict, one that will rock the entire Steelgods world.

3. Gears will be darker and have more action.

4. Gears will allow readers to take a step back and see the entirety of the world and the politics that shape it, and how those things play such a huge influence on Cevan and his future.

That's all the thoughts that have been going through my head. Steelgods hasn't really gotten to Alpha readers (nobody signed up...) and those who did get it haven't finished it yet. I can't edit a book without feedback, people!

Next up on my list is to plan Effulgent Corruption more efficiently. That is another book that could easily turn into a series (though it is currently planned as a two-book ordeal). Effulgent Corruption is also going to be way too long, I can tell you that already. I'm guessing over 200k. However, since I'm going to be writing it in January, odds are it will be finished before Gears. Gears will probably turn into next year's summer project...heck, I might write two Steelgods books in that time.

I also need to begin brainstorming for a third idea. I was thinking of writing an urban fantasy, or maybe a fantasy set during some time period people haven't used a lot. Not sure exactly what, though. World War 1 fantasy? That could be interesting. Or fantasy set in the colonial days. Hmm.

BOOK REVIEW - Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

on Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blurb Review

While it promotes itself as a B-movie action flick, Monster Hunter International manages to be both silly and serious, combining fantastic action and laugh-out-loud jokes with fun characters you’ll care about.

Long Review

Despite me thinking Larry is totally the man, I was worried about whether or not I would enjoy MHI. It wasn’t for lack of writing (in fact, MHI has probably one of the best opening paragraphs of any book ever) or even for lack of an idea (people hunting monsters like vampires and werewolves in a modern setting. Dresden?), but because of its own advertisement. Frequently touted as a “B-movie in book form,” MHI convinced me it was going to be a “popcorn” novel, one high on fluff and just fast adventure but lacking anything that would stick or prove substantial. And, while I love corny movies to death, they don’t require the same kind of investment as books. If I’m going to make an investment of several hours of my life, I want to know that the payoff is worth it.
            Well, MHI managed to convince me otherwise from its off-putting advertising. The book is indeed packed with copious, gratuitous, and bodacious amounts of action, killing, and just general bad-assery. However, underlying it all is a surprisingly solid story, packed with characters I actually cared about and was curious to see how they would survive their next near-death experience.
            Owen starts the book by killing a werewolf with little more than a pistol and his bare hands. Shortly after he is recruited by the titular Monster Hunter International, a group that kills monsters and is paid a bounty by the government for each kill. Sounds like a dream job, right? Especially if you are a gun-nut and are a huge brawler?
            Well, things quickly spiral out of hand. Without spoiling anything, Owen (our viewpoint) finds himself wrapped in a centuries-old plot that would involve not just the destruction of the world, but of time itself. These baddies aren’t messing around. They go big or they go home.
            The overarching plot provides a solid backdrop for a rather entertaining band of characters. While they do stray a bit into cliché or two-dimensional from time to time (and it seems everybody has some deep dark secret that is only revealed in a time of crisis), the dialogue and personalities of the characters are so well realized I easily forgave any faults I lobbied. Plus, as stated before, this is a B-movie (er…book). Clichéd characters fit in here perfectly alongside the insane action, cheesy one-liners, and a world where the guy always gets the girl. Even when she (of course) has a total jerk for a boyfriend who hates you. Cliché, remember?
            But it works, and it works so well.
            I first found the viewpoint character to be a bit annoying. He seemed like Dresden but less witty (and without magic), and he bugged me. However, given time I realized that he wasn’t Dresden; while he still jokes a lot he is a much different character. I was sold to Owen by probably the first third of the book, and everything after that was just golden. His jokes are corny and he is fully aware of it (as are the other characters, who pick on him from time to time for it). He likes to cuss out monsters before blasting them to pieces. It works.
            As for the action, oh boy, if you like books about awesome men and women with guns blasting monsters, you have plenty to love in MHI. While the book starts fast (and then hits a slight lull, probably the only part in the book where I put it down), it only gets faster once they start going on missions. After the first mission, the action starts and doesn’t slow down. Owen also gets the ever-living crap kicked out of him (also like Dresden) and still gets up and fights. It’s fantastic.
            Overall, I was a skeptic, but now I really want to recommend this book to everybody who has ever enjoyed urban fantasy. It’s extremely fast, funny, violent, and leaves you wanting the sequel (which I just picked up at World Fantasy, Monster Hunter Vendetta). Larry has certainly found a niche, and one that hasn’t been filled by any books in recent years.
            So, if you are looking for a corny, killer, gun-filled, monster-blasting, girl-getting, evil-smashing, hardcore action novel, look no further. And then, go grab the sequel. You won’t regret it.

Retro Gaming Madness and My Favorite Games

on Tuesday, November 16, 2010
So anybody who knows me should know my undying love for retro games. Mostly because I used to actually design and make video games that were in the vein of SNES/Genesis level graphics and features. I think I made about four or five complete games before calling it quits (including one made in 48 hours for a contest), but I just love that era. Pixelation and sprite work, when done well, really sticks out to me, especially considering I had to do it myself for hours and hours of my high school career. Everytime you play a retro game, know that someone had to draw that sprite, pixel my freaking pixel, then animate it in the same way. Now it often seems its just big budget games with no soul anymore (though I still love quite a few modern games, they don't have the same feel as sprite-based games).

I managed to snag an N64 with a couple great games, two controllers, a rumble pack, and a memory expansion for quite cheap (all the games below and two very good controllers for only $45). I'm working on building a small but awesome retro game library. Here's what I've got so far, and what is on its way:

- Banjo Kazooie
- Banjo Tooie
- Star Fox 64
- Donkey Kong 64
- F Zero
(coming soon/in the mail)
- Zelda: Majora's Mask
- Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Super Mario 64
- Super Mario Kart 64
- Diddy Kong Racing
- Super Smash Brothers
(what I still want)
- Conker's Bad Fur Day (too stupidly expensive)
- Perfect Dark (should get this soon I hope)
- Turok 1+2
- Blast Corps
- Jet Force Gemeni
- Kirby 64
- Dr. Mario 64
- Harvest Moon 64 (also stupidly expensive)
- Paper Mario
- Yoshi's Story

And for fun, my brother-in-law's SNES which I have been adding games too! Games in italics are actually his but we are "borrowing" them indefinitely.
- Wario's Woods
- Super Mario RPG
- Super Mario All-Stars + World (suck it, Nintendo! I'm not buying your dumb re-release!)
- Super Metroid
- Final Fantasy II (IV)
- Final Fantasy III (VI)
- Chrono Trigger (!!! Yep, I was pumped when this game showed up)
- Super Mario Kart
- Zelda: A Link to the Past
(stuff I want but am still on the fence with)
- Killer Instinct
- All the Donkey Kong Games
- NBA Jam
- Super Castlevania IV
- Secret of Mana (not on the fence, just a pain to find)
- Yoshi's Island

I'm not going to get an NES (at least not for a while) because that is a can of worms in regards to my wallet that I can't currently get into just yet.
The perk is I didn't actually hand over money for these games; I got all of them (minus the ones bundled with my N64) off Goozex. Essentially, I gave them one beaten copy of Mass Effect 2 and got like 6 SNES games. Pretty amazing.

Anything I missed? Suggestions? Comments? I never actually owned a game system until the Gamecube, so I'm just reliving childhood memories from people whose houses I snuck over to in an effort to play these games (that or I'm re-living emulated memories). Most of these games I never played on the system of choice...ever (including Zelda 64), so this should prove to be quite exciting. Also, I'm finally making up for my years of emulation.

I won't lie: I'm pumped to play Zelda 64 and Majora's Mask again. Yeah, I know they probably haven't aged great, but just watching videos of both made me remember way back in 2002 or whatever when I had them emulated on my computer and played for hours.

Not looking forward to the water temple, though.

BONUS: So, you are probably wondering after all that what my favorite games ever are, huh? You know you were so you can go play them!
Actually I have a tie for first: Braid and Final Fantasy VI (III on the SNES).

Braid is a modern, beautiful puzzle-platformer with probably the best realized and best told story in any game ever made. The game fuses story with gameplay mechanics and common game tropes so amazingly well it will completely blow you away. It also was the only game that brought me to tears on the ending level, it was just that so immersive and divinely crafted. The game is on Xbox Live Arcade, PSN, PC and Mac, so you have no excuse, and it only costs $10-15 (depending on system) because it was an indie game made by three people (a designer/coder, an artist, and a musician). Seriously. You need this game. It will change the way you think about video gaming. Just look at it!

Final Fantasy VI because it was the only Final Fantasy that I felt the story hit the fine balance between the old, non-existant stories of JRPGS and the new overwrought, melodrama-fest that plagues modern JRPGS. Seriously, Final Fantasy XIII can suck it. The game is gorgeous, has probably the best soundtrack of any game ever made, and crafts a deep and entertaining story. Plus, it's really fun.

As for this year, Super Meat Boy is my pick for not only game of the year, but certainly sits in my top 5 games ever (though I'm not sure where yet). Game's great, but not related.

That's a lot of gaming. I'll get back to writing soon enough.


I'm writing again.

on Monday, November 15, 2010
Not much (two paragraphs yesterday), but I'm going to try and put something down everyday. I figure that (since I'm still on "break"), putting token words to the page every day will always be better than nothing.

I made April and Ashe (a character introduced in Gears of Anbar) in Rock Band 3 and might make a few others for fun. Homeless Dan the Hobo Avenger is still the greatest Rock Band 3 character ever, though.

Here's a chunk of the end of the prologue of Gears of Anbar. 

            I can’t fix this, I swallow, trying to keep despair at bay. At long last, I’ve caused trouble so monstrous there is no recompense.
            I reach into my pocket and pull out a small object. Aside from my sword - Peacemaker’s Respite, which watches on from a distance away - the small silver gear now in my hand is the only remnant of a world that once was. It is the only reminder of a once complex, beautiful Creation. One I was so willing to destroy, when given the opportunity.
            My hand slips and the gear falls into the ash, gleaming in the dying sun. I reach down to scoop it up, and my hand gathers more soot than silver. In an instant I’ve returned to a time five years previous, the last time I scooped this gear from a handful of burnt remains.
            I close my fist tightly around the mess, feeling the black grime of what was once a world creep through my fingers. I extend a single finger, and begin to write in the ash. My words glow sharp against the black, sending a message to whatever is left of Creation.
             It is said you do not know a man until he has lost all that once defined him.
            This is what I have lost. 

And for something completely different, the first bit of chapter 1.

            I celebrated my seventeenth birthday by being stabbed, lit on fire, and thrashing and screaming as I traipsed like a madman around the burning village of Red Graphite. All in all, it was certainly not the worst birthday I’d ever had, but I can say with soundness it doesn’t make the top ten. 

So I'm failing NaNoWriMo. So sue me.

on Thursday, November 11, 2010
As I said previously, I always considered NaNoWriMo to be...dumb. Or, rather, not for me.
Well it seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, because I'm failing hard at NaNoWriMo.
I blame school. Since I got back from World Fantasy, I've had either a test or a paper every day. Today is literally my first free day since then, and I still have a paper due tomorrow at 11 in the morning.
Added bonus: Super Meat Boy consumes my life, and we just got Rock Band 3 (with keyboard!) so I'm going to be busy for a while.
All together, I am debating just working on planning portions for Effulgent Corruption and Gears of Anbar rather than actually write. I need to get back in an Effulgent Corruption mood for January (I LOVE that story, it just kills me because its so hard to write).

But yeah, I'm a failure, but at least I didn't fail in May or September with my other two books. So I have that going for me. I would really like to write another book (four in a year would be a nice thing to throw around when needed), but at this point I'm not certain how possible that is.

However, I am going to get Alphas out for Steelgods soon, which should take some time as well.

So that's it. I'm going back to playing Rock Band 3.

Feel their might : The Gears of Anbar begins.

on Monday, November 1, 2010
It seems so soon, especially considering I'm fresh off of The Might of the Steelgods, but I have a document created (complete with new font and a space on my OS X dock) and so that means it's official: It's time for The Gears of Anbar for NaNoWriWhatever.

Few things to point out:
- We are dropping the collaborative project. It was just kind of stupid. Everybody is going to write their own thing, however.
- I'm going to tear through this and not care if it is terrible. I have to keep telling myself I had less planning for Steelgods 1 and it ended up ok, but it still is daunting. It will be nice to revisit these characters, though.
- I'm going to make this book as long as I darn well want it. I felt hindered in Steelgods 1 due to me trying to keep it under 100k (and finishing it within the month). Not going to happen with Anbar. 
- It'll probably take longer than just November, but I'm fine with that. I also have a goal of 1.5k daily (starting tomorrow) until the book is finished. I'm just too swamped with life at the moment to push myself further.
- This is more of a pet project than a serious one. Reason being it would never get sold unless Steelgods 1 was sold, so writing it is almost pointless. But I want to write it, and spending two months writing something I want to can't possibly be bad. Besides, I already wrote three books this year, I'm allowed some slack.
- Just because it's pet doesn't mean it's going to suck. I have a hunch it'll be better than Steelgods 1.

Next up, Alphas. I'm going to start sending out PDFs to those who have requested it, after I figure out my list of questions. I have a few that I wanted for sure, and I'll include them with the PDF. They also won't be as spoileriffic as Paradise Seekers' were.

Lastly, I wrote one sentence today. Yeah, whatever. I'll write more tomorrow. But here is that sentence.

"It is said you do not know a man until he has lost all that once defined him."
-The Gears of Anbar - Prologue: Without Atonement

World Fantasy Convention 2010 - "If your world doesn't have a moon, you are just f***ed."

World Fantasy 2010 Extremely Brief Overview

I had a great time throughout, as did Jason. Here are a few highlights.

- Went to a lot of great panels, including one where the quote in the header was said by fantasy legend Dennis McKiernan. The panel in particular was where we were talking about how lots of fantasy authors just say "screw it" to the laws of nature in geography, or do something funky like create a world surrounded by "the impassible ocean/forest/desert/etc." Out of the blue, McKiernan boldly declared, "Oh yeah, and remember: if your world doesn't have a moon, you are just f***ed." Quote of the conference.

- Speaking of McKiernan, his interview was completely fantastic in nearly every regard. In fact, just about every panel he was on was great.

- Talked to a LOT of authors and a few editors throughout. Mostly authors (I made quite a few friends at the signings and just on the floor), but overall people were very gracious and more than willing to share information if they had the time. It was quite fun.

- Met with Eddie Schneider of Jabberwalkee (aka the dude who rejected Paradise Seekers). Had a good talk about literary fiction (my English analysis classes finally paid off), some submitting ideas, what he likes in authors, and more. It was very helpful and quite interesting. I was also surprised that he is really young, like probably only a few years older than me, if that.

- Got like $200 in free books. I snatched like 6 copies of Warbreaker because nobody wanted them. I'm going to had them out to friends because they were free. The free books also allowed me to talk for almost two hours to authors at the signing.

- Jason and I tried to save money by "stealing" packets of peanut butter and jelly from our hotel's breakfast table every morning to make sandwiches later. The biggest irony of this is that we found out on the last day when we were about to leave that food for all World Fantasy events is provided in the cost of admission, meaning there was this huge room downstairs full of food the entire freaking time. Yes. We are stupid.

- Jason got Tom Doherty (founder of Tor) to sign his Kindle right after Tom gave a discourse about how ebooks are killing new authors. The irony was thick, and pretty much every other author who signed the kindle after that exclaimed, "Wait, you got Tom Doherty to sign your kindle?!"

- We walked all over downtown Columbus and never found a post office or a McDonalds. I JUST WANTED A DAMN CHOCOLATE SHAKE AT 11:00 AT NIGHT, OK? GAH. Seriously, like 2-3 hours of wandering for nothing. At least we finally found a White Castle.

- Nobody wore costumes, even on the day before Halloween. There were also no filkers. This was a relief.

- I had a really, really good time. Despite being antisocial when I was around Jason, I was considerably more extroverted when I was on my own, and that paid off at the signing.

Overall? I'd say it was an overall success, but one that will be improved upon as more and more cons are visited. We actually met a lot of people from Conduit who recognized us, and we were able to continue that "blossoming" relationship with these authors. I have a feeling that, the more cons you go to, the stronger these relationships with various members of the fantasy community will become, and some real great friendships can come of it. I already bought tickets for next year (It's in San Diego, which is totally driveable), and will be going to LTUE in February and CONDuit again in May, as well as WorldCon in August. I'm hoping to see a lot of these people again once that comes around.

So, resounding success, and I'm going to say it was worth the cost for the experience. I gained a lot of insight into the industry, editors/agents, and myself as a writer.

Also, if your world doesn't have a moon, you are pretty much f***ed. Seriously. That messes up everything.