2017 Hugo Award Eligibility

One of the first big sci-fi and fantasy events of the new year is the Hugo nomination process. Between the first and the 18th, attendees of the 74th, 75th, and 76th Worldcons – and “supporting members” who do not actually get to attend – are eligible to nominate works for the 2017 awards.

If you’re a fan of mine and an attending or supporting member, and you feel like nominating one of my projects, here’s what’s eligible.

Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken

The audio-drama, not the book. We produced and released it between January and July 2016. The entire serial is eligible as a Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) nomination.

Cold Reboot

The novel, not the audio-drama. Sadly, the Cold Reboot audio-drama’s final part was not released in 2016, but it will be eligible next year. Instead, the novel, published in February 2016, is eligible for a Best Novel nomination.

So there you have it. I’d be thrilled just to be nominated. If you have the ability, time, and inclination, I’d appreciate it.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Plans for 2017

No plan survives contact with the enemy, but here’s what I’m currently working on, and a very rough estimate as to when they’ll be released.

Novels

Network Protocol, the second book in the cyberpunk thriller Shadow Decade series and follow-up to Cold Reboot, is at the tail end of revisions. It’s taken about a year to get this out, partially because the unexpected results of the 2016 election changed some of my predictions about the way things are going to go – one of the hazards in writing near-future science fiction. Fortunately many of the changes were merely cosmetic – Erica’s story remains a mostly personal one, but the context she finds herself in is important.

Planned Release: February 2017

Open Proxy, the third book in the Shadow Decade series, exists largely as a set of notes and chapter fragments at this point. Still, all that really remains is taking the time to actually write it down as a draft. Barring further unexpected developments it’s entirely possible to see a release this year.

Planned Release: Late Summer 2017

The seventh Galvanic Century book is also in the works, following James’s adventures while Bartleby has been across the pond during the events of 2015’s Iron Horses Can’t Be Broken. All that I’ll reveal at the moment is that it involves the World Expo, the Belgian Congo, and a steampunk space race.

Expected Release: 4th Quarter 2017

Audiodrama

Synesthesia Theatre‘s second season, the adaptation of the cyberpunk novel Cold Reboot, wraps up this February. The story for season 3 is under development, and we may see some shorter works – mini-series and one-offs – from guest authors in 2017. The next full season will have to wait a bit, however, until we can afford to produce it – the podcast isn’t cheap, and doesn’t bring in any sort of direct income. If you’d like to help get it into production more quickly, I encourage you to fund Burning Brigid Media’s Patreon campaign .

Taoscordian Games

I’ve been working on a Galvanic Century setting book compatible with the Fate role-playing game, covering the setting as presented by the novels. It’s part fictional-almanac, part author’s notes, and part genre guide to playing in a world of steampunk mysteries and adventures. If you’re a gamer, it’ll give you what you need to play games set in the world of the books. If not, it’ll be a reference to the books, including some details and story elements that were not explicitly spelled out in the novels. If there’s demand, I may write a follow-up book on the pseudoscience of the setting, or drill down deeper into some of the settings and personages.

Expected Release: Mid-2017

Hexbox and Ibu: The Emerald Canopy have sold well enough to warrant continuing with other Dungeons and Dragons 5e compatible hexcrawl sandbox setting books, so I’ll try to release another one or two in that line. I may release more in-depth information on the amphibious Katak, or write up rules for establishing a colony on the jungle’s coast. There’s a list, I’ll do some focus testing, see what people find the most exciting.

Expected Release: Late 2017

Other Projects:

I plan on continuing the Twitch streams I started to do late last year, walking viewers through my creative process as I write my books, edit audio, and design games. The goal, currently, is to set a pattern of doing these streams on a regular basis three times a week. If enough people subscribe or donate, I may do it more often, and for longer periods of time. If you want to see me do what I do while explaining it, maybe check it out.

Resource Allocation Error is a cyberpunk poverty simulator set in the world of the Shadow Decade novels. In it, the players find themselves at the bottom economic rung in a world ravaged by economic disruption, rampant unemployment, and endless automation, while trying to survive by finding a job or less savory means. This is a back-burner long-term game development project that isn’t likely to see an actual release soon, but supporters of my Patreon will get playtest copies at various states of development.

And that’s it, for now:

  • 1Q 2017: Network Protocol
  • 2Q 2017: Open Proxy, Synsthesia Theatre Season 3,
  • 3Q 2017: Galvanic Century Fate Setting Book
  • 4Q 2017: Galvanic Century Book 7, Hexbox Release
  • 2018: Resource Allocation Error official release

You can get a good view of my progress on each of these projects by supporting my Patreon, copies of everything as it’s released, and pre-release versions of a lot of it. We’re currently at $46/month – once we hit $50, I’ll start doing a regular development diary/author note podcast where I talk about what I’m working on, what I’ve been researching, and just about anything else that comes to mind. So yeah. Big things.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

2016 in Review

2016 brings to a close my fifth year as a full-time self-published author. Hard to believe it, but back in 2011 I was unemployed, homeless, sleeping on couches, and generally drifting about without much in the way of motivation or direction.

A lot can change in five years. The market’s changed quite a bit.

(more…)

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

StoryBundle Ending Soon

Earlier in the year the first title in my Galvanic Century series, Bartleby and James, won the ImmerseOrDie challenge. For those of you who don’t know what that is, every morning novelist Jefferson Smith gets on his treadmill for his 40 minute daily walk with a new novel. If something in what he’s reading breaks his immersion, he closes the book and writes a report about what went wrong.

He’s done ~400 of these, and Bartleby and James was one of the 10% that held him throughout his workout.

Those that are engaging throughout are packaged together in the ImmerseOrDie StoryBundle. And what do you know? Bartley and James made the cut.

The latest StoryBundle ends soon, and is available for “whatever price you want to pay.” All of the authors involved get a cut, and a percentage of the proceeds goes to literary charities.

The books in the current bundle:

  • Black Ocean: Mission Pack #1, by JS Morin
  • The Somniscient, by Richard Levesque
  • Bartleby and James, by Michael Coorlim
  • Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree, by SA Hunt
  • Amber Fang, by Art Slade
  • Second Skyn, by Damien Boyes
  • Warchild: Pawn, by Ernie Lindsey
  • Malice Domestica, by SA Hunt

You get the first 4 if you pay the minimum of $3, and the latter 4 if you pay at least $12. So, if you want to check out some new indie authors that are skilled enough to have won the Immerse or Die challenge, consider picking up the bundle of ebooks.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Sometimes I just sit in front of the computer and Twitch

You’ve probably heard about Twitch. It’s a website where people can watch other people play video games. About a year ago, they expanded their streaming offering with the addition of Twitch Creative. This lets people broadcast the process of creating visual art, musical composition, game development, costumes, whatever your bag is.

Now, as a creative professional I find myself sitting in front of the computer 8+ hours a day writing, revising, drawing maps, editing audio files, and the like. Why not turn the camera on and let people see me doing it? Just being recorded isn’t going to impact my creativity much, right?

Well. It kinda did.

Ham I am

So it turns out I love to talk about my work and my creative process. Over the last two weeks I learned that I have a tendency to stop and explain my choices every time I do anything if I’m being watched. Great for the educational content of my stream, not so good for my productivity.

Additionally, my standard work-day is a 10 to 6 run, severely limiting my potential audience to “potential writers who have the workday free.” I’m going to guess that the people who’d most benefit from what I’m doing are people who want to become creative professionals, but aren’t yet able to devote themselves to the task… and most of them are going to be working or taking classes during the day.

Honestly, I was thinking of just giving it up until a viewer thanked me for making such a useful and content-rich stream available.

I’m a sucker for a compliment.

So, after giving the matter some thought over the weekend, I’ve decided to spend less time sitting in front of the screen and twitching uncontrollably.

Microtwitching

That header is misleading. There’s nothing micro about my twitching. I’ll be keeping to my normal work-schedule most of the time, camera off, plowing through as I tend to do. Then, three days a week, I’ll do a two-hour stream of one of my projects, fielding questions, describing the reasoning behind my choices, and being as helpful as I can.

The details will change as I finish projects and start new ones, but here’s the schedule as of right now:

  • Monday 7pm-9pm: Structural Revisions of Network Protocol, the 2nd book in the Shadow Decade series
  • Wednesday 7pm-9pm: Audio editing for Synesthesia Theatre’s production of Cold Reboot, the 1st Shadow Decade book.
  • Friday 7pm-9pm: Game dev for Resource Allocation Error, a cyberpunk poverty simulator set in the Shadow Decade universe.

All times are CST (GMT-5). Are people going to tune in on a Friday night to watch me code? I don’t know. I’ll adjust the schedule if I need to.

So that’s what I’ve got going on. If you want to see me do what I do, and hear me talk about why, tune in to my Twitch channel at the above times. If you like what you see, maybe Follow me or drop a buck in the tip jar.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Dev Log Friday: Core Gameplay

The goal of the player in the Shadow Decade Simulator (not the title) is to survive, which in our urban cyberpunk context means pay the rent and get enough food to eat. I’m not sure at the moment what exactly the failure state will be – it might be getting evicted, or it might be freezing/starving to death. Depends on how easy it’ll be to get yourself back on your feet if that happens.

Each “turn” in our game represents a single day, ending when the player goes to bed. What we can accomplish is limited by how many hours we have in the day, and how much energy we have. Possibly mood, though mood might turn into a modifier on how efficient you are at what you’re doing.

Run out of energy and you can’t get anything done, so “energy” becomes a primary resource. It’s recharged by sleeping, maybe with slight boosts from energy drinks or coffee or whatever.

Capping our energy is our overall health, determined by how physically active we are and what our diet is. The better you eat, the better you feel. Diet can also have an impact on mood, which may be contrary to its impact on our health. High sugar junk food boosts mood but a constant diet of it makes us sluggish and weak. Eating nothing but rice and beans is healthy, but unfulfilling.

And cooking. Buying groceries and cooking your own meals is cheaper, but takes more time than buying pre-made meals. This gives us another element to balance.

How does our player get food? Well, it’s the future. Our refrigerator monitors what we have and automatically orders more food when we’re running low, based on what food subscription plan we’re running.

I like the idea of groceries vs packaged food as one axis of opportunity. Cooking takes time and energy but raw groceries are cheaper. Packaged food is more expensive but quick and easy and filled with preservatives.

We’ll further divide food up into quality as well. When we’re polishing things up we’ll come up with brand-focused descriptors, but for now we’ll just give the options grades from poor to luxury.

Idea: Top tier food lets you go for either super-healthy or super-gourmet, giving great boosts to either mood or health.

At this point we need to also consider our economy. It is the future, it is a recession, and we’ll need to assign numbers to some of these things. We’ll go with a rough “loaf of bread” index as a basis… we’ll say, in 2025, that a midline average loaf of bread goes for $5.

Some implicated costs based on five minutes of googling:

  • A meal’s worth of middle-class groceries: $15. A day’s food is $45. A week’s worth is $315. Weekly grocery deliveries are a good basis. Let’s simplify that to $300 and say that grocery subscriptions cost $1200 per month at a middle-class quality.
  • Lower quality groceries cost maybe half that. Less variety, more bulk, store brands. $600 per month.
  • Bare minimum might be something like $250 a month. Bags of rice, cans of beans, cheap “enriched” bread. You’ll feel like shit, but you’ll be alive. Technically.

That implies time spent cooking. Simplify to an hour or two a day. Maybe implement a cooking skill that modifies how much cooked food impacts your mood.

Our other option is subsisting on pre-packaged foods.

  • Cheap but tasty. Individually packaged microwave burritos, cheap cans of soup, store-brand TV-dinners. $5 per meal, $15 per day, call it $100 per week or $400 per month. Good for your mood, not for your health. Stuffed with preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Moderately expensive. Premade sandwiches or wraps, frozen pizza or lasagna, bagged salad. $1000 per month, maybe. Not as bad for you, but still more expensive than cooking.
  • The good stuff. Gourmet dinners, delivered to your place. Either rich and fatty, or super healthy. $2500 per month.

Something like that, anyway. Maybe add-ons for booze or candy or whatever little luxury items you’re interested in.

If you budget poorly and run out of money for food then you’re in trouble. You can either go a week without eating (very bad for your health) or spend a good amount of time each day scrounging and going to soup kitchens. For this reason, weekly food billing is probably the best option.

Idea: Option to either set up grocery delivery or go shopping manually. Track food-in-house in the latter case, but it’s cheaper. Takes a few hours each week, and you have to remember to go.

I don’t think the player should have to manually choose to cook and eat every day. Instead, simplify each day’s time to a number of hours, and don’t track them too carefully. By default, 12 hours of useful wakefulness after accounting for sleep, bathroom use, meals (sans cooking), etc. -1 hour for cooking, -2 hours for groceries.

Alternatively track the hours, but have players “automatically” cook and eat when hungry. This gives an added layer of strategy when leaving the house with regard to business hours, and does not force players to sleep, instead letting energy dictate that.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Cold Reboot Audiodrama Launch

Synesthesia Theatre’s second season launches today, bringing listeners the 9-part audio-drama serial adaptation of the cyberpunk thriller novel Cold Reboot.

The future is a cold place when you don’t have a past

CR-cover-smallCold Reboot was produced by Burning Brigid Media and stars a brilliant cast of very talented professional actors from the Chicago indie film and live theater community. The quality of the audio story is entirely due to the massive skill they brought to bear.

Give it a listen. Let me know what you think in the comments. If you like it, subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or the direct rss. Rate and review it.

If you really like Synesthesia Theatre and want to help them fund their next season, consider donating to their Patreon. They can’t do what they do without your help.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Dev Log Friday: Hello World

I was twelve when I wrote my first text parser.¬† It was in Atari Basic, I think. I’d been playing a lot of text adventure games at the time, and wanted to try my hand at writing one, so I wrote a short program that would take text input from the player, use the spaces to chop the words up, and then match them to a list of verbs and nouns to parse attempted actions.

I think it was Atari Basic. I had an Atari 400. I had a bunch of little microcomputers, though, salvaged at garage and rummage sales, and I used them exclusively for “programming.”

Years later, when access to the internet was a thing, I’d discover that people had already built engines to do most of the heavy lifting for you. Inform. TADS. AGS. OHRRPGCE. Sphere. Arcane names for arcane products. I’d play around with them, test their limits, and eventually get so far from what they were designed that I figured I might as well just shift to a ‘real’ language like C# or Java. Then I’d get distracted, or bored, or discouraged, and quit.

Eventually, though, I’d come up with a new cool game idea and start over.

The Cycle Continues

These days I’m a creative professional. I write novels. I produce audio-drama. I design role-playing game supplements. But I still want to make games, and the stories I write give me tons of ideas for fun little projects.

I’m hoping that chronicling my attempts here, in this blog, will provide me with some sort of accountability. Stick-to-it-ive-ness.

We’ll see.

Project One: Shadow Decade Simulator

The Shadow Decade books are cyberpunk thrillers set in 2025, telling the story of a woman who finds herself waking from a coma with no memories of the last year. She has to try and get by without friends, without a work history, without a bank account in a world wracked by economic recession and rampant unemployment.

Sounds fun, right?

screenshot

Players will be in similar circumstances to the book’s protagonist… out of work, out of prospects, few resources. It’ll be a primarily menu driven game focused on day-to-day survival at the bottom of the cyberpunk economic barrel, highlighting the difficulties in rising out of poverty, and asking players how far they’re willing to go to survive.

We’ll see how it goes.

Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.