Dev Log Friday: Prototyping

Progress on Resource Allocation Error continues. I’m at the point where I can do some prototyping to try and work out some of the interior system stuff, so I’ve started working something together in Twine.

Why Twine? Because it’s fast, simple, and lays out process in a way that’s easy to grasp and therefore will be easy to transfer. It’s not a perfect solution, because the syntax is a lot closer to hypertext markup and java than what I’ll eventually be working in, but I’ve been meaning to write more interactive fiction anyway and learning a new language isn’t going to hurt.

I am struggling against the scripting language a bit, but it’s nothing to serious yet. The main game loop is easy to represent, and this may turn out to be an advantage when it comes to the narrative portions of the simulation.

If I end up with something that’s marginally playable I may release it… but if it needs too much polish, I’ll just move into core development.

We’ll see.

Accomplishments:

  • Basic timekeeping (minute, hour, day, month, year advancement). Got to learn how to use widgets as subroutines.
  • Sleeping and napping are incorporated. You ask me, that’s a good 60% of life right there.

To Do:

  • Figure out what to do in terms of pictures, if any. This is just a prototype, but it’d be nice to have some visuals.
  • Maybe there’s a better way for pre-game initialization.
  • Incorporate multiple characters, skills, etc.
  • Basically everything.
Questions? You are invited to either leave a comment below, or ask directly through the comment form.

Art and Intent in 2017

When you’re making something… whether it be a sandwich, a novel, a painting, or a relationship… you can either do so mindfully or mindlessly. With intent, or aimlessly. Let’s narrow our focus here, from ‘anything’ to ‘art’ to ‘writing.’

I’m not talking about pantsing versus plotting here. I’m talking about being aware of the consequences of your actions and the impact your creative choices have on what you end up with. The first artistic choice we can make is whether to approach our work with awareness or self-absorption.

It can be hard, as a writer, to maintain a state of mindfulness, in an environment where readers and critics will analyze our output for factors we might not be intending to include. Inclusiveness. Diversity. Cultural appropriation. Objectification.

We might say to ourselves, “Fuck, I just want to write about zombies or spaceships or elves and dragons or whatever.” We might want to decry the influence of political correctness, and envision ourselves as taking some sort of stand when we refuse to capitulate to what those people want our precious art to be.

But that’s what we’re doing. Taking a stand. Making a statement of values. Making a political choice, even if that choice is denial of political intent.

Wanna know a secret?

Nobody gives a fuck about your actual intent

Sorry.

There’s this old chestnut that I can barely remember about Herman Melville (or some other author) giving some smart alec response to what those high-falutin’ English teachers read into his work, probably culminating with everybody standing up and clapping.

It doesn’t matter if Herman wanted the whale to be a whale or ambition or the devil or influenza. Once you finish something and put it out there, it’s not yours anymore. Art does not exist in absence of the observing mind to render it so. Words on a screen are just pixels, a book is just dead trees and ink.

A story is only a story when someone reads the fucker and filters it through their lifetime of experience. Art isn’t writing a book or painting a picture or singing a song. Art isn’t a noun. Art is a verb, the action of deriving meaning from synthesis. You, as a writer or artist or poet or dancer, provide a catalyst. The audience provides meaning. A million different meanings. And that’s the environment we publish into.

Our work persists, so we’re publishing into the unknown future of critical analysis, too. We cannot control how our work is received, but we can control how mindful we are when we create it. The context in which it was created.

So look around. See what people care about. What your audience’s mindset is. That’s your context. And how you respond to that context, that’s your expression of intent.¬† We don’t live in a vacuum and we cannot claim ignorance of the attitudes and values of our audience.

Well. We can. That’s called being a shit writer with no sense of the market. Write your grand epic about things only you care about with a willful ignorance of how it’ll be received. That’s a choice, too. You have no excuse not to make it with an understanding of what you’re doing, except for sloppiness.
Political stances are valid. Sloppiness is the mark of a shit writer.Don’t be a shit writer.The world is too connected to make a legitimate claim to be writing in a vacuum. You know what people think. You know how they feel. You know how your works will be taken, and if you choose to write in a way that leaves people feeling oppressed or unimportant or like you’re so full of your own sense of self-importance that it pours out of every orifice like a waterfall of privilege, then that’s something you’ve chosen. That’s your brand. That’s your image.Don’t say you weren’t warned. You knew what you were doing. You have no deniability. You own your choices, they own you, no matter how lazy you’re feeling about it.You write, you release, you relinquish all control over interpretation and intent. That’s it.

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

Synesthesia Theatre Season 2 Postscript and What Comes Next

With Tuesday’s release of Cold Reboot’s ninth episode, the second season of the Synesthesia Theatre audiodrama podcast comes to a close. Almost. There’s still a few behind the scenes cast interview episodes and a gag reel for the supporters of Burning Brigid Media’s patreon, but the story wraps up, and that’s what I’m responsible for.

How did it go?

More smoothly than season one. Despite my admonishment to myself that smaller casts worked better logistically, we actually had a larger cast this time around. This was balanced out by our use of an actual real recording studio which really smoothed things out. Thanks to the kind folks at Cards Against Humanity letting us use their facilities.

My co-producer Kat O’Connor also worked out a much tighter production timeline this time around, getting actors in and out efficiently through the weekends we were recording. We’d picked up other production and post-production tricks working on Season One that paid off spectacularly.

What did we learn this time around?

I can only speak for myself, but I can feel my brain adapting more to the audio format. What works and what doesn’t. Next time around: Smaller cast (for reals) and fewer fight scenes.

I did more Foley, relied less on using pre-made sound effects in my engineering. My phone is nicer, so I can record cleaner sound with it while field recording.

Underwater fight scenes are terrible.

So what’s next?

Well, we’re going to have a bit of a hiatus while we try to come up with the money for season 3. We have it outlined in the most basic sense, and also have a mid-season one-hour single-episode one-off planned for our patrons, which will be fun. Both have far fewer characters, and far fewer fight scenes, because honestly.

Stay tuned to the Burning Brigid mailing list for updates as to when we’re casting, or support me on Patreon to follow my behind-the-scenes process as I develop season 3 step by step.

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

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.