Category Archives: Blather

Every Book a Lesson Learned

I started writing novel-length fiction in 2013, and have published ten such books in the past six years. Each time the process has been different, each time I’ve basically had to re-teach myself the process of what it is to write a novel based on my fuzzy recollections of the last time.

Writing Lighter Than Aether has been no different. I feel, again, like a novice working on his first book.

The Implication

It only feels like I’m starting from scratch, though. Each time I write something new, I’m starting from a firmer base, I avoid mistakes I’ve made in the past, and I construct the foundation of the story a little more strongly. The uncertainty comes from the fact that I’m trying something new with each novel. It’s always an undiscovered country.

Of course, if each book is better than the last, this means that each book is worse than the one that comes next. This means that the earliest available book I have for purchase is also the worst introduction for new readers.

bartleby and james steampunk cover

And of course, in my case, that’s Bartleby and James, the first book in my soon-to-be-seven-book-long Galvanic Century Series.

Yeah. I won’t contest this. It’s a perfectly fine book, but bereft of the lessons I learned while writing it. And the lessons from the next book, and the next, and the next… let’s be honest, it’s the most bereft book I’ve written.

That doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. Not at all. I’m quite fond of the book.

Just a pity that for many readers it’ll be their first impression of who I am and what I have to offer.

Book 7

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately as I write Lighter than Aether, the seventh book in the series. I’m quite fond of it. I think it’s the best thing I’ve written to date (I always think that, and for the above reasons, I’m usually right.) However, the only people who’re going to read it are the people who’ve read books 1-6 and enjoyed each one.

That’s just the nature of a series. I write my books as fairly stand-alone, but most readers are unwilling to jump into the middle of something.

And that’s too bad. If I had to go back and change things, I probably would have turned Galvanic Century into two or three trilogies. And I could, too… rebrand them that way.

But hey, I got another book to write.

June Galvanic Century Giveaway

Every month I’ll be giving away two novels in the steampunk Galvanic Century series to my supporters on Patreon leading up to the release of book 7, Lighter than Aether. Last month I gave away the first two.

This month it’s March of the Cogsmen and Dreams of the Damned.

March of the Cogsmen

March of the Cogsmen cover
March of the Cogsmen

A wedding plagued by the unholy fusion of dead flesh and hot brass

At long last, gentleman detective Alton Bartleby is set to wed his fiance of almost a decade, Aldora Fiske. The wedding is off to a rough start with the bride still recovering from a kidnapping in the middle-east and the groom showing up drunk, and matters only get worse when powerful half-man half-automatons mount an assault on the ceremony.

While Aldora protects the guests barricaded in her ancestral home, it’s up to Bartleby and his detective partner James to discover the source of this menace and discern the cogsmen’s weakness… or forever hold their peace under an unending assault of brass and flesh.

Dreams of the Damned

Dreams of the Damned

With his partner married, brilliant engineer James Wainwright is at a loose end. When Scotland Yard asks for help with a hostage situation at a mental hospital, he’s only too eager to lend a hand – particularly after he meets the winsome Doctor Loni Teague.

His partner socialite Bartleby, however, has a personal connection – Bedford is the institution into which he had his embarrassment of a father committed a decade ago, and now the old man has asked for him personally. The director, Paddock, has been murdered, and Bartleby the elder won’t relinquish the asylum until the true killer has been found.

The Home Office has allocated the detectives a scant few hours before the Metropolitan Police mount an assault on the asylum – if the detectives fail to get the answers they need from the madmen holding it, many innocent lives will be lost, and a murderer may go free.

So there you go. If you’d like to get these two titles free this month and books five and six free next month, simply sign up to support me on Patreon. It’s inexpensive and it means a lot to me.

Space Invaders

Retrogaming: 1978

1978. The year of my birth. These games are literally as old as I am.

Arcade Games of 1978

The games in the last post in this series were pretty obscure, but in 1978 we see the release of what’s maybe the most famous Arcade title of all time: Space Invaders. It’s so famous that when people need a quick shorthand for “video game,” half the time Space Invaders is what they go for.

Breakout is similarly famous, and Avalanche might be better recognized in its Atari VCS port Kaboom. Gee Bee is possibly the best pong/pinball/breakout style game we’re going to see until the release of its sequel Bomb Bee the next year.

Overall the games are a big improvement over 1977’s releases, with the major exception being Frogs – something I’d expect to see on the TRS-80, not in the arcade, but they can’t all be winners.

Apple II Games of 1978

We’re seeing some of the earliest Apple ][ games here, the earliest home computer games. The Apple II is going to be king of the computer market for a long long time – at least until the Commodore 64 is released.

Our first game is one of the first roguelikes – Beneath Apple Manor, predating Rogue itself by two years. Dungeon Campaign also uses a randomly generated maze, but the graphical style is much simpler, and the game itself even more elementary.

I really wanted to get into Space – an unauthorized text-based Traveller rpg, but it was exhaustively difficult to even roll up a functional character that wasn’t so physically or mentally crippled that you could even play the game with them. Most of my play time was spent sitting through the character creation segment, discovering the character wasn’t viable enough to even try playing with, and then restarting.

Microchess is historically very interesting as one of the first chess games for any home system, but my modern gamer brain just doesn’t have the patience to enter in moves via grid coordinates.

Atari Games of 1978 and 1979

Screenshot may not actually appear.

A twofer this time, simply because there weren’t enough individual games released in either year to make a good video out of.

We’re seeing a lot more technical innovation for the Atari VCS a year in, and a lot more attention paid to gameplay as the programmers get used to their tools.

Superman shows a lot of complexity for a game of the era and is the first game to really feature an end “win” state. Breakout and Sky Diver are ports of the arcade games of the same name, with the latter being significantly more difficult simply due to the smaller resolution – you have less room to maneuver and less time to react.

The other games on this list are sport simulations that are, gratifyingly, not simple re-imaginings of Pong.

TSR-80 Games of 1978

Wumpus: Hunted.

Compared to the Apple II the TRS-80 doesn’t have a lot to offer, but it holds a special place in my heart simply by virtue of being the machines the computer lab in my grade school had to offer us, and the first home-computer I had – a simple keyboard that hooked up to the television like a game console. I did my first BASIC programming on a TRS-80.

These games are simple. Dead simple. And they don’t get a great deal more complex before the machine drops off the face of the earth, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing with them.

They’re all text-based, most programmed in BASIC. The real standout here is Scott Adams’s Adventureland, the first text adventure game for microcomputers, the first in the 13-game Adventure series, and the first such game I cover.

Friends, it’s tough covering interactive fiction. Making videos about them entertaining. I could treat them like an audio book, but to be frank, my voice acting skills aren’t up to it. I do cover quite a few in this video series, particularly in years where they make up the bulk of notable or interesting games, but you can tell that I try to avoid it.

Writing in a Shadow Decade

Writing about the future is writing in the shadows of monuments that haven’t yet risen. They’re the building blocks of the tenebrous virtual world you’re constructing, and when you’re writing near-future-fiction you’re more acutely aware of how these monuments shift and transform and rise and fall. You do your best to pin them down with imagination and words, but sooner or later you’ll live long enough to emerge from the shadows and see just how wrong you were.

(more…)

2018 Price Increases

After seven years of publishing my books, I’m going to raise my prices. I go into detail here, but long story short is that my expenses have increased, and I think my novels are worth at least $5.

It’ll probably be a week or two before I raise my prices, so if you’re on the fence about picking anything up, now’s the time.

Long Overdue

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been self-publishing ebooks for 7 years, and I only just now got a kindle.

Yeah.

I picked up a paperwhite, and it’s pretty neat. Not only is it a lot easier on the eyes than my phone was, but it automatically goes to sleep when the case is closed. Pretty nifty, if you ask me.

More importantly, it lets me read again, and I have a lot to catch up on.