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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Colony Beta Call!

It’s time.

No, I’m not kidding. It really is.

Colony is officially in Beta! See? It’s listed as such on the current projects page and everything.

And this means … it’s time for a Beta call.

So, how does this work? What’s a Beta call? Quite simple really. I’m looking for grammar fanatics.

See a Beta Read is the second phase of getting novel ready for publication, the phase in which you’re looking for doubled apostrophe’s, misspelled words (or homophones), extra spaces … the works. This is proofreading time. Missing quote mark? Gotta find it. Accidental tab? Gotta find it. Word “autocorrected” something it shouldn’t have? Gotta find it!

And fix all of it, so that the final product is a polished, shining piece of literary might! Or weight. Take your pick. Colony is 334,000 words long, so that’s pretty heavy.

Either way, if this sounds interesting to you, like the kind of thing you’d like to spend your time doing, then comment below with your reasoning.

The catch? Well, this is a dedicated thing. I’ll be counting on you to be able to read 334,000 words worth of Sci-Fi Epic in a timely manner so I can release the book on time (current release window is end of October). And it definitely helps if you’ve read my work.

The reward? Well, all participating Alpha and Beta readers get a gift copy of the book on release (boo-yah!) to either keep for themselves or pass along to someone else. You’ll be thanked in the acknowledgements (either by name or by internet handle). Youalso do get the cool privilege of reading a juggernaut of a story before it actually comes out … which is pretty sweet. It’s like seeing a movie before anyone else!

Anyway, if you’ve got the time for it, leave a comment below with some details!

Being a Better Writer: Static Backdrop

You ever watch an old movie? Not like black-and-white, pre-talkies era, but forties or fifties-era flick. You know, color, but early color, surprisingly regular inclination to break into song and dance?

It was a thing.

Anyway, if you’ve ever sat down and watched one of these older flicks with friends, family, or even on your lonesome, it’s likely that at some point during the runtime of the film, a comment similar to the following was made:

Hey, you! Don’t walk into the backdrop!

For those of you among my readers that are younger, or perhaps haven’t watched a lot of older movies, this comment comes about because in older films, they didn’t have the amazing special effects we have today, where different scenes can be easily stitched together with computer composites and the like. No, in the old days there were much more difficult tricks for creating certain shots. If you wanted to have your characters come around a road and into view of an ancient city, for example, you couldn’t just throw together some awesome CGI and call it a day. That just wasn’t an option. Nor was building a real “fake” ancient city from scratch (though a few over-the-top productions did their best to get close).

No, what these old movies had to do was find another solution. A popular one was using a model (if you’ve ever seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a certain line may be coming to mind right now lampshading this effect). The studio crew would make a detailed model replica of the ancient city, and trick photography would be used to place the actors in front of it at an angle that made everything line up correctly (or they’d use an early form of “green screen,” there were many methods of pulling this trick off).

Of course, a model costs money. And so for many, a much cheaper, easier solution was used, one which had served stage plays for centuries: the painted backdrop.

It was pretty easy to do. Get a large cloth and a bunch of painters, describe the scene and the angle at which it’ll be shot, and then hang it in the back of the scene. Have your actors walk around in front of it and act as if it’s the real deal, and boom, problem solved.

Well, almost. As you can imagine, it’s usually pretty obvious to the audience what the backdrop is. Any number of little details can set it off—and the lower the film’s budget, the more likely that you’ll notice them. The background rippling in some unseen breeze, for example, is a little telling. Or the fact that much of the film is three-dimensional right up until a certain point where everything becomes slightly flat. Or maybe it’s that the lighting isn’t right, and you can tell that the character is about to run into a “background”. It can even be something as simple as a backdrop of a bustling city that is—often without comment—completely stationary or suffering from sudden, jarring movements.

Now, my point here isn’t to disparage old films. They did what they could with what they had … even if sometimes it made it look like an actor who was “riding off into the sunset” was about to slam headfirst into it.

So then, some of you may be wondering, where am I going with this, and what does it have to do with my writing? Well, let me tell you a little story about this weekend.

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Colony Moves into Beta

It’s happened. Colony is officially ready for Beta 1.

That means grammar and typo hunting. Proofreading for small errors. The stone the story was carved from? It’s been examined and re-examined, prodded at, chipped away at, and touched upon. And now, at long last, the sculpture is finished. What’s left is the spit and polish, the final sheen to make the surface gleam.

Beta reads are open to all prior active Beta Readers and Alpha Readers. The call will go out tomorrow. Which also means that in a short period of time, Shadow of an Empire will progress into it’s own Alpha, so there will be a call for that too.

Right, back to work! There’s no time to waste! I’ve got a cover to get done, files to put up, and much, much more!

Oh, and I’m still aiming for an October release date for Colony. Mark your calendars!

The Sound of Silence

Yes, I know I’ve been pretty quiet this week. Fear not, it’s been for a good cause! Colony is on the edge of being done with its second Alpha. How much of an edge?

I’m literally doing the final run-through to make sure that all of the Alpha readers concerns have been addressed, taken care of, and/or fixed.

In other words, I’ve been silent for you guys … but not for them! They’ve been fielding message after message. “Does this look right? What about this? I rearranged this sequence, does it flow better now?” Etc.

But the good news, which you may have picked up on above? I’m on the final run-through. Problems have been fixed, plot quibbles patched up, science worked out … and I’m doing the final checks. Which means that Beta calls will probably start … tomorrow? Or Monday at the latest. Planning for two Beta reads, as usual. This also means that next week I need to start work on the cover. And (because I’m juggling two projects here) this also means that the first wave of Alphas for Shadow of an Empire can really start getting out there. So that’ll also start next week. Gotta make a few adjustments to the initial draft first, but …

Yes, I’m quiet, I know, and in the business of running a site that relies on content, that’s not always the best option, but thankfully I’ve got a lot of content in the archives to keep readers occupied.

Though if you are looking for something new to glance at for a few minutes while enjoying … well, whatever it is you’re doing when you bounce through your morning collection of sites (Coffee? Donuts? Stakeouts?), then you can take a look at Publisher’s Weekly‘s 2016 summary of the industry. Just … ignore the click-bait title (the article itself offers a solid and actually logical explanation of the same thing they try and social-outrage with in the title).

Anyway, if you’re interested in looking at some numbers in the industry concerning who holds what jobs and whatnot, it’s fun to look at. Useful? Well … depends on what you’re doing, but it is interesting to look over even if you’re not directly involved with it. It also does raise some uncomfortable questions (such as why there’s such a firestorm over male authors being more prevalent than female authors as an example of male sexism when about 80% of the publishing industry is women. Is the male-centric sexism really there? Etc), but feel free to contemplate those or ignore them on your own time.

Anyway, I’m back to work. Watch this space for updates.

Colony is coming soon!

Being a Better Writer: Sidekicks

The original concept for this post, or rather I should say request as that’s what it was, was for information regarding a comedic sidekick. But I’ve decided to expand on that a little for two reasons. First, dying is easy, but comedy is hard. Really hard. I envy those who can write comedy, like Adams, Prachett, Taylor, or Korman. It’s a serious talent. The art of regularly keeping a comedic tone, building things up for comedic beats not just every once and a while, but with a regular rhythm? That’s really hard to pull off, to start. It takes a lot of practice and understanding.

Second, because a comedic sidekick isn’t exactly a great point to cover. It’s like looking only at one side of a building. Sure, a comedic sidekick is great an all … but what about the other sides, those other types of sidekick? What about the foundations of having a sidekick at all? What makes a sidekick different from, say, a partner character?

See, I consider these questions just as valid and important to consider as the original question of a comedic sidekick. Also, I can answer many of them to my satsifaction, or at least give a much more concise, clear opinion on things. I can’t really do that with a comedic sidekick in more than a glancing manner. After all, comedy is not my specialty. I can give a few pointers, but that’s a pretty short post.

Sidekicks, however? I can talk a bit more about that. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

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Music to Write to – Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst

So my music collection consists of about 500 albums. Not pirated. No joke. I own a lot of music, most of it instrumental. Why? Well, I’m an author, and I need to listen to something while I work. Rather than burn out an album or two, I find its better to have a huge variety. A couple of readers have asked me about favorites from my collection, and the topic has been the subject of a BaBW post once before.

Anyway, this post is sort of in the vein of that one, except now I’m throwing out a suggestion.

Earlier today, on a whim, I picked up a new soundtrack. Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, to be specific. I loved the soundtrack to the first Mirror’s Edge. Solar Fields did a fantastic job putting together an album that you could just lose yourself in, something that was perfect for just throwing on while you worked. Busy and pumping without ever losing its smooth, ambient quality, the first Mirror’s Edge soundtrack was a delight, and I still enjoy listening to it.

Today I thought I’d check out the sequel: Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst. So I loaded it up on the Amazon Music Store and took a quick look. Five-star reviews, still the same artist, 32 songs … Good, good, good …

Then I saw the album length: Five hours, twelve minutes.

I kid you not. I looked back up at the tracks to make sure it wasn’t mistaken. It wasn’t. Some of these tracks are almost twenty-five minutes long. And they’re not just playing the same tune for that whole length, either. No, these are electric suites that smoothly flow from one melody to another.

For five hours.

This soundtrack costs $9.49.

I have no idea how this one slipped into this price category. Catalyst is published by EA, who before have had the wonderful (sarcasm) habit of taking a soundtrack and splitting it into at least three or four overpriced albums with a couple of songs apiece. I have no idea who was responsible to taking what by their previous standard was about twenty albums worth of content and selling it for the price of one.

But I bought it, and it’s fantastic.

And now I draw your attention to it. If you’ve heard Mirror’s Edge before and enjoyed it, definitely consider picking this one up. It’s a steal, and I almost don’t expect it to stay at such a low price.

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If you’re a fan of Solar Fields, consider picking this one up. Maybe listen to it while you read a book.