Lexifabricographer

March 28, 2012

Back to the Island 2.16 – The Whole Truth

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage — lexifab @ 11:58 pm

It’s late, I’m tired and I spent the evening crafting necessary correspondence rather than diving into the tricky exposition scene about magical Tibetan counterinsurgency that I need to get done. Well, it won’t be any less nonsensical in the morning I guess.

March is proving to be a month of major disruptions to my routine and April’s not looking much less wayward. I’m about as productive as a Footy Show brains trust this month. I have a short story half-written that will only be readable once a laborious formatting effort has been applied (i.e. fundamentally unsaleable and possibly unreadable). I’ve written a few hundred words on the novel. And there’s this Lost review, which is at least finished.

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March 23, 2012

What’s that law of thermodynamics about momentum?

Filed under: fitter/happier,friends,Games,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 11:18 pm

I’m pretty shaky when it comes to physics, but if I understand correctly it takes more effort to move something that’s come to a complete stop than it is to maintain or speed up something already kicking along.

That’s me and writing, right there. I just stopped doing it for the better part of a couple of weeks. The usual excuses are in place – first I had a flu that knocked me out for a few days, and then we had a houseguest staying for ten days. All of the above contrived to break me from my writing routine. For once I didn’t bother to fight it. I just surrendered to the inevitable and took the lazy way out. I went and played Mass Effect 1 and 2 instead.

(I don’t regret it either. ME1 – the only game in the series I’ve yet finished – is instructively epic science fiction. Basically it’s seasons 2 to 4 of Babylon 5, but told with economy and a few less clunky monologues).

Now we may against feel the absence of the diverting and amusing company of Winston from Japan, but my writing space is once again more or less my own. So I had better get back into it. No more lame excuses.

Having not touched the novel in a coupel of weeks, I am reluctant to pick it up again. I still don’t know what I am doing with it, or how I will drive it towards a conclusion. In my ignorance I am going to stick with my plan of just writing whatever gibberish pops into my head until I’ve more or less wrapped it up, before going back to the drawing board to develop a proper outline. By ‘proper’, I mean one that actually identifies what will happen in the climax of the book.

Interestingly, the writer’s group has already begun to help out. At a recent meeting, there was a discussion about log lines, which are 25-words-or-less summaries of who the protagonist is, what they want and what’s stopping them from achieving that. I worked out a pretty good log line for my current work-in-progress novel. I think it will help to keep my redraft focused on what matters to the story, and help me to indentify ideas that might not fit so well in this particular tale. We’ll see.

(No, I’m not going to share the log line I worked out, since it kind of spoils a key plot element. It’s a behind-the-scenes kind of tool).

So while the novel stays on the backburner until I get up early tomorrow morning, I’ve tried to regain some of that dissipated momentum with various exercises of lower intensity. Last night I drafted my next Lost review (coming soon, after it gets the edit that comes of the cold-light-of-day realisation that my character analysis was 100% off-base). Tonight I wrote maybe half of a short story told entirely in tweets – that is, 140 characters or less, including names and hashtags – which will probably prove to have been a dumb idea when I revisit it. Right now it’s amusing me. And after that, I have a metric truckload of reviews I want to write.

I just have to remember to keep tapping away at that main novel project. Otherwise sooner or later it will stop and never start again.

March 8, 2012

Spamwave and Linkage! (They Fight Crime)

Filed under: administraviata,geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 4:21 pm

Spamwave!

Woah. I just checked the Lexifab dashboard. Anyone wanna hazard a guess about which link I added or trigger-word I used in the Books of February post to attract a dozen brand new spam commenters? (All tragically deleted now, and may the good Lord ha’ mercy etc)

I will open the betting with “steampunk-themed torture porn”. Any takers?

Linkage!

So that this piece of bloggerel [1] is not a complete waste of your valuable internet time-wasting time, here is an extremely valuable link. I am almost certain that it does not come from the spam comments mentioned earlier.

Against Big Bird, The Gods Themselves Contend In Vain  - Scott Lynch, who will hopefully someday overcome the significant difficulties standing between him and the completion of the Gentlemen Bastards series, has contributed to the intellectual discourse on popular culture with this insightful analysis of the most insane Sesame Street special ever broadcast. I don’t recall ever seeing this one, but it’s hard to believe it’s stranger than the time they all went to Hawaii and discovered that Mr Snufalupagus is the walking dream-avatar of a sleeping mountain. Really. The late ’70′s were a great time for bogglingly weird children’s television.

 

[1] Yup, pretty sure that’s a word now. Your OED will update automatically.

March 7, 2012

Books of 2012 – February

February was a bit of a lean month for reading, particularly by comprison to the rich bounties of January, but I did manage to get a few titles under my belt. I haven’t had any time to sit down to write proper reviews of any of them yet, but I will give a few thoughts and recommendations here. Somewhere down the track I intend to do more fleshed-out reviews of at least a couple of them.

Quick observations: everything I finished this month was an ebook, consumed through the gaping word-maw of the ever-hungry Kindle. I have been reading a paperback as well, but very patchily – I don’t know if I will perservere with it or abandon it and come back to it later. (Yes I do – I almost never abandon books, and this one shows great promise, so I will keep going. But dammit, there are about five things in my reading pile that I know I’m going to enjoy more than this one. I suck.) This month I also read two short story collections, which is something that I am finding the Kindle lends itself to nicely. I have a couple more anthologies lined up in my Amazon wish list. I reckon I’ll be picking those up before too long. It’s good to rediscover a taste for short stories after a long time away from the form.

Also (shameless tease alert!) I read one book this month that I kind of hated. Love controversy? Read on!

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March 2, 2012

February Stats

Filed under: fitter/happier,news of the day,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 9:53 pm

February was, as I may have intimated yesterday, not electrifyingly productive. It did not amp up. It neither kicked nor bounced. But still, y’know, progress was made. Here, for the edification of precisely nobody else, are the stats I tracked for this month.

Walking – In accordance with the school of thought that dictates leading with your strongest card, I met my goal of getting my average daily step count up over 13000. Well over, in fact – the average was 13,555 per day. That’s somewhere in the vicinity of 9500 metres per day. At least according to the pedometer, that is – I don’t know quite how to calibrate it to my personal length of pace, so take that distance measure with a grain of salt.

I’m pretty happy with that result. Walking more – and measuring the results – has definitely improved my overall health over the last year, although you wouldn’t know it from all the colds I’ve picked up from my kids. My weight hasn’t changed much, but a lot of it seems to have redistributed to less undesirable locations. And I can walk up ten flights of stairs with only moderate loss of breath and/or consciousness, so that’s something too.

Writing – I’ve continued work on the novel (which I should probably give some kind of cool code name, except that I’m not going to because then I’ll probably end up changing the real title by accident or something). I’m determined to get this thing written. I have set myself some pretty high standards, I don’t mind telling you.

I *do* mind telling you that I’ve fallen pretty far short of those standards. Ideally I would like to get at least 1000 words a day done, which is a bit of a cracking pace but well short of the 1700-ish frenzy of NaNoWriMo. In February, I only managed a total of a little over 11,000 words, which amounted to a pretty underwhelming 391 words a day. Not quite the gold standard, I fear.

What’s most disappointing about this figure is that I actually worked pretty hard for it. At Andrea’s excellent suggestion, I started getting up early – a quarter to five, yo- at some point during the month. (Can’t remember when that was. Probably should have made a note of it.) Most mornings I managed to get somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour to write, which usually did not amount ot more than 500 words. I still haven’t quite trained myself up to the trick of turning my brain off and just typing, apparently. I might concentrate on that next month, possibly with a five minute warmup first before I turn my attention to the manuscript.

I also got an hour or two to write on about three or four evenings most weeks. By the end of the month I was tending to spend maybe half an hour or so on the novel and the rest of the time on less demanding projects – reviews, blog posts and throwing more ideas into the novel outline file. I intend to stick with my plan of continuing to slog through to finish the current draft, in spite of the slow going. When I’m done, I’ll spend some quality time reworking the entire novel in outline, then I’ll start again. In the meantime I will try to reign in my expectations. It will be done when it’s done.

Other stuff – I wasn’t just writing the novel. I racked up another 1800 words on outlining; that plan will get me some of the way but not all of the way to the end of the draft. I wrote a couple of Lost reviews – 1600 words, which means the length on those is starting to creep up again. Tsk. Various Lexifab entries totalled something like 4000 words. I wrote no book reviews and no short fiction, which is almost as disappointing as the novel tally. I did write half of a song, but it’s not finished yet and in any case I think counting verse is probably over-reaching.

So, enough recrimination. My word count wasn’t what I wanted for the month, but it wasn’t negligible. The novels’ Draft Zero wordcount stood at 64000 at the end of the month. Some goal refreshment: I’d like to think I can get that total to 75 or even 80 by the end of March (I think the overall length of the draft will be somewhere around 90,000 words, so I don’t actually expect to finish the draft this month). I have been planning to write two Lost reviews a week but at the moment that’s looking a little ambitious. I have at least three reviews that I want to get to, though at this point I’m not sure I’m moved to make any of them full (500+ word) length. And the short fiction episodes tend to serve the important function of letting me play with ideas which might otherwise distract me from the job at hand.

Then again, I’ve just written over 800 words summarising some other words I wrote, so perhaps stronger measures are in order.

Oh, and I did some reading as well, but I’ll save that for another day’s bloggage.

More patronage for your consideration

Filed under: Games,the interweb she provides,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 9:11 am

For reasons I haven’t been able to quite figure out, February’s been a weird month. I haven’t been doing as much of anything as I would have liked (you name it – writing, sleeping, reading, walking, gaming, effective parenting etc) but I still feel like I’ve been busy as hell. High-octane wheel-spinning. Fervent nonproductivity. And now here’s March, and what do I have to show for it?

Meh. I’ll go into those stats in the next post. This one’s about Kickstarter. Following up from last year’s exhortation of crowdfunded patronage, here’s some more stuff on Kickstarter that I think is worthy of your attention and possibly your money, and why.

Books

Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig – [1] I already reviewed ‘Shotgun Gravy’, the first novella starring bloodied-but-defiant teenage arse-kicker Atlanta Burns. So you know why I think that the prospect of a sequel – or better still, numerous sequels – is a good thing (and if for some reason my sweaty, shaking insistence that this is one of the great works of Western literature is not good enough for you, or if hyperbole repels you and you wish I would just shut up, go get the ebook or PDF version of SG because it’s super-cheap right now). As at the time of writing, the funding drive has hit its target, so ‘Bait Dog’ is guaranteed. But Wendig has promised to write another sequel for every three grand raised, and with a little over two weeks left to run, there’s a good chance for at least one more Atlanta Burns story after this one. This is a good thing, for scientifically-provable values of good

The next Matt Forbeck 12-for-12 trilogy – I already plugged Matt Forbeck’s crazy ambition to write a novel every month this year, funded entirely through Kickstarter patronage. The first trilogy was based on a dystopian supers setting developed for gaming. this next one, taking place in the ‘Shotguns and Sorcery’ also has an easily-grasped high concept. In this case, he has a taster out – you can read a short story called ‘Goblintown Justice’ and decide whether it’s something you might be interested in reading. I’m a fan of mashing genres – hardboiled noir + post-Tolkeinist fantasy is a perfectly cromulent blend – so even though the short story only partly worked for me I am still on board for the series.

The patronage model is really working for me. When an author whose work I  have liked in the past asks for what amounts to an advance payment for work they have yet to do, the act of pledging to support it sounds (in my head) like “I like what you do, I want you to keep doing that thing and I am prepared to give you money so that you don’t have to do something else”. The act of financial support, however nominal, feels like a more sincere expression of appreciation and thanks than you can  convey through even Twitter or blog comments or similar points of contact.

Games – Computer

Doublefine Studios Unnamed Point’n’Click Adventure – When point-and-click adventure games were at their height, among the most lauded titles in the genre’s history were Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. Of those I’ve only really played Tentacle (and a bit of Psycho), but that game alone convinces me that Doublefine can produce a great game. Watch lead designer Tim Schafer’s video appealing for support if you want to get a sense of the likely tone of the final product. It’s hilarious. Nearly 70,000 other people also seem to think so, since this is one of the most heavily-funded projects in Kickstarter’s history. In its first couple of days it was making about forty grand an hour in pledges. It was compelling, if ridiculous, theatre. So obviously they don’t need your money [3] and the game is certainly going to be made.

What makes the project appealing to me is that some large fraction of the proceeds will go to the production of a documentary series about the making of the game. I’ve always been an enthusiast for behind-the-scenes docos. The prospect of a production team with full access to the development process and the editing skills to avoid making that ten hours of people coding is enticing. Plus at the end of it there’s a game in a genre that doesn’t receive a lot of high-production-value love these days.

FTL -Faster than Light – A starship management game in which you play through crisis after crisis trying to keep your crew alive while they encounter asteroid fields, marauding pirates, boarding aliens and take-your-pick from a vast range of space-difficulties. On the one hand the scope is small, the graphics and sound don’t appear to be anything to write home about and the interface does not appear cutting-edge. On the other hand this is exactly the kind of game I would play the hell out of for months on end if I had the time. It’s a resource-allocation decision-making game with continuity of characters (who can die) and emergent story – so kind of like the city-management aspects of Dwarf Fortress, though hopefully without the unrelenting obfuscation of that game.

Velociraptor! Cannibalism! – A fun, bloodthirsty card game based on a loose comprehension of natural selection, in which Velociraptors consume adorable helpless prey and customise themselves with the advantageous body parts of anachronistic animals. It looks loopy and fun.

That’s all the stuff I’m following at the moment. You got any recommendations?

(Oh, I forgot to mention that the Beginnings Anthology – a locally-produced comic anthology produced by friends of Lexifab Emma and Gavin, amongst others – is due to launch next Friday night. I’m hoping to go along to collect my copy. See you there if you’re in town?)

 

[1] Yes, as a matter of fact, I have put all my career plans on hold specifically to shill for Chuck Wendig. Yes, of course I have a business plan [2].

[2] Okay, not so much a “business plan” as a “world-class capacity for precision-focused procrastination”. Shut up.

[3] Or mine – I haven’t actually pledged to this one yet, since I want it but I’m undecided about whether to commit to the documentary as well.

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