Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ready, Player One?

I have to stop buying books.

I keep amassing paperbacks, often to fill out the "free shipping" requirements on Amazon ("I only need to spend 7 more bucks...").  Then they sit on my self for months or years and when I finally get around to reading them, I'm disappointed.  I don't think I could read off a screen--I'm definitely a paperback dinosaur--but I do think I'll be going back to my local library from now on...

I'm only 100 pages into Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which there has been a hell of a lot of hype about, even from my friends.  And it's a charming, fun kind of story, sure, but...  I just don't think I can stomach anymore 80's references.

I have to compare it to hydrogenated trans fats, where hydrogen atoms are forcibly squeezed in against nature to make SUPER unhealthy fat that eventually kills you.  The narration is not only saturated by contrived references to 80's games, movies, and tv shows, but it's SUPER saturated.  Whatever story might be lurking behind all that has to be pushed out of the way to make room for more exposition about the 1980's.  In 100 pages of book so far, I'd have to say that "80" of them are about the 80's and maybe 20 of them are actual story.

Okay, those 80 pages aren't just about the 80's, but also exhaustive description and exposition about the world or how things work or how things got to be this way.  But it's definitely not forward-moving narrative.

I can't say the reviews and rumors were false, though.  This book's buzz and charm are those very references.  And I am a child of the 80's and a self-confessed D&D and comic book nerd, however I also like a bit of story with my novel.  I don't know that I could get through 300 more pages of this one before a trans fat induced heart attack takes me out.  Therefore, I may be done here.

What's the next dusty book on my shelf...?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Free Sci-Fi Ebook, Passing at Light Speed!

Just a quick note to let you all know that starting today (Thursday, Sept. 17) through Monday (Sept. 21), you can nab The Thorne Legacy for FREE on Amazon.  

Here's the description:

He'll be court-martialed. If he lives that long.

Corporal Cranston Thorne is the black sheep of the family and about to be kicked out of System Guard for his selfish and reckless behavior.

His father, Captain Thanos Thorne, would like nothing more than to see that happen. Unfortunately, he can't stay for the trial. A remote outpost at the edge of the system has gone silent and he must take the fleet out to investigate.

The real danger, however, isn't at the edge of the system...

This novelette was Writers of the Future contest finalist in 2012 and also comes in paperback and audio format.  Though only the ebook is free, and it's probably free while you're reading this!  But only for a limited time.

And here's the link to Amazon: 


Go ahead, enjoy!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons: New Rules for XP

After 15 to 20 years, given the new super-cool 5th edition and transglobal communication technology, a handful of college friends and I are going to give playing D&D again a go.  And as much as I would like to play a character that I can develop and have fun with, I’m more inclined toward DMing.  I like creating stories and mysteries and playing a myriad of NPCs, which also contributes to my fiction writing, of course.  In fact, I’m combing the fantasy settings of two novels I had in mind to use in the game, and will no doubt get even more ideas from the adventures we have playing together.
And while I honestly think 5th Ed is the best version to date, there are a few house rules I’ve come up with that I want to use in our game.  The biggest is a revised Experience Points and Leveling system.
The 5th edition team put a lot of work into the new xp system, though it still resembles the previous ones a bit too much for me.  Most of your xps come from killing monsters and taking their treasure, and while I certainly want combat to be the most exciting aspects of my game, I don’t want it to be the only aspect.  You can, I admit, also go through a nice mathematical matrix to determine how much some of your non-combat encounters are worth, which is great, but still an awful lot of number crunching.  It’s more accounting than I would like to do.
So I came up with a different way.
Under my system, your xp currency is basically “chapters,” which is pretty damn close to saying “sessions” or “adventures,” though where we end up breaking off in gameplay might not necessarily be where the chapter would end.  The chapter as a unit is basically a story segment of the campaign where the group has completed a story objective, and/or reached a transition into the next episode of the campaign.  These would roughly, ideally, be about the same thing as a gaming session, but not always.
The level you are now is how many chapters you must accomplish to level-up. 
The experience chart might look something like this, with blocks you fill in as you go.







“I’m halfway through 4th level. Two more ‘chapters’ and I’ll be 5th.  Yipee!”
On this chart, you just fill in the blocks as you achieve chapters.  When you’ve filled in your current row, you move to the next level.
So you’d be 1st level just as long as it takes to complete the first chapter/story objective.  Then two more and you graduate to level 3.  Then 3 more to reach 4, etc.  Each level takes proportionately more time to advance through. 
Pretty simple, right? 
You can also get a bonus chapter block by finishing off a story arc.  For example, if “Which Witch of Witch Mountain?” (a Disney-brand D&D adventure) has 4 chapters, when you finish the last one and complete the whole story by saving the right good witch and killing the correct bad witch, you complete chapter 4 and get a “story completion” xp block, so the whole story arc is really worth 5 xp blocks/chapters.  
You might also achieve more than one chapter objective in a session, which would speed up the progress a bit in the higher levels.  And being super-duper at those levels, you’re more likely to knock out multiple story objectives in one session, ‘cuz you so bad ass.
Subplots could contribute as a character-driven chapter as well.  Say you have started your own tavern and it burns to the ground.  Rather than chase the clues for the next adventure your DM has given you, you’re so pissed off that you decide to investigate the fire further and your Investigation roll is so high that the DM decides (even though they hadn’t planned on it) that you’ve discovered arson!  So we spend a gaming session chasing that down and turn that into an adventure of its own, which certainly worth an xp block when completed.

I’ll blog the other minor adjusts I’m making too, and might comment on our game from time to time (only planning to play once a month at this point – we’re busy grown-ups now, after all).  But I won’t be giving too many details, as again, I might be using some of this material for story and novel substance later on and wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise… 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Selling Books on Amazon: A Book Review

I just finished Let's Get Visible by David Gaughran.  Just a quick post here with my review for my fellow indie writers who might be interested.  Click here to see the review on Amazon now.


Lots of filler here, but the few nuggets are worth while

This is a decent resource, though I think indie writers newer to the dream will get more out of it than I did.  Eighty- to ninety-percent of the material was somewhat obvious and often repetitious, and honestly, I felt like much of the writing was intended to fill pages and swell the page count.  The book is also two years old now, so some of Amazon's mechanisms may have changed.

I definitely did, however, come away with some new, useful information and tactics that I am putting into practice, which is worth the five bucks I paid for this ebook.  When compared to paying the same for a cup of coffee, I'm certainly getting more use out of Mr. Gaughran's knowledge and hot tips than I would be a hot beverage.  

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Indie Writing in 2015: Tracking Summer Progress

As an indie author with aspirations for the New Year, I set some resolution goals about writing in 2015.  And I had been doing quite well with them, pushing out a few new titles in electronic, paperback, and audio formats and keeping my monthly word count high.  I was also posting monthly progress reports like this one.  Up until May, that is...

I received orders in April to deploy as an Individual Augmentee (IA) to the Middle East, set to be leaving mid-summer.  (Being an IA means it's just me, not the whole unit I am attached to now, being sent for a temporary assignment of several months to take a rotational turn in the hot zone.)  This obviously reset my life priorities quite a bit, and therefore threw off my personal goals to make room for my professional commitments.

Then, at the end of July, things changed again, as they often do in the military.  Suddenly, just as quickly as I had been snatched up for an intense assignment, I was dropped back down.  So the months of training and personal and family preparation that had dominated my life for four months no longer applied.  Semper gumby.

In the aftermath, I am attempting to get back on the rails and salvage the remainder of the year. 

My initial monthly writing goal was approximately 3,000 a week (figuring 1,000 a day, three times a week), averaging out to 12,000 a month.  This includes not only stories and novels, but blogging and other projects as well.  As long as I manage 12K a month (thus a gross K of 144,000 words for the year), I feel content.

Or at least, I would have.  With the spring/summer spent otherwise occupied, I'm hoping to still make 100,000 words for the year, but we'll see how it goes.  

I have also been keeping track of other accomplishments per month, as you'll see below.

In my last post in this series (back in May) I put forth a few other goals, viewable by clicking here.

So now, as I had been doing before this hiccup in military status, I will track my months thus far in 2015.  This is mostly for my own benefit, but also for my fellow indie writers who may be interested in commiseration, co-encouragement, and comparing notes.

   - 15,300 words
   - "Frozen Heart" novelette completed. Submissions to magazines/contests begin.
   - Twilight of the Gods started (sequel/prequel to Hungry Gods)

   - 2400 words
   - New cover for The Thorne Legacy using free software

   - 8150 words

   - 5300 words
   - Book signing and sale, most successful to date (read more here)
   - Dreams of Flying published in ebook and paperback
   - Tarnish audiobook published
   - The Prince and the Darkness paperback published

   - 13,100 words
   - "Green-Eyed Monster" picked up by Meerkat Press for their Love Hurts Anthology

   - 11,500 words
   - Puppet Theatre republished as a free short story and preview of Hungry Gods (everywhere but Amazon)

   - 15,400 words

   - 12,650 words
   - Hungry Gods published as ebook and paperback
   - The Prince and the Darkness published as ebook "dark fantasy double-feature"

Total words thus far: 83,800

Not too shabby for a busy, busy guy!