Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dim stars, bright treasures

Current Song: Upbeat Losing My Religion by REM. Works's surprisingly well.

I have missed going to the writer meeting once again. What is the writer meeting? Well, the writer meeting is a group of good friends who are all writers (and are awesome) who get together to write together. It's a great way to actually get some work done. By working with other people, you can trigger your racing instinct, which leads to surprising gains.


Our group has a problem: We have been kicked out of at least two bookstores due to the bookstores crippling fear of money and success (Durrrr, lets force the people who buy a book every week to never return! WE IZ SMRATS!) and have now taken up position in a Starbucks.

I hate Starbucks. It's loud, the seats are uncomfortable, and I'm fairly sure some randos are reading my screen as I type.

Still, I plan to go next week, because I miss my writer meeting peeps.

But that is not all that is going on in my life, oh no!

I - as I have mentioned before - run a Rogue Trader game every Sunday. Rogue Trader, a game of interstellar trade, exploration and warfare, involves lots of going to new planets and looking at things. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be hard to determine what exactly the "new things" are every week.

Fortunately, a brand new book in the RT line has come out: THE STARS OF INEQUITY!

And it is amazing.

It begins with a star system generator, which allows you to use dice and a few well made tables to generate enter solar systems, then populate them with resources - industrial metals, radioactive elements, strange organic compounds, ancient alien ruins, and so on - and then fill them with dangers: Wastelands, sinkholes, eternal storms, active volcanos. You determine the climate, the atmosphere, the gravity, even the moons of these worlds.

It then moves on to a series of chapters about how to run adventures on the worlds you've created. If the players are exploring a ruined city, then it has a table for "ruined city dangers" and the potential rewards.

Just as an example, let us say our heroic Rogue Trader Ansin Afdahl is leading his bridge crew through a ruined alien city. I would sneakily roll on the table and...


Oh no! Ansin has stumbled onto a pitfall! He'd have to roll an agility test to avoid a jagged collection of spikes. And later, he and his bridge crew may be set on by the deranged survivors of the alien civilization, reverted to bestial savagery. But if they survive, then Ansin could claim...


A gleaming silver flail, made of some alien metal and fashioned in the likeness of their strange, inhuman fists. While fast and more damaging than a human weapon, carrying it might be more dangerous than Ansin could predict.

But that's just one example of the endless treasures that may lurk for the crew: Arcane technology from humanity's distant past, cursed pistols crafted by maddened sorcerers, entropic blades, powered lances and articulated voidsuits that project holographic disguises...and these are just some of the examples.

Needless to say, my players have a great deal to look forward...

And to dread.

For not all that glitters is gold.

And not all that lies still is truly dead.

Also, there are stats for genestealers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Perils of First Person

Current Song: Somebody that I used to Know (cause I like the vocals)

Do you know what the biggest peril of the first person perspective is?

The mirror.

That is to say, a first person perspective is a perfect mirror of the character it is rooted in. They see themselves - not just in the world around them, but in the characters and the actions of the characters around them. They reflect themselves and impose themselves on the very structure of the story.

This can make it VERY easy for a FPN (first person narrator) to make the world seem a way...

Even when it is not.

I have been thinking about this a lot while writing my novels, because quite a few of them are first person. This means that, when you read Debris Dreams or one of its sequels, you are going to be seeing the world of 2068 through the eyes of one Drusilla Xao.

Now, if you haven't read my books (or if you have and were curious about what I thought about the character that I myself wrote), Drusilla is an introverted, shy nerd whose fascination with the internet grew out of a distinct lack of attachment to her surroundings thanks to her own particular nervousness. I'd say she suffers from an excess of imagination, which is a dangerous thing in an environment that can kill you as fast as outer space.

And...of course, she was raised in a society still recovering from the biggest social/economic collapses since the Fall of Rome, with a whole generation of people who basically blamed everyone from 1940 to 2010 as being the most self centered and grossly impractical people in the history of our species who, through what amounts to an act of global criminal negligence, caused our species to almost go extinct.

She has a different view on a lot of things and she imprints this view on the world around her.

The thing is...

I don't necessarily agree with all of her views or her ideas. I may agree with some, but that is neither here nor there. What is here (and there, for that matter) is that it is my responsibility as an author to do my best to make those views come out in my writing and change in a way that feels realistic and reasonable considering what goes on in the book.

As a reader, though, YOU have a responsibility...and this isn't just for my books, this is for every book you ever read ever: You need to think about the text you read. You need to think about why a character - be they Dru, or someone else - does or acts or thinks in a certain way. You especially need to be careful when it comes to the first person perspective.

Because...as a better writer than I will ever be said: A monster never sees a monster in the mirror.

So you need to be on the lookout. Are the characters you blithely reading actually hiding darkness in them? If so...think about what that says, not just about the characters, but about the world they live in and what the author might want you to see.

Have a good day, everyone!


Crossing Guard Post Script (CGPS)

Today, I saw a big fuzzy dog. I now want a big fuzzy dog.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lollipop Man!

Current Song: Avast, Fluttershy's Ass! Why? Because ponies.

Today marks the fourth day I have been the Lollipop Man.

What is a Lollipop Man? Well, apparently, in the United Kingdom, crossing guards are called lollipop men by the children who they protect from errant traffic. I rather like the name, so I've been sticking to it.

The nice thing about this job is it gets me out of the house and into the great outdoors for a time. I get to meet lots of wonderful, nice awesome little kids as they run past me to school. And I get paid rather nicely, considering how easy the job is and how enjoyable I find it.

Still, it has taken a bit of a bite out of my writing time, mostly due to me just being tuckered out from my biking out and biking back. I hope that this heralds some good health for me, as I have been spending far too much time in bed lately.

Things I need to do in the coming weeks...

1) Get used to waking up early again.

2) Start writing again.

3) Somehow inure myself to the pains of reading negative critiques. I know I am not perfect and want to read negative reviews just as much as positive reviews, so that I can learn and grow. But...that doesn't prevent me from hyperventilating and panicking and feeling low down like a snake. Gotta work on that.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Travel...PART TWO!

So, I didn't actually get any writing done on the plane.

The reason?

...planes have wi-fi now.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ugh: Travel

Current Song: Lady Gaga's Edge of Glory for it's awesome saxophone solo.

I hate traveling. This is a sentiment as fresh and original as the sun rising and setting in the evening. But I can't help it: The lines, the security checkpoints that make me feel (no matter how illogically) that I have stepped into a totalitarian dictatorship. The constant PA reassurances don't make that feeling go away.

And, of course, the fact that I - a tall, strapping sort who grows outward faster than I grow upwards these days - have to spend hours in a tiny airplane while hurtling above the clouds at a billion million miles an hour. Conceptually, flying is as awe-inspiring as the moon landing or the fact that we can put food in a box and it magically remains cold despite the heat outside...but actually doing the nitty gritty of flying is like having your teeth pulled by an insane Chimpanzee.

Still, I have two ideas for my flight.

1) I will try and write 6,000 words in my novel.

2) I will finish the novel I am reading.

Speaking of the novel I am writing - Shattered Sky - I am facing three bighuge problems. The first is to convincingly throw a teenage girl with only one marketable skill (killing people, and even then, she's only middling good at it) into a vast conspiracy that is trying to orchestrate the future of humanity. The second is I need to juggle no more than THREE character arcs, each with multiple layers:

Dru's relationship to Sarah: (Layer 1: The difficulty of going from internet to real life relationship, Layer 2: Ablism. Layer 3: Caretaker Fatigue versus the relationship, as few things are better at shooting a relationship between the eyes than Caretaker Fatigue)

Sarah's relationship to her Mom: (Layer 1: Ablism. Layer 2: The desperate desire to keep a child safe from a dangerous world versus the child's desire to become her own person. Layer 3: Sarah's mom is a survivalist nutcase versus Sarah is - somehow, most likely thanks to her dad - somewhat more grounded.)

Dru's relationship to Sarah's Mom: (Layer 1: Sarah's Mom is a crazy survivalist Neo-catholic and Dru is a lesbian from space. I never get tired of writing this. Layer 2: Sarah's mom is crazy protective of her sprog and see's Dru's very presence as a threat. Layer 3: Despite this, Sarah's Mom still thinks Dru is a better daughter than Sarah because...ablism.)

And through it all, we also have Jillian's relationship to Dru, which remains pretty much stable with a few hiccups caused by stress induced making out.

AND THEN ontop of all that, I got a courtroom drama plot, a thriller/terrorist plot and the conspiracy plot.

It's funny...when I wrote the first draft of the novel, my mother offered the advice that I roll this novel into the third one, so that I didn't stretch the narrative. At the time, I was beating my head against the wall, trying to figure out what to find. Turns out, I really did need to bulldoze away the scum-words that had filled my manuscript to reveal the potential goldmine of character interactions and plotbunnies.

But then there was the THIRD thing that I have to deal with when it comes to Shattered Sky.

The language.

Specifically, the Mandarin. At least one reviewer has complained that the Mandarin wasn't natural, wasn't used in the way that native speakers would use it. These are legitimate complaints - and as a note to all reviewers, both good and bad, I read your reviews. To the good reviews, thanks! I'll try to do better next time. To the bad reviews, thanks! I'll try to do better next time. Still, I don't want to just NOT use Mandarin.

I wrote DD and I'm writing SS on the idea that the future isn't just white, isn't just male, isn't just straight and isn't just English speaking. That there is a global conversation that isn't just speaking about different issues - it's using a different language. It sounds different.

But is it a disservice to use someone else's language without being very good at it? Would it be better that I just stuck to English?

I don't know.

So if you got an opinion, share it in the comments.

...if...anyone actually reads these.