Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ass in Chair

Today’s post is about ass in chair time.  That and my masterful ability to procrastinate or otherwise put off the work.  If there’s anyone able to out-procrastinate me, they clearly haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I’m terrible for it.  I’ll grant myself some things.  Such as January, February and March of this year.  It was all about passing my phase VI board.  Gotta eat you know, and the day job keeps that happening. 

Elsewise, I can be severely undisciplined.  Either distracted by daily stuff, family events or other hobbies.  It’s not that I don’t want to, but some days I just get sandbagged.  Now that I have a lower tempo job, I’ve actually been back at the writing, and it feels good.

In the same vein as passing my board, the only secret I can see is getting my ass in my chair, and writing more and more words until the project is done.

Thus, I am re-committing to push through this book until it’s done, and do so in this year.  So far, I’ve actually kept my promise to myself.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

What has it got in it’s Pocketses?

Here’s a super-cool pocketwatch I bought from the  Steampunk Emporium.

Here's the face open (it has a glass cover):

And the back side, where you can see the various gears and bits:

It’s a wind-up one too.  No batteries.  Keeps excellent time too.  I bought it to go with my Navy Mess Kit (think formal) and it paid off in spades. 

To make the shipping worthwhile, I also bought some steampunk-ish goggles, and replacement lenses in blue (photos later).  This is for the Cygnaran look, and maybe to develop a new costume to go to cons in.  We’ll see.  For now, when I play Warmachine, I have the legit Cygnar look.  Now I just need a set of warcaster armour.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Musical Accompaniment

I work with music.  Always.  Hell, whenever I’m home I’d have the CD player going with something.  Can’t stand radio, it has to be something I want.  As I draft this, I've got some Roxette playing in the background. The Tourism CD, I believe.

Reading: I pick something that will thematically go with the novel I’m reading.  Other things (game books, non-fiction) it can vary, depending on what I'm in the mood for.

Gaming: We use something appropriate for the game (i.e. fantasy for Pathfinder, Star Wars for Star Wars, etc), kept at a decent volume for playing.  In the past we’ve had ‘dire situation’ tapes made up for action scenes.

Wargaming: Same thing, usually more militaristic or modern soundtracks.

Painting: Depends on the mood.  Right now I have 25 CDs in on random, chosen from across my collection.

Housework: Crank the volume and the adrenalin.

Pretty much everything I do, I’d do it to music.  As I said, radio tends to have too much stuff I don’t care about, or they just talk inanely about something I don’t care about.  I’ll pick a CD to match a mood, or to accompany what I’m reading.  If it weren’t for the fact I’m up and out before my wife wakes up, I’d have the music on all morning too.

The same applies when I’m writing.  I know some authors have playlists (Carrie Vaughn puts it in the front pages of each of her Kitty novels) that are a bit more specific.  I made a playlist for Queen’s Legacy that, rather than the lyrics, works to evoke the mood I want to maintain for the main character.  In this case, there’s a lot of Rage Against the Machine, KMFDM, Evanescence and Nine Inch Nails.  My protagonist is angry, and she isn’t afraid to show it.  The whole playlist isn’t like that, but there’s a good dose of ass-kicking music. 

It also certainly helps that it’s a high-energy playlist that keeps the energy in my fingers as well.  I’ve avoided using any kind of franchise soundtrack, as they tend to evoke more the worlds they were written for, as opposed to my own feeling.  The exception would be the Battlestar Galactica soundtracks by Bear McCreary.  They have just the right sense of angst.

It also helps to have a fair selection of music.  I noticed last time I was at the music store I had each of a Saliva, Yanni and Sarah McLachlan album in my hands.  I am not limited to a single genre, artist or style.  And yes, I still buy CDs.  For film/TV scores in particular, I like having the full disc worth.  I could download, and eventually I’m sure I will, but for now I like having a collection of one artist’s songs on one item.  That and maybe I’m just old fashioned enough to hold to the concept of an ‘album.’  I rip them onto my device for portability anyway. 

Back to the topic at hand.  I’ve found that having music playing while working makes the work easier, smoother, and creates a better environment.  For me at least.  I know others who need total silence, but I find that a bit weird.  As they say, one’s mileage may vary.

Right now, it’s back to the mix of 25 CDs set on random while I do some squad organization and upkeep on my Eldar and Cygnar armies.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

3D is Way Overrated

The last few movies I’ve seen have been 2D, and that is by choice.

Yep, regular old flatpic films.  Why? 

Not because of price.  Well, maybe a little.  It is a bit more expensive to see them, but as a percentage of the total cost of the four of us going out to a movie, not much.  However, that dollar each does add up.

Not because I’m some kind of luddite who doesn’t like new advances.

Mainly because it doesn’t matter.  The nature of the film format doesn’t change my desire to see it in 3D vs 2D.  If it’s a film I want to see, I want to see it.  The way I see it is this:

3D won’t save a bad movie from being bad because it’s a bad story, and a good movie will be good regardless of whether it’s 3D or not because it’s a good story.

Story first, it’s as simple as that.  When most 3D movies seem to be the shallow-field post-production style, which isn’t that great, and I have to wear glasses to watch them (something I paid good money several years ago to eliminate via laser), then I have to ask, what is the point?

Granted, some films are good in 3D when they’re made that way to begin with (i.e. 3D cameras or digital creation), such as “How to Train Your Dragon.”  Others are reasonably pretty to look at or were written with 3D in mind.  They are few in number, and still just as good on my regular old 2D home screen as they were in 3D.

I’m tired of the 3D fad, and would appreciate the continued production of well-written, well-acted films in 2D that I can go and enjoy.  Leave the 3D to the few that warrant it, or the IMAX crowd (I grant,  some of those IMAX 3D can be some kind of cool).

Thursday, July 04, 2013


As of this writing, I’m working through scene 45 of Queen’s Legacy.  I know it’s scene 45 because in my outline (which I will never, ever do by hand again) that is the number it has.  Overall, I’ve got 126 scenes (plus a timeline and flowchart), and I will get to them all.  It provides a level of progress (along with wordcounts), but most importantly it tells me where I’m going.

The roadmap of where I’m going is vitally important.  It keeps me on track, so that I know what I intend to write, and what each scene will include.  I also include notes on whose POV I’m using for that scene, and what I intend to accomplish in it (sort of a metadata for that scene).  The flowchart is just for some complex battle scenes as I had trouble making sure they all fit together.  The timeline just holds everything to a constant timescale.

Outlining also, and maybe this is the most important of all, reminds me of all the cool ideas I had when coming up with the story.

I admit it, I can’t remember everything I think of when I’m plotting.  When I sit down to make a new story, I sit with a blank piece of paper (and maybe a few notes from my ‘story ideas’ folder) and start to compose.  It’s pretty free form.  I start thinking of the plot, the characters, where I want it to go, any key or cool scenes I’d like to include.  However, that’s all it is, just an assortment of scribblings that are the nucleus of something.  Mostly to date it has been for writing RPG adventures, but as I was sitting down to plot out Queen’s Legacy, the techniques have served me just as well.

From there, I do an act breakdown.  Treating it like a multi-act play or adventure sort of helps me to break the action in to phases.  Not in an ironclad way, such that I must hold to it, but more as a standard starting point.  This construct then becomes the bones upon which I finalize the overall storyline, and dress up a few characters or ideas. 

For an RPG adventure, the next step for me has then been to write the individual encounters and events that will make up the adventure.  Things get tweaked along the way, but the writing pretty much stays true to what I outlined.

When I started fully outlining Queen’s Legacy, I replaced the encounters from the RPG adventure with a scene-by-scene breakdown of the story.  Some scenes had a few lines of notes, as they are quick, fairly simple in their action, or otherwise need little explanation.  Others were a full half-page so as to capture the intended action and other details.  Once this was done, the actual prose started.

Thus, everything I want to include is already outlined.  This is the bones and sinew of the story.  It has all the scenes and all the events that I want to tell.  This allows me, once it’s time to start putting the prose in place, to focus on writing those scenes well, rather than constantly being concerned with how it fits.  I’ve already thought about how everything fits together, even if I change it.

Change it I certainly will.  As I have written the first portions, I’ve already changed some events, moving them between scenes.  In some cases cutting some material out or adding some in as I realized the flow would be better one way or the other.  Despite needing an outline to stay on mission, I in no way write it in stone.  Things can change, scenes can move or be altered, all in service to telling the story as I outlined it waaaay back in the single sheet of paper stage.  Or maybe I change it dramatically and move away from that.  Sometimes I just have better ideas than when I originally outlined it. 

Sometimes I just embrace the chaos when I think of something better or a newer, better scene I need.  That works too, but without the overall roadmap, I couldn’t do what seat-of-the-pants (pantsers) do.  More power to them for being able to, but I just can’t.  Any time I’ve tried I tend to fizzle out after maybe a scene or two, because I just don’t know where I’m going.  Admittedly, that’s me.  One’s own mileage may vary, but thought I’d share.

This doesn’t even include the revision process, which will have its own joys.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Geek Cave

Here's a few photos of what my friends and family affectionately call "the Geek Cave."  Right now it's in the basement, as there's only so much room to go around in military housing.

The centrepiece of the room here is the gaming table, which I use for RPGs, wargaming and any other projects.  My wife will also use it for quilting, as it's the biggest, baddest table in the house (6' long, 30" wide, built of solid 2x4s laminated together).

It's surrounded by my library, some of which you can see here.  Not just books, but lots of gaming books, wargames terrain, some mugs for drinking at the table, and lots of toys & collectables.  Here's a side shot of my Gamemaster chair.

Next up is the painting station.  I love having my painting stuff always out and ready.  Sadly, due to some impudent beasts, I can't always leave work in progress out.  Yes, there's a box on the window, because someone (Cassandra) feels the need to try to get up there.  That's when things start to fall down.

Here's my Warhammer 40k cabinet.  Not to be confused with the Warhammer Fantasy, Warmachine, Hordes, Firestorm Armada or other wargame model cabinets.  Yes, lots are unpainted.  We've covered this already, move along, move along.

Those are the highlights.  That's all really.  Just thought I'd show off a bit of my cave.  Later I'll get to the office, which is really just an extension of the cave where I have my desk, computer, more shelves and reading chair.