Hi, my name is Paul and I have a problem.

I’m not sure that calling it a problem is really accurate.

That’s probably a problem in and of itself though.

Like many others, I’ve been playing Fallout 4 to the detriment of any other extracurricular activity in my schedule. But let’s be honest, I knew that was going to happen. I feel like all the people for whom Bethesda’s open world opuses (opi?) are not just another game to play, but an event worth letting so many things in your real life slide, will know what I mean when I say this game has it’s hooks deep, deep in me.

Like well past the skin and digging raw, bloody furrows through my muscles.

It’s not like I’m missing work, or completely skimping on familial duties. The dog is still making it to school, the kids are still getting fed and put out in the morning.

But I think about the game. Not just a little, or when I’m not preoccupied. I think about it all the time.

All.

The.

Time.

I don’t actually see raiders while I sleep (though I have vague memories of dreaming about post nuclear apocalypse, so that’s fun), but I plan quests when I’m away from the game. I think about how best to develop my settlements when I ought to be paying attention to something else. I plan my leveling up perk advancement sometimes.

So, while this isn’t any kind of review (I don’t know that I’ve got it in me to attempt a full game review yet, certainly not to start with something as Goddamn huge as a Fallout game), I will go ahead and and say that yes, the game does have some issues.

Occasionally the frame rate will dip randomly, and for no apparent reason. Sometimes it will dip for very apparent reasons. It never becomes unplayable, or lasts too long in my experience. I’ve had one or two BHC’s (Bethesda Hard Crashes, you know what I mean). There are times when it feels almost a little too much like Fallout 3, instead of pushing forward more.

All that having been said, the art direction in this game is superb. The visuals aren’t necessarily mind blowing, but the composition is always solid, always selling the fiction they’ve set up. The color palette is much improved over previous games, with bright reds and blues and yellows all over the place, breaking up the drab wasteland with glimpses of the retro-futuristic world that never was.

V.A.T.S. is better this time around. Though folks who aren’t so adept with first person games may still rely heavily on it, the targeting system doesn’t freeze time anymore, keeping the pressure on to choose your targets before they choose you. But seasoned first person gamers may not need it much at all. The gun-play isn’t going to knock off a Halo or Call of Duty, but it’s totally serviceable and does its job just fine.

My not review is turning into a lengthy stretch of words, so I’ll call it here and end with this.

I can’t wait to go shoot some more raiders and collect some caps.

Finish your shit, it’s good for you.

I’m going to take a moment to drop knowledge while my monkeys are going through their bedtime routine. Granted, I don’t have that much knowledge to drop, so this should be blessedly brief.

Allow me to bend your ear (or perhaps your eye, as this blog is a visual medium. Ew, eye bending? Nevermind) for a moment about the importance of finishing your project. I’m going to assume that you’re also a writer if you’re reading this, though I suspect the advice I will give is applicable to just about anything you deem worthy of your pitifully small allotment of time here on earth.

Finishing your story – whether it’s a short story, novelette, full length book, or Robert Jordanesque mothereffing doorstop – is probably the most important thing you can do as a writer, or any kind of artist for that matter. Going all the way, to THE END will teach you more about what you do well and do shitty than an infinite number of first chapter revisions or brand new sparkly idea bursts. Not only that, but actually finishing a thing will boost your confidence in a way that no amount of prep work or pep talking can. Crossing the finish line once – even if you only make the last feet in a bleeding, wheezing, gurgling froth of coffee tinged spittle – means you can fucking do it. And if you can do it once, then you can learn to do it again, and better.

There is no substitute for finishing. Finishing once is practice. And if you’re anything like me, you need all the goddamn practice you can get.

First Form Rejection!

Well, the title says it all.  I’m not in the least bit bummed about it – they are part of the game.  When you’ve been as plugged into writerly culture (if such a phrase is even the correct term for it) as I have been you understand that rejections are part and parcel of the whole deal.  If you’re not getting rejections you’re not sending out work. Gotta go through a lot of ‘No’s to get your ‘Yes’.  And so on, etc.

So the first thing I did was send out some more queries. To be honest I’ve no great expectations for this first novel. I don’t really think it’ll ever see the light of day (from a publisher anyway) but I wrote the thing so I’ll be damned if I’m not going to submit it to hell and back before trunking it.  I did the work, the least I can do is send it out into the world and see if anyone will give me money for it.

In other news (which is to say not really news at all) I’ve been slowly poking at my new WIP, seeing what pokes back and what fades away into the nether reaches of my brain.  Hopefully I will have an outline to work from ready in a month or two, and in the meantime I’m still waiting for feedback from some beta readers on Thief of Souls.

As an aside, if you’re a writer and not getting everything you can from the internet there are a few things I suggest.

-Listen to podcasts about writing. Two of my favorites are Writing Excuses and I Should be Writing.  You probably have a commute of some kind, or at the very least 20-30 minutes a week somewhere. It will do you good. Trust me.

-Check out Absolute Write.  The forums are a veritable treasure trove of information on everything from plotting to prose to agents and submitting. I’ve had nothing but good experiences there and the people have always been willing to help newbies.  That being said, as with any forum read the FAQ first.  Many things are covered and have handy links. It’s worth the time to peruse.

I can’t think of anything else pertinent to say so with that I will sign off!

Look, I can update this blog!

It’s been a good long time since my last blog update, not entirely because I’m lazy and spend too much time playing video games (though that certainly had something to do with it) but also because I’ve not had much to update. After finishing the first draft I passed it along to a few trusted readers and got back a few bits of insight then plunked down and did a full revision.

I looked at every page, every paragraph, every line and judged them with an iron fist.  Some of it got bounced around, some of it got cut, some new stuff got added. From what I understand this is normal. Bringing us to now…

This last week I finished my first full revision on Thief of Souls and sent it to a few people to beta read. I hope to get some solid opinions on what people do or don’t like about it, things that might instigate head scratching, etc.  I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, but I’m happy enough with it as it stands to start submitting it to agents. Let’s all cross our fingers, toes, eyes, and earlobes.

In the meantime I’ve begun writing the next thing, which I’m pretty excited about. I didn’t want to start straightaway on a sequel to Thief of Souls, given that the likelihood of it being picked up may not be stellar, so I’ve jumped onto another idea that’s been sitting around in my head for a few years. No, I’m not going to tell you what it is until it’s had its proper gestational period.

I don’t have any other proper news related to my writing, so with that I will bid you good day (or evening, or whatever – this is the internet after all.)

Got to spend the time somehow.

So I’ve been waiting patiently while my alpha readers go about their business reading because they have lives and responsibilities beyond being my guinea pigs. This is a fact I understand and respect. In the meantime I’ve puttered with some maps (two of which I posted here for the world to see) and some new cover art mock ups.

I’m not entirely unfamiliar with composition and art in general, but playing with this stuff in the digital realm is an entirely new venture for me. There is a steep learning curve associated with such, at least for me.  But the freedom it gives you to play around and switch things up is very cool and opens all kinds of options you’d have to work much harder to use in traditional painting or drawing.

I’ve got a new map to show off, a localized bit of geography for my world with labels for Greyrock and the other cities mentioned in the text.

Greyrock

I’ve also been playing around with some cover art mock ups.  None of this is terribly likely to see the light of day in a final published version of the book (fingers crossed on that one) but they are some ideas I had. You can see the progression of how I’ve envisioned it.

cover01

cover04cover05

There’s not really a whole lot else to say at this point, beside that I’m antsy to get back into the prose and start reshaping things.  I could always start on the outline for the next one I suppose… right?

So, I finished the first draft.

A few days ago I wrapped up my first draft of Thief of Souls at about 89,000 words. When I started this endeavor I had no real idea of how long it would take me to get this far, but I’m beginning to realize how much longer it’s going to be before I have a manuscript I’d be OK with starting to shop around.

It’s been eleven months since last September when I finished my outline – most of which even made it to the page – and a little quick math puts me at a pace of about 8090 words a month, or about 270 words a day. Granted, I certainly didn’t write every day. I don’t know what I think of those numbers, other than that while carrying three kids and a fiance and a full time job it’s a bit of a miracle that I finished anything.

So, once I finished my first draft I set it aside – as you do – to let my brain work on other stuff for a little while. I’ve got quite a bit of world building that I know needs to get done in order to flesh out some of the fuzzy sections in my manuscript and to that end I went very literally to building the world of Thief of Souls with maps.

I don’t know that either of these will actually get used in whatever format I eventually publish this thing, be it e-book or traditional ink and paper, but they were fun to put together and forced me to create some specifics for the world I’m writing in.

Rothspar Map sepia Rothspar Map color

I haven’t placed important cities or boundaries yet, but I’ve got them figured out for the most part. I’m sure I’ll have to go back to the text and fix where I reference some places as being; it’s all part of the Frankenstein’s monster of creating something like this.

All that having been said, I’m eager to get into editing. I’ve given the manuscript to my alpha readers with hopes of finding things I hadn’t noticed I’d done so that I’ll have a good barometer for plot and content revision. After that I anticipate another round of editing for the actual prose.

That’s about all the updating I have for now, got to get back to it.

 

 

In Which I Riff About Xbox One and PS4

With E3 blowing up this week there has been a deluge of video games news.  The juiciest bits were undoubtedly the pricing and the new Xbox One and PS4 systems, followed very shortly by millions of nerds and fanboys like myself collectively scratching their heads over some of the policies being announced by Microsoft.

The biggest kerfluffle, and the one that still seems to be the sticking point after lots of PR backpedaling and clarifications, is the always online nature of the Xbox One. I personally don’t have a big problem with the 24 hour checks back to home base to determine you’re playing a game licensed to you because I rarely trade in games and I can count on one hand the number of times my internet has been out in the last ten years or so.

However, I realize I am not the only person in the world who buys video games. There are big chunks of the United States where broadband internet is not so prevalent as it is here in metropolitan mecca of the southwest, lovely Phoenix Arizona.

At Microsoft, Don Mattrick has said that if you need an offline console experience, you’ve got an Xbox 360 to take care of you.

As a consumer this says to me “I don’t care about your dollars if you don’t have a consistent internet connection.” Is there a more blatant way of telling a certain number of people not to send their money that direction?  Is there anything less consumer friendly?  It basically means that you can’t play new games on new hardware if you can’t fit into the square hole of the demographic they’ve designed their system for.

When Mr. Mattrick says go play a 360 if you need to be offline he is discounting his competition.  A PS4, architecturally similar to an XB One, will play many of the same 3rd party games and not require you to be online to do it.  Microsoft has essentially ceded a certain demographic to their competition with this policy, and it’s a stupid move.

I prefer to play my 360 over my PS3 when I’m gaming, but if all things are equal -excluding the fact that I can play my games with a PS4 if/when my ISP is having a bad day – I think a lot of consumers will go that way.  The internet hubbub certainly seems to point that direction.

But launch for these two systems is still a few months off, and Microsoft theoretically has time to change their tune before they drive a big wedge between themselves and a large segment of the video game playing audience.