April’s Fuel

April came and April went. What did I do in April? I’m not entirely sure!

That’s a lie, of course. I did some things!

Shadows Linger and The White Rose by Glen Cook

I kept reading Glen Cook’s The Black Company books, and I finished Chronicles of the Black Company. The second and especially third books lacked some of the military themes of the original, but Cook still spun an excellent tale that kept me engrossed. I’d like to read more about the Black Company, and I know more exists, but it was time to switch gears to something else.

The Malice by Peter Newman

That something was the sequel to Peter Newman’s excellent The Vagrant. The Malice had been sitting on my kindle for some time, and I decided it’s moment was now. The Malice was a different book than The Vagrant, dispensing with the title character except briefly. However, in many ways this his story told in reverse, and it retained a lot of the wonderful power of the original, even if it lacked some of the visceral newness from the setting that I enjoyed when I read the Vagrant. Nonetheless, The Malice was an excellent read and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Dreams of Neo-Tokyo by Scandroid

I discovered Scandroid a few months ago. I’m a huge fan of 80’s-eqsue synth music, and the cyberpunk theme makes this that much better. But then we got a remix album. So. Good. A+.


Battle Brothers

I don’t find myself with a lot of time for games right now, and when I do, I tend to go toward a few stalwarts because I’m really just looking to forget about things for a while. So it takes a pretty good new game to interest me. But maybe it’s no surprise that after reading so much Glen Cook I found some time to play Battle Brothers, a neat game about running a mercenary company. I found it quite reminiscent of X-COM, in a low-fantasy sort of way, so I’ve been merrily leading my mercenaries around, slaying bandits, escorting caravans, and recruiting the sort of bloodthirsty men I need for this kind of work. The game is as much management as it is combat, which I prefer, and it’s also exceptionally unforgiving, with a lot of brothers dying random deaths from lucky hits or bad positioning. What I like about the game is that losing your brothers this way doesn’t necessarily mean a restart or necessarily being set back.

 

You might have noticed my progress on Cloudbreakers getting increasingly slow, to the point where actually very little is happening. I’m in a situation where, in order to take my parental leave, I need to wrap up about a year’s worth of overtasking. Unfortunately, that means less time writing right now. I hate that more than anything, especially when I don’t think I’m going to get a lot of time to write while I’m on leave. But I don’t think there’s a lot I can do about it, except soldier through and try and recover later.

2nd draft

Cloudbreakers
59% Complete
53,137 of 90,000 words

March’s Fuel

What the heck did I do in March? Well, I did spent a week in Mexico. I went intending to do a lot of reading, and while I did do some, it wasn’t quite as much as I intended. Nor did I spend as much time at home as I expected. So this month’s fuel was a little lean, and mostly books. And that’s fine! So what did I read?

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley. I first came to Hurley via her writing advice, and in fact she gave me some great thoughts a little while ago. So naturally I grabbed this book as it came out. I’d started reading some of her other work, but I admit this was my first completed novel by her. And wow. This was a great book. Really good. It put so many twists on so many sci-fi tropes, and always managed to surprise me. It’s very much worth your time to check out.

You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Gladding. So this book isn’t fiction, but an author I’m a fan of recommended it on twitter. So I grabbed it, and I think it’s going to change a lot of things for me. The book is grounded in the idea that, because of how our brains work, we can train ourselves to get lost in emotional sensations sent by the brain. In fact, the more you focus on and think about these sensations, the easier it gets, because your brain is very good at re-writing itself (neuroplasticity). But if you can wire your brain to focus on bad habits, you can also use that power to train it to have good habits. I learned a lot from this one and I’m still applying the 4-step method in my life in a lot of different ways.

The Black Company by Glen Cook. I admit, I try to focus a lot of my reading on more modern novels. I want to know what’s being written now, not what was written years ago. But The Black Company has been sitting in my library for quite a long time, and I decided Mexico was a great place to read it. It was not a book I regretted reading, either. I found it to be written in a very different style than a lot of books I read, but never one that detracted from my enjoyment of it. Anyone into military fantasy will probably love this one.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished with rewriting those rewritten Cloudbreakers scenes. It still needs a lot of work, but it’s still an early draft so that’s to be expected. I feel better about where the novel is going and the overall state of it than I did before.

2nd draft

Cloudbreakers
53% Complete
47,476 of 90,000 words

February’s fuel

Ah, February. It is probably my least favourite month. Cold, snow, dark; it all makes me want to hide inside. Despite that, I found myself with remarkably less time for charging my batteries than I’d hoped. Still, I found some time for some things. Here they are.

Voltron: Legendary Defender: I listed this last month. I’m listing it again because, hey, I’m still watching it. In a minor miracle for my TV habits, I’m now caught up to the end of season 2, which ended on a fun cliffhanger. It hasn’t been a perfect show, but it has been about the most fun I’ve had watching TV right now. If you’re looking for something that’s light-hearted but a little deep, this is probably your speed.

The Lego Batman Movie: I saw this one with my wife. I enjoyed the Lego Movie far more than I expected, so I went to this one with my expectations moderately high. They were mostly filled, because it was a good movie, packed with more Batman references than any one mediocre fan like myself could count. My biggest criticism was maybe that it was too full, and quite often I found it difficult to catch bits of dialogue or details because things were moving too fast. Overall, the movie was cute and fun, but not as good as the first Lego movie.

Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart: This was a fun read. Set in a fantasy world where divine gods touch most things (and aren’t afraid to intervene), 5 refugees come together to survive, have to face their pasts, and end up part of a larger future. In some ways I found the writing very spare, but that kept the story moving well and ensured that the story never bogged down. Dolkart did a great job of switching between his characters, and I felt their pain when they were faced with trials.

 

I continue to plug along on Cloudbreakers. Still going slower than I might like, but I’ve hit and passed the quarter mark. Still a lot of work to do but when isn’t there? I haven’t had a lot of luck building consistency yet. Another thing to work on.

 

 

2nd draft

Cloudbreakers
33% Complete
29,823 of 90,000 words

 

January’s fuel

Last week, I briefly mentioned the idea of refuelling my creative engine. As a writer, I can’t exist in a vacuum. I am constantly influenced by the media I’m taking in. I need this. I need to keep inspiring myself with the work of others, and seeing themes and exploration of ideas. When I read a great book or see an amazing movie, it tends to stay stuck in my brain for days. That’s how I know it was excellent. When I’m not doing consuming these things is when my engine tends to lose power. So if I’m smart, I keep myself well fuelled.

I used to write book reviews in this blog, but I don’t think that was a great use of my time. Instead, I’m going to start doing a semi-regular review of the media that’s gotten into my brain and stayed there. Here’s what did it for me in January. I’ll keep things spoiler free.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Rogue One was a flawed movie, but I loved every second of it. It was different from every other Star Wars movie. It set out to accomplish something else, and in my mind it succeeded wildly. The ending, in particular, was probably one of the most intense and excellent climaxes I’ve experienced, and kept me on the edge of my seat (not unlike another favourite of mine, Fury Road). I hope this isn’t the last Star Wars movie that has an emphasis on the war.

hqdefaultRimworld: I mentioned Rimworld last week. Video games occupy a bit of a strange space for me. As the primary waster of time in my life throughout my late teens and 20s, I regard them with some suspicion. On the other hand, some of my favourite stories have come in the form of video games (I’m a huge fan of older games like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, and later games like Dragon Age: Origins). Furthermore, video games are my primary stress response. Nothing helps me turn off fear, anxiety or worry like immersing myself in a game, in a way that TV or a book doesn’t. I’ve cut down the amount of time I play games a lot from earlier in my life, but my attempts to stop playing them entirely have failed. So I regard them as useful, so long as I’m careful.

Anyway, Rimworld is my current obsession. It’s a sci-fi colony simulator, similar to Dwarf Fortress but a lot more accessible. It’s still technically in alpha, but it’s by far the best-polished games I’ve enjoyed and is fully playable. If  you’re into management games, then this is probably up your alley. I could play it all day if I’m not careful. Also, fuck megaspiders. You can grab Rimworld on Steam.

Voltron: Legendary Defender: I will admit right her to being possibly the world’s worst TV watcher (to my wife’s eternal frustration). For some reason, my brain regards TV as a waste of time (while wanting to play video games instead). I don’t really like watching one episode a week, but I also don’t have a lot of patience to watch a bunch of episodes in a row. I can start watching something, really enjoy it, and just never continue. So with all that said, I’m really enjoying the new Voltron series (from my point about 6 episodes in). It’s fun in a Avatar: The Last Airbender sort of way. Now, we’ll see if I actually keep watching it, but for now it makes the list. You can watch it on Netflix.

There are no books on my list this month. I spent a lot of my time reading non-fiction. Even though they aren’t really creative fuel, I should mention Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus. I’m a huge fan of their work. I would go so far as to say their emotion thesaurus is essential.

2nd draft

Cloudbreakers
0% Complete
of 90,000 words

Right now I’m working on re-plotting and other background work. I’m hoping to have this rewrite knocked off by the end of March. We’ll see how it goes.