Category Archives: Author updates

Studiolog: Week of January 22nd

Delays, delays. Our entire household has been sick at various times, the return to work for the new year exploded everywhere… Can I just something bizarre like, “The crows sagged on the line,” whenever I actually mean, “All of the usual excuses kept there from being updates lately”? Cool OK great.

So what have the Shames been up to, besides making excuses? Loads, actually!

For one thing, we’re going to produce a comic book. That’s right — a comic book. It’s something none of us have ever actually done before, but have all wanted to try our hands at in various capacities. We’re teaming up with spectacular comic artist Alex, who just happens to be offering his sketches for a fabulously affordable price (I highly recommend commissioning character art to inspire yourself to write!). I’m writing the script in Scrivener, using a template from Antony Johnston.

Everyone — and I mean everyone — has picked up at least one instrument in the last three weeks (Josh dug out his electric guitar, Amy found her true love in an electronic wind instrument, and Jake has rediscovered his Maschine), and the Damn Shames are making wild, weird, and (sometimes) surprisingly decent tunes together. We’re not trying to be a band, per se — it just turns out we all enjoy letting our brains unwind with a little collaborative music. The hope is to make all of our own music for our videos, and maybe sell some of the better songs as stock music on the side.

The Accidental Magic Project rolls on, with Jill contributing her first story, “Working Title,” and Janice gracing us with her first installment, “Imbolg.” My colleague and weird wordfriend Dylan is our first guest, and, spoilers, his story is great. (It’ll be up on our website tomorrow!) I’ve started my February story, but barely; as usual, looks like I’ll wait until the last minute to really get going.

I’ve got a commission of my “Portent” characters coming from artist Katharine Linnea, so I should be sharing that in the next few weeks. We’re trying to get the fifth issue of Ships Illustrated to the virtual presses. Aaand, I need to get off my ass and buy an ISBN number for Daugment so I can sell a physical edition. Goals!

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of January 1st

It’s 2018! Yay, another human-dictated increment of time-passing has occurred!  Well, OK, the Earth’s regular rotation isn’t a bad measurement. Fine.

No matter the reason for the new season, it’s a good time to launch new projects, make announcements of intentions, and reflect and set goals. At least, I like to do that — gives me fewer excuses to stop doing something if I’ve promised to do it “just for one year,” and if that year is easy to measure (like, January 1st to December 31st).

So what have the Shames been up to? It’s been a weird short week, due to the holidays, so the studio has not been hyperactive the past few days. However… I’m very excited to announce The Accidental Magic Project! Jill and I have dreamed up numerous projects in the past together (such as The Scribblers’ Club, an unfinished novel called “Return to Elgin,” and our original 50 Unexplainable Stories (and its year-long sequel, the unnamed challenge), and this might just be my favorite.

The gist of The Accidental Magic Project is this: every Friday, one of us (myself, Jill, or Janice) or our guests will post a story. The theme of that story will be “accidental magic” — meaning magic that, intentionally or unintentionally, brings about unintended consequences. I cannot wait to see what kinds of stories our writers come up with on this theme. I’ll be posting the very first one tomorrow!

I’m so excited, too, because I’ve gotten some brand new writers on board, along with writers I’ve collaborated with in the past and am ecstatic to work with again. One of our guests’ 11- and 9-year-old daughters will even be sharing their stories with us! That’s my very favorite thing about creative projects that get artists working together: watching those who’ve never tried something like this before understanding the power of seeing it through, of having finished a story. It’s simply magical.

This week, I also launched Promptly on Twitter, a daily series of writing prompts I’ve created to get folks interested in my current project: a book of writing prompts with “Promptly” in the title. I’m saving my best ones for the book, of course, but here’s an example of the daily prompts I quite enjoyed writing.

The Shames have been prepping for the art-heavy year ahead, acquiring some a new hard drive for capturing footage, as well as a LOT of art reference books for publishing projects and promotional materials. (Like, a LOT. We cleaned out an entire section of Half Price Books.)

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of December 25th

This week has flown by, being Christmas week and all — and as such, it wasn’t the most productive week at the Damn Shames Studio. PSH. Who am I kidding? I finished a book!

That was the most significant moment this week: I finished my first draft of “Portent” right around midnight last night. It clocks in around 65k words, which is about 5k less than I thought I’d hit by the time I finished Draft #1. (That said, it seems to be in better shape than I thought it would be!) My plan is to kickstart something else this week, with the momentum I’ve built up the last couple of months (thanks, NaNoWriMo!), and then get “Portent” revised by mid-February.

Meanwhile, I listed out my projects at three different stages: Planning, Writing, and Revision. I then ordered them by value — which will give me the most bang for my buck when it comes to reader funnels. This led to the above decision about revising “Portent” first, and I hope this will give me a good sense of prioritization as I enter the new year.

Some exciting news: I’ll be announcing a new project with Jill Corddry (and a few others) in the next installment of Studiolog! We’ve been dreaming this up for a few months now, and thanks to our web designer Patrick, we’re about to have an amazing website ready to share with the world. And then…content!

Our graphics man, Josh (hire him, he’s great), made some progress on assets for “Haulin’ Ass with Half_Pint” — a streaming show about Star Citizen, mostly starring Amy (who doesn’t have a web presence yet — yes, I’m calling you out, Ames!). We’ll be launching “Haulin’ Ass” in 2018. (Interested in assets for a streaming show? We provide those services at reasonable rates, so please contact us!)

We continue to practice Grand Theft Auto V missions, and we’ve brought in Patrick and our pals Zach and Iron to help. Between the seven of us, we’re going to make some content about GTAV: cinematic story-driven play, and blooper reels.

Finally, we brainstormed some recipes for our various cookbook projects. I hope to publish at least one of those in 2018!

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Studiolog: Week of December 18th

This was a good week in the Damn Shames Studio! As this is the first installment of Studiolog, I’ll cover a little bit of last week’s Shamesian activities too, since they were quite relevant to this week.

First, we worked with Nicole of Mischief & Mouse (who I talked a bit about last week) to create a parody of the children’s book that launched several series: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Ours is a work of fan-fiction set in the world of Star Citizen, and it’s called “If You Give a Mouse a Merlin” (a Merlin being the least-expensive ship in the game). We launched it on Sunday night, and all throughout Monday and even into Tuesday, Star Citizen fans on Reddit and Twitter gave us lots of positive feedback.

We also delivered some pre-stream and post-stream graphics, along with text branding, for one of our Twitch streamer friends, JJ2078. (These are services we provide at reasonable rates, if you or one of your friends are interested in building an online presence!)

As a group, we’ve been practicing some intense combat sequences in Grand Theft Auto V together. That’s because the Star Citizen first-person (but cooperative) narrative game will likely have a launch date soon, and we plan on doing a playthrough as a squad when it’s out — so we need to be good (in video games) at coordinated combat!

I got some updated graphics from our kick-ass web (and all-around) designer Patrick to promote this month’s 99c sale of Daugment. Those can be found on my Twitter account and my Facebook page. (Incidentally, Patrick did the cover for Daugment as well!)

Personally, I’ve been reading Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant‘s “Write. Publish. Repeat.” to get myself ready for my 2018 goals (which include publishing at least 3 books, which is 3x more books than I published in 2017!). I’ve taken lots of good notes, and think I’ve got some good strategies going into the new year (and what is always, cliché or not, a fresh start of sorts for me) — the most important of which is, just write. And secondarily, just publish.

If you’re someone who writes collaboratively and regularly, and you’re interested in being a part of an author collective, please contact me! I’d love to talk.

Common orbits and alien werewolves

I haven’t read too many books this year. I usually try to go for somewhere between 20 and 50, depending on how busy I am otherwise. This year, I’ve made it through 13 (and several of those were really short non-fiction).

Nonetheless, there have been some quality books. This last one I just finished over the weekend, for instance: Becky Chambers’ “A Closed and Common Orbit.” Apparently it’s a sequel, though I didn’t realize that until I was about 1/3 of the way through and there were some mentions of pre-existing characters; it stands alone just fine. It’s going to be hard for me to forget.

The story centers around an AI character named Sidra and her human guardian Pepper. (At this point, I figure I’m pretty hooked.) The basic premise is that Sidra used to be a ship’s computer, and now she’s in a body-shaped kit and she has to figure out how to be people. Sounds ripe for thoughtful tragedy, doesn’t it?

It’s not. I mean, it is. There’s definitely tragedy in this book. But without giving anything away, I’ll tell you that Chambers lets her characters have happy endings. There’s a big, roaring, sweeping wave of hope that carries you through the last few pages.

It was unexpected and refreshing. I’d had no sense of the ending before I started, and as I got into the darkness in the middle of the book, I worried I’d be in for a bawl-fest at the end. (I was, but for a very different reason than I’d assumed.) But Chambers deftly took the reins and steered the story-cart away from tragedy in a way I didn’t know I needed so badly. (Highly recommend this book, if you hadn’t gathered that from my praise.)

Meanwhile, I’m still writing “Portent” — my alien werewolves had more story to tell than my successful slaying of NaNoWriMo’s word count (50,013 was my official winning count!), so I’m letting them carry me on to the end. I’d been debating the merits of a happy, hopeful ending to this book — despite all of the loss the characters will inevitably suffer — but after reading “Common Orbit,” I’m convicted. I’m going to give them a lifeline. I’m going to give the casual readers who pick up this book on a whim an unexpected little taste of hope.

Thank you to the writers who are out there telling hopeful stories. I cling to what you make. I strive to emulate it.

NaNoWriMo 2017; or, I’m writing about werewolves now

A sharp chill is in the air. Writing season is officially upon me.

My friends and family know that November is NaNoWriMo month. According to my stats, I’ve participated 12 years now — TWELVE! — including a 10-year participation streak; and I’ve “won,” or written 50k words in November, three times. (I seem to recall four, but I might have stopped tracking on the website after a while when I was writing Daugment in 2014.)

So, yeah. It’s a tradition.

In 2014, I was working hard to establish myself in my then-new corporate job, so I told myself that if I was going to participate in NaNo, it had to be fun. It had to be all sorts of goofy and careless and unfettered, and only what I actually felt like writing.

The first draft of Daugment was an utter mess. But I loved it, because I could see the story it eventually came to be… and because it was really fun to write.

This year, I’m leaning into the success I had writing that book — with a wee bit more structure. I’ve taken some time the last month to get to know the story world and my characters Charra, Belario, and Minnor. I’ve let myself explore all sorts of random ideas, from scenes to plot points to recurring imagery, some of which I’ll keep and some of which will never make it in, thank goodness.

During the next two weeks, I’ll paw at my notes for this book (tentatively titled “Portent”) until it becomes something resembling a very rough outline. Then, as I do, I’ll go into a state of pseudo-hibernation for all but five or six days in November, and crank out 50,000 words of turd to polish. Or I won’t. I’m gonna try.

Oh, right. The werewolves.

Here’s my synopsis from the NaNo site:

Where did werewolves come from? Or, more simply: Wherewolves? Outer space, of course.

She’s the eldest child, a free-spirited dreamer. He’s the handsome son of a politician, the heir to a tiny far-flung empire-in-hiding. And he’s a wall guard — actually, he’s a member of a secret warrior society.

Maybe between the three of them, they can save Atlantis.

Yup. Alien-werewolves. You knew it wasn’t going to be that simple with me, didn’t you?

Camp NaNoWriMo: Camp so far

Whoops, it’s the 19th, and I haven’t updated for Camp NaNo at all. I posted on Facebook a bit, but…I’ve put more of my attention on other projects this month and didn’t get as far as I’d hoped.

But, so far this has been a really fun project! The book is turning out how I want it to, at least so far – which is about 13k words. It should be pretty short and sweet, and probably won’t fall far outside NaNo’s typical 50k-word threshold (she said, and it was famous last words as usual).

Funny, for how big the story itself is, I don’t think I’ll need a ton of words to tell it. Which is good, since I’m aiming to do this, uh, eight more times? Just in this series?

Ah, ambition. It keeps me going. Parallel projects, I tell ya, keeps my pesky mental cobwebs away.

Things I’ve learned at Camp:

  • I rely heavily on random generators for throwaway projects.
  • I’m not fond of my main character. Is this bad? Still investigating. She’ll be alright, I think.
  • I adore the boys.
  • I write the same five people into every story. I tell myself I have diverse characters but no. It’s the same five people.
  • Without writing sprints, I am nothing against a large word count.

If I don’t return to this blog with updates before the end of the month, I’ll let you know how far I get.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2017

I’m going to camp! Camp NaNoWriMo, anyway. (NaNoWriMo, for those who aren’t in on the joke, is a friendly global contest to get writers over their inability to cruise through a first draft and on their way to a finished manuscript, in 30 days.)

I’m taking on the standard 50,000-word goal; I’m feeling boring, and plus, I just want enough motivation to get past that inevitable 30k-word hump. Not sure yet if I’ll finish the story but it’s worth a shot – this ought to be a fast-paced novel anyway.

I’m going to be using techniques I gleaned from several books, because they were successful for me in structuring and finishing Daugment, and because I’m trying to break into a very specific type of writing (production rather than art). I’m combining tricks and checklists from:

I highly recommend all three books, though Fox’s “Write to Market” is definitely not for people who write books for artistic reasons. (It’s about finding a niche you’ll enjoy churning out slightly cliché books for, not channeling your innermost beliefs to realize your magnum opus.)

If you’d like to follow my progress closely, you can watch me on the Camp NaNoWriMo site. I intend to post semi-regular updates on how it’s going, especially since I plan to use word sprints the entire time, something I’ve never done for a novel before!

View from the office

Moving sucks. Especially when you get caught in an inch of snow for three hours, five minutes away from each of your two homes (former apartment, future home).

But, this place was totally worth it.

This is the view from my desk, or something like it, when we eventually get the combination library-office set up. (!!!!!)

No complaints here.

The whole studio team is here, too, all under one roof. The Shames have, as they say, arrived. Now to get the whiteboards up…

My debut novel: Daugment

Daugment cover

Did you obsess over Brian Jacques’ Redwall series and Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars tie-in novels? Do the names Clare Bell, Deborah Chester, and James Gurney ring a bell? Are there tattered Ray Bradbury and C.S. Lewis books on your shelves? Then I proudly present…your next read.

Daugment is the (I’m so sorry) tail of Pitney Scolan, Pit for short, a brilliant military mind on the brink of retirement to his own private planet, where no one will bother his intensely introverted self. Unfortunately for Pit, his arch-nemesis General Tristan has assassinations on the brain – and Pit is forced to become a dog, party up with some well-meaning scoundrels, and face a galactic conspiracy to force him to make friends.

Yes, my debut novel is as ridiculous as it sounds.

It took 22 years of perseverance, but I’ve done it. I decided at five years old that I would become a novelist, and since then I’ve gone through six or seven unpublished manuscripts and at least 100 short stories. Now I’ve published this delightfully ridiculous soup of talking dogs, sci-fi tropes, and friendship themes that I accidentally pun-titled Daugment. (Accidentally because it was meant to just be a code name. Let this be a lesson to myself.)

If you love animal stories, soft science fiction, and adventure stories without a strong romance subplot, Daugment is tailor-made for you. You can buy it on Smashwords for all e-readers, and it’s also available from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Amazon, iBooks, Inktera, as well as other distributors, and — if you ask, because it’s free for librarians to order! — your local library.