Category Archives: The Collective updates

Live podcasts

I mentioned in the last studiolog I wrote that we’ve been streaming our studio. Since then, we’ve refined that practice a little bit: Jake and Josh stream their shop time, which is mostly guitar work, and Amy and I stream our creative collaboration time.

It feels like a live podcast. And it’s awesome. (For us, at least.)

I’m not a big podcast fan. I’m not an audio learner, and I find it difficult to focus on anything else when I’m trying to glean real information from an audio source (whether that’s people talking to me or a podcast in my headphones), so until recently I’d never considered using this medium as a way of sharing my style and content with interested parties.

The other thing I don’t like about most podcasts I’ve heard is that they sound like lectures, not conversations. I want to have conversations with my superfans, not stand on a pedestal and word at them.

Thus: live podcasts, a.k.a. livestreaming. We get on the mic, and we’re silly and honest about what we’re working on. We might plan out a few points we want to touch on ahead of time, but mostly it’s spontaneous and organic, moving from one weird topic to another as we find good segues.

I definitely wouldn’t recommend this approach for anyone, but we’re finding that it’s really interesting for the Damn Shames for a few reasons:

  1. It makes us do the work. We aren’t the laziest squad out there, but given the chance to lounge on the couch and watch Below Deck, we’ll take it. The stream gives us a level of accountability to just doing it that we didn’t have before.
  2. We really enjoy it. Turns out, if you’re streaming something you actually enjoy doing, it’s pretty fun. The instant feedback is gratifying, and being able to go back and watch it again later means we don’t lose quite as many off-the-cuff ideas as we may have without the cameras and microphones rolling.
  3. It creates a log of what we did and how. We produce a fair amount of content, but until now, we didn’t do much behind-the-scenes. Having a video and audio record of our working sessions gives us something to look back on when we’re feeling unproductive and like we’ll never figure out how to get past a blocker again. (Spoiler alert: We will.)
  4. Did I mention we get instant feedback? We strive to be commercially palatable artists, and the fastest way to know if we’ve reached that bar is to show what we’re working on to our audience and ask them, “Is this, in fact, palatable?” If not, we haven’t gone too far down a path to change things up; if so, then hey, we’ll keep on keepin’ on.

If you’re interested in our current backlog, check out my Mixer account or Amy’s (you can watch the video-on-demand from either account, you just need to pick whose screen you want to see).

Studiolog: Week of October 1

I would say this has been an uneventful few weeks in the Shames’ studio, but I would be lying.

So what exciting stuff have the Shames been up to?

Let’s get the big one out of the way: we’re streaming our studio! Instead of trying to set up our PCs for game streaming, which sort of gets lost in the crowd anyway, we had the idea of making our streams the “behind the scenes” experience of what it is we do under this roof.

Jake and Josh have been streaming the shop, specifically guitar projects (which have continued strong; there should be a few more for sale on our Reverb page very soon). You can watch their previous streams on Josh’s Mixer account, with Gizmo hanging out as shop doggo in the corner. (Jake’s account may be used in the future as well.)

Amy and I will be streaming worldbuilding sessions and maybe even some writing sessions, which you’ll be able to find on her account or on mine. Some of the other behind-the-scenes ideas we’ve had are showing how we pack lunches for four adults, composing some of our Not Bad music, and shooting footage for our Star Citizen videos.

I’m gearing up for another round of NaNoWriMo! I’m still in disbelief that it’s already time to consider such things, but you know me, I’m always excited to be making stacks of notecards. I’m planning to write a sequel this year — book two of a planned eight-book series — which is the first time I’ve truly attempted that for NaNo. Should be an interesting adventure, as always.

The Accidental Magic Project is doing a Halloween extravaganza this year! Each of us contributors (and a few new guests) will be writing up a story featuring classic Halloween elements, and sharing these tales throughout the month of October. I found myself writing a cutesy love story — for Halloween, really?! — and I can’t wait to share it.

We have a new mixer on the way to make collaborative song-making even easier and higher-quality, so watch for some more Not Bad tunes in the near future.

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

Studiolog: Week of September 17

Jill and I were just talking the other day about how the late summer/early fall months are hard for us, creatively. I wrote about it in December of last year; I said the autumn months were “for forgetting how to write, except when it’s very structured,” and “a time of extreme writer angst.”

See? I did kinda figure myself out.

So in this transitional time of difficulty, what have the Shames been up to?

As I may have mentioned once or twice, we have a dog. That dog now has an Instagram account. Sorry not even a little bit sorry.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bn_tiz4lgY0/?taken-by=gizmodiouswoof
Pictured: our big dumb dinosaur.

Frivolities aside, we’ve managed to make some studio progress. For one thing, Jake and his partners-in-creative-crime won second place in the Star Citizen Prospector commercial with a fantastic entry that he narrated. (Josh, Amy and I had one too, but it didn’t place.)

Perhaps more importantly, we’ve made strides in our attempts to stream! Instead of trying to get a specific type of programming on the virtual air, we’ve decided to see what happens if we try streaming a variety show of our studio production efforts! So far, the three streams have been Josh and Jake refinishing guitars, which you can watch on Josh’s Mixer channel. (And just a reminder, guitars from The Sharper Axe shop are still up for sale!)

Jill, Amy, and I are all contributing stories to the Halloween extravaganza we’re running for The Accidental Magic this month. I can’t wait to share mine – it’s ooey-gooey sweet happy goodness, so much lighter than my normal fare. I have no idea why that’s what Halloween brought to the surface, but I’ll take it!

Just so it doesn’t seem like I only report the successes: I wasn’t able to keep up with the 30×30 fashion challenge. Other priorities pushed it out of the way, so I let it go. There’s always another month!

Speaking of months, November is coming up reeeeeal soon…

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

Studiolog: Week of August 27th

Dogs. Are. Exhausting.

Even (especially?) when you love ’em.

So what have the Shames been up to?

Man holding a guitar painted like the Star Trek ship Enterprise
A proper sendoff!

Jake shipped off the first Sharper Axe adoption: the Star Trek guitar. I’m so proud! Check out the other guitars still for sale if you’re interested in rescuing a custom instrument.

I had a false start on my Accidental Magic Project story for September, but luckily inspiration swooped in today. Fingers crossed it sticks around long enough for me to get something onto the page! Meanwhile, Nicole of Mischief & Mouse contributed “Prometheus” to the mix, hearkening back to some of the stuff we used to write together as kids.

I made some solid progress on my short story boot camp book, and convinced Joe of Minty Pineapple Entertainments to provide an example story! I have yet to find enough willing writers, though, so please reach out if you’d like to contribute (and get some publicity for your efforts!).

Josh made a video for the Star Citizen Prospector commercial challenge, and Amy and I are making some music for it. So far, I’ve “sketched” a couple of options, and am trying to sound just enough like the Fast and Furious soundtrack.

Finally, I’m starting a 30×30 outfit challenge with Amy, lasting all of September. The idea is to pre-select 30 items from your existing wardrobe and wear nothing but those 30 things for the next 30 days. Things can get pretty ridiculous if you want to avoid wearing the exact same outfit twice, but it’s a fun way to keep my mind sharp during the seasonally transitional months, when I get antsy and easily bored.

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

Studiolog: Week of August 20th

I had all of these grand plans to write and be productive this weekend, and then we went and got a dog.

I’ll tell the story another time, but this (still unnamed) boy is my dream dog. He looks exactly how I imagined, he came to me in exactly the kind of way I’d always imagined, and he doesn’t stink (??!?) and he doesn’t drool and he sleeps 16 hours a day and wants to play first thing in the morning when he’s talking to me.

He’s the best.

So: the Shames have been up very little besides walking and feeding and leash-training and cuddling and watching in disbelief as a handsome doggo trots around our house.

I made some music last night, and Jake and Josh are working on a new Star Citizen video, mostly just for funsies. But really: doggo.

THAT FACE.

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

Studiolog: Week of August 13th

What have the Shames been up to?

Well, turns out fixing and/or customizing a car is more work than expected (just like production, how about that!), so that continues to steal the majority of our combined time and attention. Thankfully, Six is in fewer pieces than before and seems to be coming out of surgery A-OK.

Since Six is going to chill for today before she can go see a mechanic tomorrow, that leaves today open for a big studio backlog task day: rearranging the devices and furniture in our studio room, installing hard drives and graphics cards, and getting finnicky computers to update. Not so much on the creation side, but an attempt to get things back to creation mode so it’s easy to walk up, make something, and walk away.

I released a couple of songlets on the Not Bad Instagram account this week, using some beats from Electronic Dance Music Grooves by Josh Bess. I appreciate that with just a few clicks to copy Bess’s patterns, I have a functioning beat to inspire new kinds of melodies, when staring at a blank project isn’t getting the creative juices flowing.

Jake finished his custom SG Custom this week – it needed one last blob of perfectly-placed super glue to stop a stubborn key from rattling. It looks amazing if I do say so myself.

If you’re interested in picking up a custom guitar, all of the ones currently for sale have dropped in price in the last week on Reverb. Buy ’em while they’re still available! They’re one-of-a-kind!

Meanwhile, I’ve been filling my head with quality entertainment. Jake and I have watched through Amazon’s “Bosch,” which is not “just another cop show” and brings serious quality writing and character development to Amazon’s lineup. While I was sick on Monday, I also plowed through half of the series “Mad Dogs,” which is like “The Hangover” but for real and also very dark. Again, quality writing, quality character development (though I daresay the characters are not quality humans; but therein lies the charm), and a serious amount of South American magical realism that I just love.

Back in 2015, I took my friend Sara’s advice and read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, the first in Laurie King’s incredible “Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes” series. I’ve never been a rabid Holmes fan, but King makes him a magical character alongside Ms. Russell, who is about as kickass a heroine as you could want. So this week, I finished A Letter of Mary – an absolutely fantastic entry to the series. Highly recommend!

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

Studiolog: Week of August 6th

Can I just brag about my lunches this week for a second? Oh geez. They were delicious. Little half-cups of this and that for a light, well-balanced meal. So much better than heavy Bellevue lunch food.

Uhhhh, OK, that was a weird aside. Anyway, what have the Shames been up to?

In some ways, it feels like hardly anything. It’s been really hot again, so we’ve all been trying to stay cool.

On top of that, my most favoritest car has taken a turn for the, well, needing to sit in the garage for a while. She’s fine, more or less, but she does need to stay there for bit, so we’ve not only been housebound but also unable to use our garage for guitar projects.

But, we have been making progress on other projects! While I was on vacation, I got the idea for a book about how to get better at writing short stories in 52 weeks (so I can have some sort of catchy “in a year” title). The heart of the idea is that if you follow along with this book, using my prompts, then no matter what you’ll get better because you’ll practice. It’s a lot like the philosophy behind why Jill and I challenge one another. In the book, I’ll take the reader through the building blocks and stylistic elements of building a good short story as the weeks go on and they write a bunch of stories.

Speaking of short stories, last night I did a five-minute bubble graph and ended up with a pretty cool outline for my next Accidental Magic short story. Hint: it’s about whales. That’s all I’m saying at this point.

Speaking of short stories, I decided recently to go back and revisit the 47 (!!!) short stories I’ve written in the past five or so years. I categorized them (because of course I did) into groups that had something interesting in common, like ancient prophecies or breaking curses. I’m planning on revising them (slightly at least) and then putting them up for sale in five-story anthologies. “Wishes” will be first!

I’ve bee playing around with cover ideas – here, I’m going for something that hopefully feels a little “Penguin Classic”:

On the collaboration side, I’ve been working with Nicole again, which I always love. I’ve set her on a couple of projects: one is our comic book with Alex, and the other is an incremental game called Feed the Wolves. (Nikki and I once planned to make it, but haven’t gotten around to it, and I suspect some art might motivate us again.)

Amy has been busy working on her song “Price Range.” She’s close to a melody and the final lyrics for what will probably be Not Bad‘s first single.

And, she and I have both been working on stories for a romance line we intend to develop through our publishing collective. We won’t be revealing those on this blog, as we’ll each be publishing under a pen name, but feel free to reach out for more information about those projects.

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 July 30th

This might be about the week of July 30th, but ’tis now my namesake month – my favorite, especially when everyone at work has to clarify that they didn’t mean “in August, in the month of August.”

Anyway. What have the Shames have been up to?

I just published my latest short story for The Accidental Magic Project: “Tea for Deux,” based very much on two of my dearest and oldest friends. This was a great example of a story that I’ve been thinking about writing for years; I remember my initial excitement when I first thought of it, and a flurry of note-creating as I explored the idea, and then it went dormant for a couple of years while I collected the necessary material. That’s pretty much how I write my best stories these days – pulling from ideas that struck me some time before and have been simmering on the back burner.

I haven’t been as steadfast about my 7:30 PM writing habit as I’d like, but part of that is having a vacation week this week and being out of town. Still, I’m tracking my word sprint counts using Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour method (in an Excel document), and it’s cool to see that number grow so quickly.

I printed out a bunch of my inspiration pictures – art and photos I’ve gathered (mostly on the curated blogs I follow on Tumblr these days) that remind me of various aspects of Portent – and put them in loosely-related collections on the wall around my workspace. Like this!

Inspiration pics for my main trio.

No real movement for the Shames on the Star Citizen front – I’m going to get a sprint-focused start on my articles for the fall issue of Ships Illustrated, but otherwise, we’ve more or less let this avenue go dormant for a little while.

Four of Jake’s guitars are currently listed on Reverb; if you have any interest in a pretty cool custom axe, check his stuff the heck out!

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 July 16th

The Shames had a heart-to-heart yesterday over the best tacos in town. We realized we’ve continued to try to do a little (or a lot) of everything — and while it’s nice that we can do whatever we want, we should probably focus (as I mentioned previously…but for real) on the things that will bring us comparable rewards.

What does that mean the Shames have been up to?

Jake’s team won the Roberts Space Industries 600i commercial contest with their fantastic cinematic entry! Super proud of Jake’s script and voiceover, and looking forward to collaborating with his team in the future, because with our forces combined

That said, we’ll probably take a short break from focusing on Star Citizen content, until the game is sufficiently ready for our filming endeavors. Even so, we’ll use video in support of what we really like to do: branding ourselves and others, creating music together, and publishing written entertainment.

Speaking of music, I’m on the lookout for some good resources for how to compose a song (not soundtrack music, but a pop-style song). If you have any texts or videos in mind, please send them my way! Amy and I would like to refine our songwriting abilities.

Structure is something we’re going to try out in this new Shames era. I want to be more disciplined about how often I’m writing, and when, and at least start with a small, doable everyday habit at 7:30 PM. (Even if I’m working late, I intend to set everything aside and write for 15 minutes. That’s time I can and should spare!)

I continued to devote some hours to reading this last week and plowed through “An Excess Male.” Very provocative topic and characters, with a strong writing style and four points of view that made for quite fascinating fiction.

Something about summer has brought my “Portent” characters to mind. I started re-writing the manuscript the other day, but it felt like a false start. I’m going to put my latest writing sprint tip into action and try to power through a few chapters to see if it feels right after a while. I know I’m rusty!

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 July 9th

It is so very summer around here. Too hot to function on a computer until after 10 PM!

So without their PCs, what have the Shames been up to?

Mostly Star Citizen stuff these last couple of weeks! All four studio Shames wanted to participate in the Roberts Space Industries 600i commercial contest – but there was a catch: teams could only be three people, max. So we ended up splitting up: Jake worked with our friend Hasgaha and another amazing collaborator, Utho, on a luxury car-style commercial; and Josh, Amy and I teamed up to make a jewelry-style commercial called “600 Reasons to Fall in Love.” (I’m really happy with the music Amy and I composed!) We should find out who won in the next week or so.

We also published the 6th issue of Ships Illustrated, on the theme of “Adventures.” Not our most popular launch, but we were excited to say “ship it!” (punintentional).

Guitars continue to go well. Jake is now working with a local expert to learn how to wire and set up guitars like a pro, and meanwhile he’s done some amazing finishes using Crimson Guitars Stunning Stains.

Personally, I read a few books the last two weeks: Security, Heartsick, and Novel Shortcuts. Highly recommend the first two as, uh, very much not light fiction reads, if you can stomach a fair bit of gore and torture. The writing styles were starkly different and yet both fantastic. Novel Shortcuts made for an interesting first half, then sort of petered out in the second – but I highlighted a lot of good material from that, which inspired portions of my last post.

I’m about halfway through my Accidental Magic Project short story for August, and it’s one of my favorites so far. Speaking of my short stories, Nicole will be illustrating scenes from some of my shorts for her MFA portfolio! I’m very excited to see what she comes up with.

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.