Jun 222014

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

To be honest, part of me feels like this is cheating. My original objective was to do an accurate helmet but inexpensively (Blender being free and all, and everything else being mostly household/hardware store commodities easily and cheaply obtained). In some respects, I feel like I’m betraying that original goal in the interest of improving accuracy. But…new toy!

In other news, here’s the result of the second test run!

It’s much better, but still not quite right. The curvature is definitely right, thanks to the linear colorspace change, but I’m still having issues with the pieces not matching up (most notable in this image around the the “jowls”).

After a bunch of googling, comparing my heightmaps with the interpretation in the Designer software, and then looking at the result, I think the “problem” lies between the Designer software and the machine itself. Specifically, I think the machine is disregarding certain levels of black/white and just considering them flat, when in fact they should be subtly curved. This may be the result of using “Draft” quality and images where “1,1,1” and “0,0,0” color differences are really important. For example, look at the third “slice” up from the table: there’s a flat area around the bridge of the nose here that should not be flat at all. It’s not flat on my model, in my heightmaps, or in the Designer software’s 3D preview, yet it came out flat.

My next test will just be two pieces, but at a much higher quality setting, to see if this hypothesis proves true or if it’s something else after all.

Oct 312013

Now that I’ve had a chance to read through and digest all of the feedback on the New Book, I feel much better about it than I did. The deep flaws are still present and the text is going to require a substantial redraft, but I think I have a good handle on how to approach that. It’s going to require a complete overhaul of one character, a refocusing of another, some delayed reveals, some increased stakes, and a bit more attention to event planning, but I think the core of the story is strong enough that it’s worth doing it right.

In the interim, I’m just shy of 10,000 words into Ashes’ sequel—henceforth referred to as Alour-Tan II until I reveal the book’s real title. My writing time of late has been divided between that, organizing the New Book feedback, and getting my writing folders into a more coherent and backed up format, so I haven’t made as much new writing progress as I’d like.1 Still, the time hasn’t been spent idle and I think it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

My current goal is to hammer the New Book into shape during November2 and send back out to my Betas for a new read-through in December. That will, I hope, free me up to continue working on Alour-Tan II throughout December and complete a draft of that by early January ’14. The New Book and Alour-Tan II would both, then, be 2014 releases, with Alour-Tan III hot on their heels.3 I don’t quite want to commit to Alour-Tan III coming out in 2014 at this point, but I wouldn’t call it a completely outlandish notion, either.

I’ve also received the New Book’s cover art that I commissioned from friend and former 38 Studios coworker James Ball and it is freaking awesome. I can’t wait to show it off. Thanks, James!

  1. Assuming a target of 1,000 words per weekday, I should be at 23,000 words on Alour-Tan II by this point. []
  2. I won’t technically be doing NaNoWriMo, but it seems a good timetable to use for the rewrite. []
  3. Assuming Alour-Tan II doesn’t need the same giant rewrite that Ashes and the New Book both have. I have high hopes for it, though, since I’ve known for a long while where this story was/is/will be going. []


 Posted by at 17:35  No Responses »
Mar 062012

I’ve had an urge to write a post on all of the various things I’ve learned about writing so far. However, it feels presumptuous and pretentious to think I’ve learned anything until I’ve finished–much less, sold–a book.

Got some more work done on Draft Three last night. About 1/5th of the way through the chapters at this point, though given the massive overhaul the middle of the book is getting, I have no idea what portion of the total work that actually represents.

I’ve largely been basking in the release excitement for Mass Effect 3 today. Cody and I ordered the collector’s edition, which should arrive on Thursday. With any luck, we’ll have a chance to play some come the weekend.

Other fun things on the agenda for this week/weekend include: finishing plans for a picket fence in the backyard, in preparation for puppies; doing taxes; and visiting car dealerships in advance of actually buying that new car we’ve been talking about buying since we got married. We recently inherited a second car from my grandmother, but it’s temperamental at the best of times. Coupled with my clocking 70 miles per day, getting a new and fuel-efficient car makes sense.

An explosion of words

 Posted by at 00:27  No Responses »
Mar 032012

My, oh my. Where does the time go?

My astonishing silence around these parts is due in large measure to two things. First, holidays happened. Second, SW:TOR happened. Third, and most important, writing happened. I’ve collected as much beta reader feedback as I can hope to at this point and have resumed putting fingers to keyboard. The third draft of Ashes is underway at full steam. I am planning to have it finished before the month is out, at which point it goes to my wife for meticulous line-editing. Once she is satisfied that my word choices won’t result in horrific embarrassment for all time, it’s time to publish.

One of the recent1 impediments to proceeding on Draft Three was a problem of structure. While the beginning and end of the book are right where I wanted them, the middle got aimless and dragged. There was no flow to the largest Act in the book. I took a few steps back from it and did something I should’ve done from the outset: I wrote down the whole story as a point-for-point treatment; a glorified outline, if you will. In such a pared-down form2, it was easy to see where the story flow faltered. Less easy was figuring out how to fix it. Sitting with Cody and throwing ideas at her, we managed to sort through the chaff and find a thread along which the story makes sense. It’s resulted in some larger changes than I anticipated making in this draft3, but they are all changes I am excited about. The thought of editing this draft is exhilarating rather than daunting.

I’ve also started using the trial of Scrivener, which a number of authors that I follow swear by. After playing with it for a few days, I can see why. Once my trial’s up, I am almost certainly going to spend the $40 to buy it.

Related to the above, I have made the decision to self-publish Ashes once it’s finished. I’ve been waffling over whether or not to self-publish through Kindle / Smashwords / et. al. or to query agents/publishers. I’ve read enough horror stories lately about the Big Six, and seen enough success stories from self-publishers, that I’d already been leaning in that direction. The entire face of publishing is changing because of the sudden explosion of eBooks. I think I’d be a fool to ignore it. Coupled with thinking about my writing not only as a creative endeavor, but also as a business/financial one, it’s the one that seems to make the most sense. True, it means I won’t see my book(s) in a bookstore, but it also means that I don’t have to jump through someone else’s hoops to tell my stories, nor deal with some of the uglier aspects of traditional publishing.

Following Ashes, I have my pick of next projects. I have two more books that finish out the story that Ashes begins. Like Star Wars, Ashes can be read as a complete experience unto itself. You don’t get the full story without the other two books, though. In addition, I have an idea for a series of indefinite length centering on a female paranormal/supernatural investigator. Think Dresden meets Buffy meets the Winchester brothers, with a heavy emphasis on her relationships with the people in her life, and you’ll have some idea of that one. I’ve also got another set of stories set in the same world as Ashes, but far removed from it geographically, centering on another female protagonist — Belle LaMairian. Moving away from fantasy, I have a ton of sci-fi story ideas I could develop, as well. I think I’ll let Ashes sit for a bit and start working on the Dresden+Buffy+Winchester+romance+investigation smorgasbord next, since that’s an idea I’m excited about right now. That’s not to say the others don’t excite me; my mind is just active with that one right now.

All in all, things have been going very well. I’m going to try to post more regularly4, maybe even get into a *gasp* daily cadence! We shall see.

  1. As in, in the last week []
  2. A mere four pages []
  3. I cut an entire major journey, a major location, and and encounter with a political power. In its stead, I elevated the importance of a main character, completely destroyed said location, destroyed another location while I was at it, increased the political goings-on that happen around the main characters, and amped up the stakes for the climax of the book. []
  4. Ha, have we heard that before? []

Novel Stages

 Posted by at 15:50  No Responses »
Sep 022011

I’ve written a great deal about writing my novel and my future aspirations, but it seemed like it might be a good idea for me to write down exactly what stages I see as being part of this long process. A great deal of my thinking on this has changed over the last couple of years, so it’s not necessarily representative of the process that the current novel took, but rather what I plan to do in the future.

Continue reading »

Aug 172011

A great deal has happened since my last post. I’m 27 now, had the best birthday party of my life, have been married for over a year, went on a cruise with my wife (Port Canaveral, FL and the Bahamas, leaving out of NYC), and have been doing some intense self-introspection. I’ve also been working on the second draft of The Novel (which I have now identified as the third of a four-book arc), have resumed playing guitar, and have even been working on my digital painting. Some of the stair pieces have been stained (thanks, Dad!) and more will progress in the coming weeks. Alas, as a result, still no progress on the vacuform table beyond the last update. October is not far, though, and I’ve had a new fire lit under my ass about getting it done (you know who you are).

I had an absurd amount of energy when I got home last night. I decided I should try and bleed some of it off by exercising, so I hopped on the elliptical and jogged 1.11 miles in 15 minutes. That’s not terribly impressive in and of itself, until you factor in the fact that I haven’t exercised in any serious way in months. Not sufficiently exhausted by that, I proceeded to do some weight-lifting. Still not really exhausted, but very sweaty, I showered and then rather than heating something up quick in the microwave for dinner, I decided I really wanted some eggs, so I scrambled those up. At them and still had too much energy, so I sat down to play some Rock Band on expert drums for about an hour. All of that combined finally wore me out enough to be a little more low-key. Very weird, but honestly…I could get used to having that kind of energy.

The lawn desperately needs to be mowed. It needed to be mowed before Cody and I went on our cruise. We returned this past Saturday, to find it looking like a minor rainforest. I should have mowed it then, but had just spent an hour and a half driving with my parents from NYC to CT, and then another three hours driving from CT back to MA, so I was a little tired. Sunday, it rained. Monday, it rained. Tuesday, it didn’t rain, but it was still wet. The minor rainforest is now more of a mid-tier rainforest. I am mowing tonight, the wetness of the grass notwithstanding. It’s embarrassing. Unfortunately, this probably puts the kibosh on any stair work happening this evening. Sigh.


 Posted by at 14:26  No Responses »
Jun 272011

Stairs are proceeding slowly but steadily. In cutting the risers down to their proper height, I realized that using a bucket laden with water as a clamp to keep the board in place was probably not the safest approach. I headed to Lowes and picked up an assortment of clamps, along with some polyurethane to seal the boards once they’re stained, and got all of the risers cut and sanded. Next step is either more sanding (the stringers), more sawing (the support beams), or staining (steps and risers). Or maybe some combination thereof.

Also had a bit of an epiphany about how to deal with creating molds for things that need to be symmetrical, like helmets. This might be obvious to those who are old hat at creating molds, sculpting, or anything in that vein. But basically, it involves creating the 3D model in Blender, then taking slices at regular intervals and printing those slices onto paper. The paper template then gets cut onto MDF (or even cardboard) and reassembled. The gaps between the slices gets filled by weather foam, which is nice and sandable/slicable. Done and done.

Started playing Dragon Age: Origins this weekend, which I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. Enjoying it so far (and amused as hell how easy it was to get Morrigan to sleep with my character), but after L.A. Noire, every single game’s faces just don’t measure up. I’d rate DA:O’s visuals far higher overall, but the amount of performance depth that comes with the tech behind L.A. Noire’s faces is incomparable. Ah well.

Did another 1,250 words on the second draft of Misfits. I’m almost certain that it’s going to need a third draft, but that’s fine. Better to revise it as many times as it needs to be a solid, enjoyable piece of fiction than to rush it out the door.

Nov 302009

For the second year in a row, I have “won”1 NaNoWriMo. What’s more, I even have this last day of November to relax. Last year, I was frantically writing right up until just a few minutes before midnight. Though I did a fair amount of writing last night2, none of it was frantic. It all simply happened.

I walk away from this NaNo feeling proud of what I’ve written. It’s unpolished as hell, with several large inconsistencies that need to be massaged away, but that’s perfectly acceptable for a “zeroth” draft3. I’ve turned it over to Cody for her first review of it while I take the next week or so to decompress. Once she has a read through and tells me what she thinks, I’ll start working on the next draft. One of the first things I’ll do is draw myself a map of the area in which the story takes place. There’s a fair amount of traveling in this story and I want to make sure I have consistent timescales for that travel.

There are five central characters, drawn together through circumstance over the course of the story. Three of these characters make up the central triumvirate4, one of whom is the point-of-view character for the entire duration of the story. He also happens to be dead ((No, he’s not a vampire—sparkly or otherwise.). The real joy of these characters is that they’re all fun. The protagonist is a man discovering a world he never knew. His “id” counterpart dashes head-long into any situation and isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. His “superego” counterpart engages him in philosophical discussion. There’s also a Crowning Moment of Awesome for one of the characters. I burst out laughing when I wrote it. A good sign.

Once I finish the next draft and Cody gives it the nod of approval, I’ll distribute it to some friends for a wider review. The draft resulting from this collective critique will find its way to agents. With a little luck, it will then find its way onto bookstore shelves and into your hands. A guy can hope, anyway.

NaNo, to me, is about pushing yourself to see what you’re capable of. Last year, I learned that I was capable of writing a novel. This year, I learned that I was capable of writing a novel that entertained me. I think this is important: you should write to entertain yourself. If you like it, odds are someone else out there will too. Trust to that, rather than trying to fill some artificial quota.

  1. Yes, it is called “winning”. []
  2. Over 6,000 words in one sitting. []
  3. This is a term Justine Larbalestier uses to describe the absolutely raw first output of a story. I’ve also stolen her idea to use superscript footnotes in blog posts. []
  4. I realized last night that this triumvirate mimicked the ego-superego-id triumvirate of Kirk-Spock-McCoy, or Harry-Hermione-Ron, or any number of other famous fictional triumvirates. I didn’t intend to set it up that way, but it sort of fell into place all the same. []


 Posted by at 16:55  No Responses »
Jan 092009

It’s been a while, so it seemed high-time to talk about some of the things I’m working on.

Novel: Gold (tentative title)
This past November, I participated in and “won” NaNoWriMo by completing a 50,000 word manuscript.  It’s the story of a young woman that wakes up in a strange, burning office with an unfamiliar voice in her head urging her to jump out of the window…to save her life.  Once I completed it, I sent it to a number of people for a first review.  I haven’t touched it since, taking the advice of Stephen King to let the first draft sit in a drawer for a while before returning to it.  My parents have recently finished reading it and are going to be sending me their feedback this weekend.  I’m still waiting to hear Cody and a few others’ thoughts as well.  Once I have the combined feedback of everyone, I’ll set to work writing the second draft.  My hope is to publish it sometime this summer.

Film: Wec: The Sequel
Wec 2 has been in stasis for a while, superceded by work, more immediate hobbies and diversions (Xbox games, Fallout 3, novel-writing, etc.).  However, I do still plan to finish it.  It’s hard to bring myself to work on it specifically because it’s a film that deals with an entirely different era of my life.  I’m not that guy anymore, and so the movie’s personal relevance to me is greatly diminished.  However, with Ron’s help, I still think the movie itself is salvagable and will actually be interesting.  I recently showed Wec: The Movie to a co-worker of mine in preparation for a new project (see below), and I realized (again) how inane that first movie is.  I want the second one, as silly as it is, to actually be enjoyable for more than the sheer lunacy value.  I think it can be.

Film: Untitled Star Wars Fanfilm
I’ve played with the idea of doing a Star Wars fanfilm many times in the past.  A few weeks ago, an image formed in my head that caused inspiration to strike: an X-wing, floating “hidden” behind an asteroid, and then maneuvering like a real spacefighter (a la BSG).  This prompted the idea of creating a film based on a some X-wing pilots, in the vein of BSG.  It would play with established SW conventions (i.e. X-wings would actually maneuver like space fighters) and make a more “hard” sci-fi version of Star Wars.  

Co-worker and fellow SW fan Steve was intrigued by the idea when I told him about it and with a bit of convincing I’ve gotten him pretty enthused about the project.  We recently asked Ron to help us with the writing, and the last week has had us working through the first draft of the treatment he wrote up for us.  He’s now busily working on the second draft that Steve and I will use to write the first draft of the script.  Once we’ve done that, it’ll go back to Ron for a dialog polish (George, why didn’t you do this?) and we’ll start material pre-production (set building, costumes, etc.).  So far, the film will star Steve, Cody, and myself, along with a cameo by Steve’s wife and children.  

Other Novels
I have several other novel ideas that have been banging around in my head, begging to be written.

  • A mostly-hard science fiction novel dealing with the rammifications of space warfare after the advent of practical defense shields.
  • A science fiction novel dealing with the setting that I’ve had in my head forever, first implemented in any practical form as the UEDF Illustrious Defender e-mail RPG.
  • A sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel wherein a character joins a guild of assassins and uncovers a plot that led to her father’s murder.

There are more, but those three are the most fully-formed.

RPG: Vampire
At some point in the near future, I also plan to resume my Vampire game.  I’m not totally sure when this will happen, though it is likely to take place on Saturday evenings.  The timing is up in the air right now because many of the players are currently in unstable situations (as it pertains to regularly meeting on IRC, that is).

So, that’s about it from my neck of the woods.  Going to be a busy year!