I recently made a very simple request. “Give me some video game recommendations with great stories,” I said. “It’ll be simple,” I said to myself. “I’ll have a few recommendations,” I said to myself. And then the list was longer than I could shake my fist at. But I started with a personal recommendation from a friend. It was a good choice.
This is probably bad form for an author to say, but I watch a lot of movies.
I’ve watched more this year than usual. With the theaters closed, I figured it was a unique opportunity for me to actually be up on new releases. Pursuant to that end, I have seen 33 movies released this year so far, and tried to gather storytelling lessons from them, the bad as well as the good. Netflix’s The Old Guard, mercifully, is one of the good.
Neal Shusterman is one of those authors who made me want to be one. A close friend of mine from high school (who has now worked at a library for several years) recommended his book Everlost to me, and ever since then I’ve devoured most of what he’s written. It’s partially for those reason that I was surprised to find the conclusion to his latest trilogy (The Toll, of the Arc of a Scythe series) a bit disappointing. After doing some thinking on it, I think I’ve discovered why – and it stems from a crucial question of worldview.
Prison in the Sky, previously known as Captain Liam & the Three-Eyed Space Pirate, will be coming your way this fall!
Like many others, I had an event canceled due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. It was to be a workshop at a local library on writing, intended for teens involved in the library’s summer reading program. In lieu of an in-person event, I produced a video instead, which the library shared on their Facebook page, and which I’ve embedded below.
Like many other creatives during the age of physical distancing and semi-quarantine, I’ve been dabbling in a smattering of creative hobbies. Among these is music – I have a couple of guitars, but it had been a while since picking up one. Along the way, I also grabbed a book from Kindle Unlimited on music theory (Music Theory: From Absolute Beginner to Expert by Nicolas Carter) . Lo and behold, in between all of the stuff about the chromatic scale, extended cords, and diatonic modes was an unexpected connection to storytelling:
Summer reading time!
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so this won’t be a perfectly sequential account. Instead, I’m going to give you some of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year (by and large not new releases, but whatever), including a couple that I’m reading right now. One of my goals for this year has been to read more broadly, including non-fiction, and I’ve tried to reflect that here. But don’t worry, there’s still something for my fellow sci-fi and fantasy nerds.
Lots of people are posting Coronavirus thought pieces. This is not that. Far from being a post on politics and infectious diseases, I felt motivated to write about the wonderful things you can do with the extra time we have during self-isolation – even if the reasons for it suck.
It is a sad truth that 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by March. So in the spirit of being contrary I am here to sprinkle some fairy dust on my resolutions, assign them the rather blase moniker “goals” and commence in defiance of statistics. I never liked that statistics class in college anyway.
Goal #1: Finish Four Projects in Limbo
I aim to finish four projects this year that are in various stages. The first, a new science fiction project, is about halfway through its third draft, but was first written in 2015. Another is the long-awaited sequel to A Gray Crusade. Others I am choosing to keep hidden for now, but all four of these I hope to have “editor-ready” by the end of the year. This does not mean that all of these will be published this year, of course, but it *does* mean that they will be ready as soon as the resources and appropriate plans are in place.
Goal #2: Read 52 Books
This is, by my estimation, a rather modest reading goal. 50 books is a pretty comfortable annual reading goal for me, but I’m sad to say that I didn’t hit it in 2019. There are a few reasons for this, one being that my work life was much busier than I’ve been accustomed to. But after some adjustments in my schedule, I think that a book a week is perfectly reasonable, especially considering the fact that I’ve had a head start in finishing three “currently reading” books in the first three days of January. I’ve always said that avid writers are also avid readers, and it’s time to put my time where my mouth is – often a more challenging and important prospect than mere dollars and cents.
Goal #3: Launch a Kickstarter Campaign for Captain Liam
The aforementioned first project that I intend to finish this year is tentatively titled “Captian Liam and the Three-Eyed Space Pirate.” This was originally a NaNoWriMo project, and has gone through a heavy editing phase since November, which I hope to put a bow on by the end of February. At that point, I hope to try something I have not yet tried – Kickstarter – which could help me to gain the resources needed to put a real marketing plan behind the book. And while, yes, I did just say that time is often more important than dollars and cents, Facebook and Google sadly do not allow bartering as a method of payment (but if you’re a cover artist who will design for eggs, then let me know and I’ll pick up some chickens and a coop-building book). Because I want to do this properly, there are a few pieces that still need to be in place before I can truly launch a crowdfunding campaign the right way. But I’m putting this here as a goal because this is always something I’ve said is a good idea, and even said I should do, but never have actually gotten done. 2020 is the year.
Goal #4: Appear at Three In-Person Events
Local author events were at one time one of my favorite parts of being an author. In the past couple of years, I have sought out less of those opportunities. The reasons for this are myriad, but a lot of it has to do with time and becoming more plugged in to my day job. This is not something I regret in itself, but I do regret that I allowed an outgrowth of that to be a reduction in these in-person author events. So in 2020, I want to carve out the time to become more involved in the local author community in Greater Lafayette, Indiana, and to discover more opportunities to partner with local bookstores, coffee shops, and the like. Who knows, maybe I’ll even migrate out of Tippecanoe County.
And that’s that! If you’d like to follow along as I tackle these goals, you can join my newsletter (and get a free ebook while you’re at it). Have a good year!
Todd Phillips’ Joker film is exactly what genre critics say these films never can be. It’s a character-focused drama that sinks its teeth into meaty themes like mental illness, abuse, isolation, and the relation of all of those to violence. It certainly evokes Scorcese (who was once speculated to direct, and even made some visits to the set), and is perhaps not as original as I’m apt to give it credit for. But that said, it still exhibits something I think is really important: Phillips has used a character from a big-budget popcorn franchise to ask serious questions about how people become violent. And I think he’s right on the money.
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