It’s about the three main voices in every professional artist’s head, and how they bicker and play off of each other. As someone whose been in the writing business for a few years, I can say that it’s absolutely spot on (and not just because they’re anthropomorphized jaguars). Seriously, this webcomic needs to be like a primer for all creative types or something.
The thing I’ve learned the most by following this webcomic has to do with the marketing voice. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that marketing is evil. And if you do it wrong, it really is. But if you do it right, it’s actually pretty amazing:
…your goal in marketing is to create sustainable relationships with people who want you to succeed; in short, to seek patrons, rather than one-time customers. To do that, you can’t be focused on the money or the one-time sale. You want to inspire customer loyalty. You want people to be invested in your success. You want them to feel special … because they are.
A lot of the stuff I do, like keeping this blog, or putting Author’s Notes at the end of all my books, comes back to this idea of making meaningful connections with people. I just never saw it as marketing. But if marketing yourself is really about focusing on people rather than obsessing about sales, that’s totally something that I can do–something that I’m excited to do!
The character I can relate to the most is probably Business Manager. It’s the entrepreneurial spirit I can trace back to my grandpa, who started his own oil company in West Texas and was successful enough to put all us grandkids through private school. But Artist is definitely in there as well–it’s why I’m always jumping from project to project, driving my inner business manager crazy.
So yeah, if you’re a creative type, you’ll definitely want to check out this webcomic. It’s written by the self-published author whose books briefly got pulled from Amazon during the Space Marine controversy (fortunately for all of us, she held out and won). Lots of good stuff there–she really knows what she’s talking about.
In the meantime, let me leave you with this incredible piece of orchestral trance music. It’s quite possibly the most epic thing I discovered last week. The video is pretty good too.
So I have a bunch of ideas for blog posts I’d like to write, and I’ll probably get around to them eventually, but I thought I’d drop a line now just to let you all know what I’ve been up to. It’s been a pretty good week, with some decent progress on the current WIP (Lifewalker) and some other random stuff that may be of some interest.
First, Lifewalker. It’s coming along quite well. I’m averaging around 2k words a day, so more of a leisurely pace than a white-hot creative heat, but not too bad. It’s kind of turned into a post-apocalyptic Western, mostly because I can’t write about southern Utah without the landscape taking over. This video should give you an idea why:
At the same time, the character’s voice really seems to be taking shape in a way that I like. He’s kind of drifting right now, but the way he writes about it is very much like an old man reminiscing on the course of his life, lingering on the regrets as well as the triumphs, with some rather wistful commentary on each. This is really a character that I can just pick up and run with–the story is practically writing itself.
It’s not just the voice, either. Random stuff is just finding it in–powerful stuff that makes the story awesome. For example, just in the last chapter, the characters were holding a meeting to see what they should do to rescue some of their friends who had been kidnapped. Out of nowhere, one of them pulls out a skull from a human baby, with beads and feathers dangling from it like some sort of totem. He brought it out to show that the people who’d attacked them were not just normal bandits, but cannibals from the Nevadan wastelands, which put them in a whole new category of badassery. Stuff like that comes out of nowhere every time I write, and it’s awesome.
I’ve had a lot of time to write, though I don’t feel I’ve been using it all productively. Still, I’m on track to finish this thing by the end of the month, which will be extremely gratifying.
In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting a lot with cooking and gardening. Just planted some tomatoes in 3-gallon ice cream buckets (with dirt instead of ice cream, of course), and those are growing nicely. It’s fun to have something to water in the morning, and when they start to yield fruit, I’m sure it will be awesome as well.
But I’ve also been experimenting with the old Egyptian kushari recipe I picked up after the 2008 study abroad. It always seemed to be missing that one thing that would make the other ingredients come together and achieve that delicious synergy. Well, I think I’ve found it: chickpeas and cumin, with maybe a touch of vinegar. It might not be 100% authentic, but when I cooked it this time with that stuff, it tasted heavenly.
So this weekend, I’m going to try to perfect the recipe, something I’ve been wanting to do for years. I’ll try cooking the rice in chicken broth, and adding more onions and garlic with maybe a little tomato. Also, coriander–I know that coriander and cilantro are basically the same plant, but I think the coriander will go with this better than cilantro. Also, it helps to fry it with a little oil after taking it out of the refrigerator, rather than sticking it in the microwave. I haven’t had a microwave for over a year, and I think I actually prefer cooking without it.
Speaking of food, my roommate’s sister’s roommates dropped off a bag full of crap from their kitchen, since they’re moving out for the summer. We’ve been having an interesting time combing through it–found some pretty good stuff, actually. One of the more useful things is a bag full of buckwheat, which is AWESOME because kasha was one of my favorite dishes in Georgia. Kasha and lobio–delicious!
So yeah, I’ve had food on my mind a lot this week. If things work out, maybe I’ll post a recipe or two. Kushari is delicious, cheap, filling, and healthy–a winning combination if ever there was one. Kasha is pretty simple, but that’s what makes it so great–a simple, hearty food that leaves you feeling warm and whole.
Besides cooking exotic foods, I’ve also been reading a lot of Freefall. I discovered it just last week, and I have to say, it is awesome. One of the better webcomics I think I’ve ever read. Like Schlock Mercenary, it’s a space opera comedy romp, but where Schlock kind of turned dark in recent years (which I’m not complaining about, don’t get me wrong), Freefall has still stuck to its happy-go-lucky roots. And just like Schlock Mercenary, the humor is not only entertaining, but often wonderfully insightful.
But by far, the best part of the story is how compelling the characters are. My favorite is Florence Ambrose, an artificially bred Bowman’s Wolf who is kind of a human-wolf hybrid. She’s one of only 14 members of her species, and the corporation that created her considers her more as property than an individual. She’s got all these biologically programmed safeguards that force her to obey direct human orders, no matter how ludicrous–but the only way for her species to survive is to convince the corporation that Bowman Wolves are profitable, so that they’ll make more (the whole 50-500 rule and all that).
Somehow, she becomes the engineer of the Savage Chicken, a down-and-out starship captained by the infamous Sam Starfall. Sam is basically a lazy, larcenous alien squid who wants nothing more than to steal everyone’s wallet and become famous doing it. At first, it seems like a horrible combination–Florence is basically a good, honest person, who wants to do good work and please everyone. But as the story goes on, the two develop quite a rapport, and start to rub off on each other.
Florence helps Sam to clean up and get his act together, and Sam helps Florence to learn ways to get around her difficult situation vis-a-vis her safeguards and lack of free will. More importantly, Sam helps her to stop feeling guilty long enough to recognize that doing the right thing sometimes means breaking (or at least twisting) the law.
As if that weren’t enough, there’s the whole cross-species romance angle between Florence and the biologist who rescues her back in one of the earlier subplots. As you might expect, it gets really lonely being the only Bowman’s Wolf on the planet–especially when the other 13 are frozen in cryo, on their way to a world several light-years away. Florence knows that she needs to do what she can to propagate the species, but she’s also got some emotional needs that demand to be satisfied now. Winston is kind of similar, a lonely parasitic biologist on a frontier terraforming project with only 40,000 humans and a 40-60 male-female ratio. Except for the whole cross-species issue, they make a really good couple. I’m riveted to find out what happens next!
So yeah, if I had to sum it up: good, honest, likeable person + insecure future + social limbo + unsatisfied emotional needs = really compelling story. Plus, she’s half wolf–how cool is that? What I would give for her incredible sense of smell…
In any case, it’s getting late, and even though tomorrow is Saturday, there’s a bunch of stuff I want to do tomorrow so I’d better cut this short for now. See you later!
Of all the objects in space, nebulae are some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring. These giant clouds of gas and dust span light-years, and often contain stellar nurseries where new stars (and with them, new planets) are born. Few things can fill me with a greater sense of wonder than a detailed, high-res image of a nebula.
Many of the classic nebulae images come from the Hubble Space Telescope, which has probably done more to bring that sense of wonder to the general public than any other telescope. These images, all of which are released by NASA into the public domain (with very few restrictions), have been shaping the pop culture dialogue about space and astronomy for more than a generation. They’ve certainly had a tremendous impact on me.
There are many different kinds of nebulae. The largest and most stunning ones are mostly diffuse, meaning that they have no clear boundaries where they begin and end. These come in two basic flavors: emission nebulae, which glow on their own due to ionized hydrogen gas, and reflection nebulae, which consist mostly of dust and don’t glow on their own, but reflect the light of nearby stars.
The Witch Head Nebula is a classic reflection nebula. Doesn’t it look eerie? It’s probably because of the way it reflects blue and purple. Many reflection nebulae share those same colors.
The Orion Nebula, one of my personal favorites, is a massive region of star formation visible just below the three iconic stars of Orion’s Belt. It contains large regions of both reflection and emission. In the center of the thickest clouds are dozens of young stars with protoplanetary disks–new solar systems in the process of being born. How many of these will go on to form planets capable of hosting life? Just a few billion years ago, our own sun may have been born in a cloud of gas and dust like this one.
The Helix Nebula, also known as the Eye of God, is apt to make you do a double-take the first time you see it! It looks almost like an eye, watching you from the midst of the heavens. Just as clouds here on Earth tend to form shapes and patterns that look like other things, so do nebulae.
The Cat’s Eye Nebula is another one of those gorgeous space objects that’s apt to give you a double take. Both the Cat’s Eye and the Helix are Planetary Nebulae, which form after a star burns off its outer layer and collapses into a white dwarf. The name is kind of misleading, because they don’t really have anything to do with planets at all–they just look a bit like them, when all you’ve got is a low powered telescope to view them with.
One of the most famous Hubble images is the Pillars of Creation, a close-up image of a stellar nursery within the Eagle Nebula. Stars form when clouds of gas and dust become so dense that they collapse on themselves, creating a gravity well that sucks up more of the surrounding dust and gas. As enough matter accumulates, the pressure and heat at the center grow until the whole thing goes nuclear. When nuclear fusion begins, the newborn star sends out a strong stellar wind that pushes away any remaining dust and gas from the rest of the nebula. After several million years, the whole cloud is blown away, leaving us with a star cluster like the Pleiades.
In the Pillars of Creation, the long, finger-like clouds of the nebula are so dense that they appear dark and opaque, blocking out any light from the other side. These kinds of structures are called molecular clouds, after their ability to form molecules due to their increased density. In this image, though, we can see a group of newborn stars just starting to blow away the cloud’s outer shell. Once the cloud is completely blown away (in just a few thousand years or so), these stars will shine clearly enough for us to see–but for now, they’re hidden inside those pillars where they were born.
The Crab Nebula is particularly fascinating, not only for the stunningly complex structures visible in this image, but because less than a millennium ago, it used to be a star. In 1054, medieval astronomers in Europe, Asia, and the Americas reported the appearance of a new star, bright enough to be seen even in daylight. What they actually saw was a supernova, the spectacular death of a massive star. When a star goes supernova, it explodes with as much energy in just a few days or months as it put out during its entire lifetime.
The outer layers were blasted out to form this nebula, while the inner core collapsed and formed a neutron star–an object so dense that it contains as much as three times the mass of the sun in a sphere roughly the size of New York City. If the supernova is really big, the star might even collapse into a black hole.
Because of how fascinating and gorgeous nebulae can be, it should come as no surprise that they often show up in science fiction. When you have a starship and can travel at ease across the stars, nebulae become a part of the geography of space, just like forests and mountain ranges in a fantasy setting. I haven’t played any of the Mass Effect games yet, but apparently they do this quite a lot. In the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series, the colonists are able to set a course for Earth after using the Lagoon Nebula to orient themselves relative to the stars of the zodiac. And of course, who can forget the classic battle between Kirk and Khan at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?
In real life, though, it’s much more likely that nebulae like the ones above wouldn’t even be visible if you got up close to them. Even though they’re much denser than other regions of space, they’re still for the most part much less dense than our planet’s own atmosphere. From a distance, they appear bright because we can see the entire structure in one field of view, but up close, it’s possible that you wouldn’t even know you were in one.
That being said, it sure makes for more exciting fiction when the nebulae are these giant mysterious clouds capable of hiding an entire space fleet. And really, who knows what these things are actually like up close? For now, all we can do is watch them from afar. But someday, if science fiction becomes reality, we may be able to be firsthand witnesses to the births and deaths of stars. More »
Last night, I caved and bought the new FTL game that all my friends have been talking about.
Six hours later, I was screaming in agony as my awesome starship went down in flames. AGAIN. In sector eight (on the easy setting, though, so not too impressive).
Seriously, this game is AMAZING. I haven’t seen such a perfect combination of strategy, skill, random chance, and dumb luck since Star Control II. There are SO MANY things you can do … and SO MANY ways you can die! I love it!
Granted, with every game like this, there’s a danger that it will become a huge time suck (minecraft, anyone?). However, this one is different.
Famous last words, right?
But seriously, each round takes only an hour or two, there’s only one save slot, and you die so frequently that it’s hard to become too attached to any one game. In other words, this is the sort of game I can pick up and put down again without devoting too much mental space to it. Which (hopefully) makes it a perfect carrot to get me to write more.
Here’s what I’m going to do: for every thousand words in my WIP, I’ll allow myself to play one (and only one!) round of FTL. If I hit my daily goal, I’ll allow myself to play as much as I want.
It’s still too early to tell if this is going to work, but I’m going to give it a try. Seriously, though, once I told myself “you can play FTL as soon as you hit that first 1k,” all I wanted to do was write! And now that I’m more or less finished with this blog post, I think that’s what I’m going to do.
The temples each have a base of 31×31 blocks and a height of 13 blocks, with the topmost level a 7×7 square. They are spaced kitty corner five blocks diagonally, in a sort of equilateral quadrangle. The biome is actually a swamp; I added the jungle trees later for effect.
The idea came to me a couple of weeks ago, when I was playing with my toddler nephew. I built a Mayan step pyramid out of Duplos with him, then figured why not do the same thing in Minecraft? The first attempt was in survival mode, which took FOREVER, so for this one I decided to go creative.
Overall, I’m rather pleased. This was my first time playing around in creative mode, and I must say it’s a lot more … creative. Go figure.
Don’t worry, I’m still writing. This was just a little diversion to keep me busy between job applications and temp jobs. The staffing agency has kept me pretty busy until now, so I’m looking for something a little more steady. Had an interview at J-Dogs today that went pretty well–hopefully, I’ll hear back from them next week.
In the meantime, I’d better get some sleep. G’night!
First of all, sorry for forgetting to do a Trope Tuesday post (again!). I guess I’m really flaky about doing those. Oh well–better to be flaky about blogging than flaky about writing, right?
In fact, the reason I didn’t write-up the post was because I was busy doing a 2.0 revision pass for Star Wanderers: Dreamweaver. This is the novella that retells the events of Outworlder, but from Noemi’s point of view. I hadn’t looked at it in the eight months since I wrote it, but sometime over the summer I gave it to Laura to alpha read, and she just got back with her comments a couple of days ago.
Well. Reading through those comments was simultaneously the most excruciating and most invigorating thing I’ve been through in a while. I’ve changed a lot since I wrote the first draft, and a lot of things about it are horribly embarrassing, but the story … the story is actually pretty solid. Oh, some of Noemi’s motivations weren’t close enough to the page, and some other elements needed a bit of pruning, but the structure, the bones–it all seems to be there.
So, long story short: I got Laura’s comments on Monday, and finished the revisions today. TODAY. Of course, it still needs to be proofread, and I’d like to send the new version out to some other first readers … but I don’t anticipate making any major, earth-shattering changes to the story. In fact, I could publish it tomorrow, and most of you would probably love it.
So far, my Star Wanderers books are selling much better than any of my other titles. They’re also much shorter, which means that I can put them out a lot faster–or should, at least. I probably angst over them more than I should, trying to make everything perfect. But I’ve got the extended series planned out to Part X, and I’ve already written half of Part VI. Some of those might get moved up or down, depending on demand, but the more I write in this universe, the more stories present themselves. And hey, if that’s what you want to read, I’ll be more than happy to write more of them.
If all goes well, Dreamweaver will be out in the first half of April, perhaps as early as the end of March. As always, newsletter subscribers will get a two-week coupon code to download the book for free on Smashwords. This also provides access to all future editions, in all ebook formats, completely DRM free. If you enjoy it, I hope you’ll review it or tell a friend about it. I’m not sure how I’ll end up pricing it, but I don’t anticipate going higher than $2.99.
In the meantime, here’s something to leave you with: an awesome remix of Jewel by Solarstone & Clare Stagg. Man, I love Solarstone’s work. I picked up his newest album, Pure, over the summer, and have been pulling songs from it for book soundtracks ever since.
I’ve been so hard at work on the edits and book teaser for Stars of Blood and Glory that I completely forgot about Trope Tuesday. In addition, I’m working a two week job that runs 8 to 5, with a half hour lunch break. Sorry for those of you who enjoy this feature, but it looks like Trope Tuesday will be on hold for a week or two.
I haven’t forgotten about it, though. If there’s any particular trope you’d like me to cover, I’m open to requests. Just mention them in the comments below.
In the meantime, here’s a good example of the cannon fodder trope. After watching this video, no explanation should be necessary.