robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I've come up with a good one for this year. It's even traditional, something properly negative and self-limiting, all about Giving Up A Bad Habit.

2015 Resolution: No Self Improvement!
That means no weight loss dieting, no eat-healthier plans, no self-help books or videos, no exercise programmes or gym memberships, no affirmations or positive thinking exercises, no Success Visualizations, no what is that thingy - wishy stuff, the sitting about wishing you had a lot of money thingy. I think it's Law of Attraction or something like that, if you just keep thinking about happy things nothing bad will ever happen and all your bills will get paid before they get to you sort of stuff. At any rate, none of that. No Self Improvement!

I'm sixty years old. If I don't like who I am, who the heck am I looking to please? Not some mass market self improvement industry, that's for sure. They make a fortune pandering to people's social insecurities and setting them up for disappointment. Giving up your various recreational enjoyments in favor of more virtuous ones that don't serve the same needs tends to come out as a net loss. You can diet like crazy but that's just going to teach your body to hoard calories because you're facing intermittent starvation. You can exercise grimly and push that to the point of sports injury without actually getting anything out of it. Lots of people buy gym memberships for a whole year and then quit before February - but not without paying for the whole year in advance. That's what these things are really about.

All this just to get to the point in February of the miserable annual self-flagellation of how you never succeed at any resolutions.

I have every confidence that come February, I'm not going to slip from this and suddenly start ordering self help books instead of pastel painting ones. I expect to spend more on new art supplies than either junk food or health supplements. Daily sketching is a good habit I plan to keep, but that's something to focus on a monthly basis rather than declare for all year - that's always Health and Weather Permitting.

I would like to get at least one of my novels edited and processed and made available online as an ebook this year. Currently thanks to finding the perfect cover artist in Jillian Lambert, (blog is http://jillianlambert.blogspot.com) the one I think I can get done before the end of 2015 is "Elder's Pride" formerly called "Sabertooth." It's the one about a pride of Smilodon fatalis in Los Angeles before any humans got to California, right around when the tar pits were still filling up with lots of animal bones. A cat lover's big cat book, a romp into prehistory with lots of very large felines interacting in a family. Very heartwarming and furry, with extra large teeth and fairly impressive claws. Not your usual mog, these cats ate elephants for a living.

Also on the editing agenda, I plan on continuing the edits to "Chazho" to fix point of view issues and get those first five books in the Piarra series ready to go before releasing any of them. So I really have two major editing projects for 2015 but will not list them as year-goals.

If either is done before 2015 ends, great, happy, wonderful, I lucked on time and effort and getting my life together. If not, I didn't set an artificial deadline to get it done by. I do my best work when I just do it at its own pace in the time and energy I have available. I seize the moment on good days and slob off on bad days but still often think about what I'll be doing once I'm up to it again.

Have been getting the daily sketching thing back in the past few days, you can see some tigers and other sketches posted at http://robs-daily-painting.blogspot.com/ aka Rob's Daily Painting where I will probably do my own version of the sabercats too once I get going on those edits. They are as fun to draw as they are to write about.

Ari purrs and sheds Cat Hairs of Inspiration on you! Happy New Year! Quit kicking yourself and go have a good time, the annual "get drunk and don't drive home" holiday is what's up.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
2014 is the start of a 3 year plan for me to become self supporting before my SSI turns into Old Age version of Social Security. If I retire early, I will get a smaller check. Much better to be self supporting and just never retire. That's the long term goal.

In a comment on an artist's blog that I wrote about 4,000 words and deleted all but about 200, I worked out just exactly what it means to "Work toward self supporting in 2014."

I have a slight chance of success at it. My guesstimate at the moment is 10% to 20% that I will actually reach a point where I could draw a salary of a thousand a month and not change my lifestyle. Just quit SSI and take the limit off my personal savings.

What I really need to do in 2014 is work out my schedule and the rhythm of the year. November 2013 was a very bad time. I barely got in 50,000 words. Lots of sick days and two weeks of flu did me in. I will always have Too Many Sick Days. I always have. Net result of disabilities, day job as a cripple schedules itself.

December 2013, I didn't do much at all. I took a freaking vacation after the intensity of the most difficult Nanowrimo that I ever won. I'm serious. It was harder getting 50,000 words of Arts and Aspirations than it was to write 450,000 words of seven fantasy novels in a previous year. But I succeeded in my big goal - it is a better book that will take less editing.

I also signed up for The Sketchbook Project. I paid for it to be digitized and posted online. This is using my art to sell my book. I did it so that I could publicize my steampunk novel. I thought that I'd be self illustrating while writing, would have a lot of time to do 32 decent sketchbook pages with teasers.

Now I've got ten to fifteen days to complete the whole thing, with three pages penciled. Those need to be inked. It's not quite as bad as I thought - I thought I only had one page. But it still means doing more than one artwork a day till it's done. Getting back to a schedule more like when I lived on my art. Managing to work on it on days when I've got home care or medical appointments.

It's going to be possible but difficult like Nanowrimo was. It will only serve its intended purpose if I can do a good job on it. Penciling first is probably a good idea! It might let me lay out many more pages and it's not something I'm doing just to goof around. I paid good money for it as a publicity tool for the book's launch. I'll design the cover last, because I could do the cover very simple if it comes to that. An easy cover would be a portrait of the cat and the title in calligraphy.

So this year is starting off with a bang.

December will always be my vacation. A pro writer I knew a decade ago did that, took December off entirely as vacation because the holidays and her kids took up too much of her time. I don't do that kind of thing. I don't live with my kids and grandkids and when I did, they did most of the work. For me it's just that is the low end of the year when I'm exhausted physically and emotionally. I either get depressed by pain and fatigue or distract myself with holiday cheer and soppy old holiday movies. I did the lazy holiday cheer this year.

It was great!

In fact, it might have been the first real vacation I've had in my life. I don't count the miserable two week trip to San Francisco in the 1980s when I went with my ex, blew a lot of money saved up for it and bought a lot of tourist junk, ate out a lot, stayed in an expensive transient hotel and made myself miserable with homesickness. That trip was a bitter exercise in pressing my nose hungrily against the window of my life. Now I live here.

This time, for once, taking a month off left me feeling excited again about my writing and my art. I want to sketch. I want to play with colors. I want to get back to the book and read about those characters and keep going when I hit the point where I left off. Writing rough draft is a lot like reading the book before it exists. I turn the page and get the next sentence, paragraph, page and enjoy all the twists as surprises.

So why not combine rereading the book to catch up with myself with doing the Sketchbook Project? I'll ink what I have penciled, then start reading the book again. Stop and pencil when I see something that'd make a good picture. Doodle my way through the reread and then turn "Rereading" into "Drafting" when I run out of chapters already written.

Maybe it's not so daunting after all. :D

I want to be able to build up to 40 hours a week at productive work on my career. 2014 is the year of discovering my schedule, what gets done when. What works best which days of the week, which weeks of the month, which months in the year. I need to find just the right level of push between "pushing myself too hard and falling over" and "could actually be doing more if I made the effort to start." That's always tricky in both directions.

If I find out by December 2014 that I can't do 40 hours a week year round, fine. I'll readjust my income expectations to the reality, whether that's 30 hours or 20 hours or 10. It will probably be different in different months and some months I might go over 40 hours a week because some tasks work better by immersion. I mean average 40 hours a week for the next 11 months, not keep to 40 hours a week every week but December. Most of all, know the seasons and my climate. I've had two years here to know when I'm up to going out just for fun, when it's hard just making it to medical appointments, when I'm going to fall down on basic necessities of self care and when I've got time to relax.

So... resolution: CHART what I'm doing in 2014. I need to start logging my hours every day and week, what I do that's productive. I'm not going to count hours spent doing medical appointments or other necessities like supervising home care unless I did something productive during it. I've taken to using the hour of waiting for the van or after arriving early for sketching, which got me sketching even when I wasn't doing anything else. So that hour counts on an appointment day.

Two new treatments in 2014 might also improve my net function. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) treatment for my PTSD may eliminate flashbacks and symptoms that trigger fibromyalgia flares. That is a nasty combination. Knocking down my PTSD may give me a lot of energy locked up in flashbacks. Once that's done, I'll look for a physical therapist with geriatric and/or pediatric experience.

When I finish that, I'll get a physical therapist for massage therapy, possible hippatherapy and water therapy. The sorts of physical therapy that really do reduce the damage and give me more energy walking out than I had walking in. Chiropracty always does that too. When I'm no longer living on the survival edge, paying out of pocket for treatments that really do help is worth it. I just need to have enough left after necessities to afford those treatments.

So... 2014 is starting the run. I'll start by doing the Sketchbook Project and see what comes of it. Hopefully a finish to Arts and Aspirations.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Finished another scene, got some writing in today. Yesterday was a total wash, I did maybe eight words. Made the file basically and got in a sentence. But today I'm keeping my lead. One good day and I'll surge ahead even farther.

My Widgets!


My Month (days low or missed)


REGION standing
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Colin got the first scene. Second scene is Colleen's journal, in which Empress Rosebud, her calico cat, turns her wrath against Men, both suitor and father, to creative energy. Nodding as if she understood, the cat purrs, calms her down and the girl sorts out a more positive course of action after getting her face washed.

Yes, cats can be that direct about sorting out your life sometimes. Empress Rosebud is a queen, so naturally she's very take-charge. I think she and Colleen have a bit in common. So does Colleen, who bragged that her rejected suitor expected a rabbit and got a cat!

I know that whatever else goes on, Empress Rosebud in her little wicker basket will be accompanying Colleen on most of her adventures. In and out of the basket. Likes to be brought along and does not stray. Ah, we will have Adventures. She thinks of the cat as her Muse, but has no idea what Colin just did magically.

Well begun! I might keep writing or go to bed, but got chapter done and will be heading on forward into this month with nearly one Virtual Day already in the bag. Pretty darn good for having a Rotten Chest Cold to start with!
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Midnight Start, just like the other Good Years. The big differences to create a Better Book for "Steampunk Twins," which will get a better title are:

1) First person throughout to establish POV consistently.
2) Don't be careless as I've been in past years on pacing.
3) Document Better in cast list and synopses.

The great experiment is Scene Synopsis, not just chapter, for a more detailed Running Outline as I write it up. This should make it easier. I'm also shooting for shorter scenes instead of "at least a chapter, sometimes two or even three."

Get it down, move on fast, get it done, do it right and OMG it's flowing. It went so right. The Muse came on stage crackling with anger and lust, oh my, she is a proper Greek deity after all! Colin forgot she wasn't some pretty Victorian conceit! Now she is loose in the mortal world to do whatever she likes!
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
It's been a while since I wrote about Talent.

I still believe in my Talent Rant. There is no such thing as Talent. It comes with being human, fluency in my birth language, wanting to write at all. It's motivation.

I have many personal reasons why it was worth all the trouble of learning how to write well enough to finish and sell fiction. They're personal, some are probably common and others aren't. It matters to me. It's become part of my self-identity to think of myself as a Science Fiction Writer. Every now and then I step on a rake of self-recognition and understand something that went into that motivation.

Out of all the macho boy-things and man-things that I could settle on for my future, Science Fiction Writer did not take being able to run, throw or catch a ball, have quick reflexes or even be able to stay on my feet a long time in front of an easel. Being an artist was what other people wanted me to do. Painting is satisfying and I love doing it. I don't produce enough of it to live on and it didn't work as a day job for a writer.

They're similar in some ways, it almost worked to support my writing on my art. Would have worked at the time if I'd had the medication and mobility aids I do now, except that the city it worked in got devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the market changed and it is no longer a cheap place to live. It was never optimal because of climate and social issues. I didn't belong in New Orleans the way I do in San Francisco.

SFWA has recently blown up again in another sexism-racism scandal. This was with John Scalzi as President, someone whose blog I read and perspective I trust. If Scalzi couldn't shut down that level of racism-sexism-bigotry in the industry publication, why would I ever join SFWA? I wanted it, the SFWA card was one of my personal success milestones.

But when I was litle, I wanted to be a Boy Scout. They got to do the cool stuff, camping and canoeing and leather working instead of baking and stupid girly stuff. Girl Scouting was not fun and I didn't stick with it long. I also got in trouble all the time just for being myself because as a transboy, I reacted to everything like a boy. Turned out that Boy Scouts were the creepy right-wing religious and social indoctrinators while Girl Scouts admitted a little girl like me. Points to the Girl Scouts. I think they even do the camping and fun stuff now, that a lot of real girls and women objected to their limits and busted them.

The scandal did two things. One, I read N. K. Jemisin's speech, the one that two old white conservative columnists freaked out over, loved it. On the basis of her speech on racism, I ran over to Amazon and bought two of her books. Much to my delight, she wasn't just a good read. N. K. Jemisin's novels slammed up out of the 'good books' category up into "Irresistible Rereads, Favorite Authors To Read For Style" category along with Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, J. K. Rowling, Stephen King. Baum and a few others. She's gone past Stephen King, because there are King books I didn't like. Well done ones, I just didn't like their themes or characters. So far Jemisin's got me hooked on all levels.

I don't often find new authors I love that much, so that's a treasured experience.

The other is letting go of the SFWA milestone. I don't care. I thought that I was going to go indie with my novels but write and sell enough pro short stories to get my SFWA card. Other writers' associations do accept independent authors as pro, usually on a level of financial success comparable to a new-author pro contract. That's what makes sense to me. It's not which market you take your books to, it's whether once you do it gets successful enough to call it pro. If financial success is going to be a criterion at all, it should be measured by looking at the money earned, not whether you went through X traditional distributors or struck out on your own. Pro publishing has been losing its appeal for me for several years.

I write social SF. My fantasy novels are social SF. I use magic instead of space ships but the tropes of both genres come into it and I'm really looking at the cultures involved. Raven Dance and its universe are pure SF but have some fantasy creatures in it, urban fantasy ones. My vampires and werewolves washed up there, probably because in storyland they belong in cities. Occasionally I dip into horror tropes and turn those into SF by looking at them sideways, taking them as themselves and looking at them in a different context.

Most of my novels talk about monsters that aren't. That's what I was as a little kid - a little boy a lot like other little boys of the bookish, brainy sort. H. P. Lovecraft was a sickly child. Kids that stay in a lot because they're too sick to go out have the time and motivation to lose themselves in books and want to write them.

Before I got out into SF Fandom, I thought it would be an accepting, supportive group. Friendly to future wniters - someone joked that half of fandom wanted to publish a novel. Friendly to who I am and what I read and what I wanted in life. I didn't meet gender expectations and aside from a very small group of personal friends, got frozen out and shunned. I wasn't even capable of meeting gender expectations. I didn't understand them or credit them with any validity.

Now that I'm turning 59 in December, living in San Francisco, living on the edge of deep poverty even in the best place in the country for me to survive, things are different. SF is not a social haven or a supportive community. It's more in need of an overhaul. Yet when I was here before, the political GBLT community had no interest in SFF and looked down on me for being into it. Everything had to be now and topical-realism. Except that's not me either. I'm still that dreamer. I can't just protest. I tell stories.

I look for community and my communities are fragmented. I don't even get out much now. Today, for the first time, I'm going to a free seniors-and-disabled luncheon at the GBLT center. I have a housing clinic to attend this afternoon, it'll cost me $2 to go and $2 to return by Paratransit so I might as well go early and catch the free lunch. Meet people around my age, much closer to it than any other group, find out what they're like and see if I fit in.

Scared to death of this lunch.

I've been burned so many times in so many ways. If it's not one thing, it's another. Poverty and disability issues were a barrier in the pagan community even when they were accepting of my gender. Poverty and disability issues were a barrier in a lot of different situations. Not likely to apply in this one - that's something I'll have in common with others at this lunch along with age.

I'm not just a square peg in a round hole, I'm this weird shaped asymmetrical unique-shape that there isn't a hole anywhere that remotely fits. It always takes knocking out and shutting down some big part of who I am to fit in smoothly. I get a lot of emotional support about my art because I enjoy painting beauty and encourage other artists. If I don't mention politics, I'm reasonably safe in art groups online. Offline there may be problems.

Offline there are often logistic difficulties I can't surmount. Most of all, that's not Who I Am the way being a Science Fiction Writer is. Painting and drawing are things I do for myself because I enjoy them. They're one of my best ways to recuperate from stress and to get a lot of social support with very little time and effort. It doesn't take a lot to go through a bunch of pictures I like and type a few thoughtful targeted compliments. I critique by positive comments on what I do like about someone else's work. It's easier than picking on beginner errors or trying to look for what could be improved, especially in finished works.

They know what's wrong with it by and large, what they need is support that the cool stuff is happening. Sometimes just describing it accurately in neutral and pleasant terms is enough to give both accurate feedback and lift the creator's spirits. There's my personal small protest against the culture of bullying, the culture of vicious personal criticism that's endemic to this country. I don't know what it'd be like to live in a more cohesive, supportive country.

I do the same thing in writers' groups. Some people prefer harsh critique. I can't set myself on a pedestal to know what's wrong with someone else's writing, especially when I can't tell if something is experimental. Did they break a rule on purpose to get an effect? Or did they do that out of ignorance of the rule? I write intuitively by feel and don't even have the 'rules' memorized. But I know how rare support is and it doesn't hurt to give it.

I turn the criticism thing inside out because I got too many people who attacked me on every nit picking topic they could think of. If they took me up head-on about my identity, I'd stand them down. So instead they'd turn it into a thousand small attacks, often about things I couldn't control anyway. My posture or my body odor or my cussing when pushed to the wall or being cussed at, double standards always apply in that sort of bullying.

I also figured it out decades ago why I got discouraged so much from writing and encouraged in art. My pictures could be interpreted without any political or social content. If I draw a leaf, it's still just a leaf. If I write a story, it has a slant. I was incarcerated in a Catholic school while I disagreed with every point of dogma. All the English teachers picked on theme and slant and graded for it at the same time they picked on grammar and spelling. I couldn't tell the difference and the criticism sometimes got witty and vicious.

I was writing the wrong genre and the wrong type of story with the wrong moral. I wasn't writing for the market and nothing would have convinced me to write to that market. Just as today nothing would convince me to write to the market of people who disagree violently with everything I believe is right and true. It's at best deceptive and self destructive, at worst it encourages my enemies and strengthens their grip on society. No reason for me to do that. Least of all money, there are cleaner ways to earn a dollar.

SFWA doesn't mean what it used to for me. I'm still a Science Fiction Writer though. That's part of who I am. SFWA just got dethroned as an authority defining what that is. I wrote a science fiction novel - Raven Dance is one. It's in print, my name's on it. Whether I'm a good Science Fiction Writer or not, I definitely am one and intend to go on doing that. When I get to where I earn a living on it, that's a big real milestone. One that may mean more economic security than I've ever had in my life.

If my books stay in print and keep earning when I'm too sick to do more, then I've got something that keeps going when I can't. Any one of them is a ticket in the Literary Lottery. My chance that a book might break out to turn into a big success improves the better I write and the more books are out there for readers to discover. It wasn't my first one, big deal. Lotteries don't pay off that often - but I can play again and again. Also some past winners get found years after they first went into print, so I can't count anything that isn't a breakout as a failure.

What I need to do is just keep going, edit the novels I have finished and make them available. That's the path. If the only job I ever wanted is the only one I'm capable of doing, so be it. That's better than just giving up. Just giving up means dying, there's nothing better I can do with my life. At any point I considered giving up on my writing, I was also feeling suicidal.

So I'll keep doing it and the heck with authorities of any kind. My readers like it and that's enough for me.

And the good news is that I discovered N. K. Jemisin, whose novels are wonderful. Her style is inspiring too, reading her books gets my writing itch going. I have to do things like that. She's got an original perspective and she's carried the entire genre farther in my direction than I've ever seen. So I've got a new imaginary friend to help coach me on writing. If I ever meet her in person I'll be awed until I get to know her and find out if we like each other. Right now I don't want to, because imaginary friends are important to keeping sane.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I love, love, love the Asus! It's so fast it's scary. Its backlit keyboard looks like something off the console of a spaceship, very science-fictionish. One of me moments of wonder, realizing I'm living in the future now. This machine is sleek.

And so powerful. I'e got the new-computer high of watching everything I'm used to run like greased lightning and seeing it do things that always choked no matter what I was on run like they were always supposed to. Youtube videos embedded in Facebook run without slowing anything. Radio Rivendell is playing in background, which is giving me a serious writing jones.

Oh yes, this is going to be a thrill and I may not wait till November. I may finally be integrating writing and art in the same day's habits. I may try for it as such, say hello to both every day at least with some backstory work or edit a few paragraphs and at least a doodle sketch. Well, this month's goal is to draw at least once a week and write seriously at least once a week. That is to say, EDIT, put in some good hours editing Rites of Chavateykar, which needs it badly. It also seriously needs a retro-outline beacuse of the number of new scenes and point of view changes involved.

So that migth be this week's task, outline the thing. I need to get organized and create sub-tasks so I don't get intimidated at the scale of the entire work. Also I really could do another chapter, that wouldn't hurt at all. It's going to be fun!

I'm home. I'm back online where I belong and life is so good again! Today's dinner was perfect too, Swedish meatballs with carrots in one veggie side and organic green beans in the other. I hate green beans. I used to hate green beans. These tasted like they got picked from the yard and then cooked at home, nothing like the yucky canned green beans I loathed in a zillion cafeterias. I'm getting addicted to the Meals that Heal vegetables because they're so good, donated by local organic farmers and cooked by someone who's an incredible chef. Whoever's doing the cooking for this program deserves some awards.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I've been sitting on an ever-growing stack of science fiction and fantasy novels since I published Raven Dance in 2000. Every year I participate in NaNoWriMo and usually the 3 Day Novel contest too, either officially or just by spending Labor Day Weekend writing a new short novel.

I just keep writing them and stacking them up in my hard drive. Editing is a daunting task especially when all of them have the same problems that I need to overcome in order to produce good professional quality work. I decided to go indie some time back after watching the way the publishing industry changed and keeps changing.

90% of the delays are due to physical or financial hardship. I'm a disabled 58 year old transman who only worked full time for about a decade and never did get ahead enough to get past basic survival, let alone pay for needed medical care. I never got insurance because I was trans and I wasn't going to take that money out of necessities like rent and bills and food for self and significant other if it didn't cover my gender reassignment treatment. Disability, trans and aging all combined to a perfect storm and I was homeless for a long time, sub-marginal long before I was homeless, sub-marginal all through the 90s even if some of that was actually one of my most prosperous times in terms of physical comforts.

The other 10% is something uglier. Self acceptance, choice of living stealth or being out of the closet and wimping out on my GBLT themes and social science fiction themes. I've sweated over that all along.

If the right thing to do is stand up for my rights and link arms with anyone else who's gotten oppressed for any reason (which does make for a pretty HUGE majority), then I should write my brooks true to my view of life and just find my readership. Trust that it's out there. Trust that some people will read a blog entry about transgender issues and find out I do SFF and check it out because they are sick of wimpy princesses who don't act like real ones, sick of main characters always being straight-white-cisgender-male, sick of science fiction that doesn't question society and make you think. I definitely fall closer to Ursula K. LeGuin and Ray Bradbury and all than I do to the current crop of rocket men.

I don't even have anything against the quest of the rocket men.

I don't think it's pointless to reach for the stars. I think that's a lot better thing to do as a human endeavor than 'try to kill off lots of other people for their customs/religion/want their stuff' and it can solve other problems on Earth because good science is not a waste of effort.

It's just that's not my story. No matter how much some of it looks like fantasy fiction, it's actually social SF about culture and adapting to technology and interacting with people who aren't like you. It's what it is and I'm who I am. So maybe this post is like those moments heroes decide to do the dang fated thing anyway. It beats not doing it by a lot, because not doing it is stupid and doesn't solve anything.

I never could run. I had to learn to fight.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Okay, this is not a complete review because I haven't finished and won the game yet. That's not my style of play. I tend to noodle around each act for a long time playing it through in all the character types slowly. I move across the landscape slowly picking up everything including the junk. This drives other players crazy in multi-player games, but my relaxed pace is what I get into with it.

Diablo III is a masterwork.

There is a reason why it took ten years to write the sequel to Diablo II. I was still playing and enjoying Diablo II up to the minute I first loaded Diablo III and it's still my choice for what to relax with when I go offline due to power outage or loss of Internet connection. The only flaw in Diablo III is that you have to go online to play it.

I had to ignore a tiny chat screen down at the bottom left corner where other players are selling artifacts or trying to invite me to help with quests. I don't play socially, so it'd be nice to filter that to in-game characters only. For one thing, I am an old fashioned RPG player who likes to get into character and stay in character. That does not fit the mood of the chats.

However, if I wanted to play with friends who game the way I do, it's easy to set up an invite based social game provided everyone has good high speed access. I have Verizon Wireless 4G - it runs very well when the 4G service is up, when they switch to the 3G servers or get a bit overloaded there's lag. This can get frustrating but my access is good enough it hasn't happened much. Be sure you have good fast Internet service and enough bandwidth to play it for hours on end.

It won't cost as much bandwidth as streaming video but it's probably more than just reading articles and posting. I haven't been able to check those stats yet. Verizon's usage analysis service hasn't been working when I logged in. On the side where it's closer to "read and surf" usage though, I've been online with it for 48 hours and have not gotten the "Important Message from Verizon" yet telling me I used half my usage. Since I did watch a six hour painting class in streaming video, if it was running high I'd have got that message already.

There is a reason this game is a massive enduring hit in all three iterations. Three good reasons.

1) Good game design: the pace your character levels and gets new powers, the balance of effort and reward is optimum. It's perfectly balanced for endless play. There's enough new challenges, different side quests and dialogue to make it immersive for every repeat. They did this as far back as Diablo I, so at every stage they've kept this flagship game's playability and replayability maximized.

2) Good Story with an Immersive Setting, Sympathetic Characters, Good Dialogue and Masterful Twists. It's got all the literary hallmarks of a brilliant graphic novel series. If you have not played Diablo I and Diablo II, the story will stand alone and enough gets revealed about what happened to keep this one absorbing. It's richer if you have played the sequels, so I'd recommend buying the Diablo II Battle Chest that includes Diablo I as a free extra.

The first game is a bit crude because game technology has evolved since then, but it's still fun in its own way. The second is still playable to this day and will probably sit in my library something like the books I keep replacing till I get fed up and get the hardcover version. The third is just as good.

I'm only part of the way through it as I said, but the quality is so consistent I know it'll be maintained right through to a twist ending.

3) Incredible fine art. For the past few years I've been taking a lot of upper level art classes, since December 2010 I've been taking a master level landscape course given by Johannes Vloothuis, who was once named Mexico's best watercolor artist. So I understand a lot more of the underpinnings of great art than I did before when I just got absorbed in it and loved the art. Everyone loves the art.

Now I understand why the art grabs everyone that much. It's just that good on every principle of design and color and composition. You can use all the CGI and fancy tricks in the world to create illusion but if it has poor design it will be awkward, look unreal and drive you nuts without being able to put your finger on why.

The scenes are lighter and easier to navigate than Diablo II. Mist is used a lot to give distance and keep the screen a little lighter. Rather than hard-edged detailed realism, the scenery has a painterly loose depth to it that's completely immersive. Every artist's trick I just learned to make a flat piece of paper open up into an immense vista is applied all at once. Character design is good too. Styles are classic for the archetypes the characters represent.

I'm of two minds about the Witch Doctor though. He's cool, he's very African themed, he's clearly a jungle shaman. What I don't like is that his combat pose, crouched to fire poison darts in the jungle, makes the male Witch Doctor look like he's cringing and servile in any conversation. The other heroes stand tall and act with a balance of wisdom and youthful male arrogance. Witch Doctor has that too but his wisdom is a little different, he's had a harder life. I'd like to have seen them give him better posture and save the crouching for a combat pose, or even eliminate the crouch because it's just not there if you're shooting behind a tall bush. It's only there if the bush you use for cover is shorter than you are.

On the up side, all the white characters in the game treat him exactly like the other heroes. There's no sense of racism in their reactions and no one notices his bad posture or acts patronizing toward him. I'd just like to see him move and act more hunky because when I imagine myself as a black guy hero, I want to look like Wil Smith and really take charge of the combat. Maybe darker than Wil Smith and tribal dressed, yay and cool for that, but I keep feeling he should've had good posture and excellent dreadlocks. His dialogue and attitude are perfect for exactly what he is - a shaman, he's used to giving people advice, he's humble with the spirits and respectful of the spirit world but ferocious when it comes to evil spirits.

There's a reason the series endures and that we all had to wait so long for the third volume in the trilogy. Diablo III is the third in a series of classic interactive graphic novels. If you enjoy graphic novels you'll enjoy this game, even if you're not usually into computer games.

Oh, that's the other thing.

4) The mechanics are still brute easy. I don't have to memorize a lot of keyboard commands or get a game controller and train my hands to its buttons and commands. The learning curve to play the game at full speed is stupid easy. This is important. Ease of play gets you into the real pleasure of gaming a lot faster without the distraction of having to learn a lot of real-world skills at a real-world pace.

Playing well does not demand the fast reflexes of a physically healthy 12 year old either. My snail's pace is partly determined by my physiology. I don't react fast. I don't move quickly enough for half the games out there because I didn't train them into automatic reflexes. The dabbler gamer can get as much enjoyment out of Diablo III as the experienced gamer with a whole big bookshelf of colorful fantasy roleplaying games.

It's best of breed. It was worth the wait. There's even a convenience benefit to the new "must play online" system - the install CD is only one install CD instead of the five in the Diablo II Battle Chest, four of which needed to be loaded and swapped repeatedly to install before you get into just using the Expansion Play Disc. That's great now and it'll be great when I upgrade my laptop next year too.

I wasn't sure if it'd run on my current best laptop, an HP with 4 gigs of RAM and a dual core AMD processor. Sorry, don't have the specs at hand, but look close at the system requirements. Mine had enough RAM and processing speed and space on the hard drive, but I got a warning it might not play well on my video card - and this is a three year old "gaming machine desktop replacement" laptop with a 17" wide-screen monitor. Turns out speed of play depends a bit more on how smooth and fast your Internet access is, but don't spend the $60 if you don't meet the tech specs. Or get a friend to give you a free pass client to try it so you can find out if your system runs it.

I set it to the lowest resolution on this machine just to conserve bandwidth, but I'll turn it up to high once I get cable Internet and a newer laptop. I might follow up then just to see the art at its finest intensity. The box includes four free guest pass codes so you can let friends or family members enjoy the game, plus one free guest pass for World of Warcraft.

I've heard good things about that too and may give it a try. Blizzard games are definitely my flavor.

5) Did I mention the sound track is as good as the best movie soundtracks I've ever enjoyed? This is awesome. Sometimes I listen to the music just for writing music.

Progress

Jun. 7th, 2012 08:16 am
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Last night, after a grand total of 26 hours so far, I finished the second draft of The Sword of Arkatyr.

Replacing the lousy intro with a real first chapter doubled its length. The book now has one more chapter and runs to 78,897 words. So it's a little longer but it's got a real intro now.

I'm also in a lot of pain because I went out Wednesday and voted, then went out yesterday to get my shot. My back and bad leg have given out but I did something good. I'll sleep when the pain lightens enough that I can.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
I've spent most of my life fighting through layer after layer of Writer's Block. I push these blocks back with grim determination, over and over forcing myself to do it. Eventually part of the process gets easy enough and comes out well enough that I don't hesitate or have to fight myself to get started. I trust myself to get it done, to do it right anytime I sit down to do it.

My current bottleneck for many years has been getting around to editing my novels. I'm okay with editing short stories. I write them and often edit them the same day. It's no big deal on a short story. It feels like part of the process. I usually write them because something in a submissions call or a set of guidelines intrigued me and I think "Hey, they might give me some money." That worked twice for pro publications, so it's not a bad place to look for starting points!

I've got way over 50 trunk novels. I've got maybe five million words of fiction behind me at a conservative estimate. That is some serious practice. It's also a major backlog. Out of all that fiction, only one of those novels made it to print. Raven Dance is still available at Amazon and iUniverse.com still sends me a royalty check every now and then. I expect more copies will sell when my next book hits publication, especially since there's a nice cheap e-book version now besides the $25 print book. That's a bit much to expect an acquaintance to drop on a new author they just heard of because they met him in a chat or something. Though maybe not. I may have overestimated how big $25 is in the budget of someone with a good job.

I think of it as a quarter of my food budget for the month, so it's a pretty big deal.

The e-book is in a price range for unemployed friends who just met me in a chat.

So I want some more e-books out there. The only job I ever wanted is the only job I'm physically capable of doing on anything like a regular schedule, year in and year out. It doesn't take going out or standing in front of an easel or dressing in something more presentable than sweat pants and a t-shirt. It can be done in the middle of the night when I'm at my most productive instead of demanding that I get up in the morning and pretend to function.

Two nights ago I was hanging out with Nonny and Nico in two different chat windows. Nico was working on editing her kick ass kinky vampire erotica novel. Nonny and I were shooting the breeze about publishing. She gave me a link for some numbers - the 100 top self published e-book authors among them. Copies sold, over a hundred thousand in one month for the lady at the top of the list. I looked at that and thought, wow even at a buck a book that is massive, in one month, that is somebody rich. She's probably getting more like five or six or seven bucks per book. High end e-books run up to ten or twelve bucks and have a nice high royalty percentage too. I'm sure she's a millionaire. I'm sure she pays a professional accountant to make sense of her taxes. It can be done.

The ones on the bottom of the list were moving a thousand copies a month. That's still a lot of money. Five or six thousand dollars a month is enough to be paying market rate for a nice apartment in San Francisco with plenty left over for good causes, season tickets at the San Francisco opera, tailored hand made suits from Chinatown that fit my asymmetrical crooked body.

While I was drooling at the successes, we started talking about the costs of production. E-book production is within my current, diminished finances. I have enough money right now that I could do it by end of June or July, if I'm only a little bit tight on food and incidentals. I can handle the formatting fee just for not getting as many Kindle books the month I do that.

This month I spent $60 to get Diablo 3 because I've been waiting for that for too many years and need something to goof off with on sick days. It'll be good for years of goofing off. But while I'm waiting for it, I'll earn it.

I've busted the block. I just put in 15 hours of editing The Sword of Arkatyr, which is going to be my first e-book publication. Tentative launch date is this fall. It might be sooner if my Beloved Editor works on her part of the process faster. It might take longer if Life Happens. But I am very close to being ready to send it to her.

What's left now is a chapter project. 2,500 words or so of introducing the characters and hooking the readers. My protagonist is a royal bastard. Literally, his dad's a King and his mom was a village girl who was very pretty and wound up as a different rich man's mistress later on resulting in my hero's beloved baby sister.

How does it feel when somebody calls you a name that's literally true, and the name is something that gets blanked out by censors because the word itself is too obscene for children's ears? What does it take for the school bully to find out that word stings? When it's something the child can't control, because he didn't exist when his mom conceived him without doing the proper ceremonies first?

That's what it boils down to. The term "bastard" is synonymous with "jerk" or "asshole." Yet it has a literal meaning that's just wrong, that is in itself immoral. People should not be punished for things their parents did or didn't do. Not in my view.

It's a cool dragons and elves traditional fantasy novel. It'll introduce my take on dragons and elves and dark elves (what Dwarves in Tolkein's universe were based on), with plenty of magic and a mage-assassin who becomes a hero because it needs to be done. At the end of it, a couple of hard men cry, which is another very cool thing about writing in 2012. Heck, I cried when I wrote that last chapter and my eyes were moist on the rewrite.

It's a good book. It's a good little book. It's the best of my current skill and I've been underpublished for way too long.

My old therapist Roland gave me some good advice back in 2000. He said "Go ahead and prostitute your art. You're not prostituting yourself. You've got to remember you're the pimp. Your books look good. Dress them up and send them out. Tell them to bring you home some money."

As we get closer to the big debut, I'll do more updates. Sword of Arkatyr will be in your hands in 2012, unless Life Happens. Which is a whole lot of why it hasn't happened sooner.
robertsloan2: Ari sweet (Default)
Last night I sketched the first of three cats I'm painting this month, trying for a March 13th deadline. This is ludicrous speed compared to previous cat commissions but that's also a matter of budgeting time. I felt confident enough to start it and seriously hope to finish all three by the March 13th Reveal Date. Not have them shipped yet, but posted so the recipient gets to see them and anticipate their happy arrival.

They're beautiful cats and I'm inspired again after some time off painting waterfalls. Also if I keep that schedule, I'll have my commissions done before the Rocks course starts and be able to devote my Saturdays to painting rocks. Which is always fun too. Rocks are easy but I may learn some fine points about them. So it's likely to help improve my art in general.

Beyond art, there's writing. My good writing buddy Nonny, who has been my muse and writing buddy before, during and after our brief relationship, is back to late night chats that stimulate both of us to work on our fiction. She's got a fantastic novel in progress that I enjoyed in its first iteration, the changes she's made since then are spectacular.

Tonight she was unusually quiet about her work and kept drawing me out about mine. She's providing a level of support that's priceless - letting me open up about my backstory and plot and plans, the details of the yet-to-be-written Garden of Earthly Delights and the future history that connects with it.

I wound up ruminating on the ways all of my backstories connect between novels - the Crosstime novels and their species and worlds connect through various races that discovered parallel worlds. Nomad universe never discovered that but they got faster than light travel. They colonized in a way that avoided contacting any aliens because worlds couldn't be terraformed if there was so much as a microbe on them.

Eventually they'll connect but I'm not ready for that book for a long time. Other than Nomads having some urban legends about lost ships and mystery sightings (many of which were just hallucinations or urban legends.)

Tonight I discovered the little short brilliant Hindu doctor is a widow and last time I talked to Nonny before this, I discovered she invented the rejuvenation process the Nomads have. That erased the last barrier between humans and vampires - they're different and equal if you don't need to have a liquid diet and different instincts in order to live for centuries. That affected society too - older people living longer would slow the rate of cultural change.

Demeter's got the hyper-complex ecology to keep on making medical and scientific advances and the brain power for it. Demeter's a very influential planet in the Nomad history. They were a breadbasket too for a long time before the Nomads really got a handle on that closed fishbowl sustainable lifestyle and they always provided more variety in food and plenty of arts too.

What I realized tonight is tremendous. I know why I lost the first version. It wasn't an accident. It was my unconscious telling me I was not ready to write this book. I didn't have the experience. I was living in New Orleans and until I got sick with a prescription side effect and went wandering stoned through the city, getting tireder and sicker and needing help, I didn't connect with black people the way I did afterward.

Almost everyone that helped me during that walkabout was black. I was welcomed and taken care of and treated well in poor black neighborhoods by kind people everywhere I went. I started smiling and feeling more trusting whenever I saw a black face. One old white hippie helped me out and some paramedics checked on me when I was trying to sleep in a park and asked if I wanted to go to the hospital, but I didn't. I'd just come from there and did not want to go back.

Eventually I got arrested and spent 21 days time served for the misdemeanor of trying to sleep on a streetcar without paying the fare. By then I was giggling drunk on sleep deprivation and Prednisone, hallucinating so tangibly I could only distinguish it from reality by logic - I did not turn into a white whale beached and unable to breathe, I just had an asthma attack and was too weak to stand up. Stephen King was not my cell mate, but the long conversation I had with him was a good representation of his views on writing as expressed in many of his novels and interviews. He didn't need to be there to be there in spirit. The jail was real. The shackles were real. Getting thrown down by guards because I threw a tantrum like a three year old about getting in the shower was real, that was why I got the shackles and wound up laying naked in my own excrement in a cell in the psych ward end of the jail.

When I asked for a shower coherently and agreed not to make a fuss about it they unlocked the shackles and let me shower, hosed the cell clean, gave me clean clothes. Stephen King told me to remember every bit of it because I'd probably never be in a jail again and it would be worth describing from life. He was right. He was my conscience telling me to take it like a writer, accept the adventure, hallucinations and all, as an experience that would enrich my writing.

I made a number of black friends in that jail. We got along well. Not everyone, some people didn't like me, but I pretty much stuck with those who did and some of them were among the guards. None of the guards really picked on me - or the others. It was the city jail, not the state prison or federal prison. Just the city lockup with a lot of misdemeanors and a significant number of innocents, many of them black.

That's where I met the fiftyish mother of a cocaine addict who was up on felony charges of possession with intent to sell cocaine because her son who was living with her and supposedly in rehab, slipped and was dealing dope out of her house behind her back. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she didn't have the kind of names and contacts to get off by turning over drug dealers. She was pretty sure she'd be convicted and she explained to me why she was up on those charges even though she'd never used drugs and she didn't tolerate it in her son and he'd successfully hidden it from her. She couldn't resist taking her son back when he showed up sober and in rehab and wanted help staying sober. She got lied to. She was more grieved that her son had backslid than about what happened to her.

I heard stories that broke my heart in that jail.

I let go of that novel after the three day walkabout. I gave it to a young black woman who'd helped me carry it home when I wasn't strong enough to carry the bag. I'd promised her money and I didn't realize I didn't have it till I got in the door and couldn't breathe, had an asthma attack, knew I had nothing to give her for all her trouble. So I gave her the laptop instead. I let go of it and the backup was in the pocket of the case.

I look back at the original and it was racist. Not totally, but I learned so much just in the three sick days of stumbling around on Prednisone side effects that I'd completely blown my previous characterizations. Everyone in the rough draft was white and Euro-pagan except the Hindu doctor - that may be why she and the painter are the only characters that survived the changes.

Maybe I could not do justice to this book until I came home to San Francisco and live in a building where nobody's the same, where the people across the hall are an interracial marriage and there's Filipino and Hispanic and gay and straight and black and Samoan and Asian - where the diversity is world diversity. Where my being me is one thin stripe in a very big rich rainbow instead of that rainbow-tints rough draft where I found the general story.

The events, the main plot of the book is sound. The big problem was the characters and the minor conflicts told from too narrow a perspective. The book was racist by what I've learned today - liberal, but not really progressive. It had serious flaws and now I know I can do better. In all ways, I can do better with the cast. It's no longer color blind casting of essentially white characters, like an opera cast for the Ring cycle with a black Brunnhilde - who in character is still a Norse Valkyrie even if her face is dark and the actress-singer is black. Now the characters will be truer to who they are and the book richer for it.

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