Category Archives: Writing

Blogs about reading, writing, and the creative process.

Shuffled Art

I’ve thought a lot about reader-ordered interpretation. I just finished “Building Stories” by Chris Ware, primarily because it’s clear that Aja intentionally emulated Ware in his run of Hawkeye. But something else came from it.
 
See, “Building Stories” isn’t really a book. It’s a box with 14 different elements inside it, like a poster, a broadsheet, a newspaper, a couple of hardbound volumes, and so on. Even a board as if from a board game. The title is a play on words, as the reader is building the stories from the disparate parts, but also each story revolves around various buildings, in many ways.
 
Which brings be back to Hawkeye, and comics. Because comic issues can (and, increasingly often, are) be shuffled around to present a different story. The official Hawkeye Omnibus, which I’m reading now, shuffles the order quite substantially from the monthly run. What once was a reference in issue #17 becomes foreshadowing when it’s read after issue #6. Even inside the issues Fraction plays with time that evokes Ware.
 
Comic books/graphic novels aren’t the only form of this, however. It’s almost a rite of passage as a fan of “The Prisoner” to develop a preferred viewing order. Many Star Wars fans found some redemption of the prequels by watching them in “Machete Order.” There’s even a card game called “Joking Hazard” which is based around literally shuffling comic panels and making a sensible strip out of the results. And video games like “Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series” get some value out of playing scenes over again to give new context to them.
I find it fascinating — the ultimate result of democratizing art. Over time art has moved out of the hands of an elite few (or the elite patrons of those artists), to the point where an artist can find an audience just about anywhere. And now, more art is coming out where the audience has control over the experience. It’s easy to talk about interactivity when it comes to games, but even “static” art like graphic novels and television shows can be interactive, in the right circumstances.

Ratings War: A Personal Milestone

In case you missed it, my interactive novel, Ratings War, went live yesterday. It’s only $1.99 for the next few days, so check it out on iOS, Android, Kindle, or Steam. And watch the cool promotional video! Implant cameras in your eyes to win the news wars of 2061.

I’ve been working on this game for over a year now, and it’s a big milestone for me. It’s my first shipped video game title where my name is front-and-center. I’ve worked on a couple of other shipped projects that I’m very happy with (and a couple that haven’t seen the light of day), but this one was primarily mine. I pitched it, I outlined it, I wrote it, and I coded it. I still worked with a team (namely the great folks at Choice of Games), but there’s a lot of me in Ratings War.

Second, this is my first novel. For years I’ve had a mental block on writing them. I’m not entirely sure why that was, but in my head I couldn’t write a full novel, even though I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for role-playing games. Ratings War clocks in at 80,000 words, even if you don’t read every word in each playthrough. It might not be something you can put on a shelf, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s a novel (and luckily, SFWA agrees). Now whenever I get that mental block, I can tell myself that I’ve written a damned novel, so I can write more.

Third, it’s the first project I coded from start to finish. The scripting language I used, ChoiceScript, is pretty friendly compared to Python, but I was definitely writing code. I wrote the entire thing in SublimeText, and I regularly had to debug it, recompile it, run automated testing, and figure out what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that code six months before. So while it’s my first novel, it’s also the first computer game that I built primarily by myself.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, it’s a game that is inclusive, in the way I feel games should be inclusive. This was something I wanted to do from the beginning, and not only did Choice of Games support that, but they pushed me to go further. I wrote this game (which has one obvious and one hidden romance option) so that people of any sexuality and gender identity could be the protagonist. I reached out to non-binary people as well to make sure I handled that correctly. I switched things up where I could. I used lots of pronoun variables. I wanted this to be a game where all of my friends could have fun, and I hope I accomplished that.

Ratings War is not something I could do a few years ago. There’s a lot of post-2011 me in that game, and I can see how much I’ve grown, and how much I can still improve. I hope other people will see that as well, and have some fun being a cyberpunk journalist to boot.

Your Own Personal Kanban: The Backlog

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Yesterday I looked at how I use my board to track my task momentum. Today I’ll finish by talking about how I plan my tasks.

Continue reading Your Own Personal Kanban: The Backlog

Your Own Personal Kanban: The Board

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Yesterday I looked at how I handle my daily tasks. Today I’ll go into how I use those tasks and track them.

Continue reading Your Own Personal Kanban: The Board

Your Own Personal Kanban: The Tomato

Since I went full-time freelance as a writer, designer, and consultant, a number of people have asked me how I manage my workload. It’s a fair question, since I juggle three consulting contracts and usually two to five projects at any one time. I thought I would write a few blog posts to detail my personal management process as it looks now. Maybe it will help other creative professionals as they get ready for the new year.

Let’s start small and work our way up.

Continue reading Your Own Personal Kanban: The Tomato

How to Write Controversial Material

Over the years, I’ve worked with controversial material, both as a writer and a developer. Some of it never saw the light of day (for various reasons). Some of it did, but was controversial for the wrong reasons (like the fact that gay characters exist). But over the years, I’ve learned a lot about how to handle it, and I have metrics of when and how best to do it. Before I dive in, though, a warning. Everyone draws these lines differently. What I consider mundane, another person would consider radical. The point of this isn’t to argue what should or shouldn’t be controversial, but what the writer and client (assuming they are two different people) agree is controversial for their audience. Writing dinosaur erotica for an audience of dinosaur erotica readers isn’t controversial in that context, for example, but I expect it would raise eyebrows in other genres. Continue reading How to Write Controversial Material

A Taste Of “A Nuwisha Walks Into A Bar”

Most people know me through my work on Vampire: The Masquerade or White Wolf/Onyx Path RPG books in general. Not many know that I also do a lot of work in fiction and on other RPGs, covering a range of topics. This “A Taste Of” series features samples of my work from areas most people might not know about, along with places you can buy the book to read more!

Since I started doing this series, another Classic World of Darkness fiction project was released, so I’m circling back around to that. I was asked by the wonderful and talented Jess Hartley to contribute a story to an anthology about the Fera, the non-wolf werecreatures. I instantly asked if I could use the Nuwisha, and she let me use the Corax to book. I decided to write the “other side” of my other Apocalypse story, “The Magadon Job.” And thus was created “A Nuwisha Walked Into A Bar.”

If you like this first part, you can read the rest in Songs of the Sun and Moon. You can get it from DriveThruFiction right now!

Continue reading A Taste Of “A Nuwisha Walks Into A Bar”