Saturday, February 13, 2016

Inkshares and the future

So for those of you who might still be following this, things have changed from my original plan. I'm sure you noticed the entries for The Girl Who Blinked have all disappeared. This is because there is now a pre-order campaign in full swing over on the Inkshares website. You can find that page here. There is also a Facebook page for the book that can be found here.

For those of you unfamiliar with Inkshares, they are a publisher who has taken notes from crowdfunding sites similar to Kickstarter. What this means is that instead of letting buying agents and marketing decide what should get published, they let us decide. If a project on their site hits 250 units pre-ordered then they cover all of the pre-orders and give editorial input. If a project gets 750 or more pre-orders, they step up the editorial efforts, provide marketing, and distribution to stores.

It's those services that ultimately led me to launch The Girl Who Blinked as an Inkshares project. I'm a writer with a full time job and limited connections. This makes it difficult to pursue a more traditional path to publishing or even self publishing.

This blog isn't going anywhere. If anything I intend to expand it, and use it as a means to expand and preview projects I have in the works. It just won't be the place where I can share The Girl Who Blinked entries for the foreseeable future.

Before I leave you I want to give a glimpse of the current cover mockup that I've been working on with the talented Amanda Rome. This is still very much a work in progress, but I hope that you dig it as much as I do.

Pretty cool right? The title and byline are all I can really take credit for, and hopefully Amanda can take them and make them as awesome as the rest of the cover. Well I'm off to take care of a few other things. I hope you guys decide to stay around and follow me down this new rabbit hole. Every pre-order is vitally important in making this a reality.

-See you space cowboy

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A brief respite

So I want to take this moment to talk about this year's NaNoWriMo and what you can expect from this blog going forward. (At least for the near future). With the 50k word challenge met I will be slowing down the pace by a fair bit. On the first I will be posting a retrospect and thoughts on how this years efforts went.

As far as the story itself, we are sailing into the third act and grand finale for The Girl Who Blinked, but I estimate that we have another 25k words or so. I mean they still have to deal with the the Eodium occupation of Equinox, find out what happened to Clementine, and make sure the Combine doesn't come for their head. Since my entries average around two thousand words that means about thirteen entries or so. If everything goes smoothly the first draft will be done and posted before the end of the month.

Once the first draft is done I'll be stepping away from the story and looking for feedback from some close friends. If anyone who reads this wants to give me some feedback, just know I am looking for story notes not copy notes. There is no point worrying about catching typos and comma splices or doctoring the prose in general on something that may get reworked. Once the story beats are all worked out, then I'll worry about it.

While I'm letting the Girl Who Blinked sit, you'll see notes start to pop up for another story in the same universe. I am already having some ideas based on what the new status quo will be. It won't be centered around Adora and the crew of the Void Hawk, but it will include them in a supporting role. Hopefully it will arouse your interest when the time comes.

Well I guess it's time to get back to working on that final act. If all goes well you should have another two thousand words or so tomorrow. Until then, sail safely

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Twisting Starlight

A short entry here to get things started and to briefly explain why this thing wasn't updated with the regularity I originally wanted. Basically it amounts to life being what it is, I couldn't actively plot the way I wanted to. There simply wasn't time to sit down and come up with clever blog entries to share what I was planning with you. I have a collection of hand written notes and the framework for the story in my head, though, so nothing to fear but the writing itself.

Each evening, before I retire for the night, I will post whatever I have written for the day along with what my final word count was when I decided to call it quits. I will do this no matter how few words were written or how many. I will also post a link to the draft in process. This will be a much more organized way to read since the chapter breaks and such will be present on this document. Feel free to comment on the blog your thoughts and suggestions.

Now the time is passing us by, and we must begin the journey of the Girl Who Blinked.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fork in the Road

After taking a brief break from the post it's time to dive back in to the history of the Mage Star Universe and into the planning of the plot.  First, after conferring with a few trusted confidants, the working title for this year's novel is "The Girl Who Blinked." The actual meaning of the title is something I'm not prepared to go into at this moment, but just know that it is relevant and important to the plot and the protagonist.

Now on to the actual prep. We are just about done with the universe building phase, which is a good thing since we are already into October and I think I just saw November peaking out from around the corner. Pretty sure I am about to get jumped. With that in mind, let's hammer a few last setting bits into place so I can move on to using them to make our main character.

Last we looked at humanity going out into the stars they had actually been split into two larger factions, those who wandered off on their own and those who were able to be integrated into the greater galactic society. I don't want those to be two huge actual groups, instead any smaller human based factions would have their outlook shaped by which of these two pseudo groups they formed out of. The Wanderers will tend toward more human exceptionalism and isolation, while the Integrated will tend toward transhumanism and favor diverse local cultures.

The Wanderers belief in human exceptionalism is not baseless. One thing they discovered fairly early in their travel among the stars is that human's tend to be a hardier lot than most other sentient species. They tend to need less sleep, recover from injuries quicker, and can deal with a greater number of toxins more efficiently. This toughness combined with our natural adrenal response means that most societies respect humans as natural warriors and capable of dealing with adverse conditions.

The transhumanist tendencies of the Integrated stems from a desire to move beyond some of the negative connotations associated with humans as one of the younger galactic species. It is not uncommon for members of more established species to view humans as dumb thugs blindly wandering through the galaxy. Through technological and biological enhancements, many Integrated strive to come closer to these elder species or perhaps even greater than all species.

If you remember back to my earlier posts I am trying to write this for my daughter, so that means the story itself is going to start in an area that seems familiar before transitioning into the weirder stuff as we go. What this means for our main character is that she will be from a Wanderer based world. It will be somewhere that is still clinging to the legacy of earth, with a mostly human population.

While we are looking at her home world, there is some groundwork I need to lay for the story to progress properly. I want to ease the reader into the weirdness of the universe, but not do massive info dumping.  To accomplish this there are two things that easily come to mind is that the world is remote by galactic standards, and that the human population has a dogmatic or prejudice view toward magic.

What this means for out protagonist is that she can still serve as the reader's window into the stranger aspects of the universe. By being from a remote location she won't know the nuts and bolts of magic and tech, but by have her being in her very early teens I can still have her be curious and if I end up having to do a little info dumping it will still feel natural to the story. In addition, the society that she is in leads to a more restricted view on magic at the offset. Of course our young heroine will not subscribe to such limiting views, but why? Maybe one of her parents/guardian is a Talent or a Mage.

So to sum up the main protagonist we have an approximately thirteen year old girl from a more fundamentalist human centric planet where she is a bit of an outsider due to her open mindedness toward magic. Since this will crib a bit for the Hero's Journey, part of the story will be discovering that she is a Talent. To give a counter point to that and to explain her open nature, she was raised by a Mage of relatively minor skill. Still trying to decide if this is a parent or a guardian, but I am leaning more toward parent.

Personality wise, this girl is an explorer. She knows enough about space to know she wants to get out there and discover new things, even if most people seem convinced she is going nowhere except the next closest settlement. She is clever, a little stubborn, and has confidence issues. When faced with a problem she is hype focused and able to last it out until she finds a solution, but often doubts herself and is afraid to assert herself or act on her plans. This gives her an area where she can grow and mature over the course of the story.

With those broad strokes out of the way, all I need is a name to start cementing her in mind and for my subconscious to fill in some of the finer details. There is someone I respect greatly, and to honor her and all she has been through this little firecracker is going to be named Adora.

Moving forward, we will start looking more at the supporting characters and antagonists that Adora will face. I'm also playing with the idea of doing some posts as unrelated short fiction in the Mage Star Universe. The idea here is to do some actual story writing exercises in addition to the note gathering in warm up for NaNoWriMo. These micro fiction pieces will also allow me to do some of my more typical seat of my pants planning. Hopefully it works. You guys will just have to check back in later and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Stepping Out

Last time we did some pretty broad strokes on galactic culture as a whole. What we are now faced with is a setting where mankind has spread out among the stars and fractured. Large corporations often have more power than the local government, and opportunities abound for those who are will to exploit the general isolated nature of deep space. Before go further into what this means on a smaller scale, though, it's time to look at some of the history I established in my notes for Tale of the East Wind and build upon it based on recent ideas.

Somewhere around present day plus one hundred fifty years, humanity was on better footing that is has been in a long time. Advances in terraforming technology has stabilize Earth's climate and kickstarted a renewed push into the solar system. After NASA and the European Space Agency collaborated on the first long term habitat on Mars, mankind was ready to truly expand beyond their little corner of the universe.

The success of the mining of near earth asteroids has led to the creation of Bifrost Station by several corporate interests with the backing of the European Space Agency, NASA, the Russian Federal Space Program, and the Chinese National Space Administration. It was to serve as space station beyond the orbit of the moon capable of acting as a shipyard for the various Earth nations to construct new deep space fleets meant to explore past mars. The first ship to set out for the outer solar system was the ESA's Hermes, and when it crossed into the asteroid belt things changed forever.

The first sign that something was off was what seemed to be a malfunction in the sensor equipment, which began to constantly give inconsistent read outs. Then, after a spacewalk to attempt to repair the sensor array, a strange illness began to sweep through the crew of the Hermes that started as a piercing headache before progressing to a fever and chills. Even after recovering, a small percent of those who fell sick continued to report strange phantom sensations. The final event was the finding of the Archive.

According to the sensors and on board cameras there was no Archive, but it was clear to any crew member who looked out a window that the Hermes had just found the first proof of intelligent alien life. Outside those windows was a massive cylindrical ship covered in strange shimmering symbols. The crew wasted no time in trying to gather more info on the ship to little effect. They may not have ever discovered any of the Archive's secrets if not for Lila Utegbe, a French citizen born in Nigeria.

Lila would later describe the process as using an arm she didn't realize she had before. To her fellow crew members there was a noticeable but subtle wave of force that began to emanate from her and her eyes gave off a glimmer of light. The Archive's structure shifted and stretch until it connected to the Hermes via a thin umbilical.  Lila passed out as soon as the connection formed over the airlock.

There were no alien life forms, but the ship had obviously had a crew at some point.  Instead the crew found, bays upon bays of computers the crew was not able to access as well as countless books and manuals. The crew transmitted their findings to the ESA then set about cataloging their findings. When the order came back, it was to abandon the original mission and tow the object back to Bifrost.

The long process of towing the Archive back to a semblance of Earth orbit was a tedious affair, but it gave the crew more time to dig into the contents of the books they had found. There were no linguists aboard, but those who were fluent in multiple languages began to piece together several clues. The biggest was that the tomes seemed to be in multiple languages repeating the same passages. The series always started with the runic script that had covered the Archive's exterior, then continued through what appeared to be at least four distinct other scripts.

Once Lila recovered enough to return to duty, she discovered that she was able to decipher a substantial amount of the rune like script intuitively. Some of the concepts she wasn't able to properly articulate, but it gave her enough of a working knowledge to make an interface with the Archive's computer system. With a connection finally establish, the Hermes began downloading data and transmitting it back to Earth,

The data from the Archive was dense and difficult to decipher, but what the ESA was able to understand changed everything. There was a force out there that was both the key to wonders like FTL, but wasn't fully understood by whoever had actually made the Archive. Just the knowledge that there was intelligent life elsewhere in the galaxy drastically shifted the plans for the space agencies.

Plans were adjusted. The exploratory fleets were retrofitted for first contact scenarios. Defense contractors began working on plans for weapons and defense measures. Mankind was going to the stars, and they were going to do so with as strong a footing as they could muster.

With the Archive in orbit, more hands on research continued. Lila and the rest of the crew was kept in quarantine aboard the Archive/Hermes, but that did not stop the sickness that marked the onset of Lila’s powers from reaching out to affect the population on earth. Some showed the intuitive ability for a wide breadth of powers, while others were capable of much larger feats in a more focused area. Mages and Talents had come to mankind.

The chance to revel and explore this new power did not last. Knowledge and the key to galactic civilization were not the only things the Archive brought with it. It also brought the attention of the Masters of the Deep. Their attention was not a kind one.

The first attack came in the form of a rock like projectile launched from somewhere around Jupiter’s orbit that crashed in the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Like the archive it had failed to show up on any of sensors developed at that point. The impact caused tidal waves that destroyed much of the American East coast and the European West Coast. The next strike tore through the Archive before smashing into the Indian Ocean. The third hit the Pacific just north of Australia.

The Earth governments were not prepared for the onslaught and the chaos that it invoked. When the planet’s oceans turned against them things only became worse. The water turned a sickly yellow green from the impact points that spread out slowly. The discoloration soon shifted to a thick toxic fog that would become known as the Miasma. When the Miasma reached the shore, mutated monsters crawled out and began waging war.  It was obvious the Earth would soon be lost.
 The corporate interests that had come together for Bifrost Station began launching their shuttles to the station as quickly as they could. Families were separated in the exodus. Supplies that the ships might need were crammed into every available space, including two prototype terraforming machines. The fleet in orbit did the only obvious thing they could do, they set out as those who could not get away were destroyed by the monsters.
It wasn’t long before the fleet fractured. Ships began to peel off and flee, hoping to find a means to survival out in the void. In the chaos, one of the terraforming machines was lost. Approximately half of the ships were still near the orbit of Mars when relief finally came. The now common sight of a flash of light followed by it collapsing into solid form heralded the arrival of the Klarish Combine.
So what we now have is a humanity that is being ushered into the idea of galactic civilization by an alien based corporation, a terraforming machine that can help them establish a new home world (if the aliens allow it), and several other interests who are going about their own path without that alien guidance and may also have their own machine to make a different home world. This seems like a pretty good history to me for having humanity spread out, but still around on a galactic level. 

Next time we are going to continue the history spit balling and figure out exactly where these two forks of humanity ended up. Hopefully that leads to a good starting point for out main characters and their immediate surroundings.

Friday, September 18, 2015


Today's post is going to have me doing some broad setting brushes on culture out in the cosmos of the Mage Star universe and how it is going to contrast with other space settings people may be more familiar with. I think it will come across as a little more rambling than the previous posts, so I'm just going to go ahead and apologize for that in advance,

When I think about space I think about the separation and isolation that is inherent to its very being. The endless void is not something that could easily be controlled or patrolled without huge advances in long range sensors. This means two things for our setting. The first is that we won't see much in the way of large multi planet empires. The second is that we won't be seeing much in the way of mono cultures that are common in shows like Star Trek.

The reason space makes large empires difficult is multifaceted. When you get right down to it a society is a social agreement among a large body of people. The larger the body becomes the harder it is to maintain this agreement peacefully. The logistics of maintaining it through military might would also be cost prohibitive due to things like travel time and just general resources. This doesn't even begin to deal with the issue of trying to keep a secure border in deep space. 

Conquering new planets to expand their control would also make things more difficult for our fledgling empire. Space does provide the ultimate high ground, so the actual invasion would be easy enough to plan. It is the continued occupation that would smack into the logistics wall mentioned above, especially if the planet proves especially resistant to integration and ties up the empire's resources for long periods of time

This doesn't mean that there would not have been attempts, just that they tend to be fleeting. One rogue planetary governor decides he wants to be king, and then another while the fleet is dealing with the first. It wouldn't be long until an empire would collapse under the weight of its own size. 

A much more likely scenario would be the prevalence of raider and pirate cultures instead of vast empires. The spread out nature means that any alliance of planets or government would have a hard time protecting against harrier tactics unless they already have a sizable security force or fleet. A small fleet of raider ships would be able to thrive if they were smart.

The same factors that make larger governments struggle would be what would cause mono cultural planets and star systems to be unlikely. If you think about just Earth, where we have countless different cultures based on a much more limited geography, it seems obvious that the same thing would happen on any planet over time as the population spread out across its habitable regions.

Faster communications would help stabilize this, but unless we want to jump the communications technology to the point where FTL communications exist, there would still be a delay or very limited bandwidth communicating between planets. People just tend to culturally drift apart the further they are seperated. This means that unless there is an extremely small number of habitable places that are physically next to each other on a planet, there will usually not be one all encompassing culture.

Taking those points in mind, I feel pretty confident in saying that the majority of major power players on a galactic scale would look a lot like multinational corporations today. Their more focused interests combined with the ability to selectively recruit means that a corporation would be able to create more cohesion among its members toward a very specific goal.

This tendency to large corporations wielding huge swathes of power without all encompassing oversight actually makes the Mage Star universe very appropriate for stories in the Cyber Punk sub genre of sci-fi. For those of you who might not be familiar with this particular sub genre, it is usually filled with small groups of outsiders struggling against all powerful corporate interests while addressing themes of advancing mankind through technology and how far is too far. This is something that I will have to keep in mind when I move into the actual plotting stages.

The last aspects of the setting that need to be considered are the actual scale and if other intelligent life should be included besides humanity. The more I think about the idea of scale the more I realize that my sense of scale break down the more cosmic the scope. Just out small star system in a small arm of a single galaxy has more space than I can comprehend. I think it is extremely safe to limit humanity to just a portion of the milky way galaxy. Despite me wanting to encourage a sense of wonder, the idea of mankind spreading out beyond that strains against believable reason.

As far as alien life goes, Just from a probability stand point, there is most likely something out there. What about the Fermi Paradox some of you might be asking (for those of you who don't know what that is, it has to do with the fact that despite statistics suggesting that there should be other life in the universe we have somehow not found it)? I don't particularly want to deal with it, so it's easy enough to go the "wizard did it route." Mankind only found alien life once they figured out magic, which didn't happen until they really set out to the stars.

Now that they are out there its like that scene in the Star Wars cantina. There are all kinds of alien races, some vaguely human others no even remotely human, mingling together with huge variations of personality withing the various species. As a whole galactic society is a pretty cosmopolitan place, although pockets of xenophobia spring up in the less traveled locals.

With that stage set I think next post will be time to look at some history for the human race, and maybe start to focus in on some of the actual details that will have a more immediate effect on the story that is percolating. I may try to flesh out a major corporation or pirate group that is likely to show up. I guess I'll think about it over the weekend. Until next time,though, see you space cowboy. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Forging Stars

With the preamble of history out of the way it's time to move on to the first round of world building. Initially I mentioned that the world I created for Tale of the East Wind was something that has stayed with me over the years. Like our own world the Earth that has been ravaged by the strange horrible Miasma is just a smaller crumb in a larger cosmos. The year's NaNoWriMo novel will be set out in the stars of that universe so it is important that I impart some knowledge about it's inner workings. For a working title I'll just refer to the universe as Mage Star.

Mage Star is very much a science fantasy setting. To help you better understand what I am talking about I want you to think about Star Wars. I can see some of you in the back raising your hands going, “But isn't that Science Fiction?” In truth, if you look at it closely it is a fantasy story with some science fiction trappings. Think about it. Faster than light travel is easy enough that almost anyone can keep it running, technology as a whole starts looking a lot like magical artifacts, and there are mystic powers available to anyone with the skill and the talent to use them. These are the sorts of things I am talking about when I say science fantasy.

A good place to start with any fantasy setting is the magic, and thanks to my work on Tales of the East Wind I already have a foundation to start with. In Mage Star, magic is literally everywhere, and those who can interact with it are broken up into three very broad categories based on the source of their powers. These categories are Mages, Talents, and the Imbued.

Mages are the most abundant and have the ability to manipulate the ambient magic of the world. They can sense, shape, and even summon things into being and have all types of further sub categories and secret orders based on their specialties. This social structure is one of their greatest strengths, since working their arts is often a tiring process for a mage. Alone they can do one great thing, but together they are capable of lasting wonders.

Talents are a rarer breed able to manipulate magic innately for a sole purpose. Some talents are able to bolster their own physical prowess. Others are able to manipulate a specific element or type of energy. No two talents are exactly alike, so they do not have the social structures built around them that mages do. The innate nature of their power means that they are able to come to terms with it faster than those who have to learn to work their arts.

Imbued are those who have been given the ability to manipulate magic through some external means. This could be because they have become bound to some extra-dimensional demonic entity, or found themselves in possession of a powerful alien artifact. At times it can seem like the Imbued have limitless power, but it always comes with a price. They always have a master to serve. The most they can hope for is that it is one that

When you take magic and those who interact with it into account it is important to think about how it will shape the setting. The science fiction trappings of the Mage Star universe means that an easy intersection point is that of technology. If magic exists, then it stands to reason that there will be machines that are designed to interact with it as well. Equipment made for those specifically with the ability to interact with magic, as well as mages who specialize in aspects of technology would both be of extreme importance.

The most important of these would be the mages that are referred to as the Ship Worth or just Worthy. Their specialty is shaping energy, and it is what makes faster than light travel possible. Through will alone the Worthy can hold ships together as they approach the speed of light and their mass starts to spread out infinitely. This talent also allows me to easily explain the energy based weapons so common in many aspects of science fiction that are not as readily possible with our current understanding of physics.

Magic's relationship with technology could also create interesting story possibilities through the way the world deals with it's absence. If magic is required for things like FTL and shields, then the prospect of traveling without a mage to power those elements of the ship become a much longer and scarier process that only the desperate would resort to. Mages become one of the most valued members of the crew, and the constant target of recruitment efforts or violence from rival crews.

Entire industries and corporations would be built up around mages. People would want devices to enhance their powers, ways to replace them in the standard running of spaceships, weapons to counteract their powers, and even ways to create mages artificially. Of course any attempts to replace mages have been largely unsuccessful. Any high yield power cells can only power ship systems in a few very short burst before they need to be recharged. Mage free FTL drives can only be used for one way jumps and don't have a perfect success rate. This gives the layman ways around having a mage, but nothing that is truly as effective.

In addition to the legitimate commerce that would be built around mages, there would be all types of black market dealings built around Talents and the Imbued. This would range from items that supposedly boost someones talent to giving a talent to normal people. Items of power are traded amongst the rich and powerful in the hopes of gaining more power for themselves. All of these deals have been outlawed in almost every system. This doesn't stop government officials from trying to conduct such deals themselves

With the basics of magic and technology covered, the next place we'll be building upon these basics as we start looking at the general state of galactic society as a whole. What sort of major powers are lurking around and what threats might the cast of this year's novel might encounter.