Archive for category Capsule

Inspiration from the Master

I’m going to write this post very slowly and deliberately so I don’t gush.

Deep breath, and begin.

Last night I was in attendance as Neil Gaiman’s tour promoting the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods hit the Press Club here in DC.  (Holy crap, guys, I got to see Neil Gaiman).  The event was a metered affair, featuring a few readings, talking about his inspiration for writing the book, and taking submitted questions from the audience.  (He totally announced his next book for the first time yesterday).  I’ve never had a chance to listen to an author that I respect so much just talk about his inspirations and, to a lesser extent, his process.  (He’s totally the bestest writer and I got a signed book and…)

Shut UP inner fanboy.

Alright, decorum.

The goal of the event was largely to push purchases of American Gods, a goal I can understand and respect.  To a certain extent almost everything that an author does in public is about driving sales.  Hell, this blog is about driving sales, and I don’t even have anything yet to sell you (Steam Works, this summer, Hydra Publications).  Especially since the event was a book tour event and not a convention event, it wasn’t really about connecting with authors and instilling inspiration.  But it was.

See, here’s the thing.  That gushing fanboy above?  That’s me.  That’s the me that has loved every exposure I’ve had to the talents of Neil Gaiman.  That’s the me that is jealous that he can move so effortlessly from novels to short stories to comics to teleplays to music production to children’s books.  Hell, he even mentioned he’s working on a musical.  A musical!  Have I ever told you about the musical I want to write?  Now’s not the time, remind me later.  In the end, I think Gaiman is who a lot of writers want to be like, that potentially unobtainable level of cross-media production and mastery.  So something about just being there and being reminded that he’s a real person, yeah, it’s a geeky fanboy thing of me to say, but it does inspire me to push on with my writing.

And especially?  Getting back to my novels.

I’ve moved towards short stories lately, which I think has really helped me grow as a writer.  But it was at the cost of walking away from one of my favorite novels that I’ve started, Capsule.  It’s really time to walk back again.  And to even start looking beyond that.  I know where the next few scenes of Capsule go, trust me, I’ve actually been thinking about it, even if I haven’t been talking about it.  And I’ve been thinking about how to write a story around two characters my wife and I created, setting them in a steampunk world for a novel I’m currently calling Nickajack in my head (though there’s totally a book by that name, I know).

So.  Yeah, there it is.  What’s the lesson from last night?  I’m not going to be Neil Gaiman.

Unless I work a hell of a lot harder.

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Capsule: Hotel Robot

Oh man.  Oh man, oh man, oh man.  Sorry, this has me just a little bit creeped out, and anyone who has been beta reading Capsule might understanding.

A new hotel in New York City has a robot arm, looking quite a bit like one you would see assembling cars, working as an employee.  It’s job?  Holding onto the luggage of guests who have either shown up before check-in time, or need a place to stow their bags between checking out and actually leaving town.  It costs what I would normally tip for this service, maybe even a little less, and for that it will pull a box off a shelf, remember which one your luggage is in, and retrieve it for you when you want it back.

First they’ll use robots to put our luggage in the right place, then they’ll use them to put us in the right place.

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Capsule Tech: PaperPhone and Snaplet

Though the novel itself has been somewhat placed on the back burner, I still look for an enjoy those little bits of real-world technology that bring things just that one step closer to the 2070s I’m building for Capsule.  Today, it’s the PaperPhone, as profiled on Engadget.  It uses a new technology called ductile e-ink to provide a display that can be curved, rolled, and even worn on the wrist.  Now, as e-ink it’s got a display much like the Kindle, which means gray-scale, but also with a load time between screens and no ability for animation.  Looks like it’s also awkward for receiving calls.  But this isn’t intended to be consumer grade, yet.  It’s a proof of concept, and the concept is pretty damn cool.

Part of the goal is to see just how people would interact with such a device, what gestures feel natural, something to keep in mind whenever developing technology either in real life or in literature. People want technology to be comfortable to use, and they want gestures that make sense while not being overly complicated. Sure, pretending to crumple something up and toss it over your shoulder might seem a logical gesture for throwing something away, but it’s too complicated. But simpler gestures like page turning, and sliding are more logical and easier to perform. Just look at any of the videos of people, whether very young or old, using the iPad for the first time and requiring no explanation of the gestures involved. And on the other end…well, there’s GMail’s April Fools video:

Overwrought gestures in real life would result in lack of adoption and frustrated users. In literature or on screen, they’re just silly. Which is fine if that’s what you’re going for, but otherwise keep the gestures simple and intuitive.

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Capsule Tech: Teddy Bear

Of all the stuff I put in Capsule intending it to be creepy, the one thing that has hit the most people as actually creepy is something I intended to be sweet.  Well.  People who found the teddy bear creepy should not click this link that points out the next step (first step was Teddy Ruxpin) has been taken.

And just for some extra content, have some relevant Jonathan Coulton:

(Bonus link to a live version of the same song with Neil Gaiman.)

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State of the Writer: March

Time again for my monthly look at where I stand, and where I’m going.  Really, this is a bit of recap since I already made a post declaring March as short story editing month.  February saw no news on submitted stories, nor any new stories submitted.  March should see two going out, one that needs and edit, and one that I’m frantically trying to finish for an April 1 deadline but haven’t yet finished the first draft.

Calendars can be scary things.

February was one of my more productive months in far too long.  I’ve always been a momentum writer and I lost a lot of that momentum for most of 2010.  I think this blog is helping me stage the comeback, because even though readership is light according to Google Analytics, it still forces me to look in a mirror occasionally and say “what are you doing if you want to keep calling yourself a writer?”

I was looking for a good anthology to be my next challenge, and can’t seem to find one that really calls to me.  Okay, that’s a lie, I found one that interested me, but I can’t get behind “exposure is your payment” type things.  Sorry, exposure doesn’t get me closer to SFWA membership.  And really, exposure-as-payment deals typically don’t have all that much of the former and thus lack even more in the latter.  So that’ll probably be even more incentive for March to be an editing month.

And who knows, maybe if I get both stories where I like them, even doing some Capsule work.

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State of the Writer: February 2011

People tend to like to really look at themselves at the beginning of every year, making resolutions and the like.  As part of pushing myself to be in more direct touch with my writing, I’m going to start these state of the writer posts every month.  I make them public largely just to make myself do them.  You hear me, five people that Google Analytics says visited my site yesterday, I need to be kept honest.

Novels in Progress:

  • Capsule.
  • End of the Line.

Short Stories in Progress:

  • Back Half.  For the Primogeniture anthology.  Rough draft completed.  Due date April 7th.
  • The Luchador.  For Bad-Ass Faeries 4.  Proposal accepted, and rough draft in progress.  Due date June 2011.

Short Stories Sold:

  • The Rustler.  Woot.

Short Stories Out:

  • Sleep

Short Stories Doing Nothing.  Bad Writer.

  • !Div0
  • Queen of Belmeth

I’ve been falling down on my goal of keeping a certain number of stories circulating at any one time.  In part this is because I lucked out and sold one of my main circulators, but also in part because I’ve been falling down on Duotroping.  On the other hand, my goal of 6 stories written for specific anthologies is doing well, as I’ve got two in progress, even if I’m starting to back off on the notion of sending one to its intended destination.  I’ve been frustrated about the way Primogeniture keeps adding details to the ship, which is really reinforcing my initial fear that submitters had to somehow correctly guess how the editors always planned the ship to operate.  However, it’s still a fun generation ship story that I might clean up and send to anthologies that don’t have nearly so many rules about how a generation ship should work.  I’ll probably give one more try, but if the goalposts move again and make it even harder to tell my story on their ship, then I’ll have to go on my own.

I haven’t forgotten Capsule.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of mental outlining that needs to turn into physical outlining to get me from where I am to where I know this act ends.  There’s a few key scenes, I just need to make sure there’s no more.

People who’ve known my writing for awhile will notice an old favorite on my Novels In Progress list: End of the Line.  I feel like something needs to happen fast with it, since the whole conceit of the story is based around the five lines of what will soon be a six-line DC Metro system.  I’ve had multiple suggestions made, from ignoring the sixth line to inventing a sixth horseman of the apocalypse (I feel like adding a fifth is about the most I can do to stretch that particular concept), to setting the novel in a given pre-Silver Line year.  None of them strikes me as all that fulfilling of an option, with the third the most appealing of an unappealing lot.  So I think instead I’m going to push to get something done with it, even if it ends up on Smashwords (my emergency fallback point to be sure).

I’ve been happy with the first two installments of the Fortnightcap project.  It’s going to keep going for now.

In all, I’m satisfied but not thrilled.  I’m certainly ramping back up from my lost 2010.  I’d probably be doing better if Altair and Ezio didn’t need nearly so much help assassinating people.

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The year that wasn’t, the year that will be

Over on Unleaded, I took a look ahead at 2011 today.  So here I’m going to take a look back on 2010.

I had two main goals this past year.  I wanted to get Capsule finished by Balticon, and I wanted to start the search for literary representation.  Unfortunately as many who know me are aware, this ended up being the year that I battled a few months of health issues in the form of a rather drawn out case of GERD.  It created a lot of insomnia, which left me tired, and which in the end left me not writing.  By the time I started feeling better my momentum on Capsule was dead in the water, and I’m still trying to get it back now, almost exactly a year after the condition started.

So yeah.  Cry cry cry woe is me.  I recognize that I failed to meet a lot of my 2010 goals, and I can blame that on anything I want and look back in despair, or I can look ahead to 2011 and what I hope to accomplish.  For this purpose, I have outlined a set of four goals that I hope aren’t too lofty, but are still enough of a stretch that I have to work at achieving them.

1)  Finish the first draft of Capsule.  I could give myself any number of deadlines for this.  Balticon, Capclave, Ravencon, but really I’ll be happy if by this time next year I’ve started the editing process.  I don’t want to rush it, but I don’t want the momentum to carry me into the doldrums any further than it already has.

2)  Have at least three short stories out for consideration at all times.  I currently have four that I really consider submission ready: Sleep, Rustler, Div 0, and Queen of Belmeth.  With the Queen getting passed over for the Commonplace Book of Lovecraft, that mean I currently have just two stories out.  This goal includes having more stories that I feel could be submitted as well as keeping a constant eye on target markets for those stories.  I can’t sell any story that I don’t actively try to sell, and I need to be a hell of a lot better about that than I currently am.

3)  Find at least six anthologies that I would have to write a story for scratch for, and do so.  I’m going to count Primogeniture as the first of those six, because it’s my goal, damn it, and I can do what I want with it.  There are several that have already come and gone that I meant to work up stories for.  Historical Lovecraft’s deadline is just 5 days away, too soon for me to finish anything at this point, and that upsets me.  Plus this will help my goal #2.

4)  Start my Fortnight Caps project.  This will be a every-other-week posting of a flash piece, either one that I’ve already written or one that I’m freshly inspired to write, here on the blog.  It’s an effort to increase eyeballs and maybe, just maybe, my profile as a writer.  Even if just a tiny bit.

An ancillary goal that needs to be included with both #2 and #3 is to better track where my short stories are and have been.  I realized the other day I couldn’t remember the name of the audio anthology I’d sent Sleep off to, for example.  That’s something I really should be able to look up.  Also, I’m going to stop using my Hotmail to send submissions and switch over to my @DLThurston.com email addresses.

So best of luck to everyone with the new year, with your writing if you choose to write, or any other venture you choose to undertake.

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Capsule Tech: Word Lens

Has anyone not seen the Word Lens video yet?  Just in case, this is some awesome stuff:

There’s a new group of apps coming out that aren’t so much augmented reality as replaced reality.  The first that I showed over on Unleaded was a diminished reality app.  This one is a replaced reality app.  Both I find absolutely fascinating in their potential implications, especially as this technology improves.  In both the demo of that DR app, and in a more in-depth review of the Word Lens app, there are clear visual errors.  But expecting perfection out of first proof of concept apps like this is a fool’s game.

What they both represent, however, are potential steps towards a future where one can’t be as certain about what one sees.  Augmented Reality tends to stand out, it’s elements that are clearly not actually there.  These apps, however, look to interrupt reality, change it, then feed it out in a new format.  Right now the obvious line in the sand for telling it’s not real is the requirement to hold up a smart phone and only seeing the altered reality on its screen.

It’ll be interesting to see where this technology can move to.  I suspect the ability to put augmented or altered reality into a pair of glasses, or at least goggles, is only a decade or two off.  And at that point, the line will start to blur as to where reality begins and ends.

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Noodling feels good.

I’ve been doing something I haven’t done in too long: noodling on a new plot concept.  Thanks to bouncing some ideas off of my wife and favorite noodling partner last night I’m about halfway to what I think is a plot I’d really enjoy writing for the Primogeniture contest I highlighted over in Unleaded.  It may mean that Capsule gets put on a back burner for a little while, but I also find that a rising tide lifts all ships when it comes to me getting my brain into the writing mode.  The working title for the new story is The Back Half (and when I saw working title, I can’t recall the last time I changed a working title to a “final” one).  Hopefully I’ll start putting words in documents before the new year.

In general, it’s a process that I enjoy.  She’s good at asking the right kind of questions to get me over such speed bumps as “well, I have a tone and characters, but what are they actually doing?”  Which turns out to be one of those really important questions when it comes to writing.  I’ve done some research on the subject, and apparently more competent writers than I call this a “plot”.  One day hopefully that’s the kind of thing I’d be able to come up with on my own.  Or maybe not.  It’s not like collaboration is such a dirty word.

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Capsule Tech: See Through Displays

Everytime a bit of tech pops up that looks like a step towards the future I’m building in Capsule, I like to post it.  Today, there are two:

Via Gizmodo: Full desk curved displays, though for now it’s just a “clunky” demo.

Via Engadget: Translucent displays.  It’s still a few steps away from Tony Stark’s awesome phone in the most recent Ironman movie, and it’s certainly several steps away from a portable tablet computer that can be entirely transparent, but there’s plenty of time to get that perfected.

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