09 December 2018

New release - The Starfighter Invitation

The only thing bigger than the world's first full virtual reality game is the mystery surrounding its origins.  Who is behind Ryzonart Games?  How was such a huge advance in technology achieved?

Taia de Haas loves having her own virtual spaceship, and wants nothing more than to visit every planet in the solar system.  But she cannot ignore the question of whether such a magnificent gift comes with strings attached.  Is the game a trick, a trap, a subtle invasion?  Or an opportunity to step up and fight for her own planet?

Caught in a tangle of riddles and lies, Taia can't resist trying to win answers from Ryzonart's mysterious administrators.  But will finding the truth cost her the Singularity Game?

About the book

This is a story that began life as "Snug Ship" which is a name that I liked a lot (not least because it was easy to fit on a book cover!), but didn't exactly telegraph what kind of story to expect.  It wasn't until late in the development of the story that I decided to change to The Starfighter Invitation - not because I don't like the final title, but because I felt it telegraphed perhaps a little too much.

This was also a book that took me a long time to write - nearly two years - which I can only blame on 'research'.  To write a story about MMOs (massively multiplayer online roleplaying games) I felt it necessary to refresh my memory of MMOs, and so I reactivated my Final Fantasy XIV account.

Pictured is my character (Rennyn).  Although there is some pointlessly revealing clothing, one of the things I really appreciate about FFXIV is the wealth of clothing options that don't involve chainmail bikinis.

In terms of writing speed, that was a mistake.  FFXIV is a beautiful game (with a lot more plot than the usual MMO), but like all MMOs it's designed to be played and played and played.  There is no end, there is just a timesuck of enormous proportions.  Eventually (admittedly after I'd levelled all the crafts to the current max level) I decided the only thing to do was quit cold turkey, and so I logged out one day and never logged in again (though I do intend to pick it up when the new expansion comes out around June).

The Starfighter Invitation covers something of the experience of playing an MMO, while adding true virtual reality to the mix.  The experience of virtual reality is definitely a topic that opens up exploration into the self you present and the self that you feel that you are.  I also spent a lot of time thinking through narrative structure, since I was building the story along the common experiences of an MMO player.  I'm not sure the way I approached the structure will work for everyone, but much of it will certainly be recognisable to MMO fans.

I also spent some time getting into current gaming culture so that I wasn't using completely outdated slang, and now regularly watched Twitch and YouTube as a result.  I don't stream myself, however, as my internet connection is not currently up to it.

The Singularity Game series is an ongoing one, and I'll be swapping off writing it with The Trifold Age, so next up will be Tangleways (finally!).  I would very much like to get Tangleways out in late 2019, but my writing speed has definitely dropped, so I will make no guarantees.

I hope you enjoy meeting Taia (and Dio, who is one of my favourite characters ever).  See you in-game.


These are the currently-available links.  I will add to them as further links (including the trade paperback) become active.

16 June 2018

Hey, an interview

Here's an interview with me over at Pine Reads Review!

On the writing front, still working on Snug Ship.  Everyone's deep in the bowels of a massive wrecked spaceship, trying to decide if virtual reality is all that fun after all.

Snug Ship has a slightly different take on the privacy concerns that Stray looked into - I think whenever you do some kind of connected future-tech you can't avoid privacy concerns.

I might - might - get a first draft done by the end of June.  Then it'll be editing.  I'm at least confident that it'll be out this year, anyway!  Then I'll be able to get on to working on Tangleways, which I'm really looking forward to.

22 March 2018

Long-term plans for audiobooks

Audiobooks have been a not-infrequent request (particularly of the Touchstone Trilogy).  Smashwords has come out with a new audiobook model that seems accessible for Australians, and not too onerous for me to put together.  It's a big initial outlay of money, so I'll be saving up for it, but now have it on my more immediate to-do list (hopefully I'll get some tax back in July to fund at least the first book).

On the writing front, still plugging away with Snug Ship.  This is not a particularly long book, but it seems determined to progress slowly.

You'll notice the blog has been particularly quiet, and this is in part because I've been determined to get the first draft done (maybe six chapters to go [forty down - they're short chapters]), and have cut down drastically on other writing, gaming, etc.  I won't try to set a release date, since my estimates have been invariably wrong so far, but the end is at least in sight.

I like Snug Ship quite a lot, but it abandons some traditional structure concepts, so I'm not sure it will please everyone.

[I've been thinking about the concept of Chekov's Gun a fair bit, and how I prefer to make that gun barely noticeable, or leave it out altogether.  Sometimes the gun is necessary on that mantelpiece, and other times it spoils a story for me.]

31 December 2017

Writing Distractions - a gaming rundown

Over at The Book Smugglers they're well into their yearly Smugglivus celebrations, and I have a post about the games I've been playing, and my thoughts about virtual gaming.

Lots of pretty pictures in this one!

22 December 2017

Smuggled Touchstone Editions!

Here is some very cool news!  The Touchstone Trilogy has been republished in paperback by The Book Smugglers with scrumptious new covers by Kirbi Fagan.

Isn't that a fabulous cover?  See the others, and check out a giveaway for the whole trilogy, over at Smuggler HQ.

19 December 2017

A Bad or Good Last Jedi? (spoilers)

I enjoyed The Last Jedi a lot, which is not to say there aren't plenty of issues with the choices made in the story.

But first some













for those whose browsers display too much and ignore cut commands.

A lot of the blow-back I've seen about TLJ has revolved around Luke.  Both for his brief madness regarding Ben, for his subsequent self-exile on a not-nearly-as-deserted-a-world-as-it-seemed, and for his epic or not-epic end.

Luke was a nice kid, but the fact that he persuaded Vader to do a heel-face turn doesn't mean he's not going to have some difficulty when faced with a Baby Hitler issue.  Or whiny teen emo Hitler.  I can understand both the moment's temptation, and the agonised self-recrimination in the aftermath.  The self-exile leaving his sister and friend to deal with not only their grief, but the rise of the First Order is less easy to understand.  But since this was established in the first movie of this trilogy, it's not something I'm going to harp on in the second.

His end was epic and fitting, though.  That worked for me – both in facing the problem he had contributed to, and finally helping the Rebellion out a little, in a way that calls clearly back to Ben Kenobi's end.

The tonal shifts of humour inserted into very dramatic scenes were definitely jarring.  I didn't hate them, and they did make me laugh, but definitely jarring.

I think the thing that bothered me most was that there was an A story, where Important Rey goes to find Important Luke, and is deflected to Important Conflict with Important Kylo, while in the B story side-character Poe causes a series of issues, and sends side-character Finn and side-character Rose off on a futile escapade that ultimately achieves the death of most of the Rebellion.

Difficult to miss that these two storylines are rather divided by skin colour.

For the A story, I am very glad that Rey completely rejected any ruling of Empires, and that she failed to redeem Kylo.  I'm a little at a loss as to why she felt it worth trying – even if he really is struggling internally, he's still a murderous child-killer who has slaughtered many more people than Han Solo.  The death of Snoke and the epic throne room battle were very good, and the discovery that Kylo is not a good kid gone wrong, but someone who likes the idea of ruling a galaxy, worked very well for me.  I'm glad Rey is not related to anyone we know, though sad that her parents apparently 'sold' her (and confused as to what exactly she was sold into, since she didn't seem to be tied to anyone at all in her intro).

For the B story, I really liked Rose, and continue to like Finn and Poe.  I like that Poe appears to be designated as new leader of the Rebellion, though I thought the method of getting him there was awkward and contrived.  I'm also a little unsure why people don't hyperspace shatter Star Destroyers as a matter of course.

Finn was the worst-used: he's in danger of becoming a primarily comic character, which I felt a pity because he's such a likeable person.  I think that perhaps the writers don't know what to do with him – they haven't found an arc for him in the main plotline.  With Rey becoming a Jedi and Poe becoming a leader, the story attempts to make his role 'becoming an inspiration' – which I like as a purpose, if only the B plot hadn't completely deflated his heroism.

Rose is outright wonderful.  I loved her switch from fan-girl to taser-wielder.  I disliked the rapidity of the romantic arc – this is a story that progresses over a matter of hours, and is given precious little chemistry or foundation, though I wouldn't object to the romance if it had been set up a little more adroitly.

There is also a C story which seems to be 'the Rebellion is run by older women, but unfortunately they will all soon be dead'.  I didn't hate Leia's Force flight, though wish she'd been wearing some kind of pressure suit to make her survival less unlikely.  It felt like she was being rescued by the Force, rather than being in a condition to rescue herself.

So, overall, I enjoyed but neither outright loved nor hated The Last Jedi.  I'd have cut at least half an hour from it, and made the Poe-Finn-Rose mission a positive one, rather than primarily negative in result, even though the final scenes of an inspired child spared it from being a totally worthless venture.

27 November 2017

A note on Touchstone print copies

For those who like the print books, the Touchstone Trilogy (first 3 books) will be reissued in collaboration with the lovely Book Smugglers.  This means that the current volumes will be taken down.  If you're wanting to buy the series with its current covers, be warned that I will be taking Stray and Lab Rat down this week.

31 October 2017

Current Status

I'm writing very slowly this year (partly because I took up playing an MMO again in order to write my MMO novel, and spent rather a lot of time playing the MMO).

I don't think it's very likely I'll finish Snug Ship this year (though first quarter next year is likely).  And that will push Tangleways to the end of next year.

I am enjoying writing Snug Ship immensely, at least, though it's rather more complex than I anticipated (and at the same time has a non-typical story structure).  I'm looking forward to sharing it with you all!

04 October 2017

Snug Ship on Book Smuggler's Kickstarter

The Book Smugglers are having a Kickstarter, and I've offered up a chance to name a (major) character in Snug Ship as one of the final hour rewards.  Hardly any time left, so jump on it if you're keen.

10 September 2017

Worldbuilding dates and times

One of the things that writers have to keep track of is details of characters and - when you're messing with multiple worlds or other factors - dates of events.

I've been working on a spreadsheet for Snug Ship, and thought you all might be interested in a glimpse of the spreadsheet I did while writing In Arcadia.  Lining up Earth time and Muinan time involved so many errors...

New release - The Starfighter Invitation

The only thing bigger than the world's first full virtual reality game is the my stery surrounding its origins.  Who is behind Ryzonar...