• Cooking
  • EVE Rocks 2
  • EVE Rocks 1
  • Gears of War
  • Just Cause
  • Batman
  • Books

So, I started streaming video games.

It’s been way too quiet here lately and I should blog a lot more so here is a little update on what I have been up to outside of the writing front. I have another half-finished blog about writing from a month ago I owe some time to, and will get round to finishing it. Meanwhile, I have been a little preoccupied with a new activity: streaming video games on Twitch.

Streaming games has been something on my mind for the last two years. I have been watching lets-plays on YouTube for around a decade, ever since I got bit by the Minecraft bug and played it non-stop when I was not at work. In the last three years, I have added watching live streams to my list of chosen entertainment and have found a batch of streamers who play games that I enjoy watching on a regular basis.



Working on my Methods

Over the many years I have been writing short stories, back before I even began writing fan fiction for EVE Online – though that was a starting point for more regular writing activity itself – I found I would always stick to a specific method of planning and fleshing out my works. I was not aware at the time, though I had a strange kind of determination to make the system work even when I should have seen it was clearly not. Well OK, to tell the truth, I suppose it was not all that bad. I do remember, a long way back, being able to rattle off large sections of a story at a time before the weight of the system pushed my productivity way down. Maybe having an eager mind full to bursting with ideas had much to do with breaking through the wall. But I am getting ahead of myself and should talk more about the system I stuck to for so long. The system that eventually burned me out for several years.



World Building

Sometime last year I began working on the setting for my Ferum Republic story and quickly saw a lot of potential for an expansive setting. As a result, my mind turned more to the subject of world building theory than it has done before for any writing project. When I wrote character stories for EVE Online I was working within someone else’s setting. It was pre-built and ready to use. All I needed to do was to shape a character to fit into it, and come up with a story that uses those pre-existing elements in the world. I am not going to say this was an easy thing to do, because it presents it own challenges none the less. But there is nothing quite like building your own world from scratch. I find something deeply satisfying to come up with a basic idea and then start fleshing it out. You find yourself collecting little ideas as you work on the bigger ones, putting them to one side thinking they will go nowhere, only to have an idea at night while lying in bed that blows that small scrap of an idea up into something large and awesome.



Porchetta

Over Christmas and the New Year I visited a good friend in Canada. I came away with a cookbook as a Christmas gift. Once I got home I began marking down some recipes I wish to try out. I have tried two of them already this year, and the porchetta marks the third on my list. A porchetta is an Italian style rolled pork roast with crackling and is popular in various regions of North America. It is made with a liberal amount of herbs such as rosemary and sage, as well as having garlic included in the rub. There may be regional variations too, though I decided to stick with a classic basic to get the technique down.



Ferum Republic – Chapter 1.1: The Best Laid Plans

Ranford Castle – Dourans Province

Year 1844

A few specks of light rain peppered his cheeks as the clouds above him groaned with the sound of building thunder. General Belethor Vorn pressed onward, keeping low as the occasional bullet hissed overhead as it strayed close. Either side, his men followed suit and pushed onward up the slope, seeking the advantage of a better line of sight as they advanced towards the source of the gunfire. The shelter of the tree line, and their forward siege bastion, lay behind them as they pressed on through the initial rocky and uneven land. The terrain beyond was mostly flat, save for the occasional shallow rise here and there between them and their target. Outcrops of rock bordered what had become a no-man’s-land, with the intimidating presence of the castle ahead. A soldier just ahead to his left slipped as a bullet impact struck the rocks close to him. Vorn altered direction slightly as he pushed onward, his breath now sounding heavy in his chest as grabbed hold of the soldier’s elbow and hauled the man back to his feet.

“Keep moving, soldier,” said Vorn. “Get to the top.” The soldier gave a short nod of thanks or acknowledgement. He was not sure which. Vorn followed the rest of the team up the hill.



Stuffed Texas Cornbread

Some years ago I was given a copy of a cookbook by my one of my favourite chef pairings, The Hairy Bikers. The cookbook is called Mums Know Best, and I highly recommended it. This is my version of one of the recipes in that book, which they called Texas Cornbread. However, having done a little wider reading of more recipes I soon realized that what everywhere else calls Texas Cornbread is not the same as the book’s version. The book’s version of Texas Cornbread has minced beef sandwiched between two layers of cornbread batter and baked, while the recipes online seem to be simply cornbread with chillis chopped into it, and sometimes cheese. So, for want of not stepping on any cultural toes, I will call mine Stuffed Texas Cornbread.



Ferum Republic and Site Reshuffle

In November I published the first part of The Skid Journal’s first chapter. Needless to say, given the length of time it took to complete, I had a little trouble with this part. It is difficult to put my finger on why, though one thing I was conscious of was a need to work on something new and interesting while the idea was fresh in my brain.

In my last blog I spoke about a new project called Ferum Republic. I started making notes for this story earlier in 2016 and found it turned into a larger than expected world building project which has given me more story to work with as a result. Besides being a different kind of story to The Skid, I am also exploring a different style of writing. More off the cuff, with less actual planning ahead. This is new to me as I have always plotted out the script ahead of time and tried to write to that. I found with the last part of The Skid Journal that this sometimes creates problems. Maybe because my creative impulse is spent on the planning phase, leaving little else to offer when I was fleshing out my skeleton of a story.



The Skid Journals 1-3: Meet and Greet

The large gates slowly trundled open with a grinding noise that reminded Cobra of a rock slide, heard even over the steady rumble of his engine. Beyond the widening opening, a second barrier was also sliding sideways to the right of the entrance; a heavy frame construction of rusted metal girders forming a wedge which braced the back of the gate itself. A precaution against ramming attacks. As it neared more than half way open the group got their first look beyond the walls, save for Tuc who had visited before on business. The old cracked road surface stretched directly ahead for about half a mile before reaching the opposite wall and another, equally fortified gate. The town spread to the left of the road around 100 meters before dipping down into the slope. They drove through the gates and along the road towards an old forecourt to the left that may formerly have been a petrol station or used car sales lot. The surrounding buildings seemed to be relics of the old world, maintained as best as can be expected after over a century of post-calamity neglect. At the slope and beyond the buildings were all constructs of salvaged junk, old shipping containers, ruined vehicles and even a large boat, capsized and beached at the edge of the slope. Small outcroppings of buildings had been built out of the upturned hull, clinging to the ship like barnacles made from scrap metals and wood. A short distance past the now-closing gates the group pulled into the old forecourt, each of them getting out and stretching their legs once more.



Progress, progress bars and project updates

It has been a while since I blogged anything so here is a quick update on the ongoing projects I have as well as a little tweak to the site here and there.

Let’s start with that last one first. Up until recently, I have only been working on one thing at a time, first with The Skid Journals parts 1-1 and 1-2, then re-editing 1-1 and republishing as per my previous blog entry. However, I recently began writing a second short story along with part 1-3 of The Skid Journals. More on this below. So, with this dual project on the go, I felt it was time to start tracking them on the site. And going forward for any future works I have on my table. I have added a progress bar plugin to the sidebar to track ongoing projects and started with the first two and their current states. I was not really able to find any that fully matched what I am looking for, given that my writing is not set to any specific goal in terms of length or content other than getting it done. I was not sure how exactly I would gauge the level of completion of any of my stories and represent them in one single bar. Overall I view my writing to be a three stage process. First is the outline, where I scribble down a note form of the flow of the story. Second, I begin working on the draft for the story, essentially padding out the outline, and usually changing stuff along the way on a small scale as the narrative takes shape more naturally. Finally, I proofread the story giving it two passes of editing. The first focusing mostly on grammar and punctuation and the second pass being a readability check making adjustments to wording and such. With the single progress bar, it is difficult to track this other than estimating the volume of workload represented by each section. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, though, and I feel I know my own writing well enough to quantify my own progress.



And the words will… re-flow?

Something I am very much aware of as a budding writer is, you must always be ready to learn new things. Another thing I believe is that you can never have too much critique, and should never take it badly when it comes your way. Recently I published the first and second parts of The Skid Journals story series, feeling rather proud of my efforts. This is not saying much, however, given that when writing in the past I would feel ‘good’ about what I was doing. And if checking over my old EVE Online character story backlog has taught me anything, it is that my writing had a long way to go back then. Either way, that does not mean I took a look at my new works here and realized I had written a mess. Far from it, in fact. Though who knows how I might feel in 10 years time, looking back at this site. Only time can tell.

Back to the present, however, a good friend of mine offered to provide me with some feedback on the first journal. I had mentioned in my previous blog that I have a friend who used to edit professionally. By way of a quick plug, her name is Cheyenne and you can find her own writings and assorted art on her site, aka Iron Dragon. Cheyenne is also the friend who prompted me to begin this site, as well as setting me up with discounted hosting, and provided me with support setting up the site. She approached me soon after the second part was published in the beginning of March and offered to spend some time going over the first part to give me some pointers. I had expressed to her a couple of times in the writing that I had struggled with some of the technical details, again as mentioned in my previous blog about my experiences writing the first two parts.