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Some random July blather

It’s been over two months since I blogged anything, so here are a few random things I have to say.

I’ll admit I haven’t been terribly productive these last couple months. One sister is back from college and got a new kitten, another is on summer break from her job on the other side of the world. I spent a week at the end of last month visiting relatives in Tennessee and doing a little genealogy. I mentioned the Tennessee Archive of Moving Images and Sound in an earlier blog post about my 3x great uncle Bert Hodgson, the song writer, and we were finally able to visit the archive and listen to some of his old recordings. They actually had audio recordings he had made featuring himself playing the piano and singing. They were in rough shape sound-wise, but it was very cool to hear his voice! I can’t say he was that great of a singer though. Still, very cool artifacts!

Writing

I’ve been trying to get back to some fiction writing, but I’m having a good deal of trouble. (Maybe blogging more will get my mind thinking in words again?) I just can’t seem to get into the flow of it. Over the past couple months, I’ve started perhaps seven or eight different stories, some of them from complete outlines, some of them with no outlines at all. It seems like no matter what, I get bored with the premise too quickly and want to start another. What writing illness is this called? Trouble with commitment? Commitment-phobia? Oh well. I’ll keep trying. I still get very excited by story ideas and plotting out possibilities, so I really want to get my ideas into book form. I just get bored with them too quickly and am too excited to try something new.

Music composing

Music-wise, I know I still owe my Patreon supporters four pieces for the two months I delivered nothing. I’ll probably be on hiatus again this month. I can’t believe how quickly this month has flown by. But I still have a good number of melodies I look forward to forming into pieces, and I’m looking forward to finishing another album before the year is out, so those pieces are definitely on their way.

Speaking of music, I really enjoy this guy’s videos about music theory featuring video game music:

Definitely makes me want to try some of the techniques mentioned. He’s good at explaining things too.

A board game

Finally, tonight one of my brothers brought the family this game:

It’s a game you can only play once, and you all play it together as a team. You basically imagine that you’re stuck in a pharaoh’s tomb, and you use cards and a little book to solve puzzles and riddles to escape. The solution to one riddle leads to the next. It’s a bit like a computer game that you pay more for to play on paper.

Honestly, I like the idea of it, but the execution of this particular one was a bit… underwhelming. I just didn’t think the game / puzzle design was very well crafted. Rather than getting “Aha!” moments, you got “Could it be this? Let’s try it. Yep. Huh.” moments. Does that make sense? I guess the puzzles just seemed a bit too random, and what you had to do to solve them just seemed too arbitrary. It’s probably also not a great game for more than three people. Having to pass around the material gets annoying, and having someone else solve a puzzle before you even understand what’s going on isn’t very fun. (And these puzzles weren’t that great to begin with.)

Some of my other family members enjoyed it, though.

But, like I said, I was intrigued by the concept of it. It’s like a linear RPG puzzle game. I’d really like to try creating one myself.

Not real arguments…

“You’re racist, sexist, this-and-that-phobic, intolerant, bigoted, hateful, prejudiced, privileged, I’m offended, that’s hate-speech, etc…”

None of these are real arguments. Just personal attacks.

If there’s any silver lining in regards to Donald Trump winning the presidency, I hope that maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign that the effectiveness of these sorts of attacks is already beginning to diminish. We should be capable of having civil conversations about our disagreements without assuming that the opposition is just bigoted and hateful, naive and stupid, privileged and racist, etc.

Eh, maybe it’s only a fool’s hope. But it would be nice.

Trying a Kickstarter sometime soon…

I’ve been in a bleak creative rut lately. I feel like doing nothing creative at all. I’ve had no inspiration, interest, or will to do anything. Go to work, come home, eat, and waste time watching movies and surfing the web. A dull, boring, purposeless, vacuous existence.

So in an effort to give myself a bit of purpose, I’ve been working on putting together a Kickstarter campaign called “Give me some money to smile again.”

OK, it’s not called that… it’s actually fundraising for that book on melody that I’ve been writing on and off for years. The Secrets of Melody. It details my theory of melody, including how my melody generators work. Basically, if I can raise the funds, I can finish it by March 2016. Of course, I have hardly any online following, so I know it’s a long shot. Seems worth a try though, especially as I feel no great desire to do much else at the moment.

And if I fail to raise the funds, I’m going to go ahead buy an Oculus Rift dev kit and start having some fun with it to make myself feel better. So it’s a win-win for me. And I might buy one regardless because I’ve been dreaming of VR and I’ve got some fun ideas for projects I’d like to try with it. But if there’s enough interest for my book on melody, I’d love to make that a priority.

Anyway, I just have to make the Kickstarter video, which is hard because I’m the self-conscious type who hates looking at a video of himself. But I’ll try anyway.

So look out for that sometime this week.

February happenings…

Haven’t gotten much done this week. I’m adjusting to a slightly new work schedule with a bit more hours (which is good for the paycheck), plus some chest congestion has been keeping me from getting to sleep, and I keep waking up with headaches. So I haven’t been very good at finding large chunks of time to do any very focused work.

Anyway, I’ve been a bit torn lately between competing interests: should I work on my fiction writing, or my music software? Whenever I commit to one, I feel the pull of the other. Ultimately, though, I think I’m going to focus on programming my music software for a while. I’m excited about its potential, plus it would be awesome if I could turn it into a business and be self-employed with it. Not that I’m not arrogant enough to believe I could do the same with writing with more work and patience, but music software that’s like nothing else on the market (as far as I know) probably stands a better chance.

January projects…

A lot of people (as in one person) have asked me what I’m doing with myself these days, especially now that my novel Son of a Dark Wizard is indie-pubbed and garnering much acclaim and success, in its own slow way. So here’s what I’m up to, or at least what I’m trying to be up to:

  • I’ve started writing a new fantasy novel, which I blogged a little about on my writing blog.
  • I’m reading books and watching movies and playing video games (occasionally updating my media consumption log). This is for research of course.

Here are the other projects I hope to be working on soon as well, for the rest of this month and into February 2015:

  • Continue working on my co-writing projects.
  • Continue working the musical score for Son of a Dark Wizard. (I have an overflow of musical themes and ideas at this point, but I still want to keep experimenting with some things before I start actually writing the tracks.)
  • Start working on that long-dreamed-of web-comic.

The web-comic will be based on the children’s animated series proposal I put together a few years ago, about a young programmer who teams up with aliens to defeat galactic villains. Rather than your traditional web-comic that features a daily panel, I think my comic will be more like storyboard panels that must be viewed one at a time, preferably in full-screen; the user need only to click a button to move to the next panel. Though that sort of format may limit the comic in certain ways, I think it might also allow for a more immersive experience, especially if viewed in full-screen. I just have to figure out how to actually program that, and how I might be able to integrate it into WordPress. And then I have to, you know, actually draw all the panels. So this isn’t going to be finished anytime soon, but I figure I can go ahead and get started.

November happenings

Here’s a journal-ish update of what’s going on here…

Job

At the end of October, I got a part-time night-shift job with the local newspaper printers, so I’ve been adjusting to that. It’s a nice stress-free job in a nice place with nice people, and the income it provides, even if small, is much appreciated; I’m still paying off a stupid college loan, and it’s always nice to have a little bit of spending money. It has some weird hours; I start at 11:45 PM and get off whenever the work’s finished, which is usually around 2:30 AM or 3:30 AM, but sometimes as late as 7:30 AM. My sleep schedule is usually already wired to those times, so that’s not a big deal. It’s just that I still haven’t quite figured out how to manage my time before and after in terms of meal-eating, working on my creative projects, and studying films (a more academic way to say “watching movies”… but I do try to pay special attention to story structure and filming techniques… I still want to make an indie film someday, even if it’s a short film). So I haven’t been getting much done creatively for the last half-month.

Laptop woes

For the last month or so, my laptop has been giving me increasing troubles with blue screens of death, crashing programs, and a hard drive that’s making ugly noises that it shouldn’t. So I’m guessing the hard drive is having issues. I don’t quite have the funds for a new computer at the moment, so I’ll probably have to replace the hard drive soon. Not looking forward to that. Fortunately I think all my important data is backed up, so I shouldn’t lose anything besides time and money. For now, I’m putting it off until I just get a little too fed up with the crashing or until the drive just dies completely… but I’ll probably have to replace it before the year is out. Maybe in a couple weeks when I get my next paycheck.

Book on melody

Yeah, I had hoped to release that book on melody by November 25th of this year, but of course that ain’t gonna happen. I’ve done hardly any work on it, and now I have some more ideas I want to try in terms of creating a program that generates entire symphonies.

Son of a Dark Wizard

I’ve started posting chapters of my upper middle grade fantasy book on Morrowgrand.com, and I mention my ambitions with this project (and my method of self-publication) on my writing blog. Most of my creative energy is currently focused on writing a music score / companion album for the book. I’m hoping to have the score finished sometime next month; it’s a lot of fun to write, and I’m experimenting with more chromaticism than I usually employ. Rather than the happy fanciful flying about that Voyage of the Dream Maker featured, this score is dark, moody, and mysterious. At least, that’s what I’m going for.

Lacking the proper funds to commission a pro artist, I’m probably going to try illustrating the cover of the book and companion album myself… we’ll see how that goes. (If I ever do have the funds, I’ll commission a pro artist for a more professional-looking edition later.) But for now, my focus is on the music.

Other writing projects

I’m still co-writing several projects, on which productivity is slow as usual, but I don’t feel very bad about that considering the circumstances. Anyway, I do hope to start another solo writing project as soon as I can, as I hope the creative energy that will give me will aid the productivity of the co-authored work. I’m still stuck on plotting the intricately woven storylines of Stormground, but I have some smaller-scale ideas that I’m going to try fleshing out.

There’s too much stuff I want to do…

I recently finished a few weeks of freelance programming, creating some custom software that allows the client to quickly format / generate bid documents for a demolition company.  It’s nice to finish something that’s actually productive, something I haven’t done much of this year…

Anyway, I’m now back to having a bunch of free time and a continuing burning desire to not have to get a real job that will steal it all away again (even though I’m really broke). I have a lot of projects I’d like work on, including:

  • Finish writing that book on melodies that I’ve been planning for years
  • Write a fantasy series and indie-publish it on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, etc.
  • Write more music and put together another album
  • Write and draw a web comic based on that cartoon series I created back in 2012
  • Write fairy tales — I’ve been wanting to write short weekly fairy tales, just for fun
  • Do something with computer game programming — I have a short mystery game I planned out a year ago that I still haven’t done anything with.  I’d like to learn how to use Unity or something, create some pixel art, and actually try to make it

Of course, the problem is that making any sustainable revenue from any of these areas of interest takes time… too much time. So much time that a sane person would get a real job in the mean time.

But I really don’t want to have to be sane.

The other problem is that it’s hard to have focus when there’s so much you want to do, but lack of focus is the bane of progress.

But I do want to be more disciplined, which includes setting and following deadlines, something I’ve never been very good at, especially with more creative-oriented projects like writing.  But… I have to.

I’m not sure how this is going to work out, but here’s my current plan: My book on my theory of melody will be my top priority.  I’m setting the deadline of having an eBook version of it available on Amazon Kindle by November 25th (my birthday).  Meanwhile, I’ll set smaller piecemeal deadlines and goals for the other projects each week.  I’ll see if that will help me accomplish anything, or if I’ll need even more focus than that to make progress.

I’ll probably also try to blog more, because I think blathering about updates on my progress helps me actually make some progress because it gives me something to blog about.  Weird circular psychology, but it works, like making a to-do list and crossing things off…

Oh, and I’ve still got some co-authoring projects going on, which are exciting, so they will be stealing away time as well.

Anyway, for the remainder of this week, my goals will be to:

  • Plan the “book on melody”, breaking down the project into smaller chunks that can be given deadlines of their own
  • Finish plotting that fantasy book I’m working on called “Stormground”
  • Co-authoring stuff

I’d also like to try to use some of the money I made from that freelance programming gig to buy a new set of headphones.  I haven’t had a good pair of headphones to compose music with for over a year now (maybe even two years… or three… it’s been a while).  I usually use wireless headphones, but they’re not very good for composing because they make automatic volume adjustments, keeping things from being too soft or too loud.  Which is great when you’re watching a movie or just listening to music, but it’s terrible when you’re actually trying to compose it.  Plus, wireless headphones always have that faint white noise in the background, which is very annoying when you’re trying to hyper-focus on sound.  And my other headphones have pretty much worn out, or were cheap and terrible to begin with.  So: must buy new headphones.  Especially since composing some new music will be necessary to help advertise the melody book, and I want to start building interest for it as soon as possible.

Projects for June 2014

I haven’t blogged in a while, so here’s a little update of what I’m working on.

Writing fiction

I’m still working on co-authoring two short stories. We’re almost done with one. It’s taken us a lot longer than expected, but I always find interesting the seemingly random issues we find we have different perspectives on and end up discussing for hours. Maybe that’s not very productive writing-wise, but I actually really enjoy it; even if I don’t necessarily change my mind all the time, it forces me to think about things differently.

I’m still querying agents for my novel, Son of a Dark Wizard. I have yet to start another solo writing project, though I have a few stories in various phases of plotting. What I’m hoping to do with my next novel, whenever I start writing it, is to put it online for free, a bit like I did with The Game of Gynwig years ago, and then self-publish it. I even spent a week creating a custom WordPress theme and website to host the project at Morrowgrand, which will hopefully host other future projects as well so they’ll all cross-advertise each other. (Speaking of WordPress themes, the theme for this blog really needs to be updated at some point, doesn’t it?) In addition to posting the blog online, I actually think it would be interesting to record (with screen-capture software) my entire writing process of the novel. I know I’m not the first to try that, but it seems like a fun idea. (Although I guess if I do that, I won’t be able to write long-hand, as I do roughly half the time.)

On top of writing and releasing the novel, I also hope to write a musical soundtrack for it.

That said, any solo-writing projects may take a back seat to my other projects:

Melody project stuff

I’m finally returning to my book on composing melodies that I’ve been trying to write on and off for years. I think I’ve finally found an interesting angle to take with the book. I was struggling because my attempts were coming off as really academic and bland. Finally I thought: why not treat it like Johann Fux’s Study of Counterpoint? His book features two characters, a teacher and a student, talking about the subject. So, rather than a straight-forward non-fiction here’s-a-bunch-of-information sort of book, I can wrap the instructional material in a sort of two-character story arc. At the very least, it would be much more interesting for me to write. So that’s one project.

The other project is the real Parnassus: the symphony generator. A piece of software that uses the algorithms of my melody generators to help automate the entire composition process. The idea is that the symphony generator would be able to compose entire symphonies on its own, automatically, with the composer providing as much or as little creative input as he wishes. My two main goals for it, that I’ve been daydreaming about for over a decade: 1) I want it to be able to compose a Mozartean symphony at the touch of a button (or maybe a few buttons, if I must compromise), and 2) I want to be able to give it only a melody, and have it flesh it out into a full piece with little or no input from me. Obviously I want it to be able to do more than that, but those are my main two objectives.

I’d like to get them both out by December, in time for the holiday season (and before I go completely bankrupt), but almost everything I do takes me longer than I expect (except for going bankrupt).

Updates

I never did write that screenplay last month. I just found I was more interested in whatever else I was working on at the time. Maybe next year.

And that Nickelodeon cartoon pitch a few months back never went anywhere, unfortunately. That is, Nickelodeon wasn’t interested. I still want to do something with my pitch material at some point (though probably no time soon), but I’m not sure what.

Projects for April 2014

Last month, I did successfully submit some material to Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program. I didn’t have the time (or the skill, for that matter) to draw complete storyboards, but I did submit a written script along with some additional pitch material (e.g., character drawings, etc.). I don’t know how long they’ll take to respond, but since they probably received hundreds if not a thousand submissions, I guess I can’t really hold my breath. I’ll do something with the characters at some point, regardless, whether it’s making a short animated film on my own, or a comic book. But no time soon.

So here’s what I’m working on this month:

Querying agents

I finished my second draft of my middle grade fantasy novel, and have started the process of querying agents. Although I know the process can take a notoriously long time (several months to perhaps even an entire year, if not longer), I really believe strongly in my novel, so I don’t plan on giving up as easily as I did when I was querying agents for my previous novel. Actually, I don’t plan on giving up at all. If I come to exhaust my list of all possible agents, I will seriously consider self-publishing it. I don’t really want to do that; a middle grade fantasy will probably be insanely difficult to market on an e-reader. Middle grade readers usually don’t buy their own books, after all. But I refuse to trunk this novel; I’ll get it out there somehow. “And the world will know that this ain’t no game,” as someone once said.

Anyway, before I consider self-publishing, I’ll try as hard as I can to get an agent, which I’m sure will force me to find a new meaning of patience. I may be querying for a good while.

Short fiction

Since querying really doesn’t take much effort on my part, besides waiting and waiting for responses without going insane, I’ll be focusing my efforts on short fiction. I still have those two co-authored pieces I’m working on, which we’ll probably finish this month, and I also have a number of other stories I’ll write on my own. I probably won’t start another novel-length project for a while, though I’ll probably plot out some possibilities. But I’m excited to turn most of my writing attention to short works.

Maybe a screenplay?

I was thinking of writing a screenplay as well. (Not nearly as much work as a novel, in my limited experience.) Ideally, I’d like to write myself a little library of small-budget projects so that whenever I get into film-making (one of those some-day things), I’ll have some possible small-budget projects ready to go.

I saw that the Virginia Film Office has a screenwriting competition, with a deadline of May 23rd, so I may enter that. They don’t charge a entrance fee, which is awesome; I refuse to submit to screenwriting competitions that charge entrance fees, as most do. (I think many competitions take advantage of new screenwriters’ starry-eyed ambitions; if you lose, there’s no pay off, and you’re out $20 to $50. The opportunity just isn’t worth it.)

OK, I think that’s it for this month. The only thing that may impede my progress is my recent addiction to the 2048 game, for which my current high score is 71216* (which includes achieving the 4096 block).

———-
* Make that 76708. Ha ha.

Projects for March 2014

This month, I’m pretty much continuing all my projects from last month.

Middle grade fantasy novel

I completed my first draft of the novel in February; I’m now working on a second draft and hope to begin querying potential agents sometime this month.

Short stories

I’m still co-authoring a couple short stories, and still hope to write some more on my own after I finish a second draft of the novel.

Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program

I’m still working on my entry for this, but I only have two more weeks; entries are due on March 14th. I already have a script I can submit, but I was hoping to submit storyboards as well. However, my drawing skills are pretty awful, especially after more than a year with no practice, so I’m not really pleased with my sketches so far. I may end up just submitting the written treatment rather than storyboards, but I’ll keep trying for the storyboards until time runs out. Actually, perhaps when the weekend is over, I’ll consider temporarily dropping the other projects and focusing only on this until March 14th, because I would hate to waste this opportunity; who knows how long they’ll keep doing a program like this?