Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feeling Lucky?

Vacation is always a wonderful time to recharge the batteries. This past week I went to beautiful Cherokee, NC to play in a few ring events in the World Series of Poker Circuit. Texas Hold 'Em poker is a fantastic and varied game that has a large array of possible outcomes. If you enjoy poker I would highly recommend any of the WSOP Circuit events as the way it is run, the dealers that travel with the circuit, the blind structure, etc. are all excellent for higher level poker players.

Poker, like life, is about taking chances. Sometimes they work out, and others they end in a loss. More often than not fortune favors the bold. Taking those chances and aggressively pursuing opportunities is a strong trait that will often times win a pot without having to show your cards. In poker pushing your chips in gives you added value as the aggressor because it puts pressure on the other player to fold even if they have the better hand. Of course, the opponent doesn't always fold.

Patience is one of the most important skills to have when playing poker. In contrast with poker on TV, the vast majority of hands received will result in the hands being folded around to the aggressor before or just after the flop. For TV they routinely edit out those hands. Twitch and other live streaming options will give you a much more accurate feel for how the game is actually played on that level. It is like going through the submission process as an author. Rejections happen. Stay patient and keep grinding.

Also while on vacation I got an email for a new review that was posted for Initialization which I thought captured the essence of the novel. I now feel somewhat confident that I hit on exactly what I was going for in this first novel of the series. I recommend checking out her other reviews as well. This is currently my favorite book review website.

http://havingfaithbookblog.blogspot.com/2017/04/initialization-by-brian-basham-4-stars.html


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,136
The Ghost Season 1
5th Edit Run: Page 10 of 47

Monday, March 13, 2017

First Impressions: Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is now available for purchase if you can find one (more on this later). I just got my hands on the new offering from Nintendo this past Thursday. With a few days of experience I have a few first impressions that I want to share. To be honest I haven't been this excited over a console in a long time. The Wii came close to capturing my imagination, but I wasn't an early adopter. I usually wait until the console drops in price a few times before picking it up. I'm currently waiting for the PS4 to do this while I try to catch up on PS3 games.

The Switch is different. This is what I think Nintendo envisioned for the WiiU, but for some reason had to take a baby step to get here. This is a marriage of console, mobile, and tablet gaming. I see this console as being everything gaming in one package. It's capable of appealing to all gamers like the Wii did for a short time, but the Switch is more. Let me get into it. Just as a disclaimer, I have only played Breath of the Wild so far. Any references to gameplay elements will be referring to that game.

The Joy-Cons

The Joy-Cons are what they call the controllers for the Switch. The first thing I noticed was how light these things are. Compared to the Wii controllers these are tiny and they have a lot more buttons. Each controller has 9 buttons and a control stick giving you a total of 18 buttons to play with. You have 2 trigger buttons on the top, 4 standard buttons above or below the control stick, 1 home button or screenshot button, pushing down the control stick is another button, and a + or - button which are functionally like start/select. There are 3 ways you can use them, attached to the console while using it as a tablet, attached to the grip that comes included, or connected to included attachments with lanyard-like toggles similar to the Wii controllers. The grip I will likely never use, but if you are planning to I just read an article saying there is a bug with it that makes it almost unplayable in that mode. My preferred method is to use the free hand approach similar to the Wii. If you have kids, I can see these small attachments being the first pieces destroyed or lost even though when using them properly they are attached to the controllers and your wrist.

Now let's talk about actually using the Joy-Cons. There is no curved backing to make these things fit in your hand. It is like holding a light smartphone in each hand that is half the width while trying to manipulate them both at the same time. I've fumbled them more than once. I am used to my Galaxy Note Edge phablet which feels huge in comparison. If they weren't attached to my wrist I would have dropped them at least a dozen times while playing. I have not had any issues with lag or responsiveness thus far. The motion controls on these are super responsive. While playing I have had to make sure I'm not tilting them because it causes my aim to drift. I don't plan to use the grip because of multiple instances where I needed to flip the controller upside-down for tilt controls which would be awkward using the grip. The controller's battery life thus far has been impressive. I charged them once, and the battery has not gone below half way. I have yet to switch them out for my 2nd set of controllers that I have attached to the console to charge.

The Console Itself

I haven't tried out the mobile capabilities of it yet, but so far no complaints about the console itself as a device. Connecting the Joy-Cons to it gives a solid and satisfying click sound. The Joy-Cons charge while docked into the console without any further connection. The console is just as thick as the Joy-Cons, probably by design. The screen is smaller than I was expecting with it being slightly larger than my smartphone. It has all of the standard connections you would expect for a device like this. The kickstand on the back looks a bit flimsy, but I haven't tried it out yet. The slot for expandable memory is right behind the kickstand which is a bit of a weird spot for it, but as long as it works I don't see it as being a problem.

Some of the slots have a rubber-like cover to them that has to be peeled back to reveal the slot. The slot for inserting games is one of them. These could easily end up being ripped off or loosen over time with repeated use. I usually take good care of my electronics, so I'm hoping it won't be an issue. The screen on the Switch looks clear with bright colors, but it isn't scratch resistant. This is the main reason why I haven't tried many of the mobile functions yet (more on that below).

The Other Stuff

The most frustrating part of this console so far is how everything feels like it was rushed to market. The quality of the actual console and the Joy-Cons is undeniable, but everything else feels like it was thrown together last minute. The docking station for example has no heft to it at all. It feels like cheap light plastic that could fall over at the slightest nudging. When setting it up the HDMI cable was nudging the docking station. This caused the docking station to float in the air at an angle when attached. The console would have weighed it down, but removing the console from the docking station can be problematic. I also didn't notice a wired network slot, only USB slots.

The general lack of launch games and accessories is concerning as well. Every store has 50 copies of Just Dance and Breath of the Wild, but none have any consoles (Seriously, who would buy a Switch right now and NOT get Breath of the Wild??) or accessories other than extra Joy-Cons. I can't say anything about the touchscreen or any of the console's mobile capabilities because I have to wait for an online retailer to ship a screen protector. Many accessories are things you figure out you need later. If it isn't at the local retailer then that means a longer wait.

The most concerning part of it all is the lack of games. Breath of the Wild will keep most of us busy for the time being, but other than that it is pretty slim pickings. I plan to get I am Setsuna once I finish Breath of the Wild and I also have Bomberman which should keep me busy until Mario Kart comes out, but then there is a long gap until the holiday rush comes. I might actually have to get back to writing!


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,026
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 35 of 47

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Adjusting Sails

There is always a time that comes where changes must be made. A change of course to get back on the right path toward the stated goal. This is one of those times for me. I also have a bunch of announcements and a contest, because it has been way too long since I last wrote my last blog post.

Recognize

The first step in having a problem is admitting you have a problem! Recognizing the problem can be harder than it seems. So many of them are unanticipated until they pop up and beg for attention like a dog wanting to be petted. Do you ignore the puppy? or do you pet the puppy? YOU PET THE PUPPY WHAT KIND OF QUESTION IS THAT?

Many of the issues I have been dealing with are self-inflicted. Like my poor dietary choices that have led to my weight problems. It is something I struggle with every day. I know how to reverse the trend. I have done this before. Others are writerly things that I am not sure how to handle. What do I do with Night Reads? I don't wish to abandon the project. It is a way to help fellow indie authors, but I want to liven the experience up a bit. I plan to start filming for that very soon, and it will most certainly be a whole new experience.

I also haven't been writing as much lately because I am helping to clean up 40 years worth of accumulated stuff that my mother hoarded. It has been hard to watch what feels like the erasure of my mother from the house that I grew up in. I have found a few things that I can keep to remember her by including a nice writing desk. I will use the crap out of that desk.

Course Correction

So now I am getting back into writing after a short break. The first draft of my second novel is nearing completion, but I still have the last bits of conclusion that lead into the third installment. So far this second novel feels like an adrenaline rush that I can't wait to finish and push it out to you all. Writing again after taking a short break can be difficult. My daily word count isn't that impressive to begin with, but I do try. Sometimes I get that 1,000 words daily that I set as my goal when I sit to write, but there are many more days where I get half that. I need to do better with ramping up my productivity by eliminating distractions so I can focus on the task at hand.

I mentioned Night Reads which is getting an overhaul. It will be much less about performing readings and more about putting the focus on the book featured. I will also have episodes where there is no featured book and I talk about writing news, the book I'm reading, plot devices, or how sentient dust bunnies could organize to take over the world. Hey, it could happen!

Announcements

I do have some happytime announcements for today. So let the sponge ball pit dance party begin!
  • Initialization is now available for Nook and Kobo - So yea, this is a thing. You can get it at the links below!
    Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/2940157386917
    Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/initialization-1
  • Contest! - To celebrate the release of Initialization in ePub (Nook/Kobo) format, to random winner(s) of the contest I am going to give away a copy in their choice of Mobi (Kindle) or ePub (Nook/Kobo) ebook formats! Entering is super easy. Log into twitter, use #VWars, and write a tweet about Virtual Wars, virtual reality, dystopian societies, apocalypses, wearable tech, or the future of cellphones. All of those subjects relate to this world I created, and I would love to talk about them! You can also enter via Facebook at my author page here: https://www.facebook.com/authorbrianbasham/
    Contest ends 3/31/17.


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:42,026
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 27 of 47

Saturday, February 11, 2017

All The Feels

Depression is never fun and whenever it hits even the most mundane of tasks can be difficult. I always try to put a happy face on things and live in a bubble where all the shiny rainbow unicorns dance all day. In reality I feel alone all the time. Even when surrounded by people I feel intensely on my own. I want to slink away to some space where I can fall to pieces out of the view of others.

I try to break out of this by making friends and hanging out with people who share similar interests, but everything remains at arm's length. I do OK in this zone. The zone of friendship/acquaintance where I don't have to share how I feel. When I share more and get truly emotional, people don't know how to handle that. It's like I'm not allowed. The feelings come anyway and they are intense.

This is why I stay busy. I don't drink and I don't have anyone to talk it out with. What happens when it hits so hard that I can't move? Sometimes it feels like if I move then the world will end. Sometimes I take on too much to drown out all of the thoughts and feelings of being alone. That can be too much and swallows me. The darkness of it all weighing on my back. The push and pull of deadlines, work, and lack of sleep.

I put more tasks in my todo box to stay busy which prevents me from reaching out to people which isolates me more which makes me more depressed which causes me to take on more tasks. It is an evil circle of shit that I don't know how to break out of. So I sit here writing this, thinking about how to break down this wall. The anxiety I feel when trying to make a phone call is enough to make me scream.

I don't have any answers. I have written before that happiness is a choice, and it is... up to a point. I try to celebrate my accomplishments as much as I can, but when depression hits those all feel fake. Like I made them up to get people to like me. So I move on. I do the one thing I can do. It's like the scene in Kill Bill when Uma Thurman comes out of the coma and can't move. "Wiggle your big toe." I start there and build myself up until I can do all the things I want to. Maybe that is the answer. Imagine "wiggle your big toe" becoming the mantra for depressed people everywhere. I should be a motivational speaker *falls over*


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:40,228
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 23 of 47

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Big Four Oh

I was born on January 30, 1977 in Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, VA. The journey from then until now has been a long hard one. I am writing this on the edge of this barrier and I don't feel 40 years old, but when I think of it and see younger people I do feel 40 years old.

I feel like I found my calling later in life than I should. When I was young I always thought I had plenty of time to figure things out. I went with the flow and didn't bother worrying about the mark I would leave on the world. I always figured that I would be OK. I never spent the time to truly figure out what that would be. I had the potential to be anything I wanted, but didn't put in the work.

It wasn't that I was lazy. With every great idea came many others. Each one seeming like they were the most important thing in the world. I worked hard at every project I took on and I took on more than I could accomplish on my own. I worked on 4 or 5 major projects at a time by myself. At some point you realize that you need the help of others, but other people will flake out on you unless they are just as invested as you are or you pay them to be.

I would prioritize new and exciting projects and eventually abandon older projects I had spent so many hours on. Staying focused on one thing until it was completed was one of the biggest challenges I faced. I wanted to do EVERYTHING. The overriding passion I had for creating things is what drove me, but it took me a while to realize that none of it mattered unless I finished what I started.

That was when I decided I wanted to be a musician. This is something I worked on for a long time. I wrote lyrics in a notebook and created beats to go with them. I made enough songs to put together a mix tape or album. I learned that music, no matter how much I loved it, was not my passion. I was not a talented musician. I could do the music portion by the numbers using math to come up with a sequence that sounded good, but it wasn't organic. I didn't have the passion to learn to play an instrument. The part I loved was writing the lyrics. This is how I came back to writing. That was what I loved going back as far as I can remember.

When I was young I struggled with words. Socially awkward to the point of being afraid to speak to nearly anyone. I still have problems today. This is what fuels my passion for writing though. Math and science were always easy for me. Words are a challenge. They are the road less traveled for me.

I still get ideas, but I am focused on one thing and it is large enough to encompass everything else I do. I have no time for other grand ideas that I would like to pursue. Every book is a grand idea that demands my full focus. Every sentence demands another to follow it. Working with others who have been successful in other areas taught me that consistency and quality are big factors in building a support structure.

In trying to build things and asking for support I have been accused of being false, of lying, and of using people for my own personal gain. This really grates on me because it is hard enough for me to ask for help and then when I do people respond to me in this manner as if I have not been supportive of them for years prior to asking for the one thing. Today I didn't ask for anything and I got this response. I told this person that if they wanted to read my novel that it is available for free through my birthday. I didn't ask them to read it, I didn't ask for money, and I didn't ask for a review that I really need at this point. These are the people I cut out of my life. Life is too short for it to be a one way street where you give and the other person takes.

So I sit here contemplating their words. Am I a fake? A fraud? Am I wrong for trying to be open and honest? Would people trust me more if I lied all the time? or cursed more? Should I never strive to take anything for myself? Am I exploiting people? No, I emphatically reject this entire line of thinking. The actual response going through my head right now starts with "F" has 3 more letters and ends with "THAT", all caps. I can only be myself and I am constantly trying to improve on that. These people are actively impeding that progress.

Going after what you want in life is what everyone should be working toward. If you don't try then you will never get there. A true friend will want to help you without being asked, and if they can help they will in most cases. If you are a true friend then you will reciprocate in the same manner. True friends exploit each other as a matter of course. It's a symbiosis. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. We both benefit. So here I am writing on the day before my 40th birthday about this and mourning the loss of a few "friends". Tomorrow will be filled with the happy, sunshine, Godzilla stomping, confetti cannon, rainbow, unicorn, and cotton candy ride of amaze. Wanna come?

On to better news. My novel is available for free in ebook format at Amazon through my birthday 1/30.

CONTEST OMGSH

I'm also giving away more books that I didn't write! Details are on my author facebook and twitter accounts.
     

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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count:40,058
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 18 of 47

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Freedom of Thought

If you have been following me on Twitter for a while then you know that I can't resist making posts about politics, about cute puppies and kittens, or about various fictional apocalypses. I wanted to write today about something that I think is very important for fiction writers and authors to have. That is what I call the freedom of thought.

In spite of what you see me post, I talk with people who supported and some who still support Trump. I think it is important to keep the lines of communication open for any thoughts or ideas whether I agree or disagree with them. I will try to remain civil in the vast majority of cases, but I can tell you that I have been cursed out hundreds of times for putting forward an idea that someone else doesn't like. Ideas and stories are like Pokemon to me, I gotta catch 'em all.

Walk A Mile

They say I can't truly know someone until I have walked a mile in their shoes, but what do they say about that person's underwear? I'm uh... asking for a friend. I can't write without having some understanding of the characters in my story. I have to know every argument they are going to use and why. If I am going to write a character that would fall within a certain category then I have to take the time to try to understand them. If my character is like Trump or would have voted for Trump then I have to speak with conservatives to understand how they think. The same is true for writing people of different cultures, sexual orientations, gender identities, toenail colors, stances on Godzilla, etc..

The best way to get that understanding is to live like they do. Think about what they do on a day to day basis. Who do they speak with every day? What motivates them? Experiences will influence how someone thinks and reacts. Going through those same experiences, even if only in my mind, can help me to at least partially understand someone. With that understanding I still could get it wrong, but the fear of getting it wrong won't keep me from trying.

Justified

One thing I have noticed is that no one sees themselves as the villain. Even Darth Vader had justification for turning to the dark side. It wasn't only because he was evil. Emperor Palpatine wasn't evil for evil's sake either. He was a politician that wanted the power to fix things that needed fixing without others in the Senate squabbling over it. My biggest pet peeve in fiction is a character that does evil things because evil. How do they sleep at night if they can't justify their actions?

Nearly everyone justifies what they do before they do it if there is any question of morality involved with the action. Everyone makes mistakes, but at the time of making the mistake they have a reason for it. While plotting out things, before I write an outline, I go through every major decision my characters have to make. I have to justify my narrative and make sure the characters fit within the story I want to tell. I think about how each character that is affected by these decisions will react. More often than not each decision creates a chain reaction of events. Each decision has to be justified within that character's framework. A character on drugs might justify their actions saying that a unicorn promised them a rainbow if they did the thing. I'm going to do the thing anyway, but if someone would give me a rainbow I would be all the flails.

Freedom

Doing your research and collecting these ideas gives you the freedom to confidently write the story you want to tell. It makes your characters feel more realistic and gives them a depth they wouldn't have had otherwise. It helps you avoid tropes that are harmful. No one writes perfect characters. All our characters are flawed messes of people. That is what makes them interesting. Just like our characters we are flawed. We mess up, but we can always try to do better next time. That is why it is important to listen to others. You never know when someone may be a bag of spiders waiting to be unleashed upon you. Don't make the bag of spiders angry OK?


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Writing Progress Updates


Virtual Wars: Running (Writing First Draft)
Current word count: 32,479
The Ghost Season 1
Editing: Page 11 of 47