Sunday, February 1, 2015

Links of Interest, Kameron Hurley Edition

Shameless plugging follows. Kameron Hurley is the Hugo-winning author of Mirror Empire, which I read last month and quite enjoyed, once I got my head screwed around one of the most alien fantasy settings I've ever come across. (Alien as in non-Tolkien, non-Moorcock, not alien as in actual aliens running about. But then again who knows.) She's also been turning up in my newsfeed a lot so the next two links are to her blog.

First up we have So You Think You Finished A Novel..., where Ms. Hurley shows us first draft of Empire Ascendant complete with revision tags and makes me feel like maybe my editing process isn't as crappy as I thought. (Still not as good as hers, but better than I feared.)

Next is What I Get Paid For My Novels: Or, Why I’m Not Quitting My Day Job, where Ms. Hurley posts honest-to-God figures of what she's been paid for her books. If you want to know more about what a novelist makes this is the link to follow. (And I'll be trawling her blog to see if she writes more about writing with a day job, particularly how she handles the quarterly bookkeeping alongside her employer's W-2s. The only advice I've ever seen on this comes from Chuck Wendig, and that was "Get an accountant. No, seriously.")

I found that link through io9, and in the comments section user DocSupreme talks about self-publishing erotica on Amazon. It sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme, except Doc's sincere, up-front and helpful about it. Plus with daycare bills to pay I might not be above catering to the post-Singularity smut market.

Then there's 750words.com, which one of my college friends is using. I haven't tried it yet, but the concept of starting my day with 750 words on paper, come hell or high water, is an appealing one. And Lifehacker links to a post by the founder of 750words.com, which talks about using writing as a meditation technique. Based on the first link I posted I feel I'd need a meditation technique to cope with editing, but it's an interesting thought. (The Lifehacker thing also mentions journaling. I wouldn't recommend it. Mark Twain talked about journals in The Innocents Abroad and approved of them... but only if they're done. Because done journals are fucking rare.)

And last but not least is a guest post by Delilah S. Dawson at Terribleminds, titled 25 WRITING HACKS FROM A HACK WRITER. Much wisdom there, especially regarding getting rid of extraneous bullshit. Do it. And go read.

I'll leave off there because my son's waking up and there's some sort of sporting event this evening. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hardcore Risette Fan

I've been playing Persona 4 Golden since late last year. Exquisite Japanese role-playing game. It combines some light dungeon crawling with social/dating sim elements and wraps them in an insanely tight but intuitive time-management system that guarantees you'll have to finish the game twice to have a hope of seeing everything. (It's also an anime available on Hulu Plus if you want to watch a good high school supernatural murder mystery.)

Part of playing a video game these days is achievements, or "Trophies" if you're on a PlayStation device. (It's going to be achievements for me - XBox 360 OG here.) Persona 4 Golden has them, and supposedly one of the hardest to get is called "Hardcore Risette Fan". I got it last night without hardly trying. Here's how I did it.

The point of the trophy is that one of your party members, Rise, will say little random quotes as you fight monsters or run through dungeons. You need to hear 250 distinct quotes to get the achievement. That doesn't start until about halfway through the game so don't worry about it at all early on.

Once Rise turns up, do the following:

-Balance your party. Divide it into two teams and swap between them to keep your levels even. This also ensures you're going to hear more character-specific lines because you'll be playing with everyone you can.

-Make friends with the Fox. You need to spend a lot of time in the dungeons to get this achievement, and ranking up the Fox's social link will let you get the cheap healing you need to do it. Also make sure you keep enough dungeon-exiting items around so that you don't have to leave early. The Traesto spell is huge if you can get it and keep it.

-Go through the Void dungeon before you rank up Rise's social link too much. Some of her lines stop happening once your social link rises above 2 or 3. You should be able to get a good chunk of them in the Void. Speaking of, let the Void boss rebuild his little pixel bot when you're fighting him to get a bonus quote.

-Fight a lot of different enemies, don't just run past them (unless you get super bored like I did in the last dungeon). You want to fight enemies with different strengths and weaknesses, especially elemental ones. Also make sure you have all your party members hitting weaknesses when they can, one monster at a time if possible. And make sure you fight the little hand monsters when you see them.

-Fight the bonus bosses and do all the quests. It helps cut down on the tedium of grinding enemies if you have a larger goal.

-Don't heal after a fight if one or more characters is low on hit points. Rise will warn you about it and that counts as a line.

-If you find an enemy with Debilitate, let everyone in your party get hit with it, then start scanning enemies and backing out until Rise has identified everything that's just gone horribly wrong for you. 3 things per party member.

-When you're fighting Ring Head (you'll know him when you see him), let him screw around with the environment for awhile halfway through the fight. When you're fighting the culprit, let him use Heat Riser early in the fight. I got the achievement fighting the culprit so you don't need to get every special boss quote.

I got the achievement on my first playthrough, so don't listen to anyone who says you need to go through the game twice or wait for the second run. And the only farming I did was hitting all the quests and the bonus bosses, and doing the Debilitate trick once. (Not even on everyone in my party!)

And this is what I've been doing instead of fucking writing. (Well, that and raising a tiny human and miscellaneous other family-related things.) How were your holidays?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Journaling

Pro: You are writing something every day.

Con: You are not necessarily writing any fiction every day.

Pro: Your life has some legitimately funny moments in it.

Con: Your life is dull as dirt most of the time.

Pro: You'll have happy memories to look back on one day.

Con: Dropbox ate your happy memories.

Pro: You have a backup drive for your happy memories as well.

Con: Your happy memories just got leaked on 4chan.

Pro: No they didn't.

Con: People are laughing about the bit with the cat. And not in a good way.

Pro: You're just trying to bring me down.

Con: I think your pretentious little journal is doing that for me.

Pro: At least I'm doing something. When's the last time you did any work on the Dead Empire book?

Con: Worldbuilding is a slow, painstaking process.

Pro: And it's a lot slower when you never open your Scrivener file.

Con: Hey, fuck you buddy! I didn't bail on the book to write a story about a painting magician.

Pro: Well I can't twiddle my thumbs while you fuck around with the finer points of fantasy geography, now can I?

Con: Oh, yes, it's so helpful having you use up his headspace on a short story that's not going anywhere. Remember the one about the girl on the ceiling? How's that going?

Pro: I finished the first draft.

Con: Which you're not editing.

Pro: Pot and kettle, asshole.

Con: Fuck you!

Pro: Fuck you!

Scuffle, shots fired, sirens wailing.

Ahem. Sorry about that, the stream of consciousness took over.

Anyway, I've been doing a daily journal for the past month, roughly. Just details out of my day, occasionally a bit of a rant to let off steam. Lots of stuff about my son, naturally.

I'm not writing every day, although I am going back and filling in missing days when I slip up. I don't think I'm writing fiction any better or more often, but I don't think I'm doing worse on either of those fronts either. The most I can say is that I am writing something which I find valuable for its own sake on a regular basis.

Which is nice.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Playstation TV Review

Yes, wildly off-topic again. If anyone's interested, I've got a short story I'm working on with (what I think is) a really neat emotion-based magic system to it, and I may have cracked the code on my long-suffering "Anita Blake becomes human again and goes on a rampage" book. Which is good for everyone, because the original thought train has expanded into an urban fantasy epic I'm going to write one day, I swear.

But for now. Playstation TV.

Background: I started a diet plan a few months ago that was designed to work on a modified swear jar system, where I'd reward myself for good behavior (eating meals from home, eating fruit and vegetables) and punish myself for bad behavior (take-out dinners and drinking soda). The reward cash would go toward a Playstation Vita, because I wanted to play Persona 4 after watching the anime and I'm scared to go into the closet and look for my old Playstation 2. (Also, Persona 4 Golden, the Vita one, has new content I wanted to see that's not in the anime.) Punishment deductions went to my wife for whatever she wanted.

The end result was that my wife got a ton of cash and I didn't lose any weight. Poor diet design, plus the motivation fizzled after I did the math on how long I needed to keep up the diet to get the Vita, which with mandatory accessories and the game runs about $260. Then I heard Liam talking about the Playstation TV on the Super Best Friendcast, and how it's the perfect device to play Vita RPGs on if you're on a budget.

And it is. It really is!

The cost of the system plus the game is $99, and a bundle with a game download (the LEGO Movie game), a Dualshock 3 controller, and an 8 GB memory card is $139. (This is a deal even without the game - Playstation controllers and memory cards are notoriously expensive.) With Persona 4 added in that's about $160 for me, which coincidentally I'd actually managed to save up through the diet system by the time I found out the Playstation TV existed. So I declared the diet on hiatus and picked up the system.

Rear-view of the device. Don't put it on your TV, the cables will drag it down.
The Playstation TV is about the size of a Raspberry Pi, or a larger cellphone. Really tiny. I can hold it in the palm of my hand. The guts are the guts of a Playstation Vita, minus the touchscreen or any screen at all. It plugs into the TV via HDMI and has an Ethernet port plus wireless capabilities. The controller plugs in via USB, but only to charge and do the initial sync-up with the system. You can plug in up to four controllers, though I'm not sure how many of the games will support multiplayer.

Initial set up is fairly easy. You will need a Playstation Network account to get full feature access, and the website's a bit of a pain to deal with. (You also can't register the hardware yet for some reason.) But if you just want to get started playing a game all you have to do is insert the game chip, turn the system on, answer a few questions and you're good to go. Or you can download the day one update, which will add most of the system's features to your front page.

What the hell am I looking at?
The menu system is not pure crap, but it's pretty bad. There's no rhyme or reason to the way things are laid out, and games (you know, the things you'll actually want to play) are all hidden off the front page by default. And there's no intuitive way to rearrange things unless you go online and read the manual. There's also a news feed you can't get rid of, apparently, whether you want it or not.

Go away!
Actually gaming is much better. The Dualshock 3 is a solid controller (my toddler is already a big fan), and Persona 4 Golden (above) looks great on a big screen. There's a compatibility list for the Playstation TV that covers the games you can play on it, and you will want to give it a look. If you like role-playing games, then you're pretty much set - the Playstation TV supports most of the Vita RPGs. If you sign up for Playstation Plus, you also get access to a few free games, which right now means Spelunky (technically a PS4 game, but it at least installs), Pix the Cat and Rainbow Moon. A new set of games turns up monthly (I think The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is out next month), and you keep everything as long as your Plus subscription is current. I signed up for a 14 day demo and I'll probably get a full membership.

As a media center, you've got much better options. Even the 3DS has better app support than the Playstation TV right now, although Sony swears the apps are coming. I still have my 360 plugged in for Netflix and the like, so this really doesn't bother me.

Overall, for what I want it to do the Playstation TV is a great little bargain. It's not for people who want next-gen graphics or lots of streaming apps, but if you just want to play some Vita games without shelling out for a Vita, I'd say go for it.

*sees Disgaea 4 on the compatibility list*

*runs off whooping*

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Fall

I love fall. Always have, probably always will. It's the time of year when some relief comes from the dog days of summer, when the air turns cool and a man can go for a walk without drowning in his own sweat. The grass is still green, but the leaves have burst into orange and yellow and red, and the sky tends to cloud up and you get breezes, breezes you don't get during the rest of the year. There is nothing better than a stiff breeze under a cloudy sky, when the air is charged with the potential of great change. You can go outside and stand on the edge of the world, close your eyes, and breathe deep.

The dog, naturally, doesn't share my appreciation of the edge, and would much rather hide indoors any time a bit of wind comes along. My son gets it, though, and wants to spend his time in the evenings outside, toddling around with a broom three times his size and making me catch him when he goes marching off the side of the deck. It's nice, when he's not testing gravity, to sit in a chair and "take it all in" with him.

And thank God for those quiet moments, because the rest of the world seems to be somewhere over the edge, about a hundred feet down and picking up speed. Everywhere you look there's some new form of madness taking root. I understand the need to keep informed, but I'm finding it harder and harder to cope with the deluge of fear and horror coming out of the news these days. 30 years of war, police brutality, innocent people imprisoned and men guilty as sin allowed to walk out of court free and wealthy... to quote Hunter S. Thompson, "How long, oh Lord, how long?"

I could go on, but it's late and I need sleep more than I need to ramble on about the state of the world. Suffice to say we're standing on the edge, all of us; and it's best we take our bearings before we step over. But before that, go jump in the leaves, give your family a hug, and take the time to breathe deep.