Arc Two Begins

The next story arc of Skies Unbroken’s season two began yesterday with Episode Five: Stormrider. This short chapter was initially a prologue, but got rolled into the following episode halfway through the early drafts. The remainder of season two contains some long-awaited episodes with many scenes and details that have been swirling around in my head since the conception of this project.

There’s a degree of irony in the subject matter of the first chapter, being all about blank slates and fresh starts. On Tuesday morning, I opened the main file of Episode Five to discover that it was corrupted and completely unrecoverable. This also applied to the backup copy in my cloud drive and I just so happened to have been lax in my backup procedure in the last week or so, meaning they were the only two current copies. The one time and it bites me. Lesson learned there, as now I have six copies across four locations. Won’t catch me again!

All told, I lost about a week’s worth of drafts and revisions, including the complete and proofed version of this week’s update. So, after cooling my righteous anger, I redid the entire chapter from a raw old version in a blitz of rewriting and editing. I’m happy with the end result and the turnaround of getting it back up to snuff, but there’s definitely a few sentences that aren’t the same as the original. Those specific permutations of words are simply gone forever. Oh well.

There was also a new guidebook entry last week: Summit. Summit is a significant port of call in the Northwest Frontier, but missed the cut on being featured in an episode. However, in the spirit of the place, I couldn’t let the worldbuilding go to waste.

Despite the setback, I’m feeling back on course for regular updates on Wednesday mornings. And so, onward once again!

Maps

I started drawing maps as a casual hobby on the weekend. One map a week, single page, purely improvised out of a simple prompt. Week four is upcoming. I’ve always had a fondness for maps, and you don’t rack up a decade of Dungeons and Dragons DMing experience without dipping into drawing up countless dungeons, locales, regions, worlds. So, really, this summer fling is more of a return to continuing fandom and old practices.

Yet the only maps of Skies Unbroken are rough sketches, pure positional references rather than anything I would ever show off. Originally, the Skies project was meant to have a parallel expanding map of where the story’s been. But the concrete nature of it didn’t sit well with me, my own artistic mapmaking ability aside. This story has been heavily improvisational, both in world and out. Navigation is more than coordinates and charts, but sound and signals, impressions and intuition. There’s a reason the characters are never too specific about how far away something is, or how long it will take to get there.

Frontiers don’t have particularly reliable maps, much like how there’s no route forward in most paths of life. When I first started digging into getting serious about writing, I read through plenty of writer’s blogs and author interviews about how they accomplished whatever level of success they managed to get. And there was no common through line besides “write a bunch, show it to people”. There’s no map, no route, no path. Fixed plans tend to crumble to dust while you’re wandering the aspiring writer wilderness.

In any case, I have a low opinion of too-grand and too-detailed life plans, borne out of my own experiences in the low-key plot twists of life. An example: One time in a job interview I got hit by the old chestnut of “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I actually just laughed at them, couldn’t help it, then explained how I find the question absurd, if perhaps a touch too cynically. They didn’t call me back for another round, oddly enough.

This attitude runs through Skies Unbroken. The expedition of this project has destinations. A trilogy of seasons, a handful of specific events, and so on. But the route from points A to B to Z are hazy until I start to approach them. I know there’s a canyon here, a battlefield there, a strange isle there. But the journey is ever uncertain.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not for this story, at least.

May/June Recap

Episode Three: Old Oaths is complete, but is really one half of a two-parter with its follow-up episode. Originally the two were one long episode and may still be merged again in the future, extra polish revision.

Episode Four: New Stakes will complete the Hub story arc next week. Bianca’s introduction was something I’ve changed many times, since the trope of “Airship Captain’s Ex is also an Airship Captain and Probably an Antagonist” lies in well-traversed skies. So, I went with a more wistful and adult feel to their relationship instead, something hidden behind a mask they present to the rest of the world.

There is a new Guidebook Entry: Fixers. The fixers are probably the most steampunk of Skies Unbroken’s steampunk-adjacent setting. They’re a piece of salvage themselves, an idea and a couple characters reclaimed from a non-starter Sci-fi story I concepted and never executed on (See also: The janky Hard Salvage script thing under other fiction). A Fixer hulk and its crew will appear in the next story arc.

Speaking of which: I’ve drawn up and started working under a new plan of attack for Arc 2: Storm Breakers, hence the early ‘June’ recap. I’m not at all happy with the pace of output and flow of the Hub Arc, so I’m changing up my process for the next few months. I’ve been working without a buffer of chapters for a while now, and it is miserable. After Episode Four is complete, I’ll be taking a couple weeks off of regular updates in order to grind out a new buffer of written chapters. A guidebook entry and prologue scene will fill in the gap.

March/April Recap

“Monthly”

Episode Two: Rest Days wrapped up, even if I had to drag each chapter across the completion line. The multi-PoV ‘urban’ episodes always present difficulty. Compressing each character’s mini-story into a single chapter, and the whiplash of switching my mindset from one to another, is a challenge. But it’s an important check-in for each of them, especially since everyone’s slated for a full episode of their own further down the line.

Episode Three: Old Oaths is halfway complete as of this week. It’s an order of magnitude easier than its predecessor and contains some long-awaited kick-offs and info-dumps.

Improved consistency is the name of the game this month, namely pulling chapter updates back to Wednesday mornings. March and April were minefields of distraction and momentum breakers. I’d prefer a higher cadence of output, but that’s a stretch goal for now.

The flying isn’t always smooth, but we’re pressing on, all the same.

February Recap

A short recap for a short month.

Episode One of Season Two is complete. Last Call was an odd episode that started out under one concept and evolved into something adjacent but quite different. It was a bit of a momentum breaker in the first couple weeks of the season, a victim of being the opening chapters of both the season, and a longer 4-episode arc in and around Hub. I’m still not sure how I feel about it, honestly.

Episode Two: Rest Days started this week. This one’s a parallel to season one’s Gloria episode, showing a day or two in the life of the rest of the crew. In defiance of jinxing myself, this one feels a lot smoother and should roll out without issue. I settled into a good grove of production over the last couple weeks of February and should keep that rolling through March and into spring.

There’s a new Guidebook entry: Airship Classes. This is something I’ve had in partial form for a while in my internal worldbook. Now it’s cleaned up, expanded, and made official.