January(ish) Recap

January is always a rough patch of the year for me when it comes to writing. So much so that it has become a tradition to slump after the holidays, spend a couple weeks wondering what’s wrong, then realize it’s happening again and make the requisite mental and physical course corrections. Nothing fancy, just more reading and running when weather allows.

Season Two of Skies Unbroken launched on schedule with Episode One: Last Call. The follow-up left a lot to be desired and I’m not satisfied with how the rollout’s gone. This episode is turning out to be far trickier than I imagined. I think I’m past the rough patch, with the rest of the episode shaping up into something useable. The ending is…curious and more of a question than a resolution. The first arc of episodes in season two are generally shorter and add up to a single finale. Or that’s the plan, anyway!

I released a commercial ebook of Season One on Amazon. This is an optional way of supporting the series, available on Kindle for $1.99. There is no new content in this release. You’re not missing out on anything compared to what’s on my website or the free download available on the Season One page.

A commercial ebook implies a couple things by definition. First is cover art. You can see my serviceable amateur efforts on the Season One page. Graphic design is hard. Any emergence of an art budget will replace this cover in short order.

Second is a Goodreads page for Skies Unbroken – Season One. Add, rate, and review as you wish.

At some point, Skies Unbroken picked up a TVTropes page. I discovered this a couple hours ago and its made my day, despite how surreal it is to see. So, a shout-out and a toast to whoever created and filled out that page!

Finally, on February 1st, I was the Writer of the Day over on the r/Fantasy subreddit. Feel free to check out that post and a handful of questions about me and my writing.

Hmm. Now that I’ve laid everything out, I do feel better about how the first month-ish of season two went. I just need to pick up the pace on actual chapters.

Onward, then!

A Bookmark Story

Sophomore year of high school (1999!), a friend loaned me a copy of The Eye of the World. I started reading it during lunch, was confused as hell by its prologue (standard procedure), and needed a bookmark to keep my place because I wasn’t a savage who dog-ears borrowed books. So I took out a sheet of loose-leaf notebook paper, folded it three times to one-eighth the size, and jammed it in there.

This bookmark rode through the entirety of the then-current Wheel of Time series, eight books. By the end it was already slightly stained from rubbing against the ink of 6,000+ paperback pages, a weird, faint gray texture. At some point in those six months or so it picked up a couple scratched up notes relating to easter-eggs in Asheron’s Call and Baldur’s Gate, marking a trifecta of life-long fan associations I’ll stump for to this day.

I still have that improvised bookmark. It’s not in great shape, but it’s a 17-year-old sheet of folded notebook paper, disposable by design, meant for pre-calculus homework. One of the quadrants isn’t even attached to the whole, a loose piece that needs to be carefully folded into the middle so it doesn’t fall out. Honestly, I’m surprised the whole thing hasn’t disintegrated into dust and memories.

I still use that bookmark under certain conditions that evolved over time. I used it for the latter half of the Wheel of Time book as they came out. It took a brief dive into the Sword of Truth series before fleeing halfway through book three. I’m sure it put in appearances elsewhere in the initial years, but it definitely put in work for Otherland, a series that bridged the end of high school and the beginning of college. It might have been the only bookmark I took with me that fall.

Time passed and the bookmark saw more action. It got refolded multiple times to open up fresh sides to be stained by more ink. At some point it became a ‘Thing’. It was now the Epic Fantasy Bookmark. Let other bookmarks put in work for literature classes and sci-fi novels. It started living in The Shadow Rising when not in use, and waits there now. Eventually books had to be worthy of the Bookmark. They must be epic fantasy, Otherland grandfathered in. They must be at least a trilogy (don’t waste my time with stand-alones). They must be good enough in the first 200 pages or so, potential winners, before the Bookmark would deign to descend from its cozy WoT#4 home and grace the challenger with its presence. And it would depart if the book was anything less than great, demoting the novel to one of the other pile of bookmarks I use, improvised or otherwise.

The most recent Bookmark-qualified series is the Magister’s Trilogy by C.S. Friedman. I finished Feast of Souls recently and snap-ordered book two. We’ll see if books two and three can maintain the Bookmark’s increasingly miserly blessing.

The Year Ahead: Skies Unbroken in 2017

And we’re back! What’s in store for Skies Unbroken in 2017?!

Season two of Skies Unbroken begins next week (January 11th) with a short Prologue. The first episode, Last Call, will start up on the 18th. Season two will be longer than season one, though the precise number of episodes is still in flux. I would like to contain the entire run within 2017, but that’s a far too large and distant goal to commit to a flimsy promise on the Internet.

New Guidebook entries will run parallel to the current episode and be topical or tangential to whatever the crew of the Wink and Smile are up to this time around. Originally these were gap-fillers or introductory content, but with weekly chapter updates, they didn’t really have a place. So they’ll be their own little sub-series and give the DM in me an outlet.

The Quarterly Reports will be discontinued and replaced by slimmer monthly updates and recaps. These always felt like an afterthought and were precisely infrequent enough to sneak up on me. The general goal is more content around the weekly chapters, which will give me something to actually recap.

The website itself will see some visual updates. This theme, while clean, doesn’t really match the aesthetic of what I’m laying down here. Or I’ll just change the font and banner image and call it good.

A commercial ebook release is upcoming. Given there’s already a free compilation available here, this release is more of a support option and SEO/visibility move. It also forces me to gin up some cover art with a budget of basically zero, which will be pretty special.

Onward, then, into new uncharted skies.

Season One Episode Commentary

Here’s an organized pile of thoughts on Season One of Skies Unbroken. There are oblique spoilers contained within, and this is written under the assumption you’ve read the entire series up to this point.

Onward for posterity and content!

Prologue

(as seen on the base Skies Unbroken page)

This piece was written for a writing prompt Reddit thread on r/Fantasy a couple years ago. At that time, Skies Unbroken was in a down period of attention for me, but I pulled it out of the trunk to act as a base for a quick 500 word thing. I only needed to make a couple adjustments in order to turn it into a sort of prologue/flavor intro once I committed to the project.

This takes place right as they depart the Triplets freeport. The events in and around the Triplets, a set of large islands on the western fringes of the Northwest Frontier, was season one of Skies Unbroken in every previous iteration of the story. It opened with Kor acquiring the Wink and Smile and went through the standard arc of building up a crew, and fixing the ship, and getting into various entanglements. Choosing to skip over all of that and get right to the independent freelancer phase was a key decision that gave the project the momentum it needed.

The Big Empty

I tend to shy away from flashy, immediate hooks in my openings. The whole “Better be a murder or war declaration in the first two pages or else!” rigmarole. The characters of Skies Unbroken are the connective tissue to this serial. I didn’t want a bland “meet the crew” side page, so it became the awkwardly titled ‘Episode Zero’.

Some pieces of this episode pre-date the beginning of the project, originally written under a slightly different canon, with different character names and goals and plot outlines. The crew was much less diverse until I took a step back and realized how easily I was falling into default fantasy demographics. Simply shuffling around the character’s cultural origins led to new axis of tension with respect to old political affiliations. Which, for example, is why Kor and Wilcox, despite being of the same ethnic descent, ended up on opposite sides of the War. The crew of the Wink is a microcosm of the Northwest Frontier as a whole, a grab-bag of cultures and origins, layered with where an individual or group stood during the Great War and Dissolution of the Orventian Empire.

Continue reading

Skies Unbroken Quarterly Report – Q3 2016

Season one of Skies Unbroken is complete. Turns out the second novel-length project really is easier than the first.

How’d I do?

The final two episodes of season one took their sweet time to get done, blowing past my previous goal of wrapping up the writing phase by the end of August. This mostly spun out of episode eight going from one ‘firm’ outline, to half of that outline, to a far more improvisational execution. All while keeping the main story beats in place. One thing I’ve learned over the last year is how much Skies Unbroken likes to defy my initial outlines and by episode eight I decided to just roll with it, keeping with the spirit of the setting.

What’s Next?

There is one more chapter to be released: a time-lost Wilcox chapter from the Gloria episode. I tentatively have that slated for next week, but have yet to shake the cobwebs off.

Now begins the transition phase between seasons one and two. I’ll go into much greater detail about this period in next week’s update, with a roadmap and update schedule and everything. The primary objective is a full copyedit-level revision of all season one episodes in preparation for a compilation ebook. The website versions will be updated with these tweaks as well. Beyond that, there will be regular updates and snippets posted as I work on the initial episodes of season two.

Season two of Skies Unbroken will begin in January 2017.

Metrics

Core Narrative ~ 93,000
Supplementary ~ 7,000
Internal Worldbook ~ 17,000
Project Journal and Blog Posts ~ 19,000

Total 136,000 words.

68% Core Narrative
73% Core + Guidebook

No complaints here. Season one ended right around where I expected, in the average novel range. The supplemental content and internal worldbook took a backseat in the later stages of the season, but will come back to the fore in the coming months as I transition to season two. Blog posts and other public-facing efforts could certainly use more work, as the bulk of that number is contained in the my-eyes-only project journal. Room for improvement on that front.

It feels good to be done. For one of the multiple goalposts writers have for the concept of ‘done’, anyway. It’s been a strange journey over the last year, and I’m still processing it all.

Time to chart a new course!