Fun with Fiber

A few years ago, I tweaked my diet to try and lower my cholesterol. Being a nerd, I created a giant spreadsheet to track all those nutritional numbers you see on the back of food packages, and tried to limit the bad stuff and increase the good stuff. That’s a whole separate story, but one of the things I had to increase was my fiber intake, so I ate more bran, wheat, raw cardboard and sawdust. And I created a number of stupid recipes. I’ll share two of them below.

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Late to the Game: Fallout 76

I decided to start a new category called “Late to the Game”, where I’ll review video games most of you have already grown bored with. I tend to play games long after they were popular for a number of reasons:

  1. I don’t have a lot of time to game.
  2. I play most games through to the end, and peek in every corner along the way.
  3. Points 1 and 2 together means it takes me forever to finish a game.
  4. I buy “Game of the Year” editions long after they were popular. If they made it to a Game of the Year edition that tells me it was probably a pretty decent experience.
  5. I might save a few bucks not getting it on day one.
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Solo

I finally got around to watching Solo: A Star Wars Story. I enjoyed it. I know a lot of people panned it (my neighbor tells me often how much he hated it). I enjoyed it, for a lot of reasons, but the first two were these:

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A Culture Shift

I touched on this a bit on my year end post, but I wanted to expand on it here. Before I can make a change, I need to observe what’s not working. I’ve formed a lot of bad habits recently, and they’ve impacted my writing time. Even now, as I type this, I’ve paused at least a half dozen times, distracted by things on my phone, or “ooh! I need to remember to [do X] later” thoughts.

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2018 End of Year Progress Report

So here’s a change; I’m actually drafting this report ahead of schedule rather than three weeks late. I’m hoping to actually post this today (Dec 31) so as to get a good start on the new year. Looking back over 2018, I’m not as far along as I’d like. There have been a few setbacks, some self-inflicted (I’m shaking a fist at State of Decay, Fallout 4, and now Stardew Valley, which I’ve been playing with my daughters), and some out of my control (a bought of bronchitis wiped out several writing days over this winter break—yay). Regardless, let’s see where I’m at and what we’ll tweak for 2019.

Read 20 books in 2018: I thought I was only at 19 books, but according to Goodreads, I did complete 20 books in 2018. Hooray! 100% A+, gold star, smiley face. My reading was all over the place this year, covering several categories, mostly fiction, but a few non-fiction (screenshot from goodreads.com):

Now, one could argue that I fudged it a little, including so many young-adult novels (6, or roughly 30%) which I read to my daughters. Yes, they’re short, but they’re still story, character, craft, and voice, so absorbing those with my kids still informs my writing.

Goal for 2019: Read another 20 books.

Write 7 posts in 2018: Even with the bar so low, this will be only my 5th post for the year, or 71%, a solid “C”. Maybe I’m going in the wrong direction, and thinking too hard about what to post, and a lazy goal is just making me lazier. I should take a cue from Seth Godin and write more often, but smaller and precise. Let’s call back to my 2015 goal.

Goal for 2019: Write 50 posts.

Get back on schedule for Togahan #4: Well, like I said, I intended to make up some time here during the holiday and catch up, but holiday shenanigans and bronchitis kicked my ass. According to the mega-schedule, current wordcount is at 134,000 for the rough draft, and the overall project is at 36.6% completion. I am 180 days (6 months) behind schedule. (At this point, I was supposed to have finished the rough draft, and completed 30-50% of the first draft revision). I’m personally disappointed with this. I was hoping to have the rough draft completed by the end of the year, but it’s still about 10k-20k words to go. I’m not sure how to figure this one out. Yes, the answer is “write more”, the same way the answer to losing weight is “eat better/exercise more”, but both require a culture shift. And THAT is a whole separate discussion (ooh! I can post about that). To make a long story short, I need to figure out where I’m wasting time and energy, and then how to devote my energetic time to more writing and work on the book.

Goals for 2019: (1) Finish the rough draft before Q2 (April 1). (2) Catch up on the schedule.

All of these are possible. But I’ll have to make some choices.

Regardless, I lived through another year. I’ve still got my family, my friends, my job, my home. I’m grateful to not only have all of that, but also the opportunity to make something out of nothing, hopefully something you’ll enjoy. Let’s hope 2019 is a little kinder to all of us.

Happy New Year!

-Pete

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2018 Q3 Progress Report

Hey everybody! How was your summer? Fall is here, the leaves are falling, I’m rushing to wrap up outdoor projects I’ve neglected all summer, and Halloween is imminent. It’s a good time of year. It’s also time to check up on where I am with my goals so far. Here we go. Also, this post is at least two weeks late.

Read 20 books in 2018:

I just wrapped up Abaddon’s Gate, #3 in the Expanse series. I don’t read a lot of series, but I’m digging this one. It feels like a D&D campaign in space with a non-typical plot thread. Good tight arcs, good big arcs, I’m hooked. Although I am taking a short break to read Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World. Charity:water does a lot of good work, and supporting this book helps support that initiative. But this post is about books read, so Abaddon’s Gate puts me at 13 books completed for this year, or so far, a solid 65, a “D”. Passing, but I can do better. I’m hoping to put a few more away through the holidays.

Write 7 posts in 2018:

This will be my 4th post for the year. You’d think I could hit this one. Frankly, I blame State of Decay, a zombie survival game I picked up for cheap when the sequel came out earlier this year. Since your characters suffer perma-death, there’s a stronger adrenalin rush than other games when you’ve invested time in certain folks. Yeah, big time sink, but fun. But I’m totally doing that as…uh…research! For Togahan #4, which in part deals with the feratus mortuis virus and the character’s efforts to stave off an epidemic. So yeah, research.

Get back on schedule for Togahan #4:

I’m not doing any math on this for this quarter. I’m like 120 days behind my schedule (again, I blame State of Decay), and trying to make up time when I can. But here’s the good news. I’ve outlined the entire rest of the book at this point, so it’s mostly execution, transforming that into some semblance of a story. Right now I’m choreographing like three different but simultaneous three-way fights, and I’m second guessing the timing too much. I need to just hammer it out, then vomit profanity later when I need to fix it. That’s about the best I can do. I’m trying to find a good, regular writing time, but our schedule has been anything but regular lately. I’ll need to innovate something somewhere.

But I remain committed. Delayed or not, sooner or later, you’ll have #4 in your hands, and hopefully it’s worth the wait. Thanks for sticking with me. Whoever checks my site a couple times a week—I see you, and I thank you.

-Pete

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2018 Half Year Progress Report

Normally this would be the Q2 progress report, but I missed the Q1 one, so …here we are. Despite my lack of keeping up with you, I’ve been making some progress, so here’s where things stand on my three goals for this year.

Read 20 books in 2018: So far, with 50% of the year down, I’m in the middle of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, and I’m reading Wandmaker’s Apprentice by Ed Masessa with my daughter. Those two would put me at seven books, but I’m not done with either of them, so I only have five under my belt so far. 50% of the year gone with only 25% progress. I’m going to go out on a limb here and wager I won’t hit this goal this year, but you never know. I may wind up kidnapped in a remote camp later with nothing but two hundred books of pulp fiction to keep me occupied for months, so…maybe it’s possible.

Write 7 posts in 2018: You would think I could knock this one out of the park, but no, even with a goal so low, I managed to waffle it. This is my third post for the year. Utterly shameful. I really have no excuse. Well, I mean, I have excuses, but they’re bullshit excuses, and I respect you too much to waste your time with them, so there.

Get back on schedule for Togahan #4: This is hard to gauge, because my scope is a bit skewed. According to my current metrics, I have 110,019 words logged so far, putting the project at 33.5% complete. Now, that doesn’t mean I have another 200k words to write (ugh), but rather with what I have left to write, then edit, etc. I’m about 33.5% through my tasks. Thing is, that’s based on a speculative 25 chapters plus prologue and epilogue, but it was written assuming 20-25 pages per chapter (or if I MATH it = ~570 pages). But I decided to write smaller chapters (10-15 pages instead), so I’m at ~300 pages right now. I don’t think I have another 270 pages to go, but maybe another 100? It’s hard to say, for plot reasons.

What does all this mean? I’ll be honest with you, my loyal, patient reader (and I say loyal and patient because if you reached this far in my post, you’ve proven beyond all doubt that you give a shit), the outlook is grim. You might have a new book in your hands by Thanksgiving….2020. (whistling….).  As bleak as that is, on the upside, I have been consistently 90 days behind schedule for a couple of months now. So I’m moving along, I’m just not catching up. I’m hoping with some vacation time, and some extra writing time shoehorned in here and there, I’ll catch up at some point.

So that’s where I’m at. Thanks for sticking with me so far. Hopefully when #4 is in your hands, you’ll agree it was worth the wait. Or you won’t and you’ll huck your e-reader into the ocean. But at my rate, there’s a good chance that e-readers will be waterproof at that point, so it’s not a total loss.

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Where I’ll be at Boskone 55

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be attending the Boskone 55 conference in Boston this year! Join me from February 16-18 in Boston MA for New England’s longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. Check out the details on The Boskone Blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I’ll be on a few discussion panels, as well as doing a reading, so if you want to come bask in my wisdom call my bullshit heckle me be part of the fun, please go to the Boskone website to register at http://www.boskone.org/register/.

More specifically, here’s where I’ll be when I’m not soaking up knowledge elsewhere:

Friday, February 16

The Real Hero of Hogwarts

3 pm – 4 pm,  Marina 3 (Westin)

Everyone knows the Harry Potter series. Harry is at the center of the story with events swirling around him, but is he the real hero? In fact, is there any real hero at Hogwarts? Let’s discuss heroism. What does it take to be a hero — and what does that even mean in a place like Hogwarts?

 

Saturday, February 17

Technology and the Crisis of Conscience

10:00 am – 11:00 am, Marina 4 (Westin)

Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Characters like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Masamune Shirow’s Major demonstrate some consequences of the headlong pursuit of scientific breakthroughs. What are the real stakes in the playing-god game? Will we use technological advances for good or evil? What will guide us? And how does fiction help inform our ethical dilemmas?

Colonialism and the New Space Race

11:00 am – 12:00 noon, Burroughs (Westin)

European expansion into the American West and other “new frontiers” used to be portrayed as a great adventure — and a civilizing enterprise. For those being invaded, however, colonial expansion has been less pleasant. The Space Act of 2015 allows the commercialization of space by private entities. But if powerful technocrats like Elon Musk use tropes from Westerns to promote Mars exploration, will we venture into space with the same old colonialist attitudes? Or can we learn from history, and approach space exploration with new mindsets?

Reading by Pete Hollmer

6:00 pm – 6:30, Independence (Westin)

Most likely I’ll read a scene with Fenris mouthing off. Folks seem to like that. It’ll be a scene from my new book, and if you show up, I may even tell you the title I’m considering. Also, I’ll have pens, T-shirts, magnets and other freebies. Everyone loves free stuff, right?

Soup to Nuts: The Life Cycle of a Book

9:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Marina 3 (Westin)

What is the life cycle of a book, from completion to publication? Our panel of agents, editors, and authors share advice on everything from querying an agent or an editor to dealing with revision requests, reviewing the contract, maintaining the relationship between editor and agent, and more.


And besides these, there as dozens more talks and things to geek out about. Even if you don’t want to see me, this conference is a lot of fun. You should go.

-Pete

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2017 End of Year Progress Report

A bit more timely than usual, here’s my progress on goals for last year and projection for 2018 goals.

Read 20 books in 2017: According to Goodreads where I track this, I completed 16 books in 2017. 80%. I barely squeaked by with a B for this goal. I was going strong for a while, then tried tackling a few larger books including Joe Abercrombie’s The Last Argument of Kings, which I’m loving, but it’s a long read, and a bulky hardcopy one, so I had few opportunities to get through it. Ah, who am I kidding. I had plenty of time to get through this when I was off work the last couple weeks, but I chose to do other stuff. I still plan to finish it though – I’m enjoying the story, I just got lazy with my reading.

Goal for 2018: Read 20 books.

Write 24 posts in 2017: I wrote 6 posts in 2017. 25%. A solid F. Ok, let’s not lower the bar, let’s remove it all together. We’re going bumper bowling, kids.

Goal for 2018: Write more posts than 2017 (so, 7).

Start Work on Togahan #4 (title TBD): According to the mega schedule, my rough draft word count is at 74,000, putting me at 23.7% done, albeit at 56 days behind schedule on my milestones. I made progress, which is good, but not as fast as I’d like. I blame video games, and my lack of impulse control.

Goal for 2018: Get back on schedule for Togahan #4.

I think those are achievable this year. Of them all, progress on the book is key. I’d like to publish a few more before I retire from my day job. We’ll see.

-Pete

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Show us a Fight Scene We Haven’t Seen Before

I’ve been enjoying the Marvel suite of shows on Netflix: Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and their team up in the Defenders. One of the things I’ve liked, particularly in Daredevil and again in Defenders, is some of the fight choreography and cinematography. In Daredevil episode 2 “Cut Man”, there’s this sweeping fight scene in a hallway. A door is kicked out, half-crumpled and in the way, and as the camera sweeps up and down the hallway in a seemingly continuous shot, Daredevil (he’s wounded—and winded) trades staggering blows with foes while working around, and sometimes using, the fallen door. It was innovative and new. It wasn’t just foes squaring off in a wide alley with the same old off-the-shelf fight moves. It was something I hadn’t seen.

Throwback to 1999 and Episode 1, the Phantom Menace. Say what you will, but Ray Park brought fresh breath to the Jedi fight scenes, executing the flips, twirls, and tricks that are now standard in Jedi/Sith battles across all the Star Wars media. Before that, we had just Ben, Luke, and Vader facing off in one-dimensional hack and slash. I read somewhere that Ray Park told Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor to actually try and hit him with their lightsabers, and he put all the drama and flourish into his defense. I’m sure much of it was not improvised, and again, say what you will about the rest of the film, but that choreography, with John Williams’ Duel of the Fates cranking up the intensity, made for a fresh fight scene.

And then in Mad Max: Fury Road, the fight scene that made it for me, more than all the other way-the-hell-over-the-top road rage clashes (although those were awesome), was the three-way brawl between Furiosa, Max, and Nux, with Max handcuffed to Nux via a long chain that went through a car door. The choreographers worked in all their motives: Max wants Furiosa’s truck. Furiosa wants those guys gone. Nux wants to be free of Max. Max defends against Nux. All of this happens while two of their arms are restrained through the chain and car door, which then become fight props. Oh, and Furiosa had removed her prosthetic arm to give her stump some relief, so she’s fighting one and a half handed. I cannot do this fight scene justice. You just have to see it.

What all three of these examples have in common was their innovation. None of them were just two brutes slugging it out, or little more than a martial arts exhibition. They incorporated the combatants’ surroundings, they stayed true to their motives, and they were new. They showed us something we hadn’t seen before, and so instead of tired, obligatory fisticuffs that daisy-chained a story together, the fight scenes themselves moved the story and revealed the characters.

And of course, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how to apply this principle to my own writing. The Togahan world has a lot of detail, backstory, motive and violence, but with every confrontation, I remind myself that it can’t just be “the thing you’ve seen before”. It should be true to the players. It should use the surroundings. It should move the story, and not just bridge two talking scenes. Successful or not, that’s my goal.

What other movie (or book) fight scenes did you think were new and innovative? What made them so? Tell me your thoughts.

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