Stuff I Made

Art and Beginner's Mind

I've been making art lately. And not writing; I mean visual art. Mostly watercolor. Now, though, I have a new and improved camera, and I'm trying to do some artful photography, as well.

This might be a little surprising to many of you. I make games and stories, surely that's enough artistic expression for anyone?

Well, it is and it isn't. Here's the problem: It's increasingly difficult for me to make goofy little weekend projects like I used to without feeling some obligation to make it a commercial transaction. I can make pictures because I think they'll be fun or to experiment. I don't need to be worried about honing my craft or marketability, I don't need to worry about deadlines, I don't need to worry about whether I'm going to disappoint my publishers, backers, or audience. It's relaxing in a way that writing rarely is for me.

Though to be honest, I've haven't been a write-as-a-hobby kind of writer since middle school anyway. In 8th grade it was all ElfQuest fanfiction, but ever since then my writing has been for a grade, or a contest, or a submission.

Visual art, though...when I was a kid, and even up until college, I drew much more than I wrote. Much more. Given what I love and how I used to spend my free time, it's kind of surprising that I've never started a webcomic of any stripe.

There's another angle, too. See, I'm not actually an especially talented or skilled artist or photographer. I'm just screwing around. Do I want to get better? Yeah! But there's nothing at stake, so making something kinda terrible is fine.  

That's beginner's mind, to me, and it's priceless. A beginner is open to being wrong and doing bad work. A beginner is open to learning and growing. A beginner is ready to throw away preconceived notions and paradigms if they aren't working, starting fresh instead of patching the old one. And this experimental, stakes-lowering mindset relaxes me enough that I can take that feeling into the rest of my life, and even my paying work.

There is enormous value in giving yourself permission to do things simply because you like to do them, regardless of skill or outcome.

Anyway, if you want to follow along on my adventures in visual art, I post 'em up on Instagram from time to time. Probably I'll be posting the odd selfie and book cover there, too but mostly it's watercolor and still life photography for now. Probably none of it will be super amazing? And that is, for once, A-OK.

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ReMade Season 1

I'm a little late to the announcement here, but I promise you this one's worth the wait. A while back I talked about one of the serials I was working on, Bookburners. I joined that one in the second season as a pitch hitter, so while I love it madly, I wasn't nervous about sending it into the wild. The concept had already had its road test and we knew it could go fast.

But I was at the very first ReMade story summit, and had a part in shaping it from the very skeleton. It's a very different emotional dynamic. And it's a very different story.

Every minute, 108 people die. This fall, in one of those minutes, twenty-three of those deaths will be teenagers. Now they are humanity’s last hope for survival. Awakened in a post-apocalyptic world and hunted by mechanical horrors, these teens search for answers amidst the ruins of civilization. Fate, love, and loyalty face off in this adrenaline-pumping YA adventure.

Written By: Matthew Cody, Kiersten White, E.C. Myers, Andrea Phillips, Carrie Harris, and Gwenda Bond

I've done some of the best writing of my life for this serial, hands down, and these characters are so richly textured and diverse that I could just die from pride. I love every one of them. This season I'm primarily writing a character named May, an overachiever with a plan for every occasion and a serious food allergy, and representing food allergies is pretty important to me. But the rest of the cast are every bit is fascinating, and I can't wait for you to get to know them all.

Listen, this is going to be a wild ride, and you're not going to want to miss a second of it. Pinky promise. And I'm not the only one who thinks so. 

If you're not sold yet, you can read the first episode to get a taste—but trust me when I say it gets better and better every second until the end. As of this week, we're three episodes in and absolutely off to the races. There's a new episode every Wednesday from now until December 21. Go on, subscribe to the season now. I promise you'll love it.

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Bookburners Debut

Ahhhhhhhhh you guys I am so, so, SO excited. It's LAUNCH DAY! Late last summer I holed up for the weekend with some of my very favorite writers to help plan Season 2 of Bookburners. And today, the first of my two episodes this season is LIVE and you can BUY IT and READ IT! OMG OMG OMG it's really happening.

...Wait, wait, hold on. Probably that needs a little translating before you can be as excited about it as I am. So BAM, let's FAQ this thing up!

Andrea. Andrea. What the heck is Bookburners?

Bookburners is a serial fiction narrative written by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Slattery, Mur Laffery, and ME! Plus the amazing Amal El-Mohtar also has a guest episode this season, so you're in for a real treat.

It's urban fantasy about a team of operatives working out of the Vatican to find and confiscate magic books before terrible, terrible things happen. Or let's be honest: usually slightly after terrible things have already begun to happen, because that's way less boring to read about.

How does this serial work?

One episode comes out every week on Wednesday in ebook and audiobook formats. This season started last week (you're already behind!) and goes for sixteen weeks. 

Serial Box is bringing the HBO model to ebooks -- teams of writers working together to produce high-quality story each week, far faster and better than any one of those writers would be able to do all alone. I'm thrilled to be a part of it, and I'm hoping you'll be thrilled to read it, too! And I've got another Serial Box project in the works, too: ReMade. I can't say much about it yet, buuuuuut I'm pretty excited about that one too. More on that front in September!

OK but here's the important question: how do I buy it?

If you never want to miss an episode, you can buy a season pass for everything in ebook and audiobook format, and have an array of choices for where to read it. You can also buy single episodes (like mine!) on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, basically anywhere ebooks are sold. (For Nook, too, but it looks like it's not up there quite yet...)

Since this is the second season, you may also be interested in the Season 1 Omnibus -- or if you're in a rush, there's a convenient Season One Recap so you can get up to speed right away.

I AM SO EXCITED. ARE YOU EXCITED TO? AHHHHH! If you're feeling excited too, plus you have a couple spare bucks and an hour to read, pick up my episode and let me know what you think!

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The Daring Mermaid Expedition

HEY GUESS WHAT I have a game out today!

It's called The Daring Mermaid Expedition, and it's published by the fabulous people at Choice of Games. Available for iOS, Android, on Steam, on Amazon, or you can just start playing in your browser!

Mermaid Expedition is a game set in the Lucy Smokeheart universe. This time, you play as an aspiring scholar of the esteemed Royal German Marinological Society. It's your job to discover proof that mermaids exist, and present your findings to the committee. Also: Pirates! Romance! Deception! It is, if I do say so my own self, very funny and charming. Also entirely scientifically inaccurate and riddled with anachronism!

There are ten endings. "Winning" is probably the most boring one. Sorry?

Anyway! Mermaid Expedition is a special game to me for a lot of reasons. For one, I coded it was well as writing it, which I'd never done before. It's making me question a lot of parts of my self-image, in good, stretchy ways. I don't identify as a programmer, and yet, here I've written a whole game! by myself!

This was also an arduous production process, mostly because my entire life has fallen apart several times over the last couple of years. It's been intense around here. So I want to call out Choice of Games in genera and Rebecca Slitt in particular for being extraordinarily kind about the fact that I blew every deadline they ever gave me, and in some cases by several months. It's not like me, I swear! But thank you, thank you, for your patience, and for working with me to get this lovely little thing into the world.

Anyway! The game is out! Available from multiple outlets! Hurry and give it a shot, it's only $1.99 until Feb. 19. And after that it'll only be $2.99! Cheap!  Consider it buying me a cup of coffee. Happy adventuring!

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Fast News Day

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said that I had a bunch of unannounced work in the pipeline? Well, announcement season has begun! Yesterday two pieces of news dropped about what I'm doing in 2016, and both of them are basically fantastic in every way.

First: Bookburners! 

I'm a big fan of the idea of short-form serial ebooks; in fact that's exactly what Lucy Smokeheart was. But at Phoenix Comicon I met Julian Yap, who is co-founder of a company called Serial Box along with Molly Barton, formerly Penguin's global digital director. And their vision one-ups mine with an important improvement: working with teams.

I am beyond tickled to say I've joined on to help write the second season of Bookburners, their flagship serial, along with a bunch of writers I'd been dying to work with already: Max Gladstone, Mur Lafferty, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Slattery, and now Amal El-Mohtar is also joining us!

And just wait until you see what the story is about. OMG.

Magic is real, and hungry—trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. Freshly awake to just what dangers are lurking, she joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad: Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum. Together they stand between humanity and magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

I can't wait until May to share Season 2 with you. But there's no reason you have to wait -- Season 1 is complete now, so feel free to go pick it up on Amazon or in the Serial Box app. Or if you hold your horses just a little while more, an omnibus edition for Season 1 should be available real soon. (I think?)

Strange Horizons

But if you want to do a little reading right now, have I got news for you! A piece on fitness games and New Year's resolutions went up on Strange Horizons yesterday -- and better yet, it's just the first in a column called Metagames that will be a critical look at the intersections between video games, culture, and genre fiction. 

This is an idea that followed from my piece about desire demons in Dragon Age a while back, and when they asked if I'd like to write about games more often, I jumped at the chance. This is going to be so great, you guys. So great!

So 2016 is still looking pretty sunny from a professional perspective. No complaints on the front! Now if only I could get my domestic sphere under control, too...

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