Well, this year has been odd, hasn’t it?
I’m not going to go into all the cheerful things like worldwide pandemics and stuff, there’s enough of that online. I’ll just say that it’s been okay for my family and I, we’ve managed to get through so far without serious hardship, something we’re very lucky with. I’ve done what I can to help friends and family, and I’ll continue to offer support as much as I can. With the vaccines in motion, perhaps we can have some improvement by the end of next year. Until then, we still need to be careful.
So, let’s focus on the cool stuff. Or at least try. A lot has happened for me this year, good and bad. I wasn’t planning on writing an end of year blog because of my struggling creative brain, but here I am. Fuck it.
2020 started off on a rough note, with my chronic health in a bad spot. Inner ear infections pretty much made things a bust, and I started off 2020 barely able to do anything, eventually ending up where I had to leave my position at Grimlore Games in the end of January. (This ended up being a blessing in disguise later, so watch this space!) While this was pretty painful, we ended things on a good note and we stayed in touch, which ended up working out pretty well for the summer! Really, I’ve been thinking of the positives. For something I had no expectations with, it was one hell of a breakthrough for me.
I must have done a good job during my nine month stint as Junior Writer, because my fortunes changed in the summer when Grimlore Games recalled me to work on Spellforce 3: Fallen God. I had spent six months on the game prior to my departure in January, so rejoining as a mercenary for a short contract was the perfect timing, in a year when incomes dropped considerably, relying solely on savings with some small self employed support. I worked behind the scenes on worldbuilding, lore, item texts and book texts for the game launch in November, and it looks like we’ve done a solid job. Well done to my fellow team members who worked on the game, and a massive shoutout to my fellow writers Nicolas and Katie. (I don’t know if I could have gotten through the summer months without your support).
Spellforce 3 Fallen God feels like a critical success, and hopefully there is still an opening in the games industry for me in the future. What started as a rogue curiosity has ended up being something quite special, so that is one of my goals for 2021. This is special to me, because unlike 2019, this is the first game I feel I’ve made a major contribution to. I figure it’s the right time to talk a little what I did for Fallen God.
- Creation and original concept of major character Zazka (Which seemed to be a big success with players)
- Names and basic concept for trolls Crumb, Julog, and Anug
- Work on the world lore around Urgath – political law of the orcs, humans and elves.
- Basic work around the Tusk Hunter faction.
- Assistance in bug-fixing, localization, QA and playtesting.
- Assisted in dialogue and concept of two side quests (Not to completion – Brittlebone Village and Urgathian Jungle)
- Dialogue for the goblin Zlreek
- Inspections in-game for lore purposes (100 or so)
- The race description of the Trolls for multiplayer skirmish mode
- Multiplayer troll equipment and heroes
- 80% of the in-game letters, books and documents to find in the game
- 400-450 names and descriptions for items, equipment and loot found in-game. (Around 90% total)
It has been quite the journey. When my health issues flared up the beginning of 2020, I didn’t expect things to turn out how they did, and I’m happy the game is being well received.
A Struggling Author’s Future
I have to discuss book writing next, because this is where I feel a little lost with my future. Let’s start with some history.
The Thousand Scars – The Counterbalance Dilemma
As of mid-February 2019, I officially parted ways with my publishing press Nordland Publishing behind The Thousand Scars and I stopped all sales on the book. First of all, a big thankyou to Nordland for the time. It was the right decision, even if my future as an author feels a little confused.
So, let me tell you a little story about The Thousand Scars during 2018, it’s first full year of publication.
I’ll let you all in on a secret. I should have been happy, or proud, or elated when it launched. Instead I just felt exhaustion, numbness. I even felt deflated. I remember doing the launch reveal and just being so drained I ended up cutting the livestream early. There weren’t many people watching it so I don’t think it mattered.
I achieved what I planned, but now what? Then the doubts started. Did I release it too early? Did I know what I was doing? Was the book any good?
The first few months were rough. I was trying to market, but it was tricky. To make money you need to spend money, generally through ads and that was something I did not really have. Of course, this was something I learned from this year, a painful lesson, but one worth learning. Connections and community building is something I’ve worked on for years, but perhaps I was in the wrong places.
Reviews and feedback were few, sales even fewer. I started wondering if it was even worth doing anymore. Publishing The Thousand Scars nearly broke me emotionally.
The Thousand Scars was selling poorly, but feedback at least was mostly positive, for a first book by a new author I guess. I’m not in this for money otherwise I’d just do a standard job so money is not my motivation. I wanted to show it to the world, but I was so drained by it and its lack of success that I was close to giving up. I still had the second book in the series to work on, and it was getting ballsacking difficult. I had few fans, but I didn’t want to let them down. I did get a lot of support from fellow authors in the indie community, urging me to keep fighting. I did so. I have severe ME, and job-wise I don’t really get many chances. Writing and cartography is all I know how to do. I couldn’t give up, not now. A word of advice to fellow writers. Connect with others and support each other. They are not your rivals, but your allies in this fight.
I wanted to go further. So I drafted ideas for another novel set in the same Counterbalance universe but a standalone, something different. Something to take to agents. Something to prove I have improved. I started work on it in April and it surprisingly began to take off. I made progress.
Then SPFBO 2018 began, a massive blog-contest for debut indie authors. I signed right up with The Thousand Scars, thinking that even if I didn’t have a chance of progressing, even a little more exposure would do the trick.
It ended up being the lifeboat I needed. I landed more connections, and my interviews for my fellow authors really helped increase exposure for them and myself. I even had a few people backing me for winning my group. . .snorts out drink
More people read The Thousand Scars. More people added it to their reading lists. It got some pretty damn good reviews and feedback. I made some Top 10 lists, made some huge fantasy blogs. I even got Longlisted in Booknest’s End of the Year awards for Best Debut! I still don’t know how in the name of Horse’s wrinkled ballsack I pulled that off.
Connections change things. People got excited for me and my future. I’ve been learning a lot about self-publishing, which is important for going ahead.
After the split, I decided to return to The Thousand Scars in preparation to republish it. Originally it was just going to be a coat of paint. The more I spent with it however, I decided to fully rewrite the book. While the base idea was good, it was too half baked, and I was frankly ashamed I let the book go out in that state.
Now, I’ve had a few people worry that I’m changing the book or I’ll keep going back and editing it over and over.
That is not the case. This will be the only big edits I intend to make. Most of this is fixing mistakes (Chapter Two had 11 typos alone…), and fleshing up the prose based on what I have learned. After reading the manuscript, there is no way I am letting it back into the public without a good hard seeing to.
Now, the beginning will change slightly because it was easily the worst portion of the book according to feedback. I feel I dropped the ball too soon. Too many characters introduced in stupid ways, too soon. The more I realised this, I feel it’s a perfect chance for me to give the book what it deserves. After several months of editing and beta reading, I think the book is finally in a place where it deserves to be.
I was hoping to get the new Thousand Scars released in 2020, but that was before everything happened. I need formatting, book cover, proofreading and copyediting, and that all takes time and money I need to save up.
This is when my concerns move in. Counterbalance is an extremely complex series, and the more time I have spent with my writing this year, the more concerned I’ve become about my capability to finish it. I don’t want to be one of those guys who releases a book, and spend years trying to get the next book out. I’m concerned in its current state, Counterbalance is uncompletable. I’m going to dissect the series, and I feel I need to make some big changes. Not sure yet what will happen.
This year has completely burnt me out on a creative level, and I’m going to spend the next few months focusing on a complete mental health reboot. 2020 has taken a beating on the mental health side. I don’t think I’m even going to look at Counterbalance for a few months. Perhaps I need a fresh set of eyes on it.
It’s not over, however. With other fantasy ideas in the works, I still think there’s a future.
Yeah, so I became a streamer as well. I’ve been doing a lot of socializing with a group of amazing friends, all of us streaming and exploring that avenue, and in April, I decided I wanted to join in with that. Small things, playing some indie games, showing off stuff people may not know about, doing small game playthroughs and trying to work through the insane backlog.
Here’s a link to my channel. I have plans for it in 2021, but perhaps I need a creative reboot first before I go back to streaming full time. It’s had stunning success however, far beyond what I expected.
I’m also going to shout out some of my friends channels as well, because they’re all amazing people and better content creators than I am 😀 They deserve more attention.
Time to round this up, as I’d be talking all day. I have no set goals for 2021 because let’s face it, who the fuck can predict anything right now? A Happy new year to everyone if we can, and stay safe.