It almost snuck past me entirely, but today marks the one year anniversary of hitting my full funding goal for Tantalus Depths! Things have moved a lot more slowly since then than I’d thought they would, but this remains one of the proudest achievements in my life, and I am still so far beyond grateful for the huge outpouring of help from all my friends and family that made this thing possible.
No particular news on the editing process to speak of at the moment; I am continuing to work on integrating the feedback from my editor into the development draft and hope to have a new and improved draft for the next step of the process in the next week or two. I just wanted to take a moment and reflect on this landmark that got us to where we are today. I can’t wait until this editing stage is complete and you all have physical copies of the book in your hands. It’s been such a privilege being given this rare opportunity to share the passion of my heart with so many supportive people. Here’s to Tantalus Depths, Proteus, and many more such successes in the future!
My friends, today is a very special day for a very special book.But not one of mine this time.
Today is the official publication day for The Last Faoii. Some of you may recall I’ve been championing this book from the very beginning, and today, at long last, it is out and available for purchase.
I’d like to ask you all to consider supporting this new book, for a couple of reasons. For one, I helped design that kick-butt cover, so I have to brag about that at least a little. It’s also a really fine fantasy novel, so it deserves to be read for its own merits.
But beyond any of that, I’d like you to support the author. Tahani Nelson has been as big of a supporter for both Tantalus Depths and Proteus as I’ve been for her book, also from the very beginning. She’s been through some of the worst struggles imaginable during the process of campaigning her book and getting it through the production process, and the absolute tenacity with which she has tackled those obstacles deserves every reward. She’s inspired me tremendously on a personal level and has helped keep my spirits up during the various obstacles I’ve faced during my own campaigns and production processes. Heck, she inspired me enough to name a planet after her, so that should tell you all you need to know about how much I respect her.
It’d also just be nice for me to plug a book you can actually hold in your hands shortly after buying it, for a change. Tantalus Depths is coming, but still not any time especially soon. The Last Faoii is out right now (I have a copy on the desk in front of me). So yay for semi-instant gratification!
Anyway, I’d just like to make this the best Publication Day possible for The Last Faoii. The book is great, the author is even better, and they both deserve as much support as we can send their way.
It’s been far too long since I’ve been able to deliver news of any significant amount of progress with Tantalus Depths. I’ve had quite a few people approach me asking when the book is coming out, and I’ve regrettably had nothing to offer in the way of a satisfactory answer. I’m not sure I made it clear enough during my campaign last year just how long it takes to get a book through this kind of production process, but it can take a very long time.
Fortunately, today I finally have some good news. Progress has at last been made! Last night I finally received my development letter from Matt Harry, my development editor. Matt is the Head of Story Development at Inkshares, and his work has helped books like the amazing Punch Escrow succeed brilliantly during their production processes.
For those unfamiliar with how the publishing process works, all Inkshares books receiving the full editing treatment (such as Tantalus Depths) go through several waves of editing, each one focusing on improving a separate aspect of the manuscript. The development edit is the first, and it focuses on big picture stuff, such as focusing the story’s overall tone, message, and style. Basically figuring out exactly what kind of story Tantalus Depths is and how to make it the best example of that kind of story it can be.
Tantalus Depths has been read by quite a few beta readers and has gone through at least four rounds of edits, but this is the first time it’s been seen by a professional editor. Matt sent me eleven pages of advice on what sort of things I should consider changing to improve the book, on top of dozens of margin notes in my original manuscript for specific lines and sections I should change.
There’s a lot to work on here. The overall story isn’t going to change from the one I set out to tell; in fact, Matt was very clear that they want to make sure I get to tell the story the way I want it. The primary point of these notes is to focus the story properly, to trim out anything that doesn’t work so I can make the stuff that does work even better. Most of the notes he gave me deal with things such as keeping a consistent tone, improving character development, and getting more into the worldbuilding. I was actually surprised by that last one, since I’ve done a tremendous amount of worldbuilding but was intentionally holding back on including a lot of it, lest I get too carried away. Now that I’ve been given a green light to add more, I’m going to be having a lot of fun with these edits.
So, long update short, the wheels are rolling on Tantalus Depths once more! There is still no release date nailed down (I’m afraid there’s still going to be a decent wait ahead), but finally we’re fully into production mode now. I have a lot of writing and re-writing to be doing in the next couple weeks, but I am looking forward to it. We’ve finally gotten to the point where Tantalus Depths is making the transition from a simple manuscript to a proper Novel.
Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!
Oh, by the way, my campaign for Proteus is still running, and I’m going to go back into campaigning mode as well within the next month or so. Stay tuned for that as well, and if you haven’t ordered a copy yet (or would like to help the campaign out even more by ordering a second one), please do so!
Guys...this is it.
There’s only one day left in the Nerdist contest, and we are STILL in fourth place, despite seeing some absolutely remarkable support the past few days. Our competition is simply seeing as much success as we are, if not more. We were able to close the gap between our position and third place down to just twelve pre-orders...right now it’s climbed back up to 17 and still rising.
Remember: third place is as good as first for this contest. All three get the same prize: that coveted full publication deal. If we place in fourth, though...nothing. I could campaign the hard way and gather 750 pre-orders like I did for Tantalus Depths. But I won’t. I can’t. The last campaign was the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do by far, and I do not have the energy, stamina, or resources to do it again. My physical and mental health probably would not allow for it. Not any time soon. I knew that from the start when I entered the contest: I either make it, or I don’t.
It’s all or nothing, folks. I want to tell this story, but if we can’t place in the top three, it’s going back on the shelf indefinitely. You’ll get refunded, but the book won’t see the light of day for who knows how long.
So I’m appealing to you all one more time: if anything in Proteus seems interesting to you, please support it with a pre-order. If you already have, please get a friend or loved one to do the same. Remember, referrals will get you a commissioned art piece if you want it! Win or lose, I’ll honor that promise.
Thank you all, for everything you’ve done for this campaign so far.
Now cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.
My friends, we’ve made another strong push for progress today. We’ve narrowed the gap between us and third place down to only 18, and I’m still pushing to reduce that further. As much progress as we’ve made today, though, a lot more remains. Our competition is still moving forward relentlessly, and I fully anticipate a last-minute surge. We are down to the last two days, so if anyone’s been holding out to the end, now is the time for reinforcements.
No long update today, because I’m honestly too busy trying to drag in pre-orders to write one, so here’s this instead. Share it with your friends! This is not a story about heroes. Nobody comes out of this one with clean hands. This is a story that deals in shades of monstrosity. If you’re ready to see some deeply messed-up characters deal with some even more messed-up situations, hop on board and pre-order this thing.
Hello once again my friends.
This has been a very, very long week. This time last week we were in the top three, Now we’re trailing behind in fourth by 22 pre-orders. But it was 29 pre-orders this morning! We gained a lot of ground today, and that’s something I think all of us should be proud of. We can’t stop yet, though. We can’t even pause.
Less than three days remain in this contest. The victors will be decided on Tuesday, and I aim to be among them. 22 pre-orders is both so little and so much. So little because it is definitely, absolutely possible for us to get them and catch up to where we were; at the beginning of this contest, we were able to get that many in just a single day, and a few days ago we were able to get 18 all in one day. But...it’s so much because that was then and this is now. That was before I called upon everyone I know for help. That was back when I had enough money to run a couple ads, that was before most of the people I knew I could count on had placed their orders. Right now...I don’t know where those 22 orders are going to come from.
So once again, I’m calling out to you all for your support. If you haven’t yet, talk to your spouse about this. Talk to your parents. Talk to your siblings. Your best friends. Your coworker who’s always reading during lunch breaks. Talk to anyone you can think of; if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this campaign and the one for Tantalus Depths, it’s that you absolutely never know who might be willing to help you when you need it.
The odds are not quite in our favor right now, but I insist on optimism. I must proceed as if victory is a forgone conclusion. If I try as hard as I can and fail, I will be content. If I give up when I could have won, I’ll never forgive myself. So I take the path of positivity, just like our final highlighted character, Katie Salvador.
When civil war divided the crew of The Somnambule, it was the first true conflict ever witnessed by the third and fourth generation crewmen. To the naive and isolated descendants of The Somnambule’s original crew, the terrors of battle and mutiny were an awakening, a loss of innocence. For most noncombatants, the mere notion that their fellow crew members were killing one another in the mid-decks was enough to crush the youthful optimism fostered by a lifetime of security. Not so for Katie Salvador.
A fourth generation member of The Somnambule’s crew, Katie was a constant source of positivity and optimism, sharing her excess of cheer with every member of the ship’s crew she encountered. Like everyone else born on the ship, Katie was selected from a young age to fulfill a set of specific roles within the ship’s hierarchy. Katie was selected to join the ship’s medical staff, and while she took to her assigned job with the same zeal she applied to the rest of her life, her natural desire to help others led her to voluntarily pick up additional responsibilities in the ship.
By the age of twelve, she was already spending much of her free time in the hydroponic farms on the ship’s inner decks, taking great pleasure in tending to the various crop plants and helping them grow. She continued with this side work into her teens, even while she began to work full shifts in the ship’s infirmaries.
When Marion Krieg led her rebellion in an attempt to seize control of the ship, Katie pulled double shifts in the infirmary to treat the wounded, and continued to do so until the conflict resolved to a tense stalemate when Krieg’s rebels retreated to the lower decks.
Though the loyalist members of the crew had successfully thwarted Krieg’s initial rebellion, it had come at great cost. Many members of The Somnambule’s security force were killed in the battle, and with the conflict remaining unresolved, new recruits had to be drafted from the ship’s civilian population to replace them. Seeing a new opportunity to serve, Katie volunteered to take up arms and join the security force.
Training under her father, the head of the security force, Katie quickly learned the basics of combat. Her extensive medical training saw her fit well into a support role as a combat medic. Though still only 16 years old, Katie served as a vital member of the loyalists’ makeshift militia, not only for her skills as a healer, but for the warmth of her personality. Katie provided her brothers and sisters in arms with an endless supply of positivity in a time when morale could not have sunk lower...
Well folks, I have news and I have news.None of it is very good, though.
We continue to fall behind in the contest. Right now we’re sitting at 22 pre-orders behind third place. On the plus side, we have been doing really surprisingly well with getting new orders in every day the past couple of days Everyone else has just been doing better than we have.
We all have good days and bad days, though. I’m hoping one of the next couple of days will be a bad one for them, and that all of mine are good ones. I lack the ability to quit, and I’m still way too close to the top three to seriously consider doing so, so I intend to proceed as if my victory is a given.
In other news, apparently Inkshares goofed and announced the wrong deadline. The contest ends not on the 25th, but on the 27th. So two extra days. Honestly, I would have preferred the closer deadline, but I can work with this too.
Please remember: I have absolutely zero hope of finishing this thing without your help. I’ll be honest here and say I am running out of people to ask, and I have nowhere near the time I’d like to find new ones before the end of this contest. I am heavily dependent on you who have already supported me this far bringing in your friends and families to help me. To that end, please remember I am running this promotion for anyone who successfully refers someone to pre-order. I like to think my art is at least passable enough as an incentive.
Press on, loyalists. Like the dedicated crew on The Somnambule, we are dedicated to one mission and one only: Always keep the ship moving forward.
Well, folks...this has been a rough week. We were holding on to third place pretty soundly all weekend, until a new dark horse showed up and blasted past us. We’re more or less keeping pace, but it’s been a rough road, and as of right now we’re back down to fourth place, by three pre-orders.
Less than four days are left in this contest, and we need to make every one of them count. People are going to be fighting tooth and claw over that third place position. I plan to get it, but I’m going to need all the help we can rally.
So it’s time to bring out the incentives.
You know the awesome character portraits I’ve been sharing lately? I drew those (except for the Shakespeare one, that was my amazingly talented sister.) In case you missed them, you can check them out here, here, and here, or just look at the new one below. Pretty cool, right? Well, if you like them, you’ll like this incentive:
From now until the end of the contest, anyone who successfully refers a new reader can have a personal portrait drawn by me, for free. I’ll do it in charcoal (like the ones featured so far) or pencil, your choice. I’ll do a portrait of you if you like, or your kid or girlfriend or whatever if you’d rather have that. If you’re a fellow writer who would like to have someone draw a portrait of one of your characters, I’ll happily do that. I’ll draw you as a cyborg, I’ll draw you as an elf, I’ll draw you as a mutant bullfrog if that’s what strikes your fancy. If you want two or three portraits and you can refer two or three people, they’re yours. The only conditions required for eligibility are as follows:
I can’t guarantee a time frame for fulfilling those commissions, other than "by the end of the summer." I’ll start working on them as soon as the contest wraps and do them on a first-come first-served basis.
I can’t promise they’ll be works of art, but I can promise they’ll be works from the heart. I take great pride in my work, just like our ship’s new head scientist, Dr. Elizabeth Marshall.(Am I killing it with these segues or what?
Dr. Elizabeth Marshall was one of the brightest and most promising members of her generation on The Somnambule. A third-generation crewman, Marshall was born and raised by parents who were themselves born and raised on the ship. Like everyone else born during the first 75 years of The Somnambule’s flight, Elizabeth knew her fate and function from birth. From the beginning, her education was keyed toward developing a skillset in her that would fill a necessary role among her crewmates. In her case, early childhood dispositional assessments led to her being trained as a medical specialist
While some children born on The Somnambule rebelled against their pre-determined roles in the ship’s hierarchy, or simply took to them with the smallest possible amount of enthusiasm, Elizabeth fully embraced her assigned profession from the very beginning. Learning about the inner workings of the human body fascinated her. She became especially interested in the field of applied cybernetics, and the various ways in which electronics could be used to improve the functionality of the human body.
Her interests and her dedication to learning quickly made her a favorite pupil of head scientist Marion Krieg, herself a brilliant cyberneticist. She worked closely with Krieg from adolescence to adulthood, and by the time Marshall had finished the ship’s most sophisticated medical education programs, it had become clear that Krieg was grooming her as a successor.
Elizabeth was involved in the development of Krieg’s new quantum cortical implant, though she did not volunteer to be implanted with one. Krieg claimed the implant could give its user the ability to view future events, and while Elizabeth did not actually believe this to be possible, she did believe the implant had the potential to significantly improve its user’s mental sharpness and processing speed. The first human test subjects made a compelling case for Krieg’s claims, but Elizabeth remained skeptical that they could actually see the future.
That is, until Krieg claimed to have perfected the implant. Wishing to be implanted with the new device herself, Krieg was unwilling to entrust the delicate operation with anyone but Marshall. Reluctantly, Dr. Marshal agreed, and implanted the new quantum computer into Krieg’s brain.
Immediately upon completion of the procedure, Krieg’s demeanor changed. She claimed to have seen terrible things in the mission’s future; a horrific cataclysm at journey’s end. She tried to convince the crew that the mission must be aborted at all costs, and began amassing a significant following among the crew.
When Krieg attempted to convince Marshall to join her resistance faction, Marshal refused. As much as she’d respected Krieg most of her life, she believed the woman had begun to finally grow senile in her old age, and suspected that something may have gone wrong with her operation. Beyond that, Marshall held on to the values that had been instilled in her as a child; her greatest calling in life was to preserve the mission and the lives of the colonists the ship carried. She would not play a part in mutiny.
Mutiny came, nonetheless. When Krieg made a play for taking over the ship, Marshall remained loyal to the captain and the ship’s mission. When Krieg’s initial attempt at an uprising failed and her rebels were pushed back to the lower decks, Marshall took Krieg’s place as the ship’s head scientist.
Krieg’s rebellion against The Somnambule’s mission felt like a personal betrayal to Marshall. The woman she’d looked up to as a mentor her entire life had betrayed the most important purpose any member of the crew could have. As heartbroken as Marshal was about Krieg’s uprising, she was determined to put all her skills to work in preserving the mission, the precious lives of the ship’s colonists, and the final defeat of Krieg’s insurrection.
Now is the cryonic stasis of our discontent…
Just kidding. That would be super goofy. Though, for Proteus, it would be fitting. As I’ve mentioned throughout the campaign, Proteus is indeed an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Up until now, I haven’t really gone into any great depth on what that means, and I’m sure it’s had some people baffled. How does one take a 435 year-old historical play about a conniving English king and set on a massive spaceship full of cyborgs?
I’ll tell you.
The idea of taking Shakespeare’s stories and retelling them in new settings is not new. It’s possible you’ve even seen one without realizing it (The Lion King, for instance, or Ten Things I Hate About You). By far my absolute favorite of these stories is a cult classic 1956 science fiction film called Forbidden Planet.
You may recall that I’ve spoken about Forbidden Planet before: it was a huge inspiration for Tantalus Depths. The exploration of a planet filled with ancient technology left behind by an extinct race, the pervasive tone of dread that permeated the movie, the presence of a robot that can build anything its master demands, these are the elements of Forbidden Planet that influenced Tantalus Depths. Something else about that film inspired the very concept of Proteus, however.
Forbidden Planet is a direct adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. From the moment that I learned of this connection (which was long after I’d seen the movie several dozen times) I became obsessed with it. In several classes throughout my academic career, I wrote lengthy essays deconstructing the parallels between The Tempest and Forbidden Planet. Some parallels are obvious: the planet Altair IV is home only to a brilliant scientist and his naïve daughter, who has never known the outside world. This lines up easily with the wizard Prospero who raised his daughter alone on the island they’d been marooned on. Both Prospero and Dr. Morbius discover sources of incredible power on the island left behind by long-gone predecessors: the hyper-advanced technology of the Krell in one case, the lingering magical influence of the witch Sycorax in another. The comparisons go on and on.
What interested me even more than the parallels between the stories were the areas where they diverged, however. For instance: Prospero’s two servants, the ethereal spirit Ariel and the treacherous troglodyte Caliban are essentially merged into one character in Forbidden Planet: Robbie the Robot. Morbius himself is less of a direct interpretation of Prospero and more of a dark mirror, showing what could have happened if Prospero allowed his pursuit of knowledge and power to go too far and consume him.
I could go on and on for ages about this (and I have, as several of my professors can attest) but obviously you’re not here for an essay on Forbidden Planet. So let me tie that in with the story I’m telling in Proteus.
The story of Richard III is, to oversimplify things terribly, about a man’s quest for power. Richard is the youngest of three brothers, and last in line for the throne. After having played an integral role in securing the throne for his family following a lengthy war of succession, Richard now finds himself underappreciated and ill-used. His physical deformities and his notoriety on the battlefield have left him ill-suited for a time of peace, and he feels that society has left him behind.
So Richard goes on a campaign of regicide, manipulating and backstabbing his way to the top with a devious plot George R. R. Martin wishes he was twisted enough to conceive. Richard kills off his own siblings and their entire families down to the last child, he seduces the widow of a man he killed at his own funeral purely to see if he can get away with it. He relishes in his own villainy as he stabs his way to the top, and, for a time at least, he gets everything he wanted.
This is the story I’m adapting. Jacob Sicarius is my Richard. He was destined to receive a crown of his own when The Somnambule arrived at its destination, but when his pod is sabotaged, he loses that promised glory forever. Like Richard, he too is “deformed, unfinished, scarce half-made up,” but rather than physical deformity, Jacob is a cyborg, with mechanical parts replacing those he lost in his own war. He too has three brothers, all three of which posing a threat of some kind to the kind of order he wishes to establish on this ship.
As Forbidden Planet took some plotlines and characters and reworked them, so does Proteus. While Richard gleefully states “I am determined to prove a villain,” Jacob is more morally complex. He is capable of horrific deeds, but his goals are noble, and his constant conflict with the targeting AI fighting for dominance of his brain creates even more complexity in his character. The war in Proteus is not about seizing a throne for a ruling family, but about preserving the fate of the thousands of colonists aboard the ship.
Many characters have been changed. Some have been combined, some have been flipped around to mirror versions of themselves. Some are as perfectly true to their original nature as they could be in an environment so unlike Shakespeare’s version of the tale. If you’re familiar with Shakespeare, you will certainly find dozens of fascinating interpretations of the original story. If you aren’t, you’ll get the benefit of reading a story ripped off of one of the best storytellers of all time, so either way, you can’t go wrong!
We now officially have less than 9 days to go in this contest. This next week will be absolutely crucial to the success of Proteus, and there is so, SO much that can happen. We remain at number three in the contest, but we are still just barely ahead of the competition, and the number two position is still rocketing up the ranks, soon to be threatening first place. I don’t feel anywhere close to safe about our place on the leaderboard. Right now, all it takes is two orders for the book behind us, and we’re back down to fourth again.
I know some of you were waiting on paychecks to come in this weekend before putting your orders in, so if you’re able, PLEASE consider ordering it now! We’re in a position where we can regain some lost ground if we can get a surge of support right now. It’d be really helpful if we could close this week off on a high note.
Meanwhile, I give you another little piece of lore from the shared universe of Proteus and Tantalus Depths. While the entire story of Proteus is set on the vast colony ship Somnambule, some of the defining events of our central character’s
life occurred on the freak desert world of Buyan: a treacherous world of the Expansionary Coalition, bombarded by deadly sunlight on both sides at all times...
Jacob Sicarius and his brother Lucas were both shaped by their traumatic experiences on Buyan. In some ways, literally. Jacob’s injuries on that world led to his transformation into a mechanized killing machine, and the scars both men received on that harsh world manifested as much in the mind as the flesh.
But just how deep was the damage, and how lasting its effects? What else did Jacob lose on Buyan? Events were set in motion then that will soon culminate in a struggle over Jacob’s very soul.
Find out how it all ends when you pre-order Proteus today.