Oops. Just realized I had a brainfart while writing the previous update. The author of the books I was talking about, Steven Caldwell, wrote the text but didn’t do any of the artwork, if I remember correctly. The artist was Joe Petagno, if I’m not mistaken. Just wanted to clear that up.
Finally, an update. I’ve been going over the whole book from the beginning, doing a light polish, tweaking a bit here and there, to help get my brain back on track to finish the story. Just finished revising Chapter 9 a few minutes ago, and something in it that had been sloshing around in my head for a very long time finally solidified. There’s a sinister alien that appears in an ancient video record that was inspired by something I saw when I was a little kid and had mostly forgotten over all these years.
The image stuck in my head when my age was still measured in a single digit. It lodged in my imagination and percolated away for somewhere around thirty-five to forty years, but I’d long since forgotten exactly where I’d seen it or who the artist was. But when I was trying to come up with a scary creature for that scene in Chapter 9, my fuzzy memory of that image sprang to mind:
A dark thing emerged from the rift. Kolya couldn’t guess its size with nothing nearby to compare it to. She couldn’t make out its exact shape, either -- its features rippled and blurred and faded in and out as if partially obscured by thick smoke. She caught a glimpse of what might have been a cape or cloak. Near the top were six orbs that glowed sickly yellow-green. Eyes, possibly.
It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch, being unable to remember exactly what had inspired that. Then, recently, it finally came back to me. I had a set of books when I was a kid -- not the complete set, only four of six volumes -- filled with artwork by Steven Caldwell. Those images had inspired my imagination, and often my nightmares as well, back in those days. The four books I had were Aliens in Space, Star Quest, Fantastic Planet, and Settlers in Space. Aliens in Space was the one that had the image that sparked off the idea I had for Uncharted Territory decades later.
It’s good to finally scratch that itch ... but that thing still makes my skin crawl. When I was a kid, it was utterly terrifying. No wonder it stuck in my head, as degraded as my memory of it became over the years. The idea it inspired ended up being rather different as a result. The creature in Chapter 9 appeared to be partly obscured by shifting smoke as well as fading in and out of focus. Also, I probably got the idea for its six glowing eyes from the Iconians in Star Trek Online.
Another thing I remember from those books is a sense of wonder about the universe, which I haven’t gotten from sci-fi very much aside from Babylon 5 and some episodes of Doctor Who and Star Trek. Trek and Star Wars, in particular, treat going to different planets the way we treat driving to the nearest grocery store. One of the things I wanted to infuse Game Over, Uncharted Territory, and its sequels with was a sense of mystery and wonder, of traveling to places no one has set foot in thousands of years, of uncovering tantalizing glimpses of civilizations that vanished hundreds of thousands of years ago, beings who were -- to borrow a bit of dialog from Babylon 5 -- vast and timeless and who walked among the stars like giants.
As much as the Mass Effect series is one of my favorite sci-fi franchises, it does seem to have a tendency to recycle the idea of a precursor species in the distant past that returns and threatens to wipe out all life in the galaxy. So that’s a trope I’m trying to avoid with these novels, but I do love the idea of playing around with extinct civilizations and having characters uncover hints of what came before, but I’ll be going out of my way to avoid having said ancient species return with an evil plan to enslave or exterminate everyone in their path. I just love the little shiver I get when thinking about ancient, deserted planets and ruins left behind by once-mighty civilizations that have long since gone to dust.
I’m hoping to capture a bit of that "magic" in Uncharted Territory ...
Long-overdue update here, mostly regarding Game Over, the book to which Uncharted Territory is the sequel.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve added a number of character profiles to my blog: Dylan, Cora, Grishnag, Nishara, Syala, and Ayastal. I also put up an introduction and a snippet of a scene in a post titled, "Finding the Silver Lining," which shows Dylan’s sometimes peculiar way of looking at things.
The thing is ... none of it is working. Two months in, with only 30 days remaining till the deadline, Game Over is still sitting at zero preorders. Which isn’t the first time something like this has happened. If I remember correctly, Project Revenant reached its deadline with maybe two or three preorders. Before trying Inkshares, I put both books on Kindle Scout, and when it was over, both of them finished with exactly zero votes.
One of the issues I’ve had all along was my inability to advertise effectively due to having no money to spare for buying ads or traveling all over the country to promote my books. My income is barely enough to scrape by every month, so I have to make do with whatever I can get for free. Twitter and Facebook help draw attention to my work, but apparently not enough to compel new readers to sign up and preorder. I’ve spent entire days searching for places to promote the book without having to pay a fee, and half of them no longer exist by the time I find them. The rest only accept links to books already published on Amazon and other sites, aside from the occasional page that accepts other works, but so far none of them have responded to my queries.
The other issue is the job and other everyday-life stuff getting in the way. I envy writers who make a living with their writing or at least are able to keep a regular writing schedule. I’d be able to keep at it more regularly if I could ditch the job, but I can’t do that and keep a roof over my head. So it’s time I stop kidding myself. I’m not giving up just yet. I’ve put too many years into this -- 27, give or take, so far -- to admit defeat. I just need to acknowledge when something isn’t working and move on to something else. Maybe I’ll submit Game Over to a huge publisher and get lucky, or maybe I’ll find another approach that actually works. I haven’t exhausted all the possibilities yet.
I looked through the FAQ and didn’t find an option to end the campaign early, so I’ll just wait it out and take the book down after the deadline. I’ll keep Uncharted Territory up for the time being, and post the revised chapters and continue working on it until it’s finished, so the readers who have enjoyed the work in progress can see the rest of the story. After that ... well, it depends on what happens with Game Over.
For anyone who wants to keep updated on the book’s status and my other projects, I’ll pop in a link to my blog, which has links in a sidebar to all of my writing projects.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who followed me and my books here. It’s very much appreciated, and I can’t help feeling like I’ve let everyone down. But it was a fun and interesting experiment while it lasted. It was definitely worth a shot. As Jack Burton once said, "Hey, ya never know till you try."
First off, apologies for taking so long between updates. I’ve been focusing most of my effort recently on Game Over because Uncharted Territory is its sequel. I figured I should polish the book, add a few more chapters, and start taking pre-orders. Before that, I had a long string of everyday-life stuff keeping me pretty thoroughly derailed, but that’s a whole other rant.
As part of the campaign, I’ve been posting a series of character profiles on my blog. Since these characters appear in both Game Over and Uncharted Territory, I thought it might be of interest to those who are following UT. So far I’ve posted profiles of Dylan Engstrom, Cora, and Grishnag, and the next one I’m planning is for Nishara.
Once I start making some progress on that, I’m hoping to get back to Uncharted Territory, give it a light polish, and then actually finish it and start its pre-order campaign. And after that, the plan is to start working on the sequel to Project Revenant.
So if you’ve been enjoying Uncharted Territory, please check out Game Over and consider pre-ordering a copy. :D