Sunday, January 03, 2021

The Storm

The Storm (NUMA Files, #10)The Storm by Clive Cussler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first Clive Cussler novel and quite enjoyed it. Moves quickly, interesting twists and turns, kept me entertained throughout. The characters weren't exactly fleshed out, but I don't think that's the point.

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Sunday, December 27, 2020


WoolWool by Hugh Howey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this take on the contained post-apocalyptic story. Howey really defines the look, feel, smell, and taste of the world. Lots of twists and turns, continually upending expectations and dolling out information piece-by-piece to keep the reader engaged.

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Favorite Albums of 2020

2020 has been a massive dumpster fire for multiple reasons. However, there were some bright spots, and that includes the music released this year. It's not surprising that most of my picks are related to the 80s and 90s somehow. Between revisiting albums for Dig Me Out on a weekly basis for the podcast, plus reviewing albums each week for our Box newsletter, most of what I'm hearing is connected to the past rather than being something completely new.

With all that said, here (in no particular order) are my top five favorite albums of 2020:

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Been watching the TV series since the start and wanted to tackle the books. Really enjoyed Leviathan Wakes, both on its own and compared to the show. It's hard-ish sci-fi not as technical as something by Neal Stephenson but feels grounded. If there is one thing that the show improved upon, it was the character of Miller, which is half the book (the other half being Holden, as the chapter are split back and forth between their perspectives). Miller comes across as a bit cliched for the first half - the over-the-hill drunk cop. When he loses his job and ends up on Eros, that's when it clicked for me. Looking forward to reading the whole series!

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Saturday, November 07, 2020

New Single Out Today - Sixty

I've got a new single up on streaming services called "SIXTY." It's sixty BPM and sixty minutes. Yes, you read that correctly. It's instrumental electronic music that shifts between quiet ambient and pulsing rhythms. I wrote it to give myself a block of time for writing, working, meditation, or just to chill. Let me know if you dig it.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Relentless Moon

The Relentless Moon (Lady Astronaut #3)The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another page-turning installment in the Lady Astronaut series. While tackling complex tech with complex issues, Kowal keeps it readable and moving along at a brisk pace. What is most exciting is that she pulls no punches - you will be turned inside out as the reader, especially if you've been reading since LA #1.

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Thursday, October 08, 2020

The 100 Season 7 - A Different Take

I was a few years late catching onto The 100, but after checking out the first episode of season one, my wife and I were hooked. The first season is morally and ethically challenging with a great premise. Each season builds on exploiting those dilemmas. Even as the setting develops, the story becomes denser, and the backstory more complex. At the core, this show was always about characters and their hard choices. 

In terms of quality and logic, the show swung mightily. Rather than become a yearly slugfest of repetition and boredom like The Walking Dead, each season of The 100 posited, "what if we do this insane thing next?" I give the creative team props - they explored nearly every imaginable dystopian, post-apocalyptic tangent they could think of, and then threw in some more for fun.

At some point, creating mythology became the primary driver, and wow did the show get bogged down by it. So much so that season seven, the last season, exists to justify all of it to the detriment of the characters. In service of unlocking the mythology mystery box, major characters like Clarke Griffin act completely at odds with how they behaved in the previous six seasons.

When season six ended, my wife and I turned to each other and guessed how season seven would play out. We were both wildly wrong. From various reports, season seven didn't exactly turn out the way the showrunners planned out either because of an unspecified issue with a cast member. Whether that's entirely true, or an excuse, only they know.

What is known? A prequel spin-off series was a part of the reason season seven unfolded the way it did, with one entire episode described as a "backdoor pilot." The eighth episode "Anaconda" was a massive backstory/exposition info-dump to serve this purpose. I'm old enough to remember how another sci-fi prequel turned out - it was Caprica, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica reboot. It got bogged down by family drama and storytelling that slowed to a crawl. Perhaps compared to the weekly adrenaline rush provided by BSG, there was no way the prequel would compare, even with a strong cast.

When season seven ended, my wife said something along the lines of, "that was a mess of a season with a good finale." Does it matter that the season lacked coherence, ignored characters for long stretches while focusing on others that didn't earn it? I guess it depends on your outlook. Are you just interested in the destination, or does the journey matter?

Like I mentioned, I had a much different concept about what would happen in season seven. For the hell of it, I'm going to lay it out. Is it fully developed? No, I don't have a writer's room at my disposal, so it's pretty bare bones.

First, where did we leave off at the end of season six? Shannon at It Start's At Midnight has a thorough recap. Can I tell you how bored I became of the Sheidheda story-line in season seven? Here's my solution to that - Sheidheda "enters" the ship computer when the flame is removed from Madi and "destroyed." Early on in season seven, there should have been a debate - they know A.I. Sheidheda exists in the ship, and cannot remove him. Do they blow up the ship and guarantee they'll never leave Sanctum? Let that play out over an episode or two, they realize A.I. Sheidheda is figuring out how the ship works, is up to an evil plan, and ultimately decide to destroy the ship. But, it's a dangerous mission, A.I. Sheidheda pulls out all the stops to prevent them from blowing up the ship, and a character has to stay behind to detonate the explosion. Dramatic send-off for a longtime character, yeah!

Next, let's deal with The Anomaly Stone and the Octavia back scribbling-business. Since we have established new planets with season six, finding more planets was...fine. What I was hoping for was not just space travel, but the best sci-fi trope of them all - time travel. When Hope is revealed as Diyoza's daughter, that meant time was in play. What we got was a prison planet where the prisoners just age faster. That's not how I was expected it to play out, and I didn't find it particularly successful. It just made everything confusing at times - how old is this person now? How long were they gone? I'm sure there is a big dry-erase board with timelines and characters and such in The 100 writing room plotting this all out, but personally, it went the wrong way for me.

Here's my second idea for season seven - what we learn from Hope (c'mon with that name, btw) is that the future is completely and royally screwed. The Anomaly Stone is connected to similar Stones all around the universe, and also MULTIPLE universes, in which humans just keeping making the same dumb, selfish, violent mistakes over and over again. Octavia's back tattoo is a map they don't understand yet, but is slowly revealed to be a way not only to get home but to travel back in time before the nuclear holocaust. The group don't know who created the map, and they argue about the consequences if they go down this road - if they travel into the past, how will they stop the holocaust from happening? If they succeed and change the future, what happens to their existence? Are they on a singular timeline, or is this just one potential future? Also WHERE THE HELL DID THESE STONES COME FROM?

Will I pretend to have all the answers? No. This was a two-minute discussion with my wife. We didn't sit down and plot out an entire season of television. What I wanted was a "we have a chance to save billions of lives and reset the course of our history, even if we have to sacrifice our lives for it" moment. This group has always made tough choices, and I wanted them to be faced with the toughest choice of all. They could have still used all the bits and pieces of backstory they've learned in order to succeed, and maybe there was a happy ending to be found. But I can't say I'm a huge fan of happy endings as much as satisfying endings.

This groups entire existence was defined by something they had no control over (the holocaust, the ark, etc.), so make their final challenge, their final test, an opportunity to seize control of their own narrative and existence. Maybe this is too simplistic, but that's what I was hoping for. Instead, they got tested by a mysterious shape-shifting being that turned them into eternal light. Or some of them. The others spent eternity camping together.

So that's my bare-bones take. If you have thoughts, let me know.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Two Word Reviews - Q3 2020

The third installment of Two Word Reviews (patent pending) for tv shows, movies, and music for 2020, covering the third quarter (July, August, September):

Palm Springs - warm funny
Hamilton - as expected

Ament: American Death Squad EP - undercooked effort
Paul Weller: On Sunset - solid grooves
The Lees Of Memory: Moon Shot - all bangers
The Rentals: Q36 - fuzzy fun
The Jayhawks: XOXO - harmonic bliss
Bush: The Kingdom - middle road
JARV IS: Beyond The Pale - needs more
Brad Laner: Only Ghost In Town - dreamy weirdness
Guided By Voices: Mirrored Aztec - more goodness
Erasure: The Neon - bit repetitive
James Dean Bradfield: Even In Exile - quality stretch
The Psychedelic Furs: Made Of Rain - welcome return
Alain Johannes: Hum - gorgeous understatements
Primal Fear: Metal Commandos - awesome rawk
Gang Of Four: Anti-Hero - more curiosity
Massive Attack: Eutopia - occasionally distracting
Semisonic: You're Not Alone - never left
The Flaming Lips: American Head - aching psychedelics
Throwing Muses: Sun Racket - off kilter
Tricky: Fall To Pieces - under cooked

Broad City, Seasons 3, 4 and 5 (Hulu) - yas queens
The 100, Season 7 (Hulu) - troubled season
Taste The Nation, Season 1 (Hulu) - delicious discoveries
The Get Down, Season 1 and 2 (Netflix) - artistically sound
Amy Schumer Learns To Cook, Season 2 (Hulu) - pasta sauce!

Friday, August 28, 2020

Music Inspired By the Novel - The Black Sky is now Available

Because I was not content to just write a book, I also wrote a soundtrack for THE BLACK SKY. I was listening to instrumental music and film scores during the writing process, so it somehow made sense to draw from the inspiration and compose my own score. Each track corresponds with a chapter, but you don't need to sync them up. The album is available to stream, download, and purchase on compact disc.

Bandcamp (Book and CD bundle available)


Apple Music



The Black Sky By The Numbers

It's been a long road to finally publishing The Black Sky. Aside from writing, rewriting, and actually getting the darn thing to people, plenty of other work was involved.

Like any other unrepped writer, I tried to get an agent or publisher interested in the book. That meant query letters, lots of query letters. To my own detriment, I sent out The Black Sky before I should have. The first round of queries occurred before I ended up rewriting the first chapter, which made a significant difference in kicking-off the story. The second round of queries, the book was in better shape, but still had plenty of grammar issues that a quality copy-edit pass would have caught. Overall, here's what querying looked like:

  • 126 total queries sent
  • 64 no response
  • 62 responses
    • 59 rejects
    • 3 read requests
    • 1 offer of representation

You're probably thinking, "holy cow, Tim, you got an agent!" Well, not so fast. Getting an agent doesn't mean getting published, obviously. Having a literary agent tell you they loved your book and want to get on the phone was thrilling, but it is just the start of another process. Over the course of a year, the lit agent sent out the book to thirteen publishers. None were interested, and since we had nothing more than a handshake deal to start, the agent I parted ways when it was clear the book was going that route.

In retrospect, it was too early. I still hadn't re-written the first chapter yet, and there were other edits/adjustments that needed to occur, plus the grammar issues. The fact the agent took a chance on me was, to some extent, validation.

When I knew I was going down the self-publish path, that meant returning to my roots as a DIY musician. Building a press kit, researching outlets for reviews, and all the other work to get the word out on the book. Here's what those numbers look like:

  • 179 review queries (mostly book bloggers with some print and digital media)
  • 127 no response (so far)
  • 37 positive responses
  • 15 flat-out rejections
That doesn't mean I'm done submitting. Some places don't want the query until the book is published. In addition, using positive quotes from advanced copies reviews to build up the press kit will be important not only for new submissions of The Black Sky but also for future books.

There is also the matter of budget.

I didn't set one before I started all of this, I just go to work and built a to-do and calendar, which you can see below.

To get the final versions of the paperback, ebook, and audiobook complete, the total ran about $2500. I had read $2000 was the minimum, and I can understand why. Other folks most likely didn't have to deal with things like building websites, swag for giveaways, compact discs for a soundtrack, etc. I took that upon myself because I wanted a certain experience.

Even with this calendar, I still ran out of time in some respects. The audiobook got done, but it is not for sale yet thanks to a lengthy review period at Audible. I ordered copies of the final paperback, but they are still yet to ship. If I was hosting an in-person book release today, I'd be in big trouble.

It took ten years to get here, from the moment the idea for The Black Sky formed, to it being a living piece of work. I believe I wrote the best version of it, and I'm psyched to keep building on the world I've created. So, here's to The Red Sky in 2022.