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Lately, its been hard to push myself to keep working on writing projects. My second novel is stuck at about 50,000 words, I’ve got two screenplays and two speculative scripts that I am successfully ignoring, and a podcast that is in indefinite hiatus until schedules clean up. I remind myself- regularly- that if you don’t try, you can’t succeed, but even that line is sounding hollow and trite as I realize that even if I was to complete all of these projects, there is no guarantee that any of them would gain traction with an audience to any real degree.
Since finishing my first novel and publishing it on KDP, I have received lots of awesome praise and encouragement which has kept me going (at least on the Triworlds projects), but that doesn’t translate into manageable currency unfortunately, so I’ve had to get day jobs that significantly cut into my writing time, and leave me drained and uninspired during my precious free time. I find it to be more worth my time to squeeze out the extra hour of sleep when I can get it, instead of the extra thousand words, and it isn’t a great feeling to know that I am so far behind on all of my plans.
To that end, I’ve cut down on all my expenditures as much as possible, and rely on caffeine and the like in order to press myself to be productive. I write on buses, trains, on napkins while at work. I write in my dreams. Because I’ve got to double down on this thing, or else I’ll get stuck, caught in the same trap that many fall into, just doing what you can to pay the bills, biding time until something better comes along, something that will fix what makes them unhappy and doesn’t require real work. Except that doesn’t fit into my worldview; I know┬áthat no one is going to save me, that no one is going to tap me on the shoulder and say “Ah, we’ve been looking for someone with your talent, come follow me to where the winners are…”
I write because writing is my golden rope, my ladder to a better life. There aren’t a lot of options open for me at this stage, and in the end, writing is the only thing I’ve really ever wanted┬áto do. So I guess the answer is to keep on trucking; no matter how hard it is, no matter how little money I have, no matter how much free time I dedicate to it, it is the only was that I can see out of working for other people for the rest of my life. My question is, what do other people do? Are they suffering as much as I am, going to crappy corporate jobs day in and day out, and still making no money? Or are they happy in what they do, and give no second thoughts to their fate? Or… Am I just whining about being broke, and about how I put myself there by choosing a long-shot passion career over a more lucrative but ultimately uninteresting life?
Decisions, decisions…

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This week Activision is launching a third expansion for Destiny that is supposed to be comparable to a whole new game’s worth of content, and as they are entering their second year, it comes not a moment too soon. With a new campaign, new subclasses, and new endgame activities, it seems like Activision has finally decided to let gamers play the full version of Destiny that’s been held back for a year now. It’s clear that this was their plan all along; to develop a game and then cut pieces out of it to sell back to the consumer individually over a long timeline.
While I don’t deny that this is a dastardly way to sell video games, I also can’t deny that it works to curb a few other problems plaguing the industry that have yet to be solved, such as game length. Average game length has been shortening over the last few generations of consoles as the market becomes saturated with games competing for our attention. Instead of exploring the full content of a game, a player would move onto the next as soon as the credits would roll, sometimes sooner. Developers realized that they could spend months working on a content-rich game, but a majority of gamers would pass over 90% of the content they spent their time creating. The trend became to create shorter games with less content, but the prices stayed the same. As much as I enjoy games like Bioshock and The Last of Us, it is difficult to justify spending $60 on 8-12 hours worth of gameplay, and so these games end up in used bins, with none of their sales profits benefiting the team that made it. With a game like Destiny, I’ve easily gotten 100+ hours of gameplay in the year that it has been released, and the collected expansions and core game have cost our household $100; a solid value, in my opinion, and the profits go to the developers (And yes, of course, Activision.)
Selling parts of games piecemeal also gives the opportunity to receive feedback from your community without a prolonged and expensive beta test. It just seems like a kind of punishment to have to pay yet again for helping to make the game better, especially when new players are going to be able to purchase a bundle of all content for $100 but my household is going to pay another $40 for something that should have shipped a year ago. So I’m not sure exactly where I fall on the whole thing. I understand why they do it, although I strongly believe that the budget for the game should have been reigned in (at least for marketing… Why did they need to pay for Peter Dinklage and Led Zeppelin?). If developers aren’t getting paid, games will stop getting made, but with the way that publishers like Activision are doing business, it will lead to the end of AAA games as we know it. They push huge budgets at projects, as if it will correlate directly with the success of the game, pandering to their audience with whatever they can reach and assimilate, from Nathan Fillion to classic rock. But gamers aren’t like other demographics like moviegoers or fiction readers. We get bored of concepts faster, and transparent ruses insult us. We crack puzzles, we work as a team. These publishers have gotten lucky so far, but one of these days they will overextend themselves on a project they deem perfect, but we won’t be there to foot the bill for the half finished product that is less than we deserve.
All it takes is for someone to beat you at your own game, and honestly, you’re just business people pretending to be gamers.

Man, I want a new star ocean game…

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So tomorrow marks roughly three months since I’ve posted to this blog. On a related note, my book is going to be available for free again! I don’t want to use this blog as a platform to exclusively talk about my book, but I don’t know if I am the type of person to allow my unfiltered thoughts onto the pages of the impressionable internet. Not that my inner thoughts and opinions are all that shocking, because they’re not; they’re just negative. I can (and do) complain about anything. It is a skill I acquired over a life spent picking things apart and looking for holes and flaws, and while in many ways it makes for better writing, I also feel like it annoys and even alienates people when I voice a particularly unpopular opinion, or when I call someone in a public setting out for being especially rude. A large part of me wants to hide that stuff; to carefully curate and control my internet image for the purposes of my writing career. Then again, a very strong part of me wants to embrace the internet as a tool for expressing my opinion loudly and without merit, and to talk about myself unabashedly guilt-free.

So, I might do that from now on, simply for lack of better posts. Get ready.

I’ll also try and throw in reviews and pragmatic writing advice and insights and relevant quotes as often as possible. You know… content! Anyways…

Check out my book! Its available for free on Kindle from 8/31-9/4!
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Just a heads up that tomorrow is the last day to grab a free copy of my book, Homeworld Blues! Reads like a dream on all devices, just a click away!

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Well, maybe more than one click, but less than seven! I think!

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Hey everyone, just putting a heads up out there that my book, Triworlds Revolution: Homeworld Blues is available for free on Amazon.com for the next five days, the last promotion went really well so I don’t know how many of you still haven’t grabbed a copy but I’ll be running these roughly every ninety days, so eventually there should be no excuse as to why you haven’t read such a totally awesome and amazing sci-fi adventure! This one is the first in the series, and book two should be released in the fall or winter, so make sure you’re all caught up!

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So; Mad Max, am I right? Actually, I’m not sure if I am, because I haven’t seen the movie yet, but by all accounts and indications, it is one of the most impressive films made in recent memory. It certainly made its way onto my radar not by the larger-than-life explosions in the trailers, nor by the general onslaught of marketing that is pretty much necessary for any massive budget blockbuster extravaganza. I’ve become inured to all that sort of thing and take it all with a grain of salt after being disappointed so many times before. What made me sit up and pay attention to a film about a post-apocalyptic wasteland populated by more vehicular homicide than actual people was the collective buzz around the treatment of female characters in such a setting.

Is it time? Are we there yet? More than fifty years after the feminist movement began, and we are finally at a point where the main machine of Hollywood is going to give female characters thoughtful and equal standing among male counterparts instead of tossing them concessions to keep them quiet? The answer is no; not across the board yet, anyway. 
As much as I loved the new Avengers movie, (spoiler alert) there were more than a few times that I felt the writing for the female heroes in the story was fairly two dimensional and predicated on their gender almost exclusively. Not that the guys had much more development; cut to Cap’n America expressing emotional strife by splitting wood with his bare hands, And Thor… was also there, right? But with the male writing, only half of the motivations seemed to be relevant to their gender, whereas nothing that the Scarlet Witch or Black Widow did made sense unless placed in the context of their gender. 
Examples: Natasha Romanov feeling like a monster for not being able to have kids. Point!
Wanda Maximoff being the only person falling to pieces in the middle of a tense fight. Point!
And Hawkeye’s wife… Was also there, right?
Anyway, I digress. I love epics, they’re one of my favorite things ever. The idea that a group of strangers can come together from around the world to share in the experience of a collective adventure is something truly magical. When they don’t send a positive message or send no message at all, it always feels like a wasted opportunity to affect change on such a massive scale. Harry Potter promotes friendship, individualism, and independence. Star Trek promotes humanism, progress, and racial equality. And Mad Max makes a statement that there is no reason female characters can’t be every bit as powerful in a variety of ways as their traditionally male counterparts, and that there is no reason to reduce them to one the generic handful of stereotypes that we see repeated without depth again and again, nor is there any benefit towards sexualizing a character when it has no relevance to the plot. Things like that are lazy, they are pandering, and they are beneath us.
Here’s to a generation where our fictional universes are well-developed thought-scapes that are welcoming to all people everywhere. 

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Batman was robbed, Wasn’t it bad enough to be an orphan, now he has to play perpetual second fiddle to the boy scout of the DC universe, Superman?
I’m talking about Batman Vs. Superman, of course. There’s been a lot of buzz about the new trailer released this week, and while most of it is good, I can’t help but feel like the whole thing is one big mistake that’s going to get worse before it gets better. While most people who take issue with it cite the changes they’ve made from the Frank Miller graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns,” which features a climactic battle between the two heroes in a very believable and dark setting, my issues take place before the movie even begins.

I’ll back up to explain a little, since most people don’t even know why the two would have any issue with each other. In “The Dark Knight Returns,” Batman comes out of a ten-year retirement in order to lay some much needed beat-downs on the criminals who have claimed Gotham. However, his return prompts several super-villains to come out of hiding as well, representing a greater threat to the public than had been seen before. The American government, declaring the age of the hero to be over, calls in Superman as their personal attack dog to ‘persuade’ Batman back into retirement. Thus the stage is set for a symbolic battle between Superman representing the power of authority to decide what’s best for us, and Batman representing the will inside of all of us to control our own destinies.

The new Batman Vs Superman film seems to flip the ideals of the two in a way. We see Superman as the ‘outsider’, representing something altogether different from us, alien and untrustworthy. Meanwhile Batman symbolizes an angry and scared humanity, looking at something more powerful than themselves and not understanding its motivation. These are some complicated standpoints, but in the modern age, I think it’s a brilliant choice and potentially the only way to make Superman really interesting to a new audience at this point.

But my problems don’t come from the fact that they’ve changed elements from ‘TDKR’, they come from the fact that Ben Afflec and Jared Leto don’t get their own film establishing them as our new Batman and Joker. Superman got his film, but with the Nolan Batman trilogy still in recent memory, it seems they’ve decided that it’s too soon to give him his own reboot. That would be a logical call, if we were only looking at a Batman Vs Superman movie. But with the subtitle of ‘Birth of Justice’, its clear that this is only a stepping stone to the greater project of a Justice League film, similar to Marvel’s stunning Avengers franchise. And as any nerd can tell you, Batman is the core of the Justice League.

Introducing the character of Batman as an add-on to an established Superman will forever put them on uneven ground. In a perfect world, each member of the Justice League would get their own film before teaming up, but in reality the only ones that matter are Batman and Superman. Marvel’s way of doing things is simply the best; they’ve given their properties time to grow and live in our heads, before combining all of it under one roof and blowing things out of the sky. They may be the competition, but DC could definitely learn something there.

Unless, that is, they’re only interested in pumping one of these ‘group hero’ movies out the door in order to cash in while superheroes are still hot. They can see franchise fatigue on the horizon. The thing is, i don’t think they understand that slapdash decisions and half-assed movies are WHY franchise fatigue happens in the first place.

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So it’s kind of hard to ignore it this week. Star Wars is back. The twin attacks of the new film trailer coupled with the announcement of EA’s new Star Wars Battlefront game is a strong marketing engagement which promises to be a pretty hectic and profitable season for the powers that be at Disney and Marvel. Even as a person who doesn’t count myself among the true fans of Star Wars, I have to say that I am excited. I’ve always enjoyed Star Wars games more than I enjoy the films, and although I felt like the earlier trailer didn’t show me anything to be excited about, this new one certainly raises the bar and my hopes. It seems by all indications that this new film will be engaging and fast paced while paying homage and fan-service to what has come before, which is a tricky goal, but one I’m sure they’re ready for.

All in all, this new atmosphere is going to set the stage for a new resurgence of Sci-Fi. We’ve already seen the beginnings of it, with titles like Ender’s Game and Guardians of the Galaxy earning solid numbers at the box office. What’s even better is that we are seeing properties that really open the door and push the envelope of what’s been done conceptually in the past. True, there are still films that are basically ‘sci-fi for sci-fi’s sake,’ such as Jupiter Ascending which offered beautiful settings and sequences, but ultimately little intellectual fare, but we are also seeing things like Ex-Machina, a film which seems to promise the exploration of the artificial soul. Both films are solid sci-fi pieces, but where Jupiter seems to think of itself as little more than a spacey vehicle for epic encounters, Machina is the type of movie to leave a viewer chilled and uncomfortable with their own views of what is and isn’t a valid life form. That both films can exist side by side is a testament to the range of sci-fi concepts that exist, and reminds me of why I love the genre so dearly.

So what does it mean for the future of entertainment? I expect that as tastes revolve and Star Wars inevitably creates a new demand for these tales, we will see many new properties come to light. Franchise fatigue is setting into the superhero market, and therefore to stay relevant, companies like Marvel will need to hinge their momentum into other projects. For better or worse, we are looking at the downfall of the Hero, and the rise of Sci-Fi. Whether or not it is all for the better, we won’t know until about this time next year. Either way, I’m ready.

Stay tuned for my review of Ex-Machina, as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron. My next post will probably be more about the franchise fatigue that’s setting into superheroes, and how that will effect DC’s upcoming plans for the Justice League.

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PROGRESS UPDATE: Hey everyone! I’ve gotten some questions lately about the current state of the second Triworlds Revolution book, so here’s the numbers for anyone who is interested!

Currently, TWR2 is being drafted under the name Moving Pieces, which is subject to change;

The current draft is about 32,000 words at the moment;

A week ago, I was at 28,000, so about 4,000 words a week is the current pace, but that is also liable to change on any given day;

TWR1: Homeworld Blues was roughly 120,000 words in total, which means that if the second book would be the same length, I would be at about 28%  done with TWR2 right now. However, seeing as this second book covers substantially more story than the first, we are closer to about 15% finished.

That means that book 2 will be approximately 200,000 words, but I expect to reel that in somewhat during edits. For reference, the first Harry Potter book was about 77,000 words long, and the first Game of Thrones book was nearly 300,000.

The prospective date for the release of TWR2: Moving Pieces will be late summer/early fall, so stay tuned for more updates leading up to the release! And in the mean time, if you haven’t already checked out the first book in the series, why not!!? It’s great!

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Thanks again!
A. J. McMillan

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Hey everyone! I’ve been getting some questions about the second Triworlds book and its inevitable-yet-slow paced creation, so I decided to set up a headquarters of sorts in order to have a central hub for news, updates, and questions regarding my series! This blog will roll down hill to Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and the like thanks to a lovely utility called IFTTT, so don’t feel obligated to follow this blog if you’re already following elsewhere. I’ll make it pretty darn difficult to miss anything. I will also try and post some of my back catalog WordPress posts as well, to keep it interesting. Thanks for the support everyone!

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