Review: Dust

Some days I get lost in the back alleys of YouTube, taking in amazing short films. Some are funny, some poignant, some beautifully done. A few stand out above the crowd as true masterful strokes.

Dust by Ember Labs is one such film. (Also available on Vimeo) This 26 min film is a mix of fantasy and science fiction that captivates the audience with the world building, and touches our emotions with the story telling.

Set in a world where everything is evolving incredibly fast, the trackers are there to record the evolutions, and find cures for diseases and poisons that might come of the quick adaptations. Humans, of course, have locked themselves behind walls to try and save themselves, but a wall doesn’t stop a virus.

The world is shown thorough the eyes of a man who has lost his way. Once a tracker, he has withdrawn into the city that he used to disdain. Now he has to venture back out into the wilderness to find the cause of a new virus, Dust, and a cure.

The CGI is beautifully done in this film. From insects with glowing wings, to interesting mushrooms that emit clouds of spores, and a large beast deep in the forest. The wilderness settings give stark contrast to the walled city rising up through the trees, and the apothecary shop sets the stage for our would be tracker.

Everything from color, to atmosphere, to sound, blends together to create a beautiful experience. Well worth the watch.

Writing progress

In February I quit my job, packed up my home, and moved to Texas. It’s now May…. so how am I doing? Here are each of my goals and what happened with them.

Write More

I am definitely writing more. Both March and April I wrote 20k words, and I’m on track to doing even more this month. If I keep this up I will be well over a quarter million words in a year, something I haven’t been able to do ever. And because of how I am working things are going well, and I do not see a problem with getting the word count in.
(For those interested in numbers, in 2017 and 2018 I wrote just over 100k. May just started and I’ve already written 66k this year. I’ll pass the last two years of writing by the end of June.)

Publish in April

This one didn’t happen, and while I am upset that it didn’t happen I am also happy with the reason. The novella I had been writing is now a full novel. The first two book Hub Series were around 30k words, and this latest one is 50k making it a full length novel. I’ve also taken the time to make the story better, made the characters a bit more compelling, added some things that I hadn’t tried before. The farther I go in this series the happier I am with it. On that note, I’m sending it to the editor this weekend so expect book three in a week or two.

Draw More

I have not been keeping up with my drawing. I did a few pieces in March (1, 2, 3, 4), but I never really finished them, and I haven’t added anything to redbubble or spoonflower. I’m a little disappointed in myself since I haven’t been gaming either to take up that time, so where is it going?

Stream More

I do have a Twitch stream that I have been known to do a few times, but it was rare. The trouble I found was that when I streamed I might have one or two people pop in, and they rarely stayed for more than a few minutes. This lead me to believe I really wasn’t good at holding peoples interest long enough to stream. I don’t know when or if I will go back to it. I might just try it because I enjoy playing some narrative games, and then I could put them up on my youtube channel. I haven’t decided yet.

Youtube Again

This is another one I haven’t done since being here.  It’s also another one I’m not sure I want to do. I have two channels, one for Writing and one for Gaming. The gaming channel only allows me to post 15 minute videos so I ended up using my writing channel for gaming, which I shouldn’t have done. Honestly…. I need to do this. It would be good for me because I need to learn to talk in front of a camera again. It’s very difficult for me sometimes so… I’ll have to see what I can do.

Overall

So writing is going well, and I’ll have another book to publish soon. Then I should be able to jump in and finish the second Half Blood Sorceress book since I have already written most of it, and that will be book two, hopefully by July. So much to write and so little time. I better get writing!

Youtube in a Nutshell

If you missed it, YouTube did their annual rewind this year. It has, at this moment, 2.4 million likes, and 14 million dislikes. 14 million! More than any other video out there.

There have been a few people trying to explain why the video is so universally hated, and they make some good points. Marques Brownlee, who is in the rewind, mentions the ever expanding push for YouTube to be brand friendly. Evan Edinger explored why past rewinds were awesome (celebrating amazing music from the year, and community accomplishments) and the break that happens in 2016 where more main stream media starts infiltrating it. Many of the comments ask where Pewdiepie is, the most subscribed youtuber since 2013. Paul brothers, also controversial, okay, but no Pewdiepie. Many people say they didn’t recognize most of the people in it. Many sight the fact that celebrities who have nothing to do with YouTube were included, and the increasing push for diversity and social justice that is starting to feel more like preaching. Mainly the problem was “this isn’t authentic YouTube”.

Other Youtubers responded by making their own rewinds, or year in reviews. Some were remixes of the original, some made fun of it, some cut together their own interpretation entirely.

And then Pewdiepie dropped his own Youtube Rewind (but actually good.) At the moment it has 4.6 million thumbs up, and only 29k thumbs down. A huge improvement over the original. Many of those reviewing it nod along to the music, comment on all the memes they know and love, and even get a sad smile when showing remembrances of some of those who passed on this year, like Stan Lee and Stephan Karl Stefansson.

I find it interesting that some people commented on the Youtube official rewind cramming in too much stuff, and that is why it wasn’t as successful, and yet the Pewdiepie video goes through so many memes and people that I lost count. But I knew them. I knew the content, the people mentioned, the memes, and I could remember at least 80% of them from past videos. And they worked well with the music, flowing together, and becoming part of it in most of the video. A few places seemed a bit forced, but because I had already invested so much into it I already loved it, and those few places didn’t matter.

I have to admit I haven’t always been a Pewdiepie fan. I thought his humor was kind of crass, and he made his mark by being loud and obnoxious. My daughter (a teen) loved his let’s plays, but even then I would watch some of them with her and enjoy it. Now that he is focusing more on what makes him happy, like memes, reddit, and just watching funny vidios, I enjoy his content even more. Plus the inclusion of Pew News, and even the book club, make me feel like Pewdiepie, or rather Felix, has grown up.

But now I feel that Pewdiepie’s rewind, and the whole T-seires war in general, is about far more than a few memes, or even liking one specific youtuber. This is about community. About being part of something bigger. And I think the end of the video exemplifies that the most.

This isn’t just about YouTube appealing to advertisers, or clearing out the less desirable. This is about corporations using their influence to take over what we built. Because we built Youtube. We made the videos, learned to edit, made music, animated, and joined in on conversations around the world. We made it what it is today….and corporations are trying to take it. They tried by suing early YouTube, to make it take responsibility for those uploading movies in order to shut it down. They tried to influence law makers to make SOPA and PIPA. They tried to using advertisers and controversies to shut things down. And for the longest time they have been going after the biggest channel on YouTube to use him for clicks and try to cut him down at the same time.

We know the day is coming when music and media companies have the most viewers on YouTube. This isn’t the first industry to see these changes, and it won’t be the last. But this fight with T-seiries is our way of saying we aren’t going to give up quite that easily.

I hope someday there is competition with PayPal, Patreon, and Youtube. I hope someday freedom to speak isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s a reality because no one has the power to shut us down just because they don’t like what we’re saying. I hope some day we really, truly, own the work we do. Right now that isn’t very possible because we distribute the work we create on someone else’s network, be it music, books, or videos. We don’t have a way of getting that information to other people because someone else owns all the servers and the connection points, and someone else can threaten to shut off the access either by cutting off the people buying the product (or taking away the products after they sold it to you), or by cutting off income to the creator.

Until then we’ll keep fighting the good fight, trying to keep the power in the hands of the people, and trying to keep our community strong and vibrant. Keep it growing. Because we never know what tomorrow will hold.

DEmonitized!

Well, I got that letter from youtube. The one that says “we changed our rules, and you no longer qualify, so you won’t be monetized after this month. But don’t worry, you have 30 days to meet the requirements.”

30 days? How do you get 900 followers in thirty days? Or all that watch time. For those who are close to that limit it’s good, hopefully they get there. For me, and little youtubers like me, it’s not happening.

On the positive side, I haven’t made any money from youtube. I’ve never had enough views, I don’t make content that often, so it’s fine, for me. Nothing’s really changing. For others…it’s not as nice. Youtube’s point is “they make less than $100 a year,” but I would be pissed if someone just decided to take $100 out of my paycheck every year. There’s so much that $100 could help with, a single bill, or a new camera or microphone. Hell, I got a $100 gift card for Safeway one year for Christmas and that made it so I could pay my bills without getting any late fees and still get food and gas. $100 is kind of important sometimes.

There is a positive side to Youtube’s change, this will keep a lot of the channels that re-upload other peoples content, and inappropriate content like Elsa-gate stuff from getting monetized. It will also move more ads to the large channels which is good for advertisers and the larger creators. On the bad side animators are, once again, getting the shaft, as well as any other person who makes occasional content. There will also be fewer people trying to get monetized because it’s really tough to get 1000 subs and all that watch time per year. There are people who will do it, and will thrive for it. There will also be a lot more of us who use it as just a way to connect with our followers, share a little of ourselves online. It’s another social media platform, and that’s about it.

Diversify, diversify, diversify! That is the mantra now. Has been for a while. If you are trying to actually make a living online you need to do more than one thing. Stream to twitch. Stream to youtube. Post to instagram or facebook. Make friends and followers, and help support other smaller creators so they can do well. For your own business you can make merch, like t-shirts on t-spring, or stickers on redbubble. Having a sponsor, or some other revenue outside of youtube itself. Youtube is more and more social media for small content creators, and that’s probably how it’s going to keep going. Especially since youtube only wants “family friendly” materiel to me monetized (unless you’re a main stream media outlet. CNN and NBC get monetized while smaller news channels don’t.)

Also, you know what would be nice? If people started sharing smaller channels they like, mentioning them in their vids or something, because it’s so hard to find good content on youtube anymore. The algorithms are so janky, they only show either the same creators I always watch, or vids from tv shows that are prime time, thus youtube wants you to watch them. They bring their advertisers with them, of course, and youtube wants a cut of that money. So please, share more smaller creators. Tell me who you like so I can see if I’d like them too. Tweet about them, comment on this blog post, or share them in a vlog, but I want to see some good content from smaller youtubers! I’d really appreciate that!

What’s going on? 

I haven’t been posting a lot to my blog, but I should be. There are a lot of things going on that I should be updating people on. 

One, last night I did a challenge with Bjorn on my twitch stream,then I posted a little video on the results, and showed off the helmet/mask set I made. I might stream a few creative things now and then, or more challenges with Bjorn. His twitch is also growing a lot lately. 

I am on the home stretch with the first book in the Half Blood Sorceress series. Just have to reread it, clean up the chapters, and make sure everything makes sense. Then off to an editor. 

Every weekend in April I will have two free short stories available on amazon. Just check back Friday through Sunday every weekend for new titles. I’m also hoping to publish something new this month. Keep your eyes out for that. 

If you like art you might check out my instagram. I’ve been adding new drawings almost daily, andI think I might start doing something with them. Charms, stickers, pins, etc…. 

What else? Recovering from the car accident is going well. I have a new car, and you can find out more about that here

I think that’s about it. More writing. More drawing. More just having fun. 

If a content creator…..

In light of the new drama around youtube a friend replied to me:

And I say… A creator has to eat.

A couple years ago there was a big bunch of writers who talked about why they refuse to write for free. The overwhelming sentiment was “fuck you, pay me.” The reasons came down to a few simple things. An author needs to eat, and pay their bills. An author spends a lot of damn time writing. A good author also spends money on editing, cover design, and probably marketing to get their books read.

Does an author write even if they don’t get paid? I’ve been writing since I was seven, and I haven’t made much, but I keep writing. If I never make another cent I’d keep writing. But here’s the thing; if I wasn’t seeing progress in sales I would stop trying to publish. Or at the very least I’d quit spending money I don’t have on editors, cover designers, and everything else that helps to make the book GOOD. I’d probably stick my books up on a blog, forgotten, and rarely read.

I have also been seeing: “well, he just sits in front of a webcam and talks, he can still do that without funding.” People don’t realize what goes into the back end of a some of these channels. Equipment upgrades, and keeping equipment running. Paying electric bills, editing, hours (if not days) of research, and for Philly D he has a whole crew that he pays, as well as all the other things he does on top of it. The GOOD shows do way more than sit in front of a camera and talk. Even shows like Hank and John Green are well edited, and time consuming. How many people would be out of a job if these channels disappeared? Not just the main creator of the channel.

In order to write the books I have written I have to work a full time job. That job takes a lot of my time and energy, and sometimes when I get home I don’t have the ability to sit down and talk, let alone string two sentences together. Just imagine if some of your favorite youtube creators had to have a day job. How much time do you think they’d be spending making that content if they had to go to work at six am with a one hour commute? Do you honestly think they could produce hours of content every week for your consumption? For me I have a lot less time to write now that I have a day job again. I can’t keep up like authors I know who write full time. I wish I could.

Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you have the time and ability to make it. And you probably won’t be able to make the same quality of content you had before.

To every artist, every author, every musician who is doing their art full time… could you do it if you weren’t getting paid? Would it be as high quality? Would you be able to produce as much?

If I can’t do any of those things as an artist with a full time job why would I expect my favorite news show, or commentators, or sketch artists, etc, to go without pay? Artists deserve to get paid, damn it!

PS, I haven’t even commented on whether or not this is censorship, or any of the other issues going on with this subject. I just wanted to comment on why artists of any type shouldn’t be looked down on for earning money for what they do.

A warm up

It’s day five of NaNoWriMo and I am at 5716 words. That means I need to write 2600 words today (and this blog post doesn’t count.) Can I do it? I’m hoping for another 1000 words tonight honestly.

So why am I here, on a blog, instead of over in my scrivener writing my novel? Because I find it cathartic to clear my mind and talk to everyone before I go rushing off to write sometimes.

So what’s happening, besides NaNoWriMo? Gregg is finishing new leather projects and starting to take commissions. He’s finishing his second one tonight for a wallet with a radiation symbol on the front. It looks pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

I just got my Made By Mommy craft challenge box, and that’s due by the 24th of this month (am I crazy? I didn’t realize it was due so soon. I’m NUTS!) But I have a couple ideas and might work on those tomorrow in between word sprints.

And I haven’t done the Tuesday Talks or Wednesday top five this week because of NaNoWriMo. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be able to do them this month because I am making writing a priority.

It’s been a great month, and I’m so happy with how much I’ve already gotten done in a week. I’m excited to see how far I can take this.

PS I’m a 6400 words now, and I have tomorrow to get in another 3000 words. I think I can handle that.