Saturday, December 29, 2012

Storytelling in Videogames

There's a great "Mind Meld" style interview over on SF Signal talking about the current state of storytelling in video games.  I've got a contribution in there, along with Myke Cole, Kameron Hurley, William C. Dietz, and many others.  Have a look!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cover reveal for THE DARWIN ELEVATOR

Well, if you got here from my main website you've already seen it.  But for anyone else, behold!

Credit for the painting goes to the amazing Christian McGrath, who will also be doing the covers for books two and three.  We'll reveal those in January, along with titles.

I'm very pleased with how it came out.  The image manages to capture the grit as well as the wonder, Skyler looks suitably bad-ass, and the title treatment gives a nice hint that the book is a hell of a lot of fun, too (if I do say so myself), in contrast to the seriousness of the image.

Sometime after the new year my editor and I will be co-writing a blog post about how the covers came to be.  It's been a fun and fascinating process.

I must also thank the awesome Kevin Hearne for his gracious blurb, and all the kind words he sent me privately.  If you haven't read his Iron Druid books, you're missing out.

Here's the full quote:

"The best part about alien stories is their mystery, and Jason M. Hough understands that like no other. Full of compelling characters and thick with tension, THE DARWIN ELEVATOR delivers both despair and hope along with a gigantic dose of wonder. It's a brilliant debut and Hough can take my money whenever he writes anything from now on."
- Kevin Hearne, New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Druid Chronicles 

That seems like a good place to end.  More soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Liftport Kickstarter

A few weeks ago I attended the 2012 Space Elevator Conference in Seattle and met Michael Laine, who heads up the Liftport Group.

Michael setup a Kickstarter campaign to secure funds for some basic space elevator research.  His group is interested in the concept of an elevator on the moon, not Earth, which could be used to allow soft-landing of ships and cargo on the moon's surface, and fling ships and cargo at high speed into the outer solar system with minimal fuel.

The campaign's initial goal of just $8000 was quickly met, and has since exploded to almost ten times that (thanks in part to David Brin mentioning it during an NPR interview).  This of course earned a lot of attention from the press (the headlines they've come up with are cringe-worthy, but that's typical).

Why such a small goal?  One thing Michael understands is the need to take baby steps in order to accomplish the larger goal, and basic research is needed in many areas.  And while most of the speakers at the conference also understand this, their approach seems entirely focused on securing government or university research grants.  From what I've gleaned, Michael is something of a trailblazer and the use of Kickstarter to fund research certainly qualifies.  Congrats, Michael, on your success!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

AmyBeth Inverness has posted an interview with me on her blog. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Updated WorldCon panel schedule

This is still subject to change, but here's my current panel appearances for WorldCon:

Saturday, Sept 1st 9:00AM - 10:30AM
"So you wanna be a writer"
Panelists: Allen M. Steele, Betsy Dornbusch, Eldon Thompson, J. Kathleen Cheney, Jason Hough

Sunday, Sept 2nd 10:30AM - 12:00PM
"Committing to a series"
Panelists: Adam-Troy Castro, Chris Gerrib, Jason Hough, Joshua Silverman, Mary Robinette Kowal

Sunday, Sept 2nd 3:00PM - 4:30PM
"World Building Workshop 4: Aspects of Culture and Spirituality"
Panelists: Amanda Luedeke, Dani Kollin, Elizabeth Moon, Eytan Kollin, Jason Hough

This is going to be fun.  I'm particularly excited (and daunted) to be sharing panels with the likes of Allen Steele, the Kollin brothers, and Elizabeth Moon.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

First panel appearance

I've been picked to appear on a panel at WorldCon (aka ChiCon7) in Chicago at the end of the month.  This will be my first time on a panel!

Schedule is tentative, but if anyone is planning to go and wants to come out and heckle me, here's the details:

Sat Sep 1st, 9:00:am - 10:30:am
So You Wanna Be A Writer 
Columbus EF 

Join experienced pros and up and coming professionals to talk about the business of writing and publishing. How'd they get their start? What advice do they have for newcomers? What's a realistic view of your career arc? How best to start--novels or short stories? These questions and many more. 

Allen M. Steele, Betsy Dornbusch, Eldon Thompson, J. Kathleen Cheney, Jason M. Hough

Friday, July 27, 2012

Release date news

Hi folks!

I have an update on release dates.

Del Rey has decided, with my blessings, to push out the release date of THE DARWIN ELEVATOR from February 2013 to July 2013.

Though it's a bummer to have to wait even longer to get my first novel out into the wild, I can't argue with their motivation. The plan, originally, had been something like:

Book 1: Feb '13
Book 2: Aug '13
Book 3: Feb '14

Six months between each. Now it's looking like this:

Book 1: Jul '13
Book 2: Aug '13
Book 3: Sep '13

Yes, that's right, all three books will be out in a 3-month span. This is a release model they've tried with other authors recently and it works very well, so they asked if I'd mind going with the same model. They're pushing DARWIN out a bit to give me the time I need to finish Book 3.

Waiting isn't fun, but the benefits are there. DARWIN might be five months later than we'd all hoped, but the third book will be six months earlier. It turns out that readers, especially the "gimme NOW!" eBook contingent, respond well to getting the next book in a series quickly. In addition to that, it lets Del Rey put all their marketing oomph into one big meta-release. As an author who wants to sell books, I like marketing oomph. They chose July to coincide with Comic-Con next summer and continuing over August and September. This gives the series a lot of love while the spotlight is hopefully on it, a win for all involved.

It also means Comic-Con 2013 will be awesome.

As such, there won't be much to reveal in terms of covers, titles, free chapters, and all that good stuff until around the beginning of the year.  Consider yourself forewarned...


Friday, May 4, 2012

Charity Auction

Want to name a character in my series?  Or a vehicle maybe?

I'm auctioning off just that, plus a few other things like a query letter critique, here.  All proceeds go to diabetes research!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Two tips for naming characters

Writing Status:  DARWIN 2 first draft is almost done -- four chapters left.
Music I'm writing to:  "MOON" Soundtrack by Clint Mansell

Here's two techniques I use when I need a good character name in a hurry.  For some reason I find it hard to pull names out of thin air, and using my friends' names is a well that has nearly run dry.

Character Name if the person's birthplace and/or time are important:
Let's say I need a good name for a twenty year Scottish man.  I go to Wikipedia and search for "Scotland National..." -- the autofill offers me a dozen completion options.  Look for the ones related to sports.  In this case I'll pick "Scotland National football team".
Now scroll down and look for the roster(s).  Often you'll find the current squad, plus links or even lists of squads from previous years.  There before you are the names of 10, 20... 40 Scots.  I don't know what it is about athletes, but they seem to have consistently great names.
What I do next is start reading them, taking one player's first name and another's last.  I basically do this until i find a new combination that has the kind of sound I'm looking for.  For example, if I wanted a gangster type right now I'll go with... Tommy Roxburgh. Nice.  If I was looking for a geek type, I might choose Dawson Bardsley.  Villain? Lee Ormond.

There we go.  Three good names in less than a minute.  And none are stereotypical Scottish names, which I think is good but it might not suit your needs.  You could always pick something like Iain MacNaughton.  The point is you have choices.

Note you can can of course search for women's teams, or teams from many years ago (olympic lists are great too).  And obviously just about every country will have multiple sporting organizations to pick from.

Character Name if something random will do:
There's plenty of random name generators out there, and some of them are quite good.  My favorite for "real world" names is Kleimo, which uses U.S. Census data to randomly marry first and last names, and even includes an obscurity factor (picks names that show up more or less often in census data).

Being random, the names are all over the map, but remember as you read the results that you can create your own pairings.  Don't limit yourself to the list it gave you, just start mixing them in your mind.  The key for you is a pairing that sounds good off the tongue.

I just ran it and came up with Max Elsey, Kurt Bourland, and for a woman... Eve Valerius.  Eve Valerius!  Holy crap that's a great name.  I'm going to use it.  Back off, would-be thieves.  Generate your own.

Last but not least
Lastly, its not a bad idea to google the name(s) you picked, or search for them on Amazon, and just make sure there's at least no one famous (or infamous) with the name you picked.  Might save you some headaches later.

Now excuse me while I go write up a character profile for Eve Valerius.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I thought I'd share my technique for keeping on schedule, which also serves as an extremely good motivator.

On Google Docs, I keep a spreadsheet that tracks my progress.  Every morning, after my writing session, I hop in here and update my word count.  The document automatically calculates a number of statistics that tell me where things stand:

All I have to do is update the "Current Count" column.  Everything else is calculated automatically,  and instantly I know how far ahead, or behind, I am.

There's something quite addictive about seeing the numbers climb, and not just my word count, which I can get within Scrivener very easily.  What's more motivating is seeing that "ahead / -behind" field grow and stay blue.  It turns red if I'm in the negative, and I despise seeing that color here.  When it's blue, I know I'm ahead of schedule, and the translation into days is even more powerful.

On days when I'm struggling to get through a scene, I find myself updating the word count often.  Like, every hundred words or so.  Each little update is a reminder that I'm making progress, even if it's at a snails pace.

As you can see, right now I'm working towards a self-imposed deadline of May 15th to finish the second book in this trilogy.  Contractually, the book isn't due until August 15th, but I'm striving to finish it early so that I have more time to work on book three.  Even with my early May 15th date, I've managed to build up a nice bank account of days ahead.  Seeing this number is a fantastic and tangible reward, because I know two things:  first, I can take a day off here and there without stressing about it.  Second, I know that every day ahead I get will be a day I can use to polish the manuscript even more.  If I can keep up my pace, I'll finish a month ahead of my personal goal, a month I can use to go back and fix all the problems I've already noted.

A spreadsheet like this is especially useful when you're behind.  Primarily so that you'll simply know you're behind.  It can be difficult to gauge something like that on a project lasting many months.  But not only will this tell me I am behind, it'll tell me what my "new average target" needs to be if I want to finish on time.  It can be unnerving to know you're behind by 6000 words, but when you see that all you have to do is up your daily goal from 600 to 650 words to finish on time, the obstacle doesn't seem so daunting.

Every project I actively work on goes on the sheet, and I used this even before I had an actual deadline to worry about.  You may have noticed there's a column for "writer" here, too.  This sheet is also used, on occasion, by members of my writing group, and the multi-user aspect is a great way for us to keep each other honest.  Praise when we see progress, and encouragement when we're lagging.

Since I started writing, I've always set myself a date to finish something by.  Even arbitrary dates serve as a great way to give yourself a path forward, and the spreadsheet acts as a visual way to wrap your mind around the enormity of your project.

As they say, nothing spurs creativity like a deadline.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Del Rey's newsletter

The latest issue of Del Rey's newsletter features an article by my editor concerning the series.  Have a look:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I just received word that THE DARWIN ELEVATOR has been approved by my editor at Del Rey!

Now it's off to layout design and copy editing, then proofreading.  After that, the fun stuff like cover design, marketing... I can't wait!

I also can't rest.  BOOK 2 (that's just a working title) is about one-third of the way done, and on schedule.  It's nice to know that I can focus solely on that now, as I've been bouncing between the two manuscripts for the last month or so.