It’s Time to Keep Fighting

I . . .

I don’t even know where to start.

Yesterday, by 10PM, I had a massive headache from crying happy tears.

I didn’t think I’d cry at all at first.

But then . . .

And I just want to clarify that I wasn’t being dramatic there. The sensation that hit when the election was called for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris wasn’t relief that they won.

It was relief that there really would be a cure for Coronavirus that we’d have access to for free. 2020 has been bad for everyone, but the heart of my personal canvas of nightmares was, “The cure will be found in another country and Trump will refuse to import it because Regeneron (or whatever big pharma company he was shilling for) had a cure ‘coming soon,’ and we needed to wait for it because ‘it will be so much better!’ (so Regeneron could profiteer off the pandemic).”

And just typing that makes me want to jump to the alternate reality where Trump won so I could join their rebellion.

That was an absolute nightmare scenario for me. The idea that the cure would be available, but a rich person would demand I pay $300 per dose after losing my job because of a pandemic they didn’t bother to control.

But now, I don’t have to worry about that.

I get to just live.

Sure, there are still the other problems on that nightmare canvas.

But what matters is that I feel like I can honestly start working toward fixing those problems. I won’t get close to finishing a novel just to find out that, on his third term, Trump has started rounding up all Hispanic people in ICE camps.

Okay. I don’t want to just dip into the negative again: the point is, the world really sucked two days ago, and I’m glad it’s not as huge a feast for vultures anymore.

But if there’s one thing I want to say here to everyone who reads this, it’s the scope of that title.

It’s Time to Keep Fighting

It would be so easy to check out. A part of me just wants to let the relief wash me away so I never have to think about numbers, maps, or the colors red and blue ever again.

But that is not the world we live in. It never has been. If we’ve learned anything from the past four years, let it be that.

This is a time to be diligent. To remember not only that Republicans adopted a fascist as their leader, but those same Republicans, who gleefully embraced hatred for money, are still out there.

I see people talking about how we need to be kind to Trump supporters.

No.

No, we don’t.

It’s time for them to stop expecting the world to coddle them. Being nice and pampering them is the entire reason they feel comfortable screaming about not wearing masks. They get whatever they want–are born with so much privilege–that they think wearing a fucking mask is oppression. They need to lean to accept change and listen before screaming about what they want.

I’m not saying we need to go out and fight them. I know that many of us will have to try talking them down from the insane beliefs they’ve adopted (and my heart goes out to everyone who has Trumpers in their life–that weird inverse of “the talk” with your parents isn’t going to be fun).

But beyond that, they do not deserve our support or even our attention.

Our attention, from here on out, always has to be on fighting for our rights. We have to stay engaged with politics, encourage others to vote, help out however we can.

Right now, that means that we have to pay attention to the run-offs in Georgia. It sucks–I just want to never pay attention to another election ever again, but we cannot ignore this.

Click here to donate directly to Democrat Reverend Warnock’s campaign.

Click here to donate directly to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign.

Click here for a Fast Company article listing other ways you can help with the run-offs.

And if you live in Georgia, please consider going full grassroots with friends and family members who aren’t registered, and get them to vote.

~~~

I understand that this post is super weird for this site–I never get political on here.

However, I really needed to say all of this.

Because people have been bitching for years that, “Your vote don’t matter!” and, “They gonna elect who they gonna elect!” but, America, we just proved them wrong.

Take care, stay safe, and, remember that it’s okay to believe.

The Last Weekend of America

I told a friend that I’m going to a liquor store tomorrow.

My exact words were, “it’s the season finale of 2020 on Tuesday, and we’re going to find out if this year was written by George R. R. Martin.” And, yeah, that sums up what I’m feeling right now.

I don’t think I can be 100% present that day. And, mind you, I am the most social drinker on the planet; before my birthday earlier in the month, for which I got a tiny bottle of plum wine, the last time I drank was in March, back when the theme was, “Quarantine! This is real! Ha ha! Why is any of this happening!? Haha HA HA!” Back when the vibe was one of my managers coming into the office and telling me to stop using the word “pandemic” in our customer service emails about the pandemic, and me thinking, Are you fucking kidding me? Really???

I don’t want to go into what I think is going to happen this week, because I don’t want the entertainment I seek out later to reiterate the terrible thoughts I’m having.

But I do want to say how weird it is that we’re living this.

As Fantasy writers, we often set stories around wars. There’s usually some Great War or Old War that shaped the worlds of our protagonists. In fact, one of my works in progress is set in a city directly before a war starts.

And now, I feel like I’m living in that setting, and it’s strange. I feel like something terrible is going to happen in a few days, and it’s not fiction. The most peaceful end result on the 3rd is the one that will ruin my life and countless others.

The end result where America dies.

And, weirdly, even though I’ve been calling this the “post-American” age since November 2016, I still had hope the world would turn around at some point.

And maybe it still will.

But I’ve read a lot of George R. R. Martin, and I’ve lived through all of 2020, so I’m just conditioned to expect the worst.

In terms of writing, all I can suggest is that, if you’re in America today, look around. Sit by a window for a bit and feel the quiet. Experience the setting. Remember it, because you will write it sometime in the future.

And if you’re not a writer, maybe sit by the window anyway and breathe in. Take in the crisp air that might be full of hope just this one last time.

~~~

Apologies for not having more, but I just needed to relax in this home stretch.

This isn’t what I intended to write about this week. And, actually, I was right about to say that I would write about that intended topic next week.

But I have no idea what the world is going to look like next week. So, ya know, no promises.

Thank you for stopping by. And if you haven’t yet, please vote.

Taking a Week Off

I just spent a few hours writing a post that was supposed to be fun . . . that turned into something really negative.

And, full disclosure, that’s because of the news, which I cannot fucking deal with anymore this week. Seriously, I already voted, but the pressure of November 3rd was not influenced a single fucking bit.

So I’m taking this Sunday off to just breathe and relax.

And to regroup; I’ve written a few total duds on here lately, so I want to take some time to center my attention for this site as well. I had a new direction I intended to take it, but then I didn’t. I want to correct that.

So, until next Sunday, I hope all of you stay well.

And I hope that at some point, we all forget to check the news for five minutes and just have a good, normal 10 minutes to ourselves.

Let’s Talk About – That Nostalgic FOBU

It turns out the board game I’ve been working on is very similar to a game that already exists, called Nemesis.

They aren’t identical, which is the great thing; I spent so much time over the last few years working on my game, Voidsong, that I’d be legitimately depressed if it was accidentally identical to another game that already existed.

But man, that did not stop me from getting hit hard by the FOBU (fear of being unoriginal) when I tried Nemesis with friends.

Me: “Oh. Oh, I pick . . . my win condition. Weird. That’s . . . totally something I have in my game. Whatever. Cool.”

*5 minutes later*

A Friend: “So then, yeah, play continues with each player taking a turn, but then, in the next round, you go first Louis, because–“

Me: “The first person in the turn order moves to the next person in the order every round to ensure the one player doesn’t maintain an unfair advantage and also I put that system in my game last year and WHAT IS HAPPENING!?”

Okay, I didn’t actually say it like that.

In the moment, I was actually like, “Hmm. Okay,” because understated horror is my signature move.

But I came away from that play session shaken regardless.

Not because I thought Nemesis and Voidsong were too similar; they’re tonally, visually, and emotionally very different, and I my game is much simpler, with major differences in gameplay where it counts.

But the FOBU from my high school days came back with such a goddamn fury.

The Olde Fear

Do you remember it? You, the writer reading this right now, do you remember being a kid and somehow being insanely derivative of, let’s say, Final Fantasy VII (just to use myself as an example)? And that fear being super paradoxical because, simultaneously, you were actually being 100% derivative of something else (Castlevania for me!)?

Man, those were the fucking days. When, like, these wasn’t a tonal through line to be seen for a thousand miles and no actual writing ever got done. Motherfuckers out here like, “I got this real dope story I’m working on. No, I can’t tell you anything about it.”

It was just so strange to be yanked back to that headspace again, for the first time in 20 years. To say, “Omfg, this game has an advancing turn order, just like I do in my game,” while also being aware, in the background, that I totally just adopted that advancing turn order from one of the many other board games that have it.

It took me a bit to get over it, which was strange too, but . . .

The Nostalgia of It Was Weirdly . . . Comforting?

Because there’s something just nice and liberating about realizing that you aren’t the writing genius that you think you are when you’re 15.

I remember just never talking to anyone about any of my writing projects because I was so sure they would steal all of my ideas . . . that I’d stolen from other places.

I talk a lot about what makes a writer good, and I don’t know if this is one of those things, but it definitely feels like it is.

Because . . . Well, quick story:

There was one time I was at a party and another writer talked to me about how they wanted to combine magic and technology in their WIP. I remember nodding, gesturing with my drink (the subtle half-cheers that translates in Partysign to “affirmative”). And, at the same time I was thinking, Should I talk about the Fantasy book I finished a few years ago that has technology in it just to make conversation?

Whether or not I inhaled to bring that up doesn’t matter, because the other writer kept talking about his idea, which is fine; I generally like to just listen when someone’s talking about their WIP because I know how rare it is to get that opportunity to idea-vent to another writer (someone you know actually cares instead of the usual person who asks about your story and then tunes out in 3 seconds).

Which, of course, made it so strange some time later, after I let that friend read my WIP, and one of his comments was a loosely veiled, “You did technology and magic, like my thing.”

Like, “Motherfucker, excuse me?”

I didn’t say that in the moment. I mean, in those moments, the best you can do is blink, say, “Uh huh,” and think, “I thought of combining technology and magic 15 years ago, when I played Final Fantasy III, in which technology and magic being forced together was important to the plot.” Or, “Did you really think you invented the idea of combining technology and magic?”

And, also, you think, “I’m so glad I’m past that phase.”

I’m so glad I made it past the point where I’m concerned with what my peers are writing. The point where I think so highly of myself and so little of them that I worry about them stealing my ideas.

I’m so glad that I acknowledge the enormous gap between inspiration and plagiarism, automatically course-correcting away from things that have been done and just focusing on the story I want to tell, trusting it’s going to be original because of that totally personal, uniquely bizarre spin I have to put on all of my works in progress (the same way every writer does).

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, if you don’t experience that FOBU anymore, then, oh man, wasn’t it funny when you were young and it was always there?

And, just in case you are still concerned about it: a person totally wrote a fanfiction of Harry Potter, another person wrote a fanfiction for that fanfiction, they both changed names around, and they’re both rich now. Ambition to be original is great and it’s a cornerstone of making your work yours.

But, at the same time, if you’re concerned about it at all, then . . .

. . . real talk: you’re already fine.

~~~

I just had to take a week to reminisce. If you enjoyed this post and you’d like to be notified when I post again, or–and this is super important–if you didn’t know it was called FOBU until this post, well, you can follow me (via the buttons to the left of the screen on PC or in the menu on the upper right on mobile) for more mind-blowing infolike that in the future.

I have no idea what I’m going to talk about next week, but with any luck, it’ll be the side project I’ve been working on since forever (that keeps getting pushed back with new hurdles different sites are making me jump through).

Regardless though, until next time, take care and stay safe.

By July, Everything Changed

I attended a vigil on June 5th.

It was for Breonna Taylor, on her birthday. In the constantly evolving insanity that is this year, I can’t post those pictures because the vigil turned into a march and all of my pictures show protesters’ faces. For all the time I was there, it was peaceful, but the last time I checked, totally peaceful protesters were still getting apprehended by unidentified “law enforcement,” because that’s what America is now.

America is police beating the innocent, shooting out eyes with rubber bullets.

America is Breonna Taylor’s killers still walking free.

And, real talk: if the fact that I attended protests offends you, you can fuck off now.

It was a strange feeling, being in those crowds, sending up those chants. It felt like the most meaningful thing I had ever done. At the time, it felt like maybe the world would change.

But then it didn’t. The optimist in me has to believe it will, but 2020 really trains you not to believe in anything.

In July, my job reopened. I want to say, “I believed they would provide us with appropriate Coronavirus protection,” but that isn’t true; I knew they would give us the bare minimum protection, which is exactly what they did. Imagine working a customer service job at an institution that panders directly to the worst Karens imaginable, only to have that institution place social distancing markers those Karens will stand on directly in front of your booth, not even 4 feet from you. Picture this while your job tells you, “If someone shows up without a mask, they can buy one.” “From who?” “From you.”

I went on strike. Tried to leverage it into getting better COVID-19 protocols. My resignation was accepted instead.

The weird thing is . . . it’s not nearly as upsetting as it should be.

Because the far more upsetting thing is the thought of still being there. I get emails from coworkers saying the mandatory masks rule isn’t being enforced anymore, and I feel like the lucky one.

I probably shouldn’t, but by July, everything changed.

Before then, I’d been so concerned with being fun. Being likable at work. Being ready with a joke at all times. I had genuinely cared about the opinions of people who never mattered, and I put my goals on hold for institutions that paid me pennies compared to their earnings. I spent hours and hours selling tickets, shelving books, standing behind cash registers, saying shit like, “Did you find everything you need?”

“Have you considered a membership?”

“I’m sorry to hear that, m’am. Would you like me to call a manager for you?”

Always coming home too tired to do anything . . .

. . . and then having one of those organizations just smile at me and say, “Well, we gotta reopen! You gotta get back out there! Cause we need to balance the budget for next year!”

No.

Just fucking no.

No and also why? Why did I waste so much time at those jobs?

I’ve had insanely marketable skills for over a decade, but I just stalled at “maintain entry level day job while struggling to write.”

That changed in July, when I refused to walk into a shit job and potentially kill myself for the rich assholes who run it.

When I realized that none of the things I was worried about before actually mattered. My coworkers’ attitudes, where I would be posted, how I could improve my membership numbers, how I could potentially land a promotion. None of that shit mattered more than my health, my happiness, and my dreams.

It is strange to say, but since leaving that job, I’ve been busier than I’ve ever been in my entire goddamn life, but, at the same time, every single day has gone by like lightning (it’s already 5:40pm and how do I stop this fucking clock–please tell me).

Here are the projects that I’m now working on, full time, on a given day:

1. Outlining a rewrite for Memory. This is not the usual thing where I say, “Ha! I’m planning it,” meaning I’m thinking about it at work, then coming home too tired and stressed out to actually start it. No, I’m two chapters from being done with the outline. It has been a struggle, but I pulled a got of motivation from a series of lectures by Brandon Sanderson that were third-eye opening (and if you’ve ever struggled with the process, here’s a link to the first video in the series on his YouTube channel).

2. Putting together digital products that I was inspired to make last year, when I designed a logo for a friend. I don’t want to say what the products are, but they combine my love of books, my graphic design chops from my Infinite Ammo days, and the weird, pattern-based art I used to do when I was younger. I will be talking about this more later in the month, but not until it’s ready.

3. Volunteering at a library, paginating the books they scanned and sent to the Biodiversity Heritage Lab. It feeds my bureaucratic side and I love it.

4. Working on my board game, the healing system for which I’ve just hammered down, meaning stats are finally set. Had to overhaul item drops, but I’m glad I didn’t overhaul them first, because it would have been totally pointless to overhaul that system without having stats totally figured out (because of course stats are going to drastically influence drops [which is to say, the game is 65% complete]).

5. Writing short stories, which is now nestled safely on the back burner. Why? Because I’m a novelist and always have been. Short stories are great and I learned a lot putting them together, but I wish I could take back some of the time I devoted to them. This is an extremely new outlook (even just last week, I was still considering spending a ton of time rewriting an older short story); real talk: I spent a few hours looking through a database of places to submit and realized . . . the pay is just so low. Probably not for other genres, but for Sci-Fi / Fantasy, we’re talking $20 for months or years of work. I just can’t do that anymore.

6. Writing posts on here, which I’m going to do weekly now, if only because planning a new direction for this blog and writing posts according to that plan will be a fun departure from the crazier deadlines / projects I’m working on (more on that soon).

7. Looking for other jobs and learning Spanish (it’s just way past time).

Obviously, the most pressing of those is creating my digital products. The goal is to make sustainable profit with them, and I know that’s a few months away, so I’m prioritizing it pretty hard, learning as much as I can about my process and creating the best storefront I can manage.

If I didn’t have to worry about money, however, writing would be first place for sure. The rewrite of Memory feels like the first real book I’ve ever written. I always knew about plot threads, but I never had a good process to keep track of them until I watched those Brandon Sanderson videos. He, thankfully, has a very similar approach to me in the types of stories he tells, so, after hearing him explain his process, I was able to fix my own. Real talk: I don’t think Memory is good enough to get published, but I’m using it as practice anyway, honing my process before moving on to The Hand and the Tempest, which is definitely my favorite project at this point. I spent two months worldbuilding for it earlier in the year and I’m just . . . in love with that world.

All of this is to say my life today is significantly different than it was in May, and it feels strange. I don’t know how things will turn out.

But I do know . . . that I can finally imagine a future for myself.

For the first time, I can imagine having my own place, what job I’ll be working while I’m there. I can picture actually getting published, like the tone of my life was tweaked ju-u-u-ust enough and now that conclusion fits.

I might still die. There’s still no vaccine for COVID-19, and the last time I got tested for it, I wasn’t infected but also didn’t have antibodies.

This “business” I’m putting together might also fall through. 

But it’s nice to have this moment.

It’s nice to believe when the whole world is telling me I shouldn’t.

2019 – One of the Worst & Most Important Years of My Life

I had . . . plans for this year.

Thinking back to January, I remember being bright-eyed with wonder and excitement about my creativity.

I don’t remember why.

I’m not saying I lost my love for writing this year. I just got hit by life so hard that I genuinely don’t remember why I was so peppy about my projects when the year started.

The goals were:

  1. Finish editing “Nurture Garden 5” and send it out.
  2. Write a short story for Warframe, a looter shooter MMO I used to play.
  3. Finish as much of The Hand and the Tempest as I could.
  4. Work on my board game idea.
  5. Work on other, smaller ideas I had.
  6. Post here more often.

I got two of those things done and had a really good start on the last one before everything fell completely to shit.

I had a medical emergency that turned out to be a false alarm. It consumed a few weeks of my life, which totally sucked, but it left me with a really positive outlook on the rest of the year. “Holy shit,” I thought. “I’m okay! Life is amazing and every day is a blessing!”

I had maybe a month of that–during which I put in a ton of work on that board game idea–before an extremely abusive (like, genuinely abusive) person came back into my life. In that scenario, which I’ve previously mentioned here, I had to move out of my home. My entire life became consumed by that singular goal so completely that even after I found a new place, I just remained in crisis mode. Like, now that I’d found a place, I had to make sure all of my stuff was secure. Once my stuff was secure, I had to save money. Once I saved money, I had to make genuine steps toward getting a better job. Once I started volunteering at a library’s conservation lab, I finally calmed down enough to start writing again.

So, basically, I moved in the summer, spent three months trying to get settled, and only then picked up a pen again.

I had lost all momentum on Hand and the Tempest. I’d already been struggling with it, but now it was like looking at a wall. The furthest I’ve gotten was realizing that I hated a lot of the new stuff and just needed to cut it out and start over (ya know–typical writer fun).

I actually finished that Warframe short story, but I was right-now-years-old when I remembered that I had. I mean, it’s nice that I did, but writing a short for an MMO, to post on a game dev’s forum, is the most 2018-Louis idea ever. Like, I only did a quick first draft one afternoon, but I . . . do not know what I expected to come of that. Not even sure the devs would’ve read it. Whatever. I’ll post it here at some point, just for kicks.

The only thing I finished was that heavy edit of “Nurture Garden 5,” which, submitted in April . . . still has not received a rejection or acceptance, even after a query. I’m giving it ’til Christmas. Googling “how do I withdraw a fiction submission?” will be my Christmas gift to myself.

Outside of that, I started hoarding ideas.

It wasn’t intentional; it stemmed from my desire to work on small ideas, number 5 on my 2019 to-do list. Oddly, it yielded good results (I actually finished two short stories by pursuing two of the best concepts I had), but the hoarding reflex also got crazy. Like, high-school-Louis levels of idea hoarding (back when I wrote notes about my “books” without actually writing them).

But that’s just how this year worked for some reason. Massive set backs paired with bunches of small victories; one of the above-mentioned shorts was “American Made,” which is probably the cleanest, strongest short story I’ve ever written, but the process that yielded it also totally destroyed my focus. I want to write everything now, which is amazing–it doesn’t escape me that I need to be grateful for that–but I keep jumping from project to project, unable to focus on the tone for any of them.

And that’s where I am now.

The Good: I’ve already submitted “American Made.” I finished another short story (that I’m currently doing way too much research for so I can properly theme it). I have other shorts in the works (an 80’s action movie parody and another dark Sci-Fi), and I’ve started a folder for all of my viable ideas.

The Bad: Every day is now a constant stream of my brain processing stimuli as “a good description for setting b in story a. Or no–wait; would it be better for the theme of story g? Or wait! An intro paragraph to character x’s neighborhood?”

It . . . can be . . . kind of overwhelming.

So resetting–figuring out how to hunker down and work on the one project–is my resolution for 2020.

Maybe I’ll find that I won’t be able to. If that’s the case, then figuring out how to work on a ton of projects at once is my resolution for 2020.

And with that, I’m going to take a break from posting until January.

To everyone here, thank you for stopping by. It’s been a strange year for me, and 2020, for better or worse, is already set to be a rollercoaster.

Here’s to hoping it ends well.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Anime Logic – A Warning

A kid arrives at the top of a mountain to take an exam.

Not a pencil and paper exam, of course, cause this is anime.

No, our protagonist is taking an    [insert made-up anime profession here]    exam. Ninja? Hunter? Pokemon Master? Doesn’t matter.

All that matters: it’s an exam designed to be harder than any other exam ever. Cause, of course it is.

Without a doubt, there will be a physical portion to the exam. It’s going to be ridiculous, but that’s fine; it’s anime, so you have to expect the kid to pass the test by roundhouse kicking a crab monster into the stratosphere. Sure.

However . . . there’s also going to be a mental side of the exam–some kind of insane logic problem–and that’s where things get dicey. Not for the general public–there’s no danger in most people enjoying it.

But for writers . . . eh. We can be extremely impressionable when we’re young. I’m sure there’s the odd writer out there who wasn’t, but most of us decide we want to write and then spend years aping our favorite stories and writers–the beginnings of developing our own voices. Not a bad thing . . .

. . . unless our favorite stories and writers employee really, really bad writing habits that we pick up from them. Habits that ruin our writing for years.

Habits . . . like writing a mental test for a young boy’s Spelunker Exam (it’s probably been done) and filling it with as much completely backwards, nonsense anime logic as you can because . . . you grew up with anime logic and genuinely think it’s cool.

I’m not here to roast you. I’m just here to warn you.

What is anime logic and why shouldn’t anyone write it ever?

To break it down as simply as I can, anime logic is the Rule of Cool applied to human rationale.

The Rule of Cool, if you’re not familiar, is the rule dictating that any elements of a story (characters, settings, etc.) need to be cool first and foremost.

When the Rule of Cool is applied to anime action, it’s absolutely ridiculous, but enjoyable to watch for a lot of people.

But when the Rule of Cool is applied to logic . . . it’s hell.

Example: Two protagonists are in a killer’s dungeon. The killer has sent them through a series of rooms that test different abilities, like strength, speed, endurance. Now, they’re up to the intelligence test, which is a man holding up a piece of paper. The challenge: they have to predict what’s written on the side of the paper that they can’t see.

Whoa-a-a-a-a-a. There’s no fucking way they could ever do that.

The characters spend an entire episode fretting to each other (and in internal monologue) about what’s on the far side of that piece of paper. There’s a bunch of anime gasping when they realize there’s no mirror on the back wall, that the paper is totally opaque, and that, even if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be enough light in the dungeon to see through it anyway.

Maybe you think, “Literally just run up to the fucking guy, take the piece of paper, and read it. Who fucking cares? This is a stupid test.”

But, ah-ha! The writer thought of that too! And pretty much at the same moment in this scene that you thought of it, because now the killer is on the loud speaker saying, “And don’t even think about running up and taking that piece of paper, because,” and you can almost hear the writer stammering, “uh, because there’s a fucking bomb on this guy’s back! Ha! If you move even an inch closer, it’ll set off the detonator!”

And, maybe now you think, “The paper’s blank. It doesn’t say anything on the back of it, and there’s no bomb.” It probably popped into your mind super lazily.

But, if it’s a really bad anime, the same solution will have occurred to the writer–again, at the same time it occurred to you–only the writer thought it was the coolest, most genius thing ever, and they’re going with it.

Now the writer’s concern is getting the characters to figure it out. Only the writer is convinced that the paper being blank is genius-level logic that a normal person couldn’t possibly fathom, so you get a monologue like this:

“There can’t possibly be anything on the other side of the piece of paper, because the killer knows that there’s absolutely no way for us to see it. The killer just wants to make us afraid, because, when people experience fear, they make random choices. Fight or flight dictates that we scramble to escape a dangerous situation, but if we master our fear, and calmly assess our surroundings, then we’re able to think outside of the box. To see the game the way he sees it. To understand that he just wants us to think we can’t win . . . Isn’t that right?”

And, of-fucking-course, the loud speaker crackles on. “Hmph. How very astute of you,” the killer says, cause the writer is either totally gassed about this genius puzzle he made, or he/she is literally trying to tell you, “Wow. That character is smart,” or, “That puzzle really did make sense.” Characters say shit like that all the time in anime; I watched the anime where one character’s accidental catchphrase was, “That makes sense,” because he was the brainy character and the writer used him to sell faulty logic constantly.

I mean, you literally just described an anime scene. Seriously, what was wrong with it?

Man, so many things.

First, the logic is completely backwards. The writer sat down with the intent to write a cool, impossible puzzle without considering what its solution would be, or even why the killer would present this puzzle. The solution came after, and, just like the puzzle, the solution also had to be really cool. With cool puzzle and cool solution in hand, the writer then had to retrofit everyone’s logic–and parts of the situation itself–to work with what was already there.

It is . . . the worst way to write a human logic puzzle, because human logic is not involved at all.

Second, as often happens with anime logic, the bullshit solution is 100% interchangeable with other bullshit solutions.

“There’s nothing written on the back of the paper . . . because there’s a drawing on it. When I was studying this killer’s file, I read that he used to make drawings in the psychiatric ward–one for every one of his victims.” I mean, sure. “It stands to reason that for this test, when he was so sure we’d fail, he’d kill us . . . with a drawing of our own. Isn’t that right?”

“Hmph. How very astute of you.”

Or . . .

“There’s . . . the number 43. Back when I was in a mental institution with the killer,” ?, “all of the inmates wore numbered straight jackets.” And, because it’s anime, “Those numbers were a warning of how dangerous each inmate was. Our killer . . . was number 99.” This anime is probably called BloodGeiss:99, btw. “It was a badge of honor for him, and he used to lord it over the rest of us. Used to call me number 43 to taunt me, but blah blah blah, I wanted to become the very best Killer Hunter, blah blah, he’s taunting us, blah blah, you get it.”

And, just to clarify here, the problem isn’t that the solution is unpredictable. Again, it’s that the puzzle makes so little sense, and was crafted with so little consideration for the logic behind it, that its solution is completely interchangeable with other solutions. Which means . . .

Third, it has nothing to do with the person presenting the logic test. I wrote up that puzzle and its three potential solutions in ten minutes. It was so easy because, from the start, it had nothing to do with the killer’s character beyond some surface-level, tag-number bullshit; with bad anime logic, the puzzle-provider’s character is never, ever the starting point. The Rule of Cool always dictates that the starting point is “What would be really cool here?”

Fourth, that makes it . . . completely pointless to engage with anime logic puzzles, because they ultimately mean and say nothing. They often are, at best, a way to extend a plot as easily as possible.

But, fifth–and most important, by far–anime logic is bad, because, if you use it in your manuscript . . . there’s a really good chance it’s just going to make you look like an idiot to other writers, agents, and editors. Again, it’s fine to enjoy anime logic if you aren’t a writer.

But, if you are, anime logic is a fucking death sentence. It’s embarrassing, it cheapens your work, and it’s going to make you look lazy and pompous at the same time.

Wow. Someone just vented.

Yeah. No kidding. I’ll totally own that. I just really hate this writing habit. I hate a lot of them, but I was just sick for four days straight, stuck inside with anime logic for hours.

Actually, let me explain–and get out of the frame of some bullshit dungeon puzzle scene I made up.

Hunter X Hunter is terrible. I usually don’t call out a specific writer or piece of media on here anymore, but while I was sick, I decided to give it a watch because a friend recommended it months ago.

And I absolutely despise that show, because it is almost exclusively anime logic mindfucks so pointless that, after binging a few episodes, nothing mattered anymore.

The Show: The protagonists have to run really far because a butler with no mouth told them to, but it’s actually a really smart test, cause, like, how far they gotta run though?

Me: Uh . . . Whatever. Continue.

Show: Omfg, dude, how they gonna get down from this tower?

Me: I dunno. Run down?

Show: There’re man-eating demon babies though.

Me: Oh, for fuck’s–I don’t know. Catch one of the babies?

Show: There’s a trap door.

Me: Wha–That’s the laziest . . . Whatever. Fucking–I don’t care. Good.

Show: Oh shit. There’s a scary Frankenstein-man they gotta fight.

Me: Aren’t they all ridiculously strong except for the comic relief? Why is this even a–

Show: Frankenstein-man ain’t strong though–he lyin’.

Me: I– . . . Oh my God! Holy shit, dude, I don’t care!

Show: Oh shit though; here comes a man with candles. Should the protagonist take the long one, or the short–

Me: AHHH!! Just . . . Why are you so determined to gotcha me with total fucking nonsense!? Why is this exam so goddamn long!? just want to see what the writer does after it’s done! Wait–the entire first season is the exam? Well then, how many episodes are there in this seas–52!?

. . . Yeah, I completely gave up on Hunter X Hunter about two hours ago. I started this post two days ago though, after I started watching it, because I could not get over the thought that there’s a writer out there who grew up on a show like this. A writer . . . who still hasn’t shaken anime logic.

That idea made me really, really upset, because I grew up on video games and wasted . . . –ugh, I just did the math–I wasted . . . eleven years drafting and redrafting a novel that was so heavily steeped in stupid video game ideas that I didn’t pay attention to the emotional heart of the story at all. The novel, War of Exiles (which even sounds like the title of a bad mobile game), said nothing. It made no arguments, presented no emotional challenges to the characters, the reader, or anyone else, because I didn’t think about any of that; I didn’t even consider that it could say or do something important, cause all I cared about was making my characters look cool.

I’m not saying that making your characters look cool is bad–I’m not even saying that the Rule of Cool is bad (the entire anime genre is built around it, and there’s some anime that I absolutely love.) However, I’m pretty confident in saying that when logic takes center stage in anime . . . it is almost always bad.

And when that anime logic appears in other places, it’s worse. I’ve read another writer’s work that was full of anime logic. I’ve even seen it in published works; my favorite example was from a horrible Romance novel, in which the protagonist avoided being kidnapped in a store . . . by stabbing herself with her kidnapper’s knife, to which the kidnapper said, “Hmph. Pretty clever,” cause of course.

I am not a pro by any means. I’ve only been published once, and I’m neither an agent nor an editor. I am on the same level as any aspiring writer out there.

But, as a writer, I know that the most valuable thing any of us can get is honest feedback.

And I’m telling you, with absolute honesty, that if you’ve used anime logic in anything you’ve written, getting rid of it–replacing it with genuine, human, character-motivated logic–will only make your work stronger.

~~~

Thanks for reading this absolute rant.

I’m currently trying to work my way out of the end-of-year funk I always fall into (starts in October and runs all the way to the start of the new year).

I’m in a strange position where I have a ton of projects I’m working on at the same time, meaning none of them are progressing quickly enough. On one hand, I’m grateful to have so many ideas that I feel deserve attention, but on the other, I’m massively stressed out about how slowly things are moving.

Contributing to that is the fact that I sent out one story in April and the magazine I sent it to still has not replied about it, even after I queried them two months ago, and they answered saying I would get a verdict “very soon.” I mean, you know things are bad when you’re genuinely like, “A rejection would be nice right now.”

Anyway, as always, thank you for passing by. If you like what you read here, feel free to give me a follow. I always want to post more frequently on here, but I’m a single man in his late 30’s who currently has two jobs, 8 WIP’s, and a board game he’s juggling; I’ll be completely honest this time and say I probably won’t be posting here again for another month or two.

And that’s why I extra appreciate everyone who sticks around. Thank you guys for the continued support! I hope you have a good holiday season, and, until next time, take care!

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . We Have Fan Art

This is going to be a short one.

But an extremely essential one.

A month or so ago, a friend of a friend asked to read “Aixa the Hexcaster.” It’s a request I get pretty rarely, and I understand why: nothing is worse for a non-writer than reading a writer’s work, finding out that it’s terrible, and having no idea how to tell them that.

So, when this friend of a friend texted me–pulling my number from the group chain we’d both been a part of during trips to PAX–I was surprised. The last time we’d hung out (during the previously-mentioned XenoPAX), we’d chatted over the massive set he’d made for Frostgrave, and laughed at a genuinely chaotic game of Gaslands, but that had all been in March.

Still, cool. Always nice to be asked, so I sent over a link.

About a month later, he wrote back and said that he really enjoyed it–that the mythics reminded him of monsters from Kingdom Death, which is an incredible compliment if you’ve ever seen the miniatures from that game (they’re often weird, sometimes beautiful, but always amazing).

He also asked if I had plans for more, expressed excitement for what he’d want to see . . .

. . . and dropped this on me:

FullSizeR

This . . . is . . . the unnamed asphalt mythic from “Aixa the Hexcaster,” rendered by Jesse Smolover, whose work can be found at his site, JesseDraws. And, although Jesse is a friend, this is still technically the first piece of fan art I’ve ever gotten.

I cannot express how badly I freaked out when I saw this. This was not a commission; I didn’t even joke about him doing art for the story, because he’s a professional artist and I never even considered being coy about the value of his time. Still, this man, who probably has a ton of other projects he’s working on, made this piece because, in his words, my story inspired it.

I can’t put into words how grateful I was to hear that. Every little bit of encouragement counts, and this is a whole other, totally new level of it for me.

To paint a picture of how badly I freaked out:

  1. This is the wallpaper for my phone.
  2. This is the lock screen for my phone.
  3. Now that it’s on my computer, it’s probably going to be the wallpaper for my computer.
  4. When I first downloaded it, my phone asked me if I wanted to replace it with an image of the same name . . . meaning I had already downloaded it, out of sheer, lightning-fast reflex, and didn’t remember. I still saved it again, just to be sure.
  5. I have told almost everyone about it–even people who didn’t know I’m a writer and clearly didn’t understand how big of a deal it was for me.
  6. And, of course, I have been writing like an absolute mad man lately.

Finished a new short story and submitted it. Also building a plot for another short story, while doing essential research to finish up a third.

And, of course, I’m working out a plot for more “Aixa.” I always intended to, but it was always on the back burner, behind other, huge novels that I keep struggling with. The plan now: write a novella for “Aixa.” It’s going to take a while because that world is really important to me (part of the fear has always been fucking it up), but the challenge of doing something that’s consistently resonant–a story that can’t survive without really strong, complicated emotions–wound up feeling essential to my writing. Why would I shy away from a really intense, emotional story . . . when that’s what I should always be writing?

Anyway, thank you for stopping by and joining me for this insanely uplifting landmark in my writing career. I’ll try to be a little more consistent with updates, maybe working them into the new schedule.

But, regardless, until next time, take care and write well.

The Bailey Vow

Status Update: I have successfully moved.

I’m still settling into my new home–trying, as I’ve been advised, to slow down and celebrate victories.

But also trying to settle back into being productive. The Movepocalypse sidelined all of my creative endeavors for over a month.

Well . . . except for this one post, which felt so important that I started it on July 15th. I’ve followed through and published it here because, for me, this marked an important evolution in my priorities as a writer of color. If I did not publish this, and take the ensuing vow on this site, I’d be doing my platform a massive disservice.

So, please enjoy what I’ve come to call “the Bailey Vow.”

~~~

A weird thing happened last week.

While packing, I decided to put on Deadpool 2, a movie that happened to be on Hulu–the last hurrah of an HBO subscription I bought for Game of Thrones and would never, ever renew.  The goal was “something I feel I should watch, but don’t actually need to pay attention to.” Essentially, voices in the background while I packed.

I came away from that movie with a few thoughts:

  1. Wait–Josh Brolin was Thanos and Cable?
  2. Deadpool can be funny, but when he dips into Family Guy-esque celebrity humor, he isn’t, at all.
  3. And, most importantly: wow, I love Zazie Beetz’ Domino.

They didn’t give her any development (because of course they didn’t), but she is an extremely fun imagining of a character I didn’t care about at all in the comics.

Deadpool 2-Domino just looks great. The FoX-Men movies often interpret characters to look way worse than their comic counterparts, but Domino is actually the opposite; she doesn’t look anything like her comic counterpart, but her big hair and simpler, less comic booky outfit pair really well with her character. When Domino is falling out of a moving truck but sees a giant parade float under her, she just turns her back, putting her arms behind her head, lounging, mid-air, through the wreckage and landing without a scratch; and, seeing that, we know exactly who she is–the chill, carefree vibe she puts out–and it’s awesome.

“Let me hop onto Twitter and talk about that,” I thought to myself.

And, well . . . Cue that infamous part of “Requiem in D Minor.”

“The little mermaid was written as white, was white in the film, is based in Denmark and based on a European fairytale, but is cast as black . . . How is this not racist and cultural appropriation?”

“Ariel must be a cute girl with white skin and red hair singing sweet and crisp!!”

“Ariel must be white because she is a white girl and that’s it . . .”

“Disney, you made a huge mistake by hiring Halle Bailey . . .”

“. . . This is going in the TRASH.”

Wow. Especially that second quote. She must be “singing sweet and crisp”? . . . What the fuck? It’s like a soda ad became sentient and took racism for a spin on Twitter.

For me, the “black Ariel” conversation continued immediately the next day at work.

With a Hispanic coworker. This happens sometimes, of course; a coworker who’s a fellow minority will out themselves as a fan of Ben Shapiro, or maybe an accidental supporter of the continued, often racist casting standards of Hollywood. Among the points made were . . .

  1. So, what? Is Poseidon gonna be black now?
    My Answer: Holy shit–that would be rad. I didn’t even think of that.
  2. It’s a Swedish fairy tale!
    My Answer: Keywords: fairy tale.
  3. I’d sooner believe a mermaid would be pale-skinned.
    My Answer: I’d sooner believe a mermaid had green skin, giant gills, and an unhinging jaw, actually.
  4. What if Black Panther had been White Panther instead?
    Answer: So, you mean what if Black Panther had been like every other goddamn film in the franchise?

We went back and forth for a while, my coworker making unreasonable points, me thinking, “Why . . . the fuck am I even having this debate? With a fellow Latino, no less.” Why this instead of both of us talking about how cool it is and musing, “Wow. Maybe someday, we’ll finally get a Hispanic Disney Princess”?

Instead, I was enduring the same arguments from Twitter, winding down with the same major point I’d seen on there: “Why don’t they just make a new movie with a new black main character?”

The thing is . . . I don’t completely disagree with that idea.

As I’ve said before in previous articles about All New Marvel’s weird penchant for swapping out white characters with ethnic characters and boys with girls, I don’t actually think that’s the best move for diversity (with the exception of Miles and Carol, who are genuinely just killin’ it). Sure, at this point, replacing white characters with minority characters is the best we can really hope for . . .

. . . but what would be far superior . . . is a bunch of new stories headlined by minorities. Stories like Brian Michael Bendis’ Naomi. Naomi is an amazing title because the title isn’t “Iron Man,” or “Thor” (and, of course, in the eyes of the rabid, sexist and racist masses, “Black Iron Man” or “Female Thor)–it’s just fucking Naomi. No argument, no bullshit, no looming shadow of a white predecessor.

But, to that coworker, I said, “Well, dude, no shit it would be better to have a new movie about black merpeople. But Hollywood would never do that. And people don’t–“

And I know I kept talking, but I don’t remember exactly what I said.

I had been saying, “And people don’t write their best stories with ethnic characters, because they’re usually afraid to.

“Because everyone’s been told, time and time again, that IP’s with ethnic characters won’t sell, which is bullshit.”

To which I asked myself, “Then why the fuck is Kole Buchanon white?”

Since seeing The Force Awakens, I’d imagined the protagonist of one of my own novels, Kole Buchanon, as John Boyega, but I’d never actually gone back and changed his original description–a vague set of visual guidelines that allowed readers to infer whatever skin color they wanted for the character. After all, I didn’t want to upset anyone–I wanted everyone to feel welcome. And, sure, I still do . . .

. . . but, as I said on Twitter, the reaction to Halle Bailey, like the reaction to Amandla Stenberg’s Rue before it, has made it clear that we don’t live in a world where that’s possible.

I can make my characters as welcoming to all races as I want, only for society to assume their whiteness and Hollywood to bolster that assumption, while I ultimately stand up for no one.

Or . . . I can make every single one of my protagonists a minority. Not a careful handful. Not one or two, experimentally.

All of them.

So, here, now, I’m taking what I call the Bailey Vow, so named because I don’t want to live in a world where this insane, racist reaction to Halle Bailey being cast as a mermaid, ever happens again.

I don’t claim that everyone should take this vow; I’m not trying to overturn all of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and get rid of all white protagonists, because that would be bad too. But I do want to contribute to a world where protagonists being brown is no big deal. As a brown man writing for a predominately white genre, I have to contribute to that effort.

Thus, my vow:

  1. To always write stories where the protagonists are minorities.
  2. However–eternally inb4 the white-blind raging that’s sure to come if I’m successful–these stories will not always focus on the protagonist being a minority.
  3. I will always go out of my way to make it undeniably clear that my protagonists are minorities. We’re talking full descriptions of skin color, hair texture, etc., so that no one in their right mind could ever utter the words, “He / She was black / brown / Asian / etc.!?”
  4. Finally, I will always keep the film rights to all of my projects, so if any of my work ever gets optioned by a studio, I can make sure my characters are never white-washed.

It may never matter that I took this vow here; I may never be so successful of  a writer that this makes any difference.

But I took it regardless.

Now I just have to add “Redo Kole Buchanon descriptions” to my To-Do list on the Memory rewrite.

~~~

And, of course, I need to get back on the other projects I’ve been neglecting, now all backed by the Bailey Vow, which makes them more exciting–as if this is the mindset with which I always should’ve approached my projects (because it is).

Thank you for reading, and, if you’d like to be here the next time I decide to post something wildly polarizing, you can subscribe with the button on the left hand side of the screen.

Until then, take care, and write well.

Remembering

I don’t do well without distractions.

At this point in my life, being in a quiet room, without anything to do, ends horribly for me. Like characters in some of my older stories (vehicles for me to express the phenomenon), I start thinking of the many, many things that are going wrong in my life. Projects that aren’t finished, relationships that ended poorly, mistakes I’ve made. Anything that pulls me down into the silent, tight hole of depression.

It was happening at work the other day, because last week was especially bad for me; the news that an emotionally abusive and physically violent person from my past was–surprise!–living in my apartment again did wonders for my sense of dread, even before the difficulty of finding a legitimate apartment or room settled in. So, sitting at work, unable to focus on anything creative, the progression went something like this:

It’s going to take forever to find a decent room.

I’d be able to find one faster if I had a better job, but just getting an interview seems impossible.

I could get back to working on fonts, but that probably wouldn’t yield big gains.

And, besides, I can’t even focus on creative projects.

What if I’ll never be able to again?

What if I just die without being able to finish anything again?

What if “Aixa the Hexcaster” is the only story that I ever get published, because [and I can’t stress how honest and legitimate this fear is] I get murdered in my sleep?

At that point, I realized I needed any distraction whatsoever, because, for me, depression is always at its most debilitating when I fall into the pit of “I’m going to die.” I can keep myself from falling into it–settle back into a place where I’m just trying to be productive–but if I get stuck, I’ll be stuck for hours. And, of course I would, because, contrary to the word “sadness” being used interchangeably with “depression,” depression is a very different beast. Getting stuck and losing time is part of what that beast actually is.

For whatever reason–maybe because I just couldn’t think beyond the fears–I decided to pull up Google on the work computer. I fully expected it to be blocked, but I blindly typed in “Aixa the Hexcaster” anyway. I think I was trying to get to a review I’d seen on a message board: just one line talking about how, out of all the stories released in that Autumn’s issue of Mirror Dance, “Aixa” was their favorite.

But I was on image search, somehow–maybe an idle click while I was trying to stop thinking about depressing things.

I wound up pausing though–blinking. “Aixa the Hexcaster” is a pretty unique name, I’ve discovered, so if you google it, the top results are always the story itself, me talking about it, or images relating to it.

So, it was surprising when this popped up:

anime-paradise-anime-world-of-books

The very first thing I noted, for my own benefit, was that this was not fan art. I glanced at it, and in that first heartbeat, I made sure the first thing I admitted to myself was, “No, seriously, it’s impossible that this is fan art. Like, calm down. That’s not real–you ain’t there yet.” The woman in this picture? Clearly not Aixa Silva.

But what was it then? I followed through, clicking on “View Page,” hoping the resulting site wouldn’t be blocked by IT (‘Seriously, I never browse–just this once, IT, be cool’).

I found a post on the blog of Michael Matheson, a writer, editor, and reviewer. The post was a reading list they’d put together for 2016.

The list was a monster–Michael had put in a ton of time, even listing comics they’d enjoyed.

But, still, the same self-checking reflex that made me realize the feature image wasn’t fan art told me that this page must’ve been linked in error. To make sure, I hit Ctrl + F, typed in “Aixa,” hit Enter.

The page jumped down to “2016 Recommendations (Short Form)”:

  • Louis Santiago – Aixa the Hexcaster (Mirror Dance, Fall 2016) – Writer’s first publication. Still somewhat raw, as one would expect from a first sale, but Santiago’s a writer to watch.

The screen blurred. I only barely managed not to cry, but the effort meant I just sat there for a moment, looking at those words.

The gratitude I feel for those two sentences–seen at such a terrible, terrible time in my life–cannot be expressed. I cannot overstate how much it mattered for me–how much it still matters. It suddenly clicked again that, “Hey, man, you finished another story that you feel good about, and you’ve already started submitting it.”

“Yo, you almost finished the rule set for your own game; it’s almost ready to be tested.”

“Dude, you come up with new fonts really quickly. And, like, yeah, there’s still no way to tell if that will be profitable at all, in any way, but, hey, it’s still something you’re awesome at.”

I was getting somewhere. It was taking forever, and it always would, but progress was still being made. Ground was still being gained.

At the best of times, you barely even notice that kind of progress.

At the worst of times, remembering it can save your life.

~~~

I need to sincerely thank Michael Matheson for single-handedly pulling me out of a really bad place a few days ago–for helping me keep going. Michael, even if you never see this, or maybe if you see it three years from now, thank you so much.

To everyone here, thank you too. I have always appreciated everyone who stops in to read this blog. Creators say this kind of thing all the time, but, genuinely, without the support, I would not be able to justify doing any of the things I love doing, and I don’t even want to know where I would be if that was the case.

As a quick update, I have been delving into two other modes of creativity:

  • Game design, which is something I’ve always kicked around, but only recently got serious about. After a weekend of board gaming, which my friends and I called XenoPAX, I suddenly understood how to make sense of an old, problematic rule set I cooked up. Since then, I’ve been working out its kinks to make a functional game, and I’m surprisingly close to getting it into game-testing shape.
  • Font design. Long story short: a friend started a video production firm, which resulted in me dusting off graphic design skills I haven’t used since my Infinite Ammo days. I made a few logos for him, which required a custom font, and that led to the strange realization that font design just inherently makes sense to me. It’s slow going, but the goal is to use some extra time here and there to put together fonts I can sell on fontspring.

Writing-wise, I keep working on new ideas for shorts, looking for new places to publish them. I’m also getting started on rewriting an older novel. It means putting a newer one on hiatus, but I honestly haven’t done enough worldbuilding for the new one anyway, so that hiatus was happening regardless.

All of that said, I have to get back to packing and looking for apartments. Thank you again for passing by.

And, as always, write well.