A Brand New… Vamlemtime’s Day Tribute to Baelbericht, the “War of Exiles” Character Who Got Away

If there’s one thing I love to do on this blog, it’s say one thing and be all, ” ‘S fuckin’ right, dude. S’a way to do it!” but then totally come from the other hand with, “<sigh>… Yeah… That’s the… way to do it. *sniff*”

So, hey, I thought I’d do some of the latter to celebrate this Valentine’s Day. And, ya know, maybe talk about writing at the same time—maybe stumble upon some kind of meaningful, important concept… maybe.

But, really, the learning—the important concept—shit’s not important. What’s important is paying tribute to a character who, I realized earlier today, totally did not make it to the rewrite of War of Exiles. Ladies and gentlemen, this post is for my friend…

<3 Baelbericht <3

So last year, Week 13 of Brand New Day, I wrote a post that was all about how I’d deleted a character. That was Ozi, who I’d called “the Laughing Ghost.” Still love that guy, still totally going to use him somewhere else (and I’m really excited for that), but this isn’t about him. In that post, I talked about how great and important it was to delete a character and chapter that were just not working with the rest of the plot. That’s still a good and healthy thing to do because a lot of aspiring fantasy writers (and I’ve totally been guilty of this) tend to add way too many ideas to one world or plot. The result?

Well, think of it like cooking; you’re trying to make your first dish the very best dish ever, which isn’t the worst idea, only you try to do it by adding in everything that sounds delicious… which is, like, everything in the cupboards. There’s already a jalapeno in there (intrigue?), but fuck it—empty the jar. Chocolate (romance) is awesome, so I’m going to throw that in there! Wait! Lemons (Jar Jar Binks)!? Going in! That last one was a joke, but the point’s gotta be clear; whether or not these elements are good or bad, they can’t all work jammed together with no rhyme or reason. Even a trained chef can’t make every single awesome element work in the same composition (i.e. why Dinosaurs aren’t in Game of Thrones). The discerning writer knows this and it’s ultimately why deleted scenes / characters / chapters happen.

But sometimes, deleted scenes are awesome and that’s what this post is (supposed to be) about.

Baelbericht was an awesome character who I really loved. He was a barbarian (they aren’t called that in my story, but I don’t want to get into the mess of naming analogue races [or, ya know, the mess of analogue races] right now, so I’ll just say barbarian). He had an awesome weapon that was so cool I’m not even going to talk about it. I will say that his shoulder guards were bear skulls (only the skulls were faced inward, so that it looked like he’d shoved his arms down their throats)… Not really sure how that armor worked out visually, but it was a cool, smaller detail on a character I liked a bunch.

Of course, the thing is though, I totally didn’t remember he wasn’t in the book, which says a lot about my capability to love things, right? But months ago, I’d planned out exactly how and when he would make his appearance in the rewrite.

It just didn’t happen.

So am I going to go back and write him in? Well, of course not. That’d be ridiculous and although I’m on a really awesome writing schedule right now, I don’t have time for bullshit like adding a character into chapter six and editing back up to twelve.

And really… Looking back at this character who I’d thought was so damn awesome, at this point, is like looking back at another time in my life. It’s perhaps, the same reason why I took out Ozi; I’m different now in the same way that the rewrite is different. Two years ago, War of Exiles was something else. Something I enjoyed at the time, but something that was, ultimately supposed to be a really quick project written by someone who definitely hadn’t read enough fantasy or tried to do anything more than create analog races (in a written story, at least [the series I started planning back in high school had a bunch of original races that I often go back and tinker with]).

When it came down to it though, the me I am now, nearly at the end of this extremely weird time in my life, just didn’t remember Baelbericht. Somewhere between figuring out (and always [always] writing down) exactly how my characters feel and just which twists are / should be hinted at in a scene, I’d completely forgotten to put in the generic dude with the crazy bear armor and the wicked cool weapon. And the plot (sorry, Bael) totally forgot as well. Because it isn’t a plot about giant warrior dudes battling zombies with their electric guitars (I swear that never happened in the first draft); it’s a plot about emotional people with real problems, thrown into a terrifying situation and trying to get out of it (add a bit of jalapeno).

So what’s my point here? How is this even a Valentine’s Day post? What does it have to do with anything?

Well, a major part of love is letting go, right? Whether it’s letting go of insecurities so you can trust someone or letting go of the one who got away so you can find someone else, goodbyes are essential for love.

So I thought it was appropriate I say goodbye to Baelbericht tonight.

I know I’ll see him again somewhere down the line, and I know that when I do, it’ll be awesome and he’ll be a real character. But for me, it’s just one of those Valentine’s Days that’s all about letting go.

Brand New Day – Week 15 – You Don’t Look Back

I was sitting at an old friend’s house. She (let’s call her Claire), like a lot of other friends, moved abroad last year, but she stopped by for the holidays to see family and friends.

So I was glad to get an invite from her; not to be dramatic, but via a bunch of different events, I lost nearly all of my social ties last year. I’m glad that very few of them were seriously bad breaks, but it’s still hard to have your entire social network disappear in the course of a few months. In a way, it’s easier to deal with someone who up and stops calling. Or someone who suddenly decides that they don’t want to hear from you anymore—at least at those times, you can be sure (if it’s true) that they’re the assholes in the situation. Having your best friends all move abroad though? Seeing a lot of them get engaged and move out of the state? Having some move across the country? Or into a new job that demands all of their time? And all at the same time while you try to break ground on an endeavor that requires you to be completely alone nearly all of the time? Somehow, it’s worse. You can text, you can meet them online, but that’s it.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. So, I’m sitting there, and I’m glad to be there. But it’s a surreal experience. Claire’s little sister is there, who had been a little kid the last time I’d seen her. But she was a teen now, complete with Uggs and a smart phone she never put down.

To boot, another of Claire’s friends was there. I introduced myself to her and Claire jumped in with, “Don’t you guys know each other?”

And then I realized we did. We’d met…

Back in 2002? Downstairs, in Claire’s basement, where we and other friends at the time were playing D&D. This friend (let’s call her… Megan?) came over for some reason, and for a reason that I didn’t understand at the time, Claire invited her in to watch us play D&D. Now, adding fuel to the obvious, raging awkwardness of the moment, Megan was (and still is) extremely attractive. So much so that my reaction at the time was to stop talking. No, people, I was not, in any way, a lady’s man. These days, I definitely get by, but I’d still be extremely uncomfortable starting a conversation with a beautiful woman who walks in during a D&D session. I’d like to think most people would be, because, hey, aside from being caught murdering someone, I’m not sure there’s less of a turnoff than being behind a 3.5 Player’s Handbook and a pile of dice when a woman first meets you.

But, hey, whatever, I thought. That was ages ago, and rightly so, because it was.

And that’s just the thing. It was ages ago. Everything is now.

More than any other time in my life, the past few months have been the most extreme hard reset I’ve ever experienced.

  • I’d say 80% of my best friends moved far enough away that I couldn’t just hop on a train and see them.
  • Of the remaining 20%, I’ve only been able to stay in touch with about 15% (that’s the thing about having exes you’re still attracted to as friends [especially at a time when you’re always depressed about being alone and every else has moved on]).
  • I lost my job because Borders went out of business. So not only did I lose all of the acquaintances and social interaction that came with that job, I lost a stable source of income I could’ve used to have new social interactions.
  • And every single chance at romance that I thought I had quietly went away.

So all that’s left me with are the occasional hangouts with the extremely amazing 15% of my close friends who are still left (I can’t thank you guys enough), and… me.

Maybe I shouldn’t complain. Having this time alone has allowed me to take a serious, honest look at myself and my life—to change things that needed to change and figure out what I wanted from everything. And I’ve done so well enough that when Megan eventually brought up her engagement at Claire’s house, I smiled and congratulated her (perhaps moreso because a younger, shittier version of myself would’ve been jealous about it).

But it’s the only reward in a sea of silence and temperance. I had dinner with Claire, Megan, her mother and sister, and I smiled and listened to them talk about their lives, grateful that there weren’t questions about my own, aware the whole time that I’d be leaving soon to ride a bus back home—a trip I hadn’t made in years. Aware the entire time that everyone else was moving on and I wasn’t. Trying to reap confidence from the thought of the book, how well it was going, how I was still on schedule.

I gave Claire a goodbye huge around 9 PM. She had to get up early to catch a plane back to Florida. I don’t remember the exact farewell I gave her, but I remember walking away.

Away from the memory of the summer job where I’d met Claire. Of parties we’d gone to and experiences we’d shared as buddies with her other friends. Of my other friends, completely unrelated, and the days when I’d always had a set hangout day with them. Of old jobs and old acquaintances who were simply gone now. Of hands I would never hold again and the almost unfamiliar curve of long gone lips.

I didn’t look back. Because you don’t look back at things you know won’t ever return. You just walk on and try your best. Keep on the unfamiliar trail, no matter how difficult it is, and hope that you find something worthwhile at its end.

Brand New Day – Week 13 – Things Unsaid

Last night, I decided to delete a chapter and a new character from the book.

Don’t freak out! Doing this hasn’t set me back at all. To the contrary, getting rid of an entire chapter and a new character who wasn’t exactly helping is incredibly healthy. Particularly for a first time writer who intends to submit to agents with strict guidelines for manuscript length; part of the reason I’m rewriting War of Exiles in the first place is that the original version was over 100 pages too long.

That wasn’t the entire problem though; it was too long and there were so many unnecessary plot points that I didn’t know what to delete and what to leave in. It was like looking at a tower of bricks loosely stacked on a tangle of wooden chairs and being told that you had to pull out half the bricks and chairs without bringing down the tower. In contrast, deleting Chapter 4 when I’m only up to Chapter 7? Getting rid of Ozi entirely? Saving him for a short story? Completely worth it.

In retrospect, the inability to make this kind of cut is what left me with a 461 page, bricks-and-chairs-golem of a first novel. And to me, it’s one of the things that separates an amateur from a writer who really wants to improve—the ability to be your own worst critic. You can sit back and judge everything else until your face turns blue (which most amateur writers do all the time anyway), but until you can do the same thing with your own work, you’re just wasting your own time.

And this is true for every kind and level of writing; after being a college tutor for nigh on seven years, I can tell you that the major flaw of students is a very common inability to pass judgment on their own work or deal with it from others. The amount of times I’ve had students get impatient with me because they didn’t want to acknowledge a grammatical error as a mistake is absolutely uncanny.

But really, nearly everyone is guilty of this crime. No one wants to accept criticism, particularly because half of the writers out there, who all seem like worthy readers, are usually waiting to shit on your work so they can feel better about themselves; I’ve actually had a trusted writer chuckle as he dismissed a short sample—of my outline. I remember sending it to him and thinking, “Do I even need to add ‘it’s an outline and I’m sending it to you because I need real, constructive criticism, or else why the hell would I send it in the first place; this isn’t to show off at all—I need help, not a snap and a headroll?’ No. He’s a good writer. He’s actually going to help, not take this tiniest opportunity to be a shithead.”

Lesson learned? All writers are readers, but not all writers are good editors. And, also, some writers are such amateurs that they’re absolutely in love with passing judgment because it makes them feel special. More important lesson learned? I’ve been that asshole reader. And, to the person whose manuscript I read, I’m sorry you had to deal with me being a total amateur.

Getting back on topic though, an inability to proofread and copy edit is only the basest facet of the amateur writer’s folly. A more mature form is the inability to trim; despite what many people think, the important difference between “we will have been there ten times” and “we’ve gone ten times” isn’t the subtle nuance of tense that imparts a delicate nugget of specific meaning. No, the important difference here is that “we will have been there ten times” wastes the reader’s time and bores the crap out of them. In my experience, there has almost never been a time where a flowery phrase couldn’t be reworded and trimmed into something far more engaging.

Take something like, “Then, he pivoted to his left, took out his well-sharpened dagger, and lifted it up as he struck!” With something like this, the writer felt it was necessary to give you a lot of extra details. The subject didn’t just pivot, he “pivoted to his left”. His dagger was “well-sharpened”. He “lifted it” as he struck. Fine, but none of those details are necessary. Look at how much more engaging this simple edit is: “He pivoted, drew his dagger, and struck!” There’s no filler to dull down the intensity and slow the action. And all of that nonessential information should be provided by other means anyway; we should know from this character’s personality that his dagger is well-sharpened. We should know that he’s a skilled fighter who would know which way to pivot—and really, in a basic, human way can infer that he pivots in one direction anyway and it really shouldn’t matter which way he chooses regardless. It shouldn’t matter how he lifts his dagger either, for that matter. But sometimes, people fall in love with the very particular scenes and actions they have in mind. And the inability to let go of that, to make scenes simpler and more engaging—the inability to embrace the things unsaid—is the heart of the amateurs’ inability to edit themselves.

And somewhere further down the line, there’s the inability to remove whole chapters, characters, and their plot lines.

Now, am I saying I’m the most epic writer of all time? No. I’m just saying that I’m incredibly glad I cut out Chapter 4 and Ozi. I know I’ve got a long way to go to being an author, but I think I’m getting there.

Brand New Day – Week 9 – When the Night Comes

When I was young, I used to get upset when the night came. A better word would probably be “afraid,” but that implies that I was just scared of the dark (which I was, but it isn’t that simple). I used to be afraid that the day was ending and I didn’t do enough with it. It’s a weird thing for a kid to be afraid of and eventually, I did get over that whole thing.

But I felt it again the other day. In the same way a Summer wind can smell just like a friend’s old house in Ohio, or the way sunset on a hot day with a large fan in the window can inexplicably remind me of playing the original Resident Evil with my brother, sunset the other day brought the fear right back.

It was definitely diluted; the original feeling was really a childhood fear of death, which is super morbid and not where I was. The new and improved version of the fear was just time-based; I looked away from Skyrim, saw that the sun was going down and realized I’d only been awake for an hour. Sure, I would be up until the sun came back for a while allowing me more than enough time to get things done, but would I?

Suddenly, I realized all of the things I’d missed lately: parties I couldn’t make it to, hang-outs that I canceled, outings I kept putting off; all things that work on a normal schedule I’d managed to completely invert for myself by playing Skyrim until 6 or 7 AM—sometimes later.

And all of it, the staying home, the backwards sleep schedule, was part of a self-sustaining funk that resulted directly from the major writer’s block that hit me late last month. I’d been incredibly optimistic about completing the outline and possibly first draft for my book in six months. But then chapter 6 came and… well, I didn’t discover what writer’s block is like because I’ve definitely had it before, but I did get a refresher course without pesky things like work and hanging out to bring the instant gratification.

But seeing that I was losing the sun a few days ago made everything simple. The fear came back—a small worry at the back of my mind—and suddenly I felt guilty. Because I was letting young Louis down. I was letting myself fail—letting myself be defeated. Even after getting over the block, I was letting the funk beat me; time was passing and I’d been so lax with everything, from working out to writing. I remember looking back to Skyrim and realizing I’d already written a review for it; I didn’t need to keep playing it. Especially when there were a ton of other things I did need to start doing. For starters…

Step 1 – Sleep and wake up like a human being, not a mole man. 

Step 2 – Finally stop being afraid that your final take on chapter 6 is terrible, give it a once over, and move to chapter 7. 

Step 3 – Start working out again. 

Step 4 – Start writing down every story idea you have and working on short stories like you were supposed to so you can have something to fall back on in case writer’s block happens again. √

Step 5 – Finally update your own blog… 

Brand New Day – Week 1

Last week, on Wednesday, the 14th, I worked my last day at Borders. The rest of that week and the weekend that followed disappeared in a bunch of Borders closing parties (and the hang-overs that followed).

Yesterday, Monday, the 19th, was a brand new day. In short, it was the beginning of my gamble to finish rewriting my first fantasy novel, The War of Exiles, within the next six months. And it began with a few wake up texts from Ronin at Hot Mop Films, asking me what time I’d be in. And, no, it wasn’t that I’d forgotten—I just thought we’d discussed the projects they wanted to recruit me for enough through email (and I also didn’t expect to sleep in ’til 11a.m. [memories of waking up at 4 o’ clock in the morning for Borders shifts that started at 6 are already so distant]).

This, in all honesty, was not how I expected the first day of the rest of my professional life to start, but there are worse ways. The meeting got me up, got me working, and (probably more importantly than I’d like to imagine) got me outside. It was still a little annoying though—not because I’m not excited to work with Hot Mop again, but because I was planning to roll out of bed and get right to work on chapter four of WoE. But now the entire day’s flow was thrown off; I’d get home and someone would be on Xbox Live, or there’d be something to work on for Infinite Ammo. There’d be no time to—

Wait. No. To hell with that.

When I got home, I ate dinner, opened the outline for WoE, and worked from 7p.m. to 5a.m. (allowing for the short breaks that often plague writing [which I hope to siphon out in the next few weeks because, seriously, ten hours?]). Not the amount of work I was expecting, but the amount I had to do because I could (there were at least five more times when that same voice came back with things like, ‘Well, you don’t need to write this character’s bio right now. Leave it for tomorrow! You’ve been at it for like, 8 hours!’ and ‘You don’t need to figure out this cultural detail right now. There’s always tomorrow,’ but each time I fought down the arguments and just didn’t stop]).

Today is Tuesday, the 2oth. And a brand new day.

It started with a wake up text from Chaos Mechanica, asking what stories were ready to post on Infinite Ammo. I spent an hour or two editing two of them and making and assigning images to both. Now, I’m moving on to writing ideas and drafts for Hot Mop.

And I’m also doing “alpha bullets” for chapter five of WoE.

Because the outline for chapter four is finished.

And now, completely unlike Louis from last week, I know I can get it all done by tonight.

Because now, every day is just another, oddly busier work day than I ever knew at Borders. And I’m absolutely loving every second.

Saying My Goodbyes

This isn’t going to be another extremely bleak post; despite the title, I’ve decided that it won’t because, although I still stand by everything I said in Preparing for the Storm (despite how embarrassingly true all of it was), I’m determined to not be as depressed as I was when I wrote that post.

Today’s my last day at Borders at Columbus Circle. Not because I’ve been fired or found a new job; it’s the last day that our store will stay open. Tonight, coworkers have another night of drinking planned, but when I wake up tomorrow, it’s time to get to work.

The thing is, the more pressing matter for me isn’t the work because I’m more excited for that than anything else; seriously, I was approved for a Press Pass to Comic Con earlier this week because of my work on Infinite Ammo, and with that I felt so insanely validated that I’m suddenly absolutely certain I’ll be able to handle this insane, 6 month deadline I’ve assigned myself.

What’s bothering me now is that it’s the last day at Borders; what would happen today only sank in last night when an old coworker of mine, Bill, left. He’s an older man with a great sense of humor, but always kind of gruff; he would do his job and only talk to you to poke fun or make bitter jokes about Borders. He also always left without saying anything to anyone. But yesterday, his shift ended at nine and he didn’t just slip out. I didn’t understand why at first, but when I realized he was giving out hugs, it occurred to me that I’d never see Bill again; he was leaving and he wouldn’t be at any of the parties or dinners. We wouldn’t be forced into the same place ever again for any reason.

We each live with our own cast of characters, their closeness to us determined on their level of development (round or flat). It’s not that some people are more interesting than others; it’s that only some are comfortable enough around us to show us who they really are. And it’s when these people step off-stage, their parts finished, that it hurts the most. Whether it’s time or not–and usually, it feels like it’s not–these people have to move on to someone else’s stage to be watched and loved.

When Bill was leaving, it made me realize that it would be like that for everyone; unlike any other place I’ve ever worked, Borders was full of round characters. Because unlike any other place I’ve ever worked, we let ourselves be charmed and charming. I’m not saying everyone was awesome, but nearly everyone made their mark and said their words and gave us their moments and now, today, the last of us would have the stage pulled from under us. Tomorrow, and very suddenly for me, we would all be missing our scene.

And no, it’s not like we can’t make new ones; I, for one, am amazing at making scenes wherever I go. : )

But it’s an incredible understatement to say I will miss everyone I’ve worked with at Borders at Columbus Circle. Unfortunately, it’s completely impossible to also explain the countless reasons why and thank everyone responsible. If you worked with me, if you were my friend, then thank you. Thank you for contributing to one of the best work experiences of my life. And if I haven’t heard from you in a while, please feel free to text me or write because I bet I miss you (I do that pretty easily).

If I don’t know you, well, thank you for reading this love letter anyway. And thank you for being a witness to this very serious turning point in my life.

Now, I’m heading to my last day at Borders. Tonight, party. Tomorrow, the real work begins.

Preparing for the Storm

Before I get into my thoughts, I wanted to thank everyone who liked The Turning Point. I usually don’t get a lot of attention here in my small corner of wordpress (especially since all of my entertainment posts went over to Infinite Ammo) so getting likes from four people (avelainegauvin, mavisephaneuf, arienneflamand, and, of course, chaosmechanica) at once was really awesome. Especially after the kind of post The Turning Point was. Really, thank you.

_______________

It’s not rare now that I think about what’s coming: the unemployment, the insane attempt to finish War of Exiles in six months, the possibly too depressing trips down memory lane that I intend to take (among which there are already places where I still won’t venture). I thought, particularly, about the last item, the trips, and how I would relate them here to everyone who reads this blog. And I realized that they would be hollow if I wasn’t more honest with all of you than I’ve ever been here. It made me realize that there were a lot of things about myself that I had to say, all of them very honest, none of them uplifting:

  • I’m not a happy man. My facebook comments are always extremely cheerful jokes. I try, at work, in the face of the impending liquidation, to be a source of morale for others. I’m always, unless provoked, polite to people in public. None of that means I don’t stop smiling the moment everyone I know is out of eye shot. My most honest emoting happens when I get home and remain absolutely stoic with my family, who, having lived with me for a long time, do not ask questions about it, a fact that I appreciate because I stopped feeling like I could share things with anyone a long time ago. There’s no question that this is not healthy, but then, there’s no question that I’m an unhealthy person. I would love to say that this is solely out of a desire to not burden anyone with my problems, but I’d be lying. I don’t tell anyone anything about myself because among all of the places I’ve been, I’ve lost the ability to tell anyone everything. I’ve lost the ability to trust.
  • I’m poor. I’m not going to pretend that I go out into the streets and ask for spare change, or that I’m not indoors now, writing this on a computer that I paid for a year or so ago. But since, my prerequisites for lunch have become having enough change in my room for a bagel and finding something edible tucked away from the days when I wasn’t going to be out of a job in a few weeks. I completely understand that there are far, far worst ways to live. But, suddenly, I don’t have any solid clothing to wear; I don’t own shirts without stains or holes. Or shoes with soles. And now, it’s too late to buy any; up until now, I’d somehow just rode this near-poverty wave, coasting on the fact that I always had my credit card and could just go and buy things without worrying because, “I’m getting paid this Friday anyway.” And, hey, maybe I’d finally open a bank account then?… Maybe it’s silly, but there are those little things that make you feel happy and secure and all of those things are suddenly falling out of reach for me. I have to wonder how many steps before being out on the streets this is.
  • I don’t believe in love anymore, which I did not realize until very recently. This may sound silly, but I held the concept in very high regard until I realized the idea of it had turned into something completely unlike what it was supposed to be. Because of this, I’m suddenly unfeeling despite being single. I’ve had crushes and confessed to them, one way or another, and then, the moment when they replied with a smile, the moment they flirted back or casually deflected the compliment, I’ve stopped feeling anything for them. I’ve since stopped trying to make myself feel something I can’t.
  • I have a very hard time letting go of the past. I don’t sit in my room and dwell on things. I don’t stalk people I no longer talk to or even think to ask about them when I speak to people who may know them. But I do remember, and, remembering, regret or rage, as is appropriate. I don’t know if anyone else does this or if I’m normal; it’s been a very long time since I assumed I was normal. What I do know is that it’s one of the myriad things that I hate about myself and wish I could stop doing—a thing I realize I could stop doing if I had a life outside of this room when not at work. If, today, I’d met a friend and walked around New York to check out the damage done by Hurricane Irene; if, perhaps, I’d been at a party last night and woken up somewhere that wasn’t my home; or if I’d even just spent time at a friend’s house and watched hurricane related movies, I would not be here writing this. I would not be here thinking. But I am. And for the next few months, I nearly always will be.
  • Among all of this is the point I’ll leave you with. I understand from being told that I’m a great person—people tell me they appreciate how proactive and creative I am, or women tell me I can have anyone I want, or that I’m super cute—but believing any of this is so hard for me that it’s a perpetual kind of impossible; even after I’ve begun to believe it, I can revert in a heartbeat and no longer find any charming curves in the face in the mirror, nor any wit in the set of its teeth, so suddenly yellow and ill-at-ease. And even at these times, I understand that I must be wrong, but simple facts keep me from feeling it: I’ve never completed anything, I’m poor, and I’m alone.

I know that this will change when I finish War of Exiles and get it published, when I get a tattoo to commemorate that achievement, which can never be taken from me, and when I can again afford to meet people and spend time with them. I absolutely know it will.

But I’m suddenly terrified I’ll never make it to that point.

Infinite Ammo

The weeks since my last post, “The Turning Point”, have been pretty hectic. Work is, naturally, depressing, and afterward home is—more so than before—a constant effort to get as much professional work done as humanly possible.

Why “more so than before”? Because directly after “The Turning Point”, I rallied Chaos Mechanica to start on that new gaming/comics/nerdy stuff website I’d mentioned. After a pretty insane weekend of non-stop work, we released Infinite Ammo two days later on the 25th, and it has totally dominated my time since, even though Chaos Mechanica has been an awesome partner in the effort.

The question, “Why the hell would you start a website when you already have so much else to do?” probably springs to mind. I think the answer is simple: I really needed some instant gratification. Work is a constant string of people asking me when I’m going to be out of a job; why wouldn’t I need to do something that I can admire five minutes later?

Of course, it didn’t take five minutes to make the site what it is now; the weeks before and after the 25th were a really tentative dance with a bunch of talent who—thankfully—agreed to work on the site even though they aren’t getting paid anything. I’m ridiculously lucky to know people who are so willing to chip and are also all great, charming, and knowledgeable writers. I want to make this something awesome for them as much as for myself.

The complications that come out of an effort like this are pretty surprising though. But then, so are the stupid, stupid perks; Mr. House and I have had to divvy-up responsibilities (the insanely charming Mr. House getting the HR spot while I took on editing/designing tasks) because problems keep cropping up everywhere and it was immediately too much work for one hero to handle (not that Mr. House is my sidekick; we’re more a Batman/Superman type duo [also I’m Batman]).
Anyway, my point is this: I was preparing an introductory email to prospective writers, full of info they’d need to know to work with us. I’m there writing the “Feature Image” bit, explaining how they can get headline images to use on their stories and this happens: “The best thing to do is aggressively Google Image Search for a good, hi-res shot of your topic. So, say if you’re doing an article about Spider-Man, then I want you to get me pictures of—” O_O “… Yes. Pictures. I want you to get me pictures of Spider-Man!”

It’s the little things, people.

Important: I will occasionally post new reviews and special interest articles, but in the coming months, I’m going to stray away from those to give you a much more personal look into my efforts to finish my book (again) and this major turning point in my life. That said, if you want a more steady string of reviews, previews, and opinions on comics, video games, movies and more from myself and a bunch of other talented writers and hardcore fans, Infinite Ammo is the site for you.  When I finally get the chance to work on it again, RED Comics will also appear on Infinite Ammo, but I love the series too much already to not post it here as well.

—Thanks for Reading!—

Louis Santiago @ RAA

My mother said, “Look at that lamppost! I gotta get a picture!”

I thought it was adorable because my mother is probably the most adorable person in the world. But also because I’d thought the same thing the last time I’d taken that bike path to Fort Tilden from Riis Park.

I stopped thinking it was adorable when she said, “Okay! Now you get in there!” I think I just managed not to sigh.

I juuuust managed.

I felt like a kid again, told something like “Just lean on the lamppost!” largely because that’s exactly what she told me to do.

But I’m sure you may think this picture is cute or funny and I don’t blame you; that would be because you’re seeing my mother in it and you’re seeing a bit of our dynamic.

At the reception to the A Salute to Rockaway show, I thought that ability to put a viewer into a photographer’s shoes made me stand out. Not because I had the most amazing shots ever of all time, but because no one else there had shots of the ruins of Fort Tilden; I was the only one who placed a viewer somewhere that wasn’t sand, sky, water, and beauty. Or public. Sure, I had a majestic shot of Rockaway Beach, but it was juxtaposed by a similar shot with a rusted pole sticking out of the sand and crossing half the picture. The dunes shown in one piece were beside another showing a rusted gate, shot from the inside of a disused Army bunker. It was something to be proud of.

That and the Power Cosmic, my delicious mixture of chicken and black beans (and a secret ingredient), that barely any of the attendees touched (their loss – more Power Cosmic for me).

Well… that and just having some of my photos on exhibit; I can’t miss being proud of that. When an attendee complimented Far Shore, it was incredibly easy to chat with her about it and explain how I got it, what I was doing in Rockaway that day, and eventually, when my cover was blown, that no, I lived in the Bronx and had no idea what was near the pole in Lagan. And it was incredibly easy to smile the entire time.

A Salute to Rockaway will be up until August 1st. Drop in on the weekend and have a look (click here for more info). And don’t worry–even if you do miss the exhibit, there’s a chance there will still be enough leftover Power Cosmic for everybody!

A Salute to Rockaway

Hey, everyone. By way of a quick update, I’ve been busy hauling artwork to Far Rockaway for the Rockaway Artists Alliance’s A Salute to Rockaway exhibit. I’ve submitted six photos I was pretty proud of from my trips to Rockaway Beach and Fort Tilden. Pieces like Far Shore, Lagan, and POOPDICK. Again, that’s POOPDICK.

The reception will be on the 18th, from 12PM – 4PM. For anyone who would like to attend, here’s more information.

For anyone who would like to drop in for a more casual time while I’m there, I’ll be gallery sitting on the 25th from 2PM – 4PM.

Click here for directions, but keep the following details in mind if you’re using public transportation:

  • The Q35 doesn’t stop at Fort Tilden until it goes back to Brooklyn College / Flatbush Ave. So you’ll either have to take the Rockaway Park bound Q35, get out at the second stop after riding over the Gil Hodges Bridge, and walk West through Riis Park until you find the group of fenced in houses and fields that is Fort Tilden, or ride the 35 until the end of the line, wait for a 35 going back to Brooklyn College, and get off when it stops at Fort Tilden.
  • The last stop on the westbound Q22 is Fort Tilden. You can connect pretty easily to the Q22 from the Shuttle at Broad Channel (via the A train).
  • If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out the MTA’s Queens Bus Map.
  • Once in Fort Tilden, there will be a directory pointing to “RAA Galleries” or something similar enough.
The Rockaway Artists Alliance (RAA) is a non-profit arts organization "comprised of individuals who view the arts as vital to the health of our community."