Muse Tuesday – Blood He Couldn’t Feel | Warframe

Welcome back to Muse Tuesday.

This week, I’m doing a little fanfiction.

If you haven’t heard of Warframe, it’s a sci-fi, free-to-play online shooter, the selling point of which is that you’re an insanely powerful space ninja–one of many known as “Tenno.” As such, you wear a selection of armors called Warframes that adhere to certain motifs and allow you unique abilities. All of which add up to you killing hordes and hordes of enemies.

I thought I’d take that . . . and try to do something incredibly serious with it. So, apologies if any of this is lost on you; the challenge here was definitely on explaining without over-explaining.

Anyway, enjoy.

~~~

There was blood on the Tenno’s knees.

Not only a spot–a pool that he knelt in. A dark splash that glowed with sunlight. He’d watched it slowly roll toward him from the pile of dead Grineer meters away–had done nothing but blink as it reached him, kneeling there. Blink and listen to a chorus of birdsong and rushing water.

It all made the overgrown forests of Earth strangely empty for him, listening to a language he couldn’t understand, being touched by warm blood he couldn’t feel.

Another moment more and he would be done with this ritual of his. He’d lost count of the times he’d done it, but the exercise was always the same; he knelt near a group of Grineer he’d just killed and tried his best to feel something for them–before their blood reached him.

He hoped for anything. Regret. Sadness. Because they were still people.

Just cloned–so often that it’d driven them insane and ruined their genetics. Many of them were more machine now–men and women with complex prostheses, living in alloy shells.

Who terrorized the galaxy. Who killed without mercy.

The only reason the Tenno was planetside in the first place was to stop a Grineer plot to poison the forests of Earth, making it easier to terraform–a new planet of factories to process their weapons of war.

No. It’s impossible, he thought. I can’t feel sorry for them. They’re savages. Killers.

And as he thought it, the blood reached his feet.

Suddenly desperate, the Tenno closed his eyes, willing himself to try again. To try to be better than the things he’d just killed.

Angrily punching the ground when he still couldn’t feel anything.

“Whoa.”

He spun around and found another Tenno behind him–another lost child of space, this one in her Warframe: a birdlike Zephyr, her carbon composite feathers and metal skin regal in shades of white and gold.

“Are you . . . okay?” she asked, lowering her weapon, oddly tender as her clawed hand reached for him.

The Tenno closed his eyes, activating Transferrence, pulling himself back into his own Warframe–an Ash that he’d left standing on a Grineer structure a half mile away, just in case he needed to vanish.

Since he’d left, a new platoon of clones had arrived, cleaning up the mess he’d left behind. Already restarting the machines the Tenno had just shut down, repairing those he’d destroyed. They shouted at each other, angry only then. Careless when they pushed their dead into the river nearby.

The sword in Ash’s hand twitched.

Time to try again.

~~~

Thanks for reading.

A quick notice: I’m going to be at PAX this weekend, but my journey to get there starts tomorrow night. I’ll still be posting tomorrow, for sure, but whether or not I post Thursday and Friday depends on how much of a pain it’ll be to post from PAX.

Anyway, if you’re a regular, thanks again for the read. I’ve tried my best to make it easier to comment on my posts, so if you’d like to drop any criticism down below, please feel free. Writing this often is starting to make some of my writing habits stand out and I want to take care of those immediately.

If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Regardless, thank you for stopping by, and, as always, write well.

Monday, AM #3 – The PAX Rush

Welcome back, everyone. Another brief Monday, AM–made particularly short by the fact that my entire weekend was devoured by Breath of the Wild.

I mean, I wrote and did a few other things, but when it came to going outside–catching Logan or Get Out, I passed. In my defense, I’ve always been a huge Zelda fan, so whatever. Sacrifices were made.

Anyway, getting into my biz . . .

PAX East Is This Weekend

My first Pax East was in 2014. I went with an old friend and his buddies, and it was one of the best experiences of my recent life. Got to go to a few panels, be incredibly awkward while grabbing drinks with some of my favorite streamers, try out a bunch of awesome indies (Titan Souls and Enter the Gungeon were there that year), and–most importantly–I got to hang out and game with a bunch of friends for a few days.

Unfortunately, money issues didn’t let me go last year.

But this year, I made absolutely sure to have enough saved up for another PAX trip.

If you’ve never been, I’d like to convey the experience with a summary of one moment:

Partway through the convention, one of my friends mentioned a “retro room,” a single room at the convention where anyone could come in, request a game from a list of titles, and play that game on of many ancient consoles (from the NES to the Sega CD).

Immediately intrigued, I checked it out on my own. There were a bunch of tables arranged at the front of the room, a check-in counter at the back, where they kept the aforementioned list of games.

A list that I perused for maybe 20 seconds before realizing . . .

“Holy shit . . . They have Lunar: The Silver Star.”

Timid, as if the opportunity would somehow disappear, I went to the attendant at the check in desk. Mumbled, “Lunar for the Sega CD, please,” like I was a nervous little kid. They found it for me, told me I had 30 minutes with it.

And, in a strange moment for a grown man, I found a Sega CD, popped Lunar in . . .

. . . and then got teary eyed when the intro started.

Maybe it was because I’d loved Lunar when I was a kid.

But I think that it was actually because I’d forgotten Lunar. The intro, the music. No, that isn’t true; the moment the game started, I remembered all of it: the incredibly anime intro music, the dialogue, the characters.

But I had forgotten something. And, although this is going to sound cheesy . . . I think that what I forgot was how it felt to be happy.

The kind of happy that only a kid can experience when they get to do, watch, or play their favorite thing in the world. And Lunar, out of all the things I loved as a kid, is the only thing that I got to have completely to myself; no one else I knew played that game. No one in my family cared about it, so no one beat it and spoiled the ending for me, for example. I never got a chance to play the sequels either, so my love for the first in the series was never even challenged by its successors.

So sitting there, at PAX East, I realized that Lunar was a time capsule for me; one of pure love, planted in 1992, delivered 22 years later.

There’s so much else about PAX that my story doesn’t convey–the love of games in all of their media, the spirit of camaraderie–but that moment with Lunar is what it means to me.

Fingers crossed for Flashback in the retro room this year.

The Hand and the Tempest Progress

Last week, I said I had to bring it and finish chapter 4. Well, I didn’t finish it last Monday . . .

But I did finish it Tuesday.

And, somewhere in between, holy shit, did the muse come back.

I might want to write about the idea of the creative switch–the quest to find out what turns it on–because it feels like that’s what happened. One moment sparked a really fun scene with exciting world building . . .

And now, suddenly, I know what the next three chapters are going to be like. After months of slogging, I know how a character’s entire arc is going to work out, how many chapters it’ll take to get there. I’m almost done with chapter 5, and ready to roll into chapter 6.

Most importantly though, I’m finally excited. Just . . . insanely excited to write more of this novel–this YA story that I finally love.

~~~

And, in that spirit, I’m gonna call it quits here.

If you’re a regular, welcome back to Monday. I hope you guys are having a good one, light on distractions, heavy on the words.

If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, thank you just for stopping by. Take care, and, as always, write well.

 

Fantasy Fandom: The Legend of Zelda

I’m writing this on the morning of March 3rd, 2017. Blessed with the day off, I woke up early to wait for my local Best Buy to open. Because then, and only then, can I go pick up The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Sitting here, waiting, I decided to at least start a series that I’ve been thinking of for a while. Fantasy Fandom will be a place where I talk briefly about some of the franchises that shaped my writing. How I found them, why I love them, and what I’ve learned from them.

The first installment was always going to be about The Legend of Zelda. But this morning, as I basically sit and stare at a wall, hands on my knees, waiting for 10AM, I decided, “Today’s the perfect day for this.”

My First Experience with The Legend of Zelda

I don’t remember the year, because I was in single digits–at an age where I wasn’t yet concerned what year it was.

But a friend of the family lived across the street, and one day, my mother brought us over to hang out. The parents quickly ushered us into their son’s room–a guy who greeted us, but then immediately turned back to a TV.

Back to a duel to the death with Dark Link in Zelda II.

At the time, I had no idea he was fighting the most difficult boss in the entire series–that he was at the end of the second game.

All I knew was, “Whoooaaa . . . He’s controlling the guy on screen. And fighting a shadow version of himself.” And, I’m absolutely giving voice to a thought I didn’t understand at the time, but I remember thinking something like, “What kind of meta, psychological struggle is this shit!? With this elf dude! And there are curtains! What is this!?”

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the first time I’d ever experienced video games–I’d owned an Atari 2600 and played Super Mario Bros., Pitfall, and Duck Hunt at other friends’ places–but this was a turning point for me in gaming. When my family finally got an NES, I proceeded to annoy my mom by asking her to call a bunch of Funcolands and Toys ‘R’ Us’s, asking if they had Zelda.

Again, I don’t know how old I was, but the day when I came home with used copies of The Legend of Zelda and Metroid for the NES were good days. Even though that’s when I discovered that LoZ and Adventures of Link were extremely different.

Since then, The Legend of Zelda has been a staple of my life. I’ve bought and played nearly every one of them to completion. When I write a bio for myself, I always add that The Legend of Zelda was a huge influence for me.

Because it always has been and still is.

Why I Love It

What really grabbed me about that Dark Link fight was the strange pageantry of the whole thing. The fact that the world fell into silhouettes against a purple sky when you fought him. The fact that he was just a doppleganger of Link (this being my first experience with the concept of evil doubles).

That beautiful strangeness endures in all of Zelda, and that’s what I love about it.

Although the series uses some fantasy tropes, it gives them a unique, weird polish that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

For example, Hylians have long, pointed ears. But they are not elves–most certainly not Tolkien elves. Hylians are bizarre. They’re ugly–often comically so. They have strange body shapes that are exaggerated to illustrate their characters. They talk, but always with simple, guttural sounds. In a lot of cases, they’re blatantly, flat out terrifying in their words and actions, although it never seems like they’re being scary on purpose; in most cases, you’re just a kid who happens to hear them say the weirdest things.

Even the hero is strange. Link, we came to learn, is not a single, destined hero who goes on many adventures. He’s a . . . lineage? All of the Links are descendants of the first (and good luck figuring out which Link came first [I think Skyward Sword’s?]), which, on its own, is a bizarre turn for a fantasy hero. I can’t think of another franchise that spans thousands of years, following one bloodline of legendary heroes. Legendary heroes who always come to power . . . with a Princess named Zelda, sometimes a weirdo named Tingle, and always a cast of other staple characters, similar in appearance, but actually different. Zelda runs on a concept of history repeating itself, which allows it to go to strange new places.

All of this means that the only recurring character–who is always the same man as far as I can tell–is the series’ villain, Ganon. How strange for a fantasy series to have a new hero kill the one villain every time, instead of the one hero killing a new villain every time.

Whatever. The point is that Zelda is bizarre in many, many ways, and that’s why I love it.

What I’ve Learned from It

Because of its strangeness, I think Zelda taught me how to be independent with my fantasy. It taught me to write without bowing to established fantasy expectations. There are elves, but they’re not the famous kind of elves. There’s a hero, but, even though he looks similar, he’s a new person every time.

To be sure, Zelda is still pretty typical; it’s still the story of a young boy who inherits a legendary power and leaves his home to slay a great evil.

But Zelda’s strange take on that story made it possible for me to think beyond it altogether.

And, for that, I thank you, Legend of Zelda. I would not be the same writer without you.

~~~

Thanks for reading.

If you’re a regular, thank you for hanging out with me for another week. I forgot to ask last post because I got . . . super touchy feely, but if you liked this post, please drop a Like so I can keep track of how many people enjoyed it. If you didn’t like it, absolutely pass; I’m trying to sift through my series and focus on the ones people like the most, so negative votes also really help.

If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.

Either way, thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have an awesome weekend. I know I will; halfway through this post, I a) scheduled an interview for a new job and b) went and picked up Breath of the Wild, cause 10AM came and I couldn’t contain myself.

I’ll see you next week, and, as always, write well!

Monday, AM #2 – John Wick and Underworldbuilding

Welcome back to Monday. This is the part where I reflexively say, “It’s good to be back!” but it isn’t, cause it’s Monday.

I did actually get my days off this week, so I’ll get to spend the beginning of it comfortably doing posts and writing . . . although I also really want to slip in a matinee of Get Out, because I wanted to see it in the first place and it had such a good opening.

But whatever! Let’s talk about the weekend!

John Wick and the Discerning Gentleman’s Criminal Underworld

I saw John Wick: Chapter 2 on Saturday night. First of all, no spoilers here.

Second, it was . . . I mean.

Okay . . . So, I didn’t dislike the first John Wick, but I also didn’t love it.

I feel the same way about Chapter 2. No offense to anyone who does love the series. I just think I’m too deep in Fantasy town to fully appreciate an Earth-modern revenge story.

Among the other runny-shooty action movies I’ve seen in recent times, the John Wick series is the absolute best–and Chapter 2 had some moments I will absolutely always remember (while its predecessor didn’t).

But, I found myself way more intrigued by the worldbuilding in Chapter 2, which was my favorite part of the first John Wick. This sequel dives right into Wick’s gold-fueled criminal underworld, making it way more dense and fun to experience.

What that world winds up feeling like is . . . a criminal underworld for the discerning gentleman. Everyone is well dressed. Everyone is polite, and everyone is super rich. Baby’s first spoiler, John Wick starts the movie with a nice suit . . . and then gets an even nicer suit to wear while killing people.

And maybe that’s the part that really makes the John Wick series interesting for me; the elaborate background of the underworld is there to serve as a foundation for a movie that’s really just about a guy who punch-shoots a lot of people to death.

What a weird series.

But what a beautiful thing for its creators to know it wouldn’t be as interesting without its super-charming criminal underworld, where everything costs exactly one golden coin.

The Hand and the Tempest Project Progress

H&T is going well. I’m almost done with chapter 4–almost to the point where the novel becomes more comfortable for the main characters. And me.

The thing is, I had a moment the other day where I thought of the perfect opening line for Rainwater Archaic, the next big project on my schedule.

Now . . . I’ve already written the first chapter of Rainwater. It was among the group of unpolished stories I wrote last year. At first, I thought it would just be a short story–the first in a series, maybe–but I didn’t like how it turned out (the tone got way, way too heavy), so I took a break from it. During that break, I realized I wanted to take my time worldbuilding for it–figuring out that I wanted to make it a standalone novel instead.

Now, I’m just really, really ready to write that novel. And I want so badly to put H&T on hold to do it. But I’m also 100% certain that doing that will kill H&T, and, despite complications with the actual writing part, I do love H&T’s characters. I want to tell this story.

I also just want to be done with it by summer. If I stay on this schedule, that definitely won’t happen; I’d finish it until late this year or next year.

So, the next few weeks are going to be all about bumping up my average words per day.

And, if you were here for last week’s Dream Diary, I’m pretty sure that this is what that nightmare was about.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m already trying to get a lot of things done, but I’ve been trying to do it all . . . while staying comfortable. I’ll stop writing if a scene is giving me too much trouble, giving myself a day to casually figure out where I want a scene to go. At work, I’ll only volunteer for extra work if it’s convenient for me.

But I can’t keep operating like that–particularly with writing. If I want to get anywhere, my daily sessions have to be longer and produce more words. At work, I have to be more selfless if I expect to get any kind of promotion. Any more responsibility.

And, I’m not sure because that dream from last Friday was so goddamn weird, but I think that responsibility was the monster I was hunting. Not normal, get up, go to work, pay bills responsibility, but career writer responsibility. I’m hoping that one day, I’ll be writing with a schedule given to me by a publisher. I’m hunting for that opportunity . . . but I’m also afraid of the stress it’s going to bring with it–weary after 10 straight years of it.

But, I can’t learn how to write like a career writer . . . then, when the opportunity comes up.

I have to learn how to do it now.

~~~

I guess that means get ready for a way more stressed out me sometime soon. The tension’ll probably ramp up mid-March, when I get back from PAX East. Can’t wait!

But, for now, I have to have breakfast, and start building that tension with an attempt to finish chapter 4 today, action scene and all. I will absolutely try to not force anything, but wish me luck.

As always, thank you for dropping by. I really appreciate everyone who pops in, even if you just give a quick read.

Until next time, everyone.

Games for Writers: No Man’s Sky

Wow. It has been forever since I’ve written one of these.

And, of all games, I picked No Man’s Sky, hands down the least disappointing game of 2016. Why, I remember no one being upset about this one.

. . .

So, disclaimer first: I know. I know that No Man’s Sky was a huge, flaming disappointment. And, with this post, I’m not trying to say that you should run out and buy it. The only reason why I didn’t trade it in, in fact, was that I forgot it was on my shelf. The only reason why I still haven’t traded it in, is that the Foundation Update was pleasant. Maybe Hello Games’ll suddenly stop supporting this game in a few months, but, as I’d only get a few bucks for trading it in now anyway, I’m holding out for future updates, hoping I at least get my money’s worth that way.

Regardless though, none of that is why I’m writing about this game today.

Today, I’m writing about No Man’s Sky to give it props in one regard. Because there is one way in which it helped improve my writing.

The name game.

I’m a big believer in the power of video games. I don’t think they’re the ultimate form of entertainment, but I think they have an innate ability to provide experiences you would never have otherwise. On a most basic level, they have the power to make you feel that you’re, say, a pilot navigating his way through a space battle.

But, at this point, an idea like that is oddly quaint when it comes to gaming. Video games are far more specific and varied. They’re able to deliver more unique tones and feelings.

And No Man’s Sky delivers a feeling and experience that I have never encountered in any other video game. Ever.

And that feeling just so happens to be important for worldbuilding.

In this video game, in which you have to gather elements from plants, rocks, animals, and planetary bases, all to power and mod your ship so that you can fly to the heart of the universe, the sandbox that you’re in is planet-sized. There’s no one around to talk to you and, often, there isn’t much to interact with.

All there is to do, is walk around, explore, and name the creatures, plants, and locations that you find. And it’s that naming–of these tiny parts of a frighteningly massive universe–that is invaluable when it comes to worldbuilding.

No Man’s Sky is a Game for Writers because the experience of being on unfamiliar territory, and not being able to go back–of having to walk around a bizarre landscape and, especially, naming things as you go–will improve your naming game tenfold.

Because now, you are the settler who founded Manhattan.

You’re the guy who’s standing there, on the spot, trying to decide what to call a place you’ve never been to.

You’re the person who’s all, “Uh . . . Fuck it. Louis Town. Wait, no, Louisville . . . : I This is exactly why there’s a Long Island in every state, isn’t it?”

No Man's Sky_20160812141756
Because sometimes, you’ll just name ’em the first thing that comes to mind.

But you’re also the person who reaches a base at the top of a mountain, and, after hours of naming different locations, looks around and sees that there are two caves nearby that look like eyes. So you name the base “Rockmire’s Gaze” and then spiral into thinking of why the mountain is named “Rockmire” and what the people of this planet would think of the fact that it has eyes (if there were people–No Man’s Sky is beautiful but it’s still a pretty vacant resource collecting game).

My point is, after playing this game, I got a lot more heavily invested in naming trends, and I think all fantasy writers can stand to do that. And not just naming trends of landmarks or animals, but of everything; I’m finding that plant names are particularly interesting to me (“Why ‘foxglove’? And, wait, ‘ladyfinger’?. . . That’s just weird.”).

But, being put in a place to name things in quick succession also highlights your own naming trends and helps you slip away from them. In my case, I realized I love ending planets names with “-ulus” or “-os,” and as you can see from the picture above, “Prime.”

No Man's Sky_20170217182318
Although I found I also go with single words, like “Amethyst,” for planets and other locations. It’s a bad habit in my writing that I know I have to break now.

With animals, I fall back on real suffixes mixed with appropriate sounds–“byparn” being a favorite example for a cow-like alien with two horns. I also go for direct descriptors with dashes though, particularly for plants; “bat-winged borp” and “arrow-leaf tree” for examples.

Again, I wouldn’t recommend buying No Man’s Sky; it’s still a little too sparse on the gameplay side for me to recommend it to anyone.

But, if you’re a writer, and if you already own it, or if you have a friend who owns it, maybe check it out for that one day–that one batch of hours–where you’re genuinely a pilgrim, naming a land you know nothing about.

~~~

Thanks for reading. I hope this was an interesting return to the Games for Writers series. You can check out these previous installments on Metroid Prime, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season One, and Dark Souls, but please be advised that they’re mostly terrible (I wrote the Silent Hill one nearly seven years ago; I was a much different writer back then). I also wrote a post about making sure your writing is free of completely unrealistic video game tropes, a pitfall that I called the CR Trap.

Regardless though, that’s all for this week. Thank you for dropping by, and, as always, write well.

Writer’s Workshop #1 – A Box of Discounted Chocolates

It’s Fuck It Wednesday.

What’s that? Never heard of it? Well, let me enlighten you. Fuck It _____day is the day after Valentine’s Day. A day when all of the romance is over, and what matters is that Valentine’s Day chocolate is super discounted. And hey, maybe you’re on a diet.

But eh. Fuck it.

Why am telling you this? Well, I woke up today with an intense urge to turn one of my writing habits into an ongoing series here on the site.

You see, sometimes, I want to write, but I don’t have my WIP handy. At those times, I buckle down and write something insubstantial anyway, just for practice. As a really intense editor, one of my favorite aspects of writing is problem solving, so I often take these WIP-less moments to try to describe something I see in one clear, evocative sentence. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

But either way, I’m here today, on Fuck It Wednesday, to share a box of chocolates with you by trying to describe a few pieces in as few sentences as I can. Just to warm up before the day’s writing session.

My rules: I’m going to take more than one sentence here, because I think it’ll make for a better read. I’m also going to pretend I don’t know what some pieces are, because I’m a fantasy writer, not a food critic; my entire deal is describing new, strange things, not reporting on the quality of $9 nougat.

My hope: I get the one really, really gross piece before I’m done.

Let’s get to it.

First Piece:

wwi-firstpiece

Immediately, he knew he’d made a mistake. The first bite was anti-flavor embodied, coming in slow rushes as he chewed, making his own mouth betray him. There was chocolate, yes, but inside of it waited a clinging mass of chemicals. It tasted like a color. He decided that color was Pink 12, and somewhere, in the heart of a factory, a machine had been too generous with it.

Comments: Oh God. That was it–immediately. I got the gross one. I think it was supposed to be cherry, but it never is. Ugh.

Wait. Hold on. The box has one of those cheat sheets . . . “Roman Nougat.” There it is. When in Rome, eat disgusting candy.

Okay. Moving on.

Second Piece:

ww1-secondpiece

He expected to bite it, but broke it with his teeth instead. A fragile piece of candy that was oddly mute. Safe. Meant to be a buffer between him and its brethren, perhaps, but incapable of impressing on its own, without a doubt. It was only arguably remarkable in the shadow of other chocolates.

A strange thing for a piece of candy, he thought.

Comments: I think that was nougat? Wait. Checking the cheat sheet. “Chocolate Butter Cream.” Hmm. If you say so.

By the way, it feels weird to be giving this much attention to a box of chocolates. But, to be honest, I had no idea what I was going to write for this second chocolate, so at least I’m actually warming up.

Third Piece:

ww1-thirdpiece

It refused to be eaten.

He tried his best, even mouthing a determined grunt as the chocolate fought back. Eventually, he won, rewarded with a mouthful of chewy molasses, clinging to his teeth so long that he wasn’t sure the chewing was ever truly over.

Comments: That one was clearly caramel, so the challenge was not just saying, “It’s caramel.”

Although I’m finding it interesting that I’m getting weird with all of these. I guess it’s just my reflex to make descriptions strange? To personify chocolate and make it contentious?

Whatever. I’m having fun.

Last Piece:

ww1-lastpiece

He was off guard the moment he started chewing.

The candy wasn’t bad, but he had no idea what was in it. No, it was somehow worse than that. The candy didn’t want him to know what it was. There was a crunchy bit that made him think of almonds, but there was only the one–a ghost in a sharp affair of other flavors, all of them rushing in, too strong for him to taste anything but sweet.

Comments: Oh yeah, that’s my last piece. I’m assuming it was almond something? . . . “Chocolate . . . Butter Cream.” What the hell? Well, that was the last thing I expected to happen here. I realize now that this piece does look like the second, but they genuinely tasted really different.

Maybe that means the second piece of roman nougat isn’t as vile? I’m not gonna find out.

This last piece says a lot about paying attention to individuals in a group. Of not assuming that one leaf, for example, will look exactly like another leaf. I’m a big fan of paying too much attention to everything, so I’m glad to put an admittedly bizarre example of uniqueness out there–especially because experiencing it was so easy to miss.

Maybe I’m just being weird, but I would’ve had a much more boring experience if I’d just looked at the cheat sheet and known this last piece was chocolate butter cream before eating it. I’m glad I didn’t.

Especially because I think that, as humans, we naturally do that all the time. We know that each leaf is different, but we dismiss them as identical on a daily basis. I don’t want to get all meta here though, so I’ll just say this:

Don’t forget the small details. They’re beautiful and they matter.

~~~

And also, if you have a box of chocolates, why not have an existential crisis over it? That would make a weird afternoon, you say? I agree.

But eh. Fuck it.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this one; there will be more Writer Workshops in the future for sure.

Until then, thanks for passing by. And, as always, write well.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 30: Reflection

Well… I made it. Day 30.

Somehow, even though I didn’t struggle to write posts this time–even though I didn’t spend hours finding writing spots, getting pictures, working on the MS, and posting afterward–I’m way more relieved now than I was at the end of 30 Days 1.

I’m not sure why. The obvious answer would be, “Well, because you can spend more of your writing time actually working on the novel.” And, sure, maybe that’s it.

But maybe I also just need a break. Especially after today. A brief summary:

  • After feeling my throat getting sore yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night and vommed.
  • Woke up hours later, determined to go to work and write, although, for the first time ever, I really, really wanted to call out.
  • Got to work, told a manager I might need to leave early, and they told me it was alright if I just left immediately instead. Which was awesome.
  • Basically stumbled home, thinking both, A) “Man, I’m so glad I didn’t get sick earlier in the month,” and B) “But WHY TODAY?”
  • Got progressively dizzier and grosser as I stumbled home. Does this happen to anyone else? It was 60 degrees or so outside, but it felt like summer. Like hot, deathy summer.
  • I went to the supermarket to get soup, tea, and honey. I then struggled those things home, which should’ve been easy, only I was multi-tasking–struggling soup, tea, and honey home while also dying.
  • Realized that the weird, unwieldy set up I had going to carry all of my junk (coat slung over umbrella, held in one hand, sick person goods in the other hand) was a terrible idea, because everything that was in my inner coat pocket had fallen out. Everything in this case meant money. I don’t even know how much. And I don’t wanna think about it.

So, this is the part where I make an excuse, right? This is when I’m like, “So, with all of that bullshit, I just refused to write.”

Words for the Day: 1,326

NaNoWriMo Total: 14,366

Against all odds, I wrote over a thousand words and finished up chapter 2, as planned, leaving me with the rest of the book–the adventure–to work on in the next few months.

And… to me, saying all of that was the best possible way to send off 30 Days 2. Not by just talking about what I learned from it, but illustrating it.

With 30 Days 1, I learned what I consider the basics of my writing approach. My personal How-To write a novel. I do it quickly, writing every day, editing important things as I go, focusing on completing something clean that I like, without stopping.

But what I learned from 30 Days 2 is that I don’t ever have to stop. If NaNoWriMo 2014 taught me that I could write a novel when I had a free a month, NaNoWriMo 2016 taught me that, no, fuck that “free month” bullshit. If you’ve got it, great, but if you don’t, there’s a way to do it write a novel while you’re incredibly busy.

And that way is simply… finding your schedule.

As stupid and easy as that sounds, all it takes is sitting down and thinking, “Well… when do I like to write? In what condition do I do my best writing? And how can I make sure I’m in that position every day, regardless of what the world throws at me?”

For me, it’s early in the morning, before work. Or, well, early in the “whatever qualifies as morning” (today, it was early in the 1 PM when I woke up from my gross, sick-person coma). I learned to respect those times–those hours of my day–as writing time.

But I also learned to respect everything-else time. I learned that you can’t just shove away recreation–that there’s no quitting it cold turkey; I need to unwind after being productive. I need to play video games, watch a movie, hang out with a friend, watch YouTube, look up pictures of shaved animals, which I did yesterday (hairless chimpanzees are about 1,000,000% more intimidating than they are with fur, btw). And I learned that doing those things isn’t something to be ashamed of. Because feeling bad about doing any of those things isn’t fair to me.

And because it’s the start of the procrastination cycle: “Well, I didn’t write last night, so I feel like shit today and want a distraction even more, so fuck it–I’m going to write later tonight. And now I am writing, but it’s hard again, because it’s late, I’m tired, and fuck this shit–I’ll do it tomorrow!”

I guess the best way to put it then is… I learned how to write and be happy… at the same time.

Which means I’ve learned to write consistently. Tomorrow, I don’t stop; I wake up, shower, write, then deal with whatever the rest of the day throws at me.

And having that–learning how to do that–is something I’m incredibly grateful for. If I could tell any writer to do anything, it’s this: learn how to write on a schedule that makes you happy. Because that’s a schedule you can keep forever.

~~~

Well, that’s it. 30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 is officially over. I’d like to thank everyone who read, liked, followed, and commented. I genuinely wouldn’t have made it without your support. Even if I somehow slogged through the last 30 days without backup, these posts would’ve gotten so much less happy, so much more frustrated. So, really, thank you.

I’m probably going to take a month off from posting, in part because I need a break and December is the perfect month for that, but I’ll be back next year, bright and early, to update and talk about the different facets of writing fantasy.

Until then, thank you again for reading! And, as always, write well.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 21: Expectation

30 Days 2 is starting to teach me things about myself as a writer.

Primarily… I’m starting to realize that I have an issue with expectation.

Well, expectation and gratification.

I’m finding it harder and harder to actually feel gratified when I do any writing. At least for this novel. And that inability to feel productive scales with me; if I don’t write, I feel bad for not writing. If I do write, I feel bad for not writing enough. If I write enough, I immediately wonder if it’s any good.

To a degree, I think I do this because of my experience with Memory. I loved writing that book. It was legitimately a blast.

But that was partially because I was still being a little headstrong with it. Some plot lines were stagnant when I was done. The intro was unwieldy. There was a lot that I had to fix about that novel, to the point where I was editing it without knowing if it was good at all anymore.

So, now, with H&T, everything is baby steps. Everything is metered and measured and extremely careful. Everything is second-guessed.

The result of all of this is, on a day like today, when I wrote 600+ words, I feel bad because I was aiming for a ton. I sit back and question everything I wrote. And I think, “Ugh… I have to be back at work tomorrow; I can’t just take another day and figure this out.”

And, really, that’s true for all writers. We all have to just go through the motions–work the day job–then come home and try our best to be productive with our passion.

The thing is, you have to do that and not go crazy doing it.

And not going crazy means not feeling like you lose every single day.

So… Hey, guys. I got 600+ words today, which is pretty good, considering I was at home with a ton of distractions. What I wrote was a little rough–a tense, first exchange between my protagonists–but I’m super familiar with turning a scene I don’t like into something amazing, so I know that I can do it.

That… is how a writer should think. That’s how I need to start thinking.

Because I think I’m starting to just get… scared of writing. I’m starting to make excuses for myself constantly. And maybe it’s because I got published; maybe now I’m just expecting myself to be able to make everything perfect right away. But that’s not the way writing works. That’s not the way anything works. I need to know that.

Because everything sucks in my life, but writing has always been the one thing that didn’t.

I need it to stay that way.

Words for the Day: 618

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 19: No Escape

I managed to write today, although it was my first taste of getting home at 10PM.

Yes, unfortunately, the Doubles Experiment is going to have to wait; the busy season has already reared its ugly head at work, and my schedule is already suffering.

I only got to write for maybe 15 minutes on the job (and then another 30 or so at home, just now). Unfortunately, the work writing session ended with a problem I was hoping I’d figure out when I got home. Only, getting home turned into walking through a rainstorm for a cumulative 20 minutes, with no umbrella. I don’t want to complain (it’s starting to feel like that’s all I do in these posts), but what I’m saying is, getting home around 11, soaked and knowing I’m back at work at 8AM, so I only have about an hour to write, transcribe the day’s words, and write this post  . . . it sucks.

I just didn’t solve the story problem when I got home. I didn’t solve it, and, despite thinking that I’d drop in a placeholder for it, I didn’t.

Because this isn’t a problem that can be placeheld; it isn’t a name, easily switched–it’s Modis’ power. In H&T, everyone has powers, which are called Talents. In today’s scene, Modis is trapped in a cell and he needs to use his Talent, which is pretty weird, to escape–without making noise. It’s a scene I’ve been excited to write for a long time . . . but newly added, logical caveats of his Talent are making it a huge pain in the ass. Maybe it’s the rain, or the writing-this-at-12AM, but the solution just isn’t coming.

Ugh. I hate this. I hate that I’m using this as a forum to complain. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to go to sleep, I’m going to wake up, spend the first half of my shift tomorrow considering a solution to this problem.

And then, on lunch, I’m going to write my ass off.

Words for the Day: 267

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,161

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 18: The Problem with Indulgence

I had a strange moment earlier, when I felt a spot of charming dialogue coming on . . . and I narrowed my eyes.

The clouds had parted and, after a few hours of work, I actually got a moment to sit down with my notebook and work out a scene. I got a few hundred words in, when Sydney met a fellow Annex Hunter, Taurean–the sidiest of side characters.

The exchange, meant to be something quick as Sydney entered the scene, slowed down suddenly . . . because it seemed like Taurean had something to say.

And, “Waaaait a minute,” I thought. “Is this Hunter about to talk to Sydney about his feelings?”

But . . . that couldn’t be right, could it? Taurean is a tough dude, first of all. Second, he’s not an important character.

And, third, I’d already had a bunch of scenes where characters let emotions out. So far, this chapter had been all about the protagonists being vulnerable.

So, why the hell was I going in on Taurean’s feels?

Because I wanted to.

Not that I wanted him to be vulnerable, but because I already wanted him to be a bigger part of the story. The selfish writer in me was all, “Eh? Eh? Why not add a whole exchange between him and Sydney, huh? Maybe he becomes a major part of the adventure? Eh? I mean, it’s what you want.” Before catching myself, I almost acted on that want.

But . . . ages and ages ago, when I forced a barbarian character into my first, worst novel–just because I loved him and I didn’t care that his presence made no sense–I learned that, sometimes, my wants as a writer can completely derail and/or muddle a story.

In that first novel, about undead monsters, there was this giant barbarian dude who served exclusively as comic relief (ugh, it hurts even to explain it). He rarely spoke (because I often forgot he was there), and when he did, it was to deliver lines on par with Zangief’s, “Quick! Change the channel!” from the 90’s Street Fighter movie. When I rewrote that novel (which still wound up being bad), he was the first major cut I made . . . before thinking that I should replace him with a new character–a bizarre ghost-ninja who I also loved. To my credit, I never wound up adding that ghost-ninja either.

Because, with that rewrite, I learned the strange, hollow feeling of writing something really selfish. There’s something cold about it, like the sensation of being watched, only the total opposite–as if I was walking with a friend only to realize, without looking, that they aren’t there anymore.

In no way would Taurean’s feelings help the plot. I’d be detracting from the action that ends this chapter, adding a bit of drag right before it starts, for no purpose other than humoring myself.

So, today, I just stopped writing that scene, tore those pages out of my notebook, and tossed them.

Oddly, it still feels like progress.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 7,887