Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Running a Little Shallow This Week

OK, so I missed my "double post" last week. My Thursday got away from me. I do still intend on having one in the near future to talk about the reading challenge again.

As for my writing challenge, though, eh, I'm a bit sunk. I think I have a cold coming on, because I can't think of anything new. It is just complete blank up there. Either that, or I'm obsessively "Jolene" up in there.

She managed to survive the Wednesday session last week, but it stirred up a bunch of drama. Drama that continued on Saturday. She's trying so hard to be good, but she's really bad at it....

So, trying to think of a story that doesn't involve her or Rensin is super tough right now. I tried all week. I tried all weekend. I tried again yesterday. Nothing.

The best that I had was an anecdote I told a couple of friends the other day. I don't recall why I brought it up; must have been SOMETHING dealing with putting your foot in your mouth. A subject I know far too well, sadly.

Since I end up telling just about everyone this story anyway, as a means to make them feel better about their own temporary stupidity, I figured "Eh, might as well." It was a super quick write on Saturday. Mostly due to the fact that I've told the story so frequently. Plus, it's only about 500-words long.

My issue is that it is only 500-some words when I'm allotted up to 1000, and it's not a story I "created". It's an anecdote.

Still, it was better than no story at all this past week, so I typed that sucker up. I then tried to come up with an actual story to use for the challenge, but that only resulted in a small Jolene/Rensin scene that also was about 500-words long.

I'm hoping I can get back on my game this week.

In the meantime, enjoy my greatest idiotic moment, and keep this sucker bookmarked for the next time you feel like an idiot:

"Did I Just Say That?"

My biggest issue is that it's not exactly easy for a laser-focused person to come up with something new on the fly every week like this. As opposed to ADHD Ronoxym who is constantly thinking of something new. I guess that's kind of the irony of our challenges to each other: I want him to be more focused, while he wants me to be able to have creative inspiration constantly.

It kinda works, though, because we're helping each other with our weaknesses. Intending to, at least.

The only real problem is that while I'm struggling to think of something new each week, and I'm obsessing about Jolene's next weekly session, I am completely dropping my NaNo prep. I don't even know the last time I at least THOUGHT about that story. Maybe that should be my focus today. Who knows, perhaps in my prepping for that I can think of something for Ron's challenge.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Playing Massive Catchup

Alright, well, I definitely didn't intend on completely skipping last week! I was doing so good, too.

I don't have a real valid excuse. My excuse is simply that I had to work last Tuesday, and also...
Here's the quick play-by-play of the past two weeks:
  • Wednesday 9/7 - On death's door; crashed after work
  • Thursday - Work until 8pm, and then OPENING GAME OF REGULAR SEASON FOOTBALL! We were up until midnightish.
  • Friday - Work followed by me zoning out on the couch for hours on end trying to figure out how to level up my character in Bear's campaign.... It was bad....
  • Saturday - Work again, half-hour break, and then straight into the weekly D&D session. Things are starting to look bad for Jolene. Me and Bear decided I need to do a solo-session with her to figure out background stuff. I stayed up until it's time to take Hubby into work.
  • Sunday - Drop Hubby off; couple hours of sleep; pick him up; work; and then straight into the Giant's rival game! Sunday night football - minus a half-hour between the afternoon and evening games - kept us up until midnightish again.
  • Monday - My coworker convinced me to join her in Aerial Yoga. So, right after work, instead of working on this post - knowing full well that I couldn't write it Tuesday due to working - I went to yoga with her, and then straight into the Monday Night Football double-header. By the time the games were over and I was back home it was around 1am.
  • Tuesday - Work, and at that point I had been up for so many days in a row that I just zoned out instead of writing this post AFTER work, so that it could go up Wednesday.
  • Wednesday - More work, and then straight into laundry. I was going to work on this post there, but it was the only free time Bear had for my solo play. It kept nearly the full two hours I was at the laundromat, and then another hour or so after I got home. Then quick folding/hanging of my clothes before bed.
  • Thursday - My 10hr day at work, leading directly into football again. Another late nighter.
  • Friday - While this was yet another day that I had every intention of writing my late post, it turned into me cleaning week-long neglected dishes, as well as working on a new weekly challenge Ronoxym gave me; something I'll talk about more in this post.
  • Saturday - Work yet again, then about half-hour down time for food, followed by the D&D session leading straight from the Wednesday solo-session. Jolene is REALLY in trouble now, but Bear had to crash early for work, so we had to kind of stop right in the body of the drama! We're continuing with a short session tomorrow night, and I've been antsy about it since Saturday night! More on this in the blog too.
  • Sunday - Hubby drop off; Hubby pick up; work; football. I was going to use the much more mellow atmosphere of football watching this week to FINALLY get to my blog, but at that point I figured I'd just write last week off and wait until today.
  • Monday - Home stretch. Last day of work before my day off; FINALLY. Aerial Yoga was cancelled, so I left work and just vegged all night; enjoying my freedom.
I feel so bad. Not only did I miss my blog post, but I also haven't had contact with my email pen-pal in nearly two weeks. My brain has been so burnt out that every time I open the email to respond to her my eyes cross and drop focus. So, I guess I know what I'm doing when I'm done with this post.

I've been slacking a bit on my prep for NaNo, and my writing has died down a bit with my brain being all fuzzy, but I haven't stopped completely.

On Friday the 9th I was able to get a hold of Ronoxym via FB messenger. Generic "how's things" talk for a little bit. I then tried to strong-arm him into doing NaNoWriMo with me and Cyhyr. I think I MIIIIGHT have convinced him, but he's a busy boy, so who knows? Between work, new-fatherhood, and going back to school, I have no clue where he'll find the time. Still, I'll be evil and poke him during November to ask how his writing is going.

Anyway, as we were talking "shop" I reminded him that he never gave me the writing challenge he said he made up for me back in January/February. After a brief moment of "Uh... let me remember what it was...." he gave me my challenge: write a new 1000-words or less flash fiction each week!

I'm now REALLY glad that he had forgotten about exchanging challenges until just now. Finishing up the last quarter of the year with this challenge will be interesting enough. A full 52 weeks of it might have killed me....

So, writing a complete story/scene/whatever in 1000-words or less is already super hard for long-winded me, but Ron wasn't done yet. Not only did I have to write flash fiction each week for the remainder of 2016, but I also had restrictions:
  1. None of the stories could relate to each other. They couldn't continue off each other. I couldn't thread a bunch of 1000-word scenes into a full story. Each flash fiction had to be a one-shot.
  2. I couldn't write about characters I already created. No X-Future girls, no D&D characters "behind the scenes" stories, no characters from original stories I already wrote. Each new, flash fiction had to be about completely different characters.
  3. No. Fan. Fiction. None. No playing in someone else's sandbox. Not only could I not use my own characters, but I definitely can't use someone else's. Each week. New characters. Completely original.
I'd call him mean - and I think I actually did in our conversation - but I wasn't exactly kind to him either when I gave him his challenge at the beginning of the year; not that it matters, he had forgotten about it with all the chaos of Baby-Prepping.

OH! And speaking of Ron, he and ChibiSunnie just celebrated their birthdays! Happy birthday to probably my two writing besties!
Aaaaand we're back....

So anyway, my nervousness about Ron's challenge quickly turned into excitement. An adorable elder couple came into the store a few days prior, and they inspired me. I had my first story done within 24-hrs of getting my challenge.

When I was done I was actually at like 1013 words, though, so I had to grumble and cut until I was at EXACTLY 1000 words; still counts! Also, I cheated slightly. What I wrote wasn't a scene per se. There was no action. There was no dialogue. There was no true movement of character. Instead, it was a snapshot of a man dealing with his wife dying from cancer; what is known as a vignette.

A story is still told, but at the same time the elements of a "scene" are missing: the action; the growth.
"Screw 'Til Death"

I read this story at writing group last week. I think I have stronger faith that the lack of critiques each week is due to my skill; not their neglect.

When I finished reading there was just this profound silence, and then this group exhale. I had comments like "Wait, you're HOW OLD again, and can write so poignantly about a couple in their late sixties?" and "I've been through this, and let me tell you, you've nailed it." Just about everyone at the table said similar: I captured the pain of losing someone you've loved your whole life; the loss of self along with your partner. Granted, after seeing my mother go through it, it wasn't a hard stretch to be empathetic towards those in that situation.

That's when Carson nervously pitched in a cautious "I don't mean to insult you, but... why do you write fanfiction when you can write like THAT!?" The room echoed his sentiment. He always seems to be able to put words to what everyone else seems to think.

I was probably blushing nearly as bad as when I read "Rensin's Conquest" to them. I had to admit to them what I've already admitted here: I know full well that I use fanfiction as a crutch to get past the "hard bits" of writing; namely creating the world and characters. Yet, I still fall back into the crutch because it was what always got me writing in the past, and writing fanfiction is better than no writing at all, right?

Still. It's SUPER encouraging to hear them all astonished at how well I wrote that tale. I don't know how they'll feel about the next one I wrote this past Friday, though. Not nearly as emotional, and in the realm of fantasy; which most of the group isn't really into.

As I stated in my weekly recap above, Jolene isn't really doing very well. The session tomorrow night might actually see her untimely demise.

While I'm of course fighting to prevent that, I also must let the character make her own decisions and let the chips fall where they may. I already have her swan song written up should it go that far.

Since Jolene may not last much longer, I've started trying to find inspiration for my next character. I flipped though about twenty or so pictures people have drawn of characters created for fantasy games. Among them was this amazing picture.
Bard Ariane by Lapis-Razuri
Isn't she adorable!? I instantly knew that she was going to be the basis of my next character. Right off the bat I figured I'd make her a gnome. She also looks playful, like she doesn't really take anything seriously. She looked spunky, like she had a lot of "moxie." So I needed to figure out a good name for that.

With some playing, I figured "why not a name that - in theory - people could shorten to 'Moxie'?" Some more playing around, and I came up with the name Elymoxa. I personally shorten it to just Mox, but I'm assuming the group would shorten it to Ellie. However, the potential for "Moxie" is there, and that's all that matters to me.

Anyway, since she's not officially a character yet, I stretched the restrictions of Ron's challenge a bit, and I used her for my second flash fiction. Consider it a way to get to know her. Time-order-wise, since I haven't opened the Players Handbook even once to start officially creating her, you could say she's an original character I liked enough to make into a D&D character to play.... That makes this past week's story count for the challenge, right?

If you want a nice intro to Mox - who will probably change while I play her, because that's how it ALWAYS happens with my characters - then you can check out my flash fiction for week 2 of the challenge:
"No Time for Playing"

If you want to follow along before I post in my weekly blogs for the remainder of the year, you can watch the anthology I've pieced together for these one-shots. It's called "Ronoxym's Flash Fiction Challenge." And, yes, it does occur to me that perhaps the name is a bit confusing. I'm LycoRogue, and it says Ronoxym's, but I was tired last Friday when I set it up. Besides, Ron was the one who challenged me. It made sense at the time. I might have to go back and change it though at some point....

The trick is to figure out what to write for this week's challenge....

The other trick is to get back on track with NaNo prep while dealing with the drama of Jolene's doom, and let me tell you, she has NOT shut up since the solo session last Wednesday! It's snippets and mini-speeches, but I have a couple pages worth over the course of the past week.

I'm really liking Jolene and her relationship - strained as it is - with the clueless Rensin. Even the setting of the campaign is awesome. I just wish I understood it a bit better so that Jolene could have played around in it a bit more. Perhaps Jolene and Rensin will be revived - as it were - in another story concept down the road.

I can't keep stealing other people's roleplay characters though, like I did with Phfylburt's Lincoln or Ron's Devon. I'll have to find a way of recreating Rensin as an original character to pit up against Jolene. I did have a similar concept for Amara's love interest for her story - which I had mentally "in the works" back in like 2005/2006, but never actually written down. I don't know if I can make Rensin as adorable as his player does, though. I'll need practice over the years of polishing.

Alright, well, since I'm now down a week for my blog posts, I might work on a catch-up one for a double-post week. Most likely focused solely on my reading challenge progress since I haven't talked about that in a little while. So, keep your eyes open for that.

In the meantime, I'm off to play massive catch-up to make up for the crazy-long work week I had.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Sorry for the Delay

I'm sorry, but this blog post is going to be a bit late this week due to lack of free time. I'm working overtime at work, have my writing group, and started up exercising after work. This should only be a temporary setback.

I apologize for the delay and will get everything cleaned up here as soon as possible.

In the meantime, enjoy some complimentary coffee and donuts while you wait.

Also, feel free to take some of this newly-found free time to sign up for my email updates, or my RSS feed if you haven't already. That way you can be quickly contacted once everything is finished up here. 

You can find the links to the right.

Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter (@LycoRogue). I generally only tweet about my blog updates, so you don't have to worry about being flooded by me. 

Thank you again for your patience. We should have everything up and running again by Thursday, Sept 15 at the latest.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What Can I Salvage From This?

I had some self restraint last week. I didn't offer to read more of "Rensin's Conquest," and no one asked if I wanted to read more of it, so I left it be. Instead, I talked about how I was prepping for NaNoWriMo already, and then read them the 40-question Dread Character Questionnaire. As I predicted, they all loved the concept of those hard-hitting questions. One comment was actually that it's great that "there's no 'out' for those questions. It's not 'do you have...' it's 'which one do you have...'." I ended up passing the questionnaire to everyone via email.

I also let them know that I was shaking off the dust on "The Race for Destiny" for NaNo. As well as let them know what a disaster the original story was. So, they know the uphill battle I have for reworking it to be more original. Boy, is it ever going to be a battle.

For the original go of the story, I was taking elements from about five different characters each, in order to create my main characters of Natalie and Connor. I assumed that if I did this, then they would Voltron into a new, original character, not quite recognizable as the sum of the fanfiction parts. It didn't quite work out that way because the "stolen" elements were too much in the forefront. Connor's description, for instance, if one were paying even the vaguest of attention, would definitely be Link from the Legend of Zelda series; minus the trademark hat. Natalie's pink-stone pendent heirloom she's never without - that has mysterious powers and great importance in Albion - is clearly Hitomi's necklace from Visions of Escaflowne. Although it never got to that point in the story, Connor's transformation into a feral demon-like beast that only Natalie could calm is pretty much just straight up Kagome and InuYasha when he goes demonic.

I'm trying to figure out how many of those elements do I need to keep for my story. How many SHOULD I keep for my story? Do I just start completely from fresh? It's a bit of a struggle to figure it out. So, I started with filling out more of the questionnaires for Natalie and Connor.

I'm getting further with Connor because he was the one that actually had a bit of a personality the first go. I chose characters with some fire and tragedy to them when I first made Connor, so now I'm trying to figure out how to better meld them together into one personality instead of a patchwork of like-personalities from existing characters.

Connor's overall drive to become a strong hero so he can track down the raiding bandits that slaughtered his hometown, and get his vengeance on them, is full-on Hero from Fable. His transformation into Demon-Form, and why he transforms, is taken from InuYasha, but, unlike InuYasha, Connor fears the transformation and wishes to remain human. His brashness and slight elitism are hand-me-downs from Van from Visions of Escaflowne, but he also has Van's moments of tenderness, compassion, and protectiveness. His looks were Link's, but I think I also originally gave him Link's penchant for minimal talking. Granted, Connor wasn't nearly as "mute" as Link is in the games, but he was a man of few words - except when he was angry, apparently. I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep that trait since it will be just him and Natalie for a large majority of the story. Who knows?

As for the less-developed Natalie? Her main influence was Hitomi from Visions of Escaflowne; a girl who has a mysterious necklace heirloom that teleports her onto a different planet. She is then told that her coming was foreseen via prophecy, and it is her duty to help rid the land of corruption in order to bring peace. Hitomi - and therefore Natalie - is a bit of a loner who isn't terribly happy with her life, anyway, and so a "vacation" from Earth, while scary, doesn't seem that big of a deal. However, she quickly yearns to return to a world she knows, and this tears at her since the love of her life - Van for Hitomi; Connor for Natalie - is on the strange planet she's currently on. Does she stay with him or go back home? Can she survive long enough for that decision to matter?

The second main influence was Kagome from InuYasha, who also got teleported out of her normal life - this time via a time warp into Feudal Japan - and has the same dilemma: only she can help cleanse the land of evil while struggling between returning home and staying with the man she loves. Sensing a theme in Anime? Kagome also lead me to have Natalie be the only one to see the other pieces of the goddess Alrea's magical gemstone, just as only Kagome can see the fragments of the Shikon Jewel. Another Kagome trait is that she shoots cleansing "spirit arrows" to help defeat demons, so naturally, Natalie can only use Albion's magic by using a bow and arrow as conduits. Last Kagome trait: as mentioned above, Natalie is the only one who can calm Connor down when he's in a feral rage. Their connection, and his growing love for her, are the only things reminding him of his humanity.

Natalie, along with a bunch of other anime heroine archetype traits, also has a sprinkling of Miaka from the anime Fushigi Yuugi. Just like Hitomi and Kagome, Miaka was teleported from the modern world to a different one - again in the past, like with Kagome. Once again, the trope of falling in love with a man, and therefore being torn between staying and going home, plays out. The added is that Miaka is believed to be a speaker for one of the four gods due to her coming from a different world/time, and that in completing a quest that would allow Miaka to summon the god, she would be granted a wish. Natalie gets the same treatment: she's speaker for Alrea, and in completing her quest, she can have a wish granted; this is the main reason she goes on the quest in hopes of using the wish to get home.

So, as you can see, Connor's character is a lot more developed; a lot more complex. The elements I grabbed for him were more personality-based with a central drive attached to it. Natalie's character build was more about the similar archetype/trope I was seeing in anime: a girl teleported from her home due to some sort of magic/mysticism about her is told that she's the only one who can complete a task that would bring peace to the land; she begrudgingly does the dangerous quest in hopes of having the power to return home once it's complete; as the quest goes on she becomes more competent and more of an equal to her male counterpart, whom she falls in love with; once the quest is done and the world is saved, she's torn between staying with the man she loves or going home to the life she knows.

Natalie is the plot. Connor is the characterization. I need to balance that out a bit more. And get a bit off the tropey-ness. That's the challenge because while I know I need to completely rework everything, I'm also trying to figure out what parts are alright to keep so that it's still a reboot of my original story instead of stealing Connor and Natalie's names and starting completely fresh.

I'm definitely going to need help with this.....

On a different train of thought.... I completed "Ready Player One" by the close of September. Easily completed it, in fact. Had time to spare.

The ending was both awesome, and a bit aggravating. Much like "Island of the Blue Dolphins," I wanted just ONE more chapter. Just one!

Don't get me wrong, both books had good endings that wrapped things up enough that you could sort of connect the dots a bit to mentally figure out what happened next. No need for the author to spell it out. Still, I wanted like an epilogue or something. Especially with "Ready Player One," I wanted to see the aftermath of everything. Crisis was adverted, social loose ends were quickly tied up, and then that's it! No aftermath info. Nothing about what happened to the world after the crisis ended. No explanation as to what the main characters did once they were able to take a breather, especially since their entire life for the past 5yrs was preventing the crisis presented at the conclusion of the book. Now that they never again have to worry about that, what do they do with their lives that was previously consumed by that quest? How do they handle the world now? Are they now celebrities? Still outcasts? Do they fade into society? Do they help improve society? Do they remain tight friends, especially after everything they've been through? Do they part ways now that they don't have a common goal? Does a new crisis arise to fill the vacuum of the old one?

GAAAAH! Ernest Cline needs to write a sequel! He reportedly has a third book currently in the works, so maybe even though his second novel "Armada" doesn't seem to have anything to do with "Ready Player One," perhaps this third one will? Probably not. So again I proclaim: ERNEST CLINE NEEDS TO WRITE A SEQUEL TO "READY PLAYER ONE"!

In the meantime, I'll have to track down "Armada" and wait for the film adaptation for "Ready Player One" to be complete. It should be good, since Cline apparently sold the film rights literally the day after a bidding war to publish the novel. Cline also made sure that he kept enough creative rights so that he was in charge of the screenplay. THAT'S how you do it! You don't just scoop up the first check written for you for fear that your story will never be a movie if you pass. You wait until a studio will let you write the screenplay so that you KNOW the adaptation will do the book justice. Otherwise both you and your fans just become bitter and grumbly about how inaccurate the movie is.

Anyway, if you haven't noticed from me ranting about it the past couple of weeks, I. LOVED. "READY PLAYER ONE." Definitely one of my top faves. Don't know if it surpassed ALL of the Percy Jackson novels, but it's definitely nestled among the series. I think I'm just a fan of first-person stories because the narrator is allowed to be a snarky smart-ass.

Regardless, if you are a fan of gamer-culture, distopian sci-fi, and/or 80s pop-culture and obscure Atari games, then this book is definitely a must-read for you! I'd actually strongly encourage everyone to read it, but the gaming and 80s culture references are so forefront that if you're not into them it might diminish your interest in the book overall. I mean, Cline has Wade - the narrator/protagonist - explain these movies and games so well that you don't need to know them in order to enjoy the story. I know I never heard of half the stuff referenced. I mean, I watched "Ladyhawke" for the first time on Friday because it was one of Wade's guilty-pleasure favorites, I never heard of it before reading "Ready Player One," and Spink just HAPPENED to have a copy of it. I have to agree with the character Aech, though, it's DEFINITELY reserved for "guilty pleasure" status along with the likes of "Howard the Duck."

My point is, that you don't need to KNOW early video games or 80s culture to like the book, but a penchant for them will help. I know I squeed a bit at work - bouncing up and down in my chair, and giggling like a loon - whenever they got to bits I did know. I nearly lost it when there was a "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" reference.

The characterization was so good, too! My only disappointment was that I thought more shady things were going on with Art3mis, and I was able to quickly figure out why Aech was nervous about meeting Wade in real life. Add those to the calendar confusion that annoyed me; which also continues with the fact that the blurb on the book cover itself stated "in the year 2044..." even though the book - post prologue - actually starts in February of 2045...
Knives from the comic book series Scott Pilgrim
by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Anyway, my point is, that Cline losing track of his in-story calendar, and some missed opportunities with character were the only real parts that I didn't like about the book. Those, and a few times where he needlessly repeated himself, but they were few and far between.

All-in-all, I'd give the book an 8.5 out of 10. Go read it! Go! Now!

It will give you something to do while I figure out my own writing....

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Can I Get a Reboot?

I'm going back to the drawing board. Well, writing board. I'm starting fresh.

I mean this not only in regards of climbing out the the gutter, but also referencing an old story. "Some Like It Flame Broiled" is still in the works - I added a small bit and polished some parts that were really bugging me and Ronoxym - but I've also started prep work for NaNoWriMo.

Ron and Cyhyr popped in on Sunday with their baby girl. Sadly, I was in the middle of running a D&D game still, so we didn't really socialize with them for the fifteen-or-so minutes that they visited. Feeling guilty, I sent them both messages once we were done. Cyhyr and I started chatting and it shifted into writing stuff. We discussed that we both wanted to give NaNo another try this year, and we debated what we wanted to write about. As per Cyhyr's suggestion, I'm shaking the dust off of "The Race for Destiny," and boy does it ever need some shaking!

I understand that it was my first NaNo attempt, and one of the key "rules" is "No Editing"; you just write and post and polish later. My problem is that I PUBLICLY posted, not just shared to the NaNo word-count-bots. This story is so raw and rough, it's a joke. There are typos all over the place, I apparently couldn't stand the thought of combining "in" and "to" to form "into" even though every time I use "in to" I really meant "into." And the characters, even though I had been developing them for YEARS on end, seemed so flat. Their emotions were like teenagers still getting use to their hormones. They're hot. They're cold. They fly off the handle about nothing at all. They're overly trusting with no real bases on why. It's a mess.

So, I'm going back to the drawing board.

I'm using September and October as prep time, starting with really TRULY figuring out my characters. I have the amazing Character Questionnaire up again; the one I used to create Jolene. We'll see what shakes loose about these guys in the process. I already know that I knew what I wanted Natalie to BECOME, but I don't really know much about how she is when she starts the story.

Then there's the over-all plot. It's a hodge-podge of three different main "quests" from video games and anime; all three of which were my favorite entertainment in college. Wonder why I picked them, huh?

The overall story is to gather up jewel fragments in order to make the jewel whole again in order to stop an evil villain from conquering the country, and possibly the world. Add in that Connor is a "half-demon" - not really, but as far as the people in the Sister Isles are concerned; yes - who goes "feral" and only Natalie can calm him back down, and you have "InuYasha."

Connor's main backstory is that his village was burnt and slaughtered by raiders, all because the villain was looking for him, his sister, and his mother. Connor's main goal and drive in life is to seek revenge for the desolation of his home town, and his being orphaned; a normal life forever out of his reach. Then add that the entire layout of the world Connor and Natalie are running around in - as well as the secondary villain Jack of Blades - are literally based on a fictitious Albion, and you have "Fable."

Finally, there's all the "little elements" sprinkled throughout the story. Connor has blonde hair that falls in front of his pointed ears. He wears two blue hoop earrings in each ear. His outfit is white tights and a form-fitting long-sleeve shirt under a green tunic. His main weapons are a one-handed sword and bow. Basically, he's InuYasha/Fable's Hero running around in Link cosplay; minus the hat. Then there's the creation of the country via four sister goddesses - instead of three golden goddesses - and they left a powerful sword behind along with treasures that each symbolize a different power needed for leadership. Anyone could possess these treasures, and have their wish granted if they possess all of them. Last, but not least, the main villain is very obviously Ganondorf. So, yeah, equally heavy-handed on the Legend of Zelda references. Specifically, Twilight Princess art stylings.

There's also a large inconsistency in the way people obtain the treasures from the Sister Goddesses. I have that the Goddesses bless someone of their choosing, and the gem is sort of "fused" with them - like the Triforce in Legend of Zelda - but they can focus on it to have it materialize. For that, I think I was imagining the Heart Crystals from a season of Sailor Moon. Anyway, when the bearer dies, the gem disappears into the ether - presumably, it returns to the Divine Plane where the goddesses reside - until the Goddess that owns the gem blesses another with it. Problem is, Ganondorf is forcefully collecting the gems, and has been for a century. Which is why Natalie has a fragment of one, and they have to do an InuYasha-like search for the other pieces to make the gem whole again. How could Ganondorf forcefully be gathering gemstones that are divinely gifted by goddesses? Wouldn't the goddess just be like "NOPE. Mine now"? So, there must be some sort of loophole or clause that Ganondorf can manipulate to try to gather the gems.

My over-all point is that my first attempt at this story was completely unoriginal, not thought through, and rife with typos, poor grammar, and flat characters.

Here's hoping Take Two goes better. I'll be more intelligent about it, though. I'll wait to publish online until it's at least polished; or completed, whichever comes first.

Of course, while changing gears like this DOES mean that I'll eventually have something non-smutty to read at group, it also means I don't have anything TONIGHT to read, since I've been polishing up "Rensin's Conquest" as well as tweaking/continuing "Some Like It Flame Broiled."

With Shadow's encouragement, I ended up biting the bullet, and sending "Rensin's Conquest" over to Carson from writing group. It kept Carson about four or five passes to really make sure he caught everything, but I had a good set of comments when he was done. Mostly, he caught grammar or structure errors, as well as gave a few word change suggestions, and two or three content questions. I was a bit too vague on Jolene's garb descriptions, apparently. All-in-all, not too bad, and not much changed, so I'm guessing it was good? Carson also reassured me that it was less "smut" and more "nice story with a sex scene in the middle." We both agreed that in its current form, it's more "R-Rated" than "NC-17", but if I cut one little scene out where Jolene first introduces Rensin to.... we'll go with "pleasure".... I'm falling more into the "suggestive scenes" realm and could probably call it rated "PG-13" or "T for Teen" depending on your rating preference.

So, if I'm encouraged enough, I MIGHT attempt to finish reading "Rensin's Conquest" at group, but I think I'll probably just stick with "HEY! I'm prepping for NaNo, anyone want to help me figure things out before November starts?"

The final piece of writing work I did this week was actually beta-read for someone. I believe I mentioned that writing group has a semi-new gentleman about my age, maybe a touch older. We're kind of two peas in that group. We both love sci-fi, modern fantasy, and traditional/high fantasy genres. We're gamers as well. So, his was really the feedback I was looking for whenever I presented something from "Glitches," although figuring out if it's still entertaining to people that normally don't read comics was a nice bonus to reading at group.

Anyway, he sent me his prologue-turned-first-chapter to his fantasy story. Sadly, it kept me over a week to get to it, but I finally did this week. There was a good skeleton there that I wanted to know more about, but that was the bittersweet problem: I wanted to know more! Nearly every sentence I wrote something to the extent of: "expand this" or "tell me more" or "show; don't tell" or "describe this for me..." You get the gist. His story definitely needs MORE added to it, but the skeleton is there. He said that Carson sent him some notes too, so I guess Carson's been a bit of a busy Beta-reader lately. I feel like he's betaed for other people at group too. His office hours must have as much downtime as mine. Either way, the guy who wrote the fantasy story doesn't think he'd be able to polish Chapter 1 in time for group tonight, but I hope he'll have something else to present anyway.

As for my reading challenge, I'm SO CLOSE to being done with "Ready Player One." I have like 100 pages to go, if that. I'll most likely have it done before September, but I just didn't quite finish it for this post. I'm in the final act, though, so there's that. Can I just add real quick that I love that Ernest Cline actually put IN act breaks? There was the prologue, and then "Level One" for the first act, "Level Two" for the second, and obviously "Level Three" for the final act. LOVE THAT! Each "level" also has a quote from a book called "Anorak's Almanac"; basically, the protagonist's equivalence to the Bible.

The story is getting SOOOOOO good. You know it is when I go "I should be writing now" and instead I pick up the book again because I can't get the plot out of my head! I cannot wait to talk about this next week! Be prepared!

In the meantime, can I make a shout out to Ronoxym? Can I yell at him? Because after I posted last week's blog update he messaged me to tell me how much he loved "Ready Player One" and I'm like "YOU KNEW THIS AWESOME BOOK EXISTED AND YOU DIDN'T SUGGEST IT TO ME!?"

*Ahem* Now that I've gotten that out of my system....

My only real irk about this book is that Cline seems to keep forgetting the "calendar" for this story. The protagonist accomplishes something, comments about how he did so on a Thursday. Then comments on how a new friend of his did the same accomplishment every following day for the next four days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. He then says that the Friday a week after he accomplished his goal was "the next day" after the friends completed the goal. But.... that means he totally jumped over Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Ripped me out of the story.

Then he comments about living in an apartment for five months, except we know he moved into the apartment sometime before he graduated in June, and a few paragraphs before the "five months" comment it was stated that it was December 31st. So.... how is it five months between the beginning of June and end of December? Ripped me out again.

He's done this "lost track of time" thing at least five times throughout the book. How did no one else notice this!? Did they just accept it as the narrator can't keep track of time?

Cline also repeats himself a bit much in the start of the book. I must have read how The OASIS is free about three or four times within the first handful of chapters. The reader gets it. It's currently free so any shmuck - including the protagonist - can use it, but billions will be left out in the cold if there were ever a monthly charge put on it. Why Cline (or the narrator; however you want to look at it) felt the need to repeat this so much is beyond me. I couldn't tell if he lost track of what he already said, or if he wasn't sure the readers were quick enough to get the point.

Aside from those "pulled me out of the story" moments, I'm in love with this book. Like I said, be prepared for a discussion next week! In the meantime, I'm back to reworking "The Race for Destiny" - including that god-awful title - possibly polishing and working more on "Some Like It Flame Broiled," and most definitely finishing off "Ready Player One."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Think I'll Set Up Shop Here In The Gutter

I read my "smut" at writer's group last week....

To be fair, I did spend the last two hours of work leading into the group frantically writing an opening to the story in an attempt to drop the story down to a bit more of a PG-13 rating. I was able to get to about three or four pages into the story before it starts getting "naughty," so I was able to read that much at least.

Nearly had a heart attack in doing so, though. I just sat in the meeting mentally riffling through all of my writing to think of SOMETHING else that I could read. No dice. At least, not unless I decided to bring up something that I wrote YEARS ago just for S&Gs. Then it hit about 7:30. We had a half-hour to still fill. Everyone else already read. We were just kind of staring at each other trying to figure out what else to talk about. That's when I sort of bashfully went "Well, TECHNICALLY, I wrote about 10,000+ words since last session. I just don't know if anyone would want to hear what I wrote.... it's.... kind of.... MATURE." I then proceeded to explain the rabbit hole I dove head first into.

They all chuckled that we were all adults, and that it would be fine. Granted, there was a gentleman - fairly new, this was his third or fourth meeting - that seemed to be around my age; probably older, though. Then there were two women that may have only been about ten years older. The rest of the group, though, were definitely closer to my mom's age, and older. Being the clear youngest in the group, it still felt awkward to read THIS kind of story for them to critique. What happens if the sex scenes need tweaking? What if they don't? I don't know which would be more awkward, them being like "Well, I think that it would seem more realistic if he...." or if I got a resounding "WOW! Well done." Because that would mean that I now know where there minds were....

It's bad enough that I know family members that enjoyed "Fifty Shades of Grey," I don't know if I could handle actually knowing people who enjoyed my smuttiness.

Anyway, I was later informed that just about as soon as I spoke up with "Well, TECHNICALLY, I wrote..." that my face just FLOODED with a blush. I was like a human strawberry for the last half-hour of the meeting. And that blush stayed for at least an hour! I'm not cut out for this!!!!

I read the intro to the story, and stopped before anything "naughty" actually happened. Both parties were still clothed - although Jolene was quickly remedying that - and it was just a bunch of flirting leading up to that point. Nothing terribly too bad. I probably would have read it proudly if I didn't know what was going to start happening in the next sentence.

When I stopped, the room kind of filled with a whining "awwwww," so... I guess that means I caught their attention? I don't know if that's because I was doing good, or if they wanted to hear the sex portions I wrote. The only other comment was from one of the newer regular members commenting about my sort of voice change. Normally, I'm about 80% dialogue and only 20% action/scene setting. To try to let the reader know the situation leading into the sex scene, I did a quick recap of the roleplay that inspired me. It was a LOT of background info. She noted that: "You normally do mostly dialogue, and this time we barely had any."

Well, she would have had a lot of dialogue if I had continued, but I wanted to just quickly set up the scene, and including all the dialogue leading up to it didn't seem practical. Still, the way that she said it, I wasn't sure if it was a good thing, a critique, or just an observation.

Then I got an email from one of the group members asking if I cared enough about improving the story to want a beta-reader for it. We could do a story exchange: my smut for his super dark murder scene that he fears will make him look like a twisted psycho. I've written fairly dark and grisly murder scenes - I asked a bunch of people my senior year of high school if they knew what happens to human eyeballs when you burn to death - so I could easily read his bit. STILL not sure about sending him mine, though. Again, I don't know if it would be more awkward if he gave me advice on how to improve the sex scenes, or if he told me it was amazing.

Still, on the off chance that I decide to send it his way, I wanted to polish it first. Slowly but surely, I went back over the story about a dozen times the past week trying to get it to a point where I'm confident that I can't improve it on my own. I still have a couple of lines that don't seem quite right, but it's the best I have for right now. Rensin's a bit harder to get the voice right than I gave him credit for. I just can't give him that spark of bashful innocence like his player managed. So, super added props to his player for being such a great writer. I even asked Mouse to pass along my praise.

She offered to get the two of us in touch - me and Rensin's player - but I just feel that would be super weird considering the circumstances. I'd rather just know the character and not the player at this point....

Despite my better judgement, I DID share the Jolene/Rensin story - titled "Rensin's Conquest" - as well as the Devon/Trish work-in-progress story "Some Like It Flame Broiled." I don't know why, but I just NEEDED to share it with someone, and Shadow happened to be online while I was still trying to calm my blush from writing group. I freaked out to him; basically a "WHAT DID I JUST DO!?"

He chuckled, and told me that he was fairly certain it was good since I'm such a good writer. This of course lead me to tease that he's like my mom: barely actually reads my stuff, but still has unwavering faith that I'm an amazing author. More talking back and forth along those lines, and eventually I just sort of caved and sent him "Some Like It Flame Broiled" with the understanding that I hadn't finished the story yet, let alone went back to polish it.

I dunno. I guess the fact that he's a close friend makes it somehow less awkward for him to read the dirty bits? No real critique one way or the other from him, aside from "<3 Trish" and "You should finish it." Positive reviews, I guess.

Well, last night I finally finished my polishing of "Rensin's Conquest" and sent that over to him too. He's part of the online D&D group with Rensin and Jolene, and so he'd probably be one of the best suited to have an outside perspective on whether or not I have everyone in-character. We'll see if he reads it and/or what his thoughts on the matter will be. I'm predicting it will be raging hatred for Jolene for playing with innocent Rensin's heart, but at least evoking emotion means I did something right, correct?

I also tried to switch gears by talking to Shadow about the MASSIVE love triangles - knots; web? - that I'm trying to set up in "Glitches" between multiple different characters; mainly Chayse, Lia, Willow, Devon, Nyssa, Ripley, and Lincoln. It sort of wobbles between Chayse being the center of a triangle, to Willow being the center, to Devon being the center, to Lia being the center.... I feel like there needs to be more romances in my story that isn't interwoven with those seven characters, but right now the only other option I have is Colette and Joseph.

Anyway, while talking to Shadow about all of this - just to have SOMETHING to talk about that isn't sex-related - I started to get a real passion for "Glitches" again. I think I'm going to finish off "Some Like It Flame Broiled" just so that I don't have ANOTHER work-in-progress hanging around, and then try attacking "Glitches" some more. I need to get an outline figured out. A road map so I know where I'm going with everything.

I think the easiest way is to come up with the individual story arcs for each character and then find a way to weave them together. That was SUPPOSED to be what I wanted to tackle this month while also doing my MasterClass on screenwriting, but somehow I ended up down the dirty-birdy rabbit hole instead. People keep reassuring me that it's perfectly fine; "romance novels" are a big seller. Still.... what a debut into the writing world.

Speaking of my MasterClass, my mother's birthday present to me this year was to sign me up for the Aaron Sorkin class on screenwriting. Isn't she just awesome!?

While Sorkin is entertaining, he also is super awkward to listen to. He's kind of like this:
He even more-or-less said this in a
disclaimer in the intro lesson.
He meanders when he talks, and tends to share examples of what he's trying to teach as a means to prove his point. However, the examples are so specific it's hard to still grasp what he's trying to say. I'm still going through the "pre-writing" portion of the class, and so perhaps it seems only vaguely helpful because I'm not actually trying to do things such as research quite yet. I'll keep you posted on how the class goes once he gets into the actual "this is how you write a script" portion.

To finish up, a quick touch-base on my reading progress:

OH. EM. GEE! "Ready Player One" is quickly jumping up the ranks to one of my favorite books! I'm so in love. All the geekiness. All the 80s pop culture. The actual suspense keeping me on edge. The main character's voice, how he tells the story, is witty and I can't stop promoting this book to everyone I see. Almost literally. I had a customer in the store the other day that basically had the 80s Saturday Morning Cartoon line-up tattooed around his left leg, and so naturally I talked him up about "Ready Player One."

I have no clue if I can finagle things around on the reading challenge check-list so this book still fits, but at this point I don't care. I may not fit all 12 challenge points in before 2017, but I'll definitely have at least 12 books read!

Alright, now off to try to finish "Some Like It Flame Broiled" so I can FINALLY get out of this gutter and start working on something I can read without looking like I replaced my head with a giant tomato.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

This Rabbit Hole is Filthy....

I think I'm officially down the Rabbit Hole, guys!

Working on the smutty Devon/Trish story was NOT my only trek down this road! I added about 1000 more words to that story - I'm not sure it has the same intensity though - but most of my time was kinda focused on a new story. Remember Jolene? My new D&D character for Bear's online campaign? Yeeeeeaaaaaah. Remember how she's a prostitute? ......yeah......

Let me rewind. So, Bear started up this game in like June or late May, but I never got to join the original campaign. Bear decided to do a reset with new characters in the same world setting, and re-invited me. Spink's wedding was the night of the first game of the new campaign, and then two Saturdays ago was the second session; where I froze up in character-creation so I couldn't play.

The game keeps a perpetual game-log of everything shared via the IM component. Which means, not only could I go back and read the session I missed, but I could also read the original campaign; for generic entertainment purposes. I ended up copying both into two different Google Docs for later consumption.

Well, I read through the session I missed, and then re-read the session I was present for, but didn't play; to make sure I had a basic understanding of how the game played and the world Jolene was in. Hubby suggested against doing this to avoid me accidentally including info my character shouldn't know - Metagaming - but I've always been fairly good at keeping Out-of-Character-Knowledge separate. To the point where Lia and Willow have both done super stupid things even though I'm on the outside going "NO! Don't do the thing!" but they didn't know better... so they just went with what was in-character.

Sorry, I'm rambling. Point is, I went back and read through - which took up some of my free time at work - but I'm SOOOOO glad I did. It's so entertaining! Plus, this one character Rensin is just too adorable. I really like how he was built; nice and complex. And, if you know anything about me, you should know that if he's my favorite character it means he's fairly broken.

Rensin is part of a race of Northern barbarians who are claimed to be decedents of giants. There are no adults less than six-foot tall, and most are closer to seven-feet. Even Mouse's character Mahtab, a young woman still possibly capable of growing, is about 6-foot-2-inches. Then you have Rensin. Poor guy is 6-foot-3 and is therefore the smallest full-grown male in the village. He's routinely called "runt" which is only made worse by three things:
  1. Rensin is the orphaned son of a great warrior of his village; one of the renowned "living legends" - or, at least FORMERLY living - of his region. Being a "runt" makes him seem even more of a disappointment to his father's name.
  2. The person who seems to call Rensin a runt the most is his master - he's an apprentice; not a slave - the local swordsmith Alric.
  3. Alric's daughter Mahtab also picks on him on occasion about being a runt since he's only an inch taller than her - there abouts - and she seems to be Rensin's closest friend; also, she's the king's granddaughter. The King of the North is a mountain of a man at about eight-feet tall; so it makes Rensin feel even MORE inferior.
Still rambling, I know, I'm almost to my point.

So, there's adorable Rensin who tries to bolster his pride, only to be quickly deflated by the playful Mahtab who doesn't seem to realize the anguish she actually causes him. He's already fairly down on himself because he doesn't think he could measure up to his father, both figuratively and literally. He keeps trying to say that he'll surpass his father's greatness someday, but in the same breath seems to mutter how useless he currently is. The man is also a bit of a blockhead who doesn't seem to understand subtlety or sarcasm. Completely clueless when it comes to matters of the heart.

Plus, the avatar for Rensin is friggen ADORABLE!
FFXIV: Gharen by YanareKu
Doesn't he just look so wounded? And I don't mean all the battle scars. He needs huggles! Lots and lots of them!

And THAT'S where Jolene comes in. He's a bit of a handsome fella, and, being a barbarian, he's only wearing a loincloth and a very large, shiny sword made from a dragon's fang. Honestly, I'm not sure if it's the body or the loot that caught her eye first. Still, he seemed a good mark, so she went for it. There was LOTS of flirting involved; he didn't catch any of it. So the half-elf Prisys chimed in to try to lead him towards the "lightbulb moment"; it worked, but he still didn't quite get that Jolene was willing to sleep with him. That needed more nudging from the other two women in the group: Mahtab and the dwarf Dunina.

FINALLY getting that he was being given the green flag, Jolene leads him and his female party-mates to the house Jolene is currently staying in as their lodging for the night. For all intents and purposes, the screen fades to black, everyone knows what went on behind closed doors with Rensin and Jolene, fade back up to him gleefully exiting the bedroom the following morning. Play continues as usual.

Then I was left alone with no customers, for five hours, completely undistracted, and bored... and tired. My mind wandered into the dark recesses of "What exactly DID happen behind those closed doors?" because a) Rensin was clearly a virgin trying to hide this fact from the women around him, and b) Rensin had nothing worth stealing aside from his sword, so what was Jolene's angle?

Eight pages later - which I'm still polishing up a bit - I got my answer, and a blush of embarrassment that THIS is what my writing has come to!

Part of me is shamefully proud of it, as evidenced by my telling everyone that I've written it. The larger part of me, though, is mentally locking this thing away with the Devon/Trish AU story; never to be seen by the light of day.

Which begs the question: What am I going to read at writing group tonight?

Maybe I could read either of the smut stories and just skip over the sex parts? I mean, it's "smut" and not "porn" because the ratio between actual plot and sex is at least fifty-fifty.... I hope I come up with something a bit more PG-13 at least for tonight.

Still, I find it ironic that, aside from "naming things" being the bane of my writing existence, one of the things I say I'm terrible at writing are "repetitive action" scenes such as long conversations/monologues, chase scenes, fight scenes, and.... you guessed it.... sex scenes. Yet, here I am writing two different "aggressive romance novels," as Bear put it.... Part of me again wants to actually read the "dirty bits" to someone so that I know if I'm at least improving on this skill.

Sheesh. What a skill to have....

You proud of me, Mom?

Well, like I said last week, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is a thing.... Eh, at least I'm writing. I could be... um... not.... writing..... right?

Aside from all of that, and reading through the backlog of old campaign sessions, I not only finished "Reformation" but I also started up a new book.

"Reformation" still wasn't my cup of tea. There was a good story there, but I feel like the book didn't follow it. I walked away still disliking Langston's tactics, but not only did I not HATE her, but I was curious about her. I felt the story should have been focused more on her. I'm an odd duck, I know. Either way, the ending seems to rush to a conclusion, and I just wish there was MORE there. So much so that when I started up my MasterClass: Screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin this past week, one of the assignments is to take an already existing story, and adapting it into a screenplay, at least for 10 pages. I decided that "Reformation" would be my "existing story." Sadly, I had to return the book to the library before I could finish the assignment, but I have the basis, so I can go back and work on it more the next time I have the downtime to re-borrow it from the library.

I'll talk more about the MasterClass next week; this post is already super long.

The book I'm currently reading is called "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline. One of my co-workers found it at a garage sale and figured it was perfect for me. Boy was she ever right! Seven pages in and I'm already in love. Geeky gamer references, 1980's pop culture, a relatable main character, and glorious humor; awesome. I'm not terribly far into the story, but I'll keep you posted.

For now, though, I think I've spoken my fill for this week. Lord knows what I'm going to talk about next week.....