Me — A Bit Tired of Writing

I almost forgot to write this today. It isn’t that I didn’t know what to write, or that I didn’t have time, but that I procrastinated until the last possible second and (unusually for me) let that slot of time be consumed by another thing.

So, anyways, I’ve been thinking a bit lately. I’ve hit that wall of “writing sucks” again. The same one I find myself facing every few months. Often I’ll write for a big project, get bored 10,000 words later, and then start writing something I’m more interested in because the old project simply isn’t new anymore. That’s where I’m at now. I’m still interested in the Spear Gate universe, but I need to do un-fun work in order to jump back into it.

I still like Lisa, too, but I don’t love it. What’s worse, I’ve sort of promised myself I’d write a quarter of Lisa 4 every week this month so I don’t fall behind like I did March. Trouble is, I’m still not even done with Lisa 3. So here we are.

Part of me wants to take another break. Something like a month long just to relax for a while. But on this journey of learning who I am as a writer, I feel like I’ve found myself in a weird position where I don’t think I really know myself at all. I used to know, or at least I thought I did, but now I don’t.

Maybe I’m just one of those people that has to transition between periods of lots of writing, followed by periods of no writing. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a novelist. Or maybe I’ve just been tactfully avoiding the hard part of being a writer, which is writing when it’s not fun and then editing when it gets even worse. I feel like I do write when it’s not fun, but I can’t maintain that for very long.

One weird thing that I learned from Writing Excuses, but haven’t been able to personally verify, is one simple concept: “The more you write, the easier the writing gets.” What this basically translates to is that if you’re not writing, writing is very difficult, but if you write consistently, maintaining that isn’t hard. Newton’s second law or whatever. If that is true, taking a break is a bad idea. Plus, as a human I feel a constant need to be productive all the time. So if I didn’t write, it might eat at me.

Being on the cusp of change is tough. I know it’s easy to imagine I’ll have everything figured out in five years, but that’s just statistically unlikely. Not having even the knowledge of the direction’s of one’s next step is frustrating. I can only imagine how difficult it is for people who don’t even know what they’re passionate about.

That’s one funny thing. Senior year of high school, I had aspired to be published (and established) by 24, and I thought that deadline was very generous at the time. Now, I find that goal very threatening. I made a list of the 30 authors I was most familiar with, when they were born and how old they were when they were first published. Of those 30 authors, the average age they first published at was 33, and on that list the oldest is 46, so there isn’t any outliers racking up the age. (If anything, Christopher Paolini is an outlier the opposite direction. He brings the average down by half a year by being published at 18).

So, things are a little mentally complicated for me right now. I’m tired, mostly. and I haven’t had a spark of “Oh, that’s an awesome idea!” in quite a while. At least, not one that I’ve actually used in my writing. So, whatever.

Alright, rant over. Hey, at least I got my 500 words in for the day!

Review — Black Panther

This review is going to be super casual because I’m super tired and I saw this movie like two weeks ago. In all honesty, I usually review things within a few days, so all the concrete stuff and details I would have had to talk about has already left my brain. Plus, I’m not a big fan of reviewing current stuff because I can’t do it justice without spoiling it, but I also hate spoiling things if it is current. So read on without worry. No spoilers here.

So, obviously, you have to see this movie because it’s pretty much as awesome as everyone says it is. It’s your typical fun Marvel movie with all the humor and cool action stuff you’d expect, but Black Panther has had some of the best emotional scenes I’ve experienced in any movie in recent memory. With as well made as those scenes were, it’s hard to pinpoint it down to one reason, but if I had to pick one thing, there is just some stellar acting.

Now, I’d never consider myself a big Marvel person. I have (relatively) no interest in the comics, and apart from playing some games (such as Marvel: Ultimate Alliance), I really have no knowledge of the characters. I know some people who are comic buffs, so I know some background, but really this isn’t my thing though. As a child, though, if you had asked me to pick a favorite Avenger, though, I’d have said Black Panther. In all honesty, none of the other characters really stuck out as interesting to me (except Iron Man a little bit). Because come on, how is a stealthy ninja-cat guy not at the top of everyone’s list always? Dr. Strange is cool, too, but I knew nothing about him before the movie and he’s not an Avenger, so he doesn’t count.

Anyways, here’s the number one thing that made this movie really work for me: the worldbuilding. The culture of Wakanda was quite interesting, and the steps it took to be so different from the everyday world shows some real creativity. I found it inspiring for both classic epic fantasy worldbuilding and interestingly informative in both sci-fi, as well.

The biggest, and admittedly nit-picky problem I had with this movie was that it just had so much going on. There’s tons of characters, several plot threads, and a few time skips. I got it by the end, but the extra legwork I had to do to follow which character was which and how they were related to this other character was a bit tough sometimes. Again, it’s not that bad, but I’d imagine older audiences might have the same problem. And this is one of my biggest concerns for Infinity War—I suspect it will just have so much going on that actors and plot pieces on an individual scale will start to get lost. Black Panther started to tread into that territory, so we’ll see.

There’s a lot that’s amazing about this movie, and it’s actually very impressive that they managed to introduce so many characters with so much depth so quickly. I did have some other critiques, but they’re really negligible, unpopular, and (slightly) spoiler-y. Not to mention, I’m super tired. So I’ll just leave it here. I would say that this is probably the best movie in the MCU yet, with maybe Wonder Woman at #2. (That’s a joke.) I honestly don’t expect to like either Infinity War movie more than this one, but who knows?

 

Me — April ’18 Update

March has been interesting in a number of ways, and I’ve been a little stressed given the amount of things I’ve been trying to tackle lately. My Spring Break just ended, and while I had been hoping to relax, in reality I relaxed the first two days and then realized how large my to-do list was, and then never had a moment’s rest. That’s primarily why Lisa 3 isn’t done. But anyways, let’s look to the future, not the past.

And as always, here’s the Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

No immediate blog changes on the horizon. I do want to start a weekly Research a Random Thing project and then make that the topic of, say the Wednesday posts, as I’ve discussed in a recent post. No plans for that yet, though, because I want to do that properly (and when I have less on my plate). Maybe that’ll be more of a summer thing.

As for writing plans, I obviously have to finish the second half of Lisa’s March story. That’s my immediate concern. I’m also going to try to use April as a test-run to write Lisa 4 in more bite-size chunks, as in writing 1,500 words every week. That way, when it’s published, I’ll be posting stuff that’s been done, not stuff that I cranked out the night before. As for the Sunday posts, I still have no idea what I’m going to do with them. I’m not ready to revisit Spear Gate, so I’ll probably just keep writing Spark snippets, because that’s fun. Not actively working on a “Big Project” feels weird, but I’ve just got too much right now.

I’m mostly playing Heroes of the Storm right now. Not competitively, though I do want to try to hit Diamond again this season to see if I can hit it consistently. Mostly, I just haven’t had any time at all to do anything, though I did pick up an old phone app I used to play: Skyforce. It’s a bullet hell game, but with long term upgrades, and upgrades are my favorite thing.

Having caught up on Writing Excuses, Critical Role, and Voice Acting Mastery, I’m currently binging a new podcast when I can: Story Break. It’s a podcast by the writers at Rocket Jump, and each episode is them tackling a famous IP and trying to plot out a movie or TV series for it. These IPs aren’t easy topics, like a Jar Jar Binks movie, a Sonic the Hedgehog movie, a Kelogg’s Cereal movie, etc. Surprisingly enough, they usually do an amazing job, and watching professional writers at work has helped me learn how to outline stories much more effectively. Maybe for my next Big Project I should try my hand at outlining again…

School hasn’t been hard so much as time consuming. I’m basically at the college for twelve hours straight on Mondays and Wednesdays, so it takes a lot out of me and I have to be careful to manage my energy levels. I cannot go into a school day tired, because I will die from exhaustion. Especially if it’s a Monday. Not much else to say about school at the moment, though I’ve since learned that if I take about 18+ units (don’t know the exact number) next semester, I’ll be able to transfer with two AA degrees, which is nice.

The only other thing I have to mention is my unsuccessful job hunting attempts. I’ve been applying to places I think I’ll enjoy working at, but in a lot of the interviews I’ve had, they aren’t really satisfied with my availability of “only Thursday-Sunday”. It sucks, because while the interviews have been going really well, I can watch the interviewer look at my availability and frown, which basically just means I didn’t get the job, regardless of how great a candidate I am. It’s a little frustrating, but there isn’t a whole lot I can do to change that until the semester ends next month.

I may also have some D&D stories coming on the horizon. Stay tuned!

Lisa Stenton Pt. 3/3 Not Ready Yet

Hey, everyone. Sorry, but with the holidays and some other things going on, (what I consider to be) the second half of the third Lisa Stenton short is not ready yet. I could have spent all night last night writing it (instead of writing this), but I’m honestly exhausted. I don’t want to sabotage my energy levels for the upcoming week by staying up late just before my spring break ends. Plus, I’d end up with a sub-par conclusion to a story I’m really liking.

I also don’t know when I’ll finish it. I don’t want to finish the story in lieu of another blog post (especially a fiction one), because then I’ll end up being a week behind production-wise. So I’ll try to have the conclusion of the story post on Wednesday, but I will make no promises. I want to do Lisa justice.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read the other two, the links to each of them are down below. Author’s note though: I don’t like how the second one turned out. It’s not a bad story, but it doesn’t have the fun or levity I’m shooting for with Lisa stories. The blog will probably never see the rewritten version of it, though, whenever I do get around to that.

 

Lisa Stenton — The Last Laugh at the Lake of Lava (Pt. 1/2)

Lisa Stenton — The Last Laugh at the Lake of Lava (Pt. 2/2)

 

Lisa Stenton — Likable Living with a Lifeless Lawyer (Pt. 1/2)

Lisa Stenton — Likable Living with a Lifeless Lawyer (Pt. 2/2)

Lisa Stenton — Lighting the Lackluster Lamp (Pt. 2/3)

“I’m a little new to this whole ‘magic is real’ thing,” I said.

“Are you now?” Cara smirked. “Well, looks like we’ve got lots to catch up on.”

“Maybe we should both be sitting, then.” A glance towards the couch full of unfolded clean laundry told me that wasn’t an option. We went into my bedroom instead.

Unfortunately, my bed was only marginally better.

“Sorry about all the mess,” I grumbled, grabbing a dirty bowl and bag of oreos from my bed and putting them on the nightstand.

She elbowed me in the rib before sitting down in the now clear spot. “I knew there had to be a reason we only ever hung out at my place.”

“Well, yeah. Plus we couldn’t exactly pick on your little brother if we were at my house.”

Cara laughed. “It’s the solemn duty of the older sibling to bring their friends over and harass the younger one.”

“Especially when that friend is an only child.” I laid down on the other side of the bed, which she took as a cue to do the same. “How is he, by the way?”

“Oh, Bax is great. Sophomore in high school now. Same age we were when we started dating. He’s still a big nerd, unfortunately, but I managed to get him on the lacrosse team. I told him it’s a good way to meet girls.” She looked at me and winked.

“I wouldn’t advise him to introduce himself the same way we met. That bump never went away, by the way.” I rubbed the back of my head in the familiar spot.

She rolled her eyes. “How many times are you going to make me apologize for that?”

“Oh, I forgave you years ago. But it’s still funny. You’re not going to live that down anytime soon.”

She jabbed me in the gauze hard enough to hurt, but still in jest. “Didn’t you have a bunch of supernatural questions you wanted to ask?”

“I did, it’s just… You know, when I recognized you back in the Passway, I expected this conversation to be a lot more awkward.”

She nodded. “Yeah, me too.” The moment passed, and she sat up with her legs crossed. “So anyways, like I said, most humans are born Wizened. It’s sort of like how you tell your kid that Santa Claus is real, only you then go to Santa Claus’ house for Christmas. It’s s—”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Santa Claus is real?”

She laughed again. “No, no, no. It’s just an example. You tell your kids fairy tales, only when you grow up in a Wizened family, they tell you true stories. Most Wizened people belong to guilds that serve different purposes. Some are mercenaries, some are intermediaries, some are commerce oriented, that sort of thing. So since you’re born into being Wizened, most people are also born into their guilds.”

“Hold on for a second. Every person I’ve met in the supernatural has used the term ‘Wizened’. What does that mean exactly?”

“Oh, that’s just any person that is aware of and involved in the supernatural community. It pretty much exclusively refers to humans, because obviously faeries and goblins and whatnot are, you know… supernatural.”

“I’ve never met any of those. Only Doc.”

“Only what?”

“Doc?” I called, raising my voice. “You here, buddy?”

“Yes…” his little voice replied. The little blue spirit crawled out from underneath my side of the bed. “Sleeping…”

“You sleep?”

“Don’t… know. Maybe?”

I lowered my hand to the ground and he hopped onto it. His little feet felt like ice cubes without the wetness, and I lifted him onto the bed with us.

“What the hell? You have a pet leech?” Cara asked, making a face.

“A what?”

She folded her arms. “That’s a leech. Basically spirits that have lost so much of their humanity they’re dumber than a wolf hunting a squirrel.”

“What’s wrong with that? We can’t all be smart. Plus, I think he’s cute.”

“They obsess over humans because they miss being alive, so they crave attention and human interaction. That’s pretty much all they know once they get to that stage. You keeping one as a pet is like feeding a rat that lives in your home instead of exterminating it.”

“I think that’s a little harsh, don’t you Doc?”

“Hmm… Harsh,” he nodded before lying down on the bed like a snow angel.

“Besides,” I added. “He’s taught me lots about the supernatural, since nobody else would.” I couldn’t think of any examples off the top of my head, but he had taught me… some things. I was sure of it.

“Well, it’s extremely rare that some random person just becomes Wizened,” she said. “You can’t even see spirits like him until you are. How’d you do it?”

“Funny story,” I said. “This guy walked into my apartment through my closet one day.”

“Your Passway?” she offered.

“Yeah, but I didn’t know it was there, obviously. He had a dog mask on his face and was looking for my mom. He gave me that magic Sharpie.”

Her eyebrows raised at that. “Black and white robes? Tall and gangly? Looks like a grim reaper wannabe?”

“You know him?”

“Oh, that’s one of the guilds I mentioned earlier. They’re called the Scavengers. They’re sort of like the black market of the Wizened world. There’s two things that are really weird about that story.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, first is that he knew your mom. That means she’s Wizened. And didn’t tell you about the supernatural world.”

“Yeah, I got that far. My parents moved to London several months ago, though, and this Scavenger guy thing happened only like last month. I’ve tried contacting her, but she’s been even harder to reach than usual.”

“That part’s not surprising,” she said. “Magical beings don’t like technology. Lots of liasons to the supernatural world are practically Amish. But anyways, second important thing. He gave you that Sharpie? No deal, no contract, no money?”

“Nope. Just told me to give it to my mom next time I see her.”

“That’s weird. A magical artifact like that is bound to be insanely expensive. I wonder why he gave it to you. He must have owed your mom a huge favor or something. Or maybe it’s cursed.”

I paled at that. “What would that mean?”

She shrugged. “Dunno, could mean a lot of things. Maybe after a while it’ll start using your blood instead of normal ink, and it will slowly, bit by bit, start consuming your soul.”

I gulped, looking back to the nightstand where the Sharpie sat. Such a powerful object, yet such a high price.

But when I turned back to Cara, I could see her stifling laughter.

She got a pillow to the face.

“You’re such a jerk,” I said.

“Yeah, well, you know. Oh. Actually, there’s three weird things about your story.”

“Go on?”

“Where did your door to the Passway come from? They’re usually made by the Locksmiths, which is another Wizened guild. And they have real, magic locks on them, not like your dumb padlock.”

“Hey, I did what I could!”

“Sure, it works for weaker stuff, but if a vampire sees a door without a proper lock on it, you’re screwed.”

“Well, that means I have to go find a Locksmith, right?”

“Sure, but that doesn’t answer the question. This guy. This Scavenger came into your apartment through the Passway. Before you bought a lock for it, your door was completely free to be opened at any time. It was only a matter of time before something came through, you were just lucky enough to have it not want to eat you. But it begs the question of how long that door was there, and who put it there.”

Lisa Stenton — Lighting the Lackluster Lamp (Pt. 1/3)

I didn’t want to die. I hadn’t really been worried about the possibility until the lake of lava about a month ago. But since then it had become a near daily concern.

Rarely though, was that concern as immediate as it was now, being marauded by almost a dozen demon skeletons.

“Back!” I yelled, magic red Sharpie sword in hand. No words came out, of course. The Passway was as eerily silent as it always was.

The skeletons did not relent. They stalked towards me as a pack of wolves surrounding a squirrel. Do wolves and squirrels live in the same ecosystem? Wouldn’t they fight over who got to eat it? Bad analogy I guess. You’ll have to forgive me for that one. Not dying was a more immediate concern than being clever.

I swung my sword out, and they took a step back. Not afraid, but at least they knew I was a threat, glowing red eyes seething hatred as they watched.

“You know, I’ve never enjoyed the stereotype of the damsel in distress,” I said. “But I’ll allow it this once, if you guys don’t mind waiting for my Prince Charming to show up.” Feeling my lips make the words brought some comfort at least.

One lunged for me. Swinging in panic, I brought the sword in between us, and the skeleton impaled itself. I might have screamed, but since I didn’t hear one it probably didn’t happen.

Relief washed over my face when I realized I was fine, but then it receded immediately. It was a skeleton. The sword had passed through all his ribs and he was now flailing his arms wildly at me.

“This is probably the grossest thing that’s ever happened to me,” I muttered, grimacing at the skewered thing swing like an overturned cockroach. Okay that analogy was much better. I could tell because I almost puked just thinking about it.

With a mustered force I shoved my foot right into his femur. It snapped in two with what I imagined to be a sickening crunch, and the demon skeleton collapsed to the floor.

Only eight more to go.

Seeing their brother-in-bones fall in combat sent them into a frenzy. They watched as his skull hit the ground and roared, glowy red essence spewing from the gaping holes of their mouths as, obviously, no sound came out. I bet it was terrifying. Bone-shattering, even.

They charged.

I swung, seriously hoping I would have the foresight to take swordplay classes in my next life.

A flash of red and silvery-blue, and a glimpse of something else caught my eye. Another person.

No time to look, though. I kept blocking and batting away claws and bites, staggering back into the wall of the Passway. Several blows hit their mark, and I could feel stinging pain on my arms, chest, and face as their hands clawed at me. It had never occurred to me how sharp phalanges could be. Especially demon skeleton phalanges.

Before I knew it, the skeletons were reduced to a pile of bones on the ground. The sole credit went to my rescuer, whose daggers seemed to be literally engulfed in flame and… ice? Once the threat was gone, the person directed me to sit with my back to the wall and gestured towards both directions of the Passway. Can’t sneak up on you if your back is to a wall, the person seemed to be implying.

I really was a damsel in distress now. To my dismay, though, it wasn’t Prince Charming that had saved me, but some girl that looked… really familiar, now that I thought about it. And she was staring at me.

Wait, I knew those eyes.

Carmen?” I mouthed, at the same time she mouthed “Lisa?”

That was ludicrous. Carmen was a guy. We dated back in high school before he moved away.

And now he was back. And female.

As soon as she realized I recognized her she averted my gaze, turning her attention to my wounds. She was untouched somehow, daggers safely tucked away at her hips. They hurt a lot more now that the danger and adrenaline had passed.

“You don’t happen to have any magic band-aids, do you?” I said. She was obviously just as deaf as I was here, but it was worth a shot.

I watched as she frowned in sympathy at the cuts on my arm, carefully avoiding inspection of my face and chest. There was no use in staying here, though. I grabbed her arm and pulled her up with me as I stood. When she looked up I motioned in a direction with my head. Back towards my apartment. She still seemed a bit uncomfortable by the situation, but nodded.

 

“I thought you moved,” I accused, frowning as she wrapped my bicep in gauze. We were in the dining room at the desk where I did my painting, with me sitting in the only chair. I held my breath and clenched my teeth as much as possible to keep her from seeing how much it really hurt.

“I did,” she said, as if she was conceding some well kept secret. “I still live in Oregon actually. It’s just pure coincidence that our doors to the Passway happen to be very close right now. How’s that?” she asked, patting my arm.

“It’s fine… A little tight, though.”

She looked up at me. “I can loosen it if you want.”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll be fine.”

She ignored me, loosening the wrapping and redoing it with less force. The affectionate warmth of her touch encroached into awkward territory as I found myself staring again. She was just so… different now.

“I… uh…” I sighed. Where to even start. “There are so many questions flowing through my head I don’t even know where to start. Carmen, it’s been so—”

“Cara.”

“What?”

“It’s Cara now,” she corrected.

“Isn’t Carmen a unisex name?” I asked. It’s not like I had a problem with that, it just seemed strange.

“I know, but it’s Cara now. Please. Can we not talk about that?”

I shrugged. “Alright, sorry.” It was quiet for another moment as we both avoided eye contact. “Can I ask one more question before we change the subject then?”

She looked into my eyes, and for that one moment I was back in high school, wishing that I had done everything differently. Wishing that I hadn’t made so many mistakes with her. She nodded.

“Is…” I paused, unsure of how to phrase it. I settled for gesturing at her general person. “Is this why you broke up with me?”

She nodded again, expecting the question. “It’s more complicated than that, but… yeah, I think so.”

“Alright.”

She finished up by closing the first aid kit and standing. “I’m sorry.”

I punched her in the arm.

“Ow! What the hell?”

And then hugged her.

“Thanks for probably saving my life,” I said.

It took a moment, but she hugged back, and all the tension in the room washed away. “Yeah. Any time.”

“In that case, could you maybe do it faster next time? I could have donated all that blood.”

“You donate blood?”

“Well, no. But I tried one time. They rejected me ‘cause I didn’t have enough iron.”

I broke the hug, and we locked eyes for another minute. There was something there that I couldn’t place, but it didn’t matter. Hers were the only eyes I felt comfortable looking into, and I was glad to know that that hadn’t changed.

The moment passed, and all the other questions came flooding back.

“Have you known about the supernatural this whole time?” I asked.

“Sure. Born into it, like most humans. You’re saying you weren’t?”

“Yeah, I’m a little new to this whole ‘magic is real’ thing,”

“Are you now?” she smirked. “Well, looks like we’ve got lots to catch up on.”

Me — Relaxation Allowance

I’ve recently started working on a new data-oriented Google Sheet. I mean, that sentence would probably be true if I had said it any given week in 2018. I’m really excited about this one though because it’s geared towards holding me more accountable towards productivity, and for the two days I’ve used it it’s been great.

Here’s the jist of it—I like not doing things, just like everyone else. Relaxing and playing video games is great, but if I do them when I know I have other things that need doing, it stresses me out. This Sheet is to help me quantify that line. Assuming I don’t have any deadlines (personal or otherwise) that need to be met that day, how much “stuff” do I need to do in order to feel justified in spending the rest of my day doing nothing?

Let’s take an arbitrary (but nice) number, say 10, and call that the number of points I need to achieve in order to allow myself to relax. What earns me points? Well, simple: anything at all that makes me feel better about myself as a Responsible Adult™. Getting dressed is 1 point. Vacuuming is 2 points. Folding laundry is 2 points. Writing Friday’s flash fiction piece is 4 points. So if I do all four of those things, I’m just about allowed to not do anything the rest of the day. (I realize that’s 9 points, not 10.)

The important distinction here is that these numbers are not solid, and this is not a rule. I am not restricting myself from doing whatever I want. Rather, I’m using it as a guideline to test the point at which I internally feel like I’ve done “enough” for the day. In terms of game design, these numbers aren’t supposed to be balanced, they’re supposed to accurately represent the amount of satisfaction I gain from completing certain tasks. If I look at the chart and see that I’m at 8 points, I can look at what I haven’t done and just do it.

This does a few awesome things. The first is that the chart is a good way to visualize all the things that I may or may not need to do. I don’t need to vacuum every day, but if I’m almost at that threshold of 10 points and I haven’t done it in a week, I might as well. The second is that because I’m literally racking up points, it encourages me to be productive I might otherwise not even consider. Reading, for example, is 3 points per hour. I basically never read, but if I genuinely don’t have anything else to do, it’s a good way to actually force myself to be productive.

The idea is that I will, eventually, get to 10+ points every day. Eating a meal is 2 points, so if I’m being a responsible adult that’s the majority right there. But this will actually encourage me to eat three meals a day, and doing nothing besides getting dressed and eating all day won’t be enough to earn me relaxation. Not to mention I’d have to be doing something in the time between eating those meals. Might as well use it to be productive!

So, this is a new thing. I expect the numbers to change significantly on a quarterly basis, but given a very short two days, it’s been awesome. Would recommend.