Life — August Update Pt. 2: What’s New

Last week I discussed the changes I was making to my blog schedule, which are all already in place. So this week, I’ll just talk about everything else I usually put in an monthly update post.

Monthly Update Topic Order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things. (Though I’ll skip the blog part, since I already went over that last week.)

My writing plans are fairly straightforward for the time being. My fiction output is purely focused on the Spear Gate novel I’ve been working on these past few months, and I don’t plan on that changing anytime soon. Of course, I’ve historically gotten bored with long term projects that get too long, and this one is nearing that point, but I’ve gotten no warning signs yet. It seems the tactic of “Only plan as far ahead as the next chapter” is keeping me pretty interested in the story so far, so let’s hope that doesn’t change.

As far as video games go, I haven’t been doing that a whole lot lately. My computer died a few weeks ago, and my laptop isn’t good enough to handle anything like that, so my gaming has been almost exclusive to Dragon Quest Heroes II, of which I already have over 70 hours of. It still doesn’t seem like much in comparison to how much time I’ve put into Dragon Quest VIII, so maybe the figure I told people (about ~300 hours) is a bit larger than I remember it being. But in any case, by this time next month I may or may not be back to my regular games. We’ll see.

I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and listening to media lately. I’m about three fifths of the way finished with Two Towers (and I hope to be done by August 14th), but mostly I’ve been listening to a good amount of Running the Game, a YouTube series on being a better dungeon master, and Critical Role, which I’ve already talked about a lot. It’s the D&D weekly stream of the adventures of Vox Machina. I’m still about seventy episodes (and therefore 200+ hours) behind, but maybe some day I’ll be caught up… I will say though, the original drive for watching Critical Role stemmed from me wanting to watch and indirectly experience more D&D. Now, because of some interesting story bits, I’m watching it for the narrative, because it’s actually getting very exciting. I just wish there was a faster way to get through it!

The fall semester hasn’t quite started yet, but my classes are all set up and taken care of. This time around I’m taking two theatre classes (which will be my first in years) and I’m overall taking more hours in one semester than I ever have before. This means that I will, once again, be busy (in some form) every single day of the week. I’m not excited about that, but it is what it is. I just hope I don’t hate all my classes. I’ll settle for only hating three of them.

In other news, the old leader of my writer’s group has moved away, leaving me in charge of the group. It doesn’t actually add much responsibility to my plate as far as what’s going on in the writer’s group, but I do treat it very seriously. If nothing else, it’s an acknowledgment of both my writing ability and my leadership skills that I was the one entrusted with it, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like having people listen to my direction.

And lastly, I’ve decided to make some small changes to my outward appearance. As a consequence to my closed off personality, I historically don’t make friends. But this school semester I plan on changing that and reinforcing what I call the “Charismatic Introvert™”. A lot of people that don’t know me very well are surprised to find out that I’m a very introverted person, probably because I’m not socially inept like the stereotypical introvert is. So I’m going to make a conscious effort to be more amiable and introduce myself to people, and hopefully I can find people I share things in common with.

That’s all for this month. I’m excited to see where I stand come September. It’s my favorite month (for more reasons than just “It’s my birth month”), but we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Life — August Update Pt. 1: Blog Changes

Technically, this is a week early, as I had reserved my monthly updates for being “the first Monday of the month”, but it seems strange to wait an extra week when August is tomorrow. I have a lot to talk about this time around, so I decided to split it up into two posts. This weeks will be exclusively blog changes, since they’re pretty extensive.

Like I predicted last month, I’m making some significant changes to the blog schedule this time around. I had been struggling with coming up with topics for my Learning! posts, but adding another “Prompt” day would have made them back to back, which didn’t sit well with me. I’ve been considering dropping days from my schedule and spending that time writing stuff I don’t publish immediately, but I decided against it for the time being. While I may have the discipline to trust myself to write every day, the idea of making more of those words go “under the table” makes me a bit uneasy. I like having new content accessible for anyone that wants it. If I made that sort of change, it would be adding ‘phantom’ words that don’t get posted, not subtracting the amount of content I post on the blog. But anyways, here is the new schedule:

  • Sunday — Long Story
  • Monday — Life
  • Tuesday — Prompt
  • Wednesday — D&D
  • Thursday — Wildcard
  • Friday — Review

With this setup, I’m making two big changes to the blog. I’m removing Improv 101 and Learning! from the weekly schedule. Why? Well, I’ve covered pretty much every improv game I’m familiar with, so while I do have more to say on the topic, it won’t be enough to warrant a weekly spot. I’ve also removed the Learning! posts because, as I said, I simply don’t know what to say in that category. In their place, I’m adding a new category: “D&D”. In them, I’ll talk about my experience in Dungeons & Dragons, including both tips and funny stories. As the months go on, the game is taking more and more of a focal point of my life, so I feel justified in this change. I’ve already sort of posted the first few in the guise of Learning! posts, but by the time this publishes the titles (and the sidebar) should be reworked.

I’ve also added a “Wildcard” category where I’ll talk about anything, even retired categories. (Maybe even a new chapter excerpt from the Spear Gate book, though I wouldn’t count on that happening often.) For example, if I have a new improv game to talk about, it’ll be on a Thursday. Truth be told, I still have about three more of those posts that haven’t gone up yet, so they will be the first few “Wildcard” posts. But rest assured it will be different afterwards.

To organize things more temporally, I’ve shifted everything over a bit. With this new schedule, every other post on this blog has the chance of being fiction, (and Tuesday is a better Prompt day for me, anyway). And last and least significant of these changes is the fact that I will now only be keeping track of posts in the multiples of 25. This means a post will only have a number tagged at the end about once a month. I don’t need the same amount of validation I needed a year and a half ago. At this point, I just enjoy keeping track.

So, that’s it for this week. Next week I’ll give the second half of the monthly update and talk about everything else that’s going on in my life!


Life — Technical Difficulties

Electronics has never been my strong suit. I know enough about them to be able to tell the difference between software and hardware, and can probably handle one better than somebody who saw the rise of technology in their adulthood, but as far as “Here is a problem what do you do?” goes, I’m pretty useless.

I have three devices I use daily. My desktop, my laptop, and my phone. All of them have had their problems, but rarely has it been as bad as this. I call right now my “technological dark age” (as I think is appropriate), because all of my devices are crapping out on me.

My desktop is officially dead. On it’s final day, it blue screened twice, and best I can tell, it’s motherboard is finished. I couldn’t tell you what a motherboard does, but suffice to say that the next desktop I have sole ownership of will have to be a new one. There’s no salvaging Frank. (Yes, my family has owned enough computers to name them.)

But it’s okay, though. I don’t need a desktop. All of my writing is stored on the Cloud, so the only thing I’m losing by throwing the old computer out is a few downloaded pictures. It does suck, because my wallpaper folder had over four hundred pieces of quality art, but it’s no big deal.

So lately, I’ve been deferring all of my internet use to my laptop. I don’t have to worry about maintaining the blog, but it has other setbacks. Use of my laptop has lead me to discover that it is also barely functional. You see, It has less than 30GB of storage space, virtually (ha) all of which is taken up by the operating system. This means that whenever I open a third tab on my browser, or when I open a Google Doc of any substantial size, my browser will crash because it doesn’t have the RAM to handle it. It’s a little frustrating because when I’m DMing a game of Dungeons & Dragons I sort of need to have three or four tabs open of all sorts of information I may or may not need.

It leaves me at a loss, especially since I’m under the impression that there’s nothing I can do to my laptop that will solve that problem. I just have to get a new laptop. Not really though, because it’s not nearly enough of an issue to constitute putting money away for it, especially when I get my new desktop.

As far as my phone goes, it’s simply up to its old antics. It will take several seconds to respond to input, and sometimes apps will crash while I’m using them. Again, not a big deal, but it is annoying, and these are all minor sources of frustration that can pile up throughout the day.

But in the meantime, it’s also sort of liberating. I haven’t been able to access a vast majority of the video games I usually play, and I’m not really upset about it at all, to be honest. Less internet is never really a bad thing, unless you’re procrastinating, so it’s nice. I’ve been reading more, and I’ve also been sleeping in much later than I normally do. The latter isn’t really a cause of my computer troubles, though. It’s just super hot and since I can’t be comfortable in bed, I don’t fall asleep until past 4am, like last night. If I were to change any one thing about my current circumstance, it would actually be my ability to fall asleep at a reasonable hour.

Had I the world’s knowledge to diagnose all the problems I have, I’m sure I could solve all of them within days, but I suppose that probably applies to a majority of people’s situations. All-in-all, I still think I’m doing pretty well. A little frustrated, perhaps, but not stressed or over-taxed. I know what that’s like, and I’m thankful I’m nowhere near that point at the moment.

Life — July Update

Summer is in full swing at this point, and I must admit, the heat is hitting me harder than I would have guessed. I am still a little disappointed in myself at my failure to adopt a full time writing schedule, but at least it hasn’t come at much of a perceivable cost, as I’m still updating and writing pretty regularly. As a side note to this, I apologize if my fiction blog posts just fuse into continuations of the novel I’m working on. I do prefer publishing standalone short stories once or twice a week, but I do want to make sure I’m focused on my longer projects for the time being. So, let’s dive in with the usual the order of a monthly update: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

Like last month, I have no changes I plan on making to the blog. It’s functioning quite well for now. I do, however, have some inklings of things I’d like to change soon. For one, I’ve been having an increasingly difficult time coming up with topics for the Thursday ‘Learning!’ posts, and often I don’t tackle those until late Wednesday night (or in the early hours of the next morning, as the case may be). I honestly don’t feel like I have a whole lot to teach people, or at least nothing that I haven’t encompassed earlier on in this blog. So, I do feel a change is on the horizon, but I still don’t know what I’m going to do about it for now. We’ll see if I come to a conclusion next month.

Writing plans are pretty simple. At this point, I’ve completely abandoned my other projects to focus on the “Spear Gate” novel I’ve been working on this last month. I love the world I’m working in, and it’s enticing because, for the first time, I’m writing this novel with virtually no plans as to what is going to unfold. I’m adopting one of Stephen King’s strategies here: put characters in a situation and make them into real people. What would that real person do in that situation? It suits me because I loathe outlining, and this way can conceivably make for a compelling story both as a reader and as a writer. There’s less chance of me getting bored of the piece if I figure it out as I go, after all.

As for my other projects, I don’t know what to say. Rise of the Riftguard is still very much on the agenda, but I wasn’t really satisfied with the way “Windcaller” was turning out, so I lost heart. If and when I get bored with this “Spear Gate” thing, I plan on jumping back in, as well as finally getting to work on that SPARK story I still have the framework for. Lisa Stenton’s story is still at a dead end, and I don’t expect to return to that until something new and interesting finds its way into my idea-collector. I apologize for that, especially since I like her character so much.

What am I playing? I’m still playing the same games. Heroes of the Storm is still occupying the most of my attention, and Starcraft II after that. I have, however, been playing some games on Steam with friends lately, most notably Iron Brigade, a tower defense game where you’re in a big mech. It’s by no means a Triple A title, but it’s loot system feels pretty rewarding. I also bought Rise of Iron, the latest expansion for Destiny, in preparation for the sequel in October. I don’t really find it very fun alone, but I thought I should familiarize myself with what the game is as well as the latest pieces of lore before the next one comes out.

Having finished On Writing, I’m returning to the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the hopes of (finally) finishing it. I’m currently about a third of the way into Two Towers, and it’s much more enjoyable now that I’ve forayed into plot I’m unfamiliar with. Knowing Tolkien’s personality, I found Fanghorn and the whole bit about the Ents especially amusing. (Did you know he would often spend the better part of an hour looking at trees on his daily walks?)

I’m also catching up on Critical Role, the weekly Dungeons & Dragons adventure hosted by Geek & Sundry. Having started from the beginning, I’m only a few episodes behind where I stopped watching. It’s unfortunate, because I’ve still got nearly seventy episodes to go before I’m caught up. Which is over two hundred hours. I doubt I’ll be caught up by the end of the year, but it’s a lot of fun, so I don’t mind.

There isn’t much to say about school, of course, since I’m not taking any classes for the summer. I did, however, register for my Fall semester of classes. It sucks, because the way my schedule is oriented, I’ll be going to school four days a week as opposed to two, and on two of those days I only have the one class. I’m excited, though. A lot of the classes I’m taking should be a lot of fun.

I do have some miscellaneous things I want to point out before I go. First, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on new Google Docs recently. I’ve been organizing a spreadsheet of my Steam library of games (of which I am not the original or sole owner), and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. It’s a daunting task, as the point of the Doc is to help you find something to play even if you know nothing about most of the games. I’ve set up several columns, such as “how many players”, “how much does it cost”, and “what are the reviews like”. It’s a lot of work, given that the account has over two hundred titles, but it’s very useful.

Another Doc I’ve recently made is one I’ve had in my head for a while now. I call it the “Hype Tracker”, and it’s a spreadsheet tracking the dates I’m counting down for. With it, I can keep track of all the things I’m waiting for as well as get an idea of what time frame things will be happening in. For example, Dragon Quest XI releases on July 29th, and if I hurry I might be able to beat it before my life gets bogged up with school two weeks later. Super neat, because I love being organized and having information readily available! Somewhat related, I’m also in the process of compiling some Dungeons & Dragons ambient music playlists using the soundtracks to games, movies, and TV shows. It’s going to take quite some time, but I’m really enjoying it.

Lastly, the organizer of my local writer’s group is moving to Alaska very soon. Within days, if I’m not mistaken. He’s passing the torch to me, so to speak, and I’ll be heading the group before long. It’s not really a responsibility, as there isn’t much to begin with, but it’s a little surprising. I’ve been going nearly every week (save two or three) for over a year now, and I’ve learned quite a bit. I’ve grown quite fond of a lot of those people, and while some come and go, I hope it won’t falter in my hands. I’d feel pretty guilty about that. So we’ll see what happens.

Also, I really need it to cool down soon. For the sake of my sanity and sleeping schedule, I need the heat to go away.

Life — June Update

With the onset of June comes the official beginning of summer. That means school is out (not just for me,) and the real fun begins. For me, though, summer is terrible. It’s too hot in Southern California, and once it starts to hit 90°, it doesn’t go back down until October. I, for one, can’t function well in the heat. It makes me lethargic and unmotivated, which means it’s the most difficult time of the year for me, but I’m still going to try to be productive. So, in typical monthly update order: blog, writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

I have a few minor changes to the blog planned for the future. The biggest of which is the new rule which I’ve already employed, and that is the “I can post fiction in lieu of a typical blog post any time I want”. It’s been getting more and more difficult for me to come up with real Learning! posts, and sometimes, writing fiction is just easier. The second change is simply a consequence of my other plans, which I’ll talk about more in a bit, and that is the fact that since I’m going to be writing a lot more, blog posts will be written further and further ahead of schedule, which might render the first change meaningless. Only time will tell.

So, writing plans. Phase Three begins officially on Tuesday. As you may recall from May’s update, I’ve been working on a few personal transformations to better prepare myself for more writing. Phase One was a revamped work space, Phase Two was a wardrobe change, and Phase Three is a daily schedule, in which I force myself to start writing full time. This plan will be set in place very soon, and if all goes well, I’ll be writing for about 24-30 hours a week. I’ve never written that much on a regular basis, but hopefully it will give me the time to not only write blog posts in more favorable hours of the day, but also allow me to give proper attention to all the things I’m currently working on. Right now my immediate project are the Spear Gate stories I’ve been writing over the past few weeks. I may or may not put a halt on that soon, but I so want to refocus my efforts on Rise of the Riftguard, as well as Lisa Stenton and the Spark universe. With dedicated hours to work for writing, perhaps I can actually work on all of them at once.

My free time lately has been entirely consumed by Heroes of the Storm. I’ve been playing it more and more since I got back into it (in January, I believe), and at this point I’ve been playing it exclusively. I’ve jumped back into more competitive play, as well, and right now I’m working on climbing the Platinum ranks with the (false) hopes of hitting Diamond before the season ends.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve been listening to Critical Role again. One of my brothers got into it recently, so I’ve started from the beginning so I can follow along. At this point, there are over a hundred episodes, and with each episode being over three hours long (on average) that’s, well, three hundred hours to catch up. If I spent five hours every day listening, it would still take me a month to be brought up to speed (and I already know I can’t devote that much time to it, so there’s that). But it’s great to finally go back to listening to real things, as I’ve spent the last two months spending video game time with music, which isn’t as efficient as I could be.

My semester has been over for a while now, but I’ve still been going into a local high school each week to teach improv. Monday, however, will be my last day for the school year. It’s always awesome to watch the kids grow more comfortable on stage and with themselves. I learned a lot about improv and teaching in general through my year with them, and next year I plan on actually helping them on a more personal level as well. I didn’t even try to learn all of their names this year, but I only teach about a total of fifty kids, so it’s more doable than I had originally thought.

Lastly, in a few days, a few friends from improv are graduating high school. They were freshmen when I met them, so it feels like a piece of me is leaving the high school for the last time. It’s unreasonable, because the last class I shared school grounds with will really be next year’s senior class, but still. The original improv team is flying the nest, and some of us are going very far away for a long time. It’s bittersweet, but I’m happy for them all.

Life — Writing Several Projects

Lately I’ve been tackling lots of separate unrelated writing ideas, and it’s left me a little overwhelmed with the things I want to be doing. With the onset of summer, I’ve wanted to challenge myself by setting blocks of writing time throughout a work day, like many professional authors have. It’ll be the first time I’ll have a time goal rather than a word goal, so it’s a little daunting, but it does beg the question, what should I be writing?

Regardless of the things going on around me, I’ve basically always had the philosophy of working on the most exciting project at any given point in time, within reason. (If something new sounds cool, I at least hold off until I’m finished with what my current project is.) But lately, I’ve been getting so many good ideas that I’m a bit overwhelmed on where to begin. There’s the newest world-scale project I’ve been working on from recent weeks, that I’ve tentatively titled the ‘Spear Gate System’. But I’ve also had the premise for a new book involving a chess game of gods that I’ve been interested in writing. I would have started it already if it hadn’t been for the Spear Gate idea. Still, I have older ideas that I haven’t finished. Rise of the Riftguard is still a long way from being even close to a finished first draft, and I never got around to starting the new Spark story I had been thinking about. And recently I started a new short series documenting the history of Nacre Then: The Writings of Toreshide.

This leaves five projects, and this doesn’t even bring up the fact that I’m still going to be writing at least five hundred words per day on the blog. The smallest of these projects I could finish in a day, sure, but I can’t focus on all of them at once. It is a nice problem to have, though. Years ago I would have been astounded at all the things the current me is trying to juggle. And I think setting a time to write will help with this a lot. I can be writing the ‘Chess of Gods’ book one hour, and then for a small half hour break I can kick back and write some more Toreshide pieces. On one hand, this will allow time to refresh my own head space, but since I’m still just speculating, it could completely burn me out.

And this still doesn’t even address the elephant that’s always been in the room: getting bored. My single largest shortcoming as a writer is that I still get bored with my ideas way too quickly. The one and only time I wrote a full-scale novel was about five years ago at this point, and I’ve pretty much stuck to short fiction ever since. It isn’t terrible, of course, but I want to be able to consistently write novels. Most of my short stories are really the Chapter One to a book that will never be written.

I think I’m doing fine. My philosophy of only writing what interests me has carried this far, but part of me wonders whether its keeping me from really developing the ability to commit to a longer work.

Story — Know My Name

A weary sigh. A balled fist over heavy eyes. White, blank light pouring into my eyes as I stare at the screen. The screen that needs to be more than it is.

As I sit in the chair, wondering why I’m actively avoiding sleep as the sun threatens to lay its routine siege on the cold night sky, I can’t help but laugh. This is the fifth night this week that my sleep deprivation is only getting worse.

After a relaxing night playing online with brothers and friends, midnight comes and goes. “Alright, time for bed,” I lie. They all voice their agreement. After all, we’re responsible adults. We don’t have fun fooling around through the unholy hours in the morning. But neither do I sleep.

It would be so simple to write blog posts and fiction during the day. It must be. But my schedule is so crammed, it would take conscious effort to squeeze in that writing time. Time I’ve been spending frantically, and often without success, to curb back my weariness with a power nap. A vicious cycle, for the only free time I truly have is the only part of the day I could really enjoy myself, and my personal responsibilities dictate that realistically, I should be spending that time more wisely.

And yet here I am. I’ve done this every night the past few days. I successfully trudged through that day. What’s the harm in doing it again?

I’ve been spending these last few weeks anticipating a move. A desperate change of pace. Finishing the semester and having time to truly dedicate to writing. My inner conscious says “I’ll force a daily two thousand word minimum over the summer!” But I don’t really know where my life will be then. What if it gets even harder to write?

I’m at an impasse, it seems. I need a good night’s rest, but there isn’t enough time in a day to accomplish that and all the things I’ve laid out for myself. This brief, two week hiatus on my next novelette is soon to hit it’s fifth week.

“Do I need a break?” I argue. Perhaps that’s the answer. The only other time I took a break on this blog, it did me wonders. I felt invigorated. That break lasted ten days, and it started in grievance, when I had not the presence of mind to write. How could I personally justify taking another one?

“Nobody reads your crap anyway,” an internal voice replies. “Taking a break isn’t going to affect a single person beyond yourself. Just let yourself breathe.” A pretty harsh way to argue this to myself, but it is logic I can’t refuse.

A moment of silence as I move my hands from the keyboard to my face once again, reading over the last paragraphs. This isn’t even a story. Not really. This is a rant; berating myself for falling into this cycle of perpetual weariness seasoned with a lack of inspiration.

But, there is hope. Being able to force myself to write past two in the morning even when I’m immensely tired is a relatively recent development. Days like these are encouraging. If I can write in this state–even this sorry excuse for a fiction piece–then I can forge a career out of it. Right now, this is a hobby.

But one day I’ll be out of school for good. And the world shall know my name. Sooner or later.