Me — WorldCon 76

I spent this past weekend in San Fransisco attending the 76th WorldCon. I would call this the third convention I’ve ever attended, the first two I’ve experienced being BlizzCon (to which I’ve been several times), and Anime Expo (to which I’ve been twice). To my knowledge, there are two “types” of conventions, one for seeing events and people, and another for meeting people and making connections.

I’ll be honest, I only attended WorldCon for one day, so my experience is obviously very limited. So much so that I don’t even know exactly what I may have missed. I will say though, the panels I went to were pretty interesting and I learned quite a bit in some of them. It’s a very casual atmosphere—panelists talk about stuff for about an hour, then audience members ask questions, and then afterwards you can generally go up to the panelists and talk to them individually if you really want to.

On one of the panels I was at, Brandon Sanderson made a surprise appearance, which was cool. (Later in the day there was an insanely long line to a panel we wanted to see, and found out that it was because he was explicitly listed as a panelist, so that’s why.) Funny enough, the panel we saw him on—a discussion about medieval wounds and injuries—he had almost no useful information to share. The other panelists were surgeons and doctors who were experienced in the field, and Brandon was just “the writer” among them, so instead he just became the guy that asked the questions.

The Con was honestly much, much smaller than I had anticipated. For a world famous international writer’s convention I expected everybody and their grandmother to be there. Instead, it was a few dozen small-ish rooms that seated about a hundred people each, with hour-long lectures going on in each room throughout the day for 5 days. I don’t know if that sounds boring to you, but I for one wish I could have attended so many more panels.

The main downfall of my entire trip there was that distance and time was a huge deterrent. Living in Southern California means that driving up to San Fransisco would take about 8 hours (if you’re being conservative), and my travel buddy and I both lead pretty busy lives. I took the day off work Friday, and she and I drove up then, went to WorldCon Saturday (which was about an hour away from the convenient place we were staying) and then drove back Sunday, because we needed to be home for Monday. Overall a pretty expensive trip for only a day of experience, but I don’t regret it. Sometimes it’s nice to just leave for a while.

So, would I recommend WorldCon? Depends, but I think there are only two types of people that would really enjoy it: Writers who are interested in learning new things (probably from people in the field they so respect) or readers that want to meet their favorite authors and hear stories about the worlds they’ve created. I’d imagine there are a few people that fall through the cracks of those categories, but if I saw any of them there this weekend, they slipped past me.

Also, from my experience of this weekend, I realized that aspiring writers tend to have a “look”. I can’t really describe it, but the crowd here was very distinct from say, Anime Expo, or BlizzCon, or even just public crowds wherever.

Me — March ’18 Update

I’ve been pretty swamped with work lately. The last few weeks I’ve kept a notepad near my desk with a to-do list, because I’ve been having trouble keeping track of everything that needs doing. Because of that, the list always seems to be disappointingly long. I’ve been managing, though, and while I’ve run the risk of burning out and crashing a few times, I’ve managed to teeter on the edge quite well so far.

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

Like last month, no blog changes are planned. I feel as though I’ve found a schedule that works really well with my school semester and work load. I’ve been posting “Me” posts pretty much every Wednesday even though they’re freebies, but that’s mostly because not a whole lot of “different” things have happened lately. I haven’t been playing D&D the last two months, for instance. I also don’t know what I’m going to do about Sunday posts. I’m not ready to dive back into Spear Gate. In fact, I’m writing this before Sunday’s post. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do (or what I will have done, as you would see it). I’ll figure something out, obviously. I don’t want to just not publish on Sundays. Wait, I’ve got an idea. More on that later… Well, I mean yesterday, for you.

Which leads me to my writing plans. They’re pretty short and simple. I plan on outlining Part One of Spear Gate soon, and then going back to work on it. Lots of stuff will be different. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to rewrite it from scratch for the most part. Lisa Stenton is doing pretty well. The second story was hard to write, and I’m hoping March’s won’t be so difficult. They also obviously need work, and if I’m going to publish twelve as a short story collection, they’ll need some serious edits. But as of now I’m still enjoying it and I think I’m certainly up to the task.

Video games. Not a whole lot to say, actually. I’m still mostly playing Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone. I’m eagerly awaiting the next expansion for the latter, because I’ve got a bunch of in-game money saved up for card packs. I’ve also been playing Dungeon of the Endless, but less so the last few days. It takes a big time commitment to play properly.

In conjunction with whenever I’m playing games, I’ve also had the time to (finally) relax and listen to podcasts, too. I’ve caught up on Writing Excuses, and I’ve also been listening to Julian Smith’s new podcast: Spellbound. Each episode is basically an in-depth discussion about a different topic such as space, psychology, technology, etc. The content isn’t out of the park amazing, but since I could start with Episode One as it aired, I’ve been keeping up. It’s nice to not have to play catch-up, like I’m still doing with Voice Acting Mastery. I’m still about two dozen hours away from being up-to-date with that one, as I’m at December of 2015 at the moment. Luckily that one doesn’t post a whole lot of new content. I’m not reading anything physically at the moment. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have the time, but reading has always felt like a chore, and with how busy I am, I just need to relax with my free time.

School has been fine. Actually, most of my classes allow me to express myself alongside peers in different ways, so that’s interesting. I have a writing class, an acting class, and a costume design class. None of them are as high maintenance as my classes were last semester, so I’m not stressing out over it. Being at school literally all day two days a week is exhausting, but it could be worse, of course.

Just as a parting thing, I just want to mention how much can change for me in the next few months. If everything goes exactly how I want it to, I’ll be travelling no less than three times this year, and that alone has me excited. I want to start doing more and seeing more, and just generally getting more out of life. I still like video games, but sitting at home and playing them all day makes me uneasy now, even if I have a day off. I have no news to report for now, but hopefully the May and June 2018 updates will be fun.

 

Me — Why I Want to Be a Writer

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately. And I don’t mean surface level stuff of “I want to be famous and published worldwide and pretty much the next J. K. Rowling”. First off, I really don’t want that. I don’t want to me “famous”. Ideally, I want to be known well enough that the average person may or may not have heard of my book series, but probably can’t think of my name off the top of their head, and especially doesn’t know what I look like.  Christopher Paolini is a good example. Most people know what Eragon is, but far fewer know the writer or anything about him. I want to be there, but maybe even a rung or too less successful. I want enough money to live comfortably, but I definitely am not aiming for the stars here.

But that’s not why I want to be a writer. Minor amounts of fame and comfortable lives can be achieved through hundreds of different professions. Hundreds of different creative-based professions, even. So why a writer?

Until recently, I’d have told you I want to tell stories about things that can’t happen in the real world. I don’t have an awe inspiring message I need to tell the masses, I just want to tell cool stories.

I think that’s part of it, but in the end that pretty much only explains why I write sci-fi/fantasy, not why I write as a whole.

I’m going to backtrack a minute, because I’m going to tell this story how it happened chronologically in my head. I had been wrestling with those ideas for a while, and at some point I came to something I considered a tangent. A footnote to this entire idea.

When I was in junior and senior year of high school, I was struggling with a lot of negative emotions. All day I would imagine a grim reaper following me around and getting revenge on people I didn’t like. I fantasized about this powerful being of death that could let me use my anger and frustration to get back at people. This was a person. A character. Her name was Cyntheras, and while she lived in my head, she was just visiting, because her true home was my first original universe, Nacre Then.

I would doodle tiny drawings of her (because if I work small it’s easier not to hate the art), in lots of classes, depicting her in powerful poses, and always with a giant scythe, which was her weapon of choice.

To me, she was just a neat idea for a character. I intended her to be an antagonist in one of the books in the Sorik series I never actually got further than a chapter or two in. She wasn’t mean, exactly, but she was a sadist, and she loved nothing more than to serve her dark god. Usually, that meant violence. And she was so good at it, that where she came from her name was synonymous with death.

Then, years after high school, I wrote a short story told in her perspective: “A Day of Reckoning“. It was the first time she had ever come to life outside of tiny drawings and short conversations with friends. I got to be ruthless. I got to revel in the power at my command. But most of all, I got to hurt people in my own harmless little way.

I liked the story. It came out well because of how dark it is. To this day it’s probably my most brutal piece. And in a way, it was my way of ending Cyntheras’ vacation in my head and returning her to where she belonged. I loved being evil, and now I don’t feel the need to think that way anymore.

It was in this thought that I realized. Once I wrote her story, she left my head. Left my thoughts. I realized that, at any given point in time, there’s almost always a person renting a space in my head. they invade my thoughts and my personality. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Other times, it’s not. Writing about them is just my way of evicting them.

My characters are different versions of me. Some are more me than others, but in writing their stories, I stop being me for a while. I get to explore possibilities and manifest things that are either not socially acceptable or not physically possible. I simply enjoy becoming different people for a while, which sort of explains why I find characters most like me harder to enjoy writing about.

This also explains why I like acting, and Dungeons & Dragons. I love just taking time to not be me. Cyntheras isn’t like me. She thrives on hurting people and lives only to serve her god. But I could fulfill myself in that through her, I could take action without fear of consequence. Maelys isn’t like me. He doesn’t take the time to question what’s happening around him, he just lets things happen unless he’s forced to react. But through him, I could explore, experience wonder, and adventure without having to worry about responsibilities. Lisa Stenton isn’t like me. She’s sassy and insecure and doesn’t even know what she should be doing with her life. But her stories allow me to have fun despite roadblocks and hardships.

None of my characters are me. But, in a way, they’re all me. I always jump at the opportunity to step out of my own shoes for a while, so with that in mind I suppose it was only a matter of time before I got into acting and broke out of my shell. I’m still introverted yes, but it doesn’t stop me from taking vacations from my own head.

That said, Cyntheras’ mind is a very different place. It can be fun for a while, but I don’t recommend staying there for long. For one, it’s crowded. I guess that sort of happens when you hear voices.

Also, I don’t want to be a writer. I am a writer. But I’m not a writer because of the prestige that the title may or may not get me. I’m just a writer because it’s the easiest way to write evictions for the many people that come and go from the very cramped space that is my head.

Me — The Daily Dose Turns Two

The Daily Dose of Derailment turned two years old yesterday, which led me to an interesting realization. If I consider the beginning of my writing career to be the first stories I ever started writing in 7th grade of middle school, the blog now takes up a considerable chunk of how much time I’ve spent as a writer. Roughly 25% of my life spent as a writer has been in conjunction with the blog now.

What’s more, since writing blog posts is considerably easier than writing actual fiction, a good portion of the time I’ve spent writing has been nonfiction at this point. I keep a Google Doc of all the things I’ve ever written and each of their word counts, but admittedly I haven’t updated it since September. It’s simply a lot of maintenance, which is a great problem to have. Even back then, though, over 50% of the words I’ve written have been blog posts, and by now I’m probably well past 500,000 total words published.

I have a lot to thank the blog for. Most importantly it’s held me accountable for actually writing, even when it’s difficult. One of my friends taught me something the other day, and it really works. To paraphrase his paraphrased quote from I don’t remember who: “Motivation is terrible. It won’t get you anywhere because it’s fueled by emotion rather than need. But discipline can give you results and force you to push yourself to be who you want.” I find that sentiment to be surprisingly valid.

The best part is, I really do feel like I’m growing as a writer. I’ve looked into how to grow your audience so that more people will read your work. It involves a lot of engaging with other communities and bringing them back to your own. Honestly, that doesn’t interest me much. I do it from time to time, but it’s mostly to see how others are holding up with their own work rather than advertising my stuff. So when I see I have well over a hundred followers without actually publicizing my work, I can be relatively confident that it speaks to the quality of what I produce more than anything else.

I’ve recently started thinking a lot about how I personally view myself, and I’m happy to say that I’ve finally started to unconsciously view my self-worth in terms of my writing. That’s good because I honestly feel like I’m, generally speaking, pretty good at it. I have a lot to learn, obviously, but after eight-ish years of writing garbage, I’m slowly gaining respect for the more recent stories I’ve been working on.

Last year I submitted an application for the 2017 Writing Excuses Retreat. Of the three writing samples I submitted, the three things I considered my best works, one was written in 2014, and the other two were written in 2016. I still think that they’re alright, but I don’t think that they can compare to newer stories like, well, any of the short flash fiction stories I’ve written in 2018. It proves I’ve made some progress.

By this time next year, I hope to be working on publishing a Lisa Stenton book, complete with twelve 5,000 word short stories. It wouldn’t be the first thing I’ve published, but it would still be a huge step forward for me. Here’s hoping.

Me — Deserving to Win

I’ve been working on my application for the Writing Excuses Retreat Scholarship that’s set for late September, and it’s gotten me to asking a few important questions. This isn’t the first time I’ve applied to the cruise, and (if it isn’t obvious), I haven’t won any scholarships… yet.

The application process is simple. You write a personal essay about your merit and why you deserve the scholarship, then attach three letters of recommendation and up to three writing samples (to a max of 10,000 words). I tried to be cheeky (and thus memorable) last year by writing my personal essay in prose, in which I talked to one of my main characters about myself and the book I was writing. His book, actually. Since that didn’t win, I’m taking a more traditional route.

My first essay sucked, and I wasn’t surprised when my writing group said so. They said it sounded as though I had already lost, which is fair, because that was pretty much exactly how I wrote it. I don’t know how many hundreds (or thousands) of people apply for the scholarship each year, but can I really expect to be one of the three best, most qualified applicants? Brimming with confidence as I may be, I wouldn’t presume to think I’m anywhere close to the best of the best.

So I knowingly gave my group this awful essay, and one person in my group said something that was really profound.

She asked if I thought I deserved to win.

And I didn’t have an answer. The more I thought about that question, the more I had to ask myself. Objectively, of course, a panel of judges will be reading the submissions and picking who is the most deserving. But on a deeper level, what does it mean to deserve something? Potential isn’t enough. Confidence isn’t enough. Tenacity isn’t enough. You have to have the exact right proportions of each.

Somebody too poor to afford a proper education is already at a severe disadvantage, for example. If they can’t afford the schooling, they won’t be able to write a strong enough essay, let alone the fiction to back it up. So a minimum threshold of disposable income is all but required. Writing isn’t simply an innate art, but a skill to be practiced and trained. Better training and teaching will simply yield better results.

Somebody too arrogant to think that they can have whatever they want simply won’t come across as deserving. Nobody wants to give a jerk money. Not even a smart one that can do a lot with it. But you won’t give somebody riddled with insecurities money, either. There’s no promise that they’ll grow into somebody that can work despite failure, which is something that this industry is practically characterized by. You have to find somebody that believes in themselves, but not so much as to bridge into arrogance. Somebody that can press on in the face of adversity and has the courage to keep going even though success is never guaranteed.

Somebody too stubborn to give up when they aren’t learning isn’t suitable, either. Rejection is a tough thing to handle, sure. A budding writer might hear about how writers get rejected dozens of times before they can be successful, and submit hundreds of times to compensate. They don’t understand that perseverance isn’t the only requirement. Sometimes, a rejection doesn’t simply mean that you’re knocking on the wrong door. Sometimes it means that you’re not selling the right product, and what a lot of writers don’t understand is that the product isn’t the book you’re holding. It’s the author. Products don’t sell if they don’t have a strong name to back them up, and it’s the same way with books. If you’re rejected, that could just mean you haven’t grown enough as an author and a person to be worthy of that sell. So a person that doesn’t realize this isn’t deserving, either.

I’d like to think that I have enough schooling to be competitive. I’d certainly expect my writing to be of a higher caliber than most people my age. I’d like to think that I’m confident enough to know where I am. I can see just how long and arduous this road is. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if anyone can do it, I can. I’d like to think that I’m determined enough to succeed in the long run. I fully expect failure, but instead of letting that stop me or ignore my failures for what they are, I’ll treat them for the learning experiences they are, for nobody has led a life of pure success.

Do I deserve to win? I really don’t know. But in the end, the answer to that question isn’t up to me. I just have to put my best foot forward, and if its not good enough, I’m going to have to find some new feet.

Me — January ’18 Update

Greetings, welcome back, hello again, and good to see you. Today marks the return of the Daily Dose, as well as, of course, the beginning of the new year. Pretty fortunate that it starts on a Monday, eh? It really compliments my posting schedule. As you can imagine, lots of things are going to change. My intent for this new year is set with one major goal: to have a more presentable output of writing for people to read and enjoy. This blog’s original purpose was to force me to write at least 500 words a day, and I can safely say it’s more than achieved that. Unrelated stress aside, the blog has proven invaluable. I think it’s time to shift my focus. So, here’s what I’ve been doing over the break, and what my plans are for the next several months.

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

First and foremost, I’m changing my posting schedule (again) to line up with my current school semester. I scheduled school very poorly last semester, which was the primary reason for the hiatus—just getting through each day was exhausting. So, while I’ll talk about school in a bit, the idea is that the more fun, entertaining posts will be closer to the weekend, because Mondays and Wednesdays are now extremely busy for me. I want to publish more fiction to read while also writing stuff like Reviews and Life. Those posts are more for me, as nobody is coming on this site to see what I thought of the new hot movie. So I’m moving posts around to accommodate that system. Mon-Wed are for me, Friday and Sunday are for also me you. Here’s the new schedule:

Sun — Spear Gate
Mon — Me
Tues — Review
Wed — Whatever
Fri — Fiction

(Notice I made most of the titles alliterative so its easy to discern which topic is on what day.) D&D has been demoted from its weekly standing because, while I do love it and play it as often as I can, it really isn’t that large a facet of my life. It’s the same thing that happened with improv. I love it, I just don’t have a “weekly” amount of discussion for it. That said, expect stories from sessions (which may be somewhat common) to pop up on Wednesdays, not Fridays.

My writing plans are pretty straight forward. Spear Gate is still my main project, and I’m determined to see it “to the end”, wherever that may be. It still isn’t that long—a product of only producing 600ish words a week—but I need to get out of the habit I’ve gotten into lately of giving up on projects before I even finish them. It isn’t good for me. I’ve got some good characters, good worldbuilding, and especially some good plot twists lined up. I just have to earn them, which means Spear Gate is still probably the only thing that will post on a Sunday for several months yet to come. I will say, however, that I’m working on some secret stuff on the side. So along with the fact that Friday’s posts will be fiction based on various universes (often unrelated flash pieces, probably), Spear Gate won’t be the only project I’m looking at.

As far as video games go, my life has been pretty consistent lately. I’ve been playing almost exclusively Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, depending on how much energy I have, but I also recently played through Battle Chasers: Nightwar, which was pretty neat. Expect a review on that pretty soon. My main focus right now is HotS, but I’ve completely stopped playing Destiny 2 because it’s just the biggest letdown of the year as far as games go for me. Maybe I’ll fill the FPS void by getting back into Overwatch soon? (My brother also got me a sweet gaming keyboard and mouse for Christmas. The LED kind that you can program to do whatever you want. So I’ve been playing with that a lot recently setting it up to light different colors depending on the game I’m playing. It’s pretty neat.)

The last several weeks of the year has been characterized by my frantically trying to get caught up in some podcasts and books I’ve been working on. I’ve achieved that for some—I’m all caught up with Critical Role and Writing Excuses in preparation of the new year—but now I was primarily listening to Oathbringer, which is just a monster of a book, until yesterday. Now I’m also actively listening to Voice Acting Mastery, but I just started that one. As far as physically reading goes, I just finished Wildcat, which I believe is the debut novel of an author that lives in the UK: J.P. Harker. Expect a review on that soon, too!

So, school. Last semester was pretty awful for me. I noticed that every semester I tend to have one high maintenance class. One that requires a majority of my focus while the others are pretty much in the sidelines. In Fall of 2017, I had three high maintenance classes, and they were back to back, with no break. That’s not to say that they were exceptionally difficult, mind you, just that I couldn’t sit back and relax in any of them. One of them I hated my teacher, another was a theater class (so most of the semester we were performing in that time slot), and the last class had very difficult concepts to grasp. (These also weren’t my only classes.) So, yeah, it was hard to hold on to all of that.

This semester should be different. While I am taking just as many classes, they’re all on the same two days, and I know I’ll like most of my teachers. At this point I’m mostly taking electives for the two degrees I’m working on, so it should be a mostly easy ride. Just don’t try to talk to me on Monday or Wednesday because I’ll be exhausted.

So, here’s to a new year. It’s bound to be better than last year’s travesty because 2018 isn’t a prime number.

Life — Catching Up

Throughout my entire life, I’ve been late to the game in most of the things I experience. I’m always the last to read, watch, or hear about something, and all of my free time is spent playing catch up.

I’ve done the math. And I’m going to try to catch up by 2018.

It’s pretty daunting. I have five or six podcasts I want to listen to, and three books I want to be finished with at the end of the year. Four, if I make good time. But it’s going to take a lot.

Before I give you the numbers, let me just say that this is all free time. This is after school, work, writing, and D&D. For podcasts, it means listening in the car or when I’m playing video games by myself. So this is time I’m already going to have to be pushing for.

The worst part is, most of these podcasts have been running for years. Writing Excuses, for example, may only have fifteen minute long episodes, but the episodes are weekly, and the podcast has been running since 2008.

So, here are the numbers. In order to be caught up with all of these podcasts by the end of the year (minus the time I’ve already put into it, of course,) this is how many hours per week I need to put into it. This is also the order of priority I’m putting into this effort.

  • Critical Role — 15 hours
  • Writing Excuses — 2 hours
  • Voice Acting Mastery — 2.5 hours
  • Story Break — 3 hours
  • CoolGames Inc. — 3.5 hours
  • Hello Internet — 10 hours

Now, because there’s a lot of content, but I’m not super into it, let’s just take off Hello Internet from these numbers. I do want to get to it, but I don’t plan on trying to get caught up any time soon. So without that, that’s about 26 hours per week of podcast. Doable, if I try really hard. (Plus, it’s worth noting that I can obviously just focus on one podcast, but I like the idea of tackling them all simultaneously so I don’t burn myself out on just one.)

That said, Critical Role 15 hours per week? That’s pretty much one episode a day. I really want to be caught up, but I don’t know if I can do it. Besides that, by my calculations, the entire month of December would be spent watching episodes that don’t even exist yet! This wouldn’t take nearly as long if they just stopped production to wait for me.

A (very) rough estimate of the total amount of time I would need to be caught up right now is about 500 hours, and that isn’t counting future episodes that haven’t aired. As of writing this on Monday, between now and the end of the year is about 2800 hours. I would need to be listening to podcasts for about 17.5% of the time (again, only counting current episodes).

I don’t think that’ll be possible, because it’s too much to get through in a small period of time. But really, all I need to do is go through content faster than it is released. So while I’m perfectly aware that being caught up with everything by 2018 is an insane notion, I hope the aspiration will make the process go much more quickly.