Good News and Bad News

Let’s start with the Good News:

“Beyond the Waterfall” is done.

The story has gone through its final audible edit.

The story has been properly tweaked to be correctly formatted.

The story has been proofed in Amazon Previewer for Kindles and iPads.

The cover is done and uploaded to Amazon.

The story has been converted into the Kindle file format.

The story has been uploaded to Amazon.

 

The Bad News?

I’m struggling to come up with a good description of the story.

 

Yeah, I’m actually really having trouble with it. I’m not good at boiling down my stories to a few sentences. And every direction I try doesn’t seem to work! So it means that Beyond the Waterfall is going to be delayed a little longer. But once I get the description done, it’ll be published that day.

Now, I should probably just do this today. But last night was very rough and I’m exhausted. I can barely think. Ironically, tanking an LFR Raid in WoW takes less brain power for me than coming up with this kind of stuff.

So I’m going to let this settle for a bit and think about it rather than trying to rush it. After all, this is what will sell the story more than anything.

 

I’m also happy to say that I finally have my own desk at Blizzard. That is freaking awesome. I know there’s a huge thing about the evil nature of cubicles, but honestly, I don’t mind at all. I’m thrilled. I’ve never had my own space in any place I’ve ever worked. But I have some (okay, a lot) Pony stuff up, pictures of Laura and the girls, some books and a few posters. 🙂 I love it.

This place is spoiling me rotten. Heh.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I’ll be posting as soon as I get the story description done, but I’m not going to force it as I originally intended to.

 

Until then, good luck and have fun!

-rks

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Dreams + Reality = Epic

Well, it’s hard to believe I’ve already been at Blizzard for over a week now. It’s still not even real. I got to have lunch with Laura and the girls there with a few friends, to take tours, to know some actual stuff that others don’t know and to meet my entire team. Hell, the second day was a pancake breakfast for my team. Seriously. This place is freaking amazing. Even had to chance to score some cool Blizzard swag. It’s funny how long time employees complain (good-naturedly) about having too much, but I’m just starting out, so I’m thrilled.

But the best part? The people I’m working with are my kind of people. I mean that by saying they are gamers, techies, nerds and geeks. But not only that…they are also parents of small children around my age.

You see, at Apple, I always felt I was surrounded by jocks and party kids. People I had little to nothing in common with. But now? I feel totally at ease with these people, aside from my stupid natural shyness which is rearing its head something fierce.

This place is unbelievable. I wish I could tell you all the reasons why…but it truly is. I know this is where I’m meant to be. And I’m so thankful to God for pulling off this insane impossible miracle. It’s still not real…and it won’t be for a long time, I suspect.

As for my writing, things are actually going well. Last week, even with my new schedule, I managed to do some work on Stormhaven. This week, I’ll be focusing on getting Waterfall done. There’s also been some development on that whole anthology thing…aside from enormous amounts of drama. I’ll let you know as that develops.

Other than that, there’s not much to report. I’m behind on my critiques for this week, so I need to tackle that tonight. Not sure what I’ll do later, but that needs to be done today!

And just to celebrate the Blizzard thing (and no one even blinked twice about the Pony thing), here’s the 20th Anniversary Special Video!


Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Okay, now that the retrospective is over, I can head back to the normal blog posts you all know and love! (Well, more like the ones you normally ignore and yawn, but that’s okay).

Again I find myself unable to do the deadlines I set for myself. I didn’t realize that I really wouldn’t have time to edit or write on Wednesday, Friday or Saturday. And I definitely don’t have time today. Tomorrow’s out too, since I’m sure I’ll be talking all about my new job with Laura.

Here’s the scoop: the OC Writers Anthology finally fell through. Actually, I pulled my story. I won’t go into details, lets just say it wasn’t working for me. So now I have both Waterfall stories ready to be published for the most part. I just need a few final edits and a new cover for Waterfall steps and I’ll have two stories out! Yay!

That’s the big thing right now. I don’t know when I’ll get to Stormhaven, but hopefully I can start doing a little bit of work in the evening, even if it’s only about 30 minutes worth after I get home from work. I did enjoy the extra writing I got done this week though. It felt good to really knock out some jazz in Stormhaven.

Other than that, my mind is pretty focused on what’s coming tomorrow. Hard to think about anything else.

So today, I’m just going to leave it at that. Next Sunday, I’ll hopefully have one of the stories ready to go. God willing.

I’ll keep trying.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part V (Finale)

Part V: Miracles

Today’s date is Saturday, June 7, 2014.

I’m T-2 days from Blizzard.

I know I should be freaking out. And I think a little part of me is, but it’s a small part. The rest of me is trying to survive my two little girls, getting a bit too obsessed with Bioshock Infinite and a few other things. At the moment, I’m pulling my hair out because the second I finished my personal journal, Tali woke up. I don’t know if it was Caitlyn’s weird yelling in her room or what…but it was just as I got everything ready to do this. *Sigh* Kids have a magical way of knowing the worst possible time to wake up from naps.

But more than anything, I think I’m really excited. I’m excited to find out what Blizzard has. Part of me is excited to actually park there as an employee. To see their cafeteria. To know about any cool discounts. To just…BE a part of it.

Now, of course, I won’t be able to breathe a word about what I really do. I’m sure they’ll have me sign at least 10 NDA forms or something. Apple’s just as bad, really. The only difference is that when I worked for Apple, I worked Retail, so I never knew anything (by the way, NEVER ask an Apple Retail employee about when the next iPhone, iPod, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, Macbook Pro, Macbook, iWatch, iThingy or any other Apple product is coming out. You’re not being clever because we’ve all heard it hundreds if not thousands of times. Retail NEVER knows anything. They find out the same way everyone else does: watching the Keynote if Apple puts it up or reading the livestreams from MacRumors/Engagdet/Gizmodo/AppleInsider/Whatever just like everyone else).

…ahem.

A bit of a tangent there. I’ve been hearing questions about when does the next (BLANK) for six and a half years. *Shudder*

Anyway, I never knew anything at Apple Retail. I’ll know everything (ish) at Blizzard. Weird to actually KNOW THINGS! But I’m still not going to tell you, so don’t ask.

So…that leaves us with now. The grand finale. Last time, we stopped shortly after my return from my personal leave. The faces were very different and I started to realize that there weren’t many of my friends left at Apple SCP. For example, the picture below is everyone who showed up to Laura’s Surprise Baby Shower for Caitlyn in September of 2010.

Baby Shower for Caitlyn

All of the people within this photo save for two no longer work at the Apple Store at SCP (excluding Laura). Everyone else has moved on. Some to other Apple Stores. Some to other businesses. Some to other states. Some to other countries.

Aside from that, there wasn’t much else to do at the Apple Store. I didn’t have any mountains to climb. I wasn’t interested in Retail Management and aside from lateral moves within the store or to other stores, the only other option was to move to Cupertino to work at Apple HQ. I didn’t want to leave Southern California. It’s my home. So…what was I to do?

However, it was more complicated than that. Far more complicated. You see, I have a rather dry sense of humor and sometimes have trouble expressing my opinions in locations where it would be wiser to keep my mouth shut. These traits, along with others, started to cause serious tension for me. In addition, a new policy was handed down, demanding that both the full-time and the part-time employees have more availability (days that you are considered available to work) than ever before.

However…here was the long and the short of it: I wasn’t happy at Apple. I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to progress to. I had concerns about the direction Apple was going, both in retail and in respect to the company itself. The availability thing was the final piece though. I started looking…because I had to. You see, Laura and I long ago committed that strangers would not be raising our children. We didn’t want to throw our kids in daycare. Could we have made more money if we did that? Maybe. But you know what? Money has never really mattered to me all that much. I’ve always viewed it as a tool, nothing more. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense for people living in Orange County. Here, we have Coto de Caza, Newport Beach and far more expensive places. South Coast Plaza itself caters itself as a tourist location…really ritzy and fancy most of the time. I know I don’t belong here…but that’s okay. I like being different.

I started to look into other companies. Tech companies and other random places, even Microsoft, since I knew they used to poach Retail employees a lot when they were first getting started. But I wasn’t getting a single nibble. I tried networking, but nothing was happening. Comments were being made…and I was afraid. Really afraid for my future.

((I’m not going to go into specifics about any of this. Today I got the standard “end of employment” letter reminding me of all the commitments that are still in effect even though I’m no longer with Apple at this point.  The intention of this is not to bash Apple as a company or Apple SCP as a store. All I am saying here is that I was having some issues. Some of those issues were personality conflicts within the store, some of them were new company-wide policies. Also remember that I had been at Apple SCP for six and a half years. That’s no small feat. It’s not something I would throw away casually. I’ve been through plenty of very difficult times where I’ve considered leaving Apple, but I stayed because I realized that the problem was more me than the circumstances. I’m a stubborn guy. But family is more important to me. The true purpose of this is to show the miracles that happened and the threads wove together to result in what happens on Monday morning))

The Miracles

Sometime during March, I was looking at Blizzard’s career website. It’s something I did every month or so, just to see if there’s something I could apply for. This time around, it was for Compatibility Analyst, the same position as what I applied for the first time I applied at Blizzard some years ago. I updated my resume (which had recently been updated anyway because of my searches), added the Mass Effect 2 game analysis from my first application, a cover letter and sent it off with the help of Jason, my Baby Stalker. Sent it through him and through the external portal. I then promptly forgot about it. I had been rejected so many times, I just offered a quick prayer to God and moved on with my life. Even during everything else that happened, I didn’t even think of that one.

I realized after the fact that the ME2 Review was actually written before Mass Effect 3 came out and was written reflecting that. I never changed it. Eep.

Then, on our nine-year wedding anniversary, March 26, 2014, I got an email from Blizzard Entertainment while I was getting ready to take a shower. Telling me they were interested in my latest application for Compatibility Analyst, which I had applied for and promptly forgotten.

I couldn’t believe it. Seriously. It was like a dream. Even thinking back on it now as I write this (still working for Apple and waiting for the final phone call), I still don’t believe it.

A whirlwind proceeded to happen. I took a few days off of work for these events. I prepared for the first phone interview with 40 pages of notes, questions, answers and more. I memorized their Mission Statement. I watched the 25-year anniversary retrospective. I asked questions for everyone I knew in the gaming industry.

And during my phone interview…within a half hour in they said they wanted me in for an in-person interview.

Eight days later, I get the email to set up the in-person interview. And a week later from that, I drive to Blizzard Entertainment and enter the gate for the very first time in my life.

Of course, there was a full NDA for the interview and everything else, so I can’t divulge anything about the process. But I’ll say their lobby is freaking awesome. I remember waiting for my recruiter in the Blizzard Museum. Seeing a version of the Sword and Shield used for the Five and Ten Year Anniversaries. Seeing the various models for the Holiday Gifts they do every year. The massive mural they had on one wall that they use as their primary art piece for Hearthstone. The utterly insane amounts of awards they have in glass cases. The giant statue of the Queen of Blades. And I even got the man who was behind the entire scheduling process to take my picture in front of the great orc rider statue before the main building. It was like walking into a dream.

In truth, I didn’t think I did that great during the interview. I kept thinking of the dozens of different or better answers I could have given them after the fact. Coming home, I was quite depressed. My own internal critic went nuts, tearing me apart from the inside out. Over the course of the next fifteen days, I mentally ripped myself apart, sending myself to severe depression. I think part of me was shoring myself up for failure, so getting rejected wouldn’t completely destroy me.

I’ve been in constant prayer the entire time with Laura. I was asking for family members and friends to pray over us. The moment I got that first email, I ran to God, knowing full well I was completely incapable of doing this without Him. I prayed at least four times a day about the job.

Then on a Thursday, while I was at home talking on the phone with a friend about my methods behind the OC Inklings, an online critique group I’d been running since the beginning of the year, I get a phone call. My iPhone identifies the call as coming from Irvine, California. I freak, tell the person I had to go and pick up the phone.

It’s my recruiter with some questions about pay rates and such. During our conversation, he mentions getting the gears in motion to get to the offer stage.

I managed to keep it together during the phone call, but the moment I hung up (as Laura is completely freaking out in joy and putting Tali in her Blizzard onesie (“My other stroller is EPIC”)), I literally fell over onto the bed and just stared at the wall in complete and total shock.

For the rest of the day, I wander around the house in a daze, my brain completely on the fritz.

Because I knew what a phone call like that meant.

 

The New Horizon

That was three days ago (at the time of originally writing this).

Since then, I got a chance to tell a few friends, while keeping everything quiet on social media and public front. I texted those who knew about what I was trying to do. Even as I write this, it doesn’t seem real.

But everyone I’ve talked to say that if they’re talking pay, then the job is in the bag. God performed the miracle. The third greatest miracle in my life.

The first is finding a wife who wants to be with me and deal with all my insanity.

The second is two beautiful and healthy baby girls.

And this is the third.

Yesterday, I started writing my farewell email to Apple, a tradition for our store when it’s time for someone to move on. I’ll be tweaking that until the final moment. And I started writing this yesterday after finishing the email.

You see…the real reason I want to work for Blizzard isn’t for the free stuff or the pay or the insider knowledge. I have no interest in becoming fabulously wealthy or crazy famous. That’s not where my priorities lie. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but all I’ve ever wanted out of life is to be a husband, be a father and leave a legacy.

The reason I want to work for Blizzard is because of the culture. From everything I’ve seen, Blizzard is full of geeks and nerds. And somehow, I ended up at the Apple Store with all the jocks. In Genius Room meetings, more guys talk about shoes than they do about video games. (I’m not kidding. I’ve called them total girls for it and reminding them that’s coming from someone who watches My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic). Blizzard has LARPing, Magic the Gathering and and endless supply of geek. In fact, one of their Mission Statements is “Embrace Your Inner Geek!”

The other reason? Because I see endless potential. Blizzard is a company I could see myself working at for the next thirty years. I’m starting at the bottom right now, but there are so many paths available within the company. I don’t know where I’ll go. I don’t know if it’ll be game design and development, internal technical support or maybe something else. Eventually, I’d love to join their creative development team and write the stories that I loved so much.

This is my greatest dream. And God has done amazing things in getting me here.

But the best part? It didn’t end there. No way. It got both harder and better at the same time.

 

God is my Tank and my Healer

What? It’s a WoW Joke. In case you don’t know (and you seriously should know this), a Tank is a character usually in an MMO who has high health and gets the various enemies to target them instead of the more fragile damage dealers or the healer. They take the punishment so the rest of the team can kick ass.

That next Tuesday, I get an email from the recruiter and the scheduler. We quickly make a new appointment for the coming Thursday…where I find out I’ll be doing my final phone interview. I don’t believe it.

That Thursday, while a neighbor watches the kids, I have the final interview. And I felt very happy with the way it turned out, especially when he told me the decision would be made within a week.

Ironically, a few days later is the Season 4 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now why on earth would I mention this? Aside from the fact that I’ve already gushed about how epic it was, there was a song in there that really spoke to me.

It was Twilight, singing about the fact that she’s been placed in a position of authority but doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s her questioning her role and her purpose. What is she meant to do? She wants to contribute so badly…but seems to do almost nothing.

Then the other three Princesses come in…telling her that “you’ll play your part.”

I can’t even explain why, but it comforted me. It gave me hope. Granted, I’m not an alicorn princess, but I found a very close connection with what I was going through, fighting through doubts, questioning my place and hoping for something better.

Here’s a line from the song:

But I wonder where I’m going now

What my role is meant to be

I don’t know how to travel

To a future that I can’t see

And this is from my journal a few days later:

It really resonates with me. Because right now I can’t see the future. I’m in neutral, waiting for the light to change. My engine’s revved up and ready to blast ahead…but I’m waiting for the light…for the go or the stop.

But I have to have faith that God knows. And I have to trust him that it’ll happen in his time. I can’t hurry God. I can just do my best to muddle along, asking for help along the way.

 

The Jump

On May 13, a friend of mine gives me some very troubling information about my place at Apple. I won’t go into specifics, but it obliterated my good mood for the day as if someone had dropped a nuke on my head. I had tried my best to keep my shields up during the problems I’d been having at work during all of this, but this last bit of information shattered them into tiny shards.

I was so upset about this new information, I seriously considered calling out the next day. However, for some reason, Laura encouraged me to go to work anyway.

The next day, I discover that I have a meeting with one of the managers, likely about the thing mentioned the day before. I spend the day focusing on my customers as best I can and even watch Doug Field’s service at Saddleback Church that gave me comfort some weeks before. The service was called “Have I Got a Surprise For You!”

And it’s about how Jesus handled Lazarus’s death. The key is he didn’t go right away when Mary and Martha sent the messenger asking for help. He waited for two days before leaving. Lazarus was dead and already buried when Jesus got there. Mary and Martha were asking “Why?”

But there was an answer. The answer was to show one of the greatest miracles Jesus did while on Earth. He raised him from the dead. Mary and Martha just wanted healing…but Jesus did far more than that.

And this is from my journal after watching that:

I have to jump.

If Jesus decides that the bridge needs to burn out and I have to throw myself into the unknown, that’s what I need to do.

It’s the only way.

Because I have to trust him that he’ll catch me.

Okay God, you want it like that?

Then I’m jumping.

It’s all up to you now. If you don’t catch me, it’s game over.

So it’s all to you.

 

The Tenth Miracle

At 3:40 PM, Pacific Daylight Time, while I was in this meeting (which was not a happy meeting), I felt my phone buzz. I peeked at it while talking with him and saw “Blizzard Entertainment” on the Caller ID. But I managed to stick it out with the conversation.

Afterwards when we came back down to the store, well, I think I need another direct quote from my journal here.

After the meeting, I headed to the restroom, locked the door and listened to the message, my breath held. I remember judging his voice as he spoke about the stuff after the final interview. Apparently, I did it. I fucking did it.

No, that’s not right.

GOD DID IT.

And he told me that they were ready for the offer stage.

I got the job.

I was literally jumping up and down around the room like some sort of psychotic jackrabbit, whisper-shouting YES! over and over again.

I GOT THE DAMN JOB!

That’s right. I was grinning like a lunatic for the rest of the day. I sang and shouted in praise and thanks and just sheer glee the entire way home.

We have a quick exchange the next day saying that they’re just processing the final paperwork and should have it done by the next day, Friday, May 16.

God waited until the last moment. At 5:10 PM Pacific Daylight Time, my recruiter presented me with the official offer. Even better? I got Compatibility Analyst II instead of I.

And finally, a few minutes after telling the managers and putting in my notice, I got to tell the Genius Room. I actually got applause to my surprise.

Best. Day. Ever.

 

The Time Between

The next two weeks flew by in a blur. Literally. I was actually startled by how quickly the days passed. My final day at Apple was May 30, 2014. At my final Genius Room meeting, they actually did a group hug. Slightly awkward. I got to have lunch with another Genius who was leaving the same day (coincidence, she’s actually moving) and a member of the Genius Team who’s been with Apple for almost 20 years. He’s a good man.

And finally? My going away party at Red Robin near SCP. We had about 15 people or so show up. And it was a grand old time, because people came out who had left Apple years ago. It was wonderful, simply wonderful. I remember when I got home I was so exhausted, but it’s the kind of exhausted you get after visiting Disneyland. A very good kind of exhausted.

 

The Tapestry

To think that this all started because my old CompUSA manager wanted me to try WoW so badly that he bought me a copy using his own money. A thousand threads starting there (and further back with my obsession with video games for years), intertwined and leading to this moment. Moving down here, meeting Jason and Amanda, meeting those contacts at the Genius Bar, winning Honorable Mention with “Ashes over Stormwind,” getting a job at Apple, getting Genius and everything else…all of it was for a far greater purpose than I could have ever imagined.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen by coincidence. It’s all too complex, too complicated for that. I can’t believe that for a heartbeat. There was a great intelligent design behind all of these that started almost ten years ago.

God wove a beautiful and astonishing tapestry through my life…a tapestry I never saw coming.

I don’t think it’s chance that the quote I used for my senior year in high school is the same quote that gave me comfort in my times of doubt: “‘For I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'” That’s Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

It’s a good verse.

A very good verse.

 

Dawn

And there you have it. My Adventure to Azeroth. My journey to Blizzard. It was a hell of a ride. I left out the worst parts of it, primarily because I want to think of the positive things…and the miracles. All the amazing miracles. I say that there were thirteen miracles, but that’s not true at all. There are dozens if not hundreds more that God has done, big or small, to get me to where I’m going on Monday morning.

If you’ve actually made it this far and read the entire thing, congratulations. I wish I had something to give you, considering this last part is almost 4,000 words by itself. But all I have to offer is my sincere thanks for being on this journey with me.

Don’t worry, my blogs will not stop. My writing isn’t over. It’s just going to change a little. Writing is a part of who I am, just as much as family or gaming or ADHD or my faith. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this experience…it’s that the sum is always greater than the parts.

But that’s usually God doing.

I’m okay with that.

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

PS

I’ll have one more blog tomorrow night, which will be about the possibilities of two stories being published very soon! They will be published by June 15 at minimum.

 

 

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part IV

Part IV: Pushing the Apple Uphill

Panic

During 2012-2014, I was having my own struggles with Apple. As you know, while I had been promoted within two weeks from part-time sales to full-time Inventory Specialist, I wasn’t really happy there and the managers knew it. So I was transferred to Visuals where I blossomed and I learned an enormous amount about our demo systems.

In fact, I learned so much that I wrote a 40-page document on how to perform demonstration installs and configurations, since everything had to be set up by hand. I ended up running entire overnights at the Apple Store while the Visuals Manager just kinda hung out. I trained the time, set up numerous computers, configured every new machine that was released, set up the security systems and more.

This led me to want to join the Genius team, the team dedicated to working on Mac computers, but two weeks after I declared my intention, they launched a new position called Family Room Specialist, which was a position between my current position and the Genius position. I gritted my teeth and went for that. But that was harder than expected to get into. In fact, it was a serious issue. I had to have several meetings with management. And very little of it was about my performance. In fact, during my entire time at Apple, I don’t think I ever had any performance problems. According to them…it was people skills and attitude.

And in 2012, I decided to apply for the position of Compatibility Analyst. Another form rejection, sadly. I was starting to get a little depressed and nervous. I was seeing that the requirements for the positions were getting steeper, going to places I couldn’t reach without years more of experience.

Eventually though, I managed to make to FRS. There, I blossomed again, not only taking charge of the Data Transfer aspect of the job, but also creating a full-blown certification class from scratch that got the notice of Apple Corporate. While it never became widespread due to Apple changing the direction of how data transfers were done, that was really cool. In fact, during my last conversation with our Market Manager, she said that it was really my defining moment, coming up with this program.

Cert Class (V4).002

A slide from my Certification Class (V.4)

Let me tell you a little about it. You see, the FRS position was still fairly new to the store…especially the data transfer part of it. During this time, the sales team and the FRS team pretty much hated each other. The sales team were always getting yelled at about data transfers (which they were checking in) and the FRS team hated the sales team because they didn’t know how to properly check it in.

It started with a guide on how to perform data transfers (at that time, there was no official direction from Apple on how to do it) but after a random comment from a manager and a couple employees, I decided to create an entire class. With the blessing of the management team, I launched this certification class to teach the sales people (and anyone else) how to check in these transfers properly. More than anything, it was about creating proper expectations.

I used my own sense of humor for the whole thing.

I used my own sense of humor for the whole thing.

This actually did several things. First, it solved a vast majority of the problems we had with the entire data transfer process. We no longer had to get yelled at by customers who were promised one thing and then told after the fact that we couldn’t do that thing. The second thing was it made the entire team much more approachable and accessible. We were the ones teaching it (with me leading the way). And best of all? Morale improved dramatically. We started really enjoying the job and the challenge that went along with it. Because believe me, getting Macs and PCs to talk to one another to transfer data was a pain in the rear.

(By the way, since Apple never decided to use my certification class and the current policies and procedures are radically different than what they were back then, it’s safe to post these. I also did not post anything with actual information in them.)

However, my next goal was not nearly as easy.

 

genius-bar

Genius

The road to Genius was probably the hardest road I walked in Apple. I was passed over numerous times, sometimes for people incredibly qualified. Sometimes for people who weren’t so much. I interviewed at multiple stores in the area as well. Some interviews went great. Some were utterly horrible. I was constantly trying to prove myself to anyone and everyone. I even ended up in the “Grow Your Own – Genius” program, which allowed me to at least take Mac Appointments at the bar. I was a fully certified GYOG for at least 2 years before it became anything of value.

I knew I had the support from most of the Genius Team, but sadly, that didn’t account for much. It was always in the hands of the managers and leads.

I could go on for a very long time about this fight, but that’s not what this is about. So let’s move to the good part.

And then, in September of 2012, I finally landed the job I’d been fighting for for years, the job I’d been passed over for at least ten times. Genius. In November of 2012, I spent three weeks in Cupertino, California at Apple HQ where I did my official training and actually landed as top of my class in both hardware and software…and got the nickname “Classic.” Most of the other new Geniuses had only been with Apple 2-3 years, while I had passed my five year anniversary with Apple while in Cupertino.

In truth, that was actually a very difficult time for me. I didn’t want to go. When I was thinking about it, I sometimes broke down into tears. I didn’t want to leave my wife or daughter. It was heartbreaking to leave.

 

A New Direction

I’m going to leave the details of the intervening time a little vague. South Coast Plaza had gone through several changes in management and management style during my time there. Some of it was good, some of it I wasn’t comfortable with. And I couldn’t seem to land a transfer no matter what I did.

The stress of the position and the coming birth of our second baby, Talissa, expected in November of 2013 finally drove me to severe panic attacks where I ended up taking a leave of absence from Apple for four months (short-term disability and baby bonding leave). I was gone for the entire holiday season.

During this time, I focused heavily on my writing and trying to work through my personal issues. The writing helped a lot and I managed to win National Novel Month for the fifth year in a row.

When I came back, many of my friends had already left Apple. Most of the other gamers were long gone into different jobs or different stores. It was a very different place. So I started to think beyond my current position. I didn’t have much interest in going into management and I didn’t want to move to Apple Headquarters in Cupertino.

So that left the question where was I going to go? Especially since matters were moving in a direction that would force Laura and I out of our positions at Apple for the sake of our children.

I considered many places during these months. I searched up and down…but finding a job in this day and age is a difficult prospect even for someone super-qualified.

And so…something awesome happened.

But that’s for the finale, Part V.

It’ll come out tomorrow! 🙂

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part III

Part III: The Year of the Author

I’d submitted to the Blizzard Global Writing Contest in 2010, but hadn’t placed. Ironically, it was a poor review by a friend of mine which drove me to start doing personal journals daily. I just had to process the information somehow and it was the best option. It was the origin story of the Mage Dayshaun, who would eventually become Lyssinna.

When the new Contest with live on August 15, 2011, I did my homework. I studied the previous winners and all the recently-released Leader Short Stories. Exhaustively. I read through the Grand Prize winners a few times. I realized that the winners of the contests had all taken known-characters and revealed hidden parts of the story that just hadn’t been addressed in books or the games themselves.

So after taking some time, I finally landed on an idea of General Marcus Jonathan fighting to survive Deathwing’s attack on Stormwind. The story went through at least 30 revisions. I slaved away on this story for months. And just a few days before the deadline, Blizzard decides to come out with Varian Wrynn’s Leadership short story, which occurs a short time after Deathwing’s attack. I freaked…but found out that I only needed minor changes to make it work with my own story.

I submitted it with about 18 minutes to spare and hoped for the best.

The Tease of WoWInsider

The Tease of WoWInsider

On December 19, 2011, I saw on WoWInsider.com that the winners had been posted. I was crushed to see that my name wasn’t on the list. I remember being in the Genius Room at the time. My Store Manager came in and said I looked like someone had just punched my dog. I mentioned what had happened and just shrugged. A coworker was next to me at the time. I decided to click on the link for the actual article on Blizzard’s website

The first part was no surprise.

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

But just beyond that was a section that wasn’t listed in the WoWInsider.com article.

What's that there at the top?

What’s that there at the top?

And there…to my shock…I saw my name at the top of the Honorable Mentions list. I just pointed, barely able to speak. My coworker immediately stormed out of the room and hauled the Store Manager back into the room and pointed. I couldn’t believe it. He laughed and clapped me on the shoulder.

Ashes over Stormwind” had won Honorable Mention!

But it got even better. That night when Laura and I were celebrating at Olive Garden, I got an email from none other than Tommy Newcomer, an Associate Publishing Developer attached to Creative Development for Blizzard!.

Salutations from Blizzard Entertainment, Ryan!

If you haven’t already seen the blog posts on our websites, YOU received an honorable mention in the 2011 Global Writing Contest with your entry, “Ashes over Stormwind”! You may now commence the bacchanalia (if it wasn’t already under way).

We really enjoyed your portrayal of Marcus Jonathan, and while many stories this year dealt with the chaos in Stormwind during Deathwing’s attack, yours was easily the most vivid re-creation of the event. We look forward to seeing what you come up with for next year’s global writing contest!

Congratulations, once again, and feel free to keep in touch if you have any questions or concerns!

-Tommy Newcomer
Associate Publishing Developer
Creative Development
Blizzard Entertainment

I was beyond shocked and beyond overjoyed. Not only was it one of the greatest moments of my life, but I had always struggled with an absolutely vicious internal critic for my writing, always telling me that my writing was horrible and that no one was being truthful enough to say it.

Well, now I had absolute and irrefutable proof that I was a damn good writer. To this day, this event has permanently shut up that little voice.

 

The Wrench and the Hammer

But even better? In February of 2012, I found out that the Wyrmrest Accord forums was doing a community writing contest. I decided to enter this (though I can’t quite remember if this was before or after I found out about the Honorable Mention. I think after).

And I decided to do the same general idea: take a scene that isn’t really told in the books or game. But this time I tackled one of my secondary ideas from the first contest. So was born “The Wrench and the Hammer.”

Synopsis: As the gnomes enjoy a brief lull in the ongoing battle to reclaim their homeland, High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque embarks through a blizzard to pay his respects to his fallen friend. But Ironforge is a far different place under the rule of the Council of Three Hammers…

I remember writing this story in about a week, but I still worked my tail off. I actually created an English to Dwarvish dictionary by studying the Dwarvish accents in “The Shattering” to make sure the accents were correct. And my hard work paid off.

I want to put in a few posts from the Forum Thread about the contest. Am I showing off a little? Probably. 😉

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.06.17 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.11.09 PM

 

Because then I got this email. 🙂

Hello, Lyssinna!

Congratulations! It was such a hard decision to make, but I can say with all my honesty that you were above and beyond the most deserving recipient of a grand prize! Myself, Thokk, and Sinphonii all found ourselves in agreement on this, it couldn’t have gone any other way!

So huzzah! Hooray! Your talent with the written art has won you a Heart of the Aspects mount! Please get back to me and we’ll iron out the details of your prize!

Thanks again for your submission,

Aibreann

That’s right, I was Grand Prize Winner. Several people in the forums said that mine was voted for top at 110%. It was fantastic.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.13.02 PM

These two events helped give me the courage to write ANYTHING. Seriously anything. The inner critic was DEAD. I knew I could write anything I needed to, as long as I put enough effort into it…

…I could get published.

 

Contacts

Now, since I worked at the Genius Bar, I had the opportunity to meet thousands of people every month. I didn’t often get Blizzard employees, but I definitely did make sure to ask questions for those who I did. I made two major contacts, a couple expecting their first child who gave me a ton of advice on how to apply and what to put in the resume, and a second who we actually became friends with for a while.

Sadly, the second, who had a very unique position within Blizzard, was laid off during February of 2012. It was too bad, because they were great people. Laura, Caitlyn and I even had dinner with them at one point and they were kind enough to give me a copy of the Diablo 3 “Book of Cain.” They were good people.

The other sad part was that the man behind the Blizzard Global Writing Contest was also let go, making 2011 the last year for the contest. But at least I managed to get my name on Blizzard’s website before that ended.

 

2012 and Beyond

I’m going to stop here because I want to end things on a really high note. This was one of the greatest periods of my life. Things get a lot rougher after this. A whole lot rougher. But that’s okay, because we know how at least that part ends.

Tomorrow, I’ll release Part IV where we approach current events. Stay tuned!

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

The End of an Era

What is this?! What is this MADNESS?! A SECOND POST in ONE DAY?! He must be MAD! Someone get the straightjacket!

My Farewell Party at Red Robin

My Farewell Party at Red Robin

 

Don’t worry folks, this one is a short one. I wanted to say that on Friday, May 30, 2014, my employment at Apple ended. And it ended wonderfully. I had the traditional clapout where everyone in the store lines up to clap as I leave for the last time as an employment. But the bonus was that Laura was there…so I did something I’d never seen before at a clapout in six and a half years at South Coast Plaza.

After the handshakes and hugs, I motioned Laura to come over, and there in front of the entire store, I kissed her and dipped her to the cheers of the crowd.

If I’m going to leave, I’m going to leave with style.

But there’s one other thing I want to post. That is my Farewell Letter to my Apple Store. I’ve already posted this to Facebook, so I’m sure most of you have already seen this. But for those who haven’t seen it, I wanted you to understand the way I think about this incredible event. It’s also how I wish to be remembered. I think I did pretty darn well too.

To Seek, To Strive, To Find and Not to Yield – A Farewell

So, I wasn’t able to publish the full version of my Apple farewell letter to our all-store email. But that’s okay, because I was always going to post it here on Facebook. I wanted to recognize those who no longer worked at Apple who got me to where I am now.

———————————————

After six and a half years with Apple Retail and specifically Apple South Coast Plaza, I’ve wondered a lot about what I was going to say in this letter. I’ve seen a whole lot of these done before. I’ve seen the short and simple ones that are essentially ‘peace out!’ I’ve seen the colorful PDF versions with pictures and nice formatting. I’ve even seen a few long ones.

Well, as many of you know, I’m an author. And short stories have always been difficult for me. I’m more of a novelist. But I promise to keep this under a thousand words…ish.

My work at SCP has taught me a great many things. It taught me the difference between intent and perception. It taught me how to fight for the customer. It taught me how to connect with people. It taught me how to take apart iPhones and Macs and put them back together…so they still turn on afterwards! (still one of my favorite things) All that and much, much more.

I’ve been everything from part-time sales to BOH Inventory to Lead Visuals to FRS and finally to Genius. It’s been a long road. There have been a lot of bumps and bruises along the way.

But there is one thing I’ve learned at Apple that was more important than anything: tenacity.

Tenacity drove me to create a 40-page instruction manual on how to image demo computers. Tenacity allowed me to create the Data Transfer Certification Program, in addition to teaching and administering it to the entire store for over a year and a half. Tenacity made me design, develop and deploy the “Getting to Know Us” project (that and the dozens of emails I annoyed the store with about responding to the survey). Tenacity made me finally get Genius after being passed over at least ten times for some eminently qualified candidates.

And it is tenacity that finally got me my dream job: working for Blizzard Entertainment. That’s right. I finally landed a job with the one and only Blizzard Entertainment. There, I’ll be using my troubleshooting skills as a Compatibility Analyst in their QA Department. My primary job will be focusing on hardware certification of game titles, testing every conceivable configuration of Mac and PC to ferret out bugs and glitches that could impact the gameplay experience.

It’s a dream come true. A divine miracle…and I mean that quite literally.

I’ve gone through a lot here in pursuit of my dreams. I’ve had two beautiful baby girls while working at SCP. You’ve seen me do the “Baby Trade” between Laura and I every Wednesday and Friday. You’ve seen me sit in the hallways on breaks and lunches having BabyTime conversations on my iPhone. I won National Novel Writing Month 4 years running while at Apple. I wrote my best story to date on my lunches out in my car. I published my first short story while with Apple. I’ve done a lot of really cool things while I’ve worked for Apple, both in the store and outside.

Now, with the end of this road in sight and the start of the next one on the horizon, I’m left thinking about those who stood by me during the good times and the bad times. Those who helped power that tenacity.

I’m left thinking of my friends. And since most of you know I’m a full-fledged Brony (fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic), friends are a pretty big deal. So I’d like to take a moment to recognize some who had a serious impact on my life.

Matthew Roy Keating: You mentored me in ways I can’t even put to words. You were always an inspiration and a rock for me. You taught me never to stop striving.

Bill Overholser: Bill, I like stars. Thought you should know. But you are also one of the most generous people I have ever met. You taught me to have fun in the hard times of the day-to-day.

Karen Birch: You hired my wife in probably the most random way ever. Laura never even spoke to a single manager at SCP before she came in to sign her paperwork. You were also the most accessible upper manager I’ve ever met. And we got to talk Baby all the time. You taught me that it’s okay to speak up about issues to upper management…and that family is more important than anything.

Jasmine Le: You have a special spark of cheer that comes across as completely natural and honest. You’ve also saved my rear several times in appointments with people who just wouldn’t listen. You taught me that there’s always something to smile about.

Alex Guichet: Alex, I will hold your words close to me for the rest of my life. You once called me the most “authentic person” you knew…and that meant the world to me. You taught me that even though people might misunderstand me, there are always others who will look beyond the surface to the person underneath.

Airika: While we haven’t always gotten along, I still mean what I said in the email I sent you many years ago. I am proud to have known you. And I’m proud of what you’ve accomplished in your own personal life. You are an inspiration in ways I can’t even say. You taught me to never be afraid of being myself.

Chris Blue: Chris, you’re a good man. Really. Not only have you stuck it out in the hard times…but you did it for the right reasons: providing for your family. And you helped teach me a lot about tact in the workplace.

Brian Richter: Despite all your claims to the contrary, you’re a lot more Light than Dark. Sorry dude, I think you’re a (mostly) good guy, despite your tendency to quote Palpatine whenever you can. Ironically, you taught me a lot about Apple SCP itself.

Mike Onemike Isles: This might sound a little odd, but you are probably the calmest man I’ve ever met. You’re always helpful, always low-key, always ready to pitch in or answer an odd question. You taught me a ton about repairs and even more about keeping my cool (though I’m sure I could have learned more about the second part).

Laura Stansifer: You’ve taught me everything and stood by me in everything. Celebrated when I celebrated, cried when I cried. You (and God) are the only reason I made it this far. You are the only thing that kept me together through all of this. I love you, now and always.

Dozens of others have stood with me as well, those have already passed from SCP’s doors. It’s a long list, but they deserve recognition just as much as those above.

Holly Boehmke, Vic Caruso, Lisa Seid, Beau McCoy, Jolyon Druce, Rodney Ferguson, Paul Voight, Casey Shull, Laura Parker, Rylan Sparks, Alex Jane Head, Matt Zunich, Paul Neuhaus, Jennifer Snay, Andrew Zimmerman, Shawn Roberts, Johnny Linnert, Elana Braff, Alyssa Newcomm, Sara Hill, Keri Melich, Mike Thezier, Matt McDonald, Jake Krog, Beth Yamashita, Joyce Duong, Jon Nigg, Fred Newcomm, Laura Barth, Jason Sampey, James Haley, Tu Nguyen and God help me, even BT.

I know I’ve likely forgotten many people. It’s the curse of working here for so long. And for those who slipped my mind, I ask your forgiveness.

To those who are new at Apple or at SCP, I give this challenge: never deny who you are and what you believe. Never be afraid to fight for your dream. The road to realized dreams is not for the faint of heart, but it is the greatest road there is.

I thank you all for helping me reach this milestone. This would have never happened without Apple. It never would have happened without you.

And so it begins. A new journey. A new frontier. A new mountain to climb.

I leave you with two things. One is something that was close to my heart throughout the trials and tribulations, giving me comfort, and other drove me eternally forward, always pushing me to be better than I was yesterday.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
-Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

“We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
-Ulysses, Lord Alfred Tennyson.

Good luck and have fun everypony!

-Ryan K. Stansifer

P.S.
If you’re interested in my continuing adventures in gaming, writing, parenting and ponies, feel free to check out my blog at http://www.ryankstansifer.com.

 

So it’s done. The next week, I intend to enjoy some time with my family, write plenty and mentally prepare for a whole new life.

This Sunday, I’ll be doing a normal post about what’s happened this week, hopefully with the announcement that “Beyond the Waterfall” is finally published. 🙂

Until then, good luck and have fun!

-rks