A Mixed Bag

This week has…you guessed it…been a bit of a mixed bag.

I’m starting to actually make some progress with “Steam and Magic,” but it is slow, very slow. The frustration and depression have pretty much sapped my creativity to the point where I have next to nothing. However, during the course of the week, I’ve found some inspiration in these short beginnings I’ve called “Fragments.”

A fragment is a lot like it sounds. It’s usually a beginning of a story. Something random. Depending on my mood, something often combat related. I might post a few of them later. I might turn them into short stories or even novels someday. Not really sure what I’m going to do with them. I’ve even made a little progress just today with Steam and Magic itself.

I’ve spent some time plotting out the overarching story of Steam and Magic, but I’m concerned I’m not getting enough of it really into beginning. I’m already 107,000 words into the story and I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s really at stake in these novels. However, that is something I can “fix in post.” So I’m pushing myself forward.

The OC Inklings is also going pretty well. I’m getting some great feedback for my own work and I think everyone else is really enjoying it too.

I have some possible help coming in the whole work thing. Some generous individuals have offered to come to my aid. I’m hoping that good things will come of it, but at the moment, I’m keeping things on the down-low.

Let’s see…what else?

Oh, Laura and I had a pretty good Valentine’s Day, which was actually done on the 15th, Laura’s birthday. After leaving Tali and Caitlyn with the wonderful babysitter Chelsey, who used to watch Caitlyn when she was much smaller, we headed out to this great little Italian place named Maggiano’s. After an excellent dinner there, we headed over to the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa to for the Valentine’s Day Special starring Matthew Morrison, or better known as Will Schuester, the optimistic and charming teacher on “Glee.”

We started with a good old symphony orchestra from our seats in the nosebleed section (I actually had vertigo when we first got up there!). And the songs played were:

Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah (this was freaking great, adventurous sounding too!)
Love is a Many Splendored Thing
All the Things You Are
Someone to Watch over Me (Very sweet)
Suite from Father of the Bride (Beautiful, especially the way the wedding march was woven into the piece)
Stuermisch in lieb und taenze, op. 393 – “Tempestuous in love and dance”

But the real treat was Morrison himself. He was hysterical and brilliantly talented. He did all sorts of things such as “The Lady is a Tramp,” “Luck be a Lady Tonight” and the excellent “It Don’t Mean a Thing.” Laura and I both loved it. It was a spectacular performance, even though we were way up in the rafters. He ended the night with “Sway with Me,” “Singing in the Rain” and finally did a duet version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” with a student from his former school (which was wonderful.).

In the end, it was a very good night, something that I think Laura and I both needed desperately. Some time to actually enjoy ourselves together without juggling two children.

There’s not a lot else to tell right now. I’m sorry, but it’s been one of those weeks. I’ve been fighting panic attacks and depression a lot of the time and that’s made things hard on my writing. Thankfully, I’m on the path to getting help.

Meanwhile, I’m enjoying/fighting the whole Skyrim mod thing. I’ve probably gone just a bit nutty with the level of Mods, forcing me to get various managers and such to work them out. It’s a huge challenge, but since it’s something new and deals a bit with programming, I don’t mind as much.

And now, just for fun, I’m going to post a Fragment called “Dungeon Fight”

The blade clattered to the cold stone at our dancing feet. The iridescent runes vanished on impact, casting half of the decrepit room into darkness. I followed up with a two handed strike at the creature’s head. The Raket slapped away the blow with one of its iron claws as if I was a child.

The second blow I didn’t even see coming, but it sent me flying across the room and into a musty, half-rotted bookshelf. Bits of moth-eaten leather and paper cascaded around me as the creature roared in defiance.

I didn’t hesitate, instantly taking advantage of the pause. I slammed my right open palm into the ground and the blast of shadow propelled me to my feet. It would take a moment for the nightglove to recharge, but I didn’t waste the time. I gripped my main hand blade, a twin of the one on the other side of the room and rushed the feral Raket.

Bulging muscles under thick greasy fur tensed as I swung my weapon at its neck. All four of its eyes tracked the movement, but it still wasn’t ready for the feint. It swung, but I was a hair quicker, twisting the arc of my blow away from the neck and down toward the legs in a great sweep. The thing hadn’t been ready for such an odd attack and screamed as Gemheart’s icy edge bit into muscle and sinew.

I rolled with the swing, creating a great gash that forced the creature to stumble and took a moment to grab my fallen blade. As soon as my hand closed around the hilt, I felt the nightglove connect with the ebony heart built into the crosshilt and the runes sprang to life again, pushing back the darkness.

I popped my neck and fell into the Esar stance, holding each blade out in front of me, swinging them around in my hands to keep the creature focused on the right thing.

It turned and bellowed, favoring its right leg. I eyed the glowing keystone around its neck. It was the last piece I needed to open the great gantry beyond the ancient library.

It came at me flailing, maddened by the gash in its leg. I dodged left, using a half pulse of shadow from my left nightglove. It wasn’t much, just enough to get me clear of those claws and to land a double slice across the monster’s side. Blood dripped from the wounds when the beast crashed into the thick lichen-covered stone.

I pressed the attack and struck hard with Gemheart, slamming the blade into the creature’s shoulder. It howled in agony and backhanded me, but I saw it coming and infused a shadow-grip, using the weapon buried in the Raket’s side to keep me there.

I was quicker this time, using both blades to cut the tendons above the feet. The earsplitting shriek deafened me, but it didn’t stop me.

And finally, for my own entertainment above anything else, it’s time for a PMV.

That’s it for this week folks.

Good luck and have fun.

-rks

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My Birthday Results!

Well, a total of 41 people now have a copy of “A Glimmer of Perspective!” That’s awesome. Sadly, I only got one review from it and it was from a person who I already knew. I was hoping for a blind review, but still, the review was awesome.

I received a free copy from the author in a birthday promotional.

The beginning starts a bit rough and wordy. In my mind, I was simplifying sentences as I read. But you can tell the author gets into his groove around the third page or so.

Unbeknownst to us, our feline companions are far more productive in our happiness and well being than we’re aware. The author drags the secret of that revelation to the very last page which made a nice reveal. And of course they do all this with very little praise or appreciation from us. The narrator (a female I believe?) comes off sarcastic and jaded, obviously very good at her task, taught from birth – a power passed down from mother to child.

I found this idea VERY refreshing and new. It kept my attention from beginning to end. If the author wanted, I think there is the potential for more plot lines around this premise. Can you imagine a whole fantasy story with these cats as main characters? I could.

There were a few snags. The author repeats a lot of phrases and words which pulled me out of the narrative a few times. Those could have been smoothed out by more editing. For example:

“As I grew wise, I learned I could guide…” and in the next sentence: “It’s not a difficult thing to learn…”

That sort of thing.

A Glimmer of Perspective is a great read. I recommend to anyone owned by a feline 🙂

I really enjoyed reading the review actually. I might actually do a short anthology of stories like the reviewer recommended. I don’t think the idea has enough in it to get anything bigger. Unless I expand the idea quite a bit, which is an option.

Critique Group Update

The OC Inklings is going very well. I got some great feedback on my own stories and for the most part, they were overwhelmingly positive. Which is impressive since that version was a half-done rewrite of the story. Heh. I plan on getting that up on Kindle before I go back to work. In fact, after I’m done here, I might work on that a little bit before allowing myself to play Civ 5.

We’ve moved to Week 2, which were two different authors. Now that’s the struggle. Each story was radically different. One was a fantasy novel in the vein of Narnia one was the beginning of a story that the author wasn’t quite sure what to do with. They both proved to be challenging in their own way. And that’s the hardest part about critiques. Sometimes, you need to be a little harsh. I try to limit that as much as I can, focusing on ways to improve rather than simply tearing someone apart.

But it’s hard.

What I am looking forward to is submitting Soul of the Scribe to the entire group. 🙂 That should be a great bit of feedback. I can’t wait to see that.

Birthday

The birthday didn’t go as planned. Sadly, my mom got ill the night before and couldn’t watch Caitlyn. However, I started the day with my writing group, which was awesome. Then Laura and I just had a pretty relaxed afternoon before going to Benihana’s where she surprised me with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Always great to see them. The next day, we started the day at IHOP and ended it with seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Pretty intense at places. I had to admit that I loved the way the elves are portrayed…especially in combat. Quick, agile and practically unstoppable. It was amazing and I loved it.

Laura was a little upset that everything didn’t go as planned since we couldn’t have the dinner she wanted to have, but I held her and told her how happy I was with the time we had together. And then we ended up watching more of the Lord of the Rings series I got her for Christmas. 🙂

Gaming

As for games, I’m going back and forth between Civ 5 and Skyrim right now. I do love how well the stories seem to flow out of Civ 5. It’s a great freaking game, especially with all the various expansion packs. Yay! I forgot to mention that I did finish Uncharted 3 some time ago (mostly during a night when I couldn’t sleep) and I agree with the statements my friends gave me. It was good, but not nearly as good as 2. I felt entire sections of story were left out…and a lot was unexplained. However, I am a romantic at heart, so I did enjoy that little part. ^^

And that’s really all I have for this week. In truth, I’m a bit nervous about going back to work in a couple weeks. It’s sneaking up on me. But that’s for another time. Right now, since I already finished my 2,000 words and my critiques for the week, it’s time to relax for a bit. Maybe then I’ll look through some of the critiques on Beyond the Waterfall.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Solstice by Starlight

New Project!

I’m really excited about this new project I’m working on. You see, I recently saw a Facebook post about the “Writers of the Future” contest. I’ve heard about it before, but I realized the deadline for this quarter’s version is December 31st, which isn’t too far away. So, I decided to put “What Lies Beyond” on a brief hold while I work on this new short story I’m calling “Solstice by Starlight.”

What is it, you ask?

It’s the story of how Pauline became Ak’s apprentice, happening 4 years before the events of Soul of the Scribe. Ak just began writing again and despite his wish, the Elder Council of Scribes has decided to saddle him with a young eleven year old girl as an apprentice just as the Winter Solstice festival begins.

However, as you may or may not know, all of the “Crafters of Taylin” stories are done in first person. It’s important to the magic system that I have a direct perspective into the character’s head. Of course, while it allows me to delve deeply into a character’s beliefs, motives, thoughts and feelings, it limits me. And therein lies the true challenge.

I’m going to do this story from Pauline’s perspective, which makes her the fourth perspective character I’ve done. And this is also the fifth story within the Crafters of the Taylin Universe.

Chronologically…

  1. Solstice by Starlight
  2. Soul of the Scribe
  3. In the Corridors of Light and Dreams
  4. The Sun Eagle’s Wake
  5. What Lies Beyond Magic and Steam

This one I really hope will be a true short story. And if I manage to stay focused on Ak and Pauline, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be. Right now, I’m developing the holiday itself. I’m trying to figure out why the Winter Solstice is a big deal. And ironically, I’m taking a page from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Now don’t tune out here. It’s important. “Hearth’s Warming Eve” was a huge episode for me, showing me the depth of storytelling that the writers will go to. Instead of sending the Ponies to help out Santa or fight the Grinch or the usual sort of saturday morning cartoon Christmas stuff, we get the history of Equestria itself and how the three races finally learned to work together despite the hatred and stubbornness of their leaders. We get an enormous pageant, a beautiful song and the true history of how this nation of ponies came to be.

That’s what I’m looking for. Something that fits into the mythos and culture of Taylin, not just a cop out. Patrick Routhfuss did a great job of this in Name of the Wind in describing the holiday regarding TehluFrankly, I wanted to find some better information on it since it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I couldn’t find any good wikis that describe the holiday, which was rather surprising.

Anyway, I might even through just a bit of Christmas Carol into it. At that point in Ak’s life, it seems only fitting.

More Sound Things

I rather sick of this entire situation, so I’ll be brief. Don’t buy Incase products if you expect to have a warranty offered.

I purchased a wonderful pair of Sonic headphones from them a few months ago. Now, I adored these headphones. They totally blocked out all sound around me. Made things wonderful for me to write…and gaming with them on was godly. I utterly ADORED them. However, the left side was starting to go out, forcing me to jam the cable in certain angles to get it to work. So after dragging my feet a little, I send them out for warranty replacement, spending about $20 on shipping them out.

Only one problem. They’re out of them. And they’re discontinued. So…they can’t replace them for me. Now, off the bat, they offer a full refund on the headphones (which were $50 because I got them on sale), but refuse to refund the shipping costs. Now they didn’t tell me about this. I call them and chew them out, but there’s nothing to be done. I get an email this morning saying they’ll give me a credit on the shipping costs for their website if I can provide a receipt.

I gave them the receipt…but told them frankly that wasn’t good enough. I wanted that refunded back to my card. I told them spending $20 to have $50 returned when they didn’t even mention they were out of stock was a little screwed up. And I told them to talk to a supervisor. And if they still refuse, go ahead and give me store credit. It doesn’t matter, because I’ll never buy from Incase again after it.

I’m still ticked off about it honesty. I hope they just do the right thing. I’d prefer a pair of new headphones honestly, because those things were so insanely comfortable. I need them for writing, to help me focus. However, my Dad’s wife suggested that be my Christmas gift from them…a replacement pair of headphones, just to help me out and cut down on my stress. It was very kind of them.

Party!

We had Caitlyn’s birthday this last Sunday and it went very well. We had three families there…something like that and everyone had a really good time chatting and talking and having fun. Caitlyn went a little nuts there…but that’s okay, because I went nuts with the Pony decorations. We had Pony cupcakes (Bling Bag Ponies) a large Pony Cake (with the Mane 6 on purple frosting), an enormous Pony balloon bouquet featuring a massive Rainbow Dash as big as Caitlyn, a huge 6 ft tall wall decal celebrating Happy Birthday, Pony plates, tablecloth, cups and napkins and finally a huge Pony banner saying HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY. It was AWESOME. Most of the stuff is still up actually. 🙂

Caitlyn got some good stuff and she seems happy with it. If you’re following me on Facebook, you’ve probably already seen some pictures of her on her new single-person trampoline.

It was a great time had by all, even if everyone I wanted didn’t show. That’s okay…because if we had more people, it probably would have been too much anyway! We had six kids in our little two bedroom condo with six adults. And it worked great.

Best part? The winning gift was a Disney Princess sliding phone that everyone wanted to play with…boys and girls…especially since everyone else was boys! Caitlyn and Tali were the only girls…and Tali slept the entire time. 😀

Life, the Universe and Everything

And then there’s Skyrim. I’m having WAY too much fun with this. I’ve set Valla, my Nord maiden with all sorts of cool mods. She’s currently dual-wielding violet lightsabers while wearing N7 armor. 🙂 Heh. It’s great stuff. I love it. I just finished the College of Winterhold quest line and became Arch-Mage last night. Good final boss fight too. That was a challenge. I also love the house-building aspect of it and I’m looking forward to actually buying all three of the land plots available from the Hearthfire DLC.

Other than that, I’m in my Week of Dreams, so I’m sleeping terribly. I wanted to sleep in this morning, but both Tali and Caitlyn ended up screaming at the top of their lungs just as I was going to go back to sleep. Just not fair sometimes. Bleh.

Well, I should go get some lunch now. Laura’s joining my for my therapist appointment today at 1PM. Need to be all ready and stuff.

Oh wait! We need some Pony stuff, don’t we?

Seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

Good luck and have fun folks!

-rks

The Real Life Strikes Back!

Real Life Strikes!

Well, I don’t honestly have a lot to report this week. I’ve been inundated with real life stuff and have had very little time to write. And that’s been eating at me. A lot. I’ve spent a ton of time working on other parts though, including finishing my Taylin map (at least to some degree) and working with Aeon Timeline (part of the NaNoWriMo winner things) to come up with a good timeline for the Taylin world. It’s 15,000 years old, after all.

Aeon Timeline isn’t the easiest program to be use. I’ll be honest, there’s a substantial learning curve. In truth, I think what I need it for isn’t really what it’s designed for. I remember trying it out for The Orion Project. And for the record, when trying to deal with multiple timelines having to do with temporal changes is something that the program just completely fails at.

However, I doubt Time Travel stories is Aeon Timeline’s primary target.

Skyrim

No, this week, I’ve been doing two things. First, I’ve been enjoying SKYRIM on the PC. Now, I played this on the Xbox 360 a bit and just couldn’t get into it. However, Skyrim on the computer is a different story. Why? MODS! I’m totally in love with the sheer amount of awesome detail Skyrim mods have. I can have a rebuilt airship as a home with every sort of crafting tool? Yes please. I can craft boxes and bags and bandoliers, not only for myself but for my companions? Oh HELL yes. And the companion system? Awesome…especially with more mods.

Way too much fun. Seriously.

A/V

The other big project? Last week I talked a lot about the new sound system I was going to get. Well, ironically, I didn’t end up getting the speakers. You see, UPS lost them…

So when I got my receiver, I didn’t want to go without speakers, so I just hooked up my existing JVC speakers and realized they sounded great. A lot better than they used to. After one night, I realized I didn’t need new speakers at all! I just needed some good re-wiring and a new sub.

Now, I had my eye on a subwoofer on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. It was the Polk Audio PSW10 10-Inch Monitor Series Powered Subwoofer. I was pretty frustrated about the disappearance of the Yamaha speakers and I asked Amazon through their customer support for the pricing for the subwoofer (it was $69 for a unit that goes for about $240 normally. This sub was also the highest rated and best seller in it’s class on Amazon at present). They turned me down with a rather foolish tale about them not being able to honor “Lightning Deals” after the fact (it wasn’t a lightning deal, it was a Cyber Monday special).

That day I find a great deal on a Yamaha subwoofer on Craigslist. Friendly guy, seems honest. Heck, his daughter had a birthday the same week mine did! So I make plans to get together with him in Brea on Monday. I contact Amazon, telling them that I’ve decided to go another route with all of this and I want a refund on the speakers that never came (they offered to overnight me a new set or just refund it).

I wake up in the morning to a new email…offering to give me the Polk Audio sub for the price I wanted.

*Sigh*

So I contact the Craigslist guy, thank him and decide to go with the Amazon subwoofer and get next day shipping.

And then I get a text from UPS saying that my Yamaha speaker set will arrive later the day. I get an email from Amazon telling me to refuse delivery and they’ll handle it. The next time I open my front door…a 5.1 Yamaha Speaker set is sitting on my porch.

*Double sigh*

The good news of all of this chaos? I got the Polk Audio system today and set it up. The music is glorious.

In fact…it’s EPIC.

And of course, I test it out using this amazing piece…

Seriously, listen to it. It’s freaking amazing.

And my expression upon listening to it?

SO AWESOME

Pretty much sums it up. Even better watching “Daring Don’t.” 🙂

I’m happy with it. I’m also just happy it’s done.

Okay folks, I’ll be honest. I’m fading out here. I’m super tired. Been up too late with a combination of converting a bunch of my DVDs to digital format and playing too much Skyrim.

Other Stuff

Laura’s been feeling under the weather. So bad that we had to move Caitlyn’s birthday party one week. Sinus infection. Bleh. Caitlyn’s actual birthday was spent doing a few things. I took her to IHOP and we watched “Princess Twilight Sparkle” on my iPad while enjoying pancakes, eggs and bacon. And then we watched some Pony when we got home and finally went to see Despicable Me 2 at a budget theater. First time at a theater. She loved the popcorn…and sitting in my lap or Laura’s lap. And Tali did really well there. 🙂

The real party is this Sunday. 🙂

Other things…other things…oh yeah. I had to get both the power steering pump and the power steering hose replaced on poor Kasumi, my 1999 Honda Accord. I also have only 1MM left on my brakes, my alignment is horrid and my two front tires are ready to totally go out. So I’ll be replacing my brakes on Friday and doing my tires on Saturday.

I hate car stuff, especially since I just had my radiator redone a few months ago.

One Final Writing Note

I’ll be taking charge and starting a Critique Group with the OC Writers this January. I’m looking forward to it. Should be pretty darn good. 🙂

And that’s all I can think of at the moment. So I’ll leave you with the latest AWESOME outing by Jan Animations, the god-like animator for Button’s Adventures with his own version of…”Don’t Mine At Night.”

This guy is freaking AMAZING.

Good night folks. I’ll be playing a bit more Mass Effect to test out my speaker system. 😉

Good luck and have fun!

-rks