2014 Year in Review: The Year Everything Changed

It’s been a long year.

I used to always do these for my deviantArt page, where I’d go over my various works and accomplishments. And in the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about this year. Thinking about how different a place I’m in now.

Most of you know that I’m a diehard fan of Babylon 5. People would ask “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” and my answer was always “Babylon 5.” Best damn science fiction series ever done. And yes, even better than Firefly. (Shun me if you must, but it’s true)

Season 4 was probably the best season of Babylon 5. You had the Earth Civil War and the end of the Shadow War. So much happened in that one year of storytelling. But what really stood out to me was the opening titles.

Babylon 5: Season 4

It was the year of fire… the year of destruction… the year we took back what was ours… It was the year of rebirth… the year of great sadness… the year of pain… and the year of joy. It was a new age. It was the end of history. It was the year everything changed. The year is 2261. The place: Babylon 5.” 

That…is a very effective description of the last year. You know, save for the whole 2261 and Babylon 5 bit.

A Year of Fire, a Year of Destruction, The Year We Took Back What Was Ours…

2014 started with me on short-term disability from severe panic attacks in relation to…conflicts…with the Apple Store I was with at the time. Though I returned to work shortly after my birthday, the panic attacks resumed within two weeks. It was then when I realized that Apple–or at least that Apple Store–wasn’t the place for me anymore.

As I searched elsewhere for an escape from the madness and depression, things became apparent to me. That there were those who sought to see me gone from my position I had fought so hard to earn. I saw the “writing on the wall” as it where.

It was during a conversation where I saw these motions in play when I received a voicemail that changed everything.

You see, a week or so before, I had interviewed for a position with Blizzard Entertainment. That was within a few weeks of me applying. This was after several phone interviews, all of which I simply called out of work for.

Even in the midst of pain, fear and mental agony, everything changed. And a week later, I went outside to take a phone call on my last break of the day. During that phone call, I was offered the chance at a dream. A chance I never thought would actually happen. A chance to work for Blizzard Entertainment.

It was that day when I put in my two-week notice at Apple. It was the end of my history with Apple. After a fashion. I was sad to leave my friends. I was not sad to leave that store. I still hope for the people who remain…but even before my departure, many long-time employees had fled that store. I still have friends at that store…but they are few and far between.

I have no intention of ever walking in there again. Because the suffering my family endured at the hands of that Apple Store wasn’t over.

However, at the beginning of June, I got to walk onto Blizzard Campus for the second time. The first time was for my in-person interview. The second time…it was as an employee of Blizzard Entertainment. The things I’ve seen there…they still take my breath away. Even six months later (can you believe it’s already been that long?), I still make sure to drive by Building 1, with the huge “Blizzard Entertainment” logo in blue letters stand proudly at the top of the third floor.

I found a purpose there. I found people who respected my knowledge and my experience. A place where I can truly be myself. Where my crazy ideas aren’t shot down because “that’s not how we do things” or “that’s not the direction Corporate wants us to go.” Instead, I’m told “go for it.”

I did.

And I’m happy to say that in my time at Blizzard, I have completely rewritten the book on how they handle–ironically–Mac computers. I’ve said many times that I’m no Apple-head. I don’t think everything Apple does is perfect. I’ve endured too much to have any such illusions. But what I’ve accomplished there in six months has had a bigger impact than my entire time at Apple Retail.

Sadly, the suffering wasn’t over. In the months after my departure, my wife was subjected to cruelty, cowardice and mistreatment. They refused to accept her new schedule since I now had a job with regular hours. Instead of simply saying goodbye, they strung her along for six weeks before suddenly, one Saturday, terminating her for “attendance violation” because they forced her into a position where she would be required to call out, despite her constantly trying to get her shifts covered and notifying them well in advance.

That was a hard blow to us.

Thankfully, through multiple miracles, we were granted unemployment despite Apple’s “claims” on how Laura had left the company. And so, God gave us enough to survive even with my new pay at Blizzard.

And I prospered at Blizzard. Laura herself has said many times that though it is a little harder on us with me there, she’s far more happy that am happy. That’s what really matters. While things haven’t always been easy, I have to say…I do truly love my new job. And as I go into the new year, things look even brighter.

 

It was the year of rebirth… the year of great sadness… the year of pain…and the year of joy.

Yes, while the information above can very easily be handled by those words, other things did happen. Such as during December, both of my daughters had seizures within a few days of each other. We did three separate ER visits. Two overnight stays in the hospital. One fully battery of neurological exams including CTs and MRIs. I ended up watching each girl by myself for at least a day and a half each. And it happened the week before Christmas. It was also the week when Blizzard had all their special Christmas events, save for the actual company Christmas party. I remember when I called out on Wednesday because Caitlyn now had had a seizure…thinking that this was the most ridiculous excuse ever. Like calling for your sixth “grandmother’s funeral” in Discworld terms (If you’ve reach the City Watch books, you’ll get it).

In addition, the panic attacks haven’t really stopped. I thought changing jobs would help. And while that has helped, I’ve found that there is much more happening behind the scenes. I don’t pretend to understand it at all. At the moment, I’m just struggling through.

On rebirth though…I usually don’t like another year passing. It’s a reminder of everything I want to do but haven’t yet. Did you know that I had planned to have two novels published by now? Why didn’t this happen? Blizzard. And that’s okay. Blizzard changed everything for me. In fact, I’m going into my next birthday happy…looking forward to what the years ahead have in store for me at Blizzard.

It was a new age. It was the end of history. 

My writing? Well, I managed to knock out another NaNoWriMo, making this my fifth year running for winning the 50K race. This time it was a close one. And I finally rewrote Stormhaven, a project I’ve been meaning to do for years. I’m fairly happy with the outcome too.

In addition, I’ve published my second short story: “Beyond the Waterfall.” You should go check it out. Like right now. And if you could leave a review, it’d make my day. I published that back in September, though it was ready in July or so. There’s a process you have to go through when publishing fictional works now that I work for Blizzard. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay for working there.

I’ve recently started writing again. I took most of December off, as I’ll admit I was swept up into World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor. Makes sense since my name is in the freaking credits now!

WoW:WoD Credits

 

My name should also be in the credits for the “Goblins vs. Gnomes” Hearthstone Expansion, but I haven’t actually looked that one up yet. But I have to say…seeing my name in the credits for World of Warcraft is a mind-blowing experience, especially since our subscriber base went from 7 million to 10 million within about a week of the launch. People like it. A lot. In other words, WoW isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Anyway, a little obsessive about that game. Heh. And that’s my “new age.” An age where I can finally be doing something that’s going to affect millions of players across the world. I’ve found bugs in places no one’s thought to look. Remember those Panderan Phoenix mounts you got from the Silver Challenge Mode Dungeons in Mists? Well, during August or so, I discovered a rather surprising bug that they weren’t going account-wide as was initially posted in a blog post. It was just something someone overlooked and that stuff happens. Let’s be honest…within a few minutes of people logging into WoD for the first time, people would have noticed. But I stopped that from happening. I got it in and even got some praise by the Dev saying “Good catch.” (I’m not revealing anything here. It’s actually buried in the patch notes somewhere).

That was awesome. Now that’s long past and I’ve found plenty of other things. I’m even happy to say that some of the hotfixes in the game have been from me, especially some of the ones involving legacy raids involving the whole stat squish thing. For all you legacy raiders out there, you’re welcome. 🙂

It’s totally awesome to see your work in the classic “Blue Text” of patch notes.

The funny thing is that’s not actually my job! It’s not my job to find bugs in the game itself. I’m supposed to handle the hardware side. But since I play this game every day the same way I’ve played it for years even after starting at Blizzard, I’m coming in with a unique perspective. I read the quests. I explore the details. I look around. There’s a lot of players who just hit “accept” the moment the quest pops up. I don’t. I’m emotionally attached to the characters. (And let’s just say that when I finally get in Creative Development, the Alliance is going to have their day (okay, I’m totally kidding, it would be years before I could do anything like that, but it’s a fun fantasy)). I play. And that’s gotten me a lot of cool things.

Otherwise, we now have two kids. That was the same as last year, but Tali’s now yammering away in her own speech, though she can say Mama, Dada and Yay. I love this. She danced to the Opening Intro of My Little Pony. Heh. Caitlyn was raised on Mass Effect and Tali’s going to be raised on My Little Pony. I’m okay with this.

But that brings about another change. I’ve said a dozen times that one of the reasons I threw myself into the Brony fandom is not only because of the amazing community, but because I realized I was afraid of what people might think if I decided to like this show. And that ticked me off.

Well, I’ve taken it to a whole new level at Blizzard. I’m actually leading the Blizzard Bronies. When I first arrived, I searched for the group, as there are Pony references littered throughout their games. (My favorite example is from Diablo 3. There’s an achievement named [Magical Mystery Couture] which just means you equip a wand, a source, and a wizard hat on your wizard at the same time. That’s a direct reference to the Season 3 finale “Magical Mystery Cure,” the musical episode where Twilight Sparkles ascends to alicorn and princess.)

Anyway, I was utterly shocked to find that there wasn’t one! After some internal debate, I decided “Screw it! I’ll start one!” For months, I was the only one in the group, because I had no way to advertise. Then someone in HR decided to do the old Summer Rush idea (you know, when all the college clubs would come out and have booths so people could sign up?). Well, I knew I would be the only one there, but I did it. I had my Build-a-Bear plushies, along with my vinyls, PMVs playing on my laptop and a signup sheet and a raffle with prizes I purchased myself. And I got eleven people.

Since then, my desk has become a tourist attraction for anybody who likes Ponies. (I have about a bajillion of them decorating my desk, screensaver and walls) A lot of the people are parents like me who got into it because of their daughters. Some of them are original Bronies, who just checked it out probably because the internet was flooded with them. But no matter what, it’s a good group now. There’s still some misunderstanding about the Brony sensation, but I’ve made it my mission to make sure people get it. They don’t have to like the show, but I want them to understand the purpose behind this culture and that it’s not weird or creepy.

I’m never going to convince everyone, but who knows? Maybe I can get a full “Elements of Harmony” quest line into the next WoW expansion. Heh. That would be awesome.

It was the year everything changed.

I think 2014 is the year of the greatest changes for us as a family. I know the addition of the kids are enormous changes to handle…but…well, remember those websites that list the events that cause the highest levels of stress? I just decided to pull one up at random. Now I know this isn’t purely scientific or anything, but here’s the events. (It’s based off of the The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, apparently)

#6 – Personal injury or illness – 53

#11 – Change in health of family member – 44

#15 – Business readjustment – 39

#16 – Change in financial state – 38

#22 – Change in responsibilities at work  – 29

#25 – Outstanding personal achievement – 28

#26 – Spouse begins or stops work – 26

#30 – Trouble with boss – 23

#31 – Change in work hours or conditions – 20

#38 – Change in sleeping habits – 16

#42 – Christmas – 12

My total is 364, which (according to the website) means I’m way above the normal line of stress. Heh. I could have told you that. Anyway, it’s just a random website I pulled up. But a lot of these events were one time events. The key is that we survived.

Laura and I have been through more than you can possibly believe. Things that I will not be sharing with you all, but know that since we managed to survive them before we had kids, it made us all the stronger. While we will probably always have the occasional fight, miscommunication, broken expectation or issue, both of us know that neither of us is walking.

Everything has changed. But instead of changing for the worse…or seeing the slow decline of my life into mediocrity, boredom and self-doubt, I can actually see a bright future ahead for the first time in a very long time.

The war with Apple is over. Laura and I are both done. We passed through it, battered, cracked and scarred, but we passed through it alive. And now, we have a whole new life to look forward to.

I think it’s only fitting that in the last few days, I’ve started a new story. You see, I’ve had trouble sleeping this last week (I got Christmas Eve-New Years Day as paid vacation) because of intense dreams. And I remembered something…that happens when I haven’t written.

This story isn’t actually new per-se. It’s a massive revision of a story I began in 2010 called “Rain.” It was a story I didn’t really know what I was doing with. Then I had this cool idea called “The Last Dreamer” about a future where humanity has done away with sleep after an unexplained plague of nightmares prevents the entire human race from sleeping properly. They’ve replaced eight hours of sleep with this wondrous technology that requires them to enter stasis for three hours a day. That was after most of the population of the solar system went half-mad…or worse. So about a hundred years later…we have someone who can dream…someone without a name, without an identity…

Someone who isn’t affected by the nightmares. And what this individual has the ability to do will change the entire course of human history…and human society.

Cool, eh?

Anyway, this has been my year in review.

So there’s only one thing to do so I can end it properly.

That’s right…it’s PMV time.

I’ve done two major events for the Blizzard Bronies. A Double Feature starring “Double Rainboom” and “A Brony Tale” and Hearth’s Warming Eve with “Snowdrop,” “Children of the Night” and a couple other things. And I’ve found the perfect finale that I’ll be using for every Blizzard Bronies Featured Event.

“House of Ponies” by Racercarghost.

 

And then I just realized something. It’s actually not New Year’s Eve. It’s New Year’s Day. So I can’t “end” this. I need to “start” this. So there’s only one thing for it.

This is the introduction PMV I play to every one of my Blizzard Bronies events: “Together” by TheAcelps:

Here’s looking forward to a New Year for the first time in a long time. May it be filled with fun, friends, games and a hell of a lot of writing. 😉

-rks

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Astride the Exceptional

Beyond the Waterfall

Good news! Beyond the Waterfall has finally passed through Blizzard Side Projects! I’m clear to publish it. Good timing too, since an editor friend of mine just offered to take one last look at it before it goes “to print.” She said it would be done by next weekend. So what does that mean? You get to read a new story next weekend for a whole $2.99. And it’s totally worth the $3, because it’s a heck of a lot longer than Glimmer. 🙂

I’m hoping to get a carte blanche cover for the rest of my stories so I don’t have to do this with all of them. But we’ll see. If not, I’m going to FLOOD THEM with everything I’ve ever written and ever plan to publish. Heheheheheh.

Something cool? I get to actually attend the World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Cinematic Premiere at the Ace Theater in LA this Thursday. I’m seriously psyched for this. Going to be a big deal. Yup.

 

Speaking of World of Warcraft…

I’ve done some cool things in there lately. First of all, I managed to get together through OQueue with a guild called “Friendly Fire” from Proudmoore. Great group of people who were doing 10-Man Normal Siege of Orgrimmar. You see, I’ve been working hard to take down Garrosh Hellscream before the Warlords pre-patch hits so I can get the special achievement and the Kor’kron War Wolf. Well, it didn’t happen the first night I ran with them, but last Saturday night…it did. Honestly, it happened so quickly, I didn’t even realize what had happened! Real victory! I got the achievement, the title “Conquerer of Orgrimmar” and the [Reins of the Kor’kron War Wolf]!

Lyssinna Astride the Kor'kron War Wolf

Lyssinna Astride the Kor’kron War Wolf

The Achievement!

The Achievement!

On the Throne of the Horde

On the Throne of the Horde

But it doesn’t end there. Oh no, not in the slightest.

You see, I ran with Friendly Fire again last night, but we couldn’t down Garrosh. Had some issues with bad spacing and folks were getting discouraged. That’s okay…because I got into a 25M Heroic ICC and cleared out all but one of the achievements I need for the meta-achievement and the [Reins of the Icebound Frostbrood Vanquisher]. It means that first thing next week, I’ll be getting that mount.

After that, I didn’t really feel like raiding or anything else, so I did something I hadn’t done in a long while…I went mount hunting. The first place was The Eye of Eternity to take down Malygos…and to my utter shock…he dropped [Reins of the Azure Drake]!

Soaring on Azure Skies

Soaring on Azure Skies

Soaring on Azure Skies

Soaring on Azure Skies

I’d been hunting for this mount off and on for YEARS. Seriously. And it’s freaking gorgeous! It’s the special one too, not just the Blue Drake, but the Azure with all the cool arcane runes along the sides…

So I felt pretty darn lucky after that. I decided to hit up a few other locations. Skadi didn’t decide to give me his blue proto-drake, so I headed to Tempest Keep. Instead of killing all the bosses like I usually do, I decided to skip them all and head right for Kael’thas Sunstrider. I moved his adds around and finally downed him after what seemed like hours of him yakking at me instead of killing him (Monologuing anyone?)

You Sly Dog

And then the most incredible (pun intended) thing happened…

The [Ashes of Al’ar] dropped.

Reborn

Reborn

This is probably one of the rarest mounts in the game still. People (like me) have farmed it for years to no avail. I never expected it to actually drop for me. But it did. It actually did. Now want to know why this mount is so special?

A quote from the WoWHead Comments on the Ashes of Al’ar

“…the first ever phoenix mount was given away to Ezra Chatterton, the young man who recently went to Blizzard’s offices with the Make-A-Wish foundation. Ezra was given the first ever Phoenix mount in game for two reasons. First, it was probably the best gift that Blizzard could really give any gamer as far as one of the new Outland mounts. Netherdrakes are awesome, but a phoenix trumps that, if you ask me! And hey, who wouldn’t want a mount that could move at 310% speed like the Swift Nether Drake arena award mount. Secondly, as Ezra’s father Micah explained to me, the phoenix is an extremely important personal symbol for him…”

That’s right. It’s one of Blizzard’s most famous Make-A-Wish deals. Ezra did sadly fall to his cancer, but he lives on in this mount and in a small quest chain in Mulgore where he actually voiced his own Tauren character, who asks you to go find his dog. It’s sweet. Very sweet.

Soaring over Dustwallow Marsh by the Moonlight

Ashes of Al'ar Achievement!

Ashes of Al’ar Achievement!

I did go after Onyxia and Rivendare’s Charger, but no dice there. But I’m more than happy. Three awesome mounts in two weeks and two of them extremely rare and in the same night? Within the same HOUR? That’s awesome.

Freaking awesome.

 

Okay folks. Enough about WoW for the moment. Sounds like Tali might need me.

Because of all the screenshots, no PMV for this week!

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

PS You’re definitely getting a post next week when I launch “Beyond the Waterfall!”

The Truth about Waterfall and Apple

Well, you’re probably wondering where on earth “Beyond the Waterfall” is.

Guess what? I had another delay!

I have to clear it through my new workplace. It’s no big deal and I have no doubt it’ll pass, but since I’m brand new here, I want to play things by the book. You see, when I worked for Apple, if I released or worked on anything that could potentially conflict with Apple’s interests (apps, programs, systems, OSs, etc), that was a problem and they were (for the most part) the property of Apple.

Blizzard does do books, you see. So I just need to clear it. Once that happens, you’ll see it going up on Amazon within a day or two.

I’ll be honest though. I haven’t done much writing otherwise. I’ve been so wrapped up in all the epicness of my new job, it’s hard to take the time out to write. You see, many of my lunches are hanging out with friends, my family, playing some games and more. It’s great. Really. But it’s cut down on my writing time. And with Tali now teething and the addition of a new cat named Harmony to our household…things are complicated.

But there is one thing I want to address.

I’ve been subtle about what’s happened at Apple to Laura and I. That ends now. Laura was terminated from Apple last Saturday for “continuing attendance” problems. I posted about it on Facebook. And now I’ll do it here.

Laura might want to be subtle about what happened to her today. But I am intensely protective of my wife and family. And I want everyone to know what happened.

As you know, with Caitlyn and Tali, we made the decision not to do daycare. Partially for financial reasons and partly because we didn’t want strangers raise our child.

Laura and my schedule were based around that. While the managementmade things difficult after I returned to work once I made Genius, it was something we could work through. Basically, she would bring the kids to work, I would take them home. While I was home with the kids, she was at work and vice versa.

When I got my job at Blizzard, my schedule changed to a Monday-Friday shift. We knew this and made sure to tell the managers that Laura’s schedule would change a few weeks in advance. We offered a different schedule for her.

The store manager refused. She refused any compromise whatsoever. She demanded that Laura give 3 days of full availability. In fact, when her superior, the market manager, made a suggestion to accept Laura’s offered schedule for a month, the store manager refused that too. I told the market manager that I didn’t want our relationship with Apple to end badly…but the store manager didn’t care about such things.

But she wouldn’t just lay Laura off. She said that it was “her decision.” What that meant was either Laura quit or Laura calls out until she’s fired for attendance.

Laura was left in limbo for over a month, constantly being forced to call out to take care of our children.

Today, they finally dropped the axe. They terminated her violation for the attendance policy.

Apple Retail’s first line in their “Credo” card, which is supposed to the values and philosophies that Apple Retail run on is “At Apple, the most important resource, our soul, is our people.”

The events surround Laura’s departure to care for her family and the events that preceded my departure from Apple Retail shows that this is far from true, at least in the store we worked at. This philosophy is dead.

I hope that it’s real in other Apple Stores. I actually do. And I hope that one day, that Apple Store figures out what they’ve turned that place into.

But by God’s grace, that is no longer our problem.

Now you know the truth. I ask for your prayers, not only for us in figuring out what Laura’s going to do, but for the management at our former Apple Store. I mean it. I pray that they would realize what they’ve done and change their ways so that others don’t have to suffer through what we had to suffer through. And pray for those still there, that they might be spared or that they may find something better.

So that’s it for today. I wanted you to know the truth about Apple and Waterfall. I think I’ll be kind and leave out the PMV for today.

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

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

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.

 

 

Cryptic Things

Things are in motion. In fact, I’ve already passed two of three gates. The third gate awaits me sometime in the next two weeks.

My Dad asked me why I keep mentioning these cryptic things. I do them for two reasons. The first is to ask for your prayers. I desperately need prayers that I get good responses for these cryptic things. The second thing is I’m so excited about it I might actually burst if I don’t share it a little bit. Even if it’s in vaguely annoying comments that don’t make any sense except for a very select few.

All of my energy has been focused on the Third Gate. Writing has taken a secondary place. I’ve allowed myself some Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls (enjoying the new Crusader class quite a bit), but that’s to settle my mind on things. I can just play on automatic without any serious thought. And that’s been blessed relief.

The most annoying thing occurred this morning. I woke up with a sore throat…that didn’t go away. In fact, it turned into a full-blown coughing fit that got so bad at work that one of my coworkers got seriously worried about everyone else getting sick. They talked to a manager, a very nice manager, who offered to send me home.

She did make the comment “You do look a little weak,” which she promptly stammered, “well, I don’t mean weak since you’re a man and everything–” I smirked at her and laughed, telling her very plainly that I was wearing a My Little Pony t-shirt, have Ponies in my car and all over my house and have two little girls. I don’t really care about the trappings of masculinity. 😛

Heh. That was amusing.

Anyway, I actually got sent home to get some rest. I ended up going to the urgent care, which I use as just a normal doctor. I got a few prescriptions, one being a nasal spray and the second being an antibiotic. Because I cannot afford to get sick this week. So please, I need your prayers for health. I need this thing GONE very quickly.

If God wills it, within two weeks, I will have an announcement. I hope. It’s all up to him. And in the last few weeks, I’ve found myself okay with faith again. It’s hard and I still worry way too much, but the support of my wife, family and friends has been invaluable. I would have completely snapped under the pressure without their support.

So please, lend me your prayers for just a little longer…and hopefully…I can finally share this cryptic thing.

Because it would change everything.

That’s it for this week. Just asking for your prayers.

Thanks for reading today!

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Distortions in Reality

I hope you’ll excuse my lack of a post last week. Things remain extremely difficult for me at the moment. Emotions can be quite overpowering, quite overpowering indeed. The panic attacks have not stopped. Indeed, I seem to be getting them more often, but also getting them at very strange times, like after good social events. It doesn’t make sense to me. But what else is new? Emotions are not logical or rational.

But let’s talk about the writing shall we?

I’ve actually made some progress lately. I did another edit of “Beyond the Waterfall” and I hope I get the time tomorrow to actually finish the edits I’ve been doing. I’ve been sitting on it for too long. Some folks have had the chance to give me critiques and reviews, some have become too busy. And that’s okay. Life happens. But I know I’ve waited too long already. This was supposed to be out at the end of January.

So…let’s just put this on the books, shall we? I’m aiming for next Sunday for the release date, if not sooner.

Steam and Magic is slowly progressing. I managed to have a single day with 910 words, which was a personal best lately. The emotional state continues to drain my creative energy…and I haven’t found an effective way to combat that. The discipline I had before I returned to work seems to have crumbled in the wake of my new responsibilities…namely dealing with both Tali and Caitlyn. Harder than I expected…especially lately as Tali has become almost insanely fussy at times. *Sigh* Such is the life of a parent of a 4-month-old.

The OC Inklings is going very well. People seem very happy with it. And I got to meet some of those I hadn’t met in person this last Thursday when Laura had a shift that allowed me to attend the Lake Forest Panera Bread Write-In. I think that was the 910 day. There’s also potential for another story of mine to be launched sometime in April. But it felt so good to actually get to go to my writing group. I’ve missed it terribly. There’s something so energizing about meeting face to face with other writers, even helping other writers with different perspectives on their work.

Job wise? Nothing to report, sadly. Nothing at all.

I don’t really have a lot else to say personally. I have no desire to dump my depression issues onto the internet and subject you to such things. Well, there’s a little bit of a desire, but I’m not going to do it.

However, I do want to share something close to me. You all know the story of Michael Morones and his struggle after his attempted suicide at the end of January. I just searched for an update on him…and was shocked to see my initial blog post the SEVENTH entry under a Google search for his name. Good Lord, didn’t see that coming. How many people have read that post?

Anyway, that’s not what this is about. I wanted to share the latest update, taken directly from MichaelMorones.org:

***Update from Michael’s Mom***: As of late, we have not posted an in-depth update about Michael. Not because we don’t want to share, but because we have been busy and I have become a little shy about what we share because some people have said very unkind things. But I really want to share with you guys! So, here we go!

Michael has been making huge strides. For you and I, they are things that seem small and simple, but we have to keep in mind that Michael has brain damage and everything is huge for Michael. We DO NOT know if he can see. We suspect he has SOME vision, but to what extent, we just don’t know yet. He has a neurological condition that is common with his brain injury called myoclonus. What this means is that his brain and spinal cord are working to reconnect, but the transmission of signals has a bit of static so he shivers or when startled, jerks uncontrollably. This could resolve in time, get better or never go away. The brain is going to heal to some extent or completely, we just do not know. Only time and patience will help us see where it will go. Michael is not speaking, yet, and he may or may not be able to. We are trying to start the very long process of weaning him from the trachea. It may or may not be successful, but we are incredibly hopeful that it will be. During physical therapy, Michael will sometimes hold his head for a few seconds, but more often than not needs support for his entire body. As you could see in the video, we believe that he hears and comprehends, but to what extent or how delayed his reactions are we don’t know. Only time will help us know these things.

So what does this all come down to? Michael, for the foreseeable future and according to doctors, will need medical care and will be dependent on others for the rest of his life. While he is FAR beyond where they saw him being on the night of January 23 when he attempted suicide, he is a LONG way from being where he was on January 22.

Our lives, not just Michael’s, will never be the same. Something terrible and tragic happened, and you just can’t go back to like it was before. But out of this tragedy, something wonderful will rise. My son is still alive against the odds. A community of people full of acceptance and love for a complete stranger has come together. Not only to support Michael, but also each other. It is a truly amazing thing, and will only continue to grow and get bigger. The love and strength from all of you in the GUMC Community, the Brony community and the human race in general has kept me going for Michael. The moments I have felt weak, or simply not good enough for this task set before me were when all of your cards, comments and well-wishes kept me going. I will make sure that something good will come from this, that Michael will always be safe and loved. Thank you everyone for your love, support, prayers and positive thoughts.

Hugs and loves,
Tiffany
#TeamMightyMichael

This is a wonderful thing. There have been a few YouTube videos showing his recovery…but I can’t bear to watch them. Because I’m worried I’ll start crying and won’t be able to stop. You can check out one of them at Equestria Daily’s Post.

Anyway, as life continues for me…I understand this kid more than I ever expected to.

But let’s stop for something fun. It’s PMV time folks. If you’re a gamer, you’ll love this.


Until next time folks. Good luck and have fun.

-rks