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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Beyond the Waterfall Links!

Beyond the Waterfall Cover (Final)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MTB65X4

There it is folks. My second book on Amazon. “Beyond the Waterfall.” Worked way too long to get it up there. But it’s finally done.

Go buy it. Seriously. Stop right here and by it.

I’ll wait.

 

 

 

 

 

WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?! You should be buying it!

 

 

Meh.

 

Okay, I’ll assume you’ve bought it by now.

 

Let’s see…big things this week. I’m hosting the Blizzard Bronies table at the “Campus Rush” thing. Remember those event fairs back in college where all the groups would come out and you’d check them out? Well, doing the same thing for the Brony group. Kinda scary, since I’m the only one. But hopefully that won’t be for long. It should be fun.

And I’m teaching myself shell scripts and all about System Image Utility and OS X Server. It’s harder than it sounds. Really.

But right now, that’s all I have. Just check out the book!

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

Among the OASIS and Shardblades

So this has been an eventful week for me.

Work things have occurred. Things that are forcing me to move forward with plans, no matter if I like it or not. One day, I will speak of these things openly. But not today. As of today, it’s still time to just say that things outside of my control have begun…and now I must stay ahead of them.

In addition, I took the time today at lunch to use the program “Aeon Timeline” to plot out the existing timeline of “Steam and Magic.” Why is this important? Because it’s been driving me crazy on the length of time it will take for the Rose to reach one point from another. And now that I have that planned and plotted, I finally got to look and realize where I needed plot points to happen and how they could fit together. I finally have a few things to write. I’ve been stuck in this forever.

At the moment, I’m still waiting for my very busy friend to get a free moment to finish the critiques on “Beyond the Waterfall.” I promised not to publish until she was done. And since she’s so busy with her own work, it might be a bit until that sees the light of day. Just be patient. It’s coming, I promise.

I had a lovely day with Tali yesterday. Just a wonderful day. In fact, we spent a vast majority of the day listening to “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. And that’s the main topic for today’s blog. I want to write down my thoughts on “Ready Player One” and Brandon Sanderson’s “Way of Kings.”

Oh yes, I’ll try and avoid any spoilers.

The Stormlight Archive: Book 1: The Way of Kings

I’ll start with the official synopsis, taken from Sanderson’s website.

Widely acclaimed for his work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time saga, Brandon Sanderson now begins a grand cycle of his own, one every bit as ambitious and immersive.

Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars are fought for them, and won by them.

One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by overpowering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under the eminent scholar and notorious heretic Jasnah Kholin, Dalinar’s niece. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan’s motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.

The result of more than ten years of planning, writing, and worldbuilding, The Way of Kings is but the opening movement of the Stormlight Archive, a bold masterpiece in the making.

Speak again the ancient oaths,

Life before death.
Strength before weakness.
Journey before destination.

and return to men the Shards they once bore.

The Knights Radiant must stand again.

I should mention that I listened to this through Audible.com, which is my go to source for all Audiobooks. It was narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. Let’s start with them. I’ve listened to these two before, since they were the two who did the “Wheel of Time” series…and they drove me batty. But I started to realize my problem was so much with the narrative, but the books as well. I had been used to the narrator for the Discworld series, Stephen Briggs and Nigel Planer (Planer is just freaking AMAZING). These two readers were powerful, entertaining and just slightly crazy. However, Reading and Kramer are much more subtle. They’re a bit monotone. They don’t really get passionate in their readings. Don’t get me wrong, they’re total professionals, but it can come across as dull.

However, it’s more about the book, right? Way of Kings takes a long time to get moving. And it’s huge at 45 hours for the Audiobook version. It’s very slow going at the beginning and it’s frankly not until the end where the three main character threads intertwine. However, the sheer richness of this world is almost overwhelming. I can’t handle it all. Even after reading the entire first book, I get the feeling that I’ve only seen a corner of the world, a tiny sliver of an enormous boulder. Sanderson has world-built this place better than anything I’ve ever seen. It’s astounding.

And the characters? Amazing. Simply amazing. You really get in connection with these characters. What drives them, what they hate, what they love and what they dream. I don’t think I’ve read any of his stories where characters have been so richly defined.

The magic system is also very interesting, but instead of revealing most of it like he does in his other books, Sanderson takes his time. You get the feeling he’s only touched the surface as to what the magic system can do…and what’s really powering it. In the end, you’re left with more questions than answers.

The finale is simply EPIC. Sanderson is well known for his spectacular fight scenes and this one does not disappoint. We have a full scale WAR going on here at the end of the story. But the true shockers are the brief one-perspectrive chapters at the end. The final revelation at the end of the book? That twist will probably pop your head right off. I’m still reeling from it days afterward.

In the end, this is Sanderson writ large. While it takes a good long while to get going, it’s worth the wait. It doesn’t grab you quite as powerfully as the others, but by the time you reach the end, you’ll find yourself unable to stop. It’s a great ride. And I’m looking forward to the next book which I just might read next. You definitely need to check it out. 

 

Ready Player One

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.

A quest for the ultimate prize.

Are you ready?

Okay, I’ve had friends recommend this to me before, but I was in the middle of Way of Kings at the time and got away from audiobooks for a while. Once I finished Way of Kings, this was the next book on my list. And I think I finished the audiobook version, all 15 hours of it, in three days. In fact, I was listening to it with Tali most of the time. Every commute that I could (save for those with Caitlyn, because she could repeat some of those words…and the main characters tend to enjoy their colorful language), too.

Let me first get one thing out of the way: there are plenty of infodumps in this book. Especially when you’re listening to the Audible version of it. Sometimes they can be so long that you forget the events the characters were going through. However, I was willing to forgive it because the backstory on the world, the OASIS and the characters was so damn interesting. I kept losing myself within these miniature stories-within-a-story. It was somewhat jarring to come back out of them, but the flow was good enough that it pulled you right back into the main story. (So imagine if Lost had actually told a story well…, but I digress).

While I’m not the greatest fan of Wil Wheaton’s narration (I don’t feel he does that great with different voices or accents), this story was just amazing. I love all the nostalgia. While I’m about five years too young to enjoy all of the references, I do remember the Colossal Cave Adventure. I played Joust on the Atari (when most kids were playing with Nintendo…my parents didn’t exactly help my gaming career save for some PC games). I remember the tales of Dungeons and Dragons, though sadly I’ve never actually played a game (something I still regret to this day).

This book is a celebration of some of the most iconic pop culture that still defines our era.

But the best part to me was the relationships and the revelations. More than anything I wanted to see the answer to the “will they/won’t they.” I love seeing these people who are unabashed shut ins and social pariahs building real relationships that move past the borders of fantasy and into reality. They become real people even as they fight for a virtual reality. And I think that’s the greatest accomplishment of this book.

The OASIS currently has a present-day counterpart. Second Life. You could also argue that it also lives on in Everquest, SW:ToR, WoW and all the other MMORPGs. I know how addicting being someone else can be. I was insanely addicted to Second Life…so much so that it almost wrecked my real life in ways that are a bit too personal to discuss on a public blog. Needless to say, I made a vow to myself and my wife that I would never enter Linden Lab’s game ever again. The temptation is just too strong.

And that might be the reason this book resonates with me so very much. I’ve been in the main character’s shoes. I’ve created new personas online and metaphorically passed through the screen, becoming this other person. It happened before I was married and sadly, a few times afterwards too.

And I think that’s why I loved this book so much. Because of the ending. Because we all have villains in our lives we would love to fight using giant mechs, plasma rifles and elven swords. They might not be the world-crushing baddie, but we all have bullies and jerks around us that we wish we could challenge to single combat. And in the end, we all want to be heroes of our own lives. This book has that in spades.

Good characters, great references, fantastic action. This is a required read for anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s…and doesn’t mind playing the occasional game. 😉 A must buy.

 

Well, this is already at 2138 words. Way longer than my last few posts put together. But I was super-passionate about these two books, especially “Ready Player One.” I admit I’m sad that I don’t get to listen to Wil’s voice anymore for the story. I’m sorta hoping we might get a sequel someday. Maybe, maybe not. No matter, it’s still a damn fine book. Both are.

I don’t have a PMV for you today. I regret to inform you that my favorite MLP fan-animation studio “Jan Animations” got hit with a Cease and Desist order a few days ago due to trademark issues. It’s a long story and there’s someone who’s already talked about it far more effectively than I can. I’m hoping Jan and Hasbro can work out some sort of deal…but I’m also glad I saved all of his amazing videos to my computer.

So tonight, I will just wish you good luck and have fun.

-rks

Dimensions, Scrolls and Blocks

Right now I should be writing. But allergies are kicking me in the tail. Either that or I’m actually sick. So this is about all I got within me. And in all honesty, I don’t even want to do this. I might even have a fever, but need to work since I need the money.

Ah, such is the way of life.

This week I managed to do a pretty serious critique of “Beyond the Waterfall” due to one of my good friends’ kindly (and occasionally brutal) critique. I think the newer version sounds fantastic. She requested I not publish it until she gets a chance to do the full critique, so that’s why it didn’t come out yet. But soon. Still, it was hard and I don’t enjoy editing. But at least I’m over halfway there.

I found out recently that my dimensions and scaling may have been wrong for my map of Taylin. My math was wrong during my initial calculations. Why is this important? Because I want to have an accurate length of time for travel time, important especially if a new style of airship is crossing entire nations.

Blocks!

Something cute Caitlyn’s been doing lately. She’s insisted the last two days that I take some of her large building blocks with me to work. I now have 2. Heh. And yes, I am reading Warbreaker again. 🙂

The last thing to talk about today is Elder Scroll Online. I got into the beta this weekend and was very impressed. I don’t have the mind for a full-blown review right now, but I think it’s excellent. It’s quite polished, very little load time (SWToR drove me crazy with incredibly long wait times). But it’s the combat I really enjoy. Most of the MMOs I play are based of the d20 method…using random rolls to figure out damage. I cast a spell and the computer calculates resistances, misses, armor, etc. However, Elder Scrolls Online has a reactive combat system. In fact, if you’ve played Oblivion or Skyrim…it’s the exact same combat system (at least with weapons, I didn’t really explore magic). That alone makes things interesting. It means it’s much more based around talent and ability than simple gear. Blocking at the right time can stun an enemy. Stealth works the same too.

Anyway, I really enjoyed my time in the beta. I’m considering getting the game.

Well, that’s it for this week. I know it’s not a lot, but since I skipped so recently, I needed to do something.

Here’s your PMV for the week.

 

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

Objects in Motion, Objects at Rest

…I wonder if I’ve used this title before.

*Shrug* Oh well.

Well, things are moving occupation-wise. Honestly, there’s so much moving I’m having trouble keeping track of it. Wheels within wheels and all that. Of course, I don’t have much in the way of specifics. Whenever I get to the point where I can share details, I promise to let you all know. But right now, everything is all in preliminary stages, so nothing to talk about really.

My writing is going so-so. I started a new fragment today called “Pathways in the Dark.” It’s just an allegory of my own personal struggles over the last few months. Frankly, I don’t think it’ll ever see the light of day. But it was somewhat cathartic.

Not nearly as cathartic as reading Equestria Daily’s followup to this weeks MLP:FiM episode “Twilight Time.” I was laughing hysterically (and silently since I was in the break room) to it. It felt good to simply enjoy reading something and laugh about something.

Sadly, my emotional state is extremely chaotic now. One of the issues of fighting depression…it’s a constant battle. And when you’re least expecting it, it can jump on your back and dig its claws in hard.

Laura has been helping a lot though. Last night we got to watch Frozen. We just sat with one another and enjoyed it. And wow, I was impressed. Probably the most songs I’ve ever heard in a Disney movie…especially loved the conversation into song bits. Those were great. But my favorite scene? Elsa raising her ice castle…though honestly castle seems like a pale word for what she created. That was when I realized “holy crap, this girl has got some crazy level of power.” Reminded me why I like fantasy so much.

Can I also say that it’s great we have two strong female leads for once? And that Disney is WAY too fond of killing off parents in order for character development? Seriously guys, there are other ways.

I wish I had something really cool and deep to share with you. I know my post the last few weeks have been somewhat sparse. I still haven’t figured out how to balance everything with work…and to balance the two girls alone when I’m not at work. I never realized how much of a challenge that was going to be. I don’t know why…I guessed I just remembered things different when it was just Caitlyn. Or maybe it was that it was just Caitlyn.

Well, I wrote everything above this on my last 15 minute break at work. Now I’m at home. It’s been…rough for me. The panic attacks have been severe. Very severe. It’s extremely difficult to keep going. Thankfully, the medication I recently took helped…though it’s strong. To the point of numbness.

I…I don’t have anything else. I feel like I should. But…there’s…well I simply don’t have anything.

Here’s another fun PMV. Why? Because I like them. And it’s my blog.

I’m going to take a break now.

Good luck and have fun,

-rks

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