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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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

Tests of Balance

Work’s been hard the last few days. Can’t really give specifics. I rambled on for a while about it while being all vague, but it just was a jumble of nonsense. I got so annoyed, I decided to restart this post. Yeah, I got that annoyed with the ramble.

So let’s talk about what’s going on other than work, shall we?

The Michael Morones story has gotten pretty big, huh? You’ve probably seen it in mainstream media. Can I just say that I’m proud to be part of the “first responders” group for this poor child? And I’m proud of my community for it. The Bronies are awesome. I’m no longer a closet Brony in the slightest and this was the event that changed it for me. Please, take a moment to consider donating if you haven’t.

Writing

I’m letting “Beyond the Waterfall” sit for a time. A friend of mine who’s a professional editor is taking a look at it and I don’t really want to move forward until I see her thoughts. I’ve never had a full professional edit, though. I’m a bit scared, but I know this is part of the experience in being an author.

Soon, I plan to go back in there and fix the issues with the critiques and such.

“What Lies Beyond Steam and Magic,” the latest novel in the “Crafters of Taylin” series cracked 100,000 words this week. In fact, I had a great whirlwind sprint of 3492 words the other day. That was awesome…and was totally thrilling too. I haven’t had a surge like that in what feels like months. Just the story flowing through my fingertips as if it was already written and all I was doing was copying it from the manuscript in my head. It was wonderful.

I recently finished an ebook called “21 Reasons You Think You Don’t Have Time to Write” which was recommended through my favorite writing podcast “Writing Excuses.” It’s nice and short. And it’s ironically targeted directly at writing parents, which seemed pretty effective. Not quite the age of Caitlyn and Talissa, but still good nonetheless. And there’s one important thing that I forgot: you rarely get a full 2 hour stretch. It’s much more common to get 20 minutes here and there. But that’s still time to use as writing. You can still do it. I remember that I won NaNoWriMo three years doing my writing primarily on my 50 minute lunch and 2 15 minute breaks.

Life

I’ll admit right now that I’m struggling. I’m struggling with my new purpose of family and writing. You see, I do suffer from depression. Writing helps most of the time…and helping others helps too. But I have a lot of trouble keeping those good thoughts in my head. My emotions tend to be extremely overpowering, to the point where I can’t think about anything else. I’m struggling with my writing…especially with both Laura and I at work. If one girl is asleep, the other is awake and needs attention. I find little time to myself…for writing or for simply recharging.

I’ve thought about cutting out video games from my life for a time…but I suspect that would be a bad idea. Gaming is one of my true releases. I can really lose myself in them. But I do need to stop gaming for hours on end and writing for only 30 minutes. That just needs to stop.

The road before me is going to be a hard one. And I don’t think I realized how hard until today.

At the moment, I’m trying to focus on the joy I can get in the moments I can. It’s hard work. Very hard work. My Little Pony is helping. As is the cooing smiles of Talissa and the squeezy hugs of Caitlyn. Even Laura is somehow giving me comfort even after battling the two girls all day.

I don’t really have a powerful end to this blog. The last two blogs have been this big things…focusing on the plight of a poor boy that still needs our help. And in the face of his struggles and trials…

I won’t let myself mentally think about what it would be like in his parents shoes. I can’t. I love my girls to death. And if someone hurt them…

So I’m focusing on what Michael would have wanted instead. Otherwise…it would likely destroy me.

Heh…

This is probably one of my more…rambling posts, eh?

So let’s just call it for the night. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. And hopefully good things will be happening and I can talk about them next week.

So let’s finish with my favorite way to finish: a Pony Music Video.

This one is freaking awesome. Seriously…the effects are utterly amazing. The sheer genius of this community never ceases to amaze me.

I’ve been actually watching this almost every morning before work to try and get my spirits up. And it’s been working. 🙂

Good luck and have fun everyone.

-rks

Dreams with Deadlines

Dreams with Deadlines

This blog is sort of my public journal of sorts. I honestly don’t know how many people actually read it. I know some read it by email subscription and a very small few actually come to the main page. I just added Google+ and LinkedIn, but I don’t know if that’s really going to matter or not. I’ve shared a lot of thoughts on this blog since I became serious about it. A lot of thoughts on writing, my progress, gaming, Caitlyn, Talissa and a lot of other things. 

But in the end, -rks is a writing blog. It’s about my journey to becoming a full-fledged author. To becoming a published author. One day, I hope someone will be interested enough to go into the archives and read posts like these to find out how I made it as an author.

Why am I doing this blog? Sometimes, I don’t really know. Part of it is that I know I’m supposed to. I’m supposed to do a blog. That’s what authors do these days. I know most of the time I’m talking to myself. But somehow, I’m okay with that. I’m one of those people who tend to figure out things as I write them. It’s one of the ways I think. So if I ramble, it’s probably because I’m trying to work something out. Part of it is because I hope that I might somehow find a community out there where I fit in. Part of it is because I can.

Why am I saying all of this?

Because in about a week, my Baby Bonding Time will be at an end. And that means my time at home is at an end. I haven’t worked at Apple since the middle of September due to my panic attacks and the birth of Talissa. Very soon, I’ll be going back.

I’ve been thinking a bit about what that means. About what that means for my daily writing goals. About what that means for the OC Inklings Critique Group. About what that means for me as a person. About what that means for my future.

The conclusion is one that I’ve already come to, but somehow it seems different now.

In 2011, I won Honorable Mention in the Blizzard Global Writing contest, the last one they ever did (the person who spearheaded it was laid off during that Winter, sadly). For me, that was the proof I needed that I could write. And I could write pretty damn well. Enough that out of the thousands or maybe even tens of thousands of entries, mine warranted a “Honorable Mention.” That I could take characters who were not my own and create a believable story enough for the people who originally crafted the world…that was a major milestone in my writing life. Since that event, the little voice in my head telling me that I can’t write has had no power over me. Because I had the proof that I can do this.

In the last three months, I’ve learned a lot about writing. I’ve learned a lot about networking and that “Ashes over Stormwind” was not a fluke. “Beyond the Waterfall,” the first story submitted to the OC Inklings, was 9,000 words. The assigned goal for critiquing was 3,000. Nearly everyone burned past the 3,000 mark and just finished the story. They were so interested in the events of this short story that they read their required reading twice over.

The results? Overwhelming positive. Reviews on “A Glimmer of Perspective?” Overwhelmingly positive. Comments regarding “Soul of the Scribe?” Overwhelmingly positive.

A while back, I decided I wanted to be an author for real and I wrote an extensive post on it.

As I head back to my normal day job, I’m realizing that’s exactly what it is: a normal day job. A vast majority of authors have to hold down the standard day job to make ends meet as they worked on their craft. And as I go back to Apple, that is my new mindset. I will do my job to the best of my ability. I will search for ways to push myself and learn all I can. Because places like Apple are ripe for stories. Not necessarily because of the events that happen, but in watching the way people interact with and react to one another. Coworkers, customers, managers, kids, regionals, Geniuses, salespeople…I can learn from this place and it can make my craft better.

What I believe my greatest story, “Soul of the Scribe” which spawned the “Crafters of Taylin” universe with 5 books and over 300,000 words (or more) started while I was sitting in my car on my lunch break on a hot summer’s day, staring at the screen because I was bored with the story I’d been working on and wanted something new. So I started with that. An author with writer’s block on a hot day. That became what I believe to be my masterpiece.

My passion is for writing. And one day, I hope to pursue that passion full-time. But until then, I must remember that the environments around me are what show me human interactions, which is almost always at the core of any good story.

So what does this all mean? It sounds all really fancy and hypothetical and theoretical and a lot of other -reticals.

Well, Saddleback Church is going through a series called Transformed. Heh, ironic, considering what I write, right? (Pun mildly intended there). And the lesson today was about goals. Pastor Rick Warren said that the difference between a Dream and a Goal is a Goal is a Dream with a Deadline.

So what’s my Dreams with Deadlines?

By January 27, 2014, I will have “Beyond the Waterfall” ready to go up on Kindle.

By June 1, 2014, I will have at least one novel ready to shop to traditional publishers.

By October 1, 2014, I will have a second novel ready to shop to traditional publishers.

Every week, I will continue running the OC Inklings Critique Group.

And by 2019, five years from now, I will be making enough income from my published works to pursue writing full time.

There are many who might say a few of these goals are impossible or absurd. Way too high. Especially the last one. I’ve got to be crazy right? Well, part of the whole goal this is that it stretches your faith. I can’t do this alone. I don’t have the self-discipline, I don’t have the self-control. I need God to help me…and I need writing friends to help me.

If anyone would like to be a writing buddy of mine and you’ve actually gotten this far, please let me know. I’ll tell you about my ideas.

But the true challenge? Tomorrow morning. It’s easy to make big plans in blogs. It’s easy to do big promises. And then I need to actually do the editing I need to do. It’s hard. I hate editing. But it has to be done. It has to go through that process. I need to do that work. Which is why I’ll spend some time tonight working on my critiques for “Beyond the Waterfall” after I’ve done my personal journal.

By the way, did you know I write 2000 words a day in my current work and another 1500-2000 words a day in my journal? 4,000 words a day. That’s pretty cool. Psychotic. But cool.

Other Things

I could mention other stuff, like my complete and total obliteration of the English Empire in Civilization V and the joys of seeing my invasion fleet crossing the ocean between our continents. About sending their navy to the bottom of the ocean and watching their cities fall in quick succession and enjoying wielding my insane amount of power across the globe, to the point where I send frigates wandering icy straits to take out marauding bands of pirates just for something to do.

Or the joy I got in playing “The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime” this week, in revisiting a very old and dear friend who looks damn good even after 15 years.

Or the photo shoot we did yesterday in Irvine Park which I hope to post pictures of soon.

Or the fact that we got Tali to take the bottle fully yesterday.

But today, today is about the writing. So the rest of that can wait for another time.

However, I will add a Pony Video. Because it would be weird if I didn’t, right?

It would.

IT WOULD.

This one you probably won’t get unless you’ve actually seen the episode it’s referring to, but still. It’s awesome.

Anyway, that’s all for this week. They’ll be a special post next week before I return. 🙂

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

It’s My Birthday! So YOU Get a Present!

Birthday Presents for All!

Okay, today isn’t my birthday, but this coming Friday is. It’s hard to believe I’ll be…an age I don’t care to disclose. I’m on the internet, so I’m allowed to keep a few secrets from you all. But you don’t care about that. You’re curious about this present thing aren’t you?

Well, as you might have known, I upped the price of “A Glimmer of Perspective” to $2.99. I realize this price might be a bit high for a 10-page short story. (However, according to some publishing professionals, they believe $2.99 should be the true baseline of ebook short stories) There is another reason however. As you may or may not know, I only get a 30% royalty from all sales if the price is under $2.99. At $2.99, I get a 70% royalty. And even though I’d sold a fair amount of copies..I had made maybe a couple bucks and that’s it.

While I don’t have any plans of ruling the world with the immense wealth I’m making from “A Glimmer of Perspective,” I would like to make something. So when I went to the Kindle Select program, I upped the price. But there’s another reason for this: I can do free days!

So I’ve decided that I’m going to give presents on my birthday! Anyone who hasn’t picked up a copy of “A Glimmer of Perspective” will be able to download a free copy on January 10, 2014! In fact, you’ll have 2 days, the tenth and the eleventh to pick up my inaugural short story.

I only have two requests! If you enjoy Glimmer, tell a friend and leave a review on the Amazon.com website. The nice thing is, you don’t have to worry about different formats, since the others have been discontinued for the time being.

Anyway, I hope you’ll take this chance to snatch up Glimmer!

Writing Events

Things are going fairly well with “Steam and Magic,” though it’s taking longer than I’d like to write this. I wish I could pound through those 3,000 word days I once could fly through. However, I’ve also been fighting this stupid allergy/cold thing for weeks now, which makes it harder to focus

However, something else really cool has happened. Last week, I successfully launched the OC Inklings, the online critique group for the OC Writers. And we started with “Beyond the Waterfall,” a 9,000 word short story I wrote earlier this year. Originally, the critiquers were supposed to do only 3,000 words, but most of them decided to just go through the entire story! They were too interested to stop, which is always a win in my book. For the most part, I’ve gotten rave reviews on it, but even more importantly, I’ve gotten some excellent advice on how to improve the story. That’s what I’m most excited about it. I think with this advice, I can make this story a smash hit. And I hope for it to be my next Kindle story! It also helps that it leads into the Crafters of Taylin universe. ^^;

I’m looking forward to the next round…because unless no one submits anything, we’ll be doing someone else’s work!

Life

And that’s really it this time. I’m still not feeling great. Sometimes the coughing gets so bad that I get insanely dizzy and actually fall over. Stupid cough. However, I’m happy with the way the writing is going and I’ve had a really good day with Caitlyn today. Tali’s smiling more and more too. And I’m systematically taking over the world with Chaos…in Civilization V. (Heh).

Since it’s my birthday week, you definitely don’t get to escape the Ponies. Here’s the Safety Prance…which I was way too entertained by.

Good luck and have fun folks! Make sure to grab Glimmer this weekend!

-rks

Solstice by Starlight

New Project!

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

What is it, you ask?

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

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

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

Chronologically…

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

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

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

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

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

More Sound Things

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

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

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

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

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

Party!

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

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

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

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

Life, the Universe and Everything

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

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

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

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

Seems appropriate, doesn’t it?

Good luck and have fun folks!

-rks

NaNoWriMo Status: Victorious^4

National Novel Writing Month 2013

Well, let’s talk about the most important thing first shall we? After all, this is supposed to be a writing blog.

For the fourth year running, I have claimed victory in National Novel Writing Month. I’ve even already added my badge which you can see to your right if you’re on my main page.

Here are the stats:

Novel Name: “The Crafters of Taylin: Book III – Between Magic and Steam” by Ryan K. Stansifer

50,000th word: “Shall”
Final sentence: “…Vreen’neba nodded. “Head to gardens at the rear of the building. I shall summon an Elder Guide for you. They should be with you within a quarter bell.”…”
Characters: 278,510
Pages (paperback): 133
Pages (printed): 236

Date Completed: November 27, 2013
Time Completed: 4:02PM

Special Note: For some reason, when I first hit 50K and posted it into the verification program on the NaNoWriMo website, it showed that I was 300 words short! So I had to work for another little bit before I actually won. 🙂

And for the first time, I have donated to NaNoWriMo and purchased a Winner shirt too. I thought considering my circumstances, I needed a little reminder that I managed to pull this off.

I’ve been working on it on and off since then. I’ve taken a few days off, but today I punched out over 2200 words and I’ll admit it felt really good to do that. I want this story to move along. It feels different with this story. I feel like I have some serious momentum…and that it’s going places. I do worry I’m spending a bit too much time gawking at the scenery, but we’ll see. I’ve been told I often skimp on that, so maybe I’m just fixing it now.

Anyway, that’s the big thing. Huzzah!

And just for fun…here’s a Wordle Word Cloud of it!

NaNoWriMo 13 Word Cloud

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

This was a little something I got myself this week during a few of the Steam sales. I’ve been wanting to play this game for a while now and I found I enjoyed it. In fact, after finishing it, I decided to do a rough review of it, just for fun. I’ll post this in the Gaming Section later.

Review of The Force Unleashed II. (Warning: Minor spoilers to follow)

Well, I just finished Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II. I liked it. And I know the true purpose of this game was really to feel as if you had complete and total control over the Force…and then some. In truth, to become a wrecking ball of Force Power. And I felt that sense. It was pretty freaking amazing. The sequence at the beginning of “The Return” was just amazing and audacious as hell. The boss fight when going after Kota? Even more amazing.

The cons though? Far and away the game felt too short. According to my playthrough, it was a little more than 9 hours. Now, it’s been some time since I played the original (which was just as fun), but I felt that this was a lot shorter. I also felt a little disappointed by the lack of environments. The fact that you don’t ever actually face off against Boba Fett bothers me. I felt like I missed an entire level.

And there were a few points where the combat was hard. I know they were going for the “special moves” style but while I played it on a 27” iMac on Boot Camp, I often didn’t see the special move button until it was too late. I often found myself just punching the random buttons I’d seen them to be and hoping I got lucky.

The story was solid…for the most part. But some questions are never answered…especially regarding what happened with Juno at the end. (I don’t think that’s too much of a spoiler). And the ending was a bit too much of a cliffhanger for me…especially since what we see at the end is obviously not the end result before the events of Episode IV. What can I say? I’m big into continuity (I remember the first one was an excellent example of working perfectly within the canon established by the movies).

Characters were pretty good. Starkiller was a bit…one sided, but the voice actor did a great job delivering those lines with the passion that was needed. Kota was a great version of a Jedi General we don’t often see…the rough and tumble brawling Jedi. Vader’s voice? Pretty darn close to the original James Earl Jones…as was his dialogue.

There’s only one hiccup…I think there was actually a choice at the end of the game…as I saw it for a brief second…but I think for some reason my version of the game (Steam) skipped it. Huh.

All in all, probably give it a 7/10.

Gaming Expanded

I enjoyed the double XP weekend in SW:ToR in the last few days. I managed to hit 45 with Jedi Lyssinna and took down the “Fallen” story quest line.

Haven’t played WoW much. But there are some other games I’m looking forward to playing soon. I’ll let you know what’s active next week. 🙂

I did also finish Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Now this? This was freaking fantastic. I loved it. I loved every freaking moment of it. It was a hell of a ride. That one requires a lot more time to give the story its due, so I’m not doing a review right now. But if I had to give it a score right now it would probably be a 10/10. Even better than the original. I can’t wait to get my hands on Uncharted 3.

New Equipment

Well, I don’t know if I mentioned this last week or not, but I ended up getting an Apple TV recently. I was pretty much forced to do it when I discovered that my Mac Mini 2009 would not play any DRM-enabled purchased content from the iTunes Store. I tried troubleshooting it for quite some time until I found that there was just nothing I could do. I couldn’t even find a single reference to the issue. I tried AirPlay, but that didn’t work either. The only way I could have fixed it was to remove the DRM from the episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and I didn’t want to do that. I could have gotten a refund on it, but in the end, I decided another solution was better. So we got an Apple TV which I found to be a better idea anyway. It takes the strain off of the poor aging Mac Mini and I’ve found I really enjoy the true AirPlay capabilities of it, along with the cool ability to do slideshows while playing music. The interface is clean and easy to use, though I did have some trouble with iTunes Match (which I got along with it).

However, this has led to another thing. I’ve been having serious issues with my sound system. When I played ME3: Citadel a couple weeks ago, during the fight scenes, the audio started to become severely garbled. We’ve had situations where the dialogue suddenly drops out from the sound, leaving only the music and sound effects. Or it might just die entirely. It’s all very random. In truth, the system is at least 8 years old now and it’s finally starting to show its age.

Our current sound system is JVC TH-C6. If you’re curious, you can find the old CNET review here. It was a very highly rated system and has served us great. In fact, the way I got it is pretty funny.

I used to work for the CompUSA in Reno, Nevada. Now while there, I was our Lead Merchandiser. I was in charge of sales, special sales, clearances and more. I single-handedly made our Gaming Department the ONLY profitable gaming department for stores in our region. Now, we had one of these things on demo, but one of the standing speakers was broken. And while searching our back stock, I realized we had one new in the box. The unit by then was what we called -N66 status, which is pretty much the deepest level of discontinued we got. So I went to my store manager, told him we had just a couple left and I wanted to blow them out at $100. He agreed…and I immediately bought the new one in the box. Now, according to what I can find, this unit usually sold for something like $400+. So yeah, I got it as a freaking steal.

Ah…good times.

Anyway, it’s time to retire the good old boy. And after taking an enormous amount of time researching things, I’ve decided on the Sony STR-DH540 5.2 Channel 4K AV Receiver 725 Watt Receiver and the Yamaha NS-SP1800BL 5.1-Channel Home Theater Speaker System to replace it. Hopefully these will turn out well. There’s also the possibility that a family member might be able to get something even more awesome, but since it’s Cyber Monday, I want to grab these deals before they vanish. If they come up with something better, I’ll return it. The sound is just getting so awful, but I want to get something that’s going to last me for a good long while and it looks like these things will.

Cartography Coasts

Well, I promised you all that I’d give you a guide on how to make cool coasts in Pixelmator, right? Well, I’ll be posting that in the Dreamer section in just a few minutes. Ha! I’m actually making you GO TO MY WEBSITE instead of just reading these emails (if you’re reading by email anyway). If you want to see the difference, check out last week’s post. I’m very happy with how they came out. And I might just give you guys a work-in-progress of the entire map sometime soon!

“Creating Coastlines for Maps in Pixelmator”

That is if I can find more than one person willing to leave a comment that they want to see it. Heh.

Ponies

I can’t wait for the weekend. It’s Caitlyn’s 3rd birthday party. It’s going to be awesome…because it’s Pony themed.

What? Don’t act like you’re surprised.

In fact, have some Pony.

You might also want to watch it on the Hub Network to pump up the ratings a little.

Castle-Mania…Scooby-Doo would be very proud. There’s even a Pony of (Fore)Shadow in it!

Anyway folks, I’ve rambled on for far too long already. If you’re reached this far, you get an invisible secret internet cookie.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks