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

Advertisements

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part III

Part III: The Year of the Author

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

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

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

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

The Tease of WoWInsider

The Tease of WoWInsider

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

The first part was no surprise.

*Sigh*

*Sigh*

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

What's that there at the top?

What’s that there at the top?

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

Ashes over Stormwind” had won Honorable Mention!

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

Salutations from Blizzard Entertainment, Ryan!

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

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

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

-Tommy Newcomer
Associate Publishing Developer
Creative Development
Blizzard Entertainment

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

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

 

The Wrench and the Hammer

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.06.17 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.11.09 PM

 

Because then I got this email. 🙂

Hello, Lyssinna!

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

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

Thanks again for your submission,

Aibreann

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

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 1.13.02 PM

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

…I could get published.

 

Contacts

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

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

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

 

2012 and Beyond

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

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

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

The Days Between

Things have happened. I know you’re tired of the Cryptic Thing. And some of you already know what’s going on with it. But the time is coming very soon where I can finally praise God from the virtual rooftops for the ten miracles he’s performed.

I’m almost through the Third Gate. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel…and it’s no train.

In fact, today’s entry is going to be a little short because I’m going to start working on my announcement post for the Cryptic Thing.

I’ve already written part of something required for it. Something different than anyone else has ever done. But I can’t be like everyone else can I? I decided there are a lot of people who helped me make it to the Third Gate and they deserve recognition. And they shall have it.

Right now, I have so much on my mind, it’s hard to think about anything else. But my silence must remain for a little while longer.

Writing

The OC Inklings are going strong with three new members. I’m so excited. If you’re interested, know that you don’t have to be from Orange County to join the Inklings. The OC part is just where we’re based for the most part. All you need to do is apply. That’s about all there is for an application process. Just hit the “join group” button. We do that so we don’t get a billion spam bots.

I’m still playing with Stormhaven, but that’s on the back burner since Thursday. Maybe I’ll get some time tonight to work on it. Need to do that, since that’s what I’m going to be submitting to the Inklings. Eep.

Gaming

I got my Wizard finally up to 70 in Diablo 3 last night. Now she can really use all the paragon points and the cool gear I had waiting for her. I was playing a 4-man game with three other wizards…it was bloody insane. Effects were flying EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t even see my character half the time. Heh.

Good times.

Prayers

I ask your prayers for a dear friend of mine, JJ. Health issues have forced her to step back from the OC Inklings for a time. She needs your prayers too, so please, pray for her. But praise for two friends of mine who finally got to take home their baby again after being in the Infant ICU for way too long. She had some sort of sickness…but she’s okay now.

Finally, please pray for me. Pray that the final piece falls into place and I can finally unveil what lies behind the curtain. I can’t wait to tell you all.

Okay, let’s do this PMV.

Good luck and have fun everyone!

-rks

Cryptic Things

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

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

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

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

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

Heh. That was amusing.

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

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

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

Because it would change everything.

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

Thanks for reading today!

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

A New Hope

Yeah, not that “A New Hope.”

But I couldn’t stop myself.

Anyway, thank you all for your prayers. They did not go unheard. Good things happened last Thursday. Very good things. But it’s only another step in the line. At this point, I think I’m seeing a miracle. I’m just praying that God will bring this miracle to completion.

Yeah, still not going to tell you folks yet. Sorry. Can’t. But as soon as I can, I promise to (God willing) make a huge announcement. I’m praying hard. And I still need your prayers.

Writing’s still on hold. Everything’s on hold until this is done. Even though I over prepared for Thursday, I’d much rather over prepare than under prepare.

So let’s talk a bit about gaming.

I’m enjoying the launch of Elder Scrolls Online. I love the unique combat of an active combat system versus the d20-based system we’re so used to with so many other MMOs. That’s what makes ESO so unique and so fun. Also, starting the game out with Dumbledore, FemShep (Jennifer Hale) and John Cleese is just freaking AWESOME. I just totally geeked out. It’s a great game and stunningly gorgeous. I can’t wait to get deeper into the game.

In addition, I cleared Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls. I played it on Hard and honestly? It was almost too easy for me. Got some freaking sweet new gear though. I love the new gear system, it’s so much more satisfying. I only died once during my entire campaign…once during the final boss. And then I kicked his tail. Even the new environments and Adventure mode is good, but I’m also loving Crusader. It’s awesome to chuck out out a spinning whirlwind of electrified hammers and watch them tear into EVERYTHING around you. Phew. Good times.

Well, that’s all for now. Nothing big, I know.

Please, continue to pray for me. This thing I’m working on…well, I’m praying with all my heart that God will make it happen. But at the moment, I’m “waiting on the Lord.”

Oh yeah, also reading the Dresden Files through audiobooks. Totally addicting. Phew.

Now, time for some Pony.

 

(Straight from this week’s episode)

Seriously and this is for kids? Come on, they stole that straight out of Fresh Prince. Modern kids would be clueless. That was all for us. 😀

Good luck and have fun folks!

-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