Back in the Saddle

Seriously?! Has it really been around three months since I posted in this thing?

I really shouldn’t be surprised. I have a terrible habit of getting really hung-ho about stuff like blogs and then just losing interest. Well, that’s not accurate. It’s more that I have a thousand other things that I decide to do.

So. What have I been doing for the last few months?

Well, let’s see…

  • Started a successful Brony group at Blizzard, who’s had one major event and is about to have a second.
  • Made it through an entire week without the kids or the wife as she took a vacation up in Reno while I remained working. That was a strange week. (And yes, it was really just a vacation)
  • Had issues with panic attacks on and off.
  • Successfully won NaNoWriMo 2014, making it my fifth year running.
  • Finished my rewrite of the webcomic novella Stormhaven into a full novel clocking in at 84K words.
  • Helped launch Warlords of Draenor, one of the most successful expansions Blizzard has ever released.
  • Played WAY TOO MUCH Warlords.
  • Before Warlords launched, I managed to secure the Challenge Mode: Gold achievement for Tyrimon, my Paladin, getting me the special transmog set and the now-impossible-to-obtain Pandarian Phoenixes.
  • I also managed to get Heirloom Weapons from Garrosh Hellscream for all my major characters and managed to get Laura a Heroic Kill of Garrosh as well before 6.0.2 launched.
  • Made it through Tali’s birthday party and associated events.
  • Attended my first Blizzcon as a Blizzard Employee and worked my first Blizzcon as a Blizzard Employee (I helped out with the SC2 tournaments…funny because SC2 isn’t something that really grabs me).
  • A thousand other things that I can’t even process.

I’m still doing the Pony thing. In fact, after today, I’ve decided I’m even more into it than ever before. I’m going to make it my mission to get it through people’s head that being a fan of MLP:FiM isn’t a disturbing or weird thing. Now there are always going to be ignorant people who don’t want to learn things. I don’t care about them. I care about the people who have brains and who just don’t know.

Because I used to be one of them.

I’m not leaving Blizzard anytime soon. I’m making a difference there. A big one. 🙂

But right now, I’m just dropping by to say I’m here.

Next week, I’ll have something more substantial.

Until then, good luck and have fun!

-rks

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Astride the Exceptional

Beyond the Waterfall

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

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

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

 

Speaking of World of Warcraft…

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

Lyssinna Astride the Kor'kron War Wolf

Lyssinna Astride the Kor’kron War Wolf

The Achievement!

The Achievement!

On the Throne of the Horde

On the Throne of the Horde

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

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

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

Soaring on Azure Skies

Soaring on Azure Skies

Soaring on Azure Skies

Soaring on Azure Skies

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

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

You Sly Dog

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

The [Ashes of Al’ar] dropped.

Reborn

Reborn

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

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

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

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

Soaring over Dustwallow Marsh by the Moonlight

Ashes of Al'ar Achievement!

Ashes of Al’ar Achievement!

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

Freaking awesome.

 

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

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

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

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

Final Considerations

So, you’re probably wondering AGAIN about Waterfall.

Sadly, it’s still in committee. I pray that it’ll be done soon. And I also pray that after I deal with this one, I can get a carte blanche clearance to publish without having to go through legs. But since I’m new, I want to follow the rules exactly by the book. So it’s totally out my hands.

I’m waiting. And that’s all there is to it.

Other writing things? Let’s see…I’m still working on my rewrite of Stormhaven, but I’ve probably allowed WoW to take my lunch time a bit too much. But since the new expansion is coming out soon and there are a few specific things I want to do before launch…eh, it’s a hard decision. I’m trying to go back and forth.

By the way, if you happen to play WoW and you’re interested in assisting me in killing Garrosh just once on 10-Man Normal, let me know.

The Inklings are having a bit of a hard time lately. We’ve lost a few people due to inactivity. If you’re interested in a writing critique group, please let me know. However, we’re still making it work. There are a few who are dedicated to making this work. Some folks believe in summer breaks. They can do that, but I’m not going to. If you’re serious about writing, you need to keep at it.

Pfft. Look who’s talking. *Sigh*

 

There’s not a lot else to report. Things are going pretty well at Blizzard. I’m definitely enjoying my time there…is so much better than Apple. And nothing new for Laura yet. So it’s just me as the provider at the moment.

It’s been a long weekend…and pretty stressful, so this is about all I have left in me right now.

So instead, you don’t get a PMV. You get an official flashback on Season 4 instead!

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Season 4, do NOT watch this.

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

The Truth about Waterfall and Apple

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

Guess what? I had another delay!

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

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

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

But there is one thing I want to address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

Adventure to Azeroth: A Retrospective, Part V (Finale)

Part V: Miracles

Today’s date is Saturday, June 7, 2014.

I’m T-2 days from Blizzard.

I know I should be freaking out. And I think a little part of me is, but it’s a small part. The rest of me is trying to survive my two little girls, getting a bit too obsessed with Bioshock Infinite and a few other things. At the moment, I’m pulling my hair out because the second I finished my personal journal, Tali woke up. I don’t know if it was Caitlyn’s weird yelling in her room or what…but it was just as I got everything ready to do this. *Sigh* Kids have a magical way of knowing the worst possible time to wake up from naps.

But more than anything, I think I’m really excited. I’m excited to find out what Blizzard has. Part of me is excited to actually park there as an employee. To see their cafeteria. To know about any cool discounts. To just…BE a part of it.

Now, of course, I won’t be able to breathe a word about what I really do. I’m sure they’ll have me sign at least 10 NDA forms or something. Apple’s just as bad, really. The only difference is that when I worked for Apple, I worked Retail, so I never knew anything (by the way, NEVER ask an Apple Retail employee about when the next iPhone, iPod, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini, Macbook Pro, Macbook, iWatch, iThingy or any other Apple product is coming out. You’re not being clever because we’ve all heard it hundreds if not thousands of times. Retail NEVER knows anything. They find out the same way everyone else does: watching the Keynote if Apple puts it up or reading the livestreams from MacRumors/Engagdet/Gizmodo/AppleInsider/Whatever just like everyone else).

…ahem.

A bit of a tangent there. I’ve been hearing questions about when does the next (BLANK) for six and a half years. *Shudder*

Anyway, I never knew anything at Apple Retail. I’ll know everything (ish) at Blizzard. Weird to actually KNOW THINGS! But I’m still not going to tell you, so don’t ask.

So…that leaves us with now. The grand finale. Last time, we stopped shortly after my return from my personal leave. The faces were very different and I started to realize that there weren’t many of my friends left at Apple SCP. For example, the picture below is everyone who showed up to Laura’s Surprise Baby Shower for Caitlyn in September of 2010.

Baby Shower for Caitlyn

All of the people within this photo save for two no longer work at the Apple Store at SCP (excluding Laura). Everyone else has moved on. Some to other Apple Stores. Some to other businesses. Some to other states. Some to other countries.

Aside from that, there wasn’t much else to do at the Apple Store. I didn’t have any mountains to climb. I wasn’t interested in Retail Management and aside from lateral moves within the store or to other stores, the only other option was to move to Cupertino to work at Apple HQ. I didn’t want to leave Southern California. It’s my home. So…what was I to do?

However, it was more complicated than that. Far more complicated. You see, I have a rather dry sense of humor and sometimes have trouble expressing my opinions in locations where it would be wiser to keep my mouth shut. These traits, along with others, started to cause serious tension for me. In addition, a new policy was handed down, demanding that both the full-time and the part-time employees have more availability (days that you are considered available to work) than ever before.

However…here was the long and the short of it: I wasn’t happy at Apple. I didn’t feel like I had anywhere to progress to. I had concerns about the direction Apple was going, both in retail and in respect to the company itself. The availability thing was the final piece though. I started looking…because I had to. You see, Laura and I long ago committed that strangers would not be raising our children. We didn’t want to throw our kids in daycare. Could we have made more money if we did that? Maybe. But you know what? Money has never really mattered to me all that much. I’ve always viewed it as a tool, nothing more. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense for people living in Orange County. Here, we have Coto de Caza, Newport Beach and far more expensive places. South Coast Plaza itself caters itself as a tourist location…really ritzy and fancy most of the time. I know I don’t belong here…but that’s okay. I like being different.

I started to look into other companies. Tech companies and other random places, even Microsoft, since I knew they used to poach Retail employees a lot when they were first getting started. But I wasn’t getting a single nibble. I tried networking, but nothing was happening. Comments were being made…and I was afraid. Really afraid for my future.

((I’m not going to go into specifics about any of this. Today I got the standard “end of employment” letter reminding me of all the commitments that are still in effect even though I’m no longer with Apple at this point.  The intention of this is not to bash Apple as a company or Apple SCP as a store. All I am saying here is that I was having some issues. Some of those issues were personality conflicts within the store, some of them were new company-wide policies. Also remember that I had been at Apple SCP for six and a half years. That’s no small feat. It’s not something I would throw away casually. I’ve been through plenty of very difficult times where I’ve considered leaving Apple, but I stayed because I realized that the problem was more me than the circumstances. I’m a stubborn guy. But family is more important to me. The true purpose of this is to show the miracles that happened and the threads wove together to result in what happens on Monday morning))

The Miracles

Sometime during March, I was looking at Blizzard’s career website. It’s something I did every month or so, just to see if there’s something I could apply for. This time around, it was for Compatibility Analyst, the same position as what I applied for the first time I applied at Blizzard some years ago. I updated my resume (which had recently been updated anyway because of my searches), added the Mass Effect 2 game analysis from my first application, a cover letter and sent it off with the help of Jason, my Baby Stalker. Sent it through him and through the external portal. I then promptly forgot about it. I had been rejected so many times, I just offered a quick prayer to God and moved on with my life. Even during everything else that happened, I didn’t even think of that one.

I realized after the fact that the ME2 Review was actually written before Mass Effect 3 came out and was written reflecting that. I never changed it. Eep.

Then, on our nine-year wedding anniversary, March 26, 2014, I got an email from Blizzard Entertainment while I was getting ready to take a shower. Telling me they were interested in my latest application for Compatibility Analyst, which I had applied for and promptly forgotten.

I couldn’t believe it. Seriously. It was like a dream. Even thinking back on it now as I write this (still working for Apple and waiting for the final phone call), I still don’t believe it.

A whirlwind proceeded to happen. I took a few days off of work for these events. I prepared for the first phone interview with 40 pages of notes, questions, answers and more. I memorized their Mission Statement. I watched the 25-year anniversary retrospective. I asked questions for everyone I knew in the gaming industry.

And during my phone interview…within a half hour in they said they wanted me in for an in-person interview.

Eight days later, I get the email to set up the in-person interview. And a week later from that, I drive to Blizzard Entertainment and enter the gate for the very first time in my life.

Of course, there was a full NDA for the interview and everything else, so I can’t divulge anything about the process. But I’ll say their lobby is freaking awesome. I remember waiting for my recruiter in the Blizzard Museum. Seeing a version of the Sword and Shield used for the Five and Ten Year Anniversaries. Seeing the various models for the Holiday Gifts they do every year. The massive mural they had on one wall that they use as their primary art piece for Hearthstone. The utterly insane amounts of awards they have in glass cases. The giant statue of the Queen of Blades. And I even got the man who was behind the entire scheduling process to take my picture in front of the great orc rider statue before the main building. It was like walking into a dream.

In truth, I didn’t think I did that great during the interview. I kept thinking of the dozens of different or better answers I could have given them after the fact. Coming home, I was quite depressed. My own internal critic went nuts, tearing me apart from the inside out. Over the course of the next fifteen days, I mentally ripped myself apart, sending myself to severe depression. I think part of me was shoring myself up for failure, so getting rejected wouldn’t completely destroy me.

I’ve been in constant prayer the entire time with Laura. I was asking for family members and friends to pray over us. The moment I got that first email, I ran to God, knowing full well I was completely incapable of doing this without Him. I prayed at least four times a day about the job.

Then on a Thursday, while I was at home talking on the phone with a friend about my methods behind the OC Inklings, an online critique group I’d been running since the beginning of the year, I get a phone call. My iPhone identifies the call as coming from Irvine, California. I freak, tell the person I had to go and pick up the phone.

It’s my recruiter with some questions about pay rates and such. During our conversation, he mentions getting the gears in motion to get to the offer stage.

I managed to keep it together during the phone call, but the moment I hung up (as Laura is completely freaking out in joy and putting Tali in her Blizzard onesie (“My other stroller is EPIC”)), I literally fell over onto the bed and just stared at the wall in complete and total shock.

For the rest of the day, I wander around the house in a daze, my brain completely on the fritz.

Because I knew what a phone call like that meant.

 

The New Horizon

That was three days ago (at the time of originally writing this).

Since then, I got a chance to tell a few friends, while keeping everything quiet on social media and public front. I texted those who knew about what I was trying to do. Even as I write this, it doesn’t seem real.

But everyone I’ve talked to say that if they’re talking pay, then the job is in the bag. God performed the miracle. The third greatest miracle in my life.

The first is finding a wife who wants to be with me and deal with all my insanity.

The second is two beautiful and healthy baby girls.

And this is the third.

Yesterday, I started writing my farewell email to Apple, a tradition for our store when it’s time for someone to move on. I’ll be tweaking that until the final moment. And I started writing this yesterday after finishing the email.

You see…the real reason I want to work for Blizzard isn’t for the free stuff or the pay or the insider knowledge. I have no interest in becoming fabulously wealthy or crazy famous. That’s not where my priorities lie. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but all I’ve ever wanted out of life is to be a husband, be a father and leave a legacy.

The reason I want to work for Blizzard is because of the culture. From everything I’ve seen, Blizzard is full of geeks and nerds. And somehow, I ended up at the Apple Store with all the jocks. In Genius Room meetings, more guys talk about shoes than they do about video games. (I’m not kidding. I’ve called them total girls for it and reminding them that’s coming from someone who watches My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic). Blizzard has LARPing, Magic the Gathering and and endless supply of geek. In fact, one of their Mission Statements is “Embrace Your Inner Geek!”

The other reason? Because I see endless potential. Blizzard is a company I could see myself working at for the next thirty years. I’m starting at the bottom right now, but there are so many paths available within the company. I don’t know where I’ll go. I don’t know if it’ll be game design and development, internal technical support or maybe something else. Eventually, I’d love to join their creative development team and write the stories that I loved so much.

This is my greatest dream. And God has done amazing things in getting me here.

But the best part? It didn’t end there. No way. It got both harder and better at the same time.

 

God is my Tank and my Healer

What? It’s a WoW Joke. In case you don’t know (and you seriously should know this), a Tank is a character usually in an MMO who has high health and gets the various enemies to target them instead of the more fragile damage dealers or the healer. They take the punishment so the rest of the team can kick ass.

That next Tuesday, I get an email from the recruiter and the scheduler. We quickly make a new appointment for the coming Thursday…where I find out I’ll be doing my final phone interview. I don’t believe it.

That Thursday, while a neighbor watches the kids, I have the final interview. And I felt very happy with the way it turned out, especially when he told me the decision would be made within a week.

Ironically, a few days later is the Season 4 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now why on earth would I mention this? Aside from the fact that I’ve already gushed about how epic it was, there was a song in there that really spoke to me.

It was Twilight, singing about the fact that she’s been placed in a position of authority but doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s her questioning her role and her purpose. What is she meant to do? She wants to contribute so badly…but seems to do almost nothing.

Then the other three Princesses come in…telling her that “you’ll play your part.”

I can’t even explain why, but it comforted me. It gave me hope. Granted, I’m not an alicorn princess, but I found a very close connection with what I was going through, fighting through doubts, questioning my place and hoping for something better.

Here’s a line from the song:

But I wonder where I’m going now

What my role is meant to be

I don’t know how to travel

To a future that I can’t see

And this is from my journal a few days later:

It really resonates with me. Because right now I can’t see the future. I’m in neutral, waiting for the light to change. My engine’s revved up and ready to blast ahead…but I’m waiting for the light…for the go or the stop.

But I have to have faith that God knows. And I have to trust him that it’ll happen in his time. I can’t hurry God. I can just do my best to muddle along, asking for help along the way.

 

The Jump

On May 13, a friend of mine gives me some very troubling information about my place at Apple. I won’t go into specifics, but it obliterated my good mood for the day as if someone had dropped a nuke on my head. I had tried my best to keep my shields up during the problems I’d been having at work during all of this, but this last bit of information shattered them into tiny shards.

I was so upset about this new information, I seriously considered calling out the next day. However, for some reason, Laura encouraged me to go to work anyway.

The next day, I discover that I have a meeting with one of the managers, likely about the thing mentioned the day before. I spend the day focusing on my customers as best I can and even watch Doug Field’s service at Saddleback Church that gave me comfort some weeks before. The service was called “Have I Got a Surprise For You!”

And it’s about how Jesus handled Lazarus’s death. The key is he didn’t go right away when Mary and Martha sent the messenger asking for help. He waited for two days before leaving. Lazarus was dead and already buried when Jesus got there. Mary and Martha were asking “Why?”

But there was an answer. The answer was to show one of the greatest miracles Jesus did while on Earth. He raised him from the dead. Mary and Martha just wanted healing…but Jesus did far more than that.

And this is from my journal after watching that:

I have to jump.

If Jesus decides that the bridge needs to burn out and I have to throw myself into the unknown, that’s what I need to do.

It’s the only way.

Because I have to trust him that he’ll catch me.

Okay God, you want it like that?

Then I’m jumping.

It’s all up to you now. If you don’t catch me, it’s game over.

So it’s all to you.

 

The Tenth Miracle

At 3:40 PM, Pacific Daylight Time, while I was in this meeting (which was not a happy meeting), I felt my phone buzz. I peeked at it while talking with him and saw “Blizzard Entertainment” on the Caller ID. But I managed to stick it out with the conversation.

Afterwards when we came back down to the store, well, I think I need another direct quote from my journal here.

After the meeting, I headed to the restroom, locked the door and listened to the message, my breath held. I remember judging his voice as he spoke about the stuff after the final interview. Apparently, I did it. I fucking did it.

No, that’s not right.

GOD DID IT.

And he told me that they were ready for the offer stage.

I got the job.

I was literally jumping up and down around the room like some sort of psychotic jackrabbit, whisper-shouting YES! over and over again.

I GOT THE DAMN JOB!

That’s right. I was grinning like a lunatic for the rest of the day. I sang and shouted in praise and thanks and just sheer glee the entire way home.

We have a quick exchange the next day saying that they’re just processing the final paperwork and should have it done by the next day, Friday, May 16.

God waited until the last moment. At 5:10 PM Pacific Daylight Time, my recruiter presented me with the official offer. Even better? I got Compatibility Analyst II instead of I.

And finally, a few minutes after telling the managers and putting in my notice, I got to tell the Genius Room. I actually got applause to my surprise.

Best. Day. Ever.

 

The Time Between

The next two weeks flew by in a blur. Literally. I was actually startled by how quickly the days passed. My final day at Apple was May 30, 2014. At my final Genius Room meeting, they actually did a group hug. Slightly awkward. I got to have lunch with another Genius who was leaving the same day (coincidence, she’s actually moving) and a member of the Genius Team who’s been with Apple for almost 20 years. He’s a good man.

And finally? My going away party at Red Robin near SCP. We had about 15 people or so show up. And it was a grand old time, because people came out who had left Apple years ago. It was wonderful, simply wonderful. I remember when I got home I was so exhausted, but it’s the kind of exhausted you get after visiting Disneyland. A very good kind of exhausted.

 

The Tapestry

To think that this all started because my old CompUSA manager wanted me to try WoW so badly that he bought me a copy using his own money. A thousand threads starting there (and further back with my obsession with video games for years), intertwined and leading to this moment. Moving down here, meeting Jason and Amanda, meeting those contacts at the Genius Bar, winning Honorable Mention with “Ashes over Stormwind,” getting a job at Apple, getting Genius and everything else…all of it was for a far greater purpose than I could have ever imagined.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen by coincidence. It’s all too complex, too complicated for that. I can’t believe that for a heartbeat. There was a great intelligent design behind all of these that started almost ten years ago.

God wove a beautiful and astonishing tapestry through my life…a tapestry I never saw coming.

I don’t think it’s chance that the quote I used for my senior year in high school is the same quote that gave me comfort in my times of doubt: “‘For I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'” That’s Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).

It’s a good verse.

A very good verse.

 

Dawn

And there you have it. My Adventure to Azeroth. My journey to Blizzard. It was a hell of a ride. I left out the worst parts of it, primarily because I want to think of the positive things…and the miracles. All the amazing miracles. I say that there were thirteen miracles, but that’s not true at all. There are dozens if not hundreds more that God has done, big or small, to get me to where I’m going on Monday morning.

If you’ve actually made it this far and read the entire thing, congratulations. I wish I had something to give you, considering this last part is almost 4,000 words by itself. But all I have to offer is my sincere thanks for being on this journey with me.

Don’t worry, my blogs will not stop. My writing isn’t over. It’s just going to change a little. Writing is a part of who I am, just as much as family or gaming or ADHD or my faith. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this experience…it’s that the sum is always greater than the parts.

But that’s usually God doing.

I’m okay with that.

 

Good luck and have fun!

-rks

 

PS

I’ll have one more blog tomorrow night, which will be about the possibilities of two stories being published very soon! They will be published by June 15 at minimum.

 

 

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

 

Adventure to Azeroth: My Journey to Blizzard Entertainment, Part I

Part 1: The Rise and Fall of CompUSA

 

Introduction

So the news is out by now and you know what the Cryptic Thing is: I’m leaving Apple and joining the QA Team at Blizzard Entertainment. I’m actually writing this just after posting “The Days Between,” so I pray to God this isn’t presumptuous. (It wasn’t). However, on Thursday, May 1, my recruiter contacted me about pay rates and everyone I’ve talked to about it says that if they’re talking pay, I got the job.

First and foremost, I want to recognize that I could not have done this alone. Laura, my wife, was extremely supportive during this entire process. It was no coincidence that I got the first email from Blizzard about setting up a phone interview on our 9th wedding anniversary. We talked endlessly about it. She held me as I had panic attacks from worry about if they would like me or not and prayed with me when I was begging God for strength to make it through the waiting and the interviews. She was always there and always with me.

She was awesome.

But even more awesome was God.

I don’t know your religious backgrounds or preferences. And while some might scoff, that doesn’t bother me. I credit this job entirely to God. He performed over a dozen miracles in getting me to Blizzard.

  1. He got Blizzard interested in me.
  2. He got me past the first gate of the resume DESPITE me not having the “required” QA/Game Testing Experience.
  3. He delivered the request for a phone interview on Laura and my 9th Anniversary.
  4. He helped me prepare for the phone interview and gave me total peace beforehand.
  5. He gave me the right answers during the phone interview, to the point where they said they wanted me for an in-person interview and that I’d make a “great fit in our Mac team.”
  6. He got me the email requesting an in-person interview within hours of the dressing down by Apple management, where I felt my job being threatened and I was at my lowest.
  7. God had Blizzard pick a day where Laura can be with the kids…and still see me off.
  8. God provided this miracle in the midst of the most difficult time at Apple Laura and I have ever suffered, where everything was in question.
  9. He had them call back to talk about pay rates the night after I was in tears begging him for a sign or something to give me hope.
  10. He had them call me about “finalizing the offer paperwork” while I was in the middle of a…difficult conversation with someone. It was perfect timing.
  11. He got me the job offer.
  12. He got me Tier 2 instead of Tier 1 during the offer.
  13. He got me a freaking job at freaking Blizzard Entertainment.

This entire experience has completely revitalized my faith in God, which had taken some serious damage a couple years ago when I got turned down for promotion for the 13th time (and yes, I’m serious). It was only after that time that I got Genius, but my faith never really recovered.

But during this process, I started to see the threads of my life, winding together for this moment. And it started many years ago, in a city far, far away.

A city called Reno.

 

compusa1

Not my actual former store in Reno, but close enough

CompUSA and Tom McComas

I had been working at the CompUSA in Reno for a while when Tom McComas, my assistant manager, started harassing me about playing World of Warcraft. At this time, I was playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which was easily one of the greatest games ever. I won’t even tell you how many hours I lost to that damn game.

I didn’t want to play WoW though. The lack of permanence in the game really bothered me. I didn’t like the idea of going into a dungeon, killing a boss, finding that I didn’t get what I wanted, so I just went back in. I felt like I couldn’t affect the world (little did I know that they would introduce phasing in Lich King which would give us the power to affect the world in very serious ways).

This was also still during vanilla WoW, before the launch of the Burning Crusade. Crazy, eh? Anybody remember those days?

Anyway, since I had personally redone the entire gaming section of the store (which was starting to make an actual profit for the first time), he knew I loved games. And he insisted that I play WoW…

To the point where he bought my original copy of World of Warcraft himself.

Yup. You heard that right. I didn’t even BUY Vanilla WoW. Someone else had to actually pony up the dough to get me to play the darn thing.

Into Azeroth

I created a Tauren Shaman named Jaberan on Gorgonash to play with him (who still exists as a Level 8). I didn’t understand half of what was going on, but it was pretty easy to pick up. I remember I tried to run and meet him in the game at one point…and got nailed by some wolves just outside the original Camp Narache.

But then I found out that an entire other group of friends was playing WoW too. They, on the other hand, were playing Alliance. I remember talking to a friend named Robert, describing the class I wanted to play. I wanted essentially a battlemage or spellsword. Someone who used both melee weapons and spells, since that was what I played in Oblivion. Well, as you know, that kind of class doesn’t truly exist (save for Paladin and Shaman), so he ironically pointed me at Warlock…who could use swords, which–because I didn’t understand the game mechanics–was important to me.

And so, I created my first Alliance character, a human warlock named Dayshaun on the PVP server Destromath. I started to play and slowly got dragged into the game. I did some dungeons back in the days when you would cry “LFG” endlessly in a city. And with warlock being one of the hardest classes (damn Soul Shards), I had some trouble here and there. I don’t remember a lot of specifics during these times, but I was one of those people always eager to keep trying for more and to learn better.

I remember a few incidents of note. I remember the Scourge Invasion event where Blizzard actually allowed Horde and Alliance to communicate for the first time ever directly in game as we were infected by the zombie plague. God, that was amazing. It was for the launch of Naxxaramas in patch 1.11. I know a lot of people didn’t like the event because it disrupted the normal gameplay, but for me, it was something freaking AWESOME.

WoWScrnShot_102208_213905

In fact, I even started a small guild of my various coworkers, called “Legacy of Light” (LOL). In fact, Xhadien, my night elf druid, is still actually leader of that guild…though there’s no one in it.

Eventually, I brought Laura into the game and we enjoyed it together occasionally…not as much as I’d like, but that’s okay.

Leveling on a PVP server sucked, by the way. But let’s not talk about that. I’ve blocked most of those memories out.

 

The Burning Crusade

I remember the day BC came out, because I had a huge stack of Collector’s Editions for BC out on display at CompUSA (I was Lead Merchandiser by then, in charge of various sales and displays). I came in on Launch Day, though we didn’t have anything big planned. However, I was very surprised to come in on that freezing cold January morning to see shattered glass all over the front of the store. Someone had taken several shots at the front glass doors of our store with some sort of pellet gun. Broken a few of the panes.

I suspected it was some disgruntled customer who was ticked we didn’t have a midnight release for Burning Crusade.

I continued to play my character for a while, grouping with my fellow coworkers. I even went through the entire Netherwing quest line back at 70. That was a nightmare. Took me over a month of dailies…and after the big finale…I stopped playing for about six months. I do that, I finish some huge accomplishment in the game…and then take a break.

I did enjoy that time though…and my original black Netherwing drake is still among my favorite mounts in the game.

It was also during this time that a friend of mine, Nate, loaned me his copies of Warcraft III: Rise of Chaos and Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Went through them pretty quick and I was happy to get a much better handle on the story of WoW afterwards. Totally new understanding of everything.

The Fall of CompUSA

I was at Disneyland down in Orange County when the first axe stroke went down and CompUSA closed half of their stores in a desperate attempt to stay afloat. All the Southern Californian stores were closed. My friend called me while I was at Paradise Pier in DCA…I couldn’t believe it. I contacted my store…but couldn’t get a hold of anyone. This was in May of 2008, I believe. Anyway, it was scary. Didn’t know if I would have a job, but thankfully, the Reno store was spared…for the time being.

At this time, I was Lead Merchandiser, in charge of all the various sales, setting the ads and all sorts of other things. I even threw special E3 parties and other gaming events.

I headed back to work, nervous and watching very carefully. At this point, they offered me a position as management, but I didn’t think that was a good idea, so I turned down the position. Had to train the guy who took the job though…wasn’t the most competent of individuals.

And then, after some health issues with my mother and several major conflicts with management, Laura and I decided to make a huge change: to move down to Southern California to help my mom.

When I made that decision, one of my old friends was working for Apple in Reno at the time. He strongly recommended I go to Apple because it was such a different environment than CompUSA. So I applied to the  South Coast Plaza, Irvine, Mission Viejo and Fashion Island stores six months before I was going to move, knowing it would take them a very long time to get back to me.

I was wrong. Mission called me back within a month or so. That was an awkward conversation. Heh. They wanted an interview, but I had to tell them the truth…it would be a few more months until I was able to move.

I left CompUSA without a definite job to move down to Southern California in September of 2007. And that miracle was only possible from an incredible gift from my grandparents, who footed the bill for our moving expenses. It was amazing. Laura drove our enormous used Buick down there with Tang the cat and I drove the U-Haul truck with my cat, Cheea.

I found out later that the rest of CompUSA folded within 3 months. The CompUSA where I once worked is now an enormous Goodwill store. I remember walking back in there once…and I could still recognize parts of it despite the fact that the entire place was totally gutted to make room.

And while CompUSA wasn’t the greatest of places to work, I was happy I was there. In the end, it was more than worthwhile. It got me here, after all. But the journey doesn’t end there. No, it’s just getting started.

(Stay tuned for Part II coming out either in the next few days or next Saturday!)