Friday, September 28, 2012

Fact Checking

It seems strange, but as I'm wrapping up this third novel, I'm consistently having to widen my own memory net.

Whenever any author writes their novel, unless they're intimately aware of everything they're talking about, they inevitably have to dig in and research.  For The Bindings of Fate, I had to study up on castle terminology (and I had to brush up on it some more for The Enemy Within), and I needed to research weaponry somewhat.  In As Darkness Falls, I did some looking at dragon history and dragonology.

Now, as I said, I'm beginning to get to the hind end of my third book.  I'm probably over 1,000 pages into my universe now, not including supplemental work, like the encyclopedia that I've been working on, or the games.  At this point, there's so much going on, that I often retread my steps in the narrative one way or another.  I think it's a good habit to take your readers back to something familiar, even if you have to explain it in a different light. 

One of the reasons that I started writing up the encyclopedia was to have an easier way to keep myself in check.  I'm fully aware of all the major details - people's appearances, their fighting styles and weapons, etc. - but with so much going on, it's nice to be able to look back at something without scrounging too much, and finding out, "alright, yeah, that's exactly how I thought it was."  The last thing you want to do is forget your own material.  While I haven't done that yet - as far as I can tell - I'd like to make sure I don't in the future either.

This is an especially daunting task because of the aforementioned supplemental pieces.  With all the sideways and historical lore, there are plenty of things that I could incorrectly reference, if I'm not careful.  For the game we're currently working on, the main character is a creature that's only mentioned twice in the second book.  I was intentionally vague in their descriptions, but even the details that were given had to be taken into consideration.  That had to be worked into the concept art for the main character of the game.  Rhianna had me running around the house on all fours like a gorilla the other day for reference, just to make sure she understood the description right.

That is the nature of this foray into my mind though.  If you're going to do something of this magnitude, that doesn't mean you take shortcuts to end the journey quicker.  No matter what you're working on, it's better to take the time to perform your task, whether it's research, or narrative, to the best of your ability.  You can't take back your integrity once it's out in the open, so it's best to make sure you polish it as much as you are able.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Home Stretch

This morning, I was able to finish another chapter before I started my daily work routine.  There's a calm in the hours before the sun comes up that I utilize best, I think.  I can get lost in my thoughts, and write for an hour without even realizing it.

We're coming down to the last three chapters or so.  All that I've been writing so far has been leading me to two of the biggest scenes since I started writing.  While the chapters leading up to this moment have gone quickly, I have no doubts that these last couple will take a long time.  There's a coming together of the ensemble that requires a lot of detail, and a lot of respect to each of the characters.

Speaking of coming together and ensembles, I've been working on putting together a team for the game, and it has been such a new experience for me.  I have certain leadership qualities deep within me that I've never truly explored.  Because of this project, however, they're coming out in full force.  When you're dealing with an intellectual property, you want to give it the best treatment that it can get.  That means you're not rushing into things just to get them done.  You're trying to find the best people for the job, the best synergy between your team, all while trying to balance a modest budget.

I'm not the kind of person who has ever been very good at haggling.  You'll never see me at a store trying to talk a cashier down for a piece of furniture, or the newest gadget.  It would even be a miracle to see me trying to talk down a car salesman.  I think he'd almost be offended by my nonchalant approach.

As it pertains to this game though, I'm being as frugal as I've ever been.  I know that I'm going to need all the money I can get to make it more robust and aesthetically pleasing.  That's one of the reasons selecting this team is so interesting, and, at the same time, so terrifying.

While I've pretty much settled on an artist, the musicians are another breed entirely.  I know what I want my game to look like.  I've got an image in my head that has been in there since day one.  For whatever reason though, the sounds are a little less concrete.  Music is just as important as what you're seeing though.  A catchy song in a game can mean the difference between your project being just another in a sea of similar games, or a breakout title that everyone has to get their hands on. 

To top off the struggle of finding music, I'm not tasked with deciding what musician to go with.  I'm quite surprised at how many candidates have come forward in such a short time.  While it's intriguing to have all this potential talent clamoring for a project I'm working on, it's also a very daunting request of myself.  I know that some people are going to be denied, and that's another thing that I'm no good at.

As I said before, however, the project deserves my utmost respect.  I have to give it every chance to thrive, and that's what's driving me forward.  I'm learning these new things as I go.  Hopefully I'll become more comfortable with the ins and outs of this project sooner, rather than later.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Boost Mode

I love going on vacation.  It's not just because it gets me away from whatever superficial problems I might be dealing with.  It isn't merely so I get a break from work.  One of the greatest benefits that I receive by getting away for a little bit is this rush of writer's adrenaline.

When I finished As Darkness Falls, it was my intention to put down the pencil for at least a month or two before I took it up again to begin the next one.  A friend and I ended up taking a short November vacation in Florida, and I took some things with me to pass the time.  I took a Nintendo DS, some cards, a magazine, and, just in case a flash of inspiration struck me, I took a fresh notebook.

I spent more time with that notebook than anything else.  The pencil scribbled so furiously that I almost had to put out a fire on multiple occasions.  When I arrived back home, it almost seemed silly to take that break that I had scheduled.  Too much work had already been put into The Enemy Within, and I wasn't about to stop.

This past May was a repeat of the vacation from that November.  I shared it with infinitely better company, and thought that my days would be completely planned out, but that wasn't even remotely the case.  I still made time for the novel, and it still welcomed that time openly.  At best, I thought that maybe it was the Florida weather that had somehow inspired me so.

Again, I found out that this just wasn't the case.  Rhianna and I took our last vacation of the year this past weekend.  We went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, and followed it up with a visit to Atlantic City.  You'd think the pageantry and the knights would be nothing but pure fuel for the old imagination, and you'd probably be right, if I needed it.  Even in AC, whenever I was given the chance to put my palm to the paper, it was there.

There's no real explanation that I have yet for why it's so easy for me to write when I'm on vacation.  I don't know if it's the idea of having nothing else in the way, or if it's that feeling of being cut off from the people in my life that I would otherwise be involved with.  In any case, The Enemy Within received a huge boost this weekend, and it might be done earlier than I anticipated.  A little extra polish couldn't hurt!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Everyday Victories

As has been said before, I was suffering recently from the Broken Washer Blues.  I can proudly say today, that I suffer from this affliction no more!

It may not seem like a big deal, but even the smallest changes in our day to day lives can really help to make or break our long term mood.  When you're young and you've got your own home, the natural deterioration of certain things can be so disheartening.  For me, I'm just now digging my way out of years of a flooded pit of financial burden, and climbing up to a dais of debt-free existence.  When you're trying to ascend that mountain, and you can see the peak off in the distance, any distraction can seem daunting.

Besides just the washer, at home, we've had a few other problems, which are rather insignificant in hindsight.  As one unified front, however, the issues seemed almost insurmountable.  A lawnmower breaks down, a car's engine light turns on, a leak springs in the upstairs dormer.  These are all fixable, assuming you have the money.

I would have had about $630 more, had I been paying better attention to my credit card bills over the past five years.  I signed up for a card at Best Buy a few years back, and without my knowledge, they had signed me up for a paid service that would have alleviated any debt I might have had if any of my purchases would have been stolen.  I usually don't even pay for warranties, though, so I knew I didn't sign up for this extra coverage.

After a little more investigation, I found out that this is a wide-reaching problem, that has infringed on a lot of people's lives.  You may not even have realized it happened to you.  If you signed up for a Best Buy credit card in the last few years, I implore you to look at your bill for anything that says "Debt Cancellation".  I thought it was a mandatory fee that I was being charged for paying off my debt early, but that was not the case.

When I realized what was happening, the only thing I could see were crimson hues of fury.  It's not often, these days, when I get stressed out, and it's perhaps because of that lack that I was hit so profoundly with uncontrollable rage as I learned that this bank was ripping off potentially thousands if not millions of people.  If this was me taking money from the bank, I would have been put in jail for the rest of my life.

Cooler heads prevail, however, and I somehow worked out all of the madness that was wracking my body.  It only took a few calls to have my account credited, and to get the frivolous charges cancelled.  The point is, if you have a credit card through that company, do yourself a favor and make sure you're not getting charged for something you never wanted in the first place.

Regarding the washer, however, I was able to get a service technician to come out again.  I don't know if it was because he could see how much I had tried to identify the problem myself, or if I was just a good tipper that last time, but he fixed it for free, and probably about 16 times faster than I could.

It's the victories like today's that make you feel like you can keep going on for miles.  I will always be thankful for them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Proboscis Prognosis

You can't write better fiction than this.

I've said before that there are minor distractions in my life that don't really have any effect on when the third book should be done.  You'd be surprised at how much something can affect the other things that go on around your life though.

About two weeks ago, our clothes washer stopped draining properly.  I tried my hand at it first, but no matter how intently I stared at the device, I just couldn't bring it back to life.  On Thursday, I had a repairman out, and basically told me that the pump was bad.  It was pretty much what I suspected, but diagrams online weren't really helping to explain where the pump was.  I was looking for it in an entirely different area of the washer.  So he came in and told me what was wrong, and how to fix it, so that I wouldn't be charged an arm and a leg for what would have been a fifteen minute job. 

Two days later, I tried my hand at fixing it.  We have a joke around the house that Rhianna's hair is ruining everything.  She's a beautiful ginger - it's easy to spot her locks when their wrapped around the vacuum cleaner roller, or clogged in the tub.  I teased her that if I found her hair in the washer, and if that was what was causing the pump to malfunction, she would get us a new washer.

Lo and behold, what did I find but a clump of lint reinforced by an outer shell of her hair in the pump.  It was so robust that I didn't have the dexterity to remove it with my hands.  I had to use a set of long needlenose pliers to liberate that pump paralyzing beastie.  Of course at that point, she was embarrassed, and bemoaning, yet lamenting her hair. 

After I nursed the washer back to health as best I could, I began running a litany of tests on it. The pump kicked on, and it seemed like everything was going to be good.  I noticed, then, that it was raining beneath the washer.  There was a waterfall that was churning directly under the counterweight when the device was filling, so I put a saucepan under there to collect whatever precipitation I could.  Over the course of this brilliant break-fix, I realize that the test is going to go into overflow mode - it's filling beyond what I can safely gather in the saucepan, so I call for reinforcements.

Rhianna, bless her heart, ran in like the house was on fire.  All I wanted was a cup to free up some of the water in the saucepan, but she treated it with the utmost urgency.  She dumped the first cup of water in the sink in our bathroom, and then - THWACK!

Instantly, her protest shook the house.  She came into the laundry room with a new gash on her nose, and laughed merrily at her coordination.  Fifteen seconds later, that laughter morphed into uncontrollable weeping.

This woman and I haven't been together for a year yet, but we have a remarkably strong connection.  In our time together, we haven't had a single fight.  I've seen her cry in mourning, or because of something that she sees in a movie or a television show, but I've never seen her cry in pain. 

Keep in mind that at that point, I was trapped underneath the washer.  I still had a typhoon brewing right above my head, and a girlfriend bawling her eyes out and cursing up and down the house.

Over the next two days, things settled down a bit.  Rhianna's nose doesn't hurt any longer, and there's no bruise, but the reminder is still there in the form of dried blood that'll scab over soon.  She's already able to laugh at herself and the situation, and even put this gem up on Facebook:

Needless to say, the washer is still not fixed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

In Memoriam

This past Monday, a lot of people were celebrating Labor Day. 

For my brother and I, we raised a glass to our father, who passed away five years ago.  Dad was the kind of guy who lived very much in the here and now.  He had a decent job, a brilliant mind and a hell of a disposition.

He left me a lot of things.  I'm sure my nerdy sense of humor (and nerd-dom in general) came from him.  My sense of fantasy, even though he never really followed it, certainly was acquired from my father.  And of course I also have the beat up old house that he left to me after he passed.

One of the biggest dissapointments in my life is knowing that he won't be physically present to see all of the things that my brother and I have accomplished in his name.  There are things that we would have liked to have left him, too.  A lasting legacy that he could have seen before he died.  He wasn't able to see Matt graduate from college or get his nursing license.  Before he passed, I dabbled here and there in a few various things.  He was always very excited to see me on a television show or a movie, even if it was only a small glimpse of me as a background actor (read: extra).  But he won't be able to see my proudest accomplishments.  He won't be able to see that I was able to publish a book, even if it was non-traditional.  He won't see all the work I've put into making a legacy of my own.

There are other things that leave a shadowy spot on my heart as well.  I know that he'll never see either of his sons married.  He'll never get to meet Rhianna, the woman I intend to spend the rest of my life with.  He'll never experience the joy of being a grandfather.

These things all weigh heavily on me, as I'm sure they do to Matt, and all the rest of the loved ones he left behind.

There is a bright spot in all of the sorrow and mourning that you have for someone who has moved on, however.  My faith sustains me.  I'm sure that there is something out there.  At various points since my father has passed away, there is no doubt in my mind that though his physical manifestation is gone, he is still present somehow.  He looks down on us and he smiles, content that we're making the most of our lives, and that we still remember.

In a year or two, I'll have muscled my way through the first trilogy of the Tellest fantasy.  After that, I want to try and tackle a prequel, that follows Kaos before some of the hardest turmoil in his life.  Though I could never properly capture the essence of my father, I've already got a character in mind who reminds me so much of him.  I wish that Dad was still alive to see him the way I see him - as this hero who gave his children the love he could, and sacrificed for them when necessary.  Though he may not see it, I know he feels what is in my heart.

I remember you, Dad.