Monthly Archives: February 2012

Checking it Twice…

I’ve put together the list of things I want to get done through March. For the writing, I’ve set myself a goal of 100,000 words, which is a bit excessive but it’s what I need to do to feel that I can catch up and hit my target of one million for the year. It’s going to be brutal, but it’s necessary. I don’t like my odds of achieving that goal, but my odds of hitting my one million word goal if I don’t hit 100K this month are even bleaker.

I want to finish this novel that’s been killing me for the longest time. I hope to be able to write a short story or two but I haven’t managed to hit that light-bulb moment where one of them comes together and I feel like it has something to say for itself. I also want to write my outline for Script Frenzy since I’ll be doing that again come April. It will be the same basic graphic novel idea that I ran with last year, but I want to clean it up a lot and give it a sense of direction rather the half-assed discovery journey that was last year’s effort. My goal is to complete a six-issue story arc in one month, which based on last year’s total will run around 200-225 pages. Graphic novel pages run way fewer words than do pages of prose script so that’s not as many words as it may sound like.

I will of course be keeping up the effort of blogging daily, and I’ve also added to my list something which has been gravely lacking the last few months – reading. It’s not normal for me to go four months without finishing a book and I’m going to damn well finish some of the stuff in my to-read pile if it kills me.

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Planning Ahead

I’m fairly certain that my word count dropped off this month, though I don’t know for sure because I haven’t been keeping track. I know what I’ve written, I just haven’t thrown it all into my running total because any the time I’m done writing late at night, I just don’t feel like taking the time to do it, which means every day it gets to be a little bigger of a mountain to climb, so I put it aside again. I will, however, need to enter all those words, and soon, or it will be an impossible task. By this weekend is when I want to be caught up in tallying things.

Another thing I noticed is that I have a lack of focus because I didn’t make myself a to-do list. I did for January and it worked well. I’ve learned that I work much better with a list of things to accomplish that I can tick off as they get done, but I skipped it for February because January went so well. You’d think I would have made the mental association that January went well because I did have a list, but I went in reverse and told myself that I didn’t need one. It was stupid, and I’ll definitely make one for March…

… which is coming soon. My youngest son’s birthday is early next week, and we’re getting ready for his party. Sunday we’ll be having a party for his friends, going to the movies to see The Lorax and munch on cake, then in the evening we’ll have the family over for a separate party, probably with more cake. Good thing I started dropping weight, so I can feel the joy/pain of putting it all back in a single day. Still, life goes on. I can’t believe my littlest dude is turning six in less than a week, but it’s so much fun watching him grow into his own tastes and personality.


The Walking Dead

I’ll be honest up front about this one. I’m a complete and total coward who can’t handle horror most of the time (and I seem to stretch the definition of horror).

Seriously, when I was about fifteen and friend and I rented Pet Sematary it took us about five hours to watch it because we’d have to pause it and go do something else for a few minutes. This in broad daylight, too. And for about a year after that I’d hop onto my bed from about three feet away just in case a kid with a scalpel was hiding underneath it. Actually, looking back, that’s the origin of my stuffing piles of storage boxes and things under the bed. Practically, it saves space, yes, but it also means there’s no space for monsters underneath.

Another movie, and feel free to laugh, which gave me nightmares for half a decade was Robocop 2. No joke. That scene where the evil villain is lying in a hospital bed, conscious but paralysed and on a respirator, and another person looks him in the eye, unplugs his stuff and stands there watching him die? Yeah, years of waking up in a sweat to see if anyone had unplugged me while my eyes were closed.

Which is why I’m completely surprised at how much I’m enjoying The Walking Dead (The TV show, I haven’t yet checked out the comic books the show is based on). Some of the guys at work had taken to watching it during the lunch hour, and I avoided it for a while, then sat in on one, and another, and now I think I’m hooked.  I think a big part of it that for whatever reason, despite the roving herds of zombies, it doesn’t strike me as horror. For one thing, the zombies aren’t always around, and the characters spend a lot of time just interacting with each other. They grow closer, they fall apart; they stick together, or don’t. They do so much more than just try to outrun death, though it does hang over them constantly. And the zombies aren’t the only thing causing them problems. Maybe that’s the key for me. Yes there are dead people walking around trying to eat you, but there’s the issues of limited food, water, medical supplies – all the things we take for granted.

Plus, ya know, zombies aren’t really all that frightening. Vampires and werewolves and zombies have never been very scary to me, mostly because they never really did anything scary. Killing people? Meh. Monsters are supposed to kill people, that’s what they’re there for. Most monsters have never been able to hold a candle to the horror present when one person does something to another. Zombies and vampires, in a sense, turn the things we know and love against us, but they can get away with it because they aren’t those things anymore, as opposed to the kid with the scalpel from Pet Sematary or the person you watch as they pull the plug on your life.

For The Walking Dead – at work we’re into season two and I’m trying to get caught up on season one at home. Some quick research tells me that there’s a fair bit of difference between the show and the comic series, so I may look into those as well. I’m curious to dig deeper into what it is about this show that keeps me interested without giving me nightmares.


Countdown

We’re getting closer to starting that Dungeons and Dragons game I was talking about a little while ago. Half of my players came over tonight to do character creation, and the other half will be doing it via email, and game starts in two weeks. Considering how long I’ve been tossing around ideas for this one, it’s strange to see it so close to a real start.

As I mentioned before, I haven’t run a campaign in ages, probably going back to the 1990s, and the game-creating muscles are a little bit rusty. It got more and more obvious as the night wore on that I have a lot of reading ahead of me, because players are asking questions on what I will permit or not for their characters, and I’m so unfamiliar with the base rules that I’m having problems answering. So, I’m setting aside the next few evenings to bring myself back up to speed so that I won’t have to scavenge for rules mid-game, because nothing kills the flow of a gaming session like having the person running it not know what the hell they’re doing. Hopefully there’s some sort of muscle-memory in there.

Where I have been focusing my efforts lately is on the worldbuilding and plot building, because those are things I can completely control, and those things are largely independent of the rules set. I’d been detailing some things and leaving a few ends loose so that I could make adjustments after I knew what the characters were going to be like. It’s always nice to tailor a few things specifically to exploit the powers or weaknesses of one character, and I’m dealing with a competent group of players so I know they’ll be able to handle anything I throw at them.

All in all, I’m really looking forward to running this game. something fun, and recurring, with a good bunch of friends. I just hope it’ll be as interesting as it sounds in my head.


That Sound

I was woken up this morning by that unmistakable sound. It’s a sound cat owners around the world can identify, because there’s nothing else like it. It goes something like this: Hck, heck, hreck, hrawk, hraawpl. That last one’s off but it’s one of those sounds that doesn’t have much of a literary equivalent.

It being a quarter to six, and me being me at a quarter to six, I fumbled for my glasses, poked my eye trying to put them on, and looked around. My cat was sitting in his bed, on the trunk at the foot of our bed, looking at me like I’d done something wrong.

“You little fucker,” I said in the most loving of tones. “Where is it?”

He licked a paw and elegantly folded himself into his bed, chin on paws.

I checked the floor on my side of the bed first, then checked inside my slippers, and finding those safe I put them on. Then I did the rounds, checking every inch of the floor in the bedroom. I checked the bathroom. I checked the hallway. Nothing. I was groggy and grumpy and I thought I might have missed something, so I checked everywhere again. I checked under the bed. I checked, improbably, inside the laundry hamper. Nothing

At this point I started to think that maybe it had been a vivid dream, and that there was no little hill of cat vomit waiting for an opportune time to squish cold and wet through my toes when I wasn’t expecting it.

I poked the cat, who’d already gone mostly to sleep. “Seriously,” I said. “Where’s the damned vomit?”

Nothing.

My wife had already left for work, the floor was safe in case he kids came into the room, and I was dead tired, so I gave up and got ready to crawl back into bed. And that’s when I saw it. A neat little pile of yarf, on the bedspread on my wife’s side of the bed. If she hadn’t already left for work and had woken up to find that the cat had puked on top of her, I think it would have gotten very ugly. If the cat had puked n top of me I know that it would have gotten ugly.

I picked it up as best I could, tossed the cat out of his own bed and out of the room, and went back to sleep, then later I threw the bedspread into the laundry. And that was the start of my day…

Yesterday’s headache disappeared, but has now come back as a regular but still annoying throb. I think it’s a sign that I haven’t changed my disposable contacts in a while. Also, I hear sleep is good. Maybe this time I won’t be interrupted by that sound.


Ouch

Okay, this is going to be a short keep-the-streak going post because it feels like I have a sea urchin growing inside my head.

I don’t get a lot of headaches and they usually just sort of sit there, humming and throbbing mildly for a bit without really affecting what I’m doing. Other times I get the eye strain ones that start from the back of the eyeballs and work themselves forward like knitting needles. This one is stabby and bleh and seems to be working it’s way from the temples in, and I’m having a hard time reading what’s on my screen. It came on pretty suddenly, too, going from normal to WTF-get-out-of-my-head in about fifteen minutes or so, so I’m just going to go and do that sleeping thing I hear so much about.


Gaming vs. Writing

I’ve spent most of the night working on a role-playing game I’ll be running for a group of friends starting in a few weeks. It’ll be good old Dungeons and Dragons, third edition because that’s what the players voted on and I frankly couldn’t care less. I’ve just had some scenarios in the Oriental Adventures setting that I’ve been toying with for a very long time, and the other game I was in faded out a couple of months ago.

Making a good game involves a lot of writing, and things are definitely better when there’s a good story and characters behind it, but it definitely exercises different creative muscles than regular fiction writing.

For instance, you can never tell how long it’s going to take someone to read your fiction. Some people read slowly, some are speed-readers, some might savor each word and some might rush to the point. You can deliberately play with the pacing of each sentence and paragraph in a story, but ultimately the pace at which your writing is received is not in your hands, it’s in the hands of the reader. Not so for tabletop role playing games. Oh sure, sometimes you get sidetracked with in-game jokes, bathroom and snack breaks, or wailing children if you’re so equipped, but the amount of gaming that gets done in a night is very much up to the person running the game. You know how many hours your group will be gaming for and you can plan the right mix of action and intrigue to fill those hours. You have near complete control over the flow of the game and how much your players will manage to get through in that time.

Another thing that’s nice is the immediate feedback. With fiction, you can get opinions from friends and close reviewers, but those aren’t really your target audience and they’re almost always delayed reactions. From the time you finish writing something which is accepted for publication to the time you get a review of it posted somewhere, if you do get a review at all, can be months, or frequently well over a year. And even then it’s difficult to know how sincere the person is in their opinions, or how biased. When gaming with friends, they’re right there with you, reacting as the story unfolds. Sometimes that reaction will be sour, or you’ll see someone getting bored for whatever reason, and you can make subtle changes to your game to get that player more involved, to help them have the fun they’re there to have. You can’t get anywhere close to that with fiction. It’s like having a rewind button when someone gives you a bad review, going back to fix things as they didn’t like as they were reading it, and doing so for each reviewer since each of them is going to have a different experience.

I have a few other half-formed ideas, so this post may see a part two in the near future. Still, it’s good to be running a game. It’s been many years since the last time I headed an RPG of any sort.