Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Story Forge

Last week, I talked about ritual and what part I feel it plays in helping me focus and shut away all my distractions and write. Today I want to talk about a tool that I've used as both a writing exercise for my mind and something to help me switch my brain into writing mode after a full day working. I found Story Forge on Kickstarter a long time ago, and the concept looked really neat: a deck of cards like a tarot deck with ideas on them. If you want to pull together a random idea, you just shuffle up the deck and draw yourself a reading just like you would with a tarot deck. I like it, the cards are pretty open-ended, much like tarot, though in this you're being honest in your fictions.
The booklet that came with the deck has offers a selection of potential spreads that could be used, ranging from quickly generating a minor character to a full layout if you wanted to build a hero's journey. Before I get to work each day, I've built up a minor character. I'm not sure if all of them are going to get used, but it should eventually offer an excellent draw file for when I need to flesh a character out.
I think I'll offer up one that I know is going to show up in the second book, even if only in a round-about fashion: The Beggar King
  • Highest god of the Pantheon, The Beggar King
    • Base Nature – Order
      • The Beggar kind is the driving force behind to compact of the gods, the agreement that holds the stasis in the world of the Shamans. He is the one to whom has been given the position of judge of the gods.
    • The Influence of the Universe – The Mentor
      • Order and The Mentor combine to make me see this character as a the sage king and judge of the gods, the one who seeks to teach them discipline and control.
    • The Achilles’ Heel – Chastity
      • The Beggar King has, in service of his position, cut himself off from passions. He stands in judgement over a world that he no longer truly is passionate for. Most of the other gods have begat children who walk the world, but not Him.
    • The Influence of Family – Poverty
      • To accept the position as leader of the gods, the God was forced to give up all his possessions and mantles, to give up even his name for the right to rule and judge from a stool or simple chair, never to take a throne.
    • Driving Passion – Innocence
      • The Beggar King seeks to give his subjects the peace of not knowing, believing that the compact is the best way to protect them from the wars that drove the council to first shatter the world.
    • Their Destiny – Victory
      • The world is forgetting the old ways, even the spirits who live in the near Dream Lands no longer remember the nature of the wide multiverse. The king is a scant few generations away from a world in which none of the threats can reach them anymore.
    • What stands in his way – The Doctor
      • This one I'm editing out, if only because I think it gives way too much in the way of potential spoilers.

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Frightened Heart

I've got a dear friend who's mentoring me, throwing me topics to blog about, to get me in the habit of blogging and sharing because I have always been very bad at online presence social situations. She asked me to write about the first crush I can remember. But I feel like there's a broader topic that I can write on here.

I don't know if it's social anxiety or another factor, but I took a very long time to open up my shell. For most of my life, I've built a small group of tight friends around me. People who I connected with, and stuck with them through thick and thin. It's not always been the best decision at times, as relationships and people change and connections go toxic.

I think a great deal of it comes down to fear. Fear of stepped outside of my comfort zone, dealing with the world beyond the safe places I build for myself. Those places, those people, are the only places where I feel like I can be myself. Everywhere else, I feel like I'm wearing a costume. That the me I show the world. The more I've been able to come out of that shell, there are some things that change; I've built more of those costumes, the faces that show only a facet of who I am. But it's still a role, a costume I wear to try and insulate myself from the world.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Time Long Past

The first sign that something is wrong is when I wake up for a reason other than twelve pounds of rabbit leaping into bed with me, nudging me that it's time to "wake up and feed me!" Not that I spend every morning dancing to the whims of the trickster god's rabbit incarnation, but... it's most days.

The fact that I notice the lack of my rabbit before I realize that it's not my bed, not my room, and not even my body? I point you again to the twelve pounds of exhibit R. But the other factors creep in as I open my eyes, looking at the plain white ceiling above me and I twist in bed, swimming in the sheets, trying to kick myself free.

My life gets all the more strange when I see my mom come in to check on me. She ages well, people usually miss a decade when they guess her age, but thirty years gone? It's looking at a different person. She comes over to my bed, puts her hand on my forehead and asks me what's wrong. Do we have a few hours and a PowerPoint presentation?

I've always been good about swallowing my words, so I just shake my head and say I don't know, that it was maybe a bad dream, and I should be okay. She lets it go, and I get to take stock of the room around me. I see certain things that memory picks out for me, the particle-board shelves along one wall and the white metal of the closet door, already festooned with several of the stickers it would bear until I moved out for college.

I'm somewhere in the hazy years, that period of my early childhood where my memories are fractured and scattered. There's a moment of panic as I hear my father, pieces falling into a kind of place. It seems I'm still working at the level of someone in their mid-30's instead of however old I am. I start to pick out ways to identify when I am, ways to try and manipulate the future.

Could I get my parents to divorce sooner? Could I convince either of them to trust their prepubescent son as a stock market oracle? As I work through the possibilities, I throw on a pair of shorts and a t shirt, the cynic noting that thirty years doesn't change some things.

And then I reach the living room, and it all stops mattering. Because right there, on the ugly print couch is curled up a small golden shape. Tomorrow? It can wait. For today, I'm just a boy spending time with his dog.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

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The Importance of Ritual

This post was originally a guest post to The Faerie Review

I’m currently writing, which means that sitting between myself and the keyboard of my Chromebook is a vessel of coffee. Whenever you see me writing, this is the case. I could give you many reasons, like the fact that caffeine is supposed to help you concentrate, or that I’m addicted to the stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely am addicted. I get massive migraines if I miss my java fix two days in a row on day three. And there’s a smattering of science to support the concentration argument. One quick note on Science before we get deeper into this article: I’m going to brain check things I’ve come across and give quick references, but they are just going to be the first Google result when I check on something. I am not a scientist, and you are reading a blog, not Scientific American.

But that’s not why I have a bottle of Wegman’s cold brewed coffee on the table in front of me. I have it there because it’s part of my ritual. It’s one of the things that I do to help summon up the part of my brain that can put the words to paper. I don’t, strictly speaking, need it. But I find it easier to focus and put words to paper if I follow these steps.

Monday, August 22, 2016


"Putting words to paper"

"Hanging up"

We know what these metaphors mean, but do any of us actually do the associated action any more?

I hate writing long-form. I feel like the words are cramped and I have trouble getting all the words that I need to write out. In High school, I would do what I could to write a paper or take a test on the computer. But I still refer to writing as putting words to paper or talk about my pen.

Is it because that's what I grew up with? These metaphors have been around forever. I also fall heavier of the F side of SF/F, so it's more a part of the words I stew in. But what does it mean, the further we get away from that grounding? Is our vision of fantasy going to change as our metaphors change?