Clawing Through Concrete to Climb the Mountain

I struggle to think of a time where I felt better, more confident, and more accomplished than I did as I was going to bed last night.

For so long, I’ve felt like I was beating my head against a steel wall, unable to break through to the other side where the reality of my dreams awaited. Writer’s block would lurk around every corner to steal my thunder every time I built up even a modicum of enthusiastic charge, and streaming felt much the same way; a near-Sisyphean task of trying to grab a greased-up bar of soap in endless shower. Every time I thought I’d found a game that I could build something off of, it would slip through my grasp for any one of a thousand reasons. Destiny 1 held nothing new or exciting for me, Shadow of Mordor proved less dynamic and engaging than I thought it would be as a streaming game, and Mass Effect: Andromeda was… well, Mass Effect: Andromeda.

But then, something happened. After nearly a year of active anticipation, and three years of desperate longing, Destiny 2 finally dropped onto my Xbox One and proved to be everything that I’d hoped for and so much more. It blew open door after door of exciting streaming potential. There were adventures to go on, dungeons to plunder, and all sorts of other crazy shenanigans to engage in! For the first time in my journey as a Twitch streamer, I had finally found a game that I *knew* I could dig my hands into and really craft something out of.

And at almost the exact same time, I reached an equally impactful breakthrough with my writing.

My struggle to tame The Wolf and tell the story of it (a story that’s been running wild inside my head for years now) as been one filled with frustration, set-backs, and despair. For no matter how much I loved this story, there seemed to always be yet one more utterly unworkable aspect of it that would thwart even my hardest efforts to write my way beyond it. And yet yesterday morning, as I was still lying in bed no less, my heart caught on to a feeling that my still sleepy brain soon began translating into words. When I realized that those translated words would be the perfect way to finally crack through the writer’s block that had parked itself at the end of Chapter 3, I did the only thing that made sense at the time.

I plucked my phone off the nightstand and started writing them down as a memo, which I then copied into The Wolf itself once I’d finally finished.

So many times the journey to success is described as a mountain climb, but for me the journey didn’t start at the base of the mountain. For me, the journey started on the outside of a concrete wall that wraps around the mountain’s base, armed with only my hands to claw my way through it.

But you know what? I did it.

After nearly seventeen years of frustration, rage, despair and rejection, my point-blank refusal to give up on my dreams has at last broken through the last of the concrete and brought me to the base of the mountain. And to be perfectly honest, after having to dig bare-handedly through what felt like miles of concrete, this climb up the mountain is going to feel like cake in comparison. 🙂

Advertisements

The Light of a Game: A Guardian’s Retrospective Look at the Original Destiny

I had an astounding experience with Destiny last night.

In theory, Destiny 2 is supposed to launch tomorrow. In practice however, thanks to various workarounds and a rolling release schedule, Destiny 2 is basically launching today. As a result, for me at least, last night was my last hurrah with Destiny 1.

And what a hurrah it was.

There remain a number of things I never did in Destiny 1. I never went to the Lighthouse, I never got an Eyasluna, and I’ve never owned one of the many legendary Exotics like Icebreaker of the Vex Mythoclast. However, the only thing I’d never done that actually made it onto my Destiny 1 bucket list was this:

Run through Wrath of the Machine.

Destiny 1’s final raid, the apex of its cooperative multiplayer experience, was something I’d long since given up hope of ever completing. With my old Fireteam having scattered to the winds more than a year ago, I no longer had anyone to run the six-player activity with. And in all reality, that was fine. By the time I’d made it through to the end of Rise of Iron’s story campaign, I was already so primed for Destiny 2 that I largely no longer cared about anything Destiny 1 had left to offer. However, as the actual release of Destiny 2 crept closer and closer, I realized that as much as I just wanted to devour all of the new game’s content, I also wanted to bid a proper farewell to the old game.

But how? To this day, I don’t particularly enjoy the Crucible (Destiny’s competitive multiplayer offering), and the lower level, three-player Strike missions had become so well-worn that they were hardly the blaze of glory I felt my story with Destiny 1 needed to go out on. I thought about replaying through all the story missions, but my fully leveled and geared Guardian would make them all far too easy, and starting a new character meant losing access to all of the endgame gear and abilities that made the game so fun.

But Wrath of the Machine? That’s something that would fit the bill.

So with that as my goal, I took to the community forums on Bungie’s website. Sure enough, there were a number of threads posted by other like-minded Guardians and within a matter of minutes, we had a full six-player team ready to go.

We cut through the raid like butter, laughing and joking with one another pretty much the whole way through. The only time we really had to shut up and get serious was during the final boss, where callouts of enemy positions and other status effects became paramount. It took us a few attempts to get everything right, and at one point we lost a member of our Fireteam to his out-of-game responsibilities. So while we all took a five-minute break, I invited another player I’d met on a different raid a few days ago to join us. He did, and after one or two more attempts, the final boss of the Wrath of the Machine raid lay dead at my feet for the first time.

But as high a point as this was, it wasn’t the true highlight of the night for me.

That point came after the raid, where the six of us gathered together in one of the game’s three social spaces to try and gain an achievement which (according to our consoles) only 1.84% of Xbox Destiny players had actually unlocked. It was an odd activity that involved ringing a series of hidden bells in a specific order with specific timing, and yet just as the final boss in Wrath of the Machine had fallen to us, so to did this challenge. We got our achievement, we sang the Iron Song, and after we celebrated, we at last went our separate ways.

Most of us anyway.

The other player I had invited and I continued to hang out in the social space, and while I decided to climb the mountain that lay at the back of it, our conversations drifted away from the game and towards our mutual, real-life interests. For well over an hour, we talked movies, technology, we told jokes, and even made a brief foray into politics. When we eventually logged off to get some sleep for the coming day, I realized that even in Destiny 1’s final hour, it was still connecting me to people I could easily see myself becoming friends with.


Let’s wind the clock back here a little bit.

When it comes to the Destiny player base, I’m almost as grizzled an ancient as you can find. I’ve been playing the game since the open beta that went live in July of 2014, two months before the full game would ship. I pre-ordered the game soon after, was one of countless Guardians who threw themselves into the fight against The Darkness on Day One, and I have had an intensely hate/love relationship with the game ever since.

I say hate/love because from Day One, and through pretty much all of Destiny’s first year, my relationship with the game was heavily weighted towards hate. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the fact that I’m a writer, I am very much a story-driven gamer. I love the level of interactivity that video games can bring to a story, and if a game doesn’t have a good one, it becomes much more difficult for me to play through it beginning to end. When Destiny first launched, to call its story abysmal would be to insult the horrors that live in the impenetrable black. I will never forget the frustration I felt when the first major character I encountered said that he could tell me of all the history that led up to my characters resurrection… but then never did. Nor will I forget the hair-pulling madness that came over me when another major character said “I don’t have time to explain why I don’t have time to explain.” And what made all of this so much worse was that Destiny’s developer, Bungie, basically set the standard to which I hold all other video game stories with Halo, their previous franchise. To this day, almost exactly three years later, I struggle to articulate the soul-crushing disappointment I felt after completing Destiny 1’s paper-thin campaign.

But even after all that, I still kept playing.

“Why’s that,” you may ask?

Easy. I kept playing Destiny because the actual, moment-to-moment gameplay of it was just. that. good!

Seriously. Being able to seamlessly transition from running and gunning on the ground, to soaring through the air and blasting groups of enemies with massive energy bombs as a Warlock was just so viscerally satisfying that even now, no other game has come close to it. And when I started teaming up with my out-of-game friends to tackle our first Strike missions and the bosses therein, the synergy we found between the three different classes the game offered players was second to none. Combined with the amazingly satisfying core gameplay, the act of teaming together with other Guardians to take down foes that you couldn’t challenge otherwise turned Destiny into a singularly addictive grind for better and better loot.

So I kept playing. Even though there were still parts of me that hated this game to their core for its unparalleled failure of storytelling.

But then, on September 15th, 2015, everything changed.

Bungie released Destiny: The Taken King.

Though this was technically the third expansion Bungie had released for Destiny 1, it was the first one that truly caught my attention and excited me for the possibilities it presented. Not just for all the new content it offered, but for the changes it was making to all of the old content. Heeding the complaints of the player base, Bungie implemented a proper questing system into the game, finally tying all of the disparate story missions together with proper narrative threading. This “Questification” of the base game finally turned Destiny 1 into the kind of game I had hoped it would be at launch, and playing through it all again on a fresh character remains one of my fondest memories of it.

This was the point that I truly fell in love with Destiny, and at the suggestion of one now-famous Wizard, I began exploring the larger community that had sprung up around it.

Before Destiny, I didn’t even know Twitch was a thing. Let alone that it was already so big that people were making their livings off of it. CaptainTwaz suggested I check out KingGothalion, which led to me discovering ProfessorBroman on my own, followed by Soliferum, TheSpazzyProf, 3vil_Aura, Angry_Iceberg, and so many other awesome streamers. And the more time I spent in their respective channels, the more I learned that these weren’t just great entertainers, they were also just flat-out great people. So I started chatting with them, and with other people who were watching them at the same time. Before I knew it, hanging out in Destiny’s Twitch directory became just as big a part of my experience of the game as actually playing the game was.

I even started dabbling streaming Destiny myself; going live for the first time during one of the game’s monthly “Iron Banner” events that I jokingly referred to as “Game of Thorns”, owing to the near-ubiquitous presence of the poisonous hand cannon at the time. CaptainTwaz was even kind and generous enough to whip up some Game of Thrones­-inspired artwork for the occasion!

game-of-thorns-SOFAR

(I still love this image)

Still, as fun of an experiment that was, I didn’t feel any particular drive to keep streaming once the Iron Banner that month was over.

Until nearly a year later, when the Destiny Community Convention charity stream went live.

To this day, even in the wake of GuardianCon 2017, I’m still blown away by how much the Destiny community came together to accomplish that week. I’ve told my version of that story before, so I won’t repeat it at length here, except to say that watching the community raise more than half a million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was the tipping point for me. That was the point where I had to become more involved in the community. That was the point where I was no longer content to just sit back and be a passive observer; I had to really dig my hands in and become an active contributor. I wanted to give back to the community that had given me so much without even knowing it, and so I made two choices:

1) I was going to start streaming for real instead of as a passing curiosity.

And 2) I was going to go to the next Destiny Community Convention.

These two choices would wind up changing my entire life over the course of the next year. I got a job at the local grocery store (the first real 9-5 job I’d ever had), which pushed me so far beyond my mental and physical comfort zones that my close friends and family still occasionally comment on how much of a change for the better they’ve seen in me as a person. I’m more outgoing, more confident, and I say hi and smile to strangers where previously I would generally bow my head and look away. I even flew cross-country for only the second time in my life, and the first time where I was by myself and not meeting family at the airport on the other side. And I did, in fact, attend the second Destiny Community Convention.

Or GuardianCon, as it is now known.

Again, I’ve told my GuardianCon story before, but it bears repeating that it more than anything else I’ve written about thus far, was a truly life-changing experience. Finally getting to meet all the streamers & designers I’d been talking and gaming with online for nearly two years in person was a truly surreal experience, and it made GuardianCon feel less like a gaming convention and more like a gigantic family reunion. And when that feeling combined with the overwhelming rush of emotions that came with seeing a real St. Jude’s patient and his family walk up onto the main stage to tell their story, that was the moment where I knew I’d finally found my place in the world. I’d finally found where I belonged, and as someone who has gone through their whole life by flying under the radar and skating around the edges as the perpetual outsider, there will never be words for how powerful a feeling that was for me.

And all of this came about through a single, stupid video game that I actually hated for a year.

A video game called Destiny.


I don’t know what the future holds for the Destiny community with the release of Destiny 2, but I do know that I am excited beyond words for its potential. A new game with new mechanics means new players, as well as the return of old ones. It means new content for my fellow streamers and I to explore with our audiences, and it means new experiences for us all to share as a community.

But perhaps most importantly for me personally, it means a new beginning. As a Twitch streamer, it took me a very long time to find my footing on the platform, and I played a lot of games across both console and PC before I did. I found it in a certain game’s open console beta back in July, and I found it again when that same game launched another open beta on PC.

I found it in Destiny 2.

There is so much of that game that already feels like home to me. The competitive experience in the multiplayer Crucible has been re-tooled considerably, bringing it far more in line with other competitive shooters that I’ve played and enjoyed, and the story campaign in just one mission had more plot and character development than the entirety of Destiny 1’s base game. And this is all without mentioning the new raid that will be coming out just a week after launch!

To say that I’m excited for Destiny 2 would be to speak the gravest of understatements, but I’ll speak it anyway just to say that I am so excited to share this next leg of my Destiny journey with all of you, starting right here tomorrow at 10AM Pacific Time. I hope to see you there, and I can’t wait to see what new stories and adventures Destiny 2 holds in store for us! 🙂

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 3

*sigh*

I think I have to say it…

In all of the seventeen years that I’ve been writing fiction, I don’t think I have ever been as agonizingly frustrated with a chapter as I’ve been with Chapter 3 of The Wolf over the last several days. The purpose of the chapter is, on the surface of it, simple: reunite my main character with his love interest, introduce the supernatural elements of the story, and have them make lovey-eyes at each other for a while before throwing them back to the wolves. From a plot perspective, this is one of the easiest chapters in the book to write. However, from a character perspective… oh boy…

You see, I have this nagging tendency to always think of my characters first and foremost as real people, with real desires and motivations. When a certain plot event takes place, my first thought is “If this were real life, how would Character X really react to this?”. I find this approach to be really fun normally, as it helps me discover points in the story where things happen solely because the plot demands it, and not because my characters would actively choose that path for themselves. From there it becomes a bit of a game for me to figure out what it would take for Character X to make Decision A, and then restructure things accordingly.

I tend to call this my “Christopher Nolan Approach”, named after one of my favorite directors in Hollywood who seems to make his movies based around the philosophy of “If we can do it for real, we’re gonna do it for real.” It’s an approach I take with my writing because I find that even in a purely fantasy setting, the more a story can tie itself to the reality of the human experience, the more inherently compelling that story becomes.

However, with this latest chapter of The Wolf, that approach failed me.

With this latest chapter of The Wolf, that approach lead me down a rabbit hole of fear and despair that threatened to entirely derail the story I was trying to tell, and more importantly, the feelings that I was trying to evoke in the reader. That right there is what told me that I was going way off track with this chapter, and after two days of still trying to make this off-track direction work, I finally had to accept that I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. I could either embrace the reality of it, or sacrifice that reality to make the chapter emotionally satisfying. And considering that my whole goal with The Wolf is to write a story that would make those who read it smile and feel all the warm fuzzies, that choice was really no choice at all.

So I said goodbye to strict realism, and opted instead to simply make people feel good.

Just this once at least. 😉

Now all that’s left is to actually finish this chapter and give my writer’s brain some desperately needed rest. Catch you all next week. 🙂

Unleashing the Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 2

I got incredibly lucky this last week.

As many of you may know, a few weeks ago one of the two hard drives in my computer died on me. And when it died, it took all of my writing folders with it. Thankfully, a majority of that data was backed up on a USB drive and had also been copied onto my laptop. So a few days ago, on a whim that came out of nowhere, I went looking back through that USB drive to see just how much of The Wolf was still there. Lo and behold, I found two partial drafts of the manuscript itself and when I read back over them, I realized that however unsteady things may be in my head, the story as it exists on paper is still wonderfully solid.

And having two different drafts from two previous attempts at re-writing this book gave me a wonderful opportunity to compare and contrast my own writing. To compare where my mind was, where it is now, and make a decision about how best to move forward for the sake of the story. Part of that decision was to craft a new first chapter by actually mixing and matching different parts from the different drafts, and doing that finally gave me a version of chapter one that I can actually be proud of.

I think some of you are going to hate me for how much more viciously it stabs at your heart, but that’s kind of the point in the end. 😉

After wrapping up chapter one though, I got another shot in the arm of gratification when I started re-reading chapters two and three from the more recent draft. I realized while doing that just how much of those chapters still worked. How many times the different scenes actually hit the emotional mark I was aiming for. So rather than re-write them entirely or re-construct them with parts of the earlier draft, I was able to just do a simple revision for clarity and emphasis. That’s not the kind of moment I often get to have with my writing, so it’s a special kind of sweet when it happens.

Now however, comes the real challenge. Chapter three of the most recent draft wasn’t finished. That ending and everything I’d had for Chapter four actually did get lost with the death of my hard drive, and I can’t for the life of me remember what emotional mark I was aiming for beyond the point that chapter three got cut off at. Now, given what The Wolf is about and what all has to happen with the rest of the story, I’m not at all concerned about finding another proper emotional mark to aim at. However, I still remember how I felt about the chapter and pages that I’ve lost, and I can’t shake the feeling/fear that whatever new target I take aim at just won’t be as powerful as the last one I actually fired at.

I realize that this fear is likely irrational and unfounded, but it’s one that I will definitely be struggling with for the next few days as I get back to work.

Such is the life of a writer. 😛

My Darkness, My Light, My Balance

“I sense great fear in you, Skywalker. You have hate. You have anger. But you don’t use them.”

I find there is no better quote, in fiction or in truth, to describe my state of mind right now. For I do hold a great fear in my heart, and that fear gives birth to a rage and a hatred that leave me sick and shaking within my own skin. That fear comes from the fact that I am a black man living in America, and yesterday I had to sit back and watch as my President responded to an act of Neo-Nazi, white supremacist violence and murder by refusing to categorically denounce and reject those ideologies, and claim instead that “many sides” were responsible for the violence.

I am a black man living in America, and it took my President two full days to call out and condemn Neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

So yes, there is great fear in me.

I do have hate.

I do have anger.

And I will never use them.

I will never use them because I already know what lies at the end of that path. I will never use them because I can’t stand the way they physically make me feel; like my heart’s become a furnace and my blood is on fire. A fire that fills my mind with an acrid smoke, obscuring and consuming all possible thoughts of light, life, and love. This fire has been smoldering in my heart for as long as I can remember, kindled by the bullies who saw a shy and quiet nerd as easy prey and further stoked by an abusive adult who should’ve known better. For the majority of my life, I’ve had to fight near constant battles against that fire and the darkness that birthed it.

Most of the time, I win those battles, and the lights of my life get to shine all the brighter because of it.

On those days, I get to be Anakin Skywalker.

But sometimes (like yesterday) I lose those battles, and the lights of my life are consumed by shadow and flame.

On those days, I struggle not to become Darth Vader.

I struggle not to become Darth Vader on those days, because I’ve tasted the power of the Dark Side before. I’ve felt the strength and the relief that can come from finally unleashing all of your hatred and your rage on the things that have inspired them, and just as Master Yoda informed Luke, it is quick, it is easy, and it is seductive.

And of the handful of times that I’ve wielded that power, nothing good has ever come of it.

Beating up one of my bullies just gained me three more, and lashing out at them just gave them more ammunition to fire back at me. Pain begat pain, and the darkness just spawned more darkness. When you let loose with the fire, all you ever really do is burn the things that are closest to you.

This is why, back at the beginning of the year, I finally said “No thank you” to the Dark Side and resolved to always and only ever be a guardian of the Light. No matter how hard the Darkness tried to trick me, lure me, or seduce me, I would never again let it control me.

Which brings me at last to the real purpose of this blog post.

Losing this last battle against the Darkness has shown me that I’m not spending enough time cultivating my own Light. I’m not spending enough time doing the one thing that brings me more joy and more happiness than pretty much anything else on the planet.

Writing.

I love streaming on Twitch and just can’t imagine giving it up, but at the same time, trying to write and stream on the same day like I have been for the last couple of months just isn’t working. The streaming gets done no problem, but the writing has definitely suffered, and that lack of balance has started doing some pretty unpleasant things to my state of mind.

So here’s the plan. We’re going to stop juggling and start balancing.

We’re going to do that by making what I hope will be the final adjustment to my stream schedule that I ever have to make. We’re going to do that by dedicating three days just for streaming, three days just for writing, and the final day for all the IRL adult stuff that has to get done.

Those days are going to be as follows:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday = Streaming Days

Friday, Saturday, Sunday = Writing Days.

Monday = Adulting Day (eww.)

Before I can implement this schedule however, there’s a whole lot of catching up that I need to do on the writing front. To say nothing of the fact that I’m also still in the process of recovering from the events of the last couple days. Because of these two factors, I’m going to be taking the rest of this week off streaming. This was not an easy decision to make, but it’s one that will allow me to tackle this new schedule with a clear head and a cleaner slate.

So with all said, I will bid you adieu and farewell. This blog post has taken me nearly five hours to write and I’ve still got a ton of stuff I wanted to do today. The first of which is likely eat lunch. Take care everyone, and I’ll see you again soon. 🙂

Unleashing The Horsemen: Taming of The Wolf – Part 1

 

Anxiety is not something I’m used to feeling. Especially not with regard to things that usually excite me and make me happy.

And yet, that’s exactly what happened the day before yesterday.

In hindsight, I know exactly what set it off. I’d once again caught myself doing multiple things at once and trying to rush through them as fast as possible, rather than take my time and make sure they all got done properly. Add on top of this a small dash of self-inflicted relationship drama, and for about 36 hours, I found myself almost completely paralyzed with indecision and fear.

Then late yesterday afternoon, from seemingly out of nowhere, everything changed.

I could say that if felt like someone had flipped a switch at the back of my mind, but the truth of it feels… a little bit bigger than that. For my money, it felt like all this anxiety was being caused by one broken nerve in the back of my brain that kept short circuiting. Then after I finished lunch and a couple episodes of The West Wing, that nerve had been completely disconnected and replaced with a whole different kind of nerve; one that plugged perfectly into place like the final piece of an electrical jigsaw puzzle. The paralytic fear and anxiety that I felt dropped away almost at once, and in their place rose an almost zen-like clarity and focus. All I could see were the tasks I had in front of me, and all I had to do was walk forward and accomplish them.

So that’s exactly what I did.

Now, the boring list of house-cleaning chores aside, the big-ticket item on that list of tasks was finally sit down and get back to work on unleashing the four horsemen of my apocalypse. The first of these is The Wolf, and the first thing I thought I had to do was re-create the various character biographies I’d need to make sure that my characters would be actual people, and not mere automatons moving in service of the novella’s plot. I say I thought I had to do this, because before I typed a single word, I pulled out one of my USB drives that I’d saved my old writings onto and started reading through some of the old notes and histories I’d already written down for The Wolf.

To say that I was stunned by how much of it was still a rock-solid foundation to build a story on would be an almost criminal understatement.

The reason for this, I suspect, is that I wrote all of those notes in the same style and voice I planned to write the novella itself in. That is to say, the first-person perspective of my main character. And since the thoughts and feelings of my main character haven’t changed in the three years since I’d last worked on The Wolf, there was largely no need to go back to write them all again from scratch.

I say “largely” no need, because there are a few things that I still want to go back and tweak. I’m not at all happy with how poorly the relationship between my main character and his mother plays out considering how central an element his family is to this story, and I’m also not happy with how loosely I let myself play around with the nature and history of my werewolves. So the big task for the week ahead is to go back and do just that. Craft the final, iron-clad rules and backstories for my werewolf characters, and then go back and write a consolidated, comprehensive family history document for my main character in the same personal journal style that I used before.

All my ducks are already hatched for this story. I’ve just got to make sure they’re all in their proper row. 😉

The Four Horsemen of My Apocalypse

From an outside perspective, I realize that it’s incredibly silly to name something good and exciting after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but from my perspective, it’s all incredibly fitting. The way I see it, these four books represent the best shot I’ve got at finally bringing an end to my old world and my old life. The world and life that were dominated by darkness, anger, doubt, and fear. The world and life that raised me to believe that I was not, and would not ever be, good enough. So from that perspective, hell yes I would name my efforts to destroy that world after The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

And those efforts are four books.

Four books who I named on this blog just yesterday.

The Wolf, The Demon, The Vampire, and The Coven.

These four stories are some of the nearest and dearest to my heart, even if The Coven actually started as a bit of a joke. They’re also the four stories I have that are closest to being writing-ready. That is to say, of all the disparate story ideas in my head, these four are the ones whose plots are already constructed, who’s worlds are already built, and whose characters are already fleshed out. All that’s left to do with these four is refine the material that’s already there, and then write the books themselves.

So without further ado, let’s introduce you to my Horsemen.


The Wolf

The Wolf is one of the oldest of the Horsemen, born from my first attempt to get my writing legs back under me after one of the worst cases of burnout-induced writer’s block I’ve ever suffered. It tells the tale of a heartbroken young artist who’s struggling to overcome a traumatic car crash that took away the girlfriend he cherished, only to find out that the crash was caused by a bloodthirsty werewolf out for revenge.

I wrote the first draft of this novella way back in 2013 at an absolutely psychotic pace; averaging 3,000 words a day and completing said draft in just eleven days. After that followed a year’s worth of adventures, misadventures, and flat-out mistakes that resulted in The Wolf getting chained to the back-burner for the last several years. I always made sure to keep it fed however, going back and making subtle tweaks and changes here and there. Fleshing out this character and shifting that piece of backstory closer to the front. As a result, this old dog still has one hell of a bite, and I can’t wait to finally break this chain and let it go running off into the world.

Out of all these stories, The Wolf is the only one that’s had a draft written through to completion, and that’s why it’ll be the first of the Horsemen I set loose.

The Demon

Long-time readers of my blog will be well familiar with The Demon. So much so that it almost doesn’t need an introduction. It is by far the oldest of the Four Horsemen, tracing its origins all the way back to my Sophomore year of high school. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been working on The Demon in some form or another for almost half my life, but being crazy doesn’t make it any less true. If The Wolf has my heart, then The Demon has my soul.

Telling the story of a boyfriend and girlfriend who find themselves at the center of a plot to ignite the Apocalypse, The Demon is without doubt the most complicated and ambitious story I have ever tried to tell, and it’s only grown more so as the years have gone on. Which is why I’m no longer going to try and write it all out all at once. There are simply too many moving parts, and I have three other Horsemen all vying for my attention. So the plan for The Demon is to break it up into three or four separate chunks that will be tackled before and in-between the other Horsemen. There’s a small part of me that still thinks I’m crazy for attempting to write a story like this, but at the end of the day, I’ve just fallen too far in love with these characters and their lives to let their story flounder in my head.

In the grand scheme of things, The Demon will probably be the fourth of the Horsemen I set loose.

The Vampire

With the exception of The Demon, I’ve put more work into developing The Vampire than any of the other Horsemen. That’s because as much as I love vampires as a whole, I didn’t want to write a story about them if I couldn’t think of something different to bring to the table. An extraordinarily difficult task when you consider just how long vampires have been such a prominent fixture in fiction, and how many different versions of them have been created over the years. And once I did finally create my vampires, I then had to come up with a story and world to put them in.

Thankfully, figuring out the story was the easy part, and The Vampire quickly became a kind of dysfunctional father/son road trip story where the father is a near-fanatical vampire hunter, the son has been turned into a vampire, and they’re both out for revenge against the one who destroyed their family.

The Vampire will be the second of the Horsemen I unleash, but the fun thing about it is that if I can build the world properly, these characters have more than one story for me to tell.

The Coven

For better or for worse, The Coven actually originated as a joke between me and a friend of mine a few years ago; a joke inspired by the hilarious podcast “Your Book is Why Daddy Drinks”. My friend thought it would be funny if I wrote a book specifically as fodder for that podcast, and my brain immediately went “Challenge Accepted!”

The thing was though, the more I kept working on this idea, the more I started to see that if I toned down or removed the parts intended to be podcast fodder, The Coven could actually become a legitimately good story about love, betrayal, witchcraft, and war. Once I threw in a few threads of Little Red Riding Hood to try tie it all together, I realized that this was a story that I had to tell at some point and really, what better time than the present?

However, because it’s the youngest story of the bunch, there’s still a healthy amount of work I have left to do on building not only the world, but the overall plot itself. As such, The Coven will likely be the third Horseman that breaks out into the world.


This is about the point where that anxious, paranoid, and self-doubting part of my brain starts trying to tell me that this is all crazy. That it’s all too much and that I just can’t do it because of how much it really is. Which is in turn the point where I remind that part of my brain that this adventure is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and that so long as I remember to breathe, everything will be fine.

So here’s to breathing, and to finally ushering in this long-awaited Apocalypse. 😉

A Hard Reset

So… I had a bit of an adventure on Tuesday.

Monday night, I started hearing a really loud, rhythmic clicking sound coming out of my computer, and at about the same time, I noticed that my computer’s performance was plummeting. The broadcast of another streamer I was watching on Twitch kept freezing, other programs were taking far longer to respond to instructions than they should, and that damn clicking noise would not go away. So, I opened up the side panel of my PC’s case to try and figure out where the clicking was coming from, and almost immediately found that it was coming from my system drive. For the non-tech heads out there, the long and the short of it is that the hard drive that helped run my entire system was dying and if I wanted to keep using my PC, I needed to replace it ASAP.

Which I did. Even threw in a little upgrade that’s made my computer boot up in seconds instead of minutes. Solid State Drives FTW!

Unfortunately, this upgrade came at a cost. Because I got caught so flat-footed by the drive failure, and hadn’t been as diligent as I should’ve been in backing up my files, I lost everything on that drive. My music, my movies, my pictures, and perhaps worst of all, my writing. Not all of it, mind you. About 80% of everything I’ve written over the last five years has been saved not only on a flash drive, but copied over onto my laptop as well. However, with literally only one exception, all of my most recent, relevant documents went down with the hard drive.

And believe it or not, I’m actually not mad about this.

A little annoyed, sure, but here’s the thing: I’d actually been wondering about making a completely fresh start for quite a while now. Because the thing about having so many different writing files from so many different drafts from so many projects from so many different years is that it tends to get a bit cluttered and confusing, and after a while it becomes just a bit… much… to keep it all straight. So even before my drive crashed, I’d been thinking on and off about just wiping everything out, and starting completely over with a perfectly clean slate. Because as immensely valuable as notes are, the ideas those notes contain are still stored relatively safe and sound inside my brain and on more than one occasion, a hard reset on some of my writing projects has actually enabled me to craft a better story than the previous one.

This reset just proved to be a bit harder than the one I’d had in mind.

So what’s all this mean going forward? Well, for one thing, it means I’m going to get off my ass and get blogging here again. For another, it means that I am truly starting over from square one. Whatever plans I’d had before the drive failure, scrapped. The exorcism of The Demon? On hold for the moment. My life is in a much different place than it was when I’d first started that process, and now unlike then, I actually have the freedom to take my time with all the stories I’ve wanted to tell and write them out proper. I say this because over the last week or so, I realized something critical:

What I’m doing as TheGamingAuthor? Trying to build an audience as a Twitch streamer while simultaneously trying to build a career as an author? It’s insane. More importantly than that though, is that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. And I’ve been trying to sprint this marathon since February.

I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to put any more pressure on myself to succeed like that. It’s not going to happen that way and I’m finally going to stop trying to force it to.

So here’s the plan going forward. I’ve got four stories in my head that are already (or at least mostly) fully formed: The Wolf, The Demon, The Vampire, and The Coven. Working titles of course, but the point is that these four stories are the ones I have that are the most ready for prime time, and so they’ll be the ones I work on first. The Wolf, The Vampire, and The Coven are all novellas, while The Demon as many of you know, is a full-length novel. And the order I’ve put them in earlier is roughly the order that I’ll be writing them in.

With one possible exception.

The Demon is a huge project, and the more I’ve worked on it the last few months, the more I’ve come to realize just how many moving parts it truly has. And given that The Vampire and The Coven are much simpler, shorter stories, I’ll actually be breaking The Demon up into smaller chunks that I’ll be working on before, in-between, and after my three novellas. By working this way, I’ll be able to avoid burn-out on any single project, and the bouncing back and forth will help me work with my ADHD rather than against it.

And yes, adults can have ADHD too.

So that’s where things stand as far as my writing life is concerned. It’s gonna be a crazy ride over the next few months and years, but I’m looking forward to it. This is exactly the path I’ve been trying to get my life on for the better part of a year now, so finally getting to even this point has been a dream come true.

Returning to Writing Form

So, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, what I’m about to say is probably something you’ve already guessed at. If you’re not following me on Twitter, I doubt this will surprise you either, given how quiet this blog as been over the last two weeks. And if you’re not following me on Twitter, and this is the first you’ve ever seen of my blog, well… hi, nice to meet you. 🙂

Now, on to the meat of this post.

I’ve barely written anything since coming back from GuardianCon.

I won’t say I haven’t written a word since I came back, but over the last two weeks I’ve written maybe 400 words, and almost all of that has consisted of basic level world building for a handful of new story ideas. Almost none of it has gone towards progress on The Demon (a paranormal YA novel that is my primary writing project), and even that progress has shifted away from writing the novel itself and towards a new synopsis from the perspective of my female-lead. Which has actually been a fantastically positive experience, but now I’m getting side-tracked.

The point is this: My writing life has gotten thrown into such complete disarray that for the last week or so, I haven’t been able to tell up from down or right from left. Because of that, I’ve kinda just let it sit and flounder in favor of my Twitch streaming. That and the brand new Oculus Rift VR setup that I got on sale thanks to Amazon, but again I digress.

Here’s the thing though. Writing and being a writer is so much a part of who I am that if I don’t do it, I start to not feel right. I’ll start to feel a little hollow, a little less like myself, and a little more like a stranger sleepwalking in someone else’s body. That’s how I know I’ve gone too long without writing, and I’ll give ya two guesses as to how I felt when I woke up this morning.

However, this time my lack of writing wasn’t due to any lack of desire or time, as has been the case in the past. Rather, this time my lack of writing was due to the fact that I didn’t even know what to write. Between story ideas I’ve already plotted out and new ones that’ve only just started popping into my head, I’ve got more than a dozen books rattling around in my head and different parts of me want to work on different ones at different times. Between all that confusion and the Twitch/GuardianCon hype and excitement, I just haven’t been able to get my brain back into proper writing gear.

Fortunately, I was finally able to change all that this morning.

There were a couple of factors that contributed to this. Perhaps the most important of them was the fact that I’m no longer under any kind of external time-crunch. When I was working at my local grocery store (hereafter known as The Store), I barely had any time during the day to write. As such, I focused all my writing efforts on The Demon; the novel I thought was most likely to get picked up by an agent/publisher and therefore offer me the quickest way out of my living situation at the time. This pushed all my other writing plans and ideas onto an uncomfortably crowded back-burner. However, now that I’ve quit my job at The Store (long story), that pressure to crank The Demon out the door is no longer there, and my life now actually has room for all these other stories I want to tell.

Another big factor in this is something that I learned about myself through working at The Store: I can be shockingly productive so long as I have an actual list of the things that I need to do. Now, I know to the outside observer this may seem like a “Well duh” kind of thing, but as someone who’s struggled with Attention Deficit Disorder my entire life, this was a revelation for me. Because with the way my brain works, sticking with any one thing for extended periods of time is not only difficult, but actually makes me *less* productive overall the longer I try to stick with it. But if I have multiple tasks that I can bounce back and forth between, then I can remain consistently productive on all of them, and therefore become even more productive in the long run.

So here’s the plan going forward: I’m not going to forcibly restrict myself to working on The Demon until it’s completely done. Rather, I’m going to break that project up into smaller chunks so that I can complete my other, shorter stories in between them. Counter-intuitive though it may sound, this’ll actually allow me to get far more writing work done in far shorter a time frame, and that’s something that I truly couldn’t be happier about.

And naturally, I’ll have much more to say about all these various story projects once I actually start working on them.

Take care, everyone. 🙂

 

The Destiny Reset Challenge: A Guardian’s Return to Destiny

GuardianCon 2017 was a life-changing experience for me. It reminded me of why I fell so in love with the community and how badly I wanted to give back to it all that it had given me in the first place. It reminded me of why I’d first decided to become an author/Twitch streamer hybrid, and perhaps most unexpectedly, it made me miss Destiny (the game that GuardianCon was founded around) in a way that I hadn’t really felt before.

As some of you may know, I’ve had a rather… fraught history with Destiny. Upon it’s initial release, I found it’s amazing core gameplay undermined at every turn by it’s embarrassing failure to tell an even partially coherent story. A failure made all the more painful by developer Bungie’s outstanding record with video game storytelling in the Halo franchise. However, when Bungie released The Taken King expansion to kick of Destiny’s second year of release, they also reconstructed the entire base-game in a way that fixed roughly eighty percent of the problems I’d had with it, and finally turned Destiny into the game that I’d first hoped it would be. This trend then continued with Bungie’s second and final major expansion to Destiny, Rise of Iron, which further strengthened the game’s storytelling with expanded in-game cinematics and deeper narrative integration with the game’s quest system.

All of which combined to make me extremely impatient for the announcement, reveal, and release of Destiny 2, so I could finally see what the full strength of Bungie could do now that they had so clearly learned from their previous missteps with Destiny. Combine that with the fact that I’d already done pretty much everything there was to do in Destiny (or at least everything that I’d wanted to do), and as much as I grew to love the game and wanted to stream it, I just couldn’t figure out make any stream of it entertaining. For me or anyone else watching.

Enter Angry_Iceberg’s Destiny Reset Challenge.

Prior to GuardianCon, I hadn’t thought to participate in this challenge, as it requires setting up an entirely new account and I just wasn’t all that thrilled by the thought of it. After GuardianCon however, and all the excitement and rejuvenation that came with it, I realized that this challenge is actually the perfect way to make Destiny fun and engaging again, because it robs you of all your previously acquired weapons, armor, and money and forces you to start from the absolute lowest rung of the ladder all over again.

And truth be told? I cannot wait to get started!

Participating in this challenge will be the closest thing possible to going back into Destiny like I’ve never played it before, only now my second first time will be with all of the improvements Bungie has made to the game over the last three years included right from the start. That’s an experience I can’t wait to have, and is why I now plan on having Destiny as part of my game rotation on stream when I’d previously just been planning to wait on Destiny 2 and go through my backlog of PS4 games in the meantime.

So I hope you all will tag along as I tackle this challenge, and if you do, I’ll see you on stream this Friday at 1PM Pacific Time.

Take care. 🙂