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. 😛

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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. 🙂

Reflections of a Guardian: GuardianCon 2017

It feels… tacky, for lack of a better word, to describe an event as “life-changing” before you’ve had a chance to actually live your life after it, yet I still can’t think of any words that describe my experience at GuardianCon 2017 better than those two. Because I can already feel the change, the drive, that little extra “oomph” taking hold in both my heart and my mind, and I know myself well enough to know that this feeling is the signal of something much greater than momentary excitement. I know that because it’s the same kind of feeling I had at the end of last year’s GuardianCon charity stream, and that feeling drove me to actually change my life.

So really, maybe it’s not so tacky.

Let’s back up a bit: prior to GuardianCon 2016, I was 26 years old, living with my mother, didn’t have a job, and had basically never worked a normal job, period. I had my reasons for all this, but the point of sharing this is to say that regardless of the reasons, that was the state of my life when the first GuardianCon charity stream went live. Thanks to CaptainTwaz’s suggestions and encouragement, I’d already become familiar with the Destiny community on Twitch, so I knew what this charity stream was all about well in advance: The streamers involved were going to try and raise $200,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the course of a week-long, 24-hour a day marathon stream as a way to not only build hype for the convention, but to use that hype for the benefit of a worthy cause.

What I and basically everyone else didn’t know was just how powerful that hype would get, and how quickly that hype would get there.

By only the third or fourth day of the charity marathon, that original $200,000 goal had been utterly annihilated, and the goal was then bumped up to $350,000. A goal that, once again, the Destiny community absolutely destroyed. By the time the marathon was actually over, the community had raised over $500,000. That’s over half-a-MILLION dollars, raised by gamers; a group of people that society has been all too happy to dismiss and demonize as a bunch of lazy, maladjusted, basement-dwelling, socially inept pizza-gluttons that would never amount to anything. That kind of universal disdain seeps into your mind and colors your thoughts no matter how far removed you may be from that stereotype in reality, and watching my fellow gamers prove just how disastrously wrong that stereotype is lit a fire in my heart that I had never felt before.

I realized then that I needed to be a more active member of this community. For me personally, it wasn’t enough to be a lurker or a chatter anymore. I had to do more, I had to be more, I had to contribute more. I had to give just as much back to this community as it had just given me by so spectacularly shattering that gamer stereotype.

I had to become a streamer, but more importantly, I had to make it down for the next GuardianCon.

Regardless of whatever it would take to get there.

And so, just a few weeks after I started streaming, I got my first real job: working as a courtesy clerk for my local grocery store. It wasn’t particularly fun, and it certainly wasn’t glamorous, but my co-workers were legitimately cool people, and I was getting up and out of the house and active in ways that I hadn’t been before. I lost over twenty pounds just by virtue of doing my job and walking around all day. My shyness and severe dislike of interacting with strangers melted away, and my self-confidence rose to levels far higher than they’d ever been before.

In every way that mattered, I felt like I was finally becoming the version of myself that I’d always wanted to be.

All because of GuardianCon 2016.

Which brings us to today: one year later. It’s the first morning after GuardianCon 2017, and the things I’m feeling in my heart are so much more powerful than what I felt after the GuardianCon 2016 charity stream. It’s that same, almost physical need to do something more than I am, only amplified because things aren’t just relegated to computer screen in someone’s office.

Things are now, for want of a better word, real.

Coming to GuardianCon and being able meet people in person, so many of whom I’ve looked up to and admired as examples and inspirations as a streamer, was an experience that was powerful in ways that defy description. When a streamer recognizes you as a name in chat, that’s one thing. But when that same streamer physically shakes your hand and then pulls you into a hug after hearing who you are, that’s something else entirely.

And that’s how virtually all of my streamer-meetings went.

From Angry_Iceberg at the pre-convention WingHouse meet up, through Vibronium and 3vil_Aura towards the end of the first convention day, and every other awesome person in between (ThatTokenGuy, Imqulse, StarlordCap, Jadahawk, and ReleaseTheGamerGirl? I’m lookin’ at all of you!), all those meetings and hugs really drove home the unique point that one of GuardianCon’s founders, King Gothalion, made during a video interview about the convention. “Community means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”

In more ways than I was prepared for, coming to GuardianCon felt like coming to a gigantic family reunion.

And perhaps explicitly because of that feeling, the reality of the charity half of GuardianCon hit me that much harder. I was not at all expecting an actual St. Jude representative, let alone the Vice President of Communications, to speak at the convention. Nor was I at all expecting or prepared for an actual St Jude patient and his family to make an appearance on that same stage to tell their story. You can talk numbers until you’re blue in the face; when you’re in the same room with a real person that the charity you’re helping to support took care of, and you’re listening to them tell their story, it drives home the flesh-and-blood reality of it all in manner that I don’t even think it’s possible to brace yourself for. I was on the verge of tears for almost the entire length of that speaking event, and that only made me double and then triple-down on my commitment to simply be the Light I so often find myself looking for out in the world.

Because my ultimate take-away from attending GuardianCon was the following:

This is where I truly want to be, this is the work that I truly want to be doing, and this is the community I truly want to be a part of.

This where I belong.

I’ve never felt that before, and feeling it now takes the flames I felt at the end of last year’s charity marathon and turns them into a wildfire. A wildfire whose Light I intend to channel through both my writing and my streaming so that I can use both to help others find their own way through the Darkness.

Because that’s what being a part of this community, what being a Guardian, means to me.

#LittleLights

Exorcising the Demon: Week 4

So.

Now that the chaos of the previous two weeks has largely abated and my life outside of writing and gaming has started to settle down for the most part, I’ve found myself once again in possession of enough free brain-power to start properly exorcising The Demon again. Although, thanks to a certain movie currently blowing up the box office, that exorcism took a pretty significant detour this last week.

This movie, as I’m sure you’ve been able to guess, was Wonder Woman.

I wasn’t expecting Wonder Woman to be good. After Batman v Superman and especially after Suicide Squad, I was expecting Wonder Woman to be yet another DC cinematic disaster.

It was not.

In fact, I will go on record as saying Wonder Woman is one of the best comic book movies ever made, and I think indisputably the most important one.

Let me explain.

I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice now, and as I was watching that epic “No Man’s Land” sequence the second time, I felt something just click inside of me. As I was watching Diana kick and flip and beat down foe after foe, I realized that as a guy, I’ve been having superheroes tell me throughout my entire life that I too could do things like that. That I too could fight just as hard and just as fiercely as they did. All I had to do was just set my mind to it and not let the odds, however impossible they may seem, get to me. For twenty-seven years, I’ve been having superheroes tell me this, and it’s been such a constant, ever-present influence in my life that I legitimately cannot imagine who or what I would’ve become if I hadn’t had it

And then I realized that if I’d been born a girl, I wouldn’t have.

I wouldn’t have had Spider-Man or Batman or Wolverine. Not at all in the same way that I do now. I wouldn’t have been able to look up to them and aspire to be like them in at all the same way that I have. If I had been born female, I would’ve spent my entire life watching my heroes like Batgirl, Black Widow, Jean Grey, and Scarlet Witch still play second or even third-fiddle to the titans of popularity like Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, despite their own incredible power and skill.

And yet now, finally, here comes Wonder Woman. A literal God-killer in terms of her power level, who plays second or third fiddle to absolutely no one, who kicks more ass and takes more names than anyone else around her, and yet she doesn’t have to sacrifice an ounce of her warmth, beauty, or femininity to do so! After twenty-seven years, if I had been born a girl, I’d finally have a superhero that I could truly and proudly call my own!

As I was watching Wonder Woman fight her way through No Man’s Land and all these thoughts were falling into place in my head, I realized that they weren’t just thoughts, they were the actual lived experiences of women and girls all over the world.

That hit me. Hard.

Hard enough that it brought me to the very brink of tears, and made me realize that as hard as I’ve tried to make my female lead in The Demon a Wonder Woman in her own right, I can still do better. For all the strength, skill, and power I’ve given her, I’ve still allowed Ice to fall into the same kinds of narrative traps that so many other women and girls in fiction fall into.

I can’t accept that. Not anymore. Not now that we live in a world where Wonder Woman exists as a blockbuster motion picture and has shown us all just how far behind the curve we really were.

So for the last week, instead of continuing to finalize The Demon’s backstory, I’ve been going over The Demon itself, identifying as many of the problem spots in Ice’s story as I can, and then fixing or subverting them wherever possible. Because as much as I want Fire (the male lead) to be an example for young boys to look up to, I also want Ice to be the same for young girls.

And until I get her to that point, the backstory for The Demon is gonna have to wait.

Catch you all next week.

A Different Kind of Exorcism

Last Sunday, I made a choice.

Last Sunday, I made a choice that I can still hear the people in my life telling me was the wrong choice. That it was the stupid choice, the reckless and irresponsible choice, and I know that their reasons for saying so are valid.

I also know that I made the right choice for me.

Last Sunday, I put in my two weeks notice at work.

I made this choice for a variety of reasons, but I suppose the simplest way to explain those reasons is this: If it meant that I would make enough money that I could afford to move out of my mother’s house, back into an apartment of my own, and support myself going forward, I would happily sacrifice both my writing and my streaming. If it meant finally becoming truly financially independent, I would give up on my dream of making a living as TheGamingAuthor with barely a second thought.

But I wasn’t making enough money, and I found myself still having to sacrifice both my streaming and my writing for it.

As you can probably imagine, I found that trade to be… less than ideal.

So I put my notice in.

I made the choice that was right for me while it was still a choice I was able to make.

Because here’s the thing: I know who I am, I know what I want, and I know what I have to do to get what I want. And if the day ever comes where I have to put down my quills and controllers, then I have to know that I’ve already tried as hard as I can to succeed with them, and have failed anyway. Perhaps that’s an overly fatalistic view of the world to take, but it’s one that’s allowed me to drive myself as hard and as far forward as I’ve already come.

On the bright side of things, working this job for the last nine months like I have been has shown me just how far I really can push myself if and when the situation calls for it. It’s shown me just how much work I can really get done in “X” amount of time. It’s taught me how valuable time really is, and how much more efficiently I can utilize it now that I appreciate its value.

It’s given me more confidence and faith than I’ve ever had before that I really can pull this off, and make this dream of mine a reality.

And you know what? Even if I do fail and this dream I have never comes true, thanks to the last nine months of having this job, I now know that I’ll still be able to make something fun and enjoyable out of my life.

So that’s all I’ve really got for you all this week. No real progress to speak of on the writing front. Largely because I’ve spent most of this last week too stressed out to even think about it, but that’ll all change for me very soon. I’ve still got two more weeks of work to do at my job, and then following that I’ll probably take an extra week to *finally* kick back, relax, and catch up on all the other Life-related things I’ve missed out on over the last several months.

So when that all wraps up, I’ll see you all right back here again.