Monday, September 26, 2011

Between the Lines - The Coffee Machines

It's been a while since I've written one of these, so I thought it was well past time for another entry in the Between the Lines series! This time, we'll take a look at the third short story of The Everyday Divnities Project...

The Coffee Machines

First off, let me give the last of the three-part apology carried through this series thus far. Much like "The TV and the Remote Control" and "The Alarm Clock" stories, this one was self-edited, and I have a hard time being objective about my work. I can proofread my own stuff, but it takes an editor who is not so attached to the characters or the themes to make the tough decisions regarding the voice of the characters and the economy of words. If you can't tell, I tend to be verbose, and I have this deep-seated need for ALL OF THE WORDS to go into my stories. Fortunately, this behavior is being corrected.

I kept with the previous mission statement for these short stories and focused on the gods within the inanimate objects as opposed to the humans who used them. Unlike those previous stories, there are no humans at all in this tale. They're referenced, absolutely, but they don't show up as actual characters in the story. I felt that the past two stories had eased people into the concept of a hidden world of inanimate objects and the divinities that made them work, allowing me to delve deeper into the world of the Inanimates without using people as the bridge to cross into that setting. In fact, the last two short stories I'd written are set up in a similar way, with the narrative set fully in their world from start to finish instead of our own.

The absence of humans in this story is balanced by putting two divinities in a very human situation, that of a job review. Even teenagers can relate to the tedium of a performance review at whatever mundane job they've taken on to make some money. I know I could! At the same time, it humanizes the characters by putting these all-powerful gods in a very mundane scene and gives some insight into how the Inanimates hierarchy works. How does one move up the ladder in this modern-day pantheon? Well, now you know.

For those who are wondering, the character of Taryn is an amalgamation of every boss I've ever worked for in my life, but the name has no relation to any of them whatsoever. Maybe you see a little bit of your supervisor or manager in Taryn, maybe not, but little pieces of each of my bosses over the years is represented somewhere in the story. (And no, I won't name which traits are from which boss!) As for Mr. Caulfie, whose name is a very obvious pun on the Mr. Coffee coffeemakers, I'll be honest and say that he's very much based on me in those situations.

My favorite part, though, is the employee record on Mr. C. These are all actual scenarios that I incorporated into the story, some that I'd seen firsthand and some that were relayed to me by others. I had a boss who used her coffee machine to brew tea, and there actually is a Mrs. Tea teamaker (made by the Mr. Coffee company) that has unfortunately been discontinued. Water leaking out onto the counter has been a fairly common problem I've noticed in office coffee machines in the various offices I've worked at, too. And the quote that Taryn gives from the file comes directly from my own mother, who was having problems with her own coffee machine. I'm pleased to report that it has since been fixed and brews amazing coffee once more without spilling a drop.

Incidentally, the goddess of coffee that Taryn will be working for is a prominent character in my trilogy. Does that mean that Taryn will show up in the course of that story? Only time will tell!

Got a question you'd like to ask about The Coffee Machines story? Feel free to post it in the comments section below, and I'll answer it right on this very page!

Quotables

"Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy."
Stephen King, Author, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tell The Truth Tuesday

It's that time again!

Yes, it's Tuesday morning, and it's about time I turned out another Tell The Truth Tuesday. So, by the numbers:

1. Speak Out With Your Geek Out was a fun event, and I'm glad I got to take part in it. I've always tried to display my geekitude in positive ways to show that it's not as scary as some people make it out to be, and I'm glad so many others felt the same way. It was a busy week for me, though, so I didn't get to delve into as much detail as I wanted to for my three posts last week. Then again, maybe that's a good thing. I could write an entire book on my geeky life, rife with more pop culture references than any two Tarantino films.

2. Did you know I was once asked to help create a horror movie that would feature RPGs? It's true! The players of the game would have been killed off through the movie by the villain/GM, and while character death is not foreign to gaming, I was not about to help facilitate the demonizing of the gaming community by working on that kind of project. I do, however, have a script in my head for a film that would put RPGs firmly in the fantasy action/adventure category. Maybe one day I'll put it down on paper...

3. ...But first, I should finish my trilogy. I must admit, the past few months have been hard on my creativity, and the next month isn't looking too much better. Sometimes, you need to take care of business to allow that creative energy to flow freely. Once I'm back on track, then I'll be able to rededicate myself to finishing my trilogy once and for all!

4. My anthology is almost ready to be digitally released to the wild! Just as I haven't had much time lately to dedicate to my trilogy, I haven't had time to get it formatted properly or to get a decent cover to my short story collection. Rest assured, though, it's coming!

5. My readership has gone up! Thanks to my Comic Booked reviews and the "Speak Geek" event, there's been a pleasant increase of readers on my blog, and I'm very grateful for the new page hits. Welcome, new people! I hope you enjoy what you read here and stick around for a while, there's plenty to get you caught up in the archives.

6. Star Wars was re-re-rereleased (again) this past week. I have not bought it. I probably won't buy it until the DVDs I have are no longer viewable, and by then, we'll have the entire series in 3-D for a re-re-re-rerelease. Sheesh!

7. I link to some of my Comic Booked articles here, but not all of them. While I like giving you all an easy way to see what else I'm writing when I'm not on this blog, I don't know if you really want to read all of my press releases, or my write-ups of comic book movie-related sightings, or even my reviews of comic books. But then, I've never asked you, my loyal readers, what you think of that content. Do you want to see more of it, and if so, how much? Would you rather I not link to it at all here? Let your voice be heard in the comment section below!

8. On a related note to the above question, are there any writing topics you'd like me to focus on for future posts? I try to give a little of everything and pass on information that might be useful or insightful to writing and being a writer, but the worst part is writing in a vacuum. Feedback is always welcome, and greatly prized by writers of all stripes! Just put it in the comment section below!

9. I love autumn because of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I hate autumn because the changing season screws with my head, both mentally and allergy-wise. When is Daylight Savings Time over? I can never remember...

10. I almost forgot! I have a Tumblr account now, where I put all of the geekiness that I refrain from bombarding you with here. You can check it out at the link here, but be warned, it's pretty crazy geeky!

And on that note, I think I'll call it here. Until next time, loyal followers!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Epic Game Night of Epicness!

I started this week of Speak Out With Your Geek Out with a look at my geeky life as it is today, then wrote about the long road it took to get here on Wednesday. Now I'll finish out the week by delving into my favorite geeky hobby of all time. No, not comic collecting, and not video games. Today, I'll write about tabletop roleplaying games.

Tabletop RPG has carried a huge stigma for decades. People condemn it as evil, demonic, and completely unsuitable for children. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, I'll bet if these naysayers actually sat down and took part in a game session, they'd understand just how harmless the games really are and why those nasty words are so undeserved.

Let's put it this way: Tabletop RPG is about as evil as amateur improv actors sitting and talking out a scene together, or children engaging in a game of cops and robbers. The only difference is that the "actors" have a sheet (or sheets) telling them what the character they're playing can do, and the argument of "I shot you, you're dead, you can't run around anymore" is easily solved by rolling dice. That's all it is at its core, really. It's a game of Let's Pretend played with friends around a table instead of a stage or the back yard.

I first got into tabletop RPGs in high school because my girlfriend at the time was into them and I wanted to spend more time with her. I was skeptical about the whole dice-rolling, stat-making part of it all, but she taught me the joy of creating a character and playing that character out in a scenario that the Game Master creates. That's the other difference here from the above example: The players all create their single character, speaking on behalf of that character, while one person takes up the duty of playing all the other characters that the players interact with. The GM also keeps the game moving by introducing story elements for the players to overcome, and has the final say when dice are rolled to see if a player succeeds in an action. The GM is like director, background actor and referee all in one.

Playing in a game is one thing, but running a game is something else. I discovered that particular joy fairly early on in my gaming pursuits. Running a game is a lot like writing a story, actually. You create a setting, you populate it with characters, and you develop a backstory to give it depth. You create a plot that draws the characters in and gives them something exciting to do. You make it fun and entertaining for yourself and your audience. The only thing you don't do is create the story's main characters. That's the players job, but you can work with them to make sure that their characters fit the kind of story you want to tell. In that way, it becomes like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book that is read aloud by one person, with everyone else making the choices to move the story forward.

I could see where some people might have a problem with kids pretending that they're witches and wizards, or vampires and werewolves, but those aren't the only RPGs out there. There are superhero games, science fiction games, historical games, any sort of game you can think of, and more than a few games set in your favorite TV show or movie. The only limit to what you can play is your imagination... and your GM's approval.

Give it a try at some point, you might surprise yourself and have a great time!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Secret Origin

On Monday, I posted about my geeky life and how awesome it is. But how did I get to that point? To answer that, I'll turn to the age-old comic book tradition of the superhero secret origin. Every hero, after all, has a great secret origin that gives meaning to their Hero's Journey. As a firm believer that we're all heroes in the midst of our own journey, it should come as no surprise that I also think we each have our own "secret origin" that gives it meaning. This is mine:

Looking back on my early life in New Orleans, it was no surprise that I turned out to be a geek. After all, my earliest memories were filled with programming my own video games, playing with my friend's Transformers, and watching Star Wars with my mom. Ghostbusters triggered my love of the supernatural, and Back to the Future led to my fascination with time travel. Sharing those interests with others was never easy for me to do as a kid, though. I was lucky in that I found a small group of kids like me in elementary school who were into Super Mario Bros. Super Show and playing "Let's Pretend" with Jedi and Sith instead of cops and robbers, but there weren't many of us. I'd wear my Ghostbusters belt to school and get made fun of for my interests. It was hard dealing with that as a kid, but at least I had my friends to geek out with after school.

Then I moved away from home to live with my mom and stepdad, leaving my geeky support group behind.

I took the loss well enough, but moving around to three different states in middle school made it hard for me to build a new circle of geek friends again. I never found friends I could geek out with in Florida, and just as I was making some good geeky friends in Indiana, we moved again to California. I understand why we moved so much, but man, it made life hard for me to start high school without knowing anyone. It's not like I was a social butterfly to begin with, and each move made it harder for me to open up to potential friends.

Fortunately, I found a good group of people to run with in high school, and I could be comfortably geeky again. I got into collectible card games and tabletop roleplaying games around this time, in addition to opening my wardrobe choices back up to geek attire. It was as though I had found myself again, and I made a vow to myself that I would never suppress who I am and what I like again. Granted, saying that's what you're going to do and actually doing it are two different things, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

It's been a long, long road to being comfortable in my geeky skin, but it's been a good one. I'm proud of who I am and what I like, and no one is going to convince me that my passion is wrong just because it's not mainstream.

Then again, looking at today's pop culture, it seems that geek is becoming the new mainstream more and more. I'm glad I've got a front row seat for the new geek order!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Speak Out With My Geek Out!

I'm freestyling this one instead of writing it up in Word first, because it's late but I still wanted to get something up for Speak Out With Your Geek Out. My apologies if this is not as polished as some of my other posts here, but I hope you'll bear with me.

I won't retread any geeky ground as I revisit my path to geekdom here. I've already done my fair share of, well, sharing little peeks into that world of video games, comics and roleplaying games here, here, here, here and here. I try to keep from going geek overload on this blog, instead using my Tumblr for the kind of stuff that doesn't quite fit into a blog about writing. Still, this event focuses on writing about being a geek, and since I'm a geek who writes, I should take the time to address that huge part of my life.

As I write this, I'm surrounded by pieces of my geek life. Cloud and Tifa stand atop my computer, guarding it with a wild-eyed dragon, though my name tag from the DigitalLA panel on digital comics infiltrated one side. When I pause to take a drink and consider my words, it's from a travel mug adorned with J!NX stickers. Behind my monitor, Cap's shield peeks from behind like a rising sun, a souvenir from my coverage of a comic book store event for Comic Booked. To the left of me are boxes of comic books and my World of Warcraft hoodie. To the right, a bookcase that is patrolled vigilantly by Optimus Prime, Spike, and a trio of characters from Kingdom Hearts. Behind me lies another bookcase full of role-playing books, predominantly from White Wolf Publishing, and mostly Mage books.

My life is filled to the brim with geekiness. On Tuesday nights, my friends and I get together around a conference room table and roll dice for Game Night. On Wednesday night, I'll get together with other friends and tear it up on either Xbox or Wii. I drive to work with fuzzy d20 dice hanging from my rear-view mirror, and my rear bumper is decorated with the blood elf emblem. On my wrist is a bracelet that says GEEK. I may be dressed in a button-down shirt, but my undershirt says "U.S. Department of Gaming Affairs" on it... and I may or may not be wearing Transformers boxers. And that's only my work attire. Once I'm out of the office, I fly my geek flag proudly with a legion of geeky t-shirts that declare my dragonslaying prowess, or my love of 8-bit games, or that my d10 does indeed go up to 11.

I love my geeky life. I love that I write about comics and pop culture for Comic Booked. I love that both Star Wars and Star Trek are part of my lexicon thanks to my mom. I love that I can quote Ghostbusters or The Princess Bride and my friends will follow it up with the next line of dialogue. I love that I have friends who draw comics and create shows for the web and sing about Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains. And I love that the world is full of people just like me who live geeky lives and aren't ashamed to admit it.

I also love that my gorgeous girlfriend Miss Loki brought over The Crow tonight... both the graphic novel and the movie. I'll cut this short, but expect more geekiness later in the week!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Quick Take On Speak Out With Your Geek Out

Geeks have always had a hard time with public acceptance of their geekiness, but it's a sad state of affairs when your fellow geeks are giving you a hard time about your corner of geekdom. Speak Out with your Geek Out aims to turn back the tide of negativity with positive, upbeat stories about geeks and their passions. Do you love Pokemon? Is your bookshelf cluttered with roleplaying books? Can you name every character in the Mos Eisley Cantina? What do you geek out about, and why should others try it out?

I'll be writing up my own story to contribute to this event, and I encourage you to do the same. Don't have a place of your own to fly your geek flag? Not a problem! I'd be happy to host your story here so you can join in the fun. Leave a comment about your participation below and we'll work out the details. The most important thing is to have fun with this and leave all the negativity outside. (That includes your edition wars and reboot gripes!)

What do you geek out about?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Quick Take On Klout

So, in addition to social networking, I've also gotten into this Klout thing, which measures your influence online. In addition to showing you who you influence and who influences you, it also gives you charts that show how your influence has played out online over time, as well as a list of your influential areas. My influence, according to the site, includes authors, writing, movies, comics, and... food? Well, Klout is still in beta, so it's probably not perfect, but if you want to see how my influence is apparently felt across the internet, check it out here!