I really should have known better than to ever declare that I was going to be a more active blogger on my blog. That pretty much guaranteed that blogging would fall by the wayside in my life. Oh well.
Really, what happened to my online presence over the past year or so is that I’ve become so busy, that I’ve had to continually make choices between writing more blog posts, or writing actual stories. You know, the thing that blogging was supposed to help me stay on top of. So writing has been winning out over blogging for a while. Although many important things in my life have been winning out over both.
Work on my current novel project (the wasteland western-type story) continues incrementally.
Something newsworthy that involves my creative endeavors did happened in April: Petty Gods has been released! My submission of Azwa, Protector of Giant Stone Heads in the Wilderness is finally available for all to see, along with 99 absolutely obscure fictitious deities submitted way back in 2010. Even though it’s a freebie, it’s still sort of important to me personally, for reasons I’ll explain if you keep reading.
What the hell is Petty Gods you ask? (Well, I’m pretending you asked anyways). Pettys Gods was originally the project of one James Maliszewski, known for his old-school RPG blog Grognardia. Back in November of 2010, James put out the call for submissions of the pettiest and most minor godlings his blog readers could conceive of, to be compiled into a book for use in table-top role-playing games (D&D Basic and Labyrinth Lord specifically). The idea was to have a manual of the type of killable immortals that Michael Moorcock’s Elric might fight, only weirder.
So when I saw this, I said to myself “sure, why the hell not?” and wrote up a couple of submissions that I thought would fit the bill. I was quite excited to find out later that not only was my submission of Azwa chosen, but that Thomas Denmark‘s artwork had made my little petty godling look like a total asskicker.
This acceptance of my little three-paragraph blurb helped to put me on the path I’m on now. The same day I submitted my gods to James M., I decided to call in sick to work and keep writing. That day was the first day in a long time that I spent revisiting old abandoned projects, and finally putting pen to paper on new ideas that were kicking around in my head. A few months later, I began my personal novel writing month, and completed my first real milestone as a budding author.
James M. put the project on hold to work on paying gigs, and eventually disappeared from the internet altogether. (If you want to know more about James’s disappearing act and why certain people are pissed off about it, just Google “Dwimmermount”. Fair warning: the vitriol might be overwhelming.)
But now, thanks to the efforts of the amazing Greg of the blog known as Gorgonmilk, Petty Gods lives! The original text is currently available for free download on Gorgonmilk (scroll down and look for the free downloads on the left-hand side). My submission is on page 21, but be sure to check out everyone else’s godlings too! Even if you couldn’t give a rat’s ass about D&D, this collection is fantastic inspiration for anyone interested in any type of speculative fiction. (Tyop, god of Print Errors and Minor Heresies might be my favorite so far).
Greg Gorgonmilk didn’t want to stop there, however. He’s since expanded the project well beyond what anyone else might have originally conceived of. (Some of these new petty gods ain’t so petty seeming!) Check out his past blog posts to see what he’s doing with it. Even Michael Moorcock and Gene Wolfe have submitted to the forthcoming expanded version! (Greg, you delightful madman you!)
A Last Bit on Me
Ok, so now that I’ve thoroughly buried the lead, there’s a bit more news to share, and it’s a major reason why I’ve been so busy.
The Ninja-Girlfriend became the Ninja-Fiancé, and will become the Ninja-Wife before the end of the year.
So yeah, there’s been quite a lot going on with me. Hopefully I’ll be returning to blogging semi-regularly, but seriously, no promises. There is some hope that maybe now that we’ve finally moved in together, and are starting to get settled, it will be easier to organize writing time. Or so I tell myself…
Between the craggy peaks of the Mountains Storming and the inscrutable wilderness that is the Ocean Untamed, within the ruins of an ancient city of Old Ubilam, beneath a once grandiose palace of a nearly forgotten family of sorcerers and warlocks, there is a labyrinth. Within this labyrinth there is said to be a vault that contains the forgotten knowledge of the ancients, both sorcerous and technological in nature. This labyrinth, the purpose of which is ostensibly to prevent access to the knowledge-filled vault, is said to contain many dangers an guardians of the unnatural variety.
It is through this vault that Reynard, self-described treasure-finder, ran for his life while carrying the wounded body of his comrade. Reynard and his companions, most of whom were now deceased, had come expecting danger. They were experienced explorers of similar ancient ruins. They were not even especially frightened at the first sight the walking dead guardians that they had encountered. What they had not counted on was that the walking dead would be armed with flintlock pistols and muskets, or that they would be such excellent shots. And the living intruders had been especially surprised that the unliving marksmen would have the mental faculties required to set ambushes.
Wrote this a long, long while back. Still not sure what I want to do with it, but I decided the words had languished unread in my notebook for too long.
Figuring out how to structure my writing time has proven more difficult than I thought, but at least I’ve accomplished some of my goals. My problem over the past couple of months has really been the same problem I had the couple of months before that. Time management.
Trying to balance the things I want to do (like writing, brewing beer, playing RPGs with friends, etc.) with the things I sort of want to do except for the part that requires actual work (like planning an upcoming trip, searching for the right grad school program, etc.) with the things that I have to do whether I like it or not (like the day job, paying taxes, etc.) has been especially difficult for me these past couple of months. It seems as if on some nights, when I should have the time to accomplish something, the pressure of everything I feel like I should be doing is almost too much, and I end up just flopping on the couch to catch up on the last week of TV that’s on the DVR.
I know, I’m my own worst enemy. I have no one to blame but myself. (And adulthood. Who invented this stupid idea of having to be a grown-up?)
Here’s the good news. With respect to the Goals I set about two months ago, Goal No. 1 was completed. I finished writing on time, though I held off on submitting it for a bit while I waited for some feedback from some trusted readers. Some of that feedback never came, but I said to heck with it, I know what I wrote is awesome anyways. Of course I’ll tell you here if it’s accepted.
Goal No. 2 was sort of completed. The product I ended up with here just never felt like it came together. Probably because it felt, I don’t know, rushed? I need to take more time here.
Goal No. 3, was not completed. The simple reason for this is that I realized I was trying to rush it, and it was wasn’t coming together the way I had hoped. I will also be taking more time here, but not until after I feel I’ve written something that satisfies Goal No. 2.
What I’ve learned here is that I’m not yet ready to layer several writing projects on top of one another. At least, not if I want to fulfill any of life’s other obligations and desires. So, as an experiment, my goal-setting exercise was at least a partial success. And the only casualty has been a bit of my self-esteem.
My neglecting this blog for a month hasn’t been helpful either. My main purpose in blogging has been to help me maintain focus on my writing. No blogging, no focus, no writing. No writing, no focus, no blogging. It’s a vicious cycle.
Alright, that’s enough navel-gazing. Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves, put on my writer’s cap (Note to self: find a good writer’s cap), and get back blogging, get back to reading your blogs, and get back to creating!
So how’ve you been?
Been busy lately with both real life and work on my self-imposed projects, but I wanted to let those of you who follow this thing know that I haven’t gone away. And I have something awesome to share with you.
“Radioactive Wolves” is a PBS documentary I only recently discovered that’s all about the return of true wilderness and keystone species (like wolves!) to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. It’s truly amazing and humbling just how quickly nature returns to a place once the human presence is removed. There’s more than a couple seeds for future stories in this.
I missed this when it originally aired on TV back in October. Fortunately, those of us in North America can still view it online for free. Check it out.
Note: The embed may not work for some reason, so you can also just click here to go to the page where the video is hosted.
I started to write what I thought might be a long post, but then realized that there’s probably not a whole lot I can say about Nine Inch Nails that would be news to anyone reading this. To anyone who draws artistic inspiration from music, the music of NIN, and by extension most anything by Trent Reznor really, is an auditory map of a dark and mysterious dreamscape inhabited by vibrant nightmares and emotional catharsis.
You need inspiration for a character’s rage? Check.
You need inspiration for a character who feels betrayed? Check.
You need inspiration for a character who’s lost their way, either literally or figuratively? Big check.
You need inspiration for a character who’s determined to find their way back through the darkness whatever it takes? Double check.
If for some reason you’re not so familiar with this band’s body of work, it’s easy to fix that. You can download an entire album for free at their official website, The Slip. Though personally my favorites are the double album, The Fragile, and it’s follow-up, With Teeth. If you’ve listened to them, can you see how they’ve helped shape my latest novel project?
I have to admit I feel a little hesitant about embedding a music video below in this case. When have you ever seen a music video that lived up to the pictures in your head?
Trent Reznor’s more recent work on the film soundtracks of The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo are different from, but no less impressive than his earlier work with NIN. But so far, I’m not quite as impressed with Trent’s latest project, How to Destroy Angels as a band separate from the Dragon Tattoo soundtrack. They sound just a bit too much like NIN without actually sounding like them. Listening to their EP (also a free download) just makes me wish NIN would make its official comeback already.
1. ( initial capital letter ) revelation
2. any of a class of Jewish or Christian writings that appeared from about 200 b.c. to a.d. 350 and were assumed to make revelations of the ultimate divine purpose.
The ending of the world as we know it has been a popular topic for a very long time. Since pre-Biblical times possibly. Lately, it seems especially popular in fiction, with all manner of sub-genres rounding out the retinue. There’s the always popular nuclear holocaust apocalypse,
the many varieties of zombie apocalypse,
the incurable plague apocalypse,
the more recent climate-change apocalypse,
and for those who see this as more than just fiction there’s the good-old-fashioned Rapture and the ensuing Hell on Earth.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that those you reading this all have some idea of where to find examples of the above without my actually linking to them. In fact, there’s practically too many examples out there to choose from. I think there’s a good reason that such stories are popular, and it’s not just the human race’s fascination with it’s own destruction. Once we’ve liberated a set of characters from the confines of a structured and “civilized” world, there’s a whole new wild frontier of the unknown out there waiting to be explored. To me, the idea of the world after the collapse of this civilization just screams Western.
When it comes to my new big project (mentioned previously here), both the setting and the main characters sprang into my head at the same time, inspired by some of my favorite music. At the time I began to daydream this story up I wasn’t very familiar with most of what was out there in the way of post-apocalyptic fiction. Sure I’d seen the Mad Max movies, the original Night of the Living Dead, I’d read about the thermonuclear parnoia of the Cold War, heard my parents talk about freaking out during the Cuban Missle Crisis, and I knew a little bit about the view of the end 0f days supposedly portrayed in the Christian book of Revelations. I hadn’t even played Fallout yet!
So what does my vision of the collapse of civilization look like? Over the decade-plus that this story has been bouncing around in my head, the setting has undergone some cosmetic changes based on what I’ve read and watched. But at the core, the causes are the same. My apoclayptic premise is simply this: Unable to cope with a simultaneous economic collapse and severe erratic shifts in the climate, the government infrastructure of most industrialized nations collapses, followed by the rapid degradation of physical infrastructure (utilities, roads, etc.) as people begin fighting over what’s left. Everyone is so obsessed with trying to either keep the old system alive, or building a new society according to their own beliefs, that civil rights, human rights, and common decency get trod under the boots of hundreds of various paramilitary factions and religious fanatics. Vigilante justice becomes common place. In places that have an economy to speak of, debt-slavery becomes acceptable, followed by lifetime slavery in some places. It’s like the American Wild West collided with the post-Roman Dark Ages, and people did more to bring it about more than any one disaster.
I particularly enjoyed the novel Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler for many reasons, but among them was the fact that her version of the apocalypse was very similar to my own. A major difference between the two is that the gradual collapse of civilization in Parable is told through the eyes and ears of a teenager living through it. My story starts about 30 to 50 years after the time everyone points to as “the collapse.”
While I’ve pretty much written off nuclear war as a cause of The End in this case, I’m coming up with more and more reasons to include nuclear-powered and radioactive disasters, even if they’re only symptoms of civilization’s failings in my own flavor of dystopia. There’s this especially informative article I like about what’s been happening inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone over the past 25 years that gave me some ideas I think are just too good not to use. Radioactive wilderness with mutated animals is every bit as awesome to me as a scarred wasteland. On a sidenote, it will be very interesting to see what becomes of the Fukushima area over the next decade or two. And on a scary note, just a few hours before I started writing this there’s been an incident with nuclear reactor in Illinois. I seriously hope this doesn’t turn out to be another case where the real story about how much radiation was released comes out weeks later.
If my post-apocalyptic frontier wasteland-and-wilderness setting seems too thin, that’s alright. Most of the story I’ve got so far is about the characters, which is as it should be. The setting will become whatever it needs to be as I write more actual story. As I’ve mentioned before, I work best starting with minimal setting details.
Though I think this isn’t a bad summary of civilization’s end either.
Today marks my 31st birthday. Not sure I have any especially clever insights into how it feels to turn this old/young right now, but I do have a couple entertaining tidbits to mark the occasion with. (Entertaining to me at least.)
Today in 1972, a Japanese soldier who was unaware WWII had ended was found hiding out in the jungles of Guam. Wasn’t there an episode of Gilligan’s Island based off of that?
I happen to share this particular date of birth with a few noteworthy artist-type people, including Ernest Borgnine, Neil Diamond, and Sharon Tate. Also Frederick II of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great). Historical sidenote: “the Great” is the epithet typically given to rulers who instigate the bloodiest wars of their time.
Personally, I’ve always been proudest of the fact that I share my birthday with my maternal grandfather. Though he passed away while I was a teenager, the man is still an inspiration to me. If there were one person no longer among the living I could show my work to get an opinion from them, it would be him.