Goal Post: End of Another Quarter

The second quarter of the 2022-2023 school year has ended . . . Time is going by quickly, but it’s also dragging.  Not sure how that’s possible.

Anyway, I have to admit that I didn’t get much in the way of writing done after last Saturday.  I did hit the 1/3 mark of Darwin & the Demon Game.  Wrote chapter 5 in one day and then rested with the intention of tackling chapter 6 on Sunday.  I don’t know what went wrong.  My brain was foggy and unfocused.  I had sinus pain and my anxiety was blipping.  All I managed to accomplish was part of a section, which took me all day.  I even stopped mid-paragraph because my mind and body just wouldn’t function like it did Saturday.  I’m hoping to finish it today while my son draws.  Maybe I’ll finish chapter 6 this week and have the ability to finish 7 and 8 next weekend.

Still, I’m kind of confused and worried about what happened.  I woke up Saturday after a great night of sleep.  Ate well and even got my car into the shop for an oil change.  Sunday was supposed to be easier with more sleep and no errands/chores.  Instead, I woke up feeling anxious and brutalized.  I’m wondering if I still have long covid issues because it felt like one of my bad days during the summer.  The weather can be triggering things too and it was pretty nasty out.  Oddest part is that writing tends to wear me out more than anything else.  I don’t understand why even though a friend suggested that I probably burn more energy writing than doing other low-thinking activities.  Doesn’t help that I think I’m a hack right now and hate everything I do.

My week was fairly busy too.  My son had late appointments on Monday and Tuesday as well as 3 tests to study for.  It wasn’t until Wednesday night that things almost settled, but I’m back on the summer camp hunt.  Hoping that one I look at today works out.  Again, this added stress and broke my focus.  It made it that I couldn’t muster the desire to write, blog, bike, or do more than take a shot of Zzzquil and crawl into bed.  So, it wasn’t as productive a week as I’d hoped.

Work was easier though.  At least, the students had half-days.  I didn’t get to go home early, but it meant a few extra hours to decompress.  Next week is back to the usual schedule, which isn’t bad.  The students I work with are great and make my day go by quickly.  I get home tired and use the last of my energy to help my son with his homework, but the exhaustion is for good causes.  He shouldn’t have many tests coming up since the new quarter just started.  Still, you never know what’s coming.  Best to brace myself for anything.

My anxiety has gotten better.  Only had one night of panic attacks and three mornings where I felt like my skeleton was trying to escape through my mouth.  Sounds rough, but it’s progress.  I still haven’t found the best time to take the calming pills since they make me drowsy.  Tried in the morning once and it had me dizzy until noon.  Night isn’t worthwhile since the Zzzquil works better.  Experimentation will have to do until I find time to get to a doctor.  Time is limited and the next big thing is to get something on my car handled.  I was going to do that this weekend, but I needed to go somewhere.  Next weekend should work out better.

Wish I had more to excite people with.  Nothing to talk about as far as sales go and I still haven’t decided on how/when to publish the Darwin series.  With my other books not selling at all, it’s hard to justify paying for cover art and taking large chunks of time to edit the books.  I remember being told long ago that the best way to keep selling books is to keep publishing, but that was a lie.  Once ‘Legends of Windemere’ stopped, the majority of my audience left.  Only a handful of people cared to try ‘Ichabod Brooks’, ‘Bedlam’, and ‘War of Nytefall’.  That’s why it’s had to muster any confidence for my next series.  The whole thing has me questioning my abilities, decisions, past, and . . . Well, everything about myself.  Yeah, I know this will earn some optimistic platitudes, but I feel like saying it here.

Television hasn’t been much either.  Still slowly working through ‘Fruits Basket’.  I didn’t get far because of all the appointments that forced me to eat a late dinner.  Then it was get ready for bed and pass out within 30 minutes.  That might have been part of the problem since the food didn’t have much time to digest.  This coming week doesn’t have any late night appointments, so I should be able to shed a good amount of anxiety.  Fingers crossed there.

Goals of the week:

  1. Sleep better.
  2. Help son with homework.
  3. Investigate more meditation and calming techniques.
  4. Write at least one more chapter of Darwin & the Demon Game.
  5. Finish the April blog posts.
  6. Bike at least twice this week.
  7. Prepare more tax stuff.
  8. Puzzle time when too stressed.
  9. Order some manga from the library to read while stuck in an office for 4 hours in a few weeks.  (Long story.)
  10. Maybe a Super Bowl meme post for the 12th to get it off my mind.
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Time to Populate the Dungeon . . . On a Budget

ROUS

Dungeon Master–  Time to get my lair ready.  What do we have on the list?

Contractor– You wanted to order some monsters.  Got the list right here.

DM– Excellent. Let’s start with the entrance.

Contractor– I have some gargoyles on sale.  Maybe a multi-headed dog from hell or even a griffin.

DM– Giant spiders.  Really big ones with poison.  Is it venom?  Have them be as big as a small child.

Contractor–  Okay.  Confusing final order, but I’ve got it.

DM– First hallway should have large rats.  Wait, that’s been done before.  How about large caterpillars?

Contractor– Sure . . . How big are we talking?

DM– I’d say the size of a that table.  We should put some plants in here for them to eat.  I don’t want them devouring my tapestries.

Contractor–  If that’s a concern, I wouldn’t go with caterpillars.

DM– The inner gardens should have giant ocelots, large rabbits, huge bees, enormous skunks, and a single gigantic cobra.  Here is a list of sizes.

Contractor–  I’m noticing a theme.  I should point out that we don’t carry dire version of every animal.  These may take some time.  When are those heroes coming?

DM–  Next week . . . Oh, I have a lake too.  Get me a giant octopus and a few giant sharks to put in there.

Contractor–  Those are saltwater creatures.  Lakes are freshwater.  Even if they could survive in there, they’d eat each other.

DM– Can you provide saltwater?

Contractor– No.

DM– In that case, I will go with large . . . frogs.  They need to be big enough to eat full grown men.  Try to get the colorful ones that are poisonous.

Contractor–  Sure, but I’m think I should warn you about the risk of using large animals only.  Unlike monsters, they require a lot more mundane maintenance.  They don’t feed off magic like dragons, hydras, and unicorns.  They will eat each other.

DM–  I don’t follow.

Contractor– Most of your defenses will make lunch of itself before your enemies arrive.

DM–  We need birds above the lair.  Giant gulls would be perfect.  Those things eat everything, including my chips whenever I go to the beach.  Maybe a bunch of large owls for the night.  Can we get a dire condor?

Contractor–  I can get you a bunch of rocs.

DM–  Don’t be silly.  Those are related to eagles.  Condors are a type of vulture.

Contractor–  Now, you know what you’re talking about.  Fine.  I get paid no matter how much of a disaster this is.  Anything else?

DM–  I’ll have several giants lions, a giant giraffe, two giant moose for the backyard, a giant tapir, a small army of large platypuses, a giant giant panda, and . . . I think a few giant penguins would work.

Contractor–  I’ll get to work on the procurements.

DM–  Oh, I need one more thing.

Contractor–  What?

DM–  A giant amoeba.

Contractor–  A giant . . . amoeba.  Something that is typically microscopic . . . But giant.

DM– Yes.

Contractor– Not a slime?

DM– Heaven’s no.

Contractor– It has to be an amoeba.

DM– Yes.

Contractor– I see . . . Well . . . I quit.

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How to Use Prologues, Part 11, Prologues and Epilogues

Image courtesy of Tumisu via Pixabay Hi SErs! It’s a day of Harmony here at Story Empire 🙂 Today, I’d like to talk about epilogues in relation to …

How to Use Prologues, Part 11, Prologues and Epilogues
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Poetry Day: Death to the Remixer

Yahoo Image Search

(Forgot which remix set me off on this one.  Probably went overboard, but I really hated the new version.)

The horror that you made

Thinking you have skill

With an ear made all of tin

All I hear is noise

Tearing at my ears

A shrieking mutation

Of a piece I claimed to love

Drowned in a synthetic beat

Born of a drunken chimp

Vomiting on a keyboard

There was nothing wrong

With the work you chose to rape

Did you ever hear the song?

Before adding your own twist

Like a murderer stabbing slow

I hear the familiar words

Fighting against your viral beat

Seeking their old form

Take a lesson from your betters

And leave their songs alone

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The Last Drive Tour with Joan Hall

I am excited to be with Joan Hall to talk about The Last Drive. You can visit her post HERE. Joan and I are both members of Story Empire. Since the …

The Last Drive Tour with Joan Hall
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Need a Monster? Make an Animal Gigantic

Google Image Search

One of the most common ways to come up with a monster is to simply go large.  These are traditionally called ‘dire’ beasts, which simply means these are animals that are bigger than normal.  They also tend to be more aggressive and may have additional weapons like spikes.  Although, you start moving away from the simpler stuff once you begin changing the best.  So, why is this so common?

Put simply: It’s easy!  Fantasy authors are juggling a lot when it comes to writing.  They have magic systems, colorful characters, non-human races, designing cultures, and everything else that goes into world-building from scratch.  Monsters are a fun aspect of it, but the temptation to occasionally go with a large beast is strong.  If the battle isn’t with a plot central threat and acts only as an encounter to direct the heroes somewhere, you’re going to make things easy on yourself.  Hence, you take an animal and increase its size until you’re satisfied.

You don’t have to overthink this concept either even though restraint might be necessary in some situations.  For example, have a dire blue whale is fairly extreme.  That’s already the biggest animal on Earth, so why go bigger?  Makes more sense to have a blue whale-sized dolphin or just modify the whale to be a new creature.  This means that you do have to put some thought into these beasts.  They are ripe for shifting into the realm of absurdity and reveal some level of laziness.

Of course, the key reason people may be highly critical of these beasts is that there is a trend to analyze monsters.  Many readers try to figure out how realistic it is that such creatures would exist.  Dragons get a lot of attention due to their size requiring a lot of food and bigger wings that they are depicted with.  Yes, science can step in and ruin the fun of fantasy.  It’s easier to do with giant animals because we have them in the real world and they aren’t seen as magical.  Have a mouse the size of a mountain?  People will question the structure of its lungs, the sturdiness of their bones, and whatever else they can pull from real mouse physiology.  You’ll also have people pointing out that it’s basically a giant rat with the true confidence of someone who is wrong.

These questions are frustrating, but some of them do pay to consider.  The larger the animal, the more food it will need.  This becomes very sticky when you go with an herbivore.  We are used to carnivores going long periods without food or with very little food.  Herbivores need to eat more often, so a group of dire ones could swiftly wipe out a forest.  You would need a dire predator to take on the prey animals, which leads the way towards creating a full ecosystem of giant beasts.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it undoes an author’s desire to toss in an easy creation and move on.

Now, I’ll admit that I might be overreacting here.  People might not question these creatures or an author can ignore the situation.  Just say that magic is part of it and walk away.  Still, the more that you use this trick, the greater the chance that you may have to delve a little further into their existence.  This could be triggered by your own curiosity on why there are so many large beasts roaming around.  It would be strange for that to be so common.

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Creature Feature #1

Hi Gang. Craig with you for my first post of the new year. I was lamenting a lack of ideas for Story Empire content, when one of my colleagues …

Creature Feature #1
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The Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks Paperback and eBook Available!

Cover Art by Circecorp

The Life & Times of Ichabod Brooks is a fun, popular, and interesting addition to my library.  It stands as the only short story collection I’ve written, but the odd thing is that middle adjective.  People really enjoy Ichabod’s adventures.  He’s an experienced adventurer who takes jobs to put food on the table.  There’s no grand quest beyond making sure his family is supported.  So, I got to write him like an average person who goes on adventures with magical gear.  People really liked his personality and how he treated his adventures like 9-5 jobs.  Yet, the collection never seems to move.

Feel free to change that by getting the paperback for $12 or the eBook for $2.99.  That’s 11 adventures for those prices.  Check out the teaser to get a taste of what’s going to happen.

*****

Stripped of his gear and dangling from the ceiling, Ichabod Brooks patiently waits for his captors to return. There are no furnishings in the cell, so he hopes that he will be visited soon or the guards will listen when he has to yell for the bathroom. The adventurer is not as worried as he was when the locals swarmed him at the port and dragged him to the hilltop manor. Only a few cuts and bruises on his legs remain from the attack, which he put up little resistance against due to being severely outnumbered. Ichabod has spent the last hour wondering what is going on and doing what he can to stop his muscles from aching. With his own muscular weight pulling on his shoulders, he can feel the joints locking up and repeatedly swings to wrap his legs around the window bars. The awkward stretch is enough to take the pressure off his arms, but his lower back will not take much more. Even with the rising pain, the adventurer remains calm and passes the time thinking of what kind of mess he wandered into.

With a click, the door opens and three muscular men enter the room with a cart that has a bowl of soup on it. The one with a sword lowers the prisoner to the floor, but remains with his hand on the chain in case Ichabod tries anything. A single yank on the tether is all that the barely clothed guard needs to send the dark-skinned man to the ceiling. The other two silently go about feeding the adventurer and removing his clothes. Due to the chains, his shirt and pants are carefully cut apart with scissors and the strips are thrown into the hallway. Once the food is gone, two more guards and three young women enter. Ichabod tenses when they wipe him down with warm sponges that have a familiar perfume on them. He is busy trying to place the smell when a fresh set of clothes are placed on the floor and everyone leaves. A loud snap from the ceiling is enough of a warning that the adventurer can leap away from the severed chain, which lands with a thud.

“That could have killed me,” Ichabod mentions while he frees himself. Squinting at the door, he can barely make out the shadow of someone moving on the other side. “Do you mind telling me why I’m in jail? I came here on a job. Something about a garden that needed magical care that only I could provide. My employer, who I assume owns this estate, even gave me a list of equipment to bring. That should have been a sign that this was a trap. My wife isn’t going to let me live this one down.”

“It is an honor to meet and serve you, Lord Brooks,” the guard says with an odd click of his heels. The man’s voice is devoid of emotion, but its power helps it to be clearly heard through the door. “We have been asked to prepare you for an introduction to our Empress. I apologize on behalf of Errenshar for any confusion you are suffering from. It was our orders to bring you here and hold you until our Empress was ready. She has stated that you have a habit of overreacting and causing trouble, so she thought it best to prepare you in the dungeon.”

“This is a dungeon?” the adventurer asks while he gets dressed. The clean floor and white walls remind him more of an unfurnished bedroom than a place where one would normally place criminals. “Well, your Empress might not want to listen to those bard tales too much. I don’t go out of my way to cause trouble. Just seems to happen. These are pretty fancy clothes. Makes me think there’s something you’re not telling me.”

“My only job is to escort you to lunch when you are ready.”

“Do I get my gear back?”

“All of your equipment has been given to the Empress.”

“Of course it has.”

“Would you like to know today’s menu?”

“We’ll save that for the walk.”

Unnerved by the guard, Ichabod sits on the floor to put on a pair of leather boots that fit perfectly. Putting his arms over his head and stretching, he is surprised that the clothes feel like they were custom made for him. The shirt is his favorite shade of light brown and the buttons are shaped like tiny dread boars. His new pants are comfortable no matter what position he is in and the fabric allows just enough air through to keep his legs cool. Ichabod chuckles when he notices that the belt buckle is an arrow that clicks into a longbow. He cannot stop himself from smiling at the thought of what he has walked into.

“Been a long time since we played games like this,” the adventurer whispers with a gentle sigh. Picking up a dark red cape, he clips it to the latches that are blended into the shoulders of his shirt. “Although, I don’t remember her ever using that kind of perfume. Did I buy that for her during an anniversary or a birthday? Been so many presents from one to the other that we’ve both lost track. Wish she didn’t go to this much trouble though. These actors are very wooden, which gave everything away. Unless that’s part of the trick and she has something else planned that I’ll be distracted from.”

“Are you ready to go, Lord Brooks?” the guard asks, the door shaking as he grips the handle. There is the loud clang of a sword falling to the floor, but there is no scrambling or cursing in response to the accident. “I apologize for the noise. The Empress does not wish for you to be disturbed until you are ready. Please tell me when it is time to go. I must send word of our departure to the cooks, so that the food will be warm. If you would like me to tell you the menu, I will do so to help pass the time while you finish getting dressed. I know that at your age, it is more difficult to move quickly.

The adventurer cracks his knuckles and bites his lower lip to stop himself from shouting at the young man. “I finished a few minutes ago. Just wanted to make sure everything was in the right place. No sense rushing such an important and intimate meeting. Feel free to let me out whenever you’re ready. Be nice to get some romantic time with the wife, especially if she’s going all out with the fun. Really have to make this up to her soon. There’s that enchanted sword she’s been wanting for a while, so maybe we can do a couple’s adventure like the old days. Been a while since we did that together.”

“Excuse me, but we must go quickly,” the young man states as he opens the door. He turns on his heels and marches down the hallway, forcing Ichabod to jog up to him. “Before I tell you what we are having, I have been asked to tell you the one rule. The Empress does not wish for you to talk about your wife. She says that would ruin the fun.”

“Okay . . . Not even-”

“There are no exceptions to this rule.”

A pang of worry and caution seeps into Ichabod’s heart, but he ignores it since his wife may want to play a game. Although he does not remember her ever being this type of playful, he has heard of such couple retreats. One of his employers raved about one that allowed him and his wife to be pirates for a few days. The getaway included gnomish illusions and working with various governments to avoid messy misunderstandings, but the man swore that it was well worth the cost and early hassle. Clinging to the idea that his wife is surprising him with such an exciting adventure, Ichabod fixes his collar and uses one of the many mirrors in the hallway to make sure his hair is neat.

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#2 of 2022: Chase Scene Post?

(Surprised to see this one in the Top 5 much less at #2.  Originally posted on January 14th, 2022.)

Matrix

While a staple of action movies, the chase scene isn’t as easy to pull off when it comes to books.  They depend a lot on visuals to create the right amount of suspense and tension, which means word choice is imperative.  Too little and you have a chase scene that feels more like a walk around the block.  Too much and a reader can lose track of where everyone is in the scene.  So, what can you do to make this easier?

  1. You need to choose one perspective and stick to that.  Jumping from even one pursuer to the another can be confusing.  You certainly can’t leap from the hunter to the hunted without it being jarring since this is a fast-paced scene.  It isn’t even getting their thoughts, but who the ‘camera’ will be following.  If you want to show what the other side is doing then it has to be done through the same lens as everything else.
  2. Describe the terrain and make note of what kinds of obstacles will appear to get the reader ready for them.  You want them to imagine that trees are in the way if there’s a forest or traffic will play a part in an urban setting.  It can reduce the impact if the reader doesn’t know the setting and figures it out halfway through with a jolt of realization.  This can result in them having to restart the building of tension in their minds.
  3. Remember that both parties are moving at high speed and focused on the pursuit instead of their surroundings.  This means they will be distracted and won’t always react perfectly to unexpected obstacles.  Now, you can sidestep this issue by having the drivers focus on running away while the passengers focus on defense, but that doesn’t always work.  Not having vehicles or those that only allow one person means that they are trying to pay attention to the road and their enemies.  So, the chase can and should take sudden turns when the unexpected happens.
  4. Get a feel for how the vehicles you choose will work under the conditions you have set up.  If you’re using cars and it’s snowing then remember that the tires might not have the best grip of the road.  If you have horses then you need to factor in fatigue and a lower time limit than if machines are used.  Every vehicle has its own pros and cons, so it helps to do a little research.
  5. Yes, we know everybody loves to see explosions and vehicles flying through the air.  All you have to do is make sure it fits the setting.  Also, land vehicles do get damaged if they soar through the air and slam down onto the pavement.  Not to mention people inside are going to get jolted around.
  6. Seatbelts!
  7. The key to a chase scene is suspense and tension.  This is established by describing the scene in details that touch on every sense.  Note how characters are acting as they move along.  Describe the state of the vehicles and how the scenery goes by.  Sounds are incredibly important here such as screeching tires and metal hitting metal.  You need to paint a fast-moving, kinetic picture with your words from beginning to end.  If you find yourself breathing heavy and sweating then you’re on the right track.
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Metaphysical Elements In Writing – Intro

Hello, SE’ers! It’s the beginning of a new year and the start of a new series. I hope your year has started off strong with abundant inspiration! I …

Metaphysical Elements In Writing – Intro
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