The Waiting Game

I’m an actual week away now from having babies and I’m really excited. My wife is worried about the procedure and if they’ve developed enough and all of the typical things one should be worried about at this juncture, but I can’t get past the fact that there are going to be two babies in our lives now!

I always feel weird vocalizing this. I always think it sounds like I’m some sort of medieval king or something who desperately needs an heir so he knows there will be someone to continue his reign. Don’t get me wrong, legacy is cool, but I just want to meet them.

Getting a little personal on you here, it’s taken us years to get this far. We’ve been trying for a long time. She goes through all of the hormones and treatments and all I pretty much do is wait and watch. The lack of any kind of agency on my part has been absolutely maddening. I would do anything if asked of me, but there wasn’t much I could contribute in the long haul. Every month I’d have to go by what she thought she might be feeling or what something kind of looks like now. We started a running joke that a symptom of pregnancy should be that it turns your skin blue. All of the other symptoms: cramping, bloating, nausea, etc. are just too common. Everything has those symptoms. But not everything makes your skin blue, eh?

Anyway, so it finally happened and I’m absolutely thankful, but again, all I do is wait and watch. Now she tells me how they feel inside or oh this one moved or something. I’ve felt their flutterings with my hands and seen the ripples across her skin of them moving underneath like gestating aliens, but for the most part, the whole experience is second hand. My agency comes in the form of making her life as comfortable as possible and thanks to the transitive property, that means I’m helping out the babies too.

She can worry and stress enough for the both of us, that’s fine. Me? I’m sick of waiting. I’ve been sick of waiting a long time ago. I’m ready for action. So what if you’re never ready and all that jazz. Yeah, we’ll never be alone again. Yeah, going to the store is going to be an event of epic proportions now. Yeah, I’m going to forget what it was like to have even a little bit of money. I don’t care. Bring on those babies!

It gets me wondering. I like comic books and writing and video games and painting table top miniatures and soccer and the show So You Think You Can Dance … What kind of cool stuff are they going to be interested in. I don’t care if its writing like me or if its perfecting genetic strains of dandelions. I just want them to be passionate about something.

I’m usually in the camp that the anticipation of the thing is better than the payoff, but after years of waiting, I’m ready for this week to be over 🙂

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D-Day

It’s been an emotional couple of weeks. The original due date is August 23rd. I was about to type “was” but I guess the official number is still in effect. That’s when she’ll be officially 40 weeks along. We won’t hit that date, nor should we, but it doesn’t negate the fact that it exists.

We’ve moved up our time table to August 13th. That was what we’ve known since last week. I had a whole blog post prepared in my head about how ready we already are and all of the cool things we’re going to do between now and then. Then we went to the doctor’s today for the weekly checkup. Well, the wife is hanging in there – as are the babies – but everyone is getting a bit strained. They don’t want to wait until the 13th anymore. The new date is August 7th.

That’s a week from Friday.

We’re talking about single digits here.

I’m going to be a dad in a week!

You’d think that I’d be freaking out like most stereotypical males in this situation, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My wife, she’s the one who’s losing her marbles about this. Me? I couldn’t be more excited. Hell, make it tomorrow I don’t care. Well, maybe not tomorrow. Give me SOME time for the last minute stuff. But other than that, I’m through with this waiting game. All I’ve done is wait this entire time. It’s been years of waiting around while someone else tells me stuff about what’s going on. I’m through with it.

Well the wait’s finally over.

You’ll have to forgive me for the short post, but I have things to do! Clock is ticking here, people.

Blocking Fight Scenes

I always seem to run into the problem where I lead a protagonist into a situation against a giant monster/beast/enemy thing and then have to figure out what to do about it. Seriously, out of the 4 books I’ve written (counting the one I’m currently working on), it’s happened in 3 of them. I like fight scenes. I like watching fight scenes. But when it comes to writing them down, I hit something of a wall. I want a rampaging beast, but my mental space is totally blank.

There’s your backstory for what happened today. I’ve known for months now, that this particular fight was going to happen but all my notes say is something like:

– Abe shows up and ambushes Gus

– This is Abe’s last chance to redeem himself. He’s desperate

– They argue like brothers. Fight breaks out

That’s it. My next note is for what happens after the fact. Oh, and Abe is a werewolf. I should probably have mentioned that. In order for this scene to be interesting, something needs to happen. There needs to be danger and conflict. I realized yesterday that I couldn’t accurately visualize the fight because I didn’t know what was going to happen. Just like outlining the story itself, I needed to outline the fight. And that meant blocking.

I’ve heard of blocking fight scenes before. I meant to create a bullet point list of events, but I soon ran into the issue where I wanted to expand on things. Then I’d get lost and end up trying to figure out what was coming up next same as I would if I just winged the fight scene like usual. So I had a better idea. My experience with theater and role playing led me to this:

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I drew the layout of the room. Luckily, I had these two vinylmation guys at my desk to help out. And my wife said they were useless! We have Captain America there as my protagonist, Gus, and Oogie Boogie as the werewolf, Abe. I still kind of made the fight up as I went along, but I kept this little playset right by my computer. I just acted it out. I’d jump from the figures to discover the next action/reaction and then back to the keyboard to write about it and describe all of the emotional stuff.

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It helped so much! Not only did I get a clearer picture of what was happening, but by drawing in the background, it showed (if only to me) that this wasn’t happening in a white room. I had props and obstacles and just stuff that could help and hinder my characters. I’m really happy with the outcome and it’s definitely something I’ll be doing with fight scenes from now on. I have a big one coming up at the climax that’s going to take a map D&D style! I can’t wait to set it up and play – er, I mean, manipulate my models – to see what happens.

On a side note, I really hope this book gets published. That way, when you read the scene I’m talking about, you can picture these vinylmation figures duking it out instead 🙂

The Prophet

My brother got the flash fiction group back together. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but I thought you might be interested what I come up with. Every time I crank out a piece, I’ll make sure to post it. Enjoy!

The Prophet

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Dr. Sam Marsters rubbed his thumb over the tiny statue. The stone was smooth to the touch having been handled for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years. The little figurine had been gradually ground down over countless gentle touches. With just the faintest traces of a willowy beard and an overly elongated head, it barely looked human anymore. “This is the second one this week,” Sam said.

“Now that we know what we’re looking for, they’re popping up all over the place.” Caleb checked the inventory list. “Kosovo, Papua New Guinea, Marseille, hell, even Baltimore. Climate … religion … doesn’t matter. Ever since the university started offering rewards for acquisitions, it’s been like a fire sale.”

“Thank God for benefactors, I guess.”

The office was cramped. Documents and catalogs were everywhere. Sam, leaned back, his leather chair squeaking while Caleb moved a stack of reports off the only other chair and took a seat opposite the desk. The cord of the ceiling fan clinked with the rotation.

Caleb shrugged. “Plenty of fake ones too. Who would’ve thought there’d be so many out there?”

“I think that’s the point.” Sam put the figurine down and massaged his eyes. Christ, he was tired. Bone tired. The weariness that settles into your marrow making you heavier than cement-tired. “I’m still having the dreams.”

“Me too,” Caleb said, softly.

“I’m sure most of the planet is by now.” Sam gestured toward the impressive inventory list. “Always the same thing too. Darkness. Pressure. Something’s coming. Something big.”

“They haven’t ruled out some kind of psychological warfare,” Caleb said.

Sam scowled. “This isn’t the War.” He snorted. “Please. You and I both know it’s more than that.”

Caleb was one of the calmer grad students, but even he was getting frayed around the edges. “Well then what?”

Sam crossed his arms. “There’s an intelligence, can’t you feel it? In the design, sure, but in the application too. Every time I see that black place, I can’t help but feel like something’s staring at me from the other side. This lurking presence just looking at me like it’s waiting to come through. Every time I think I’m getting close, like I’m about to see what’s in there, the dream shifts to the figurine-thing.”

“The Prophet figures. But that would mean whatever this thing is, it’s been trying to get our attention for a long time.” He looked to the bearded figurine sitting on the desk. “Some of those carvings are ancient.” The ceiling fan did little to relieve the heat or the humidity, but still Caleb shuddered. “So the dreams … they’re its way of announcing the arrival? You realize what you’re saying, right?”

“That an extraterrestrial intelligence has invaded our dreams and is sending us a ‘save the date’? Yeah, I know how that sounds.”

There was a knock at the door. “Dr. Marsters?” Lydia poked her head inside. He waved her in. “Another package for you, sir.” She handed him an already open box. The ripped tape and loose packing material looked like the entrails of a carcass.

“Cairo,” Sam said, checking the return address. Caleb made a note on the inventory list.

His fingers probed the contents searching for the familiar form of another Prophet figurine, but they brushed against something flat. He pulled the object out, spilling shredded paper pieces everywhere. It was a piece of wall tile.

“They sent it up from downstairs,” Lydia said. “Thought you’d know what to do with it.” Her hands clasped in front of her, she waited for dismissal.

“What is it?” Caleb said.

Sam didn’t have the foggiest. The tile was old, that much was easy to tell. Probably like the figurine on his desk it could be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of years old. Hard to know without proper dating methods. It was painted, not carved. The style looked about right for what he knew was ancient Egyptian and …

The realization hit him like a kick to the gut. More sweat beaded on his brow. “Is this real?”

“That’s what they say.” Lydia shifted uncomfortably and checked a memo pad. “Let’s see … ah, here. Clay and paint composition put it somewhere around 2000 BC.”

“What’s wrong?” Caleb said. “Jesus man, you’re white as a ghost.”

“That’s all, Lydia.” Sam’s words sounded raspy even to his own ears. “Thank you.”

He waited until she’d closed the door behind her again and he was sure she’d be back at her desk before he flipped the tile over to show Caleb. There were many hieroglyphic markings he didn’t know, but the center image was obviously clear. Human shapes were kneeling, praying maybe, to something massive and humanoid with an overly elongated head. But instead of the beard, the figure’s mouth was a mass of writhing tentacles.

“Jesus,” Caleb said. “That’s …”

Sam’s hands tingled. He’d drop the tile if he wasn’t careful. “I don’t think it’s a ‘save the date’,” he said. “It’s not announcing its arrival, its announcing the return.”

[Taylor is busy]

I’m still chugging along …

I’ve been writing like a maniac this week through my typical morning sessions, but lately I’m adding a second one in the afternoon to help reach the end of the novel faster. In books past, I used to be able to write on the weekends. Last weekend’s laziness aside, I’ve been pretty busy with the impending arrival of the two babies so that’s been eating up most of my time.

I awoke to a text message from a friend the other day who recommended the iPhone game, Lifeline, to me. As you’ve probably guessed right now, my life isn’t exactly set up for another game to steal my attention, but he convinced me to give it a shot and boy is it nothing how I imagined it being.

Lifeline isn’t a game in the strictest sense. It’s more like an experience. The gist is you get a text message from someone who’s asking for help. This stranger, Taylor, is a science student who snuck aboard a spaceship that’s now crashed on a moon outside Tau Ceti. As the name implies, you’re Taylor’s lifeline. All you do is talk to Taylor and advise him on certain decisions that ultimately affect his life when given the prompt. Usually, he takes that advice and says he’ll get back to you and you get the message [Taylor is busy] while he’s off doing said activity.

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That’s it.

That’s the game.

But I gotta tell you, I’m completely hooked! It’s a choose your own adventure where you care about the protagonist. Every time he goes off on some venture, I’m always nervous about what’s gonna happen to my new friend without me knowing about it. Last night, he convinced me that he should spend the night in some other wreckage he discovered instead of trekking it all the way back to his original ship. Some wreckage, I might add, that he was pretty sure he spotted some other kind of life form scuttling about …

Lifeline doesn’t demand much from you and occupies more of your thoughts when you’re not playing it, which I find pretty novel. When you turn on the push notifications, you get his messages that pop up in “real time”. It’s to the point now that I’ll stop what I’m doing to check my phone when it buzzes and my wife will ask, “What’s Taylor up to now?”.

There are so many branching paths, that it can’t help but feel like a unique story. My friend who recommended it has already lead his Taylor to destruction, I found out. However,my Taylor, who’s been at it about three days now, is still kicking by his last transmission. He’s on his way to investigate a non-natural pinnacle he spied in the distance at the moment. He’ll text me next time he gets the chance.

As someone who’s fascinated by telling stories to others, this thing gets all the right hooks in me. I’m both voyeur and protagonist, but yet I can’t see anything. I’m helping the story, but he has to describe it to me while my mind fills in the blanks. It’s a fascinating thought experiment about the nature of stories.

I’m hesitant to talk too much to my real friend less something get spoiled, but through the few notes we’ve compared, we’re experiencing too completely different stories. I was genuinely scared when Taylor asked me to look up how many rads it takes to harm someone so he could sleep next to cooling reactor engines. I hope I gave him the right answer. I still worry about what I might have done to him.

Well look at that. There goes my phone. Seems he’s run into a huge crater and needs some advice… Gotta go!

Motivated!

The cycle continues! After running myself ragged two weekends ago, I spent most of last weekend being the laziest bum this side of lazy-bumsville. And it was awesome!

I got my running in, wrote some and had a couple hefty chunks of Final Fantasy XIV too. So, everything I wanted to accomplish on my lazy Friday got done. On top of that, my main character in FF can almost touch 50 and no longer is dressed like a sex slave. AND, not only am I 3/4 of the way finished with my latest novel, but the Pitch to Publication contest has me motivated to knock this thing out by the end of the month. If my rough outline to actual word count conversion is working, it’s looking like I’m about 25k from the end. I just want to fist bump everybody I see. I’m so motivated. Aren’t you motivated? I can’t stop saying motivated!

The weekend wasn’t entirely selfish either. We cleaned up the house some by getting rid of old clutter to replace it with new clutter. We also tackled the nursery some more. It’s functional, as in two babies could live there, but it’s not the most organized. Or so I’m told. Every time I think it looks nice, my wife either dumps more stuff in there or she just rearranges everything and leaves piles to sort through later. The babies won’t care which drawer holds their burp cloths! But I’m learning one of the first lessons of being a new dad, I suspect: keeping my mouth shut when my wife is on a rampage.

We also watched the World Cup. We’ve been following it since the beginning of the tournament and now that it’s over, it’s kind of bittersweet. I’ve grown used to looking forward to the next game during the week. We’d usually go over to the inlaws and watch it on their screen and I’ve have a text thread going on my phone with a bunch of people back home. Each game was always a mini party. So, the buildup was great and the payoff was definitely worth it, but now that it’s over, I’ll miss the festivity around it.

There’s a lesson in there too right out of Inside Out but I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone. We got a chance to see that one too over the weekend. We used to ration our movie theater experiences like nobody’s business, but with the babies about a month away it doesn’t take much convincing to get us out there while we still can. So yeah, Inside Out is amazing! I figured, I’d like it. With the current state of Disney and Pixar, it’s pretty safe to guess that anything they come out with is going to be good and I gotta say that I was definitely not disappointed. The story was great, the music was awesome, the voice acting was freaking perfect and the whole package just left me with all the warm fuzzies I was hoping for.

Wow, looking back, that was quite the weekend wrap up! Oh, and happy belated 4th, people. The day in which we celebrated Will Smith saving us all from the aliens …

Welcome to Earf.

The Boy Blunder

I got caught up on word count. See, I told you I would.

I also need the weather to hold out so I can mow the grass tonight. Otherwise, it’ll put a damper on the epicness of tomorrow. Here’s the deal:

I have the day off for the 4th. I plan on running when I wake up. Then I’m meeting the inlaws out for breakfast. Come back, get some writing done. Play some video games – probably Final Fantasy XIV so I can catch up to Heavensward – and maybe see a movie that afternoon. What’s that you say? The most perfect day ever? It’s pretty damn close. I’m really excited about it and hope that cutting the grass won’t somehow sneak into my dream day.

I did the math and I’m just over 3/4 of the way through my novel. That was farther than I expected, but I’m getting to that point where I’m ready to put this sucker to bed. Instead of the fatigue like last book, this time I’m getting excited to finish. There are still plenty of things that need fixing and tweaking, but I want to get the bulk of the story finished this month. I’m using Pitch to Publication to help my pacing.

Although, in an ironic – some might say, unfortunate – turn of events, my entry email got all messed up. Why haven’t Microsoft Word and Gmail learned to communicate with each other correctly, yet? It’s not like each of them is a popular choice for their chosen medium or anything …

The ending portion of the entry email is to include the first 10 pages of your manuscript, double spaced. Well of course it didn’t copy over correctly and while I was busy fiddling with the paragraph and line spacing, I must have hit the plain text function and then hitting backspace somehow sent the email. Wonderful. Thanks Google. Hopefully a contest in which the reward is editing service will overlook an editing blunder in the application. Fingers crossed.

All of this attention to my work is having me second guess my protagonist. Don’t get me wrong, it needs to be him for the story to function, but I can probably make him more relatable. At least include some better flaws or something. I’ll think on it and get back to you.