The Trials of Writing

Writing is a multitasking sport and I’m failing hard on it. Why, you ask? Because here is my massively neglected blog. My other blog, tied implicitly to my novels, is just as neglected. This needs to change.

I’ve been doing a great job of waking up at 5:30am and writing. The issue is it gets locked into editing the novel instead of passing over here to get working on the project. In the evening I just don’t care. I play video games. I need to care more. It would be better for my pocket book as well as my progress and the creation of a fan base. It’s just really hard work.

Travel hurts this as well. I’m currently on my parent’s computer. Their keyboard feels clunky to type on, so it frustrates me, and I quit. It’s a horrible thing.

So, starting tomorrow, I will be updating the Volden site. I will be appearing more regularly on here, and I will have a really awesome map when I can figure out how to get links up on it. All wins.

Hope you’re all doing well, hope your writing/reading is going well, and have an awesome Father’s Day!

The Power of Names

Watch Dogs was flat for me. It was in Chicago, a city I enjoy visiting and I think is beautiful, but it felt flat. I couldn’t figure out why. Is it because I’ve been there? Is it because they have such small segments of the city, interspersed with different suburbs?

Then it dawned on me. Nothing had names. If you weren’t a plot important entity, you were generic. “Eat here,” and other signs that didn’t create brand, and therefore did not create a world.

GTAV is a master of this. They have a thousand brands, most of which you will never know. There are a half dozen different banks, and you interact with maybe two of them. They have postal services. You never deal with these. The strip clubs are numerous, there are news agencies, car companies, used car dealerships, and countless other brands. You only ever deal with a very small percentage in any way beyond seeing a building with a logo.

Watch Dogs didn’t do this. It made me hesitant to pick up Watch Dogs 2. I play sandbox games for that atmosphere. Usually the plots are weaker, but the world building is through the roof.

Watch Dogs 2 has captivated me. Even if I’m not a fan of the style of DedSec, I love the world. When I started playing the world felt more alive. At first I thought maybe it was because I never visited San Francisco. However, as I kept playing I realized every building had an existence. They all had brands. Lives were behind them, lives I would likely never know.

This creates life in the world.

My world has secret organizations. There are intricate governments filled with rulers and underlings. Everything is alive if the characters are going to touch it. They never see the full scope. However, these little touches, these names, attitudes, and “brands,” all affect the way the main story plays out. It affects the motives of the support characters. It affects how the antagonist can move against the protagonist.

Even though your reader doesn’t see all of it, or they can if they follow along with your blog, you have created solid motives. You will write the setting and characters more convincing for it. Trust me.

My suggestion on this, and insight to my own process, is brand everything. Give it names, motives, purpose over all. The reader may not see it all, and they may not pay attention to all the crumbs that are put in front of them, but they will feel the world is more real.

Goodbye Facebook

I disabled Facebook Saturday. Ultimately I only did it to avoid the hatred that seems so prevalent currently. It was heartbreaking, there is no middle ground, and neither side can see the other. Why was I doing that to myself? Why was I inviting all that negativity into my life?

Then I had a life quote come back about surrounding myself with positive people. Yet I was not living that. The bigger issue was I didn’t want to unfriend all these people. Some of these individuals are quite dear to me, and I understand the social fallout which is linked with the severing of such ties.

So I disabled my Facebook account, and those who are still in touch with me are those I care about. I was told I should be able to use Messenger, but that failed. Fine. More texting and Google Hangout it is. However, the people I really want to be in touch with, I am.

This did cause one expected fault. Most of my online personas are tied to my Facebook account. My account isn’t there anymore. I can get through that.

The biggest uptick to leaving Facebook was unexpected. I’m blogging more. I’m writing more. I’m simply feeling better. It’s been about two days, and I’m much more productive. I didn’t realize how much time Facebook sucked out of me.

I did plan on returning to Facebook after the election, though the hate goes far beyond the election and likely won’t abate until after. If nothing else, my Facebook account may get a deep cleaning and I use it only for my writing and my other log ins.

On the otherhand, it’s really nice being productive.

Have you ever cut off Facebook? How did it go?

Sun Tzu and Pokemon

Obsession you say? Nonsense I say!

Today I convinced my coworker to play the Pokemon TCG with me. I have a hoopa deck that I’ve played several times online, but I haven’t used the physical deck. He worked off the volcanion deck.

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Hoopa Unbound. He’s a scary purple genie

I sat there with a deck I knew. I had my primary strategies, the cards I needed and would try for, and I felt confident. I felt there was no way I could lose.

For whatever reason in that moment I understood the meta of what I was doing. Not the acronym people use, where META means Most Effective Tactic Available. At that moment I was watching the flow of competition as if I was outside of the moment. It felt as weird as it sounds.

My opponent surely felt he could win, especially with the knowledge my 4 year old nephew crushed me. He had a deck that was built to face off against mine, even if he didn’t know what exactly was in it. To be honest, aside from knowing it was a fire and steel deck, I didn’t know what was in it.

Know yourself, and you will win half your battles. Know yourself and your enemy and you will win all of your battles.

As the competition went on, I had my strategies before me. I worked through the cards I usually did, even though I had some energy issues. I had to try something new, and it paid off. My opponent made his moves as he learned the deck.

Then it reached a point where I knew how the game ended. It would still be five or six moves until the finale, but as he had two major Pokemon set up, I had two major Pokemon set up, I saw the only path which made sense. I would take out his active Pokemon. He would then take out mine. Our two final hopes would be on the field, with our little people waiting in reserve.

I needed to win a coin toss. I get that you may not understand everything leading up to this, but it would come down to two powerful beings trying to take each other out, and if I could win a coin toss, I won the game. If I lost the coin toss, I lost the game. It would still be three turns after that coin toss, but the results would be inevitable.

It played out the way I expected it to, and we were left with the coin toss. I flipped and looked at the ceiling. In that moment I was both victorious and defeated. I looked down. Heads. I needed heads.

He tried valiantly with his final two Pokemon, but I ran through them in two turns, and the game was over.

Both sides believe they can win a conflict, or they wouldn’t be in conflict. Sometimes it’s delusional or ridiculous defiance, but usually there’s a shot. There is also generally a key moment, and often times the farsighted strategist will see it. They will see the events leading up to that moment, they will recognize that moment, and they will comprehend that winning or losing that one moment dictates the course of everything else to come.

This is Helm’s Deep. It’s Normandy. It’s a thousand other battles, real and fantastic. While not as cut and dry, they are the defining points that a loss would mean total defeat, and victory would mean the march continued.

In this moment of playing a children’s game, I gleaned all of this. It’s amazing what we can learn, even in the simplest of things.

Guatemala/Rebound/Writing

Tomorrow I am in Guatemala. I’m stressed about it. I’m the leader, I haven’t been nearly as meticulous as I generally want to be, and I feel like I’m missing things. Why am I not as meticulous? With work I’m basically doing two jobs: sales and moving company. I’m also preparing to move my apartment, break into a new market, and I have the joy of a touch of depression and a dash of anxiety. So ultimately, at the end of the day I want to curl up into a ball and die. Add that I can only seemingly get 4-5 hours of sleep a night, and yeah, we’re doing great.

However, there’s something awesome about my mind. As soon as I’m on that plane, I’ll relax a little. I will exhale and smile. At that point there is only Guatemala. That is the only thing on my plate. Work, moving, painting? None of it matters. Just need to get on that plane.

Once there, we will be helping clean teeth, do home visits, and teach VBS. The kids are adorable. Great kids. The people are also pretty cool. Cleaning teeth will be an experience.

In other news, I have a date when I return from Guatemala! This is like the first date in six months. Before that, first date in a year and a half or so. It’s been so long that when I told Dana, she responded, “With a woman?”

Though funny story, went to the cousin’s house. His wife asked, “Paul, do you do breakfast dates?”

I thought it a strange question. I’d basically go whenever someone was available. “With women?”

My cousin burst out laughing. “That’s what we’d assume, but I mean, if you want to go with men we won’t judge.” Good times.

This is the first date I’ve been excited about in years. As one friend put it, I’m finally on the rebound. It’s time to throw the heart back in the ring. So it can inevitably get its ass beat. Again. But what’s art without suffering?

Finally, I get published next week! I will be in Guatemala, but I’m sure it’ll be exciting back in the states. People will pop confetti, drink too many shots, and sign bras. Because that’s totally a thing. In my head it’ll be an amazing event. In truth, it’ll likely be a bunch of people on Facebook congratulating each other. That’s cool too.

It’s being published by Bushmead, through the writing group The Phoenix Quill. They even have a link to our anthology! Saying it will be the 31st. I will not be published this week. So come back in two weeks! Heroes is the anthology.

If you looked at the Quill link, you also saw that Monsters is the next anthology! So I’ll be planning that out this week a little. I’m not even sure where I’ll start out. I’m not good with monsters. However, I do think I might try going something Lovecraft.

I leave you with a joke that I find hilarious every time I see it.

attempted murder

Hurskfjell – Plotting Done

I am beyond excited for numerous reasons. Though one of them is not knowing where my book is at with the publisher. I get I took forever, but come on!

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My plotting is done! I was able to apply more ash while camping this weekend. It was a good trip. The plotting also went really well. It was easy for the most part, but the third part of the story took some time. However, I like where everything is. If my last book is any sign how planning goes, it’s a very loose diagram that I’ll ignore around half way through. But it does help to know where I expect it to go, even if it changes.

The camping trip just left me feeling lighter, less weighed down. I feel more focused on what I want and how to get it. I’ve lacked this for a long time, and I’m beyond words grateful that God provided it on this trip. A beautiful weekend did help.

Luna bestows sanity and insanity. Sometimes in equal parts. Oh the shimmer of quick silver on the lake.

Luna bestows sanity and insanity. Sometimes in equal parts. Oh the shimmer of quick silver on the lake.

It is amazing what we can gain when we just take the time to seek it. Patience helps as well. But I stayed the course and I’m better for it.

To finish off this weekend, I’ll be reading a friend’s short story, starting her novel, starting my novel, and playing some Pokemon. I sort of miss playing it. That or Destiny, which is far more likely.

Hope you had a great weekend!

Improve the quality of your suffering

bad writing

I’m not even sure who this guy is. I’d never heard of Tom Waits. However, the man has been gifted with an abundance of wisdom, or at least this one piece of spaghetti which stuck to the wall, and now I adore him.

The quality of writing has just plummeted. However, I believe it’s always been this way. Two hundred years ago, kids sold little pamphlets on the street corner, chapter by chapter making it out for public consumption at the rate of a dime per pamphlet. While Charles Dickens came out as awesome, how many hundreds or thousands died to obscurity, their pamphlets left fluttering in the wind, as no one would eve pay the dime. How many just gave up halfway through, throngs of peasants cursing his name for leaving off at a cliff hanger.

Fortunately in a generation books like Twilight will die off, left to obscurity. It will be a good day. The real quality novels of this generation will finally be revealed. The authors who penned them will be dead.

One of my favorite things about writing, in comparison to reading, is the quality of suffering. Suffering lends to the writing, the words flow like a river with a suddenly burst dam. When the suffering is gone, the words just don’t come as easily. They’re more mechanical. But man, in pain there is such beauty that comes forward.

So even if our world cannot create an exquisite suffering through books, I will do my darnedest to suffer and pour it elegantly into my own writing.