Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Anger Management through HALO

I have a pretty bad temper.  I get red-in-the-face angry at some of the dumbest shit.  It really doesn’t take much to set me off.  Fortunately, my reaction to that anger is usually just brooding and simmering until I can get a handle on it.  But, sometimes it bursts out, and I raise my voice when I probably shouldn’t.  This happens mostly with my kids.  I find I have to apologize for yelling a lot (that being said, I get accused of “yelling” when I’m actually not, so I think they have a hand in this).

Anyways, my son gets me mad a lot.  He’s 6, and at the stage in childhood where he has no filter, and no “survival instinct” as my wife puts it.  So, he’ll respond to something I tell him with something infuriating, and I usually end up yelling at him for it.  It’s annoying because, first of all, I hate losing control.  But more importantly, I know what kind of damage that can do in the long run, and I am always worried that I’m not a good parent anyways.  So, yeah, stress levels rise.  It’s really a vicious cycle.

My son loves video games.  And he loves to play them HIS way, regardless of who he is playing with.  In Minecraft, he’ll get all bossy, and indignant of you do something against what he wants you to do, for example.

Lately we’ve been playing HALO Reach (got it for free through Xbox-Live a while back).  But he likes to play it on Firefight, where player 2 is defaulted as a lone Spartan, and player 1 can either join the Spartan side, so there’s two, or he can join the Covenant.  The scenario is basically a Last Stand, where the Spartan side has to fend off wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies.  He likes to be the Covenant.

Last night, I felt the anger boiling, since he kept camping me.  And since his temper is equal to mine, he kept getting angry when I would kill him (usually with a shotgun to the face).  But, instead of yelling, I decided to just make jokes about it, and compliment him on his kills.  And suddenly, it was fun.  And when I shot him, he would initially have the “gamer rage” reaction of insisting that he got me first (when clearly he hadn’t, since he was the dead one).  But then we would laugh, and he’d come back and come after me again.

It was a very succinct reminder that my kids learn from the behavior I model.  It’s common sense, and every parent knows this already.  But, sometimes I need a little refresher.  So, I’m trying to wrangle my temper with humor and compassion.  Just like every “expert” says to do.  It seems to work with my son.

Now, if I could get the 12-year old girl to drop her attitude…I think I’ll leave that one to mom.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Opening soon?

I was perusing my bookshelves yesterday, and I think I came to the conclusion that I just need to pare down my collection.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is a major deal.  I am somewhat of a collector, and borderline hoarder.  I kind of always have been. 

When we came back from Desert Storm, I had stuffed my duffel bag with paperbacks that people had tossed in a barrel to be burned in preparation for the beginning of the ground war.  Nowadays, I hit up the local Half-Priced Books about twice a month, and the first place I go is the "Bargain" section.  These are books that, if not sold, will just be tossed into the dumpster in the middle of the night.  The thought just horrifies me, so I often "rescue" books that interest me from this fate.

Hey, it's cheaper and cleaner than saving animals from the shelter.

Be that as it may, I find that I have a lot of paperbacks that I have read, and that I know I will never read again.  I also have several paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's works that are duplicates of what I have in the Del Rey collection (only missing like two volumes from those).  And then there's a whole plethora of books that, chances are, I probably will never read, and have no idea why I bought them in the first place.

So, my idea is to create a new page here (see the tabs at the top), and list all of the ones I want to sell, with a reasonable price.  Anyone who wants any of them can let me know, and we can work out a direct sale deal.  Payment would probably be through PayPal, and I would mail everything Media Mail, since that's the cheapest.  Unlike Amazon, I wouldn't add a standard mail rate to each book.  Rates would be based on the weight of the package and nothing more.

I figure this has a good chance of getting books into the hands of people who will appreciate them, and we can bypass the middle man.  I did this in the past with RPG books and materials, and it worked out pretty nicely.

I'm going to start sorting and creating a list this weekend, probably.  So, keep an eye out.  I'll most likely just do a quick post when I have new items listed.

On a side note, I would probably also entertain the idea of book trades.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In the wrong line of writing?

I know the conventional wisdom is “don’t chase the market.”  We are advised by successful writers to write what we like, write what we know, write what grabs us by the passion-hairs, etc.  But, what if those things aren’t what we SHOULD be writing?  This is the question my fragile ego has been asking me lately.

Although fantasy and science fiction have always been my favorite genres to read, and to date, they are what I most often write, I am starting to wonder if maybe I should try other genres, just to see if something grabs my writer-attention.

As a holder of a History degree, there is the natural instinct to write historical fiction.  And within that, there is a lot of room.  Scott Oden has managed to take his love of fantasy and apply it to his passion for history.  Could I do the same?  On a related note, what if I slipped sideways from the standard “adventure” stories I tend to want to write, and try something like mystery?

This idea kind of took hold yesterday, and I gave some thought to the possibilities.  Interestingly enough, the premise for a series of mystery novels set in Constantinople during the Byzantine Empire sprang into my mind in moments.  I even had ideas for characters; a constable (possibly a Greek mercenary), and a Varangian Guardsman.  I’m mulling the ideas around, and I definitely see some room for further exploration.

Then there’s the Agesilaus pseudo-biography (“pseudo” because there is little to nothing known about his actual upbringing, so everything before his becoming one of the Kings of Sparta is conjecture).  I had made some progress on that one, with a bare-bones plot, some scene ideas, and a cast of characters.  But, alas my son decided that the flash drive sticking out of my tower would make a good footrest.  I try not to dwell on the damage done, and the writing lost.

I’ve also long had ideas for modern techno-thrillers and military thrillers (ala Tom Clancy, but less verbose).  I’d still love to do one or some of those.  The problem is that those kinds of books become very dated very quickly, so you have to really concentrate to make things as relevant as you can for as long as possible.  Either that, or you have to write really fast.  Yeah, that'll work..

In the end, I think I want to try to stay within the realm of “reality” as much as possible.  So, no magic, no futuristic science, no supernatural elements.  I’m not sure how that would go for me.  And I have a feeling I might just slip back into my fantastic worlds eventually.  Which is fine.  I’m comfortable there.  I just want to be sure that that’s where I belong.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

In other news

So the other day I finished off one of my WIPs.  It was the latest in the “Life of Rage Cycle” of stories, which so far includes Pekra and The Orc Way.  This story came out a little lighter on the word count, as well as on the subject matter.  It’s almost a sit-com kind of situation, with an orcish spin. 

It’s pretty rough, and I am not all that happy with the very end.  But, I have my primary beta-reader looking at it (soon, I hope…), so I expect there will be some revisions forthcoming. The plan is to Kindle this one as well as any more involving this lovable cast of scamps.  Eventually I may wrap them all together in a single volume, and make it a POD offering (either through CreateSpace or Lulu).

I’ve also been struggling to get a military sci fi book off the ground, but I keep faltering.  In theory, it sounds fun.  But, when I sit down to work on it…meh.  So, I took a step back and re-evaluated the effort.

In the process of doing this, I came across a document I had created detailing the Snowflake Method of book-writing.  Suddenly I had an epiphany (the first of a few involving this project).  So, I started “filling in the blanks” according to the Method’s instructions.  And it was going well, when I suddenly had another insight. 

What if the main character was female?  And what if her situation was one not of her choosing?  Working from that, it’s coming along nicely.  I’m incorporating ideas from long-abandoned efforts from my past, and it is all working out well.  I’ll probably have a complete outline within a couple of weeks.

I also started reading Master Sergeant by Mel Odom.  Saw it on his blog a while back, and found it at the library this weekend.  So far, it’s pretty dang good.

Of course, I currently have just under a month to write a 12-page research paper on Operation: Market Garden for my very last college course.  In April I will be enrolled in a prep course designed to prepare me for a comprehensive exam on History.  Assuming I pass, I will be done with school!  Well, probably only until I start my teaching certificate training in the Fall.

All of this, and I am still working on a few RPG projects, including some revamping of my Supers game, and another issue of my fanzine.  You’d think I keep myself really busy with all of this, huh?  Well, my lazy evenings of NetFlix watching and other such nonsense might contradict that.  It’s a good thing I have a full-time job.  If I had to write to live, my family would probably starve.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Robert E. Howard

On this day, the 109th anniversary of his birth, I feel compelled to post my own thoughts on good ole’ Bob Howard.

Like many of my generation, I discovered Howard’s work through the 1982 Conan the Barbarian film.  And while it can be argued that the character was nothing like Howard wrote (which I agree with, but I still love him anyways), just seeing the film, and the possibilities it represented was enough to hook me.

I had been playing D&D by that time for about 2 years.  Having just moved to Okinawa where my mom was stationed in the Air Force, I had a lot of time on my hands because I wouldn't start school for a few more weeks. 

My mom let me watch a lot of movies while she was at work, and made some suggestions based on my love of D&D.  Conan was among them.  I probably watched it over a dozen times during those first few weeks.  And throughout the rest of high school it was often playing on my own TV, even if just in the background.

Then I took a Sci-Fi/Fantasy class, and I had to pick a book to read.  I found the first Lancer/Ace book, and mistook it for the book based on the movie.  I read it, and was immediately hooked even deeper.  Within a few months I had all twelve volumes, and had read them all, some more than once.

About 10 years ago, I started exploring the other works of Howard.  I have my favorites, among them is Steve Costigan and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey.  I haven’t read all of his work yet, but there’s time.  I own almost all of the Del Rey editions, and several of the various paperbacks that have been published over the decades.

Interestingly, his high-octane short-form writing has defined my reading tastes.  I can’t read GRRM or his ilk, simply because those books feel so plodding and slow by comparison.  Howard only produced a single novel-length work, The Hour of the Dragon (there is some debate about whether he completely wrote his other credited novel, Almuric).  I have read HotD probably five times, and consider it among the greatest fantasy novels ever written.

Others have worded this better than I can (Howard Andrew Jones and Keith West), but there is something about Robert E. Howard’s writing that just grabs the reader and drags them along for the ride.  His knack for action, dialogue, dialects, unique characters, and fantastic settings, all blend to create a reading experience that many have tried to recapture (including myself), but few can match.

It’s probably a safe bet that if you are reading my blog, you have read some of Howard’s works. But, if by chance you haven’t, get thee to the book store, and find some Howard to read!  I promise, you will be entertained at the very least.
Here's to you, Bob!  Your legacy lives on!

Friday, January 16, 2015

I'm stumblin'

So, my goal of writing every day is already faltering.  Due to work stuff, school stuff, kid stuff, and just plain being tried and unfocused, I am finding more days with 0's than not.  So, I think I am going to not worry so much about it for now.

As I've stated, school is a big distraction right now.  I have a Critical Review and a 12-page research paper coming up, on top of weekly postings.  The Critical Review is basically a book review with a specific focus in what I am looking at.  Initially I was going to do one of the books I am using a source for my research paper.  But, it's a 400+ page tome.  And while interesting (it's a comparison of Rommel, Patton, and Montgomery), there's no way I will be able to read it all and critique it in time.  So, last night I found a much shorter book that still qualifies, and is even on a pretty interesting aspect of WWII.  So, that should alleviate some of my tension.

My health is starting to effect me more too.  I'm carrying around about 30 extra pounds (and it all seems concentrated in my gut), plus a couple of my important "numbers" are off.  Basically, I just need to eat healthier and exercise more.  So, I am also going to be trying to focus some of my efforts on that.

All of this kind of leaves writing fiction and games out in the cold for a bit.  I'm still going to try to write often.  But I'm just not going to focus on my word tally at this time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Being a Patron

For centuries, the main way artists of all kinds made a living was to have a Patron.  Someone who would sponsor the artist, and basically pay them to make art.  Whether it be painting, sculpture, poetry, or prose, artists were prized members of ancient societies for their expertise and creativity.  But, somewhere along the way, the idea of “Patronage” fell out of vogue.

In recent years the internet has sort of reintroduced the idea to us.  Through crowd-funding, and other means of direct payment, those who enjoy the work of artists can give them a little (or even a lot) for their efforts.  Personally, I have backed a couple of Kickstarters, and donated to a couple of pages.  And today I’m here to talk about another such opportunity.

Those of you who have followed my blog for a long time may recall that I like to gush a bit about Scott Oden.  He’s a personal friend and an inspiration.  We share a common love of all things orcs and Robert E. Howard (to varying degrees, and we do have our good-natured disagreements even on those subjects).  Scott is a very talented storyteller, and I was fortunate enough to be on the beta-reader list for his latest work.  An historical fantasy entitled A Gathering of Ravens.

I will start by saying that it is an amazing story, well-written, filled with action, danger, intrigue, and some pretty thought-provoking ideas.  I could go on and on, but I think I should let him talk about his book himself (once he settles on a blog for it, I will share that).  Suffice it to say, I am as eager for you to read it as I am to read the final product.

Anyways, back to the whole Patron thing, Scott has opened a GoFundMe site, Keep the Words Flowing.  Honestly, I think he should set his goal higher, but he’s pretty humble.  So, I urge you, as would-be patrons of the arts, to visit his page, and donate what you can.