The Friday Muse – An Intro to My NaNoWriMo Characters

Participant-2014-Web-BannerLast week I shared a raw snippet from my NaNoWriMo novel, Salt. This week, I want to give a brief rundown of some of the characters from the novel. These are all works-in-progress, so they’ll probably end up changing some at some point down the line.

Salt -
One of the main characters, Salt is a disfigured man who awakens in a crashed vessel on the planet Valeriu. He is taken captive by the Kingdom of Lyte because his fingerprints have been melted off, and he has absolutely no memory of how he became disfigured, who he is, or where he actually comes from. Salt has only one eye (after the disfigurement), half of his face is severely burned, and he has severe asthma which forces him to wear a special scarf over the bottom-half of his face to shield his lungs from the elements. He rarely talks because of his condition.

Princess Ill (ill) -
Next in line for the throne of the Kingdom of Lyte. Princess Ill is young, but well-seasoned in the art of diplomacy. Although she seeks peace, she is severely disheartened by the state that her mother, Queen Elsor, has left the kingdom. The citizens have lost faith in the God of Lyte, defiled the temple, and have become increasingly complacent toward the Disparaged – corrupted humans who wander the wilderness beyond the kingdom walls. Princess Ill is ready to turn the kingdom around once she is crowned queen, which will occur near the beginning of the novel.

Queen Elsor -
Current queen of the Kingdom of Lyte. Queen Elsor has become increasingly complacent over the years, and has allowed her desire to be accepted by the people to override her responsibility to enforce the laws of the kingdom. Her husband, the Old King, was killed during the Great Corruption, although the means of his death are disputed among many citizens and even Princess Ill. At the beginning of the novel, Queen Elsor chooses to crown Princess Ill as Queen of the Kingdom of Lyte because she is tired of appeasing the people and is ready to retire.

The Gloom -
A strange, alien presence that inhabits the Shadowlands beyond the kingdom walls. The Gloom fills most of its living grounds with darkness, and creates a Blood Moon when its presence is in full force moving through the land. Nobody knows the origins of the Gloom, but many believe it is directly responsible for the Great Corruption which created the Disparaged.

Coral -
A mysterious girl found in the dungeon with Salt, Coral is quickly accused of being a spy from another kingdom to the south, but vehemently denies it. Coral is sly, manipulative, and her motives are in question from the beginning of the novel.

Ryn, Tamlyn, Victor – (Placeholder names)
These three siblings are citizens of the Kingdom of Lyte, yet none of them adhere to the laws or regulations of faith that they are expected to abide by. Ryn is a priest in the Temple of Lyte, Tamlyn is a rebellious young girl who practices dark magic out of sight of the rest of the kingdom, and Victor is a sadistic man who enjoys torturing others. Just like any other dysfunctional family.

Okay, that’s all I’m willing to share at the moment. Can’t wait to be done with NaNoWriMo so I can start really picking this thing apart and begin a massive edit storm!

Remember Me and My Backlog of Xbox 360 Games

Remember Me

I’m a pretty avid gamer. My dad raised me with Pitfall on the Atari 2600 and Choplifter on the Commodore 64. I even delved into the fantastic world of Zork in my youth, and spent countless hours on Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64 in my late teens. Nowadays, gaming is about all I do in my free time when I’m not writing or spending time with my family. I have over 2000 hours logged on Half Life 2: Deathmatch, I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 since beta, and I have nearly 20k of achievement points on my Xbox 360.

That being said, I have an insane backlog of Xbox 360 games that I need (want) to play through. I won’t even mention how many games I have on my Steam account that still need to be played. Part of the reason I have such a huge backlog is because I allow my emotions to drive what games I play. Most of the games on my shelf have been played through partially, until I don’t ‘feel’ like playing them anymore. Then I move on to another game. And then another.

Yeah, I’m trying to curb this issue before things really get out of hand. But you know what? Sometimes you’re just in a certain mood. Sometimes you want to fire up an FPS and run through levels frantically shooting people, other times you want to take it slow and steady and carve your way through an RPG. It all depends on the kind of day you’re having.

Game Shelf
My video game backlog is out of control!

As of late though, I’ve started forcing myself to sit down and actually complete some of the games on my shelf before moving on to other ones. I finished Resident Evil 5 a couple of weeks ago. Decent game – my first fully completed game in the Resident Evil series. Didn’t care for a lot of the environments in the game, but the story and gameplay was solid overall.

And just this last weekend I completed Remember Me. Only took me two days too. The game has a solid sci-fi storyline with combat that reminds me of the Rocksteady Batman games. The Neo-Paris environments were pretty nice. Voice acting was great. Overall, I enjoyed the game. Nabbed almost half the achievements for it on my first playthrough, and I hope to play through it again some day later on down the line to nab the other half.

Anyway, next up on my radar is the Mass Effect series. I’ve already started #1. We’ll see how this goes.

Perspective

I ran across this music video a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with it for a slew of different reasons. For one, I love the song. Second, it talks about cancer and how we are all beautiful no matter what season we are in. And third, it showcases perfectly how perspective can be used to trick a viewer (or reader in the case of a story) to look at something from one angle when in fact that angle is the wrong way of viewing it.

When I first watched this video, I felt slightly disturbed at the lengths the son went to convince his mother’s coworkers to shave their heads in support of her struggle with cancer. And then I read some of the comments below the video on YouTube and realized that the whole video is being told from the mother’s perspective.

It would be easy to assume the mother is just really paranoid, but I think the skewed perspective of her son also stems from her own doubt (and lack of self-esteem) that her coworkers would ever agree to support her in this fashion unless they were coerced.

The end of the video proves otherwise, as her entire office has banded together to support her, thanks to her son and the love he has for her. Her son was instilling a major dose of self-esteem into her, which she desperately needed.

Love it!

The Friday Muse – A Bit of NaNo

Participant-2014-Web-BannerI crossed 32,000 words in my NaNoWriMo novel last night, so I figured it was time to share a little sample of it with everyone. This is an unedited passage from the novel. NaNoWriMo raw! So please disregard the fact that I actually wrote a sentence that states:

the grungy wall lit in a glean of shine from the dim candlelight

Anyway, this particular scene introduces a couple of my antagonists – Salt and Coral. They are both in the dungeon underneath the castle in the Kingdom of Lyte.

NaNoWriMo Sample
Her bright orange eyes nearly consumed him with her stare. “Do you not know how to talk, Shiny?”

Salt turned his back to her and gazed on the grungy wall lit in a glean of shine from the dim candlelight in the dungeon.

“C’mon, Shiny. Don’t leave me to talk to myself. I will, you know? I’m just makin’ converse. Need somethin’ to listen to ‘sides this silence.”

Salt said nothing to the strange woman. He adjusted the kerchief that covered his mouth and brushed off his thick tan canvas pants and tan denim jacket. The floor of the dungeon was covered in a strange dust that was beginning to upset his lungs. The kerchief would keep most of it out, but it wasn’t the perfect or most ideal garment. He would have done much better with a respirator mask.

“Look, I don’t know why you’re in here. Why are you in here? I’m here ‘cause I stole some bread. What can I say? I was hungry. I’m still hungry. Do you think they will feed us in here? I could really go for some beef. Do you think they have beef?”

Salt wanted nothing more than to shut the woman up. Telling her wouldn’t do it, and besides, Salt didn’t want to speak unless he had to. He wasn’t sure where he was, or what he was doing here. He awoke in a ship that had crash landed on this planet. Some ‘ambassadors’ from the kingdom brought him here, and when he couldn’t answer the question of who he was, he was tossed here into the dungeon.

“Are you hungry? Why aren’t you answering me? I just want to know if you’re hungry. Maybe we can convince them to give us some food.”

Salt noticed a small rat scurrying underneath piles of straw that were scattered across the floor of the dungeon. He reached out with his gloved hands and tried to grab hold of it, managing to pinch the animal’s tail before it slipped out of his grip and vanished through a very small hole in the stone wall.

Interesting, Salt thought. There’s a way out of here after all.

The Good Ol’ Days

I’ve never really participated in #ThrowBackThursday. I’ve wanted to, I just never really got around to posting a cute picture of me from the 80′s – because a cute picture of me from the 80′s does not exist. So I figured I’d give this a shot today, especially since I’m trying to get the ball rolling with some fresh blog content.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think a picture can be worth much more than that. A picture can be a window to our aspirations. A picture can freeze a moment in our lives that we may never get again. And a picture can remind us of where we came from so maybe we’ll have some clue about where we’re supposed to be going.

Scan_20141112

This picture here is probably one of my favorite and most cherished photos taken during my childhood. At the time – 4th of July, 1995 – I was a high school junior living in Salida, California. I’m the one in the Goofy shirt and backwards hat reaching out to the neighborhood cat. My parents (in the middle) were still married to one another, my grandmother (third from the left) was still alive, my uncle (the one on the far right) was still alive, and I still had a close relationship with my sister, my mother, and even the feline.

We all have aspirations when we are growing up. Some are good, some are bad, and some are incredibly ambitious. When we’re young we dream, and we dream a lot. My greatest aspiration besides being a writer was to have a big, happy family that gathered together (like in the picture) for barbecues, picnics, games, dinners – whatever. That’s all I could picture for my future as I was growing up, because it is the type of environment I grew up in and learned to love. It was a sensible aspiration. It wasn’t like I was asking to win the lottery, or to achieve a Nobel Peace Prize. I just wanted a large, unified family who enjoyed each other’s company.

And those aspirations were reality. For a while. Then October 1995 came around, and my grandmother died of breast cancer. Our family moved to Arizona. My parents divorced. My girlfriend treated me like trash. My best friend stabbed me in the back. I lost all of my college money. Nothing went the way I expected it to. In fact, in some regards, everything came crashing down. At least, that’s how it felt to me.

Life went on, and I learned how to survive, how to cultivate loyal friendships, and how to stand up for myself. Most importantly, I learned who God is, who I am, and what my purpose in this life is. I can confidently say that if I hadn’t experienced the heartache and challenges that I did, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

We all come to that one point in our life where the illusions we had as children are tested by the fires of reality. Another term for this point in our life is the end of the innocence. We are shown things for what they really are. We are shown people for who they really are. All disillusions are removed, and reality is there to tear us to pieces like Gmork from The Neverending Story.

At this point we can either accept our life for what it really is and vow to improve upon it, or we can deny what we see and live in a constant disillusioned state for the rest of our lives, never understanding that our trials and the tragedies of this life actually have the power to make us stronger and move us onto better paths for our lives. We have to learn that not everything in life is going to go according to the plans we made when we were in our teens, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Christina Perri sings in her song, “I Believe” -

“I believe if I ‘d knew where I was going, I’ d lose my way.”

This picture is the last time this whole group of people got together like this. I wish my grandmother and my uncle were around. I wish I had a better relationship with my mother and my sister. I wish my parents had stayed married. Those things aren’t my reality, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still aspire to obtain the essence of this picture in my own life.

Someday there will be another picture like it taken. In it, you’ll find my wife, my children, and our greatest friends and closest family gathered together in unity and love. And maybe even the neighborhood cat will join in.

The Friday Muse – My NaNoWriMo Novel

Participant-2014-Web-BannerThis is my tenth year participating in National Novel Writing Month. This year I decided to craft a brand new stand-alone novel that gives quite a bit of background to both of my fiction series. The book is titled Salt (for the moment), and my goal is 75,000 words by Thanksgiving. I’m only at 7,467 right now, but I’ll get ahead of the curve this weekend (hopefully).

The main point of the novel is to tell the back story to the main antagonist – Legion – of my two fiction series – Black Earth and Expired Reality. While Legion is actually referred to as an alien species within both series, Salt (my NaNo novel) tells the story of how Legion used to be one man who became corrupted by malice and lack of identity.

Just a few things about the novel -

RavenThis is a bird I picked up in the local crafts store a few weeks ago. He’s going to be a part of the cover design. Isn’t he cute? And dark? And a little creepy? He sits on my desk and chases the Writer’s Block away.

My plan is to release the book sometime in late Spring 2015.

For those who have read any of my stories, this novel will also give some background to many of the things found in those stories, such as -

  • The origins of the Ryn and the Black Cathedral
  • The origins of the lighthouses and the Dark Light
  • The origins of Shadowbanish, the sword
  • The origins of the Dark Army

Alright, I have to get back to writing. I have a lot to catch up on today. For those of you participating in NaNoWriMo, what are your stories about, and what is your word count goal? Do you stick to 50,000 words, or do you try and challenge yourself further? Leave me a note and let me know.

The Friday Muse – Remembering Mr. Pumpkin

WP_20141018_18_01_27_ProMy pumpkin died the other day. Didn’t even make it to Halloween. As I grieve, I remember our times together…

It was a Saturday morning. I’ll never forget the coolness in the air that day, or the scent of animal manure at that pumpkin farm out in Livermore. I was searching that day, searching for a very special pumpkin that I could adopt into our family. Someone to sit on my desk and watch me write, someone to absorb the tears that fell from my eyes when I couldn’t face the difficulties of this life anymore.

WP_20141018_09_37_38_Pro

I found him amidst a crowd of other pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes. Each clamored for my attention, like a concert audience pleading for the lead singer to notice them. But only one pumpkin stood out from the rest. One perfect pumpkin. I sat him gently within my wagon and carted him to the register.

I left the pumpkin farm happy that day, a new member of our family in tow – Mr. Pumpkin.

I gave Mr. Pumpkin a temporary home within in the living room of our dinky little apartment. For weeks he sat on the floor by the coffee table, content to just be out of the crowd of inferior pumpkins. Unfortunately, I was the only one who gave Mr. Pumpkin the respect he truly deserved. My wife tripped and stubbed her toe on him on occasion, as if he wasn’t even there. My son tried countless times to use him as a chair or a toilet – I’m not really sure which. I scolded everyone who tried to make Mr. Pumpkin anything less than a pumpkin.

Then the day came.

WP_20141029_003I drew a face on Mr. Pumpkin to give him a life. And I carved into him to finally unlock his true potential, his Saiyan abilities if you will. It was a labor of love. When I reached in and took out Mr. Pumpkin’s innards and wiped them on my son to make the circle complete, my boy cried and ran off. I only wanted him to embrace the fact that pumpkins are everything that is good in this world. He did not understand.

I set Mr. Pumpkin’s seeds – the very essence of who he was – to the side so I could enjoy them later. Then I set Mr. Pumpkin on the kitchen counter for all of our little apartment to see. He was a beacon in this dark world, a smiling face against a gray backdrop of sad, sorry pumpkin haters.

It only took hours for the rash to appear within Mr. Pumpkin’s fragile form. He was sick, but I didn’t know why. How could a pumpkin so freshly carved be sick so soon?

I decided to wait and see what would happen.

The next morning I could think of nothing else but Mr. Pumpkin – our times in the pumpkin patch, the times I had to shoo my son from sitting on his head. The memories burned deep within me. I went to the kitchen, frantic of what I would find.

Mr. Pumpkin’s rash had spread.

Mold.

I panicked. I had nowhere to quarantine him. The weather in the Bay Area – especially where I am on the coast – is too humid and full of moisture. Where a pumpkin candidate would last two weeks after being carved in Arizona, it only took days for one carved in our part of the world to quickly degenerate into a rotting, stinking corpse.

My wife looked at me with eyes that said everything: “It’s time to put him down.”

It was still days before Halloween. But even though there was a wide, bright smile on his face, I knew deep down inside of his gourd, he was suffering. I waited until the next morning to make my final decision. If the disease slowed down, I might be able to carry him through to the 31st so he could see what light burned within him. But when I took off his cap, his inner chamber had grown hair, and so much of it!

I picked him up in my arms, my fingers almost pushing through his bottom. His shell was beginning to rot. I knew it was the end of the line for my orange friend.

I took him to the community trash cans and said my goodbyes.

I hope Mr. Pumpkin finds a good home in the landfill amidst the broken toilets and wet cardboard boxes.

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