Category Archives: Writing

[Fiction] Parati

I saw that Chuck Wending posted a Flash Fiction Challenge this past Friday, and since tonight I was just goofing off online before spending all of Sunday studying for a test, I said, “Sure, why not?” So, challenge accepted!

Flash Fiction Challenge: Random Photo Story -  Write a 1000-words-max flash fiction piece based around three random photographs.

Here are my three photographs:

My story is called Parati, and clocks in at 986 words. I wrote it cold; I looked at the pics for like three minutes and started writing, letting the story emerge as I went. It was a fun exercise, especially after two weeks of being in “nursing school” mode. I warn you, it gets a little graphic toward the end, but just a little. Feedback is appreciated. Enjoy.
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I Finished My Novel

On Dec 13, 43 days after I started the mad-dash that is NaNoWriMo, and 71,587 words later, I finished the first draft of my very first novel, now titled The Myth of Romantic Comedies.

Woohoo to me!

I am still in shock over the experience. I was “in the zone” that last day; I wrote 4539 words on Dec 13 alone! I was writing as fast as I could and then, suddenly, the ending line I had had in mind since the second week of November was written. I was done. I teared up a little.

I never thought I could write a novel. I always said I wanted to do so, but never thought I could. And now I’ve done it. And I cannot wait to write the next one, even with the crazy schedule I know awaits me next year with Nursing school. Because writing is something I have to do. I stopped doing it for years and I was miserable. And now, whatever else happens in my life, I have writing back in it and I won’t let it go.

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Writing Demands A Sacrifice

Dr. FaustusI talked about this briefly already, but I’ve been thinking about it more and wanted to expand.

Plain and simple: writing demands a sacrifice of you, the writer. If you’re not willing to pay it, you won’t write.

This was made evident to me during NaNoWriMo; the format of the event forces you to make brutal choices if you want to reach 50,000 words in 30 days. And yes, I mean brutal.

This year, my sacrifices were two:

  1. The smaller one: I put aside everything writing related in my life (blog posts, my Play-by-Post RPGs, sometimes even my journal) to save all those words for my novel.
  2. The bigger one, my true pound of flesh: sleep.

A few years back I started getting up at 5 AM to have time to write before the start of the day. That worked for me fairly well, so with the start of NaNoWriMo, I went back to that format, except I would wake up at 4 AM to give myself an hour to do all my waking up prep before being ready to sit down to write. Every day, with few exceptions, this was my routine and I would write my 2000 words for the day between 5-7-ish AM.

It meant that by 10 PM I was beat and ready for bed (though in reality my bedtime is more like 11-12 Midnight), but it was worth it for the burst of fresh creativity I experienced in the mornings.

And you know what? I’m still doing it. And I will continue to do it for the foreseeable future.[ref]We’ll see once I start Nursing school what sacrifice must I make to carve even a couple minutes to write down a few words.[/ref]

So, what about you? What’s your sacrifice? What’s your pound of flesh offered to this cruel mistress, Writing?

[#NaNoWriMo] Mission Accomplished

So, NaNoWriMo? I accomplished that shit I set out to do. I “won” at 50,469 yesterday, Nov 29, though I’ve added another¬† 1500 words by now. I’m about 60-ish % done with my story, so I continue to write.

I loved doing this. I’d done NaNo four times before, “won” once in ’06 but with a memoir, not fiction. To have done it this year with fiction, and new fiction that was flowing like a friggin river, has been fantastic. Why? Because I am a writer, have been a writer, want to be a writer, but I wasn’t writing, and that’s bullshit. For reasons I cannot even remember I stopped doing it and it left a hole in me that I plugged with words this month. And I will keep on going. Because writing is something I HAVE to do, for myself if for no one else.

So yeah, the fuck-you-don’t-think-just-write-50K-words-in-November boot camp march was what I needed to clear the cobwebs and get the engine running again. I woke up pretty much every day at 4-ish AM so I could write from 5-7 AM, before the world woke up. I’m not a morning person at all, but that worked for me so awesomely, I continue to do it even though I “won.”

Writing is a cruel mistress and she demands a sacrifice. Without a sacrifice, nothing is going to happen. Ante up your pound of flesh, cause that’s what it takes. At minimum.

I know a lot of people hate on NaNoWriMo, but I love it. Even the years I didn’t participate in it I glanced at it like a boy peeping through the glory hole in the girl’s bathroom. This time next year, G-d willing, I will be finishing my Nursing clinicals and studying for finals, so who knows if I’ll be able to do NaNo then. But it doesn’t matter, because I intend to write every day, and turn NaNoWriMo into NaNoWriYe(ar).

Go read Chuck Wendig‘s post, “The NaNoWriMo Epilogue: Miles To Go Before You Sleep.” This post started as a reply to Chuck’s post, and what Chuck says there is gospel truth.

If you “won” this year, HIGHFIVE for those 50K!
If you didn’t, HIGHFIVE for those [whatever]K!
Now, here’s the knife: where are you gonna cut that pound of flesh from? The words are waiting.

NaNoWriMo 2011

After skipping it for a few years, I am doing NaNoWriMo this year and I am loving it. I started right on Nov 1 with a scene that I had had in my mind for over ten years. I stripped it of the details that had accumulated over time and left it as the simple concept, then let the characters show me how it happened now. They very much did and they have continued to tell me their story day by day.

As of this post I am right on target with 14,201 words written. I have a daily goal of 2000 words so I can account for Shabbat and have a day off each week and after week 1, so far so good. I get up every day at 4 AM to give myself time to wake up and get some coffee made and by 5 AM I am typing, usually until 7 or so when it’s time to wake my wife up and do all the usual morning chores. It’s a bit exhausting, especially days when I work 9 hours until closing at 9 PM, but I am loving the early morning quiet writing time. The words flow so much better on a clear, rested mind.

I don’t know why I stopped writing. I have found a part of myself I had missed terribly and am loving reacquainting myself with it. I have a really good idea where this novel is going, too, which has me really excited to continue.

You can take a look at my NaNoWriMo profile (if you’re doing NaNo as well, friend me up), where you will find the very first scene of the novel as an excerpt.

Ok, that’s 287 words I could’ve put into the novel. Back to work!

Thoughts On Innovation

I was listening last week to episode 18 of Dice + Food + Lodging Podcast, the second part of a conversation between host Tim and guest Robert Bohl. It was an interesting chat all around, but around halfway through the episode they started talking about innovation in gaming, and my ears perked up.

I have a love-hate relationship with that word when it comes to game design. And I’ll admit up-front that it’s my own baggage, by the way.

As a game designer, I fall squarely in the System Hacker camp; I like to tinker with systems I fall in love with and add fiddly bits to them to make them do extra things that appeal to me. That’s why the d20 era was so great for me. As I started to work on my Vampire rebuild, I very quickly copped to my (self-imposed?) limitation saying that I was setting out to put together elements I liked, not to create the Next Big Thing in Gaming (TM). In short, Hey, I’m just messing with existing parts, not creating new ones. I did this because I have never thought of myself as that kind of game designer: I see some of the really nifty ideas-turned-games out there and I appreciate the elements they add to the general gamer/designer toolbox, but never think I can do it as well. Again, my own baggage for another occasion.

The point is that innovation is this bugbear in my game design highway that I constantly feel I need to be on alert for. So when I hear the topic come up in this conversation, it immediately recalls to my mind all these thoughts and feelings. But this time, there was an extra piece that had never been there before.

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Rebuilding Vampire: Awakening From Torpor

In Vampire: The Masquerade, vampires can enter a state called “torpor,” an extremely deep slumber basically comparable with stasis. This word entered my household’s regular use years ago and is one we sometimes whip out in front of “normals” without noticing except for when we see the confused faces wondering, what language are these two speaking? That’s two very long sentences merely to get to my point that I feel like I’ve fallen into torpor regarding development of the vampire game.

It’s not that my interest has waned in any way, but that the forced breaks during classes have cooled my writing engine and now I’m finding it very hard to get it restarted. Obviously I’m trying – this post, which really doesn’t say much – is me turning the key in the ignition, letting the car sputter, hoping the car will finally turn on.

Ok, enough of the car analogy.

My point is, to have stepped away from this project for months (and the occasional short post I threw in there was merely a way for me to keep the topic current in both my mind and yours, but not really a full-fledged effort at actual on-the-fly game design) makes it really hard now that I have time to go back to it with the same level of enthusiasm as in the beginning. Not impossible, just hard.

I’m not saying anything that doesn’t apply to any writer, I know. I’m just working through my own awakening from torpor.

I continue to hold Gen Con as a deadline for a playable-with-me first draft (this being a draft that is playable only if I’m running it, that is, one full of mnemonics, short phrases completed in my head, references that I’ll understand), which leaves me about a month’s time to work through the parts I know are still missing and put the entire thing together into some semblance of order.

I’m also fighting an innate tendency in my own personality: the close-enough-you-can-see-the-finish-line drop in interest on a project. By nature, I’m far more efficient on the early stages of any project; I have energy, ideas, desire to get the thing going, motivation. I’m a starter, one who gets fires burning. But I have a problem in the long term, as I lose steam or get distracted by other new projects. It’s simply a reality, and unfortunately I have not had the fortune of partnering up with others who can complement my early-in-the-game fire with the endurance needed for the long haul. Given how writing this game has been such a solitary endeavor, it means it is up to me primarily to work through the lethargy and find the inner reserves needed to see this project to its end. Which I desperately want to do.

So, one month left, and perhaps about 25% more of the game to get designed enough for a first playtest draft. I can do it. I just have to shake off this torpor and get designing again. By Dracula’s teeth, I will finish my first full-fledged game.

Rebuilding Vampire: I’ll Never Be An Emo Vampire

I love when little things like this fly by my Twitter feed. This is a parody song about Twilight sung by what looks to be Count Dracula. It’s awesome. And beyond the comedy, it does hold certain truths I happen to agree with about the interpretations of the vampire myth in the last couple of years. You could say my vampire game-in-progress is all about growing a pair…


Rebuilding Vampire: What’s Missing?

Thanks to summer classes and a Jewish holiday I’ve had to take a small break from the game, though it’s come in handy, as I needed time to ponder all the feedback I received on my post about the dice mechanics for the game. It also allowed me time to think about what I had set down already and what I still needed to address. Let’s make a list, shall we?

  1. The Hunger – Perhaps the singlemost obvious vampire trope I have not dealt with yet is the hunger for blood. I am very torn on this issue as I do not want the game to be about having a life meter like in videogames, yet if there is no mechanical weight behind the need for blood then I have failed in my design.
  2. Immortality – Or rather long-lived-ness. One of the biggest boons of vampirism is the ability to be nigh-immortal, yet at least in my experience, most vampire characters tend to be fairly young, if not downright newborns-to-darkness. Yeah, there’s a story to be told from that angle, but I want the angst that comes from centuries walking the night. I’ve an idea on how to incorporate this already.
  3. The Name – And by this I mean finding a name for the game. Seriously, I need to call this game something and I have not had any ideas! Not true, a name keeps floating around in my head, but I don’t know if it is right. I may crowdsource this, who knows.
  4. Weaknesses – This item was brought up to me in the comments by JJ Lanza. What about the traditional vampire weaknesses, like sunlight, crucifixes, garlic, etc? Quite simply, I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole. There’s a reason: for this game, I am not locking down the particular expression of the vampire beyond “a creature that feeds on blood, has some powers derived from it, is immortal and has a Beast that wants to consume it.” I want this game to be able to handle different expressions of the vampire, from the classic Nosferatu, to Dracula and its derivates (including the Anne Rice vampires and those of Vampire: The Masquerade/Requiem) as well as the new breed of sunlight-immune vamps like in Twilight or True Blood. I know how I’ll handle this, but I’ll write more about it later.

A tentative items #5 would be figuring out a role a bit more active for Humanity to parallel the way that there are minimum Beast dice that need to be used for some actions, as well as finding out what is the down side to Humanity (even if remaining Human is the goal of the game, being Human is not all days of wine and roses.

Likewise, an item #6 would be the revised dice mechanics. The feedback I received was fantastic and invaluable, and though I won’t be using all of it, it did make me think hard about what I wanted the dice to say about the game, about the conflict, about the choices to be made. I’m sure revisions will still come afterward, but it will be nice to have a basic system down to start playtesting.

But these are more an elaboration of existing concepts rather than something that still needs to be tackled, which is why I did not list them outright, though include them here.

My goal is to have a playable draft by Gen Con (Aug 5-8) and maybe even playtest it while in Indy, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Rebuilding Vampire: Dice Mechanics

Because I’ve been writing about this game as I go along in a very piecemeal process, a lot of the systems have evolved as I set them down to “paper” from whatever I’ve been brainstorming in my head. The good thing about this approach is that it has let me focus on the different aspects of the game, making the process less daunting; the drawback is that there is a certain disconnect between the parts, and especially between things that are still in my head but not written down yet. Dice mechanics is the biggest item falling into that category at the moment; without knowing how the dice move during the game, a lot of the things I have already described just float in mid-air above the game. It’s time to bring them down to earth and tie them together. Let’s talk dice.

At the risk of this sounding like a preemptive apology, the dice mechanics is the one area where I am very unsure of how efficient the system is. Visualizing the complex interactions of dice probabilities is not something that my mind can do without considerable effort (I’m just right-brained, what can I say). The dice mechanics I settled on for this game are a mishmash of a couple of games whose dice mechanics I like and admire. Enough game designer angst, let’s go.

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