Thursday, January 14, 2016

Daily Timelines, D&D, and World Building. WHOO!

Well, here I am again! Blog post number three this year already! It may seem a bit much, but I did comment that I had a lot to say after feeling like I missed the last week of December. True, I did post on like the 28th or something, but that was to try to catch up with the week before. To me, I missed a week, and now I caught up with it. Plus, even if this is only technically the second week in 2016, it never hurts to have a head start on that 52 post count. If I slack somewhere later, I'll be covered!

Now, with two blog posts this week so close to each other, I'm sure you're probably thinking that I'm back on the ball with this writing stuff. Eh, you may be right, but at the same time, yesterday was yet another Zero Day for me. I got up, patched up some work pants, went in to work at 9, back out a little after 5, did some quick shopping, had dinner, and then it was off to FINALLY go see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." I then spent the rest of the night reading through every fantheory, review, and meme that I had been avoiding for hope of dodging spoilers.

Actually, now that I wrote that last paragraph like that - vague play-by-play of how I spent my day - I want to quickly check in on my "read in one day" book. Ali Luke had sent me an advanced copy of her super short e-book "Time to Write", an updated version of her earlier e-book "How to Find Time For Your Writing." It's only about 15 pages long, and kept me less than an hour to read - with me pausing to think about what she was proposing, as well as analyzing the book as a beta reader. Best part? It's a free e-book for anyone who signs up for her blog's newsletter; a helpful email once a week with informative tidbits on writing.

She still has to do a quick touch-up polishing and get a proper cover finished, but otherwise the book is done and will be ready for her newletter recipients soon. I highly recommend it to any writer who is having difficulty either finding time to write, struggling to make writing a priority, or even trying to shut that inner critic up long enough TO write. She has quick 2-page chapters about different reasons why people may struggle with sitting down and writing, as well as a simple exercise to try. When I say simple, I mean it. One exercise is to find 15minutes a day - that's it, you can even use your work breaks or lunches - three times a week. Write during those 15minutes. Then there's another challenge to change up your writing location: find a new one, or get noise-cancelling headphones, or find music to get you in the writing mood/drown out everyone else around you, or use an exercise ball as your chair, etc.

One challenge - which is what lead me to talk about this in the first place - is to jot down the timeline of an average day - or few, if the schedules are drastically different - in order to see where you spend your time, and if you could maybe cut in some writing. Sometimes, you don't realize you have the writing time - even those 15minutes - until you see it on paper.

Here's the example she gave in her book:
Here’s roughly how Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays currently looks for me:
  • 5.45am – get up, shower, dressed, breakfast
  • 6.30am – get kids up, changed, dressed, breakfasted, ready to go out. Drop Kitty at pre-school and pop to the shops with Nick. Play with Nick for a bit.
  • 10am – Kids’ nanny arrives and I head upstairs to work. Brief lunch break around noon.
  • 1.25pm – head down to take over from the nanny. Play with kids, normally take them out somewhere, then come home to prepare tea around 4.15pm.
  • 4.45pm – teatime
  • 5.15pm – Paul takes over on the kids and I have fiction writing time! :D
  • 5.45pm – run kids’ bath, pop away any laundry
  • 6pm – bathtime, stories, bedtime
  • 7pm – cook dinner, eat dinner, and watch a bit of TV or chat to Paul
  • 8.30pm – housework and mindless web surfing
  • 9.30pm / 10pm – bed
... Pre-kids, my routine looked something like this:
  • 7.30am – get up, breakfast, mindless web surfing
  • 9am – work, with maybe a trip out to get groceries mid-morning
  • 1pm – lunch break with Paul, maybe watching TV
  • 2pm – work
  • 6pm ish – Dinner (Paul cooked) :D
  • 7pm – shower, washing up, TV, board games
  • 10pm – mindless web surfing
  • 11pm – bed
I have to admit that her pre-kids routine does look very familiar to me. So, I'm going to try to see if maybe I can make my life a bit more structured without kids forcing me to do so. I'll most likely fail miserably, but I can give it a shot.

Right now my schedule is:
  • 6:30a - alarm goes off and I hit snooze a million times while snuggling the husband
  • 7a - Finally work my way out of bed, groom, and grab a quick breakfast while checking in on Facebook
  • 8a - Work
  • 2p - This varies from day to day, but the average is that I leave work by 2, possibly get some shopping in, head home, grab lunch
  • 4p - Definitely home except for extremely rare days. Usually plopped in the living room with Hubby; Netflix and snuggling while checking in on FB some more.
  • 6p - Stomach starts growling; ignore it for another 1/2hr or so, finally cave and grab dinner; I'm generally distracting myself with more Facebook or DeviantArt.
  • 7p - Get one or two episodes of CSI:NY in - thanks to Netflix - while having dinner
  • 8p - Primetime shows or football. If neither are on/new, it's more Netflix & Snuggle
  • 11p - I go "shoot! It's late!" and head to bed
  • 11:45p - ACTUALLY make it to bed
As you can see, writing is no longer a general part of my scheduled day. Used to be all those "Netflix and Snuggle" parts - which seems to make up at least half my day - were still productive because I was crocheting gifts. Now that Christmas is over, I need to wean myself back off of the TV and get back to being productive.

For starters, I need to get back to having 4p-5p being my daily writing hour - with the rare exceptions for days like yesterday where I was at work until after 5p. For the most part, 4p-5p is just a time-void where I'm mindlessly watching TV while catching up on Facebook. It's generally after I'm home and able to have some unwind time, but before people would come over or our Primetime shows/football would start - Sunday excluded. Plus, it has a nice hour-long buffer before my bi-weekly writing group meeting, so that I can still make it to the meeting on time without cutting the session short, and I can have the session run a little long without being late to the meeting.

I've also started using the time while I'm home and Hubby's at work; such as now while I'm writing this post, actually. The house is quiet, and I don't have distractions. I do feel a bit unproductive still because I could also use this rare alone time to clean, work on finances, search for a better job, or even exercise. Heck! I could use this equally rare time where I have control of the TV and game systems to start up a game; I haven't played something myself in MONTHS, excluding my handheld games.

Nope. I'm using it for writing. I partially feel bad about it, but it's priority fixing. I can work on finances and job searching and cleaning with Hubby home. I can fight the siren's call of the TV while working on those chores. My writing, however? Even with headphones in, the gleam of the TV calls to me. I have to not have the TV on at all in order to write, and Hubby needs it on as background noise at the very least. We need to work on having a radio or something that we can have on as background noise instead....

Anyway, if Hubby's home, then I have to hide away somewhere. Not a bad option, but that either leaves me with sitting on the floor in the library, or snuggled in bed... which tends to lead to me falling asleep while writing lately.

So, writing while Hubby's at work - at least for an hour or so - and then hiding myself away between 4p and 5p. Seems like good options, we'll see how sternly I stick to them this time. The "Writing Hour" thing did work for a little while. Once Hubby knows the routine he usually shoos me away to make sure I stick with it.

There's still all that extra time though. Again, I really need to have us cut back on all the endless Netflix & Snuggle dates, and be more active/productive. More structured. As I mentioned in my earlier post this week, humans are actually fairly simple, and sometimes you need to revert back to how things were when you were a toddler. And toddlers need structure. They need to know what activity is next, when it will be, that it will be the same pattern daily, and that there's little to no "free time" where boredom or mischief can set in.

Even as adults we need that. Sure, it's out of necessity, but think about your friends, family, or even yourself after becoming a parent. Life HAD to become more structured, and with that, the new parent is surprisingly a lot more productive.

Structure leads to happier, healthier, and more productive lives. Now, to get Hubby on board so he doesn't unintentionally disrupt my new call to order by beckoning me to the couch to snuggle for seven hours straight.

But enough of that! I have been moderately productive with creative stuff, and I had every intention of talking about THAT today.

I'm becoming a Dungeon Master, or DM.

Two of my co-workers, who are planning on joining the X-Future game, are in a small D&D playgroup. The one co-worker asked Hubby to help him design a dungeon labyrinth. Hubby did, and the month it took to build it and come up with the traps in it, and all the discussions the three of us have had on the dungeon has really REALLY brought up my craving to play some D&D myself.

Sprinkle in that Hubby's been playing Skyrim, with is basically D&D the Video Game. The call for me to play this game is strong, and yet I'm sitting in Limbo with it.

For one game, a friend of a friend is supposed to DM, but life got crazy and he hasn't even thought of the campaign yet. All we have are the basic structures of the characters we built for a game that may never happen. Another game had Spink and her fiance asking Hubby to run it. He's still trying to figure out what he wants to do for that game. Then there's Hubby's Game of Thrones inspired game that he started over a year ago, and hasn't really done much with; no inspiration. Finally, there's the game that was sort of impromptu when we went to Mouse and Bear's house one day, but with our car out of commission, who knows when we'll be able to get to their new place and have the campaign continue on.

FOUR. Four games that I COULD be playing, but I am not. I lamented this. Then people suggested that if I wanted to play so badly, why not run a game myself? I have willing players that are waiting for a DM too. I'm a bit hesitant due to my inexperience with the game, but with Hubby as my co-pilot, my gift for storytelling, and four players just as inexperienced with the game as I am, it might work. I just have to remember to start simple and then work up to the heavily complex world that I've been drafting in my head.

Namely, Gyateara. True, I've been building it as a grand setting for multiple High Fantasy novels, but it was always about creating a new D&D realm as well. I want to be able to work my way up to the point that Skyrim and other Open World games are. You are the main character, but in the grand scheme of the world, you're not really important; at least, not at first. Wars are fought around you without you impacting them much one way or another. Raids happen that aren't meant to be random encounters, you may not even get there in time for it to be an encounter at all. Towns are ransacked before you can return to them. NPCs retire to a safer location before you get all the information out of them that you could have. The fortune-telling beggar ends up simply dying of hypothermia before your quest is done. The world keeps spinning with or without you. I LOVE this aspect of the Elder Scrolls games, and I am dying to be a skilled enough DM to be able to run a campaign setting like that one day.

For now though, I have to keep it small and simple as we all learn together. Which means that along with Ali's book, and making my way through "The Throne of Fire", I have also been setting aside some time to read the Dungeon Master's Guide cover to cover - although it specifically states that it's a reference book and isn't expected to be read as such - in order to learn how to do this task.

It's a great way to get my mind going again. Brewing up some plots and story ideas. Get the creative juices flowing. A lot of writers and Hollywood Big Wigs actually used to play D&D for this exact reason. Even if you don't self-identify as a geek or nerd, I do suggest finding a playgroup and joining in on at least a few sessions if you feel stuck. It's a great way to shake off some rust and have you think creatively while on your toes.

I even finished off 2015 with finally creating a map of Gyateara. It's a preliminary one and I already have some notes on how I want to alter it, but it's a start. Sadly, even after avoiding drawing a world map for years out of fear of just recreating Earth, I somehow still managed to do just that. Stupid subconscious having me create something familiar to me.

Anyway, here's the first map of Gyateara, remember, it will change, but I'm not sure by how much:
Please excuse the folds in the map....
I don't have any of these continents named, and I only have the pantheon structure figured out for about 5 of them, and so that's part of the issue that I need to work out. I have been having some fun with it though.

The equivalent to Europe will have a Greco-Roman pantheon; much like the original pantheon designed for D&D. The island grouping along the top of the page is made up of a pantheon of four goddesses, maybe one or two minor gods as well, and is structured pretty much identically to that of the Legend of Zelda games. It's also an off-shoot of the Greco-Roman pantheon.

I was wondering if the basic structure of Norse mythology is unique enough for a pantheon stylized off of it to be at all different from a Greco-Roman one, or even a war-driven one such as the Aztecs. So, I'm still debating having one of the continent pantheons be stylized Norse.

There will be an Asian-inspired continent with 12 gods, much like the Chinese zodiac. I was also debating having Japanese culture - since it is so distinct and even separate from the rest of Asia - as its own pantheon. I'd focus on the yokai, or even one centralized god - Budda-equivalent - with the yokai as his servants that helped him in the Divine War and in building his continent.

One of the smaller continents will have a pantheon inspired by the Native American beliefs and lore. One of the other island groupings will possibly be an off-shoot using other native beliefs such as the Mayans, Incas, Aztecs, Inuits, and Native Hawaiians. Since these beliefs can be drastically different from each other - Aztecs and Mayans, for one - I may reserve these smaller, more centralized beliefs for the different island groupings in order to have enough pantheon diversities for all of the continents.

The Africa-inspired continent will have a combination of an Egyptian-stylized pantheon, as well as one focused more on the tribal beliefs of the jungle sections of Africa. Namely, a pantheon made of people with animal features and a structured hierarchy. Then there will be one focused on anthropomorphed animals such as Anansi the Spider.

I'm thinking that continent in the center that looks like Africa and has a second continent attached to it might work. The one side will be "Egyptian" inspired, where the gods are all half-animal people, and the other side will be "tribal" inspired, and the gods will all be humanoid animals. The gods will create beings in their image; tweaking the agreed upon human structure that is seen across the entire globe.

The "Egyptian" gods will create creatures such as centaurs, lamia, merfolk, harpies, D&D Driders - also known as an Arachne, and to a lesser extent - mainly because they're so important to Egyptian lore - the sphinx. Whereas the "Tribal" gods will create creatures such as kobolds, gnolls, kuo-toacatfolk - in all their variety - and minotaurs, which I define as humanoid bulls instead of half-bull half-human. Although, I guess you can make the same argument for harpies... maybe it's because minotaurs have the animal head and harpies have a human one?

Like I said, I've been having fun with this.

So, I guess I'll have to see what other inspiration learning how to DM and watching Hubby play Skyrim will bring. I'll be sure to keep you posted.

**EDITING NOTE: Soooo, um, it was brought to my attention that the term "Netflix and Chill" is not as innocent as I had thought.... I have since gone back and changed all of them to the "Netflix and Snuggle" that Hubby and I actually do...**

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