Sunday, April 24, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: Adulthood

Woah. This week zipped by! I didn't even register that I missed my blog update. Sorry about that, guys. It's been a busy adult-filled week.
Friday a buddy came over to help me catch up with cleaning the house.... but proceeded to accidentally break our toilet. Saturday Goob took us out to a game and comic book store, and then to the Asian Market. It was so neat, and Sweet Potato Kit-Kats are now my new favorite thing! I did feel like I should have worn a sign that read "Tourist" though.... After the market I had to run back out to go clothes shopping so that I had something business-casual for an interview. Sadly, this is like a two-hour job for me.

Sunday was Hubby's overnight, and I had to cover for a co-worker, so I was also at work in the morning; not nearly as early as Hubby, but still. That flowed right into finishing up some cleaning and Game Day! I didn't have anything prepared for D&D aside from a brief list of interactions that would maybe take an hour or so. Instead, we tried out the new games we bought Saturday with the store credit Hubby got for trading in some Magic cards.

Monday was "Finally Get The Toilet Fixed" day, along with a few errands and some wedding planning with Spink. Tuesday was a fun-filled day of work, and then quick throwing myself together for the job interview, elation that I was given the job right after the interview, informing my current job of my two-weeks notice, and struggling to vote in the primaries. But the fact that I "struggled to vote" is a political thing I don't want to get into.....

Wednesday I was at work most of the day, had a few more errands to run, and then I was reminded that with the chaos of the weekend I never got around to the writing challenge that Phfylburt gave me for Sunday. The challenge? Write a rave review for a movie I can't stand. Well, I had to be completely honest. That wasn't going to happen. First of all, I don't really hate movies. Secondly, the few I do hate I either haven't seen them in over a decade, or I stopped watching before the movie was done. I couldn't really write any sort of a review, let alone a "rave" one, unless I rewatched one of these movies. Not happening. So, Hubby suggested I watch a movie I avoided because I ASSUMED I'd hate it. Alright. I was game.

So Hubby put on "The Interview" - which is still on Netflix, thanks, Netflix! - and I was actually surprised. It's not going to be a go-to movie for me, but it was a LOT better than I anticipated. So, I was able to find some legit high points, and used those for my review. Although, it did pain me to purposely leave out the low points of the movie....

Phfyl seemed impressed, but he also wants to go back over with a fine-toothed comb in order to give me a better analysis. Eh, anything to help me improve, I guess.

His next challenge? Write the next paragraph to the last book I read. It's an interesting challenge, but always stumps me. The book ended. The author felt it hit its conclusion. I have to now be like "Nope. Just one more paragraph. And then it will be done, for realsies." I guess it wouldn't be a challenge if it was easy to do....

Anyway, back to my whirlwind week. Thursday - when I SHOULD have posted this update - started with a doctor's visit I have been avoiding for FAR too long. Turns out there was nothing for me to be nervous about, so YAY! I then had to race home and chug water so I was ready for my first ever urine test. Joy..... It was for a mandatory pre-employment drug-screening test. And the nurse/lab tech had NO humor. Thursday then chugged right along with Hubby and me doing grocery shopping as soon as I got home, which was interrupted by my current job's HR rep personally handing me a store gift-card as a reward for hitting a certain level with the wellness position. To clarify, everyone in charge of wellness that hit that level got the same reward, so I didn't just get free money for being awesome or whatever. Still, I was the only one out the 14 stores this HR rep was in charge of for the second year in a row, so that was cool. It also may have prompted the rep to both wish me good luck on the new job, and practically beg me to not leave. That was a nice feeling. Plus, ya know, FREE MONEY for groceries! We went on a splurge which meant grocery shopping kept nearly 2hrs. Finish the day off with laundry, and absentmindedly forgetting that a blog post needed to be written.
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Friday was more work, a quick house invasion by Quarthix and his fiance, and then when the two of them and Hubby ran off to Friday Night Magic, I ran off to do more clothes shopping so I had an appropriate wardrobe for my new job. That took close to three hours this time. I'm so good at this.

Once home again, I balanced my checkbook, contacted David's Bridal to let them know I wasn't going to make the 7-day cut off to pick up the bridesmaid gown that arrived - that was an ordeal - and spent a little bit of time with Spink when she dropped off a few more bridal party dresses for me to store.

Yesterday was work and then out with friends all day, concluding with Ronoxym and Cyhyr hanging out with us at our house until pretty late. Then crashing for a few hours before Hubby's overnight shift.

Which finally brings me to today. Chaos has followed me all week. The only thing I have written - aside from maybe a post or two over on X-Future - was that "rave review" challenge from Phfyl. I haven't even figured out anything for today's D&D session. Soooo, that will be interesting....

Also, with the new job I will now be at work for close to twelve hours on Thursdays, so I will once again be shifting my weekly update day. No clue what I'll be shifting it to, but I'll be sure to let you know before it officially happens. Keep an eye out for that.

I really wanted to find something to talk about today to make up for missing Thursday, but truthfully, I just don't have anything. There was no writing. No brainstorming. No vague intention to focus on such-and-such story. This past week has purely been focused on this new job and all the other adulting stuff that came with it.

I didn't even focus on my Script Frenzy project at all. Haven't chosen a book yet this month, let alone read one. Creatively, this month has been a bit of a wash. How is it going by faster than February!?

So sorry, folks. I wish I had more for ya. I do have the challenge Phfyl gave me, along with the writing prompt for the local group: if your main character were to write you a letter, what would it say? I'm not entirely sure I can actually do the local group prompt since I don't have a story I'm focusing on, let alone a main character, but I could possibly have the challenge from Phfyl done for this Thursday......

My life will be non-stop chaos for the next 14 days or so, which will make being creative interesting. But, we'll give it a shot. Until then, my apologies once more for zoning out this week.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Productively Writing Nothing

Ever had one of those weeks where you worked your butt off and still managed to accomplish nothing? Yup. That was me.

I told you last week how I was working fairly diligently on populating Ashitar for the Sunday D&D session, as well as building more of its history. Well, Friday I spent the better part of TEN. FLIPPIN'. HOURS. working on this project. I did some research before work. I did some more during my lunch break. Some more while waiting for Hubby to get out of work. And I kept going from the moment I got home until I nearly passed out on the couch. I didn't even realize I wasn't getting anywhere or missing out on more productive things, such as actual writing or at least cleaning the apartment.

I had stumbled upon the D&D Wiki page on town-building - which I would have gone to first if I had thought about it existing - and just set up camp. I went through all the charts and percentages and algorithms on this insanely-long page. I set up spreadsheet charts with their own algorithms built so all I have to do is input the population next time. And what did I accomplish with all of this?

I know how much of the population is male vs female. How many are able-bodied adults vs children, elderly, and infirm. I know how many are elderly, and how many of THEM are male vs female. I know how many are infirm, and again the sex-split within that category. I know how many children are boys, and how many are girls. I know how many are teens, which is only 13-15 in the D&D world since you reach adulthood at fifteen. I know how many children are 3-13, and how many are toddlers or infants. I know how many are any given race between human, elf, half-elf, halfling, dwarf, gnome, and half-orc. I also know the professions found in Ashitar, and the breakdown of how many of each profession there are.

Do I know anything of any significance? Like the names of the important players in the town? The layout of Ashitar? The names of the Assassin's Guild or Thieve's Den? The names of the pubs they hang out in? Any "quest givers" for the party? Nope. Not a clue. At least, not when I was done "working" on Friday.

A whole lot of studying, planning, and work focusing on entirely the wrong things. That's me!

I don't recall why, but Saturday was also a bust. So here it is, Sunday. Everyone was coming over to play, and I have nothing to work with. I got done with yet another overnight shift close to two hours before my husband would be done, and so I sat in the break room and just worked. I doodled out a VERY rough city map. I scribbled down every possible Quest Thread that I could think of. I came up with rumors that would be going throughout the place. I was on fire! I felt accomplished when Hubby showed up in the break room to let me know he was done.

I was even more amazed when I found out that he got his work done about an hour early, and I had accomplished all of that in around 45minutes! Whoo! I guess first thing in the morning IS my prime creativity time. I miss having my Sunday Insomnia writing sessions.

Unfortunately, it ended up being all for naught. My main quest giver felt her world crumbling around her and acted with emotion instead of thought. She meant no harm, but it put a couple player-characters on the defensive. Which lead them to irritate her since she interpreted their defensiveness as disrespect. So now Hubby and Quarthix's characters believe the human baroness racist against all non-humans - Hubby's an elf and Quarthix is a dwarf - and wish to have little to nothing to do with her. Meanwhile, she doesn't want to be in the same room with these disrespecting people. The likelihood that I can get the three of them together for her to offer a paid quest seems difficult, and so that has been my challenge this week: find a way to get them to all play nice.

Well, on top of that challenge already, Hubby's character convinced another to be a bit naughty, to say the least. See, our friend Goob has a bard for a character, which means he has a lot of Charisma that he can use for, say... bluffing someone. Hubby's character reminded Goob's character that the Baroness said that she wanted them out of her sight, and that she "didn't care where they went, as long as it wasn't in the same room as her." He used this wording to convince the bard that this would mean she wouldn't mind them checking out the mansion's coffer.

Goob's character used his bluff to convince the simple town guard sent to escort them that he should give them a tour of the mansion first; starting at the mansion's coffer.

In reality, I should have just said, "The guard knows better. You cannot bluff him about this." However, I'm new to DMing, I was tired from working the overnight and not napping before game started, and so I just rolled to see if the guard believed the bard. Alas, he not only believed him, he thought it was an order from the Baroness. He faithfully lead the party down to the coffer, where Hubby's character skillfully thieved two out of the three jewels resting in the safe. Again, I should have been like "NO!" but....

So, not only do I have to smooth things over between the Baroness and the party so they can get their main quest-line from her, but I have to make everyone too stupid to realize that the jewels magically disappeared from the coffer about the same time these strange people - who were already disrespectful, in the Baroness' eyes - were in the mansion. Oh yeah, and Hubby cleaved one of his stolen goods, a black pearl, in half in order to set them into the eye sockets of the black dragon skull he is turning into a helm for Quarthix's dwarf. So, naturally, either the dwarf never sets foot in Ashitar again - which sucks since I was planning on having it be the party's home-base for at least another six quests or so - or he can't wear his helm anywhere near town for fear of someone recognizing the black pearl. Hubby claims it will be fine because it will look like TWO black pearls, when only one was stolen. Still..... It's bad enough Quarthix kept some of the Baron's rings when they found him dead in a dungeon. He was smart enough to take those off before seeing the man's widow, but to hide those AND the black pearl dragon helm? I don't know how to convince Quarthix to have his character stay at Ashitar; aside from going "I'm the DM and I say you have to stay here!"
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So, yeah, it's been a fun week trying to figure all of THAT out. So it didn't really leave me much extra time to, ya know, WRITE.

Which was interesting come this past Tuesday when I went to my writing group. Not really anyone had anything to read, which was even more awkward. When I joined the group back at the end of October, I met a woman who had managed to not only finish writing a 50,000 word book during NaNo, but she polished and published it as well. She and her husband both had medical issues that kept them from working, and so they were both "retired". Apparently, when I met her in October they were in the final stages of selling their house and moving into an RV instead. I then didn't see her again until this past Tuesday because she and her husband were spending the winter traveling the US; visiting family across the country and taking in historical sights.

Since she had made her triumphant return the previous Saturday, not many of us had seen her yet. We spent most of the evening asking her about her trip, and how she's coming along with her next story. Seems the "next story" that she was trying to get published back in October was now "three stories ago". Well then.

To be fair, she IS retired and had really nothing better to do while on the road for hours on end, so I guess I really shouldn't compare. Plus, if she was able to keep that NaNo pace of write for a month, and then spend the next month polishing, it's believable that she was able to crank out three more over the winter. Still. It's hard for me to not compare. To not be dumbfounded by her productivity. To not be proud of her, but still a bit envious that she's so successful while I can't even figure out what ONE story I want to make into a manuscript.

Anyway, we all gushed over her, which apparently was making her a bit uncomfortable, and so she kept trying to redirect us back to why we were there: writing. What were WE up to while she was gone? Well, DFL and Keaton confirmed that they were very slowly chugging along on their respective stories; the same ones that this woman already knew about. Red then informed the woman about the story she's been working on since our one writing prompt in November: the woman off her meds and planning a homicidal bender. She then read the latest section to us. It had a really nice twist. We talked about her story for a bit; her concerns versus what we thought was really good about it. Once we all seemed to have said what we wanted to, we moved on to a relatively new member.

She had made an appearance once before at the start of the year. Since she knew the new gentleman that had joined in March, I assumed she too had shown up at least once in those two meetings I missed. Making this her third or fourth group meeting.

When she first attended a few months back, she commented about how she wrote clinical papers for a living, and so writing anything creative was a challenge for her. Well, this week she talked about this great 6hr retreat she went on last Saturday, and how she was planning on doing the same thing every Saturday for the near-future. Whatever it was that went on in that zen-like retreat atmosphere must have worked its charms, because what this woman read was beautiful. She had such great imagery, and such a simple but powerful tale. We went on for a little bit about her work. How she was improving, what phrases really struck us, how the story made us feel, so on and so forth.

Then came my turn. I confessed that I was world-building this past month. I then explained to the woman who went before me what I meant by world-building. Once the mini-lesson was concluded, I brought up Welcome to Ashitar to read to them. While there were many discussions with the other works read, the only reactions I received when I was done were "Wow, that was very detailed" from the woman who wasn't sure what world-building was, and "Ashitar and Boar's Tusk Inn remind me of Bree and The Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings, and that's a good thing." I took both as encouraging remarks, but not really much to build off of, and not the "keep going" energy that the other two writers got.

Not really sure what my take-away will be from this week's meeting.

Finally, it is April, which would normally mean:
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I've contacted ChibiSunnie. She's going through her notes, and I'm going through the script we have so far for our fan interpretation of the "Hey, Arnold! Jungle Movie". Boy, is it rough.

I've been lamenting lately that for me practice never seems to make perfect. The more I try to make a dish, the more often I seem to burn it. I play video games and strategy games more and more, and seem to get worse at them. As if "beginner's luck" is the only chance I have at winning, or at least not dying endlessly. I've been crocheting for over a decade, and yet my crafts seem to be looking worse instead of better. And then there's my writing. I never seem to see an improvement.

Then I look back at this script, and think that maybe everything in that last paragraph is just in my head!

Kind of makes me scared, though, to know that about four years ago I thought this was good writing. That I showed skills. That I could really go places with my writing. Only to look back on it now and go "Holy Hand Grenades! Did *I* write this!?" No wonder I never won contests, or get much of a fan-base.

It's encouraging to know that I AM improving, but at the same time, it's discouraging to realize that I really am not as good as I think I am. What about now? Am I still crap now, but just don't realize it yet? Is this why everyone else in our group gets a full discussion going about her work, but I just get a couple quick comments before moving on?

I'm in my head again, I know, but it would be nice to know if either I do have a future in writing, or if I still have a LOOOOOONG way to go before I'm good enough to get a decent reader fanbase.

I look at some writings my friends post. They fancy themselves fantastic writers, and I just sort of facepalm. Then I wonder if it's the same for me. Do I make others facepalm when they read my works? Do they silently go "Oh, honey, no. Just, no..." as well? Or am I being too hard on myself? Getting too far into my own head? Do I really have the potential I always thought I had?

I guess those are the things all authors ponder at some point. The real challenge, is either finding the answers, or not caring what those answers are.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

World-building Counts as Writing, Right?

Well, here I am at the end of the first week of April. Seven days down, twenty-three to go. Want to know how much script-writing I've done? None. I haven't even unburied my external hard-drive that has the script on it. Haven't talked to ChibiSunnie yet. Haven't even rewatched episodes of "Hey, Arnold!" in order to get back into character. I forgot how crazed April has become.

It's not so bad this year since I don't have to worry about Easter - thanks to it coming stupid-early this year - but the month still starts off with my niece's birthday.
I wanted to have Disney's Rapunzel in this image since that was the party she had,
but apparently all other 3yr old girls are having Disney's Frozen parties still...
It was a chaotic weekend. Between work, the party, yet another unexpected Overnight shift, and Hubby and I getting sick, there was no time really to do anything. I even had to cancel my D&D session for the weekend. Worked out for me though, because I had nothing planned.

Still don't, really. That's the writing I've been doing this week instead of working on actual productive things like my Script Frenzy fanscript with Chibi, or just generic fictional prose. I mean, it serves a purpose, and I'll eventually use it for Gyateara, and I need to know this stuff for my game, and it's still being creative. Still, I wish I had advanced some story somewhere.

Instead, the best I have is further development of my original D&D merchant town of Ashitar. Although, I have to admit - while some facts were already established in my posting last week - I like how much of the background, particularly between Baron Gringroso and his lord Count Keenhale, I was able to come up with:
The Gringroso family were faithful bannermen for Count Keenhale and his family for generations. Due to duty, obligation, as a reward, or a way to keep the Gringrosos fealty - I haven't decided yet - Count Jarvine Keenhale gave Greggor Gringroso a bit of land in his county. It was deemed a bit of a slighting at first because the land wasn't previously populated due to how dangerous the surrounding terrain was. The treacherous Neergreve forest choked the west and south sides of the land. The deadly Razor Beast mountain range loomed along the east and north ends of the property. The plain in between was very nice, but the likelihood of survival was slim.

Still, the Gringroso prevailed. They were tough as nails, and set up their keep with a few faithful servants. They survived a few winters before the first brave travelers happened upon them. Merchants trying to get to and from the Outaka Sea had to cross the Razor Beast. Greggor Gringroso gave them shelter as they either prepared for the long journey, or recovered from it. As thanks, they not only sold the Gringroso's their wares as a discount, but also made sure to spread word of this way station.

Soon a few brave merchants - escorted by adventurers - traveled over the Razor Beast instead of around it; in order to cut their journey from sixteen days to a mere three. Greggor then commissioned for a travel route to be cut through Razor Beast in order to help more merchants brave the mountain with a straight path to the port town of Golden Shell.

Years past, and merchants crossed paths, sold their wares to each other, and soon realized how many truly stopped at the Gringroso estate for shelter. A thorp sprung up around the keep as merchants stayed in order to earn coin from the other travelers. The hamlet rapidly grew into a thriving merchant town, spiraling ever further outward as it expanded. Eventually, it ran smack into the Razor Beast along two sides.

Marauders and monsters threatened the town, as well as some of the more wealthy merchant houses. The six main houses thought themselves the true founders of Ashitar since it was their parents and grandparents settling below Gringroso's keep that allowed the town to form in the first place. They each wished to be the mayor of Ashitar, but the rightful landowners - the Gringrosos - were in the way. Each family - both separately, and as a pooled effort - attempted to assassinate Greggor's sons and grandsons, and this tradition continues to this day.

While trying to crush assassination attempts, Mikhail Gringroso - Greggor's eldest grandson and then-current mayoral baron of Ashitar - also had to deal with the town expanding so far out that it was enticing monsters to leave Neergreve and attack. He had a wall built around the forest boarder; using the natural expansion into Razor Beast as the other half of the wall. It didn't help much. Ashitar became too large, and too dangerous. The economy crumbled when travelers reverted back to their sixteen-day paths in order to avoid the dangerous Neergreve, Razor Beast, and Ashitar.

Eventually, Mikhail sent out a call for new adventurers to come to Ashitar to protect the city and the travelers, but first he needed to beg Javine's grandson Ronan for a loan in order to pay for the adventurers' fees. Over the years the Keenhale family grew bitter of their bannermen and baron. While they required the Gringrosos to pay taxes to them, the Keenhales wished they were the ones who were able to develop the bustling Ashitar. Part of Ronan wanted Ashitar and the Gringrosos to fall so he could have a kinsmen revive the city as their own. However, he knew how it would look to his other bannermen, and if no one were as successful as the Gringrosos the revenue from Ashitar would be lost. Begrudgingly, Ronan gave Mikhail the life-giving loan.

Mikhail was able to revive Ashitar to its once-before glory days. It swelled inside its walls again, and began to spill outside the protection of its barriers. Now it is Mikhail's son Edvard who is mayoral baron. And Edvard who has to now deal with the assassination attempts, the monster invasions, and the anger of Count Marcus Keenhale - Ronan's eldest - about his family's loan not being paid back yet. Edvard is trying to teach his young son about what makes a good baron, but the boy is only twelve and is quick to lose focus. Young Brianan can't imagine being in charge of over 3500 people, but he may have to figure it out sooner than he thought.
I've come up with some other stats about Ashitar, although I'm still tweaking them....

  • Ashitar is about 3.3 square miles within the walls, with some of the newer businesses spilling out onto the sparse clearing between Ashitar and Neergreve.
  • Ashitar is about to celebrate its 70th anniversary of its founding; although the Gringrosos owned it for another five years previous.
  • The tight swelling of the large town created an insanely-tight population density, for medieval-style development, of about 1000 people per square mile, including elderly and children.
  • The whole town population is 3,544 people including 2,356 able-bodied adults, about 154 elderly, and average of 50 sick.
  • Men make up 53% of the adult population with 1249 able-bodied.
  • There are also 983 children.
  • The town is protected by a capable Captain of the Guard, his three lieutenants, 60 city guards, and a ready-militia of 177 additional men, making up 241 of the able-bodied adults.
  • The Assassin's Guild - either named Shadow Knives, Nightwalkers, or TBD - has 27 members.
  • The Thieve's Guild has 119 members. Name still TBD
  • While still subject to change, the six main merchant houses are in charge of the following trade: Silks and other fine "orient" products, fur and game, grain, lumber, gemstones and ore, and the brothel manager who secretly does slave trading as well.
  • The brothel has a few assassins within it's doors; black widow lovers. I'm still deciding if the brothel itself or just this sisterhood of assassins should be called Seducers of Purity.
So, as you can see, I have been doing a lot of research and world building. I just wish I had more actual writing to show for it. I also still have a long way to go before I'm ready for these sandbox-players to run around Ashitar on Sunday.

The largest bit of writing I've done this week was on the X-Future board. I finally got back to my Brotherhood character Trish, whom I hadn't played in about a year. Hubby set her up with an abandoned propane tanker left on an equally abandoned dock. She had fun spending an hour destroying the truck before exploding the tank. I'd share it, but Trish is a pyrophile, and so it definitely boarders soft-core as she.... er.... enjoys herself during the destruction. That, plus that woman's sailor-mouth gives her a firm Mature - and NSFW - rating. Either way, it was fun for me to write, and others seemed entertained in reading.... I mean, I'm no E.L. James, but still. I'm hoping the part of her destroying the truck, and not just the end paragraphs, were amusing as well. I'll have to ask for further feedback from the other players.

Well, it's creeping ever closer to noon, so I should probably wrap up. I might have some NPC character creation and other such D&D-related things to share next week. I'm hoping to also have added at least SOME pages to the fanscript Chibi and I started about four years ago.