Watched anything good lately? (YES)

People are always asking, “What have you read lately? Seen any good movies lately?”

I always want to shout, “YES. YES I AM FOLLOWING A GREAT STORY RIGHT NOW.”

Then I remember that it’s inside a videogame and most of my friends don’t play shooters.

So, let me try to explain what this story is and why I’m so fascinated by it.

The game is Destiny 2, which I’ve been wild about since the first trailer launched.

I mean, seriously, this trailer is hilarious.

It’s a science fiction universe where mankind was granted Space Magic from this alien orb called the Traveler. Trouble is, a lot of bad aliens wanted the Traveler’s Space Magic, so they tried to wipe out humanity and nearly succeeded.

The first “season” of the story, aliens launch a surprise attack against the Last City, cage the Traveler, and just about win the war. Naturally, your character fights back with the aid of the in-game characters, all of whom are just as well developed as anybody in a movie. When you finally defeat the villain and free the Traveler (or … help it fight back), it’s like the finale to a Marvel movie.

Season 2 picked up a little later. It follows the race of space elves who live out in the asteroid field in this place called the Reef. There, the Prince of the elves, who used to be an ally, unexpectedly murders the most popular character in the game.

So long, Nathan Fillion. This was like watching Mal from Firefly be killed. The entire fan base lost their ever-loving minds and swore eternal vengeance.

The story played out like a revenge western. You hunt down the Prince’s band of alien outlaws and kill them one by one. But as you do, your in-game friend asks over and over, are we doing the right thing? Is this justice or murder? What makes us different from the outlaws we’re killing?

By the time you track down the Prince, you already have a few misgivings about this whole revenge thing. Then you find out that the Prince is being played, too. He’s got this evil space dragon pretending to be his sister and asking him to free it from a prison dimension. He’s busy doing it, but he’s beginning to doubt the whispers, as they ask him to do scarier and scarier things. By the end, the thing outright bullies him into taking that last step and opening the portal.

What comes through the portal is some alien monstrosity that eats the poor guy.

This being a shooter, you unload a few metric tons of lead into the monster and kill it. It spits the prince out as it dies.

The prince isn’t dead, but he’s completely defeated. Your in-game friend begs you to spare his life.

“The line between dark and light is so very thin.”

Fade to black.

Gunshot.

Despite the whole revenge story, it was a very unsatisfying end to the season. Was it right to kill the Prince, even though he killed our friend? The Prince was being manipulated.

Then the next season got rolling. When the Prince opened the portal, the evil space dragon got out and starts corrupting the space elves’ most sacred city.

The Prince’s sister, the Queen, who had been in hiding, gives the order to kill the dragon and cut out its heart.

One problem. These dragons grant wishes. But they twist the wishes, feeding off the desire of the one making the wish.

The queen takes the heart and wishes that her people would be strong again. The dragon twists this into “strong = corrupted by Darkness”. But somebody, somewhere, engages a time loop at the same time.

So now, the city spends 3 weeks being corrupted and getting uglier and uglier. Then the time loop resets and it starts over. This gives the heroes time to try to find a solution to the corruption curse. Seven cycles in, there’s no end in sight.

And then we find a cutscene of the Prince being resurrected as a good guy.

Looks a little worse for wear, but he’s the same guy.

In this game, Space Magic resurrection comes with a complete memory wipe. Resurrected heroes have no idea who they used to be, and finding out details of one’s past is frowned upon.

That’s as far as the story has gone, but it’s caused endless debate in the fan base.

Can we trust the Prince, who murdered our friend, even if he doesn’t remember doing it?

Should we kill him again?

Should we give him a chance to redeem himself?

What will the Queen do when she finds out that her brother has been resurrected by the Space Magic she hates?

It’s like a TV series. We’re in the middle of the season right now, waiting on tenterhooks for the next episode. People are scouring the game, trying to find clues as to what might happen next.

So, when people ask, “Watch anything good lately?” I want to scream, “YES. YES, I’M STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF AN AWESOME STORY.”

But none of my friends play shooters.

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Character concept sketches

I’ve been building a new character for some stories. Actually, he’s kind of an old character I’m adapting, but whatever. This is Jayesh, and he has a tiny dragon that is actually half his magic. I had to draw them hanging out.

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? These guys have had a short story so far, and I can’t wait to put them in a book. Thinking of tossing the story online somewhere so folks can give it a shot.

The January slump

Here it is, the middle of January. And I’ve hit the slump. And a lot of my friends have hit the slump.

January gets cold and dark from the snow and storms. I think the lack of daylight contributes to the slump, as well as the cold. You just want to stay bundled up and not move. Screw exercising and eating right. All you want are high-calorie foods to help keep your body warm.

Holidays seem to start in October, with the Halloween madness. Then we charge through Thanksgiving and onto Christmas, with all the shopping and parties. Then we hit New Years, with the resolutions and year-end analysis. And then … nothing. For weeks. Cue the slump.

It might also just be burnout from all the madness and bustle on top of our already busy lives. It’s just nice to kick back and do nothing. But after a while, the resting becomes slumping.

So how do you kick the slump?

People usually suggest exercise at this point. Get off your butt! Move your muscles! Get that circulation up! And those are good things. The brain is connected to the body and exercise fires it up.

For me, I embrace the slump and use it to absorb books and movies that I’ve missed. Kind of like storing up fat for the winter, only it’s stories. As a creative, you’ve got to fill your tank with the things that delight you. And when it’s cold and you don’t want to move, what better way to embrace it than with books or movies?

This is the time of year when my family used to binge-watch the BBC Jane Eyre, or the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice. (Or the BBC Hercule Poirot … yeah, we did the BBC in our house.) In later years, it became the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings.

This is the time of year when I read really huge, thick books. I’ve been thinking fondly of going back to Bleak House again. The book is massive, and also like watching an entire TV series in a book. But I also have a ton of books on my Kindle to catch up on. Marc Secchia has some satisfying thick dragon fantasy books that I’ve bought and not read.

So that’s how I cope with the slump. I embrace it! How about you?

Desert snow

First, there was this:

Then … this happened.

Tombstone, AZ
“I drove down here from Montana to get away from this nonsense!”

We even had flurries here in Tucson, although none of it stuck. The kids were so excited. What a start to the new year!

Money – the ultimate success metric?

I was looking over my blog post Writing Books of the Heart. It springboarded off a blog post by Kris Rusch, who talked about writers burning out, writing in a genre they don’t really like, but can’t stop writing, because it pays the bills.

I had another thought percolating related to this one. I was lurking in a writers’ discussion where people were talking about why they write.

People have a lot of different reasons for writing. A lot of them want to change the world, or help/encourage people in some aspect of their lives. Some people talk big about “if I help ONE PERSON then this book will have been worth it!”

Then they turn around and talk about how they made four bucks in book sales last month. Everybody shrugs and laughs, embarrassed.

And I’m over here thinking, but what if those four bucks came from that ONE PERSON who really needed to read your book?

But no, the only metrics that matter, when you get down to brass tacks, is the money. The numbers of books moved doesn’t matter. It’s pretty well known by now that free book giveaways don’t do anything, because readers never read something they picked up for free. You can move a million units and nothing happens.

But when people buy a book, they’re more invested in reading it. Aha! Writers latch onto those sales as a measurement of worth. Somebody wanted my book bad enough to pay ACTUAL MONEY for it.

And let’s not even get into the rabbit hole that is reviews.

So, I’m curious, now. Which is it? Are we writing to help people, seeking validation that way? Or are we only validated by making gobs and gobs of money? Or are we only helping people when they’re paying us gobs of money?

Resolutions for 2019 (or not)

Here we are in 2019, and the year is nice and shiny. I’m sitting here with a baby asleep in my lap, coffee with no sugar in it, and Switchfoot’s new song Native Tongue blasting on my speakers. The kids are playing New Years events in their various Nintendo games. I’m going to come back to this post at the end of the year and laugh at this.

I’ve been thinking about a word for this year. Last year was Steadfast. This year, I think it’ll be Kindness.

Last year, being pregnant and miserable, I wasn’t very kind to anyone. I had to work very hard, because I felt so bad. This year, I want to make up to my family for being such a grouch for nine months. My poor kids are troopers, but they need a mom who is much nicer. So does my husband, who puts up with so much.

And now for resolutions!

I resolve to read all the unread books on my Kindle.

Yep. That’s it.

Come on, I have a two-month-old baby. I’m not going to plan anything deeper than that.

Usually I have a list of all the books I want to publish in the upcoming year. But … same problem. Baby. If I release anything, it’ll be a bonus. At this point, I can’t promise anything. I do have three superhero books in the hopper, two finished, one half-written. Those are probably a lock. Beyond that, I have no idea. Right now I’m finishing up a self-indulgent romance fanfic that nobody asked for, but I’ve had fun writing.

I’ve been really brushing up on my artwork, trying to plug a lot of holes in my education, and really tackle the areas I’m afraid of. Like human eyes. Do you know how hard eyes are? ARGH. Thankfully, Google reveals billions of tutorials. If I work through even a tenth of them, I’d have a fantastic art education.

Kind of like all the tutorials I did to make this pic. It’s this joke about Bioshock Infinite … and this Sonic villain named Infinite … so it’s like … a crossover … yeah. But I had to do a ton of tutorials to make it, especially that logo. UGH especially the logo.

Anyway, that does it for resolutions. Read more books. Maybe write something. Maybe draw something. We’ll see how this year plays out. 😀

What I learned in 2018

I went back and looked at my first post for 2018, back when the year still had that new, fresh smell. Ah, I was so optimistic.

My word for this year was Steadfast. And that was a good word, because it wound up describing everything I did, including getting unexpectedly pregnant and hanging on to life by the skin of my teeth.

I had mentioned wanting to publish a new Spacetime book, as well as the second dragon cozy. Welp. I published the cozy. But the Spacetime book got 30k in, and I had too much of the old books in my head. So I set it aside to get some distance.

I had planned to write a fairytale book. And I did wind up writing a short story with the idea I had, and it appears in this anthology. (A guy and a girl share a psychic link, which gets more interesting when she is cursed and turns into a dragon. The idea of the story was that psychic links would let you share too much information with the other person, so the story is called Too Much Information.)

I also revised and launched the first book in a series that is superhero fantasy. People with powers fighting each other and such. I have two other books in the hopper that only need revisions and editing, but I didn’t have the brain.

What did I wind up writing? Fanfiction for the game Destiny. The space opera setting just appealed, for some reason, so I wrote 17 fanfics in it. I really wanted to read official novels in the setting, but there aren’t any, so I had to write my own. It was kind of a self-therapy, working through being pregnant for the sixth time. I was so very sick with this baby, and when I stopped being sick, I was in massive pain. And I was so scared of labor. So all that got rolled up and dumped into the fanfics.

I now have a whole bunch of readers who like the slush I was cranking out, and I don’t know if I can write it anymore, since I had the baby. Sorry, readers!

I did come up with some really great characters who I’d love to transplant into other stories someday. And I found that I really dig writing space opera. Writing the physics of space ships and battles and space marines on other planets was totally fun.

But yeah, this year went nothing like I expected. I’ll write a goal list tomorrow, so I can laugh at them next December. 😀

Destiny fanart. Nell is sitting in a tree, chatting to her ghost Hadrian.

Falling off the blog hop wagon

Guess I blew the blog hop, didn’t I? Here it is, the day after Christmas, and I only just now remembered, oh yeah, I was doing that blog hop thing. 😀

We had a very nice Christmas. It was just us, so on Christmas Eve, I introduced the kids to the wonders of clam chowder in bread bowls. It was a huge hit. My recipe made so much chowder that we ate the rest for dinner on Christmas Day. Sans bread bowls. Since those were already gone. 😀

For dessert, I made this stuff we call mint cake, but is more like mint brownies. My mom made them every year for years, so I’ve decided to make them a tradition. So far we’ve eaten half a pan and nobody is sick yet.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to all the New Years blog posts. “Top Ten things I learned this year” and so forth. I’ve got a couple of ideas for things to write about book stuff. This blog hop was fun, because it got me back into blogging after having the baby, when my routine was all shot to heck.

I’ve also been trying to make more artwork, so I hope to be posting more of that here, too.

A walk down the wash (Christmas blog hop)

The weather has been perfect down here in Arizona. The kids and I went for a nice, long walk up a nearby wash to the dry culverts. They have been dubbed “the tunnels”.

The wash also doubles as an alley, so there’s always interesting junk out here to look at.
Here’s the culverts. The only time they have water in them is during a rain. As you can see, it hasn’t rained in a while.
Culverts are huge caves when you’re three feet tall.
Gorgeous clear day with mountains in the background.
A variety of prickly pear cactus with fuzzy spots instead of big spikes. The fuzzy spots are also horrible spikes, so don’t touch.

It’s always such a nice walk, with lots of things to see. In the spring, there’s quail with chicks running around.

Kids’ ornaments (Christmas blog hop)

This past week, our apartment complex had their big Christmas event, which was a wrapping station for presents for the adults at one end of the complex, and a craft station for kids at the other end of the complex. So I got presents wrapped, and the kids got to make ornaments.

Here’s the first two glass ornaments
A glittery one
And two more!

They had a ton of fun, and devoured the snacks provided (which was the main draw).

Christmas is getting closer!