Goals Summary Wk 9

Hi All,

I’m gonna keep this brief because my mind is anywhere but here. Tomorrow is the two week mark for the Mass Effect Andromeda release. I am an anxious, impatient, salivating mess. All I can seem to to do is re-watch videos I already have memorized, listen to soundtracks and songs that are reminiscent of space, and my attention span for anything else is just non-existent.

Mass_Effect_Andromeda_cover

Even the cover has me itching to play!

It’s going to be a rough month here at the blog. Probably a rough April too.

So, last week I wanted to:

  • Write chapter 13 of From the  Quorum
    • Done! Finished it up Monday night with 2,992 word sprint.
  • Read The Six-Gun Tarot
    • Not even close. Haven’t even broken 100 pages yet, which is a shame because it’s actually REALLY good so far. Again, no attention span at all.
  • Publish 2 blog posts
    • Done! Last weeks goals post, a general “How’s the Blog Doing?” post, and the book review for The Paper Magician.
  • Continue The Steel Armada edits
    • Done! I’m either on chapter 16 or 17 now, so this area of my life is going very well.

So, last week could have been much worse, and I’m proud of the work I managed to get done.

This week I’m going to be a bit more realistic, because I know myself, and I’m hyper-focusing really hard on gaming, and Mass Effect in particular.

  • Write 1,000 words of From the Quorum
  • Read 200 pages of The Six-Gun Tarot
  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Continue The Steal  Armada edits

I’m still doubtful that I’ll read that much, but I don’t want to abandon the book. It really is good. But, in my desperation for wonderful, immersive gameplay,  I’ve finished my millionth play through of the original Mass Effect Trilogy, and have picked up The Witcher III just so I can have something to do.

Because I am suffocating without Andromeda. Suffocating. Drowning in lack of gameplay. Like, yes, I love the Dragon Age series, and I’ve played the ever-loving shit out of those games. But, not like I’ve played Mass Effect. I have Mass Effect tattoos. I’ve played the original trilogy five times. I have Mass Effect jewelry, t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets. Hell, I even have Mass Effect socks, and I’m wearing them right now! I have multiple figurines and comics and novels. I’m an avid reader of terrible Mass Effect fan fiction (Dragon Age fics too, for that matter).

This is my all time favorite gaming franchise, and today marks the 5 year anniversary of Mass Effect 3‘s release. I’ve been waiting five years for Andromeda, and now that it’s so close, I’m physically suffering without it.

So, just be prepared for my presence here to dwindle, if not die off completely in the coming months. I swear I will try my damnedest to hold myself accountable and post, but don’t be surprised if I vanish for awhile.

Until Thursday, Blogland.

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk…?

Hi Blogland.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, I skipped last week. And I’m posting late this week.

Last week was one of immense upheaval. Trevor and I went to Bend to celebrate his birthday, and we had an awesome time. Some life altering stuff went down, which I can speak more about later.

The main reason I didn’t post at all last week is because of the following:

  1. N7 Day. This is the glorious day, November the seventh, in which Mass Effect nerds rejoice and celebrate the most wonderful game franchise ever created. This year’s N7 Day was bursting with new info about Mass Effect Andromeda, which is set to release sometime this coming Spring. Basically, I was freaking out every 10 minutes as stills, videos, and screenshots were released. Then, in a frenzy, I proceeded to start the entire franchise over again. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. Election Day. This was a horrible evening for my husband and I, and we spent it alternating panic attacks and inexplicable rage. While we’re not Hillary fans, we are Progressives, and we’re very concerned about the country right now.
  3. Promo Set at Starbucks. Wednesday I worked from 10am until after midnight, all so customers could enjoy the spirit of the holidays at their local chain coffee shop. Gag.
  4. I was off, and exhausted. I considered writing, briefly, and then opted to play more Mass Effect instead.
  5. Migraine. The whole weekend.

Basically, last week was hell, but kinda sorta good.

So, two Mondays ago, my goals were:

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Beacon 23 Book Review
  • Read A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe
  • Write 500 words a day, 3k total.

So, how’d I do?

Not too shabby! I published my two posts, one of which was the Beacon 23 book review. I didn’t get around to A Borrowed Man, and instead started to read The Vagrant. It was super boring, and I gave up on it, instead reading 6 volumes of the Avatar the Last Airbender graphic novel series. I feel I should mention here that I am open to giving The Vagrant another shot, just not right now.

But, the most important thing is the word counts. I did it, guys. I wrote a total of 4,335 words that week. And only over four of the six days. So, I didn’t write every day, but I pumped out words HARD when I did write. And damn it felt good.

Then I ruined it by being a complete hermit last week. But, I maintain that my work/life turmoil makes it somewhat understandable.

Hopefully I can avoid real life by building my own world instead of indulging in BioWare’s. I’ve started reading fanfiction, and the official tie-in novels, so it’s looking grim…

But! Goals!

This week I want to:

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish reading Mass Effect Revelation
  • Write a total of 4k words

So, a pretty simple jump back in. Bummed that I screwed the pooch last week, but I can only make up for it by moving forward. It’s time to put some words on the page!

Thanks for reading along, Blogland.

 

BZ

 

Catching Up and Moving On

Well hi there! How have you been? It’s been such a long time it seems, but I’m glad to be back.

So, when Dragon Age: Inquisition was announced, I was still feeling pretty underwhelmed by Dragon Age 2, and was hanging my hopes on Destiny. I mean, an awesome looking sci-fi game with huge worlds and the tagline, “Become Legend”. I was stoked.

And then I played it to find that it had no story to speak of. I’m not sure how one becomes a legend when there is no narrative, and no one is, not even the development team at Bungie. I mean, your character doesn’t really matter in the slightest. And calling them a character is a stretch. They’re an avatar. They make no decisions, can have only the most base interactions with NPCs and ultimately don’t matter. You can be the same species as an antagonist character, and she talks down to you the same as she does to a human character, the dialogue is identical.

And it made me crazy. I didn’t complete the “story” missions. In fact, I haven’t touched the game since my husband admitted that the story never fully develops, and that there’s no real resolution at the end. I mean, really, what’s the point?

I know I’m walking a dangerous line here. People love this game. And the gameplay itself is fantastic. The movement the leveling, the armor, all the actual gameplay elements are great. But, without the story to carry them, I just don’t give a f***.

So, by the time November 18th came around, I was desperate for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I knew BioWare would create and tell a story that would completely enthrall me. They would create and reintroduce characters that became more than a collection of pixels. And I was right.

My Inquisitor

My Inquisitor

I finally “finished” my first playthrough, after about 90 hours of game time. I put finish in quotation marks because there’s still more for my character to do, I just finished the main story line. And, it’s left me reeling. There’s a major cliffhanger at the end, and I know there’s going to be DLC, which I am desperate to get to. Even though it hasn’t been announced, let alone released yet.

I know I’ve talked a bit about BioWare and video game writing here, and I’m not looking to rehash any sentiments I’ve made plain before. I just wanted to mention that, as the credits rolled by, I read the names on the writing team. Out of seven or eight writers, three were women.

Now, three isn’t a big number, but three out of seven? That’s practically half! That’s awesome and I am so proud to be a gamer/writer chick!

Anyway, now that I’m back from my sabbatical in Thedas (the world the Dragon Age games take place in), it’s time to update you all and talk a bit about my plans and goals,

School is over until January 15th… or the 17th. I can’t remember right this second, but over a month! A blessed month of free time! I did well in my English class, which was to be expected. I’m still waiting on the final grade for French, but I’m feeling pretty good.

The Nameless Book Club finally had its first reading meeting. We had a ton of fun! Of course, the wine had a lot to do with that, but we all enjoyed Stupid & Contagious, and I think it was the perfect book to break the ice. We selected Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café as our next book, and we’re meeting mid-January. I’ve already started it, and though it’s not my typical genre, I’m intrigued by it so far.
Book Club

So, that’s all happening. And it’s all good. I emailed my Editor at Caladria, and expressed an interest in writing consistently for them. She was thrilled, and handed my three story options to pursue. After some talking, I’ve got my next short story assigned and have started a vague outline! Also, my first story for them, Hunting Storm, is going to appear in the inaugural issue! Trust me, as soon as I have release and price details, I will be blowing it up here!

I do need to do a deep read through of Hunting Storm to check over some edits my Editor made, but so far it’s looking good. She cut 137 words, which was to be expected. I, like a noob, turned in my rough draft, so I knew there’d be some fixes. Luckily it was a very clean draft!

So, I’ve got my new story assignment, but I haven’t written anything in a while. And since I have Dragon Age on the brain, I’m going to write a one-shot series FanFiction, to sort of limber the writing back up.

I did a few edits on Vessels over the last month or so, which was nice. I’ve been wanting to take a look at Cards, but I can tell it’s still too fresh. I’m shooting for a spring read through. Hopefully the rough draft of Vessels will be completely edited by then, I can’t rightly start edits on a new story when I’m in the middle of another.

In non-writing news, my legal name change is processing with the Social Security Office. In my personal life, I am no longer a Zelkovich, but I’ll be damned if I’m giving up such a unique name in my writing life! Just have to let the banks know I’m still “doing business as” Zelkovich, just in case I actually make money at this writing thing someday.

Anyway, that’s just about everything going on. We bought and decorated our Christmas tree last night, which is one of my favorite traditions we have. I help him string the lights, and he helps me hang the baubles. We sing and dance to classic Christmas songs, and generally drink beer. We didn’t do that bit last night, but the weekend is fast approaching.

christmas tree 2014

Have a great weekend blogland! I am back!

BZ

N7 Daydreams and a Change in Perception

It’s Saturday, my day off, and I’m sitting here, awake before 9. So much for sleeping in. I think I might still be battling that flu, but I’m feeling much better.

Anyway, yesterday was N7 day. For those of you not quite on my level of nerd-dom, that’s a Mass Effect reference. N7 is a special ops rank for the Systems Alliance (the Earth’s military), of which the lead character  Commander Shepherd was a member. So, us super nerds get excited when November 7th rolls around. And with good reason.

Bioware has made a habit of announcing/revealing awesome things on N7 day. There were rumors floating around the interwebs about a trilogy remaster, not unlike the Halo: Master Chief Edition. But, that was wishful thinking. While I think a remastered edition of the trilogy on Next Gen consoles is definitely a possibility, I have it pegged for a Holiday release sometime in the future, probably the season before the new game is launched.

Speaking of new game, that’s what they showed us. Ok, not any actual gameplay, because everyone knows they’re nowhere near that stage, but they showed concepts and initial designs for some really neat architecture. And they finally talked a little, tiny bit about the game.

They keep emphasizing exploration. They want the player to be able to explore the galaxy in a really open way, but with a great story at its heart. And now I have visions of of an open-world/galaxy game, where you can land on a planet and just explore and see what you find.

Like Skyrim, but with aliens and space ships and a story that drives you to play. And who wouldn’t want that?

So, as is often the case when I think about Mass Effect, I daydream about being a game writer. So, during my morning perusal of the internet, I looked up some articles on tips to becoming a game writer. And, though most of it is vague and highly dependent on circumstances, I learned some valuable info.

For instance, I need to get more comfortable with computers. Like beyond the basic functions of Word and the internet. I should take a basic design class, and get myself at least comfortable with the terminology, if not downright familiar. I need to play more games, and not just RPGs and Bioware games, because the odds are I’m not going to land that dream job right out of the gate. I need to prepare myself to write for any type of game, even if it’s just to get the experience.

Also, I should try my hand at making a game, or joining in with folks who are. A great suggestion I read was to inquire after college students, who may be working on a game and in need of a writer.

And of course, write, write, write. And write some more.

So far I’ve been really proud of my achievements in the last two-ish years. I’ve written two novels, started a third, and am now working on a really cool collaborative world, where the writing helps build the world as well as dictate its history. And I think working on Caladria is a definite step in the right direction.

Caladria will show that I can work within deadlines, can accept and respond to feedback, as well as make necessitated changes to a piece of work. It will show that I can and do work well in a collaborative setting, that I’m communicative and helpful. And that I can do all of that while working full time and going to school full time. While still maintaining a smidgen of a personal life.

And most of my sanity.

But, I was sitting in my living room, just finished reading and took a moment to reflect on my work from the last few years. And don’t misunderstand me, I’m proud of it. I’ve edited three short stories for publication, and found a home for them all. I’ve written two novels, and am half way through the first round of edits on one of them. I have a third manuscript under way. These are major achievements.

But, I broke down the math, the word count over time, and I was pretty disappointed.

It took roughly 15 months to write both Vessels and Cards. I divided that total word count by that time, and I was only writing an average of 7,500 words a month! That’s terrible! I can and should be writing so much more than that.

And for a brief moment, I was upset. Downtrodden. I’d thought I was doing so well, had been so driven and productive. What was I thinking?

Then I realized that what had happened was I had a change in perception. There was a time when 7,500 words a month seemed impossible to me. A time when I was convinced I’d never be able to write a full length novel. That was only two years ago. Now I know I can write novels, and that I can write entire chapters in one sitting. I took a short story assignment with a minimum required word count of 3,000 words, and I thought, “I can bust that out in a couple of days.”

And so far I’m right.

My session with Hunting Storm yesterday added another 1,000 words, bringing it to 2,074 words. I start work late Monday, and though I have a French exam, and a bit of homework for English, I expect to finish the rough draft that afternoon. I’ll do some basic edits, looking for any typos or spelling errors, and checking clarity before I send it off to my content editor.

It sounds so official. And I guess it is.

I want to leave this random post on an inquisitive note. Bioware announced and introduced the lead team members working on the new Mass Effect game, and not one of them is a woman. I’m not getting all aggressive and wound up about it, but I wonder if there are any women on the writing team?

If not, I want to change that.

Have a good weekend Blogland! See you Monday.

BZ

Insomnia and the Trouble with Endings

It’s one of those nights. When thoughts trickle in through the seams of my brain, persistent like the drip of a leaky sink. The nights that curse me once or twice a month. Blame it on the caffeine, or over stimulation. Or call it by name.

Insomnia.

By definition I’m convinced that every person in the world struggles with insomnia. It’s not just the inability to fall asleep, but also difficulty staying asleep. Who hasn’t dealt with that from time to time? I will say that, once I’m out, I’m down for the count. Very little can interrupt me once I’m asleep. But, I’ll hear phones vibrate on the night stand, and awaken immediately for my alarm. I am not a snooze button kind of girl. However, I still consider myself a sound sleeper. I usually feel rested in the morning, and I don’t wake up sporadically.

But, there are nights, like this one, where the inner monologue just won’t stop.

This blog has seen its fair share of late night musings. They tend to be more poetic than the posts written during the day, but they also tend to make a lot less sense. Ramblings is a good term for them.

So. what has me riled up tonight?

You’re going to think me silly. I slipped up. I let myself play Mass Effect before finishing ‘Cards’. That’s right. Only one chapter and an epilogue left to write, and I didn’t do it. Instead I’ve spent about 10 hours finishing my second play through of my favorite game of all time. For those of you not in the gaming world, the last installment of the Mass Effect trilogy was a bit controversial. You see, most fans found the ending to be vague, and disappointing. And while I agreed with them from a player’s perspective, I saw the vision and the beauty from a writer’s perspective. This unique blend of perception allowed me to appreciate an ending to a most beloved series that the rest of the world hated.

They hated it so much that they took to the internet and demanded the developers fix it. We can stay up all night discussing the implications of such behavior, but that’s not what I’m really here for tonight. The development team stood by their ending, refusing to alter it in any significant way, but they did release DLC (downloadable content) that would add a few more cut scenes and more dialogue to deal with some of the ambiguity.

This game was released in March of 2012. The Extended Cut, as the revised ending is called, was released in June of the same year. Over the past two years I’ve downloaded all other available content, and have finally played them all. And tonight I was so excited to finally get some answers. I was ready. I could play it again, and ride the roller coaster of emotions that is the end of this trilogy. And so I played for almost six hours straight tonight. Only to discover, as the ending played out before me, that I never downloaded the Extended Cut.

This is what has me so pumped up.

How? Why?

I thought I downloaded it, obviously. But, as I think back, now that I know the DLC isn’t there, I remember thinking, “I’m not ready. I don’t want to play it yet, I’m not ready.” And so, out of a sense of emotional unpreparedness, I never downloaded the augmented ending. But, since we moved we haven’t connected the XBOX 360 to the internet, because we’re on the XBOX One much more. Without the internet, I couldn’t check to see what DLC was still available to me.

What this means is that I will have to play another additional three hours, after downloading the Extended Cut.

I’m trying to tell myself this isn’t a bad thing. It means I get to play again. I get to see all these wonderful characters, and interact with them. Again. But the thing is, the last three hours or so of Mass Effect 3 are hard on my soul.

I don’t want to get into details, because if you don’t know the characters, you won’t care. Some day, I’ll forgive you for that. But, there are two characters that I cherish more than any others. They are my wing-men. And one of them is my character’s romantic interest. They go on every mission with me, in every single installment of the game. My boys. And to go into the end sequence, which we all know is more than likely a suicide mission, is just downright painful.

Goodbyes, and lingering glances laced with things left unspoken.

You’re thinking I’ve lost my mind. That all of this can’t be in a video game. But, there are those that say these same experiences aren’t in books, and we both know they’re just flat out wrong. That’s the beauty, and the pure tragedy of good characters. They come to life in our imaginations. Spend enough time with them, and suddenly you know their movements, their every facial expressions, and their exact response to any given situation.

You know it’s true.

And so, playing this ending is painful. Even more so now that Bioware, the company that develops Mass Effect, has officially confirmed that the next installment in the franchise will be with all new characters.

There’s another silver lining I’m trying to convince myself of. All new characters to fall in love with, and new adventures to be had. I did have a thought today though that bolstered me on this subject. I’m a broken record, but I thought of Mistborn. The original trilogy was filled with characters that really moved me, and I loved each of them. The end of that series drives me to tears every time. When Alloy of Law, a book set in the same world, but 300 years later, came out I was excited.

And skeptical.

I could never love these characters the way I loved Vin and Elend. Or Sazed and Kelsier. Never.

Except I do. And would now even venture to say that the Alloy of Law is my favorite book set in the world of Mistborn. Yes, saying goodbye to Commander Shepard and her stalwart crew is painful. It always will be. But, these new characters, and their new adventure? I can’t wait to meet them. To grow to love them all, as much as I love the characters in the current games.

For tonight though, I’m angry and disappointed. All at myself. I spent so much time, only to experience the exact same ending for a second time. The game gives you options for how the game truly ends, but because I thought I had the DLC I chose the same option, in order to see the difference. Well, that didn’t work out.

So now I have to play again, and pick the same ending. Again. Because it’s my ending. The way my heart says it has to be. In the future, with other incarnations of Shepard, I’ll make other decisions. For curiosity’s sake. But, for now, it’s got to be this ending.

I’m supposed to be waking up for work in about four and half hours. Yeah. Another one of those nights. I find that, as I age, sleep just seems less and less important. I can get by on two hours of sleep. In fact, I did it just Tuesday. I slept nine hours last night, but had been up for a straight 22 the day before. And now I’m here, hoping that this post will get the rambling echoes of thought out of my head. That maybe now I can put my head to the cool side of the pillow and feel relaxed.

My eyes are starting to feel sluggish. Unwilling participants in this little exercise. And my head does seem calmer. The sentences don’t flow in that same harried pace, and I can pause to consider my thoughts. But, there’s still a spark in there. I know what it is. It’s the hint of creation. I want to write a Mass Effect fanfiction, but I know better than to go down that path. Fanfiction is the product of obsession. But, I can use this spark. The character that’s caught my eye, that is begging to be written…

I can use him. Not really him, obviously. Not his name, or his abilities. But his essence. I can take the characteristics from him, the things that helped me fall for him in the first place, and put them into someone of my creation. And I have an idea for who.

But, this is a dangerous topic. I’m not quite finished with ‘Cards’ yet. I can’t start working on something new until it’s done. That’s how this writer thing works. At least for me. I’m off again Monday. I’m aiming for completion then. I know it won’t happen before then, since I have to see this Extended Cut, and Trevor and I are both off Sunday.

Monday is the day. I’m feeling good about it. Well, not literally. In fact, I feel rather guilty for putting it off. But, that guilt will help me sit down and write it, once Monday rolls around.

I’m not completely cured of this wakefulness. But it’s definitely better. And this post blossomed into something much larger than I originally anticipated. My mind is settling, which means it’s time to get some sleep.

I’ll see you Monday, Blogland.

 

BZ

Every Story Offers a Lesson

So, this is a little self indulgent on my part, but I promise, it still pertains to the craft of story.

I want to talk a little about my obsession today, The Mass Effect Universe. So for those of you who aren’t in to video games, let me bring you up to speed. Mass Effect is a game series on the XBOX 360 created by the developer BioWare (also responsible for such beloved titles as Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate, and Dragon Age). In the game, a human soldier, either male or female at the player’s discretion, by the name of Shepard discovers that the galaxy is in extreme danger. A race of sentient machines called the Reapers have come to harvest the various races of the universe. They do this every 50,000 years, and wiped out the most advance race in history, the Protheans, the last time.

And so Shepard tries to warn the galaxy, but no one with any clout believes him/her. And so, with a small crew of stalwart and very different races, Shepard must save every living thing in the universe.

Why am I bringing this up?

Well, it’s not just because I can’t get my mind off of it. It’s because there’s a very good reason the final installment of the series is the most anticipated game of the year. Because it has a great plot with characters that are so real, it fuels the player’s need to see what happens to them.

Mass Effect is more than a trio of video games. It’s soundtracks are amazing and nominated for numerous awards. There’s an entire book series spun off from the games that are great in their own right. Let alone the mountains of merchandise and nerdom (that’s right) found on the internet (including earrings my boyfriend bought me for Valentine’s Day).

So, how do we bring this around to creative writing?

We look at what the BioWare writers (may I someday join your ranks) are doing to enrapture so many people.

They created not just a story, but an entire new world that players could immerse themselves in. The first rule of world-building is to define the rules. Mass Effect does this well by giving just enough backstory. How did Earth discover the technology? Where are we on the planetary totem pole? What are politics and religion like? All of this is answered early on in the first game.

But what keeps a story going?

Tension. That ticking bomb. Something that I’m still figuring out. What’s at stake? Only the whole galaxy! Every living thing is at risk, and only Shepard and his/her limited believers can save them!

And then there are the characters. A motley crew of various species and sexes, all with individual backgrounds and personalities accompany Shepard, all with missions and dialogue options to get to know them and gain their unwavering loyalty.

The characters are my absolute favorite part the series. They can be your friends or your lovers, and they can die, which ups the stakes even more.

I’m currently reading the first novel in the spin off book series, and while it’s no Faulkner or Hemingway, it’s still a well crafted story that hooks you in and drags you along for the ride. I’m taking notes on how to build a world convincingly, and how to make villains truly despicable.

Every story offers some lesson, whether it’s a book, movie, or video game. Every story can teach you something, and I plan on doing a LOT of learning over the next few weeks.

If I’ve piqued your interest, Mass Effect 3 releases March 6, 2012. You don’t want to miss out.

And if you’re scratching your head, wondering what in the world I just blathered on about, just remember what I said. Every story has something to offer, even this self-indulgent one.

Thanks guys,

BZ