Tag Archives: College 2c

The day I realized my life is legendary.

As a mere man, I am not legendary. I have done very little of note on a grand scale.

But I have lived an amazing life. Though only in my mid-thirties, I have:

  • Lived in two countries and four states (one shire)
  • Visited five countries
  • Held 48,011,517* nicknames
  • Misplaced an entire automobile
  • Eaten dinner with the homeless
  • Created [confidential] for [redacted] – this one’s impressive, I promise.
  • Played chess with strangers
  • Transported hitchhikers
  • Partied with people I’d only met online
  • Acquired a nickname in sign language (I’ll show you…watch my hands…wasn’t that neat?)
  • Was in the military for two whole months
  • Played seven musical instruments (hammered dulcimer!)
  • Dabbled in four careers, innumerable hobbies
  • Worked in offices, warehouses, schools, retail and a county jail
  • Had my writing cited by high school students
  • Given speeches to cops and college students
  • Created a video so polished that I was accused of illegally hosting an official trailer
  • Been referenced in a Readme file
  • Been stranded with $3 to my name

* Final results are still being tallied.

I’ve known amazing people and had incredible opportunities. Almost every day, something legendary happens to me or occurs to me.

In college, Pastor Andrew Wiesner asked, “What made you the way you are?” My friends might interpret “the way you are” a little differently, but he meant it as a compliment. At the time, I tried to explain my own open-minded philosophy, but that was short-sighted.

I can take credit for things I’ve done, but that’s a small sampling. How did I get so many opportunities to try different walks of life? And who taught me to embrace them?

My parents.

My brilliant parents, who taught us to be open-minded above all else. My parents are the reason I’ve never hesitated to learn anything, try anything, or spend time with anyone, from homeless hitchhikers to driven business owners.

My awesome parents, who taught us that we’re not too good for anyone or anything. That nobody and nothing is too good for us.

My legendary parents, who taught us, “Do what you love, and the rest will follow.” Bizarrely, ‘the rest’ has followed, though not in the direct, linear way I first assumed. At 33, I have virtually every thing I want from life, and I do what I love to do Every. Single. Day: Reading, writing, gaming, picking on my wife**, roleplaying, level design, writing music, harassing the cats**, designing tshirts and more.

** This is how Peters men express their love.

How can I give back to my parents? How can I give back to the friends and family and colleagues and total strangers that have given me so much?

I tell stories.

This blog chronicles the legendary occurrences that follow me daily.

I hope that you enjoy them a fraction as much as I have.

The day I realized I live at home.

All my life, I’ve felt like I was passing through.

In school, it was because I didn’t fit in and I figured the dumb jocks just COULDN’T be the ones in charge of the real world.

In the Army, it might have been because I flunked marksmanship after seven-week military career.

In college, it was because I was working towards something finite. A four FIVE SIX S E V E N year degree. The “job” and the “housing” (loose terms each) were temporary (thank Zeus).

In law enforcement, it was because I didn’t fit in and I figured my superior officers just COULDN’T be the ones in charge of the real world. (True story: My Sheriff called his IT guy into the room to ask him whether an email to England…would actually reach England. What, did he think you needed extra email postage?)

In temp jobs, it was because they were…well…temporary.

All my life:

  • I’ve lived in someone else’s property: My parents, student housing, apartments, renting a house. Today we own a house, but that wasn’t enough.
  • I’ve helped someone else’s career: My boss, my friends, whomever. Today I have my own career, but that wasn’t enough.
  • I’ve dreamed of sharing hopes, dreams, fears and trials with a beautiful woman. Today, I’m married to one. But that wasn’t enough.
  • I’ve wished I could adopt pets of my own choosing. Today, we have two wonderful cats. But that wasn’t enough.

I’m married to a wonderful woman. We have a wonderful house, a spacious back yard backed by woods. Two cats we adore. I live twenty minutes from work, and I work in a high-tech industry for an impressive company. I also pass llamas, horses, cows, chickens and goats every day on my commute. There are deer in our backyard weekly and a bunny almost daily. I work hard but I have a ton of free time.

I live at home.

Rage against 4E, Rage against D&D “Next”

WOTC is regularly releasing playtest packets for their next edition, generically dubbed “D&D Next.” Supposedly avoiding the moniker “5th edition” will prevent players from becoming jaded with another rules overhaul. Also, “Next” purports to be a return to the “truer” D&D of prior editions, re-introducing many mechanics abandoned in 4th.

(Graphic from http://swordandshieldrpg.blogspot.com/2012/05/d-next-my-1000-word-take.html.)

Though I haven’t (yet) playtested with a group, as a DM of 17 years I form definite opinions based solely on reading the rules. Read More →

The War At Home

Every day I chastise myself for not growing up.

Then berate myself for the chastisement.

I have a vision of “grown up” Jason. He eats healthier, exercises daily, writes daily, games less, reads more, watches no tv. Practices guitar. Manages his calories. Lives by schedule to guarantee time spent productively.

Part of me hates that vision. GrownUpJason is boring. He can’t discuss the latest MMOs because he never plays them. He won’t crack jokes from the latest season of The Office or South Park.

FunJason believes (for good or ill) that good writers not only write, but they live content-rich lives with myriad experiences. Read More →

If this isn’t good enough, what is?

GRR!When I was in college, there was a girl who called herself a writer. She carried around a little notebook (like 4″x6″) in which she hand wrote “chapters” of a vampire story, stream of conscious. She never edited or revised, so far as I could tell, and once when she asked me to type up a few of her “chapters”, they turned out to be no more than about two pages each. (Her “novel” was about 15 pages long in total.)

Her friends who were asked to read her work said, “It’s good” and handed it back. Then she asked me to read it.

I have long been of the belief that when someone asks for criticism (this goes for me, too, folks) you are NOT doing them a favor by sparing them. In the realm of physical activity, you can’t argue with results; unless you’re running a certain speed, or winning by a certain number of points, it’s hard to fool yourself and others that you are. It’s much easier to convince oneself of being a good writer or painter or musician even if the opposite is true.

Imagine if a basketball was visible only to your eyes, and a potential player kept asking you to evaluate his game. If he consistently misses the basket, are you doing him a favor by telling him he’s hitting it? What’s going to happen when he goes to try out and his form is awful?

This girl’s protaganist was painfully Mary Sue. The writer also portrayed Pope Jean Paul II personally performing acts of intense torture. I didn’t care about any of the characters or events.

As a result of my critique, this girl did…absolutely nothing.

Rewind the clock further.

I’m in high school, after English class. For some reason, I’ve given a classmate a copy of Swordplay, the Neolithic precursor to my amateurish Shadows of Prophecy.

Classmate: This was really good.
Jason: Thanks a lot. Are there any problems with it that I can fix?
Classmate, amazed, glances at the teacher to see how to interpret this request.
Teacher: He really does just want to know what to improve.

Fast forward back to college:

acheposropheMy friend, whose writing I greatly respect, was in a creative writing class. We’ll call her Alice. Another girl we’ll call Betty was also in the class; I was not. This is kind of cruel, but we were young and…well…cruel. Alice was so annoyed at Betty’s horrific writing that Alice would let me read them so that at least someone could share her incredulity. Betty’s writing was full of concepts like half-vampire/half-dragon people. (Traditionally, vampirism is a disease, not a race. Vampires don’t even breed via offspring with each other, much less with other races. “Half-vampire” makes about as much sense as someone who is “Half-Cancer” or “Half-Polio”.) Her scenes were full of Chickification, Purple Prose, Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma, Rouge Angles of Satin, and worst of all, How Do I Used Tense. (Man, I wish I’d known the names of these tropes in college!)

Both of the girls described above are in the same writing-career category as I am:

Unpublished.

(Technically, my non-fiction has been purchased for stock content, but that’s just not the same, damn it!)

If these two young ladies have continued to pursue a career in writing fiction, and I sincerely hope they have, then it likely they are also in the process of finishing and submitting stories — probably to some of the same publications. All three of us write speculative fiction.

Now comes the frustration. Perfect Justice may even sit in the same pile with authors still stuck on How Do I Used Tense. And I’m getting the same form letter in reply.

I take too much pride in my work to think I could possibly be stuck in Rouge Angles of Satin or How Do I Used Tense. I check my spelling and grammar rigorously even for intra-office email. In online venues, I have oft earned the appellation “grammar police”. I’m so relentless, in fact, that it annoys me that “Vampirism” and “Soteriological” are words which spell-checkers think are wrong, even if I have looked up them up elsewhere to make certain I’m not just making them up.

Furthermore, far from avoiding or ignoring criticism, I’ve been seeking extra helpings of critique for as long as I can remember; even before I really took writing seriously myself. The way that Perfect Justice has morphed from its original (annoying) version is proof.

So if I’m not making any of the obvious mistakes, even after multiple revisions (even bestsellers have the occasional misprint or typo), what else is wrong with the story?

Are my characters Mary Sues? Is my conflict boring? Are the characters not identifiable? The situations aren’t suspenseful?

I would assume one or all of the above is true, except that Perfect Justice has given people nightmares and the ending has evoked anger. One person insisted he cried at the end of Woman’s Best Friend, and another has expressed sadness over the fate of a character therein.

I’m obviously connecting with someone. Or is it only because friends, family, and co-workers are too forgiving when they read something by me? Not consciously, perhaps, but sub-consciously?

I’m a good writer. What I mean by “good writer” is not that my work is amazing —  not yet — what I mean is that I’ll do whatever it takes to GET amazing. But when there’s a problem, I need to know what to fix. The form-letter rejection leaves far too much room for interpretation. Apparently my story was just as bad as those full of Rouge Angles of Satin. Or if it wasn’t, it was bad enough to get lumped in the same category.

Ouch.

Now what do I fix?

I find the results intriguing

statisticsI don’t think I’m likely to get many more votes, although if you want, you can still vote here for my next project. Let’s tally the current results, though:

2 votes to rewrite Perfect Justice.
2 votes to write The Dragon Thief.

::blink:: Okay, I’ll come back to that.

1 vote apiece for Manifest Destniy and Second Chances.

The coolest thing about these results is that each story appeals to at least one person, even among a small group of people. Had one story monumentally dominated the poll, I’d fear that the other ideas were stale.

I honestly had expected Second Chances to win, for no other reason than that’s the story I’m the most excited about at the moment, but only for two reasons: 1. It’s the freshest idea, and 2. I’ve recently begun work on it. The others have either been sitting idle awhile or else not yet begun. You can see how circumstances colors a writer’s perception; just because a story is freshest in my mind doesn’t make it the most appealing to audiences in general.

So of the two which pulled ahead, both surprised me. The Dragon Thief, unlike some of the other titles, has no overt philosophical, religious, or political implications. You can see how the other stories play with themes like justice, fairness, religion, good & evil, memory, experimentation, and so forth. The Dragon Thief is nothing more than a straight-up fantasy story.

But that’s what appeals to some people, which is a Really Good Thing. Excitement begets excitement, and seeing that two people wanted to read that story first has made me much more excited about writing it than I was before.

What about Perfect Justice? That story fills an odd place in my heart; that girl you almost dated in college, still love deeply but no longer romantically and aren’t in touch with anymore — something like that. There’s a lot of baggage associated with rewriting it, yet it had so much potential I can’t ignore it. For one thing, it’s the only submission so far to win me a “send more” reply. For another, many of the problems with it were obvious to me shortly after writing it.

I’m dragging my feet on rewriting it because — flawed or not — I already wrote it. And it’s easier (to me) to write a story from scratch than to rewrite one that’s already on paper. It’s like completely remodelling a house vs. building a new one; changing where the walls are placed is actually a bit more complex than just building brand new ones on a new foundation. (Or so I imagine.)

There are a lot of decisions to make, too. Do I begin with the text I already have and just mass edit, cutting whole portions to make room for new scenes? Or do I begin like a brand new story, starting from the first page, referencing the other version only for the best ideas, lines, and descriptions? A mix of both?

Either way, I’ll be constantly checking for continuity and cohision, and it’s likely I will still miss some things. Just imagining doing this begins to make my head spin as from a complex chess problem.

So which of the two winners shall I write first?

The Dragon Thief. Mostly because I want to see how it turns out. When I need a break from it, I’ll plug away at a new version of Perfect Justice, and vice versa. You’ve gotta give the people what they want.