What Would It Take?

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Galaxy Collision Switches on Black Hole (NASA, Chandra, 12/10/09)

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center via Compfight

I’m going to talk a little bit about Mass Effect… again.  It sort of has me thinking and I wanted to share some difficult personal insights.  My way of working out the issues that sometimes bother me about the world and humanity as a whole.  And yes, believe it or not, I’m going to use a video game as my jumping off point.

Mass Effect is set about 170 years into the future.  You, the main character, Shepard, are charged with the task of uniting alien races into a most uncommon alliance in order to fight a force that wants to destroy you all.  There is a significant degree of racism.  A member of one race may refer to a teammate of another species not by their name but by their racial designation.

“Get out of my way, asari.”  or “What do you want, human?”

Stereotypes abound and have been assigned to each race without prejudice.  The friendships that Shepard is able to cultivated during the course of the game go a long way towards deconstructing those stereotypes and revealing the inherent “humanity” (for lack of a better word) they all possess.  Hearing the racist references sometimes makes me cringe a little bit, but I definitely get the point.  I think it is honest and that it would be that way.  What I also notice is that among the humans, there is absolutely never an issue with regards to racial, religious, or cultural differences, like there are today.  In a time when humankind rubs shoulders with people from far off worlds we humans are united by virtue of our humanity.  Nothing else seems to matter.

So, that sort of got me thinking.  What would it take for mankind today to dismiss the trivial differences between us, or even better, embrace them as being part of a lovely human mosaic?  What would it take for us to be kind and accepting of one another by virtue of our shared humanity and nothing else?

Would it take an indomitable force to threaten our collective lives for us to recognize that we are all so much more alike than we are different and that our differences are awesome points of convergence and not reasons for divergence?

Permission to Play

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For the last month I’ve been doing something rather uncharacteristic.  I’ve been powering through the Mass Effect trilogy along with as much ancillary literature about the Mass Effect Universe as I can cram into my overstuffed overworked brain.  Why is this significant?  I’ve always played games, here and there, but nothing to completion since… can anyone remember Turok Dinosaur Hunter on Nintendo 64?  Yes, that long ago.

BewareOblivionIsAtHand (master cheat)

Forget it.  I’m not patting myself on the back for finishing the ME trilogy, because I played in easy mode all the way through, even though I did fairly well.  I’m offering a virtual pat on the back to the massive talent over at Bioware for creating something so engaging that I couldn’t stop playing until it was complete.  A month.  I spent a month submerged in a character, Commander Shepard, who looked like me, and made decisions much the way I would have (or believe I would) in tough situations.

 

Does ME have its faults.  I think so.  Among those faults is the very dramatic premise that the fate of the entire universe hinges on my ability to unite fractured alien nations under one banner to fight a common threat.  The concept is melodramatic at least and utterly ludicrous at worst.  And yet, the story presents a certain urgency, a desire to do right, and a need to see what will happen next that kept me playing like a fiend.  Sometimes I even woke up early just to get in an hour of play before work.  I usually get up early to write.

In came the guilt.

I should have been writing instead. Right?

Oh, but I was.  I wasn’t actually putting words down onto paper, no, but I was writing in my head.  Heh.  I know that sounds lame, but allow me to explain.  Most writers would probably tell you that everything in their lives and the lives of others influences and informs their writing.  Me included.  Gaming, reading, work, exchanges in the grocery store, the news, daydreams, a conversation overheard in line at Starbuck’s.  All of these snippets find their way into our work in some form.

ME is a role playing game, wherein I get to be someone else.  I was someone else for an entire month.  Bioware created the premise but in a sense allowed me to write my own fate (to a degree).  I wrote my own story, so to speak, and I gleaned some terrific ideas for my own tales along the way.

I’m glad that I gave myself permission to play instead.  Now I have to give myself permission to get back to writing.

What guilty pleasures help you focus on your writing?

After 1 Year and 100 Posts

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A year has passed since I’ve started this website in the form in which it now exists. It’s been a good year. I’ve met and connected with an awesome community of indie authors and I’ve managed to gain a little bit of exposure for my book and make some sales in the process.  I procured a few interviews with interesting and prolific indie authors and artists, landed multiple guests post for this site, and have written a few for others as well, learned a bit about self-promotion, and wrote multiple book reviews.  I am also active on Goodreads.  Starla Huchton did and incredible job redesigning my book cover, and I joined Amazon’s KDP Select program.

I joined two anthologies over the past year.  Grim5Next Worlds Undone anthology is a spectacular idea conceived by Lyn Midnight wherein 36  writers collaborate to create twelves stories written in three parts about the apocalypse. The collaboration eventually went on to include artists and musicians and even a children’s project. Unfortunately, the project became too large and unwieldy for our lovely editor and it eventually fizzled out.  As of late however, it appears that Worlds Undone may be making a comeback.  I’m hoping it will.

The other anthology that I am involved with is more personal and dear to me. It started from a comment that I left on a fellow indie author Matt Williams’ site. We discussed the idea of going to space and that discussion turned into an anthology entitled Yuva.

Me: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Matt: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Me: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

yuva_cover-0Yuva, still in the works, will consist of twelve stories of which mine will be first.  We’ve managed to fill about eight of the spots, so if anyone out there would like to contribute to a space and colonization anthology, shoot me a message.

Over the course of the last few months I realized that I had a bit of an unintentional theme going, that of time management. I wrote quite a bit about the subject and several fellow indie authors contributed some really amazing posts about how they manage their writing time.  As time is such a difficult thing for me to wrangle I think I was subconsciously looking for a way to reconcile my lack of time with my desire to be more prolific.  I’m still struggling with that one but one thing’s for certain, if you want to produce, you just have to do it.

Apart from the issue of time management, I didn’t have much of a plan as regards what I’d talk about here, which quite frankly was very much counter to my goal.

Over the past year I’ve read many posts about creating a unique author brand. I don’t think that I’ve done that successfully as regards this blog.  I blog about the things I like, an eclectic mishmosh of “stuff”, for lack of a better word.  For many reasons I’ve purposely stayed away from more challenging controversial topics.  I either feel under informed, unqualified, or quite honestly afraid to engage in these challenging discussions out of fear of alienating readers but as I have so few, (hahahaha) it’s pretty much a moot point.

Keeping with the idea of a theme I’ve decided to choose another topic to give special focus this coming year.  I’ve been giving this considerable thought this past month and have decided on critical analysis/reviews of SFF books written by women.  This will certainly not be to the exclusion of other post ideas and I hope will be interesting for readers as well as a learning experience for me.  I never feel as if I am well read enough.  I plan to read and listen to books.  The first review will be of Bujold’s Free Falling which is already quite interesting.  I plan to read more by Bujold, in addition to Leguin, Butler, Zimmer Bradley, and McCaffrey among others.  If anyone has suggestions of authors I should check out, fire away.

Honor

Honor

I’d hoped to have completed the outline of Honor&Truth by June, but that didn’t happen.  Then I got caught up working on my anthology stories, hit a writing slump that seems to happen to me every year around September, got distracted with children, life, work (which has been a beast!), the internet and attempts to promote An Unproductive Woman.  So, my efforts are renewed and I’m back at it.

Honor&Truth is a serial novel blog that I worked on for about a year and a half.  I finally stopped more than thirty chapters in.  I didn’t want to but felt compelled as I’d never so much as outlined a single chapter and my story, written by the skin of my teeth and posted every two weeks, had so many plot holes I couldn’t keep up with them.  I stopped the blog in order to regroup, merge H&T with another story that kept spinning in my head, and begin a serious rewrite.  Months have passed and on that account, I’ve failed.  Fortunately, I love the story and the characters enough to keep pressing.  And even better and heartening, the characters Bilqis, Honor, Araminta (Old Mother), Siti and many of the others talk to me everyday.  Loudly.

Honor&Truth has a new name.  As Truth does not exist in the current outline, it wouldn’t make much sense.  As it stands the story of Honor exists as the second tale in the Hinterland Chronicles.  But don’t hold me to it.  As I am still in the outlining phase, this could still change.

I’ve been nominated for a few blog awards, the last and most important of which is the Blog of the Year Award.  This honor was conveyed upon me by Matt Williams, to whom I am grateful.  A complete post about is soon to come.

My greatest work for this coming year will be continued simplification.  In other words, weaning out the unnecessary to replace with what I value.  I value my relationship with God, my family, my writing, and my health.  So this coming year will include renewed efforts to create peace and productivity with regard to those things I deem as most important to me.  Why is life such hard work?  Forget I asked that.

What have you accomplished this past year?  Toot your horn!  Tell me about your successes and failures.  Tell me what you have planned for 2013.