Friday, December 5, 2008

Digital Diversions

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, hasn’t it? I could bore you with details of my recent exploits, but I’d rather talk about narrative. A couple of things have crossed my palate recently, and it seems appropriate to share them here.

Video games are as much a medium for storytelling as they are for personal distraction or strategic exercise. Take the latest Ace Attorney game, Apollo Justice. This is the first game in the series starring young rookie defense attorney Apollo Justice, a young man still trying to find his precise fit in a cutthroat world or legal acumen and detective skills. For those unfamiliar, the Ace Attorney games make the player interview characters, examine scenes and evidence, and present their findings in a way that brings each case together to reveal the who-what-where-when-why, and this game delivers this gameplay.

It expands on the older series by including a wider variety of ways to interact with just about everything. This isn’t just about gameplay, it’s also about story. Story is incredibly important to this series of games in that with each case you take on, you’re thrown into a different story and have to piece everything together so that by the end, all those bits that made you scratch your head and wonder how the Japanese can be so fucked up ACTUALLY makes some sense.

And it is with story that Apollo Justice screws up. This is the second version of the Ace Attorney series of games; the first followed another rookie attorney, Phoenix Wright. Through three games players guided him as he lost his mentor, watched adversaries become friends, friends become murderers, murder victims become accomplices in framing their mother’s rival’s daughter for murder only to be foiled by her secret twin sister that is in love with you and oh sweet Jebus I am not making this up.

The point is, Phoenix Wright was an unforgettable series and the follow-up character had to be just as strong and tenacious to exist out of Phoenix’s shadow. Instead, Phoenix Wright is in the game. All the time. Literally taunting you. Where I can only imagine the production team intended his presence to act as a transition to guide the player into being comfortable with AJ, instead it only reminds us how much PW could do at the end of his series and how little AJ actually accomplishes for himself.

Narrative and gameplay don’t always exist separately. Take the latest Prince of Persia installment: no Sands of Time (something of a mercy for my own sake) and no goatee, a completely different set of characters, setting, everything. The gameplay’s different as well, in that instead of being able to, in essence, call a certain number of mulligans, you’ve got a partner ready to grab you when you do something wrong.

Here the narrative-gameplay dichotomy is a much trickier balance – in previous games, if you messed up too much (or in certain cases, just once), your character died and you had to reload the game to an earlier point. In Sands of Time, when this happened, your character ADDED context by telling you “No, that’s not right” after you died. The story they were telling had your character do everything right the first time because A) you’d be dead and unable to tell your story otherwise, B) the world would be gone and no one would hear your story otherwise, and C) your character was a muthaf*&^ing badass and didn’t need more than one chance to beat insurmountable odds, save the world, and woo the girl.

In this latest installment, you do not get mulligans. Instead, if you mess up, your partner covers for you, and you can try as many times as it takes to get it right. Does this make your character then fallible? Is he less capable, less deserving of your time and energy? Is this worth worrying about when the time and frustration of reloading after a grizzly death is done away with? Is playing the game and enjoying the interactive experience more or less important than the story’s main character truly risking life and limb? The game’s been out two days and I’ve already had debates over this, and the truth is I can’t bring myself to answer these questions definitively. I would like to see the character I’m playing experience some anxiety over whether or not he can make this next jump and live, but I’d also like to have to go through less frustration myself to see him make that jump.

If you couldn’t already tell, yes, I am using this blog to justify my recent playing activities. I publicly shrugged off video games a few years back to focus on writing. That didn’t work so well, in that instead of writing I found other ways to not write. Now I’m trying something different: I’m going to play video games and then write about it. So far, not bad.

I AM still writing the novel, tentatively called WordWorld (I hate the title, but I need a quick way to refer to it). The plot’s coming along okay, but I find my characters are coming off a bit flat, and I realized that for every other story I wrote with them, they’ve never grown within them. They didn’t have to, the stories were too short, but I can’t get away with that here, so I’m trying to figure out where I can make them change from beginning to end without losing them. I fully admit now, thinking I could write a 50,000 word draft of this in a month was really freaking stupid.

Next time – why I’m making an effort not to swear in this blog even though I really fucking want to.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

If I Can Make It Here...

My attempts at writing a novel in a month are not very successful. I've got no shortage of material, but making prose out of it isn't going fast. Every time I get started I find I need to stop and figure another five things out.

My visit to New York has come and gone and went very well. I'll play around with getting photos from facebook to work here, but I'm a bit tired now. Me and Dunk did a lot of tourist stuff - we probably couldn't have done any more - but it's taking a while for my body to spin back up to speed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Throwing My Hat In

I'm no expert, activist, I can barely talk politics. Yet I am thrilled that Barack Obama has projectively won the presidency of the United States. I believe he'll prove himself a president I can be proud of.

Appointments and Disappointments

I knew that the month of November would be tumultuous, chaotic, perhaps even worth the risks of cryogenic freezing to avoid, but I didn't think it'd kick in so soon.

The pains of working while writing came full force October 31st when the computer connected to our mail metering machine, for lack of better words, melted. I'll spare the details, but the efforts to remedy either the machine or my state of mind took up more of my weekend than I wanted. And so, while writing my novel has begun, it's a very slow start.

Today being election day, I hope my US citizen readers vote or have voted. To foreign readers - and I've been told they exist - I invite you pull up a chair and a beverage to witness Clusterf*ck '08. I recommend alcohol, the purchase of which is prohibited on election day; this is either genius or despotism, I'm not sure.

I got a phone call from the David Letterman show today, and though a job on their writing staff never came up, I did win tickets to see the show next Wednesday! I'll be in New York most of that week with one Duncan Heaney, who I'm sure will leave a lasting impression on the U.S. of A. Or at least their deportation list.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Death Throes

I woke up this morning in theory, but in practice I don't think the wheels have quite spun up to speed yet. It was a long day yesterday, subbing for our regular mail courier Gary who just had his first grandbaby (a boy for the curious), refilling a flat tire, getting library books when I was too stupid to have them transferred to walking distance, watching the Colts valiantly lose to the Tennessee Titans, and getting drunk off unique-yet-powerful beer in the process. Perhaps waking up was a mistake.

I also noticed as I rose what appeared to be bug bites. They don't itch anymore, but when I showed them to the family physician assitant (read: Mom), she said it looked like the beginning of a rash that's afflicted half the house already, and has a habit of covering as much as half the body. Imagine how many jubilant backflips commenced when I heard that bit of news.

Still, things aren't all bad. The staff for my Starman costume's almost done, could be as soon as tonight if I'm vigilant (though the odds of that are very low). My new Xbox is just about set up fully, but if I can find a cheap HDMI cable I may get it for when we visit people with big TVs. I'm foraying into the marvelous world of liquid dieting to remove the only viable black mark on my latest check-up, as much to see if I can handle a "healthy physique" as anything.

Oh, and as the that whole pesky writing career... "Room to Scratch" is off to another magazine, a fate I hope to share with the other story whose name eludes me right now. The graphic novel scripts are both freshly edited - and CRAP did "The Dosage" ever need it - and artists are being scouted, which is more fun than I remember. The way's becoming clear for my stab at NaNoWriMo, so this week will hopefully have me finishing notes and outlines so when November 1st hits, I can hit the ground scribbling.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I've been ignoring this blog for a few weeks now in favor of concocting dastardly plans.

The first is Halloween, a holiday that for all its possibilities I do not have a good record of observing. I'm changing that with an attempt to assemble a costume for Starman (DC Comics character, the James Robinson version). Considering my fascination for weapons and artifacts, it was an easy sell. Whether I succeed or fail, I promise to post the results.

Second and perhaps most exciting is my impending trip to New York. The lodgings are theoretically taken care of, I'm getting suggestions for things to do, and otherwise I'm going to let one of the wildest places in the world have its way with me. Perhaps I should be more afraid.

My plan with the largest scope is NaNoWriMo. I've loved writing for over a decade, have known about this contest for years, but never had the inspiration (or maybe patience) to participate. Besides, I feel I'm better at writing for comics, so it never entered my mind to try. That changed this year over lunch one day - I felt random so rather than polish my other projects I tried my hand at something new. I only half-succeeded by writing new things about an old story set I came up with in a writing group a few years back. I'd never actually done the background for some of this stuff, and seeing it in front of me demanded that I do more.

Now 50,000 words a month, while daunting, isn't the challenge here. The challenge is doing that much (or close to it) while working a full time job, going to New York for half a week, and entertaining Duncan Thanksgiving week. Should be fun!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Feets a'Draggin

One thing I don't know that I'll ever adapt to is my sleep schedule. At it's best, it's a very regular mechanism. Up 16-22, down 4-9. No breaks inbetween, I've never been one for naps unless I'm drugged, ill, or in some other way rendered less capable. Another factor is mornings - I don't like them. I recognize their importance, without them the day would start after lunch and that's not right. Unfortunately, when you prefer sleeping/ working late and your paying job does not, it's going to mess one up.

There are things worth getting up for, though. For instance I found a cortland apple on my desk courtesy of Marsha, which if you didn't know is one of the bestest apples evar. As I type this most of the day's work is done, and I find the concept pleasing.

But the best of all is finding messages from people interested in your work! I've gotten several emails from the Herron institute of art and some of them could turn into something significant. I don't want to jinx myself by saying too much, and also I've discovered I have a way of depressing myself when high things are promised, so let's just leave it at "I'm excited".

Also, Heroes Season 3 starts tonight. Hooray!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Day

Where was I on September 11, 2001? Oddly enough, I was right here in the Butler Mail Room.

I had just come in when the first plane hit. Marsha told me there'd been an accident. We listened to coverage while doing the morning sort and heard that the second tower had been hit, and it became clear these weren't accidents. For the rest of the day work was sporadic as people went back and forth to offices with TVs or radios, internet coverage and email checks to make sure people were knew weren't hurt. After the first hour, memories start jumbling.

Today, while dashing back and forth between two mail rooms, I'm going back over an old chestnut: my first extensive comic book script. It's a three-issue story that I'm reediting. I knew I'd grown as a writer since I first wrote this script, but... well let's just say I have a lot of work to do. The basic story is one I'm still proud of, so it'll be worth it in the end.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shroedinger's Road

Work continues to proceed, both the kind that I try to focus on in this blog - the kind that gets me up in the morning - and also the kind that pays me.

I’m of the mind that the Arts are interconnected. That is to say, someone who can play music very well might have an easier time composing their own, or even drawing or cooking. I also like to believe that the more arts one is skilled in, the more robust each art skill is made by the others.

I’m doing a LOT of drawing right now for the webcomic I’m doing, and as I'm figuring out how to draw people's hair and all that, I find I'm learning more about these characters as people. My main character's a young woman, but aside from earrings she doesn't like most jewelry - this is something I never thought about until I tried drawing bracelets on her and discovered she didn't look right. Even the tiny characters I put next to no thought into, as I'm drawing them they become... fuller. It's an odd sensation, but certainly a welcome one.

I had finished six such strips by the time I sent them to my friend Stuart Sayger for review, and his response (positive - let's be clear) has me reevaluating the style I was using. I'm looking at thicker lines lengths now and am even toying with the idea of using a brush for the figures. I've little aptitude with a brush, but a lack of aptitude hasn't stopped me yet so what's the point?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Censor Thyself

A blog like this can be a tricky thing. I'm working now, and my job presents challenges to my pursuit of writing, but I like my job so I need to watch what I say here for hear of reprisal. It's frustrating as well because I want to be able to vent.

So it's a little fortunate that my brother's driving my nuts. I can vent about him till Hollywood calls and no one will care!

My brother doesn't have a lot of initiative. Sorry, but there it is. He's been sitting around "playing by ear" and "improvising", his code for watching Star Trek DVD's while I've been at work. He does his share of the chores while the 'rents are off in England but nothing else, unless it's make a cake he eats half of before I know about it. He spent the weekend with a friend this passed weekend, leaving me to do his share of the chores on top of my own AND my own errands and plans AND working Sunday at the Comic Carnival, so I ask him to do the grocery shopping one last time and clean the kitchen and bathroom.

I get home today and he's there,watching TV and eating. I ask how his weekend was and he says fine. I ask if he got my note and he says yes. I noticed that some of the dishes weren't put away and ask if he got everything on the list and he says yes. My brother's a liar.

Kitchen: not clean.
Bathroom: not clean.
Groceries: oh yes let's.

My list is glanced at. He notices I list (with a question mark asking him if he'd like it) spaghetti sauce makings. He notices a section of the note that says we need to talk to Mom and Dad about the pets, who're down on food and we won't be able to afford all of us, stocking up. And for the first time in a long time, my brother takes initiative. He buys pet food. He buys people food too, let's not get too crazy, but it's people food he knows I don't like. And we're just about out of money. And he made zero effort to communicate with me on this, he made choices that were slightly more convenient for him with no regard for the others he's living with.

I'm still working on the webcomic. I stayed late at work to ink the latest pencils, and I scanned/ finished it tonight. After 3 beers. I'm fine working like this, but it almost seems like my brother's claiming the other parts of the house as territory by default.

I am obviously very tired and cranky and need to go to bed.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


It can sound like a cliche, an excuse, and sometime an ugly truth. Nine words:

"It's not what you do, it's who you know."

The ugliness comes from the idea that you can produce the highest quality of work, but if no one knows about it you'll never succeed. The definition of success is the key here. If all you want to do is make the best stuff you can, without anyone's knowledge or approval, then the saying's useless. Homo sapiens being a communal animal, though, this scenario rarely applies. Most of the time we're all running around trying not to yell "LOVE MEEEEEEEE" without sounding desperate. And the fact of the matter is if you want to live off of what you love, you're going to have to convince other people - eventually - that what you love can support life.

A trip to the fair proved a recent good example. The last few times I've gone have been with the Endres, a fine friendly group of people when they've all had their naps. I've known them since college, they're some of my best friends around, the kids are cute and bite softly, and Marsha Endre's my new boss at the mail room. I've got a few reasons to make them smile.

This short drink of water's Lily. For a two-year-old, she was mostly very content with watching everyone at the fair. She fed the animals, played a bit in the water, and basically was a lovely child. It's possible that this was to lead the general populace into a false sense of security.

The pater familius, David. A lot of the pictures this trip were taken by the boy, Xander. I swear I'm WAY taller than him. Stronger too, and and and I know more words. For reals. Ohh, to the right is the rarely pictured mater familius, Marsha.

I was able to take care of some extra networking with this trip. You see, one of my bestest buddies from my masters course has (or had, he might've hit his head at some point) an obsession with a classic fair food. Why don't we look at the next few pics and try to figure out what it is, shall we?

It seems that the obsession has a contagious element to it. Here's Xander presented with HIS lunch.

Note the expression on Mommy's face.

So that was my Saturday. Networking can be fun, even if I still have a thing or two to learn about it. The rest isn't important unless you're Duncan, in which case you should probably highlight the last of the this post.

HA HA! I had a corn dog and you didn't! It was hot and golden and deliciously fat-filled! Xander at ALL of his, too, that's the power of a real corn dog and YOU don't get any!! HA HA HAAA HAA!!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First Impressions

So far, I gotta say it's a lot better than I could have feared.

My previous experience at the job has turn my learning curve into a dull incline. I need to touch up on names and the machine - while very user-friendly - is completely different, but I'm picking things up fast. Everyone's been very excited about me being back and I feel very welcome. And it doesn't hurt that my old benefits have apparently been waiting for me.

Of course, my routine is disrupted. Focusing on one aspect, I'm trying to fix it so that I wake up, go to the gym, straight from there to work. I tried the gym then home for breakfast then to work today, and that didn't work so well. All I need to do is get myself some cereal and a coffee maker there and I'm golden.

My research endeavors have been slow but steady. I finished a key book in character research for the webcomic, and the ideas just keep on coming. I am running out of ways to stall on producing the thing, and I'm sure the universe is worried. The fact that the Large Hadron Collider is about to come online cannot be a coincidence.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Inaugural Address

Tomorrow begins a new phase in my attempts to be a professional writer: trying to write while working a full-time job. Many have overcome the rigors to persevere, and by keeping a diary of my experiences maybe I can at least contribute to the community of wannabes, if not document the path.

I find myself having to admit I'm helluva lucky. The job it one I've done before, I know I can have time to myself when conditions permit, and my immediate boss is one of my closest friends from college. So long as I don't do anything too stupid, I'm going to be okay. On top of that, I'll have little things like medical and dental insurance, so those are classified as "uppers." This is a job, and as such I'll need to focus on what they would have me focus on, but I know I have plenty of things to focus on when the other things are lying in wait.

Shocktype Productions has a lot of things going on at the mo. My graphic novel is still looking for an artist, but the list of potentials trying out grows. I'm doing research for my webcomic project, and a lot of what I'm reading either inspires ideas or reinforces the ones I already had, all of which is glowing. I have the tingling of a new idea thanks to a New York Times article, and as soon as I come up with a hook I expect the world won't stop me. My two finished short stories are still making the rounds, but I am pleased that I'm developing the skin necessary to handle rejection. I suppose high school DID teach me something.

I look forward to posting on this at least weekly, as I don't want to promise more and dissappoint. See you later, everyone!