Partnered Post: Book Reveal Trailer

Sometimes I get contacted to work with other budding writers, and I see it as a great opportunity to grow. This time, I was able to partner with a first-time self publisher, Erika Teák.

Although her style is decidedly less family-friendly than mine, I helped get her novella together and live on Amazon Kindle. It’s an erotic short tale of a young woman being seduced by her ever-watchful neighbor.

Today, as part of my partnership, the book trailer has launched on YouTube:

Have you read this yet? Let’s hear what you thought about it!

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Review: Grammarly Free: You Get What You Pay For

Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.

One of my clients has been singing the praises of Grammarly‘s free app for months, but unfortunately my laptop at the time was almost old enough to drive a car. I attempted to install it anyways, only to watch my computer freeze and stutter through even the most mundane task.

Obviously, this was less than ideal, and not something I could entirely blame on the company. After all, it was made with modern systems in mind, and my laptop was telling me that my computer is so old that Windows Vista was no longer going to receive updates from, well, essentially anyone.

Fast forward a few months and I was able to pick up a newer laptop. Despite the initial bugs that are inherent in Windows 10 (and they are many) I finally got it up and running and decided to give Grammarly another go.

After a few weeks of having it installed, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is very, very, very….okay.

It isn’t that it’s a bad app by any stretch. It was a cinch to install, and it performs exactly as they advertised. Both of these are great, and refreshing in a time when most apps simply purchase 5 star reviews to make up for not producing a final product.

Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.

I’ve used other Word-based apps before, and they all, more or less, perform about the same. I would assume Microsoft wants Office to be fully compatible with apps, especially as they push their computer experience to be more like their phone experience. However, there is a reason that I am not using a smartphone, and that is because I’m not really interested in playing Candy Crush on my computer.

As a result, adding on this app makes the load time take forever for just opening Word. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but I can only assume there’s something in the background that is trying to link Office to Grammarly’s server, and that back user communication usually has hiccups.

It’s nice having Gramarly off to the side of the ribbon; being a free app, I fully expected having something glaring at me the entire time I’m typing. The small notification on top of the icon is a nice touch, albeit it’s a bit odd; rather than displaying a true number of errors, it vaguely reads “1+”, “2+”, etc. What I don’t like about the notification system is that it’s so tiny that it sort of looks like a white blur on a red smudge.

So what causes the “+” amount of errors? That is where they get you. Spelling and grammar issues are, for the most part, included in their scans. However, if you want the full functionality, you must pay for premium. And while that may not sound like a good enough incentive, they have a better one – by ominously telling you that, without the premium version, several errors have been left untouched. To further add urgency to this sales pitch, errors can be “advanced” or “critical”, both of which simply redirect to where you buy it.

My last complaint is actually an included feature, and that is, while Grammarly is active, you are unable to use CRTL+Z, or the shortcut for the “Undo” function. While this in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker, it’s odd to me that an app to help you edit yourself wouldn’t allow you to undo changes during the editing process. Editing gets messy fast, and sometimes you go a little nuts with the deletes and changes.

Considering that not all of their suggestions are winners makes it harder to justify paying for premium. In fact, just like with the stock Microsoft checker, you may find yourself actively ignoring more suggestions than better developing your skills.

Overall, it’s a neat little tool that works better than Clippy would in helping you sound like a sane person who knows what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like it was designed with writing in mind so much as trying to help reduce the risk of you sending out an embarrassing email mistake to your entire company.

In short, it’s a free spelling and grammar checker that works slightly better than the stock Microsoft free spell checker, but slow performance and odd design choices mar it. Finally, holding your mistakes ransom is a tactic that I always despise, and although a grammar mistake isn’t the end of the world, I still don’t love having unknown issues lorded over my head.

 

What are your thoughts on Grammarly? Do you know of any better tools to use instead? Drop a comment and I’ll check it out!

In the End, it Doesn’t Even Matter

If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.

Yesterday was an incredibly emotional day as it were, and then it was made more so following the unexpected passing of Chester Bennington. In a time when it seems as if mental illness is on a warpath with major entertainers, it was a surprise that had stopped me cold.

I always assume that the first time I hear of a celebrity death off of Facebook that surely it must be a hoax. After all, for at least five years now I’ve been seeing the same RIP WILLIE NELSON meme, which I’m pretty sure that he’s going to outlive us all by now.

But after seeing another report, and another, and finally tabloid-with-eventual-news source TMZ had the story. And by then, I knew it was true.

At first, it seemed to be a random event; but as more details came in, it seemingly was planned for a while. Chester chose the day of Chris Cornell’s birthday, and he chose the same method that he had used.

This freaked me out for a few different reasons. But the one fear that always comes back is the realization that if it can happen to someone internationally beloved, someone who has used their talent to create a successful entertainment career, someone who is both a household name and has a family of their own, would it really be a surprise if someone, say, like me wound up doing it?

It’s been a really long time since I have considered it, and I don’t feel that I am in any way, shape, or form at risk. I really don’t; I feel like, at least at this point, it is not a potential cause for concern. But what they don’t tell you about suicide is that it doesn’t just become a good idea one time.

All it really takes is one bad day, and before you know it, you have a thought creep in out of nowhere. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to pursue it, it doesn’t mean that you’re choosing now to make your exit. It just means that somewhere, deep down, that contingency plan never went away. Whether you want it there or not, it is always going to be on the table.

And that is what people who don’t have the urge fail to understand. It’s rarely an impulse, at least, not from what I’ve seen. I’m also not an expert, so I could be totally off base there. I think to a degree everyone has it planned out; how it’s going to happen, when, how, even why.

People think that it’s enough to have a career or a family to hold you back. They become a consideration. In short, it becomes a tradeoff; do I follow through knowing that it is going to completely ruin the rest of their lives, or are they important enough that I continue on?

Luckily for me, it was enough. It was a hard battle, one that took up an entire month. But at the end of it, weighing the pros and the cons, I just couldn’t stick them with it. The idea of my mom or my sister finding me, knowing the unexpected expenses, the lasting emotional impact; I couldn’t do it.

Hurting myself was okay, but it stopped there for me. You find that when you become that desperate to relieve the pain, your body ceases to exist. It’s no longer your body so much as the thing that houses your pain. By that logic, in that current state of mind, the only way to stop hurting is to get beyond your body.

Although suicide is physical, it’s a mental battle. It’s all about your brain kind of reversing course. The self-preservation part shuts down, and in a way, it doesn’t. It’s almost as if your mind sees death as being the best course of action; when you get to that point, it stops holding you back. Your thoughts start becoming more akin to “Well, you know what? If you honestly think this is best, then sure, why the heck not?”

I don’t think we’re going to know too much more about what was going on with Chester. Obviously, Cornell‘s death was a large factor. My friend Allie and I discussed the past album his band, Linkin Park, put out; it was slammed by even long-term fans as being too different. Bennington, in an odd twist, starting fighting back.

Bennington was from that scrappy era of more emo-sided music. Bands that dug down and kept pushing until they had finally made it. They were not record label darlings, they didn’t come from famous musicians discovering them; they fought long and hard until they eventually got the recognition that they deserved. Many other bands from that era had similar tribulations, and almost always the frontman praised their fans regularly.

So to see him turn, that was a huge red flag that I don’t think anyone saw. When an average person speaks their mind combatively, it’s usually in the comment section of  a YouTube. When a celebrity does it, however, they’re just being “jerks” and “out of touch”.

The situation also shows why it’s important to reconsider going through with it, because you never know who it’s going to push to follow you. Suicide is a selfish action, but what people don’t get is in that moment, no one else matters. You’re hurting to the point that you can’t look past yourself. The world doesn’t exist; just the pain.

I’m hoping that, like most tragedies, some good comes of this. I’m hoping it finally opens up the floor for real suicide prevention and discussion. Not “this celebrity did it so here’s a hotline number”. Not social media posts of “lol just talk to me!”. That’s not going to happen; those who are at this point already feel alone. They are not going to reach out. They feel that there is no one to reach out to, and by seeing an offer like that, it honestly has the opposite effect.

So what can you do? If you know someone with some form of mental illness, just check up on them. But do so honestly. Don’t let them tell you that everything is “fine”. Really and truly see how they are doing, because you just don’t know when we’re having a bad day, and we’ve gotten pretty good at hiding behind a mask.

Freelance Isn’t Free.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing.

From Merriam-Webster:

Free (\ˈfrē\):

: not costing or charging anything

Lance (\ˈlan(t)s\):

:  a steel-tipped spear carried by mounted knights or light cavalry

…okay, so maybe it doesn’t do the whole artsy Tarantino thing, but you get the picture. Ask any freelancer what their biggest pet peeve is, and they will more than likely all respond with clients wanting you to work for free.

This in and of itself is not altogether shocking; people with money and in a position of some degree of authority, i.e. some form of manager, is going to price shop. If they spend too much, they get yelled out by their superiors for going over budget.

The other factor at play is turnaround; most people who hire freelance workers seem to wait until the 11th hour, needing their project completed yesterday.

One of the few ways I have managed to carve a niche for myself is being able to meet tight deadlines. Not to sound haughty, but on more than one occasions I have been able to exceed expectations by providing at least a rough draft within a 24 hour window. Time is money, and when you can save them time, they perceive you as being of a higher value over other freelance options.

Unfortunately, short windows are becoming standard. Okay, not so bad, right? Just hunker down and bang out projects. No big deal; not a huge change from any other Monday morning.

Until you consider what they are willing to pay, and that becomes the bane of your professional existence. Case in point, a main client of mine who I partner with on a frequent basis had to turn down a job recently that would have included me, and it had to do with the perfect storm of what would have led us to hating life.

A company inquired about using us to craft entire packets of copy. Each order would be in bulk, nearing the 5,000 word mark. This would steady work, too; the company was growing and was actively seeking solid workers.

Sounds good so far. The best jobs are big jobs; yes, it usually requires me to work two weeks solid without a day off, but then you get downtime afterwards and a decent paycheck at the end.

Another requirement was native English speakers, which believe it or not, is a strong selling point for anyone looking to enter into freelance employment. The reason for this is everyone east of the UK claims to be fluent in conversational English, only to have an entire article written using Google Translate.

So what’s the deal? We have the skills, the have the work. Should be a done deal. But whenever things seem too good to be true, they always are. The company was netting $300 for these website packages. The writers, as can be assumed, would be getting fairly compensated, right?

One of the hardest things for me to communicate to potential clients is payment. Everyone wants me to charge by the page, but that simply does not work. A single page that is written in size 12 Times New Roman font and double spaced will have fewer words than a single space, font 11 Calibri page.

Simply put, I cannot compare apples to oranges on your project when you want me to complete it by the page. This is especially true if your instructions read “You’re the creative one; I’ll let you decide what’s best.

Another problem is that the Average Joe can’t picture how long a certain number of words is going to be. That is fair, and I get it. For reference, when I’m working on content pages for service trades, home pages generally take 1,000 words, and that gives a rundown of available services, their summaries, short histories about the company, and what sets them apart. You would actually be surprised just how hefty a 1,000 word home page is.

Back to the new client. As they receive $300 for doing little more than getting a new assignment into the To Do Stack, their writers are paid less than one cent per word. Multiply that times the amount of words, which I believe was around the 4,750 mark, and it is literally pennies on the dollar.

Now, it may seem like it’s still a good idea, but that amount would be for labor only. The amount of research that a freelance writer such as myself has to do can be borderline overwhelming at times. To go from knowing next to nothing about, say, poured concrete, and then to create a series of pages that sounds like I’ve been installing it for 20 years, takes a certain degree of Google skills and pure, and tapping into my natural B.S. creating glands.

Depending on how specific of a niche the job is, I may spend hours just researching a topic. This is time that can’t really be billed, either; freelance work is often for the completed project, and I can only really charge by the word.

Another client that recently had to be shot down was someone looking for a package that would essentially require advanced SEO techniques; the kind that one would hone via an advanced marketing degree. Again, the offer was for peanuts, and the niche was too specific. It was more adult-themed in nature; this isn’t immediately a deal breaker, but as is the case with many things in life, attitude is everything.

Another red flag is when they come off having read an article about master-level SEO and now think that this is what they should be shopping for. Once they were asking for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Marketing, I was out. Not only do I not know how to do this, but 1) this isn’t even proven to be effective and 2) this dips into David Blaine’s territory of misdirection. Basically, it’s using words that most people like to trick them into being super into what you’re putting down.

I am always happy to offer a free revisions for free. After all, without developing the ability to read people’s minds, there is going to be some room for adjustment. However, it was obvious that they had a specific idea in mind. Whenever this happens, nothing produced by my side is going to be completely satisfactory.

Picture it like this; rather than having a physical model or picture of a home, you merely tell the blueprint guy what you’re looking for. They may get close, but it will never be the true dream home that you had envisioned, and it’s because two different people are trying to imagine an abstract concept.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top-tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing, and then still charge a cut from the worker; unfortunately, due to technological and language barriers, most of the work then has to be paid to be corrected by a true English speaker.

Because they have the knowledge of the English language, they will be charging more, and you have not only paid for the same project twice, but now you have wound up paying more than had you simply gone with them in the first place.

If your project is so complex that it requires advanced metrics and techniques, you may be better off finding a salaried marketing manager to take the reins. The average freelance worker is only going to offer copy and copy-related services.

Finally, if your project is important, don’t cheap out. I’m not saying that you have to spend a fortune; just don’t expect someone to work for free. I charge $0.05 per word; that’s five bucks for 100 words, which is probably somewhere in the ballpark of two to three paragraphs for a website. With that, I include a free revision, two if I’m completely off base.

That also includes the time that I have to spend researching the topic, editing my own work (which is surprisingly difficult because we are all blind to many of our mistakes), and ensuring that it is returned within your specified deadline window.

Even at that price, and what it entails, most would look to drop that number down. Some even argue that larger projects should come with a bulk discount; while that would make sense in the manufacturing word, giving me more work to complete faster should not be billed less as it puts me on the expressway to losing the rest of my mind.

Freelance is a great gig, and if you haven’t contracted out some of your tasks to a freelance laborer, I would highly recommend it. To contact me to discuss your project, use the field below or visit me at my website or Facebook page.

 

 

365 Days Later

All I can say is how amazed I am that the people in the community responded the way that they did. The way that they still are. It gives me hope that we don’t have to put our masks back on. That we’re going to continue in spite of this, and just maybe come out a little stronger. I think people seem a little kinder, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Anyone who knows me knows that one of the things that I struggle with is never really having been from anywhere in particular. I was moved about all my life, usually halfway through the current school year. As a result, when people ask where I’m from, I have to prepare for a short 5 minute geography lesson and then try and come up with an explanation as to why, if I’m not an Army Brat, and if my parents didn’t work for a huge corporation, did I move so frequently?

Six years ago we literally had nowhere to live. My parents and I wound up in a motel room for the better part of a month, followed by living in a crappy apartment which wasn’t even safe for renting. I worked for the Mouse after failing to find a job for three months, and was quickly thrown in with a bunch of other weirdos and misfits.

Now that I’m halfway through my 30th year on this planet, I’m feeling old. I was born in ’86, I’ve lived through, at least in part, four different decades. I’ve seen countless atrocities on the news, begged for my mother to turn off the 5th day of coverage of 9/11, to which I was greeted with being “insensitive”. Of course, no one realized how prevalent anxiety and depression are in both sides of the family, and the constant footage of smoldering buildings was becoming too much for someone who had just recently began high school.

Even then, that awful attack was surreal, as if it had happened not just to a different country, but a different planet. The day of, typical high school children made jokes about the pilot being drunk, or  it was the Canadian Mafia or something stupid. Mind you, we didn’t know it was a true act of terror until later, to which everyone collectively felt as rotten as they should.

As a young child I watched coverage of the Oklahoma City Bombing, but I was far too young to understand. I just remember pictures of men being flashed on screen, juxtaposed with burning buildings and crying mothers.

Columbine left me numb. Being in school and seeing what is possible by your school mates, the bad kids, the ones always blasting angry music and kicking puppies. It felt more like a nightmare. To see something similar happen at Sandy Hook, and then to hear that it was all a conspiracy, it didn’t happen, while grieving mothers and fathers trembled with pictures of their lost children; it didn’t feel real.

But the one tragedy that felt all too real happened a little more than a year ago. I tried formulating some feeling, some reaction yesterday on its anniversary proper. And yet, the words would not come. The thoughts would not form beyond a general feeling of malaise. I tried distracting myself with Facebook, which was all too eager to remind me of what had happened in the same feature that shows me dumb photos I posted ages ago.

My sister lived just a few miles away at the time. And I was reminded how easily it could have been her. I have many people who identify as having several different sexualities, friends of friends being active in the community, former coworkers, etc. And I was one of the lucky ones, having to sit back and see the posts wash in about how no one had heard from X and guys, I have just been told that I lost another.

And I found myself feeling just as numb as I did that day. The same feelings of hopelessness, of still not belonging anywhere. John Stewart had once said during the Bush/Gore election that the nation’s stupidity drains down into Florida, and a quick follow of the #FloridaMan tag all but proves this true. Orlando is more or less the Island of Misfit Toys, and to think that if you can’t be yourself here, where can you?

Then the quote kept rolling in. “Love is love is love,” a beautiful sentiment that I just can’t adopt because of an abusive ex who wore it long before as a battle cry, a way to earn carte blanc to do as she pleased. It was at this point it became obvious to me that as people, we are always quick to balance Love and Hate as polar opposites, when in actuality, they are more like twins. Two sides to the same coin, a different ends to a mean. The road to a happy ending, or a living hell. Just as many people do horrendous things in the name of Love, as they do in the name of Hate.

I refuse to remember the name of the man who felt enough hatred towards himself that he felt the need to lash out and end the lives of so many. But that’s exactly where the driving force came from; a feeling of not only being unable to be himself, but a deep seated loathing of his true self. I am not justifying this travesty at all, and my only regret is he was not able to stand trial for his crimes, to look the survivors and their families in their eyes and try and come up with a reason as to why this was okay.

Things didn’t go better as I had found an old photo booklet she had given me, to which I deposited directly into the trash (“Where she belongs,” I muttered). I had hoped going to my favorite class at the gym would cheer me up, but Ty, my instructor, was struggling as well. He had told us just a week ago that he had lost a few friends, and another member of our very gym. He had frequented the place himself, and the pain was still raw.

Despite all of the terrible things that I have seen, Pulse hit the hardest. It truly felt close to home, not just because it was in my own backyard, but that it could happen somewhere that, at least on the surface, feels a bit more accepting. Far enough away from the Deep South, and enough of an old hippie influence from the constant influx of old New Englanders, Orlando felt safe. Sure, you still had homeless addicts eating people and alligators living in swimming pools. But you could at least not worry about what others thought because if they live here, chances are they’re as weird as you are.

To see someone not being able to accept themselves to the point where they felt the need to do what they did hurt. It hurt the community, it hurt everyone who lost someone, and it hurt those just trying to find their place in the world. So yeah, it was difficult to form my thoughts. It still is, as is evident by my rambling. I guess I’m just shaken that this truly could have happened to anyone in the area.

All I can say is how amazed I am that the people in the community responded the way that they did. The way that they still are. It gives me hope that we don’t have to put our masks back on. That we’re going to continue in spite of this, and just maybe come out a little stronger. I think people seem a little kinder, or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

Ghandi has always been falsely attributed to saying “Be the change you want to see in the world”. And although he didn’t actually say this, it’s still something I try to abide by. What I do know is that when you don’t seem to fit in anywhere else, Central Florida is the closest thing to home. If it’s your home, just try to keep it that way; lend a hand, lend a smile, lend a hug. Just try to leave it a little better place than how you found it.

Finally, An Update!

More travel blog posts! The good good travel boys and girls over at HotelCoupons.Com and Drive the Nation are still my favorite places for unique travel ideas, deals, and more. If nothing else, I find their focus on small town destinations fascinating in a faced-paced world. And more than once I have wanted to walk into my computer screen and just wake up in some of these places.

Sorry for not posting in a while, it’s been a crazy couple of months.

More travel blog posts! The good good travel boys and girls over at HotelCoupons.Com and Drive the Nation are still my favorite places for unique travel ideas, deals, and more. If nothing else, I find their focus on small town destinations fascinating in a faced-paced world. And more than once I have wanted to walk into my computer screen and just wake up in some of these places.

Anyways, lately they have been having me write about a few really cool places, some closer to home than others.

  • Who doesn’t love candy? (Other than dentists.) Got you a scoop on Hammond’s Candies Factory Tour in Denver.
  • The rent still sucks in Orlando but here are 5 Free Things to Do.
  • Volcano Bay just opened and I was lucky enough to do some research on it a couple of weeks back.

I also got to fall in love with some small towns and then regretted not being a bajillionaire to go check them out:

  • Gatlinburg somehow has weirder attractions than Orlando does (and I say that lovingly to both), and it also looks no less beautiful than Endor does.
  • I have no idea why there isn’t a booming movie industry in Jacksonville OR because it looks like the idyllic small town from every movie ever made.

As always, you can always find my past posts here and here.

Also, I realized that I never ask you what you’ve been writing. What’s up? Whatcha been working on? Let’s see it!

War Never Changes: What Bethesda Taught Me About Writing

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

As a 30 single dude with no kids and/or love interest, I get to enjoy playing video games sans nagging. And as much as I gripe about being single, it’s pretty great to just be able to kick back and play as much as I want at night, which is how I like to unwind. And honestly, I’ve been playing video games since I was two, so it’s something I’ve long enjoyed doing and it’s something I plan to do at least for the foreseeable future.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that in addition to practicing writing, it’s just as important to read as it will help guide you towards techniques and styles you may have not thought of before; sort of a passive learning by doing scenario.

Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and it’s harder than ever to split your attention between things that you love doing that are engaging versus taking the chance on something that may be interesting, or maybe it’ll leave you going “man, I wish I spent this past hour completing that level”.

As a result, it’s pretty frustrating to get involved in a game, only to be let down by repetitive action, bland story lines, and worse yet, technical bugs. So when I bought Fallout 4, I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, as well as all of the subtle details that are easily missed.

And considering how much I enjoyed their previous project, Skyrim, I’m beginning to actually apply what I enjoy about their games and have attempted putting it into my own writing. So while yes, reading is important to writing, maybe games, or at least, the skills of game designers, are going to be the new wave of writing influences.

World Building

One of the obvious strengths of Bethesda is their ability to craft a world. The game rarely feels like playing a game, but truly assuming the role of someone wandering a post apocalyptic wasteland, or a lone wizard traversing the countryside on their own hunting dragons. And this is reinforced through subtle nods and background stories that pop up everywhere.

Skyrim had in-game books your character (and you) could leaf through that described the history and lore of the land, while in Fallout you can find computer entries and scribbled notes that describe the rise and fall of civilization. It’s the extra effort that truly makes you feel like you’re living the story rather than just playing through a level.

Details Make or Break It

As is the case with anything, too much world building can be a curse. Back to the world of Skyrim, some of the books you find are just a few paragraphs in length and offer a welcome reprieve from the constant random battles. On the other hand, there are some that feel as long as real books, and I find myself bogged down with too many details that don’t impact my life in the slightest.

However, in Fallout 4, there are tiny little stories of a world gone by; you just have to know where to look. For instance, the nuclear bomb that decimated the country happened in the month of October. As you start making your way through the ruins of Boston, you can find small phone booth-like safe spaces, like public safe rooms.

In one I found the other night, there was a small plastic jack-o-lantern with candy at the bottom. Within two seconds this went from a novel discovery to my mind running wild with the heartbreaking story of a child’s last trick-or-treating.

Make the Scary Parts Scary

Neither Skyrim nor Fallout are horror survival games. That said, there are plenty of spooky parts, and a plethora of monsters, demons, zombies, and other creatures you’d rather not tangle with. However, tangle you must, and usually in a setting that is just plain unsettling.

Despite the games not falling into the horror genre, and in fact, finding plenty of lush naturally beautiful areas, they don’t shy away from ratcheting the suspense. And it works – it forces you to be on your guard, and it makes you appreciate the safe areas all the more. And it’s something that I’ve tried incorporating as well. After all, life isn’t always roses and sunshine; sometimes it’s being in a dark sewer full of flesh eating zombies.

Live in the Gray

What has become Bethesda’s bread and butter is their lack of forcing you to be a fully “good” character or a fully evil character. Each and every situation, conversation, and interaction has an option to be a hero, a villain, or someone in between. And this is refreshing; life isn’t always so black and white.

Having the ability to not only be in the gray, but stay there, is more human. And in today’s jaded society, it’s nice to have something that influences your own characters to strive to be more realistic.

Be the Person You Want to Be

Bethesda does a great job of giving you plenty of freedom to not only design your own character, but essentially have a virtual Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. You control their physical appearance, their name, and as you progress, you get to choose what their strengths, weaknesses, and aptitudes are. As a result, you can play almost any type of character you want.

If you want to make a psychotic villain that looks, and acts, like Negan, the main baddie in The Walking Dead, you can. If you want to make a goody two shoes quasi-super hero (like my affectionately nicknamed Trashcan America), you can. If you want to just make an Average Joe trying to complete his own personal quest, you can. There’s no right or wrong answer; there’s nothing the game really tries to force on you. And as a writer, I am constantly thinking of new characters I’d love to design and try on my next play through as a result.

 

Have you found any non-book entertainment offerings that influence your writing? I’d love to hear about them. And if you need any assistance with your next project, I’d love to help out!

Chapter 19 Just Done Got Rewrote!

Anyways, just finished some rewrites this morning, and completed chapter 19. The exciting part (for me) is that I’m done to about the last ten to twelve chapters.

Hail and well met fellows!

 

Mmkay enough of that business. Anyways, just finished some rewrites this morning, and completed chapter 19. The exciting part (for me) is that I’m done to about the last ten to twelve chapters. It’s probably going to wind up being a little longer… than the last draft as I’m shuffling stuff down to the next chapter behind it. I’m trying to make it a bit more cohesive, as well as throw some more suspense in the mix. You know. Like a real boy author. Anyways, it’s going well, and as always, I appreciate the continued support, kind words, and well wishes.

No end date as of yet due to fluctuating work schedules, but this is a top priority for me this year. I know it’s been a long time in the making, but I feel like I’m really turning a corner this time. Again, the original rough draft can be viewed here, with the new and improved version on the way.