“I Need the Rest”

tired meme: dog sleeping
Image Source: https://www.frankiesweekend.com/2016/01/what-im-doing-wrong-on-rest-days.html

The title of today’s blog comes from Tommy Lee Jones’s character at the end of the movie, The Fugitive. He gave 110% trying to catch Harrison Ford’s character and then pieced together the puzzle of the mystery at the heart of the movie (yes, it’s an older movie, no I won’t spoil it for those who’ve not seen it).

The image above (thanks, Frankie’s Weekend) is a visual representation of me during this semester. I gave 110% in terms of trying to teach my classes while taking classes as well as working part-time. I’m sorry that the blog took a “hit,” but to be honest, it wasn’t the only thing. My creative writing also suffered during that period. When you’re grading papers at 3 am in the morning, after trying to write a 15 page paper and study for an exam within two days of each other, things just get a bit dicey.

2019 — Trying to Get Back on Track

Before the end of the semester, 2018 had a lot of great refinements to both the blog and my creative writing. My goal (or resolution, if you prefer) is to continue to build upon the successes of last year. While I’m striving for a daily blog, I may have to realistically aim for 3 entries every week, and use the weekends to “stockpile” entries for when I get overburdened with school/classwork. I’m also trying to find a consistent time to write–these shorter times work for blog entries, but are unsatisfying for short stories. I’m still in search of the perfect writing time/space.

2019 — Creative Writing

So, in 2018, I wasn’t able to publish any of my creative writing. I also didn’t really finish any new pieces, although I started on several. I did, at least, find a way to submit work and to keep it circulating to give myself a chance at publication, but the stories were the older ones that I finished that most publishers just don’t seem interested in while the ones that I’ve started are in various stages of “production,” but none are really ready to market (in my opinion), so I have to keep submitting the older ones. One good thing is that I found a “system” that works for me: I submit my stories “weekly” now–write on the weekdays and submit on the weekends. I’ve been able to keep 1-2 stories out each month, for the past two months using that system. As I finish newer stories, I can add them into the rotation, and hopefully, they’ll see publication by sticking to this system, so that’s one area where I can now say that is no longer broke, so I don’t need to fix it anymore and I can put my energies to figuring out other areas of concern in my writing process.

Well, that’s all I have for today. Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2019!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)
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A Physical a Day . . .

Image Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/getting-physical-examination#purpose

Sorry for the awful title–I tried to think of something clever, but words have failed me. Today’s blog entry will be shorter one today as it is the 18 year anniversary of the death of my uncle–the same one whom I have often spoke about in these blog entries (See the entry for Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain for a quick intro on how influential he was to me as a person). Yesterday, I wasn’t able to blog as I was at the Doctor’s office for my annual physical. The day before I had to upload the grades for my students and I was completely exhausted trying to make sure that I had accurately graded all papers and projects.

You Should Always Have a Physical

I rarely give advice in these blog entries–preferring to relate the events and things that happen to me and let the readers decide how and what to make of that information for themselves. This is the rare time when I would suggest that everyone, if at all possible, have an annual physical examination. Why, you might ask? I feel fine, you might say. Well, I know from experience that it is important to have your health checked on a regular basis.

The High Cost of Medical Care

So, I’ve lost a family member and a friend, both of whom did not go the doctor because of the cost of medical care. My family member was an uncle, who died in 2000 due to colon cancer. I will always remember that time and it crystallized the need to have annual checks as a doctor mentioned that the disease would have been treatable if it had been caught early enough. A few years later, when I was working on my Master’s Degree in Education, I had a fellow graduate student who wanted to be a teacher, but wasn’t technologically savvy. He asked for help on improving his “technology” skills and, since we’d previously had a class together and I knew he was good guy, I agreed to help him. The last part of that class was comprised of a technology “presentation” and he told me he would call me so that I could run him through PowerPoint and show him how it worked . . . but the call never came, then came his time to present and he wasn’t there . . . and then the professor informed us that he had passed away. He had told me earlier that he wasn’t feeling well, but that he didn’t want to go to the doctor because of the high medical cost.

Annual Checkups are Necessary

So, to end this blog entry, after these two deaths, I’ve come to believe that annual checkups are necessary. I have missed one or two (due to unforseen circumstances), but I try to make sure, whenever possible to make my annual checkups and I encourage everyone to take one as well. Have a great day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)


Dead Stop

Image Source: https://www.americasmarketingmotivator.com/dead-stop-the-value-of-a-time-out/

It seems like I’m forever apologizing for not working on the blog, but this time I had some very good reasons as to why I haven’t posted in a while (over 3 weeks, I think). Basically, it’s because I haven’t been writing—not creatively, nor for the blog.

Work-Life Balance

So, the thing to understand is that my work-life balance is completely out of whack. I could go into the many reasons as to why this is the case, but to sum most of the reasons up in a short, pithy way: school. The classes that I had to take this semester were intense (one was reading intensive, while the other was watching films, both in and out of class, so it was time-intensive). The two classes that I was teaching were Monday, Wednesday, Friday courses at 8:00 am, so it was hard (and became impossible) to both plan lessons and write blog entries at the same time, and lastly, the Chromebook, while necessary to do my work, isn’t really conducive to “writing” as its keyboard is horrible in terms of feel for touch typing. I find myself making double or triple the amount of keystroke errors than I make on my (now ancient) 2008 Macbook Pro. The Chromebook does not make for a good writing experience—in fact, outside of short one or two paragraph feedback entries for my students, I now actively try to avoid doing any extended writing on the Chromebook as it is such a frustrating and dismal experience.

Solutions

So that this post doesn’t turn into a “gripe” post, I wanted to provide some solutions that I’ve been musing over during the unintentional sabbatical that I’ve had to take and you’re actually reading the first one—changing the time when I write the blog. Every weekday, M-F, I have approximately 30-45 minutes of usable time that I used to try to use for my creative writing. However, I was ultimately frustrated by the lack of progress that I could see myself making in those short sessions. I’m taking that time to write this blog entry. While I can’t actually find and place the images, nor upload it as I’m not on the internet as I’my typing these words, still the time (in my mind’s eye) fits better as I can write these words now and upload them sometime tomorrow—yes, I’ll still have to spend time finding images, linking them, and sourcing them, but at least the majority of the work will be done ahead of time. I still have to find a place to move my creative writing, but I’ll experiment with a couple of times I have in mind on the weekend to see if those times work better and allow me to actually finish drafts. I’m also going to use Scrivener to try to help out. I can see the word count at the bottom of the page (494 words so far), so I’m aiming for the 500 word mark. Some posts may be around 400 words (or even shorter if I’m tired), some may go long (600 words or more), but I’m going to try aim for 500 words, with a hard 1000 word cap. This, too, should help with getting these posts out of my mind and onto the blog in a timely manner. And, as I’m quickly closing in on that 600 word mark, I think that I will close for today with my family’s most adhered to adage (along with my personal addendum); If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it (but if it is broke, fix it until it isn’t broke anymore, and then leave it bloody well alone!)

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)


Enjoying the Holiday

Image Source: http://moderndayms.com/2017/11/thanksgiving-with-ms-enjoying-a-healthy-holiday/

So, regular readers of the blog will realize that I’ve been spotty (at best) for the past couple of months.  I apologize.  I’ve wanted to work on it, but to be completely candid, I’ve managed to fall waaayyyy behind (on pretty much everything).  I wanted to take time away to catch up, but there never seemed to be enough time in the day.  Then the Thanksgiving holiday (in the US).  I thought that would be the perfect time to catch up (on life, universe, and everything).  Sorry, that’s a Douglas Adams joke–sometimes I think I’m much funnier than I really am–again, apologies.  Anyway, I had hoped to catch up on blog entries, grading, reading for school, etc., and pretty much everything, but I decided to just “take the holiday off” as it were except for some light reading for class.

All Things in Time

Rather than try to do all of these things at once, I decided that it is simply a matter of time.  Right now, grades & grading come first.  I will try to work on the blog daily, but for the next three weeks, I’m not going to make any guarantees.  I have a list of topics that I want to cover on my iPhone.  I hope that I will have time to work on them as I do have an hour each day that I currently haven’t been utilizing for that purpose.  Luckily, December 17th is the day that grades are due, so even if I’m spotty over the next weeks, it will only be for a short period of time.  This blog entry is being written in hopes of getting back on track–I personally love writing these entries daily as it helps me to be inspired to write creatively at night.

Short Update on Projects

I’m running low on time,  so I wanted to give a quick update on my writing as I haven’t done that in a while.

DSRV: Ship of Shadows: Graphic Novel–This is the project I’m actively writing.  I’m on page 32 of the graphic novel.  I will be working on it until I reach page 56 (basically all of December) and then I’ll switch to finishing The Indpendent.  

Project Star: Finished the “Rough” draft a couple of weeks ago.  I need to go back and write a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd draft for the story.  This will probably take place next semester (Spring 2019).  I probably need to change the name though–there is already a graphic novel with the name I want to use as well.

The Independent: I haven’t quite finished the 2nd draft, I would like to finish the 2nd issue of DSRV before finishing the 2nd draft–I intend to leap-frog the two projects (drafts of The Independent and DSRV).  I really enjoyed working on Ryn’s character and I’m having fun putting her in the story.  During the 3rd draft, I hope to improve the setting and the problems of the story.

I have several other projects in the works which will make an appearance from time-to-time, but right now I’m focused on my Preliminary Exams–and I pass them, my dissertation is next.  I’m so glad that I enjoy the writing process as I will be doing a lot of it both creatively and for school over the next year or so.  That’s all I have time for today–have a good day!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Back to the Grind

Image Source: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-daily-routine-of-20-famous-writers-and-how-you-can-use-them-to-succeed-1603f52fbb77

So, last night, I wrote for the first time in almost a week.  I don’t know why I haven’t wanted to write in the past couple of weeks, except that I felt like my writing just wasn’t going well.  While I finished the rough draft of Project Star, it isn’t like finishing an actual project.  There’s not that sustained natural high that there is when one finishes a full project.  However, for some unknown reason, I really wanted write, so I made myself write and I really enjoyed it.

Reading and Writing Taking up the Same Time

I love to read and I love to write and sometimes those two loves compete for my (limited) pool of time.  For some reason, this week, I’ve really wanted to read, but I used the time that I would normally write and just read.  I’m rereading The Mallorean by David Eddings and I feel that has helped me stay sane.  However, my writing time has taken a hit because I’m using that writing time to do my reading.  Last night, however, I was so invested in writing that I wrote very quickly and finished up pretty quickly as well.  I then, still had enough time to read a little bit of The Mallorean.

I Feel Sickness Coming On . . .

The problem is that I think I’m getting sick.  I had a student in class today who had a Sinus Infection and some bronchus going on as well.  Based on how I feel writing this blog post, I really don’ t want to get sick as I have waaaaaayyyyyy too much to do, but it looks like that is what’s happening. Not sure how this will affect my writing as I play it by ear; it just depends on how I feel.  Well, that’s all that I have for now.  See you next week!

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 31)

7 Games that Influenced Me: Golden Axe

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Okay, so this blog post was inspired by a video on Playstation Access that talks about 7 different games that inspired the staff at Playstation Access.  Gaming, along with reading and writing, and watching movies and television shows, make up a large part of my free time, so I thought that I would also do a blog post that covers seven influential games for me.  I will revisit this post several different times, each time updating it with a new game.

Here are mine are in no particular order:

Golden Axe

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So, I puzzled and puzzed until my puzzler was sore for what I should do for my last game for this post.  I have so many games that I’ve played that have had an influence of on me.  I had to really think about a game that affected me and I finally settled on Golden Axe.  As a beat’em-up much like Double Dragon and Streets of Rage, where you take control of a character and use the controller to “beat up” your opponents.  While inevitably violent, most of these were never really bloody in the way a “slasher” film might be–the violence (to me) was always cartoony (a la Tom & Jerry).  Essentially, Golden Axe is a side-scrolling game you move from right to left defeating monsters and creatures.  You choose from one of three characters and you can play it alone or cooperatively with a 2nd player.  In the late 1980s, Golden Axe was the closest thing to fantasy movies like Conan the Barbarian and fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings.  There is even a magic system using gnomes and jars that added variety to the game.  I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve played this game or how many times that I’ve enjoyed going all the way though it, either by myself or with my uncle.  This game is one that I played all through my teenaga years.

Street Fighter 2

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Street Fighter 2 is a game that I discovered while I was in college.  It became super popular  during my second year at UT Knoxville.  As a fighting game, it allowed one player to challenge the computer or 2 players to challenge each other.  It became all of the craze at the Gameroom at the University Center and in the “arcades” that lingered on “The Strip” (the road just off of campus that divided the campus from the off-campus apartments and led into downtown Knoxville).  The game was intense and even though there were only 8 characters at the time, they were so different that it was easy to pick a favorite and learn all their moves and then challenge others (strangers or friends).  I remember that my best friend from high school came up to UT Knoxville during my 2nd year there and we used to have epic battles on this game.  My main character was Chun Li because I loved her speed and agility and her move set (especially the Lightning Kick and the Spinning Bird Kick).  My friend played Bison (aka M Bison) because of his power and powerful moves.  I was so in love with the game, that I asked for a Super Nintendo just to get an arcade perfect port of the game (I didn’t need to because a later edition also came to the Sega Genesis a little later on with the ability to fight against the same character that you were playing).  This is one that my uncle and I had loads of fun playing, although I think he was a little disappointed that it was just a “fighter” and didn’t have more depth.  For me, however, I was enraptured.  Once I learned Chun Li’s moves, it became a mini-game to see how I could beat opponents with as many of the different moves as possible.  This game to this day, still is one that when the latest iteration comes out, I will at least give it a look/play, even when it steps away from the core gameplay.  SFII as it is affectionately known by fans is a game that truly had an effect on me as a gamer.

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The Bard’s Tale II: The Destiny Knight

So this game is one that I played religiously during my childhood.  I got into D&D through the boardgame Dungeon! and bought quite a few D&D and AD&D rulebooks and supplements.  I saw an ad for this in a magazine (I think) and I got it for a birthday (or Christmas) present.  Rolling a character and creating a party was immensely fun for me as was adventuring in the town of Skara Brae.  I, along with my uncle, scouraded the land and the dungeons.  I seem to remember that there were seven dungeons (not including the “starter” dungeon in the world.  We managed to map out and beat the first two dungeons (if I remember correctly), but not the “starter” dungeon, weirdly enough.  I think we might have gotten one finished, but I’m not really sure at this point.  I remember the puzzle that stopped us, “What is No. 9’s favorite wine?”  I’m assuming there was a clue that we missed somewhere because I think this was in Dungeon 4 (???), but where ever, it stopped our progress.  Even though we didn’t technically finish/beat the game, we spent hours and hours on the game, and even invested in graph paper to map out the dungeons and the game world (before “automapping” was a thing.  Even without finishing, the experience of the playing the game and creating characters still helps to inform me as a writer today and that’s why this game is one of the influential games of my childhood.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

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So, Call of Duty was a franchise that I knew a lot about, but didn’t actually pick up until Treyarch’s World War II game, Call of Duty 3, and I really liked the game, but shortly thereafter Infinity Ward announced that they were moving out of the WWII arena and moving the game into the modern era.  I really found this to be provocative and I followed the development with considerable interest.  When the game released, the campaign just blew my mind.  It was tense, fun, and graphically well done and I found it to be one of the best stories that I’ve experienced in any medium.  The online component also sucked me in after I finished main campaign several times.  It extended my enjoyment of the game and I played the online portion religiously for the better part of two years.  Modern Warfare is a game that not just influenced me, but also influenced the entire gaming industry for the better part of 8-10 years.

 

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Galaga/Galaxian

Okay, so I’m cheating a little bit on this entry as technically, Galaga and Galaxian are two separate games.  However, they came out at about the same time, they play so similar, and they are ones where I played either of them no matter what, depending on the location–some places would have one, other places would have the other, and I personally had no preference between the two.  Basically, these two games are what’s known in the gamer community as “top down shooters.”  You shoot aliens as they move though space, but your view is from the top as if you were looking down on your own ship and the aliens.  Much like the classic game Space Invaders you find your ship confined to the bottom of the screen, but instead of aliens coming down in straight lines, they swirl around the play area, making your job of hitting them, much harder.  On Galaga,  there is an extra wrinkle in that some ships are able to send out a tractor beam and capture your ship.  If it was your last ship, then the game is over, but if you have another ship and can hit the alien that has captured your ship, you have the chance of getting it back and doubling your firepower.  It has a great risk/reward system in place with that mechanic.  Galaxian is essentially the exact same game minus the alien ship with its tractor beam.  These two games were favorites of mine and earned my quarters every time I saw them in an arcade, or where ever they might have been located.

Tomb Raider 2

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This is probably the most influential game for me in the “modern” era of gaming in that it was the one game that I played when I still had my entire family available to me (my uncle, my grandmother, and my grandfather), so there is a nostalgia factor with this game.  Most people, scholars/journalists will cite the rise of Lara Croft as this feminist icon in video games, and while this is true, TRII is most notable to me because of its proto-narrative structure.  From the introductory cutscene, all through the in-game dialogue, you can see a narrative trying to be told by the game designers.  While not nearly as polished as a movie, you can see early attempts at dramatic irony, a sarcastic heroine, and a narrative structure (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution), all wrapped around a larger-than-life character in Lara Croft.  There was also an element of “world-hopping” similar to the best adventure movies with the game taking place in various real-world settings–from Venice, to Nepal, to other exotic locals.  However, what I remember most about the game were the puzzles.  The puzzles were clever and inventive.  I remember, up until that point, I hated games with heavy puzzle elements because I felt that I just wasn’t very good with them–however, TR II, helped to change that for me.  With help from my uncle, I began to be more patient with puzzles and began to really enjoy the challenge of trying to figure them out.  We had the “cluebook,” and used it early on in the game, but later in the game, it became a secondary challenge, a mark of distinction, and a badge of honor, to see if we could figure out the puzzle without the cluebook.  I credit this game with helping me become a better “library assistant” as it came out during the first two years of my time at the CPL.  This game had a profound effect on me during my mid-20s and is still one of my favorite games of all time.

Pacman (Arcade and Atari 2600 editions)

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So, Pacman had a profound effect on me.  While it was the most popular of the 1980s “first wave” of video games, it was also influential on me in that it was a game that helped to cement my  love of video games at that particular time period.  It wasn’t the first video game I played (no, that honor goes to Galaga), but it was the game (along with Galaga, Galaxian, Donkey Kong, Asteroids, Turbo, Spyhunter, and Missle Command) that set me firmly in the camp of a gamer.  While I was never really very good at the game–I never wanted to memorize patterns–I always just wanted to “play” it, it still was something that I would always gravitate to and want to play.  If I (or my parents) ever had spare quarters, they would end up in the cabinet at some point before the night was over.  When the game came home, I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t exactly match the arcade version, but I can still remember hearing the “dun-na-na-dunm” of the start-up screen as Santa’s elves set it up on Christmas Eve.   For a game version that I was mildly disappointed with initially, I have to say I spent an inordinate amount of time playing it.  I really liked the game and it was very influential for me as both a child and a gamer.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Project Star (Sci-Fi Short-Story -1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #1, Currently on Script Page 28)

 

 

Finished Rough Draft for Project Star

Yay!  I finally finished something!  Last week I managed to finish the rough draft for Project Star, a Science Fiction project that has been in the back of my mind for quite a while.  Even though it isn’t ready for me to show anyone (the main character doesn’t even have a NAME yet), it still feels good to get all of the plot down on paper.

Character Over Plot

Now, I’m a HUGE plot guy, but as I reread The Belgariad and The Mallorean to keep myself sane with all the work that I have to do, I find that now that I know the story so well, I’m skipping over the plot elements and just focusing on the character elements and reliving (vicariously) through the characters the same type of fun serious-comedic dynamic that I used to have with my family before they passed away.  The point I’m trying to make is that even though I read it at first for the story (characters and plot), I keep coming back to it over and over again for the characters.  I knew this instinctively, but I figured my characters were strong enough to overcome my tendency to focus on plot over characters, but that’s not the case.

Balance in the Force

Today, I stumbled across this YouTube video that describes one writer’s preference for characters over plot (I’m adding it at the end of this entry).  While I think that he may push the needle too far in the characters camp, I still found his argument compelling.  I think I’d like to use his ideas to “balance” my writing.  By trying to get the Rough Draft done and focusing on plot, I think now it is time to stop, reflect on the character, and really dig in and give the character a history, some motivation, traits, and a real personality.

Oh, yes, and a name would be nice as well. 😉

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress: The Independent (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 2nd Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue #2, Currently on Script Page 30)