The Name Game

My three houseplants all have names: Oliver, Barnaby, and Ishi. Oliver is the ringleader, being my first and quite useful mint plant. Barnaby is his loyal and steadfast sidekick, a jade plant that has resisted all my attempts of negligent homicide. And Ishi was a Valentine’s Day gift from my husband, a beautiful little bonsai tree that cost way too much for being a living statue. These plants named themselves. I simply took care of them and the names emerged from the ether. My car was named the same day I bought it, and likewise, both my guitars have names that required little to no thought. And yet, to my utter disdain, almost all the characters and locations in my book remain nameless.

I thought that it was a problem of importance at first. Naming plants and other inanimate objects have little affect on my life. If I named my plant Poophead McGee, absolutely no one would care.  But naming my book and all it’s stuff…It took me less time to name my own real-life offspring. Gods, I have strange priorities.

I bring this up because a few months ago, I named one of the countries in my book and it was like Christmas and my Birthday had a lovechild. I was ecstatic. It was the perfect blend of made-up words and real words, coming together to actually fit the way the country felt in my head. I was on cloud nine; it felt like I had passed a milestone. And then I had the other country to name…which is still unnamed to this day.

As I was working on my novel last night, my husband walked past my computer and noticed the name of my Southern country. I explained to him what it was before he could judge it too quickly, adding that my northern country was still known as “The North” in all my drafts and notes. As he strolled into the kitchen, he casually threw out a name. And damn him, it was good. Like, I couldn’t-find-a-reason-not-to-use-it good. I quickly turned back to the computer to hide the fact that my jaw was hitting the floor. It was that easy, the whole time…

Well, two names down, a few dozen more to go. Time to hit up the ol’ fantasy name generator again. How do you name things in your writings? Do you pick a name at random? Let it come to you naturally? Or do you do a painful amount of research?

Header pic: My houseplants stand at attention. Or chill out in relaxation. It’s hard to tell. 

Lost in a Sea of Clichés

I am working on a book. It is a fantasy book, taking place in a different world, with different races, different rules, and magic. Lots of magic. I enjoy working on it. I really do. But the amount of control it has over my emotions is just ridiculous.

I suppose I’m so emotionally attached because it’s my first foray into novel-writing. This story is my baby, the one I’ve been thinking about for years. It’s the story I go to when I’m bored, doing chores, falling asleep…It’s a soap opera in its seventeenth season, constantly playing in my head during the lesser parts of the day. I’ve lived this story, I know the characters more intimately than I know my own friends and family. So it is very, very hard to write this story and do it justice.

Today I was researching magic systems. I want to be sure that the magic in my book is interesting and believable, and that is has rules and limitations so it’s not a dues ex machina just waiting to happen. It seemed like such a simple goal. But then, I stumbled upon an article that really tore me up. It was a post about Do’s and Don’t’s of magic. It basically listed a bunch of clichéd ideas that are either overused or just boring. And it made me oh-so-sad.

I admit it: I like a lot of clichés. I like a downtrodden person rising to the top. I like rooting for an obvious hero. I like reading stories where the protagonist is better than other people at certain things. Is this a bad thing? When I look at it, my story is full of fantasy clichés and it leaves me wondering if it’s any good at all. I thought I had gotten over the whole “Is my story a special snowflake?” phase, but apparently not.

But the more I think about it, the better I feel. So what if my story needs a little more polish? I enjoy working on it and I see it as an accomplishment that I have discovered the clichés in the first place. It means I’m doing my job, digging into the work to see the framework that holds it all together. And if I have to devote a little more time daydreaming some not-so-cliché ideas into the piece, well, I suppose I could make that sacrifice.

Game Day 1 – Halo 2: A Mastery of Chiefness

Welcome to Game Day! A weekly post about a game of my choosing. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a game to get you through the week. Now playing: Halo 2 Anniversary Edition. Hope you enjoy!

*There be gameplay spoilers ahead. But if you haven’t played this ten-year-old game yet, the blame is yours.*

If you are an Xbox owner, you have most likely played Halo. If not, bad Xbox-owner! You don’t deserve that console! It’s an insult to Microsoft itself if you haven’t played their money-making flagship of a game. And if you don’t mind insulting Microsoft, that’s fine too. Yolo.

If you’re not an Xbox owner, then I’m betting you have at least seen the Master Chief’s shiny image plastered on some promo at Walmart at one point in your life. If not, you might be a sheltered hermit. Please leave the house more. And wear sunscreen. (I suppose you could also be a non-gamer, in which case I am impressed that you are even reading this. May the random number generators be ever in your favor.)

Halo: The Master Chief Collection was released by publisher Microsoft Studios in November of 2014 as a collection of the original Halo trilogy for the Xbox One. It was developed by Bungie’s successor to the series, 343 Industries, and included both the remastered versions of Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2, as well as the original Halo 3 and Halo 4 and a mix-’em-up grab bag of various online multiplayer maps from all the games. It was a great collection (bugs and glitches aside), but I will admit that I was hesitant in purchasing it. Call me a cheapskate, but I didn’t immediately see the reason for re-purchasing games that I already owned and had played in years past. Still, the allure of having these games on my shiny new Xbox One finally won me over, and so I shooed my husband out the door on Black Friday to go pick up the game.

While there are many things to do on the disc, I will be focusing on Halo 2 Anniversary Edition, which was new and unique to the collection, as well as being my least favorite Halo game. For reference, I played the campaign on co-op mode, which supports two players. Here’s my thoughts:

The Good:

The visuals, dear god, the visuals! When they say remastered, they meant it. The original Halo 2 looked like someone took the color wheel and deleted every color exept gray and brown. And in a time before detailed textures, this made the game look like it was vastly made of cardboard. Despite having played the old game several times, I rarely have any recollection of it’s battles or storyline. It wasn’t until playing the remastered version that I finally understood why: the original graphics were so poor that I never fully understood the dynamic of what was going on around me. The fine details of the story were lost in a sea of gray skies and brown walls. It was only when I could see the city skyscrapers and busy streets in the city-ship High Charity or notice the ships streaming from Earth that I really understood the story’s enormity.  My co-op partner and I spent a fair share of time just standing around, switching the graphics from old to new with our jaws on the floor. The remastered version also includes an audio overhaul too, upping the volume of the quite frankly fantastic soundtrack to where it needed to be.

Another great addition was new Skulls. Skulls act as game modifiers, doing anything from changing enemy behavior to making confetti pop out of an enemy’s head when you get a headshot. New skulls were added for the remaster, and I only wish they were included on the other games as well instead of just Halo 2. Some of my favorites are Boom (increased explosions), Pinata (enemies drop grenades when you punch them), and Grunt Funeral (Grunts explode after you kill them).

The Meh:

The gameplay itself is simply Halo. If you’ve played one Halo game, you’ve played them all. The Covenant take their normal roles: the Grunts’ heads pop, the Jackals hide, and the Elites are slippery bastards. Brutes and Flood also take the stage, although I miss their Halo 3 behaviors. Not that I was expecting much, so neither should you.

The Bad:

I must say that most of the qualms I have about this game come from the original design, not the remake. The remaster simply improved the way the game looked. Can’t fix what’s originally broken, I suppose. Or out-of date.

My first problem with the game occurred when I attempted to play campaign with more than 2 people. Unbeknownst to me and my friends, the co-op for Halo 2 only supports 2 players, as opposed to the more recent games’ four. This was a huge disappointment for us as the Halo campaigns are just more fun with more people. I remember being in a slight outrage about it, but looking at the game design, 343 was right to leave it as is. The levels are not big enough to support that many players, and having four Spartans running through the map would be no challenge at all.

My second gripe is with the guns. Yes, I know the guns are different in different games, but no assault rifle? You’re killing me, Bungie! I understand that we had the dual-wielding option and shiny new SMGs to make up for it, but it was sorely missed. I’m very glad that it made a comeback in later games. I missed it more than I should.

My third and most frustrating complaint occurs only in legendary mode, which is the highest difficulty of the game. In other games, playing co-op in legendary mode is the only way to do it. One person runs ahead and makes progress, while the other stays behind, serving as a mobile spawn point when the frontman inevitably dies in a bullet(plasma)storm. Unfortunately, that ability is gone in Halo 2 Anniversary. When one person dies, the mission starts over at the last checkpoint. And nothing annoys me more than having to start over with zero progress time and time again. My best friend and I attempted it and didn’t make it past the first mission. My husband and I finished mission one, but it took us a little over two hours of simply dying and restarting checkpoints, over and over and over…

My Take-away:

This game is good. If you’re a Halo fan, this game is great. The cutscenes will amaze you and seeing your favorite characters with glorious HD upgrades will blow your mind. The levels will astound you with a mix of new and nostalgia. You will never miss Johnson so much in your life, and Halo 4 will feel pretty sad in comparison. For a non-Halo player, you may not get the same rosy-cheeks, but it is the best looking original Halo out right now, and has a pretty decent stand-alone story. My recommendation? Play it through once.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to sit over here in the corner and impatiently wait for Halo 3’s ten year anniversary and it’s inevitable remaster. Only two more years to go…

Free-Writing on a Monday Night

I don’t like free-writing. I don’t like listening to my brain hiccup and stutter on ideas. Nor do I like my unfettered thoughts set loose on a page. It seems disastrous, like letting a lion loose on the streets. I feel like every thought just flies out of my head just so extremely fast that I couldn’t possibly catch or make sense of them. I’m a plotter, damn it. I need a list, an outline, a set of guidelines in which to write anything worth putting down on paper. Pantsers, I envy you.

But here I am, free-writing away because my plotting has failed me today. I haven’t a thing to write, so I will blabber on about nothing until it becomes something. An infallible idea!

I do feel bad about last week. I underestimated the amount of mental work I needed to do to prepare for upcoming life event. And so I didn’t write much at all. Sometimes it seems like the stars have to align before I’m in the mood to write. And thus, the reason for this blog. To try and break the habit of being in the elusive “writing mood.”  So, here’s to free-writing and all its torturous benefits.

Projects, Projects, Everywhere!

This week is starting off with a bang! I’ve got a good number of projects that are either in the works or about to start, and I figured I’d give you a heads-up since you’ll probably be hearing a lot about them in the near future.

1) My book. Yes, first and foremost is the elusive book I keep mentioning. I’ve set myself on doing a chapter a week, which may not sound like much, but it’s more than enough for me. I’m a slooooow writer, and sometimes I just need the extra time to think about things. I also need time to do the rest of these projects, so yeah. A chapter a week it is. I’ll be going into more detail about this elusive beast tomorrow.

2) A fanfiction. Yes, yes, I know fanfiction has a bad rap. But writing is writing to me, and I am dying to write an idea that’s been banging around my head for the last few weeks. It’s a Supernatural/Five Night’s at Freddy’s crossover, so if you like either one of those things, good on ya! Bother me about it and maybe I’ll post it here when it’s done. 🙂

3) Ghostwriting. This is another ‘for fun’ project that is in the idea stage. It’s actually two different works that were done by friends of mine. One is a Halo story about my friend’s OC spartan, and the other is an old fanfiction that was written in our college years. The former needs written down, while the latter is an experiment to see whether I can turn a fanfiction into an original work. As pointless as they may seem, I look forward to these as a test of my writing skills.

4) Non-writing things. I have a few personal projects that I need to get done as well. Mother’s Day cards, for example. And a friend of mine made my daughter a gorgeous plushie of the pokemon Gyarados for her birthday, so I want to take some pictures of it and my daughter playing ‘pokemon trainer’ in the backyard. (Why Gyarados? It’s my daughter’s favorite pokemon. Why yes, she is three years old and calls it her Dragon Friend. This is nerd parenting done right, my friend.)

On top of that, I’ve got some beta-reading to do, an online fiction-writing course which I haven’t started yet, and my brother’s moving in next week so I should probably clear out the closets in his room…I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

So where does this blog fit in all this mess? Everywhere! I deliberately write these articles quick and dirty-like in hopes of forcing me out of my slow writing habit, so there shouldn’t be any lack of content this week. Most of the projects I have are for my own enjoyment anyway, and right now, I get more enjoyment out of working on this than anything else. I have been thinking about the best way to add content here and I am leaning towards some ‘theme days,’ such as Novel Tuesday or Video Game Friday (and hopefully come up with better titles than that). On a related note, I am still learning the layout of this whole blogging thing, so bear with me. If you see anything that looks weird or could be improved or is missing, please let me know. Gently, and with pictures of kitties, if possible.

Plots and Plans

Ah, the weekend! Even though I’m a stay-at-home mom, the weekend still feels like a weekend. Just having the hubby home to share the parenting is enough of a break for me, I guess. Parenting…it’s rough.

I debated what to write today. I don’t usually write on the weekends due to it being ‘family time,’ but I’m the first to wake up in the household, so I had some time to myself. That, and I felt guilty that I wasn’t writing anything. Finally, my Inner Guilt Voice is doing it’s job! Huzzah!

I’m still deciding whether or not to write certain topics on certain days, or just go with whatever’s on the top of my head. On one hand, since this is a writer-type blog, I really want to talk about my NaNo novel I’ve been editing. But on the other hand, I freakin’ love video games and long to tell you of my virtual escapades. And that’s not including life experience/personal entries.

The possibilities! The next week or so will probably find this blog in a state of randomness, but hang in there! It will all sort itself out in the end.

What would you like to read here? More writer-ly type things, like editing, short stories, motivation, etc.? Nerdy things like video games and fandom life? Or more personal stuff, like how I’m obsessed with my dog’s ears, what I learned while being a nurse’s assistant, or why my houseplants may be plotting against me? Comment if you have an opinion; if not, just hang on for the ride 🙂

Lazy Days

Today was my lazy day. I did absolutely nothing of interest. I partly blame the new bed set I just put on my bed (which feels a-ma-zing) and the fact that I had a quite productive week. Starting this blog was the highlight of it, but I also finished a quick and dirty draft of chapter one of my novel, which I have been struggling with since I started the damn thing. And yes, I will eventually go into more detail about that particular project, but today I’m just feeling…lazy.

And that’s not a bad thing. A lot of the time, if I take a ‘lazy day’, I feel like a complete waste of a human. Like, why in the world am I here if all I’m going to do is lay in bed and read books I’ve already read? What kind of person eats ramen for breakfast and ice cream for lunch while still in her pajamas? And don’t get me started on long showers…who does that? Who bleeds Mother Earth dry just to pretend that the bathroom is a neverending tropical rainstorm? That guilt-filled voice is so loud in my head that I never really enjoy these days. I just kind of become a vegetable.

That’s not what lazy days should be. Lazy days should be where you take some time to focus on yourself. Do something you like to do, rather than what’s needed. Pamper yourself. Read that trashy crossover fanfiction. Dance to some pop music in your living room. Do what’s necessary to keep yourself sane. And don’t guilt yourself out of enjoying it.

I will admit, I took a long steamy shower today and it felt so so good. And wouldn’t you know it, a new scene for my book popped into my head at the same time. And I don’t feel quite so lazy anymore.

Header pic: Chester, my lab mutt. As a baby. On my pillows. Being lazy.