Always on my mind

Howdy everyone, Tina here!

So as another day has passed, I am now ever closer to that fateful day when my dear sweet little boy, goes to school.

Now I know what you all are thinking, “Congrats! You have made it 5 years without mortally wounding your child. Now you get to send him off for half the day and experience your own time.” Well my friends, you are so wrong!

The last few years that I have spent at home with Nik have been amazing. He is so inquisitive and full of life. I worry about how I will do without him. I know he is going to do amazing in school. He has been practicing his whole life.

 

 

 

Making friends. Check. He will say hi to nearly everyone he sees. He seems to have a knack for honing in on those people with extremely sour dispositions and doing everything he can to get them to acknowledge him or just say Hi if they are really stubborn. Many a rideshare driver has met and talked with Nik, which is great for me because I get to just sit back and let him do all the talking. Even with our mildly grumpy roommate Watson, Nik knows that he doesn’t really like kids but will tell him jokes or do silly things to his dad to get Watson to laugh or smile. He tries sneaky ways to try and get him to talk to him too. He is getting better at it and even Watson admits that he keeps forgetting his own rule to ignore anything that can’t spell in a video game.

Schooling. Check. As far as general education goes, he is so ready. He has been working on his vocabulary since he found out he could talk. Kris and my hard fast rule to never baby talk him made sure he understood everyone around him and that he was well understood. He loves watching shows with me and his dad, so we worked on showing him all the coolest shows we loved from our childhood. Magic School Bus, Bill Nye, Zoobumafu, among others. That had us finding ones he really liked like Octonauts, Finding Stuff Out, and Wild Kratts. He loves learning about animals, nature, and space. He told Kris and me that his goal is to become a Firefighter, policeman, and astronaut in that order. I have no fears that when it comes to learning that he will shun away from it. I think he will be the one gathering others to it, hopefully not to explode or anything.

Challenges. Check. This kid has the iron will of a rusted shut bear trap. When it comes down to getting Nik to do something he doesn’t want to do, I have learned. You don’t demand, you challenge. Which to some might sound silly. He’s my kid and should do what I say when I say it right? No, he is his own person with his own set of ideas about what he does. You want him to do something different, please explain. So I could yell and scream and hold my breath and stomp my feet and we both end up feeling bad, or I can explain it to him for hours on end until I feel like my head is going to explode, or I can make it a race, make it a game, make it a spoonful of sugar if you will. I can let his willfulness get the best of me or I can work with it and help him to find the challenges and fun in life. I would much rather he make every day things seem like a game than watch him ho-hum though life.

So, will I cry on Tuesday of next week? YOU CAN COUNT ON IT. Not because I am scared for him or it means he is growing up. He reminds me everyday that he is getting older and bigger. No, I will be crying because my brightest beam of joy and love will be missing for most of my day and being faced with his own new challenges and learning. I will stand there however, with a brave face and a warm smile and hug to see him off. I will wave to him as he goes off to class each day, ready to learn and enjoy the things he finds. I will smile each day he goes to school, because for him, this is his newest adventure, and for me as well.

Niko chill

in which Kris spends a lot of time talking about races. Fantasy races.

Kris here,

I’ve been doing some thinking-about-but-not-actually-doing writing lately (52 stories in 52 weeks HOW?!) and I’ve been lightly re-designing that world of mine Tina made her story in previously. Which is fine, except she’s already written a story – so I’m stepping through my own minefield of consistency demanding my own creation to change, but stay consistent with what’s already been written. Phew. And don’t pretend a single one of you isn’t thinking “haha you definitely screwed something up.” Yeah I know it, that’s fine though. Designing the world and the history is my forte, it’s the sitting down to plot that I’m not really fabulous at.

Let’s stay on track here. I do some light outlining or thinking oftentimes while either listening to a podcast (which is highly distracting), or just listening to music without words to bog me down. While thinking about races to use in the world a lot, and I mean A LOT, of people have some strong opinions on what kind of beings you use to populate a world you’re crafting up for yourself. I don’t know if any of you have strolled down that path, but let me tell you: it’s a rivalry. Not mine, I mean. But one nonetheless. When making flora and fauna to throw around – probably in attempt at murdering your main character somehow – I don’t actually see any pushback as far as I can tell. Throughout all my podcasts and researching the answers to different kinds of problems though, I’ve definitely seen some clear lines drawn in the sand.

“Hey guys, I’m building a story around a guy who has superpowers and there’s a flower grown at the castle that actually shoots laser beams like cyclops from x-men and if it detects superpowers like in the protagonist, it’ll CALL DOWN LIGHTNING AND SET THE CASTLE ON FIRE TO PREVENT ESCAPE” and everyone around is like “oh yeah man that sounds pretty good, I like the bit about fire you added in there.”

The problem seems to revolve specifically around just the sentient things, and more specifically, anything they have to put themselves into the minds of. Protagonist, supporting characters, antagonist, kings, street sweepers – whatever, doesn’t matter.

“Hey guys look at my protagonist is a human but I made his best friend a dwarf see and they grew up because the dwarf’s dad is a master blacksmith and adopted the MC when he was a street urchin so they’re like brothers!” and you’re going to run into one of three people.

*disclaimer: listen, I know there are billions of people in the world and it’s likely there are mixed opinions or even more varied contrasting types that I’m not including in my three. You’re very special to me and I don’t mean to slight you, but these three are blankets I’m casting over the fantasy community because nobody is going to read my segment on how you’ll meet one of sixteen thousand people. Not even me!

-continuing-
So one of three people. You’ve got the humans camp – “oohhh maaaan I’m so sick of all these fantasy races, they’re so bland and boring – bunch of tropes and idiot ideas to deuce ex machina your way into not having to think about relationships and junk. Just use humans! Jeez you’re one of them, what are you, ASHAMED!” I don’t want to take any sides here since I don’t really have a horse in this race, but I think this is my least favorite position. This is actually a position I’ve heard several of my favorite authors make too – why complicate the story with extra details for your readers to memorize when you can simplify the world as much as possible and focus more on the individual characters themselves. The towns, kingdoms, relationships, a sufficiently complex world shouldn’t really need fairies and elves to attract interest.

The second group you’ll run in to is the crowd who’s actually super excited about classical fantasy races. A lot of arguments I’ve seen in this realm are actually happy to include all the classics in a story, but really aren’t interested in non-human protagonists. It’s probably something to do with empathy and trying to fit your head into something you aren’t. I get that, it can be tricky to suspend your disbelief when there isn’t enough familiar material to ground yourself with. There’s actually a second “net” I’m going to cast over this group too – there are a lot of people who are just so freaking bored of humans that they refuse to include them, or they do so in the most minimalistic way. Honestly, I was this type in my early teens – I played all kinds of those tabletop games, but I can’t think of a single time I wanted to play a human. They were so boring and mundane, can’t even see in the dark. Useless! I think the draw in classical fantasy is primarily that a lot of the tedious groundwork is already fleshed out, so you can spend less time balancing your people and more time finding ways they can just rampage around accidentally murdering things off. Most writers seem to want to splice their own flavor to make the races unique, but it’s always only to an extent where the reader can identify quickly and easily.

The third set is of course those people who prefer fantasy, but you have to make it up yourself. No cheating using pre-fabricated races and worlds and the like. The first group (humans only) actually have a section hiding in it of people who will demand humans only, but if you have to do fantasy, then at least make up your own stuff. There are some pretty good reasons to do this too – more creative license to do what you want without people calling you out for breaking the standards. You can also have a bit of fun as a writer doing this too: you need to name an ugly, evil race of stupid jerk monsters and you have a terrible co-worker who think is a stupid jerk? Well it looks like you got yourself a name and a description! This can be a challenging sort of adventure to set out on though, since nobody is familiar with anything in your story in this case – this means you’ll need to concisely elaborate on descriptions and cultures in sneaky ways (lengthy descriptions are demanding on our attention spans) as well as somehow force the reader into taking your protagonists side in order to really feel what you want them to. If writing weren’t challenging in some ways though, I have a feeling a lot fewer of us would decide to bother.

I think there are definite merits and detriments to whatever you choose, otherwise there would be a lot more uniformity in the writing community. That would make everything a lot more boring though. There’s no way I could motivate myself to read the 80th book in a row in the same genre with the same races and the same timeline. I would probably… well I don’t know, but it would be bad! I don’t really want to list out the pros and cons since this is getting really long anyway, but maybe I’ll throw it together in the future. I just have to decide if I want to make it about an elf, a human, or a race of super intelligent rats with wolverine claws and a penchant for vengeance.

Notebooks: Getting started

Tina Here!

I love the feel of blank paper under my fingertips. I love how free and hopeful a new notebook makes me feel. I enjoy finding different sizes, some with lines, dots, or nothing at all. I love the bright wonderful textures that the covers display to the world about how wonderful or colorful the works inside of it might be. Each one of the pages waiting to be filled with your ideas and musings.

Kris however, doesn’t like the cost. So he gently pushed me down the path of finding out what it would take to make my own books. I have to say, at first I didn’t see a real point in it for me. Then the light of different stitches came to my screen. I can make a book look or feel different just by how I stitch it. I was in love and wanted to try right away. What did I need?

Well the short list is:

  • Video tutorials (Because what can’t you find)
  • Time (Long time or in pieces)
  • String (various, cotton, wax thread)
  • A Needle (curved, or not. Doesn’t seem do matter much)
  • And paper (I plan on making my own but for now just bought)

I found a wonderful Youtuber by the name of Sea Lemon who has amazing diy videos on her channel. She caught my interest in a video about how to make a copy cat journal of River Song from the Doctor Who TV series. Looking around she talks about making not just notebooks but scratchpads and custom covers for your books as well! You can find here here: youtube.com/user/SeaLemonDIY

With her videos making my crafting fingers itch with will to give it all a go, I headed over to amazon to get some of the tools she works with.

Here is my list of links and tools I got:

I looked into buying card-stock for backing and covers but found that with the amount of unused cardboard around my house, I could make book covers for years to come. I also went out and got duck-tape as my primary source of covering for my books because I liked the fun patterns and durability that it added to the books.

My books are not the prettiest things in town but I love the way they look. I have made them primarily for other people though. I have yet to make one for myself. Not sure why yet. Maybe more because I want to use them all as practice so I can make an amazing one for mine. Either way, I have gained some really cool insight and skills from making notebooks. I gave a really thick 400 page one to my son last year when I got started and he filled it up with drawings and comics and codes from his friends. He loves and cherishes it and asked me to make him another one for the up coming school year. So I had to comply. After seeing his big brother’s notebook, Niko wanted one too. Seeing them sitting at the table together and drawing or writing in their books makes my heart glow. So I would say this is 100% worth doing for the kiddos alone.

This project is fun to get started with and easy enough that you can teach your middle schoolers how to make their own. Get into it and check it out. I wanna see pictures of your own creations.

Road trip!

Kris here,

We’re going on a trip to see family this week (we’re on the road as I type!) and are unfortunately unable to rewrite the blog post that was carelessly ripped from our loving hands from a cruel Windows update (reinstalled OS.)

Please enjoy this brief hiatus while we go to and return from our trip and we’ll get hard at work replacing the posts that were tragically lost (RIP)

Have a good week!

In which Kris supports supporting characters

 

Kris here,

Tina’s been pressuring me to write some stuff recently because she thinks I’m “lazy” even though playing Minecraft is technically writing I’m just saying. We’ve also had Zack down for a few weeks to visit, and between hanging out with the kids, working and keeping the house tidy, I’ve done basically zero writing in the last six weeks. So she’s probably right. Tina also recently said “hey Kris there’s this thing where a bunch of people want to write 52 short stories in 52 weeks let’s go!” and I spit my coffee all over myself. A short story a week?!

So I’ve been setting the backbones for a bunch of short stories recently and in doing so, I notice my protagonists generally seem to be non-heroic or not the main character if you will. It’s a bit interesting so I actually got sidetracked for a while just looking at other stories to see if it’s just because that’s what I’ve read or if I’m subconsciously modeling my writing after someone, but I don’t think so. I’ve got the world I started out of boredom about a year ago that’s stuck with me because I love it (and my wife wrote a 60,000 word novel in it that she almost finished because she doesn’t care about my mental well-being) so naturally my stories are based there – but even when I’m thinking of other ideas, the only type of story that I write the main character as the important person is in horror stories. Nobody is going to be scared if you write:

“and then she received a phone call. It was the police! They said her *related person* was in a car accident and there were ghostly scrapes on the car door!”

That’s..not spooky.

Well maybe those types of stories aren’t interesting and that’s why nobody writes them, but I know I can’t be the only one! I’m thinking of famous big sellers like The Hunger Games (face of a revolution) or Harry Potter (he killed the bad guy as a baby AND an adult); but also the lesser known books too, like one I’ve mentioned previously the Enchanted Forest series (smart princess who’s amazing.) I know a lot of protagonists start as the underdog and then are the hero by the end, but that counts too. I added a story a month or two ago about an innkeeper who was assailed by a bad wizard dude – he’s just a dude trying to get by, then the two magic dudes come fight it out in his inn and burn it to the ground. By the end of the story, he’s still just an innkeeper.

I probably won’t ever make a full-length project out of a supporting character – it would be incredibly frustrating. Even in the story I just mentioned, I was thinking “maybe I should write about this wizard he seems awesome” – I think this sort of thing would be good only as supporting stories or something to tease an audience about how super great the main character for your actual novel is going to be. Each time I set up a short story, it’s a side-person: a kid who needs help with a curse seeking out a witch doctor, an innkeeper getting dragged into an evil wizard plot. This probably stems from the fact that writers are usually notorious for only worldbuilding as much as they actually have to, so I’m always finishing up books like “No! Go back to the swamp why were the snakes on fire! Teell meee!” I’m pretty drawn into side details and background information and I think side-characters are a good way to explore these without detracting from some grand quest to save the world.

Oh man, I got distracted again, there’s no way I’m going to be able to fit 52 short stories in 52 weeks DO THESE PEOPLE NOT HAVE CHILDREN!

Flavoring your life

Tina Here.

 

When you are sick or broken as often as me. You start to loose hope in things quickly. Goals that once seemed doable are now far out of reach. You loose the motivation to push on for the things you care about. You loose a large part of what you feel makes you. I push and push when it comes to dealing with just everyday life. I am so sick of my personal daily grind of just convincing myself that getting out of bed is worth the effort.

When you have to push to get every little bit you can, finding the drive to do the things you want to do becomes nearly impossible. However, When you find people to support you and understand you, you can make a sucky outlook seem like the past.

I just got done working at RTX for my 3rd year. I love working at conventions because they show you how much a group of strangers can come togeather like a family to support a cause they love. I enjoyed every second of my time at RTX this year and even with my limitations I knew that I could rely on my RTX family to have my back.

Izzy was a huge help and loved by everyone. She alerted not only to my anxiety and things but also when someone else would come in and they were battling things too. She just looked at each person and seemed to give more attention to those who later told me they had been having a really hard time until they saw Izzy. That warmed my heart more than anything. My service dog was not just a service to me, but to my extended family as well. She never barked at another dog or person. She waited for me to tell her to say hello before she walked over to people. She was the most amazing 5-month-old Great Dane puppy that I could have ever asked for. She set a standard that I was proud to see was so much more than I could have hoped. We educated, we loved, and we took care of everyone. Those are the things I love doing the most. So because of Izzy, I had the best RTX ever and I can’t wait for next year.

Things like RTX and PAXSouth are events I look forward to every year. I push myself to go to them despite how my body is feeling or how many things I think will go wrong. I use it to push myself past my limits and show myself that I am capable of working with my environment.

Now to start working on my book… Oh man. I just opened a can on myself there. Well, time to get writing on that.

Dang Ultimate Media Browsing (D.U.M…)

Kris here,

Sorry for the late release – some of us weren’t feeling well today and some others weren’t aware that we were feeling that way so the post gets written after we put the kiddo to bed. The youngest, we actually have two right now but only one is lucky enough to get to sleep around 8. Today I’m doing another installment of Dang Ultimate Media Browsing featuring the things I watch all day! A lot of people pick up T.V shows and binge watch seasons of something or another and go on to tell me alllll about why it’s hilarious and heart wrenching; unfortunately, I’m a stone hearted hunk of rock and I just can’t do any of these new-fangled cable televisions! So instead, I turn to YouTube to entertain me and teach me things in a hilarious manner. I think I’m partly drawn to it because the creators themselves are getting paid from the content they’re putting out there, and partly because they’re all so dang charasmatic how can I even stay mad at those cheeks!  I know a gigantic number of people spend even more serious numbers of hours on YouTube each and every second of every day so I know I’m definitely not alone – let me know if anyone has some fabulous channels I can check out and I’ll definitely do so. In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites —

Minecraft:  Okay so I know billions of hours of minecraft are floating around and everyone is sick of it, but hear me out. Quit being sick of it. Now that the air between us has been aired, I was never actually a fan of watching Minecraft videos on youtube until I started picking up all the guys living their days out on the Hermitcraft server. I picked it up in season 4 last year, but they’re on to season 5 now. Every one of these guys are genuinely hilarious and animated in their own ways and I’m pretty sure there’s someone making something for everyone – they’re also super geniuses and make the most amazing things. Since this is more of a group of people, I’ll just link the official website – http://hermitcraft.com.

Of course, if you don’t already like Minecraft it probably won’t make you start, but if you do, well you’ll love it! Here’s a video from a few weeks ago with two of the guys setting up an aerial sheep service – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UVnLJLB4Fc

Game Theory: Game theory is my YouTube spirit animal. Just a guy spending way too much time using math and history to solve complex and artificial problems with the lore and consistency of your favorite video games. He’s also started up a film theory channel to do the same for movies, and has a streaming channel called GTLive. These videos are more fun than serious, but I can’t help but think he’s probably right a lot of the time. Here’s a theory about why Mario Kart 8 is Mario’s deadliest game – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWnCLXT9uMU

Good Mythical Morning: I’m relatively sure at least 50% of anyone reading my blogs is familiar with GMM, but just in case – it’s a long running weekly ‘show’ essentially featuring Rhett and Link. Also, it’s hilarious, they’re hilarious, their crew is hilarious and these guys have been going at this for a long dang time. My favorites of theirs to watch are generally the ‘will it’ series because I’m a sadist, but if they didn’t want me to laugh at them, they wouldn’t have sucked down an eggnog made of Cheez-wiz. “Will it eggnog” is an old episode from 2015 but it’s honestly made me laugh every one of the 5 or 6 times I’ve watched it for various reasons – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YhjDv1ipMY

Nerdy Nummies: Rosanna Pancino is an adorably energetic person bouncing around baking “nerdy” stuff like spider man cakes, video game cupcakes, and also doing some guest appearances with a lot of other YouTubers I watch. Her videos are usually pretty quick but always make me laugh, check out her making cookies with cookie monster last November – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YhjDv1ipMY

Vlog Brothers: John and Hank Green are fabulous guys with a huge reach in the YouTube community after a long, illustrious career. I started out watching them just because they were funny guys vlogging back and forth, but they’ve really put out some immensely insightful and considerate videos over the years and I appreciate what they do. John is also a young adult author with some extremely good books Tina and I read to each other a while back, while Hank plays music and does some touring to drop some smooth education on the nerdfighters of the world. I basically spent my 20’s watching these guys, and John’s inspired me a lot to really stick to writing when it started feeling like a waste of time a few years back. Not to mention the crash course series they created and the founding of Vidcon! Here’s a short video about Cheyenne, Wyoming – the one in your mind, not the actual place, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7XppUsqiEs

There are of course about 15,000 other channels on YouTube I’ve watched over the years, but these are definitely the top 5 in terms of watch time aside from the countless hours I’ve spent watching Pewdiepie, Markiplier and Jacksepticeye play horror games on youtube. But since one of these recently broke 50 million subscribers and the other two are hanging around 20 million, they sure as heck don’t need MY introductions D=