Enlightened and Rambling

Howdy ya’ll, Tina here.

I am now in my 6th week of classes at the University of the People, UoPeople for short. It is a tuition free, online based, accredited university that is open to people around the world. When I say tuition free, I mean, you don’t pay for books, you don’t pay for classes, you only pay for your application and final tests.

“Tina, that’s great and all but I don’t really care…”

Yeah I know and you are so sweet to be so supportive of me in my three sentence intro. I only said something because I am so excited about the application I have already given to some of my current classes.

I am seeking a Business Management degree and in my business class I had to create my own mission, vision, goals, and strategy using the various methods we are being taught. They were to pertain to my own personal life and what I want out of it. Well, see, trouble is, I have never really known what I wanted out of life. I have always held on dearly to the dream of living in Japan, but other than that I never set my mind that I would become something more than just me. Mostly because I don’t tend to think very highly of myself. Now before you get all, “Oh poor Tina” , I have to say that a great deal of who I am today as a person was shaped by my past. Even more of who I am has been shaped over the last few years as I learned to move past that and push on with becoming my own person. So I would say the whole self discovery thing was just, uh, delayed. I talked about my assignments with family members who all without knowing what the others said gave me the same advice.

“Tina, you love Japan and writing. Always have.”

See, writing as a kid was therapeutic for me. It provided a way for me to press my own feelings, goals, hopes, dreams and demons onto someone else. Pretending for a while that it wasn’t me going through it. I wrote everything, love stories, poems, dark and depressing or light and hopeful, I wrote adventure, and I wrote horror. Lots of horror. I don’t really know why writing didn’t pop up to me right away as a possible goal for myself. I guess really because I think of it more of a thing someone does as they work a real job. However, as my mentor and cyborg queen overlord has said over and over again, Writing is hard, and anyone who says differently isn’t a writer. Writing is a real job, with insane hours, a cranky and sometimes rude boss, unrealistic goals and dreams, and a killer time sink if you just quit. So if you dive into it, you gotta be ready to live it. Family and friends don’t support you, or worse do but don’t understand the kind of commitment you need to give to writing and call you selfish, it is gonna happen.

I have been given the most amazing ideas and creativity that can spin up yards of ideas in an instant. My husband is logical, intelligent and always willing to help me out. He is my chosen editor and key reader for my works.

 

So, if you have never done it before, find out what you want from life. It might surprise you and lead you to joy you didn’t know you had access to.

Creatively Speaking

Howdy all, Tina here.

Kris and I have been talking about it and we would like to let you all know that we are planning to start a podcast. We want it to be a more personalized voice to our whatever we end up making our blog post about that week.

Now, so much has happened. We got decent mics so that we would sound less horrible and we both have been doing research into what type of podcasts out there might be similar to ours. We talked about format and how we would upload it. For now we are working on getting an Apple ID, Google Play and others to post the podcast too. For now it might just be via a link in the blog post to our youtube page.

“Tina, what will you guys talk about?”

Psh, what won’t we talk about?!

Politics… I don’t wanna talk politics, because that requires much more research and dedication to time sinking activities that I just frankly don’t want to do.

Other than that, EVERYTHING. Science, parenting, school, writing, crafting, cooking, you freaking name it and we are willing to try it out. I want to do a weekly update about our life then just jump into whatever topic we are doing that week.

“What if I don’t want to listen to your soft, honey smooth voices?”

That’s fine… I guess. We will still be posting a weekly blog, the podcast will just be supplemental to it.

“Will you talk about my (INSERT PRODUCT/PROJECT HERE)?”

Sure, but we are going to be honest. That’s just who we are. I don’t want my name attached to an idea that I don’t support. But you wanna talk about your book. Want us to talk about your podcast? Meh, why not!

Also, for those of you who didn’t know we do have a twitter, @keyboardcouple . Tweet us a tweet. Well, thank you all for listening and I can’t wait for you all to hear from us soon!

In which Kris ends things

Kris here,

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately practicing writing short ideas in a concise format. See, I’ve got about a billion ideas in my head just like everybody else, and I can start them off pretty dang well. We’re talking ideas for days here. But I’ve been tripping up around the 50-60% mark on the whole actually having a plot thing. I’m like oh man this is fantastic my main character is A BOSS! And Tina’s like “but Kris what’s he bossly doing” and I’m like “well look he just set a landslide on fire and threw it at an army” and she’s like “oh yeah. Okay but why did he do that?” So of course because it’s an ARMY hello!? But what’s it doing, why’s my guy caught up in it? PSH! Who cares we need more fire in here! “How does it end?” Uhh well I suppose he just, I don’t know he wins a medal and lives in a castle.

Okay that’s not a real life example but I feel it’s exaggeratory enough to get the point across. I have to combat my lack of forward progress or my actual weak point in writing: Ending. The. Story. These things ramble on forever, like holy cow man put a lid on it already! I get exhausted reading through my own notes a week later. This is a problem of course – if you can’t read your own work, who else is going to put out the effort? So I did what any rational adult in my place would do and I just Googled around for like an hour looking for an easy way out.

Ugh, turns out there’s no easy way out. Well there might be, but the people with those secrets are greedy. All the advice I found regarding “How to end my goddang story” revolved around things like “5 ways to end your story. Number 7 will wig you out!” There’s probably a lot of good info out there, but my attention span is basically a knock knock joke and sometimes it’s easier done than said.

I ended up devising a cool practice to help me out. Yeah you guessed it – I just wrote a bunch of endings. I got a (basically) brand new notebook and a pen, and I wrote a brief concept and wrote a plot and ending immediately. Okay, the first try was ten pages long. That’s why it’s practice! I’ve got another few 8-10 page ideas thrown around in various places – I haven’t actually kept them together, that would be silly. The last few days I’ve actually managed to piece together a few one or two page ideas in an outline-able format. This might seem like a trivial issue to both accomplished- and non-writers, but remember: nobody reads stories for the beginning. I’ve never chatted up a fellow reader like “boy this book sure started out amazing. I’m going to spread the word, but just about the first 50 pages!” No way- they’re doing this for that sweet endorphine rush at the end. You gotta nail that bit.

There are probably quite a few authors and writers hanging out here thinking to themselves “Wow this guy is really dumb. I write 100 pages a day, it’s pretty easy.” I totally agree, kudos to your monstrous efforts on the 100 page thing, that’s really good. Lots of people I talk to personally or threads I read through on writing forums are all about how to move a story forward, or I wrote my character into a corner – how do I get out of this?

Try it out sometime – spitting out 300 pages of book into 5 pages is fast, you can write and re-write 20 times with various changes or whatever you want in any writing style that fits your theme. Mine usually don’t include names – the last one I wrote had a main character named “Kid,” supported by two characters named “bro” and “ninja” and the antagonists were “bastardlord” and “gloriousleader.” Of course they were fleeing from the country of THIS to the country of THAT. The important thing isn’t the details of these (hopefully throwaway) stories, it’s the practice you get in resolving those fine details.

Remember, names aren’t important, backstories giving your protagonist reasons to throw flaming landslides at people are important.

The cost of Education 

As our youngest started on his journey of education it gave way to thoughts about my own education. I got pregnant my senior year of high school and was pressured into going to an alternative school where kids that couldn’t go to school with others for some reason or another were sent to work at their own pace. I took that as a personal challenge to get my full senior year plus some done before Thanksgiving break. I had the whole rest of the year to myself to think about college. 

I did enroll. I attempted to attend a local Christian university that had offered me a scholarship. However I was working two jobs to pay for daycare and had a full course schedule. I overloaded myself and quickly dropped out. I attempted once again to go to a community college with just a few classes. Fearing overload again. However, unresolved medical issues stepped up and forced me away from school again. 

I spent the next few years researching and diving into ideas for different ways to go to school but always failing at going any further due to lack of funds. 

Cue my 30th birthday, I had been feeling like this one simple thing called a degree was missing from my life. All my goals and dreams hindering on a 4 year commitment to working my ass off. So, now I am working on becoming a better me via Threopy and working closely with my doctors to make myself better each day. That has included enrolling in an undergraduate program for business management. I am working hard and facing my personal struggles head on. I know things will get better and that all things change. Our universe is in a constant state of change so your bad luck one day will pass eventually. 
So enjoy the moments in your life that make you smile, chase after the dreams, because you were built for the chase and don’t worry over the mistakes, they fade with time. I love you all!
Tina

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.

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!