Patron Blog #1: Creation

(The following is cross-posted from Patreon. If you don’t know what Patreon is, basically it’s like an interactive Kickstarter, except that instead of funding one big project, you pledge a certain amount per creation, as much as you’d like to give, to support artists who are creating anything you can imagine. I’m trying this out as a way of gaining feedback and motivation to write my novel, and hopefully get a taste of what it’s like to actually make money for my art. I’m not trying to make a living on Patreon – not yet at least – but this is a great starting place for me. If you like what I write, or you like my music, or you just want to support me creating something in any way, you can become a patron and get access to a lot of neat stuff.)

patreon blog

I’ve always created stories.

As a child, the way I had fun was to wander around outside, on my own, using my imagination to create big adventures. My first inspiration was and continues to be video games, and I still remember when I was seven years old, running around the back yard with a stick in my hand that could be used either as a sword or a gun, whenever I needed it, and creating stories about my favorite video game characters.

The first game to ignite my imagination was Final Fantasy VII. I loved this game in a deep and profound way that can’t honestly be described. The music, the scenery, the vivid story hooked my attention and my imagination and never let go. I used to draw the characters on paper, then cut the pieces of paper out and use them as toys and have them battle. I would go outside and grab a stick, and sing the battle music and I executed turn-based combat all by myself, playing both the player character and the opponent, in what I’m sure was a hilarious sight to behold.

As I grew older I continued to play this way, and it’s the way I got out my creative energy. I never wrote down the stories that I made up, which started out as fanfiction, long before I knew that fanfiction existed, and even long before I knew that there were OTHER people who also loved Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, Zelda and Mega Man the way I did. When I played with my toys, I created platformer video game style levels for them to hop around and pitted them against enemies in video game fashion. When I was thirteen, my method of play didn’t change, in fact it evolved. Now the stories I made up were a little more complex. There were villains with motivations, there were relationships between characters, and I even started to come up with stories that, even though they were heavily influenced by video games and television, were still my own.

At fifteen I continued to play this way by myself, only it was much more conspicuous to be seen waving a stick around and talking to yourself, especially with the emotion of someone acting a character on stage, so what I began to do was just go on long walks, and see the scenario in my mind, and speak the characters’ dialogue under my breath. When I was seventeen and started to enjoy listening to music, I would create dramatic music videos that often involved fight scenes between characters in the games I loved, or even my own characters.

I’m twenty six now, and I still come up with my stories this way. If I have an open space where no one can see me and a stick, I will indeed pick it up, use it as a sword, and engage in my own RPG style combat against imaginary enemies, create characters and soliloquize from the perspective of villains or protagonists. I also take copious notes and write a lot of scenes out of order, with the result being that many of those scenes no longer make sense in the stories the way they are now.

The first time I sat down to write one of my stories I was twelve. Well actually, technically the earliest story I can remember writing was a Sonic the Hedgehog fanfiction when I was in second grade. My mother still has the paper. I also wrote one in third grade about James Bond, in the style of the Nintendo 64 game Goldeneye. But the first earnest attempt to write an actual book, a real cohesive story, was when I was twelve. It was a fantasy story, intended to be an epic in the style of Final Fantasy. The concept was that the story took place in a world which had once been devastated by a great flood akin to those in various religious mythologies (indeed, the first thing I sat down and wrote was a prologue that occurred during the Christian Biblical flood), and a certain demon who could take the form of a great leviathan had survived the flood, and was now out to kill a young man whose destiny it was to vanquish him.

Not the most novel idea, but I still say that it wasn’t bad for a twelve year old. I didn’t get very far with the story, but it stayed in my mind and continued to evolve. I created more characters as time went by, added subplots. The main character’s brother was killed in the opening scene, but when I started listening to My Chemical Romance’s Black Parade, I decided that he had faked his death to protect his brother. When I started listening to Queen, I added a scenario in which the main character was thrown into prison in a gladiatorial coliseum, and created a character named Dexter to help him out of the situation, and funnily enough Dexter actually survived and is now a character in the novel I’m writing. When I became interested in choral music I created a mournful scene in which Dexter lamented the death of his lover (no longer a part of Dexter’s character in the new novel, by the way).

All of this played out in my head, very little was written down. And this is the way my stories have always been. Pages and pages of dialogue are improvised by me and most of the time I never write any of it down. It’s still the way I’m most comfortable writing, although now I’ve learned to either record myself speaking, or take notes as I’m talking.

Every idea spirals into a series of ideas, and eventually they start connecting to one another, and then there’s an entire story, complete with subplots and character arcs and relationships… but it’s all in my head. I speak the characters lines when I’m in the shower, when I fall into depression and I feel lonely I play a scene in my mind of two of my characters cuddling and falling asleep. These stories are a part of me, and they go with me wherever I go. These characters exist. And I want other people to see them.

Music is probably an important part of everyone’s life, in one way or another. But the funny thing is, I actually hated music (that is, pop/rock music, anything you might hear on the radio or on a CD) until I was a teenager. My mother actually commented to me how weird it was that I didn’t like music, and I did ultimately start getting CD’s (the first one was In The Zone by Britney Spears, the second war The Very Best of Cher), but I hadn’t developed any kind of passion for music yet. But over time I realized: I DID have a passion for music and I always had, it’s just that it was all video game music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda, and theme songs to television shows, I LOVED that music.

I started learning to play piano when I was sixteen, because I wanted to learn how to play a song I really liked (it was Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop, as remixed by Crazy Frog). My chorus teacher taught me to play the song and I instantly wanted to learn to play others. The second thing I learned were the opening chords to Roxanne by The Police (simply because that was the nearest songbook on hand in the chorus room), and then of course one day I realized that Final Fantasy songs could be played on piano, so I brought him the sheet music to one of my favorites, the Final Fantasy VII battle theme, and watched him play it. I was amazed. I was really, truly hearing the music, in real life, coming out of a real instrument.

From that point there was no turning back. Video game music was why I learned to play piano, and as I grew up and discovered Tori Amos, Amanda Palmer, Imogen Heap, Amy Lee and other artists who use the piano to communicate their music, I learned to play their songs, and I learn more about how to play every time I play one of their songs.

And that’s the thing. I’ve always thought that I couldn’t be a writer or a musician because most of my ideas aren’t entirely original, they’re borrowed. I borrow my story ideas from Final Fantasy and Breath of Fire and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, I borrow my musical structure from Evanescence and Tori Amos. I’ve always thought to myself, “Well yeah I like to play music and write, but no one would pay for it, I can’t actually be a real artist, because everyone will see right through it to the sources from which I pulled.”

But I didn’t realize that everyone pulls from everyone else. No ideas are entirely new, and in fact most of the best stories are retelling of mythological stories and campfire adventures, with characters who are archetypes. Some of the best musical pieces in history are variations on themes from earlier times. Good artists create using borrowed ideas as well as their own ideas, and what comes out is something unique that no one else can create in exactly the same way as that artist created it.

Everyone’s voice is unique. Their vocal ability, the playing of their instrument, and the way they write their poetry and their stories, it’s unique to them. Neil Gaiman says, “Tell your story in the way that only you can tell it.” Every artist fights against directly copying their inspirations, and it’s terrifying to see something you’ve created and know that a part of it’s skeleton is borrowed from another artist. The bones holding together my stories come from more places than just my own imagination, and the chord used to keep my songs going don’t come from my mind alone.

But that’s okay.

What’s important is that the creation happens. What’s important is the warm, beaming pride I feel when I look at the screen and see the words that came from me. Their origins may have come from other places, the ideas and the concepts might have been borrowed, but those ideas were churned through my mind and I created something that only I can create. Sometimes it’s better than other times. That’s okay. Kesha says “You have to give yourself permission to suck.” And it’s true. No one becomes a great writer by starting out writing something brilliant, and no one becomes a great musician by composing their master work on day one. But the important thing is to KEEP CREATING.

So that’s why I’m here. I’m here to create. I’m here to write the novel that’s been growing and living inside of me. I’m here to write the songs that I sing to myself, and to recite the lyrics that I hurriedly copy down on sheets of papers, sticky notes, and the notepad of whatever device I’m holding.

I want to share it with you, and I want to know that you hear me. I want to hear your ideas about what I’m creating, I want to know what you think.

Everyone is going to die. Most of us are afraid of that. I certainly am. But it helps me to know that I can create something that will be here after I’m gone, a record of my thoughts. A story that talks about the things that are important to me. Characters who address the things I’m afraid of, the things I long for, the things I wish were true, and the things I hope will become true.

There is much work to be done. There are more details to go into and more specifics to explain. But this is where it begins.

The simple explanation is: I’m writing a fantasy novel. I write poetry, I write fiction, I want to write a nonfiction book about my experience with religion and maybe even an autobiographical book of stories from my life. I play piano. I sing. I write songs.

This is the first step.

If I keep going, I might be a real artist one day. Someone who wakes up in the morning and does what they love.

That is my dream. That is my wish, and my goal.

Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for helping me. Thank you for listening.

Let’s get started.

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Bout of Books August 2014: Update #3 (The Finale)

Bout of Books 11

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

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So, did I fail at Bout of Books? Well.. yeah, kind of. I did not accomplish any of the goals I set for myself, even after I amended them twice. I didn’t finish a single novel the entire week, and I read less than a hundred pages. However, in a competition where you set your own rules, it’s difficult to say exactly what consitutes failure. After all, as my friend Jenn reminded me, “if you’ve read at all, you haven’t failed.” After all, I did find myself interested in The Wolf Gift again, and about seventy percent of the way through the book, some interesting things actually begin to happen! Particularly the fact that a young gay werewolf is introduced and I’m just like “oh thank God.” I already have some concerns because his boyfriend was just tortured and murdered right in front of him and he doesn’t seem too shaken up about it, but then I’ve barely read the first page in which he starts to become an important character, so we’ll see.

So did I read a lot during the read-a-thon? No, not really. But I did have fun when I was reading, and that’s what really matters. Maybe the next time there’s a bout of books I’ll set some more realistic goals and devote more time to finishing them, but ultimately, this week I’ve written a couple new chapters in my novel, and posted some cool stuff here on the blog, so I’m still satisfied with how things are going. Coming soon: a post from me about my weight loss and health goals, as I am currently quite overweight and ready to finally do something about it. Until next time, I suppose!

Bout Of Books August 2014: Update #1

Bout of Books 11

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

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My Goals

1. Read at least 2 books this week

2. Read a book from the very beginning to the very end.

3. Spend at least an hour reading every day.

NEW GOAL! Read at least once a day, for any period of time

4. Write update posts as I go along.

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Despite not having posted yesterday or today intil now at nearly three in the morning, I have been participating in the bout of books! It turned out that a lot was going on yesterday, so I only got the chance to read for about twenty minutes before bed, but I put in an hour or so today, and I’ve decided to amend my rules a bit. I was going to being with Eric Shaw Quinn’s book Say Uncle, which I do still plan to read, but quite simply, the battery on my Kindle is dead and I just haven’t plugged it up to charge yet, so I decided to read something physical, and since I’ve only read two pages of Emma by Jane Austen, I thought I’d pick that up. Turns out I was really not in the mood for upper-middle-class-turn-of-the-century-English-match-making last night, so I picked up The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice, a book I read about half of last year and then just kind of forgot about for a while. It wasn’t necessarily boring, it was just taking a very long time to build up to anything exciting, and some of Anne’s little writing quirks made me roll my eyes a bit. Still, I picked it back up and I’m actually having a fun time reading it! So, I have amended my rules above, and here is my progress so far for the week:

Monday, August 18, 2014

1. Reading: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

2. Time Spent: About 20 minutes or so

3. Pages read: 14 Pages

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1. Reading: The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice

2. Time Spent: About an hour

3. Pages read: 28 Pages

The Wolf Gift

I’m enjoying myself with this book, I pretty much picked up right where I left off and only needed to be reminded of a few details. The Wolf Gift is a good story with Anne’s normal fluid, poetic style of prose and very compelling dialogue, but I do have a few qualms with this book. The first is that it seems to me that Anne wrote herself into this book as several different middle-aged, successful women who get to sleep with the hunky twenty-something main character. He meets and makes passionate love with two different women who are a little bit higher on the age spectrum than he is, and both women are intellectuals who want to talk about art and life and philosophy and nature. The first is very flirtatious, while the second is a divorced woman who had a bad marriage and lives alone amongst the California redwoods, so it’s not like I’m saying these characters are exactly Anne Rice incarnate, but it does feel a bit like she may have written herself into these women and allowed herself to sleep with the charming and sexy young reporter who speaks like a seventeenth century vampire, even when using an iPhone. Hell, the book even opens with the protagonist writing a piece for the newspaper about a beautiful well-furnished house for sale, and Anne Rice has had a public listing for a beautiful well-furnished house for sale up on the front page of her website for years. It’s just a thought, that’s all.

My other big problem here is that there are some sections where Anne just begins regurgitating her research onto the page without any finesse. A character will go on a three paragraph explanation of just what a wolf bite does to you, another character will go through an extensive list of all the influential werewolf fiction published in the last two hundred years, and another character will go into unnecessary detail describing things we don’t really need to know about as readers. These extra details aren’t immersive, they feel flat and insincere, and it seems to me that she just had all of this werewolf research she’d done and needed to do something with, so rather than working it somehow into the plot in a compelling way, she just has her characters list it out a long string of mildly interesting, somewhat related facts that may or may not have to do with what’s happening.

I have a couple of other nitpicky issues too, some of which other readers have already addressed: Reuben speaks like Lestat, and it’s just not very believable coming from the mouth of someone who was presumably born in the late eighties, no matter how educated and dashing he is. People do not stage whisper “Dear God!” whenever they find something shocking unless they’re Frasier Crane. I also find the gratuitous use of the word “iPhone” to be aggravating. “Reuben checked his iPhone,” “His iPhone buzzed,” “He knew she’d have her iPhone on her this time of day,” “He carefully worked the touch screen on the iPhone with his paws,” etc. etc. Then there’s the monster sex… I mean, I get that he’s a man-wolf, so he’s still anatomically a man, just a big hairy one with a snout, but still, it’s just not really all that sexy, and this is a woman who knows how to do sexy, to a disturbing degree even, she did write the Sleeping Beauty books for gods sake.

Despite all of that, though, it’s still in an involving and interesting read, and right now about 3/4 of the way through the book, some interesting stuff has finally started happening! So we’ll see how it goes. At any rate, I wouldn’t still be reading it if I didn’t like it, and I’m a huge Anne Rice fan, so I really mean no disrespect to her, I just find some of the things she does to try and seem present and modern are a little cringe-worthy, and it seems like she’s trying a little too hard. But we’ll see.

Bout Of Books August 2014: Goals

Bout of Books 11

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

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So, I will be partcipating for the first time in the Bout of Books this year! My friend Jenn over at Booksessed has been participating in this forever and she finally roped me into doing it! It’s a really neat idea, because there’s no pressure involved and it’s completely for fun. You set your own goals as to how many books you’d like to read, how many pages, absolutely whatever, and you can adjust your goals as necessary. It’s entirely for the purpose of having fun and networking with other readers and book bloggers. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “book blogger” per se, but I do blog about books, so maybe I fit some form of the definition, even if it isn’t the main intention of my blog.

As such! These are the goals that I intend to meet by the end of the week, and I will be posting updates as the week goes along.

My Goals

1. Read at least 2 books this week.

2. The books that I read have to be beginning to end, so that the experience will be new for me, and not just finishing stuff I wasn’t that interested in in the first place.

3. Spend at least an hour a day reading.

4. Write update posts on how the book is going, what I think, etc.

The Books I’m Planning To Read

So, I’m not entirely sure what books I’m going to be reading, but I have an idea. As both of the books I’m planning on reading are eBooks, I can’t really post a picture of my “book stack,” but I will show off the cover art for both.

I’m a big fan of Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn’s internet radio show, The Dinner Party Show. I’ve been following the show since it first premiered, and have an organized list of all their podcasts in my music library. One of my favorite things to do is listen to podcasts while doing other things, like cleaning my room, washing dishes, playing  video games, working out, etc. I especially like long shows that are an hour or longer, because I don’t have to stop what I’m doing to change things (that’s part of why I don’t like listening to music while I’m doing other things, I get bored too easily and have to keep stopping and changing). The Dinner Party Show is hilarious and great fun, and I’m a huge fan of both the co-hosts (although psst! I secretly like Eric the most, but don’t tell Christopher, he’d get jealous if he knew).

Say UncleA Density Of Souls

However! Even though I have followed both of these guys’ careers and web presence, as I’ve not only been mentioned on their show about five or so times now (hearing your name pass through the lips of a New York Times bestselling author never stops being exciting) but actually had legitimate conversations with them about writing, life, and what have you, I’ve actually never read any of their books! I do, however, own both of their first novels, Eric’s novel Say Uncle and Christopher’s novel A Density of Souls respectively. One is a witty look at the life of a gay man who gains custody of his nephew and his fight to keep him, and the other is a suspenseful thriller about a group of young people from New Orleans.

As modern equality struggles and thrillers are both genres that I haven’t had much experience in, I think these two books would be a great way to spend the week, if I can manage to get myself to read them, because I am such a pokey reader. However, no matter what, if I have fun and enjoy reading, then I’m really a winner! So I encourage anyone reading to participate in the Bout of Books, and if you’d like updates from me, stay tuned to the blog, as I’ll do update posts throughout the week. Happy reading!