The idea that got away

I recently did something I have, on a fairly regular basis, told myself not to do. No, I’m not talking about eating spicy food and then rubbing my eyes (because I still do that more often than I care to admit).

So there was this story idea, right? A basic framework of an idea, with tangible if not fully-realized characters, right there in front of me. It could have had big, neon signs saying “Write me, Philip, you lazy, well-intentioned bastard.” It practically did.

Tonight has been spent being cranky because that idea has gone, having very fragmented thoughts that I’m fairly sure are just the flotsam and jetsam of me rereading Dreams and Shadows trying to manifest as something more, and eating ice cream. Halo Top is really hit or miss, I’ve decided, but there are a few flavors I’ll need to stock up on.

My question is this: what next? Should I revisit a novel project I already started on but abandoned? Should I really put my nose to the proverbial grindstone and get to the serious proofreading and editing for Dissonance in Harmony? Should I force myself to stop being so damn serious and just try writing stuff? Thoughts?

Finding magic, and a touch of personal philosophy

Or “I could have very easily gone for the low-hanging fruit and said ‘Phil-osophy’, but I’m usually not that awful”.

This is going to be a surprisingly serious post, which I realize is somewhat unusual. Don’t worry. The usual safety net of snark and cynicism will still be there. Moving along.

I strongly believe it’s possible to find magic, at least some sort of magic, in all things. I don’t mean this in the you-got-a-letter-to-Hogwarts way, though that would certainly be cause for celebration. The sort of magic I’m talking about isn’t a new discovery, either, but it’s something people have always enjoyed. Things like reading a book outside on a nice, just-warm-enough-but-not-too-hot summer evening; seeing a friend for the first time in years; perhaps learning something new about yourself as a person. I could easily go on for a good while with examples just like those. Continue reading

Celebrating E3 by dwelling on dream jobs

Or “This is the first year I’m not particularly excited about E3, and I’m not sure how I feel about that so here’s some semi-related, but mostly not related, shit instead.”

Quick preface here. I’m not writing about E3. What I’m seeing on Twitter, which is a little limited, tells me it’s a lot of the old reworked into quasi-new things, or just out-and-out remakes. Also, I’ve got no business blogging about video game current events here, so I’m going to just blog about old news relating to video games instead. I’m made of bullshit and hypocrisy tonight.

As long as I can remember, which isn’t always a tremendous deal, I’ve loved video games. Before I became so enamored with writing, they went quite nicely with my love of reading and generally being a hermit. The sort of escapism they offered, the way I could save the day despite otherwise unbeatable odds, was, and remains, something I will always enjoy.

Going along with this, I’ve got a small couple confessions. Back before I wanted to be a writer, but after I’d decided I couldn’t quite figure out how to make it as a mad scientist (and anyone who knew me for a good few years of my childhood can attest to my wanting to be a mad scientist), I wanted to become an actor. A voice actor, in fact, who worked on video games. I didn’t want to be the hero, though. Being the voice of saving the day and rescuing princesses from dragons or warlocks or whatever sinister forces had appeared from the shadows. Continue reading

Thunderclouds of inspiration

Or “I came this close to writing a post about how George R.R. Martin may be writing eight books for A Song of Ice and Fire, but didn’t and you should all be remarkably thankful”.

When I was a child, thunderstorms scared the hell out of me. Not the lightning, nor the rain, but the thunder. In hindsight, after a tornado wrought havoc on much of my one childhood home (taking moving and such into consideration here), I may have been onto something.

As I sit here now, laptop positioned atop my crossed legs despite the discomfort such a combination makes for in this humidity, I can’t help but appreciate storms. What I’ve found, however, is the one thing I really love more than thunderstorms themselves is the last few minutes of anticipation before the storm strikes. Until the rain pours down, when it’s only the lights-and-sounds show made up of the approaching thunder and lightning, it’s nothing but a tremendous, sometimes terrifying, collection of potential. The potential for tremendous destruction and awe-inspiring force, as well as the potential for rejuvenation in cases where the rain is much-needed (California, I’d love to send some of this your way; I grow weary of the dreariness, certainly, but I don’t mind the all-natural light-show).

I’ve come to realize, in a perhaps cheesy-sounding way, thunderstorms and developing ideas for my writing hold a lot of similarities. From the moment inspiration first strikes, to the inevitable rolling, rumbling gathering of ideas, until suddenly it’s over. The storm subsides, having drifted elsewhere, and the first draft is safely tucked away in a Word document or in a notebook.

Yikes. That got a little hokey, didn’t it?

Beyond inspiration, I’ll always have memories of my grandmother, who liked to snack on potato chips while she would watch storms from the front porch of her house. She’s largely responsible for my getting over my fear of thunderstorms. She told me how the thunder was really angels bowling, and the really loud thunder-claps were when said angels got a strike. I imagine, going with the rather cheesy approach this post has taken (blaming the post, not myself, for this), that comforting little white lie may just inspire some short stories down the road. I’ve only got a backlog about a forest’s worth of paper long.

That’s for another time, though. For now, my attention will be devoted to watching Meowiarty look confused by the wind being just gusty enough to spit a little rain in through the screen door.

A necessary bit of the heebly-jeeblies

Or “I don’t care if you think that’s not how it’s spelled, Chrome; I’m calling them the heebly-jeeblies” and “It’s open-window weather, which means it’s time to think creepy thoughts and deprive myself of sleep.” This post was brought to you in part by me posting a picture of Horrifying Houseguest (also known as Shadowlurker) on Facebook. Take a moment and Google it.

There’s a small, twisted part of my brain that is actually pretty okay with being scared. Plenty of things scare me, and I’d be willing to guess if you’re a living, breathing person, reading this post, there are plenty of things you are scared of as well. I’m not talking fear of rejection or how any college graduate is (reasonably) scared out of their minds about student loan debt. I’m talking about the things that occupy the space just in the corner of your vision, lacking clarity but still holding enough form to unsettle. The serial killers who may or may not be lurking in your basement this very moment, waiting until the lights are out so they can make their move. The creepy creatures who you might catch glimpses of just as you drift off to sleep.

You get the idea. Everyone’s afraid of something different, too, which is truly interesting. In terms of pants-wetting, high-pitched-shrieking terror, few things creep me out as effectively as distorted human faces and forms. I’ve got a rudimentary understanding of the psychology behind it; how something familiar, twisted, is a reasonable trigger for fear. It’s how horror movies manage to scare the bejeezus out of me when nasty specters with blacked out eyes and elongated mouths fly out of nowhere (jump scares are to horror as puns are to humor, as far as I’m concerned). Even though I can rationalize and dissect what about those things creeps me out, they still (almost) always manage to get my heart racing. It’s why much of what is featured in creepypasta stories (why, yes, I have read various creepypasta stories, and feel no shame in admitting it; some of them are pretty damn scary) manages to creep me out so much.

In any event, it’s been a fun night of thinking about scary stories, and the creepy things that inhabit them, and so I figured I’d write a post. Naturally, I must pose this question: what scares you? Name some of the things that really get your hair standing up on end, make your heart beat a little faster, and are cause to run to turn the lights on the moment you enter a room. Maybe sharing some of your favorite things that go bump in the night will discourage them from visiting? Or maybe it’ll just draw them a little bit closer.

Oh, and remember: it’s silly to be afraid of the dark, but perfectly reasonable to be afraid of what the darkness may conceal.

On Friendship: Sunshine and Rainbows need not apply

The various joys and stresses of adult-life, coupled with the transition from “hooray, college shenanigans” to “holy shit, I have to pay how much to how many people each month?” have brought some interesting revelations, if you will, with them.  This is actually one of those things I’ve observed for a while, but couldn’t quite put to words until recently, thanks to the boredom of standing behind a desk while the whole of Pennsylvania decided they didn’t feel like buying lottery tickets one evening.  Bare with me, now.  Some might find this a bit cynical, and by a bit I mean so blatantly cynical it’s almost impossible to miss the name tag this commentary wears (featuring the words “Hello, my name is HORRIBLY CYNICAL OUTLOOK ON BASIC HUMAN INTERACTIONS”).  Allow me to pose a question that I, at least, find interesting to consider.

Have you ever been involved in a relationship–and by relationship I mean anywhere from the most basic friendship to the most intimate relationship with another person–that lasted so long it started feeling less like you were in it for the meaningful interactions, the shared interests, and so on, and more because it was like, say, a hostage situation?  A socially-constructed Stockholm syndrome of sorts, perhaps.

I feel like it’s safe to admit, at least quietly to yourself so as to not end up on the receiving end of a punch to the throat, most people have at least one person in their life who they used to share a strong connection with, but is now only kept around out of some sort of perceived obligation.  Gosh, I knew so-and-so from back in middle school, and he/she was usually a pretty good friend and it would be a shame to cut them loose.  Right?

Maybe this is just me thinking about how the post-college life has such a noticeable, and interesting, impact on everything.  Contrary to everything watching House, M.D. has taught me, people do in fact change.  At the very least, they tend to show their “true colors” (a turn of phrase I always want to take literally, usually in the form of applying a paint roller to someone’s face) once various life situations change.  Careers happen.  Marriage happens.  Unexpected babies happen.  The list is pretty exhaustive, and I could hand the writing of this post over to all of the causality and crazy possibilities the Universe has to offer, but I imagine that would leave this entry unfinished for some time as the Universe has other things to do.  Like lob great, big space rocks at us.  Sorry, Russia; too soon?  And I digress.

I’ve noticed how people seem to drift apart naturally, or forcibly, and it’s a weird notion to come to terms with after everybody spent all of high school scrambling to acquire as many friends as possible, as though it were a live action version of Pokemon (and comparisons like this should be rather telling about how sparsely completed my FriendDex was by senior year).

Then again, I’ve also long-since come to terms with the understanding of how people who matter most in my life tend to stick around, threatening to keep talking to me until the day one of us dies.  Or both, if there are any joint-suicide pacts I’ve forgotten about over the years (fingers crossed I haven’t, because I’m not really the “let’s drink the Kool-Aid type of guy”).  And then some people fade out, whether it be a slow and subtle goodbye I hadn’t expected, or like the ending of a bad sitcom that just needed to go away.

But that takes this back to those odd friendships that exist in a sort of Limbo between those two extremes.  The ones that feel like they exhausted themselves, but keep on going.

Maybe this is just one of ‘those things’ I’m not supposed to fully understand, like basic algebra or what purpose the design of the Pope’s hat serves.

An excerpt from my trusty Moleskine notebook

I miss visiting the ocean.  Perhaps, it could be said, I am experiencing a sort of help-me-I’m-trapped-in-the-Hell-of-retail cabin fever.  I’d like to argue I miss stepping out onto the deck, or walking down to the beach, and seeing so many stars.  I mean, if you think about it, there’s something so humbling about how we’re all on a gigantic rock going around a star that’s hurtling through space with billions and gazillions of similar rocks and stars

And let me clarify here: I miss the beach.  I miss throwing down a towel after trying, several times, to lay it down on the sand just right only to watch it flip up and get a light dusting of sand (read as “a small island worth of sand deposited inconveniently”).  The creative rush of building a sandcastle I invariably have to protect from the waves, which inevitably win out.

For all the love I have of the ocean, and its variety of critters, I am not overly fond of wading out into it for a good swim.  That’s what the heavily-chlorinated pool most beach houses have is for, right?  I’m not like this because of sharks, or the threat of getting swept out to sea, or anything quite so sinister (I mean, come on; I’m talking about the beaches of the Carolinas.  Not Australia, where everything can kill you).  This is largely because I have a lingering, and perhaps irrational, fear of jellyfish.  Several family vacations to beaches after some bad weather or another meant spending time tip-toeing beaches covered with stranded jellies.  There’s something about a brainless alien-looking blob equipped with poison-tipped knives that’s inherently difficult to trust.

I just want a chance to squish the sand between my toes and relax.  With some mightier-than-molten steel high SPF sunblock, because that’s the only way I could not end up looking like a very Irish lobster after a long stretch in a restaurant’s kitchen.