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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Back to Writing

First things first, PAX Prime is upon us again!  I sad to not be there this year.  Friends posted their first pictures to Facebook yesterday after arriving in Seattle.  This year, I will content myself with watching what streams I can over at twitch.tv.  If any of you are there, drop me a note and let me know what impressed you.

As I discussed previously, I moved my sleep schedule around in order to get time back in the morning to work on my reading and writing.  I get to bed by 10pm and set my alarm for 6am.  I found success in this, for the most part. 

Over the past two and a half weeks, I slept in a couple times (until 7am!) and woke up slowly a handful of other times (finally rolling out of bed around 6:30am). 

The first several days were amazing.  I jumped right up out of bed, excited for the day.  I produced great results in those days.  I wrote blogs, caught up on reading, and felt energized for the day.

I struggled more the last week, as this new way of life became routine.  I hit snooze on my alarm most days.  I feel tired and unrested when I wake up.  I struggle to find focus for that first hour, and so I do not get as much done.  But, I forced myself to get something accomplished each day.  While the amount of productivity is below what I want it to be, it is not zero.  I take the victories where I can, and build off them.

I continue to write Asa's story.  I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I fear writing Trezl's.  I am afraid it will never live up to what I want it to be.  Writer's block rears its ugly head when I try and write Trezl. 

I have 18 years of emotion built into this persona.  Trezl has been my handle online since I started on the internet.  I feel like I cannot do the character justice.

Asa's story makes more sense right now.  It is a bit simpler in nature, and I understand his motivations.  I do not know where the story will lead him yet, but I push on toward the goal.  Perhaps he and Trezl will even meet one day in Ryndaria.

As my post title suggests, I am back to writing.  I will write whatever I can:  fiction, blog posts, sermons.  I can see the end of Asa's first chapter in reach (the first draft anyway). 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Elves, Aelar and Aelar Jr. - Urban Rangers

Our D&D group switches up dungeon master responsibilities on a regular basis.  This allows us switch up stories regularly and to allow those who lead time to create the next adventure.

In one game, my son and I play an elven father/son team of "urban rangers," Aelar and Aelar Jr.

My nine year old son and I enjoy playing the pair.  In D&D terms, my character is a "controller" type, using his crossbow to fire various trick shots, setting up the battlefield to give the rest of the party opportunities to shine.  My son's character is a "striker," dealing the most damage in the group with his greatbow.

I painted the two characters out of our Reaper Mini Kickstarter batch of figures.  Here is a picture of Aelar Jr.  It was one of the first characters I painted.  I let my son pick the color scheme for the figure.  I wish I had known more of my more recent techniques when painting him, but I am still quite happy with the way he turned out.  I particularly like the textured look of the cloak.  It moves from light to dark, giving it a realistic look.  My son loves the look of the character.

Here is Aelar.  I finished him last week before our Friday game.  I used all the various techniques I know to create him.  I think it is obvious the difference in quality.  I mixed colors more, creating a reddish wood bow (I do not have any figures with crossbows, sadly) and reddish bronze gauntlets.  I think the drybrush along his cloak really adds a lot of detail as well.


 
 
Aelar left the forest decades ago, though he does not talk about why.  He shows a general distrust of nature, prefering the hard lines of tall buildings to trees.  He uses his agility to be a master of stealth and "parkour" acrobatics.  His "allergies" flare up almost immediately after his feet touch the dirt of the road or the grass of the forest.  But he is fierce, if a bit cocky, in battle.  He not only controlls the battle situation, he makes sure he looks good doing it (with many attempts at "John Woo" like moments during battle).
 
Aelar Jr. has never known the forest, but his elf heritage calls to him.  He wears the "traditional" colors of his people, though this usually ends up looking quite flamboyant.  His bright green cloak makes him stand out in the forest more than blend in.  His father has no intentions of teaching him the proper greens to wear.
 
I hope you enjoy these pictures and a little insight into these characters.  I may speak more of our current adventure.  We are on the "Quest for Forever."  Our party is following in the footsteps of famous adventurers who disappeared on the quest themselves.
 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Looking to Improve

I enjoy painting these Reaper Bones figures (www.reapermini.com).  I can spend a few minutes at a time during my day putting a little bit of paint on a figure.  I feel comfortable experimenting with different colors, brushes, and techniques.  This will become a nice hobby as I get better.

I learned a lesson about learning this week when I decided to go seek out an expert painter to critique my work and give me pointers on improving.  It is not as hard as I worried it would be.

Our local comic shop (http://www.comicasylum.com/ for those of you in the Dallas area) has a few guys that paint minis.  They have a great display of miniatures right by the front door.  I figured I could take a few of the Bones I recently painted (those I posted here with stories) to figure out if I'm even moving in the right direction on them.

I was afraid.  Fear told me the guy behind the counter would look at my work and laugh, or tell me how far I had to go in the land of learning to paint.  I prepared myself for complete rejection.

His reaction relieved me.  Now don't get me wrong, he didn't shower glowing praise on my work.  I recognize I'm a beginner and I have a lot to learn.  Still, I think the painter at the shop was excited to get to talk about the craft with someone.

He looked over my work and commended the good start.  My base colors were done pretty well, and he showed me a few techniques (using "wash" for shadows, and "dry brush" for highlights) for taking my work to the "next level" with additional detail.

He then showed me several examples from his case to explain the techniques and what they should look like when used properly. 

The whole conversation took about ten minutes, but it was fun!  I learned a bunch, and I got to talk shop about a budding passion with someone who has walked this path already.  It was great.

In the process, I also learned a lesson about what I need to do next with my writing.  I think it is time to seek out and talk to other writers.  I know writing is very diverse and subjective, but if I want to really improve, I need feedback on what I am writing.  I need advice on how to take my writing to "the next level." 

I recognize I also need to be prepared for rejection.  I know my writing needs work.  That's why I continue to practice in the hopes of mastering it one day.  But, I expect that writing the same way over and over without direction will not help me improve.  In the same way, if I had not sought out an expert in painting I would not have learned the new "wash" and "dry brush" techniques I used on the miniature below.  I can see the obvious improvement in his style from my previous work, and I continue to practice to perfect these new techniques!  I hope that seeking out writers will have a similar effect on my writing.

This mini is also Asa from my previous blog.  This is early in his adult life. 

Thank you for reading!  Leave me your comments!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Taking Back 30 Minutes

I previously told you about a book by Jon Acuff called Quitter.  The book showed me there's a path to your dream that doesn't require quitting your day job, YET.

Now, I picked up Jon's new book, START.  In this book, Jon describes the "road to awesome" that is available to all of us and the five stages of life on the road to awesome (learning, editing, mastering, guiding, harvesting).

I am about half way through the book, so I won't review it just yet.  I wanted to talk about a lesson from the book that I applied to my life this week.

Paralyzing fear is one of my biggest struggles as I go down the path to write.  I get overwhelmed with all the "stuff" I have to do each day, and I don't make time to write.  Then when I look back on my day, I see how much time I actually wasted!  I read the same Facebook posts for the 10th time, watched TV I didn't enjoy, etc.  Then the next day is a total repeat of failure.

Jon confronts this issue in the book head on.  It encouraged me when I saw I wasn't alone in my despair.  His remedy:  be selfish at 5:00am.  No one else wants my time at 5:00am.  Nothing has to be done at 5:00am.  That time should be "me time". 

I always considered myself a night owl.  I like staying up late.  When I honestly evaluated my time though, I saw I spent an hour or two most nights doing nothing productive.  Jon points out that studies show we have a finite amount of will power or focus in any given day, and it is most likely depleted by that time anyway.  This is why I accomplished so little late at night!

So, this week I started going to bed earlier in order to get up at 6:00am.  I am not ready for 5:00am, but 6 o'clock is already quite early for me, and in our house, everyone sleeps until at least 7 or 7:30am.

Wow, what a difference it has made!  I get up and just read for the first 30 minutes.  Then I write for 30 minutes.  I feel productive when I'm done.  I actually accomplished something the last 3 or 4 days, and I am excited to keep going. 

I thought going to bed at 10pm each night would be difficult.  I admit, falling asleep at that hour is tough.  But I find myself wanting to go to bed.  I also have an excuse to do it.  If I don't, I miss out on my reading and writing the next day. 

So far it is working.  What about you?  What kind of routine have you created to prioritize your dream?  Is it time for you to make a change?

Thanks for reading!

 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Asa's Prologue

I arrived home from vacation last weekend.  Along with catching up with work and getting the house ready for the returning wife and kids, I worked on painting a new Reaper Miniatures figure and writing his backstory.

I am really excited about this one.  Asa is actually a character I created a couple years ago for a friend's DnD campaign.  I put him aside when we stopped playing that world, but his story stuck with me.  I want to tell it, and one of the Reaper Bones that came with my Kickstarter package really fit who he is.



So, I decided to paint him and work on a story about him.  This is a prologue to his greater story.  It takes place when he is a kid and sets up who he will be as a young man (and he doesn't end up exactly as you might think!).

I don't want to say more about him just yet, but I do hope you enjoy the prologue to his greater story below.  I appreciate any comments you might have.  Does it make you interested to know more?  Does it fall flat? 

This is of course a first draft, with basic proofreading done. 

Thank you for reading.  Without further ado,

Asa's Prologue


Phenora looked up at the dark sky and grumbled to herself. "We finally get the children out and it rains." She frowned as the clouds thundered an answer from far away.

Standing on the stone steps of the orphanage, Phenora counted the children one more time. They seemed to not mind the slow drizzle of rain that fell about them. Phenora lamented the laundry she had to look forward to that evening.

After accounting for all twelve young ones, including the three already splashing in a nearby puddle, Phenora nodded to Lucy. Lucy, the most recent "graduate" of the orphanage and now youngest caretaker, called to the children to line up as they had practiced, just minutes before, inside the safety of the entrance hall.

The coastal city bustled around them. Carriages passed along the cobbled road. The distant sound of news boys echoed along the buildings from street corners down near the docks. Many on the streets hurried to finish their business before the rain picked up.

"Stay together, now. Everyone in line. We don't want to miss out on our field trip today." Phenora called out over the noise of the city street around them. The children, aged six to nine, shuffled around. Cries of "I was here first" and "He's cutting" rang out as the kids pushed and pulled for their wanted positions in line.

Lucy attempted to straighten the line as Phenora walked to the front. The middle aged caretaker did her best to look regal and proper in her worn dark dress and plain shoes. The children, knowing they risked their rare trip through the city to the temple, quieted as she passed them by. The children did not visit the temple often, but all enjoyed leaving the walls of the orphanage and meeting with the kind priests who provided them clothing and food.

Lucy took her place at the end of the line as the small troop marched on, all smiling.

The children kept the line as straight as could be expected. Lucy called out wanderers by name as various city sites distracted the occasional child. Some bumped into those walking ahead of them, some wandered from the line, and some tried to distract their neighbors by telling jokes and pointing out unfamiliar people and places.

When six year old Henry stepped out of line for the fifth time in the three blocks, Lucy sighed and reminded him of his proper place behind his friend, Asa. Smaller than most of the children, Henry swerved from the line hoping to see around his taller mates. This time, as he turned back to take his place in line, he tripped and fell into the street. The oncoming carriage, led by four large thoroughbreds, did not see the small boy, nor could it stop in time if it had.

"Henry!" Lucy cried out as the right lead horse trampled the boy, kicking him into the gutter of the road. The carriage continued down the road without slowing.

Phenora turned back toward the scene and gasped. Fighting through the shock and terror, she ordered the children back. "Everyone against the wall here, now!"

Many of the children, unaware of what happened behind them began to protest, afraid one of the others somehow ruined the outing. Others began to cry and yell out after seeing their friend lying motionless in the gutter.

Lucy forced herself past the shocked children, pushing two of them back away from the street in the process. She needed to see Henry. She needed to know if there was any hope he might be alive.

A few passers by stopped and began to surround the scene, forcing any other carriages and carts to steer clear of the boy. Lucy forced a path to the boy and she hurried to reach his side.

Asa passed in front of her and reached his younger friend first. Lucy tried to call out to him, but the words stalled, stuck in her throat. The boy's confidence surprised Lucy as he knelt down over Henry's broken body. She remembered Asa to be a timid boy. He always kept himself away from the center of attention. Lucy's heart went out to the boy. She thought of how he must care for his hurt friend.

As Asa knelt down and gently touched Henry, he shined, like the sun sent a special ray of light through the clouds and rain just for these two little boys. She wondered if she was imagining the spectacle, but a glance to Phenora's shocked look confirmed this was no hallucination.

The light brightened around the two boys, causing Lucy and all those looking on to cover their eyes from the blinding flash. Lucy blinked away the spots in her vision for several seconds as the light dimmed back to the dull gray of the rainy day.

Henry's hand reached up and grabbed on as Asa pulled his friend up from the gutter. The two boys stood smiling at one another as all who looked on gaped in amazement.

Shaking her shock, Lucy rushed over and hugged the two boys in a tight embrace. She then held them both at arms' length and looked them over, not realizing the tears streaming down her cheeks.

Growing up in the orphanage, Lucy accepted that miracles of their goddess were possible. She never believed she would witness one. Lucy looked over Asa once again, amazed. This boy was special, chosen. The goddess' paladins needed to know about him.

 The young caretaker hugged the boys again and looked at Phenora, assured her teacher felt the same.