Camp NaNoWriMo Excerpt 1

Since I have started playing D&D I have discovered that I absolutely love creating character backstories. It’s to the point that I decided to turn the story of a character I haven’t even played yet into a novel. That is actually what I have been working on for Camp NaNoWriMo (as you probably guessed by the title of this post).

Here is a little sneak peek at what I have written so far.  What do you think?

The captain and the bard

“Here you are, Marisol. I am putting your bell right here. I will come to collect you when the market closes.”

“Thank you, Ryan,” she replied, settling carefully into her normal spot on the street in the heart of Neverwinter. Once she was settled she held up her hands expectantly. He placed a small stringed instrument in one hand and a bowl full of cloth in the other. As he turned and walked away she rested the instrument on her lap, spreading the cloth carefully before her and placing the bowl in the center. Then she leaned back against the wall and waited.

People slowly started emerging from their homes, many of them shopkeeps in the process of setting up for the day. A few noticed her and called out greetings, which she received with a smile and a nod. She perked up slightly at the scent of freshly baked goods drifting from the bakery two doors down. Still, she waited for more people to arrive, resting against the cool stone wall, keeping an ear out for footsteps. 

After a few minutes of waiting, a pair of footsteps approached her, causing her to perk up slightly. The feet were accompanied by the scent of fresh bread.

“Gift from the baker, miss. It didn’t come out quite right looking, but chef says it should still taste alright.”

“Why thank you,” she responded, accepting the pastry. It indeed felt misshapen, but it was still warm and smelled wonderful, so she did not complain. The person hesitated.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” she asked. 

“Well, chef and some of the workers are in a bit of a mood. This dreary weather ain’t helping any. I know you usually wait until people show up to start playing, but if you wouldn’t mind…I know your music always puts people in a good mood.”

“Absolutely. It is no trouble.”

“Thank you, miss.”

“You can call me Marisol.”

“Thank you, Miss Marisol.” 

She chuckled slightly as the boy ran off back towards the bakery. The air was indeed cooler and damper than she had expected. Not enough so to cause concern, but just enough to make one feel rather morose. 

A smile slowly spread across her face as she picked up her lute and began strumming. Gentle music started to fill the street, softly at first, then growing in volume. It was a tune she knew the baker was particularly fond of, as he often sent someone to request it when she played near his shop. Once the song was done she paused to eat part of the pastry, stashing the remainder in her pocket for later. 

Around her, she heard the signs of business as people began trickling into the market. As the shop keepers days began, so did hers. She picked up her lute and began to play once more. It was not a particular song that she played, but one that she wrote as she played, mind filled with the notes, reveling in the joy of playing just to play. Sometimes she would dip into popular tavern songs or pieces of epic ballads that she had picked up listening to other performers. 

As she played she listened to the conversations happening around her. One of the perks of living in Neverwinter was the constant influx of travelers and traders from across the known world. That meant her audience was constantly changing in its composition. They also did not always realize that she and her fellow street performers were homeless. It was why they worked to wear the nicest of clothes and had long ago made deals with several of the shop keepers and traders operating in the market square. Their operation was a mutually beneficial one, and it did well to keep the rest of the homeless population fed and clothed at the very least. 

Coins plunked into her bowl sporadically throughout the morning hours. Some people would request certain songs along with their coin. She was only happy to comply. Others would merely drop in a coin and keep walking. Oftentimes people would stop to speak with her between songs, asking about her life and her skill and if she took payment aside from the coin. Hardy fruits and vegetables found their way onto the cloth, as well as a small amount of dried meat. She quickly gathered those into her small satchel to make sure they didn’t get eaten by any animals. 

Around midday, she caught a conversation between members of the crew of a foreign vessel. She perked up immediately upon recognizing them. Their captain brought them into port every few months and many of the crew would stop by her performance at least once. They were nice people, though she was not entirely sure what they did. She didn’t question, though, as the captain was often very generous. 

She heard his distinctive voice coming up the street and changed the tune she was playing to that of a sea shanty his crew often requested. A few of them stopped and began singing along. It ended up drawing quite the crowd, as it was a genuinely delightful and adventurous song that the crew sang quite well. When the song ended, she set the lute down, grinning.

“I had a feeling you all would be in town soon. How was your latest voyage?” she asked. Small showers of coins and trinkets found their way into her bowl as the crew shared their tale.

She always enjoyed it when they came, bearing tales of adventure and sea creatures and mysterious treasures. True, their tales ate up the time she could be performing for coin, but she didn’t mind. She rather enjoyed the break, as well as the coin they donated, along with the excess wares they shared with her. It was often clothing and blankets and bags, sometimes even shoes and accessories. Whatever didn’t immediately get grabbed up by her fellow street performers was dispersed among the rest of the homeless community or sold. 

The captain, as usual, stayed towards the back and did not say much. She knew he was there, though, shifting back and forth, keeping an eye out as his crew arranged their donations around me and spun their tales. After about twenty minutes, he cleared his throat.

“I am afraid we must continue onward. We have a meeting that needs attending. I hope you have a wonderful day, ma’am.”

The crew complained good-naturedly and bade their farewells. She wished them well, scoping some of the coin into my pockets along with the food and other trinkets. They had left a small barrel of mead, which she carefully moved to sit right next to her. The clothing and shoes went to the other side, tucked up next to her so her elbow would brush against them. Long years of performing on the street told her to keep such things close. 

Several hours later things were finally beginning to wind down in the market. Most of the street vendors had already packed up for the day and many of the shops were slowly starting to close things down. Marisol continued to play, though, as she had nothing better to do until Ryan came to collect her. She finished the song she was playing and lowered her lute, sighing.

“Are you going to say something, or are you just going to stand there?” she asked.

“How did you know I was here?” the captain asked, shifting uncomfortably.

“Just because I am blind doesn’t mean I don’t notice things,” she commented. “Plus, I heard you telling some of your crew you would meet them at the ship. You normally go with them when leaving the market, if you don’t already have a room at an inn. That means you want something and the fact that you have been standing there, sighing every few second, means it is something to do with me.”

He chuckled, stepping closer to her.

“I see you are far more observant than I gave you credit, my dear. May I ask your name?”

“Marisol. And you are?”

“Captain Cutler Everit of the PIRATE SHIP NAME.”

“Ah, so that is the name of the ship.  I have been meaning to ask every time you come into port. Where do you hail from?”

“We hail from all over.”

“So you have no home port then? Or is Neverwinter your home?”

“The sea is our home.”

“How interesting.”

“If you don’t mind, I was wondering if you would be willing to join me for a drink at the tavern just down the road. There is something I wish to discuss with you.”

To Be Titled Excerpt

This is an excerpt from the second draft of a story I am currently working on. I finished the first draft year before last for NaNoWriMo. I’m still working on a title.

This is where the story begins.

“This changes everything!”

“This changes nothing. I am sorry Monica, but we cannot devote resources we don’t have to a lead that we aren’t sure it will pan out. I appreciate your dedication and we understand your desire to make things better. We just don’t see the point. The magi are gone. It is time that we move on and make the best of the life we have now.”

I was trembling, shaking less from nervousness and more from frustration and exhaustion. “This proves that the corruption can be reversed. Someone was able to trace the corruption to where it began years ago. If it can be traced, if the source can be found, then we can find a way to reverse what was done and bring the magi back. We can save everyone.”

“We understand that you are still upset over the loss of your husband, but you must understand. We feel your pain. We have all lost someone…”

“Don’t you dare try that line with me,” I snapped. “I lost everything, you hear me? Everything. And now I am telling you that we can get it all back and you would rather sit here and let those we have lost rot outside these walls.”

“You will remember your place and to whom you are speaking. It is by our generosity that you were permitted to remain within the city. There are those who would have seen you cast out in fear of your magic returning and bringing with it the corruption. You also provide us a valuable service when it comes to your knowledge, but even that value can run out.”

My breaths were growing harsher with each word, fists clenched tight enough to have shattered my pen had I not already thrown it in a vain attempt to stop them from shaking. I could feel their eyes on me. Assessing me. Scrutinizing me. Waiting for any sign, for any excuse to cast me out.

“Now, Monica, we all know you have suffered worst than most of us,” someone else said in what was likely meant to be a soothing tone. “I cannot begin to fathom what you have been through since the evacuation. The amount of work you have done since regaining consciousness is surely commendable. Some of it has even proven invaluable to helping us settle down here. Maybe it is time you took a break and spent some time focusing on yourself. Take some time to heal, to really think about your life and how you want to spend it.”

Even with my outrage, I noticed the attempted olive branch shadowed by his threat. They wanted me to stop questioning, to stop fighting. They wanted me to fade silently into the background so they could continue to rule as they saw fit.

“I apologize, council members, for my outburst,” I said, bowing. “You are right. I have not been well. I will not burden you with my grief any longer.”

Looking Back and Looking Forward

I am going to do us all a favor and see how long I can go without making a vision pun. Because it is 2020 and the puns have been going strong since July.

I do, however, have a lot of things I have been thinking about recently.

It’s difficult not to get introspective whenever a thing ends. Especially when it is a year. A decade.

I can’t even begin to process how much my life has changed in the past ten years. I moved halfway across the country, for one. A lot of good came out of that, but I was also halfway through highschool. Not something I recommend. I lost a lot of friends in that move. I made some new ones too.

I graduated from college two years ago. I built a company’s social media presence from the ground up while managing all of their projects and planning their events. I was the managing editor for a publication for a short period of time. That’s not even counting the various internships I had in college.

I also started producing two podcasts and the beginnings of a potential production company, Pseudonym Social. This is something I never thought I would do. But I have done it, and one of them is doing pretty well. I am mostly self-taught when it comes to audio editing, and I have to say I have gotten pretty good at it. That said, I still have a lot to learn.

That is one of my goals for the new year. I want to learn more about audio editing and sound design. I also plan on producing an audio drama this year. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, but I am going to start with something simple. Something that will be easy to do mostly on my own, that can either be short-run or continue on indefinitely. 

I have other plans as well, but they are a little less certain. Like many other people my age, I am still working on finding my way. I’ve got a metaphorical list of contingencies when it comes to which path my career could take. Some plans are more detailed, some are still in the early stages. 

Every day is a new day, a new beginning. A new chance to start something new and take another step towards the life you want. There is no one right way to do things. Which I personally find to be a huge relief. 

It’s like that saying goes. Where there is a will, there is a way. I have always been one of those people who will find their own way to make what they want a reality. So I keep going. I keep making new plans and new contingencies and new connections. 

The only way to go is forward. I have 362 more days to keep building something I am proud of and keep moving towards the life I want. Because this is my life and I will find a way to get it to where I want it.

What about you? What are your dreams for the year?

The Sound of Stories

I started getting hooked on podcasts in college. It started with Welcome to Nightvale, then branched into several other shows. I fell in love with the medium as a whole. There is a kind of storytelling that can be achieved through audio that I had never experienced before. 

I especially fell in love with audio dramas. One in particular that will always be special to me is We’re Alive. I am normally not a big fan of zombie apocalypse stories, but the characters in this one were so dynamic I couldn’t help myself. The sound design made it feel like I was really there. 

I have listened through that show twice now and the ending gets me every time. I was beyond ecstatic to find out they were adding new seasons. 

It was around my senior year in college that I joined my first podcast. Through a friend on Twitter, I was invited to be a panelist on the Supergirl Supercast (part of TeeVee, which is part of the Incomparable podcast network). I had a blast bantering back and forth with the panelists, overanalyzing the story and laughing at the “super-science.”

This was the start of a rabbit hole. I started looking into doing a podcast of my own. I started realizing that many of my story ideas would be better told through audio. While I was the interim managing editor for a small DFW publication, I was reminded of how much I enjoy interviewing people. 

That sparked an idea. An idea that would take me months to finally follow up on.

I launched An Incomplete Guide to World Domination a few months ago. I have always loved helping people tell their stories, especially people who have fought hard to make their dream a reality. You can hear that tone in their voice when they finally relax and start opening up about the thing that they are passionate about. That thing that gets them up every morning and helps them keep going, even when times are hard. 

I wanted to give them a place to share that. To share their story. To show those who are at the start of their journey that it is possible to make it happen. It may not be easy. It will take some time. But it is possible.

This caused a chain reaction that would eventually lead to a decision I never quite expected.

That decision being to create Pseudonym Social as a creative podcast network to house all of my ideas (and some of my friends’ ideas). I already have the basic site set up from another idea I had a while ago, so I built off of that. 

Part of this was sparked by conversations on Twitter. I had been playing with the idea of doing a podcast where I interview people’s D&D characters for a while. Every time I mentioned it in a conversation on Twitter, I got the same response. “Where is the Patreon?”

So I spent the next week creating the Patreon, doing all of the show art, updating the website, and tracking down some interviews. Tales of Adventure launched with a trailer on Monday, September 23 with the first full episode dropping the following Wednesday. 

That makes two podcasts I am producing entirely by myself, with a third in progress (a RP podcast with some friends of mine). I don’t think I ever expected to be here, doing this, but I absolutely love it. 

I love hearing people’s stories. I love connecting with other creators. I love helping promote what people are working on and helping encourage them throughout their journey. 

Heck, I even enjoy editing the audio. (Though transcribing it all will be less fun)

I have to say, I think I have found my niche. I’m still working on my novels. I’m still working on my games. I still plan on getting my master’s in creative writing. I am just going to be creating podcasts along the way.

I am changing the world one story at a time. So why not start with yours?

I Promise I’m Still Alive

Hey guys! Sorry I have been so quiet recently. My life has gotten pretty busy these past few weeks and I had to rearrange priorities a bit so I can get everything done. I’m currently working on finishing a hefty project for one of my clients (due by EOD today). I am also studying for the GRE because I want to start working towards getting a masters in creative writing, preferably with the help of an assistantship/fellowship. I take the test on the 26th. No pressure.

I have been doing some reading and writing recently, but I have not had the time or brain space to give you a good quality blog post. I have a few mentally in the works, though, so you will have some excellent content soon.

Once I get through this particularly crazy period I should be able to better balance things out. That means I will have more time for my blog, more time for my podcast, and more time for my writing. I just need you to bear with me for a bit. I’ll for sure be back to posting regular content in September.

I’m also planning to create a podcast where I interview people’s D&D characters (still working on the title and all of the other details). That will likely start happening in September as well when I am done with the GRE and have my grad school application in.

Until then, if there is anything you want to know about me and my projects or anything you want to see me talk about, feel free to let me know in the comments. Also, if you have an interesting day job/side hobby and want to talk about it,  let me know and I will set up an interview for my podcast.

Lessons From Life on a Dev Team

It all started April 9th with the Demo Disc Game Jam, put on by the Dallas Society of Play (DSOP). That was my first time getting to work with a team to create a game. Usually game jams only last one weekend, which doesn’t really work when you work in retail.

This one, though, lasted for a month. I was thrilled to actually be able to participate for once. We ended up with a pretty good group of programmers, artists, a sound designer, and a writer (me). I knew some of the people from other meetups, but a few of the faces were new. It didn’t take us long to settle on not only an idea but an art style.

And we were off. We affectionately dubbed the game Woofenstein (since we borrowed some inspiration from Wolfenstein) and it was a 3D, low poly barroom brawler.

Not going to lie, half of the things that were included in the game started off as jokes. Some of them worked surprisingly well, especially some of the dog puns.

There were so…many…dog puns. It was ruff.

Along the way, though, I learned a few lessons.

Different skills are needed at different stages.

As a writer, I didn’t have much to contribute during the game jam. We didn’t have time to integrate a story or any sort of dialogue. I felt pretty useless at times, but I tried to make up for it by being supportive whenever I could.

I was also nominated as the project lead, which was awesome. My team was even more awesome, though, and practically led themselves. I couldn’t help but feel like I was nothing more than moral support. Imposter syndrome kicked in pretty hard.

Everyone was incredibly proud of how the game turned out, though, and most of our team ended up deciding to keep going. Now that we are no longer merely creating a demo during a short time period, I find myself with more to contribute. We are adding in a story. There are more moving parts now. We are starting to talk marketing and showing off at conventions.

Even though I did not have much to contribute in the beginning, since I stuck around and did what I could I find myself in a position to contribute even more. I am glad that I chose to stay along for the ride.

Because the ride just got a lot longer, and now I have something to bring to the table.

Be prepared for things to go wrong.

Things will go wrong. Technology will refuse to cooperate. There will be lapses in communication. Things will not be finished on time. That is just a fact of life. And you need to be prepared for it.

That is why you always need someone keeping an eye on everything. We almost didn’t have the game completely finished by the end of the jam (thankfully the end event was pushed back due to bad weather). We bumped into issues where people would be working on the same file and it would not save correctly.

Heck, my laptop died in the middle of the demo and we had to switch to someone else’s because I was a genius and forgot my charger.

The key thing is to stay flexible. Have plans in place for when things go wrong. Have people outside of the project who have more experience than you do that you can go to about any issues you may have.

And above all, communicate with people. If you make a mistake, own up to it. People may be frustrated with you at first, but it is better to deal with it now than later.

Note: there were no major hiccups, just a few small issues so far. Most of this is just general life advice.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew (especially if you are still on the last bite).

Feature creep is a real thing. One of the organizers at DSOP, Storm, stayed in communication with all of the teams to help keep an eye on things and make sure feature creep did not happen.

For those of you who don’t know, feature creep is when you keep adding cool little bells and whistles onto your project instead of focusing on the core fundamentals of said project. It is a slippery slope that is very easy to slide down, but it can tank your project.

By adding on so many new things to tackle you can easily find yourself completely overwhelmed with everything you have to do, especially if you are trying to do it in a very short time period.

Also, if you are not comfortable taking over a certain aspect of the project, don’t. Do not overcommit yourself. If there is someone else more qualified to handle something, let them handle it and offer to assist them. There is no shame in admitting that someone else is better than you at something. No one is the best at everything.

Don’t be afraid to share the load. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. That is what your team is for.

Things will change and that’s okay.

If I am remembering correctly, the original idea that was pitched was to play as a dog in a helicopter fighting another dog in a helicopter. So, dog fighting (the term for when two helicopters/planes engage in aerial combat) dogs. Then our lead programmer mentioned wanting to do something that felt like the older Wolfenstein. Then another game was referenced. A few other ideas were pitched as well.

The game we demoed was very simple. There were four players with identical (and very stylish) designs. You ran around beating up the other players, occasionally picking up health and weapons. We actually had a lot of fun designing the weapons.

When we decided to keep going with the game, things changed. We have been talking about updating and stylizing the art. We obviously renamed it, because if we published it under Woofenstein things would not end well for us.

We have started talking adding more levels, including some that were mentioned at the beginning of the demo development. I think we have even settled on a basic story for the game. There is still a lot of work to be done and I have no doubt there will be a lot of changes between now and then.

That just comes with growth.

Whatever happens, though, I will always be thankful for this experience. I have learned more about programming, development, and working on a dev team than I ever could have outside of this. I am very excited to see where this road leads.

If you want to follow along our journey, check out our Tumblr or follow us on Twitter (there isn’t a whole lot on there now but there will be in the future, I promise).