Tag Archives: writing

Saturday Shorts: Country Roads

Country Roads

Even with the heater going full blast, Susan could barely feel her fingers for the cold. Her thick mittens did little to take the bone deep chill of the truck cabin away. The snow fell thickly outside, reflecting the headlights of the truck in odd ways, making the road more treacherous than it already was, the wipers working furiously. The snow danced like ghosts across the stretch of abandoned back road.

Susan hated early mornings, when the sun was still hours away from rising, and absolutely loathed the cold. Despite these certainties, she loved the snow, as it was beautiful in its own way. It was part of the reason she had stayed in North Dakota, despite her hatred of winter. The other reason she had stayed for so many years was why she was up at such an ungodly hour in the first place, driving when it was likely that every weather and news station in the county was advising against even going out your front door.

The trailer she was towing behind the truck pulled along, following in the ruts created by the full ton trucks winter tires. For all Susan knew, she wasn’t even driving on the actual road, since the only markers that made the stretch a road in this weather was her ingrained memory from having come this way countless times before. Hell, she almost missed the turn off indicator as she came up to it, though in reality it was not an official demarcation of destination, just an old oak tree, branches now heavy with snow, the indicated she had reached her turn. With a hard jerk on the wheel, she managed to make the cut, the chains on her tires gripping the snow and the gravel below it to keep her from sliding; the trailer bounces along behind. In this storm, the tree was her only indication that she was at the pasture. The snow was so uniformly white and even that it was all muscle memory and reflex at this point, keeping her calm and steady behind the wheel.

Another five minutes of steady travel into the pasture, and she was actually beginning to be able to feel her fingers, though it could just as easily been the beginnings of frostbite, as she had had a brush or two with that in the past. It would have been glorious to be able to sit in the cabin of the truck, as the warmth began to slowly leach away the battering cold, but she was at her destination and there was no time to dawdle. She was not the only thing that was likely feeling cold, as it was  ‘ not fit for man nor beast out there’, as her dad had been want to say when he was alive.

With a deft twist, Susan cut the lights on the truck, and shifted to neutral, letting the truck and trailer roll forward to a slow and steady stop. Reaching up, she made sure her knit cap was pulled down tight over her ears, meeting the edge of the heavy scarf she had wound round and round her neck. Quickly, as if she were removing a band-aid, she threw the truck door open and jumped down, trudging through the near knee-high snow towards the back of the trailer. From inside, these was the distinctive sound of hooves on metal, and puffs of steam rose from the small ventilation windows. The bleating of a handful or tired and upset sheep echoed off the bare trailer walls, as the flock made its protest known. The smell of wet wool and lanolin was just strong enough to cut over the cold and crisp air of the storm, which numbed the nose almost to the point of being useless.

Susan could hardly blame the sheep for being disagreeable, their foul mood was something she could relate to, given the circumstances. Being pulled from warm stocks at herded into a semi warm trailer at 3;00 AM would have that effect on anyone, though some would be able to protest in much more horrendous fashions. Susan lowered her scarf ever so slightly and let loose two short, shrill whistles that cut over the wind, and the sheep settled somewhat in the trailer, letting out a few soft baa’s as back talk.

Despite the thickness of her gloves, the little bit of warmth she had begun to feel was already bleeding away, so Susan made quick work of removing the dual lock and pins that held the back ramp in place. The ramp sank down into the snow, not resting fully level, but angling enough that it would be a short transition of trailer to ground for her charges. The latch that held the rolling door secure was a little bit more tricky, especially as the snow continued to fall and quickly cover every surface it could, but years of repetition made quick work of the obstacle. As the door rolled up the sheep, who had been huddled together near the back of the trailer, began moving forward toward the ramp, more out of habit than from any command, given that this was not their first time being transported. Susan moved away from the back of the trailer, the sheep descending the ramp into the snow one after the other in some bizarre game of follow the leader. Once the last of the flock, seven in total, had founds its way down the ramp and did not look like it would be retreating back into the trailer, Susan made quick work of closing the rolling door and locking the ramp back up, before she slowly worked her way back to the open door of the cabin, making sure none of the sheep tried to follow her. They stayed where the were, huddling together in the snow-covered field, their wool blending in with the snow while their black faces stood in stark contrast, even in the relative darkness.

Putting one foot back into the cabin and hoisting herself up with the door, Susan let loose another shrill series of whistles, which set the sheep into a nervous stomping. Taking a deep breath, the cold cutting her lungs like knives, she raised her voice over the storm, shouting into the darkness;

“Come out and get them, they’re all yours!”

With a quick pull and a dive across the seats, her  head down with her arms over it, Susan slammed the door behind her, just as the whoosh of something larger and heavier than a jet engine overtook the pasture, hidden by the snow. Susan did not dare look up, did not dare even breath, until there was nothing left but silence.

-Megan

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Short Saturday: You Were Warned

You Were Warned

There was no way around it, Arthur admitted to himself. He was going to need a much bigger trash bag to deal with this.

It had been a spur of the moment decision, and act of passion and madness. Now, standing among all the carnage, surrounded by the destruction caused by his own hand and his hammer, there was no denying that he must have been insane to think he would ever be able to get away with it. Carefully, he peels his soaked work gloves from his hands, the material sticking and refusing to let go, Carefully he turned one glove inside out before using it to remove the second, hoping to avoid getting anything on his hands. With a sigh, he left his uncomfortable face mask in place, and did his best to look past the obscure and unnamable matter that speckled his protective goggles. He did not want to risk removing them at this point, as it would likely mean he would need to get more, and he had none left on hand. With his luck, he would drop them onto the floor and they would be unsalvageable for continued use. On top of it all, he knew that it would be stupid to create a reason to leave the room he was in, even for the most innocent reason. If he made an excuse where it caused him to have to leave the house, he knew, deep down in his gut, that it would only complicate matters. If he created a reason to leave the house, he knew he would leave a mess which would indicate to anyone what he had done, or that he would simply leave it all behind and never come back.

He knew that if he left everything as it was, if he didn’t clean up meticulously, he would be caught, and would have to face the full punishment for his actions. The kind of punishment that he was almost certain would completely alter his life, more so than he had altered it when he had taken the hammer in his hands in that moment of absolute certainty.

As calmly as he could, Arthur grabbed the still open bottle of water from the counter, and took a long sip. Even though it was warm, it proved to be refreshing after his exertion. It also gave him the chance to really look around and take in everything that he had done, and all the complications it had created.

He should have listened to his friends told him that remodeling a bathroom was a job best left to those who knew what they were doing, and not a good project to undertake while your wife was away for the weekend. Definitely not a project to start on a Sunday.

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Poetry Tuesday: Bared Bones

Bared Bones

 

Grave bones dropping dust,

Crossed at the old master’s feet.

Creaking and bleating their lonely cries.

Left with unrest in their defeat.

 

Dry bone, marrow turned to stone,

Tossed at the blind king’s throne,

No One left at the hearth,

No Sons to take them home.

 

Cold bones, wrapped in parchment flesh,

Shuddering in the darkness, in suspense.

Not a memory of theirs remains.

Yet, still these ones draw breath.

 

Hot bones bathed in red,

Upon the soaked bloody ground, abandoned.

No tomb for them but where they fall,

In a field so far from home.

 

-Megan

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Wanted: Avid Listener

 

He could hear her voice, even with his ears full of screams. Despite his efforts, the voice was no louder or clearer than what he had first begun to hear it speak. Some words echoed, and if he listened hard enough he was able to decipher some of the words, to begin to make sense what t was she was asking of him. However, most of her words were still too faint, still beyond his ability to comprehend. Sometimes he wanted to cry, to scream so long and so loud that it hurt. Until his throat was raw and bloody. All in the hopes the somehow, his own suffering would make the words come more clearly.

Shakily, he ran his hands down his unkempt face, over coarse whiskers and craggy skin, leaving trails of filth in the wake of his fingers. He repeated the actions over and over, until his face was just as dirty as his hands, just as imperfect and flawed. He did it without seeming to take notice, sweat from his brown joining in to the mess.

The room where he lived and did most of his work was barely lit, the merger light emanating from the crude braziers and a single lantern which hung from the lower timber rafters cast more shadows than illumination. Despite the small space, it was by no means a hovel. He strived to keep it clean especially when he had guests. They were the ones who ended up making a mess of the place, who abused his generous hospitality. It wasn’t as if he asked for much from his guests in exchange for all that he did for from. He was a humble man, and his requests were no sort of imposition. He didn’t ask them for money, or favours exchange for his generosity. He would give anything that was asked of him, his possessions were of little consequence to him, and he would offer every last piece of himself and all that was his to anyone who asked, provided they did not seek it out of personal greed.

Truthfully speaking, he felt that was he asked from his guests, his only request in return for all that he could possibly give, was small and of little consequence. What he asked was so small intact, that he found it absolutely astounding the amount of times his request was refused. All his guests had to do to fully benefit from all he had to offer, was to sit quietly for a time and listen to his stories. He did admit that some of his stories could be considered boring and sad, as some were tales of miseries and sadness long passed.

But those stories were just the beginning. Everything had changed for him, and for his stories, when she had started to speak to him. She was his fire, his muse, his very reason to continue living, and if only they would listen to his stories of her, they would see how inspiring and awe-inspiring she truly was. He just needed his guests to under what she meant to him.

All of his guests so far seemed to get excited, elated, and hopeful when he told them about how sh had some to save him. For a brief, shining moment, they would forget about themselves, empathize with him, and he was certain that there was nothing better in the whole world than seeing how she inspired that wide-eyed glee in others, just as she had in him.

He loved to watch those eyes light up, and fill with tears of pure joy when he told them, no, when he asked them to help him understand what it was she whispered into his ear now, in the dark of night when no one else was around. Her voice had long begun to fade beyond his hearing. whether this was due to age, or some other ailment, he did not know, but it burned at his very soul, and sent waves of sadness over him when he thought that one day soon, he would no longer even be able to hear her whispers.

He rejoiced, danced as much as his cold bones would allow him, when his guests, like him, cried out for her to come and save them, just as she had saved him. They begged her to save them from their own suffering. It was a new miracle, each and every time, and he felt as if hope returned to him when they agreed to help him, when they dropped to their knees and begged for him to let them help.

But, as with so many times in his life, hope and joy were short-lived. without fail, it seemed, each of his guests would prove to be incapable of keeping their word. Liars and thieves were prolific, and they sought to take even what little he had left in the world. So far, every one of his guests had proven incapable, unable to hear the full glory of her voice, unable to hear what she was saying with any clarity, some even proving more hard of hearing than him was. Some guests had even thrown his hospitality in his face, trying their backs on their promises and their pleas. They would lie to him about her words; he was never certain why. Some, he thought, simply were going deaf, while others like hard her voice and wanted to keep the joy and comfort all to themselves.

It was always the liars, he had come to discover, that could hearth voice of his saviour clearly. Liars were never to be tolerated, they spat in both his face and her face, trying to take everything the were offered without fulfilling their promises and his request in any meaningful way. She knew who the liars were as well, and it was when they were present that he voice surged most clearly to him these days, like a bell in the fog off the sea. She advised him not to trust the liars, they were going to destroy him and steal all that he had fought so long and so hard for. They would steal her away as well, if he gave them the chance.

Eventually, when the lairs and the deaf knew that he could tell they were not being truthful, they would turn violently against him, breaking hospitality. They would try to weasel out of their agreements, out of their promises. They would try to sway him with offerings, bribing him with things that he did not want, that he had no need of. Those guests always left before the sun rose the morning after they came to visit. They would go, and leave him with their mess.

The screams that evening were almost completely silenced when he finally felt her presence, her voice at his ear as her words ghosted past his conscious mind. It was elusive and ephemeral, and her touch as she spoke in his ear was quickly fading, words cutting in and out, half -formed. They told him that he had been right, these guests had been unable to hear her as well, unable to take her words and bring them to the light where he wold be able to fully understand them once again. They had left a speculator mess behind as well, strewn and splashed across the floor with no regard for that fact that it would take him hours to clean.

Picking up the broken ladle he had used to serve that nights fare, he returned to his task, guided ever neared to the realization that her voice might now be forever beyond his grasp. Perhaps, once he had really tidied up, tomorrow’s guest would be different, would prove to finally be able to help him discover her words, to find out what it was she was asking off him now. How best to serve his lady. Perhaps, they would finally be able to hear her as well, if he opened their ears a little further.  As he began the task piling the broken bits of meat together, he ran his hand over his face, trying to clear some of the thick blood from his whiskers. The liars were always the ones who left him with the biggest mess, and even less of his hard-won sanity.

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Poetry Tuesday: Day Dreary

DAY DREARY

Watching the sun rise over the tired city trees.

Hot steam bringing life to walking dead dreams,

used to follow the current, subdued.

Left to rot.

Arrive on time,

Day.

Turn and press the button,

Month.

The same bleeds out the difference,

Quells the imaginary possibility.

The adventure is pushed into he broom closet,

Locked tight and covered in cobwebs behind

A disused mop bucket.

Flavourless tuna salad lunch.

Monday  is every day, repeating over.

Friday is just a Monday in sheep’s clothing,

Closing an leaving illusory promises

To re-assessing the dreams of adventure.

But Saturday dawns, yawning with a fake

Beatitude of hardship, a covered reality of a different

Kind of work disguised as breaking.

It too is just as routine,

As the sun rising over still tired trees in a half sleeping city.

Waiting for something to break the cover on the safety

Glass alarm of freedom.

A Dangerous gambit to destroy the safely systematic, routine, boring.

Life.

-Megan

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Protocol

Protocol

Three blinked at the reflection in the mirror, focusing on the grey eyes staring back from the other side. Nothing was different, nothing was out of place. When Three has woken up that morning, to get ready for school as usual, it had been with a strange feeling that something had shifted, but no matter how Three looked at it, everything seemed just the same as it had the day before, the week before, the month before, and the year before. Nothing has changed.

Turning off the light, Three went to the kitchen, once again, the same routine as every other morning. There was a protein shake sitting on the counter, next to a lunch bag and a copy of the daily paper. As always, the front page flashed in warning; bold, red letters warned the readers of the graphic content, alerting them that what lay beyond the front page was not suited for most. The articles would likely offend many, or turn the stomach. Instead, the front page suggested that all the reader really needed to know was that the weather was going to be pleasant, and that the two district teams that had met in their races the previous night had tied, and decided to be friends and compete again the next night. With that, it brought the collective all-time records for both teams to 0 Wins- 0 Losses- 2,950 Ties, a respectable performance history for both teams.

Three disregarded the paper, as always, and made to grab the protein shake. Three’s hand hesitated a moment, and instead of grabbing the drink, took the lunch bag instead. Three was not really feeling exceptionally hungry, so it would not do to waste valuable time on the drink. Ready for the day, Three approached the front door. As the door opened, an option warning popped up: “YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN BREAKFAST. PLEASE RETURN.” The warning, while optical, blocked Three’s entire field of vision, and the entire doorway. Three hit the exit button, but the warning merely re-appeared, effectively keeping Three from leaving the house to begin the journey to school. With a sigh, Three returned to the counter and picked up the shake, and the warning window disappeared. With the way no longer blocked, Three could leave without further issue, though the time for travel had been cut considerable closer than was comfortable.

Leaving the house, Three walked for at least a dozen yards before stopping, setting the still full protein shake down on the barrier that separated the walking routes. These barriers kept students of Three’s age and younger separated from the adults walking to work, the transports carrying goods and supplied, and the older students on their way to the secondary school building.

Other students feel into line on the path to the school. All walking the same way at the same pace. They said good morning, exchanged their happiness over the outcome of the game the night before, and contemplated their lessons and exercises for the day, which would be both pleasant and informative. No one spoke about the news beyond the front page of the paper.

It was the exact same as the day before. The same as always, unchanged in pattern. Still, Three continued to experience that same nagging sense of weight and shift, as if something was fundamentally different from  what it had been before.

Once all the students were inside and seated at their desks, the bell rang. As it happened each morning, their daily exam popped up on their desktops. Each student was faced with a series of four questions. They were the same as always, there was no variation, no change.

  1. How are you feeling? Well (correct)
  2. Who won last night? Both teams (Correct)
  3. Who holds the highest office in the government? The Chancellor Supreme (correct)
  4. Did you eat your breakfast?

At the last question, Three paused. Three had never paused before. Here it was. This was the difference, the shift that had been brushing up against the back on Three’s consciousness since waking. It had been felt before it had even occurred; the effect before the action that would generate it. It was as if Three had made this decision before it had even been a decision to make.

With a quick eye dart, Three glanced around the room at the others; all of their screens flashed a pleasant green, indicated that they had finished their daily exam. Indicating that every answer was uniform, correct. Tentatively, with a fluttering of unknown emotions, Three purposefully wrote his answer.

4.         Did you eat your breakfast? No.

It took a moment, but Three’s screen winked closed, and a new window popped up. First it opened in front of Three, and then in a cascade of pings across the room to the others, all looking straight ahead. The new window advised the students that everything was fine. And additional subset window opened in front of Three’s eyes, containing a set of three very clear instructions: Three was to remain quiet; to remain seated with hands placed flat on the desk; and that Three was to await the arrival of a task force which was being dispatched to remedy the detected compliance violation.

It became obvious that Three was the only one to receive these instruction, as the rest of the students remained calmly seated, looking straight ahead as if nothing as out of the ordinary. Three drew a deep breath, as for the second time that day, a wave of emotions that had never previously been felt took hold. Three had somehow knows, right from waking, that the world was shifting. As it turned out, it was only Three’s world that was shifting, and Three had been the one to set into free fall. Looking from the other students to the window, Three’s feet shifted a fraction of an inch. It only took a breath for Three to make another decision that had never been made before, another change to the sameness and repetition of the routine. With a quick breath, Three made a break for the open door.

Change was within Three’s reach, the door felt as if it were just there, waiting. Suddenly, Three was sprawling forward, reached by sensations that had previously been unknown, to which Three could ascribe no known words or past experience. The sensations forced legs  and arms to contract and lock awkwardly, no longer responding to the brains impulses to move. They sensations caused Three’s teeth to clamps down hard, pinching cheek tightly between strong molars. A second later, and that uncomfortable sensation was paired with the explosion of stars, as Three’s head met the ground with a thud, ears ringing. With vision swimming in and out of focus, Three felt hands grab that collar of their shirt, hefting them up from the ground, holding them suspended.

As three’s hearing returned, head pounding, there was the sound of a voice, speaking in controlled, clipped tones. As the voice spoke, they began to move, Three in tow above the ground. “Unit Three is contained. We will bring them in for evaluation. All other units in this zone appear to be functioning as normal, all coding pinging green. We believe this is an isolated incident. Please be advised to re-initialize protocol in 90 seconds. Extraction complete. Alpha Team signing off.”

Not a single student in the classroom seemed to notice what was going o, focused on the screens in front of their eyes, as if the words “All is well” were enough to keep them from curiously investigating the ruckus taking place behind them.

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Update, or, “I am pretty bad at this blog thing”

So, it has been a long time since my last update or post of any substance.

In the spirit of keeping with my commitment to this blog and the information on it, I am going to be fixing my lack of posting quite soon. In order to do this, I am going to look into scheduled posts, meaning I will set aside a certain day each week to provide a post.

This will be in keeping with my recent efforts to get back to the things that I enjoy the most, and doing more with my life than just going to work, coming home, and sleeping. Due to some recent events, I had put my goals of returning to school for more post graduate on the back burner. Not what I had really wanted to do, but certain things have made it so that I had commitments to stay were I was for a certain amount of time, on a rather vague schedule. But I am in the midst of getting those things handled, and hopefully will be getting myself to a point where if I needed to pick up and move in order to start a study program, it wouldn’t be a huge ordeal ( or at least a manageable ordeal).

That being said, I hope to start this process this week on  Thursday with “Last Thursday of the Month Review”, where I will pick a book/graphic novel/article which I have recently read and present a comprehensive review.

At the very least, I want to try to bring that commitment to one new post every week.

I am thinking of organizing this type of schedule on a weekly basis, where the frequency and timing would be directly related to the type of content. Likely reviews and ‘essay’ type articles would be one a month, while reflections, options, and creative writing would take place more frequently (due to the slightly less rigour requirements for posting formats.)

In summary, I am still alive, and I do want to continue to pursue what I originally set out to present with this blog. I want to provide focus on the academic side of popular culture and history, as well as the more creative and freeing side of creative and free form writing.

 

 

 

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Publication news!

So, it has been a considerable amount of time since my last post. Life has been a little busy, and I have let a few things fall by the wayside. However, there is exciting news. Quite some time ago I answered a call for entries for a new encyclopedia, focused wholly on amassing information and entries pertaining to Japanese horror cinema. The process was both educational and quite fun, considering it was absolutely right up my alley.

The initial research was a bit painstaking, as it took some time to find the various films and individuals who I chose for my entries (of course, these all came from a pre-established list set forth by the volume editor). With the media in hand, I set out to do my research, watching the films and doing my best to capture the themes, plot, and vital information that would be important to crafting my entries.

As with these things, there was a lot of down time between submission and review, but as of August 15th, 2016 (tomorrow, very exciting), this collection will be released.

In others words, I have been published alongside some of the more known names in the area of  Japanese popular culture and film studies (Like Jay McRoy, Jim Harper, Jeffrey Bullins, Joanne Bernardi, etc.)

It is really a remarkable collection of information. My particular entries focused on Actor, director, and icon Izumiya Shigeru, The Guinea Pig CollectionNoroi (2005), and Death Powder (1986).

9781442261662

The Encyclopedia of Japanese Horror Films

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Forming the Formless: A reflection on my difficulties and experiences in writing.

Like the gait of a newborn foal,

my rhymes roll out at an awkward pace.

Trapped somewhere between my mind and my lips,

they are lost in the cracks between spaces.

I lose time thinking about thinking,

Wondering if there is even an inkling of success in my endeavours.

Late nights spent forgetting the words to my own visions,

Tripping over the rhythm of the endless flow of thought,

Ultimately left fighting against the tide of my own doubt,

with words spilling out without form.

One idea becomes the next, becomes the next,

and continues to topple away from the beginning,

Until all that is left is the vexation of wondering where everything will end,

And in ending, if it will make sense or defy the trend of going nowhere.

I have always had a problem with endings; I don’t like them. They are too final, too anti-climatic, and too pessimistic in my view. Nothing is ever really finished, especially when it comes to writing or learning. You may have reached a conclusion in the plot line structure, but it does not mean that what you have is written in stone. Sometimes endings are too difficult to face, especially when you have invested yourself into a project. Yes, endings can be rewarding, but sometimes we just are not quite ready for them, and it leads us to tear everything back down, and to start again, until we become so caught up in the tearing down and the rebuilding that we forget what it was we set out to do in the beginning. Does this piece work here, or should I move it to another section? Is this really what I want to happen in this situation, or do I want to see how it would work out if I changed that part way back in the middle? Do these bits come together properly, or are they just mashed together for the sake of having them be like that? Where is the flow, and how do I keep it from hitting a wall? Does any of this make sense to anyone else? Inevitable, these are ideas and problems that writers, students, and academics face in everything they do. Fiction and non-fiction require the same attention to detail, require the same creative and personal investment of time, effort, and emotion, or they inevitable fail to satisfy.

Writing is something that I have been doing for a very long time, in a variety of ways; when I was 13 and in 8th grade I started writing what I called ‘a novel’. It was a lofty goal, even for a 13-year-old or, within reason, especially for a 13-year-old. The plot was contrived, the characters 2-dimensional, the names of characters and places cringe-worthy and inducing. Nevertheless, I ‘finished’ that great work, and set it aside, where I left it for years, for the most part. The closest that work ever got to ‘public viewing’ was when I shared it with a very close group of friends. Affectionately it came to be known as “Prologue”, and said friends may or may not still have their copies just waiting to be giggled over. From my own ‘novel’, I did what many young girls do and branches off into both poetry and fan-fiction (something that will be mentioned, but left alone; we’ve all dabbled, even if it was only in our heads to pass the time). I stuck with the poetry, and have amassed quite a collection, ranging from the naive and typical first attempts to some much more developed pieces, experimenting with style, scheme, and format. Poetry is still something that I return to when the inspiration strikes me, something that I once thought of pursuing professionally, but instead decided to keep as a hobby.

In High School, I branched out yet again, dabbling in short stories, plays, more poetry, historical fiction, fantasy, noir, horror and a variety of other ideas. Some of these pieces are still quite dear to me, and I return to them with new ideas on how to improve them, how to adapt and update them, and how to keep them alive. However, I have always suffered from the inability to finish; I become so attached to something that I am working on, and so invested in its worth, that I am unable to let it go because I still don’t see it as being complete, even if for all intents and purposes it has come to a conclusion. Every essay I submitted as an undergraduate, every project I worked on and showed, every paper I presented in conference, were all works-in-progress. Even now, having completed my first post-graduate degree, I still look back on essays and find ways to improve them, ways to make them flow more fluidly, to present the points more clearly, to bring out the importance of the evidence more succinctly. Likewise, I have started more stories than I can begin to count; I have notebooks filled with ideas, characters, plots, maps, and research, and often keep a fresh one on hand no matter where it is I find myself, because the most obscure or frivolous thing can set off an idea that has the potential to change everything.

This brings me to the meat of my future plans for this blog, now that I have completed another milestone on my life journey. While I am actively applying for PhD programs, determining what it is I will focus on, where it is I will do my work and continue my studies, and who I will look to in an advisory capacity, I hope to re-ignite my creative writing, while honing my academic skills. What this means for this blog is as follows: in the coming months I hope to revise some of my post short stories and creative pieces, and present them to a wider audience (this is where you come in). At the same time, I am going to put forward articles of a more scholarly nature (non-journal worthy due to the fact that they are short pieces rather than longer completed research), begin a series of exploratory research reflections on topics that interest me outside of my major academic focus (which is a rather narrow focus and relatively new when it comes to Western scholarship focus), and of course reviews whenever I feel that something I have read is either worth the attention of others or worthy of being avoided at all costs. I hope that this plan will help to keep this blog alive, to engage with my skills on a personal and professional footing, and to, hopefully, provide you with something insightful, thought-provoking, amusing, enchanting, or entertaining.

To keep with this, I have started working on a revision of a piece I created over 12 years ago. It will be a week or two before it is through a satisfactory revision, and at that time I will provide both the latest version, and the very first iteration of the piece. It is a bit of an absurdist social/environmental commentary, with what I hope is a darkly humorous twist. So, with that, I ask that you stay tuned for “Fuzzy Pants, Trench Coats, and Other Strange Things” (Title subject to change, though for now I will stick with the original title).

For those of you wondering exactly where I plan to take this all in the near future, here is a list of some ideas that i have been working on, or planning to work on, in the coming months:

  • Scott Pilgrim: A Love Story for our not-so-tragic Canadian Sensibilities.
  • An untitled piece of Silent Hill Revelations
  • A short story from the “Veil of Shadows” world
  • New Television: A reflection on the increasing interest in the macabre as prime-time entertainment instead of niche counter-culture movement.
  • Untitled improv creative writing session set to a random playlist.
  • Locke and Key: Imagination and the Other World of childhood.
  • A short story from the Trish universe, or a chapter from a larger work within that world.
  • Percy Jackson and Xena: re-inventing Greek Myth for new generations.
  • More poetry (both old and new)
  • Some lore pieces behind some of my larger story and world ideas.
  • Untitled piece on Miyazaki’s films (Spirited Away)
  • A short piece on classic Japanese films.
  • Serial Killers and their victims (there are a few that merit a bit more historical attention, without the spin of Hollywood attached), with shows like Criminal minds around we need to remember that these individuals are products of human existence and our ability to commit evil, not just of the society or culture they belong to.
  • Why Cordelia Chase is that mean high school girl we all secretly love.
  • The Undergraduate Essay: Tips and Tricks to avoid the pitfalls of a poor essay.

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A Roleplayer’s Guide to Roleplaying, or “What I learnt from being countless other people.”

I have been the mage rolling in dragon’s blood to see if it had magical properties. I have been the druid who was upset that her overly large dire wolf companion was not permitted in the local tavern due to civilian panic. I have been married to a paranoid space archer, hunted across galaxies, and set adrift in time. I have been the villainous duke, sacrificing his people to gain power from the dark gods, and I have been the werewolf so old that he has lost his mind to the animal hunger. I have been the re-awakened vampire priestess, and the valiant heroine trying to protect her city. I have saved cities, dimensions, timelines, and gods. I have killed friends, prophets, and commoners alike. Like readers, role-players and Storytellers/Game Masters/ Dungeon Masters experience hundreds of different lives, while still only living inside their own skin.

So, it’s no secret that I have been involved with roleplaying groups for quite some time, at least 14 years to be exact (Give or take a few days, or hours, I can’t really remember). These experiences have varied; from forum and group posting, nightly chat room meetings (when it was still possible to find a chat room filled with decent people who wanted to actually write), to tabletop gaming and LARPing, I have had my hand in many posts when it comes to playing out characters and writing stories cooperatively. Roleplaying was when I really got my start in creative writing; I started my experience around the same time I tried to write my first ‘novel’ which, looking back on now, was a pretty cringe worthy endeavour for a 13-year-old. I like to think that roleplaying and writing in a co-operative fashion has helped to shape me not only as a creative individual, but as a person who is able to work well with others. I think it compliments my experience as a reader, and helps to broaden my understanding of people and the world.

Over the years I have seen online roleplaying evolve; from chat rooms to forums, from forums to social networking sites, and finally to tumblr and other such creative outlets. Let me be honest here; I don’t really understand how tumblr works on the best of days, but it is still a pretty decent tool for finding skilled writers and people to bounce creative ideas off. These early writing and roleplaying experiences opened the doors for me, and got me interested in games like Dungeons and Dragons and World of Darkness, where co-operative story telling is central to making a great game.

Through all of these experiences, I’ve learned a few lessons and tricks, both as a DM/GM and as a player. What I want to do for you now, is lay out some of those elements. Maybe you have been roleplaying and writing for years, or maybe you are just getting involved, but these lessons and tricks may help you out, or you may just nod along and agree based on your own experience.

-“It’s not a story line, it’s a story maze.”-

As a Dungeon Master or Game Master, it is our duty to set the scene, to hook our players, and to set them on a path to adventure and fun. As a co-operative writer, it is out duty to work out the general direction in which we want to begin writing. Both of these require an infinite amount if creativity, patience, and a willingness to put in long hours of thought. The absolute worse thing that you can do in either situation is to railroad. Yes, having a goal in mind and milestones set up are excellent, but you don’t want to limit the ways in which your co-writers or party can choose to get there. I’ve always been fond of the “story arc” over the “store line”, as it implies that there is a certain build as you progress. I’d like to push this further and say that there is a “story maze”. What I mean by this is that you have a fixed beginning, a fixed middle, and a fixed end point, but the ways in which the party or partner can arrive at these key story points are not reduced to a single line of progression. Have side events ready, little moments that offer some fun and experience, some sort of reward. Don’t try to force your single agenda or story, no matter how amazing it is (or you think it is). Be willing to let the party and your partner find their own way to those moments. Yes, there will be intersections that they cannot avoid, and you can leave them hints and clues that will lead them back if they start to stray too far, but don’t yank on the leash and choke them when they want to explore. Likewise, don’t make the maze insanely devious or daunting, or else they will get completely lost in the foliage and you will all forget the goal. make the maze interesting, and keep the walls just above eye level, so they are still surprised when they do get where you want them to go.

-“If you say no, you’re closing doors. Be fluid, be free, and be ready to fly by the seat of your pants”-

Just like railroading a story, saying no to your party and your partner can lead to some very heated conflicts. Like in improv, saying “no, we aren’t doing that,” is like denying the creative imput. Remember, you are not trying to work against your party or partner, even if you are playing the villain. If your partner or party decide to try some solution to a problem, but it’s not EXACTLY how you would have solved it, don’t discredit their effort. Instead, take a step back and think if that effort would have logically worked, even if it was as insane as charging on to a field of battling ogres covered in dragon’s blood and dancing in order to distract them to buy the civilians time to escape. It may not be YOUR ideal solution, but that does not mean that it can’t work. Who knows, it may become one of the best moments among the party or between you and your partner, and open new doors that you hadn’t even thought of when it comes to how the story can progress.

-“Discussion, both in character and as players, is a key to keeping it fun.”-

This may not apply so much to the DM/GM situation, but it is a valuable tool. While having subtle characters is excellent, having no clue what any of your party members are actually doing can be a major issue. In group forum and one-on-one writing I like to call this the OOC (Out of Character) discussion. While you have an agenda in your writing and for your character, being 100% obscure and non-communicative has one of two outcomes: your character is evil and it comes as no surprise when they betray the rest of the party, or you end up having absolutely no fun because your major concern is keeping everyone else rom knowing anything about what is going on. Take the time with your group or your partner to find out what it is they want to accomplish, what it is they are looking to gain from playing a given character, and incorporate those goals into your own goals. All players should be able to be involved, both in character and out of character, in taking the story in certain directions. This is a bit more level when there are only two people involved in the co-operative writing, but it is useful in the party environment as well. It keeps everyone involved and feeling as though they are really contributing to the eventual outcome of the story. There is nothing worse than having created an amazing character, only to have them turn out to be a faceless pawn, dwarfed by the desires of a single person.

-“No one likes a god-moder!”-

God-moding, meta gaming, Mary Sue-ing. All of these imply the worst case scenario for the creative and dedicated role player. It implies the creation of a character who has, among other things, uncannily powerful abilities (that surpass all others and are even better than what they should normally be. Think of it like an over-powered house rule spell of magic missile . . . where that missile is not only heat seeking, but nuclear powered and able to pass through solid walls until it hits the target.) This applies to players and DM/GM’s alike. No one is untouchable, even if they are “the ultimate good” or the looming “big bad.” You cannot control the actions of your party like you would a puppet, even if you are the master puppeteer. You can only influence. Please, don’t god mode, as it drags everyone down when they don’t get to play their role because someone else is already “on it because I once found a scroll of +10 to any skill I wanted and I’ve saved it for this very moment,” or because it seems like their actions have absolutely no influence on the progression of the story or the outcome of events. In canon written role-play, these are often the “OC/ Original Characters” who suddenly appear on the scene and seem to know exactly what is going on, exactly want needs to be done, and trump the most powerful characters in the given canon universe. I hate to sound like  a broken record, but please, no god-moding. It takes all the fun out of roleplaying for everyone except the god-moder.

-“Be creative, but keep the game mechanics in mind!”-

There is nothing quite like roleplaying and roleplaying games to bring out the most creative crazy ideas in people. All of this, of course, can’t work if you don’t seriously consider game mechanics. They are there for a reason! Your clerics and paladins should be behaving in certain ways, and the threat of the removal of divine (good or evil) powers should not be tossed out the window. It should not be done lightly, but it should always be in the back of these character’s minds. Just like you can’t have a ranger or druid slaughtering innocent forest animals for no reason, you also can’t have alignments and builds that truly violate the carefully established game mechanics. Yes, there is an element of creativity, but there are some of these elements that can severely handicap a GM/DM in their ability to create a story and keep everything functioning. Say you wanted to be a necromancer, but you wanted to be”good” aligned. While and interesting dynamic, it would drastically alter how a GM/DM structures their story, especially if there are divine elements at play in their larger plot. If you want to be a good aligned Necromancer, you have to keep in mind that there are other good and neutral aligned characters, likely in your party, who would be duty bound to kill you for violating the sanctity of life and death, not because they dislike you, but because it is integral to how their character mechanics work.

This mostly has to do with party games, so to relate it to forum posting is a bit more difficult. I would say the equivalent is respecting limits set by characters, and playing canon characters with at least a comparable level of understanding for who they have been written. Hermione Granger should be intelligent and stubborn; Rogue should have major issues with trust and letting people in. Be true to the personality, no matter what story parameters change. This goes double for one on one role-playing. Just because you are writing with a partner, don’t assume that your characters are immediately going to click. Let the connections work themselves out.

-“Be well rounded, like that giant boulder in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”-

Yes, we all love combat, and yes, we all also love loot. However, doing nothing but killing monsters and tackling long session of combat can get really boring. Just like a “monster of the week” progression, repeated the same thing over and over can get tiring and de-motivational for players. There are more ways to earn experience and to progress as a character than through combat alone. Give your partner or players things to think about, mysterious to work out, riddles to solve, personal troubles to deal with. This is were back story can come in handy. Whether you are the GM/Dm, or the co-writer in a one-on-one session, have your counterpart(s) come up with a back story for their characters. If you are playing canon characters, see if there are things your partner would like to work in, to round out their characters. Once those are established, find ways to work them in to the storytelling experience. Not only will it help keep the roleplay from becoming monotonous, but it will also be a way to make sure that they are invested in the story and in their character. It will also help to keep things rolling and prevent things rom falling flat and coming to a complete halt. I like to use riddles, word puzzles, and guide my players to explore their interests through their characters, or to explore their characters interests through the world. I’ve seen this result in hilarious side adventures and stories that help to make characters more real: ever wanted to be worshipped like  a god by a backwards village? or, maybe you’ve been wanting to join a guild, but just can’t manage to carry that oddly bloody bag of cabbages past the doorman? Puzzles and roleplaying are key to helping the experience become something memorable.

In writing and story driven versus experience gaining stories, this can be related to adding in another genre; sure, you want slice of life, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t weave in elements of intrigue, suspense, mystery, or even horror. This will all depend on the partner/party dynamic, but there are so many choices that they are, quite literally, almost endless options.

-“Being evil is fun.”-

There is nothing quite the same as feeling the power you get to wield as the adversary. Having the chance to pay the “evil” (subjective to campaign, as we all know, so instead of “evil”, lets just call them the antagonist) role is the cherry on top of the perfect sunday. It is not an easy role, but it comes with a lot of really nifty benefits. However, you have to remember that you are not playing AGAINST everyone else; there is nothing in it for you if you destroy your party or your partner every time, and they will become angry and dispassionate about continuing. Instead, you want to offer a challenge to the protagonists; in most cases, you are playing on both sides of the line when you take on the role of the antagonist. This character is a tool through which you can guide and build up for party or partner, it is one of the major simmering points that will help you boil the story up to its penultimate moments. Your antagonist should not be all-powerful (even if they are a god), and they should not be untouchable. Unlike Descent (Fantasy Flight, thank you for this game, but it is frustrating to lose, both as a player and as the overlord), you gain nothing from making your party or partner lose every encounter. At the same time, you don’t want them to just be able to walk over your key antagonistic figures. There is a very fine balance between playing a great antagonist, and either playing an overarching tyrant or an underpowered pushover. This has by far been the hardest part about roleplaying for me, and the writing which I struggled with the most. Ultimately, you have to find a way to feel as if you are succeeding when your players and partners surmount your challenges, rather than looking at it like a lose for yourself. most of all, you have to learn to enjoy the dark side, or it will become tedious to keep coming up with new flavours and encounters to keep both you and your party invested in the experience.

-“Not everything will work for every body. Be open to constructive criticism.”-

It’s not great to hear, but sometimes we are not perfect. Writer, Player, or GM/DM, you have to be open to constructive criticism. It might seem like an attack on your ability, but if you listen, it can help you grow not only as a player, but as a creative talent. There is the saying “give me the grace to accept what I cannot change” . . . or something like that; in roleplaying, you have to opportunity to adjust and change those things that don’t work in your style, in your skill. Take them. This can do hand in hand with the railroading story. Listen to what your players and partners want when things seem to hit a wall and, barring extreme cases, you can most certainly find a way to work things out, no matter what role you are playing. Be willing to adapt and consider change, it is the best way to deal with these kinds of problems. No one gains from talking or playing against a brick wall, so be aware!

On the other side, if you are writing with a partner or for a party, and no matter what you do you just don’t seem to be meshing on any level, you CAN say so. Talk about what issues you are having, where you think improvement could be made, and be willing to be told the same things that you tell others. The best thing you can do is incorporate the changes, and come back. You don’t have to cater to everyone, but you do have to make sure that everyone can get on the same level, even if that means you need to step up your own game!

-“When in doubt, puzzle it out.”-

If you are having difficulties, either with the story or your character, you have the ability to take a step back and re-evaluate your approach. You may not be able to reallocate ability scores or skill points, but you can figure out a way to make those factors work FOR you, instead of against you. It’s like having a social rogue character with really high scores to diplomacy, intimidate, and bluff, but as a person having a hard time making those come across in your in-character roleplaying. You as a person may be absolutely horrid at diplomatic interactions, or crafting a foolproof lie ( My social rogue couldn’t bluff for the life of her, even though she had a score somewhere in the 30s. Notoriously she attempted to pass herself off as ‘Room service; cleaning and incineration’ when attempting to sneak in through the back doors of one of the outer levels of Hell.) It’s all about finding a way to have fun, and to make the skills you want your character to have work for your playing style. If you are not having fun with your skills or your character, you need to openly talk about it with you DM/GM or your partner, and see what kind of agreement you can come to in order to make your experience fun. This type of game and writing it all about figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and how to navigate the churning seas that lie between your imagination and the game itself.

Antoine de St Exupery

Antoine de St Exupery

Roleplay is where we get to explore not only the action and adventure, but the inner thought process of our characters. It’s not about having all the cool powers and gadgets (thought those are always fun), but it’s about making your writing partners see the inner character, the subtle nuance behind the choices and the action. It’s about giving them some emotional connection to you, beyond just the fact that your characters live in the same world and happen to travel in the same circles.

Above all, and I mean this, you need to be having fun! If you are not having fun, as a player, a partner, a Game Master, etc., then you need to address the issue. If you aren’t having fun, the other people you play with are going to notice, and it is going to colour the experience for them as well. Sometimes it means you need to step back and take a break to reevaluate your interest in playing. Sometimes it means you’ve fallen into a rut and you need to break some habits that have become unconscious inclusion. Most of all, it means that something isn’t going to way it is supposed to. Even if your characters are in the most dire situations, if you are not invested, if you are NOT having fun, YOU need to speak up!

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