Getting back again

I am writing this because I now suck at writing. Much worse than before. The past month was challenging. Since having our first child, things are quite, different. While there is certain release in writing, in the end, it feels like work – I write for my day job, and I write about stuff I’m not too happy about, so yeah, go figure – and I’ve ended up playing more games instead, whenever I could. “Frostpunk,” “Cities: Skylines,” and “Super Mario Maker” have all been very accommodating to my needs, thus far.

I looked back to my earlier written materials. The ones done between 2007 and 2010. The quality of work put in those stories were, vastly superior than what I’m conjuring up these past few months. 2007-2010 were times I had nothing much to do than focus all my energy into creating stories and playing catch up in reading books. Those were times I was gorging through epic fantasies like A Song of Ice and Fire and Malazan Book of the Fallen. At that time, there was only one – ONE – “Kingkiller Chronicle” book, and now there are two. A third one is expected to come out by the time my child goes to college.

Then 2011 happened, I got a PlayStation 3 and then I started my journalism career two months after. Things went on a downward spiral for my original works, I have noticed.

I think much of it has to do with how exhausted I am, and how I haven’t been reading as much. Things disintegrate over time. So does my writing. That’s why I have this blog, I guess. To help me kick things forward again.

In other news, I am almost done with my reading list. Last year I have purchased a large amount of ebooks through Amazon Kindle. Many of them were indie authors. I wanted to shift gears and offer my support to creative artists that are doing it alone. I have read most of the books now, including the established authors that we all know and love. I still have a bunch of physical books that needs to be read. I’m almost done (finally) with Joe Abercrombie’s “The Last Argument of Kings” and I’ve started-ish Scott Lynch’s “The Republic of Thieves.” Though I’m hesitant to continue reading “The Gentlemen Bastard Sequence” because of Lynch’s writing pace. At least, each book appears to be total stand alone.

My next batch of books should be an interesting one. I am eager to get on reading the “Welcome to Night Vale” novel and its sequel “It Devours.” N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season” rocked my world – pun, intended – so I am more than excited to jump into the second and third books, “The Obelisk Gate” and “The Stone Sky” as soon as I can. Nicholas Eames’ “Bloody Rose” is a serious must-read, but I will have to put that on hold, because everything else on my list are stories with emotionally laden issues, “Bloody Rose” would be the thing I need to break all the ice. “The Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemi is high on my priority list, along with Nnedi Okorafor’s “Akata Witch,” “Akata Warrior,” “Who Fears Death,” and “Binti.” Pierce Brown’s “Iron Gold” is something of an overdue read for me, Stephen King’s “The Outsider” seems the perfect re-entry point for me to King, followed by “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill – who, I think, already exceeds his father. Then there’s “Grey Sister” by Mark Lawrence, “LIFEL1K3” by Jy Kristoff, and soon “Darkdawn” by the same author. Finally, Brandon Sanderson’s “Oathbringer.” I will get that book to show my support for him, but in no way rushing to that, considering the fourth book of the “Stormlight Archive” will probably be another two or three years down the road. At least we’ll get the final Wax & Wayne “Mistborn” novel soon, or soon-ish.

There’s a lot more I want to ramble on and about. But I feel I should reserve my remaining strength into working on the WIP. With all of this, I leave you, for no apparent reason, Pink – because I like Pink – and her music video, “Just Like a Pill.”

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The Curse of Pirini Lilapa

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I met Michael E. Thies in an online writing group over 10 years ago. He was in high school at that time, working on this epic fantasy novel “The Guardian of the Core” that spans across the cosmos. His pitch for the story is an interesting one, “Fantasy set in the far future.” It follows the aftermath of a great war between the gods and the Guardian – the arbiter of the galaxy that prevents any cosmic cataclysms from ever happening.

The first book, “Trials of the Core” was released in 2013. It’s a blend of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “The Hunger Games.” The worlds’ finest enter a competition to become the apprentice of the Guardian. It was a superb piece of work – it’s not perfect, I’ll admit that – but it was damn fun to read, full of action and adventure.

Now, 2018, Book 2 “Curse of Pirini Lilapa” is going to be available this month on the 21st. (That’s today, or tomorrow, depending where you live on this planet.) In full support and excited over this upcoming new release, I bothered Mike with an email, asking some questions and like the cool guy he is, emailed back with all the answers.


Where did you grow up?

MIKE: I grew up in a small town of 5,000 people called Slinger, Wisconsin. I lived there until I went to college but those were still relatively small of around 68,000 people. In my twenties I lived in Santiago, Chile for one year which had 7 million people and now I live in a “small” town in China called Yixing with 1.5 million people.

What got you into writing?

MIKE: I remember reading Goosebumps novels by R.L. Stine (and even meeting him at Disney World.) I tried to create my own stories when I was younger and then in 7th grade I did a short story about gods fighting in a coliseum. That short story eventually evolved into a part of my series called Guardian of the Core. I guess it seems I have always been interested in writing.

Your writing tips to aspiring novelists and writers?

MIKE: The first draft is always the hardest. You need to write it though, it’s not going to write itself. I find a really easy way to accomplish this is 1,000 words/day. Just think about it, there is 365 days in a year; that’s 365,000 words. Most novels are around 70 – 100k meaning that even with time off in between revisions, you could get 3 drafts finished of a novel. For me, 1000 words means perhaps 1.5 hours. Persistence is the key, but this I found is the easiest way to do it because the days of much inspiration is few and far between.

Any advice for self-publishing authors?

MIKE: Don’t worry about the term “Self-Published,” I know that I don’t. The biggest mistake you can do is have your first novel be bad. Why? Because if the first novel is bad, people are going to assume the rest of your writing will be bad as well. So, get yourself to a professional editor; get yourself to a cover designer; a map maker—anything or anyone you need to make your final product look as professional as possible. That first book you will never make money on (unless you are lucky) it is there to establish your name and your credibility in the field; think of it as an investment in yourself.

What’s your current job?

MIKE: Currently, I teach Advanced Placement (AP) English Language and Composition at Yixing High School in China. It is the same as teaching in the United States just with far less students and my students being Chinese individuals who want to go abroad and study instead of staying in China. This has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life, especially as an already-published author. Many people you run into while you’re traveling meet authors, and so it is very easy to promote yourself overseas and build more of a fan base. Also, teaching abroad expands your horizons and that expansion no doubt will work its way into your future novels whether subconsciously or consciously. And, because English is the “Language of the World” you can go ANYWHERE and teach English. It’s a fantastic life decision for those who want to experience more of the world and are tired of the monotony.

Tell me more about Book 2: Pirini Lilapa.

MIKE: The Curse of Pirini Lilapa is the sequel to The Trials of the Core and the second book in the Guardian of the Core series. I am very impressed by this book, more so than my first one, and I believe people are really going to enjoy it as well. In this novel you will see the same characters you love (or hate) like Zain Berrese, Prince Hydro Paen, and Eirek Mourse, but by the end of the novel, when the Curse of Pirini Lilapa has finally happened, the readers will see an interesting thing happen: the story will start to branch out. New character perspectives that readers can get excited about are Aiton Paen (Hydro’s younger brother), Conseleigh Iycel, and Brisine Berrese (just to name a few). The subsequent novels will continue this style and you’ll find more and more secondary characters becoming main characters as each voice is important to the galaxy of Gladonus.

Book 2 has a very different narrative structure than seen in most books: Why choose this style?

MIKE: Yes, this book follows a four part structure. The first three parts focus on one main character and a secondary character(s) that directly relate to them and their struggle. In part I we follow Zain Berrese and also Zakk Shiren and Brisine Berrese. In part II we follow Hydro Paen and his younger brother, Aiton. In part III we follow Eirek Mourse and Guardian Eska. Then, in part IV, every character makes a cameo appearance in the novel. Why? This is done symbolically to show that Pirini Lilapa (which begins at the end of part III) affects everyone no matter who you are. Also, the reason why it follows the order of these particular characters is that Zain has the most urgent storyline (rushing home to save his mother). Hydro has a compelling story line as well, but not nearly as urgent. Both of these characters, however, do something that will in turn affect Eirek Mourse (the novel’s main protagonist) in unexpected ways.

You’ve traveled to Chile and now currently living in China, does living in different locations have an effect on your writing?

MIKE: There are plenty of places that show up in my book that remind me of certain cities I have visited or certain structures that I have seen during my travels. Mostly, though, it is the culture that really sticks with me and something that I try to interweave between characters and situations with my novel. If I see a certain nation as people from this particular race, I will always question about how they look and how I can expect them to act based on things I have experienced abroad.

Your book has characters from every corner of the map, how important is culture in your stories?

MIKE: Like I mentioned before, culture is very important. Each nation does things a little bit different and some of these things I have thought up myself, and other things I have taken from interactions. For me, it adds more authenticity to the novel. One of my favorite traditions is the backstory behind why the Paen households let their tears hit the ground. It goes back to their sigil and a tear being pierced by a sword. This was unplanned, but when I started writing it, it seemed to make sense, like it was already there waiting for me to discover it. I think that is one of the coolest things about writing a novel.

It took YEARS between book 1 and book 2. How long can we expect Book 3?

MIKE: That is a good question. The honest answer is, I have no idea. My original plan was to have 4 books in the series, however, after the first draft of book 3, I am now considering dividing it into two separate books as it is quite big now (210,000 words). This depends on a couple of things, the biggest factor being how long the fourth book is. I plan on starting the first draft over the summer, after the release of book 2. When I finish the series completely, and I have a clear idea of how the book ends (and any surprises in the fourth book) it will inform my decision for book three.

What’s your current reading list?

MIKE: I feel bad about saying this as an author, but right now my reading list is very light. I have been putting more time into teaching and writing than into reading. I do want to start getting back into reading though as I do feel it is quite beneficial to writing. I know that after reading the Game of Thrones by George RR Martin my writing increased significantly. I am currently on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, but they don’t pull me in as much as I’d like in order to continue reading them non-stop.

How about authors that influenced you?

MIKE: George RR Martin has definitely influenced my writing. He is so good at descriptions and sometimes I match him too much which makes some of my stories feel more verbose than necessary. Christopher Paolini also influenced me quite a bit as a writer because he published his first novel so young (at the age of 15). It made me believe that I, too, could write something great at a young age and don’t need to wait until I’m older. Now, Eragon was definitely the best in his series, after that I believe his writing went down especially when compared to Martin. But, he should serve as an inspiration to all.


Hello? Are you guys still here? Oh, thank the Big G. Go grab the “The Curse of Pirini Lilapa” and/or get the first book, “Trials of the Core” if you haven’t yet. I think I wrote a review of the first book, right here on this blog. You should check that out as well.

The Atari VCS: Aw hells no

 

After months of teasing, Atari, unveiled the Atari VCS. The company’s newest console since it went out of style after Nintendo kicked it in the ass with the NES/Famicom.

Observe launch trailer:

This is crap.

It’s all:

“Hey, we Atari, we baaack!”

“Hey, we made new console, it’s shiny!”

“Hey, new Atari is awesome!”

There is barely any games announced. The 1995 commercial of the Sony PlayStation previewed games like “Mortal Kombat” and “Tekken.” Even the original launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the ’80s, things were far interesting, at least they showed us “Duck Hunt.”

Observe!

So exactly what is the Atari VCS? Yes, it’s pretty, but so was the Ouya, and that crap hit the bucket like sniper Thwomp from Mario Maker. The few games they previewed us, which were all shown in less than a second, and quite frankly, doesn’t seem appealing. They look like mobile apps. If the Atari VCS is just a box to cast mobile apps on the screen, then we don’t need the VCS. We can just play on our smartphones — it’s portable too!

I am disappointed. Less talk. More showy. I want to see what games we can play on that thing. I want to see Atari exclusives. There’s no freaking way I’m going to trade my Steam, GOG, Origins, PS, Nintendo, or even Microsoft, for an Atari VCS that can’t even give us a decent preview what kind of games that thing can run.

Oh, it has voice assistant. Maybe it’s powered by Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. If that’s the case, no thanks. The Atari VCS is nothing but a novelty item.

But I’ll reserve further judgments until after E3. I could be wrong. More news could happen till then. For the most part, to play classic Atari games for that small box of nothing. I’m going to pass.

Innards #17: Birth

Last week my wife went into an unexpected labor. Four hours later, she delivered our first child.

The delivery itself was only about 10 minutes. From the labor room, my wife was moved to the delivery room. I was asked to wait, to make room for their preparations. I complied. Ten minutes in, the nurse fetched me, and when we both entered the delivery room, the child was already there.

Everyone was surprised by the speed of the delivery. And the sudden change of our timeline shook our entire future.

My wife has two months of maternal leave. I only have seven days, which is a bummer. Thus far, things have been great. My wife and I have so far, spent sleepless nights watching over our child, changing nappies, and whatnot. The most time we were able to spend on sleep was barely 30 minutes. And yet, neither myself nor the wife feel any level of exhaustion.

 

It sucks that we need to go back to work, eventually. But such is the way of life. My writings have gained newfound priority. There’s a bunch of stories that needs to be written and the road to publication, whether independently, or traditionally, is going to be a long and hard one. If there’s any a time to make changes, that would be now.

The Red Whale WIP has progressed from 23% to 27%. A lot of changes were made. Many of those changes I am not too happy about. At the cost of 40,000 words, these changes gave room for a faster and smoother narrative. I’m circling around to see if there’s anything from the old draft I can migrate into the new one. There’s a lot of really good stuff in there.

I still have a few days left to finish what I can finish. In between writing and taking care of the child, I open Steam and have been playing “Wizard of Legend,” “Frostpunk,” “Poly Bridge,” “Brawlhalla,” and, ahem, “HunieCam Studio.” I do hope I get to stream someday and continue to work on the development of YouTube videos with “Super Mario Maker” content, while I still have the Wii U in my hands.

There’s also the pre-development of a podcast I’ve been wanting to make. I have most of the equipment, so it’s just a matter of finding the right time for it.

In any case, onward we go, first, to burp the baby, and then, to write!