Extra Life!

My fiance and I have joined Extra Life, and Toronto has its own Guild as of last night, representing Sick Kids hospital.

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I won’t point out who I am, but I will point out someone far more important. See that kid up front holding all those beads? He’s a patient at Sick Kids, like I was when I was even younger than him. He’s fighting leukemia, and winning. Each bead represents a test or treatment he’s had to endure. We’re going to accomplish great things for kids like him.

Frontier Update #15: Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning…

It’s Saturday. I’m sitting here in my office watching my cat sleep soundly amid a beam of sunlight on the carpet floor. The desk is littered with paperwork from the two business that I run. I’m downing a protein shake. It’s unseasonably warm in the suburb north of Toronto, Canada where I live with my mother and little brother and I have the window cracked open. The latest season of House of Cards is streaming on my iPad next to me while my mom catches up on Daredevil in the living room.

“Your stats are booming! From The Frontier is getting lots of traffic.” the WordPress app on my iPhone tells me. I don’t believe it’s ever told me that before.

Because it was the last chapter that I’d just posted, I created a thread/advertisement on the Bungie forum, as well as a few subreddits. I’d done it a few times before but found no traction. This time, for some reason, was different.

“Your stats are booming! From The Frontier is getting lots of traffic.”

For the first time in 15 months and through the weekend I am awestruck and humbled by the responses. Some are dumbfounded as to why I’d spend so much time writing a fanfic. A few ask me for writing advice. 99% of the responses are either bumps or praise. One person only agrees to read it because of my K/d ratio. They’re devouring the story fast! I respond to as many of them as I can because if I don’t release some of the pressure, my heart is going to explode.

Praise. For me. For my work. I’m literally shaking my head as I write that. It’s hard to fathom at moments. My fiance asks me if I’m tracking the numbers. Six minutes pass during that convo, and in that time I got 19 views. I often go six days without 19 views! Is flabbergasted a real word? I’m flabbergasted. Sunday is bigger. Monday was bigger still with over 20,000 views and over 6,100 original visitors! PlanetDestiny.com just picked Frontier up a few hours ago. I can barely handle this…

“Your stats are booming! From The Frontier is getting lots of traffic.”

THANK YOU. So many thank yous to so many of you amazing guardians that I wish that there was a better word for what I’m feeling for you. I’m a writer, so shouldn’t I have better words?

People have compared my work to Bungie’s. I have nothing but respect for their creative team. Do I think my work could be translated to the game? Maybe. As is, I don’t expect Bungie to throw any attention my way. Know what? That’s OK. I’ve reached so many readers at this point that I don’t really need Bungie’s bump to feel acknowledged. Sure, I can dream of a Community Focus article, but I won’t lose sleep over it.

Someone compared me to Ian Banks and Frank Herbert, which just writing now makes me want to break down into happy tears. How anyone could put me into the same camp as those gods is beyond me.

How much do I like Frank Herbert? This is my back.

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Yeah. 6 1/2 hours. A symphony of pain. Worth it.

Now the question is, what happens next?

Firstly, Frontier is complete. It took me a long time to figure out how to wrap it up and I didn’t like the idea of having it open-ended. Frontier wasn’t the type of story and Warden were not the type of heroes that get to ride into the sunset. I needed to tie it up, without being bleak and outright killing fireteam Warden off. Going back now and reviving them wouldn’t sit well with me. I learned what a good death was after watching masterpieces like Cowboy Bebop and playing games like Mass Effect. Death has merit. Besides, I think they’ve earned some rest, don’t you?

Thanks to some great feedback I got on the Bungie forums, I’m going to format Frontier for ebooks. PDF, ePub and Mobi. It’ll make the story easier to read for a lot of people, not to mention having it available offline. I love my Kindle and I love the idea of having my story on it. I’m going to try and have them done as soon as possible. Please follow me on Twitter or subscribe to this blog so you’ll know when those formats are ready to be downloaded.

Two people asked for an audiobook, and while that sounds like so much fun to make for a former podcaster like myself, I simply don’t have the resources. That said, if there’s a group out there that makes audiobooks for fun, I’d be happy to talk to them.

Before I can do any of that, I need to go back and do some editing. The vast majority of you didn’t notice anything or didn’t say anything when you did, but the first 17 chapters are lousy with errors. I’m a horrible editor of my own work and Vasily coming on to edit after chapter 18 was such an enormous boon, but I never asked him to go backwards. Now it needs to be done. When I put out offline versions, they need to be as perfect as I can make them.

Also, I’ve asked Vasily to compile some of his own thoughts on the project, so expect that post in the near future.

If I’m going to write more at this point, I should be focusing on original work. I feel that while writing a fanfic is a great way to cut one’s teeth, in the end I’m just playing with Bungie’s ball. I can do better. Not that I hadn’t considered other fanfic projects. Overwatch has my head spinning at times. I came up with a dark, alternate universe Street Fighter story concept that I sometimes think might have an audience. I could always crank out a Dungeons & Dragons tale. But in the end those are still fanfics and still based on other people’s work. Frontier set up a lot of challenges for me and I met every single one. I can create something that is entirely original and build off what I learned from Frontier. I want to do it, but it’ll take some time.

My next writing project will be my wedding vows. Beyond that, I wouldn’t mind just taking in some other people’s work for a while. I’m eager for Patrick Rothfuss’ next book in the Kingkiller saga, and there are some story-driven games that I have yet to play because it would have taken me away from writing. I think I’ve earned a bit of a vacation, just like Warden has.

In the meanwhile, fire off any questions you might have for me in the comments section! Topics like Frontier, my thoughts on the world of Destiny, gaming, writing… I’ll be happy to answer you either in the comments, or as standalone blog posts!

Again, thank you. Thank you thank you thank you!

Frontier Update #13: A Few Hiccups, But Progress.

Greetings Guardians,

First things, no chapter this week. I’ve got the majority of it written, but closing it properly is a bit of a challenge. I’d rather not rush it. There’s also so much on my plate this week. It’s my birthday today, V-Day later on in the week, I’ve gone back to the gym, and my two businesses are demanding a lot of my mental fuel this week due to an investor summit all last weekend.

Good news is that I’ve done a remap of the final events of Frontier and it looks like chapter 51 will be the finally. Not far to go at all. All in all we’re going to close this thing around the 63,000 word mark. A small 200ish page novel, basically. I’ll let that sink in after it’s done.

In the meanwhile, feel free to go back and reread your favourite chapters and leave your comments on what you loved about them! In fact, feel equally free to go back to the chapters that you feel could have been better. I’m always happy to accept constructive feedback.

See you all next week!

Frontier Update #12: 2015/2016

Happy whatever you do! Do it well and with people who love you. Here we are at the end of 2015. Few things to go over.

Firstly, I bought TTK. Yeah, I said I wouldn’t. A good friend of mine got a PS4 as an early Christmas gift from his awesome wife, and he asked me to explain Destiny to him. That convo went something like:

“Yeah sure. You just… Um… I should come over. It’s complicated.”

So I did, and saw that I was the only person on his friends list. After hooking him up with a few clan contacts (big thanks to Knight of The Dawn to taking him in) I decided that I should get TTK to play with him.

It has been almost a month. Have we played? No. We’re busy people, which is part of the reason I didn’t want to buy TTK to begin with. Oh well.

Did I ever post my PSNID? It’s PsycheDiver. Friend me.

Moving on.

SRL. That was… interesting. Designing tracks and boosts specifically to keep everyone in a crazy pack and give everyone a chance of pulling out crazy wins made for an interesting beta. I’m going to call it a beta as much as the first few Iron Banners were betas. Live-testing ideas via the grinder of the Destiny community is really one of the best ways for Bungie to work stuff out.

Besides there being only two maps, I’d say it was fun. I played until I ranked up to 3 and completed the main quest, and by that time I had a almost-320 helm and almost-320 class items. Good enough for me. I also got a Lumos sparrow though to be perfectly honest I was hoping for a Sol Scout. I’m not complaining. The Lumos is cute.

What would I do to make it better? Obviously more maps is at the top of everyone’s list. Earth, Mercury and Saturn (on the outside of the Dreadnaught, please) are my hopes. I don’t care about The Moon because it’s just too grey for me, and I’m not sure how The Reef would have a map that wasn’t Rainbow Road from Mario Kart (or maybe you want that. Maybe I want that…).

Another thing I’d change would be a higher chance of sparrow drops, and new sparrows that include factions as well as sparrows that are not just trick-enabled but boostable ala Timebreaker. Some ship drops would be cool as, since this is Amanda Holliday’s thing. The horns are silly and can be done away with because nobody cares about them. I understand that SRL was deeply connected to micro-transactions, so I’m not sure if increased drop rates would be smiled upon by Bungie bean-counters.

Is there a way to make sparrows more interesting in the core game? If you have ideas, feel free to discuss them in the comments.

I’m excited for Iron Banner. My sub-300 light level may be an issue, but I am determined to get my loot. I’m expecting Mida to do well by me and I’m proficient in Control playlists.

TTK in general is enjoyable, though I have yet to go through the raid. The questing system and new focus on story is most definitely a step in the right direction, and I feel that things have been streamlined well.

As for Frontier, I’m still writing this thing. I have two chapters in the pipe for next week, and others in varied levels of drafting. I’m planning on getting a lot of it done over the next few weeks if I can tear myself away from Iron Banner. I estimate that I have less than 10 chapters to go in order to wrap this thing up, after which I’d post some final thoughts. After that, I don’t expect I’ll have much to do with this blog and I don’t expect that I’ll get a sudden surge of interest after it’s completed. I’ll leave the blog online indefinitely and if I decide to dedicate myself another story, I’ll let you know.

I am considering how I can let people know that the project is completed, or exists in the first place. There’s the usual Twitter contacts and Facebook groups, but Bungie’s attention is elusive at best. I can only imagine how things would change if I got a bump from them. I hesitate to cross into spamming territory. I don’t want to be that guy. On the other hand, it’s nearly impossible to get noticed by Deej or his kin. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

WordPress usually gives each blog a cool infographical breakdown of a blog’s performance at the end of the year, so I’ll share that. It’s usually quite interesting.

One last thing. If you’re reading this, I want you to know that you are loved. People don’t hear that nearly often enough. It may not feel like it every day but we all have a unique ability to spread love through our actions, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Please remember that.

Until next time.

Frontier Update #11: Life, Love and Video Game Fanfics

Things can get pretty complicated pretty quickly.

Back in July when I posted Update #8 I had things under control. I had enough time on my hands to finish this thing. Then I got engaged to the love of my life, quit my job, started two companies and began planning a wedding with my new fiance.

Not so much free time now, as you’d expect.

In fact I have not actually turned on my console since well before TTK launched. Still, I intend on finishing this project, even if it’s going to take me a bit longer.

Good news! Thursday was my new record for views (132) thanks to some kind words and bumps on some facebook Destiny groups. I post to a few active ones each time I publish but you never know who will see it and who won’t.

I was asked if I’ve tried to get Bungie’s eyes on my work and perhaps get myself on the community spotlight, but honestly I don’t see that going anywhere. Sure, I could spam Deej on Twitter, but honestly it would have to be a community effort and not just me. Perhaps when I’m done this thing I’ll give it a shot.

How about we delve into some behind-the-scenes thoughts!

***Spoiler alert! Please don’t read on until you’ve read up to chapter 30!***

Act 06 was the first step into the climax that I have planned for this saga. By this point most of the pieces I needed to complete my plan were in play. I’ve had a crack or two at writing large battle scenes but I needed some of the tone here to resemble the chaos and brutality of WWII movies. Storming the beach being held by an entrenched and endless foe. I’m not sure I really got that across but that was the intent.

Ultimately, this act was about breaking up Warden. Figuring out exactly how I was going to do this really didn’t end until I started actually writing. That happens sometimes. If you can force yourself to just write, things happen. What ends up on the page may be inspired or trash, but even if you have to start all over, you’ve got the wheels turning. Getting those wheels turning is often the hardest part of writing. In the end, having him die in a sacrificial manner seemed best to support the impetus of Vatyr and Telemica. And yes, once again there are some dead giveaways to where this is going if you’re a Dune fan.

Act 07 was the new normal. Some of my readers have noted that the new Guardian Arrenn Gee seems a bit stoic and fades into the background easily. That isn’t so writing him is easier, in fact I’ve noticed things are a little harder without a proper third wheel. What you’ve experienced is Arrenn’s character and there is a lot of purpose behind it, but you’ll have to wait to find out what that purpose is. And if you were wondering, yes, his name is a gag on RNG, but that in itself is also a clue to readers.

I’d like to talk about chapter 24. The mysterious conversation came out much better than I thought it would, to the point where not only did people understand just the right amount of what was going on, but actually wanted more. I’m going to attempt to write another chapter like that, but it’s a fine line to walk. These chapters are purposefully loaded to the brim with foreshadowing and if I give too many hints or arrange things in the wrong way, the story will be ruined. 24 took quite a while to get right so I’m hoping you’ll all be forgiving when it comes to more long stretches with no posts.

Let’s talk about sex and violence. Act 07 held two of the bigger challenges I’ve set for myself up in this project. The first was chapter 26 which was my first attempt at writing soft erotic elements.¬†Why go erotic at all? In my opinion, sex is a much an element of life as anything else, so avoiding it to me never really feels real. So did I go too graphic, or did it just come off silly? I have not really received much feedback on this so if you have any thoughts on the matter, please let me know. I did this for a few reasons. Firstly, I needed to anchor in the concept that Vatyr was being guided by a damaged heart. His devotions and secrets were all plainly coming to a head. Some may have noticed that Vatyr had a past with the Queen all the way back in chapter 12. I also wanted to paint Vatyr as a bit of a reckless rogue when it came to taking risks in the interests of what he cared about, which takes us to the violence in chapter 29. Originally, I planned on a simple hard-vacuum knife fight between Vatyr and Uldren, but after trying to write something as kinetic as that, it seemed to fall very flat. I’ve noticed that in most novels, melee fights are very short because it’s exceedingly difficult to write them in an entertaining way if they last more than a few swings. Also, there was the issue that I couldn’t kill either character. I had planned for the Queen to intervene at the last moment, but that would not have given me the resolution that I needed to progress. I didn’t actually plan on having Vatyr save Uldren until I was halfway into writing the chapter and began to add the gravity elements.

***End of spoilers***

That’s it for now. On to Act08! Hoping to find some time in very early November to sit down and hammer out some words. Ask whatever questions you’ve got in the comments section, and spread the word if you can.

Frontier Update #10: Time To Mature

I’ve been keeping a very close eye on all the news leading up to The Taken King, and while I’ve been pleased with what has been presented, I find I can’t bring myself to buy in.

Will I continue to play Destiny at this juncture? No.

I watched the Twitch reveal. TTK looks great, and Bungie seems to be not just correcting some (not all) of the narrative-killing choices they made in the final year before launch of vanilla Destiny, but also appear to really be taking player criticism to heart. That all said, I can’t justify the price at this time. Beyond that, I simply don’t crave it in the way I feel I should.

Am I giving up on Destiny? No.

I know there are millions of people who will be playing TTK so Destiny 2 in 2016 is a pretty sure thing, given that IPs of this nature and profitability don’t exactly spring up often. TTK will prove to Bungie (and Activision) that the narrative-driven game that we all wanted will move product just as much – if not more than – the competitive-focused game we were sold last year. At the same time, having player actions be a much more determining factor for loot and progression will prove to not detract from the game’s day-to-day longevity. From there, Destiny 2 has a decent chance to become the game vanilla Destiny was intended to be.

I also expect Destiny 2 to ditch PS3/Xbox360 support. This is a good thing, as the majority of technical hurdles that we’ve had to contend with in the current iteration of Destiny can be traced back to that support. Creative programming can only take Destiny so far and by now I don’t think it’s silly to suggest that the “next-gen” consoles of Xbox One and PS4 have become “current-gen”.

In essence, I’m giving Destiny time to mature.

So, I’ll continue to keep an eye on Destiny and hope that Destiny 2 will be an offering that fully rekindles my desire for this IP.

Back to writing.

Frontier Update #9: Enter @Volk37

Back in the days that I was writing professionally, I was known as someone who put the copyeditors through shit. Whatever skill I may or may not have in writing, I have a horrible eye for grammar editing. I doubt that’ll ever change, so I’ve always been happy to find some people message me with grammar errors that I’ve missed.

Vasily Prokhorov (@Volk37 on Twitter, VPT Volk 37 on Xbox) has been possibly my most loyal and engaging fan, as I can thank him for the vast majority of comments left on this blog as well as retweets on Twitter. Recently, he offered to help me edit my chapters before I post them as well as offer whatever feedback he can to improve the pieces. It would be foolish of me to say no, so please thank him for cover up English not good.

On with the show.