Tagged: geek

Post-Apocalypse Writing Prompt

Written May 2016.
It’s 50 years in the future, and the world is at war. Luckily, when the nuclear bombs dropped, you had a bomb shelter under your house to hide out in. When your monitors tell you it’s safe to go outside a year later, what do you find? Who is still alive? Have the plants and animals been affected by the radiation? What will you do now that the world has totally changed?

(500 words or fewer) [I went over the 500 word limit.]

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I wake to the shrill chime of the monitor inset within the bunker’s triple thick metal door. Springing from the stiff mattress atop the thin metal bed frame, I see the monitor is green –glorious, spirit-lifting green! After a year of silent red, the green lights are a joyous sight. Hetzer, my Norwegian Elkhound, hops up from his spot next to my bed, and he barks at the door monitor’s incessant ringing.

Part of me doesn’t believe it. Something deep down tells me this isn’t real. My heart leaps as I close the distance and read the monitor’s glowing face.

The air up above is clean.

The radiation is gone.

It’s safe to come out.

Silencing the monitor’s chime I turn and look at Hetzer with a smile.

“Ready?” I ask.

Hetzer’s happy bark and wagging tail is all the confirmation I need.

I trot back over to the metal framed bed and pick up the cargo pants I tossed there the night before, and pull on a dirty t-shirt that used to be white. Plopping down on the stiff mattress I pull my gray hiking boots out from under the bed. The socks I wore two days ago – or was it a week ago? – are stuffed inside the boots, and I pull them on before stuffing my feet into the boots. With boots tied I make my way back across the drab, gray bunker and to the door.

Always ready, I grab the semi-automatic rifle hanging just next to the door. The last days before the bombs dropped were dark, and Hetzer and I only survived because of my diligence and a few well-placed shots with my rifle. Many others were not so fortunate. Too many. I pick up two magazines full of ammunition off the floor and slide them into the right cargo pocket of my pants.

Then, I place my hand on the door’s latch. I could have had a digital system installed, but if that had failed I would have been stuck in thisbunker with no way to escape. The giant wheel above the door monitor squeals and screeches from a year of disuse as I turn it. Behind me, Hetzer shuffles back and forth, anxious to leave the tight confines of the bunker.

One last, loud screech, and the door pops open.

I hold my breath, hoping that the bunker’s sensors are telling the truth, but warring with the dread that the sensors failed and in the next few seconds I would be dead.

Suddenly, a cool breeze wafted into the bunker, bringing with it fresh air.

The smell of the fresh was delicious, the sensation on my nostrils and in mouth like lemon gelato on a hot summer day.

I take the first step out the door and up the stairs. Hetzer, though so excited he can barely keep it contained in his furry body, waits for me, his master, his Alpha, to go first, and then trails close at my heels. As I ascend the steps I see above us the sky is black and clear. Billions of stars twinkle in the night sky, and the full moon is at its apex.

I reach the zenith of the stairs, my heart fluttering with excitement.

I am greeted by destruction.

The small neighborhood I lived in is gone. The only proof there ever was a neighborhood here are the foundations of homes and roads being slowly overtaken by nature. My house is gone, too. Only the bunker, what used to be the basement, is all the remains of the place I called home for so many years.

The neighborhood I lived in sat atop a hill overlooking most of the city, and now I stare at what remains. What was once the epitome of suburbia is now an empty, grass covered field. Here and there the crumbling skeletons of a few buildings remains. Far in the distance at the city’s heart stand the rotted, bombed out corpses of skyscrapers.

The silence overwhelms and presses in on me. Though Hetzer stands loyal by my side I feel the crushing weight of loneliness.

Another emotion wells up within me: hope.

Other people had to make it to other bunkers, I assume as the logical portion of my mind takes over. There have to be others out there.

With that shred of optimism beginning to take root and grow within me I step forth into this new land, Hetzer always beside me.

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When Ideas Strike

Today, Saturday, I had to work my full-time job. Such is the nature of the beast.

And while I was working, ideas for the latest book began to flow. Scenes, dialogue, effects of those scenes and dialogue.

As I worked I thought, “I’ll remember that.”

Morgan Freeman narrating my life: “He did not remember that.”

That’s over exaggerating. I remember some of the thoughts I had as I toiled away today. But not all of it. The vague memories of the ideas I had pale in comparison to when they leapt into my head. They were mighty bucks that strode into the clearing of my mind, only to be scared by the hunter who coveted them, and they dashed away.

So now I have a process to capture these ideas. A little notebook where I’ll jot scenes, feelings, colors, smells, dialogue, and background once the idea strikes. These great, fleeting stags, difficult to catch, will be mine for the taking.

What do you use to capture the ideas that flit through you mind?

The Hero’s Journey

We’ve all heard about the archetypal hero’s journey and the steps involved:

  • Ordinary world
  • Call to adventure
  • Refusal of the call
  • Meeting with the mentor
  • Crossing the first threshold
  • Tests, allies, and enemies
  • Approach the inmost cave
  • The ordeal
  • Reward
  • The road back
  • The resurrection
  • Return with the elixir

There are many iterations of this, but this is the one I’m most familiar with.

In August of this year (2019) I attended Paleo f(x), and had to opportunity to hear Aubrey Marcus, CEO of Onnit, talk about the hero’s journey as it applies to us and the mind.

And my mind was opened.

I don’t know why, but the hero’s journey had always been a physical thing to me. Luke Skywalker leaving Tattoine to fight the Empire. Beowulf fighting Grendal.

But Aubrey talked about the hero’s journey as it applies to the mind and personal self-improvement.

The ideas for stories blossomed in my head.

Of course, when given the chance to shake hands with Aubrey I blubbered like and idiot. “I like your gym and your supplements. . .”

IDIOT!

But the seed of an idea Aubrey offered is still planted in my mind, and it’s being applied to the two books I’m working on now. The second book I’m writing takes the largest influence from the Hero’s Journey for mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the characters. While the physical realm is important in stories, the mental or spiritual journeys have added a whole new dimension to my works.

How have you encountered the hero’s journey mentally, physically, spiritually, or emotionally in your life?

The Challenges of Writing

I am 16,500 words into my second novel. The next 60,000 words should be easier.

SHOULD be. . .

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to write with work and family?

I go to work for eight hours a day and my mental capacity is utilized for the job. I meet with people, work through problems, and coordinate activities. After eight hours of that in some sequence or another I’m mentally spent!

Then I commute home and pick up my children. They are the joy of my life, and like all children take their toll on mental capacity, too. They’ve had problems at school with friends and teachers and they are seeking guidance. Then they fight with their sibling, and I have to step in and provide correction and more guidance.

I wouldn’t give up my children for the world. I’d like to keep my current job, too.

But then I go to write – what has been my passion and joy for years – and the words refuse to flow. I stalk from my front room to my dining room, and up the stairs to my study, trying to work out scenes, conflict, reactions, and feelings in each chapter. Yet the words themselves resist my call to come forth.

Some authors talk about writing preparation, or warm-ups they do where they write about something other than their book. But when you’re a single father with a full time job and two high energy kiddos, sitting down at 8:30PM/9PM at night leaves little time to “warm-up” before bed and 5-7 hours later I’m up again getting ready for work before I have to wake up my kids.

But we strive on, right? For our passion? For our hope that we can provide our children a better future while doing something we absolutely love? To be published and, hopefully, have someone read our book and have it positively change their life in some way?

So, once more, into the breach!

Favorite Weapons in Science Fiction and Fantasy

SFSignal recently ran an article asking several authors what their favorite weapons in sci-fi and fantasy were.

Lightsabers were brought up the most, while swords, and even characters were mentioned. It’s a pretty cool article (for we geeks) and I highly recommend reading it.

It got me thinking: what are MY favorite science fiction and fantasy weapons? I read and watch a lot of science fiction – and some fantasy. As I read the article on SFSignal it got me thinking through TV shows, books, games, and comics.

Favorite Science Fiction Weapons

Honestly there are too many to count. SciFi is where I spend most of my time. But I narrowed it down to four of them. While some may flex the definition to include vehicles, mecha, or power armor, I kept the definition of weapon pretty narrow to specific weapon systems.

Battletech Particle Project Cannon (PPC) – The PPC, and later the Clan extended range (ER) PPC was one of the most devastating ‘Mech/tank weapons in the game. Because it was energy based it didn’t need any reloads. While it created a lot of heat, most ‘Mechs could handle it and PPCs were the end of many an enemy ‘Mech in games. Just the thought of man-made lightning slicing through and blowing up armor is awesome!

PPC

Command and Conquer GDI Ion Cannon – I’ve been playing C&C since I was very young, and I love the original game even today. While The Brotherhood of NOD was fun to play, GDI had the orbiting satellite ion cannon that we lovingly termed “God’s middle finger” and would sew destruction across the battlefield.

169209-command-conquer-tiberian-sun-windows-screenshot-shooting-with

Warhammer 40k Heavy Bolter – Sure, the standard bolter in WH40k is an awesome staple, but I’m a heavy weapons lover, and the heavy bolter is a death-dealing masterpiece. And it just looks cool.

Heavy_Bolter_UM_1

Firefly – Jane’s Gun “Vera” – Jane has to be my favorite character from Firefly, and his tricked out beast of a gun “Vera” just looks cool. Though I lose geek points for not knowing whether or not he actually got to use it in the series.

jayne_cobb_vera

Fantasy

This one is a little harder. I don’t normally delve into fantasy these days. There are, of course, swords and axes galore. But specific weapons are harder for me to identify.

The Cinder Spires Crystal Gauntlets – In the first book in Jim Butcher’s new series “Aeronaut’s Windlass” the militaries of the spires have crystal gauntlets that fire magic. These are handy and very cool, not to mention the battle scenes with them are fantastic.

71Vbrfe4SaL

The Hobbit “Sting” – When I was very young I watched the animated “The Hobbit” movie and was immediately hooked on the fantasy genre. The sword “Sting” holds a special place in my heart. Later I would read the book, and I still thought Sting, though really just a long dagger/short sword was still a fine weapon. Plus the blue glow early-warning orc detection feature is quite nice.

rotk-1-1204-sting-found

Warhammer Fantasy Warsword of Khaine – The only books I enjoy from Warhammer Fantasy, and the series I’ve read three times now, the tales of Malus Darkblade have to be the best. The action and adventure, not to mention the dark plot really draw the reader in. The Warpsword of Khaine had the ability to keep Tz’arkan the Slaanesh demon at bay, and was a blood thirsty blade that drove Malus to kill more. My kinda sword.

Warhammer_Malus_Darkblade_Throne

 

What are YOUR favorite science fiction and fantasy weapons?

Until next time. . .

 

Geekery – Eisenhorn: Xenos Video Game by Pixel Hero Games

I don’t get to play a lot of video games these days. We have one TV in our home, and we work very hard to keep the kids’ screen time below 1 hour per day. In fact, that’s why we are moving our youngest to a new daycare that does zero screen time, while the current daycare has them watching movies 2+ hours per day. No 1 or 2 year old needs that much screen time.

But I digress.

Every now and again I will log in to my Steam account on my desktop (gaming computer) in order to play a quick game of Running With Rifles or Terreria, or hop on the Xbox One and knock out 30-45 minutes of Far Cry: Primal or Destiny.

Recently I was introduced to the most amazing game ever! (Well maybe not ever. But it’s pretty darn cool.) Pixel Hero Games has debuted Eisenhorn: Xenos, based off the best selling Warhammer 40K trilogy by Dan Abnett.

Eisenhorn

To really kick off this post, Abnett was the author that got me stuck in to Warhammer 40k, and the Eisenhorn Omnibus was the first Warhammer 40K book I purchased. I was immediately drawn into the world with Xeno, Malleus, Hereticus. And Abnett’s writing took me on a wild adventure with Gregor Eisenhorn and his Inquisitorial retinue. Every page had me on the edge of my seat, and I wrapped up the Eisenhorn Omnibus in just under two weeks. (Which reminds me I need to read it again.)

eisenhorn-01

The video game Eisenhorn: Xenos is true to the book. The story in the game follows right along with the book, with battle scenes and sneaking around. And Pixel Hero Games delivered on the Grimdark goodness of the Warhammer 40k universe. The environments are well built, and there are even times when one can look into the far distance.

05

Gameplay is very linear. You are playing the story of Gregor Eisenhorn and his team straight out of the books. Some on the internet have complained about this. I won’t because I love it. In a world full of sandbox gaming, Eisenhorn: Xenos is refreshingly thematic.

There are also the complaints of last-generation graphics. Apparently it was also made to be played on the iPad? Again, not a big deal for me. Is it not the latest and greatest realistic graphics of newer games? It isn’t. I don’t care. It plays very well and is fun. That’s right, it’s fun without the latest graphics. Shocking, I know. I honestly don’t need the latest graphics for all my games. If I wanted Eisenhorn: Xenos to be super realistic and HD, I would demand they just make the movie/HBO series. The graphics in the video game work great for me.

The third-person-shooter set-up works well. I just got an additional person in my party, and the AI is pretty good. As you work through the game you gather gold which you can use to buy better weapons and such. Combat is real time, and you can use Gregor’s sword or gun/bolt pistol/etc. Of course, Eisenhorn is a psyker, and you are able to use some of his psychic abilities as you play and fight.

So far I am about 5% into the game. (I bought it last week. This should signal just how much time I actually have to play video games between work and family commitments.) I cannot wait to play further into the game, and see what else Pixel Hero Games has done with the universe of Warhammer 40k and with Gregor Eisenhorn’s story!

Have you played through the whole game yet? What are your thoughts on it?

Until next time!…

Geekery – My First Game of Dungeons and Dragons

Before last Wednesday (February 17th) I had never played a Tabletop RPG.

I had played plenty of video game RPGs. The Final Fantasy series. Skyrim. Balder’s Gate. World of Warcraft. Warhammer Online. Just to name a few.

And of course I’m a tabletop game player. Battletech, Warmachine, and Infinity are just some of my favorites. I’ve played Star Trek: Attack Wing, and the Star Wars fighter game. And I love board games like Takenoko.

But tabletop RPGs never attracted my attention. Maybe some of this was the stigma of the people who played tabletop RPGs – then again that same stigma is attached (or at least used to be) those who play miniature war-games.  For whatever reason I was just never interested in getting into tabletop RPGs.

That changed recently – and by recently I mean GenCon 2014. I decided I’d try to get RPG’ing a shot and went to a Shadowrun character creation seminar at GenCon ’14. It was interesting but I really should have gone to a RPG session seminar. While waiting to start the seminar I was talking to three guys that had just wrapped up playing some D&D 5th edition. At that time 5th edition was relatively new and they were ecstatic about it. On top of that, they broke the tabletop-RPG’er-mold. They looked like normal bros doing bro stuff. And if they were down for D&D, then I could be down, too.

Fast forward a little over 18 months later and my gaming group has been disbanded for a while. I was being a bad member myself and, though I paid my dues, I was not attending with any regularity. Other members were going regularly – but not paying dues. And overall the group had shrunk and money in the war chest wasn’t matching rent for the store front. The gaming group closed, and I was left flapping in the wind, tabletop game-wise.

Within the last two weeks I had begun to adamantly look for a new gaming venue. I need tabletop gaming like some people need to watch their favorite shows weekly. It’s both an escape, and a mental exercise that keeps my mentally sharp. Previewing the events at the local game shop (called The Game Shoppe) here in Bellevue, NE I saw there were D&D demo games every Wednesday. After about a year and a half, I was ready to try a tabletop RPG.

My wife lovingly gave me a lot of crap for it. 🙂

And so, February the 17th I ventured into the cold Nebraskan night to try Dungeons and Dragons.

Overall it was fun. I created a human barbarian named Lothar (of the Hill People) and played with two other people who had low-level characters. Our DM was asked by his group at the last minute to be the DM for the newer, lower level players, and so he was unprepared and had trouble reading the quest notes on the tablet he was using. But we killed some wild dogs and saved a tiefling adolescent, and killed some red-furred goats. I got 100XP out of the whole ordeal. The other players seemed like good guys and we quested decently together.

The group was very inviting and helpful. They offered assistance and resources (like miniatures and pencils) freely and made sure I generally felt welcomed.

I plan to go back this coming Wednesday in order to get more experience. Hopefully things are a little more organized and our DM a little more prepared, or at least ready to DM on the fly. If not, I can watch the group play and see how they play.

Next I may get into Battletech: A Time of War RPG. Who knows?

And if you’re in the Bellevue, NE area and want to game let me know!

Until next time!…