Tagged: space

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?

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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!

Late Night Doodles

I am still working on my current novel set in the far future. More blog posts about that are forthcoming.

In the meantime I am jotting up ideas for new books. Here is one of my late night doodles: A Tribe of Mars. The idea is a group of colonists have to band together to survive Mars.

No his boots are not right, and I totally left the fingers out.

It’s a doodle.

What, you wanna fight about it!?

Enjoy!

ATribeOfMars

Until next time. . .

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. . .

 

Communication During the Editing Process

Update: the book is coming along swimmingly.

Part of the reason the recent editing of the book is going so well is the clear lines of communication between my editor and myself. Like any endeavor – writing, military operations, power plant maintenance, family – communication is key. I find over-communication tends to be better (though perhaps a little annoying) than under-communication.

Now I’m not going to write a whole lot on this. I am going to put a lot more into “A Tale of Two Editors – Part 2”. But it has been such a good experience that I wanted to cover it.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Throughout the whole editing process this last month, my editor and I have been in regular communication through phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.

Some people may think that this could become cumbersome, even annoying. At times my first reaction is just that.

But the high level of communication has allowed us to deconflict issues we’ve had, reschedule meetings without issue, and to verify next steps and expectations.

Talking through things has allowed my editor to have a much deeper grasp of where I want to go with my story, and the background to it. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable talking about all the nerdy stuff in my book. But the more I explain, the more my editor has been able to guide me in a better direction, and my book is really shaping up because of it.

Now Communicate Some More

I’m going to go back to the possibility of annoyance for a second.

I am very straight forward, concise, to-the-point kind of guy. I want the facts, and then to tackle the solution. I don’t need fluff or prolonged discussion.

Usually.

I quickly found that this would not work in this case.

First and foremost, while my editor and I have gotten to know one another better, we still really don’t know each other well. We have both had to learn to understand how the other operates, reads, and understands things.

While I am a straight to the point kind of person, my editor needs more discussion. That, and I found that greater discussion in greater detail was required so that my editor could really grasp what I am trying to do with my book. It was a bit of a mental stretch for me, but once I got past my mental block, my editor has come to understand my book better and, as I said before, has helped me change it for the better.

For example, I wanted to ensure that the culture of the Star Folk, the main peoples described in my book, had a lot of examples without just info dumping. Info dumps make the writing boring and interrupt the flow. At first I tried to describe this and my editor had a difficult time helping me. But once I described the culture more, where and how I wanted to describe it, and examples of info dumps, my editor was able to give me suggestions and help me brainstorm.

Softy

The issue with this kind of communication is it’s a soft skill. It’s more difficult to make it into a procedure, or to document a process.

I have to understand myself and how I communicate, and learn how the other person receives information, processes it, and communicates back. And I have to do this each time with different people, whether writing, at work, or with family and friends.

As many may know, it takes time, practice, and many iterations of trial and error.

Conclusion

Communication through the editing process has been key to helping my book become better. Sometimes the over-communication has at first seemed unnecessary, but I’ve learned it’s required if I want my editor to really be able to help me. Perhaps if I had done this more in the past, my book would be further along that it is.

The book is, in fact, coming along really well! I wouldn’t normally say that – I would say good, or decent, or it doesn’t quite suck. But I can honestly say the book is making some real leaps to something much more organized, professional, and almost ready for publishing. I will have more updates in the weeks to come.

Until next time. . .

We’ll Call This Progress

So I’ve made some decent progress on getting Ship Strike ready:

20140612_214646Box full of completed tiles, and some uncompleted. CSM added for scale.

20140612_214629Level 1 crates (all 21 of them) and tiles that I’ll work on tomorrow…along with my mess.

Progress seems slow. But I have to remember I’m the only one working on this.

That said, using foam core instead of cardboard has been a great improvement over the cardboard I was trying to scrap from boxes and packages we had lying around the house. Though not pristine, edges are cleaner. I printed the tiles onto cardstock instead of using graph paper, making the tiles themselves look cleaner.

So where do I go from here? First I will finish cutting the foam core and gluing on squares. I actually have doors and stuff so I need to make those, too. Then comes the really hard part: making cut-outs of the dudes (read: miniatures).

Dudes are important for this game.

They are sorta the focus.

Hard to play a miniature wargame without your dudes/dudettes. (Disclaimer: Ship Strike is an Equal Opportunity game)

I’ve considered purchasing and painting up some cheap minis from somewhere, but I’m not sure where to look and I’d hate to pitch this to a big company and have them look down on, or even reject, my game because I’m using someone else’s – perhaps even a competitor’s – models. I’m not sure what route to go there. If anyone with real industry knowledge/experience has input on that I would greatly appreciate it.

And then more playtesting. While I’ve firmed up the rules for the most part, and the troops for each faction are pretty tight, there is always room for improvement. And you  never know when something will come up where you and your playtesters will go,”What the deuce?!”

I have also decided to post the rules on the http://www.boardgamegeek.com forums.

Many people worry about piracy and having their idea stolen, and I had this worry, too. But Adam Ferrel, creator of the game Havok and Hijinks, made an excellent point on The Cardboard Republic podcast when he was asked about it. First, Adam stated that he didn’t believe piracy really existed. If someone snagged and played his game for free, oh well. But he made a much more important observation. He stated there are three types of gamers.

First, those who would never buy the game. They would print off his rules and cards and play for free forever. And he doesn’t care. He’s just happy someone is enjoying his game.

Which leads to the second category of gamer, those who will first play it for free, and then go out and purchase it. Whether they download and print everything themselves, or are introduced to the game by a will-never-buy-friend, this individual will, theoretically, become a customer.

And finally there is the gamer that will always buy the game to support the creator and to get all the cool stuff you don’t get when you print and play.

In Adam Ferrel’s mind, all three types of gamers are good for his game. Word of mouth and PnP gaming sessions will spread news of his game and increase its popularity.

I’m inclined to agree with Adam Ferrel.

The Ship Strike rules will be posted in the next day or so after I give them a once over and ensure the majority of spelling errors are corrected, and that any changes to rules/stats are updated in the official documents and not just my notes.

It’s all coming along, and I’m getting really excited about it! Playtests this weekend. I will update with pictures and results.

My Plan for US Economic Recovery: Go To Space

So I’m jumping from one nerdish topic – bodybuilding to be a Warhammer 40k Space Marine – to another one: space exploration. My ADD is kicking in. Let’s ride this train! WOO!

Okay so hear me out.

The US is having a hell of a time getting back on its feet. Manufacturing inside the US is down, unemployment is high, we’re lagging the rest of the developed world in education.

That said, according to CNBC today, jobless claims are down and durable goods orders are up: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49549215

It’s my opinion that this slight drop in jobless claims and increase in durable goods orders will be short lived, especially if we trip off the fiscal cliff, cueing $1.2 Trillion worth of spending cuts over the next decade, and an increase in payroll taxes (http://www.cnbc.com/id/49464221/).

This is bad, m’kay?

So how do we beat this fiscal cliff? How do we cushion ourselves from our ultra-bipartisan government’s (Reactionary Right AND Radical Left all included) inability to come up with a budget?

Legalize and tax marijuana!

Wait, no, that’s not what this post is about . . . though I think, while I do not smoke weed, this would be an intelligent decision, and then the government and businesses could treat it like alcohol (don’t drive or operate heavy machinery or weapons when you’re high, no showing up to work high, etc.). Plus think of the money the government would make on taxing it!

But I digress.

Let’s go to space! Seriously!

Seriously . . .

Why space, though, you may ask? Well here is my five points of why encouraging space travel, exploration, and colonization would save the US, perhaps even the world. (But the US first. ‘Merica!)

1. Jobs

Want to create jobs? Going to space is the key! You need to design the space craft. You’ll need engineers and their staffs for that. Then you need to build the space ships. You’ll need laborers, welders, electricians, machinists, and other skilled and unskilled labor. Designing and assembling the engines for these things is a task in and of itself. You’ll need programmers and computer scientists to get the computers and systems in the ships working properly. You’ll need administrative staffs to manage all these people, their pay, and the contracts and purchases that support them. You’ll have to secure these manufacturing plants, so security personnel will need to be hired. You’re going to want to have a foothold in space, so you’ll need to build, launch, and assemble space stations – and you’ll need all the labor and support personnel for that, too.

Then you’ll need space ship and space station crews to man these ships and space stations you build. You’ll need pilots, technicians, mechanics, engineers, computer specialists, and scientists from several disciplines. They’ll need training, and you’ll need trainers to train them. They’ll need facilities to train at, and your daily operations will need facilities, which will require construction workers, facilities management personnel, IT personnel, and even janitors. If you want on-site catered meals you’ll have to hire those personnel, or contract those services out – either way, jobs are being made to fulfill this requirement.

Want to build moon habitats? Need personnel for that. Stuff to go to Mars? Even more people.

The list of positions and specialities is very broad and I’ve only barely touched on them. The point being: a lot of people are required to get all of this done. Jobs will be created.

And as people go to space, the amenities they love on Earth will be wanted in space, and so other companies will follow. I know I’d want my Starbucks in the morning before going to work on a space station or moon colony, and I’d want internet connectivity to stay up on my news (and LOLcats).

This leads me to my next point-

2. Increase in Wealth for the Middle Class

Here’s an economic plan we can truly believe in (I have zero trust in Obama and his administration; my political quip for this post).

The increase in specialized, high skill jobs will lead to greater wealth in the middle class. Going to be working around fuels and explosives? Or a nuclear power plant for the ship, station, or colony? There’s added pay for that. Just because people are in space doesn’t mean government regulations about work and pay go away.

This is where government SHOULD step in: ensure that workers are treated fairly and pay is equitable both on Earth and out in space.

And I’m sure the new space companies will pay hefty salaries and wages to those who train, certify, and qualify on all the areas these companies need to cover – certain welding certifications, training on certain equipment, experience in programming systems for air/space craft, etc.

Some companies may even pay applicants to learn a new skill and/or job. Of course, this may come with a five year contract with the company. But a five year contract, with benefits, and annual or semi-annual raises? Probably starting at or around $25 an hour? (That’s really good in Nebraska. If it’s not good where you’re from, think about an equivalent wage. $35/hour? $45/hour? More?) It sounds like a good deal to me.

I caveat this with: I don’t like unions, and the space industry should strive to keep them out of the industry, and to attract union members out of unions with better benefits, 401(K)’s, IRAs/Roth IRAs, and wages. Who needs a union or some government organization to tell us we need to take care of our people? Good sense, and maybe a single article from Harvard Business Review can do that a hundred times better.

3. Increase in STEM Education

All of these space companies are going to need well educated workers. We don’t need to go to India or China to get them. We can get them, right here, in the US. The drive to space will drive schools to make the shift to the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines we need. Where the schools fail, the space companies could make up the short-fall with their own programs.

“Corporate funded schools are evil!” you say.

Not really, says I.

This is another place where the government could do a lot of good: tax credits to companies that run STEM-focused (though not exclusively STEM, gotta get history, government, and economics in there, and what about art?) schools that are low tuition or free, and if there is a tuition then give out scholarships to students in low income/impoverished parts of the United States. Amazing! Tapping into the untapped resources that reside in our low income neighborhoods/Section 8 housing. There ARE kids in those areas that want to excell! This would give them that chance! How can Democrats and Republicans NOT agree on this? (I’m sure there’s a way . . . unfortunately.)

Companies could also work together to set up classes and courses to give quality education and certification to high school and college level students to fulfill needs. It could be extended on the job training (OJT) with pay raises and bonuses based on milestones met, or number of job areas mastered both on paper and with experience.

Just ideas. Lots of ideas.

4. Taxes: Defeating That Fiscal Cliff

And now for an area the government can truly play its part: taxes.

We wouldn’t want to tax these companies too much. They’d just be starting out, just beginning to take man to space and help rebuild the economy. And I’m all for low taxes to stimulate the economy. But taxes must be levelled, none the less.

The increase in the number of people paying payroll tax would fill the US coffers, along with the corporate taxes the organizations themselves would have to pay.

There would also be licenses. The government would be right in validating the companies that are building these things. I’m sure there are already regulations in place that determine what Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Planetary Resources, and Bigelow Aerospace can and cannot do. This is an excellent place for government to be to ensure the safety of the workers, the general public, and the State(s)/country.

This does NOT mean the government decides it needs an influx of government workers. We’re supposed to be fighting the deficit, and by extension the fiscal cliff, not making it worse. I admit, a few, A FEW, government employees will need to be hired. It’s the nature of the beast. But not on the level that the government probably would hire.

“We need a thousand GS 12 and 13 level employees to oversee space!” They would scream.

Really? I mean . . . really!? No, no you don’t. *Rolls up a newspaper and hits the government on the nose with it.* That’s a bad government!

So the government would have to get a clue and be frugal about its hires, and allow the taxes that flow from these space companies to pile up. They would actually have to save money. They would be on an actual budget . . .

Craziness, I know.

5. Because It’s Cool and the U. S. of A. Rocks

Yes, this is really one of my legitimate points.

Going into space is awesome. Did you see the Space Jump the other day? You did? That’s awesome. Wouldn’t you like to do that? I DO! Wouldn’t you want to go to the Moon and Mars and explore places humans have never seen with their own eyes. I DO! Wouldn’t you want to see the Moon and Mars explored, colonized, and perhaps even terraformed?

I DO! I DO! I DO!

We all should. How cool would that be!? What an experience!

And we as Americans can do it. We have the ideas and innovation, the drive, and the vision to do it. We have the sheer number of people and resources to create these companies and put people into space. It is possible. It can be done. Just look at some of the companies out there: Space X, Armadillo Aerospace, Bigelow Aerospace, Planetary Resources, Virgin Galactic. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch.

People like John Carmack, Elon Musk, and Richard Bronson took the risk to go into space and succeeded. Sure, they could have failed, but they never would have known if they could or not if they didn’t try! (Yes, Sir Richard Bronson is British, but Virgin Galactics Space Port is here in the U.S. . . . ‘Mercia!)

Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo aside (WHY!?), the USofA is still great. We still have potential and we can still do amazing things. But we as Americans must stand up (off the couch) and take action.

Parting Thoughts

Writing this, I know I lack what I call for. I have no mechanical background. My STEM intelligence is low.

But I have the desire and drive to learn . . . and so far I’ve spent like $200 or more on rocketry books. Like one of my idols, John Carmack, I can teach myself. 🙂 And take some basic classes at the local community college.

My parting thought is that we are never too old to learn, and constant learning is part of constant self-improvement. And though I work hard to live by this principle purely for the sake of growing as an individual, in today’s world this is pretty much a requirement.

Until next time . . .