NaNoWriMo Week #3 – Race to the Finish Line

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Another week gone by! Last week we discussed the eventual brick wall of NaNoWriMo, the writer’s block and lack of enthusiasm that was once had.

Although things haven’t picked up to the point it was at the beginning of the month, work has gotten done, writing has been accomplished, and I’m happy to announce that I have achieved the goal I set for myself last week, clocking in at the time of this post at 35, 206 words and 173 pages!
Ten days to do fifteen thousand words… I can assure you, it will be achieved!

After NaNoWriMo, the book will still be in production.  As I’ve said before, the event is to get you writing something, not necessarily the next great American novel. So once the framework is completed, the first bout of revisions and edits will take place. Making sure everything flows well, the character and plot development steady and understood, and grammatical mistakes brought down to a minimum.
After that, I’m going to release it to a test group of sorts. Men and women of different ages so I can get a glimpse into the opinions of a broad range of people.

But as of now, the writing is going well. It has been a bit scattered, I’ll admit, and it certainly hasn’t remained constant. There will be days where I don’t write at all – but usually I can come back the next day and power through a few thousand.
If everything goes according to plan, I’d like to have five thousand written collectively today and tomorrow, than on Saturday do a 10k sprint to the finish line.
Of course, plans change, and your level of determination fluctuates, but I know it can be done.

All of my characters have been (hopefully) well established, I think I’ve got a unique personality set for each of them, and a good broad range at that. Chapter after chapter, I am truly enjoying see the events unfold in front of me – although it is my fingers typing, it doesn’t my brain has caught up to the ideas. It is amazing how you can surprise yourself with your own twists!
Also, to breathe another bit of “realism” into your characters, if you own one of the Sims games, try to create your characters in the editor. It’s one thing to imagine them, but another to see them there in front of you. Although it will be more of a cartoon caricature of your character rather than your true vision, it’s a good little exercise.

Something I would like to mention before I close out, is that yesterday I came across a very nice app that may be of interest. Write-O-Meter is an app that I got for my Android phone, not sure if it is on iPhone or not, but what it does is allow you to set a daily word goal, a complete, overall word goal, and a deadline to complete it by. Then it sets a timer, (automatically set to 25 minutes but it can be adjusted), in which you have to write in. You input your daily word count, and it motivates you to keep moving forward, with quotes from other writers and artists, a little reward system which I found rather arbitrary  and ignored for the most part, and plus it’s rather rewarding to keep track of your daily writing and see the word count grow.

The 30th is approaching quicker and quicker, and pretty soon we’ll blink and it’ll be here. It’s time to get cracking, buckle down and write faster than we have before. I believe today was the day to start validating your novel and win, so let that be your inspiration to get it down.
Good luck to all who are still writing as hard as they can, congratulations to all the current winners, and I hope to see everyone on the other side!

See you Thursday.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 3:04 PM

NaNoWriMo Week #2 – Playing Through the Pain

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Here we are again, Thursday and another NaNoWriMo update! We’re a little under halfway through – and it’s going well. Things are progressing at a decent rate, ideas are flowing if only at a trickle, and things are getting done.

As of now, my story The Bright Side to the Dark Arts is at 24, 313 words out of the 50k, and I’m at 97 pages. It’s by no means close to being finished, but I think my protagonist has been established well, I think my universe is being thoroughly explained, and I’ve introduced the main villains of the story. The story is doing well, but I’ve started to hit the one thing all NaNoWriMo participants know all too well:

The brick wall.

Excitement is running thin. The great big burst of energy you had at the beginning has depleted. Your ideas are either out, or you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.
This happened to me this week. While I’m above the average word count at the moment, there are some days were I don’t write at all and that’s a problem.

Like I mentioned last week, this is really about quantity over quality. The quality control comes later, as of right now we just need to type words onto a document as fast as we can.
That doesn’t mean do whatever you can to make it good – it just means don’t try to stop and fix whatever you think has gone wrong. Go with the flow, write continuously and see where it takes you. After the event, if you still don’t like it you can make the necessary changes… just don’t let it slow you down during November.

But despite the extra effort it has started to take me to sit down and begin to write, I play through the pain. I need to finish this story, for myself, for NaNoWriMo, for the future of my writing career. Writers have one job: To write, and if I can’t do that then I’m kinda out of luck.
So I throw down words, and I come up with ideas from the top of my head, and I take the story places I didn’t think of going five minutes ago.

I give myself an amount of words, and I refuse myself sleep until I get that far. It may seem drastic, but desperate times call for despite measures, eh?
It may get harder by the day. As the hours fly by, as the days fall away, and as the weeks pass… you may grow more and more apathetic to the event.
I implore you to not let that happen. Write something brilliant. Re-find the magic that the story had a week ago. Find a way to fall back in love with your characters.
Remind yourself why you committed this in the first place. Remind yourself who you’re doing it for. And let that be the only thing that matters.

And if making actual additions to your story just isn’t working out, then get a sheet of paper, a pencil, and do some chapter plotting. Think of a couple ideas, make some plans, and see if you can turn that into some feasible later on. I know that chapter plotting and outlines can help me immensely in a down period of writing.

But one last tip… whatever you do, DON’T try to work on another story. This is the month to create one story, and immerse yourself in that world. If you try to go away from that, it’ll be even harder when you return. Let yourself be engulfed by that chosen universe, and make it as substantial and realistic as you can. It’s your world, you are the creator, so go do something great.

I’ll be back next Thursday for another update. My goal for next week? Hit 35k by the next update. If I can do that, everything will be great, and I think that it’s possible.
For more frequent updates, you can follow me at https://twitter.com/ThePlebianSheep.

Have a great day, a great week, and keep on writing!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:32 PM

Violence and Video Games

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*WARNING – Rant alert. This post is rated T for light profanity.*

I am an avid gamer. I enjoy many different genres, everything from Super Mario, to The Elder Scrolls, The Sims, Bioshock… I’ve been a gamer for a long time, because it is a great way to immerse yourself in another world and explore the medium. It kills times. It is relaxing. But all in all, it’s just a fun hobby.
For years, there have been activists complaining about the violence in video games. I believe the first case of this was with the original Mortal Kombat in 1992, and suddenly the ESRB was born.
Many games have had controversy over the years. From Mortal Kombat, to Wolfenstein 3D, to Doom, which was played heavily by the two perpetrators of  the Columbine High School shooting. Hell, even Sims 2 had some controversy because there were claims that underneath the pixelation of your Sims bodies, there were highly detailed genitals and the like. (Which was proven false by EA, they simply look like Barbie dolls underneath the pixelation.)

There are claims that video games instigate violence. Games such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Saints Row, and a multitude of other first person shooters and fighting games are targeted everyday to try to support these claims. People say that these games encourage and promote violence and murder.

And I’m here to tell you, that yes. I agree with that. I agree that video games cause violence… just as much as any television show, music, or movie can, to an unstable person.
ANYTHING can ignite that violent spark inside of a person. It doesn’t even have to be entertainment.

But here’s what makes me furious… parents and so-called activists want to blame the developer and the game for the violent nature? I’ve heard people who want anyone that worked on a certain game in a prison cell! And that is where I want to blow up.
These people make games for a certain demographic. That is why the ESRB is there in the first place! You have your nice E rated games, and T rated games… but some companies make mature games for adult audiences.
It is not legal for a kid under 17 to purchase an M rated game. In fact, most video game stores treat it as if it were cigarettes or alcohol. They card the kid, and reject the purchase if underage.

So usually, it is the PARENTS that buy the games for the kids, not paying attention or not caring that it says right there on the bottom left corner that it is a MATURE GAME.
Or… the other situation, is that a kid buys a game from a friend, or someplace that doesn’t sell them retail, and the kid takes it home and plays it without parental consent.
Sorry to break it to the parents, but a kid playing a game behind their back ISN’T THE DEVELOPER’S FAULT. It is the kids fault, for doing it without permission, and it is the PARENT’S FAULT for not paying attention and checking up on the kid!

How many times do I hear from my 12-year-old brother about his friends playing Grand Theft Auto. A good game, yes, but an undeniably violent one, one made for people my age and up. If you don’t want your child to be exposed to violence of that proportion… don’t try to stop mature adults who know right from wrong from being able to have a little fun. Don’t blame the developer because a game for adults got in your child’s hands without you knowing.

There is a site that simply makes me furious. It’s called commonsensemedia.org. Type in an adult game. Grand Theft Auto V for instance, a game with drugs, sex, torture, murder, criminal activity… and the site’s personal review clearly states that the game is not for kids.
But… you scroll down further, and you see the spot where parents and children put in what age THEY think is appropriate…

ADULTS SAID 12 YEARS OLD.
The children? At least they put it two years higher at 14!

THIS is the problem! There were a couple of people who rated it not for kids, and I applaud them, but the parents who think that their 12-year-old child is ‘mature enough’ is full of crap!
I saw people rating it okay for ten-year olds… eight year olds… I’m really sorry, but WTF is wrong with these people?!?! You have people complaining that violent video games are ruining our children’s heads, but they don’t want to look at sites like this at see the source?! They don’t want to realize that it is the PARENT’S who allow their children access to these violent games at such an early age?!

No. They don’t. They just always want someone else to blame. They let their kids shoot people in the head in a game, and then blame the company who made the game when the kid goes out and does it in real life… instead of pointing the finger and themselves and their own bad parenting.

Here’s a little tip, for all parents. E is for everyone, everyone can play… and the T for Teen rating? That can be flexible. If you have a mature child, let them enjoy some T rated games.
But no matter how mature your child seems to be… there is never a threshold of maturity to play an M rated game. You have to be 17 to buy the games, so a kid should at least be 16 before playing them.

And we wonder why we have such a violent culture. Kids are allowed these things to enter their head at such a young age, and it’s all they’ve ever known. Games are made more violent for older people because it is people of those ages that can understand not to take it seriously.

And the same thing goes with any other form of entertainment… R rated movies, or MA rated television… elementary school kids shouldn’t be watching Family Guy. I shouldn’t be sitting in a theater watching an R rated flick and turn my head to see a kid, maybe seven years old, eyes fixated on the violence.

I’m not telling anyone how to parent. You go ahead and do whatever the frick you want too. Expose your kids to all of the violence and sex you feel.
But what I am telling you to do, is if your kid happens to do something. If something goes wrong… take the responsibility as a mature adult, and not try to shove the blame in the arms of someone who makes video games, movies, television shows… for adults.

And (before I start going off on another rant) that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:05 PM

Doctor Who ‘Death in Heaven’ Review

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It’s over. Season 8, with all of its ups and downs… is over. And it went out with a bang, that’s for sure.
Let us talk about ‘Death in Heaven’.

Spoilers ahead.

The word ‘Death’ in the title certainly is justified. There is a lot of death in this episode, and in fact most of the time it’s engulfed in a depressing grey tint. I’m not going to summarize  the entire episode. Instead, I’m going to list the things it did right, and the things I thought were wrong. The episode itself was good, and the finale as a whole was great.
But there are certainly some grievances to be had. First off, though, here is what’s to like.

  1. More references and throwbacks than Day of the Doctor. From a Mondasian cyberman head, to the Brigadier, and a mention of Jenny. This had a lot of good stuff thrown in.
  2. Loose ends were tied up… mostly. The remaining threads from Matt Smith’s era were finished, and the few that season 8 brought up were nice and tied. They happened to untie a thread from season four, and then retied it back up again here. Even though we know the show is connected to previous seasons, it’s nice to know that they remember.
  3. Missy. Played by Michelle Gomez, I can’t think of anyone else that could have embodied that madness like she did. As much as I want to hate her… she is a great character. Insane and aware of it. She’s a lot like a female John Simms.
  4. The acting. There is a lot of chemistry between all of these characters, and it really helps make it real.
  5. Emotions. My eyes got watery twice here. Because of number four, I was really able to feel what was going on, and mourn with them, and smile with them.

Put simply, it was good episode. Pacing was good, acting was good, plot was good and the conclusion was good… if a little bit rushed. Now, I’m going to give you some of the bad points to this episode.

  1. Wasted opportunities. At the beginning of this episode, it’s revealed that when Clara says to the cyberman, “I’m not Clara Oswald, Clara Oswald never existed!”, she follows it up with “I’m the Doctor.”, and the theme music plays with Jenna Coleman in top billing and her eyes going across the screen. I have never before wanted a female Doctor, but done this way… I really did. I wanted Clara to reveal herself to have always been a future incarnation of the Doctor who went back in time to save her/himself, and that Capaldi was really the Valeyard. I thought that some of the dialogue in ‘Flatline’ was perhaps foreshadowing this, with Clara being a good Doctor and all. Or maybe, because ‘good’ had nothing to do with it, Clara would have been the valeyard, insuring her/his own survival for his later plans.
    I don’t know… all in all, they really could have fit a lot more twists in there. Missy being the Master, while shocking to hear out loud, was rather obvious. They could have gone further.
  2. Wasted opportunities. Danny is gone, as far as we know. He was a great character to me, and I wanted him and Clara to ride around in the TARDIS ala Rory and Amy or Ian and Barbara. I thought that was where it was going, with them both being Coal Hill teachers and all. But no, Danny got turned into a cyberman, and sacrificed his only way of getting back for a little kid he killed during war. Danny and Clara worked well together, and I wanted that dynamic to be inside the TARDIS, and with the Doctor. Guess that’s not happening.
  3. Wasted opportunities. I sure as hell hope that Missy isn’t really dead. A great character, too good to be gone after one season. Here, I thought maybe the Doctor would try and take her along with him, like Ten offered John Simms Master… and then Clara wouldn’t go for it, be ashamed with the Doctor, and leave them.
    Or, they could have had Missy get away somehow and have her be the big bad for the entirety of Capaldi’s run. She knew how to get to Gallifrey, apparently, and he doesn’t. That could have been something. And while she may come back, and her death may not be permanent, for now basing myself on what I saw… that was a waste.
  4. Wasted opportunities. I really wish Doctor Who would stop trying to resolve plots like this in only two episodes. Sometimes, they’ve resolved what could have been big plots in one. (AKA, the Power of Three). They could have stretched out this whole cybermen and Missy plot for at least a couple episodes into the next season, to make it truly seem like a big deal. The problem with resolving plots like this in two episodes is that it seemed crunched down for time. The Cybermen didn’t invade. They didn’t shoot a single person, all that happened was they turned into rain and the rain made dead people into cybermen. This was TRULY a wasted opportunity, with the army of the dead, It should not have been resolved so quickly, and with such ease. (Although I will say I do think that if they had to resolve it so quickly, they did it in a way that made some sense and genuinely worked.)
  5. Bad conclusion. If this was really the end for both Clara and the Doctor, I don’t like it. They ended it with lies, and even though Clara got a hug… for a companion that got to be with two different Doctors, (the only one in Nu-Who to get to do that was Rose), she deserved a better send-off. I can only hope this will be fixed in either the Christmas special, or this truly isn’t the end for the two of them.

This episode was good. In fact, it was one of the better ones in the series. But so much more could have been done. All of the actors perform brilliantly, but I think the core story of Doctor Who is going a bit too far off the rails.
I enjoyed the little homage to the Brigadier, and how the Doctor gave him the salute he wanted.
I also, despite my complaint about the ending, liked how they sort of tied up the Doctor’s complaint with soldiers, after Danny commanded his army away and sacrificed himself. Also, despite my complaint, liked the resolution and “redemption” for Danny, sending the child he killed in the war back to the living world.
I have high hopes for season 9. Whatever happens, I will watch. As a Whovian, I owe the series that much. I’m also looking forward to the Christmas special, with Nick Frost as Santa Claus… because who the hell can resist Nick Frost as Santa Claus?

Doctor Who’s season finale, ‘Death in Heaven’, gets a 7 out of 10.
Check back next Sunday for a Season 8 retrospective.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 1:34 PM

NaNoWriMo Week #1 – Quantity over Quality

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Welcome to my first NaNoWriMo update! I plan on doing these once a week, usually on a Thursday, all way until the end of the month. Which means we’ll have four writing updates, and one final wrap-up on either the 30th of this month, or the 1st of the next.

So far, this first week has gone by brilliantly! This event truly gives me the inspiration to get a novel I’ve wanted done for a long time written and done. Before, I’d write here or there, but without much consistency or luck. I’ve been taught that as writers, our job is to simply write – and as of right now, that’s it.

I tend to be a perfectionists with somethings. Not everything, but especially things that I’ve had my hand in majorly, I’d like it to be as perfect as possible. And usually, if that means writing a couple of really good…sentences, rather than a few decent to mediocre pages, I usually go for it.
At NaNoWriMo, the goal isn’t for you to write the next great American novel, it is simply to get you to write. And everyday as I plow through a couple thousand words, I make sure to keep this in mind. If I want to go back after the event and tweak and edit and revise… that’s perfectly fine. Nothing is stopping me from making revisions to create a better and smoother story later on, NaNoWriMo is here to get you writing, to get that foundation set up. And as a long time procrastinator, and I’ll tell you… I’ll procrastinate with anything. Oh, I need to do laundry so I won’t be naked tomorrow? I’ll get it done in a couple of hours. Oh, I want to play some of that video game that I just bought? Eh, it’ll be there tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo is really helping me to get off my ass and get writing. Because what good is having any vague talent of anything if you don’t use it?

As of right now, my story, entitled ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’, has reached 15,884 words. On the sixth of the month, I think that’s pretty good. There is five sets of six days within the thirty-day month, and if I could replicate the success of these past view days within those… I would certainly be on the right track.
I’m already exceeding the ‘recommended’ word count the NaNoWriMo site gives you, but I don’t remember one person who hasn’t. Every thousand words written feel like a reward, and I’m excited for the rest of the month.
As I go on, it gets easier to forget about a section that might be a little lackluster at the moment and just keep writing. Because this event is about word count, the contents of your novel, at least right now, don’t matter as much. It’s a tough thing to learn just for this event, because anyone you’ve ever met tells you differently. And though they’re usually right, I find a quality short story to be eons better than a crap four hundred page story, just being able to write… to put pencil to paper, or in our case fingers to keyboard, matters a whole hell of a lot more at the moment. Because, if you don’t start to write, no matter how bad… then I can guarantee you, you’ll never get better.

It’s been early mornings and long nights, and I’m sure the further we delve into the month, the pots of coffee will increase as much as the hours of sleep will decrease.
And I’m looking forward to every day of it.

But before we end, I just wanted to a little update on my novel outside of the event. I’ve had ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’ planned out for a long time. It in fact was spawned through a story I had written in the eighth grade about a different character, but the same sort of urban fantasy setting. I’ve had character sheets and plot notes scattered around for a few years, but besides some tinkering that later got thrown in the trash, I’ve never taken the time to sit down and write it. NaNoWriMo has gotten me excited for my story again, and with all luck… after editing, I hope to have it out in May 2015 as my first fiction novel!
I am going to have more information on it as time goes by, synopsis, characters, and probably even a few chapters posted later this year.

So NaNoWriMo is going great, and the first week has definitely worked out. I’m excited for the days to come, and I’ll see you on Sunday for something not writing related.

Happy writing, everyone!

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 12:34 PM

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/theplebeiansheep

 

‘Black Veil Brides’ Album Review

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A little while ago, I talked about the evolution of a band’s sound, and followed it up with a review of two separate bands new single(s).

One of those bands was Black Veil Brides’ two songs, “Heart of Fire” and “Faithless” which came off of their new, self-titled album.
I talked about how they truly made a fantastic evolution from a screamo band that dressed like Motley Crue and Kiss’s love baby, and that they had slowly but surely became just simply good rock and roll. The two singles were highly rated by me because they reminded me of the classic hard rock and metal that I enjoy, Judas Priest, Dio, Iron Maiden… so on and so forth.

So when the self-titled album popped up on Spotify, I sat down, and I gave it a listen.
And what happened was something strange.

I don’t know if I’m used to disappointment by now, but at first listen I came out of it thinking that I had been wrong. I thought it was okay, but not what I expected.
Then, the next day, in order to listen a little closer I played it again.
And I had the exact opposite reaction.

As I write this, I’m listening to Black Veil Brides for the seventh time since it came out six days ago. That’s about once a day. It’s become part of my routine. This album was everything I could have asked for and even more. I don’t know what I was thinking the first time around, but I was wrong. Every time I listen to it, it gets better. I’m not going to do a track by track review for this, because EVERY SONG IS GOOD.

Yes, it is one of those rare beings, the album in which there isn’t a single song I’ve either had to skip or tolerate. Every song is wonderful. None of them feel like filler.

This album is a perfect combination of hard rock, modern metal, and a very little bit of their screamo roots. The music and tune is hard, but when Andy Biersack sings, it is clean, clear, and soulful. When he is singing the lyrics, there is so growling or screaming or mumbling… that is usually a big problem with modern metal bands, but not here. He’s found a good combination to fit in with the heavy drums and raging guitar. He sings with purpose here, and not a single word of any lyric goes to waste.

You can really feel that they’ve grown up. They’ve cleaned themselves up lyrically, musically, and in their own style. Their evolution has truly been a sight to behold, and I have no qualms calling myself a fan of Black Veil Brides after this album.

So, like I said before, because all the songs are great I’m not going to do a track by track review. Instead, I’m going to give you my four favorite songs off of the eleven track album, in no particular order.

Faithless

This was one of the singles they released in September, along with Heart of Fire, and I simply like this one better. I enjoy the lyrics a lot more, (Heart of Fire, while a good song, feels a bit too angsty), I enjoy the chorus and the beat more, and over-all I feel it is the better song.

Devil In The Mirror

This song is just wow, and it probably my favorite song on the album. It starts off strong, carries everything beautifully, has a great chorus… and I particularly enjoy the quick moment in which the drums and guitar stop, and it’s just Andy’s voice singing. It was powerful.

Goodbye Agony

The name makes it sound like it would be a really angsty song. The name itself bleeds emo, but in actuality… the song is really, really good and the name fits in with the song well. It is one of the softer songs on the album, as per BVB tradition to have at least one soft rock song on every album. But it’s great, it really is.

Drag Me To The Grave

The previous song, Walk Away, sounds like it could be the last song on the album. In fact, the first couple of times I played the album I didn’t even look at the track list, I just pressed play and let it go, and the ending of that song actually really works as an album end.
So this song comes as a very nice surprise, and comes in strong with Andy bellowing the name of the song at the beginning.
This is just a really solid song. You’ve probably guessed it by now, but I really appreciate a good sounding chorus, and this one has a great one. It’s just a good rock song, like all the others, that really makes you want to bang your head to the beat.

As I get further and further into the album, I want to just put every song on this list. This is a REALLY good album. There is not a single song that gets below a four out of five, and even then, the majority of them are five stars. This is a brilliant album, and has some of the best guitar work I have heard in a long time. This album rivals Judas Priests’ 2014 album, “Redeemer of Souls”, and I don’t say that lightly. I made a public statement that basically said that “Redeemer of Souls” is the public’s reminder of what heavy metal should sound like.

And now, Black Veil Brides comes out with this. If they can keep it up, if they can keep this quality going… I think someday soon, Black Veil Brides will be the kings of metal.
Fall Out Boy tried saving rock and roll, and instead they rescued pop rock.
Black Veil Brides weren’t even trying… and they ended up saving heavy metal.

Black Veil Brides’ self-titled album gets a 5/5 stars.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 11:35 AM