Happy New Years!

Hello, everyone!
Welcome to the last post of 2014!
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been on somewhat of a vacation. I didn’t do any writing, including the blog, and I tried to spend this winter break with family and the such, and try not to focus my time online as much.
But, starting on the fourth, The Guy Without a Plan will be back in full swing! Posts will be more consistent and frequent, and I’m going to attempt to be a bit more organized.
A new year means new topics, new points of discussion, and hopefully I’ll be able to make this blog a bit more well-rounded. Recently, most posts have been talking about media, reviews and the like. Those are still an integral part, but I’ll be trying to bring the writing back into the spotlight a bit more. I will be showcasing my poetry once in a while, as well as giving more thorough updates on my novel and writing endeavors. 2015 is looking to be an exciting year!

My first fiction novel, the first entry in an urban fantasy series, The Bright Side to the Dark Arts will be released sometime in May. This novel means a lot to me, and is going to be the book I actively try to get an agent with.
Bright Side is almost done, with only a few chapters left to write, and then the editing process will be in full swing.
If all goes to plan, though, I will have the first four chapters released online for free in January! That way you can get a taste for what the book is going to be like, and how the main character is going to work. I am very excited for the book, and the series I hope to develop with it!

Also, I am working on re-releasing my poetry novel, Creation, sometime in the next year. The original release was a pretty big mess, mostly due to my urge to go ahead and get it published and over with. I am going back through and editing again, whittling it down some, and designing a more professional, cleaner cover. Poetry is still a major driving force in my writing, and I don’t want to leave it behind.

And that’s about it for writing. Otherwise, I’m prepping for the multitude of Back to the Future jokes that will be coming, and fighting off the urge to make them myself.
I’m going back to school.
I’m attempting to open myself up to new things, and trying to adventure a bit more. As much as I love being in front of a computer, I can’t be hooked to a machine 24/7. It’s time for me to branch out a bit more, with my interests and my hobbies and the people I know…
Though I refuse to make New Years resolutions. I’ve always felt like resolutions are just a way for a person to feel a bit better about themselves for the next year, until the depressing realizations hits them that they couldn’t be bothered to go through a single one of them.
am on the other hand, hoping to learn how to play the ukulele. I’m not going to make it a resolution, but I’d still like to see it happen.

Other than that, though… that’s about it!
I wish you all a Happy New Years: stay safe, drink responsibly, and be careful.
And here’s hoping that 2015 will bring a bit more joy in some way to us all, and be a little less painfully average.
I’ll see you guys Sunday.

Have a good morning, everyone. And if I don’t see you later, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!

– Brandon, 4:29 PM

Physical vs. Digital – Books

On Tuesday, I talked about physical vs. digital media, mostly about the subject of video gaming.
Today, we are going to revisit the subject but with a topic that quite a few more people are passionate about, and can easily understand why it is an important things.

I discussed the sort of ritualistic tradition that came with physical games. The process of installing a new game, grazing the manual as the load bar slowly inched forward… and while for many, that will ring a bell of nostalgia that they’re happy to remember, for many others that doesn’t matter at all. For a lot of people, they’re happy playing the pre-installed version of Solitaire on their PC. But many people understand the tradition of reading a good, solid physical book.

The smell of the pages. Oooh, especially if this is an older book, the smell of those pages that wafts by every time you turn a page is something that can’t be beat.
Sitting in a comfortable chair on a rainy day (or any day, really) with a cup of tea or coffee, hands gripped tightly to a good book, the only thing you hear are the somehow real and amplified voices of the characters and the crinkling of every turned page.

Another thing. The crinkle.
Ah, what a glorious sound! A lot of the time, you don’t care and don’t focus on it –  of course you read a story what is on the pages, not the pages themselves, but when you take the time and really realize it… or when you’re reading an eBook, a way of reading that obviously doesn’t have physical pages, you can notice it easily, and it can be a little off putting.

Here – take a book. It doesn’t have to be old, necessarily. I have a Webster’s Dictionary right here,  and let’s flip the page. Turn it. Feel the page scrape across the next one, hear the crisp crinkle… at this point, take a chance and really get a feel for that page. That nice, perhaps somewhat grainy, beautiful paper.
It sounds weird! I know. But you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Reading books is an experience. I mentioned before about video games being an experience inside and out of the game, well with books, the experience is one cohesive entity that never goes away. The experience isn’t just the story that is written on the pages, but it is everything I described above. The ever-growing tight grip of the bottom of the novel as the plot thickens, the crinkle of the page, the smell of the paper, the feeling of progress as the pages begin flying by, faster and faster and faster as you become totally engulfed in the words that you have no clue what’s happening in your own world until you’re either able to put the book down or until it’s complete.
It’s almost magical, the effect that a physical book has. They really are little portals in your hands that can take you to all these fantastic places. You hold the key – just let yourself go, and the hours will fly by and you will feel emotions that feel as real as any other in reality.

Digital novels, or eBooks, lose a lot of that effect.

Sure, they are enjoyable. And convenient. And easy. I have one loaded up on my phone right now because it was on sale and I wanted to give it a shot. The story and the writing is absolutely fantastic – but as a sit in a waiting room, or in a fast food restaurant, or in the car and I just want to read a little… while it is completely enjoyable, I still feel like an outsider. I stare at that bright white screen, and I drag my finger across, and I laugh at the appropriate moments and I get excited at the right times… but it isn’t the same. At all. I am not engulfed, I’m simply enjoying a story looking in, instead of feeling everything at once.

And that isn’t the author’s fault at all. In fact, I’m looking to buy a physical copy of said book at some point so I can finish it up and do it justice, instead of reading a little every time I need to wait a while.
It’s the fact that this medium of reading is… cold, uninviting, and it feels incomplete.  I’m fine with reading a news article or a blog post on a screen, but when it comes to a deep, involved story? No thank you. It just doesn’t work.

And that’s not to say I don’t approve of eBooks. They are good ways to kill time, as I said, they are frequently cheaper than a physical copy and if I really want to read a certain novel and don’t have the twenty plus bucks to shell out for it, then an eBook is certainly the way to go.

It might also help get younger kids and people who don’t enjoy reading to actually read something. I know plenty of people who do most everything digitally because it’s the ‘way of the future’ and they don’t ‘want to be stuck with a dying art form’.
Plus, give a kid an electronic gizmo, and it doesn’t matter if (s)he’s reading The Illiad, it’s on an electronic device, and it has a SCREEN! (Actual excuse, by the way, to why someone would read an eBook to a paperback. It has a screen.)

Another great thing about eBooks is that they can be used for school. If a novel needs to be bought for class, the eBook is cheaper and you can highlight and take notes directly in the app. Whether or not a teacher/professor would allow that depends, but a lot of schools these days are allowing various sorts of tech to be used in the classroom, so I imagine it would work.

And although I said it a bit disparagingly above, the eBook is handy. It isn’t that hard to lug a paperback to the doctor’s office or to the DMV, but hey… having a few books in your pocket at all times is never a bad thing. It may not be the best reading experience of your life, but it’s far better than nothing.

But despite all of the pros that each has, and although I respect both mediums… physical books will always have the win, for me, and I don’t think that was ever a question. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy. I think shelves upon shelves of books is not only more impressive, but also shows character in my opinion, compared to having a iPad or Kindle with hundreds of books that sits there on your desk.

When it comes down to it, books, music, movies, video games… I’m a collector. Sometimes people want to compare collector’ with hoarders, and sometime hoarders call themselves a collector to justify their problems, but that isn’t the truth. Sure, they take up a bit of room. Sure, it would be easily to have all of my media on a single device, but where’s the fun in that? Where’s the personality?

I like being able to touch, hold, and interact with my media. It makes it personal, it makes it unique, it makes it me. You walk across my room and you can learn a little bit about me.
As much as I enjoy technology and how it can bring us together in ways never once thought… I’m also against the way it pulls us apart, makes us so tied to our device, and allows us to almost never have to leave our chair.

But that’s just one guy’s opinion. I’m a bit biased in the first place because when I grew up, hardly anything was digital, except for perhaps some music. I grew up with Blockbuster instead of Netflix, a library card instead of a Kindle, boxed games instead of Steam.

And some day, digital media may surpass it all. It might be the end all be all, and physical media will become irrelevant and outdated.
But until that day, I’ll happily clutch my paperbacks and my boxes and my DVD cases, and just hope that physical media won’t become an old trend of the past.

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

– Brandon, 3:01 PM

Physical vs. Digital – Video Games

For a long time I have been a big supporter of physical media. The ability to hold a tangible, real product in one’s hands brings me much more joy than downloading a few strands of code from the cloud. I prefer physical copies of most media – books, music, movies, games… But that isn’t something everyone understands. My family, while they love the content, doesn’t care to much about actually having it. As long as they get the content in some form, it doesn’t matter.
I do see some arguments favoring digital media. Such as the lack of space to hold physical copies of everything they might own. Some people may have hundreds of games on Steam, or dozens of books on Kindle, and there would be no way to store all of that.
I am by far more passionate about physical games then most other media. Well, that and books. Movies and music, while I will continue collecting the physical copies, I see as a lot of good reasons to make them digital. Not enough for me, but in general… I feel that those are better candidates for the cloud storage/digital era.
So let’s break it down, starting with the games.

I recently subscribed to a service called Indiebox. This company works for the noble cause of returning PC games back to their big box roots. If you are unaware of what that is, basically video games didn’t used to come in those DVD style cases. Not even console games, perhaps with the exception of Sega. They used to come in large, cardboard boxes complete with physical manuals and other inserts. PC games, though, got the best deal. Those cases were HUGE, frequently coming with large manuals sometimes as long as books, and other extras called “feelies”. Games like the Ultima series came with a beautiful cloth map of the game world. I was excited two years ago when my copy of Skyrim came with a cheaply made paper map.
They might come with a piece of the in-game money, or little booklets of lore, or sown iron on patch… Basically, things you only find it the good, expensive collector’s editions of games today.
Sometime in the early 2000s, the switch was made from the big box, to the DVD case, because it was more convenient and cost less to produce.
Basically, Indiebox strives to bring back a bit of that nostalgia, and give people that like stuff some real good stuff. They take indie titles that usually only get a digital steam release, and craft a big box (not exactly of PC box caliber, more along the lines of the Nintendo boxes, but they are FANTASTIC none the less) complete with a physical USB cartridge copy of the game, beautiful full color manuals, the game soundtrack, and plenty of other goodies pertaining to the game.
This is really a cause I can get behind. Video games are meant to be experienced, in the game world and out. I can’t tell you how disappointed I get when I find out I paid $50 – $60 dollars for a case and a CD that is so laden with DRM that they might as well just slapped a Steam code in the box and saved them the money on the CD. (I’m just joking, please don’t). What happens to be even worse is putting a little piece of paper in the case that tells you about a digital copy of the game manual. That just feels like they’re pouring salt on the wound.

Indiebox helps relieve a lot of the pain, and I thank them for it.
But that’s the problem with this growing digital era of video games. I enjoy Steam. I use Steam. It is convenient, frequently cheap, and I get to play it without ever leaving my chair.
And as much as I like that at times… When you see where we were, and where we are now? There is something about going out to a game store, picking out the game, taking of the plastic and (used to be) seeing what goodies lay within… I enjoyed carefully putting the CD in and downloading the game, maybe having multiple CDs you had to alternate between, reading the manual and getting excited as the progress bar slowly fills up and your expectations are soaring… It truly is something you are never going to be able to explain to someone who doesn’t understand. Its a ritual, a tradition, that is being left in the dust. And maybe for some people who are too young, or just not a collector, or is simply a casual gamer, this doesn’t matter.
But I’ll tell you, seeing a copy of that game sitting proudly next to the rest of them on your shelf is a much better feeling then seeing that long list of titles in your Steam library.

Like I said, not everyone shares that feeling, and not everyone will understand. The love of physical games to put on your shelf is slowly becoming a niche demographic. A lot of people enjoy the digital convenience, but I say that just gives us another reason not to get up from our chair, and we really don’t need another reason.

You can check out Indiebox at https://www.theindiebox.com/ if you enjoy physical copies of indie titles that are usually only digital, or if you simply enjoy stuff. Because Indiebox really delivers the stuff.

I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss physical versus digital books, and until then…

That’s all I have to say about that.

– Brandon, 2:58 PM

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Review

I am not a fan of young adult novels.
Well, let me take that back. I’m fine with young adult novels in general, but there is a certain… niche, a sub-genre of young adult novels which I believe is over-used, mostly unoriginal, and getting old.

You probably know what I’m talking about.  Teenager lives in post-apocalyptic world with an oppressive government. Teenager finds out they’re the chosen one or whatever term they choose, and works to bring down said government.

The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner are the most popular examples these days, and if you strip away the small amount of original content… they are all basically the same story.

I have not read a single one of those three series’ books. And I have no interest in doing so.
But there’s something about the film of The Hunger Games that I’ve always liked. I’ve seen each one in theaters, after my grandmother pulled me along to the cheap seat showing of the first movie back in 2012.

My classmates had talked excessively about the book at the time, and while I felt no need to read the book, I ended up enjoying the movie greatly despite walking in with low expectations.

This is usually quite the opposite. I am a pretty big Harry Potter fan now, but back when the movies were still going, I was COMPLETELY engulfed in it. I read the series throughout my fifth grade school year, skipping recess just to stay in and read.

So naturally, I wanted to watch the movies, and naturally, I was highly disappointed.
The movies weren’t bad by any means, but being such a large fan, I was able to pick out the discrepancies pretty quickly. (It was DOBBY who gave Harry the Gillyweed in Goblet of Fire so he could grow gills to survive the second task, NOT Neville!)

But perhaps it was the fact that I HADN’T read the books that made the movies so enjoyable. Maybe it was because it had such a great cast, Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Josh Hutcherson…. I don’t know. All I know is that on a cinematic level, The Hunger Games was a good piece of entertainment that wasn’t just entertaining, but made you think a little.

When it came to the action oriented portion, the actual Hunger Games themselves, I found Catching Fire to be even better in that department.

Then came along Mockingjay. (Part 1, of course, because all young adult movies have to split their final movie into a two parter. It’s become an unspoken rule of the business). I was excited for this movie because at this point, like I said, I had seen each one in the theater and I had become invested in the cinematic characters.
Having not read the books, though, I didn’t know exactly what I was walking into unlike other people.

And what happened in this movie, while it might have set other non-readers like me off due to the lack of action, might have been the best film of the series.

I call this a not review because I’m stating upfront, this is a GREAT film. It did a lot of things I didn’t expect for a movie aimed at the demographic it has.

This movie has a great portrayal of war. It not only incorporates the politics of the situation, but it involves the emotions of the war-torn nation and how it effects the protagonist and the supporting cast. It delves into the dilemma of ‘is any war a good war’, and showed the struggle that the rebellion was going through.

A lot of war movies go for the battlefield approach. Showing war from one angle, which is the actual fighting that might happen. What made this film so good is that it went deeper. For a series about kids murdering each other in an arena for television, it suddenly took a very serious, mature and dark tone. Now don’t get me wrong, the other films were serious, mature, and dark. Like I said, kids murdering each other… that’s dark. And while the previous two films hinted at the political thoughts and reasoning, there was little exposition for the first film and half of the second. This makes up for it.

I read a couple of reviews, and they complained because of the massive amount of exposition, but in my eyes… it made up the lack of it previously, and they do it in a way that keeps you interested and invested.

I particularly enjoyed the way they depicted the making of the propaganda. (Who knew they’d still have Adobe Premiere?) The first scene with Katniss trying to do it the first time was a little humorous, but every moment you could feel the weight of it all. This rebellion against the huge Capitol…  gave me a little bit of a Rebel Alliance/Galactic Empire vibe, I’ll admit. But at times, when plans were going south for the rebellion, you could feel the hopelessness through Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence did a great portrayal of the character as usual, depicting her mental struggles with being a young girl that also has to be the face of a huge rebellion within her country. I don’t know how old Katniss is supposed to be, but a girl that young not only fighting in an arena of other kids, but then fighting against the government in a civil war? I can imagine that would cause a little stress. And she pulls it off wonderfully.

And this goes for all of the other characters shown in District 13. The fear, hopelessness… or perhaps the utter confidence that President Coin has in her actions… (Julianne Moore pulled this off fantastically. The confidence mixing with perhaps a little ruthlessness was a great combination) and President Snow’s cockiness and snide personality.
Everything was played in ample amounts, at the right times, and was done very well.

My main point I am getting with this, is that for a young adult based movie… this film was incredibly mature with it’s portrayal of war.
It also reminded me slightly of Elysium, but I’d have to give the upper hand to Mockingjay here.
I walked out of the theater not only thoroughly entertained and eager for part 2, (another year? Jeez! Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out only a few months after part 1!) but thinking about the consequences of the war in this world and what the outcome would be.
I used to watch it because of the great cast and good action scenes, but this film pulled me in and got me truly interested and invested in the history, the world, the people… it’s weird to say this, but it was probably one of the best war movies I have seen all year.

I’d recommend you go watch it. The $5 – $7 dollars it costs is well worth the movie, which clocks in at over two hours and never over stays its welcome.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1, gets an 8.5/10.

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

– Brandon, 9:55 AM

NaNoWriMo Final Update – Wrap Up and Wind Down

Hello, everyone! Welcome to December – the last month of the year is upon us, and NaNoWriMo has concluded.
I apologize for the lack of posts, but due to my actual job, the holiday, and the amount of writing I had to try to make up… I didn’t have any time to write anything besides my story.

So, this is my NaNoWriMo final update, and that calls for the question… how did I do? DID I make it?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know, but yes! I won NaNoWriMo for the first year, clocking in at 50,043 words on the 29th.
My shirt has been ordered, and I’m breathing sighs of relief everyday. It was long, tiring, and hard work – but also exhilarating, exciting, and the kick in the ass I needed to get a story I had been planning for three years written.
It was completely worth it, every word, every day, every night spent working until the morning sun churning out page after page… I wouldn’t give it up for anything. And you can definitely count me in for NaNo 2015.

As for my story, ‘The Bright Side to the Dark Arts’, it in of itself isn’t finished. I have surpassed the 50k, but I still have approximately six-seven chapters left to write. I’m edging towards the finale, and I’m excited to see exactly how it’s going to turn out.

…But I’m taking a break, for now. I’m planning on a week or two of vacation before I buckle down and finish it up. I plan to have it completed before Christmas, edited by mid January, and passed around to a few people for test reads shortly there after. The completed book itself, if everything goes to plan, will be released in May.

Until then, though, I’ll keep everyone updated on Twitter and on Thursdays here with progress. I’ll release a proper synopsis, share some character information, and might even release the first few chapters for reading.

I’m very excited for this novel. It isn’t my first fiction story, but my first full length fiction novel. And I love the genre, and I’m enjoying this world so much, you know? It’s really a fun place to be, and to write about, and the characters are simply fantastic. I feel like they’ve taken a life of their own, I don’t even have to think anymore, just place my fingers on the keyboard and let them whisk me away.

In short… it’s going well.

So to all the other winners, I want to give them a round of applause and wish them the best with their novel. And to the ones who wrote a single word, but perhaps didn’t win… I want to give them a round of applause and wish them the best with their novel.
Whatever you wrote, it’s that much more than you had before. And it takes a lot of brains, guts, and caffeine tolerance to start a novel, let alone write it, and complete it.
If you didn’t win, just remember that the next NaNoWriMo is only a year away. If 2015 is anything like 2014, it’ll just fly by.

And that’s about it for today. Because of the weird posting date, I will be skipping my usual Tuesday post and pick back up again Thursday, and everything will continue like normal from there.
Have a good day, a good week, and I’ll talk to you on Thursday.

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

– Brandon, 1:09 AM