Lately I have been thinking about how important routine is to the process of writing. When I first started writing New L.A., it was just an interesting side project. I had done some sporadic writing over the years, most recently some Star Wars Fan Fiction based on my old Star Wars RPG campaigns. But I wanted to do something that was all mine. So, I started writing a new story in a world I created years ago.
Early on, I was just thinking of this story as a series of short stories that I would post online. But, at that point, I wasn’t serious about it yet, so I would do a chapter or two a week, stumbling my way through the story. But I wasn’t focused, my priority being other things in my life. My mom started reading my chapters that I was writing and said she would edit if I ever wanted to get serious about it. One afternoon three months later, when I was about halfway through what is now the current book, I did some research and I got serious.
At this point, I established a routine for writing. Five days a week, during a certain time of day, I would be working on the book, either writing, outlining, or anything else to push the progress of the book along. I did the first half of the book in three months. The second half, I wrote in just under two months. Would’ve gotten it done faster if life hadn’t gotten in the way with our cat getting sick and passing away.
I think I am thinking about this topic because I am trying to get back into my routine. The month of March has been very disruptive to my routine with my family visiting from California. Love having them out here and going to Spring Training games with them, but I didn’t get much done on the next book while they were here. And it’s already looking like I’m going to have more disruptions coming in about a month a half, which I will write about closer to when that is happening. But that is the way of life. It’s going to disrupt your routine, but I feel, as a writer, trying to maintain your routine is important to keeping up your work flow. I’m just hoping my life can calm down for a bit so I can get back into my routine.
If you look at the small bio piece on this page, you will see it says that I am a former Sound Designer/ Engineer. For about fifteen years, I worked at various theatres around the country either designing sound or running sound for various professional theatrical productions. It was something I enjoyed doing a lot and something I wish I appreciated more while I was doing it. And I do miss doing it. These days, I get my sound “fix” by running sound at the church my wife and I attend. It’s not as complicated as mixing a musical, but it has its own challenges.
Recently, our church underwent an auditorium renovation, where the back half of the room was completely redone and risers were installed with very comfortable theatre seating. As I write this, we had our first service in there last night for Good Friday. And while the theatre person in me is excited by the renovation itself, as a part of the renovation were a couple of upgrades to the sound system.
The first upgrade was to the main speakers. We had two speakers hanging in the center of the room that tried to cover the whole space. Don’t get me wrong, these speakers were pretty good, just not for this space. I ended up adding two powered Mackie speakers that sat on top of the subs and using them as fill speakers to cover the main speakers’ blind spots. Those speakers were pulled down this week and replaced by two line arrays that give much better coverage of the room. They’re not perfect, as I have heard some minor blind spots while walking the room, but those blind spots are barely noticeable and it has been a huge improvement to the room. Plus, the guys who installed it are coming back in a few weeks to tweak things based on what we hear after a couple of weeks of use. But, overall, I’m quite happy with the new speakers.
Now the second upgrade came as a surprise to me. When this renovation project started, new speakers were always part of the plan. What wasn’t originally a part of the plan was a new sound board. When I first heard the rumor we were getting a new board, I didn’t believe it. Then, I started getting excited as we were converting from an analog sound board to a digital one. When the new board came in and I opened it, I was like a kid on Christmas morning. But I also needed to shift my mind set. It had been a year and half since I last used a digital board, and the mindset is very different. But, I soon got back into the swing of it as I started figuring out and programing the board for use in our space. For me, it was a lot of fun.
I now have one service down using the board, and looking for to later today, when I get to use it for the first time with a whole band (instead of the keyboard, acoustic guitar, and vocals I had last night for Good Friday). I’m also looking forward to the long weekends I have coming up, where I have to get everybody else who runs sound at church up to speed with a digital console. In the meantime, I have a new toy to play with.
In my previous world origins post, I mentioned that some of these characters have been in my head for many years through several iterations. Today, I’m starting a series of posts going over the origins of some of these characters. This will be how I came up with the character and how the character has evolved, and not backstory that I would normally develop in a book itself. Just a little behind-the-scenes stuff.
In either August or September of 1991, I finally got the nerve up to ask the girl who I had a crush on out. I got shot down hard and I was devastated. My best friend, Duane, in an attempt to cheer up, said, “Let’s make a Champions character.” At this point, I have never played Champions before. My RPG experience was Dungeons & Dragons as well as several one shot let’s try this game out sessions. But I had several friends who had been playing Champions in another long time group they had been in, often referred to as “the Saturday Group.” I had wanted to check it out, so I perked up when Duane suggested it. Duane asked me to come up with a character concept, and he handled the actual character creation and points crunching. As a side note, I created a character for him years later based on him describing his concept to me and that character became Revenant in the book.
Back in 1991, I read lots of comic books. Every week I was down at the comic book store when they were putting up the new comics and buying issues of the series I followed. And at this time, comics were starting to get darker. So, my concept was for a street level dual-wielding sword carrying vigilante with cybernetics. He had a cybernetic left arm and cybernetic eyes that gave him IR vision. And he knew martial arts. We got to the disadvantages section and started coming up with his back story. He was a martial artist who had gotten on the wrong side of the Mafia and he had been beaten and tortured while his wife had been raped and killed. I think. Been so long I don’t remember the exact story, but that was the gist.
So I had a character, who I had named Silent Death. Now, it was time to play him. A couple of our other friends created characters and Duane ran a one-shot adventure for us. One friend, Stephen, created a Spider-man rip off and another friend, Chris, created a Terminator rip off named Steele Justice. And it was a lot of fun. I got a Champions rule book a few months later for Christmas and started creating more characters, some of which eventually became characters in this book. But Silent Death had been my first Champions character, and first characters tend to always hold a special place in my heart.
In the years following, Silent Death stayed with me, even as I created other characters. I liked to draw back then, even if I wasn’t any good at it, and I would draw pictures of him. And I would try to draw my own comic books, and he would be in them. His look would change a little, as I would add a black trench coat to his ensemble. Finally, in late 1993, I decided to create an original Champions campaign setting, instead of adapting the existing setting. And I decided the setting would be a fictional hi-tech city. That city became St. Mary. Silent Death ended up being a vigilante that hunted in the rougher part of the city. I refined his origin so that the man who killed his wife was a superhuman. I never ended up using him in an actual game, but I drew two issues of a comic book I titled “Tales of St. Mary.” And he was featured in one of the story arcs I had going there.
His next evolution came when I created the world that New L.A. takes place in. I wanted a version of him there and I tweaked the origin to fit the world. I eventually featured him in the original story I had written that took place in this world (the one I never finished). And he became one of the more prominent characters in this world.
After that, I adapted the character to other mediums. He was an NPC who appeared in my Star Wars RPG campaign that I ran in the early 2000s. I’ve also created versions of him in various video games, including World of Warcraft and Champions Online. It was in Champions Online that I finally, in my head at least, ran him through the redemption story arc I had always envisioned. And that was the last time I created a new version of him.
But he still lived in the world that New L.A. is in. And when I started writing the book, I knew I wanted to bring him back, but have him be a little older and a little wiser. But he is still Jarred Jacoby a.k.a. Silent Death.
A couple of days ago, I got my first critique of New L.A. There were positives such as “I think you have a real talent and a fascinating imagination” and “This is a really interesting storyline with fascinating plot twists.” That said, it also pointed out flaws and weaknesses as well. And that got me started thinking about flaws and weaknesses. Today’s world seems to look down at flaws, and as a result, we all try to hide them and accentuate our positives. I’m doing it right now in this blog post, quoting some of the positives while not mentioning the negatives. But, we are all human, and we all have flaws that we would rather not show the world. And if the world sees our flaws, we tend to be attacked for it, and we get defensive. But no matter who you are, we all have flaws. I know I have mine.
That was something I wanted in my book. Every character in New L.A. has flaws and weaknesses. Some, the flaws are on full display, but others keep them hidden real well. But they are there. And these characters will make mistakes. The story changed direction at one point because of a mistake a character made when I wrote a conversation. I realized I like the direction it went. In fact, one of my hopes is that I would eventually have discussions with my readers about characters motivations, where they are going and what made them who they are. It’s a conversation I still hope happens someday, because I think the readers’ insights can influence the story. I think it might be nice to not be writing in a vacuum anymore (and I may look back at this post years from now and say, “What was I thinking!”).
But I also think we should strive to overcome our weaknesses. Writing this book was a step for me in that respect; putting myself out there is not something I do. Reading that critique, for me, was not easy initially for that very reason. But as I have had time to reflect and discuss, it has given me things to think about and address in future books. Thus, I can learn and grow and become better at this craft I have chosen to pursue. And in the end, that is what we should all do. Use our weaknesses to learn and grow and become better people.