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When I was working in theatre, it gave me the opportunity to really see this country.  I’ve crisscrossed this country several times.  My old program bio said something like, Nathan has worked at theatres on both coasts and points in-between.  I’ve had jobs in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, West Virginia, and Oklahoma.  And whenever I moved from one job to the next, I would drive.  And I would drive back home to California whenever I had downtime (usually a month or two around January).  So, I have seen a lot of the roads in this country to the point I know where the good places to stop are (either for gas, lodging, or just to rest).  I have interesting stories from my trips, like almost running out of gas in Wyoming in the middle of the night and finding a gas station with a working pump just when I needed it, like an oasis in the desert.  Or driving home to California while sick, and taking a couple of nap breaks on the last day in Holbrook, Az and a rest area in the middle of the Mojave Desert on I-40.  Most of the time, these drives consist of beautiful scenery and my music blaring out of my stereo as the miles tick by.

Well, I don’t get to travel much anymore.  I haven’t left the state of Florida in just over a year, and have only gone over two hours from our place just once in the past year.  And for the most part, I’ve been ok with that as the last few trips have been on roads that I’ve driven multiple times and had gotten quite boring.  There are some places I would like to drive to someday, but that will have to wait.  But, I do have some traveling in the future now.

Due to circumstances I’m not going to get into here, in the next two months, I’m making not one, but two cross-country drives.  The first one will be a solitary drive from Southern California back to Florida.  And the thing I’m excited about with that drive is I’m going to drive some road I’ve never driven before.  Usually, when going through Texas, I cut up north to see family and I’ve never driven the more southern route on I-10 across the whole state.  This time, I will be, as I plan on seeing family on the second trip.  The second trip will be with my family, and I’m not sure what the exact route will be as it hasn’t been decided.  We will be driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Florida, and we will pass through the Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex to see family.

The downside with all of this traveling is its going to put a kink in my writing.  I’m not going to get much done on that front during this time.  On the plus side, it will give me a lot of time to think and mull things over.  Often during my writing process, I would play scenes over and over in my head until I hit something that seems to work.  Then, I will write it and the characters will put their own spin on it.  But, I will have plenty of time to go over scenes in my head.  And I may pass through a locale that will inspire me and use it as a location.  Wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.

Inspiration and a Thank You

I’ve been a gamer since my senior year in high school.  I still remember going through several level 1 characters in my first D & D campaign because of the fortress full of kobolds.  There have been spectacular dramatic moments, like when the climax of the adventure came down to a single die roll to determine if my brother’s character’s thrown dagger hit the boss.  For the record, he rolled exactly what he needed.  And many inside jokes came about, my favorite still being “Thump!”

A year later, I was talked into Gamemastering (or GMing) my first campaign, and that’s when gaming started to truly become a vehicle of inspiration and creativity for me.  That first campaign, we were playing the West End Games D6 Star Wars RPG.  One of my friends came up to me and said, “I want to play this, not run it.  You run it.”  And so I did, and that little campaign lasted the summer.  It was also the creation of my little corner of the Star Wars universe that would be further developed years later when I GMed a Star Wars D20 campaign that lasted a couple of years.  In the middle of all of this, I was introduced to Champions, a game I both played and later GMed.  As I went over in an earlier blog post, the story and the world of my book, New L.A., was born from my Champions campaigns.

Eventually, I started gaming less and less.  I was building a career as a sound tech in professional theatre and started crisscrossing the country going from gig to gig.  I was no longer around the friends I would game with, and I didn’t really have the time anymore.  Early on in this time, I would squeeze in a game about once a year when I came home to California, but getting home became less frequent as well.  And a lot of my creations fell into the rearview mirror as I moved forward with life.

Skip ahead to about a year ago.  I finally came to realization that my career in theatre was coming to an end for various reasons.  For me, this was a dark time as I was searching for what I was going to do now.  It was around this time that Geek & Sundry started a Twitch channel, and I stumbled onto one of their new shows called Critical Role.  Critical Role is a show where a group of voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons.  And they play like I always strived to play, to tell a story.  Each player role-plays their characters well and their Dungeonmaster, Matthew Mercer, is the kind of Dungeonmaster I always strived to be.  And their game told a vast and interesting story that I still follow to this day.

Critical Role lit a spark inside of me that had gone out a long time ago.  It got me thinking about my old games and the stories that we had created.  It helped me tap into the creativity that had gone dormant long ago.  It got me dreaming again.  I decided to revisit one of my favorite campaign settings I had created, and I started creating a new story.  During the process of writing this new story, I decided to try and make it an ebook.  I focused myself and I set the goal to make it a reality.  The result: I have an ebook available for sale called New L.A., the first in what I hope will be a series of books.

A year ago, I would never have imagined that I would self-publish an ebook.  Doing something like that is not in my nature.  I don’t put myself out there like that.  But somehow, I did.  Perhaps Scanlan gave me an inspiration die.  Regardless, I do credit Critical Role for igniting the creative spark in me again.  And for that, I am incredibly thankful to the cast and crew of the show.  So, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Is it Thursday yet?

The Importance of Routine

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.

Corey watching me write less than a month before her death

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.

Yankees Spring Training Game, March 2016

Flaws and Weaknesses

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.

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