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Scorpius Port

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29716 of 50000 words

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Took new glasses back to Wal-Mart Vision Center

Last Friday I picked up my new glasses at the local Wal-Mart Vision Center. I was really excited because it had taken a very long time for me to actualy get the glasses after I got the eye exam and ordered them.

Unfortunately, I had had a very long and stress-filled day and just wanted to get home, so I did not question it when told that I would get used to the blur I was seeing close up and in my peripheral vision. I had never had that happen with glasses before, but both the person who had drove me in and the gal at the vision center counter assured me that it was normal and would soon correct itself. Advising me to put the glasses on first thing in the morning for the best results.

I knew by that Saturday that things just were not right, so I called the vision center and after explaining the situation and being told to bring in the glasses and they would train me on how to use my new progressive lenses the gal looked me up on their computer and was surprised to find that it was not the progressive that I had been prescribed – it was distance only.

So, I took the glasses back in today to get the issue resolved.

The gentleman who helped me tried to talk me into buying a second pair off their wall for 40% off, special deal today only sort of thing, but I did not want to buy a second pair of glasses, particularly not for just shy of $60. I wanted the ones I had thought I was getting the first time.

He said that he could get them fixed for free in a week, but only if I got the lined bi-focals, not the progressives I had thought I was getting when I got the glasses, the prescription that the optomitrist had said for me to be given. The guy helping me then tried again to talk me into buying a pair of frames off the wall if I wanted to get the progressives – the way he was talking it felt like, for some reason he was inferring to but not outright saying, I could not get progressive lenses in the pair I had, only in new glasses. But I could get the bi-focal with a line on the ones I had for free.

Well, I was highly stressed and feeling my anxiety build up by the minute, and I just wanted to go home and I wanted glasses that I could see through, so I told him to just make the lined ones for me.

He drew a line across my glasses with a fine point Sharpie, one of the lines needing redrawn because he had messed up how he drew it the first time.

He then told me that it would be a couple of weeks, maybe three weeks, before the glasses would be ready. Now, notice that I said he said one week earlier, and now it is a couple of weeks, maybe three. He tripled the timeframe on my getting my glasses back when he realized that I was not going to buy a second pair off the back wall for almost $60. I was not amused.

I am just hoping that this time when I get my glasses I can actually see through them and do my work, because I am writing this by using my old glasses. The ones that are frames I got when I was 16 years old, that have lenses from a pair of my dad’s glasses from around 2006 in them, are held together ont he sides by loops of sewing thread soaked in Super Glue, and now have a piece of Kleenex wrapped around one of the posts for the nose bridge because I lost the rubberized padding and can’t get them fixed. (The first gal I spoke with in the vision center offered to try to put a new nose pad on for me, but then claimed she couldn’t for some reason.)

I just want to be able to see now that I have gone through the stress and anxiety of going to get a new pair of glasses. Given what I have gone through so far, however, I am starting to regret having put myself through the mental and emotional strain of this. I might not be able to drive or watch a TV that’s more than 2 feet away with my dad’s old glasses, but I can write. I sure as hell could not have driven, watched TV, or even wrote with the ones I picked up at Wal-Mart’s vision center the first time.

I’ll let you know how the new ones work when I finally get them.

How to invoke evil spirits

Books have a long history of being banned, even burned because of the views that people have about them.

In 2001 the Christ Community Church in Alamagordo, NM burned copies of Harry Potter, along with other books and magazines, because the books were claimed to be “a masterpiece of satanic deception.” Among the books that were burned… J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, including The Lord of the Rings.

What is it about these books that causes people to get upset about them?

According to an article in the Tennessean, Rev. Dan Reehil, pastor at St. Edward Catholic School in Nashville, pulled the Harry Potter series from the new school library because: “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”

Seriously?

The words used in the Harry Potter books are real words, I will grant them that. They were chosen by the author to convey certain meanings. This is evident not only in looking at the books, but in the transcript from the Southern District court, in the case of Warner Bros. Entertainment, inc. and J.K. Rowling vs RDR Books.

On page 115 of the transcript, lines 7-12 explain that many of the words that Rowling used were derived from existing languages. She states in the court transcript: “It is not as though I threw Scrabble letters up in the air and took what was formed there. There is usually an underlying meaning.”

In the same transcript, on page 105, lines 17-22, Rowling gives the source for a spell used by the characters to open locked doors:

Alohomora is a Sidiki word from West Africa, and it is a term used in geomancy. It is a figure — the figure alohomora means in Sidiki “favorable to thieves.” Which is obviously a very appropriate meaning for a spell that enables you to unlock a locked door by magic.

In studying fiction writing I have seen it said again and again that research is as important for fiction as it is for non-fiction. Even fantasy stories should be researched and based on as much factual information as possible, especially when those stories inter-connect with the real world.

Yet here is an author who created a magic system for her fantasy stories, carefully studied and based the words she chose for it on real words that would make sense to be used for each of the spells the characters cast, and is now being attacked not because of the fantasy world she created, but because she followed the same advice that so many hopeful writers are given and anchored her story with real research.

Can you pick up a copy of Harry Potter and invoke evil spirits? I do not think so. I have studied magic for use in my novels, and I have read a lot of fantasy. Magic is not spoken words, it is intent and desire and many other things that words, and objects, are used to focus. According to the article the books were in the old library and were planned to be in the new one until a parent spoke up and asked they be removed. Then the pastor went to exorcists and asked them about the books and, lo and behold, was told that the words used in the books were real words.

That is what the problem is. The words were researched and selected to lend the book a sense of tangibility with the real world it was anchored to. To provide a subconscious sense that the story, fantastical as it was, was possible in the realms of our imaginations. It is not that the books are a means to invoke evil spirits. I have not yet heard of a single case of anyone, child or adult, needing to have an exorcism performed because they read a book. If you have, please, let me know about it. Until then, I am going to continue to research the history of witchcfraft and study various belief systems. I will continue to place as much reality into my fantasy as I can, so that my books will provide a sense of reality. So that even as they are taking the reader into fantastical worlds that are nothing like our own, they will feel, subconsciously, like they could be real within the realms of our imaginations.

I hope you will too.

Inspired by writing prompts

Writing prompts are one of the most prolific of things offered up in the writing world. Lists of words or phrases that are intended to inspire writers to get past writer’s block and create words on a blank page.

I started into a challenge this month to write something every day that is just for fun, but it has made me realize that I need to be more proactive in all of my writing if I am ever going to get back to the point that writing is my full-time job.

While browsing various websites yesterday I came across the monthly writing challenge at Fantasy-Writers.org, a site that I am sad to say I had forgotten all about under piles of stress and depressed bouts of tossing away my dreams of being a writer.

The prompt for their writing challenge for September is: “Write a story about memories which everyone except one person denies all knowledge of.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that, so this morning, as I am laying here awake pinging around websites on my laptop, I was amused when I saw the weekly fiction prompt for Poets & Writers. (Another old favotite that I have sadly been away from for far too long) Poets & Writers has Tell Me The Truth as their prompt for fiction writers this week. In part the prompt asks us to write “a short story that revolves around a main character whose version of the truth—about another character, herself, or an event that has happened—differs drastically from a more objective reality.”

My muse is curious about the two prompts and how well they seem to fit together. I am not sure if I will get the time to actually write a short story based off of these prompts, but my muse is definately studying them intently, and one learns not to underestimate a rabid jackalope when it has caught the scent of an idea.

Working on my novel

(image courtesy of Justyna Furmanczyk)

I’ve got back to working on my novel with determination that I will finish the thing. I mean, hey, I am sitting at over 52,000 words of extreme rough draft writing, 59 scene cards on two bulletain boards, and over half a notebook worth of scene by scene outline notes. And I am STILL highly excited by the story. (Even knowing how it will end!)

How could I possibly not finish it now?

So, I have gone back to my Patreon and began what will become a daily practice of giving my Patrons updates of how I have done on my efforts to get this wrote.

You can Become a Patron of my writing and follow along with my daily updates; that will include looks at what I have wrote in my notebooks, changes I am making to the story, and even bits of scenes I have written for the novels I am working on.

The Anxiety Quilt

(Image courtesy of Adrian van Leen)

On one of my quick forrays out to the shed, to try to see if I can salvage things and fix the roof before winter hits, I found the old shoe storage bag that I had once kept my quilt fabrics in back when I lived in the old house with my parents.

The side of the bag had completely deteriorated away, and over half of the fabrics in the bag were ruined or beyond saving, but there were a few bits that were in good condition. I took those bits into the quanset and looked them over for a day or two, then on a whim I grabbed two that had been bought to go together and started cutting and sewing.

Back when I discovered quilting I had made a very basic quilt for my mom that was scraps of material I had bought for bookbinding. each scrap was cut into triangles roughly the size of my hand and sewn into squares that were then sewn together.

I had worked late through the nights, spreading it out on the kitchen floor after she had gone to bed so I could get a good distribution between the patterns and the pieces of velvet that were scattered throughout it.

That quilt was, sadly, lost at some point after I had moved out of the old house.

I began this one much the same way – triangles sewn togther to create squares. I then pinned them one by one to the cork board I use for laying out my novel cards.

A third fabric was chosen as a contrast color that works well with the first two and slowly I have created two long panels that roughly frame out what will probably be the sides of a lap quilt and have began working on a center piece.

This project could not have come along at a better time for me, because with the stress of trying to work on the shed and get it ready for winter, paired with a need to go to Anchorage in the near future, my stress and anxiety are through the roof. The calming activity of holding the fabric while slowly working a needle back and forth along the edge is a meditative sort of activity that has been helping me to slow down my racing thoughts and breathe slowly and evenly.

Years ago I used to carry a small quilting project in my purse, working on it when sitting in doctor’s waiting rooms with my parents, or while waiting with my dad for him to get a catscan or whatnot.

I had not thought at the time how it might have been helping me deal with the anxiety of the situations, but now, looking back, I realize it had. Quilting by hand is a hobby that requires one to slow down and enter a sort of meditative calm as they focus not on the problems their mind is worrying over, but on the motion of the needle moving up and down though the edge of the fabric.

Bonus: When it is finished, I will have a lovely lap quilt that I can toss onto my desk chair and can start on a new project. And there is no expense to the project, because it is salvaged quilt material I had bought over a decade ago and an old spool of thread that has been in my sewing basket for years. I even have some old quilt batting that had been salvaged from my brother’s garage a few years ago and has been hidden away in my trailer.

I have come to determine, thanks to this project, that I need to make myself a small sewing bag that I can take with me when I go places. That way when writing fails to reduce the stress and anxiety, I can work on a small quilt square project.

Are you a quilter? What do you think about using quilting, or just general hand sewing of projects, to reduce feelings of anxiety or stress? If it has helped you I would love to hear about it.

Free Stock Photography Site

(Image courtesy of
Sanja Gjenero)

For many years I, like many others, relied on getting images from SXC.hu. It was a website that allowed photographers to upload images that could be used by people such as myself who did not have a budget for buying pictures to use on their blogs, websites, and whatever else.

This afternoon I went to find a picture to go along with my article on my social anxiety, but every time I did a search on the SXC website I was sent to an Adobe site where they wanted me to pay $29 a month to download up to 10 pictures.

I was very confused and frustrated as to why a site I had trusted for years was suddenly sending me to a site that wants me to pay them. I did a bit of digging.

It turns out that while I was hiding from the world, there were changes to part of the world I trusted. I found a quick blog post at Rgbstock.com that explained that after 10 years, SXC.hu seemed to be gone. The brief article I linked to has the full details, suffice to say that SXC.hu was no longer a viable option for people like me.

So, I went ahead and checked out Rgbstock.com and have determined that it is a good replacement for pictures that I can use on my wesite and with my 3D artwork. The image above of a pile of pictures, and the picture that I included with my previous article Where Did The Summer Go were both found at Rgbstock.com. I will be updating the links on my site here to reflect Rgbstock as a source for pictures for writers, artists, and 3D modelers, and I will be searching for other sites that provide images with similar freedom of use.

Where did the summer go?

When I was a child I loved summer. Not because it meant not going to school, most of my life I stayed home rather than going to school. It was not some sort of home schooling trend or anything, it was simply a case of the schools I had attended proved to be rather bad environments, so my parents chose to keep me at home.

Seriously, one school wanted to ship me nearly two hours over a mountain from the suburbs of Los Angeles to Watts on some kind of inner-city student exchange program and my mom said no way in hell was that happening. She was on the roof holding off the truent officers with a fire hose nozzel on the garden hose when my dad got home and calmed things down.

The second time my parents removed us from school was when the principle, of a different school up in Washington State, was caught in the little boys bathroom with a little boy. Yeah… no, my parents did not care to send me back to that school either.

So, yeah, I spent a lot of time being taught at home. Did not stop me from going to college – at least for three semesters. My anxiety more than anything else stopped that, but back to my childhood days. Days spent out in the woods, hiking up mountains in Washington, trecking actoss the Arizona desert with my dad’s dog. My childhood was filled with adventures.

My adult life… not so much. I am sitting here writing this and looking out at the trees and noticing that they are no longer the new budding green of spring, they are the yellowing leaves of late summer.

I’ve braved the outdoors a bit the past few weeks. Short runs out to the shed where I move one or two items before I hear a car, or just get anxious, and head back inside. I want to explore the world, I want to clean out the shed and fix the roof on it and get things ready for winter, but… it’s hard.

I’m still sorting through what it is that is going on, but being out around people is… hard. Being out where there might be people is hard. This has caused the summer months to just… glide past out the window with hardly a notice of the change of seasons.

I admit it, I have began to ask for help with figuring out what it is about people that makes me want to just flee when I am around them. I have also decided that I need to stop keeping this all to myself, I need to get it out there and share what is going on. Many years ago, back when I was a care provider for my dad, my mom told me that I should write on my blogs about what that was like and how I dealt with it. (I had a lot of blogs back then – 28 of them). My mom had said that if I was going through things as a family caregiver, then others were facing the same situations and could be helped by knowing they were not alone and reading about how I dealt with things.

It was hard. Talking about things that happen in the family was not something that was done. I’ve tried for a very long time to separate my blog from the personal life things that happen to me. This has resulted in my blog… well, you can scan back along the posts to see what it resulted in. There has not been much of a blog for a long time now, and when there is it is a bit erratic and sporadic.

I need to take my mom’s advice, however, and share what is happening with me. Not just my interestes in writing, video games, 3D modeling, and crafts, but… my life. My experiences. I need to share more of what it is like to live life with social fears.

(Image courtesy of Dez Pain)

Several years ago I found an article in a medical journal about a kind of accute social anxiety called anthropophobia. It was such a relief I went into the living room and spent a good fifteen minutes telling my roommate that I was not alone, there was actually a term for all of the fears and unease I experienced. It’s hard to describe how that feels, but it was so good to just know that I was not alone. Others had been experiencing the same things I had.

And if others had been going through it… then others had been studying it. There was a medical study in a psychological journal on it. It would have treatment plans. There would be a way to fight back against it. I felt tremendous amounts of relief. Then I went and hid in my room again.

Even knowing that there was a possible treatment for what I was going through, I still needed years to get to the point where I reached out, where I started saying “I need help”.

The tipping point actually came when I could no longer help myself. I’d lost my job, I’d lost all sources of income, I had no one that I could turn to for help. I needed to find someone that could halp me find a way to deal with something that I had been struggling with alone for years.

I’ve done that. I’ve reached out and found help. That is the hardest thing to do, but I think it was the best move I have ever made. People understand what I am feeling, how just stepping outside makes me feel, how badly I want to just go home and be alone. And now… anyone reading this will know. It’s a huge step. To say that something is wrong, to say “I need help”, but I am hoping that by my doing this, maybe others who are experiencing the same situations will know that they are not alone. They do not have to sit in their bedroom and watch the world drift by out through the crack in the curtain of their window.

What this means for this website is that I am going to stop worrying so much about what I am posting here, I am going to stop filtering out things that pertain to my life and how I am coping with day to day living. I am going to be taking my mom’s advice and this blog will be a raw look at what it is like to live with stress and anxiety and a fear of people.

I will admit, I feel like I am about to hypervhentilate and pass out as I write this, but I keep reminding myself that others out there are struggling with the same problems I am. Somewhere out in the world someone is trying to understand why they feel short of breath and want to run back to their bedroom when they have done nothing more than just walk to their kitchen for a glass of water and found members of their family already in the kitchen. The fears are irrational and impossible to put into words, but… they are felt by others. I have come to realize that if I am going to find a way to deal with my issues, I need to do more than ask for help – I need to open up and let others know that they are not alone. There are others who feel those fears and anxieties.

I am still not sure where the summer has gone to, but hopefully through reaching out I can stop living my life in a box and watching the world through a crack in the curtains. Maybe, someday, I might even dare once agian to explore the world beyond my safe place. I hope, if you suffer similar fears and anxieties, that maybe my openess can help you feel less alone. The world is a scary place, but fear should not stop us from being a part of it. (Much easier said than done, I know.)

On Clearing Nidhog Extreme, and other fights, in Final Fantasy XIV

In Final Fantasy XIV there is a fight against a dragon named Nidhog, when you do the extreme version of the fight you get a chance to get a bird mount or a scale from the dragon that is used to craft things. I joined a Nidhog Scale Farm on Tuesday because in the Party Finder it said that they were carrying one of their FreeCompany mates, so I figured that I had cleared it enough that I could help them out (I cleared that one on the first day it came out even).

The party finder had a minimum gear level of I think 380, so I had to switch to my raiding character (Krys’a) to join the party. No problem, I have been taking Krys into much higher end places and he has a 383 gear score. The base item level for Nidhog Extreme is 280. Sounds like it would be a easy quick run to clear, right?

It was very painful.

One of the core group of people that was doing the runs was being excessively toxic to people that joined to help. We had multiple fails on the first try, finally managed to get through the fight after a lot of death and a lot of people needing revived, a few folks left the party and the guy said “I was going to kick them anyway.”

The same person made it a point to correct everything I said about the fight, even though I was right on things I said. (I will admit I had not known you could get a scale in an unsynced run, but that was my only point of misinformation.) The toxic person insisted at one point that me and another player had a mechanic known as blue chains when I know for a fact I had red ones. The person also complained that the DPS was not good enough… and yet they put us into the fight with 6 out of 8 people, one of those 6 a stated carry. The toxic player complained that the DPS sucked and bragged that they had cleared the fight in under a minute twenty with only three people: one tank, one healer, and one DPS.

Now, I am not saying you can not clear the fight with only three people, you can, but it is not something you can do in under a minute twenty, at least I have never heard of anyone doing it that fast. I’m fairly certain the toxic person was just being toxic and trying to make others feel like they were failing to do their best.

It was no surprise to me that we failed multiple times on each attempt and only cleared I think 3 times. We did manage to get the carried person a first time clear, though, and were trying to get that person a bird as well.

Unfortunately I just could not take the toxicity of the one that was complaining about everything. I finally told the person being carried that I wished them the best of luck on getting the bird they wanted, apologized that I could not take the other person’s toxicity any longer, and left the party.

I made my own group and set it as a [Practice] group, with no ilvl requirement, stated that new players were welcome to join, and made the comment something along the lines of “Killing time, so fun run to farm some scales and birds. Who cares if we fail? Let’s have fun and learn the fight.”

We cleared not just the first time, we cleared on the first try on every run. And this was with new people that did not know anything about the fight, and people who were rusty and scared they did not remember it well enough to run it.

We laughed, we chatted about the fight, we supported one another and we got 4 people their birds and someone got one of Nidhog’s scales. Most importantly, we all had a lot of fun and new players learned how to do the fight.

The moral of this long post… If folks stop stressing about “MUST FIND BEST DPS!!!!” they clear more content and have a LOT more fun all around. Slow down, take the time to explain not just what new players need to do, but why they need to do it, and have fun playing the game.

Outlining Novels Using Chocolate

If this sounds like the ideal means by which to outline your novels, then you are probably as big a chocoholic as I am. I use chocolate to combat high levels of stress caused by social anxiety. My roommate buys me those large bags of around 145 assorted miniature Hershey candy bars. The ones with dark chocolate, milk chocolate, almonds and toffee in them.

Each little candy bar is wrapped up inside of a 2.5 x 3 inch square of paper-backed wrapper. A month or so ago I started dropping those little wrappers into a small cardboard box beside my trash can instead of into the trash can.

Last night, while trying to sort out how to proceed with my novel, I dug into the box and counted out 70 wrappers, flattened them out, and stacked them up. I then wrote brief blurbs for the scenes I have so far, one scene per wrapper.

This morning I grabbed some old thumb tacks and started pinning the wrappers to a 2’x3′ bullitain board I had kicking around. Once the board was covered in all 70 wrappers I started writing on the blank wrappers, adding what scenes I know I will need, adding in scenes that will bridge the gaps between other scenes, and just filling in what was missing from the story I want to tell.

As I write this I have 14 blanks left to fill in. I also have four extra wrappers pinned to the bottom of the board where I have wrote the name of each of my three point of view characters in a different color of felt pen, as well as small blurbs in pencil for what situation the character shoud be in at the end of their arc in this book. The fourth extra wrapper is where I wrote what I realised is my novel’s theme (one I had no planned, but suddenly realized is there.)

And that is how, if you are a stress chocoholic like I am, you can ouline your novel using chocolate.

Why I enjoy revising my novels, and how you can too!

I’ve been a writer for many years now, but I’ve always just written. It sounds strange, I know, but writing has always been such a relaxing activity for me that I have just wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more.

I have several books that are about the same characters, but told in slightly different manners to see if I prefer telling my story one way or another. I have wrote a lot.

Unfortunately for me, either life has hit me with something that derailed my ability to keep writing, or I have hit a point where I listened to those who told me I could never make it as a fantasy writer, and I have set my work aside for months at a time.

This time I have steadfastly ignored those who ridicule me for wanting to write fantasy stories and have only been slowed in my dream by the hard blows life deals me. Through perserverence, however, I have made it to having a story that is 59,329 words long… and I stopped like I ran into a brick wall.

I am not going to say that writer’s block hit me, because I am starting to understand that Neil Gaiman is right, there is no such thing as ‘writer’s block’. There are points where you can not get the story to move, but that is a story problem, not an inability of the writer to create words. A writer when faced with a problem in a story that makes it come to a stop will often work on another story – which clearly means the problem is not with the writer, it is with the story.

So, armed with Neil Gaiman’s perspective on the situation, I looked again at my story. This time I was not looking for how to keep moving it forward, instead I was looking at why it would not move forward.

I had written in a direction I had not intended to go, and this had caused me to write myself into a corner where I could no longer find a clear path through the story to where I wanted it to end. Nor could I see an ending that worked better than the one that I had wanted to end at. I was stuck, but it was not a block in the writing, at least not in the traditional sense of the term.

So, I began to dismantle the block.

I started revising my story. Starting at the beginning I looked at it as a reader and have began to mark all the places where it works, where it fails, to identify what will move it toward the kind of ending I want, and most importatly, I am looking for those areas where the story starts to stray off into the corner. I want to keep it out of that corner and have found that it is a lot like herding cattle as a kid. (Not my cattle, the neighbor’s 200 head of cattle that kept coming onto our land to graze, so my pony and I would go herd them off and on up the valley.)

What I also discovered is that I love revising my story. I did not want to stop last night, and was eager to get back to it this morning. I am getting to read the kind of story that I like, but I’m still distanced from it. I don’t have that full “reader” mindset as I am doing it. I am adjusting the story, here I have a story I love and when I come to a point where I would normally stop for a few moments and grumble at how the writer had done something, I am able to actually make a note of how *I* would do it better. I have direct feedback to the writer to tell them, “Fix this, you can do it better if you do it this way…” and … the writer will actually hear me and might make the suggested change. It’s awesome and not something I had considered in all the years I had heard others talk about dreading having to revise their story.

So, I guess if I had to say one thing to wrap this post up I would say – don’t be intimidated by revising your work. You hold the power to actually tell the author (YOU) where the story can be made better, and then you have the power to take all the feedback from your ideal reader (yourself) and make the story onto one that you cannot put down.

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