WIP-it Wednesday: June 28th, 2017

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What a week! The month leading up to it was a real rollercoaster, but I had a tremendously fun time at PortConMaine all the same! By the end of it, I was exhausted –conventions and back to back gaming and game-mastering are rarely restful– but it was a good kind of exhausted as I came home late Sunday night. I was really glad that I had Monday off to recover… I slept until 8 am, and I haven’t done that in ages! ;-)

This was my second year as convention RPG staff and my wife Kimberly’s first after being regular attendees for several years. One wouldn’t think that working as a volunteers (PortCon is all volunteer staff) for half of your long weekend and vacation would be such a fantastic time. And yet it is. It’s not only great fun, but an honor to be active parts of an event that provides so much to so many.

In a world that seems to go out of its way lately to beat our spirits down, we created an oasis for others and ourselves in which those same spirits could find shelter and renewal. That’s worthy and good work, and I’m proud to be part of it.

So what went down? Things actually started last Wednesday night before the start of the con, when my friend Ian came down to my house and spent the night with fellow staffer Patrick. Ian is the Staff Chair of the RPG section of the convention, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. This was the second year we were able to entertain him as a guest and the first where we got to do the same for Patrick. We all sat around and had some great conversations about games old and new, and quite a bit of talk was given to my upcoming novel, Vivian’s Last Cigarette.

Thursday morning came, and our guests departed early to attend to the last preparations for PortCon’s 4 pm opening. Kim and I got ourselves packed for the three night stay in a staff room in the hotel, then stopped at the local copy shop to print off colored game handouts. We got to the event, registered, checked into the hotel and had just enough time to settle in before I ran my Toys Against Darkness game at 6 pm.

Toys went really well, and the players were able achieve the best possible ending. Everyone left the table satisfied. :-) A pair of players I had from last year joined in, and would return for two more of the games I would run that weekend. They said I ran some of the best games at the con, and that really meant a lot to me. :-)

After that, the game arena closed, and Kim and I returned to the hotel room we were sharing with Ian and another staffer named CJ whom we became friends with over the course of this year’s convention. Ian was in a bit of a jam as he had forgotten to bring the player characters needed to run his RPG session the next morning, so we assembled a group of RPG staffers in our room and helped him create a worthy batch! This was a great exercise in collaborative creation and storytelling, as we didn’t just create characters but also their relationships to one another and even the story setting and scenario. I loved it, and was up far too late enjoying the process. ;-)

Portcon 2017, day two!

Friday morning began the first full day of the convention. I took in a panel at 11 am called “So You Want to be an Author?” being given by a trio of experienced writers from the Quantum Muse eZine. This was an excellent “101” writing-publishing talk with very practical, sound and no-nonsense advice. These guys have decades of experience and know their stuff. I can’t say that I learned much from the panel I didn’t already know, but I did get a lot of affirmation that what I’m currently doing are tactics they’ve employed and recommend.

What was most instructive for me was getting to talk to the presenters afterwards. I thanked them for their talk, and asked them some more “202” type writing questions about critiquing and editing that they were more than happy to answer. I took note of their advice, and it really put me at ease with what I’m doing so far with the editing of my novel. I bought a few of their printed anthologies, and I’m thinking about submitting some work to Quantum Muse in the future. :-)

Not long after that conversation, I met indie author Melissa Walshe selling her books Autumn’s Daughter and Autumn’s Sister. Her back cover blurb immediately sold me on Autumn’s Daughter, and I ended up having a lovely fifteen minute chat with her and her husband after buying a copy of that first book of her trilogy. Really nice folks. I’m looking forward to getting into her story once I find a moment to start enjoying it!

I finished my shopping with a stop at artist Melissa McCommon’s booth. Melissa is the creator of the Epic Chaos! webomic, and we had a nice conversation. She’s really talented, and had come all the way from California to Maine to vend at PortCon while visiting family… on her birthday! And she also had these awesome fantasy, RPG-ish buttons that I just had to add to my collection!

This one in particular I wore for the rest of the convention:

These were all really cool people to run into, and that’s one of my favorite things that happens regularly at PortCon. :-)

This blog is getting long, so I’m breaking it into two-parts. Tune in tomorrow for part two! Take care!  

Art-Tastic Tuesday: Orcquest Cover, by Daniel Zrom

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Click the picture below for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

Orcquest Cover, by Daniel Zrom. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Epic Music Monday: Two Steps From Hell – Our Last Hope

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I love epic music! For me it is a perfect combination of the classic orchestral scoring, chorales and electronica music that I have enjoyed for decades. This stuff inspires me, and is a great companion as I write away on an exiting piece of fiction. Therefore, on Mondays I share a new piece by various artists on the blog… Epic Music Mondays!

WIP-it Wednesday: June 21st, 2017

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Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!

It’s been a packed week.

Leading up to it, my old cat became very sick and then passed away. And prior and post to that sad event I had bookended weekends that required me to work on my house and it’s grounds. All of this prevented me from putting as much effort as I wanted into preparing the sixteen hours of roleplaying games that I’ll be running at this year’s PortCon, which starts Thursday.

It shoved the majority of what needed to be done all into the last weekend before the con. Most of my fellow writers out there should know that means it was deadline and crunch time. I tapped my reserves and chugged caffeine like Popeye downs spinach. And, by gum, even though that last weekend wasn’t enough to get it all finished… I pounded out and completed the last two games this Monday and Tuesday!

Aside from printing the color handouts Thursday morning, the games are ready with a day to spare.

However, this victory came at the expense of the time I usually devote to maintaining my social media thoughtfully, and other stuff… like sleeping. ;-) I apologize if my presence has been lacking, or my posting slapdash. Starting next week, I hope to not only return to working on my novel, but also to getting the blog back on track and regular again.

As I write this, I’m exhausted. This was a lot of effort compressed into a small amount of time while I was also working and commuting to a full-time day-job. But now I’ve met this part of my responsibilities, and once my work is done today, I even have an evening to rest-up with before my vacation and the convention starts.

So I hope you can forgive me if I cut this short, and bid you adieu. I’m going to have fun over the next four days, and you’ll hear all about it next week. :-)

Alright, time for me to stop blogging and get back to writing some more fiction! a good night’s rest! Take care!

Art-Tastic Tuesday: ‘You Better Run…’ by Gregory Fromenteau

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Click the picture below for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

‘You Better Run…’ by Gregory Fromenteau. Click here for more of the artist’s work!

Epic Music Monday: Songs To Your Eyes – Golden Fleece

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I love epic music! For me it is a perfect combination of the classic orchestral scoring, chorales and electronica music that I have enjoyed for decades. This stuff inspires me, and is a great companion as I write away on an exiting piece of fiction. Therefore, on Mondays I share a new piece by various artists on the blog… Epic Music Mondays!

Photo Finish Friday: ‘Sunflowers at Sunset’, by Kathryn Dyer

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Click the picture below for full-size. On Photo Finish Fridays, I feature a selected piece of landscape photography that I have come across. I find that real-world photography can be just as inspirational to my imagination for crafting story settings as any piece of fantastic artwork that I might share on a Tuesday. I present these without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!

‘Sunflowers at Sunset’, by Kathryn Dyer. Click here for more of the photographer’s work!

Goodbye, Old Friend

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Almost a week ago, I had to say goodbye to one of the best cats ever, Nomti.Longtime followers of the blog will remember this old cat getting mentioned now and again. He was a tough but loving kitty, often blunt and graceless, but also very genuine and sincere in his affections. He made a habit of soliciting pets, weaving between ankles and begging for the food humans were eating amid any social gathering my wife and I hosted. This and his gentle nature made him many friends, and rightfully so.

He was a beautiful, loving boy… And a better friend to me than many humans I’ve known.

Like any cat, he could be a shit sometimes. Notably, he had no sense of control when it came to food. He was like Garfield in his gluttony, and in his younger years there were actually several instances where he did get into our pasta while our backs were turned (including a lasagna once).He didn’t come to us as a kitten, instead we were graced to be his second home just as he turned 9. We adopted him from his prior owners because one of their family members had developed cat allergies. That was ironic, as we were specifically looking for a Siamese because my wife isn’t allergic to that breed while most other cats can make her very ill combined with her asthma.

They had kept him as an indoor/outdoor cat, and I don’t think they paid him much attention. They had little to say about the great personality we would later discover in him. He was also terribly overweight, at a whopping 26 pounds (almost 12 kg)! He was along bodied, long tailed cat… but he was so fat then he couldn’t lick his butt and keep himself properly clean.

We put him on a diet, gave him lots of play, and he slimmed down to 15 ponds within a year or so. But the excessive weight he bore for the first half of his life likely contributed to the diabetes that would emerge to plague him a few years later. For the most part, we were able to help him control this affliction by modifying and monitoring his diet.

My wife had wanted to add a cat to the household for her companionship while I was away and she was stuck at home underemployed. However, he gravitated to me pretty quickly as a lap cat and companion keeping me company over many long hours of writing. He would even help with editing…

Wesir

Siamese are a more social breed of cat than most. When Kim found full-time employment and the house was empty for longer periods of time, we noticed a sadder tone to his moods. We had been talking about adding another cat to remove his loneliness for months, when we encountered a much younger adult Siamese seeking adoption out of pure fate. We brought him home within hours and named him Wesir. The little guy had been found abandoned on the streets, and had lots of separation anxiety… We couldn’t coax a purr out of him, although he was a nice cat.

The pair warmed up to one another in a week. Nomti took Wesir under his wing and they became exceptionally close for adult male cats not from the same litter. They would sleep with and groom one another, with Wesir being very attentive to the aging cat and making sure his hygiene was acceptable. In exchange, we swear Nomti taught him how to purr.

Wesir comforting Nomti (in cone), June 2016.

Wesir definitely is my wife’s cat, and she is the center of his universe. Nomti was never so fawning with his affections for me, but there was a plain honesty to them. His long lap-sits. The late nights watching me write and then sleeping nearby in my study. He was an assuring, guarding presence always.

When our friend Jessica needed a place to stay while putting her life into order, we welcomed her as a boarder in our home. And Nomti was there for her too, joining her at bedtime every night with his aura of protection and providing a loving companionship she needed at a difficult time.

His heart knew few boundaries. Even on his worst days, there was never a moment he wouldn’t spare a purr to help my bad times be a little better.

Nomti’s last year wasn’t kind to him as he reached an age of seventeen. His heath failed during my long unemployment when our money was incredibly tight. He got an infected eye and lost his sight in it despite the investment of money we really couldn’t afford into his treatment.

He never fully recovered from that. He became frail, getting down to a bony six pounds as we struggled to keep him well. His remaining good eye got infected over the winter, and while we began daily eye-treatments of antibiotics that seemed to promote some recovery, eventually they began to worsen again.

He just couldn’t fight off the infections that beset him. His immune system was failing, and it cost him his eyesight. Somehow we held onto hope he’d get better, but as his last few months dragged on it was clear that he was neither enjoying his life or going to round a corner and get well again.

His final crisis was a massive mouth infection that happened so quickly, and caused such swelling, that we thought he had gotten stung while eating a bee or wasp while we were at work. It was a grim sight as he could hardly eat, and then he lost control of his bladder.

As I comforted him, weak in my arms but still rasping out a purr, I realized that I was hanging on to him for my benefit… not his. I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t want to lose my friend. But the world had become something that only pained Nomti. He couldn’t do any of the things he loved anymore; he could only shiver in the kitchen. He purred only to say he loved us, not to say he loved what his life had come to.

I was doing him a disservice.

The vet and his staff were kind. They ran a few tests confirming his diabetes was out of control, and there were likely numerous other issues stacked on top of that. And they let us stay with him as they eased him from a world that now only pained him, and into a place beyond it.

He purred despite it all, surrounded by love right to the end, in our arms. Then he was gone.

Wesir is still looking for his older brother, crying and searching all the corners of the house for him.

Nomti was, and ever shall be, my friend. And the truest of cats. As word of his passing spread, so many have contacted us with remembrances about him… That speaks volumes about how special he was to so many. Jessica even crafted a touching memorial to her lost friend as she worked through her sadness:

Like a hero of old she placed him amid the stars, surrounding him with catnip and the popcorn he’d beg to snack on whenever there was some to be had. Remarkably, a few kernels always seemed to be accidentally dropped his way.

It’s been a hard week, and I’ve needed space and time to grieve. This will serve as my update this Wednesday, and you can expect some posts on Friday but not Thursday.

I’ll be back next week with a full WIP-it check-in just before PortCon starts.

Take care… and if you have a cat, give them a hug for me.

~Jason.

Art-Tastic Tuesday: 7890m, by Park Pyeongjun

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Click the picture below for full-size. On Art-Tastic Tuesdays I feature a selected piece of visual art that I have come across. These are pieces that have inspired my writing or beautifully frame some concept or another that I have already written or want to write about. I present them without commentary so they may inspire you without the burden of my perspective, and pictures have links to the artists’ blog or website if at all possible.

If you are ever curious as to why a particular piece is special to me, or use it for a writing prompt and want to share, please drop a comment!