Monthly Archives: March 2012

Can’t Help Falling in Love (Again)

Falling in love is beautiful; beautiful and overwhelming and magical. The songs make sense. The sky is bluer, the grass greener, the sun sunnier. The world fades away. Nothing matters but you and your love. You stop spending every waking moment with your friends, and start spending every waking moment thinking about your lover. You meet for lunch, even though it’s a 15 minute drive each way and you only have a 45 minute break, because you can’t bear to go nine whole hours without seeing each other.

You open yourself and are engulfed by emotion. You know the feeling will never end. Your love is perfect and nothing can change that. You watch other couples and giggle to yourselves. We’ll never be like that, you think. We’ll never spend so much time arguing over who ate the most popcorn that we miss the end of the movie. We’ll never have to schedule a “date night”, or find it hard to remember when we last had sex, or argue about who left the dirty cup on the bench instead of stacking on the sink where it belongs.

And then things change. Perhaps you get married, or have children, or start saving for a house, or the pressures of work start to get to you. Or perhaps you just settle into a routine. Perhaps nothing changes at all, but suddenly everything is different. You stop talking about who has the sexiest body and start talking about whose turn it is to take out the trash. You stop laughing at each other’s jokes and start laughing at each other’s families. You stop wanting to spend all your time together and start wishing you had your own space.

You love each other, but it’s not the same. You’re inlove, but not of love. You talk about the future. You argue about how you spend your money. You’re overwhelmed by life and responsibility and work and finances and the need to consult with someone else over every single thing you do. You argue. You make up. You wish things were still magical and beautiful, and wonder what happened to the sweet, sensitive, sexy person you fell in love with. And then you eat another chocolate bar, turn on the TV, and try not to think about it.

You turn into that couple. A dirty sock abandoned on the bedroom floor sparks an argument of epic proportions. You compare incomes and free time and sacrifices and then one of you sleeps in the spare room. You wonder if you’re still in love at all. You feel trapped and lonely and isolated and old: old like the mountains; old like the rain. You look at young couples in love and feel overwhelmed by the weight of reality; the trials of time. You wish you could go back: back to that perfect place. But you’re too tired to try.

And then something happens.

It could be something wonderful or terrible; magical or mundane. Perhaps it’s sudden, or perhaps it creeps up on you like the first breath of spring after a long and freezing winter.

You wake up and find that you recognise the man in your bed. He’s not just the guy who can’t figure out how to put his dirty clothes in the hamper. He’s not the guy who drives you to the point of insanity with his inability to remember simple instructions. He’s not even the father of your children (at least, notonlythat). He’s the man you fell in love with.

He’s the man who can make you laugh more than anyone else in the world. He’s the man who can look into your eyes and see your very soul. He’s the man who knows the difference between when you’re really happy and when you’re pretending to be happy. He’s the man who loves you and thinks you’re beautiful, even when you’re wearing decade-old grey pyjamas and your hair looks like something out of a horror film. He’s the man who wants to hear your opinion on anything and everything.

And as you look into his eyes and remember the reasons you fell in love with him, you see the same startled recognition on his face.

The birds sing. The sun shines. The songs all make sense again.

You want to spend every moment together. You juggle your schedules; your work; your children; your responsibilities. You find time. You resent anything that gets in the way. You wake up early and stay up late, trying to wring as much extra time out of the day as possible. You talk, you dream, you live, you love. Everything is perfect.

But this time, this time, you’re smarter. You know how fleeting these feelings can be. So you cherish the moments. You bask in the glory of a world that doesn’t exist for anyone but you. You make changes. You make sacrifices. You make apologies.

Please accept mine.

I’ll be back either when this overwhelming bonfire fades to warm and cozy embers, or when I find a way to bring balance to the Force (or my life).

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Filed under Opinion, Random Stuff

Tuesday’s Top 5

Have you ever written a post and then wondered why you haven’t had any comments on it, only to discover that you forgot to hit the ‘Publish’ button and it’s been sitting as a draft for almost a whole day?

Yeah, me neither.

On with this week’s Top 5.

Anthony Lee Collins is one of the most regular commenters on my blog, and an incredibly interesting person. He’s been writing in the same world, with many of the same characters, for the last 22 years, and he does so in an incredibly interesting (and unusual) fashion: he posts each chapter online as he writes it. This means that he is writing novels in a serialised format. I’ve long been interested in his process and his reasons for writing this way, and this week my curiosity has been assuaged. The always-amazing Laura Stanfill hosted Anthony Lee Collins for a guest post titled Writing and Publishing Fiction One Piece at a Time.

I’ve recently come across an interesting new blog called Already Not Published. The author (I’m afraid I haven’t come across her name as yet) has a great post about unintended meanings in fiction. As she says: “The meaning that was intended, the messages the writer wanted to impart are secondary. Once you put it out there, there’s no telling what people will read into your words, what messages you have unintentionally portrayed.” Check out the whole post: Ride the Lightning.

Have you ever stopped to think about what your core values are? Ever tried to write them down? Kim “The G is Silent” Pugliano wrote about Core Values this week when she tried to help a friend and found herself thinking, “I don’t even know what my core values are; how am I supposed to identify hers?  What the hell ARE core values, anyway?” As always, Kim’s post is funny, touching, and a all-around great read.

If you know anything about Bridget of Twinisms, you know that her life is one long, wine-fuelled adventure after another. So when she went for a nice, quiet dinner at her friend Christin’s house, it should come as no surprise to find that things weren’t quite as peaceful as she would have hoped. Midway through the meal, the smoke alarm informed them that carbon monoxide levels in the room were at dangerous levels. Read all about Bridget’s Deadly Dinner to find out what happened next.

Janelle, the resident Renegade Mother, has a sense of humour that I can’t help but love. When she recently read the Occupy Wall Street Official Statement, the first thing that occurred to her about it was that many of the statements could so easily be applied to the way children behave in the home. So she brings us the official Occupy Single Family Homes with Children statement, which includes such gems as:

  • They have sold our privacy by telling inappropriate facts about our family to their friends’ parents, mostly in the form of what mommy said to daddy last night, without concern for what that behavior may do to our future as respectable figures in the eyes of the community.
  • They determine economic policy without concern for our savings, selfishly eating obscene quantities of food every.freaking.day, outgrowing their clothes on a regular basis, and demanding character-building activities such as sports, music, and social events, which they enjoy for 3 weeks and then refuse to attend.
  • They keep tight control of the media by demanding the same freaking book every single freaking night and requiring us to watch shows that don’t say “fuck.”

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Roleplaying for Writers — Part 1: What is Roleplaying, Anyway?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about narrative structure wherein I noted that I’ve learned a lot about narrative pace, structure and tension through my many years of roleplaying. I had a couple of people comment that they didn’t really ‘get’ the correlation between roleplaying and writing, and so I decided to write about it. The more notes I made, however, the larger the topic seemed to get. So, rather than writing a post so long that it results in nothing but a series of “tl;dr” responses, I’ve decided to break it into four parts.

  1. What is Roleplaying, Anyway?
  2. Playing a Character
  3. Running a Game
  4. The Magic and the Mindset

So, what is roleplaying, anyway? 

(And no, I’m not referring to whatever it is that you and your Significant Other do in the privacy of your own bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen. Those games are private and should remain so. Please.)

I’m going to introduce you to the concept in the same way I introduced my parents to their first (and only) roleplaying game. But first, a little background…

I first came across the idea of roleplaying when I was all of about nine, before I even knew I’d come across the idea of roleplaying. Does anyone else remember the amazing Dungeons and Dragons cartoon?

Six kids, magically transported to a new world and gifted with skills, abilities and magic items by a seemingly benevolent Dungeon Master and sent to fight evil and find their way home. But not too quickly, because then the adventure would be over.

I loved it. Absolutely loved it. What could be better than imagining myself cast into this situation, transformed into a cavalier or a unicorn-loving barbarian? (Yes, there were female characters. No, I didn’t want to be either of them.) 

Unfortunately, the cartoon was aired right in the middle of the “Dungeons and Dragons killed my son!”, “Role-Playing Games are of the Devil!”, “My Teenager Killed Himself When His Character Died!” hype that swept America and the world in the mid-80s. I was far too young to know anything about it, but my extremely conservative Dad heard the headlines and promptly banned me from watching anything labelled Dungeons and Dragons. “But why?” I asked plaintively. “Because it’s dangerous,” he responded. And that was the end of that conversation.

It wasn’t until I was thirteen that I actually learned about roleplaying, and came to realise exactly what version of Dungeons and Dragons my father was actually concerned about. I’ve written about my introduction to roleplaying before. What I didn’t say was that my parents instantly banned me from playing. Even my assertions that, “It’s not Dungeons and Dragons, it’s another game, and it’s not dangerous it’s just fun,” didn’t encourage them to allow me to play. They were adamant that anyone who played roleplaying games would end up either selling their soul or committing suicide. Or possibly both.

So I discovered a loophole.

The qustion, “Can I go to Adam’s place and roleplay?” would be met with a negative response.

The question, “Can I go to Adam’s place and hang out with him and a couple of other guys for the day?”, on the other hand, was apparently absoloutely fine.

I spent the next few years roleplaying as much as I could and keeping it a secret from my parents. It wasn’t until I moved out of home that I ventured to mention to them that I was roleplaying again. They were… let us say “not pleased”. But they didn’t really have any control over what I did with my spare time, so they let it go. After giving me a variety of warnings about the evils of RPGs.

Fifteen years later, I was still roleplaying. I was married, successful in my chosen profession, happy in my life, and not dead or bereft of my soul. My parents were staying with me for a few days when my Dad said, completely out of the blue, “You seem to do a lot of this ‘roleplaying’. Maybe it’s time we found out what it’s all about.”

I stared at him for a minute. “Really?” I asked.

“It can’t be all bad.”

And thus began the first, and only, time my parents have ever roleplayed.

Roleplaying, at its heart, is a collaborative storytelling experience. Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and found yourself thinking, “I would totally have seen that coming.” Or: “If that was me, I would have done something different.”? Congratulations! You know how to roleplay.

A roleplaying game consists of a person to run the game (often referred to as a Dungeon Master (DM), Games Master (GM), Storyteller (ST), or one of about a million other titles depending on which game you’re playing) and a group of players. A game can operate with any number of players – from a “solo game” with one player through to a game with twelve or thirteen players. Each of those players creates a character, and then takes on the role of that character in the story that that GM creates.

Important note: In a standard roleplaying game, “taking on the role” consists solely of talking. Facial expressions, hand gestures, etc are often used to punctuate dialogue, but there’s no real moving around or acting out or real weapons or satanic rituals or whatever else people think goes on. It’s a group of people sitting around talking, telling a story together.

There are a LOT of different roleplaying games out there. Dungeons and  Dragons is one of the most well-known, although I’ve only played it a handful of times. I’ve spent much of my roleplaying in other universes and worlds, some of which I’ll mention in later posts. But for right now, allow me to introduce you to the game of Amber.

When I decided to run a short session for my parents, I immediately decided to go with the Amber Diceless RPG.There were several reasons for this. First, they didn’t need to pretend to be a vampire, werewolf, monster-hunter, or anything else that would immediately make them think of horror movies. Second, the system is incredibly simple and, as the name would imply, doesn’t involve dice. That enabled me to introduce them to the concept without needing to teach them about a game system at all.

And so we started.

Me: You play a character in the game. So I want you to think of a character that you can play. It can be absolutely anyone that you can imagine. What does he/she do? How old is he/she? What are his/her hobbies? What’s his/her name?

Dad: —-

Mum: I’m a high flying lawyer with a fancy apartment and lots of money. I only take cases where my client is innocent, and I also like to solve crimes on the side. I’m thirty years old, I’m not married, but I live with my boyfriend and I don’t have any kids. I don’t want kids. I’m focused on my career. I like to go jogging. And solve crimes. And  my name is Sandy.

I think I just stopped and stared at my Mum at this point. So did my Dad.

Me: Uhh… What’s Sandy’s last name?

Mum: Goestopper.

Me: Okay. Dad?

Dad: —-

Me: Just pick something familiar to you if you like. It doesn’t have to be completely different.

Dad: Okay. I’ll play an Air Force pilot.

Me: Great! How old is he?

Dad: He’s 27. He has a wife and two children.

Me: What’s his name?

Dad: Tom.

Me: Tom…?

Dad: Jones. Tom Jones.

With characters ready to go, we embarked on the beginning of the game. Each of them, while living their normal lives, noticed a lady watching them intently. Tom Jones ignored her. Sandy Goestopper approached her and demanded to know what was going on. Eventually, each of them found themselves in a situation where their loved ones (and the rest of the world) seem to have frozen in time, and the woman explains that the world is about to be destroyed and only she can save them.

Dad: I go with her. I leave my family behind. That’s what an Air Force pilot would do.

Me: Oka-aay. Mum?

Mum: I slam the door on her and run inside. Jason [her boyfriend] is under the kitchen table, so I go under there and grab hold of him. “Jason!”

Me: He doesn’t answer. He seems to be frozen.

Mum: (miming shaking someone) Jason! Jason! You’re no good to me now, Jason!

Me: (laughing) Okay, what do you do?

Mum: I go back and open the door. “Okay, let’s go.”

Hi-jinks ensued, until they found themselves in the kingdom of Amber, where the King explained that they were actually a Prince and Princess. Tom Jones had a long conversation about metaphysics and what that meant for his future. (“What do you mean there’s no planes in Amber???”) Meanwhile, Sandy Goestopper ordered ridiculous amounts of food from the Royal Kitchens, and then went for a swim on the beach.

We ended the game session there, and I was satisfied that I had, if nothing else, given my parents a taste of what roleplaying was all about. I didn’t ask what they thought, or if they understood that we had created a story together — the three of us, weaving a series of events that never would have come together if any of us had tried to do it individually. We all went to bed, and that was the last I had expected to hear of it.

The next morning, my Dad said to me, “I don’t know if I like this roleplaying.”

My heart sank. “Why not?” I asked.

He frowned. “I had really vivid dreams all night. About castles and magic and strange worlds. And through all of it, there was this annoying lawyer woman who wouldn’t stop talking until I went to the beach with her.”

I guess that, on some level, he did understand.

 

If you’ve never roleplayed before, does this give you an idea of what it’s all about? If you do roleplay, how does this compare to the way you explain it? Have you ever introduced someone to roleplay? Would you run a game for your parents?

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Filed under The Inner Geek, Writing

Monday’s Top 5

Are you looking for a way to get the inspiration flowing and kickstart your writing? This week, Vivacia from A Wannabe Writer’s Blog brings you 20 Tips on Mugging Your Muse. She’s got a heap of different ideas, from Succeeding with Sneakiness to using Passion to Make Perfect, so there’s bound to be at least a few that appeal to you.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m writing I have a tendency to act out the scene as I go. I speak dialogue out loud, my own facial expression changes to match the way my characters are feeling, and, on occasion, I even stand up and act out the physical movements of my characters. (What would it look/feel like to do [insert action here]?) Billie Jo Woods talks about these things in her post this week, and wonders whether her writing packs a greater emotional punch when it makes her laugh or cry or cringe as she’s writing it. Go have a read: Please Pass the Tissues, Emotional Writing Happening Here.

If you’ve ever read any of Bridget’s posts on Twinisms, you’ll already know at least two things about her life: (1) Boxed wine is awesomesauce, and (2) Alaska sucks. (There’s also something about having two sets of twins or something… So hard to keep track of the little things.) So I was both amused and disappointed this week to discover that she’s been lying to us all along. And now she’s spilled the beans (with pictures and video footage to prove it.) Here’s Bridget with her confession: Alaska — Not Sucking.

This was a big week for Tracy from Sellabit Mum: She wrote and published her 1000th post. Yes, you read that right: One thousand posts. All I can really say is: “Holy dooley! That’s amazing!” (I apparently lost the ability to exclaim anything normal or interesting once my children were born.) Tracy looks back on the last four years, considers where she is now, and considers the question: I wonder if I’m really ‘just’ a blogger and not a writer.

On a more touching and sadder note, the lovely Worrywart wrote an amazing story about Ashlee. She may not have known Ashlee, but this post is full of passion and love. I leave you with this excerpt:

Several tables were set up. A small group of serious women served food from large foil containers. It smelled delicious. There were flowers lining the perimeter.

A wedding? 

Rounding the corner, ASHLEE was written in flowers. Her yearbook photo rested against a nearby shrub.

She was 17. She took her own life.

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The Real Magic of Narnia

 

Big Brother’s love of books started early. At barely 8 months old, he’d happily lie on his tummy and flip through books looking at the pictures. Bedtime stories were the norm by the time he was a year old, and they’ve continued to this day. (Don’t ask about Little Brother — he thinks books taste yummy.)

While he still loves looking through picture books on his own, we moved on to early readers a while ago for our evening storytime. Although the many misadventures of Spot are entertaining enough during the day, when night-time comes he wants to hear about Knights and Dragons, Beowulf and Grendel, or (at the very least) what that naughty Cat in the Hat has been up to this time.

I’ve approached the idea of reading him a “grown up” book several times — you know, the kind without any/many pictures — but he’d resisted. Last week, he agreed to give it a try. (He’s a Big Boy now, you know.)

I immediately borrowed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from the library, and Big Brother waited impatiently for bedtime to roll around so he could hear the start of the story.

It took seven nights to read him the book. Seven nights of two or three chapters read aloud while Big Brother snuggled under the covers and watched me with shining eyes and an excited smile. Seven days of, “Is it nearly bedtime yet?” and “How long until dinner time?” and “Can I have my bath early today?” as he eagerly awaited the next instalment of “Narnia! Narnia! Narnia!”

And over those seven nights I learned the real magic of Narnia  — and of any book magical enough to spawn generations of avid fans. Over those nights I was immersed in the world of Narnia through the eyes of a four-and-a-half-year-old child.

I saw hs eyes widen in horror when he realised Edmund was talking to the White Witch.

He was devestated by the idea of it always being winter but never Christmas (despite never having experienced a wintery Christmas himself) and enchanted by Mr. Tumnus. “Mr. Tumnus will be okay. He just has to be.”

He loved Mr Beaver instantly, cheered out loud when Father Christmas showed up, and staredin awed wonder when Peter received his sword and shield.

And Aslan… Oh, Aslan. I don’t think Big Brother knew whether to love him or be terrified of him at first. I saw the emotions warring across his face. But when Aslan roared his terrible roar and scared the White Witch away, Big Brother’s face lit up and he grinned at me in triumph. “Go, Aslan!”

His favourite part of the book was when Peter, even though he was scared, killed the wolf that was attacking Susan. Big Brother barely moved a muscle as I read the scene to him, his eyes wide, his little fingers clenched around the blanket as though ready to pull it over his face at any moment. As the wolf died, Big Brother gave a yell of triumph, pumping his fists through the air and grinning wider than ever before.

When we finally got to the moment — that moment — I read with trepidation. Would he cry? Would he be sad? Would he even want to hear the end of the story? I needn’t have worried. He listened with wide eyes at first, and then covered his own eyes when Susan and Lucy covered theirs. When the chapter ended with the two girls sitting and crying and crying, he clenched his fists and narrowed his eyes and said, “Now they really need to kill the White Witch!”

And oh, didn’t his eyes light up when they found Mr. Tumnus! And when the Giant Rumblebuffin thought Lucy was a hankerchee! “Rumblebuffin! Hee hee hee! Say the name again, Mum!”  And when battle was joined, and the White Witch defeated!

He wasn’t initially sold on the whole King and Queen thing. “I don’t know about Peter being the High King. What if Aslan turns him into a lion? That wouldn’t be good. Not good at all.” But by the end of the book he was announcing over and over,”Once a King or Queen of Narnia, always a King or Queen of Narnia!”

And in the end, the magic of Narnia had engulfed him and worked its wonders. “Do we really have to take this book back to the library?” he asked, cuddling the picture-free paperback to his chest. “Can’t we keep it forever and ever and ever?”

I smiled and ruffled his hair, not telling him the Truth that he will learn in his own time: “Yes, you can keep it forever and ever. And you will. The whole story is written right there in your heart.”

 

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Filed under Life With Kids, Reading