Golden Nights

“What are you doing out so late?” The old man gave me a penetrating look, wizened eyebrows knitted together in thought.

“Same as you.” I flicked my hair back and pulled my scarf closer.

Why did anyone go out at night? That time when the darkness steals vision away, giving in its place the teasing small lights.  The lights and shadows twinkling like ghosts toying with mortals in the darkness.

He didn’t answer. Instead, just like the gentleman he had been for all his life, he took my arm in his own and we walked together in silence. The tranquility was a warm invitation for thought.

We watched the streetlights flicker against the golden colors of the leaves long into the night.



Writing is like Exercising

A lot of things are like physical exercising.  Playing music requires practice, keeping a house clean requires diligence, learning a new skill requires lots of use and maintenance.

Writing is not any different.

I have always written.  I loved the stories mom would read chapter books to my brother and I. We always wanted her to keep going and would beg her for more at the end of a reading.  When I was 9, I even attempted my own mystery story, it was not my best work of art and I think I may have gotten rid of that old copy (but not before my mom proudly showed it to my teacher).

Since then, I would attempt stories of my own sporadically, though my imagination was running wild 24/7.  In high school, I discovered several web comics that I absolutely loved and started making plans to possibly write my own.  I had character notes and a general idea of the plot but I never really sat down and wrote it (though, my drawing abilities excelled during this time because I was not going to produce a web comic unless I was sure I could make its quality stand out).

It was during this time that the ideas for my trilogy of fantasy books started coming together.

Finally, in 2015 a couple friends and I started our own critique group and for the first time I was writing more rigorously and more often.  I also participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and  I went from 16000 total words at the beginning to 180000 in the last two years on various drafts.

And you know what?  With every single second I spend critiquing, writing, and learning from writing masters, I can see my work become better.

I have a philosophy in life that we never really arrive.  Life is a journey and it’s also like a balance beam.  We are constantly improving and we are constantly having to adjust for our balance.  Like our core muscles, the more we consciously work at this balancing act, the less we notice the individual muscles, with every experience we’re strengthened so that the next time, we’re not as sore.

By practicing the basics, we become ready for what comes next.

Just like life, writing is an exercise, grow lax and it takes longer to get back into shape.


The reason I love flash fiction so much is for the same reason I like working on daily vignettes, they give me these seeds for a story I can choose to come back to and work with at a later date.  Often, I start out with a thought and find out as I’m writing that it escalates quickly. 

This latest one came to me while I was sitting in my car during a downpour.  I had gotten to a meeting early and had just visited a monastery earlier in the week.

So, this came about:

Nights like this suck up the light.  Even the flickering lamplight is gone quickly as if some dark monster is out there eating it all up and leaving only the darkness.  The rain is pouring, its icy fingers soaking through these black robes.  Everywhere the air smells of wet plants and stone.

The weather couldn’t be more fitting.  A coup shouldn’t be marked by sunshine, the dramatic mood of the weather matches the occasion.  The overthrowing of a king should have some flair.

I tuck the book back into my robes, the note there memorized, but the feel of paper, even wet, is oddly soothing.  It’s a concrete form of an idea, something I can hold to in the calm before the chaos.

I make a brief sign, I may only be masquerading as a monk, but the prayer I just said was genuine.

The rain masks my footsteps, whether the shivering is from the cold or the nerves I can’t tell, probably both.  I come to the door, a great oaken door, sturdy and designed to hold off attacks, not assassins.

I nod to the knight stationed there.  He looks miserable, he too is shivering.  He only briefly looks at me and gestures toward the door.  Wet, miserable fool.

I open the door and step in.


Observations on Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

If you have spent any amount of time on this blog you’ll pick up on the fact I’m a geek and I won’t deny it.

I grew up watching imported anime on Saturday mornings, playing video games, reading fantasy novels, and getting into intense discussions concerning all these with my friends.  But, for a while I was not able to watch anime, either due to general busyness or lack of access.

Finally, in the last two years, I have been able to watch these shows again and I have been loving it (sometimes a little too much).  And while it is an indulgence, I have used this interest to better my own stories. I use my observations of the animes to hone in on my own characters and worldbuilding.  It is a practice that allows me to enjoy entertainment while also utilizing it.

Why Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood?

This leads me to Full Metal Alchemist.  Earlier, I discussed Qrow from RWBY on this blog, and well, the RWBY community constantly brings up Fullmetal Alchemist (FMA) references in video comments because his voice actor plays Ed in FMA.  So after about a year of hearing how great it was by people with similar tastes, I finally decided to check it out.

The only version I was able to find was FMA: Brotherhood, and while I was hesitant at first because I knew it wasn’t the original anime, after some research I discovered that it is closer to the story of the manga and jumped right into watching it.

I am currently in the middle of the series (so no spoilers in the comments please) and here are the five reasons I am loving it and three things I wish were better.  I’m going to keep this somewhat vague as I hate to give away too many spoilers.

The Pros:

  1. I’m emotionally invested – Ed is actually a decent example of a teenager who is brilliant, but is also not as smart as he thinks he is.  He and his brother Al are desperately trying to get their bodies back after a failed attempt to resurrect their mother.  This is already a great set up to a story, with a main character driven by pain and a mission of redemption, but the best part is he’s not the only one.  As the series progresses we get a glimpse of the psyche behind Colonel Mustang and his assistant Hawkeye.
  2. Insurmountable odds – Our main characters are up against seemingly all powerful enemies, but even in the face of this there are glimpses of hope.
  3. Nuanced baddies – Well, not all of them (see below).  But there is at least one a couple baddies who seem to have more motivations than their face value.
  4. Setting – So far there aren’t as many plot holes or super powered heroes as I’ve seen in other anime like Kirito‘s character in SAO (though I am disappointed in a few times where it seems the main characters too easily get out of a tight situation).  I consider this a positive.  There are also several countries and cultures at play that serve to spice up the main story.
  5. Complexity – A few episodes in, it became clear the story would revolve around not just the Elrich brothers but also the rest of the cast.  I love this sort of story telling where we get a glimpse at the larger chess game being played out instead of a focus on just a couple of characters.

The Cons

  1. Winry – I’m annoyed Winry has not played a larger role in the story, though I’m holding out hope that her part will expand in the last half of the story.  She has grit but also a soft side, and I’m very interested to see what she would do if she gets caught in a real fight.
  2. Pacing – There are a few sections of info dumping through flashbacks (most of what was revealed I had already pieced together from the storytelling in the present).    There are also several slow sections, which are good for character building, but not the part of the story I’m interested in at that moment.
  3. The bad guys – There’s a few characters I’m so ready to be done watching: Envy, Gluttony, and Lust this one goes out to you three.  They’re more or less the most two dimensional of all the major players: evil for evil’s sake.


I was thinking the other day how story ideas come to me.  I’m sure it’s not unique, but it can be frustrating.

Most of my ideas come to me in pieces: an observation here, a dream there, something someone said a long time ago, a smell that takes me back to another time and place.  All of these I spin and weave together in my mind until something new comes along and it becomes more cohesive. The sort of idea I can spin a story around.

In some ways, it’s like a chef or a baker deducing what went into a finished piece from some small morsel of a bite.

But it’s also why I’m taking so long on my projects, I specialize in fantasy and at times it can be hard to construct a world by collecting crumbs and pieces from the corners of my thoughts.

And yet, the experimentation can be deliriously fun as well.

So here is where I’m currently at:

I’ve decided to completely rewrite my Renegade novella, it has enough story to become a full novel.

I’m working on planning a third major project.  It’s going to be a modern fantasy/urban fantasy with elements from the legends surrounding King Arthur.

Last of the Summer Series: Brandon Sanderson BYU Writing Class

Children are back in school, pumpkin spice lattes are making a reappearance, and I’m getting back to a more normalized schedule.  Fall is here and I have one last link to share as a part of the summer series of YouTube videos (and podcasts) I have found helpful for writing.

I was able to spend a lot of time this summer listening to writing podcasts and an assortment of audio books at work, all of which I believe have helped to strengthen my craft.  I’ve also developed a taste for Yoga and I’m hoping the introduction of a new discipline will also aid in getting back into the regularity of a writing routine (though bribing myself with pumpkin spice lattes are also likely to help).

That said, here’s the video of the week.  Brandon Sanderson, in addition to hosting “Writing Excuses”, also teaches a creative writing class over at BYU wherein the assignment of the semester is to create a novella.  I believe one of the stipulations of him teaching the class is that his lectures must be allowed to be available online.

What that means for the rest of us is a free workshop on writing fiction with one of the great high fantasy authors of our time.

“Why Do So Many People Love SAO – The Art of Mass Appeal” by Mother’s Basement

For those of you who missed my first summer series post, the idea is that with how crazy my summers are I will be posting helpful Youtube videos for the creative process.  This helps me keep up with the blog while diverting the majority of my attention to my current projects.

While I was looking through anime related videos, I came across this feature on Sword Art Online.  I have a soft spot for SAO myself since it got me back into anime last year.  I loved the first half of season one and all the emotions it carried with it.  I came to deeply care about the characters and whether or not they’d survive.

That being said, I hated the second part of season one for reasons this video addresses.  I do think the second season was far stronger, and while I didn’t connect with it as much as I had those initial episodes there was still some powerful storytelling going on.

What I like about this video, is that it does examine why Sword Art Online is loved by so many people. The practical reasons he lists for SAO’s success are points I can use as tools to examine aspects of my own work.

That being said, enjoy!