Saturday, March 19, 2016

There Is No Magic Bullet

I had a revelation last night. I was playing the X-Wing miniatures game with some buddies, good game you should check it out, and had to sit out the first round of games because I arrived late. So I did what my kendo sensei calls "looking and learning practice". I watched two of my buddies play the game and realized that what my one buddy was trying to do was create what I'll call the "magic bullet" squadron list.

The "magic bullet' is thus: a list that guarantees success despite the player's relative lack of experience, a list or combination that guarantees success no matter how incompetent the player.

You can guess what happened:

Now my buddy isn't a bad player but both he and I have only been playing the game for a few weeks. Unlike him I've discovered that what makes for a good game isn't looking for that one "magic bullet" to make your list formidable but rather you need to build a flexible list with options and learn and practice maneuvering around the playing field. Of the two, leaning to maneuver better will serve a player best in the long run.

Okay, so you're probably wondering what the hell this has to do with anything. Well, life and writing and all of it is very muck like a game of X-Wing. If you keep searching for that "magic bullet" you're wasting time that could be better spent learning how to maneuver.

No one thing is going to make your life perfect. Getting that degree or job or partner won't make you complete. What will make your life better is learning how to deal with the rocks and missiles fired your way, how to pick yourself up off the ground after life knocks the shit out of you. Learning how to never give up.

It's taken me a long time to realize this. Is my life perfect? Nope, but it's mine to live and I'm going to keep on learning how to dodge and weave and keep picking myself up when I fall.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

As You Wish

March Break is a lot less exciting when you're no longer a kid. As an adult, even if you're in school, there's almost always some adulting that needs to be done that ruins any free time you may have.

Luckily for me two things have come to pass to give me a chance to recapture a little bit of March Break this year. One, I was able to get a day off in the middle of the week, for reasons other than March Break but enjoyable all the same, and two, Landmark Cinemas has been playing The Princess Bride all this week which is exactly what I went and watch today.

I've spoken before about how The Hobbit was one of the formative works for making me a writer. The Princess Bride is equally as important. It's one of those films that taps into why stories are important and timeless, how they can bridge the gap between generations.

It's a story that works on multiple levels as well. At one level is the story of Westly and Buttercup and all the craziness around them. Swordfights and true love, giants and evil princes. It's a classic tale but so infused with humor and panache that it never gets boring even after watching it dozens of times.

The Hobbit made me fall in love with books and fantasy, The Princess Bride made me fall in love with swordplay:

I maintain that this is one of the best swordfights ever committed to film, not because of technique or cinematography but because it's so much damn fun! My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I'm almost certain this is the first sword duel I ever saw on film. The only other contender could be the Vader/Obi-Wan duel from Star Wars but that duel, while iconic in its own way, is not the kind to inspire any kind of passion.

But aside from the duels there's the very simple framing story of the grandfather reading to his grandson, passing along a family tradition. It's wonderful to see the originally reluctant grandson, who's not overly fond of his grandfather, get into the story and actually have a real connection with his grandfather than bridges the gap between generations. It tells us that some stories are indeed timeless.

The movie also has a near perfect ending when the grandfather says "As you wish" echoing Westly's words to Buttercup and telling his grandson he loves him in one of the most poetic ways possible.

I could probably go on for about another thousands words picking The Princess Bride apart but instead I'll just end with this: If you can see this in the theater take your kids and if you can't then rent it and have a family movie night. Who knows, you may inspire the next great novelist.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Mind/Body Connection And How It Has Affected My Writing

You know it's funny but it's taken me over 38 years to really get how the mind/body connection affects me, how it probably affects us all.

Let me explain.

A little over a year ago I ended up in the hospital when my gall bladder tried to kill me. I know, how galling of it! (I'll wait until you stop groaning to continue.)

I was in the hospital for three weeks and then spent another two and a half weeks up at my parents recovering and for most of that time I could barely eat. Heck, for a couple of days I lived of IV fluid and ice-chips. I only left their place after I could stand up long enough to have a decent shower. In other words, my body was trashed.

The worst part of the whole situation though was I could feel my creativity falling away, feeling my mind getting feeble. I was the kid who read constantly but during my recovery period I could barely concentrate long enough to watch the Food Network! (Yes the Food Network sustained me when I couldn't eat. Yes, it's weird, I know.)

Even though I probably nearly died (maybe - I know my doctor was worried there for a bit but found that out long after I was out of the hospital) what worried me the most was that I might have lost my creative spark, my ability to write.

I know I'm not the only one this has happened to, but damn if it wasn't scary.

I'm glad to say I can still write. Now my fiction writing output has been negligible that last year because I've been schooling online to become a tech writer in addition to joining a gym and working with a trainer.

I've done the gym route before but this was the first time I've had a regular trainer and this brings me to the point I wanted to make. Today I went to kendo as regular and as has been happening lately I was just a little bit better than before. On top of that, after the class I wasn't as sore as before, meaning all the mental energy I would have used for pain management can go elsewhere, such as writing this post.

I could go on and on about this, but the truth is I'm excited about what this means. If I can keep up my training then when I finish my schooling or even before then I can get back into writing fiction, back into working towards the writing career I've always dreamed about.

I'm not there yet but each day brings me closer.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

My Ad Astra Schedule

Deconstruction: What Happens When You Take Tropes Apart 

Time: 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Room: Oakridge
Genre fiction thrives on tropes, from the stalwart hero, the damsel into distress, and all the way to the nefarious villain, but what happens when a show takes those tropes and turns them on their head. Join us as we discuss how and why to do this and examine when it's done right and when it's done wrong.


Space Battles: Lens Flares and Camera Shakes 

Time: 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Room: Whitchurch
Space Battles have generally been in one of two camps: WWII Naval Engagements, or WWI Ace Pilot Dogfights. Where can we go from here to realize what actual space combat will be like without inserting our silly terra-centric prejudices into the mix?

Melee Combat: Separating Fact From Fiction 

Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Room: Oakridge
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to fighting with swords and other melee weapons. This panel will bring them to light and discuss how to write great combat scenes while still getting it right.

Aang and Korra: Animated TV shows that break molds and give us hope for the future 

Time: 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Room: Whitchurch
Every so often a TV show comes along and blows your mind. Avatar the Last Airbender and its sequel The Legend of Korra broke a lot of stereotypes, challenged the condecending and inadequate standards of youth TV programming and dares other shows to keep up. So lets talk about it!

Friday, April 25, 2014

My First Blog Hop

It appears that I've been tagged by Mr. Shaftoe in a blog hop. In case you're not aware, a blog hop involves someone tagging me with 4 questions which I answer and then in turn pose the same or similar questions to three other bloggers/writers. Think a chain letter but far more public. So without further ado:

1 – If you could time travel and steal somebody else's novel/short story/film for yourself, what would it be? 

Oh wow. This is a tough one, because I love and read so widely. You know, I'm going to take the work that no one would expect, Ender's Game. As Mr. Shaftoe and I have discussed in the past Ender's Game is one of those works you need to read at the right point in your life, and for all its problems it still has a special place in my heart. Of course, if I'm time traveling anyways I could always make a few modifications to the text...

At the very least I would no longer feel ashamed to admit I was moved by the work of a homophobic assclown.

2 – What writing sin do you actively have to struggle against in your own work? 

This is an easy one. Overwriting. Using three words when one would do. Part of it is the desire to sound profound and witty, but the truth is when I first started writing seriously I was a wordy bastard and needed to learn to cut my wordcounts down. 

I can honestly say I've become a lot better about this.

3 – Pick three writers, past or present, that you would want to have dinner with. Why those writers? 

Isaac Asimov, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Scalzi.

Why those writers? Simple, they've all had an effect on who I am as a writer. I devoured as much of Asimov's writing as I could get my hands on growing up, especially his robot stories. So many of them involved intelligent people solving problems with brains rather than brawn, something I try to emulate in my writing when I can. Tolkein because The Hobbit was read to me as a child and sparked my love of reading. Scalzi because he's shown me that science fiction can be accessible and fun and still be good.

Also, I'm almost certain Scalzi would start a fight with the other two and that would be damn entertaining to watch.

4 – You have forty-two words, write a story. 

Twisting and pulling I tapped into the flows of magic, forcing them into forms they despised, shapes they abhorred. They fought the whole time, but my will proved stronger. A red rose bloomed at your sainted feet, my love.
You hated it.

And with that it's time to tag others to keep this hop going, so Amanda C., J.M. Frey, and Christine Vasilevski, I chose you! You have one week to answer the questions above and choose three people to keep this going.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Ad Astra 2014 Schedule

Since it appears the schedule for this year's Ad Astra is pretty much set I'm going to post mine. Any changes or updates I'll post on my Twitter, @KWRamsey.

10:00 PM Friday - Feminism and The Rise Of Slash Flick
K.W. Ramsey, Leah Petersen, Sam Burmudzija, Sunny Hope - See more at:
K.W. Ramsey, Leah Petersen, Sam Burmudzija, Sunny Hope - See more at:
11:00 AM Saturday - Swords: More Than Just the Pointy End
10:00 PM Saturday - The Adventures of Icabod Crane In The 21st Century
12:00 PM Sunday - War and Genre
2:00 PM Sunday - Sci-Fi Classics: Fact or Fallacy?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mythological Tech Support 1

-Thank you for calling the Yggdrasill Support Desk. You've reached Knute. May I have your name please?
-Okay, and how do you spell that? O-D-I-N. Uh huh, and have you called before?
-Hmm… not coming up in the system, might it be under another name?
-And that's spelled W-O-T-A-N. Okay, I've found it now. How can I help.
-You're waiting for a download. Of what?
-Wisdom. I see. Let me just find the order for that. Ah here it is. It was just submitted yesterday.
-Yes sir, I understand it's important you get this, but you'll have to hang on one moment while I check the estimated delivery date.
-What's that? Oh, you're literally hanging from the the Yggdrasill by a rope around your neck. Well that is standard for these downloads sir, can't be changed.
-Yes sir, I understand you're a busy man, but it can't be helped. You'll just have to wait another…twenty days for the download.
-Sir, I'm going to have to ask you not use such language with me. I can't speed up the delivery.
-Is there a shortcut? Well, we're not supposed to say anything, but have you visited the Well of Mimir.
-Oh, you have. And it cost you an eye. I see.
-No sir, that wasn't a joke at your expense.
-Yes sir, I understand it would be quite painful to lose an eye.
-Yes sir, I sure you handled it manfully and can take pain. I brought up the Well because since you drank from it we can can escalate this request and provide quick processing. You'll have your wisdom in eight days, but there is a catch. You need to be pierced by a spear.
-Yes sir, a spear.
-No, a splinter won't suffice. It needs to have a spearhead and everything.
-I know it sounds crazy sir, but it's what the manual says and I have to go by that.
-Oh, you have a spear handy? Good. If you could just pierce yourself.
-Excellent. Thank you sir. I've escalated your request. Is there anything else we can help you with?
-Sorry sir, the download doesn't include a list of busty tavern wench jokes. Anything else?
-You have a good day as well sir.