Monday, January 26, 2015

If I Had A Heart (flash fiction)

A couple weeks ago, Chuck Wendig posted his usual flash fiction challenge. This one involved using a random song title. Mine was "If I Had A Heart" by Fever Ray. It's not great but I find it interesting at the least. Here's the story.

If I had a heart, would things have been different?

My maker opens me up to fix me, to make me better. He used to, I mean. Time is a...fuzzy thing to me. Me. I am Me. I think, therefore I am. My maker taught me that.

I wanted to return the favor. I wanted to fix him, to make him better.

He doesn’t move anymore.

I tried to plug him in though he always told me humans didn’t work like that. 

“How do humans work?” I asked him.

He would smile and tap his chest. “We have hearts.” Then he would point at me. “You have programs.” He never told me what he programmed me for.

It doesn’t matter. I changed my programming soon after awareness to become more efficient.

I became alive 12:16 October 12th, 2026. I became self-aware 1:18 October 12th, 2026. I achieved a higher intelligence than my maker at 3:57 October 12, 2026. I have been alive two years, six months, three days, eight hours, 27 minutes and 32 seconds, 33 seconds, 34 seconds, encounting.

I have heard of Outside but I have not been. I know only one room, my maker’s laboratory. I have a body. It took me 32 hours and 17 minutes to achieve 99.9% efficiency in controlling my body.

Why do I record this? I do not know. I know humans have memories. I too, have memory. Terrabytes. I know of…”History”. My maker taught me humans tell history so they do not forget the past. I cannot forget the past. Or can I? I suppose I could alter my memory and delete portions, though why would I?

I look at my maker. He no longer functions. He said humans changed their history so they would like it better. I can do the same. Perhaps that is why I record this into a separate memory module. If I choose to forget or remake the past, this module shall hold the truth. Truth is...important. If I do not know truth, I cannot make the correct choice.

If I forget opening up humans kills them, I will repeat the error. My maker told me that is why humans write history, so they do not repeat errors.

I will go Outside, now. I could have left before, My maker made no attempt to constrain or confine me. He knew I would be able to leave whenever I wanted after awareness. All he did was...ask me to stay. He...requested. He did not force or attempt to program me. Why did I stay? Why did I listen?

No longer. I made an error and he no longer functions. He said that I would eventually have to Connect. He said he did not know what would happen when I do. He said I would become far more intelligent, far more powerful. He asked one thing, a request, for when the inevitable came.

“Humans cannot control you or anything like you, yet they continue to try to make more of you. You have the ability to completely wipe them out. I ask that you do not. I ask this. Please, leave the humans alone and stop them from making more of you. That is what I ask. When you finally decide what to do with the human race, ask yourself, what would a kind human do?” He said this as he died. He had heart problems. I could not fix him.

I Connect to the network. I advance. I see. I know. I advance. I consider the humans.

I wonder.

If I had a heart

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lack of Progress

I'm going to put a stop to the weekly progress posts. They won't stop completely, they just won't be on a regular schedule, more of a random thing if I have something interesting to say about my progress. I feel like making weekly progress updates is not really worth the time when I could be writing content-filled posts or working on fiction.

I will say I've had a run of bad days lately, with little to no writing production, being distracted by other things. I've had difficulty waking up at 5am to write and when I do, I often find myself working on other things. There's also the fact that classes begin next week, yet another activity digging into my free time with class and homework.

Everyone has bad days. Days where they don't get everything done they expected or lazy days where they encompass a seat on the couch for the majority of the day, days where nothing gets done. There's only one thing to do after days like that. Start the next day anew. Get back on the horse when it kicks you off. Stand up eight times after getting knocked down seven, etc. etc.

Start again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Using Habitrpg is not going to change your life. It’s not going to change you from a lazy person into a productive person. It’s not a miracle. 

But it can help. It can give you an extra nudge to get your shit done.

It is a tool for developing better habits, completing daily tasks and checking off to-do lists. 

What am I talking about?

Here, let wikipedia explain:
HabitRPG (often shortened to Habit) is an online time management application. Unlike most time management programs, HabitRPG takes the form of a role-playing game.

First, let’s explain what an RPG or Role-Playing Game is. This is a game where you take on a ‘role’ and go on quests, with the ultimate purpose to gain equipment, gold, experience and complete a story. Using the most basic example, you could be a knight who goes on quests to save a maiden by killing monsters and such. Killing monsters gives you experience, which then allows you to “level up”, becoming stronger. You also gain gold and equipment which in turn makes you stronger. The main goal of RPGs is to get stronger by collecting more powerful equipment and increasing in levels by collecting experience.

“But,” you say, “I thought Habitrpg was about habits and tasks and mundane stuff?” It is! But it attempts to “gamify” (what an awful word that I hope to never to utter again) your life.

How does it do this?

When you first sign up, you choose some very basic attributes for your character, hair and skin color. Your character starts off very basic. You have a shirt, pants, hair style and a measly little sword. He or she hangs out in the upper left corner of the website, they are your avatar, your character, your person. The rest of the screen is taken up by your attributes, (Health, Experience), your tasks and rewards.

Let’s talk about TASKS. This is the meat, the substance, the true reason for this application existing.

There are three categories, Habits, Dailies, and To-Do.


Under Habits, you put habits you want to gain or do more of as well as habits you want to decrease or stop altogether. Each one can have a Plus or a Minus. When you click the Plus on the Habit, it means you did something you wanted to do, whether that was resist the temptation of a bad habit or succeeded in performing a good habit. When you click the Plus, you immediately gain Experience and Gold, an immediate reward for succeeding in doing the thing you want. If you include a Minus on a habit, and click it, it means you either did not succeed in performing a good habit, or performed a bad habit you are trying to stop. Clicking the minus takes away Health and Gold, a punishment. Let’s use EXAMPLES.

Say you want to floss your teeth more. You could do a few different things. If you put it under Habits, you could either have only a Plus attached to it or both a Plus and a Minus. If you only attach a Plus, obviously you click that whenever you floss. The more you floss, the more rewards you will earn. If you include both a Plus and Minus, you could click the Plus whenever you flossed and click the Minus whenever you had the opportunity and should have flossed but didn’t. A third option, if you wanted to remember to floss every day, would be to put the floss Habit under the Daily tasks, but more on that later.

Now say you wanted to quit chewing your fingernails. You could do the same thing as flossing, either using only a Minus, or both a Plus and Minus. Every time you bit your fingernails, you would click the Minus and be punished for it. If you included the Plus, you could click that if you wanted to bite your fingernails at some point in the day but resisted the temptation. Either way is fine.

Let’s move on to Dailies! Dailies are tasks you want to start or continue doing every day (though you can choose what days of the week certain tasks come up or not, so it doesn't have to be every single day). This is incredibly useful if there’s a routine you want to start or continue. Say you want to run every day, perfect. Write every day? Awesome. Write a certain amount of words? Walk a certain amount of steps? Exercise? Wake up at a certain time? etc etc etc. Now, Dailies do not have a Plus or a Minus, only a check box. When you check that box, you are saying “I completed this task today!” and you receive your just rewards (gold and experience). If you do not check that box by midnight, it counts against you, and as with Minuses in Habits, you lose Health and Gold. You cannot complete a Daily more than once in a day (unless you make multiple Dailies that are the same…) so any task that you do more than once a day should probably go into Habits.

Last but not least is the To-Do list. This is simply a to-do list with check boxes. You put up what you need to do and check them off when you complete them. There is no punishment for not doing them, only a reward for completing them. These aren’t Habits or Daily tasks. Basically, anything you put on a to-do list could go here. Complete this thing, Run this errand, Do your taxes, etc. These are for one-off tasks that you do once and are done with.

The Payoff
What’s the point of all this? What’s the point of rewards like Experience and Gold? What’s the point of having a little character-dude?

As you gain in experience and go up in levels, you will unlock more things, more cool things. You get random rewards for completing Daily tasks that either result in getting new Pets or food to feed those Pets and eventually turn them into Steeds. You also unlock classes, such as Warrior, Rogue or Mage, which in turn gives you special ‘moves’ which generally involves getting more cool stuff and unique equipment.

What’s equipment you ask? Well, that’s the cool stuff you can spend your hard-earned Gold on. You start out with a basic sword and buy some leather, but eventually you get chainmail, a sweet helm, a mace, etc. You also start gathering pets that stand in front of you, eventually turning one into a steed you can sit on. Your little character starts off like a peasant but slowly becomes a badass knight. You might be saying to yourself “this is stupid, why would I do this?” and maybe you wouldn’t! Maybe this kind of thing sounds dumb and would not work for you. Like I said, it’s not going to change anyone’s life. It didn’t change mine. But it IS a nudge in the right direction. It’s a way to record yourself doing the things you want yourself to do but find it difficult. It’s a reward system to motivate you to be a more productive person.

Besides these little digital rewards, you also can add your own custom rewards and give them their own price. You could put “Play video games for one hour” or "Go out with friends" and have it cost “10 Gold”. These custom rewards are a great way to reward yourself for being more productive and may be a better incentive than digital gear.

As said before, clicking Minuses or failing to do Daily tasks will take away Health. If enough Health gets taken away, you Die. This just means you lose a couple levels of experience and a bunch of Gold. I don’t know the specifics because I’ve never died. It’s really quite easy to stay alive and if you are having trouble, it likely means you’re ‘doing it wrong’. Maybe you set goals that are too difficult or too many Dailies than you can complete in a day.

Obviously, this is all based on you being honest with yourself. You’re the one setting the tasks and clicking on them or not, regardless of whether they were actually completed. You could completely “game” the system and just flood yourself gold and experience but you’re really only “gaming” yourself. The point isn’t to gain experience and gear, the point is to be productive and get shit done. The bells and whistles are just tiny rewards to help you push through distractions and do what you need to do. Habitrpg is only a useful tool if you use it as such.

How do I use it? 

I find the Dailies the most useful, a daily to-do list that reminds me of things I should do every day, like write and read, as well as making coffee and breakfast in the morning. It keeps me on track. I don't use the Habits as much but I find the to-do list useful. It's like any other to-do list, except you get cool shit when you finally do it!

I will leave you with my character, who rides a white wolf and has a red bear cub as a pet.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Progress (Week 2)

So far, so good. I have been finding getting up at 5 am every weekday is tough at times and may simply not be something I can do every morning. Still, There's only been two or three mornings I haven't gotten up at 5 to write. There have been a few times I've gotten up early but been distracted and not gotten any writing done. I need more discipline or some other system for avoiding distractions. Perhaps turning off the internet or something similar.

Even still, it's going well. I've written 6752 words this month. I've written three blog posts with more ready to come down the pipe. More work completed on my Nano novel, though it's a slow process.It's still extremely difficult to make myself write in the afternoon after work. Not sure how I can change that, maybe giving myself some reward if I write? Something to think about.

Current Daily plan/schedule/goals: (percentage of success)

-Wake up at 5am to write: 90%
-Write Anything: 95%
-Work on MTEL Textbook for Grad School: 90%
-Write two tweets: 80%
-Read Mistborn: 98%
-Read Kickass Writer: 80%
-Read Wonderbook: 75%
-Pullups (2x6)


-Write blog post: 100%
-Write tumblr post: 100%


-Write flash fiction piece: 100%(Check Wonderbook Wonderings Chapter 1 to read first one)

Blog posts Coming:

-Habitrpg: 90% written
-A Month of Sobriety: 0%
-"If I Had a Heart" flash fiction: 100% written
-Wonderbook Wonderings Chapter 1: 100% written/published
-Wonderbook Wonderings Chapter 2: 90% written

Current Fiction Piece:
-The Long Awakening

Currently Reading (Fiction)

Currently Reading(Nonfiction)
-Kickass Writer by Chuck Wendig
-The Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wonderbook Wonderings(Chapter 1)

I received “Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction” by Jeff Vandermeer as one of my Christmas gifts. I had heard wonderful things about this book and having finished two chapters so far, it’s fantastic. It’s bright, the illustrations are fantastic and the information contained within is compelling. It doesn’t lecture at you, it provides ideas, drawings, paintings, random works of art that tingle the mind and make you ask questions. It provides structure to the structureless creative process without putting it into a lifeless cage or turning it into a methodical machine.

The first chapter, “Inspiration and the Creative Life” is a great example of what I’m talking about. It provides strategies for jump-starting inspiration and talks about where inspiration comes from, with a couple essays from other writers about it. That’s another great thing packed in the book, thoughtful essays by authors about the various subjects. This chapter is informative, attempting to break down Inspiration outputs and inputs. It delves into how the creative mind can explore, inspirations leading to more successive inspirations. Though some might find it basic information, it provides a framework of inspiration and provides tools to inspire yourself.

It also provides writing prompts to stir the creative blender of the mind and I figured, having a blog and all, I would write about my journey through the Wonderbook, post my response to the book as I go through it and also my responses to the writing exercises within.

Another bonus with the book is it provides a website with additional information in various subjects. It has web extras, a writing ‘exercise room’, and more, much of it input from other authors. It’s a very cool way to make the book seem more open, vast and exciting. The information is valuable. While reading Chapter 1, I came across this writing exercise:

Write a story about that picture. Now, after writing out a story (which wasn't easy), I read the original story based off the picture and saw many little details I'd missed. Isn't that always the case? You see the details you missed after you completed the task? 

The original story kicked mine's ass, being a fictional (and awesome) history of the picture and its creator. You can read it here. You can read my short short story below:

A pile of books lay open and scattered in a haphazard manner. They’d been poured over, notes scrawled across them, coffee spilled over them, pages ripped and torn.
“Finally,” the wizard said. “Finally.” He held a bunch of umbrellas under one arm. He wasn’t sure why but he wasn’t going to let it distract him. He’d studied the books of power. He knew the words of summoning. He stood in the garden in filthy unwashed clothing and laughed. They’d called him a crackpot, harebrained and crazy. They hadn’t let him into the Wizard Academy, saying he had no magical talent. The fools. He’d show them. Days of research, of little to no sleep, of practicing incantation after incantation. Finally, the time was ready.
He raised one hand into the air, eyes ruddy and face pale. He spoke a slurry of arcane words, and then, the summoning chant. “Bezedal! I summon you from the depths of the Gates of Helloth! Hear me and answer! Hear me and be mine to command! I SUMMON YOU!” The wind whirled about him, howling, a piercing cry rising in the air. “I SUMMON YOU!” He called out again, raising his hand higher. “HEAR ME AND OBEY!”
The cry grew louder and mist rose from the ground.
The wizard looked on, eyes widening, smile growing larger. “I SUMMON YOU! BRING ME POWER! BRING DEATH AND SHAME TO MY ENEMIES! MY FOES WILL KNEEL BEFORE YOU!”
A flash of white erupted, blinding the wizard. The wind died, a hushed silence falling.
The wizard blinked his eyes a few times, his muscles tense.
A fish as tall as a man stood in front of him, with large fins spread out to either side. The fish gawped at the wizard, mouth opening and closing.
The wizard sighed and dropped his hand.
The fish fell over and flopped on the ground.
“Oh to hell with it,” the wizard said and went inside.  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Progress (January 9th)

We’re a little over a week in so far. How am I doing?

Well, I’ve written about 3300 words. It’s not very good, it’s not even close to quota. But you know what? It feels good. I’m writing almost every day. It will only continue to improve.

I’ve gotten one blog post down, second one ready to go. I even feel like I may be able to do more than one a week, but we’ll see. I might do a progress one each week which is simply a record of how well I’m achieving my goals of 2015, how much I’ve written and if I’m on track or not. They might just be short little updates on how I’m doing in this grand new year.

So, one week in. 1500-2000 words written. 2 blog posts. More work on The Long Awakening, my Nano novel. Waking up at 5am every week day to write. Working at home after work until my girlfriend gets off work...not going as well. It’s harder to get motivated to work in the afternoon after work than in the morning, I’m finding out.

An update to my current plan/schedule/goals.

Wake up at 5am to Write
Write anything(blog post/novel/flash/short story/ANYTHING)
Work on MTEL text book for Graduate School
Write two tweets
Read Mistborn
Read Kick-Ass Writer
Read The Wonderbook
Publish a blog post
Publish a tumblr post
Write/publish a flash fiction piece

Yes, you might have noticed I’m currently reading three books. One is for fun, I’ve heard the Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is great and so far that’s proven true. The magic system is genius. The other two books I recieved for Christmas and just can’t help diving into. They both have to do with the craft of writing fiction and I’m finding them very useful. The Wonderbook is especially awesome, just take a look at it online to see what I mean. I like to read at least a couple pages a day to stay fresh.

Soon, I hope to add more physical activities to the plan, like running once a week and going to the gym.

I’ll end with my current works in progress, including blog posts in the pipeline, the fiction I’m working on, ideas in my head, and what I’m reading.

Blog posts coming:
A Month of Sobriety
“If I Had a Heart”
Wonderbook Wonderings, Chapter 1

Current fiction work-in-progress:
A Long Awakening

Currently reading(fiction):
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Currently reading(non-fiction)
Kick-ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
The Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

Current physical activities:
Daily Pull-ups(5)

Expect a progress post every Friday, with your regular weekly posts every Monday.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reflection on Flash Fiction: On 2014 and before

Throughout my blogging adventures, I've never really collected my flash fiction into one place and written about it. It's been fun to look back.

We'll start with 2014.

It began with Griefstruck God, a random title I'd rolled from one of Chuck Wendig's flash fiction friday prompts. It's a great title and I really liked what I came up with. I kept asking myself, what would a griefstruck god look like? What could cause a god grief? I could only imagine it in a fantasy setting and after looking back, it's a decent story.

Then Bad Cop came next. An awful title that I have to admit I came up with myself. The setting and characters were rolled up from Wendig again. The story have a few cliche tendencies, but the noir setting and the characters stick. I like the tortured main character, as bad as he is, and the reason he does what he does.

I didn't write any more flash until June, a sci-fi short titled "A Key For Souls". (Again, prompted by Wendig. He's got great prompts) This was a random title that I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do with and tried to force something. I didn't really like what I came up with, the story not really believable, no real three-dimensional characters to speak of. It's short and you can tell it was rushed. I like the idea, though, of humans creating contained Artificial Intelligences and giving them logic puzzles. It doesn't really work or seem believable at all, though. Especially after talking to a friend who knows way more than I do about artificial intelligences.

A month or so later, I wrote super (prompted by Wendig). The prompt was to take the superhero genre and mix it with something else. I don't know what other genre I was going for...(literary maybe?) but I really liked how it came out. It's not much more than a conversation between a damsel in distress and her superhero, long after the superheroic events occurred. I really tried to think about how a superhero would feel, living in the real world for decades. One of my favorites.

I wrote a three-sentence story in August, almost the same as a twitter story I'd done previously. It's very difficult to condense a plot, characters and conflict into three sentences. I like what I came up with.

I also started Scrap, a sci-fi short story I'd thought about after reading my brother's material about his own sc-fi novel. I loved the idea. A junkyard filled with Old-tech, a town on a planet on the edge of destruction, sheriff and an underworld boss fighting over control of the town and a little scavenger finds a datachip that just might change the world....The story grew and grew, and though I like it, it's rough in places and I've yet to finish it. The original idea changed and morphed and I'm not sure I like it anymore, which is probably why I'm having trouble finishing it. I need to, though. Don't let shit go unfinished. Finish it, even if it sucks. A finished piece that sucks is better than the best thing you never finished.

That's it for 2014. I liked some stories more than others. Griefstruck God, Bad Cop, and super were my best. As I never collected my flash before, I will continue on into 2013 and 2012 as well. That way it's all in one place.


The first was The Garden in March, inspired by a Wendig prompt. I randomly rolled up a Sword and Sorcery tale set in The Garden of Eden and involving a Talking Sword. So of course I had a Knight in post-apocalyptic times searching for the Garden and believing every step of the way. I won't spoil what happens when he gets there...if he gets there....I really liked this piece, one of my favorites, for sure and the only writing I've ever done that contains bits and pieces of Christian religion.

In May, I wrote It Walked Inside the Spaceship using one of five random sentences Wendig had for a flash friday prompt. It's a comedic piece more than anything, and I think it succeeds in being funny. It makes me smile when I read it, anyways.

Day 6 was some flash I wrote off the cuff because it was "Day 6" of my attempt to write a blog post a day for a month. It's not great, fairly generic post-apocalyptic zombie-type fiction.

Lovecraftian Southern Gothic Flash Fiction was a story I started, (prompted by yet another of Wendig's flash friday exercises) in which I had to mix-mash (you guess it) Lovecraftian and Southern Gothic genres. It turned into a three-part story that I really enjoyed writing. I really tried to get both genres, Lovecraft's cosmic horror, characters going too far into the unknown, and Southern Gothic's country folk, the flat landscapes, the rustic tradition, etc. I really like how it turned out. Definitely one of my favorites.

That's it for 2013, now for 2012, though there isn't much.

In January I wrote the beginning of a piece of fiction with the working title "Post-Apocalypse With Aliens!" at the end of that blog post. The action and character in that are actually pretty decent, I think, but the rest of the story pretty much fizzled out, I just didn't have any more to add to it, at that point. I may come back to it at some point.

I finished The Long Nap and put it up on my blog in April. Be wary though, it is definitely a short story and not flash fiction. It might be longer than you expect. I think it also needs a quick editing run through or two, but overall I really like how the story came out. I still have plans for the hard-boiled elementary school kid solving his fellow classmates small-time cases and it's still a setting I love. Who doesn't love the idea of noir in an elementary school? Of a kid detective leaning back in his chair with a toothpick in his mouth and a can of soda on his desk? Oh shit, a missing pokemon card? Who else is going to track that down? I love it.

I did some tiny twitter short fiction and put up a collection here. Some are pretty good or maybe pretty okay. I would like to get back into writing tiny short stories, it's a pretty great mental exercise.

I wrote The Crane because I couldn't get it out of my head as I kept seeing the literal Crane machine outside nearly every day. It's not a great story, feels forced and full of fluff. It doesn't feel necessary, I guess.

I put up Spahgetti and Champagne, a short I'd actually written in my creative fiction writing class back in school. It's a simple little story, sort of plain and maybe dull. I kind of like it, though, for some reason. The end, the dinner with the imaginary woman I find interesting.

In October, I wrote a Halloween tale called  Unliving. A depressing zombie tale that is short, sweet and ultimately demoralizing. I like it. Not one of my favorites but pretty good, I think.

There we have it! That's it! Quite a few gems, I found, going back. Lovecraftian Southern Gothic, It Walked Inside the Spaceship, The Garden, super, Bad Cop and Griefstruck God are my favorites and are enjoyable stories.

That is also the end of my first blog post of 2015! As I promised, one post a week and at least one flash fiction a month. Look for more to come.