Tag Archives: Creative Writing

Telecommuter’s Lament #amwriting #storytelling #struggles

Working at home works great for work. Not so much for creativity.

About a year ago, my supervisor asked if I wouldn’t mind giving up my cubicle on the fourth floor of an office park building about 30 minutes from home.

I didn’t put up any kind of fight. I packed my laptop and an extra monitor, drove home, and converted a corner of our upstairs bonus room into my workspace.

So much to love about this arrangement:

  • No commute. Great gas savings and reduced wear and tear on my car.
  • Relative autonomy while remaining connected to co-workers via email and Slack.
  • Freedom to care for our infant daughter in the mornings during the week, saving us money on child care.

I don’t have trouble focusing on work. Never have. Back in 1994, I launched a regional edition of The St. Petersburg Times from a spare bedroom in my house in Land O’Lakes, Fla. It took a few years to win approval for planting the flag with an actual strip mall bureau, so I already had plenty of work-from-home experience.

It’s not perfect, though.

One really challenging aspect of this arrangement: work brain never seems to turn off.

In the year since I started working from home, my creative productivity has plummeted. My work computer and personal computer sit on an L-shaped desk, inches apart, and yet – no matter the hour – 9 times out of 10, if I sit at this desk, my attention is turned to the work laptop and whatever the next thing is on my to-do list.

This week, I *finally* finished a roleplaying scene on OtherSpace that had been lingering for months. It wasn’t a crazy combat sequence, just characters talking to each other as part of a denouement for a crazy combat sequence that took just a couple of weeks to play out. That conversation scene? Started about a year ago.

I *did* manage several #bookstorewindow stories soon after the 20th anniversary of OtherSpace in June and July, but with the resurging obligations at work for product releases in August and October, I totally lost my creative focus and went into workbot machine mode.

I’m not sure how I’ll find balance. All I know for certain is that I must find that balance. I’m not getting any younger and the stories in my mind won’t just magically put themselves on a page. Scenes won’t run themselves on the Slack platforms.

I don’t suffer from the traditional kind of writer’s block where I can’t think of anything to write – I have a lot that I want to write, but I keep finding excuses to work instead.

It’s time to figure out how to compartmentalize my work obligations at home the way I could always compartmentalize my creative interests during work hours when I was at the office.

[HOUSEKEEPING] Activity Recap: OtherSpace is back in action!

The Slack experiment is still relatively new, but so far it is proving to be a great success. Thus far, we’ve got more than 30 participants – a mix of long-time players, returning veterans, and newcomers. I’m optimistic about the future based on the activity so far. What’s been happening? Well, here’s a quick rundown of the major plot points:

  • Near Antimone, Kemetti the space whale snatched a cruise liner, ate it, and led three militaries on a chase that resulted in the Parallax and Consortium boiling up hostilities again.
  • On Demaria, Razorback and Bluefang got caught up in a plot to assassinate Consortium President Jeremiah Busby, which they helped foil (at great personal cost).
  • On Mars, someone kidnapped mogul Lawrence Plantagenet’s daughter during a desert field trip.

But I’ll also share a detailed list of links to logs, videos, and interesting posts related to OtherSpace since we re-launched with Slack in February 2017:

OtherSpace Audio Fiction (Patron content)

Busby Assassination Plot

Kemetti Chaos Plot

Mars Plantagenet Kidnapping Plot

Ungstir Activity

OtherSpace In-Game News

Negotiations end with Ungstir

NEW YORK CITY, EARTH – Consortium Council President Jeremiah Busby today ruled out further negotiations with Ungstiri emissaries considering that world’s membership in the Stellar Consortium.

“I heard what they had to say, but the fact is Ungstir just doesn’t have much to offer the Consortium,” Busby told CBN. “It’s a lot of take from them and not much give to us. They need a strong defense. How will they pay for it? Rocks? Fake vodka?”

Yuri Garian, one of the representatives from Ungstir, expressed disappointment in the outcome: “We came to Earth in the hopes of a fair deal. We leave feeling like we wasted our time.”

Storm, flood on Demaria leaves death and damage

ALHIRA, DEMARIA – At least 15 people are dead in the aftermath of a severe storm and flash flooding in Demaria’s capital overnight.

Among the dead were four rescue workers in a hovertruck that was struck by lightning as they responded to emergency calls on the city outskirts. Eight people died in flooding in homesteads along the edge of the Sand Mother Desert. Other victims included Demarian CBN journalists Whiteruff Highchase and Odin Wayfinder.

An unidentified Demarian saved a porter at the Azure Sky Hotel after he was pinned by debris after a vehicle struck a support column in front of the hotel.

Busby assassination plot reported

SAN ANGELES, EARTH – Stellar Consortium intelligence officials confirmed tonight that they’re investigating a plot against the life of President Jeremiah Busby. More information as it becomes available.

Heist remembered

NEW CHICAGO, EARTH – Today, the citizens of New Chicago solemnly remember last year ill-fated heist from the New Chicago Reserves. Out of the criminals partaking in the heist that cost the lives of ten security personnel, only three are believed to have escaped unharmed. Ring Leader Jozeph Golen, who reportedly suffered severe burns from an unexpected fire ignited during the heist attempt, remains at large, believed to still be in hiding on Earth. However, his current whereabouts are unknown.

Assassination plot leads to raised alert levels

SAN ANGELES, EARTH – Consortium security personnel are on heightened alert in the wake of reports that assassins may be trying to target President Jeremiah Busby.

Travelers venturing to Earth from other planets may encounter longer delays than usual at screening checkpoints after arrival. Officials also confirm that the Vanguard is stepping up patrols in the coming days to crack down on smuggling and piracy activity on and around Consortium worlds.

The president made a brief appearance in the lobby of the government’s headquarters building in San Angeles today to assure the public that he is safe and that he has full confidence in those sworn to protect him.

“Everybody who puts themselves out there like I do knows they’re wearing a target all the time, believe me,” Busby said. “Some of you vultures don’t shoot with lasers, though, right? You prefer news reports.”

Large creature snatches cruise liner near Antimone

VALSHO, ANTIMONE – A large sentient space creature has ensnared a Sivad-flagged cruise liner, the Avondale, from orbit around the planet Antimone.

The alien has threatened to consume the cruise ship and its 3,278 passengers and crew if Timonae officials don’t provide alternative sustenance.

Two other starliners, which are slated for mothballs, are being filled with sea water, fish, and smaller organisms that may provide nutrients required by the creature and win the freedom of the Avondale.

Sivadian government officials, meanwhile, are dispatching elements of their naval fleet to respond with force to what they see as a clear act of piracy and terrorism.

Liner’s fate uncertain after botched rescue

GRAND ENAJ, SIVAD – The cruise liner Avondale’s fate is unknown at this hour after a botched Sivadian Navy effort to free the vessel and its passengers from a space behemoth.

The creature captured the Avondale, demanding sustenance from the people of Antimone. The Timonae provided mothballed starships filled with sea water, fish, and other organisms to satisfy the beast. It seemed the crisis might be coming to an end. However, the arrival of the hostile fleet prompted the creature to steal away from Timonae space to locations unknown.

Prime Minister Regis Hollister of Sivad has ordered the fleet to track down and destroy the creature “by any means necessary and at any cost, so as not to place anyone else in further peril.”

AVONDALE DESTROYED, PM SEEKS AID

GRAND ENAJ, SIVAD – The massive creature that stole a Sivadian cruise liner apparently consumed the vessel.

Wreckage from the Avondale and some passenger remains have been recovered by elements of the Sivadian Navy. No survivors have been found thus far. All 3,567 passengers and crew are feared dead, according to officials close to the investigation.

“We are saddened by this turn of events,” said Prime Minister Regis Hollister. “This monstrous beast remains at large. It is threat to all spacefaring civilizations. The government of Sivad calls on its allies in the Stellar Consortium to lend their aid toward putting a stop to this creature’s rampage.” (edited)

CONSORTIUM PRESIDENT CALLS EMERGENCY MEETING

SAN ANGELES, EARTH – Jeremiah Busby, president of the Stellar Consortium Council, is calling an emergency meeting of the governing board in the wake of Sivad’s call for aid regarding the destruction of the cruise liner Avondale.

“Time is clearly of the essence if we’re going to make sure to limit further loss of life,” Busby told reporters at Consortium headquarters. (edited)

PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY FOR 1000TH BULL ANT RODEO

CANA CITY, NEMONUS – Hundreds of contestants have already signed up for this annual event held for Nemoni ant-punchers in the capitol city.
This year’s purse stands at 100,000 credits, with 50,000 going to the best rider, 30,000 to second, and 20,000 to third. Last year’s champion,
Milon “Ant Buster” Arndon, has already put in his bid to defend his title:

“Looks like a lively batch this year.” he said. “Anyone signin’ up better have their insurance paid up.”

The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin soon with the festivities kicking off with the annual ant chili cook off. Organizers have said to
come hungry, and come ready to watch some serious riding action!

Businessman’s daughter kidnapped, friend killed

BRADBURY DOME, MARS – Amalie Plantagenet, daughter of Martian business mogul Lawrence Plantagenet, has been kidnapped.

Officials report that she and a friend were separated from a college class on a field trip following a sandstorm. Their rover was damaged by the storm. Investigators found Amalie’s friend murdered. Sources also say they discovered a cave containing a message from an unknown party indicating that they had taken the young woman. It is unknown at this time whether it is a hostage/ransom situation as no demands have been publicly announced.

Consortium pledges military assistance

SAN ANGELES, EARTH – The Stellar Consortium Council this morning ordered the Vanguard’s Fifth Fleet to join the Sivadian Navy in the hunt for the creature that destroyed the civilian cruise liner Avondale.

General Charles Avocet, commander of the carrier vessel Versailles (flagship of the Fifth Fleet), said the Vanguard won’t rest until the monster is eliminated.

“We have the most advanced ships, the most advanced weapons at our disposal,” Avocet said. “With Sivad’s navy on our side, we cannot help but emerge victorious.”

New engineering orphanage opens on Ungstir

RESILIENCE, UNGSTIR PRIME – The Mika Tachyon Memorial Home for Orphans and Engineering Prodigies opened today.

Funded by an anonymous benefactor, the home is operated by an organization identified as the Mistakes Were Made Foundation. The headmaster, Ophelia Danov, told reporters that the facility is intended to foster orphaned children and wayward youths who show a proclivity for engineering of all kinds.

The home – named after the legendary Mika Tachyon who died in combat against the Nall during the Galaxy Galleria conflict – has room for about 100 children at present. Tuition, lodging, and medical care are all provided to the children free of charge.

Clawed Fist Fleet mobilizes near Line of Pain

Sources within the Consortium Intelligence Service at this hour report that dozens of Clawed Fist Fleet warships – including several fighter carriers – are moving toward the Line of Pain.

The Parallax border, marked by thousands of wrecked ships that have tried in vain to invade Nall territory, may be the next destination of the creature that consumed the Sivadian cruise liner Avondale, sources state.

It is possible that the beast may soon find itself trapped between the Nall and the combined fleets of the Vanguard and Sivadian Navy.

Space beast eludes capture, destruction at Line of Pain

NEAR PARALLAX SPACE – The combined forces of the Stellar Consortium Vanguard, the Sivadian Navy, and the Parallax Clawed Fist Fleet failed to capture or destroy the massive space creature that destroyed the cruise liner Avondale.

During the chaotic battle near the legendary Line of Pain, dozens of fighters and warships were damaged in the crossfire. The beast was badly wounded – and nearly impaled by a Sivadian carrier – before it slipped away using faster-than-light propulsion toward unexplored space.

The Sivadian destroyer Blackstone was among the ships lost in the fight. The Sivadian fleet commander, Plimpton St. John-Crowell, died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after the beast escaped once more.

“I wish we could have taken the monster down, but it was much tougher than we anticipated,” said General Charles Avocet, Vanguard fleet commander. “If nothing else, I hope it got the message that it will not be welcome among our stars. Next time, I’ll bring more guns to the fight.” (edited)

Parallax decries violation of territory

NELSESUIN, NALHOM – Gris of Hatch Vril, Vox of the Parallax, railed today against Consortium military intrusions into Nall-held territory at the Line of Pain.

She provided sensor images that showed several fighters and warships of the Vanguard maneuvering on the Parallax side of the line marked by the wrecked hulls of starships that failed in the past to invade the realm of the Nall. This occurred during the battle against the space beast that destroyed the Avondale.

“This is a clear violation of the Alhira Accord, a peace treaty between the Parallax and the Consortium that has remained in effect for more than a decade,” Grisvril said in a prepared statement. “With this incident, that agreement is rendered null and void. No quarter will be granted to further incursions on our borders. All Parallax diplomatic personnel are hereby recalled to Nalhom. Consortium diplomatic personnel on Nalhom are granted three days to depart before they are seized and executed as enemies of the state.”

Consortium agent arrested after witness dies

SAN ANGELES, EARTH – Marlene Wilkes, an agent in the Consortium Intelligence Service, has been jailed and charged with the murder of a Demarian named Bluefang Rockstepper.

Rockstepper had been a witness to a plot to assassinate Consortium Council President Jeremiah Busby. Wilkes killed the Demarian before he could finish giving a statement to CIS senior official Robert Colclough aboard Galactix.

“We’re continuing to question Ms. Wilkes,” Colclough told reporters. “I can’t give any further details at this time. I can say that we have reason to believe the president no longer remains under immediate threat. However, we will keep pursuing leads until we can bring the individuals behind this conspiracy to justice.”

OtherSpace Audio Logs

Not Rapid, but Reliable

Two Vox Enter, One Vox Leaves

Lady Fate Looks Away

The Bigger They Are:

Housekeeping

From MUSH to Slack

About the MUSH

[NO MAN’S SKY] Solitude, No. 1


nmssolitude1

I told her I’d call.

No, I know, I always tell them I’ll call. I just never do. It’s not me; it’s them. Sometimes I need other people. Mostly, I don’t. Can’t tolerate company. When I can stomach a companion, it’s always short-term. A one-night stand is usually too big a commitment.

So as I left Kika’s at daybreak after Loke Mendehlson’s second-retirement party, I gave her a kiss and said, like I always do: “I’ll call.” But this time I meant it.

She just gave me a smirk, shrugged, and replied, “What makes you think I’ll answer?”

That’s not the moment I became a deep believer in destiny and fate. Still, it’s a close second. No, that moment arrived about an hour later after I’d broken Earth orbit in my little Sol-hopper, bound for Luna to report for a month-long contract job setting up network nodes in the new Grissom colony dome.

The jumper was on autopilot as I mused about the warm smell of Kika’s skin, the bristly fuzz on the left side of her scalp where she shaved her hair for a tattoo of a black dragon, the curve of her shoulder. I listened to instant classical orchestral procgen. Pondered the intricate details of the contract text streaming through the ocular interface. The wormhole, maybe the size of a pinprick, totally escaped my attention.

That little speck on sensors opened my eyes to the truth: we all get what we want in the end, whether we know it or not. Sometimes, we even get what we deserve.

The proximity klaxon didn’t even finish its first warning whoop before the somber gray moon vanished, the HUD blurred to static, and the stars changed. Sparks exploded from the control console, scorching my fingertips and blinding me for a few moments. The little jumper spun like a bullet. As my vision cleared, I dared to nudge the yoke to bring the craft straight once more.

“Armstrong Port Authority, please respond,” I said into the transmitter. No answer. I craned my head to look through the cockpit canopy, back toward where Earth should be. No big blue marble. No Seven Seas. No Kika.

Instead, I saw a brownish-green orb of a world covered with lush jungles. Above it, beams of violet energy lanced between dueling warships of a design I didn’t recognize. They didn’t seem to be from the Stellar Consortium Vanguard or the Parallax Clawed Fist Fleet. It wouldn’t be unheard of for the Consortium and Parallax to slug it out somewhere out on the frontier, of course. Still, open hostilities ceased decades ago.

I couldn’t make sense of my coordinates on the star charts. Nothing about the local astronomy correlated with the onboard data.

No idea where I am. Stuck somewhere with warring factions. No faster-than-light drive. Enough fuel to reach a nearby planet. Basic emergency rations and water in the storage vestibule, enough to keep me alive for a couple of weeks. An exosuit to deal with hazardous conditions – at least for a little while.

I wanted solitude. Guess I got it.

It’s been a long time since I manually landed this boat. I’ll continue this journal if I make it planetside alive.

***

Landed just fine. That’s when the trouble started.

The planet, which I’m calling Requitement, is pleasant enough. Rolling hills of green, trees that seem to have autumn-hued leaves all year round, and the occasional gravity-defying, floating mineral motherlodes. No hostile fauna, but some of the plants want to poison me when I get too close.

As the first night fell over this strange alien landscape, I saw a crimson glow coming from a hillside cave. I checked it out, of course, despite the little voice inside my head screaming that it was a horrible, horrible idea. Or the whispered muttering from my mouth: “This is a horrible, horrible idea.”

I didn’t find a Hellmouth, though. Instead, I found oxide mounds and chemical pools that could prove useful. I readied the multitool from my pack, switching to the mining laser setting. Fired at one of the iron nodes.

nmscavern

And that’s when the sentinel went apeshit.

I’d seen these little floating robots earlier. One had scanned me, paying no mind to social contracts or personal space. I brushed it off as an annoyance. Eventually, it whirred away. But now it was back and it really didn’t like the fact that I’d chipped off some metal from that particular boulder.

Turns out, the sentinels have guns and they’ll use them without any warning.

Also, they can call for back up.

I ran, screaming, deeper into the cave – all too aware that I wasn’t sure I’d find another way out.

[CREATIVE WRITING EXERCISE] You’ve got a secret

On Aug. 8, 1989, the Space Shuttle Columbia rocketed into space for a 5-day secret mission.

Now it’s time for true confessions: your character’s got a secret. Write about it and explore why they’ve kept that secret for so long.

Send your exercise to jointhesaga@gmail.com and I’ll share it as time allows!