Weekend Coffee Share: Of Birthdays and Writing Skills

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m officially a year older than I was last weekend. It’s one of those odd, nondescript birthdays that don’t mean much except that I’ve survived another year, but it’s been a good one. We had a few family members over for snacks and cake yesterday. It’s the first time in several years I’ve celebrated my birthday with anyone outside the immediate family, and it was nice. Having a decent-sized house with porches instead of a tiny, impossible-to-clean apartment really helps.

weekendcoffeeshare

My grandson, who is seven, got me a push-broom for my birthday. He thought of it himself. Sweeping the porches is mostly his job. Since we only moved to this house recently, the novelty of having porches to sweep hasn’t worn off.  It’s still more play than work for him.

We found an old pushbroom in the toolshed when we moved in and I taught him to use it because sweeping a carport, a front porch, and a back patio with a regular floor broom is a  bit of a chore. We broke the old push broom last month, and when my wife and stepdaughter stated talking about gifts for me, he told them I would be “tickled” to get a new push broom. And he was right. I am tickled by it, because it’s a thoughtful gift.

The highlight of the day, though, was the gift my grandson gave me last night after everyone had left. He made me close my eyes and hold out my hand, and presented me with a tiny blue jay feather. I collect cool natural objects, and I have a little shelf where I keep them. I have an old deer antler, a 30-year old rattle from a rattlesnake one of my grandfathers killed a long time ago, and some other things there.

We picked up a barn owl feather and added it to the collection last week, and Blue Jay feathers are somewhat hard to come by in these parts. I was pleased that he picked it up and even more pleased that he saved it and made it into a birthday present for me. After we were done with that and had hugs all around, I helped him start his first short story.

The short story writing is something we’ve been talking about for a week or so. Last weekend, the grandson had to write several pages of sentences to correct a behavioral thing that was getting out of hand. I supervised that and made him report to me at the end of every page, because I wanted to see how quickly he could write a page of sentences for future reference. He did the sentences neatly, and in good time.

coffeeWhen he was done with the sentences he said, “writing is kinda fun,” and we had a conversation about things he could write other than sentences. That conversation turned to stories. What he wants is to write stories on a keyboard and publish them on the internet, but I’ve explained that he needs to start with stories on paper, and that it takes a while to get a story to the point that it’s ready to publish.

So, last night we sat down with a notebook and I helped him start his first story. I taught him about brainstorming, asked questions to help him keep his ideas in order, and helped him with spelling. The conversation started with him asking whether the story should be fiction or nonfiction. I told him to write whichever he wanted, and he decided to write fiction because, he said, “I don’t know any true stories to write about.”

An hour and a half after we started, we ended up with a single hand-written page, plus one line on the next page just to keep the thing rolling when he sits down to work on it again. It’s already better than the first story I ever tried to write, because it has a real plot. Here’s an excerpt.

Once upon a time, there lived a cow. The cow was magical. It was evil. It wanted to rule the world. It had a secret lair and lots of  weapons. It made a war with the king.

The cow said lots of cuss words at the king . . .

He totally came up with that on his own. All I did was ask open-ended questions like “Okay, stories need characters. So, what sort of character do you want to start with? It can be a person, and animal, a talking car . . .” But you can definitely tell from this opening that he spends a lot of time with me.

He asked permission to put that last line in there, and given that I’m trying to teach him to think for himself and take risks with his writing, I thought it was important to let him include it. There’s also a queen who makes her first appearance in the next paragraph, armies with super-cool names, and a dungeon. All in the space of four paragraphs. I’m hoping he comes back to this and is able to sustain this narrative for another page or two.weekendcoffeeshare_2015

I’ve promised to publish the full story for him if he finishes it. We’re negotiating a price for it. I’ve offered him $5. He isn’t sure he wants to sell his VERY FIRST STORY EVER for that small a sum. I can’t say I blame him, but I’m not sure he understands that all I’m going to do is type it and post it, and he gets to keep the physical copy.

And that was my weekend. We’ve got the usual comics coming at mid-week, but I’m not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. It will likely be something brief and strange.

Happy Sunday. Don’t forget to add your coffee post to the linkup at Part Time Monster and share it with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

Bryan Lee O’Malley – The Voice of my Generation

I’ve talked before about the voice of a generation – I feel like Lorde has the potential to be that for folks younger than me. You know, kids these day. Me? Coming in at a round 30, the prophet of my generation would have to be graphic novelist Bryan Lee O’Malley.

Who’s that, you ask? Why, none other than the guy who penned Scott Pilgrim and his precious little life. I honestly already pretty much felt this way after reading Scott Pilgrim the first time. Actually, probably after the second time. Because you want to know what I did as soon as I was done with book 6, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour? I picked up book 1, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life and read the whole series again.

What does the best fighter in the Province have to do with my generation? I think it’s more the aimlessness. The suburbs. The needing to get it together – and it feeling like that’s taking longer that before. And the feeling that we really wish something more epic (but manageable) would happen – though in the Scott Pilgrim universe, epic comic book/video game style fights are the norm. Emotional baggage become manifest, and battle ensues!

Ah, with wonderful panels like this - faithfully recreated in the Edgar Wright film.

Ah, with wonderful panels like this – faithfully recreated in the Edgar Wright film.

Honestly, I feel like I need a reread – I’ve been holding off until the full color edition was out, which only just finished releasing recently. If you’re looking for an amazing comic to pick up in all its color glory, this might be what you’re looking for.

But if you’re looking for just one graphic novel, then you’re looking for his most recent one, a stand alone story about the now-30 crowd. It’s called Seconds, and it’s about a chef who opened a restaurant with all her friends, who by 30 have all left and she’s alone. She’s tired of the place and wants to move on, and is working on opening a new restaurant – the purchase and repair for which is a nightmare.

At least, that’s what it’s about until she starts rewriting history.

Katie playing boss at her restaurant, Seconds.

Katie playing boss at her restaurant, Seconds.

Seconds is about, I suppose, second chances. And third, and fifth, and on from there. And how, if we could do it all again, maybe we shouldn’t. About how my generation was promised that we could have it all, and how the real world does not seem to actually work that way – and even if you had the power to try to make it so, it still wouldn’t work.

Seconds was amazing, and I highly recommend it. Holly will be writing a reaction to it later today on Comparative Geeks. But until then, what do you think? Love Scott Pilgrim? Thoughts on Seconds? Other selections for the voice of our generation? I would love to know – join the conversation in the comments below!

Tuesday Chatter: Imagine Yourself as a Dungeons and Dragons Character!

Video

These Tuesday chatters are about conversations. Two weeks ago, I asked for feedback on the blog. Got some. Last week, I invited people to promote themselves. Many did. Both threads are still open, and you’re welcome to leave comments on them.

This week, I opt for pure silliness. If you ever played Dungeons and Dragons, think honestly about what sort of person you are, and imagine what your character sheet might look like. I’m going first.

ratqueens

 Ability Scores

We all know D&D runs on ability scores and skill points. Here’s my stats.

Most of what I do is Intelligence- and Charisma-based. I’m not assigning my highest stats actual numbers. But I will say, I find it difficult to actually roleplay a character with a 19 Intelligence or a 17 charisma, so my stats probably aren’t all that. Wherever they land, these are my two highest scores.

I wish my Wisdom and Dexterity were higher. My direction sense is so terrible I’m notorious for it among my family and offline friends. I’ve failed at both juggling and various musical instruments so many times, it’s not even funny. I understand music theory and am able to play by ear well enough, but my fingers simply do not cooperate. That said, I have pretty good reflexes.

Whomever rolled me up put the lowest ones in Strength and Constitution. Even when I was in my teens and working out religiously, I was not that strong. And I’m not actually sick that often, but when I miss a CON check, I pay a hard price. My Constitution may be higher than my Wisdom and I just don’t know it because skill points.

Alignment

The Nine Alignments of Batman

The Nine Alignments of Batman by CompGeekDavid.

Chaotic Good is the sexiest alignment, but I am not that. I try to conduct myself as a Neutral Good, but really, if I am honest, I’m Lawful Neutral. Bit of a calculating Stoic here. We can explore the implications of the Utilitarian Principle on the thread if you like, but this is all I’m saying about my personal alignment on the front page of the blog.

Equipment

So, what would I spend my 50 to 200 starting gold pieces on?

Aside from some armor and three serviceable weapons, one of which is designed to be concealed and one of which is made of silver (because D&D is physically PERILOUS, yo’!); spell components (because you KNOW I’m casting some spells, whatever else I do); and food (because starvation is the LAST thing you want to be dealing with if your DM is worth a damn). Aside from those, here are the things I must have in my backpack before setting out on an adventure.

  1. Writing equipment. Scroll case full of paper. Quills, ink, etc. A blank journal if I roll the starting money well.
  2. A small knife. So small, it’s not much better than a fist in combat, but it is not primarily a weapon. Is a tool.
  3. Rope. Rope is just essential.
  4. Chalk. It weighs almost nothing, and one time getting lost in some bizarro dungeon-maze will teach you just how valuable three sticks of chalk can be.
  5. A collapsible pole, if I can afford it. Alternately, a pole with sections that you can screw together and screw apart.
  6. A mirror for looking around corners and identifying vampires and making sure my hair is cinematically correct before every battle.
  7. A 2-lb bag of marbles. You would be surprised just how often you find yourself retreating down a flight of stairs, pursued by a gaggle of large, flat-footed bipeds in this game. Marbles have other uses, too. They’re awesome for voting and gambling, if you pick the colors right.
  8. Handkerchiefs, tobacco, and smoking apparatus. Because Tolkien.
  9. The means to make fire and a couple of flasks of oil.
  10. A holy symbol and some vials of holy water. Even if you aren’t religious, sometimes there be undead. And sometimes you get into a situation where all you can do is pray for divine intervention and hope you live through it.
  11. A change of clothing.

That’s it. Don’t need no stinkin’ bow. (Got Magic Missiles and a lot of even nastier spells for ranged combat. Color Spray. Sleep. Entangle. All very low-level spells. You know what I’m sayin’ ;-) ) Torches and lanterns: Also not required, because Infravision and Continual Light.

hobbit-map

I almost did a section on my skills, but if I do that, we’ll be here all day. All my skills are about the subtle use of words, carefully considered body language, and knowledge.

My D&D characters are pretty frightening when I manage to keep them alive to 10th level.

So, what I am I when I translate myself into the language of D&D? Not a book wizard and not a fighter of any sort, obviously. Also not a cleric because I have no patience for religious discipline. And not a bard, though I’ve worked at the bard skills a bit. Rogue/Sorcerer FTW, I say. More Rogue than Sorcerer.

What sort of D&D character are YOU??? Inquiring minds want to know.

Seems appropriate to include an Imagine Dragons video with this one.