So, this week I attended my first Durham writers meet-up gathering at the Barnes & Noble on New Hope Commons.
I haven’t thought of myself primarily as a writer in a long time. I’ve never really stopped writing, because I certainly created a lot of content for Fallen Earth, wrote poses, descriptions and dialogue for OtherSpace, but all that work has been in service to something else: Game design.
The last time I felt something akin to what occurred Tuesday night was probably more than twenty years ago, back when I sat in that comfortable circle of chairs with the staff of the Valencian magazine at Valencia Community College. This group I met with was the subset that’s specifically interested in science fiction and fantasy. Every couple of weeks, they meet to share what they’re working on and to get feedback from others.
Back at Valencia, where I met two of my best friends, Jeff and Liz, our work was rendered anonymous, photocopied, handed out, and then scored with critiques. Ironically, after a few sessions, the anonymity sort of went out the window because people could spot our writing styles. But there’s no anonymity in this new group, which sits around a table in the bookstore and reads selections aloud before getting feedback.
I didn’t submit anything to read for the first meeting. I just wanted to get a feel for how things worked, study the group a little, and get a sense of the personalities at work. But I didn’t just sit there and listen. When people read, I gave feedback that I certainly hope was helpful. I don’t think I savaged anyone, I just pointed out when things felt too passive or when I wanted a better feeling of urgency and immersion.
As things wrapped up, our group leader took volunteers for reading at the next meeting. I wasn’t going to do it at first, but a few thoughts occurred to me:
* I’ve joined this writers group. So, time to get back to writing. Really writing. This would motivate me to get the ball rolling almost immediately.
* I’m not good at fence-sitting. I want to be in the mix. That means diving right on in. Best way for me to get the most out of the group.
* It’s only fair. Several people read their work Tuesday night and got my feedback, good and bad. They ought to have the chance to return that favor.
So, up went my hand.
I’m now on the hook to write something new to share with the group. It’s exciting. They’re a bunch of good people, sharp and funny, and all interested in improving their work and helping others to do the same. I’m glad that I’ve connected with them.
Now, to write.
I’m trying to bring all my worlds together in an easy-to-manage package.
Facebook friends, Twitter followers, former colleagues from the St. Petersburg Times, new neighbors in the Triangle, pals from World of Warcraft and Fallen Earth, classmates from high school and college – I want everyone to feel welcome in the virtual universe that I’ve created at Jointhesaga.com.
So, to that end, I’ve built a new chunk of grid that I call “Brody’s World,” where new characters created on the MUSH will start from now on. First, you’re dropped in my neighborhood, Watts Hospital. If you want to go to OtherSpace, you walk into my house, up the stairs, into my office, and through the door marked ENTER OTHERSPACE. But if space opera’s not your thing, if you just want to wander around my brain or sit and chat, I’ve got places for that on the grid.
I don’t spend a lot of time on instant messengers like Skype. You will rarely find me using Facebook’s chat feature. But I’m often active on OtherSpace. So, if you want to contact me in real-time, the best thing to do is visit jointhesaga.com 1790 and give me a shout! I’m usually lurking in Brody’s Office.
For useful client software that’ll help you connect, visit this link.
So, lesson learned: We don’t park the Juicebox on the street in front of the house ever again.
Last night, I almost moved it back into the driveway next to Catherine’s Honda. Unfortunately, when it occurred to me to do so, I was already fading from the effects of the Benadryl that I’d taken a little while earlier.
When I woke up this morning and took Huck for his walk, I found that the car was unlocked. The glove compartment was open. Papers were scattered on the passenger and driver seat.
No damage to the car. But…yeah, stuff was missing. What they took:
* The Garmin GPS device. It was kind of wonky, anyway. I didn’t use it because the virtual keypad sometimes just didn’t register the touch of my finger when I tried to hit certain letters or numbers. It’s not too reliable. And the guy yelled “Recalculating” way too much. Good riddance!
* The iPhone charger/radio transmitter we picked up in Mobile during our road trip. This let me listen to iTunes over my car stereo while it charged the phone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was useful. I’ll miss it.
* The multi-socket power adapter. This let me plug in my iPhone, the Garmin, and Catherine’s Blackberry charger. I’ll miss it too.
* Size XL Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band souvenir T-shirt from the greatest hits collection that I picked up a week or two ago. I liked to let Huck lie on that when he was in the back of the car. Smelled like wet dog. I won’t miss it.
Things they didn’t take:
* The car title. Yay!
* The hub caps. Woo!
* The checkered silver and black tie draped over the back seat. Not my favorite tie, but glad it’s still around.
* The basketball on the floorboard. Apparently, my thief was just a gadget freak and not at all into fitness. I suspect he’ll pay a price for that in the long run.
This is the first time I’ve been the victim of a property crime since the 1990’s, when thieves stole my Honda Accord and took it joyriding around Tampa while playing death metal on my cassette player.
Welcome to Durham!
Three weeks without a new blog entry? Seriously?
I could understand this level of neglect for someone who has a job. But for one of the unwashed masses living off unemployment, it’s totally unacceptable.
What else have I got to do, after all? Watch soap operas? Those are all getting cancelled and replaced by infomercials. Take a walk outside? Don’t you know the terrible things that await people who try to cross in traffic? Or, perish the thought, look for an actual job? I’m really enjoying all this free time listening to Huck bark at squirrels, rabbits, joggers, fluttering leaves, wind, cracking asphalt, satellites in high orbit…
Actually, I’ve been plenty busy.
First, thanks to some very generous backers, the OtherSpace Kickstarter project was a success. So, next Thursday, a new story arc will start, underwritten by sponsors for the first time! We’re still looking for more OtherSpace sponsors, though, so if you’ve got a few dollars burning a hole in your pocket and you want to help enable my caffeine addiction, I’ll return the favor by putting your name in print and maybe sending you some OtherSpace swag!
Second, in preparation for the arc, I’ve been busily building a new grid on OtherSpace for the city of San Angeles on Earth, where most of the action will take place during the next few months.
Third, I’ve been looking for so-called “real jobs” in the video game, journalism, and public relations industries in the Raleigh/Durham area. No word back on any of these opportunities so far. Maybe they’re waiting until October to see how the fiscal quarter wraps up. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I’m not math-inclined enough. Whatever. I’d just like some kind of feedback that provides either hope or closure.
But, you know, the Roy Neary part of my brain – the part that wants to build mountains out of mashed potatoes and chase UFOs across the country – that part doesn’t want me to settle for a real job.
That’s the part that made me go online and order a new magnetic Jointhesaga.com sign to slap on the side of the Juicebox so I could drive around town advertising OtherSpace. It’s the part that has me reaching out to Triangle gaming enthusiasts and local colleges to build word of mouth. And it’s the part that, emboldened by the success of the Kickstarter fundraising effort, decided to add the element of tiered sponsorship and rewards to the new JTS website.
It wants me to do what I do best for a living. It wants me to finally turn what I’ve been doing as a hard-working hobby for 13 years into a serious paying concern that does more in the long term than just give me a little extra spending money. Here’s me telling the universe: I want to build something that can support OTHER people, not just me.
I think it can happen, especially if I work on building more local support in the Triangle area as well as continuing to promote OtherSpace throughout the Internet.
Meanwhile, I’m definitely hedging my bets. I spend a good part of my mornings looking through websites for job opportunities, each and every day, because it’s the responsible thing to do. But I’m also spending a good chunk of time simply promoting my project, whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook, this blog, or by slapping the sign on the side of my car while I drive around Durham on my way to the UPS Store, Southpoint, or the Duke trail.
I’ve also signed up with a freelance writing gig site, just on the offchance that I can land some quick-and-dirty/no-long-term-committment jobs.
So, all that stuff has kept me kind of distracted from the blog.
I’ve survived several killing attempts by Alabama.
It couldn’t take me out with tornadoes. The ruthless heat waves didn’t melt me. And I made it through the gall bladder crisis largely intact.
But I can take a hint.
So, on July 25, the movers arrive to haul my stuff to the place I’ll be sharing with Catherine in Durham – back in North Carolina.
I met some great people while working at Bit Trap. I’ve had the opportunity to reconnect with my cousin Donna and her family. But life’s taking me back to the Eastern time zone and away from the crazy weather of the Tennessee Valley.
Before leaving, though, Catherine and I are taking advantage of our geographic base of operations to launch a road trip to Birmingham, Mobile, and New Orleans. We’ll pack Huck in the Juicebox and spend about a week on the road. I’m looking forward to it!
Then, once we’re back, we prep the apartment for our departure. On July 26, I should be back east of the Smoky Mountains in my previous stomping grounds.
What happens after that is up in the air. I’ve got several opportunities – some in journalism and public relations would keep me in Durham. One would keep me in the video game industry, but would require me to move to Austin, Texas.
One adventure at a time, though. I’ll worry about that situation once the road trip’s done!
During the past six months, I’d had a few brief episodes of what I thought were just really bad heartburn. The attacks started around bedtime, lasted off and on through the night, and made me utterly miserable. Medications didn’t seem to help. Hot showers, oddly enough, at least alleviated the pain.
But, without fail, these bouts ended by sunrise and I could go on with my life.
Last Tuesday night, Catherine and I had dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse after spending the afternoon in a spinning class at the YMCA. Before bed, I felt another onset of an attack. I took Tums. I took Gas-X. I took repeated hot showers.
The sun came up the next day. The discomfort didn’t relent. By noon, I was on the phone to my general practitioner to arrange an appointment. He was able to see me at 2:30.
During this visit, I received my first ECG. The attendant slapped sticky patches on my chest, arms, and legs, and then hooked wires between them and a computer. The cardiogram spat out seismometer-like readings of my heart. She told me that they were “probably normal.” The doctor took a look and declared it wasn’t just probable, it was definite. My heart was fine. He said my symptoms sounded like a gastro matter and handed me a big box full of Prevacid samples. He ordered me to take one a day. The discomfort should go away soon, he said.
Wednesday night, despite the new medication, was just as miserable as Tuesday. On Thursday, I couldn’t function. I canceled plans to hang out with Catherine and my cousin Donna. When Catherine got home, I insisted that we go to the emergency room at Crestwood Medical Center.
I checked in for chest pains, so I was fast-tracked in the ER. They took another ECG. They drew blood. They grabbed X-rays. And then they tucked me into an exam room bed with a cup that they wanted me to fill with urine, which I managed…eventually.
Around midnight, they informed me and Catherine that I’d be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation and maybe more tests on Friday morning. I was wheeled up to the cardiac ward, to room 238. They gave me a sandwich and some water. When I tried to get to sleep, I couldn’t get comfortable. The nurse pumped morphine into my IV. I felt woozy and out-of-it for about 45 minutes, but the clutching pain still filled my chest. I didn’t sleep much at all. Ultimately, I told the nurse not to bother with the morphine. If it wouldn’t fix the problem, it was just causing new problems. I asked for Tylenol instead.
On Friday morning, my general practitioner showed up, surprised to see me laid out like this. He said the hospital would arrange an ultrasound test for later in the day to figure out the problem. A new shift nurse told me that the ultrasound room would be booked until at least 5.
In the ultrasound room, a kid who looked a lot like Kenneth from 30 Rock covered my abdomen with gel and poked at me with a probe. Soon after I was wheeled back to my room, the nurse reported that the probe revealed that I had a gall stone. I needed my gall bladder surgically removed. All those prior incidents had probably been gall bladder flare-ups that subsided. This latest one could no longer be ignored.
The surgeon came in Friday evening to explain the procedure. It would be done on Saturday afternoon. I wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything after midnight. I would likely remain in the hospital until Sunday morning.
At this point, I was just glad to have some answers and a plan for what to do next. I was also tremendously grateful that Catherine had joined me in Huntsville for a hiatus just in time for this medical mishap. She took care of Huck and the cat without complaint. She brought my Kindle and my iPhone charger. She kept me company, even though I wasn’t always the most charming companion while I was in pain. She asked everybody lots of awesome lawyerly questions.
I slept fairly well during the night, despite all the efforts to stir me from my slumber for blood tests, blood pressure monitoring, and chest X-rays in advance of the surgery.
Just before I was delivered to the operating room, they told me that I’d probably be relocated to the ortho ward on the third floor, with the surgeon’s other patients. They didn’t need a gastro patient taking up a cardiac bed, after all.
The operating room reminded me of a high school biology classroom. Luckily, I didn’t get to dwell too long on this, as the anesthesiologist gave me this bitter inhalant.
Next thing I remember, I’m in a quiet recovery area full of beds with two nurses on watch. They had me on an oxygen feed. I was soon rolled into room 376, where I was allowed food (I was so very hungry, and once I proved I could ingest ice chips without problem, they let me eat solid food), all the apple juice I could drink, more water, and grapes.
Early on Sunday, I let Catherine know that she could fetch me out of hock. The doctor checked my charts and said it was probably fine for me to begin recovering at home.
I had survived my first full admission to a hospital, ever. I’ve been pretty lucky throughout my life. I’ve only ever needed emergency room visits. The longest stay had been a couple of hours for an outpatient hernia surgery in 1993, but they had immediately sent me home to recover.
Now I was going home without a gall bladder. My abdomen was sore, but I hadn’t felt this good in a long time.
Things that cost more than a $1 contribution to my OtherSpace project on Kickstarter:
* Farmville cash
* Fountain soft drink
* Starbuck’s coffee
* Stripper tips
* Ernest Saves Christmas on pay-per-view
* Movie snacks
Now, granted, the tips are probably helping that stripper through college or maybe feeding her kids. But movie snacks are a ripoff, Ernest films were awful, coffee and Coke rot your teeth and make your hands jittery, and spending gobs of real money to run your fake farm is kind of sad. You should be spending those gobs of money to support a place where you can build your own little star empire for free.
Give just $1 toward this Kickstarter project and you’ll help support ongoing adventures that encourage online socialization with people from all over the world, nurtures creative and imaginative writing skills, and allows for experimentation in cause and effect/actions and consequences.
Support a safe online space for people who wonder “What happens if I push THIS button?”
What I’m Reading
Blackout by Connie Willis
What I’m Playing
Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War II
You Don't Know Jack
World of Warcraft
Left 4 Dead 2
What I’m Writing
No Son of Hekayt - Book I: Artifacts
Free to download in PDF format!
Coming soon: 31 Days of OtherSpace - 1 work of fiction a day during March 2011.