December Frenzy — Machinima, Blogging, and More

Nanowrimo and Aria’s Reprisal

So, November came and went.  I posted a few times about how I was falling behind on Nanowrimo.  Can you guess how the month ended?

If you guessed that I failed, you’re right. I only wrote about 12,000 words.  That’s more than I’ve written any other year for Nano (yay for mini-goals?), but I still failed pretty miserably.

I am still planning on working on this project, however.  It has been a ton of fun to plan, and if you’re interested in any plot points, quotes, notes on progress, world building, or soundtracks that I think would rock for a movie version of my writing (don’t hate; I make machinima for that reason…) then head over to http://hellystia.tumblr.com to see Aria’s Reprisal and take a look around.  You may find it interesting. Or, you might think, “What the hell is this? Now I definitely don’t want to read any of her writing.” Either way, if you are vaguely interested at all in sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, dystopian alternate worlds, and really intense descriptions of cold-weather landscapes, then you may find some of what I write on my tumblr interesting.

Machinima and Morningstar Episode 5

In the machinima realm, I’m slowly kicking off ep 5 of Morningstar.  I have a few things I’d like to address about this:

I am doing my best to keep multiple story lines going at once. It’s the way I prefer to tell tales. While I technically have a “main” character, I don’t see the point in focusing on narrating only her thoughts on the world. Azeroth is huge, diverse, and ancient. There’s too much opportunity to tell interesting as well as intersecting stories. That being said, I’ve heard some people say it’s a bit hard to follow. I will try to make sure that things are as clear as they can be at that point in the story, but the point of leaving the viewer hanging is… well, so that they want to watch more!

I have not made a final decision on whether or not I’ll use voice actors for this episode.  I understand that this was my #1 complaint about the series, and I also know that I’d reach a much wider audience if I did use voice actors. The funny thing is, I’ve known of quite a few people who’ve done their stories the way I do, and none of them get such terrible complaints about it.  I don’t know what it is about me that makes people want to point that out so much — I guess I’m just that socially-awkward nerdy kid that sits alone at lunch. 😦

I will attempt to keep the episodes around 10 minutes in length from now on.  I know the last one got ludicrously long.  I cringed when I saw the projected length, and for that I’m sorry.  I will keep it to 2 story lines per episode to remedy this, rather than three or more.  It’s simply too unwieldy at that point.

Yes, there will eventually be a ‘love’ story. I’ve also had a few people ask about this. I am aware that love is a common thread throughout the narratives of Azeroth; I, too, am interested in reading and writing about that. But love is not the primary focus of the story, because I want to tell a tale where my characters stand on their own as solid, well-developed individuals.  Too often, I feel love stories are used as crutches to avoid developing a character — who are they without their partner?  Characters, particularly females, can exist and be simultaneously intriguing, complex characters without a love interest. It can be done!

Beneath the Brand

I am a regular contributing blogger at Talent Zoo’s Beneath the Brand blog now.  I post under my real name there, so regular readers might see some discrepancy in the online personas I use.  I’m sorry if it’s confusing!

I will be linking my articles here every week (usually Fridays) so that you can read something fresh!

Other Projects

In addition to my day job of writing, and my night job of… well, playing World of Warcraft and doing more writing (as well as video effects), I am a — wait for it — freelance writer.  I take commissions  for a multitude of projects and genres of writing. If for some reason you’re interested in working with me on a writing project, get a hold of me on Twitter or shoot me an e-mail (ninja dot superwoman at gmail dot com). I’ve been busy of late, but I always love receiving new jobs.

I hope you guys have kept yourselves busy, happy, and creative!

❤ Helly

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Nanowrimo Progress — Are you keeping up?

I am loathe to admit that maybe I’ve been too busy writing lately, but it would appear that this is a “problem” from which I am currently suffering — It’s day 5 of Nanowrimo and I’ve written 1500 words. Argh! I’ve finally managed to finish a medium-length commission tonight (at least the rough draft of it, anyway; waiting on its approval), only to find out I have another project for me within the next day, as well as one within the next week. Then I was approached today by a website that specializes in helping creative types find jobs; they were responding to a resume I had sent out looking for a blogging job. They don’t offer pay with their work, but they’re fairly well known, and I guess I could benefit from the exposure (plus it’s only one 500-word article a week!). I interviewed for a writing job at a start-up company today, and I received a lot of unexpected praise for my skills, so hopefully I’ve landed this opportunity as well.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging – I am just stunned. I have enjoyed writing for a long time, and I have only very recently begun to share my love of the craft with others while simultaneously getting paid to do it. I was silent on the internet for a very long time, meaning not posting on forums, blogging, or even commenting on videos or articles. I just hid from everything, hoping that I wouldn’t upset anyone or receive negative feedback. I’ve talked about all this before, of course, but it’s similar to when you step out of a dark room into the direct sunlight – it hurts your eyes, it’s overwhelming, and it feels incredibly intense. I’ve worked on flexing my creative muscles and getting back out into the world once more, focusing on being innovative and being active. My eyes are beginning to adjust to the light, but it’s still intense.

So with that, I want to post an excerpt of what I have accomplished in my first chapter of my novel here!

“I will find more later, I promise.” Aria looked at her mother, whose eyes searched those of her daughter. She knew that her mother sought something more than the comfort of words that would only serve to die in the air, mere moments after they had been spoken – she wanted a tangible token of hope instead: a method of transport away from their makeshift shelter, or the friendly hand of a soldier to lead them to safety, away from the desperation and ruin. But all the young woman could do was smile and kiss her mother on the forehead, as if that would seal away her doubts and fears, because presently, she could only offer words and kind gestures in place of their freedom. Then, before she had to listen to her mother refute her food in favor of feeding her daughter instead, she opened the scrap metal door to their home and stepped out onto the snow, into the quiet night, and closed it as softly as she could behind her.

As far as she could see, the white powder was blackened by the soot and ashes of the destruction. It had been three weeks. Nothing had changed; darkness still ruled their days, and their nights were yet ruled by restlessness and misery. They had to maintain vigilance against looters – they were thieves, all of them, but they were also desperate souls wanting kindling, clothes, or a weapon to protect themselves. How could she blame them for trying to take the things that would allow them to keep their lives?

Aria felt tears stinging her eyes, and her nose began to tingle – both from the cold, and from her sudden onslaught of melancholy. She sniffled. At the age of twenty-six, she had not expected to be living in a shanty town, with no reliable food source or a way of earning her keep. Her mother, in her mid-fifties, was not an old woman by any means, but she had lived a comfortable, happy life until the blackening, protected by naivety and, in part, by her complacency. She had married Aria’s father at a young age, and soon after lived a relatively quiet and sheltered life as a housewife and mother. Now, she was like a child, without the skills to take care of herself in the volatile land, or the gumption to attempt to learn how. Now Aria took care of her mother, without recompense or complaints, as her mother had done for her when she was a babe.

She took a deep breath, trying to calm her spirit. In moments like this, she didn’t want her mother to see how hopeless things were; how lost and small she felt pitted against the elements in the way they were. She shivered, not wanting to think of what could happen to them if they didn’t hear anything from their government soon, and turned to go back inside. Whether tonight would bring more broth made from their frozen stock, or perhaps the treat of a lost rabbit that had the misfortune of wandering into one of Aria’s traps waiting in the dark around the shack, she didn’t know. And presently, she couldn’t think clearly enough to care. She closed the metal door behind her, observing her mother cleaning the kettle and the bowl. Chantal looked tired, her eyes with bags underneath them, her face fixed in a frown, deep lines of concentration etched into her skin. She dipped a cloth in warm water that they had siphoned from melting snow, and rubbed the rag over the stone slowly. Steam rose from the cloth and wafted to the woman’s face; tendrils of vapor caressed her pale skin, making it glisten in the light of the fire emanating from their improvised stove – a sorry pit dug into the ground, stones surrounding it, and, above it, scrap metal twisted into a spit of sorts. Aria’s eyes followed the movement of her mother’s rough, red knuckles as she rubbed their dinnerware free from debris, so that they could eat another meal from clean “dishes”. Just like before.

“Mom, I’m sorry, I think I’m just gonna turn in for the night,” Aria said, offering her mother another smile. “I’m so tired. And it’s so cold tonight.”

“Wait for me, Aria,” her mother replied softly. “I’m tired, too. And I’d like to tell you a story about your sister before you sleep.”

Ah, Carivel. The girl who disappeared six years ago, after dad left. At least she didn’t have to witness this. I wonder if she’s still—

“Is that okay? Do you mind?” Chantal’s voice broke through her daughter’s thoughts, pulling the latter from her dream.

“Yes, of course, mom. Tell me a story.”

And now, I am going to go write more for Nanowrimo.  I’ve gotta catch up! 🙂  Again — good luck to all who are participating!

Part II: The Onset of Illness

We never had a honeymoon. It wasn’t really compatible with our schedules, and we didn’t even know where we would go.  We decided it would be a better idea to save our money and maybe take a nice two-week vacation later, when we’d had more time to think about things.  After the reception, we still had a few weeks before work started again, and we spent a lot of time with family and friends while we could.  It was toward the end of our stay that I began to get a constant, dull pain in my pelvic area.  I felt it every hour of the day; sometimes it would sharply remind me of its presence (usually at the most inopportune times), and other times it would just be an annoyance whenever I shifted positions.  Our next show for work involved the crew driving from Bakersfield, where they had left the trucks with our equipment over our break. Knowing I had a few extra days since Bakersfield is about two hours from where I live, I decided to visit a gynecologist.  Since I didn’t have too much time before I’d have to leave again, getting an appointment with a regular gyno was not going to happen.  I went into Urgent Care, who snobbishly told me that they didn’t have doctors who could do pelvic exams on site.  After a lot of researching, I finally found a clinic where they did have a gyno on site, and immediately scheduled an appointment.

It had been about three weeks of constant pain at this point.  The gyno did the typical examination, where you have to scoot your butt to the end of the table, put your feet in stirrups, and let them stick a cold metal speculum inside of you.  They wrench the speculum apart like a vice so they can get a better view of your cervix and vaginal walls.  Then they poke a large cotton swab inside of the opening to your cervix, and scrape some skin cells from the top of your vaginal wall.  This is obviously not a pleasant experience in the first place, but with the pain I was already in, it was terrible.  The gyno pressed down on my uterus while they felt inside for lumps, but couldn’t find anything. She recommended me to someone who could perform an ultrasound to have a clearer view.  I managed to get something scheduled before we had to return to work, so I was happy.  After running a few tests on site, she also determined that I had some kind of infection, so she prescribed some antibiotics for me.  I had to take them for 10 days.

I went in for the ultrasound as scheduled.  I was so nervous that I’d stupidly googled pictures of cysts, ectopic pregnancies, fibroids, and tumors before I went in.  I knew which ones indicated Endometriosis, which ones indicated Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome; which ones meant cancer and death and pain.  The technician had the screen facing me so I could see what was going on.  I watched her move the wand around until little circles appeared on the screen, hollow in the middle with a thin white outline: This meant cyst.  A common type of cyst that did not mean cancer and death, thankfully, but they were still cysts.  She started taking pictures of them from different angles and pressing hard on my pelvic area.  It hurt very badly.  I watched her as she started measuring diameters.  Meanwhile, she had begun talking to me about having kids.  I absent-mindedly had a conversation with her while I watched her work. I knew what she was measuring, and I made note of what the final numbers were.  She never told me what it was, or what it could possibly mean for me.  Ten minutes later, I was sent on my way.  (By the way, thanks to my shitty health insurance, this event would cost me $648, down from $720.)

The night I drove my husband to Bakersfield to leave for work, I got a call from the doctor’s office.  She told me that yes, I do have cysts, and that they are common for women of child-bearing age.  They usually resolve themselves.  “I’m still having pain, though, so what can I do about that?” I asked. But what I was really thinking was “No shit? It took $650 to tell me this? I KNOW all of this already. But I know pain like this isn’t normal.” She told me I would have to wait it out and see. Keep track of my periods, what I ate, my pain, etc. If it didn’t go away in a few months, I’d have to talk to someone again, because there’s a possibility it could indicate PCOS or Endometriosis. I thanked her and prepared to return to work even though I felt uneasy about it with the cysts and pain.

We went back to work without much fanfare; the company I worked for traveled everywhere, and we worked long and difficult days thirty-nine weeks out of the year.  We’re talking 80-hour weeks with no days off, for sometimes two months at a time.  So while our friends cared for us and our marriage, they didn’t get to attend the wedding. Upon returning to our life on the road, our lives largely remained the same. 

Because of the extremely taxing schedule, most of the people in our department played as hard as they worked.  When they had a day off, heavy drinking wasn’t out of the question.  There were even some days when these guys knew they had to be up early, pulling a 12-hour shift the next day, and they would still overdo it.  I didn’t mind going out and having some drinks, but I found it increasingly difficult to recover and still function at work the next day.  I wanted something more constructive to do with my time off, but I was so overworked that it was difficult to really think about anything at the end of the day, let alone go out and make an effort to see the city I was in.  I attempted to get back on track with my thesis for my Master’s in Linguistics, and I was making good progress.

The hotel I had to work in was filthy and the rooms were small. The worst part was that they were undergoing renovations: Drills and saws ran for hours on end. Dust filled the air and chemicals from the insulation and paint bothered my lungs.  It was not pleasant, but it got drastically worse.  I woke up one day, not only feeling pain in my lungs, but in my shoulders, chest, and head.  It hurt to breathe in and out, and it hurt even more to cough.  I got ready for the day anyway, sat down at my desk, and realized I felt like I was getting a bladder infection.  By the end of the work day, I was begging my husband to get us a taxi to another Urgent Care because it hurt to do anything at all. 

$90 later, I had more antibiotics to take. I had apparently killed my immune system with the previous antibiotics, and all the dust and germs in the air took advantage of that. They gave me some more pills to counteract any other infections while taking the antibiotics.  For four days I sat in my dirty hotel room while someone covered for me and wondered how the hell I was going to make it through this trip.  I successfully fought off whatever infection had started in my lungs, a urinary tract infection, and a yeast infection.  I hope, if you’re a lady reading this, that you never have to experience this trifecta of terribleness.

This work trip ended up being 83-days in a row, which brought us from Kansas City, to Fort Worth, to Punta Gorda.  I had pains most of the time, although they’d either started fading periodically or I was just getting used to it, and I had fallen behind on my thesis work.  I was trying to eat healthy, work out, and take care of my body, which is admittedly very difficult to do when you work so much (and live in hotels).  I was also given a very kind-hearted, motherly woman to train, whom I am still in contact with.  She was – and is – like ­a mom to everyone at that company and helped keep our spirits up when we felt down.  I had started to feel a little better, despite the excessive amounts of work.  My husband and I planned to rent a car and stay in Fort Lauderdale for a few days over Thanksgiving before flying home.  A coworker of mine arranged for us to use her brother’s family discount at the W Hotel, which bagged us a great deal.  Everything was in order to be a vacation that was well deserved.

I got a call from my supervisor the night we were supposed to leave for Fort Lauderdale.  “I’m so sorry to do this to you,” she said sadly, “but there’s something wrong with the police forms for one of our sites in Sarasota.  Do you think that your trainee could talk to them, or is it too much for her to handle right now?”  I thought about it.  I thought I’d trained her well, but it was a lot of pressure to put a brand-new employee in front of police to answer questions about a business she’d just entered.  “I’ll go,” I told her, “But I’m losing money on the hotel and car. Can you reimburse me for those?” She agreed. 

I talked to the police and smoothed everything over the next day.  Since my boss had refused to let me stay in the hotel where the police were going to meet us, I had to drive an extra three hours that morning. But with everything taken care of, we took off to Fort Lauderdale.  We spent the rest of the night drinking martinis, talking, people- and dog-watching, and planned on a lazy afternoon on the rooftop infinity pool the next day. We also walked around, enjoying the ocean at night.  We fell asleep out on our balcony in an oversized lounge chair, listening to the ocean.  I felt happy that night.

I’m going to conclude this post here, because the next part goes into illness that is not only my own, but my husband’s.  This was merely the beginning of the end.  The story will be continued in my next post, which hopefully will come soon.  This is not an easy part of my story to tell, so it is hard to force myself through it again.  

Thank you, everyone who has read this so far and given me support. Your words mean a lot to me.