Design Journal: Elohim

 

And let's make them REALLY creepy...
And let’s make them REALLY creepy…

One of the many things I’ve been trying to get off the ground in the last two years, more like three, is the Gnosis RPG. It’s a new game system and campaign setting designed to be gritty, dangerous, and easy to play and set up. The campaign world is the modern world, except it’s really not. See, all those conspiracy theories about rock music being a tool of Satanic cults, or that NASA is hiding aliens in Area 51, or that big businesses are really a front for an ancient conspiracy to rule the world after they kill most of the human population, are actually true.

Yup. Every. Last. One.

Magic is real. Science is being held back. Aliens are constantly trying to invade. Religion is a front. Tin foil hats really DO protect your brain from the spy satellites. And if you try hard enough, you can become the thing the monsters fear, become a monster yourself, or start your own conspiracy.


mocking conspiracy theories by jonathanlerner13 on DeviantArt

One of the things I wanted to do with this setting, though, was to give everything a “real-world” explanation, even if it involved fringe science or a stretch of what science said was allowed. Clearly, conservation of energy, momentum, and all those silly physics laws prevent pretty much all of this from existing, but by minimizing or at least giving some semblance of explanation, even if it’s flimsy, the game seems just a little more real. Respecting established science is one of the best ways to come up with a setting that feels fantastic yet plausible.

Take, for example, the simple matter of angels and demons.

I say simple in the same way that designing the space shuttle from scratch is simple.

I wanted to bring religious horror to Gnosis, and the idea of demonic possession and even angels as alien beings far removed from the fluffy-winged images of modern society appealed to me greatly. They would form two sides of one of the major conspiracies in the game’s universe. However, how to make them semi-realistic or at least sound plausible?

Firstly, I needed to figure out what was an angel and what was a demon.

I quickly settled on the idea that both angels and demons were not so different. In fact, in many myths, demons are fallen angels. That being said, perhaps the difference between both is more philosophical than physical. In that case, I needed a new name for this new creature and settled on the Elohim and that the titles of “angels” and “demons” were just one of the many cloaks they wore when seeking worship, an act that fed them psychic energy. The name is the ancient Hebrew name of God, and I figured a race of beings that present themselves as gods and divine beings would certainly approve of.


Angel or Demon by Reilune on DeviantArt

The most common ability both angels and demons seem to have is the ability to communicate with people despite not being in the same room, so telepathy is a must. Possession is also popular, more so for demons that angels, so that needs to get rolled in there. Barring that, what’s left?

Angels are often described as warriors, but the original texts describe them as beings that would not be out of place in a Lovecraftian horror story. They are supposedly massive, alien, and powerful. To even look at an angel is to invite death and destruction. In other words, their true form might not even be possible to have in-game. Demons are also usually described as horrific, so again there is some common ground between both camps of Elohim.

Of course, maybe the shapes and wild visions of angels and demons in the old texts are not real images, but rather hallucinations and deceit. Maybe Elohim wanted to appear as huge imposing wheels of fire and titanic beasts covered in a thousand eyes. Maybe this is part of how they bring worshippers to their side, and how, as demons, they torture others. Illusions, then, would be another power to have, but just letting them have the power of illusion is too broad. Maybe they can specifically alter the mood of those who see them in order to inspire fear. In high enough doses, that fear could manifest as visions of giant monsters. Consider how someone who is arachnophobic, for example, might see a tiny spider as a beast the size of a horse. Is this power psychic? Hormonal?


Bloodwind Angel by DreadJim on DeviantArt

That brings up the next aspect. Should Elohim even have physical bodies? Making them flesh and blood makes them real, but it also makes them supremely vulnerable. It also makes things like possession more difficult. How to justify a physical being entering and overlapping with another living creature’s body and mind? That pesky mass has to go somewhere right? Making the Elohim energy or gas or something similar would then make more sense.

But what about a compromise? Maybe Elohim are physical beings, but their effects on this world are entirely psychic. The only way they can communicate is through telepathy, providing a conduit for their powers to present themselves as gods and demons. This would also provide a path for the power of possession. Maybe they don’t exactly “possess” a person, but rather use people as puppets, and the sheer mental power from the angel or demon mind is enough to grant the possessed some powers of their own. If they ever actually crossed over into our world, though, then the physical aspects would come into play.

So what are the Elohim like physically? What would our heroes need to fight if these beings ever actually crossed into our reality?

They need to be tough. Very tough. Rhino-hide tough. Small caliber weapons should bounce off them and nothing short of an assault rifle with armor-piercing bullets, or maybe a bundle of C4, should faze them. Humanoid? Maybe, but at least in the sense that Elohim will have legs, arms, a torso, and a head. The proportions should be suitably alien, as should the face. In keeping with the disturbing aspect to the uncanny valley, the face should be somewhat human but alien in minor aspects, certainly the eyes, but also in the placement of features. The skin would likely vary in shade between different Elohim, but that’s a detail I can’t quite place yet. I am, however, a fan of the general color scheme of the angel in the Masters of Horror episode “Cigarette Burns.”

Wings? Maybe, but not bird-like wings, or if they are bird-like, they should be large, powerful, and convey the image that this creature is a killer, a warrior, and certainly not a messenger with fluffy wings. The Elohim would need to be big, too, maybe as ten or twelve feet tall, in order to truly convey the power of an angel or demon from hell. They’re basically going to be organic tanks, super-strong, and with enough psychic power to make people fear them on sight. Most of their interactions with the world will be through their “possessed” victims, and once they actually manage to cross over… things get interesting.

Elohim2
Tentative image for the rulebook!

Figuring out the mechanics is another matter, but at least having a solid image is enough to get going.

Next? Ghosts!

In the meantime, enjoy the feeling of having your imagination bring you real adventure…

Dad the Writer 2

Father, husband, writer...
Father, husband, writer…

July 22, 2015

In continuing last week’s “Dad the Writer,” I need to point out that keeping mentally active is not the only thing needed in order to be an artist and a parent. Yes, you need to keep sharp, but your body can suffer if you neglect it.

While many of us would be happy living on a diet of tea or coffee and whatever we can throw in the microwave, very few of us have the Kryptonian physiology to not die after a few years of this. Luckily, my wife and I have some experience making do with small budgets and trying to eat healthy, so these habits very much informed our current situation.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I dropped the ball when it came to taking care of myself. After the baby was born, and even about a year before, I focused so much on work and taking care of my then-pregnant wife that I did gain weight and neglect my exercise. Now, with the Little One more or less in a stable schedule, my wife and I are getting back to a routine to better ourselves.

I’m by no means a nutritionist, but I have found a few things that work for me to eat healthier and not go on some fad diet, and I’m not a personal trainer, so take my advice with a grain of salt. Just because it works for me, doesn’t mean it can work for you.


Writer by claire-eyhe on DeviantArt

Learn to Cook

Most of us are more than satisfied with just opening a bag and mixing in water or simply putting a plate into the microwave. That might do in a pinch, but I discovered many years ago, long before I’d even met my wife, that learning to cook means having control over what you consume. Diet sodas and even “healthy” meal options often pack in the sugar to mask the fact that they’re basically cardboard.

It takes a little time, but you can choose exactly what you put in your body, and cooking is a good way to de-stress or at least step away from work long enough to refresh your mind.

Our diet right now is almost vegetarian and focused on greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and other goodies. We add plenty of garlic, lentils, brown rice, and couscous into the mix and some turkey when we want meat. Once in a while, we’ll go for actual red meat, but this is a treat, both for nutrition’s sake and for health’s sake. Sodas and anything processed is also right out.

Alcohol? Well, in reality, we should cut that out to a drink a week, but a little bourbon once the Little One goes down once in a while is a good way to help the day just melt away. Suffice to say, though, that any sort of mixed drink goes right out the window due to the sugar.


Cooking by pianorei on DeviantArt

Works Out for the Meek

You want to know how I lost twenty pounds in a few weeks once? I walked. A lot. At least an hour a day, five days a week. Yes, I did also cut back on sugars and soda, but the main thing is to keep moving. That sounds easy enough when you’re taking care of a tiny human learning to walk, but you need to combine it with something else.

Given that time is more precious than gold right now, I had to find some way to keep in shape that didn’t eat up the clock. I’m not talking about getting on the cover of Men’s Fitness. I mean doing something to keep flexible and strong and even have some energy and keep my metabolism up. I chose to do tabata workouts because they’re easy, require no equipment (mostly), and they can be done in less than fifteen minutes.

The short version is that you pick a small number of exercises (jumping jacks, squats, push-ups, sit-ups, etc) and do them, one at a time for twenty seconds with a ten second break in between. You do as many reps as possible in those twenty seconds. After you do four exercises, you repeat the cycle once and then rest for thirty seconds or a minute before you start again. Doing two sets takes no more than ten minutes and kicks your butt if you’re not ready for it.


Yoga I by Studio4496 on DeviantArt

Sleep When You’re Dead

I used to joke that sleep was for the week. Well, I’m weak. And tired. And Mattie woke up at 3 AM today and figured it was time to play. A lot.

Sleep is SO important. I didn’t realize until becoming a father just how much I didn’t appreciate it. I’ve been tired before, either studying for tests or staying up grading tests. The difference, I finally realized, was that I could step away from my work. I could just tell myself to go take a nap and come back to it in a few hours.

You can’t do that with a baby.

This is where the focus from the last article comes in. Yes, do the work you need and push yourself to sit and actually write or create something in the precious few minutes you can spare, but if you need to rest and have the chance, TAKE IT. You don’t know when that opportunity will come again. And really sleep. Don’t just lay there.

Seriously. I need a week-long vacation after every tooth comes out.

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more goodies and, in the meantime, enjoy this trailer for Clown, a movie that was surprisingly creepy, if not silly.

Dad the Writer

The writer's greatest fear.
The writer’s greatest fear.

I’ve written extensively about the many things that a writer needs to do to make time and create good works and excel at his or craft.

That was before my wife and I ushered in Mattie, our precious little spawn.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Mattie to death. Nothing cheers me up more than hearing her laugh. That little smile of hers and her “I know I own your ass” look she gives us are some of the greatest moments of my day.

That being said, our toddler can be such a baby.

Every parent knows this. We certainly knew that any semblance of free time was gone the instant Mattie was born. What does this mean for our projects, though, for my wife’s photography and for my writing? It means we have to work much smarter than before.


Fatherhood by Kevrekidis on DeviantArt

I can write almost anywhere. Give me some paper and a pen and I can outline, draft, and do anything I need. I could do this before, but it’s so much more important now. I can’t just go to the computer and write an idea. Sometimes, I can’t even pull out paper to write said idea. Taking care of baby requires two hands, after all.

Time to get creative.

My wife and I have started using Evernote. It’s a handy way to quickly write down a note or save a webpage that we need for future reference. Because we both have the app, we can share lists, photos, and anything else we need while keeping everything sorted and catalogued for later. Barring that, having paper and pen handy, despite the abundance of thrown food, is still a viable option. I keep a notebook and pen nearby whenever I’m with the little one, and despite the focus needed to keep a little human in good working order, I’ve found that it’s still the best way to quickly write something down and keep going. When I do have time later in the day to actually sit and work, I quickly pull the notebook out and start expanding the notes and ideas, or the outright passages, into Word documents.


SPECTRUM DISORDER // STRESS by melissahooper on DeviantArt

This stop-and-go method to working is tiring, though, perhaps more than actually sitting down for a few hours to type. You can’t focus and let ideas just come to you. Sometimes, it feels like you’re forcing creativity, that the clock is ticking, and you need to get it done NOW. There’s no sitting and thinking and drafting and just letting ideas happen.

While it would be easy to think that any free time should be devoted to craft, that’s not the case. I’m not about to spend every minute the baby is asleep working on my writing. Aside from the fact that we still need to cook food and keep the house clean, there’s also the very important matter of spending time with my wife, talking, just spending a few minutes lying on the carpet and relaxing as the Little One plays by herself. This was one of the mistakes I made years ago, one for which I apologized profusely. Despite the writer in me demanding I sit down to work if I have even five minutes, I need to spend time with my family too. I can’t ignore them or the people I’m doing this for will suffer.

This all means focus is so much more important than before. When I work, I work. Nothing else matters. It helps that my wife and I have our desks next to each other, so that when one of us is working or if we’re both working, we can still chat and share ideas. This also means we need time to relax. Mediation, music, a walk outside, anything and everything to clear the ol’ brain pan before the next mad session. It’s not a perfect set-up, but it works, and discipline is paramount.

Stay tuned for Part 2! In the meantime, enjoy this:

I’m Back!

Taken after four days of a total six hours of sleep. Fatherhood!
Taken after four days of a total six hours of sleep. Fatherhood!

It’s been over two years since I was here in any permanent capacity. Yes, I wrote a handful of articles, but they were anomalies. The site’s lingered here, virtual spiders building their virtual cobwebs, traffic trickling down, but still consistent.

A year and a half ago, we had a baby girl.

My time’s been devoted to this tiny little life I must now care for until she moves out and goes to college to become the greatest president/ private detective/ writer/ Jedi the world has ever known. I was sure this site, and my writing in general, were distant memories, the kinds of dreams you have as a kid before you realize the world is a cold, hard place and you need to make the choice to either follow your dreams or do something that will actually help you in life.

Then something happened.

I looked at this little life in front of me and I saw everything going on. Our country is still crazy, maybe getting crazier. We’re trying to fight for the rights we should have won a century ago, even fifty years ago. I can have a safe, uneventful career simply working as an instructor or writing consultant and hope to move up.

This, dear reader, will not do.

I’m going to finish editing Charcoal Streets and it will be a hit. I am going to keep making YouTube videos because I have something to say and I think it needs to be said. I’m going to keep posting here because I believe this site has changed people’s minds.

I’m going to keep doing this, even if I have to wake up at dark o’clock, because I can’t let go of the dreamer I was five years ago. I want my daughter to see that dreams have power. I want her to know that imagination is not just something you leave in the playground. I want her to see that Daddy pursued his dreams and worked hard and through a combination of blood, sweat, and luck, he made it big.

I need to be the kind of person I want her to become, or at least someone she can see is driven and willing to go the extra mile for his family.

I used to write for me. In a way, I still do. But now I’m doing this for Mattie, too.

Release the Kraken! I’m back!

Daddy and Baby

Learning How to Spell: The Reading You Will Always Remember

It hurts, but it's necessary.
It hurts, but it’s necessary.

February 12, 2014

My class today revolved around learning how to peer edit papers. These students are not professional writers, and some of them have had to take the class before, so aside from myself and the Writing Center, I want them to feel comfortable asking each other for help. The lesson, then, revolved around teaching them how to critique and take criticism.

It was simple enough. First, find something in the paper that works. It could be the dialogue, the story itself, or even just the title, but it must be genuine praise, not just cheerleader fluff. Then, you need to point out an actual shortcoming in the paper. And be specific. Is the ending vague? Does it try to cover too much ground? Finally, end with a second positive.

While this may feel like some sort of self-help seminar, the purpose is to make the writer receptive to criticism. Hearing that there are good things in the essay and not just hings to fix is essential, especially for insecure writers. Writing is one of the most stressful activities a person can partake in, so knowing that some parts of the work work is essential. A person can get friend focusing on the things that need to be changed, the mistakes that slipped through the first and second drafts, and even just the amount of work needed to polish an essay for submission. I know.

That little bit of positive feedback can make the difference becoming bitter at the process and learning to enjoy the small victories.


Enjoy the silence by AquaSixio on deviantART

And I’m not asking for too much when I ask students to find something good in each others’ essays. Rarely will anyone find a piece of writing so unbearably bad, so insulting to the senses, that at least one positive thing can be said about it.

In my life, I’ve come across two. I’ve read hundreds of essays, countless books, and I’ve only found two.

The first was actually a student essay back in college. To say that the essay offended my sense of storytelling by taking a story and purposefully twisting the reader’s brain around metafiction with all the grace and subtlety of a rocket-powered brick to the face would be an understatement. Chaos theory states than an infinite amount of monkeys writing at an infinite amount of typewriters will, given an infinite amount of time, write the complete works of William Shakespeare. This essay, however, was a twelve monkey, half hour job. It’s the only time I’ve ever thrown a piece of writing. Its aura offended me.

The second was a novel I had to edit in order to compensate for a small car accident I caused. Instead of having to get insurance involved, the other driver asked me to edit her novel. It took me a good half hour to get past the first page. It was a mess, both grammatically and structurally. The story began with two retired men who won the lottery and drove around the country getting into small adventures. It ended with said men recruiting a dog groomer, a bartender, and assorted folks into a black ops mercenary outfit running operations in Colombia. It may sound like the kind of thing that could work on paper, but it’s not. Not by a long shot. The story would have made more sense if alien ghosts had appeared midway through to explain how reality was being melted by a giant toddler with a magnifying lens.


sketching :) by BeauDeNoir on deviantART

Being a reader is more than just editing and finding mistakes. It’s about providing a little support to go along with those criticisms.

Except for the odd writing like those two mentioned above. Writing that bad needs to be burned and buried at a crossroads.

For now, let’s enjoy the sights and sounds of The Daily Show destroying the GOP on something that shouldn’t be this difficult.

A Letter to Present and Future Students

Just try it...
Just try it…

February 10, 2014

Dear students,

I’d like to believe I’m a fair teacher, one that is willing to work with you to help you pass. I don’t believe in unfair advantages like extra credit or undeserved extensions. I do, however, believe in working with you, explaining through different methods, using office hours and email discussion to help you reach the proper level of understanding and confidence to write. That is my goal.

And mistakes will be made. This, too, is inevitable, but it’s part of the process. Writing is about making mistakes, trying out new sentences, new approaches, telling the story a different way in order to better get across to the audience. Writers who are afraid to make mistakes never grow, they never improve, and in the end they become wrecks as far as the profession is concerned.

That being said, there is one thing I will not tolerate.

Dishonesty.


Lies: He Comes by RidgeviewxKid on deviantART

Every one of us who calls him or herself “writer” most likely started out imitating others. We copied style. We copied story. We copied tone. But few of us would ever take something copied word for word and call it our own. There is a special level of hell for plagiarists. It’s right between the level where they keep Kardashian fans and people who serve Natural Light at parties.

Accidental plagiarism is also a thing. Students forget quotation marks but have a proper citation. A student thinks he paraphrased something but it was still too similar. Again, these are mistakes.

But knowingly stealing words and trying to pass them off as your own?

I’ve had students lift paragraphs from Wikipedia and sites with sample essays. If it was up to me, the forms outlining their dishonesty would have been sent to the Registrar and the Honor Council ten seconds after I caught their deceit. That is a choice to try and lie and cheat. It’s an insult to the trade.

But the department says we need to give them a chance to explain or fix the mistake, especially if they’re freshmen.

Fine.

But to everyone else, or those who think they can pass off this sort of work in a final draft, please pay attention.

Are you listening?

I will come down on you like the hammer of an angry god.


Holy War by stevegoad on deviantART

I will rain holy fire on your academic record. The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah will look the Elysian Fields compared to what I will do your grade in my class. Your lies smell like sulfur, and I will exorcise your demons from the digital database with holy water and a sword cast from the church bells of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. I’ll make that essay look like the ruins of Alderaan. You did it because you ran out of time? You forgot? Well, guess what? I’m teaching a full load and have a wife with a baby on the way. I take time out of my evenings and weekends to put together a class designed to make it easy for you to pass if you put forth actual effort and respect the craft, and if you show me something you did not write and think you can get away with it, then you’re wasting my time, time I could be happily spending with my family.

You’re too young to know the kind of pain I will inflict on your soul.

…All I’m saying is, please don’t do it. The paperwork’s a bitch.

Okay?

I think we’re going to get along great.

And yes… I’m back.

Sincerely,

Your Professor

“Genius” is Hard Work

You COULD depend on dumb luck and talent... but that's dumb.
You COULD depend on dumb luck and talent… but that’s dumb.

June 20, 2013

Who do you want to be?

When I was younger, my parents told me I could be anything I wanted. From a very young age, I always liked telling stories. When I grew up, this changed slightly to a love of language and poetry. Did I know English when I moved to the United States? Somewhat. But I saw all the stories, movies, and books I was now exposed to and wanted to be a part of that, so I pushed myself to learn English and writing as best I could.

And now look at me. One of my editors is finished with Charcoal Streets and the other is on her way to give me the final corrections and suggestions. Last year, I wrote a gaming book that’s gotten great reviews. A few years before that, I ghostwrote a novel that has been sold and read all over the world.

But I wasn’t a natural talent or anything like that.

My wife likes to say that this sort of thing just comes naturally to me. The truth is that I worked hard at it. I had a passion for it, but I didn’t start off just writing down poetry. I had to work hard at it. Very hard. While I do think there is such a thing as natural aptitude, that isn’t the case with everyone who is good at something.

We all have obstacles in the way of our dreams, but there are ways around them. I learned many things from my grandfather, but one of the most important is that it’s never impossible to achieve a goal. Difficult? Yes. Tedious? Certainly.

Impossible? That man didn’t know the meaning of the word.


Hard day at work by *vaporotem on deviantART

I try to live my life the same way, and whenever a student tells me the assignment or the lesson is too hard, I just smile and tell them the same thing.

It gets easier.

If you can’t understand a lesson in one way, try thinking of it another.

If you can’t lose weight with a diet, try more substantial change.

If you want to be more learned, read and research.

Are some of our goals easy? No. Hardly. But that doesn’t mean we should quit. Even now, despite my pride in the final draft of Charcoal Streets, for example, it’s already been pointed out to me that there are several sections that could be MUCH better. Once this was pointed out to me, I had to agree, although I cried on the inside.

All writers do that.

I’ll say it again… goals aren’t going anywhere. We just have to find different ways of getting there.

Who do I want to be? I want to be a great writer. So that’s I’m trying to do.

Show Some Lovecraftian Love

He's seen things...
He’s seen things…

June 18, 2013

Given the cosmic horror themes my current D&D campaign is about use, I felt it prudent to read up on Bloch, Howard, Smith, and of course Lovecraft. These men built on a fairly recent tradition of cosmic horror that would not really hit until decades later.

Having re-familiarized myself with these works, I feel I should point out how influential they have been in MANY areas of popular culture.

There are, of course, the films that are direct adaptations of Lovecraft’s world. I’ve reviewed Whisperer in Darkness and talked about how “Call of Cthulhu” is good for college courses. Of course, there are also the Gordon films (Re-Animator, From Beyond, and Dagon, and “Dreams in the Witch-House), but there are also the films that borrowed from the central concepts of Lovecraft’s vision.

I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Sure, the Ghostbusters, well, uhm… busted ghosts. But the big bad in the first film is Gozer, an extradimensional being that seeks to destroy the world. The dead rising are a byproduct of its impending arrival.

Lovecraft was not a believer in the supernatural, despite modern pop belief in the contrary. His stories, even those that dealt with magic, made it seem more like an advanced form of super-science, an understanding beyond that which we know. The titular witch in “Dreams in the Witch-House” wasn’t a student of potions and astrology. She learned to manipulate space and time as a scientist would learn to mix different chemicals.


Ghostbusters – Gozer’s Entrance by ~thefenrir on deviantART

Alien Horror

H. G. Wells made the concept of alien invasion a reality with War of the Worlds. It’s a classic, but Lovecraft was the one who came up with the idea of aliens as truly horrible, and ALIEN, entities. Name a story in the mythos. Any story. Odds are that the beasties and nasties are not so much earth-bound horrors as they are alien “gods” from other worlds. Even if they are creatures from Earth, they likely have a connection to alien entities. Such a premise has caught on with others.

In Hellboy, for example, the ultimate evil is the alien monstrosities just waiting to be released. In The Thing, the titular, well… thing… is an alien shapeshifter that, aside from its origin, would not be out of place in a fantasy horror story. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they eventually made vampires into demons that were actually creatures from other dimensions.

Fan Fiction

Today, you can type the name of any show, movie, or book, and find terabytes of stories written by a host of fans from all over the world. Flame wars can erupt at the slightest provocation.

Well, Lovecraft encouraged such behavior.

What we call the Cthulhu Mythos, the collected mythology of alien horrors, is actually written by several different authors. Lovecraft himself borrowed terms and characters from other writers such as Ambrose Bierce. Years of authors borrowing from each other, building a common mythology, has led to retcons, inconsistencies, and a massive library of stories… and fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s also why some people think things like the Necronomicon are real. So many authors mentioned it that it MUST have some sort of real-world analogue.


Cosmic Horror by ~NoxinOen on deviantART

There you have it. Lovecraft and others, I’m sure, are the unsung heroes of modern fantasy and horror. I’m not saying they’re the only ones responsible, but Lovecraftian horror had a serious impact on pop culture. It took decades, sure, but we’ve embraced these stories. We often use them for comedic effect, such South Park‘s take on Cthulhu himself or even the Unspeakable Vault of Doom. The truth is that the giants like Stephen King and Clive Barker owe much of their inspiration to the works of the early weird fantasy writers.

And I think they deserve more respect and recognition.

Learning How to Spell: Can’t Stop

My dreams get weirder the more stressed I become.
My dreams get weirder the more stressed I become.

June 3, 2013

My dreams tend to be kind of weird, especially, when I’m stressed about work. Twice now, I’ve been working on something and wondered if I should really do it. The last time, Neil Gaiman, or rather a dream projection of him, told me to enjoy what I do.

Last night, the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave me some advice.

I’ve loved the Chili Peppers since I first heard the Californication album. In fact, their sound and general attitude have been a huge influence on my own writing. The dream, though, started off gray.

I walked down a street. It was full, and I’m more than sure it was in Laredo, too. Everything looked gray, not black and white, but certainly washed out. As I approached a bar on my right, someone pulled me and said, “Hey, are you going to come to watch the Chili Peppers?”

Since the Chili Peppers are one of my favorite bands, I of course rushed in. It was a small bar, too, maybe a dozen tables spread out over a long floor. The bar was surrounded with red Christmas lights and upbeat music. Anthony Kiedis was actually tending bar as Chad Smith talked with people at the tables and Flea served drinks. John Frusciante played the guitar on the stage, no song in particular, just strummed along with the music.

Everything seemed too surreal. I felt like I was in a dream, but didn’t realize I really was in a dream.

Kiedis served me a drink but declined one himself. Smith went behind the bar. The band never actually played throughout the entire dream, but it felt like I was getting to just know them.

Flea then said something strange.

“It’s hard to tell your story,” he said.

I thought about it. I thought about the book I’m just waiting to get back from my editors. I’m ready, just itching, to put the finishing touches on this thing, but I’m also nervous.

What if it doesn’t sell? What if it does? What if people hate it? What if they love it?

It’s enough to paralyze someone. Too afraid to keep going, too scared to even start.

Kiedis then said, “Who cares what they think? People will love it if they love it. It’s you. Just tell your story.”

And then I woke up.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It’s the first and last thing you can feel when trying to do something. I’m afraid right now. The trick is to not let that fear be the deciding factor in anything. I learned that part a long time ago. Emotions are powerful, but actions trump them every time. Acting in spite of fear destroys it. Showing your love grows it. Enduring pain lessens it.

All I have to do now is close my eyes, take a breath, and jump.