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The Year of Final Fantasy

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about THIS ARTICLE by Aidan Moher. I think it resonates with me because it echoes my own path into nerd-dom and ultimately to becoming a writer.
I didn’t read much of the Canon sci-fi and fantasy growing up. I loved Fantasy and Science Fiction movies and TV, but by the time I could pick my own books from the library, I was already reading thrillers and bestsellers. Once I reached high school I started really getting into anime, and my real nerdy gateway drug: JRPGs.
I didn’t have much of a game collection as a kid. We had an NES, and a much-loved game boy. What I did have was a burning jealousy of my friends’ adventures, starting from Dragon Quest and moving straight through Final Fantasy VII. I would hang out with them as they traversed huge worlds and fought monsters and robots in weird, strategy combat that seemed strange and wonderful to me.
So When my family got a computer, a friend gave me a floppy disc full of NES roms. I knew just where I wanted to start: With the original NES Final Fantasy and its two Japan-only sequels. True, the graphics weren’t as sharp as a PS1’s, and there wasn’t anything so eye-popping as watching Sephiroth descend from the sky to assassinate Aerith, (spoiler alert!) but the illicit glee of knowing that these were lost relics. These were a pair of games that had never (at the time) reached American shores, been digitally smuggled out and translated in the dark corners of the internet. It started an obsession, and I had to play more of them. I burned through the NES library of Dragon Warrior games, and played through Final Fantasy Legend and Pokemon on Game Boy. I sought out roms of stranger provience, and as the technology improved, upgraded from Nesticle, the most Nineties name for an emulator, to SNES9x. I burned through Final Fantasy IV: Hardtype like it was a fever, and got every ending in Chrono Trigger. I fought the Sinestriasl in Lufia and remade the world in Actraiser. I was full-on obsessed.
And that obsession pushed me to seek out other avenues to explore my geekery. Dungeons and Dragons, and other table top games, cheesy 80’s fantasy movies, and thick tomes of epic fantasy, both classic, and best forgotten. It was all great, but there was irritation there, things I saw on the page and screen that didn’t quite match the things I loved about the digital versions. Eventually, I picked up my pen and started writing my own stories, borne out of my own need to fill in the gaps.
It’s the distant future year 2020. And it’s a good time to look back as well as forward. So this year, I’ve decided to go back and play as much Final Fantasy as my time allows, and to write about it here. I’ve reviewed and written about a few of these games on my blog before, but this is something a bit deeper. I’m not sure what the final forms will be, probably a mixture of critical essays, reviews, creative non-fiction, and other strange beasts. Will my love of these early games still be there? Do these games hold up in 2020? Have things gotten better, or will I simply become an old fogey, complaining that these blasted kids with their three-dee graphics and full voice acting won’t get off my dang lawn? Will I discover hidden truths, or just some misplaced nostalgia that doesn’t bear anything to who I am as a writer today? Let’s find out.
As ever, the Crystals shed their light silently, waiting for us to embark on our adventure.

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May Update: Digging Ditches

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Hello readers!
It’s been a wild May. It was a busy month, but like many times where I’ve got my head down working, it feels like I’m running in place.
I’m still working on Everyday Drabbles and the associated ebook, as well as not progressing as much as I’d like on my other fiction writing, and made my goal of releasing two Nostalgia Pilots episodes this month. So while I’m not super pumped about my progress, I’m still taking steps to reach my goals, and that’s the important thing. I’m still working on the first Everyday Drabbles ebook, but I feel like the cover is missing something. Please let me know what you think.
I did participate in this year’s Sky Ride, and it was a beautiful day, for the most part. I did a lovely ten-mile route over Route 5 with the view of the lake and grain elevators before winding back through Canalside and La Salle park. I feel like I hadn’t really trained as much as I should have, but didn’t do too badly. I’m looking forward to a long season of riding ahead of me.
On the baking front, I was busy this month. I made lemon lavender cutouts and strawberry sandwich cookies for Mother’s Day and gingersnaps and matcha shortbread for Memorial Day, and was happy with all of them. I also made another try at blueberry pie, which turned out much better this time.
May’s a difficult month because even though I got a lot done, it was all incremental. It didn’t help that I skipped Balticon again this year. The Maryland convention has been harder for me to attend since it moved to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and this is the second one I’ve missed. On the one hand, it was nice to have a quiet Memorial Day weekend baking, cleaning, and grilling with friends, but there is a lot of validation that comes from seeing my podcast family that I sorely need these days.
June’s goals promise to be much of the same, with more head-down writing and practice time and the real start of summer weather. See you then!

Podacst: The Gamer’s Guide to Writing – The Legend of Zelda

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Welcome to part 2 of the Gamer’s Guide to Writing, a part of the Dog Days of Podcasting. In this podcast, I talk about The Legend of Zelda, and what it taught me about exploration.

Click HERE to listen!

Music in today’s episode is “I do it for the Faeries,” By the 1-ups, from OCRemix.org!

“Masks,” Now published in Iridium Zine!

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Hello readers!

Holy cow has it been a busy couple of weeks! Between a triumphant return to the Smoky Writers retreat and a whole bunch of positive but dizzying developments in my day job, I’ve been running in circles. I haven’t even had time to properly promote my brand-new short story from the fine folks at Iridium Magazine!

Masks” is a very personal flash story I wrote last year, and it’s probably the most political thing I’ve ever written. It was inspired by a picture in Dave Robison’s most excellent Daily Flash group, an island of writerly refuge that has really kept me working when I was tempted to slack off over the past year. Members of the group got a preview of the story, as did supporters of now-on-hold Patreon campaign. I’m happy to finally be able to share it with a wider audience.

Iridium is a free web-based magazine, and I’m thrilled to be in their first issue. Go take a look, read the other stories too, and let them know what you think.

Podcast: Interview: David S. Atkinson

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Pat and I interviewed author David S. Atkinson about his new book Not Quite So Stories.

Click HERE to listen!

Also, if you still haven’t, this is your LAST CHANCE to back Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts Kickstarter!

This podcast first appeared at Wayofthebuffalopodcast.blogspot.com on Monday June 6, 2016.

Thanks for listening.  If you enjoyed this podcast, please share it, or leave us a review on iTunes!  You can also support me on Patreon!

Welcome to 2016!

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Happy New Year, everybody!  2015 is over and it is time to look ahead to the new year.  But first, let me consider and retire the Page of Awesome for 2015.  The Page of Awesome is the little tally in my notebook where I set my goals for the year and keep track of how I do.  And this year, my eyes were bigger than my productivity.
I put up a little tracker at the side of this blog, and as you can tell, I didn’t make most of my goals.  I wanted to publish over 400 blog posts, and I fell well short of that.  Partially that is because last year at this time I was working on “The City,” and I expected to release more daily drabble serials.  But after I completed the first one, I stalled out on two more.  In 2016, I might finish and release more of them, but if I do, I don’t know if a daily blog post is the best format.  And if it is, I won’t start until the work is finished.
I did better on podcast fiction, and even cleared my goal of 50!  I kind of slacked off on them in the later half of the year, though.  In 2016, I’ll be trying to collect all of my podcasts in one place for convenience.  The Way of the Buffalo, Freelance Hunters, and Chrononaut Cinema Review podcasts are all hosted in different feeds, and while I plan on keeping all of those going, I’m a bit jealous of my friends with Uber-feeds, and I’d like to have something here on this site.  That should be launching this week.
I didn’t write as much as I wanted to this year.  I particularly didn’t edit as much as I needed to.  As a result, I didn’t make either goal for short story submissions or self-produced ebooks.  I still have some things to get out the door, but if 2015 taught me anything, it is to not write checks my ass can’t cash.  I think it is better to be a mysterious author and leave you all in suspense rather than promise more than I can deliver.
Which is why I am NOT publicly making any goals this year.  The Page of Awesome will continue, and I’ll be making brand new and exclusive (for at least a little while) content for my patrons over at patreon.com/hughjodonnell, but I’ve been thinking a lot about goal-setting as a metric of success, and I’m not sure it’s good for me at this stage.  I’m obviously not great at setting goals, and failing to reach them made me feel bad, even though I didn’t do too badly.  I still had a lot of blog posts and story submissions this year.  I want to stay positive in 2016, and thus, I’m only announcing my results, not goals.
In the meantime, there will be a lot of cool stuff happening around here in 2016, and I hope you stick around.

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this article, please share it, or support me on Patreon for more content!

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Writing Excuses

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Writing Excuses
Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler and Dan Wells
writingexcuses.com
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Writing Excuses is a master class creative writing course broken up into bite sized chunks.  Hosted by three best-selling novel writers and one of the internet’s most successful cartoonists, each episode goes surprisingly deep on a topic of craft in a very short amount of time.  Their tag line, “Fifteen minutes long because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart,” is falsely modest.  Each one is packed with useful tidbits from leading spec-fic authors.
Essentially secrets of the pros for those struggling to make it, Writing Excuses is on its tenth season and has a huge back catalog covering a wide variety of writing related subjects.  The current season has been examining the process of creating a book from outline all the way to revision.
In addition to being useful, this podcast is also surprisingly entertaining.  The four hosts have an excellent rapport with one another, and they also have a great stage presence.  They also have frequent guest authors for more perspective.
In addition to the topic, each episode ends with a writing exercise or homework assignment to further illustrate the lesson.
Writing Excuses is like the greatest creative writing course you never took, taught by a quartet of engaging experts.  If you are looking for an informative writing podcast, this one should be at the top of your list.

The Gamer’s Guide To Writing: Final Fantasy VII and 3 Act Structure Part I

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Three act structure is a form of plot found very commonly in film, but which can be used in just about every kind of story. As the name suggests, it consists of three parts: The Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution.
Final Fantasy VII was released by Square Soft for Sony Playstation in 1997. A breakout hit for the system, the game had a very cinematic style, and its clear narrative makes it a great example of a game with a classical three act structure. This might be at least partially due to the technological limitations of the system. FF7 originally came on three CD-Rom discs. We can look at each disc roughly equating to one ‘act’ of the three-act structure. Today let’s take a look at the first disc and how it introduces the story and characters. From here on in, we’re cutting right to spoiler territory

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Disc one is the the Setup. We are introduced to ex-SOLDIER Cloud Stryfe, mercenary and former guard for the ruthless and world-controlling Shinra Electric Power Company, and Avalanche, the small band of eco-terrorists fighting against them. We meet them in Midgar, Shinra’s grimy, dystopian capital city, built in such a way that the poor are denied even sunlight.
The first act contains the Inciting Incident, the event in the story which changes the direction of the characters. In Final Fantasy VII, this is the murder of President Shinra. As the head of Shinra corporation, he serves as the main antagonist for Cloud and the others. They break into Shinra headquarters to confront him, only to discover he has already been killed by Sephiroth, a powerful SOLDIER thought to be dead. Sephiroth’s appearance as antagonist, and Shinra’s death, the trajectory of the story changes. Cloud and party escape the confines of the City of Midgar and follow Sephiroth’s trail across the expanse of the world, while they are pursued by the Turks, Shinra’s elite unit of special forces.
The first act ends with a plot point that again changes the direction of the story and propels the action into plot two. In Final Fantasy VII, this is of course another confrontation with Sephiroth and another murder. This is the infamous death of Aeris, a healer with an ancient lineage who may hold the key to stopping Sephiroth. Depending on the player, she is also probably Cloud’s primary love interest at this point. Aeris’s murder serves a dual purpose in the story. It is a setback which removes a potential solution to Sephiroth’s mysterious goals. It also raises the stakes by killing a party member and Cloud’s love interest, assuming the player chose her through his actions. This elevates the journey to find Sephiroth from a search for answers to one of revenge.
Next time, we’ll look at disc two, and discuss Rising Action as Sephiroth’s plan is put into motion, and Cloud comes face to face with who he really is.
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Going beyond National Novel Writing Month

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Today is November first, and for the first time in ten years, I’m not starting a novel for National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve taken part in the 50,000-word writing challenge every year since I’ve heard about it in 2005.  I haven’t always won, and a few years I bailed on the project early when other things in my life overwhelmed me, but I always went for it.  But I haven’t done much of anything with the manuscripts, even the ones I thought had real potential.
I’m not sure where my fear of editing came from, but what kind of writer doesn’t finish what he started?  So rather than start yet another new project, I’ve decided to dedicate this year to editing.  If I can write that much in a month, I should be able to edit a good chunk of it.  My goal is to have a beta-ready draft of my 2014 NaNo project, “Fabulous Powers” to hand off to beta readers by the end of the month.  This might be a bit ambitious, but I want to try.
National Novel Writing Month has always been about quantity over quality, but I’ve taken the ethos a bit too much to heart, I think.  I’ve produced a lot of words, and never shown them off or polished them.  So I’ve put my formal announcement here.  Gentle reader, please hold me to account.  Notice the widget on the side of the page, charting my progress to 80,000 words.
And if you are an aspiring writer, let me urge you to take the plunge in my stead this year.  It still isn’t too late to sign up.  National Novel Writing Month is a challenge, and it isn’t an easy one, but it was the push that inspired me to write in the first place.  It gave me the opportunity to meet an incredible group of writers in my area, who gave me encouragement, inspiration, and companionship on my writer’s journey.  NaNoWriMo was the starting gate for my journey as a writer, and while I’m not as far as I would like to be, I’d have never gotten there without it.  See you at the end of November.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it!  Or, support me on Patreon for more content!

Hugh Likes Podcasts: Writing In Suburbia

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Writing In Suburbia is a podcast for professional writers.  Except that it isn’t.  It is, like a lot of other writing podcasts, by a professional writer for aspiring professional writers.  But it is still a damn good one, and well worth your time.
A very informal solo cast, WiS comes from the brain squeezin’s of indie horror wunderkind Jake Bible.  The author of the Dead Mech, as well as half a dozen more series from small press outlets, Jake is a master of ebook horror with a herculean work ethic.  Bible is incredibly prolific, releasing book after book on an almost monthly basis.  On the podcast, he shares the secrets of his success, which mostly boil down to planning well and putting in the work, which he can do as a full-time writer.  He also gives the audience a look into the life and lifestyle of novel writing as a day job, and gives a lot of insight on daily life as well as the pitfalls of being your own small business.  And he ends every episode with a mean blues-harp performance.
Fans of Jake Bible’s writing will already be familiar with his bombastic, and often not safe for work, style.  His off the cuff manner is occasionally meandering, but equally charming and easy to listen to.  He pulls off the rare trick of making a solo podcast sound like a conversation.  If you want to really know what it’s like to write for a living, or you want some tips to improve your work (as opposed to your craft) Writing in Suburbia is a podcast well worth checking out.  Find it at jakebible.com  or your preferred podcatcher.

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