|This is the first G-rated short story I've written since joining the WSS contest on Good Reads.|
Of Dice and Men by David M. EwaltBOOK TITLE: Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play ItOf Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt by Garrison-Kelly
AUTHOR: David M. Ewalt
SUBGENRE: Biography and Memoir
GRADE: Extra Credit
In this tribute to Dungeons & Dragons, David M. Ewalt combines nonfiction genres when he gives a detailed history of the franchise and shares some of his own experiences and in-game stories with the RPG. There are many ways to describe playing this game: a creative outlet, a social experience, a storytelling class, a geek’s heaven, but more importantly, a way for people to have fun. It’s not just for “geeks and freaks” anymore. It’s also not for “satanic devil worshipers”. Playing D&D is an enriching experience everybody can get in on regardless of age and interests.
The biography portion of this book is so accurate and well-researched that you won’t find a better timeline of D&D’s birth anywhere else. Games have been around since the early BC d
I’ve posted journals and blog entries about heroes before and some of them were in negative contexts. I didn’t think I could believe in anybody since most of those heroes were “letdowns” in my mind. Now I’m going to post about heroes again since I’m in a much more positive time in my life. One night, I sat at my computer and thought about all of the celebrities who have influenced my way of thinking. Turns out there were more of them than I thought. In fact, I have a whole list of people who I can call heroes. Starting with…
1. Incubus. I first heard their music in the summer of 2000 when I was struggling with PTSD after a whole school year of bullying. A year before they put out their “Make Yourself” album and the lyrics of this album saved my life. “Don’t let the world bring you down. Not everyone here is that fucked up and cold. Remember why you’re here and while you’re alive, experience the warmth before you grow old.” Those lyrics were from “The Warmth”. But it’s the lyrics from “When It Comes” that haunted me the most: “Just when you thought it was safe to think, in comes mental piracy.” It’s like Brandon Boyd was singing directly to me. The PTSD got so bad that I considered suicide, but it was Brandon Boyd and the rest of Incubus who inspired me to live again.
2. Brett Battles. Even though I started my writing career in January of 2002, I didn’t become a bookworm until seven years later when I picked up a copy of “The Cleaner” and loved it. Being a writer without being a reader is a dangerous occupation. I had no idea what the hell I was doing and because I was young and immature, I thought I could live life that way and be successful. Folks, every writer will tell you that in order to develop your skills, you MUST be a reader. You can absorb the author’s writing style subconsciously and use it in your own writing. And if you read from multiple authors, that’s a lot of training and experience. Thanks, Brett Battles, for getting the ball rolling for me. Better late than never, I always say.
3. Daniel Bryan. I’ve been a wrestling fan since 1991 when I was six years old. I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go from Razor Ramon to Kurt Angle to Eddie Guerrero (RIP) to Chris Benoit (RIP). Daniel Bryan is the one wrestler throughout my entire time of being a fan whom I can consider a hero. He is the ultimate 99-percenter. Authority figures told him he was too small and too ugly to be a true superstar. They even went so far as to call him a B+ player and booked him to lose several matches. So what did Daniel Bryan do? He defeated three future Hall of Famers in one night at Wrestlemania 30 to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Who’s the B+ player now? It also helps that Daniel Bryan is a socialist hippie who loves animals and is a friendly guy to be around.
4. Gary Gygax. It takes a lot of imagination to do what he did for the world of gaming. He took a war game called Kriegsspiel and replaced the soldiers with mythical creatures and the settings with castles and dungeons. And thus, we have the start to what would be the ultimate exercise in creativity for me and thousands of other geeks: Dungeons & Dragons. If it wasn’t for Dungeons & Dragons, my imagination as a creative writer might not be the same as it is today. You always hear me boasting about characters like Brutus Warcry and Deus Shadowheart. Where do you think those two badass steroid-pumped barbarians came from? That’s right: Dungeons & Dragons. Deus technically came from Diablo II, but Diablo II has Dungeons & Dragons roots. Thank you, Mr. Gygax, for making fantasy and sci-fi my favorite genres and thank you for making me proud to be a nerd!
5. George Carlin. Before I heard my first George Carlin comedy routine, my sense of humor was awkward and unfunny. I would draw inspiration from guys like Johnny Carson, Benny Hill, Fred Greenlee, and Rick Corso. The end result was a bunch of misinterpreted jokes and a silent audience. But then I started hearing about George Carlin and I immediately took his routines as permission to be vulgar and raunchy. When I first heard him talk, he told the audience of a way to make rape funny: picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd. From that one joke came a flood of other offensive jokes on my part and now my sense of humor has a strong base. I’m saddened that he passed away in 2008, but the man was 71 years old and it was on the horizon. Rest in peace, George. You’re still the funniest comedian I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching on TV.
6. Jim Cornette. In a wrestling business that people have turned away from out of frustration with stupid storylines and gimmicks, Jim Cornette has always provided the high IQ and silver tongue it takes to be my hero. It wasn’t until recently when I heard him do interviews for various web shows that he achieved hero status. He was taking shots at people like Joey Styles (for his conservative rants on Twitter), Vince Russo (for being a shitty television writer), Brock Lesnar (for being a backstage bully), and John Laurinaitis (for firing Daniel Bryan after the Justin Roberts necktie skit). He wasn’t taking these shots just to be a jerk. He was doing it because he had evidence to back up everything he said. That, and he did so with charisma and snappy dialogue, so I was always cracking up whenever he spoke.
7. Nothing More. I’m always looking for new heavy metal and hard rock bands to listen to. I listened to the rock music station on my TV and “This Is the Time (Ballast)” started playing. Not only is it a damn good song, but the fun facts being shown on the screen stated they were huge fans of System of a Down, which meant their lyrical content leaned so far to the left that it’s like a sumo wrestler sitting on a see-saw with a small child. Kick-ass rock music and leftist beliefs aside, there’s something they did recently that gave them hero status. They started the I Know Jenny foundation in order to spread awareness for mental illnesses. The lead singer, Jonny Hawkins, has a sister named Jenny who is currently struggling with depression and drug abuse, so he’s obviously speaking from the heart. I speak from the heart as well when I say thank you to Jonny Hawkins and the rest of Nothing More.
8. The Moody Blues. I’ve been a Moody Blues fan since the mid 1990’s when my baby boomer father introduced me to them. My first songs were “Your Wildest Dreams”, “The Voice”, and “Tuesday Afternoon” and ever since I’ve been hooked on their music. It wasn’t until 2002, however, that I needed their music the most. In addition to struggling with girl shyness, I was also in the early stages of schizophrenia. The Moody Blues’ album “Keys to the Kingdom” was the answer to both of those problems. I had love songs I could share with my online girlfriend at the time Jessica and I had “Never Blame the Rainbows” to help get me through schizophrenia. The Moody Blues, like Incubus before them, saved my life from another potential suicide. Thank you, Moody Blues. And yes, life is strange, Mr. Lodge. That’s what makes the magic that much more important.
9. Marie Krepps. I had spent a lifetime shutting out criticism and thinking I was the top dog no matter what I wrote. Having an ego that was both huge and fragile is not best for business when choosing to become a writer. My ego was kept in check long enough for me to meet the lovely Marie Krepps on Good Reads and do a review exchange with her. She would review my poetry book “Confessions of a Schizophrenic Savage” and I would review her modern erotic novel “Irish Squeeze” we gave each other four stars, not because of a preplanned deal to do so, but because we have respect for each other as writers. Fast forward to a year later and we’re now beta reading each other’s current novels and short stories. Marie Krepps was my heroine when my writing needed to be rescued the most. Her silver tongue and sagely advice make her the perfect editor. We still have a strong friendship to this day that I will always cherish.
10. Rhonda Byrne. It’s no secret that this woman was the author of “The Secret”. See what I did there? Some people like to scoff at this book like it’s a bunch of hippie-dippie new age bullshit. I look at this book as the same piece of literature that saved my life. In “The Secret”, Ms. Byrne teaches us that our thoughts will attract things to us based on their positivity or negativity. Negative thoughts will bring misery and hardships while positive thoughts will bring happiness and fortune. The wording of these positive thoughts is paramount to their success in bringing about good change. You can’t say things like “I’m not going to be late”, because that’s a negative statement and negativity breeds more negativity. Positive thoughts are best made by using present tense statements that say what things are instead of what they’re not. By telling myself “I have online peace” and believing it with religious zeal, it actually happened. Having peace from internet insults was what convinced me to stay on Deviant Art in the first place. And once one snowball starts rolling, an avalanche of good things are sure to come.
11. Pink Floyd. My first experience with this classic rock band was watching the scene from Pink Floyd the Wall where school kids march through a maze toward a meat grinder with creepy-looking masks on their faces. I was nine years old at the time and it was fucking traumatizing. Fast forward to the autumn of 2000 and I finally know what that scene means. The kids are wearing those freaky masks because they’re being stripped of their individuality by the school system. They’re being taught to be obedient members of society and to live their lives according to the rules of their corporate masters. Pink Floyd’s music is about free thought and standing up for your own dreams. At the age of 15, I took that sense of rebellion a little too seriously, but the message was the same: don’t be a soul-dead conformist and live your life the way it makes sense for you.
12. Stephen Chbosky. I read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” in 2013 and it broke my heart in six different places. They have hospitals for things like broken legs and broken elbows, but not broken hearts. The story follows a high school freshman named Charlie who goes through an emotional rollercoaster of a year. He makes friends with a gay guy named Patrick and falls in love with Patrick’s step-sister Sam. Charlie is so in love with Sam that he’s in high spirits when she’s happy and is almost suicidal when he thinks he’s going to lose her. It’s not just hormones either, this is true love. Shyness keeps him from getting what he wants most of the time and when I reiterate that for my audience, I think to myself that shyness was a barrier for me as well. High school was a magical time for Charlie and his new circle of friends. I had a chance at magic, but I blew it. And now there are no more chances since every friend and love interest I had in high school moved on with their own lives. That’s what’s so painful for me about this book. Thanks, Mr. Chbosky, for permanently shattering my heart.
13. And finally, Susan Cain. When I was attending classes at Western Washington University, the teachers always expected us students to speak up during class discussions despite the fact that some of us were too shy or didn’t feel comfortable putting ourselves out there like that. Those who spoke up were rewarded with A’s and B’s. Those who didn’t were punished with C’s and D’s. Because I’m an introvert, I was the one who got punished for being who I am. Susan Cain wrote a book called “Quiet” and she documents these kinds of struggles introverts face on a regular basis. She also provides solutions for dealing with introverts whether it’s a parent, a teacher, or a leader. In short, give introverts their owed solitude and they’ll give you something much bigger: a completed project with A+ implications.
I look at my journal and it is 13 paragraphs long. It’s 1:18 in the morning, my ass is sore from sitting in a computer chair for this long, and I’m thirsty for a glass of iced tea. I hope you guys don’t mind, but I’m going to skip the creative project and famous quote portions of this journal so that I can hit the hay. Later, taters!
Confessions of a Schizophrenic Savage is available where e-books are sold. Although American Darkness and Brawl-Mart are both currently on the market, I request that you not purchase a copy of either until both are fully edited and cleaned up.|
Garrison’s Library: garrisonslibrary.blogspot.com/
Good Reads Author Profile: www.goodreads.com/author/show/…
Sitka: June 19th, 2014 Cat of the Day: catoftheday.com/archive/2014/J…
Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
A: My favorite way to deal with writer’s block is by imagining the scenes of my stories from beginning to end. Sometimes when I’m alone (or at least when I’m sure I’m alone), I’ll do a back and forth dialogue between characters out loud. If it wasn’t for this method, the characters in my current novel Fireball Nightmare would all be two-dimensional wash-ups. It’s supposed to be a fast-paced bloodbath, but stories and emotions are just as important as the high-octane violence, if not more so.
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
A: Listen to your heart. Write about things you feel are important to you. Taking advice from others is okay and often recommended, but ultimately, you’re the one who makes the final decision on your writing, not the audience, not the editors, not the admins, just you and you alone. If somebody tells you your writing sucks, put as much distance as possible between yourself and that person. Nobody has the right to bring you down. If you still feel like your writing sucks, then keep working on it until it doesn’t. Never give up hope.
Q: How do you get inspired to write?
A: I draw inspiration from a lot of different sources whether they’re from other books or not. I’m a huge fan of heavy metal music and I often use it to channel aggressive feelings in my writing, especially during scenes of violence. I’m also a fan of professional wrestling as evidenced in my 2014 dark fantasy e-book Brawl-Mart. People like to criticize wrestling for being “fake” and I always tell them that Harry Potter is also fake, yet nobody’s complaining. Yet another source of creative fuel comes from the computer game Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. If it wasn’t for that game, I wouldn’t have such a fascination with barbarians. Deus Shadowheart, the main character of Fireball Nightmare, probably wouldn’t be a barbarian or even in existence if it wasn’t for Diablo II.
Q: Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
A: When I was a child, I loved playing with Legos and I had a set from the pirate franchise that was a volcano with a swinging skull door in front. I called this set the Volcano of Doom and it has since been the inspiration for the main deity of Fireball Nightmare, Vahd (which is just a respelling of the acronym for Volcano of Doom (VOD)). Realistically, Fireball Nightmare is just an excuse for me to use a favorite barbarian character of mine named Deus Shadowheart and an idea I had for a dark fantasy apocalyptic role-playing game I made up called Valley of the Damned. When two kick-ass things come together, it’s instant magic. The makers of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup know this very well.
Q: Describe your desk.
A: It’s a hand-me-down from my older brother and has been in my possession since 2008. I have to be careful with it because it’s small and shakes easily. The upper tier has my computer screen, pencils, flash drives, and tissues on it. The middle tier holds my fan, house phone, speakers, tape player, keyboard, and sometimes a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew. The bottom tier is where my computer tower, printer, and power strips are located. In addition to writing stories and poetry, my rickety desk has also been used to draw some…interesting pictures.
Q: Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
A: I’ve lived in many places over the course of my childhood, but the one place where reality hit me the hardest was when I was going to high school in Chehalis, Washington. My freshman year was best known for the verbal bullying I have endured and almost committed suicide over. Due to the crippling PTSD (and eventual schizophrenia) I’ve suffered, most of my writing is influenced by dark and disturbing themes such as death, bullying, mental sickness, sex, and violence. I do have lighthearted stories in my archives, but I will always be known as an R-rated author.
Q: When did you first start writing?
A: I’ve been writing all of my life, but the time when I started taking it seriously was January of 2002. My first writing project was a videogame idea called Final Fantasy Hardcore. It had the same magical premise and romantic leanings as the games in the Final Fantasy series, but it was set in a dystopian future and had tons of mature content. My two favorite characters from this series are a charismatic barbarian named Deus Shadowheart and a perverted scientist named Dr. Scott Cain. Ever since scrapping Final Fantasy Hardcore, I’ve been trying to find a story for those two to be a part of. I think I’ve finally nailed it with a dark fantasy novel I’m currently writing called “Fireball Nightmare”.
Q: What’s the story behind your latest book?
A: My most recently published e-book as of now is American Darkness, which isn’t really a novel, but a collection of emotional short stories in a contemporary setting. There are 22 different stories jammed in this anthology, but the pride and joy of this series is one called “Another Brick in the Wall”, which obviously takes its name from the Pink Floyd songs. It is a classic verbal confrontation between a strict US History teacher named Sid McDonnell and a stressed out student named Sam Keith. This is a scenario I have always fantasized about, especially considering I had some rather unsavory teachers in high school and college who deserved a tongue-lashing.
Q: What motivated you to become an indie author?
A: My circumstances were the reason I chose self-publishing over traditional. I live in a town called Port Orchard, where young adult writers don’t have an outlet for their creativity. If I wanted to go somewhere to fulfill that need, it would have to be either Seattle, Bellingham, or Tacoma, all three of which are big cities that are too hard to get to. I don’t have a car or a driver’s license, so I have to depend on others for transportation. The people in my family who have driver’s licenses have schedules of their own and can’t ferry me to the big cities on a daily basis. Instead of stressing myself out by traveling to the big cities, I choose to use the internet to make my presence known. I have a lot of work to do in order to market myself, but I wouldn’t have self-published if I didn’t believe I could do it.
Q: How has Smash Words contributed to your success?
A: I haven’t sold very many e-books yet, but when the money starts rolling in, it will be because I chose Smash Words. Simply having a place where my writing can be immortalized is good enough for me. I write regularly on Deviant Art, Good Reads, Blogger, and Face Book. Smash Words is different from these places because it gives me a platform to organize my writing into a tangible product instead of just bits and pieces. Sometimes people need to see the bigger picture in order to make a decision about whether to be a member of an author’s audience.
Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A: Exercising my creativity is always a fun part of the business, but my favorite part comes from the feeling of accomplishment I get after I write something. I have taken something from my screwed up psyche and made something beautiful out of it. I liken this to the scene in the musical Pink Floyd the Wall where the main character smashes his hotel room in a fit of rage and afterwards makes a piece of art out of the remains. It’s a creepy way to think of my accomplishments, but then again, lots of creepy things go on in my mind.
Q: What do your fans mean to you?
A: My fans mean everything to me. Every time they give me a compliment or critique on my writing, it helps me become a better writer. Even if it’s a short compliment like “very well-written”, it’s enough to boost my confidence to continue putting myself out there. I’m shy at first, but when I begin to get comfortable with a group of people, we do so much for each other.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: It’s a dark fantasy novel called Fireball Nightmare. The first act, which is known as This Is Violence, deals with a forest-dwelling barbarian named Deus Shadowheart who will go to extreme means to protect his home from city developers. The main reason he does this is because he is a servant of the volcanic mountain god Vahd, who will erupt into apocalyptic fire if his forest is destroyed. The second act is called Valley of the Damned, but I won’t get into it right now because too much of the plot will have been revealed.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: This is going to sound ironic coming from a lifelong writer, but I didn’t actually become a bookworm until 2009 when I picked up a copy of The Cleaner by Brett Battles. The books I read in college were slow-paced and dull while The Cleaner was exciting and quick. It’s because of this drastic change in pace that Brett Battles will always be my favorite author. Others include fellow introvert Susan Cain, Sherman Alexie, Carl Hiaasen, and Stephen Chbosky. Realistically, I’ll give my patronage to any author who can dictate a fast pace with his or her writing. Bonus points to go to any author who can almost bring me to tears. I haven’t cried since 2007, but I came very close to doing so with many of the authors I’ve read books from, particularly Stephen Chbosky.
Q: What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
A: To be honest, I don’t have much of a professional or social life in my small town of Port Orchard, Washington. To put it bluntly, I’m unemployed and have very few friends. I don’t have much of a reason to get out of bed every day, so the closest thing to inspiration I have is walking to the grocery store to get three giant bottles of Diet Mountain Dew. Walking is a fun exercise that helps me clear my mind, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to rock out to heavy metal music on my MP3 player.