EXCITING NEWS: New Arrivals and Progress Update

While I’ve been working hard at getting my book ready for publishing, an exciting event occurred… the arrival of my second daughter.

The last few weeks have been busy. At the end of August, I finished writing the first draft of my novella. That is exciting enough as it is, but more on that later. The biggest news is what happened over this past weekend. My second daughter was born.

Announcement

Yes, that’s right. On October 2nd, just before midnight, Sophia Marie, was born via C-section birth. She measured at 21 ¾ in length and weighed in at 8 lbs. even. She was a little early, with her mother only being about 37 and a half weeks into her pregnancy. The past few days have been surreal, and I have barely gotten any sleep. Mother and baby are doing well, despite Sophia having to stay in the NICU.

The Birthing Story

Her mom, Lexy, had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for a few weeks now. She had mentioned that it wasn’t painful, but there was just a lot of pressure that would go away. On Saturday, however, she was complaining that she was having pains. I had just got home from my work and was helping. Lexy’s mom and sister was coming down and they were planning on spending the day together. By noontime, her mother had arrived, and I was heading to bed to get some sleep as I had to go to work that night.
           

At about 5, I woke up when they returned to the house. I went out to use the bathroom and Lexy was complaining that the pain had gotten worse… much worse. So I got myself ready and took her to the hospital. We went in and they processed her and got her into a triage room while I parked the van. When I caught up, they had her hooked up to the monitors for the contractions and the baby’s heartbeat. An exam showed that her cervix was still closed and that she was NOT in labor. The pains, however, were taking a toll on Lexy.

Lexy was about to surrender. If she wasn’t in labor, she wanted to go home. Finally, a doctor came in and began asking her questions. Of particular interest was her blood pressure, which was elevated. Of course, the elevation could be attributed to the pains, but they decided that it was enough of a reason to go ahead and take her early for the C-section birth.

We were excited. We began making calls to family and informing them what was happening. It was reported that my daughter, Savannah, began crying when she heard that her sister was arriving soon. The doctors and nurses came in to prep Lexy. Finally, they had me gown up, took us to the delivery room and had me wait in the hall while they gave her the final preparations.

While standing in the hall, I could hear Lexy scream as they gave her the spinal tap anesthesia. After an excruciating wait, they finally called me into the delivery room. I sat by her arm, camera at the ready, as they started their work. I could see them working this scissors and clamps as they operated. I didn’t have a direct view, but it was enough. The anticipation was high for both me and Lexy. She kept asking me what was going on. After an unknown amount of time past, I watched the table get flooded as they broke the amniotic sac and released the fluid. Then, they began to pull my daughter free.

It was unreal… I was watching her leave her mother’s body. Almost immediately after getting her out, she began crying. They held her up and I was able to snap a picture. They then took her over to the warming table while the doctors began closing Lexy up. They cleaned her up and suctioned her out, hooking her up to the monitors attached to the table. They called me over and I welcomed Sophia to the world. When they offered me the opportunity to cut the cord, I took it immediately. I didn’t get that chance with my first daughter. With little sleep and the rush of excitement, I was on cloud 9.

Worries

I was then taken to recovery and Lexy soon followed once they finished stitching her up. They brought Sophia in briefly for us to see, but they had to take her up to the NICU as her Oxygen Saturation was not at good levels. They took her up and said that I would be able to go up there in about an hour. Being that I hadn’t eaten anything besides a sandwich 12 hours before, I went out on a quest for food. The café was closed at this time, so I had to settle on Cheese-its and a soda from the vending machine.

After my snack, I went up to visit my daughter in the NICU. She was all clean and sleeping well. This was the first of many visits over the next few days. I bounced around during those days between the NICU, Post-Partum with her mom, and home with our first daughter. Taking her to school in the morning and picking her up in the afternoon. I look forward to their official introduction.

I was running on little sleep. I gave my family and friends updates as I could, video chatting some while in the NICU with Sophia. Lexy was finally able to come up and visit her later Sunday afternoon. As Lexy recovered from her surgery, I spent the most time in the NICU, changing her diapers, feeding her, holding her, singing to her, and even reading to her.

On Monday, the took her off the oxygen and we were so excited. Unfortunately, when Lexy and I went up to see her, they had to put Sophia back on the oxygen as her desaturation levels were dipping. This was a blow to my excitement and had me upset. Everybody kept assuring me that it was fine and common. But I felt so powerless. I just wanted her with us. So that night, after a visit home and spending some time with Savannah, I returned and stayed most of the night in the NICU. Thanks to my father and Lexy’s sister, Ashley, for aiding me with Savannah.

Tuesday faired much better as they took her off oxygen at 11 am and she was now holding strong. Despite my worries, I cherish the bonding time that I had with Sophia during her stay there. I continued my visits, changing and feeding her. Her mom was even able to get up there a few more times and take her turns. We dressed her in some of the outfits we brought along (the doctors and nurses got a kick out of her “Storm Pooper” onesie). Steadily, she has been improving.

Homecoming

Lexy was released on Wednesday afternoon, and we went home. Sophia must be off oxygen for 48 hours before they will release her. The nurse suggested that we come home, get some rest, and do last minute preps at home for her homecoming. That’s what we did. Now, as of the time that I am writing this, we are preparing for her release today. The nurses and doctors have been pleased with all her other checks (just a bit of jaundice is the only other issue) and she is on track for being released by this afternoon.

Other News

Book Progress

In other news, the progress on my book is going well. Thanks to BetaBooks.co, I have been receiving great feedback. Many helpful grammar corrections, insights, and reactions. If anybody would like to assist, let me know.

The Road Ahead

I plan on stopping the beta read phase at the end of this month then moving forward with the process. The next steps after that would be to find an editor (if I even decide to go that route at this time, the beta reads have been helpful and I am considering skipping that step this time… we will see), work on starting my publishing company, and maybe secure an audio narrator (or two… hint, hint Michael Kramer and Kate Reading). I have already commissioned the cover art from a very talented artist.

It has been an exciting week and the next few months look to be even more exciting. With a new baby in the house AND a new book in the works, I have a lot to look forward to. Many thanks to those who have supported me with both Sophia and the book. A special thanks to Lexy for all that you went through. The payoff is well worth it. I love you and look forward to spending our time together, watching our daughters grow.

Links

Regarding the above video, the book I was reading to Sophia is called Spiders in my House by A. M. Horst. I know her better as my sister. It is a lovely children’s book focused on counting and the theme is perfect for this time of year. Check it out if you get a chance:

Spiders in My House (1): Horst, Angela: 9781543974980: Amazon.com: Books

My First Draft is Complete…

I have finished the first draft of my novella and I am ready to move onto the next step. That is proving a little more difficult than anticipated…

On the morning of August 31st, I wrote the last word in my manuscript. Final word count came to 27,800 words. It has been a great feeling. Since then, I have been researching how to go about my next step in getting it published. That step is recruiting beta readers and distributing the manuscript to them. It’s not a straight forward process and leaving me at a bit of a stalemate.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as asking several random people to read it and give me the feedback. Through my research, it is suggested not to use people that are close to you as they might not provide the best feedback. That is understandable, though I do have a couple people in mind that I do trust to have a critical eye and to give honest feedback (my brother, for example… especially when it comes to grammar).

That said, I intend to find about 5 to 10 beta readers (plus a few select ones… like my brother). For those that I do not know, there comes another issue. Security! While I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, I have been burned before and have seen others burned as well. Giving a complete stranger (or even an internet acquaintance) my manuscript comes with risks.

I saw on a reddit thread where an author asked about NDA’s for their beta readers. They were immediately attacked for being egotistical and made fun of with comments that their work was not “good enough” to be stolen. Only one comment was helpful to the author’s inquiry before the thread was locked to commenting. I personally believe that anybody, no matter their product, has the right to have their work protected. I have certainly considered this method myself. I am not saying that my work is the next best thing, but I still want to protect it before putting it out there.

Along similar lines, another consideration is the process of distributing the manuscript to potential beta readers. Should I print out manuscripts and mail it out (the word document… at double spaced 12-pt Times New Roman… is at 91 pages) to potential readers physically? Or would some sort of online distribution method be better? If the latter, how can I ensure that only the people that I want to have access can see it?

Well, that is where I am at currently. If anybody has any recommendations or solutions that I can pursuit, I would be greatly appreciative. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I will be able to move on with this step. My goal is to have all feedback from beta readers by the end of October. Then I can do my revisions make my manuscript ready to send to an editor. I would like to be at that step by the end of the year. Ultimately, my goal is to publish the book in the spring.

Feel free to comment with any suggestions that you may have. I look forward to it. This is quite a learning process… and a journey.

An Ode to Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy has had great impact over the years. It’s stories have made a difference in my life, for certain, and could be labeled as the source of my inspiration in writing and the fantasy genre in general.

I have long loved the fantasy genre of fiction. Whether books, movies, or video games, I find myself pulled into worlds of mystery and magic. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, The Wheel of Time is one of my all-time favorite series in the genre (and of all time, for that matter). As a kid, I watched and enjoyed movies such as Legend, Star Wars, Labyrinth, and Willow. I can quote many lines from The Princess Bride (I consider it fantasy, even though there is little “magic”). But I never really grasped the genre until I played a little game called (ironically) Final Fantasy.

Admittedly, it has been a while since I picked up a Final Fantasy title. Aside from dabbling in some of the offshoots (Final Fantasy Tactics) or using the characters included in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I have not really played any of the games much. I have a couple of the classics on Steam, yet I haven’t really dived into them yet. Actually, I haven’t really picked up a Final Fantasy game since Final Fantasy IX on the original Playstation. I guess a big part of it is that the series seems to have slipped away from what I loved back in the glory days.

It’s not that I hate the Playstation Final Fantasies. When FF VII was released, I marveled at the FMVs that carried the story along. I enjoyed FF VIII despite its challenge. I actually liked FF IX the most of the Playstation FFs even though I never finished it (largely due to life and circumstance). But there was something missing in those entries that I could not just get. Perhaps that is why those iterations don’t really resonate with me like the earlier entries in the series.

One of the biggest moments that everyone sites from Final Fantasy VII [SPOILER WARNING from here on out] was when Aeris was killed by Sephiroth. I admit that I was shocked at that moment too, but I think I was more mad than anything. I spent so much time leveling up and powering up the character for her to be gone not even half way through the game. The emotional resonance just was not there as strong for me.

Those who site Aerith’s Death as the most impactful obviously did not live through the sacrifice of Palom And Porom who turned themselves to stone to save the party. Sure, they were restored at the end, but it still stung when it happened. Then there was the moment when Celes, stranded all alone after the world broke, threw herself from a cliff in desperation because all hope was seemingly gone. And while she did so, a version of the song she sang at the opera played sorrowfully in the background, adding to the raw emotion of the scene. It was a masterpiece.

No, nothing beats the glory days of the SNES Final Fantasies. I stand by that statement! Final Fantasy IV and VI (2 and 3 as I remember them) were the real games that got me into the genre of fantasy and, also, inspired me to become a writer. From the moment that the airships are flying across the screen, the story of Final Fantasy IV pulled me in and never let go. Sure, it had some moments of cheesiness, but often that cheesiness added to the narrative in a delightful way (I’m looking at you, “Spoony Bard”). It was an epic battle of Good vs Evil with characters coming and going that elevate it to the Lord of the Rings of video games. It was amazing what could be accomplished with 16-bit sprites.

If Final Fantasy IV was the video game equivalent of LotR, then Final Fantasy VI could easily be equated to Game of Thrones. I mentioned before the scene where one of the main characters attempts suicide. But that is just one of many impactful scenes. The number of impactful, sorrowful, or just plain emotional scenes could fill a book. It was story telling at its finest.

Despite the more steampunk setting, FF VI had the pivotal impact that drove home my desires for my future. I just didn’t know how to get there at the time. Since that game, the phoenix has resonated with me. I feel it is because of the scene where Locke (who I always assumed as myself when playing) attempted to raise his lost love through the power of the phoenix. Now, I have a tattoo of a phoenix on my back. Perhaps it is because no matter what hardships I go through, I keep rising back up to face new challenges.

Whatever the case, Final Fantasy has clearly had a great impact on me and my life. I will always remember the trips I took along the way. Whether it was flying to the moon or taking an airship into the earth and dealing with Dwarves or defying a tyrant by “riding” a castle into the sand or spending a night at the opera, the fondness of those memories will carry on forever.

With that said, I have been working on a project over the last few weeks that would bring my own game to life. Utilizing the program RPG Maker MZ (a tool designed for making games similar to Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest). It is a game dedicated and for my daughter, Savannah. As of this moment, I am about halfway through the outline for the story, and I have found many scenes and elements that are reminiscent of those old Final Fantasy stories. The theme of crystals has popped up in my story and I have quite a few little homages to the series. I find it fitting.

In the days and weeks to come, I would like to share some of the development of this game, and eventually, when I complete it, share it to the world. While the story is more lighthearted and a bit tongue-in-cheek (it IS for a soon-to-be 6-year-old), some deeper elements are seeping in. That is OK. I would be happy if it grows with her. Ultimately, I hope that, years from now, it causes the same feelings for her that I feel for those classic Final Fantasy titles.

Conclusion I’m far from the first person to point out the irony of the use of the word “final” in the title. Not just because the games are still being made, but because of how long even the earlier ones have endured. For me, it was not final, but a beginning.

Update: I’m Still around

A quick update on my status, what I’m currently working on, and my future projects.

I wanted to check in and give an update on my status. I know it has been a while since my last post. The past month has been pretty crazy. After dealing with my diabetes diagnosis, of which I am managing quite well, several other elements have kept me away.

The first, dealing with my diabetes, is that my vision has been out of whack for a bit. While I have been near-sighted for most of my life, the past month has seen a flip-flop of my vision as I have been working to get my blood-sugar under control. It seems to be settling back to normal (mostly), but it made it difficult to focus (no pun intended) on my writing.

At the end of May, I had family come to town for my niece’s graduation. It was a great time and I really enjoyed seeing my mother, sister, and her children and to have my entire family together for the first time in a few years. Especially when we all got together for Maria’s pizza. For those of you familiar with the Baltimore area, that is the Maria’s on Taylor Avenue. We grew up with that pizza and it has become a tradition within our family.

Anyway, some of my freetime has been taken up with getting back into certain games. That started while I was recovering from my hospital visit and my daughter wanted somebody to build her a house in Minecraft. So I did and now I have been sucked back into that game. The recent update adding copper didn’t help. Between that and Miitopia, I have had some needed bonding time with my daughter.

That brings me to my current project. My main computer had problems and I had to reinstall Windows. During the process, I was reinstalling my programs and tools. One of those tools, RPG Maker MV – a program that allows users to make games similar to classic Japanese Role Playing Games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, has also sucked me in. I’ve dabbled with it before but have never completed making a game.

With my daughter’s recent interest and enjoyment of games like Minecraft and Miitopia, and to celebrate her rapid advancement in reading, I started working on a game for her that I hope to have done by her 6th birthday in September. I’m still in the planning phase, writing the story outline and gathering together my resources.

It is an exciting endeavor as it is helping to activate my creative juices and start them flowing. It can be overwhelming to think that her birthday is only a few months away and I am working alone on this project. Even if I only get a single “Act” completed in time, that would be satisfying.

I will try to post updates. And hopefully, I will be able to transition into getting back into my book and finishing that. It may be the encouragement I need to do so. To help, I may ask for assistance in testing, but I am still a way off for that.