Monday, August 31, 2015

Blaugust Day the Last: A Farewell to Arms

My last post for the Blaugust initiative.

I'm not going to call this a failure. I lost, but I won something else. I won the renewed confidence that this sort of thing can bring. This blog will not go unused from here on out. Posts may end up infrequent, but I'm not going away.

I enjoy the ego boost getting pageviews and comments brings.
I enjoy the free therapy I get from exposing my vulnerabilities to the internet.
I enjoy being able to express my opinions.
I enjoy helping people, even if it's only one or two at a time.

So yes, I lost Blaugust. Who cares? Not me. I'll see you all again, and soon.

Special thanks to @Belghast for setting this whole thing up, and a shout out to all of my new Twitter followers that joined because I tried.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Blaugust Number 16: Life as a Technical Writer at Blizzard Entertainment

Via Would you mind writing a blog covering what you do as a technical writer for Blizzard and how one might prepare to apply for such a role?
I've mentioned before that I work in Global Customer Support Operations (GCSO) for Blizzard Entertainment. In very broad strokes, GCSO is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day for Blizzard CS, and serving as a liaison between CS and our game teams. My team of three writers and one manager are in charge of maintaining content on the support site.

We write support articles, breaking news posts, GM response templates, and maintain the site's guided entry system. I also maintain several manuals for our internal CS tools as an additional solo task. That means if you've ever gone to our site looking for help, you've read something that my team and I have created.

Now wait, WAIT!! Put down the rocks and pitchforks. We know that not everything is covered on our site, but we're constantly working to make it the best support site in the world. Be patient, and leave constructive comments on our articles. These things are important for us to be effective at our job.

I want to be a technical writer! What do I need to do?

Lern 2 rite gud.

In all seriousness, you need to write well. I don't just mean fictional writing or blog posts (>.>) either. Most forms of technical writing have strict guidelines that authors need to follow. Here at Blizzard we're not as strict, but we do have a style guide that's continuously updated by our team. My last job followed three style guides: Microsoft Manual of Style, Chicago Manual of Style, and our own internal style guide. That means not only learning the style, but also not getting upset when your article changes drastically to fit that style.

Almost every article we write gets passed through the rest of the team for edits. That means editing skills are just as important as writing. This is the part I'm working on improving the most right now. Having our style guidelines in mind when editing content means that there's a unified voice for our site. Trust me, you wouldn't want a site where every article is written in a different style.

Do you need an English or communications degree? Nope. I have a degree in Game Design. What's important is proving that you can do the work. There will always be a writing test before your interviews. If you can't pass it then it doesn't matter what your degree is in or how many years of experience you have. Can't do the work, can't get the job. Not to say that formal classes or a degree won't help. They absolutely will, if only to teach you what tech writing is all about.

I'll be honest, this probably won't be your first technical writing gig. I got lucky and was introduced through a friend at the last job and got two years of experience there. If I hadn't been working at a place where all I did was document software, I probably wouldn't have gotten this gig. They needed a software documentation expert to expand the team with. I fit the part. So put yourself out there and keep pushing towards a job at Blizzard. Even if you don't have a job doing tech writing, you actually can do it as a hobby.

Create manuals for games you like. Come up with a user story for why a player may contact CS and write an article covering it. Made a piece of software yourself? Document it! Do you know how to fix a broken appliance? That's a perfect thing to document! There's plenty of ways to stretch your tech writing muscles. It may seem dry and boring, but if it's what you want to do, who cares?

So there is, at a very high level, what we do and what you can do to maybe get a job here. I wish all of you future tech writers all the luck in the world.

***Part of the Blaugust series of posts***

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blaugust Day: Who Cares—Crying Isn't a Sign of Weakness, Right?

I curled up into a ball and wailed into a pillow last night. This past week has been, as I said earlier, terrible for me mentally. From longing to depression to anxiety to fear of letting someone down to the terrifying thought that I'm fucking everything up and not knowing it to pure nothingness. It's all come crashing down on me like tidal waves.

Most of the day the sea is calm, then out goes the water in a flash. Before I can prepare for what's coming, the massive wave slams upon the shore. It floods ever inwards until my dam stops it. My crumbling psyche holds back as much as it can. Drips slip through cracks. A tear slides down my cheek. The pattern continues until the dam just can't hold out any longer. In an instant the barrier falls and I end up bawling like an infant.

Last night's breakdown was the worst I've had in a long time because I kept reinforcing the dam instead of letting it go. I wanted to be strong, not just for me but for her. Turns out I'm just not strong enough. But maybe that's okay. Maybe being vulnerable, even for an extended period of time, will help more than it hurts. Just right now it hurts quite a bit, and I worry about too many things.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Blaugust Day ??: Sometimes I Fall Behind

I'm a procrastinator. Always have been. Deadlines usually help, but not always. That includes challenges like Blaugust. Then again sometimes life and my own mind get in the way.

I haven't had a true depressive episode in just under a year. This past weekend it came back with a vengeance. It was triggered after my girlfriend left to go back to her house in Vegas. Normally I'm hit hard whenever she leaves, but not like this. To fall back into a mode where all I felt was nothing, where I just went through the motions of the day, was terrifying. I was on the verge of panic attacks a couple times Friday and Saturday. Mustering up what little strength I could, I tried to power through. It barely worked. And it wasn't just the loneliness that caused my regression, but a general piling on of all the bullshit baggage I carry around with me in the back of my head.

My form of therapy was cleaning my room. I have a pile of shit to throw out now, and I feel like I have more to do. There's so much useless crap in my life. Need to rid myself of it. That includes all of these negative thoughts and insecurities. Maybe it's time to seek professional help—terrifying as that thought is.

So yeah, it's no real excuse, but I wanted to explain why I suck sometimes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

November 2014, My First BlizzCon as a Blizzard Employee

Blaugust day 11

Seven months after BlizzCon 2013 ended, I started work at Blizzard Entertainment. A month or so later I got my employee ticket for the 2014 convention. I was excited to see the difference between BlizzCon as a general attendee and as an employee.

Few things I noticed right away:

  1. I got to pick up my badge and goody bag on campus.
  2. I got to go in to the convention hall early.
  3. My badge had an awesome "Blizzard 2014" bar on it.
One of the most profound differences was during the opening ceremony. I knew everything that was going to be shown and had to hide it from my friends that came out from Arizona. Before the Overwatch reveal my legs were bouncing and I had the biggest shit-eating grin. Once the ceremony ended, however, I had a bit of work to do.

You see, I'd been tasked with updating our support site with Breaking News and an article about the Overwatch beta. These items had been in the works for months. Now all I had to do was sprint to the GM booth, commandeer a PC, and mark them live.


PHEW! Now I can enjoy the show...after a smoke break.

I've since quit, but smoking at BlizzCon in 2014 was an amazing time. That little black bar on my badge started many conversations out in the smoking sections. I talked to long-time fans, new fans, a father of a fan that wanted more than anything to work at Blizzard when he was older, and many other people that I never would have talked to before. On top of that I met other employees that work in different departments. Suddenly I had gotten the BlizzCon experience I'd wanted the previous year.

I also got to spend time at the aforementioned GM booth when I needed to get off my feet for a bit. No taking tickets for me, but I did get to talk with friends and co-workers while interacting with the people waiting in line. It was a little bit of PR for CS, in a way.

Eventually BlizzCon 2014 had to come to an end, but this time I only had to drive 30 minutes to get back home. I can honestly say that attending as an employee was 100 times better than as a general attendee.

BlizzCon 2015 is a few months away, and this year is proving to be another new adventure. Not only do I plan on working a shift there, but I'll be attending with my girlfriend who is a well known member of the Blizzard community. What will this mean for this year's Con? Only time will tell!

November 2013, My First BlizzCon

Blaugust day 10

Late 2013 was pretty terrible by all accounts. Unemployed, living at home, hemorrhaging money due to student loans, it was terrible. A little glimmer of good appeared one night in late September when a friend started talking about BlizzCon. He'd been several times before, and I'd always wanted to go. Money and time was at a premium most years so that chance never really came. He had an extra ticket to the show that year, however. It was mine, free, if I wanted to take it.

Two months later we were on the road to Anaheim. It would be my first time in Orange County, and my first time at any sort of convention. Excited doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I was going to party for three days with great friends, and hopefully I'd be able to forget about my misery for a bit.

BlizzCon weekend started of with a multiple hour wait to get the name changed on the spare ticket and badge. There was a lot of people, and the lines didn't move particularly fast. There was a certain energy in the air though. A lot of fans from all over the world were here to celebrate the work of one company. They didn't care how long they had to wait because they knew it would be worth it.

And it was. I'm not going to recap everything that was talked about here. There's plenty of sites where you can look that up. Walking around looking at all the amazing cosplay, buying cool gear, and talking with other fans was the highlight. It was a good convention, but I feel like maybe I didn't get the experience I wanted.

I spent too much time wandering around without focus, or latching onto my friends for conversation. Even my smoke breaks were oddly anti-social. Not a lot of conversation to be had when you're anxious and around a metric ton of people. I wasn't sure what I needed to get that big push into OMG THIS IS TRULY AMAZING.

I found that the next year, and BlizzCon 2014 would end up eclipsing this one. To be continued...

(Side note: I talked with a recruiter there about tech writing for Blizzard. He suggested I always keep an eye on the career site because, even though they typically promoted internally, a position may open up from time to time. Just over a month later, one did.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Can Nothing Stand Against the Hype?!

***Blaugust day 9***

Hype trains are a dangerous thing. The internet accelerates them through special machines designed to focus on the minutiae of a product. And so they move ever faster towards release. Momentum builds until there is no way the brakes will have a chance to activate before it derails. Bodies full of hype lay strewn across barren fields of misunderstood promises. Some say the rails weren't finished or were too far beyond repair, and that's what destroyed the train. Others say that the people shoveling coal into the flames made the train bigger and faster than anything the rails could reliably handle.

Before I started working at Blizzard it was easy to view the train from afar as it roared across the plains. Or to hop on when it stopped at the local station. Or, in some rare cases, to experience it as it barrels through the small tracks laid by a smaller title. Now I get to ride in a passenger car. I don't know when this train will reach its destination, or if it'll arrive in one piece. The ride is enjoyable though, and conversations with my fellow passengers are always entertaining.

Sometimes I want to help build up the hype for other people. The only problem is I can rarely say more than, "we've got some exciting stuff coming up sometime soon™" Even then I have to be really careful about what I say. I wanted to tell people about Legion. To say that Demon Hunters are a thing and they're awesome looking and they have double jumps and OH MY GOD! But I can't. I never can. Instead I have to be vague or cling to as much as I can until we officially announce something.

Once that announcement happens it's much easier to fan the fires of other people's hype. I can cheer and yell and talk about most things that I've kept secret. That's when it gets really fun.

Most of the time I now roll along on a handcar, far behind the hype train. If it arrives at the station in one piece then I'm happy to arrive a little late to the party. If, on the other hand, the train has demolished all in its path, I can pull the brake and hop off without a problem.

All Filler, No Killer (Blaugust Day 8)

I'm not going to lie, this is a total filler/make-up/lazy post. I need to make up for missing the Blaugust weekend and that means you're going to get a couple of low-effort posts. Today's is a bunch of micro-rants.

  • I've gone on a lot of drives this past year. Most of them to Phoenix or Las Vegas. That means long, boring, straight stretches of interstate highways. When you're on these asphalt veins there is, without fail, a sign that says "slower traffic keep right". I'm aware that this doesn't mean "keep right unless passing". What I'm saying is if you a) don't move over to the right—if there's room and it's safe—to let faster traffic pass or b) move over to the left to pass but don't actually overtake, I'm going to yell at you from the safety of my car.
  • Yes, I have an iPhone and an iPad. No, I'm not an Apple fanboy. I'm not an inferior human being for choosing these products over others. What I am is a consumer that decided I wanted to switch from a Droid to an iPhone 4S. I upgraded to a 5S later because it was cheap with a new contract. Next upgrade may still be an iPhone, it may not be. If we could just not judge each other on our material goods, that would be pretty amazing. (And yes, I'm aware some of the hate is in jest, but still)
  • Speaking of judging people, how is the internet more cliquey than high school?! There are so many different lunch tables out there in the world wide web. And those tables have sub tables of their own. You may be able to sit at the nerd table, but can you then sit with the Marvel nerds or the DC nerds? Oh, you want to sit at the Marvel table? Cool. Comics, movies, or TV shows? TV? You sure? Okay then, have fun. By the way, live action or animated?

    It's just getting kind of ridiculous how petty people can get about the things other people love. I'm guilty of it myself, but it's something I'm trying to be more conscious of and I only hope that you'll do the same thing.
  • Commercial rock music is kind of dead, and I'm dancing on its grave. The rock station in Arizona played, when I visited last weekend, the same programming I heard in high school over 10 years ago. I listened for a good couple of hours and heard MAYBE one new song. If I heard more then I didn't recognize them. That's probably because modern radio rock seems to be stuck in that weird post-nu-metal mode of the mid-2000s. Not like any of this really matters. Radio in general is dead to me. I just find the state of commercial music fascinating at times.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Would You Believe in a Love at First Sight?

(Blaugust day 7)

Wednesday felt like it would never get here. I'd been talking with an amazing girl for five days, and soon I'd get to meet her in person. It started through Twitter DMs, then jumped to text. We'd blown each other's phones up every day talking about anything and everything. I was worried. What if we'd covered all the small talk? Would we have anything to talk about on our date? She's driving down from Vegas for one night, so it better be good!

I made reservations at a small restaurant on Newport Beach. A tasty, reasonably healthy dinner, a walk on the beach, and an ocean sunset. It was my chance to be the romantic I never could in Arizona. Now I had to hope that there wasn't any awkwardness. I am prone to social anxiety that doubles or triples around cute girls, after all.

She arrived in the mid-afternoon. I met her outside. We hugged and I started to fall even harder for her. The pictures I'd seen before didn't do her justice. A beautiful girl stood there, beaming her smile, visibly excited to meet me. It was a strange sensation.

There was a little bit of anxiety in my stomach as we got in my car and headed to the beach. Those old feelings were trying to return, but her smile put me at ease. There was something really special about how she looked at me. Conversation started to flow after about 5 minutes on the road. Our trip felt brief, and soon we were on the beach. I wanted to hold her hand as we walked to the restaurant, but hesitated.

As we stepped up the curb, she slipped and stumbled a bit. Instinctively I put my arm around her shoulders to stabilize her. Her hand, guided by a similar instinct I'm sure, reached up and held my own. That was when I knew I loved her. It was such a small gesture, but it meant more than I can explain. It signaled an innate comfort between us. An instant connection of two bodies and minds.

Dinner went off without a hitch. I had a delicious lobster ravioli, she had an AMAZING seared ahi. Was pretty jealous I didn't get the same thing, but I'm glad she's the kind of person that doesn't mind sharing their food. Maybe we'll go back soon...

With dinner done we walked along the beach looking for a spot to sit and watch the sunset. We held hands the entire way. My mind was buzzing. By the time we found a bench I wondered "how much better can this date get?" The answer was "infinitely". We curled up on the bench because it was a cooler night. Body heat tends to negate that.

Conversation continued as the sun lowered to the horizon. We talked about things that are not first date things. Past history in relationships, heartbreak, why we consider ourselves broken at times, etc. And then, as the sun dipped further, the conversation stopped. All we heard was the ocean waves. All we felt was each other.

I looked down at her.

She looked up at me.

Our lips touched...

Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The World of Warcraft and How I Live In It

Day six of Blaugust and appropriate considering the Legion announcement this morning!

As I've mentioned before, I work at Blizzard Entertainment as a technical writer. What you may not know is my actual history with our games. Also, in case you were wondering, it's super cool to say our games when referring to them.

The first Blizzard game I ever played was Rock n' Roll Racing on my Genesis. It wasn't until Warcraft III came out that I played another Blizzard title. Yes, that means I missed out on StarCraft and Diablo II. The world that Warcraft presented was far more appealing to the me that was in high school and just starting to back in to PC gaming. I sunk a lot of time in Warcraft III and its expansion, but I was never on the verge of losing my real life to it. That didn't happen until the spring of 2005 when I jumped into World of Warcraft a few months after it launched.

I'd just returned from my audio internship in New York and had no career outlook in Arizona. That meant I had a lot of free time. World of Warcraft was there to fill it. The only MMO I played before WoW was Final Fantasy XI, and it didn't feel the way WoW did. Me and my Night Elf hunter were inseparable. Until my friends quit and I suddenly had nobody to play with. My first of many breaks occurred shortly after.

When I returned the game I started my cycle of altoholism and breaks. Vanilla went and BC arrived. Friends kept cycling in and out of the game, and I switched to the Horde because suddenly they had a very attractive elf race. Yes I have an obsession with elves, shut up.

My breaks and creation of alts continued through my time at the Art Institute and through the launch of Wrath of the Lich King. I missed the launch and the first part of Wrath. I didn't resub until just before 3.2 and got my very first max level character after patch 3.3.

Quoting from a guest article I had on WoW Insider:
Seeing the game evolve from a constantly lower-than-max-level character was quite the experience. I never got to see what it was like raiding in T2 gear, not to mention never even getting dungeon 1 set. Sure, I experienced some cool world events like the two Scourge invasions, but all I ever saw when the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj were opened was a server message announcing the start of the event. Going through the Dark Portal for the first time to explore Outland? That happened when I re-subbed after one of those extended breaks this past June. I was faced with the challenge of getting from 58 to 80 before the next expansion released. 
Still, I had my 80 before Cataclysm hit and I was able to enjoy everything but raiding for the first time at max level. That was all thanks to an amazing Horde guild I was in during my Wrath tenure. We were Tarren Mill Deathguard on Darkspear and we were amazing. I never wanted to devote the time to raiding, but they still helped with max level dungeons and PvP.

The guild stayed strong through the first half of Cataclysm, but when the Firelands were released everything fell apart. Suddenly the game didn't feel the same for anyone and the guild imploded. My Blood Elf rogue and death knight were homeless. I abandoned them soon after. Cata ended and Mists of Pandaria began. I had no interest. WoW wasn't what I needed at that point in my life.

I was working at Rockwell and made the decision to focus on my career. I did buy the Annual Pass near the end of its availability, but never used it. Patch 5.2 launched and once more I had a friend itching to play with me. I gave in.

Mists of Pandaria felt different. It felt newer, better. I rolled a new Night Elf priest and was determined to go 1-90 with her. This was the time I found myself a new guild as well. Unsurprisingly—based on how much time I spent there—I joined <reddit> on Sargeras. It was a very social guild with several raid groups ranging from super casual to super hardcore. That guild, plus LFR, ignited the desire to raid at least a little bit. My priest and I enjoyed our time in the Throne of Thunder, even if it was LFR, but it wasn't enough. I realized I needed to try and recapture my Vanilla roots while also moving onto actual raiding. It was time to get a max level Night Elf hunter on my list.

Celiara was born, and she quickly became my main. I'd gotten to 90 faster than on my priest, and suddenly I had a character I was ready to try normal raids with. By the end of Mists I'd completed normal Siege with 8 Garrosh kills. It wasn't spectacular by normal standards, but it was the highest I'd ever gone in WoW. I was ready for Warlords.

Before Warlords launched I moved to California to start working for Blizzard. The launch of WoD was my first champagne toast here, and it was the first expansion that I'd started off with a focus on semi-casual progression raiding with <reddit>. By the time Blackrock Foundry came out I was 7/7 normal and 3/7 heroic. It was a new personal best. But then everything fell apart again after BRF came out.

The main guild started to splinter and raid groups died. That along with finding renewed interest in our other games—Diablo III, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm mostly—caused me to switch back to super casual mode. I look at my armory now and see 9/10 normal for BRF and 0/13 anything for HFC. I want to get back into it, but there's not much incentive for me with 6.2.

I will be back to fight the Legion in 7.0 though, and Celiara is thrilled to return to the ancient lands of her people.

Note: That rogue from late Wrath/early Cata is still one of my max level Hordies, and I can't wait to bring her to The Broken Isles as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I Sleep, Therefore I Am

Day five of Blaugust!

Sleep has always been an interesting thing for me. I love it, but sometimes I've felt like I do it too much. Maybe there's a reason for that. Let's find out, shall we?

When I was a child I used sleep as an escape mechanism. Remembering dreams has always come easy to me and during darker days I enjoyed my dream life more than my waking one.

My parents yelled at each other a lot before their divorce. Sleep helped distract me from the yelling. I'd hear fighting start, then I'd bury my head under the covers while holding on to my security blanket and wait for the dreams to begin.

After the divorce my dad hit the bottle hard, even more than he had before. This caused issues during my stays with him. We'd go out to dinner, or a sporting event, and he'd get plastered before driving back to his apartment. I fell asleep during these drives because I figured maybe if he careened into another car I'd sleep through my death. It got especially bad when he would drink before driving me out to my mom's house for the next week. I'd sleep during the drive and then run to my room and sleep some more.

In high school my sleep schedule broke. I'd started working and that meant I'd have to stay up until 11 or 12 every night to finish homework. 6 am showers became shower naps. Grades slipped, and my mood started to shift. I also developed terrible back problems during this time.

After high school I started to dive into house parties and, eventually, bar hopping. Coupled with my periods of unemployment my sleep schedule changed. I'd find myself going to bed as the sun came up only to wake at lunchtime. My schedule during my time at The Art Institute stayed very similar, only with less total hours of sleep. Needless to say the health and emotional problems continued.

After I graduated I fell into what might be my greatest bout of depression. From 2009 to 2011 I was either unemployed or working as a receptionist at a dog grooming shop. This caused me to spiral down into a pit of despair. Sleep was, once again, my escape. I'd spend most of the day sleeping when I wasn't working. I'm talking, wake up at 6am, nap from 10am-1pm, eat, play games, sleep from 4pm-8pm, stay up til 4am, wake up at noon. That was the kind of life I led. On the days I worked I'd sleep from the time I got home until about 5am. Getting 12+ hours of sleep wasn't unusual.

It wasn't until I got my job at Rockwell that I was able to sort of adjust to a "normal" schedule. Go to bed between 11-12 and wake up around 7. It was perfect! Then I got let go and it was back to unemployment schedule for a year until I got my gig at Blizzard. Almost immediately every sleep-related issue faded. Some still exist—mostly because of my god awful bed—but they're much rarer now.

Now I try to maintain that same type of schedule, even on the weekends. I know this is what I have to do, even if I get made fun of for it at times, because if I don't it's all too easy for me to lose out on sleep. And I do enjoy my sleep. My dreams are still vivid and mostly pleasant. Even better are the days that I get to wake up with my love lying next to me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Speaking of Grammar...

  • It's "definitely", not "definately" or—even worse—"defiantly". Defiantly has a whole different meaning.
  • "A lot" is two words. TWO. "A" and "lot". Not "alot". I defer to Hyperbole and a Half.
  • "Would/could/should of" is not a thing. "Would/could/should have" is. Shortened it's "would've/could've/should've".
  • Regardless of anything else, NEVER USE IRREGARDLESS.
  • For all intents and purposes, not "for all intensive purposes".
  • Adverbs ending in "-ly" are well and good, but please try not to overuse them. They can make your writing seem lazy in my opinion.
  • "Pre" does not need to be followed by a hyphen most of the time. (prepurchase, prepay, etc.)
  • In fact most hyphenated words probably don't need hyphens.
  • Speaking of, if you use "--" in your writing switch to an actual em dash. It looks like this—the alt code for it is alt+0151. Learn it, live it, love it. Oh, and no spaces around it please.
  • "It's" means "it is". "It's starting to become clear."
    "Its" indicates possession. "Murky killed the tower after its ammunition ran out."
  • There's a difference between "your/you're" and "there/their/they're".
    "Your face makes it seem like you're (you are) getting sick."
    "There is no reason to take their words at face value. They're (they are) just trying to make you mad."

Dr. Strangegrammar or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Break the Rules

Blaugust day 4

I have no formal college education as a writer. No English degree adorns my office wall. All I have is a love for the language, and a love for the art of writing.

I've considered myself a writer since reading "A Wrinkle in Time" some 20-ish years ago. That book tickled my imagination in a way none had before, and I knew I had to create something that could do the same for countless others.

Early on I listened to my teachers. They taught me the rules that all writers had to follow. These were rules that could not be broken by anyone that wanted to be successful.

  • "Never start two consecutive sentences with the same word."
  • "Do not start a sentence with a conjunction."
  • "Don't ever end a sentence with a preposition."
  • "Infinitives should never be split."
  • "Insert a comma where you would take a natural pause."
And so, all through elementary school, I went along with it. Rules are meant to be followed, not broken. My prose was the most uptight stuff you'd have the pleasure of reading. My desire to break the rules that I knew shouldn't be broken led me down the path of poetry.

Poets broke rules all the time! They were the rebels of the literary world and I wanted to be a part of that. My high school writing career was spent, outside of assignments, on writing poetry. Bad poetry, mind you. I've found some of my old notebooks recently. Let me tell you there is some awful drek in them.

I gave up writing after high school. I'd been duped into false promises of publication in poetry collections a couple of times, and nobody seemed interested in my prose. So, because I don't handle failure well, I just quit. It took five or six years for me to get back to writing semi-seriously. By that point I'd read a lot of books by a lot of different authors and I'd learned one thing:


Yes, there are best practices and you still need to follow certain conventions. Just writing whatever you want without following the basic linguistic rules of English will end in terrible prose 99% of the time. And yet there are many famous authors that did just that. Cormac McCarthy is known for his omission of quotation marks. I'm personally not a fan of it, but it's his style. He follows his own self-imposed rules. That is far more important than following the rules some elementary school teacher tried to shove down your throat.

Once I got a taste of freedom my writing flourished. It still wasn't good, but it was mine. It only started to become good when I started working as a technical writer four years ago. Suddenly I had actual rules to follow; ones that weren't just imposed by a teacher. Technical writing has its own conventions—which I really do want to cover in detail later on—that really can't be broken. You have to be succinct and you have to be blunt. I've absorbed those same rules in to my prose.

Gone is the flowery, over-indulgent language of my youth. I write for a purpose now, not just for a word count. I've got first drafts of both a novel (~53,000 words) and a novella (~24,000 words) waiting for rewrites. In the meantime I continue to work on molding my style into a functional one. I want someone to read what I write and say, "Yep, that's the Ehlers style." If you're like me now, or like me when I was young, don't give up. Keep pushing yourself and soon you'll see the fruits of your labor.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Aria's Ascension (Blaugust Day 3: Bonus Post!)

Note: The following is an unfinished work of fiction. It serves as an introduction to a character that I've yet to do anything with. I present this as a sample of what my fiction is like, and to hopefully get my words out to a dozen or so people.

Being stuck on this hopeless rock as it coasts through space has always felt like a punishment. Maybe I managed to piss off one of the gods in a past life. From up on high they sat, watched, waiting for the day that revenge could be served. And so my soul was born into this body, and that god laughed.

From the very start, I knew my goal in life was to overcome the terrestrial disability I was born with. This dull planet couldn’t hold me forever. Its bonds would be broken. The stars would be mine once more. Nothing can contain my glory from—

“What are you doing?” My sister yelled from a distance. I was watching the sun as it crept towards the horizon. Orange and gold colors spreading over the ground and sky. It was a scene I’ve seen dozens, hundreds of times. Today’s sunset would be different though. It would be better.

“Maaaaaaaaax!” My sister made sure to draw out that vowel for as long as she could. Not only was she getting closer, she was starting to move from a minor to a major annoyance. I didn’t want her to find out what I was waiting for. Knowing my luck, if she did find out, she’d be the one to get chosen. “You deaf, Max?” Her open hand collided with the back of my head.

“Christ, Aria,” I yelled, grabbing the impact site. That was all the validation I felt like giving her. Two words. Nothing more. Not even a glance. I wasn’t going to look at her. Not going to happen.

“You can’t ignore me that easily.” Aria circled around me during that bout of indignation. She now sat in front of me on the same damp grass that I sat on. Her back was to the sunset though, and at that moment that’s all that mattered.

I knew the selection process worked off vision. If you saw it first, you were the one chosen to move on. Five more minutes of distraction and that spot would be mine.

“So,” my sister leaned back, supporting her weight with her outstretched arms. “Whatcha doin?” I watched as she shifted her weight and held her left hand in front of her face. “And why are you sitting in such damp grass?”

“This is where I come to watch the sunset sometimes,” I told my sister. It was a lie. I’ve never watched the sunset from here before.

“Liar,” my sister snapped. “You don’t care about nature and sunsets and things like that. What's really going on?" A light breeze blew her orange hair around. That was the first sign. Only three minutes to go.

"I'm waiting for someone here," I said. "If you really must know." It wasn't an outright lie. Someone, something, what's the difference? The wind was starting to pick up, and so was the electromagnetic field. Aria's orange hair started to rise, almost as if little invisible balloons were tied to her split ends. It was going to happen soon. Very soon. Sooner than I expected. "You should probably go home, sis. There's a storm rolling in and I don't want you to get hurt."

"Nope," she said. "Not until you tell me what's going on." Lightning flashed. "I'll sit here in the pouring rain." Birds took to the skies. "Just tell me why you're acting so strange." Trees started to bend and creak as the atmospheric pressure increased in a localized area around us. They were coming.

"Aria!" I didn't recognize the voice yelling for my sister. One of the new girls in the neighborhood maybe? "Get out of that storm, Aria!" I watched my sister turn to find the source. A blinding flash, a deafening crack, and she was gone. My sister, Aria, had seen them first.

I began to cry, and somewhere the gods laughed.

Blaugust Bonus Post

Body of a Man, Mind of a Child (Blaugust Day 3)

***This is my day three post for Blaugust***

I've always been romantically challenged. It's what I always assumed was my natural state. Anything I'd considered a relationship was, looking back, a month or two of infatuation at best. There's nothing more terrifying—at least romantically—than looking back at 30 years of romantic failures and wondering if anyone can ever truly love you.

I've mentioned before, in other places, that I've always thought of myself as a "placeholder" in relationships; that guy that holds the girl's hand between breakups. I was always the shoulder to cry on, the person to talk to on the phone for hours, the source of many a free dinner or movie, but I was never the guy that they loved. Don't mistake this as me complaining about some sort of friend-zone, because I'm not. I realize that I was the idiot that kept doing these things hoping that maybe the next one would be different. There was a lot of chances that I just plain ignored. Some of them obnoxiously obvious upon retrospection.

And so I gave up on love. It happened late last year, or maybe very early this one, but it happened all the same. One day I just woke up and said, "Fuck it! If I'm going to be single then dammit I'm going to be SO single that other single people will look at me in awe." I switched off my libido, I switched off my "charm", and proceeded to wallow in my singleness. But then something happened.

A person that was no more than another Twitter follower that I'd casually kind-of-flirted-with took a chance. She made the first move—something new to me—and almost three months later I've accepted love back in to my life. She has been the best non-work thing to happen to me in a long, long time. As much as I love her, and as much as I know she loves me, I know there's times where I may not be the perfect boyfriend. Like the title implies, my relationship mind is a bit stunted.

Mostly I'm terrified of losing her. My insecurities rear their ugly head a lot and they make me do stupid things. It's not a good excuse. I realize that. It's something I'm working on. Getting used to being in a real relationship that actually has a future is going to take a bit. Love, for the first time, is reciprocated. It's great, but I've still got some growing up to do.

There's just been some really boneheaded moves I've made that have inadvertently hurt her. For that I've apologized and will continue to do so to try to atone. (And if you're reading this, I'm still very sorry for anything I've done that's hurt you. I love you, with all my heart. You are my world. You are my light. You are my everything.)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

On Words and How I Work With Them (Blaugust Day 2)

As I mentioned yesterday, I am a technical writer for Blizzard Entertainment. More specifically I work as a part of our Global Customer Support Operations team. What does this mean? Let me explain.

Have you ever used our support site? If so, did you look at an article or breaking news post? That's what my team does. We create the articles that, hopefully, help you enough that you don't need to contact a GM for more assistance. 

Working in the operations of a game company means we rarely get acclaim. The only time I see my work on a site not hosted by Blizzard is when someone points to an article from Reddit or another fan site. But that's okay. I still enjoy what I do.

My background was solely in the realm of fictional writing before I started my foray into the technical world 4 years ago. That was all thanks to a friend who got me into a software and hardware automation company. The writing was dry, but it was nice to get paid well to write something. Now that I'm at Blizzard, I've got more freedom to be less dry. Technical writing isn't everyone's dream job, and it's certainly not my end goal, but it's a fun thing to do. Especially since it's at the company I've wanted to work at for the better part of my adult life.

So that's a grand view of my role at Blizzard as a technical writer. I may go into more detail when I'm not typing this in a hurry after getting back in to town.

***Part of the #Blaugust initiative.***

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Day One of Blaugust Begins

I've had this blog for a while, but I don't use it. Maybe this whole thing will be like NaNoWriMo was for my novel, in that it will get me motivated to start doing...something. Anything really! Self-motivation is always the strongest roadblock in my life. Being told, "Do this thing! Do it now!" helps. And so enters Blaugust.

If you become a regular visitor on this blog, what can you expect?

  1. Fiction. Lots and lots of fiction. Most of it bad, but some may lean towards decent at times.
  2. Unfiltered rambling. I like to do stream of consciousness type stuff from time to time.
  3. Autobiographical posts. Nothing makes a better subject than yourself (myself?) and while I'm sure it may not appeal to most people, writing about my past helps me forget about it—as weird as that sounds.
  4. Gaming and music stuffs. Reviews, musings, nostalgia, and whatever else I can drum up.
  5. Career-related things. I'd like to post about being a technical writer for Blizzard, but is there really an audience for that?
  6. Self-deprecation. If you couldn't pick up on that already, well apparently I'm not as clever as I originally thought.
So yes, WELCOME TO "A TECHNICAL REJOINDER"!!! I hope you enjoy your stay here, and I hope I can get you to laugh—either at or with me—and maybe shed a tear or two.