Tribes and Our Role as a Writer

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you’ve probably read more about me than you have in a long time. While there’s a lot of reasons why I wanted to open up more, some of which will relate to my upcoming publications, there’s another one that I wanted to explain to you.

You see, even though we are all writers and we’re all different, there’s something interesting that happens when we write characters. By describing what a person looks like or what they’re interested in, we put them into buckets or categories without even realizing it. Geeks. Athletes. Artists. Musicians. Doctors. Reporters. Detectives. These keywords define our characters by placing them into tribes, but they can also limit them.

If you didn’t know me, what would you think if I told you I was a gamer? Or that I have performed a lot of occult research? Or that I enjoy cooking? Love yoga? Have a lot of business acumen? Now, what would you do if I were to tell you that I am of European descent? A woman?

Traditional psychology spells out for us that this is how our human minds naturally function. We need to put things into buckets in order to process, record and store information. Even within the geek culture, which has a reputation for embracing different types of people into its own tribe, there are groups within groups that create separate micro-tribes of people. If you look closely enough, you can see this effect in every organized and unorganized aspect of your life. After all, every business has its own culture or tribe. The same goes for volunteer organizations, too. Sure, you might argue that we are drawn to the tribes that we’d best fit into, but what if you’re not? Logistically, it’s impossible for you to fit the criteria of every tribe that you may be in contact with, because that criteria is often shaped by certain people within the tribe depending upon how long they’ve been involved with it and what they have to gain (or lose).

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of writers and editors about this idea and I’ve found that most of them feel the same way that I do. All too often, we may feel like outsiders or the alien one within any one tribe for a variety of different reasons. While being an outsider does suck, our role as the outsider allows us to communicate appropriately with other members of the tribe in order to tell them a story.

Today, how we view the outsider is a reflection of our modern, unforgiving culture. In olden times, the role of the storyteller fell on the shoulders of a traveling bard or performer, who was expected to a tribe in and of himself. It’s very challenging for most writers to naturally drift toward a tribe because we are self-aware in a way that automatically sets us apart, which can cause an endless amount of neuroses because there are one too many social stigmas about how wrong it is to be alone. Ever go out to dinner by yourself? When was the last time you treated yourself to a movie? Our culture is not geared for people who are social introverts, because our society is built to either repel the outsider or worship it. In a way, you could say that our culture doesn’t know what to do with an outsider, even though people automatically create them by separating others into tribes. I know I’m glossing over the social implications here, because sometimes the outsider is a very real or criminal threat. In this case I’m saying that the average guy on the street who goes to see a movie by himself might not have ulterior, criminal motives. He (or she) might just be lonely or they might have wanted to see a movie.

The funny part about writers, though, is that we have a different role to play than if we were a member of a tribe. By our very nature, we have to have some distance between ourselves and other people; otherwise we become homogenized and lose our unique perspective on the tribe. For this reason, I think this is why it’s so hard for people to be inclusive of other cultures, even when they’re intentionally thinking about it, because it’s counterintuitive to their natural instincts. Of course, many tribes make decisions just for the sake of attracting others like them because they know what to do with them. The more people (or the more popular) a particular tribe gets, the harder it will be for the tribe to remain as it is without changing. That, more than anything, is what I think freaks out most tribes. In many cases when a person doesn’t fit into a tribe, it’s because they don’t naturally fit into the group and not because they are somehow bad or good.

Of course, the role of the outsider doesn’t just apply to a writer. It simply describes “the other,” which is a natural by-product of human psychology. Not all things will fit into the same bucket, because we will find a way to separate them. The questions that I’m exploring right now are: How do I write a story for a tribe without automatically creating or punishing an outsider in the story arc? Is it even possible? Or should I avoid trying to be all-inclusive and focus my efforts solely on the tribe itself?

Guess you’ll just have to wait and find out.

Love My Nintendo DS and Square Enix

Blue Nintendo DSMany of you probably know that I’m a game designer in addition to being a writer. I haven’t designed any PC or console games yet. So far, I’ve worked on a lot of setting design for several games by Abstract Nova Entertainment in addition to various other assignments for the hobby games industry. As you might imagine, in order for me to design games and fulfill different assignments, I need to play them. I also like to sit down and play because I don’t have fun in a bar anymore. (That was a different, younger me.) Instead, I’ll fight boss battles and roll dice to have fun, sans hangover and drain on my pocketbook.

If you get me started on talking about video games, you’ll probably hear me regale you with sordid and adventurous tales of my efforts playing the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series created by Square Enix. I love Final Fantasy! I even put up with the massive amounts of leveling that’s often required to beat the game and get the special uber-weapon.

Final Fantasy IIIRight now I’m at the end of Final Fantasy III on the DS. I’m at level 53, got through five of the six boss battles that’s required to beat the game and then *poof* my characters encountered the dreaded mega-flare. So, I have to start the boss battles all over again. (I’m still a little whiny about that.)

Part of the reason why I like the Final Fantasy series is because it has great story elements. Most of the time, the story is very cohesive and has something for everyone — including romance. *coughs* Not Final Fantasy XII!!! *end cough* In Final Fantasy III, you play the Warriors of the Light who need to bring balance to the world because there’s too much darkness. As you progress through the story, you learn that previously there was too much light and the Warriors of the Dark needed to save the world from certain destruction in the past.

It’s no secret that I love to read about different cultures and world myths. I love the infusion of East Asian myth and philosophy that are infused into the games that Square Enix provides. (Not to mention, I am kind of a min/maxer and believe you me, these games facilitate that.) I’m hoping that one day the IP will open up and they’ll allow writers to pitch short stories or novels set in the world of Final Fantasy, because I’d love to write more stories about these characters. Not to mention, the soundtracks to these games are a-w-e-s-o-m-e.

The best part about my Nintendo DS, though, is that it offers more than just games. From recipe books to physical training and mind puzzles, whenever I get bored waiting at an appointment or just need to take a break, I can pop out my DS and play for a few minutes to take a break. It’s also a really nice way for me to get off the computer when I need to, so when I do get back online I can focus like I’ve never focused before.

Well, I suppose I should get back to writing. *cracks whip* How else will I feed my Final Fantasy addiction?!?!

My Guest Article at Innsmouth Free Press

Hi everyone,

Thought you’d be interested to find out that I wrote an article about the appeal of Cthulhu in gaming for Innsmouth Free Press, a Lovecraft-inspired webzine. Written with the casual gamer in mind, I list some horror games that I enjoy and talk about why the Cthulhu mythos is a great backdrop for a horror game.

For hobby gamers, the idea of losing your sanity while investigating the things that go bump in the world of Lovecraft has a strong appeal because it gives the characters a very tangible cost to uncovering the truth. — SOURCE: Cthulhu In Your Game at Innsmouth Free Press

If you’re interesting in gaming, I hope you drop by to read my article entitled Cthulhu In Your Game at Innsmouth Free Press.

Also, I’d like to mention that as part of our FlamesRising.com Cthulhu Week promotion, the publisher at Innsmouth Free press wrote a guest article for us entitled Cthulhu Week: A Note from the Editor at Innsmouth Free Press. Be sure to read this informative article written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and find out more about their upcoming anthology.

Pendants, Pentacles and Inspiration

One of the things that I like to collect are different pendants. This habit started when I was in college because I have a challenge wearing cheap jewelry due to metal allergies. So, to save money and change my look, I have a jewelry box full of pendants in different shapes, sizes and symbols. Some of these hail from the furthest corners of the world, and each one of them usually has a story behind it. Often, I will wear different pendants because they inspire me to write for different reasons.

The pendant I’m wearing today is one that I usually wear under my shirt, because I have a tangible fear associated with wearing it out in public. The intricate design is of a pentacle intertwined with a crow and, as you might imagine, there is a story associated with how this pendant came to be in my possession.

A few years ago, I was researching the myth of the Corn King around November and I stumbled, quite literally, onto several world myths of the Raven. Sometimes, when I’m investigating different mythologies, I feel a spark of inspiration that I can’t explain. It’s a bit like planting a garden and one day looking outside to marvel at the sprouts coming out of the ground. You know, intellectually, how photosynthesis might work, but it’s still a wonder to you. In order to be inspired, I have to let my rationality go, so I can wander in the garden without seeing every molecule or watching every process as it happens. I have to embrace that creativity without question and without a second thought.

After I began to read about Celtic and Native American myths, my inspiration began to take over. I lit candles and incense. I went for a walk in the dark. I watched a sunset. I embraced the idea of letting go and what the harvest meant to me. Most importantly, I dreamed and I was happy.

About a month later, I got a package in the mail from a dear friend. As it turned out, she had ordered some jewelry from a website and had received a pendant by mistake. Immediately, she contacted the store who not only told her to keep the pendant, but they’d also mail her what she ordered as well. And that, dear reader, is how this particular pendant came to be in my possession.

So, I’m sure by now you’re wondering why, if this pendant symbolizes such a happy time for me, why I’m afraid of wearing it in public.

Although I grew up in an ultra-conservative household, I am neither conservative nor am I very religious. (Note: For definition’s sake, I acknowledge that there is a difference between religion and spirituality.) Even before I wanted to be a writer, I was a musician who didn’t really (and still doesn’t) see these lines that define us. (Music is a universal language, after all.) I’ve always believed that everyone has a story to tell, which is why I have friends and loved ones that hail from different backgrounds. If you’ve heard me speak on panels, you know that I’m fierce about the idea that there is no one path to publishing. Well, for me, that applies to real life as well.

Many people in my part of the country see a pentacle or something that isn’t related to their beliefs and have an instant opinion about it. Usually that opinion is not a positive one, and stems from some sort of superstition, which is odd to me because I’m not superstitious at all. I guess you could attribute that to all of the research that I’ve done, but when I don’t know something, I research it.

Both the crow and the pentacle are symbols that mean something to me, which is why I felt it was only fitting to create Mahochepi for my e-book THE QUEEN OF CROWS. Like nature, she’s neither good nor evil. She just is and she can’t be controlled, no matter how hard you try.

Even though I’ve connected with the pentacle and crow symbols on a level that I cannot explain, I’m sadly familiar with the fact that they signify (for a lack of a better word) evil or devil worship to others. The stereotypes and the portrayal of the symbol in occult films hasn’t helped matters any, either, but that’s true of several symbols – the swastika, the priest’s collar, a black cat, etc.

Maybe I’m not brave enough to wear this pendant above my shirt, or maybe I’m just too tired of pulling out the “Well, actually…” scholar hat on people or dealing with the stupid accusations. In an ideal world, people would ask rather than judge, but this is not that world. So for now, I’ll continue to wear it along with the other pendants I have, and hope that one day I’ll encounter more open-minded people in my daily activities. Until that day comes, I will continue to hide in the shadows, write my stories by candlelight and keep my symbols to myself.

Win a Copy of Cthulhu 101 at FlamesRising.com

Hi everyone,

As you know, one of the roles I have is Project Manager at the horror and dark fantasy webzine FlamesRising.com. This week we have launched a theme week to honor H.P. Lovecraft, whose birthday is on Friday. Lovecraft is considered to be one of the most influential horror authors on the genre from the twentieth century. In addition to the Cthulhu-related articles and reviews, Atomic Overmind Press is offering a contest for anyone interested in winning a copy of CTHULHU 101, which was a book written by Lovecraft expert Kenneth Hite.

Here’s a quote from our announcement:

We are pleased to announce that Atomic Overmind Press is a proud sponsor of Cthulhu Week. Artist Drew Pocza and Atomic Overmind lent us their graphic design talents for the week and we’re thrilled to worship this elder god through these great images.

In honor of Lovecraft’s birthday, Atomic Overmind Press is also giving away several copies of the award-winning book CTHULHU 101 through our site. This pocket-sized book is the perfect introduction to Cthulhu and we think will make a fun addition to your digital or physical library. –SOURCE: Cthulhu Week at FlamesRising.com

To win a copy of CTHULHU 101, visit the announcement for Cthulhu Week at FlamesRising.com and leave a comment.

If you’re remotely curious about Cthulhu or H.P. Lovecraft, or want to get someone else hooked on the mythos, this book is a perfect introduction. Ia, Ia!

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