Artwork Ideas For Symphony of Legend!

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Despacito by Justin Bieber & co.)

WARNING: SHITTY ART ALERT AHEAD.

I don’t have a lot of time today for a regular post, so I wanted to share some drawings I’ve been working on. They’re mock-ups of the hybrid instrument/weapons my main characters use in in my newest project, Symphony of Legend. 

I don’t really know why I’m putting these out. I guess I just wanted opinions – are they cool? Would you pick up a fantasy book with one of these on the cover and say, “Dude, I’d read this”? And if there are any of my readers who play any of these instruments, just how unrealistic are these? I mean, I know they’re a little unrealistic, but if they start to become impossible, I’m in trouble.

Anyway, enjoy! Happy Monday.

Ash.jpg

Trellis.jpg

Vague.jpg

Sera.jpg

Qin.jpg

Let me know whatcha think!

Yours, wishing he’d let his girlfriend draw the mock-ups,

-R.R. Buck

House of Cards Season 5 – Review and Insights [Spoilers Within!]

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: the House of Cards theme by Jeff Beal… duh)

TL;DR – If you are wavering on watching this season, watch it. It’s worth it.

Okay, so I have to write some minimum amount of sentences so that when this shows up on Facebook it won’t be spoiling anything. I apparently already accidentally spoiled some stuff for a roommate of mine by sending a snapchat, so I don’t want to be that person again.

So, how’s everyone’s day? We having a good time? If you’re having a shitty time, tell me so in the comments. I’d like to commiserate. Although, if I’m being honest with myself, my mood and quality of day shifts rapidly depending on how the people in my life are generally doing.

I think that should be enough, so let’s go on to the review.

HOLY SHIT.

House of Cards has always been a polarizing show for me because of a variety of factors. On the pros side, it’s extremely well written and acted, usually pretty gripping, and it gives me a lot of good insights into how the U.S. government works. On the cons side, the people in it are evil – I mean seriously evil, like Breaking Bad evil, and that hurts my soul to watch – and the episodes are super long, which makes it hard for me to get all the way through them, even though they waste no time.

And my other issue with House of Cards mostly occurred in Season 3 – in fact, after Season 3 I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch anymore. Season 3 was kind of a setup season for me – a lot of things happen I don’t remember, and all I came out of it thinking was, Are Claire and Francis going to go to war with each other?

After the rapid onset of Seasons 1 and 2 and the eventual crowning of Frank as the President, I hoped for a lot more than some stupid Russia scandal in Season 3. And, while Season 4 was pretty damn good and ratcheted up the tension a lot, it wasn’t really until the final episodes that I felt something was happening in a less-than-glacial sense. Plus, it seemed like Claire reeled back from her ideas of splitting up with Frank, and that made me sad – because, let’s be honest, folks, an Underwood war is what we really want.

Well, we’re gonna get it now.

Season 5 was possibly my favorite season of the show, or at least it tied with Season 2. We feel the pressure coming in on Frank early as the paper trail finally starts getting followed all the way through, and nothing is more satisfying than watching his misdeeds unravelling in front of him. And, let’s be honest – he does a good job of keeping himself from getting impeached for a long while.

But dude, the sheer amount of Trump analogies has taught me that we’re all super lucky Trump is an idiot. (Oops, I said it – apologies for the negative covfefe.) The way Francis bullies his way into silencing most of the people who would speak out against him – it really had me convinced that he wanted to keep the presidency.

AND THEN HE DIDN’T?!???!?!??!?!?!?111111

Single best reveal in the entire show, hands down. It now makes so much sense – how he prodded in just the wrong way to get Walker to testify against him, how he goaded Romero into continuing his blind assault against the presidency. And how he never told Claire anything, leading up to her choosing to shove him out by not pardoning him. Wow.

And now, of course, it means that there will in fact be an Underwood war – or, at least that’s what it seems to be. Who knows if there’ll be another random cooldown like there was after Season 3.

High point of the season for me was definitely Mark Usher and Angela Davis. Those two were like the ruthless parents of a ruthless couple, continually working both with them and against them, always playing the field with expertise. In fact, Usher might be my favorite character on the show besides Doug “Loose Cannon” Stamper, whom I’m very excited about in the sixth season – but more on that below.

All in all, if you were fading out of the show and teetering on whether or not you want to watch Season 5, I’d highly suggest you do so. A lot of the things I was waiting to pay off for four seasons, absolutely paid off here. And what about that moment where Claire finally addresses the audience?! Seriously, how is the writing so good in this show?

Anyway, that’s it for the review. Now for my insights for next season:

First off, I’m so stoked that Doug Stamper has been pushed out. He’s been teetering on the brink of collapse this entire time, and now that he can’t really work for Frank anymore (or at least not in the same way), I think he’s going to get up to some crazy shit. When all you have is loyalty to a man or a regime, and that regime comes crumbling down, you will absolutely go ape shit – I’m getting some hella Cersei Lannister vibes from this guy, and I want to see what happens to him.

Now, let’s talk about Cathy Durant. This poor lady. I’m not quite sure why Frank pushed her down the stairs – perhaps he needed her testimony to be pushed off a week or so until he could successfully resign himself – but I’m positive she’ll be coming back with a vengeance in Season 6. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she helped certain disgraced characters take down the Underwoods as a pair and bring them both to prison (well, if they don’t kill each other first).

And Claire. What do I even begin to say about Claire? You know, honestly, my feelings for her have always teetered back and forth – sometimes I find myself pitying her, because she’s shown over and over again that she has some semblance of a conscience, whereas her husband does not. But then she goes and kills her lover in the most intense goddamn way possible, and I’m saying to myself, what the fuck is going on in this woman’s head?

I think the end of this season has shown that Claire is finally receding down from the penultimate level of evil – just a moral step above Frank – to the final, darkest level. And, of course, that will now make them the perfect opponents for one another.

If I were to guess, I would say that Frank and Doug work to try to put Claire out of office, racing against the inevitable case mounting against them, and just when they’ve been put away, Cathy Durant and all the other characters who’ve not been killed yet (RIP LeAnn) come together to impeach and take down Claire. But hey, I couldn’t guess the end of most of my favorite series, so I guess we’ll see, right?

Either way, Orange is the New Black comes out in a week, so this will be a pretty good month for TV.

(Side note, can you call it TV if it’s now pretty much only on your laptop? Hmmmm…….)

Yours, hoping – and not believing – that real politics aren’t this evil,

-R.R. Buck

How To Edit A Multi-Part Book

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Canada Day by Emperor X)

Well, I’m back to writing again, and it feels wonderful.

I finished Part 2 of my three-part novel a while back and gave myself a weekend to rest and not so much as look at things before I went back to it. But then I came to a bit of a strange place where I had Part 1 and Part 2 written and at various stages of editing – Part 1 much farther along than Part 2 – but not Part 3. It left me at a loss for what to do next – start writing Part 3 or go back and edit one of the other parts?

If you’ll recall from a while ago, I wrote a post about how I like to go about writing and editing a novel. (Actually, I just looked up how long ago I wrote it, and I don’t think most of you were around this blog when it came out, so take a look.) But anyway, the TL;DR is that I like three drafts – a first sprint where I get everything out on page without editing at all and without most alpha-reader feedback; a second draft that’s much longer and more meticulous and looks to clear up big plot holes, major rewrites, and add entire new sections; and a third draft of moderate effort in which most of the line editing is done and the nuances are evaluated.

This is great when you’re not writing a novel in parts. So what do you do if it is in parts, like mine?

Well, when I got to the end of Part 1, I didn’t jump right into Part 2 – instead, ignoring my old advice, I edited Part 1 into a workable second draft and then released that to my alphas. I was thinking that, by the time they finished reading through Part 1, I would have Part 2 ready for them, and that if I released it in manageable chunks, more of them would read it – and surprisingly enough, all of this was true.

Isn’t it weird when I get things right?

But anyway, I gave them Part 1 while I worked on Part 2, and at the end I came to the same conclusion – that I should edit Part 2 into a workable second draft before starting to write Part 3. But I knew I was crossing my old rule about not looking at my novel for two months after writing the first draft, so I compromised – I would work on perfecting Part 1, then the second-draft edits for Part 2, and then I would write Part 3.

It was a bad idea. I sensed myself losing hella momentum, barely able to so much as look at Part 1, which had been covered in edits both by myself and my lovely alpha readers, and I didn’t want to move onto Part 2, which I had just wrote. So instead I just stopped writing for a week or so.

DID YOU HEAR ME? I STOPPED WRITING. THAT’S DEATH.

So I dialed it back and took a look at what I’ve learned – and what I’ve learned is that, whether I like it or not, I need the entire first draft finished before I can move on to the second draft. If I lose momentum, this project goes dead in the water, doomed to the fate of two other series in which I got two books in and stopped before writing the third. I really like this project, and I don’t want to see it die.

So I’m giving in to the urge and writing Part 3. And I have to say, having written just the interlude chapter between Parts 2 and 3 today, I think this is the perfect thing for me to do. All of the plot seeds I’ve sown over the first two parts are now finally being harvested, and all of the characters are going through intense phases of their arcs as the story leads up to the climax. It’s rejuvenating my interest in my project and making me feel more excited overall.

And as long as I’m listening to my more knowledgeable, level-headed previous self, I’m going to do the unthinkable and when I’m finished with Part 3, I’m gonna put the project down. I’ll wait my mandatory two month minimum before picking it up again, and even if I lose alpha reader interest because of it, I know it will make my project better overall.

And in the end, isn’t that the most important thing?

Yours, dabbing like Squidward,

-R.R. Buck

Streed of Consciousness [Part 4 – The Quarter-Life Crisis]

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: The Fallen by Set Your Goals)

Hey everyone! I’m taking a break from watching House of Cards and playing Breath of the Wild to write… something. I guess I’ll find out as I go along.

Actually, now that I’ve sat here for a few minutes trying to figure it out, I know exactly what to type. And this one’s actually important – I want to explain, from the perspective of a recent graduate, what it means to be going through the “quarter-life crisis” and what you can do to help someone you care about navigate this (almost guaranteed) rough patch.

(Pssst. Hey. Parents, siblings, and friends of someone who’s just entering early adulthood. This is written for you. Please pay attention.)

So here’s the idea. When a young adult graduates college, it’s more than just a transition into the job sphere. We’ve spent the last seventeen years of our lives in school, and now that’s being taken away from us. All the stability of knowing what we were doing, where we were going – it’s now gone. When we were young, we didn’t have to pay attention to the direction our lives were heading in, and even in high school, it only really extended so far as what college to go to and maybe what major to have.

Now, we’re actually in the adult world. Some of us might continue on to graduate school or another form of higher education. Some of us might take a gap year or two to figure things out. Some lucky few of us will have jobs. But the transition is by and large the same, regardless of where we’re heading.

The stakes haven’t ever felt so high in our lives – and I’m not being dramatic here. If a young adult knows what they’re planning on doing, that brings them a small amount of comfort and stability, but even then they’re not entirely carefree – they’re constantly plagued by doubts about if the path they’re planning on taking is the right path. If this young adult has had helicopter parents their whole life and now they’re making that first major decision on their own, that will ratchet up the stress incrementally.

And then there’s my own type – the people who did an undergraduate major, really liked it, but decided at the end of things that it wasn’t something they necessarily wanted to pursue for sure. I was lucky enough to have a job, but others can’t even fall back on an interim position while they try to figure things out. These people are stressed out to the extreme trying to make sense of their place in the world, and all the things they have to figure out seemingly within a year or two.

The short of it is, we’re dealing with an extreme loss of control and dysphoria. And we would appreciate all the help we can get.

So I want to give some friendly advice to anyone who has someone close with them who’s going through this kind of transition – because honestly, y’all, you suck at helping us with our problems. Please take this to heart:

  1. Stop trying to tell us what to do. I don’t care how well-meaning it is. I know it seems obvious to you in hindsight that the young adult in your life should be doing something. But right now, we are struggling with forming our identities and making choices, and we need to feel that we have agency – that we are not only capable of making our own decisions, but making the right ones. Every time you tell us what you think we should be doing, you are chipping away at our self-confidence and our ability to choose for ourselves.
  2. Related, support us in our choices. Yeah, I mean every one – even if you think it’s clearly the wrong choice. And seriously, if you’re reading this and thinking that we shouldn’t be coddled, fuck off. This is one of the most important times in our lives, and we need to feel not only that we’re making our own decisions, but that the people we care about are standing by those decisions. If you can’t do that for the year or two it takes us to get back on our feet, then… well, I honestly don’t know what to say. But we sincerely don’t appreciate it.
  3. Don’t try to offer us money or financial assistance. Again, this is something that is ostensibly well-meant, but it comes across as, “You can’t take care of things yourself, so let me step in to help you.” The whole point of this transition is for us to come out of it feeling like we can handle our own lives, and when you try to help us out financially, it undermines that feeling. Keep your money for when we come back home to visit – then you can buy us a nice dinner, because we probably won’t have eaten well for a while.
  4. Most importantly, listen to us and find out what we need. This one overrides the previous three – there might be some young adults in transition who really feel like they need to be told what to do, or offered money,  to feel comfortable. But Christ, people, you won’t figure that out if you don’t listen to what we’re trying to tell you. Just take a minute to listen to us without judgment – and I know this sounds like a standard maxim of engagement, but it’s shocking how few people do it. We will be bursting at the seams to tell you what we want from you – trust me, there’s little ability on our end to be withholding, especially with the pressure we’re facing. But you’ve gotta listen.

That’s it. Don’t tell us what to do; support the dumb decisions we make; stop giving us your money; and listen to what we’re trying to say. If you do this, you will be easing a tremendous burden on the young adult in your life. If you don’t – and I don’t care if it’s because you think you know better, or because you don’t want to coddle your child or sibling – seriously, go find a deep hole to stick your head into. You can shout your directives to yourself and they’ll echo and you can agree with yourself all day long while we figure our shit out.

Yours, just a little salty (can you tell?),

-R.R. Buck

Reed’s Top 3 – Book Series

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: I Feel Good by James Brown)

It had to happen, but now I’m sad it’s here.

There are so many book series I love, and they follow so many different genres (although, yes, most of them are in SFF). I remember my mom used to do a bunch of research around every birthday and every Christmas (and sometimes even Easter and Valentine’s Day!) looking for the newest and most popular middle-grade or young adult book to give me as a gift. She never gave me a book I disliked.

But, all things being equal, I have narrowed it down to three. And interestingly enough, all three are in different genres – so I guess you’ll get a nice spread.

NUMBER THREE: HYPERION, BY DAN SIMMONS

Genre: Science Fiction

Hyperion and its sequel, The Fall of Hyperion, may not be considered a full series because there’s only two books, but in my mind it has to make my top three. As per usual, I won’t give spoilers except for the premise, but this two-part series has all the intrigue of a whodunnit, all the unique, relatable, and nuanced characters of a work of literature, and all the nerdy science fiction material of a SF classic.

Here’s the basic idea – seven travellers from across the known universe are gathered to be sent on a pilgrimage to the Shrike, an eight-foot tall half-man, half-machine creature revered by a cult on a backwater world forgotten by most civilized cultures. The Shrike is known to see groups of travellers, hear their requests, and grant one of them their wish while mercilessly slaughtering all the others.

But there are some extenuating factors. First, the federation that controls the “human” portion of the universe is at war with an alien race, and the war is centered around Hyperion, which is bound to be destroyed very soon. Second, this will be the last pilgrimage to the Shrike possibly in known history, because… you know… war. And third, it’s explained in the very first chapter that one of the seven travellers is actually a traitor from the alien race who is going to sabotage the mission and cause the fall of the entire human civilization.

So what do these travellers do, knowing that there’s a traitor in their midst? They decide to tell their stories, one at a time, so that they can attempt to figure out who the saboteur is. And so, instead of a regularly structured narrative, you have seven different stories told in different POVs and loosely related to one another, all while the world is crumbling around them.

And that’s just the first book.

It’s a beautiful testament to the human spirit and a sad revelation of human greed, and hands-down the best SF series I’ve read so far. If you’re interested, please pick both books up and let me know what you think when you’re done!

NUMBER TWO: THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES, BY BRANDON SANDERSON

Genre: Epic Fantasy

This was possibly the hardest decision for number two. I’ve known my number one series since I was a kid, but there are so many high and epic fantasy series vying for the spot directly underneath it. In the end, I chose the Stormlight Archives because it is the one that – for twelve hundred pages a book – somehow kept me captivated and turning every single page.

So get this. This guy, Brandon Sanderson, is so prolific that he comes out with entire 200,000 word books as side ventures while he’s writing the Stormlight Archives, which is his master series. The series is planned to be ten books, each of them over 1,000 pages long. He’s got two out so far (The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance) and the third is scheduled to come out in November.

If you know epic fantasy, you know the plot can’t just be summarized adequately in a few sentences. But here’s the gist – for the last seven years, mankind has been at war with a race of people known as the Parshendi. They war because the Parshendi hired an assassin to kill the king of men on a day when a treaty between the two species was going to be signed. But as the story lifts back, it appears as though the Parshendi were not necessarily fully responsible for the death (and that’s all I’m going to say on that, thank you very much).

What I will say is that the magic system in this book is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. If you’re interested in a full, rich world where everything is drawn out to the last detail, and the magic system is inherently tied into that world, this is absolutely something you’ll want to pick up. My only previous complaint with Sanderson was that his characters seemed sort of two-dimensional, but in this series he’s done an incredible job of making the whole cast – major and minor – feel like real people that you love and hate and envy and pity and triumph with when they have their best moments.

Just know they’re massive, massive books. Like, they’ll hurt if you lean them on your chest while reading them laying down.

NUMBER ONE: ARTEMIS FOWL, BY EOIN COLFER

Genre: Middle Grade Low Fantasy

Oh, man. What do I even begin to say about this series.

Let’s just start with the premise. A twelve-year-old boy genius is the inheritor of a large fortune, a castle in Ireland, and a manservant/bodyguard who serves as the antisocial little shit’s only companion. Artemis, the boy genius, only really loves two things in the world – making adults look stupid, and creating brilliant plans to secure his financial future (as his father is dead and his mother on the verge of a mental breakdown).

So his current plan is, he’s going to steal a pot of gold from a leprechaun.

Artemis is the perfect person to believe in fairies – he’s young enough to still entertain the notion that they exist, but has a high enough IQ to go searching for them in places other kids would never think. And what he finds is pretty awesome.

Fairies exist. They live under the earth, where they’ve pretty much stayed out of sight of humankind so they can’t be hunted. And leprechauns are kind of their police force – a police force which, like any, has a ransom fund for if one of their officers get captured. So Artemis hatches a plan to kidnap Officer Holly Short, a ground-level policewoman.

Except he doesn’t realize a few important things. First, the fairies aren’t cute – they’re vicious, and grumpy, and in some cases downright disgusting. They also have their own SWAT team, all of whom are equipped with technologies the humans can’t even conceive of inventing just yet. And they get pretty pissed when one of their own is kidnapped.

This synopsis is just the first book of the series – there are actually eight of them, and they’re good all the way through the fifth (in most people’s opinion) or the sixth (in my opinion). The thing that makes me fall in love with this series over and over again, no matter how many times I read it, is the wit and the characters. Colfer employs this cast of characters of whom I have never met the like in my entire reading experience – their uniqueness is largely a part of the fairy system Colfer created, but they’re also just great, hilarious characters.

If you haven’t read it, please do me the favor of picking up at least the first book – even if you don’t really like middle grade fantasy. They are so heartwarming, and bizarre, and wonderful… they remind me of my childhood. And as writers, we could all learn a lot from the way Colfer structures character interactions and development.

That’s it, that’s all! Hopefully I just gave you some dank new reading material (if you’re considering the Stormlight Archives, you’ve got a few months’ worth of material, so you’re welcome).

Yours, looking for a new series to usurp the top three (so let me know yours!),

-R.R. Buck

Hello New Peeps!

Just wanted to say something to anyone who’s coming to check out my blog from CraftyArtistKc’s post. Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to look around and if you like what you see hit that follow button 😀

And to my followers, if you want to see me attempting to be civil and polite on someone else’s blog, head here.

Peace out everyone!

-R.R. Buck

Let’s Put the “Limited” Back in “Third Person Limited”

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: I Gotta Pee by NOFX)

ARE YOU READY FOR AN OPINION PIECE.

(See, it’s serious because I didn’t punctuate with a question mark.)

No, I’m kidding. I just wanted to take a brief moment today to talk about my writing style in my most recent projects, and why it tends towards third person limited POV. I know all of you have heard about the different forms of POV (or, at least I hope you have, if you’re an aspiring writer), but something I didn’t really pay attention to until I started reading as a writer was the depth of POV.

And, fair warning, there’s probably some canonical literary term besides “depth” for what I’m talking about, so if you know it, let me know. I just make this shit up as I go.

So here’s an example of what I’m calling a “deep POV” from a sci-fi book I’m currently reading (repping Kent Wayne woot woot!):

Atriya shut his eyes and slumped back, suddenly feeling immeasurably heavy. 

When he was younger, he’d dreamed of being a warrior. Of pushing his limits and growing his spirit, all the while punishing the wicked and saving others. But in light of his current circumstances, saving others was a distant fantasy.

Right now, he couldn’t even save himself.

I wanted to choose this section because I love the feeling that comes with it. Kent Wayne is a great writer, and the defeat here is palpable, along with this sort of ‘dying revelation’ of Atriya. It’s good writing, and I want to make that completely clear before I express my opinion about the POV.

See, a lot of Wayne’s books are written this way – heavy POV from the major characters, where you’re seeing, feeling, and thinking everything they are. And I myself have always shied away from that level of depth.

Before I get too wrapped up in explaining, let’s take a look at a scenario in my recent novel, Symphony of Legend:

“Well, this is new,” Qin said.

The two of them stood in the growing crowd of students clustered around the burnt message, Sera looming over the rest of the adolescents like an oversized stick bug. Qin, in contrast, had to get on her toes, her one hand on Sera’s shoulder for support, to even glimpse the bottom of the burn marks.

“What have the academae said?” she asked.

Sera’s eyes glazed over as he glanced to his right. “They haven’t said anything. I haven’t seen nobody since I – ”

“Anybody,” Qin corrected.

Sera halted. “I – what?”

“Haven’t seen anybody. A month in Terraven and you come back talking like a country hick.”

Sera’s mouth contorted into a grimace. “Good to see you again, Qin.”

You can see the difference immediately. You don’t read Qin’s exasperation with Sera – it comes out in the dialogue. It would have been equally fine for me to write something like this:

“I haven’t seen nobody since I talked to Dawn about it,” Sera said.

Qin grimaced. Did Sera always have to talk like some country hick? She knew he was better than that – hell, he could be the most eloquent person she knew sometimes – but it seemed like every single time he went back home to Terraven, he came back with that frustratingly coarse accent. Maybe it was habit catching up with him, but Qin suspected it was something else – some sense of nostalgia, maybe, when he got too lonely here at school. Yet another reminder that she couldn’t replace his precious family.

So here’s the interesting thing. When I place the scene in a deeper POV, where I’m actually hearing Qin’s thought process, I learn more about her – mainly that she feels jealous of Sera’s closer relationship with his family. And there’s a whole benefit to knowing every single thought of a character, to know them without the bias of only hearing their dialogue and trying to guess for yourself what they’re feeling.

But I never really liked that, both as a reader and a writer. I want my novels to feel cinematic – I want to see people’s facial expressions, hear their dialogue, and try to work out what their inner monologue might be. And, on rare occasions, I want that glimpse in their head, just to see if I’m on the right track.

That’s why in my work so much of the exposition and character building comes from dialogue. I love pitting my characters against one another, getting them pissed off and pointing out each others’ flaws – that way, you get an insight both into the character being talked about, and the one doing the talking. If Bob tells Suzy she’s a stuck-up bitch for not tipping at a restaurant, what does that say about Bob’s temper, or his sense of financial morality?

And the POV is still there – it’s subtle, but enough to give you an insight into the character. For instance, in the narration of the scene, Qin calls Sera an “oversized stick bug”, which no one else in the world besides this temperamental, snarky girl would think about a tall, thin guy. And that lets us know, in however a small way, that Qin is… well, temperamental and snarky.

I think every new author should explore not only various POVs but also various depths of POV. Do we hear every single thought of your characters, or are we left guessing about what makes them tick? I love to air on the side of subtlety, but sometimes that makes my readers draw wrong conclusions about my characters. Is that bad? WHO KNOWS? I’M ONLY A NEW WRITER!

But hey, if I find out if there’s an immutable truth to what makes for better writing, I’ll let you know.

(That was a joke; like I’ve said, there is no immutable truth. Come on, keep up.)

Yours, having spent the last… oh, God, six hours in lab (and with two more to go),

-R.R. Buck

Life Counselor #1

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Joker and the Thief by Wolfmother)

Craig! Craig, wake up! I have marbles!

Hello, there, old friend.

It’s been a while since we’ve talked – I know we haven’t kept in touch too much over the last few years, but somehow, that doesn’t stop our friendship from continuing to grow. It’s strange, feeling like adults, isn’t it? After we were kids far longer than we had a right to be.

I owe so much to you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have learned that religion can produce some of the best people in this world. I honestly might have become an atheist.

You taught me manners in a way my family never did – I’m sure I’ve lost them over time, but I can still pull some out when I’m trying not to make a complete ass of myself in public.

Oh, and you helped me make a complete ass of myself in public. Of all the people I knew in middle and high school, there were so few willing to tolerate my weirdness, fewer who would accept it, and only two or three who would engage in it with me. You taught me that it’s okay to be strange, and that sometimes being strange can bring the best people in life closer to you.

You taught me the prayer Catholics say before they eat. To this day, I still remember from so many dinners at your family’s house.

You taught me what it means to have a dog, and how the bond between a boy and his pet can be so much more than with anyone else. I think my love of animals started with Emmi. RIP.

You taught me how to be a better person without ever trying to push it on me. You taught me tolerance and understanding, acceptance of different lifestyles. You taught me to not try to worry about my sexuality or my identity – that those things fall into place eventually.

You taught me that it doesn’t matter if the person saying the microaggression believes in microaggressions – it only matters if the person hearing it does.

You’ve given me more inside jokes than I can count, and I’ve spilled more tears with you from laughing than from sadness.

You’ve taught me how much I can love a friend, fiercely, more than I ever would have thought possible.

When I introduce you to people, I tell them completely seriously that you’re one of the best people I know. And I have never meant anything less than that. You’re the good Samaritan in every sense of the word, to your detriment sometimes. And yet you’ll continue to be that person for the rest of your life, because you don’t know how to be less than that. If there’s a Heaven, and I like to believe there is, I know without a doubt you’ll get in.

Don’t you ever forget how much I love you. Don’t you ever forget how good an impression a person like you makes on this world. It’s hard, and it’s bullshit, how much you have to put up with. But please keep being you – there just aren’t enough people like you in the world, and the few of you are like beacons in the darkness.

Thank you for teaching me so much.

Yours, from eight years old until the end of our lives,

-R.R. Buck

New Series – Life Counselors

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Cigarettes and Saints by the Wonder Years)

I had pause today to reflect on how lucky and blessed I am to be living my life.

It seems as though many people around me are dealing with various forms of hardship, and somehow I’m immune to most of it. I think, besides being incredibly lucky, that the advice and counsel I’ve received over my nearly 23 years has had a lot to do with it.

When I realized this, it came simultaneously with a realization that I’ve done very little to recognize those people in my life who’ve given me such sound counsel. And, as you may have noticed, I’ve been looking for new series to post about, which is why I created Streed of Consciousness (where I just write about whatever comes to mind) and Reed’s Top 3, in addition to my regular articles with writing tips and nerdisms.

So I’m creating a new series, which I’m calling Life Counselors. Here’s how it works:

The very first line below the playlist of the day will be a reference that will immediately be noticed by the person it’s about – it serves the dual purpose of letting them know I’m writing about them, and maintaining their anonymity. So if you see the very first sentence of my article and you know what it is, the post is probably about you.

Then I’m going to write a list of things this person has taught me. It might be shorter than most of my posts, but every word will come from the heart.

Finally, I’m going to tell this person something. I don’t really know what – it might just be expressing thanks, or it might be trying to tell them something I haven’t been able to say to their face before. I guess we’ll find out when the first one comes out.

And, yeah. If you have a lot of people in your life who influence you, hopefully these posts will make you think of them and maybe remind you to thank them every once in a while. God knows we can all do with a little more love right now.

The first one will come out tomorrow, so I hope you all like it!

Yours, lounging in his new cape,

-R.R. Buck

Renaissance Pleasure Faire Los Angeles Review

(Reed’s Playlist for the occasion: Ride by TWENTY ONE PILOTS)

I have found my people.

That’s the easiest way I can describe my experience at last day of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire just outside of Pasadena. It was like one long extended nerdgasm for an entire (sun-drenched and dehydrating) day.

My friends and I kind of decided to go on a whim after hearing about it, and I mostly imagined a cross between a historical museum and a way-too-serious roleplaying experience. What I got was nowhere near that.

It actually almost reminded me of the Sawdust Festival up in Laguna – it’s a showcasing of a plethora of different local artists who do everything from forge steel and pewter into weapons and tankards, to leather workers who create clothing – not costumes, but actual clothing, as one of them reminded me several times – from historical time periods, to random other things like crystals set into headbands and tiaras or medallions hand-stamped to order with a fucking guillotine. We watched a glassblower make a wine goblet and then promptly shatter it for our entertainment; some of my friends saw a one-man performance of Romeo and Juliet, and we even watched a jousting tournament.

I was surprised at how no one tried to be over-the-top in accent or demeanor; instead, it just felt like a bunch of people who were nerdy about certain periods of history hanging out together and showing off their stuff. Most of the people I met ranged from pleasant to straight-up helpful; one dude saw me eyeing suede capes and cloaks and immediately suggested a few vendors to compare.

The other thing I loved about the faire was that it didn’t strictly conform to the Renaissance time period. From steampunk to piracy to the gypsy lifestyle, there were cosplayers and merchants derived from any interesting and fantasy-relatable time period. There was even a dude dressed up like the Twilight Princess version of Link (and if you know me, you know that I immediately accosted him and asked to snapchat him).

Some previous influence had suggested to me that a Renaissance Faire would be a high-LARP, almost ridiculously over-the-top experience where anyone who wasn’t dressed like a 15th century swordfighter would look stupid and out of place. Instead, it was a really nice mix – both fairgoers who clearly just wanted to look around, and roleplayers or cosplayers who had spent thousands of dollars on fantasy outfits reminiscent of Game of Thrones. I would seriously recommend it for anyone who even has a passing interest in history, fantasy, or roleplay.

And I may or may not have bought a hooded cloak for my D&D sessions. By which I mean I absolutely did.

Yours, feeling quite white and nerdy,

-R.R. Buck