Between is the Hard Part

“Between” was the photo challenge a few weeks ago. I took a particular liking to these two images posted by Just Ramblin’, along with some great definitions about just what “between” is. (Also, how fun are those angles!)


They are incomplete projects, things that are between started and finished, that big long stretch of middle that’s the longest and hardest part of all.

I cannot count how many things I’ve started but never finished. Way, way, too many things to bother thinking about. It would surely depress me if I did. It’s not like I’m the only one, however. Whether it’s giving up, forgetting, or just outright failing, the important is getting up and trying again.

Besides–all the times I have stuck it out to the end, grabbing and fighting to keep myself going at whatever the task may be, it’s in the between part that the most interesting stuff happens. Between is where frustration surges up to replace motivation, writer’s block gobbles up inspiration like the Nothing, where you push, you shove, you argue, and despair over what the hell you’ll do next. This isn’t just about writing, either, it’s any task or project. The hardest part is the middle, that’s why so many people give up somewhere in there.

Once you hit the end once, though, you finally know how fantastic that feels. It’s good. It’s really good. It’s worth it. That’s why we keep going back for more.

And that’s what I keep reminding myself of when the between does it’s damnedest to shake me the hell off!


Phoenix Online Party!

Hello friends who read this blog! In a fun act of shameless self promotion (and it’s my blog, so damn right I’ve got no shame about it!), here’s the news:

Phoenix Online is having a party, and you’re all invited!

To celebrate the upcoming release–and to reveal some HUGE news–we’re having a live pre-release chat party next weekend! As The Silver Lining builds to its dramatic climax and the Phoenix Online team turns our attention to the future, we wanted to put together something extra special for the fans who have supported us during this long, exciting journey.

So mark your calendars for October 29th at 2:00 PM Eastern. You’ll see the Episode 4 trailer, hear new details about the episode (including the exact date of the early November release date–it’s so close we can taste it!), and be one of the very first people to hear about the commercial game we’ll be announcing on Halloween! That’s right, we’ll be spilling the beans to you–the fans–at the party, before we send out the press release!

Even better: Jane Jensen herself will be there!

We’ll also have special guests Fable Foundry to talk about The Art of Sierra and some other great new projects, and Romano Molenaar, comic artist with prominent work on X-Men, Tomb Raider, and The Darkness–find out at the party how he’s involved with us!

We hope you’ll set aside some time for this once-in-a-lifetime event and join us at the Pre-Release Party, October 29th, 11:00 AM PDT / 2:00 PM EDT/ 8:00 PM GMT/ 9:00 CET on Ustream! We hope we see you there!

Your time zone isn’t listed? Find out what time the party is where you are here!

The Practicality of Living the Dream

In a discussion with friends over yesterday’s Love Letters* from (a woman who’s boyfriend is going to travel for several months; should she quit the job, follow her heart and the man she loves on a fantastic trip?), our debate basically came down to two opposing sides: practicality (stay with the job, it’s secure in a rough economy, who knows if you’ll have anything when you get from costly gallivanting) or living the dream (worry about the consequences later, go on this trip that you’ll never regret having gone on).

When I was a teenager with a head full of big dreams, I always thought that my choice in such a situation would be to live the dream no matter what. Well, fifteen-odd years, a handful of low-paying jobs, one school loan, one car loan, and some credit card debt later, the appeal of practicality has made itself rampantly apparent to me! I understand now, as one only can after finally becoming an adult, that you have to plan for the future, secure yourself, and recognize that choices always have risks and consequences.

As I’ve gotten older, though, there’s another aspect of that dichotomy that I’ve learned as well: you don’t always have to choose. It is in fact possible to both live the dream and be practical.

For me, I want to both be a published author and a professional game designer. While I could quit my job and throw myself fulltime into one or both of these things, it would be a very poor decision to do so. Oh, sure, JK Rowling

What's a another word for tumescent...

penned her magnum opus of Harry Potter while jobless, a single mom, and sitting at a local coffee shop. Now she’s a kajillionaire. Talk about the artist’s dream! But let’s face it, that’s a one in not-quite-a-million shot (if it was, it couldn’t possibly fail). For the rest of us, there’s the slightly less glamorous way around: sacrificing little things, maybe even medium things, putting in the time and the hard work, and continuing to shoot for the big thing we really want. Making small, achievable goals along the way so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task before you. Take the chances you can take, find a balance that works for you, and understand that there may come times when that balance needs to be upset and tilt more one way than the other. Really, that’s what making it to any goal worth getting is about: mastering the balancing act of what you want and need now with what you want and need later. It’s tricky, because that’s actually four things and not two. This balance is complicated.

There’s no shame in choosing either right-out, either. But there are consequences of both. Mostly personal ones–constantly taking risks and never planning ahead will get you in an uncomfortable situation eventually, and never taking ANY risks will likely lead to a lot of frustration. No one can be one thing all the time; no one can be perfectly balanced all the time. But you can have both, if you work hard at it.

This is his "judging you" face.

Is it always fun? No. Is it always immediately rewarding? No. But is it worth it in the end? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m still pretty sure it will be.

(*Check out my good friend Serp’s weekly Sense and Serpability  for strongly-worded opinions on Love Letters!)

Goals in 2011 & Aspiration: Game Designer

I found a post I’d made on my previous online journal about goals for the year 2011. I’ve done okay with these, but not 100%. Some are a little beyond my direct control, but most of them aren’t. But, there are also 4 big fat months of 2011 left yet, so I can make good on as much as possible!

One of these was to finish writing Ghostlight. This I have not yet done, but if I push myself, it’s possible. Now we’re talking first draft business here, not a remotely finished product, but the first draft feels like the hardest part. And though I’m considering changes that range from cutting or adding minor characters to snipping out notions I no longer want in there to wondering about rewriting the whole damn thing in 3rd person instead of 1st person, when I can at least have a final draft completed, start to finish, that’ll be huge for me. In short, this one is still on the docket, and I’m going to work at making it happen!

One of my other goals was to get some chunk of a proposed game script done, of which just about nothing has gotten done, but the game designer landscape is a constantly changing one for me. That game is no longer first or even second or third in the docket behind other potential projects. And that’s a good enough place to talk about another aspiration of mine, game design.

When I was a kid, I discovered Sierra games. Adventure games where you took on the role of a person–a space-age janitor, a spunky princess, a prince-turned-slave, etc–and walked around a world, looking at things, collecting a ton of inventory items, solving puzzles with logic and not with force of arms. I LOVED these games. It was like a storybook come to life, and I loved me some storybooks. Pretty much from then on, a pipe dream of mine was to create adventure games.

Fast forward to 2002, and I’ve just graduated college with an English major, basically meaning I’ve got no job and very few prospects. It was a shitty time for graduating, moreso with a liberal arts degree. I find a website for a fanmade, unofficial, King’s Quest 9, a sequel to the Sierra series that built itself upon myths, fairy tales, and folklore, that I had adored most of my life. They were looking for a staff writer among other things. So hell yes I signed myself up for that! I submitted an application, a trial piece of writing, and over the next few years I was the co-writer on a script that was insanely large and impossible to turn into a game, not that we knew that, because none of us knew anything about creating computer games back then. But between temp jobs and other obstacles in my life at the time, it was a dream come true.

After two cease-and-desists that fans fought vehemently to get reversed for us, last summer, we at Phoenix Online Studios at long last released The Silver Lining, Episode 1 (of 5)*. The dream was reality. We had made a computer game (well, part of one), and we were making it happen. We were game designers, dammit! We’ve released three full Episodes now, and are working on the final two, while also working on turning this non-commercial company into a commercial one. I’m a designer and the PR Director, and I love it. It’s unquestionably a passion for me.

It’s hard to say how much getting this game released meant to me. I can use words, and I will, but the swell of pride, accomplishment, being part of something bigger than myself…it’s beyond just words. If you’ve felt it, you know it. Something we worked on for eight years, something that was almost taken away from us by “the Man” not once but twice, something that enough other people believed in to make the effort to fight for it, for us…it’s something that will always make me smile. I hope this group goes much further and does much more, but knowing we’ve done this much already is kind of astounding to me. I–we–have gotten this far, and that absolutely counts for something.


*Details and shameless promotion! The Silver Lining is a family-friendly adventure game based on the best-selling King’s Quest games made by Sierra in the 80’s and 90’s. It is also FREE! Yes, free! You can play the whole dang thing at no charge. It is only playable for the PC right now, although we plan to have a Mac version eventually, and we have released so far 3 out of 5 planned episodes.