Online Friends?

I am curious about how others feel about people they call friends, but have never met. I am speaking specifically about those “friends” that you meet via social media connections suck as Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, Facebook, and such.

I feel like in this current day of being isolated from face-to-face social interaction, which for a lot of us began before the world shut down due to Covid, the lines between what constitutes a friend have blurred.

I have several friends that I know only via some online presence. We interact regularly. We chat via online voice channels. We share online activities (gaming). I am certain that for the majority of these people if I just stopped participating in the shared activities they wouldn’t notice much, if at all. They certainly wouldn’t cease doing whatever it is that we do together, whether that be play games, chat during a stream (of theirs), or just interact via online forums of some sort.

Does this mean that we are not actually friends? I don’t think so, BUT I will say I think that the ability to interact online in these ways has created a new level of ‘friendship’. Maybe we deem it vFriendship, since there is no real world/in person component required.

The question is – ‘Are these types of friendships less valid than any other friendship?’ I have been a remote worker for over 7 years (at the time of this post) over two positions with two companies. At the initial remote position I only met the people from my team in person and even then it was due to me being in the area they called home and us deciding to get together for a meal. In my current position I have yet to meet anyone in person and am not certain when that will happen. Would we say that my professional relationships are not valid due to them being 100% virtual in nature? Nope.

I think the answer is up to each individual person and they/we can apply our determination to each individual relationship as we see fit. Some friendships are more real than others – online and off!

If you have thoughts on this topic feel free to reach out via social media or email and we can continue the conversation!

Submission, mission, what’s your vision?

Submission, mission, what’s your vision?

Sending in stories and getting accepted.

If that came across as something you sang, as if you were part of school house rock – congratulations. Your mind works like mine does. Honestly not 100% sure that is something to congratulate you on, but trying to be positive (for a change).

As I work to navigate the realm of submitting my latest short story (The Dead Kennedys) for publication, I am learning quite a bit. Let us discuss some of the things I am taking away from the process, shall we?

  1. To most publishers the term “Short Story” means a maximum of 6000 words. For some publications it is capped at half that. While I am sure that it is entirely possible to tell a riveting story in 6000 or fewer words, my current work is 8100, and under 3000? Come on, are you writing in emojis? Zero chance I am going to be able to shave 1/3 of the story from mine and it be worth reading.
  2. Just because a publication/company says they are accepting submissions, doesn’t mean they are accepting submissions. So far 100% of the rejection emails I have received have stated something to the effect of “We are not accepting submissions at this time.” or “Thank you for the submission. We have more works currently than we can use in the foreseeable future.”
  3. Don’t be in a hurry! Most organizations tell you, “You will hear from us within 6 months IF we are going to use your work. At this time we are too busy to respond to all submissions, so we only respond to those we have chosen.” In other words, you have tossed your manuscript into a black hole and if it somehow makes it back through the event horizon “Congrats” to you. Oh, and by the way, we don’t want to use previously published work so if you are submitting multiple places at once, you need to let us know if someone else accepts your work before we get back to you.
  4. Keep a tracking spreadsheet. As mentioned above, most want to be notified if a work submitted to them is accepted elsewhere. To that end, I keep a spreadsheet where I track the following data: Date, Publisher, Responded (Y/N), Accepted (Y/N), Paid (Y/N), Notes. I create a new tab in the spreadsheet for works I am submitting so it is easier to keep track of each one’s submissions. (Note – I only have the column of Paid, so I can track money made for general knowledge.)
  5. Some sites help with the leg work. Submittable is an example of a site I enjoy using to seek out opportunities for publication. There are others, so find the one that works best for you (or pick many).

Hopefully, I will have this story picked up soon and can come back with more information to share with you about what happens after your work is selected for publication.

As always, I hope you are having an enjoyable time getting your words down on paper.


The Dreaded Situation

The dreaded situation that is completion of the first draft. This is literally, for me, the worst part of the writing process. My ideas being down on paper are both amazing to me, as a realization, and terrible as part of the process.

Here me out, because I can feel you thinking that I must have been hit on the head and become completely mental. This is my reasoning – NOW, the real work begins. Anyone that tells you their initial draft of their work is almost ready for publishing is quite frankly, arrogant and full of shit. They are either lying to you, to appear awesome, or lying to themselves, to avoid the reality of where they are as a writer.

Last night I completed the first draft on a short story. As I am working on getting the last page down it hits me that I will soon be reviewing my own work and looking for the ways that it isn’t good enough. When I finish writing something as the initial draft I force myself to set it down for at least a couple of days. I either work on other projects, my website(s), research, or consume (any and all I can). The initial draft for me, and I assume for a lot of people, is all about getting the rough ideas down before you forget them. Of course, I may be wrong and this is just something I have to do before my ADHD has me forgetting what I am writing to begin with. The struggle is real! I don’t even aim for ready to publish, just hope for fundamentally sound and avoidance of contradictory statements.

Even with this knowledge that my first draft sets the bar low on completeness, it is sometimes painful to work over my own writing and seek improvements. I am truly my own worst critic. Something I am sure most can understand and relate to for themselves. However, I believe that this part of the process is critical to improving myself as a writer and getting my work to a state worth publishing. And, sadly it must be done by me. I’m not saying an external editor isn’t a good idea or even necessary. What I am saying is this needs to happen before I ever engage a “fresh set of eyes” on my work. I don’t engage others until I am at least on the 3rd draft of the work.

The revision phase of writing, to me at least, is like going to the gym. It is painful (because if it isn’t you didn’t do enough), but in the end it makes your work healthier. Since I finished a first draft last night, today is all about dreading the start of reworking it. Just kidding (mostly). I think after I publish this I am going to look over other writing projects that I haven’t finished and possibly take some notes on some new project ideas.

Good luck to all of you in your writing process. As always feel free to share your thoughts, concerns, or questions with me via social media.

Twitter: @shawn_writes



Covid impact on writing (or is it my scape goat?)

As the planet shuts down and we are all expected to spend our time at home, I find myself on the edge of uncharted territory. I now have no excuses not to write.

So, to start my tale let me back up to the beginning. Growing up I always had a story to tell. I gravitated towards role-playing games, due to the lore and story telling aspects of the games. I was an early adopter of Dungeon’s and Dragons. Fell in love with all of the characters in any fantasy book, comic, or old tale I could find. In college my english professor (herself a published author on Oprah’s book club list and having multiple movies made of her work) suggested that she saw something in the way I wrote for her that made her believe I should change to being a creative writing major. (I did change, but only for a semester. I loved writing, but didn’t enjoy all of the detailed analysis that went into the rest of an english based degree).

Fast forward through the years and I find myself in IT management, currently focused on information security, and still spending as much free time as I am able participating in fantasy realms. MMOs and books became my drugs of choice, providing escapism from the everyday world.

Or so I thought. The call to be a consumer of fantasy realms turned out to be less of an escape for me from the external world and more a call for the stories inside of me to escape my internal world. In a nutshell, I have been spending most of my adult life running from the part of me that screams for recognition.

I first became reacquainted with the existing need to express myself in some way when my daughter, during her senior year in high school, let me know she really wanted to study marketing and creative writing in college. I had been trying to get her to consider a career in technology, same as her old man, because she has such a wonderful analytical mind. I thought for sure she would be an amazing database administrator or something down that career path. The more we talked about it and the more I helped her flush out possible career paths, so she had a paycheck while working on her next novel, the more story ideas presented themselves in my mind.

During this process I wrote a short story and self-published on Amazon. Mostly I wanted to learn the process for getting a book into the Kindle market place. Very few people read my story, that I can tell, but the (limited) feedback I got was supportive. I also opened myself up to do some free editing and proof reading for published authors (I don’t name drop) and gaming companies publishing new products. I wanted to learn more about the process, while sitting back waiting on my book to take off and find an audience. SPOILER: It didn’t.

Somewhere along the way real life came along and gave me reason to focus on something else. I decided it was time to go back to school, so I started my MBA program. The past two years I have been working on my day job and any spare time I get has been directed towards school and my family, sadly in that order. I finally completed my schooling four years ago, as of the time of this post. After that I focused on getting a (required) industry certification needed to keep my job. I earned this certification a few weeks ago, and am not focused on renewing my primary cert needed to do my job.

So much life getting in the way of my writing and yet I can still hear the whisper in the back of my mind. It is growing and becoming stronger daily. Partly due to it knowing an end is near for the mostly self instigated distractions. Mostly due to the distractions being self instigated to begin with, as I found reasons not to write – possibly due to the lack of external praise and acceptance of my work. Hell, it may have been my horrible ADHD (and it really is terrible and unmedicated) that caused me to ditch writing and work on my MBA. Maybe I am just being pulled apart by my two passions – writing and business.

Now, fast forward to present day. The planet is shutting down due to fears over the super flu known as Covid-19. The inability to leave the house on a whim has gripped us all. Most nights are spent on the couch, in front of the TV, trying to ignore the fear mongering being put on display by the news media here in the United States. Most of what is being discussed isn’t relevant to my daily life (since I work from home full time already), so I stare at the screen numbly taking it all in. This would be the perfect time to start back to my writing and answer the voices in my head – more accurately allow them to speak through me to the ones they really want to reach.

Several times I have picked up the laptop I use for writing. It feels cold to the touch and unfamiliar to me. The keyboard layout is how I remember it, but also wrong for how my fingers want to hit keys in an order to accomplish something. I pull up old manuscripts in progress and begin to continue the story, but the characters inside me refuse to cooperate because they can’t remember where we are in the story. How can they tell me what happens next, if they don’t know where they are? I am so out of touch with what I have created, if I created anything. I am starting to think I created very little and just allowed myself to be the conduit for them to expose themselves as being here. They are angry with me for turning my back on them, especially after giving them such hope in the past of breaking free of the darkness where untold stories exist.

I think I am going to take a step back and instead of focus so much on getting them down on paper, spend time with my characters getting to know them better. Listening to their stories, asking them questions as they tell them to me and understanding. How can I talk about my friends, if I don’t know them, AND are they really friends (or family) if I can’t answer questions about them – especially to myself.

Thank you for letting me vent, speak my mind, chat you up. If you have any questions, comments, or anything else – feel free to hit em up on social media.

~ Shawn

Twitter – @Shawn_writes

Facebook –

Revamping the Pantheon

So after working on the first full length story, set in Aerthigin, and the death of a dear friend, I am reworking my pantheon.  Not doing a complete restructure, but am changing up some things:

  1. Removing lesser powers, and replacing them with “Avatars” – I don’t feel there is a need for intermediate powers.  My initial thought was intermediate powers could represent aspects of a major power in a more personal way, and as representatives for the non-core races (Giants, Lycanthropes, etc.)  I now believe that Avatars can provide the personal touch needed (by me).  The smaller fantasy communities don’t need a lesser diety, and can just worship the major power.  Example:  I had planned to have Giants worship a lesser power, underneath the domain of Villam (Neutral god of nature, animals, hunters, growth (agriculture), and storms).  I will now just have them be followers of Villam.  I am toying with the idea of having different cultural groups have different names for their deities, but am leaning against it.  The gods themselves would prefer that their followers call them by their true names (unlike dragons).
  2. With the death of my friend, I am going to rework one of the major powers to be a dedication to my departed friend.  Not going to give more details about that here – to avoid spoilers.

Current Pantheon (Sphere’s of Influence – Names and general alignment withheld)

  1. Justice, Duty, Honor, Guardians, Dwarves
  2. Music, Arts, Poetry, Dreams, Elves, Bards
  3. Love, Marriage, Family
  4. Wisdom, Knowledge, Inventions
  5. Magic, Gnomes
  6. Healing
  7. The Elements, Consistency
  8. Death and Judgement (Spirit Sorting), Time
  9. Luck, Gambling, Chaos, Thieves
  10. Nature, Animals, Hunters, Growth (Agriculture), Storms
  11. Greed, Strife, Murder, Corruption
  12. Disease, Suffering, Torment, Torture
  13. War, Hatred, Destruction, Vengeance, Orcs, Goblins
  14. Lust, Betrayal, Infidelity, Dishonesty
  15. Dark Places (Underdark), Dungeons

HELP!!! I need a time stop spell.

My eldest child will be leaving home to attend college, 6.5 hours away, at the end of this week.  While I am doing a decent enough job of being cool in her presence, inside I am rolling like a gelatinous cube (complete with acidic build up).  Although it is hard to let her go out into the world, and really would love to get my hands on a spell to stop time (at least for a bit), I know what is best for her is to follow her dreams.

She finished up High School with a strong performance, and despite having knee surgery her junior year, and not playing school soccer (she was on the golf team), she was offered scholarships from multiple schools (for both soccer and golf), and will be playing soccer.  She is excited, and a bit nervous.  Her mother and I are very proud of her.

Her plans are to study English and Marketing, and work in the publishing industry and write.  The girl has a good head on her shoulders, even if she has a small addiction to buying dice (which I may be partly responsible for having started.)

Good luck in college kid.  You will be missed at home.  Go out and make your mark!

The 5e Paladin

Ok, small rant time.  This probably won’t be a very popular post, based on the feedback I see from players in D&D 5e, but I have to say this anyway.  The idea that paladins aren’t required to be LG, to me at least, is idiotic.  The Paladin!  The symbol of of all that is both good and mighty, and now players can be any alignment, and don’t even need to have a diety.  You might as well allow fighters to have an archetype that makes a pact with some greater being for more power as a warlock/warrior hybrid.  (BTW, I am not a huge fan of warlocks and sorcerers either, but that is another conversation.)

A whole generation of kids that grew up getting participation trophies is just now hitting adulthood, and we start to strip away the things that make our archetypal classes so that they can play them without having to do so in a way that makes sense.  I get the concept of RPG, is to role-play the way you want, but there has to be some type of framework in place that makes sense.  What’s next?  “This is my dragon.  She looks like a dwarf, has dwarf parents, can’t fly, no breath weapon, no spells, but she is a dragon – because I say so.”

Fucking Stupid!

You want to play a class that has ability to wear plate, gets spells granted from a higher power, but not be LG?  Ok, make your alignment LE and call it a Death Knight, or whatever.  But calling it a Paladin is terrible.  Use a little creativity before starting/joining this game and own that bitch!

I promised this to be a short rant, so I will stop there.

No I don’t need to find MY voice!

I know a lot of, not all, writers do so because they have something to say.  They want their voices to be heard.  Well, let me start with two points that may initially contradict themselves –

  1. Yes, I believe that, maybe all, writers feel as though they have something to say through their work.
  2. No, I don’t believe that what we have to say requires it to be done from OUR voice.

Now, I can see where you would read this and immediately think that “this guy is completely mental”, and you may be 100% accurate on this.  However, if we are going to question my mental state, it shouldn’t be based on this.

Almost all writing takes a piece of the author with it into the work.  (If you are willing to do the leg work to prove me wrong on this, please let me know via social media that I am stupid and you plan to provide evidence to support this.)  However, most stories that have stuck with me throughout my life haven’t been those of those writing their autobiographical tales, but have found a way to step outside of themselves and represent their thoughts, long held traditions, reasons for breaking others’ long held traditions, or what ever social situation that is motivating them to act through their writing.  I am not against those that write up their life stories and share them with the rest of the world, and I concede the point that some are quiet motivational and inspiring.

The point I am making here is that probably the worst advice I ever received about writing was – “Find your voice.”  I think this entire phrase puts a lot of pressure on a writer to feel the need to represent something in their writing.  I am going to change that phrase up to say, “Find A voice (or don’t.)”  In other words, just write.  Those things that are important to you as an individual will come out in your writing, without you putting pressure and focus on them.

Waiting for that perfect way to present your message can prevent your message from getting out.  Just write.  Your message will be found by those that need to hear it and are looking for it, unless of course you don’t ever share it with anyone.  Just write.

Goodbye Old Friend

Got a text message this morning from the brother of a friend of mine, easily one of my best friends, using my friends phone. My friend, Eddie Ebarb, passed away on Thursday and his family wasn’t able to access his phone until today to notify his friends.
Eddie was an amazing person with strong beliefs, stronger sense of ethics, and duty to his family. He was a real life tinker gnome who couldn’t help himself when it came to figuring out new things. He was a trusted sounding board, that I could count on when doing anything creative. The world will never know the impact he was going to make, but the few of us that knew of him will forever be aware of how close we came to witnessing something great.
You absence will be felt, and you will be missed Eddie.

Here we go!

First off, thanks for taking the time to read a blog written by little ol’ me.  I can’t promise I will ever say anything that will be earth changing, or even worth your time reading it.  Hopefully, I can do that here and more so in the works I publish.

Hopefully I can get a blog post out once per month, more if able, but my focus when writing is currently directed towards story development and creation.