Darius McCaskey

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À Tous Mes Amis Francophones

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Categories: Randomness, Tags: , , , , , ,

Bonjour! It’s been a long time since I had any semblance of regular practice at speaking, reading, or writing French. I have lost much of my previous proficiency with the language. This saddens me deeply.

In high school, I earned an award from the American Association of Teachers of French when I participated in Le Grand Concours. I tested into a French Lit (taught in French, all assignments to be completed in French) class in college after only two years of study in high school. My point is, I used to kick ass at French. I don’t anymore.

I would like to regain some of what I have lost, but I need help to do it. So, dear readers, I’m begging you: if you can read/ write/ speak français, drop me a line. I need practice to gain back my skills. Send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message en français, s’il te plait. Merci!

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WIP It Good

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Categories: Battlepixies!, Cold Sun, Writing

In case anyone out there was wondering, I’ve got a few projects I’m working on right now. Here’s a random list of what’s going on:

  • Battlepixies! Battlepixies! is a pencil-and-paper role-playing game I’ve been tinkering with for about five years now. It’s a role-playing game of fey combat. Battlepixies! is a very silly game, meant to be a light-hearted game to run between serious RPG campaigns. I’d like to get it finished by the end of next year at the latest.
  • Double-secret Project #1 I hate to pull a Wheaton, but I’m sworn to secrecy on this really cool project I’m working on. I’ll post more details as soon as I can. Trust me: it’s awesome!
  • Serve Yourself My zombie short story that’s quickly becoming a zombie novella. I’m hoping to trim the final word count enough to submit it to the First Time Dead anthology from May December Publications.
  • Cold Sun My pencil-and-paper role-playing game set in the aftermath of catastrophic hubris. Take one part alternate history, one part science fiction, one part global climate change debate, equal parts human arrogance and ignorance, toss in a dash of psychic powers and genetic mutation, plus something… else, and you have the recipe for the game. Coming in 2011 or 2012, most likely.
  • A Novel It’s a novel with a controversial topic that I’d prefer not to talk about until it’s done. I’m sort of ashamed that this story came from my brain, but I suppose I can blame it on the Muse… or be burned at the stake. Arg.
  • Exercises in Exorcism I’m working on poems to be included in my second chapbook as inspiration strikes. I hope to have enough new material by year’s end, but it may not be until the middle of next year. I’ve been spending on lot of time lately on prose, and the ars poetica fail me right now.

So, that’s what I’m working on currently. Artists, photographers, fellow poets and writers: what are you doing? Please, leave a comment about your WIP list (or lack thereof). I want to know what my comrades-in-art are up to!

If you’re interested in being a “beta reader” or playtester for any of my upcoming stuff, get in touch with me. Email, Twitter, or Facebook are all acceptable forms of communication. Thanks!

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From Bitterness To Joy

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Categories: Family, Father's Day, Holidays, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Father’s Day used to be a source of bitterness and resentment for me. I was not born hating Father’s Day. I learned to despise it as a celebration of something I thought I never had.

My biological father, David Allen Duncan, has never been a part of my life. He left my mother and me before I was even a year old, so I have absolutely no memory of him. From what I understand, that’s probably for the best: most stories that I’ve heard about him paint a picture of an abusive, manipulative piece of shit. I don’t judge Mr. Duncan based on those stories, however. I judge him based on the things that I’ve experienced, the injustices he’s visited upon me personally.

Witness, wherefore, that this cocksucker never paid even the pittance of child support he was ordered to pay by the court in 1980. Behold, this asshole fled to Tennessee to escape his meager obligations as a father. Consider, this douchebag sired another child who bears his name but seven months after me. (Not that I’m particularly bitter. It’s really just the principle of the thing. Traditionally, the first-born son would carry the father’s name. I happen to love my first name. Being a Dave would be so blasé.)

Obviously, my actual father was not a source of happiness and love on Father’s Day. My erstwhile step-father was not much better.

My mother’s ex-husband, Erico Santiago, was, in some ways, a worse influence on my life than my absentee father. Whereas Allen was not present to love me and nurture me, Eric was available physically, but completely stonewalled emotionally. He came into my life when I was about five years old.

As a child, I tried every way I knew to make Rico love me. I was rewarded with indifference for my efforts. When I behaved in ways expected of me, I was met with silence. When I misbehaved, I was rewarded with physical abuse and neglect. I could fill an entire post with the blatant and subtle ways in which this man hated me, but there’d be no point to it over than to play upon your sympathies in a self-serving attempt at garnering your pity.

In time, I gave up trying with Eric. He had taught me, along with the absence of my actual father, that seeking validation from without was as pointless as seeking rain in the desert. I learned that the only sustainable sense of worth came from within.

On the other hand, my grandfather, Ed McCaskey, was one of the few men who showed me unconditional love and compassion when I was younger. His deep, booming voice comforted me when I needed it and corrected me when I needed that too. He made me understand that despite my flaws and errors, I was worthy of love and forgiveness.

My grandpa is also directly responsible for my enduring love of sci-fi. One of my earliest movie memories is watching the copy of the Star Wars trilogy he taped from TNT or TBS. My grandpa is also a Trekker from back in the day, and while I prefer the Next Generation, there is a certain fondness in my heart for Kirk, Bones, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Checkov et. al.

In a charming bit of serepidity, I became an ice hockey fan as a teenager; my grandfather is also a huge hockey fan. (He’s got season tickets to his local team, in fact.) As a kid, I never knew of his love for the sport, though it doesn’t surprise me. He’s from South Dakota. There’s not much to do there in the winter except for hockey. I only mention this to illustrate two points: 1) I regret that I didn’t spend more time with my grandpa before he moved to California, and 2) I may be more like my grandpa than I previously knew. That would make me very happy.

>>>2 paragraphs redacted to reflect my new reality<<<

My Grandpa McCaskey taught me that hard work is eventually rewarded. I’ve learned from him that one must stand up for what they believe in and that one cannot simply run away from one’s problems: they must be confronted and overcome. He’s taught me that one can be better than one’s past says they should be.

So yesterday’s Father’s Day was filled with joy in place of bitterness. Thinking about the father figures in my life, I reflected on the lessons I’ve learned from them. I hope to take what my past has taught me and raise my daughter to be strong, compassionate, hard-working, peaceful, geeky, persistent, and considerate.

I hope that when my daughter reflects on her childhood, she’s happy that I was her daddy.

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Osama Would Play A Paladin

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Categories: DDO, Gaming, LARP, President Obama, Randomness, RPG, Shadowrun, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I believe in the power of gaming.

By gaming, I mean console and computer gaming as well as pencil and paper role-playing games. To a lesser extent, I would also include board games.

When I look at the impact this hobby has had on my life, it’s a bit overwhelming.

If it weren’t for gaming, I would not have met most of my friends. Specifically, my friend Mike Diamond and I would not have met if it weren’t for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition. (We had an ongoing AD&D2E game that we played in junior high by writing on a desk [in pencil!]. It was play-by-post before there was play-by-post.) Mike and I graduated from from junior high, and graduated from D&D, together. We spent hours playing all kinds of other games: Star Wars, Starfleet Battles, Marvel Super Heroes, Rise of the Dragon (Oh my God, Shandi!), and my favorite RPG of all time, Shadowrun. We still play Shadowrun together, every Saturday night.

Without Vampire: the Masquerade, I would have never met Travis Legge. My friend came from a very different world than I did, but we shared a love of gaming. Travis was the best man at my wedding and we even ran our own game publishing company for a time. We met at a Vampire LARP, but we played plenty of other White Wolf games together: Hunter, Trinity (taint in the Tesser!), Aberrant, Wraith, and one of the most influential games I’ve ever played, Mage.

I met my wife at the same Vampire LARP that I met Travis at. We had seen each other in passing before then, but never really met. Through some boneheaded moves by other people, she ended up playing a character with a direct connection to mine. The time we spent together in-character led to meetings out-of-character, which led to her ending a dysfunctional relationship with her longtime boyfriend and starting a new dysfunctional relationship with me. We’ve been dysfunctional together ever since. Tiffanie and I have played a ton of games together, from D&D3.5 to Zombies. We still play Dungeons & Dragons Online together, when time allows.

The breadth and depth of people you meet through gaming is sometimes astounding. By playing games, I’ve had the pleasure of chatting for hours with a couple of guys from Chile (¿Cómo están, amigos?), been guild-mates with a carny (Luv ya, Bernie!), called people by some strange nicknames (Shaggy and Little Shit top the list, I think), watched someone laugh so hard they puked (indirectly due to gaming: a gaming buddy was over for Bad Movie Night. Blackula + well-placed one-liner = puke!), had the cops question me about “having an orgy in the street” (actually a mob combat in the aforementioned Vampire LARP), and so much more. Gamers have been some of the kindest, friendliest, and most genuine people I’ve ever known.

I don’t want to overstate the point, but games can be powerful tools to bring people together that never would have met or seen eye-to-eye before. Where else can you bring together an atheist with a devout Catholic, a radical feminist with a staunch Republican, a high-school dropout with a graduate student, a teenager with a pensioner, or a cop with a drug dealer? Not only have I seen these disparate people gaming together, I’ve seen them working toward common goals and having fun doing it.

So, here’s my proposal: I’ll run a game. Kim Jong-Il, Osama Bin Laden, Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, Hamid Karzai, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, and Omar al-Bashir (along with many others) are invited to play D&D with me some time (3.5: I don’t care for 4E). Perhaps, when they’re faced with the World’s Largest Dungeon, they’ll realize their countries and causes are pretty small. Maybe, when confronted with the alien nature of a great wyrm red dragon, they’ll realize people have more commonalities than differences. Maybe, when they’ve reached level 20 together, they could usher in a new age of peace and prosperity for humanity.
 
And I bet Osama would play a paladin.

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O Captain! My Captain!

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Categories: Blackhawks, Hockey, IceHogs, Tags: , , , , , ,

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting

 

The fearful trip is done. No more games of Mario Kart in the hotel. No more taunting fans in orange.

The ship has endured every rack, from crushing blows by former friends to seven Chiclets scattered across the ice.

The prize you sought is indeed won, Captain. Lord Stanley’s Cup has returned to Hawkeytown after a too-long absence.

The bells and exultation are for your team. And you, their Captain, are held to be first among equals.

You, who has earned a gold medal for your country in Vancouver.

You, who was named most valuable forward of the Olympic games.

You, who broke and tied multiple Blackhawks playoff records.

You, who reclaimed the Stanley Cup for a city beleagured by sports almost-won.

You, who distinguished yourself as worthy of Conn Smythe’s trophy.

So, Captain Serious, live it up. You’ve earned it. Crack a smile. It’s OK. We’ll forgive you (just this once). You, unlike the Captain in Whitman’s poem, are very much alive and able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

Congratulations, Jonathan Toews; captain of the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, 2010 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, second-youngest captain of a Cup-winning team, and goddamned great hockey player.

O Captain! My Captain!

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One Game, One Goal

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Categories: Blackhawks, Hockey, IceHogs, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tomorrow night, Lord Stanley’s Cup will be in Philadelphia for the Blackhawks to take home, if they want it enough. I can tell you from personal experience (see Exhibits A and B, below) that the NHL’s top prize is quite impressive in person. I can only imagine what it’s like to lift it – or eat Cheerios out of it.

There are five things I think the Blackhawks must do (and a few they absolutely cannot do) to win Game 6.

  1. Stay out of the penalty box. I understand what his job is, but Dave Bolland can neutralize Mike Richards without starting a one-man parade to the box. 30 PiM this postseason is a few too many. Everyone else must stay out of the sin bin too. There’s no reason a guy like Marian Hossa should have 23 minutes of penalty time. Smart, disciplined hockey is going to win against Philly. Don’t work harder, boys: work smarter.
  2. The Blackhawks must put serious pressure on the Flyers in the first five minutes of the game. Even if it doesn’t result in a goal, the Hawks need to be putting the puck on the net early and often. Philly fans are brutal, so take them out of the game. Also, we’ve seen how much Michael Leighton’s confidence can be shaken with sustained, early pressure. Get in his head and make Laviolette swap him for Boucher.
  3. Hit Chris Pronger. A lot. Hard. Work him over like a dime-store piñata. Taking Pronger out of his game means the Blackhawks offense has more time and space. Philadelphia has a weak defensive core. Make it weaker by making Prongs think twice about playing the puck. It worked in Game 5; it will work again.
  4. Carry the puck cleanly out of the defensive zone. Do not give the Flyers a chance at an easy shot on goal off a lazy turnover at the blue line. If there’s not a clean outlet pass, circle back and wait for a safer chance. Niemi will probably make the stop on a dumb turnover play, but why make him work that hard?
  5. Make the puck do the work for you. During the regular season, the Hawks were one of the fastest teams in the league because they could make laser-fast, hyper-accurate passes. By making the puck do the work for you, you exploit another of Philly’s weaknesses: slow skating. The Blackhawks are the faster team, when they’re passing well. Stick with the basics, boys.

Of course, there’s about a hundred other things I could mention that the Blackhawks need to do, but the five I listed above are the most critical to coming home with some serious silver hardware.

In the end, it’s going to be an intense, physical hockey game. The Flyers have proven they are a tenacious team. Don’t expect for a moment that Game 6 will look anything like Game 5. Don’t expect for a moment that a win is guaranteed. We’ll see what happens when the puck drops. Until then, remain committed to the Indian. Remain committed to the Cup.

Stanley Cup

Exhibit A

Stanley Cup

Exhibit B

P.S. For the record, that is totally the real Stanley Cup. And no, I didn’t actually touch it. But I really wanted to.

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This I Believe

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Categories: Rant, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I decided last night (after a fairly heated exchange on Failbook) that I would put this post up so that people considering whether or not to create or maintain a friendship with me would know what they’re getting into. Consider it truth in advertising. Also, on the off chance that NPR ever asks me to do a “This I Believe”segment, most of my work will already be done. Yay for advance preparation!

Fair warning: this post is probably not safe for work. These beliefs are in no particular order. While I do hold some convictions more strongly than others, their order in this list in no way denotes their importance to me. This list is pretty thorough, but not comprehensive. Also, some of the things you’re about to read are intended to be humorous and light-hearted; some are not. You figure out which is which.

  • I believe choice and free will are the greatest and most frequently squandered gifts humanity has.
  • I believe you are ultimately responsible for your own life and must deal with the consequences of the choices you make.
  • I believe rape in all forms is one of the most heinous crimes possible, because it denies the victim choice in one of the most private and inviolate parts of their life.
  • I believe the Chicago Blackhawks will win the Stanley Cup this year.
  • I believe people are betrayed by their biology more often than they would like to admit.
  • I believe I’m a conflicted and hypocritical person, but I’m working on it.
  • I believe it is the height of arrogance to presume to speak for anyone but yourself.
  • I believe it is the depth of self-loathing to allow anyone to speak for you.
  • I believe in peace, bitch.
  • I believe there is a power greater than myself in the universe, but I don’t pretend to understand what it is or how it works.
  • I believe humans can live better lives through the practical application of chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, and imagination.
  • I believe I love my daughter more than any other person in this world, including my wife, whom I love very much.
  • I believe my wife understands the preceding statement and feels much the same way.
  • I believe the preceeding two statements do not diminish the relationship my wife and I share, but enhance it instead.
  • I believe marriage is a social contract between two individuals, not a holy institution. As such, it should be available to all consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation or gender.
  • I believe government-issued underwear are very uncomfortable.
  • I believe it is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
  • I believe words are innocent. They have no meaning except that which you ascribe to them. Make them your own and define them: don’t let them define you.
  • I believe the following statement is true.
  • I believe the preceding statement is false.
  • I believe most people take themselves too seriously.
  • I believe I have many acquaintances, but few friends. You may be one.
  • I believe things on the Internet are not real.
  • I believe fascism by committee in the guise of social justice is the most insidious lie ever told to Americans.
  • I believe American federalism is not a perfect governmental system, but it’s as close as we’ve gotten so far.
  • I believe the Framers of the United States Constitution would not recognize our country as their own.
  • I believe the American federal government has little to no authority to legislate social issues.
  • I believe abortion is abhorrent, except in cases of rape and incest. However, I would never presume to tell a woman what she may or may not do to her own body. That’s between her and whatever higher power she believes in.
  • I believe anyone who would claim I’m not entitled to an opinion regarding reproductive rights because I have a penis is the worst kind of hypocrite.
  • I believe we are not alone.
  • I believe freedom of choice is the only true freedom.
  • I believe thou shalt not kill.
  • I believe Metallica sucked, then got good, and now sucks again.
  • I believe Rush is the greatest rock band of all time.
  • I believe pity is something reserved exclusively for children and the mentally handicapped.
  • I believe disagreeing with one aspect of a person does not invalidate the entirety of that person.
  • I believe magic is nothing more than the judicious application of human will.
  • I believe in striving today to be better than I was yesterday.
  • I believe the only valuation of my worth as a human being that truly matters is my own.
  • I believe “I” is the most beautiful word in the English language.
  • I believe, if you don’t like what I have to say, you can kindly go fuck yourself.

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Everybody Loves Raymond (Did It)

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Categories: Aegis Studios, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I know that times are tough for just about everyone right now, but my hetero life-mate needs your help! Travis Legge, my erstwhile business partner at Aegis Studios, is set to begin shooting his first feature-length film in less than two weeks. He’s still got a bit of money to be raised to meet his budget.
If you can spare $50, $10, or even a single dollar, you can help support indie film and the Rockford economy. More importantly, you can help a wonderfully talented storyteller make his own “big break.” I’ve read the script and I’ve seen the actors: this movie is going to be amazingly fun. Your help is needed to make it happen.
Please, head to IndieGoGo and contribute at the highest level you can. If that’s only a dollar, it will honestly help. For more info on the film and Travis’s other projects (including the work we did together on the Contagion RPG), head to the Aegis Studios homepage.
See you at the movies!

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My Favorite Malkavian

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Categories: LARP, Randomness, Rockford, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yesterday, at work, I was listening to the song Fade to Black by Metallica and nearly broke down in tears. That song reminds me of my friend, Jamy Schumm, who died nearly ten years ago. I don’t know exactly why this particular day, and this particular listening, choked me up; I’ve heard that song several times in the past decade. Still, there I was, sitting at my desk, trying to stifle a sob.

Jamy died in November of 2000, shortly after his 28th birthday. I remember there was some controversy surrounding his death when it happened. Some people thought he fell; some thought he was pushed; the official verdict was that he jumped from a parking garage in downtown Rockford. How he died does not change the fact that he’s gone, however. It also does not change how much I miss him.

I will not pretend that Jamy and I were very close friends. Many people knew him far better than I. Many people suffered his loss more profoundly than I. Jamy’s death did, however, affect me deeply. I was twenty years old when Jamy died. I thought, in some unconscious way, that I would live forever: that everyone I knew would live eternally. Jamy was among those everliving fixtures of my universe. We gamed together, and hung out at That One Place (erstwhile coffee shop extraordinaire) together. We shared laughs, and tried to solve the world’s problems, as twenty-somethings oft do, over a cup of Joe.

I really started getting to know Jamy when we were players in the Vampire: the Masquerade LARP held weekly at That One Place. Jamy was one of the core players in that game. In fact, he’s one of the finest role-players I’ve ever had the pleasure of gaming with. His Malkavian character was so well-played and central to that game, I can’t even remember his name: (though there were other Malks in the game) we always just called him “The Malkavian.” I don’t know if it was a true gift for drama or his own inner torment, but his characterization of insanity was honestly disturbing to watch at times. I think it was a bit of both.

I wish that I would have had the chance to get to know Jamy better. I bet he was even cooler than I thought. I wish that Jamy knew how many people truly cared for him. I bet he’d still be here if he did. I wish that he were still here to meet my daughter. I bet he would’ve been great with kids. I wish he could’ve been at my wedding. I bet his costume for the reception would’ve been awesome.

But wishes don’t bring people back from the dead, except in movies and games. Instead, I’ll wish that everyone who knew Jamy, even in passing, would keep his memory alive. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: in your heart, he’ll never die. If you knew Jamy Schumm and want to share a story, please do. I’ll keep the comments on this post open forever. It’s the least I can do.
 
Rest in peace, my favorite Malkavian. You are sorely missed.

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Success, By Way Of Failure

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Categories: Aegis Studios, Rejections, Writing, Tags: , , , , , , ,

Disclaimer: The following post contains intentionally vague (ha-ha, get it?) references to people and companies. All names have been excluded to protect privacy and professionalism. Enjoy!

Last week, I was solicited by an interactive entertainment company for a 42,000-word writing project. They asked me to provide them with a quote for services, in addition to samples of my writing. I put together what seemed (to me) to be a reasonable quote based on info I gathered, and provided the requested writing samples from some of the writing I did for the Aegis Studios RPG book, Virulence.
 
I did not get the job.
 
I did, however, get a rejection letter. It came in the form of an email, and while it praised my work as “professional and something [they] feel would work well,” it also informed me they’d decided to go with another writer.
 
I understand completely. I’m also not upset in the slightest.
 
First, I understand why an established company would be hesitant to hire on a fairly novice writer. The project would have been written in screenplay format, as most video games are. Though the screenplay format is (seemingly) not difficult to adapt to, I have no prior experience with it, other than reading how it’s constructed.

Second, I’m actually quite pleased that I was even solicited. How could I be upset about getting rejected for a job I didn’t even inquire about? The fact is, until last week, I didn’t even know this gig was out there. So, I’m honored I was considered, delighted that my work was well-received, and encouraged that I am “someone that [they] would definitely consider for any future opportunities.”

Of course, the phrases I’ve quoted (which are directly from the rejection email) could be platitudes. Then again, what motivation would a professional design director have for blowing smoke up my ass? He could have just as easily told me “sorry, but after careful consideration, we’ve decided to go with someone else. Thanks for your time.” I will operate under the assumption that this guy was sincere, and that I’ve made a contact that could lead to some seriously fun, seriously paid work in the future.

So, thanks for my first official rejection letter as a serious writer. I’m sure it won’t be my last. Rejection letters, it seems, are like lovers to writers: you will probably have a few over the course of your life, but you’ll never forget your first. This failure, like the failure of my first serious romance, is actually a success, because it means I explored my horizons and expanded my knowledge of life. Something that makes you a better person cannot be a failure, but merely a setback at most.

OK, enough waxing philosophic: time to get back to work.
 
Time to get back to writing.

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