Categotry Archives: Writing

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October Means Win

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Categories: Poetry, Writing, Tags: , , , , ,

I’m very pleased to announce acceptance of my poem “Dragonfly” as a featured piece by Writer’s News Weekly. Writer’s News Weekly is dedicated to “writing something worth reading; doing something worth writing about.” I’m honored and humbled the WNW team considers my work worthy of that lofty aspiration. The poem they chose, “Dragonfly,” was inspired by one of those wonderfully random moments that remind me the world is full of beauty despite its ugliness. To read the poem, click the banner below.

 

I am also featured in this month’s issue of From A Writer’s POV magazine. The article includes my poem “Dagger In The Sky.” My favorite quote from the piece is the very first sentence: “Darius McCaskey sees the world in a vastly different manner than most people…” That’s probably one of the most flattering things anyone has ever said about me. If you’d like to read the complete article, and my poem, “Dagger In The Sky,” click here.

Of course, if you like those poems, you should pick up a copy of my debut poetry book, Angst & Wrath. It’s available in print and electronic versions from all major online outlets, including the iBookstore, Amazon, and Smashwords. You can also add the book to your lists on Goodreads by clicking the nifty widget over there —————————>

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New Essay: “For Those About To Roll…”

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Categories: Essays, Gaming, Geek Stuff, RPG, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This essay is an edited version of my first required essay this semester in my Composition 1 class at Rock Valley College. It is the first essay I’m making available online. I hope to add more as coursework and time allows.

Some of my real-world friends may recognize themselves in the essay. Be advised, I’ve fictionalized you where needed. Names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty). Enjoy!
 

For Those About To Roll, We Salute You

Eli walked down the stairs into the basement. His hands were full: a case of Coca-Cola in his left hand, a grocery bag full of snacks in his right. On his back, a burgeoning, grey knapsack threatened to burst its seams. As he made his way down the stairs, the small, gold crucifix around his neck bounced out from under his T-shirt. The shirt itself was black, a gaming-inspired riff on a classic rock band design: an isosahedron (the twenty-sided die ubiquitous in fantasy role-playing games) appeared with the phrase “AC/HP” in a heavy-metal font.

Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, Eli set down the soda and tossed the bag of chips on the octagonal, faux-wood table dominating the room. Eli took his seat at the table after unloading his backpack. Though the sack was heavy with books, pencils, and dice, Eli seemed happy to haul it. An easy smile came to his boyish face as he considered his cohorts in turn: Rob, Josh, Jenny, TJ, Carlton, John, and Tom.

Rob leaned back in his chair. His shaved head glistened under the track lighting in the basement. Tan skin belied Rob’s mixed Haitian and Mexican heritage. Rob flipped through some pages in a legal pad, the handwritten notes printed in meticulous, all-capital letters.

Josh was a tall, broad man with a booming laugh. His hands were as large as oven mitts, dwarfing the mechanical pencil he held. On his finger, a size 15 ring emblazoned with a pentacle proclaimed his pagan spirituality. Josh reached over to turn the volume down on his laptop. A Megadeth song had been playing.

Jenny was the picture of soccer-mom suburbia. Her brunette hair hung to her shoulders, and she dressed in casually conservative style with jeans and a sweater. A tasteful diamond ring shimmered on her left hand. Her pale, blue eyes flitted to and fro, following whomever was speaking like a hawk tracking prey in the underbrush.

TJ was pure gothic-punk. Two rings intersected her lip, and countless hoops and studs lined her ears. The lacy, black tank top she wore revealed no fewer than a dozen tattoos decorating her arms and shoulders. A purple, velvet skirt covered TJ’s snow white legs.

Carlton (like Josh) was tall, but his frame was loose and lanky. His ebony skin stretched over ripcord muscles. Unlike his fellow males, Carlton did not wear jeans. Instead, he had on neatly pressed khakis. A proper broadcloth shirt completed his simple – yet classy – ensemble.

John, a slight man of Korean descent, was quiet and unassuming. His soft voice and gentle laugh made his small body seem even smaller. A faint odor patchouli (or something else?) clung closely to John’s skin. The Fu Manchu mustache he kept was, perhaps, the only thing about him designed to draw attention.

Conversely, Tom went out of his way to get attention, at least from the fairer sex. His hands worked the keys on his cell phone as though possessed. When not absorbed in texting, tweeting, and Facebooking, Tom’s gaze bounced between Jenny and TJ (and not exactly their faces, either). He barely acknowledged Eli’s entrance.

After greetings and pleasantries were exchanged; snacks and sodas situated; books and dice readied; Rob brought the game to order: “You find yourselves in a dark and dank dungeon…”

In the 1970s, when the first fantasy role-playing games appeared, gamers were almost without exception white, teenage males. This homogenous group was perceived as isolated, insular, and immature. Poor hygiene and poor social skills went hand-in-hand with those early gamers. As the hobby has grown, however, the base of players has likewise expanded and old trends no longer apply. Just as the games have changed, so too have the players.

Contemporary gamers are a diverse bunch. Blacks and whites, Asians and Hispanics, males and females all engage in the benign escapism that is role-playing. Catholics join forces with pagans in vanquishing dragons. Democrats and Republicans plot together to overthrow the evil sorcerer-king. High school dropouts ponder ancient glyphs with graduate students.

Most gamers now are adults: parents and workers. They have active lives outside of the hubby. They own cars and homes, with the bills that accompany them. They have real-world responsibilities. Gaming provides these adult players with a safe, inexpensive way to escape the stresses of daily life. Many other role-players are young: middle- and high school students. These younger gamers have new ideas to challenge older players. The only factor common to modern gamers is that they are gamers. Shared love of the hobby binds these disparate people into a common clan.

Diversity is crucial to the continued health and vibrancy of the hobby. Without new and flesh perspectives, the stories told in role-playing games will become as stagnant and cloying as the musty basements many gamers still congregate in.

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New Poem: “Genocide City Zone”

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Categories: Angst & Wrath, Poetry, Writing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It occurs to me that I’ve not posted a new poem in quite some time. As I’ve started running Google ads to promote my poetry writing, it seems prudent to put some fresh poems online. This post does just that.

This poem, “Genocide City Zone,” was originally published in the Voices literary magazine of Rock Valley College. In fact, it was written specifically for inclusion in that journal. I reprinted “Genocide City Zone” in my chapbook, Angst & Wrath.

The name “Genocide City Zone” was rejected as a level name in one of the original Sonic the Hedgehog games on the Sega Genesis. When I read about the name being cut from the game, it stuck with me. Several months later, this poem was produced. The title and theme is very reminiscent of a Rush song (Red Sector A, anyone?).

So, without further ado, I present you “Genocide City Zone.”
 

Genocide City Zone

Welcome to the genocide city zone

I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay

We’ve been killing folks here

All the live-long day

If you want to join us

You’ll have to pay the price

Your soul’s the cost, so ante up

C’mon and shoot the dice

 
Welcome to the genocide city zone

Everyone’s dying to get in

Ignore your guilty conscience

Though Jesus says it’s sin

If you do not join us

You’ll have to pay the price

Sacrifice your life tonight

To our deadly new device

 
Welcome to the genocide city zone

Check out time is soon

We only stop once a day

To eat our lunch at noon

If you want to join them

We’re happy to grant your request

Just remember this one thing:

We kill ’em with the best

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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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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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New Poem: “The Soft, Cool Blanket of Night”

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Categories: Poetry, Writing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

For the record, I love ancient Greek literature/ mythology. I read Oedipus Rex for what has to be at least the twentieth time the other day. I started reading it again mostly because I wanted to double-check the spelling of “Tiresias,” but once I started, I had to finish the story. Of course, I knew what was coming, but watching the tragedy unfold, seeing the inevitability of it, is what makes the story great.

For your reading pleasure, I present a poem that features some Greek mythological references. I hope you enjoy it. As always, your feedback is welcome and encouraged.

The Soft, Cool Blanket of Night

wrap me in the soft, cool blanket of night.
 
waning,
the moon peers down at me
like the heavy-lidded eye of some cyclops.
 
and if I be lost like poor Odysseus,
cloak me in the soft, warm wool of night.
 
and if my eyes fail me like old Tiresias,
stitch the cloth with the needles of the king,
and wrap me in the soft, cool wisdom of night.
 
and if the trees reach out for me
like the souls of the dead,
blanket me in the soft, cool mists of the Styx.
 
wrap me in the soft, cool blanket of night.

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The Silver Lining

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Categories: Blackhawks, Geek Stuff, Health, Hockey, Writing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The last few days I’ve been dealing with a malfunctioning car and a brief but intense illness. It’s been less than pleasant. Add the Chicago Blackhawks playing like crap in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and losing all my phone numbers and email addresses in Address Book (and thus my iPhone too), and this week looks pretty bad on paper.

There’s a silver lining though: another page in my novel finished. It’s been slow going, and I could probably find more time to write, but I feel good about the words. Do I think this novel will be sellable? Probably not. But it will be written, and that’s more important to me.

So, to anyone out there who thinks they can write a book: do it. There’s no better advice on writing than that. You will suck at first. You will get better if you try. That’s all.

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New Poem: “This Land Is My Land”

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Categories: Poetry, Rant, Shadowrun, Writing, Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a new poem for  everyone. I’m in no way qualified to write this poem, as I am not a Native American. I do, however, believe that the natives of North America have been dealt one of the worst hands in history. Their systematic slaughter by waves of white immigrants has been hollowed out of the history books and replaced with the “Maize; you call it ‘corn'” bullshit we get fed in grade school.
 
I apologize if some of the language I’ve used offends you. It’s my hope that, by using such abrasive terms, I’ll get your attention and you’ll think about what it means to be any color but red in America.
 
For the record, I do not advocate a native uprising, a la Shadowrun, but Indians deserve better than fucking casinos and firewater. Your comments are welcome, unless they’re hateful, bigoted ignorance.
 
This Land Is My Land
 
Niggers and spics,

kikes and Micks

(don’t forget the krauts and deggos, too)

live on land that belongs to you.

 

If your skin is red,

you’re better off dead

than deal with this sordid affair.

No one told you caveat venditor, “Let the seller beware.”

 
You trusted the limeys and frogs to boot:

they used that foot to grind you to soot.

Ashes and soot of once-proud nations:

now there’s strife in tribal relations.

 
Anima spirits, totems, and tools:

the white man has played you for fools.

Soon, painted faces gather in band,

proudly declaring, “This land is my land.”

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