When You Can’t Write What You Want

I find it equal parts simple and difficult to come up with blog post ideas. On one hand, I’ve been blogging off and on for nearly 15 years now, with most of the past nine years featuring at least semi-regular blogging. I’ve had a ton of things I’ve written about in that time that I could easily rehash for content when I need it. But that’s not what I really want to do. I could likely turn this blog into a listicle filled site, and though I’ve parodied listcles from time to time, that’s also not route I’d prefer to go. What I try to do instead is to talk about new things with each post I write — or at the very least address different facets of a topic if I’ve talked about it before.

Another important thing to note about my blog is that I tend to write most posts, save for the Mid-Month Short Story Challenge responses, well in advance. If I have something I want to talk about that’s time sensitive, I’ll write about it and post it relatively quickly, but more often I’ve written a post weeks before it sees the light of day. When those timely posts get written, they push my scheduled posts back, which is how a post written in mid-October doesn’t end up going up on the blog until nearly Christmas time.

When I come up with post ideas, I tend to send them to myself via email so that I don’t forget about them. Some of those post ideas end up just getting deleted, but more often than not, I’ll eventually write about most things I send myself, if for no other reason than to clean out my inbox. I’d love to clean out my inbox right now1This goes both for my personal inbox and my work one..

The most frustrating thing for me as a blogger is when I have ideas to write about, but I can’t write about them yet for whatever reason. More often than not, this is because it’s something that’s on a timeline that’s out of my control2As is the case with all of the pending post ideas at this point., though occasionally it’s something that I have some level of control over. And that’s terribly frustrating. I don’t like having a lack of control over my writing, even though it’s something I have experience with just from having written a book.

At times like this, it’s hard to keep content somewhat regular on my blog. I tend to write more about non-personal things, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve written about Pokemon and pie in the past 30ish days3To be fair, the pie post is fantastic.. I feel like these are the driest times to be a reader of my blog, which certainly won’t help me reach my blog goals for the year. The best situation would be that things change to where I can write about the things I (badly) wish to write about. In the interim, however, I’ll just write about whatever comes to mind, even if I’m not able to hit the same post length or traffic goals I have with most posts.

How do you handle it when there’s something you want to write or talk about, but can’t for whatever reason? Let me know in the comments.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #8

Welcome to the eighth edition of the mid-month short story challenge. Thank you so much to everyone who participated in last month’s prompt. In previous months, you’ve written about change, people watching, a frantic lady at the airport, and many other topics. This month, the theme of the prompt will be focusing on death and reflection. Feel free to be part of this month’s challenge, or any of the other mid-month short story challenges by responding to a prompt with your own tale.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on April 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: 1000-2000 words
  • Seven words to work into your story: Command, humbled, mental, family, chartreuse, merchant, bulbous
  • Genre: Your choice
  • Rating/Content Limitations: Your choice
  • Topic: You are a dying or recently deceased person. You are confronted — either literally or metaphorically — with the ghosts of your past.

How Did They Do?: 5 Things I Want To See in Brave Frontier 2

Back in October of last year, I wrote a post talking about five things I wanted to see in the newest version of Alim’s mobile game series, Brave Frontier. The original version of Brave Frontier is the best mobile game I’ve played ever, enough so that I once made the argument that it’s in my personal top ten video games that I’ve played1I don’t know that I’d keep my original list the same, particularly now that I’ve played Pokemon Black and Civilization VI, not to mention the original Brave Frontier’s regression as a game over the last 12 months. That said, those changes wouldn’t be enough to remove the original Brave Frontier from my top 10 list.. Last month, despite confusing release news coming out of Alim throughout the end of 2017, Alim released Brave Frontier 2 for Japanese audiences. A global (translated) port of the game has not yet been announced, but I did pick up the game2The game itself is free, but you can make in app purchases. in Japanese to play.

While this means I have no idea what’s going on in the main story, playing for the last couple of weeks allowed me to form some thoughts on the game specifically related to the things I was looking to see in my previous post. So how has Brave Frontier 2 done in terms of improving on Brave Frontier? Let’s look at the five items on my original list.

1. Top-tier evolutions available for all units

My suggestion: Implement a Fire Emblem: Heroes style system where all units get a top-tier evolution out of the gate, even if it takes a lot of time and resources to get to them.

What BF2 did: Brave Frontier 2’s evolution system is almost a weird hybrid between Fire Emblem: Heroes’ unlock potential system and the original Brave Frontier’s evolution system. While you still need fodder units for evolution in Brave Frontier 2, you don’t lose level progress when doing so. Additionally, every non-fodder unit does have a full, five-star evolution as of right now. That said, the original Brave Frontier started out this way too. I can give a grade on this, but it’s definitely one that’s partially incomplete one.

How BF2 did with this want: B, with the potential to go higher if fodder units get higher evolutions, but the potential to go much lower once they start releasing new units.

2. Eliminate the gacha system

My suggestion: Eliminate the gacha system by implementing a system where you pay for units with in-game currency.

What BF2 did: Eliminate the gacha system by implementing a system where you pay for non-fodder units with in-game currency. Fodder units still have a gacha system, but no resources of note go towards this system.

How BF2 did with this want: A. The fodder unit system remains from the original game, but it was the only gacha system of the game that received no notable complaints. The cost per unit is a little steep, but the unit bundles that Alim has released thus far look like they’ll offset this. Time to hoard gems3Brave Frontier 1 and 2’s in-game currency. in the event the chosen one’s batch shows up in Brave Frontier 2.

3. A better arena experience

My suggestion: Keep, or improve the speed of, regular arena mode while replacing Challenge Arena and Colosseum with a chain battle system similar to Fire Emblem: Heroes’ Arena Assault mode.

What BF2 did: Replaced all arena modes with an Arena Assault style mode, only a more hardcore version where you can’t pick new units after each round.

How BF2 did with this want: C-. Alim found the one way to make a chain challenge unenjoyable, all while removing a reliable way to get in-game rewards. It’s definitely a different experience, but it’s not a better one.

4. Reduce the number of social game features required for top-end rewards

My suggestion: Like the title says, reduce the amount of the game that requires having in-game friends/guilds to complete.

What BF2 did: No social features outside of equipping a friend unit in each map exist.

How BF2 did with this want: B+. I’ve never said this in a mobile game before, but Brave Frontier 2 actually needs slightly more social features. I’m not advocating for the return of guilds, but the ability to send items to friends would be nice. Add those in and this jumps to an A+.

5. Improve the build customization system

My suggestion: Extend Brave Frontier 1’s summoner customization mode — a feature not released until three years into the game — to all units from the game’s launch.

What BF2 did: Extended the summoner customization mode to one additional unit, Rin, but scaled the customization features back fairly significantly in the process.

How BF2 did with this want: D-. Seeing a second protagonist unit get the summoner treatment is good, and this grade could be slightly higher if I understood the story. That said, this game is supposed to be set around 20 years in the future, so you’d think weapon and summoner technology would have advanced. In that time, we’ve gotten…a knockoff of the Ember Celica…and that’s pretty much it.

What the Florida?

I just spent two weeks in Tampa for work. And…listen Florida…we need to talk about your wildlife and your food.

I’m not much of a nature person. Nature doesn’t have WiFi1Unless you’re in Minneapolis, apparently.. Why would you go outside where there’s not internet when you can be inside where there is internet? But sometimes, you go outside and you see neat things like this.

There was a motherfucking armadillo just chilling outside a building. Why? Apparently they’re native to the area. But…why is there just an armadillo that near people? It was a calm armadillo — it walked around this flower bed for a few minutes then went into hiding under one of the ferns. It’s pretty cool to see. That said, less than a mile away, there was a swamp, which meant lots of birds and possible alligator danger. And when I say swamp…

…I mean a swamp. Complete with birds pecking into the water to catch bugs. Fortunately, long necked birds and a handful of hyperactive squirrels were all I saw in the area. And, despite signs being posted in numerous places (including at work), there weren’t any alligators that I actually needed to beware of. In fact, the most alarming thing I encountered the entire time I was in Tampa was the food.

I love trying local food when I travel. I’ve found some fantastic places to eat when I’ve traveled, be it for work or otherwise. Want good barbecue? Go to Austin, Texas. Need a good Afghani restaurant in San Diego? I’ve got a place for you. Mouth-watering shaved ice on your mind for desert? The best place is in Sacramento. And of course the best pizza you’ll find is in Chicago.

If you want food in Tampa, I’m going to strongly recommend IHOP.

If you’re from the US2I know IHOP is in countries outside of the US, but the vast majority of its stores are here, so I am going to guess that is where most of you would have encountered it. , I know what you’re thinking right about now. IHOP is fine. It’s decent diner breakfast. They have great hash browns3Seriously though. IHOP is the only place I get hash browns from.. But to say IHOP is the best place to eat in an area either indicates that you’re really in the mood for pancakes or that the food in that area is terrible. In Tampa’s case, it’s the latter.

I try to order food for delivery most of the time when I’m travelling for work. Although I recognize it costs a bit more to have food delivered, it saves me having to rent a car or get a Lyft to somewhere just to have dinner. I’m glad I rented a car in Tampa, as every place I ordered delivery from took over 90 minutes to bring food to my hotel — even if the place was under two miles away. I get it on Friday and Saturday nights, but a random Wednesday night generally doesn’t have exceptionally long pizza delivery times4As a former pizza delivery driver, I can vouch for this..

As for going out to places, it was rare that I was able to find food that didn’t leave me feeling sick to my stomach afterward. I really wish I had an explanation for why Tampa’s food was so unpleasant to me, even when ignoring wait times. Yet everything I hate aside from IHOP tasted strange. Not strange as in uncommon to me, but strange as in just not good.

I realize this is very much a first world problem. I’m quite fortunate that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have, be it for work or otherwise. I guess my word of advice here is that if you have to go to Tampa for any reason, take a few minutes and pick up some groceries. Your dinner will be much better for it.

What are some of the worst food cities you’ve ever been to? What about the best ones?  Where’s the best place to eat in your hometown? Sound off in the comments.

Time Crunch

This post is a response to February 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.

Shit, shit, shit. I’m going to miss my plane. Why do they have to put the gates so far apart? I only have a half hour to make it all the way across the airport to the C terminal from the far end of the A terminal. I couldn’t have done that in my youth, let alone now.

Where’s the cart man? There’s always one around except when you need him. If I could only see past the aquarium that’s ahead of me. Who puts a giant fish tank in the middle of an airport? Is it supposed to be art? That’s not where fish live. I don’t care if it’s unorthodox or it’s kitschy. It’s an eyesore.

The lady at baggage check in Denver got all upset that my checked bag was over weight by one pound. One pound! She tried to make me pay for it. I wasn’t having that, not when I can wear all my hats on my head and put my handbag in my carry on. Oh the hubris of my morning self, always thinking I can do more when I have energy.  Two in the afternoon me hates that person and wants to give morning me a piece of my mind. At least there’s only three hats this time. Last trip it was four.

I ran by a baby in a stroller, my rolling bag careening perilously close to taking out the sleeping child. That’s the life. You get to lay and sleep in public whenever you want, all while having someone take care of you and watch for your safety. I don’t miss doing taking care of my children that way, even if I do miss their childhood. Pretty soon, I’ll have them take care of me. Not because I need it — you don’t run through airports at my age because you’re frail — but because I want to see the look on my daughter-in-law’s face when she has to regularly interact with anyone she sees as old. Selfish harlot. She only married my son for his money. Joke’s on her. He’s a compulsive gambler.

Up ahead, I see a cart. The man driving the cart is waiting as a woman in this lovely flower print shirt is slowly climbing onto the back of the cart. Her cane is dangling on the edge of the handrail of the cart, mere inches from falling to the ground. Fall! Fall you wooden trinket! It’ll keep the cart man from leaving until I get up there.

The cane didn’t fall. I start waving my left arm frantically as I drag by bag with the right.

“Cart!” I yell. “Don’t go! I need a ride!”

My top hat comes flying off my head as I pass an open seating restaurant. The brim lands directly in the middle of a pregnant woman’s fruit plate, knocking her assorted berries to the floor. At this point, I have a choice to make. Do I go back for the hat and miss my cart or do I keep running forward and leave the mom-to-be with my good sun hat? While time suggests I should ignore the hat and keep going, the data behind how infrequently my family calls me would dictate that my kids can pay to rebook my flight if I miss it and they really want to see me.

I slow down and turn around, running back to grab the hat. The woman has the hat extended out to me in advance, fully seeing that I’m in a hurry to go somewhere. If she knew I was going to South Carolina, perhaps she’d be inclined to help me avoid the trip.

When I turned around, the cart had begun moving. I shouted after it, but the cart driver didn’t hear me. The lady on the back of the cart did. She turned and looked at the cart driver, then turned back to me, raised her wrinkly arm to the sky, and flipped me the bird.

I need a drink. Family can wait.