As people who have been with me for a long time know, each year I write a new Christmas short story as a little gift for those who’ve stayed with me this long. This year’s tale came to me as I was on my way to a little Christmas Tree farm in Mississippi with my wife and my sister’s family. It’s about a little girl and different kind of tree. And as of right now (Christmas Eve) it’s totally free for five days! Roll over to Amazon.com and get this year’s story for your Kindle or Kindle app.
Longtime readers of mine know that I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo, alias National Novel Writing Month, which is held every November. The challenge, for those who choose to accept it, is to write an entire 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. I have participated many times, and all but once I made the 50K mark in time. Unfortunately, several of those attempts fizzled out after the 50K mark and the stories never wrapped, but you can still see some of my November efforts in print. My novels The Pyrite Warand Opening Night of the Dead, as well as the title story in my holiday anthology A Long November and Other Tales of Christmasall began life as NaNoWriMo projects.
I know some people — some writers whom I have great admiration for — are very down on the concept of NaNoWriMo. They see it as a crutch, and they think people truly dedicated to the craft of writing should do so without it. While I respect their opinions, I must disagree. I’ve always found NaNoWriMo to be an excellent motivator, a chance to force yourself to action, secure in the knowledge that thousands of others are doing the same. To me, that somehow removes a little of the existential terror that comes with staring at the blank page. Just knowing you aren’t alone makes it better.
This year, however, I have a confession to make. I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense. While I still believe in it, this year I find myself without a new project ready to work on. I don’t have any ideas fully formed enough to begin work at the stroke of midnight, as I have done so many times. What’s more, I’ve got several other projects in various stages of completion, and it seems almost unfaithful of me to start something new while these other things flounder.
So while I will not be kicking off a new project at 12 a.m., I will be using November to write. Actually, I’ll be using it to edit at first. Tomorrow I’m going to dive into the novel I began last year for NaNoWriMo, a work that I was immensely proud of, but that fell by the wayside as I did rewrites for my play The 3-D Radio Show (and special bonus cool points for those of you who saw those performances last spring) and that I never got around to finishing. And seeing as how that book is intended as the first in a trilogy, it really seems to me that I should get off my ass and get back to it.
Those of you who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, more power to you. I’ll be sending out all the moral support I can. As for me, I’ll be diving back into the adventures of Jenna, Ellie, Reggie, Colm, and their many-limbed friend as they try desperately to find something that belongs to them anyway. It’s an interesting story. It’s surprised me several times so far.
We are the people of Louisiana, and we have been here before.
We have seen the waters rise and we have watched people run. We have seen children on roofs, pets swimming for safety, houses ruined, and the effects of a lifetime destroyed. We have waited in traffic for hours or days, and we have seen cars submerged in water in their own driveways. We have seen the shadow of years of recovery and felt the sting that comes with wondering how we will afford doing it.
We have also pulled our boats to the edge of the water, together, and set out to help whoever we could. Those of us with no boats have collected food, and clothes, and Lysol, and brought them to where the water meets the land, ready to go in. We have pulled puppies into pirouges, flooded high schools with survivors, and rolled up our sleeves to begin cleaning up.
We are not surprised when the media ignores us, because we do not supply them with an easy narrative or an enticing sound byte. We are not shooting each other, or rioting, or looting. And it’s not just because everything worth looting is underwater, either. It’s because we take care of our own. When a motorboat approaches a stranded family on a rooftop, nobody is looking at race, nobody cares about religion, nobody asks who the other person is voting for in November, and it doesn’t matter if that roof sits atop a mansion or a prefab trailer. We see only a neighbor who needs help. We know these things are not about class until somebody decides to make it that way, and we cannot cooperate with that person again.
We will shake our heads and laugh when, inevitably, someone will write an op-ed piece asking why anyone would live in a place where “such a thing can happen,” then completely miss the irony as they go to sleep in a city that could be broken in half by an earthquake tomorrow.
We live in a place where “such a thing can happen” because it is our home. And it is not our home because we were born here (not all of us who call it home were) or because we have lived here all our lives (not all of us who call it home still do). It is not home because it is where we hunt and fish (but we do). It is not home because it has the best food and the best music in America (although this, too, is true). We call this our home because when the rains fall and the water rise, we don’t wait for the government to decide we’re worthy of aid, and we don’t wait for a candidate to decide to finally tweet about our circumstances.
We are the people of Louisiana, and we take care of our own. And when this happens again, and the waters rise, and if next time it flows into homes that stayed dry the last time, we know our neighbors — our family — will take out their boats and start collecting food and find us shelter and be there for us, just as we were there for them.
I’ve never played a Pokémon game. I don’t say this with any sort of value judgment or as an elitist point, I’m just trying to give you a baseline for what I’m about to talk about. I never played the card game, I’ve never owned any handheld unit like a Game Boy or any of its many successors, and I haven’t had a console since the Sega Genesis. I’ve watched a few episodes of one of the cartoons (the first one, I think, from the 90s, which was on before or after something I wanted to watch and I was too lazy to change the channel), and I saw the first movie in the theater because a buddy of mine wanted to see it and paid for a bunch of us to go with him so he didn’t have to go alone. I don’t remember much about the film, but I remember being glad I hadn’t paid for it.
I say all this so that you understand, I didn’t have any real interest when they released Pokémon Go a few days ago. I thought the furor was mildly amusing, cracked a few jokes about it, I figured it would die down. But people kept talking, and some of the things I was hearing were intriguing. And then — and this was my downfall — my wife and brother both started playing the game, and there’s no way I was going to let either of them show me up.
I assume by now most of you reading this, like 95 percent of the civilized world, have played the game and don’t need me to explain what it is. But let me explain why, in just a few days, I think it’s become so damned addictive. I know it’s not a groundbreaking concept — the Augmented Reality Game has been around in one form or another for quite some time, and I’m told that Pokémon Go itself is built on the framework of an earlier game called Ingress. The popularity of the preexisting franchise, however, gave this one a major boost and put it in the hands not only of those who already loved the previous Pokémon games, but also people like myself, who have never really dealt with them before.
Much has been said about the fact that the game forces people to go out into the real world and hunt for Pokémon — in essence, this is a mobile phone game that is tricking people into exercising. Let’s face it, guys, exercising sucks. I totally respect anyone who has the willpower to go out there and do it every day, but I look at them a little sideways when they talk about how great it feels. I exercise–
(Hold on a second, there’s a Bulbasaur in here.)
As I was saying, I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should, but when I do it, I do it because I know I have to, not because it feels good to go outside in 95-degree heat, walk a mile or two, and then walk home for no apparent reason. This game, this ridiculous game, is giving people a reason to do it. Granted, one would think that improved health would be motivation enough, but clearly it isn’t, not for a hell of a lot of us.
There’s also a social aspect. Since there are people trying to capture the same Pokémon as everyone else, you’re going out and interacting with people. Naturally, there’s a degree of stranger danger to be wary of, there have already been a few news reports about people using the game to lure people and rob them, and for God’s sake, did you hear about that poor girl who was hunting water Pokémon down by the creek and found a dead body? But if you don’t go chasing your Pokémon down any dark alleys, you’ll probably be okay. I’ve seen people playing this game at the mall, walking down the sidewalk… two nights ago Erin and I were at a bar for dinner and to watch the Pirates game, and I heard a girl at a table behind us shout, “He’s just a little bat! He’s just flying there! Don’t pick on him!” (The bar was infested with Zubats, I should have mentioned that.)
And oddly enough — here’s one I haven’t heard too many people discuss — there’s a bizarre community aspect to the game as well. I have no idea how the developers of this game decided on the spots for the Pokéstations and Gyms, but they all correspond to real-world landmarks: buildings, churches, police stations, monuments, works of art. In the Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, there are at least four separate Pokéstations corresponding to murals or sculptures, some of which I’ve never noticed before even though I’ve been to that mall a dozen times since I met my Monroeville-native wife. We’re in Pittsburgh right now visiting family, but I’m actually really anxious to get back home to the New Orleans area to see what spots were chosen down there. This game is making people learn about their community as well.
I’m not claiming I’ll ever be a master at this game. I still don’t know exactly what the hell I’m supposed to be doing, other than catching the Pokémon and getting more balls to enable myself to catch still more Pokémon. When I reached Level Five I wound up on the Red Team, and I have no idea what that means except that my friend Kenny joined the Yellow Team, so I presumably have to beat him with a sack full of rusty doorknobs the next time I see him.
(Wait, there’s one on my laptop…)
But somehow, this game landed at exactly the right time. Turning on the news for the past few weeks has been nothing but misery: violence and hatred and the Zika virus and for some reason Fox is still trying to make a Gambit movie… everything horrible about the world has been shoved into our faces. And that’s just globally. Personally, we’ve had family issues we’ve been trying to get resolved (no, I won’t be more specific, but good thoughts and prayers are appreciated) that have put my wife under serious stress over the last few days. This preposterous and unlikely game has been a rare bright spot, something fun and silly that you can use to take your mind off things for a moment no matter where you are.
It’s not perfect, I know. The first time I see some jerk trying to catch Pokémon in a movie theater I’ll want to shove a Jigglypuff up his ass, and I already am preparing a script for what I’m going to say when school starts again and I have students trying to chase around a Squirtle in my classroom. But for now, when it really matters quite a bit…
…it’s a nice, necessary diversion.
I know a few people — friends, even — who have a sincere hatred for the whole Pokémon concept and will likely mock me for even downloading it. I don’t care. I’m into plenty enough nerdy things that I have no right to pick on someone for this game even if I wasn’t playing it. But as a player, I’m enjoying myself, and in a better way than so many other games.
I’ll be back early next week with a longer post talking about my experiences here in Sulphur for BayouCon 2016, but with one day left, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the many fine folks I’ve talked to in the first two days.
I’ve sold some books, I’ve given out lots of bookmarks, and this afternoon I co-hosted a panel on world-building in a novel series along with horror author Alexander Brown. (I think that was some of the most fun I’ve had here — I talk about books and movies and TV shows all the time, but it’s rare that I actually get the chance to discuss my process and how I write.)
For those of you who got the address of this website from one of my bookmarks and want to know what I’m all about, here are the two most important links you can have. First, my Facebook Author’s Page. I update it frequently, any time I’ve got something worth sharing with people, from a new book to a new episode of my podcast. The other link is the Buy Blake’s Work page on this very site. This page features all of my work that is currently available, including all five of the books you saw on my table, plus lots of other stuff that’s only available in eBook format.
Enjoy the last day of the con on Sunday, come on over and say hello, and I’ll be back with more BayouCon thoughts next week.
Hello friends, old and new, and welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com. After several years at my old blog, I decided it was time for a new coat of paint, time to make things a little spiffier for a new era of (hopefully) new readers. In fact, I’m launching the new site now in order to get ahead of the folks I anticipate meeting this weekend at Bayoucon. (More on that later.)
New readers — howdy! I’m Blake M. Petit, author of the novels and short stories in the worlds of Siegel City and The Curtain, as well as a lot of other stuff. All of it is available right now, by the way, by clicking on the “Buy Blake’s Work” link at the top of this page. I’m also a high school English teacher, member of the board of directors at my local community theater, podcaster, and all-around geek. All of these things will be blatantly obvious if you stick around.
Old readers, any time I’ve got big news, announcements, or a major release coming up, it will be featured right here. Also, in the past, you’ve found my ruminations all over the internet. Now they’re mainly concentrated in three places: here, my movie blog Reel to Reel Movies, and the blog for my podcast and comic book discussion, All New Showcase. And if, for some reason, you really want to poke around at the content in my old blog, don’t worry, it’s still there. I’ve kept the old Evertime Realms page archived, trapped in internet amber, as it were.
As I mentioned before, I’m going to be at Bayoucon this weekend, June 24-26 in Sulfur, Louisiana. I’ll be part of a panel about world-building (Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Cypress Room), and my wife Erin and I will be there all weekend selling and signing copies of my novels and giving out bookmarks and high-fives. If you’re in the area, please, come on by and say hello!
That about does it for now, I suppose. I’ll be back early next week with thoughts and pictures from the convention. In the meantime, poke around at the links on this page and see what’s what.