(Fiction Friday): Who Carries A Magic Ring And Wears A Designer Suit? Felix North!

The cover of Felix North

The newest entry into the Ash Falls Storyverse was released on Tuesday, with the introduction of Felix North.  Created by D.C. Golightly, Felix North follows a murder mystery from the bright lights of New York City all the way to the misty streets of Ash Falls.

The Renewal Of Magic

Quick, what do you think of when I say the word “wizard”? Bushy hair?Pointed hat? Long stick? Distant, inscrutable expression? Questionable motivations?

If I’ve hit on a few points of commonality with you here, it is because the idea of a wizard is so tied up in the tropes that have been created for us by folks like JRR Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and Terry Goodkind. But, what would a wizard in today’s world look like?

It was not a question that I had given any thought to, really. Wizards were not part of my “speculation” for Ash Falls when I created it. However, the mad scientists over at Fiction Vortex saw something a little clearer. Our CEO contacted me one day, saying only “I think you need to read this story.”

Intrigued, I read through D.C. Golightly’s character sketch. It was amazing! We had a bad-ass wizard in a bespoke suit. Wielding a type of magic I had never imagined, much less heard of. Working for a world-spanning shadowy organization. The possibilities were endless! My reply was succinct: “Yes, please.” It was too awesome of an opportunity to pass up.

I Didn’t Mean To Wreck The Train

The story Mr. Golightly has developed for us is amazing. It is filled with unexpected characters and unparalleled powers. The first line of Episode #1 says it all: “I hadn’t planned on wrecking the train when I woke up this morning.”

You know, it just sort of happened. I am such a powerful being that I can derail a commuter train by accident, in the course of my daily activities.

Yeah, that is the character of our protagonist, Felix North, in a nutshell.

I won’t drop any additional spoiler bombs on you, but the whole freaking storyline is like that. What happens when you uproot an astonishingly powerful person and drop him into the middle of Ash Falls? One man against the bastion of renewed gods and dark powers?

Exactly. Nothing good. At least not for the dark powers.

Head over to Fiction Vortex right now and download Episode #1 of Felix North. Why not? It’s currently free to download. Introduce yourself to a whole new kind of wizard, operating in a wholly different way from Gandalf or Allanon.

You won’t be disappointed.

Ash Falls Doesn’t Know What Is About To Hit It,

Jeremy

365 Days And 106 Pounds

One Year of Misdirected

Last March 9, I put up a very cautious and curiously despondent post called “The Internet Has Spoken.” It records my reaction to the surge in traffic that took place as soon as I announced my intention to move forward with bariatric surgery. I hadn’t expected so many people to be interested in the subject. Hesitantly, I was deciding to cover what happened as I went through the process. After all, Misdirected was a gaming blog, right?

Apparently, gaming was not nearly as interesting to people as weight loss.

A Weight Off My Shoulders (And Other Places)

We are 1 year later, and there is not a gaming article in sight here on Misdirected.

What is here are several hundred little glimpses into the life of a pair of bariatric surgery patients. Reading through a few of them, (I don’t have time to read them all this morning) I am struck by my tone. Kinda hopeful/kinda doubtful. Like “OMGIHOPETHISWORKS.” But, here’s what I am going to do when it doesn’t work out.

I had no experience with permanent weight loss back then. I would go through a cycle of attempting a new diet or exercise plan, losing some weight, then gaining it all back. Usually in a matter of two or three months. Eventually, I gave up. And ballooned up to 302 pounds as a result.

Twelve months after that blog post, I weigh 106 pounds less. I am in the gym 6 days out of 7, every week. Yesterday I walked to the gym, got on a treadmill for 30 minutes, then lifted weights. (Legs day. Argh.) Then I walked home. Later, I walked the dog for 30 minutes.

12 months ago my daily exercise consisted of walking the dog for 2 tenths of a mile.

In twenty minutes.

The Magic Eight-Ball

If you had asked me to predict back then where I would be today, I would have failed miserably.

I distinctly remember telling Dr. Tyner that my goal was to lose “around 50 pounds.” Hoping I wasn’t being too aggressive, too starry-eyed about the potential of bariatric surgery. His response: “We’ll have you under 200 in a year.”

I thought he was out of his mind.

Today, 8 months out from my surgery, I try to peer into the mists and see what might be waiting for me on March 9, 2018. My “honeymoon period” is ending, my weight is no longer crashing through the floor like a runaway elevator. I am having to work diligently to recover the pound and a half I gained back while Lor was on vacation.

But I am also planning on running a 5K in 2 short months. I intend to climb a 40-foot vertical wall this summer. Work continues on my Personal Trainer certification. We’re discussing hiking excursions, dance lessons, a bigger and more active dog that can run with us. (Sorry, Vixen!)

So, for next year…maybe a 10K? Maybe 185 pounds? Possibly publishing my book on bariatric surgery and lifestyle changes? It all sounds pretty implausible to me.

But, then again, so did losing 106 pounds.

If I Did It, You Can Do It,

Jeremy

Abs of (Melted) Steel

My discovery of Core Training

Our visit (and planned return) to Stone Age left me with one impression above all others. My “easy for beginners” weightlifting program that I have been on since December is no longer going to cut it. No, if I really want to try rock climbing, I am going to have to try something new. This is going to require an entirely different kind of strength training.

Shifting Gears

The routine I have been using was provided to me by JEfit.com. It is an “ease into it” kind of program, designed to get used to weightlifting. As a side effect, a regular workout schedule will also give the user the visual feedback most crave. Larger traps, bulging arms, and stacked quads should all result from several months of following this routine and a sensible diet.

Not a single person I saw hitting the walls at Stone Age met that description.

No one looked like they were getting ready to step onto the stage at the Olympic Weightlifting Trials. But quite a few looked like they were ready to get into the pool next to Michael Phelps or step onto the mat next to Simone Biles. Long, lean muscles from head to toe were the order of the day.

Apparently, I was going to have to start working more on “core training”.

Get Down To The Core Of The Matter

“Core Training” is a philosophy that focuses the majority of attention away from the extremities and gravitates towards the abdomen. An amazing percentage of our body’s muscles attach or originate at the trunk and flow from there.  Accordingly, core training places quite a bit of focus on the muscles of the abdomen, the obliques, and the back.

Now, my JEFit routine paid some attention to the back. But my abdomen work consisted of only one exercise: crunches. And my obliques? Yeah, no specialized exercise at all.

This is the same routine that had me doing 3 different exercises focusing on my biceps, mind you. Priorities were evident.

However, I have a secret weapon available: I am currently studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer. I decided to treat myself as my first client. Accordingly, I sat down with my textbooks and an anatomy reference to design a new program. One that would work on strengthing the muscles I would need to haul myself up a 40-foot wall. Instead of one that would make me look good in a tank top. First up: a hard focus on abs.

Oh My God, What Have I Done?

My new routine included 3 different “Ab-centric” exercises. Instead of the regular crunch, I was now doing a reverse crunch – angling upwards on an incline bench. I added a hanging leg lift and side planks as well. I managed to get through the whole routine successfully, then patted myself on the back. All seemed well.

Until I tried to sit up to get out of bed yesterday morning, that is.

I felt like I had been in a fistfight the night before. And lost. As I moved throughout the day, I was astonished by how many completely “normal” movements triggered my muscular soreness. Bending down to pick up the dog. Getting up and down from my chair in the office. Opening or closing doors. Hugging Lor, for goodness sake. Even breathing deeply served as a reminder that I had been previously ignoring whole groups of muscles during my workouts.

And that is sort of the point, really. There are only so many “real-life” applications to using your biceps exclusively. Holding a bucket off the floor, maybe. But darn near every movement I make engages these core muscles. There is apparently something to this core training thing, after all.

I just wish it wasn’t so uncomfortable to breathe.

Taking Shallow Breaths,

Jeremy

40 Feet To Freedom

The Main Climbing Room at Stone Age Gym
Image Courtesy of Stone Age Climbing Gym

As you continue going through the changes that accompany bariatric surgery, a certain feeling grips you. Not necessarily discontent, it is more like curiosity. You wonder about wearing that next size down, walking further than before, taking up a new hobby.

Or, in my case, putting aside safety and sanity in the name of pushing the envelope.

Deep Sleep, Interrupted

Do any of you have that one friend who calls you out of the blue and says things like “Let’s go to Mexico?” Or maybe “Let’s quit out jobs and open a B&B on the coast?”

That was me, Saturday morning, waking up and Lor and saying “Let’s go check out that Stone Age Gym today!”

Now, we have been hikers and campers for a long time. And a certain amount of wilderness adventuring involves getting up and over obstructions. But we’re talking about a whole different ball of wax here. Those maniacs that climb straight up mountain tops across the country, maybe sleeping in tiny hammocks dangling thousands of feet above the ground? Those are the folks that hang out at Stone Age.

Lor is an adventurer at heart, though. After waking up enough to form a coherent sentence, she agreed to go check the place out later in the day.

Where Do Ideas Come From?

Who knows where I got the idea to try indoor climbing from. We drive by the Stone Age facility pretty much every time we head down I-40, and I have always speculated about what lies inside that 5-story building. Somewhere a mental line was crossed, and my idle curiosity became a burning need to know.

Since they didn’t even open until 11, I was forced to spend the morning waiting. Wisely, Lor hauled us out to hit garage sales for the morning. She found some decent deals, but I was unable to focus. I was more like a kid on Christmas Eve, all aflutter and wanting to get in bed so that it would be Christmas morning.

When the hour finally struck, I was so excited that I paid no attention to my surroundings. As a result, we wound up walking away from the main entrance, and all the way around the 24,000-foot building before coming back to the main entrance, a few spaces away from our car. Nerves, I guess.

Interior Elevation

Once inside the gym, you can’t help looking up. And up. And up. The main room is what you see in the picture above: a cavernous space filled with climbing walls climbing 45 feet to the ceiling.

And there were fearless people everywhere in this room, dangling from ropes and being belayed by partners on the ground. It began to occur to me that I might have bitten off more than I could chew here. I can barely tie my shoes on a good day. How the heck would I manage a rope that keeps Lor from plummeting 40+ feet to the (admittedly padded) floor?

Fortunately, that is not all there is to the facility. There are other rooms with shorter walls equipped with “auto-belays” – mechanical contraptions that do the belaying work for you. If something goes wrong, the device lowers you to the ground – you are not at the mercy of the knotting skills of someone who was never a Boy Scout.

Elevation Motivation

A helpful staffer (whose name I have totally forgotten) walked us around the place. 3 big rooms, filled with climbing routes and “bouldering” possibilities. Some rooms with auto-belays, another where you were using ropes and a partner on the ground. Plenty of smaller features, being climbed by fearless children. There were even features like a yoga room, a gym, and a gear shop. This was an extensive operation.

Looking around the place, though, I noticed one common theme. These people were fit. Like in really, really good shape. Now, Lor and I are both down 100 pounds each, but most of the people working these walls were long ropes of muscles from their heads to their toes.

But there was no posing, no posturing, no air of intimidation. The place was filled with families with kids, couples working out together, friends hitting the walls instead of getting a couple beers. It was simply that the musculature was a side effect of the hobby. Watching a woman dangling by her fingertips 30 feet off the floor, I had to admit that strength training sure looked like a requirement, not an option.

This was going to require some thought and some planning.

Reconnaissance Complete

We departed with some additional information and a price sheet, full of excitement and speculation. This was going to require some fancy footwork on our part to afford our first “real” visit. Needing time to save was ok, though, because we were going to have to make some significant changes to our current workout routines before we tackled any of these walls.

We now have a second “Bucket List” motivator for our new bodies. The 5K Run For The Zoo is coming up in only 2 short months, and now beyond that: a trip back to Stone Age, to get some training and tackle a climbing wall.

Just, one with an auto-belay. Because, you know, knots.

Plotting My Ascent,

Jeremy

 

(Fiction Friday): Fiction Vortex and Patreon Updates!

Fiction Vortex and Patreon Updates for March

As you might have heard during last month’s marketing blitz, Ash Falls is live! Fiction Vortex opened access to the dark fantasy setting with the release of Episode One of Inheritance, written by yours truly, on Tuesday, February 28.

Where Do We Go From Here?

For the next 5 weeks, first episodes from all of our Ash Falls storylines will be released. Every Tuesday will bring a new Episode One from a new author, with next Tuesday being the release of Felix North, by D.C. Golightly:

Felix North Cover Art

Each of these first episodes will be free to download, so there is really no reason to not pick up every single one of them as they come out! Following the cycle of the first 5 weeks of episode #1 releases, we will reload with Episode #2 of Inheritance on April 4.

And the cycle will continue until all ten episodes across all 5 stories are complete.  At the end of the process, we will have released about half a million words across 5 different storylines.

Let that number sink in for a second.

Plenty of other activity taking place in Fiction Vortex these days as well. Our “swords and sorcery” storyverse, Of Metal And Magic, will be releasing later this year, for those that prefer their stories a little more fantastical. And, you know, not all dark and urban like Inheritance. Tastes vary, I understand.

There is no judgment here.

The Patreon Train Rolls On

In other news, Patreon is still going full steam. This month your support has provided Misdirected with a new suite of tools including the writer’s software Scrivener. Scrivener has been invaluable in putting together my outlines and references for my upcoming book on Epilepsy. Thank you to our Patrons for providing us with the ability to purchase it. Otherwise, I would still be digging through my stack of notebooks, trying to find that one idea or reference. Seriously, only through your support are we going to get these projects done in anything resembling a reasonable timeframe.

If you are getting some value out of Misdirected, please consider becoming a Patron. We have several hundred unique readers every month here. If every single reader were to sign up at only a buck a month, we would instantly realize several funding goals. We could then move forward into our next form of communication: podcasting. I am seriously looking forward to meeting that funding goal, as I have become somewhat of a podcast addict myself. And, I can tell you this: there is currently no such thing as a husband/wife podcast talking about the bariatric surgery experience. You would be part of a unique experience!

If you have a dollar a month lying around not doing anything, consider signing up as a Patron.  You can get more information here.

That’s it for this week! If you haven’t already, make sure you go grab your free copy of Inheritance, Episode One. After you read it, let me know what you think!

Basking In The New Author Radiation,

Jeremy