I Won’t Succumb

I may not have all that I’m after,
Or live a life of too much laughter,
And I may not know quite what to say,
But I am what I am, and I’m here today.

I used to think I knew it all,
And now I feel twelve inches tall.
I’m lost, alone, but I’m looking ahead;
Better that than where I could be instead.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not trying.
Sometimes I spend the whole day crying.
Wishing that things could change
Wishing I wasn’t so strange.

I may be sad but I won’t succumb
‘Cause I know that my brain is dumb.
I will be happy, will find peace.
One day these doubts will finally cease.

Mr. Moose

(I heard this song and had to use it in a story. Happy Holidays. Stay safe.)

“Alright, Mr. Moose. Now that you’ve got eyes I need you to tell me where your arms are.”

Mr. Moose stared at the girl with vacant, stone-cold eyes. He kept his secrets.

“You’re not gonna be very good at hide-and-seek if you don’t have arms, Mr. Moose. Ah! Here’s one. It even has three whole fingers, look at that!”

Ellie stuck the arm back on with a soft squishing sound, frowned in thought, then made some minor adjustments.

As she worked, one eye plopped off and fell into the snow.

“Hey! Mr. Moose,” she complained, picking the rock up and stuffing it back onto his head, “if you don’t hold still we’re never gonna get to play hide-and-seek!”

“Maybe Mr. Moose is trying to tell you something.”

Ellie turned around to see Linden trudging a new path as he approached up the hill.

“Go away,” Ellie huffed, getting back to work looking for a second arm for Mr. Moose. “Mr. Moose is my only friend.”

“Ellie, you have to come back home, you’ll catch a cold out here,” Linden said. “You’re not even wearing your snowshoes.”

“I don’t need snowshoes,” she explained. “Mr. Moose doesn’t even have any shoes, and he’s fine.” Linden didn’t understand. She wasn’t going back home. Not ever.

“Would you refuse a coat?” he offered, already pulling it off now that he was close.

Ellie put Mr. Moose in between the two of them.

“You’re not gonna throw it at me and haul me away from my new friend, are you?”

“No, Ellie. I’ll even help you finish Mr. Moose if you would like me to.”

She considered that. She held her hand out and Linden handed her the coat, which was practically a blanket on her. The warmth was nice.

“All the best arms are up in the trees,” she explained, wrapping herself as much as possible. “He needs one with at least three fingers.”

Linden nodded and set about looking for an arm for Mr. Moose. Ellie refused the first three he offered, but the fourth one did the job. After that was done, she had a few more tasks for Linden to get Mr. Moose as perfect as he could be, and Ellie had a new huggable friend.

“He promised we’d play hide-and-seek once I finished him,” Ellie said.

Linden sighed. “Maybe we can play hide-and-seek with him tomorrow. Your face is turning blue.”

“You’re right. Hide-and-seek is no fun with only two people. We have to make a whole army of snowmen.”

“Ellie, why won’t you just come home?”

She buried her face in the coat a little bit. “I’m not telling.”

“Is this about what happened with Mom and Max?”

“I’m not telling,” she repeated.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Linden said, getting up. “Maybe you should talk to Mr. Moose about it.”

He walked a ways toward the trees and hid just out of sight of her. Ellie knew he was still there, of course, and was still close enough to hear, but Linden always knew just what to do.

She looked at Mr. Moose and blew out a chilly breath. He stared back at her, but somehow his eyes weren’t as vacant as before. “To be honest, Mr. Moose. I didn’t think anyone would notice I left. Nobody wants to play hide-and-seek. Or make snowmen. It’s always ‘Sorry, Ellie. Grown-ups only’ or ‘Maybe later, Ellie, Mommy’s busy’. I thought maybe if I went up the mountain I could find a new family. Maybe of snowmen. And they’d want to play hide-and-seek all the time and everything would be great.”

She patted Mr. Moose’s head. “But I didn’t find anyone so that’s why you’re here.”

“But then you’d never see Mom again. Or Linden. Or Max.”

Mr. Moose apparently had Linden’s voice.

“If they wanted to they would come find me with my new snowman family.”

“One of them did come to find you.”

Ellie frowned. “True. But I’m still mad at them. Maybe not Linden so much.”

“What if I told you that everyone’s come looking for you?”

“That’s dumb,” Ellie said. “Plus how would you know that, you’re a snowman.”

Linden came back out from behind the trees and sat next to Mr. Moose so that he was eye-level with Ellie. “I’m sorry we haven’t been there for you, Ellie. Sometimes grown-ups make mistakes, too. How about we find the others and have Mr. Moose tell them what you told him, okay? Would you like that?”

“Mom would be mad,” Ellie mumbled.

“She won’t be mad,” Linden said. “In fact, I think she’ll be so happy to see you back that she’ll make us all some hot chocolate. And I bet you’ll get the most marshmallows, too.”

Just then, Ellie realized how cold she still was, even with Linden’s coat.

She waddled over to him and, still wearing it, wrapped Linden in the coat and a hug as best she could so they could both share.

“Marshmallows today. Hide-and-seek tomorrow,” Ellie said. “Promise?”


Me — Retiring the Blog

Hey, folks.

I’ll be brief. I’m working six days a week at the moment, and other obligations occupy my evenings on every one of those nights. I only have one day a week to sit down and breathe, and, well, I’d like to use it to breathe.

This seems to be happening more and more often as I’ve populated my life with the things I enjoy doing, and so weekly blog posts have gotten fewer and further between, with posts being published late more and more often. Beyond that, I don’t feel like I ever have much to say on a weekly basis, because the things that have been on my mind don’t need to be publicized and etched into the eternity that is the internet.

The blog turned four years old a couple days ago (on February 20th). This is the 749th blog post. Not including this post, we sit here, 557,438 (about 7 typical novels) later, looking back at it all. The Daily Dose has received nearly 10,000 unique visitors, and I’ve started and shelved, well, quite a few projects.

  • Since then, I got my driver’s license.
  • I joined a writer’s group.
  • I lost a cat I cared very much for.
  • I self-published my first book.
  • I got my first real computer.
  • I started my foray’s into being a dungeon master, and have since created what I feel is a living, breathing world.
  • I’ve left the state more often in the last two years than the rest of my life combined.
  • I joined a passion project I continue to work hard on.
  • I attained two Associate’s Degrees.
  • I got my first real car.
  • And recently, I started working out and have gotten very good results.

And this is just the stuff I’m comfortable sharing. I started the Daily Dose because I called myself a writer and felt like I was lying to myself because I rarely wrote anything. My first post was titled “I Will Become”, because I wanted to be somebody comfortable wearing the title I gave myself.

And now, I am. I know story beats and story structure better than almost anyone I know. Certainly better than most non-writers. I’ve met some amazingly talented people. Read—and wrote!—better tales than I could have imagined. I still hope that one day I can bring the stories I tell to a wider audience, and I have a lot of faith that the passion project will be what gets me there.

I will still write. I think about my stories—my D&D campaign and the passion project mostly—every day. I’m constantly writing notes and reiterating on the tales I want to tell through the worlds I’m creating. This is who I am. A worldbuilder.

I don’t have much else to say, really. I started this blog so I wouldn’t feel like a liar when I called myself a writer. I achieved a lot since then, and I think a good portion of it was because I developed the muscle that allowed me to just… write. Would my life be significantly different if I never started this blog? Probably not, to be honest. But four years later I’ve written the equivalent of seven novels just by… writing 500 words every other day. It adds up really quick.

So this isn’t goodbye. I’ll still post every so often. But this is a termination of a promised consistency. I’ll still be easy to get in touch with, and I hope you do should ever you have reason to.

Till next time,
Kasey Cooley

Life — Feb ’20 Monthly Update

The trek towards healthier living continues, but for good or for ill, I don’t have much to say about it other than to point out the fact that gradual progress is so difficult to see on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes I feel like I’m making no progress at all.

The Monthly Update Topic Order™: blog, writing plans, work, D&D, video games, reading/listening, and other things.

As you can probably tell, twice a week has been tricky for me, but I’m doing it, even if I’m several a couple hours late to most posts. I’m trying to tackle a lot of projects right now, so since my blog isn’t my main focus, I will attempt to allow myself to be more okay with skipping days. Occasionally posting a second time a week is still better than mostly posting only once a week! (Don’t know why I phrased it that way but whatever.)

In the next few months I will be devoting most of my writing focus to the passion project. Things are looking good, even if the stuff we’re making is slow and takes time. I’m still optimistic about a public Patreon going up this year.

Work has been… trying. Alright, but trying. That’s all I’ll say for now, but there’s possible news on the horizon.

D&D has been a blast. My brother has began his journey as a dungeon master and has been doing a great job! It’s pretty obvious to me that I am the weakest encounter builder among the three of us that have DM’d so far (or at least I will be once this brother actually knows what he’s doing), but hey, we all have our strengths. I also have been loving my Monk/Paladin. Rolling 8d20 and scoring critical hits on a 19 means I, theoretically, will crit at least once on more than 50% of my turns. In practice… well, I don’t usually roll above 10. Which is amazing because I roll so many dice on this character. I guess my character is so cool the dice gods decided to punish me.

Nothing to say on video games: I’ve been playing WoW mostly, as will probably always be the case in the foreseeable future. Also playing Heroes of the Storm here and there, and am very excited for the new Animal Crossing game in March.

I have only been listening to Critical Role as far as media goes, and even that I’m starting to fall behind on, but I hope to start a dedicated Dresden Files reread in the near future in preparation for Peace Talks!

And lastly, my resolutions. I’ve been trying to get up early to work out before work. It’s been going well, and I’m trying to eat more alongside that to gain weight. So far, by conservative estimations I’ve gained about 6 pounds, which is good progress! I’m not even a third of the way to my goal, but I’d be pretty shocked if I hit my goal by May anyway, so there’s that. For reference, my strict goal is 150 pounds, but I’d like to hit 165 eventually. I started tracking my weight a couple days into the trek, but my first weighs were about 128.

In other news, I’ve started seeing a therapist, and overall, I think I’m making the strides I need to to make 2020 a good year for me. Hopefully the first of many.

D&D — How to Make Interesting Player Characters

A couple of friends have asked me recently (for different an unrelated campaigns, even) about how I make a player character that I am excited to play. It’s worth noting that they were relatively inexperienced, and while they knew what D&D is and how to play, they didn’t have enough experience to know their options and how to capitalize on them for maximum anticipation. I’ve talked about this a bit, but haven’t made a full blog post about it, so here it is, oh friends of mine from the future that have asked me this same question.

That said, this guide will be geared towards those players. I would say the majority of people who play D&D regularly as a hobby tend to have a backlog of possible characters they would like to play and are simply waiting for the opportunity to pull them out (like me). Even if that is the case, though, maybe they’re not as fleshed out as they could be, and this guide will help you learn more about that cool idea.

Here we go.

Step One: Identify your Rule of Cool. This can be anything. Maybe your cool thing is casting spells on your enemy to make them think you’re their friend. Maybe it’s the too-cool-for-school rogue that only feels happy when she’s stabbing somebody. Maybe it’s a backstory, like your parents were murdered by birds and now you are on a quest to kill every bird for revenge. It doesn’t matter what it is, just search deep inside your soul and find the answer to the question “How do I achieve maximum coolness?” because everyone should be able to feel cool when playing their heroes.

  • To follow along with an example of my own characters, one of my Rule of Cool things was that I wanted to play a Lawful Evil character. Somebody that is selfish and manipulative, but still helps the party. (We’ll get to that part.)

Step Two: Identify how your Rule of Cool manifests. How much of that thing is narrative, and how much of it is actually gameplay mechanics? Wanting to murder every bird is narrative, because it doesn’t have any influence on what race or class you are. Wanting to mind control all your enemies does inform your class, though. You’d be hard-pressed to make a barbarian whose main purpose in combat is to mind control, for example. Once you figure this out, you can more easily identify what parts of your character you still need to figure out.

  • My Lawful Evil character was a dark elf, or a drow, because in most common lore, dark elves are lawful evil. So this Rule of Cool informed race, which helps inform backstory, but there is no hint of class yet.

Step Three: Find the ‘But’. This is the critical point in which your cool idea becomes an interesting and nuanced character. The idea here is to fill out the rest of your basic character concept with something that significantly contrasts your Rule of Cool idea. Maybe your mind control character is a big dumb goliath. Maybe the guy that wants to kill all birds is, secretly, a bird. Maybe your edgy rogue character secretly just wants to be loved. It doesn’t have to make sense (yet), it just has to be interesting enough to get you interested.

  • My drow still didn’t have a class here, so that’s what I used for the ‘But’. Lawful Evil drow? What if he’s a bard that sings songs and inspires people around him? How does that work?

And now for Step 4: Use those two mismatching ideas, and find a way to make it work. This will pretty much always tell you the basics of their backstory and make filling out details easy. How did this dumb goliath get mind control powers? Why did your edgy rogue turn to stabbing people when really they’re just lonely? Why does a bird and his parents get attacked by other birds? The idea with the ‘But’ here is that it allows you to ask specific and direct questions that inspire their own answers. The Cool idea and the But idea should be mismatched in a way that asks these obvious questions.

  • How does a lawful evil drow become a bard? Easy, he found himself orphaned on the surface (for reasons that aren’t important so I don’t care yet) and was adopted by a nice noble family. They loved him and cherished him. Gave him an education and taught him music. He hated it, because he wanted to have a cruel, twisted life so that he could use that hatred to be edgy and drow-like. Instead, he had a cushy lifestyle he was too embarrassed to talk about. Which is a fun secret to keep from the rest of the party!

And you’re done! …ish. It’s important to note here that none of this process actually nails down anything concrete. It can, but really the point is to figure out all of the important basics for your character and then decide what you want later. Our friend that murders birds still doesn’t have a class, for example. Our mind controlling-goliath has a few different options regarding class. Our edgy rogue can still be any race, and there’s lots of room for growth and exploration regarding their backstory.

That’s pretty much it. Getting interested in your character is really just a matter of brainstorming the right questions and coming up with answers that add depth and dimension to your character. The specifics can always be more refined later.

Life — Looking at Your Progress

It’s so easy to look forward and see how much further you have to go. This is a thing I’m constantly struggling with. I have so much I want to do, and so little time to do it, that all my self imposed deadlines stress me out so much that I do nothing. I know it’s a problem a lot of people have, and for me, it gets to a point where I can never relax.

It’s partly because of this that I feel like I’m getting nowhere. I want to start painting minis (I’ve got dozens ready to go). I have two big editing projects that are on my to-do list (and Lisa Stenton isn’t even on that list anymore). I have three more writing projects waiting (patiently) in line to be started, even if they are small. I want to start looking for new job avenues, even if I already have a potential job offer. I want to start recording audiobooks for side cash. I’m going to start DMing Dungeons and Dragons again on a week-to-week basis. I also want to try to also fit in some more regular video game leisure time with my brother. And on top of all that I’m trying to gain weight, which means eating and exercising more. And that last one is the only one I’ve actually started doing consistently.

I look at all this and make the face that Simba does when he realizes there is a stampede coming right for him. ALL of those things, if I were to do them properly, would take several hours a week out of my schedule. If I’m being generous, I have 50 hours of free time I could put toward those goals. But that means getting up at 5am every day, and if I don’t do that, that number gets cut down to 32 a week. Still sizable, but that’s assuming eating takes no time out of my day and I get 100% of the weekend to myself.

Once these ideal numbers start being broken down to a realistic scale, it gets very daunting. I also have lots of things I want to be doing on Warcraft, and since that has no weight behind it, I find myself being drawn to that the most.

So, it’s easy to feel like I’m treading water, but then I look back just a month ago, when I was regularly fasting for lunch every day just to save money. Since then I’ve started weighing myself every day, eating more than I ever have in my life, and working out (outside of work) at least half an hour almost every day. It’s only been a month so it’s hard to pinpoint direct results, but if nothing else, I feel better about myself for putting in work and effort into a thing.

Maybe I am dealing with moderate amounts of stress every day. But that’s just because I’m putting too much weight on my own shoulders. The sooner I recognize how much I can carry, the sooner I can actually start lifting the weights appropriate for me.

Poem — Tea for Who?

I once thought that I knew who
I was put on this world to be,
But then I was thrust into a new view
And ’twas not my cup of tea.

To learn that you have never stood
Where you say you had grown up
Would mess with your head for good—
It sure overfilled my cup.

All those friends I thought I knew,
Had all just been a dream.
A clever reconstruction, brewed,
Though that place had no cream.

To push ahead, I know I should,
But still I want what never was.
Things are better now than childhood
But I want to scream—as the kettle does.

(Proud to say I slammed this out in 15 minutes, though the sloppy flow probably makes that glaringly obvious. It was an hour past my bedtime before I even started. Whoops.)

Prompt: https://www.deviantart.com/sandara/art/Tea-Party-800368122


Review — The Mandalorian

It’s been a while since I’ve actually reviewed something, and since I watched the whole first (and for now only) season of The Mandalorian in one sitting while staying home sick from work, I thought now would be a great time to talk about it, since it’s still fresh.

Since it is relatively new, though, this review will be completely spoiler-free. I was intending to add a spoiler-section at the bottom as I normally do, but my typical commentary went on long enough, and I didn’t feel I had much to add that required spoiling. So if you’d like to chat, feel free to comment and I’ll add spoiler tags if necessary.

My understanding is that everybody loves this show. It’s got everything from Space John Wick to Baby Yoda, what’s not to love? Well, I’ll tell you something contentious (to incentivize your reading): I thought the show was okay at best.

The biggest problem I had can be tied in a nice little bow, too. Every character the show told me to root for felt… edgy. The Mandolorian is the resident Batman/John Wick/whatever of Star Wars. So cool he never even takes off his helmet. He gets a pass because this is long-established Mandalorian lore, but I believe it is still worth mentioning. You have Cara Dune. Ex soldier and so awesome she can mop the floor with several guys at once ’cause she has a huge gun. You can tell she’s competent because our resident Batman likes her and wants to team up. You have Kuiil, who is so wise and obviously always right that you’ll be facepalming every single time the other characters don’t listen to what he has to say. And of course, you have Baby Yoda, who is so adorable that even when he’s being stupid you can’t help but ugly cry every time he’s on screen. And so on. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get the idea.

Tied to the concept of edgy characters, this show had a serious problem with presenting and solving problems to the character. Often, these problems would arise without warning, or worse, would be solved out of nowhere, or both!

It felt like everyone was cool stereotypes that had X amount of their #cool scenes, and only failed when the plot felt it was necessary for them to be less competent. Successes and sudden salvations felt unearned because the show taught me that success and failure alike cannot be predicted.

For example, in the very beginning, when Mando (which is a stupid abbreviation, given “Lando” is already a character) is fighting the blurrgs, he is suddenly attacked. He does not hear footsteps and has no inclination that danger is near. Interesting that a master bounty hunter failed to notice a huge primal beast. Then, in the same fight, he is saved, again without warning, by Kuiil. This is more forgivable, as Mando is a little preoccupied with possible death to notice a tiny man coming to his rescue (even if he is on another blurrg). The stakes feel weird in this scene because danger was both presented to and taken away from our hero without his input in the situation at all. He was just… there. If the actor had been replaced with a punching bag, the entire scene could have played out exactly the same way (given that blurrgs are a punching bag’s natural predator, of course). This scenario happened multiple times throughout the show, but this is the best example of it because it shows both problem and answer being solved suddenly, and in the same scene to boot.

How do you solve this? Easy. You present the characters, and the audience, with a problem that seems like there is no way out. Then, when the character makes a clever use of the resources they have available to win the day, that success feels earned. If the character notices a crumbling wall earlier that day and later uses that crumbling wall to get away from the bad guy, it turns into foreshadowing and makes our hero look more competent. When salvation comes out of nowhere, the opposite happens.

The show, as a whole, also does a poor job making me care. The Mandalorian protects the asset in a way that is—as the show tells us—uncharacteristic of somebody like him. This is fine, I have no problem with that concept, but it fails to tell me why I should believe he would do such a thing. Spoilers I won’t mention aside, character choices like this are important enough to at least hint at their root. Also, the Mandalorian has a very strange gauge for who he can and can’t trust. He implicitly trusts some strangers with the most valuable baby in the galaxy while he goes off to kill people, then doesn’t trust a droid who was practically designed to protect him. Now I know what you’re going to say. “But the plot! But the plot!” And I get it. The reason he doesn’t trust droids makes sense. My point is more that he trusts random people for no reason. Also, he doesn’t trust that protector droid, but in a previous episode he leaves the baby alone on his ship with a droid he knows even less.

Overall, though. It’s a great series and has some awesome moments. The scene where he gets trapped behind a door (and the way he gets out) is incredibly well done, and did a great job at making the Mandalorian feel awesome in ways other scenes failed. The Mandalorian Armorer very much feels like a “rest zone” in a video game where you come back to upgrade your gear, and while the armorer herself is pretty one-dimensional like the other characters, I couldn’t help but enjoy every minute of screen time she had. Maybe she was my edgy OC whereas the other characters simply didn’t vibe with me.

P.S. I thought the way they ended the season was weird, as they revealed a thing that seemed too important to throw into an “after credits” style scene, but after talking to my brother about it, he made a good point. You need something to tease the next season with, and revealing it earlier in the episode/season would have left nothing to be excited for for later.

Me — Building Progress by Months

So, one thing I’ve decided to do—perhaps even the defining thing—is pace myself by monthly goals. In the past, I’ve done things like “Read 50 books in a year” or even just “travel more” or “be more social”. The problem with those goals is that the first is easy to procrastinate and set yourself up for failure, and the second type is vague enough to be neglected and, eventually, forgotten. The challenge, supposedly, is to be strict enough to push yourself, but not to go over the deep end and burn yourself out without making any true progress.

What I’m doing this year solves both of those issues, and I think it’s fairly obvious what I mean by monthly goals. Specifically, I have the goal that I’m working on for this month, and that goal is intended to lead into the next step, which will be February’s goal. After that, I have ideas, but I’m not going to worry about what March’s goal will be until February hits.

Right now, in January, all I’m doing is forcing myself to really consider my dietary intake and get into the habit of looking at what I’m eating and tracking how I feel (weight, energy levels, etc). I’m also trying to build a routine of getting up at 5am to work out for 30-60 minutes (or else get some other form of productivity done), but since that isn’t the primary goal, I’m not beating myself up when I don’t accomplish it. That, as it turns out, is February’s goal, and I’m just trying to get a head start because I feel I’m doing a great job at eating more and better food as well as cataloging my progress. Right now I still feel that eating basically nothing is the “norm”, so the habit definitely isn’t there yet, but I’ve made good progress.

February will be all about building an actual workout routine instead of doing what I can when I feel like it, because the latter part of that statement means I don’t do a whole lot. My long term goal is to get to a point where nobody comments about my appearance at all. (Because society says it’s okay to call people skinny). So, in light of that, I’m going to try to gain anywhere between 30-50 pounds, which obviously won’t be easy with my habit of skipping lunch because it’s the cheapest option. I won’t try to achieve that in February. Just like this month, the goal is more about building routines and sticking to them than achieving deadlines and hitting targets.

I also want to start painting minis regularly, spending more time with my brothers, and recording audiobooks. Those are goals for future months. The current me has no idea how to fit any of that into the schedule, as I’m freaking out a bit struggling to get normal stuff done. Hopefully, built routines will allow me to have more energy and willpower to accomplish more with my days.

But I’d be foolish to try to do all of this at once, and I suggest and encourage you to build incremental goals like I’m doing. It’s working out great so far.