Author Archives: Brandon M Lindsay

Writing Spaces

A Capsule Hotel
A Capsule Hotel

When I moved to Tokyo late last year, I expected some things in my life were going to change.

Among the more obvious changes were the fact that I would look vastly different from everyone else, sometimes enough to warrant a long, uncomfortable stare, as well as being functionally illiterate. Then of course there was the living situation, the job, the food, the language, the lack of a car, the weather, the… well, pretty much everything.

One thing I thought wouldn’t change, however, was me. Particularly, my writing habits.

Yet after I had gotten settled in to my new life, I found that it was difficult to write. Part of this could be attributed to the change in job. For the past several years, I had worked in a call center, where the word “downtime” usually meant “do whatever you want as long as you stay at your desk.” For me, that meant a lot of reading (and thus inspiration to write) and, when I discovered the power of cloud storage, writing. My new job is rather different. I’m not sitting at a desk anymore, and there is never downtime, especially not the kind that I had before. But I had worked jobs like this in the past and still found the will to write quite easily. I figured it had to be something else.

Tokyo has a reputation for being crowded and cramped, and I suppose in a lot of ways it is. The word “megacity” conjures images of fantastically high skyscrapers clustered together from horizon to horizon, a la Judge Dredd. But Tokyo is pretty normal, especially in the more suburban areas. My apartment isn’t huge by any standard, and I have to get really creative with how I use the space in my kitchen, but I’ve seen smaller apartments in Seattle. Size wasn’t really the issue, but I figured that the root of my problem lay somewhere in my living space.

My apartment came furnished, but by more or less Japanese standards. There was no bed, only a futon (one very different from those you see at Ikea, no doubt) for sleeping on the floor. And there was a couch, a TV stand, and what I thought was a coffee table, but actually turned out to be a coffee table with a heater built into the bottom. This glorious invention, called a kotatsu, keeps your legs warm throughout the winter without blowing up your electricity bill. Provided, however, you are okay with sitting on the floor.

It turns that I wasn’t. I’ve enjoyed western comforts, such as chairs and desks, for most of my life. Sitting on the floor did not feel natural to me, and took a lot of adjusting. I mean, a lot. No, really, a lot (what I’m saying is I never fully adjusted). I thought I would tough it out and learn to adapt to my situation, as one should after moving halfway around the world, but eventually I said, “To hell with this.” And bought myself a desk/chair combo.

What a difference that has made. I immediately began cranking out chapters and outlines and ideas like I was still sitting in that call center, patiently waiting for some irrational customer to complain about the bill they never paid.

You may find yourself asking, “Why didn’t you just get a desk to begin with?” First of all, taking furniture on the train always involves logistical challenges, as well as the occasional dirty look. But more importantly, I didn’t realize how much of an effect my environment would have on my writing until I actually saw the difference in output.

If you ever find yourself suffering from writer’s block and having difficulty getting in the zone, it may not be you that’s the cause. It could be your writing space. After all, your butt is only half of the butt-in-chair equation.

Join Brandon on the blog tour for his recently-released novella, Spear Mother: A Tale of the Fourth World! Spear Mother is the third release taking place in his epic fantasy world. Details of the tour can be found on his website:

Metal Gear Solid, or How I Was Ruined for All Other Video Games

The first moment I realized that I had expectations for what a game ought to be was the moment I first popped Metal Gear Solid into my Playstation. I had read the previews about the game in all the video game magazines I subscribed to (which was every one available) and I had played games similar to it—or at least I thought I had. Metal Gear Solid was, on the surface anyway, a third-person military shooter with emphasis on stealth elements. Pretty par-for-the-course, as far as video games go.

And then I discovered that everything I believed about the world was a lie.

MGSMetal Gear Solid was footage from the International Space Station for flat-earthers. It proved that one need not sacrifice story to gameplay, or vice versa, that not only could they coexist in harmony, but become fully integrated with one another. MGS even takes it one step further: it takes the player experience and makes it an essential aspect of both the gameplay and the story.

An example of what I mean by that. (*SPOILER ALERT* for those who have not played it; shame on you, by the way!) At one point, a character named Psycho Mantis, one of the several villains you must defeat to save the world from nuclear devastation, decides to battle you. The problem is, nothing you do works—nor can it. With his psychic powers, Psycho Mantis is able to predict every action you take the moment you take it, rendering all your efforts to injure him useless. It is impossible to defeat him—until you realize that his psychic powers only extend to controller port 1. Plug your controller into port 2, and you may just have a chance. (*END SPOILER*)

One of the reasons this grinding-to-dust of the fourth wall is so effectively jarring is because the game strives for realism in so many ways. The environments are incredibly detailed, the characters are rich and deep beyond belief, yet even those things are not safe. When the protagonist, Solid Snake, returns to an old military base in Alaska (which is where the bulk of the action of the first game took place) in Metal Gear Solid 4, he also returns to the exact same 32-bit polygonal art style of the original Playstation game.

SolidSnake-600x372Kicking down the fourth wall and violating expectations was a part of the series before Metal Gear Solid was even released, though in a comparatively more subdued form. When a traitorous member of Solid Snake’s team tries get him to abandon his mission in 1987’s Metal Gear, he says, “Solid Snake! Stop the operation. Switch off your MSX at once.” (The MSX was the platform on which the game first appeared.)

What these games proved to me is that we need not be satisfied with our expectations, that suspense can be built when we shake the very foundation of our readers’ worldviews. There are times when I’m writing and I realize that my story has taken the expected path—the safer path. It’s at times like these where I wonder, “WWMGSD?” Metal Gear Solid would probably turn my novel into an ASCII flipbook animation, which is a little unconventional for even my tastes, but it can still serve as a guidepost for ways to keep readers from guessing what’s coming.

Not So Final, After All

For those of us who had video game controllers in our hands at the time, the year 1997 will forever live in infamy. While nary a year goes by that doesn’t make a gamer go squee, that year was significant in that it made gamers feel so much more than mere excitement. They felt anger, sorrow, surprise, frustration, hate, love, and loss-all in the same moment. That moment can be encapsulated in two words.

Aeris Gainsborough.

AerisFor the uninitiated, Aeris (or Aerith in the Japanese version) was one of the playable characters in Final Fantasy VII, one who *SPOILER ALERT* met her tragic end *END SPOILER* in one of the most pivotal moments of gaming history. The reverberations of that scene can still be felt today. The reason it-and the rest of the game-was so significant was because it showed us the storytelling capabilities of video games in spectacular, blindsiding fashion.

Of course, games had stories before then. Earlier entries in the Final Fantasy series, especially VI, are known for depth of characters, but not to the level seen in VII. Until then, game stories for the most part seemed to be little more than window dressing, or at least a well-kept secret. FFVII made storytelling a mainstream expectation.

The impact on me was deep. I was astounded that the state of gaming proceeded from the emotionless and abstract intellectual challenges of games like Tetris to experiences that could move you. Not only had Final Fantasy VII taken me to a world where magic was possible, but a world where the depths of human emotion were plumbed. I have no problem invoking a cliche, because there is no other way to say it: that game was life-changing.

I remember watching the credits roll at the end of that game and setting down my controller, and when I recovered from my several-minutes-long daze, I thought, “Gee whiz, I should write a video game script!”

So that’s exactly what I did.

I knew, then and there, that I would be a video game writer. I was resolved, even as I researched the job and discovered how difficult it was to Aerith Gainsboroughbreak in as games became more cinematic. After finishing what I then deemed my masterpiece, the fabled “Final Fantasy-killer” that gamers have been waiting for without even knowing it, I realized I needed a game plan (sorry – I had to). After all, the game industry doesn’t work quite like movies-writers do not submit scripts that then get turned into games. More often, all the writing gets done while the game is in development by writers who have already proven their mettle. I had to gain some sort of writing credit that would elevate my name into consideration for that unicorn of a job, called game writer.

Hey, why not write a novel?

That was years ago, and prose has since stolen my heart-most of it, anyway. Part of me still yearns to get involved with the medium that set me down this path in the first place. Indeed, I recently signed on to an indie game startup as the writer, though that project has since been put on hiatus. For now, I’ll have to satisfy my creative impulses with writing novels and stories, even though I’ll never forget the love of writing that the Final Fantasy series instilled in me, nor will I forget the flower girl named Aeris who lived in a abandoned church.

Dreams vs. Day Jobs

I love money. I love being able to do the things I want to do without worrying if doing them will prevent me from paying my bills. I love that feeling of clarity that comes with the bank statement telling me that those setbacks that life sometimes throws at me are hardly setbacks at all.

I also love the satisfaction of a job well-done. I love raises, and promotions, and the praise of coworkers and bosses. I love having some structure to my day. In short, I love having a day job.

It’s easy to make the case that we can’t live without our day jobs. It’s even easier in such tough economic times, when it becomes clear to so many of us what not having one is like.

But I sometimes wonder: what if that was all I had? What if, on my deathbed, I realized that the greatest thing I achieved in life was middle management?

What if I had to make a choice between the comfort that a steady paycheck brought and the dreams that defined who I am?

Of course, one of the nice things about our modern society, even in its current state, is that we don’t have to make that choice. I am a writer with a day job. I am able to both pay my bills and follow my dreams. One need not be sacrificed to the other.

Yet knowing how you would answer such questions can help shape your future. Both your day job and your dreams exist in tension because they both compete for your time (what little time is left over from daily living).

It’s easy for us newer writers to frantically scramble for the top in this fast-paced new world of electronic publishing. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it brings us the unreasonable expectation that if you’re not an immediate success, you’re an immediate failure. It’s easy to forget that there’s still the future in which we can make our mark. Writers are notoriously easy to discourage, perhaps in part because the world wants so badly to discourage us, and now we have sales rankings that can disappoint us every hour on the hour that only provide one more such opportunity.

As writers, our work doesn’t have an expiration date, especially now that the term “out-of-print” has gone the way of the dodo. But even before that was true, many writers had to wait years – decades even – before seeing an inkling of success. Yet still they persevered because they knew that without following their dreams, every other little success they achieved was but part of a greater failure. And fail, they could not. Writing was their lives. Without it, breathing was merely a countdown to death.

In taking the long view, we don’t have to answer the dilemma between day job and dream. It may be hard working two jobs, but no one said this would be easy. Patience and perseverance are job requirements; if you don’t have them, you may want to start thinking about middle management. It may make you happier.

So how would I answer this dilemma? Would I take comfort and security, a life with few surprises and few adventures? Or would I risk it all for the ultimate prize?

If you’ve read any of my fiction, you already know.


Help me quit my day job!

Read a ripping good yarn while you’re at it!

Today only, my epic fantasy, The Clans: Tales of the Fourth World, is free on Kindle! Click here for more details.


The Fourth World is ending. Brother Willfonde, the man destined to save it, is dead. Yet he left behind six clues-one historical text from each clan-in the hope that someone could finish what he started. Or so it is believed.

Led by a novice named Kularro, a group of young geniuses is tasked to find what the Magisters of the Church of the Overarch could not: an answer to the riddle of Willfonde’s six texts. Will they be able to find a way to save their world? Or is Willfonde’s final message one of despair?