Ask my parents, friends or teachers – as a child, my mind was always wandering somewhere between the real world and a faraway place. Now I find myself living between two worlds, one called Reality and one called Rynaga.
I grew up in Tolleson, AZ. I come from a large family and hard-working parents. I'm the oldest of seven. Growing up you'd find me reading, writing, drawing or looking after my younger brothers and sisters. In school I was never popular even though I got along with most everyone. I was a day-dreamer, held back in the fourth grade for dismal math grades.
My family was poor and I say this with pride. Having limited material wealth taught us to appreciate what we had. We enjoyed simple times together, watching classic movies, sci-fi films and PBS documentaries.
But my room was my favorite hang-out.
While others were out playing sports, I was reading worn out books on my bed. Sitting there, I could go almost anywhere. I read the works of Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Kipling, Homer, Frank Baum, Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, Mark Twain, Suess, Tennyson, J.M. Barrie, Jack London and others. I read many of these authors before I had turned 15. Year after year I added new books to my list and visited new fictional worlds.
While others were at summer camps, I was at our local library doing crafts with my siblings. We'd paint with watercolors, sculpt with clay and fold paper in origami classes. When we were finished we would eat popsicles outside in the shade. Laughing and joking with colored tongues. Drops of purple, orange and green decorated the sidewalk long after we went home.
While others were having parties and sleep overs, I was drawing at my desk on donated pads of paper with donated pens and pencils. By the light of a small lamp with my giant walkman headphones on I would draw. Sometimes I'd draw a portrait for someone. Sometimes I'd ink up fliers for graduation parties. I'd draw until everyone else was asleep. Then I'd switch off my lamp, climb up into my bunk and fall asleep with the sound of the ten o'clock train passing through our town.
At the time, I thought my childhood was pretty boring. I didn't have many friends other than my siblings. In terms of entertainment, there was the television, books, board games or my desk full of pens and paper. Eventually came the family Nintendo, purchased with an alliance of piggy banks.
Yet, one day I woke up to the fact that I could use creativity and imagination not only to make a living, but to create things no one else had. I discovered that if I wanted to create my own works of fiction there was really nothing to stop me. As long as I had time, my health and willpower I could do almost anything.
Drawing had sharpened my "minds eye." I could see fictional peoples, places and creatures taking shape in my mind. Reading trained my brain to appreciate fundamentals of storytelling such as plot-line, character development and conflict. Writing short stories and poems became a foundation for advanced efforts. I knew if I applied myself, I could learn to be a better writer and maybe one day an author.
I couldn't afford college until I was married. While I was at school each night, my wife was putting our little son to bed. Larissa and I would work late night cleaning jobs (baby in tow), to pay our way through those times. We would go to sleep at 1am, wake up for work at 7am and do it all over again. My wife is still the most loving, patient and supportive person I know.
Our life as new family sped by. Before I knew it, I had worked in the design field for ten years. I was ready to begin building my own body of work. I had my health. I had ideas. I had family support. I had the knowledge I needed. Most of all, I had the most valuable possession one can have when beginning a life-long journey – determination.
I took my first steps in 2004, creating a fictional world called Rynaga. (rin-ah-gah) By the end of 2006 I had outlined 12 major races along with their histories and cultures. I created the galaxy Rynaga belonged to, its solar system and related planets. I built a foundation for the stories I'd tell by imagining the conflicts, creatures, families, cities, landmarks, plant-life and weather patterns one might find on this planet.
As with any quest, you need friends. With the help of a core team including my wife, son and brother we set out to bring Rynaga to life. I formed a small company called Specimen and in 2007 I published my first book entitled Prelude, which tells the story of an accomplished explorer living on Rynaga and a mysterious discovery. Early in 2009 we released Iconica, a strategy game which gives players a glimpse into the world of Rynaga while offering an entertaining social experience.
Every piece of this project includes an element of story-telling. The visual language is grounded in iconography, paying homage to classic forms of art. We avoid software tricks, filters and trends, using geometric forms to communicate ideas and subtle emotions. We stick to fundamentals of design to guide choices in color, typography and layout. We're working hard to use high production values in our favor to create products which are labors of love, not cheap commodities.
The world of Rynaga is a place of epic beauty, deep mystery, and hidden terror. It's stories are told through a mix of poetry, prose, and narratives. In our own everyday lives, we encounter villains and heroes. We find those who spread love and those who spread lies. There are champions of good and champions of greed. For me, this is where the lines between fiction and reality blur.
In the end, my life is about much more than Rynaga. I'm a real person with a family to care for and responsibilities to others. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and see an adult ready to face another day of life's challenges. Other times, I see the boy I used to be staring back at me, holding his books, sketches, and pens.
We are the sum of our life experiences. Mine have led me here. Living life between a world called Reality and another I call Rynaga.