We Move West

And here I am, hey blog. HEY, HEY BLOG.

BLOG. HEY. HEY BLOG.

[This is what I do when I see a cow out the car window. Just replace ‘blog’ with ‘cow’ and it’s the same dialogue. It is incredibly endearing, and never annoys anyone else in the car.]

I know you can HEAR ME COW.
I know you can HEAR ME COW.

So, yeah — let’s shake some cobwebs off.  My production of Pippin is finished, so now I can reroute those system resources back to all of the other plates I have spinning in the ether. Let’s list them! YAY, LISTS.

1. Spell/Sword Zeta Draft.  This would be an amazing name for an anime. This is the big project, my  main focus. Incorporating all the feedback from my Beta Readers, and working my way to the penultimate draft. I’m planning to add about 5000 words to the draft, so I’ll need to get one last set of eyes on the manuscript before I move forward to Self Publishing Ragnarok.

2. Self Publishing Ragnarok. Also an amazing anime title. My goal is to get the book into a buy-able format, through CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing through Amazon. I’m researching all of the technical knowledge needed for doing that, so when I am ready to move forward it won’t be a giant learning curve clusterfuck.

IS THE JPEG OF YOUR COVER ART BELOW THE MAXIMUM PIXEL LIMIT???
IS THE JPEG OF YOUR COVER ART BELOW THE MAXIMUM PIXEL LIMIT???

3. Cover Art.  I’ve seen some early sketches from Mike/Poopbird, and I can’t wait to see the finished product. Got to make sure I have all the specs for pixel limits, image size, etc. to make it easy and painless for him once the design is complete.

4. Titan’s Wake.  My occasional Pathfinder campaign. Time to kick it in the shins and get the PC’s moving toward something approaching the plot. Scheduling has been an issue, leading to some signal loss — gotta get the players on some sort of regular game night schedule, or the campaign is just going to fizzle.

5. The Ocean of Not. New and shiny Legend of the Five Rings campaign! Meeting with the players in early January to make characters, and hopefully kick off the game shortly thereafter. I’m planning on having a forum component for this one, and most of the players are Lodestar alumni —very excited to get back in the trenches.

6. Shadeaux Bros. Christmas Album. Got to jump on this one with both feet, as it does have a built in deadline. Unfamiliar with our previous work? Take a listen and be forever changed.

7. A Few Good Men.  I have a small part in the next Mainstage production at the theatre. I get to play an actual person, which is not my strong suit.

Broad physical comedy is what I do.
Broad physical comedy is what I do.

8. Regular Blogging. I need to get back on a regular update schedule, 3-5 times per week. Maybe I’ll bring back Story on Demand to prime the pump, but I’m hoping now that working on the book is moving back to my main creative focus, I’ll have more time and writerly thoughts to expound upon.

Lot of stuff. Lot of cows. I love the feeling of energy and mind-space coming online – really looking forward to all of these projects!

 

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The Fourth Wall Diner

Haskeer stepped through the steel door, and onto cracked linoleum. Red blaze of neon filtered through glass windows onto a crowded diner. The booths were crammed with humans laughing and talking. A long glass display case bisected the room, filled to the brim with faded toys and garish errata – twin rows of wide black booths down either side, with a long counter in the very back of the diner. A tall stool with a red-leather seat at the counter  seemed to beckon, and the paladin moved towards it.

The humans seated at the booths were dressed strangely, somehow too simple and too elaborate — as if they were dressed both for work in the fields, and a journey across the tundra of the Northlands.. They paid little attention to his passing, or his gleaming silver armor.

A blonde man with a square jaw, sat with a baby in his lap – their eyes both wide and blue. A blonde woman at his side wiped the child’s face with a damp napkin and a certain elan. On the opposite side another couple, a man with a preposterous mustache fork-deep into a plate of fried potatoes and a dark-haired woman with a beautiful smile. The dark-haired woman was pregnant, and the man and his mustache nearly vibrated with concern and pride,  each motion of his hands a prayer.

Two young men sat hip to hip in a booth, poring over a stack of brightly colored pages. They argued bitterly jabbing the page with pointed fingers, and gesticulating wildly as their argument crested into a familiar plateau. Across from them a woman rolled her eyes with exasperation, spreading cream cheese on a grilled bagel.

In the corner of the diner was a jukebox, glowing green and yellow. A man with glasses and a ponytail leaned against it, making a selection – his head bobbing unconsciously to the song already spooling through the air.

Are you sorry we drifted apart?
Does your memory stray to a brighter summer day
When I kissed you and called you sweetheart?
Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?

A tall, gangly man stumbled through the door behind Haskeer, and moved to the jukebox — hands already spread in mute apology.

In a back booth, three men sat hunched close together. A pile of tiny figures were arrayed on the table before them – small soldiers, goblins, knights, even a fierce looking black dragon. The tallest and shortest examined each figure with animated fixation, while the third stared at something glowing in his hand with boredom. A large man with a fierce tattoo of a squid-demon stumped over and flopped down a large sketchbook. Haskeer caught a glimpse of men and women holding swords of fire.

There were others in the diner, every seat was full. A curly-haired man stuffing lemon after lemon into his water, a thin man with his hands steepled, a balding man laughing and pointing across the restaurant. The faces began to run together as the paladin moved forward, his steel boots clanking on the floor.

Haskeer sat down at the counter, his back to the rest of the diner patrons. A warm fog of steam billowed out of the kitchen, accompanied by the wonderful smells of fried potato and seared meat. A man approached, pulling a well-worn jotter out of his pocket and the nub of a pencil. He wore thick spectacles, and a thick mop of hair pushed up into a white paper cap.

The man greeted the paladin, barely looking up from his notepad.

“Sup, Big Green. What’ll you have?”

The Same

“The servant does as the master wishes. The master desires bread, the servant plants grain. The master desires a keep, the servant lays stone. The master desires gold, and the servant bleeds steel. At the end of all things the servant is still a servant.” Oak replied.

Bad Idea

The adventurers stood around in stunned silence, as the illusory image of the Red Wizard faded from view. The strange machine chuffed quietly, working it’s unknown program through the pipes and gears that extended into the stone ceiling out of view. The simple glass decanter sat on the desk, a third full of a blue liquid that glowed slightly – a shade of blue that no one could ever remember seeing before.

The words of Korthan Zul seemed to hang in the air, repeated in the stunned memory of the Lodestar crew.

“My disciples, how glad am I that you have made your way to my inner sanctum. Only

Artist – Killian Eng

you have proven worthy to glimpse the greatest expression of my power — my mastery over Time Itself.

I stand now on the brink of total domination of the world. The Scepter is in my hands, my armies are strong and vicious, and the pitiful forces of Good are a spineless rabble. But…there is always a but. Even I cannot plan for all the strange storms of the Future, so here I have prepared a doorway into the calm seas of the Past.

If the worst should occur, and I should fall – take this liquid that you see behind you. I have built a machine, that distills the very essence of Time. Drops stolen from the river. One swallow will take you anywhere in Time you choose. Go. Go back before the moment of my defeat, and bring the knowledge I will need to triumph.

Do not fail me. Evil never forgets. It Begins Again – It Endures Forever”

The loris, Mr. Wuzzles crawled down from his place on Carbunkle’s shoulder and wrapped himself around the gnome, pinning his arms with fuzzy insistence.

“Do. Not. Touch.” the loris said sternly

Identity

[Spoiler Alert: I’m a giant nerd. I’ve been running a Pathfinder campaign for the past two years, and I’m starting to work on the next one. All of my new players are relative neophytes to the game, and I put together this rough breakdown to guide them through choosing a proper character class for their style. One of my players really liked it, and suggested I put it up on my blog for use by nerds throughout the land — and since I’m lazy, and going to be away for a week — WISH GRANTED, Mr. Yellow Devil.

Any other tabletop nerds out there? I’d love any feedback or suggestions you have on this chart.]


Here’s a rough break-down of the nineteen character classes available. Think of this as a very rough overview, to give you some idea for further discussion with me and the other players. I’ve also included links to further descriptions of each class — it’s very technical, but there’s a good overview of each through the link, enough to give you more idea of what each class can do.

Arcane Divine Martial Skilled Natural Synthesis
Wizard
Sorcerer
Summoner
Cleric
Paladin
Oracle
Fighter
Barbarian
Cavalier
Rogue
Bard
Ranger
Druid
Monk
Witch
Magus
Inquisitor
Gunslinger
Alchemist

Nineteen Ways To Die

CLASS Description Best at… Examples
Alchemist “I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensaring the senses … I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death..” S.Snape Making themselves more powerful; influencing enemies and the battlefield in unexpected ways. Severus Snape
Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde
Barbarian Fueled by rage, they destroy all who oppose them. Doing lots of damage. Conan
Khal Drogo
Bard Their songs are magical, their wit and knowledge deadly. Making the party more effective.
Gathering information
Kvothe*
Tom o’Sevens
Alan-a-dale
Cavalier Noble knights, they ride into battle leading the way to victory. Mounted combat.
Unique Ability: Tactics
Jaime Lannister
Sturm Brightblade
Barristan Selmy
Cleric True servant of their faith, they shield the world from evil. Healing.
Making the party more effective.
Sazed
Sephrenia
Melisandre
Thoros of Myr
Druid The raw forces of nature are theirs to command. Elemental magic.
Shapechanging.
Tim the Druid
Beast Boy
Allanon
Cold Hands
Fighter In the press of battle, there are none more rightfully feared. Doing damage.
Most adaptable class.
Boromir
Garet Jax
Bronn
Gunslinger The smell of gunsmoke and black powder, hard-knuckle death dealers. Doing a lot of damage.
Unique ability: Grit
Roland Deschain
Matthew Quigley
Chow Yun Fat
Inquisitor Their god commands them to bring the unfaithful to judgement. Weakening enemies.
Unique ability: Judgement
Simon Belmont
Inquisitor Glokta
Magus Pure magical energy, channeled into the sharp edge of a blade. Doing a lot of damage.
Wizard/Fighter
[I honestly can’t think of an example — the cast spells through their weapons, it’s ridiculous.]
Monk A combatant armed only with wisdom. Mobility, and damage. Tempi
Drunken Master
Son Goku
Wong Fei Hung
Oracle Their power is a mystery, even to themselves. Healing.
Unique Ability: Mystery
Calypso
Cassandra
Paladin A divine warrior, they bring hope and courage to all. Healing/Combat Hybrid.
Diplomacy.
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Paksenarrion
Ranger A fierce combatant, a skilled traveller of the wilderness. Ranged Combat.
Tracking, Wilderness Survival.
Aragorn, son of Arathorn
Rogue A thief, a trickster, cunning wanderer of the night. Stealth, Trapfinding and Lockpicking.
Sneak Attack damage.
Locke Lamora
Arya Stark
Tasselhoff Burrfoot
Sorcerer Magic flows in their blood, and bends to their will. Spellcasting.
Knowing less spells than a Wizard, but can cast more often.
Kelsier the Survivor
Belgarath
Summoner They create a powerful beast, the Eidolon from pure thought and desire. Well, summoning.
Perfect if you really want to play a Monster.
The Incredible Hulk
Lyra Silvertongue
Witch Their power flows from spirits unknown. Spellcasting.
Freaking people out.
Unique ablity: Hexes
Elphaba
Baba Yaga
Wizard Their mastery of magic comes from long study and mental excellence. Spellcasting.
Most varied, and adaptable spellcasters.
Gandalf
Harry Dresden
Albus Dumbledore

Simple Complicated
Barbarian Fighter Ranger Monk Cleric Wizard
Rogue
Paladin Oracle Witch Summoner
Bard
Gunslinger Inquisitor Sorcerer
Cavalier Druid Alchemist

If you want to do damage: Barbarian, Magus, Monk, Gunslinger
If you want to hurt things with magic: Wizard, Sorcerer, Magus, Witch
If you want to heal things: Cleric, Oracle
If you want to be a leader: Cavalier, Paladin, Cleric, Bard
Sneaky, stabby type: Rogue, Ranger, Inquisitor

*It’s tough to pin Kvothe down to one class. Bard/Assassin/Wizard/Fighter/Rogue would just about cover it.

Blowing the dust off…

Let me just knock some of the cobwebs off  here.

I don’t know who this guy is, but he is most displeased at my lackadaisical posting schedule of late.

But I was editing, black and white photo soldier guy, who I hope is not some sort of war criminal! I can see that ceremonial dagger on your belt, and I’m sure you’d like to dispense some pre-Internet justice, but hear me out.

In between normal life errata and work neccesity, my creative-time has been in short supply. Lodestar has taken a turn for the awesome as we rocket towards the conclusion – and I’m determined to deliver on the storytelling and gameplay promise of the campaign and not leave my players disappointed when it wraps up in September. On top of that I’m running a short side-game for some neophyte nerds in the neighborhood, plus planning for my Top Secret Next Campaign. Compounded with time rolling in the floor with the new puppy, and other general puttering about – I’ve been swamped.

I finished the rough draft of Spell/Sword back in April, then put it away for as long as possible before diving into editing. I made it a full four weeks, which was torturous indeed.

True editing began in May, here was my process:

1. Print out the draft, and read through it. Making only absolutely necessary notes in the margins.

2. Cry.

3. Read through it again, making nit-picky grammar notes.

4. Take all of the comments/edits from the paper version and add them to my Google Doc. “No argument” edits were implemented immediately. [Grammar fixes, word choice, spelling mistakes, erotic centaurs scene] More complicated edits requiring more thought or massive chapter-spanning revision entered as Comments onto the G-Doc.

5. Man, there’s a lot of these Comments. [63 total, only 17 of which were related to petticoat description. ALWAYS NEED MORE DESCRIPTION OF THE COURTLY LADY DRESSES]

6. Worked in fits and starts on the larger edits. The easy ones first, picking at the edges — then finally dived into the more serious ones in June.

7. Anxiety Quicksand. Edits seem to be making book worse. Every thing I read seems to be terrible, even if not explicitly marked for revision. I hate the book, and spend a lot of time polishing a terrible, shiny thought. Writing this draft was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done — a goal in my life that I never imagined I would accomplish. To have made it this far is nothing short of miraculous — but the book still might not be any good.  Effort does not equal excellence in writing, or any art.  I might have a completely unusable draft, rotten to the core.  I might have written a book and still not have a book.

8. Kept editing.

9. Started to lose the feeling of forward momentum, so I engaged the Saving Grace of Art. A deadline. Contacted my Alpha Readers, and let them know that I would be printing the draft the first of July to send them copies for review. I embrace that deadline, and editing redoubles in ferocity.

10. I like the book a little better. Well, let’s be serious — I love the book, but understand that I have lost any objectivity. I’ve read it too many times, I’m way too close.  I finish up major edits, with the salve that I’m going to go through this whole process again once my Alphas have a crack at it. Only they can tell me whether or not my child is a Goofus or a Gallant.

Highlights reference! These always bothered me. Maybe Goofus’ friends needed a little “tough love”, and who’s to say Gallant even liked oranges? Look at that smug S.O.B. — he probably poisoned that fruit. Yes, I was a child concerned with logical fallacies, move along.

11. I have one last brainstorm for my editing before releasing it to the Alphas. I read the entire draft out loud in one sitting. I catch innumerable grammar, tense, spelling, and logic errors in the process. Best thing I’ve done, next time around I’m planning on doing this much, much earlier. I also record me reading it [TECHNOLOGY!] for further review.

12. I like the book.

13. I send the draft to be printed for Alpha Readers. I feel a sense of pride that my closest friends and advisors will soon know how fucking clever I am.

14. I listen to the recording, and immediately catch a dozen glaring syntax and logic problems.

This sand is filled with irony!

15. Cry a little bit. But you know, in a badass way, like Chow Yun Fat in The Killer.

 

I  know I’m not unique in my process, or in my reactions — I know my colleagues and associates are sick of my talking about these things like I invented Author Malaise. But, you’re my blog and this is my first time up this thorny path — so get prepared for some serious whining and navel-gazing.

Also, some ruminations on various literary and genre concepts. I’ve been struggling to put my novel in context with others in the genre, and I’ve had some thoughts. SOME THOUGHTS, I SAY.

I’m also thinking about pulling my old weekend STORY ON DEMAND out of mothballs, now that I have a little more brainspace to spare.

What do you think, Corporal Steely Breadcrumbs?

I’m just here for the ladies. And the oppression of the Proletariat.

Barton

A small village,  directly in the center of Riddlewood. Human settlers were first drawn to the ancient forest

Retreat by Andreas Rocha

by an accidental discovery. A traveler was camping underneath one of the ancient elms, boiling some water for soup when an acorn fell into the open pot. The traveler didn’t notice right away, and by the time he did the water had turned a brilliant shade of green. History does not tell us much about this traveler but one thing is clear – – he either had an overgrown sense of adventure, or a serious deathwish. For no apparent reason he decided to give the concoction a taste. He poured off a tiny draught of the green liquid into a dented tin tankard, and tossed it back.

He woke up several hours later, his teeth stained the color of the leaves.

This unknown traveler had just discovered the remarkable soporific effects of the Riddlewood Elm. Folk tradition contends that he spent the next several weeks finishing the emerald concoction, one sip at a time — but regardless, at some point he stumbled back to civilization and somehow convinced one of the larger merchant families to invest in his new scheme. A team of brewers, apothecaries, and loggers would make their way into the heart of Riddlewood. They would harvest the amazing acorns, determine the best way to render them safely potable and marketable, and the other, lesser trees could be cut down to make casks and barrels for the new concoction. A troop of soldiers were also included to protect against the mysterious and sly wood elves that lived in the forest.

For the first few weeks, the newly christened “Barreltown” hummed with activity. Acorns were gathered, brewed and tested. Hundreds of trees were felled to make barracks, fences, and a multitude of barrels — the saw mill ran day and night. The soldiers quickly grew bored as the wildlife of Riddlewood gave the new town a wide berth, and the wood elves were nowhere to be seen.  With nothing else to do, they joined in the construction of the town, their first project a suitable saloon.

Reports vary on the events that followed, but the central theme is agreed upon by most accounts. A young soldier took to wandering the green halls of Riddlewood out of sheer boredom and restlessness. She was the youngest member of the troop, though well-trained in the ways of sword and shield.

The soldier came upon a clearing where a large red tiger lay dying, caught underneath the trunk of an oak tree that a careless logger had felled, then abandoned. Without stopping to consider the danger, she ran over to the creature and with a great cry flung herself under the tree. Arms and legs straining she pushed the felled oak up far enough that the red tiger could just barely wriggle out.

She dropped the tree in exhaustion – only then realizing that she had dropped her weapon at the clearing’s edge, and stood completely defenseless against the wounded animal.

To her surprise, the red tiger rose wearily to its feet and made no move to attack.  It looked at her curiously, then padded off into the forest.

The soldier returned to Barreltown and told all who would listen about her amazing experience. A few believed her, but she was met with more than a few mocking japes. She became obsessed with proving her story, and spent much of the next few days prowling through the forest looking for tiger tracks.

Tigers, like most cats, appear when they please.

By Rui Tenreiro.

The young soldier was keeping the late watch one night, when she felt her eyes beginning to droop. She stomped her feet, and put pebbles in her shoe, but weariness stole over her.  With a start, she awoke at moonfall, a bare hour before dawn, to find the red tiger sitting quite calmly on a felled tree trunk in front of her.

The red tiger stood, and walked a few paces before turning back to look at her. The intention clear, the soldier gripped the hilt of her sword closely and followed.

Through quiet clearing, and silent tree, through moon and leaf-rustle night. The guttering torchlight of Barreltown vanished behind the young soldier, and yet she continued on.

At last, the tiger stopped and turned to face her. The wind blew, and the tiger changed. A beautiful young wood elf, with hair as red as the tiger’s.

Without speaking a word, he knelt before a ragged stump of a tree and placed both hands upon it. He sang quietly, and the soldier was surprised to find tears running down her face.

Between the palms of the wood elf, and guided by his song the tree trunk began to grow. Forming and changing, shaped by his will as a potter turns the clay. A tiny barrel formed, sound and true — then with a sharp twist he broke it free and pushed it into her hands. The soldier held it up to the rising sun, and saw how well it was crafted. Sound and true, with nary a crack — better than any one in Barreltown could hope of making.

“Why would you take, what the forest would happily give?” the wood elf asked.

The soldier had no answer.

Time passed. The soldier and the wood elf spent much time in each other’s company.  Love was given and returned, and the two hatched a plan.

Early one morning, the soldier and the wood elf walked into Barreltown hand in hand. They marched directly into the mess hall where all the loggers, apothecaries, brewmasters, tradesmen and soldiers ate their meals. The soldier cleared off a table and called everyone’s attention, and the wood elf plead most eloquently for the forest of Riddlewood. He finished his speech, then showed the gathered crowed how wood could be shaped and sung from the living trees, without harm.

And the people listened. They understood. And they agreed.

To the vast shock of historians throughout the world, the people of Barreltown agreed that it was a great

By Annemarie Rysz

idea. This incident is hotly contested in many scholarly circles, as it goes counter to entire schools of socio-political thought. Some even go so far as to claim the story is completely fabricated, a convenient fiction crafted by the wildly successful Riddlewood Brewing Guild.

Regardless, two hundred years later the village still remains. Barton is a reasonably prosperous hamlet, most of the residents splitting their time between farming and the seasonal work on the factory floor, brewing and bottling the various ales and liquors distilled from the trees of the forest — great casks filled to brim, tight and sound made from living wood. Only the very oldest buildings in the town show the sign of an axe or saw, the rest are all formed carefully and beautifully by the druids of Barton.

The village is roughly split between human and elven populaces, with intermarriage common.  The sigil of Barton is a red tiger with a green acorn in his jaws.  The village is led by Count Pel Marlowe, his family owns controlling interest in the Riddlewood Brewing Guild.