Wednesday, August 15, 2018

And So School Begins Again....

I took the beginning of this week off, because it's the first week of school for the boys and I've been promising myself that I'd take some vacation for that for, I don't know, five years now? Longer? Anyway, that part has gone pretty well: the boys are on a regular schedule, and we're getting into the rhythm of getting everybody ready in the morning and doing the follow-up stuff (homework, notes from the school, etc.) when we get home. Plus the whole Getting To Bed On Time At Night thing, though the cat is still doing his best to make sure I can't get a full night's sleep.

And despite some stress about being away from work right now, I think I really needed this. Like, I'm feeling hugely better: better rested, more alert, better mood, and a lot of my creativity is suddenly back online. I think I've even lost a couple of pounds just from not being exhausted and not eating to try to make up for being exhausted. I feel like myself again, and it's a profound relief. (It's also rather worrying just how much time I seem to spending lately where I don't feel that way, but there's not much to do except watch to make sure I don't fall back into those patterns.)

I finished Martha Well's latest Murderbot book, Rogue Protocol, and I really can't recommend this series highly enough. They're short, they're fun, they're full of action and suspense and snark and a main character who's remarkably sympathetic for a heartless killing machine.

I've now moved on to On The Shoulders Of Titans, which is the sequel to Sufficiently Advanced Magic. So far it's every bit as enjoyable as the original, and features an ace protagonist along with a broad cast of fun, interesting characters - not to mention an interesting, enjoyable magic system and an ominous plot with potentially world-altering consequences. My one complaint with the sequel so far is that the author picks up where the first book left off, without filling in the bits of background explanation that would make it more accessible to anyone who hasn't read the first book. That not entirely bad, since it means we get to skip a lot of exposition, but it also means that I keep having to stop and try to remember which character is which, and how they fit into the first book (which I read a year ago, and I've slept since then).

...And now, I think it's time to get back to some writing of my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Into the Black Commentary 001

So, I wrote this on Saturday when I was half-soused and apparently thinking, I know, I'll write a space opera! I should totally be able to do that without any sort of plan!

...And it kind of shows.

I mean, okay, "Jeremy"? Why "Jeremy"? Why isn't he using some sort of call-sign, as the other fighter apparently is? And why is he hauling on a manual control lever for a space ship? Shouldn't he be using some sort of neural interface or something?

And if we're at the level of fighting aliens equipped with plasma cannons, who the hell is coating their ships in ablative armor? And why are the undefended aliens dumb enough to follow him into the atmosphere at speed?

Seriously, what was I thinking?

Oh, well. Back to Take Two on the Heroes Are Assholes story. At least I know how that one's supposed to play out.

Also? Note to self: alcohol isn't necessarily a bad thing when writing, but it sure as hell doesn't make up for lack of sleep.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Into The Black, 001

Jeremy shoved the stick forward, decelerating as rapidly as he could when he touched the edge of the atmosphere. The Antiraian ships were close behind him, but their plasma weapons lost cohesion in even these little fringes of air. G-forces shoved him against his bindings as his fighter shed a weight of ablative armor to protect against the sudden heat.

Tha Antiraian ships, unprotected, blossomed into fireballs and died. Jeremy yanked the stick back, correcting course, and headed back out into open space. He could hear the cries of his fellow pilots through his familiar, some victorious and others screaming before they fell silent. Warbird was headed his way, with a half-dozen Antirians behind her. Unshielded, he loosed missiles and dodged to the side, watching with satisfaction as the cloud of pursuers fell to one. Warbird made a quick spin and came in behind her remaining pursuer, pouring cannons into it until it disintegrated.

Jeremy grinned, then spun aside again. He couldn't afford to be still; if anything hit him now, he was dead. He needed to get back to the Onus, before anything else went wrong.

His console triggered him: there were missiles approaching his ship. He reversed thrust, then shoved himself randomly to the side. Warbird had loosed her own missiles, and the Antirians targeting him abruptly died.

Their weapons, however, hadn't. A bright flare cut off scans for where he'd been a moment before, and scans showed at least two missiles circling back towards his ship. Jeremy activated a combination of thrusters that twisted his ship around, then fired the main thruster. One approaching missile immolated itself in the plasma jet, and the other fell into line as he fled, then exploded when it got too close. The main thruster flickered, but recovered, and he was away, tracing a twisted arc back towards the Onus.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Music: The Masochism Tango

Tom Lehrer, of course, to brighten your Friday morning:

So, the Heroes Are Assholes story has... outgrown itself. It was supposed to be a short story, but... it's not.

It's a first chapter.

More to come on that front, as I burn wickedly onwards.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Music: Among the Ghosts

Performed by Lucerno:

D'n'D Night

We've moved the D'n'D game from Saturday nights to Wednesday nights. This seems to work better, because A) there's a lot less drinking, and B) there's a clear cutoff time when we have to stop so we can all be functional at work. We're still using the new set of characters, and it seems to be working well - it's a completely different play style from what we were doing before, and so far it seems a lot more effective (even without a mage in the party).

I'm enjoying it because my new character is much more the kind of thing I like to play, and the rogue/ranger combination is working very much the way I hoped it would. Basically, I do almost all of the searching, checking for traps, and opening locks -- and then I sneak up on things and stab them. I don't really have the hit points or the armor class to go toe-to-toe on the front line, but between Dual Wielding, Sneak Attack, and Favored Enemy bonuses I can dish out a pretty respectable amount of damage (especially considering that I'm mainly using daggers). Where I run into trouble is when we're facing opponents who are immune to sneak attack damage (which so far mainly means undead, but this campaign features quite a bit of undead enemies - I need to make them my next favored enemy)... Or when we're up against an opponent who can dish out a lot of damage. My best strategy seems to be to move up front, flank enemies with the fighter or cleric, and then drop back and snipe as soon as I take damage. (Alternatively, I can get a surprising amount done just working as an archer, but I don't expect that to scale up as we grow stronger and start facing tougher opponents.)

I was also recently amused at the contrast between how I think of the character, and how I present the character in the game. Like:

Thinking about the character: This is Vendril Bloodthorne, a member of the garrison at the border fort. His family has lived on the border for three generations, serving as scouts and soldiers to defend the realm from the incursions of the desert nomads and other dangers, and Vendril is proud to continue that tradition. He is aware of the human-vs.-elf conflict and prejudice within the realm, but out here on the border the soldiers treat him well; it's what you can do that counts. So when the patrol turned up an unusual number of unusually strong raiders in the ruins and their squad commander was killed, Vendril took charge of the remaining archers and they willingly followed his lead.

Vendril in the game: This is Vendril. He sneaks up on things and stabs them a lot.

Anyway, tonight we basically just finished clearing out a supposedly-haunted cave that the raiders were probably using to move troops around the border wall and into the realm. In the event, the cave turned out to be wildly, unbelievably haunted, as well as occupied by the nomad leader we were looking for. But we managed to fend off a rather large number of undead and the nomad raiders, mainly by using group tactics (and a surprising amount of Alchemist's Fire). We're considering keeping the place as a backup headquarters, in case the garrison at the fort is overrun, but we probably need to come back after we've gotten a bit stronger (we're still just 3rd level characters, which in D'n'D is just a step above cannon fodder) and clear out the remaining threats. Still, the nomads left a fair amount of supplies for their troops, and the setup is nice: underground, but with a raised structure that's reasonably defensible built inside the cavern.

Next week we should be headed back to the fort with our prizes (mainly, an ancient book that describes what the nomads are likely to be seeking - ancient weapons or magics or both, in one of the ruins that are just on our side of the border). We'll need to get some of the party members healed, too; remember, kids, battling undead is not for the faint of heart or the low of saving-throw.

But once we've checked in and turned over the book (and hopefully had a chance to find out more about what we're up against), we'll probably be off to the next set of ruins, to try to get ahead of the Nomad army and keep the weapons (or whatever) away from them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Whence comes the question?

Guess what? Our words "question", "query", "inquiry", and "quest" all go back to the same root, the Latin word "quaerere" (meaning, unsurprisingly, to ask or to seek).

I mean, you really don't need to know that, but I thought it was cool.

Oh, and also?

"Etymology" goes all the way back through Latin to Greek, and is composed of "étymon" (the essential meaning or origin) + "lógos" (word, reason, or study of). So now you know the etymology of "etymology".

Monday, August 6, 2018

Superhero Bar Stories: Midnight

Hey, kid. Pull up a chair. I'm hearing good things about your work with Titania. You thinking about striking out on your own once your trial's up, or do you plan stay with Titania as a team?

Really? Good to hear it. No, you're not interrupting anything. Me and Bob here, we were just swapping stories. Topic? Well, it hadn't started as anything in particular, but Bob just finished talking about how he finally captured Midnight. You want a quick recap while he hits the head? All right: Midnight was a supervillain around five years ago. Darkness-based powers: he could see in the dark, make whole areas dark, and travel more or less anywhere he wanted at any moment within his own darkness, which he could stretch out for as much as half a mile. He wasn't the restrained sort of villain, either. Not like Dr. Diablo, say. He did whatever he felt like: robbery, kidnapping, assault... it got worse from there. And we didn't know who was doing it, because it was always dark -- even for security cameras that were equipped with infrared, even night-vision goggles, everything. Whenever he showed up, anything even vaguely close to visible light just... died.

Even Captain Amazing can't see through his darkness. He hears about a robbery in progress, busts in through an open window... and then has to stop, because he can't see anything and with his strength he can't be blundering around. He'd kill someone by accident. But he remembers The Seer, from out in Sacramento, and he gives him a call.

Yeah, sorry. Bob is The Seer. Bob's a psychic, and one of his powers is that he's aware of everything around him. So the next time an area goes dark, Captain Amazing carries The Seer into it and turns him loose. And Bob locates the guy, and grabs him telekinetically. And Midnight tries to slide out through the shadows, but The Seer has a solid grip on him, and... nobody's quite sure what happened. But a moment later the lights are back on, Captain Amazing comes flying back in, and Bob's lying on the ground next to this skinny guy in all black who's weirdly... stretched out. Like, his left arm and his right leg are six inches longer than his other arm and leg, and his head and chest are weirdly misshapen.

Yeah, yeah it was. I told you when you started that you'd make mistakes, and the thing was to own them when they happened. Bob still feels bad about this one. I think Captain Amazing does too. I mean, The Seer was just trying to capture the guy, keep him from hurting anybody else. He didn't expect to maim him. But sometimes when you have two different kinds of power in direct conflict, weird things happen.

Hey, Bob. Yeah, I was just telling the kid here, because I think he needs to know. He's working with 'Tania, probably will be for a while. Lightlance, when he's in costume; Cyrus when he's out. And now it's your turn -- I'm going to get the next round, so you get to tell the kid uncomfortable stories about me.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Writing Advice: Just Sleep

So, I made myself a little sign to put on the wall in my, um, office. (Read: closet.) It's not the be-all and end-all of writing advice, but I think it's something that needs to be firmly in my head, so putting it where I'll read it over and over seems like a good way to drill it in.