Weekly Update, 6/4/2018 to 6/17/2018

Brief Update

(Two weeks here, I can totally math).

I en’t dead. But I have been playing a lot of ESO, which means I’m kind of dead to anyone who doesn’t play πŸ˜‰

(That’s not the whole truth, though — as you can see, I’ve done some social stuff as well. But I have been laser-focused on ESO the past two weeks).

I went up to ye olde hometown this weekend to visit my mom, and on the way I finished listening to The Cruel Prince, a YA fantasy which I highly recommend! The basic premise is of a human girl who is raised in Faerie and has to learn her way around fae politics. The title is kind of an interesting conundrum; at the beginning and the end it’s pretty clear to whom it refers, but the middle it seems like there are several princes it could be. There’s a cool twist at the end, but I think what I most loved about it was watching the protagonist become powerful and terrible as she is surrounded by literal monsters. I wasn’t entirely sure she wasn’t trying to turn into her own cruel prince, by the end. And yet, it’s still hopeful, somehow!

If you wanted something novel-length that encapsulates the feeling behind “A Guide for Young Ladies Entering the Service of the Fairies,” this is pretty close!

If I have any complaints, it’s that the middle felt a little slow and directionless. But that could also just be that my mind was in Tamriel for so much of the past two weeks…

Also relevant: I haven’t been running lately, because in my training for the 5k in May, I seem to have fucked up my right ankle. A preliminary investigation shows that it has some arthritis in it (thanks to a bad injury when I was younger); there also seems to be something going on in the soft tissue that my GP was unsure about. I’m seeing an orthopedist next week. Really hoping I can get back to it soon!

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote blog post, “Seventeen days in Tamriel”

Reading
– Read The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black

Other Media
– Listened to Sword and Scale, episodes 114-116
– Listened to The Art of Charm 706-707
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Sleep and Creativity”
– Listened to Elder Scrolls Off the Record 209-210

Social
– Did a tasting at Revival Brewing Company/dinner at Brutopia in Cranston, RI with EB
– Saw the RiffTrax Live of Space Mutiny with Adina and Brian
– Visited my mom in Plattsburgh, NY

Health
– Had a therapy appointment x 2
– Had a massage
– Did a short 30-min walk

Picture of the Week


Enjoying the fruits of my trip to Revival Brewing — their delightful Berliner Weisse, Pinky Swear.

Seventeen days in Tamriel

Nearly two years ago now, I quit playing Elder Scrolls Online (ESO). Due to some balance changes, Matt wasn’t interested in playing any more, and the game was decidedly less fun without him. I canceled my membership not long after, leaving behind a game that still had a lot of content for me, and an awesome community in the UESP guild. It felt awful, almost like a breakup, at the time.

Of course, I haven’t been idle. I picked up WoW again in September 2016, and I’ve been enjoying that. Legion was a pretty great expansion, and I’ve had fun with my heroic raiding guild. But things have slowed down, my guild has cleared all the content it can clear, and the next expansion’s not until August.

Recently Matt mentioned he was getting back into ESO, at least for the single-player content. Neither of us had ever had problems with that. Even at his most disillusioned, he admitted it was a beautiful game with some really great quests and NPCs, full of the lore of the Elder Scrolls that we so love. It was just… group content that was unbalanced.

It didn’t take long of watching him play it to be like, “I miss this game so much!” and plop down my hard earned $29.99 to get the Summerset pre-order/early access (complete with the Morrowind chapter, too!) I also ponied up the $40 for three months of ESO Plus membership, too, because I heart those limitless crafting bags.

It’s been seventeen days since that fateful dive back in, and that’s an auspicious number in Tamriel (seventeen daedric princes!), so here’s a log of my adventures along the way….

ESO Summerset Box Art. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net

Days 1-2

Similar to when I returned to WoW, I knew there was going to be a good amount of I-Have-No-Idea-What-I’m-Doing-Dog. While it hasn’t exactly been the 7+ years I was away from WoW, it was still twenty months. A lot can change in that time!

I quit right after the Dark Brotherhood DLC came out, shortly before One Tamriel became a reality, so in the meantime they’ve added a new class (the Warden), a new crafting skill (jewelry crafting), player housing, and two big world expansions, Morrowind and Summerset (the latter of which just came out for early access). Oh, and they added battlegrounds, because the world PvP of Cyrodiil was, well, not everyone’s cuppa. They’ve also raised the champion point (CP) cap to 750. And of course, with One Tamriel, all the zones scale to your level, and you can do the content in any order.

The first thing I’ll say is this: they made it super easy to jump right back in. With 2 level 50s and some 480 CP on my account, I knew it was going to be hard to pick up where I left off, so I decided to make a new character. And why not a Warden, since that’s new? Thus: Anyael Dulaerion, an Altmer magicka warden.

So I load up the game, and hey, I’m in an introductory/tutorial sequence. (Actually, they give me the option to skip it, since I’ve already played through the vanilla intro once, but I decide to do it anyway). Blessedly, I don’t have to rescue Lyris from Coldharbour yet again; it seems each full expansion has added its own tutorial. So instead I follow a spirit named Oriandra through a “mind prison”, fight some creatures called yaghra, destroyed something called an abyssal pearl, and lo and behold, I find myself near Shimmerene in Summerset, talking to our old pal Razum-dar, from the Aldmeri Dominion quests in the vanilla game.

Raz! Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
I’d say, “Raz, don’t you recognize your old friend?” but you’ve never met my strange new banana elf before.

And I can just continue on from here, because Summerset levels to me. Hooray!

The level-up dialogue has changed HUGELY since I’ve been gone. Each time I level, I’m presented with “rewards” I need to claim — which include experience scrolls, furniture for rooms, etc as well as the standard attribute and skill points. The Skills dialogue has changed, too; they’ve added a Skill Advisor that recommends what skills and morphs to take based on a role you pick. But Matt reminds me of the importance of leveling each class line by having skills on your bar, and so I try a little of everything.

I very quickly learn that as a Warden, my first skill in the Animal Companions line, Dive, is literally throwing a cliff racer at my foes, and I wonder why no one told me this before. I would have been back earlier!!

Since I pinged the GM of the UESP guild before I even signed on for the first time, I have a guild invite waiting for me, and I… pick up where I left off, really. I recognize a full 80% of the names on the roster. Immediately I’m joking with them as if I’d never been gone.

One of the first quests I do involves a murder at the Russafeld vineyard of a racist Altmer who the local population kinda hates. And no spoilers, but this quest is intense. I have gone from WoW quests — which tend to be “lol bring Dadgar 1000 pieces of poop” (and all text) — to a fully-voiced murder investigation, which touches on fantasy racism, romantic obsession, and old wounds, both personal and cultural. And this is just a side quest, folks. Meanwhile Raz is still waiting back at Shimmerene for me to do the main quest.

The worldbuilding, of course, is exquisite. The Altmer aren’t my particular area of interest in the ES world, but now that we’re visiting with them, I’m enjoying seeing their different cultural mores and linguistic peculiarities. (Noted is the usage of “cerum, ceruval” to address you — some honorific?)

So far, so good.

Day 10

My new character, my warden, is now level 18. I continue to throw cliff racers at things while tooling around Summerset and Artaeum (the Brigadoon of the ES world). In addition to the Russafeld vineyard murder investigation I mentioned loving, I also really liked the Insatiable quest, and of course the lore nerd in me is thrilled by the importance of the Crystal Tower in the main plot. Oh, oh, and I like that you get to learn more about Vanus Galerion and Mannimarco’s friendship when they were both Psijics, before the latter got all necromancer-y.

(I ship it).

Yaghra release metal riffs when they die. Fascinating.

If anyone didn’t know that sloads have been part of the lore since at least TESIII, possibly earlier, you’d think they’d decided to transplant the Hutts to Tamriel to be the villains of this expansion.

(To be fair, the original Star Wars movies pre-date all the ES games, so the argument could be made either way. But how many ways can you do giant sentient slugs?)

I’ve start dipping my toes into the housing system; I now own two free inn rooms — one in Vivec City and one in Alinor — and have no idea what to put in them. So far I’ve bought some storage boxes from the Crown Store, put them in there, and filled them with my ginormous collection of 100+ monster helms and Wrothgar dailies sets, so that I don’t accidentally deconstruct them. I still have no idea what the meta is any more, but since the gear cap hasn’t changed, there’s still the possibility this is all good stuff. Also the Julianos crafted set still seems to be good, so I’m running around in that.

Oh, and I bought myself a Tythis Andromo (the banking assistant), so I suppose I can stick him in my empty rooms.

Falanu Dren, my former main (a Dunmer magicka templar, often a healer, Mephala worshipper, Vivec fangirl, poisoner, and House Hlaalu retainer), finished off the Orsinium quest (which she was in the middle of when I quit), and moved on to Vvardenfell.

Of course, I’m adoring Morrowind — it’s a fine mixture of TESIII nostalgia and delightful new lore. Like:

Nostalgia: the Vivec City cantons are still impossible to navigate.

Nostalgia: cliff racers, flying so high!

New: Cliff striders, cousins to cliff racers! And bards singing songs about them, too.

Nostalgia: silt striders, those giant sand fleas of Vvardenfell transportation.

New: nix-oxes, the compact sedan version of the silt strider.

Completely new: Shroom beetles, a type of shalk that grow mushrooms on their backs. Vvardvarks, which look like they were inspired by this comic.

Nostalgia: the Morag Tong! (And old old friend Naryu Virian, from the Ebonheart Pact main quest, and Fungal Grotto).

New: sexily-voiced Morag Tong assassins outside of Balmora! (Hi, Ashur).

New AND nostalgia: In the archcanon’s office in Vivec City you find a document explaining why Ebonheart is in a different location in ESO (on the Morrowind mainland) than it was in TESIII. Vivec wanted it moved, apparently! I mean, I guess “because a living god says so” is a good reason.

Nostalgia: the Camonna Tong, and their being involved with skooma trafficking.

New: Pamphlets warning you away from the Camonna Tong.

Nostalgia: Magister Therana of House Telvanni!

New: a quest that will teach you how Therana ended up a) alive ~800 years from now, and b) quite so… addled. (Oh, and help an Argonian rise through the ranks of House Telvanni in the process. Of course, I was reminded of my own Nerevarine).

Oh, and the first quest you do for Vivec as part of the main storyline? Has you go to one of the most famous crypts of TESIII to ask questions of an ancestor spirit. Questions which a lore-enthusiast will instantly realize are about the Heart of Lorkhan and Dagoth Ur, even though the answers that are given point to a more immediate threat.

But really, this is all just to say: I missed getting the vvardvark loyalty pet by a day. Boo. But I did win a UESP guild trivia contest, so that was a nice consolation prize.

Vvardvark! Half guar, half aardvark, all madness. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
Who wouldn’t want their very own magical experiment gone wrong?

Day 17

My knowledge of the game and the meta is accelerating fast! I will probably do one of the trials (small 12-person raids, basically) tonight with the UESP guild. (And how great is it that I can jump into endgame content so quickly after a two-year hiatus?)

My warden is now up to 28. I’ve done a lot of the side quests on Summerset, and I think it’s mostly the main quest that remains to me. Been doing some of the world boss dailies, too, since there’s always someone killing one of them. This character is going to be my jeweler, I think, so I got certified for that so I can do daily writs.

Falanu is still working through Morrowind — if I want to buy the Amaya Lake Lodge (which I do), I need to finish the main quest here. (Not that that will be a hardship!) In the meantime I’ve made the Saint Delyn Penthouse as comfortable I can with my allotted fifteen furnishings.

(I did go through and acquire every single free inn room I could. I figure I can make them comfortable in different ways, according to my characters, i.e. Imperial furnishings in the Rosy Lion for my Imperial who’s DC-side. This is somewhat stymied by the fact that the non-DLC inn rooms are basically broom closets).

The UESP guild hosted a “dungeon help night” on Sunday, and I took Falanu along. I didn’t need help with any specific dungeons; I just wanted to see some of the ones I’d missed while I’d been gone. So I logged onto TeamSpeak (0ld sk00l!), grouped up my our old pals @baratron, @Sedrethi, and @Mauin, and did normal Fang Lair and Falkreath Hold, two of the DLC dungeons. I healed, because I wanted to get some practice with it again.

In the process, I learned how the Undaunted pledge system had changed. There are now three quest givers, not two! You can do each chapter of multi-chapter dungeons as normal or vet! You get one key for completing the pledge on normal and two for doing it on veteran hard-mode; it’s not worth doing it vet if you can’t do it hardmode, because you’ll still only get one key. (Much as it used to be with Imperial City Prison and White Gold Tower). The keys are all the same, and you use them in whichever chest has the monster set you want. (There’s a helpful sign telling you which).

I also learned about how my abilities had changed. I learned how powerful and expensive Ritual of Rebirth — the “Templar clap heal” — had become, edging out Breath of Life for certain uses. I learned how useless Restoring Aura is these days, since now it only restores stamina, and doesn’t stack with other stamina buffs.

As usual, my groupmates mostly let me run through the dungeon at my own pace, showing me things I might otherwise miss (like what one boss in Falkreath Hold does if you cleanse his corpse), and trying not to kill things so quickly we couldn’t see mechanics. It was hard to pay attention to the story and also banter with them like we always do, even with subtitles. So all I gathered is that Fang Lair used to be a Dwemer city and now it’s full of necromancers, and that Falkreath Hold is a Nord citIy (yes, Falkreath from TESV) overrun with Reachmen and minotaurs.

After we finished, I stayed up probably later than I should have just talking with my group mates. I’ve missed these dorks so much! This was how I was convinced to come to trials; I told them, “I sure have a bunch of CP, but I don’t necessarily know how to use them yet!” and they said, “We’ll teach you!”

Br’ihnassi, my Khajiit stamina nightblade, is also playable again. I’ve been doing Thieves Guild tip board quests to raise her Legerdemain, progressing through the Dark Brotherhood storyline (which she was in the midst of when I quit), and occasionally working through Cadwell’s Gold, which she never completed (and which has left her desperately short of skill points).

I haven’t gotten any of my other characters playable yet, so mostly I’ve just been logging in for riding lessons.

I joined a casual trading guild (their usual trader is in Shornhelm), and have been selling some stuff with my designated trader character. The house I want is either 7000 crowns or 1.3M gold, so I’ve got to get saving, if only for furniture.

Amaya Lake Lodge, the Hlaalu-est of dwellings. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
You will be mine. Someday.

Having come right from WoW, I both miss and don’t miss having a centralized auction house. While it’s sometimes less convenient, I love the feeling of wandering up to a random trader in the middle of the wilderness and finding a great deal on something or other. I check them wherever I go!

Oh, right, and that’s when I installed Awesome Guild Store and Master Merchant, along with a slew of other addons. I guess that means I’m here for the duration…

Day 17 aftermath

I survived my first trial post-return! We did normal Cloudrest and Asylum Sanctorium; with my husband and I rounding out the roster, we had a full team of twelve. The actual fights were mostly easy, but I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I hadn’t really practiced my rotation at all beforehand (which was basically just a cookie-cutter Alcast Beamplar build), and I was literally making new gear and enchants right up until the scheduled start time.

I needn’t have worried, because things were not well organized. While many of us were ready to go right at 9:15pm, many were not, and so we didn’t enter Cloudrest until maybe 9:45pm? Luckily, each of these trials can be finished in 15-20 minutes; there’s no trash, and it’s much much easier than a normal WoW raid.

Even though we were doing the bosses in their normal configuration, along the way I learned about the whole +1, +2, +3 system, where you can make stuff more challenging by fighting the final boss at the same time as one, two, or three other bosses. It’s not quite mythic keystones, but it’s something for upping the challenge, at least. I’m not sure if that gets you better gear, but it probably gets you achievs/titles/dye colors.

I was glad to see that dungeon and trial loot is now tradeable to others in your party; that makes farming a lot more bearable than it was before. (You also have transmutation, which allows you to change the traits on an item — each trial boss awarded a number of transmutation crystals, the currency for this). Thanks to the new trading policy, I got the famous Asylum Sanctorium resto staff, beloved of meta everywhere, from groupmate @Kiryen_Thunderbow. I also ended up with a piece each of Olorime and Siroria, respectively the in-demand healer and magicka dps sets.

The only fight that was a real mess, mechanics-wise, was Saint Olms in AS; without Raid Notifier (the ESO equivalent of Deadly Boss Mods, I guess), I had no sign that the boss was about to do his “jump in the air and kill you all with lightning” maneuver. I think I died six times, but I lost count. I’ve been informed the number of deaths to beat is 81 πŸ˜‰

I also managed to go the entire night without realizing that my role was set to “healer” in the group dialogue, causing some confusion. Derp. I had completely forgotten that dialogue was a thing!

Like with the two dungeons I did earlier, I was so focused on other things that I didn’t follow the story super well. For Cloudrest, it was something about the sload attacking and corrupting these ginormous gryphons? Are those the Welkynar? I have no idea. AS seemed a lot more my thing; I think the plot was like “the souls of these Dunmer saints have been put into these giant automatons; you have to destroy the automatons to free their souls.” (Imprisoned by who? Sotha Sil?)

And lemme tell you, for all that I didn’t entirely grasp what was going on, it was still uncanny and vaguely obscene to have these automatons with the names of cherished saints staring you down.

Saint Llothis. Credit: Zenimax Online Studios, via uesp.net
This greeted me. I wonder how Falanu, endlessly devout, felt about this…

Oh, and a funny quote from last night that was pure UESP:

(Sedrethi is expressing his character’s hatred of the Tribunal)
“Don’t worry,” says Kiryen, “in 800 years or so some random Redguard is going to destroy them.”
“I heard it was an Argonian,” I replied.

Verdict

This game is still so, so good, and I am so, so glad to be back. There are so many quality of life things that make this a way better game for me than WoW, even if group content is still iffy. (I’m not sure on that verdict; I haven’t played enough to really judge). Still not sure what I’m going to do when the next WoW expansion comes out in August, but right now I can’t imagine letting my subscription lapse again. Even if I’m just collecting crowns and logging in to get daily rewards πŸ˜‰

Also, if anyone has a vvardvark they pet they don’t want, my game handle is @captainecchi πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

(All images in this are sourced from uesp.net, of course. I give the same disclaimer they do for images: all content belongs to ZOS; I am only borrowing it here for non-commercial purposes).

Weekly Update, 5/21/2018 to 6/3/2018

Brief Update

Two weeks here. I have gotten sucked back into playing ESO and, gotta admit, that has taken up a lot of my time. I have also been hashing out some really intense stuff in therapy, which has made me feel emotionally raw, so I think it’s been a bit of the old escapism, eh? At the moment, I am okay with this. I ended up skipping Madrigal this weekend to deal with some of those uncomfortable feelings, and I think it helped — I definitely feel more human this week.

Re: ESO. I quit about two years ago, but I am so thrilled to be back. I feel like I picked up with the UESP guild where I left off. But game-wise, I’m already kicking myself for everything I’ve missed while I’ve been gone. The Summerset quests are brilliant, the Morrowind quests are amazing, and I’m just sad I missed getting my vvardvark loyalty pet by, like, a day. I may post more of what I’m up to later…

If anyone feels inclined to join me, now is a great time to start; I found it super easy to jump in and just start playing through Summerset with a new character. The game is buy-to-play, and right now you can get the base game + Morrowind + Summerset for like $80, or just the base game for even cheaper. There is an optional monthly membership, ESO Plus, which I think is worth it just for the limitless craft bags.

I have a tiny guild which right now is just a few of my larp friends; I’m also involved with the UESP guild — founded by the builders of uesp.net, the best and most famous wiki for the Elder Scrolls — which is an amazing group of lore-loving nerds, and to which I can also get you an invite, if you are so inclined.

Still not sure what I am going to do when WoW’s next expansion rolls out, in August. I’m feeling very uninvested in the faction conflict aspect of that, although the raids will be sound. And I suspect that while I love almost everything about ESO, the trials (12-man raid-like content) are probably going to be disappointing to me. So, who knows…

Accomplishments

Writing
– Did an hour of brainstorming/free-writing on Built Up Fairyland
– Did ~15m of revision on Lioness

LARP
– PCed Shadowvale event 4

Other Media
– Watched episodes 1-2 of Explained (a Netflix documentary series)
– Listened to The Art of Charm, #702 and #704
– Listened to Larpcast #109
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.12
– Started up my ESO account again and did a bunch of stuff

Health
– Did 2 x 1.4mi walk
– Did a Zombies Run supply run (2.38mi in 38:28)
– Ran the Metrowest Corporate 5K! (42:22)
– Had 2 x therapy appointments

Habitat
– Cleaned both upstairs and downstairs toilets
– Patched and put a second coat of paint on one wall in the guest room
– Cleaned up the folding tables post-SV

Rejection Log

– 17 day form R from Strange Horizons for “Mirrors”

Picture of the Week

Weekly Update, 5/14/2018 to 5/20/2018

Brief Update

This has been a bad brain week for me. I’ve been working with my new therapist on my insecurities, and it has brought a lot of painful stuff to the surface for me. It’s good and necessary, and I think I will be better for it in the end, but right now I just feel like this deep pit of hurt.

Plus on top of that my cat Brianna had major dental surgery last week, and Matt is sick with something like strep. And I have a larp coming up this weekend. Whee!

Writing (editing) this week was a mixed bag. I integrated the mini-mission into the main body of Lioness, and that brought some uncomfortable feelings about efficacy, whether or not I was going in circles, etc. But I also had one session where I turned a meh scene into something more emotionally raw for the MC, so that was pretty cool.

Habitat-wise, I’m painting the guest bedroom, which currently is an off-white and pale blue (and has been since I moved in). I’ve literally never painted a room before, though, so I’ve already screwed up some important things — like I discovered after starting the first wall that there was a corner with crumbling drywall that I needed to spackle over.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Integrated “mini-mission” into main body of Lioness — did ~3h15m of editing

Reading
– Read “Sirius,” by Ben Peek (Clarkesworld Year Six)

Other Media
– Listened to Real Crime Profile, episode 85-88
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.8 – 13.11

Health
– Did Zombies Run S2 E21 (2.59mi in 40:38)
– Had a therapy appointment
– Did Zombies Run S2 E22 (2.18mi in 31:01)
– Did ZR supply run (2.72mi in 42:25)
– Did a 1.4mi walk
– Did Zombies Run S2 E23 (2.57mi in 41:15)

Social/LARP
– Had dinner and Panera and worked on Tauros Express larp with EB
– Had a D&D session

Habitat
– Vacuumed downstairs
– Put the first coat of paint on one wall of the guest bedroom
– Donated old coffeepot

Picture of the Week

I was going to offer you a picture of my shitty in-progress paint job, but luckily for you I also have this picture of a flowering tree along my usual run route.

Weekly Update, 5/7/2018 to 5/13/2018

Brief Update

This week, plodding along on the “mini-mission”/new beginning of Lioness, I realized that it keeps getting longer and longer, and I’m still not ready to integrate it back into the main story. As it continues on, I’m not necessarily adding new material — there’s a lot of copying and pasting going on — but it is subsuming existing chapters and expanding them, like some sort of literary katamari.

At that point, I think, maaaaybe this is really a rewrite?

That thought was so depressing, though, that I’m not completely resigned to it. I’m going to try getting this back into Scrivener, and see where that leaves me. That said, at this point I’ve made so many changes to the beginning of the novel that I will need some serious time and effort to rethread those echoes throughout the entire work.

I just hope this is actually important work I’m doing, and not vamping. It’s easy to keep editing endlessly to avoid the fear of rejection. But it’s also easy to submit something too soon, something that’s not “ready.” I don’t know which this is.

Writing is hard. Let’s do math.

Let’s see, what else is new? I’ve been running a lot more this week, in preparation for the 5k I’m doing next week (eep!) I would like to beat last year’s time, but at my current pace that will be hard. To be fair, “my current pace” is measured using a lot of hills that I can’t just run up.

My audiobook of the moment is Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, which I am really enjoying, both on an emotional and a craftsmanship level. (Executive summary: human child raised in Faerie has to learn to make alliances and navigate fey politics). It’s really interesting to see what she does with voice, with chapter breaks, with making the fey utterly and completely alien. At the same time, it’s often heart-wrenching — I don’t think I’ve ever had a book invoke a feeling of powerlessness quite so well.

Also I finally know how to pronounce “geas” (/Ι‘Ι›Κƒ/), so that’s neat. I guess that makes sense, given that its etymology is Irish; gotta love those lenited final consonants.

Links

My dear author-larper-friend Melissa Caruso wrote Let’s Talk Agency about that bugaboo of, well, my entire writing life. It’s a hopeful post, though, because I learned that agency is often something she has to fix in subsequent drafts, not something that comes naturally. Here’s hoping third time is the charm for this MS of mine…

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote 3253 words on new Lioness beginning or whatever it is

Reading
– Read The Farthest Shore, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Health
– Did Zombies Run supply run (2.28mi in 36:57)
– Did ZR supply run (2.08mi in 33:35)
– Did ZR S2 E18 (3.03mi in 47:36)
– Did ZR S2 E19 (2.31mi in 35:53)
– Did ZR S2 E20 (2.01mi in 31:27)
– Had a doctor’s appointment

Other Media
– Listened to Sword & Scale, episodes 1, 3, 4, 109-110
– Listened to Real Crime Profile, episode 81, 83-84
– Watched The Keepers docuseries

Habitat
– Vacuumed upstairs
– Washed sheets
– Painted a test swatch of paint in the guest room

Weekly Update, 4/30/2018 to 5/6/2018

Brief Update

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to podcasts this week, and less time with the writing. This is the week where I discovered that true crime podcasts are a Thing, and immediately started listening to some.

What do I have to say about the books I finished this week? Vellitt Boe ended on a somewhat dissatisfying note, I thought. The Lovecraft pastiche is strong, and the dreamy tone of HPL’s Dreamlands stories really comes through, but as a result the narrative feels kinda distant. Thus I was never as invested in Vellitt and her challenges as I might have. I left feeling like I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a thoughtful psychological journey or an adventure story, and like it wasn’t quite either. Either way, it is beautifully written.

The Defiant Heir was a big winner for me. I was dragged through this one at breakneck speed by my love of Amalia (the main character), my investment in her courtship with our new friend Kathe, and the continual upping of the stakes. At the end I wanted to give Amalia a hug; she had to make some really tough choices. I love seeing how she’s changing and growing, while still being true to the person we met at the beginning of The Tethered Mage.

We also had the first session of the new D&D 5E game this week, it went very well; we worked together and killed some goblins, like ya do at level 2 in Faerun. As I wrote on FB, I’m liking 5E quite a lot; it feels like an improvement over 3.5. This led all my friends to opine, because of course I have the sorts of wonderful friends who have very definite opinions on D&D πŸ˜‰

Finally, I signed up this week to run the Metrowest Corporate 5K, the race I did last year. This year I’m fundraising for the sponsor, the United Way of Tri-County, which — among many great programs — supports a free mental health hotline called Call2Talk. If you feel inclined to donate to the benefit of the community in Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester counties, I’d be very grateful.

Links

How to be polite, by Paul Ford on Medium. Nothing in here is super groundbreaking, but it is a great example of how continual application of small social niceties can have a unexpectedly strong effect.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote 272 words on the new Lioness beginning

Reading
– Read The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson
– Read “Makeisha in Time”, by Rachael K. Jones
– Read The Defiant Heir, by Melissa Caruso
– Read β€œFrom Their Paws We Shall Inherit,” by Gary Kloster (Clarkesworld Year Six)

Other Media
– Listened to Larpcast #107, “Fifth Gate Wrap Part 3”
– Listened to Writing Excuses, 11.41 and 13.7
– Listened to the Art of Charm #701
– Listened to By the Book, “Bonus Episode: Ask Us More of Anything!” This episode turned me on to the following podcast…
– Listened to Real Crime Profile, episodes “Profiling Dirty John,” “More with Dirty John Creator Christopher Goffard”, “Coercive Control in Dirty John”, “Male Sexual Victimization with Sword and Scale’s Mike Boudet”, which then led me to…
– Listened to Sword and Scale, episodes 99, 111-113
– Had the first session of the new D&D 5E game

Larp
– Wrote PEL for Mad3 spring 1 event

Social
– Went to see EB’s play in Meriden, CT

Health
– Had a therapy appointment
– Had a massage
– Took a ~30 minute walk
– Did boffer sparring with Matt
– Did Zombies Run Season 2 Episode 16 (2.19mi in 38:11 … not a great day for me πŸ™ )
– Did Zombies Run S2 E17 (2.32mi in 35:19)
– Did a ZR supply run (1.82mi in 29:00)
– Signed up for the Metrowest Corp 5K

Rejection Log

– 11 day form from Apex for “Mirrors”

Weekly Update, 4/23/2018 to 4/29/2018

Brief Update

It was a busy week for me, sandwiched between two larp events. Still I’m generally happy with the amount — one game to play and one game to NPC seems just right for me.

One of my writer pals, Coral, is starting up a remote D&D 5E campaign in the Forgotten Realms setting, so I spent some time this week rolling up a character (human variant rogue, named Tamarys) and getting used to the Roll20 platform. The last time I played D&D was a high level 3.5 campaign — also Forgotten Realms! –and I’m still learning just how much has changed. Our first game is on Friday.

This week was my friend Melissa Caruso’s book birthday for The Defiant Heir, the second book in her Swords and Fire series. My copy arrived as expected, and I started reading it at Mad3 this weekend. One of the staffers said to me at the end of the event that she was impressed that I was reading the book before game-on instead of any of the ginormous RP write-ups I had to memorize. What can I say? It was super compelling!

Incidentally, I did a ton of RP and a ton of fighting at Mad3. Coming into it immediately after another larp weekend seems to have helped tremendously with my motivation; instead of feeling (too much) of my usual anticipatory dread, I just was excited to get out there and do stuff.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote… some? on the Lioness mini-mission. (Didn’t keep track of how many, but I’ve reached 10,905 words on this new beginning).
– Wrote blog post, “Big Paradigm Shifts in Editing Lioness”
– Submitted “Mirrors” to Apex
– Submitted “Granny Hubbard” to UFO7

Other Media
– Listened to The Art of Charm #683, #695-696, #700
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Jupiter’s Children”
– Listened to Larpcast #106, “Fifth Gate Wrap Part 2”
– Watched the RiffTrax of Junior Prom
– Made a character for a D&D 5E game

Larp
– Wrote my PEL for Shadowvale E3
– NPCed for Mad3

Health
– Did Zombies Run S2E15 (2.35mi in 39:07)
– Had a therapy appointment
– Had a hair appointment

Habitat
– Dropped a box of donations by the Savers

Rejection Log

– 1 day rejection from UFO7 for “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime”

Picture of the Week

This birb showed up on Sunday at Mad3, likely to feast on all the discarded millet. We weren’t sure what it was — a dove? A white pigeon? A vicious albino razorhawk? πŸ˜‰ It had a band on its leg, though, so it was probably some sort of domestic fowl.

Big paradigm shifts in editing Lioness

Yes, I’m still editing πŸ˜‰ I received feedback from several of my beta readers, which has given me enough to move ahead. Unfortunately, some of the major problems they’ve reported have caused me to restructure the beginning. Namely, I have been concocting a “mini-mission” to start the book, which partially incorporates existing work, but which is partially new writing.

One of the big problems is: the entire magic system doesn’t get revealed until two-thirds of the way through the book. There are hints long before that, but they don’t make a lot of sense out of context. One reader told me something like, “yeah, I went back, and now I see all these hints that you made, but it still didn’t add up for me at the time.”

So in the “mini-mission,” I’ve been trying to make the magic system clear. I’m using the “rule of three” from larp-writing , which states that if you want your players to know something, you need to put it in at least three places in the game. (Replace “players” with “readers” and “game” with “book”). So Yfre, our protagonist, witnesses one of the characters use this magic at least three times in the mini-mission.

I got to the third time and I was like… that isn’t enough. You can’t believe that this insatisably curious spy would just leave it at that, with nothing answered. So I had her push him; actually ask him what it’s all about. He’s cagey and evasive about it, but he admits the existence of magic: “yeah, that thing you were nearly hanged for? Is real.”

And there we are, in chapter… three? with the first concrete notion that there is magic here.

And for a moment I was like… whoa. Should I really do this? This is a big paradigm shift. Why would I want to reveal that there’s magic right off the bat?

But why wouldn’t I?

And suddenly everything just sorta fell into place. Why not, indeed?

There’s a mystery later on in the book, where someone is assassinated using that magic system. As-is Yfre has no notion that magic exists and is capable of killing someone. It takes her a long time to piece that together. Sixty percent of the book, in fact.

But if she goes into that scene knowing that such a thing is possible — even if she doesn’t know the details — what changes?

Surprisingly little. Because you still don’t know who committed the crime, even knowing that magic is possible.

I’m experiencing a number of big paradigm shifts like this, where something seems impossible, until suddenly you do the calculation and discover, no, actually, that will work. And you can literally feel your thoughts rearranging themselves, something sliiiiiiiiiding into place, like you’re just solved the Rubik’s cube of your story.

Another example happened much earlier. My alpha readers told me they felt Yfre didn’t have enough agency in the climactic final duel. Well, I said, what do I do? She’s not a warrior; I can’t have her participate in the duel.

Or… didn’t she literally just create a bit of magic that makes someone good at swording? I mean, not great, but maybe good enough to do this one thing

And now I can’t imagine that final scene without her taking up a sword.

(Of course, more commonly in editing there are the times when you change ONE LITTLE THING and it alters everything. That stupid red letter. Figuring out the continuity of who had it at what time took up a lot of energy).

So, it’s progressing. If I can cobble this together before July, I may try Pitch Wars again.

Weekly Update, 4/16/2018 to 4/22/2018

Brief Update

Shadowvale was this past weekend, and as usual, it was great. The cold was an issue — I spent Friday night shivering in my bed — but as usual staff and NPCs did everything they could to make the game awesome despite the unforeseen circumstances.

I especially appreciated the rogue mods I went on. Stuff went wrong, but fixing those botches made it seem like something out of a heist story.

Also I was pleased that after last event — where I literally knocked myself out with a trapped box — I managed to open and disarm a box with two trap triggers on it. Thus our crew actually got paid as well as getting info πŸ˜‰

Alsoalso: one of the players has set himself up as a sort of tavern keeper, and in the tavern he had a lockpicking practice setup — a mount for pin and tumbler locks (sort of like the door they’d normally be set in), and five different locks you could try (1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 pins). I knew the theory of picking these sorts of locks, but up until now everything I’ve picked in game has been a simple warded lock. I eagerly set to working on these.

I managed to open both the 1 and the 2 pin locks; I worked on the three-pin one a while, but eventually gave up (it was pretty rusty, which didn’t help). But I was buoyed by that the rest of the weekend, let me tell you.

In practice it didn’t seem much harder than picking a warded lock, except for having to keep pressure on the tension wrench. There wasn’t that much finesse to it; it was mostly mashing different picks around in there until the tumbler turned. I expect with more pins you have to do more individual work per pin, and less raking and praying. But it was a big step forward for me, nonetheless — I’m ready for more difficult locks in mods now!

Links

I adored this video of the esteemed Dr. Nerdlove playing through Super Seducer. If you ever wanted to play a pickup artist game made by Tommy Wiseau, this is the closest you’re going to get to living that dream. The good doctor’s commentary turned pure cringe into must-see TV — just skip the first five minutes while he’s getting the video set up.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote 505 words on the new Lioness beginning
– Read through line comments from a few different beta readers

Other Media
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Leviathan: the Wolf of Whale Street”
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.6
– Listened to The Art of Charm, episodes 693-695. (Apparently this podcast started its life, some 10+ years ago, as a pickup podcast, but these days it’s more general “how to develop social skills” sort of stuff. I don’t think it was ever the more toxic variety of pickup stuff, but if anyone knows differently, I’d love to know).
– Watched the RiffTrax of The Fairy King of Ar. Corbin Bernsen, you can do so much better than this movie. Also you will perpetually be Shawn Spencer’s dad to me; sorrynotsorry.

LARP
– PCed Shadowvale event 3
– Picked my first pin-and-tumbler lock!

Health
– Did Zombies Run supply run (2.24mi in 35:03)
– Did Zombies Run S2E14 (2.39mi in 37:09)
– Had a therapy appointment

Weekly Update, 4/9/2018 to 4/15/2018

Brief Update

Not really feeling this sudden return to winter. I woke up this morning — APRIL SIXTEENTH — to a couple of inches of slush on the ground, and that was not okay.

Had a busy and productive week, followed by a mostly unproductive weekend. I am basically packed for Shadowvale next weekend, however, which is a lot of anxiety off my mind.

The video card in my desktop computer died suddenly this weekend (it was a GTX 970). I have a new GTX 1060 wending its way to me, only slightly ridiculously overpriced (thanks, Bitcoin miners), but paid for entirely with Amazon rewards points, so I can’t complain too much.

In the meantime Matt slotted in my old GTX 480. It’s a seven-year old video card, so I won’t be playing my heavily modded Skyrim game with it, but it runs WoW beautifully (thanks to the engine being old as dirt). Might be ready for another role reversal raid this evening…

It was a good week for finishing books, though! Crooked Kingdom ended in an A+++ satisfying way, and I hope to write a proper review of the Six of Crows duology soon. For now it’s enough to say that I think I liked this book better than the first one, and that I keep going back to the Goodreads quote page to remind myself of the sometimes silly, sometimes profound things my favorite fragile-yet-criminal-mastermind teenagers have said.

I also finished The Tombs of Atuan this week, which I’ve had on my shelves since I was a kid, but had never managed to finish until now. It’s kind of a jarring surprise, if you’re coming straight from A Wizard of Earthsea — our pal Ged doesn’t show up until halfway through the book, and otherwise we spend a lot of time doing ordinary dark priestess stuff with Arha/Tenar. Going in with that knowledge, I didn’t mind so much; in fact I was fascinated by how Le Guin manages to show intense emotions with a fairly distant POV (at least by today’s standards of YA narration).

I’ve moved on to The Farthest Shore as my print book of the moment, and The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe as my next audiobook. The latter is a real treat for someone like me, who’s read and re-read Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle stories, as almost every proper name is a reference to something. I’m also enjoying it as an exploration of aging, which is a facet I wasn’t expecting.

I watched some more Versailles this week, but I’ve reached the point I reach in a lot of trashy semi-historical dramatic series, where my ability to stop noticing all the ahistorical details is worn down. I really don’t like the entire plot about Clermont; she’s not a real historical figure, her motivations are shallow and pasted on, and I don’t believe she could outsmart the people she outsmarts.

Links

Women Aren’t Nags — We’re Just Fed Up. I feel that Matt and I have a pretty good division of emotional as well as physical labor in our house, but there are still areas where I feel the frustration and decision fatigue the author talks about.

I’m not just doing it for the likes: does writing mean anything if no one sees it? Shared with me by Dave*, who understands I have some investment in this question! I liked this quote in particular, regarding why writers write:

In our faintly remaining hearts, though, we know it is because we are deeply emotionally wounded and want nothing more than to re-create a simulacrum of what it’s supposed to mean to have a successful life (i.e. one enriched by meaningful relationships), a normal interaction with those around us. And, to boot, we want to be acknowledged for the genius of our ability to so accurately present that simulacrum–one that we ourselves will never get to participate in as a result of some defunct emotional mechanism within our husk.

I’m not sure I agree with this assertion, that you have to be wounded to write, but I’m not sure I disagree, either.

Accomplishments

Reading
– Read Frugal Living for Dummies by Deborah Taylor-Hough
– Read Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo
– Read The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Writing
– Wrote 1875 words on new Lioness beginning
– Wrote blog post, “Quitting raiding and not quitting raiding”

Other Media
– Watched episodes 3-7 of Versailles
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.5
– Listened to Happier with Gretchen Rubin #162

Social
– Dinner and writing with Phoebe at Panera in Waltham

Health
– ~30min walk x 2
– Freeform walk/run (1.5mi in 24:04; ZR app crashed on me)
– 10 x jackknives
– Zombies Run S2E12 (2.26mi in 36:46)
– Boffer sparring with Matt
– Had a therapy appointment
– Had a massage

Rejection Log

– Factor Four, 10-day form R for “Mirrors”