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Time:01:17 pm
Saturday: I went for a 20-mile bike ride. I waited too late in the day to start, and it was 80 degrees out. A nice ride anyway, but definitely warmer than optimal.
Sunday: Lut complained, "I'm sick of the heat and humidity already. I want winter back." Me: "Nooooo I like the heat! Maybe not the humidity so much."
Monday morning: It was snowing as I walked to work.

At least one of us got what they wanted. c.c
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Subject:PBEM Call for Players
Time:02:13 pm
This will be a PBEM RPG because my neuroses are rather incompatible with synchronous play. Apologies to those of you who don't like asynchronous play. :/

I've got two concepts I'd like to run, and I'll give more details about both of them under the cut-tag. Short version of each:

* Power Enslaved: The PCs are god-like beings held captive by NPCs, their powers largely controlled by their masters. The campaign will be about the PCs figuring out the details of their situation and what they decide to do about it.
* Three Forks: A World Tree game set in the lower branches, where a new prime colony-city is attempting to live more-or-less peacefully with its nonprime neighbors. The campaign will be about the PCs living and working in this area and generally trying to preserve this peace. PCs may be either primes or nonprimes.

Both games will run rules-light: I plan to avoid die rolls and combat situations. Gameplay will revolve around what the players decide to do within the constraints of the game (choosing to help faction A instead of B, for example). I want the game to be varied based on player choice and ingenuity rather than die rolls.

The Three Forks game will use World Tree rules when it's necessary to involve them. (Including beta rules created by the Blooms for playing various nonprime races). For the Powers Enslaved game, I'll write up a general character generation guideline by which you'll make up your character and have an idea what your PC can and cannot do. Close situations may be resolved by die rolls, but mostly you'll be able to describe what your character does and only need GM feedback to give information about the results or NPC reactions and so forth.

My experiences with PC vs PC conflict have been largely bad, so characters will be designed with the intent that the PCs will get along reasonably well and not have opposing goals.

If you're interested in playing, please leave a comment below or email me (my gmail account is LadyRowyn) with the following:

a) Which setting(s) you're willing to play in
b) Which setting you'd prefer (if you have a preference).

Setting Details!Collapse )
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Subject:The Week
Time:09:37 am
I seem to have convinced myself that editing A Rational Arrangement should be my top priority and I should finish it before I do anything else. The result of this is, naturally, that in addition to not editing RA, I'm not doing anything else. I give this my award for Least Effective Strategy. I don't know why I keep trying it.

Last week at the day job went better than usual. I have way too many long-term projects so I got my boss to prioritize them. It's a little frustrating to me that she prioritized the one that is the most complicated and takes the longest, which means that this stack of 2-4 hour projects are stuck behind the two-three week project which has to be done first. On the other hand, I am making progress on the multi-week project and may even finish it next week. Until then, everything else can keep getting in line behind it.*

* Every other multi-hour project, anyway. I get a lot of 15-30 minute requests that I'll just do because they're quick and not worth the extra effort of putting into the task list. And I have 10-20 hours a week of recurring tasks that need to get done, so there's only 20-30 hours for projects regardless.

Anyway, the multi-week project is kind of fun and kind of frustrating. Mostly it has involved a lot of digging around in one of our undocumented databases* looking for crap.

* We have two of these that were bought from third-party vendors. (I won't include the terrible in-house undocumented databases, of which we have too many, especially if you count the OMG WHY ARE YOU USING EXCEL AS A DATABASE PROGRAM NO OUTLOOK IS NOT AN IMPROVEMENT STAAAAHP). Our technology sucks and the documentation is worse. One of them has thousands of pages of completely worthless documentation. I mean, literally, they filled up thousands of pages without giving any useful information ever. I don't know how they did this. I don't know how it is even POSSIBLE to do this. You'd think now and again they'd slip up and give you a field name or how to do something or where it was located or SOME INFORMATION AT ALL. But no. The other one went the more straightforward route of never writing anything down.

Anyway, the fun part is when I can actually find something without having to ask where it is. I think I've only broken down and asked once so far. This included some particularly weird discoveries. For example, I was looking for a field which the UI calls "Current Liability", under the screen for parties with "Indirect Liability" on a loan. I found a table labeled "Indirect Liabilities" which had field descriptions corresponding to all the stuff on the screen. ALL OF IT. "Aha!" I thought. "This must be the table." I added it to my report. No data in any of the fields. "Huh. Maybe I did the joins wrong." I tried some different joins. Still nothing. I made a new query with nothing but the Indirect Liabilities table and queried it to see what data it had.

Nothing. The table contained no data whatsoever, on anything. WHY IS THIS EVEN IN HERE? It had three sibling tables (for reasons TOTALLY UNCLEAR to me, this database often has multiples of what look like the exact same tables -- same table description, same field descriptions, same field names, but the table name will be something like CUP019L instead of CUP019. Also, the naming convention is from 1982 so all of the names are utterly cryptic.) I looked at all the sibling tables. They were also all empty. WHAT WHY I DON'T EVEN. But I did finally find the right table, in the "loans" as opposed to "customer" section of the database, which is unintuitive for reasons too arcane to elaborate upon. WHATEVER I FOUND IT HAH.

The one good part about dealing with this antique is that finding the thing I need is very satisfying because it's so hard.

So I don't feel like I'm failing at work. I am still failing at my hobbies, though.
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Subject:And Talk about the Weather
Time:07:55 am
Last Monday: high of 73.
Monday night: Snow.
Today: high of 70.
Tonight: Snow.

This is not so much spring as 'the weather can't decide whether it's winter or summer.' "Let's just flip a coin every 12 hours, okay? Okay."
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Subject:Weekend stuff
Time:12:52 pm
This weekend, Lut and I watched "They Live", a 1988 sf/action* film. Lut uses a line from it now and again -- "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum" -- which is what prompted me to put it on the Netflix queue. It is a decidedly 80s B-movie, though the socio-economic commentary would be right at home with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, the idea that the subliminal messages behind all media, signs, and advertising are "Marry and reproduce, obey authority, consume, stay asleep" is pretty reasonable when you think about it. (Granted, not ALL media. But culture is a meme, and that's how it reinforces itself.) That the film's solution to socio-economic imbalances is "shoot the evil bastards in the face" does add to the overall creepiness, though.

* As we started the film, I told Lut all I knew about it was "it's an 80s sf/horror film with aliens living disguised among humans on Earth". Lut: "It's not a horror film." Me: "Oh, I thought I'd heard it was. Hey, it's a John Carpenter film but not horror?" Lut: "It's not horror." Afterwards, as we're looking up one of the actors on IMDB: Me: "Hey, IMDB says it's a horror film too. I knew I'd heard that it was." Lut: "Well, IMDB is wrong." Me: "Yeah, they are. It's not horror."

We also watched a few episodes of season 7 Burn Notice: Grimdark Edition. It's not bad per se, but I miss the more light-hearted episodes of earlier seasons, where the protagonists often were clearly helping innocent people against bad guys. Now it's just a big quagmire of bad guys vs other bad guys and everything sucks. Season 6 was a lot like that too. Lut had "Sin City" on the queue and it arrived, but I'm going to let him watch it alone. We saw it in the theatre already, and I'm over quota on grimdark.

Annoyingly, I've gotten to the grimdark portion of Rational Arrangement in editing too. BAD TIMING. I need some cheery action/sf/fantasy to watch with Lut. Any recommendations? MLP doesn't count. (Lut doesn't like children's media).

I spent a couple of hours reverse-engineering an outline for RA. I wrote an outline when I started, but it diverges wildly from what I actually wrote. (Among other things, I was almost finished writing the outline before I decided I wanted to write a poly romance, so the third protagonist is shoehorned into the outline in a couple of places but largely absent. The character fits far more naturally into the book.) I've been tagging scenes with their relevance to plot, character, and setting. So far, virtually everything is character & setting, and maybe half of it is plot-critical. Some of the stuff that's tagged with "character" is significant in terms of show why the characters love one another and/or why the reader should care, so I don't actually think it's a good idea to cut everything that's not tagged for plot. It is enlightening in showing why the book's so long, though. I am not sure this enlightenment justifies the time it takes me to put it together. I think the reason I feel like I am failing at editing is that I spend a lot of time tweaking the story and doing stuff with it but it doesn't feel measurably different or improved to me. In my head, it's still the same "long romance that I like". Eventually I will get through my list and hopefully then I'll feel as if I accomplished something. Until then: slogging onwards.

I updated my activity log, reconstructing what I could from all the days I didn't track. Yikes. At least it's current now.

On Sunday, I went for a 10-mile bike ride because the weather was lovely. My legs are in fine shape for outdoors biking, since I've been using the exercise bike all winter. My sit bones, however, are not prepared. This was not noticeable on Sunday, but when I got back in the saddle to bike to work today: ow. It doesn't bother me any time except when I'm riding, at least. On the exercise & diet front: I have managed to average under 1500 calories per day for two weeks now. Yay! I have not, of course, lost any weight. -_- Surely that will change eventually.

I wrote one dragon bio -- I have slacked off on those and am trying to make editing progress instead. I don't know if the trade-off is working.

I have a little under two weeks before the Wind festival kicks off. I should post a round of donation-begging on the items-wanted board and see if we can get anything from the site at large.

In other news: Daylight Savings Time still sucks.

Everybody else have a good weekend?
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Subject:Flight Rising and Volunteering
Time:09:24 am
One of the things I did do in February was volunteer to run an event in Flight Rising.

"Volunteer" is perhaps the wrong word. It's more like "no one else is doing this so I guess I will" and then no one stopped me.

Organizing people in a game is a lot like that.

A few months earlier, one of the Flight Rising players had suggested a Battle Royale, where for one week, the userbase would actual handle dominance the way the game mechanics had been set up.


Perhaps more background is in order.

FR as a whole is less a game than a toy. You don't play to "win": you just play around, breeding your dragons and playing minigames and buying and selling stuff and whatever strikes your fancy. There is no overall victory condition, no game-mechanic-enforced goal, no score by which your lair is rated.

Some of the minigames within the site have scores, however, and there's one sort of "metagame" called "Dominance".

In game-mechanic terms, every player belongs to one of eleven Flights. Every week is a week-long Dominance Contest between all eleven Flights. The Flight that exalts the most dragons/high level* dragons in proportion to their active user base wins dominance for the next week. The dominant flight enjoys a few insignificant bonuses while dominant. Dominance is mainly for fun/bragging rights.

The main game-mechanic purpose to this is (a) give players another thing to keep them playing and (b) lower the population of dragons in player lairs. Dragons are immortal and lair space is finite, so exaltation -- having dragons leave their lairs and serve the gods -- is ultimately the only way to make sure there's still room in player lairs for breeding. Since this is a breeding game, that's kind of important.

As it turns out in practice, no flight is actually trying to get dominance every week. Any flight that did would always lose to flights that conserved their resources to go all out for a targeted week. Flights don't exactly "take turns", but many in my flight, for example, think it takes two-three months to prepare to take dominance. So the effect is that often a flight will take dominance uncontested. Every two-three weeks, you might see two flights competing. I think back in July there was a four-way struggle. I'm not sure I've seen a three-way.

To encourage other flights to help instead of competing, a flight trying for dominance will usually run a "dominance raffle", where other flights give dragons to the flight trying for dominance in return for the average value of the dragons plus tickets in a raffle.

The Battle Royale concept was simple:

* Nobody runs a dominance raffle to lure dragons to be donated to a flight other than their own.
* Every flight tries to get dominance for their own flight.

Back in November / early December, this idea was well-received. The most common date proposed was the second week of February. Then all talk of it died away.

In early January, I tracked down the original poster of the idea and said "is this on? Can you update the opening post if so?" The response I got was "Uh, I don't actually want to be in charge here, I was just throwing the idea out there."

... OK then.

I guess anyone else can throw the idea out there, too.

I put up a general poll to all flights of "are you going to do this?" and received responses indicating two flights were definitely going to, two flights were kind of "maybe", two flights were "What?" and the rest were "No."

My flight, Wind, was one of the "kinda maybe". All of the people who usually organized Wind's dominance efforts wanted to focus on getting dominance in an event six weeks after the Battle Royale. Some of the rank-and-file were keen on it, though.

And I wanted to do it. And I wanted it to be more than just me.

I decided I'd throw a bunch of money and gilded-chest prizes into an in-flight dominance incentive raffle on my own, and asked if anyone else wanted to help out. Deryni, who usually runs the in-flight raffles, didn't want to run this one but she donated enough treasure to nearly double my pot. Another player, Elfnextdoor, offered to run a separate traditional dragon-and-prizes raffle alongside mine, which was fine by me. I was giving out prizes of obvious and equal value because I didn't want to deal with the drawn-out process of asking people for prize preferences and figuring out who gets what package. If someone else wanted to deal with it, great! Go them!

Elfnextdoor also had the brilliant inspiration of offering ranks and titles to the winners. The ranks were based on the dragons you exalted during the Battle Royale. The titles were personalized: Elfnextdoor churned out dozens of individual nifty titles, one for each participant, plus embellishments and additional titles as individuals were promoted throughout the week.

That was, hands-down, the best part of the event. Everyone loved the ranks and adored their titles.

I built a google form for people to fill out on entering, which fed into a spreadsheet. I mostly-automated the process of calculating ranks and determining who had been promoted. Every night, Elfnextdoor would post a "daily briefing" with invented events from the battle and the names of actual participants and their exalted dragons. Those participants had been drawn at random to receive daily prizes. She'd also post all of that day's promotions, and their shiny new titles.

It was enormously fun, the best time I've ever had in a dominance contest. And this despite Wind being stuck firmly in fourth place -- last of all those making any effort -- for almost the entirety of the event.

The funny thing for me about this was that I had a great time almost entirely because Elfnextdoor was handing out titles and posting daily briefings -- far and away the highlight of the event for me.

But Elfnextdoor told me when she volunteered that she'd had no intention of stepping forward until I did. She'd wanted to do something, but she didn't want to do it alone, and didn't want to be seen as grabbing control. And my skills were, in some respects, very useful to her in making her part work: I'm the one who put together the spreadsheet so she could tell who'd been promoted, for example. It was a good partnership.

As I'd expected, it was a fair bit of work. I ended up putting far more time into the actual "exalting" piece than I'd anticipated, because I really wanted to make vice-admiral. (I wanted to make full admiral, actually, but that was Not Happening.) The funny part about that was I was the one who was handing out ranks and who'd determined what it took to get each one. I'd deliberately put three of them out of my reach. And then reached up to grab the lowest of those anyhow.

But beyond the work, it was far more fun than I had imagined it would be. Enough so that I volunteered for a different project, organizing one of the festival events Wind will be running at the end of March. So far, that's been some work and some fun. I fear it leading to drama (I asked for suggestions at one point and then was unenthusiastic about most of them and shot down one, which is pretty obnoxious on my part IMO.) But so far it's gone fine.

Someday I'd like to volunteer to help a real-world charity. But first I have to find one I can do without leaving my house, because I dislike driving. -_-
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Subject:February Goals: Failing at All the Things
Time:10:53 am
February was my month to Fail at All the Things. I'd have to double-check, but I don't think I accomplished any of the things I had on my list.


Okay, there were a few things on the list that were so easy I couldn't flub them.

* Keep tracking diet & exercise: I failed this, but honorable mention for only missing the three days I was at a con.
* Try to net 1500 calories or less per day: I did not succeed at the 1500 calories or less, but I did make an effort, so technically accomplished. I guess.
* Finish posting RA
* Talk to beta readers about RA: for a given value of "talked to".
* Put the list of RA tasks into a sensible order: I did this, and haven't looked at the list since.
* write some dragon bios for Flight Rising: I've been better about doing this throwaway item than anything that is actually a priority. Naturally.

And with this post, I also manage:
* Figure out March goals by the end of the first week of March

The rest of the list was pretty much a loss.

I have done some editing on RA, but not enough that I feel like I have made any real progress. Editing it still feels like a monumental and amorphous beast. I've eaten a few meals of the whale, but there's still a whole lot of whale left. Actually, the problem with the whale metaphor is that I am at the "fiddling" stage of the project, which means the whale is an arbitrary and fluctuating size. As with digital painting, it's less that I am going to "finish" editing than that at some point I have to surrender. "There, that's as good as I'm going to make it because I'm sick of looking at it." I am not yet at the point of surrender.

I noticed some scenes the book doesn't need: they're background for the setting but not plot-relevant and don't further the central character relationships. Part of me says "this manuscript is ginormous, so anything that isn't plot-relevant or essential to character development ought to be axed". And another part is just "screw standard length expectations. I think the scene is interesting and I want it to stay." I don't know which voice I should listen to. x.x It's easier to leave them in at this point (if I cut a scene then I have to write a new bridge between the remaining scenes) so I've left them.

Anyway, March goals.

* Keep trying to average a net of under 1500 calories per day. That's "try". You are not allowed to call this goal "failed" unless you stop trying, eg, give up on tracking and abandon exercising.
* Keep editing RA. You are not allowed to call this goal "failed" unless you actually stop editing, eg, don't even look at the manuscript for consecutive weeks.
* Track creative stuff again. On the spreadsheet. Whatever it is. Including all that stuff you didn't track in February, like dragon bios and LJ posts. Yes, I noticed that you quit paying attention to what you'd done. Why do you think you feel like you did nothing? Because you weren't counting any of it! Count it this month.

There, that's three things. Maybe they will feel more manageable than the longer list from February.
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Subject:Still Alive
Time:10:18 am
I am not really sure what I've been doing this month, other than "not the things on my to-do list".

I went to Conflation in St. Louis last weekend with Corwyn, and took of Friday and Monday so I wouldn't be as pressed for time as usual. It was a little stressful. I had to rent a car and deal with insurance, and did all the driving because Corwyn doesn't have insurance (or a car) and it gets pricier the more drivers you have to deal with insuring. Car rentals can be cheap but insurance never is. :/ 80% of my con wardrobe doesn't fit any more, so I didn't bring as many outfits with me as usual.

I still had someone commenting in the consuite on how often I change clothing. "Every time I see you you're wearing something new!"

A gentleman present who knew me a little better said, "Hah! This is nothing. Some years at Contra she changed every half-hour."

"Every half hour?" I scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous. I've never changed that often. Every hour, tops."

Chaos Emporium, a little shop that stocks cheap costume and jewelry mostly imported from China, was vending there, and I bought a ton of stuff from them because I am unable to resist cheap gaudy things. Including one entire outfit, which made me happy because I had been sad about not having any new outfits to wear. They also had a bunch of tiny hats that were (a) cheap and (b) had hair-clip style attachments that actually worked. (The vast majority of pin-on tiny hats that I've seen do not stay on via pin very well, if at all.) So I bought three more tiny hats to add to my tiny-hat collection. I may have a problem.

I had a good time at Conflation: a couple of people even came up and danced with me at the Saturday-night dance, which doesn't happen that often. (I pretty much always dance if there is dancing going on, mostly by myself.) I spent three hours drawing during the figure-drawing session. I didn't feel like I had any deep conversations or connected with people in a profound way, but I got to see people I see rarely, like Mark and bradhicks, and met some new people whom I might remember by name and/or face next year. I made my Save vs Hiding in Hotel Room for most of the con. I will call it a win.

I am finding it increasingly hard to extract myself from my routine to do things like this. Even something as simple as going out to a party for an evening makes me anxious and stressed. I feel like I am acquiring an anxiety disorder and I don't know how to stop it.

I think next month, I'm going to simplify my goals list so my focus is less scattered and I don't feel like I am Failing At All the Things.
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Subject:February Goals
Time:10:40 am
I actually decided on my goals on Thursday, just didn't get around to posting it.

  • Keep tracking diet & exercise

  • Try to net (eg, food consumed minus calories burned in execise) 1500 calories or less per day, on average. That's only 50 calories less per day than I've averaged the last two weeks, so it doesn't seem ridiculously optimistic. I also convinced my fitness app to stop giving me insanely low target calories, so I'm hoping that will help psychologically. I generally do better with an easy target that I can beat than with a hard one that I constantly flub.

  • Read a book I haven't read recently (anything I read 20+ years ago is fair game).

  • Read a book published in 2013 or 2014.

I Are Not A Professional
  • Finish posting RA.

  • Talk to beta-readers about the manuscript.

  • Score at least 500 points on editing RA.

  • Try to stop being afraid of editing RA.

  • Put the list of tasks into a nice sensible order so I can just walk through the list doing them.

Creative Stuff
  • Writing dragon bios is fun. That is reason enough to do it. Keep up the good work!

  • Put the new dragon bios into an LJ post so I'll have it somewhere more permanent than the Flight Rising site.

  • Try to send a letter every day the post runs this month. Do not be deterred from this just because I missed three days already. It's okay.

  • Work on some fiction that isn't fanfic or RA if I feel like it.

  • Figure out March goals by the end of the first week of March

  • It is all okay.
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Subject:Month of Letters, 2014
Time:12:51 pm
So thos kind of snuck up on me, and I failed to do a letter for February 1. But I do want to do this again -- I still have lots of stamps! So if you'd like to get a piece of snail mail from me, leave a comment below! Comments screened so your address won't be published. Letters come with Zero Obligation and No Guilt: you can write back if you want to, but you don't have to and you're not allowed to feel guilty if you don't. :D

I'll also write back to anyone who writes me in February.

My letters may be full of odd sketches, little cartoons of myself, meaningless blather about my life, or in-character from one of my fictional creations. If you have a preference on what kind of letter you'd like, lemme know!
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Subject:Track All the Things, Part Something or Other
Time:11:27 pm
Miscellaneous notes and the recap of what I did in JanuaryCollapse )
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Subject:The Road
Time:08:56 pm
I've been waking up able to remember more of my dreams lately. I stopped recording dreams because for the most part I don't find the record of them interesting later, but there was one bit of a dream I had on Sunday night that I thought was neat.

In this dream I had a mobile Internet device similar to Google Glass, and an app for it called "The Road". The Road was a game where you scored points for visiting specific real-world locations. When you started it up, it'd show a heads-up display of how to get to the next location, MMO-style, by laying virtual white bars over the ground that formed a path for you to follow and telling you how far away it was. At the early levels, it gave you places near where you happened to be when you launched it. Eventually, it'd give you places farther away. The locations weren't arbitrary; there'd be something interesting to see or do when you got there, like a park or a museum. Gamification of tourism.

The whole concept seems so obvious now that I'm wondering if I actually heard of an app like this somewhere and forgot about it except for the subconscious impression.
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Time:10:41 am
I saw this film last Saturday, and like everyone else I know who saw it, I enjoyed. It was atypical of Disney Princess films in several key ways that I enjoyed, and typical in some other ways that I was meh about, and one thing that got on my nerves enough that I'm going to write about it.
Read more...Collapse )
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Subject:On Writing Female Characters
Time:01:15 pm
One of the people I follow on Twitter linked to this Tumblr post quoting Junot Diaz more or less saying that men can never write  convincing female characters.

This kind of thing seriously aggravates me. Let me begin by acknowledging that yes, I have found many female characters written by male authors to be unconvincing and/or stereotypical. And yes, I am less likely to find this the case with male characters written by female authors. I don't know if that's because women have a more accurate vision of men than vice versa (it is certainly true that the media affords a lot more exposure to the latter) or because I'm less likely to notice a bad portrayal of a male character.

But to call that possible trend deterministic -- ALL men write worse female characters than ALL women -- is such ridiculous hyperbole that it raises every hackle I possess. Will whoever is teaching people to speak and write 'with conviction by avoiding qualifiers and making sweeping generalizations' PLEASE STOP?

This kind of gender-based nonsense is pernicious, not the least because women do not become magically immune to sexism merely by being women. This is our culture: we are all soaking in it. We are all brainwashed by its assumptions. Women may have more incentive to resist and more inside knowledge on why it's wrong, but that doesn't mean that every woman is free of all gender stereotyping.

In fact, the linked article is perpetuating gender roles. "You are male so you can't write half the human race". I don't know what the point to doing this is. Does Diaz like gender roles and wants them to continue and be strengthened? Because that's the effect of making claims like Diaz's: make sure we can never escape gender roles. Your life and skills must always be defined by your gender. That the gender sterotypes Diaz offers are unfavorable to men and favorable to women does not make them any less of a role based on gender alone. Talking about how one gender does things better than the other is how we got INTO this mess.  It is not the way OUT.

I also have to wonder if Diaz thinks women are over-represented in fiction and we need more men in books? Because telling half the populations "your female characters do now and always will suck because you are male" is NOT the way to get them to include more female characters in their work. That is pretty much telling them "write people just like yourself and no one else because your gender makes you physically and mentally incapable of every understanding anyone else". This is not my idea of productive.

I want to say right here: if John Green, Brandon Sanderson, howardtayler, the_gneech, jimhines* can't write female characters, neither can I.  Being female did not endow me with mystical powers of writing convincing characters of either gender that mere males cannot possess. I'm really quite sure of this. If their female characters, many of which I've become quite enamored with, are all flat and underdeveloped, then every one of mine, male or female, is at least as bad or worse. If they don't know what they're doing, I don't even know how I'm supposed to tell when someone does.

* This is an "off the top of my head who can I think of" list, so it ended up as some of the male authors I follow on either LJ or Twitter. There are LOTS MORE.
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Subject:Qualities that Make a Romance
Time:02:07 pm
haikujaguar was pondering the question of what makes a story belong to the romance genre -- why does, for example, one vampire love story get shelved as romance and another shelved as urban fantasy? It's a topic of some interest to me, especially since I just finished writing a fantasy romance novel. So here's what I see as the key properties of a romance:

Does it have characters who fall in love with each other? Then it might be a romance, but is not necessarily. The "fall" is significant: romances are about the deepening of a relationship. If the characters start off happily in love and continue to be so without the relationship becoming more intense/fulfilling, it's not a romance. The characters can start off in love, or start off married, as long as there are still major obstacles to overcome in the relationship.
Is the majority of the book devoted to interaction between the romantic leads and/or the romantic leads' thoughts about each other? Again, not necessarily a romance, but might be. If, on the other hand, you have a romantic subplot between two characters who spend 60% of the story occupied with other characters, it's almost certainly not a romance. The Hunger Games, for example, has a romantic subplot but for most of the book Katniss isn't neither thinking about nor interacting with her love interests.
Is the main plot of the story about the relationship between the romantic leads, or is it about something else? The interaction between the leads of a romance does not have to be romantic in nature throughout the entire story: they can start off fighting each other, or as partners solving a mystery, or whathaveyou. But the focus does need to be on how the characters interact -- on their relationship and how it changes over the course of the story -- and not how they interact with other people/how they solve the mystery/how they prevent global war/etc. This is subtle but very important. You can have two different books about spies who are trying to stop a dangerous weapon from falling into enemy hands and who fall in love in the process, and one might be a romance and the other a thriller. It all depends on what the focus is on. If the romance is tacked onto a gripping narrative revolving around the whereabouts of a stolen deadly virus, then it's a thriller. If the stolen deadly virus is a MacGuffin that serves as an excuse to put the spies in close proximity to each other so they can fall in love, it's a romance.
Is it mostly about sex? A romance can be completely chaste or it can be riddled with sex scenes. However, if the book is mostly "the leads having lots of sex without much thought or development in their relationship", then it's probably erotica rather than romance. This is a gray area -- if it's 2/3rds or more sex, I'd say it's almost certainly erotica. If it's less than 1/3rd, it might be romance. If it's between 1/3rd and 2/3rds, it might not be satisfying to readers looking for erotica or romance.
Do the romantic leads spend a significant portion of the book reflecting on their feelings? This is neither necessary nor sufficient, but it's still a good indicator. If a book rarely shows either of the romantic leads thinking about their feelings for one another, it's probably not going to be a very good romance even if it otherwise falls into the genre.
Does the setting/worldbuilding provide excuses to make the feelings of the romantic leads more intense? This, too, is neither necessary nor sufficient, but is an indicator. If the novel is about werewolves who soulbond for all eternity with their one true love, it might be a romance.
Does the narrative include in the denouement a scene where the romantic leads come together to joyfully discuss the resolution of the problems in their relationship? Another neither-necessary-nor-sufficient, but if the story doesn't have this kind of payoff -- the "awww" moment where they talk about their feelings for one another and the misunderstandings or whatever that have caused them problems up until now -- it's probably not a romance.
Does the story* end with the romantic leads in a happy, committed relationship with one another? If it doesn't, it doesn't belong in the romance genre. Readers may well describe it as "romantic" when a love story ends in tragedy, but this is not what romance readers are looking for, and they will lynch you if you market a tragedy to them as part of the romance genre. No, really, they will hate you forever. Just don't.
* In most cases "story" = "novel", but in theory you can have a romance-genre series with one love story that spans multiple novels. This used to be more common, but it's not nearly as popular with romance readers as having the love story wrap up in a single novel.

I think that covers my thoughts on it. Anything I missed?
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Time:03:18 pm
This is one of the pictures I did while koogrr was visiting. I gave it to him as a birthday present when I finished it. It's one of his ponysonas, Artemis, a male version of Luna from "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic"

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Subject:Track All the Things
Time:03:16 pm
I've been jotting down notes about my January goals while using the exercise bike. I will upload them here, because LJ is where I store all the random factoids about my life.
Factoids ahoy!Collapse )
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Time:12:48 pm
I wasn't feeling well yesterday, so I stayed home from work. I wasn't feeling up to writing or doing anything productive at home either. Normally I play computer games when I'm sick, but Flight Rising was down and I didn't feel like playing that much SolForge, or anything else. So I cast about for something else to do. "What are some of the things I kind of want to do but don't get around to because there's always a higher-priority thing? Aha, I know! I'll read one of those webcomic archives that have been recommended to me but that I never get through."

So I opened my folder of comics bookmarks, and arbitrarily selected the first one I came to: the Goblins webcomic. Some time ago I'd read the first 20 or so strips but got no farther. I started over again from the beginning. It's a fantasy gamer webcomic in the mold of treating D&D rules as not only the characters' reality but one they are conscious of. It also has both monster groups and traditional PC groups as protagonists, making it more like Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic than Order of the Stick. (Yes, "fantasy gamer" is an actual subgenre.)

The first 50 strips or so have a lot of predictable jokes about D&D rules, conventions, and players, but as with YAFGC and OotS, Goblins soon transcends its gag-strip origins. I think it makes a better graphic novel than webcomic series, because many of the pages do not stand well on their own -- no punchline or other sense of closure to them.

The work as a whole is impressive and makes for a powerful story. It interweaves the adventures of several different groups, primarily focused on three: the original group of goblins, one goblin who was split from them, and a dwarf cleric / human warrior pair. Some times it goes a long time between checking in on protagonist groups: terrycloth commented on a character returning again "after being gone for a year or more"; I checked, and it had actually been nearly three years since that group's storyline had been shown.

The author has a good talent for crafting characters of all sorts -- some good, some evil, and many that are just muddling through. Often, two or more sympathetic characters will be pitted against each other, and it just breaks your heart because you don't want either side to get killed. And the reasons that they're in conflict are usually horrifyingly understandable.

I finished reading it this morning, on my phone, because I couldn't wait until I got home. Now my head is all stuffed full of it, which is a very strange feeling for me. Like I can't work on my own stories because my mind is still absorbed by this other person's.

I definitely recommend this if you like fantasy, even if you're not a gamer. The story doesn't require familiarity with gaming to follow, even if some of the jokes do.

And now I'm going to talk about some of the specifics that are haunting me, for those who've also read it. So here be spoilers! Probably there will also be spoilers in the comments.

spoilers ahoy!Collapse )
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Time:03:23 pm
I was talking to a coworker about this earlier today, and I'm not sure I ever talked about it on LiveJournal.

I took a philosophy class in Existentialism as an undergraduate, and one thing in particular stuck with me about existentialism: the concept of personal responsibility.

Which has been coopted by politicians now, and I don't want to use the phrase because of the baggage strewn on top of it. But I don't know what better name to use.

I need to distinguish this from "responsible behavior". There is a meaning of responsibility that is "doing what you said you would" or even "doing what you're expected to do". When I clean my room, or do the laundry, or go to work, or complete the report I said I'd do, or finish writing my novel by 12/31 so that I make the goal I set for myself -- I am behaving responsibly. This is not at all what I mean by "personal responsibility".

It is not about doing the right thing. It is about acknowledging that whatever I do, right or wrong, it is because of my choices. It is not my parents' fault if I'm in class, because I could have skipped it if I really wanted to. It is not my boss's fault that I came to work, because I could quit if I chose to. Sometimes those choices suck. I may not want to choose between looking for a new job and working late at my current job.  For some people (not me), those choices may be really awful, like between getting killed yourself or killing someone else.

But for me, my choices have never been between awful things. I may be scared of the consequences, but when I think about them, the worst case scenario isn't "starved to death in a gutter" or "shot by an abusive ex" or whatever.

And I always found that idea of being responsible for my choices liberating. I was not in the thrall of teachers, parents, corporations, schools, managers, whomever. I am free to choose my own actions. Those choices may be constrained by various forces (the laws of physics for one) but I still get to make them. And within the space of those choices, I am free.

I don't know how to explain how much difference that made to me.  Because I was not only free to drop out of school and be homeless and shiftless if I wanted, but I was also free to stay and learn. I was free to own the choices I had been making all along. Once I acknowledged that it was my choice, it no longer troubled me as much that I was doing it. It made all the difference in the world.
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Subject:Demon in My View, by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Time:01:08 pm
This is a short novel and a very quick read, which is the main reason I finished it. It's young adult urban-supernatural, with vampires and witches. The main character is a teenage author who writes supernatural fiction. She feels very much like a stand-in for the author: I checked after finishing and discovered Ms. Atwater-Rhodes was a teenager at the time of publication.

The text is heavy on dialogue and descriptions of the characters' inner lives, thoughts, and feelings, and light on setting and description. I generally enjoy that sort of thing, but this book didn't grab me. If it had been longer, I'd probably have given up on it in the first twenty pages. It has YA supernatural standards, like a brooding ancient male vampire and a teenage human girl he is mysteriously attracted to and whom he stalks. If you're thinking "Twilight knockoff", I'll note that the book predates Twilight by several years, and the trope predates it by decades (at least). I remain fond of brooding ancient male protagonists but I am kind of meh about them falling for teenage girls at this point. The author's writing style is straightforward, with a use of language that neither adds to nor detracts from the narrative. The characters are largely humorless apart from uncreative use of sarcasm. This may be why the book didn't grab me: I like characters who are witty and entertaining even when the novel and situations they are in are serious.

That aside, it's a reasonable example of the genre and would probably be enjoyed more by its target market, who is keener on teen angst and less jaded than I am. I give it a 6 out of 10 on the "how much I liked it" scale.
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Time:01:45 pm
I'm at lunch now, and just remembered: I can copy/paste on my phone! I could write a meaningless short entry about my day and paste it into LJ without fear that it will be devoured by a glitch! You may learn to rue the day.

My day so far has been cold. It started out chilly inside my house because I got up before the heater kicked on for the morning. Then moved to bitterly cold on the walk to work. My cloak + coat combination did its job while I was walking through the neighborhood, but along the highway the wind blew unabated. The outdoors temperature according to the bank thermometer was -9.

It is not that cold indoors, but it's not warm, either. The bank was built in the sixties and its exterior walls are all floor-to-ceiling single-pane glass windows. It's asthetically pleasing but not well-insulated. I have spent today wearing two sweaters over my turtleneck, my cloak in my lap over my blanket, and my giant scarf over my head and around my neck. And the space heater running.

And I'm still cold.

I normally eat lunch at my desk, but today I went into the conference room that gets direct sunlight, and sat by the window in full sun. For twenty minutes, I was warm. I even took the scarf off! (Not the sweaters, though. Let's not go crazy.)

Now I am back to shivering at my desk. The part I hate most about being cold is that my shoulders and neck ache from instinctively hunching in an effort to conserve warmth. Ugh.

Since it's the first day after I set them, I am being all serious about my goals. I did a little bit of thinking & world-building on the Eve & Fox romance novel concept. I am studiously entering what I eat as I eat it. The app I downloaded is nosy, and it picked out a target calorie count for me. I haven't exceeded it yet! Pretty sure I will after dinner, though. (I didn't ask your advice, app! I'm not supposed to start trying to lose weight until *next* month). And I am blogging more. Right now, for example. The only goal I am neglecting is "edit RA". Editing on my smartphone is not fun. I do so much writing on it that I may need to learn to if I want it to happen. 25 days left in January to figure that out, however.
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Subject:January Goals
Time:11:39 pm
Year-long goals are too intimidating right now. I'm going to make just some goals for January instead.


General Fitness:
  • Download an app for tracking diet & exercise: Already done.

  • Keep track of what I eat and how much I exercise from 1/6 to 1/31.

  • Keep track of weight in January.
Note that I am not resolving to eat less or exercise more. I'm just going to pay attention. This will probably have the side effect of eating less and/or exercising more. We'll see. Once I have a baseline I'll decide in February how I want to modify the baseline.

Get Copy/Paste Working on My Smartphone: Done.
Read a book: Read something I haven't read before.
Keep track of creative stuff: I may change the way I do the tracking, but the premise is the same as for the activity log I've been keeping the past few years.

I Are Not a Professional
Figure out some metric for tracking editing progress: I think this will be "Make a list of things I want to change in RA, and then check them off as the changes are made" to start. Later I need to do line editing, but right now I still have changes to the story I want to do.
Start Editing A Rational Arrangement: Editing isn't going to be finished in January. That's okay.
Try to get some sense of how long editing is going to take. This is fuzzy territory for me. If I'm still not sure at the end of the month, that's okay too. My goal is to make try, not suceeed. I only fail if I don't make an effort.

Blog more: I did 13 posts in January 2013. I'll shoot for "at least 14" this month. Not counting beta-reader RA posts.
Fiction: I wrote more words of fiction in 2013 than I did in 2012 and 2011 combined AND finished a book, which I haven't done in 7 years. Self, you have my official permission to write whatever the heck you feel like this month. Work on a new unrelated romance if you want. Write Flight Rising fanfic. Finish Tarot stories. Heck, knock off on writing entirely if you decide to. Whatever makes you happy. You did good. You have totally earned a month to do whatever in, and I promise not to say that starting something new will make you obligated to continue it for the rest of the year. It's cool.

Other Creative Stuff
See above note on fiction. Do whatever you feel like. I've been doing more sketching while koogrr visits, and will probably do some more of that. OK.


Figure out new goals by sometime in the first week of February. I may do February goals or I may feel like planning out my year by then. We'll see.
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Subject:Thoughts on the New Year
Time:08:15 pm
I first started making New Year's resolutions/goals in 2004, and have made them every year since apart from 2007 & 2008. I've been pretty good about keeping to them, contrary to common perception of resolutions. At the end of 2013, I wanted to focus on finishing A Rational Arrangement, and so avoided thinking "what next?" So here it is, January 4, and I don't know what I want to do next. I've been thinking about it now, but I haven't reached any conclusions yet.


Weight/Diet/Exercise: I haven't made a resolution to get in shape or lose weight in several years, though I actually have been exercising pretty consistently since 2005.

But I have also gained about 25 pounds in the last nine years. I got 8 Minutes in the Morning last year, stuck with it for eight or ten weeks, during which I lost a total of two pounds. I lost another two pounds at some point, but I have since found them again, along with a few more pounds for company. Additionally, I haven't been exercising nearly as regularly the last few months. It's cold and dark outside when I get off work; I can't bike outside under those conditions, and I do not want to go into my dark cold miserable basement to use the exercise bike or weights. (Lut: "You know we could move it into the not-cold-dark-miserable living room that we never use, right?" Me: "..." This is totally the sensible thing to do. But the exercise bike is big and clunky and ugly and I don't really want to look at it every day as I walk through the living room. Perhaps we will do this any way.)

So. I need to eat less and exercise more.

I think I'll start this simply by tracking how much I'm exercising and eating now. Anyone know a good Android app for tracking eating/exercise habits?

Factory Reset my Smartphone: My Samsung Galaxy S has had a bug that causes the application I'm using to crash if I try to paste data. I have dealt with this for the last year plus by never using copy/paste on my phone. This is SUPER ANNOYING. It's not quite as annoying as a four-row keyboard, but it has led to my lowered use of LiveJournal. I don't want to start long posts (or comments) in a browser window because they might be lost from a glitch (glitches in posting comments/entries are common), and if I start them in Evernote or Google Docs I have to wait until I get home to post them anyway. I suspect quite often I decide "I might as well just write it when I get home" and then don't write it at all.

So I had Lut re-enable the wireless a few days ago, and just after I finished typing the first sentence of this section, I factory-reset my phone. Copy/paste works on it now! \o/ Google remembers at least some of what I had on the phone and is busy re-downloading it all. Over the next few days I get to see what it missed that I still want. I am pretty sure it'll be worth it to have copy/paste back, though.

The Business of Writing

I have been consciously ignoring the business side of writing for the last few years (as opposed to the years before that, when I thought I wanted to do writing as a business but actually didn't). I like writing as a hobby. I dunno that I want to try to make money at it. Writing is some times fun and reading what I've written is fun and satisfying. But nothing about attempting to make money off of what I have written sounds remotely fun.

Still. At least some of the steps involved in making money are not more work than the writing itself, so I ought to at least ... think about it again.

Edit/revise A Rational Arrangement into final form: I am not going to try to cut it down for the sake of making it shorter, but there are a bunch of alterations I'd like to do. This will not be particularly fun, but is probably worth doing for it's own sake because I will like the book better afterwards. I haven't started editing it yet, but I have been making notes about the kinds of changes I want to make.

Make a public serial of RA: The simple version of this is "serialize it on my LJ" (which I have been doing, for my beta readers, already). The simple version of this is probably also worth doing for its own sake, because people may comment on my writing if I serialize it and I always enjoy comments. And the simple version is not a lot of work.

Get my own website on which to serialize RA:The complex version of serializing it involves using some fancy system that will store it on my own website, echo it to LJ, and tweet links. The complex version seems to be "what all the cool kids do". But I do not care one bit about having my own website for its own sake. It's purely something I would do because professional writers are supposed to do it. I don't know if that's a good enough reason to do it. Setting up and maintaining a website is a pain in the butt for everyone I know who does it. This requires coding skills I don't have and which I could probably acquire, but do not really want to. Alternatively, I could hire someone to do it for a small fortune.

Self-publish RA as an e-book: I am more motivated on this than I am on the personal website front, mostly because having an e-book for people to buy is more obviously useful to the whole "make money" thing. E-books are also a pain to create, from everything I hear, but at least (unlike websites) the pain is 90% over once you've successfully created and uploaded it everywhere you plan to market it. This requires layout, design, and art skills I don't have and could probably fake badly. Or I could hire someone to do it, for more money than I will likely make. I am guessing this would be cheaper to outsource than a website is, though.

Self-publish RA as a print book: Because all the cool kids do it. This seems more trouble and less rewarding than the e-book step.

My tentative plan is to do the editing on RA first, serialize it (and decide whether or not the website is worth it), and partway through the serial release it as an e-book for those who want to read the whole thing at once instead of waiting for the serial to finish.

It seems reasonable that I could do all of this in 2014. The serial wouldn't finish until 2015, I'm sure, but the rest could be done this year. I don't know if I want to make it a goal or not. I should probably make at least the editing part a goal.

Not on the list of possibilities: Finding an agent or publisher for A Rational Arrangement. RA is almost twice the typical maximum length for a novel submission, and it's a polyamorous romance fantasy set on a non-Earth world. This is not an actual genre. I am sure it's not the only one of its kind but I can't even think of any other non-Earth fantasy romances that I have read, never mind polyamorous ones. Oh wait, Lois McMaster Bujold's Sharing Knife books were a non-poly non-Earth fantasy romance. There, that's three. Still. I doubt I am going to find anyone interested, and I don't feel that it's worth the time and effort to look.

For those wondering why I'm not talking about doing anything with the two previous books I finished:

I'm not going to publish Prophecy because I don't like it. I don't know that it's a bad book -- other people have told me they like it -- but I don't and it's a lot of work to do anything with a manuscript. Doesn't seem worth it for one I'm meh about.

I love Silver Scales but it ends on a cliffhanger, and I finished it seven and a half years ago but still haven't made meaningful progress on the sequel. >.< Until I am confident I will finish the sequel, I'm not doing anything with it. (Among other things, I think I may want to change details in the first book to match ultimate events in the sequel, which doesn't work well with a published book).

If you would like to annoy me, please feel free to tell me why the last two paragraphs are wrong and I should change my mind.

Lut: "Well, it's hard to argue with you on Prophecy. But on Silver Scales ... you're wrong."
Me: "..."
Lut: "Notice I didn't tell you you should change your mind! It's implicit, but I didn't tell you."


Blogging: I want to do more non-fiction posts in my LJ. Hopefully they won't all be writing-about-writing as they have been so far. I'm mostly thinking of more short posts about daily life, and the quick book reviews I was doing in the early part of last year and stopped by halfway through.

Fiction: Omigosh so many ideas.
  • Paradise (series): Paradise is the name of the world "A Rational Arrangement" is set in. RA wraps up nicely and doesn't need a sequel, but many romance series nowadays use a supporting character from one book as the protagonist in the next. I've been thinking of writing one of those. Possibly with Wisteria's brother Byron. Probably not with one of the greatcats. (Sorry, beta-readers).

  • His Angel (novella): Blurb: "Lord Justin Comfrey was not a man in the habit of molesting the help. But when his host assigns an angelic youth to attend to Comfrey's every need, that resolve is sorely tested." Prequel to "A Rational Arrangement". I need to finish up one scene in the middle and decide how to end it.

  • Eve and the Fox: Blurb: "Eve has no interest in human kings or politics, and would as soon spend her time stranded in the mortal realm healing ordinary folk. But she cannot refuse a royal summons. And all he wants is to be healed: how hard can it be?" This is another romance novel, although a standard one-man-one-woman romance this time. It's the project I most want to work on right now. I wrote an outline for it last year and I keep thinking about it. I adore the characters and they don't even remind me of the protagonists in RA.

  • Bright Eyes: Blurb: "Winter Dawn bears the mark of a demon-hunter, but the worst demon she knows is the one that hunts beside her." I wrote an outline and a few chapters for this in 2009, felt ambivalent about the setting and thought one of my protagonists needed more oomph, and abandoned it. But I find the idea still calls to me.

  • The Least of All Monsters: Blurb: "The humans of Tizhoir call them angels: beautiful, alien, human-like beings with inhuman abilities. But earthly life is not kind, and Eleonor knows her brother Aristide is more demon than angel, however much he loves her. What Rafael is -- she doesn't know at all." Another one where the characters still draw me. I started on it in 2006 and never did figure out how to fit the ideas together into a coherent narrative.

  • Birthright: This is the sequel to Silver Scales. If I loved Silver Scales less, it wouldn't be on this list. I have worked on this one, and resolved to work on it, and tried to get somewhere with it, so many times now that thinking about it just makes me think FAILURE.

  • Real: Blurb: "Rosalee Dannon is a freelance journalist in 21st century America. Rosario Chantell is a space marine fighting a losing war on unfamiliar worlds against alien invaders. Princess Rose is trying to unravel a curse at work on her family's palace. But they all share the same problem: they are all insane." I worked on the outline for this in 2011 but didn't figure out a resolution for it.

  • Tarot Stories: I did a prompt-call in 2012 and never got through all the prompts. I was about halfway through one story that was going slowly when I gave up on it and got devoured by RA instead. I'd still like to finish that story, and the others I had prompts for.

That list above is the reason I am reluctant to make all that "business of writing" stuff part of my 2014 goals. Putting time into business means time I don't spend writing new stuff. And most of those are just the old ideas that still appeal-- if I let myself think about doing something entirely new, I'm sure there'd be a bunch more.

Other Creative Stuff
koogrr is working for a few weeks at a job site 90 minutes away, and so I got to see him for New Year's. One of the things we did was go to Panera and spend some time drawing. I did three little pictures in a new sketchbook. This was almost more drawing than I did in the entirety of 2013. Not quite: in 2013 I did sketches of the three RA protagonists, plus a bunch of little cartoons that I did for various letters when I did the month-of-letters in February. But I was commenting to John that for someone who is more-or-less capable of drawing, I hardly ever do. It's no wonder I don't get any better at it.

I don't know if I care about this. I wouldn't mind doing more drawing if I feel motivated, but I don't think I want to make it a resolution. Maybe I could resolve that I'll do drawing exercises when I can't motivate myself to write. Drawing exercises have the benefit of not requiring the same kind of brainpower that writing does.


Still thinking about it.

Maybe I will make some January goals and plan to revisit them in February.
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Subject:On Writing "A Rational Arrangement"
Time:12:11 pm
This is the third book I've finished in draft form. (Whether I've ever finished a book in final form is subject to debate). This pleases me, because once is an accident and twice is coincidence, but three times is enemy action.

... That aphorism doesn't apply as well as I thought it would.

ANYWAY, three times makes it a trend and not just a pair of isolated datapoints.

This is the fastest I've ever written a novel, by a large margin. The rough draft of Prophecy was 25 months (from the time of reboot -- I worked on it for several months in 1991-92 and then re-started it in 2002). The rough draft of Silver Scales was 38 months (15 of which overlapped with work on Prophecy.) RA was a zippy 11 months 10 days.

I intended for RA to be "standard novel length", and once again wrote a behemoth instead; it's in the same ballpark with Prophecy and SS. So it didn't go faster because it was shorter.

It didn't go faster because I liked it better, either. I am very fond of RA: I have re-read bits of it many many times over the course of writing it, and I'm looking forward to reading the entirety of it now that it's a whole book and everything. (!) But I love Silver Scales even more.

ursulav was noting that she finds romance hard to write as a genre, so I am not going to say "romance is easy to write". But I do think that romance was easier for me, specifically, to write than the other genres I've tried: world-saving epic fantasy, mystery, the genteel action/adventure of SS. (All my stories are fantasies. I like fantasy. But fantasy to me is about setting, not plot, and my plots have come from various genres). In all of those, I felt like I needed to get my characters into these convincing, harrowing, difficult situations, and then have them come up with brilliant ways to resolve the crises. Also, all of this needs to be forseeable by the reader, but in a way that doesn't make it so obvious to the characters that the reader wants to smack them upside the head for not seeing it sooner.

I have never felt equal to this task. I do work at it and my characters end up in bad spots and they show some cleverness in getting out of them, but I never feel that this is my strength, and figuring out the foreshadowing and the problem and the solution is definitely not the fun part.

The fun part is pride and prejudice: it is writing sympathetic characters crashing into each other's stubborn streaks and false assumptions. The private fears that lead to foolish secrets, and the uncovering of both. The anguish of making a terrible choice because they cannot perceive any good ones. I love writing that sort of thing, and romance is all about it. Yes, romance often has subplots, and so does A Rational Arrangement, but knowing that these weren't the central conflicts made me feel less stressed over the details of them. I did still end up stressing over them, and there were points where I was writing so slowly I ran my buffer to zero. But I never stopped. I never put it aside for a couple of weeks thinking "this is too hard, I'll work on it later". The longest I went without working on "A Rational Arrangement" was five days -- during which I was on vacation in Seattle, visiting terrycloth. Next longest: four days -- for ProgPower. In retrospect, I am astonished by the consistency with which I not only worked on this story but wanted to work on it. Until I looked back at my activity log, I would have guessed that there'd been at least one or two weeks I didn't add anything to it. Nope.

As with Silver Scales, I wrote faster as I neared the end: 32,721 words in the last 30 days. Unlike Silver Scales, I didn't have the sense of skiing down a mountainside: all speed, excitement and adrenalin. I was excited to read the ending but less thrilled about having to write it.

I don't want the takeaway from this to be "just write romances", although that's very tempting. Certainly this isn't going to be the last romance I write. I am still thinking about what goals I want to set next, but that will be another post.
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Subject:Goal Recap
Time:06:49 pm
My goals for 2013 were ... *checks*:

Keep score: This meant "track what I've done in accordance with my fiddly scoring system." I did this. The spreadsheet wasn't updated daily, but I never let it go so long that I couldn't reconstruct my results. I think this is the best I've ever done since I started tracking. I am pretty sure this is directly because I was working steadily on A Rational Arrangement. Nothing makes me want to record my progress like knowing there's been a meaningful amount of it.

Score 30,000 points. This was my super-ambitious goal, because I only scored 27,000 points last year. How'd I do? 45,780. Yes, I scored over 150% of my goal. 20,000 of that was from finishing a gargantuan novel. But even if I hadn't finished RA, I would've been close to my goal, which amazes me.

The first draft of A Rational Arrangement weighs in at a whopping 209,464 words. All of which was written between Jan 20 and Dec 30 of this year. This also stuns me. It means I wrote an average of 608 words per day -- a bit over 2 pages -- every day, including weekends, just on this book.

RA was the big accomplishment of the year, but it wasn't the only fiction I wrote -- I also did some Flight Rising fanfic, worked on an unfinished story from the Tarot card prompts, and wrote a not-quite-finished prequel novella with two of the RA protagonists. Collectively, including world-building notes for RA, it works out to about 240,000 words.

On the illustration front: almost a complete absence of activity at all. I did sketches of the three RA protagonists and that was pretty much it for the year. For someone who is more-or-less capable of drawing, I do incredibly little of it.

On the blogging front: I did more blogging than drawing this year, but still not as much as in years past. I had a goal of getting 2/3rds of my points from fiction, and the actual was over 9/10ths. This was ... too little blogging, in fact. I didn't mean to quit writing about my life and thoughts, and in the last three months I've written five posts. Yikes.

Write more fiction: Goal: OVERACHIEVED. I can dial back on this one next year. Well, maybe not on "writing more fiction" but certainly on writing more relative to my blogging.

Post the occasional status update: My target was four. I did two. Oops. Perhaps going into "write all the time" mode dampens my enthusiasm for writing-about-writing. Anyway, the purpose of the status updates was to keep me on track, and since I crushed my goals with great crushiness, two posts was obviously sufficient to the task. Mission accomplished!

tl;dr version:

Started and finished the first draft of a book in a single year!

Wrote more than twice as much fiction as last year!

Exceeded my target by 50%!

Conclusion: TOTAL VICTORY. \o/
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Subject:Achievement Unlocked
Time:07:37 pm
January 20: Started writing A Rational Arrangement
May 20: 55,000 words written. Alinsa asks: "You think you might be done by September?" Me: "It's coming along pretty quickly, and I'm planning for it to be a standard novel length, like 80-120k. So if I keep up this pace, sure."
September 1: 110k written. "I'm not gonna finish it this month. Maybe by the end of October, though. Then I could do Nanowrimo."
October 31: 150k written. "There's not 50k left, so I can't say 'I'm finishing it for Nanowrimo'. But I should be able to finish it by the end of November. It's almost done."
November 24, 168k: "... there's more left than I thought. I should be able to finish it by the end of the first week of December. Second at the latest."
December 15, 188k: "BOOK WHY ARE YOU SO LONG?"
December 25, 201k: "Okay, I only have like three scenes left. I can do this."
December 26, 203k: "I finished a scene! I only have four left."
December 28, 206k: "I finished three scenes! Only two to go."
December 29, 208k: "I finished two more scenes. Only ... one? To go? I am pretty sure I am just lying to myself about how much is left at this point."
December 30, 209.5k, two scenes later: "Book! I HAVE FINISHED YOU. AHAHAHA." \o/
Decmember 30, 25 minutes later: "Well. Crap. What do I do with my time *now*?"


Guess it's time to decide what I'm writing next.
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Time:12:11 pm
A few of my friends have been talking about using their LJs more often, which has reminded me that my own LJ has been pretty barren lately. Unless you happen to be one of the eight or so volunteers to read the romance novel I've been working on, in which case it's been three entries a week (sometimes four) almost every week since February or so.

A Rational Arrangement has so far been the quickest and easiest novel I've yet worked on; I have been consistently plugging away at it since late January. It is, nonetheless, not ... quite ... finished. In May, I thought I would finish by September. By August, I thought maybe October. On November 1, I was sure I'd finish by 11/30. By the end of November, I thought in the first week of December. Maybe the second. At the latest.

It's the 13th. Pretty sure I'm not finishing it tomorrow either.

If this were any other book or story I'd worked on, this would be because I'd slowed down or stopped writing. But no. I've been writing steadily the whole time. It's just ... long. Very, very long. It is nearly as long as the doorstopper world-spanning fantasy I finished writing in 2004.

Book you are a light fluffy romance why are you not done yet staaaahp.

For my next romance, I'm thinking I'll have just one straight couple. Maybe that will be shorter. -_-

Hopefully this one will be done by year-end, because I make my writing goal for the year by a lot if I finish it. And I blow it completely if I don't, which would be kind of sad after all this steady effort. I have a minimum of seven scenes left to write. The way I've been going, those will probably be padded out a bit further.

... I'm not sure I can finish this in 18 days. I will try though!

Life outside of book-writing has also been good. Lut and I have been watching a few TV series regularly, both superhero shows: "Marvel: Agents of Shield" and "Arrow", based on DC's Green Arrow. I like "Agents of Shield" better. It has a sense of humor. I also like that they were willing to give Agent Phil Coulson a show, because I adore the character. I wish they hadn't decided they needed to stuff the rest of the cast with gorgeous youths to make up for having one normal-looking middle-aged guy.

Terry and Alinsa and I have been playing mostly the same rotation of games in the evenings. I need to learn some new ones so we can expand the rotation, but I have been too burnt-out to put any effort into gaming. :/

Work has been annoying. I still need to go through the helpful SQL advice I got a week or two ago (thanks, guys! ♥) and try to apply it, but I have been distracted by non-SQL stuff and have not gotten to it. Grump.
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Subject:Crackling Dragons
Time:08:26 pm
This is unlikely to be of interest to anyone but FlightRising players, but for the curious --

Flight Rising added a new gene (read: modification to your dragon's appearance) last week. I finally got a copy of it and previewed it on all of my dragons. Behind the cut is previews of it on all of the dragons that it didn't look completely hideous on. This is fewer than I expected. I would have done "dragons it's actually an improvement on" if there were more than, like, four of those. Out of my 80+ dragons.
It's a big image file. Warning you now.Collapse )
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Time:11:40 am
I'd been planning to do Nanowrimo this year -- I was even writing a post about how I was going to do it -- but as I wrote it, I was listing off the reasons the timing was terrible:

1) I haven't finished A Rational Arrangement yet (probably 15-25k from the end at this point).
2) I'm going to be out of town from 11/1 to 11/6 (visiting terrycloth in Seattle, if any Seattle folks want to meet up!) so not writing then.
3) Contra is the weekend I get back, so not much writing then either. Which makes Novemember more like a 22 day month for writing purposes.

And then Lut commented that he doesn't like it when I do Nanowrimo because I disappear for a month into writing and stressing about word count.

And I realized the only reason I was going to do it is:

1) A bunch of my friends are.


I didn't even *like* doing Nano the one year I did it, and I never finished the book I got to 50k on then. (In 2007).

So. Never mind. I'm just gonna finish RA at my current pace of 5k or so a week and decide whatever comes next after that.

To all you people doing Nano: good luck and have fun! Maybe some year it'll seem like an actual good idea for me to do it again myself. :)
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Subject:Speed Dating
Time:09:01 am
One of the people I follow on Twitter re-tweeted something like this: "Speed dating: Great. Because listening to a bunch of girls talk about themselves with no possibility of sex is just what I want."

And I thought: "If speed dating pre-screens out people like you, it's way better than I thought."

But I couldn't fit that + context into 140 characters. Also, didn't feel like getting into a twitter fight with some guy who had already demonstrated an alien and unpleasant world view. What a bleak, awful universe he must inhabit.
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Subject:Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
Time:12:55 pm
I have still been reading. For a while, I was reading graphic novels; maybe I'll do mini-reviews of those, too. Books I've been reading slowly, like one every week or two. But not this one.

No, Storm Front took about four and a half months to finish.

I bought this novel at ConQuesT about ten years ago. Glen Cook was vending books there like he did every year back then, and I asked him for recommendations. He suggested this one. When I got it home, Lut took one look and said, "I've got a copy of that. It's not very good." I stuck it with all the other books and forgot about it, untouched, until this May. When I was going on a trip and looking for something to read on the plane. Lut plied me with a couple of other books when he saw I was resorting to Storm Front, but I cracked it open on the plane anyway.

It didn't irritate me enough to say "This is bad and I'm not finishing it." But it never made me care about anything that happened in it, either.I read a little on the flight out, a little on the flight back, and finally left it at work on the theory of "if I am desperate for something to read on break and have nothing else, I can read this."

It's book one of the Dresden Files, and lots of people love it. I am not entirely sure why I am so unimpressed by it. Part of it is employment of my least favorite trope. "make sure your main character is up against forces massively more powerful than him, against which he stands no chance, with no allies, so that everyone can be super-impressed by his ability to survive." This tactic is highly recommended in some parts of the writing world, where if your character isn't fighting a five-front war with both hands tied behind his back while being tortured, you're going to easy on him. But it takes really kick-ass story-telling skills to pull this off with me, and this book did not have them.

Another factor: it reads rather like an urban fantasy version of 40s noir. The protagonist is an "old-fashioned" guy who treats women like they're a different and incomprehensible species. The women in the book are all damsels in distress -- ALL OF THEM, including the supposedly tough cop character -- who are at best useless if not an active detraction from the protagonist as he rescues them from their various predicaments. Or they get killed, when he's not around to rescue them. There might have been a minor female character that didn't die or get rescued by Dresden, but I forget who if so. (Oh wait, I remember one of the antagonist females survived the book without Dresden's help.) I forget if there were any non-white characters. If there were, probably antagonists because (see trope 1), Dresden has no allies and has to do everything himself.

Anyway, I don't necessarily hate white male power fantasies with abundant helpless gorgeous women to rescue. When it's actual 40s noir I am generally willing to overlook it as a product of its culture. When it's from 2000, I am kind of hoping for a more nuanced view of the world, though. The characters just felt very flat and uninteresting to me. I didn't care about them, or what happened to them, and the over-the-top drama at the climax didn't grip me. I put the book down several times during it, picking it up a day or three later when I didn't have anything else to read.

But if these things do not grate on one, I can easily see enjoying the book. It has other stuff going for it: I like the way Butcher puts in descriptions of scenes and characters, so that you get a sense of what the world looks like to the author instead of conjuring everything up yourself. I was amused by how many characters, male and female, were described as attractive. The central mystery more-or-less works as a mystery, neither too transparent nor too contrived and obscure.

It gets a 5 of 10 for me, though, and was in the category of "barely worth finishing".
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Subject:Flight Rising -- Imperial Hatchlings
Time:07:38 pm
This is not only about Flight Rising, but it's not even cute story bits. So cut-tag!
Click here if you play FR and are interested in an imperial hatchlingCollapse )
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Subject:ProgPower: Sabaton! And the final installment.
Time:02:34 pm
We got to watch Sabaton's members stretching after the lights went down and they piped "The Final Countdown" out to the audience. The crowd was going wild waiting for the band to come on, but we could see them in a little stairwell waiting, so knew it was still gonna be a bit.

They opened with "Ghost Division", a song I actually recognized! We listened to it from the VIP lounge, and then went back into the theater proper to hear the next, because the sound backstage wasn't great. At the end of the second song we took station before the stage, towards the right side near one of the guitarists, Chris Rörland.

Sabaton was awesome, and I use that in the sense of "I was awed by them". They were worth the price of admission by themselves. The music was fantastic and they were all terrific performers. Not only the lead singer but the guitarists roamed the full stage (though they returned regularly to the same mike stands). They made eye contact with the audience and had expressive faces, smiling, pantomining to the music, clowning between songs. They were constantly in motion, dancing, bouncing, pumping fists. Joakim Brodén, the lead singer, was in great condition, and watching him perform one could almost imagine that his regular concert performance was enough of a workout by itself to maintain that shape.

And they sounded incredible, powerful, fully engaged, infectiously energetic. I danced, whooped, screamed, fist-pumped and made the ProgPower-horns sign throughout the entire set.

This resulted in one particularly humorous moment. Towards the end of the show, I was making the horns sign with one hand (index and pinky raised, thumb holding down middle two fingers) and pumping my arm towards the singer. This meant folding my arm back until my hand was level with my ear and then throwing my hand forward, pinky and index out. At one point, as I was drawing my hand forward, my index finger snagged the arm of my glasses. Before I had time to realized what had happened, I finished the motion and incidentally flung my glasses thirty feet onto the stage, to land just before the drumset.


Chris Rörland, guitarist and MY HERO. Yes, that's my glasses in his hands, and my arms outstretched to get them back.I stood there, blinking, watching guitarists run back and forth across the stage, and hoping none of them stepped on my glasses. When the current song finished, I gestured frantically to Chris Rörland, who was only ten feet or so away from me. I caught his attention (did I mention they were good about making eye contact? They were), pantomined glasses, and pointed. Miraculously, he figured out what had happened, ran over, fetched my glasses, and brought them back to me.

They were the only band who, when they finished, no part of me was thinking "that's okay because I'm ready for a break now anyway". I was all "I could totally dance through another album or two! I'm good! PRIMO VICTORIA!"

On our way backstage to see the band, one of the other concert-attendees gave me a thumbs-up -- not for flinging my glasses at the stage, but for my Schlock Mercenary t-shirt. :D

The band was a blast backstage too. I got a hug from Rörland, who immediately recognized me as 'that woman dancing in the front row who threw her glasses on the stage.'
D'awww. We didn't know Alinsa was taking pictures
Me: "So, has anyone ever thrown glasses on the stage before?"
Rörland: "No, that was a first. We throw sunglasses off the stage every show, but they've never come to us before."

At one point, someone called for the band to "get up against the wall!" for pictures. Joakim Brodén was the first to comply, and he stood spread-eagled for a pat-down, looking back over his shoulder with a "this is what you meant, right?" expression. Most of the band joined him in the same pose before they switched to more standard poses. Then like half of the VIPs snuck in one by one to get pics with the band, including me.

I went around collecting signatures on the Sabaton liner notes for John. One of the other attendees asked Brodén to sign the set list. "Can you write "Marie, we love you"? on it?" he asked.

"Sure." Brodén put the set list on his knee and started writing. "Marie, we love you. But NEVER MISS another Sabaton show again." And passed it around for the rest of the band to sign.

Finally, we wandered off back to the hotel.

The people from Sabaton, like pretty much all the band members we had interacted with, were really friendly and agreeable. I don't know what it takes to still be happy after the 10,000th fan asks for a signature or picture with you, but these guys have it. I'm sure it helped in our case that there were only a fifteen or twenty respectful fans and not a screaming, pressing mob of us, but even so. I would totally have understood if I'd run into one of them who was stressed/tired/did not want to deal with people and so blew us off, but that never happened. It was a uniformly enjoyable experience. Very happy I went, and for me having Sabaton be the closing act was perfect, because nothing else was going to match up to their performance. n_n

Also -- look, howardtayler, I was advertising your webcomic! I brought the "Pillage first" t-shirt too, but I think I wore it Wednesday night and didn't get any pictures.

Dramatic reenactment of getting my glasses back

Back at the hotel, we went to the courtyard party and distributed the cupcakes from Truly Great Cupcakes that Alinsa had ordered, and the two free drink coupons the hotel had given us for mixing up our room earlier. I gave one drink coupon to Jarek and the other to Dennis, and then collected signatures on the In the Silence CD liners. Amusingly, every previous time I saw Dennis signing something, Jarek would make fun of him for including a note: "What are you writing, a book?" But on my CD liner, Dennis only signed it while Jarek left a note. :D

Dennis had mentioned earlier that "I am dead tired and wasn't going to come tonight, but then Mike caught me and said 'I've got Kraken rum, see you tonight!' and before I realized what I'd done I'd agreed." Dennis invited us up to the room party later. We'd made the circuit of the courtyard, dispensing cupcakes while Alinsa looked around for Su (in order to deliver the chocolates) but couldn't find her. So we went up to the room party, and after a little bit: Su! I was sitting at the table in the room when Alinsa went out into the hall to see Su. An ear-piercing squeal of glee followed moments thereafter. "Ah, Alinsa finally got the chocolates to Su."

We hung about the room for a while, then the party decided en masse to go back to the courtyard. "We'll bring the rum!" Dennis danced down the stairwell, singing "Pure Imagination" from the Gene Wilder "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" film.

In the courtyard, I put my tiny hat on Dennis's head for no good reason, and Alinsa got a surprisingly good picture of him in it:

The last photo

Dennis gave us his card and insisted on getting our email addresses. ♥

We went to bed shortly afterwards, but I will close with one little event from Sunday, after the show:

While we were at the airport, we saw the lead singer from Xandria also in line for security. She gave us a look as if we were familiar, which surprised me because we'd watched their set from way back in the theater, and had not gone backstage to meet the band afterwards. I said hi and told her we'd liked her show, and she said, "Thanks! I recognized your 'In the Silence' t-shirt." :)
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Subject:Flight Rising bios
Time:09:46 am
Flight Rising has an "information" space on each dragon. Being the sort of person who can't leave that sort of thing blank, I put little bios into the space -- always notes on what lair a dragon came from (because the system tracks parents but the parents can be exalted or leave their original lair, so that data is not kept otherwise) -- and usually a few other character bits.

There's a glitch that occasionally eats the description. I think, having seen it happen a few times today, it only happens when you go to the dragon's page, edit the description, save it, and then bond with the dragon's familiar. But i'm not sure, so I decided to extract the descriptions and I'm posting them here for safekeeping.

I was fostered from Alinsa's lair and into Rowyn's when I was a hatchling, in exchange for DelaRenta. We were the prettiest hatchlings of our clutches, and I was Cloudkeeper's first fosterling.

I'm one of the clan's warriors; sometimes it's a little strange to be channeling lightning in service to Windsinger, but the monsters are friend to no dragon. I know my parents are proud of me, too.

I was born to Rowyn's lair. Smokelove, my father, has never liked having me here, a fate I share with my elder half-brother, Stormson. I don't let his disapproval bother me, but I did leave the lair for a time. I earned groom-price for the lair and went to Terranova's, where I mated with Dyr and sired three children. My mate and two of our children have gone to serve Plaguebringer since then. When I saw Rowyn again, I was at the auction house again, for a lower groom-price than I'd left for.

"Confidence! What are you doing here?"

"No room for me at the new lair, I'm afraid."

"How are you? You all right?"

"Oh, certainly."

She looked hard at me. "When did you last eat?"

"I don't know. Yesterday sometime? It's fine, m'lady, I get enough."

She snorted. "Do you want to come home, Confidence? I've missed you."

"... yes."

So I came home, to the loving embrace of my mother and half-brother, and the snorting glower of my father. One cannot have everything, I suppose.
Many more dragons behind the cut!Collapse )
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Subject:ProgPower: Shadow Gallery, Divinity Compromised, Heaven's Cry, Wolf, Circus Maximus (Fri & Sat)
Time:02:01 pm
Shadow Gallery opened by playing a recorded "Bohemian Rhapsody". All the VIP badge holders packed in front of the barrier -- whether you sponsored a particular band or not, if you get a VIP badge you can stand before the barrier for the first two songs. We didn't try to crowd there with them, given how tight-packed it was. So we stood before front-row seats to one side to watch the first songs. Koogrr arrived at the hotel during the middle of the second Shadow Gallery song: we texted him to crash in the room, since he'd been tired before he started the drive, while we stayed for the rest of the show.

Once the second song finished, the mob left the area in front of the barrier and we went in. At that point, there was lots of space for me to stretch out and dance like mad to every song. Which I did.
Would you trust this man?
Shadow Gallery was magnificent. They sounded great and I am looking forward to listening to more of their stuff. It had been 15 years since their first album, "Tyranny", and they performed several songs from it. The lead singer said at one point, "So we're celebrating fifteen years of "Tyranny"!" and the audience cheered wildly. I started to cheer with them, then stopped because -- 'wait, what? That just sounds wrong.' :D It's a story album, with one of the protagonists being a former corporate man turned hacker when he realizes his corporation is actively evil. The band had flown in D. C. Cooper to sing the corporation part of the songs, who came out in suit and tie, looking snazzy and projecting an aura of menace. Very effective, very fun.

During their encore, they played a new unreleased song, "Dust" (I think). Alinsa had the camera out and was photographing the guitarists during the song's bridge, and I was dancing madly, when the singer started again. We looked for him onstage and didn't see him. Then I looked to my side and he was like two feet away from me, in the pit with us! So I got to dance with him after a fashion, and Alinsa got pictures of him singing straight at the camera. He made a point of clasping hands with the people reaching out to him over the barrier. It was a wonderful moment.

Brian Ashland serenading Alinsa

After they finished their encore with "Crystalline Dream", we went backstage to meet the band once they decompressed. Two of the charming guitarists invited everyone into the (spacious) dressing room. I wanted to compliment the drummer on his drum solo, which was really something to watch -- he was, among other things, playing the drumset cage and pounding drums and cymbals with his fists, at various points. Sounded great and was spectacular to see. The drummer slipped away early, though, to go pack up. "We're poor," the lead singer explained to us, "so we don't have a crew." They've been mostly a studio band, and didn't tour much, although the singer, Brian Ashland, was trying to change that. He was relatively new to the band -- they've been around since 1991 but their original vocalist passed away in 2008, and Brian Ashland joined after that. He was very approachable, turning to smile at us when we approached and happy to pose for pictures.
Me giving Ashland my best worshipful look
Alinsa was particularly amused when one of the guitarists, Carl-Cadden James, was encouraging a VIP badgeholder to go on into the dressing room while we were leaving. "Go ahead, make yourself at home."

Badgeholder: "I don't want to intrude ... "

"Dude, it's cool."

"But I know there's a lot of us ... "

"DUDE. GO IN. HAVE A BEER." There was a cooler full of beers just inside the door.

Alinsa, laughing: "I've never heard the band pressure someone to go into the dressing room before."

Carl-Cadden James: "I mean, fine, you don't have to."

I got a picture with James, too, because he was so friendly, and he'd been great fun to watch onstage, full of energy and smiling like he was having the time of his life.

Eventually we left to return to the hotel room. We woke John up coming in, and talked with him until 3AM or so. We didn't make it out to the courtyard party that night because we were all pretty wiped out, not to mention had plenty enough to talk about amongst ourselves.

Saturday, the three of us slept through (or at least lazed in bed through) the hotel breakfast, so we went out for a late brunch, finally hitting a restaurant around quarter to one. We got back to the theater partway through Divinity Compromised's set, watched the rest of it, then wandered the dealer's room until the next act went on. We bought various swag, including two copies of In the Silence's "A Fair Dream Gone Mad", ProgPower banners for 2012 & 2013 (the only years they've done them thus far), and more music from Jose's table, which turned out to have the best selection of Sabaton out of all the dealers. We wanted to get a Sabaton album for John since he wouldn't be able to stay late enough to see them perform.

Alinsa found Sue at the ProgPower t-shirt table and arranged for her to fetch a bag of her "drunken gummies" (gummi bears soaked in vodka for several weeks) to exchange for chocolates Alinsa had brought.

We went back into the theater when Heaven's Cry started their set. They were not bad (I didn't hear any bands this weekend that I thought were bad), but I was not too into them and neither was John, so we left to get a chance to talk some more. We came back in time for Wolf, which is another act that I can't tell you anything about except I thought they sounded good.

After Wolf was done, we sat in the lobby for a bit. I spotted Dennis and snagged him. "Come here, I want you to meet my friend!"

"Sure, just let me do this one thing." Dennis finished up something-or-other and I got to introduce him to John. He hung around with us for a few minutes chatting, then said "Hey, have you gotten a t-shirt yet? Would you like one? I'll trade you one for, say, a Red Bull and a gin and tonic? We really don't want to have to cart this back and I'm dying for a drink." Thus I got an In The Silence t-shirt, which I'd been tempted to get anyway, despite my existing surfeit of t-shirts. :D (I had already made my saving throw vs ProgPower t-shirt multiple times).

Circus Maximus was the next act, and my second-favorite for Saturday. I enjoyed their set and should give more of their work a listen at some point. They were John's last act of the day -- he had to be back at work in Savannah at 6AM Sunday, gah), so we all took a break to go back to the hotel and say goodbye. I took the liner notes for the In the Silence and Sabaton albums that he'd gotten, so I could try to get them signed for him.

Alinsa and I crashed briefly after John left, but we didn't have enough time to get much of a nap before heading back to the theater to pick up barrier passes for Sabaton. (The VIP passes get us into the show and in front of the barrier for two songs, but for the band you sponsor, you need to see Glenn at the end of the set for the previous band so he can give you a pass good for the whole set of the one you're sponsoring.)
Does Coca-Cola know about this?

Armored Saint was running a little late, so we caught the last couple songs for them, then got our barrier passes (little badges that say "BTFO"), then trundled up to the VIP lounge to watch from there. The VIP lounge overlooks the stage from the side, so gives a good view of the set up. The VIP bar had a giant Coca-Cola cooler, which made me do a double-take. I walked over to look inside, and yes, they were selling Pepsi out of their Coca-Cola cooler. I made Alinsa get pictures, which cracked the bartender up.
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Subject:ProgPower: Damnation Angels, Myrath, and Xandria (Friday)
Time:08:08 am
We got up early for breakfast, went back to sleep, got up for orientation, went back to sleep, then got up for the 2PM show. We met Alinsa's friends Nikita and Elizabeth in the hotel lobby, so were a little late for Damnation Angels. And then a little later still because we ran into Dennis outside the theater and stopped to chat ("Guys! Good to see you!" *hugs us both*)

Damnation Angels drew an impressive crowd for the hour -- the theater looked more crowded for them than it had been for Rhapsody, the previous night's headliner. Centerstage, where the festival is held, is a small theater with stadium seating and a spacious floor area. The floor is often packed while there are still plenty of empty seats, as the people who want to be nearer to the band, or stand and bounce through the show (it's too packed for much in the way of dancing) will go down to the floor.

Damnation Angels sounded pretty good, but I do not remember any details beyond "liked it". I started writing this during the next band, Myrath, as my ability to focus on new music waned. We stayed through Xandria (estrogen! That band has a female lead singer, and was the first person not male to perform thus far) then took a break. I was wearing a fashion corset** for the corset picture that was taken after Xandria's set. (I think the purpose of this shoot is to show that there are, in fact, women at the show. The attendees are not quite as overwhelmingly white & male as the acts, but I'd estimate 80-90% men and 95-99% white.) Then we went with Elizabeth and Nikita to get food. We walk up a block -- none of us particularly wanted to go far -- and they got subs while I got a lasagna from the pizza/italian place next door. We chatted for a bit, then parted ways: they wanted to get back in time to catch Ashes of Ares. We'd already missed Wolverine.
** Meaning "has plastic boning that is totally not up to the task of supporting my chest so I need to wear it over a shirt & bra"

Alinsa and I headed back to the hotel for various errands. Now that the shoot was over, I wanted to take off the corset. Also, koogrr was going to be driving in from a job site in Savannah, Georgia, and I wanted the hotel to know to give him a key, in case he couldn't reach us when he arrived for some reason. In addition, we had some leftovers from dinner to drop off, and I wanted to adjust my earplugs. Alinsa had bought me fancy musician's earplugs. This doesn't just make the rock-concert music less loud, but actually gets rid of much of the distorted quality that the high-volume imparts. I'd noticed that the singers still had that too-loud-distorted quality, though, so I wanted to adjust the earplugs to give more dampening and see if that helped. It even did, so that was pretty neat.

Once in the room, the bed called to me, so I lay down for a couple of hours. I slept through Ashes of Ares, but got back to the theater in time to catch part of Soilwork, the second-to-last act of the day. They had the instruments cranked up to 11 and the singer was barely audible over it. Which sounded all right (I haven't been able to understand any singer the entire show so far anyway) but I did end up working on this some more during that, so flagging a bit.

After Soilwork, Glenn, the ProgPower USA organizer, spoke for a few minutes. "Before I get on to the previews for next year's ProgPower, I want to say that we just had the nicest mosh pit ever here. They were down here moshing, and one guy lost his glasses. The whole group stopped moshing, got out a flashlight, found the guy's glasses, got them back to him, and then went back to slamming the shit out of each other."

Next Year's ProgPower will have Jon Olivia's Pain as one of the headliners. Jon Olivia was the lead singer for Savatage before Zak Stevens, and his group will be playing all of "Streets" next year, which should make for a great show -- "Streets" is a story album, and I think those are particularly fun played live and in full.

During the break, we picked up a bottle of water and Diet Pepsi from the VIP bar. As we were walking back to our seats, I looked at my cup of Diet Pepsi. "I'm in Atlanta. How is it I can even get a Pepsi here, never mind have to?"
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Subject:ProgPower: Thursday, Circle II Circle, Rhapsody, & the courtyard party
Time:09:35 pm
Circle II Circle was up next. They have the same lead singer Savatage had for several years, Zak Stevens. They did one Savatage song, "Edge of Thorns". That's one of two songs I heard Thursday night that I had heard before. I enjoyed Circle II Circle but was having a hard time distinguishing one song from the next by the time they finished. They had one guitarist in particular who was strikingly good-looking: well-muscled, tan skin, long straight dark hair. Alinsa was taking pictures with a $3000 camera borrowed from a friend for the show, and put it away halfway through their set. Then I nudged Alinsa and pointed: the hot guitarist had taken off his tanktop. So Alinsa got the camera back out. XD

We stalked the Circle II Circle band backstage after their set, because Alinsa was encouraging me to get a picture with Bill Hudson, the handsome guitarist. I got a picture with Zak Stevens too, which was even cooler in a way -- someone whose work I already knew, independently of this event. I was not sure of the etiquette involved in "getting photograph with band member", so I wanted to ask before I touched him. For reasons hard to explain, I phrased it as: "Is it okay if I grope you?"

Zak Stevens put his arm around my shoulders, looking at the camera. "Sure. Wait, what? Grope me?"

I only put my hand on his waist, promise.

Me with Zak Stevens. Doesn't he looks like a nice person?

I got a picture with Bill Hudson, too, and then we went back into the theater for Rhapsody.

Rhapsody, alas, kind of blurred together into a wall of sound for me. I did like the pacing on their set, with segues between pieces instead of breakpoints, and some video interludes. I only know two Rhapsody songs but they played one of them, so that was fun for me. We were watching them from in front of the barrier, after spending Circle II Circle's set seated in the tiers by way of getting some rest before the headliner. By chance, Alinsa had picked the correct side of the stage to stand on -- we were right in front of Mikko's keyboard, and one of the stage speakers had been pushed and angled for Mikko's use so it wasn't blocking the view the way the other stage speakers did. During the set, Turilli would come to the edge of the stage right in front of us, playing his guitar. I danced for almost the entire set, aside from a couple of times when the band was offstage for a video interlude. Then I sat down on the benches in front of the barrier, to the shock of the security guard. "She has a VIP pass! She's not supposed to want to sit down." It was a good performance, that I would've enjoyed more if I'd actually been familiar with their work. Possibly also if I'd been more alert.

I had thought of asking Mikko for a picture earlier but was too shy to ask at dinner, so we stalked backstage after Rhapsody's set too. In the Silence's bassist, Dennis, was back there as well, showing off his ProgPower souvenir, a small piece of plastic with a snap on it, a bit of wire, and a blob of solder. It was very obviously torn at the bottom. It had, he explained, come off his guitar during soundcheck. With the result that the guitar stopped working. He'd shown it to one of the techs. "Dude, I dunno if you can fix this -- " "You mean you need one of these?" The tech whipped out a replacement piece, soldered it on, and had it back to him before they finished sound check. Dennis was in awe.

Shortly thereafter, a man with long curly hair came backstage carrying two guitars. Dennis pounced him. "This is my hero! He fixed my guitar! I want a picture with this guy! Someone take these guitars."

So a band member insisted on a photo with a crew member. It was adorable.

I told Dennis that In the Silence had been my favorite act (which they were!), and thanked him for being there. "Thank you!" he said, "We are so honored just to be here." He was obviously super happy to be performing at ProgPower. "If this band ever broke up, I think we'd get back together each year just for this show. If we wanted to kill each other, we'd suspend the vendetta just for these four days." They were staying for the rest of the weekend to see all the other acts perform. Quite a few bands do so at ProgPower, if they don't have packed touring schedules (like Rhapsody, whom I think were flying out not long after their set finished.)

I asked Dennis for a picture, and he said "Sure! Hey, let me round up the whole band for you." And then he wandered around collaring a couple of band members -- "We should do pictures!" -- going off to find another two, come back -- "Where'd Josh go? This is like herding cats!"

Eventually, he did manage to get them all in one place at one time, so I have a picture of myself surrounded by a rock band. "I am the luckiest girl ever."


That's Dennis Davis on my right, pointing at me, Jarek Tatarek (flown in for the one song with the guitarviol on my left, Josh Burke behind me doing the horns (throwing the horns is a ProgPower tradition), and the other two are Nate Higgins and Niko Panagopolous..

I got a photo with Mikko too, and told him how great Rhapsody had been, and we hung about for a bit just enjoying the conversation. Dennis talked about getting energy from the show and posed with his hands in claws, like energy was shooting out of them, then on his toes with hands outstretched, as if being electrified. I suggested he get a shot of himself in the outstretched pose with Nathan (the show organizer) behind him doing the claw-hand pose. "That's a great idea! Hey, Nathan!"

We went back to the Artmore after that. The Artmore is entirely occupied by ProgPower attendees, and 100+ people hang out in the courtyard partying after the last concert ends. Alinsa and I sat down on a couch in the courtyard for a quarter-hour chatting, and then I decided I ought to try being social with the crowd. A man standing nearby was wearing black leather boots literally covered in metal spikes and strips, so I complimented him on them. He explained the construction (boots, plus one large piece of leather buckled over each boot, with bands of spiked and metal collars riveted/strapped/hotglued to the leather over-pieces) and introduced himself as Nicholas. Jose introduced himself at about the same time: he was working one of the vendor booths at the show. He wanted a beer. We hadn't gotten any, but I jokingly offered to sell him one from the selection of overpriced drinks the hotel stocked in the fridge in our room. He actually took us up on it.

Dennis and Josh showed up, and I ended up getting Dennis a bottled water from the fridge too. One of the other attendees wanted to hear Josh play acoustic, and had brought down a guitar after Josh agreed. So Josh sat on a free spot on one of the empty couches and started playing. The guy next to him left, so I took his seat and leaned forward to watch his fingering. (Another attendee caught this on camera and put it on his Facebook, here.) Which was astonishingly complex. It was hard to hear - there was no other music in the courtyard but the crowd noise alone was LOUD. We stayed up until around 2AM listening, then I had to crash. The hotel breakfast closed at 9:30AM (most reliable meal of the day!) and the VIP orientation for the show proper was at 11AM. Not to mention I was tired. z_z
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Subject:ProgPower USA: Mindcrime & In The Silence (Wednesday & part of Thursday)
Time:10:34 am
ProgPower USA is a music festival held in Atlanta for progressive heavy metal. If you're wondering "what's progressive heavy metal?" I'm afraid I still don't know. Alinsa and I were emailing each other about music back in March and she mentioned ProgPower, then spent a couple thousand words talking about how amazing it was. At the end, she asked "Say, do you want to go?"

"... well, now I do."

So we made plans to go together this year. I intend to do a trip report. We'll see how much of it I get through!

I am not much for reviewing music -- I don't even have language in which to express what I like or don't like about a group -- so this is going to be more about my experience than about the show itself.

We arrived on Wednesday: there's sort of a pre-pre-show on Wednesday night, and a pre-show on Thursday, before the festival itself on Friday and Saturday.

The Wednesday night preshow featured Mörglbl, an instrumental-only group that was fun to watch, very expressive faces and an entertaining style, and a Queensrÿche tribute band, Mindcrime. They performed two albums in full, "Rage for Order" and "Operation: Mindcrime". I didn't think I knew "Rage for Order" that well, but I recognized every song and could sing at least the chorus on most. Alinsa and I stood directly before the stage and I shouted-sang nearly every line of "Operation: Mindcrime" along with the band. It was a good show with a small but enthusiastic audience. The singer emulated Geoff Tate (Queensrÿche's lead singer until last year) startlingly well, including the quirks of Tate's voice and style. I have seen "Operation: Mindcrime" performed live by Queensrÿche themselves -- the only concert I'd been to in the last 15 years -- and this was, well, granted not up to that show. But it was excellent. If you like Queensrÿche and live music, Mindcrime is well worth seeing.

Thursday night was In the Silence, Circle II Circle, and Luca Turilli's Rhapsody. (There is some kind of odd history with Rhapsody and Luca Turilli that I don't really know. I think maybe the current group doesn't have rights to the Rhapsody name. Turilli was the guitarist and not the lead singer, but has a large following and a lot of recognition as a solo act. Mostly in Europe. A lot of the ProgPower groups are well-known in Europe but have little following in the US. For the sake of brevity, I am just calling the group Rhapsody from here on.)

The Thursday preshow started around 6PM, but we had VIP passes and so arrived at 4PM to collect those, see the sound check, and get dinner backstage. Nathan, the preshow organizer, had sent instructions to meet "by the doors", so we waited outside the entrance. We met two other VIP holders there, Cindy and Sean, and chatted for a while on the steps about music and where we were from and the show. At 4:10, Sean went inside to hunt down Nathan, since Sean actually knew Nathan already. He came out again saying 'Security said he'd bring him out to me'. Another few minutes later, we all went in to see what was going on. It turned out we were supposed to get our passes at Will Call and meet Nathan by the doors directly outside the concert hall. Oops.

So we missed most of Nathan's VIP spiel, but he summed it up for us. Pretty straightforward: everyone in VIP was allowed before the barrier for the full set of every band, no photos from before the barrier after the 3rd song, and let the pro photographers do their thing and move around as needed. We sat through sound check for Circle II Circle, then filed backstage for dinner.

Dinner was in a small room backstage ("backstage" at this theatre was mostly "underneath the concert hall") with cafeteria-style tables. As we were seated at a round table, a handsome young man in a brown jacket asked if he could take the seat beside me. "Sure."

We exchanged a few remarks: I forget why but I commented on how he looked well-dressed in jacket and a nice shirt.

Alinsa: "Hey! You made fun of my nice shirt!" Alinsa was dressed in business-casual on both Wednesday and Thursday, button-front shirts with slacks.

Me: "That's because you're not wearing a nice jacket."

Newcomer, indicating his jacket, "10 dollars at an outlet. Ten years ago."

Me: "See, it doesn't even have to be an expensive suit."

Newcomer: "Thank you, by the way. I've been traveling for three days straight so it's good to hear I don't look it."

As we were talking, I noticed he had a distinct Scandivanian accent. Which meant he was almost certainly with one of the acts. Most prog metal is imported from Scandinavia, so if you're from that part of the world you don't need to come to America just to hear it. (Later, I found a couple of Swedish women who had come for the show, so it's not unknown. Plus some band members travelled with their families).

I was saved from asking about it when he mentioned that he'd come from Finland and another woman at the table said, "You came all the way from Finland for ProgPower?"

"Yes. With my instruments."

".... oh."

He introduced himself after that as Mikko, the keyboardist for Rhapsody: he's been with them a year. They do speed metal, and he noted it was very good practice, having to play fast enough to keep up with them. He stayed and talked to us for a good half hour at least, sometimes about his work -- his travel schedule was harrowing: he'd already played two concerts in the last two days and had not really slept in three -- and sometimes about random other stuff. Security theater and Customs coming into America (I apologized a lot for both), the climate and demographics of Finland ("Do people ever say "I'm sick of the cold, I'm going to move to a warmer country?" "Hah, I think that!"). It was neat. We missed the first couple songs of In the Silence because we didn't want to leave, but In the Silence sounded so good even from backstage that I had to go in. I was a little surprised when the other people rose almost immediately after I did -- apparently I triggered the 'time to go now' group instinct.

I loved In the Silence's performance -- I'd guess they're on the fringes of what can be considered prog metal, melodic and mellow at times, but great music. I bought their CD later in the weekend and am very much looking forward to listening to it. They had one band member that they'd flown 2200 miles to play one song. He played a guitar-viola, more-or-less an electric guitar played with a bow. It sounded great: I could hear the difference between it and the other guitars played in the same song.
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Subject:Irrational Markets and Flight Rising
Time:12:21 pm
Like all game economies, Flight Rising's is quirky. Some of Flight Rising's quirks make sense to me but are intriguing nonetheless.

For example, most MMO economies experience inflation, often rampant inflation, as more and more treasure chases the most desirable goods. But most of Flight Rising's player-based markets have been either fairly stable or deflationary over the month or so I have been informally watching. Silver ore has a low of around 1k and a high of around 3k*, gold ore has a low of 8k and a high of 15k, basic dragons of plentiful breeds have highs and lows from 3k to 10k depending on how hard-fought dominance is. Gened dragons and rarer breeds have become cheaper. When I first looked at imperials, the cheapest was 700k. Now, the cheapest is 350k. Cheapest pearlcatcher a few weeks ago was around 80k; now it's 40k. There's a few other miscellaneous goods that I watch that have stable price ranges.

(* Price ranges are based on "cheapest available at the time I looked". Players set the price for their goods when they offer them for sale to other players, so often there will be similar or identical goods for sale at several times the price of the cheapest.)

Dragons are a product of the passage of real-time: plentiful-breed dragons can breed once every 15 days and clutches take 5 days to hatch. Treasure is mostly a product of time spent playing the minigames, with a cap of 75k per day. There are some treasure-sinks: gene scrolls and other goods from the NPC marketplace, expanding your lair, adding nests, etc. Apparently, the treasure sinks are actually keeping up with treasure production to a degree. Demand for dragons also drops over time as lairs fill up and people have the kinds of dragons they want for their collection. Dragons consume food ( = money) and the only thing they produce is more dragons -- and that only if you've got nest space for them. So a lair stuffed with dragons is likely to cost more than it brings in. Now, many players (myself included!) are not playing to maximize revenue and want more little pictures of dragons populating our lairs regardless of monetary advantage or lack thereof. But the deflationary impact is still clear. Dragons don't die; you can choose to exalt them (which takes them out of play, contributes to the dominance struggle for your flight, and gets you a small amount of treasure) but that's the only way they leave.

Which is interesting but not inexplicable.

No, what perplexes me is the irrational pricing on swap goods.

The game doesn't have crafting as such (yet). But there's "Swipp's Swap Stand". Every two hours, Swipp offers a new site-wide trade, generally of a format "lots of X gets you one of Y". Here's a list of all his swaps..

Let's look at one of these: 200 Nightwing Bats (a food item) for 1 Runic Bat (a familiar). I think Swipp's is the only place you can get Runic Bats, and the only thing you can do with Nightwing Bats is eat them or trade them to Swipp's.

Cheapest Runic Bat on the player market right now is 28,000. Most expensive is 42,000.

So I'd expect Nightwing Bats to sell for no more than 1/200th of what you can buy a Runic Bat for, or 140-210 each. There might be some upwards pressure -- people who have 190 bats might be tempted to pay more to get the last 10 when the swap is available -- but also some downwards pressure, because it's annoying to visit Swipp's every two hours to see if he's got the right swap yet.

Actual price range for Nightwing Bats? 500-1000 each.

So the right economic ploy if I want a Runic Bat is to sell Nightwings to players and then buy a Runic from a player. (In fact, I just bought that 28k Runic Bat, even though I don't particularly want one, just so that I will never be tempted to save up Nightwings to do the swap.) And it's not that these are fictitious sell prices (ie, players hoping to get this much but there are no buyers) -- I have sold dozens of Nightwings for 450-750 each.

There's another chain that I play around with:

20 copper ore + 20 iron ore = 1 silver ore
5 silver ore = 1 gold
5 gold + 3 rusted chests = 1 gilded chest.

The first swap I don't bother with -- copper sells for 180-1000 each, which puts it far out of the range to justify making silver. Silver I will buy cheap and swap for gold, and then sell the gold. If I can get 15k for the gold (and I have several times), that makes the swap for a gilded chest about 83k (around 3k each for rusted chests). Gilded chests have been selling for 50k-80k lately, so not really worth it. Opening gilded chests seems even less worth it -- it's been something like 'one familiar, one clothing item, 6k-25k treasure, and a few random pieces of junk' for me, although perhaps there's a lottery effect where you might get something much more valuable from them.

You can also use 3 gold ore to make a platinum ore. Platinum ore sells for less than gold. I don't know if anyone ever does this swap; maybe people dig up the platinum that sells on the market instead. I really hope so.

Anyway, in other MMOs where raw materials sold for more than crafted goods, I understood that people were "skilling up" and didn't care about making money on the intervening steps -- perhaps didn't care about making money at all, even long term, just liked seeing the number rise. But the swaps are not a skill -- anyone can do them and you don't improve a stat by doing them. So it's interesting to me to see people still pursue them even when there's a monetary cost to making the swap over selling materials to players and buying the final good from players.
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Subject:Oh Hey Goals
Time:04:52 pm
I have been super unmotivated to do anything at all today (even playing games is meh). I've been browsing through my journal archives instead of doing anything remotely useful, which reminded me that it's been a few months since my last status report on my 2013 goals. Let's do that! It's pretty easy.

Keep score

I've been keeping up on this! Amazingly. Although I do have to reconstruct the score for my journal entries regularly (I forget to count them), I've been tallying the score for A Rational Arrangement every few days.

Score 30,000 Points

As with my last update, I am lagging on this one. I'm at 15,753 points so far for the year, averaging just over 71 points a day. I am almost 2500 points behind. At this rate I will miss goal by 4000 points!

Or I will finish A Rational Arrangement and get a 20,000 point completion bonus for goal-crushing victory. WHICH WILL IT BE?

I am on track to finish A Rational Arrangement this year. I think it's more than halfway through. At 108,000 words. x_x Someday I am going to write a story that falls between 60 and 100k and then I am going to pass out from sheer amazement. Maybe I will try not serializing my next effort. Perhaps that would help. ANYWAY, I won't know for sure that I'm going to finish it until I actually, y'know. Do.

Write more fiction

Goal was "at least 2/3rds of points from fiction". About 3/4ths of my writing for the year has been A Rational Arrangement. I am well over the two-thirds mark, even without the big completion bonuses.

Post the occasional update
Look, an update! This is my second for the year. Perhaps I will even do four total as originally planned.
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Time:03:34 pm
I biked to the bike trail and several miles along it today. I am not sure exactly how far, because my exercise app paused at some point during the ride and missed a few miles. 17-20 so far, and another 8 or so to get home. A nice ride. A few weeks ago I did a 40 mile ride which was pretty grueling towards the end of the trail portion, in large part because I ran out of water about 8 miles from the nearest spot on the trail to get more. x_x This time I brought 64 ounces (courtesy of Telnar, who after listening to me whinge about the lack of water because I was on the phone with him during the last ride, had Amazon send me a nice new 32 oz bottle so I'd be able to carry more without stopping.) This is continuing in the "I guess I'll go for a 25 mile bike ride because I can't play with dragons" vein. -_-

I'm at Panera now, sitting in one of the two comfy chairs in the corner near the door. I usually get a meal and a frozen mocha here, then do some writing. I ate my meal -- even the apple! which often gets fed to Lut when I get home instead of me eating it -- but I seem to be unmotivated to write fiction. So I have written this little diary bit to get me started typing instead. I'll take a stab at working on book now.
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Subject:Jogging, Productivity, and Dragons
Time:08:07 pm
I have a bunch of stupid little thoughts in my head that I should probably tweet instead of rambling endlessly here, because that's what Twitter's for, but I just can't seem to get into tweeting things.


I jogged after work today, which I have not done very much of. There's a residential neighborhood behind the bank that I like to jog around the block of a few times, because it's not quite as hilly as my own neighborhood. "Around the block" is just shy of 3/4ths of a mile. One of the residents pulled up alongside me as I was jogging and asked where I'd been. "I haven't seen you in a year or two and you used to be around all the time. I was a little worried." "I've been biking instead, and I use a different route for that." He introduced himself: "I'm Mike. I've been living in this neighborhood for 62 years." I wonder what it's like sometimes, to have stayed in one place for so long. I suppose he wonders what it's like to have lived in so many different places.


I am a master of the super-slow jog. When I jog at all, I have been trying to jog not-quite-so-slowly. Today I clocked each mile as I passed the mile mark (with a phone app) and walked for a minute or two between miles.

First mile. Time: 13:34. Speed: 4.4 mph. That's ... pretty slow, and that's me actually trying to jog somewhat quickly.
Second mile. Time: 16:30. Speed: 3.6 mph. The sad part about this is that I was still making an effort to jog a little faster than usual.
Third mile. Time: 17.25. Speed: 3.4 mph. This is where I had given up on doing anything besides "don't collapse to a walk".

If I don't go biking tomorrow evening, I may go for a long walk and clock that. I have the feeling that my default jogging speed is very close to my default walking speed. 9.9 It is, however, much more tiring to jog than walk. Jogging: SO INEFFICIENT. Except the point is to get exercise, and it's more efficient at ... wearing me out? OK then.

Anyway, I think that when I am trying to jog quickly, I use up all of my oomph (which is not a whole lot of oomph anyway) in about the first half mile and it degrades very quickly from there. I am not sure what the optimal approach to improving speed is. It probably involves actually being able to see how fast I am jogging as I'm doing it.


My phone app estimates "calories burned" whenever I'm tracking my workouts. Its estimate for an hour of my typical slow-motion jog -- which leaves me exhausted afterwards, forcing myself to finish on sheer will alone, and my legs aching the next day -- is about 460 calories. Its estimate for an hour of my typical bike ride -- which leaves me feeling "Eh, I could keep going for another hour, but it's late and I'm kind of bored now" -- is about 500 calories. I am pretty sure the phone app's numbers do not reflect what my body is actually doing.

*, the silly dragon-breeding game I started playing in July, has been down since last Saturday night and is going to still be down through this Sunday at the least.

When I was a little kid and misbehaved, my parents would ground me and not let me watch TV for a specified period of time; typically a week. All this week, my inner child has been feeling this way about FR being unavailable. Like I'm being punished. "But MoooOOOM, I want to play with my draGONS!" "You should've thought of that before you failed English." "AWWWWW MOOoooOOOM." I have no explanation for why the silly dragon-breeding game has managed to evoke such obsession from me, but I wish it hadn't.

The main upside to this is that all other activities are almost equally uninteresting to me now. "I might as well bike for 10 miles. I can't play with dragons anyway." "I guess I'll cook a new batch of spaghetti sauce up. It'll take 30 minutes, but whatever." "Suppose I'll write some more of that novel now. Nothing better to do." "Might as well write a pointless rambly entry about exercise and dragons. What else am I gonna do?"

But the inner child that feels like she's being punished does not realize that it isn't going to stop just because she's been good. She keeps thinking "Maybe as a reward for exercise I can play with dragons?" and "Maybe now that I'm done with work I can play with dragons?" and "Maybe now that my buffer is up I can -- " you get the idea. I wish she'd quit it. NO DRAGONS. THERE ARE NO DRAGONS FOR YOU NOW OR EVER. STOP WHINING ABOUT THE STUPID DRAGONS!

Inner child: [starts to cry]

Oh look, I'm sorry, don't do that. There'll be dragons again someday, I'm sure. I didn't mean it. Look, Micah drew some adorable dragon pictures! And Bard posted more dragon story! Doesn't that make you feel better?

Inner child: [sniffles] "A little. Can I play with my dragons now?"

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Subject:Cred Check
Time:11:07 am
The little slice of the blogosphere that I watch has been writing about a quiz crafter by Lisa Morton, purporting to sort professional writers from hobbyists. In her commentary, ursulav asked "Do professional accountants get this kind of crap?"

And this made me think about the areas in my life where my credentials have and have not been questioned.

Areas where I've been questioned:
* Am I a real woman?: This never happens in person and hasn't happened much if at all in the last 15+ years. But in the pre-Web days of the Internet, I got this all the time. I remember on one MUD where one particular guy asked every single alt I had, and then threatened that he'd try to get me banned for having alts when I commented on it. (Answer, yes, I am).
* A real geek? I don't even know what this means.
* A real comics fan? I used to be keen on the Marvel mutants, but I stopped buying comic books 16+ years ago. I still buy graphic novels on occasion and I read a number of webcomics. So this depends on what you mean by 'comics'.
* A real cosplayer? No, I just like to dress strangely at any venue with a reasonable tolerance for unusual attire. I don't costume in the sense of mimicking a particular character.
* A real gamer? Yes. I've even been known to drag my boyfriend to gaming events at times, although all of my SOs have also been gamers. Board games and mindless puzzle games are my favorites.
* A real writer? These are real words that I am really writing, so I guess so? I don't get paid for it and I am not a professional, however. This is my hobby.
* Really bisexual? Yes. Really.

Areas where I do not get questioned:
* Am I a real artist? I am not. I am not sure why I see a lot more "real writer" cred-checks than "real artist" ones. I don't know if illustrators (the sort of art and artists I see a lot of) are less hung up on this thing than writers, or if it's just that I'm not diligent about drawing even as a hobby, so no one asks.
* At my actual job. Despite not being qualified for half the stuff I end up doing at the bank (sure, I'll write and maintain your VBA code! why not?), no one at my job ever questions my ability. If I really can't even fake doing something, I always have to tell them because they won't ask. I have no idea why this is.
* A real furry? Technically, I can remember one person saying I wasn't, but he wasn't serious. I've never had a furry try to exclude me. (I am at the periphery of the fandom these days but still a furry).
* Really polyamorous? I don't know why 'poly' gets less doubt than 'bi', but it does. (Yes, I'm poly.)

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I thought it was interesting to reflect on what parts of my life inspire sufficient disbelief that some people feel a need to question me about it. I don't even know what the difference is, really; it all seems quite arbitrary. What do you get cred-checked on?
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Subject:21, by Patrick O'Brian
Time:02:07 pm
This is the unfinished manuscript that O'Brian was writing at the time of his death. It stops during chapter 3 and comprises perhaps a quarter of a book. The publisher chose to alternate the author's typewritten pages with the handwritten pages he typed it from -- it looks like he wrote longhand then typed himself. The longhand version goes on for several pages after the typescript ended, and the publisher opted to publish facsimiles of those pages without having anyone type them, perhaps because an accurate reading of O'Brian's handwriting is quite a challenge. I struggled through them anyway, mostly to see Maturin duel with a fatuous idiot introduced in this book.

It has some scenes (like that one, and rather delightful descriptions of Aubrey and Maturin bringing their families out to sea) that make me glad I read it. But it does have a sense of being not merely incomplete but unpolished. The prose is just not really in finished version, or what one expects of O'Brian.

I have read many, many stories by dead authors, but for some reading this book and even the previous finished one made me melancholy for O'Brian's passing. I don't know why. Perhaps because, as alltoseek says, it reads like one long story and I never do have a sense of "okay, this is where it ends".

It's okay that 21 stops in the middle, though. I often felt like these books did. They were true to life in that respect: no points where everything wraps up neatly and nothing new has started. There was always something more.

I'll give this one a 6. Overall, I'm happy to have read this series, and sorry it's over. But maybe now I'll get back to doing the group read on Dreamwidth. They're up to Desolation Island now!
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Subject:Blue at the Mizzen, by Patrick O'Brian
Time:01:34 pm
I took a while reading this one, because it's the last complete Aubrey-Maturin novel. After twenty books, it's strange to think of it being over, and endings are always melancholy. This one is, in some ways, particularly so, because O'Brian did not intend the book to be his last. It just worked out that way.

So, like so many other Aubrey/Maturin novels, it ends abruptly, with the main characters rushing off to some new mission. I'll read the published chapters of the unfinished 21st novel, but this is all the closure I expect at this point. Not one of my favorites from the series, although the new midshipman, Horatio Hanson, is endearing. I'll give it a 7.
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Subject:Wait for it.
Time:08:39 am
xkcd's strip 1190, "Time", has continued to update since it was first posted 118 days ago. Since you can't view the earlier versions of it from xkcd's site, I didn't know how often it was updating and I seldom remembered to check on it.

It turns out it has been updating hourly. It is on panel 2946 as of this posting.

You can view it xkcd 1190 here, in animated form, with the spacebar to play/pause and arrow keys to advance or rewind one panel at a time so you can read the word balloons.

I think what really amazes me is how inaccessible this is from xkcd's own site -- buried in the archive, with no archive of it's own, posted in a form that more-or-less guaranteed no viewer would see even half of it.

It's interesting in its own right, though.
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Subject:Flight Rising: Son of Storms
Time:01:25 pm
On my hatchday, my clan fought.

My sister, DelaRenta, was born with my mother's scales of delicate cream tinted with gold and wings the color of chocolate, halfway between my father's dark maroon and my mother's midnight. "She'll be as beautiful as her mother," my father, Smoke, growled affectionately, licking her clean of the albumen from the egg. The clan was gathered about the nest, lined with cloth, rushes, and treasure, for in what else might a dragon be born?

"Maybe more so," Goldrush said, earning a casual swat on his lemon-gold flank from my father.

No one doubted that she would have a place. Whether she stayed in our clan or left for another's, she would find a home and mother elegant children like herself.

I was another story.

"I don't think anyone's going to want to foster him," Rowyn said. She is my mother's pet and friend, a small person who cares for the nest, butchering and preparing the food, running errands, buying and selling for the clan. Though she is no dragon, it was at her suggestion that my mother, Cloudkeeper, founded our clan, and Rowyn's advice is tolerated if not heeded.

CloudkeeperMy mother tucked me against her forelegs and nosed off a bit of eggshell. My scales were medium grey, dull but not ugly. My wings were a clashingly bright pink. "Then we will keep him."

"I suppose we could put him in the auction house," Rowyn said. The other dragons shifted, exchanging glances, but everyone was thinking it.

"Someone would buy him," Waterwillow, a tundra dragon of purple, said. "His colors aren't that bad."

Cloudkeeper mantled her wings. "No son of mine is going to be sold into slavery."

"It's not slavery," Rowyn said. "Every clan needs to exchange members to keep their clan healthy. The treasure is just a way of showing they'll value their newest member. Like a bride-price. Other clans do the same things we do. We bought Waterwillow and Goldrush at auction."

"I offered to go," Waterwillow added, her furred purple forelegs folded over each other.. "My previous clan's lair was overcrowded and we didn't know a clan that needed new dragons. So I went to the auction house. And I ended here! No one's ever acted like I was a slave."

Goldrush was quiet for some moments, before saying in a low voice, "I remember being hungry all the time." Everyone looked at him. "From the day I was hatched. There was never enough food. The adult dragons were listless. They didn't hunt or fight, just waited. None of my clutch had names; no one cared. Then one day, the clan progenitor hauled me to the auction house without a word and left me there, with a price tag around my neck. For days. Until Lady Rowyn paid for me and brought me here." Rowyn doesn't really have a title, but Cloudkeeper calls her that to tease her, and sometimes the others do too.

In the ensuing silence, Cloudkeeper said again, "No child of mine will be sold."

"I really think Waterwillow's experience -- " Rowyn cut herself off as my mother raised her pale serpentine neck and looked down on the small person. "... right. No auction house. Exalt him?"

Cloudkeeper snorted. "He just hatched. Exalting a hatchling is preposterous; what servant to Wind would he be?"

"Other clans exalt their hatchlings," Rowyn said.

"And other clans let their dragons slowly starve of neglect. We are not 'other clans'. Would you make my god a nursemaid?"

"What are we going to do with him, then? There's only so much food in our territory, and so much space. If we keep every unattractive dragonling we'll be overrun with them," Smoke, my father, said at last. "And their children and grandchildren will be no prettier than they."

"I will not judge a dragon by the color of his scales." Cloudkeeper stroked my back as I fussed in her forepaws, rolling over. "He is a member of Lady Rowyn's clan and will have a place here as long as he wants or needs. If and when he has a mate, their children will also be so welcome."

"And when there's no food on the slopes -- " Waterwillow started, and stopped as my mother rose and spread her vast wings over the nest, neck arched, her shadow long over all.

"This is not up for debate," Cloudkeeper said. "It is clan law."

My father looked upon me and shook his head, meeting Cloudkeeper's eyes. "I did not join you to found a clan of misfits and rejects, of dregs."

She snarled then. "You too, have a place here for as long as you want or need, Smoke-my-love."

A puff of smoke snorted from his long dark grey face, and he stalked away.


Smoke did not leave our clan, but he had little to do with me. Not long thereafter, my sister was named and traded to Alinsa's clan. They gave us their daughter, IndigoRain, in return.

No one asked for me.

My clan considered names for me, when I was old enough to make my feelings known. We were wandering the green slopes near the nest, IndigoRain and I helped along by Waterwillow and Cloudkeeper, Goldrush sometimes flying in the clear Wind-kissed sky above. "Pinkwings?" Goldrush offered, and Waterwillow made a face at him. I shook my small head. I would not be named for my worst feature.

"I bet he'll be a strong fighter. Smokewarrior?" Waterwillow said, but I shook my head at that too.

"Silverlining?" Cloudkeeper said, smiling at me. "You are my little silver one."

I hesitated, but shook my head to that too. "Stormson," I said at last.

The others looked askance. "Bu' your mama's CLOU-EEP and your Dada's SMO'," IndigoRain pointed out, in even-I-know-that tones. "Na' STORM."

Stormson"Hatch to storm," I insisted. "Stormson."

"It was a clear day when you hatched." Waterwillow patted my head with one fur-backed purple forehand.

I looked at my mother. She raised her head and gave a solemn nod. "So be it. You are my son of storms, child. Weather them well."

[[ NB: The phrase "small person", as a draconic term for a non-dragon sapient, was coined by Bard Bloom in the excellent novel Mating Flight, serialized here. Mating Flight is a work of original fiction an unrelated to Flight Rising. It does have lots of dragons and is generally awesome, however. ]]
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Subject:An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer
Time:04:15 pm
My parents didn't listen to music very much when I was a kid. They had perhaps a few dozen vinyl records, and I don't even know what most of them were. But there are two I listened to pretty often as a teen: the soundtrack for "Camelot", the musical, and "An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer".

Tom Lehrer did musical comedy, parodying popular styles but usually with original music. The exception would be "The Elements", where he sings the periodic table of elements to the tune of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Modern Major General". His career as a performer was from late 50s to 1970 or so. My very brief research says he retired from music because he'd lost interest in performing, not from any lack of success or demand. He continued to work as a math professor.

While I was cleaning a few weeks ago, I started ripping the small stack of CDs that had been gathering dust for, in some cases, years while waiting for me to get them onto my iPod. One of the jewel cases was for "That Was the Year that Was", by Tom Lehrer. It was unique in the stack in that I don't remember getting it. I don't know where it came from. My best guess is that I picked it up used at a con. Inside, however, was not "That Was the Year that Was", but "An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer".

This album is not topical music (the later TWtYtW is much more political) and holds up well over the 5+ decades since he released it. I think when it was re-released in the 90's it went platinum. I still enjoy it, although the cynicism resonates with me less now, amusingly. But I don't know how many of you will have heard of him. "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" has a certain notoriety, and "The Elements" retains its geek cred.

But there is one little thing that caught my attention while I was listening to it again. It's a live album and in the prelude to "It Makes a Fellow Proud to Be a Soldier", Lehrer says that his platoon sergeant, referring to the absence of an official Army song, "suggested we work on this in our copious free time".

And I thought: "Did Lehrer coin that? I'm sure this is the first place I heard that phrase, 'copious free time'." I checked with Google and, yes, looks like Lehrer did coin it. So if you've ever used that line and wondered who came up with it first, now you know.
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Subject:Baby dragons!
Time:06:37 am
My first babies hatched!

Baby boy:

Baby girl:

The little girl looks a lot like her mama. ♥

Now I am sad because it'll be two whole weeks before I have more new dragonlings from my nest. Alas!

For other people who're playing -- anyone want to trade hatchlings?
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Subject:Carry On, Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse
Time:10:22 am
I did give the Jeeves & Wooster stories another try, and liked this book better than the first one I'd read. So either they're improving or they're growing on me. :) I liked "Clustering Round Young Bingo" best, because most of the characters were sympathetic for a change, and it was entertaining to watch Jeeves manipulate it so everyone with competing interests got what they wanted most, though not everything they wanted. But several of these stories had a mostly-sympathetic cast, which I suspect is why I liked them better. The plots are formulaic still, but that's not the point anyway.

The last story was narrated by Jeeves, for the first time, which made for an interesting switch, and he's just as self-interested in his manuevering as I thought. >:)

I'll give this one a 7, and will read some more later.


On an unrelated note but unworthy of its own post, I joined because several of my friends are playing it. It's not a style of game that I've played before, but quarrel said it looked like Neopets with dragons, which sounds right. I'm LadyRowyn there, if anyone wants to friend me.
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