Friday, February 26, 2010
I know I fall somewhere in the middle range and my overall writing ability isn't what this post is about. What I want to know is:
How do I recognize which of my stories is well written and which need more editing?
Any of my stories most likely could use more polishing as I simply haven't been writing that long and I imagine that if I do continue writing I will look back at these stories in much the same way as starting artists look at their first drawings... with a small shudder and thankful that I've improved that much.
But I don't know how to tell if my stories are well written. For example in the 6 short short stories I've got posted on the right. I -feel- that Payment and Garden shadows are my better works while Meeting and Paying rent need a LOT more work. And that is a start. I can guess that if *I* don't like how they turned out and feel like I should work on them more then they probably do need a good brisk scrubbing.
I just wonder if there is a point where I/you as an producer of things think that our product is done, perfected and finished and because I/we haven't had any training in the matter we miss some badly needed improvements. And if there is a point like this how do we circumvent it?
This is a question I would pose to Steven Erikson, or L.E. Modesitt, two of the authors I read more often and whose works I really like. And who seem to be moderatly successful.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Alice was 33. She was the head personal maid to her Ladyship the Duchess. She obtained this illustrious position because she was clean, organized, neat, and prompt about her duties. She obtained those attributes by always looking forwards to the next task. Never daydreaming, never being distracted by life's hopes. Always anticipating what would happen next. That was why she was at the ball.
As a young girl she used to daydream of princes and castles. That ended when her parents disappeared one night. After a week of waiting the uncaring town officials had her packaged up and sent to an orphanage. There she learned many things. That her name was Alice. That she was to be a servant. That she had been abandoned and did not deserve the love that normal children received. She was told she had better be productive or she’d find herself starving on the highway.
Tonight thoughts of her childhood had been bustled up by the business of life and shoved into a closet. Covered with duties and obligations. Earlier tonight had been spent in a controlled panic. Tonight’s ball had been and still was quite a surprise. The mercenary company had arrived early. The same company that had been so instrumental in the latest victory in the war. In turning around the Summer King’s losing war with the empire to the west. In forcing them to accept what they had taken and take no more. The heroes of the day… were early. They had made it back to the capitol almost a week ahead of schedule. They would have been a complete surprise but a messenger rider had seen them about a day out and had rushed in with the news.
Rather than be seen unprepared the royal court had sprung into action. Tonight’s ball had been thrown together with all the haste that could be beaten out of the servants and commoners available. Gold spent like water in an effort to preserve the myth of the all knowing nobility.
Alice herself had spent all day fixing her Ladyship a new dress with a new hairstyle and just the right color of yellow to stand out but blend in with the Summer Court. She was quite pleased with her efforts. Her ladyship was easily the best dressed woman at the ball and this fact had already been noticed by several of the more eligible bachelors.
She sat across the room from the Duchess; right next to the wine table, ready at a moment’s notice to hop up and fetch anything required. Sometimes wine, sometimes a snack, sometimes a light wet cloth for wiping away the sweat of the summer heat. And sometimes even drugged wine for some of the more… avid lords who didn’t know how to take a kindly hinted dismissal from her Ladyship. They would simply wakeup the next morning with a heavier hangover than normal and no memory of having been refused by a beautiful woman.
Ah! There it was, nothing noticeable if you were not aware. A quick gesture meaning more wine, unchilled, undrugged. Alice swept up a few glasses and started weaving her way across the dance floor.
The air was warm. The room noisy. The vibrations of the dancers gently shook the wooden floor. The music pranced around her.
The room grew distant. She suddenly had to focus carefully just to keep walking straight.
Ice swept through her blood. Winter frost numbed her hands. Images of vast glacial walls and deep icy rivers rushed through her mind. The tray in her hands shook and slipped to the floor with the tinkle of cracking ice. She stopped in her tracks.
“Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter”
An impossibly large man dressed in barbarian leathers walked out of the crowd. His chest covered in icy blue ink sigils and harsh forgotten phrases. On his back a massive stone sword covered in azure runes rested; held by two thin leather cords. His eyes glowed with a neon blue fire.
Alice, no that isn’t/wasn’t/wouldn’t be her. Alice saw. Suddenly, unbidden she saw. For the first time in almost twenty years her mother’s face drifted in her mind’s eye. Her mother standing over her father’s body healing him with tears in her eyes. Her mother suddenly snapped up in the giant claws of an enormous blue lizard. An ancient wyrm from beyond season. Her mother struggling against the crushing grip ice water turning her hair black.
A far off frozen wasteland. A dying egg. Her mother pouring the last of her healing magic into the egg. Another wyrm nuzzling the now living shell.
The two dragons conferring. A claw dipped in blue blood and traced over scales. Sigils of meaning and power. Phrases of promises and debts.
A question to her dying mother. Icy pale from exhaustion her mother’s gasped response. One last misty breath and then eternal peace.
Alice was herself once more. On her knees in the middle of the floor. The image of her mother whispering her name with her last breath etched in her mind forever. Her soul numb with the remembrance of all that she had lost. All that had been taken from her.
“Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter”
The booming voice was no longer just in her mind. The room froze as everyone stared at the icy giant. The fey dragon bound in man form. Elemental winter in the shape of a mortal.
“I have come. My life bound to serve you. My blade bound to aid you. My magic bound to protect you.”
“Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter. I AM PAYMENT.”
They had taught her many things in the orphanage. That her name was Alice. That she couldn't dream of anything better than a servant’s life. That she had been abandoned and was unloved.
All of these were wrong. Her Imperial Majesty, Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter, Queen of Dragons was reborn that night. Freed from rotting slavery in the summer king's palace by winter's life debt to her mother.
This is a piece of a larger story that is as of yet unwritten. This however was the piece I imagined that started that story. Hopefully you enjoy your reading.
*Edited 25 Feb 2010 for spacing issues after first posting.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
“Sir, you called for me?”
Yaslovan gestured for the young man to come in and sit down.
“Tsun, I think I have finally found a sparring partner for you.”
“Yes he is a new transfer student-candidate. His Aunt sent him here to get him out of trouble. His fighting style is … extremely unorthodox but I believe it will challenge your defense more than your current method. You will still practice with me to work on your offense. Get sleep tonight you’ll need it.”
Hiding a smirk Tsun tried to come up with the most respectful response.
“Sir, if yourself and the best two associate instructors cannot break through my defense after wearing me down with a full day of strenuous physical exercise how do you expect a single new student to do so? If he is that good what does he have to learn?”
Yaslovan looked for a long time at his best student before responding with a smile.
“Not all the styles you will find in the middle world are here at the school, despite what our administration would like to believe. As you well know sometimes the unknown can surprise you. You know this conceptually at least, but because your skills are so advanced in this area you no longer emotionally believe you can be surprised. I guarantee you it is still possible. *I* was surprised and I am familiar with his homelands fighting styles.”
He paused and fingered a scar running down his arm before continuing.
“Additionally, I have promised him admission to the school if he can draw blood on you. And a scholarship if he can force me to use a medic on you.” Tsun’s eyes widened a bit. “Tsun, he will be desperate. This school is the only clemency offered him by his Aunt. Prison or worse is facing him if he doesn’t make it here.”
Tsun’s surprise only showed more.
“What did he do?”
“He survived her coup. And the first two assassins. Next time she will probably do it herself and he knows she can. However as her favorite nephew she sent him to me to see if he can make it here. If he gets on he will simply stay in away from home for the rest of her life. Now go. Get some sleep. Be at my tent at 8am.”
Tsun stood up and saluted crisply. Yaslovan returned the salute and added:
“Tsun, do not take him lightly. His offense is better than yours. I said he surprised me… he did more than that. I forced him to throw all he had at me and he added two new scars before I worked out a good counter. Tomorrow I will have our best medic on hand for healing, but accidents can happen.”
The following morning found Tsun waiting patiently in the cold at Yaslovan’s private sparring tent. Roughly fifteen minutes before 8 he saw Professor Yaslovan and the medic coming around one of the nearby buildings. Trailing them respectfully was a dark haired young man. Tsun’s first impression was to simply ignore him; to let him fade into the shadows… there were no shadows. Tsun shook his head and focused on him. Nothing out of the ordinary but it seemed like just a second ago there had been shadows around him.
The professor opened the tent and beckoned them in.
“Now, each of you pick a sword from the rack. Your choice of weapons. You have 5 min to stretch out anything you need but both of you should already be warm from personal exercise this morning.”
Tsun quickly found his preferred blade and started his stretches. The other man picked one as well and then just stood there. After a short while Tsun finished up and indicated he was ready.
“Okay. Listen well. You will stay within the fighting circle. This does limit your tactics but I do not want this match spreading out where some bystander might get hurt. We will be using regular blades. If at any point you see the medic casting healing magic you –will- stop. Failure to do so will result in expulsion. Blatant failure will result in criminal charges. Additionally, you will –not- attempt any sword strokes that would result in decapitation. If that tactical option is open you can simply swing and hit your opponent on the neck with the flat of your blade. Beyond these rules anything is allowed.”
Tsun was again surprised. This was –far- beyond any previous sparring match he had been in. No wonder the schools best medic had to be on hand.
Tsun snapped his sword into a defensive position and watched his opponent. Kian blinked twice and then… charged. A fury of blade strokes swept down towards Tsun he blocked them all quickly but was stunned at the speed with which they came. Kian was sparing nothing to defend himself, desperation clear on his face.
As he backpedalled Tsun began to be frustrated by the number of wide open thrusts and lashed out catching Kian’s arm. The blade laid open a long red groove and blood started flowing freely but Kian didn’t even pause, ignoring the wound like it wasn’t there he countered. A small cut appeared on Tsun’s cheek.
A cut. Time slowed as adrenaline suddenly flushed through Tsun’s body. He had not been –touched- by a sparring partner’s blade in over a year now. And now he had been cut. A white glow started to emanate from him and he focused his defense.
To no avail. Kian was stronger physically and knew it. He recklessly threw smashing slash after slash down on Tsun’s blade and Tsun was weakening despite excellent conditioning. He had countered several times but despite bleeding from at least 10 different cuts and being covered in blood Kian kept coming.
Kian kept lashing out of the shadows. Kept shoving Tsun into deeper and deeper darkness. Kept drawing all the light from the room.
Tsun also had added small slight lacerations and was starting to get desperate. He was now glowing with the bright white light that was his family’s magical birthright. Light glanced from his eyes and his blade seemed to make a solid sphere of light around him.
Originally he had been worried about hurting the other student. His first few attacks had only been meant to warn Kian to defend himself… to slow the endless attacks. But Kian’s continued lack of concern was infuriating. It simply wasn’t right. In a real battle Tsun would have long ago simply stabbed him in the heart and moved on to his next opponent.
Fine. The medic was there for a reason after all. Tsun was going to lose if he didn’t force Kian to defend himself and none of the other wounds had been serious enough.
Carefully, he began maneuvering Kian’s endless attacks into leaving a vital “kill” shot to the chest open. It didn’t take long until he saw his opening. Parrying one final slice he snapped his blade into Kian’s chest through a lung and into his heart region.
Kian let out a gurgled laugh and twisted his body. Startled Tsun lost control of his blade and Kian returned the favor with a thrust to the chest. As Tsun fell blood gushing out of his chest Kian stepped back and pulled Tsun’s blade from his chest. Dropping it he exclaimed:
“Yaslovan! I have bested him.”
The room started to go dark and the last thing Tsun saw was healing magic wrapping him in green.
When he woke up the only one in the room was Kian, who was sitting at the end of his bed smiling happily and playing solitaire.
“What happened? How did you…? T-“
Kian cut him off flipping a card into his face.
“You cannot kill my people that way. We… are not wounded deeply by cuts and slices to the body. Poisons.. yes. But simple swords? No. Although your light magic hurt more than I’m used to. Your skills are amazing. I’ve never had anyone defend so long so well. I was thinking I wasn’t going to gain admission or scholarship. I thought I would fail which I must vainly say is not a common thought for me.”
Tsun sat for a long quiet moment. Thinking. Kian waited and then continued:
“I would like to be friends. I know I can learn a lot of fighting from you. And from what I have seen while you healed… I’m the only one who has ever challenged you? I should like to show you more gaps in your abilities”
He finished with a grin.
Tsun wasn’t laughing.
“What were those shadows I saw? Were you using black magic in your fight?
“Me? A nightshade? No. My family has shadow blood. A great-great-grandmother of mine I think. Story goes she was locked up so long that she fell in love with shadows. Married one and tada! we make dark!”
Tsun looked askance at him.
“Ha. Some story. Friends it is. But I promise you, when they let me up I’m going to test this body of yours and you will learn defense. That I guarantee.”
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Anyone can tank heroics. I know I've healed enough low hps tanks. Heck a tank with almost no hps can still -speed- tank heroics if his dps is good.
Anyone can dps heroics. This means ANYONE AT ALL if the rest of the group is median skill level*. This means anyone with 1k+ dps if the rest of the group has the wow population mean skill level.
Anyone can heal heroics. But you'll have to drink a lot if their gear is low.
I hear all the time people talking about gearscores etc via blogs. I have never been asked about my gear score. I have never heard anyone talk about a gearscore in game. And I've never seen anyone inspect another persons toon and quit party.**
I healed random heroics in blues and greens. Heck three pieces were below iLevel 150. Gearing up in my mind only means "making this less stressful and more fun". I -don't- like being mana starved(aka: below 80%) most of the instance. I -like- boredly letting juvey do all my healing. So I gear up for heroics. But that doesn't mean I needed to do so before running them.
Oh and I've never had to end a party because we didn't have the ability to finish the instance. Only because people couldn't play nice with each other.
Gear matters very very little towards your ability to beat content.
Gear however can quickly make your skill irrelevant. Oh you still might have wipes and slow down things...but with top end gear you -can- just sleep roll your face through eventually completing heroics.
Disclaimer: This kind of post... not my strong point. But the topic was on my mind. Everyone knows this... so more of a rant thing.
*AKA: the middle value on the skill range... not the population average.
**The only possible reason I can see to do this anyways. is if your tank isn't defense capped.... because please... anyone can get defense capped... they just might not have any health/threat left after they do so.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Knowing that it takes roughly 25 min is also nice. It helps you plan out your evening very nicely if you are doing it purely for emblems. Which I sometimes do.
Thats it for now folks. Have a great monday. Unless you are Ruune in which case your Monday is like 90% over by now. Her and Pie and the rest of them earlybirds can have a great tuesday!