Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Your mission, should you choose to accept it: play around with this form of poetry.

The pantoum is a form of poetry arranged in four-line verses with an ABAB rhyme scheme. Here's where it gets complicated: the second and fourth lines of the first verse become the first and third lines of the second verse. The process repeats until you reach the last verse, where you dip back into the unrepeated first and third lines of the very first verse -- they become the second and fourth lines of the LAST stanza.

Wait, wait. What?

Essentially, a three verse pantoum would look like:




Every word must be the same, but you can change punctuation freely. All I have to say is - good luck. ;-)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I'm also thankful for ...

... sales!

"Retirement" was just accepted by The Lorelei Signal and not only that, apparently I gave the editor an idea. She had never considered flash fiction in the magazine before and even added it as a continuing part of her issue makeup.

Now I just need to sell more things that aren't flash. I'm starting to turn into a sprinter. ;-)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Season's Greetings

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It's a small holiday here, just me, my parents, and the dog. (Cannot forget the dog.) We used to drive up to Connecticut to be with my mother's family, a two day haul with an enormous traditional buffet at the end. Now we're all grown up and grown past, but there's always something a little strange about not being there. But we are not the only ones who have changed our holiday: my aunt goes on a Thanksgiving cruise, my grandmother is in an assisted living home. There are no more children, really: one of my cousins is married; the four I can remember being born, in sometimes a bewildering succession, all have drivers' licenses now. (Or one may be on her permit - but point stands.) Time moves on, but here, this is a day for looking back and being comforted by the security of what we have.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Agenda, Message, Theme

The first three or four answers in this interview present some interesting points about writing with a message - or, in this case, why some writers don't:


Food for thought, mostly. Whether we intend or not, I think it's hard to deny we speak from the strength of our inner voices.

I heard it said recently (to paraphrase) that it may be better if writers don't recognize their own patterns: it makes them self-conscious, makes them change course, and may even do damage to the end result. Or ... less drastically ... it may just make writing annoying. ;-)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sale! (Soon to be website update)

Just sold a flash fiction story entitled "Progress" to From The Aslyum. Best part of this sale - probably the part that the yearly work appears in a print anthology! Progress is ultra-flash fiction, the shortest thing I have ever written:

Brace yourselves.

203 words. ;-)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Character Creation

Here's a short exercise excerpt wherein two individuals have to discuss creating a fictional character for a shared story. Wait a second ... that used to be my life ... anyhow, I was kind of tickled by the idea of fantasy characters writing what would be - for them - science fiction, though it didn't play much of a role in the excerpt:

“There’s no magic in this world we’re creating,” Isemar said thoughtfully.

Aeliam rolled his eyes. “We can’t do that,” he said. “No one would believe it.”

“It could happen,” she said. “Janel could be a researcher of ancient magic traditions -”

“How would people travel from place to place? How would they name their children?” He raked her with a superior look. “You have to think about these things when you’re worldbuilding, you know.”

The two youths sat on a dock in Pelindar city with their lunch spread before them, watching sailors unload one of the mighty merchant ships. Isemar was as sturdy and dark as Aeliam was light and lean.

“The same way we named her,” Isemar replied.

“By committee?”

“Well, why not?” She kicked her feet over the edge. “So we decided she just now turned twenty.”

“She ran away from an arranged marriage and her family won’t speak to her,” Aeliam elaborated.

She made a face. “But she’s a very sensible person.”

“Sensible doesn’t mean you don’t believe in love. I think a healer has to believe in love.”

“She has to believe in suffering, too,” Isemar countered. “Anyone who sees the poor and the sick knows how the wrong decisions often turn out. She can see the result of any decision she might make before her – she treats the court, too.”

“So she feels trapped.” He folded his arms stubbornly. “Who wouldn’t shrink away from another set of limits on her spirit?”

She heaved a sigh, but did not respond right away. “So her best friends are the priest – who of course believes in the institution of marriage and probably isn’t much a friend at all if -”

“But he likes her,” Aeliam insisted. “Maybe she even gives him a sort of crisis of faith.”

“You mean he’s in love with her, too? And that’s why he won’t shun her, even though the rest of the community does?”

“Ha,” he said triumphantly. “Got you.”

“The rest of the community would, then,” she amended with a severe look. “I do like that, though.”

“She also is close to the captain of the guard,” Aeliam continued, consulting his mental blackboard.

Isemar tapped her fingers together. “There could be a very interesting contrast if they were fighting over her, the sword and the soul.”

“Gah! No. She loves him like a brother. That would be wrong.” He grinned at her. “Just like I love you, natterbrain.”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Website Update

Added fantasy-writers.org and my favorite naming language site to the Recommended writing links. I am no Tolkien, but there is something hypnotic about it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


The following website contains a list of the terms for various groups of animals. I remember being particularly amused by "a rabble of butterflies" ...


But then again, a sleuth of bears presents wonderful possibilities for a bizarre talking animal/mystery story ... or how about an implausibility of gnus? ... or a business of ferrets. I wonder what the business of ferrets is?

Note, too, that the herd plural of boar is "singular" - guess they really are antisocial.

Language is a crazy, split-personality, wonderful thing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sky Over Cinci

Remind me never to take a flight at night without asking for a window-seat.

I have yet to see anything that compares to the sudden rise of lights in the darkness, gold and blue and pulsing like a thing alive. The network of connections shimmer in a way that a stationary glow shouldn't, couldn't possibly. Others haze on the horizon like dawn. You could believe life started like this, a fractal web breaking the shadows. When conditions are just right - dark enough to hide any hint of the terrain; clear enough that you can see; and isolated enough that the lights are pinpoints rather than a sea - it's impossible to tell up from down as mundane lights and stars blend together.

(For those blinking: I just got back from a trip out of town. I'm okay now, really. ;-))

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Story Doesn't Matter?

This is actually the reason why I posted the last entry, where what was going to be a preface became a rant in of itself. A MMORPG conversation was the larger context for this statement that I've been thinking about: in a CPRG, the story doesn't matter.

Or rather, it's window-dressing, just one component among many. To paraphrase my source, it provides meaning for the decisions you make in the game (and the monsters you whack around). To a certain extent, I'll agree this can be true. I appreciate the slightly unique twist on the usual, "Prophesized heir rises to greatness," inherent in Morrowind, for instance - sure, you're The Guy or Girl, but you're also a heresy and deliberately groomed by the empire to use the prophecy AGAINST its originators - but I could happily play the game without it. The extreme example is the old Bard's Tale game ... in which the story is just an excuse for a smattering of dungeons.

On the other hand, what stands out for me about a great CRPG? Sometimes, if the engine is done really well, a unique element in the setting (more about that later), but most of all, the storyline.

A great example of this is Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. Now, the game is somewhat clunky and incorporates far too many, "Run through this maze, my little rats, and kill things!" sequences to avoid some degree of tedium. But ... the evolution of the storyline is excellent, from when you discover that you're not this famous elf reborn - no, he's still living and kicking himself over his old mistakes - to the end discovery of the villain and his horrifying but ultimately altruistic designs. (The Victorian tech/magic fusion is fantastic here, though the worldbuilding is otherwise fairly unremarkable.)

A second example (serious spoilers ahead) is the new Bard's Tale game, which is a fairly standard rescue-the-princess pastiche ... played from the point of view of a womanizing pragmatist who doesn't really want to Save The World. What makes the game is the final sequence when everything is turned on its head. It's an excellent execution of mood, even if juvenile - but the writers played it for consistency.

The third is Betrayal in Antara, which lost out having a sequel - which it richly deserved - because Return to Krondor, which was its game-engine successor, tanked so badly. Again, Antara starts firmly grounded in the tropes, but builds out from there into a varied, unusual story with racial interplay, characters who are antagonists but doing "the right thing," and ultimately a twist at the end that made me do a triple-take - and cry out for the sequel that was never made.

I recognize I've spent far too much time on computer games over my lifetime, but they have shown me something about storytelling and how to wrap it around an interactive frame. And ultimately, for me, the story does matter.

I'm a MMOG! Half Man, Half ... Never Mind

I usually hear this as "MMORPG" (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game) but ... MMOG, the second M not pronounced, generates too many wonderful Spaceballs flashbacks to omit.

For those of you have not heard my basic rant on the subject, I shall review it – aren’t you lucky?

First, a basic definition. A CRPG is a computer-based roleplaying game, that is to say, it is defined by an internal and (usually) invisible set of dice, along with customizable abilities and strengths for “you” – your character. It follows at least a minimal storyline, with your character expanding his/her talents as she goes. An MMORPG is the same thing, but the imaginary world is populated by hordes of other players. Whether because the addition of players limits the programming constructs, or whether because designers consider the social aspect should provide more of the fun, MMORPGs tend to be somewhat less story-centric and have more repetitive elements. Specific examples for the still-lost: Everquest, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes.

Now most of you know I play online TEXT-based roleplaying games, where the interaction with players and their characters is effectively a collaborative story. Fewer of you may know that I am also completely addicted to single-player CRPGs. My general feeling is when I want to get out my aggressions, I want to do it solo.

My prime complaint with MMORPGs is this, then: in general, they hurt both industries. Many players who would turn to text games end up on MMORPGs instead. There tends to be limited roleplaying on these games; I’ve never heard a report of it being widespread successful. However, it’s difficult to miss what you never find out exists. In any case, the visual aspect makes the text less determinative. Many who play online text games also MMORPG as well, sucked into that otherworld for hours. It’s an easier escape than asking a buddy for roleplay. In all fairness, on the game I play, we have acquired some people who found out about us from an MMORPG, but it’s not common.

On the converse side, because of the popularity of MMORPGs, it has become harder and harder to find solid single-player games. The number has gone down sharply since I started playing. I don’t know whether they’re easier for a design team to create, more popular, or just more profitable, but MMORPGs have definitely muscled into a prime computer game slot.

MMORPGs also seem to contribute to a specific CRPG trend that I loathe: real-time. That is to say, instead of having interactions (such as, let’s face it, combat) determined by a considered decision (“Okay, I need to cast a spell here – is it better to blast them or make them afraid?”) in a sequence of turns, everything happens continuously, as fast as you can click. Obviously, most MMORPGs are going to have to be in real-time rather than turn-based because otherwise you spend far too much time waiting for an idle player, but it bleeds over!

More later.