Poetical Playlist

I sat down this morning to put some of my recent happenings into writing. For some strange reason, I thought that it was a good idea to write a poem.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of a poet. I don’t consider myself a particularly good prose write either, but I reckon I can write better paragraphs than stanzas (you can see some previous efforts here and here).

I started off with just a list of single words. It made an interesting list, but I couldn’t get very far with making lines out of each of the words. I was sitting in front of my computer at the time and I realised that I had many songs that matched up with each of the words on my list. So I did some searching and came up with a list of appropriate songs to match the story of my life this year. Now, some of the songs aren’t necessarily a great match but their titles are. Don’t read too much into any of them but I was hoping that it might read out (ie spoken) reasonably well.

I’ve linked to a last.fm page for each of the songs if you are interested in who they are by or what they might sound like, so feel free to click onwards if you feel the need.

So without any further introductory nonsense, here’s my first ever poetical playlist:

j j j

The Conjurers’ War and The Locusta

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series bladesage

The Great Empire of The Gristika was formed on its maritime power and for centuries had ruled the oceans. Its polar opposite was The Rozan Empire, created out of a forge of magic and violence. These two great peoples conquered The Known World. Ultimately their rivalry peaked and there was war.

Neither could gain the upper hand. They had such enormous armies that the chance of either making any sort of great advance was minimal. An arms race of sorts developed. Weapons that had never before been seen in the world were used. Explosives of the most violent sort. Flames from the very pits of Hell. Artillery that could attack from vast distances.

While this unending war raged on, the people of the central territories of the Empires barely knew anything was happening. The front would move tens, even hundreds of miles at a time, but always back and forth. The central peoples were untouched. The common man in either Capital wouldn’t even know there was a war on unless the prices for his favourite delicacy increased or if his son was conscripted and sent off to the front.

One hundred and years and more this went on. If the truth was really to be told, the war was off more often than it was on. On the frontiers there would be clashes; some small, some larger. Every few years a great conflict would arise, shifting the front to the advantage of one Empire or the other and then the armies would settle back into their uneasy routine. The war became part of the daily life of the Empires. Something that was just always there. Something to talk about in the market place. A jingoistic rallying point for the leaders. A place to go for the searchers for glory.

As so often happens in history, the approach to the war changed simultaneously in both Empires. Emperor Nikolae of the Roza and Francois de Gristika were both approached by their own Sages. They had calculated that if they couldn’t win the war using the people they did have, then they may have more success if they were to bring some more in. In other words: summon them from elsewhere.

At first, the Emperors rejected this idea. The wizardly discipline of Conjuring had been outlawed for centuries. Humankind had known, almost inherently, that they could not guarantee the control of creatures from beyond the mundane. They both resisted all advances.

The Sages went out gained support from the nobles for their ideas, and the nobles from the commoners. Ultimately, the Emperors were unable to control the discontent. They were asked “Do you not wish to win this war?” and they were unable to answer. They could not be seen to care about their Empires while they resisted this easiest of options. And besides; what if they decided not to take this route and the enemy had no such reservations? They would be wiped out.

With Imperial approval the Sages and the Colleges of Wizardry researched and tested their theories for a decade and a half. The Gristika worked towards what they thought would be the most simple, reliable and safe option: The Faerie Realm. The faeries (or the Vitter in the old tongue) were closer to the mundane and as such easier to control.

The Roza thought only of raw power. They looked to the very pits of the Abyss for their servants and would call forth whatever hell-spawn creatures they could get their hands on.

The Abyssal creatures, the Ferb, were most willing to come up to the world. It was their greatest desire. The Roza spent their time researching how to control them once they arrived. The Vitter were much harder to bring forth. They assumed it was their job to bring humans into their realm, not the other way around.

The initial summonings were simple and went relatively well. The creatures were powerful, able to perform all sorts of feats that their human opponents were not and they defeated whole armies at a time. After a number of defeats on each side, the Empires each realised that that their enemy had worked on the same plan. From this point on, the arms race began afresh. Each side needed to summon more and bigger creatures.

Eventually, the empires found themselves with armies of barely controlled and hostile aliens. Without any real warning they rebelled. Entire cities were destroyed. The armies of both Empires were destroyed from within by their supposed allies and the Conjurers themselves were destroyed and consumed by the creatures they were supposed to be controlling.

For five years the aliens (the Locusta as they came to be called) ravaged the lands. The human race escaped extinction only because there were two tribes of the Locusta. They killed each other on sight and their numbers gradually declined. With no more Conjurers, no further creatures could cross over into the mundane.

Unbelievably, the two men who started this devastation, Emperors Francois and Nikolae survived. Between their Battle-Wizard guards and their own cunning to survive, they had manage to avoid the Locusta, their own people, their human enemies and the now unrestrained barbarian tribes once kept well away from their borders.

In the wilds of the desert, they came across each other. They had both long since regretted their weakness of mind, they had no reason left to want to kill each other and decided to work together. Their team of wizards numbered one dozen only. They were the last of their kind and were the world’s last hope.

A year went by as they studied their enemies and worked out the best way to counter the efforts of the Conjurers. In the end it was decided that half of them would to work on a Dispelling, an anti-conjuring, to create a rift back to the worlds of the Locusta. The others worked on a great spell that would enable them to control the very elements, to call lightning from the sky in great thunderstorms and to rend the ground with earthquakes. As a team, they would create a rift and then use the elements to force the Locusta into it.

The emperors knew that they would not be able to destroy all of them at once. They worked on a plan where they would pick off small groups of Locusta, drawing attention to the fact that someone out there had worked out a way to destroy them, that they no longer had free reign around the world.

The Saints smiled on their efforts. For a year they travelled from mountain to valley to hill to coastline, finding groups of two or three Locusta and attacking. Eventually, the remaining Locusta decided that they could no longer ignore this threat. Setting the trap, the Emperors attacked on the ruins of Algundy, the former Gristik capital, killing half a dozen Vitter-creatures and then setting camp and waiting.

Four hundred Vitter and Ferbin arrived within an hour. Another hour later and there was nothing living left within one hundred miles. The Emperors dead. Their wizards torn apart by the Locusta and their own mighty magics. The Locusta killed or banished. And a continent, once the jewel of civilisation, destroyed and populated only by the desperate and the wild.

j j j

YANC (Yet another writing challenge)

Hot on the heels of my second NaNoWriMo win, and thanks to a post from fellow wrimo Natnie, I’m going to have a go at the inagural Project52.

I’ve complained regularly of spending more time fiddling with the theme on this site than I do writing on it. This could be a good way around it. I had already set in mind a goal to do more writing here this year but Project52 seems to be a good idea. It’s concrete (write once a week), there’s community (one of the great things about NaNoWriMo) and hopefully some accountability.

So this year expect a bit more traffic here. It will be no more focused than it normally is. Maybe once I get into the habit of writing more often, I might be able to “brand” the site a bit and maybe focus on one particular topic. But we’ll leave the future for the future.

j j j

Why did I win last year?

Another post that spent far too much time in my drafts folder. The original title was “Why did I win this year?”. Sorry ’bout that.

I am speaking of course, of my finally winning at NaNoWriMo. It was my third attempt last year and I think it would be quite a stretch to call my efforts in 2006 and 2007 “attempts” at all!

So what did I do differently? What made the difference?

Here’s what I reckon (in no particular order):

  1. I got started straight away. In previous attempts, I fell behind on day 1. I don’t think I need to explain this further 🙂
  2. I got involved in the community. My primary community was the “Elsewhere in Australia” regional forum (we have even continued our association at the new Elsewhere Wrimos forum. The Fantasy Genre Longue was just too busy.
  3. A bit of competition. Had a month-long word war with my writing buddy Kamu. She got to 50K first, but I was never more that just a good day’s work behind. It kept me motivated.
  4. Used my bread maker to keep me up. We eat home-made breadmaker bread at home. I set the bread to cook every night so that it finished at about midnight. Once that is done, I can’t do to bed, otherwise the bread will be soggy in the morning. I have to stay up to get it out. This saved me from quitting early (for the night, not the month) on more than one occasion.
  5. Realised I can write 2000 words in a stretch without too much trouble. Once that clicked, I knew that I could do it. Good days could net me 4K or more, but I knew that on any one day I could the minimum required without any trouble
  6. Made and kept to a writing quota plan. I set up a spreadsheet table. Calculated how many days I had and how many words I had to write. Each day was given a weighting: either 1 for a normal day, 0 for a day I was not going to write at all or 0.5 for an easy day. It turned out a normal day was 2.5K (see above) and 1250 words for a lighter day and I had planned days off (eg Friday nights). I never fell behind in my total plan (I kept track of that too) though I did have a couple of days where I didn’t quite make my required total for that day. But because I knew where I was (and I had a great day 1, see #1 above) I could do that safely.
  7. Almost killed myself in the first week due to lack of sleep (funny how the headaches went away during week 2).
  8. Listened to the podcasts. I even got my voice on one episode! I was always looking forward to the next one coming out.
  9. Plan. I’m a bit ambivalent about this one. It was good knowing where the story was supposed to go, but I think with all the other positive things that went right this time I might have managed without it. For this year I am tempted to start blank with the Mythic Game Master Emulator. Don’t ask me to explain now, I’ve got a Mythic post in my drafts folder too!
  10. Jer’s Novel Writer. To be fair, I used JNW in 2007 and yWriter in 2006 (when I was still a Microsoft slave), so this is not a new thing. But I could not have managed this without the appropriate software.
  11. Mini-goals with cheese. What? I set myself little goals through the night. “You can’t have your first coffee until you hit 500”. “No toilet break until you finish another 100”. “You can listen to the podcast once you’ve done 1000”. That sort of thing. The cheese was Blue Castello cheese. My favourite (actually, red is my favourite but no one sells it!) and I couldn’t have any until I had done 2000 words.

Please don’t take this as a how-to-win guide, you can find plenty of those around the place. This is simply a list of some of the things that gelled for me in 2008 and helped me win! Roll on NaNo ’09.

Since November, I have finally read my novel and on reflection it is a lot less pathetic than I first thought. If there are any masochistic readers of derivative fantasy out there who would like a look, just leave a comment to that effect.

j j j

BFRPG supplements

I’ve recently been involved in preparing a couple of supplements for Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

One of these is all my own work; a selection of pre-generated equipment packs designed to make the already easy character generation even easier. Check it out here: Equipment Packs: A Basic Fantasy Supplement.

The second is a bundle of options for Backgrounds (that is: what your character did before adventuring) and Specialties (what your character does in addition to general class duties). These rules just give a few small changes to what your character can do. Of course, you could (and should) just write all this stuff in your character back-story but this supplement puts a few things in concrete for you.

Note, 99% of the work in this supplement was done by James Roberts, I just took the stuff off the Dragonsfoot workshop forum and formatted it. The publisher (+Chris Gonnerman) just decided that was enough to get my name on the credits! Get it here: Backgrounds and Specialties: A Basic Fantasy Supplement.

And while you are there, check out Quick Character Generation: A Basic Fantasy Supplement by +Chris Kutalik which does much of what the other two supplements do and more!

j j j

Where have you been?

It’s been almost three months since I’ve posted. A far cry short of the 15 posts in the month of August last year and even less than the two I managed during NaNoWriMo (when I managed to finish a 52k+ novel as well).

You know why I haven’t managed anything? It could be that I had nothing useful to say (I’m sure there would be plenty out there who would say that most of my posts were also made when I had nothing useful to say). I could perhaps have been too busy. Having a rest?

No, none of those.

Simply put, every time I do into the admin section, I fiddle. Fiddle with the plugins, the themes, the widgets and whatever else looks interesting. Tweak things to make them look or work better. Generally procrastinate.

From someone who makes a point of saying that presentation is a lot less important than content, this was a bit of nasty revelation. It wasn’t that long ago that I was telling my #2 son off for writing a project with colours and fonts and everything organised as he went (didn’t help that he kept getting grumpy with it when it wouldn’t work like he wanted) instead of worrying about what he wanted to say first.

So I won’t make any promises, but from here on it, I’ll try to post more often than I change the theme!

j j j

10K last night

NaNoWriMo is going great guns so far.

I’ve kept ahead of my plan (as far as daily writing targets are concerned) so far. Last night I had a great run based mostly on a dare to include the Melbourne Cup in my story and managed about 3,500 words, which has taken me over the 10,000 mark for the first time in three goes.

I’ve been having a back-and-forth word war with my writing buddy Kamu in Port Hedland who keeps pulling ahead and making me stay up far too late. The bonus to that is that now both of us are doing really well, like this:

Naggers please note, I still expect lots of email, texts, facebook messages and the like to keep me honest.

I’ve been enjoying WriMoRadio and the pep talks that have been coming. Today we got one from author Jonathan Stroud which included this inspirational line:

Alchemists tried for centuries to turn base metals into gold. Every time we sit down and put words on paper, we succeed where they failed. We’re conjuring something out of nothing.

See. We’re not wasting an entire month. We’re making gold out of base metals!

j j j

Thinking about nanowrimo 2008

Like many people all over the place, I am starting to consider my run at NaNoWriMo 2008.
This site has documented my abject failure at this project during 2006 and 2007. This year may very well be different (he tells himself anyway).
And this is why I think so:

  1. Planning is starting in July. Not November.
  2. Have purchased Jer’s Novel Writer. Last year I was using it, but perhaps the guilt of all the nag warnings got to me. Or not. Either way, it’s a nice piece of software. Fun to use.
  3. Found a nice (if old and pre-NaNo) article that is going to help me do the brainstorm.
  4. Third time lucky.

Here’s my plan:

  • Do a rough outline (using above article) straight away. Perhaps this weekend, and with the boys if they are going to have another go this year.
  • Fill in details. Do character profiles. Articles on worldview, history, politics, whatever I can think of to get the creative juices going.
  • Do a complete chapter-by-chapter outline and match it to a day-by-day writing schedule.
  • Fit in room for error in above.
  • Repeat the above until 1 November 2008.

Can he do it?

j j j

na-NO?

Four days in, 1867 words. Should have done that on Thursday. Still, I’ve done more today than any other day so far (by a long shot actually) so all is not yet lost.

j j j