Make that All Acceptance

Turns out I DID get that writing assignment from PostHuman Studios, they were just slower than they wanted to be getting back to people. Which, you know, happens. I had actually wondered if the guys were Canadian (and I had forgotten that) given that the original timeline had them working to choose writers over Thanksgiving.  

So, lessons learned so far: 

1) Even when there's a theoretical tight deadline for the writing, assume from the start that it'll take longer for assignments to go out than stated. If the folks assigning projects meet their goal, it'll be a nice surprise. 

2) Don't send 'hey guys, if you have time, how could I improve my pitches to you for the future' emails until actual rejection (I'll count hearing through other sources that assignments have gone out as rejections). Or a month. A month seems reasonable.  Just thinking this writing as a business thing through, as best I can.

3) When looking at your schedule and personal capacity to write (and meet stated deadlines) when deciding whether or not to pitch, look at your schedule under the assumption they'll get back to you later than they think they will.

I mean, unless this particular company has a reputation for being very, very good at time management and getting back to their freelancers quickly.  

I'm fine in terms of my own time management and the first & final draft deadlines, but partially that's because I already wasn't traveling for the winter holiday. So, as part of that thinking through writing as a business, I'm just seeing how it could have been a problem. 

Time, as they say, to put my nose to the grindstone and get 2,000 words out. Wish me luck guys!

Rejection and Acceptance

As expected, I was not selected by PostHumans Studios for this project.

Well, I'm assuming that since it is 5 days past the day they said assignments would go out, a first draft would be due in four days, and I haven't heard from them. It's not unexpected, nor was I counting on getting it for any reason, but you know. It would have been really cool if I had. Any way, I've tossed my pitch email into my writing group to be savagely torn apart so the next one will be better. 

On the acceptance side, I've got four (oh gods...) freelancing contracts lined up — one writing and three editing. Two (the writing and an editing) are in the Red Markets universe, which always makes me excited. One was contingent on a Kickstarter making, which it did, so now I'll be editing goblins having crazy adventures in a post-apocalypse, post-human world — 'ooooh, what's this do?' BOOM 'I'm okay!' 'You lost a leg! That'll take a week to regrow!' — in January after the last of the play testing wraps up over the holidays. The last one is really the most tentative contract as it too is contingent on a Kickstarter, which hasn't started yet, making its goal. If it makes, it's not on the plate until January either but I'm hopeful and looking forward to space adventures.

Making a Pitch

So my favorite RPG system, Eclipse Phase, the one that got me to find my favorite Podcast that prompted me to start writing, got me my first editing job, find my writer circle, and led to this blog (among other things), yeah that RPG? The publishers put out a call for proposals to write for a booklet (on plot hooks) in the upcoming second edition.

I missed the tweet initially, but someone in my writers circle saw it and asked the group if anyone planned to submit a proposal (because we're all capital-N Nerds about RPGs), which got it on my radar. 

Guys, I did it! I sent in my proposal yesterday! I don't talk much about my self-doubts about my writing here because, honestly?, I cope with them by ruthlessly ignoring them, but they do exist. Mostly around trying to get published/paid. If I'm writing something for my own amusement or just to share here on the blog, no shame, no trouble showing other folks. Heck, very little trouble dealing with solicited critique. Haven't gotten any unsolicited critique so far, so we'll see how that goes down, if it ever happens. 

But the second I think to submit something cfor publication/money? Man. AGONIZING over the email submission. Poking Partner to read my email for mistakes/error/social blunders. Staring at the send button. It's no fun.  

But this weekend I came up with 12 plot hooks/ideas for the setting that I'm happy with, distilled them down to one sentence pitches, added a couple opening and closing lines to the email and sent it off. Even got a short 'receipt acknowledged' email back from the developers this morning. (Well it was sent last night after I went to bed, so I saw it this morning.)

I'm just... happy with myself for following through on this and pitching. If (if, if, if) I get this job, it'll be my first writing credit for something I pitched. And that's really exciting.

Wish me luck guys! I'll find out on Thursday. 

A Writing Experiment and Some World Building Thoughts

In the long list of writing prompts I've saved or created for myself is using the pronunciation guide to words as an alternate version of written English. Initially I thought about writing something and then translating it into the pronunciation version. But then I realized I don't have a particular setup I think would benefit from this translation. So there's no reason I can't take something I've already written, translate, and see if anything interesting comes out.

Three short sentences I wrote at the end of a post from the very, very early days of this blog on the left, pronunciation version on the right. I'm using Merriam-Webster for the pronunciation guide here.

(')ō 'wel. 'fərst 'dräft 'är 'shit af-tər 'ȯl. 'tīm 'tü 'get 'bak 'tü -'rī-tiŋ.

Oh well. First drafts are shit after all. Time to get back to rewriting.

First thing I noticed — boy is it a pain looking up pronunciations word-by-word. Glad I decided to go with some short sentences. Second things is that this system feels, to my Western, English-speaking, non-linguist butt, like a pictogram system for sounds. One image (the letter and any diacritical marks) means one and only one sound. In contrast to English letters where the pronunciation changes based on surrounding letters. I mean, the second version is going to be more flexible and we'll get more words out of fewer symbols. But imagine if various languages actually used the same alphabet/pictogram system based on pronunciation of the sounds. You wouldn't have to learn how to pronounce a new word. You would learn how to speak a language as fast as you learned vocabulary and grammar.

Seems like it'd be a good idea for a lingua franca or trade language.

The Weather Report

"And now for the weather on Mars."

"Thanks Sigrid. Well, looks like the communities down in Maja Valles better hunker down, because they've got an amber skies dust-storm baring down on them. After that, the rain storm the latest mishap with the orbital reflectors generated will be slamming into them. So make sure those environmental seals are working right folks. You've got two days I'm afraid.

In good news, the wind currents in the new atmosphere have been holding steady — the observer balloons from NASA, CNSA, and ESA have all remained up and in their expected flight paths. Folks out in the Hesperia Planum should be able to catch sight of the ESA contingent tomorrow. The engineers are asking for everyone to send in any photographs they catch of the balloons, tag them @ESA, or #hesperiaballoon on the network — they're hoping y'all will catch any damage the onboard sensors have missed.

And finally, the first outdoor crops of soil fixers have taken hold over in Tharsis Montes. The agri-guys over there are estimating a minimum of a three year pilot study before the fixers are available to the public. They sure did emphasis I needed to mention that's three Martian years folks, not Earth years.

This has been Elnur Anastasio with your weather update. Stay safe and watch out for dust devils everyone."

About that schedule...

I did say I was hoping to start updating regularly and on-time again... Obviously failed that, but I really want to do an unboxing video of the book I edited for my next post and well, that's going to take a little time seeing as 1) I need Partner to play camera-man and 2) I've never done one before so I have no idea how long I'll need to fight with SquareSpace to upload a video.

Tl;dr version: Look for a video as my next blog post either Friday or Monday.

Thank you everyone for your patience

The Stabby Knife of Healing

The Stabby Knife of Healing

Wonderous Item, Weapon, Common

Despite the pleas of many herbalists, druids, mages, and artificers, these items are known in the common vernacular as ‘that stabby thing that heals you’ or ‘the stabby knife of healing’. Typically short and thin, these knifes are clearly designed for close, delicate work, having almost no reach and a small actual blade. Although commonly found on many healer’s persons or in their workshops, very few are available to non-healers. The blacksmiths capable of work this delicate are few and far between and those with the skills tend not to jeopardize their working relationships with the mages who enchant the final product by selling it to non-healers or allowing a non-enchanted version onto the market.

Several adventurers have obtained an artifact of this variety without awareness of its properties and been surprised when the secondary effect went off. Some of them even survived this revelation.

These knives inflict 1d3 cutting damage on a successful attack, followed by 1d6 damage being healed. The writer is unaware at this time how healers are reported to avoid the first infliction of damage on their patients.

Glamour

Hey all, sorry for disappearing for a week. I've been battling some writer's block and time management... stuff. Trying to recalibrate and get back on the writing habit. So, here's hopefully the first of my next streak of unbroken on-time blog posts. I'm aiming for oh... at least six months. Hope you enjoy this one.


Harford, March 11th — At 6 o’clock, the electric lights’ harsh glow in Mr. B---’s stately town home drawing room was diffused through the glamour rendering the room like the grounds at his estates in L--- County. At 6:01, several ruffians of the anarchist Radical Truth Brigade had overpowered Mr. B---’s staff and detonated a spirit bomb underneath the drawing room. This reporter is sadly obliged to say that many young ladies and not a few of the men present were thus unmasked as practitioners of glamourist vanities.

The men were most egregious is their usage, everyone thus unmasked hiding faces running to paunch, between 10 and 15 years of aging, scars, missing teeth, and in one memorable case, a missing eye. The collective shock of so many prominent men unmasked from the vanity of projecting virility no longer in their possession quite distracted the crowd from the young ladies for several moments.

Once the crowd’s attention turned to the young ladies, this reporter observed that most of the ladies thus unmasked were practitioners of the feminine art of subtlety, having used and lost no more from their glamours as from their make-up cases. Several had chosen to dress-up their sartorial choices, but again dear readers, they seem to have done no more with their weaves of glamour than a skilled lady with a needle and good thread could do.

No, dear readers, the shock of the night came upon viewing the unmasking of the notorious blue-stockings and agitators for ‘female emancipation’ Miss A--- and Mrs. C---

Dear readers, once the glamours of the night were removed, they were revealed as stunning examples of feminine beauty. Graceful of arm and neck, fair of skin, and, in Mrs. C---’s case, stunning blue eye color.

Miss A--- granted me the favor of a brief interview on her way to her carriage under the condition that I quote her completely. Condition agreed to, I asked her why she chose to appear to society in her typical plain manner, bespectacled no less (said spectacles having disappeared with the glamours). Her answer, and true to my word, cited here in its entirety: “You try being most improperly propositioned at age twelve because your bosom has begun growing and see what you value.”

Miss A--- did not vouchsafe me the name of the cad who so accosted her seven years ago.

Moral Compasses

The fight was over, the corpses looted, the captives restrained and sat around the campfire. The party fell to their usual post-fight habits — fighting amongst themselves. All could agree on searching the captives, that much was common sense. Various weapons and loose pocket change were removed and set aside.  But then the arguments continued about the captives and the information they surely had.

The youngest captive, a not so bright fellow lured into his fellow brigands' company through promises of regular meals (which had turned out to be a mite thinner in reality than the recruiter's speech), blanched at the lanky fellow tossing around all the knives' casual mention of torturing them.

The next captive, a survivor of two previous encounters in this forest and not yet beyond thinking himself immortal, smirked at the obvious ploy to frighten them into talking. He would not fall for so transparent a ruse.

The eldest captive, a full forty years above ground and veteran of an actual army before the war ended and discharged him with no other skills than wielding a sword, winced and swallowed hard. No ruse this or else they had all missed their calling as actors. Too much vitriol and spite for acting.

The eldest's eye was drawn to the priest kneeling at the edge of the camp, facing the woods. One of the fighters saw him and followed his sight to the priest.

"Damn it Jacob, quit yer mumbling to some demented forest god and help us out over here!"

The priest paused, brought his hands down, and shouted back, never turning around, "We all need a moral compass here! And if it's shaped like a rabbit, so be it!"

No Gods, No Masters

“Hi there,” my new boss said, rising from their chair to lean over the desk and shake my hand. They had a sharp, crisp-edge shirt on today instead of the flowery blouse sporting the height of embroidery fashion from my interview last month. The cleaner lines made the bones in their cheeks look sharper. “Officially, welcome to the Diplomatic Corp. Today’s just going to be orientation and assignment I’m afraid, so grab whichever one looks the most comfortable to you–” they gestured to the array of five chairs in front of the desk “–we’re going to be here a while.”

Two of the chairs were obviously for different species — the padding for knees (presumably) went in a direction only a yogi could find comfortable. A third was for someone human shaped, at least, although scaled a bit… larger than myself. The divan for the drakes tended to be comfortable for humans too, but I took the human standard chair anyway. The padding looked good.

“Alright then,” my boss said once I’d settled, “first thing I’ve got to ask is if you’re terribly religious?” They gestured at the cross at my neck.

I raised an eyebrow. “Is that even legal to ask?”

“Good on you. Not during your interview or to hold against you, but luckily for everyone here in the Corps, it’s just about finding you a post where you’ll be able to practice without it impacting our missions. And the places it’d be a problem are no more or less prestigious than where it’d be a benefit. Or not relevant. So, terribly religious?”

“Uh, I guess not particularly.”

“Would you be alright not wearing any faith symbols?”

“Where would this be a problem??”

“Lughaidh, capital of Belenus. Or anywhere else in the Orc empire for that matter. The further out in the rural areas you go, the better the odds you’d be murdered for preaching.”

“Just… just for having a symbol of faith?”

“They’re incredibly strict representational democrats with strong beliefs in decentralizing power. I’d say they’re big believers in separation of church and state if they hadn’t eliminated the church several centuries back.”

I sat, stunned, my jaw slack and mind fritzing out. An entire multi-planetary society with no religion at all? My home planet’s preeminent theologians had already been proven wrong once I’d gotten off planet and found multi-religionist planets the norm instead of the exception they’d argued was only right. But no religion at all?

“Look, their motto of ‘No Gods, No Masters’ carries a lot more punch than you’re probably used to in their society. That tends to happen when you can physically point to the decapitated skull of your former chief deity and enslaver over the legislative assembly’s foyer door.”

I just blinked at my boss.

“Right, not Lughaidh then. How do you feel about bodily modifications at the genetic level and cybernetic enhancements?”


Inspired by Prokopetz's modern takes on fantasy races here

Grandfather Clocks

"Cathy?" John's querulous voice floated in from the front foyer. "You have some super-people."

Cathy put her pen down (the school forms would just have to wait a bit) and poked her head out of her office. Three teens, no two teens and preteen, were standing in her foyer. The oldest one, probably fifteen or so, was glaring at John with the horrified gawp of a teenager who couldn't believe some adult had just said what they'd said, so embarrassing. Their clothes and backpack were sturdy, well-cared for, and a year out of fashion — Cathy would bet they had been bought last year, a little big on the girl, and worn since. The middle one, male, had the lanky build of a sprinter and the rumpled clothing of a speedster who'd forgotten to slowdown to normal human walking speeds recently. The youngest, the preteen girl, was obviously related to the boy, what with those cheekbones and nose. She was looking around the foyer with a look of awe on her face; Cathy regretted letting John and his ostentation rule the foyer decorations yet again. Her eyes widened a bit when the girl trailed a hand along the grandfather clock ticking away next to the door before pulling back with a wince. Cathy knew the clock's history — she had a psychohistorian on her hands. 

The poor girl.

Interesting, the older girl was wincing now with a look of concern at the younger. Delayed reaction. Probably an empath then.

"Well, don't just stand there," Cathy said, gesturing into her office. "Come in and tell the nice witch why an empath, a speedster, and a psychohistorian want her help."

Out sick

hey all you lovely people who make time to read my ramblings, unfortunately I haven't written ahead in a few weeks and woke up fairly sick today. Like sleep until 10:30am and then take a four hour nap in the afternoon sick. So no story today, sorry. Write to everyone Monday!

Those are new...

Beorhtric uncomfortably shifted in his saddle. His chest was tight, like a greater weight than Pyri’s slight form rested against him. He wanted to rip his armor off, somehow manage a deep breath that went all the way through him. But he need to get Pyri and the rest of his warband back to the healer. Whatever that naturmagier had hit him with, right before Beorhtric had run them through with his father’s longsword, was just going to have to wait.

Pyri slumped back against Beorhtric again; he was bleeding from the nose. Again. Agathe reached over, but her horse shied away from the sudden shift in weight. Beorhtric sped up to match speeds and slid in next to her on the forest path. Agathe laid her hands on Pyri as Beorhtric grabbed Agathe’s reins. The blood slowed and finally stopped (again) several lengths down the path.

Several hand spans of the sun towards setting, Beorhtric and band found the healer’s hut on the edge of their village. Agathe was swaying in her seat from exhaustion. Pyri hadn’t woken yet from passing out earlier. Two of the newest recruits’ wounds were bleeding through the hasty bandages they’d slapped on before riding for the village — such shallow wounds, no one was giving them any mind though.

Well, if the recruits were, no one was going to listen to a thing they said about it.

Beorhtric scooped Pyri off the horse and carried him into the long hut; Pyri never did weigh much more than a child just large enough to begin sword training. The healer motioned to the first bed, the one closest to the door, and Beorhtric deposited him there. Agathe had hurried in behind Beorhtric and began grabbing jar off the healer’s shelves. The healer peeled back Pyri’s eyelids and barked instructions at Agathe.

Beorhtric stepped behind a panel and finally, finally, peeled off his chest armor. A deep, gasping breath later, the sensations against his calloused hands actually registered — he grabbed his tunic, pulled it straight forward, and looked down.

“Huh,” Beorhtric said, looking down at a pair of breasts he hadn’t woken up that morning with, “those are new.”

Abbess Superior of the Authorial Confessional

“Forgive me Mother, for I have sinned. It has been three weeks since I last wrote.”

“Hast thou done any outlining?

“No Mother.”

“Revision? Editing?”

“No Mother. I haven’t had any ideas.”

“Hmm. Thou art aware of thy backlog of ideas? The one in thine journal that is even know about thy personage?”

“I…”

“Did thou lose thine journal?”

“No Mother. My partner took it and critiqued my ideas…”

“And thou hasn’t written since?”

“Yes Mother.”

“Very well, this then is my penance for thee. Break up with thine partner, for they have proven themself a right asshole. Purchase thine self a new journal of the prettiest, most joyful choice thou finds, and write thee the silliest, most cliched introduction of a new character in it. Then return thou to the church and our scribes will copy over thine ideas, without thy former partner’s commentary, into thine new journal. And we shall see where thou art with thine writing.”

“Thank you Mother!”

Allergy Season

Hey so, first off, I’m really sorry about all this. And I apologize for just leaving a note, but I really have to get to class.

My teleportation is usually under control, it’s just allergy season is driving me haywire. My phone number’s at the end, if you text me, I can forward my doctor’s note to you. Um, so, there’s some cash under this note for the wall where I slammed into your bookcase. I cleaned up the water from the vase I spilled and the… liquid where your pet freaked out about me, but that talisman over the door seems to have broken beyond my ability to do anything about. Give me a call, I might be able to find someone who won’t rip you off replacing it.

The good news is I walked your dragon?

Character Development Questions: Hard Mode — Pria

The last of my three main characters for the unnamed novel project


1. Does your character have siblings or family members in their age group? which one are they closest with?

Yes. Brandon (older brother by 2 years), Eveline [Eve, Evie] (younger sister by 2 years), and Jordan (younger brother by 4 years). She’s closest to Evie.

 

And in case you’re wondering, Pria had her name legally changed. It used to be Dinah. She hated that name. Evie and Jordan are also planning to legally change their names when they turn 18, although neither are sure what to, yet.

2. What is/was your character’s relationship with their mother like?

Bad. Really bad. Pria’s mom, Charity, was emotionally abusive to Pria, in the name of ‘saving her soul’ and getting her to ‘act like a lady’. Basically, Pria could never be feminine enough for her Mom.

3. What is/was your character’s relationship with their father like?

Bad. Not as bad as as with her Mom, but bad. As a teen, Pria kept expecting physical abuse from Joseph, her Dad, in the infrequent circumstances she actually got caught being ‘sinful’, but it never happened. She doesn’t realize it, but it didn’t happen because Joseph could tell she’d swing back.

4. Has your character ever witnessed something that fundamentally changed them? If so, does anyone else know?

No, but only because she’d already lost all trust in her parents and older brother. Honestly, she thinks it should have changed her, but seeing Brandon attack Evie really only confirmed what she suspected about Brandon and about herself (no, she didn’t freeze, yes, she did attack him). So, obviously Evie knows. Evie told Jordan later, and Pria told Gwen and Roland, her grandmother and grandfather, the outlines of what happened.

5. On an average day, what can be found in your character’s pockets?

Her phone. In her backpack is her laptop, books for class, binder to take notes in, pencils, a couple pens, highlighters, index cards, lunch (probably), and a water bottle. She has a bunch of sympathetic tokens on the insides of a bunch of bracelets she wears.

6. Does your character have recurring themes in their dreams?

No.

7. Does your character have recurring themes in their nightmares?

Still being at her parents’ ranch. Getting to the barn too late.

8. Has your character ever fired a gun? If so, what was their first target?

No.

9. Is your character’s current socioeconomic status different than it was when they were growing up?

Yes. Her parents were barely on the middle-class side of lower-middle class. Now that she (and her younger siblings) are under her grandparents’ care, they’re really wealthy.

10. Does your character feel more comfortable with more clothing, or with less clothing?

Less. But she’s living in a group house in New England. She dresses for the temperature and her roommates’ comfort level.

11. In what situation was your character the most afraid they’ve ever been?

In the barn when Brandon was attacking Evie and later while she was trying to get herself, Evie, and Jordan across the entire freaking country to Boston (and her grandparents) without getting caught by their parents or the police. 

12. In what situation was your character the most calm they’ve ever been?

When she was breaking up with her high school sweetheart, Betsy.

13. Is your character bothered by the sight of blood? If so, in what way?

No.

14. Does your character remember names or faces easier?

Names but only as they attach to faces.

15. Is your character preoccupied with money or material possession? Why or why not?

No, not anymore. She was preoccupied with money as it could enable her to get the hell out of her parents’ home, but now that she has access to more than she knows was to do with, she sees it as a useful tool that she’d like to learn how to utilize to the full extent it can protect her and her family. So maybe a little preoccupied with money.

16. Which does your character idealize most: happiness or success?

Happiness.

17. What was your character’s favorite toy as a child?

The copy of The Hobbit she managed to successfully keep hidden for four years.

18. Is your character more likely to admire wisdom, or ambition in others?

Wisdom.

19. What is your character’s biggest relationship flaw? Has this flaw destroyed relationships for them before?

She’s so careful about keeping and enforcing her boundaries that she’s not as careful of other people’s needs and feelings as she should be, to be a good partner. It’s stopped relationships from ever getting started before, which if she’d noticed would have been alright with her — she wasn’t interested in a relationship since she broke up with her girlfriend in high school, although she’s ready to date again, now that she’s in college.

20. In what ways does your character compare themselves to others? Do they do this for the sake of self-validation, or self-criticism?

She compares her knowledge of pop culture, general knowledge, and life skills to others, in order to find what was deliberately kept from her growing up. 

21. If something tragic or negative happens to your character, do they believe they may have caused or deserved it, or are they quick to blame others?

Somewhere in between those two extremes.

22. What does your character like in other people?

Integrity, willingness to learn, willingness to teach, respecting other people’s different life choices 

23. What does your character dislike in other people?

Zealotry, bigotry, sexism

24. How quick is your character to trust someone else?

Very slow

25. How quick is your character to suspect someone else? Does this change if they are close with that person?

Reasonably quick but that completely flips if they’re close — Pria doesn’t get close to people she hasn’t decided if she can trust them.

26. How does your character behave around children?

A little standoffish. She doesn’t really know how to relate and hasn’t learned yet how to draw them out to find something to interact over. She’s protective of her younger sister and brother though — them she knows how to interact with.

27. How does your character normally deal with confrontation?

Blank stone-face. She’s learned to control her impulse to lash out in anger from having so much practice dealing with her parents. 

28. How quick or slow is your character to resort to physical violence in a confrontation?

But if it’s a physical confrontation, she entirely willing to stand in their faces, not back down, and deck them if they swing first. So, quick to intimidation and quick to respond with physical violence if offered — she don’t start none, but damn if she doesn’t want to end it.

29. What did your character dream of being or doing as a child? Did that dream come true?

Run away. And yes, she did that.

30. What does your character find repulsive or disgusting?

Religious zealotry/fanaticism/fundamentalism.

31. Describe a scenario in which your character feels most comfortable.

Honestly, that moment right after sex at her place when her partner has dropped off to sleep and she’ll fall asleep shortly.

32. Describe a scenario in which your character feels most uncomfortable.

Dealing with her parents or her older brother again.

33. In the face of criticism, is your character defensive, self-deprecating, or willing to improve?

Defensive — she perceives it as an attack on her self and her boundaries. Yeah, she knows that’s not healthy and she’s working on it.

34. Is your character more likely to keep trying a solution/method that didn’t work the first time, or immediately move on to a different solution/method?

Different solution.

35. How does your character behave around people they like?

Like as in interesting in sleeping with them? Vivacious. Like as in like being around them? Quiet — she’s comfortable enough not to be ‘on’.

36. How does your character behave around people they dislike?

Dismissive. Unless she’s trying not to let on she dislikes them.

37. Is your character more concerned with defending their honor, or protecting their status?

Defending their honor.

38. Is your character more likely to remove a problem/threat, or remove themselves from a problem/threat?

Remove the problem.

39. Has your character ever been bitten by an animal? How were they affected (or unaffected)?

Yeah sure — she grew up on a ranch. Animals occasionally lip or take a bite out of you. She learned how to handle them better.

40. How does your character treat people in service jobs?

Politely.

41. Does your character feel that they deserve to have what they want, whether it be material or abstract, or do they feel they must earn it first?

Earn it.

42. Has your character ever had a parental figure who was not related to them?

Nope.

43. Has your character ever had a dependent figure who was not related to them?

Nu-uh.

44. How easy or difficult is it for your character to say “I love you?” Can they say it without meaning it?

Very easy to say if she doesn’t mean it — she’s had so much practice lying in that way to her parents.

45. What does your character believe will happen to them after they die? Does this belief scare them?

No damn clue. She figures she’ll find out when she gets there. And yes, that’s a scary thought, but it’s the only one she’s got to work with.

Character Development Questions: Hard Mode - Eric

This is for the same story Lucas from last Monday will be appearing in. Eric is the second (out of three) characters I’m trying to flesh out.

1. Does your character have siblings or family members in their age group? which one are they closest with?

Eric had a younger brother, Marcus, who was three years younger than him. All their cousins were hundreds of miles away, so the families weren’t close. Marcus and Eric weren’t super close but they were friendly and sometimes did stuff together (video games or catch. Occasionally Eric chaperoned Marcus and some friends at the movies [‘cause he could drive]), but mostly they hung out with their respective friends group.

2. What is/was your character’s relationship with their mother like?

Reasonably good. Eric’s mom, Nadine, worked longish hours as a professional so he didn’t see her as much as his Dad, but he respected his Mom’s professional accomplishments, her work ethic, her outlook on life, and her chili.

3. What is/was your character’s relationship with their father like?

Close. Eric learned a lot of household skills from his Dad, Eliot, and had long discussions about literature and ethics with him.

4. Has your character ever witnessed something that fundamentally changed them? If so, does anyone else know?

Yes. And he really doesn’t want to talk about it.

(Pria has the news article summary version of what happened, but not from Eric. So her view is that she doesn’t know what happened, not really. Lucas doesn’t know.)

5. On an average day, what can be found in your character’s pockets?

Phone, wallet, pocket/multi tool (Leatherman actually). In his backpack is his laptop, today’s class textbook, notebook for the appropriate class, homework, pencils, notecards, highlighters, sunglasses, water bottle, and a deck of playing cards.

6. Does your character have recurring themes in their dreams?

Walking through the woods during the fall with his Dad and brother.

7. Does your character have recurring themes in their nightmares?

Theme, no; event, yes — his parents’ and brother’s murder. Technically, his murder too, except for the permanently dying part.

8. Has your character ever fired a gun? If so, what was their first target?

Yes, he went target shooting once. He decided it’d take more time and work than he could afford to get accurate enough to make a gun a reasonable weapon choice. So that was the last time he touched a gun too.

9. Is your character’s current socioeconomic status different than it was when they were growing up?

Yes. Eric grew up solidly upper-middle class — two working, professional parents — and now he’s a black college student on financial aid and work study with no family support.

10. Does your character feel more comfortable with more clothing, or with less clothing?

Eh. It’s cold in New England and heat is expensive. More clothing for now.

11. In what situation was your character the most afraid they’ve ever been?

The night his home was invaded and his family was murdered.

12. In what situation was your character the most calm they’ve ever been?

Calm might be the wrong emotion but he appeared incredibly calm at his family’s funeral. That was shock, numbness, and disassociation though. Actual calm would probably be last night, right before falling sleeping with Pria, or the walk through the woods with his dad when they talked through applying to colleges and career goals.

13. Is your character bothered by the sight of blood? If so, in what way?

Yes, it makes him angry and shaky (in sufficient quantities. A paper cut or scrap is fine.)

14. Does your character remember names or faces easier?

Faces.

15. Is your character preoccupied with money or material possession? Why or why not?

A little - he has to be right now for survival.

16. Which does your character idealize most: happiness or success?

Happiness.

17. What was your character’s favorite toy as a child?

A puppet stage he and his brother put shows on together.

18. Is your character more likely to admire wisdom, or ambition in others?

Wisdom. Reminds him of his Dad.

19. What is your character’s biggest relationship flaw? Has this flaw destroyed relationships for them before?

He’s been a bit too passive and too willing to put up with shit (like people staying in the closet) for the past year, year and a half. There’s some self-loathing issues going on.

20. In what ways does your character compare themselves to others? Do they do this for the sake of self-validation, or self-criticism?

Eric compares himself to what other people accomplish as a method of self-criticism. He’s carrying a lot of guilt (and anger) and thinks he should have been capable of doing more.

21. If something tragic or negative happens to your character, do they believe they may have caused or deserved it, or are they quick to blame others?

Depends on the severity of what happens, but right now, Eric definitely thinks he deserves everything bad that comes his way.

22. What does your character like in other people?

Imagination, creativity, empathy, follow through, reliability.

23. What does your character dislike in other people?

Violence, dullness, meanness, cruelty.

24. How quick is your character to trust someone else?

Give people a chance but verify.

25. How quick is your character to suspect someone else? Does this change if they are close with that person?

Depends — does he have a reason to suspect someone? If he does, he’ll worry at the problem until he figures it out.

26. How does your character behave around children?

He’ll try to engage them in a storytelling or imagination game. It usually works.

27. How does your character normally deal with confrontation?

Depends on who’s on the other side of the confrontation. He’s black and very aware of the disadvantages that puts him in New England, even (particularly) on a liberal arts college campus. If it’s with people he knows and trusts, he’ll verbally stand his ground, preferably engaging in a debate. He doesn’t trust people it’d turn to violence around, so during such a confrontation he’d work to calm things down so he can get the hell out of there. And preferably never interact with them again.

28. How quick or slow is your character to resort to physical violence in a confrontation?

They need to swing first. Except when it comes to Lucas’s frat brothers, the ones older than Lucas. Eric thinks they swung first a long time ago.

29. What did your character dream of being or doing as a child? Did that dream come true?

A professor of literature, preferably African-American or Japanese.

He’s 18. He’s working on it. Maybe.

30. What does your character find repulsive or disgusting?

Organ meat. Sewage. Anything with a bad enough smell.

31. Describe a scenario in which your character feels most comfortable.

Reading a book with a cup of hot chocolate. Maybe some music. Maybe some other folks hanging out.

What? It’s cold in New England. He may have grown up here but it’s still cold!

32. Describe a scenario in which your character feels most uncomfortable.

Angry authority figures — particularly law enforcement or security services.

33. In the face of criticism, is your character defensive, self-deprecating, or willing to improve?

Willing to improve

34. Is your character more likely to keep trying a solution/method that didn’t work the first time, or immediately move on to a different solution/method?

Socially, different solution. Physical problem trying to solve, try again to figure out why it isn’t working and then correct from there.

35. How does your character behave around people they like?

A little intense, in that he’d like to keep talking/interacting so he’s paying a lot of attention to the conversation. Unless folks are just hanging out, then he’ll relax into whatever activity is going on. If he really likes them / is attracted to them, he’ll be as physically close/affectionate as their body language indicates they’re comfortable with.

36. How does your character behave around people they dislike?

Disengaged.

37. Is your character more concerned with defending their honor, or protecting their status?

Status, as in the status of being alive.

38. Is your character more likely to remove a problem/threat, or remove themselves from a problem/threat?

He’d prefer to remove himself, but recognizes this isn’t always an option.

39. Has your character ever been bitten by an animal? How were they affected (or unaffected)?

Not a thing that’s happened to him.

40. How does your character treat people in service jobs?

You’ve got a job to do and I’ll try not to make it any harder than it has to be.

41. Does your character feel that they deserve to have what they want, whether it be material or abstract, or do they feel they must earn it first?

Eric thinks it doesn’t matter, he’ll have to earn it and keep demonstrably earning it to prevent it, whatever it is, from being taken away.

42. Has your character ever had a parental figure who was not related to them?

Yes, his freshman history teacher — she taught him a lot about text analysis.

43. Has your character ever had a dependent figure who was not related to them?

No.

44. How easy or difficult is it for your character to say “I love you?” Can they say it without meaning it?

Fairly easy if he means it, but also yes, he can say it without meaning it.

45. What does your character believe will happen to them after they die? Does this belief scare them?

He’s not sure — probably hell, assuming anything exists after death. (Have I given the impression that Eric is a bit depressed? Because he’s a lot depressed.)

System Review : Monsterhearts 2nd Edition

What, an actual gaming blog post on a Thursday like I originally envisioned for this blog, whaaat? 

Any rate, a review of the second edition of Monsterhearts. 


Monsterhearts is a role-playing system about the drama being a teenager and a supernatural monster. The game is centered around the social ties between characters and various ways they interact with each other. It is explicitly poc and queer friendly, with the ability written into the game to turn on another character, without restrictions on gender or sexuality — in fact, the author urges players to discover their character's sexuality over the course of the game through who successfully turns whom on. It's a collaboratively narrative game focused on social interactions and characters being not very nice to each other, in that way that generates drama and fun at the table.

The second edition is  primarily a refinement and expansion upgrade. One character type (The Chosen (think Buffy)) was moved from a default option offered in the book to an expansion option available on the system website, based on feedback the author received on how that centered a game on that character type (and how often people chose to play the character). Another character type was promoted to replace The Chosen in the book. Some of the abilities of characters were refined. A discussion on asexuality, how it interacts in the game, and suggestions on incorporating it into a game was included. New writers added a section on explicitly including diversity in the game and suggestions for handling playing characters outside your own ethnicity responsibly. A discussion on checking in with players and tools to use to making sure everyone is comfortable with potentially difficult material was also added.

Over all, I would say that the second edition of Monsterhearts is a worthy and useful continuation of the game. If you're new to the system, I would recommend the second edition over the first. If you already have the first edition, I would say to save your money for a new system altogether. Unless you want to support the author — I'm never going to object to people looking to support their artists. The mechanics updates aren't different enough to get you a new game. The expanded discussion of factors at the table is a good one and one the industry and its players desperately needs to keep having, but if you already have the first edition, it's a discussion you can research and educate yourself on online.

Takeaway: Good update, I'm glad to own the 2nd edition, recommend the 2nd over the 1st as the place to get into the game, not necessary for folks who already own the 1st edition.

Character Development Questions: Hard Mode - Lucas

This is for a story I've had kicking around in my head for a while. I'm trying to flesh out the two (out of three) main characters I feel I don't know as well. In an attempt to push the project forward. So, I introduce to you Lucas, at the beginning of my as yet untitled story.


1. Does your character have siblings or family members in their age group? which one are they closest with?

Lucas has four younger siblings, as two sisters younger than him by two (Maria) and four (Julia) years, than a younger brother (six years younger, Martín), and finally another sister (eight years younger, Ema). He’s was close with Maria until they hit seven and five, when Maria started getting closer to Julia. Now, in the family, Lucas is closest with his eldest cousin, Alonso, but it’s not very close.

2. What is/was your character’s relationship with their mother like?

A bit distant. Lucas feels ignored by her and actively discouraged from having a good relationship with her by his father.

3. What is/was your character’s relationship with their father like?

Resentful. Lucas isn’t entirely aware of his resentment yet, but he’s been passively resisting his father for years. As much as he feels he can without making his or his siblings’ life awful. 

4. Has your character ever witnessed something that fundamentally changed them? If so, does anyone else know?

Yes, his full initiation into his fraternity beginning of sophomore year. It’s... not a good memory. His frat brothers, obviously, knew and now Eric and Pria know something happened, even if he hasn’t shared the details.

5. On an average day, what can be found in your character’s pockets?

His pockets have his cellphone, wallet, his student id (usually floating loose from the wallet), a couple coins, and a pencil nub. His backpack is more interesting: laptop, notepad, notebook, pens, pencils, highlighters, crumpled flashcards, a couple crumbled bills (anywhere from 1$ to 10$ bills), wall plugs and charging cables for his phone, an external battery, rolled ace bandage, jock strap, and an ankle splint.

6. Does your character have recurring themes in their dreams?

Not particularly. The closest would be once or twice a month dreaming about running of some variety. Sometimes on two legs, sometimes as a wolf on four.

7. Does your character have recurring themes in their nightmares?

Yes. The smell and taste of blood. Running.

8. Has your character ever fired a gun? If so, what was their first target?

No.

9. Is your character’s current socioeconomic status different than it was when they were growing up?

No, Lucas grew up lower-middle to middle-middle class and he’s at college as a semi-broke student. This isn’t all that different on a day-to-day basis than high school.

10. Does your character feel more comfortable with more clothing, or with less clothing?

More clothing. Not layers and layers, but fully dressed.

11. In what situation was your character the most afraid they’ve ever been?

Two instances: 1) his full initiation to his fraternity and 2) last night when Eric came by the frat house.

12. In what situation was your character the most calm they’ve ever been?

Arriving at college. Once everything was unloaded into his dorm room and his Papa said goodbye, Lucas just went... peaceful for a few minutes. And then he went to dinner with his new roommate and tried to make friends.

13. Is your character bothered by the sight of blood? If so, in what way?

Yes. It’s an unpleasant reminder of... last night.

14. Does your character remember names or faces easier?

Both/neither? Lucas has a good memory for faces but he always has a name associated with the face.

15. Is your character preoccupied with money or material possession? Why or why not?

No, because he hasn’t had to worry about it much. Also, being preoccupied with money or material possessions is closely connected with being preoccupied with status (to him), and Lucas is avoiding being like his Papa that way (not a conscious choice. yet.) If you asked him, he’d say he wants to maintain the same lifestyle he grew up with, but he doesn’t have a concrete career or goal in mind to do that.

16. Which does your character idealize most: happiness or success?

Happiness.

17. What was your character’s favorite toy as a child?

His stuffed octopus. Until Papa substituted in a football. He didn’t really have a favorite after that. 

18. Is your character more likely to admire wisdom, or ambition in others?

Wisdom. He feels he’s lacking that.

19. What is your character’s biggest relationship flaw? Has this flaw destroyed relationships for them before?

Lucas is insecure. He’s grown up with a particular image of how he’s supposed to be around girls / women (macho) and that doesn’t come naturally to him. So, when he tries to fake it, he worries everyone can tell he’s faking. When he doesn’t fake it, he worries that people think he’s not a man. He thinks he’s supposed to want to get with every woman and perform with single one of them who’s willing. 

It’s sabotaged things from ever getting started for him.

20. In what ways does your character compare themselves to others? Do they do this for the sake of self-validation, or self-criticism?

Lucas compares himself to how other guys (particularly guys in his frat) act around women and it’s totally for self-criticism. He’s half disgusted (okay, mostly disgusted), half ‘damn it, how do I act that confident / macho.’

21. If something tragic or negative happens to your character, do they believe they may have caused or deserved it, or are they quick to blame others?

Oh, definitely with the self-blame and thinking he deserved it.

22. What does your character like in other people?

Confidence. Being kind. Reaching out and helping others. The ability to have deep discussions on various topics and the ability to sit back and listen.

23. What does your character dislike in other people?

Arrogance. Anger. Being a bully. Trying to win every conversation.

24. How quick is your character to trust someone else?

Slow. He’s not sure he’s every trusted someone completely, and now he has more to loose.

25. How quick is your character to suspect someone else? Does this change if they are close with that person?

Also slow. But it doesn’t really change if he’s close with that person. Actually, it might be faster — since he’s close, he has more opportunities to see behaviors that would make him suspicious.

26. How does your character behave around children?

Responsible. Where’s their parent(s) and do I need to watch out for this child until they get here. Keep in mind, Lucas is only 19ish, so ‘children’ is pretty much anyone younger than seven.

27. How does your character normally deal with confrontation?

Avoidance. Go quiet, withdraw, say what you need to or nod to get the other person to drop it.

28. How quick or slow is your character to resort to physical violence in a confrontation?

Very slow. He avoids, avoids, avoids, until physical violence is already on the table / happening. In which case he’ll try to back-up the person he thinks is in the right and run away if the violence is only directed at him.

29. What did your character dream of being or doing as a child? Did that dream come true?

Lucas isn’t sure anymore what he wanted to do/be as a child. Papa has had him working towards college and a financial Wall Street job since he started school.

30. What does your character find repulsive or disgusting?

The smell of rotting flowers. Dead fish.

31. Describe a scenario in which your character feels most comfortable.

Snuggling with Pria or Eric on the couch, watching a movie, when they’re the only one’s in the house.

32. Describe a scenario in which your character feels most uncomfortable.

Scenario 1: Verbal fights or confrontations. 
Scenario 2: Being naked and about to start having sex. He’d like to get over that.

33. In the face of criticism, is your character defensive, self-deprecating, or willing to improve?

Well, criticism feels like a confrontation, so Lucas is avoidant and self-deprecating in order to placate the person giving the criticism.

34. Is your character more likely to keep trying a solution/method that didn’t work the first time, or immediately move on to a different solution/method?

Depends on the problem to be solved, but if he’s the one to notice it didn’t work and if it is possible, he’d like to immediately try the solution/method a second time to understand what he did wrong.

35. How does your character behave around people they like?

Relaxed and a bit tactile. He’d like to have some part of body in contact with someone, not necessarily skin-to-skin, although if he’s really comfortable skin-to-skin is really nice. Otherwise, he’d like the pressure to reassure his hindbrain they’re there. He’s not consciously aware of any of this. And is a bit touch starved.

36. How does your character behave around people they dislike?

Withdrawn. If at all possible, he’d like to leave or ignore them.

37. Is your character more concerned with defending their honor, or protecting their status?

Honor, if you define honor as integrity and acting ethically.

38. Is your character more likely to remove a problem/threat, or remove themselves from a problem/threat?

Remove himself.

39. Has your character ever been bitten by an animal? How were they affected (or unaffected)?

Not something he’s experienced.

40. How does your character treat people in service jobs?

As kind and briskly as possible. They don’t get paid enough to deal with what they deal with (he knows, he’s worked service jobs in high school) and if he can get the heck out of their way, their day with not suck just a little bit more.

41. Does your character feel that they deserve to have what they want, whether it be material or abstract, or do they feel they must earn it first?

That would involve knowing what he wants. But if you ask him about it abstractly, he’d tell you he has to earn it.

42. Has your character ever had a parental figure who was not related to them?

God no, Papa would have put up with that.

43. Has your character ever had a dependent figure who was not related to them?

No, not yet.

44. How easy or difficult is it for your character to say “I love you?” Can they say it without meaning it?

Difficult. He hasn’t been in a situation where he’s really needed to say it without — he’s not entirely comfortable saying it to his parents, but they’re not the demonstrative kind. He’s comfortable saying it to his siblings. And he hasn’t been in a relationship long enough that it’s come up.

45. What does your character believe will happen to them after they die? Does this belief scare them?

Lucas is culturally Catholic and is now pretty sure he’s going to Hell when he dies. And yes, this scares the crap out of him, but he’s really not sure what else would have been the right thing to do.