Archive for Writing

The Blue Orchid : NaNoWriMo 2014 part 6

All right… It’s a touch after four thirty PM, I have seven and a half hours to go and four thousand words till I hit fifty thousand.

Do or die time!

I am not going to finish the book in fifty thousand words, which is fine, I can keep working at a less frantic pace for a while until I finish, but I neeeeeeed to hit fifty thousand tonight!

Quick process note: I have abandoned my spreadsheet, I am not sure if that is helping or hindering me right now, but I’m trying to do less obsessive metric monitoring and more writing.

Now I’m off to write all the words. Wish me luck, see you on the other side!

D&D & Me part 3: A New Campaign

In the midst of the insanity of the oncoming winter and NaNoWriMo and work and life I have begun a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign with the shiny new 5th edition rules (Which I like quite a lot, more on that another time).

I am working on a Wiki that will detail the world as it develops. I’ll link to it next time.

The first two games were very heavily weighted with character creation and development and introduction, but enough actual play occurred to get some very interesting plot rolling. I’m feeling creative in a way that I haven’t felt in a couple of years and that makes me very happy.

The players are an interesting mix. Three of them are from work, a fourth is a friend of theirs who plays board and computer games and wanted to see what this was like, and the fifth is one of the first three players father.

The new player has been giving it a chance but is not terribly into it. I have been trying to keep him engaged but he’s not in love with the format of the game and is likely going to bow out. I suspect he might actually have enjoyed 4th edition more, the plot and character stuff does not seem to interest him as much as tactical combat… which is perfectly fair.

The Father and Son duo are who I want to talk about right now. Both are kind of dream players to have in a sandbox game of this sort. They develop deep backgrounds to their players, are very interested in the world and their place in it, and are just as happy or more interacting with the townspeople as they are bashing goblin heads in.

Also: The father worked for TSR, Pacesetter, and Mayfair games. He wrote and designed for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Chill, Star Ace, Gangbusters, and Marvel Superheroes. He also designed Wabbit Wampage which I used to sell.

He is one of the people responsible for how the hobby I love took shape and has played with many of the greats…

Was I  touch intimidated going into that session? Yes I was.

Did he say that I was a fantastic DM, better than most of the people he used to play with back at TSR? Maaaaaaybe.

Am I feeling kind of badass at the moment? Yes.

The Blue Orchid : NaNoWriMo 2014 part 5

Weeks later…

Several really bad days (and days with other things going on) have me at 26024 words. Over halfway done but 3976 words behind schedule. My average words per minute is hanging around 14 which is not fantastic. Two or three really good days will get me back ahead of the game, I’m feeling confident.

I seem to work best when I’m alone at a cafe, barring that somewhere with minimal distraction. This is probably a painfully obvious statement.

The Blue Orchid : NaNoWriMo 2014 part 4

With a terrible three days I have fallen a bit behind. I wrote just a few hundred words on Wednesday since I was mostly getting ready for the game. The next two days were also a bit busy and I barely got any writing done. 269 on Wednesday, 729 on Thursday, and 655 on Friday brought me to a total of 9003 which was 2663 words behind my goal. My words per minute fell to a low of 8.9 as well, the brain juices were not flowing.

Saturday I woke up early and bashed out as many words as I could. The story started flowing again and A couple of characters got introduced. I managed to get out a few paragraphs on my break at work as well, and then got in an hour or so when I got home (after watching Constantine with my sweetie.) 2351 words got squeezed out of my head bringing me to 11354.

So now I’m 1979 words behind, just  a bit more than a full day. That is fixable. My words per minute jumped up to 15.67 which is a lot more like it! I am now 22.71% of the way done. I have also almost gotten to the part of the book where I stop leaping around in time and get to the main story. That should be fun!

The Blue Orchid : NaNoWriMo 2014 part 3

Monday was disappointing at just shy of 1300 words. My reserve dropped to 35 words but my words per minute stayed about even. In my defense It was an early morning for me and then I spent most of the late afternoon doing laundry. I had gathered a great deal of clothes from every nook and cranny of my place and added in a bunch of stuff that I had in bags and boxes that were getting nasty and musty due to the mold factory I life in. Also I tossed in a bunch of towels and rags and a comforter that had been fouled by cat quite some time ago. At the laundromat I was using seven machines at once which was a little satisfying for some reason.

Today, however I had a great run while hanging out at the rainbow cafe which has a great atmosphere, good coffee, and precious little doughnuts that cost more than one really wants to spend on a doughnut but are entirely delicious. Between that, a few words squeezed out while running around and doing errands, and a nice run tonight I am at 7350 words!

That’s 2315 today for those keeping score (just me? yeah I thought so) which is 138% of my daily goal. I am at 14.7% of the whole book with a 638 word surplus going into tomorrow which is mostly going to be all about Dungeons & Dragons and I’ll be lucky to stay even.

The book now happens at two different times and spans two continents. I keep forgetting my main characters name (and he’s using three aliases at this point which is -not- helping) and have two or three maguffins I am going to have to remember to explain later. Nobody has died so far that didn’t deserve it.

The Blue Orchid : NaNoWriMo 2014 part 2

It turns out that the NaNoWriMo site is doing some of the data crunching my spreadsheet is doing and has a few cool tricks on top of that.

I’m up to 3741 words, 1724 from today which was 103% of my daily goal and has me 7.48% done. The site estimates that at this rate I will be done by the 27th. I have about 407 words in the bank now which is a bit low. I’ll have to kick some ass on my days off to boost that up a bit in case of off days.

My words per minute is up a bit today despite some fiddling about with character names and redoing a few parts that were not flowing well (bad inner editor BAD! fix later!). I’m managing 12.7 now.

I’m really liking my main and secondary characters so far which is a good sign.

I have Scrivener Installed but I am a bit nervous to dive into a new piece of software at the same time as I try to use it, so I am just writing in TextPad as I poke at it. I may or may not copy everything over there if it turns out to be useful, otherwise I will just kill it and try it again when the intended application is less deadliny.


The Blue Orchid : NaNoWriMo 2014 part 1

Well it is that time of the year again… time to tilt at the literary windmill that is NaNoWriMo. It’s going to be a busy month. I have a lot of work to do at home, at my sweeties house, and at… well work. Also I am starting my LONG awaited Dungeons and Dragons campaign in a few days which will require writing and prep work of its own.

Should be interesting.

The Blue Orchid is a story of Bureau 404. It is a call back to my first Nano-novel and probably happens in the same world so expect magic, monsters, and probably at least one person being disemboweled. If it isn’t entirely terrible I may post it somewhere where people can look at it when the month is over.

Being me I am keeping a spreadsheet of my progress. I end my first day with 2017 words which is 121% of my daily goal. I am now 350 words ahead of the game and need to keep up 1599 a day to reach 50K. I am producing about 11.2 words per minute which is not terrible but which I can hopefully speed up a bit as I only have a couple days with nice long mornings I can catch up in.

If you are doing this thing as well find me here and be my ‘writing buddy.’

If this is entirely uninteresting to you then I apologize… there is going to be a lot of it this month.

For the record… this was about 240 words that are not in my novel. Some of these updates will be a lot shorter.

Movie Monday 002: Message From Space

It has been a tiring week, but I did not want to go two weeks without making a review, so…

This week: Message From Space

Toei And then United Artists: 1978

An ambitious and expensive Japanese movie imported to the US in the wake of Star Wars. The US movie industry was unprepared to supply the publics renewed hunger for sci-fi so they were buying up foreign films.

This movie was bought for a reported 1 million dollars. It probably made about $28 from my dad taking me to see it a couple times. He will remember it as the schlock Japanese sci fi movie with the space ships that were sailing ships with engines on the back. I remember it for the heroes ship with the fantastic fold out fighter bays (that was undoubtedly millennium falcon inspired).

I built a couple models of the ship and the fighters and always lusted after the die cast toys that now go for hundreds of dollars on ebay. I would love to have the model of the main good guys ship again.

This movie is the story of a ragtag group of unlikely heroes summoned by mystical space walnuts to save the planet Julucia from the evil Gavanas.

The plot is moderately ludicrous, the acting amusingly painful (even taking dubbing into account), and the action is very dated. The effects are actually rather good for the time (even if they are used to often ridiculous effect) , and the Star Wars influence on the models and props gives them a refreshing sense of reality.

Message From Space is a movie that is fun despite itself. It is enjoyable for the campiness of it, but it’s also just fun to watch. I loved it as a kid because I had no taste and would pretty much watch anything with a robot in it… I find I love it now for a mixture of the nostalgia and a genuine appreciation for what they were trying to do.

And the ships really are cool.

Characters: D6 : Uninspired archetypes with dubious motivations. Totally useful for space swashbuckling or other slightly silly settings. The enemies are evil for the sake of evil with gratuitous chrome and horned helmets and capes.

Soundtrack: D6 : Nothing special, a mix of 1960s sci-themes and Star Wars inspired orchestral bits. There is a CD out there and it could be fun to have’ but not worth much effort.

Plot: D8 : Ludicrous and clumsy (it is never a good sign when the narrator has to explain what is happening)… But also amusing and pretty well paced out. Not a bad model for gathering together characters and getting them to the action in a somewhat less than serious setting.

Tech/magic/maguffins: D8 : Remarkably fun space ships, swords in space, and tying all the characters together with mysterious seeds that could do just about anything the plot needed them to do at any given moment.

Settings: D6 : A series of locations barely connected to one another in any logical way. Some of them could be lifted for encounters, but I would not recommend using them all in the same plot.

Suggested system: FATE, Savage Worlds, the old D6 Star Wars, Battlestations.

D&D & Me part 2: My Dice

A bit of an aside after a few days off…

Gamers (and by this I mean role players, war gamers, and board gamers… I will have something to say on other uses of the word soon I imagine) have a very odd relationship with their dice. They (and by they I mean we) have a lot of strange rituals, habits, and superstitions surrounding our dice. Some day soon I will discuss some of these…

But first… A short (ish) history of my dice.

As I mentioned previously my very first game used coins instead of dice. Specifically I am pretty sure I used pennies. I lusted after the cool dice I saw other people using and that were for sale in dragon magazine, but with a weekly allowance of probably .75 to 1.50 they were a world away from me at that moment.

For my next few games I liberally borrowed dice from the board games we had laying around… Most often Risk which had a lot of them and since my mother and her friends only played it (according to my memory) on occasional camping trips, they wouldn’t be missed while I was using them. I may or may not have eventually absconded permanently with those dice, I do not recall.

The first dice that were really mine though, we’re the dice that game with that red box D&D set. Those cheap dice are often called ‘waxies’ because of the feel of the plastic, they had a slight give and translucency that made them almost seem like particularly hard fruit chews.  If you wanted the dice to be readable you even had to fill in the numbers with a crayon because they hadn’t been inked at the factory. The game used to come with a sort of off grey crayon for that very purpose.

I carried these dice everywhere with me, and like most of those dice they became battered and rounded, the cheap plastic wearing away. Eventually I needed new ones.

I vividly remember buying my first set of gem dice. This was an official set sold through waldenbooks and other stores, they came in a blister pack and were clear, multicolored, and had startlingly sharp edges and corners.

I used to haunt waldenbooks at that age. I was reading Zalazny and Ursala K. Le Guin and a whole lot of Pierce Anthony and I probably pestered the clerks there on a weekly basis about new releases. The dice hung to the right of their science fiction section… Drive by the Cars was playing. To me the dice glowed like the sun and were pure treasure.

I added a few more sets of dice to my collection over the years, and eventually I was given a metal set of dice that became the central jewels of my dice bag…

Which I should mention was made of chain mail from a kit I ordered from the back of dragon magazine… A kit made by the father of my fiancé as it turns out… The world is a scary place sometimes.

Those dice (and the bag) were solen in my senior year of high school and I still mourn them. I have my suspicions but nothing was ever proven.

i bought other dice, and some were very nice, but I never really had a special set again. I used whatever fell to hand, and Since I was now playing GURPS and Champions I accumulated enough six siders to supply a small merchant vessel if they needed improvisational cannon shot to drive off pirates… That never really came up… But the point is I had to carry the bastards around in a big box… Which I did… Along with a couple of decks of magic cards, counters, small notebooks, and in later years a flask of something unspeakable.

One year at a local game convention I discovered a very dangerous thing. Chessex (a major manufacturer of gaming dice) had a cauldron of misc. dice. Some were misprints or mold tests with weird mixes of plastic. The rest were just colors or styles that did not sell well. You could give them 20 bucks for a coffee mug or 30 bucks for a beer stein, and scoop up a random helping of dice. Very soon my box was entirely full and very very heavy. I not only owned more dice than I could use at any given time… I probably owned enough dice to equip the entire game convention for every game currently being played… This had gotten a little out of hand.

A couple years ago I spent a few days separating the dice out into sets. I gave a lot of them away to friends and a couple very confused strangers on the bus. For the rest I sewed some simple dice bags and was intending to sell them as horribly ugly dice for people to use at conventions without fear of losing them or having them stolen… I think some of them survived the move… I may have them for sale soon.

so now my dice are a fairly random selection from that mass of dice. No particular style, color, or importance. If I need a D20 I grab one, there are no favorites, no particular memories… These dice are tools, nothing more.

I find that after all these years, I miss having special dice. Dice with personality, stories. I think it’s time to go shopping for dice.

Movie Monday 001: I Married a Monster From Outer Space!

And now it is time for the Movie Mondays to begin.

In these articles I will be delving into the b grade movie archives looking for hidden gems and moments of brilliance In a sea of barely adequate muck. I will be reviewing these films for how fun (or painful) they are, and also how useful they are to mine for games or writing purposes.

Ratings are in dice. From D4 to D20… Because that is how I roll! (I have lost my old icons so there won’t be any yet. Just text. I’ll fix that later if I feel like it.)

This week: I Married a Monster From Outer Space

Paramount 1958

Although the stand alone DVD seems to be out of print it is unlikely that you will have much difficulty finding a copy. In fact, if you are in the habit of buying those “20 sci-fi blockbusters” sets that can usually be found in the bargain bin by the register for $10 or less, you probably already own at least one copy of this film. I am pretty sure I have at least three.

I Married a Monster From Outer Space was not well received in 1958 and has been largely ignored ever since, which is a shame as it turns out to be a surprisingly good film.

The story features newly married Marge Farrell who, soon after her marriage, finds that her husband Bill is not at all himself. He is losing his affection for his wife and seems to have taken up cruelty to animals as a side hobby. Soon she finds out that Bill is not the only man in town who has changed and must figure out who she can trust to fight this menace from space.

A lurid title as well as its posters and other promotional materials point to this movie as the love child of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Mars Needs Women! And this is actually pretty much where the movie starts.

Surprisingly good cinematography and well above average special effects are balanced by solid B grade dialogue and one dimensional stereotypes… But about a third of the way to halfway through the movie it shifts a bit and becomes something a bit more than its parts would suggest.

Hidden inside of well worn tropes and off the shelf characters is an actual science fiction story and a take on the body snatchers concept with more bite than most.

I enjoyed this movie on a level I was not expecting to and while I would not recommend it as an entry into the classic sci-fi genre… I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Oh yeah, and the cars are gorgeous!

Characters: D6 : mostly cookie cutter, but fun for bit parts. The strong female lead for the time is remarkable, as is a particularly creepy policeman.

Soundtrack: D8 : Good solid classic sci-fi mood music. The soundtrack is available in a limited edition cd and if anyone wants to send me a copy I will do a happy dance. I might film said happy dance.

Plot: D8 : a very well worn path, but with some twists to the story worth paying attention to.

Tech/magic/maguffins: D6 : Not much. Ray guns, a space ship you don’t see a lot of and a few bits of alien gear with antennas. It’s saving grace in this category is a somewhat creepy take on the tech behind body snatching.

Settings: D4 : A poorly defined small town USA with not a lot to look at or think about.

Suggested system: gurps atomic horror, call of Cthulhu, or Cthulhu dark.

Overall: D10 : A fun movie a bit of a step outside its place and time. Well worth watching.

Fiancé summary: “Fish egg goo is gross.”