• Inked: A Promise for 2016 and Beyond to Do and Be So Much More

    For my 38th birthday, I decided to get a new tattoo. Since then, the ink adrenaline has been flowing and I have been contemplating a new one. With my zodiac triptych of dragon, scorpion, and butterfly complete, I wanted to move on to something that represented all my geeky loves. I settled on a Renegon symbol from Mass Effect, but then what about my love of X-Men? Could I leave out Dragon Age? Star Wars? Everything else? Finally, I decided that all of this has already been represented in the symbol and nickname I'd chosen long ago, back in high school: nightxade.

    Next step: placement. A little flowered anklet? A ring? Yeah... no... I decided to go all out and finally get a full back tattoo -- the kind of ink I've always admired but had neither the guts nor the money to achieve. Combine that with the final words from a poem I wrote long ago, and I had a plan. A plan that was painfully but beautifully modified by the death of my mother when my cousin-in-law suggested that I use my mother's beautiful script in my design.

    My mother's handwriting had always bothered me. It was so flowy and elaborate and confident -- just like my mother. Now that she's gone, I miss seeing her notes posted all over the house.
    Mom wasn't particularly fond of my tattoos. In her eyes, they were probably the worst of the sins I had committed in my misguided youth, especially since it's right there in the Bible that I'm not supposed to do that:
    Leviticus 19:28 (NIV): "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD."
    I told mom that I was going to get a new tattoo and from her deathbed, she laughed as my daughters applied faked tattoos they had chosen to her frail arms. "What am I supposed to do about that now?" she said. Hell, she didn't even say anything about the one I got last year. My first tattoo when I was 21 almost gave my dad a heart attack. The second a few years later convinced my mother that I was cursed thanks to the discovery of a cyst on my ovary, which seemed to confirm God's ruling that my sins would make me barren. But either her old age or the fact that I birthed two beautiful daughters had tempered her concerns by then and neither she nor my father said a word about my tattoo, much to my petulant adult child disappointment.

    There is great irony in the fact that mom's notes that I found and from which I put together the script for my ink actually were Leviticus 19:28. Two pages of notes talking about cursing. Leviticus is full of that. My mom had a great sense of humour. She would appreciate the irony.

    And so, long story short, I now have a shiny new tat that both represents me and is a fitting tribute to my wonderful mother that would make her shake her head and sigh. 

    Miss you mom, but I know you're still with me.

    With many thanks to Simon Field for helping me with the draft, and Kent Street Tattoo for the beautiful final product.

  • Star Wars: Generations (Spoilers)

    My brilliant Christmas idea: get the family together after dinner to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That meant fourteen of us -- three generations -- piling into the theatre. Me in my lightsaber earrings and R2-D2 scarf, my brother in law in his Jedi Academy jacket.

    Some of the youngest might not have appreciate Star Wars as much as their elders prior to this, and at least two people had only just seen the previous films and at least one person accidentally called the movie "Star Trek" (and was appropriately, lovingly mocked for doing so), but when we all walked out of the theatre, everyone was smiling, talking excitedly about it all through the walk back to our cars and then the drive home. And that's what it is all about. A movie that started something that has spanned four decades, and has now been revitalized again for a whole new generation.

    That kind of legacy is simply awesome and exciting and humbling. Sitting in the theatre with my daughter on my lap, sharing this moment with her was everything and my heart just about burst with that last scene (that someone needs to find for me so that I can make it my new desktop wallpaper kthx). I can't wait to give her the Rey and Finn Funko POP toys that I got for her because I knew she'd appreciate them, while for me, these characters mean so much more. Who does she want to be for next Halloween? Why, Rey, of course. Representation is a powerful, powerful thing.

    It wasn't until much later, exhausted and in pain from a twisted ankle, that the reality of The Force Awakens hit me and I summoned the moral support of Digitaltempest to help me work through the issues since there was no way I could get to sleep. Because omg are there ever some issues.

    A few if the key points that arose during our after hours flail (SPOILERS FROM HERE ONWARD):

    How do kids who supposedly have just awakened know how to Force so well to the point of actually Battle Meditating mid-battle to defeat a trained Force user (albeit an emotionally immature one having some serious issues at the time -- it's okay Ren, I still love you (and so do your parents, but they just aren't good at, you know, parenting) and will adopt you and give you lots of hugs). Every other Jedi has to figure their shit out over time and with lots of training, but Rey and Finn get by with confidence and pluckiness. Why do we bother to have Jedi Masters anyway? Until someone (looking at you, Luke!) rewrites the stupid Jedi Code that talks about "There is no emotion, only peace" and allows for the fact that teens are balls of unstable emotion who cannot conceal don't feel, we are always going to have these switches to the Dark Side (which is way more fun anyway).

    Snoke is actually only two feet tall, right? He's just projecting his inferiority complex onto Hux and Ren, right?

    Three times now the bad guys have built massive world destroying weapons and the good guys never get the memo until something explodes. I'm no Neil deGrasse Tyson, but even I can see that there is no science going on here -- or logic for that matter. Worse, taking out those planets in a system no one gives a shit about has exactly zero emotional impact. The brilliance of the original Death Star was in how it was used. The second Death Star? Oh yes, it is fully operational. Surprise! And wtf was the plan to destroy the Starkiller? Um. We blow shit up. That's what we do. So um. We'll go crash into the planet and hope there is only one guard posted at each door and blow up random things below so that the fighters can blow up random things from above. And how does it even work? Is there a dial you turn to select the number of planets to blow up? Does the whole planet cruise around looking for stars to eat, hoping that this continuous upheaval won't cause too many structural issues in the design and the planet itself? Nah. There's no science here and it's pointless to pretend there might be, so stop it, Neil. This was just about making a bigger weapon and something to explode later. Abrams went the way of Michael Bay, with no shits given.

    Good thing Leia sent her best pilot (which clearly should have been bolded, underlined, and italicized in the opening text scroll) juuuuust in case he got caught and had to fly a tie fighter out of there. (AND THEN MAKE ME THINK HE WAS DEAD FOR MORE THAN HALF THE MOVIE. DAMMIT POE. *sobs into a pillow*)
    Poor Kylo Ren would not have these issues if Grandpa would just answer his calls. Why you no Force ghost for Ben, Anakin? Is it because his parents named him Ben and you're still a little bitter about that whole chopping you up and leaving you to die in the lava thing?

    BB-8, you cannot be strutting around like you are Beyonce. If this unique and obvious droid is on a big ol' wanted list, can we not march him into a cantina full of people with questionable morals and loyalties? Stay in the house, Carl!

    Was Finn's trooper training relegated to watching Little Einsteins videos? That would explain the niceness and hand holding and skipping down the hallways with his BFF. It doesn't quite explain how he's cool with killing all the other troopers or expertly showing off his mad social skillz. Oh right, this is his Force power I guess? Shucking conditioning since childhood and how to make friends and successfully infiltrate the (former) enemy you have apparently never been trained to know anything about (including their name).

    What the hell has the Republic been doing all this time? I was so happy to see Leia again, and as a general no less! But then she does absolutely nothing. Remember the elaborate plans that went into the escape from Hoth? The attack on each Death Star? Now plans from the general basically amount to "Find my brother. What do, Luke?" (Good thing that last piece of the map to Luke popped up. Eeeeverybody's Google calendar was in sync.)

    The truly frightening thing is that this movie has actually made me appreciate the prequels. Yeah. Those prequels. The ones I have refused to ever watch again after the first time. Don't get me wrong, they are horrible. George utterly let me down with his attempt to be an adult and explain away every perfect mystery behind the Star Wars legacy, but at least there was a plan there. The Force Awakens is just a whole lot of moments of sheer coincidence with a Mary Sue at the lead and someone will try to say that it all happened this way because of the Force. Han's been looking for his ship for decades and it just pops up today? The second last clue Luke's been trolling is just released today? General Hux wants to test out his new toy today? It's like everyone had this week and these coordinates circled on their calendar. Who needs Google alerts when you have the Force?

    In short, The Force Awakens is the most ridiculously flawed and implausible film I have ever loved all to bits, filled with plot holes and character development leaps so vast, smeared over with lots of action, nostalgia, and well timed humour to appease both old fans and the current Twitter generation of instant gratification. It would make the Island proud. All it needed was a polar bear.

    This article more eloquently expresses the issues with this movie (and without the capslock that permeated my original flail):
    "The jokes are good, the action is organic and compelling, the characters are well inhabited by competent actors, and the cinematography and music is excellent and consistently inventive. But everything that puts you in the moment, when you’re watching it, falls apart as soon as you turn your brain back on."
    It also points out a few similar issues with Abram's inelegant approach to Star Trek -- but it also reminds us that Star Wars has never been a good story (though at least Lucas' films weren't quite as dumbed down as this one!). It's one man's childhood fantasy realized on screen and we gobbled it up. Even when the prequels or the expanded universe or the games sucked, we never turned our back on Star Wars. Abrams and Disney know what they have done and they have capitalized on it--because they never needed to sell this film to the established fans. They just had to make sure we dragged everyone else into the hype with us. Are the box office numbers really a surprise?

    The Force Awakens is a movie for this generation. It is a new hope and the perfect place for new fans to jump in as the torch is passed (back) -- no wait, the sharing of the torch. Yes. That's it! The closing scene -- along with the fact that Abrams is no longer working on the films offers so much promise. I have not bothered with any of the theories circulating around right now (except the one about Snoke being Darth Jar Jar. Legit.) I just wait impatiently to take my kids and join my family and friends at the next installment.

    This movie is trash -- just like me -- and I love every second of it.
  • An Ode to Digitaltempest

    This is dedicated to my friend, digitaltempest. I don't really remember how we found each other way back in the days of Google Buzz, but I know that I couldn't survive the zombie apocalypse without her.

    Up to no reasonable good in Saints Row 3
    Who else could join me on these ridiculous adventures that start with mundane work references, then some how mutate into obituary plans or re-imagined video games (current plans: orchestrate a way to incorporate a bard named Jack Michaelson into our Dungeons & Dragons campaign). Rare is the day that does not include the mutual support of our unhealthy obsession with Bioware or the discussion of grandiose fan theories.

    She appreciates the intellectual value of tentacles and teaches me many things about history, music, 'Murica, technology, and smut.

    When I come crying to her because Garrus only wants to calibrate things and Fenris refuses to make out with me, she doesn't think I'm weird or tell me to calm down because it's just a game. No, instead, she takes me by the hand and shows me the path to glory. And then she makes me a playlist for it.

    Digitaltempest is trash. The kind of trash that I will never put out at the curb. Because that would make me a hypocrite.

  • Home Sweet Home

    I've been meaning to post progress pictures on the house we purchased and had built, starting way back in the spring, but here we are the end of the year and actually moved in and unpacking sooo, here we are, from hole in the ground, to almost complete new home....

  • Game of Thrones: The Forest Starks

    Telltale Games is getting right up there for me as a company that I will unconditionally support because they produce such amazing, thought-provoking work. However, unlike Bioware, thus far, TTG has not yet failed me with questionable practices and decisions. That said, I did come out of their Game of Thrones game feeling a bit disappointed--but it's not you, TTG, it's me.

    First of all, if you haven't played the game, the premise is as follows: You play as the various children and a ward of House Forrester.
    "For centuries the Forresters have been loyal bannerman to House Stark: A house of traitors. You rely on your ironwood, that much is clear. It'd be a shame to see it fall into the hands of another house." --Cersei Lannister
    Directly during and following the events of the infamous Red Wedding, the children must each work in their own way, from various locations, to save their house and their precious ironwood trees from enemies within and without. For the next six episodes, various major events from the show play out, with the Forrester children participating in the sidelines, or at least being aware of or influenced by said events.

    From here on, there will be spoilers. You have been warned.
  • Gaming for SickKids

    Over a decade ago, I spent a week driving to work in tears. Instead of listening to the usual music and chatter of morning radio, I was listening to a SickKids radio-a-thon where children and families poured out their hearts, talking about how much SickKids meant to them. I made myself a promise then: whether or not I had children, I would always support SickKids.

    Fast forward a few more years and two daughters (ages ten and seven) later when, on another drive to work, I learned about Extra Life, a charity event where gamers play games for 24 hours in support of Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals. I was already a gamer--putting many hours into my favourite video games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age--and I was a parent. With my promise in mind, it was simple logic to make Extra Life a part of my gaming plans every year from then on. And as a gaming mom who happily lets her kids share in many of her gaming experiences, getting my kids involved with Extra Life was a no brainer too.

    Read more at the Sick Kids Foundation Blog
  • SWTOR Redux

    Bioware promised me a return to Bioware storytelling. I read that as an opportunity to flirt with more NPCs. I was good though. I ignored the trailers for the new expansion and offers of all sorts of superficial bonus material. Until a friend sent me an article from Kotaku that said all the right things. Well, it didn't talk about romancing all the NPCs, but it did mention all the neat time saving opportunities that Bioware has implemented, thus negating my concern that playing the game just takes up too much of my limited free time. NPCs have been jacked up to handle healing better, flashpoints can be soloed, and most importantly, you can focus only on your class story instead of getting bogged down in planetary quests (oh gods I hate you Balmorra) in order to level up enough to continue on.

    I've been wanting to finish character stories for my Sith Assassin and my Trooper at least, but having checked things out, I am strongly considering playing out all the other class stories too. Read: I logged back in after hours of updates and data reorganization and the first thing I did was create four new characters to cover all the class stories. Then I logged into my other characters, the ones with cash, so I could buy outfits for my new characters. You cannot save or destroy the galaxy if you don't look good. Rules.

    Precious time sufficiently wasted, I hopped on to my Sith Assassin and finally finished up her story. This initially involved spending time with her companions, including the angsty Ashara who mainly just talked a lot in order to work through her Sith/Jedi confusion and eventually answered her own questions. Thirty minutes later, I had a good chunk of experience points and a loyal follower. Then I went off to do Krav Maga or whatever it is the Sith do to prove themselves in battle.

    Lord Daithni won, of course, with the help of the ghost Sith she'd captured. But she's a nice Sith and she released them in the end. Now she sits upon the Dark Council, working on taking it apart from the inside.

    Next up is my Trooper. Kotaku did not lie. It's way easier to get through the game now. I don't even need to think of it as an MMO, which was half the problem when it first started. As a first attempt at an MMO, it was valiant, but there were so many elements of the game that kept me forever lamenting that it would have been better as KOTORIII solo. Then it went free-to-play and ruined things even more with its ridiculous nickel and diming. That aspect is still in full effect, but of course I've subscribed anyway even as I complain because I can't bloody well have my characters wearing ugly hats and unmatching outfits and running really slow. Gosh.

    After all this, I haven't even touched the new content yet, even though the trailer did look very good. Just goes to show that, in spite of its problems, this game has always had something going for it (beyond my undying blind Bioware obsession).

  • WWAC: You Know The Thing About Good Food

    On one of our first dates, my now husband tried to impress me by making a Jamaican meal. It was packaged rice and peas along with jerk chicken that was so hot, it made us cry and laugh at the whole fiasco. Ten years later, he’s learned to make his own rice and peas—no more packaged stuff! And he’s earned the official title of “Honourary Jamaican” across three countries from my Jamaican family members, despite his predominantly white Canadian ancestry. Soon, he’ll be helping me introduce Jamaican culture to our daughter’s Girl Guide troop, serving up some rice and peas and patties.

    Obviously, his initial attempts at cooking were the awkward fumbles of a boy in love, but thankfully, he didn’t let that mishap stop him. Especially now that he has a partner willing to handle the clean-up, the part he hates most, and family members who take great pleasure in almost everything he produces. He’s looking forward to cooking in the (almost) dream kitchen of our newly built home. His culinary investments have been costly and sometimes required a lot of justification on his part, but I can’t deny the obvious benefits.

    Read more at WWAC
  • WWAC: Eat Your Geek

    Cakes Cove has been exhibiting at various events and convention for a while, but I first had the pleasure of meeting the bakery’s proprietor, Sam Anderson, this summer in the Fan Expo Canada green room. I was immediately struck by the obvious: her incredible talent for crafting sweet treats with a geeky flare, but more than that, she exuded a level of confidence, professionalism, and passion that instantly impressed me. Finding out she’s as big a fan of the video game Mass Effect as I am is just icing on the proverbial cake. Or rather, the literal cake, because, after seeing the many tasty creations she’s brought to life, I’m sure a Mass Effect cake is in there somewhere. Not that the prize-winning wearable Commander Shepard N7 chocolate armour isn’t impressive enough.

  • Love Him, But I Hope He's Dead ... R.I.P. T.W.D.

    Thoughts on Glen's ambiguous death:

    Honestly I hope that he is dead. I love Glen, but to let him survive another pile on of zombies, this one huge, just so fans can have him back is ridiculous. This is a show about survival and they were in a bad situation. Fans have too long decided on who gets to live. This is an apocalypse, not a dating show. His death is a reminder that no one is safe. I don't think it is a dick move by writers to kill a character who has been walking on borrowed time since the bat in Terminus. Frankly, I love the way he died because he was true all the way through and it was a horrible death, but better than the senseless violence of the comic, which some people were still expecting. I hope Negen isn't still on the table because yet another big bad to prove that Rick isn't as crazy a leader as he seems? Come on, humans can apocalypse better than this. As if a horde and a cult of crazy wolves isn't enough, let's up the ante with a psycho that out psychos the Governor. I'd like to hope that Kirkman is taking the opportunity to do a bit better with the storytelling here. Frankly, I would have loved to see a season where everything actually is working out at Alexandria. But Rick's paranoid ruins everything. Not a horde of thousands of zombies. Not a mad cult. Just Rick. Let him go.

    But I digress. This is about Glen.

    From a writer's stand point, writing a survivor story with so many uncontrollable factors, I don't want to see beloved characters die the perfect meaningful death where everyone gets perfect closure and rallies for revenge or spirals into darkness. The whole point of this world is the frightening uncertainty of not knowing if you or your loved ones will make it home so every parting has to be a meaningful one. His death here sucked and I put it all on Rick. Nicholas wasn't ready but Rick let him go and for Glen that meant he would be his downfall because Glen looks after the dumbasses who maybe don't deserve the chance to live because they are stupid in face of such danger (like Rick at the beginning, who Glen saved). Nicholas' final words were powerful. "Thank you." The title of the episode. Thank you for standing by me when you could have turned your back or even killed me yourself. But Glen would never do that. That's not who he was. He never took a human life and gave everyone that chance and Maggie loved him for it. It really and truly sucks that his beautiful soul is what killed him, but that is what makes his death meaningful to me. That he was still that to the end. And that this wasn't the senseless violent death alluded to in Terminus, or some blaze of glory moment. Because this show is already unrealistic in so many ways. I don't want a contrived death for Glen just to appease my adoration of the character.

    Right now the dick move of the writers is not being clear on his death because they know they can milk it. The irony is that if you watch the episode now, everything about it points to his death with all sorts of heavy handed tropes, and his call back to the first encounter with Rick where he calls him a dumbass. I know what happens to Maggie in the comics. I am interested to see if they let her walk that road, or if, like so many other characters, Kirkman takes the opportunity to change things for the... better, as he did with Carol. I note that Tyrese sadly got the short end of the stick in that light, but I kind of blame fans for that... It's the same concept of hoping Glen makes it because he's one of the Atlanta Five and fans have made him immortal. Glen should have died earlier and Daryl shouldn't even exist, but catering to Fan love could well have been what led to Tyrese dying instead. Honestly, I am hoping the writers are brave enough to end this show as darkly as it should be. There is no happy ending here.

    But while I'm firmly standing in the Glen is dead, deal with it camp, my little beacon of hope is that Maggie is pregnant and this is where we'll see Glen live on....
  • Solo BDay Adventures

    It's a rare thing for the kids to be away, since we live far from family, but as they make more friends, it's easier to ship them off. Even better when they go to a friend's house who's happy to let them sleep over. Huzzah! (Will definitely have to return the favour). I was looking forward to a day on the town with my husband, unfortunately, he wasn't able to make it and it was too short notice to find any friends for my informal plans. Rather than stay home and wallow in my disappointment, I decided turn a date day into a solo birthday adventure.

    The first stop was the Everything To Do With Sex Show. I went to the show when it first started 16 years ago and have been a couple of times since, but fell out of the habit over the years. I decided to remedy that and excitedly bought tickets a month in advance. I was still a little sad walking in the front door, but was immediately cheered up by some lovely ladies who invited me to join them in their ballpit. Turns out, the Oasis Aqua Lounge they were promoting doesn't actually have a ballpit, but I hope they will consider my suggestion for adding one.
    From there I want exploring the aisles and found the typical collection of corsets and lingerie. I thought I'd be tempted by the corsets to add to my growing collection, but I was very good. In fact, the only thing I bought were Egyptian cotton sheet sets, because with the new house pending, I'm in full on home décor mode. Still, I could admire the booths' various offerings, which unsurprisingly included all sorts of sex toys and more dildos and vibrators than you can shake a penis at.

    I arrived just in time for the amusing fashion show, but more importantly, I moved on from the fashion show stage and caught the mini-stage featuring a stunning, live burlesque performance by Miss Kitten Kin Evil.  Monde Ose's Burlesque Ball will be coming to town next March and I will most definitely be there.

    I left there in the early afternoon and in spite of Google Map's attempts to send me gods know where, I made it to my second destination in no time: Cakes Cove bakery where everything was all dressed up zombie style. I met the proprietor, Sam, as Fan Expo last month, and was so pleased to have the opportunity to visit her place of business and see, first hand, where the sweet, sweet magic is made. And also to geek out about our shared love of Mass Effect and get some more home décor ideas (like Cerberus patterned sitting cushions.

    It was barely 4pm by now and I didn't want my day to end. I wanted to add dinner and a movie, but there was still time to kill, so I decided to check in on my dad, who informed me that my brother and his family were on their way over. Bonus! An impromptu birthday party for myself and my nephew ensued, with cake and pizza, then I headed off to watch Crimson Peak, which turned out to be as visually sumptuous as my friends promised.

    Drove home through a beautiful storm and made it home before the coach turned into a pumpkin. Happy birthday to me ^_^
  • How Writer's Write Fiction: Using Characters to Produce Frame and Arc

    The assignment: write the same scene from the perspective of two different characters who have reunited after a separation. There is a third character involved off screen, and a misunderstanding between the two main characters that only becomes clear in viewing each PoV.

    Sehr ran her fingers over the jagged wound across her lower abdomen. She'd almost bled out, sliced by the tail of one of those creatures as she'd run to Devin's aid. Why? She still couldn't figure it out. Every voice in her head screamed her to leave him behind. He would have done the same. Yet, Devin had been barely able to stand himself, bruised and bleeding, but somehow, he'd managed to fight off the last of the monsters and drag them both back to the ship.

    Sehr remembered none of this. She remembered screaming Devin's name, clawing rain from her eyes, then the searing pain in her side. Then there was nothing, until she'd woken up to find Jenna stitching her back together. There was no morphine in the medikit. Jenna's voice was all Sehr had to get her through the pain. Now she stood in front of the mirror, examining the kid's handy work. Sehr would heal, but that scar would never truly let her leave that planet.

    The door slid open and the lights went out.

    Sehr froze, her breath caught in her throat.

    "Still afraid of the dark?" came Devin's deep, husky voice. He illuminated the room just enough for Sehr to see his reflection move toward her. He was still limping and would be for a long time.

    "You're still here, aren't you?" she replied. "Why wouldn't I be afraid?"

    He came to a stop right behind her. She could feel the warmth of his breath on her shoulder. The heat of his body. He locked his gaze on hers in the mirror. "Would you prefer if I was gone?"

    A shiver ran through her that she tried to hide behind a sneer. "I'm surprised you're still here at all."

    "You didn't answer my question."

    She didn't answer his question.

    He chuckled. That low, rumbling growl that reminded her that he wasn't as human as he ought to be. Yet, as much as she feared him, his touch … did things to her…

    He reached around her. She flinched, painfully aware that she was wearing nothing but her panties and the remnants of a flimsy tank top. She saw his smile in the mirror and the glint in his eyes. She steeled herself, ignoring her need for modesty as his fingers brushed her hips. His hand continued on to the counter before them and retrieved the small jar of ointment. She was still, save for the shivers each time his skin touched hers as he dressed the wound. She allowed him to raise her arm out from her side and stood stiffly as he wrapped the bandages around her. He finished the mending and reached around her once more to place everything back neatly on the counter. She waited for his next move, trying to keep her breathing steady. He didn't move. He simply watched her reflection. His eyes danced in reply to the confusion, apprehension, and anticipation growing in her.

    "Thank you," she finally breathed.

    He smiled. "You're welcome."


    "Sehr's awake," Jenna said quietly. It was the first thing she'd said since she'd started dressing his wounds. He could practically taste her fear, but she didn't betray any of it. No shake in her hands. No quaver in her voice. Devin respected that. The kid would survive far more than this.

    Devin nodded and pushed himself to his feet. She'd done a pretty good job for a kid with no medical training—she'd done a pretty good job through the whole damn mess on the planet—but she couldn't do anything for his limp. His right leg lagged as he made his way down the hall to Sehr's cabin.

    He paused at the door. Sehr wouldn't want to see him. She hated everything about him. Yet she'd come back for him when she could have left him for dead. He didn't owe her anything for it. They'd saved each other in the end. And that's really all it's about out here. Surviving. Any way you can.

    He pressed the button and watched the door slide open. Light flooded from Sehr's cabin, almost bringing him to tears. "Lights," he muttered, and the system obeyed. He blinked till his vision cleared enough to find the console on the wall. He pushed the button to illuminate the room to a level his perpetual nightvision could handle.

    His eyes settled on Sehr, watching him from the reflection in the mirror. He could taste her fear too, but unlike Jenna, Sehr didn't or couldn't hide it. "Still afraid of the dark?" he asked.

    "You're still here, aren't you?" she replied. "Why wouldn't I be afraid?"

    He came to a stop right behind her. A trickle of sweat made its way down her spine. He watched it, tempted to follow its path with a finger. He raised his eyes to meet hers. "Would you prefer if I was gone?"

    "I'm surprised you're still here at all," she snapped.

    "You didn't answer my question."

    He chuckled at her stubborn silence. He hadn't expected an answer. He liked her defiance. It amused him. But it didn't impress him. They still had a long way to go and she wasn't going to get far if she didn't decide what it was she wanted from him. What he should do is drop her off at the next space station. Jenna could stay. She was useful and nowhere else to go.

    Devin reached around her and grabbed the jar of ointment. She flinched when his fingers brushed her hips, and held her breath as she applied the salve and bandages, letting him move her arms around as needed. Jenna had sewn up the gash in Sehr's stomach well. Yes. Jenna could stay, he thought as he set everything back down on the counter.

    He caught Sehr's gaze in the mirror again. She was watching him. Expecting something from him. He raised an eyebrow, deciding if he should give her a chance to prove that she could be useful. She'd saved his life. Or tried to at least. That was something. But it wasn't enough to make Devin trust her not to turn him in when they got back to federation space.

    "Thank you," she finally breathed.

    He smiled. "You're welcome."

    Gratitude. That was something he didn't get often, but it wasn't enough to change his mind. He'd set a course for the nearest space station and drop her off. She could find her own way from there.
  • WWAC: My First Horror Movie: Jaws

    There are a lot of horror movies that have scared me. Poltergeist kept me from eating chicken legs for most of my life and maggots still bring back memories. Aliens convinced me that one of those creatures lived at the bottom of the stairs at my parents house and made going to the bathroom in the middle of the night very difficult. Those kids in Pet Sematary, The Grudge, and The Ring are freaky, and Event Horizon? Liberate me.

    These movies have all successfully kept me up at night more than once, but the horror movie that has truly stayed with me is Jaws. Not only has it instilled me with a healthy fear of sharks, it also has made me endlessly fascinated by them and a staunch defender of their right to rule the oceans with an iron, um, fin.

    Read more at WWAC
  • How Writers Write Fiction: Working With Plot

    With characters established, we're moving on to discussion of plot. A few of this week's guest speakers promote E.L. Dotorow's metaphor of driving in a car with headlights through the fog. You know where you need to go, but don't know what might be hiding in the plot. I like this idea, but another writer adds the caveat that you have to remember that you also have a passenger in that car and you need to make sure that they understand what's going on in this ride.

    Some writers also suggest not working with structure and instead letting the story and characters reveal the plot as you go along. Just write! they say.

    I work with both concepts. I prefer to have a solid structure; an idea of where I am and where I want to get to. A road map, if you will. Then I'll hop in the car and see where it takes me. If the characters tell me to turn off the road, then I will obey and trust in them to eventually get me back to where I want to end up--although sometimes they know better than I do where that might be.

    This week's assignment:
    Write a story with any number of characters (these can be newly created characters or borrowed from your Class Session 1 and 2 writing assignments), where an external force demands that a character or all the characters jump into action. Additionally, include in the story a separate decision made by a character/the characters that does not result directly from the external force. You can introduce these characters, this external force, and this internal force in any order, at any time.
    For the sake of time, I'm mostly not writing anything new. This is not 'cheating' per the instructions of the class. In fact, many of the assignments as you to consider how your scene would work from different angles, different starting points, different perspectives. So in this case, I've revised a scene I wrote last year, and added the required external force that pushes the characters to action. The resulting action is small, but it did reveal something significant about the two characters and their current relationship.

    The Return

    Senia stood still amidst the ruins and closed her eyes, imagining the cobbled streets lined with flowers, the statues gazing down at her with their beatific smiles. Amidst the churning winds, she could almost hear the trickling fountains and rushing water falls and see the shining white spires rising up to touch the sun. So much beauty and symmetry above the surface, but it was what lay beneath that caused her feet to dance. The webs of magic that snaked beneath the earth, writhing and twisting and singing her name. The capital city had indeed been a sight to behold, but it was not a vision she cared for. Senia cared only for the magic that hummed beneath it. Magic that had burst forth when the earth had opened up to swallow the Emperor's capital city and shatter its fragile glory.

    What Senia saw before her now when she opened her eyes was the truth. A city in ruins. An empire crushed. A place where only the chaos of magic reigned. But it was not High Magic. The quake had unleashed the power from below the surface, but it had also severed the connection to the world spirit from which all magic was born. That was why she had broken her promise and finally returned. After 200 years of ignoring the incessant taptaptap that called to her, denying the roiling magic that still sang to her very core.

    Senia gazed through her wind whipped locks into the unnatural blue glow and the cloying mist that clung to the ruins. A flash of lightning lit a path before her and thunder grumbled its welcome. As far as she could see, no building remained intact and with each step she took, the rocks crumbled under her feet.

    She could control it all, if she wished; the elements were hers to command. But she never asked the elements to do that which they did not want to do. Once, this place was the epitome of the Emperor's power and majesty. Here, now, the wind and mist and lightning and stone were in charge, and they desired only chaos. She would not take that from them. Instead, she reveled in their unbridled violence and let their corrupted magic lead her.

    The taptaptapping grew louder as she stepped deeper into the roiling desolation. She knew exactly where the echoes would lead. There were no more soaring towers to mark her place within the ruined capital, but she knew when she reached her destination. The turmoil of magic was even more powerful here, marking the place where the Emperor's tower, the pinnacle of his sprawling palace, had once stood. 

    An unusual outcropping of rock caught her eye and she moved toward it. It was a dirty gray, darker than the shadowed marble of the crumbled buildings. The surface seemed to tremble and as she stepped closer, it shrank away from her.

    "There you are," she murmured. "I won't hurt you." She let the wind take her words directly to the ears of the huddled form. She had every right to hurt him for what he had forced upon her and made her do. But they say time heals all wounds. She had learned so much since then and Senia's desires had always run well beyond vengeance.

    She knelt beside the creature that once had been a man. He shied away from her touch as if it burned, but she had been careful not to let her ever present magic grow too strong, despite the temptation all around her. Reaching for the filthy, tattered cloak, she drew back the heavy cowl. He flinched and turned away. Lank strands of silvery hair failed to hide his face. No matter. She had seen his true self enough times that it was impossible for him to hide from her. She crept around before him, taking his brittle face between her hands. She traced her fingers along the leathery flesh that clung to the gray skull. She traced the lines of his cheekbones and ran her hands through the thin hair.

    Yes, she owed him much for what he had done to her, but as she gazed into the dark pools that once glistened with power and hunger, she saw only shadows and loss.

    After several attempts to use a voice he had probably not used in a long time, he managed to ask, "Who are you?"

    "Oh! You've never seen me like this." She giggled, releasing him as she rose and stepped away.

    Warily, he watched as the molten lines that ran along her charred skin extended and widened, snaking over her entire body. The blackened crust of her flesh flaked away, first in small pieces, then increasing in size. The brittle chunks fell all around her to reveal smooth, pale flesh. Her hair, the colour of flames, whipped in the wind as if it had a mind of its own.


    She smiled and returned to him.

    "Did you come here to kill me?" he croaked.

    "Is that what you summoned me here for with your ceaseless taptaptapping?" She tilted her head, trying to read his unreadable expression. "No," she said finally. "You've been here too long to simply want death now. And yet, how is it you have only come this far?"

    He mirrored the quizzical tilt of her head.

    "You learned from me how to draw power from all around you. I feel you doing it even now. Yet you remain this pathetic creature after all this time. Such power beneath you, yet you have not embraced it to return yourself to what you once were." She took his face in both hands again and drew him close. "Come, Emperor. Let me teach you a new lesson."

    The kiss was harsh and artless. Soft lips scraped against jagged teeth. Skeletal fingers scrabbled at her arms, but she held him firm as she sank her core into the earth, drawing upon the roiling chaos. The lines welcomed her with stinging lashes that left ragged welts across her soul. They struck out at her savagely, trying to pull her apart at the seams then put her back together again, over and over. The tainted magic seeped into her like poison. The pain was exquisite and she welcomed every drop of it. This was the way to true power. With every step toward new levels of power, there had been agony. Whether forced upon her by the Emperor, or by her own doing, it did not matter. It was pain that allowed her to achieve greatness.

    And now she took the torment she drew from the devastation of the Emperor's kingdom, and channeled it all through her kiss.


    His scream tore through him as the frenzied magic coursed up and down on a wave of venom fire. He felt what little flesh that remained to him flay from his bones. He felt the magic burn, etching its mark on every part of his desiccated body. Still he screamed. On and on as the pain crashed into him. He clawed and shoved, but she would not let go and he saw the death that she meant to give him. The death he had earned long ago.

    Then some small part of him realized that he was standing, supported by arms that embraced him and hands that caressed. Somewhere within the scorching agony, he felt fingers moving along his back. He felt her hands sliding through his hair. He felt her tongue slipping between his lips and her teeth nipping gently as his own tongue responded. He realized that his hands were no longer fighting her. Instead, he was pulling her against him with a strength he had not possessed for so long. 

    After a time, he pulled away and stretched one hand out to examine the gold embroidery on the silvered sleeves of his robes, leading to long, elegant fingers covered in glimmering rings.Her emerald eyes sparkled as she curled a lock of his thick, silky, golden hair around her finger.

    "Welcome back, Emperor."

    He stood for a moment in silent awe until she stretched up on her toes and kissed him lightly. He leaned in to deepen the kiss, but she extricated herself from his arms and stepped back.

    "Don't leave me!" he blurted and immediately cursed himself for such weakness. Yet, he could not relinquish the fear that overtook him. He stared after her with anxious eyes as she turned from him. He saw her hair stiffen and change colour from red to a golden brown as she lifted her hands to command the earth. The stones fought her and he saw the rigidity of her spine as she fought back, pounding and shaping dirt and rock with her magic, until amidst the fallen kingdom of rubble, rested a pair of high-backed stone thrones. She pivoted gracefully on one foot and grinned as she draped herself across one of them, beckoning to him with a crooked finger.

    When he approached, he did not take his place at her side. Instead he stood above her, peering into her eyes until he saw her falter. He sneered then and his hand whipped out to lock around her throat as dark magic sprung forth from his body. It felt so good to have power again. It felt so good to have this woman at his mercy once more. "I could kill you."

    "You could," she managed to gasp as she clutched at his arm, "but then you would be alone again."

    "I could bring you back from the dead and you would be whatever I make you."

    "But I would no longer be what you want," she wheezed. "You could bring me back… as a dead thing… but would… I still share… your desires?"

    The darkness wrestled within him as he watched her eyes glaze over. She did not resist him as life slowly ebbed from her.

    Her words echoed in his mind.

    And then a roar pierced the sky.

    Senia struck him with a gust of wind that sent him stumbling to his knees. He spun around to counter, only to find her standing still, encased once more in volcanic rock, staring up at the great beast that circled above them.

    A dragon.

    The very creatures whose magic he coveted. The very creatures that had destroyed his kingdom.

    The dragon roared again, then turned and flew off into the distance. The Emperor rose and came to stand beside Senia.

    "You have no more power over me." Her eyes were fixed on the beast until it was only a speck in the sky, but he knew the words were meant for him. She had always been the most powerful of his mages. Her magic and her desire for more had rivaled his own. It was why he had wanted her. It was why he had bound her. But after 200 years, he could feel the truth in her words. He could feel the truth in the power that radiated from her very core. 

    "Then what is it you want from me, Senia?"

    She turned to him, her face parting in a molten smile. "I want what you promised me."

    He raised an eyebrow, extending a hand to encompass their surroundings. "I have little to offer you now, my lady."

    He felt her heat rise as her blazing eyes caught him in their gaze. "We will rebuild your empire," she purred. "And you will share with me the dragons' secrets. The ones for which they they tried to destroy you. We will finish what you started. We tear the dragons from the skies. Then we will take their magic and feast on their hearts."
  • WWAC's Deadliest Gaming Redheads

    When we first meet Leliana in Dragon Age: Origins, she is a lay sister at the local Chantry, convinced that the Maker has chosen her for a noble cause. In truth, Leliana is trying to atone for her sins as a bard under the training and command of a woman named Marjolaine. As the Dragon Age series progresses, Leliana comes to terms with both her penchant for stealth and murder as a bard, and her religious devotion. She becomes Sister Nightingale and the Left Hand of the Divine Justinia, the leader of the Chantry and the woman who helped Leliana escape her captors. Now, Leliana’s ravens and spies whisper their secrets in her ear and her daggers are always ready to do whatever is necessary to protect the Divine. Her loyalty and passion and faith is unshakable, but those who try to cross her and the causes she fights for might just find themselves dead. Or worse.

    Find more deadly gaming redheads at WWAC.
  • WWAC: Critical Mission Failure: The Significance of Death in Video Games

    Death in video games is nothing new. Gone are the days of 1ups to top up your remaining lives, but now you can simply reset your game and continue on. It’s an expected practice that has very little meaning for the player beyond amusement or frustration. When you die, you just pick yourself up and try again. If you’re smart, you saved recently and don’t have to trek too far back into the game. Death is certainly not the end; it’s not even the beginning—except maybe in Kingdom of Amalur: The Reckoning where you actually start the game dead and are mysteriously revived by the Well of Souls.

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  • How Writer's Write Fiction: Expanding on Character: Cast and Dialogue

    This week, the daunting task of writing dialogue for not one or two, but a minimum of six characters. Fortunately, I had an idea for a scene that ended up being cut from the story it was meant for. I've expanded on it here. With A Patchwork Planet by Alice Tyler and the entirety of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber as examples, the assignment also asked us to let the main character slip back and forth between fantasy and reality through inner monologue and actual dialogue.

    The discussion process was far better this time around as the Teacher's Assistants offered a full 15 different topics to comment on. Much easier to achieve my required comment count without feeling like I was forcing it. The evaluation process continues to be a surprising highlight. I did have one story that was difficult to address as it was written with English as obviously not the first language of the author. Meanwhile, another submission really impressed me in that it only had two main characters, but used the 'fantasy' of the inner monologue to bring in the four others.

    The Emperor allowed his mages to ruminate over his announcement. Lord Jarett and Lady Olivenne remained silent at his right and left hand. No doubt they already knew of the Emperor's plans to attack the fire giants and ifrit at the Quarwaren Pass. If they had any reservations they would never raise them before the Council of High Magic. Whatever dark purpose the pair held, they were resolute when it came to supporting the Emperor's commands at this council table.
    The Emperor's mood was subdued at the moment. Questioning him was high on the list of triggers that could set him off, but unlike Tisa, who had made herself as small as possible in her seat, the other High Mages were willing to risk his wrath.
    "Fire giants and ifrit?" Meris Dak repeated. Her words were firm, but her fingers plucked at the chain around her neck. "That seems rather ambitious, Your Grace."
    "Perhaps for you," Alif Persad snorted. He continued to drum his long fingers against the marble table.  
    Across from them, Tarian and Zelashi Ehl were exchanging whispers, then they turned as one to address the Emperor.
    "Your Majesty, is Quarwaren not where the High Mage of Elements spends much of her time of late?" asked Tarian.
    "Indeed, Your Grace," his sister agreed. "It would not surprise me if our esteemed Lady Senia is responsible for disturbing the monsters in the first place. Perhaps we should leave this matter for her to resolve."
    Lord Jarett's thin lips drew back in a skeletal sneer.
    Tarian shifted in his seat and his gaze dropped to his lap, but Zelashi's dark eyes stormed. "Of course. How dare we suggest that the precious Lady Senia could do wrong?" Her hand swept out to indicate the only empty seat at the council table. "She doesn't even need to attend the meetings."
    "Mind your tongue," came the soft words of Lady Olivenne. Her voice was low, yet it felt as though it echoed off of the walls of the chamber, making its way beneath Tisa's skin. She shivered and made the mistake of looking up to find that Lady Olivenne's haunting gaze was upon her. The pale woman's dark lips edged into a tiny smile. How easy it was to get lost in the hypnotic sway of her necromancy...
    Zelashi gasped.
    Tisa blinked herself free and turned her head to see Zelashi pressed back against her seat with a white-knuckled hand gripping her brother's. His eyes were as wide as his sister's.
    The Emperor lowered his bejeweled hand and Zelashi jerked forward, sucking in a shuddered breath. They all sat straight now with lips tightly pressed together a the Emperor's cool gaze settled briefly on each of them.
    "I have presented you with an opportunity to test your might, my mages. You have all proven yourselves worthy of the titles I have bestowed upon you, but now you must show me—and each other—what you are capable of. More importantly, it will be a chance for you to truly see what it means to be attuned to High Magic and surrounded by others who share the same connection to the primal spirit of our world. You must all learn to work together." He paused to raise an eyebrow at Persad and Dak, who sheepishly glanced away from each other. "And to work with the High Mage of Elements. You all fear it, but some among you know the truth: Lady Senia is the greatest among you. The rest must still prove your worth to me."
    He let his words settle over them, blanketed by the tense silence that followed. Tisa wondered why he had allowed any of them to live when he was more powerful than all of them combined. With Lady Olivenne and Lord Jarret at his side and Lady Senia in his thrall, what need did he have of the others?
    Tisa kept her head bowed until she could take the pressure of the Emperor's stare no more. When she finally raised her eyes, she was unsurprised to find his boring into her own.
    "Find her," he commanded.
    Tisa shoved aside her anxiety and obeyed without hesitation. She was the High Mage of the Lines and the webs of magic that connected every living thing to the world spirit were her domain. This was why she held her place at the Council. Few mages could sense the power that lay beneath their feet, let alone use it to travel through space and time. She could give herself over to their power and did so now, plucking at the strands until she found one that led into Quarwaren. She pictured it in her mind as it snaked out, well beyond the confines of the meeting chamber. There was a lot of magic within Quarwaren, but Lady Senia's signature was unmistakable. There you are, Tisa thought, locking on to an insistent thrumming along a line that led straight to—
    Tisa's eyes flew open. "Lady Senia is under attack!"
  • WWAC: The Story of Our Tits: A Roundtable About Breasts

    In middle school, I discovered that breasts were a symbol of female social status. This was extremely frustrating because I had none to speak of at the time. There was one girl at school who developed early and got lots of attention from boys. Other girls were of “average” size, but I couldn’t understand why I was still flat-chested. Why didn’t I get boobs like my mom and sister? I was teased by both family and friends about it. My aunt and uncle dubbed their daughter and I, “The Young and the Breastless.” It was all in good fun, I knew, but it still ate away at me. I begged my mom for padded bras, which she obliged me with eventually, but even that was embarrassing because gym class revealed the truth. Jubilee in Uncanny X-Men Annual #13 represented my reality.

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