Monday, 23 November 2015

♥♫ "Desire" by Meg Myers

♥♫ "It Must Have Been Love" by Kathleen Edwards
Thursday, 19 November 2015
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

Gaming for SickKids

Posted by Wendy B
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).


Posted by Wendy B
Friday, 6 November 2015

♥♫ "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey
Monday, 2 November 2015

U SERIOUS BRA is here again — the fun jazzy column where Wendy and Claire talk about how breasts are being treated in blockbuster video games. Such as Street Fighter! (With guest: AJ Brooks)

Read more at WWAC
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
Sunday, 1 November 2015
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.

WWAC: Eat Your Geek

Posted by Wendy B
Wednesday, 28 October 2015

♥♫ "Two Weeks" by FKA twigs
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
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....
Monday, 26 October 2015
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 ^_^

Solo BDay Adventures

Posted by Wendy B

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.
Tuesday, 20 October 2015

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
Sunday, 18 October 2015

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."
Thursday, 15 October 2015

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.
Monday, 12 October 2015

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.

Read more at WWAC
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Sunday, 11 October 2015

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!"
Friday, 9 October 2015
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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Tuesday, 6 October 2015

If I share my Classic X-Men collection with you, it’s not merely because you are or are becoming an X-Men fan and I think this is required reading for your journey. When I share my Classic X-Men with you, I’m offering you a piece of my soul; a peek at what goes on in my head and the words and images that helped shaped the woman you see before you.

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Sunday, 4 October 2015

The first official assignment for the writing course is on character. The most difficult part of the process thus far has been the 15 required discussion comments. That's a lot, especially when the Moderators haven't actually provided 15 topics of discussion. Contributing meaningfully to the discussion quickly becomes dithering just to get the comment count up. Bullshit powers ACTIVATE! Just kidding. Sort of. I managed to say something meaningful in response to the original topics or to comments within the discussions, but it did take up a lot of time and mental power. The evaluation process did likewise, but was less stressful. In fact, it was surprisingly enjoyable. It's even harder to provide good feedback than to provide a few bits of discussion commentary, but the feedback process has been streamlined to provide you, the evaluator, with five or six questions to work with. I have to review five submissions, and in turn am reviewed on my work.

This is an excerpt from a piece I had already written, but I've changed the perspective to that of the princess whom readers would not have realized was in the room until the next chapter when she reveals herself with the final line presented here. The assignment asked that we drop the reader into the middle of the scene and then asked the evaluators to determine who this character is and how that is defined, based on what the writer presents.

Shoulders back, head held high. He was every bit the king Alisanna had expected him to be. And now he was dead. Still, his back was stiff and straight. There was nothing he could do about the arm that hung uselessly at his side, but only a keen observer would catch the way his right leg dragged just a bit. They'd most likely be distracted by whatever wounds covered his chest. Alisanna could only see the splatters of blood on the back of his shirt as he marched toward the door, but she'd seen the way his companions reacted when they'd removed his breastplate. He was going out to meet his death, and remind his people for the last time what it meant to be their king. That's something her grandfather would have done in her own kingdom. Something he probably wished he could have done instead of withering away in his bed, listening to his grandchildren squabble over the throne of Harian. What was the point? Kings. Queens. Emperors. They all die. For what? Fools. All of them.
The heavy wooden door slammed shut behind the king, marking his passing with a hollow echo. Alisanna was alone now with the two people who had loved him most dearly. The woman was unconscious in the arms of the man in the dark armour. She'd have followed the king to her own death had he not stopped her. The man, he...
Alisanna's throat was tight again. None of these people meant anything. The screams that echoed beyond the hallway mattered nothing to her. The kingdom of Emberden was lost and she would die with it if she didn't escape now with the trinkets she'd liberated from the king's treasury. A game. That's all this was. The man and the woman would figure it out. They'd pull themselves together and obey the king's final command. She didn't need them, and they certainly didn't need her.
The sharp edges of the stone thrones bit into her palms. She pulled her hands away and stared at the blood that began to pool. This was not her fight. She needed only turn around and unlock the hidden passage behind the thrones and make her escape. The man would hear and likely follow, but she'd be long gone before he could catch up to her, especially since he was burdened by the unconscious woman. He would never even see her face.
But he wasn't moving. He stood, staring after his lost king. Holding in his arms the would-be queen that he was ordered to protect.
I should go, Alisanna told herself.
Instead, she sucked in a breath and pushed herself away from the paired thrones of Emberden. She stepped down off of the dais and let her mask fall into place.
"Well,” she began in her melodious voice, “that was all terribly dramatic! But you should probably get on with your escape now. It's a mess out there."
Saturday, 3 October 2015

♥♫ "No Light, No Light" by Florence + The Machine
Tuesday, 29 September 2015

I said I would write this year. I haven't. Well, that's not true. I've written a whole lot, just not what I said I was going to write, which are my own personal creative writing projects. Something about not being able to get in the right write space. There have been valid excuses. Significant job shake ups, the death of my mother. Still, excuses these are. I want to write these things, and I will. When? I don't quite know, but they are never far from my mind. Writing in general is never far from my mind. I have been looking for some time now for a good writing course to help me improve my craft. I know how to write, but there's always more to learn. But the courses I have found before were well out of my price range, and I know enough about writing to say that thousands of dollars isn't worth the financial investment. It's easy enough to find writing advice online, and one of the best ways to learn how to write is to read, which I do. But the advantage of a course is the focus and the feedback. So yay for the University of Iowa's How Writer's Write Fiction MOOC! At free, the price range is just right, though I am going to pay for the certificate.

So I'll be keeping track of my progress here. First up, is the Welcome Wagon introductory sessions to familiarize the students with the process. I've participated in MOOCs before. They are time consuming and the interactive process can be overwhelming with so many people involved. Working toward the certificate means I have to suck it up and deal, and I'm okay with that. Can't expect something if I'm not going to put anything in, and I appreciate that this isn't just about shoving your thoughts out into the ether and getting nothing back. The peer evaluation process is actually quite good.

The first assignment centred around bringing an object to life, introducing conflict, and finally, having the object resolve the conflict.

She knew I disliked colour. Black was my preferred attire. Not for any kind of gothic fashion statement. Just because I'm a simple woman. A subtle woman. The exact opposite of her. This was a compromise: a vibrant rainbow bouquet on a black background. It wasn't the first such dress she'd bought for me, but this was the one we both liked best. I imagined her seeing it in the store. Picking it up off of the rack and immediately deciding it was "me." I have to admit, she did really well with this dress. It fit perfectly. It hugged the right curves. Wasn't too tight. I loved the feel of it, so soft against my skin. I loved the way my toes peeked out from beneath its long skirt.
Her face lit up when she saw me wearing it for the last time.
Two weeks later, I wore it to her funeral.
It's back in my closet with the other dresses she'd bought me. Colourful companions, they gather together, whispering their memories to each other. To me. They all smell like her. Sometimes, I stand there, just touching them. Smelling them. Remembering. Holding on to all I have left of her.
Pink, red, and blue flowers on a black landscape call to me silently, like a hand outstretched, offering me one more moment. One more memory.
I slip the dress off of its hanger. It slides over my head. Soft cotton caresses my skin as it slithers down to my toes, embracing me. My tears are silent. I close my eyes and breathe her in, fearing that one day, that scent will fade away. One day, but not now.
Little arms wrap around my thighs, holding tight to me. "You smell like grandma," she says. She steps back as I kneel down to face her. Little fingers wipe away my tears. "Can I wear that dress when I'm older?"
I trace the lines of a bright pink flower and I smile.


"You can start with that pile of clothes on the floor," she said with a voice muffled by the closet she was currently digging around in.
At least she had specified "clothes" in those instructions because the room was covered in all sorts of piles. Piles of books. Piles of video games. Piles of ... I'm not really sure what those were and maybe I didn't want to ask. The clothes, I could handle.
"Just shoved them in a garbage bag and I'll drop them off at the donation centre later."
I plopped myself cross-legged on the floor in front of the little mountain of material and began tugging at the items. Out came a pair of ripped jeans, a shirt missing several buttons, a shirt missing the entire sleeve.
"Some of these clothes are just garbage," I said, trying in vain to fix the zipper on a vest.
"Fine, just dump them then."
A bright pink flower caught my eye and I reached for it. I shivered the moment I touched the soft cotton material, now worn and faded. My heart beat a little faster as I pulled at it. It was buried more deeply than I thought. I feared tearing it, but felt suddenly desperate to get at it. I shoved at the pile until the dress sprang free. I held it up in front of me and bit my tongue, fighting back the scream that threatened to burst from my lungs.
The vibrant rainbow of flowers faded into a not-quite-black background. The elastic was stretched at the waist. There was a little round hole in the sleeve. A burn? But worst of all, half of the dress was missing.
When I could finally breathe somewhat normally again, I spoke, though my words were clipped and hard. "What have you done to my dress?"
"My dress! I gave you this dress to wear, not to massacre!"
She popped her head out of the closet and stared at the dress with a furrowed brow. "Oh that!"
I was standing now and she came over to examine it, fingering the frayed hem. "I needed it for a Halloween costume. It was so great. I was--"
She was talking but I couldn't hear her. Her words were as muffled by my pounding heart. I was practically choking on my tears while she chuckled about some party and her friends.
"Your grandmother gave me that dress."
She stopped talking finally and looked at me. Whatever she saw in my face made her expression change into something darker. I saw her shoulders go back and her lips tighten in that way that meant her defenses were up and she wasn't going to back down without a fight.
"And then you gave it to me, mom. Remember?" Her words dripped with a challenge.
"Of course I remember. But I didn't expect you to tear it to shreds."
Her arms folded over her chest. "If it meant so much to you, then you shouldn't have given it to me."
"I'm sorry for expecting you to understand how much it meant to me when I handed it over."
"It's just a dress." She tore it from my hands and threw it on the floor. "It doesn't even smell like her anymore."
She turned and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. But I'd heard the way her voice hitched at the words.


I knelt and picked up the ruined dress, holding it to my face. My daughter was right of course. Mom had been dead for over a decade and clinging to memories bound in the material of a ruined dress wasn't going to bring her back.
I closed my eyes and inhaled-- and there she was in that strange combination of baby powder and spices and lavender and vanilla. The scent wrapped itself around me, whisking me to a meadow of bright flowers and warmth. When I opened my eyes, the dress was still in my hands, but it was whole again. Dark and lustrous, it slithered around me, coming to rest on my shoulders, nuzzling my cheek.
"I'm sorry mom," whispered my daughter. She knelt before me and I wrapped her in my arms. The dress wound itself around her, enfolding us both in its embrace.


This is my mindspill. Mostly about comics, books, video games, movies of the science fiction and fantasy leanings. Sometimes recipes and parenting stuff will sneak in, along with a real world rant or two.

I also write about geek culture at Women Write About Comics, and I review genre fiction at The BiblioSanctum.

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