WanderVerse Chapter 1

Chapter 1

 

9x+14/56=4

Solve for x

Kam rubbed his eraser against the edge of the page, cutting away clumps of pink rubber with the paper. Math was one of his favorite subjects, but this sort of rudimentary equation was too boring to even try to solve. Boredom wasn’t his only problem, though. Kam felt out of place.

Being unceremoniously shoved into the body of a teenager was now at the top of his list of “Disturbing and Traumatic Experiences.” In fact, he would have given this round an award for being the most awkward as well. What was he supposed to tell a fifteen year old girl when she gave him love letters? ‘Sorry babe, I’m actually thirty. I’ve had at least three long term relationships, a college degree, and four failed careers.’

Some things stayed the same when everything else changed. He glanced across the classroom to find that Freya had her head tucked down, busily scribbling on her paper. For the first time in two days she wasn’t making what she thought was flirty eyes at him.

Putting down his pencil, Kam massaged his temples in an attempt to force himself to concentrate on the test. What was the point of trying, though? Did this world really exist or was it just a crazy dream?

Squeezing his eyes shut, Kam tried to block a blooming headache; the result of tense shoulders and hunched posture. ‘How did I even end up like this?’ he wondered. Sweat trickled down the center of his back. It was uncomfortably hot.

The scent of burning plastic filled his sinuses as he drew a deep breath. Shifting his crouch to ease a cramp in his foot, Kam opened his eyes to the noise of something metallic hitting the floor beside him. The cylinder rolled to a stop against his foot. He gripped his riffle to his armored chest as the word ‘Grenade’ flashed through his mind. Instinctively, he struck boot leather to pavement, breaking cover from behind a marble tiled pillar, away from a bank of desks and wall of melting Plexiglas. Kam ran left as bullets hit the marble tiles behind him, chipping sharp shards into the air electricity crackling off the edges. Continue reading “WanderVerse Chapter 1”

Opportunities

My dad asked for fudge for his birthday. I’ve never made fudge before. This experience was pretty darn hilarious though. I’d have tasted as I went, but it’s not really smart to taste molten hot sugar/butter/evaporated milk disaster.

Although I know exactly where I went wrong with this mess… The recipe called for 10 oz of evaporated milk listed as 2 cans of 5 oz each. And I didn’t realize that until it was far too late to take 12 oz out and I wasn’t going to throw it out and start again.

I’m gonna call this a Learning Experience and laugh.

When In Rome

While I’ve done some choral singing on stage before, and one solo in high school, I’ve not had much opportunity to display my dancing capabilities until now.

Melodrama
Melodrama

 

I have now officially been in a melodrama/musical thing.

Opening night was last Friday, yesterday’s shows went pretty well, I think, I had way more fun when people I knew were there in the audience, though most people seem to have the opposite reaction.

 

The melodrama is about Gladius, Minimus, and Julia, a trio of thieves in ancient Rome just trying to get along in life. Things get hairy when they get caught trying to sneak into the palace and Gladius is roped into fighting in the Gladiator games in an attempt to impress the Princess and save his own life.

 

cast wheninrome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, have some selfies I’m actually not ashamed to share. lol

PreShowSelfie Amazing Hair

 

 

Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World Review

Just finished watching Alexa play Tales of Symphonia Dawn of the New World.

Ohkay. I’m aware of other people’s problems with the game, and I’ll briefly touch on them now before I go into why this game was actually fantastic.

1. The voice acting. The company wasn’t able to get the original voice actors back to reprise their roles in the returning cast from the first game for some reason that wasn’t stated. This isn’t as big a deal as people make it out to seem. They found people whose voices were similar enough that I didn’t even realize at first. Anime and game dubs are getting big, and some of the actors they used for the original game are pretty popular and might have had other obligations at the time that prevented them from working on Dawn of the New World. Getting mad about this and hating the game because of it is petty.

2. The returning characters. I’ll admit that this is a point that I was slightly “meh” about. I got the impression that the people who originally wrote the script for the first game were not involved in writing the script this time. One of the things I loved about the first game was the chemistry between the characters. Lloyd was about as sharp as a river rock in game-one and this was one of his defining features. However in Dawn of the New World, he was dramatically different. In-game it is stated that two years have passed, so I can admit that not just the journey of game one but the passage of two years can change a person. But I doubt Lloyd found some magical spring that gifted him with intelligence. Though, on third thought, if I squint, it could perhaps have been maturity, since he did say some dumb things on occasion. Overall, I’ll have to agree with the naysayers that the writing of the returning cast could have been better and they seemed more like fanfiction-versions of themselves than anything. I’d like to add that I happen to LIKE fanfiction from time to time, so I was willing to overlook that since everything else going on was interesting. Perhaps the game could have benefited from just having an entirely new cast, rather than bringing in everyone from the first game.

3. Emil was whiny. I whole-heartedly disagree with this point. Luke Fon Fabre was whiny (and don’t get me wrong, I love him too). Emil was shy and inexperienced and a darling little puppy that I adored throughout the game.

Spoilers ahead.

Further on the point of Emil, his character was another perfect example of Namco’s constant breaking of stereotypes when it comes to their main characters. From the initial view of his meek personality to his “Ratatosk Mode” (which Alexa and I named “Ember” and I will continue to refer to as Ember since he is neither Ratatosk nor Emil) the character was dynamic and his personality progressed logically as more information became available about his past. For people to decide the game is terrible based on the switching between Emil and Ember tells me that those people weren’t paying attention and didn’t understand that the two were technically two different people, even separate from Ratatosk himself. My basis for this is that Ratatosk was originally a summon who became disillusioned with mortals and wanted them all dead. When Marta revived the core, Ratatosk caused his own mutation from Ratatosk into something – someone different by first taking a human form, and then sealing away his personality and memories to hide behind the identity of Emil.  Emil, over the course of six months in Luin became his own person, forming relationships (albeit bad) with the other people of town and his “family” which is, in my opinion, what caused him to be so spineless at the beginning of the game. If all you know is abuse, would you really be capable of standing up for yourself? Or would you blame yourself like everyone else does?

Perhaps players were uncomfortable with Emil as a protagonist because he reminded them too much of themselves. Not personally knowing everyone else who has played the game, that is my only hypothesis for the rampant hatred of him.

In any case, Emil’s behavior at the start of the game, to me, is completely understandable; from his lack of ambition to his hiding behind Ember whenever he’s in trouble. I found him to be endearing because of this, since he quickly began to grow out of that automatic apology-defense almost as soon as Richter snapped at him for it, whereas Colette never did, and that was one of my few gripes about her character.

I haven’t seen as much of it, but I got the impression that people don’t like Marta either, whether it’s because of her personality or because she’s in the way of the Yaoi Emil/Richter or some underlying sexist thought processes, I don’t really know. However, I thought Marta was pretty brilliantly written. She was a strong female character but, again, Namco didn’t take the shortcut of making her Amazon Warrior Princess as a way to prove that she was strong. She got scared, she fell in love, she did dumb things, but behind it all was a sense of justice and principles and determination that made her certain that she knew right from wrong. I’m not sure of her actual age in-game, but I’m guessing somewhere around 13 or 14, which explains her dependence on her father. I could never imagine looking at my father and thinking “I can’t stand what you’ve become and I have to do something about it.” I personally don’t know if I’d have the strength to.

Brute was not the crazy power hungry jerk we saw for 90% of the game, as was evidenced by his complete reversal after Solum’s core was recovered. This is proof that he helped raise Marta to be the woman she currently is, with her determination and drive to see that things be put right. Thus, Marta’s insistence that she try to save him rather than outright kill him is understandable. He wasn’t an evil person, he was just being influenced and she knew that. At the same time, she wasn’t overlooking the things he had done, even if he hadn’t done them while in his right mind. She wasn’t blinded by love and who she thought her father was. Even if she fell into that trap when it came to Emil, which I believe was a good thing for him, since it forced him to stand up for himself against her and look at his own weaknesses in order to decide what he did or didn’t like about himself and what he had the power to change.

This game wasn’t simply amazing because of the main characters, however. It was amazing because, once again, Namco delivered a story that walked in the grey areas between good and evil. Richter and Aster invaded Ratatosk’s realm and provoked him. Richter wasn’t inherently evil and had a plan of how to get what he wanted as well as save the world once he was done, which involved sacrificing himself to burn for eternity. Brute was corrupted by Richter. Ratatosk was simply out of touch with the goings on of the world and needed to get out and see the sky and get some fresh air – and make a few friends – in order to fix his bad mood. None of these antagonists (except for maybe Alice) are absolutely evil and unforgivable, they’re presented as people with goals and reasons for what they’re doing and saving them didn’t require some pretzel logic that got them out of everything. Alice got herself dead, Brute went to prison, Richter burned for 1000 years. Most of all, the story presented good, compelling reasons for why the antagonists chose to do what they were doing. Looked at from the other direction, the tactics the main characters used weren’t that spotless either.

I thought it was a good continuation of the world. The focus on Emil and Marta’s journey while the main characters of the first game are left to their own devices for the most part was a good choice. I say this because this lets players decide what happened in the intervening two years between this and last game, as well as not forcing the game-maker’s choice of pairings on the player when it comes to Lloyd/???.

While some choices of what they had people doing were a little odd and frustrating, over all, I believe it made for a good game.

Tales of Symphonia Review

My roommate and I just recently finished playing Tales of Symphonia. There were some flaws to the game, but overall, it was an enjoyable experience. We’re chalking the flaws up to the fact that it’s a 10 yr old game and maybe they didn’t know what they were doing a bit? Or possibly there were some errors in porting it over from the Gamecube to PS3. In any case, the remaster was pretty. Though I’d like to let everyone know that I most definitely played this game last, even though it was one of the first, and thus I am comparing it to the other, more recent, games I’ve played.

At the beginning of the game I could not figure out what was going on.  I think this was in part because the game just started out without explaining anything about the world. However, I think this was a good choice on their part, as this made the plot twists better. Without the extremely original world, I would have been bored by the cliche plot bits. Not that the entire plot was cliche, just some major parts of it due to trope trends and and because I’d played other Tales Of* games and could see the things that they liked to reuse. One being the “Traitor” type. But they handled it much better in this game than in Xillia. I could forgive him after he did his thing in Symphonia, but in Xillia, the Traitor repeatedly did awful, and sometimes painful, things to the party and they still let him back in and trusted him again. That bothered me a lot. However, I’m not reviewing Xillia at the moment.

Another thing they reuse is spells, battle techniques, and the like. I wish they had reused free movement in battle, rather than only allowing straight-line movement. It would have been nice if they had updated that in this port over. Also titles, though here they actually raise stats as opposed to being merely decorative in later games. This, I think is fine, Final Fantasy reuses spells and if something works, don’t fix it, especially in a series like this. These days its difficult to find things that haven’t already been done before and the use of tropes sometimes helps an audience get past stuff that would otherwise be confusing, such as the role of Elves, half-elves, and humans in this world. Though they never explained where dwarves came from, which I think is a slight oversight on the part of the writers.

While I’m on the fence about whether it was good or bad, I think the character personalities were weighted a little heavily on the Derp side. Colette, Lloyd, Zelos, and Sheena were morons about 70% of the time, even though occasionally Lloyd would pull something brilliant out of the mists of that empty head of his. I didn’t really have any favorites exactly, I did like the way certain personalities complemented each other. Although certain costumes bothered me immensely, mostly Regal’s prison uniform, but that’s just nitpicking on my part. They worked together well as a party that got things done, whereas in other games, I’ve seen the party pulling apart at the seams, held together by the fact that the writers said they had to do the thing. So that gets an A+ from me. It’s hard to enjoy a game where the constant bickering and cross-purposes of the main cast are difficult to get past, like they have a common enemy but they’re still doing their own thing.

I’ll only touch on this briefly, though it is one of the most noticeable flaws of the game; the voice acting was good, I enjoyed their performances, but the actual recording of the voices could have been improved upon. Recording or mixing, something is off because some voices sound like the actors phoned in their lines.

Some of the things the game did right, however was breaking stereotype gender roles, which I’ve noticed as being a thing in many Tales Of* games, however. Raine was the brains and Regal sometimes made comments about how awesome women were, which was nice to see despite Zelos being a sleaze and Sheena being the representative of Enormous Rackville. The thing is, Zelos’s attitude wasn’t reciprocated or agreed with by all the females of the party and Sheena was never appreciative of Zelos pointing out her ample attributes (though they’re small compared to girls in anime these days, but again, this was 10 years ago). Prescea was one of the heavy hitters with an axe, and I think that was cool. Genis and Raine were our spell casters, though, which made some sense, even if they made Raine the healer, which is typical, but forgivable.

The main hero wasn’t what I was expecting, but that’s been every Tales Of* game I’ve played. In this particular case, Lloyd was as big an idiot as they got, even though he was using the typical Main Character weapon of dual swords and starting Arte of Demon Fang.

Some of the cliche things that I picked up on from the start of the game were that the Regeneration of the World was not as great and happy a journey as it was implied it would be at the start. Of course, would there be a quest if the World Regeneration was awesome and stuff? But beyond that, it seems like everyone is corrupting Angels into evil creatures, and the “Luke I am your father” bit with Lloyd I saw coming only a couple hours into the game. Although it wasn’t a bad thing and a couple of the twists _did_ surprise me, such as the relationship between the Angels, Renegades, Desians, and church as well as the construction of the world itself. The relationships of the party members, their interactions, and the romance/bromance options were highly enjoyable as well.

Overall, I give this game a 5/5 stars rating. While it’s an old one, it’s held up pretty well and thus if you haven’t had a chance to play it, I highly suggest trying it out.

Breaking Character

I got asked once if I base my characters off people I know in real life. I don’t, but not because people I know aren’t worth writing about. I have lots of people in my life that are great people, but I would never include them in one of my stories. There are two reasons:

1) There’s a curse. Writing your friends or loved ones into a story will make them leave you! You think I’m kidding? I wrote a self insert back in high school and ended up losing every friend that appeared in it. Not that I really needed some of those people in my life, but it was still slightly traumatic at the time. Perhaps it’s the fact that the writer is scrutinizing their friends or acquaintances, filtering them through the writer’s perception and creating a mirror for those people to see “So this is what people think when I do that thing?” It’s a little embarrassing to realize that “That thing I was always shy about is actually what people admire me for?” But regardless, I do not recommend including people you like in your books, regardless of what you write. Or at least if you do want to include people you like in your books, hide your sources better. After all, creativity is just a bunch of combining of other people’s thoughts and hiding where you stole it from.

2) I have enough voices in my head as it is.

I always take it as a challenge to come up with characters that are unlike me as often as possible even though they are all in a way, reflections of me. While I know most people think the Zodiac signs and personality traits are BS, if you read the description of Gemini personality, that’s me: a talkative introvert, uncomfortable with deeper emotions but loyal as hell, and most of all flighty and easily distracted, constantly confused by the conflicting emotions and thoughts going on in my head and always moving even when I’m sitting still. In short, Geminis are crazy and really good at hiding it. So when I say I have enough voices in my head, I mean it, and thus I use them for my stories in order to quiet the noise and distract myself from over thinking about that one time I did a thing in 8th grade.

Even though I have lots of ideas for characters, this doesn’t translate into being able to easily write them. The most difficult ones are the ones with intelligence that doesn’t match mine, such as someone incredibly smart or someone generally slow. But the ones I have the most fun with are the bad guys and my protagonists that I put through absolute hell. Being mean to characters gives me great joy, which is another reason why I don’t put my friends into my books. If you were dating me, would you REALLY want to be a protagonist in my story? It would mean losing everything you loved, climbing out of the depths of despair only to be kicked back in by sudden betrayal. Some of the things I put my characters through I wouldn’t wish on my enemies.

In addition to having to think that much about my enemies and figure out their motivations would make me stop hating them and usually if I hate a person its for a very good reason. This would also be why I hate very few people. I’m too good at seeing things from both sides.

However, on to the general topic of making characters and breaking them; I used to have a lot of trouble with putting together good plots for books because I couldn’t bring myself to be mean to my babies. Unfortunately, that’s what you have to do in order to make a good story. There’s really no getting around it. The secret to being able to do it isn’t even because I hate my characters now, either, but because my priorities for why I am writing have changed. When I used to be nice to my characters my reason for writing was because I wanted to entertain myself and escape from my own head by pretending to be someone else for a while. Now, I want to entertain others and over time I’ve discovered that happy characters are boring and conflict is needed in order to create a compelling story that people want to see end well.

The depths to which the characters need to be tortured vary depending on what kind of plot you’re aiming for, but there are several different types of torture you can use ranging from emotional to physical and things in between. I’ve found that emotional is the silent killer and is great for piling on the little things until the character collapses after appearing to be fine for most of the story. Physical is a delicate thing that needs to be handled with an extreme lack of description. Less is More in the case of physical torture, since your reader is a smart individual and doesn’t need to be told in great detail how the drill tore through flesh, slinging blood around the room. Unless you’re going for that kind of gore. But I believe seeing the aftermath is more traumatizing; it lets the reader fill in the blanks and wonder what happened and keeps your story on a slightly more PG-13 rating.

However, even in physical torture, there’s an element of emotional and mental. Your character has to deal with the fact that they were hurt, helpless, and scared. The big strong barbarian isn’t going to take it well that someone managed to keep him tied down long enough to carve their name into his chest with a butter knife. Or your smart tactician is going to have to come to terms with the fact that she didn’t foresee getting captured and couldn’t think her way out of the situation she now finds herself in. Water-boarding is more of a mental torture than physical, though the main component is physically being strapped down and forced to endure water dripping on your forehead. The torture is the helplessness and lack of power to change the situation, which, when you get down to it, is the base cause for trauma, not so much the physically being wounded parts though that too should have a lasting impact on your character, even if you can magically heal him after he’s rescued.

Emotional torture depends upon the character. Anyone can be tied down and forced to endure Seinfeld reruns for days, but truly hurting your characters emotionally requires knowing them inside and out. The cliche is for female characters to be kidnapped and raped as a form of emotional scaring to both the male and female characters involved, but this is so over done that it’s completely lost its meaning – as well as trivializing rape in the real world as little more than a device to advance the boyfriend’s story which is harmful to society in general and weakens your plot in specific. I normally begin by looking at the good things the characters have in their lives and ask what do they rely on to be happy? Take those away. Ruin them so that every time the character looks at it, they’re reminded of what they used to have and how it’s gone now. For example, one of my characters only had two people she loved in her tiny ass end of nowhere town. One of them is conscripted by the king and the other dies during a magical battle and his corpse eaten by a bird-dragon thing in the magic forest. Now, even while she is out on the adventure she always wanted, her father-figure has been ruined, even if she should meet him again due to time travel, she still knows how he died horribly. This image will haunt her every time she looks at him or thinks about what she used to have with him.

The trick is to give your characters well-rounded personalities with handles and triggers and buttons that you can push, pull, and tweak as needed. Say a character is the shy second daughter, the eldest is bossy and always good at everything she does. Logical conclusion is that the second daughter will feel inferior if constantly compared to her perfect elder sister. She might have a secret wild side, or fold in on herself further, berating herself for everything she perceives she has failed at. Outwardly, she might appear to be solid and immovable, great at everything she does because she’s secretly practiced becoming perfect in order to never be seen messing up, but one wrong word or betrayed trust could shatter what little worth she’s managed to convince herself she has and send her on a destructive cycle that puts her into the path of the plot.

There’s a big stink about Mary Sue characters, usually implied as an insult and I think this is destructive to all writers. “Mary Sue” fears cause people to end up writing female characters as weak and inept; little more than plot devices to be captured and raped. Or, they are turned the other direction and a “Strong female character” is created, which usually ends up being a male character they tacked boobs onto. Women of both types exist. Men of both types exist. Trans and non-binary gender people exist. Don’t be afraid to make your characters whatever you want them to be, so long as you never treat them as the “token” anything. They’re the people whose stories are populating the world you’re creating and you should respect them as you would respect yourself. Give them hopes, dreams, aspirations, and goals because the fun part is breaking them and forging them better.

A line that occurred in one of my stories lately was another take on “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Humans are the strongest substance in the world. Iron rusts, steel can be broken, and to mend these things doesn’t make them better for the breaking. Only humans can heal from a wound and become stronger for having been hurt.

So hurt your characters and learn how powerful they can become.

Clutter

Gonna have a yard sale near the end of April. Already collected a bunch of stuff. Problem is, now that I’ve selected it, I have nowhere to put it except in a messy pile in the living room… But if I don’t start now, then I’ll be panicking when it’s the night before to find stuff to sell and won’t be able to let go of anything.

On the bright side, most of my clutter is paper trash that I just need to sort and throw away. Mostly this happens because I have this horrible need to save all my drawings combined with general laziness to shred those credit card applications they send me all the time. I pruned a lot of my things just before the move last year, but clutter is insidious. It collects in corners and closets and breeds until it comes tumbling out of the shadows into the daylight and you realize “I haven’t worn that shirt since high school. Why did I even get it?”

One time I had an acquaintance – she was a friend, but not the best of friends. Nice person, I liked her but didn’t have much in common, as happens a lot with me. Her parents had both died of cancer and she had inherited the house. It was sad and I felt sorry for her and offered to help clean up her house so she could make some money off things and get rid of the place.

Unfortunately her whole family were hoarders. Like the kind you see on that TV show. I have since been traumatized by clutter. I used to be completely ok with my clothes piled on the floor seven layers deep and everything else just scattered around. Now, if I can’t see the walls or floor for the junk it sends me into a panic attack. I cannot abide it any longer. Dust and cat hair collecting on the floor is one thing, but the state of my closet makes me anxious.

My sewing room is in desperate need of cleaning, but the problem there is that when I bought the house, the previous owner had taken ALL the shelving from the closets. I’ve spent at least $1000 on replacing it, but then inertia sets in and it never gets put up.

I’m considering turning my second walk in closet into an office of some kind, though I doubt I’d use it often. Most of my daily life is spent in the living room on my couch with my laptop. Though the couches are old (received as hand-me-downs from my parents) and sagging in the middle and I’m thinking of getting rid of them and just using the plethora of papasans littering my house now.

Its funny how my perception of life has changed. I used to go to school and work and have a boyfriend and friends I hung out with, but as I shed each of these (some being a more healthy change than others) I’ve found that I can’t tolerate as much clutter on my schedule as I used to. Obligating my time 3 nights a week to the melodrama (When in Rome, opens end of May, btw) and other minor chores to maintain my house are as much as I feel like handling right now. Although I’m sure if something I deemed worthy of committing time to came along (such as a job opportunity) I would be glad to cut into my free time. 24 hrs in a day, 8 a day spent at work, leaves me plenty of time to do other things in the evenings or weekends.

Clutter on the writing front… I’ve got a lot of stories started and never finished. I have stories 90% finished that I took apart because they needed to be reworked and made better. I have scenes that I’m sure there are good parts in but I can’t figure out what to pick out and re-use or if I should just delete the whole thing and start again.

I picked up working on Phoenix Emperor again and know generally where I want it to end but I still can’t get the specifics worked out. It’s like trying to iron a fancy shirt. I’m sure it’s supposed to be flat but there’re some details here and there and I don’t know if I need them wrinkled or flat or where exactly to put the pleats. Or perhaps less ironing and more like constructing the garment in the first place. Where the heck do the darts need to go?

Many of my problems with clutter would go away if I’d just finish things more often. But I’m a Gemini and as a result easily distracted. (I’m gonna blame that anyway. It’s my nature, yeah…) I seem to work best when I have someone else expecting results from me, even though I’m fully capable of motivating myself once the external deadline is in place.