28 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 17

Chapter 17

[Author's note: The formatting really should remind readers of some sort of instant messaging system.  A blog might not be the best way to do this.]

Jacinda_9: Lance, are you there?
Lance179: Hi, Jackie.  Be right with you.
Lance179: Sorry about that.  What's up?
Jacinda_9: You saw the storm last night?
* Lance179 nods.
Lance179: How bad was it in your neighbourhood?
Jacinda_9: Lots of snow and hail and wind.  It was kinda pretty, though, with all the colours.
Jacinda_9: What was it?
Lance179: Colours, huh?  That was a mage storm.  The weather is so hosed around here because of some sort of magic that it had to reset somehow.
Jacinda_9: And that's what the mage storm did, try to fix the weather to what passes as normal here?
Lance179: Something like that.  The ley lines are still bright, though.
Jacinda_9: You've probably thought of this, but if they're like a river, can't you trace the flow downstream?
Jacinda_9: Geez, that sounds so basic that just suggesting it makes me feel dumb.
Lance179: Don't beat yourself up.  Yes, we tried.  We wound up in a loop after going all around town.
Jacinda_9: *phew*  Hey, when you went around town, did you actually leave Ottawa at all or were you always within city limits?
Lance179: I don't think we did, but I can't be sure.  Why?
Jacinda_9: The weather's been contained in the city.  I'm wondering if there is a connection.
Lance179: There is.
Jacinda_9: . . .
Jacinda_9: You can't leave it there like that, Lance.
Lance179: You won't be able to help, Jackie.
Jacinda_9: Why not?
Lance179: It's too dangerous.
Jacinda_9: That doesn't answer my question.
Lance179: ...
Lance179: Okay, then you're still learning.  You're not ready to deal with this.
Jacinda_9: Lance, I think I'd know if I'm ready or not.
Lance179: You're still thinking about what you're doing when you cast a spell.  You've picked up on what to do faster than I've seen anyone else, but you don't have the practice.
Jacinda_9: ...
Lance179: Jackie, I don't want to get you hurt.
Jacinda_9: Then hurry on the teaching.  You might need me.
Lance179: Patience, Jackie.  This isn't like learning mathematics.
Jacinda_9: I don't know.  I had to do multiplication drills.  This seems similar to me.  Practice practice practice until I get carpal tunnel.
Lance179: I promise you won't get carpal tunnel, Jackie.
Jacinda_9: Good.
Lance179: And when you're needed, I won't hesitate to call you in.  You're learning quickly.  I just don't want to get you in over your head.
Jacinda_9: It's frustrating, you know?  I feel like I should be able to help.
Lance179: And you will, when you've gotten used to being a magician.  You've just discovered your abilities.  Wait until you've discovered what you can do.  You'll be amazed at your potential.
Jacinda_9: *sigh*  Alright

Are we still on for tomorrow?
Lance179: Sure.  Want me to pick you up or would you prefer to meet me at the Bridgehead downtown again?
Jacinda_9: The coffee shop sounds good.  I'll see you there when I'm done class.
Lance179: Great! :D

27 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 15

More lessons with Lance, in Digital Magic chapter 15.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

Another session with Jackie and Lance.  There's no chemistry here.  Jackie is more about learning magic than learning about Lance.  Lance is almost in the role of expendable mentor, which would really cut a romance short.  But as a couple?  They're not quite at that point, and after fifteen chapters in a story that's trying to be a romance, there should be strong hints, like Public Displays of Affection,.or at least pet names.  But they're not there.  Jackie's more interested in figuring out magic and Lance is working on recruiting new wizards.

I was starting to figure out that maybe romance is not something I was comfortable writing, at least as the A-plot.  Later works introduce a romantic subplot, which I found easier.  The characters had other reasons to be in the story and things bloomed naturally.  Here, I'm trying to force a romance and I'm rebelling against myself.  The original lessons from Digital Magic was "don't even try a romance," which then becamse, "introduce potentials, but don't force anything."  I let my characters make the decisions.

Billiard balls are used in physics classes to teach momentum and angular direction.  Being as close to perfectly spherical as possible and meant to maximize energy transfer in a game of billiards, the balls have a uniform mass.  For teaching magic, using billiard balls removes the same variables as their use in physics classes does.  The game is also familiar to Jackie, so she can figure things out on her own if needed.  Visually, flinging billiard balls around is an amusing sight,

Discussing the weird weather, in Digital Magic Chapter 17.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, RWBY, the manga.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week.

25 Feb 2020

Painting Minis - Finishing the Gravestones

I finally got out to look for a green or ground-coloured paint and found a few to use to finish the gravestones started last week.  I left off with the gravestones painted but not the ground.

Where I left off last week.  (Photo by author.)
Remember that I used different colours of primers to see the effects.  What I wound up doing is use a completely different green that I had, Greenskin from The Army Painter, instead of what I bought.  The paint was part of a starter kit my nephew gave me for Christmas.  But the different primer colours meant the appearance changed with each gravestone.

Same paint, different effects.  Ta-daa!  (Photo by author.)

The gravestone on the left in the above photo was primed with white.  The green didn't go over it evenly, but that worked out.  Grass isn't uniformly one shade of green.  I'm happy with how the paint came out.  The middle one, with grey primer, also had similar results.  The right-most grave, painted over black primer, has a different outcome that I'm not so sure about.  However, for the first time I've painted minis in a while, this came out well.

Armed with satisfaction, I decided to try painting another mini, this time a shark from WizKids.  I went with the mini because the number of colours would be low, the mini isn't complicated, and is large enough to see without taking off my glasses for close up work.

Gravestones left in for scale.  Note the fin mini on the right.  (Photo by author.)
The shark is definitely something a group of adventurers would not want to deal with.

Head on view of the shark. (Photo by author.)
I'm thinking I need x paints, a main colour for the dorsal side, a light colour for the ventral side, a third for the teeth, another for the lips and gullet, and black for the eyes.  A sixth might be needed for the water effect.

I focused on the dorsal side to start.  Long brushstrokes, no unusual creases.  Nice and simple.  I also painted the dorsal fin poking out of the water.

After about a half hour or so.  (Photo by author.)
I had an idea for the water effect for the fin mini.  Instead of painting on top, I painted the underside.  I wanted the top to look like sea foam.

Painting the bottom of the base.  (Photo by author.)
I think I pulled it off.  (Photo by author.)
I need to finish the shark, so the face and the ventral side.  The fin mini turned out well, so I will try the same thing with the larger shark.

21 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Trish is waiting for me when I get step inside the apartment.  "Why didn't you call?"

"I didn't think I was going to be this late.  Besides, you could have called me.  I had my cell."

"I did call."

I fish my cell phone out of my backpack.  The phone shows that I missed seven calls tonight.  "I never-  Sorry, Trish, I didn't have my pack in with me."

"You better have a reason for making me worry, especially after last week with you freaking out over every bump in the night."

I hesitate to point out Trish's exaggerations.  It wouldn't help her mood.  "I was studying, sort of."

"Sort of?"  Trish puts her hands on her hips the way our teachers did when they scolded us.  "How do you sort of study?"  Her expression lightens.  "Who is he?"

20 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 14

Family and fallout, in Digital Magic chapter 14.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

What's this?  Jackie can catch the train in Ottawa?  What gives?  Well, at the time of writing, the O-Train, now Line 2, was a massive improvement in public transit to Carleton University.  The fact it was an improvement says it all.  Carleton tended to get service cut over and over until it was impossible to get on campus.  The O-Train provided reliable access.  Line 2 is not the trouble-plagued Line 1.  Line 2 runs.  Line 1 is in its fourth week not running with a "full" complement of trains.  "Full" meaning 13 double-trains, not the 15 that's needed but still not available.  Right now, it's easier to get to Carleton by light rail than to the University of Ottawa.

The question of what to do with a renegade wizard has come up.  It's not an easy answer.  If it was, Lance wouldn't be as interesting to me writing him.  What can be done with a renegade who is capable of making making physics sit up, roll over, and play dead?  Locking the wizard away just delays the problem for as long as the renegade decides to stay in jail.  Termination is excessive, but Lance's Circle keeps it on hand for the more extreme problems.

Lance confirms that the time hiccup was the fallout from a massive spell.  When one manipulates energy beyond the ken of humanity, something will break.  At least Jackie didn't have a full Groundhog Day event.  But there is something bigger happening and it is connected to the eyes watching Jackie.

The rules of magic needed to be set down, as much for me as for potential readers.  Ley lines are useful; they allow for the flow of magical energy.  Where ley lines cross, magical energy pools, perfect for someone to use as a source.  If a pool is in an area that gets negative emotions over, such as a jail, the magical energy gets tainted.  It works the other way, too; positive emotions clease the magic.  The Nicholas Street Gaol was not a pleasant place.  On the flip side, a holy site known for miracles that has a magical pool is going to be pure, and unable to be used to harm someone.  Magic has a flavour.

Jackie's approach to spellcasting is similar to her approach to computer programming.  There are good ways to program and bad ways.  Spaghetti code is to be avoided.  Memory should be released.  Jackie is trying to set up everything the spell needs before she casts it.  She's actually compiling the spell so she doesn't have to watch over the spell as it runs.  She could go with an interpreted approach, but she'd have to direct the magic while the spell runs.  The advantage of the latter, though, is that she can adjust the spell on the fly.  There's advantages and drawbacks of both in spellcasting in the setting.

Objects having their own magical resonance was an idea I had while writing the chapter.  Oranges having a natural sine wave was spur of the moment.  I had no plans involving this factoid yet.  I just thought it'd be neat.

Trish tries to get through to Jackie, in Digital Magic Chapter 16.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Simpsons Movie.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, RWBY, the manga.

18 Feb 2020

Painting Minis - A Return

It's been a while since I've tried painting minis.  I'm feeling up to trying again after the past few years, but I am not jumping into a difficult figure right away.  Since this will be photo heavy, I'm placing things below the break.

14 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 15

Chapter 15

I have the car today.  The engine might be sounding rough, or it might be my imagination and guilt for magicking it without having a clue of what I was doing.  The Honda should be okay for what I want to do, though.  It'll be parked at Carleton all day until I go meet Lance at the warehouse, then it'll be in moderate traffic that moves fairly steadily instead of the stop-and-go of Bank Street.

I do hit the gym today, giving myself a good workout to try to work off all the calories I picked up thanks to the parties over the weekend.  My arms and legs will feel it later tonight, but the shower helps mitigate the expected stiffness.  Refreshed from both the workout and the shower, I run off to class.

Most of the lecture is taken up by the return of the previous assignment and questions about it.  Once it's done, I rush out, trying to beat the bulk of the crowd.  Okay, I'm a little excited over what Lance wants me to try tonight.  I managed to try a few things last night before Trish got home.  Nothing big, though; I didn't want to have to explain broken lights and such to her.  Even then, I almost took out the balcony door.  I stopped after that.

13 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 13

Family and fallout, in Digital Magic chapter 13.

Just a reminder that the commentary will be a week behind for a few weeks.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

The best time to threaten someone is always the night after a party.  A mysterious phone call warning Jackie.  Weirdness intrudes on a day of rest.  And the villains finally start making a more overt move.  Eyes appearing on walls just wasn't working.

Something I hadn't realized during the writing but have come to figure out since is that I like the idea of the mundane and the supernatural/paranormal existing side by side, with each imposing on the other.  I think this comes from the superhero comics I've read and TSR's Marvel Super Heroes RPG.  Heroes didn't just go out, fight crime, and call it a day.  They had to balance their hero life with their regular life.  The RPG had a mechanic that rewarded characters for keeping up with their day-to-day life and penalties for breaking commitments.  There's more to being a hero than the costume.  And when I write urban fantasy, this same separation comes up.  In LTV Paranormalists, the characters straddle the line, but Ayel won't tell anyone because she doesn't want to sound crazy, despite having Ginger as Exhibit A.  Digital Magic was an evolution point that led to the later work.

The time hiccup threw me on re-reading.  I was starting to wonder how I could duplicate an entire conversation when the loop began again.  It's been thirteen years, so some details have slipped my mind, like a looped conversation.  Minor spoiler - the loop is a side effect of a major spell being cast.  Subtle magic is preferred in the /Digital Magic/ setting; it doesn't cause a ripple effect   More blatant magic causes shifts in weather patterns and, if powerful, temporal disruptions.

Training with Lance, in Digital Magic/ Chapter 15.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Archie Meets Batman '66.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Simpsons Movie.

7 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Chapter 14

Chapter 14

Dinner went well.  Hannah's cooking skill has greatly improved.  Nick figured out how to use utensils somewhere and doesn't embarrass himself or anyone else.  There wasn't as much wine as the previous few days, but my liver could use the break.  I let Trish drive us back.  She uses the back way, using Baseline Road instead of the Queensway.  It's really for the best for my poor little abused Honda.

I turned in before it got too late.  The sleep felt good, except for the waking up with the alarm part.  I've never liked that aspect of Mondays, even when I have the day off.  I get through the morning ritual without a hassle.  Showered, clothed, caffeinated, even got in a bite of toast before I ran out for the bus.

Trish needs the car again today.  She's aware of the need to take it easy with the wee beastie and won't tax it.  Seems odd having to treat a mass of metal as if it was as fragile as a coffee mug.  The problem isn't major, according to Uncle Larry, just potentially expensive.  I should be able to coax my car along until the new year.

I arrive at Carleton and dash up to my classroom.  There are no eyes in windows watching me as I run up the stairs.  Always a good thing.  Normally, I'd have stopped at one of the Tim Hortons in the Unicentre.  Today, though, I want to see if I can catch Lance before class and arrange a tutoring schedule.  It never occurred to me to figure one out on Saturday when I was with him.  In fact, it only occurred to me on the bus ride in to school.

I get my laptop started up and connected to the university's wireless network.  I log into my instant messenger and send Lance a note.  For good measure, I send an email from Jacinda's Hotmail account.  Redundancy, it's not just for backing up data and schoolwork.  I open a window to write down notes from the class and keep my email and IM available in case Lance replies.

6 Feb 2020

Digital Magic - Commentary 12

Recovery day, in Digital Magic chapter 12.

The commentary will lag a week for the next little bit.  Eventually, there will be a catch up, but not right away.

Digital Magic is still in a raw first draft version.  I have marks I use for later passes to fix later.  In NaNo. the idea is to get the words written, not agonized over.  If I don't like a word but can't think of the one I want, I'll leave a special character that wouldn't normally appear, like $, or block out the word or phase with {} or [].  On an edit pass, these stand out.

I didn't want to write out the party and all the events happening during it.  Not even as a montage.  It wasn't plot or characterization critical, even with me trying to get Jackie and Steve together.  The aftermath is more interesting and lets readers fill in their own details.  Everyone has a different definition of a wild party.

Speaking on chemistry, Jackie and Trish's nameless classmate might have more chemistry than the intended potential pairings, Steve and Lance.  Again, romance be hard, yo.  I try to challenge myself, but this went beyond my skill level.  Some planning might have helped, but even when I do some primitive outlines, things change as the story decides to go elsewhere.  It's something that came up with other stories I've posted that had large gaps before the last few chapters were done.  But I thought I had the characters thought out for Digital Magic.  Just not thought out enough.

The hookups mentioned were mainly for the fun of wrapping up the party.  They also emphasize that Jackie hasn't paired up yet.  Adding in Gary and Liam was an early attempt by me to show some diversity.  At the time, it was something I just tossed in.  Why not?  Chances are good that at least one of Trish's classmates is gay.  No use in denying or whitewashing it.  Someone else can write their story, though.  I'm having enough problems with a heterosexual romance.

Jackie's training session with Lance covers three elements.  One, that he is in the running with Steve for Jackie's affection.  Two, that Jackie is developing her own approach.  Magic, at least in this setting, changes from caster to caster.  Three, Lance is part of a larger group of people.  One-person operations don't really need a warehouse.  And the B-plot comes out, finally.  I think, on retrospect, I would've been better off getting the B-plot out sooner and making it the A-plot.  Hindsight is, much like this year, 2020.  The B-plot gave me a structure to work in, one that I can build out from.  The Soul Blade went this route.  The romance in that story came organically.  That, ultimately, is the problem with Digital Magic.  The romantic elements aren't organic and Jackie is resisting being paired off as a result.

The nature of ley lines, in Digital Magic Chapter 14.
Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, History of Adaptations, 2010-2019..
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Archie Meets Batman '66.