Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Post Dreams of Stars: The Writing Process

Dreams of Stars has been in the works for a LONG time now.  Well over a decade, perhaps more, which probably makes it seem like I'm a lazy writer or something.  Well I am to the point that sitting down and writing (even this thing) is something I really have to force myself to do, and be in the mood for.  It also helps if I have a computer with a terrible net connection, I get a lot of work done then.

That means, though, that the early parts of the story came LONG before the later ones.  Much of my work in editing it to the condition it is now is to bring one half of the story up to speed with the other half.  I think I've done a pretty good job of it so far, but there are things I do want to get back to.

For example, at the end of nearly every post I put here, I asked the question:   Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?  The reason for that question (pair of questions) is that I have issues with settings, and back when I started the story, it was even worse than it is now.  But I wanted the story to go through, so I made the decision to forgo writing details into the setting and leave it as, well, generic and empty as I could so I could focus on the action.  As the story went on, you do see more setting details fill in, but often it's very brief or not very detailed.  I could argue that its a stylistic choice, of course, as for L'lorn and Ritch 'arrd, the world around them really didn't matter and was unimportant, but mostly it was because I didn't want to get bogged down.

The result is the fact that there are no names for places.  The capitol is just that, and nothing more.  Hell, I don't even have a name for the city where Deborah, the character the entire story was built to support, was even born or lived.  There's no background and outside of a few references to places that might exist, for all practical purposes, the story could be anywhere.

The only real hints as to where is the clues to where L'lorne is from (the answer is Cahokia, BTW), and the fact that it's "out west" from where Deborah lives, but close enough to appear on a TV weather map.  It could be anywhere along the east coast of the United States, if there is a United States.  Eventually I did work up a quick alternate history for Deborah's world, but I have yet to decide whether or not to include it in the story, and if so, how.

As the writing went on, scenes developed almost independent of the plot.  The scene at the farm, the ghost, the CDPC (I love that name, BTW), all were built in my mind long before they went on paper and grew up as the scene went on.  There's several scenes that had to be rewritten from the ground up because they just weren't very good (including the last scene between Deborah and Delphi).  The fact that the story flows so well, thanks in no small part to the flashbacks to L'lorne's past, is amazing to me.

And I had fun writing many scenes.  The invention of Bar Theory, which starts the story, was a fun exercise (I was mostly thinking of Lord of the Rings there, BTW), but more fun was including little things L'lorne does long before the reader is told outright that she has amazing powers.  Her first act in the story is not freezing the poor drunk in place, for example, but looking through the floor of the bar and noting there was no basement.  The whole nature of L'lorne's power was gradually ramped up as the story went along, so that when the final description of it came through, it wasn't exactly a surprise, but still shocking how much more powerful she really was.

I also built mysteries into the story.  Who is Deborah's father is a good example that I don't even approach in this story (see next week for more on that).  Also who and what Quinn and Delphi are isn't really given more than a brief moment of conversation (again, next week).  The big mystery though, and one that really only stands out for me because even I don't know the answer is why did Ritch 'arrd die?

L'lorne is clear that they can only die when they want to, and it's pretty obvious a little pinprick like what the axe caused wasn't likely going to kill him, yet he died anyway.  I leave this as a mystery because I'm not quite sure of the answer, and in-universe it is just as much a mystery to those who are far more powerful and knowledgeable than me.  Only Deborah in her advanced years might know why, and she never says.

I took my time to write this, too much time perhaps, but even in it's current form, which still has several small edits to make (I want to switch a scene and a flashback during the deaths of the mothers), I am happy with it.  Will I write more?  Well, let me talk to you about that next week.

Until then kiddies.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Post-Dreams of Stars: Back to the Point

Back in May I brought up, briefly, the original point of my story Dreams of Stars, but there was always more to the story than that.  The grand quote at the beginning of that article was the original point, but not the sole point and in the end, not really the point of the story at all.

As I said,  the idea was to define the bounds of power, extreme power, power beyond what most people can possibly imagine, including me.  And it all began because of the forums for a site called Spacebattles, where they love to debate various fictitious elements fighting each other.  There's also a tradition of one-ups-man-ship, and people tend to add their own fictional creations to the pile in an attempt to outdo everyone else.  I decided I wanted to join the fray and started designing a character that was unbelieveably powerful, one that wouldn't even need to fight to win, but couldn't be beaten, ever.  Then I gave up on introducing it to the board because I realized it would be outdone by someone else.  Still, I went forward with the character and gave it a name:  Deborah Ignigus.

Which means, effectively, that Dreams of Stars is actually an origin story for that one character, but it was also meant to set up a baseline in which Deborah's full power could be established.  The problem is that as the story went on, I started thinking about what adventures Deborah would go on in the future and ran into a stumbling block:

She was too powerful.  Even if she was only at the same level as L'lorne (and she's much more powerful at her peak), what could stop her?  The only thing keeping L'lorne in check is the fact that everything else didn't work, but for Deborah, that wouldn't be an issue.  She basically could NOT lose, making any story featuring her kind of dull, with no mystery, no suspense, no danger.  Mary Sues face greater dangers than what Deborah would have faced.

So the point of the story was to establish a character with an origin story, a character I couldn't really do anything with without making some serious compromises and even then, it wouldn't work.  By the time the story was finished the point of it was, well, gone.

With the original point gone, what is the point of the story now?  I don't know.  I know what I originally intended, but it's not there much any more.  It's just a story, a story that really has no point other than simply being something I wrote.

Even without a point, I'm still glad I could finish it and share it with those of you who read it.  Next Wednesday I'll have more to say about Dreams of Stars, and the Wednesday after that, but in the future, I think I'll post some more of my writings.  Very little is as complete as Dreams of Stars, so expect half finished pieces, or fits and starts.

Next week, back to webcomics.  See you then kiddies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 36

This is the end.  It'll run a bit long, but that's alright.  I'll have a few questions here, but I'll talk about it more on Friday.  Enjoy.

      The last week of accelerated time had been spent maneuvering into and within the pool itself. L’lorne frequently forced Ritch ‘arrd into the pool for short clashes then back out again, testing to see how much and how far he would follow her, and he had done the same. There was no more adjusting the way time flowed around them, they were moving at the same speed now and it was slowly becoming apparent that they were evenly matched.

      He could break the stalemate, one flinch and a release of power that would shatter the planet underneath them, cause gravitational tides that would scatter the planets and sun to the galactic void and crease then tear space and time itself. L’lorne wasn’t going to do it, she had decided that long ago now, she didn’t think she could win such a match anyway. Only Ritch ‘arrd could bring this fight to a final violent conclusion.

      Then Deborah had jumped.

      Perhaps he had expected that all along, and had been waiting for it. Now each knew the fight would break down to who could be placed under the falling girl first. Then what? The fight would end, that’s what L’lorne figured. What kind of ending would it be? Fractions of a second passed for Deborah, while L’lorne had days to think on it. There wasn’t a lot of time for thinking, though, between rounds of strike, parry and counterstrike. There was so much effort needed to focus on the moment, the battle, that it left little time for anything else. So what time L’lorne spent thinking on the next step was focused on the worst case scenario: that she would lose.

      She should have lost already, actually. Ritch ‘arrd was older, by far, and age meant experience and skill. Power, power didn’t matter, it never mattered, it was only how one used it that mattered, and he was much better at using it than she. She had gambits, methods she could use to win, of course, and plans on top of plans. Deborah had been her last plan, the one that could win this for her. Once she had abandoned it, however, the options of victory had been greatly reduced, to the point that only way out was to fight him, and lose. She would lose, she would die, and she only hoped that in her death, Ritch ‘arrd would know the pain of loss that she felt. That was the only revenge she had left.

      In their accelerated time frame, they had 10 hours left. In 10 hours, Deborah would fall far enough to make contact with anyone standing under her. The glasses, sensing the time dilation field, would grab it, drag it around Deborah’s body and she would join them in the time frame. Then the fight would end.

      The intensity of the battle between student and teacher had cooled considerably as the hours counted down. L’lorne felt more relaxed the last day of fighting than as far back as she cared to remember. A strange calm of knowing the dice had been thrown and fate had been decided had come over her. So odd considering she spent the majority of her life directing those dice to come out exactly how she wanted them. To have chance and fate actually working again had a calming influence, and though he never said it, Ritch ‘arrd must have felt it too.

      Weapons clashed in the pool, where they now spent the majority of their time. She held the axe tight against his light blade, the handle of the axe near the head pinning the blade. They held this for several minutes, a relatively short amount of time, each staring at the other. She looked into his eyes, remembering, briefly, how she had once marveled at them. Did he see the same thing in hers? They had time left, of course, they’d do this again at least once, but still, it could be the last time they ever did it.

      Had he ever really loved her?

      L’lorne shoved hard, forcing Ritch ‘arrd back. She pushed the thought of love out of her mind and swept the axe in front of her, forcing his counter strike to be aborted and him to pull to the left. Twisting around with the sweep, she spun the axe up and back down in a driving slash, the impact of which on the pool side wouldn’t be felt for another hour or so. Ritch ‘arrd dodged back to the right and as she brought the axe back up, he attempted a lunge at her midsection.

      Instead of attempting to pull the axe into to block, she dropped the head back down and vaulted over it, completely avoiding the lunge. She landed, the axe now held in attack position and did her own stabbing lunge at the slightly off balance Ritch ‘arrd. As it shot forward, L’lorne squeezed the handle just right, releasing the small, sharp blade from the very head of the axe, and pointing at Ritch ‘arrd’s chest. He recovered quickly enough to slap the axe away, and quickly rolled away and right underneath Deborah.
L’lorne smiled, the entire sequence worked better than she planned. Sadly, she’d have to work up another one in the next 10 hours to win. Still, the experiment worked well, and she fully expected Ritch ‘arrd to perform a similar one on her before time was up.

      Ritch ‘arrd for his part gave no sign of frustration at the fact that he had been placed into position relatively easily. Nor was there any sign that he was pleased his student had managed such a sequence of moves, something that L’lorne had been used to until this fight had begun. They had each stopped moving and studied the other for only a moment before he moved into an attack position, bending down low to avoid hitting the girl.

      Deborah twitched. That was impossible, and L’lorne only barely recognized it when it happened. That twitch almost instantly turned into full fledged movement and Deborah’s scream began to echo as she crashed down around Ritch ‘arrd’s head. Her arms wrapped tightly around him, pulling him off balance and causing him to throw his weapon to the ground where it deactivated. With a twist, he pulled Deborah’s arms from around him and tossed her across the pool. She hit with a grunt, the glasses flying off at the same time.
L’lorne thrust forward. She didn’t think about it, she didn’t process what had happened, only taken advantage of it. The sharp spike the projected from the head of the axe moved fast and true. Ritch ‘arrd had only just begun to turn as it hit him square in the gut.

---------

      There was an explosion of sound as all three returned to normal time flow. Explosions, only partially created just moments earlier, now erupted, debris falling to the ground with cracking thuds. Then there was silence.

      L’lorne still held the axe, its tip now embedded in Ritch ‘arrd’s gut. Once the sound was gone and stillness came over the room, she pulled back quickly and returned to a combat position.

      Ritch ‘arrd quickly pushed his hand onto the wound, causing some greenish blood to seep out through his fingers. “Well done,” he said with a cough. “You won.”

      All of his defenses dropped away and L’lorne instantly got a full scan of the man. It hadn’t been on purpose, and the surprise that it happened at all had only a moment to register before another surprise made itself clear. “What are you doing?” she asked more curious than anything else. It couldn’t be, it had to be a trap.

      Deborah was slowly getting back on her feet. She rubbed at the back of her shoulder and moaned slightly. “Sorry about that, I wasn’t expecting you until later,” Ritch ‘arrd said to her, coughing again. He tipped slightly to one side before pulling himself back up, but only to stand stooped over.

      Deborah snapped her head up and looked at him. “Wha?

      “Ritch ‘arrd,” L’lorne repeated. “What are you doing?”

      He didn’t respond to her, but grasped at his chest with his free hand, held it there, and then began walking towards her. His walk was slow, almost a touch meandering, the blood from his wound was now dripping on the pool floor, leaving green specks on the blue sealant. L’lorne folded up the axe and quickly slipped it back into its pouch as he came nearer, he wasn’t planning a fight, but why this? Why now? “Ritch ‘arrd.”

      He smiled, then stumbled a bit. L’lorne reached out to catch him, but he caught himself quickly. His free hand then shot out and clasped across hers. She knew what it was before she even felt it.

      “It’s all yours, L’lorne.”

      He fell to the floor. Deborah, now more or less out of her daze, rushed over and bent over him. “We need to get him to a doctor,” she started saying as she looked over the body. Her hands paused over him, hovering, undecided on the next course of action.

      “He’s dead,” L’lorne said simply. Her fingers worked over the object in her hands, a twisted, pretzel shaped circle of an alien metal, the symbol of the Ritch ‘arrd.

      “No no no,” Deborah said quickly. “Help me and we’ll. . .”

      “We choose when we die,” L’lorne said. “That’s the only way we can.” L’lorne reached to her chest and pulled off the pendant of the Tar 'nisl, pulling the string that held it around her neck through her neck as if it wasn’t there at all and held the two pendants in one hand together. She bent down and rolled him over, then carefully placed both on his chest, covering them with one of his hands. “Keep them,” she said.
Deborah said nothing as L’lorne stood back up and looked around the room. “We should go now,” L’lorne said.

      “Go?”

      L’lorne nodded, looking away from both the girl and the body. Debris started floating up around the room and moving in a carefully choreographed dance towards each other. She dug deep, her energies weakened from the extended battle, but she had more than enough to reverse the entropy in the room. “Someone will be here soon to check on him,” she continued. “I’ll have the room fixed up by then, but we really shouldn’t be here when that happens.”

      “But what about him?” As she spoke, L’lorne took a moment to grasp the body with her power. The blood, tinted green by the copper that transported oxygen, faded into red as she disassembled the copper atoms and rebuilt them as iron. Organs, mutated, and unrecognizable to human eyes reshaped and reformed, their natures redefined in terms of human anatomy. The wound was healed, and the newly forming lungs were being filled with water.

      “Minister Donalds drowned. His foot got caught in the vegetation of the pool, and he was unable to get free.” As she spoke, plants began to re-grow along the pool floor and up the walls. Above, a cloud had begun to grow larger, darker and more threatening. L’lorne glanced over to the far wall of the pool and a set of steps rose out of the floor so they could easily climb out. “The pool is going to fill soon, don’t want to be here when it does.”

      L’lorne moved up the steps, leaving Deborah behind over the body of the man she once loved. Most of what made him, though, was gone. The human shell had merged seamlessly into the newly developed human innards and that green blooded man she knew was truly gone now, his people truly extinct. Halfway up the steps she heard the tinkling of metal, first against each other, then against the side of a cloth pocket. Deborah stamped along the ground toward her after that. She considered asking the girl why she had done that, but realized even she might not know exactly why. Maybe L’lorne would ask some other day.

      The diving board had reassembled. There was a rumble of thunder and rain began deluging into the pool, filling it rapidly. The plants and algae that had begun re-growing found a burst of growth as the water filled in the pool, and one plant grasped out the man’s leg and wrapped around it just so.

      As L’lorne and Deborah exited the building, the last sign of any conflict, the cracked glass of the door, healed itself over and it was as they had found it an hour earlier, with one lone exception.

--------- 

      The glow of the capital hung just behind a small rise several miles away. A thin, and not particularly chilly wind rustled along the grass of the hilly rise and through their hair and clothing. Lcorn L’lorne and Deborah Ignigus laid out on the grass, their gaze fixed on the stars. Most were hard to make out, the red glow of the city overpowering the weak light, but the hill helped shield most of light from the city and let enough starlight through to see the major groupings.

      L’lorne’s hand reached up for a moment. She held it there for a bit, as if the hand itself were rethinking its decision to rise in the first place, and then she pulled it back down and swept it up behind her head with her other hand.

      “So,” Deborah said after a long silence. “What happens now?”

      L’lorne pursed her lips in thought. “I don’t know,” she said honestly. “I never exactly planned this far ahead.”

      “Oh.” More silence. Deborah shifted along the ground, moving the now much heavier pocket on her side so that it didn’t lay directly on her. A slight clinking noise came as she moved it, causing L’lorne to look over to her for a moment.

      She turned back to the stars and stared at them again. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done this.”
“I imagine.”

      Chirping insects echoed around them. Not too far in the distance was the sound of cars passing by on a highway, though they were getting fewer and fewer as the night grew older. “Are you going to go home?

      “Don’t exactly have one to go to.”

      "You could come with me, I suppose.”

      Deborah didn’t move. “I’m not going to be your daughter.”

      L’lorne’s eyebrows went up in surprise. She smiled. “That’s fair enough.”

      A few stray clouds floated over them, partially blocking the already dim stars. There was no moon, and so the only weak starlight and the glow of the city was available to see the cloud. “Could you really have saved my mama?”

      “Yes,” L’lorne said without hesitation. “I still could, if you want.”

      The girl sat up. “What?”

      “Bringing the dead back to life isn’t as hard as it might seem at first, I could even show you how to do it.”

      Deborah stared through the dark gloom at L’lorne for a bit, her breath increased to match the faster beating heart. Then she closed her eyes and laid back down. “I don’t know.” More silence as she calmed down from the initial surprise. “Would she even want to come back? Could I go back?” She trailed off in thought, leaving them with the silence of chirping bugs and rustling wind.

      L’lorne said nothing, let the girl think for a while. Finally she spoke again. “Well, if it’s that hard of a decision, we could go ask her?”

      Deborah shook her head. “Delphi said she moved on.”

      “Doesn’t mean we can’t still go ask her.”

      Deborah was still looking up at the stars, though even through her open, staring eyes, a racing mind was at work. “It would be that simple, eh?”

      “Simple as breathing,” L’lorne said.

      “Let me think about it.”

      L’lorne nodded. “Take your time, we’ve got all the time you could ever need.”

THE END

---------

Questions

1. What kind of person is Lcorn L'lorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. What kind of person is The Ritch 'arrd? What does his human form look like (in your mind)?
4. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
5. What do you think the future holds for them?

Thank you for reading.  Friday, I'll have a bit more to say.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What Makes a Hero?

So looking over my article about villains I did earlier I got to thinking about heroes and what make them.  And I quickly concluded that it pretty much is the same, which would make a rather boring article.

But after thinking about it some more, heroes are kind of meant to be larger than life.  They should have almost otherworldly skills, all the better to bring down the villains after all.  I think, though, that heroes feel more real than villains generally, so those powers should be balanced out with something, something mortal.  We, the consumers of such stories, want to think that "you know, I could do that" and so we look for things that seem closer to us.  So I came up with a few traits that I think we all look for in heroes, if only to be more like us.

Resourcefulness - It's rare that the hero has the same resources, abilities or talents as the villain, especially at the start of the story.  This means they have to use what they have to win, often things that normally wouldn't be considered against various foes.  From simple weapons made household goods to just simply being more clever are all things we think we can do, even if we can't.  Chuck from Weapon Brown is a great example.  Yes, he has some advantages, including that big robot arm, but often that's ALL he has.  He often has to scavenge gear and get lucky to survive his many fights.  Even his last battle with CaL was done not with his fists or weapons, but with a few well chosen words.

Desire - I doubt I'm the only one who dreamed of getting some random superpower then going out and fighting crime or saving the world.  There are so many stories where ordinary people do just that that entire books and libraries can be filled with them.  Of course Aaron from Blue Blaster went the other way, but I'm not talking about characters like him, I'm talking about ones like Heather from Spinnerette.  Her first thought upon growing extra arms is to become a superhero (and trying to figure out how to shoot webbing from her wrists, which doesn't work out).  It does come back to bite her more than a few times, but she never loses her desire to do good throughout the comic.

Friends - Going it alone, while a noble effort, often fails, especially when that person doesn't have 6 arms or just one giant robot arm.  The best option, often, is to get a group of people together, who often tend to be friends of one sort or another.  Often each one has a quirk that makes them invaluable to the effort and in the end all of them can celebrate their victory together.  Which is why the gang over on Sluggy Freelance, led by Torg, seems to fit this bill nicely.  Oh, they're more than they were at the start of the comic, that's true, but early on, they were all on a pretty even keel (well, Riff was a bit out there, but still. . .).  Their early, wacky adventures cemented them as group, and even now, almost 2 decades later, they're still hanging together, working to save the world, and often themselves.

Flaws - Way back in the old days, meaning ancient Greece, heroes were perfections of humanity.  They held all the virtues that all people should live up to and had few, if any, flaws.  This idea held sway for centuries, millinium even, all the way up until and through much of the superhero comic eras, with Superman being the ultimate result.  Nowadays, though, having a perfect hero feels odd.  We'd rather have ones much more mortal, more like us.  Thus having flaws in character also allows growth of those characters as they confront them.  Chuck starts his comic kind of hopeless, merely surviving in the world rather than trying to make it better.  Heather starts her story as very naive about the world, about being a hero and shy and introverted.  Torg starts out as a goofball and his friends are varying levels of wacky or insecure.  All three rise to their various challenges and grow as a result, but those initial flaws draw readers to them and cheer them on.

All those things aside, there is one thing we want from our heroes:  for them to be heroic.  That's something even the most ordinary of us can do.  I have an example of that too, BTW, Julie from Aptitude Test.  The entire basis of the comic is that she took an aptitude test that said she was to be a superhero.  It's only at the end of the first book (and thus the end of the planned part of the comic) that she does become a hero, jumping out of a damn building to save her friend.  Nothing super about it, just a regular hero.  That's what makes a hero.

Next week, I believe, will be the end of Dreams of Stars, so I'll be doing something for that.  Until next time kiddies.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 35

      Deborah shivered as she finally got up on top of the platform. A new family? Was she really that desperate? No, she wasn’t, at least she hoped not. In either case, she was still stuck without a clear answer to the problem. She pulled the glasses from her pocket and cradled them in her hands. The answer, it would seem, would have to come through another means.

      The actual diving board had been sheared off earlier, leaving the platform and a couple holes behind for the bolts that were also gone. There was no sign of the board either down in the pool or elsewhere. The pool looked strange now, and it took a moment for Deborah to realize why. Before, when she had first come in, it was not only full, but green and full of plant life. Now, though, it was completely empty, the few remaining plants had been cooked brown or black and the sealant material that was blue, but severely pitted and torn by the fight now raging.

      Deborah put inched toward the edge of the platform and looked down. Explosions were occurring everywhere, rattling through the building in an almost continuous rumble of thunder. Up now on her feet, but still crouching low, almost uncomfortably so, she put the glasses on and looked again. Now she could see L’lorne and Ritch ‘arrd in their static poses of combat. With a sigh, Deborah began to let her eyes follow the action on their own.

      The flashes rumbled across the floor, but Deborah held her head steady, trying not to follow the action with anything more than her eyes. She could only see them in glimpses as her eyes quickly moved to the next flash, but she could see their faces. L’lorne didn’t seem angry, but she was intense, in poses where her weapon was being swung, she seemed to be yelling. Ritch ‘arrd was almost calm, but stern, scrunching his face only when forced to hold back a blow as if it were a heavy weight.

      Back and forth across the floor they went, down into the pool, up onto the remains of the blocks Ritch ‘arrd had, long ago it seemed now, lifted out of the ground for cover. They barely looked like blocks anymore, just piles of sand that seemed to explode randomly. They weren’t randomly placed either, now that Deborah could see them from above, they were rather regular, almost looking like the pieces on a chessboard, though not quite.

      Actually, the whole thing looked like a game of chess in a weird way, and as Deborah thought about it, she realized she was looking at it very much like she did when she was playing. Like that day in the park with L’lorne, as she stared at the board, trying to figure out the next move and then suddenly knowing it and all the subsequent ones. All back to that again, chess in the park. What if she hadn’t done that? Hadn’t chased L’lorne through the city, what if she had simply never met L’lorne at all?

      Would she have been beaten up by that drunk in the ally? Maybe, hard to say. Definitely she would have gone for help, probably dragged to some orphanage or foster home somewhere. Dropped into the system just as Ritch ‘arrd said he had originally planned. A foster family would probably have followed, a relatively well to do one, and a higher class of education would come out of it. Her own aptitude for chess would probably come out soon after and off to schooling for that.

      Mr. Davis, the man who taught her chess in between sessions with her mom, often talked of tournaments for chess players, though never if he had ever participated. After a spell learning chess specifically, she could see herself at such a tournament, probably stunning the crowd with her almost unnatural talent. Would she see Mr. Davis at one such tournament? Would he even recognize her? Probably better if not, but even so, it’s unlikely either would say anything. A championship or two later she would likely be introduced to the Minister of Education, Malcolm Donalds. From there. . .

      Deborah grunted in frustration. Why was she still going over all this in her mind? She should focus on the now, not on what might be, what could be, and what might have been. In mere minutes none of that could matter, the world would be gone in a flash. Even as her mind had wandered, her eyes had not, and suddenly every muscle in her body tensed. She felt it and her heartbeat shot up in anticipation.

      Deborah jumped off the high dive platform.

      A split second later the surprise of having jumped hit her and she nearly screamed. Her arms shot out from her sides and she charged the ground at the speed of gravity. The wind of the fall blasted past her face, the ground shot up near her and all she could think of was if this was the end.

      Suddenly, it was all gone. The fast moving wind was replaced by a slight breeze, chilly but not terribly so. The oncoming floor of the pool was replaced by a view of clouds off into the distance. What was out there? As if on command, the clouds parted revealing a vast field far, far below. She turned around and looked up. A mountain, huge, dominate and vanishing into the clouds above her stood looking back. It seemed to go on into infinity, disappearing only as the cloud density grew tighter.

      She turned back to the field and looked out. From here, she could just see specs moving against the green hills. People, she supposed, going about their daily lives. How did she get here? What was this? Then she heard a voice from behind her. It was young, but old, oh so very old. She could hear his age in it, and knew, without knowing why, that she understood that age better than anyone else had ever understood it. She felt old now, so very, very old, older than she could ever imagine. Worse yet, she could feel that however old she felt, he was far, far older. Despite that feeling, it was the words that shook her most.

      “Are you going to jump?” Quinn asked.

      She turned to reply, but before she saw him, the mountain was gone and she was falling again. She knew to start closing her arms, and did so, but something else caught her attention. It vibrated beneath her, back and forth, and she stretched out for it with something she had never felt before. Catching it, she pulled it close and knew this was the answer she was looking for.

-------


Questions

Not this time.  Let's leave it for the finale.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Rise of Patreon

Webcomics are great for the audiance.  They can cover dozens, if not hundreds of different topics, genres, stories and what not.  The art can be dirt simple to amazing, and all of it for free.  Completely free.

Which means it sucks for the artist because free does not pay the bills.  Oh, a few comics have managed to make it big, but the vast majority don't make a red cent.  Often the artists have to find ways to make money.  Advertising is almost universal for all comics, but rarely makes enough.  Some artists run the convention circuit selling sketches, books and doodads in the hopes to make enough to do the next convention.  And some, like Doc over on The Whiteboard, actually have full time jobs.

Then came Patreon.  The idea is simple:  Pay your favorite internet creator (comic artist, blogger, video maker, streamer, etc) a small fee every month of content they provide.  It's crowd sourcing an income.  And it's gaining speed at a startling rate.

The first comic I saw it on was Does Not Play Well With Others, and the rest of Michael Poe's work (Errant Story and Exploitation Now!), and I thought it was a damn fine idea.  But it's been spreading quickly and one in particular got me to writing this, but I'll get to that.

Of course, so did Kickstarter, but the difference is the goal.  Kickstarters are typically for a single project, in the case of comics it's usually a book.  Patreons are continuous, month after month.  They're apparently working on a one time payment option, but that defeats the point of it.  That also means if one invests in a comic and said comic does NOT produce anything that month, the money can disappear.

That recurring payment thing means that the rewards should also be recurring, not a one time thing.  Consideration should probably be made before blindly throwing money at a creator, and before the campaign itself is started.  I've noticed a few Patreon campaigns where the rewards sound very much like the rewards for a Kickstarter, which is terrible since those rewards are designed to be one time things, not something that happens repeatedly.  Sadly, I think many don't see the difference between Kickstarter and Patreon, when the difference is quite clear, and I think both creators and investors need to examine what is in a given campaign for rewards and such before committing.

It has taken off though (seriously, I added two more to the list in one morning), and it's a damn good thing.  Without a steady income, most comics are at the whims of finances, which can be, and often is, rocky as hell.  The few comics that manage an income don't strictly need it, but even successful comics, like the Devil's Panties can always use the extra finances.  Though it would help if she put it a bit higher up on her page so I don't have to hunt for it.

That said, don't expect a lot, despite what some have done.  Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal has gotten over 8000 dollars a month, which is insane.  I think Dr. McNinja has the second highest at about 2000, but most will be lucky to get a couple hundred.  Popular comics obviously make much more than average, and most of the ones I read are really good and popular, so they're a bit richer than I would normally expect.

So which comics have Patreon campaigns?  Here's a list and a link to their campaigns:

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - http://www.patreon.com/mcninja
The Demon Archives - http://www.patreon.com/TheDemonArchives
Twilight Lady - http://www.patreon.com/jkcorridor
Exiern - http://www.patreon.com/exiern
Derelict - http://www.patreon.com/derelict
Dead Winter - http://www.patreon.com/deadwinter
Does Not Play Well With Others - http://www.patreon.com/MichaelPoe
Romantically Apocalyptic - http://www.patreon.com/captain
Sorcery 101 - http://www.patreon.com/kelmcdonald
String Theory - http://www.patreon.com/beckeygrundy
Trying Human - http://www.patreon.com/introducingemy
Zebra Girl - http://www.patreon.com/JoeEngland
Bug Martini - http://www.patreon.com/user?u=152275
Chainsawsuit - http://www.patreon.com/chainsawsuit
Devil's Panties - http://www.patreon.com/jenniebreeden
Dumbing of Age - http://www.patreon.com/dumbingofage
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - http://www.patreon.com/ZachWeinersmith
Book of Biff - http://www.patreon.com/chrishallbeck
Wapsi Square - http://www.patreon.com/pablowapsi

I might have missed some as they tend to happen with little warning or I miss the icons.

There is one comic missing from that list because while it doesn't actually have a Patreon campaign, it's been doing the same thing for years?  That comic is. . .  yeah it's Sluggy Freelance.  For a LONG time now, the Defenders of Nifty program has been one of the bigger income producers of the comic.  It works basically the same as a Patreon, though it runs yearly rather than monthly.  Still, same idea.  I'm telling you, this comic has done everything.

Well enough of that.  Until next time kiddies.  Oh and happy 4th of July for my fellow Americans.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Dreams of Stars Part 34

Long section, and a bit different.

       L’lorne didn’t notice Deborah until a mutually agreed break had started. Fighting for two weeks straight was a difficult slog and made for a rather boring fight on the whole. An agreement for a pause in the action was done silently, through the movements of the eye and position of the bodies. L’lorne estimated that she had three days before the fighting would begin again and was planning what to do when she saw that Deborah had reentered the room.


      She was maybe three steps in, which meant L’lorne had missed her entrance by a couple of days, and the door was just reaching the point of closing. Why was the girl in there again? Throwing her out had been, at best, a temporary move. It moved her out of the line of direct fire, but meant little in the long run. The plan had called for her to stay, but the plan had long ago been scrapped, and L’lorne had to wonder as to what Deborah was planning to do. Not that it mattered. The only change in L’lorne’s strategy for now would be to avoid Deborah as much as possible. She may die, but L’lorne wasn’t going to be responsible for it.

      It was warm in the natatorium, warm and sticky with humidity. So warm Deborah considered taking her coat off, but with the air around her swirling and explosions of tile rippling along the floors and walls, she was afraid of it being caught in a gust of wind and torn apart. No, she wasn’t going to let her mother’s old coat get destroyed, not now. It was all she had left of her besides the picture and the memory. Everything else had been traded for food, shelter and protection on the streets, and she wasn’t about to lose all this now.

      Though what she was doing exactly she wasn’t sure. She needed a place that was relatively safe for her to watch the battle. There weren’t many places like that left. The blocks were nearly all gone, the doorways to the showers were shattered and looked ready to topple over, and the furniture she had sat on only a few minutes ago was a pile of burnt dust. The only thing left standing was a high diving board over the deep end of the now empty pool. It looked alright, stable and intact even. Well, at the very least, she would get a hell of a view.

      Why hadn’t he said anything? L’lorne ran a combo strike, trying to catch Ritch ‘arrd with the axe head, but missed during the three attempts to connect. Normally having an attack like that, he would have commented on it, telling her how to do it better or why she had messed up, but this time he said nothing. He hadn’t said anything since the fight proper had begun, and it was starting to get a bit unnerving. It was probably part of his strategy to throw her off, and it was working. With a yell she swung up the axe and pulled it down hard into the ground, ripping a crevasse into the ground that would have kept growing if she were still moving at normal speed.

      It was what made using her time dilation effects so awkward. Momentum was a constant, but as soon as it left the time field immediately around her, it would settle into the natural time line of the universe. Explosions of concrete from the walls wouldn’t exist for hours in her time, making the effect of a massive strike seem pitiful. At least Deborah was getting a bit of a show.

      The sudden rip of concrete in the ground barely startled Deborah any more. The explosions of the walls were so common and typical now she could almost tune them out. Almost. The best she could do in the face of them was to focus on other things. Which was really better? L’lorne was a confessed mass murderer, had killed dozens even in the time she had known her, and had lied about all of it up until Deborah learned the truth. She also seemed to rather enjoy the act of killing, like it was a hobby of some sort. Killing for the sake of killing and a little bit of fun as well. It made her shiver to think that she had followed her for hundreds of miles.

      Not that Ritch ‘arrd was much better. He killed his own child, and indirectly her mother, and for what exactly? Because the child was too weak and humanity was too stupid? On top of that he taught L’lorne everything she knew, taught her how to murder a planet in cold blood. To him, it was all a game, and even now, as she stumbles through the explosions and chaos, he was still playing a game, treating her like another pawn. Another explosion rattled, but she was already turning toward it, half expecting it. A rather large piece of debris was heading her way, she would only have enough time to lift her arm and hope for the best.

      Their weapons were locked together and they held their ground. There was no grunting or grinding of teeth, but there was still that firm glare each held. They had been at this one for three days now, though that was rather short. Often, the only way these broke up was with an underhanded strike, to the crotch or a headbutt of some kind. Ritch ‘arrd’s eyes blinked over, looking over L’lorne’s shoulder and he raised his eyebrows. L’lorne ignored it, figuring it was just another attempt to throw off her concentration. Still, Deborah was behind her, and if he saw something interesting, then she would need to see it soon. Another day or so, however wouldn’t matter.

      Later the next day, they had switched sides, and now L’lorne could see what Ritch ‘arrd had raised an eyebrow at. A piece of concrete, about the size of a fist, was flying toward Deborah. The girl was just reaching up, probably having just noticed it, but there was not time to dodge. If it hit, she would be seriously hurt, she might even die, her skull crushed. L’lorne let herself fall backwards, then flipped Ritch ‘arrd over her then reset for another stalemate. The next morning, they had moved next to Deborah, and L’lorne managed to push Ritch ‘arrd away, then she reached out with the head of the axe and knocked the offending piece of artificial stone straight into the ground. Then she charged at Ritch ‘arrd.

      And suddenly it was gone, smashed into the floor with such force that it created a crater and spit out pieces of tile and concrete that flecked off Deborah’s coat. She looked at it for a moment, then turned back toward the diving board. One of them had saved her, or perhaps it was both of them. Which one? Ritch ‘arrd seemed most likely. Despite what he had done to her mother, he had made an effort, an apparently honest one, to apologize for it. He didn’t need to, he could have been like L’lorne and shrugged his shoulders at it, but he apologized. Deborah didn’t know for sure if he had ever done something like that before, but what he had seen of him indicated he wasn’t a straight up murderer. He even admitted to being against the policies of his own people, ones that would have mutated everyone on the planet into something resembling what her mother looked like. On top of that, she was his game piece, and if he wanted to win, he couldn’t just have the pawn sacrificed in such a non-productive way.

      That felt cold, cold and calculating, just like L’lorne had been. Had been, she wasn’t that way anymore. Could the knowledge of her child’s death have changed L’lorne for the better? It wasn’t impossible, Deborah had managed to get her to free the diner and its prisoners, so L’lorne could do good things. She also had thrown Deborah out of the room right before the real fight had begun, and why? To, in some way, protect her, that was all Deborah could figure. Delphi had said L’lorne might be trying to win before the end came, and that seemed possible, so keeping Deborah out of the way would protect her until then at least. If that were true, saving her now wasn’t unthinkable at all, though why she hadn’t thrown Deborah back out of the room was hard to say. There was a third possibility Deborah considered as she put her hand on the ladder: They both did it, together, for their own reasons but as a kind of team. Maybe there was hope for both of them, maybe.

      That last dodge was rather slow for him. L’lorne pulled back and tried to maneuver over a pile of debris and mid creation explosions. He had done that a few times now, that last time was most apparent. Slow was not like Ritch ‘arrd, so it meant something. She shot a quick scan across the room, trying not to make it seem obvious that she wanted a detailed power distribution of Ritch ‘arrd. As expected, he smacked it down quickly, but she had just enough information to build a hypotheses. He was moving slower, not just for immediate actions, but just generally slower. Time state was alright, set even with her currently, but his base speed had dropped by almost 20%. For all practical purposes, he was only minutely faster than she was now.

      Why? He was conserving energy. Actually, it was more like saving it up for another time state boost to match her next one. He generally stayed away from time manipulation, while L’lorne had practiced it frequently. That meant as the levels went higher and higher, it took more and more energy and concentration to push it up to the next level, and without practice, it could take even more. She had expected that he wouldn’t have let the battle go this long, he should have switched to a power setting, triggering the battle that would surly destroy this planet, but he hadn’t. Over next to the diving board, her foot just up on the first rung was Deborah. He was waiting for her, buying her time. Time for what? She didn’t get a chance to consider that as Ritch ‘arrd attacked.

      What about hope for her? What did Deborah have to look forward to after this? She hadn’t considered it much before, at least not since her mother had died. A quarter of the way up the ladder, a hard wind blew past her, fluffing out her coat for a moment. Going home wasn’t much of an option, not unless she wanted to “make a proper living” as Danny always said. She couldn’t and wouldn’t do that, not now not ever. That left either going off on her own, or going with them. Already she could see how L’lorne would treat her: As a replacement child. Maybe she wouldn’t have before, but now, most definitely, and Deborah did not want that. She had a mother, though now dearly departed, and she would be damned if she got another. Any relationship with L’lorne would have to be Deborah’s terms, and that would be very hard.

      Ritch ‘arrd was a different story. What would he need with a game piece if the game was over? More than halfway up the ladder of the high diving board, the obvious though occurred to Deborah: Promotion. The pawn in the game reaches the other side of the board and gets promoted. Deborah would be Ritch ‘arrds new student, that’s what he probably wanted. And what of L’lorne? Death, knowing what she did about him. She didn’t want that, L’lorne had done a lot of terrible things, and probably deserved it, but neither of them should die. No, death wasn’t the answer. Maybe, just maybe, they could all live together, almost like a family. As much as she didn’t want L’lorne to be her mother, or Ritch ‘arrd to be her father, if both were spared, maybe she could help them. As she crawled up onto the diving platform, she finally let her hopes get high. Maybe, just maybe.

---------

Questions

1. What kind of person is Lcorn L'lorne? What does she look like (in your mind)?
2. What kind of person is the Deborah Ignigus? What does she look like (in your mind)?
3. What kind of person is The Ritch 'arrd? What does his human form look like (in your mind)?
4. Does the setting seem fitting? Would you like to know more?
5. The formatting for this section is very different than previous ones, does it make sense or seem difficult to follow?