I am, in fact, still working on chapter 27, and my current outline is for 31 chapters total (+1-2 chapters likely, given my usual word count inflation). So I'm actually getting close to the end. But I'm suddenly busier in Real Life, and also certain things just aren't fitting together quite as neatly as I like, so I'm not sure whether to force my way through and revise, or take a step back and think about it for a while. (Obviously, for the past few days I've been taking the easier route, which is Option B.)
So, while I'm talking about completely unrelated things, apparently much drama can be had by the act of friending or defriending someone on LJ. Read my profile, folks. I actually have different ways of organizing which LJs I read how often, and I don't necessarily friend everyone I like, nor does the fact that I've friended someone necessarily mean that I actually know that person. Sometimes I friend a LJ I find interesting and then "defriend" it when I no longer find it interesting -- or when I've decided to put it in my RSS feeds instead.
Holy crap, one way to feel really old (and back in high school) is to lurk LJ drama threads.
Speaking of feeling old and back in high school, ebilgatoloco has depressed me because I realized that there are now high school teachers who are not as old as some of the Dungeons & Dragons books I have in my closet!
And now I am going to totally go off on a long geeky tangent about role-playing games, Netflix, Torchwood, ereaders, and the secret origin of Alexandra Quick...
My Shameful RPG Past
So the other day, I was in a town I haven't been in for twenty years, and came across a game store. A good-old fashioned Friendly Local Game Store, with board games and puzzles and stuff in the front for the regular off-the-street customers, but in the back.... shelves and shelves of lead miniatures, crunchy wargames simulating the Battle of Thermopylae or the Thirty Years' War or intertribal warfare on the Hawaiian islands, and... role-playing games! And not just the recent stuff like the AD&D flavor of the month and whatever crap White Wolf has put out lately, but old and obscure stuff, too. Old Shadowrun and Torg supplements, the complete run of Champions Sixth Edition, GURPS books that have been out of print for years... they had frikkin' Bushido! They even had some games I'd never heard of, like Qin.
There was a time when there was no such thing as an RPG I had never heard of.
I was totally That Kid in high school. You know, the one who carried around oddly-shaped plastic dice in his backpack, so I'd always be ready for a pick-up game of Dungeons & Dragons?
I'm not quite old enough to have played the original Chainmail, but I did own the original boxed Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (the blue box in the picture above). I think it's safe to say that role playing games significantly affected the development of my imagination and storytelling skills. This can be a good and bad thing -- nothing wrong with RPGs as mediums for creativitiy and storytelling, but it's also easy to get locked into an "RPG mindset" where you are envisioning everything in terms of Character Attributes and Magic Systems and "How the heck did he do that -- it's against the rules!"
You'd be surprised just how deeply this can penetrate into the mindset of long-time gamers. For example, I have been reading Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. I actually plan to do a review of it when I finish the trilogy. I really like it. It's an awesome setting and I love the characters and the powers are cool, and it would make a great roleplaying game -- in fact, the powers and character types and setting are so perfect for an RPG, I will eat my left foot if Sanderson is not a veteran role-playing gamer and wasn't thinking in terms of RPG rules in the back of his mind, if not intentionally, when he wrote it. (And apparently, a Mistborn RPG is already under development.)
Fortunately, he's a good enough writer that the story is still great and not obviously a novelized RPG despite this -- unlike some really awful novels based on RPGs where you can practically hear the dice rolling as you read.
So, want to hear the awful truth about the Alexandra Quick series?
It was originally conceived as an RPG setting.
I don't really game much anymore, but I used to (more online than face-to-face in recent years), and after finishing the Harry Potter series, I thought, "I think running a Harry Potter RPG would be kind of cool. But I don't really want players playing Harry and Hermione, etc. I think I'll do something original. How about setting it at an American magical school?"
I don't know what system I would have used; probably Fudge. But anyway, even as I began the worldbuilding for this setting, I started reading Harry Potter fan fiction (the first fandom for which I had ever done this), and simultaneously, I found myself having neither the time nor inclination to actually go through my original idea of a Harry Potter game. And yet, story ideas were still running through my head. And I thought, "Well, why not try writing a story based on this setting you're creating, instead of running a game?"
From there, though, I became much more focused on characters than settings, and once I conceived of the character of Alexandra Quick (I knew from the beginning I wanted a female protagonist), she just took off with a life and a story of her own, and now I have the entire seven-book epic in my head, which I'm trying to get on the page.
And hopefully my RPGing past has not tainted my writing too much. I do not have "character sheets" for any of my characters. I do of course have extensive author's notes about all of them, but I don't try to rate their attributes and skills and magical abilities; there are no numbers written down anywere describing Alexandra's Intelligence and Agility and Charisma, etc. Nor do I follow any "rules" for how magic works, except those established by canon. I haven't tried to quantify how much "damage" a Blasting Hex does nor how much a Shield Charm can deflect, nor what the maximum range of an Apportation Spell is. Of course I do have a notion of what those limits are, but they all serve the needs of the story.
Yes, I've actually owned and played all of these games
TV Addiction: Netflix + Roku
So I've mentioned Netflix before. I just treated myself to a rare luxury purchase; a new, larger HDTV, because I was tired of streaming movies to my computer. (I typically write, websurf, or do other work on my computer (*cough* Mafia Wars *cough*) while watching TV.) I bought a Roku box to go with it.
Oh, gods. I'm going to need to go to the gym more. :P With broadband Internet, a Roku box, and a Netflix Unlimited plan, I could totally turn into a hikikomori. Roku + streaming movies is awesome, folks! Easy to set up, and I click what I want in my Netflix account, and an instant later, it's there on my TV menu, ready to watch. Plus you can also stream Pandora through your Roku box, and since I have my TV, Roku box, and computer all connected to my home theater system, I get it all in stereo sound. I'm totally geeking out, here.
Pretty cheap, too, all things considered. (Though Radio Shack charged me $35 for a $5 HDMI cable. Bastards.) There are a lot of ways in which I think the future is going to suck, but this is one of the ways the future is awesome: we're going to have more and more content easily delivered to us, instantly at little or no cost. (At least, those of us lucky enough to live in the developed world.)
Right now I am catching up on Torchwood, which I've never actually watched before, other than the odd episode here and there, because it hasn't really made it to the U.S. yet. But like a zillion other TV series, you can stream it instantly from Netflix. So I'm going through season one now. It's okay, though not as good as Doctor Who. I could have done without Ianto's sexed-up Cybergirlfriend. (Really? Cybermen "upgrade" females to wear lamé bikinis?) Also, it seems to me that Torchwood, and Ianto in particular, are already racking up quite a bodycount of innocent civilians getting cacked as a result of them being stupid selfish idiots.
The iPad: Meh
Speaking of content delivery, Apple announced their Next Big Thing yesterday: the iPad.
My reaction: Meh. It looks pretty, but it's basically a cross between a smaller laptop and a larger ereader.
I already have a laptop and an ereader.
For me, the main issue is going to be the availability of ebooks. Although having something smaller and lighter than my laptop to websurf with when I'm away from home would be nice, I also want something I can do work on, and the iPad isn't convenient enough to type on.
On the other hand, one of my complaints about the Sony Reader is not the device itself, but the availability of ebooks. Sony's Reader Store still doesn't have nearly the availability of ebooks that Amazon does. About half the new books I find myself wanting to buy are still not available as ebooks anywhere but Amazon. If Apple can compete with Amazon's selection (or can access Amazon's selection), they probably will kill the Kindle. But I'm still going to wait for a next generation model, preferably one that can switch between e-ink and a backlit LCD screen.