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Worlds in miniature December 2, 2017

Posted by thejinx in art.
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I’ve recently discovered the joy of (gaming) miniature painting. So, I thought I’d share my progress here. Most of these figures are from Star Wars: Imperial Assault. For those who aren’t familiar with it, these minis are about 1.5″ tall.

Gaarkhan

Loku

Imperial officers

Verena Talos

Imperial probe droids

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Medical droid MHD-19

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Gideon Argus

And my latest, R2-D2 (I used a wash for the first time on him, to give him that “seen a lot of action” look)

I also painted an expansion mini for Super Dungeon Explore, ninja Cola (I did not paint the base on this one)

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Words left behind October 16, 2017

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, writing.
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It takes a lot of work to write a novel.

All authors say that, but how can a reader understand what that means? Some authors throw out numbers like it took X hours of work, or X months or years. And yet, as a reader, one might look at one author who releases one book every five years, and another who releases a dozen in the same time, and wonder why the first can’t match the second. Especially with series. The world and characters are already established, right? Shouldn’t it be easier?

I think the true measure of what’s involved in writing a novel is in all the work you don’t see. Agonizing for hours over a single word. Dialogue rewritten ten times or more. Entire backstories, enough to write short stories or even other novels, for characters who appear only in one chapter. Characters, scenes, entire plot points that an author loved that had to be scrapped. The way it’s constantly on your mind – on a bus, at a grocery store, at a party, at your day job.

For Enduring Chaos, I wrote over 300,000 words that ended up in the trash before it came to the point it is now. At this point, the tally for the series overall is at least 400,000 deleted words. The first book went through three complete, start-to-finish drafts of which nothing remained in the published book. At least two scenes in the final draft were completely rewritten four or five times.

Hours upon hours of research, probably enough to fill a full-time job for a week at least. Conversations with half a dozen different people just for information on horses – some for no other reason than to determine a particular horse’s size, merely for the sake of a single comparison in the book. Research on weaving and weather patterns and etymology and much more. An hour-long conversation with my resident expert, along with taking over a page of notes, about the behaviour of a character who has exactly one spoken line.

I have pages of notes keeping track of the timeline and the distances characters have crossed. I have my own private wiki for notes on the series – characters, locations, artifacts, and more. I have notes everywhere – on my computer, my tablet, my phone, a notebook by my bedside, the cloud. I have pages of notes written for a single scene – and I’ve done that multiple times. I have pages of notes about the backstories that inform each character’s decisions. I even have pages of notes I never kept – writing down dialogue or actions as I was working it out, only to delete it when that conversation passed, or never even happened on page.

And then there’s the unwritten work. Character sketches and maps. Planning out movement during battle scenes. Those thoughts always on my mind. Hours of conversation with my husband about aspects of the book. Hours spent in so many sessions of staring at the screen, working out in my mind how a scene will go. Determining the impact of a certain event upon a character. Thinking. So much time spent inside my own head.

How do you quantify that?

Well… you don’t. A reader only gets the finished book, and a writer has to accept that that’s all most people will see. Sure, you can discuss the writing process at conventions or meet-and-greets, bemoan the struggles of editing with other writers, friends, family, or other witting or unwitting audiences, or write how-to articles or blog posts about it, but the truth is, no one is really going to appreciate the scope of how much work went into your novel except you.

As an author, it’s just part of the job. Writing means rewriting, and it means a lot of writing that will never be seen, not necessarily because it’s not good enough, but because it’s not necessary. We do this and we suffer through deleting words we adored time and again because it’s part of the process.

Because we love writing.

But don’t mistake that for meaning it isn’t hard work.

Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 3 August 24, 2017

Posted by thejinx in conventions, life.
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And the conclusion of my Gen Con gaming posts. Read on for Pinball Showdown, The Sword of Zaldor: A Fantasy Escape Room, and Here, Kitty, Kitty!

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 2 August 22, 2017

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Since my first Gen Con games wrap-up post ended up being so long, I decided to break it up into separate posts per day of gaming. So, without further ado, here is my summary of my Friday gaming.

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Gen Con 50 games wrap-up part 1 August 22, 2017

Posted by thejinx in conventions, life.
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20863249_10155060707918155_8257465401688659497_oGen Con has been my favourite convention/festival since the first time I went there seven years ago. It’s always been my best event for sales and the atmosphere is so welcoming. The tens of thousands of gamers who descend upon Indianapolis are the friendliest bunch of geeks I’ve had the pleasure to be with. And unlike even other massive fan events, the celebration of geekdom spreads well beyond the convention centre and takes over all of downtown Indianapolis. It is the most inviting place for a gamer to be.

There’s one thing I’ve been doing wrong most of the years that I’ve gone, however. I keep missing the point: the games.

Usually, the gaming I take in at Gen Con is an unplanned scramble of trying to find something to play (a rather daunting problem for someone bad at improvisation), without knowing a vast majority of the games there and often not having any company to do so (a fairly insurmountable problem for an introvert). This goes about as well as one might expect. Not to say that I haven’t done my share of gaming there, but it tends to come about more as a happy accident* than through any effort on my part.

This year, I decided to change that pattern. I thoroughly perused the event catalogue and made selections that I submitted the moment event registration opened, scheduling my Thursday through Saturday evenings full up.

It was absolutely the right idea for me. Even though I was strapped for time getting to all my events, I felt much more at ease having a set schedule and I got to try out a number of new games. I didn’t feel like I missed out on the true fun of Gen Con, as I do sometimes when I struggle to find something to play (and often don’t manage to).

In fact, I enjoyed the games I took in this weekend so much that I wanted to write up a summary of them while details are still fresh in my mind. Thursday’s results follow; Friday and Saturday will come in later posts. Due to length and the fact that this is only really of interest to me, the rest is hidden behind the cut tag.

* speaking of happy accidents, have you heard about the new Bob Ross game?
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Another avian interlude August 1, 2017

Posted by thejinx in photography.
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Owl pictures taken at a Harry Potter event at my local library, everything else taken in Niagara Falls, Ontario on 30 July 2017.

Some summer July 18, 2017

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A few pictures I’ve taken in the last month or so (I’m trying to get better about posting).

On ‘borrowing’ June 29, 2017

Posted by thejinx in life, writing.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about cultural appropriation lately. It is a serious problem, I recognize that. But I also think that, unlike a number of so-called SJW crusades, arguments over it do go too far sometimes. Like a ‘get your picture taken in a period-style kimono’ exhibit at a Boston museum that was removed over too many complaints – despite members of the local Japanese-American community counter-protesting to keep it up.

I read a blog post a while back that resonated with me for a single line in it: straight people aren’t allowed to say what’s homophobic, men aren’t allowed to say what’s sexist, and white people aren’t allowed to say what’s racist. That made absolute sense to me. But would it also apply the other way? What does it say when white Americans rail against whitewashing more than the people supposedly being marginalized?

If I was married today, would I get complaints of cultural appropriation for my cheongsam-style wedding dress? (It was white. I obviously wasn’t trying to rip off a Chinese wedding.)

But again, it’s not up to me. Maybe I would’ve been in the wrong to wear that dress; maybe I was in the wrong. I wasn’t trying to disrespect or even emulate Chinese culture by wearing it. I just liked the style better than typical western wedding dresses and thought it more flattering on me.

I love learning about different cultures. I find it fascinating to see how people very different from me live their lives – their fashion, their food, their beliefs, their values, and on and on. And something I have come to learn is that it is immensely fun to both read and write about people very different from me.

That fact may come as a mild surprise to those who have read my novels, which (so far) don’t branch out very far from Tolkienesque 12th-century Britain-based fantasy or modern-day North America. But I want to. I wrote a novella last year starring a character from a nomadic society very loosely inspired by Romani, and I absolutely loved it. The part I’m currently writing for my next book features a number of different peoples all of which are very different from me. It’s been immense fun building these cultures and figuring out the characters’ roles in these societies.

However, I’m constantly wondering – will this be seen as disrespectful? Yes, these are completely fictional societies, and a lot of their development comes from natural progression based on location/climate/access to resources, but the fact is they’re not coming out of a vacuum. I find inspiration here and there from various cultures on our Earth, both because I find it interesting and because it suits these cultures and lends authenticity to them.

I’m not trying to make a medieval Mongolian or Mayan or Russian society in my novel; I start with pieces of one or several source cultures and work it into the world I’ve already developed. But all the same, I am borrowing from existing cultures, and is that problematic?

Today I was writing a scene in which a character reads the (magic) energy of the world. After some research I decided I liked the term prana for what she is sensing. But then I wondered – would people object to me using an Indian/Sanskrit term for a character whose society is more Pacific Islander influenced?

Am I splitting hairs, or is this a genuine concern I should be having? On the one hand, I absolutely agree that colonialism has resulted in appropriation that has undermined and demeaned other cultures through callous use of elements with deep sociological meaning to marginalized societies, and I should think carefully any time I “borrow” anything from another culture. On the other hand, where does it stop? Is it considered appropriation for me to cook a teriyaki stir fry dinner, or get henna on my wrist at a festival, or braid my daughter’s hair?

Earlier this year, the now-former editor of the Writers Union of Canada caused a lot of controversy when he recommended white authors incorporate more cultural appropriation into their writing, even as far as to suggest an “appropriation prize”. That comment was in extremely poor taste and emblematic of the issue… but I agree with the point he was trying to make. It’s boring and stifling to have white writers only write about white people. More to the point, writing is a way for us as humans to expand our minds and make sense of the human condition. In that regard, and especially considering white authors have such a stronger voice in current society, I would almost say it’s a duty of the white writer to step outside the box she lives in, as long as it’s done respectfully. We live in a multicultural society; is it not problematic to only write about your own race and culture? Good writing, writing that understands the world we live in, should either include or address multiculturalism.

But again, it’s not up to me. This is a highly complex issue, and one that’s unfortunately saturated with centuries of erasure and abuse.

Ultimately, I think the solution is to listen more to marginalized cultures on topics of cultural appropriation – both when it’s wrong, and when it’s not.

An avian interlude May 25, 2017

Posted by thejinx in photography.
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Some pictures from Point Pelee National Park in Ontario, the southernmost part of mainland Canada. As is probably obvious, the place is known as a hot spot for migrating birds, and this Monday, 23rd May 2017, was at the tail end of the annual Festival of Birds.

For these pictures, I tried acting like a real photographer and shot in RAW format for the first time, including post-processing. Alas, my telephoto lens simply doesn’t take pictures as sharp as my other lenses, so despite the extra work, they don’t look quite as good as other unprocessed pictures I’ve taken (which would be nearly everything I post here). It was an interesting experiment and I did learn a few things as a result, however.

And to round it all off, here’s a couple panorama pictures I took with my phone. Naturally, these, particularly the first one, are shockingly sharp and high-res, especially considering the full-size images are 30% of the original size.

 

An entomological interlude May 1, 2017

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Pictures taken 23 April 2017 at the butterfly conservatory in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.