Own your suck

flexorThis is a little rant I’ve been saving for an occasion…

I’ve never worried about the quality of my work, and not because I know it is perfection and upon reading it, all other writers will throw away their implements, weeping, knowing they will never achieve what I have achieved. No, it’s because I know my writing sucks. I’m not singling myself out here, because everybody’s writing sucks. Yours, mine, that of people who have gotten knighthoods for their writing, people who are entrusting their first few words to a cruel and uncaring Internet, the people who are mentioned first when you ask “Name me a writer”. Everyone’s writing sucks.

The thing is, if you heed the right feedback, both positive and negative, you will learn the things you are doing right (and do more of it), and the things you are doing wrong (so you can avoid them like an overused cliche). One’s writing will never stop sucking, but with careful feeding and watering and sunlight, it will suck at higher and higher levels. The stupid things you no longer do will be more and more advanced.

And the weirdest thing is, you can have something that sucks really, really badly, such as “The Eye Of Argon” (In Tale the Second I poke a little fun at it), or “The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay”, and people will really enjoy it. How many authors can claim that their work even now is being read aloud? And being remembered for a very long time…



Can’t believe I never posted this here…

This, I wrote as a response to someone complaining about the sometimes extremely outlandish characters you find Role Playing in Azeroth some times. I thinkl it is over on AO3, and LiveJournal of course. But it wasn’t here. Click! Enjoy!

Josie: The rarest mage in the world

Adventures into Steampunk

In case you have been wondering what I’ve been up to lately: I have been writing in an entirely different setting. I have started to chronicle the expeditions from Algernon University, Ipswich. The first book in the series is up on the net – free to download!

The Algernon Expeditions: The Mysterious Ore

If you like my Azeroth fic, give the Algernon Expeditions a try.

Seanan McGuire on fanfic

Edit: The universe is trying to do my head in. I still don’t know how I silly-walked into Seanan’s piece on Fanfic, but only after I published this, I noticed it was from 2012. Way to go, necro-threader… And then, in my LJ feed, up pops this post by Seanan. On the subject of Fanfic. Really? What’s going on?

So. Seanan McGuire, writer of many many books of Urban Fantasy, whose soul linked sister is Mira Grant for purposes of the Undead, has written a piece on FanFiction and she loves it. Basically, writing FanFic is a training ground for the real thing, and it’s a good way to train. I have always had the knack of running conversations between people in my head, but until I started playing WoW, I never actually wrote them down. (Though I have written of all things Travian fanfic about the eternal struggles between the meat-loving Gaulish footmen and the vegan druid riders. If you must know, search for my LJ. I stopped writing that because Travian sucks as a game). Seanan is right that it doesn’t teach you to build a world, but it does let you practice on characters. As for settings, that is what my new series, The Algernon Expeditions, is there for. People will wander round Ipswich wondering where Algernon University actually is.

Seanan points out that Fanfic gives you the freedom to write what you want, and never care about whether there’s an audience for it. O yes. I once got a whole bunch of material from Diane Duane as preparation for a writer’s workshop at the UK Discworld Convention that unfortunately got canned because Life happened to Diane and Peter Morwood, and they were unable to attend. One of the things that I remember is that A.C. Doyle told you to think on what you are writing for: Money, pleasure, or art. And that influences your writing. Seanan writes for money. Which is not to say that there’s no art or pleasure to her writing, but if her books don’t sell, then her cats don’t get fed, and they will eat her. So in the back of her head, there is constantly the thought of “Will my fans like this?” and she can’t risk alienating a huge swathe of them. Me, I write mostly for pleasure. My own pleasure, that is. Which means that somewhat egoistically, the person who really has to be pleased with my writings is me, and anyone else who enjoys my witterings is a side benefit. Now I do aim for sellable quality in my writings, because I want to be a professional-quality writer even if I’m currently strictly amateur. But what I cannot do is allow these stories to become anything more than a vague “gosh, I ought to write a bit more Ariciel, haven’t done that in a while” type thing. That would make it Work, which would make it a source of stress,  and that would make it Not Fun Anymore.

Finding your voice, as Seanan says, (Note that I am avoiding the “Seanan points out” phrase here because that would echo with the previous paragraph, and unintentional echos are bad), is very important to your identity as a writer. My day job involves writing technical documents that have to clue people up on shit they need to know. I spent loads of time finding it out, and if I mess up the write-up, my friends and colleagues will have to waste their time finding it out for themselves. Writing, in my opinion, is the vehicle that transports my thoughts into someone else’s head. So I need that vehicle to be, variously, a heavy goods vehicle, or a convertible with the hood open, allowing you to take in the scenery. Pretty phrases be damned. If I need you to understand why the heroes are running, then I need to tell you it’s a long way from the Valley of Heroes to Stormwind Harbour. As a result, you won’t find much flowery language in my writings. (I hope). I’m fairly business-like in my fic, and conversely, display a little sense of humour in my technical docs.

I agree with Seanan that fanfic is an expression of love for the source material. In some cases, quite literally. I have a whole section (Snippets) on here of stories I wrote where I nicked other people’s characters for my own vile purposes, simply because I liked the characters and wanted to play with them a bit. In Arwen’s case, this grew to some 20K words, because after Thunderpetal, I wanted to check in on my characters to see if they were OK. With your fellow fic writers, you can do that more or less with impunity and as long as you don’t go round claiming them as your own, they will usually like it.

Which brings me to Seanan’s last point: Her characters are feeding her, and for reasons of Copyright and Story Integrity, she can’t allow people to mess around with them. There are very sound legal reasons for that. Everything about Toby Daye Seanan writes, has to be her own work, and not that of some unknown fic writer. Even the most vague idea that ends up in someone’s fic before it arrives in Seanan’s work, is potential dynamite. I would love to know Terry Pratchett’s opinion on my little Ariciel/Angua piece, but I can’t have it. Terry, and Seanan, can’t take the risk of me claiming ownership (and money) for something of mine that somehow ended up in their work, even if they had already thought of it long before I ever did.

Well that was fun!

ani_aricielSo… Having joined the Heroes of Azeroth, we finally got round to running a few dungeons together. Lining up for the action this evening, were Petrius the Warrior, Seashell the Mage and Ariciel the Beartankdruid. This, ladies and gentlemen, was a roflstomp, even for Ariciel in her shoddy trousers. We started out in the Stormstout brewery, and got to battle a bewildering number of Virmen, Hozen and Ale-mentals (yes, I do see what you did there, I just didn’t think it was very funny).  The ghostly Pandaren lying around there were just as sloshed in death as they were in life, and hardly seemed to miss the mortal coil they’d just shuffled. After that, we went through the Jade Temple like a whirlwind.  Finally, we pushed through the Mogu-shan palace and started the mother of all bar fights.

Let’s be clear on this, we were ridiculously over-geared for this run, and we could pretty much ignore any of the game mechanics. Still, this was our first run together as the Guild, so it was nice to see how people reacted and worked. Next time, heroic? By that time, I should also be able to arrange for voice comms.

And another thing, I noticed that I had forgotten to install Threat Plates after the system reinstall. Must rectify this as soon as possible.

All in all, a nice relaxed and fun introductions to the interesting and educational places in Pandaria. Would run again!

A biting matter…

aricielSo, the next expansion of WoW is going to be nice – hope my old computer can pull it. I may have to get a whole new one sometime soon. But be that as it may, the new Night-elf female model was revealed recently, and while these girls are definitely gorgeous, there’s one pointy issue.

Fangs. Ariciel is getting fangs! Now from an aestetic viewpoint, I’m not against this. Make ’em look fierce! Night-elves are not to be messed with. But in all these years, I haven’t noticed them, so I didn’t put anything about them in my stories. And one would notice, I think. Ariciel does smile a lot, and fangs would definitely give her smile a bit of an edge. Also, one would notice it while osculating, I believe (even though in my little stories, you have to teach Elves to kiss as they do something else among themselves). Anyway, this is what it looks like as shown by Chris G Robinson:

Night elf with cute little fangs

Night elf with cute little fangs

A lovely lass, but… yeah. I never mentioned Ariciel’s fangs before. How am I going to fit them into future stories? Ignore them? Do Night-elves only grow them when they turn thirty? Milk teeth falling out kind of thing?

Answers on a postcard.

The Other Place…

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a new story in town, though it is not based in Azeroth. It’s my first book in a universe all my own, and it is called:

The Algernon Expeditions: The Mysterious Ore.

This series of stories shows the expeditions undertaken by a small, fictitious university based in Ipswich, England. The first expedition takes our adventurers into Africa, searching for a previous expedition that has gone missing. If you like my writing about my characters in Azeroth, do try it.

I want hits! I want visitors! I want comments!

Eyes I dare meet in dreams

A while ago, I asked someone what would happen if ever she met the characters she wrote. Her words were: “They would murder me. To death.” So I thought on it and 2600 words just happened…


It was the middle of the night, and the Chronicler lay fast asleep, safe in his home. A light shone, voices were heard.

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Slough – a rebuke

There’s this Poem by John Betjeman , a kind of ode to Slough, but in reverse. So I look up a few readings of the poem on youtube, and all of them seem so… insipid. Muted. “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough. If you don’t mind terribly, you know, whenever it’s convenient.” If you’re going to rant, put some wellie into it, why don’t you. Now town planning has hit Slough instead of the bombs, and it’s a normal, average, English city now. So there’s a counter-poem to Mr. Betjeman’s poem, written as part of a contest by a school girl, but it’s too nice. “Please Mr. Betjeman, it’s much better now… if you take a look?”

Sod that.

So here’s my personal rebuke. Feel free to perform it, but flying spittle is mandatory.

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Bannog is back!

Bannog of Caer BannogWell, that’s one problem solved. Bannog is now sporting Timeless gear from top to toe, and a shiny new pole arm. I’ve now also taken the trouble to gem and enchant everything in sight (which is a bit of a bloodletting). Then I came back to the Timeless Isle to try out what effect this has on his performance.  All I can say is, he no longer needs to be ashamed in the face of his girlfriend, as yesterday, Recount showed he’s pushing twice as much DPS as she is, in some cases shooting up to 100K DPS. And he should, being a dedicated hacker. He can now take on the fire-cows at the end of the bridge, if sufficiently buffed with those Timeless Isle buffs. Now and then, though, he still runs out of rage, especially with the shield cows. This is no doubt due to him not doing enough white damage. I suppose this is a good indication of what he’d do in a raid. So now I suppose it’s Griggin’s time to gear up. It’s been such a long time since I played Griggin that I am not even tracking his actions in WeakAuras. That’s on the todo list for tonight, I think.