Friday, November 14, 2014

Story Seed - Temple

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The view was breathtaking. Yeddun sucked in air, bone chillingly cold at this high altitude, and stared. After months of trekking up and down the great mountains of the Nammu range he had finally found the lost temple.  Some said that it no longer existed, others that it never had.  Yeddun smiled, knowing that he was right had been easy enough, being able to prove it would be harder.  Even now, having located the Temple of of the Maker, he would need to not only map its location in great detail and with great accuracy, but he would have to return here with others.

For the moment though he felt the satisfaction of proof.  He then realized that seeing the great structure a half mile away was one thing, and setting foot on its holy steps was entirely another thing. He wasn't there yet.

It took three more days to work his way down and then back up to finally stand at the foot of the temple.  His legs trembled with fatigue, his breath now came in ragged gasps. Yeddun pawed through his bag and removed a tiny bottle wrapped in dark leather. After so much time in the mountains he had truly thought this would not be needed, but here, now, this cypher would grant him the ability to reach the end of his quest.  The bitter liquid allowed him to breathe, and finally Yeddun began to climb the steps of the temple and entered it at last.

Inside he allowed his eyes to adjust to the dim light before finally relenting and setting a torch ablaze.  The interior was spartan, almost bare of decoration.  Even the walls were oddly bare of carving or mural.  At the far end of the room, upon a raised dais, stood a great table piled high and overflowing with tablets and scrolls, and a chair, long abandoned. Yeddun mounted the steps and leaned over one of the tablets, eager to read the Maker's own handwriting.

Instead he stood baffled.

The tablets contained only strings of ones and zeroes. Over and over in a seemingly random jumble.


Summary - A long lost temple.  The Maker's own writing's from the creation of the world. For one resident of Ardyen, seeing behind the curtain of creation is not as expected.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Back Issues #8 - TurboSwine!

I think a lot of us build a character from concept through background and stats, and then when it comes time to put a face on the PC, we struggle to find something to match. I'm sure that not everybody does, but often it's how I do things. It was suggested to me that I write something about character art and the creative process. I'm going to go one step further and take a picture and build the PC after the fact. Brace yourselves for the coming of TurboSwine!

Issue #8: TurboSwine!

Author's note: I stumbled on this pic over at the Atomic Think Tank forums. The art was created and is owned by Darren M. A. Calvert (a.k.a. DMAC), you can find his website by clicking on the image.

TurboSwine is the product of an accidental RNA cross mutation resulting from a cancer vaccine trial, and a test program for an Army infantry flight pack. Naturally these two projects had nothing to do with each other except for both being carried out by the Helix Engine Technologies, a start up scientific research company.

Project C.R.A.B. (Cancer Retroviral Antibody Booster) was intended to help the human immune system combat cancer cells within the body. The vaccine would be tailor made for the subject after diagnosis. The Retrovirus would locate the altered cancerous cells and tag them with genetic markers which would allow the human immune system to more successfully target and eradicate them. During trials a primate test sample was accidentally administered to a swine test subject. The pig, cleverly named Wilbur, began to display an adverse reaction to the serum win the first 24 hours. The scientist in charge, as of yet unaware of the mix up, ordered continuous observation of the subject. None of the prior tests had produced this effect and he desired to study it in full. Over the next week Wilbur mutated as the primate DNA was patched into his own primary DNA (and not the cancerous cells as expected). After fourteen days Wilbur was standing on two legs, and learning to speak, his own swine intelligence combining with the boost the primate DNA gave him rendering his mutated brain equal to that of an average human.

The scientists were amazed, and, despite running many tests, treated Wilbur humanely; one of the junior scientists, Adam, even brought a TV and DVD player with him on overnight observation and the two would watch superhero cartoons and films.

It was one such night that the facility found itself under attack by the villain, Iteration Zero, who wanted the HelixEngine's prototype rocket pack for himself. The test lab was next door to what Wilbur now considered his "room," and during the commotion he and Adam went to investigate. Seeing that the security guards needed help against Iteration Zero's armory of stolen gadgets, Wilbur, inspired by the superheroic fare he and Adam watched, jumped into action. He found that his strength and layers of fat helped him to hold his own against the villain.

Seeing that the fight was lost Iteration Zero fled, but Wilbur refused to let the villain escape and quickly donned the experimental flight pack to follow the villain. Their battle, Wilbur with his rocket pack, and Iteration Zero with his stolen prototype motorcycle, took them halfway into the city before Wilbur succeeded in disabling and apprehending the villain. Seeing the success of his actions Wilbur, with Adam's help, escaped with plans for the flight pack (they returned the prototype). Together they built a new turbocharged rocket pack, and created an elaborate costume for Wilbur to wear. TurboSwine was born.


So there you have it, a character concept and background created from nothing but a picture I found scarcely an hour ago. It's silly, sure, but I took what I had to work with and did my best. Next time you are trolling the internets keep an eye out for images that might inspire you to create your next character.

3100+ views and growing!


When I cross posted to Google+ yesterday I saw we'd passed 3000 view, which is awesome, and this morning we are past 3100.  I just want to say thank you to every reader for this little bit of passive encouragement, and an extra thank you to those who take the time to comment, re-share, and discuss for the active encouragement.

So, Thank you.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Story Seed - Siren

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The man gestured with his hands, complex weavings of his fingers. He was young, perhaps twenty five years in age, but his body showed signs of a lifetime of abuse. Scars lined his face, and the limp ragged leg of his pants indicated a leg missing at the knee.  One eye was milky, covered in a cataract of scar tissue that made it as useless for seeing as the man's absent foot was for walking.

"They heard it first. A sound unlike any he could describe. Whatever was making it was beyond the horizon at the time so the men in the crow's nest helped the steersman to navigate. After an hour the sound was louder, and on the horizon they could make out an island with a great structure atop it. The noise continued to call to them, hauntingly beautiful, compelling the captain and crew to sail at best speed."

"Fascinating," the aeon priest remarked.  She was middle aged, and her eyes were steel blue and shot through with glowing lines of green from some enhancement culled from the leavings of the old worlds.  "And when they arrived at the island?"

"He says that they never set foot to land," the elderly fellow at his right said reading the younger man's "water talk".  "The ship was destroyed, before they could get close."

"Destroyed?" the priest asked.

The older man translated, using the sailor's hand language known as water talk to ask the priests questions. After a moment the younger man replied and was translated, "He says that as they neared they could see the structure was formed of golden metal, but as they neared the sound continued to grow in intensity and that though he did not see beam or projectile travel from the island to the ship he feels that the ship was being attacked.  The noise changed, becoming a great boom, like a detonation that continued on over and over growing louder with each passing moment.  It grew too much for him and he jumped into the water hoping to find silence there."

"He thinks that he was spared because he was under the water when the ship blew apart and the crew perished and the sound finally stopped." More signs passed between the two sailors. "He says that after the sound stopped he broke the surface of the water for air and found the ship gone, little but splinters.  He swam away from the island until he was almost ready to succumb to his fatigue.  That was when he found the longboat.  It was not until the next day that it occurred to him that he had been rendered deaf. There was no sound of waves, no ringing in his ears, no sound at all."

The woman scowled and jotted down some new notes in her journal. "No beams, no projectiles," she repeated with a sigh. "Ask him what the building he saw looked like," she told the old man, a hint of and idea scraping the back of her mind.

More signing before the old man answered, "Like a great fork. Two towers rose from a single stalk that rose above the trees reaching high into the sky hundreds of steps."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Behind the Scenes - My Process


I'm taking a week off from Nuts and Bolts this week. I will probably do this more in the future, using Tuesdays for things like reviews, or commentary and eventually longer and multi-part fiction. Hopefully people will still find something to enjoy.

Behind The Scenes - A little history

The majority of this blog is made up of my Story Seeds.  This is intentional as it was the success of this activity and its warm reception within the Numenera and Strange communities on Google+ that made me consider doing a blog in the first place.

I estimate I've created close to 100 of these since I started earlier this year.  The form has changed since I started, initially they were truly just seeds, ideas for adventures for Numenera and then The Strange.  The change from pure idea to short fiction was almost accidental.

I'm a visual person, as many people are, and my process at that time had been something like this:

  • Scour DeviantArt for something interesting
  • Come up with an idea or two that would work for Numenera (and later The Strange)
  • Write a short paragraph or two showing off that idea and the artwork behind it such that other people could use it in a game complete with a ready made visual aid.
  • Post to Google+
When the first few of these went up I had no idea it could become a "thing". 

After a few weeks things settled into a pattern. Three times a week I'd do the above, and it is still at the core of the process but after the Seeds changed format the process also changed.  I'm far more likely to see something that I like but that I don't have an idea for right then and there, than I am to have an idea jump into mind ready to write.  My favorites on DA went from a tiny folder of a few things I really liked to a quickly growing collection of art that I like and I think I can use, but perhaps "not today".  That's my first change: I bank stuff and come back to it time and again. Some eventually become Seeds, some never do and get removed, and others serve to spur me to look at more art from the artist and consider those pieces.

Even when I have an idea sometimes those ideas aren't ready to be written, or prove more difficult than others. My blog has half a dozen drafts in process at any given time.  Some sit for days some for weeks, but regardless I try not to throw out an idea just because it is not proving easy to write at the time.

I'd argue that this is key. Having a fertile bank of ideas in process, and inspiration for more ideas is very important. There is a direct relationship between how quickly I can turn out new Seeds and how much I have in my bank. I suspect that this is probably true of many (maybe even most) writers, but I am one person so I can only speak for myself.

Once I sit down to write things don't always work out as expected either.  I once said that I it felt like what I did was "write, read, erase, repeat".  I don't think that is accurate for the majority, but there are false starts. I try not to get discouraged by these.  If nothing workable is found from this process after an iteration or two, I throw the idea back to the bank.

Even when an idea is working that process still tends to be "write, read, change, repeat".  I self edit as I go, but I wouldn't call this true editing. This process sometimes sees things change more than I expect. The truth is that at times what I start out to write and what makes it to the page are not the same thing.  Sometimes this change is minor, the tone or voice of a piece will shift from first to third person, or to a diary, or go in the opposite direction.  Other times the idea itself changes entirely.

The Slick started out with the intent to be a tale of hunters of some great creature. It ended up significantly different, in part due to in process changes early on, and in part because I continued to see detail in the picture as I wrote.  The way the creature's forward limbs looks like flippers, the way that there was a hint of waves crashing on the shore in the background.  The result of course is something very different from hunters camping in the bones of a kill.

Maybe someday I will find some other picture and the idea of big game hunters of the Ninth World will resurface.  Maybe not. I could have tried to force the story to where I wanted it to go, but I have found that I gain better results when I am willing to change the story to suit the flow of the idea. If something feels like it needs to be changed I change it.

In the end my process now looks more like:

  • Queue up as much art to inspire ideas as I can find
  • Start writing, reading, editing, and repeating
    • Bank ideas that aren't fully formed or are proving difficult
  • Go with the flow of the idea, if it changes I move it with I don't try to resist it.
Of course no matter how much art I have bookmarked, or how many ideas I have saved up, writing isn't always an easy process. I have found that the regular act of writing has made it easier with time.  Practice applies here as well as it would in any sport or other skill.  Writing almost daily (I often take weekends off), has helped to make the ideas flow easier and the writing to come with less effort.  

I suspect that these things will change more as time goes by, but that is where I am at currently. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Story Seed - Obsession

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"Like nested bowls on some abandoned shelf the structure sat.  A forgotten relic of some prior age it showed no respect for time or weather. It proved its creator's master over even the fundamental forces of destruction and creation of the Iron Wind.

"In remote desert dunes it stood making my study of it a chore, a task of true dedication.  There was little water to be found nearby, no sources of food, no settlements for days in any direction.  My studies were conducted piecemeal, days taken out of each year.  Prepared for by gathering both supplies and new knowledge, numeneric cyphers and books of the prior worlds.  I can hardly remember when I found the object.  I know not if it even has function, only that it stands proof against all that oppose it, myself included.

"I was once young, and full of optimism that I would decipher its secrets and prove myself the greatest of the students of the numenera.  Years have worn that enthusiasm away and honed it into the sharp cutting edge of obsession.  I know this, but I refuse to abandon my quest. At times I have taken on apprentices, but my dedication has proven greater than my ability as a master, and greater than the dedication of my would be pupils.

"Seventy years of pilgrimages, of study, of research, and of sacrifices.  No other loves have survived this obsession.  No other subject has proven itself greater than my mind and my will to decipher it.  I am old now, and my life is soon to end. I have failed.

"I can only hope that someday somebody will find these notes and succeed where I have failed."

Jarro sighed, and put his stylus down.  The journal, a hefty book near the end of its allotment of pages, he closed and placed into the chest with an unsteady hand.  He closed the lid and performed the ritual to seal it against the elements. Sighing he then made an effort to climb to his feet on his own.  It came as no surprise to him that he lacked the strength, and even the pain that gripped his chest was no shock to him, though its intensity confirmed that he was not long from the end of his life.

Resigned he activated the harness he wore. A dim red glow behind him accompanied the sense of weight lifting from his shoulders. Still with great effort, and great pain, he rose to his feet, aided by the numenera he wore. He blew out the lamp and extinguished the glow globe, and finally pushed his way through the heavy canvas of his tent into the darkness of night.

Overhead the stars shone and a thin sliver of the moon, only barely perceptible, added a weak wash of light to the land. Even had he been unable to see it he could have walked to it and touched it. The relic. Those ancient bowls of unknown intent. He crossed the hundred feet to stand before his obsession. His nemesis.

He adjusted the numenera again, ensuring it would hold him upright even when his limbs failed and his life ebbed away finally.  He watched the relic with his dying eyes, his faltering heart, his fading life.  Dimness crept into his vision, blackening the edges and creeping ever toward the relic at the center of his vision.

The structure awoke, blue lines blazing to life, and a shimmering field of power rising from the center. The sight drew an uncontrolled surge of emotion and a commensurate physical response.

It could be said that Jarro died of joy.