Astrea Alexandra Universe Re-Imagined

The second thing I’ve been doing since finishing my novel is I’ve been preparing for a science fiction series starring Astrea Alexandra by doing a lot of world building.  Not much of my recent work has been on character backgrounds or the like, but on the development of the universe of the stories itself.

My ideas have evolved significantly.  My original concept (I have a scene for it written out, which I might post someday) looked a lot like a cross between Andromeda Ascendant and Star Trek.  The series was set in the Andromeda Galaxy and ships flew in classic space opera style (that is, they got to speed instantly and had to run their nuclear reaction-based engines all the time in order to maintain speed in the presence of space friction).  However, since then I’ve made the decision to set the story in the Milky Way, with human controlled space centered on Earth.  This forced me to find a way to link our history with the history of interstellar civilization in the story.  It’s also forced me to use real stars.  Fortunately, I’ve found a program called AstroSynthesis which is just perfect for this.  I can plug known stellar data into it and have it randomly generate scientifically plausible star systems, which I can modify at will, creating a map of the story’s universe.

I’ve also decided to go with a reactionless drive based on artificial gravitation (basically the ship and everything in it accelerates by “freefalling” through space in a desired direction) and have ships obey Newtonian physics during spaceflight rather than fiddling around with space friction.  Both of these have introduced significant changes.

Now that the ships use “grav drives”–and the properties of grav drives have been worked out–they look very different.  All ships are basically cigar shaped now and only use their propulsion systems to accelerate or change orientation instead using them constantly.  Since ships can accelerate in many different directions freely, they have no hard-and-fast “front” and “rear”–though convention still gives them a bow and stern and has them traveling with one of these pointed in the direction of flight most of the time.  Decks are arranged to be perpendicular to the length of the ship (so that it’s like a giant cigar-shaped tower) to resolve any imbalance of forces from artificial gravity (ex: everyone is on the upper decks, and their combined weight creates a net force on the structure of the ship) along the vessel’s flight path rather than across it (where such forces would deflect the vessel from its course–and in space even a deflection of a few degrees could mean a miss of millions of miles).  Due to the working out of what environmental artificial gravity (keeping the crew’s feet on the ground, separate device from the grav drive) looks like, decks are arranged in alternating pairs with Deck 1’s “up” being “down” on Deck 2, etc (which also balances the weight of the crew).

Warships in combat however will engage each other flying sideways through space, as this broadside-facing allows them to employ the maximum number of weapons at once and allows sensors mounted in the bow and aft sections to be used to triangulate targets.  By tradition the best armor, shielding, and weapons are mounted on the dorsal broadside and the more sensitive systems (cooling systems, magazines, fuel storage, hanger bays, etc) are mounted on the ventral broadside.  All of this has vastly changed my concept of what the Astrea Alexandra will look like and how she will fight.  They will definitely still employ antimatter warheads over obscene ranges of a light minute or more (but then again, space is big–why shoot the other guy from a few meters away, a la DS9, when you could hit him with guided missiles from a few million kilometers away?), though due to the increasing efficiency of point-defense lasers over the last few thousand kilometers (where missiles going for a hit must become less evasive and the lag time is increasingly small) a direct hit on a modern warship will be very rare.  All warheads will instead be designed to focus the gamma radiation of their blasts forward into a beam fired from stand-off range.  Ships will use loose formations to concentrate and coordinate their defensive fire and increase the number of offensive missiles coming at a target from the same vector, with several classes of ship (the frigate and especially the missile-destroyer and destroyer escort) existing exclusively for that purpose.  Macross Missile Massacres are the order of the day, but are modest in size, even in universe, prevailing military thought being that higher quality missiles with longer range and greater firepower are better than swarms of lower quality missiles.

Though the vision needs much fleshing out, my current thought is that the story will look a lot more like a dystopian Honor Harrington novel than an episode of Star Trek–and also that the warships in this universe will be able to easily take on warships from most other space opera (I like to compare their military performance to that of other ships and try to figure out how they would have handled the various combat situations in science fiction–and mostly they would win hands down due to being able to stand-off most other ships in scifi, which engage each other at ranges of 1 light second or less: knife-edge fighting for ships in this universe).

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Completed Manuscript and Other Ventures

Well, if you’ve seen me on Facebook, you probably know that I completed my manuscript for The Sword of the Princess as of May 17.  If not I finished it!!!! Whoot!!!

The Sword of the Princess weighs in at 73 chapters and roughly 287,000 words.  It’s a large book, no question, but not nearly as large as the huge font and double spacing led me to believe (those combine to make it nearly 1,400 pages with an average chapter length of around 20 pages–but in regular font and single-spaced formatting that average length comes down to 9 pages and the total length comes down appreciably to an estimated 600 pages).  It’s the largest thing I’ve ever written and I’ve been working on it since sophomore year of college, so roughly four years?  I’m definitely relieved to have it finished.

The Sword of the Princess is  the first of a planned series of “Sword of” books.  Now that it’s done, the first four books of the series all have complete drafts.  Unfortunately, I wrote the last three of these books before realizing that The Sword of the Princess needed to be written and was the best place to start the series.  As a result of this and changes that happened during the process of writing this story, the other three sequels will require complete re-writes.  Those I will get to as soon as Sword of the Princess nears the end of its editing.

Now the question I keep getting asked is this: “Do you plan on publishing your book?”  The answer is a resounding yes!  However, I will not publish the book right away.  It still needs copyediting and at least some revisions.  In order to be able to look at it with fresh eyes, I’ll be setting it aside for some time.  During that time, though, I welcome input from any beta readers.  I’m preparing a beta version for release to anyone who’s interested in checking out the book and providing feedback.  Anyone who provides feedback will receive a free copy of the final book when it is published.  If you are interested in being a beta reader, please contact me!  Just type “I want to be a beta reader” (or something like that) into the contact form below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible (and no, I will not share your information with third parties: I get enough spam myself to know how annoying that is).


And it is going to be published!  I’ve received various suggestions for courting traditional publishers, but my internship in one such publisher and my research into the industry in general leads me to think that self-publishing is a much better route.  The self-publishing process is faster, virtually risk free, and allows a writer to profit even off of very little sales.  With good promotion and good material, a self-published novel can do just as well as a traditionally published novel, and may even attract the attention and acquisition of a large publishing firm.  While I’m still weighing my options, my current leaning is toward either Lulu.com or Amazon.  Either way, the book will mainly be for ebook, but will also be available in print on request.

Of course, the book was completed nearly two months ago.  So what have I been up to since?  Well, the first answer is preparing the book for beta release by adding a glossary with hyperlinks to aid in navigation within the glossary, as well as finding the right entry quickly (I wanted it to be so that if you’d forgotten what character or setting a name went with, you could just click on a link and be brought to their entry in the glossary, which would give you a brief refresher).  Coding internal links took longer than I’d expected, but I’m pleased with the end result.

The second and third answers really deserve posts of their own…

The Secret Letters

The following letters were found in the mailbox of one Ryan Tyrel, who owns a ranch in Colorado.  Mr. Tyrel has been missing for several days and was last seen in Walsenburg talking to a man in a business suit.  Witnesses say they had never seen the man before and that he talked with a British accent.  Local authorities have concluded their search and believe Mr. Tyrel made an unexpected trip to London to visit his daughter, Ally, who is studying abroad there.  However, our office has been unable to uncover any records for flight or plane tickets for Mr. Tyrel.  Also, the records of the University of the Arts in London indicates that Miss Tyrel disenrolled several days ago.  A check of her apartment revealed significant property damage to the interior, indications of major power-surges and several small fires, but no sign of Ally Tyrel herself.  Our investigation is ongoing, but from these letters the situation may be more serious than we’d initially suspected.  It seems that Mr. Tyrel’s daughter has become involved in the Secret World.

September 26

Dear Dad,

I’m getting settled in at my new apartment here in London.  I thought I’d send you my address first thing so we can keep in touch, since you don’t do email.  I also can’t help but hope you’ll find a way to send a little something to help with my housewarming.  Some homemade cookies would be nice.  Haha!

You wouldn’t believe how big this place is!  The city is amazing.  It goes on for miles and miles it seems in every direction and it has everything in it, universities, libraries, restaurants, historical sites—so many historical sites!—parks, you name it.  There are some things I definitely miss, though.  There’s no countryside here, and I miss the mountains…and my horse, too!  At least I have Blizzard to keep me company.

Anyway, I hope this letter reaches you alright, and I hope the postage for a reply doesn’t kill us both!

Love,

Ally

~~~

October 3

Dear Dad,

Haha!  Curse you, Atlantic Ocean!  You kept me from cookies!

No, the apartment isn’t big.  It’s just three rooms: bedroom, bathroom, and a living room/kitchenette.  I guess it seems big to me since it’s the largest space I’ve ever had to myself, but it’s really tiny compared to home.  What I meant to say is that the city of London is big: big city, small apartment, short little Ally Tyrel living in both of them.

How dare you say such things about my cat!  You take them back, mister!  Them’s fightin’ words.  Haha!  But seriously, Blizzard actually handled the transition alright.  As soon as I let him out of his carrier he went exploring and found the couch.  He picked out his favorite spot in the corner and he won’t share.  He’s already figured out enough of the apartment to escape on me once, though.  He didn’t do anything serious, just followed me to the park on my jog, but I learned I need to be careful to lock him up in the future, and especially check the fire-escape…from there he could get anywhere!

Class is going fine, but I’ve been feeling a little…strange lately.  I get headaches sometimes and they don’t seem to go away until I jog them out…like I’m working out some kind of bad blood.  It’s weird, I know, but it gets stranger.

It all started about four days ago.  I had this really weird dream where it was like I was on some rocky beach at the end of the world, standing there in the rain.  There were these voices talking about “the end of days” and how I could stand with them or against them or something.  Then a lady all in white and a man all in black came and were talking over each other trying to tell me about the voices being bad or good, and then they opened their hands and all these bees came out and started flying around me and then down my throat..and when I woke up I felt like I was actually choking on something!

The weirdest part was that right after the dream I reached for my bathrobe and I swear it lit itself on fire…I saw blue fire all over it, but then I concentrated on the flames and “poof” they were gone.  The bathrobe was just fine, too, so it must have been a part of the dream…but it seemed so real.  Anyway, after that dream, the headaches started, and when I have the headaches sometimes I hear voices muttering some gibberish I can’t quite make out, about honey and bees.

Anyway, hopefully I’ll get over whatever this is soon.  Till then, I’ll just be doing a lot more jogging, I guess.  Hope this letter finds you well.

Love,

Ally

~~~

October 7

Dear Dad,

Please excuse the smudges and the charred edge.

I don’t want you to worry, but…well, this is going to be really hard to explain.  I hope you’ll understand though.  You always said there was more to this world than meets the eye…I guess you just never expected me to be a part of that

Remember how I told you I swore I saw my bathrobe burst into flames after that dream?  Well, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a part of the dream.   The headaches have been getting worse.  I’ve been going on longer and longer jogs, but it doesn’t seem to help much anymore.

A few days ago things started to happen whenever I’d get headaches really bad.  Strange things.  Objects would fly across the room away from me.  Fire and lightning would burst from my hands.  I know it’s unbelievable, but you’re holding the proof.  This is what’s left of my notebook, after I managed to put it out…not with the fire extinguisher–that ran out ages ago–but by calling the fire back into my hand, into me.  There’s no other way I can describe it.

If you needed further proof, my apartment is an absolute mess.  Looks like a warzone.  Three days ago I spent the whole day holed up in my apartment, wearing my old sweattop.  The headaches were unbelievable and whatever this power is, I couldn’t control it at all.  My place is absolutely trashed from fireballs and lightning and some stuff I don’t even know how to describe.

Blizzard was smart and ran off before the headaches got this bad.  I haven’t seen him all week.  I don’t blame him.  Right now he’d have a better chance against a car than with whatever this is going on with me.

I am learning to control it, though.  A couple days ago I was able to focus the energy, make it a ball of light and juggle it, like it was just a harmless toy.  The headaches subsided for a few hours after that.  Seems like if I use these powers deliberately the headaches stop and I’m not a walking bomb of God-knows-what looking for a place to go off.  That’s why I’m able to write this letter now, ‘cause about an hour ago I blew up what was left of my boombox with lightning and then threw it away.  I feel perfectly normal now…though it does not seem normal to be writing those words, not at all.  “I blew it up with lightning?”  My God, what’s happened to me?

I appreciate your prayers.  Please keep them coming.  I can’t go to school or anything like this.  There’s too much risk of loosing control, but I’m learning.  Maybe someday it will just go away, but that doesn’t seem likely.  Until then, I have to learn to control it…without blowing things up.

-Ally

~~~

October 8

Dear Dad,

I definitely appreciate your prayers.  I think maybe God has answered them.

This morning a lady in a white business shirt knocked on my door out of the blue.  Before I could stop her, she was inside, looking at all this mess…but she didn’t seem surprised.  She just said, “Let me guess, bee problem?  There’s a lot of that going around.”  It was as if she knew about the bee dream and everything, about the voices, the powers…It was such a relief to have someone who understood.

She said she was recruiting for a secret organization called (you’ll laugh when you hear this one, but I’m serious) the Templars.  She said if I joined fighting against the a rising darkness in the world, harnessing my powers for good.  But the best thing she offered I think was a way to control them.  If I can control these powers, use them for something constructive (rather than trashing my apartment with them) that would be wonderful.

She gave me a letter with instructions on how to get to their headquarters.  She assured me that, if I joined, their organization would take care of the loose ends.  She did warn me though that other people might be attracted to my powers and they might not be “as accommodating” as the Templars.

The directions say to go to Ealdwic, one of the oldest quarters in London.  I’m going to go there tomorrow morning, as soon as I’m feeling alright…you know, no headaches, no lightning.  It may be a dead end with a pack of crazies—it certainly sounds crazy—but if they can help this nightmare end and put it to good use, it’ll certainly be worth it.

Keep praying for me!

Ally
~~~

October 10

Dear Dad,

Just writing to let you know how things are going with the Templars and my headaches and stuff.  Actually, I have some pretty good news.

I went down to Ealdwic in the morning, like I said I would in my last letter.  I went jogging, ‘cause I was still feeling a little headachy (but not quite lighting-from-hands kind of headachy).  Anyway, they have this whole part of the city under police cordon, but a police detective named Shelley let me through.  She wasn’t too pleased to hear I was going to the Templars.  It seems she blamed them for a lot of the crazy that was going on, and she referenced the Tokyo incident, the subway bombing near Orachi Tower (I’m sure you’ve heard of it; it’s been all over the news here for weeks).  She told me, “That’s what happens when your new crowd lets things get out of hand.”  But she did say I would be safe in Ealdwic.

I didn’t believe her about Orachi Tower at first, but maybe there’s something to it.  The news has been saying it was a bomb or a biological agent released in the subways, but there’ve been scattered reports of civilians in the subway fighting armed Orachi Security personnel.  I never put much stock in those reports (though I’m sure you would have), until yesterday.  There was a strange man speaking down by the subway…excuse me, the tube station, here…and while I was listening to him my headaches suddenly got worse and I passed out.  I had another strange dream, like I was in the Tokyo subway after the bombing and there were tentacle infested zombies fighting guards like the rumors said and everything…I guess it’s like you always said, maybe there’s more to our world than meets the eye.

I’ve found that true a lot since yesterday.  I met with the Templars.  They have a big citadel here called Temple Hall, almost like a palace, really.  It’s huge!  You were right about one thing, they’re not the Knights Templar, they’re a separate organization.  They do see themselves as crusaders, though, fighting darkness in the weird places where it breaks out, in the Secret World.

They’ve definitely helped me.  A nice man named Richard Sonnac is in charge of all the new recruits and he had me go to the Crucible.  It’s a big room that looks like a cross between a shooting range and a red-carpet club, but it’s specially reinforced somehow.  I couldn’t wreck it if I tried…and I did.  Brigadier Lethe is in charge there and he keeps this classical music playing ALL THE TIME!  I tried to fry a speaker, but my magic didn’t do anything to it.

That’s what they’re calling it, by the way, this power: my magic.  Lethe explained it.  “It’s martial magic, none of that fairy stuff,” he said.  He said it allows me to manifest “anima,” my lifeforce in the physical world, to either destroy or to heal.  Apparently there’s no way to make the power go away—Lethe just laughed at that—but I can learn to control it.  He had me blasting some targets with magic for a few hours yesterday.  Last night, I just slept in the Crucible, but I didn’t have any headaches.  Today, he wants to show me how to use weapons to channel my magic.  Hopefully, that will give me better control.

Thanks for the prayers,

Ally

~~~

October 13

Dear Dad,

Just wanted to let you know how I’m doing here at Temple Hall.

Brigadier Lethe is a tough cookie, big muscular man with a brace on one leg and a patch over one eye.  Whatever managed to injure him like that must have been pretty tough itself!  He’s fair, though, and once I got over his rough manner I found him kind of nice.

The second day he had me working with some wicked looking brass knuckles—you would not want to have one of our sparring matches with me wearing those!  I was still doing a lot of damage just by punching the things, but Lethe said some of that was due to my magic too, and that I could use my magic to heal myself as I fought.

By the way, I don’t want you to freak out or anything, but we use live targets here, for realism, Lethe says.  They’re Rakshasa, some kind of evil spawn, big humanoid creatures, no eyes, leathery skin, more muscles than anything has a right to…I know, I know, Rakshasa are supposed to be a myth: well, apparently they’re real, they’re really tough, vicious, immune to pain, and the Templars have a lot of them captured and chained up for target practice.  It grossed me out at first, but Lethe says it’s more realistic…and if there really are things like this out there that may come after me, I know I’ll need realistic training.

Anyway, the day after that he let me use an assault rifle, an AK-47.  That was a lot of fun.  Took me back to going shooting out in the hills with you, though it’s not quite the same.  You see, the first time he had me shooting I fired off about thirty rounds—impressed Lethe with my accuracy—and then I handed the gun back to him for a new clip.  “What are you givin’ me that for, keep shooting,” he said.  “But it’s empty,” I told him.  “It was empty when I handed it to you, girl,” he said.  “You’ve been firing all this time on an empty clip…You ain’t been shooting them with bits of lead, you’ve been hitting them with your magic, your anima.”

After that, I learned that I could use my magic a lot more reliably, just focusing on what I wanted it to do and nothing more, treating each spark like a bullet that would only go off if I pulled the trigger.  I’ve been back for three days straight, shooting like that for a couple hours each day, and the headaches haven’t come back.  Lethe says I’m good to go.

Of course, what does Lethe know, right?  You know whose opinion matters more?  Blizzard!  He’s back!  He found me in the room they gave me at Temple Hall and now he follows me all over.  Turns out Lethe is a secret cat lover, so he lets him stay around.  Blizzard won’t go near the Rakshasa, but he’ll sit and preen while I shoot.  Anyway, Sonnac said he wanted to see me tomorrow.  He says he has an assignment for me.  I don’t know if I’m sold yet on joining the Templar’s army, like they want me to, but I know I have these powers for a reason.  I want to use them for good and Sonnac says he can make that happen.  I guess we’ll see.

Your Daughter,

Ally

~~~

October 14

Dear Dad,

Just wanted to keep you up to date: I don’t know when I’ll next have a chance to write.  I’ve been assigned to go to Solomon Island, off the New England coast.

You’ve probably heard about it on the news, some garbage about an unusual weather system, then military maneuvers or a plague putting the island on quarantine.  There’s something more going on, though, something dark.  Sonnac doesn’t know what, but Solomon Island has a history with the Illuminati.  They’re a secret organization like the Templars only different in pretty much every way.  They’re reckless, Sonnac says.  They don’t clean up messes like the Templars do: they make some of their own, and Solomon Island may be one of those messes.

I’m to travel there through something called Agartha…not sure what it is yet, but apparently it’ll get me there quick.

Sonnac knows I’m writing these letters, and he’s actually encouraged it.  “Good for family ties,” he said, and apparently that’s good enough for him.  Templars are really strong on tradition and bonds of loyalty, so I guess it makes sense.  Anyway, since they don’t know what’s going on there, they can’t guarantee that I’ll get post.  I hope you understand.  I’ll try to keep in touch and I’ll see if these powers of mine can’t be used for good after all.  This will be their first field test.

Keep me in your prayers,

Ally

PS: After I finished this letter, Sonnac gave me a Send Box, a little wooden box only as long as an envelope and not much taller.  Mine has a white bird design on the cover and yours should have the same.  He said he’d make sure one got to you, too, but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to explain its operation.  According to Sonnac, you just open the lid, put something inside, and close the box.  Once it’s closed, whatever was inside is sent to the matching Box, no matter where in the world it is.  It should work even on Solomon Island…supposing I have a chance to write letters once I’m there.  Wish me luck!!!

Our office has been trying to ascertain the nature of this “Send Box” referenced in the letters.  We found no indication of it on the premises, but there was a package from an “R. Sonnac” in London.  The package had been opened and emptied, but its dimensions were an approximate match to the object described in the letter.  So far, our research shows a possibility that a Send Box could malfunction, creating a duplicate of its contents and sending them somewhere else entirely.  If so, it may be possible to obtain further copies of Miss Tyrel’s communiques without the knowledge of her or her father.  Our office hopes that this may give us greater insight into the whereabouts of both members of the Tyrel Family.

The Further Adventures of a Sentient Submarine

Before I launch into the further adventures of a Sentient Submarine, I have some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that I have my computer back and better than ever.  With a new video card (one that is technically more powerful than anything it ought to be able to handle) and max RAM installed, it can do some pretty awesome graphics.  The first thing I did after installing the card was played Star Trek Online and I was awed by how much better everything in the game looked!  However, the awesomeness does not seem to transfer to my 3D work with DAZ Studio.  Apparently, the limiting factor is the processor itself, and I don’t think it’ll be cost effective to replace it.  I will explore other options for continuing Dragon Hunt, but for the moment, it remains on hiatus indefinitely.

As for the titular adventures: last time I told you I would be playing a sentient submarine in a steam-punk RPG run by a friend at work.  The submarine was named Final Spark, in honor of League of Legends’ champion, Lux, whose combination of military brilliance and childish innocence inspired this character.  It was built by the rebels for use in sinking their oppressor’s shipping and was designed with an android disguise form (called Sieran Fin, which is “final spark” backwards in Latin).  To protect against telepaths (fairly common in the game setting), Sieran was designed with a mental block which kept her from remembering she was secretly a rebel submarine and from transforming at will.  She wore a bracer which, if removed, would trigger a transformation, but she believed that it would somehow cause her to lose control of her magic in a powerfully dangerous way.  The two forms were optimized for their roles.  Final Spark was built as a tank with enormously heavy armor, regenerative abilities, endurance, and (naturally) stealth.  She also had the ability to crawl out of the water and even along vertical or upside down surfaces on crab-like mechanical legs.  She could build bombs and turn them into naval mines, she could fire torpedoes or unleash ramming attacks…she was basically designed as a highly versatile fighting machine.  Sieran Fin, on the other hand, was totally inept at combat, but was gifted in talking her way out of a situation, had an enchantment for just about everything, and had the rare ability to teleport herself or others out of a situation in a pinch (in fact, she could pull of up to seven successive teleports and even had one enchanted on her mana pendant to send her home in case she ever fell in battle–and then a revive spell to bring her back to life far from danger).  Sieran was designed specifically to always be able to get out of situations that could not be solved through fighting.  These specialties came back to haunt me in the opening sessions of the campaign.

We started with my character in Sieran form, since that made the most since (she could be recruited by a press-gang, if she decided not to make a scene–whereas Final Spark would be killed on sight–supposing she didn’t kill the press-gang instead).  For the first few sessions, Sieran was mostly useless due to her total lack of combat abilities.  However, after a couple sessions, the other players and their characters figured out that Sieran could be made more powerful by removing that bracer–though they didn’t know what “more powerful” would mean.  Then, came the day of a boss fight we were totally unprepared for.  The GM, in all fairness, had done everything in his power to warn us against fighting this particular villain, who was legendary enough to merit mention in the “lore of the world” section of the rule book.  He gave us every opportunity to avoid the fateful encounter when we did incur his wrath.  The players then present, though, decided to engage the villain’s significantly more powerful ship anyway (I was late to this particular session, and by the time I arrived we were already fighting).  The battle was very one-sided, but suddenly, the enemy ship withdrew.  A moment later, there was the sound of a hole being ripped in the bottom of the ship, followed by screams, rushing water, the clash of battle, and then silence.  On the next deck up, we again heard screams, the sound of combat, and then silence.  We were on the very next deck and we discovered that we’d been boarded by the legendary boss himself–alone–and he’d just killed most of the crew.  The party responded quickly, but our best fighters were cut down in less than a round.  I waited anxiously for my turn, when I would use Sieran’s teleport to get as many of us as possible away from what was obviously a hopeless battle.  But the player whose turn was just before mine made the decision that now would be a great time to find out what that bracer did. *Pop!*  Sieran becomes a submarine.  Cue my screams of self-defeated frustration, for the submarine cannot teleport and stands no chance against Mr. TPK himself.  Fortunately, I was able to crawl out ahead of the boss by skipping decks (crawling up on the ceiling, bashing my way through, and going up to the  next deck).  I took one hit, which was not enough to kill something so tough as Final Spark, and I managed to grab one character on my way and save them…but every other player character died.  Fortunately, I grabbed the cleric, so we were able to revive everyone afterwards.

My character did manage to redeem herself.  It turns out that campaigns that involve a lot of travel allow an explosives expert (who builds so many bombs per hour of idle time automatically), to accumulate a truly staggering amount of explosives.  I wound up bundling the bombs (which did 1d10 damage a piece, the most of anything in the game, and additionally ignored the usual dodge stat that characters use to avoid incoming damage–though they could be evaded by another, less popular stat) into groups of five to make overpowered naval mines (one mine packed enough damage to kill the average player instantly, and all of them had area of effect).  Due to some foreshadowing, we knew that our final battle would be a massive clash of armies over our objective.  In accordance, I had about 60 of my mines enchanted with teleport spells and fire spells to set them off on teleporting.  I could point at a target, say a command word, and BAM somebody get’s a mine to the face!  When the battle commenced, I did that pretty much all the time and was responsible for fully 7 of the 11 kills (of major characters) that occurred in that battle.  In the end, I still had plenty of mines left!

Speaking of sentient ships with explosive weapons, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the Astrea Alexandra project lately.  It will probably be my next original fiction project as soon as I finish The Sword of the Princess.  I’m within five chapters of the climax of The Sword of the Princess and I expect to have a complete draft by summer at the latest.  I’m very grateful to my beta readers for their tips and critiques and encourage anyone who would like to help me out by joining their ranks to get in touch with me.  Thanks for reading!

Updates, Coming and Otherwise

Let’s get the painful part of this out of the way:

It is with great sorrow that I announce that my webcomic, Dragon Hunt, will be on hiatus until further notice.  I appreciate the patience and enthusiasm of all of you fans of the comic in waiting for me to update, but I have to be honest with you now and say that, for the foreseeable future, no update is coming.

It boils down to a technical issue.  Since the images for the comic are created using 3D software, I’m limited by the capability of the software and the hardware of the computer its installed on.  I’ve run into several problems with that respect.  First, as I’ve mentioned several times in the comic, I’ve run into delays due to some bug in the software itself.  That’s what this latest delay started out as.  I fixed the bug, but then ran into a much larger problem.  This latest page, which was to introduce a new character, required me to have, at a minimum, 3 characters in one shot (not counting extras).  Since I use high-resolution models for all of my main cast (including Bill, Lia, and the character I was going to introduce), this meant the software required a large amount of memory to process the shot–too much memory in fact.  After several repeated crashes I realized that my computer was simply not designed to handle that much imaging memory.  It just doesn’t have the hardware.  To complicate matters even further, the computer failed to start at all last week and is now over at Staples where the’ll see if they can even get it working again.

All of the data for Dragon Hunt is backed-up, fortunately, so assuming I can get the computer back up and running, I have a few options for restarting Dragon Hunt.

  1. Upgrade my computer’s hardware to include more memory (this would probably take ~$50 and may or may not fix the problem)
  2. Buy a computer actually designed to do graphics programs (this would cost ~$1,000 and would definitely work, but definitely be expensive!)
  3. Continue the comic by drawing freehand and scanning the images in (this would require me to buy a scanner eventually–I could borrow one from my folks in the short term–and would mean everyone would have to put up with slower production and lower-quality artwork)
  4. Continue the comic by drawing freehand using an electric artists’ pad (this would require me to buy one of those nifty electric drawing pads with the pen and all–which I have no idea how much those cost–and learn a totally different style of artwork.  Quality could be better, could be worse in comparison to freehand and scanning; production time would probably be less).
  5. I drop the art altogether and post my scripts for Dragon Hunt (this would be free and dramatically faster, but the change of medium would be pretty harsh and a script may be harder to follow).

Obviously I can’t do anything until I know if my computer’s gonna live or not, but let me know what your thoughts are.  I want to bring Dragon Hunt back somehow, but I’d like your input on whether it continues in its current form or takes a different form.

I do have some good news.  I’ve resumed work on Sword of the Princess and I’m setting up the climax now.  If anyone is interested in beta-reading the novel, let me know.  The work has been slowed a little by the death of my computer, but I’ve still got access to computers in general and everything I need is on my flashdrive.

I also have random news.  While I may or may not be forced to bid adieu to my tabletop RPG with my college friends (last I heard, they hadn’t made up their mind about the possibility of me Skyping in), I have started playing with some friends from work.  The system is a custom one called “Third Genesis” created by one of my coworkers.  The story is that in an alternate future man, created an immortality serum and went out among the stars and discovered a planet filled with adonium ore, a metal with magical properties.  They used genetic manipulation to create a race of human slaves to mine the adonium for them while they posed as the humans’ gods.  To complete the farce, they created races of “demons” from which the humans would need “divine” protection and races of “angels” to serve the gods and keep the demons in check.  Eventually, one of the so-called-gods named Seth developed a conscience and came clean with the human slaves–only to find that his fellow “gods” had already spread the word about him that he’d “fallen” and become an evil deceiver.  Nevertheless, Seth’s change of heart did manage to sway some of the humans and spark a rebellion.  Eventually, the “gods” were defeated and driven off.  The campaign we played was just something to keep them busy during the summer.  It took place shortly after Seth’s “fall” and everyone was playing characters loyal to the false gods, who were part of an army unit going through the jungles and villages looking for rebels.  Most everyone in the party was evil, and I’ve never known a party to cause so much chaos!  My character was named Casia Black and was designed for maximum creepiness.  She was the ghost of a little girl whose parents died in a mining accident.  Refusing to believe they were really gone, she turned to the practice of necromancy to find a way to bring them back.  She was loyal to the goddess of death, insane, extremely powerful, and prone to raising zombies wherever she went.  You can see a picture of her here.

I only managed to play two sessions, but in both I think I did well.  In the first, one of the party members turned out to secretly be a rebel and started trying to kill the party’s leader.  Another party member (the tank) jumped in and killed the rebel, but the rebel’s pet…robot managed to take down our beloved leader.  As an illustration of what a disfunctional group of villains we’d gathered into our party, none of the rest of our party seemed to care.  At last I figured that Casia would care, since she would reason that the goddess of death would not be very happy about her letting her leader die–and she needed the goddess’ patronage in order to continue her insane quest to bring back her parents.  Casia succeeded in reviving the party leader (not as a zombie–though it was seriously considered) and conked out the traitor-character’s robot (though, in all fairness, the tank had already beaten the stuffing out of it–Casia was just lucky enough to get the last hit by using her telekinesis to throw it into a tree).  In the other session, we raided a cave of “heretics” as part of the boss fight.  The boss himself was protected by an amulet that made him undefeatable.  He decoyed us with a copy of the amulet, which exploded in a burst of chaotic magic–causing all of our characters to switch bodies (and all of the players to switch character sheets).  I wound up playing the tank and wasn’t very good with it (an illusion of Casia’s parents showed up and she totally fell for it).  The party leader wound up stuck in Casia’s ghostly body.  “Why doesn’t anyone take me seriously anymore?!” he moaned at one point.  Because you’re in the body of a necromantic ghost child: her social stat is negative!  When the boss came, however, he did succeed in ripping the real amulet of invincibility off of him with telekinesis.  Casia then switched back and summoned a big, mean zombie-soldier to the boss’s face!  The fight was over very quickly after that, as our party’s sniper blasted the boss into oblivion.

I also played two one-shot campaigns with the same group and the same system.  In one I was an old, blind sniper…and did horribly–though not because of blindness (we allowed him to compensate with superb hearing).  I just built him way too squishy, that’s all.  He would get off one shot, then have something chewing on his face and go down in one round.  Fortunately, we had a good cleric in that party.  In the other one shot, we didn’t have any cleric.  My character there was totally made for jokes, based off of Koko from the manga Rosario+Vampire (not the anime–from what I hear the anime is lame), a little school girl with a short fuse and a ginormous mace.  She actually did better than the sniper.  We didn’t have any casters in our group, so she wound up forced into that role since she did know some magic and we immediately met an enemy that was immune to ginormous maces (it was a spell remnant).  She wasn’t designed for that and thus performed as well as one would expect at that roll.  But she did have a moment of awesome when we met a creepy monster that tried to ambush the party from the roof.  We’d lost sight of it, but we all knew it was on the roof and figured it was about to pounce on us.  Our resident explosive expert threw a bomb on the roof, but it rolled off.  The party’s troll (we had a cave troll) smashed the wall, but this had no effect.  I had my character wait around with a balista (yes, she considered a siege weapon to be a normal ranged weapon).  When the creature pounced, my character was ready and shot out of the air, killing it instantly.  We went on to have the troll suicide-bomb a boss who could have easily killed us all (well, it was almost-suicide: he teleported out at the last second–and then turned out to not be a troll at all, but that’s complicated).

The exciting news is that the group’s main campaign is restarting this week and I’ve been invited to join.  The party will be a group of people pressed into service aboard a god-loyal ship (ironically, commanded by the same character–Raphael–who led the interim party).  They mutinied and turned to piracy to survive.  My character is a sentient submarine designed by the rebels to raid god-loyal shipping.  She (ships are always female, don’t ask why ’cause there isn’t a reason) has an android disguise-form which (due to the prevalence of telepathy in the game) doesn’t know she’s a killer submarine.  She was rounded up with the rest of the crew in her android form and has been quietly working as mechanic’s mate ever since.  I wonder how long it will take the other characters to realize they can turn her into a submarine…hmm.  Should be interesting.  I have miniature figurines now for both forms, too, so that’s exciting!

The just plain random news is that I rediscovered Magic Knight Rayearth, the first manga I ever read and one of the best (I think From Far Away is the best, but Rayearth is pretty good too).  It was an entertaining read, even the second time around, though this time I noticed that Fuu (the archer character, who is supposedly very experienced with a bow) drew her bow incorrectly.  Once, she drew it to her chest, which would be fine for a point-blank shot but hard to aim otherwise.  The other time she drew it above her head and held the bow crooked–which would have resulted in a shot that was impossible to aim and wouldn’t have flown straight.  You’re supposed to draw to your cheek, so that you can sight right along the arrow, but I guess the artist thought that didn’t look as cool.  Umi (the fencer) was also using a rapier like a broadsword, but hey, it’s manga and ridiculous slashing leaps and spins look cooler than simple thrusts and parries.

And why is it that only Japanese schoolgirls are summoned to save magical worlds?  What’s wrong with schoolchildren from other nations–or adults for that matter?  Something irrelevant to consider seriously…until next time!

New Projects!

If you’re wondering about Dragon Hunt, unfortunately there is still going to be a delay.  I need a street crowd for this next page and I’m going to have to make them the hard way instead of just using flats (turns out it’s the flats that made the program crash this time.  Lovely).

Meanwhile, I have some exciting new things I’m working on!  Be distracted and amazed!

First, there’s my book, The Sword of the Princess.  It’s the story of a spirited princess whose kingdom is suddenly taken over by an evil empire.  She escapes with a band of knights and must somehow find a way to free king and kingdom.  The story has been on hiatus for a while now, but I am now ready to return for a final push to the end.  I am looking for beta readers for this, so if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Second, I have entered the world of fan-fiction officially.  I have a profile on fan fiction.net where I’m called “Space Viking.”  I also have a fan fiction of the MMORTS game Astro Empires to put up there…once they have a category for it.  It will be exciting if they ever get around to answering my request to make one.

Third, I am learning Javascript and have figured out how to make a sort of adventure game out of it.  The game allows you to make binary choices throughout (left/right, attack/run, accept/reject, etc), but also includes a random factor to determine the results.  I’ll need some graphics, but I’m going to try and put together an adventure game and post it somewhere.  Maybe on Deviant Art.  We’ll see what works.

Fourth, and least practicably, I have an idea knocking around in the back of my brain about a series of stories involving Saint Barbara’s Catholic School for Girls.  Outwardly, it would be a typical catholic school, if being somewhat remote and having rather gothic architecture.  A tomboyish girl raised by her dad at their mountain cabin would be taken there after her father died, and she’d hate it at first.  Then, she’d be maneuvered into joining something called the Safety Committee.  As it turns out, the Safety Committee is not about making sure the building had enough emergency exits in case of a fire.  The Safety Committee at Saint Barbara’s is about protecting the school and surrounding area from monster attacks, and is made up of a collection of the school’s most dangerous gun-toting girls.  The whole thing, I think, really exists as an excuse to see a girl in a catholic school uniform blast some bug-eyed monster with a machine gun.  I’m not sure what the best medium for this sort of story would be.  Obviously, it would have to be episodic.  A visual medium (like a comic) would be a plus, but it would also obviously take time to put together…  Thoughts?

Technical Difficulties Again…and a Sneak Peek

I was really excited for the update of Dragon Hunt this week, and I hope you were too!  Unfortunately, I’m having trouble with DAZ Studio again, just like last time.  This will delay the update till next week, but here’s a preview of what you’ll find next Monday (fingers crossed!).

  • A new setting!  Lia and Bill arrive in Port Haven!  Urban scenes enter the comic for the first time ever!
  • The “Tipsy Pixie”–it’s always exciting when the thing in the title actually shows up!
  • A new character–who makes quite the entrance!

Technical Difficulties

Due to some technical problems with DAZ Studio, Dragon Hunt will not be updating this week.  I’ll work out the bugs and be sure to post an update next week.  Thanks for your patience!

Dragon Hunt’s Chapter 3 Content Warning

This post is a follow up for anyone curious about the warning I posted at the beginning of my third chapter on Dragon Hunt.  I’ll present it as a question-answer format.  If you have additional questions, I’ll be happy to answer them as well.  Just post them as comments.

Q: So, what’s this warning about?

A: It’s a content warning.  It’s there to warn the reader that Chapter 3 of Dragon Hunt contains use of alcohol.  One of the settings is a tavern called “The Tipsy Pixie” and one of the new characters introduced in this chapter has an obvious drinking problem which results in a massive bar tab for this character and eventually causes the character to pass out at an inopportune time.

Q: Why do we need a warning?  I mean, it’s fantasy and taverns are a fact of life.  Besides, look at all the other stuff out there on Comic Genesis?

A: If you’re asking this question, then obviously the warning is not intended for you.  You probably don’t care one way or another about the use of alcohol in fantasies, you accept it as a part of the setting, and that’s fine.  It is a realistic part of a medieval fantasy world (in the Middle Ages, the tavern was an important community center and alcoholic beverages were some of the few safe drinks because they couldn’t spread water-borne diseases).  However, I made a commitment to keep my comic “family friendly” and some people may consider the inclusion of alcohol a violation of that promise.  I do not intend it that way, but it’s my duty to warn such readers about potentially offensive material.  As for what goes on around Comic Genesis, that’s not my concern.  If I were to borrow my standards from my neighbors, I’m sad to say my comic would descend into the gutter.  No, I mean to set and follow a higher standard with Dragon Hunt.

Q: Are you promoting drinking?

A: No, not at all.  I myself have never used alcohol (though I am over the legal drinking age), and I do not plan to.  While I personally believe, as a Christian, that alcohol is may be consumed in a responsible and right manner, I also know that this type of consumption is not common in our culture today.  Most commonly today, alcohol is consumed for drunkenness, which I believe is something the Bible condemns.  I do not want to put myself in a place where I might sin nor do I want to run the risk of setting a bad example, so I personally refrain from alcohol.  This, of course, raises the question of the use of alcohol in my comic.  In Chapter Three, a character gets very drunk, causing a number of problems for the main cast (which, like all things in the comic, are played for laughs).  Do I mean to portray this action as right?  Certainly not, no more than I mean to portray King Charles appalling apathy as a leader and father as good or right.  Do I mean to portray it as harmless and funny (because it is played for laughs)?  No, again.  I play pretty much everything in the comic for laughs, but in doing so, I don’t mean to rob it of all seriousness.  In all seriousness, King Charles is a horrible ruler and a worse father, and in all seriousness the character who gets drunk is wrong and irresponsible to do so.  However, the main goal of the comic is not to moralize but to entertain.

Q: Couldn’t you write this chapter some other way?

A: Possibly.  However, I believe that the way it is written is the best way.  If you have some alternative suggestions, please submit them and I’ll consider them.

Q: I like your comic, but I just can’t stand the use of alcohol.  Will I have to stop reading now?

A: No, not at all!  I appreciate your loyal readership and, if you find yourself asking this question, seriously, contact me via email at aaduwall@rams.colostate.edu, and let me know.  I will try to find an alternate way to present the chapter, if that’s the case.  However, if that’s not possible rest assured that the references to alcohol are fleeting.  They’re slotted to appear on pages 4, 5, 10, and 11.  Without these pages, things might seem to jump around a bit, but you should have no trouble continuing to follow the comic.  The fourth chapter will not contain any alcohol use.

Q: When are they going to catch that dragon?

A: Wouldn’t you like to know!  They’re getting closer, but there are many crazy antics to go before they even meet the dragon again.  Hopefully, you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Fan Fiction: Bill meets Charlie the Unicorn, by Katie

This is the first time I’ve ever had my work used in somebody else’s fan fiction, which makes me rather happy and proud of it.  This piece was written by my good friend Katie who envisioned it while asking, “What if William Von Vaughn de Capitcha le Bonificat McMallimut Thompson Leighton the XXII, Jr. met Charlie the Unicorn?”  It is every bit as disturbingly funny as the original Charlie the Unicorn videos on Youtube (if you haven’t seen them, I suggest you do, but only if you don’t value your sanity–sanity is overrated anyway).  This story is written in the form of a script.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Morning in a nondescript cartoon rendered meadow, a grumpy white unicorn is asleep.  Two smaller companions trot over and start jumping on him.

High Pitched Voice Unicorn (HPVU) 1: CHARLIE!  CHARLIE!

HPVU 2: Wake up Charlie!!!!

Charlie: Gah what do you two want?  Would you STOP JUMPING on where my now nonexistent kidney was???????

HPVU 1: We’re going to a forest, Charlie!!! Where there are dragons and castles and fellow talking unicorns!!!

HPVU 2: Yeah, Charlie!  Come with us!  

Charlie: Ok, I’ll come, but only because you two will get progressively more annoying the longer I wait.  

1&2: YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! They begin to sing as the three of them trot along. In the forest the mighty forest the dragon sleeps tonight!!  WaOOOOOOOOOOO –

Charlie: STOP!!!!! Why must you two ALWAYS SING??????????????

HPVU 1: Don’t be a hater, Charlie!  It adds to the scene and could be potential foreshadowing!

HPVU 2: Yeah, foreshadowing, Charlie!

Charlie: Ok, FINE!!!!!

1 & 2: YAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!! IN THE FOREST THE MIGHTY FOREST THE DRAGON SLEEPS TONIIIIIIIIIIGHT!

Woooooosh! …. THUNK!!!!!!!

Charlie lets out a bloodcurdling scream as a sword narrowly misses his head and embeds itself in a tree. A young woman in armor loads an arrow onto a bow and stares at Charlie.

Charlie: Oh crap, who are you? Katniss Everdeen???
Bill the Unicorn: I believe my fairest virgin princess was too scared to introduce herself properly. This is Princess Lia.

Charlie: Oh, great. And who are you supposed to be? Hans Solo?

Bill the Unicorn: Oh, heavens no, my name is William Von Vaughn de Capitcha le Bonificat McMallimut Thompson Leighton the XXII, Jr. But you may call me Bill. I am accompanying the virgin princess in her quest to slay the dragon.

SLAP!

Lia: Don’t you DARE refer to me as Virgin Princess when you introduce me ever again!

Bill: Yes, dear.

Charlie: Oh ok. Well, that explains a lot. Uh…. yeah. Nice to meet you both. Good luck. Bye.

He starts to walk away.

HPVU 1: Charlie! Wait!

HPVU 2: Yeah, wait, Charlie!  You must help them in this quest!

Charlie: Aaaaw, not right now guys, I really need to get home.

HPVU 1: For what? You just sit around at home, Charlie!

HPVU 2: Yeah, Charlie!

Charlie: Exactly! I just would like some peace and quiet.

HPVU: But the only way out is for you to help Princess Lia and Bill the Unicorn slay the dragon!

Charlie: What???? Aaaaw, CRAP! Don’t tell me that you two knew that all along!

The two start singing again

Oh Charlie, you must slay the dragon with the Princess!
You and Bill and Lia!
You must slay the dragon with the …

Charlie: STOP SINGING! Ok, Ok, I’ll do it!

He starts walking when he hears a roar. A giant dragon swoops down and there’s an EPIC BATTLE! Charlie gets knocked upside the head andBill and Lia dissapear somehow. Charlie wakes up laying near the now dead dragon.

Charlie: Guys? Guys? Hello? Seriously, where did you two go?

HPVU 1: Look in the lake, Charlie!

HPVU 2: Yeah, the lake!

Charlie: Guys, there’s NO LAKE!

HPVU 1: Look in the pool of dragonish bodily fluids!

HPVU: Bodily fluids, Charlie!

Charlie: Greeeeaaat. He looks in and screams as he sees a coronal cross-section of his head. Where his frontal lobe should be are the heads of his companions. Oooooh, CRAP, you guys invaded my BRAIN!!!!!!!

THE END! 🙂