Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Talk about an unwieldy name!

Last week, I got a look at the art for my story in Siglo: Passion. It's supposed to be a piece about religious passion, but me being the infidel heathen that I am, it didn't quite turn out that way, although it does contain some of those elements.

I had the privilege of working on this one with Eisner Award-winner Lan Medina, the internationally-known Ed Tadeo, and Reno Maniquis, who seems to have the uncanny psychic ability to take the pictures out of my head and put them on paper, better than I had imagined them. Honestly, I think I could have written a bunch of crap, and these guys would make me look good. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that's exactly what happened...

...and letters
I finally finished my very first lettering job. I'm actually pretty quick at the task, but it took me two and a half tries because first, I did it on my PC before I realized that it would be too mammoth to upload on a dial-up connection, and I have no CD burner. So then I did it on Dean's laptop, but halfway through I discovered a couple of fonts I liked better, so I started over with them. Good thing there was no hard deadline!

This one is my story for Marco Dimaano's K.I.A., slated for release later this year. Marco would have graciously done the lettering himself, but since I'd been experimenting with lettering, I volunteered. It was actually a lot of fun! I highly recommend that comic book writers everywhere letter their own work, because when you first write your script, you are, in essence, flying blind, unable to entirely visualize how it's going to turn out. Working on the finished art gives you the chance to spot any little details that don't quite work out the way you originally envisioned them, and make revisions accordingly to better complement the script. Plus, you get to control the dialogue pacing, judiciously apply emphasis, and ensure that everything is spelled and punctuated exactly the way you want. (Barring snafus at the printer's, of course!) I'm so glad I get to letter my Siglo story, too!

The fabulous art above is by Andrew Drilon, who seems to be getting even better with every project he undertakes.

Why do we say that "it's raining cats and dogs"?

answer to yesterday's question
Acid rain is polluted rain, snow, fog, hail, or other precipitation that results from chemicals released into the air. When these chemicals mix with moisture and other airborne particles, sulfuric and/or nitric acid is created. Acid rain is often harmful to crops and trees, and can also cause sickness and severe eye irritation in humans.

Passers of the Acid Test: Marc, Ariel, Charles, and Katrina
Nikki bit in at 3:00 PM :: ::
Monday, June 28, 2004

Today is COLUMNISTS Day.

One of the neat things about being a writer married to a writer is that mundane conversations can sometimes turn out to be quirkily amusing. This weekend, for instance, Dean was telling me about his trip to the barbershop with Sage.

"She sat in the chair next to me," he related, "and the barber-folk marveled at her growth."

"The 'barber-folk'?" I echoed.

"Yes," he replied.

"They 'marveled'?" I had to clarify.

"Yes," he frowned, puzzled. "Why are you repeating everything I said?"

"Next you're going to tell me they were 'lost in amaze'," I said, giving in to a fit of giggles over his so-literary conversational style. For the life of him, he couldn't see what was so funny.

Rei has a very interesting anecdote about the Child-Goddesses of Kathmandu. Her synesthetique is a very well-written, fun, and fascinating blog; and you ought to check it out here.

I found this neat script that provides a dictionary definition for nearly every word on your site. (Particularly useful for the entry just below this one!) Go ahead-- double-click a word on this page and find meaning.

What is acid rain and where does it come from?

answer to Wednesday's question
Boeing's 747 assembly plant in Everett, Washington is the largest building in the world. Although it is actually composed of three factory buildings, the first building alone measures about 5.5 million square feet, far outstripping the previous record-holder, the 1.3 million square-foot Pentagon. The total floor space of the three Boeing buildings tops 12 million square feet, and each hangar door is only slightly smaller than a professional football field.

Big brains: Alex, Pauline, Ariel, and Charles
Nikki bit in at 1:29 PM :: ::

Isle Notes: episode three

Okay, I promise that this is the last of this downpour of game notes. I just had to play catch-up, but from now on, there will generally be only one of these per week.

Mara, the Rich Man
Calloway, the Tinker
Seldick, the Soldier
Mothergaza, a Crone
Tarlun, a Barber (age 20)
Julius, a Servitor
Ronayon, a Piscator
Ananias: another Barber (age 42)
an unnamed Guardiner
the Marchion, plenipotentiary of the Vast
a courtier at the castle of the Marchion with an illegitimate child with another courtier
Nigel: lord Barrister at the castle of the Marchion
Anthony: the Clothier at the castle of the Marchion
Alisandra (a.k.a. 'Hint of Mauve'): daughter of the castle Tinker
Wisteria: a Lightfoot
Wisteria's brother, a scholar
Melehior (a.k.a. 'The Lord of the Bowl'): the Beggar king, mentioned in passing
Liana: former owner of a special handkerchief given as a gift to Elana by Julius; "the best Lace-maker of her time"

1. the House of Nobles (including the Crafts of the Rich Man and the Dowager)
2. House Sublime
3. House Mansuetude
4. House Ennead (a.k.a. 'The House of Nine'; composed of nine 'singletons', or Crafts with single bearers)
5. House Incarnadine
6. House Numinous
7. The Clerisy Rafters
8. House Pecuniar
9. House Puissant (including the Craft of the Soldier)
10. Manse Flagitious
11. House Oneiric
12. The Keep of the Orgulous
13. The House of the Immured
14. The Mantic Temple
15. The Lambent Society
16. Dis (a.k.a. 'The House Dismal')
17. The Minatory House (including the Craft of the Tinker)
18. The House Disseise (including the Craft of the Thief)
19. House Quondam
20. The Macedoine
21. The Polyonymous

Cressida: the Magus
an unnamed runner (Craft unknown)
an unnamed Fletcher
an unnamed man in green armor (presumably deceased)
the Architect
someone who can cause bleeding from a distance
Lisbeth, the Linguist (presumably deceased)



Part One
Zoilo, Elana, and Ellis have dinner at the house of the Rich Man Mara, where Calloway, Seldick, Mothergaza, Tarlun, and the Linguist Lisbeth have also been invited to discuss the ramifications of the trio's journey through time. Many things are revealed, including the names of the 21 Houses of Craft; however, the Marchion's ban on history makes it impossible for anyone to discuss matters predating their last natal day, hindering discussion. Further, when Zoilo enumerates the presumed Crafts of the rulers of Isle, Lisbeth becomes obviously distressed, advising the trio to learn their Crafts as quickly as possible, return whence they came, and have nothing more to do with the Vast.

Upon questioning, Lisbeth becomes even more distraught, finally using her Craft to prevent anyone else from doing so, thus giving her the opportunity to kill everyone else, as they now "have too much information". Fortunately, Elana is still able to use her Orator-like knack in order to stop the Linguist and free the other diners. Zoilo then pins Lisbeth to the wall using his hammer.

When questioned, Lisbeth will only say that she tried to kill them because they were a threat to the status quo. Elana advocates killing the Linguist to negate her threat, but is discouraged by Ellis and Tarlun, the latter of whom is offended by Elana’s harsh words and subsequently walks out. Elana is finally dissuaded by the Rich Man, who presents her with an ultimatum: if Lisbeth is killed, Elana will no longer be welcome in the Rich Man's house. Elana relents, Zoilo releases the Linguist, and Lisbeth walks out.

In the awkwardness that follows, Calloway and Zoilo take their leave. They find the Barber Tarlun waiting outside to take the guests home; in conversation, he tells Zoilo that while the Linguist may have walked out the door, he has not seen her leave. After Seldick the Soldier offers to house Elana if necessary, Ellis, too, goes outdoors to ask the Barber for transport, in the process requesting for tutelage in the Craft of the Barber, following her Soldier training.

Meanwhile, Elana follows Mara, who has gone upstairs, clearly upset. Mara tells Elana that, regardless of her eventual decision, she is no longer welcome in the Rich Man's house. Elana prepares to leave. The Servitor Julius attempts to convince her to stay, offering to use his right as a manservant to oblige Mara to keep Elana on. Elana declines, and Julius regretfully offers his services whenever she might need them, as well as a special handkerchief that can provide any of three small food items of her choice whenever she opens it. Elana also learns that Servitors have abilities that apparently allow them to traverse space and manipulate placement of objects within houses.

Part Two
Outside, Zoilo goes to tell his master they can leave; only to discover that Calloway is already dead, murdered by the Linguist (as evidenced by his dissolving into momentarily word-shaped ashes). Ellis returns inside to find Seldick and Mothergaza being similarly destroyed, and Elana likewise walks in to Mara’s room to find Lisbeth in the process of killing Mara.

The Linguist calmly walks away, heading out of the house. As Zoilo and Ellis rush outside to warn Tarlun and ask for his aid, Elana spends four Rich Man's coins to summon a Piscator to avenge her master. At such a premium price for his services, the Piscator Ronayon is able to defeat the Linguist, deluging her with a torrent of water to prevent her from using her abilities, and finally spearing her through with his trident.

Elana thanks the Piscator and dismisses him. As she is berating Tarlun for preventing her from killing Lisbeth earlier and thus (to her mind) indirectly causing the death of Mara, Lisbeth's fellow members of the Ennead arrive to avenge their comrade's death.

Tarlun offers his aegis to the trio, eliciting a promise from them not to try to fight in the coming battle. The Barber then heroically defends the compass points, but is sorely besieged by the combined might of the runner, the Fletcher, the Architect, a warrior-like man in green armor, and an unseen person who can cause bleeding from a distance. Zoilo and Elana circumvent their promises by using the Crafts of Prophet, Orator, and Rich Man to assist Tarlun.

After the runner and the man in green cry mercy-- thus conceding their roles in the battle-- and the Fletcher is struck by her own windblown arrows (courtesy of Elana), the Magus Cressida comes to parley. She is not actually inclined to concede until a dozen Barbers come to Tarlun's assistance, after which Cressida departs in disgust. The heavily-injured Tarlun is treated by his fellows; and he, the trio from Isle, and an older Barber named Ananias retreat to Tarlun's home.

After some circular discussion and a late-night feast, the five decide to call it a night, with the trio resolving to visit the Baker in the morning at Calloway's home, in hopes that the Baker can resurrect their fallen masters. As they try to find sleep, however, Zoilo idly scribbles in his notebook, gleaning the following message through his prophetic abilities: "A Guardiner is coming, at the first hour past midnight".

Part Three
As foretold, a Guardiner (or guardsman) does indeed arrive, presenting the Marchion's sigil-- a gold ring surmounted with a green gem-- to summon Zoilo, Elana, and Ellis to an audience with the Marchion. After a lengthy carriage ride, they arrive at the Marchion's court, where they are questioned closely regarding the death of the Linguist, and learn to their dismay that Ronayon has been arrested for the crime, and treated none too gently. Elana explains that the Piscator only acted upon the Rich Man's orders; and since Mara (presumably the only Rich Man in existence) is dead, the matter is dismissed.

To the trio's dismay, however, the Magus Cressida then steps forward, accepting blame on the part of the Ennead for the deaths of the other Craftsmen, and offering to make amends by adopting the three apprentices. The trio decline on the grounds that they have already accepted the aegis of the Barber's Guild. Reluctant to reveal too much of their histories and abilities, they claim that this is due to Zoilo's hair, which is unusually unruly, and therefore of special interest to the Barbers, and possibly dangerous to others.

Tarlun is then summoned to verify this. While waiting for him to arrive, Elana has a conversation with the Magus, in which Elana unwittingly uses her Oratorical abilities to make Cressida tell the truth: that she wants to adopt them in a bid to control their unusual knacks. Ellis, meanwhile, solicits the aid of the Lord Barrister Nigel, only to spot him later on in obviously complicit conversation with Cressida. Zoilo makes friends with a Minnesinger and attempts to activate his gift of Prophecy, but to no avail.

Tarlun arrives and verifies the trio's claims. Nigel attempts to argue the Magus's case, but the three explain that they wish to follow their masters' respective callings, and after shameless ploys for sympathy on their part, the matter is eventually decided in their favor. The Marchion further arranges for Zoilo to continue his training under the castle Tinker, and officially confirms Elana, Ellis, and Zoilo as Rich Man, Soldier, and Tinker's Apprentice respectively. They think this may be partly because it is the wee hours of the morning and the Marchion merely wishes to sleep, but as he is confirming them, he speaks to them in an undertone, revealing that he knows more and is considerably more intelligent than he lets on. He prevails on them to remain as guests of the castle for the next few days, that they might converse further.

The Barber returns home and the trio retire to adjoining guest rooms, where they are visited by the castle Clothier Anthony and the castle Tinker's daughter Alisandra. They also hear a voice in their heads which they assume to be the Hollow of the Isle, telling them that it has been two years (out of their allotted 25) since they left, and asking if they are ready to return. Since they are far from fully trained, they ask for another year yet.

They are just about ready for bed when Ellis discovers a note staked to her bed with a bread knife, offering training in exchange for payment from the Rich Man. She finds the Lightfoot Wisteria just outside her window, and Wisteria and Elana strike a deal: 25 pieces of silver in return for Ellis's training. They also learn that Wisteria is from an island called Tempoco, outside the Marchion's domain. She is therefore exempt from the ban on history, as is her brother, a scholar who accompanied her to the castle to make a plea regarding their home, which is slated to be annexed by the Vast. The twins agree to try to help her talk to the Marchion in exchange for consulting with her brother.

Wisteria bids them goodnight, though not before asking if Zoilo might be "available for suit". Deals arranged and loose plans made, the trio finally goes to sleep.
Nikki bit in at 1:17 PM :: ::
Saturday, June 26, 2004

Isle Notes: episode two


at the home of the Rich Man
Mara = the Rich Man
Julius = her manservant
Ivan Ivanovich = a Gentle summoned by Elana; a hunchback
the Linguist

at the home of the Tinker
Calloway = the Tinker
Denis Hartwell = the Tinker's brother; a Baker
Bosom Jack = a Popinjay in the service of the Tinker; appears to be composed of some metallic substance
Threadbare = a murderous Tailor (presumed deceased)
Jeralyn = one of five Soldiers summoned by Elana
Gallant = one of five Soldiers summoned by Elana
an unnamed Healer summoned by Elana

at the home of the Soldier and at the nearby trading post
Seldick = the Soldier
Mothergaza = the Crone
Russet = a Trader; owner of the trading post
Tarlun = a Barber
Fallon = a Muse in training; the seventh of seven septuplets; rides a white palfrey named Winifred
Red Ariana = a Warden
an unnamed rhymer

new persons mentioned or discussed
Cadmetus = a Rich Man of the past, mentioned by Mara as an example: "the richest of Rich Men"
Madeira = a Rich Man of the past, mentioned by Mara as one who overspent her surfeit and largesse
Paragon = the Herald (formerly a knight)
the Marchion = a plenipotentiary who governs the region known as 'the Vast'

Part One
In the course of training under the Rich Man Mara, Elana learns several principles of economy, along with the startling fact that her 25-year loan of the Rich Man's purse has a price: the accelerated deterioration or even death of one of her loved ones. In an effort to determine who is paying the price, Elana summons a Gentle, only to discover that she and the Gentle cannot understand one another. She therefore summons the very expensive Linguist, who effects a translation, and also conveys or implies the following information:
- There are other dimensions, two of which seem to be called sidereal and stellanova.
- The 'Gentle' appears to be a craft that exists within a certain family line. (Apparently, the Gentle is able to discern things related to pain or suffering. It seems that more advanced Gentles can offer 'appeasement'.)
- The Linguist identifies Elana's speech pattern as belonging to 'the reign of the fourteenth Widow of Isle'.

Part Two
Zoilo awakens in a prison cell along with the Baker. He soon discerns that they have been imprisoned for some time, having first attempted to murder the Tinker, and having then made repeated-- and somewhat repetitious-- attempts to escape, in part due to what seems to be Zoilo's severely compromised memory. When the Tinker's assistant, the Popinjay Bosom Jack, comes to bring them dinner, Zoilo and the Baker are able to overcome her by trickery and effect an escape. They find their way to the Tinker's forge, where the Tinker calmly notes their escape, saying that he has only imprisoned them for his safety and the Baker's own good. He refuses to train Zoilo to be a Tinker until Zoilo and the Baker reveal that they have become blood brothers while in prison, thereby creating a familial obligation on the Tinker's part towards Zoilo. The Tinker reluctantly agrees to begin Zoilo's training, but not before mentioning the following tidbits:
- valley of the Forge = mentioned by the Tinker as a place where one can just 'pick up' a Tinker's hammer
- the 'Tinker wars' = a series of great intra-Craft battles due to a love triangle among 3 Tinkers (one of whom was Calloway), which resulted in the decimation of all other practitioners of the Craft
- The Tinker was once in love with the Wanton, which he describes as 'a wandering Craft', albeit with a definite home base to return to in times of crisis.

Part Three
After four days of training, the Soldier Seldick informs Ellis that she is a born fighter, and so adept that she should be fully trained in no more than 82 years. Aghast, Ellis tries to find a way to hasten the process by consulting the Crone Mothergaza, who reveals that she and Seldick are not mother and son, but rather, former lovers. (Since Seldick had gained immortality in order to complete his training, Mothergaza pursued the craft of the Crone in order to prolong her own life. However, she withered into old age, while he remained hale and strong.) Other than that, Mothergaza offers the same advice as Seldick: perhaps there is something that can help at the trading post two months down the road.

Ellis sets off for the trading post, only to realize that in this place, the roads are named for months, so that 'two months down the road' is, literally, the road called November; and the trading post is only 30 minutes from the Soldier's hut. She enters the trading post, only to discover too late that once you enter such an establishment, you cannot leave without buying anything. After declining aid from the proprietor Russet (who wanted her to sign an indecipherable contract in exchange), she makes friends with Fallon, a Muse-in-training, and Tarlun, a Barber, who kindly escorts her out of the trading post on the strength of his own purchase, offering as well to introduce her to a friend of his who might consent to buy time on Ellis's behalf.

Part Four
Slicing a portal in the air, the Barber leads Ellis to the house of Mara, where, after some initial confusion, the Corezze twins are reunited. This leads to an explanation of why the girls have been sent elsewhen for training (as well as the startling realization that four months have passed for Elana, while Ellis has been in training for only four days), which leads to the revelation that Zoilo may well be in danger, since it is known that the Tinker is quite insane.

After some debate, Mara, Tarlun, Elana, and Ellis head off to see the Tinker, to ascertain that Zoilo is well. They are soon reassured, but learn that the Tinker has been reluctant to commence Zoilo's training. Assisted by Tarlun and Ellis, the two Rich Men enter negotiations, in which the Tinker is finally persuaded to undertake Zoilo's training in earnest (after intimations that Zoilo might be better served apprenticing under the Artisan, the Tinker's hated foe). Tension occurs between the Tinker and the Barber, causing Tarlun to make the apparently unprecedented offer to train Zoilo himself instead. Zoilo respectfully declines, and he and the Barber are making arrangements for Tarlun to periodically check on Zoilo when they are interrupted by a widespread sense of danger outside the Tinker's residence.

A raggedy hooded figure appears, bearing something in its arms which turns out to be the corpse of yet another of the Hollow's recruits, the girl who chose the craft of the Tailor. After ascertaining that Zoilo, Elana, and Ellis are indeed more of "those who have traveled from somewhen else", the figure reveals that he is Threadbare, the Tailor, who has killed his would-be apprentice since he has no interest in teaching his craft. He dumps the body on the ground, warns everyone not to interfere with him, and departs.

Zoilo moves to approach the body, but is stopped by Tarlun, who uses his straight-edge razor to reveal that the Tailor has apparently left a deadly network of unseen threads blanketing the space between the craftsmen and the unfortunate girl's body. The Barber can cut the threads, but asks the others to watch over him, since he will be vulnerable as he undertakes the task. They agree, but Mara sends Zoilo back towards the house, as he is as yet uncrafted and thus vulnerable as well.

Part Five
As Tarlun proceeds, the Tailor evidently senses his interference, saying "I warned you not to interfere!" Mara begins to take action, but she is quickly attacked with more unseen threads, and drops to the ground. Elana then attempts to do something, but she, too, is bound by the unseen threads around her hand and throat. Ellis attempts to cut them away, but the strands are as impervious as steel.

At this point, Zoilo makes it to the house, where he is met by an enraged Tinker, who storms straight into the threaded area, hammer enlarged and at the ready. He is lacerated and abraded by the thread, but makes it through the net, leaving bits of himself behind like afterimages that quickly reintegrate with his main form. Attacking, he is unable to harm the Tailor, but distracts him enough to free the two Rich Men.

Mara completes her purchase, calling an energy storm that begins repeatedly striking the Tailor with bolts of lightning. Elana summons five Soldiers from various points in time, who immediately attack the Tailor. Through it all, Threadbare struggles, but holds his own, to the point where one or two of the Soldiers actually begin to fall or fade out.

Tarlun completes his task of cutting, collapsing the Tailor's net and then joining in the physical attack. Elana is forced to pay a maintenance cost for the Soldiers, and decides to summon a Healer as well, to deal with various combatants' injuries. The Baker comes charging out of the house with a pan full of some sort of boiling concoction, which turns out to be exactly the recipe needed when Ellis retrieves a second Tailor's spool (the one loaned by the Hollow) from the dead girl's body. The Baker tells Ellis to dip the spool in his concoction, after which she hurls it towards the Tailor, who becomes quickly entangled in its threads.

The Tinker bashes his hammer on the Tailor's prostrate form, calling on Zoilo to enlarge his own hammer and help him. The summoned Soldiers join in, and the Tailor's form soon collapses as if it had been made of dust.

Part Six
After much heated argument-- including consultation with a summoned Weaver, who pronounces the Tailor's remains as "not natural... from outside life"-- it is decided that Threadbare's spool and remains should be burned, while the spool loaned by the Hollow should be held in keeping by Zoilo. Zoilo and the Tinker Calloway throw Threadbare's body and spool into Calloway's furnace, during which procedure the Tinker tells Zoilo that he, unlike Mara and Tarnum, has heard of the Tailor before, and that it is "an evil craft, which draws from death".

Speculation follows as to why the Tailor even bothered to deliver the girl's body. In the course of this, the three Isle folk try to explain about the Isle and the Widow. When Elana uses her linguistic abilities to determine that the title 'Widow' would translate as 'Dowager' in this day and age, Mara and Tarlun are horrified. They explain that the land they have all been traveling in is called the Vast, which was conquered ages ago and is currently ruled by the Dowager (via a plenipotentiary, the Marchion). If there are such things as 'supra-unique' crafts, they say, the Dowager is foremost among them; and if there are such things as 'evil crafts', then the Dowager is the first of those as well. In fact, it is well-known that the Dowager's powers now encompass the former portfolios of Suzerain, Sovereign, and Regent, all of which she is believed to have consumed.

They are further taken aback to learn of the Isle citizens' various 'knacks', which they identify as 'vestiges' of vanished Crafts, namely the Orator (Elana), the Prophet (Zoilo), and the Mimetic (Ellis). In the consternation and confusion caused by all this revelation, they decide to gather for dinner at the Rich Man's house (inviting the Soldier, the Crone, and the Linguist) and discuss matters further.
Nikki bit in at 3:37 PM :: ::

Isle Notes: episode one


The Corezze household
Hector: head of the 56th tier Corezze family; runs a jewelry business in the city of the Isle
Eliandra: Hector's wife; a Herald
Ellis: the elder of the 22-year-old Corezze twin sisters; a bit of a dilettante who occasionally helps out in the family business
Elana: the younger of the Corezze twins; a linguist who was recently invited for adoption into the 12th-tier Ambrosio family
Marietta: the Corezze's housemaid
Muffin: Elana's pet dog

The Itash household
Zoilo's father: formerly a priest of the Widow
Zoilo's mother: formerly a noble of the 21st tier; for unstated reasons, the entire family was cast down to the 57th tier sometime prior to Zoilo's birth (Zoilo has no idea.)
Ariosto Talvero: 30-year-old eldest son
Theresa: 29-year-old eldest daughter
Zoilo Maroos: 23-year-old writer son; a close friend to the Corezze sisters
Gretchen: the elder of the 21-year-old Itash twins
Gilda: the younger of the 21-year-old Itash twins
Suntory Lee: 19-year-old son; a former paramour of Ellis Correze
Cheval Blanc: 15-year-old youngest child

various characters
Mara: the Rich Man
Baldemor Ambrosio: head of the 12th-tier Ambrosio family; secretary to the Bastard
Ronayon: a Piscator who was paid to perform a service for Elana in her capacity as the Rich Man
Anthony: a Herald who delivered the Ambrosios' invitation to the Corezze home
the Tinker (male)
the Baker (male)
the Soldier (male)
the Crone (female)
the Bookbinder (male)

day 1: A strange 'blue salt' appears on the ground throughout the aboveground Isle, though not on the rooftops or windowsills. Several children die as a result of tasting the salt, and it is rumored that other citizens have suffered various ill effects just from touching it.

day 2: A torrential downpour of rain occurs, during which the animals of the Isle briefly gain the ability to speak. The rain helps sweep away most of the blue salt. A fleet of ships from beyond the wall is rumored to have been sighted approaching the Isle.

day 3: A herald brings a message to the Corezze home from Baldemor Ambrosio, offering to adopt Elana into the Ambrosio family. In the evening, a violent earthquake rocks the Isle, causing massive property damage and injuring or killing many. Among the deceased is Hector Corezze.

day 4: A conspicuous plume of smoke is sighted above the Widow's Peak. In consternation, many citizens gather at the church of the Widow. A massive bolt of lightning then strikes the bell in the church of the Widow on the 56th tier. (Prior to all this, the Herald Eliandra left her home-- intimating that she might not return-- and was seen heading towards the upper tiers of the Isle.)

day ?: At some point that Nikki fails to accurately pinpoint, the sun over the Isle is observed to 'pulse'; and Zoilo, questioning his father about the strange events, receives a cryptic comment to the effect that this has all happened before.

That night, the Hollow appears in the bedrooms of Zoilo, Elana and Ellis, and two other young girls. They are asked to aid her and, upon agreeing, are transported through some kind of portal to what presumably is the Hollow's residence. The Hollow reveals that there has been a series of murders which are cataclysmically affecting 'the balance', and that she herself has just been killed. She loans them each a tool of craft, extracting the promise that they will return the tools after 25 years.

The young people are then sent through portals to what seems to be a different time period, where they are supposed to train in the use of their respective crafts. Elana strikes a deal with the Rich Man Mara and makes a transaction with the Piscator Ronayon; Zoilo exchanges his tool for another (in the process resurrecting the Baker, who had been killed by the then-Tinker); and Ellis promises to teach the Soldier to 'be a woman' in exchange for training, also encountering a Crone and a Bookbinder.

Tinker: Zoilo
Tailor: unnamed girl
Soldier: Ellis
Sailor/Mariner: ?
Rich Man: Elana
Poor Man: ?
Beggarman: unnamed girl
Thief: ?
Nikki bit in at 3:27 PM :: ::

Isle Notes: social strata of the Isle

I've decided to inflict my RPG notes on y'all because... well, I find them interesting!

I. rulers: the One and the Five
A. the Widow-- goddess and overall ruler
- lives in the Hall of the Widow (colloquially known as 'Widow's Peak')
- presumably female

B. the Bastard-- also known as the Bastard Prince; only one of the rulers who is actually regularly seen
- His name is Roman; he has two lovers, one long-time male (Elias) and one ever-changing female
- He lives in the center of the 60-level tier structure.
- His governmental aides (of various ranks) are known as the Bastard Sons.

C. the Fabulist-- His or her house cannot be found.

D. the Wanton-- He or she has a house in the under-city of the Others, but it is boarded up and apparently uninhabited.

E. the Lyric-- He or she lives on an island in the middle of a great lake, removed from the 60-level tier structure. It is close by the school of music.

F. the Hollow-- was added to the roster of rulers 150 years ago, after a very long time that they were only 'the One and the Four'. At the time, she was witnessed to be a rather plain 15-year-old girl named Cassia.
- She lives on the fourth tier, in a 6'-tall square building that measures about two feet to each side, made of black stone. The House of the Hollow is constantly guarded by one of two dedicated Bastard Sons.
- According to the Hollow, her office comes into play when there is a threat to the Isle.

II. the 60 levels of families-- live in a rigid tier structure of 60 levels, loosely arranged in descending concentric circles around the domicile of the Bastard. Smaller numbers correspond to higher rank; tiers are referred to either by specific numbers, or by units of 6 tiers each.

III. the Others-- These non-noble citizens of the Isle work in the city of Isle, removed from the 60-level tier structure. Although some of them are actually richer than the members of the noble families, they all dwell underground in the under-city, which is also arranged in order of rank, with the less wealthy or influential families living at the very bottom of the reversed tier structure.

IV. the Unclean-- These are members of an enclave of fisher-folk who actually live on the great white wall that surrounds the Isle. They are considered unclean because they venture past the wall to fish the deep ocean.

V. the Heralds-- Technically considered to be outside the Isle social strata, this guild of specialized messengers predates the Hollow. In fact, the current church of the Widow originates from within the guild of Heralds. Heralds can go anywhere within the Isle, and have the ability to deliver messages verbatim, in the exact words and inflection used by the message-sender.
Nikki bit in at 3:17 PM :: ::
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Today is LET IT GO Day.

I have no idea what 'it' is supposed to be, though.

bibliophilia: In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip
Patricia McKillip has been called "one of fantasy's most underrated writers", a sentiment I have to agree with since I would willingly buy anything she writes (which I can't even say of my favorite literary writer, Salman Rushdie) and have so far loved every book of hers I've managed to get my hands on (which I can't say about my favorite fantasy writer, Guy Gavriel Kay). McKillip writes gorgeous, lyrical prose, working classic folk- and fairy tale tropes into richly atmospheric reimaginings, with finely-drawn, complex characters. In the Forests of Serre is the best I've read so far, a lush, exquisite rendering of the Russian 'firebird' folktale in fantasy dress.

I read somewhere that you know you're a writer if you find yourself reading everything with either burning envy or grinding contempt. In the Forests of Serre fits neatly into the 'envy' category-- the kind of work that forces you to stop every few pages or so, take a breath, and try your best to get over that feeling of "Damn. I wish I'd said that."

What is the biggest building in the world?

answer to yesterday's question
I just wanted to see how many of you were going to say 'cheetah'. There were five (counting Pauline's 'cheetos') out of eleven total responses, but you did know that the cheetah is only the fastest land animal, with a speed of 70 miles an hour. It is faster than the sailfish-- which outswims the marine competition at 68 miles an hour-- but not as fast as the peregrine falcon, which zips past everyone at 100 to 200 miles per hour.

Speedy smarties: Alex, Ariel, and Charles. And I know I said I wasn't going to reward jokes anymore, but Marco, Pauline, and Dean were just too silly to ignore... I think you guys only missed this quiz because it gives you an excuse to be corny!
Nikki bit in at 5:22 PM :: ::
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Today is MIRTH Day.

It's baaack!
Having picked up a nifty new book of assorted factoids, I am hereby reinstating the popular Trivia Quiz feature. (I'm betting Ariel and Alex will be pleased...)

little lessons
Raising a child makes you strangely aware of all the little things in life you learn without ever realizing you learned them. Like, for example, how to play with watercolors without getting most of the paint on your nose. The fact that anything red found in a condiment jar is probably best taken in small doses, not heaping teaspoonfuls. And the hard-won discipline of not licking your fingers until you're finished with the cheese curls, to minimize orange finger stains.

Some things you just have to figure out along the way.

What is the world's fastest animal?
Nikki bit in at 12:33 AM :: ::
Saturday, June 19, 2004


Can I sashay instead?

alphabet city
Yesterday I spotted a letter A on the sidewalk.

It was a cream-colored A, about three inches in length, perfectly formed in some serif font like Times or perhaps Garamond, and surprisingly unsullied for a letter that had been lying on the ground during the rainy season. Despite this, it seemed somehow forlorn-- Abandoned, Acheronian, Alone. I considered picking it up for a few moments until I realized my mistake.

For just a step and a half away there lay a letter E-- similarly lowercase, Equally Ecru. And it occurred to me that perhaps there was more going on in this situation that I might comprehend. Maybe the A and the E had had a falling-out, in Addition to the very Evident falling-down. Possibly the A had been too Ambitious, the E overly Ebullient. Perhaps if I let them be, they might be able to resolve their differences-- or perhaps too many letters had come between them already, and it would be hazardous to intervene.

Everyone knows tampering with letters is a criminal offense.

Grammar and Punctuation: all right
The proper phrase is 'all right'. 'Alright' is not a word that exists in the English language as we know it.
Nikki bit in at 3:06 PM :: ::
Friday, June 18, 2004

Today is SPLURGE Day.

Ordinarily, I don't post quiz results, but this one is just so strangely on-target:

How to make a Nikki

5 parts mercy

5 parts humour

3 parts ego
Stir together in a glass tumbler with a salted rim. Top it off with a sprinkle of caring and enjoy!


Personality cocktail
Nikki bit in at 3:24 PM :: ::
Thursday, June 17, 2004

Today is ROOT BEER Day.

When is Coca Cola Day?

in sickness and in health
I'm finally over my damned cold-- still sniffling and sneezing, but the reality-warping dopiness that always accompanies my head colds is finally done with. June has simply not been a good month for me health-wise: first there was that razor-blade-in-the-cornea eye infection; then this sinus thing, which made me suspect that someone had stealthily removed all my inner organs and replaced them with cotton wool.

I blamed Dean, of course. This may seem quite unreasonable, but you must understand that my husband tends to laugh at me when I'm sick, which makes me suspect that he actually makes me sick on purpose, just to amuse himself. Oh, he's solicitous and all that-- offers me medicine, fetches me tea, the works. But he also chortles with glee when my eyes are puffed up with allergic reaction, makes fun of my voice when my scratchy throat makes me sound like Jessica Rabbit, and deliberately asks me complicated philosophical questions when he knows that 'oxygen = good' is about the maximum my cold-addled brain can handle.

Truly, he is a cruel, cruel man. So is it any surprise that when I wake up in the morning with a disgusting taste in my mouth, I immediately suspect that it's because he force-fed me dirty socks during the night?

He, of course, blames Sage.

Grammar and Punctuation: numbers
As a matter of style, numbers from zero to ten are usually spelled out, while numbers from 11 upwards are written in numerical form.

Sage is a two-year-old girl.
Marco is a 31-year-old man.

There are, of course, many exceptions to this, such as when noting time, date, chapter & verse, and the like, which should all be done in numerical form, regardless of number value. Numbers used in dialogue should generally be spelled out, unless they are so large as to be unwieldy in written form.
Nikki bit in at 9:46 PM :: ::
Monday, June 14, 2004


This was sent to me by my friend Katrina, who is so smart, opinionated, and well-informed that she really ought to have a blog of her own. (Hint, hint.) But if you don't understand what this post is doing on my blog, you clearly haven't been paying attention...

Andy Rooney says:
As I grow in age, I value women who are over 30 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 30 will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask, "What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.

If a woman over 30 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And it's usually something more interesting.

A woman over 30 knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants and from whom. Few women past the age of 30 give a damn what you might think about her or what she's doing.

Women over 30 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant.

Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.

A woman over 30 has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn't trust the guy with other women.

Women over 30 couldn't care less if you're attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won't betray her.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 30. They always know.

A woman over 30 looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women or drag queens.

Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 30 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Yes, we praise women over 30 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal.

For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of 30+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year-old waitress.

Ladies, I apologize.

Andy Rooney

Grammar and Punctuation: clever
I just found out that this word means a different thing when applied to a horse than it does when applied to a person. A clever horse is a good-natured one, rather than a smart one.
Nikki bit in at 5:35 PM :: ::
Saturday, June 12, 2004


Isn't it? So how come there's no big fuss?

game on
Yippee! I'm finally involved in a regular role-playing game again, and it wasn't even my idea. Dean missed the old days of building new worlds every week, so we gave game meister Alex a call; and just like that, three days later, we were playing. A far cry from my usual trauma of having to beg, borrow, and steal just to set up a one-shot.

So after being royally spoilt over dinner by Alex's wonderful household helpers, we sat down to some serious gaming with Alex and his lady, the lovely, intelligent, and much-maligned Kate. (You'll have to ask her what I mean.) The setting was a place called 'the Isle', and we had so much fun that I'm going to inflict my newly-written character profile on y'all.

Ellis Corezze is the daughter of jeweler Hector Corezze and the herald Eliandra. She has no official profession, but has actually been more useful in her father's trade than she cares to admit, given her unfailing memory for names, faces, and relationships. In fact, she is the inheritor of her father's pragmatic and calculating nature; she is also headstrong and has a temper, but has learned to conceal all this beneath a veneer of charm and rather heartless flirtation. She tends to be protective of her twin sister Elana, because she views Elana as the bookish sort who is relatively helpless in the 'real' world. (Not exactly true, but Ellis is four minutes older and, she thinks, wiser.) She not-so-secretly idolizes her mother and wants to be a herald like her, but has thus far acceded to Eliandra's unspoken discouragement of this ambition.

character creation
The other reason I've posted the above is to explain that that's generally how I approach character-building for everything, from comic books to fiction. I don't always write it down (In this case, I'm planning to show it to Dean, who's running the game), but I do try to figure out the character's general nature, how they are perceived, any particular quirks, what they want, and how they relate to people in their immediate circle. I find that it's immensely helpful in writing; and I learned to do it through role-playing, how 'bout that? And my dad always said it was pointless...

Grammar and Punctuation: styling titles
The titles of things which can stand alone-- like plays, movies, TV shows, radio programs, books, magazines, newspapers, works of art, and even pamphlets and famous speeches-- should be italicized or underlined (but only if italics would be impossible or illegible in the given format). The titles of shorter works or works that form a part of a larger work-- such as poems, songs, short stories, articles, and episodes-- should be bracketed in either single or double quotation marks.

So you would write, for example:
Nikki Go-Alfar's 'Panay, 1925', from Siglo: Freedom

Exceptions to these rules are: the titles of sacred works-- such as the Bible or the Koran-- and Judeo-Christian Biblical references, which are never italicized; and epic-length poems-- such as Beowulf-- and very long musical pieces-- such as Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite-- which are treated like stand-alone works.
Nikki bit in at 12:11 PM :: ::
Friday, June 11, 2004


It's kind of odd to realize that more than one person elected to call themselves 'Kamehameha'...

Amie's back!
Which just pleases me no end, which is a little odd considering that we hardly ever see each other in person (despite living in the same building, mind you). Most of our contact is carried on online, so really, distance doesn't make that much difference, but I'm pleased as punch anyway. And not just because Ed will be in a good mood while coloring our story for Siglo: Passion; and not just because Amie was gracious enough to bring me a box of fudge from England.

mmm, fudge
I happen to adore fudge, which is also a little strange since I'm not a huge chocolate fan. (Yeah, I can hear y'all gasping in dismay now.) It's not that I dislike it; I just happen to like other flavors more, like lemon and mint.

Fudge, though, breaks the pattern. I suspect this is attributable to the fact that my brothers and I used to make fudge in our childhood. We'd all crowd into our little kitchen, and my eldest brother Ronnie would hand out assignments: someone had to gather up the ingredients, someone had to whip the cream, Richard-- who was then the only competent cook among us-- had to handle the stove. As the youngest, I always got the honor of pouring in the chocolate chips; and as we waited for the finished fudge to cool, we'd all gather around the kitchen table to scrape the bowl and lick the mixture off our spoons and fingers.

This was back in the days when I thought my family life was idyllic, instead of the confused morass of resentment and surpressed anger it was later revealed to be. Things turned out okay in the end, but I suppose fudge just reminds me of a time when things were simpler and cozier, albeit considerably more ignorant.

Oh, well. Life is complicated, but fudge is yummy. Even when it's actually vanilla fudge.

Grammar and Punctuation: anyone vs. anybody
The words 'anyone' and 'anybody' are more or less interchangeable in practical use. Formally, however, 'anybody' means 'any person', while 'anyone' means 'any one person'.
Nikki bit in at 4:23 PM :: ::
Wednesday, June 09, 2004


The eyes have (had) it.
I've been having problems with my eyes the last couple of days. This morning, I woke up feeling like someone had implanted a razor blade in my left eyeball. (Yeah, if just the imagery made you wince, imagine how I felt.) It was so bad that I huddled under the bedcovers for most of the day, cursing myself for having bought filmy translucent curtains instead of drapes that would properly shut out the eye-offending sunlight. The only reason I'm out of bed and at the computer now is that (a) it's nighttime, and (b) God bless Tylenol.

Yesterday, Sage accidentally whacked me one in the right eye, the aftereffects of which make me look like a victim of spousal abuse, if I don't apply the ol' concealer wizardry. Speaking of which...

Did you hear the one about Dean?
Rumor has it that his 'deep, dark secret' is that "he sends Nikki out to 'play' with other girls". I just heard this recently.

I am mildly offended by this scuttlebutt-- not because of my supposed secret-yet-authorized lesbian shenanigans, but because of the phrase "he sends her". What am I, some kind of porn-style bloodhound? Does Dean supposedly spot some likely-looking lass and go, "Fetch, wife!"? Listen up, rumor-mongers: Nikki. Does not. Get. Sent. Anywhere. Nikki goes or does not go as she damn well pleases, all right?

As for the rumor itself-- how silly can you get? Anyone who knows us even slightly knows that the reason we don't have deep, dark secrets is that we go around telling everyone everything. Heck, if it were something as kinkily titillating as extramarital lesbian action, I'd probably blog about it! Alas, to paraphrase Tallulah Bankhead, "I've had a man, and I've had a woman, and believe me, men are better." In other words, when it comes to sex, I'd say dickin' beats lickin' any day of the week.

Grammar and Punctuation: colons vs. dashes (for El)
Both the colon and the dash are used to introduce a succeeding clause within a sentence. Formally speaking, the colon is used to introduce an independent clause that amplifies the preceding clause, while a dash introduces a clause that explains the preceding one. In practical use, however, they are fairly interchangeable when used in this manner.

Amie was glad to be back from England: she couldn't stop smiling.
Amie was glad to be back from England-- she had been gone for some time.

Also, a colon is used to introduce a list of particulars, while a dash more properly summarizes a list.

Amie checked that her luggage was complete: suitcase, valise, and handcarry.
Amie had packed a suitcase, a valise, and a handcarry tote-- all her necessities in three pieces of luggage.

Finally, a dash is used to indicate an interruption or abrupt break, while a colon may be used to introduce an illustrative quotation.

Amie had planned-- as much as planning was possible, given Manila traffic-- to be home from the airport by ten.
Amie's happy homecoming reminded her of the old cliche: "Home is where the heart is."
Nikki bit in at 12:59 AM :: ::
Friday, June 04, 2004


Don't forget the Band-Aids.

straight on till sunset
One difference between me and a lot of people is that I actually like getting older. I mean, I bitch about it a lot, but y'know, I bitch about everything. (People might think I'm ill if I stop...) Okay, so maybe I have a lot more responsibilities than I used to, but I have a lot more freedom as well. Maybe my body feels the effects of illness, injury, and unhealthy living longer and more resoundingly than it used to, but you know what?

I like being able to live unhealthily if I damn well feel like it. I like being the undisputed queen of my household. I like having finally figured out what I want to do for a living, and being able to do it. I like that my brothers and I have gotten to a point where 'older' and 'younger' no longer matter-- we're all just adults. I like having done with the sheer agony of relationship-seeking and -building. I like having learned a lot, and knowing that there will always be new things to learn. I like that when I look at my face in the mirror, I see bone structure, not baby fat. I like that I can see my mother in my face; and my own face in my daughter's.

I like who I am, and who I've become. And I wouldn't turn back the clock if you paid me.

Well. Maybe if you paid me.

poem: life in ashes
it isn't about
forever, see?
it's only about
the moment, this
moment, this very
right now-- as
transient as smoke, and
as lovely. it's
about inhaling, taking in
all the tastes, regardless:
the sweet and the acrid,
the fulfilling and
the deadly. it's about staring
thisclose at the flame, and not
flinching-- or
flinching, but staring on
anyway. it's knowing that time
burns us all up in time, but not
but not today.
it isn't about
clinging to life;
it's living.

Grammar and Punctuation: the past tense
The past at last! (How 'poetic'...) Most fiction is written in past tense, which is why proper application of the past tense is so crucial for creative writers. But please note that the usage rules I'll be covering following the examples apply to all tenses.

simple past: Nikki wrote about grammar.
past progressive: Nikki was writing about grammar.
past perfect: Nikki had written about grammar.
past perfect progressive: Nikki had been writing about grammar.

The progressive tense mode (whether simple or perfect; past, present, or future) is used primarily when expressing an ongoing action. In the present tense, this refers to something that is happening right now (E.g., 'Nikki is writing about grammar nowadays'), while in the past or future tenses, it applies to something that happened or will happen at the time that a separate action or event happened or will happen. (E.g., 'Nikki was writing about grammar when Sage interrupted' or 'Nikki will be writing about grammar when she next updates her blog.')

The perfect mode (whether past, present, or future) is used to express an action that either has a definite duration or refers to a specific point in time. In other words, you would say 'Nikki wrote about grammar' if you simply wanted to convey that Nikki once did so, and may very well continue to do so. If you say 'Nikki had written about grammar', you are implying that Nikki wrote about grammar at a particular point before now, and perhaps no longer does.

Therefore, when writing in the past tense, you should generally use past perfect when referring to events that occurred prior to the established 'current' timeline. So

'Dean was appalled. He has not accounted for the additional expense of pink milk' would be INCORRECT; while
'Dean was appalled. He had not accounted for the additional expense of pink milk' would be the CORRECT usage,

because Dean's faulty accounting is an event that occurred before Dean became appalled. Confused? Just remember, as a rule of thumb, 'is' goes with 'has', 'was' goes with 'had', and 'will' goes with 'will have'. And feel free to write me if it's all still clear as mud to you.
Nikki bit in at 12:25 PM :: ::
Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Today is TAILORS' DAY.

Just because El said such nice things about my blog in his blog, I'm reinstating the 'daily holidays' section. It's sad, really, what a sucker I am for shameless flattery.

grief cycle: the porn version
I don't really know how it came about, but the gang and I happened to be discussing the famous 'grief cycle' (You know: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance). So naturally, given my twisted mind, I immediately came up with the Porn Grief Cycle, exclusively applicable to non-consensual pornography, and usually run through at super-speed, in a span of five minutes or less.

DENIAL = "No! No! How can you do this to me?! Why are you doing this to me!? You can't do this to me!"
ANGER = "You son of a bitch, how dare you do this to me, I'll kill you!"
BARGAINING = "Okay, I'll suck you off, but don't fuck me," quickly followed by "Okay, fuck me, but don't fuck my ass!"
DEPRESSION = quiet sobbing
ACCEPTANCE = fucking back so it will be over as quickly as possible

Tasteless, innit? And now you know the kind of conversations we tend to fall into... Maybe it's the coffee?

Grammar and Punctuation: the future tense
We are time-traveling by handling the future tense prior to the past tense because the past tense is the most important from a writer's point of view, and, perhaps correspondingly, the most frequently mangled. In comparison, the future tense is a breeze.

simple future: Nikki will write about grammar.
future progressive: Nikki will be writing about grammar.
future perfect: Nikki will have written about grammar.
future perfect progressive: Nikki will have been writing about grammar.

As you may remember from grammar school, the word 'will' in these examples can be replaced by the word 'shall' or the phrase 'is going to'. In modern usage, however, 'shall' is usually reserved for cases in which there is an implied decision. (I.e., 'Nikki shall vote Democrat.' would be correct, while 'Nikki shall continue breathing.' is still correct, but rather awkward. The phrase 'is going to' is substituted when using the passive rather than active voice.

Which means I'm going to have to cover that at some point, too. No wonder my English teachers were always so harassed.
Nikki bit in at 10:24 PM :: ::
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Nikki Alfar is really not as sexy as El's illustration would have you believe... but she doesn't mind if you think of her that way.
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