Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Painted Acorns and Pinecones

My medieval fantasy world of Tiaera has similar seasons to Earth. And just like Earth, spring is a great time for the blooming of flowers and the birth of animals. Traditionally, Tiaerans often celebrate by giving out bouquets of flowers, decorating and crafting, and attending community services to remember the fallen heroes who could not be revived. All the races of Tiaera observe the season in some way, and the gnomes of Seacastle Bay are no different.

Missing Tavisan, who was away on a far off quest, Audrey Swifter decided to go ahead with their family tradition of painting dozens of pinecones and acorns.  It would keep her mind busy as she cared for her two children at home. Besides, she still had her faithful and handy brother to help, if she could keep him out of the local taverns. Sitting in her kitchen with Azunna, she dabbed the pine cone carefully, trying not to get any paint on her fingers. Azunna got a pinecone to paint for herself.

“It’s done!” Carlyn burst into the kitchen dressed in his work clothes, his faced smudged and sweaty.

“Aye, Mamma! We did it!” Emmert, Audrey’s little son, was dressed and dirty like his uncle. The young gnome loved spending time in the workshop with him, learning all about tools and machines. “Oooo! Cookies?”

“Aye, but not until you two wash thy hands… and faces, if you please. Did you wipe thy feet afoe walking into the house?”

The two gnomes pouted and checked their shoes, then nodded respectfully.

It was all Audrey could do to keep from grinning at the sight of Carlyn and Emmert. “Well, bwutheo? I do hope thy contwaption is not inside the house.  Weemember what happened in the past? I had to weepaint the sitting woom and weeplace the wugs because it exploded when you last twied to demonstwate it.”

Carlyn’s face turned red. “Nay, Sis. We brought it not. ’Tis back in the shop. Nonetheless, we think ye shall like what it does. Behold all those acorns and pinecones on the table. Our new invention shall paint all those in less than half the time, and mayhap even better.”

Emmert nodded enthusiastically, then got distracted by his little sister painting her pinecone and enjoying some hot tea and cookies. 

Audrey looked down at her half-painted pinecone and pouted. “But ’tis so amusing and….”

“And boooring, Audrey!” interrupted her brother. “Every year you sit hither and paint these acorns and pinecones. Wish you not to put an end to this chore more quickly or mayhap make many more in just half the time? Methinks I would rather be done with this so I can get back to my fishing or brewing.”

Audrey took a deep breath, refusing to argue in front of the children.

Azunna broke the silence. “I like painting, Mama. Lo, mine is all but finished. Does it not look like a pretty flower?”

Audrey picked up the pinecone her little girl had been painting. It was a chaotic mess of colors. Her tiny fingers smudged the paint on the surface. But Audrey only saw the beauty of her daugther’s artistic effort. She looked down at Azunna, still holding the paint-laden brush, smiling proudly. Azunna was little now, but one day she would grow up and leave home; so will Emmert. Spending time together at home was precious. Like the passing of one season to the next, this was a time to make memories.

“Can thy new machine do this?” The gnomette lifted up her the multicolored items and gestured to Azunna, the paints, brushes, cups of hot spiced tea and cookies at the table. 

The kitchen was warm and the candles lit up the room in a welcoming glow. Audrey and Azunna began to sing softly together and resumed their painting. Audrey glanced at her brother, hoping he understood what she was getting at.

Carlyn and Emmert looked at each other. The kitchen scene before them was so sweet and endearing; they lost their excitement and grew thirsty. The uncle and nephew stepped closer and eyed the plate of cookies on the table. Handing her back the pinecone and acorn, Carlyn smiled and sighed. “Nay, I supposed it cannot do all this. And these are true treasures because my little niece did them.”

Azunna beamed.

“Mayhap we can alter the machine to do something else,” added Emmert. “Mama? Can I have some tea and cookies too?”

“Aye, after you wash thy hands, my son. You ah so like thy uncle indeed,” Audrey said with a giggle. 

The boy and his uncle quickly did as they were bid and after receiving their tea and treats, went back to work on their inventions.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Signing at the Armored Combat League Event

For those who enjoy a real live action spectacle, The Armored Combat League is coming to Lake Havasu City later this month. I have the Facebook link here below. I will have my new tent set up on the perimeter of the tournament grounds. I will be signing and selling my books and trinkets both days. Hope to see you all there!


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The EQ Landmark Sunset

Landmark shut its servers down last week on February 21st. It was an online game from Sony Online Entertainment. I won't go into the any major explanation about what happened. If you really want to know, here's a link to an editorial that can explain it without all the anger and frustration I have read about the shut-down.

Landmark Sunset Editorial

Also, a video: Post Mortem: EQ Landmark

It's no secret to my friends and followers that most of my writing inspiration comes from gaming. I guess you can say Everquest 2 (EQ2) is my muse. When the makers of EQ2 introduced the plans for two new games about 3 years ago, I was excited. They were Everquest Next and Everquest Landmark. I was thrilled to see how a player could build just about anything they could imagine using voxels (virtual bricks to be used like Legos). My imagination went wild at the possibility of bringing to life the lands of Tiaera, or at least some of the notable landmarks I have written about in my novels. I signed up for the Alpha & Beta Testing and downloaded the unfinished game. Hundreds of players did the same and in no time I staked claims with my friend, Solus, and got busy with constructions. The castle in my Facebook page was just one example of what I could create. Here are some screenies of the Dark Forest Realm manor:

For world-building, Landmark was wonderful. It had different environments to build on i.e. snowy mountain, desert, valley, forest, beach front, etc... If you can't draw or paint, here was a chance to build using voxels to create scenes, towns, buildings, almost anything your mind and computer can manage. Players soon made how-to articles and videos to help us in our plans for building our creations. I began with building the Dark Forest Realm castle and manor, then last year I began work on Castle Feralson.
Castle Feralson
Inner Courtyard
Inside the Church
The Main Hall

The castle was never finished. I stopped working on it the day it was announced that Landmark's servers were coming down. Working on these structures kept me inspired to write for the last three years. I worked on "Legend of Fayre Sea" and the "World of Tiaera" coloring book during those years. When I wasn't writing and busy with my home life, I dwelled in this virtual realm of creativity. I visited other claims and got inspired by what others made there.

It really hurt me to see this beautiful game come to an end. Many others were angry, shocked, depressed and disappointed by the money and time they had invested in this game. They blamed Daybreak Games, the game and even each other. I read many articles and saw videos about the game's "sunset" and participated in a final event as time ran out for Landmark and the servers were shut down for the last time. Here are a few more screen shots of the Sunset Wall (signed by players) and Graveyard event where players made tombstones and lingered to the final end.

This wall no longer exists, but it was a good way to leave our mark and say good bye.

My character's name was Kalephia.
The Graveyard Sunset event on the last day:

Here is a beautifully done 7 minute video I found on Youtube. It's a perfect tribute to the player-creators of this extraordinary game.  All the structures you'll see were done my gamers. My mind still boggles at the brilliant designs, plans, ships, buildings, etc... Even the game developers were impressed by what the players did with their game tools. So far, no other game comes close to what this one could do.  Good bye Landmark

I tried for weeks to find another game like Landmark. I depend on these fantasy games for writing prompts and inspiration. Nothing comes close to what this game could do, for now. I am just going to have to settle for EQ2 modular building and go back to drawing my world using pens, paper and my digital stylus as in the past. 

Farewell, Landmark. It was really fun and creative while it lasted.