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The Day After…

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre.”

– H.L. Mencken, July 1920.

Amidst the ashes of the 2019 General Election, I can say nothing better.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2019 in Quotes

 

Magic the Gathering: Project ‘Booster Fun’ Breakdown

Rarities remain unchanged, but variant cards within each rarity will obviously be scarcer. Exact distribution to be determined as no metrics were provided in the article.

The Three New Card Variants

Showcase Frame – a unique design for each set, but only for a selection of cards – occurring at all rarities, and in foil & non-foil versions.

Extended art cards (as per Ultimate Edition Box Toppers) – only for a selection of rares and mythic rares, will have foil & non-foil versions

Borderless Planeswalker (as per Mythic Edition) with alternate art – unclear if all or a selection – but will have foil & non-foil versions

Card Variants by Rarity

Common

Non-foil Card
Foil card
Showcase frame with alternate art
Foil showcase frame with alternate art

Uncommon

Non-foil Card
Foil card
Showcase frame with alternate art
Foil showcase frame with alternate art
Borderless planeswalker with alternate art (unlikely, but no specific exclusion stated, and unclear if would be all planeswalkers or just a selection)
Foil borderless planeswalker with alternate art (unlikely, but no specific exclusion stated and unclear if would be all planeswalkers or just a selection)

Rare

Non-foil Card
Foil card
Showcase frame with alternate art
Foil showcase frame with alternate art
Borderless planeswalker with alternate art (unclear if all planeswalkers or just a selection)
Foil borderless planeswalker with alternate art (unclear if all planeswalkers or just a selection)
Extended art (only for some rares)
Foil extended art (only for some rares)

Mythic Rare

Non-foil Card
Foil card
Showcase frame with alternate art
Foil showcase frame with alternate art
Borderless planeswalker with alternate art (unclear if all planeswalkers or just a selection)
Foil borderless planeswalker with alternate art (unclear if all planeswalkers or just a selection)
Extended art (only for some mythics)
Foil extended art (only for some mythics)

Token

Non-foil Card
Foil card (only found in the Collector’s Booster)

Packaging

Draft Booster Pack

The 15+1 card booster we know, with a higher frequency of foils: now averaging 1 in every 3 packs.

Single version with varying wrapper art.
Contents consist of: 1 rare/mythic rare, 3 uncommons, 10 commons, 1 land, 1 ad card/token card

Might contain Borderless Planeswalker or Showcase Frame cards.

Themed Booster Pack

35+1 cards with a thematic (not necessarily colour) link.

Variable number of versions.
Contents consist of: 1 rare/mythic rare, 34 commons/uncommons (always more commons than uncommons), 1 reference card

NB: 1 in 10 themed booster packs will contain 2 rares/mythic rares and 33 commons/uncommons

Collector’s Booster Pack

English & Japanese language only – limited print run – 15+1 cards.

Single version, possibly with varying wrapper art.
Contents consist of:

1 rare/mythic rare with extended art (any card that doesn’t already appear in the set as a borderless or showcase frame)
1 foil rare/mythic rare (can be standard, borderless, showcase or extended)
9 foil commons/uncommons (can be standard or showcase)
3 special-frame non-foil cards (showcase or borderless planeswalkers), any rarity
1 ancillary card (new cards not found in draft boosters, such as those unique to Planeswalker decks or Brawl decks)
1 foil token (only place to get foil tokens for the set. No emblems.)

Planeswalker decks

Multiple versions

Contents consist of:
60-card deck with 10 cards unique to that deck:
1 copy of a mythic rare (the planeswalker the deck is built around)
2 copies of the same rare (card with an effect that also tutors specifically for the planeswalker card in this product)
3 copies of the same uncommon (usually a card synergistic with the planeswalker in the deck)
4 copies of a the same common (a basic effect to make the deck work)

Brawl decks

Multiple versions

Contents consist of:
60-card deck with 7 cards unique to that deck.
Life wheel – a card with a life counter in it.

Bundle

Single version (as per Core Set 2020)

Contents consist of:
10 Draft Booster packs
20 foil basic lands
20 regular basic lands
1 bundle promo card
1 oversized spindown life counter (20-sided)
Storage box

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in Daybook

 

So, Jae Decided to Build an Eldar Titan

I’ve been a roleplayer and gamer for many years, pretty much exclusively in the real world as the motion sickness I have prevents me playing most computer games (good thing too, otherwise I’d never have become a writer – or done much else).

Games Workshop and the Warhammer phenomenon have been at the fringe of my awareness for decades. Of all the things they’ve produced, the Harlequins of Warhammer 40,000 are the only things that really caught my imagination. I even had a set of the original ones, but sold it untouched as my painting skills at the time, while competent, weren’t up to the task of doing them justice. Plus, you needed a lot of money to build a Harlequin army.

Last year, Games Workshop announced Kill Team, a skirmish-level standalone game set in the Warhammer 40k universe. This, I thought, would be an ideal time to get half a dozen Harlequins and have some fun. Then I saw the prices and decided otherwise.

At near the end of last year, a friend gave me a Harlequin troupe. A simple gift, but much appreciated. Scaring up a second-hand Kill team manual didn’t take long, but I found my tendencies to write stories fired by my new Harlequin troupe. Within days, I had a background for them and some daft ideas. As things tend to do when they are meant to be, several things fell into place and I wound up with a part built, part rebuilt, largely unfinished, and long abandoned Forgeworld Revenant Titan. As I laid out the bits, I realised I’d stepped off the deep end as far as my model making skills were concerned. On top of that, the thing is huge.

Given this was to be a Harlequin titan, I had some offbeat ideas for how it should be armed. Upon seeing the parts, I suddenly came up with the idea of adding a webway gate to the build. After some research, I decided a pulsar could remain, but needed power sword to allow closer range work. A fire prism would replace the other pulsar. After all, I reasoned, if I’m going to be out of my depth and making it up as I go along, I might as well try to get it all in.

The concept being that the troupe, named the Masque of Isha’s Grace, had been one of those dedicated to supplementing the defences around the Black Library. Every member had heard the voice of the lost Eldar goddess Isha, calling them from the webway. To what end remains unclear. So, they do what the battle dancers do – defend the galaxy from the encroachment of Chaos. With the change in Cegorach’s approach, and guided by a whisper from she whom they refer to as the Mother of Tears, they have stepped into the real to wage war alongside any who would lay the banners of Chaos down.

Taking some fine hints as to body dynamics and where to start from the tutorial on Oink’s Overambitious Terrain Projects blog, and having the legs already constructed, I chose to work with what I’d been given. All the advice I saw demanded that I start with the legs, but, before that, I needed to have a good idea of the final pose I wanted. That took a while. When a set of Tiny Worlds resin rock outcrops arrived, it came together quite quickly.

As the Titan is to be displayed with the rest of the Masque, the round base was discarded and a 300mm square picture frame acquired, to give base and edging, followed by a 310mm square heavy black resin cutting board to be the base for the finished display.

What followed was somewhere around fifty hours work. There are 78 pictures and as WordPress will have a fit if I try to include the lot, I’ve placed them over on my image blog, Slow Missiles. Photos: 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, 61-70, 71-78

I hope my amateur efforts are of interest, and possibly save someone else trouble.

The Masque is away being painted and the Titan will be joining them soon. Which is why the build of the Titan is lacking pauldrons, thigh guards and main manouvre jet units, as fitting them would make proper paintwork impossible.

I will put up a new post with the complete Masque of Isha’s Grace, including credits and info, when they’re finished and back.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Daybook

 

Nearly a Year in the Wilderness Later…

Good morning.

I knew I’d been away for a while, but this is ridiculous. Anyway, this is the apology for lack of content and fair warning that I’m going to try and change the tone a little. Yes, there have been several changes in the real world and in my life that have caused this redirection. I may detail them, one day. But it won’t be for a while, I suspect.

So, observations on the world in general will continue, but only when I genuinely have something new to say. Reading through this blog should not be a quest to find gems in a sea of the same thing on a different day. I remain a paranoid cynic with a very dim view of humanity and where we’re headed. I have a very low trust of those in power and while I admit that philanthropists and petitions show there is still mercy to be found, it’s too late. We are, quite simply, doomed. As to what form that doom will take, I suspect it will be of a slow wasting kind, overlaid by rhetoric and buttressed by manipulated ennui and greed.

With that out the way, what next? I’m going to share stuff about writing, about the projects I do so I don’t write all the time, and a few other morsels from the charmed life I paddle through.

Stick around. It’s going to be (slightly less) infrequent but interesting – or that, at least, is my aim.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2019 in Life & Self

 

Writing Flash Fiction

I write between four and eight flash stories each month. Sometimes many more, as I often use flash pieces as building blocks for my bigger stories.

This article was originally done in reply to a query. When posting the short version in answer to a request on a forum, it (finally) occurred to me that this might be of interest or use to a wider audience.

Inspiration comes from anywhere. Sometimes it’s as simple as thinking what would happen if the accepted outcome of an event didn’t occur. Why didn’t it occur? e.g. You put your cup and saucer down on the table, misjudge the edge, and down the tea goes. But, this time, it just sits there, unsupported, a metre off the floor. Super-superglue on the edge? Invisible alien? Gravitational anomaly? And away the story goes.

Just Write! The words are the medium for the story, but the story is the creative drive. Get that clever idea/plot/scenario written down. You can refine the words over and over, but that moment of inspiration will never come back in the same form, if at all.

Make your title work for you. You haven’t got a lot of room, so the title should do some of the work. Sometimes, you can be cheeky with it – in example, one of my own favourite titles is “Hanging from a Ledge on Mantriss V”. That’s setting, opening act, and hook. That being said, don’t give away the heart/dénouement of the tale in your drive for a clever title.

Action is not the all. Flash fiction is often touted as a medium with a ‘show not tell’ bias. I find it can fit for the poignant, quiet moments, as well. Like before or just after the action, something the action movie would skip. A character’s personal thoughts or interactions, reminiscences or what ifs can be powerful stuff. That being said –

Always try to do something. A good story should have a dynamism about it. You’ll not always achieve it, but do try as the best flash pieces always have it. In the most basic example: A lone character doing dry exposition can be tedious. A lone character remembering a moment and it’s aftermath? Still (could even have parts of the same) exposition, but narrated in a different way. Following on from that –

Information afterwards. If you go for setting up front, your reader is likely to ‘click away’. Get something going on, the old in media res trick (simplest example: the opening of Star Wars IV), then fill in the details. But only for this bit of the tale. A full world build in one flash is impossible and irrelevant. If you find yourself going on and on to set the scene, chances are you’re telling the wrong bit of that particular story.

Keep it focused. Think about your environment when walking down the street. There’s a wealth of information and description involved to detail the scene for those not there, but to walk along, all you need is clear pavement. Your characters will be the same: there’s no need to tell what isn’t absolutely essential for their ‘walking along’ in your story. But –

The reader has to understand what you mean. Common archetypes, descriptions, and set ups can save you words because your mention of a familiar term or accepted description (see how often the neon-lit market/streets of Blade Runner are used as a cue for ‘future dystopia’) allows the reader to fill in details from your ‘shorthand’. Conversely, if you’re being innovative, the audience may not understand from a purely character-based viewpoint. You’re going to have to help them grasp the concept, and being subtle is good: they should become aware without having a brute definition thrust at them. Also, if a clever wordplay/slang/name could be misinterpreted as a typo, find an alternative. Oh, and be careful when using unusual or new slang (or that ‘future slang’ you came up with) – unless context absolutely clarifies it, don’t use it.

Use a thesaurus. When every word counts, variety and using the gamut of available words is essential. Could be as simple as giving a character a unique voice by having her or him consistently use uncommon variants of a word or two.

Never let it out immediately. Wait at least a day, preferably two – at least. I try to get my definite submissions for the following month done by the middle of the previous month, because I know it will take at least four review passes to refine and correct them where necessary.
NB: You really should get at least one literary-capable friend to proofread your work. I have half-a-dozen proofreaders and a pair of critical editors who make sure my books are tidy.
My monthly flash fiction is the only format in which I allow myself to step round the rule, because I found that I intensely disliked getting a virtual kicking from reviewers and readers pointing out my errors. Consequently, my craft has improved. That being said, it’s a Pavlovian way of refining your craft. Save yourself the pain that might put you off. Get a proofreader involved.

Nobody reads your story the same way. All you can do is do the best you can with the tale you’re relating. You can’t say if your stories are good, that’s for your readers to decide. You can create stories you are happy with, stories you are pleased with, and – very occasionally – stories you love. Expect to be surprised: stuff you love gets no response yet stuff you thought reasonable gets raved over. Most importantly, you have to bear in mind that –

Not everyone will like your story. This is inevitable. Many won’t say a thing. Some will mention it. The ones to be ready for are the ones who didn’t like it and are determined to make that your fault. Let it go and don’t take it to heart. You can’t win ‘your imaginary world is not right’ battles. Don’t even try.

Have fun. Above all – and always – have fun.

Hope this helps.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2018 in Life & Self

 

Finding the Words

Has never been a problem for me, with one key exception: when I absolutely have to find the right ones with no warning or options. Over the last year, I had that unwritten rule reinforced several times.

And so, here we are again. How did 2017 treat you? If you share ground with many of those I know, it was a bastard of a year that, surprisingly, finished with a glimmer of hope. Not that you expect it to be anything but the little light that keeps you going. We’re all big kids here. We know nothing owes us anything.

So, in keeping with the traditions I’ve set myself, let’s revisit the topics: Jobhunting – no change,  with a grimmer outlook. Romance – no change, except I now have minimal expectations to match the negative outlook. Finances – abysmal, but holding steady at ‘poor teetering on the edge of destitute’. Books – two, bringing the total to 22, and including a limited edition of my 19th (note to self: must do better).

Books. Made up of words. Words that, I discovered, are governed by the rule I opened this piece with. I was intending to complete what would have been my second novel this year, a book many people have been waiting a long time for. But I tried to push it, and the result was largely of poor quality. The last piece of poor writing I released was the draft of my first novel. I learned a lot from that. So, this time, rather than rush, rewrite, and likely ruin something that must not be anything less than marvellous, I abandoned it. I’ve kept the opening chapter and the earlier sections, but everything else written for it in 2017 was deleted. How much the death of my mother figured into this drastic decision, I cannot say. But, now a few months have passed, I can say it was the right choice.

Ah, mother. Finally released from a mortal coil most foul… I have commented elsewhere with the proper tone. Let that stand.

Romance, employment and money? The first is, I have finally accepted, unlikely. Which although sad, allows me to rein in the hopeless romantic within: a very good thing. The second? I have a job. I’m an author. I’m looking for a second job to fill the earnings gap while the income from my books picks up. Which it is doing. 2017 saw the first year where I made regular royalties. Nothing to write home about, but enough to declare to the DWP. The last? I’m never going to return to the income I had when I worked in London. In the seven years since, I’ve learned a lot I’d never have done with that lifestyle to distract me, and I have to say that’s a good thing.  I like this version of me. He’s worthy of the title ‘part-time gentleman’.

The world? I’ve waxed apocalyptic, cynical, and generally bleak several times. I see no need to reiterate or indulge my pessimism.

Why? No matter how much good folk shout, the sheer mass of uncaring passengers on this downward journey overrides us. Just like the lost testaments of all those who died without record outweigh the writings that survive,  the scales of this ‘civilisation’ are tipped so far they cannot swing back without one side first hitting the ground, hard.

And that, I suppose, is the greatest change 2017 wrought upon me: it’s the year when priorities became big things, big things became little things, and little things became trivia. The world is headed for an end. I’ve illustrated my belief in that enough, now. I may highlight a particular good or evil as I happen across it, but it’s time to get on.

Priorities? I write. I will write. Everything else is subject to change without notice.

Let’s have more realism and less delusion, shall we?

Happy(?) New Year. 🙂

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Life & Self

 

Thee Too?

I’ve seen the MeToo flashes appearing and, to be honest, I’m astonished there aren’t more. But, that’s a telling thing. Even amidst this wave of confrontation, women are keeping quiet. Be it from privacy concerns, embarrassment, past trauma or fear of backlash, the participants are, I suspect, vastly outnumbered by the silent ones.

In a world where men have had a damn rude time for far too long, I’m expecting the trivialisation and normalisation to get in gear soon. Make no mistake, many men hide deep-seated beliefs about male superiority. It’s rather inevitable, as it’s what we’ve been presented with at every level from birth to now – unless we’ve had a wake-up call.

Now, let’s be clear. I’ve been part of the problem and made my excuses to myself over some egregious obsessive behaviour. (Yes, I’ve ‘come round’, apologised, and, quite rightly, lost friends.) This society is just starting to get over its infatuation with the creepy behaviours of rejected blokes trying to ‘prove’ their love. It can’t happen too soon. Maybe this will finally make it socially acceptable for that bloke’s real friends to slap him down and give him the telling off he so badly needs.

Sexual harassment is a subjective thing. Without common ground for behaviour norms, what can be banter on one side can be brutal on another. Those norms can come from within families, and many would argue they should. I would posit that basic manners and etiquette should also be taught at school. Nothing fancy, just a well-rounded balance to any malign influences that may be occurring in a child’s out-of-school environment.

Self-worth. Confidence. The most astonishing people I know of all sexes (don’t start, that’s a separate conversation) are those who know what they are, to a greater or lesser extent. They doubt themselves, they evidence consideration for others (if not compassion), they know that their selves, body and mind, are theirs and theirs alone, and their word is law regarding what you may and may not do with or to them on any level.

Respect every individual as just that. Pass no comment to another that you wouldn’t tolerate being given by a stranger to you or your loved ones. Male or female, makes no difference. This is the twenty-first century. Sexism is a hate crime that should be fought with the same rigour as all other forms of fanaticism.

You have nothing to prove to anyone except yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Your body, faith, erotica and soul are inviolate and anyone who would take advantage should stop at the word ‘no’. If they don’t and there’s no-one about to intervene – which people should do! Stop treating anything uncomfortable as someone else’s problem. Step up. Step in. – then you should be absolutely sure that there will be recourse to justice and severe punishment to be meted out.

I suspect the changes needed to achieve a balance will be slow: generational more than anything. I also suspect there’s more grim reveals to come. MeToo is long overdue. Here’s hoping it effects changes where it needs to.

Finally, I think Helen Mirren’s advice should be taught to girls early and often: “At 70 years old, if I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words ‘fuck off’ much more frequently.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Daybook

 
 
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