Archive for March, 2013

This is a story of a children’s magazine. It may not seem like it at first, but as always, I get there eventually.

I can still remember much of my hometown’s main public library. All I have to do is close my eyes and I’m flooded with so many minor details that went completely unnoticed in all the days of my youth spent there—obviously not completely so, since my brain picked up on them even if my conscious mind didn’t.

It’s a four story building that was what I would call then a ‘square doughnut’. The first two floors surrounded a middle area which held an enclosed garden that open to the sky. There were windows on looking in on it from all sides so you never felt enclosed. Even the slow but serviceable elevator had a glass side to look out over it as you went up and down. The decor was very much a 60s style: sharp lines and curves shapes combined and colored in muted tones that I’d only ever seen in magazines and visiting my older relatives.

The periodicals were kept in the basement. It was only two large rooms, one for the archives and one for viewing them. The smell of aging newsprint permeated everything, but not in an unpleasant way. I like to think it added to the ambiance. The microfiche machines were an endless fascination to me, reading through old newspapers and picking up bits and pieces of history. I once thought they were just humoring me when I would ask for random dates that I’d pulled from the catalog, but now I think that their smiles were more genuine, that a kid would actually be interested in that kind of stuff was a pleasant surprise.

Then there were the two main floors. The first floor was mainly fiction, with a small section for reference books (of the ‘how to’ sort), the main checkout desk and card catalogs. Tucked away in a corner next to the stairwell going to the basement was a film archive, both reel-to-reel and VHS, with private viewing stations. Being a kid I mostly watched the cartoons. But one of those ‘cartoons’ was The Snowman, a hauntingly beautiful short film that beautifully haunts me to this day (if you haven’t seen it, watch it. Don’t argue. Go, watch. I’ll be here when you get back).

The second floor held almost everything else. More fiction (including the comic strip collections, which I never got tired of reading), nonfiction and the audio section, which had both audio books and music albums both modern and classical. There was even an art gallery. Yes, they lent you prints. You could take home art with a library card. That still blows my mind.

The third and fourth floors… to this day, I’m still not sure what all really went on up there. They didn’t go all the way around like the first two floors, squatting there on the far corner from the street. The windows looking out were tinted, and the main area was never brightly lit. On the third floor there was a small room dedicated to authors from Nebraska, another room that was only open whenever there was a book sale and the rest was a complete mystery. The elevator doors opening onto the third floor (the fourth needed a key) was like opening up into a different world. As an adult, I realize now that it was probably where the library offices are, partially open to the public but by and large not meant for it. I’d probably be gravely disappointed if I were to return today, so I’ll keep that little bit of memory as a memory because it’s more fun my way.

The enclosed garden was also a little world unto itself, though a much more terrestrial one. Stepping stones were scattered throughout clusters of plants that had little plaques with plant names and their genus species, a couple of small trees, a pump-fed stream and two small ponds on either side. It was open to the public most days of Spring and Summer, even to the kids. Though not very many besides myself would go out there. They did what maintenance had to be done, but mostly let Nature do its thing, which for me added to its appeal.

You’re probably getting bored by now. We’re almost there, I promise. Just a little more rambling.

Finally, we come to the children’s section. Counting the Young Adult shelves, it took up almost a third of the first floor—and this was no small building. It was a full quarter of a city block. One side was a glass-enclosed area where the bulk of the children’s books were kept. This is where I got to sit on beanbag chairs and get to know the works of Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Mercer Mayer, Beatrix Potter and countless other names that I can’t think of but would recognize instantly. The main area held the aforementioned Young Adult books, plus a little spillover from the previous room, more traditional tables and chairs for reading and a listening station for children’s albums. It even had a door directly to the garden area and out to the street. It was its own small library inside of the big library instead of just a section where it all got dumped.

And then there was the magazine rack. It took up a good-sized portion of a wall all to itself and was filled with every kid’s magazine imaginable—though as an adult, I have to raise an eyebrow at their inclusion of both Mad Magazine and Cracked. While not adult in the National Lampoon way, they certainly weren’t humor geared towards kids. But then again it’s not like they had a separate ‘teen’ section so you take what you can get.

All of these magazines had another thing in common: passed around dozens of grubby, clumsy hands on any given day, they were naturally mauled pretty heavily. Loose or missing covers, torn or missing pages, no thought put into where they were supposed to be placed on the rack. It was always a chaotic riot of colors and print. But again, these are kids we’re talking about, so it’s to be expected. You takes your magazine and takes your chances that some big selfish dummy hasn’t ruined this month’s issue of Highlights by circling all the differences or giving Goofus and Gallant an ink makeover.

But there was one magazine that was always untouched. One magazine that sat in a corner of the rack all but neglected. There was nothing fancy about it. It didn’t have pictures on every page. It didn’t have any bright, flashy attention-grabbing glossy covers. It was mostly page after page of words with little doodles throughout. It was the most boring kid’s magazine you could give to your average kid.

I wasn’t your average kid.

And that magazine was Cricket Magazine.

TCricket Magazinehis little publication was a hidden gem that I’ve only come to fully appreciate as an adult. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a literary publication for children, with every story and work of art submitted by children. The ‘doodles’ were a cast of insects— including the eponymous Cricket— and other little critters kibitzing on the submission in fun yet constructive ways. It also had book reviews submitted by children, so these weren’t the books the grown-ups said were “recommended reading”, these were true peer reviewed books. It was these reviews that steered me towards the likes of Redwall, A Wrinkle In Time, A Wizard of Earthsea and many more like it, books I could sink my teeth into and expand my mind instead of simply entertaining it.

But the most important part of Cricket Magazine to my childhood was its inspiration. I wanted to be in it someday. I wanted to write a story that would be read by everyone who knew the magazine existed. I wanted to open up an issue and see my name on the Table of Contents.

Cricket Magazine planted the seed that made me want to be a writer before my age was even in double digits. Sadly, I never got to make that dream a reality. The ambition never went away, but I was too busy being a kid to focus on the task.

Now, I’m an adult trying to make it as a writer. The ambition that was born from a neglected literary publication for children remains with me in a likewise grown up but still largely unchanged way: I’m gonna do it someday.

And just like then, there’s still a part of me too busy trying to be a kid to fully focus on the task. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

I’ve had a very active imagination from a young age. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons while still in single digits, along with a plethora of other  role playing games between then and now.  I would go to my best friend’s house and the two of us would take turn making ‘movies’ with his ridiculously huge collection of action figures, vehicles and play sets.

As I entered my teenage years, my characters began to become much more developed. I finally understood the concepts of personalities and back stories. Every single last one of them, from ones I’d had since I first started playing to the most disposable character created for a one-shot game session, got the same treatment and became ‘real people’.  As a result, they began to get their own ‘movies’ as well. I would have a gaming session, and in the time until the next one I would act out the characters—what they would do and say in situations that had arisen or might arise from the developments of the previous session.

All of this took place, as Eddie Izzard once said, in my mind (if you’ve seen the routine, you’ll know why it’s italicized).

My interest in becoming a writer also developed in my teens. Being a voracious reader as well, I began to get a better grasp of sentence structure (with a generous amount of help from my English classes, of course) and got a general idea as to how to tell a story. I finally had both the knowledge and opportunity to present the ‘movies’ I was making in a format that was easier to follow—and arguably a lot more interesting—than simply telling people the elaborate stories I had created in my mind.

I didn’t stop with just tabletop characters either. I had several characters that were never put down onto a character sheet. Some were characters that I never got around to making, others were ‘personas’ I had adopted when playing with friends that stuck in my memory and some were simply ideas that had popped into my head.

Anyway, the point to all of this is that I’ve had a problem ever since I began putting these thoughts to paper that persists to this very day. I will create these elaborate scenes in my mind, complete with entire conversations, actions, reactions et cetera. Most of the time I had plans to put them down into words, to create a story for others to read (some people out there insist I’m good at that sort of thing). The problem is one of a huge mental block on my part. I’ll create these scenes and then never put them to paper. Why? Because there’s a voice in the back of my head that says, “You already know how this story plays out, you have it memorized. Why would you need to write it out?”

And then I stupidly listen to that voice and never write it out.

There's barely enough room in here for me!

Now we come to the Magic Spreadsheet. I’ve only been going at it for two weeks now, but it has been a tremendous help to my writing. I’m getting something down every day, even if it’s only a few paragraph. However, I must confess that the last few days, I’ve been flagging. Where I started out strong, pumping out three to five times the minimum word count for the day, the past few days have seen barely over the minimum. The worst part is, I knew this was going to happen. I’m falling into my predictable pattern of early enthusiasm followed by lethargy that sits there staring back at me and only muttering a “meh” when confronted.

I recognize that part of this is the problem mentioned above. I have lots and lots of words crammed in my head and a self-defeating ability to never get rid of them in a useful manner. I hate it. I really do. It only leads to disappointment for everyone involved and only I can change that. Well, I’ve decided to try a new tactic to combat this problem.

The idea came to me two nights ago as I sat around surfing the Internet and suddenly realizing it was 10 minutes to midnight and I hadn’t written a single word. Before the Magic Spreadsheet, I would have just said screw it and completely written off the day.  But no, I had to get something down. Not only for myself, not only to keep the streak going and maintain my ‘score’, but for the person that introduced me to it and more importantly, believes in me. I didn’t want to let her down. I’ve done it too much already, no matter how much she may deny it.

So I just started writing. But not just random thoughts that tumbled around in my head. I focused on getting just the conversations down. I figured once I got those out of the way, I could go back and flesh out the rest when I wasn’t in a slump. Lo and behold, it worked like a charm. I let the dialogue spill out onto the page and the minimum word count came and went without even noticing it.

I’ll be trying this tactic from now on whenever I feel like I’m in a slump.  It’s really only a minor variation of the mantra, “Write it down, make it pretty later.” And it feels like something I can manage.

Olfactory memory is something that has fascinated me for some time. I was recently linked to an article that showed a definite link between smells and memory. I doubt it’s the first time such a study has been conducted, because this was something I, as a young teenager many years ago, believed to be a real thing. I used to call it “memory smells”. It was the best way I could think of to describe how certain smells would trigger not necessarily distinct memories, but more often simple reminiscence of places I’d been before, in some ways putting me back into those places to ‘re-experience’ them.

I’m really not sure how much sense I’m making, here. It’s hard to put something like this into words. Hopefully, if you’ve felt it (or something similar) you know what I’m talking about.

Today I experienced something which was almost a reversal of that. Instead of a smell triggering memories, it was a memory that triggered the reminiscence of certain smells. At the end of a nap today, I had a very brief dream just a second or two before I woke up. In it, I was on the first day of one of my handful of manufacturing jobs I had after high school. I was being shown around the various machines where I would be working on finishing parts. Just as I awoke, I had a crystal-clear remembrance of my junior high shop class. More specifically, the odors it had.

The warm odor of plexiglass being smoothed on a bench polisher; the slightly acrid yet strangely appealing scent of burned carbon; the unmistakable smell of wood going through a table saw or pushed a little too hard into a belt sander. In an instant, I had such a clear memory of all of these smells and more of my shop class from over two decades ago that I could almost smell them. And each memory of those smells brought with them equally clear memories of the shop class: the feel of the materials I worked with, the plans I had drawn up and submitted to the teacher for approval. The sounds of the machines and my friends and fellow students. The mistakes I made and the sense of accomplishment when making something exactly as the schematics said.

For just a few seconds after waking up, I was back in that junior high shop class, reliving events that I had consciously forgotten for years on end. All because of a dream that reminded me of what it all smelled like. I’m still smiling about it.

Now we come to the third and final post in this series. While I’ve had a plethora of other characters over the eight years (that still blows my mind, sometimes) of City of Heroes—some fantastic, some regrettable but  all memorable—these ‘Baker’s Dozen’ are the ones that have been the most richly developed, through both good times and bad. Some of them have had other incarnations previous to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles, and some will have more incarnations to come. They’re all a part of me, for better or for worse.

Thanks to everyone who’s read these words, and even bigger thanks to those that shared in the memories. I know I won’t soon forget them, or you.

—C


Krasniy Oktyabr

KrasniyAleksandr Stanislav remained with the CCCP as an acting Commissar for the first few years after the Praetorian  War. Many were unsure how long he’d last with his advancing Alzheimer’s, but thought it best to keep him in familiar surrounding for as long as possible.

As it turned out, Aleksandr wasn’t suffering from Alzheimer’s. His loss of memory and slow deterioration of motor skills was due to someone else being inside of his head: Unit K, the entity he had become while enslaved within the Clockwork Mind, was awakening from a dormant state. When finally able to communicate, Unit K said it had no desire to harm Aleksandr and agreed to do anything to save the old man’s life, even terminating itself. No one wanted that to happen either, least of all Aleksandr.

Using a brand of science that can only be described as ‘mad’, Petrovich,  Aleksandr’s brother Levka and his niece Tasha devised a new home for Unit K, psychically transferring the entity into an anonymously-donated Kheldian bud and housing it inside a robotic shell made to look like one of the Clockwork, where it acted as both brain and battery.

Unit K remained in the care of the CCCP when Aleksandr retired from it a few years later. Aleksandr returned to Volgograd to be close to his family, and was given an honorary rank of Captain by the Ministry of Defense for his years of service in Paragon City.  Aleksandr quietly lives out his retirement giving lectures on campaign strategy at the military academy he attended, occasional handyman work and visiting his niece Nataliya.


Nova Requiem

Haunting Aria

nova_ariaWith all the chaos brought on by the Praetorian war, Aria made one last all-or-nothing attempt to gain the love of her ‘sister’ Nataliya Novakovski all for herself, by destroying everyone Nataliya loved or corrupting them against her. To accomplish this, Aria used her awakened psychic abilities to steal Nataliya’s memories and implant her own, then smuggled Nataliya into the Rogue Isles where she would take Aria’s place as her, wreaking havoc as the ‘evil clone’ while the real clone was in Paragon City enacting her plan. Aria enlisted the aid of Rhikki Ryan to watch over Nataliya and use her own considerable psychic abilities to ensure that Nataliya would remained convinced she was Aria while Aria went about destroying the life, loves and reputation of Nova Requiem and Nataliya Novakovski.

Before Aria could do more than lay the groundwork for her plan, something completely unexpected happened: instead of simply carrying Nataliya’s memories to help in her plot, the morals, ethics and most importantly the emotional connections that Nataliya had made with people in Paragon City started to merge with and surpass Aria’s own. She was still Aria, but now she completely understood why her sister had done everything she had, why she loved the people she did and they in return loved her. Once it had become an inseparable part of herself, Aria couldn’t and wouldn’t destroy any of it.

But some damage had already been done. Just as Nataliya’s memories had become part of Aria, so too did Aria’s memories overpower Nataliya. She was Haunting Aria, except far more dangerous as she had never truly learned to control her mutant life-stealing powers and deadly sonic screams. While Nataliya’s memories remained buried deep within her, Rhikki informed Aria that the ‘takeover’ had been so extensive that there was no way to reverse what had been done without permanently damaging Nataliya’s brain and leaving her a vegetable. This was something Aria was also unwilling to do. The only thing Aria could do was to take Nataliya’s place permanently. Aria returned to Paragon City, from then on politely insisting that everyone use the diminutive form of her sister’s name, Tasha, since she would never truly be Nataliya.

Much to everyone’s surprise, “Tasha” suddenly switched majors from Music Theory to Medicine and Life Sciences. She earned her Doctorate in record time, blazed through her internship and then devoted her life to treating metahuman illnesses and injuries with the aid of her mutant gift of kinetisynthesis, becoming known around the world as ‘Surgeon to the Supers’. All of this she did for the sole purpose of being able to finally fix the damage she had done to her sister.

The procedure was a bittersweet success. Nataliya’s mind was freed from its prison, but too much time had passed and “Aria” could not be removed. Nataliya was moved to a private psychiatric hospital near Volgograd, where she could be close to her family  and get the best care money could buy, the hospital now receiving funding from Llwelco on  behalf of her uncle Aleksandr (whom Aria had confessed everything to, being the only family Nataliya had during her stay in Paragon City) and anonymously from Aria’s substantial salary.  Nataliya now lives out her life randomly slipping back and forth between the dual personalities in her head—kind and forgiving Nataliya and violent and sociopathic Aria—permanently hooked to an IV of potent power-suppressing drugs that also leaves her heavily sedated and unable to walk but free from constraints that kept her deadly voice and touch in check.

The only other person in the world aware of this delicate masquerade is Aria’s lover Ashley Maynard, to whom she couldn’t lie about it even if she had wanted to. To everyone else— her friends, family and even the love of her life Gabriel St. Thomas—Aria is and always will be Tasha Novakovski, sharing with her sister the memories of love and happiness that she deserves.


Doctor Zen

DocZenAt the conclusion of the Praetorian War, the enigmatic man known only as Doctor Zen (and occasionally ‘The Other Keet’ by those who were ignorant to his ways, which was pretty much everyone) vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared all those years ago, but not anywhere near as loudly or obnoxiously.

Very few people even noticed the Doctor’s departure. The war brought countless casualties on all sides, and those that even remembered him figured he was simply one of them. All anyone knew for certain was that his psychedelic pants, rants about Nemesis stealing his socks and cryptic gibberish about ‘The Author’ were only a memory. The only person to have any kind of contact after the war was Maya Collier, who returned home shortly before her own disappearance to find the familiar, well-worn fedora of by far and away the weirdest person she had ever called a friend waiting for her on her couch.

The last reported sighting of Doctor Zen was in Ouroboros, looking Mender Silos square in the eye and asking, “Seriously, man, why that chin?”


A continuation of Part I. No, I don’t have character called Captain Obvious.

The name was already taken.


Yesteryear Titan

Ol’ Daddy Long Legs

YesteryearTitanNot long after Rosie Raina’s transformation, Reginald Butler decided he really was getting too old for this kind of superhero nonsense.  He devoted his time to being the best godfather he could be for the girl as she grew up.

He never retired the magic girdle which gave him his strength and invulnerability, instead putting it to other uses besides “bashing about.” He lent his muscle to the efforts to rescue the surviving civilians and Carnival of Light from Praetoria after its destruction, then later began working full-time for one of the construction companies rebuilding Overbrook and other areas of Paragon City damaged in the Praetorian War.

ODLLReggie did make one final go at being a hero, attempting to free his half-brother Augustus Bernard Crenshaw from Arachnos’ clutches. One of the first Crab Spiders ever created, Arachnos had been keeping the old man in service because they were unable to duplicate the effect of the super serum prototype he’d been given, and were using his blood as a template for further experiments.

It was a Pyrrhic victory at best. Even though Reggie was able to beat back everything Arachnos threw at him with ease, Bernie simply didn’t want to go. He knew damn well what Arachnos was doing, but the Rogue Isles were his home. He had nowhere else to go. Not knowing what else to do, Reggie made a Devil’s Deal with Marshal Blitz and had Bernie taken to Warburg where he could at least be with other former Arachnos soldiers like himself, in exchange for continued experimentations to help find a cure for the Marshal’s cancer. As long as they keep the old soldier in Dominican cigars, he’s just fine with the arrangement.


Shattered Star

ShatteredStarDespite having an onboard AI program literally a hundred years beyond any modern technology specifically tasked with plotting shifts in the space-time continuum, the Praetorian War was a complete blindside to Sarah Masterson. She was so focused on the Rikti threat that she simply never saw it coming. While she was able to help the fight on the streets of Praetoria and its hidden Wards, the war was over before she had the opportunity to help take the fight to the Praetors.

RisenStarShe did, however, discover that there was another version of herself existing in Praetoria, one that had been found by Praetor Berry, fixed up and made into a loyal soldier. The technological advances that were made because of her Praetorian self were disturbing. Shattered Star tasked herself with tracking down other dimensions that had other versions of herself that had fallen backward through time in order to prevent anything like that happening again. After extensive searching with Portal Corp’s help, only one other such concurrence was found, one whose life had been saved by a Kheldian when she had been violently thrown back in time and had left Earth to fend off the approach of Battalion with the Peacekeepers.

With nothing left to do and her own future timeline irreparably altered, Sarah donated all the money  she had saved over the years to Priam Laboratories in return for the laborious process of undoing her full cyborg conversion. The process took nearly two decades even with their bleeding edge technology,  but Sarah was able to live out her autumn years once again as the flesh and blood woman she was born as.


Agent Delta

DeltaStephen Deltano had been on the front lines of the Praetorian War from the moment it has started, and he was there to see Emperor Cole’s downfall along with countless metas that had answered the call to end the war once and for all. For all of his efforts, he  was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and a complete exoneration of all past records. But none of that changed the fact that he was still dying.

The radioactive isotope he had been poisoned with by the Agency had destabilized his mutant plasma generating ability almost beyond repair. The biosignature suit developed by Miranda Garren and DTP only delayed the inevitable. Deltano was literally a walking, ticking nuclear time bomb. Something radical had to be done.

Deltano decided to undergo an extremely dangerous open heart surgery, replacing his fusion reactor of a heart with an artificial one of his own design using parts of advanced technology (and, though he told no one, a few bits of magic as well) he had salvaged during the war. By all rights, it shouldn’t have worked, least of all at the size of a human heart. And it might not have if the operation hadn’t gone south fast and Miranda hadn’t broken their pact to keep the operation a complete secret and called Dr. Bella Parker in to help—who was absolutely livid that she hadn’t been there from the beginning.

The reason for all the secrecy was the Agency. Deltano knew that if they caught wind that he was out of the picture, even temporarily, that they’d use that as all the excuse they needed to declare the contract he’d bartered with them years ago  null and void, as would be the lives of everyone under his command. To that end, Deltano talked his best friend and second-in-command Charlie Duke into pulling the most insane long con they’d ever pulled: his Praetorian self, whom Charlie had discovered when she joined the Resistance there, would masquerade as Agent Delta until he could make a full recovery.

ArbiterThough the operation was a success and the artificial heart saved his life, Delta’s plasma-generating ability and super speed were greatly diminished. He took this as a cue to step down from active field work and run things more ‘behind the scenes’.  After tendering a rather explosive resignation of his Arachnos Arbiter position—a robot duplicate made by Jinlan Wu in his Arbiter armor, stuffed to the brim with C4 and marched into the Watchtower—Deltano had a yacht constructed (with some very discreet funding from several companies operating out of Paragon City) to serve as a mobile command center for the entire NWO. Now free from any jurisdictional boundaries, Deltano is free to strike out against the Agency with his full might, as well as expand their mercenary services to a global audience. His Praetorian counterpart still works for him out in the field with Charlie Duke with no one the wiser that he’s literally in two places at once.

There’s a rumor amongst certain circles that Deltano’s surreptitious trips to Paragon City to visit Miranda Garren involve more than a friendly cup of coffee. Neither of them have been willing to discuss it.

Even though the closing of City of Heroes is several months past, this is a project I’ve been wanting to do since my friend Leah posted a page regarding the fates of her characters. I’ve had the pleasure of playing and writing with her, and I thought this was a fitting tribute and send-off. So without further ado, part one of me doing the same thing. Enjoy.

(P.S. I realize a lot of you have little to no context for this. There’s up to eight years of back story for some of these characters. For those of you that do know them, thanks for all the great memories.)


Minty Fresh/ Starlight Mint

Minty & CandyFollowing the destruction of her original cybernetic body to save her friends, Minty’s caretaker James Master was able to use a combination of her sole surviving positronic fragment, the Kheldian energy he’d collected off of her over the years and a bud from the Kheldian Kyne as a blank template to create a brand new being: a reborn Candace Stroeber with all of her original memories intact. The Murdocks took Candace in to their apartment building, giving her a place close by where they could both watch over her and give her the much-needed guidance necessary to harness and control her Kheldian powers.  Candace later joined the Young Champions until she reached adulthood, where she then made a modest living writing children’s songs.

The Carnival of Light had had the foresight to make a complete back-up of Minty Fresh’s schematics (something James had never done)  and with their help a completely robotic Minty Fresh was rebuilt with her original personality. She remains with the Carnival of Light to this day, patrolling its streets and dispensing her childlike innocence and joy—and candy-flavored justice.


Crashin’ Byrne

ByrneThe Praetorian War created a boom for Paddock Industries. Helping to rebuild the city created jobs which in turn expanded production.  Criofan Byrne decided to focus his efforts within the company for the next few years, finishing his Doctorate in Psychology as well as a Bachelor’s in Business, eventually becoming head of HR. Through the natural attrition of board members, Criofan became a majority shareholder in the company on the board of directors and found himself to be a reasonably wealthy man because of it. Still he takes a very passive role in the company, preferring to let others “get on with runnin’ the joint.”

The war had also decimated the ranks of the Alliance of Champions. Many of its heroes had died or were missing in action. Crashin’ Byrne took the reins as ersatz leader of the AoC after the war, but only did what was necessary to keep the group together until they could rebuild themselves and select a proper leader.  He declined any nominations for the position and retained  a senior advisor role for the leaders to come.

The alien bio-metal that Vanessa Paddock grafted to Criofan after his rescue from the Rikti eventually achieved a perfect symbiosis with his body; the metal took on the appearance and malleability of his natural flesh while remaining as strong as impervium.

Criofan and Callie Smythe stayed together for several years but with the aftermath of the war and Criofan’s responsibilities they eventually drifted apart, but remain close friends. His one and only regret in life is not telling Amaya Collier how he really felt about her before her disappearance.


Kuraitaka

KuraitakaThe alien assassin-turned-Night Widow spent many years with her companion Willa Pottinger (Jamaican Blaze) searching around the world for the ones responsible for the destruction of the Infiltrators’ base and deaths of many of its members. They would occasionally take on mercenary work, mostly through Stephen Deltano’s organization,  when needing to resupply but mostly the pair kept to themselves and their self-appointed task.

After several years of nothing but false leads  and dead ends, the pair accepted the Infiltrators’ fate as an unsolvable mystery. With no clear direction ahead of them, Willa convinced Kuraitaka to begin searching for a way back to her home world. Kuraitaka and Willa remain inseparable friends as they travel through dimensional portals both magical and technological looking for Kuraitaka’s world. Though in her heart, Kuraitaka has accepted the notion that her true home is wherever she and her only true friend are together.


Silent Shrike/Aly MacIntyre

Shrike & AlyThe influx of Praetorian refugees after the war created no small amount of work for the Paragon Police Department. While Brickstown dealt with the majority of the metas, a record number of new “residents” came to Kings Row. This hit the KRPD doubly hard, as both the precinct and the Cape & Cowl Division were kept constantly busy policing their own backyard and liaising with Vanguard in Bricktown over all the new “capes” in Paragon City helping them out.

For the first few years after the war’s end, Aly’s work as a detective and liaison kept her so busy that she rarely had the time or energy to don the mantle of the Silent Shrike.  By the time things settled down enough for everyone to sleep on a regular schedule again, much of her ambition to continue vigilante work had gone.

Aly remains in the apartment where she spent her years as the Silent Shrike, living with her boyfriend Jakob Dalh and his Kheldian symbiont Errys. Though they had many rough patches at first, over time the three of them have reached a stable point. Often Aly doesn’t think of them as two separate people, and because of the unique nature of the Kheldian/Human bond, even they are slowly losing the distinction with each other. Though they decided to never formally marry, Aly and JD/Errys are inseparable. They also decided to forgo having children of their own in favor of adopting one of the many Row children in need of a home. Secretly, Aly has vowed to never pass on the burden of the Silent Shrike to a new generation, it having nearly killed both her and her mother when they carried the bow.

Although Aly never got to realize her dream of snowboarding in the Winter Olympics, she still competes in the National Pro circuit.


Junsei Kuragari/Shinsei Kuragari

JunseiShortly before the outbreak of the Praetorian War, Junsei Kuragari, avatar of Izanami and then Headmistress of St. Raven’s Academy for Troubled Youth, killed one of her students in what witnesses called a ‘fit of rage’. She vanished soon afterwards and everyone simply assumed she had chosen to disappear like every other previous Headmaster of the school, due to the fact that said student was an Arachnos operative. The truth was far more complex. Izanami, like most of the old gods, span multiple dimensions and is weaker in some than in others.  She sent her Chosen Daughter to a dimension where Mot’s resurrection  and absorption of Diabolique would severely threaten Her hold on the Underworld and death itself without a direct presence in the form of an avatar.

Alone is a strange dimension, Junsei attempted to create a new St. Raven’s Academy, but it was a fruitless task. There was a version of her one and only friend Rhikki Ryan in this dimension, but not having gone through the same ordeals as her counterpart with Junsei’s friendship, she let her ego dominate her actions and never accepted Junsei as an equal, let alone a friend. However, keeping Mot’s destruction contained kept Junsei occupied and eventually she returned to being as cold and cruel as the goddess of death she personified.

However, Izanami had grown fond of the Rhikki that had been left without her friend. After the Academy’s headmistress vanished, Westin Phipps called in every favor he was owed and then some to have St. Raven’s dissolved. He “compassionately” took in the students of his choosing to Haven House, and left the rest to their fates. Many of them were old enough to enroll in Aeon University at this point and many of them, including Rhikki, banded together to create a program in which their younger peers would be monitored by them through the University.

ShinseiIt was after this that a new girl appeared by the name of Mariko (Shinsei Kuragari), an exact physical duplicate of Junsei, except with a mind modeled after the girl Junsei used to be before her death.  She met with Rhikki and after an uncertain start, Rhikki accepted Mariko as the friend Junsei had been. Izanami later revealed to Rhikki the truth about Mariko, and that she was a ‘seed’ for a new avatar if the need should arise. In the meantime, Mariko continues to work at Aeon University in Arcane Studies, working with Rhikki to thwart Westin Phipps whenever they can and keep the spirit of St. Raven’s Academy alive.

Winter is one of those events that in my mind is proof positive that no matter how much we evolve and advance our society and intellect, we are, at our core, animals. To be more specific, I spent the last three months or so wanting to crawl into bed and not come out until green things started poking out of the ground again.

Alas, this is a luxury that even I as a work-from-home person cannot afford. Okay, technically I could, but I wouldn’t feel good about myself for doing it. I do have a desire to contribute to the well-being of the household, even if a meager amount. I’m not a total slacker.

Yes, I do have a point. I’m getting to it in my usual roundabout way.

It would be unfair to completely blame Winter for my slump in productivity. Motivation is a precious commodity in my life, as I can never seem to dig up more than a few chunks at a time. It’s a failing of mine that I am trying to correct. I won’t lie, NaNoWriMo was a dismal failure. I was set back by a week at the beginning due to a mini-meltdown of my computer. By the time I got that all sorted out, the motivation to write slipped away more every day. It wasn’t a total failure, though. I did manage to get a couple of pages down, and that’s better than nothing.

I haven’t touched the damned thing since. Hell, I haven’t even touched this blog since November. I could conjure up a myriad of excuses but in the end that’s all they’d be: excuses.

By now you’re probably wondering what the title of this post has to do at all with the post itself, so I’ll get to the point: today is the first day of March, and while not technically Spring for a few more weeks, I decided to make a fresh new start at this whole writing thing. Having been officially published in December, it’s planted the seed inside my head that, hey, maybe I can do it again. I’ve had the support, encouragement, collaboration and outright help from some wonderful people in the last few years. I’ve fallen out of regular contact with many of them, much to my regret, but they are no less of an influence on me and my creativity. It’s about time I did something with everything they’ve given me.

My dear friend and regular partner-in-crime Veronica has once again given me a spark of inspiration. I took the time a few days ago to catch up with her, and during our conversation she mentioned she was using something called “The Magic Spreadsheet.” Curious, I asked her for details.  It’s a simple shared spreadsheet officially called ‘Daily Writing Challenge’, used by dozens of authors to keep a public running tally of their 250 words per day goal.

As simple as it is, as soon as V explained it to me and gave me the link, something clicked inside of me. I can’t even adequately explain it. It felt like an answer to my motivation problems. Definitely not the answer, but an answer that made sense to me. So I told V that come March 1st, I would start the challenge. As a consequence, it’s also motivated me to dust off this blog. I still won’t promise regular updates, but I’ll do my best to beat my 2 post a year average.

So there you have it. A little bit of magic to make Spring the time where I kick myself into gear. This post alone is two and a half days worth of writing, and I could keep going. It gives me a good feeling about this new little project.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have words to wrangle.  Yee-haw.