What I gave my true love

Eric LofgrenThis year I focused on art for Edmund’s presents. I got two show pieces. One was Eric Lofgren‘s ink drawing of a British Columbia-inspired Eowyn of Rohan facing the Witch-king on his steed (from an ArtOrder Challenge a few years ago.) I just love Eric’s pen and ink work, and you can see from my choice among his prints a direct connection to Edmund’s choice of presents for me. Great minds, etc….

The other piece was commissioned especially for Edmund. You may have read my summary of the Tianxia: Blood, Silk and Jade (Vigilance Press) game I ran at Big Bad Con in October? In it was a funny scene where Edmund’s character, the wild forest girl Wolf-Eyed Yue, was made up and disguised as the Moon Festival Princess.

I thought it would be wonderful if Denise Jones, the artist who beautifully illustrated the Tianxia rule book, was willing and able to capture the scene. She was enthusiastic, and publisher James Dawsey graciously gave permission to use the likeness of the official Tianxia characters Wolf-Eyed Yue and Han “Dragon Dog” Ping. (The third character in the scene is the lao dan the heroes hired to help with the transformation.) It was a treat to see the various steps in creating the image, and I’d like to share them (I have permission from the artist to do so.)

First, Denise drew a sketch of the scene as she envisioned it based on my description.

moon princess power - sketch

Right away, you can see why Denise was the right person to illustrate a wuxia-based game book: she has turned what could have been a very static scene into a dynamic pose. She latched onto what made the scene funny for us in the game: the contrast in moods between Yue and her cheerful attendants, and the physical comedy of putting a wild forester in a fancy dress. To give the sense of tension and action, Denise has the two attendants pulling in opposite, slightly off-balance directions with Yue torn in the middle. Yue’s characteristic wild hair is being tamed, symbolic of the whole predicament. The only change I asked for was to give Yue a grumpier expression, more in keeping with the way our game unfolded.

Next, Denise sent the polished sketch in clean lines.

moon princess power - lines

Now Yue looks suitably annoyed at the spa treatment she’s receiving! You can see the line weights have been carefully selected to reinforce the opposed movements forming a slightly left-tilting triangle.

Next came the image with flat colour layout.

moon princess power - flats

The light and dark colour masses have been distributed to play with the theme of Yue being pulled in different directions. The violet of the dan‘s over-robe gives her mass and solidity, while the bamboo motif on the screen behind the characters counters this by reinforcing Ping’s movement. Light touches of red cloth to the left and right of the screen, matching the hue of Yue’s dress, now suggest an opposite triangle pointing upward. Yue’s scarf ties her to the dan and suggests being twisted out of shape.

Finally, the finished illustration!

moon princess power - paints

Shadows and textures make the image come alive and mute the lines to make the effects more subtle. The finished print is 11″ x 14″ (about 28 cm x 36 cm). It’s gorgeous.

Christmas Eve at Home

I opened a Crabbie’s ginger beer and finished wrapping presents this afternoon. For dinner, Edmund made a couple of recipes out of Dolly and Annie Watts’ Where People Feast: An Indigenous People’s Cookbook, baked Alaskan halibut with lemon-dill butter with a side of beet and blackberry relish, plus his famous sautéed parsnips. Now we’re having dark chocolate cupcakes for dessert.

With dinner, we played Sentinels of the Multiverse—Legacy, Expatriette, Haka and Nightmist beat The Chairman in advanced mode, ha-ha. (But we were pretty far down by the end…)

We sure know how to rock the casbah. ^_^

Happy holidays, one and all. Here is a picture of one of the best things this year, Phantom coming to live with us since July (the black cat in this picture). With him is Valentine, our little beach foundling.

Val and Phantom in Edmund's lap

Thanks All Around

Autumn LeavesIt’s American Thanksgiving, a holiday that can only be properly celebrated by taking stock of the good things in your life, thanking family and friends, and being nice to people. Some of the recent years have been hard on my sense of gratitude, but this year I have plenty to be thankful for.

As usual, I’m most grateful for, and to, my husband, my family, and my friends. They make my life rich and interesting. They help me, cheer me, look out for me, make me laugh, make me think. Particular thanks to my husband Edmund, who’s been thinking up all sorts of little ways to make life easier and more fun for me; and my mom, who is a reliable source of friendship, affirmation, and morality.

More thanks for Paul and Hiro, who make it possible for us to live here, and to Dorene, Steve W., Maureen, and Steve P. for a variety of kindnesses. Thanks also to my online friends, who matter more than they know.

I’m grateful for my cats, entitled little brats that they are. I’m grateful that Valentine and Ubaid get along so well. I’m grateful to friend Brian Vo for attracting my attention to poor Phantom who was in need of rescue, about to be euthanized at a shelter, in time for us to rescue our newest cat. And I’m grateful that all three cats love cuddling, even when it’s untimely! Here’s a picture of Edmund with the beasts:

Cats on the Bed

I’m grateful for my new job, my new boss, my new colleagues, and having health insurance again. I’m grateful that my bosses believed in my abilities to tackle new challenges.

I’m grateful that I’ve been working with wonderful people for excellent companies in the gaming world, writing for Evil Hat Productions, Zombiesmith, and Atlas Games. I’m particularly grateful for project manager/creative director Sean Nittner and editor Karen Twelves on the War of Ashes RPG project.

I’m grateful that I once again had such a great time at Big Bad Con in October — it’s my Christmas, with amazing people all around.

I’m grateful for the people who became aware and active supporters of feminism this year in reaction to shameful displays of misogyny. I’m grateful to people who are waking up to the blatant scourge of racism, to the realities of privilege, to inequality, and are becoming Social Justice Warriors. Or wizards, ninja, clerics, paladins, rangers, rogues, or space marines. I’m grateful that marriage equality is advancing, that more people are starting to grasp that this shit in Ferguson can’t go on, and that turning a blind eye to bigotry isn’t acceptable.

I’m grateful to the scientists, engineers, technicians, and support staff that have brought us some amazing, exciting moments in space exploration: Rosetta and Philae reaching comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the testing of Orion, great science on the International Space Station, the deployment of a plethora of CubeSats, India’s Mars Orbiter Mission a.k.a. Mangalyaan and NASA’s MAVEN both visiting Mars (the latter currently just beginning its science mission around the Red Planet), Curiosity roving around on Mars and Cassini sending amazing images of the Saturn neighbourhood little Jade Rabbit from China still sending signals from the Moon, SpaceX Dragon bringing supplies to the ISS including a 3D printer that makes spare parts, and so much more.

Advent Day 25: Light

Nebula 2, by Sophie Lagacé

Today’s theme for the final day of the little advent exercise is “Light.”

We now know that  what we call light is just one part of the range of radiating energy, and that energy and “matter” are facets of the same thing. We also know that the atoms of our matter, the vast majority of what we touch, see, smell around us every day, was forged in the heart of stars; for us to exist, earlier generations of stars had to be born, live, age, and die. Here is how Carl Sagan put it:

Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.
The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective, Carl Sagan, 1973

Although Sagan was not the first one to point this out nor to use the now-famous expression, he was largely the one to popularize it as he continued using it in articles and presentations, and particularly in the excellent 1980 PBS television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

So that’s my final thought for the season: we are born from the collapsed heart of ancient stars. If that is not awe-inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Note: The image above is not a photograph of any real star formation in our night sky, it’s a digital painting I made for the love of it. I hope the picture comes out properly, I understand that a previous version came out way too dark on some computer monitors. I tinkered with it, and I hope it  is fixed now.

Image by Sophie Lagacé 2010-2013, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Advent Day 24: Joy

Today’s topic is “Joy.”

This is my husband Edmund on our wedding day (we had a hippie wedding.) He is responsible for the greatest amount of joy in my life.


Advent Day 23: Neighbours

Today’s topic is “Neighbours.” This is the queue early in the morning in Seattle, when homeless people wait for the day centre to open so they can warm and dry themselves, sit somewhere other than the cold ground or a park bench from which they will be evicted, get a cup of coffee, and maybe get some other help.

I saw them every morning from the bus on my commute to work, not to mention my noon-time walks around the neighbourhood. Some were friendly familiar faces, many were closed and looking inward, and many more made me sad because I could not give the kind of help they wanted.

The photo was taken with my trusty Holga toy camera.

Advent Day 23: Neighbours

Image by Sophie Lagacé 2005, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Advent Day 22: Sign

Today’s topic is “Sign.” This is the marquee sign of the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, seen through the bus window as I passed it on my way back from work on a winter night.

The photo was taken with my trusty Holga toy camera.

Advent Day 22: Sign

Image by Sophie Lagacé 2005, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.

Advent Day 21: Prophet

Advent Day 21: Prophet (Elizabeth Cady Stanton)

Today’s topic is “Prophet.”

What exactly does that mean? Wikipedia opines: “In religion, a prophet is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people.”  Well, shoot, that leaves me nowhere: I’ve more chance of seeing a unicorn than a prophet.

We also use the word in daily language to mean a visionary, someone who accurately predicts things to come. But Wikipedia has one more thing to say, and it’s more useful to me: The English word prophet comes from the Greek word προφήτης (profétés) meaning advocate.”

So here is my prophet: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 19th century advocate of the women’s right movement and abolitionism.

[W]e declare our faith in the principles of self-government; our full equality with man in natural rights; that woman was made first for her own happiness, with the absolute right to herself—to all the opportunities and advantages life affords, for her complete development; and we deny that dogma of the centuries, incorporated in the codes of all nations—that woman was made for man—her best interests, in all cases, to be sacrificed to his will.

—Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States by the National Woman Suffrage Association, July 4th, 1876.

I deliberately picked a photo showing Stanton as an older woman, because older women—no longer sexually desirable—get the least respect to this day in our society.

Roleplaying Techniques: Free eBook for the Holidays

Bouncing d4This is a slightly edited compendium of the discussion thread “Techniques! Do we have a list of them?” on Story Games, started July 22, 2013 by Paulo “Warrior Monk” Rivas.  He defines Techniques as all sort of procedures triggered by ritual phrases (which may vary from group to group) that are the basic tools for negotiating the shared fiction or getting everybody to the same page of it.

The role-playing techniques listed range from those very familiar, almost instinctive to most role-players, to advanced improvisation techniques, to techniques borrowed from Nordic-style Live Action Roleplaying (LARP) or from specific and sometimes obscure games. The ebook version is my holiday present to gamers, for convenience of reading and access; however, I want to make it clear that I am not the author of the material, which was compiled by members of the Story Games forum.

The .zip files are stored on Google Drive (direct link, should not require signup) and contain ebook, metadata and covers; just download, unzip, and add to your library.

Let me know if you encounter any problems with the files, and happy holidays to everyone!

Advent Day 20: Good News

Today’s topic is “Good News.” How could I resist this image I took of newspaper boxes at the railcar stop along the Seattle Waterfront, near the Seattle Aquarium?

The photo was taken with my trusty Holga toy camera.

Advent 20: Good News

Image by Sophie Lagacé 2005, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.