Guild Wars 2 and writing

My writing hasn’t been doing very well lately, but I’ve managed to find a way to help it along.  Summer’s here, which has also helped a bit, though I also am getting out more considering there’s more sun.

However, one thing I’ve actually taken up is writing in the world of Guild Wars 2.  It’s a video game that’s set in the world of Tyria.  There are five races, and a rich history that goes along with the world.  Elements that mirror fantasy, steampunk, the old west, and science fiction.  All told, it’s an interesting world and one that really seemed to mesh well with my own characters I had created.  Sadly, elf is not one of the races available in the game, but that’s fine.

In a way, it’s a form of fan fiction writing, but writing fan fiction helps with other writing.  Plus it can get you into a groove to write again by sparking ideas for any original pieces that one might have.  For now, this is quite helpful.

What I’ve been writing has been short, and part of the game’s content, especially with how ArenaNet releases patches of content every two weeks.  Right now, they’re in the middle of Season Two of the Living World, which is most likely (spoiler alert) going to see another Elder Dragon rise.

If you want, check it out.  I’ve posted it all at it’s own blog space.

Shani Wennemein, Sheriff of Prosperity

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Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Fun, randomness, Writing


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Things that make you go hmmm

With apologies to C&C Music Factory, there are things that really make you go hmmm.

Or in some cases, huh?

We live in such a pop culture world, one where people who have never seen a Monty Python sketch, but can actually quote verbatim lines from many of the sketches (like the Parrot sketch).  One such thing is “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition”.

In reality, the Spanish Inquisition made appointments.  They would give a 30 day notice of when they were going to arrive to question a person.  The questioning in question was to find out if a person in a particular parish was Jewish or Muslim.

The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave.

The Inquisition itself began in the 13th Century, after the reclaiming of Granada.

The Spanish Inquisition can be seen as an answer to the multi-religious nature of Spanish society following the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim Moors. After invading in 711, large areas of the Iberian Peninsula were ruled by Muslims until 1250, when they were restricted to Granada, which fell in 1492. However, the Reconquista did not result in the total expulsion of Muslims from Spain, since they, along with Jews, were tolerated by the ruling Christian elite. Large cities, especially Seville, Valladolid and Barcelona, had significant Jewish populations centered in Juderia, but in the coming years the Muslims were increasingly subjugated by alienation and torture. The Jews, who had previously thrived under Muslim rule, now suffered similar maltreatment.

Post-reconquest medieval Spain has been characterized by Americo Castro and some other Iberianists as a society of “convivencia”, that is relatively peaceful co-existence, albeit punctuated by occasional conflict among the ruling Catholics and the Jews and Muslims. However, as Henry Kamen notes, “so-called convivencia was always a relationship between unequals.”[1] Despite their legal inequality, there was a long tradition of Jewish service to the crown of Aragon and Jews occupied many important posts, both religious and political. Castile itself had an unofficial rabbi. Ferdinand’s father John II named the Jewish Abiathar Crescas to be Court Astronomer.

Nevertheless, in some parts of Spain towards the end of the 14th century, there was a wave of violent anti-Judaism, encouraged by the preaching of Ferrand Martinez, Archdeacon of Ecija. In the pogroms of June 1391 in Seville, hundreds of Jews were killed, and the synagogue was completely destroyed. The number of people killed was also high in other cities, such as Córdoba, Valencia and Barcelona.[2]

The Inquisition focused on more than just Jews and Muslims, but also witchcraft, bigamy, sodomy, blasphemy and Freemasonry.  Why that last was a focus is because Francisco Javier de Mier y Campillo, the Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition and the Bishop of Almería, suppressed Freemasonry and denounced the lodges as “societies which lead to atheism, to sedition and to all errors and crimes.”  Interestingly, while the aspect of the Inquisition has changed, it still exists.  There has also been much historical revision of the Inquisition, as one author tried to point out that they were not nearly as cruel as originally portrayed.

Another Spanish custom among Catholics is a garb worn by penitents during the Catholic Holy Week.  This garb has the unfortunate distinction of looking exactly like a KKK garb.

The capirote is a hood traditionally worn by Spanish Catholic penitents, still worn in Holy Week processions. It looks exactly like a KKK hood. During the Inquisition it was used to humiliate the condemned and indicate their impending fate. No one is entirely sure how a Spanish Catholic hat came to be adopted by a Protestant White supremacist society in the southern USA, though some claim the white, ghost-like headwear is symbolic of the spirits of the confederate troops killed in the American Civil War.

Rather unfortunate, indeed.  On another sort of related note, KKK in Korean means LOL.  Also, Superman really was involved in a drop in KKK recruitment after the Second World War.  The radio series Adventures of Superman, needed a new villain and the KKK fit the bill.  Within four weeks of airing, recruitment in the KKK in Florida dropped to zero.

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Posted by on July 13, 2014 in Fun, Life, randomness


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A 10 Book Layout

For the rewrite of Black Mask & Pale Rider, the series is going to end up being ten books long.  Each focusing on the location that the four elven riders will end up in.  This so far is just a layout, and it may change.


Shani and Pania are introduced, along with their companions, Verit and Scales.  They discover the fabled gate between worlds, discuss the situation for a time, and eventually walk through.


Shani and Pania find themselves in very different parts of a new world, as Shani learns she is in Carrolton, Arkansas, and Pania is in the young city of Chicago, Illinois.  The year is 1863.  This new nation, not yet 100 years old, is torn by war.  Shani and Pania have one goal in mind; find each other, and find a way home.


After the two elven gunslingers meet up outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, they travel along the road toward a small village not far from Reading.  It turns out the village is plagued by a vampire.  Shani and Pania determine they need help, and make a call across the planes to Shani’s sister, Wren.  It is here that the three learn someone on Earth opened the gates, someone who wished to capture and enslave an elf.


Having put down an ancient vampire, the three ride on south, stopping in the peculiar town of Franklin, West Virginia.  On the outside, it is a normal, everyday town.  But it is protected by outcast orcs, peace loving goblins, a mischievous leprechaun, and a werewolf who has become a United States Marshal.  And here in Franklin, the Devil’s Rider has come to haunt.


The three return to their homeworld, delivering the final story of an ancient evil that plagued the elven world, as Wren presents the very story of the last years and death of this elven mage to the librarians at the House of Wisdom bordering the Desert of Semerkhet.  But they know they must return to Earth, and put an end to an even greater evil.


The three come to Oxford, Mississippi, where a vicious band of outlaws controls the townsfolk with an iron fist.  Only the figure of J. C. Walker fights back as best he can.  This old Confederate soldier finds himself between a rock and a hard place when he accepts the assistance of Shani, Pania, and Wren, along with a Chinese migrant worker named Ming.  Can they put down the villainy that is Dorval and his boys?


The deep south.  The three riders make it to Shreveport, Louisiana.  They follow the clues that will hopefully lead them to a powerful sorcerer and necromancer, but find themselves partnered with a newly freed slave as they investigate the strange occurrences at the Kingston Plantation.  They also meet a new ally in the lost Yoruba Elven Princess, Abisayo Temililou.


Having transported the recently freed slaves from the Kingston Plantation across state borders and into the Free State of Indiana, the four riders hope to find some solace in Bloomington, Indiana.  What they discover is a lich.


The experience of the Iron Horse, as the four elven gunslingers meet up with the charitable and reserved Reverend Carter Stewart.  But this train becomes a death trap that only the five can put down, as an old foe proves she wasn’t as dead as one would expect.


The last stand.  Pania is stricken by malady.  Abisayo reaches out to those they have met through the world of dreams.  As the three elves find refuge for Pania, a group of First Nations people protects them, as Chief Whitecap agrees to find a cure for Pania.  Meanwhile, Slowhand Adams, Aurela Dorchester, Sherrif J. C. Walker, Marshal Martin Derringer, Ezekiel Morgan, Dieter van Bueren, Shontaya Jackson, Ming, and the Reverend Carter Stewart hit the trail to put an end to this evil once and for all.

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The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider by Tim Holtorf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
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Posted by on July 4, 2014 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Writing


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Truths: Early to rise

I often get up really early in the morning, even on weekends.  The reason why isn’t because I’m a morning person.  In truth, I really don’t like getting up so early.  I’ve always been one to sleep late.  When I worked in broadcasting, I was the morning news anchor for three different radio stations.  I hated crawling out of bed at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, especially in winter.

When I moved to Outlook, I really loved my job and the place I lived.  So getting out of bed early was easy.  Now I’ve moved here, to Humboldt.  And while the place is alright, I’m not exactly comfortable with the entire work environment.  There’s clandestine talk, people complaining about people, and an aspect of hostility from some co-workers.  Yet, I still get up early in the morning.

This is due to a different reason.

I find the most peace, tranquility and happiness in my waking hours when I’m by myself.  At home, or in a coffee shop, or grocery shopping.  So I get up early.  I wake almost as the sun rises (which around here, is about 3:30 to 4:00 in the morning).

Even on weekends I do this, because I enjoy spending as much time in the sun as possible.  Or around the sun.  Or safe in the knowledge that the sun is up, even by looking out my window at 10:00 in the evening and seeing the sun’s rays still lighting up the world as it sets.

This gives me a great deal of comfort.  It even gives me a great deal of comfort when it’s cloudy, because I’m still safe in the knowledge that the sun is out.  The world is bright, and everything is safe.

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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Life, randomness


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Book Review: Carmilla

I just finised reading Carmilla, a gothic tale about the first vampire story ever published.


Here’s a quick synopsis of the publishing details from the wiki entry and from the Amazon page.

Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. First published in 1871 as a serial narrative in The Dark Blue, it tells the story of a young woman’s susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla. Carmilla predates Bram Stoker‘s Dracula by 26 years, and has been adapted many times for cinema.  Although Carmilla is a lesser known and far shorter Gothic vampire story than the generally-considered master work of that genre, Dracula, the latter is heavily influenced by Le Fanu’s short story.

The character of Carmilla is listed as a fictional lesbian on the wiki entry as well.  Now for the premise of the book.

Carmilla takes place from the point of view of the young woman, who is seduced by Carmilla.  Everything takes place from what she sees and experiences.  A quick synopsis of the book can be summed up in this Editorial Review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Generally acknowledged as a major influence on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this novel, originally published in 1872, is the very first vampire thriller. Le Fanu, often compared to Poe, was a Victorian writer whose tales of the occult have inspired horror writers for more than a century. Seemingly by happenstance, the mysterious and beautiful Carmilla comes to stay with the young and virtuous Laura. Laura, who has been living a lonely existence with her father in an isolated castle, finds herself enchanted with her exotic visitor. As the two become close friends, however, Laura dreams of nocturnal visitations and begins to lose her physical strength. Through much investigation, the gruesome truth about Carmilla and her family is revealed. Though the basic premise of the story, that of evil targeting pure innocence, is familiar to anyone who is vampire savvy, this haunting tale is surprisingly fresh, avoids cliche and builds well to its climax. Particularly interesting are the sexual overtones that develop between the two women. Follows’s reading is flawless. In particular, her ability to capture Laura’s naivete so convincingly will have listeners feeling almost as shocked as Laura as the unwholesome truth unravels. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The book itself was a very fast read, and contained a lot of the kind of prose found in novels and novellas published in the late 19th Century.  The language is flowing and robust, but quite easy to read.  Very good descriptions of the characters are given, and even the actions that each undertakes, although, all of that through the eyes of the young woman, Laura.

This book is an excellent addition to anyone who likes gothic tales, and in particular, vampire stories.  As what is considered the very first vampire story, it’s also of interest to note that it contains heavy lesbian connections while leaving a lot to the imagination of the reader.

For those looking for a book which contains queer representation, plus a good gothic tale, this early (even first) vampire tale is one to look for.

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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in Fun, randomness


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Summer Sizzler

This weekend is Summer Sizzler in Humboldt!  I tweeted about the parade.  Which almost ran in front of my apartment.

I am fully aware that you could not see the piper in that last picture, even if you squinted really hard.

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Posted by on June 21, 2014 in Fun, randomness


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Tales of Six Gun & Sorcery FAQ

These are questions I’ve received from time to time about the work I’ve done with Black Mask & Pale Rider (Tales of Six Gun & Sorcery).  Some I’ve received as messages in different social media platforms, others have been direct face to face questions.

Why the mix of fantasy and western? Those two genres are so far apart.
Not really, they aren’t that different at all.  The only real differences is the setting and the manner of speech that we come to think with either genre.  Both are epic tales of heroes who are confronted with an epic problem and set about to over come it.  We often think that each genre is different thanks in part to where they take place or what technology is involved.  We often see a novel series like the Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks as being a fantasy series that takes place in a completely different universe.  Read the book though, and it’s a story that’s about our future.  Westerns and fantasy have been easily mixed in the past.  One of the best portrayals of this is Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series, beginning with the first book, The Gunslinger, with that ominous opening line “the man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”.

You’re main characters are female.  Wouldn’t it be more relatable if they were male?
To whom?  We live in the 21st Century, where men and women consume media at a relatively even pace.  Women like fantasy, action, comic books, and other things that were always considered male.  Even if women weren’t an option for a reading audience, there have been successful properties that have had women as the main character in the past.  Look at the Tomb Raider series, Witchblade, Xena: Warrior Princess, and even Wonder Woman (though, we’re still waiting on a movie).  There’s a really awful thing that happens whenever a movie or book does not do well.  Those in charge believe it didn’t do well because it was showcasing a woman.  Because a woman was the lead, the movie was a bomb (Halle Berry’s Catwoman as example), when in fact the movie failed because the writing or directing was terrible (Halle Berry’s Catwoman as example).  But no one ever points to movies or books with male leads when they do terrible and say “that movie was lead by a male action hero so it was bound to fail”.
If Shani and Pania were a pair of men (even as elves), the story, while being different, would still be the same as everything else out there.

So, you’ve got two women as the leads.  Is this a Thelma and Louise type book?
On the one hand, Thelma and Louise was a great movie, it pushed boundaries and had a decent story.  The idea was great.  On the other hand, not every book or movie or television series that comes out with two women in the lead role is a Thelma and Louise clone.

One of your characters is a lesbian.  I don’t think that’s appropriate for younger readers?
I don’t think conservatives are very appropriate to Christianity.  Yes, Pania is a lesbian.  No, there is not any sex scenes.  There is implied and hinted sex, but nothing in your face.  Which, if I had any talent at writing erotica I might do, but I don’t, so I leave it as implied.  There’s also a lot of violence in the book.  People getting shot and killed, beaten up, skewered with a rapier, stabbed with daggers.  Yet, there’s not a complaint about that, just that Pania happens to be a lesbian.

There really weren’t any female gunslingers during the era of the Civil War.  That’s not really historically accurate.
This is a fantasy western.  With elves, and magic, and a U.S. Marshal who happens to be a centuries old werewolf, there’s a vampire, and a lich, and undead.  And even with the historical accuracies, there were women who were gun fighters.  Annie Oakley is one of the more famous, and just because she could do what a man could do, she was branded a trick shooter.  Even Calamity Jane, who was a professional scout and frontierswoman, was called a trick shooter.  Historical accuracies would deem that the majority of the gunslingers in the book should be Native American and African American.  Even some of the lawmen should be African American.  The bottom line, this is a work of fiction, and fantasy fiction at that.  Historical accuracy isn’t something I’m too worried about, though I do want to make sure when I mention a town’s name that it did indeed exist in 1863.

You’ve mentioned your changing things up in the rewrite.  Why?
Diversity.  Diversity matters.  Shani was never identified as being Metis, or half Mohawk, but pointing that out is important.  Making Clayton an escaped slave and a gunslinger brings about something different as opposed to generic stubbly white guy.  Mixing things up, adding people of different backgrounds, makes for a unique story.  But it still has to be done well, and you have to try and steer clear of some of the obvious tropes and stereotypes.  You’ll never get away from every single trope, but you can make an effort to avoid the obviously offensive ones.

You’re adding two characters to the rewrite?
Yes.  Shani’s sister, Wren, and later on, Abisayo, who is a Yoruba elf.  Wren is obviously Metis, or half Mohawk.  First, it’s to add diversity.  I remember reading an article about why people of colour are never cast for the elves in a movie like Lord of the Rings, but they sure get cast as the orcs.  Elves aren’t a Eurocentric idea, the Iroquois and Mohawk have their own folklore about elves.  Every culture has folklore which is similar.  As Africa is so close to Europe as it is, there was a very good chance that stories of elves migrated south and were changed to seem more familiar to an audience in Northern African nations.  After all, dragons are a very ubiquitous notion as there are folktales in Europe and Eastern Asia about dragons.  Why is it so hard to conceive that maybe, some of the fairy tale creatures that we assume are European, were also told in some form in Africa or Asia or North America.
There’s also another reason for adding the two characters.  I really wanted to show case good relationships between women.  Strong friendships, good family ties, sisterly love, and, shamelessly I wanted to give Pania a love interest.

Will this mean the book is getting longer?
Most definitely.  It means it’ll probably be more than one book.

Do you ever think that this would be a cool movie?
Sure!  I even have given a list of actors and actresses I’d love for the roles.  But for now, I’d love it if people read the book, and hopefully enjoy it.  I’ve received several good comments about the premise and I’m pleased with that.  Obviously I can do much more to improve it.

Are you afraid it’ll get banned?
No, not really.  If it gets banned in certain locations, it’ll happen.  Lots of books have been banned for absolutely silly reasons.  I’d be impressed if the book was banned because there’s violence in it, but realistically it’ll be banned because there’s a lesbian character.  That’s pretty sad, when you stop and think about it.

Have you always liked female characters?
I have.  I’ve felt drawn to them for different reasons in my life.  They just felt more alive and very different than what was seen as the norm.  It’s hard for a male writer (which I am) to write a female character than a male character.  I know what it’s like to be a dude, so I’m pretty confident in writing dudes.

What’s your biggest inspiration for this book?
The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King, along with Dungeons & Dragons (especially 2nd Edition, Combat and Tactics, Skills and Powers, and the Neverwinter Nights video game).

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Writing


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