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The Flow and the Ebb
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Date:2015-10-19 15:53
Subject:Welcome to the Flow and the Ebb!

Hello there. Welcome to The Flow and the Ebb, the journal of Eric Scott.

There's a bunch of stuff in here- personal stuff, school stuff, geek stuff. But the main stuff is the fiction and poetry. For ease of use, this post exists as a quick guide to everything like that in the journal.

Here's the directory...

StoriesCollapse )
Songs and PoemsCollapse )

"A finished thing is a dead thing."

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Date:2012-04-11 20:55

Music meme!

1. If you'd like to play along, reply to this post and I'll assign you a letter.
2. You then list at least five songs that start with that letter.
3. Then, as I'm doing here, you'll post the list to your journal with the instructions.

My letter, as given to me by mad_maudlin , is R.

Rebel Rebel - David Bowie
Ready For Love/After Lights - Mott the Hoople
Reach Out (I'll Be There) - Four Tops
Restless Heart Syndrome - Green Day
Rhymin' On The Funk - Digital Underground
Rip Her To Shreds - Blondie
Rip This Joint - The Rolling Stones
Rise - Public Image Limited
Rouyn Noranda - Phil Stendeck
Rush - Big Audio Dynamite II
Rebel Never Gets Old - David Bowie

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Date:2012-01-02 01:45
Subject:One year out

2011 was sort of an odd year for me.

On the one hand, it's hard to complain about having this particular first year out of grad school. I published a lot - I can tell because I cannot tell you off the top of my head just how much I published this year. Among them was "Valhal-Mart," over at Killing the Buddha, which, I suppose because it was timely, blew up in a way I never expected. I mean, USA Today's religion blog mentioned me (if, I suppose, in an exaggerated way.) And truth be told, I imagine that much of what happened to me the rest of the year was directly the result of that column; KtB put me on staff as a contributing editor, which is a great honor, and I started writing my column for Patheos, which has been fun (and occasionally frustrating, but that's part of the fun.) Not bad for a story I wrote in one sitting on a lazy Saturday.

(I still don't know what to make of that essay, by the way. It seems like very few people read it in the way I expected - as a humorous piece that turns philosophical at the end. The people who read it as essentially me whining about the Thor movie all seemed to me to have been reading a different essay. Either I didn't make my message clear enough, or a lot of people were viewing "Valhal-Mart" through a different reality tunnel. Probably both.)

I also was on the shortlist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Award, which was a pleasant surprise, even if I didn't win.

On a personal level, though, 2011 was perhaps the most frustrating year of my life. I guess that's not too unusual for a person's first year as a real adult. My world shattered in April when UMKC denied my application to their PhD program. Honest statement: I cried for a day and a half. It physically hurt to read that letter, because it meant that my entire life plan had become derailed. No matter what happened, I wasn't going to be getting a PhD by the time I was 30. (At this point, who knows if I will ever get one at all.) I had put all my chips on that one school - obviously a mistake in retrospect, but at the time, I felt I had been more or less guaranteed acceptance and thought it was safe - and I had lost the bet.

I went back to work at Sprint in January, and for those first few months there, I felt content in the knowledge that I would only be there for a few months before going back into academia. And then I didn't. I spent the rest of the year submitting my resume to anywhere I could. And I got a total of three interviews out of the process. Straight A student with a masters degree (if an MFA) at 25, with a resume full of teaching positions? Nothing to be done for it.

I suppose I've been lucky to have a job at all, even one where I had to work awful hours with no benefits. But the job was also a shackle. I couldn't afford to move back to St. Louis, much less Champaign, and just hope I would find a decent job. So I stayed in Kansas City. It was like being underwater in a house, even though I didn't own a house. I was stuck.

"Stuck" is the the word I fear most in our language. The greatest fear I've had in my life is being stuck. And in 2011, I'm afraid that is the word I'd have to use to describe myself. I felt this cognitive dissonance about my life throughout 2011: it was as though I had this magical fantasy life where I was a Young Pagan Writer and I had Wonderful Colleagues and Spirited Discussions and a Bright Future Ahead Of Me. And then I'd find myself back in my cubicle, where the only time my writing ever came up was when a new contractor found out about my MFA and asked me, "what are you doing here?"

I had no reason to go on campus. I stopped being able to make my Ravenloft game. The Yellow Emperors broke up. And yet despite all those ties I had built up evaporating, I was stuck in Kansas City.

And most of all, I was stuck eight hours away from the woman I loved. It was better than when she lived in Kazakhstan, but don't think that meant it didn't hurt.

So that was 2011 to me: the year of parallel universes. Like I was two separate people, one of whom was ecstatic and optimistic about his future, and one who felt like a failure pretty much constantly.

2012 looks like it will be much better, though. I've learned not to depend too much on sure bets, but it seems like a pretty sure bet that sometime this week, I will get a call telling me when I can move back to my hometown. My new job still won't be what I'd planned for, but I guess most people my age are telling that same story. But I will be fairly financially secure. And I will much closer to Megan.

I have a new car, (probably) a new job, and a new novel. I think 2012 is going to be fine.

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Date:2011-09-23 01:58
Subject:Writer's Block: Desert island

List three books that have changed your life:

1. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
2. The Family, Jeff Sharlett
3. Beowulf, author unknown

Comment if you want explanations.

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Date:2011-09-20 05:29

Go read this week's "Family Traditions" column at Patheos: "Dear Ellie"

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Date:2011-06-15 23:52
Subject:Phrases from Macbeth I might steal for titles someday

I just watched the Heart of American Shakespeare Festival's production of Macbeth (it's worth seeing) and jotted down, on my arm no less, some phrases I thought would make good titles for stories someday. These seem pretty Demon-y to me. (Though I've always thought that Argen had a certain Macbeth quality to him, especially later on... Though I haven't actually written that book yet, so you wouldn't know about that, I suppose...)

Stars, Hide Your Fires
Night's Black Agents
A Deed Without Name
Bloody, Bold, and Resolute*
Sleep Despite the Thunder

*with apologies to Monte Cook, who stole that one first.

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Date:2011-05-13 03:39

So you may be aware of the "historian" David Barton. He's Mike Huckabee's idol, and has quite a bit of traction with conservative Christian politicians. One point he has attested to is the idea that "paganism and witchcraft were never intended to receive the protections of the Religion Clauses" of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.(Source) He was on the Daily Show last week, and shows up quite a bit elsewhere in the media, and that Christian provincialism hasn't really been challenged.

There's currently a drive on Facebook to try and get Jason Pitzl-Waters, Washington Post columnist and the author of the Wild Hunt blog invited to the Daily Show to set some facts straight. Mr. Pitzl-Waters is an excellent journalist and a thoroughly researched critic of Barton. I have no idea if our little campaign of Facebooking and letter-writing is really going to attract Jon Stewart's attention, but it's a nice thought, and maybe it'll do some good in exposing some of the ridiculous and dangerous positions Barton's giving. I don't particularly want a guy claiming I shouldn't have first amendment protection for my religion advising presidential candidates unopposed.

Facebook page

Comedy Central contact page for letters

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Date:2011-05-03 18:58

I have a new column on Patheos.com. It's set to come out every other Monday, and it's called Family Traditions. Like most of my work, it's about second-generation paganism: what it's like to have lived as one and what impact people like me will have on paganism as a whole.

The first installment went up today. It's called "After Ice Cream" and it's available here.

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Date:2011-04-12 13:57

And a second publication in as many days! My story "Reaching for Da'at" is up at Caper Literary Journal. Go read it!

Interestingly, I think this is my first published fiction. (I had another one accepted before it, but it's in a print magazine that hasn't come out yet.)

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Date:2011-04-11 14:06

I have a new story (one I never actually put on LiveJournal, so it's totally new to you!) up at Killing the Buddha today: Valhal-Mart. Go read it!

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Date:2011-03-24 21:58

Didn't get into UIUC. Oh well.

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Date:2011-03-23 01:08
Subject:LARP Thoughts, part 2: core mechanics

In part 1 of this series, I discussed my proposed mechanic for a LARP combat system. Here, I want to talk about some of the core mechanics of the system (which I've nicknamed FourSquare.)

In the last entry, I mentioned a few things I consider goals for this system. They are:
-Speed: Checks should be resolved as quickly as possible.
-Dramatic: Checks should result in narratives, not abstractions.
-Player Control: A GM can monitor everything very closely in a tabletop game; not as much in a LARP. Therefore player control is a great asset to a LARP system.

And here's my rough draft of the system to implement those goals:

1. Basic Mechanic
Declare an action. Roll d%+modifiers. If you roll 75 or better, you succeed in the action. If multiple actors are involved, the highest roll gains narrative control.

Note: generally, you don't roll unless it's dramatically important and it would make sense that the character is generally competent at the task. A computer guy does not usually need to roll to work on computers. Now, if he had to hack into a computer to steal the building plans to facilitate the heist, that's something worth rolling.

Let me explain that a little...

Alright, so this is a d%, roll-over system. As you will see down below, your statistics add to the die roll. Your result checks against two results: the competency target (usually 75) and the control target (do you have the highest result?)

The competency target is, as the name implies, a check to see whether you possess the basic skill to perform the action. This works the same way it does in any other roll-over system.

Example: Let's say I want to build a computer out of the parts I ordered from the internet. I roll d% and add my modifiers. If I total 75 or better, I succeed; if I roll 74 or lower, I fail.

The control target is simply seeing who has the highest roll, after modifiers. The GM can choose to roll for control, or not, on any action, with the same modifiers as the player with the highest modifiers in the action. The winning player gains narrative control, as described below.

Example: The GM decides she wants to roll against the player building the computer in the previous example. He has a total of +30% to his roll. When the GM rolls, she also adds 30% to her roll. If there were another player involved with +35% to the roll, the GM would add +35% instead.

2. Narrative Control
The player with narrative control gets to describe how the scene plays out. The player may change one result for every 10% by which he beats the roll below him. He can only change the result once per target.

So what this means is that we know basically what will happen normally: everyone who passes the compentency target will succeed in their actions, and everyone who misses the competency target will fail. Just winning narrative control lets you describe what happens, preferably in a fun, exciting way as opposed to just "he rolled high, Jim takes a wound."

But! If you happen to win narrative control by 10% or more, you get to change things. If your friend failed his compentency check, you can say he passed it instead. If your enemy rolled high on his check to impress the mayor, you can say he flubs up instead. You get to change one result per 10%. You can also achieve better or worse degrees of success: all the competency check tells you is whether you are, well, competent or not. If you beat it by 10%, you can say that instead, you perform extremely well -- or, if your opponent failed, you can say that he screwed up royally. (In a sense, this is FourSquare's version of the "crit/botch" mechanic.)

To keep this from getting out of hand, you can only alter a target's result once per turn. Even if you win control by 30%, you can't drop your opponent from "competent" to "botch." You can drop him from "competent" to "failure," but you have to spend your other 20% on other things.

Example: Peter, Susan, and Edwin are in a footrace. They each roll off to determine how they do. Peter rolls an 80 -- competent. Susan rolls 91 -- also competent. Edwin rolls a 47 -- failure. Susan has narrative control. Things are set so that she and Peter will both do well, but Edwin won't. She decides she's happy enough just winning and doesn't use her control to, say, have herself break a record; instead, feeling sorry for him, she uses it to bump Edwin's performance up. She describes the action: "It's neck and neck between Peter and I for most of the race, and Edwin seems far behind. But at the last minute, Edwin catches his breath and surges forward. I still win, but just barely; Eddie manages to beat Peter by a nose." Note that in this example, both she and Peter were originally competent -- obviously Susan probably wants to win, but she could have said Peter won instead if she thought it would be more interesting.

3. Stats

There are four primary statistics (hence the name FourSquare) and six secondary statistics. Almost all rolls are modified by two primary statistics (or a doubling of the score of one of them.) The stats are:
-Body, representing physical endurance, strength, and general health.
-Mind, representing intellect, logic, and abstract thinking.
-Agility, representing flexibility, dexterity, and accuracy.
-Will, representing emotional maturity, attentiveness, and mental endurance.

These form the secondary statistics:
-Melee (Body+Mind)
-Ranged (Agility+Mind)
-Force (Will+Mind) (as in, force of personality)
-Speed (Body+Agility)
-Endurance (Body+Will)
-Dodge (Agility+Will)

Some examples of "pure stat" rolls include weight lifting (double strength), gymnastics (double agility), mathematics (pure mind), and perception (pure will.) If it seems like a roll could be influenced by two different stats, go ahead and mix them; the system does not encourage being super-specialized.

The secondary skills listed here are not the only situations in which you'll need to use a mixture of stats, but the secondary stats have special rules related to combat, which I'll detail soon.

The average human score is 10%. Players are assumed to be a little above average, and so they start out with 50 points to spend on stats. It also means that a completely average person rolls 70% on average -- or, in other words, they're usually incompetent with things they have no experience with. That's where skills come in.

4. Skills
The player has a certain number of skills. Skills grant the player +10% to any relevant check. Skills can be specialized to grant another 5%.

There's no comprehensive skill list; players just pick the skill set the makes the most sense to them. Skills are intended to be broad and have multiple applications; GMs should be generous in allowing players to use their skills. Skills can be specialized to grant greater bonuses, but GMs should be much more restrictive about those.

I haven't figured out how many skills players start with. Five seems like a good number, but it could be more.

Example: Biff's character used to be in the SCA, and so he knows the basics about medieval weaponry -- he chooses the skill "Medieval Weapons," which gives him the 10% bonus to fighting with an axe, a sword, bows, whatever, and also gives him the bonus to other things involving those weapons -- he can tell you about their history, for example. He might choose to specialize with an axe and gain another 5% to checks involving axes alone.

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Date:2011-03-22 13:57
Subject:30 day song challenge, day thirty

DAY THIRTY: My favorite song last year.

This was the song I listened to while writing my story "Over the Rainbow."

The Challenge!Collapse )

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Date:2011-03-21 15:43
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-nine

DAY TWENTY-NINE: A song from my childhood.

I was obsessed with Santana the year this album came out. My friend Joe and I actually went to see him at Riverport, which was a pretty awesome concert.

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Date:2011-03-20 22:40
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-eight

DAY TWENTY-EIGHT: A song that makes me feel guilty.

The Challenge!Collapse )

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Date:2011-03-20 19:15
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-seven

DAY TWENTY-SEVEN: A song I wish I could play on an instrument.

The Challenge!Collapse )

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Date:2011-03-20 19:07
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-six

DAY TWENTY-SIX: A song I can play on an insturment.

The Challenge!Collapse )

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Date:2011-03-17 15:53
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-five

DAY TWENTY-FIVE: A song that makes me laugh.

The Challenge!Collapse )

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Date:2011-03-16 14:08
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-four

DAY TWENTY-FOUR: A song I'd like played at my funeral.

Well, chanted. And with a little more soul than this recording. (It's better than the other ones on YouTube, though.)

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Date:2011-03-15 15:03
Subject:30 day song challenge, day twenty-three

DAY TWENTY-THREE: A song I'd like played at my wedding.

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