Chapter 308: Rowan’s Turn

on September 26, 2015 in Volume 2 Book 9: Who Is Mackenzie Blaise?, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which There Was No Warning

“Ms. Mackenzie, Ms. Johnson!” the librarian said, rounding the edge of the bookcase to the previously quiet corner of the upstairs stacks where we’d been conversing. “You made it a whole semester without a single noise warning, and… wait…”

Her eyes went back from me to Rowan.

“Uh, oh… hi!” I said. “This is my friend, Rowan. He’s new here.”

“Well… you’re not, and I know you know better than to hold shouting matches,” she said. “You should be setting a better example for the frosh.”

“Yeah, sorry,” I said. “Heat of the moment?”

“Well, if this conversation’s likely to stay that heated, please consider taking it elsewhere.”

“We will,” I said.

She retreated, muttering about how she had always thought it was the other one who started it.

“When you said you were a regular here…” Rowan said.

“Don’t you dare be glib, you bastard,” I said, forcing my volume lower towards the end to counteract the surge of anger.

“Mackenzie, what the f… what the heck is your problem?” Rowan said.

“What the ‘heck’?”

“I get shouty when I swear,” he said. “Seriously, though, what is your problem?”

“What’s my problem? Well, when were you going to tell me you’re a diabolist?”

“I’m not, okay?” he aid. “I just took a class!”

“Because the rest of the ones have prerequisites,” I said. “So you’re, what? A pre-diabolist?”

“Believe it or not, I haven’t declared a major,” he said.

“But you’re… dabbling,” I said. “Why?”

“Why do you think?” he said. “Mackenzie, I knew nothing about you except that went to school here as of a year ago, and that you’re apparently part demon.”

“So you thought you’d, what… bone up on me?”

“Well, I thought I might run into you,” he said. “I didn’t have any better idea.”

“You thought you’d find me in a demonology class?”

“Maybe not intro, but I thought you might be around,” he said. “What? You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, but people go to women’s studies to meet chicks!”

“…do they really?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe that’s just a stupid joke? I don’t know, Mackenzie! I don’t know shit about shit. I didn’t know you had a problem with diabolism. It all made sense at the time.”

“And you just didn’t happen to mention this before?” I said.

“Well, it didn’t seem significant before I knew you had a problem,” he said. “Then when it came up, it was like… oops, you know? No point in mentioning it. But it still didn’t seem really significant, so it just slipped out. I mean, I decided not to mention it at the moment you were talking about not liking diabolists because I felt kind of dumb, but I didn’t make like an ongoing resolution to keep it from you.”

“That’s… a pretty convenient explanation.”

“Yeah, I’m such a freaking mastermind that I had this convoluted cover story for if I casually mentioned the thing I’m keeping secret from you,” he said. “Mackenzie, Dee was in my head. Don’t you think she would have told you if I was plotting against you?”

“…sorry,” I said. “I guess I overreacted.”

“Da… dang straight,” he said. “What exactly is your problem with diabolism?”

“In general? I think the whole idea is kind of skeevy,” I said. “Being raised by my grandmother… well, I don’t make the mistake of thinking she gave me an unbiased view of anything, at least anymore. But she cleaned up after the messes of a lot of people who tried to get power through demons, and it wasn’t pretty. More personally… I don’t like people who are too interested in that side of me.”

“Okay,” he said. “That’s fair, I guess… but like I said, I didn’t know that, I didn’t know anything else about grown-up you, except for the demon thing.”

I laughed.


“‘Grown-up’ me,” I said. “I feel like maybe I’ve done more growing in the last year than the ten before, but I still feel like a damn kid.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind, because being around you makes me feel like a kid.”

“Well, you were like, what, eight the last time we really hung out?”

“Fair,” he said. “Anyway, from a distance, you seemed pretty cool with the demon thing, too.”

“How so?”

“…well, I guess what I mean is, that’s how everybody else defined you, so I kind of assumed it was how you did, too,” he said. “Now that I say it out loud, it seems pretty silly…”

“No, it actually makes sense,” I said. “I mean, in the absence of any other information, I don’t know that I’d have come to a different conclusion. I mean, I have had a couple opportunities to learn the difference between how someone’s life looks from the outside and what it’s actually like up close… but that doesn’t actually make me better at figuring out what the real story is.”



“So, are you not pissed at me for having taken a class about demons?” he said.

“In fairness to me, I wasn’t mad about that, so much as about the agenda I immediately suspected you of having on the basis of that,” I said.

“…no offense, Mackenzie, but I think that actually sounds worse?”

“Yeah, well, I said in fairness, not in my defense,” I said. “So, assuming it only makes it sound worse because it is in fact worse, then I was still perfectly accurate in saying so.”

“Is that really the hill you want to die on?”

“Hey, if I’m wrong about everything else, give me this one thing to be right about,” I said. “Though… going back to your actual question, you’re not off the hook completely. I still think it was a weasel move to not tell me you took that class as soon as I told you I had a problem with it.”

“Totally a weasel move,” he said. “Though not, you know, premeditated. What I want to know is, is this going to affect your ability to trust me, and if so, what the heck am I supposed to do about it?”

“…I think it’s more a result of my ongoing difficulty trusting you,” I said. “I mean, if we had known each other for the past ten years, or even the past three semesters, then maybe I wouldn’t have jumped to the worst possible conclusion.

“Okay, so… I guess what I’m wondering is, do you actually need to get info from anybody, or were you just waiting until enough time had passed that you could plausibly present what you already know?”

“I told you, it was an intro course,” he said. “Not even practical diabolism, just basic demonology.”

“Okay, but I don’t need to know how to summon a demon or draw on it for magic,” I said. “I’d think a semester-long course on the basic nature of demons would be exactly what I needed to get a handle on this stuff.”

“Then why didn’t you ever take one?”

“…you know why,” I said.

“I actually don’t?” he said. “I mean, sorry if I’m stepping on another mental block or something, but I don’t understand why not trusting anyone in the diabolism department means you can’t take classes with them. It’s not like it would be any less against the law for them to steal your blood or bind your soul or whatever you’re afraid they’re going to do…”

“Don’t fucking minimize it, okay?” I said. “At the very least, it would be super uncomfortable to be the only demonblood in a class that’s all about demons… I’m not fond of being singled out as an example by teachers.”

“Okay. Well, anyway, I guess it doesn’t make a lot of difference because that class in particular is a lot less useful than you might think,” he said. “It’s the one they make you take before you take anything with practical knowledge, so it’s a lot of safety tips and cautionary tales and don’t-don’t-don’ts.”

“Then I’m extra glad I didn’t take it,” I said. “I have had a hard enough time getting over the idea that I’m evil and dangerous without paying to have someone remind me three times a week.”

“Paying… oh, right,” he said. “You know, I have a hard time actually connecting in my head the fact that tuition pays for our classes. I mean, I think of it as buying a semester of schooling. I think it doesn’t help that the professors basically act like bosses. I had one teacher tell me that he would take points off our grade for every absence, even excused ones, because that’s how it’s going to work in the real world when we get jobs.”

“I don’t know where he got his idea of ‘the real world’,” I said. “But I’m pretty sure most jobs don’t grade on the academic point scale.”

“My worst teacher so far took points off the next test every time you missed, because she said you can’t expect to miss the prep and get a perfect grade,” he said. “So, I said that was like telling someone not to touch a stove or they’d get burned, only the stove isn’t on and you stick them with a cigarette every time they touch it.”

“What did she say to that?”

“Holy shit, Mackenzie!” Rowan said, forgetting his vocabulary and volume. “You think I’m crazy? I didn’t say it to her!”

I laughed.

Why not? It was funny.

“So, you really didn’t learn anything in intro to demonology?” I asked.

“No, and none of the other related courses I wanted fit my schedule this time around,” he said.

“Damn… that would be an upside to this whole mess,” I said.

“The mess where you snapped and yelled at me for no reason?”

“No good reason,” I said. “I had my reason, and it made sense at the time… like your reason for taking the class.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m just… the more I think about it, the more I’m like, why do I need a reason? You’ve got a problem with it, but it’s not against the law. It’s in the course catalogue.”

“I’m not saying you should feel the need to justify yourself to me,” I said. “I just mean… you basically admitted your reason only made sense based on a lack of information, and so did my reaction. Right or wrong, it made sense at the time.”

“And now that we’ve gone through all this drama over it, it just would kind of make sense that it would all be for something?”

I laughed again.

“Man, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed,” he said.


“When you laugh, I never know if you’re laughing at me,” he said. “You read a lot more when we were kids, and you knew a lot more… you had a cooler mom, in a lot of ways… and when I didn’t something you did, you usually laughed.”

“Sorry,” I said. “I imagine I was kind of a jerk like that, but in my defense, I don’t think kids that age really understand the difference between themselves and other people… I swear I’m not laughing at you, Rowan. I’m laughing at the ridiculousness that is my life.”

“What do you mean?”

“First, a brief misunderstanding that gets cleared up in a single conversation hardly counts as ‘all this drama’ by my standards,” I said. “And second, I learned long ago that no matter what stories and TV shows train you to expect, not everything that happens in life is going to ‘pay off’ somehow, no matter how significant it seems at the time.”

“I guess it wouldn’t,” he said. “Though… I mean… it’s because of the class that I have some idea who I should be talking to. I just… I feel really awkward doing it outside of class, without any, you know, context or cover story.”



“You took the 101 class meaning to take more,” I said. “So you could always take that tack.”

“You mean… wait until next semester and actually take them?” he said. “Or… try to transfer in? Because I like you and all, Mackenzie… I mean, historically… and I’m invested in this whole mystery, even leaving aside my personal stake… but I’m not going to screw my schedule up for it, if it’s not actually immediate life and death.”

“Huh,” I said.


“It’s never occurred to me to screw up my schedule even when it is life and death,” I said.

“You mean hypothetically?”

“Well, I mean… even when it’s life and death, life theoretically is going to keep going on,” I said. “And it has so far, so… I’ve always kept school stuff at a pretty steady priority, in terms of… school/life/drama/murderous intrigue balance.”

“That’s insane.”

“But I’m still here,” I said. “Alive and in school. But no, I didn’t mean waiting until next year or transferring. I mean, that’s your cover story for asking around. You took one class, you’re thinking about more… I don’t actually have much direct experience with diabolists, but most people around here are pretty eager to sell students on their major, and if they remember you from last semester and wonder what happened… well, they might try to recruit you.”

“But if I’m not actually signing up, how does that help?”

“It means they’ll answer pretty much anything you ask,” I said. “And probably more. They won’t wonder why you’re curious, because A, they know you have a pre-existing interest, and B, they’ll be in full on wonderful-world-of-demons mode so it wouldn’t even occur to them that you wouldn’t be interested.”

“You think that’ll work? I mean, if they even remember me I figure they’d be pissed that I didn’t stick with it.”

“Listen, I’m pretty sure that if you tell a professor of anything that you’re an undeclared freshman, and you won’t even have to hint that you might be interested in their area of expertise,” I said. I didn’t have much experience with this, but it sure sounded true. It felt true. “If anything, the fact that you came and left will make them more interested… like you’re the the one who got away, you know?”

“…I’d feel weird lying,” he said.

“Well, you’re the one who said you needed a cover story,” I said. “Rowan, did you think you’d find one that’s true? Anyway, you don’t have to lie, per se… just tell them that you took a class last semester and you were thinking about taking more. That’s true, isn’t it?”

“That’s… kind of devious.”

“It’s kind of obvious to me?” I said. “My grandmother had a pretty strong injunction against me lying, but… the truth wasn’t always my friend. It took me a long time to get over that.”

I didn’t tell him that part of getting over that was realizing that deceit wasn’t just saying something that wasn’t factually true, but intention… you could say something utterly false in all honesty, or something that evaluated to true while lying your ass off.

More than just not wanting to think of himself as a liar, Rowan was probably understandably nervous about lying to someone who studied and performed one of the foulest types of legal magic for a living. There was no sense taking away the fig leaf that would act as his security blanket in doing so.

“I guess that makes sense,” he said. “And you really don’t mind me cozying up to these guys?”

“Who you cozy up to is your business,” I said. “Honestly, if you really want to keep studying it, that’s also your business, though I’d ask you to keep everything having to do with it the hell away from me.”

“I was only interested in it because I thought it would help me get closer to you,” he said. “And now I not only don’t need that, I know it would do the opposite… so, yeah. I figure I’ll find out what I can, and get the hell out.”

“That sounds like a plan,” I said. I liked where this was going, but there was something sour in the back of my head, like the tickle in the back of your throat before a cough. “Rowan?”


“I’m really sorry for my reaction,” I said. “And more than that… I don’t know if it’s real or not. What you said about a mental block? I think it’s not just the mystery telepath who left them in my head. When I mentioned my grandmother… I’m almost one hundred percent sure she wasn’t a telepath, and I kind of think if she was she would have repressed it, but she had her… methods. She left blocks in my head.”

“Like the lying thing.”

“Like the lying thing, and a bunch of other garbage that almost completely screwed up my life even without her,” I said. “And probably my kneejerk reaction to the whole subject of diabolism.”

“That’s understandable.”

“I’m glad you understand, but I treated a lot of people really shittily, sometimes very causally, in my first months here. I usually apologized… I think… but I’m not sure I ever really made it up to them.”

“Hey… like you said, your grandmother…”

“She’s not here,” I said. “I don’t want her to be a part of my life, ever again. Not even as an excuse. I’m sorry.”

“It’s cool,” he said. “Mackenzie, you’re my oldest friend…”

“I don’t remember you, though.”

“Yeah, but here’s the thing,” he said. “We never got to grow up together, but we never had to drift apart, either, right? You didn’t go off to high school a year before me, you didn’t get a boyfriend… or girlfriend… who was jealous of the shrimpy boy who followed you around… so I don’t care if you can’t trust me completely. Okay, that actually hurts, but I mean, I can suck it up and bear it. I don’t care if we fight. Because you’re here, and you’re real, and I found you.”

“I… I honestly don’t know what to say,” I said.

“That’s cool,” he said. “That was usually me, back in the day, not knowing what to say to you. I guess it’s just my turn.”

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137 Responses to “Chapter 308: Rowan’s Turn”

  1. […] …is now up for your reading pleasure. […]

    Current score: 0
  2. Another Greg says:

    OOk 🙂

    Current score: 6
  3. Angnor says:

    Very sweet chapter with a lot of lovely dialogue.
    And maybe it’s just me (as I’m re-reading things from the start), but the callbacks to Mack’s previous outbursts and drama were really fun, and overall it just seemed to mesh well with where her character seems to be going.

    One thing I’d love to see is a bonus or side story centered on diabolism as it’s practiced, just as a contrast to Mack’s view on things.

    Keep up the wonderful work!

    Current score: 12
    • Majikkani_Hand says:

      Yeah–the whole “people who summon up demon powers are kind of idiots” thing IS a trope, but it would be really interesting to see if it’s one that’s played straight or subverted, here.

      Current score: 6
      • Nocker says:

        I think it’s noteworthy that Mackenzie isn’t seeing her own contradiction.

        Someone passing as a small time local exorsist cleaning up small time uneducated diabolists is counterbalanced by the actual trained ones needing what’s clearly a year plus of training to even SEE a demon(the intro classes, then the ones for hounds and imps, ect.). A full fledged diabolists lab is probably guarded by a dozen layers of enchantments and wards and holy magic and then has armed guards on call in case of emergency(gotta employ martial combat majors SOMEWHERE). The Imperium probably has multiple ones with even heavier security given their general moral standing and keeping demons around full time costs only a few slaves or condemned prisoners.

        The guy who made the deal with the devil and lost is a great morality story, but if nothing happens there’s no story to tell. If it were unstable or high casualty it probably wouldn’t be as open as it is.

        Current score: 3
        • Angnor says:

          Sorry, what contradiction? I don’t think I’m quite following here…

          Current score: 0
          • Nocker says:

            Mackenzie is claiming that she doesn’t trust Diabolists, and that for once her grandmothers opinion isn’t wrong because she had to clean up their messes.

            But diabolism is very clearly 90% preventing those messes. So she’s letting someone else’s biases color her view’s again.

            Current score: 1
            • Angnor says:

              I’m not saying Mack isn’t biased, or even wrong here, but…
              1. Calling ‘Brimstone’ Blaise a ‘small town exorcist’ is woefully underestimating what little we do know of her as a paladin and exorcist. It is in a sense accurate, as she was an exorcist in a small town when Mack knew her, but it denigrates her abilities unfairly since we know she was much more.
              2. Saying diabolism is cleaning up 90% of demon problems is pure speculation. We know literally nothing about how much is being done by whom. Considering the extreme potency of divine magic vs. infernals, the numbers could well be reversed. We really can’t know from what we’ve read so far.

              I’m not saying diabolists are definitely all evil (or useless, clearly not so). Despite the progress any one person might make, we all tend to get caught up in old habits and prejudices. Mack is no exception.
              But we don’t know she’s wrong either.

              In my opinion, diabolism is probably just another set of magical knowledge, neither good nor evil. In the end, it will neither be all unsung heroes keeping the kingdom safe, nor scheming wizards out for evil power.

              And good intentions or not, Mack probably doesn’t want to be anyone’s research project…

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              Brimstone Blaise was a small town exorsist as far as Mackenzie knew and as far as Laurel knew. She was very clearly no longer a high profile figure and very clearly only pulling small time duties day to day.

              She was much more. Was. Past tense.

              Likewise safety is very clearly a key tenant of diabolism. You need an entire term of classes to learn the guidelines and then another term bare minimum to handle imps before moving upwards. This is explicitly stated. That alone says that basically an entire year of core classes, or a quarter of the MU curriculum, is devoted to safety.

              It’s not a good or evil thing, it’s a safety precaution thing. A diabolist works with dangerous materials and individuals regularly, so they need to be aware of that.

              Current score: 0
            • Zergonapal says:

              Ok, why is diabolism even a subject? Its not like the real world equivalent of needing a good background in science in order to be a mad scientist. There are probably entire militant orders of Kheris devoted to the combating of demons.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              Diabolism is a subject because, in addition to learning about your opponent(which is distinct from FIGHTING them. We don’t have ground troops operating in intelligence divisions.) not everyone gets to be Mackenzie Blaize.

              Mackenzie is many times stronger and more magically charged than the average human and even she has trouble with a shower of sparks. If you want high powered artifacts like levitators that make modern life possible but you weren’t born special, sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. Obviously there are other alternatives to power like dragons or gods but they are just as costly in their own way and don’t exactly qualify as having clean hands half the time either.

              Dirty money buys clean hospitals. If you have one life to sacrifice to a demon, but you get an ambulance that saves a hundred, then you need to make that call. If you deal with one demon for power, and that power is enough to ward off multiple demons or stop them if they cross over, then you need to make that call. If there’s a belligerent dragon like Fysaskerath the Red who kills without hesitation and you can send a demon after him and end that threat, that’s a call to be made without hesitation.

              Demons are AN enemy, they aren’t THE enemy. Moreover, they’re off in another universe entirely and can’t cross over into human territory en masse under normal conditions, whereas you have dozens of dragons and thousands of harpies and who knows how many sea devils to deal with. Not to mention the star beasts that could pour out of the sky at any given moment.

              Handling demons will come back to bite you at least once in a while, it’s (literally) the nature of the beast. But the situation humanity finds itself in is as such that a constant outflow of power is needed.

              Current score: 7
            • That one guy says:

              Why is diabolism a thing? Why is nuclear energy a thing? Sure, it’s dirty icky power, but if you handle it safely and follow all proper safety precautions…

              You know the reason why nuclear reactors are so safe today is because of all the ones they destroyed in testing. Idaho test site #1 alone destroyed about 50 reactors. They’d make one minor tweak then run the reactor until it died. Then they’d make another tweak and run that reactor until it died. What if coolant was a little less or a little more, what if a rod was higher or lower or what if… Then Three Mile Island happened and they were able to use some of what they’d learned after destroying a lot of reactors. After the cleanup started, they immediately went back to testing reactors to destruction.

              Fast forward, nuclear reactors have so many automatic levels of safeguards built in that it really requires something like a giant tsunami crushing the building, the safety engineers recommending that everything be shut off for a week-long inspection, and upper management deciding to just continue operating as normal. And even then, there were so many safeguards that Fukushima still wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Chernobyl or Three Mile Island.

              Current score: 0
  4. Mo says:

    Rowan should major in demon hunting if he wants to help Mackenzie.

    Current score: 1
    • Gruhl says:

      He’s already chasing Mack, don’t need no major for it.

      Current score: 5
  5. Silvertongue says:

    I think the bit with the librarian is the best thing I’ve read anywhere in ages.

    Current score: 7
    • Cadnawes says:

      I admit it made me happy to know Mack and Steff are finding time for eachother and are often up to no good. 🙂

      Current score: 4
    • Brenda A. says:

      Yeah – I was very happy to find that the librarian knows her by name. I can’t help thinking it’s not JUST from scolding her and Steff.

      Current score: 1
  6. Mike Conner says:

    … and when I didn’t something you did, you usually laughed.”

    Maybe that should be and when I didn’t know something you did?

    Also, Mackenzie should definitely take a demon class or three. Someone, I think Steff, said a long time ago she needs to figure out how to use some of her abilities, at least to strengthen her resistance to holy symbols and such. A little knowledge can go a long way.

    Current score: 3
    • Brenda A. says:

      She should definitely learn more, but I can definitely understand not wanting to be in the classroom when she is an example of the subject matter.

      Current score: 2
  7. Erianaiel says:

    I am glad my interpretation of the previous post turned out to be wrong. I like Rowan as a character (though him and Ian are going to be pretty awkward together, and I would be at least a little annoyed if Ian is going to be replaced with Rowan).

    I still think Rowan is a fool for taking a course on a whim and I still can’t think of any good reason for studying diabolism other than wanting to /use/ infernal beings, which makes it pretty dangerous as a study to Mackenzie.

    But at least Rowan did not (appear to) get into that study with that mindset.

    Current score: 1
    • Nocker says:

      Taking courses on a whim is what electives are FOR brah. Even if that’s not his major so long as he was taking core classes elsewhere he isn’t actually having his graduation stalled.

      As for Rowan being Ian’s “replacement”, I’m kind of of two minds about that situation.

      Mack and Ians actual romantic deal has felt super forced for years, and if I had a friend in either position I’d tell him to move on since they both clearly want incompatible things. However in terms of interaction Ian has basically been a necessity because he’s the only one Mackenzie talks to that’s willing to actually try to solve ongoing plot threads and deal with issues as they are. Rowan is doing SOME of that but he’s clearly much more passive and would be worse at it.

      Ideally they both wind up in lots of scenes together, so whenever someone tries to go off on a tangent they can be doubly reminded that there are important things to handle and ignoring them doesn’t make it go away.

      Current score: 6
      • P says:

        if you go really far to the pre-Ian updates we had Celia, who I personally miss. she could be really aggressive in expressing herself but basically had good intentions towards everyone and could cut through issues more quickly Mackenzie’s group would have on their own. I’ve never been quite sure why she got written out of the story.

        if ian/mackenzie did break up I don’t think he’d have to be ‘replaced’ at this point necessarily though. steff can be better at recognizing problems than solving them, but it’s been long enough since her breakdown that it wouldn’t seem unnatural for her to be able to invest in her friends more. amaranth has gotten a bit better about defending mackenzie when she is being hurt rather than always trying to find the common ground. two has become more independent and outspoken, creating longterm plans to deal with various problems. etc etc.

        imo it would be fairly natural for them to become more involved in solving problems at this point as a natural outgrowth of their character development.

        Current score: 3
        • Nocker says:

          Steff is still very much into her problem of pretending she doesn’t care and not dealing with them herself. She’s even said she is and is still in denial about how things are going. There’s no way Steff could be an effective “get up and go” character.

          Amaranth can defend(in a sense), but this isn’t about defense, it’s about taking the initiative and trying to actually get things done. She can kind of sort of do things but she still very much needs an external source to get her moving.

          Two I can sort of see doing stuff, but Two’s major problem is that, like Dee, she can’t really communicate it in a way to motivate the group.

          Which is kind of where Ian shines, when you think about it. He gives terms and tries to get moving himself, but he isn’t exactly afraid to call out crazy or stupid things as just being crazy or stupid. He’s got enough discretion to not shout out sensitive things, but his dialog makes it clear he’d be much more comfortable acting in a lot of scenarios. He does try to follow a few plot threads to their logical(and correct) conclusion on occasion, but it’s usually Steff or someone else who shoots him down.

          Which is ultimately why Rowan would be a poor replacement for Ian if that’s what anyone is thinking. Even when it’s not an immediate concern he’ll give thought to something and if the situation is completely sideways he doesn’t freeze up nearly so easily. Rowan meanwhile has basically been letting Mackenzie walk all over him and hasn’t got much of a backbone. He’s useful in terms of getting information across but if it ever comes down to acting on it he won’t follow through if he gets resistance of the sort Mackenzie and friends throw up to anything vaguely plot related.

          Current score: 0
  8. Zathras IX says:

    Cleared up in conversation
    Can be dramatic

    Current score: 4
  9. Moridain says:

    I am genuinely surprised that Mack hasn’t taken any Diabolism classes, or at least hired a Tutor in the subject.

    Teenagers are usually embarrased by Sex Ed class but we still make them take it, cos it is necessary to learn the facts of life…

    She also has to overcome her Divine weakness eventually. She can be cursed into the ground by a toddler as she is, so she should at least have the option of defense?

    Current score: 0
  10. Brenda A. says:

    In case anyone is wondering about the next post, here’s what AE’s blog says:

    Sept. 30
    “I’ve had a scheduled trip to see my mother set for this weekend, but with newly-minted hurricane Joaquin set to either come in or throw a bunch of rain down our mountain roads as it passes us by, it’s kind of a now-or-never thing. So now instead of leaving Saturday, I’m going to be leaving tomorrow morning. It’s going to be hectic as heck, but better safe than sorry. There may or may not be things of the days for all days in the very near future.”

    Oct. 2
    “…With most of two work days already lost and my typical post-travel fatigue and spaciness, I’m just declaring this week a casualty of the storm. I’m going to spend the day relaxing with my parents, dinking around creatively in the presence of fresh air and sunshine, and figure out what’s happening next week next week.”

    Current score: 8
  11. Cindy says:

    So everyone knows, she just posted to her Facebook page that she’s taking this week off.

    Current score: 0
  12. Silverai says:

    AE’s blog, Oct 14:
    “I’m taking this week off for personal reasons, the first and least personal of which is that I had some of the worst insomnia of my adult life for most of last week and I’m mentally and physically exhausted. I need some time to recharge, which I think I can do best by disconnecting more from the internet and social media and re-connecting with what’s really important to me. I’ll see you all next Monday.”

    Current score: 8
    • Sapphite says:

      Thank you, was getting worried about her.

      Current score: 4
    • Moridain says:

      Cool. I am glad she is taking care of what is important, herself.


      Current score: 1
  13. liobi says:

    Does anyone know if More Tales of MU is archived anywhere else than Webarchive? It only goes up to chapter 117, so nowhere close to the bracelet stuff with Jamie and Mack

    Current score: 1
    • ANameIsRequired says:

      I don’t think there was ever a chapter 118. :/

      Current score: 0
    • Sapphite says:

      I don’t think the Mack stuff was ‘on-screen’.

      Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      That was the last chapter, anything else that happened to Jamie after that point we only know from Mackenzie’s perspective. And not much of it.

      Current score: 0
  14. Silverai says:

    AE’s Blog, Oct 26th.
    “Been a while, but we’re back. A few different things happened in the past few weeks that I’m not about to get into with the public, but the end result is that I’m doing better than I have been in just about every way, probably since before I moved.

    I’m going to be resuming posting a creative Thing of the Day immediately. Tales of MU will resume this week and be posted towards the end of it.”

    Current score: 3
    • Lyssa says:

      And today:

      Well, this week has not exactly gone to plan in a number of ways. It’s actually been a very strange week. My ability to not only post a thing of the day for all the preceding days of the week but keep them on a creepy theme was helped inestimably by the fact that a lot of the things in my trunk file are fairly creepy (though the story I posted last night just before midnight was brand new).

      We had a sort of extended family situation that ate up a lot of time in the past couple days, and on top of that we just realized yesterday that trick-or-treat night on the civic calendar is tonight, on account of the Mummers’ Parade that’s always held on Saturdays, so we’ve had less time to get ready (and none on the weekend… I was really counting on being able to do a lot more Saturday.

      So with that in mind, rather than half-assing everything, I’m doing a little castling maneuver with my calendar… today’s all holiday stuff, and then over the weekend I can take some time to write and post. Talk to you more then!

      Current score: 5
      • Lyssa says:

        She’s posted a couple times today, and it looks like she’s having a rough time of it again. 🙁

        That being said, I don’t know about you guys, but her post about want versus need in romance makes me wish I had a friend like her to talk to.

        Current score: 2
  15. jayloo says:

    Oh no, getting worried she’s going to have to stop writing the story!!

    Current score: 0
    • scree says:

      Oh noes! After writing 3 pages in 3 months!? How will anyone even tell the difference?

      Current score: 2
      • jayloo says:

        Suppose it’s because some of us have been reading this since 2007…

        Current score: 4
        • Lyssa says:

          I cannot believe it’s been that long but it has! I started reading this my senior year of high school and I graduated in 2007. Crazy!

          Best wishes to her. Sounds like she’s having a very hard time right now. Wish there were a way we could help.

          Current score: 2
        • Nocker says:

          So have I, but I must agree.

          If it was a case of a serious health issue that needed immediate resolving, and an announced hiatus, that’s be one thing. But this is just a set of circumstances that piles up from the sound of it, and looking at her blog none of them were surprises so much as things she’d have known well in advance. Which is what buffer chapters are for. Which is a thing she’s promised numerous times over the years to have, but never gets.

          Which is what gets me, and probably Scree, just a bit pissed. There’s this feeling that ToMU is just being given no attention, while every other thing is proceeding at normal course. Particularly since, as I’ve seen from actually FOLLOWING the author on twitter and livejournal, it doesn’t take her multiple days to actually write a chapter once sat down to do it.

          If you want your readers to be understanding, you have to give them something, even if just a heads up. But repeated promises of uploads that never happen don’t exactly leave anyone overjoyed.

          Current score: 5
          • Jack Ralls says:

            It actually does take her 2-3 days to write a chapter once she sits down to it. Part of art is making it look effortless, but the longer a story is the more momentum it needs to get up the hill.

            Current score: 0
  16. Grant says:

    Stayed away for a while to let the chapters build up as I couldn’t handle the weekly cliff-hangers.

    Hope your life and mind start treating you right soon AE, because this is quite simple THE best arc you’ve written for us in some time.

    Current score: 6
  17. Sapphite says:

    I agree with Grant. Looking forward to more when it comes.

    Current score: 3
  18. Lyssa says:

    Latest Update:

    Internet, I have had a heck of a week, which has been part of a heck of a few months, which has been part of a heck of a year. You know parts of it. Others aren’t mine to tell, or aren’t things I’d like to share. But I appreciate the goodwill and patience you have shown me, and all the messages asking me how I’m doing and making sure I’m alright, even when I’m not able to respond to them.

    I’ve been making plans, in between dealing with the crises of the moment. Tomorrow I’m going to share them.


    Current score: 1
    • P says:

      The short of it is that she had various problems and then spent her remaining energy on saving a cat instead of putting together polished writing.

      Current score: 0
      • Oni says:

        I’m sorry but… *sigh*.

        Just shy of 2 months, and not a single update to the site. Alex, seriously, take it from experience: something is better than nothing. Post something here about there being no posts. Respond to people about stuff. Post some random in-world stories; you’ve had enough different stories running in the past that you could alter something a bit and say it’s in Void Dogs or something.

        Don’t just disappear like this. I’ve been around here for what… I don’t even freaking know. I was still in freaking Uni then. I understand that life has issues, but sometimes you gotta grab them damn bootstraps.

        I hope things get better, and I hope you can pull something together for this site in the next week.

        Current score: 5
        • P says:

          Nah, speaking as a cat owner I can say that saving the cat is always priority #1. They can’t help themselves and the world can be a very dangerous place for them.I’d rather she fall out of contact for a little while then update us that her cat got killed by a feral dog or hit by a car because she had felt pressured to put something up and had prioritized that.

          Let’s not start the whole criticism train thing again though.

          Current score: 2
          • Nocker says:

            That’s it though, we’re not asking her to devote hours of her time. A simple phone type up of “stuff is going on, I can’t give you a time estimate” would be acceptable.

            We’re here because we want to be here. We aren’t picky. But even eaters that aren’t picky starve to death eventually.

            Current score: 3
          • Oni says:

            That’s not what I was getting at. I understand that there was a cat-tastrophe. I’ve had them myself, and missed a day of work taking mine to the vet when he was hit by a car. What I was saying is that there’s two months of time prior that not a word has been posted here. I don’t make it a habit to check her blog, because irrational or not it bugs me to find pages long essays without a simple “brb, tldr: life” here. It’s an on going issue that keeps being repeated over the years, and she needs to learn to stop doing it.

            Current score: 3
            • Jack Ralls says:

              This isn’t really the place for a “life just happened” update, though. If people would pay attention to it, I can ask how she feels about me making a twitter or something to keep people updated on the status? (I don’t want her to make one herself for the same reason she doesn’t read comments, too many not story tasks take the focus away.)

              Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              Isn’t that what the Tales of MU twitter is for?

              Current score: 1
            • Jack Ralls says:

              Right now that is just being used when Tales of MU updates. I can ask if it can be expanded to include delays and things, but not until after Thanksgiving.

              Current score: 1
            • Oni says:

              Hey Jack: maybe? I don’t personally subscribe to it, but I bet there are more views of that than there are of the blog. Ideally it should also be embedded on the front page here, as I bet you’ll find that 80%+ of readers don’t visit any site other than this one.

              Current score: 2
            • Jack Ralls says:

              Good idea!

              Current score: 1
            • tessa says:

              yeah, having to rely on whichever one of us feels like/remembers to go check her official blog, tumblr, twitter, etc for updates that may or may not exist is uh, not ideal.

              and updates do sometimes get posted here officially, so i’m not sure why it shouldn’t be a more regular thing? since obviously there’s some percentage of audience not reading her personal blogs etc, as seen by all the comments that happen every time there’s a delay/lapse/hiatus.

              an embedded twitter feed like y’all are talking about sounds great, actually.

              Current score: 0
  19. Typha says:

    I’ve been a reader since early on, and I quite enjoy the story, but my read on the situation has always been that Ms. Erin places far too much reverence towards creativity and perfection- writing is not a matter of making every last thing in your life perfect and producing a precious jewel, it’s grinding out pushups while someone sits on your back and screams at you. There are good and bad days, but at the end of the day if you are unable to discipline yourself enough to write 2,000 words in three months, you aren’t a professional writer, you’re a talented amateur.

    Current score: 1
  20. tessa says:

    Latest: That’s the big bullet point on this post for people who don’t care about reasons or process: Tales of MU returns December 21st, and if this goes to plan, it will continue posting once per week with some regularity.

    We’ll see. Here’s hoping, right?

    Current score: 2
    • Grant says:

      So the plan is basically to build a buffer. Good. I have often thought that all the times of glut when we’ve had three chapters a week could have been split over a weekly schedule and there would never have been a hiatus.

      Current score: 6
    • LetsSee says:

      Yay! This is great news. Especially since she has never said she was going to write a buffer before!

      Current score: 1
  21. Nym says:

    Inertia is a funny thing, especially when life and depression happen on top of it. Writing happens best on top of writing, but productivity is a tremendously unstable eliquilibroum, whereas not creating takes so, so much less energy. A cycle, once entered, is hard to break out of – and it’s worse when you have an audience, who you are accustomed to providing with updates and who you know are missing the story and perhaps demanding a good excuse for the missing chapter, one you feel like you don’t have. It becomes easier to hide from it, and to decide that when you return after an impromptu hiatus, it needs to be “right.”

    I’ve always associated ToMU with experimental fiction. I won’t say exactly how old I was when I stumbled across it from a Project Wonderful banner, but it was back in the early days where we were getting daily chapters and we could take 20 chapters to get through a day. Obviously, that pace was unsustainable, but I always kind of wondered if that experimental creative energy wasn’t an essential part of what made writing ToMU work for you, AE – the experiments didn’t always work, as is natural for experimentation, but the fact that you were willing to try so many different things was a huge part of the appeal for me. Not all of it – I love the characters, and the world? Damn, just damn – but I guess it always kind of seemed to me that that was a part and parcel of it.

    I don’t necessarily know that I’m on point with my thoughts here. I’m not a mind reader, nor the best with that whole “perspective taking” thing in general, and I don’t claim any unique insight into AE’s mind. But I’d been kind of worried that the slow updates recently were a sign that ToMU was falling into a rut, that it was running out of that raw creative energy that I’ve always loved about it.

    So basically? I’m really glad to hear, not just that ToMU will be coming back at the end of the year, but that you’re still trying new things. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it’ll work for a while and then you’ll need to try something else. Maybe it’ll be a dud entirely. But from where I’m standing it looks a lot like that constant, daring experimentation is in a very real way, exactly what ToMU needs.

    So do what you need to do, AE. If you feel up to it in the interim, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to put a link to your announcement at the top of this site for those readers who don’t know about your personal blog, but otherwise, do what you need to do. Build up the momentum you need. We’re all here because we love this story – even the more doom and gloom comments are, ultimately, from people who are desperately enthralled with this world, and who are posting because they want to know that this will come back at some point. So do what you need to do. We’ll be here.

    Current score: 7
    • Nocker says:

      While I’m all for creative experimentation, to be blunt that can only go on for so long.

      Early MU was full of crazy stuff, some of which did work, some of which didn’t, and things could happen seemingly out of the blue to keep it fresh. But after a while one has to pay the proverbial piper and that time is basically now. Because while one could keep pulling new details out of the world forever the ones that already exist are what this arc is focused on and Mackenzie is far enough along in her MU education that there’s a fixed economy of time.

      Not everything needs to be resolved but we’ve basically hit the halfway point here. Mackenzie has two years down and two to go and we’ve already got all the major political powers and magical entities blocked off an established to some degree. The same goes with shadowy mysterious types and there’s enough major antagonists to go around(and before anyone pulls the experimental card, an assassin-slaver-queen who wants your life under control is one hell of an antagonist no matter how you slice it).

      One thing I’ve always believed as an artist and a writer myself is that establishing something is easy, but followthrough is hard. When it exists here, it’s decent enough, but there’s not much of it to go around and there’s less and less to establish. So this is basically MU’s crunch time. It can’t really go back to that early tone any more than say, Luke Skywalker could walk back into the Mos Eisley Cantina for the first time in the middle of Empire Strikes Back, for a decent analogy.

      Current score: 9
  22. silverfox says:

    Good by Tales of Mu. I’ve been reading this for a long while. I’m not leaving because of the lack of updates, but because I feel like the author has no respect for her readers. As someone who has ran many gaming sessions, I fully understand that life loves to interfere. That creativity ebbs and flows and can leave for extended periods. That illness, and events can leave one too drained to think. These happen. What I feel is not respectful is simply the lack of post that Tales is on hiatus. It’s doesn’t take long, it doesn’t take much energy. It’s not creative. It’s simply respectful. It doesn’t have to say how long, or even why, just that it is. I’ve truly enjoyed reading but the gap since the last update, with no information from the author is too much for me.

    Current score: 9
  23. cweed says:

    Honestly, AE seems better at writing up excuses than anything else. I’ve enjoyed this story, sure, but at the cost of wading through countless ‘woe is me’ blurbs every time she (inevitably, it seems) falls short of her promises.

    Yes, life happens. Complications arise, drama ensues, sh¡t hits the fan, etc. But honestly, most of being a grown-up is learning to take that in stride and still make sure that things get done. We’ve all been there, in that place where we get derailed easily and always have an explanation ready, but at some point you start to realize that the explanations don’t matter to anyone but yourself. Your school, your boss, your customers, your fans…they may cut you some slack now and then, but at the end of the day, unreliability is unreliability.

    Don’t try to tell me that this is how you make your living and then just skip out for months at a time. If you say ‘this is a hobby’ or ‘I will publish when I can’, fine. But when you claim to treat this like your job and then fall short this often, it definitely inhibits both trust and respect – which is pretty bad for someone trying to make money off of fan appreciation. There’s no way on earth I’d donate to support a project in the hands of someone as historically unreliable as this, and while the work is still appreciated, the work ethic is not. I sincerely hope she gets her life together soon and learns to overcome rather than explain, both for the story’s sake and her own.

    Current score: 6
    • Jack Ralls says:

      Writing is how she makes her money. Tales of Mu is more of her baby than anything. Does it go on the back burner sometimes? Yes, because she needs to do paying projects too.

      Every large fantasy epic experiences delays. That happens. Writing is not factory work, you can just sit down and magic it up sometimes. However, unlike most fantasy epics, you can read this for free. Nobody is requiring you to donate or even show up.

      Current score: 3
      • cweed says:

        Please. She never posts “oh I had to delay this because of a paying job” it’s always “woe is me”.

        Yes, life happens, and stuff comes up. But when your life repeatedly hits the fan to where you can’t maintain a light schedule *you* set for yourself, it’s time to reevaluate. And by now it’s gotten to the point that the only time I know *not* to check for an update is the day it’s scheduled to come through. That’s all.

        I know that I’m not required to read, but I enjoy it and so I shall. However, the fact that I enjoy the story and respect the writing in no way requires me to respect the time management capabilities of the author. This comment section turns into such an echo chamber on that front it’s sometimes ridiculous. It does the author no favors to have everyone pretend that hers is a normal level of consistency. Yes, everyone misses their goals *some*times, but this has become an *all* the time thing.

        Current score: 6
        • Jack Ralls says:

          Right, well I don’t have any more time to devote to arguing with you and if you have any more entitled complaints you can take them to your own space. I will be deleting further comments on this subject.

          Current score: 3
      • cweed says:

        And for what it’s worth, most writers DO have a set schedule/deadline. Do they miss it occasionally? Yup, and they lose money and/or their fanbase.

        It’s a creative process, yes, but at some point you have to learn to ‘just sit down and magic it up sometimes.’ How many people will fail to finish ASoIaF because GRR Martin writes at a glacial pace (less than it would have been, perhaps, because of the TV show sustaining interest, but then again maybe more because the TV show will reveal the plot without requiring them to wait). How many gave up on Wheel of Time? And those are widely-known and respected authors/series at the outset.
        Serial novels are not a new phenomenon, either – people have been incrementally writing their stories on a repeated deadline for a long time. Writing to a deadline has long been a skill that authors were required to cultivate.

        Current score: 4
        • zeel says:

          You aren’t actually wrong, but you are being… well, a dick about it. And I don’t just mean the person I am replying to, you all know who you are.

          I agree that the lack of communication is probably the worst part here, and I’m not going to make any excuses, or tell you to read her blog. You aren’t wrong. Furthermore, it’s understandable that lack of updates or information may cause readers to withdraw their financial support, or even stop reading. We all have to make choices about how we spend our time and money.

          The problem, is that many of you feel the need to tell everyone about it.

          This is similar to what I consider the most objectively offensive thing anyone says on the internet: “tl;dr” – I believe I even wrote about this on a previous chapter on this very site.

          To summarize: You don’t have to care, you don’t have to read. But when you make the effort to tell everyone just how little you care, you go from one of the thousands of people who didn’t comment (or know there was something to comment on) to… a dick. In most cases, most people don’t care, and can’t be expected to. So going out of your way to say so is absurdly offensive.

          So back to the topic at hand, you don’t need to support the author, you don’t have to read the story, and you don’t need to pretend that everything is okay.

          Just pleas, for the love of penis, don’t waste your time or anyone else’s by telling us about it.

          Current score: 6
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            Exactly. and quite frankly, do these people that are being so negative realize just how harmful that is to encouraging her to work on the story more?

            Current score: 3
            • Jack Ralls says:

              This. So much this. Yes, the updates are sporadic but they happen. And she already feels super bad, which makes it hard to focus on actually writing the story and just makes everything awful.

              Current score: 6
            • P says:

              I have a friend who quit writing her comic in large part do to constant fan criticism. The criticism wasn’t even especially worse than what other artists get, but it was mean and she has enough to deal with in her life that she can’t put up with very much meanness.

              I can’t tell if people don’t know this can happen to an artist or if they don’t care. Some of both maybe. It’s certainly not what I come to see when I read the story comments though.

              Current score: 2
            • Jack Ralls says:

              Seriously. AE already tries her best not to read the comments because the criticism is unmotivating.

              Current score: 3
          • Lurk says:

            Indeed. You’re not wrong, Walter, you’re just an asshole.

            Current score: 0
            • cweed says:

              Meh…echo chambers never helped anyone. If only people who aren’t bothered by the lapses are welcome to post, it would make it seem as if nobody were bothered by it, which is inaccurate.

              Think of it as the logistics equivalent of the typo/grammar error post that ends up in EVERY comment section…yes, it’s criticism, but that doesn’t mean it’s invalid or shouldn’t be heeded. If it had already been said many times, dickish. If I posted it every time there was a minor lapse, dickish. But pointing it out after a record-breaking absence, when nobody else had done so? Sorry, I don’t find that inappropriate.

              Current score: 5
            • Nocker says:

              I’m actually going to back cweed on this one, as much as I really, REALLY don’t want to. Yes, he’s an asshole about it. But as everyone said, he’s not *wrong*.

              As I continuously keep saying, we’re here because we want to be here. Including cweed. We’re checking this many months on with no updates because we actually care enough to not just drop a story that hasn’t updated in months.

              You can’t have it both ways. When times are good Alexandra is super pleased about criticism because it’s free editing that she’ll freely admit makes the story better. When times are bad and people lay out their grievances you can’t switch that off. You can’t have it both ways. You either get people who’ll blindly take whatever OR people who’ll pour over your every word looking for an issue, that’s just how life works.

              Current score: 4
            • zeel says:

              If only people who aren’t bothered by the lapses are welcome to post, it would make it seem as if nobody were bothered by it, which is inaccurate.

              Nobody needs to say they are bothered by it. AE knows that her fans want more chapters, and are not going to be happy if they don’t get them. It’s a fundamental characteristic of any fan-base. Nobody needs to point it out.

              It’s also not in any way similar to the typo correction posts, which AE has actually encouraged (some chapters even have a note “corrections submitted by”).

              Furthermore, we aren’t talking about criticism like “I feel like the quality hasn’t been quite up to snuff lately”, or “I wish we would get more/fewer sex scenes”, or “Isn’t a giant plot hole?”.

              See, if you come and post “this chapter seems sub standard” that’s legitimate criticism. When you say “Honestly, AE seems better at writing up excuses than anything else.” you aren’t criticizing the work anymore, but the author. And that’s the problem.

              If you eat in a restaurant and the chef comes out and asks how you enjoyed the meal, telling him that it was under cooked is criticism. Calling him an idiot for failing to properly cook it is being a dick.

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              If it’s under-cooked once, you’re being a dick. If you try eating there for a year and it’s been under-cooked every time, you’re a bit more justified.

              I’m legit trying to keep the peace here. I don’t want to go on the attack. But I’m not going to sit here and lie to myself or anyone else about what I’m looking at.

              Alexandra Erin, the person, won’t clear this up herself. It’s not an issue of being connected, because all of her social media stuff has been regular this whole time. It’s not an issue of being unable to access the site, because Jack is in the same household from presumably the same or an adjacent computer. It’s not even an issue of not being able to give an estimate, because they are given, just not here.

              As I keep saying, it’s a fundamental issue of mutual respect. That is to say, we’re expected to remain silent whenever this happens, and just ignore it despite the same thing being recurring for *years*.

              I’m trying to give the benefit of the doubt here. I really, seriously am. But I can only do it so many times with the same result before it just becomes the textbook definition of insanity.

              This is done out of love and genuine concern. Like cweed said, an echo chamber never helped anyone, and it clearly isn’t helping the situation here. He’s not being polite, but nobody is actually tackling his statement outside of his decorum. Which is the important thing. If you can hand me a reason he’s wrong I’ll be right there with you telling him to fuck off, but I have too much value placed in people giving me the same treatment he’s giving her now to just dismiss it.

              Current score: 6
            • Jack Ralls says:

              She actually isn’t here. She is having thanksgiving with her very ill mother who might be dying and doctors can’t really figure out what is wrong with her.

              And AE is really close to her family. She gives a lot of credit to her mom for inspiring her love of stories and writing. Which, spoilers, occasionally makes writing a depressing and difficult.

              So you want to know why the last couple of years have sucked ass? Because “personal reasons” apparently isn’t enough? Because “I haven’t given up yet” isn’t enough? Somebody close to us is dying. She is trying as hard as she can to keep her shit together.

              And I’m here. I am helping and will continue to help to the best of my ability. When she gets home, I will ask her about embedding the MU twitter and allowing me to put updates on it. And if you have other suggestions, I’m all ears.

              Current score: 6
            • Nocker says:

              And for the record, yes, I’m aware the comment thread isn’t the proper place to have this discussion, but that just highlights the evident gravity of the situation as far as the actual readership is concerned and the loop we’re trapped in. We have nowhere more permanent to talk about this because forums don’t exist. The old forums got shut down because there weren’t enough people using them. There weren’t enough people using them because there weren’t enough people coming in. But those people can’t really be expected to come in to a story that won’t update regularly, so there won’t be a community to support any forum, so there can’t be a better place for the readers to have a discussion than a comment thread clearly not meant for anything more than three post chains.

              Which is why we keep doing this same song and dance over and over every three months. Because eventually someone makes a comment after some silence and lines get drawn and everything turns ugly from scratch.

              Current score: 3
            • Nocker says:

              Jack, we weren’t TOLD personal reasons. That’s the thing. If there was a post saying “I can’t do this right now, personal reasons”, then I’d have happily fucked off.

              Just to reiterate the point again. I don’t want to be the bad guy here. I don’t even want to have this conversation. If the situation is as dire as you say then AE has every right to put the story on a back seat and go prioritize family stuff. But I’m not a psychic and I can’t really know what someone’s personal details are. I’ve just been commenting on what I’ve seen.

              Current score: 6
  24. Hollowgolem says:

    In case anyone’s curious, there have been 43 updates in the last year. Just shy of once a week, on average.

    Current score: 6
    • Nocker says:

      …because the story was originally meant to be three times a week. Then two times. Then one.

      I’m *all for* someone with real life issues taking time they need, but lets be clear about the situation. Deadlines were promised, then missed repeatedly. Communication ground to a halt multiple times and we’ve had to do this song and dance in the comments section thrice now.

      If from this point forward, that December promise is met and we all have everything good, then it’ll be good times. But I’d rather not ignore issues that came up. It feels like we’d be disingenuous and patronizing to an author that deserves better.

      Current score: 6
      • Tomo says:

        and updates ground to a halt only a short time after AE created a patreon. seems rather suspicious if you ask me.

        Current score: 1
        • Riocaz says:

          Yea, obviously the previous 8 years of work were a set-up so she could set-up a patreon…

          And what? rip people off magically?

          Her Mom is ill. Has been for a couple of years, and progressively getting worse. She’s mentioned this _repeatedly_ here and elsewhere. Right now she’s spending time with her Mom and having a family Thanksgiving.

          Does it suck for us? Yea! But the whole situation sucks a hell of a lot more for her and her family.

          She needs to spend that time with her Mom, and the rest of the family a hell of a lot more than she needs to write for us!!!

          Current score: 1
          • Riocaz says:

            Oh and how is more than 18 months a “short time”?

            Current score: 1
        • Nocker says:

          To be fair, ToMU was always crowdfunded. Unless there’s something ultra specific about Patreon that doesn’t really make sense.

          Patreon has a deserved bad rap, but I’m not lumping AE or any of the others in with that. Patreons problems are to do with Patreons staff, and anyone abusing the system is an asshole to be judged individually.

          Current score: 1
  25. Zukira Phaera says:

    Jack, Please give AE a hug from those of us who do understand how hard finding your way back to something you love doing can be, when you’re feeling bad about having been away so long, especially when you’re needled and feeling guilty yourself, chasing yourself around your own head and beating yourself up over it.

    From one person with anxiety about these sorts of things, to another. Much love and lots of hugs. Those of us that understand are here, cheering her on.

    Current score: 7
  26. Typha says:

    Okay, this is just getting stupid. I feel bad for her circumstances, and hope she feels better, but when it degrades to her boyfriend-cum-moderator yelling at people in her own comment thread, it crosses a line into the truly absurd that I don’t care to humor.

    I loved this story for years, but to hell with it.

    Current score: 8
  27. euthanatos says:

    Just a reminder, if people want somewhere to discuss things that may not be on-topic in a comment thread here, come on over to the Tales of MU reddit ( I’m hoping to get some more participation over there, but I seem to have timed the launch of the subreddit to perfectly coincide with the recent hiatus.

    Current score: 1
  28. Iain says:

    That’s not AE, though. That’s a bunch of other people arguing for and against her. But it’s still arguing over something beyond our control.

    If AE gave us a promise that she’d update more, then she made a mistake in doing so. Sticking to a schedule with something like this? LIFE gets in the way. You’re counting on your environment, family, friends, everything to stay as it is when you made that promise. People get sick, jobs falter, our own bodies can betray us. Making a promise about a fixed and certain schedule stretching into the future is incredibly unrealistic and I don’t think it’s fair to be angry with her for failing. I feel that failure would be inevitable, for anyone.

    For those wanting to leave: just leave. I don’t mean that as an offensive “WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE!” but genuinely as a “just leave”. We’re wasting a lot of energy on arguing when we could just fill the void with something else. I recommend Hearthstone. It’s a great game!

    Alternatively I reckon you should try your hand at writing! Start up a wordpress and submit a chapter whenever you can. Not because then you’ll see how hard it is, because that’s a stupid lesson. But we have a lot of people inspired by AE’s work and I would LOVE to read some of your stories!

    For those wanting to stay: you’re not defending AE if you’re attacking the other side. “If you say X then you’re being a dick” doesn’t help the defense, it only provokes further argument. I think the best way to help AE would be to show her you’re still invested in the story. Comment on ideas, discuss magical theory. But don’t attack the people who disagree. Ignore them. It’s way easier.

    Jack: I think you should delete all these posts. This can’t possibly help her, neither the attack nor defense comments. We’ve turned this into a battle, when she should only be coming back to her story. And in the future I think it should be okay to delete any posts that aren’t specifically about the story. It’s not like you’d be in danger of alienating the people who said they’re leaving anyway.

    TL;DR – If you’re leaving, leave. If you’re staying, focus on the story. Jack, give her something nice to log on to.

    Sorry for temporarily adding to the problem.

    Current score: 2
    • P says:

      ‘For those wanting to stay: you’re not defending AE if you’re attacking the other side. “If you say X then you’re being a dick” doesn’t help the defense, it only provokes further argument.’

      This is a good point. It’s easy to snap at someone when you’re frustrated, but during update lapses like this what I’d really like to see is people revisiting old theories, digging up plot points we missed, speculating about possible future story points, and stuff like that. I don’t have any desire to defeat people in some kind of blog battle. Reading through the comments on old updates is one of my favorite things because it makes me aware of a bunch of stuff I might have missed otherwise and deepened my appreciation of the story.

      I also am thinking of how Rich Burlew of ‘The Order of the Stick’ does not allow people to discuss his update schedule on his website. Even if I’m being completely selfish and not thinking about what’s good for AE, I’d personally like it if a rule like this was instituted for the comments here because it would make it a much more pleasant place to discuss the actual story. Then, if people would learn to treat the update schedule as a goal AE was working towards rather than a hard and fast promise, I expect a lot of the drama would fizzle away without the need for blog battles.

      Current score: 2
      • Jack Ralls says:

        I’m going to make that a rule on future posts.

        I thought about deleting all the comments about it here, but I want to give people warning/not take away points that were already posted.

        Current score: 3
        • Nocker says:

          Yes, but speaking as an ex playgrounder, GITP is a hot mess of passive aggressive bitching and all his rules actually do is make people more catty and passive aggressive. That’s why everyone I know LEFT the site and why every other site I go to considers the place a laughing stock. Well, that and the kind of behavior those rules breed.

          Jack, it’s ultimately your call but I’m going to try to advise you not to do it. While it sound like an attractive option short term, it won’t actually help. It’ll just mean anyone who has a problem will post elsewhere and it’ll Streisand from being a self contained thing in a comment section to a multi site ordeal.

          If I’d seen that work elsewhere I’d be behind it in a heartbeat. But it literally never does. I could probably rattle off a dozen sites that tried it and just killed their community as a result.

          Current score: 2
        • zeel says:

          In my mind the comment section should be treated just as one would treat a single thread on a forum, where the topic post is the chapter itself. That is, we are here to discuss this chapter, and topics this chapter brings up regarding the story at large.

          In most forums I know, going off on tangents will get your posts deleted, and the moderator will ask you to start another thread for another discussion (unless you do this often, in which case you get banished).

          Now, since the death of the forum we have had no other place for tangents, so some side discussions provoked by events in a chapter are understandable (I have certainly started such things). But a wild subreddit has appeared! So we might as well move such things there.

          In two years new readers, or veterans going back through, might look at the comments. Nobody is going to care about what schedule issues or random chatter was going on today. Anything in the comments section is going to sit there, semi-permanently attached to the chapter for the foreseeable future. So it would be great to keep things on-topic.

          It’s not about who gets to say what, who is right or wrong, or any such things. It’s about keeping this area of the site for its intended purpose.

          As for existing off-topic posts, I would be in favor or purging them. Perhaps wait to do it until the chapter in question is no longer the latest, I doubt anyone would even notice.

          Current score: 4
    • cweed says:

      Since when does expressing displeasure with one aspect of a site mean you have to leave the site?

      I’m not leaving…I AM commenting on the delivery of the story. Perhaps that’s not how you would all like to use the comments, but if we only say things that one group wants to hear, there’s no point in having a discussion section, period.

      Feedback is only useful if it’s honest. It cannot be honest if we’re never allowed to mention the things that bother us. She seems to think that everyone would prefer she push things back a week or many rather than put out potentially subpar chapters on time. As long as nobody voices otherwise, she will continue thinking so and that will guide her judgement in the future.

      For the record, I can’t tell the ‘rushed’ chapters from the delayed, ideal chapters – whether because she’s too critical of her own work or she ends up procrastinating and rushing the delayed ones too, it doesn’t really matter. So it’d be nice if she’d hold to her self-imposed deadlines now and then, and that skill would probably help her in the long run, in more areas than just MU. It’s easy to blow something off when you hit a snag if you think nobody will mind, and this comment section’s mentality plays right into that.

      Current score: 4
  29. REH says:

    Perhaps you could embed a little progress stoplight, with red being no movement, yellow being slow movements, and green being on track. No explanations necessary, just pop on and change the color of a little circle.

    Current score: 8
    • Nocker says:

      THIS I’d be behind. TFS does it pretty well with their progress circle. People get antsy if there’s no visible changes on even that for a while but the timetables are so different it won’t be much of an issue here.

      Current score: 2
  30. Typha says:

    I know this falls on deaf ears, but I just want to say that given how many times the author has made impassioned pleas for donations to let her continue writing for free, I’m intensely insulted for her to now brush off the story because “she needs to write paying work”. If I could take back every cent I donated, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

    Current score: 10
    • Sharra says:

      I am thankfull for your donations in the past. Thanks to you and the other people who donated, i have a huge archive in which to dive in, and have enjoyed a really good story for the past few years. Don’t wish for that generosity back. You didn’t after all, pay for an everlasting story, but to be able to continue to enjoy what you liked at the time. (i am sorry if my phrasing seems awkward, i am french and not used to express myself in english)

      Current score: 2
      • Nocker says:

        Of course that’s the recurring thing. Context is king here. People paid at the time, but I’m not even sure the chapters promised THEN were ever fully updated.

        Zeel doesn’t mind but he did basically have to pay twice for the last OT since he dropped money on the spot for a request but then AE decided that went towards a previous donations chapters from years ago too.

        As for everlasting, ToMU billed itself as an indefinite serial. That’s why it has no normal narrative. Obviously those previous donations shouldn’t go indefinite but this was always paying work for AE and before now it was treated as such.

        I have been following her blog so I know she’s been wanting to get more amazon stuff forever, and since I didn’t personally get caught in this, but still I understand exactly why people are feeling exasperated.

        There’s this feeling of flippancy about this whole thing. About how no matter what the audience does, we just don’t matter. For someone to hand over cash they worked hard for, wait years for the promised updates to arrive, then basically be told all that money didn’t matter IS insulting and can’t really be taken otherwise.

        Current score: 4
        • zeel says:

          In what way did I pay twice for something? The OT about malbus was from donating to the Indiegogo campaign, and was delivered exactly as promised. I’m not sure what else you are referring to.

          Current score: 0
          • Nocker says:

            I believe it was counted as also being an OT for the Moving Plea. I may be confused, and if I’m wrong and corrected I’ll hold up to that. But if I’m not that’s something that was promised beforehand, and then turned out when a second payment was delivered.

            Current score: 0
            • zeel says:


              It was the OT for the Moving Plea, and like most OTs was delivered on a week when the bonus story bank filled. I guess you could say it was paid for twice, first by my request and second by the bonus story donations, but that’s a very cynical evaluation. The donation perk was to get to choose the topic for an OT, not a commissioned chapter.

              Current score: 0
            • Nocker says:

              It is cynical, but given the situation its hard not to be. By that point Moving Plea was years old and hadn’t had any real updates in forever, even when the regular updates were happening.

              Which is one of the reasons people have recurring issues being brought up.

              Current score: 1
        • Ezna says:


          First time commenter (I think, I may have left a comment way back, I’ve been an on and off reader for years), but I really really HAVE to mention one thing here that has been bugging me for a long time:

          The One Called Wander.

          Started by AE in February 2013.

          The FAQ says: “… For every $1 that’s donated to this story by readers, I will post one update. … In the event that I find myself unable to continue the story (either on a temporary or permanent basis), I will remove the donation button/links from the blog and do my best to discharge the remaining of the updates that are owed, unless circumstances are preventing me from doing so, but it’s hard to put a warranty on creative work done by a single individual. I will make a good faith effort. If this makes you leery about contributing, take a look at where the Story Bank stands… if there are enough updates built up that this could be a problem, then maybe I don’t need a big donation anyway. … Treat me fairly as an author and I’ll treat you fairly as readers.”

          The story bank is at 67 updates.
          The donation button/links are still there.
          The last post there is from June 2013. After that, nothing – no new story posts, no hiatus message, nothing.

          I think AE is a fantastic writer, I am still regularly amazed by some of her writing. But ever since she abandoned TOCW like that after pitching the project in the FAQ the way she did, she has lost every shred of credibility/trustworthiness regarding donations in my eyes.

          Current score: 0
  31. Anon says:

    Is it possible to add a link to AE’s blog to the MU website? I’ve been reading for years now (love the story!) but I don’t ever go to any other site. I tried to check that she’s still, at minimum, alive, and realized I have no idea how to find out. (I’m glad she is, and sorry about the family troubles.) Well, I guess now, after reading through the comments, I’ve found out, but it would be nice if that information was slightly more accessible.

    Current score: 2
    • Lyssa says:

      I think it used to be a link on the site but was removed. I don’t know why. I originally found her blog through a link on this site, though, I could have sworn.

      Current score: 0
      • zeel says:

        Once upon a time there was a link, but then the blog itself died, at which point I believe the link was removed. And a new one wasn’t added when the blog was resurrected. I think that’s why it’s like that.

        There have been so many other sites over the years, multiple blogs, the wiki, multiple forums, and of course all the other stories. At one point there were all kinds of links to other things. But there have been many many technical difficulties in that time.

        Current score: 0
  32. wendy says:

    This seems to work fine. Last post Nov 20. Bookmark it next to TOMU.

    I know a number of writers and other creative people. One thing we agree on is that when the brain gains a skill, it gives up something in exchange. It can be normal development as in girls mature in language skills faster and literally often use up space in the brain that men later use for mathematics, navigation, etc. Not always.

    Creativity often comes with other baggage. Some writers I know are bipolar and often do their best work while manic. Some suffer from chronic depression due to neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain. The best spies are sociopaths. I am very good at math but cannot learn languages (see above). You take the ups with the downs. If you want creativity you have to learn to accept the creative process. One of my favorite cartoonists hung himself. I understand losing something that means as much as TALES OF MU is frustrating and painful. I check daily. But am grateful for AE’s gift and am willing to wait until/if she is ready. If that does not happen…well it is good the second time through. Adding pressure and making this a place AE might not want to come to because it adds to her stress, is more likely to cause a permanent end to creativity. Making it a place where she feels loved and cared about or even just admired is more likely to get you more of what you, and I, all love. Please, be kind.

    Wendy L

    Current score: 2
    • Nocker says:

      Speaking bluntly as a professional artist, that’s a total crock.

      People can have lives. They can have jobs, hobbies, favourite things, and they don’t need to manage “brain space” to do it. If we’re going to play that game someone being creative PROFESSIONALLY should be spending the same time and effort as an engineer does at his job, or as a mechanic, or any other job that requires one to use their hands and their brains. Yes, a few people I know in my field suffer from disorders such as ADHD or are Bipolar, but they are given little leeway and 99% of the time don’t want to be coddled. Obviously they sometimes need a bit more time or have issues with medication or something else inherent to their condition, but when you make something your job by choice and training you make a commitment to be able to do that job.

      As an artist, you do get the crap kicked out of you on the internet. It’s just the reality of being an artist. I’ve been reading this story for years and whatever gets posted in this comment section is kitten tickles compared to what you’d get off basically any major forum or site. But that’s, again, the reality of the situation.

      I’ve been trying really, REALLY hard to be nice here, but that has basically meant I’ve had to be way easier on AE than I’ve ever been on me, or I’ve ever been on any friends or colleagues. Which is honestly something I’m not fully comfortable with. Just because I feel like I’m coddling someone who wants to be treated with more respect than that.

      Current score: 4
      • Typha says:

        I think that’s the reason I find this whole thing so frustrating; I don’t make my living as a fiction writer, but my job requires dozens and dozens of pages of documentation and reporting every week, and one or two missed deadlines are enough to get chewed out or fired. Making yourself write on demand is tough but doable, and it really sincerely offends me to see someone brain-dumping thousands of words about random stuff on her blog while simultaneously saying “I can’t be bothered to produce 2,000 words in 3 months, life is hard and circumstances aren’t perfect”.

        Current score: 6
        • zeel says:

          But would you be satisfied with the level of writing? This isn’t just a report, or documentation. It’s a story, and once a chapter is written it can’t simply be undone. We could get lots of crappy story, or we can wait for good story.

          Current score: 0
          • Nocker says:

            It’s a serial. If one chapter is bad, provided the one before and after it are at least passable, it won’t really matter in the long run because people will forget about a misfire pretty quickly or be able to gloss over minor stuff.

            Lets not forget this was a story that originally began where chapters were five minutes long from Mackenzies perspective and fired out regularly. The plot moving along is nice and all but honestly if it’s a choice between once every month for a chapter that moves the plot at current pace and three times a week of Mackenzie eating leftover takeout, I’d probably do the latter.

            Current score: 2
          • cweed says:

            Again, as I said above…I can’t tell the ‘rushed’ chapters from the delayed, ideal chapters – whether because she’s too critical of her own work or she ends up procrastinating and rushing the delayed ones too, it doesn’t really matter.

            At the end of the day, at some point you just have to sit. down. and. write. It’s hard to do, but it’s even harder when the feedback you get from everyone is “that is fine, I would rather you take the time because the end result will be better.” That mentality is pretty much unique to this blog’s comments section; it won’t be helpful as a professional author, and I’m not even sure it has the slightest bit of truth to it.

            Current score: 1
    • Ellieana Duncan says:

      Wow. That part about how women mature faster and thus use up all their brain space for language instead of math? Ridiculously false and sexist. That is not how it works. It’s not the first thing that you do that you’re somehow better at. Look, men and women can both be good at language and at math. But that attitude about how women are just more likely to be bad at math? Stupidly harmful. It’s thoughts like that that made it so that my mom wasn’t able to take Algerbra in high school because space had to be saved for the boys “who would need it later” and now she’s an electrical engineer.

      You also don’t lose something when you learn something new. That’s not how it works. You retain what you use, and if you regularly practice any language or math or science or whatever, you will get better at it and remember more of it. If you don’t use something, you’re likely to lose it. But just because you learned something new, doesn’t mean you lose something old. If you learned Russian, you don’t automatically lose your native language. If you stop using your native language, you might lose it.

      Of course, this has nothing to do with AE. She’s doing what she needs to and has a plan. That’s all I can ask of her, really. Though, I do think that some sort of placeholder might be nice.

      Current score: 3
  33. wendy says:

    “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” – Eldridge Cleaver

    I do not know AE personally. I am not attempting to place a label on her, other than “brilliant” and “fantastic writer”. I am just stating facts from personal observation and primary and secondary sources who are in the field of writing, many of whom you may know by name. Yes, some fiction writers do sit down every day and type for a certain number of hours. The ones I know are good, sell books I love to read, but are not producing the quality of work that AE does. Perhaps you should find some of those writers since you indicate a preference. You will not have to pay for their work until it is finished. Again, not being critical of anyone, just practical advice that might make you happy—-happier. I am willing to wait patiently to get quality over quantity or paint thrown at a canvas.

    “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” – Eldridge Cleaver

    Current score: 0
    • Typha says:

      I would respectfully disagree with some aspects of your characterization: I really enjoy the story, and I am still invested in finding out where she’s going with some of the characters, but on a purely technical level the writing just isn’t very good: it’s full of typos and run-on sentences, awkward phrasing, and incredibly circuitous dialogue and narration that add nothing. I like the story, and I’m glad that she’s willing to work on it, but the fact of the matter is that nothing she’s ever published would get a second look from a mainstream publisher, largely on account of the poor technical writing and the complete lack of editing.

      Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy reading and want this to continue, but it’s something that I like in spite of its flaws- comparing the quality of this particular serial to mainstream fiction is ludicrous, because you simply cannot evaluate a work on creative aspects alone: there’s technical writing, editing, narrative cohesion, quality of storytelling, and a whole host of things that go into a work, most of which are admittedly hard to do and take a lot of work.

      I understand that she struggles to produce content, and I understand that it’s kind of her to offer it for free, but the simple truth of the matter is that this is an interesting idea with marginal effort put into its execution. I feel that respectful and constructive criticism should always have a place in creative spaces, and that it’s completely reasonable to simultaneously enjoy a work and have serious issues with it. Heaping baseless praise on an interesting but marred product, and telling anybody who isn’t willing to lie to the empress about her state of undress to get lost, doesn’t help anybody.

      Current score: 5
      • zeel says:

        The technical aspects tend to vary widely through the story. The level of proof reading and editing varies relative to how well AE is doing in her day to day life. One side effect of trying to keep producing content while she isn’t really feeling it is that we get chapters that advance nothing, or we see lots of technical errors.

        The unfortunate problem given this format is that she can’t just go back and fix problems. She can correct typos, and minor errors, but if a chapter basically sucks, it’s not really possible to just retcon it away.

        If she were writing a traditional novel, she could take multiple passes through after the initial write-up, plus it would go out to an editor who could point out major problems. The final version would be great, and we would be waiting ten months between each volume. And we wouldn’t even know if she spent four months not writing anything.

        Current score: 2
        • Nocker says:

          This kind of contradicts your previous point though. If she’s taking less time to make better work, then the work should be better from a technical perspective.

          But yes, from a technical perspective there are typos and duplicates that show that editing isn’t often something given priority. Which is understandable.

          Larry Corriea(an author I like but AE loathes) put out four books last year and will probably do three of them this year minimum. He’s been hitting 3-4 a year pretty regularly and they are consistently best-sellers. Because while they aren’t alway technically perfect, they’re funny if schlocky modern fantasy stories. His book money buys his house and feeds his kids, and he can do that while also having time for twitter and a personal blog.

          That’s what a true prolific author is. I wouldn’t even bring up the point, but that’s what AE calls herself. If she were writing full MU novels at that speed, we’d basically be waiting the length between chapters now and getting hundreds of pages at a time when it came out. If everyone in the comments section here bought a copy it’d equal out to more money than she gets currently too.

          I get that being self employed is fucking awesome. You don’t have a boss breathing down your neck and you can get your own schedule and set it however you like, and nobody, not me or Zeel or anyone else in the universe, gets to change that. But at the end of the day all I can really say is ToMU as a story deserves more than it’s getting. It’s a solid enough concept with solid enough concepts within it that it could easily get ten to a hundred times it’s current reader base and keep it consistently into infinity. But those readers won’t come to a story that effectively dies for months at a time and does so that frequently, and anyone who does an archive trawl probably won’t stick around if they wait for a month with no updates. Especially not when there’s so many other stories out there that offer something vaguely similar and update more frequently. But MU began either at the same time or before most of them, and deserves everything they have as a story.

          Current score: 2
          • Typha says:

            I honestly believe that better planning of her arcs would be a big help as well. I could be completely wrong here, but it really feels like there’s no larger arc that each chapter is building into. The earliest chapters are significantly tighter and better-paced, and I suspect a lot of that was because there was more of a story to tell in her head.

            I also find the choice to tell each story arc independently to be completely baffling- I can’t even keep track anymore, but to the best of my knowledge the enchanter corporate intrigue thing, the elf cruise (which I liked a lot- that was my favorite arc in ages 🙂 ), and whatever on earth is going on here happened simultaneously, right? If that’s the case, for goodness sake, tell the stories at the same time; telling something out of chronological order can be incredibly disorienting, and is so much easier to do poorly than to do well.

            None of this relates to the basic technical stuff we’ve been talking about, but I sincerely believe that even a little more focus on pacing would do wonders.

            Case in point, I just flicked through the last year of updates- she’s posted around 56,000 words of content, most in the first half of the year, covering the elf cruise through whatever on earth the current thing is. I might be missing something, but to the best of my memory this covers the following plot beats:

            Mack gets an elf girlfriend

            Mack and Nicki overcome awkwardness to become an adorable semi-couple

            Elves go on cruise, food and dancing ensues

            Elf sorority house gets attacked

            Mack meets a guy who purports to be from her past

            Psychic examination lends credence to guy’s claims

            Guy and Mack start to try and make up for lost time

            So that’s seven relatively simple narrative beats, and it took her 2/3 of the first harry potter novel to get through it.

            So, how do you improve on this? If she were to cut out every internal monologue Mack went on that wasn’t critical to the narrative (which is honestly about 90% of them), that would likely cut 25-50% out of each chapter, bringing it closer to 25k words. Cut out every time she stops and laboriously re-iterates who the characters are and what their backstories are, that probably cuts it down to 22-23k.

            Assume she works on her descriptive language and makes an effort to actively ground every scene in a setting and context adds a few hundred words per chapter, and you’re left with 24-26k words of much more tightly-structured writing. Apply that same process to the stuff she wrote before, and it becomes trivial to fit the last 3 years of writing into 40 2k updates over a year.

            This is a silly and entirely hypothetical exercise, but my point is that extremely basic levels of planning lead to significantly more enjoyable writing. As it is, each chapter seems to contain 300-500 useful words, and 1,500 or more words of the kind of padding you expect to see from a sixth-grader trying to pad his book report, not a professional author. It’s none of my business, but I truly believe that if a writer is unwilling or unable to plan their story more than three days out, their narrative has much bigger problems than making a regular schedule.

            Current score: 1
            • Nocker says:

              Since I’m one of the few people who can apparently find and read AE’s blog, she DOES plan, to be fair. It’s just she rarely ever sticks to those plans. There was meant to be a big thing with Feejee confronting her own morality that never happened for example.

              I think the biggest thing in a sense is just I find it hard to care about Glory, and I’m assuming so do a number of other people. She comes out of nowhere and instantly likes the main character and is this cool rebel with infinite money who wants to give Mackenzie cool shit and have awesome sex. The only tension came from the Ian/Mackenzie thing after the sex and even that just kind of made me dislike Glory AND Mackenzie a bit more. Because despite getting all the cool shit they were both in the moral wrong there.

              When your narrative shifts fully to focusing on a character that’s the kind of bland, it’s hard to keep enthusiasm. I kept expecting Glory to betray their trust at some point, simply because if Mackenzie keeps getting prizes like that the story becomes less interesting. But it didn’t happen, so I guess Mackenzie is just getting free shit ad infinitum right now.

              Current score: 1
  34. That one guy says: says (among other things):

    > Now, four weeks from today—the point at which I wrap the first writing phase up—is December 18th. That means the week following it would be the first week of posting. I don’t really like having Friday as a posting day (as I’ve mentioned before, it’s often the most chaotic day in the house), and that following Friday just happens to be Christmas. We’ll make it Monday, the 21st… eve of the winter solstice. Seems like a fitting day for light to come back after a long period of rest.

    > That’s the big bullet point on this post for people who don’t care about reasons or process: Tales of MU returns December 21st, and if this goes to plan, it will continue posting once per week with some regularity.

    So, don’t come back until the 21st or after that, and there will be a new post.

    Current score: 2
    • elle says:

      Thanks for posting that, I never look at her regular blog and had been missing AE and MU.

      Current score: 1
  35. Cadnawes says:

    I’ve been checking off and on for a bit now; and tonight I found I wanted to know what was up. Slogged through comments. I’m glad to know what is going on and to know that the story will return. This makes me happy.

    So; to kill the time, anyone want to discuss the actual story as a whole? Because oh my god Nocker made a point I could kind of agree with and that doesn’t happen with much frequency. Glory could wind up being interesting. Right now I’m not very invested in her, though I will say she’s… not Acantha. So yay.

    Which kind of brings me to what I would love to see. The thing about the more focused arcs is if you’re not all that invested in a certain character or circumstance, you might be out of luck for quite some time. I miss the randomness of back in the day. I’d love to see a bit of the evident Steff/Viktor drama. I’d love to know what happened to Random.I would like to; I dunno, see Twyla and Celia get lunch sometime. I would like to hear more of Mack’s brain drippings, or see some of these implied library scenes. I would like to see Mack switch to decaf or something; Poor Rowan. Whatever the current arc is shaping up to be though, I am so here for it.

    If I were not, I wouldn’t have said anything. ;P

    Current score: 1
    • Typha says:

      I would love to see one of two outcomes for the Glory arc: the obvious one would be that Glory was playing everybody all along, and is either selfish or actively antagonistic. While I think that’s the more interesting angle, the story has kind of worn the Mack-as-butt-monkey thing to a nub, and there’s not much sense in piling more stomping into her life.

      The second outcome I enjoy would be for her to actively jump in over her head, and end up knowingly acting as a pawn in some kind of weird elf political game.

      I loved how constant D/s used to be in her life, and I would like to see more exploration of casual kink- Steff and Amaranth gently maintaining her in a subordinate role to help with her temper, and the like. I’m also somewhat interested in how Nicki would play into this- the story already implied that Nicki herself didn’t have a particularly good chemistry as a top, but I somewhat like the potential relationship quadrangle of Glory’s girlfriend being subordinate to the toy of the court’s lowest member.

      On a related note, and this is admittedly silly fantasy rubbish that just happens to appeal to me, I think it would be interesting to see Mack or Nicki explicitly join the court, and go through the same submissive/subordinate BS that Grace (I think that’s her name? Glory’s sister?) dealt with.

      Silly fetishistic stuff aside, I’d like to see some resolution with Ian- he’s obviously dissatisfied with their current arrangement, and keeping someone around just to grumble and be cross on cue isn’t fair to him; they either need to work out their problem, or separate.

      Even though it’s technically central to the story, I really don’t care for Rowan or his plot: it’s a new character thrown in out of the blue and suddenly made central to a plot we had no reason to suspect new players were involved in. I’d like to see it speedily resolved.

      Current score: 2
      • Nocker says:

        Rowan works mainly BECAUSE he’s a good device to get things moving. Mackenzie on her own would still be fucking around and never realize everything. Having a third party show up gives it greater urgency and forces the narrative to address important things it would usually gloss over.

        Rowan as ca character, to me, is good at getting Mackenzie to sit down and go to work. Because again, if it were up to her she’s give it one line in a throwaway conversation and that’s it.

        Current score: 2
        • Typha says:

          That’s a good point, I think what’s biasing me against him is how sudden his introduction was. To be fair, it’s entirely possible that she was simply stuck, and invented him to act as a catalyst (which is fine!), but from my perspective it felt jarring to have a major plot-important character be introduced out of the blue and neatly tie several long-running threads together with little prompting or scrutiny.

          It’s really a catch-22 though: taking the time to gradually bring him into the story would be time not spent actually getting to the point, and getting to the point requires her to sacrifice character building.

          From my perspective, I’m interested in what he *does*, insofar as I’d like to see the whole story with Mack’s mom and her childhood mysteries resolved, but I’m not particularly interested in him as an individual character.

          Current score: 1
          • Nocker says:

            Rowans appearance kind of had to be sudden. It was that big spooky mystery anyone with a brain can solve(and so Mackenzie was never able to). He can’t really have done gradual.

            I must say though his actual interactions with Mackenzie are lackluster. You can only have someone get yelled at about gender or racial politics before the yeller comes off as being kind of mean spirited.

            Current score: 1
            • Typha says:

              And that sort of comes back to my criticism about circuitous conversations- we already know that Mack can be a pretty mean-spirited person, and we already know everything she yells at him over, so I really don’t know what another political strawman character can accomplish, especially with the frequency that she yells at him. Maybe there’s a planned, future plot which requires Rowan to be extremely cross at her, because I find the way she addresses him in general to be rude and extremely sanctimonious beyond any need her characterization has.

              Current score: 2
            • Lyssa says:

              I was really hoping there would be this new connection to her past. That while we get to unravel questions which have haunted the story for years, we’d also get glimpses into who Mackenzie was before her demon self asserted itself. To a degree, we are getting that, but I think I wanted it to be more immediate and in-depth than would be natural.

              Mackenzie is definitely being over the top, and I find it annoying but also realistic. She isn’t the easiest person to warm up to and never has been.

              Mostly, I just miss everyone else in her life and I’m glad we’re starting to see some more of them. I really want to see what is going on with Steff and Victor as Cadnawes mentioned, I want to know how Two and her friend Hazel are, and I really want to see more of Amaranth. What happened with the collaring idea? Will things fall apart with Ian?

              So starved for more.

              Current score: 3
            • P says:

              ‘And that sort of comes back to my criticism about circuitous conversations- we already know that Mack can be a pretty mean-spirited person, and we already know everything she yells at him over, so I really don’t know what another political strawman character can accomplish, especially with the frequency that she yells at him.’

              Since I reread the old chapters relatively recently, this was interesting to me because I was comparing it to her behavior in her first year (like Rowan is in his first year). Rowan’s behavior is actually pretty mild compared to the stuff Mackenzie did personally and results from growing up in the same rural town Rowan did. It gives us a chance to see how different Mackenzie is now from what she used to be like, but also that some things with her have stayed the same (she’s not much more self aware or she would realize her recent behavior has been hypocritical). So not pointless for me.

              I do continue not to be a fan of the story arc cycle compared to the old update style though. Even the jump to year 2 was a little disappointing to me despite me understanding why she did it.

              I remember AE saying something about the point of the story for one person wasn’t the point for another person, so the character interactions or bdsm stuff might to one person seem like distractions from what really matters like the plot, whereas for another person one of those things could be the main points and the plot is just a context for those things to happen.

              I feel like with the story arcs we’ve now gone full plot like a lot of people wanted, but the character interactions are starting to feel like plot vehicles (glory shows up to make this story happen, rowan shows up to make another story happen, steff interjects for a couple lines to make another story point happen) and the bdsm stuff is barely present.

              What really drew me to the story was the character interactions, fantasy world building, and bdsm stuff (although I wouldn’t have admitted that last part at the time; Mackenzie’s early behavior with regards to that hits a little close to home), strung together with tantalizing bits of plots that slowly unraveled in a slice of life fashion. Maybe that story type ran its course and came to an end as all good stories will eventually do, but I do miss it.

              But yeah, I continue to read for free and to enjoy the story in its current form enough to read every update, so I can’t complain too much.

              Current score: 2
            • Nocker says:

              The real problem there, as I see it, is that the plot points raised were ones that’d never be able to just stay in the background. A cannibal assassin queen who wants to enslave you is something that needs to be at the forefront of your attention eventually, and the same can be said for the giant man eating dragon down the world, or the race of man eating devils in the sea. Or the other ones in the air. Or out in the badlands. Etcetera etcetera etcetera. Thats to say nothing of very literal personal demons.

              One womans relations and sex life become insignificant in the face of that. Even for a regular average person in the MU world, their way of life is basically always on the brink. For a half demon mage, that basically gets magnified a hundredfold.

              But to be blunt, that’s just a consequence of mixing fetish with story. An author into vore who tries to work it into a narrative WILL escalate things. Because the moment it pops up in your slice of life thing somebody dies and the moment you establish that can’t be taken back a weight gets added you can never lift.

              It was inevitable, really. If the sex stuff was there the author writes what the author is into. But if it’s not a one shot anything that gets too heavy has to have consequences. Which means there’s escalation. Which means there needs to be a plot. Which means the original sex stuff takes a back seat.

              Current score: 1
  36. Bill Bolbson says:

    I’m disappointed in AE.

    Current score: 5