Hi! I’m Jonathan Lovelace, an aspiring author, self-published poet, amateur game designer, technical writer, and software developer. Welcome to the Shine Cycle Online!

From 2010 through mid-2014, I tried to feature a new post in each of four quite different “departments” here every week, and thereafter the schedule loosened but the same principle continued. Since this organization appears to confuse some readers, I’ve “stuck” this post here to introduce myself, the blog, and its subjects—briefly here, and in more detail “below the fold.”

From childhood, I’ve had a story in my head that I feel called to write. That “big work,” tentatively titled “the Shine Cycle,” is the original nominal topic of this blog, but now is only one of the four “departments.” This part of the blog, which originally ran on Mondays, includes background essays about the story and its world (and “writing status updates” about monthly).

I’ve also had poetry “come to me” on occasion since high school. For a while—from late 2009 on—I posted a new poem here on the blog each Friday, and I continue to post them when I have new ones to post. This is the most popular “department” of the blog. Many of these poems are collected in A Year in Verse, now available on Kindle and in print. Most of my poetry is blank verse.

In the process of developing that collection, as I’m a notoriously bad critic of my own work, and most subscribers started reading this blog long after I began posting poems weekly, each Thursday from mid-2011 to January 2013 I asked for feedback on a few poems from my archive.

I’m also developing an innovative turn-based strategy/simulation game called Strategic Primer; in the third “department,” which originally ran on Wednesdays, I write about the game—its design, implementation, development, history, and so on.

The last “department,” which originally ran mostly on Saturdays, is “miscellaneous”—usually essays on a variety of topics.

I’ll describe each of these “departments” (and that term itself) after the jump


Shine Cycle Character Profile: Agnes of New Tara

This is the next in the series of profiles of characters who will appear in the Shine Cycle, my fantasy-series-in-preparation.

Agnes – Duchess of New Tara, bard, Harpist to the Queen’s Chamber, and Deputy King’s Harpist. A harp instructor at the Bardic College and occasional visiting instructor to the Academy.

A demure, slender woman of medium height, with straight light brown hair flowing down her back, but usually covered with a cap. She generally wears robes cut in the bardic style, loose so she can play a full-size harp without trouble, and usually chooses robes in muted colors.

When she first arrived in the Empire, Agnes was shy and unsure of herself, rarely putting herself forward or making suggestions to anyone. As she advanced in the Bardic College, playing many public performances, this shyness gave way to reserve. But even when taciturn shyness dominated her actions, joy was visible in her countenance through a quiet smile if nothing else.

She spends far less of her time than she would like, only a few months of each year, in her duchy. The remainder of the year she spends either in the capital, teaching at the Bardic College and playing concerts for the public when not playing command performances, or (rarely) following the Queen in some delegation for which her presence and skills are deemed important.

In the first week after she arrived, Agnes borrowed a harp from a street musician and began playing in the capital square; within two more weeks she had made enough to cover her food and lodging for the month, if the grants given to all her peers to help them adjust weren’t paying for that already, and also a harp of her own.

Nearly every day, while she was playing, some listener or other would tell her she was so talented that she should study at the Bardic College, but she constantly demurred. Instead, she continued to make her way as a busker. After two years, an instructor at the Bardic College stopped to listen while passing by, identified himself, and insisted that she audition. When she did, the College warmly accepted her.

In her studies there, she passed quickly through the various requirements made of her as an apprentice. When she was made a journeyman, she departed with a group of friends, three native-born bards and one of her peers from Earth, on a traditional “journey.” They traveled from place to place, “singing for their supper,” usually spending only a few nights in a district before moving on. At first, Agnes served primarily as an accompanist to the others in the group.

After a few months, her friends began to find places where they were offered the chance to settle down for awhile. First one, then another a few months later, and so on, left the group to accept these opportunities. As the ensemble grew smaller, she had to take an increasingly prominent role. Her last companion stayed with her six months after the previous defection, but when he received a lucrative job offer and then that very night was laid low for a week by a severe illness, he decided to take it. Everyone in the inn where they were staying urged Agnes to go on to avoid contracting the illness herself. In the next three small villages, she found even better success than the group had at full strength, and lingered in each for a couple of days longer than she had planned.

The next town after that was New Tara, the capital of the district she and her friend had just entered. After busking for a few days in the capital square, one leading citizen after another insisted that she come and stay with them for a few days as their guest. They also urged her to give a formal concert, in addition to busking and playing to entertain her hosts, and at last she agreed to perform for at least one night and perhaps more.

While she agreed to accept some of the proceeds to fund her ongoing expenses as a journeyman, she insisted that the concert be a benefit, with the bulk of the funds raised going to support the poor of the region. One concert became two, and in the end her popularity and the public demand was such that she had to perform nearly every night for a fortnight.

As she was leaving New Tara to return to Capitol to try for her mastery, several of the town’s leading citizens, who had hosted her, begged her to try to return and settle there. Touched, she promised to consider it, but made no further commitment.

On her return to the Imperial capital and the Bardic College, she played for her teachers and the College’s leaders, impressing them and flying beyond their expectations. As they often did with newly acknowledged masters, they pressed her to give a public concert in the capital. As in New Tara, that one concert became a week of performances, and the King and Queen each came to hear her—though not “officially,” in a “Royal Box.”

Agnes was overwhelmed by this attention, but resolved to continue in her chosen profession with the music she loved. After seeking advice from her teachers, and at their request giving a few master-classes, she returned to New Tara, hoping to make a fairly quiet life there.

As she began to settle down in that province, however, New Tara proved much less idyllic than she had perceived in her earlier visit: there were several factions in the district’s government and populace, all talking past each other and unwilling to agree on much of anything—except their admiration for her music.

For more than a decade, Agnes served as an unofficial mediator in New Tara, helping to keep the peace in the town through music, and learning more than she had ever wanted about the details of municipal and district government. She also taught a few students, who came to her on the recommendation of her friends and her own teachers. For that time, however, she held her peace in the debates she facilitated, instead of herself making any policy proposals.

About twelve years after she gained her mastery, her mentors prevailed on her to return to Capitol to perform again. After a week of public concerts, she gave a command performance for the King and Queen and their court, and the Queen asked her to accept the mostly-honorary position of harpist to her chamber. Because this would require her to be in the capital much more often than she had been in the past, but would not require all that much of her time when she was, she also accepted a long-standing offer to join the Bardic College faculty.

When she returned to New Tara early the next year, the political tension was worse than ever, and members of the district council were not speaking to each other. Emboldened by the memory of the Queen’s praise, she brought all of the disputing councillors together, played to get them into a conciliatory mood, then began the discussion herself with a minor policy proposal of her own for the first time. Later that year, when the post of district governor came up for election, several of the competing factions nominated her, and despite her misgivings she was elected.

The district prospered under her hand, and became somewhat more peaceful, even though she was in Capitol rather than New Tara about half the time. When she was at home, she spent many long hours training deputies to govern lightly and equitably and seek the best resolution amid conflict.

After her first two terms, the King proposed and Parliament approved making her position permanent and the district a duchy. To help convince her to accept the permanent responsibility, he offered her the position of Deputy King’s Harpist.

First-Trimester 2018 Strategic Primer Goals Check

For the past several week, I’ve been looking back over the past four months to see whether I’m on track to meet my goals for the year, starting with my “miscellaneous” goals on Saturday and my Shine Cycle goals on Monday. Today, I’ll look at my goals relating to Strategic Primer. Continue reading

First-Trimester 2018 Goals Check

Back in December, I set a goal for 2018 to

After each trimester, assess progress and note any necessary amendments to goals in a blog post.

Where have the last four months gone? But now that I’ve noticed the passage of time, and the most urgently pressing demands on my time have lifted for a moment, I’ll belatedly follow through on that goal. Today, a look at how I’m doing on my “general” and “miscellaneous” goals, with consideration of those in re the Shine Cycle and Strategic Primer next week. Continue reading

Strategic Primer assistive programs release, development report, and roadmap (0.4.9016-rc1)

It’s been over a month since I released version 0.4.9015 of the suite of assistive programs for players and Judges of Strategic Primer, and in that time I’ve implemented a few significant new features and done heavy refactoring. It’s past time for a new snapshot release. So today I’ve released version 0.4.9015.1, containing only the bug fixes since 0.4.9015, and version 0.4.9016-rc1, containing those bug fixes and all the features and other changes described below (and more). You can download either version on GitHub, at those links, as usual. Continue reading

Numbered Sonnet Opus 2 #3

Alas, my lady, what is happiness?
For music, dancing, wit, and jesting fade,
And even beauty pales as time grows less,
As do all mortal joys that God has made.
But weighty conversation with dear friends,
And peaceful silence, swaddling with its hush,
Because they seem to serve eternal ends,
Do not so quickly dim beneath Time’s brush.
Still, as the starlight fades as dawn draws nigh,
And tongues find subtler scents as hunger wanes,
Our souls were made to taste the joys on high,
For all that sense is dulled by sin’s black stains.
But even so, I cannot but protest:
Alas, my lady, what is happiness?

Back in high school, I began an (execrable) sonnet beginning with the line “Alas, my lady, what is happiness?” And apparently I finished it, but when I reorganized my (digital) poetry-related files sometime in college I thought, from my brief glance at it, that I hadn’t finished it, and so decided to thoroughly revise it, just so I could get one more piece out of my “unfinished projects” collection without completely discarding it.

About two years ago, I thought of a concept for a “reimagining” of the sonnet, completely changing everything about it except the form and the first line, and started into writing it. But my thoughts ran dry, and the poem lay essentially untouched (except for a slight revision that also added one line, that fall) until earlier this month, when browsing through my unfinished poems I happened on it and thought of how I could continue it. Getting that thought down turned fairly easily into finishing the poem.

I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.