Client Projects

Did you know that, given the state of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) these days, your content writer can actually damage your browser ranking success by duplicating the content they’ve created for you in their portfolio? In deference to my clients I do not post content I’ve written for them if it’s posted on their own platforms. Links, however, are perfectly safe and can serve to further promote the parent pages, so please find further examples of my professional work in the listing below…

Articles

Is Delta Mu Delta Worth It?

Written for Southern New Hampshire University (New@SNHU)

“While receiving a nomination letter from an honor society like Delta Mu Delta is a thrilling recognition of dedication and skill, you might take a look at the membership fee and ask, ‘Is it worth it?’ Let’s take a look and see what Delta Mu Delta is all about and whether it’s beneficial for you…”

Living the Framed Lifestyle

Written For GlassesUSA

“The good news is that you can pick new frames whenever you change your style or you decide you’ve outgrown that pink plastic pair you HAD to have when you were 11. The bad news is that options tend to be limited when purchasing directly from your doctor’s office. Companies like GlassesUSA make it their mission to offer the wide range of selections we really want that can grow with us and keep up with our evolving fashion sense.”

Setting Goals for Work: Planning Short- and Long-Term Career Goals

Written for Southern New Hampshire University (New@SNHU)

“Envisioning where you’d like to see yourself go in your career is the starting point for laying out a game plan for achieving your dreams. When you have a destination in mind, you can begin to plot out the milestones that will get you there, just like a roadmap.”

What is Geoscience, Exactly?

Written for Southern New Hampshire University (New@SNHU)

“Borrowing perspectives, processes and frameworks from other scientific disciplines like chemistry and physics, geoscience allows you to study the nature of our planet and the issues that threaten it through multiple lenses.”

B2C Communication

Price Increase Strategy for Melissa’s K9 Design Pet Salon, L.L.C.

Written & designed for Melissa’s K9 Design Pet Salon, L.L.C.

As a mature business, Melissa’s K9 Design Pet Salon, L.L.C. decided to raise their grooming prices to reflect the professional development and achievements their team had undergone in the previous 4 years. Working through social media, text messaging, and web copy, I provided and am assisting in the execution of a strategy for informing the salon’s clientele of the changes. It is a delicate balance between putting an important update into effect while maintaining positive relations with those who are most affected. The strategy is geared to provide advanced notice of the price increase so that the clients have time to ask how they may be impacted prior to their pet’s next appointment.

Guest Blog Posting

All the Help You Can Get: How to Find the Guidance You Need to Start Your Dream Business

Written for WriteFreelancerForYou.com.au

“If you have the hunger and the dream pushing you onward, then you’ve got the most important parts covered. Now, you just need to find those who will help you navigate the journey – no pixie dust required!”

Newsletters

Five Things to Consider Before Designing Your Logo

Written for Forward View Consulting

“A logo is a basic part of formulating a brand’s identity. As important as a logo is, choosing a design that fits your image, mission, and embraces the story behind it can be one of the most challenging tasks you face in starting up an organization. It needs to appeal to you, but it also needs to function as a strong, recognizable symbol to your clients.”

Make Video Marketing Work for You in 2018

Written for Forward View Consulting

“2018 is the year of a new, revamped world of possibilities for video marketing. Change is disruptive, but learning the rules and adjusting your marketing strategy to capitalize on the tools available will enhance your brand’s visibility.”

Website Copy

MelissaK9Design.com

Written for Melissa’s K9 Design Pet Salon, L.L.C.

Melissa’s K9 Design Pet Salon, L.L.C. launched in 2014 and immediately sought a digital presence, creating a branded website that would draw and inform potential clients. At the time, I assisted the project by writing bio’s for each groomer and information for the home page. Now, as a mature company with a robust clientele the website needed a revamp to reflect the growth they’d undergone. I updated the groomer bio’s, re-wrote the home page copy, re-worked the Contact page, and assisted with reorganization of the pages for clarity. Melissa and her company now have a more sophisticated website that reflects the caliber of the work she has accomplished.

The Power of Eye Contact

Poetry can say all it wants about “windows to the soul.” Meeting someone’s eyes is the pathway to their mind, perhaps their heart, and certainly a connection of any substance.

Published on Medium.com

I landed my first job because of my eyes.

I had gone in to meet with a manager to ask about the possibility of a job shadow with his business. It was a requirement for my junior year economics class and Mr. V had set us loose on the town’s business owners with an assignment sheet and a gleeful glint in his eye. He knew that few, if any of us, had started seriously thinking about jobs, much less the dreaded hunt for one. This was new territory and I had to get the shadow to do well in the course and maintain my GPA.

The fear of loosing my straight-A’s streak lighting a fire beneath me, I called around until I found someone willing to meet with me. When I walked into the office I was shaky with tension. I was bound and determined to persuade this guy to give me the shadow I needed for pride’s-sake … but terrified because I had no idea how to do it.

Make the Ask

The manager was very kind and told a joke to try and settle my nerves. I tried taking a deep breath. I settled my assignment sheet down on the table between us and spent a moment reading through the questions, clicking my G-2 gel pen out and in.

Click, click, click.

Deep breath. Let it out, nice and steady.

Tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.

Another breath.

It wasn’t helping.

Stuck in a mental corner I fell back on what my Dad had taught me to do when I was in a conversation that I felt uncertain about: straighten those shoulders, look up, and meet his eyes.

What color are they? Brown. What kind of brown? Chocolate. Okay. Now, start talking to the man with the chocolate-brown eyes.

It’s just a little thing that tricks the mind into focusing on a simple, quick task. Once it’s accomplished, you’re ready to move onto the larger one. The small victory brings you back to center, re-balancing what had gone all topsy-turvy.

We talked for about a quarter of an hour, tackling the questions on my sheet until I came to the final part of the assignment. The paper just listed: MAKE THE ASK!

I was nervous again, but we’d made it this far and I’d built up enough momentum to carry me forward. I made the ask.

“I’m sure we could make that work, but how about a job, instead?”

I might have dropped my pen. Or maybe I choked in surprise. I honestly don’t remember too much beyond the fact that we somehow arrived at the agreement that I would work a two-week trial period, after which I would have the job if I did well.

There was this buzzing in my head and I felt a little wobbly as the manager walked me out to the front desk.

One thing I remember clearly, though.

I turned to him and asked why he’d offered me a job. He looked at me with his chocolate-brown eyes and said, “Three girls came in before you today for interviews and I couldn’t tell you what color their eyes were. They kept them down the whole time. You’ve got blue ones.”

Silent Eloquence

I’ve gone through college and a few jobs since then and along the way I’ve learned a few things about that little trick.

Eye contact is about more than just looking at someone. It’s about engagement. What you show with your eyes taps into a frequency of communication that can not only compliment your words, but go beyond them.

First and foremost, though, it’s about respect.

I had a manager once who never looked me in the eye. I would greet her when we passed in the hallway. She’d bend her mouth up a bit, but wouldn’t shift her eyes. I’d address my team in a meeting. Her laptop screen was far too fascinating to look away from. Sitting down with her one-on-one, she’d look to the ceiling, down, off to the side, at my shoulder, and out the window.

I knew her eyes were brown, but I didn’t see much of them.

Every time we interacted and she refused to meet my eyes I felt like she viewed me as a waste of her time. It was a slap in the face to be told in this silent language that I wasn’t worth the effort it took to look up.

How small would that make you feel?

Without the courtesy of looking up to share your gaze with another person you squander one of your most powerful tools for creating, building, fostering, and mending a relationship. Poetry can say all it wants about “windows to the soul.” Meeting someone’s eyes is the pathway to their mind, perhaps their heart, and certainly a connection of any substance.

 

“I have a big thing with eye contact because I think as soon as you make eye contact with somebody, you see them, and they become valued and worthy.”

Mary Lambert


Want to have content like this for your website or blog?

Contact Sarah at sarah@itinerantmuse.com


©2018 Sarah A. Easley – All Rights Reserved

To Give or Not to Give: That Two-Week Notice

How you leave your job matters.

Published on Medium.com

It’s so tempting, isn’t it?

You’re ready to move on to the next big thing, take a leap, start your business, or just escape. The horizon is waiting for you to ride off into it. Why not just close your laptop and take off?

Because there’s so much more hinging on how you walk out that door than first meets the eye.

Whether you loved your job or hated it, the point comes at which you need to decide if you’re going to give your notice. At one time, there wasn’t really a will-I-won’t-I two-step to this. You were leaving your job, you gave your notice. The mentality of the professional world has shifted, however, and a notice no longer appears to be a hard-and-fast requirement anymore.

Now, ask your average VP or director and you’ll probably get a very traditional take on what they might expect from an employee on their way out. Turn the viewpoint around, however, and the mindset is very different, and I don’t believe it’s necessarily an expression of petulance or lack of respect for the establishment.

A Millennial Workforce

On a sociological level, the workforce has changed significantly over the past decade or two. Yes, I suppose that points the finger at the perennial targets — Millennials — but for better or worse, the rise of young working professionals is taking control of the cultural landscape businesses are suddenly stumbling in an effort to make sense of.

It’s a cop-out to blame the Millennial tech-mentality that gives this much-maligned group their trademark “short attention spans,” “sense of entitlement,” and “demand for instant gratification.” Does it all factor into the equation? Certainly, but take the negative connotation and judgment away and we’re looking at an ever-more dominant demographic of digitally-savvy speed-thinkers with a keen awareness of personal value in a market where opportunities are what you choose to make of them.

For such an employee, the question of whether to go or stay will always be a factor in the balance, even if they’re happy in their work. Lack of advancement opportunities, a perception of being undervalued or underappreciated, low compensation, a hostile work space, or disagreement with the company’s brand values can all be deal-breakers. No longer do employees feel they have to lower their heads and accept the inevitable. Thus, we have the modern “episodic” career.

 

Photograph of men in suits shaking hands
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Keeping Things Professional

With a revitalized workforce culture that empowers the employee to decide when to leave based on individual preference, does it really matter whether or not a piece of paper gets handed to a manager and a team member whose eye is on another ballgame entirely cools their heels for two weeks as a ritual gesture of professionalism?

Is that really a valid expression of “professionalism,” anymore?

Yes. It is.

When I had made my decision to leave the company I was working for in order to launch a freelance writing biz I kept on running across articles that made the case for the walk-out approach. I was floored to see a number of these articles being put out by major business publications and e-zines.

Not happy? Then just leave! So, this must be the new normal, no?

Hold up, there.

It’s undeniably tempting to take these articles as permission to cut and run, but think before taking that leap. Your heart may not be in the work you’re looking to leave behind, but providing notice is about more than what appears to be empty symbolic gestures.

When it comes down to it, even if you’re moving on to a fantastic new job or launching the startup of your dreams, shutting the door in the faces of the people you’re walking away from is — and should be — a last resort approach.

You Never Know When You Might Need Them

A reference, anyone? You may or may not have a job lined up to turn to once you take your leave, but it pays to have your former boss on your side when you take either this next step or the one after it. Giving the notice and — more importantly — working it raises the likelihood that they’ll be there for you when you need them.

Even if you don’t care about a reference, consider how life has this funny way of looping the past around to intersect with the future. What if you wind up hating the new job or can’t make a go of your startup? What if you get fired? It’s a hit to your pride, but you may end up looking back to your former employer for a position.

On a brighter note, it’s also important to maintain positive relations with former employers as potential in’s or even clients later on down the line. If you left a bad taste in their mouths, are they likely to want to hand out business cards or commission your services?

There are so many ways one person can influence whether your career succeeds or fails after you’ve left their employment. You don’t need to make friends with them, but while it can never hurt to be in their good graces, it certainly can if you aren’t.

Who Else is Watching?

How many co-workers are on your team? In your department? On your floor? In the building?

How many eyes are watching each step you take towards the door?

Whatever your standing in the boss man’s eyes, you have many more potential judges waiting to see what you do next. That’s a lot of pressure. Turn it around, though, and think of them as X number of potential supporters.

Working out your notice gives you a nice, solid period of time to make connections and nurture opportunities. Again, you never know when you may need a friendly voice singing your praises.

Unless Human Resources prohibits you from sharing the fact that you’re leaving, start reaching out to the people around you. Email peers you haven’t talked to in a while. Grab a coffee with an old teammate who went to a different department. Have business cards? Pass them around to let people know what you’ll be up to. It may seem archaic, but send thank you cards once you’ve left.

Now, obviously, don’t be fake in your efforts. At the very least, take this as an opportunity to reconnect and leave everyone with a positive vibe.

(A word of caution: make sure not to use any of this as a way to solicit business from your co-workers. You’ll probably end up in trouble and may be told to leave immediately — something you DEFINITELY don’t want to have happen)

Lastly, make sure you offer to help with the onboarding of your replacement. This could mean actual one-on-one training between you and the new recruit or typing up notes that can be shared to ease the transition. Not only will this make things easier for the person filling your seat, but takes pressure off the team to try and figure out the odds and ends of your process in order to pass it all along.

Never sabotage your team even if you despised them.

Leaving off on a nice, positive note like that benefits your reputation as a professional as well as the team’s efforts to move forward.

Defining Your Professional Self

Love it, hate it, providing employers you’re leaving with a two-week notice remains a key part of what makes the professional world work. Unless there is a very good reason not to (and yes, they certainly exist), it’s a step that can’t just be skipped over.

Moving on from a job is an opportunity to assess who you are as a professional. What makes you attractive to the businesses you want to be hired by? Is there enough gas in the tank to get you up that corporate ladder and into the corner office? Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur yourself and grow a brand that succeeds? Are you who you should be in your core values and ambition? Are you who you want to be?

If nothing else, these two weeks give you the chance to reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Will your next step take you all the way, or are there some more points to plot along the route?

The manner in which you leave a job plays a key role in what happens after the door closes behind you. If you’re sitting there wondering whether to just get up and walk out, look around you at those who have the potential to make or break the course you’re setting. Even though you may never need to call on them for a helping hand in your career, that you gave them your time here at the end matters.

Yes, No, Maybe So: Screen Couples Who Have/Had Us Guessing

Blog post originally published on the nerd girl lifestyle blog, TheRhiView.com.

Originally published for Valentine’s Day 2018 on TheRhiView.com

There’s a formula popular in fiction when it comes to crafting a romantic pairing.

The connection is built atop a foundation of doubt that the couple will be together in the end.

These are the unlikely couples, the unlucky ones, the opposites who nonetheless form a helpless attraction. Audiences are drawn to the mounting tension between such characters, continually led to question throughout the film, season, or series whether their new favorite OTP will have their happily ever after.

Happily Ever After
Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

The fact that there is no guarantee raises the stakes on the outcome of the story, even if the romantic plot is peripheral. They leave us waffling back and forth, wondering, “Will they? Won’t they?”

We lean in when the pair appear on-screen together, analyzing every look they share, the words they say, and the subtleties of body language even the slight shift of the camera might hint at. It’s a beguiling way to persuade the audience to buy into the story on an emotional level, even if the possibility of a relationship seems doomed from the start.

Those are, in fact, the connections we cling to and defend most ardently.

So on this St. Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d show a little love for some of the screen couples who’ve made us question what binds them together the most. Note, I’m not saying these are “the best couples of all time,” or placing them in any order of precedence. These pairings are simply ones that started from a place of uncertainty, that left us hoping for them. They’re the ones whose futures together were never promised, but that had great promise in them.

The Quick List:

Aragorn & Arwen

Phryne Fisher & Jack Robinson

Rey & Ben Solo

Lyanna Stark & Rhaegar Targaryen

Vanessa Ives & Ethan Chandler

 

Red Rose
Photo by dorota dylka on Unsplash

The Ranger & the Elven Maiden

Never underrate the power behind a traditional love story!

Aragorn’s love for the daughter of Elrond is the gold standard by which romance in any fantasy is measured. It draws on mythological precedent to bring the mortal/immortal pairing into modern storytelling, and the tradition has carried forward since Tolkien’s day on both page and screen. Their eventual marriage in the wake of the Dark Lord’s fall is the least unlikely of the couples on this list, mostly because Tolkien was writing by a formula and the payoff the romantic subplot shared by the characters demanded the fairy tale ending he gave them. Stepping away from the logical progression of plot, however, and considering what the ranger and his lady fair had to go through in order to finally be together actually makes their happy ending rather astounding. Elrond’s interference and deception is problematic, but was the least of their worries. Aragorn’s travels as a member of the Fellowship, his participation in the battles against Isengard and then Mordor itself put his life in perpetual peril. Likewise, Arwen’s determination to remain in Middle-Earth and hope for her lover’s return deprived her of the immortality intrinsic to the elven race, leaving her susceptible to illness and death. Their reunion at the end of The Lord of the Rings is something of a miracle, all things considered, and earns them a special place on our hearts.

The Lady Detective & the Chief Inspector

A peace-keeper loves a troublemaker!

She’s smart, stylish, and gunning for both women’s rights and dastardly villains in 1920’s Melbourne. The Right Honorable Miss. Phryne Fisher isn’t your average high society socialite and her knack for sniffing out murder and mayhem is what brings her to the attention of Chief Inspector Jack Robinson … it’s not what holds his attention, though. The sharp, rapid-fire battle of wits these two wage from episode-to-episode over the course of the three seasons the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries enjoyed was a delightful cover for the romantic connection growing between Phryne and Jack. Though they smoldered with increasing heat as the series went on, the couple never overtly committed themselves to the truth of their feelings until the very end — though it was never in any doubt they were certainly committed to one another. It was tasteful torture for those of us reveling in their relationship and that slow-simmer paid off in spades: “Come after me, Jack Robinson!”

The Scavenger & the Dark Warrior

Here’s to a couple who broke more than a few Twitter feeds with their bombshell of a story arc in The Last Jedi!

Now, it’s true that the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy isn’t over yet. Rey and Kylo/Ben have neither settled their differences nor shared any overtly romantic gestures … but man, have they been revving things up on the subliminal level! Throughout the second installment of the newest story arc in the galaxy far, far away, the two force wielders were brought together time and again, made to communicate where they had always gone straight for blasters and lightsabers before. Watching their brief, but potent conversations is a fascinating journey from default animosity to a considered, if hesitant, trust. Their bond brings them back together when Rey attempts to bring Ben Solo back to the Light, and though her efforts ultimately fail, the final look they share as the door to the Millennium Falcon closes between them makes it clear that they are not done with one another. It may well be that their next meeting will see a return to the tried-and-true formulaic conclusion of the Light conquering the Dark. In a trilogy that has devoted itself to changing the narrative, though, I don’t think that’s how it will play out. Keep holding onto the dream, Reylos!

Magic Flowers.jpg
Photo by Yousef Espanioly on Unsplash

The Wolf Maid & the Dragon Prince

They were the legend for which millions died.

This pairing may seem an odd choice, given there are so many other couples to choose from in the HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire — Jon and Dany, Jon and Ygritte, Brienne and Jaime, Jaime and Cersei, Tyrion and Shae, yadda yadda. However, the romance that plays out onscreen only through flashbacks during Bran’s training with the Three-Eyed Raven is nonetheless a powerful one. It left viewers who hadn’t read the novels guessing about the truth of the catalyst behind Robert’s Rebellion right up until the big reveal. The immediate impact, story-wise, is the revelation that the most famous bastard in Westeros is not only legitimate, but the son of the former heir to the throne. Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark share a mysterious history that’s been almost completely forgotten by those who fought so furiously over it. In love with Lyanna himself, Robert Baratheon rebelled against the Targaryen dynasty and claimed the Iron Throne, slaying Rhaegar in the process. This is all mentioned briefly in the very first episode, “Winter is Coming,” but its significance doesn’t rise to the surface until much later. We’re cheering for what it means for Jon, especially as it confirms the most famous fan theory of all time, but at the same time it is soul-crushing to consider that the love Rhaegar and Lyanna shared resulted in a tragic conflict inherited by the next generation. For all the horror, though, the prince and his lady love earn the right to legendary status for a story that was happy, at least for a little while.

Moon through the Trees.jpg
Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash

The Mother of Evil & the Wolf of God

It was in the cards.

When Ethan Chandler arrived for his appointment with the beguiling Miss. Ives he expected nothing more than a business proposition. What came of their meeting, though, set the stage for a relationship far beyond the professional that would prove as dark and complex as the souls bound together by their shared fascination. It may have ended after only three seasons, but the force of characterization in Penny Dreadful sets both it and its lead couple apart from other premium offerings. Vanessa and Ethan are tortured souls. They fight against the darkness intent on tearing them apart and their travails constantly test them both individually and as a partnership. Though they seem to be dancing along the road to Hell, their rich characters are defined by inner strength and a quiet, but unconquerable devotion to one another. Their relationship builds and comes into its own in Season Two, but the third and final season is where Vanessa and Ethan’s bond faces its greatest challenge. The story’s finale is as grim as the series’ signature sense of doom would suggest, but the story arc of the star-crossed lovers is fittingly concluded with an elegance that does justice to the depth of feeling that tied them together, even an ocean away.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 


© 2018 Sarah A. Easley – All Rights Reserved.

Rhi’s View: “A Bug in the System”

Review piece written for the nerd girl lifestyle blog, TheRhiView.com

Originally published on TheRhiView.com

After a long three-month stretch, ArenaNet finally delivered the second episode of Living World Season Four: “A Bug in the System.”

Two weeks ago, ArenaNet’s Mike Z took to the forums to address the player base, admitting that though he had hoped to be announcing the release date of the newest adventure in Tyria, due to complications the team was forced to delay. Eager to reassure players that the dreaded content-drought was not to be overly extended, he promised we would be seeing the reveal of a teaser trailer within a week’s time, followed by the live episode shortly thereafter, on March 6th.

ArenaNet delivered on that promise, though not without a slight hiccup on launch day. Players logged in to start on the next stretch of story, eager to see what the dastardly Palawa Joko had in store for us … only to find nothing new to play!

Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long. It seems Joko’s plot to defeat all of us mighty Commanders extended to preventing us from progressing the story…

Tweet from Guild Wars 2's official channel: "We're putting the finishing touches on todays #GW2PoF release. You may commence "Bug in the System" jokes in 3, 2, 11... ~ RB2"

Sure enough, after the brief delay, the patch landed and the bright green story icon did its little happy dance in the bottom corner of our screens.


Warning: SPOILERS for Guild Wars 2’s Living Story Season Four lurk beyond this point!

Daybreak Artwork
Living World Season Four began in “Daybreak”

Remind Me Where We Left Off…

It’s been a little while since Season Four kicked off with “Daybreak,” so no worries if the details are a bit hazy at this point.

Following the world-shaking (literally) events of “Path of Fire,” new threats have arisen to challenge the Commander and their fractured guild, Dragon’s Watch. The Elder Dragon, Kralkatorrik, absorbed the lion’s share of Balthazar’s power following his defeat, leaving it as the most powerful threat Tyria has ever seen — a force of primordial rage infused with the dying fury of a god and misappropriated bloodstone magic.

What could go wrong?

“Daybreak” sees the Commander’s reunion with fan-favorites, Taimi, Rytlock, and Canach. The quartet have little time to savor their victory, however, as the Brand inexplicably erupts around them, tearing through Amnoon.

The battle against the Crystal Dragon’s forces has begun.

In the aftermath of the free city’s destruction, the Commander must face the reality of what vanquishing the war god has wrought. But not all is doom and gloom. Another old friend appears to aid in the struggle and lend her (greatly increased) strength to the war now brewing…

Teenage Aurene
Our baby girl’s done some growing up…

Aurene, the Scion of Glint whose champion the Commander has become through fate and chance, is no longer the bouncing baby dragon we all went gaga over after she hatched in Season Three. Like Kralkatorrik, she got caught up in the backlash of Balthazar’s death and absorbed a portion of his power. The result is a much larger … ahem, mount-sized … adolescent dragon who seems to have developed a mind of her own.

With Aurene’s help — both on the battlefield and with the visions she shares through her bond with the Commander — the battered warriors of Dragon’s Watch leave the Branded remnants of Amnoon behind. A course is set for the Isle of Istan, where Aurene has revealed there is a new and more immediate threat.

King Joko the Inevitable, the Undying, the Feared, the Beloved … is back.

Thwarted time and again, the Commander battles their way across the sumptuous island. Joko’s grasp on the people of the region seems unbreakable, despite assistance from the small force of Sunspears who rally to the outlander’s cause. Efforts to liberate incarcerated innocents, salvage the knowledge of an historic library, and a daring prison break bring the Commander closer to seeming-victory.

The abduction of Taimi shakes the resolve that has led the group so far, but ultimately leads to the heart of the undead tyrant’s plot.

A Bug in the System Artwork
A journey to the Sandswept Isles

Sounds like … bugs!

Though the Commander managed to rescue Taimi, the little asura was badly shaken by Joko’s abuses. It’s a fool who underestimates this genius’s backbone, however! Despite the quiver in her voice, Taimi shares that Joko is setting an evil plan into motion. She doesn’t know the details, but it has something to do with … bugs.

Now, if you’re a Guild Wars: Nightfall veteran or are up on your GW history thanks to content creators like WoodenPotatoes, this will likely tip you off as to what Joko is up to. The Commander is in the dark, however, so more on that later.

Screenshot of the Commander facing their newest challenge

The story thread gets picked up in Episode Two, “A Bug in the System.”

Stumped by Joko’s goals and unable to prevent the endless incursions of Awakened forces into Central Tyria, the Commander is left with no viable options until a recovered Taimi reaches out with the news that she’s unearthed the identity of a scientist working with the lich’s Inquest minions — who also happens to be an old school chum of hers.

Following this lead, the Commander sends for Rox and (the still-sulky) Braham and heads to the Sandswept Isles. Together, they raid the Inquest lab Taimi’s information led to and uncover a horrifying clue to Joko’s plan. Used as test subjects for a virulent pestilence, the lab is filled with the dead and dying.

One survivor possesses the strength to fight back against her captors, though, and the Commander joins forces with her, fleeing the nightmare.

The “Mysterious Charr” turns out to be Boticca, a representative of an offshoot sect of Charr who’ve made their home on the Sandswept Isles. Though they are reluctant to help the Commander in their mission at first, the Olmakhan Tribe are persuaded to lend their support by the brutal assault of Inquest forces from the fortress-lab of Rata Primus.

With Braham at their side, the Commander charges into the breach, taking advantage of Captain Sayida’s new airship and unleashing Aurene on the Inquest.

Screenshot of the Commander's arrival at the besieged Rata Novus
Rata Novus is already under siege when the Commander arrives…

The group arrives to find the place in chaos.

The complex is overrun with both Inquest and Awakened forces fighting one another. The Commander must push through the confused mess to locate the scientist Taimi spoke of, racing against time to save his life before Joko can destroy him and make off with the truth behind Rata Primus’ evil experiments.

Though Blish and his brother, Gorrik, are saved, the Commander is too late to prevent Joko’s forces from claiming the product of the Inquest’s research — a plague that threatens to annihilate life in Tyria, leaving the undead monarch to claim the world for his kingdom.

Joko himself has arrived to retrieve the plague personally. His taunts infuriate the Commander, but there is no way to undo the lich’s work. Triumphant, Joko leaves his newest henchman, Lonai, to deal with the group, sparking a battle that yanks the combatants through the unstable tunnels of space and time.

Volatile magic, churned up by Joko’s schemes, grabs the combatants and lands them first in the midst of Divinity’s Reach, threatening the innocent lives of the Human capital. Soon enough, they are displaced once again, landing in the fiery heart of Mount Malestrom; then the frost-bound Shiverpeaks, where the Claw of Jormag frustrates the battle with its interference.

Finally, the exhausted warriors are dropped unceremoniously on a rocky island in the middle of a star-filled sea of nothingness.

Ready to face Lonai once more, the Commander finds the need for violence is short-lived this time. Joko’s champion falls, leaving the Commander and their Norn compatriot lost amidst an endless ocean of infinity.

Screenshot of the mysterious location the battle takes them to
Lost among the stars…

Fortunately, Blish and Gorrik are able to locate them and transport the unnerved duo back to Tyria.

Victorious, but disheartened by the knowledge that Joko has the means to unleash the terror of epidemic on all living creatures, the members of Dragons Watch know their work is far from done. New clues must now be followed to unearth a means to defeat the lich-king of Vabbi once and for all…

Rhi’s View: An Excellent Addition to the Story

With only the second episode out, to-date, Living World Season Four is young. We’re at the stage in the storytelling where we have more questions than answers and the plot is only getting more tangled the deeper we dive into it. “A Bug in the System” is immensely satisfying in its contribution to the developing story of the Commander.

Though I felt the inclusion of the Order of Shadows was shoehorned in and the unexpected introduction of a new voice actress for Rox was a little distracting, Episode Two more than lives up to the expectations set with the concluding drama of “Path of Fire” and the murky waters churned up by “Daybreak.” We all knew Joko was coming back — Seriously, right? Did anyone actually believe he was going to be sitting in that cage for all eternity? — and it’s only fitting that one of the most dastardly villains in the franchise would pop back up just when Tyria’s heroes are facing the threat of a massively-OP Elder Dragon.

It’s so very Joko, isn’t it?

The tyrant’s brief cameo appearance wasn’t the only great thing about this episode … it wasn’t even the highlight, really! That’s just how good ArenaNet made this contribution to the story of Season Four…

Screenshot of the Olmakhan thrones

The Charr of the South

If there’s one aspect of the new patch I saw discussed more than any other in Map Chat on launch day it’s the Olmakhan.

This small community of Charr is highly unusual, as Rox’s running commentary alludes. They were once part of the reviled Flame Legion. Fed up with the Fire Shamans’ villainy, the group left Ascalon behind and made their way south to the Sandswept Isles. Here, they built a new life away from their old Legion’s corruption.

The aesthetics of the Olmakhan are fantastic! There is a very unique feel to them that sets them apart from the Charr we’ve become familiar with over the past five years in Guild Wars 2. Added to which, their beliefs about families over fahrars, the place of a lone gladium lacking a warband, and the treatment of their temperamental cubs forms a depth the backstory you get when starting out as a PC Charr sadly lacks.

And the music! The piece added to the Season’s soundtrack for the Olmakhan is beautiful. The deep percussion paired with the strain of the pipes is immersive and keys players into the flavor of this culture’s identity.

And major appreciation for the smooth reference to Kalla Scorchrazor! If you’re playing as a Renegade these Charr are all the more interesting. Proceed with Charr Renegade role-playing in 3 … 2 … 1 …

Screenshot of the Commander & Taimi

The Unbreakable Taimi Schmidt

Taimi had a rough go of it in “Daybreak.” Her voice actress, Debi Derryberry, had us eating our hearts out over her character’s abduction and the torture Joko subjected her to. I mean, the range from utter terror to her tearful acceptance that she was about to die as bait for the Commander were equally gut-wrenching!

I honestly didn’t expect to hear from her this round … oh me of little faith.

Taimi absolutely does make her presence felt in “A Bug in the System,” not only via the ever-present communicator she sneaked in the Commander’s pack, but in-person aboard Captain Sayida’s airship. No matter the trauma she suffered at Joko’s hands, this little genius ain’t taking any personal time. She’s there every step of the way, offering helpful hints, if not as many punchy asides as we’re used to.

I applaud ArenaNet for refusing to pull their punches when it comes to this particular fan-favorite. She’s not the vulnerable little girl the Commander had to rescue from the Inquest in Dry Top, anymore. Taimi has done a lot of growing up as she’s traveled with us through the thick & thin of Elder Dragons, insane gods, and every madcap scheme we’ve come up with along the way.

She’s matured. More importantly, though, she bears the scars of the journey. Taimi suffered physical and mental trauma during her captivity in the last episode and the aftereffects are starkly clear in her voice. While it’s certainly heartbreaking to hear the once-peppy little asura sound so downcast, she’s proving that it hasn’t broken her, despite all the odds.

Go Taimi!

Oh, and can we take a moment to note that her iconic pink ribbon has not made a reappearance? Along with her new outfit, Taimi is rocking the sleek, more adult hairstyle we first saw after she removed it to leave a trail for the Commander to follow Joko. I’m a fan — what a great way to illustrate her character development!

Screenshot of Braham & the Commander's interrupted heart-to-heart

Intervention Interruptus

Sooooo … Braham Eirsson.

Our favorite Norn (or least-favorite, depending on your feelings on “A Crack in the Ice”) still isn’t thrilled with us. Bitter in the wake of his mother’s death and holding a grudge over his perception that the Commander didn’t do as much as they could have during the campaign in the Maguuma Jungle, Braham does not greet their reunion with much enthusiasm.

Like any. At all.

He proves there are deeper layers to his personality beneath the juvenile resentment, however. Without hesitation, he answers the call to join the Commander in the fight against Joko. He even stands side-by-side with the leader of Dragon’s Watch through the embattled hallways of Rata Primus and the world-hopping struggle against Lonai. Like Taimi, Braham’s done some growing-up since we first met him during Scarlet’s War.

It was great to hear him awkwardly suggest that it was time to have a heart-to-heart. Even more, I liked that the discussion had to be tabled for the time-being, as Blish and his brother pulled them back to where they belong. This is a plot point that carries a certain weight, whether players are fond of it or not. Braham has to surmount his grudge with the Commander in order to move forward as a character — not just as part of Dragon’s Watch, but as Braham Eirsson. It shouldn’t be an easy conversation.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out as the Season progresses!

Screenshot of the Commander and Saiyda's airship

Theories Confirmed!

Who doesn’t love theorycraft?

There have been some doozies prophesied by the player base throughout the years. Some have born out, while others have proved disappointments. (And some have just been weird.)

After Balthazar met his downfall and we started heading into Living World Season Four, community theorists were busy dreaming up some spicy ideas to put to the test. “A Bug in the System” officially confirms two big ones, much to our delight!

Kralkatorrik Brands the Dead – CONFIRMED!

This theory cropped up the moment players started finishing “Path of Fire” and caught a look at the cinematic showing Kralk going on a Branding-spree. If you remember, a dead devourer was caught in the dragon’s wake and suddenly hopped up, sprouting electric purple Brand crystals all over. This, to many, was a dead (ha. ha.) giveaway that the Crystal Dragon had inherited Zhaitan’s dominion over death, allowing him to reanimate the deceased … with his own spin.

We got the official word through this latest part of the story that the theory is, in fact, true. It’ll be interesting to see how this ability plays out in the coming episodes and how Mordremoth’s latent power might come into it.

The Scarab Plague – CONFIRMED!

The ultimate outcome of “A Bug in the System” was the reveal of Joko’s intent. For players who had gone through Guild Wars: Nightfall, Taimi’s mention of “bugs” at the end of “Daybreak” was all they needed in order to figure it out.

One of the darker passages in Tyrian history was The Scarab Plague. It decimated the population of Elona and brought about the end of the Primeval Dynasty (remember Nahlah and Dahlah?). The disease was gruesomely lethal, so it’s sure to be the source of panic in the next Living World Episode.

If nothing else, it’s another nostalgic call-back to Guild Wars 2’s predecessor — a trick ArenaNet has shamelessly been relying on through the “Path of Fire” journey. We’ll see how much further they take it…

Some Other Tidbits

“A Bug in the System” brought us a new zone to explore, a new piece of the story to dig into, and the return of characters who haven’t gotten much love in a long time. Good on ArenaNet!

A few more stand-outs:

  • The Branded Mount Skins that went onto the Gem Store alongside the patch release are beautiful! The skimmer and raptor are especially well-done.
  • Did you notice the race-specific ambient dialogue in the Olmakhan village? My jaw dropped when I heard the two Charr discussing my character (a sylvari), one of them remarking, “Until yesterday, I didn’t know plants could talk.” Nice touch!
  • With a new Living World episode, comes a new Mastery! This time, we got “Bond of Life,” which allows players to share their character’s health with their mount when under attack and they don’t want to stop for a fight. Honestly, I think this is utterly lackluster. Fingers crossed for something more interesting next time…
  • As I mentioned earlier on, Rox has a new voice actress! I found it distracting, which took away from my immersion somewhat, I’ll admit. However, the voice is rougher and more mature. Like Taimi’s new hairstyle, I think this was actually a good choice that adds to the impression that Rox is growing up.
  • Where are Canach & Rytlock? We find out! Our new pen-pal, Canach, sends the Commander a letter to update them on what’s happening in Amnoon and Istan. While I, personally, prefer this dynamic duo in my party, we have to give some time to the other, camera-starved members of Dragons Watch.

A note on screenshots included in this post:

©2010–2018 ArenaNet, LLC. All rights reserved. Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, Heart of Thorns, Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, ArenaNet, NCSOFT, the Interlocking NC Logo, and all associated logos and designs are trademarks or registered trademarks of NCSOFT Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


© 2018 Sarah A. Easley – All Rights Reserved.

The Low

It’s when we’re stuck on the outside, looking in. At the foot of the mountain, neck craned towards the summit. Lost in the dark, yearning for a spark to light the way.

The depression. The trough. The hadal zone.

Originally published on Medium.com

It’s when we’re stuck on the outside, looking in. At the foot of the mountain, neck craned towards the summit. Lost in the dark, yearning for a spark to light the way.

The depression. The trough. The hadal zone.

Photograph of the hazy image of a person on the far side of a white surface, hands splayed against it as though trying to push through
Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

It’s where we find ourselves imprisoned, trapped by the outside forces pushing back against us as much as by our own inner conflict and doubts.

It is the Low.

… a studio apartment left cold and dark because the utilities company just cut the power until last month’s bill gets paid …

… a cubicle surrounded by the cacophony of the corporate grind, discordant brand values, and toxic workplace politics …

… that endlessly blinking cursor on a blank page the night before the deadline …

… the familiar, suffocating grip of paralysis as the nightly panic attack sets in …

It looks and feels and comes on us all differently, but it oppresses with an egalitarian indifference.

We all end up in it. Maybe just once. Or perhaps you’ll feel yourself slide back into the depths with punishing regularity.

It holds on and no matter how strong your determination to dig yourself out, it presses you back down implacably. It nudges into your mind when you try to think, to focus, work, make love, or fall asleep.

The greatest demons aren’t the ones that roar, but those which tenderly cling to us in our most vulnerable moments. They whisper to us in the voice of logic, explaining all the reasons we shouldn’t try so hard, reach so far.

Why we’re not good enough.

It has nothing to do with courage or resolve. It doesn’t matter whether you have a plan or are taking a leap of faith. We can all end up down there just the same. Whether or not you fall in this time around is the matter of a coin toss — if you’re just tired enough, just anxious enough, just threatened or lonely enough.

It is the monster in the dark. The unbearable weight. The endless climb.

Yet, it can be defeated. Overcome. You can climb out.

When it traps you, erecting bars of doubt, it will strive to distract you from a simple truth: this cage, for all it is formidable, is fragile. It may hold you for hours or days or years. You have the power to knock it down, though, with nothing more than your refusal to the demons’ malignant logic.

They will urge you to see that you don’t have what it takes, that you don’t want it badly enough.

“But I do.”

Whisper it back to your demons. Throw it in their faces. Sing it with every ounce of passion you have and scream it until you’re hoarse. Then say it again. And again. And again.

Because you do have what it takes. Because you do want it badly enough.

Never. Stop. Saying. It.

Photograph of the inside of a tower from the bottom, looking up
Photo by Aron Van de Pol on Unsplash

The dream won’t get you there on its own. You’ll have to put in the effort, take guidance from others, commit endless mistakes, and re-mark your calendar when set-backs postpone your hopes. But none of it will ever happen without that gut-deep, unbroken insistence that you will fight on.

You will never stop waking up in the hope that today is your day. Because someday it will be and you’ll find yourself rising from the end of the climb, looking down at the prison’s depths, free.


©2018 Sarah A. Easley – All Rights Reserved