28 Jul 2013

NaNo Prep 2013/Fun With Traveller - Connections

I have my cast, at least as character sheets, though personalities are starting to solidify.  The ship has someone in each position; some have multiple people, which is not a bad thing for a vessel heading out to places unknown.  Now, how do Philomena, Spencer, Miryim, and Cuddy know each other?  Why would Spencer, a detatched Scout, bring along an administrator, a cashiered major, and an alien drifter with him?  He'd be better off alone, unless he knew his travelling buddies.  Fortunately, Mongoose's Traveller has a neat optional rule called "Connections".

26 Jul 2013

Subject 13 Issue 30 – Going Green

"This couldn't have happened before Art, could it?"  Nasty's voice was muffled as she grumbled in the make-shift change room in the Foundation's van.  "I had plans after classes."

"Yeah, yeah," Micki called back.  "Deal with it, chickie."  Peregrine's personal public liaison  pushed away from the sidekick's motorcycle.  "Move it, girl!"

The change room door opened.  Nasty stepped out and made final adjustments to her costume.  "You want to be Peregrine?"

"You're the one with the powers.  The Peregrine-cycle is ready to go.  Do you want a briefing, or would you prefer to charge in swearing?"

25 Jul 2013

Subject 13 #29 - Commentary

As always, go read the issue first.

First off, you should be noticing that the issues are getting much longer.  Issue 29 was written on my own time, away from the hellhole of phone tech support.  I had also gotten more comfortable with writing.  The words flow much better.  Next issue is even longer, but has better flow.

The issue starts with Nasty returning to her new apartment after school, using public transit.  Her previous mission ended, but Anne kept Nasty at Fieldson, in part to maintain a secret ID and in part to smooth off Nasty's rough edges.  Nasty is now up to two secret identities; Jessica and Peregrine.  She has to keep knowledges separate; what Peregrine knows versus what Jessica knows and both versus what she, Nasty, knows.  Makes one wonder how Superman and Spider-Man manage.

As she arrives home, Nasty gets called in for work.  The Eagle Foundation splurges for a cab; Nasty hasn't been given a car on top of the Peregrine-cycle.  She and the cabbie banter, and some darker elements of sidekicks come up.  Why do heroes have sidekicks, beyond the hero's book having a character the same age as the reader doing heroics?  Robin has brightly coloured costume, constrasting with Batman's greys.  Speedy has a bright red costume, while the Green Arrow goes for a forest green.  Are the adult heroes looking for a way to not be shot?  And this doesn't even get into Marvel's Rick Jones, who has been a sidekick to the Hulk, Captain America, the Avengers, Captain Marvel, and Rom the Spaceknight.  The cabbie's view leans on the side of heroes not needing kids as shields, but enjoyed seeing Peregrine beating down Cinder and Ember.  Nasty sees a way to put a small wedge between Peregrine and Jessica by condemning Peregrine's brutal violence and language*.

At the Foundation, Nasty gets whisked off to a meeting with the board of directors.  Micki, after a quick comment on the weather inappropriate skirt, gets down to business and gets Nasty to where she's needed.  At the time the issue was written, board rooms with fancy controls for everything were still new.  Computer controlled lights and curtains were executive perks, not basic requirements.  When the issue was written, the icons would have been simple.  Today, they'd be animated with sound.

This issue and the next few planned were meant to enlarge the S13-verse.  If this was a comic company instead of a one-man operation, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse would be either a massive crossover or a series of special issues and annuals.  Each Horseman would be the focus of a group of heroes and villains, working together to defeat a common foe.  A classic Crisis Crossover.  But, being the sole person in the creative team and editorial staff, I had to make do.  Thus, the Global Vanguard do battle as seen through a satellite feed.  The Vanguard is the S13-verse's version of teams like marvel's Avengers and DC's Justice League.  Detonation Lass can make things explode with her mind.  Laser is a speedster.  The Emerald Flame shoots green fire from his hands.  Q-Ball is an inventor and has his own power armour.  Feral is the scrappy brawler.  They represent the premier superhero team in the world.  They also had the fight of their lives stopping Death.  The Consortium's team is getting sent to stop War; the more helping, the better.

In the middle of the crisis breaking out, Nasty has to deal with the Jessica side of her secret ID.  There is no way for Cynthia to know that Jessica has other issues that transcend school social circles.  Nasty does manage to find an escape route, just in time for a press conference.  Nasty handles herself decently enough, but gets caught off guard by a question out of left field.  Anne figures out a way to help Nasty with public speaking, and Nasty builds on top by suggesting that Micki become her spokeswoman.  For a character that showed up because I needed an admin assistant in a scene, Micki has grown and has become a member of the supporting cast.  A note for anyone writing a serial by the seat of the pants:  Keep track of characters.  If one keeps getting reused, bring that character in as a regular cast member.  Saves time later when a role is needed.

The rest of the issue handles the fallout from the announcement.  Tia and Eric in New York City are having to deal with a hard curfew.  Eric reveals that he misses Nasty and takes up her side in her absence.  Cynthia and Emily deal with each other; Cynthia going full-on dramatic while Emily deals with the more pragmatic concerns of homework.  Maria and her new beau Skeet react to the news of the curfew, with Skeet figuring a way to pass the time.  Note that this is the same Skeet that she met her first night living alone.

The one thing I was worried wouldn't feel right is the curfew and lockdown.  When I first wrote the issue, the idea that Americans would allow themselves to be confined, even for the duration of an emergency, didn't sit right.  History vindicates me, though; a curfew was enforced shortly after the Boston Marathon explosion.  However, knowing that there's an emergency doesn't take away the feeling of being trapped. something highlighted in the Maria, Eric, and Cynthia scenes.

Next week, Nasty faces a master assassin.
Over at MuseHack, Lost in Translation looks at Firefox.  No, the other one.
Later, finishing touches on the Traveller project, a new serial in the works, and crossing genres.

* Even Nasty doesn't like her swearing.

19 Jul 2013

Subject 13 Issue 29 - The Apocalypse Rides Again

Nasty fumed as she stood shivering in the wind.  I can't fucking believe Anne did this to me.  She stamped her feet, in part to keep warm and in part in anger.  This week's been hell and it's not even half done.  Cynthia and Emily had to talk at me, I have a ton of homework and Funke still wants the fucking painting done.  Her bus having arrived, Nasty scrambled on board.  She found a free seat and sat, nestling close to the heater.

Nasty stared out the window during her ride home, trying to leave her problems at school.  Anne may have a point.  That's the worst of it.  I need to keep Jessica and Peregrine separate.  I'm going to go crazy at this rate.  All I want right now is to be in my own bed or making dinner on Mom's cranky stove.  Christ, was that my stop?  Nasty rang the bell, signaling for the next stop.

18 Jul 2013

Subject 13 #28 - Commentary

Finally, the Pyro Twins.  I strung out the inevitable fight for several issues.  About time, right?  Right?  Oh, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, please read the issue first.

Leading up, Nasty still believes Cynthia and Emily are the Pyro Twins.  She managed, despite herself, to work in closer, though that was more Cynthia's doing than hers.  Even better, Nasty has a date for the game.  A date that can't keep his hands to himself.  Jonathon is from Fieldson's sister school, Lincoln.  Like Seward and Fieldson, Lincoln is also fictional.

Nasty's preferences in soft drinks mirrors mine.  Pepsi is too sweet; Coke has a nice bitterness to it that lends itself to sipping over the course of a hot afternoon.  Canteen stands seldom offer a choice between the two; one company or the other gets the exclusive rights to sell their product at inflated prices.*  On a busy day, it's possible for the gas tank feeding the carbonation for drinks to run low.  It happens; easily fixed if there's a spare tank in the booth, if people there know it's empty.

Naturally, when Nasty is away from the field, the Pyro Twins strike.  Worked out for her; it's hard to keep a secret ID a secret if she went out and pounded Cinder and Ember out of costume.  A somewhat quick change in the women's washroom** later, and off to heroing she goes!  Nasty gets the pre-halftime crowd on the concourse out, then storms in, to cheers and chants.  Upstaged the Pyro Twins, she did.  The clash of personalities begins, and one of Nasty's shortfalls gets abused.  Nasty's power punch is just that, a punch.  She can't zap anyone at a distance.  Meanwhile, the Pyro Twins can.

Quick aside.  I play tabletop RPGs, which I've mentioned in the blog before.  One of the games is Champions, a superhero RPG that allows players to create powers from base elements, advantages and limitation.  In Champions terms, Nasty has the No Range limitation on her power punch.  She has to be in a fist fight to use the power.  Nasty turns out to be an under-powered character in the game; her one power isn't flexible.

Cinder and Ember's powers, though, are a little more robust.  Ember generates flame.  Cinder controls flame.  As a team, they're dangerous.  One on one, Ember is the more dangerous, though she may not be as accurate as she could be because she relies on her sister for fine control.  Nasty gets to deal with them as a team and as long as the Twins can work together, she has to fight smarter, not harder.  Thus, snowballs.  The first snowball was desperation, hoping it'd quench the flame.  The second was to set up a pattern.  The third was fighting dirty.  Snow melts.  Rocks don't unless the flames are super hot.  Ember's shock gave Nasty time to lay her out.

Cinder isn't as powerful alone, as I mentioned.  Without a source of fire, she can't do much.  Running away from the angry sidekick made perfect sense to her.  Nasty, naturally, runs after her, through the ticket office, where she finds Cynthia.  Or Emily.  She can't tell them apart, and one's down on the field.  The other is scurrying under a desk.  Another is already under the desk.  Wait.  It hadn't occurred to me to turn the Pyro Twins into Pyro Triplets, but that's pushing things, even for a comic-like serial.  Cynthia and Emily are happy to help Peregrine chase down the escaping villainess.

The fight ends with Nasty using a power stunt she discovered while escaping the Consortium to catch up and Eagle showing up once again.  By the time Eagle arrived, the fight was over.  Nasty would have stopped Cinder, but in a longer, drawn out scene.  Eagle let me wrap things up so I could get the issue completed and Nasty cheered by her peers.  The rest of the issue is just dealing with everyone's reactions, including Rusty's and Anne's.

Tomorrow, a new threat appears.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Lost in Translation looks at the upcoming adaptations as I retreat from the heat.
Coming soon, more NaNo prep, more Traveller, and the beginnings of a new serial.

* Did I ever mention that I once worked as an attendant/cook at concession stands?  It was interesting, especially when the stadium collapsed and no one told us peons working a little bit away from where the collapse happened.
** Where Nasty managed to get a stall without waiting, so this is fantasy.

12 Jul 2013

Subject 13 Issue 28 – Crash and Burn

[As always, reader discretion advised due to language, with the added bonus of violence.]

The north side crowd booed as the yellow flag dropped to the ground.  On the field, the teams broke apart, watching the referee pace out the penalty.  Up in the stands, Nasty shifted in her seat.  The costume's too damned hot hit under this jacket.  She took off her gloves, shoving them into her pockets.

11 Jul 2013

Subject 13 #27 - Commentary

By the time I wrote this, I was out of the job from hell.  I still had some lingering issues from it, like a strong dislike of telephones, but the need to squish someone for incompetency had passed.  I was working at a Federal government site, where there was a minimum expected competency with computers, such as knowing the difference between a left click and a right and how to turn a PC on.  A user having extraordinary trouble could be referred for extra training.  Problems with users yelling at the techs tended to get referred up the chain for correction.  In short, a decent workplace, but looking amazing after the hellhole of being a front line phone firewall.  Nasty is calmer now, though she still has her moments of swearing.  She doesn't hit people as much, though she did have the warning from Issue 26 looming over her head.

Another thing to be aware of is that the issues are getting longer.  Even in the first dozen issues, I started realizing that I'd cut some off short and make an effort to go longer.  The next few, though, go into more detail, more dialogue, and get longer.  I hadn't started writing in NaNoWriMo, yet, but I had a few years of entering the Anime North fanfic contest.  Writing came far easier at this point.

Ms Funke has turned into a bit of a running gag.  She has a poor memory for names.  She predates Prof. Trelawney in the Harry Potter novels; the absent-minded professor is a well-known trope.  Nasty is a better artist than she thinks; the redhead has a confidence problem that the Consortium is already aware of.  Once off balance, though, Nasty has trouble coping.  What was supposed to be a simple work has cascaded into a situation where her flaws are on, or will be on, display.

A bit of insight into the social circles of Fieldson appears, too.  Cynthia and Rusty don't get along, as seen by the drop in temperature in the washroom.  Cynthia is good at keeping secrets; she'd make a great mastermind if she was a villain.  She is also good at social manipulation.  Cynthia wields gossip as a weapon.

A side note here - Nasty, Rusty, Cynthia, and Emily all have red hair, as do Cinder and Ember.  It wasn't really my intent to have that many redheads; it's starting to strain belief.  Red hair is relatively rare; I tended to be one of at most two students in a class with it.  Here, though, we have four students with red hair of different shades.  Rusty got her nickname from her hair colour; she kept it because she feels her real name, Jane, gets lost too easily in the crowd.  Back in New York, though, Nasty is the only named character with red hair.  Maria's is black, for the record.

As Nasty's world collapses around her, she gets to deal with a new complication - a father figure.  Not mentioned at any point in previous issues is Nasty's father.  Maria is a single mother; there is no "Mr. Giuliani" anywhere.  It's a plot point that will be addressed, but not while Nasty is in Rochester.  Beyond that, Nasty now has Martin acting as her father.  Neither really know what to do from experience; they're running on best guess.  With the suggestion of counselling (read: a way for me to explain Nasty getting calmer and less swear-y), Martin and Nasty get to leave and fumble their way through being a happy family.

The tape - TIVO was still in its infancy and not available in Canada* and VCRs were still common when the issue was first written - is the Pyro Twins' message to the mayor of Rochester.  Nasty goes full MST3K on it; she has zero patience with the antics.  To be fair, I wrote the Twins like that on purpose, to contrast against Nasty and her more serious approach.  Not quite at the level of Batman versus the Joker, but I needed a bit of lightness somewhere.  Right now, the Twins' abilities are more informed than anything else.  They haven't had screen time in action.

The rest of the issue had Nasty juggling several elements from Fieldson, with Christine and the drama club, and Rusty and the art project.  Once again, Nasty gets placed into an uncomfortable position, one where her natural instinct - smacking someone - won't work.  Nasty has some maturing to do.  She's getting there, but there's always room for improvement.

Coming up tomorrow, the Pyro Twins attack!
Saturday, over at MuseHack, how to repair the Star Wars prequels, with an eye on how to prepare for your own project.
Coming soon, more NaNo prep work, introducing two new story ideas, and more Traveller work.

* Canadian cable companies tend to be on the trailing edge of the tech curve.

9 Jul 2013

100th Post Review!

Wow.  One hundred posts.  On a blog that I created to see if I could blog.  Apparently, I could.  This post is the 100th to appear.  The 100th scheduled is a Subject 13 issue.  Still, milestone.  Time to celebrate and figure out a direction.

The original idea behind the blog was to have a place to rant, a place to showcase writing ideas, discuss NaNoWriMo, and go on tangents that wouldn't quite fit over at Fan To Pro (now MuseHack).  I'd also include some thoughts on gaming and other hobbies.  For the most part, that's what happened.  Along the way, I added Subject 13 just to have regular content.  The series has picked up a small following, though it's hard to tell who is reading, who isn't, and why.  The "commentary track" came up when I wanted more than just Subject 13 as content, to at least give people following something else.  The NaNo prep work gave me a chance to work out ideas - if I could explain them, then I'd get a better feel for what I'd need for the project.

I'd say the oddest tangents I've had here were the Battleship vs Sharktopus comparison and the "Girls as Cars" post.  The latter came up after a quick aside in an online chat with other MuseHack contributors, then just built from there as the idea remained in my head.  The research for that one led Google AdSense to believe I was in the market for a new car, one that was up-market, expensive.  Or entry level.  There wasn't anything in between.  The movie review came after reviewing Battleship then managing to catch Sharktopus on Space not long afterward.  Needless to say, I preferred Sharktopus, as detailed in the post.  It's not a great movie, but it succeeded at what it set out to do.

I do have plans for this blog.  Once the Subject 13 backlog is empty, I'll start posting some of my older NaNoWriMo work, starting with the first one I tried.  Part of the plan is to showcase where I was and where I am now with my writing skills, and that first novel forced me to stretch in a way that I hadn't before.  A comparison would be like going from a 220m race to a triple-marathon, with little practice prior.  Short stories, such as the fanfiction I'd written in the past and the issues of Subject 13, are a different style of writing from novels.

I'll still post gaming material for a variety of games.  I'm on a Traveller kick right now, in part because of the work being done to set up a potential Traveller project for NaNoWriMo.  I'll add thoughts from and for other games as they come up and as non-disclosure agreements allow.  Also planned, more on writing.  As seen last week, I don't approach writing in a standard manner, if there is such a beast.  I'm hoping that other hopeful writers might see my method and realize that there are other ways and everyone can find a method that works.

Of course, there'll be unexpected subjects.  The nice thing about a personal blog is I get to decide what gets posted.  So, if I vent or, in the other direction, gush over something, take it in stride.

5 Jul 2013

Subject 13 Issue 27 - Overwhelmed

[As always, reader discretion advised due to mature language.]

"Okay ladies, I'd like to see your preliminary sketches of your nude study," Ms Funke said.  She looked at Cynthia.  "You're first, Mary-Elizabeth."

The girl pointed at Stormie.  "That's Mary-Elizabeth.  I'm Cynthia."

Ms Funke peered closer.  "Oh."  She turned to Stormie.  "I'd like to see your work, Mary-Elizabeth."  Stormie grumbled as she brought her sketchpad toe Funke's desk.

4 Jul 2013

Subject 13 #26 - Commentary

Back to Fieldson, with Nasty "investigating".  First up, trying to teach two girls how to fight.  Nasty learned by getting into fights, as seen back in Issue 1.  Christine has taken formal lessons, and has been taught about when to use her skills.  Nasty pushed the issue and got what she wanted.  The scene definitely underscores the difference in what Nasty thinks of her classmates and what they really are.  It's a lesson Nasty needs to learn and she's a slow learner.

From there, Nasty heads to her locker so she can go home and runs into Rusty.  I had been playing with the idea of Rusty being interested in the new girl, Jessica.  I just wasn't sure how far the interest went; Rusty was coy about telling me.  So, the question is wide open.  Is Rusty just a friend, or is she looking for more from Jessica?  Sure, she fixed the skirt and offered to pose, but all that doesn't mean she's throwing herself at the brooding loner who just transferred in.

As everything gets worse for her, Nasty falls back to her usual method of coping - swearing.  First, under her breath, but finally out loud.  Fieldson does have rules, as do the vast majority of schools, against the use of obscenities, with the added bonus of the language not being "lady-like".  I believe I may have been having a bad day at that moment.  However, Nasty does need to get a hold of her language to prevent outbursts like that.  At some point, she'll internalize the lesson.  Nasty did make the effort around Eric, going back to his first appearence.  Motivation is just lacking at Fieldson.

At the Eagle Foundation, Nasty finally admits to herself that she's out of her league.  Back in New York, she had her bedroom to retreat to, had no worries about fitting in*, had a close friend to talk to, and could hop on her motorcycle to get time away from people.  Anne steps up as a mentor here, guiding Nasty.  Young heroes need mentors, someone to point them in the right direction, someone to trust.  Typically, the mentor then gets killed, usually around the time that the next big step the hero needs to make is to work on his or her own.  In Star Wars, Luke had both Obi-Wan and Yoda.  The Harry Potter series gave the titular young wizard Dumbledore.  Here, though, Nasty already had training.  She just needs someone as a role model.  Does this mean Anne is fated to die?

Micki's digging is just her protecting her employer.  Nasty doesn't like her, but Nasty doesn't like many people.  Anne is more willing to trust Nasty, despite the report; she's been through the Peregrine recruitment process several times.  Micki is far younger.  Oddly, Micki gets a bigger role, both in the series here and in the novel-length story Crossover.

Tomorrow, juggling a secret ID and an assumed ID.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Lost in Translation looks at the not-quite adaptation, Alien from LA.
Coming soon, more NaNo prep, more Traveller, and fewer vents.

* She had no worries becuase she had no intention on fitting in at Seward.

2 Jul 2013

The Problem with High School English

Others have tackled the issues before.  Christina H over at Cracked wrote about 4 Ways High School Makes You Hate Reading and over at Genji Press, Serdar tackles the disconnect in Science Fiction Repair Shop: Talking Genre Constriction Blues Dept.  Here, it's going to be a little more personal, what my problem with English in high school is.

It made me stop writing.

Worse, it made me loathe writing.

1 Jul 2013

Fun With Traveller - The Embittered Soldier

So far in my pre work for a potential Traveller story, I've created three characters, Philomena, Spencer, and Miryim.  Spencer now has a decent crew for his detached Scout/Courier - pilot (Spencer, with Philomena and Miryim capable of filling in), astrogator (Spencer), engineer (Miryim), and gunner (Philomena and Miryim are both capable).  However, if a fight breaks out, they're relying solely on basic training.  They could use someone who is more comfortable in combat.  Thus, Cuthbert "Cuddy" Mallory.