31 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 19 - Commentary

The fight ends!  Please read the chapter before continuing.

This is where Omega's third arm appeared, when he opened the weapons port.  Moving the port to the shoulder was a minor edit that still let me keep most of what I had without the undeclared third arm.  The explosions along Omega are from the emergency escape system built into the armour.  Safe to say that Meredith managed to knock Omega silly.  And what better way to signal that one fight is over than with an explosion?

Nasty wound up dealing with Tori after working out all her frustrations on Natasha.  I realized that Nasty might not stop beating up her counterpart unless she had a reason to focus on someone else.  Thus, the switch over to Tori.  Vicki was having problems dealing with her counterpart, mainly because of the powers in play.  Nasty's, though, is one that neither Vicki nor Tori have immunity to.  Vicki might be able to dodge Nasty's blow; Tori is just too big to avoid it.

Vicki, while having problems with her own counterpart, has no problems against the others'.  Natasha could have been dealt with sooner, but Vicki wasn't about to get in between her and Nasty.  Omega, now outside his armour, is a regular person.  His armour may have had enough breaches in it to let the Pixie Dust in by the time Meredith was done with him.

The fight's over, the villains are rounded up, but the story isn't done yet.  There are still a few dangling plot points to clean up.  The next few chapters will clean things up a bit.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 20.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the year end wrap-up.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, looking towards 2016.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

25 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 19

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
The following chapter has scenes of violence and course language.  Might rank as Adult Accompaniment if this was a movie.
Parking lot, Hank Cheetas, Cleveland, evening

Nasty looked up at her opponent.  Me and my fucking big mouth.  Tori glared down, a look of amusement on her face.  Better get this over with.  Nasty took a step forward.  "What the fuck are you waiting for?"  Tori put all her force into a stomp meant to crush Nasty into the parking lot asphalt.  Nasty darted away, her left arm protesting at the motion.  She channelled her scream of pain into an  incoherent shout of rage.  Nasty leaped into the air, aiming herself at Tori's leg.  Purple flared.

24 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 18 - Commentary

The dance partners switch and neither side is willing to give up yet.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

As mentioned last week, the fight kept evolving.  Both sides made gains, so neither want to give in.  For the villains, they have a goal that they can achieve if only they can deal with the pesky heroes in their way.  The heroes are doing a decent job at slowing the villains down.  No one has dropped yet, though Natasha will feel the effects of the fight in the morning.

Nasty is tenacious.  She was like that in Subject 13, and it's something that is core to her character, even moreso than the potty mouth.  Nasty also has no problem tackling someone bigger than her.  She relies on being the last one standing, no matter what.  Her battle with Omega just highlights her stubbornness.  Nasty does pay for it, though.  Being hurled into van hurts.

Meredith gets caught in a tough choice.  Should she make sure the dimensional breech is closed or go help Nasty.  The strength enhancers from the beginning return.  Sure, it's a Chekhov's Gun*, but the idea with showing what the characters can do at the beginning meant that the action now doesn't need an explanation.  The enhancers were planned; I knew Alpha would be fighting an evil version of Keith in a more traditional suit of power armour that would have enhanced strength.  Meredith needed to be Omega's equal for the fight.  Plus, I got a cool scene at the beginning.

Alpha also gets to talk at Omega.  It's a take on how Spider-Man fights; the web-slinger maintains a patter during a battle, generally keeping his opponents off their game because he just won't shut up.  The less he banters, the more serious the fight.  With Meredith, she knows that Omega has an ego.  Attacking him there pushes him into making unforced errors.  The result is Omega losing an arm.

Oddly, when I was making an editing pass through Crossover, I noticed a tiny problem.  Omega had lost three arms, which is amazing when he only has two.  I wound up making a fix, taking out the problem section and re-writing the third arm loss.  I was pantsing** during that section, just trying to reach word count, and never went back to verify when he lost arms.  I was caught up in the moment, really.

While Meredith had her attention on Omega, Nasty did crawl away.  Meredith just didn't notice; she was too busy holding back someone's fist.  That said, Nasty's appearance to deal with Tori finally gave me the moment to put Natasha out of the fight.  Vicki's power is a fight ender, which is why Tori was immune to it.  The fight is nearly over, though, and I did need to stop Natasha.  However, the dimensional wall has been breeched.  Complications are always fun to add, until it's time to finish up.  I did have an idea at this point on what to do.

Astute readers may have noticed the sentence fragments separated by commas.  "Drying blood from her nose, bruises forming on her jaw and forehead, a blackened eye."  That was done for style.  I know better than to use sentence fragments, but the description defied being verbed.  Natasha should feel lucky that she's still around.

With one villain down, that still leaves Omega, immune to Vicki's dust thanks to a sealed system, and Tori, immune because she's Tori.  The next chapter is the end of the fight.  If you've followed this far, stay tuned.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 19.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, the year end wrap-up.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

* But not Chekov's phaser.
** With NaNoWriMo, there are two approaches used with writing.  One is to properly plan things out, create an outline, and build the world properly well before November.  The second is to write by the seat of one's pants and see what happens.  Crossover had scenes to be hit already in mind, but nothing pre-planned like By the Numbers.  Of course, Crossover had more planning involved than The Elf's Prisoner, my 2015 NaNo project.

18 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 18

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
The following chapter has scenes of violence and course language.  It's a superhero battle featuring a heroine with a smart mouth.
Parking lot, Hank Cheetas, Cleveland, evening

Nasty grabbed a chunk of broken asphalt off the ground and threw it sidearm at Natasha.  She turned to the figure in the power armour, only hearing her double's cry of pain.  "I'll give you noise," she growled.  She sprang at Omega's arm, her hand blazing with purple.  With a leap, she struck up at the arm aiming at Prototype Alpha.  The purple energy flashed on contact.  Omega's arm jolted as the railgun fired.

Omega's headpiece swivelled around to look at Nasty.  "Do you have a death wish?"

17 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 17 - Commentary

The tide keeps shifting and the fight's still going.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

When I wrote Crossover, I was never expecting to turn it into a serial.  If I had, the fight would not be going on this long.  The round robin approach helped with writing, but turning the fight into chapters really does need a shorter fight.  That said, I have no idea what to cut.  Each heroine has her own battle, and each villain has a goal.  Neither side wants to give up just yet.

To show that the villains are dangerous, I needed someone to get smacked around.  Nasty became the target of choice.  First, of the three heroines, she's the only one getting up close and personal with her counterpart.  Meredith is keeping her distance from Omega and Vicki knows better than to let the giant version of her smash her like a gnat.  Nasty, though, took the fight to Natasha.  Second, Nasty has been roughed up in Subject 13.  She just doesn't stay down.  Even in the lost issue, she takes a beating.  Thus, Nasty is elected to get tossed through a window.

Meredith's fight gets interrupted.  Omega is still, nominally, under contract to Natasha and should follow her orders.  His armour has dimensional breeching hardware built in, specifically for his current mission.  Keith really needs to create a user's manual for the BIKINI, and Meredith needs to read it.  With all the little adjustments he makes, Keith makes it difficult for Meredith to learn how the BIKINI works.  However, the idea behind Prototype Alpha is that the two of them are the hero, with Meredith taking the credit as Alpha while Keith works behind the scenes.

Turns out, the dangling plot thread about Tori and her father did come back.  Vicki's father makes the perfect stand-in and hostage.  Stopping Tori was the problem.  There's a size difference, to say the least.  Giant Tori is stronger than Tiny Vicki, as Vicki found out.  Vicki has to out-think her counterpart.  Not that hard to do, admittedly, but she had to come up with something to keep her father safe.  While her Pixie Dust doesn't put either Vicki or Tori to sleep, it is still dust.  The trick might not work on someone normal-sized, but against someone over ten feet tall?  That's a big enough nose to irritate.  It's also a one-time only trick; Tori does learn from her mistakes.  Vicki also learns that Nasty's approach to fighting isn't easy on the hands.

There are two more chapters of fight to come.  I was tempted to compress them into one, but that would throw off the size, and the Internet has the "tl; dr" - "too long, didn't read" - factor.  Would a double-sized issue work?  Maybe, but part of the goal in posting Crossover is to place the story into proper chapters.  It's a process that takes time, and I do need to learn how chapters work.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 18.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, a deeper look at adapting tabletop RPGs.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

11 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 17

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

[Contains scenes of violence and coarse language.  It's a superhero battle featuring Nasty, so it shouldn't be a surprise.]

Parking lot, Hank Cheetas, Cleveland, evening

"Your friends are too busy to come to your side."  Nasty let the energy drain from her fist.  "You can't fight your own fights, can you?"

"Shut up!"  Natasha pulled herself up to stand straight.  Both arms charged up.  "I am not going to lose to the likes of you!"

"Could have fooled everyone."  Nasty spat on the ground.  "Bring it!"

10 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 16 - Commentary

The combatants have paired off.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

For the fight, I rotated between the pairs of counterparts, allowing me to show their differences.  With Nasty and Natasha, the difference in their fighting styles should be apparents.  Nasty is a scrapper, getting in close and just hitting.  Natasha's approach is to shoot from a distance, avoiding the melee as much as possible.  Their personalities are also in opposition.  I'm sure Natasha speaks for many people when she tells Nasty to stop swearing.  Both versions have tricks they use with their powers.  Nasty's energy touch has appeared before.  Natasha's energy sheath is a more extensive variant of Nasty's touch; it came from Natasha not wanting to have to fight for long up close and personal.

Meredith is using Spider-Man's approach to fighting - keep the banter up enough to distract the opponent until the decisive blow can be landed.  She's also using psychological warfare; Meredith knows her Keith well; Omega is not acting at all like him.  The designs of the suits of power armour even show the different mindsets.  Keith's approach was to create a suit that could be hidden, to keep the intended wearer, law enforcement, from being threatening.  Omega, however, is out for intimidation.  The fight is one of finesse versus brute force.  Omega has missiles and machine guns.  Meredith uses pinpoint accuracy.

The fight between Vicki and Tori is also one of finesse against brute strength, with the added size difference.  Both girls are immune to Vicki's Pixie Dust, which added an extra level of complexity.  Vicki's power could end a fight before it started, as seen in chapter 1.  In this fight, Vicki could deal with Natasha without a problem, except Nasty doesn't need help.  Omega, though, is in sealed power armour, and, as mentioned, Tori's immune.  This means I now have to figure out what a doll-sized girl could do to fight a giant double of herself.  Somehow, during the writing of Crossover, Tori lost some intelligence.  I'm sure if she had time to think, she'd realize just how silly Vicki sounded with the "your momma" comment.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 17.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the Star Wars Rebels pilot, "Spark of Rebellion".
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, a deeper look at adapting tabletop RPGs.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

4 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 16

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

[Contains scenes of violence and strong language.  Nasty is being let loose, so reader discretion advised.]

Parking lot, Hank Cheetas, Cleveland, evening

Nasty brushed off her jeans, keeping her double in view.  "Nice shot.  There's no fucking way in hell you're going to get that lucky again."

Natasha's breath came in ragged gasps.  "We beat you once."  Her arm charged up.

3 Dec 2015

Crossover Chapter 15 - Commentary

The beat down has begunPlease read the chapter before continuing.

The next few chapters have a strong language warning attached.  Blame Nasty.  She's a tad upset with her counterpart.

Eric gets to be the dude in distress.  Natasha has plans for him, and Eric has stalled her as long as he can.  He wasn't meant to be Natasha's victim when I first added him to /Crossover/.  He was there to guide Nasty, help her get through the con.  Natasha's crush on him came naturally, but wasn't planned.  There's a bit of backstory in Natasha's universe that involved Eric, but it's left in the mirror universe.  Again, readers can fill in their own details.

Hank Cheetas was a real restaurant in Cleveland.  It existed when I wrote Crossover, but has closed since then.  I chose it because of its location, close to the hotel and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Google Street View and Google Maps gave me the layout of the exterior, especially the parking lot.  It's rare for me to use a real place, but I chose the danger back in 2008.

Nasty is jealous.  She already has many reasons to hate her counterpart, from wardrobe to being kidnapped, but Natasha hitting on Eric turns the rematch into something far more personal.  Nasty finally make the connection she's been missing in /Subject 13/, that she can allow herself to get closer to Eric.  She's seeing what could be, with her evil twin usurping her role.

Gwen came with personality.  She was never planned, though much of Crossover wasn't planned.  The "favourite binoculars" line came out of nowhere but fit her.  Gwen is a decent agent, but the Eagle Foundation is a non-profit; the Foundation can't pay as much as other agencies with government backing, so they get the odd ones from time to time.

The opening blow, though, was planned.  Nasty kept it together just long enough to walk up to her counterpart.  Then the dam broke.  Natasha would regret the error of her ways if she wasn't getting pummeled.  The fight is choreographed.  After a night of writing, I'd head to bed and work out the visuals for the next few exchanges, starting from the general and then working out specifics from there.  Each match-up needed to be worked out, with everyone's abilities taken into account.  Even if the fight went into a direction I hadn't planned, I still needed to work out the hows and whys.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 16.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, it's a hiatus week.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Star Wars: Rebels, for real this time.  It's not becoming Ma & Pa Kettle.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

2 Dec 2015

NaNo 2015 - An Excerpt

Since I've mentioned the story over the past four weeks, here is an excerpt of The Elf's Prisoner, after the break.

30 Nov 2015

NaNo 2015 - The Last Two Days

Pens down!  NaNoWriMo is over!  The Elf's Prisoner has been validated and found to be a winner!

The Stats:
  • Words Written These Past Two Days: 2764
  • Words Written Total: 50 036
  • Chapters Completed These Past Two Days: 3
  • Chapters Completed Total: 38, plus three interregnums.
  • On-screen Deaths This Week: none
  • On-screen Deaths Total: 12
The last two days of NaNo, I had to write almost 2800 words to make the 50 000 word goal.  On Sunday, I did just that.  I split the writing into two segments, the first just after midnight, the second during the write-in.  The break in between meant that I could recharge and see the smaller amount during the write-in, a psychological boost.  There is something about seeing the size of the number of remaining words go from four digits to three.

After getting to the goal, I just stopped.  The story needs to be re-jigged; ideas I wanted to introduce still hadn't been reached.  There's a fight scene coming where my villain first meets the heroes that I need to set up properly.  World building needs to be completed, including working out a rough map and fixing directions in the story.  It's a minor mess.

However, my own pacing was good, barring the three days in Week 3.  I sat down and wrote most days, the exception being Fridays due to prior commitments.  I just need to remain in that practice.  Helping there are the commentaries I post every Thursday here and the weekly Lost in Translation posts over at Seventh Sanctum and Psycho Drive-In.  Posts for the blogs would add another 4000 words to the November totals if I included them.

I did learn that it is challenging to write a fantasy story while building the world ad hoc.  While I had rough ideas for most major locations, the details became crucial in spots.  The dwarven realm was easy to work out, but the trade town outside was a last minute addition, as was the canal used to get dwarven ore down to the coast.  The canal doesn't even have a name right now.  I came up with an impromptu naming system for characters, using real world cultures as the basis for each in-story culture.  I was inspired to do so after a friend started suggesting name for one of the elves, modifying names from her native Polish.  I ran with that idea - Polish for the elves, Cymric, Irish, and Pict for the local human lands*, Indonesian for the islander humans, and Ancient Roman for the villain.  The dwarves were slated for something along the lines of Aztec, Inca, Mayan, or Toltec, and that was before I put on the original Battlestar Galactica DVDs for background noise.

Something that did help was having appropriate background noise.  I don't use music to set the mood for the scene I write.  I use music to set the speed of typing.  Get a good beat going, fast enough to type to without being too fast, and I can keep a decent pace through the length of a song.  "Weird Al" Yankovic is ideal for me, as are instrumentals.  If I can listen to the music and not have to pay attention to lyrics, either because of familiarity or lack of lyrics at all, I can focus on writing while keeping the beat.

I will be putting The Elf's Prisoner aside for a bit.  I should keep writing, even if it's not at the breakneck pace of NaNo.  Unruly keeps returning to my mind, and I have two episodes to work on, one started and the other a natural continuation of Laura's story line.  During that time, I can figure out how to pace out The Elf's Prisoner properly.  The fight with the villain has an ending planned, one that should lead to an element that I really want to get in place.  The main problem there is that the last time I had my heroes travelling, they protested.  Maybe if I chased them there...

* I could have used Saxon names, too.  The names came from the King Arthur Pendragon RPG and supplements, and allowed me to justify having different naming practices in areas so close to each other.  After all, the typically Cymric player characters have to deal with Pictish and Saxon adversaries regularly, all near Stonehenge.

29 Nov 2015

NaNo 2015 - Week 4

The fourth week is over.  It's now third down and goal* for  The Elf's Prisoner.

The Stats:
  • Words Written This Week: 12 962
  • Words Written Total: 47 272
  • Chapters Completed This Week: 9 plus one interregnum.
  • Chapters Completed Total: 35, plus three interregnums.
  • On-screen Deaths This Week: 1
  • On-screen Deaths Total: 12
After the doldrums during the third week, I fell off pace.  Last weekend's 5338 words let me get back on pace, but the buffer I needed wasn't there.  The furthest ahead I managed to get was a half day, or about 800 words.  This means that I will be pushing hard over the last two days to get as much written as possible.  The final validation needs to be done by 23:59, local time, Monday.  Not having the time to write on Friday threw me behind, but yesterday put me ahead of par with a 2700 word effort.

Listening to characters is important to writers.  For most people, hearing voices is a sign that they should be seeing a doctor.  For writers, the voices get names and lives which then get placed into a story.  If the voices agree, the writing goes well.  If they don't, well, the writer either needs to listen to their needs or bludgeon the characters into submission.  The latter could lead to a strike, though.  That was the problem during Week 3.  Week 4, the characters were where they wanted to be and were happy to explore and to argue and to be awkward.

The main mission is almost done, but that mission has been superseded by events in-story.  Sure, Nyssa has her audience with the dwarves, but preventing a war between two realms has paled when the villain wants to throw the entire coast into chaos.  The five leads now have to find the villain and stop her.  Good thing I need scenes!

I had a scare on Thursday.  Windows wanted to upgrade to Win10.  The worst time for an upgrade is during NaNo; one glitch, and any time I might have had gets eaten up by troubleshooting.  Worse, time would still get chewed up by waiting for the update to finish.  If I had a backup machine, there's a chance I'd have gone through with the upgrade.  However, my older laptop is dying and hasn't been turned on in over a month because of hardware issues**.  So, no, Microsoft, I am not upgrading to Win10 right now.  I can't afford the potential downtime.

With two days left, the goal is to hit my 50 000th word, then validate.  The more written on the 29th, the less I have to write on the 30th, giving me time to make sure that I have the time to verify that I have written enough words according to the NaNo site.  Tuesday, I rest, and figure out if I want to continue writing The Elf's Prisoner.  First, though. I have 2800 words to write and I don't want my tenth NaNo to be the first I fail to win.

* Canadian Football League rules, in honour of the Grey Cup.
** A fan is seizing, leading to the system overheating.  If I could crack open the old laptop without damaging either it or any tools I'm using, I may be able to clean the fan properly.  That, too, requires time that I just don't have right now.

27 Nov 2015

Crossover Chapter 15

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Contains scenes of violence and coarse language.  Reader discretion advised.
Hank Cheetas, Cleveland, evening

The host led Eric and Natasha to a booth along the wall.  Eric moved so that Natasha would take the seat facing away from the door.  He allowed her to sit down first, then sat across from her.  She reached across the table and took his hands into hers.  He smiled back at her.  "How's this?"

Natasha looked around at the other diners.  Several in costume were obviously from the convention.  "It's nice, I guess.  Not as intimate as I'd hoped."

26 Nov 2015

Crossover Chapter 14 - Commentary

The triumphant return!  Please read the chapter before continuing.

When I first started writing Crossover, I didn't expect my supporting characters to take on larger roles.  Eric is now shouldering the burden, having to fend off a false Nasty who has nothing more in her mind than using him as a sex toy.  Keith's technical expertise, already set up thanks to Prototype Alpha and the Powered BIKINI, is playing a key role.  Micki has taken charge of the situation.  I need a large cast, even if most of the characters are in supporting roles.  A single character would get stuck.

Micki needed to confirm Nasty was really Nasty.  There's already one duplicate running loose; there could be another for all she knows.  Plus, she got to have some fun at the former-Peregrine's expense.  Not everyone on this side of the barrier is nice.

Vicki has a problem that doesn't come up often in comics - what to do with personal effects when in costume.  Peter Parker can web his clothes high up on a wall to keep people away.  Pixie doesn't have that luxury, though she can fly.  People will notice a hotel key card flying over a crowd.  Pockets work; Peregrine's costume has a few, but Pixie shrinks.  The card would rip the pocket and the costume when she gets small.

Pixie's father gets a cameo!  His role was to be Vicki's chaperon.  Once in Cleveland, he needed to be out of the way.  It's a good thing that baseball doesn't have a set time.  Baseball games are nine innings long, and each inning takes as long as it takes.  A typical game is about 2.5-3 hours long, though the Blue Jays tended to linger and take longer.  A tie game after nine innings means extra innings which, again, take as long as needed.  In short, baseball games are a good way to get a character out of the way without having to worry that the character will show up when inconvenient.

The big battle is now set up.  The heroes lost the first fight; they weren't prepared.  This time, they know what to expect.  Nasty is looking forward to showing her counterpart the error of her boy-stealing ways.  Meredith and Keith have a rough plan to deal with Prototype Omega.  Pixie may be the odd girl out.  Her Pixie Dust doesn't work on her counterpart, just like it doesn't work on herself.  But, she will be there and ready to help.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 15.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, what challenges The Six Billion Dollar Man will face.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Star Wars: Rebels.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

22 Nov 2015

NaNo 2015 - Week 3

The third week is over.  The Elf's Prisoner had some problems.

The Stats:
  • Words Written This Week: 10 760
  • Words Written Total: 34280
  • Chapters Completed This Week: 9, plus one interregnum.
  • Chapters Completed Total: 26, plus two interregnums.
  • On-screen Deaths This Week: 6
  • On-screen Deaths Total: 12
I hit the doldrums this week.  Typically, somewhere between 25 000 and 30 000 words is where I lose steam.  The story stalls out, either because it went in a direction I wasn't expecting or I get too caught up in the details.  This year, the characters got restless and wanted to skip past the journey to get to a trade town.  Once they arrived, the words returned.  For two days, though, I wrote just one day's worth of words.  Coupled with Fridays being too busy with socialization and transit time to do any writing, I fell two days off pace.  Fortunately, yesterday was productive, with almost 3000 words written; not enough to catch up completely, but I am within sight and one or two days worth of productiveness to get back on track.

I did wind up doing some ad hoc world building.  Each culture is getting its own naming convention.  The elves are receiving modified Polish names.  Human names are coming from Cymric, Pict, and Irish cultures*.  The villain's name comes from Ancient Rome, modified to be more sibilant.  I have three goals here.  The first is to have names that don't sound like a collection of letters pulled out of a Scrabble bag.  Unless the language I'm using/abusing has glottal stops indicated by apostrophes, there aren't any.  The second is to have names that feel like they come from a culture, even if I haven't created those details.  Artificial depth still looks deep.  The third goal is avoiding impromptu world building when I should be plugging away at the story.  I don't need, at least during November, to waste time working out minor details for one paragraph when I should be writing that paragraph and more.

Breaking through the doldrums involved more than tossing a guy with a gun**, or, in my case, six goblinoids with spears, at the characters.  While the goblinoids did let me get some words down, it took me a night's sleep to realize they had a clue on them.  It took me a second interregnum and the arrival of the characters at their destination to pull out of the stall.  Ms Fanservice helped greatly; a nude elf makes for a wonderful distraction and an interesting discussion about cultural norms, along with requests for her to cover up.

This coming week's goal is simple - catch up.  Eight days and over fifteen thousand words to go.  I need 1965 words per day right now to finish on time.  I've done that pace before, and I have scenes coming up that are needed and have been playing out in my head.

* As seen through the King Arthur Pendragon RPG.  Never discount useful sources.
** Raymond Chandler's advice for when writers get stuck.  The idea is that first the characters need to defend themselves from the attacker, then try to figure out who sent him, which means the writer needs to work out that same detail.  The proper phrase is, "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."

20 Nov 2015

Crossover Chapter 14

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, early evening

Eric returned to his hotel room.  He opened the door and stopped short.  The number of shopping bags he saw was unbelievable, most from stores he never went to and he was sure Tash wouldn't step inside under penalty of death.  "Hello?  Tash?"

The bathroom door opened.  "Tash" dashed out and pulled him into a hug.  "Hi!"  She kissed Eric on the cheek.  "Missed ya!"

19 Nov 2015

Crossover Chapter 13 - Commentary

Heroines in danger!  Natasha on the prowl!  Please read the chapter before continuing.

One of the fun bits I added to Crossover was having Canada be the nastiest nation on the mirror Earth.  Everyone there is afraid of the mirror version of Canadians.  I didn't get into details.  Half the fun is letting the readers try to work out just how dangerous a Canadian would be.  Mirror Meredith is one of the nastier mirror Canadians.

Names got interesting.  Everyone involved needed two, a proper name and a nickname, just so I could identify which side of the dimensional divide a character was from.  Most of the characters have names that can have diminutives.  A few, like Nasty and Micki, already use nicknames, allowing me to use their proper names with their mirror counterparts.  With Meredith's counterpart, I went for the ironic nickname, Merry.  Keith was the only character to not get a nickname for his counterpart.  Fortunately, the counterpart went by Omega most of the time.  Hopefully it made sense and was easy to follow.

I dropped an element while writing Crossover.  Tori's fear about her father came up, but I never had the chance to explore why she was worried about being seen by him.  Part of the problem was that I kept Vicki's father out of the way at the baseball game.  Without the two ever meeting, the issues just disappeared into a crack.

Keith recognizing Omega's power armour was a point I needed.  Since Omega is Keith's counterpart, not Meredith's, having Keith recognize the armour was a way to set up elements I'd need later.  The recognition also means that the heroes have information that they can use, while the opposition doesn't.  Keith's reasoning is also important.  First, for the narrative, it gives the heroes a way to outsmart his counterpart, if they think of it.  The second is a condemnation of the militarization of the police.  Too often, police go into a situation with their faces covered.  The result is a disconnect from society.

The escape starts with using Merry's cruelty against her.  Vicki took advantage of the situation, reacting and bluffing.  Merry wasn't ready for the Pixie Dust.  Meredith is using the classic prisoner ruse, helped along by being Merry's duplicate.  Nasty, though, hasn't seen enough movies where the trick is used.  Eric will have to show her Star Wars.

The trip to Natasha's room came about when I realized that two of the heroes needed clothes.  Natasha had taken Nasty's costume to pretend to be her and took the Powered BIKINI to neutralize Meredith.  Once I knew I needed to go there, I decided to have fun at Nasty's expense.  Last issue, Natasha complained about Nasty's wardrobe.  This time, it's Nasty's turn.  The wardrobe was another way to show how different Nasty and Natasha were.  In the later issues of Subject 13, Nasty demonstrated her feelings about short skirts.

One of the handy parts of setting the story in Cleveland was having landmarks that the cast would care about.  In this case, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which turned out to be close to the hotel I chose.  Sometimes, things can fall right into place when writing.  Micheline never really says what the Hall of Fame is on her side of the barrier.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 14.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Jem and the short run.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, what challenges facing The Six Billion Dollar Man.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

15 Nov 2015

NaNo 2015 - Week 2

The second week is over.  The Elf's Prisoner had some stumbles this week, but is on track.

The Stats:
  • Words Written This Week: 10832
  • Words Written Total: 23520
  • Chapters Completed This Week: 11, plus one interregnum.
  • Chapters Completed Total: 17, plus one interregnum.
  • On-screen Deaths This Week: none
  • On-screen Deaths Total: 6
I had a change in routine this past week.  As a result, getting time to write is a matter of creating a new routine.  Not helping were two days of pure frustration with the local bus service.  The second day of non-existent buses led to an hour of pure anger at the mismanagement* before I could calm down enough to actually write.  Friday, I knew I wouldn't have time to write, but I did have a day's buffer to account for that.

Story-wise, things started to get bogged down in the elf city in the trees.  My characters wanted to get going and weren't happy with me spending time on them meeting each other.  The plot is now on the road.  Of course, that meant trying to figure out food and drink, plus some research on clothes.  Helping out is having the Pendragon RPG, which has some of the details I need.  My notes file is growing as I fill out details of the world.  World-building on the fly, not for the faint of heart.

Speaking of world-building, something that is coming very useful is my Grade 10 Urban Geography class.  I have an idea of how cities are laid out and how and where settlements start.  I also, through geography classes and through Pendragon, have a good idea of what crops grow where, allowing me to work out what sort of food and drink are available in the different realms.

For the clothing, I went to an expert.  My cousin Kelly is a lecturer with the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta.  If you need to deal with zombies in Ancient Rome or Ancient Greece, she's the woman to talk to.  Research is important in a story; if a detail is wrong, it throws readers out of the narrative flow.  Sometimes, though, reality adds a wrinkle that goes against expectations, which is why I went to the expert when my own research came up with something just odd.

I also worked out a way to show a language barrier without having to create a language whole cloth.  The real world has more than enough languages to work from.  So, when I needed an elf to sound like she was speaking in a language she wasn't familiar enough with, I had her fall back on her own language's grammar.  To represent that, I worked out what she wanted to say, translated it to French, then did a blind idiot translation, word for word, back to English.  Instant language barrier, good for a lighter scene.

I added an interregnum to cut away to a minor set of villains.  While they aren't the main force behind the plot, they have their own goals and can be used to distract the heroes and be a false lead.  Again, the interregnum caused me to work out the details of the lair for this set of villains.  A lot of this should have been done prior to November, but The Elf's Prisoner only became an option mid-October.

One character showed a new side of herself.  She's becoming Ms Fanservice.  Her reason is that she's tactile.  She also comes from a culture that doesn't have the need for heavier clothes due to a climate that doesn't have extremes like winter.  She does have to get used to wearing heavy clothes, just to protect herself from the sun's harsh light.  Sunburns are one experience she dislikes.

Goals for the coming week include getting at least one subplot going as a red herring.  One character just brings along a lot of family drama with her, and I should use it.  I also need to build up the buffer again; Fridays are going to be a waste because of travel times involved.  Two write-ins a week, Sunday and Thursday, will help there, barring bus problems.

* Short version:  Management has no idea when buses are missing or where they're needed, nor does it have any flexibility built into the service to get new buses on the road when needed.  Add to this the detours because of LRT contruction.  First blizzard is going to paralyze the service.  And the fares are going up.

13 Nov 2015

Crossover - Chapter 13

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Micki's duplicate returned with the promised water.  She started by giving a thimbleful to Pixie, elevating the tiny heroine so she wouldn't choke on the liquid.  Meredith was next, with a few sips from a water bottle.  When she approached Nasty, she said, "You could try at least looking grateful."

12 Nov 2015

Crossover Chapter 12 - Commentary

Natasha usurps Nasty's life.  Welcome to the commentary for the twelvth chapter.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

The supporting cast is coming in to find the heroes.  The cast is as assembled together as it will get.  Everyone in the know, from Keith and Eric to the Eagle Foundation personnel, are together.  That does leave Vicki's father on the outside, which was why I sent him to the ball game.  Their goal, to rescue the heroes.  It's a nice switch up from the usual superheroes saving regular people story.  But, these are the supporting cast, not the headliners.

Speaking of our heroes . . ..  They're not in a death trap.  The one thing that Natasha can't do is kill them.  The connectivity between the two universes means that when one dies, the other does, too.  Natasha neutralized them.  Nasty uses her fists; her hands are inside hollow metal balls that she can't touch.  Pixie shrinks; if she tries to grow, she impales herself.  Meredith has power armour; removing the BIKINI removes her superpowers.  Natasha has also taken the Peregrine costume.  Vicki gets to keep hers; Tori would never fit.

The reveal of Prototype Omega finally came.  I was hoping readers would just assume that Omega was Meredith's counterpart, but there were enough hints about him along the way.  Teh biggest hint was that Keith built the BIKINI, not Meredith.  I also avoided pronouns when referring to Omega.  That is difficult; I didn't want to use the neuter pronoun, "it", to avoid drawing attention to the fact that I was hiding Omega's identity.  I wound up using descriptive passages for him.

Natasha's scene in the hotel room was fun to write.  First, it was a chance to explore her mindset.  She saw the hotel room, the luggage, and the box of condoms, and jumped to her her own conclusion.  I also showed a less devious side of her, a softer side.  Natasha isn't just out for sexual conquest, though she does enjoy the conquering.  Like Nasty, she is smitten by Eric.  It's how she responds to him that's key; and her downfall.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 13.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Bionic Woman.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, a look at the outrageously short run of Jem and the Holograms.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

8 Nov 2015

NaNo 2015 - Week 1

The first week is over.  The Elf's Prisoner is coming along at a good pace, both in-story and with word count.

The Stats:
  • Words Written This Week: 12688
  • Words Written Total: 12688
  • Chapters Completed: 9
  • On-screen Deaths This Week: 6
  • On-screen Deaths Total: 6

I am ahead of pace.  I was able to get a day and a half worth of work on the first day alone.  The writing got split into two sessions.  The first was at midnight of the 1st.  The second was after leaving CanCon and going to the library write-in.  I managed to get about the same number of words, 1300 written in each session, so I wasn't pushing myself at either.  I've had two days where I didn't reach the daily goal of 1667 words, but the other days surpassed it.

In the story itself, I left the meager outline that I did have.  The outline was loose, to give me space and to get broad ideas down.  It doesn't count towards the total words, but it gave me a scaffold to work from.  I've left it.  The result, more time given to my lead characters.  I may have to work around a planned death; she doesn't want to die and I don't think I want my experienced character gone.  Looks like the kid will die instead.

Why does this year feel different?  The big difference is blogging.  Between my work with Lost in Translation and the weekly commentary for the serializations I'm doing, I'm writing about 2000-3000 words a week already.  Often, I spend an evening working on both.  I'm just now expanding that writing from one or two days a week to seven.  Will I keep this pace up?  Usually, the hardest part is around the 30 000 word mark, when the numbers aren't changing as much and the story starts bogging down.  Pacing is tough; lulls are needed, but too long a lull in the narrative can dissuade authors, let alone readers.  I'm hoping that the characters engage each other.  So far, that is working out.

One thing I am trying to add is a theme.  I don't care much for obvious themes; too many times, the story warps itself to maintain the theme to the point where the characters fall flat.  But, if the characters themselves buy into the theme, maybe it'll work.  If not, that theme gets dropped like a hot potato.

For this week coming, my goal is to get the main characters out on their quest, set up some clues towards the villain, and see if any romance blooms.  There's no guarentee on any of those, but with all the characters now in the same location, there's a better chance of at least one of those goals being reached.

6 Nov 2015

Crossover - Chapter 12

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, late-morning

Eric paced in the hotel room.  The Foundation radio signal had gone quiet.  Not dead; he could hear the faint hiss of static from a carrier wave.  There was just no traffic on the band, none since Tash's last words.  It was the lack of conversation that had him worried.  He dropped on to the bed.  The urge to just run out and look for Tash was overwhelming.

5 Nov 2015

Crossover Chapter 11 - Commentary

Fight!  Fight!  Welcome to the commentary for the eleventh chapter.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

The mundane technology is starting to be dated.  Meredith has a flip phone.  Sure, there's text messaging, but today's standard is a smartphone.  And the less said about her roaming charges, the better.  She's looking at a huge bill.  The advanced tech of the BIKINI, though, makes up for it.  It is a smartphone with extra elements, like heads-up display and no roaming fees.

I gave Meredith the news about the havoc first to preserve the mystery a little longer and to avoid a bogged down repeat of what everyone knows is happening.  Two altered humans causing chaos in downtown Cleveland?  Who else could it be?  There's no need to toss in a new antagonist here.  Though, just two.  Meredith has no idea why that number is wrong.

In a world with superpowered humans, it's inevitable that police will have a plan in place when facing them.  Their Plan A is to evacuate the civilians before moving in.  Plan B is evacuating the civilians while letting someone also superpowered do the fighting for them.  Plan C involves calling in the Reserves.  It all depends on who is being faced.  An unknown person gets watched; a known costumed villain will have senior personnel reading files before making a decision.

Nasty has a huge limitation in the superpowered world.  She has a singular power, two if you count her constant swearing.  Against a normal person, she has the edge.  Against other powered people, she's working with a handicap; she has to hit someone to have her power punch go off.  If an opponent can throw energy blasts at range, Nasty may not be able to get close enough to be effective.  A thought crossed my mind at the time of writing, that Nasty would realize that she might be able to toss energy bolts, too, after seeing Natasha.  During the climactic battle, Nasty had other ideas of how to fight.

Pixie has her own handicap, as Nasty demonstrated.  When shrunk down, it's easy enough for someone to grab her with one hand.  Most of the time, Pixie's other power, her Pixie Dust, lets her get out of the grasp.  Grabbing Pixie is like grabbing an angry cat; you have her, but she can still fight.

The last paragraph with Nasty and Pixie was the scene that had me writing Crossover.  Long before NaNo 2006 started, the idea of Nasty and Pixie getting ready to deal with villains and being shocked by a third hero zipping past played over and over in my head.  The rest of Crossover came about to get that one scene used.  It too many many words to finally get it in.

The big fight, the big action set piece, has everyone talking while battling.  It's a staple of the comics, exemplified by Spider-Man, who natters opponents into surrender.  The battle let me contrast everyone's abilities.  Nasty has to hit people; Natasha zaps them from a distance while wearing a corset and leather pants.  Vicki shrinks; Tori grows.  Alpha has power armour based on agility; Omega's is brute strength.

With the heroines finally together, it was time to consolidate the supporting cast.  Vicki only has her father, conveniently sent to a baseball game.  Meredith has Keith, who is her partner in fighting crime.  Nasty has the Foundation, including Micki and her assistants.  Splitting time between Keith and the Foundation looked daunting at this point.  However, the Foundation has the gear to find Keith.  It's not like he can escape; he drives a Yugo.

Back when I started writing Subject 13, I played Champions, a superhero RPG.  The game let me try to define the characters' abilities and let me see where there were deficiencies.  Nasty really only has one power, her Power Punch.  In Champions, that would be a Hand-to-Hand Attack with the special effect of the purple flare when Nasty hits someone.  Pixie is more robust, having Shrinking and her Pixie Dust.  The Dust, though, is a harder build.  It doesn't really do damage, just puts people to sleep.  Champions is good at modelling, even if a player has to get creative with the modelling.  Two possible powers could work.  One is Transform, turning an awake target into a sleeping target.  That can get expensive and is all-or-nothing.  The other is Mind Control, with modifiers to make the the attack physical instead of mental and for just one command, "Sleep!"  Prototype Alpha is a variant of a power armour user, taking what's known as a Multipower to reflect directing energy into the BIKINI's subsystems.  Keith's tinkering is a Gadget Pool, slowly growing as he makes modifications.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 12.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Spaced Invaders.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, The Bionic Woman.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

1 Nov 2015

NaNo 2015 - Day 1

November 1st!  NaNoWriMo has started!

Where am I?  First, before I can even start writing, I need to know what I am writing.  Three weeks ago, I had it narrowed down to two ideas.  Last week, I had that down to three.  Now?  It's down to one.

The winner is....

The Elf's Prisoner

To quote the great Captain Tenneal, "Get it on!"

Word count for the first day was 2603.  far better than I expected to do today, especially with a convention in town.  And that was without trying.  So, let's celebrate!

Bang a gong, it is on!

Let's get typing!


30 Oct 2015

Crossover - Chapter 11

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, mid-morning

Meredith sipped her second coffee of the day.  I can't believe he left.  An entire convention, and he's back in the freaking Yugo.  She threaded through the crowd to get to the video room.  He's missing out on so much.  I mean, when was the last time any of these shows were on the air?  It's been too long since Heroes of our Lives was last shown.

As she sat, her cell phone vibrated in her pocket.  Meredith leapt at the unexpected disturbance.  She fumbled to get the phone out.  This better not be Mom.  Meredith flipped open the phone.  A text message appeared on the tiny screen asking her to put on the BIKINI's visor.  Oh, for . . .  Keith, this better be important.

29 Oct 2015

Crossover Chapter 10 - Commentary

Meredith gets hooked into the plot!  Welcome to the commentary for the tenth chapter.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

It's a brand new day at the convention, and Keith has made the discovery that lets Meredith get involved in the plot.  Yes, it took way too long to get to this point.  I consider Crossover to be a lesson in pacing.  I needed to make the mistakes to realize that they were mistakes.  Crossover was my third NaNoWriMo project and my third major work.  Prior, most of my writing consisted of short stories and serials.  Switching from shorter formats to the longer novel was a paradigm shift.  I've improved on pacing; I know how to not get bogged down in the details.  Still working on chapters, though.

One of the core ideas of the Subject 13-verse* was that, over time, different people would take up the mantle of the heroes.  I then go and create a title where the titular character couldn't have a new person take over the role.  That was the reason I created the Peregrine role in Subject 13, to show the changing of the person underneath the costume.  While not initially planned on being the replacement, Keith's new friend, Naomi, could become the new Prototype Alpha.

Keith's explanation is the best I could do to get across the idea of how the dimension breaching ray would appear.  Yes, it does appear to break the laws of physics, but the breaching introduces energy from an external source.  I'm sure someone has given thought to how to break through to a new dimension and how that would affect physics on both sides of the barrier.  There's math involved, and possibly coefficients to adjust numbers between dimensions.  It'd make fluid mechanics and dynamics look simple.

The panel is a staple of science fiction, fantasy, and comic conventions.  Panelists talk about a subject of interest to attendees, and ask and answer questions about the subject.  Can*Con, where I'll be a panelist this year**, is representative, with panels on writing, reading, and even blood spatter analysis***.  The panel Alec and Pierce put on, "Effective Costumes: How to Keep a Secret ID Secret", may not be typical, but it fits the setting, where budding artists, writers, and heroes alike can use the information.  The entire scene could be lifted and turned into a non-fictional treatise on costuming and secret IDs.  There are reasons to maintain a secret ID, most of which boil down to protecting oneself and one's loved ones.

Again, I went with Vicki's point-of-view instead of Nasty's.  Part of it was to show Nasty as Peregrine, the heroine.  Vicki knows the person underneath and can comment about Nasty's discomfort.  She also will be paying attention to what's going on up front.  Nasty's POV would be a running commentary punctuated by expletives and missing out on some of what Alec and Pierce are saying.  The POV also leaves a bit of a mystery for readers on what is happening when Peregrine is called away.

Quick rundown of the heroes namechecked in the panel:
  • Blaze, from Alec and Pierce's comic, Hero Ablaze!, has fire powers.
  • American Eagle, from Subject 13, part of the American Eagle Foundation for Justice in Rochester.
  • Major Flagg, from Alec and Pierce, an in-universe fictional version of heroes like Captain America.
  • Q-Ball, part of the Global Vanguard, powerer armour wearer and developer.  The Vanguard are a team I started working on for a potential title, and fill the role of the Justice League and the Avengers.
  • Crimson Shadow, a Chicago-based crime-fighter by night.  No real plans beyond namedropping, but the Shadow fills in the role of the likes of Batman, Daredevil, and Moon Knight.
And the "very incredibly well done" movie?  Pixar's The Incredibles, with Edna Mode's rant against capes being the specific reference.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 11.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, comparing the Fifties to now.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Spaced Invaders.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

* If I had a better name, I'd use it.  For now, the first series gets to name the setting.
** My blog, my choice to advertise blatantly.
*** Writers tends to research a lot of subjects that could get them on watch lists and even do-not-fly lists.

28 Oct 2015

NaNo Prep 2015 - The Characters

Time's ticking away.  Three ideas, three days to decide, and a convention* to start NaNoWriMo off.  What have I been doing?  Converting BattleTech to Firefly and writing a new Unruly chapter**.  I am so not prepared.  Or am I?  I know what I'm missing, but if I have a good handle on the characters and an idea of the ending, I'm good to begin.

The Clockwork Avenger
Three central characters, including the pilots of the Clockwork Avenger suit and the villain.  Both pilots will have a supporting cast.  The ending involves a battle that ties in both times to defeat the villain, somehow.  Explosions, probably.
  • Bernard Newton, machinist in Bristol. England.  In his mid-forties.  Served in Her Majesty's Expeditionary Forces (specific unit to be researched), mustering out as a Captain.  Handlebar mustache.
  • Marissa Beaumont, grad student in Ottawa, ON.  In her mid-twenties.  Descendant of Bernard's brother.
  • Vernon Waller, occultist.  Age indeterminate.
Bernard should have an apprentice while D'arcy has a close friend helping her.

Colony Base 183
One central character, the newly graduated main character, plus a host of supporting characters.  I've found a document I created for a different setting that I can pillage for details, such as rank structure.  Beginning will be the main character's arrival.  Ending is up in the air and will depend on how things go while writing.  Since the colony is near the intersection of several space-faring nations, I will need some aliens, ideally not just humans with stuff pasted to their heads.***
  • Delphine Piper, Subaltern, Confederate Combined Armed Forces.  Freshly graduated from the Confederation Military Academy on Greydon.  Early to mid-twenties.  From another frontier colony along the border with the Altair Triumverate, whom she suspects as causing the colony's failure.
  • Vina Minoru, Technical Officer, Confederate Combined Armed Forces.  Early to mid-twenties.  Another fresh graduate and Delphine's roommate on base.
  • Vintner, Lieutenant, Confederate Combined Armed Forces.  Early thrities.  Delphine's CO.
I'll need some colonists and the alien delegations at some point, but I can get Delphine to settle in first.  Rank structure is a little scattered, but it'll work for an established military.

The Elf's Prisoner
Ultimately, there will be five people gone a-questing.  The climax involves snake-people, cast family members, and sword & sorcery action.  The goal here is to file off any and all serial numbers.
  • Jyslyn, dark elf refugee.  Studied magic illicitly.  Can be sneaky when she wants.  Has family hunting her.
  • Bellus Starpetal, high elf priest of The Lightbringer.  Grandson of the matriarch of the Starpetal family.  Not fond of Council politics, mainly because he gets pulled in so often.
  • Nyssa, Dame Kellus, Knight of the Realm.  Human.  Late-forties.  Has slain a dragon.  Royal pain in the ass.
  • Leomund, squire to Nyssa.  Mid-teens.  Much put upon.
  • Wren, elf lass.  Sole survivor of a village massacred by dark elves.
Already, there are some elements of the world that need detailing, but that can wait until the need becomes critical.

Of the above, I've already had a scene worked out in my head for The Elf's Prisoner, featuring Jyslyn and Wren.  It was an odd one, where Jyslyn both wasn't and was serious.  I've had the lawyer scene when Marissa receives her package play through my head a few times, working out just how the package managed to survive until 2015, through fires, bankruptcies, and the Blitz and how the law firm found Marissa.  Suffice it say, someone had to keep a good family tree even after some of the family moved overseas.  I am tempted to have a scene with Bernard and Marissa where she passes some investment ideas to him, but that could lead to an investment that shouldn't be possible.****  Colony Base 183 has the least work done, but I may have a good handle on my lead.  Just have to work out some events to toss at her.

All of the above said, I still have no idea which one to write.  A poll won't work; I tend to be ornery when told what to write, as my English marks can attest.  I could roll a die, but even that may not work.  My tenth NaNo is turning out to be be less organized than my first.  At least Lethal Ladies started with a solid idea.

Feedback is more than welcome here, especially if there's something I may have missed.

* Not only am I attending, I'm a panelist.
** Among other things that seldom make it to the blog.
*** While the approach works with television series like Star Trek because of budget limitations, there's no reason for aliens to have evolved like life has here on Earth.
**** Temporal anomalies weird cause and effect.  I first saw the  of the Bootstrap Paradox expressed in a beta reading of Time & Tied, but a recent Doctor Who episode, "Before the Flood", used the idea of a Beethoven-loving time traveller who met his idol who had never written a note, leading the traveller to write the symphonies he enjoyed.  In both cases, there was no point where the apple or the symphonies existed prior to the loop.  A stable paradox, but do I really want to risk that?

26 Oct 2015

Cortext+ BattleTech - A MechWarrior Detailed

Not long ago, I blogged about converting BattleMechs into Cortex+ as seen with the Firefly RPG.  I mentioned a sample character, a Magistracy of Canopus MechWarrior with an antique Hussar 'Mech.  I present now, that character.

25 Oct 2015

Cortex+ Conversion - BattleTech/MechWarrior

A week or two ago, a friend was trying to figure out a tabletop RPG system that would work for the BattleTech setting with a quicker, less involved creation system than the official A Time of War rules.  A Time of War has some great information in it, but character creation gets involved, with players spending 5000 points in a lifepath-style* generation system.  He wanted something more streamlined.  We've discussed using the Pendragon system for the BattleTech setting, having each character be the head of a minor House with the goal being to build up holdings while playing The Great BattleTech Campaign.  This time around, though, he wanted something for when players weren't in their 'Mechs.  His plan was to use the wargame for 'Mech-on-'Mech battles and something else for other nefarious deeds.

23 Oct 2015

Crossover - Chapter 10

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, early morning
"Meredith, I don't see why you're so upset."  Keith rushed to keep up with the brunette.

"Of course you wouldn't."  Meredith stabbed the elevator call button.  "Keith you are so flipping blind at times."

"You're jealous."

"What?"  Meredith spun around to face her roommate.  "I am so not jealous.  Keith, you were out all freaking night!  I got worried!"

22 Oct 2015

Crossover Chapter 9 - Commentary

What a difference a dimensional barrier makes.  Welcome to the commentary for the ninth chapter.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

The bit where Nasty wriggles her toes in the rug does indeed come from Die Hard.  John McClane was given the advice on the flight to LA.  He then spent the rest of the movie barefoot.  It did cross my mind to have Nasty spend the rest of the story the same way, but then she said no.  Forcefully.  The advice does work; it works the foot muscles, easing them after a long day.  Even works after car-, bus-, and train trips.

The last dance Eric mentions is one of the lost issues of Subject 13, and, by that, I mean I've lost the story somewhere in a computer failure and cannot find it again.  The issue had Eric and Nasty at a school semi-formal - Nasty's first, with her in a long green dress - that was interrupted by one of the other Subjects, leading to a brutal fight.  Nasty won, but barely.  Last woman standing.  I may try recreating the issue if/when I return to Subject 13.  The other fights are mostly detailed in the existing issues.

Those of you who suspected that the condoms were a Chekhov's gun*, congrats on being savvy about storytelling techniques.  Nasty still has issues, mostly coming from her mother.  She isn't quite comfortable with her sexuality yet.  A detail I should have added in the bathroom is the lack of steam.  Nasty wasn't in the right frame of mind to notice, though.  Maria is sympathetic, but she is disappointed that her daughter still hasn't had sex.

The decision to follow up with Natasha was a spur of the moment idea.  With NaNoWriMo, there are two types of writers, planners and pantsers.  Planners get all the details nailed down, including outlines, before November 1st hits.  Pantsers write by the seat of their pants, with no clue of what is supposed to happen next and going by instinct.  Naturally, there are few people who are purely one or the other.  I prefer to know who the characters are, the start point, and the desired ending when participating, but I remain flexible.  I've outlined once, with By the Numbers, but even there, I wound up improvising when events started ignoring the script.  Characters will go where they want, plot and author needs be damned.  I attribute this to experience as a games master.  You get good at improv when a team of shadowrunners decide to create a Godzilla flash mob at The Rubber Suit to extract a scientist instead of just breaking into corporate facilities**.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 10.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, wrapping up the History of Adaptations.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, comparing the Fifties to now.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

* "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it."  The term means any prop that gets attention drawn to it.  If the prop is described, it must get used at some point.  Not to be confused with Chekhov's phaser.
** Shadowrunning as Dadaism.  Security's confusion was genuine.  I had no idea what the players were doing, so how could the security guards?

21 Oct 2015

Can*Con and Me

For those of you who will in the Ottawa area October 30 - November 1st, Can*Con, the Canadian literary science-fiction and fantasy convention, will be at the Sheraton Hotel, 150 Albert.  I will be there, not just as an attendee but also as a panelist.

Friday night at 8:00, I'm part of the "Science Fiction Readers" panel with four others, discussing works of science fiction.  That could get interesting, especially since most of my more recent reading has been urban fantasy or genre mash-ups.

At noon Saturday, a NaNoWriMo panel, "National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo): Strategies and Emergency Inspiration" with four others, including two of Ottawa's Municipal Liaisons.  The panel will have tips on how to get to the 50 000th word and other survival techniques.  No sanity required.

Not interested in panels?  The dealer's room is open to the public.  No membership needed.

20 Oct 2015

Election 2015 - Yet Another Post-Mortem

October 20th.  Canada has a new government.  A sea of Liberal red swept in, pushing out Conservative blue.  But this wasn't the expected result.  During the 78 day long campaign, the polls showed no clear winner.  What happened?  The results can't be due to strategic voting; some long-time NDP ridings, like Ottawa Centre voted in a Liberal MP.  Pundits and the electorate were expecting a minority government; if the Conservatives had the lead, the NDP and Liberals were expected to form a coalition.  Last night's results laugh at that potential outcome.  I'm not a political scientist, nor am I a pundit or even a pretend expert on Canadian politics.  What follows is my attempt to figure out last night's results.  My breakdown after the cut.

18 Oct 2015

NaNo Prep 2015 - Mind the Gaps

Not long to go.  Is it time to panic?

Of course not.

First, if I panic now, I won't have any panic left for the last week of November.  Peaking early with panic is a rookie mistake.

Second, I have three ideas to be filled out.  Yes, I know last time that I narrowed things down to two, but a fantasy idea returned.  Its characters started having interesting scenes.  So, three.

If now isn't the time for panic, then what is now for?  Right now, filling in details.  Colony Base 183 and The Clockwork Avenger have settings and casts to be worked out, which is what follows.  This is the pre-writing stage.  The more I can work out now, the fewer stalls I'll have while writing.  This isn't to say that I'll have a full outline worked up.  That's just crazy talk.  What does help me, though, is knowing how the characters behave.  By the Numbers brought that home and Unruly proved the point.  That's not to say that characters won't appear out of nowhere as needed.  My 2013 NaNovel, The Devil You Know, wound up with Mara, a succubus, added because Jack's private jet* needed a co-pilot.  After her first appearance, Mara remained and became important to the plot.

Colony Base 183
Cast needed :  The newly minted Ensign.  Her department head.  Possibly the base commander and his executive officer.  The head of the colony.  The alien ambassadors.
Sets:  The security office.  The colony base itself.  The colony and its main settlement.  Landing area for starships.  Possibly an orbital facility.
Details:  Rank structure for the military.  Traveller-style UWP**.  Colonial government, if any.
What I have:  The Ensign herself, though she may be renamed.  The security office will resemble a small police office as seen on TV, possibly an update from sheriff offices in Westerns.  I may have a rank structure on hand to modify, loosely based on the Canadian Forces.

The Clockwork Avenger
Cast needed:  The Clockwork Avenger from the Victorian Era.  His descendant in the modern day.  The villain or villains, though if there are more than one, they are working together.  The descendant's good friend.  Lawyer.
Sets:  The Avenger's lab in London or maybe Bristol.  The descendant's room.  A university lab.  The villain's/villains' lab.
Details:  The looks of the Clockwork Avenger, both steampunk and modern versions.  The load-out of the Avenger, both versions.  The villain's/villains' plans.  How the law office managed to keep the blueprints over one hundred years.
What I have:  The first Clockwork Avenger armour - steampowered power armour with ether canister launcher.  The second Avenger armour, less bulky and using 3D printing techniques, replacing the ether canisters with TASERs.  How the descendant can afford to make the new armour.

The Elf's Prisoner
Cast needed:  High elf priest.  Dark elf magician.  High elf rogue.  Human knight.  Human squire.  Villain.  Dark elf's sister.  Cannon fodder.
Sets:  Elf town.  Forested area.  Human city.  Villain's lair.
Details:  How magic works, both arcane and divine.  The villain's plan.  Where the various locations are relative to each other.
What I have:  How elf society works (matriarchal families coming together for a council of ruling families).  The heroes, except for names.

Maybe I should panic...

* I needed a small enough private jet that could still fly Ottawa-Paris non-stop.  The best fit still required a co-pilot.  Research!
** Universal World Profile.  It's a shorthand way to get general details of a planet in the Traveller role-playing game.  Covers things like world size, population, government type, and law.  The UWP might not even appear in the story, but it'll handy to have a seven-character code when writing.  Earth of today has the UWP E-877A74-7.

16 Oct 2015

Crossover - Chapter 9

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade

Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, late night
Nasty entered the hotel room she shared with Eric.  He followed inside after her.  "Tash, are you sure you want to come back here?"

"Yeah.  I'm tired.  It's," Nasty checked the time on the room's alarm clock, "past midnight.  You can stay at the dance longer if you want."

"I'm fine.  It wouldn't be as fun there without you, you know?"

Nasty dropped on to the couch and kicked off her shoes.  She wriggled her toes, working out the kinks.  "It didn't go as bad as I thought."

15 Oct 2015

Crossover Chapter 8 - Commentary

The invaders discover the convention.  Welcome to the commentary for the eighth chapter.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

The first night of the CHC finally comes to a close with a dance.  At least the three main characters are in the same room and talk to each other.  Security having red shirts was deliberate.  It'd be expected, really.  Also means that the security staff might feel a little under-appreciated.

Meredith hasn't heard of Nasty, though she is aware of both Eagle and Peregrine.  She knows that Peregrine unmasked but who Peregrine was has slipped her mind.  The animated Justice League Unlimited series had a similar take, when Lex Luthor swapped bodies with the Flash.  When Luthor unmasked himself to see who the Flash really was, he never recognized the face beneath.  Wally West wasn't a household name, unlike Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Oliver Queen (Green Arrow).*  Nasty, despite the big splash, isn't a household name.  Her neighbourhood and her school are well aware of her celebrity, but the further away from there, the less people know about her and her life, even if they do know Peregrine unmasked.

Keith's dancing was inspired by The Sims 2.  In the game, Sims that are outgoing but new to dancing tend to make bold moves that cause them to fall.  Keith is using a few moves from the game.  He may even have learned from the game; Keith much prefers a simulation of social interaction to the real thing.

Nasty's making a leap in her logic in assuming that Vicki's counterpart is helping her own.  To be fair, it's not a bad assumption.  For all she knows, mirror-Vicki could be the mastermind or could just be an innocent bystander.  Bringing in Pixie isn't a bad idea; two heroines are better than one, and Pixie can remove people from a fight without hurting anyone.  Vicki is taking full advantage of the situation; she's never heard Nasty ask for help before.  She wanted to hear it again.

The alternate universe Vicki went on about is from fanfiction.  Alternate universe (AU) fics take the characters from one work and transplant them.  Another example would be taking the characters from Jane Eyre and placing them into a modern day high school with Mr. Rochester becoming a sparkly vampire that never grows old**.  Vicki's example with Lost is a little dated, but works.  Today, she'd use Harry Potter or Big Bang Theory for her example.

Or maybe not.  Vicki explicitly references the Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror", where Kirk and a landing party are sent to a mirror universe because of a transporter accident.  The Spock of that universe sports a goatee, launching a meme that is still going.***  Eric would get the reference.  Nasty?  Not so much.  This is setting up their eventual break-up down the road.  Nasty and Eric are good friends and are a cute couple, but there's enough differences to cause problems.  Besides, they're still young.  There's no need for them to become lifelong partners.  Plus, added drama!

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 9.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the History of Adaptations continues with the New Teens.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the History of Adaptations
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

* Lex did have Wally's fingerprints at his fingertips.  With some effort, he could have discovered who Wally is, if he cared enough.
** I never said anything about the quality of AU fics.
*** Evil-Kirk didn't have a goatee, but Leonard Nimoy's portrayal and striking looks cemented the image.

11 Oct 2015

NaNoPrep 2015 - Update

With just three weeks to go before NaNo November, I need to figure out what I'm doing.  Somehow.  I don't need to know what happens in the middle, but I need to have at least characters, a starting position, and a direction.  It's easier for me to hit the ground running* after letting the characters form in my head than it is to stare at a blank document waiting for an idea to strike.  I have had a few ideas already, summarized below.

Unruly:  Students at a school for girls who are trouble.
Streetwise Valkyries:  Street-level teams of heroes masquerading as one superhero.
The Clockwork Avenger:  Steampower power armour, with the action split between two eras.
Colony Base 183 (working title):  Set on a frontier base near borders with other star-faring nations.
Lakehead Shield (working title):  University students solve mysteries and fight crime in Thunder Bay.
A fifth idea came to mind, an science fiction espionage story, melding the two genres.
A sixth, essentially a Shadowrun webcomic, is also playing through my head, but isn't under consideration.

This will be my tenth year participating.  I'm placing some requirements for this year.  First, the work must be novel length.  That lets out Unruly, unless I work on an end-of-year story, which I'm not ready to do yet.  Streetwise Valkyries also falls off the chart here; its nature leads to a serial instead of a full-length novel.  The SF/spy story isn't quite ready; there are details being sorted out.  That leaves Clockwork, Colony Base, and Lakehead.  With the latter having some work done, it's sort of out of consideration for now.

Both of the remaining two have core characters in mind and a rough direction.  Clockwork has the smaller cast so far, but will involve writing a story spanning two eras.  That's a feature, though.  Colony Base 183 needs some extra world building and some serial numbers filed off, but could be doable.  Both should work as a self-contained novel, though with room for more later if I felt like it.

The next step I need to do is work out the cast for both, then see how the various elements work out.  The ideal situation is where I get the characters to find a direction that can be exploited.  Failing that, a new idea comes to mind based on the attempts to get a plot going.

All in three weeks.  Easy.

* Running from behind, technically.  Can-Con runs October 30 to November 1 this year.  I may get a few words in somewhere, but no guarantees.  Won't be the first time a convention had me working from a deficit, though.

9 Oct 2015

Crossover - Chapter 8

Featuring Subject 13, Prototype Alpha, and Pixie of Youth Brigade
Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, early evening
Nasty shut off the tap.  Water dripped from her bare hands into the ladies' room sink.  She looked up into the mirror, the featureless mask of Peregrine's helmet looking back at her.  Why couldn't Doll-girl have been invited?  I'd be better off as just another face in the crowd.  It's not like I need this costume anymore.

Micki's voice sounded in her ear.  "Peregrine, are you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here."  Nasty grabbed a handful of paper towels to dry her hands.  "Tell me you've found the signal again."

8 Oct 2015

Crossover Chapter 7 - Commentary

Nasty works out who crossed over and Vicki meets people who have heard of her.  Welcome to the commentary for the seventh chapter.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

The bits featuring the convention are purely for colour.  I tried to get the feel of a con in, even if the action leads elsewhere.  The goal was a feeling of immersion for the readers.  Whether this is working, that's something that the reader, er, you, can tell.  Mind, each con has its own feel to it.  Even two major cons covering the same subject will have separate personalities.  This is a feature; if every con seemed the same, no one would travel past the closest convention.

Part of the unwritten backstory is that Nasty and the Youth Brigade have run into each other in New York.  Nasty doesn't do the costumed hero bit, but steps in when she needs to, as seen in Chapter 1.  Vicki embraces the idea of the costumed hero, as does the rest of the Youth Brigade, and she is always on the lookout for new recruits.  Nasty fits several of Vicki's criteria - has a power, has worn a costume, and is under twenty years old.  Much to Vicki's dismay, Nasty isn't a joiner.  She prefers to work alone.

The first scene with Vicki had a part removed.  Originally, Vicki complained about still being on Eastern time.  Turns out, Cleveland is on Eastern time.  Fourteen hour drives do not get you out of a time zone.  She was in the air maybe two hours at most, though time spent at the airport may have been longer.

The discussion Nasty and Eric have about baseball is the split between the National League and the American League.  The American League has the designated hitter (DH) rule, where pitchers have someone else take their at-bat.  It's a very specialized position; the DH doesn't take the field.  Nasty is a Mets fan, and Mets pitchers do take their turn at-bat.  Most pitchers* are a guaranteed out at the plate, but they usually try a sacrifice hit to move runners on base along.  The scene sets up some longer-term plans, too.  Nasty and Eric will be a couple for a while, but will break up.  They're both young; they'll mature, grow, discover other people, drift apart, and all that other fun stuff.

Vicki and Meredith are just there for now.  They haven't been brought into the Foundation's operation, in part because the Foundation is unaware of them.  Nasty knows about Vicki, but Meredith is the outsider.  It's a drawback of crossovers.  Unless the characters have met previously and trust each other, someone gets left out, at least at first.  Meredith is aware of Peregrine's existence, barely, but she and Nasty haven't met.  Thus, Prototype Alpha gets left out for now.  Meredith's scenes are more character building and showing off more of the convention.

Nasty's dread of a dress and dancing comes from a lost issue of Subject 13.  While Nasty hates short skirts, as seen during her Rochester adventures, she isn't comfortable when the hem falls below or knees or longer.  In the lost issue, she and Eric go to a school dance that gets interrupted by Subject 7.  Subject 7 challenges Nasty, and the battle becomes a beat down, leaving Nasty's dress ruined, along with numerous injuries to both fighters.  Fortunately, Eric's experience at conventions helps.  Fancy dress at a con means cosplay, not a proper dress.  Nasty can get away with jeans and a t-shirt, provided both are clean.

Vicki, not being involved in the main drama, decided to start some of her own.  Eric is oblivious to what's happening, but Vicki has set her sights on him.  She does have a sense of self-preservation, though.  Vicki is well aware of Nasty's violent past and thus won't push too hard.  If Eric happens to leave the door open to future liaisons, though, Vicki won't complain.

Alec and Pierce turned out to be mouthpieces for ideas.  This time, it's the nature of entertainment.  New York City was the home to both Marvel and DC Comics, though the latter has moved to the West Coast to join up with the rest of Warner.  New York is the home to several major publishers and newspapers, so having comic companies in the same city where the infrastructure is makes sense.  Time and technology marched on, though.  Movies and television grew since Action Comics #1, and Hollywood gained in prominence.  If comics were to come into existance today, Los Angeles could be the home for the publishers instead.  Or possibly Tokyo.

Tomorrow, Crossover Chapter 8.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the History of Adaptations continues with the Aughts.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, the History of Adaptations covers the New Teens.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

* There are exceptions.  Dan Schatzeder, a middle relief pitcher for the Montreal Expos, had a hot streak at the plate in 1984, hitting .314 and being brought in to pinch hit before taking the mound.