27 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 18

"Don't ever do that to us again!"
"You saw what was going to happen tonight."
"And sometimes, no matter what I do, the future happens."
"Grace, there has to be a reason we have these stupid abilities."
Grace took a deep breath.  "Yeah.  And if Missy so much as smacks me, I'm laying her out.  And remember that I want to be home by eleven, so I can sleep.  Early morning, remember?"

"I remember."  Brenna got out of the van.  "Make sure your door is locked."  She shut her door then walked over to join her friends.

"Get lost, Bren?" Missy teased.

"Just got involved in a sisterly talk, that's all."  As Grace arrived, Brenna hugged her tight.  "We're just a happy family, aren't we, Gracie?"

26 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 17 - Commentary

Brenna finds something worse than nothing while investigating, in The Soul Blade Chapter 17.

Turns out, Grace had a reason to stop Brenna from digging into the murders.  The sisters just don't communicate well.  As I've mentioned before in other commentaries, the Hallidays and their cousins have unusual abilities.  Grace's include precognition, though not with any control.  Her lack of foreknowledge beyond her graduation isn't because I didn't know what would happen, surprisingly.  This was planned as a key point.  Something is blocking her abilities, making sure that no one sees what is to come.  Sometimes, I do plan.  On the fly, but still plan.

Turns out, Brenna's psychometry, her object reading, can short circuit a plot.  I had set up a way around her ability early, the blank she saw at the scene of the first murder in the story.  If I didn't have Tricia as the villain, say an angry ghost that is acting beyond just screech and attack, Brenna could see who her opposition was.  However, just seeing wouldn't be that helpful.  If she doesn't recognize who she sees, she's still in a position where she has to keep looking.  However, Tricia's spell was far more than an erasure.  Brenna didn't do a deep search the first time; she just ran into blank so stopped.  This time, she went looking and ran into the spell.

I'm going to remind everyone that breaking works into chapters is a relatively new skill for me.  The Soul Blade wasn't broken into chapters originally; I'm retrofitting them in as I edit.  This chapter and next were one larger scene originally.  But, I'm trying to keep the chapters roughly the same size, though even that gets variable.  I'm trying to avoid short chapters; nothing under 1500 words, just to make reading the posted part worth the effort of reading.  Compare The Soul Blade to Unruly, a deliberate serial where I had real chapters.  Unruly's chapters are far more uniform in length, planned that way.  The Soul Blade is more haphazard.  However, I've been treating NaNoWriMo as a learning experience as well as a writing experience.  Each year, I try to do something new, to see what works and what doesn't, whether it's a genre or a writing style.  The Soul Blade was the first urban fantasy I wrote for NaNo, letting me explore the genre and giving me a better grounding for Unruly.

Tomorrow, girls' night in, in The Soul Blade Chapter 18.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.  Sorry.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Mad Max: Fury Road.

20 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 17

"Gracie, stop being annoying."
"Ever feel like the world is passing you by?"
"So, if this serial killer of ours was following a pattern, she'd be going after mousy brunettes with hormonal problems."
"I still need my big sis."
The women broke out of their group hug and started walking to the parking lot.  Brenna and Grace returned to the lavender Savana while Missy and Krista went to the latter's Toyota Tercel.  As they left, Brenna brought her van in behind the Tercel, keeping Krista in sight as they drove down to the beach.  After a few minutes, the vehicles were parked close to where Missy thought the murder happened.  The tall blonde led the group to the public showers.  Police tape crossed the entrances to both the men's and women's side.  "Must be the place," Missy said.

"Everyone keep watch," Brenna said.  She closed her eyes and let her focus shift.  When she reopened them, her friends basic nature was open to her.  Her sister, on the other hand, was muted, as usual.  The ocean appeared as completely black to Brenna, though the swimmer and sun worshipers stood out.  Brenna turned her attention to the taped-off building.

Nothing surprised Brenna from the building's residual auras.  The showers weren't used long enough by anyone to really pick up much more than a smattering of the basics.  Most people going in and out were happy; being at the beach tended to mellow people out, relax them.  A few had worries that only the traces of were found.  Hints of lust from people looking for a quickie twisted through the aura, but nothing Brenna could follow, even is she wanted to.  "Nothing," she reported.  "At least from here."

19 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 16 - Commentary

Brenna has a minor crisis, in The Soul Blade Chapter 16

Chapter 16 sees the first major rewrite post-NaNo.  Originally, Brenna had issues with her father's new girlfriend.  However, at the beginning, Brenna was supportive of the idea.  There's no reason for the about-face, either.  Amy's younger, but not Brenna's age and definitely not Grace's age.  The section wasn't excised, but rewritten, changing the focus from Amy to Brenna's worries.  The change will affect later chapters and the ending, but the change now doesn't come out of nowhere.

The location of Pastor Brown's, a fictional restaurant as far as I know, is real.  San Diego has a restaurant row, which I found out when editing.  Would have been nice to know at the time; that's three words per appearance instead of the placeholder's one.  Something to know for another time when looking for appropriate locations.  I may have thought about using Main and Washington, then looked up the intersection and decided that it wasn't the best place for an eatery.

Brenna and Missy wearing jeans is a big deal.  Both wearing jeans at the same time is almost unheard of.  Brenna prefers skirts, long enough to hide her legs.  Missy typically wears shorts, even at work; she enjoys the weather and likes showing off her legs.  That's not to say that they wear nothing but skirts and shorts, but that's their typical outfit.  Missy has skirts and dresses, most of which also show off her legs.  Brenna does have jeans and she has dresses that she's made herself.  It's just their preference.

Matt and Kevin's Miami Vice phase came out of nowhere, really.  It's a bit of colour during a bit of colour. and gives a bit more dimension to Matt.  It gave the women a chance to reminisce before going on to tease Brenna over Matt.  It goes to show that Matt's not really part of the crowd, which will come up again later.

The chapter was more character building than anything else.  At the time of writing, it also gave me a chance to review what Brenna knew about Tricia.  From there, I could figure out what both women were going to do.  Tricia's avoiding Brenna, thus Brenna needs to do the hunting, ignoring Grace's advice from earlier.

Tomorrow, investigating Tricia's recent victim, in The Soul Blade Chapter 17.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Mad Max: Fury Road.

18 Jan 2017

Test Run - Shadowrun: Run Faster - Blast Hardcheese

With Flint Ironstag, troll street samurai, done, let's try a more mechanically complex character.  Flint delved into the cybernetics rules, but cyber augments a metahuman.  Magic weirds things all on its own.  Concept is always the first stage of character creation.  At this point, I have an idea for a dwarf hermetic mage, so let's get going.  First things first, a name.  Like last week, I'll plunge the many names of David Ryder created by Mike and the Bots is the MST3K riff of Space Mutiny.  Let's put our faith in Blast Hardcheese.

12 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 15 - Commentary

Brenna can't get away from the murders.  Welcome to the commentary for The Soul Blade Chapter 15.

Tricia's actions have pulled Brenna back into the investigation.  The police don't like coincidences, and Brenna's already been at the scene of one murder and the scene of an attempted murder.  Detective McCoy believes Brenna's involved in some way, but isn't sure how.  Brenna, though, is a recent addition to the serial killings.  Fortunately for her, Brenna has a good alibi for her whereabouts during the last murder.  The bit with Detective Kirk was a last minute thought that got tossed in.  The idea was a riff on Kirk's reputation on the original Star Trek, and him hitting on Grace added a few extra words.  The extra doesn't advance the story, but gives an off-stage character a bit more rounding.

Missy's shop is one she dreamt of having as a teenager, a small surf shop on the beach.  She keeps busy trying to keep the shop afloat, but it's hers.  The name is one I had to think about and verify that it didn't exist at the time of writing.  "Gnarly's Boards" sounds like it should be a real place.  Now, there is a business with that name, selling electric skateboards, but at the time, there wasn't anything a quick Google search could find.

Brenna doesn't have much of a description of Tricia.  From her view, the attack happened too fast.  She was getting into her van when her mother yelled at her to drop down, then some crazy woman tried to stab her.  The only time Brenna could focus on anything other than the knife was after she broke the blade.  Tricia has a witness who doesn't know who she is.  Missy will have to wait some more before finding out all the juicy details.

The police weren't able to get to the crime scene before the press this time around.  The fewer details that got out, the lower the chance of a copycat murder.  The forensics teams involved could find the killing wound and the postmortem cuts, allowing the police to release a notice about the past murders, including cause of death, but not what happened to the skeleton.  "No need to panic the public."  Tricia chose a very public place for her latest attack, throwing away all attempts at keeping the series of murders quiet.

Krista is part of the group Brenna hung with in high school.  If you look back at the excerpt of an early Brenna story in the commentary for Chapter 12, you'll find Sylvia.  I couldn't find that file at the time of writing, so gave Sylvia a new name.  I never expected to post the excerpt.  Krista and Missy are people Brenna can count on, not just to help her out, but give her a kick in the pants when she needs it.

It was a slower chapter, though the story is moving.  Next week's chapter gets Brenna back into investigating.  For now, she needed to recover a little, then get a kick in the pants.

Tomorrow, Brenna's pulled back in, in The Soul Blade Chapter 16.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, preparing an adaptation's audience.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

11 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 16

"Was there another murder last night?"
"You might be the only person to have seen the murderer."
"Excuse me for being busy trying not to get stabbed at the time."
"Gory death left local man boneless."
Brenna returned home, parking her van on the street.  Back up in her room, she read over the emails.  The requests seemed simple enough to her, just a matter of sitting down and doing the work.  The new design might have some extra work to be done, preliminary drawings to get approved by the client and tests with fabrics, but nothing that she hadn't done before.

After a half hour of cutting fabric to the measurements provided, Brenna started up her sewing machine.  Her grandmother had left it originally to Brenna's Aunt Dawn, who passed the machine along when she bought a new one for herself.  Joni had never wanted to take up sewing, calling it a throwback to an era when women were confined to the house.  Brenna had to learn how to sew from her aunt, but she picked it up quickly.  If Grace had inherited the Soul Blade like her mother expected, Brenna could have finished college.  She wouldn't have had to drop out because of the need for an heir kept overwhelming her whenever she walked down a hall.

10 Jan 2017

Test Run - Shadowrun: Run Faster - Flint Ironstag

It's been some time since the last character generation system tested here.  Time to rectify that with a look at the Shadowrun 5th Edition supplement, Run Faster.  The supplement introduces a number of new options for characters, including a lifepath system to bring a character up from childhood to shadowrunner.  To see how it works, I'll create a new character, Flint Ironstag*, with the intent of making him some sort of street muscle.  First, as always, concept, already started above.  Flint will be a troll, with the idea that he's /the/ muscle of a team.  He's the one people turn to when a door needs to be kicked down.  From there, I'm open to ideas.  However, the idea is that Flint is from the streets of Seattle.  More after the break.

8 Jan 2017

NaNo 2016 - The Aftermath

November has come and gone and with it, NaNoWriMo,  My eleventh outing saw my eleventh win, with 56 536 words total.  LTV Paranormalists still has a working title, but it now has two arcs completed with a third started.  Each NaNo provides its own lessons.  This year had a few new ones.

First, flashbacks are finicky things and should not be abused.  The first arc's first four chapters had them, in part to show how the characters came together.  It didn't work out the way I wanted.  If I edit out the flashbacks, that takes out two chapters' worth of work.  Should I have done that?  If I hadn't, I wouldn't have known how it worked out.  So, the experiment was a failure, but I did learn from it, beyond, "don't do that!"  Flashbacks need support, which was lacking, and need to keep the flow going instead of interrupting matters.  I can pull out the flashbacks with some effort, and figure out how to show the group getting together.

Second, I have a good pace and pushing beyond it can leave me empty for a day or two afterwards.  The weekend of November 11-13 saw me writing 8772 words over the three days.  The Monday following, I only wrote 609 words*, a huge drop off.  Everything I wanted to add in went into the story over the weekend and I had nothing ready to continue with.  The result, some floundering as I tried to work out what was to come.  That Monday, though, I didn't fall behind, thanks to the sheer amount written over the previous three days.  Two thousand words per day is a good pace for me, with some brief pushes beyond possible without running out of energy or story.  Three thousand words is beyond a sustainable rate, and NaNo is a marathon, not a sprint.

Third, distractions come in all shapes and sizes.  I can't work in complete silence, but I also can't work with a new DVD playing.  I tend to fall back on familiar, comfortable series that I don't need to pay full attention to anymore.  But television isn't the only distraction...

"I will not be denied."  Photo by author.
Mischief is very insistent on getting what she wants.  She will paw at her treat drawer, and anything on the desk, and at me, depending on what it is she wants.  It takes time to deal with her, and there goes a good chunk of writing time.  Mischief will also repeat the requests every time I get up for anything.  I do better at write-ins because I don't have a cute and fuzzy attention beast at my side.

With NaNo 2016 over, it's time to start working out ideas for NaNo 2016.  I have a few, but none at the point where there's a direction, just characters in search of a plot.  Eventually, the plot arrives, but not just yet.

* I maintain a spreadsheet to track total and daily word count, then working out daily average and how many days ahead or behind I am.  It helps with motivation.

6 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 15

"Still waters, huh, Bren?"
"My little girl's growing up."
"Have you told Dad about the attack yesterday?"
"Stay here.  And watch out for Killer."
Matt got out of the cruiser.  "The guard dog.  Nice enough to any of us in uniform.  A little odd around everyone else."  He closed the door and walked off.

"Killer?  Matt, wait!"  Brenna opened her door.  She saw the young police officer walk into a trailer converted into an office.  "Matt!"  A dog growled, freezing Brenna with one leg out of the cruiser.    "Killer?  Nice puppy."  She looked around for the source of the growl.  "Good puppy."  Brenna brought in leg back in, nice and slow.

A huge doberman mix ran around the corner of the office trailer.  Brenna eeked, then slammed the door shut.  The dog leapt up, barking like mad at her.  Brenna held her hands up.  "Good doggie.  Nice doggie.  Down, please, Killer.  Matt!"

5 Jan 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 14 - Commentary

Brenna gets in some family time, in The Soul Blade Chapter 14.

After Tricia creating her own horror movie in Chapter 13, it was time for a breather.  Brenna is unaware of what happened, though that will change in upcoming chapters.  In the meantime, life goes on, even if Brenna at times feels like she's being left behind.  But first, Brenna has quality time with Matt.  She managed to maintain some control and enjoyed the moment.  This scene, though, becomes a problem later, where Brenna gets overly Matt-focused over the actual events.  Lack of planning on my part, mostly.  For now, Brenna gets her well-deserved romance in before things really fall apart.

Brenna is showing signs of maturing, even if she would prefer to be her daddy's princess.  Life does move on, and today, I'd weave that sort of theme in for Brenna.  However, her father and her sister are getting on with their own lives, which is something I did want to get out there.  Grace is graduating, and, with the new revelation this chapter, getting into Law at UCLA.

The breather ends with a bit of fun with Matt, though not that kind of fun.  Brenna is off to get her van back, the last loose end from Tricia's attack on her that needs to be tied off.  For anyone wondering why the product placement, it boils down to word count.  Candy apple red Monte Carlos beat a matte black Ferrari, but lavender Savanas lose to both, thus the addition of the maker.  The make itself caused fits with the spellchecker, with wavy red lines under every appearance.  That's on GM, using a misspelling to get a trademark.

Tomorrow, Brenna's pulled back in, in The Soul Blade Chapter 15.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the year-end wrap up.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, preparing an adaptation's audience.

1 Jan 2017

Hello 2017

Unlike 2016, 2017 comes in with the expectation of being a complete mess.  Expectations are lowered.  All 2017 has to do is be better than the previous year.  Try not to mess it up.