21 Jul 2017

The Devil You Know - Chapter 1

Ione shivered in the early morning chill.  She adjusted her grey overcoat, trying to keep warm and trying to ignore the weight of the SIG Sauer under her left shoulder.  The pistol was on loan from her British hosts.  Ione peered into the false dawn at the warehouse.  Two of her hosts enter the building.

"Everyone, look lively."  The British woman's tone was clipped and sharp.  Acknowledgements clicked over the radio.  Ione added hers as she crouched down near a a scraggly bush.  A mist built up over the warehouse's parking lot.

Gemma's voice broke the silence again.  "Car and a truck arriving."

Ione looked past the warehouse taking note of the approaching headlights.  Once the vehicles stopped, she raised her binoculars and zoomed in on the passengers.  "Four people total," she reported.  "Confirm that Babbage is there."  Babbage was the code name Ione chose for her contact, a weapons dealer.

"Acknowledged," Michael replied.  "Time to get to work."

20 Jul 2017

The Soul Blade Epilogue - Commentary

Brenna had her talk with Matt, in The Soul Blade Epilogue.

Okay, now it's over.  So many dangling plot points.  But, the last chapter gets some explanations that didn't fit with the direction I was going in.  And Brenna got to talk to Matt properly.  Sort of.

Matt probably should have called first to avoid surprising Brenna.  If he did, he'd never have been able to see flustered!Brenna.  And while Brenna being flustered would add to a NaNoWriMo word count, I wasn't writing the epilogue for a NaNo event.  She's just trying to work out her thoughts and separate them from her desires.  Good thing the door is open and facing the rest of the neighbours.

Nellie's is fictional, but I searched for a typical pub menu in Brenna's area to figure out what the vegetarian offerings are.  Fish and chips is a standard, though, and beat a burger.  I figured Matt wouldn't go for beef when out with Brenna.  He's not oblivious.  The ambiance is generic, but most pubs aren't going to have specialized music mid-afternoon.  Top 40 music is inoffensive, usually, and easy to come by.  Matt can take Brenna to a bar that plays Japanese metal idol on a later date.

There are some quick explanations thrown in.  Why Grace stepped up to fight Brenna instead of letting someone else.  Why Brenna had Matt get closer in the fight.  Why Brenna wears gloves and had a bed in her van.  What the Ashen Man's plan was, though even Grace didn't tell the full story; he was going to open a portal, get his minions to bring his body, transfer back, then sacrifice Brenna.  Grace might have seen that, but didn't tell her sister.

Brenna's psychometry is a plot-breaking ability.  She just has to touch something to get a good read on what events happened with it.  However, it's always on.  Just brushing up against something can trigger a vision.  She gave Matt fair warning about the ability, and she can refrain from looking even when curious.  Try not to think about what happens in hotel rooms.  Best case, Brenna gets a flash of passion.  Worst, well, hotel rooms have been murder scenes, and it's awkward to ask if a crime occurred in the room she's assigned.

I have no idea where Brenna's jealous streak came from.  An early version of Brenna had it, but she was sixteen and had just received the Blade, so the possessiveness came from the sudden increase in sexual desire and her not coping at all with it.  But here?  Brenna doesn't share, apparently.  Tillie is who Matt says she is, someone who gave him advice.  She has her own story, but she didn't get a chance to tell it here, so feel free to make up your own backstory for her.  All characters have a story; some just don't get the time in the spotlight to tell it.

And now, that is it for The Soul Blade.  I hope everyone reading enjoyed it.  A new story starts next week, The Devil You Know, from NaNo 2013.  Since I was able to get The Soul Blade done because of posting it here, I'm going to give that a shot with the new work.  The Devil You Know is an urban fantasy crossed with a spy thriller.  Have fun!

Friday, the first chapter of a new story, The Devil You Know.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, a hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Return.

14 Jul 2017

The Soul Blade - Epilogue

Previously:
"Too many futures."
"Get off me, fluff."
"Get out of my body!"
"What part of 'No one dies,' did you not get?"
Three days of being stuck at home alone was all that Brenna could take.  Her father had his work and Amy filling his time.  Grace kept busy working two jobs to raise money for her move to LA and reading ahead for her fall classes while still juggling time with her friends.  Her visiting family left for home Sunday evening, leaving the house quiet again.  With her van crushed, Brenna couldn't leave the house without bothering Missy.  Even her sewing starting to be tedious, especially with no way to get out to a craft show or a small convention to sell the results.  Joni hadn't reappeared after the fight, worrying Brenna a bit, but without being able to get to Bert Stanford's building, she couldn't just assume her mother had finally moved on.  She also didn't want to know if her mother was getting friendly with Bert; it was bad enough that Brenna's own sex drive was overactive, she didn't want to know that her mother's was still working.

13 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Commentary 2 of 2

A rogue robot has existential angst in the conclusion of "Boomers Like Me".

Lorelei has made her escape and has a new life as Erin.  The story picks up six months later.  A lot of the details I might have fleshed out more if I wasn't hampered by a word count limit.  The fanfic contest encouraged short stories, mainly for the ease of the judges.  I mentioned the difference last week, but it doesn't hurt to say it again here - writing short stories is a different enough skill from writing novels.  Short stories have to get to the point, so there's no time to get into details, like Lorelei meeting with the black marketer to get new identification.  It's worth trying both formats, especially if you're writing fan fiction = it lets you discover and expand your writing abilities.

Lorelei/Erin is now in Tokyo.  Why there?  That's where the Knight Sabres are, the main characters of Bubblegum Crisis.  My approach to fanfic is that the characters who appear in the original do need to make an appearance.  Otherwise, I'm just writing original fiction under someone else's title*.  And I have a rogue boomer, the main target for the Knight Sabres.  So, this chapter has a lot more name dropping than the first.  The AD Police - the unit responsible for fighting rogue boomers - also appear, mostly as cannon fodder.  Other names dropped - Hot Legs, the nightclub Priss performs in; Lady S633, home to Sylia Stingray, the head of the Knight Sabres; Silky Doll, Sylia's cover business, a lingerie story; the Member II pistol, a cut down rifle that Pris prefers to use.

Ariko, though, is my creation.  She's a fellow courier, though she rides a bicycle, and a way to show that Lorelei/Erin is fitting in with others.  Ariko doesn't suspect that her friend is a rogue boomer, and Erin isn't telling her, for good reasons.  Ariko's main purpose is to get Erin into Silky Doll.  However, she's also the reality anchor for the boomer.  As long as Ariko is there, Erin can fit in with humans.

The trip to Silky Doll does raise an odd question - what sort of underwear does a robot wear?  Most people want comfort, some want to feel sexy.  Given the purpose of Lorelei's make and model, she's going to have touch sensors.  But if she's buying for herself, instead of being supplied by an owner, then the question is just hanging there.  I figured Erin would go with inexpensive underwear - something that can last under normal wear and tear but without the issues that arise from digestion and reproduction.  She's not dating; there's no need for anything fancy, and her programming lets her feel sexy no matter what she wears.  Naturally, I only think about this question now instead of while writing - the answer was so obvious then, but without the thought processes that led to the conclusion.

The above is something to think about no matter the character, really.  What sort of clothes - underwear or outerwear - would the character wear?  Sometimes personality dictates the answer.  Autumn in Unruly has a drawer full of lacy underclothes while Skye has a number of sports bras along with fancier underwear for special occasions.  Nasty from Subject 13 wears comfortable underwear, often mismatched because she doesn't care about that sort of thing most of the time.  Although, she would have made the effort to make sure panties and bra matched in Crossover.

The main thrust of Part II was to have robot existential angst.  Erin is well aware of who and what she is.  If she was merely a runaway robot, she'd be returned after a memory wipe.  However, she killed her owner.  Anyone hunting her isn't going to stop to consider what happened to cause her to kill, just that she killed and is dangerous.  Erin is well aware of that, too, thanks to news reports about the AD Police.  Renegade boomers get shut down, usually in a violent way.

There was a Part III written, but dropped for the fanfic contest.  It's been lost over the course of several hard drive changes, but I still have some of the feedback.  The last part was the last recording Erin made, ending with two words - "I am."  I really wish I could remember what I had there.

I also had ideas for a part in between Part II and the lost Part III..  It would have involved Wagner's youngest daughter, mentioned in Part I, tracking down Lorelei and using Ariko as a pawn.  Keep in mind that Lorelei considers the daughter to be much like her father.  Erin would have had to reveal her secret to Ariko during the chapter.  The events would force Erin to decide which was more important to her, Ariko's life or her own.  It wouldn't have been an easy choice, either.  I have a start to it, from Ariko's point of view.  However, "Boomers Like Me" was one of three fanfics that got me wondering why I wasn't creating an original work, considering how little of the main Bubblegum Crisis cast appear in the story.

I don't normally write in the first person.  I prefer ensemble casts, even when I have a solo lead - see also Subject 13 and The Soul Blade.  With a first person perspective, the only events that are shown are those that the main character is around to participate in or, at least, witness.  The fight between the AD Police and the rogue boomer - taken from the first episode of the OAV - had Erin hiding.  I kept the fight short - the purpose was to propel Erin into her angst, not make her a participant.  The hardest part of writing in the first person was keeping the tenses straight.  The first draft had tense problems all the way through.  I naturally tried to use past tense, which is how most stories are told.  Except, the opening sentence - "He is dead" - doesn't hit as hard in the past tense.  One sentence determined the nature of the writing that followed.

First person also meant trying to figure out how to get key details out to the reader.  Look at this commentary - I use "I" when referring to myself, not my name.  Yet, I needed the name out there early enough so that it didn't look like I was hiding it.  Wagner's bodyguard used Lorelei's name more so that the reader knew who she was.  Likewise, getting a description of Lorelei in resulted in a scene where she changes her looks.  Apparently, you can get away with one mirror scene in a writing career to describe a character, and that was mine.

"Boomers Like Me" was my most serious fanfic.  I tended towards oddities and crossovers, or even odd crossovers.  The effort was about the same, though in 2000, I was still on the improvement curve.  The story let me stretch my abilities, which is always a good thing.  Without "Boomers Like Me", I might not have had the confidence for /Subject 13/, and that work was a gateway to longer efforts.

Friday, The Soul Blade epilogue.  Surprise!
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Bond Project introduction..
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, a hiatus week.  Things got weird for me this week.  Sorry.


* If you read last week's commentary, that's why I switched to original fiction - I was just using the setting, not the characters.  Note that there can be exceptions, mostly where the setting is large enough that original characters can explore without ever running into anyone from the main work.  Works that can support such approaches include the various Star Trek series and, arguably, Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica (either version).

11 Jul 2017

NaNo 2017 - Four Months to Go!

With under four months until November, it's time to review the possible projects.  I listed a few back in April, but I've had time to think about what to do.  Some ideas have changed, some ideas have been added to the list.

The Shadowrun serial may be the front runner right now.  I have the first two arcs of the series in mind, and the cast is more or less stable.  Ultimately, I want to take the serial and adapt it as an audio script, to see how that process would turn out.  Why audio?  The special effects are easier; no need to use extensive CGI for trolls and dwarves and no need for makeup effects for elves.

The time-travelling kaiju invasion is also shaping up, though it will need a portion written before NaNo starts, just to set up what happens in the first chapter.  Because of time travel, it's not a prologue.  Temporal mechanics flip cause and effect, but the bit written before NaNo won't count towards the 50k words needed.  I probably won't reach the events for some time in the story.  I'm also working out the rules the defense team uses when time travelling.  Since they are still trying to figure out temporal physics, they're doing everything possible to avoid paradox.  Their method of travelling uses a variation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, where they can know where a team is going or when a team is going, but not both.  It's easier to plan for a known time than a known location, so the team uses the former when planning.  Going to the late 19th Century?  These are the typical clothes, this is a typical weapon, and tell not!Burt to hide his rifle better.

The Terran Commonwealth stories - the new colony and the courier crew - are on hold.  The ideas are sound, but plots are thin.  They're on the back burner while I work out just what the casts are supposed to do.  Not a problem, really.  Other ideas are going to take their place.

Finishing The Devil You Know is also off the table.  Posting The Soul Blade created a push to finish it, so why not try that again with The Devil You Know?  That means that once "Boomers Like Me" is complete, you can expect to see TDYK appearing on Fridays.

An older project, though, wants attention.  Mecha Academy, an older work that hasn't seen much light, could use a rewrite of the beginning to properly set up the characters.  When I was working on it, I was trying to turn it into a novel.  The story isn't working out that way, though.  It is a serial at its heart, and would work best in that format.  The chapters need changing to reflect the new approach, and I do need to work out what all the characters' arcs are, not just two in particular.  Fortunately, the setting is mostly built, and can be easily expanded as necessary.  I even worked out rank structures, since the academy is for military cadets.

I also have an old Final Fantasy VIII fanfic that could get the numbers filed off without losing much from the story.  As I mentioned in the first "Boomers Like Me" commentary, this was one of three fanfics I worked on that had me wondering why I didn't just do original fiction.  There are going to be questions, such as why is there a military academy taking in young teenagers and sending them out as elite soldiers before they turn eighteen, to be worked out, but rebuilding the world may help.  I'll also have to make sure that it doesn't look too much like RWBY, which has a similar premise.  However, the characters are solid enough and can be moved to the new setting without too much effort.

Unruly and Subject 13 both need more love.  I've posted some ideas about Unruly already, and there are some outstanding plot points that need development and wrappage.  Subject 13, though, was left just before what would be a massive crossover event in a major comics line and is a major headache for a serial with just one title.  I may want to skip to the aftermath of the battle against the Four Horsement of the Apocalypse to get Nasty back on her own arc so she can finally return home.

At some point, I'll have to narrow down the selection.  Right now, though, I do want the wider range, to let me see what intrigues me enough to delve into the idea further.  I don't want a replay of 2015, where The Elf's Prisoner was the last minute choice with next to no preparation and world building done on the fly.  Made for an interesting November, one where I wasn't sure what direction I was going in.  With the above, I do have an idea of where I'm going, though without a path set.

9 Jul 2017

The Unruly Gap

A recent Lost in Translation review gave me a reason to watch a couple of the St. Trinian's films.  For those not aware of St. Trinian's, it's a cartoon gag comic strip created by Ronald Searle that had been adapted as a series of movies first in the Fifties and then again in 2007.  The girls of the school are, well, delinquents, the type who see field hockey as an excuse to turn their violent instincts against another school instead of one another.  St.  Trinian's is also the grandmother to Unruly by way of the tabletop RPG, Hellcats & Hockeysticks, itself essentially being the unofficial St. Trinian's RPG.  After viewing both the 1954 The Belles of St. Trinian's and the 2007 reboot St. Trinian's, I realized one thing about Unruly.

I have to step up the Unrulies' activities.

While Caitlin could easily deal with the sixth form girls from the '54 film, the fourth form girls would give her fits.  Most of that is on Caitlin - she's a Bond villain-in-training, not a criminal mastermind.  She wouldn't be able to handle the raw chaos that the fourth formers provide.  Most of my work so far has been with Laura and Caitlin, and the redhead is conservative, which rubbed off on her roomies.

The 2007 film, though, well, they would eat the Unrulies for lunch and ask for seconds.  Just listen to their school song.  The best the Unrulies have is "Tubthumping"; it's even where the school's motto, "Concidimur sed resurgimus"* comes from, thanks to my University of Alberta Classics faculty cousin and her husband.  Even the '54 movie had "In flagrante delecto", or "Caught in the act".  The difference is mottos and school songs reflects the difference in schools.  The Gephardt Academy is there for girls who are trouble and have nowhere else to go.  St. Trinian's is for budding and blooming criminals.  Still, there are lessons to use.

The big one is that there isn't an Unruly version of the posh totties of the reboot movie, the girls who are getting by more on their beauty than their brains.  Cassie was originally meant to be this type of girl, but she went in a different direction, and the rest of the Unrulies don't really give her the respect or credit for being able to do anything with walking her through step by step.  Autumn thinks she's in that group, but she's easily distracted.  Oddly, Skye may turn out to be better for the role, but she doesn't advertise the fact.

Again, putting Laura in with Caitlin means that using beauty for gains is off the table.  It's just below Caitlin, and she's the mastermind of the dorm room.  However, there are more girls than just that one room.  I haven't fleshed out the full senior class.  There's about twenty or so girls in the one class, English, they all have in common, and I've only named eleven publicly and one more in a work in progress.  That gives me at least two more dorm rooms to fill, and Cassie does run the Fashion Club.  There's room.

What can I do to close the gap and make the Unrulies the threat that they're supposed to be.  I do have two characters who have ties to the criminal element.  Vamsi fills the Flash Harry role, the go-between and fixer between the Unrulies and the Oshawa criminal element.  Laura is more familiar with parts of the Toronto underground, though she's more supply side than thief.  That does leave a huge gap that could be filled by a yet-unnamed Unruly.  And the Academy does look for girls who are creative at breaking the law.  There's always room for a Bay Street insider and a budding young cat burglar.


* "Concidimur sed resurgimus/Subjectos nos non retinebitis" for the full chorus.  It does scan with the music.

7 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Part 2 of 2

(Note: Bubblegum Crisis and related characters copyright and trademark of Artic and Youmex, with North American rights held by AnimEigo and are used here without permission.  "Boomers Like Me" was originally submitted to Anime North's fanfiction contest in 2000, winning the Best Action/Suspense category.)

II -- June, 2032

        It's been six months since, well, since escaping.  Shortly after I arrived in Tokyo, I adopted a new identity.  I found a black marketer in the Yokohama district who was willing to allow me to pay for the identity in part with my hard currency and in part with services rendered.  In exchange for my new identity as Erin Merrick, I became a courier for the black marketer.  I still owe him a favour, and he is waiting to call it in.

        After paying back most of what I owed, I was hired by a legitimate courier company.  I paid for my motorcycle and some protection -- a Member II pistol -- with returns on stock investments.  I made sure that with every side job I took, some of the money was invested in the stock market.  The black marketer allowed me to miss payments several weeks after seeing how well I was doing.

        That brings me to now.  It's late.  I have a package to be delivered.  Business never sleeps in Tokyo, and the lights from street lamps and ads guide me down the street.  The only thing on my mind is to deliver the package as quickly as I can.

6 Jul 2017

Boomers Like Me - Commentary 1 of 2

Last week, I posted the first of a two-part fanfic.  "Boomers Like Me" was one of three fan works I created that had me wondering why I didn't just do original work, the other two being an incomplete story based on Final Fantasy VIII and an incomplete alternate-future Sailor Moon story partially posted elsewhere.  That last one involved enough world building that I could have created an original work for the same effort.

I am not putting down fanfiction.  It's a great way for budding authors to learn the mechanics of writing while building confidence and finding their writing voice where the the stakes are low.  Experimenting is to be expected.  But when you start making wholesale changes to the setting and characters, it may be time to make the leap to original fiction, even if it's still inspired by fandom.  Again, everyone has to start somewhere.

The bulk of "Boomers Like Me" was written December 31, 1999 to January 1, 2000.  I ended 1999 the way I spent most of the year - doing overtime.  The Y2K bug was more hype than effect, mainly because IT departments were working hard to make sure that critical systems didn't cause major time problems, such as rolling back a hundred years or jumping ahead 17 000*.  I was supposed to be scheduling test files to make sure that they triggered properly.  They did.  But in between the scheduling, which was easily done from a batch file, I typed up `Boomers Like Me".  It was a few weeks later when I finally had the time to sleep and wind down a bit from work when I realized that I wrote a story about an artificially intelligent robot having a homicidal break the night of the Y2K bug.

Lorelei's origin came from R. Talsorian's Bubblegum Crisis RPG as much as she did the direct-to-video anime series.  Granted, the game was based on the anime, and included all the elements from both Bubblegum Crisis and the follow-up/prequel series, AD Police.  The book was ideal for looking up little details after watching the series.  In the game, it was possible to be a boomer, the setting's name for a robot, but the suggestion was to keep the android character around the same power level as human PCs.  Thus, combat boomers were out, but the BU-33S, aka the sexaroid, was allowed.

Every bit of writing advice I'd heard included making sure that the story started with a hook that would keep readers wanting more.  The very short first paragraph, all of two words, was what I thought of - short, succinct, enough information to show what just happened without necessarily going through the actual murder itself.  The follow up paragraph went right into the main character's mindset with her immediate panic.  The entire first part was the escape, getting away from the scene of the crime, building towards the end.

During Lorelei's escape, I tossed in what would normally be mundane encounters.  Lorelei, though, is in full flight, running away and sees everything as a potential threat to her existence.  The annoying seatmate attracts attention from station security.  Customs follows up on obvious discrepancies, and this was before security theatre existed in airports.  At the same time, Lorelei is an artificial intelligence.  Her thoughts come from heuristics that include simulated emotions.  Her thinking shows how she invokes those emotions.

The idea of an android gaining sentience is an old one.  In film, renegade robots can trace back to the German film Metropolis.  Not all robots go mad when they gain sentience - Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is a perfect example.  Lorelei committed murder just before the story started, but it may have been justified.  So, temporary insanity or self-defense?

As mentioned in the disclaimer at the beginning of the chapter, "Boomers Like Me" won its category at Anime North's fanfic contest.  I wound up winning something for the contest's first five years, never getting the grand prize, but placing no lower than Honourable Mention, getting category wins four years out of five.  This is after slowly turning around my desire to write and not having confidence.  Apparently, I can write.  Go fig.

The fanfic contest had a 5000-word limit, which I may have slipped by or came close to exceeding with "Boomers Like Me".  This puts the work solidly into the short story range.  The skills needed to write a short story are just different enough from writing novel-length works, something I discovered in 2006 with Lethal Ladies.  Short stories reward conciseness and getting to the point quickly.  There really isn't much time for in depth development.  Everything needed has to be out there.  Yet, I didn't want to just state what everything was.  Details are there, but much of it is through inference, including the personality of Lorelei's owner.

Friday, the conclusion of "Boomers Like Me".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, St Trinian's.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Bond Project introduction.


* I was using Windows 3.1 running on top of DOS 6.22.  DOS handled the change from 1999 to 2000 with no problems. Windows 3.1 used the last two digits of the year, then added a `19`in front, leading to years being listed as 19100.  It still worked, mainly because Windows ran on top of DOS at the time, so files were dated correctly, just not displayed properly.