8 Dec 2017

Mecha Academy - Episode 1 - Roommates

Episode 1 - Roommates
Chapter 1 - From Around the Sector

Rhiannon slipped through the crowd inside Tamar's tiny spaceport.  She stopped long enough to switch her suitcase from one hand to another and get her bearings before continuing her walk.  This far from home, she hoped she wouldn't be recognized right away, but she didn't want ot take the chance.  She chose the Colonel KL Terin Military Academy because it was far from home.  Rhiannon didn't want interference, not from the press and definitely not from her parents.  Ever since her older brother's death two years ago, her parents ramped up their already over protectiveness to new levels.  Rhiannon just didn't want to be sheltered.  It wasn't as if she snuck away, exactly.  It was a family tradition for the heir to the Duchy of Bourgon to serve in the Royal Guard.  Her brother had been serving when he died.  Rhiannon didn't want to be the exception; she could still hear her brother's voice saying how important serving was.

7 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 20

Ione met the endgame players, in The Devil You Know Chapter 20.

This is how writers get on NSA watch lists.  The adage, "Write what you know," means researching areas that you've never considered before.  I got to research the illegal drug trade and specific mind benders just to figure out what would be involved in the three-way deal Jack's setting up.  I guessed at the amounts based on arrests and numbers tossed around on Miami Vice.  Three hundred kilograms of cocaine should be enough to keep Wall Street high until the end of time.  I needed the larger numbers to show how far up the chain Jack has gone.

Adding to the fun of the above research is krokodil, which gained notoriety in 2013 because it tended to eat away at its user base.  Krokodil is not a good substance to deal in; repeat users become scarce.  Ione pushes for it because she knows it'll be off the streets if Jack's plan works out.

With the weapons, I did some online research, but the bulk of my information came from tabletop RPGs set in the now.  The M-16 is the standard rifle for the US military, so was an easy weapon to choose.  Add in cases of a pistol, the Glock, and a few extras, and everyone is happy.  Except that the AK-74, like its predecessor the AK-47, was meant to be an export to nations that had limited manufacturing.  Get the assault rifle from the wrong supplier and it could be a shoddy weapon.

Ione now has enough evidence to put these guys away.  She just has to turn the information over to the police.  However, that's not why she's there.  As seen in Chapter 19, there is a bigger threat.  How will she deal with it?  Um, later.

Mara raises a good point.  Angels are awesome and terrifying.  Think about the greeting, "Fear not."  It's not "Hello," or, "How's it going," or even "Greetings, puny Earthling."  The angel said, "Fear not," like it was expected for Mary and Joseph to run away, or worse, in fright.  If you go back to Chapter 1, Ione ran.  Sure, part of it was because a warehouse had just exploded, but there was more going on.  You now may be wondering, why didn't Ben cause the same reaction?  Ben's working on muting his frightful side.  He's been among humanity for a while, just like Jack, so he knows how not to be frightening.

Mara.
I'm not sure how the little character bits between Ione and Mara came about.  I think it was just from their interactions in earlier chapters.  Here, Mara shows some vulnerability.  For a character who wasn't planned, she showed growth.  And even I was surprised to see the crush, but it came naturally.  Thus is the nature of pantsing in NaNo.

You may have noticed the TBA for next week.  I ran out of steam after crossing the 50k mark in 2013.  I have a start on Chapter 21, but it is in now way complete.  I felt like I had written myself into a corner.  Four years later, I think I have an endpoint to hit.  I will be working on it to have up as soon as possible.  This week, though, I'll put up the first chapter of Mecha Academy, raw, no edits, to show what I've been working on this year.  After that, it'll be week by week until I have The Devil You Know complete, with past short works appearing.  However, if TDYK goes much like The Soul Blade did, it shouldn't take long.  I have everything I need laid out.  It's time to pull everything together.

For an added bonus, I've designed Mara through The Sims 3.  While I figured I had a good idea of what she looked like while writing - she is a temptation demon, so what could tempt me? - it's always good to see if I can get the image in my head out.  I don't draw well, so games that allow for character customization are a huge help.

Friday, a sneak peak of Mecha Academy while I get the rest of The Devil You Know written.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be announced.

1 Dec 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 5 Update

Total Words: 67 911
Words Since Last Update: 7609
Completed Chapters: Episode 3 chapters 3, 4.

Pens down!  NaNoWriMo 2017 is over!

My pace slowed down in the last week.  Reaching 50k words meant the big push was over.  I also found that I was far off the original ideas I had for the story.  Some of the later character moments were going to occur far sooner.  That's not really a problem; the way the story was working out, having the tension between the two characters wasn't sustainable.  I also need the squad to work as a team properly.  So, off in a new direction I go!

This isn't my best word count.  That was 2009 with The Soul Blade, with over 83k words.  However, I am happy with the output.  I'm finding that I can maintain a good pace, can create content for longer periods (unlike 2006), and can rebound from a marathon writing session.  My wordiest day occured during the all-day write-in here, with 6250 words written.  Most will be kept, too.  I'm also just above 5000 words short of reaching 700k career NaNo word count.  Many words have been written.

Mecha Academy is going to be set aside for a bit.  I need to finish The Devil You Know, then I want a month off from posting fiction to focus on cleaning up last year's dba LTV Paranormalists.  I hope to work on Mecha Academy after that, to get the current episode completed.

It's far too soon to think about NaNo2018.  I need a bit of time away from the push before I can think straight about next November.  I now have four serials that want work done on them and I like to have a buffer before I start posting anything.

It was a blast participating again.  It felt odd to be motoring along like I was without the dreaded third week doldrums, but that was a good odd.  I am now 12-for-12 with NaNo.  The marathon is second nature now.  Maybe I can write.

The Devil You Know - Chapter 20

Previously:
Jack and Ben revealed their true natures.
After eating Ben's pork and sautéed onion stir fry, accompanied by a garden salad, the angel excused himself to let Ione and Karen catch each other up on the weekend happenings.  Ben also was the one who sensed someone approaching and was several steps away when a knock came from the door.  He opened it.  "Ah, Mara, we were expecting you."  The smile on the angel's face had no warmth behind it.

"Jack told me you'd be here.  Is Ione still here?"  Mara walked past Ben.  She wore a bright yellow bodysuit that she had unzipped to her navel, giving everyone in the room a good view of her cleavage.

Ione got up from the couch.  "I'm here, Mara."

Karen followed her friend.  "You're Mara?"  She appraised the newcomer.  "Ione, this is Mara?"

"Mara, my friend, Karen."

Karen waved her hand in front of her face.  "Did it just get warm in here?"

30 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 19

The spy thriller becomes an urban fantasy, in The Devil You Know Chapter 19.

Jack's nature revealed!  Finally!  And the biggest problem with labelling The Devil You Know as urban fantasy was the nature of the spoiler.  Until now, there's nothing explicit about the supernatural.  Sure, there were some odd happenings, but I didn't call attention to them.  Ione calls out Gemma having car problems at the end of Chapter 8, but even then, there's nothing said about how the car was disabled.

I did leave a few hints, though.  Some were just turns of phrases, but others were done with purpose.
Chapter 10:
"Speak of the devil."  I wanted to put the idea out there that Jack is a devil.  At this point, there's no reason to assume that Jack is one, just roguish.
Jack learned to fly in Gander.  This was to hint at his age.  Gander was used for training pilots during the First World War, and was also a refuelling point for trans-Atlantic flights.  Jack learned to fly in a biplane during WWI.

Chapter 12:
"No one has ever accused me of not having wealth and taste."  The Rolling Stones song, "Sympathy for the Devil" opens with the line, "Please allow me to introduce myself/I'm a man of wealth and taste."  Jack does have wealth, as seen with his private jet and the kopi luwak coffee.  He also prefers refinement, as seen in his hotel choices.  Again, the line was meant to place the idea of Jack being a devil in readers' heads.

Chapter 13:
The decadent coffee.  Jack chose that blend on purpose to tempt Ione.

Chapter 14:
Jack tempted Ione into having a one night stand against her better judgement.  That's what Jack does for a living, tempts people.

Ben's nature was hinted at, too, but since he and Karen were offscreen for most of the story, there's not much to go on.  Gemma did bash Karen over the head with her pistol.  That act should have left Karen with a concussion and in the hospital.  Ben healed her.

Given the reveal, it might be worth going back and checking out some of Mara's scenes.  There's a reason why she turned into Ms Fanservice.  Temptation demons are always on the job, though Mara is moonlighting a little.  The worst she did was tempt Ione with chocolate.

I didn't work out the theology.  I am using handwavium to distract readers.  Angels, devils, and demons exist.  Gemma has a Valkyrie in her family tree somewhere.  Some of the ideas were inspired by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, a comedy about the Apocalypse.  Other ideas came from Linda Poitevin's The Grigori Legacy series.  The main takeaways from both is that angels are frightening, humanity has potential, and the Final War between Heaven and Hell isn't a sure thing.  With the latter, if the War was a given for either side, it'd have been fought by now.  Expanding from just Christian beliefs into myths was me, though, and something I would explore again with dba LTV Paranormalists in 2016.

So, did the reveal work?  That's up to the readers to decide.  Let me know in the comments, please.

Friday, meeting the other players, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 20.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.

29 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 18

Gemma killed Jack, but it didn't take, in The Devil You Know Chapter 18.

It's not that Ione's corset is transforming her into being more assertive; her assertiveness is starting by wearing the corset.  Ione's reached a point where she's tired of being the passenger.  She's pushed back somewhat against Jack, but her sense of duty and her desire to find out what happened in Chapter 1 has been her main drive.  Now, she's becoming more active.

Ione's Google-fu is stronger than mine.  I haven't been able to find anything official for the song "Smuggler's Blues", let alone a video.  The lyric Ione quotes, "No matter if it's cocaine, heroine, or hash/You've got to carry weapons 'cause you always carry cash," was written in the 80s and is still a bit of advice drug dealers follow.  Jack's getting involved in a dangerous business, and he's bringing a small sword to a potential gunfight.  However, as seen later, Jack doesn't have much worry too much about that sort of thing.

Gemma was always meant to be one of the key characters, along with Ione and Karen.  I spent time working out a few details for them, ultimately creating a look for each of them in The Sims 2.  Somehow, getting the personalities worked out in the game managed to a good sequence that seemed to set up the antagonism Gemma has for Ione.  I didn't work out Mara; remember, she was a late addition because of crew requirements for Jack's jet.  The work in the game did let me get an idea of what the characters looked like for descriptions in the text.

Gemma left, Ione middle, Karen right.
Gemma: "Are you two seriously going along with this ridiculous plotline?"
(Photo capture from The Sims 2)

Ione: "Do you have anything better to do?  I don't see you going out there and auditioning for other stories."
(Photo capture from The Sims 2)

Gemma: "You can do that?"
(Photo capture from The Sims 2)
That leaves Jack.  Gemma shot him.  Jack should be dead.  And yet, there he is.  He's a little angry; getting shot tends to do that to a person.  The big reveal is in Chapter 19, but should be confirmation that Jack is far more than he appears.  I'm hoping that there was a bit of a surprise to what happened with him, but I also started to lay down a few clues ahead of time.

While writing this chapter, I was wondering if Gemma should have Karen stashed somewhere.  The problem with that is Karen's not alone, and I know Ben's true nature.  Not helping matters is that a rescue mission distracts from the main plot at this point.  So, Gemma lied.  She's a spy; it comes with the job.  Gemma lied to Ione and kept our heroine from being able to spend much time thinking about how Karen could have been caught.  No need to have a real damsel in distress to make Ione think there is one.

Since I had no idea where the story was going most of the time, I wound up doing quick research just before I needed details.  One of the things I was wondering about was the border between Monaco and France, especially around Monte Carlo.  Turned out, the border is a street, with no real passport control.  To get to Monte Carlo, travellers have to go through France or travel by boat, both of which will involve customs.  Border hopping is possible, but the two countries probably have treaties to deal with that sort of thing.  This was helpful.  I didn't want to deal with customs just to get Ione to see Karen and then go off to help Jack.

The cliffhanger leads to the reveal in Chapter 19.  Jack and Ben have met before.  Many times.  But, that's for the next commentary.

Friday, meeting the other players, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 20.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.

26 Nov 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 4 Update

Total Words: 60 302
Words Since Last Update: 13 215
Completed Chapters: Episode 2 chapters 4, 5; Episode 3 chapter 1

The big news, I've crossed the 50 000 word threshold.  The push is over.  Now, the goal is to get more chapters done so that I have a buffer.  As it stands, I have fifteen completed chapters, one in an incomplete episode.  So, it'd be nice to get a little more done before November 30.

My supporting cast grew over the past week, to the point where I took the time to work out some potential names.  With the new names, I have new antagonists to be introduced.  So far, the conflict has been kept within the main cast.  At some point, I need them to deal with external problems.  I'm not ready for the invasion yet - a murder is needed before that happens - so a new source of conflict has to come up.  That conflict has been introduced and just needs to have the first main incident written, a scene that I had in mind before NaNo started.

I've finally got my cast into the mecha of the title, and even that is just in simulations.  I've adjusted the size of the mecha for the series.  When Mecha Academy was first conceived, the mecha were going to be around 20 metres tall, minimum.  As I've worked on the story's background, I've reduced the size.  Now, there's an evolution in how mecha are used in the settings, starting from exoskeletons meant for moving cargo to powered armour to oversized powered armour standing about two to three metres tall.  Mecha aren't walking tanks but force multipliers for infantry.

Mecha Academy is an older idea that had some work done to it already.  I'm not able to just dump what I've done already into the work, though.  Mecha Academy is so far off script that many of the later ideas are no longer valid.  The relationships have developed in a different direction.  There is still hostility, but not the full out physical assaults of the original idea, not this far in.  Some ideas can stay, they're not dependent on the characters' actions.  This is why I prefer iterative editing instead of full on re-writes.  Details get changed.  An edit pass will find problems and let me correct for what I want.  A re-write will result in something completely different.

Coming in the final days of NaNo - adding more words.  I have a scene to aim for and, if I run into a roadblock, Subject 13 and The Devil You Know to work on.