12 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 13

The Phanton Unmasked

"I'm already looking into the warehouse."
"And don't tell Ayel what you're doing, okay?"
"A partnership that has an employee who has a security license."
"Kristi likes photos of beds in dim light?"
Monday afternoon
Ayel jumped out of the van as soon as it stopped moving in the warehouse's parking lot.  She dashed to join Kristi and Kieu at the main entrance.  "I got your message.  What's up?"

"You got me," Kristi said.  "Aidan asked me to round everyone up.  Did you get the report done for Mr. Morton?"

"Right here."  Ayel pulled a manila envelope out from under her jacket.  "Feels wrong to just say that the carving's clean now without saying how."

"Got you covered."  Kristi opened her shoulder bag.  A tiny hand pushed up a box of table salt.  "Ginger!  I told you to stay behind."

Ginger's head poked up from the bag.  "I wanted to see."

Kristi rubbed her forehead.  "Don't let anyone else see you, okay?  It's going to be difficult enough selling what we're about to do without having to explain a fae in my purse."

Kieu knelt down to face Ginger.  "Having fun yet?"

Ginger giggled.  "Hiding's fun for a bit, then it gets boring."

"Well, don't get too bored, okay?"  Kieu stood back up.  "What's with the salt?"

"It works on Supernatural."  Kristi shrugged.  "I'll sprinkle some in the carvings' crate, say something about the purity of the crystals, and take credit for all of Ginger's hard work.  Ginger, I will get you a special coffee when we're done here."

Ayel slipped the envelope back in her jacket.  "Let's go see Alex, then."

Kristi stepped in front of the blonde woman, blocking her way to the entrance.  "Aidan asked to be here, too."  The tawny-haired woman pointed at the street and a red hatchback approaching.  "I think that's him."

The hatchback turned into the warehouse's parking lot and coasted to a stop.  Aidan got out of the car and waved to the women.  "Have you talked to anyone inside yet?"

Kristi walked over to the slim man.  "Not yet.  What's up?"  She tilted her head in Ayel's direction.  "Is this what we talked about yesterday?"

Aidan held up several pages of printed paper.  "Everything is detailed here."  He gave a sheet of paper to Kristi.  "One for everyone."

11 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 12

The last pieces have fell into place, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 12.

It was time to separate the cast again.  Families exist.  They get worried when the young adults don't make appearances.  So, Ayel and Kieu go home again.  Kristi, coming from a different and far more isolated town, doesn't have the problem.  The commute to Moose Factory is a little harsh.  I do plan on having some of Kristi's family show up next arc.

Kieu has an annoying superpower - she is comfortable for small animals and fae to sleep on.  Worse, Kieu tends to not notice while she's asleep.  Ginger is basically a cat on two legs.  I wasn't planning on going that way, but the LOLfae just went that direction.  So, she'll sleep wherever she likes, can get her nose out of joint over a perceived insult, and will perk up on the mention of treats, in Ginger's case, coffee.  If it works, it works.

Ayel's sister Tiffany reappears, this time a little brattier, trying to foist off Benedict Flyffybutt.  The morning chaos strikes, though not as bad as it could be on a workday.  Four people all trying to get ready for work/school?  Yeah, traffic control is needed.  On a Sunday morning, it's not as bad.  This is the first Ayel's parents have heard of her side job.  Janet wants her daughter to be safe.  Having an employee licensed to carry a handgun doesn't inspire confidence.  Brad is missing details, so his wife is getting Ayel to fill them in.  And, yes, I named Ayel's parents after Bran and Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Brad was the last to be named and I resisted as long as possible, but I reached a point where I had to name him.  And once that door opened, of course they're about to go out with the Munroes.  The Hapschatts appear next chapter.

Since I've mentioned Tiffany, Ayel's middle name was originally going to be that.  Except, when I needed to name her sister, Tiffany worked better there.  I haven't used Ayel's middle name, or, really, her proper name at all in this chapter, so it's not an issue yet.  At some point, though, I'll have to figure it out.  Ayel gets her nickname from the initials of her hyphenated given name, A. L.  She really doesn't like her proper name.

Kieu finally gets home after her date.  Her parents are so used to her disappearing that they call the police when she does show up at home two days in a row.  And don't ask where Kieu not wearing panties during her date came from.  I'm not sure if she was being sarcastic or being truthful.  Kieu isn't like Mara.  Your guess is as good as mine right now.

Mysteries do eventually need to be solved.  I now know who and have an idea of why, but that still means the clues need to be collected.  Each character has an area of expertise - Kristi and art, Ayel and business, Kieu and technology - so each one has a way to dig for information.  Kieu's affinity for technology helps get that one last clue I needed to point at the right person.

Friday, revealing Old Man Peterson, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 13, "The Phantom Unmasked".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Robocop the Animated Series.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, adaptations of adaptations.

5 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 12

Discrete Investigation

"And they're both alive."
"I'm sure we can find the fake ghost."
"Looks harmless enough."
"Getting drunk seems like a good idea right now."
Sunday morning
Kristi yawned as she made her way downstairs, her bare feet taking the steps one at a time to avoiud making any noise that could wake up her roomies or her guest.  She reached the bottom of the stairs and started creeping towards the kitchen.  The tawny-haired woman froze on hearing Kieu stir.

"Hello?" Kieu said, her voice soft.

"It's just me," Kristi said.  "You can go back to sleep."

"Kristi, I can't move my arm.  Something's wrong with it."

Hurrying, Kristi reached the faded couch.  "Can you wriggle your fingers?"

After a moment, Kieu answered, "I can.  I can also feel the blanket.  I can't move my arm.  It's too heavy."

Kristi peered at Kieu, only seeing her friend's head, the rest of her body covered by a grey blanket.  "I'll take your covers off so I can see what's going on."  With deliberate care, Kristi rolled the blanket back past Kieu's shoulders.  She stopped on seeing Ginger's nude form draped over Kieu's arm.  "I found the problem.  It's not you."

4 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 11

Skirting the edge of a business license, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 11.

There are times when constraints work against the core idea.  My constraint was that, unlike Scooby-Doo, my paranormal investigators are doing this as a job.  They have limits, mostly so that they don't need two years of PI and Security at Algonquin before the story begins.  That's a different story, one that someone else can tell for now.  The problem right now in the story is that they are about to cross over into actual mundane investigation work.  Sure, Scooby and the gang did that, but they pulled in the police before the unmasking, and they were off in less populated parts than a major city.  But the story can't end with the investigation dangling; it's not a satisfying ending.  Even that characters are complaining that they can't finish what they started.

Fortunately, I gave myself an out.  I figured I'd run into this situation.  Thus, Aiden.  He's my safety valve.  He can step in for the more mundane aspects.  That way, if the police get miffed, Aidan can show his license.  I may have to throw that in in a future arc, but for now, I have a saving throw.  He's there to give cover for the rest.  After all, students do know how to research.  They can dig into all sorts of files that they have access to.  Aiden, though, can use his license to get to more restricted files without having to answer awkward questions.

The death near the night club and Kieu's pink-out are related.  In the first arc, where the Paranormalists find Ginger, Kieu tastes purple when the LOLfae uses her magic.  The next arc will go into the connection more, but there is a link between Kieu's unusual relationship with colours and magic.  Sean and Jared did get home safe; it was a minor point but still out there.

The original concept of the LTV Paranormalists was that Kristi partially convinced Ayel to join her in the venture.  That more or less happened, but Ayel was meant to be the skeptic.  It's hard to remain skeptical when you meet a real fae.  Ginger is very much proof that the paranormal and supernatural exist.  Whether other legends are real is another matter, but Ayel can't continue to be a skeptic.  So, the character evolves.  Ayel is going through a paradigm shift, one that expands her knowledge of the world.  She just needed someone to talk to who wouldn't think she's crazy.

Friday, family time, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 12, "Discrete Investigation".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, animated adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Robocop the Animated Series.

28 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 11

Back Into the Warehouse

"I has a buzz."
"Happy Ginger is happy."
"I is a magicks!"
"You.  Are.  Not.  Needed!  Go.  AWAY!"
Saturday night
At the coffee shop, Ayel sat down, giving her feet a brief respite after the after-dinner rush.  She massaged the her calves, working out a tenseness she could feel growing.  Tabbie set down a tub of dishes and sat beside the blonde woman.  Ayel managed a smile for her co-worker.  "I'll get those," she offered.

"Sit.  Take your break already.  I've got these."

Ayel's smile grew genuine.  "Thanks, Tabbie."

"No problem.  Hey, where did your friends go clubbing last night?"

"Glamour Blue.  Why?  Want to head there after work and enjoy the rest of the evening?"

"You hadn't heard?

27 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 10

Ginger banished dark spirits, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 10.

And now the problem of reality interfering with a desired narrative appears.  Ayel and Kieu don't have PI licenses.  Kristi shouldn't, but she's surprised me before.  Aidan does, and that's why he's on retainer.  But if there's no evil magic or annoying spirit around, LTV Paranormalists can't investigate without risking fines from the province.  There is something in the warehouse; Ginger confirmed it.  Just not the source of the Phantom of the Warehouse.

As mentioned last week, Ginger has been to I Can Has Cheezburger.  This wasn't planned.  Ginger needed a presence in the scene.  If she was a cat, she'd be climbing over everyone to be the centre of attention.  NaNoWriMo encourages word count, not necessarily coherence, so anything that adds to the number of words is fair game as long as the words are words.  Given the two and that this was probably written during week three, when sanity has long fled, Ginger became a LOLfae.  Yet, I still wanted a reason for the new behaviour.  Zaina introduced Ginger to the Internet.  That might have been the wrong thing to do.

The material Ayel brought for Ginger is so that she can have a proper wardrobe.  A bit of research - mostly verifying tales like "The Shoemaker and the Elves" and seeing similar stories - let me realize that Ginger could make her own clothes, provided she has the cloth and thread to do so.  The catch in most of the tales is that if the human takes the elves for granted, the elves get revenge.  Here, not too much a problem; Kristi makes sure that Ginger has what she needs and some of what she wants.

Why did I pick Aztec carvings for the shipment with the "awful magicks"?  Shadowrun, mostly.  The game does go into some detail about what's known about Aztec culture, enough to give me a base to start with in researching and hand-waving.  I didn't get deep into details here; the characters don't know much so thus they are researching.  Zaina has taken some classes, first year comparitive religion and such, to give some detail.  Kieu, being slightly detatched from reality, found the Shadowrun details and didn't have the knowledge to separate those from actual history.

The new break-and-enter let me get a new detail about Kristi out.  Ayel and Kieu have family in town; Kristi doesn't, so her supporting cast tends towards roommates and classmates.  Now, she has a sister.  And since the sister has been mentioned, an appearance in a future arc isn't a sudden surprise.

The same scene let me show off Ginger.  Just how powerful is the little LOLfae?  Strong enough to unlock a garbage can and banish spirits.  I went with a skunk instead of a raccoon; both are common enough in areas around Ottawa.  However, raccoons have another role to play, one that needs to appear in the first arc.  Again, things work here without the first arc, but expand on ideas from there.  Augh!

One idea I do have for a future arc, now that Ginger has material to makes clothes, is a supernatural problem at a convention, one that includes dolls.  Not a dolls-only con, but along the lines of Doll North, part of Anime North.  Just because such a con doesn't exist in Ottawa (yet) doesn't mean one can't exist in fiction.  That way, Ginger doesn't have to be carried in a backpack, under a jacket, or in a sports bag.  She gets to be disguised as a doll herself.

What Ayel did while Ginger exorcised spirits, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 11, "Back into the Warehouse".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week because life
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, animated adaptations.

21 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 10

Contract's Over

"Flee, or suffer my wrath!"
"The Phantom of the Warehouse made an appearance."
"There's awful magicks in there."
"Can I help it that Alex is an ass man?"
Late afternoon
Kristi led the way into her shared duplex.  "Hello?  Anyone else here?"

"I'm upstairs," Zaina called back.



Kristi stepped aside to usher in Ayel.  The tawny-haired woman opened her jacket to let Ginger jump down.  The tiny woman dashed towards the kitchen.  Kristi hung up both her jacket and Ayel's coat before going further.  Ayel took the shopping bag she carried into the living room, setting it down on the faded couch.  "There's gratitude for you," the blonde woman said.

"Try not to upset the capricious fae, Ayel."  Kristi dropped down on the couch.  "I can almost hear normally again."

Ayel sat beside Kristi.  "This is getting dangerous.  We need to tell Morton to get real security."

"But we're close, Ayel.  The Phantom wouldn't have shown up if we weren't."

"We're getting close?  Kristi, what if the next time, the Phantom decides to blow up the warehouse?"

20 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 9

Kieu isn't quite in the pink, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 9.

The problem with putting the second arc first is that some little details that set up later ones are lost.  In this case, Kieu and colours.  In the first arc, Kieu tasted the colour purple, which got a reference in Chapter 3 of this arc.  This time around, it's pink.  Of the core cast, Kristi is the one who knows Kieu the best and is well aware of her colour sensations.

Kristi is also not a ditz, despite her earlier incarnation.  She was ready in case a drink was unattended long enough to be drugged.  Aidan is being thorough, though.  Kieu is behaving as if she'd been drugged, and the prime suspects are the guys from the .warehouse.  In truth, there is something more going on.

Tim Horton's comes up a lot in the story.  While Ayel does work at a barista, her cafĂ© is based on a Bridgehead in town.  The problem with using a coffee shop like Bridgehead or Starbuck's* is that they close early, between eight and ten o'clock.  There are 24 hour Tim's all over Ottawa, and not just drive-throughs.  There's a Tim's near me that is busier after 9pm than before noon.  It makes for an easy gathering area for the characters.

Kieu got to deliver a clue.  She's reviewed the tapes sent.  She's watched the comings and goings.  Sean and Jared are now off the suspect list, for now.  Antony is looking good for being the Phantom of the Warehouse now.  Will the meddling kids catch him?  Back to the warehouse!  It's the scene of the crime, so why not?  Ayel got to be the distraction.  What the Paranormalists are doing is letting their magic expert check for magic, and it's easier to not have to explain a knee-high half-naked woman to everyone they meet.  Ginger is still a company secret.

This is the chapter where I figured out who was behind the haunting.  Confirmation is coming, but I set up a few pointers already.  Some of it was retrofitted; the who didn't include the how or why just yet.  The problem with pantsing a mystery is that I need to know whodunit before I start, but often, I haven't been able to figure that part out until the midway point.

And yes, Ginger has been to I Can Has Cheezburger.

Friday, giving spirits an exorcise, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 10, "Contract's Over".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the pros and cons of different sources.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week due to life.

* Starbuck's has fewer locations in downtown Ottawa than Tim's or Bridgehead.  *Tim Horton's* is the one that keeps popping up all around downtown.  Something to keep in mind if you write a coffee shop scene in Ottawa.

15 Sep 2018

NaNo 2018 - Six Weeks to Go!

It's September.  Mid-September.  NaNoWriMo is coming.  A while back, I listed some potential projects.  What have I done with them?

Nothing!  Absolutely nothing!


This isn't good.  This leads to what I did in 2015, where I wound up creating a fantasy world from scratch on the fly.  That wasn't pretty - there are plot threads still dangling all over from that year.  Let's see what I do have, though.

The time-travelling giant kaiju hunters serial needs me to research a few eras where I want a giant monster rampaging.  I don't want it all to be myth and legend, but St. George and the Dragon is tempting to recreate.  Characters are mostly worked out.  The organization is in flux, but should solidify once writing starts.  The method of time travel is a known item, though the characters aren't sure how it works.  Put this as a moderate chance of being written.

The Subject 13 time travel tale also needs research, though not as broad as the kaiju hunters.  Nasty's going to one time period.  The villain's been worked out, which will explain why Nasty and the Youth Brigade are being sent to the past.  Nasty also gets a curse placed on her because of her swearing.  The catch is that I really need to figure out what happens in 1956.  I'll have a group of teenaged heroes trapped in a town with no money and going through culture shock.  Again, this has a moderate chance of being written.

Heaven's Rejects, the story with Demona, Nadia, and Ian has had some development, including getting a working title.  I have an idea of who Nadia and Ian work for, why they're in the business of hunting demons, and a rough idea of the relationships between the cast.  Ian even now has a vehicle, a five-door Mini Cooper S.  I just need to figure out a few plotlines that happen after Nadia and Demona meet.  I'm still considering writing the serial as a reality series spoof, but that will depend on how things go.  This has a moderate-to-high chance of being written.

The two Shadowun story ideas I had, one featuring a group of runners tossed together for the first time and one that would have me try writing horror, are stalled.  I have casts, I have a start, and that's it.  They need more work.  I also want to focus on original works for now, even if the Shadowrun stories would give me an idea of how things get adapted.  Low to nil chance of being written.

That leaves Mecha Academy and Unruly continuations.  These are going to be held off in case I run into a brick wall with what I do write.  /Mecha Academy/ is slowly coming along, and I have been working out a few storylines for Unruly, including Laura's testimony.

I have six weeks to figure this out.  I've succeeded with less time, but it wasn't easy.

14 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 9

The Phantom of the Warehouse

"I don't like this, Kristi,."
"I feel like a spotlight."
"Something about Kieu."
"We'll be right there."
Friday night
Ayel brought her van to a screeching halt outside Glamour Blue.  Aidan jumped out from the passenger's side.  After a quick look, he saw Kristi just outside the door.  The tawny-haired woman held up Kieu with help from a blond man.  Kieu's head dropped, her hair spilling over her shoulder.  Aidan waved to get Kristi's attention, then opened the sliding door.

Kristi stepped aside to let the two men get Kieu into the back.  "I've seen this happen to her before," she said.  "Sean, I'll call you later, okay?  Kieu really needs to get home to rest."

"Are you sure?"  Sean gave a worried glance at Kieu.  "I could call an ambulance."

"It's nothing.  Kieu just pushes herself past her limits all the time.  She's just exhausted."  Kristi pulled Sean away from the van.  "Trust me, okay?"  She stood on the tips of her toes and kissed the blond man on the cheek.  "Maybe we can test your endurance another night."  Before Sean could say anything, Kristi jumped into the back of the van and closed the door.

Aidan returned to the front passenger seat.  "She's buckled up.  Hospital, now."

Ayel put the van in gear.  "What happened?"

"No hospital," Kristi said.  "Kieu was dancing then just stopped."

"Pink," Kieu mumbled.  She tried to raise her head.

13 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 8

Kristi and Kieu double date to further the investigation, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 8.

If I had known the investigation would lead to a nightclub, I'd have sent it elsewhere.  I don't go to nightclubs - too many people.  So, I did what writers do; I researched the crap out of the setting, added details from personal experience, then turned everything into a fictional setting so that no one would be the wiser.  Then gloss over things so that readers only see what the characters do.  It's a useful skill to hone and have in a writer's toolbox.

Kieu's bias against blondes came up in Chapter 3.  She's getting better, but it all depends on her sleep cycle.  Ayel being reasonable with her is helping Kieu realize that it wasn't every blonde out to get her.  But, Ayel does have a point.  Kieu isn't completely tethered to reality.  Still, I needed Kieu and Ayel to start getting along.  Having that brief chat starts to mend the rift.

If I have a double date going on, then I should show at least some of it.  Kristi gets to interrogate while hitting on a buff warehouse dude.  Whether she's completely into him will be left for the reader.  She is using a few techniques I've heard of, mainly through discussions with real people, to keep Sean's interest.  I know I am dialogue heavy.  What I've developed is working out what everyone is doing along with talking.  Thus, Kristi is flirting, Sean has a drink, Kieu takes to dancing like she's done it from birth.

Ayel and Aiden get to play cavalry.  If something goes wrong, they get to rush over and save the day.  It gives me time to show more of Aidan, the lone male of the team.  He gets a proper intro in the missing first arc, but since that's not there...  The goal I had with Aidan was to have someone who didn't look like a PI be the PI.  He's not hard boiled.

Aidan does have a license to carry a pistol, related to his security and private investigation license.  Kristi, though, has a Possession and Acquisition License completely unrelated to the business.  She's from Northern Ontario, as mentioned two weeks ago.  When she goes out into the wilderness, she has a rifle handy just in case.  She keeps up with shooting as a way to let off steam   The idea came out while writing the first arc; in that moment, Kristi went from hippy-dippy to complex in my head.

Naturally, the end of the chapter is a cliffhanger.  It's an old standard in serials of all types.  How else do creators make sure the audience returns?  The key is making sure the payoff meets up with expectations.

Friday, in dreams he came, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 9, "The Phantom of the Warehouse".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, a bonus /Bond/ Project entry with Octopussy.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the pros and cons of different adaptation sources.

7 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 8

Sacrificial Virgin

"I met these two guys who want to go meet up with me and a friend."
"What are you doing Friday night?"
"I'm just going dancing.  I think."
"I want proof your went, though."
Friday night
"I don't like this, Kristi," Ayel said.  She sat down across the table from her business partner.  "First of all, we don't know if these two are involved.  Second, I'm not going to be done here until well after ten tonight.  If you run into trouble before then, I won't be able to do anything."

Kristi sipped her tea.  "Done?"

Ayel crossed her arms.  "Yeah, done."

"Good.  It's out of your system."  Kristi reached out to pat Ayel's arm.  "And I won't be alone.  I'll have Kieu with me."

"I feel oh so much more reassured now."  Ayel tapped the table.  "Kristi, you know Kieu better than I do, but she doesn't strike me as being all that tethered to reality.  You'd be better off with Ginger there."

"You just don't like Kieu."

Ayel stared at the tawny-haired woman.  "Kieu doesn't like me.  Because of my hair."  She held out a lock of her blonde tresses.  "Remember?" 

"We'll be fine."  Kristi looked at the time on her phone.  "If she shows up.  Where is that girl."

6 Sep 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 7

Movie night, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 7.

Ever wonder where characters get the money for everything they do?  It's not so bad if a character with a decent job with benefits has an odd luxury here and there.  Students, though, typically don't have much money to spare after tuition and text books.  Kristi should have a summer job, though some of her background hasn't been fully explored yet.  How she's earning money over the summer to pay for her rent, tuition, and books hasn't been part of the story like Ayel's barista job has.  Kieu, too, should have a summer job, to pay for all the electronic gadgets she has and creates.  The problem she has is that she gets hyperfocused on her studies to the point of sleep deprivation, making it difficult to get past the interview stage.  Kieu doesn't need rent money, just tuition and text books, and while student loans will cover some of the costs, they don't cover the full needs of someone in Computer Science, like a fully functional computer or two.  How does she get around that?  Patents on things she's created while sleep deprived.  It works for her.

Ginger's personality is like a playful cat.  She isn't based on any one cat I've had, but I've used some of their behaviours in her personality.  Being one of the Wee Folk, modern technology is magical to her.  She knows what movies are, in part thanks to Kristi for trying to keep her occupied.  Video recordings are another level of understanding.  I haven't defined her magic.  It's unlikely that Ginger could explain how she performs her magic; she just does it.  From the author's view, though, that's not helpful on knowing her limitations.  Research into faerie magic didn't help; myth and legend tend to not give absolutes.  Turning a few people invisible is within the realm, though.

This chapter didn't originally follow the previous one.  I removed an entire chapter.  It didn't fit here; it works best as the third or fourth chapter of the previous, unpublished, arc.  It's essentially a dream sequence, except that it wasn't just a dream.  That chapter also got me to realize what the main drive of the series would be.  In short, when North American got colonized by Europeans, it wasn't just colonists that came over, but also their myths and legends.  Same thing with Asians and Africans, their myths and legends came over along with the people.  However, some legendary creatures aren't friendly.  The fae are trying to dominate, and the local legends are fighting back.  This led to a few questions I couldn't answer properly, so some changes, none of which affects the current arc, but still had to be addressed.

Friday, Friday night is for dancing, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 8, "Sacrificial Virgin".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, a bonus Bond Project entry with Octopussy.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum[http://codex.seventhsanctum.com], Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

5 Sep 2018

Does Reading Fiction Help Writing Fiction?

One common piece of advice given to writers is to read.  Read widely.  See how published authors craft words.  However, Steve Savage has a differing view:
The best way to write fiction is to read, watch, and listen to anything but fiction.
Emphasis is his.  As he explains, by reading, you're learning how to write - how to show emotions, how to plot a story, and so on.  The catch here, though, is that reading doesn't necessarily lead to new ideas.  By reading non-fiction, the potential writer is open to new ideas that may spark an original work.  Steve is a little tired of adapations being the order of the day.  I have some disagreement, seeing I study adaptions[http://psychodrivein.com/category/columns/lost-in-translation/], but he has a point.  Original works have to come from somewhere.

Serdar Yegulalp of Genji Press took Steve's challenge to write down inspirations that don't come from existing fiction and, well, not listed his inspirations but explained where they came from.  So, I figured, why not take up the challenge myself.

I don't think I can come with a list like Steve did, but I have a rough idea where my ideas come from.  I can pinpoint specific influences on several stories, but in general, I have a lot filed in my head under I, for "It Might Be Useful Someday".  NFB videos, various odd jobs I've had, tabletop RPGs (I'll come back to this), discussions with friends and co-workers, discussions on online fora, classes from high school and university, commentary tracks on DVDs, and random Internet searches, watching cats, all little tidbits that get placed away.  At some point two tidbits collide and /poof/ inspiration happens.  Except it's never that simple.

Inspiration is just the first step.  I have notes in a folder of ideas and concepts that still need to be fleshed out.  Characters need creating.  Settings need building.  Plots need plotting.  No amount of reading someone else's story will get that done.  Reading about how they did it is another matter.  Even if that author's approach doesn't mesh with mine, I do have to consider why the approach doesn't work for me, giving me more insight on how I write.  The tidbits I know get expanded during the research stage before writing.  I might be a pantser, but I still need to know details before I can even get started.

I mentioned tabletop RPGs as an influence.  Aren't RPGs a type of fiction?  Yes and no.  The settings are fictional, but the game needs to quantify the elements within to work with the mechanics.  Several games don't come with a pre-made setting in the core.  Several more do, but also give GMs a way to create their own.  I both of these cases, there are chapters on how to build a world.  Between those chapters and classes I took in Geography in high school and university, I have a better idea of how a world comes together.

Not quite a list.  Hard to make a list when so much comes from diverse beginnings.  I could break it down by story, but, even then, I could miss a tidbit or two.  What I will say is, Steve has a point.  Breadth of knowledge is useful when writing.  Reading, watching, and listening to fiction helps in the presentation; reading, watching, and listening to non-fiction gets the details.

Now go forth and take up Steve's challenge.  Write down your inspirations for written fiction that aren't fictional or aren't written, post them, and link to Steve, then challenge others to do the same.  Have fun!

31 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 7

Ejected Disc

"Didn't the Aztecs do human sacrifices?"
"Insured for a half million dollars."
"We're investigators, not exterminators."
"You'll get everything you need.  As of this moment, I am paying you, not Alex."
Late afternoon
"Where is your laptop, Kieu?"  Kristi sat down on the faded couch in the middle of her living room.  "I've never seen you without it."

Kieu parked in an overstuffed chair faded red, sinking deep in the cushion.  "Mom took it away.  She said I needed to get out and meet real people.  Go out with someone."

Kristi grinned.  "You're in luck.  I met these two guys who want to go meet up with me and a friend.  You just have to dress up for dancing."

"Why not Blondie?"  Kieu struggled to sit up in the chair.  "And where is she?"

"She's working at her coffee shop."  Kristi curled up on the couch.  "I'm surprised you're not working somewhere."

Kieu gave up on her struggles, sinking further in the chair.  "I made some good investments, apparently.  And something I made is still paying royalties.  Not sure what."

"That's good, no?"  Kristi saw Ginger creeping up on the chair.  "Your tuition is covered."

"I suppose."  Kieu sighed.  "Anyway, what was with the videos?  Okay, the one from the back, that wasn't us at all.  But the reception?  That was us.  Except there wasn't any us on screen."

30 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 6

Not the video the Paranormalists were expecting, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 6.

How do you tell when there's a ghost on camera?  The difficult part with the video was making sure that what was seen by the characters followed what they did in Chapter 4.  At the same time, the point of view of the scene is now the camera's.  Except, none of the Paranormalists are in the video.  The other side of the scene was figuring out what sort of security the warehouse has.  Cameras made sense, with a recording.  A camera where people enter, cameras in the storage area, and, something I forgot to add, a camera watching the parking lot.  The last camera could just watch where deliveries are made and not the employee or visitor lot.

Ayel realized that there's a slight problem with what they're researching.  They haven't crossed into being private investigators, but they're right on the edge.  The Paranormalists have a business license, not an investigator's license.  While Aiden is on the books just in case, it's easier to realize that the problem is mundane, not magical, and direct the client to the police or a PI.  Kristi is far more into the investigation; she's doing everything she can to maintain the fiction that she isn't acting as a PI.  As long as no one files a complaint, she's safe.  For now, though, she should be focusing on the supernatural.

Aztec carvings, always good for some dark magic.  I needed some sort of clue for the Paranormalists to pick up and run with, and narrowing the art down and giving a price filled the role.  No specific artwork was in mind when I wrote the part.  I didn't want a real world item, just something that sounded good.  Older art tends to be more valuable, though that also depends on how well it's known.  Kristi is the Art History major, not me.  But her studies did become useful.  I also got to reinforce Kieu's linguistic abilities.  In the unpublished first episode, Kieu gets to demonstrate her command of a number of languages, including Vietnamese and German.  Spanish is just something she picked up.

Kristi is from Moose Factory, Ontario, a short boat ride from Moosonee on the coast of James Bay.  It's as Northern Ontario as you can get.  Makes for interesting discussions with her roomies about where to set the thermostat in the winter; Zaina is from Lebanon, which isn't known for -30 degree Celcius weather.  Janelle is from Kingston, where Lake Ontario moderates the temperature a bit.  I did keep an eye on the weather for Moosonee while writing; the temperature was always a few degrees colder.  I kept checking over this past winter (2017-2018), when Ottawa set some frigid records, with lows of -30 Celcius and windchills reaching -40; Moosenee was a few degrees colder then, too, but without the wind.

All that to say that yes, Kieu, Moose Factory is a real place.  Every community mentioned - Dildo and Come-by-Chance, Newfoundland; Flin Flon, Manitoba; Vulcan, Alberta - are real places.  Newfoundland may have more odd names per capita than other provinces, but every province can produce an oddly named town.  That aside in the story added a few dozen words without ever having to work on the plot and came out of me trying to figure out how Kristi ever goes home for a visit and what there was in town.  Turns out, there's a Google street view of sorts for Moose Factory.

Since it would come up, I tossed in a Ghostbusters reference.  The Paranormalists don't carry around unlicensed nuclear accelerators on their backs.  While Kieu is working on her own version of a PKE meter, she's using smartphones and tablets, not building brand new hardware.  My main inspiration here is still Scooby-DooGhostbusters is more mad science than I want for the series.

Friday, murkier and murkier, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 6, "Ejected Disc".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Bond Project contunues with The Living Daylights.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, a bonus Bond Project entry with Octopussy.

25 Aug 2018

Mecha Academy Update

If you look over to the side, under Pages, you'll now find a link to the collection of links for posted chapters for Mecha Academy.  I should have had them up ar sooner.

I also ran across a film clip the testing of Ford's M1918 tank, from when the US Army was trying to field its own armour in World War I.  While the M1918 never saw action - field tests in Europe found the tank lacking - it gave me a clearer idea of what the armoured infantry does in /Mecha Academy/.  In the film footage, it looked like the M1918 was meant to accompany infantry during a charge, travelling with the larger landships of the war while carrying a heavy machinegun instead of anti-armour/anti-emplacement weapons.

In Mecha Academy, I have three types of infantry.  Mechanized infantry is more-or-less like today, the boots on the ground.  Powered infantry wear powered armour, along the lines of Traveller's Battle Dress, but not quite as sturdy.  Powered armour started as heavily armoured space suits for hostile environment then were improved to add extras to let the soldier inside carry heavier weapons for longer times.  Armoured infantry essentially drives walking suits of powered armour that gives infantry units more offenseive power to take on heavier targets while still keeping the advantages of infantry, like going where heavier units like tanks can't.

The M1918 tank in the film clip showed me what the armoured infantry is - a level of force that can keep up with regular infantry while still capable of bloodying the heavier units on the field.  Like tanks, armoured infantry shouldn't act alone, but sometimes, the situation calls for something outside the guide book.  And that's how I get inspiration at times, by finding random tidbits.

24 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 6

Skirting the Edge

"Hot monkey sex, why else?"
"Coffee, coffee, coffee."
"There's a stranger on our couch!"
"Go get some fresh air, Kieu."
The next day
The three young women met at a Tim Horton's after ten o'clock, well after the morning rush.  Two medium and one extra-large coffee sat steaming as Kieu examined her tablet.  Ayel stifled a yawn before picking her medium coffee.  "I couldn't find anything in the cargo that was unusual," the blonde said.  "Kristi, what about the art?"

"All lesser works.  Nothing important, nothing known to be carrying curses.  Some of it is worth real money, but stealing it means finding a buyer, and I think Alex's boss is the only buyer for that art here in Ottawa."

"It is real!"  Kieu waved turned her tablet around to let Kristi and Ayel see what was on screen.  "There's even a street view of it!"

"Of what?" Ayel asked.

23 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 5

Meet the family or equivalent, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 5.

It's now the slow portion of the story, where everyone investigates.  It's a good time to expand the setting to show everyone's homes.  Kristi's we've seen already, with one of her roomies.  Ayel and Kieu, though, haven't really had time at their respective homes.

Ayel lives out in Barrhaven, a suburb outside Ottawa's Greenbelt.  She has a bit of a commute to get to class at Carleton, so the family mini-van gets some use.  Ayel has an older brother, now living in Hamilton after graduating from McMaster there, and a younger sister, Tiffany, still in high school.  The goal I had with Ayel and Tiffany is show sisters who love each other, even if they still get on each other's nerves.  Their mother, Janet, does what she can to keep the peace.  Ayel's father will appear in Chapter 12; he's just not around for the scene, plus he didn't have a name yet.

Kieu lives on the other side of the city in Orleans, where she went to school where a friend teaches.  Not that she spends that much time there during the school year.  Kieu gets so caught up in her studies she tends to crash on campus, mostly in the computer labs.  Every May, she goes through the same routine with her younger brother, Quyen.  Their mother is tired of it.  And, somehow, the entire family is quirky.  I didn't intend for that to happen.  Kieu's role was to be the technical expert, not the tech wizard running on energy drinks and sheer stubborness.  Her mother wasn't supposed to be able to catch shoes without looking.  Yet, Quyen threw the shoe.  This is all on me.

Kristi's other roommate shows up.  Janelle is not a morning person.  She's being introduced to Ginger so that awkward situations don't happen later.  Communications between characters is important.  Too often, sitcoms have plots that can be short-circuited if people just talked to each other.  So many laughs, but leaving viewers wondering if the characters are idiots.  Here, I wanted to avoid that.  Kristi is smart; she knows Ginger won't stay hidden for long.  Introducing the fae to the roomies makes sense.  Ginger's love of coffee was also a last minute addition.  NaNoWriMo encourages participants to keep writing and toss in ideas when needed.  Quirks just happen, but the quirks also help round a character.

Even with the character moments, the plot still needs to advance somehow.  I had to somehow figure out what was causing the problems seen last chapter.  I set up the situation without working out who and why before I started.  That's the wrong direction for a mystery, though.  I really should have known who was responsible and why so I could lay down the clues and red herrings.  But, I am going through the process of figuring out who with the characters' investigation, with a side of actual magic research.  Kristi's major is a help here.  If she doesn't know anything about the artwork in question, she knows where to start looking.

Friday, back to the scene of the crime, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 6, "Skirting the Edge".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week to let me get ahead on my reading.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Bond Project contunues with The Living Daylights.

17 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Home Bodies

"You're going to get noticed like that."
"I thought ghosts couldn't touch cold iron."
"There was someone in there."
"So, where's the alarm?"
The next morning
Ayel shuffled into the kitchen in time to be barrelled into by her younger sister.  "Tiff!"  The blonde woman recovered by grabbing on to the counter.  "Watch where you're going!"

"Move it, old timer."  Ayel's younger sister, Tiffany, finished off her slice of toast.  "You know better than to stand there."  The redhead dashed out of the kitchen, then poked her head back in the doorway.  "I need the van tonight."

"What for?"  Ayel poured herself a mug of coffee.

"Hot monkey sex, why else?"  Tiffany rolled her eyes.  "None of your business, Am."

"Tiffany, really."  Their mother's voice carried in from the living room.

"Sorry, Mom."  The redhead's tone turned contrite.

"And I need the van today."  Janet Lindeman stepped into the kitchen.  "I'll drive you to school, Tiff.  Ayel, do you need to get anywhere this morning?"

Ayel added cream and sugar to her coffee.  "I'm good.  I've got the day off, so," she looked down at her pajamas, "I'm going to take it easy."

Janet dishevelled her daughter's hair.  "Try to get dressed at some point, dear."  She filled a travel mug with coffee, emptying the pot.

Tiffany returned to the kitchen.  "I like the look."  She reached for her sister's hair.

16 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 4

Breaking, entering, and haunting, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 4.

Investigators must investigate.  Otherwise, mysteries remain unresolved.  Off to the warehouse everyone goes, after business hours because why not?  For this, the Paranormalists brought along their only employee, Aiden Lockhart.  Aidan is licensed as a private investigator as per Ontario regulations, though he mainly works as a bartender and bouncer.  Kristi brough him on the team after Ayel saw that the business might cross over to the PI side of rules and regulations.

The break-in is to see how the walls fell.  Ginger can do her magic while the rest of the team looks for mundane clues.  The first problem is the alarm system.  Alarms do have a delay so that the legitimate owners have time to prevent the system from going off.  Of course, in a business, whoever arrives first for the day needs to shut down the alarm, and not everyone will remember the code.  The weakest point in any security system is the human element.

Back in the unreleased first arc, Ginger had a nail that she used for self-defense.  Since moving in with Kristi, she hasn't had it.  Thus, any loose nail is hers, since she found it again.  Object permanence is an iffy subject in Ginger's mind, as is possession.  What's hers is hers, and if she says it is, it is.

The difficulty on finding legends on the Wee Folk and other supernatural and paranormal beings is hampered by today's pop culture.  Supernatural isn't the worst; the writers for the show do their research, but fansites and other pop culture sources muddy the online searches.  Cold iron, though, is a classic way to stop the Fair Folk.  Salt works to stop ghosts.  And Supernatural is a way that Ayel and Kristi can overcome their differences and work together.  For the record, Ayel is a fan of Sam while Kristi wants them both.

Some more clues have been set out this chapter.  Mysteries are hard to pants.  There needs to be some planning to figure out whodunnit.  At this point, I still hadn't worked out who Old Man Jenkins was going to be, but I wanted to get a few things set up in advance for the reveal.  The events in the warehouse did force me to narrow down the suspects.

Friday, the home lives of the Paranormalists, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 5, "Home Bodies".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, alternate sources for adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week to let me get ahead on my reading.

15 Aug 2018

Hacking Valiant Universe RPG - The Magical Girl

I`m thinking of running a magical girls game at some point.  While I do have a few games that are meant for such campaigns, such as Big Eyes Small Mouth or even Tails of Equestria, I keep wondering if a superhero RPG could also fill the need.  The mechanical difference between a superhero and a magical girl is negligible, at least when looking at them for purposes of gaming.  The real difference between Sailor Moon and the Green Lantern or Card Captor Sakura and Captain American is cultural.  The cultural side impacts the roleplaying, not the powers.

The next question, which superhero RPG?  I've demo'ed a few here, including Valiant Universe: The Roleplaying Game and Superbabes, and I have access to several more, including Champions.  The goal here is to have flexibility while still being quick to create a character in.  Thus, the Valiant RPG.  I may try to recreate the character under a different system for comparison's sake, but for now, the Valiant RPG has the flexibility and quickness I want.

10 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Midnight Visitors

"I'm not an elf!"
"You don't like blondes."
"One of the walls fell over."
"I'm not going to make your life Hell on purpose."
"I can't believe I'm doing this."

Ayel crouched down, trying to keep to the shadows of the night.  Just head, the warehouse sat, the parking lot bathed in light, drowning out the stars above.  Beside her, Kristi pulled up the hood on her grey sweater.  Kieu, dressed head to toe in black, sprawled flat on the ground.

Aidan looked down at the three women.  "You're going to get noticed like that."

"That's, like, the total opposite of what we want," Kristi said.  She stood up straight.  "Aren't we going to get noticed anyway?"

"People tend to pay attention to the weird.  If we act like we belong, we fade into the background."  Aidan gave Kieu a light kick.  "And if we lie down on a road, we get run over."

"Alright."  Kieu got to her feet.  "I thought we had to be stealthy."

"I don't see why we all had to come," Ayel said.  "Who is going to bail us out if we're caught."

Ginger poked her head out from Kristi's jacket.  "We're not going to be caught."

"We're going to be on any security camera around here," Aidan said.  "The goal isn't to be stealthy.  The real goal is to not give any indication that we were here and that the video has to be looked at."

"We don't pay you enough," Kristi said.

9 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 3

Expanding the world, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 3.

LTV Paranormalists have a case to solve.  They also have to get all the partners up to speed.  Kieu makes her first appearance in the store after only having a mention back in Chapter 1.  There are also a few details to fill in, since this is the second arc.

Ayel's cat did make an appearance in the first arc, more to establish her home than for anything else.  Benedict Fluffybutt is named after a certain actor; Ayel, her sister, and her mother all had a hand in choosing the name.  Ginger got along with him as shown in Chapter 1 of this arc.

Kristi lived in residence during the school year but found a place once school ended.  She moved out with two of her roomies, Zaina and Janelle.  Zaina is from Lebanon and doesn't have a summer job, allowing her to sleep late and let her housemates use the bathroom before they dash off for work.  Janelle's main feature so far is not being a morning person; she will make an appearance at some point.

The masquerade, the hiding of the supernatural and paranormal from muggles, is an annoying clichĂ© in urban fantasy.  I've seen it handled well; Supernatural has the Winchester boys using fake IDs, mostly because most of their income is from less-than-legal means; the masquerade is for their mundane side, not their hunting side.  The problem with using the masquerade here is that the Fair Folk are folk tales, created by the same people that the masquerade is trying to hide from.  Why would Kristi not mention sprites?  It's her business to find them.  So, Ginger gets hidden only because explaining her is awkward, moreso when she's around.  Kristi was also worried about Zaina's reaction; in the unpublished first arc, Kristi describes her as "super-religious".  Apparently, Wee Folk never came up in a sermon.

Kieu's "return" comes after last seeing her in the first arc sleep deprived, exams looming, and her surviving on caffeine and chocolate.  She doesn't get along with Ayel, though that's all on Kieu.  The conflict wasn't sustainable, so the second arc shows them starting to work with each other.  The issue Kieu had was Ayel's hair colour, which she goes into detail about in the current chapter.  Now that Kieu has managed to get some sleep, she's returning to normal.  It may take her time to recognize any inventions she built; her mad genius fades with sleep.

The case takes on a new twist despite the Paranormalists not having visited the site yet.  Ayel's research - all legal since it's the exception to the regulations covering private investigators - shows nothing outstanding and nothing that would cause an angry ghost.  Yet something caused a wall to fall at people at the warehouse.  Dun dun DUN!

This chapter was just getting everyone up to speed, re-introducing characters and their relationships from the unpublished first arc, and getting ducks in a row so that once things got going, there wouldn't have to be an explanation that stopped the narrative flow dead in its tracks.  The only person left to bring back in is Aidan, the Paranormalists' licensed investigator.

Friday, breaking, entering, and more breaking, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 4, "Midnight Visitors".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the language barrier.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, on alternate sources for adaptations.

3 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Fair Folk

"That's a customs mark.
"It's just Antony playing mind games on everyone."
"You let Ginger drink coffee?"
"This magic tasted wrong."
Kristi set down Ginger on the arm of the faded old couch.  Her new home, an older duplex showing its age in the middle of the Glebe, was still bare.  "And here's our new home.  You'll have to hide for a bit when my roomies are around.  I have no idea how they'll react."

Ginger, for her part, plunked down on the arm, legs spread out in front of her.  "Where's the cat?"

"Benedict Fluffybutt is Ayel's."

"You don't have one?"

"Not yet."  Kristi sat down on the couch.  "We've just moved in here and we don't know if we'll be here in September."

Ginger leaned back.  "It needs a cat here."

Footsteps sounded upstairs.  "Kristi, is that you?"  Zaina came down a few steps, her body and her hair both wrapped in fluffy yellow towels.  "I thought I heard voices."

Kristi darted off the couch to stand between Ginger and Zaina.  "I was on the phone."

"Were you on speaker?"  Zaina came down a few more steps.  "I thought I heard someone else."  She froze mid-step.  "Um, Kristi, what is that behind you?"

2 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 2

Early legwork at the warehouse, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 2.

I make no apology for the title.  It comes from two places.  The first is a joke I try using during fantasy RPG sessions, just to see if anyone reacts to the image of a man turning into a house at the light of the full moon.  For the record, one person cracked up.  The other comes from early in Young Frankenstein.  For the record, I always crack up at the scene.  Since I have a warehouse at the centre of the story, I failed my Willpower save and tossed the joke into the chapter title.

Writing Ginger is interesting.  She has a sense of child-like wonder coupled with a cat's attitude that she's the centre of the universe.  I did some quick research on the Fair Folk before and during NaNoWriMo to get a better idea of what sort of fae Ginger might be.  With urban fantasy and tabletop fantasy RPGs being wso popular today, it was hard to separate the traditional lore from other people's works.  The end result - Ginger is Ginger.  Her name, though, was easier.  I decided on some sort of wildflower that is local and ran across the wild ginger.  The name sums her up, so that's what she got named.

Once I detatched my expectations of the fae from gaming, that gave me room to figure out how Ginger and magic get along.  Can the fae detect magic?  Why not?  It moves the plot along and it means I don't need Kieu to be sleep deprived all the time.  This also lets me have the rest of the cast do normal investigations while still covering the magic angle.  Remember, the goal here was to be Scooby-Doo except monsters do exist.

The regular investigation, as limited by provincial regulations, lets me show Ayel and Kristi's abilities.  I also can get some of the clues laid out, though I'm not going to hold them up here.  Besides, some might be red herrings.  Ayel gets to deal with the client directly.  Kristi is more Ginger's handler here, though she gets to use her people skills.  Each of the young women bring something unique.  Ayel was supposed to bring skepticism, but the missing arc showed her otherwise.  She still has the business sense.  Kristi is the creative side, the business is her idea.  Kieu is the technical.  Yet, sometimes, things do get shaken up.

Ginger and coffee became an odd combination.  She's small, coming up to Kristi's knee.  A regular cup of coffee contains far too much caffeine for such a small being.  The cat Ginger references lives with Ayel and her family.  The setting is starting to expand beyond the core cast.  Families will start to appear this arc.  All part of my writing style; start with the core and build out, sometimes going in unplanned directions.  Someday, I should learn to outline, By the Numbers notwithstanding.

Friday, myth, legends, and Ginger, in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 3, "Fair Folk".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, why remaking horror and mysteries is difficult.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the language barrier.

27 Jul 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - Werehouse?  There House

"We have a client coming."
"Are we looking at staplers moving around in an office?"
"We keep all our work confidential."
"Ginger, where are your clothes?"

Kristi watched Ayel as the blonde entered the warehouse.  She waited for the door to close before opening her own door.  "Okay, Ginger, take a look around."

Ginger dismissed the tawny-haired woman with a wave of the hand.  "Yeah, yeah, I know.  Look for people like me."

"And other Wee Folk," Kristi added.

Ginger hopped out of the van, her long hair swaying.  She darted under the van.  Kristi followed the tiny woman out, but remained standing beside the minivan.  She stretched, working out a few kinks in her back.  A breeze promising rain later wafter through the parking lot, teasing Kristi's hair.  She heard tiny footsteps running across the gravel; it took some willpower to avoid looking in Ginger's direction.

For her part, Ginger dashed to the edge of the gravel, marked by several dandelions pushing their way up through the rocks.  The tiny woman touched one of the growing weeds.  In moments, the plant grew, flowering in a bright yellow blossom.  Ginger plucked the flower and held it over her head like an umbrella.  She sauntered along the the wall, acting as if she was there for a stroll.  The tiny woman stole a glance back at the van; Kristi leaned against the contraption.

At the corner of the warehouse, Ginger stopped.  She peered around, even looking up.  A raven flew overhead.  Ginger pressed up against the warehouse and waited for the bird to fly away.  Once sure that it was safe, the tiny woman crept around the corner, then sat down, crossing her legs under her.  She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths.

26 Jul 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 1

Ayel, Kristi, and Kieu - LTV Paranormalists - are hired to find a ghost, in dba LTV Paranormalists "Hauntings Anonymous" Chapter 1.

Welcome to the second arc of dba LTV Paranormalists!  No, you haven't missed the first arc.  Let me explain.

Paranormalists began as a few rough ideas, mostly characters talking to each other without any real plot to pull things together.  The idea languished and carried over from hard drive to hard drive, only to be brought out for reading every few months.  In 2016, the idea came up out of the depths of my hard drive in time for consideration for NaNoWriMoParanormalists won out over continuing Unruly, a Shadowrun story to test adaptation lessons, and the time travelling kaiju hunters.  For the first arc, I tried writing it in flashback.  It didn't work out well.  To be honest, the first arc is a mess.  I'm trying to put in a more linear order, but it'll take time.

The second arc, though, was linear.  Halfway through the first arc, I realized that there was a problem.  During NaNo, the goal is writing, not editing, so the mess would have to wait.  The mess is still waiting.  The second arc didn't need as much editing.  One chapter got moved to the first arc, fitting better there, and some fallout from the moved chapter went with it.  The rest still works as is.

The series is essentially Scooby-Doo except the supernatural is real.  Since the introductions are in the mess of the first arc, a quick run through of the main characters is needed.  Kristi, Ayel, and Kieu are all students at Carleton University.  Kristi Theissen, an art history major with a minor in medieval studies, is the one who came up with the idea.  She drew in Ayel and Kieu, both of whom she new through classes, for their expertise.  Ayel Lindeman, majoring in commerce, has the business acumen to form the company.  She was skeptical about the supernatural at first.  Kieu, a computer science major, is the tech expert, and is willing to believe.  Joining them is Ginger, who they met in the first arc.  Ginger is one of the Wee Folk, not quite a fairy, not quite a pixie.  Ginger is Ginger.

When getting the story set up, I wound up looking up regulations for private investigators to see if LTV Paranormalists would run afoul of them.  It's close, but the out is that they're, at best, researchers, and looking up information on properties is explicitly excluded from what needs to be licensed as a P.I.  That line looks fuzzy, though.  I have a backup plan for when the fuzzy line needs to be crossed.

Being a small start-up run by students, LTV Paranormalists doesn't have a proper office.  They can't afford one.  Ayel is treating the business as a side project; in the first arc, she was encouraged by her advisor to use the opportunity to test out some theories brought up in her classes.  She still has a regular job to pay for her tuition and books.  Kristi has other means, which need to be worked out a bit more.  Kieu has patents helping her out.

During the research to figure out what the cast is taking at Carleton, I found some details that worked beautifully for my purposes.  For Ayel, Carleton Commerce includes an entrepreneuship concentration, ideal for starting a small summer business.  With Kieu and computer science, I discovered that Carleton now has a Mobile Computing stream, something that didn't exist when I graduated with my Comp. Sci. degree.  Lesson here: Always check, even if you're positive you know everything you need.

Friday, looking for ghosts in Hauntings Anonymous Chapter 2, "Werehouse?  There House".
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, a test run of the Bond Project with From Russia With Love.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, why remaking horror and mysteries is difficult.

20 Jul 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 1

Kristi Thiessen, Ayel Lindeman, and Kieu Vo joined together to create LTV Paranormalists, a partnership dedicated to investigating hauntings and convincing the cause, be it spectral or fae, to move on.  They have access to specialized help - Aidan Lockhart, who has security and private investigation certificates, and Ginger, a fae discovered during their first case.

Kristi stepped up to the barista.  "Hi, Ayel!"

The tall blonde woman behind the counter repressed a groan.  "What can I get you, Kristi?"

"A pot of herbal tea, please."  Kristi searched through her purse for her debit card.  "When do you go on break?"

Ayel checked the clock on the wall.  "In half an hour, at the soonest.  Depends on the crowd.  Why?  And how did you know where to find me?"

"Your sister told me."

"Because of course she did."

"We were her age once.  Anyway, I've got a client coming.  We have a client coming."


"You and me.  LTV Paranormalists."  Kristi beamed.  "I asked our client to come here to discuss his problem."

19 Jul 2018

Leverage By the Numbers - Oz

Last week, I reworked Numbers from By the Numbers, bringing her from the Shadowrun setting into one of my own creation.  Numbers was the easy one to work with; her background came to the fore during the story and her role didn't really change despite the translation; she's the hacker of the group, and the new system, the Leverage RPG, has that as an explicit role.

The rest of the cast of By the Numbers will take work.  The Mecha Academy setting doesn't have magic or cybernetics, meaning the rest of the crew will have fundamental changes made to them.  Yet, the goal is to keep to their personalities, not their abilities.  Having learned my lesson the first time I created characters for the game, I'll just focus on one character, Oswald, the mage.

13 Jul 2018

Leverage By the Numbers

I've worked on a character from By the Numbers, writing up Numbers for Shadowrun.  The main problem with the story is that I'm playing in someone else's intellectual property.  The characters, though, are mine.  If I can translate them into a new setting, I have a more or less original work.  Heists occur in all genres; Ocean's 11 is a good example.  Move the heist to a different time and setting, like a fantasy world or the far future.  Liberating heirlooms from a dragon's horde is still a heist, as is stealing data from a privately owned space station.  The trappings are different, but the key is how the characters overcome their challenges.

To this end, I'm going to try to create Numbers using the Leverage RPG.  I've delved into the game before, getting ready to write Unruly.  Having learned my lesson the first time, I'll just create Numbers, though the rest of the cast will chime in.

Before starting, though, I do need a setting.  I want to move away from the mash up of cyberpunk and epic fantasy that is Shadowrun while still staying in the realm of science fiction.  The Mecha Academy setting is there ready for expansion.  What that means is no magic (sorry Oz), no elves (sorry Treehugger), and no trolls (sorry Charles).  Cybernetics aren't a thing in the Mecha Academy setting, more for prosthetics than willing replacement.  The setting's gone through that phase.  WIth all that out in the open, let's go steal, er, make us a Numbers!

6 Jul 2018

No post today

Thanks to the record heat we've had here in Ottawa West-Dagobah, I couldn't even think without breaking into a heavy sweat.  I will catch up at some point, though.  Have a cat pic in the meantime.  I adopted Jewel two weeks ago.  She's adjusting well.

Jewel on her second night, finally joining me on my bed.  (Taken June 19, 2018.  Photo by author.)

Jewel two weeks later, far more relaxed.  (Taken July 1, 2018.  Photo by author.)

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Wonder Woman (2017).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Sherlock Gnomes.

29 Jun 2018

Star Trek Adventures (Modiphius) - Starships

Continuing with Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures, I want to try a few ships.  Instead of being a set of stats, ships in the game are almost a character unto themselves.  Players and GMs can work out what exactly the ship can do, starting with a ship class.  Creation isn't as involved with characters, so I can try out a few ships.  The game doesn't have a large selection, possibly due to space.  There's nothing from Enterprise, a few from the moves, the rest from TNG.  The game has the USS Enterprise from TOS, plus -A, -B, and -D, but no Ambassador-class for -C.

Because the steps are simple enough, I'll create a ship for the TOS, movie, and TNG eras.  For TOS, the ship will be in service during the same time as Kirk commands the Enterprise.  The movie era is set around The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, and The Voyage Home.  The TNG ship will serve after the return of Voyager.  Years will become important, so I'll select 2268, during the run of TOS, 2284 for the movie era, and 2379 for TNG.

22 Jun 2018

Star Trek Adventures (Modiphius) - The Vulcan Ship's Counselor

Back in February, I tried creating a character using Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius.  The character was fairly straightforward, a Vulcan engineer, something one would expect on a Starfleet vessel.  Standard types only scratch the surface, though.  To really test a game, I want to see if an odd combination is still possible.  Today, I present a Vulcan ship's counselor.

The concept is odd, I'll grant that.  Vulcans aren't known for being all warm and fuzzy.  They shun emotions.  Some go through the kolinahr rite to purge the last traces of emotion.  Yet, the various Star Trek series have shown Vulcans use an emotional logic of sorts.  They tend to rationalize the decision as being logical.  Still, the series have shown Sarek with Human wives and protecting his son.  Why not have a Vulcan character who wants to learn how other species deal with emotions?  If reunification with the Romulans does happen, Vulcan society will have to adjust to take into account that there will be newcomers who don't have the control culture expects.

The life path character creation system should help here.  The seven steps, eight if deciding on a concept, help flesh out the player character.  I have the concept worked out, and that determines the era as during Star Trek: TNG or later.  All the attributes start at 7; all the disciplines start at 1.  After the break, one Vulcan psychologist.

21 Jun 2018

NaNo 2018 - Contenders

November 1st is just over four months away.  NaNoWriMo is coming up.  Heck, Camp NaNo begins July 1st, though I'm not participating this time around.  Four months isn't a lot of time.  I should start figuring out what to do so I don't start an epic fantasy with zero world building again.  I do have some contenders.

As always, the time-travellering kaiju hunters are on the list.  I'll have to figure out a few time periods for the /kaiju/ hunters to visit, with the legend of St. George and the dragon being a potential arc.  I do have a couple of laws of time travel in mind.  First, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle; the hunters can know either when or where they're going but not both.  The other law is a modification of Newton's First Law, temporal events will happen as they did unless acted upon by an outside force.  It's not that events are predestined; everyone involved will still make decisions based on their experience.  However, if an outside force interferes, a participant may make new decisions based on the new information.

Speaking of time travel, I have an idea for Subject 13 guest starring Pixie and the rest of the Youth Brigade.  A battle against a supervillain winds up sending the group back to the 50s, where they have to figure out where they are and how to get home.  I have some dialogue in mind, too.  "Can you stop swearing for five minutes?  That's how we got into this mess!"  I've done some preliminary research, finding a USGC map of the area I want to use from 1956 and matching the location on Google Maps.

A while back, I created Demona using the Demon Hunters RPG.  I then realized she had potential as part of a group of supernatural hunters.  Format might be a fake reality series, but I'm not married to that.  I do have the first bit worked out in my head where Demona meets her new partners, Nadia and Ian.

Mecha Academy is a possibility.  I'll probably keep it on reserve for when another idea runs out of steam.  I am working on the next arc, but there is more planned for after it.  The cast hasn't even finished their first year yet, and I have a few more things to toss at them before I'm done with them.

Unruly is also in the works.  I have twists and turns for them, too.  Laura has to go testify, Fawna needs to give up her body for a weekend to Mags, Caitlin needs to plot, and chaos needs to ensue.  Again, if another project runs dry, I can always switch over.

The Shadowrun stories are still coming together.  Yes, stories.  Beside coming up with a story to be adapted into a new form, mostly as an experiment related to Lost in Translation, I want to try a horror story.  Problem is, I'm not a fan of horror, so the project might be doomed to failure from the start.  However, Shadowrun mixes cyberpunk, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy together, so with a bit of a tweak, I might be able to turn the urban fantasy elements into horror.  There are horror elements lurking in the game's setting that I can exploit, too.

So, short list, and one that could grow before I start striking off ideas.  It's a start.  I have four months.

Friday, another go at the Modiphius Star Trek Adventures character creation.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Truly Outrageous!"
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week; this past week has been hectic.

15 Jun 2018

Creating Characters for Conventions

During the Victoria Day long weekend, I was at CanGames.  I've talked about what I did at the con before.  I only played games there, I didn't run anything, not having been able to get a couple of ideas to congeal.  Despite that, I created thirty-two characters for the weekend; thirty-four if I include the ones I played in Headspace and 5 Across the Heart.  How?

I had two friends ask me to create characters for some of their games.  Creating characters for use at a gaming convention is different from creating a character for me to play.  What I look for in a character I'm going to play for a campaign doesn't hold up for a four hour slot.  Potential players need a character that they can get on first reading, can do something in any potential scene in the game, and be effective.  I don't have a problem being deficient somewhere while gaming with friends.  At a con, I want to participate.

The first step is to find out what the GMs want.  This includes finding out the game system, learning it if needed, and get a rough idea of the general plot.  A dungeon delve means getting a balance of character types while science fiction exploration requires a team of specialists.  Next, read the character creation rules and see how everything meshes.  The goal is to make sure every character can do something in a fight and while investigating.  A healer is always welcome in an adventuring party, but the healer`s player needs to do something more than just wait for another character to be injured.  Once that`s done, create the characters.  This could take several hours or days, so spread the work out.  If there are form-fillable character sheets, use those for the authentic feel; otherwise, create a blank sheet that can be reused and be easily read.  Finally, pass the characters to the GM and make sure things are good with them.  Fix up any problems found, then sit back and relax.

The core of the work is creating the characters.  Again, potential players need to be able to read the sheet and get a good idea of what the character can do.  This means including what special abilities do.  I want to avoid having players look up details in the middle of the action.  Spells get included here; the less flipping pages, the better.  Character sheets should be no more than one double-sided page.  Two pages are acceptable for more complex character builds, but any more than that depends on the game.

The characters should be distinct from each other.  Even if there are three warrior-types, each of them should have a unique flavour.  With warriors, that can be done just by the style of fighting used, whether a weilder of two-weapons, a two-handed barbarian, or a martial artist.  Same thing goes with spellcasters.  Science fiction tends to have a different mix of character types, but the same principle applies.  Characters need to be unique.

Time for examples.  I`ll use two games that I created characters for use during CanGames.  The first is for Green Ronin's Fantasy Age with the Titansgrave expansion, the other is for the out of print Last Unicorn's Star Trek Roleplaying Game.  I won't go through each character - that's a total of seventeen between the two games combined - but I'll show the process is working out what I did for each character.

With Fantasy Age, the GM wanted somewhat powerful characters, starting at eighth level, and a good selection.  I went with three of each class, warrior, rogue, and mage, and took a look ahead at what sort of specialities, like Assassin or Elementalist, were available so I could aim for that type of character.  With the warriors, I made sure that each one had a different fighting style; one was sword-and-shield, another was a two-handed weapon user, the third used blasters with the ability to fight with just a single weapon.  The rogues were differentiated by what they could do; one was a thief, another a scout, the third a two-weapon duellist.  The mages broke down as an elementalist, a healer, and a swashbucklet.  I also managed to use all the races available in the setting while also having a human in each class.  A player deciding between the Orc Assassin and the Gnome Mage Hunter can see the difference right away even without knowing how the mechanics work.

Creating characters for Star Trek started differently.  The GM needed the crew of a small scout ship, so I worked out what positions were needed based on the layout of the Enterprise's bridge.  I counted each position - Captain, First Officer, Helmsman, Navigator, Communications Officer, Science Officer, Engineer - then added Medical Officer and Security since they normally don't sit on the bridge.  I doubled up First Officer with another position; the ship is far too small to break have a second-in-command who only has that job.  Fortunately, Star Trek provides a precedent with Spock, who was both First Officer and Chief Science Officer on the /Enterprise/.  From there, I worked out what mix of species would be interesting.  While tempted to have a Tellarite Communications Officer, I went with Human there.  I did put in some of the classic species from the original series, including Vulcan, Centauran, and Tellarite.  The GM requested a Caitian as from the animated series, so I added one.  The results were a young command staff which is what the GM wanted.

Cons have their own requirements when creating characters.  The goal is to have characters players will have fun playing, not just me.  A different thought process goes into the creation.

Today, over at Psycho Drive-In, Batman, the 1943 serial.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, "Truly Outrageous!"