31 Dec 2016

Goodbye 2016...

... and good riddance.

This past year has been one of the worst.  The promise at the beginning of 2016 led to miseries, including the loss of a long time companion, Tuxedo Neko.  The end of 2016 cannot come soon enough, even with the Leap Second being added.

Goodbye 2016, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

30 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 14

"What do I have to be afraid of?"
"I know what I want and will do anything to go after it."
"Oh, Tiger, that's too long to wait."
"It's going to be a surprise."
Matt let his car coast to a stop in front of Brenna's home.  Brenna unbuckled her seat belt and turned to face him.  "Thanks for dinner again, Matt.  It was nice spending time with you."

"It's great seeing you again, Bren.  We need to do this again.  Maybe next time you can show me the dress you bought."

"I'd like that."  Brenna smiled at the thought.

Matt leaned over and kissed Brenna on the cheek.  Seeing her shocked look, he said, "Not what you were expecting."

29 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 13 - Commentary

Tricia isn't sitting on her laurels even with the Bladekeeper in town.  Welcome to the commentary for The Soul Blade Chapter 13.

With Grace effectively shutting down the investigation in Chapter 9, I needed to kick start the plot somehow.  The method chosen?  Have Tricia kill someone else, of course.  And not just off-screen, either.  This time around, Tricia shows how it's done, from finding her victim to the bonus ritual afterwards.

Tricia is a little rushed with this murder.  No painstaking planning.  No research, though her research on her last potential victim didn't turn up the type of car she drove.  Just a search through crowds to find a target with potential.  She's been busy but she's been clever enough to avoid a pattern, unlike a serial killer.  Tricia doesn't have a particular choice in victim, making it harder to figure out where and when she will strike.  Obviously, McCoy and Kirk know there's a murderer on the loose, but they can't find a common link, thanks to Tricia's planning.

Peter's role was to be the murder victim.  There's just enough about him - he's young and having a drunken crawl with friends to celebrate the end of school - to make him a person and not a complete cardboard character, but he won't see the end of the chapter alive.  Tricia is not above using any manner to cull him away from his crowd.  Like wolves hunting elk or lions hunting gazelles, Tricia finds a way to get the weakest member of the herd away from the rest.

The ritual was the first time I realized what Tricia was doing with her victims.  I wound up having to re-write parts of Chapter 4 to reflect what Tricia's ritual does.  Originally, the body was tossed aside, but if there's no skeleton, the remains had no way to support themselves.  Brenna, who never got that close to the body, couldn't tell that the body had been filleted.  The police forensics team, though, could, but that's a detail that McCoy didn't want leaked to the press.

Tricia's ritual isn't clean.  When the insides of a person wind up outside, it's messy.  I didn't get into details; that wasn't the point of the chapter.  Tricia is used to the mess by now, so she ignores it beyond having to clean herself up.  The problem she has now is that Peter's friends will remember her.  There are ways to get around being identified, though.  First, they're drunk.  They'll remember a hot woman in a red bikini, which doesn't narrow the suspects that much on a beach.  Tricia can change her hairstyle, clothes, shoes, and makeup to get a quick disguise without looking like she is in a disguise.  The skeleton, though, does look like it's in a disguise.  If people get a good look at it, the game's over for Tricia.  Mind, that's part of the thrill for her at this point.

Tomorrow, sisterly affection, in The Soul Blade Chapter 14.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Real Ghostbusters.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the year-end wrap up.

23 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 13

"You probably want to send me to a psychiatrist right now."
"You're looking for a serial killer."
"I'm having dinner with a very attractive woman."
"So, now, I'm single, but if I get involved with someone, seriously involved, then whoever the next woman is, she had to be comfortable with the idea that I work crazy hours."
Tricia fumed as she drove around downtown San Diego.  The bitch resisting her threw her plans off.  Each of her victims were carefully chosen, painstakingly selected.  Then that mere slip of a girl showed up.  What did the ash-skinned man call her again?  "The Bladekeeper."  Whatever that was.  Tricia was too far along to let some wanna-be Scooby-Doo character interfere.  No time to worry.  She wasn't far off her own schedule.  The loss of her preferred target was annoying; going after the receptionist was now out of the question.  The police might realize she was the original target.  Same with going after the so-called Bladekeeper.  She fought back, but couldn't know about Tricia's plans.  Even without taking the ashen man's warning into account, going after the Bladekeeper was a non-starter.

22 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 12 - Commentary

Brenna tells the police how she knew about the body, in The Soul Blade Chapter 12.  The commentary continues after the break; it's longer than normal today.

16 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 12

"This is the second time I've met you because of one of your hunches."
"The deal cannot be broken, my dear."
"Well, isn't that just ducky."
"And now I know there's a sheep dog among the sheep."
Brenna squirmed on the hard chair in Detective McCoy's office.  The questions she answered weren't making the homicide detective any less intense.  In fact, with each answer, McCoy picked a detail out and asked a new question based on it.  It was all Brenna could do to keep the Soul Blade out of the interrogation, and she reasoned that McCoy knew she was hiding something.  "Look, Detective, I don't know any of those other people.  I don't know where you found them.  I don't know how they died."

"Then how did you know about Jenna Wilcox?  You said you never met her before."

"I didn't.  I still don't know who she is."

"Then how did you know where to find her."

15 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 11 - The Commentary

Brenna gets interviewed by the police again, in The Soul Blade Chapter 11.  The commentary catch up is complete!

Brenna is having the worst day of her life.  Her emotions are changing every minute.  Her crush has arrived in his wonderful uniform asking her about her attacker, and Brenna is trying to remain focused.  On top of that, Matt's giving her a very mild scolding about calling him instead of 911.  Dr. Womack may have a point.

Brenna's thinking comes out here.  Her reasoning is essentially mine as  I try to figure out why she knows that Tricia attacked her in relation to the dead body she found back in Chapter 3.  I hope the reasoning is sound.  Brenna pales next to her sister, but Grace never had to deal with a constant distraction because of hot classmates.  Brenna is as smart, The reasoning is sound based on what Brenna knows.  That is a key issue to remember when writing - the main character does not have the information that the author does.  Her knowledge does have Detective McCoy wondering how she knows what's happening.  Brenna Halliday, prime suspect.

The bit with Kirk was a background gag.  Since I "borrowed" the name, why not "borrow" some character bits?  McCoy turned out to be the lead detective on the case.  Kirk does get a few lines, but his role is more or less to do interesting things in the background.  McCoy does want to discover how Brenna knows what's going on and how she knew where to find the body.

Tricia gets a scene that I later regretted adding.  When there's a villain who is genre savvy, it makes setting up clues far more difficult.  Tricia knows what she's doing.  Being genre savvy, Tricia also knows when it's time to pack up and leave.  The ashen man, who now has a tag to refer him by, can at least let Tricia know who she's up against.  He knows the one weakness; once you know who the Bladekeeper is, it's easy to avoid her.  After all, Bladekeepers deal with ghosts, not murderous mages making deals with devils.  Kill the Bladekeeper and another steps into her legacy, and now there's no easy way to find her.  Keep her alive and avoid her, she's not really a problem, being just one woman.

Of course, the above means that the Bladekeeper would be very busy.  One Chosen One against a near-infinite number of restless ghosts doesn't sound very balanced, even given Brenna's approach to dealing with them.  A sequel idea I had for Brenna's story would have her get invited to a site in Europe along with a number of other women with mystical abilities.  While the Soul Blade runs in Brenna's family, but the other women also have their own legacies.  A gathering of Chosen Ones.  There will be an ulterior motive to the gathering, naturally.

Tomorrow, a confession and a first date in The Soul Blade Chapter 12.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Young Frankenstein.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.

13 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 10 - The Commentary

Brenna and Tricia finally meet, in The Soul Blade Chapter 10.

As mentioned before. Brenna can't do that much until Tricia acts.  Why not let Tricia act?  The problem here is that Tricia isn't using mystical means when she first attacks her victims.  As far as Brenna knows, this is just a random attack.  For Tricia, she's attacking a victim of opportunity.  Her first target has a car that just doesn't work for sneaking up in the back seat.  The SMART car] has very little room for a person behind the two seats.

Writing the attack from Tricia's point of view let me show what Brenna appears as when she's doing her job as Bladekeeper.  Brenna's getting help from her mother, except only Brenna can see her.  Tricia just sees a girl suddenly dodging when there was no way for her to know what was coming.  The fight turned out to be the wrong sort of one-sided for Tricia.  I wound up with unanswered questions, such as how did Brenna's van gain the ability to shock people.  I blame Joni for now.

The language is a little more course this time around.  Tricia can be explained; she's not a nice person and will drop the f-bomb when startled.  Brenna is at the edge of her limits; she's just been attacked and facing a sister who is determined to tease her.  Grace doesn't know what happened; Brenna needs to learn communication, but after she recovers from her breakdown.

To be fair, most Bladekeepers never have to deal with the human element being aggressive.  Ghosts are one thing; murderous women with knives are another.  Bladekeepers are usually trained from one generation to another.  Joni prepared Grace, though.  She trained Brenna posthumously.  Thanks to witch hunts, past Bladekeepers kept their abilities a secret except to people they could trust implicitly.  Ghosts know of them, as Bert has shown in the previous chapters.  Most humans are blissfully unaware of Bladekeepers, and those who are aware are either family and close friends, like Grace, Summer, and Missy, or nasty people trying to gain power, and Tricia doesn't count there.

Thursday, the commentary catch up completes with The Soul Blade Chapter 11.
Friday, a confession and a first date in The Soul Blade Chapter 12.
Also on Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Young Frankenstein.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Absolutely Fabulous.

11 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 9 - The Commentary

Brenna tries to have a normal life, despite her family, in The Soul Blade Chapter 9, as the commentary catch up continues.

Brenna's conversation with Grace serves more than just letting the reader know what's going on; it also let the writer figure out what's happening.  The problem I ran into is that Brenna can't do much until Tricia does something.  Brenna can investigate, but there's not much she can find.  Tricia wipes out all traces with each murder.  I should have thought that through, but when I did, I realized that Tricia and the being she's working for were a step ahead of Brenna already.  I made my villain too genre savvy.  Brenna and Grace have to work through what's happening by eliminating possibilities.  On the plus side, that means that they aren't suddenly realizing what's going on.  The thought processes are there, and Brenna isn't jumping to conclusions without reason.

The story's age is starting to show.  When originally conceived, Joni being sexually active in the 70s and 80s wasn't too much a stretch.  She would still be young enough to have received the Soul Blade at a young age, though older than when Brenna did, but still old enough to have been in college.  The 70s are now about forty years ago.  The story is getting dated, and hard coding dates like that means The Soul Blade starts becoming a period piece.

Dr. Womack provides a new insight on Brenna, one that the Bladekeeper isn't aware of.  Brenna's problem might not be the Blade itself.  She's a bit repressed, and has used the Blade as an excuse.  Of course, with only one Bladekeeper shown so far, it's hard to tell if Dr. Womack is correct.  Which means I will have to write another Tale of the Soul Blade featuring one of Brenna's ancestors.

Tuesday, the commentary catch up continues with The Soul Blade Chapter 10.
Thursday, commentary catch up completes with the The Soul Blade Chapter 11.
Friday, a confession and a first date in The Soul Blade Chapter 12.
Also on Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Young Frankenstein.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Absolutely Fabulous.

9 Dec 2016

Tales of the Soul Blade - Chapter 11

"I don't want to hurt you."
"Grace, it's an emergency or else I would come home."
"Matt, I kind of need to see you.  Right now."
"I am too old and too dead to be a mother to a woman going through her teenaged years ten years too late!"
"Now?"  Brenna adjusted her t-shirt and tossed a few strewn papers on to the passenger's seat.

Joni raised an eyebrow.  "You shirt is going to stretch out like that."


Matt stopped beside Brenna's door.  "And hello to you, too."

"Matt, sorry, hi."  Brenna felt her cheeks grow warm.

Matt smiled.  "You sounded scared when you called.  Officer Lopez said you said you were attacked."

8 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 8 - Commentary

Brenna recovers from her night of ghost hunting, in Chapter 8, as the commentary catch up continues.

Gary isn't as calm as he appears.  He is well aware of the family heritage he married into, but Brenna going through a wall is still something he shouldn't just shrug.    However, Brenna is mobile, so the wall couldn't have been that bad.  I do hope that the interaction between father and daughter comes across as familiar and caring.  I'm not as touchy-feelie as either Gary or Brenna here, so I hope the scene has the right touch.

If it's not clear by now, Joni doesn't like Missy.  To Joni, Missy is this outsider who moved in and started showing Brenna the seamier side of life.  Tall, tan, blonde, outgoing, and there for Brenna to talk to; Joni's a tad jealous.  It doesn't help that Brenna learned how to sass-talk.  There is a rift between mother and daughter, one that Joni is trying to mend.  Brenna is very much a daddy's-girl, though.

Amazing how certain references seem to occur all at once.  A few weeks ago, I reviewed the 2016 Ghostbusters remake.  Shortly afterwards, I found a box set of The Real Ghostbusters, the animated adaptation.  A second season episode, "Collect Call of Cathulhu"(sic), featured, naturally enough, the Cthulhu Mythos as created by HP Lovecraft, to the point where viewers could track down the original stories and be prepared for what happens in them.  A week after that, I find The Nekonomicon, or The Book of Cats for the RPG, Call of Catthulhu*.  Now, a Ghostbusters reference, bringing the chain back full circle.

Brenna doesn't like having to wear her glasses, something which her entire family is well aware of.  Part of the scene was really to pad the word count, but it did show Brenna as not being perfect.  Grace gets a decent line, too.  The younger Halliday sister is well aware of the family legacy; she just likes pointing out how weird her sister is.  They behave as sisters, and no one knows how better to get under your skin than family.

The receptionist at the doctor's office is new, even though I should have mentioned that somewhere.  The regular receptionist would know of Brenna's visits, if not the details.  Brenna isn't just going to tell a random stranger that she needs extra-strength birth control pills.  Dr. Womack was also Joni's doctor, so there was someone that could goad Brenna into getting to the office.

The next few phone calls set up upcoming chapters, even at a point when I was still trying to figure out where I was going.  Brenna's cousins on her mother's side get introduced here, starting with Summer.  Brenna's aunt is a little more creative with her daughters' names than Joni was.  Rae is the youngest of the cousins, and does her own investigations at her home.  Joni's family expanded the ghost hunting from previous generations; they really don't have the fear of witch burning that past generations had.

There was some planning, once I got started.  I worked out future scenes so that I had a target to aim for.  The phone calls are part of the setup.  Hopefully, the payoffs work and aren't too telegraphed without also being so far out in left field.

Tomorrow, Trish has second thoughts in The Soul Blade Chapter 11.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Superman.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Young Frankenstein.
Sunday, the commentary catch up continues with The Soul Blade Chapter 9.

* Deliberately spelled as Catthulhu, as players play cats fighting off creatures man was not meant to know.

6 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 7 - Commentary

Brenna received advice from Missy before hunting ghosts, in The Soul Blade Chapter 7.

The first half of the chapter sees Missy acting as a sounding board for Brenna, following the Bladekeeper's chaotic stream of thoughts about the situations she's in.  Part of the discussion was to let me work out what was going on and what Brenna knew, though I did know what Trish was doing at this point.  The other part was to cause more internal conflict with Brenna.  If only she'd just admit to herself that she wants Matt, she wouldn't have any more worries.  Missy does know Brenna well, and she looks out for her friend as much as she can.  There is a story in how they met in high school that might be told in one form or another some day.

The second half of the chapter was purely to have some action going after all of Brenna's personal problems.  The investigation of the haunted beach house let me show what Brenna can do when confronted by a hostile ghost.  Cardiff-By-the-Sea and the Cardiff State Beach are real places.  The beach house is fictional.  The weather beating is based on seeing similar buildings locally, with wood faded by the sun.

The ghost Brenna fights is driven by jealousy and desire so strong that it remained.  It sees Missy as the girl it loved when it was alive.  Anyone else it sees now is a competitor.  Nasty being, really.  Still, Brenna doesn't like her role.  She would much prefer to coax a ghost to move along than to fight it with the Blade.  Her mother and Bert are still around; both have a purpose to fulfill that isn't harmful.  This ghost is too far gone to be coaxed.

The fight let me show off the two different versions of Brenna's Soul Blade.  Brenna prefers the pure white version.  At heart, Brenna doesn't want to hurt anyone, not even the dead.  If pushed, she fights.  However, if she needs to be more forceful, she can be.  That's when the blood red version of the Blade appears.  That version can cut.  In comparison, Joni's Blade was silver, and didn't have the option to change to a lethal form.  In Champions terms, Brenna's Blade is a multipower with two slots, one a No Normal Defense blade that only does Stun damage, the other is a Hand-to-Hand Killing Attack.  Joni's is a simpler Energy Blast with No Range*, doing Normal** damage.  The different types of Blade will appear later.

Was the chapter plot relevant?  Sort of.  Brenna got to display what she could do, which will come up again.  Some themes got rehashed, and some plot threads got more tangled.  Which ones will be seen later.

Thursday, the commentary for The Soul Blade Chapter 8.
Friday, Trish has second thoughts in The Soul Blade Chapter 11.
Also on Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Superman.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Young Frankenstein.

* Or maybe a Hand-to-Hand Attack with the special effect being the Soul Blade.  Champions is versatile like that.
** More details are in the core rules, but a Normal attack does its dice in Stun damage, with, on average, a point of Body (ie, lethal) damage per die rolled, with both resisted by regular defenses.  A Killing Attack requires resistant defenses, making Brenna's attack far more dangerous.

4 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 5 - The Real Commentary

The commentary catch up commences!

Chapter 5 of The Soul Blade saw Trish make a mistake.  It wasn't one she could have foreseen, either.

Trish's part came out because there was no other way to show what was happening.  Brenna is in a position where she, for the most part, reacts to what's happening.  It's the nature of a mystery*; the investigators can't do anything until the villain starts his or her plot.  Murder mysteries* need a body before the detectives can even be called in.  Thus, Trish and her scenes.  Including Trish in the story let be flesh her out.  It's one thing to say that she's power hungry and doesn't mind getting her hands dirty; it's another to show how far she'll go in her search for power.

The entity Trish reports to is also after power.  Trish just happens to be the right fool for his own power games.  The entity has Patrick McNee's voice, specifically the one used in his role as the Cylon Imperious Leader.  The time limitation means that whatever plot he and Trish have can't wait.  There's a bit of urgency in what needs to be done.  Since Trish was the point-of-view character in the scene, there's no telling what the entity has in mind beyond what she believes.  Power and freedom are good starting points, though.

Brenna is a natural at learning languages.  Her late grandmother had all these interesting books, so Brenna started reading them, picking up languages here and there.  She also took several language courses to try to break through her shyness as a young teenager.  Brenna can at least read through the older books now, to research how to deal with the different entities.

Matt's return sets up a few details for later.  One is Brenna's internal conflict; will she act on her impulses or will she fight them down?  The return of Matt also ties off a plot thread left dangling from the beginning - the tail light on Brenna's van.  It's a chance for Matt and Brenna to get to know each other a little better before things get weird again.  Or before Brenna got weird again.

The age of the story is starting to show.  The van, a GMC Savana**, was meant to be an older model, but not that old.  With work, a van can be maintained, especially if it's not carrying heavy loads daily.  Brenna would need someone who can keep the van running, not being that mechanically inclined herself.  Communications is another aspect that starts to date the story.  In 2009, smartphones weren't unusual, but not ubiquitous like today.  That's the main reason for posting the story; it's not going to age well, especially with hard dates in it.

Tuesday, the commentary catch up continues with The Soul Blade Chapter 7.
Thursday, the commentary for The Soul Blade Chapter 8.
Friday, Trish has second thoughts in The Soul Blade Chapter 11.
Also on Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Superman.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Young Frankenstein.

* Cozy mysteries are an exception.  The longer a series goes, the more likely that the crime is included as a side plot as the familiar characters catch up on each other.
** Sic.  That is GMC's official spelling of the model.  Brenna had the van painted a custom colour.

2 Dec 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 10

"What are you going to do, call Matt and say, 'Hi, sexy, the person you're looking for casts magic that wipes out emotions and, hey, let's have sex?'"
"So, I'm an anomaly."
"I did find a way to curb your sex drive."
"Maybe it's not the Blade that wants him."

Tricia looked down at her new target's car.  A fucking Smart Car.  She would have to be a goddamned midget to fit into the back of it.  The dark-haired woman looked up at the van parked beside it.  It was the only thing working for her right now.  As long as the lavender vehicle remained until her target left work.  Tricia checked her watch.  Something was keeping her next victim late.  Hell, at this point, taking the van's owner would do.  Whoever it was already helped out, having curtains covering the windows.

As she touched the van's handle, Tricia felt an electrical shock coursed through her.  She bit off a string of obscenities as she jumped back.  Tricia shook out her hand.  The shock had to be a warning to her.  There's no way she could believe that someone who cutsied up a cargo van with light purple paint and matching curtains would have an alarm system that shocked would-be thieves.  Gingerly, Tricia touched the Smart Car.  No shock, just the residual tingles she got from the van.  "Well, shit," she muttered.

1 Dec 2016

NaNo 2016 - Weeks 3 and 4

NaNo 2016 - Weeks 3 and 4

And it's over!  NaNoWriMo has ended.  Congrats to everyone who made it to 50k words and good show on everyone who didn't but still wrote.

Total words written by the end of November 21: 44 812, or a little over 2100 words per day. 
Total words written by the end of November 28: 56 182, or a little over 2000 words per day. 
Total words written by end of November: 56 536, or just under 1900 order per day.

In the third week, other than a couple of off days, I managed to maintain a good pace.  The story flowed as I wrote.  In the fourth, my energy started to flag near the end of the week.  The last two days, I put in some work but didn't push, with the last day getting all of twenty words written.  Adding to the fun, at the 45 000 mark, the second arc started wrapping up at a point where it made sense.  There was no way I was going to be able to stretch the arc another two or three chapters, not when I was about to reveal who the monster really was.  On the plus side, since dba LTV Paranormalists was meant to be a serial, much like Unruly, starting a new arc wasn't a problem.

Or shouldn't have been a problem.  It took an evening to figure out what the core plot was for the second arc, so word by agonizing word, it formed.  I had to figure out how to frame the opening scenes, resulting in showing the problem instead of having the new client just say what happened.  No idea of how well it worked out.

The cast grew again.  Each of the leads' family got expanded upon.  Whether this will pay off is too soon to tell.  Again, no plan when I started the arc.  I think I know what I want to do with Kristi's sister, Fred*.  It's now a matter of bringing the different elements together.  Having Fred around does give me room to up the stakes and cause Kristi some conflict.

The future of dba LTV Paranormalists is now in the air.  I have time to figure out what is happening in the third arc.  I have time to edit the first arc into something coherent.  At the same time, I have other writing to catch up on, including the commentary for The Soul Blade and prep work for Lost in Translation.

What I did learn this time out is that I can maintain a good pace.  If I push too hard, as I did over one weekend, I will need a day at a reduced rate to recover.  This is a far cry from my first time out in 2006 where just making the minimum 1667 words was a stretch.  I can now accidentally write 1500 words without effort in the course of an evening.  Writing isn't a chore, though sometimes figuring out what to write still is.

Now, the planning for NaNo 2017 begins, though I may work on some ideas before, just to get them out.

* A shout out to The Arrogant Worms and their song, "Mounted Animal Nature Trail", especially the live versions.  Like Kristi, Fred is from Northern Ontario.

Soul Blade Commentary Catch Up

With NaNoWriMo over, I can now catch up on the missing commentary for The Soul Blade.  The commentary for Chapter 5 should be up this coming Monday, with the rest to follow.

Tomorrow, Trish finds a new victim, in The Soul Blade Chapter 10.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Captain America, featuring Punch Rockgroin.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Superman.

25 Nov 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 9

"Bren, you're hurt."
"Ma'am, I think you're pushing the lass a little much."
"Matt, about yesterday--"
"Don't you dare squee over the phone."
Brenna hung up, slipped her phone into her skirt's pocket, then walked to the living room.  Her sister was curled up on the couch with an ice pack on her head.  "Party too much, Gracie?"  The blonde having a hangover did explain why there wasn't any music blaring.

"And where the hell were you last night?"  Grace scowled.  "Dad was worried when I got home."

"He was just as worried about you."

"Bren, you're his princess.  Always have been, always will be."

Brenna sat down in the chair beside the bookcase.  "It doesn't mean he can't worry about you.  I've seen it in him.  Besides, who else would he watch football with if something happened to you."

"Who would he watch baseball with without you?" Grace countered.

"This is stupid, Grace, arguing who Dad worried about more."  She picked up the old German textbook and flipped back to where she left off.  After reading a few paragraphs, the young brunette adjusted her reading glasses.

"What are you reading?"

Without looking up, Brenna answered, "One of Grandma's old books."

Grace snorted.  "Because of yesterday, right?"

"Duh."  Brenna shifted to she wouldn't aggravate her still tender back.  "Want to help?"

"No, thanks."  Grace stretched out on the couch.  "That's all about ghosts and spirits, right?"

"Your point, Gracie?"

18 Nov 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 8

"How do you sterilize a building's emotions?"
"A dangerous haunted beach house?"
"Missy, don't move."
By the time the women returned to the station wagon, the car's clock read midnight.  Brenna helped Missy sit down in the driver's seat, the injured woman's leg still outside.  She found the first aid kit in the back and handed it to Missy.  As the injured woman tended to her wounds, Brenna gathered all the items Missy had tossed in her earlier search.  "Going to live?" she called as she closed the tailgate.

"Maybe," Missy said, feeling more normal.  "Whose dumb idea was this?"


"Why didn't you talk me out of it?"

17 Nov 2016

Commentary Hiatus

Sorry, I just haven't had the time to work on the commentaries.  They will return, with a proper one for Chapter 5, and the missing ones for Chapters 8 and 9.

The new chapters of The Soul Blade will continue to post, with Chapter 8 coming tomorrow.

16 Nov 2016

NaNo 2016 - Week 2

NaNo week two is over.  Phew

Total words written by the end of November 14: 30 023, or a little over 2100 words per day.  Not bad, except the last day saw a complete shutdown on writing, with not even 600 words written.  Still, thanks to a very productive weekend, I'm now four days ahead of schedule.

The second arc has started and is up to chapter 9, but a small problem has occurred.  Kieu and Kristi are on a double date, which is supposed to be plot relevant but there isn't anything going on.  This shouldn't be a problem, at least for word count.  It is a problem for keeping the story going.  There are drawbacks to pantsing.

I did manage to get a few elements in that I wanted, including the introduction of the driving myth arc of the series.  Raccoon filled a chapter om his own, and he could have kept going if it weren't for the word limit I'm placing on chapters.  He needs to return in a later arc.

In the meantime, the mystery that should be the focus of the second arc is slowly coming together.  I really should have figured out who the person in the monster suit was before I began, but I didn't know who all was involved when I started.  That needs to be addressed later.  Unruly was easier; the girls started the plots themselves.  Right now, I do know who is behind the hauntings with a rough idea why, and have some nice red herrings involved.

New goals for the coming week include getting Ginger dressed properly.  She will have to appear in public at some point.

15 Nov 2016

NaNo 2016 - Sneak Peek!

Here we area at the halfway point through NaNoWriMo.  A proper update is coming, but enjoy this snippet of dba LTV Paranormalists in the meantime.  Note that the bit has not yet gone through editing and fact-checking and is subject to change later.  But, still, enjoy!

Three weeks ago
Ayel tracked Kristi down inside the $Paterson lecture hall.  The blonde sat down beside the brunette, placing the manila envelope on Kristi's lap.  "I'm in."

Kristi's face brightened.  "Great!"

Ayel held up a hand.  "But I looked into the legalities."

"Legalities?"  Kristi's face fell a little.

"We're skirting the laws on private investigation here.  I know I don't have a P.I. license.  Do you?"

"I might know someone.  But if all we're doing is research, even for someone else, then how are we private investigators?  We do research all the time here."  Kristy shrugged, her tawny curls bouncing.  "At least I do."

Ayel shrugged out of her leather jacket.  "That's why I said 'skirting'.  As long as we don't investigate someone living, we should be good.  But if you know someone with a license, that'll help."

Kristi nodded.  "I'll talk to him.  Oh, I got someone else to help, too.  We're going to need detectors and she has a few ideas."


Ayel started walking back to her minivan.  "Better get that thing out of the rain.  Kieu will kill you if you get it wet."

Kristi shoved her electronic gadget into her pocket.  "She's not going to kill me.  Kieu likes me, in her own way."

"Then she'll kill me as a proxy for killing you.  And then grumble about having to fix her device.  No thanks."

"You just have to give her a chance, Ayel."

"I've done nothing to her."  The blonde hit the electronic lock to start the van once she was in range.

Kristi took one last look over her shoulder.  "I think that's too big to be a cat.  And it's standing all wrong."

Ayel rolled her eyes.  "Then it's a raccoon.  This used to be a farmer's field.  I'm pretty sure there was a barn around here ages ago.  And if it is a raccoon, we really have to get going, before a sinkhole swallows the van."

Kristi stopped mid-stride.  "Wait, what?"

"You didn't know?"  Ayel continued walking, leaving the brunette in the rain.  "Raccoons are a harbinger of sinkholes."

"Since when?"  Kristi dashed to catch up to the blonde.

Ayel reached the van, its dark blue getting lost in the grey of the rain.  "The summer.  Were you in town?"

Kristi opened the passenger door to get in.  "I was back home.  What happened?"

"It was big news here."  Ayel slipped in on the driver's side, shaking out her umbrella before closing it.  "A raccoon showed up at the construction site, then a sinkhole appeared three days later.  That's why we have to get going."

"Because of a sinkhole?"

Ayel grinned as she started the van's engine.  "Didn't you know?  We fill sinkholes with minivans here in Ottawa."

Kristi buckled up as Ayel put the van into gear.  "And you thought I was weird?"

11 Nov 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 7

"You owe me, Bren."
"Matt!  Small world!"
"You almost ravished him right on the spot."
"I suppose finding that body today didn't help."
Brenna stared out at the passing streetscape, her head resting on the cool window.  Her eyes itched from the tears earlier.  Beside her, Missy drove, a destination in mind that she hadn't told her passenger yet.  It didn't matter.  Brenna didn't care where she was going, as long as she couldn't embarrass herself further.

"You know," Missy said, breaking the heavy silence, "you or Grace might have mentioned the body to me at some point."

10 Nov 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 6 - Commentary

Brenna found herself distracted.  Good thing she has a friend.

The cast kept growing in the early chapters.  Part of it was showing that the world is bigger than just Brenna and her family.  Grace has her own circle of friends, fellow students who are all celebrating graduation.  Piper's cluelessness wasn't planned.  Granted, very few details were planned; it's the nature of being a pantser during NaNoWriMo.  Piper isn't fazed by Grace's weird asides by now; it's just Grace and social interaction isn't Piper's forte.  There probably is a law about serving alcohol to the intoxicated; there's one in Ontario.

Missy's role grew from the original intent.  When Brenna was first created, Missy was the new girl from out of town, determined to make friends in her new school.  Extroverted Missy saw it as a mission to get shy Brenna out of her shell in high school.  As Brenna's story evolved, the two girls became best friends.  Brenna's aura reading ability let her see Missy's true self and allowed herself to open up to her brash classmate.  Missy learned more about Bren and became protective, protecting Brenna from herself at times.

Grace, though, lives with Brenna day-in and day-out and has a lower tolerance for her sister's weirdness.  Talking to unseen people, she's used to.  Joni taught Grace the ways of being the weilder of the Soul Blade, not expecting Brenna to be the chosen one.  Brenna's issues with guys drives Grace up the wall.  Grace did what she could; that's why she called Missy.  She also is used to giving out excuses for her family's weird behaviour.  Part of it is maintaining the masquerade; the average person doesn't need to know there are beings that are out to get them.  Grace still had her teenaged years, where she found anything her family did embarassing, even the mundane things.  Brenna was the annoying older sister whose antics reflected on Grace, so Gracie found ways to cover her and to avoid being tarred by the same brush.  They do love each other; they just don't express it daily.

Brenna's father, Gary, is also well aware of the weirdness in the family.  He learned the hard way, marrying Joni and then discovering that his new bride had a family obligation.  The original idea with The Soul Blade was to show the different women who had the Blade throughout time.  Joni received hers about twenty years before Brenna did, so her story, if it were to be written, would be a period piece.  Problem is, Brenna's story is set in now, whenever now is.  In the seven years between when The Soul Blade was written and today, a lot has changed.  Joni's story would be in a nebulous time where cell phones could be the old flip phone or early smartphones.  The availability of communications does change the nature of a plot.  Today, most people have a cell phone.  Thirty years ago, people would have to find a phone booth to make a call.  Isolating someone now is harder without sending them into the middle of nowhere.

This should be it for comments in-story about Missy's used car.  It was a bit of weirdness that slipped in for word count and served a purpose.  One last comment from its former owner and it becomes just a conveyance.  In retrospect, weirdness should orbit Brenna's family; they're ghost hunters.  Probability bends around them.  However, the later weirdness ups the ante.

Tomorrow, Brenna and Missy go to the beach, in The Soul Blade Chapter 7.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Ghostbusters.

9 Nov 2016

NaNo 2016 Week 1

The first week of NaNo is done!  Huzzah!

Total words written by the end of November 7: 14 195, or a little over 2000 words per day.  That is about 2000 words more than last year's pace and is about a half-day ahead of where I needed to be.

Numbers aside, the story is progressing.  I had a better idea of what I wanted to do this year, and had worked on the characters a bit before starting.  It helps that the idea has been around for some time, just waiting for attention.  However, things have changed a lot since the original concept.  New elements are creeping in, a fourth and fifth character have been introduced because of necessity, and some aspects I thought would be around have been tossed aside.  I've learned a bit more about my characters.  Kristi now has a sister and a Possession and Acquisition License, the latter especially unexpected since she was meant to be far more into crystals than it is turning out.

The first arc is done.  The main goals of the arc was to introduce all my characters and to introduce the situation without being an infodump.  I went with flashbacks, and that technique is okay, but it is awkward when telling two stories at once.  It's a technique to have around but it doesn't sustain itself for long, at least for me.  Some characters were surprising.  Some editing may be needed, too, to dial back some of the weirdness.

I also did a bit more research.  Ginger, who is one of the fae, still hasn't said what sort of Wee Folk she is, so a quick search to avoid names like "sprite", "pixie", and "fairy" without a proper definition led to a future arc coming to mind.  What was once a Scooby-Doo approach is now getting a serial killer.  Things went dark-ish here.  Mind, the fae aren't exactly sweetness and light in legends.  An overall arc came from the research, too, and things can get serious.

New goals for the coming week include starting the new arc, having a Scooby-Doo plot, present the overall arc, and get Kieu to be nicer to Ayel.

4 Nov 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 6

"I have sent the latest offering to you."
"So I am a suspect."
"I'm watching you so you don't accidentally have sex or something."
"No!  No no nono nonononono!"
"No, Piper, it makes perfect sense."  Grace took a swallow of her beer.  The storm door slammed shut.  "Wait.  Hurricane Brenna's passing through."  She heard footsteps running upstairs.  Grace counted two seconds before hearing a door closing.

"It's clear out here," Piper said at the other end of the phone call.  "I thought the weatherman said sunny all week."

Turning her attention back to her call, Grace said, "What?"

3 Nov 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 5 - Commentary

Brenna tries to explain what happened and why she's at a murder scene to the police.

One of the rhythms I fell into with early NaNoWriMo was an action/reaction rotation.  For everything that happened to a character, there was a scene for the character to process what happened and what to do next.  Chapter 3 had Brenna discovering a body, so Chapter 4 has the natural consequences of authorities getting involved.  For NaNo, it works to get words down and keeps the story flowing.  I still tend to fall into that rhythm, but I also have a better idea of how things progress.

A common trope with urban fantasy is keeping the supernatural and paranormal outside the perception of the mundane.  In superhero fiction, secret identities are de rigeur as well.  Given that Brenna came from an idea for the Champions RPG, having her maintain a masquerade was a natural choice.  In story, she's well aware that speaking with ghosts and waving around a sword of light would look bizarre at the minimum, so she doesn't tell everyone.  Her immediate family is aware as are family on her mother's side.  Missy is also aware; it's hard to keep secrets from your best friend, especially when the secret needs to come out to keep her safe.  Matt, though, is unaware, as established already.  Keeping the Soul Blade secret means that when the police get involved, Brenna has to try to explain her presence in unusual situations.  Normally, though, Brenna doesn't arrive on a murder scene while the body is still there.  Ghosts linger, and Brenna can do her thing in privacy most of the time.

Speaking of the police, there's no points for guessing where I got the names for Detectives McCoy and Kirk.  I needed a pair of names and they were the first to come to mind that weren't actual TV detectives like Cagney & Lacey or Starsky & Hutch.  McCoy took the lead in the investigation, though.  He got to interview the one who found the body.  From his view, Brenna and her sister were in an office that she didn't work at and had no reason to be in.  Kirk got to interview Grace, the more confident Halliday sister, the one who has to deal with a flighty sister who sees things that don't exist and has trouble dealing with other people, especially hot-looking young men.  McCoy and Kirk will return; murders aren't easily handwaved away.

I wound up rewriting a portion of this chapter once I realized what the killer was doing with/to the bodies.  The description of how Brenna discovered the body had to be changed as a result.  It was a simple change, but the former description didn't work with the later revelation.  What the change is, I'll leave for now.  It's a bit of a spoiler for what does happen.

Pantsing can make for interesting and unexpected twists.  I do a bit more planning now, in such that I have a rough direction and key scenes to hit while I figure out an ending.  Still, sometimes, items will appear that I don't expect, and that will hold even into NaNo 2016.

Tomorrow, A quick peek at Trish, and Matt and Brenna try to catch up on old times, in The Soul Blade Chapter 6.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, first impressions of the The Peanuts Movie.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum[http://codex.seventhsanctum.com/], The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again.

1 Nov 2016

NaNo 2016 Day 1

It's time to get things started!

NaNoWriMo has begun.  Fifty thousand words in thirty days, and this blog entry might not count.  I have a decision - dba LTV Paranormalists will be the project, with almost 400 words written in the first twenty minutes of the month.  I am a pantser, someone who tends to write at the seat of my pants.  The sole exception was By the Numbers, which had an outline.

With dba LTV Paranormalists, I'm already getting surprised by my characters - Kieu has a bias against blondes; Ayel is blonde; Kristi is far smarter than originally intended.  I've worked out where Kristi is from and realized that she has an older sister, Fred.  Ayel is the middle child, though her older brother is off on his own career elsewhere.  Her younger sister, Tiffany, is still in high school.  Kieu does have a family, and they miss her terribly during the school year.

So far, only Ayel and Kristi have been introduced.  I'm toying with a new style of writing that might not be sustainable through the entire series, but lets me show how the characters came together while still setting up the premise.  It's an experiment, so it's allowed to fail, provided I learn from the process.  Kieu should be introduced in chapter two, and the rest as needed.

The story is another serial.  They're fun and bloggable.  Unruly showed me that it is possible to get a serial done in NaNo without having to push a plot line out beyond what it could handle.  With dba LTV Paranormalists, I'll have an overall arc for the serial - already have one in mind! - and still do smaller chapters/episodes/entries that build towards the goal without feeling disjointed.

Let the insanity begin!

It's NaNo Time!

Get it on!

Best of luck to all WriMos out there.  May sanity be ever in your favour.

28 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 5

"Matt, I'm not a child."
"The Blade wants an heir."
"You mean right now?"
"No, Mr. Stanford, don't haunt them."
Tricia Meadows tossed her overcoat down the stairs to her basement as she stepped in through the door separating her garage and her kitchen.  She walked through her Spanish revival home, passing by the modern décor without paying a whit of attention.  As she climbed the stairs, she removed the pins and elastics keeping her jet black hair up in a workable bun.  Tricia shook out her hair, combing it out with her red-painted fingernails.

27 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 4 - Commentary

Brenna tries to explain what happened and why she's at a murder scene to the police.

One of the rhythms I fell into with early NaNoWriMo was an action/reaction rotation.  For everything that happened to a character, there was a scene for the character to process what happened and what to do next.  Chapter 3 had Brenna discovering a body, so Chapter 4 has the natural consequences of authorities getting involved.  For NaNo, it works to get words down and keeps the story flowing.  I still tend to fall into that rhythm, but I also have a better idea of how things progress.

A common trope with urban fantasy is keeping the supernatural and paranormal outside the perception of the mundane.  In superhero fiction, secret identities are de rigeur as well.  Given that Brenna came from an idea for the Champions RPG, having her maintain a masquerade was a natural choice.  In story, she's well aware that speaking with ghosts and waving around a sword of light would look bizarre at the minimum, so she doesn't tell everyone.  Her immediate family is aware as are family on her mother's side.  Missy is also aware; it's hard to keep secrets from your best friend, especially when the secret needs to come out to keep her safe.  Matt, though, is unaware, as established already.  Keeping the Soul Blade secret means that when the police get involved, Brenna has to try to explain her presence in unusual situations.  Normally, though, Brenna doesn't arrive on a murder scene while the body is still there.  Ghosts linger, and Brenna can do her thing in privacy most of the time.

Speaking of the police, there's no points for guessing where I got the names for Detectives McCoy and Kirk.  I needed a pair of names and they were the first to come to mind that weren't actual TV detectives like Cagney & Lacey or Starsky & Hutch.  McCoy took the lead in the investigation, though.  He got to interview the one who found the body.  From his view, Brenna and her sister were in an office that she didn't work at and had no reason to be in.  Kirk got to interview Grace, the more confident Halliday sister, the one who has to deal with a flighty sister who sees things that don't exist and has trouble dealing with other people, especially hot-looking young men.  McCoy and Kirk will return; murders aren't easily handwaved away.

I wound up rewriting a portion of this chapter once I realized what the killer was doing with/to the bodies.  The description of how Brenna discovered the body had to be changed as a result.  It was a simple change, but the former description didn't work with the later revelation.  What the change is, I'll leave for now.  It's a bit of a spoiler for what does happen.

Pantsing can make for interesting and unexpected twists.  I do a bit more planning now, in such that I have a rough direction and key scenes to hit while I figure out an ending.  Still, sometimes, items will appear that I don't expect, and that will hold even into NaNo 2016.

Tomorrow, A quick peek at Trish, and Matt and Brenna try to catch up on old times, in The Soul Blade Chapter 4.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, first impressions of the Lethal Weapon TV series.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Peanuts.

25 Oct 2016

WebFictionChat from Oct 23

Sundays on Twitter, web serial writers meet over the hashtag #WebFictionChat to talk about the nature of their work.  This week's discussion was genre.  Twitter's 140 character limit doesn't allow for answers that far in depth, but can lead to deeper thoughts.  Some questions were easy; others, well, Unruly defies genres at times.

Introduction: Tonight's chat is about genre. What genre do you write?
I originally answered urban fantasy, mostly.  Looking at what I have here, that might not be correct.  Subject 13 is a superhero YA-ish slice-of-life story.  Lethal Ladies is, roughly, a mystery with spy thriller elements.  By the Numbers is Shadowrun, a mix of cyberpunk and Tolkien fantasy.  Beaver Flight is science fiction.  The Soul Blade is urban fantasy by way of supers.  Unruly is a kitchen sink at this point, with elements of mad science, urban fantasy, crime drama, romance, boarding school, slice-of-life, and in the future, legal drama.  I'm all over the place, really.

Q1. What draws you to the genre you write?
The potential in urban fantasy and science fiction are the draw.  So much is possible, even with limitations inherent in the setting.  As long as the unusual doesn't break suspension of belief too much, I can get away with a lot.  With Subject 13, if I need twin fire projector/manipulators to challenge Nasty, I can add them without breaking the boundaries of the setting.  The same pyro twins would have to be altered for Unruly; superpowers don't exist and magic isn't that blatant.

Q2. Do you mesh genres - if so, which?
Unruly is the ultimate meshing of genres, allowing for almost anything to come up, depending on the characters involved.

Q3. How do you let potential readers know what genre to expect?
Badly.  Probably something for me to work on.  Unruly doesn't make it easy to classify.  The Soul Blade, though, is urban fantasy, and should have been announced as such.  The first few paragraphs should be a clue of the genre, as Brenna has a conversation with her late mother's ghost.

Q4. How do you determine your genre's target audience?
I have a target audience?  At this point, most the writing is either to get an idea out of my head and out on digital paper or to fill in a gap that I want to read.  I went searching for a novel featuring mecha versus mecha fighting on Friday and didn't find anything.  I may have to fill in that lack.

Q5. Do you decide "I want to write x genre" or do you just write a story and see where it fits?
Most of the time, I start with the concept, which then defines the genre.  Again, Unruly is the odd story out here, nicking elements from many genres.  My potential NaNoWriMo work is urban fantasy, because of the paranormal elements I want to include, not because I wanted to write urban fantasy.

Q6. Do you read the genres you write?
I do.  I've read urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction all over Mohs scale, Westerns, spy thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, and I'm currently reading non-fiction about crime in Japan*.  Most of that shows up somehow in my writing.

Q7. Anyone have a genre question they want to ask?
I had none here, in part because I was multitasking with character creation for The One Ring at the Sunday night game.  I wound up having to go to choice number three after my first two choices, a character from Gondor and a character from Bree, weren't covered in the rules available.  Third choice became a Dúnedain scholar, albeit one who travels and learns on the roads of Middle Earth instead of inside poring over ancient tomes.  But no, no genre question asked by me.

Q8. Any thoughts on what the next big new genre will be? I don't know where the trends are headed.
Someone else did have a question, though.  Supers are big right now, and may become the new Western in ubiquity.  Colonization stories may get a surge as setting up a colony on Mars becomes more and more possible.  Mash-ups may get more prominent; combining two or more unusual genres into one, as this tweet thread shows.  Marvel Studios has been good at combining superheroes with other genres.  Iron Man was a super-technological thriller.  Thor was super-fantasy.  Ant-Man was a super-heist movie.  Guardians of the Galaxy was a super-space opera.  I've heard that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a super-political thriller.  Other thoughts?  Please leave them in the comments on the possible big new genre.

Q9. What genre would you never want to write?
I couldn't think of much at the time beyond navel-gazing lit fic**.  However, I don't write horror, nor do I read it.  It's just not something I enjoy.  Thus, vampires aren't likely to appear in anything I write unless they get messily staked and treated as a monster.  However, monsters aren't necessarily horror, hence the time-travelling kaiju invasion ideaGodzilla isn't horror; it's a film about the horrors of the atomic bomb in the form of a giant monster that needs to be defeated.  Giant monsters, from Godzilla to Tremors's graboids are acts of nature, to be survived, than lurking horrors.

Thus endeth the chat.  I may not do this for every #webfictionchat, but if the questions deserve a deeper exploration, I will.  The twitter chat happens every Sunday night starting around 6pm Eastern time, though that may change with the end of Daylight Saving Time, especially this coming weekend.

* Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein.  So far, I've found that the megacorporate arcologies that pop up in cyberpunk have a basis in reality.

23 Oct 2016

NaNoPrep 2016 - Narrowing Down Again

The local NaNo leaders had a plan-in last weekend that helped with narrowing down my choices.  This time, the choices did go down.  I also got to working out details of settings that should help me during NaNo.

The leading contender* is Ayel and Kristi's story, which now has the working title dba LTV Paranormalists, where dba means "doing business as".  It's good enough for now, and will let me create a file for it.  It's the Scooby-Doo idea where the twist is that ghosts might not exist but the fey do.  The story may turn into a serial; there's enough to the idea to support shorter arcs but not really have a 50 000+ word novel, at least right away.  I've even started research for the story, so I'm ahead of the game here, especially compared to last year.

Of my main characters, I have Ayel Lindeman, business major at Carleton University.  Ayel isn't her given name; she prefers her initials, A-L, over her given name, and people eventually started spelling out the letters much like Artoo and Threepio.  When I checked to see what sort of classes Ayel would have, I discovered that Carleton's Commerce program has an Entrepreneurship concentration, which fits in perfectly with the story concept.  Ayel is the middle child, with an older brother, who has graduated university and has moved out to... somewhere to be determined when necessary, and a younger sister, Tiffany, who is still in high school and can be a minor headache when I need some conflict.  Her parents are Public Servants, and because of their drab names, wanted their children to have names that stood out without necessarily having silent 8s.  Ayel has shoulder length blonde hair, a red/maroon leather Carleton Commerce jacket with her preferred name on the arm.  If she has an early morning class, she grabs what's available, typically a pair of jeans and a sweater.  A later start lets her plan her outfits better.

Kristi Thiessen is turning out to be the instigator of events in the story.  Kristi is also a Carleton student, with a Medieval Studies minor in a major that doesn't want to sort itself out in my head.  Art History keeps coming up, so she may fall into that by default.  Kristi, like Ayel, uses a nickname, but more because she's more a Kristi than a Kristina.  She's the one bringing the group together; she's flighty but she's smart.  Kristi lives on campus, coming from Northern Ontario**.  Her family won't come into play too often, but her neighbours in res will.  I'll have to do some research on the different res buildings at Carleton to figure out which one she'd be in, assuming I just don't create one whole cloth.***  Thanks to Carleton's tunnel system, where students don't have to go outside in winter if they don't want to, Kristi can wear shorts during the day if she feels like it.  She keeps her sandy brown hair long and wavy, though she'll try different styles when the whim takes her.

Kieu Thi Vo almost got renamed.  Instead, Kieu was gender-flipped.  Research into the name revealed that Kieu is feminine, where I originally planned on Kieu being male.  What kept me with the name instead of the gender is the pronunciation which, if I'm reading it right, sounds similar to the letter Q.  As in Quartermaster.  As in Major Geoffrey Boothroyd, as played by the late Desmond Llewelyn.  Kieu is also a Carleton student, majoring in Computer Science.  A quick bit of research to see what changed since I received my degree in the same field showed that the department has expanded greatly and now has Mobile Computing as a possible stream.  Like with Ayel's Entrepreneur stream above, this turn of events works for my benefit and is the main reason why Kieu kept her name.  Kieu revealed a few details about herself afterwards, once of which being a bias against blondes.  That gives me an early conflict but something that will resolve over time.  Where Kieu lives is another question; right now, she may have a home in town, but she's more likely to be in computer labs and coffee shops working on her projects than in her own place.

Thanks to research to see if LTV Paranormalists would need a private investigator license, I needed a fourth character.  Right now, he's somewhat nebulous, not even having a name.  He does have such a license, as mandated by the Province of Ontario.  Kristi has him on retainer, on Ayel's suggestion.  He won't show up right away, but I have a rough idea of his appearance and capabilities.  I do want him to be atypical; he's not a wall of meat doing bouncer work; instead, he's slim, athletic but not pronounced, and capable.

As to whether LTV Paranomalists needs a PI license, the answers is "probably not".  To quote the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
A private investigator licence allows you to be employed and paid to investigate:
  • the character or actions of a person
  • a person’s business or occupation, or
  • the whereabouts of persons or property.
Investigating a property on behalf of the owner for historical purposes, for instance, how a previous owner died on the property, might not qualify.  Historians and genealogists do this sort of research as a matter of course and ghosts, if they exist, might not be legally defined as "persons".  However, I am not a lawyer, and I could counter that "the whereabouts of persons" may also include their grave.  Ayel would do similar research - that's one of the reasons Kristi recruits her help - and would make the suggestion to have someone available if the investigators cross that very fuzzy line and land inside the P.I. regulation.

All the above said, dba LTV Paranormalists wasn't the only idea I worked on at the plan-in.  A second idea, one I had shelved for a bit, returned.  Going back a bit, I had an idea that was one part Tremors and one part Primeval.  I gave it some more thought at the plan-in, and realized that it is also one part Stargate SG-1.  It expanded; not only do I have the survivalist inspired by Burt Gummer of Tremors, but I have a combat historian, inspired by Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG-1, and a zoologist/paleontologist/kaiju expert as the main characters.  I still need to flesh out details like how time travel works for both the invaders and for the Agency defending the planet, but gravity waves are the leading theory.  The temporal invasion is easy to explain - the aliens are trying to terraform Earth into something they can use while also getting rid of the pesky dominant sapient species.  Pity the invaders didn't start before Einstein's hypothesis about gravity wasn't observed.  There's still work to be done, but that didn't stop me with The Elf's Prisoner last year.

With just over a week to go, I may be ready.

* Nothing is definite until November 1st.  Maybe not even after.  If I get stuck, I can fall back on Unruly.
** I am so tempted to have her from Oshawa just to have her make oblique references to the Academy for Unruly Girls.
*** Carleton's residences are named after counties surrounding Ottawa.  I could go for a township inside a county to highlight that the building is ficticious.

21 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 4

"Bladekeeper, you are needed."
"Something is just terribly wrong, like a minion of Old Nick himself stepped through to our world."
"Call the police.  Someone died in there."
"You're the best damned Bladekeeper we've had in ages."

The police arrived five minutes after Grace made her call.  Brenna had managed to find a washroom before her stomach finally had enough and regurgitated her meager breakfast.  The first to arrive were uniformed officers.  Three of them entered the office.  One had to run back out so he could vomit without destroying the crime scene.  Brenna walked over to the cop and held out her hand to help him back up.

"Thanks," he said.  "Brenna?"

20 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 3 - Commentary

Brenna gets summoned!  Dead body!  Annoyed Grace!  The plot returned in Chapter 3!

The chapter opens with morning at the Halliday household.  Everyone is well aware of the oddities of the Soul Blade that they're used to it.  Grace has often caught her sister holding a conversation to someone that she can't see.  With this part, I could show off more of Brenna's personality and her girly-ness.  Brenna likes frilly; she's liked frilly since before she inherited the Blade.

Bert was a fun character to write.  He came about because I needed a way to get Brenna to the crime scene.  I did put some thought into him; his life and his death, his mannerisms, and all for what was meant to be a one-time only appearance.  He turned into a gentleman around Brenna, and led to some fun dialogue.  Bert also let me introduce the otherworldly types into the story in a non-confrontational way.

Inside the office building, I worked with Brenna's second sight.  Technically, she perceives auras, but it's not just people who have them.  Objects that that have soaked up the emotional energy of people reflect that.  Churches tend to have positive, uplifting auras.  Funeral homes are sombre.  Office buildings are beige.  Thanks to her own abilities, Grace doesn't show up as anything but a grey slate that melds into the background.  White like a blank slate is rare and requires a new building; even then, thanks to construction workers, there's always something more.

The body was something I had come back to because of what the killer does with other corpses in later chapters.  I hadn't decided on what the villain was doing with the bodies at this point.  Once I had, the discovery in this chapter had to be changed just enough, mostly the position of the body.  However, the blank slate was there in the first pass.  Violent deaths leave violent emotional residue, and that's completely missing from the crime scene.

Tomorrow, the police arrive, in The Soul Blade Chapter 4.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Dungeons & Dragons, animated.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, first impressions of the Lethal Weapon TV series.

19 Oct 2016

Election 2015 - One Year Later

October 19, 2015 was the last Canadian election.  When all the counting was done, the Harper Government had been ousted after simmering resentment was allowed to come out.  I posted a wish list of what I wanted to see happen in the first year.  What has happened since then?

Repeal bill C-51 immediately, before it can be used.
Still not done.  The Conservative Senators threatened to prevent its repeal.  This may have to go to the Surpreme Court.

Repeal two-tier citizenship before there's an expensive constitutional challenge.
The Liberals introduced Bill C-6 in the House, where it passed.  The bill is now in the Senate.

Restore the long-form census.  Math matters.
Done!  The long form returned for this year's census.  Math is vindicated!

Let the scientists speak out again.
Done!  The Canadian government is also getting back on course to reduce the effect of climate change.

Forensic accounting on the Harper Government's Canada Action Plan to see where the money went.  Criminal charges, if warranted, would be a bonus here.
Ths was never going to happen.  I still want to see it done, but it's not likely.

Cancel the XL Pipeline project.
The project is in the air right now.  The collapse of oil prices put a damper on the enthusiasm for the pipeline, and the complete carnival of the American election has the fate of the project in the air.

Improve International relationships, starting with the US, Canada's biggest trading partner.
Done!  And how!  Trudeau and Obama became the most photogenic pair of world leaders to ever grace the pages of a newspaper.  There must be real-person slash fic of them floating on the Internet even now.  Go look for it yourself.

Things could be better.  But things have improved overall since the election.

14 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 3

"You don't recognize it?"
"Why do I have the feeling you're setting me up?"
The next morning, Brenna awoke with a jack hammer trying to pound a way out from inside her skull.  Her hands felt like they were wrapped in gauze.  She rolled over, hoping that the tiny construction worker in her head would lose his footing.  No luck, the pounding continued unabated.  With a sigh, Brenna pushed herself up,  She got her legs under her so she could sit.  Blinking to clear her eyes of the morning fog, she tried to recognize the room she was in.  Her fuzzy brain took several minutes to realize that she was in her own room.  She looked down at her hands; it took another minute for her to realize that she had never removed lace gloves when she went to bed.

13 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 2 - Commentary

Brenna has dinner, goes out with friends!  Yeah, not the most exciting of chapters.

Chapter 2 was more a character exploration bit than anything else.  I managed to get started, then wanted to introduce key characters in Brenna's life.  Grace, Joni, and Gary appeared last chapter.  This time around, Brenna's friend Missy makes her debut.  The chapter does show the normal life Brenna has.  Normal for her includes dealing with ghosts, trying to make ends meet, and spending time with friends.  Many series do show the main character's friends; Magnum, P.I., Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and later entries in cozy mysteries all showcased the extended cast.

As mentioned before, Brenna has a history behind her, in the meta sense.  Her first incarnation was as a teenager, so her personal cast then consisted of her friends in high school and her immediate family.  With each time she appeared, mainly in gaming, she aged a bit, going from early-to-mid teens to late teens to young adult, to her now.  Her cast has aged the same way.  Grace was originally a bratty thirteen year old; she's now a bratty university graduate.  Missy started off as the brash transfer student who latched on to the shiest kid in her new class and became one of Brenna's best friends.  Her use in the story is to provide contrast for Brenna.  Missy is confident, is outgoing, owns her own store with an employee, and is happy with her life.  She has what Brenna wants.

The Volvo came out of nowhere.  It wasn't thought out.  The idea hit me when I needed word count.  It's just a bit of weirdness.  But, Brenna's life is filled with weirdness, so what's one more element?  The car also provided a bit of levity, which will be needed once Chapter 3 strikes.

Once again, my naming skills appear.  Missy's shop and the bar took some time to name.  Gnarly's Boards isn't that bad; it's a shop on the beach that sells surfing supplies.  The Perfidious Clam, however...  I've had better.  I've had worse, but not by much.  The bar's decor shows more about it than the name.  Still, it should have a neon sign in the shape of a clam outside the door.  The name serves its purpose, giving the place something to call it by.

Brenna's money problems seemed worse in 2009.  The cost of laptops have dropped over seven years, to the point where a refurbished model from 2009 is just slightly lower than a new one today.  Still, getting help finding a good refurbed machine takes a bit of effort.  Brenna's main income is from custom tailoring; Missy passes Brenna's card out to people who want costumes based on Brenna's work.  Missy is also trying to get Bren into webcomics; it doesn't pay much, but with sites like Patreon and ad revenues, the work may give her enough to get out to conventions to drum up sales.  And then there's the IT guy Missy is trying to set up with Brenna.  Missy is looking out for all of Brenna's needs.

Tawny was fun to write.  She worked out quickly that she and Bren don't have much in common.  It turned a drive to the beach into something else beyond a sentence saying, "After a twenty minute ride, Brenna arrived at Gnarly's Boards."  I had no other purpose for Tawny beyond expanding the world a bit and getting Brenna to Missy's shop.  Yet, Tawny should be memorable.

Overall, not much happened this chapter.  Some of it is set up for later, some of it is characterization, and some of it is just me trying to figure out where I'm going.  Brenna can't do much until the villain's plot crosses her path, but she's the main character.  The action focuses on her.  If this was written in the first person, there wouldn't be much happening as it is.  However, there's now a baseline for what passes as normal in Brenna's life, before the plot tosses it around like a banana being frappé-ed.

Tomorrow, Brenna's fate comes calling, in The Soul Blade Chapter 3.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, thoughts on the Magnum, P.I. sequel.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Dungeons & Dragons, animated.

9 Oct 2016

Unruly Update

The table of contents and the cast page have been updated to the end of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Caitlin.  There are more parts in the works, but nothing that can be announced yet.

Happy Thanksgiving!

7 Oct 2016

Tales of the Soul Blade - Chapter 2

"You didn't happen to go to Kearny High School, did you?"
"Oh, man, where have you been?  You smell like you've been lost in the woods for days."
"He's only having a mid-life crisis over my dead body."
"Can't be too careful, can you?"
Brenna brushed out her long brunette hair as she angled her hot air dryer to get beneath her tresses.  The bath was exactly what she needed; muscles that had stiffened while she was behind the steering wheel.  The quiet was blissful, too, getting away from both Grace and Mom's nattering.

From downstairs, her father called, "Dinner's almost ready, girls."

"Coming!" Brenna called back.  She ran her fingers through her hair.  Although her hair was still damp, Brenna felt it could dry naturally without getting too tangled.  She quickly changed, leaving her fluffy towel and bathrobe hung up on the back of her door and making sure her gloves fit properly.  She ran out and downstairs, taking them two at a time.

Her father met her at the bottom.  He snatched her into a hug.  "Hey, sweetheart."

"Hi, Daddy.  I missed you."  Brenna gave her father a kiss on the cheek.  "What's with the new car?"

6 Oct 2016

The Soul Blade Chapter 1 - Commentary

A new serialization starts!  If The Soul Blade looks familiar, I previewed it during my NaNoWriMo retrospective, with its own commentary.  In part to make up for the rerun, I've extended the chapter.  Welcome to the cliffhanger!

So, if I've done commentary, what's left?  The previous comments were mainly about NaNoWriMo 2009 and how the idea for The Soul Blade came about.  This time around, the commentary is about the chapter itself.  Which is a good place to start.  I was still figuring out how chapters work, despite By the Numbers the previous year.  I broke The Soul Blade into scenes as I wrote.  The chapters are a late addition, based on a wanted size for them.  I'm aiming for about 2000 words per chapter, but will go low in one if the next makes more sense together instead of split.  The added bit, though, isn't just padding.  It sets up the main plot.

Chapter 1 sets up my main characters.  While Brenna is the lead, she has a decent-sized supporting cast, including her family and her best friend.  This lets me show "normal" before the weird hits.  Not that Brenna's life is normal, as demonstrated by having her late mother judging her as they drive down the highway.  It's a bit of an infodump, but I hope that it doesn't come across as such.  Brenna gets to show who she is and how she deals with her family.

As mentioned in the previous commentary, the Soul Blade follows a matrilinear line.  Potential heirs show some ability when young.  Brenna's ability was psychometry, the ability to read an object by touch, getting images of what has happened in the past.  Grace also has a special ability, an immunity to others' psychic abilities.  Brenna's cousins, who will appear in a later chapter, also have abilities.

The car turned into something odder than expected.  NaNoWriMo means typing, getting words to paper or pixel.  For planners, outlines fill up and most details are nailed down.  Pantsers, however, go where the plot drifts.  The Challenger was partially planned; Missy getting the old car wasn't.  Chalk it up to Brenna being a weirdness magnet by profession.  Brenna has her own vehicle, the van.  Grace has her own, which will show up in Chapter 3.  Given that his daughters are all grown up and have their own cars now, Gary deserves his own, and he chose a Dodge Challenger.

It did occur to me that I could have placed Jenna's scene at the beginning instead of the end, but that would feel like a bait-and-switch.  Readers would assume Jenna was the lead character up until she's killed.  I think it works better after setting up Brenna`s day of normalness; something wicked this way comes.  It`s the end of the day, Jenna's heading home after a long day of being the acting assistant head of HR.  Lomax, the employee, possibly a manager, whose problem she's escaping was named after Terry Kiser's character in Weekend at Bernie's.  It's just a shout out, but made for a quick name when I needed one.  Bernie Lomax wasn't the best boss to have.  The song is a real one; "I Engineer" is from the 80s.  Just a bit of characterization for the doomed woman.

The preview is not accurate.  I went looking for a few choice quotes and accidentally went too far.  They work better for Chapter 3.  What happens in Chapter 2?

Tomorrow, the calm before the storm, in The Soul Blade Chapter 2.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, first impressions of the new MacGuyver.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, thoughts on the Magnum, P.I. sequel.

30 Sept 2016

The Soul Blade - Chapter 1

Brenna gripped her van's steering wheel hard enough to turn her knuckles white.  "Mom, I am doing the speed limit."  Despite her argument, she glanced down at the speedometer.  It read fifty-five miles per hour, the designated limit.  "Fifty-five, right on the dot."

The ghostly apparition of Brenna's mother sat in the passenger seat.  "It sounds like your going faster."

"That's the engine, Mom."  Brenna rolled her eyes.  "It's a diesel.  It always sounds like this on the highway."  She spied the sign for her exit off the freeway.  With exaggerated care for her mother's sake, Brenna signaled and changed over to the off-ramp.  As she slowed the van down from highway speeds, she said, "See?"

"Don't take that tone with me, Brenna," Joni warned

Brenna held in an exasperated sigh, knowing it would just escalate the argument.  "Sorry."

"And try to smile.  Your sister doesn't graduate university everyday."

With a forced smile, Brenna answered, "I know.  Good for Gracie and all that."  She signalled to turn on the main road into her neighborhood.  "She worked hard."  Blue and red lights in the van's side mirror caught the young woman's attention.  She pulled over to the side to let the emergency vehicle pass.

A police cruiser passed by then rolled to a stop in front of Brenna's lavender Savana van.  "I told you that you were speeding," her mother admonished.

29 Sept 2016

NaNoPrep 2016 Casting - Commentary

Meta commentary!  Ooh!

Last week, I laid out the characters I'd need for potential project.  After all, without characters, it's not so much a story as it is a 50 000 word essay.  Today, a look into how the ideas came together in the first place.

In general, stories come in two different ways; either I have a character looking for a setting and a plot or a plot looking for a setting and a character.  Rare is the setting that is looking for plot and characters, though Colony Base 183 is turning out that way.  When I have a character, the cast tends to boil down to one or two main characters with others added as needed.  The plot comes from the character, either because of what he or she* can do or is what is being done to him or her.  Subject 13 is a prime example; Nasty grew out of my desire to throttle people over the phone while doing front line phone firewall** work.  The rest grew as I worked out who Nasty was.  In this case, I know more about the character than I do the rest of the story, but can toss in events and know how the lead will react.  The setting is partially baked into the main character; she doesn't exist in a vacuum and will have roots of some sort that can be exploited as needed.

The flipside is starting with an idea for a plot.  At this point, I start working out what character roles I'll need.  Beaver Flight began this way.  Here, the idea was an alien invasion, specifically a "Venus Needs Men!" approach, coupled with the Arrogant Worms' "We Are the Beaver".  I needed the Canadian flight to have a leader, a technician, a linguist, and a scientist, then worked out who those characters would be.  When starting with a plot, I sometimes don't have a full handle on who the characters are, and have to stop and work out details in the middle of a scene.  The answer to "How would Tori react if she was abducted by aliens?" turned out weirder than expected.

Sometimes, similar sounding ideas come up.  Take the three different ideas of amateur detectives in university from last week's post.  Each one is different, but possibly just in my own head.  The Lakehead group is very much in their own setting, and is more focused on a modern reality.  The Carleton group, though, flirts with the supernatural and owes a bit to Scooby-Doo and Ghostbusters.  The third group is more focused on the main characters' dysfunctional families while still solving minor crimes.  Could they be merged?  Not really, not without effort that could break the core concepts of each idea.  However, the Shadowrun ideas do run into each other and into By the Numbers because of the shared setting.  Skater had an appearance in By the Numbers and could easily have a cameo in the webcomic.

Setting should get a mention.  Several of the ideas, particularly the ones set in universities, are easy to place.  Two of the universities exist, and I've checked one's website to get an idea of how its residences are laid out.  The other, I can just make a trip on a weekend to verify a detail or two if needed, as long as I don't have to enter a building.  Even then, I know enough of the buildings on campus that I can extrapolate as needed.  A classroom is a classroom.  Draconic Magic, though, needs work.  Right now, I have a village or town in the distance, a dragon's lair in a mountain, and a wind-swept rock where the villagers/townsfolk leave their sacrifices to the dragon.  I do need more, though I will borrow from The Elf's Prisoner for how magic works.  Maybe last year's NaNo project didn't work out, but I did start building a world that I can plunder for its good ideas.

There's still over a month to get ready.  The key thing for me is to choose a project, and keep it chosen, unlike last year.

Tomorrow, a new serial.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, insights from Can-ConSF 2016.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, first impressions of the new MacGuyver.

* Most likely, "she".
** Tech support for an ISP.