26 Feb 2016

The Devil You Know - NaNoWriMo 2013

Chapter 1

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

"Everyone, look lively."  Gemma's voice was far from comforting for Ione.  The British woman's tone was clipped and sharp with its London accent.  Acknowledgements clicked over the radio.  Ione added hers as she crouched down near a a scraggly bush.  A mist built up over the warehouse's parking lot.  Ione missed the weather back in her hometown; she never figured that Ottawa would turn out to be warmer in the fall.

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

25 Feb 2016

Bronya and Morwenna - Commentary

Title: The Erotic Adventures of Bronya and Morwenna – Case 1
Year: 2011
Main Characters: Bronya Maestas and Morwenna Sunee
Current Status: Incomplete

Once again, a year skipped.  In 2010, I wrote By the Numbers, completing it.  For 2011, I decided to try something different, in both setting and tone.  In previous works, both for NaNoWriMo and others, I kept winding up with a woman with a crush on another.  Most of the time, it was unintentional.  With Bronya and Morwenna, I started with the couple.

The only details that were kept from the original concept for the story were that Morwenna and Bronya were mages and they were lovers.  The story was going to be a swords-and-sorcery fantasy; the ladies disagreed.  Bronya wanted to keep her swords, but Morwenna wanted something faster than a horse.  Moving the idea to the modern era would lead to comparisons to By the Numbers, at least in my head, and I didn't want to repeat myself by using someone else's setting.  I looked at moving the setting much further into the future, to when travel between worlds on starliners was common place; in short, something like a space opera.  Bronya and Morwenna agreed.  By going with a space opera, I could just handwave the magic, accepting it as known without having to work out precisely how magic and science stood side-by-side.

With the genre settled, the specifics of the setting started coming together.  I took inspiration from Traveller and the careers available in the game.  Morwenna and Bronya can't be created with the system as written, though.  I left many details alone until I needed them, like names of planets and how the faster-than-light drive works*.  I worked out a rough plot with beats I wanted to hit, and then wrote from there.

The tiff that the leads have doesn't last for long, just long enough to provide some early conflict.  Morwenna and Bronya have some communication issues still to work out; they've been together for some time, but are still discovering aspects about each other.  Bronya has some issues from her past that interfere with her relationship with Morwenna.  These issues, once I realized she had them, let me figure out just who the antagonist of the story is.  Unfortunately, I didn't get far enough to bring her in.

Ambassador Woon's name came from a challenge that the Ottawa NaNo group had.  "Mr. Ian Woon" is an anagram of NaNoWriMo; working the name in meant getting a sticker.  During my two years as municipal liaison for Ottawa, I discovered the power of using stickers to motivate writers.  People rose to the challenges provided just to get the sticker for them.  Stickers were also given for hitting key milestones while writing, like every 5000 words written.  I dropped in Mr. Ian Woon when I discovered I needed a name I wasn't prepared for.  Mr. Ian Woon became an ambassador.

The names of the planets weren't so easy to get.  Most are just syllables put together.  The Commonwealth - that's the only name I used, to avoid having to get into further background - is a star-spanning collection of allied worlds.  Again, this was inspired by Traveller's Third Imperium, but without any details added**.  Worlds were self-governing, similar to the British Commonwealth of today.  The names of the space stations were the names of game designers how had passed away, Nigel Findley and Gary Gygax.

As much as I didn't want to get into how the faster-than-light travel worked, I did wind up putting some thought into what to call it.  I went with "cerning", naming the travel after CERN.  At the time of writing, CERN thought it had discovered a particle that travelled faster than light.  If true, that would give hope to finding a way to break the light barrier.  Today, I'd use some sort of gravitational wave technobabble instead, leading to FTL travel being called "hyper-surfing".

The magic, though, I had worked out prior to writing, back when the story was still a swords-and-sorcery fantasy.  I didn't have the full details, just that each mage was an elementalist, Earth, Air, Fire, or Water.  Morwenna was always a Fire mage; she insisted.  I thought about having Bronya be a Water mage, Fire's opposing element, but decided against it.  Instead, Bronya is an Air mage, allowing her to work beside Morwenna without cancelling each other out.  A Water mage does appear over the next chapter, and there is an Earth mage lurking about.

Once again, I list the story as incomplete.  At the end of November 2011, I had gone as far as I could without knowing just what happened to Rachel.  Bronya and Morwenna did their investigating, but I was just starting to realize that the antagonist was someone from Bronya's past and had to work out just how to get the story from the investigation to the reveal.  I didn't have an end in mind when I started, which is never a good idea.  Without an end, there's no way to know what the path should be to get there.

Tomorrow, the NaNo retrospective continues with The Devil You Know.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, a look at remaking The Last Starfighter.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Casting the Runes.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

* How does it work?  The navigator works out the course and the pilot points the ship in the proper direction before pressing a button.  As far as Bronya and Morwenna are concerned, it's like using a microwave.  The pilot and navigator know what they're doing, but they're off-screen.
** In an unrelated aside, I've been working on an alternate setting for Traveller, using three-dimensional star mapping instead of the game's two-dimensional hex grid, calling it the Terran Commonwealth.  I may have the details I could have used in 2011 done in several months.

19 Feb 2016

Bronya and Morwenna - NaNo 2011

[The following contains scenes of naughtiness and strong language.  Reader discretion advised.]

Chapter 1

"Bronya," Morwenna purred as she stretched underneath the sheet on the shared bed.  "Come back?  I'm getting cold."

Bronya continued to brush out her platinum blonde hair, still damp from her morning shower.  "We don't have the time."

Morwenna pouted, her lips pursing into a moue.  "Are you sure?"  She slipped her legs out from under the covers.  "Not even for a quickie?"

18 Feb 2016

Tales of the Soul Blade - Commentary

Title: Tales of the Soul Blade
Year: 2009
Main Character: Brenna Halliday
Current Status: Incomplete

After NaNo 2007's mess, Digital Magic and 2008's far more successful Crossover, I started to figure out a few elements that work in my favour when writing.  The key element is knowing the characters well enough to predict what would happen if I tossed an event at them.  Both Lethal Ladies and Crossover featured characters I had spent time with prior to writing.  Alas, poor Jackie in Digital Magic; I didn't know her well enough to realize that she just wasn't in the mood to be a romance lead.  Brenna, in Tales of the Soul Blade, had started out as a Champions character and had been played, in one form or another, in two RPG campaigns.  I had a good handle on her personality, so anything that happened, I could work out what she would do.

The titular Soul Blade came about after some thought about Chosen Ones and how powers get passed on.  The thoughts then went to how, historically, women weren't exactly considered to be, well, people until recently.  Surnames got changed with marriage, signifying the change of whose possession women were.  However, with surnames changing and minimal records keeping, someone with embued power could disappear.  A power that manifests along a matriarchal line means that it becomes tougher to track who has it, unless detailed records are kept.

The title, Tales of the Soul Blade, came from the idea of writing about the various wielders of the Soul Blade throughout the ages.  Brenna was chosen to be the first wielder highlighted because I was, as mentioned above, familiar with her.  She needed a family tree, at least enough to figure out who were the last few women to wield the Blade.  Brenna's mother, Joni, was the obvious choice, and had been chosen when Brenna was still a PC.  Before Joni was Brenna's grandmother.  That gave me three generations to work with for future installments.

The Blade itself is almost an entity on its own.  It manifests in the most appropriate woman of each generation, allowing the chosen one to fight supernatural threats.  Women in the family tend to have supernatural abilities even without the Blade.  Brenna has the ability to see ghosts and use psychometry, the ability to read an object's past merely by touching it.  Her sister, Grace, is resistant to the supernatural.  One of Brenna's cousins gets glimpses into the future.  The Blade also works to ensure there is a next generation, but sending signals to its wielder when an appropriate mate is around.

That is a lot of background info in the above.  The trick was to reveal the information without an infodump.  The first chapter was meant to introduce most of the elements mentioned.  Brenna's reaction to Matt and her seeing her mother but Grace only hearing half the conversation got two of the points out.  The Blade itself appears later, after the main characters are introduced.  Other details, like Brenna being a university drop-out, came from extrapolating the problems she's having with the Blade.  And there is family drama.  I gave myself a bit to work with.

Turns out, I gave myself too much to work with.  I had a good start and I did over the 50 000 word mark needed for NaNoWriMo, but found myself with so many loose plot ends that I wasn't able to wrap everything up when I needed to.  The romance problems I had with Digital Magic were gone with Soul Blade; Brenna was ready to jump Matt the longer the story went and I wasn't ready for them to take the final step.  I had a villain raising an army of skeletons* on the behalf of a supernatural evil.  Brenna's father was getting serious with a new girlfriend.  Grace was graduating and the family was in town to help celebrate.  A lot was happening that I lost track of.

Unlike the abandoned Digital Magic, Tales of the Soul Blade is just "incomplete".  I take a look at it from time to time to figure out what can be done to complete it.  I could turn it into a serial much like Unruly, as I had thought of doing; the word count wouldn't have to be 50 000 or more.  The potential in the story is still there. 

Something I should have mentioned previously in this retrospective series - if there's anything you want to see more of, let me know.  Keep in mind that some of these aren't complete, but I can do the full commentary on the parts that do exist.

Tomorrow, the NaNo retrospective continues with Bronya and Morwenna.  Reader discretion advised.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Green Hornet.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, a look at remaking The Last Starfighter.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

* Zombies were getting overdone in 2009.  Skeletons didn't have the drawbacks of zombies and would look cooler if adapted.

12 Feb 2016

Tales of the Soul Blade

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."

11 Feb 2016

Digital Magic - Commentary

While I try to get a proper serial readied, I'm going to reveal my NaNoWriMo projects, year by year.  Some have already been posted, but not all.  This is more to demonstrate the change in writing style and ability over the past ten years.

My first NaNo was in 2006, with Lethal Ladies, which I've already posted in its entirety.  In 2007, my project was Digital Magic.  Let's start with the summary.

Title: Digital Magic
Year: 2007
Main Character: Jacqueline Hart, Jackie to her friends
Current Status: Abandoned

5 Feb 2016

Digital Magic - NaNoWriMo 2007

I'm still getting some new Unruly chapters written.  In the meantime, to show the evolution of my writing, I will be posting the first chapter of each of my NaNoWriMo projects, with commentary following as usual.  Today's offering, Digital Magic, is from 2007.  Enjoy!

4 Feb 2016

Crossover Epilogue - Commentary

You can't keep an interesting villain locked up forever.  Please read the chapter before continuing.

First off, the story's over!  Celebrate!

Frivolity aside, the story didn't serialize as well as I'd hoped.  When I wrote Crossover, I wasn't expecting to ever blog.  Crossover was envisioned as a novel, and after two previous attempts during NaNoWriMos 2006 and 2007, I felt that I had adjusted to the needs of a longer work after writing only short stories prior.

The epilogue came to mind while writing Crossover.  It wasn't planned at the start, but I remembered the Consortium and their plots.  With a second Natasha Giuliano available, one that owes the Consortium a favour, the Coordinator no longer really needs Nasty.  Natasha, for her part, gets to join an organization that she can insinuate herself into and try to turn to her own goals from the inside.  The write-up at the end was based on Nasty's at the end of Subject 13 issue 13, changed to reflect Natasha's capabilities.  Natasha may not like being Subject 13a, but she's the invader and has to put up with local conditions.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading.  The Subject 13 index will be updated soon to include all of Crossover.

Tomorrow, the beginning of a NaNoWriMo retrospective.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Back to the Future cartoon.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, a short hiatus.  Apologies for the sudden disappearance.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.