27 Mar 2016

25 Mar 2016

The Terran Commonwealth - Overview

Last week, in detailing two potential NaNoWriMo projects, I mentioned the Terran Commonwealth.  The short version is that I wanted a non-Trek setting to use for my own nefarious purposes.  Essentially, a large setting that I can use as a default setting without having to worry about similarities to existing properties.

24 Mar 2016

No Commentary Today

Since I didn't have a story chapter up last week, there is no commentary today.  Once the serials return, so will the comments.

I will have some thoughts about the Singularity and some gaming goodies in the coming weeks, along with something on Fridays.  Tomorrow, details on the Terran Confederation.

18 Mar 2016

NaNo 2016 - Potential Projects

November is just six and a half months away!  Time to get ready for NaNoWriMo!  Panic!  Okay, maybe it's not that urgent to start preparations now, though considering that last year I grabbed an idea at the last minute, some thought might help.  Right now*, I have two ideas.  One is an idea I've been toying with for a while, just never figuring out the right approach.  The other brings together the lessons from Subject 13, Unruly, and Beaver Flight; the format is as important as the subject matter.

The first idea, Colony Base 183, was a choice for last year.  What has changed since then is that, in playing around with an idea for Traveller, I discovered a setting that would provide for the story and file off all those pesky serial numbers Colony Base 183 has.  The Terran Commonwealth will get its own post in the near future, but short version of it is a non-Star Trek setting that has humanity exploring and discovering neighbours, some of whom believe the upstart primates from Dirt** should be forcibly removed from the galactic arm.  Into this grand setting comes a young Colonial Ranger, a member of the Colonization Office of the Exploration Service*** on her first mission as law enforcement on a new Commonwealth colony.  Breaking away from Trek to the Terran Commonwealth lets me shed all the tropes associated with Star Trek and provide different technologies.  Plus, colonization of planets may become a matter of interest once Mars is opened for habitation.  A space western, except not.

The other idea is based on the Shadowrun RPG.  However, instead of prose like By the Numbers, I want to try scripting the story like a webcomic.  This is where the serialization efforts of Subject 13 and Unruly come in.  A successful script in NaNo needs 100 pages completed, though I'll have to look into what is considered a page.  I'm still working on a general plot, though, as a serial, I can break the story down into separate jobs still featuring the same cast.  The main characters from By the Numbers won't be featured, but may make cameos.  I have a new cast in mind, one that isn't as professional.

In both cases, I have a cast already in mind, a world at least partially built, and general directions.  All that's left is to work out a plot and an end point.  And minor details.  And antagonists.  And action sequences.  Maybe I'm not ready yet.

* Last year, I managed to narrow down a choice of two into three possibilities.  Which really isn't narrowing anything down at all.
** Earth.  A riff off a line from Illegal Aliens by Nick Pollotta and Phil Foglio, stating that all species name their homeworld some sort of variant of "Dirt".
*** Er, the Scout Service from /Traveller/.  There are some new serial numbers appearing.

17 Mar 2016

NaNoWriMo Projects - What Next?

Since it'd be silly to comment on what is essentially commentary, let's look at what's possible with the projects listed last week.  Most have a future of some sort, and there are plans afoot*.

Lethal Ladies
While the first story is rough, the concept is solid.  The project could be turned into a serial without too much trouble.  The original idea was to turn Lethal Ladies into a series; serializing means allowing a story to run as long as needed.  Titles of individual stories would be stylized along the lines of Perry Mason ("Case of the X"), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("The X Affair"), and Leverage ("The X Job").  Whether a new case comes up for November is another question.

Digital Magic
Oh, completely abandoned.  I have ideas to salvage it, but the story is going to be gutted and rebuilt in that case.  Essentially, Jackie, Tricia, and Donna (the villain) may be the only details left standing.

Crossover is tied in to Subject 13, so future plans depend on returning to where I had left Nasty.  Once I work out the battle against Famine, then I can get Nasty home.

Tales of the Soul Blade
I mentioned the plans in the commentary, but the idea was that I'd look at the various wielders of the titular blade.  I also have a follow up idea with Brenna, showing that she's not the only defender against supernatural threats.  There isn't a Chosen One, but a Chosen Many.

By the Numbers
Numbers' story needs to be finished.  In 2014, I had started a follow up, and continued it when I wrote myself into a corner with Unruly.  I do know where the team wound up, with Numbers off trying to create a new life while the rest deal with breaking in a new hacker.

Bronya and Morwenna
Low on the list of stories to be worked on, there are ideas to bring out.  The catch is getting to the planned point of the villain's reveal and the consequences thereof.  Bronya's past returns to haunt her and Morwenna winds up having to work on her own for a bit.  It may get a bit dark, too, which is another reason for the lower priority.  I need to make sure I'm in the right frame of mind, and that frame needs a lit path.

Beaver Flight
This is a work that needs to be reformatted as a proper serial, as opposed to how I presented it before.  With the reworking of the story, the slower bits can be handwaved away.  Beaver Flight needed to be a serial, possibly animated or illustrated.

The Devil You Know
I have the end in mind.  I just need to get there, wrap up everyone's dangling plotlines, and figure out the big confrontation.  Once that's done, Mara may get her own story; for a character added because I needed a co-pilot, she became integral.

There are two entries in the works, and I have a title list for future stories.  I may also ask some people I know if they want to try their hand at the setting.  After all, the serial is about the school and the students, not just Laura and her roommates.  The potential in Unruly is untapped so far.

The Elf's Prisoner
World building needs to be done.  I have ideas, such as what races live where and how to give them a twist from the traditional fantasy tropes.  Time will tell.

Many ideas, so little time.  But NaNoWriMo's big lesson was just writing.  I went from struggling to fill a 50 000 word novel to writing regular blog posts not just here but with Lost in Translation over at Seventh Sanctum and Psycho Drive-In.  The more I write, the better I get, and the more confidence I gain in my voice.  Writing isn't scary anymore!

Tomorrow, Some ideas for NaNo 2016.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Batman Fluxx.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Supergirl, I hope.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

* Which is an odd place to keep them, on a foot.

11 Mar 2016

NaNoWriMo Projects Summary

Over the past few weeks, I've posted the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo.  With each novel written, complete or not, I learned a bit.  Below is what I learned with each story.

10 Mar 2016

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary

Title: The Elf's Prisoner
Year: 2015
Main Characters: Kazimier, Jyslyn, Nyssa, Leomund, Wren
Current Status: Incomplete

The Elf's Prisoner was my tenth time participating in NaNoWriMo.  After the successful work on Unruly, my plan was to work out a thought out story that would carry me through November 2015.  That idea died when the characters for what became The Elf's Prisoner started clamouring for attention at the last minute.

For a story that sprung itself on me, I managed to get thirty-seven chapters completed.  The problem I ran into was not having an idea of what was going on once I got past the chapters introducing the main characters.  The villain finally appeared after Chapter 22, when I finally had an idea of what the plot was.  I became a "pantser", someone who write by the seat of their pants.  I had little beyond the character introductions, so if something came to mind, it got tossed in.  The Elf's Prisoner gained random encounters.

Chapter 1 lays out the working title of the story.  Jyslyn becomes Kazimier's prisoner.  I tired to set out the characters of both elves while setting up some conflict to carry the story until the real plot was found.  With the gnoll attack, I could get some action in to distract readers from the lack of direction I had.  I really do need a scene to aim for when I write, so pantsing became a challenge.  I had no ending in mind when I started, nor any intermediate scenes.  Some came to me as I wrote, but not during the first or second chapters.

Jyslyn allowed me to introduce an intermediate villain, a threat that was personal to her but still a danger to the homes of Kazimier and Nyssa.  Jyslyn's eldest sister gave me a few ideas, but her brother helped lead to my main villain, Sesserine.  Sesserine is a snake person, the upper half the body of a woman, the lower half a snake.  Even there, she's not the primary villain, but she's closer to the ultimate villain than Jyslyn's family.  Between them both, though, I had a general plot where someone was trying to cause strife between allies.  Nyssa and Kazimier both worked out what the plot was, leading to a failure on the part of the villain.

The story is filled with placeholders.  Stopping to figure out details meant stopping the writing while the story was flowing.  Placeholders began with the '$' to make it easier to find with a global search.  One even slipped into the part I posted.
The woman let Kazimier help her get the tunic over her head, her arms through the sleeves.  The $tunic made her look even smaller than she was.  Still, it covered her from neck to mid-thigh, protecting her from the sunbeams that poked through the trees.  "A little better," Kazimier said.  "Can you stand?"
Fantasy requires worldbuilding.  The last minute nature of The Elf's Prisoner meant that the world was being created as I wrote.  To help me get an idea of what the area would look like, I kept in mind the coast of British Columbia.  There's an ocean to the west, mountains to the east, tall forests where I could place an elven city, and room to expand as needed.  From there, I added more details, such as a canal from the dwarven kingdom to the ocean, letting the dwarves send bulk goods down to a port.

The story is incomplete.  I wrote myself into a corner where I needed to work out not just what the villain was up to, but what the heroes were going to do.  As of the end of NaNo 2015, the cast has an audience with representatives from the dwarven kingdom.  What happens during that meeting, I have no idea.  I need something to push the characters onward, but I haven't figured out what.  So, the story will lay fallow for a bit.

Tomorrow, the NaNo retrospective summary.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Casting the Runes" Part II.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, Batman Fluxx.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

4 Mar 2016

The Elf's Prisoner - NaNo 2015

Chapter 1
The Sylvan Forest
Kazimier Starpetal crept in the forest undergrowth, the rest of his patrol spread out behind him.  The elf was certain that he'd heard a cry of pain, faint as it was.  The forest thinned out as he walked forward.  The singing of birds, though, made it difficult to hear anything else.  Ahead, the sun lit a clearing.  Kazimier kept his pace.  The cry could be genuine or a trap.

One of his fellows, Carrad, joined him, pointing at the clearing.  "Something moved," Carrad said, his tone low.  "Cloth, maybe."

3 Mar 2016

The Devil You Know - Commentary

Title: The Devil You Know
Year: 2013
Main Characters: Ione MacKenzie, Jack
Current Status: Incomplete

Skipping past 2012's Beaver Flight brings me to 2013's The Devil You Know.  The project was the first one I blogged about here, from concept through progress reports to final results.  The characters may even be familiar.

The Devil You Know began with the concept of crossing urban fantasy with a spy thriller.  Prior to writing, I had read Linda Poitevin's Grigori Legacy, an urban fantasy police procedural that involved angels.  I've also read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, a comedy about Armageddon featuring, among others, an angel and a demon working together to prevent the apocalypse.  With those two sources playing in my head, another idea mixed in, one that began with the musing of characters named Jack.  Jack coalesced as a character, and the core idea finally formed.

The first chapter sets up the entire premise, though doesn't spell it out.  A rogue angel out to start the Final War between Heaven and Hell is targeting operations he believes aids the other side, operations like drug running and arms dealing.  Ione got involved through the tracking of BitCoins, leading her to work with the doomed British agents and Gemma.  Jack, who doesn't appear until Chapter 3 and not named until Chapter 5, wants to stop the rogue for his own reasons.  He never told me what those were, though.

The cast grew from just Jack and Ione to a larger ensemble that included Ione's friend Karen, sister Amy, and cat Diesel; British agent Gemma, angelic barista Ben, and Jack's succubus aide Mara.  Each of them received their own minor plotline, from Karen's attempt to have a relationship with Ben to Diesel's secret life.  Everything I learned from previous years got applied, from know who the characters were to giving each character a story of his or her own, even if it was wrapped up when they first appeared.  I also had a direction to head in, the final confrontation between Ione, Jack, and the rogue.  The growth came naturally, though.  Mara, originally added because Jack's jet needed a co-pilot, integrated herself into the plot, becoming a confidante for Ione.  Ben started as a barista but had his role expanded because I needed an angel around.

The story is starting to show its age.  BitCoins have had their day and have failed in being a replacement for currency.  The Russian drug krokodil had its brief moment in the press and has faded to obscurity.  Both BitCoins and krokodil served their purpose in the story, details that tied the narrative to the real world even while devils and angels walked the Earth.

Why incomplete?  Just as with The Soul Blade, I wound up with too many dangling plot lines at a point where I wanted to start pulling everything together.  Gemma, while useful to keep Ione even further off balance, became the odd woman out at a time when I needed to push towards the rogue angel.  I was heading to the confrontation and realized that I hadn't worked out the choreography of the scene.  Beside Ione, Jack, and the rogue angel, there were going to be two high-ranking criminals on a boat in the Mediterranean.  The details weren't working out in my head, and late in November, my brain starts getting fuzzy.  The other issue is length; at almost 52k words, the story is a little short if I want a shot at publication.  Even the last confrontation wouldn't add much more that 2500 words.  That leaves me going back and adding details, either from Ione's view or someone else's.  My first choice for alternate viewpoints is Gemma; it was her people who died in Chapter 1.

For added fun, here's some of the early research I did for The Devil You Know.  I wanted to have an idea for when Ione would return home, so I did a quick search on various airlines' websites to see what the shortest and longest routes from Ottawa to Paris would be.  The results surprised me.
Short notice flight, Paris/de Gaulle to Ottawa:
KLM ($2955), depart 7:20am, 13h, 38min flight, arrive 2:58pm
Route:  Paris – Amsterdam (1h20min)
        55 minute layover
        Amsterdam – Toronto (8h10min)
        2h15min layover
        Toronto – Ottawa (58min)
Thus, Ione gets to work at 4pm, gets chewed out, and gets home at 5:30pm before collapsing.

Air France ($4834), depart 10:30am, 12h28min flight, arrive 4:58pm
Route:  Paris – Montreal [PET] (7h25min)
        2h5min layover
        Montreal – Toronto (1h18min, wait, what? Via WestJet)
        42min layover (yeah, right)
        Toronto – Ottawa (58min)
Thus, Ione gets home at 6:00pm, gets chewed out in morning.
BUT!  Montreal is a two hour drive from Ottawa, while Ione wastes that just waiting for the flight to TO.  She could be in at 2:30 to be yelled at.

British Airways ($2520), depart 10:55am, 13h33min flight, arrive 6:28pm
Route:  Paris – London [Heathrow] (1h15min)
        1h5min layover
        London – Toronto (7h55min)
        2h20min layover
        Toronto – Ottawa (58min)
Thus, Ione gets to home at 7:30pm, gets chewed out at work the next morning.

Checking Paris – Montreal:
Swiss Air ($4587), depart 7:00am, 14h flight, arrive 3:00pm
Route:  Paris – Geneva (1h10min)
        1h55min layover
        Geneva – Zurich (55min)
        1h50min layover
        Zurich – Montreal/PET (8h10min)
Thus, Ione gets home at 5:30pm and chewed out the next day.

Multiple ($2911), depart 7:30am, 16h flight, arrive 5:30pm
Route:  Paris – London/Heathrow (1h10min via British Airways)
        1h50min layover
        London – New York/JFK (7h45min via Virgin Atlantic)
        3h40min layover
        New York – Montreal (1h35min via American Airways)
Thus, Ione gets home at 8pm, gets chewed out next morning

Delta ($4051), depart 7:30am,, 21h30min flight, arrive 11:00pm O.O
Route:  Paris – London/Heathrow (1h20min)
        5h15min layover (what?)
        London – New York/JFK (8h18min)
        5h7min layover (again?)
        New York – Montreal (1h30min via WestJet)
Thus Ione gets home at 1:30am, gets chewed out next morning while still jet lagged.

SN Brussels Airlines ($4505), depart 8:30am, 10h flight, arrive 12:30pm
Route:  Paris – Brussels (55min flight)
        1h25min layover
        Brussels – Montreal (7h40m flight)
Thus, Ione gets to work for 2:30pm to be chewed out, gets home at 4pm.
Next, VIA Rail
Leaves 1:14pm, arrives Ottawa at 2:51pm, but lets Ione get to office by 3:15pm, home by 4:40pm.
There was no direct flight from Ottawa to Paris.  The best time came from heading to Montreal then taking VIA Rail to Ottawa, skipping layovers that are longer than driving from either Montreal or Toronto to Ottawa.  The last leg of the first flight listed, via KLM, is just faster than driving, but by just an hour.  The longest, via Delta, has two 5+ hour layovers.  Just getting the right flight details made the difference of how awake Ione would be when she talked to her boss.

Tomorrow, the NaNo retrospective wraps up with The Elf's Prisoner.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, "Casting the Runes" Part I.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, "Casting the Runes" Part II.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.