28 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Wren and Jyslyn got to know each other.
Council Hall, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
The journey to the Council Hall took far too long for Nyssa's taste.  The healer remained by her side, clucking at her and her leg.  The knight put up with the coddling; she was getting to see someone of import.  She knew she could hobble faster, but the healer had given her two choices; a slow pace or meet the Matriarch in the morning.  The tension she felt from the elves in Wildwood had her concerned.  The presence of the dark elf was the cause, but the reaction was still building.  The knight had to meet with the Matriarch now, before the inevitable riot broke out.

Nyssa lowered her head as she entered the elven Matriarch's office.  The healer fell to one knee, his head also  bowed.  The Matriarch signalled for the healer to stand.  "Kazimier," the Matriarch started, "you bring yet another surprise to me."

"Matriarch Starpetal, this is Dame Nyssa of the Kingdom of the Seven Domains.  She requested an audience."

Nyssa smirked.  "I demanded, so don't punish the lad."

27 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 9

The required shopping trip, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 9.

Yeah, I had Wren and Jyslyn go shopping.  It's not what they did, but what happened as they did it.  Wren is excited for reasons covered in an earlier chapter.  Not everyone in Wildwood is as excited to have a dark elf in town.  Kaleena isn't completely convinced, but is warming up, also as seen in other chapters.  Tersial represents the common Wildwood citizen, not in the know of what's going on.  Wren's story is well known; she was the sole survivor of her village.  She hasn't spoke since then, so her opening up is a major event, even if she's shopping for one of the Accursed.

The key point in the chapter was establishing a relationship between Wren and Jyslyn.  This is Wren's first time getting some character definition beyond being the reason why Jyslyn's execution was stayed.  She lives simply; a small apartment, simple cooking.  Wren also is forcing Jyslyn to look at things in a different way.  This idea will be getting expanded on in later chapters.

Wildwood, as mentioned before, is in the trees.  Everyone who lives there is used to being off the ground.  Even Nyssa and Leomund aren't so weirded out by it.  After all, multi-storey buildings do exist.  Jyslyn, though, comes from underground.  Claustrophobia isn't an issue for her.  Being off the ground, though, is a new sensation.  Even with multi-level dwellings, there's always solid rock beneath her feat, not wood.  She has never seen the level below except when on stairs.  So, Jyslyn has a bit of acrophobia.  Enough to give her pause, at least.

Jyslyn also has to get used to being in the sun.  As someone who has pale skin - really, transluscent is a skin colour - the sun is not my friend.  I have had bad sunburns in the past, so I tend to avoid the sun as much as possible.  Jyslyn gets to be the bearer of all that experience.  She's been on the surface once before, at night.  Daylight is not her friend, at least not yet.  It'll take time,  Until then, she will have to cover up.  She'll have to cover up for other reasons, too, like being one of the Accursed, but the sun will be the main reason for now.

Friday, Nyssa meets with a Matriarch, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 10.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the year-end wrap up.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, what to expect in 2019.

21 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Kazimier tended to Nyssa's wound.
Marketplace, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Jyslyn let herself be dragged along by Wren through the market.  The little blonde elf didn't seem to notice the crowd gawking at them; Jyslyn did.  The dark elf fought against well-honed instinct to slip into the shadows, not that there were many.  Overhead, the canopy of leaves thinned, letting the sunlight into the market.  Wren wouldn't let her go, either.  The young elf hadn't let go of Jyslyn since the shackles were removed.  Of course, with Kaleena a few steps behind, if someone tried to attack, Jyslyn would be safe, or so the dark elf hoped.

Wren pulled Jyslyn into a shop.  The young elf dropped her protector's arm to dash further inside.  The owner's expression shifted from warmth to fear on seeing the dark elf.  "Is there something I can help you with?"

"I need new clothes."  Jyslyn held out a pinch of grey fabric from her dress.  "This apparently isn't the fashion."

"I don't have anything that would suit you."

Wren returned with several sets of clothes draped over her arms.  She started holding each item up to Jyslyn.

The dark elf smirked.  "You were saying?"

20 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 8

Kazimier works his divine magic, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 8.

Shorter chapter this time around.  For a serial, I prefer chapters of about equal length.  The Elf's Prisoner was originally meant ot be a novel, though, so chapters were allowed to go as long as they needed.  Some needed more words than others.  If I intended to serialize the story, I'd have figured out chapter lengths as I wrote.

That said, the chapters have purpose.  This one's was to get Nyssa healed, Kazimier brought into the main plot again, and send Wren and Jyslyn off.  Kazi and Nyssa became the wise ones of the group.  Both have insight into how people tick, though they learned through different ways.  With three characters who are young or unfamiliar with the world, I needed them to be the leaders.  I hadn't exactly planned this.  It just came out of who the characters were.

The Seven Dominions are away that dark elves exist, though most of the tales are almost myths.  Nyssa is somewhat out of it thanks to her wound, but she has dealt with dark elves before.  Leo, not so much, but he's off on his own mission right now.  Nyssa turned out to be fun to write.  She's been around long enough to know when to be diplomatic and when to be a bull in a china shop.  This chapter, she's on the border between the two.  Nyssa knows she needs to play nice with the elves, but she's not going to be obsequious.  Nor is she going to let a little thing like a poisoned, infected wound slow her down.

Kazimier's prayer brought out both the poison and the infection from Nyssa's wound.  I just didn't want to say that,  That "show, don't tell" thing.  Plus, extra words thanks to being descriptive.  Similar prayers to other deities would have a different description, depending on the god.  The Lightbringer's prayers use light as the basis of the spells, with healing spells being gentle, like the morning light on a dew-laden field.  The Defiler's spells, while still healing and removing poison, would cause the injury to twist painfully back into position.

Friday, Wren and Jyslyn get acquainted, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 9.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Bond Project continues with Moonraker.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the year-end wrap up.

14 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 8

Chapter 8

New evidence came to light, staying Jyslyn's execution.
East Gate, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Kazimier arrived at the East Gate behind Kaleena.  An old human woman in riding leathers lay on the wooden floor of the gate with a young human boy.  The woman's thigh was oozing along a wound.  Kazimier pushed the Watch members out of his way to kneel down beside the woman.  He pulled the ripped leather out of the way to get a better look at the wound.  A foul smell struck him.  "Poisoned."

"I don't understand you," the boy said in the human tongue.

Switching languages so the humans could understand, Kazimier said, "We need to get the woman to the temple grove.  Her wound is infected, and the poison isn't helping."


13 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 7

Jyslyn's execution, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 7.

I did play up the execution in my promotions.  The spoiler of the chapter was Wren's appearance.  While I keep mentioning I wrote The Elf's Prisoner by the seat of my pants during NaNo 2015, Wren's appearance and backstory was a known plot point for several years.  I had worked out exactly what happened in Wren's home village and what Jyslyn's part in the slaughter was.  The goal, though, was to show the events from both of their viewpoints, so what I knew had to be filtered.  For Wren, Jyslyn was her saviour, the one who kept her alive.  Yeah, Wren had problems after as a result, but she was in the equivalent of her young teens if she were human.  Jyslyn, though, saw Wren and realized that she just could not go through with killing her.  Instead, Jyslyn faked Wren's death the best she could.  Jyslyn would've been mid-teens if she was human.

So why is Wren still young while Jyslyn is definitely an adult?  This goes back to Jyslyn's early days as an AD&D character.  Drow elves aged faster than surface elves, so even if Jyslyn and Wren were the same age, Jyslyn would be in a different age category.  The idea carried through to The Elf's Prisoner.  Jyslyn and Kazimier are about the same age; she'll age faster than him.  Wren is still young enough to have a childhood name, which is my explanation on why she doesn't have a modified Polish name; she hasn't chosen it yet.  Yeah, that was a retcon, but it fits.  And since Wren wasn't able to speak in the years/decades since the slaughter, no one could get a name from her.

The insight on elven politics wasn't intentional.  It just happened.  The matriarchs all have their own agendas.  Matriarch Moonflower is the head of the more conservative branch on the council.  She's very much into "do what I say."  Matriarch Starpetal isn't so much liberal as shit disturber; she likes winding up the more serious types, like Moonflower.  Matriarch Oakfeather is the nominal head of the council; she had the fewest objections from all the factions on the council.  She gets to deal with the headaches.  After the trial, she's planning on finding a tun of wine and get blitzed for a decade or two.

Another note on elven names here.  For given names, I went with Polish names, then making minor changes to them.  For family names, though, I went with a nature theme.  I didn't want to even think about translating them to "elven".  I'm writing in English.  The characters' dialogue is being translated to English.  The family names are being translated to English for now.  If this were to be published, I may go through and translate the family names to Polish, just to maintain some consistency.  For now, the idea is to give a bit more background to elven culture without doing too much work.  Again, the necessity of pantsing.

With the truth of what happened out, the Matriarchs are in a tough position.  Jyslyn didn't kill anyone, but she didn't stop the killing, either.  Yet, she did prevent one death.  Kazimier to the writer's rescue!  It's the best solution for the story.  Is it the best in-universe?  The comment section below is waiting for your thoughts.

Friday, Kazimier gets his worst patient ever, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 8.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, remaking Mystery Science .Theatre 3000: The Gauntlet.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Bond Project continues with Moonraker.

7 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 7

Chapter 7

The trial of Jyslyn
Council Hall, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Kazimier paced in the Council Chambers.  As much as he wanted, needed, to go with Jyslyn to the Central Garden, Matriarch Starpetal had ordered him to wait for her.  There were few people Kazimier wanted to be on the wrong side of, and his own Matriarch was on the top of that list.  The wait, though, was excruciating.  Kazimier couldn't understand why, though.  The dark elf was still a mystery to him.  She was nothing like the tales told of her kind.  The very idea of one of the Accursed atoning for a past wrong threw Kazimier.

At long last, the door to the inner sanctum opened.  Matriarch Starpetal, flanked by her aides, glided out.  "Kazimier, walk with me."

Kazimier fell in step behind the matriarch.  "Is there a decision?"

"Not in here, Kazimier."  She stopped walking to shoo away her aides, then resumed her pace.  The matriarch led her young charge out of the Council Chambers, taking a meandering route through the Hall.  "Kazi, what is your impression of your prisoner?"

Kazimier took time to form his thoughts before answering.  "When I first saw her, she was in need of help.  Since then, her behaviour has been ideal.  If all prisoners were like her, the entire Watch would need to find new jobs."

"Do you believe her, Kazi?"

6 Dec 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 6

Jyslyn on trial, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 6.

For someone facing a trial with the potential of the death penalty, Jyslyn doesn't seem all that concerned.  While not intended, this does show her intent later.  It worked out for me.  What I was originally thinking is that she knew what the verdict would be and was taking advantage of the last luxuries she'd ever have.  However, the other explanation is that Jyslyn is fully expecting to be put to death and has the calmness of finality.  There's nothing to be done by worrying, panicking, or getting emotional.

Kaleena, though, isn't calm.  Her job is to guard the prisoner and make sure she doesn't escape, with the added, unspoken, order to not let a mob kill Jyslyn before the trial.  Of course, if the prisoner does try to escape, Kaleena would have to do all she can to stop her, even if it means killing Jyslyn.  Given where Jyslyn is from, setting up Kaleena to do the Council's dirty work is an obvious ploy.  Kaleena, though, is a professional.  She can see that Jyslyn doesn't want to escape.

I managed to get a better look of Wildwood in.  Again, I wanted the elven city to be different, something that reflects elven culture.  Building a city out of a forest, encouraging the growth of the trees to support a population and using magic when needed.  In a fantasy setting, why wouldn't magic be in use in architecture?  I hope that the city feels different.

The Council of Elders is made up of the matriarchs of the clans that live in Wildwood.  It wasn't an idea I had at the start, but having elves base their government on families instead of a singular head of state made sense to me.  The Wildwood Council is a contrast to the Seven Dominions with its one king.  Still, I didn't name six of the clans.  That would have taken time from the actual writing and they weren't important to the story.

Despite the War of Splintering, the dark elves still maintained the clan structure.  A clanless elf is rare and implies that something serious happened to cause the rift.  Jyslyn doesn't even mention her clan's name.  Part of this was that I didn't want to leave the groove I was in while writing the scene.  Technically, I do have a family name for her, but it turned out to be not important.  In fact, not giving her the name helped with building her culture, even as she violated a taboo.

Something that might be noticeable is the length of the chapters.  Unlike Unruly and Mecha Academy, The Elf's Prisoner wasn't written to be a serial.  It's being serialized, a minor difference.  The chapters were allowed to go as long as needed, while a story that's being written as a serial will have parts of equal length, more or less.  Thus, Chapter 6 is noticeably longer than Chapter 5.

Friday, the execution of Jyslyn, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 7.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Phantom of the Opera.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Mystery Science .Theatre 3000: The Gauntlet.

30 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - The End

NaNoWriMo is over!  Time to breathe and relax!  For everyone who participated, whether you reached 50 000 words, reached a personal goal, or just made it to the end, take a bow.

My official word count is 57 635 as validated by the NaNo site.  That's a little above average for a NaNo project for me.  Considering that I had no idea where the story was going even as I was writing, I'll take it!  Seriously, my approach was to figure out what sounded good, then used that as an intermediate target.  The ghost of a Confederate officer controlling ghouls in order to wreak havok upon the North?  Sure, sounds good.  Zombie Elvii defeated through music?  Beats anything else that I can think of, which wasn't much.  Mermaid attacks in the Middle East?  Works for me!  None of that was even in mind on November 1st.  The mermaid attack only came up last weekend.

What did I have?  Three characters who could argue for several pages as needed.  It's great when there's a conflict between leads.  They do and say all sorts of things that let me mark time until I know what I'm doing.  Heaven's Rejects was completely pantsed, more that The Elf's Prisoner was.  Not that I use outlines normally; only By the Numbers had one, and even that was sparse.  I do try to have a few scenes in mind to aim for while I'm writing, though.  This year?  I knew how to get Nadia and Ian to meet Demona, but that's was it.  That was one chapter.  I finished NaNo at the beginning of Chapter 12.

In terms of writing, my best days were Sundays, during the library write-ins.  Once I got going, I could regularly reach 2000 words in a day, with just a few days where I didn't make that.  The worst was the second day, with 92 words written.  I was out of town for most of the day with no way to write, though I did spend time trying to figure out where I was going.  This year wasn't the first time I had to fight back from a deficit, even that early in the year.

What's next with Heaven's Rejects?  A lot of clean up.  Fix some spelling, fix some grammar, maybe add needed scenes that I couldn't think of at the time.  Maybe adjust the chapters to be more even, since the goal is to serialize the story.  I won't have the problem that dba LTV Paranormalists had with the first arc being a complete mess.  It's a minor clean up instead of a major rewrite.

This was a fun year.  Again, challenging because of life stuff, but I made it!  Yay!

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Kazimier returned home with his prisoner, Jyslyn.
Kazimier's apartment, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Jyslan sank deeper into the tub.  While not the luxury she had in her family's holdings, just getting clean felt sensuous after the hike through the woods.  The tub wasn't long enough for the dark elf to stretch out her legs; her knees poked above the water.  Jyslyn splashed water over them with her left hand, her ink black skin glistening.  Her right hand, though, was chained overhead to a rafter, making bathing a challenge.  Jyslyn didn't fault her guard; if their positions were switched, the dark elf wouldn't have bothered with untying her.

Kaleena hammered on the door.  "Are you finished?" she called.

Jyslyn ran her fngers through her copper red hair, grimacing on feeling the grime in it.  "Will you help me with my hair?"  She wasn't sure if the amusement in her tone would carry through the door or even be appreciated by her guard.

The door slammed open.  Kaleena stormed inside.  "You are done.  Out of the tub."

Jyslyn pulled herself up.  "I need to dry off."  She stepped out of the tub, keeping her back to her guard.

Kaleena hurled a towel at the dark elf.  "The Council is expecting you."

"I could be faster if I had both hands free."  Jyslyn began towelling herself off.

"And if I had wings, I could fly."  Kaleena glowered at the dark elf.  Her expression changed on seeing the blistering skin on the woman's back.  "What happened to you?  I mean, your back."

"I spent too much time under the sun."  Jyslyn finished by drying her legs.  "I am ready to get dressed."

Kaleena handed the dress over to the dark elf.  After a moment, she cursed under her breath.  "Of course they don't send clothes without sleeves."

29 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 5

Back to Wildwood, to catch up with Kazimier and Jyslyn, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 5.

One of the benefits of changing over to Nyssa and Leo in Chapters 3 and 4 is that I gave myself time to figure out just what the elven city looked like.  One goal I gave myself while writing the story, beyond just getting to 50 000 words despite having no idea what I was doing, was to make sure that different cultures had different architecture.  The Seven Domains are standard Medieval and Renaissance buildings, with castles, mottes and baileys, wood buildings with narrow, twisty streets, and all that good stuff found in fantasy RPGs.  For the Wildwood elves, I wanted something a different.  So, the city is built in the trees.  It's not all that original; Solace in the Dragonlance setting.  The idea is that the elves are so in tune with nature that they can grow their buildings instead of constructing them.

Of course, that is a lot to work out all at once when I'm building the world as I go.  I worked out the key areas that I'd need - the council chambers, the inn, the gates - and then hoped I didn't need to map the city out.  That's right, no map exists.  Why?  That would take time away from figuring out the plot of the story.  I was already using the BC coastline for the world to save time.  I'd steal an existing city if I needed it.

I also had a rough idea that the Wildwood elves were a matriarchy, though no idea of how it worked.  A Council of Elders felt like a good way to contrast the Seven Dominions hierarchical structure.  The problem with that is now I'd need to figure out who the Elders were, or at least the critical ones.  This is about where I started getting the idea that the dark elves and the Wildwood elves had parallel culture.  Why not, I figured, just happy to have something going.  And, yes, Matriarch Starpetal is related to Kazimier.  The Elders are the heads of the families in the city.

Captain Kaleena Sundew was originally just there to be a senior guard who watched over Jyslyn.  Her role expanded because Jyslyn needed someone to talk to and Kazi was busy.  That tends to happen in my writing.  The Devil You Know is a good example, with several characters, including Mara, intended for just one scene becoming important later.

Kazi's closing line sums up Jyslyn's motives.  She wants to atone for something she did.  Jyslyn is well aware of what she's facing.  Kazi is wise, and knows how people think.  He still gets called out by his great-aunt, though.  Matriarch Starpetal is well aware of who her great-nephew is.

Friday, a stir in the elven city, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 6
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.

28 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 4

Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leomund, have a little trouble on their way to the Realm Under the Mountain, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 4.

I needed a bit of action in here, more to get the word count going than anything else.  It also helped to show how Nyssa and Leomund reacted to a threat.  Nyssa also has a magical sword, one that lets her know when there is danger.  She also protected her squire.  The odds are bad - two against one with Leomund, four against one without - so this is a test of her skill.  Leomund is still in training; he's not really allowed to fight unless Nyssa gives the okay, but some situations mean not listening to orders.  I also got to show the effects of Nyssa's age; she's not as fit as she was in her prime, though there are many in the setting who would love to be as fit as she is.

As a Knight of the Realm, Nyssa is also responsible for enforcing the King's law.  She can choose not to, but she'd have to give a good reason to His Majesty.  This time, she does.  While she hasn't really let His Majesty know what's going on, Nyssa has the leeway to make the decision for him.  Otherwise, she wouldn't be a Knight of the Realm.

Nyssa also believes in the Socratic method, though the world would call it something else.  No Greece, no Socrates.  She wants Leo to figure out what she already knows.  It's a valid teaching method, especially one-on-one.  Leo's there to learn, so he, too, can one day be a Knight of the Realm.

The purpose of the chapter was the action, with some more indication of the nature of the mystery.  Bandits with a fancy axe should be a clue that something's not quite right, especially when they were defeated despite being outnumbered.  I also could show Nyssa when she's not being diplomatic, not that she's the best one to send for that sort of mission.  The poisoning is a set up for getting the two main groups of characters together.

Tomorrow, commentary catch continues!
Friday, a stir in the elven city, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 6
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.

25 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 4

The fourth Sunday of NaNo is done.  I put on a major push and it was worth the effort.  Or, to let music videos speak for me, from Kool and the Gang to Pitbull.  I still need to validate, but that can happen before the 30th.  As long as I don't forget.  The new goal is to get to 750 000 words lifetime.  I'm not far, about 3500 words.

With the word count dealt with, what's next?  Usually, I wind up slowing down after reaching 50k.  This year, though, I have an idea to work on for a couple of days.  With the zombie Elvii now dealt with, that leaves the cast ready for their next mission.  A random idea led to research which is now leading to the Middle East, a great place for a Catholic and a Jew to visit.  I do need to do a bit of research of the area, but the beginnings are there.

The zombie Elvii finally appeared, and then led to three chapters to get rid of them.  And as exciting as fighting zombies looks on screen, there's a point where trying to make the fight interesting while writing just fails.  Fortunately, a bizarre idea entered my head, and I was able to make full use thanks to not knowing what ringtone Demona had.  Unlike Ian and Nadia, who use actual ringing, Demona uses a song clip.  I hadn't named it, but I left a placeholder.  That placeholder can now be replaced with foreshadowing.  I love it when a plan comes together.  I even managed to work in a Demona subplot that was dangling from last week.  Go me!

There's just five days left in NaNoWriMo.  Good luck to everyone participating.  Me, I'll be trying to get a good start on the next chapter to set up my characters, then senf them off to get into trouble.  December 1st, I breathe and not worry about word count, then start fixing the little mistakes that have crept in.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

23 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leomund, set off to the Realm Under the Mountain, only to be waylaid before they got too far.
Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
Kazimier's mood improved as the city of Wildwood appeared and grew closer.  The city sat nestled in the trees at the edge of the forest, allowing the elves who dwelled there room for farming without having to travel too far.  Carrad took one of the patrollers with him to run to the city, no doubt to warn the Council of Matriarchs about Kazimier's prisoner.

With the prisoner in his thoughts, Kazimier spared a glace at her, wanting to see Jyslyn's reaction.  The dark elf's face remained impressive, but she did stare at the city.  Kazimier allowed himself a smile.  He had talked with the dark elf over the three day journey, though Jyslyn revealed very little about herself.  Not once did she try to escape, though.  Kazimier knew when he first saw her in the clearing that the dark elf was a mystery; the mystery kept deepening with every step she took.  Surely, Kazimier wondered, she knew what would happen to her in Wildwood.

It took Kazimier and the rest of the patrol an hour or two to reach the city's entrance.  A wooden staircase lowered, letting the patrol inside.  The gate room had tall, solid wood walls reaching to the leafy canopy overhead.  There were only two ways out, the staircase, now being raised, and the barred gateway.  On the parapets overhead, several archers had bows out and drawn, aiming at Kazimier's prisoner.  Jyslyn didn't pay any attention to them nor to anything else except Kazimier, staying two steps away from whenever he moved.

The gate opened, sliding into the protective wall.  Three older women, flanked by armoured guards with swords drawn, walked into the gate room.  Kazimier dropped to one knee, his head bowed.  His fellow patrollers did the same, leaving only Jyslyn standing.

22 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 3

Now that the elves have had their time in the spotlight, it’s time to introduce the next two main characters.  Nyssa and Leomund, a knight and her squire, make their first appearance, as does a location that isn’t elven controlled.

At this point, I started needing a rough idea of geography.  I have nations, so I need to know where they are relative to each other.  They don’t have to border each other.  There’s space, room to expand, and dangers between nations.  I wound up using lower British Columbia as a guide.  Most European-style fantasy tends to have mountains to the east, because that’s where they are relative to the writers, at least in English language fantasy.  Moving the mountains west does change things up a little.  It also means weather patterns will change.  It’s a little dryer on the eastern side of the Rockies; the higher altitudes as clouds rise up cool things down, causing precipitation on the western side.  It’s a place to start, to be filled in later.  Remember, this was all being pantsed during NaNo 2015 with nothing planned beyond the main characters, and even they changed as the writing progressed.

With the new location, I needed a new country name.  The Seven Dominions just popped into my head, though inspired by “Dominion of Canada” and the various dominions in Traveller’s Third Imperium.  But that’s just the start.  How does this nation work?  No idea.  I didn’t get into the details; there wasn’t the time to figure them out.  At that point, I just worked out the nobility, figured a count would be the level to want assistance, and went from there.  If it was one of the seven domains, the King’s Army would’ve been sent out.  At the county level, one of the King’s Own knights gets to find out what’s going on.

Dame Nyssa is the cast’s elder spokesperson.  She has the experience dealing with difficult people, like, say, Count Varin.  Her role is mentor.  Originally, I did have a target on her.  The mentor always dies so that the lead character can make the jump from student to master.  Except, I didn’t want that for her, mainly because it’s too obvious.  I should just paint her armour red if I wanted that.  I have other plans, though.  Her squire, Leomund, is the kid of the cast.  He’s not completely na├»ve, but he wasn’t expecting to be assigned to someone like Nyssa.  Leo is one to follow protocol; Nyssa uses protocol to her benefit.  Leo still has the impetuousness of youth; Nyssa observes first, then acts.  However, Nyssa isn’t a taskmaster.  She has Leo’s best interests in mind.

I got the name Nyssa from Doctor Who, specifically, Nyssa of Traken as played by Sarah Sutton.  Leomund comes from the mage in D&D originally played by Len Lakofka and responsible for such spells as Leomund’s tiny hut and the column of the same name in Dragon.  That set the tone for names from the Seven Domains.  Even Count Tathan’s name comes from older English.  Varin is more or less random, but from there, I have a River Varin and the city of Varinford, where there’s a way to cross the Varin.  Not great in originality, but similar exists in the real world.

Yes, there are dwarves in the world.  Not original, either, but I needed something here.  The dwarves have their on kingdom, known on the surface as the Realm Under the Mountain.  The dwarves don’t bother with anything more than just the Realm, but the surface world needs to differentiate the nations somehow.  With a name like that, of course the dwarves live underground un the mountains.  It’s a detail that was created spur of the moment, though not without reason.  The reason being, dwarves are known for mining.  Beyond that, I have nothing on their culture at this point of the writing.  I do know that the story is going to the Realm Under the Mountain, though.  What happens there, well, that’s too far away to worry about.

The plot concept should now be out there.  The Cleaven Eye tribe was set upon the elves of the Sylvan Forest.  The Seven Dominions is being set against the Realm Under the Mountain.  Someone is sowing chaos.  Which means I have an antagonist somewhere.  I don’t yet have a motive, just the scheme, but it’s a start.  Again, I was pantsing this after a last minute decision.  I don’t know why the chaos is being sown.  I don’t know who is behind the scheme.  I just kept writing, hoping that it’d make sense later.

Friday, a stir in the elven city, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 5
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, remaking the MST3K classic, Space Mutiny.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.

18 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 3

NaNo week three is done.  First, a look at where I stand.  Which is upright unless my back starts twinging.  My word count, though, is much better.  I managed to build a buffer, currently standing at over three days.  This comes from pushing to get 2000 words a day.  I didn't succeed everyday this past week, but one once did I not even make the 1667 minimum daily goal.  I capped the week with a 3000+ word push at the library write-in.  I hit most of my goals for the week.

Most.  The one goal I've had this past week is to get the zombie Elvii out.  I mentioned them last update.  They're still coming.  I just didn't have my characters in a spot where I could have them meet the zombies.  I should get to them by Tuesday.  I only realized where they would be today.

And that's the fun of pantsing.  I really have no idea where I'm going.  The NaNo wiki helpfully points out that it's hard for a pantser to get to 50k words.  I beg to differ.  I have a 100% success rate so far, going 12 for 12.  However, Heaven's Rejects really has just whim driving it.  When I started, I only had how my characters met in mind.  Zombie Elvii weren't even a possibility.  But, when it came up, I went for it.  Why?  It fit in with the story concept.

Of course, once I wrap up that plot thread, I'm kind of stuck.  I have a few subplots seeded in what I've written so far, and one needs to return before this arc finishes.  Demona's not allowed to be in Las Vegas, though she doesn't know why.  She's been avoiding the subplot so far, but her luck will run out.

Going into the fourth week, I'm pretty much in the same spot I thought I was in this time last week.  I have an arc to wrap up, plot threads to tie together, and a new arc to figure out.  Something will come up.  It always does.  Sometimes, it's a random thought; other times, it comes from the characters.  I just need to figure out where, then send the characters off to bulldoze through a carefully constructed plot.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

16 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A Knight of the Realm of the Seven Dominons took up a quest for the Count of Varin.

Wilderness borders, County of Varin, Seven Dominions
Nyssa called for a stop as the sun reached its peak in the sky.  Leomund brought his horse up to join hers  "Is there a problem, ma'am?"

"Just time for lunch, Leo.  Get a fire going."  Nyssa regarded her young squire as he dismounted.  Her own joints creaked as she got off her own horse.  Of all the enemies she faced in her life, time was turning into her most relentless opponent.  Old injuries long healed ached as she stepped away from her horse.  She worked her shoulders, rotating them to loosen the muscles.

As she groomed her horse, she heard the popping of Leomund's fire.  "Good.  Get the small pot out.  We're having soup."

"Soup, ma'am?"  Leomund retrieved the pot from his saddle bags.  "Shouldn't we be using our rations?"

"Nonsense.  We have decent food now.  It'll go bad and we'll rush to use it instead of preparing it properly.  Life's too short for bad cooking."  Nyssa got out a package wrapped with waxed leather.  "And I paid the innkeeper for this morsel.  He said that all the spices we'll need are already in the meat."  The old knight tossed her waterskin to her squire.  "We'll find a creek to fill this later.  And we'll get proper rations in the elven city."

Leomund fumbled with the waterskin but was able to keep from dropping it.  "Are the elves going to welcome us, ma'am?"  He filled the cookpot with water then set it on the fire.

15 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 2

Attacked in the Sylvan Forest, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 2.

The focus turns to Jyslyn for the chapter.  An outsider, the attack gave me a chance to get in her head.  This focus meant I didn't have to worry about the overall scene.  Jyslyn's focus is on just her survival.  She has a chance to escape.  Looks like Kazimier got into her head, though.  That one phrase will keep returning.  "It's not what we choose, but why."

For the fight, I used a place holder for the monsters involved.  The cave bear I knew I wanted it when it showed up.  The rest?  When writing in NaNoWriMo, I use placeholders that are easy to find when I just can't come up with the proper name, typically by using a dollar sign in front.  It makes for an easy search later, and the placeholders tend to be unique, like $monster1.  A search and replace in a word processor fixes things up later.  The gnolls weren't even gnolls, just a placeholder.  The reason I went with gnolls is because I was hoping to have a druid wearing a patch of sod on its head later.  That's right, I wanted a grassy gnoll.  Bad puns can drive decisions during NaNo.

The fight is probably the longest I've gone without dialogue.  I tend to be dialogue heavy, but no one wanted to say anything during the battle.  It gave me a chance to just do description.  That is tough to sustain.  The action helped - at least there was something happening - but to have no one talking was odd for me.  That said, it works.

Jyslyn had a few more surprises.  She understands the surface elves.  No one ever asked her.  She just let Kazi and his comrades believe she couldn't.  Jyslyn also returns Kazi's knife, and not because she's surrounded.  She turns Kazi's own phrase back on him.  Jyslyn is there for a reason.

I threw a number of names out at the audience.  I'm not expecting anyone to track all the named characters.  It's just that. for me, a living, breathing world has more people than just the lead characters.  Along with Kazimier and Jyslyn, Carrad gets a name, along with the dead elf, Derluen.  The rest of the elves and even the gnolls have names, they just haven't been determined by me.  But if I needed one, I would have found one.  Kazimier isn't out patrolling with spear carriers and redshirts.  He's there with people he knows.  There's just not enough focus available for each elf in the patrol.

Friday, unexpected travel companions, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 4
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, the importance of casting in adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, remaking the MST3K classic, Space Mutiny.

11 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 2

Last week, I got off to a slow start.  With the first full week, counted Monday to Sunday, have things changed?


I ended last week using the first library write-in to not just catch up but get a little ahead, by 3/4 of a day, or 1272 words.  That's a small buffer, though, one that would be wiped if I ran into problems inside or outside of NaNo.  That meant making sure I wrote each night this past week.  The good news, though, is that I did.  It took me a few days to get back up to full speed, but I did do just that.  At the end of the week, I managed to get a full day's worth of writing extra, which makes for a far better buffer.

Numerically, things are good.  Narratively, things were looking thin.  I have characters.  I have vague ideas of where things are going.  But the first multipart episode wound up going in the weeds a few times.  I had to take time to figure out the why of the plot, which delayed the writing of the plot.  After a few searches, mostly on the American Civil War, I figured out what was going on in the background enough to let my characters play havoc with the plot.

The end of that plot meant figuring out where to go next.  I hadn't thought that far out.  If 2015 was bad for being prepared, 2018 is a disaster.  I didn't get a chance to think through potential arcs for the serial.  Ottawa's wonderful Municipal Liaisons, though, had other ideas.

Ottawa NaNo participants have been getting a leaflets to help track progress for years, from before I was an ML for a couple of years.  One of the great motivators discovered in the past is stickers.  Sounds silly, but being able to earn a sticker has gotten more words written in Ottawa than anything else.  The leaflet includes a bingo card, with bragging rights the main motivator to fill it.  This year, the theme is weddings, whether eloping or formal.  And that's where I found inspiration.

No, none of the characters are going to get married, at least not yet.  The bingo cards had two interesting boxes, "Vegas" and "Elvis".  From there, zombie Elvii threatening Las Vegas.  It's a leap, but it's there.  Why?  /Heaven's Rejects/ isn't supposed to be that serious, despite what I wound up doing for the second mission.  This is a story that doesn't always go for a deep meaning, not when the weird will do.  A bunch of zombies shuffling down the Las Vegas Strip in rhinestone coveralls?  And I can do anything I want to a zombie.  It's already dead!

Of course, that means I need to start thinking ahead to what my cast will do after that.  Zombie Elvii won't take up 30k words on their own.  They do let me put off the work needed for a day, though.  That's all I need.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

9 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Kazimier, Jyslyn, and the patrol fought off a number gnolls from the Cleaven Eye tribe, who should not have been in the area.

The Count's Court, Varinford, County of Varin, Seven Dominions
Leomund lurked along the wall, trying not to draw attention to himself.  Thathan, the Count of Varin had all of his barons, his own knights, his barons, and his barons' senior knights summoned to court.  Dame Nyssa, the knight Leomund squired to, had the attention of the assemblage.  She was the only knight not summoned.  Indeed, she was the reason for the meeting.  Unlike Leomund and much to his discomfort, Nyssa had no problem with attracting attention.  A mix of harsh whispers, angry shouts, and barking laughs filled the room with a din.

The Count pounded on the arm of his throne, the clanging of his ceremonial mace on the metal arm calling the meeting to order.  "Enough!"  As the murmurs died, the Count got to his feet.  "When I asked His Majesty for help, I expected more than one old knight and her squire."  He pointed at Dame Nyssa.  Leomund's cheeks began burning under the stares directed at him.  The young squire remained still, though, as the Count continued, "Varin is facing an invasion.  I expected troops."

Nyssa stood.  "If I may, my Lord?"

"Oh, please, speak.  I cannot wait to hear what you have to say."

Nyssa walked down the aisle between the rows of wooden pews.  "My Lord, if His Majesty sent troops every time a vassal claimed there was a threat to the realm, the soldiery would be exhausted."  The dame paused as a ripple of laughter passed through the court.  "That's why he sent me, a Knight of the Realm.  To determine just what the threat is."

Tathan glared at the knight.  "I did detail what I received in my missive."

"You did, and the note was well written.  His Majesty was able to read every perfectly formed letter."  Nyssa allowed herself a smirk.  "You didn't send the missive you received.  A threat from the dwarves?  My Lord, His Majesty needs more than even your word."

The Count snapped his fingers.  His Knigh-Martial retrieved a scroll from a side table, then marched it over to Nyssa.  "Written proof," Tathan said.

Nyssa unrolled the scroll.  She read the note, then looked back up.  "Dwarven script, I'll give you that.  What were you going to do with the troops you requested?"

"Attack the dwarves before they attacked us."

"Brilliant plan, my Lord.  Let us lay seige to the dwarven mountain.  Your engines of war wouldn't penetrate deep enough and the dwarves have enough food and water to last years.  And let us not forget that we'd have to go through the Sylvan Forest.  I think the elves will want a say in having your forces march through, hunting on their lands."

The Count's face reddened.  Leomund shrunk back, away from Dame Nyssa.  "And just what do you propose, o Knight of the Realm?  Giving the dwarves our first born sons?"

"Of course not.  They have no used for them."  Nyssa shook her head.  "No, my Lord, what will happen is that my squire and I will go talk with the dwarves and find out why they want to march this far."  She shook the paper in her hand.  "I have met ambassadors from below the mountain.  They're gruff, plain spoken.  If they're going to threaten, they'd tell us exactly what they'll do to us."

"And if the threat is real?"

"Then I return, stopping in elven lands to gain permission for your seige weapons and your levy to pass through.  I give you my word as one of His Majesty's knights."  Nyssa handed the scroll back to the Knight-Martial, then turned.  "Leomund, we have preparations."  Without waiting for a dismissal, she walked out of the Count's manor.

Leomund stared at the doorway a moment before realizing he needed to catch up.  He bowed deeply towards the Count.  "If I may, my Lord?"  He heard his voice crack.

Tathan sighed.  "Go."

"Thank you, my Lord."  Leomund bowed again, then ran after Nyssa.

The old knight waited at the gates to the manor.  She resumed walking as her squire caught up.  "Took you long enough, Leo."

"I had to--"

"No, you didn't."  Nyssa ran a hand through her steel grey hair.  "Remember, you answer to me.  You are my responsibility."

"Yes, ma'am."

Nyssa wrapped an arm around her young squire's shoulder.  "The Count would have to either speak with me or with His Majesty himself.  You're duty is to me."

"Yes, ma'am."  Leomund kept his eyes forward.  "Where now, ma'am?"

"You're getting our gear ready.  We're leaving at morning's first light.  I have a letter to send to His Majesty.  There is something afoot here."

Leomund looked up at Nyssa.  "Ma'am?  But, you all but dismissed the Count's concerns."

"He had the wrong concerns.  The message mentioned dead bodies found.  If that had happened, the Count would have been visited by angry dwarves, not an angry scroll.  Tathan, though, is quick to anger himself.  Threaten his lands, and he overreacts."  Nyssa stopped walking.  "We need to have the calmer heads here."

"We're doomed, ma'am."

Nyssa ruffled Leomund's page-boy haircut.  "Funny, Leo.  Go.  Make sure we're ready to leave come morning."

Next Week:
Dame Nyssa and her squire, Leo, head out to investigate the dwarven missive.

8 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 1

Thank you for bearing with me over the past few weeks.  Life got complex, but the commentary is back, even with NaNo going on.

Two weeks back, the first chapter of The Elf's Prisoner appeared.  This was my 2015 NaNo effort.  Fair warning right now - it's incomplete.  Not incomplete like The Soul Blade or The Devil You Know, both of which were just chapters from being completed.  No, The Elf's Prisoner ends at maybe the first third.  The story got away from me.  That's what happens when you pants not just the plot but also the world building.  Epic fantasy does need some prep work, especially if going out beyond a village.

First thing I decided was how elven names were spelled.  JRR Tolkien has had a huge influence on elven names, with names like Galadriel and Arwen.  However, this time around, I wanted to make the names more mine.  The best way I had was to use existing languages and tweak them.  This decision for the elves led to other choices that gave me new insights on the peoples of my slowly forming world.  My elves are using tweaked Polish names for their given name.  Thus, they now feel more real, at least to me.

Jyslyn, though, predates that decision.  Jyslyn dates from 1985, with the release of Unearthed Arcana for AD&D 1st edition, with the name coming from 1991 supplement, Drow of the Underdark.  And for those wondering if she's another Drizzt Do'Urden, she predates him.  Sure, the idea of the atoning drow is old.  Atonement is a common motivation for characters.  The other difference is her build.  In AD&D 1st edition, non-human and demi-human characters could mult-class, taking two or three classes at once, though gaining levels very slowly.  With Jyslyn, I saw that a drow PC could become a magic-users/thief.  There's one catch.  Drow men could be better wizards than drow women, and both had level limits.  Jyslyn could pick up levels of wizard, but would be stopped at fourth or fifth.  Thus, multi-classing as a thief, where she could at least keep up with the rest of the party somehow.

That's just mechanics, though.  The character comes out in the why.  Why is Jyslyn dabbling in magic?  Why is she good at sneaking around?  Why is she leaving her home?  The first two, I'll answer now.  Jyslyn will answer why she left her home in a later chapter.  Why dabble in magic and why sneak?  The two are related.  Jyslyn was fascinated by magic as a young elf girl.  She managed to sneak around to spy on classes where she could learn how to cast spells.  At first, she was caught and punished, which made her more determined to be careful.

Kazimier is a priest of the Lightbringer.  The gods in the world go by many names across the unnamed land.  Priest can pray for help, getting spells as needed.  I did want to avoid turning the story into a D&D clone.  It's difficult when one of the characters starts from that game.  But I wanted my world to be mine.  Spells may be inspired by the game, but how they work aren't.  Kazi's spell to understand Jyslyn had an effect that made it clear that it came from the Lightbringer.  Healing was done with a magical salve instead of a major casting.  The difference is spell casting was definitely a challenge for me.

I have since done some worldbuilding for the story.  Normally, yes, the worldbuilding comes first, but that's what happens when you choose a story with minutes to go before November 1st arrives.  Some of the worldbuilding was just noting what I had done.  Some of it, though, was extrapolating what I wanted to see how the world fleshed out.  I may be making some edits along the way to adjust the story to how the world should be.

Friday, elsewhere in the land, others are running into similar problems, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 3.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, still on hiatus.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, the importance of casting in adaptations.

4 Nov 2018

NaNo 2018 - Week 1

It's a short week, but Sundays seem to be the best time to take stock of what I've done during the previous days.  This will be a four day week, short and sweet.

Thanks to other things happening in my life, I got off to a slow start.  Just over 1000 words on Day 1.  But I started.  I went with Heaven's Rejects, though Threefold Witches and Unruly are on stand by.  Who knows what will happen.  And the start went well enough, despite not getting 1667 words on the first day.

Day 2, and the words came out.  I managed to catch up and get a bit ahead.  Great news, except I was already planning on being out of town on Saturday on a trip I was looking for.  But, briefly ahead, and I figured out how to get one of the elements I wanted in the work in there.  For an extra bonus, the element let me add words without necessarily knowing where I was going in the story.

So, Day 3, out of town, but I got 92 words done.  It was something, and let me continue my update streak on NaNo's site.  This set me up for Sunday, the first library write-in.  Write-ins are great - there's energy.  Everyone is there also writing.  There's writing sprints, short bursts where everyone is encouraged to just right.  I came in hoping to get at least 2500 words to catch up and reach the 6667 words I should be at on Day 4.  When I arrived, I put down 3000 words for my goal.  My final total after the write-in?  3385 words, putting me at 7545 total, ahead of pace.

Coming up, the first full week of NaNo.  More write-ins.  More writing.  And I still need to figure out where I'm going.  The characters are interacting, I have a mysterious explosion to solve, by the cast and by me, and some more research to be done.  And the research is getting interesting.  The location of the explosion turned out to have been remodelled earlier this year.  That changes the nature of the mystery, and now I might have an idea of what's going on.

If you want to follow my process, you can check my stats page over the month and see how I'm doing compared to where I should be.

2 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Kazimier and his patrol discovered Jyslyn, a dark elf, lying near death.

The Sylvan Forest
Jyslyn watched her captor run to join the fight.  She remained behind, hefting her borrowed dagger in her hand, getting a feel for its weight.  Gnolls swarmed from the darkness of the forest, but if they used the darkness, Jyslyn was at home in it.  She ducked behind the fallen log and crept on barefeet over the dirt floor of the forest, making no sound.  The clash of swords and shouts of the surface elves just made things easier for her as she worked her way behind the gnolls.

Something about the attack didn't feel right, but a battle was no time for introspection.  First priority, neutralize the threat.  A few spells came to her mind, but without needed components, they may as well have been dreams.  The dagger, though, was real.  As was the gnoll lurking behind his horde, waiting to dart in with his spear.  Jyslyn crept towards him, willing herself to become one with the forest shadows.  The gnoll raised his spear, readying for a overhead thrust down on a surface elf.

Jyslyn moved in, her tunic's folds whispering against themselves.  A twig snapped beneath her feet, getting the gnoll's attention.  Too late, he whirled his head around to see his new attacker.  Jyslyn slashed with her borrowed dagger, the blade cutting a blood red line on the gnoll's neck.  He dropped his sword to grasp at the wound, unable to call a warning.  Jyslyn felt the spray of hot blood on her arm as she turned to her next target.

Before Jyslyn could step in, the gnoll fell, cut through by an elven blade.  Jyslyn stepped back, not wanting to become an "accidental" victim.  The surface elf stepped into the gap he created, trying to push back the fight.  Jyslyn side-stepped down the line.  Through gaps in the battle, she spied her healer, Kazimier, fighting beside his comrade-in-arms.  The two worked together, one feinting to give the other an opening.  Jyslyn allowed herself a moment of envy; neither of the the two surface elves would ever have to worry about the other taking advantage of the moment to kill him.  The thought was almost alien to her.

A roar brought Jyslyn back to the now.  She ducked as she spun around.  Another gnoll, bigger than the rest, led a cave bear on a rope lead.  Jyslyn risked a quick glance back at the surface elves; none could see the beast.  The head gnoll didn't act like he knew she was there.  Jyslyn saw several ways to escape.  And yet...  It's not what we choose, but why.

"Cave bear!" she shouted.

The head gnoll looked in her direction.  He dropped the rope lead and pointed at her, snarling something in his language.  While Jyslyn didn't understand the words, she understood the gist.  The bear lumbered towards her, covering the distance between them far faster than the elf could imagine.  Jyslyn backed up, running into a tree.  The burns on her back screamed at her, but she ignored the pain.  Pain now meant she was still alive.  She held up her dagger, still stained with the blood of the gnoll she killed.  Even if the bear killed her, it will know that it was in a fight.

The cave bear reared on its hind legs, towering over Jyslyn.  The dark elf looked for an opening, trying to find a way past its massive paws to cut it.  She danced out of the way of a swipe, dodging behind the tree.  The beast roared.  Jyslyn smelled rotting meat in its breath, but she kept her attention on the cave bear.  The bear walked in, snarling.  It reached around the tree with both arms.  Jyslyn ducked to avoid the long claws, then rolled away from the tree.  The bear fell to all fours as it followed her.  Jyslyn raised her dagger again, flicking the weapon at the bear to try keeping it away.  Ignoring the weapon, the cave bear charged in.  The dark elf stepped backward.  Her heel hit an exposed root; the dark elf fell on her back.  The bear raised a meaty paw.

A shield appeared over Jyslyn.  The bear struck the shield with a loud clang.  Jyslyn rolled away, running against a pair of legs.  Without looking, she crawled on hands and knees away, giving whoever was standing over her room to fight.  The bear reared again, but the elf, the two elves Jyslyn now saw, pressed their attack, sword and shield.  An arrow embedded itself in the bear's shoulder.  The beast cried out in pain and anger.  It swatted at the elves before it.

Away from the danger, Jyslyn got to her feet.  Somehow, she still had the dagger in her hand.  The bear stood against the elves before it, even with the wounds it was taking from sword and arrow.  Jyslyn focused on the bear, watching it move.  She raised the dagger, her arm back, ready to throw.  The bear dropped back to its feet, backing away from the onslaught.  Jyslyn moved, trying to find an opening.  One of the surface elves fell to the bear's paw.  Kazimier ran in to pull his comrade out of the way.  In that moment, Jyslyn saw her opening.

The dark elf hurled the dagger.  The blade flew true to her aim, over Kazimier's head and into the cave bear's eye.  The beast had no time to react.  All it did was collapse under its own weight.  It gave one last breath.

Jyslyn pointed at the leader of the gnolls, now running deeper into the forest.  Two of the surface elves started to follow, but were called back.  Jyslyn marched to the dead cave bear and pulled the dagger out.  All the surface elves standing pointed weapons, sword or nocked bow, at her.  She held the blade with her thumb and forefinger as she walked over to Kazimier.  "Thank you."

Kazimier took his dagger back.  "You've been able to understand us all this time."

"You just assumed I couldn't."  She crossed her wrists and offered them to Kazimier.

"Right."  He called for his comrade, Carrad.

Carrad arrived with another length of rope.  "Kazimier, Danen recognized the markings on the gnolls.  They're the Cleaven Eye Clan.  Danen's sketching the tattoos now."

"The Cleaven Eye?" Kazimier repeated.  "I thought they were south of here."

"They are," Jyslyn said,

"I need to bury our dead," Carrad said.  "Just one, Derluen."

Kazimier grimaced.  "I will send praryers to the Lightbringer for him."  As Carrad returned to his duties, the priest turned back to Jyslyn.  "You could have run."

"It was one of my choices, yes."

"Are you going to run?"

"I am your prisoner.  I will not escape."

Next Week:
Elsewhere, other plots begin.

26 Oct 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 1

The Elf's Prisoner

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."

Kazimier squinted.  Carrad's vision was far sharper, but now that he knew what to look for, Kazimier found the source of the movement.  "Cover me."  He was moving before Carrad could reply.

Another cry of pain came, louder and indeed from the clearing.  Kazimier dismissed the idea of a trap.  The cry was too genuine, too soul-wrenching.  Someone was in great pain, and Kazimier needed to help the unfortunate.  He picked up his pace, going from walk to jog to outright running.  He came up short when he saw the source.  On the ground before him, the last thing he ever expected lay curled up in a ball - a dark elf woman, her long copper red hair unkempt, her clothes burning away, her ink black skin blistering under the sun.  Kazimier's hand went to his sword.  The dark elf moaned.  Hearing Kazimier's footsteps, she raised her head for a moment before succumbing to weakness.

25 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Bonus Comments!

As I mentioned, the dream sequence was removed from this arc.  The scene came to mind while I wrote Hauntings Anonymous but really fit in better in the intro arc.  Problem is, the intro arc isn't ready for prime time.  It's not even ready for an alpha read, let alone beta.  The scene, though, sets up a few themes to be explored in dba LTV Paranormalists.

Dream sequences are tricksy.  Done wrong, they annoy the reader.  The scene needs to have a purpose.  The events in the scene can't just be handwaved away as "just a dream."  I didn't have these as set goals while writing.  It's NaNoWriMo; the goal is to write.  But the scene was needed, at least for me.  If it didn't fit, the chapter could be, and was, pulled.

The problem with just pulling it is that the dream does have a purpose.  The series gets an overarching plot, one that may not always appear, but one that the cast will have to deal with.  One of the ideas I came up with while writing is the invasion of European myths into North America.  Raccoon spells it out for Ayel and Kristi.  However, the problem there is that there isn't one European myth but many from every country.  Europe also isn't the only source.  Everyone who moved to North America brought with them some of the legends of their homeland.

However, there are North American myths, from the legends of the First Nations* to stories from early settlers to new urban legends.  Ayel mentions flying canoes; that's a courier du bois tale from the Outaouais that appeared in the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  For many, it was a WTF moment, but I had heard of the tale, thanks to the National Film Board of Canada.

LTV Paranormalists is set up for a culture clash.  And then there's Ginger, one of the invaders.  An invasion doesn't work well when its foot soldiers behave as cats.  If herding cats is difficult, ordering an army of them to march is impossible.  Raccoon even says that not every myth is part of the invasion.  He's recruiting three young women, one with a Scandiavian background, one a granddaughter of the Boat People refugees, and Kristi.  Which led to my next main problem.

Why is Raccoon recruiting three women with no link to the First Nations.  I did my research.  While Raccoon does appear in Shadowrun as a totem, I verified that he does exist in legend.  I could have gone with Coyote, who has appeared in more urban fantasy and has a similar trickster role.  But why Ayel, Kieu, and Kristi?  And if Kristi is from Moosonee/Moose Factory, where the population is 85% Cree, why isn't she Cree?  I didn't have any good answer besides her last name of Thiessen, and that's just her father's side.  So, Kristi is now Cree.  Does that change anything?  Maybe.  I worked out her background and her parents, having her mother work as a doctor at a clinic/hospital in Moose Factory.  Her father has German roots.  I hadn't filled in the details of her mother.

The son of a friend was considered to have enough First Nations' blood in him to qualify for free post-secondary education.  The kid took advantage of it.  He went to a community college to learn a trade, choosing welding because why not?  He had his dorm and his tuition paid.  He didn't coast - he got good marks and graduated.  Thanks to an inheritance, he didn't even have to go into debt to get his equipment as he started his apprenticeship.  Now, he has a girlfriend, a son of his own (I am so old...), and a career he loves.  Why am I mentioning this?  Because his story gives me the information I need for Kristi's mother.  Now that Kristi is Cree, so is her mother.  Kristi's mom can take the same advantage that my friend's son had, this time going into a pre-med program.  Medical school would have to be paid for, but, because of a shortage of doctors in Northern Ontario, I imagine that the province would happily waive tuition fees for a med student willing to move up there.  Kristi's mom is from the area, so why not?

Going back to Raccoon, why him and not the more well-known Coyote?  First, everyone uses Coyote.  Why follow the pack?  The main reason, though, is that there were an unusual number of news articles in 2015 that involved a raccoon.  The "Bringer of Sinkholes" bit, which refers to a scene in the unpublished first arc, came about because of the Rideau Raccoon, who appeared on a scaffold in the middle of construction at the Rideau Centre.  He was there an afternoon and became a Twitter sensation, then disappeared.  Two days later, a major sinkhole appeared.  The sinkhole not only caused delays on the construction of Ottawa's LRT but also swallowed an illegally parked minivan.  As I was preparing for NaNo, a fight broke out at the McDonalds near the Rideau Centre.  Fights there aren't newsworthy, except a bystander pulled out a different object other than a weapon, a baby raccoon.  Yes, that's a different raccoon than the one on the scaffold.  Because that needs to be said.  At that point, I'm rolling with using Raccoon.  He fit.

I also used the dream to reveal Ayel's proper given name, Amber-Leigh.  Brad and Janet avoided the Rocky Horror Picture Show route and didn't call their daughters Magenta and Columbia, nor did they call their eldest Riff-Raff.  Instead, they went the 80s route.  Tiffany doesn't mind her name.  Ayel, though, hates hers.  In high school, she convinced her friends to use her initials, A-L, which eventually mutated into Ayel by the time she graduated.  All her official paperwork uses her proper name.  She just introduces herself as Ayel.  On the plus side, telemarketers will make themselves obvious.

No Kieu in the dream.  Her sleep habits are awful.  Once she finally gets a decent night's rest, she's dead to the world.  I did check to see what Vietnamese myths were like.  The bureaucracy Raccoon mentions is the Chinese celestial one, but he's involved in handwaving away why he couldn't get Kieu.  I wanted to keep the number of characters in the scene down, and Kieu is the more literal one of the bunch who would need regular explanations in a scene where I didn't want to be bogged down in anything that distracted from the chapter's goal.

Raccoon mentioned others.  That was more for me to set up future story arcs, including one where Kristi does go home.  There are people in Moosonee who are already involved in the resistance against the invading fae.  Three people aren't enough, but I am not creating a cast of thousands when all I wanted is a Scooby-Doo pastiche.  The next arc does feature the invasion, with the Paranormalists being called in after their client finds their business card left behind by a raccoon.

Friday, a new series begins with The Elf's Prisoner.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Dresden Files/ RPG.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus due to life.

* If I am getting the name wrong, please tell me.  If I am insulting, it's through ignorance, not malice, and I am open to being corrected there.

19 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Bonus!

I mentioned back in the commentary for Chapter 7 that a chapter went missing.  It turned out that the chapter and some of its follow up worked better in the unpublished first arc.  However, since some key elements of the series appear in it, I'm posting it here as bonus content.  Some edits have been made because of ideas that wound up needing fixed.

18 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 13

Old Man Peterson revealed, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 13.

All mysteries must have an end, one where the villain has been found.  There wasn't any way for me to continue this arc.  Everyone had a chance at the spotlight.  Clues were found.  It was time for the final act, time for the Phantom to be unmasked.

First, though, the Paranormalists had to go through a show of exorcising the spirits Ginger already got rid of in Chapter 10.  The display was more for Alex and his boss, to show that the Paranormalists aren't just taking money and to hide that they've broken into the warehouse a few times.  It helps that there were spirits to banish.  The "ritual" just plays into what is expected of a banishment, thanks to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural.  Salt is traditional; in the past, it was rare and restricted to the upper class.  Today, it's easil;y found in grocery stores and gets into everything.

That leaves the Phantom of the Warehouse.  What sort of mystery story would leave the mystery unsolved?  It's not satisfying, even if the Paranormalists aren't licensed as private investigators.  The clues were there, though not all at once.  I hadn't worked out the identity of the Phantom until late in the writing.  A few things that I did have, though, helped.  First, the explosion in Chapter 9.  There was sound, but little damage.  More than flash bangs, but still pyrotechnics.  That was where I had the idea of the nature of who.  Kieu's discovery of the nature of low-light recording in Chapter 12.helped confirm that the Phantom was mundane, not supernatural.

Of course, knowing the clues was just part of it.  I still needed a motive.  All sorts of valuables pass through a warehouse.  Problem is, if they go missing, it's easy to see where they disappeared.  Another problem is stealing enough to make the theft worthwhile.  There might be a multi-million dollar shipment, but spread over half a dozen crates that are each too large to be picked up by a person.  Art theft just needs the one work to be taken to be worth something, especially if a buyer is already lined up.  But that's not the full motive.

Art theft is just the crime being done.  The thief still needs a reason to steal.  That was easy.  Thanks to the Police Squad episode "A Bird in the Hand"/"The Butler Did It"*, I had the ultimate reason; "I needed the money."  There's no tale of revenge, no deep dark secret, just someone who needed to make ends meet.

The wrap up let me get a few outstanding issues wrapped up.  The big one is Kieu's attitude towards Ayel.  In the unseen first arc, they did get to a detente of sorts, but Kieu backslid while I wrote "Hauntings Anonymous".  I really need Kieu and Ayel to be able to work together for futre arcs.  The conflict isn't sustainable for an entire series and characters should develop over time.  Since the Paranormalists are doing supernatural investigations as a business, even if it's just on the side, I wanted to make sure that the audience knew they were paid.  And I wanted everyone to come clean on asking Aidan to keep investigating.  Ayel may have started skeptical, but she's in on the business with the others.

There were a few more shout outs in this chapter.  Gregori Hapschatt finishes off the references to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, after Brad, Janet, and the Munroes last chapter.  Constable Frasier comes from Due South; I'm not using the same character, but the shout out is there.  Besides, I didn't include Benton Frasier's dog/wolf, Diefenbaker.  My other option at the time of writing was to reference The Beachcombers, with Constable John Constable.

I do have future arcs in mind for the series.  The next one has been started but stalled out.  The core idea is to get into the supernatural and paranormal more, with the Paranormalists being called in because of a spriggan invasion of a cottage.  I also plan on bringing in some of Kristi's family, so she, too, can be tortured by someone she can't ignore.  One for later involves a haunting at a doll convention.  I want to have Ginger out in view of the public instead of always hiding, and by disguising her as a doll, though a really life-like one, the LOLfae will get to see what's around her.

Coming up in the next few weeks, one final commentary about the full "Hauntings Anonymous", including items I glossed over or outright missed followed by a new serial, though one that's incomplete.  NaNoWriMo starts soon, so there will be juggling involved.

Friday, bonus content for dba LTV Paranormalists.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, adaptations of adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Dresden Files RPG.

* Police Squad episodes always had two titles, one on screen and one spoken by the narrator.  The titles never matched, and in the case of "A Bird in Hand"/The Butler Did It", includes a spoiler of who the thief is.

12 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 13

The Phanton Unmasked

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 12

Discrete Investigation

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

"Hello?" Kieu said, her voice soft.

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

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

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

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

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

4 Oct 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 11

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

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

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

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

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

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