31 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 7

Ejected Disc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 Aug 2018

Mecha Academy Update

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

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

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

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

24 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 6

Skirting the Edge

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

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

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

"Of what?" Ayel asked.

23 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 5

Chapter 5 - Home Bodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15 Aug 2018

Hacking Valiant Universe RPG - The Magical Girl

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

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

10 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 4

Chapter 4 - Midnight Visitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 3

Expanding the world, in dba LTV Paranormalists Chapter 3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Fair Folk

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

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

"Benedict Fluffybutt is Ayel's."

"You don't have one?"

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

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

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

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

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

2 Aug 2018

dba LTV Paranormalists - Hauntings Anonymous - Commentary 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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