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.