31 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Final Commentary

Heaven's Rejects was fun to write.  I had no plan, just characters and a broad concept that let me send my cast wherever I wanted if the whim amused me.  The series wasn't serious, as the animated Elvii can attest to.  The goal was to try a new twist on the masquerade a lot of urban fantasy tries to maintain.  The masquerade is blown, so let's have a camera crew follow a team!

The characters helped a lot.  They had strong personalities that carried a few chapters alone.  Demona was fun to write - half-succubus, half-Catholic, all librarian.  Nadia turned into her Demona's opposite, mortal, flawed, and perpetually cranky.  Ian was the fun-loving one of the group, the stable bedrock for the other two.  The dynamic kept things fresh for me.

Drawbacks, though, were the lack of planning and the subsequent pacing issues.  I had to rein in the desire to get to the punchline with the Elvis impersonators in the third arc.  The second arc had things boiling up without a solution until I started digging into American history.  The chapter length should've been shorter in a few cases.  Hindsight leads to learning if viewed properly, though, and the problems I had while writing Heaven's Rejects should be smoothed over in the future.

The lack of planning, though, also lets me take into account weirdnesses that come up while I'm writing.  The zombie Elvii were inspired by the bingo cards created by the local municipal liaisons.  I'm not committed to a specific ending if something better comes up.  There's a trade off between planning and pantsing, and while pantsing takes effort during the act of writing instead of off-loading some of it before writing begins, it also feels more organic.  I had an outline for By the Numbers that I kept to until the end, where the direction of the story meant Numbers leaving.  The story was kept in a steady direction, but it didn't feel right at the end of writing.  It works now, after the passage of time.  Meanwhile, stories like Unruly and The Soul Blade had the story grow organically, leaving me more satisfied at the ned.

One thing that I may not do again is include character asides with their pics.  The formatting takes time, and I'd want a greater variety of images to reflect the characters' moods.  It was an experiment with Heaven's Rejects.  If I could draw, I might have gone that route.  I do like having pictures to refer to with my characters, even if I have to build them in a video game.  The act of describing the character forces me to consider elements I'd have never thought of.

NaNo is coming, so I hope to remember what I learned with Heaven's Rejects.

Tomorrow, going back a bit, or romance be hard, yo.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Raven.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Expanse Season 2.

25 Oct 2019

A Breather

This past week has been hectic.  Can*Con ran all last weekend, forcing a delay in my usual weekend chores.  That wouldn't have been so bad, but Monday was election night, and I didn't have time before work to find my poll, so after work it was.  By the time I was done and home, I was too tired to go back out and do laundry, which was getting needed.  Tuesday, laundry, because it was needed.  Wednesday had a quick grocery run, something else postponed from the weekend, plus finally getting to watch the planned review for Lost in Translation.

In short, I am beat.  I managed to get the writing I wanted done - the commentary and the review.  But I am behind, so this is what I can do for today.

The plan, though, is to start a new serial next week, and one last commentary for Heaven's Rejects while still getting next week's review properly researched and prepping for NaNo.  I should be caught up just in time for NaNo to take over my life.  I also want to get an index set up for both LTV Paranormalists and Heaven's Rejects so that they can be found more easily.  There's also a new edition of Shadowrun out to test character creation for.  I have ideas.

The blog will go on and on and on, but I just need a breather.

24 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 11

A start of an overseas adventure, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 11.

Tel Aviv, Israel, chosen because it counts as two words during NaNoWriMo, three if I include the country name.  The best city for that might be Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam, but the idea I had for this arc wound up going to the Mediterranean.

First, though, Episode 11 was the last full chapter written before I ran out of steam during NaNo 2018.  I broke past 50k words and kept going a little further, but between having to do the research I wanted and the sheer marathon NaNo is, I ran out of steam.  Heaven's Rejects gets added to the other unfinished serials as to-be-done-when-ideas-recharge.  NaNo is fulfilling, but exhausting.  I maintained a good average for the month, about 2000 words/day until I hit the wall.

The research I got into was all on mermaids.  I wanted to find out where the first mermaid legend was and got the Eastern Mediterranean, near Assyria.  A bit more research and I worked out the general plot.  The catch, though, is keeping the cast from figuring out what's happening too fast.  Fortunately, there are many reasons for people to go missing off the coast of Israel and neighbouring countries.  Demona's guess of a water bender causing waterspouts to pick up sharks comes from crossing Avatar: The Last Airbender and the Sharknado series, so she's not even close yet.

Turns out, Ian loves a good bad B-movie.  Demona just wanted to keep hip to what the kids who went to her library were watching.  Shakrnado is just cheesy and deliberately so.  It became a brief phenomenon and carried on from there.  Having a character watch it made sense.  It ties them into the real world just a little more.

Nadia's reputation precedes her.  She tends to leave a bit of a wake behind her.  There are a few places she's not allowed to go to anymore.  Israel isn't one of them, but the Section Chief is well aware of her proclivities.  He also keeps notes.  Lots of notes.  More notes than I do.

Next week, I'll add a commentary for the story overall.  Thanks you for reading and please feel free to comment on the parts, even if it has been months.

A breather tomorrow.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, RWBY After the Fall.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Raven.

18 Oct 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 11

Episode 11 – “Your Reputation Precedes You”

The threat to Las Vegas is over.  The bodies are back in the morgue.  The casinos are cleaning up to get back in business.  And I am finally out of Las Vegas.  If one more person said that I wasn't allowed to be there, I think I'd have kicked them in the crotch.

Fighting the animated dead is tough.  And we added to the difficulty by trying to not damage the bodies too much.  Their loved ones would be thankful, if the John Does are ever identified.  What happened after all that, though, well, shit show is too kind.

There's another player on the scene.  No idea who.  No idea what they want, except the necromancer.  I was a step behind in all this.  I want to blame myself, but Demona pointed out that there wasn't a way to predict what happened.  An army of dead men dressed as Elvis out to destroy Las Vegas?  Another group of people stealing the necromancer from the local cops just before we could?  Team One One Seven is going to follow up in Las Vegas.  My team gets a new assignment.

Nadia stood behind Demona, who sat on the office chair on the other side of the Chief.  "Seriously, Chief?  This isn't a joke?"

The Chief glared at Nadia.  "Do I look like I'm joking?"

"Not at all."  Nadia smiled.  "I've always wanted to go to Israel."

"All of you are up on your immunizations?  And you all have valid passports?"

All three agents nodded.  "What's the mission?" Ian asked.

"Our teams in the Middle East are reporting people disappearing along the Mediterranean coast.  No one country is losing more in these disappearances.  And since they're spread out, local authorities aren't aware of a bigger problem."

Demona raised her hand.  "What sort of disappearances?"

The Chief slid an brown envelope across the table.  "Details are here.  You'll have plenty of time to read on the flight to Tel Aviv."


17 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 10

The last batch of Elvii, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 10.

I was pushing it, having three groups of shambling Elvis impersonators menacing Las Vegas.  The fight scenes were starting to feel the same to me.  I wanted a different way to deal with the last group.  The solution happened off-screen, though, which irks me a little.  My leads didn't come up with the idea, but there were also busy trying to deal with Elvis being everywhere.  Team One One Seven had to do something other than watch.

Why "Gangnam Style"?  Why not?  The song is popular and has a dance move that that vast majority of club-goers can do.  I also set up Demona as being a fan of PSY earlier, with her ringtone being "Daddy".  The other catch is that, overall, Heaven's Rejects isn't supposed to be serious.  And fighting Elvis with PSY falls right in with that concept.  Along with zombie Elvii dancing.

Nadia finally gets her explanation on why there are so many demons in security and why Demona isn't allowed in the city.  Demona's mother almost brought the arrangement crashing down by being herself.  It took until this chapter to give Demona's mother her name, and that took some research to have it sound authentic.  If I planned things out, I'd have known what Meleri's name was long before I started.  I never expected the name to come up, though.

To add to the fun, I introduced a new element to the setting.  A group that is at odds with the Agency, because why should there be just one secret organization lurking about.  The idea here is that I introduce them now, bring them back as background elements in a few episodes, then have the big confrontation that leaves the Agency reeling.  It's a long-term plan.  This organization knows exactly what words to use to stop pursuit, though American security paranoia is high, overreacting to false positives.

Off on a new mission, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 11.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Feast of Legends.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, After the Fall.

11 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Episode 10

Episode 10 – “Dead Men Walking”

I hate it when the opposition thinks things through.  The necromancer made it difficult to stop the animated John Does.  Demona figured out what was powering them, but grabbing gold chains while fighting off something that can't be killed isn't easy.  Not to mention, the necromancer split her army of the dead into three groups.  We're not going to get out of this without injury.

I got scratched up in the last fight.  It stings a little, but it's not so bad right now.  Definitely will have to see a doctor later.  The dead aren't known for their cleanliness.  I don't want to be sidelined by an infection.  Nadia shoiuld've brought some of Team One One Seven with us.  The more people we have, the faster we can stop the Elvii.

Just what did Mom do here?  Two security guards have yelled at me for just being in Las Vegas.  Why?  Because of Mom.  I never had the chance to do anything.  I didn't even want to come here.  She owes me for this.

Nadia, Ian, and Demona dashed across the Strip, heading to the last casino suffering from a walking corpse invasion.  Ian pointed out the SWAT team setting up near the necromancer's white moving truck.  "Our time's almost up," he said.

"Ignore them," Nadia said.  "They can't do anything useful."

Demona caught up to Ian.  "I need the stun stick again."

"It won't work on the John Does.  It's a little late to try to restart their hearts."

Ian pulled the stun stick out of his gym bag.  "Clubbing them isn't going to do much, either."

"It's not for them."  Demona took the weapon from Ian.  "Wait, does gold conduct electricity?"

Nadia slowed her pace while she thought about the question.  "I think it does, but it tends to melt."

Demona grinned.  "Good."

The three agents arrived at the casino.  Its main doors were destroyed.  One hung from its hinge, the other lay on the floor, huge rents in it.  Beyond in the lobby, security guards sprawled unmoving on the floor.  Others tended to their fellows.  One noticed the agents enter.  "Get out!  Get out while you can!  Bullets don't stop them!"

10 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 9

Elvis is everywhere, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 9.

The army of undead Elvii are running amok.  Good thing Nadia and her team are around.  The necromancer became a character when I realized that someone had to be animating the Elvii.  Her motives are somewhat shallow, but the serial isn't supposed to be serious.  Someone using dark magic to punish sinners hits the irony button and adds to the theme that the real danger tends to be the human element.

Vegas, at least in the setting, is an unusual city where the supernatural is part of the scene, at least in the touristy areas.  "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" and all that.  Demons can get jobs or go out for a bit of harmless fun.  Demona's mother forgot about the "harmless" part in the past and earned herself a lifetime ban.  The ban got passed on to her daughter.

I toyed with the idea of giving all the Elvii a name based on a song by Elvis.  Blue is named after "Blue Suede Shoes", Teddy Bear after the song of the same name, Lonesome after "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"  Then I realized that I'd have to name at least twenty Elvii and there are way too many Top 40 Elvis songs.  Just naming three was enough.

The one thing I was starting to regret was the length of the chapters.  These are longer than what I have for other purpose-made serials, like Unruly.  This makes a difference on when to wrap up an entry, to make sure that each one is more or less the same length.  With novel chapters, length isn't as important as content and purpose.  Posting a regular chapter week after week, though, has a different requirement.  Too short, what's the point of visiting.  Too long, and it's easier to download and read later.  And differing lengths add some uncertainty when there shouldn't be any.  Next serial, I get the chapters a little shorter, giving me less space to fill.

Friday, if it's stupid but it works, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 10.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Convoy.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Feast of Legends.

4 Oct 2019

Heaven’s Rejects - Episode 9

Episode 9 – “Elvis Has Left the Building”

I'd have thought seeing zombies would be, well, scarier.  These guys, though, I don't know.  It might be the silver jumpsuits.  It's hard to take anyone wearing a silver jumpsuit seriously.

What sort of sick person would change the look of a corpse?  Pompadours, jumpsuits, gold chains.  There's a limit to performance art and taste.

Zombie Elvii.  Man, what a trip.

Nadia looked around for a police officer.  Spotting one several yards away, she pushed through the crowd.  "Hey!  Hey, you!  Officer!"

The cop turned his head to find who was calling him.  "What is it?"

"I need to get through."

"You and everyone else, lady."  The cop pointed at the phalanx of shambling Elvis impersonators.  "No one's getting through until they're gone."

"And who's going get rid of them?  That's why I'm here."

"Yeah, you and everyone else here."

Nadia rolled her eyes.  "Look--"

"Attention denizens and visitors if Sin City!"  A woman came out of the white moving truck, a microphone in her hand, letting her be heard over the general din.  "You have benefited from the wages of sin for far too long!  Now the bill comes due!"

3 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 8

Everywhere a zombie Elvis, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 8.

Heck of a place to leave off, with zombie Elvii.  This was the moment I had in mind when I started the arc.  I tried not to rush the build up, making sure that I had everything I needed laid out so that when the undead Elvis army started marching, it wasn't going to be a joint face-palm by the audience.  I had to make sure that the missing bodies more or less could pass as Elvis, and that Demona didn't jump to that conclusion.  She had no reason to suspect an Elvis impersonation theme.

Leading up, I realized that the anti-magic blanket couldn't have been done by the person animating the Elvii.  Doing that would inhibit their own goal of sending the army of undead Elvii through Vegas.  I figured that out soon enough that I could bring in Byron.  His reasoning was that if there's bodies going missing, someone might want to raise or animate them and cutting off the magic would at least delay them long enough for his team to find them.  He forgot about Nadia, which was not a good idea.

Demona asking about which Frankenstein goes back to my other main project, Lost in Translation.  Demona, though, comes to the question because she's a youth librarian who has to explain to students that watching the movie adaptation doesn't always work as a substitute for reading the original work.  Frankenstein is a great example of why - the book never goes into how the Monster is brought to life and adds the fear of fire.  The Monster is different in the movie, being more child-like.

Nadia is a speed demon.  She's pushing the SUV's limits.  The SUV was chosen because I needed a vehicle large enough for the cast plus the camera crew, so a seven-passenger SUV it is.  Passing a cop while doing 30 over tends to get attention, and you don't have to outrun the cop; you have to outrun the radio.  Said cop also comes back as a way to stop Nadia from catching up to the antagonist too soon and as a way to just end the scene.  Camera goes off, scene ends.  Part of the framework of the story.

I took a different approach to the zombie invasion.  I'm assuming people are genre aware here.  Zombie movies and TV series have been around for some time.  Las Vegas is known for its entertainment, so a zombie invasion there may just look like just another spectacle.  No one is going to run away right away.  Once the zombies attack, there will be people in the crowd willing to draw a gun and try for headshots.  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.  Things would not go well.  Then add police, including SWAT, moving in.

Friday, Love Me Rotten, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 9.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Flash (1990).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Convoy.

2 Oct 2019

Heaven's Rejects - Commentary 7

The morning after the night before, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 7.

Starting the catch up now.  The past couple of weeks have been busy and something had to give.  Unfortunately, it was this blog.  That's past, it distracts from the now.  On we go!

A little bit of fun, at least for the writer and, hopefully, the audience at the beginning.  Nadia thinks she's been seduced and taken advantage of by Demona.  Yes, Nadia has a few prejudices to work through, but she hasn't run into any half-succubi.  Full ones, yes; half, no.  This let me get out a bit of background about Demona.  If sleeping with a succubus leads to one's soul being drained, what does sleeping with a half-succubus result in?  If the other half is Catholic, guilt.  Incredible guilt.  That, or Demona just has really lousy luck when it comes to sex.

The other side of the scene is the question of nature or nuture.  Demona is part demon, but her father raised her well.  The core of her beliefs is the ideal of forgiveness.  Demona doesn't want to hold grudges and, generally, she is a decent sort.  The nicest person in the story is a half-demon.  Nadia, the most acerbic, is fully human.  Tends to be something I play with - see also The Devil You Know.

Ian did some investigating off-screen.  If this were a visual medium, he'd get a montage of walking around and talking to different people.  Here, I skipped past it because it wasn't the current focus.  Nadia's break down and Demona being a friend were.  Ian gets to deliver the summary, which is some good news for Nadia.

The bit about Nellis Air Force Base is a nod to B-grade horror and monster movies, where the military exists either to create the horror/monster or to be completely ineffective at stopping it.  Nadia is just making sure that things aren't getting out of hand, and having Nellis on alert is way out of hand.

I wound up using Google Streetview to get an idea of what the highway Nadia's driving on looks like.  It's handy, especially when getting out to a location may be difficult.  I did the same with with LTV Paranormalists and Kristi's hometown, Moose Island.  It's not as good a first-hand experience, where I'd get not just the sights, but the sounds, smells, and temperature, but considering that I'd probably burst into flames in the Nevada desert sun, I'll live with it.

I'm dropping the previews for the next chapter.  Turns out, when I wrote the chapters, I bookended them with character asides, either wrapping things up or hinting at the coming chapter already.  So, it's just extra work retrofitting it in.  I'm leaving them out for now, at least for Heaven's Rejects.

Friday, Love Me Rotten, in Heaven's Rejects Chapter 9.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Flash (1990).
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Convoy.