Thursday, January 31, 2013

All Systems Go!

I'm feeling really good about myself this week.

I finished Turncoats last night.  That's two Grandpa Anarchy stories in two days, and both important ones that I very much think should be in the book, so I'm really happy that I've got them written.

Today I rewrote Rememer This.  That's my first Grandpa Anarchy story ever, and it was short and serious and not very funny.  It really didn't work as an introduction to the universe or the first story in a collection.  I think I've improved it in that regard -- I think it can work as the first story in a book of Grandpa Anarchy stories now, and it fits the tone of the entire series better.  It wasn't even that hard to accomplish.  I started thinking about it the moment I woke up this morning, and the new lines of dialog were already there in my head.  I had to wait until I got to work to write them down, but I remembered what I wanted to do.

Both of these things, combined with finishing Nemesis a day earlier, make me feel ready to start working on my Grandpa Anarchy book in earnest.  Previously I had been unsure what story to put first, only knowing that Remember This wasn't it.  Also I knew that I wanted two other stories about the League of Former Sidekicks to give them a full introduction leading up to Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story, which I believe makes a good ending story for a book.  I have other Grandpa Anarchy stories I want to write, but with the possible exception of Performance Review, none that I consider necessary to be included in a book.

So basically, everything's finally lined up for me to put together a book.  Granted, I still need to edit all the stories and a few of them will need rewriting, but there are no holes where stories that I want to include don't exist yet.  So yeah, feeling pretty good about what I've accomplished the past few weeks.  ^_^

Next step:  editing the first 10 or so stories, and getting one or two friends to go through them after.  Probably need to talk to Gene a bit more about what I'll need to prepare for publication, especially what I'll need for a one-story flyer thing for Emerald City Comicon, and talk to Chuck about if he can help out with some illustrations.

Last but not least, thinking about writing feeds my creativity.  To that end, I've not only finished two stories and rewritten another in the last two days, but I've jotted down three new ideas.  My current list of unfinished stories now includes:

Jan 30 Thunderbird Blues
Jan 31 Hackernaut
Jan 31 Future Me

Oh, and Gene is apparently working on at least one Grandpa Anarchy story (or maybe a Dark Dr. Dark story, actually).  I really really need to flesh out and fill in my world background files, I don't even list all of my stories or all of the villains and sidekicks that have appeared in them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

2013 Goals Update

2013 Writing Goals January Check In

1.  Write a Grandpa Anarchy Story a week:  Goal achieved!
2.  Write a Tai-Pan story each month:  Failed (so far).
3.  Work on anime fanfiction / original fiction each week:  Partial success (half scene for Otherworld Blues)
4.  Draw a picture each month:  Failed (so far).
5.  Edit Grandpa Anarchy stories for publication:  Partial success (minor edits on a few stories)

Details of Grandpa Anarchy Story Project

(Recap)  In November 2012 I began 30 Grandpa Anarchy stories and completed 24 of them.  It was my stated goal to finish the other six eventually.  I didn't have a set goal for December, but I managed to complete three of the six:

Dec 4:  Oceans of the Void (begun Nov 25th)
Dec 8: Let Sleeping Gods Lie (begun Nov 30)
Dec 15:  Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story (begun Nov 20)

For January 2013 I completed four stories:

Jan 19:  DarkFireDragonNinja  (begun several years ago)
Jan 24:  OmniGen Again  (begun Jan 23)
Jan 25:  Veteran of the Bone Wars  (begun Dec 30)
Jan 29:  Nemesis  (begun Dec 10)

Incomplete stories started in November 2012:

Nov 21st:  Trouble Focusing (Grandpa loses another sidekick)
Nov 26th:  Jungle Opera (in progress)
Nov 29th:  Planet Earth vs. World Devourer (in progress)

Incomplete stories that predate November 2012 (some by several years):

Dark Lord of Midnight
DarkFireDragnNinja (complete Jan 19)
Lights Out
Performance Review
Stepping Out

New stories begun since November 2012:

Dec 8  Turncoat  (Another sidekick joins the Society of Former Sidekicks)
Dec 10  Nemesis  (completed)
Dec 11  Troubador  (Grandpa Anarchy faces a singing villain)
Dec 12  Love, Grandma  (Grandpa Anarchy vs. Grandma Chaos)
Dec 30  Veteran of the Bone Wars (completed)
Jan 15  Grandpa Anarchy and the Fiendishly Foul Fetid Frog
Jan 23  OmniGen Again (completed)
Jan 26  Toolbar Wizard

Of the stories finished, I'm most happy about the new one, Nemesis.  This is one of my "keystone" stories, as in stories that add a great deal of detail to the background of the Grandpa Anarchy Universe.  I consider such stories of key importance since they provide a great deal of background information on Grandpa Anarchy -- stories like Supper Soldier, What You Should Know, World of Hero and Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story reveal much of the background for the universe overall.  In this case it's the second appearance of the League of Former Sidekicks, and also provides great detail on two of Grandpa's earliest sidekicks (Electric Bluejay and Sam Solo) and on the temp agency that provides him with so many of his sidekicks.  Three new characters are introduced (Microbat, Cyber Granny, and Miss X), and we get to see several old ones again (Kid Gloves, Kid Enigma, Kid Calculus, Geothermal Jenny, Dog Is My Copilot).

When I say this is the "second appearance" of the League of Former Sidekicks, I mean both chronologically and in the order the stories have been written.  Technically I still need to write the first appearance of the League, which should be in the story Turncoat.  After Nemesis, the league pops up again in Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story.  It's important that I finish Turncoat as well, that's another of my "keystone" stories.  Writing that should be one of my big goals for February, as well as finishing Jungle  Opera, Planet Earth vs. World Destroyer, and Trouble Focusing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Research and World Building

First, an update on my 2013 goals:  I finished the Grandpa Anarchy story DarkFireDragonNinja last Saturday.  So that's one story down.  I need 3 more finished for January (first goal).

(For those keeping score at home, I managed three stories in December;  Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story, Oceans of the Void, and Let Sleeping Gods Lie, which was the story that resulted from my working title Gravity of the Matter.)


Despite the  fact that most of my Grandpa Anarchy stories are goofy 1,000 word (or less) short-shorts incorporating villains and sidekicks that I made up on the spot specifically for that story, I've wound up doing an inordinate amount of research and world-building lately.

In the beginning I had to do some documentation and world building because, after 8 stories, I couldn't remember the names of all the sidekicks and villains I'd already made up.  I knew that one or more of my stories would involve The League of Former Sidekicks, made up, appropriately enough, of Grandpa Anarchy's former sidekicks, so I had to create a list of who they were and which of them were likely members of the league.  (The League is slated to appear in a couple of unfinished stories such as Nemesis, but they've already appeared in one finished story, Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story.)

"Kid Gloves!" Grandpa exclaimed, leaping up.  He yanked at wires and fumbled to remove the helmet.  "I should have known!"
"Grandpa!"  In the corner of the room, his current sidekick Mighty Tim was handcuffed to a chair.  "Grandpa, it's the League of Former Sidekicks!  You were right!  They were up to something!"

I also wanted to explore Grandpa Anarchy's past and how he gained his powers, which involved some research and world building.  He gains his powers as a result of a World War II super soldier project (ala Captain America) but of course it's not really that simple.  He was previously a sidekick to a heroic vigilante type known as the Gentleman Brawler.  I wanted Grandpa Anarchy to be quite old, but I needed an explanation for why he was still alive and still able to go toe-to-toe with villains.  Eventually I want to write a story about his time as a sidekick, but for now we have one flashback scene in Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story and an expose of how he gained his powers in Supper Soldier.

"Yes.  Tell me, Grandpa Anarchy, were you aware that the U.S. government conducted a secret super soldier project in the 1930's?"
Grandpa laughed.  "Look, Son, if I was I wouldn't talk about it would I?  That's what secret means."
"But it was a long time ago, Mr. Anarchy.  Much of it is declassified now.  I've managed to obtain a great many documents on the project through the freedom of information act.  What I don't know, one can assume.  In any case, nobody's trying to hide information on what turned out, at first glance, to be a failed experiment."
"What of it?" asked Grandpa.  "I wasn't directly involved in it, I can tell you that.  If you think that's where I got my 'power' as you put it, then you're barking up the wrong tree."

I had to do more research for Oceans of the Void and Let Sleeping Gods Lie, two stories that borrow from Cthulhu mythos ideas.  I had to come up with creatures that my heroes could encounter in a weird Doctor Strange-like alternate dimension (the story involved Dark Dr. Dark of course), and I had to come up with a seemingly plausible or authentic magic spell for sealing a dark god away.

"Adad above me!" shouted Dark Dr. Dark.  "Mot below me!  Yaw on my left!  Astarte on my right!  I call upon the darkness beyond twilight, the crimson beyond flowing blood!  I call upon the power buried in the stream of time!  Grant my wish and seal Huameia of the elder gods once again so that he may dream beneath the waves in Yaw's embrace!  I bind you within this circle by air, by earth, by water and fire!  Sleep again for a thousand years!"
Light shot up to the heavens from all around them -- emanating from the magic circle etched in the mud.  Huameia was trapped in the center.  "NO!" he screamed.  "You cannot do this!  I cannot be bound!"

But more recently my research has become more in-depth, I think.  First there was Planet Earth vs. World Devourer (needs a better title).  For this story, Grandpa Anarchy is in galactic court facing off against Galactican the World Devourer, who was prevented from eating Earth and is now suing Grandpa.  I was inspired during a visit to a Taco Del Mar to add a Silver Surfer-esque ally of Grandpa's called the Bronze Beach Bum, and furthermore, said intergalactic beach bum needed to speak a dialect of space surfer slang that was virtually incomprehensible.  Making up such a slang on the spot is virtually impossible -- you need words and phrases that sound plausibly like real slang.

This sent me down a deep rabbit hole in search of spacer-slang, interstellar-slang, and anything that had previously been created by other authors that I could borrow.  Ultimately I created a vocabulary of nearly 200 words and phrases, borrowing heavily from Tanieth Lee's Biting the Sun aka Don't Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine; William Gibson's Nueromancer and related books; Tad Williams's Otherland books, Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and various other made up slang and swear words as noted in the TV Tropes Wiki.

I haven't finished this story yet, but I really like how the Bronze Beach Bum's dialogue turned out:

The slug's eye stalks spun.  "Very good.  Bronze Beach Bum, please explain to the court what happened on the unit in question?"
"Mag, my drook.  Me and Captain Fedora were drinking the cold dark, grok,  soaking in sonic void, when Planet Breath drops from zero and zarks Deepbore Sawbeetle Beast on us...."
The prosecutor glanced to the interpreter.  "We were on patrol when Galactican attacked us," she said.
"Primal," said the Beach Bum.  "We spun back but Spacemelon jooched our photons, zarking legal spacedrift and lawyer rift.  I zeezee'd him, Black Hole, flip back the how's your Nelly, what's all the lens grit?  Can't we drift together?  Grok?"
 Then I had some inspiration for another half-plotted story, Jungle Opera.  I heard on an NPR show (To The Best of Our Knowledge, I believe) about Ciudad Blanca -- the White City, a legendary lost city of gold supposedly in Honduras.  This lead to an evening's reading about the entire legend and gave me the opening dialogue for my own story, in which good Doctor Whitney (who previously appeared in Stone Temple Space Raiders, another "Jungle Opera" style story) is convinced that Ciudad Blanca is really in Africa, and that's why nobody has found it.

In the meantime, another idea I'd jotted down a month or so before was percolating, and I started working on a story called Veteran of the Bone Wars.  You can Google this one easily, there's a Wikipedia entry for "Bone Wars":  also known as "The Great Dinosaur Rush", refers to a period of intense fossil speculation and discovery during the Golden Age of American history, marked by a heated rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope... and Othniel Charles Marsh...."

Personally I just liked the title (originally I'd written Survivor of the Bone Wars).  I didn't have a story.  But I spent an evening researching the whole Bone Wars saga.  I knew I wanted to include the Brontosaurus somehow, because everyone's heard of a Brontosaurus but it doesn't really exist (which was the point of the NPR story).  I wanted, in some way, to bring the rivalry between the two paleontologists forward in time to where it could involve Grandpa Anarchy, and I found my way in when I read that Dr. Cope donated his skull to science (he wanted to prove his brain was bigger than Marsh's), and that it is still apparently in storage at the University of Philadelphia today.

That gave me my opening.  Sadly I haven't finished this story yet either.  One reason is that I've been doing world building the last two days -- after watching several Spiderman movies in a row, I decided that my Grandpa Anarchy universe needs its own OmniCorp -- a cutting-edge genetics company that churns out superpowered villains for Grandpa Anarchy to fight.  Thus, OmniGen was born -- Omnipotent Genetics and Robotics Corporation, founded in 1887 by Dr. Jebediah Judas as Jebediah Incorporated.  Jebediah Judas sold Jebediah's Miracle Elixer, a cure-all that had the unfortunate side-effect of turning people into lawbreaking madmen.  I'm pretty sure the Gentleman Brawler fought some of them, including Jebediah, who was also known by his alter-ego name, Madman Judas. 

I've created a history of Jebediah's descendents and the various name changes the company went through before it became OmniGen.  I've also created a list of goofy villains who were former scientists at the company.  Every single one of their bios begins with "scientific genius at OmniGen who experimented on himself".  ^_^

And this, of course, led to the beginning of yet another story, OmniGen Again, which is also unfinished.  But I hope to feature OminGen villains in several stories, eventually.  And my plan is to finish two or three of these current stories in the next week or two.

"Yep.  I've fought every OmniGen mad scientific genius who ever experimented on himself and became a dangerous villain.  And trust me, that's a lot of people.  There's Star-Nosed Moleman, Frill-Necked Lizardman, Doctor Unipus, Sucker-Footed Batman, the Octarine Orc, the Beast of Burbon -- oh, but he wasn't a genius, he was just a janitor.  But anyway, I fought 'em all."
 To sum up:  it strikes me as a odd that I'm spending entire evenings researching a given topics just for a few tossed-off lines of dialogue in a one-scene story, that most people will gloss right over without realizing the significance of the words.  But I guess that's what writing is about, after all.  If it makes my stories better, then that's good.  If it charms the few readers that recognize the references or appreciate that the details given of Ciudad Blanca are true to the actual legend, then I've really done my job.  Personally I think that even when the reader gets none of these references, the story will still have a greater depth to it that shines through -- or as much depth as you can manage in a thousand words.

"There, gentlemen!" the man exclaimed.  "Feast your eyes upon the ruins of Tenuzco, capital city of the ancient Pazteca empire!"
Grandpa frowned, staring at the vine-choked ruins.  "I dunno, Doctor Whitney," he said.  "Still looks like a bunch of rocks in a jungle to me."
"Technically correct, Mr. Anarchy," said the doctor.  "But what rocks indeed!  There is much we can learn from studying them.  Oh, I must thank you for coming to San Theodoros and accompanying me on this expedition.  Some of the locals still worship the ancient Pazteca cult of the feathered serpent gods, and are quite hostile to anyone approaching this site."
They were interrupted by more barking.  "Sooty's found something!" Adventure Boy exclaimed, rushing forward. 

Monday, January 21, 2013


I've decided that what my Grandpa Anarchy universe needs is an all-purpose genetic research conglomerate that manufactures weird villains for him to fight.  Why?  Hey, it works for Spiderman.


Spiderman Movie 1 main villain:  The Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, head of Oscorp.
Spiderman Movie 2 main villain:  Doctor Octopus, Otto Octavius, Oscorp scientist.
Spiderman Movie 3 main villain:  well, who knows, there are so many of them.  But Green Goblin 2 is of course Harry Osborn, son of Norman Osborn and new head of Oscorp.  The Sandman, aka Flint Marko, who gains powers from an accident with an experimental particle accelerator -- we don't know that it's being run by Oscorp, but given their remarkable track record I'm going to assume.  Venom?  Well sure, it's from space, but I ain't ruling out a connection to Oscorp somehow.
Amazing Spiderman main villain:  The Lizard, Curt Conners, Oscorp scientist.

Let's not forget that Spiderman himself gets his spider bite at Oscorp.

Based on the Amazing Spiderman Wiki (which draws from the current movie and game) we can add:

Dr. Edward Whelan, aka The Vermin
Dr. Alistaire Smythe, creator of the S-Bots or Spider-Slayers
Dr. Michael Morbius, aka Morbius.  Also created Rhino.

So as you can see, all sorts of good things come from Oscorp, if by "good' you mean psychotic super-powered villains (and one super-powered hero).

But that's hardly the only corporation churning out villains in New York.  If we turn to the first two Iron Man movies, we can see that the villain of the first movie, Obadiah Stane, is one of the other executives of Stark Industries, who bases his work on Tony Stark's design.  And then in movie 2, we have a fight with James Rhodes in another Iron Man suit, then we have an army created by the villain Ivan Vanko based on Stark's work.  Oh, and from what I can tell from the trailer, Iron Man 3 promises another villain in a suit based on Stark's designs.  So basically, Tony Stark and Stark Industries is indirectly responsible for all of his enemies so far.

So yeah, I think I need a villain factory corporation like that for my stories.  ^_^

Friday, January 18, 2013

Writing, and Failing to Write: 2013 Goals

I can write under pressure.  I know I can -- nearly every year for the last five years I've proven it in November during NaNoWriMo.  I only failed to write 50,000 words in 2011, but I succeeded in 2012, and also in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

But that's essentially external pressure.  I know it's something you do voluntarily, but there's a website to check in at and graphs of your progress, and a little virtual reward that you get if you can finish by November 30th.  For some reason, that kind of pressure works, but I otherwise fail at self-imposed pressure.

For years I've followed up my November NaNoWriMo success with a pledge to get more writing done for the new year, and for years I've failed.  I used to blame my addiction to the online game City of Heroes, and it's certainly true that I wasted a LOT of time playing that game (wasted, but thoroughly enjoyed).  But the lack of an MMO to turn to has not automatically resulted in me writing more.  I've watched more movies, I've done much better at getting 50 minutes of exercise a night on the treadmill, I've read a lot more news and generally goofed off on my iPad a lot.  But I haven't written that much more.

In November I started 30 Grandpa Anarchy stories and completed 24 of them.  In December I managed to complete 3 more.  I finished Oceans of the Void and Let Sleeping Gods Lie in the first 10-12 days of December, and then I managed to finish Two-Fisted Christmas Ghost Story before our yearly Christmas Ghost Story Writer's Night/Christmas Party (outside pressure, again.)  My immediate goal was to finish all six of my unfinished stories from November, and then work on other things (such as a Tai-Pan story) in January.  Instead, I've accomplished very little since.

This is very typical for me.  I try to sustain my writing success in November, but by January I'm at a standstill.  I make new year's goals, and then I do nothing.  This year, my goal was to keep writing at least one Grandpa Anarchy story a week, or maybe 1 or 2 a month.  I wrote down several new ideas for stories in December, but until the last two weeks I had done nothing more.

In the past two weeks I have:

A)  Worked a bit on "Planet Earth vs. World Devourer", an intergalactic courtroom drama where Grandpa Anarchy and his associate face off against Galactor the World Devourer, who is suing them for their interference when he tried to devour the earth.  One of my ideas that came to me when I was getting lunch at a Taco Del Mar, was to make his associate a goofy beach bum.  I was calling him Primal Beach Bum for a while, but then bent to the pressure to play off the Silver Surfer a bit more, so now he's the Bronze Beach Bum.  I spent a great deal of time researching invented slang from various sources and trying to come up with an Intergalactic Surfer Lingo that was nearly incomprehensible (he requires a translator), and I finally managed to get about 1/3 of the story written, but currently I'm not satisfied with it, it's almost entirely focused on the attorneys questioning Beach Bum and there's little action or anything driving the story, and really, the story needs to be about Grandpa Anarchy and Galactor and how much they dislike each other, so they need to be yelling at each other from across the courtroom.  But I do have a lot more written than I had originally.

B)  I worked on Jungle Opera for a bit.  Originally this was just an idea to do another "jungle opera" story, IE a Tarzan/Allan Quartermain/Indiana Jones/Tintin/Solomon Kane style adventure story set in Africa or Central/South America.  After listening to a story on NPR (To The Best of Our Knowledge, I think it was) about the lost city of gold Ciudad Blanca, I did some research on that and came up with my opening section of this story.  It's still a work in progress, I don't know what the ultimate punchline is, but I did some work on it.

C)  I wrote a half-scene of mostly dialogue for my long-dormant original fantasy story, under the collective title Otherworld Blues.  I haven't worked on that in forever, but I think about it all the time.  I need to write down more of what's in my head.

D)  I played a bit with The Pilgrimage of Ian St. Ritz during last week's Tai-Pan work party.  The work parties are good at getting me to open up a file and look at it, and maybe write a few lines.  They're generally not good at getting me to write whole scenes -- for that I need to be alone without distractions.  This is a Tai-Pan story, one of those I've most wanted to finish and one that Gene would most like to see me finish, but the ending is a tricky balance of things I want to do and see happen, and it's hard to figure out how to fit it all into place.  So I've mostly avoided doing it for the last 2-3 years.

E)  Yesterday I opened one of my so-called Grandpa Anarchy stories in progress -- one of the many that is just an idea and nothing more -- and wrote several paragraphs of dialogue to flesh out the idea.  I even managed to come up with a framework for the story itself -- a begining and an end.  That's what happens when I just open a file and start writing, you often get something you weren't expecting.  I'm hoping to do that with each of my one-sentence idea "story in progress" files, so that all of them at least exist as a bit more than a one-line idea such as "Grandpa Anarchy faces off against Grandma Chaos and her boys." (Love, Grandma).

So that's it.  I've done some writing this month, but hardly as much as I'd like.  I haven't even managed any blog posts in the last month.  But it's still early January, so there's still time to try to set goals for the new year and try to achieve them.  I've done that before and failed, of course, but anyway, here goes:

1.  Write a Grandpa Anarchy Story a week.

This really isn't such a difficult goal.  They're very short stories, I managed to write 24 of them in November, and I've worked on three in January.  I have new ideas for stories too.  I just need to finish a few of them.

2.  Write a Tai-Pan story each month.

This is a harder goal, because most of my in-progress Tai-Pan stories are full-fledged short stories with many scenes.  But it's hardly impossible.  I can start by finishing The Pilgrimage of Ian St. Ritz this month.

3.  Work on anime fanfiction / original fiction each week a little bit.

Action breeds action, inaction breeds more inaction.  I haven't written a lot on my main fanfiction story Girls School in well over a year.  I need to at least open my files each week and write something.  As I said, I did manage to add a half-scene to my long-dormant original fantasy story this past week.  I need to do a little of that every week.

4.  Draw a picture each month.

I am, after all, publisher of the Tai-Pan Artist's APA.  I need to have a few things to place in each issue.  One drawing a month shouldn't be hard.

5.  Edit Grandpa Anarchy stories for publication.

I have a stated goal of trying to get a full book of Grandpa Anarchy stories published to sell at Rainfurest in September.  I have about 35 complete stories, so the first order of business is to edit them all.  Some of the ones from November really need help -- rewriting or reworking.  My very first Grandpa Anarchy story, "Remember This", needs a complete rewrite, it's kind of dark and not very funny and doesn't fit in well with the others.  I don't think it works as an opening story for the collection in any case -- it should happen after "Kids These Days", at the very least.

6.  One-off story/pamphlet thing for Emerald City Comicon.

This is something Gene talked to me about -- a single Grandpa Anarchy story published as a giveaway for the Emerald City Comicon.  They have a table this year, and I'm more likely to find interest in these stories at a comic convention.  I'm not even sure exactly what he's talking about, but the first step would be to have a story ready and some sort of illustration.  I think "Mostless in Capertown" might work for this, but I have to think on it a bit.

Anyway after making my list of goals yesterday... I went home and last night failed to write anything.  But today's a new day, I'll try again tonight!  First goal:  finish a story tonight, either Jungle Opera, Planet Earth vs. World Devourer (needs a better title), or DarkFireDragonNinja (working title of the story I started to flesh out yesterday).