Monday, March 18, 2013

The Case of the Missing Plot

I didn't get much writing done this weekend.  By late Saturday I barely managed to complete Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones, which was nearly complete Friday afternoon.  Sunday I wrote nothing.  Today I spent most of my time reading through Chance Encounter, which in my mind was a nearly complete Vashti story that wouldn't take very long to finish, but in actuality needs more work than I remembered.  Mostly, I have the first few scenes written, and a bunch of middle scenes sketched in, and a final scene sketched in which should wrap everything up.  But there was something big missing.

Let's start with what we have:

Scene 1:  Banta Zuvela (rich zebra boy from a rich family) and his rhino butler, Rodger Saark.  They're supposed to be a bit like Jeeves and Wooster, really.  Banta is bored.  We establish why he's on the Quantum Lady, so that's good:

“You are here to attend a conference, beginning next week, with the Ambassador of Johdpur and the heads of the Kaeraet and Modine mining companies, as well as the Johdpur Outer System Mining Union.  Your are to finalize an agreement between the two mining interests and the union and complete the purchase of Modine by the Zuvela Clan.  You will also meet with the Ambassadors of Indus and New Oslo at a function to be held ahead of the conference this coming Sunday, which you will host.”

So far so good.  We also have the representative from Modine Mining Corporation try to contact him.  Okay, that's good too.  We also establish that Banta has recently dumped his girlfriend, something that apparently is never referred to again after it's mentioned here.  Granted, Wooster is often on the rebound from a girl or helping friends fall in love with each other or break up, but it seems kind of like there should be more to this recent breakup than mention once and forget.

Other than that, Banta and Rodger talk a lot and Banta decides to go gambling, because it's stupid to be bored on a pleasure craft like the Quantum Lady.

So basically, nothing much happens in this scene.

Scene 2:  Banta gambles.  He's exceptionally good at it, and is bored.  He wins a lot of money and then hands his spot over (including all of the money) to the pretty husky who's been hanging onto him.  This turns out to be Sahvet, renowned female impersonator and the proprietor of The Lady True, a nightclub for female impersonators.  But Banta doesn't find out who she really is, it's not clear why the proprietor of a club is hanging around in a casino trying to suck up to a rich Zuvela boy, and she doesn't appear in the story again.  So.. why?  Why?  Why?

At the end of the scene Banta bumps into Vashti.  This whole story revolves around Banta becoming infatuated with Vashti, so this is clearly the start of my plot.  Except... this is actually the subplot.  I don't think I knew that at the time I began this story, but it is.

So scene 2 is mostly nothing happening, with the exception of the "chance encounter" of the title happening at the very end.

Scene 3:  Oh, let's cut to the chase here.  Banta can't stop thinking about Vashti and decides to go catch one of her shows.  I mean, that's the whole scene.  It could almost work, if there were more going on, but anyway... it kind of moves the plot along but you could just as easily jump to him actually being at a Vashti concert, if there's nothing else to do in this scene.

After this we have a lot of half-scenes and sketches, but the gist of it is:  Banta sees Vashti perform some Hautakivian folk music on her kantele, he's very much taken by this music (much better than the noisy plutonium rock he'd seen videos of).  He meets her and on the spur of the moment claims to be a big producer who wants to record her folk music.

There's probably a scene where they rent a studio and Banta pretends to know what a producer does.  There's a scene where he is confronted by Boss Tweedlo, who is technically Vashti's manager, but who does not see any value in recording Vashti's folk music.  Banta throws money at him for the opportunity to do it himself.

There are some other scenes, I think.  Ultimately the folk music is recorded and there's a big banquet involving the mining companies in which Banta invites Vashti as a performer, and hands out copies of her recorded folk music, and then there's a terrorist hostage situation which is resolved by the butler, and Vashti, and possibly also with the aid of some of Boss Tweedlo's thugs.  There's a lot of news feeds about it, and all of the attention pushes sales of Vashti's folk music.  Boss Tweedlo tries to claim the bulk of this sudden success, but the butler Saark has negotiated a contract in which Banta, who took all of the risks, also reaps the rewards.  Tweedlo is impressed with the butler's sharp mind and attention to detain and tries unsuccessfully to hire him.  Somewhere in here, Banta will need to realize that he and Vashti are not really meant to be.

Where's the Plot?

Hopefully you can see what I saw when I read through this today.  The affair with Vashti is my secondary plot, a side plot.  The main plot is, of course, who are the terrorists that appear suddenly at the end?  What happens with the negotiations that Banta is supposed to be involved in?  Who is the head of Kaeraet Mining Corp., who is head of Modine Mining Corp., who leads the Johdpur Outer System Mining Union, and which of them wants to scuttle the Zuvela buyout of Modine Mining Corp.?  Well, all of those questions aren't a plot exactly, but obviously once I know the answers to those questions, the main plot will fall into place and I'll be able to weave it into the first scenes and throughout the story.

Right now my idea is that contract negotiations have been dragging out between the union and the two mining companies, and Modine decided to sell off to the Zuvelas rather than deal with it any more.  But Banta comes in and (possibly with the aid of his butler) realizes that the miners are getting paid comparatively poorly, and all of the company's executive officers are making out like bandits, while running the company into the ground through mismanagement.  Think of how Hostess went under as an example of the kind of thing I'm thinking of.  So it looks very likely that the Zuvelas will clean house and strike a deal with the miners, and the other mining company, Kaeraet, doesn't want that to happen.  Kaeraet tries to scuttle the deal and make it look like the miners are behind it, and possibly also tries to have Banta assassinated somewhere in the middle of the story, then they stage the hostage crisis at the end by hiring fake miner terrorists, and either being in charge of a lot of the security at the party or paying off the hired security (they would have insisted on not allowing station security to run things, perhaps).  In keeping with the theme that the Butler (Jeeves clone) always sees three to five steps ahead, Rodger Saark has hired backup security or possibly even hired Boss Tweedlo's people as undercover security.

Possibly Kaeraet even orchestrated the downfall of Modine Mining Corporation, thinking that they would buy out their chief rival... and then the super-rich Zuvela Clan outbid them.  In this scenario, I imagine that Kaeraet controls Modine Mining security as well, and their main goal, aside from fear of having to negotiate a fair contract with the union, is to drive off the Zuvelas so that they can buy their rival and form a monopoly.

I really think that's my main plot.  If I start in the first scene with the head of Kaeraet trying to warn Banta of the dangers of the mining union, and the head of the mining union trying to warn Banta of what the mining companies might do (or wording it poorly so it sounds like they're threatening him when they're just trying to warn him), then I can salvage my first scene and make it kick off the main plot.  And I can have at least one of these people trying to talk to him in the gambling scene as well.  Then the plot turns more naturally to Banta ignoring warnings from people, and the reader trying to figure out which warnings are real and when something bad is going to happen.

And we can go directly from an assassination attempt on Banta's life, to his "rescue" by miners, followed by his "rescue" by Kaeraet mining security forces, and possibly being kidnapped by Boss Tweedlo for their confrontation right after.  ^_^

Somewhere along the way, I think his recently-dumped girlfriend should show up.  And the girl he meets in the gambling scene, whether it's Sahvet or someone else, should be important to the plot later on.

But yeah... as you can see, this story needs a lot more work than I first thought.  But I have an idea where I'm headed at least, and how to get there.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Second Big Tai-Pan Story In A Week

As planned, I managed to cobble together a complete first draft of Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones.  This story is about 18,000 words I guess, not quite as long as Hair of the Throug that Bit Me, but like that story I've been working on in for a very long time -- since at least 1996 in this case.  Also like Hair of the Throug, this story has problems and will need at least one big rewrite.  But it's a complete first draft, that's the important thing.  After this, I'm no longer trying to finish it, I'll just be working on the rewrite.

This is essentially an Ian St. Ritz story.  I had several Ian stories started and few finished, but after completing  The Pilgrimage of Ian St. Ritz several weeks ago I've now completed a second Ian story.  That leaves The Villainy You Teach Me as my last really big Ian story that I haven't completed, but I don't expect to work on that one soon.

I should work on Bitch next.  I said that last week too.  But I think the story that's closest to completion and would be easiest to complete is Chance Encounter, a much later Vashti story that takes place on the Quantum Lady.  I may work on that.

At some point I need to work on my Grandpa Anarchy stories and spend a few weeks reworking my unpublished Girls School chapters, and publish those.  But the good news is I'm writing and getting things accomplished, so it's only a matter of time before I got those other things done too.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ghosts In Space

I spent this morning going through all of my old Tai-Pan story files.  I had a lot of files saved as Windows 95 documents, or even older win or wordperfect documents of some sort that I couldn't even open, or in some cases saved as Open Office odf files, which is all well and good but I like to use rich text format because everything can read it.  In many cases, I had one story file saved in 2 or 3 formats.  I also had a lot of stories saved with cryptic titles from back in the day when you couldn't save with multi-word file names, so that "CURSEDBE" was the file for Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones, and BULLET was the file for God Is A Bullet.  Even worse, I had a lot of files saved under the working file name rather than the eventual story title.  INVITATION turned out to the the file for the story Whiskey Season.

Once I'd cleaned everything up I glanced at a few of my actual story files.  Technically I should be working on writing Bitch, but after reading through The Villainy You Teach Me last week, and having just managed to finish Hair of the Throug That Bit Me, I'm very aware that some of my long-dormant Tai-Pan stories are actually substantially written, and wouldn't take a huge amount of work to finish off.

Chief among these is my pirate spaceship ghost story Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones.  It doesn't have nearly as many problems as I remembered, and it is nearly fully written, with a half-dozen scenes left to complete (most of them are partially written or sketched in).  I think I could finish it off in a week if I work at it.

So that's my goal for this week:  finish Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Longest 3-Paragraph Scene Ever Written

Today I went to a Tai-Pan workshop at Gene's.  My plan was to spell-check my story Hair of the Throug that Bit Me, and possibly go back over it to see if it still all held together for me.  But while thinking about it, I realized that at least one important scene was completely missing:  the scene where Lo-Pan tries to frame Vashti for the murder of Captain Taga, or at least, tries to throw suspicion onto her so that she'll get picked up, and he can come to her rescue and solve her legal problems.  All of that was implied in later scenes, but I hadn't actually written a scene that made it clear he'd talked to the police/station security.

So I set up my laptop and began spell checking, but the computer was very slow because it was trying to do multiple updates and syncs and a virus scan.  Partway through, I got up to get some chips and accidentally caught the edge of my laptop with my coat, and knocked it off the TV tray onto the floor.  It landed on the corner, bending my USB drive, but it turned out that this still worked so that was good.  Also, it's a 4 gig drive and I just bought a 16 gig at Fred Meyers yesterday for $9.99, so maybe it was time.  (I complained that I'd left my new USB at home, but having arrived home and looking for it, I realized it was in my laptop bag after all.  I had it with me the whole time tonight.)

The second problem was that my screen was blank, and I couldn't get it to come back.  I shut the computer down, and rebooted, and it booted up normally, so everything seemed okay after all.  I went back to editing my story, then started writing the missing scene.

At this point I got a message that my battery was low.  My laptop is very old, and I don't trust the battery for anything, it has a very short life, so I had it plugged in.  But it wasn't charging.  The battery had 4% life left, so I quickly saved and transferred files to the USB and shut down.  I'd apparently broken the charge plug, which basically meant I'd broken the laptop past the point where it was worth fixing.

This is where knowing Mike becomes a really big advantage, and having your laptop die at his place is a really big advantage.  He works at a computer recycle place, and is in the habit of buying really cheap laptops that don't work and trying to fix them (and then passing them on to various friends).  So he happened to have a spare laptop to give to me.  He says it's both an upgrade to what I had (which was very old) and also a cheap, bare-bones computer for word processing and net surfing, but not for gaming.  But I don't game much anyway, lately.

Of course, I had to get connected to the internet and download Open Office and other programs (Jeff sent me to, a site that allows you to pick from an array of free programs and download/install them all at once -- very cool!)  Once I finally had everything set up again, I went back to working on my new scene.

It's a very short scene, just a few paragraphs long.  Already I'd spent about two hours trying to write it.

At this point Mike came out with the hard drive from my old laptop, attached to a device that allowed me to plug it in to the new laptop via a USB cable.  Only it wouldn't work.  Mike realized that the fan in my laptop stand was drawing too much power, so we unplugged that and then the old drive fired up.  But it was very touchy, you couldn't bump it or the connection would suddenly disappear.  Mike set it up to transfer everything in my personal file to my new desktop, and said to leave it alone for a while.

A bit later we went to dinner.  Finally when I got back, I was able to finish the scene.  Only took me about six hours to write 3 paragraphs.  I handed off the story to Gene, although I really still hadn't read back through it to see how it worked as a whole story.  I know it's got problems, but eh, that's what the editing process is for after all.

We had a good work party.  There were at least six stories to edit (three of mine, two of Chuck's, one of Kristin's) and we had Edd and Chuck and C.D. and Jeff and Me (and Gene and Mike of course).  We got a lot of editing done, and when I say "we" I mean other people.  I entered edits for one of my short-short stories, Banker's Blues, and I worked on Hair of the Throug that Bit me as noted above.  (And then we had dinner at Palermo's Pizza and Pasta, yum!  (I had a 10" Greco pizza -- lamb, feta, black olives, basically what you'd put in a gyro, only on a pizza.)


On another note, Friday I read through everything that I had for the story The Villainy You Teach Me, which is another very old story that dates back to at least 1996 that I was writing with Jeff.  Like Hair of the Through that Bit Me, it's a story with problems but which is probably at least 75% fully written, and every other scene is at least sketched in with bits of dialog or partially written.  Of course, about 5 or 6 of the first 9 scenes need to be axed, but all in all there's a lot of nice detail and character development in what's written, and I like the plot.  I need to finish it at some point.

But I also think that Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones and A Chance Encounter are probably about 70% fully written, so I'd like to work on those at some point as well.  The former is an Iktome ghost story, the latter is a story involving Vashti, Banga Zuvela, and his butler Rodger Saark.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Bleah! It's Done!

I can't remember finishing a story with less enthusiasm, but for what it's worth, Hair of the Throug that Bit Me is done.  3/7/13, 10:30 PM.  19,716 words.  There were times even today that I felt like I couldn't make it work, but actually I think maybe it comes together better than I had expected.  It's still a long and complex story with a lot of problems, I think, but you have to finish the story before you can rewrite it.  I've failed to finish this story on several occasions over the last twenty years, but now it's actually done.

I should probably try and finish Bitch now, too, but I don't know.  I might work on something else at this point.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How Does It End?

I've come to the part of my story where, just as it's all coming together, it all seems to be falling apart.  I'm close to the end but it seems to be getting farther away.  I'm not sure how to reach the ending I originally had planned, or if that's even the ending I want, or how to wrap up all of my other side plots.  I don't know which scenes are completely superfluous and which are vital to the plot.  And I want to get it all over with, but I'm starting to dread working on the story at all.  But finishing it is the first step to finding out why it doesn't work and trying to fix it, I guess.

My biggest stumbling block now is the big "gambling" scene.  This is one of those scenes that I wrote back in 1994, and it's been in every version of the story since, but mostly that's because it comes late in the story and  I've never written or rewritten far enough to get to where I have to deal with it.  Now I have.  It's a very long, rambling scene that does not have much point to it but has a lot of nice things within it that I wish I could keep.  But I can only keep a couple of them.

The original scene had Vashti and her friends playing a complicated gambling game with the members of Bitted Throug backstage, and Vashti trying to finagle a way to play with the group.  However, as the story currently stands, she's already auditioned for the group.  All of the gambling stuff has no real point.  But there's some fun stuff with Vashti playing Hautakivian folk music on the subbass, and there's a section where Minta points out that she should have money stashed all over space in various systems from her touring days, money that her manager hasn't managed to take from her yet because he'd have to visit each system separately.  This is an idea that I used later in the Anniversary Bash storyline.

(This is an idea I borrowed from the travel novel Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Thereau -- from what I remember his train trip starts in Europe and there's a stop in Communist Poland, where he has money in the bank from sales of his books that he's never been able to access because he's never been to Poland and that was the only way to access it.  He withdraws it (in Polish currency only), and spends as much as he can in just the couple of hours he has before he has to reboard the train.  He buys a lot of wine and sausages and things and shares with other people on the train -- he doesn't want the Polish government to keep any of his money!)

So.  I need to hack and slash the existing scene down to the parts that are actually useful, and I also need to insert a bit where Klause shows up with a box of stolen valuables, because that's my plan for how Vashti winds up suspected of murder.

It's a lot of work and I'm not really feeling it at the moment.

I'm also reconsidering who the actual murderer of Captain Taga really is.  It was going to be Sully, but potentially could have been Klause or Alex and Art.  But what if it really was Vasthi, after all?  I kind of want to leave that open as a possiblity, without ever saying for sure who really did it.  My original plan would be that Sully did it, and it would be a shocking revelation, but the way I've written it, he's such and obvious choice that now there's no shock involved.  I kind of want to work it so he isn't the murderer after all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A View to a Kill

Person A is going to die.  That's always been on the table.

I'm talking about my current story-in-progress of course, Hair of the Throug that Bit Me.  Which, by the way, isn't probably a great title, as it has little to do with the actual story itself, other than the band Bitted Throug is in the story.  Anyway I managed to write a scene today, and I'm going to try and write one or two more before I go to bed, but first I want to talk about the story a bit, because it's complex and I don't know if I'm assembling it in a way that works.

Back to Person A, who dies.  Person B kills her.  Originally I was going to make that more of a surprise, but when I  wrote the last scene with both of them in it, and included the background information I'd discovered in Bitch regarding the legendary samurai Major Kushana, well, by the end of the scene it's probably pretty obvious that Person B is about to kill Person A.  Or at least planning to.

The story was never really a mystery anyway.  We're not here to solve the mystery of who did the murder.  But some misdirection is always a good thing, it keeps the story interesting.

Anyway, previous to that scene it was very clear that Iktome marine 1 and Iktome marine 2 were going to try and kill person A, and also that Person C would really like to see Person A killed.  So I was really working on trying to make it seem like one of them did it, when it was really Person B.

The scene I wrote today involved Person C.  He was supposed to go back to the ship and steal something, and if possible I wanted to write it as if he might have murdered Person A, or at least have him see the body but not make this immediately clear to the reader, or have them wonder who did it... but when last we saw Person C he was headed off to buy some drugs.  So I began the scene as he was still high and as the high was wearing off, and he wound up back near the ship.  My thought was, hey, he's crashing from the high, he's in pain, he realizes he has no money and no drugs and blames everything on Person A, and is planning to rob her but might be in a mood to actually kill her... and then I  thought, maybe he blacks out for part of the theft and doesn't know himself what he did.

That seemed like a good route to go, since I wanted it to not be clear what happened when he went back to the ship.  But I didn't like what I'd written so far.  Later in the day I went back to the start and rewrote the whole drug-induced dream sequence to cover the whole visit to the ship.  You're not sure if he's hallucinating that he visited the ship, or talked to anyone, or not.  But he wakes up and has the stolen object in his possession, and isn't even sure himself if he saw Person A dead, or maybe killed her, or what.

Generally I like this approach.  I'm just not sure if I like the finished scene, but the approach -- he goes back to the ship while high, you see things from his point of view, it's hard to know what really happened -- that seems like the best way to do it.

Now I think I have a problem in that it's been many scenes since Iktome marine 1 and 2 were dispatched to kill Person A, and while they probably fail to do so (because Person A is already dead), I want some scene in between where they're working on that goal -- but not one where they discover that Person A is dead.  My thought is, they wouldn't go to the ship to kill Person A, they'd wait for her to leave so they could ambush her on the station somewhere.  And when she doesn't leave, maybe they try to spy on the ship.  Or maybe they run across another member of the ship and question them?  But that would seem suspicious and stupid if they're trying to not be seen doing the murder.  However, if it's Person C, they're already friends with him, and if he's high, they might not get a lot of info out of him.

I dunno if that scene is needed or not.  It feels like something should go there -- that they should appear at some point between being dispatched to kill Person A and reporting back that Person A was already dead.  There's a lot of scenes in between, that's why it feels like an extra scene needs to be inserted.  At the same time, I want to get to the end of the story quickly, I don't want to drag it out.  By this point everything's in motion pretty much.

Well anyway, I don't know if rambling about it in my blog helps me figure anything out, so I guess I'll just write the extra scene and then decide later if it's really useful to have it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

20 Years With A Plutonium Rock Goddess

For the last four days I've been plugging away at Hair of the Throug That Bit Me, writing 1-3 scenes a day (mostly rewriting, piecing together, or fleshing out partial scenes and scene ideas).  As of now I'm only a few scenes from the end, and I have a 17,500 word story with multiple plot lines.  It's a little confusing, and I don't really know if it all hangs together or if I missed something major, but it seems like it improves each time I work on it.

Way back when, my idea for this story was to have Vashti arrive in Styx aboard a smuggler ship that she'd left Hautakivi on, to attempt to join up with the band Bitted Throug, and then to have to leave Styx in a hurry by jumping aboard the pirate ship Iktome.  My first idea was to have her meet up with her former manager Lo-Pan Chau, and wind up being accused of his murder -- which he had actually faked.  I don't remember why him faking his own murder was supposed to make any sense; I long since abandoned that idea and rewrote large portions of the story to fit another plot that I hope makes more sense.

But to show how far back the roots of this story go... Tai-Pan issue 8 was published in 1995.  This was our first issue after Whitney had dropped out of the project, and Gene had become our new editor/publisher.  It was also the publication of my first actual Vashti story, Reputation.  I remember that when I was writing this story I'd published it "online" so to speak on G.E.'s GEnie bulletin board system, on the Beastie Board section.  (I still have my Beastie Board badge somewhere!)  I especially remember that one person in particular really disliked the story -- you always remember criticism, I guess.  But this was back in the days before many people had a way to connect to the internet at large, or even before there was such a thing as an internet at large (it was more of an internet at small, hehe).

Some of my friends posted to the Beastie Board too, and later a bunch of us were on Prodigy, another bulletin board system.  I was never on AOL, by the time I left Prodigy I wanted to connect to the internet, forget all of that bulletin board stuff!

But somewhere along the line I was already working on my first couple of Vashti stories, and Whitney decided to start up a group story on either GEnie or Prodigy (although I think it was on Prodigy).  Her opening lines were:

Third Science Fiction and Fant
Category 39,  Topic 9
Message 1         Sun Feb 06, 1994
W.WARE [SATIN]               at 17:12 EST

Hello, and welcome to Fat Wu's Dim Sum and Chi Emporium.  Fat Wu's is a spacer's establishment in the lawless pirate system of Styx.  Anthropormorphic Terran species, humans, and aliens of all professions and temperments visit the Emporium, providing us mundane folk with lots of story‑ telling opportunities!
This topic is intended for writers involved in the Tai‑Pan Project, an anthropomorphic space‑opera shared‑world universe.  However, the topic is open to all interested readers and writers ‑‑ please feel free to join in!  We'd love to have you!  We only request that you please drop by the "Wu's Spoilers" discussion topic for introductions and character approvals before posting new material.

I can't recall if Fat Wu's Dim Sum and Chi Emporium has actually appeared in any published Tai-Pan stories, and we're past issue 50 now.  But the first thing I posted in Whitney's new online round-robin story was this (and for the record, mine was the second scene written after Whitney's and Chuck wrote after me.  I still have this file, heh):

Third Science Fiction and Fant
Category 39,  Topic 9
Message 3         Thu Feb 10, 1994
M.DAVIS2 [Miko/Eli!]         at 02:35 EST
The shuttle door slid shut, and Captain Tallulah Taga grabed one of the handrails as the transport began to move.  Her eyes wandered over the holo‑advertisements above the windows near the ceiling, then she studied the people who had entered with her.  Each wore a black patch with a silver snowflake embossed in the center.  It was her design, her patch for the ship she was captain of, the Winter's Dance.
Only three of her crew had accompanied her to this part of the station.  There was Sully, in the back, watching over everything as was his way. Sully the samurai, she sometimes called him, for the way he followed her faithfully.  There was the cotton‑top tamarin, Minta, her comps specialist, if you could call him that. He was more of a tinkerer than an expert, and a clever card player.  She reminded herself to avoid any card games with him.
Then there was Vashti.  Tallulah sighed, and focused on the large, black and tawny‑yellow wolverine, who was dressed in flashing silver and violet with layered jewelry, which did nothing to hide the basic viscious looks of her kind.  The vorine stared back with penetrating eyes.
"I've been Captain and Cargo Master of the Winter's Dance for more than a decade," Tallulah said evenly.  "I don't need you to mess up my deals for me."
The wolverine crossed her arms and nodded.  "Clearly, you're good at messing them up by yourself," she said, her lips curling.
"I had everything under control."
"You were conducting the deal in standard..."
"I speak standard," the Captain snapped.  "Everyone speaks standard. That stupid lizard spoke standard well enough didn't he?"
"He's from Alioth," the wolverine replied with a great show of patience.  "He will give better deals to those that bargain in his native tongue."
"And you speak Aliothian, do you?"
"A little."
"Look," Tallulah said, "I got a good deal, didn't I?  Fair enough; I'm used to being descriminated against because I'm human."
"It's not because..."
"MAYBE... just maybe, you could have worked out a better deal.  You furs cut each other deals, I know that.  I've had to deal with that."
"But he's not even..."
"Listen to me, Vashti Ahandra!  I had to do this myself before you joined, and I'll have to do it myself after you leave.  So I can't have you making deals behind my back or talking to my clients in languages I don't understand.  How do you think that makes me look?  It makes me look weak, is what.  Am I right?"
"I was just trying to help," the wolverine, Vashti, said.
The doors slid open behind the Captain as the transport came to a stop.  "Just keep your opinions to yourself, vorine, and do what I pay you for," the human muttered before turning to leave.  "Sul?"
A towering bear stepped from the rear of the transport.  "Coming, Tallie‑San," he rumbled, following her out.

**  **  **

"I could have saved her a lot of money," Vashti growled.  She and Minta were walking along one of the concourses of Harper's station, taking in the sights.  "I can't believe she's that dense.  Did you hear that whole 'I'm human, I'm descriminated against by furs' thing?  What's with her anyway?"
Minta shrugged and ran a paw through his white mop of hair.  "She's like that, yes?  She is always like that.  It's her money, yes?  Let her throw it away if she wants.  She is happier that way.  Tonight she will get drunk and forget everything."
"It's our jobs on the line if she runs into the red," Vashti replied. "I'd rather keep my job at the present."
"You want to?" the tamarin asked.  "What for?  You are smart vorine, yes?  You even famous, maybe.  You don't need this good‑for‑nothing job.  You can do many other things.  Me, I will not find Captains beating each other over the chance to hire me, if the Winter's Dance fails.  I should be worried. But if I am not worried, why are you worried?"
Vashti grinned.  "Because, Minta, I am smart vorine, yes?"
"You imitate me!" the tamarin laughed.  "You are very funny for a too‑ tall fierce fur with face full of teeth!  Ha!  Look!  I see gambling, and where gambling is, there is Minta!"
The tamarin broke free from Vashti's company and scampered ahead what was clearly a casino entrance.  In many‑colored neon‑bright lights above the entrance were the words "Fat Wu's Casino".  Vashti shrugged and followed her crewmate inside.

Almost none of this exists in my current story, but the basic characters and situations are still there.  So I guess I've been working on this particular story for almost 20 years -- and the last time I seriously worked on it was about 2007 I think.  Pretty sad, really.  But I'll have a finished version of the story within a week or two, I'm fairly certain!

Yet a few lines of Vashti's and Minta's dialog from above still exists in this scene in my current story:

  Minta, Klause and Vashti met up with Art and Aleks at a place called Fat Wu's Dim Sum and Chi Emporium.  Away from the grimy docking bays, the interior of Harper's Station was awash in neon lights and flashing signs, all enticing space-weary travellers to spend their hard-earned pay.  Fat Wu's was the premier locale... not just a restaurant, but a complex series of interconnected restaurants, lounges, and casinos serving every kind of entertainment one could want.  They catered to all geneteched and uplifted Terran species, humans, and all known aliens.
Soon the five were seated at a table sharing drinks and playing a complicated card game that Minta had introduced.  It involved gambling -- everything Minta did involved gambling -- and Vashti, despite having just been paid, had little extra money to spend.  But she was in a foul mood and needed a distraction.
It wasn't working.
"I could have saved her a lot of money," Vashti growled..  "I can't believe she's that dense."
"You still talking about that?" Minta asked.  He paused to deal the cards.
"Yeah," Vashti said.  "Those were priceless relics from Hautakivi.  You can't find them anywhere.  She stole them, of course.  I risked my life to help her get them off that planet!  And then she screws up the resale, all because she can't trust me to negotiate in a language she doesn't know."
Art's eyes bugged out.  "That's what was in those containers?  We traded guns for junky art shit?"
"No!"  Minta growled.  "This earlier deal, not involve you!"
"It just bugs me," Vashti continued.  "And did you hear that whole 'I'm human, I'm descriminated against by furs' thing?  As if humans and other terrans are somehow any different on a genetic level!  What's with her anyway?"
Minta shrugged and ran a paw through his white mop of hair.  "She like that, yes?  Always she is like that.  Is her money, yes?  Let her throw it away if she wants.  She happier that way.  Tonight she get drunk and forget everything."
"But it's our jobs on the line if she runs into the red," Vashti replied.
"What you care?  You smart vorine, yes?  You even famous, maybe.  You not need good-for-nothing job.  You can do many things.  Me and Klause, we not find Captains beating each other to hire us, if Winter's Dance fails.  We should worry, maybe.  But if we not worry, why you worry?"
Vashti knew that what Minta said was true.  As the ship's comps specialist, Minta was more of a tinkerer than an expert, with no certification and little to reccomend him to a new employer.  His situation was not quite as dire as that of Klause, but it would be a hard search to find a new job if Minta were cut loose from the Winter's Dance.
"All we need to do is get rid of her," Klause said darkly.  "If she were gone, Sully would be Captain.  I could live with that."
Vashti raised an eyebrow.  "Is that true?  Sully's in line to get the ship?"
Minta and Klause both nodded.  Minta paused to lay down his cards in a complicated pattern on the table.  He sat back, eyeing them proudly.  "Ha!  You see?  Is triple finooki!  I win!"
Art tossed his cards onto the table in disgust.  "Who's idea was it to play this stupid game anyway?" He grumbled.  "We switch to poker now or I'm out."
"Is poker then," Minta said.  "I win whatever we play.  I even let you deal!"

I only realized tonight that I didn't have a full name for Sully the first mate of the Winter's Dance.  I knew a lot about him by this point, but I didn't know his actual name, just his nickname.  In true fashion I'd never created character information sheets for any of these characters.  So I did that today -- that is, I created a CIS file for each of the characters in the story.  I haven't really filled most of them out, but I know what Sully's full name is now.

I also took a look at Bitch, which tells the story of how Vashti met these people and joined the Winter's Dance and got off of Huatakivi.  It doesn't have any complete scenes but most of the story is there.  The last time I worked on it, I rewrote it to be from Sully's point of view, which I think was the right decision.  And it includes a story of a Serengeti samurai that Sully admires very much (I admit, my fondness for Usagi Yojimbo shows very much in this scene), and a short bit of conversation at the end of the story between Vashti and Sully that comments on the samurai legend and directly foreshadows something that happens in Hair of the Throug That Bit Me.  And which I'd completely forgotten, of course.  Rereading that helped me with one of the scenes I worked on today.

Another thing in Bitch that I'd forgotten:  Vashti mentions the name of the drummer in her previous band Bedlam Circuit.  Here I was thinking of doing a story in which her old band reunited, and I didn't remember that I'd every named any of the other members.  Heh.

As for Whitney's original Fat Wu's story, it's hard to say where it might have led.  The file that I have goes to April, with a post from Whitney on April 6th, 1994.  Within a few months she'd given up on the Tai-Pan project altogether, and I eventually began to salvage what I'd written in the Fat Wu's thread for my own self-contained story.