Sunday, July 20, 2014

Writer's Night July 19

For tonight's Writer's Night I was going to read City of the Monkey Gods, which is the story I picked out to have read during Norwescon in April that didn't get read, and which I have planned to read at a couple of recent Writer's Nights only to switch to something else or, for example, in June there were a lot of people with stories and I did not get the chance to read anything.  Anyway I once again changed my mind and read something else -- one of my recent stories, Startup.  I wrote this at Norwescon in April and had already read to my friends Keith and Juli, and which they liked.  I got some good feedback on it tonight and have already made the minor changes needed to improve it.  It passes the read test though!

(I need to mention these things in my journal because after six months or a year, it becomes hard to remember which stories I read when, or even if I've actually read a given story at Writer's Night or not.  I think I've mentioned most of them in the last year, so that helps.)

Chuck read his own Grandpa Anarchy story -- the first such story not written by me.  He'd read most of it in June, but now it's finished.  It's a fun story!  Chuck has a different writing style from me, more detailed, more descriptive, so it's a longer story than I usually write, but it has a fun villain and a clever sidekick (clever and stupid at the same time really), and a satisfying ending that, to me, demands a sequel someday (or at least, there's the chance for the sidekick to pop up somewhere else in another story).  I have no idea what Chuck plans to do with this story, but Gene has plotted more than one Grandpa Anarchy story himself, so perhaps at some point I can either include them in a book with some of my stories, or we'll have enough stories written by other people for a small book of it's own.  I got no idea -- I still have to publish my own first book (and probably my second as well) before we really get to that.

I'm currently working on a story called The Bookstore Avenger, which unless I'm mistaken is only the second appearance of the villain The Literate Lemur.  This was one of my earliest villains, appearing in one of the first six stories that I wrote back around 2007 - 2008, so it's high time he made a return appearance.  I have a pretty good idea of how this story goes, I should have it finished by tomorrow at the latest.  It's really the only story I've worked on in the last five days, unfortunately -- my Camp NaNoWriMo effort has not been going so well.

I have two new story ideas to toss into the file.  Really, three if I go back to earlier in the week.  No -- it's four.

Mercury In Retrograde  My idea for this story morphed into my next Christmas story actually, but I still want to write a story with this title.  I'm thinking of a sidekick who believes in Astrology and is afraid of bad things happening because Mercury is in retrograde.  It's partly an in-joke about a person I used to work with, but it's also a very common thing for people that believe in Astrology to talk about these days.

Third Christmas Ghost Story  While trying to figure out what would happen in the above story, I imagined the ghost of a former ally of Grandpa's showing up.  This would be someone who was on the hero team he formed in the 1930's -- I suspect they are all dead by now, or most of them.  Still haven't figured out exactly who was on that team, which is why it would be fun to write this.  But the ghost of a former ally showing up isn't a plot in and of itself, and she's not a villain now, so she's come to help or warn Grandpa about something.

And then I got three ideas:  one, a sidekick who knows that ghosts always visit Grandpa around Christmas and is prepared for the worst; two, the former ally showing up and complaining about the waiting list for ghosts to contact Grandpa around Christmas, and three, a possible plot.  In my story Family Tree, we learn of Grandpa Anarchy's long-dead older brother, who was cursed.  What if there's a way to break the curse, but it can only be done on Christmas with the aid of the ghost of his former colleague?  That's a good Christmas ghost story plot!

There's more to it than that, of course, and I don't have the title yet, but I have enough to work with.  I can start writing it at any time -- maybe once I'm done with The Bookstore Avenger.

Nefarious Things  This was a line out of the beginning of Gene's story (the beginning of chapter 25 I think, or maybe it was part of his recap).  It was just a nice-sounding title for a Grandpa Anarchy story.  I don't have a specific idea yet, and in fact even if I never write it, we may have inspired C.D. to write a song to the tune of A Few Of My Favorite Things.  So mission accomplished either way.

Crowdsourced  This was an idea I got while rewriting Startup, which I did as soon as I got home.  This idea would involve a villain who live-broadcasts his fight with Grandpa Anarchy, and uses internet crowdsourcing to determine what method of attack he'll employ next.  His probably beatdown should get a lot of video hits on Youtube, so he'll be happy to lose the fight.  I'm not sure if that's the actual ending, or if there's another twist to it, but I have most of the story in my head already.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those Who Forget History...

Yesterday when I woke up, I wondered if The Gentleman Brawler was ever in a superhero group, or whether Grandpa Anarchy had been in one earlier in his career before the founding of the League of Two-Fisted Justice.  I'm a big fan of the Watchmen, and also of the Venture Brothers, and both have elaborate back stories to explain how things got to be the way they are now.  My Grandpa Anarchy universe has bits of back story that I've made up as needed for different stories, but I didn't have it all collected in one place.

For example, I had two stories that establish that the Gentleman Brawler died in Butte Montana in 1920.  In an early story I'd mentioned this without giving a date, but later I wanted to depict the actual event so I'd established exactly when it was.  My first Christmas story establishes how Grandpa Anarchy met the Gentleman Brawler, but there are no dates given.  I'd written up a history of the Grandpa Anarchy comics that states that a man named Evron Lempel started writing Gentleman Brawler pulp adventure stories in the 1920's.  I don't think this is written into any story (it would be in one of the Kid Continuity stories, I'll have to check them) so I changed it to 1918.

I also had mentioned in another story that the Tunguska Event in Siberia in 1908 was caused by a Nikoka Tesla death ray, and that he and the Gentleman Brawler were fighting Grigori Rasputin.  (This is, by the way, not far off from some of the wilder conspiracy theories on the internet.)  I had written into my back story on the origins of OminGen that the original company was Jebediah Incorporated, founded by Jebadiah Judas in 1887 who sold Jebadiah's Miracle Elixer, a cure-all with nasty side effects.  Although I hadn't written it down, even in my back history notes, I knew that Madman Judas was a big nemesis of the Gentleman Brawler.

I spent a good deal of time yesterday constructing a timeline based on notes and comments in maybe  twenty different stories and my background history document.  When I was done, I had established that the world's first "super group" was the New World Heroic Society, formed in 1909 by the Gentleman Brawler and Nikola Tesla, and including Dermota Avalon the sorceress (grandmother or great aunt to Dark Dr. Dark), and Valentin Zholdin the strongman (grandfather to Nina Ballerina).

Based on that I established that Grandpa Anarchy formed his own supergroup in 1932, called  the New Revised New World Heroic Society.  The members were Mr. Anarchy, and several others to be determined later, but possibly including two heroes named Slay Belle and Monkey's Uncle.

Previous to this, Grandpa had teamed with his older brother, a cop, in the 20's.  They called themselves Order & Anarchy, and mostly fought gin runners and organized crime.  Grandpa met Unpossible Man during World War II, when he went by Sgt. Anarchy.  After the war he worked with Unpossible Man for a while, and in the 50's he worked as a duo with Guy Shadow.

However I noticed another discrepancy.  The League of Two-Fisted Justice wasn't formed until after Guy Shadow's death.  I marked this down as 1961.  But my notes said that the Two-Fisted Tales of Grandpa Anarchy comic book was launched in 1955.  It seemed odd that the comic book title would come before the super group, but I wondered, maybe Grandpa formed an early version of the group after the war and it didn't last long?  Thus in 1951 I note that the first incarnation of the League of Two-Fisted Justice was established, with Grandpa Anarchy, Unpossible Man, Guy Shadow, and Popeye Khan.  It disbanded in less than a year.

Anyway -- having worked all of this out, I have a much better understanding of Grandpa's entire career, including a good idea of when he was actually born.  I'm sure all of this will be useful in a few future stories.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 Writing Goals - Mid July Update

Haven't done a monthly update on my yearly writing goals since the end of April.  So here we go.

I spent most of late May and June wrestling with World of Hero, and finished 3 of 4 parts but got derailed.  It's much improved but still kind of a mess.  I also worked on Return to Amethyst 3:  Spirits of Stone which I finished in early July and I'm very happy with how it wrapped up.

July is Camp NaNoWriMo again, I signed up and decided to write 1,000 words a day on various stories.  I got off to a good start with finishing Return to Amethyst 3:  Spirits of Stone, but I've managed a paltry 3 short stories since then.  It's the halway point and I should have 15,000 words by the end of today, and I'm only at about 9,000 right now.  But there's time to catch up.

I want to start work on a Tai-Pan story, but I'm still deciding what I'll work on today.

Yearly Goal Progress:

1.  Write a Grandpa Anarchy Story a week.

For April I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, in which my goals were 35,000 words and to write a new Grandpa Anarchy story every day.  I managed 27 out of 30 stories and finished the other three soon after.  I managed a few more stories in May, then set out to completely rewrite World of Hero, which had been one of my long-time goals.  I managed to greatly expand it and completely rework the plot (or to add a plot is more accurate), and I completed 3 of 4 parts, but it's still a mess and I got bogged down in trying to complete it.  I switched to Return to Amethyst 3 and after some fits and starts, I finally finished that in early July.

I've pretty much already completed this goal.  Here's my new totals for the year, based on my one story a week (4 per month) goal:


Feb 07:  Revealing
March 29:  About A Hell Boy
March 30:  If Books Could Kill
March 31:  Out Of Cheese Error


April 1:  Villain of the Weak
April 2:  Banana Also Rises
April 3:  The Eagle Has Landed
April 4:  Bombs Away


April 5:  Landoff
April 6:  Disorientation
April 7:  Landmark Decision
April 8:  Trick of the Trade


April 9:  Blah Blah Blah
April 10:  Reboot
April 11:  Four Weddings and Nine Hundred Funerals
April 12:  Beneath the Skin


April 13:  The Hand You're Dealt
April 14:  Grandpa Anarchy the Musical Act One
April 16:  Grandpa Anarchy the Musical Act Three
April 17:  The Bane of the Black Spork


April 18:  Temple of the Dog
April 19:  Startup
April 20:  Grandpa Anarchy and the Fiendishly Foul Fetid Frog
April 21:  Grandpa Empathy at the Gates of Hell


April 22:  Iron Maiden Surprise
April 23:  Crack Squad of Misfits
April 26:  The Pompatus of Love
April 27:  Stronger


April 28:  Diary of an Anarchist
April 30:  The Archimedes Death Ray
April 30:  Nobody Cries for Superman
May 3:  There Is No Try


May 5:  Distracted By The Sexy
May 6:  Family Tree
May 8:  Where's My Supersuit?
May 9:  Grandpa Anarchy the Musical Act 2


May 10:  Past Life Sister
May 20:  Call Me Maybe
May 23:  World of Hero 1:  Save the Girl
May 25:  World of Hero 2:  Going Off Script


May 27:  World of Hero 3:  Rude Awakening
July 5:  Return to Amethyst 3:  Spirits of Stone
July 7:  Performance Review
July 11:  Hip Bone


July 14:  Maps of Vampires That No Longer Exist

2.  Write a Tai-Pan story every 2 months (6 in the year).

No progress, but this is a goal for Camp NaNoWriMo in July.

3.  Finish the third "magical girl" arc for Girl's School, and try to wrap things up.

No progress.

4.  Write 4 short stories set in my Otherworld Blues universe.

No progress.

5.  Draw a picture each month.

No progress.

5.  Publish Book One of my Grandpa Anarchy stories, edit 2nd book, assemble stories for 3rd book.

No progress.  Well, I think I have a cover now, so someone has been working, just not me....

List of stories I intend to work on:

Grandpa Anarchy Stories

Stronger:  This one is finished!
The Eagle Has Landed:  This one is also finished!

Return to Amethyst Part 3 Spirits of Stone:  Finished!
World of Hero:  3 of 4 parts finished, but it's a mess.
Second Class (working title):  I did a lot of work on this in eary January, nothing since.
Unpossible:  No progress.
Performance Review:  Finished!

Fan Fiction

Girl's School, Third Magical Girl Arc (Kahotep Adventure):  No progress.
I Can See Clearly Now:  No progress.
A Goddess In Oz:  No progress.

Other Original Fiction

Otherworld Blues Stories:  No progress.
Jubel In Oz:  No progress.

Tai-Pan Stories

Bitch, Chance Encounter, Blanking the Lady (variations), Zesh and the Bitted Throug:  No progress.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Undead Stories!

A while back -- in the beginning of May -- I wrote Call Me Maybe, in which the leader of the Iron Maidens of the Zombie Apocalypse complained to Grandpa Anarchy that he and his League of Two-Fisted Justice friends had fought undead several times recently and had not called in her group, who only exist to fight the undead.

Although this little story wasn't dependent on my having written about those adventures, I determined anyway to write at least one vampire story and one army of skeletons story, and maybe a story about a ghoul or wight or something too.  I hadn't really written any such stories for Grandpa Anarchy previously -- well, maybe one zombie story that I could recall.

Anyway I created two files, Hip Bone and Maps of Vampires That No Longer Exist.  The second was actually a file that I already had that was based on a misheard phrase -- I no longer remember what I misheard or why this particular phrase appealed to me, and as a consequence I'm not sure I like it as a story title.  But it was a title for a vampire story, and I wanted to write a vampire story.

This past week for July Camp NaNo my goal was to write a story a day.  I failed miserably at this, but I did finish the above two undead stories, for better or worse.  I think I like the vampire story better.

I'm very much behind on my Camp NaNo goal, but oh well, I've finished one long story and written three short stories that I'd been wanting to write for a while.  That's still progress.

My new story idea of the day is It's All Relative.  This is based around the idea that lots of crackpots think they've somehow disproven that Einstein's Theory of Relativity -- it's one of the favorite targets for people who want to be physicists without any training.  I  thought, well, in a superhero universe, what if a villain believes they've done this?  Could it come true just because of the way superhero physics and belief warp reality in such a universe?  What would happen if it did?

That's the basic story idea.  Dunno when or if I'll actually write it though.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Performance Review

Saturday I finally managed to finish Return to Amethyst 3:  Spirits of Stone.  I think I'm fairly happy with how the story wraps up.  Part 3 is about 12,000 words, and parts 1 and 2 are about 6,000 words each, so all told it's a novella of around 24,000 words.  I'm pretty sure that makes it my longest complete Grandpa Anarchy story.  The original Amethyst Road story was not that long, and while World of Hero and Second Class may wind up being longer, neither is finished yet.

My original goal was to finish Return to Amethyst and World of Hero, and then work on something else (a Tai-Pan story), but instead I've given up on World of Hero for the moment and decided to write a few shorter stories.  To that end on Monday I wrote Performance Review.  I feel like I actually wrote this story at least twice -- when I was in Longview I made some minor changes to the story file in preparation for writing it out, and then failed to transfer this from my laptop to my thumb drive.  So when I got home Sunday night, I just made the changes again on the file that's on my desktop computer.  I again failed to transfer the altered file to my thumb drive, so when I got to work on Monday I had to start over again.  I wrote a good chunk of the story at work that day -- about 60% of it -- and then at the end of the day I managed to copy it over with the unaltered version that was on my thumb drive.  I've done that before, and as usual I remembered most of what I'd written and was able to rewrite it at home and finish the story (and now it's saved in several places).

This story is one of my earliest ideas, an idea I had way back when I'd only written 8 stories and was just planning to try and write a new story a day for NaNoWriMo 2012.  Since then I've written nearly 150 Grandpa Anarchy stories.  It's also a story that kind of got co-opted by a different story.  Performance Review is about Grandpa Anarchy getting a job performance review at the Department of Superhero Licensing, but I'd since written The R Word in which the same department tries to force Grandpa to retire.  Still, the ideas weren't exactly the same, and I'd wanted to actually write Performance Review for a good long while.

I'm not sure how successful the finished product is, but at least I can say I finally did it.

"Nevertheless," said Agent Morrison, "our department is understandably concerned about what seems to be a trend...."
"A few isolated incidents can hardly be declared a trend," the lawyer said.
"Mr. Brimstone, from where I'm sitting it very much is a trend."  Agent Morrison held up a manilla folder.  He opened it up.  "Let's start with Four-Legged Octopus Lad, eaten by a giant shark with head-mounted lasers...."
"I warned him," Grandpa said.  "I told him, sharks with lasers, you don't get that in the wild, that's clearly a villain thing.  And an octopus with four legs ain't an octopus.  It's a quadropus.  Kid didn't have a lick of sense."
Agent Morrison held up a second folder.  "Pine Saul, sucked into a engine aboard Baron Biohazard's rocket-powered dirigible...."
"It was the cape," Grandpa said.  "I thought everyone knew about capes by now."
"Nellie the Technicolor Eliphant," said Agent Morrison, picking up another folder.
Mal stood.  "Gentlemen, I object most strongly to this line of questioning," he said.  "We are all aware of these unfortunate incidents -- none moreso than my client Mr. Anarchy.  He feels very bad for each of these terrible events.  What does dredging up this past accomplish?  I must insist that you stop this line of inquiry, or we will be forced to terminate this meeting and request a new review with a fresh  review board...."
"Very well," said Agent Chen.  "We will table the discussion of deceased sidekicks, and move on to an equally troubling trend -- that of the large number of sidekicks who have become villains after working with Grandpa Anarchy...."
"Large number?" Grandpa exclaimed.  "What the heck are you talking about?  One or two, maybe...."
"Seventeen," said Agent Chen, "within the last two years.  That's fully twelve percent of all sidekicks who have worked for you in that time frame."
"There!  See?" Grandpa crowed.  "Twelve percent ain't a large number!"
"Mr. Anarchy," Agent Morrison exclaimed, "the government pays you to deal with existing supervillain threats, not to create new ones!"
"Hey," said Grandpa, "I instill good old American values into those snot-nosed punks!  Is it my fault if they're too twisted inside to see the light?"

Friday, July 4, 2014

Anatomy of a Magic Spell

"Now," said the queen, "if that's all the interruptions...."  She paused dramatically, but no new threat appeared.  "Very well.  Shall we begin?"
She retrieved a gilded box from nearby and removed from it a dagger.  The blade was black and inscribed with runes that glowed faintly red.  The hilt and pommel were polished bone.
She raised this high overhead and shouted, "Chun Mink in the East!  Kinwei in the West!  Lagdun Qi in the South!  King Illi in the North!  I call upon the guardian spirits of this land and bind them to my purpose!"
Princess Amethyst screamed and struggled against her bonds.  Grandpa Anarchy threw himself against the ice dome.  "Dang it!  We didn't come this far to see that princess die!" he yelled.  Unpossible Man slammed into the ice walls with his massive bulk, but there was no sign of even a crack forming.
"Lorelei, Queen of the Fairies and Amethystos, Goddess of these lands," the queen called out, "heed my and do my bidding!"
BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!  The sound came from far off.  At first it sounded like a drum beat, but it grew steadily louder.  The ground began to shake with each crashing thud.
"By the black blood of the earth that flows beneath the mountains," exclaimed the queen, "I summon the Children of Obsius to this place!  Awaken from your eons of slumber!"
BOOM!  BOOM!  BOOM!  The trees shook.  The sound was deafening.
"Hear me, Obsidian Spirits!  I am not drunk!   This sacrifice I make to seal our pact and to bring you forth upon the lands of Amethyst once again!"

So for the climatic scene of my story Return to Amethyst 3:  Spirits of Stone,  Queen Annatanzanite has apparently defeated all of the heroes and is about to sacrifice Princess Amethyst in order to awaken the Obsidian Spirits, a fearsome army of Obsidian Trolls that nearly conquered all of the lands of Amethyst in the distant past.

When I reached this point I thought, okay, I can just type, "The queen began to chant in a strange tongue" which is how I sometimes deal with magic spells.  That works fine for simple spells in the heat of battle -- you don't really want to stop the flow of a fight in order to explain what words Black Dahlia uses to summon her fireball.  When the queen first appears in the story, she does little more than gesture:

A tall, pale woman in a flowing black dress with an elaborate headdress came forward.  "So, the Necromancer King sends an army against me...."
"We're more a band of adventurers that got a little large," said Unpossible Man.
"Does the Great and Terrible Hawkins think me a fool?  Did he not know that I would be aware of your coming?  Does he think I'm unprepared?"  She gestured with one hand.  Black ice flew forth, encasing the giant Andre.  A second gesture froze Grandpa, Unpossible Man, Dahlia and the catgirl in ice.

But this is the big one, the grand finale.  You want to draw it out, you want details.  And a grand sacrificial spell to summon dark powers must be more complicated and involved than a simple ice attack, right?  After all, the heroes need time to try and stop her.  So it's far more dramatic if I actually have a spell for the queen to speak, isn't it?

Based on what I've done previously (spells for Dark Dr. Dark and Black Dahlia), I knew that a spell that called on various ancient gods, either to the left and right and above and below, or to the four corners of the compass, was a great way to begin a spell of this sort.  Guardian spirits, summoning the power of the gods to aid you, that sort of thing.  But this is the Land of Amethyst, an Oz-like fairyland.  The queen won't be calling upon any known earthly gods, will she?

After due consideration I hit upon the first part of the spell:  Chun Mink in the East!  Kinwei in the West!  Lagdun Qi in the South!  King Illi in the North!  These sound like made up names (which they pretty much are) and they sound vaguely Chinese or Asian, but in fact these are anagrams of the four lands of Oz:  Munchkin Country (East, in the book, though sometimes shown as west on maps),  Winkie Country in the west, Quadling Country in the south, and Gillikin Country in the north.

I don't know if anyone would figure that out on their own or not, but possibly if they were Oz fans.

Lorelei, Queen of the Fairies and Amethystos, Goddess of these lands heed my and do my bidding!

Aside from summoning protection on all sides from the guardian gods/spirits of the east, west, north and south, I have the queen call upon the powers of those who rule this land.

In the mythology of Oz there are no gods, but there is Lurline, Queen of the Fairies.  Her name is a variant of Lorelay, the nymph of the Rhine.  Lorelei is another spelling.  I work with someone named Lorelei, so I've looked this up before.  There are several songs by that name, including the one by the Scorpions which is about the nymph rather than just any woman with that name.  (The Styx song Lorelei is simply about a girl named Lorelei....)

In Oz mythos, first mentioned in The Tin Woodman of Oz, Lurline transformed the Land of Oz from an ordinary land into a magical fairlyland, and gave it to King Pastoria (and his daughter, Ozma) to rule.  So in a way she's the creator of the land, a goddess equivalent.  But I also read up on amethyst, the stone, and there are some mythologies about the origin of the stone (which were made up by a French poet in the 1500's, so it's not a true ancient myth).  In various versions, a beautiful maiden named Amethyste or Amethystos is pursued by the god Bacchus or Dionysus, and is transformed into a quartz statue when she begs for help from the goddess Diana or Artemis.  The heartbroken god either pours wine over her or cries tears of wine, staining the quartz purple.  Never ask for help from the gods is the moral, I think.

So a goddess named Amethystos seemed like a good idea to throw in as well.  Lorelei, Queen of the Fairies, and Amethystos, Goddess of the Lands of Amethyst.

By the black blood of the earth that flows beneath the mountains, I summon the Children of Obsius to this place!  Awaken from your eons of slumber!

Apparently Obsius was the guy who discovered obsidian in Ethiopia, according to Pliny of Rome in his Natural History.  I'm not sure we know anything else about the guy, but Children of Obsius makes a nice name for my obsidian spirits.  Black blood of the earth comes from Egg Shen in Big Trouble In Little China, of course.

Hear me, Obsidian Spirits!  I am not drunk!

This line might seem weirdly out of context or just goofy, but in point of fact the word amethyst is Greek for "not intoxicated".  The ancient Greeks and Romans believed that amethyst stone protected you from becoming intoxicated, and would wear charms of amethyst or craft wine goblets out of amethyst.

Anyway, put all of that together and you get a half-assed summoning spell that sounds like it might actually mean something!  Or at least, reads like a spell, and not just words like "hocus pocus!"  :D