Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dead Man's Hand and Connections

Saturday Gene said that I needed to write an entire story featuring Kid Anarchy and Miss Bloodraven -- so one set in the past, about 1922.

Monday I started working on that.  To begin with, I imagined a scene with Kid Anarchy in the laboratory of some mad scientist.  But who is the scientist?  Well, as it turns out, I have an entire history dedicated to Madman Jebadiah Judas, a foe of the Gentleman Brawler who created a Miracle Elixir with some unfortunate side effects -- such as it made him super strong, but drove him insane.  And drove others insane.

Madman Judas had first a travelling medicine show and then a company, which he renamed later on to try and become more respectable.  He passed his company on to apparently his son Julian Judas (my history doesn't specify the exact family relationship).  I tracked the history of the company down to modern  times as it passed through several generations of Judas's and was renamed after each new head honcho.  But I never actually put any of this in any story.

Well!  I have a mad scientist in Julian Judas already figured out!  He takes over his father's company in 1928, but surely by 1922 he's already got big plans and is trying to perfect his father's elixir.  Perhaps this is even the basis for the super soldier serum that Grandpa eventually takes?  I imagine Julian Judas is a savvy enough businessman to have possibly brokered a deal with the government.  There are certainly possibilities here, but one thing was certain, I had my villain.

Next I did some research on what, exactly, a mad scientist in 1922 might know about molecular biology.  What did they understand back then about genetics?  What did they refer to?  Mind you, this is an hour or  two of  research all so that I can throw in one line about how Julian Judas wants to study the DNA of Miss Bloodraven, to "study her hereditary molecules".  Because of course that's what he'll really be interested in -- Kid Anarchy is just a punk who punches people, but Miss Bloodraven can transform into animals.  Now THAT is an ability that's worth trying to replicate!  Like his father, Julian Judas is all about improving mankind through potions and pills, to help mankind evolve into higher beings, by force if necessary, and especially if it grants Julian great power and wealth, and with no regard for who might get hurt along the way.

I did some research into mad scientist tropes to figure out which ones I'd want to emulate and what I might want to avoid.  I'm pretty sure I want to set the lab on fire -- that's a big trope but I don't think I've done it before, and Kid/Mister/Sargent/Grandpa Anarchy ought to do it many times in his career.
I was working on this story again today and I was thinking, might not Julian Judas actually offer to team up with Kid Anarchy?    Oh, he has absolutely no respect or interest in Kid Anarchy himself, but the boy inherited a lot of money from the Gentleman Brawler.  Julian would covet that money -- to fund his research if nothing else -- and would try to convince Kid Anarchy to invest in his elixir business.

And another thing occurred to me.  Kid Anarchy and Miss Bloodraven have been investigating the disappearance of at least two people, and reports of some sort of supernatural monster prowling about in the night.  Julian Judas has captured Kid Anarchy, but as he explains he's an upstanding businessman with many connections, and Kid Anarchy is nothing more than a former orphan who lucked into a sum of money, but who is not well-liked and has been caught trespassing on Julian's property.  He threatens Kid Anarchy with legal action and assures him that "the law is on my side" and that he has the best lawyers at his disposal.

Well -- Grandpa Anarchy has a demonic lawyer, of course, but Kid Anarchy this early in his career probably doesn't have that yet, does he?  When exactly did he meet Malevolent P. Brimstone?  When I started thinking about it, I realized that I could work that into this story as well.

Right now I have several paragraphs from the opening scene, and then a lot of bits of dialog and ideas that I need to string together in the correct order.  I have an idea of how the story should go; I just need to write it.   But I got some of that written today.  ^_^  My original working title was just Kid Anarchy and Miss Bloodraven but right now I've got a working title of Business Connections.


Monday night I decided on the spur of the moment that I didn't have enough Judas Priest in my music collection.  And actually I don't just mean "not enough" I mean I barely had anything.  I had three songs -- two from the fairly recent 2014 cd Redeemer of Souls, and then Painkiller from 1990.

I wound up downloading three full cds -- 1982's Screaming For Vengeance, 2005's Angel of Retribution, and the full Painkiller cd, along with the song Heading Out to the Highway.  That gave me a good selection of Priest to listen to.  ^_^

Tuesday night I assembled a classic metal playlist to include a bunch of Judas Priest, but also songs like Crazy Train by Ozzy Ozbourne, Ace of Spades by Motorhead, and Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden.  I was listening to it this morning, and the lyrics from Ace of Spades caught my attention:

Pushing up the ante, I know you got to see me,
Read 'em and weep, the dead man's hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die,

I've listened to this song hundreds of times, but suddenly I thought:  exactly what is a "dead man's hand"?  I don't play poker but I figured it was a specific card combination.  As it turns out, it's generally accepted that a "dead man's hand" is both black aces and both black 8's, with an unknown hole card, so two pair with aces high -- most likely a winning hand in a card game (and it includes the Ace of Spades which the singer apparently likes).  But more specifically, this is supposedly the hand that Wild Bill Hickock held when he was shot from behind and killed.  That's why it's the dead man's hand.

Of course that's all legend and it mostly came into being fifty years after his death.  It's impossible to know for sure what cards he held when he died -- but even so, there's quite a bit of debate over what the fifth card was (despite the fact that it would likely not matter or have an effect on the game).  People like to discuss inane topics of no importance.  ^_^  One comment I read was that the fifth card was the bullet -- game over.

Anyway, it seemed to me that there might be a story in there somewhere.  I have no idea what it is but I wrote down all of the story and saved it in a file named Dead Man's Hand.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Writer's Night for February 2017

Writer's Night for our group is held on the 3rd Saturday of every month, and this month it was my turn to host.  I managed to get the house in a relatively clean and presentable manner and I had stuff to make tacos ready.  There were five people that showed up:  Chuck, Kristin, Quinn, Gene, and Mike.  Kristin brought mini scones, Quinn brought some tasty home made bread, Gene brought a snack tray with meat, cheese, crackers, and olives.

Quinn had us read a revised version of his short one-scene play.  The new version has much better defined characters and a more straightforward plot, but I felt like it lost some of the surreal comedy that was in the original.  It was definitely improved, but I think he will revise it again, at least a little bit.

I read my story The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven.  Gene had the most to say about it.  He felt like the second and third scenes dragged, and he especially had a problem with the third scene I think.  But paradoxically I rewrote the second scene substantially and not much of the third scene at all.  The main problem he had was that the external threat of the demon wasn't clearly broadcast earlier, so there was no tension, nothing holding the story together for a couple of scenes.  But I had intended to foreshadow the demon at least a bit in the second scene, and it was easy to fix that.  I don't know, I may have overdone it a little, which they all said I shouldn't do.  But Kristin was also kind of confused by the sidekick showing up at the end, even though she'd been mentioned briefly earlier, and it seemed to me that in the second scene where Annie-Emily awakens from a dream, that perhaps it would be more interesting to have F8Wasp show up and have most of the scene told in conversation rather than the inner thoughts of one person, or the narrator telling you things.  That's usually true, so I rewrote it quite a bit:

Annie-Emily emitted a half-scream.  She sat up in bed, her heart pounding.  It was dark, but this wasn't the total darkness of a deep cave menaced by a demon -- this was the normal darkness of a bedroom in the Anarchy mansion at 3 A.M.  Still, she couldn't calm down for several minutes.  Her mind was flooded with fear -- the sort that grips a child when they are alone in their room with the closet door partway open, and they are certain something hides within.
It was just a dream, she thought, and marveled at the raw emotion and immediacy of it all.  It had seemed so real.  So this is what it meant to dream....
It's not just a dream, said a voice so  softly that it might have been the wind, or just the echo of Annie-Emily's own thoughts.  She shook her head, trying to clear it.
The lights flicked on.  F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) stood in the doorway.  Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick was a young computer genius, a girl with long black hair, who normally wore a form-fitted outfit of silver and black but was currently dressed in pajamas featuring Elsa and Anna from Disney's Frozen.  "I heard a scream," she said.  "Emily, are you okay?"
Her name was technically Emily Sheraton -- the same Miss Bloodraven that had faced the demon Hamorai with Kid Anarchy in 1922.  But she was also Annie Two, the computer A.I. whose name simply meant "Anarchy Computer, Mark II".  On that day so long ago, Miss Sheraton had been possessed by the demon Hamorai, and then had been placed in suspended animation for ninety-four years.  Once awoken and the demon driven out, Miss Sheraton had been in a coma for days, to all appearances nothing but a soulless husk -- and then Annie Two and her creator F8Wasp had downloaded Annie's mind -- or at least the A.I.'s data files -- into the waiting body.
"I'm fine," Annie-Emily said.  "It was just a dream."  She paused, hearing a rasping, scratching sound from outside the window.  It was, to her ears, very much like the scrape of Hamorai's hooves against the stone floor of the cave.  Shadows moved against the window sending a shiver down her spine.
"No," Annie-Emily said.  "That doesn't make sense.  It's just the tree outside the window, moving in the wind."
F8Wasp's eyes narrowed.  "I'm sorry?"
"No, I am sorry," said Annie-Emily.  "I am just imagining things."  She paused, then added, "Although I was dreaming about things I could not possibly know...."  She looked into F8Wasp's eyes and asked, "Tell me, do you think it is likely or even possible that the memories of Emily Sheraton are still buried deep inside this mind?"
F8Wasp stared at her a long moment, then shrugged.  "I have no idea," she said.  "Maybe."
But Annie-Emily's eyes had strayed to the nightstand nearby, where lay a sheaf of papers held together with a spring clip.  They sat atop a stack of parchment stationary.  She sighed.
"No, I am again being silly," she said.  "Before going to bed I read that story The Mind Snare From the Pit  by Evron Lempel -- the one which Continuitae left for me."
"Ah," said F8Wasp.  "The pulp story, based on the actual event where Miss Bloodraven was possessed?"
"Yes," said Annie-Emily.  "I am not remembering anything except that which I red before falling to sleep.  Nor is there a seven-foot black-furred demon with six limbs waiting outside my window."
F8Wasp stared at the window and shivered.  "Great," she said.  "Thanks so much for that image.  Now I'm going to have a hard time getting back to sleep...."

I only deleted a few lines from the third scene that Gene disliked so much, to try an tighten it up a bit.  Some of his complaints about the story dragging are, I hope, improved by the rewritten second scene.  His other complaints about the scene being more like an internal monologue than a dialog between two people is something that I don't think I want to fix -- Annie Two and Annie-Emily are nearly the same person, so it should sound like that.  And I found that even the second half of the scene, which I'm sure I could cut to help keep the story from bogging down so much, covers things that I think are pretty important to a part of the story.  The story kind of has two plots, the external one involving the demon and the internal one where Annie-Emily is trying to sort out who she is, and that second plot is what this scene focuses on.

Anyway, if I've successfully kicked the first plot into motion earlier in the story with the rewrite of scene 2, then hopefully it all holds together better.

Chuck read several new scenes from his current Felicia story.  The general feeling was that several of them, save the last one I think, needed more to happen in them, or at least needed to include more jokes and humor in lieu of actual plot -- and that there were several good opportunities for humor that he completely missed on, something unusual for a Chuck story.  I think he got some good feedback.

Gene read a short scene from the middle of his novel (the first novel I think).  This was him rewriting an older scene, and the scene worked very well so although I don't remember how it originally went, I think we could all say that the new one worked.

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Gun Is Sharp

So I have seven unfinished stories or story files that I'm working on that I have the plots for in my head, and that probably belong in Book 8 - High Tech Fisticuffs:

The Cephalopod That Befriended the Wind
The Devil and Miss Elsie
Glass Cannon
Great Grandma's Magic Ring
The Companions
Who Is the Gentleman Brawler?

Some of these are working titles, mind you.  I'll almost certainly need to change the title of Great Grandma's Magic Ring, since it's a story about the discovery of that ring.  Glass Cannon is just the name of the sidekick in that story.  Who Is the Gentleman Brawler? is where I figure out where he's disappeared to -- but he'd be in disguise as someone else, so that's a bad title for that story.

Still, these are the stories that I want to complete in the next few weeks.  I've been working on Cephalopod for a few weeks now, and I worked a bit this week on Great Grandma's Magic Ring.  That's probably the next one I want to finish, it definitely comes before The Companions and The Devil and Miss Elsie.  The Cephalopod story needs to happen before most of these others too.

I moved everything else -- all my other story ideas and files -- into a new folder, Book 9.  I gave it the title of My Gun Is Sharp, which is also the title of one of my story files.  There's no actual story idea associated with this though -- it's just a fun and kind of stupid-sounding play on the Mickey Spillane story My Gun Is Quick, so it actually works well as a book title rather than me coming up with a story to fit the title.  Although who knows, maybe I still will.

Some of the story ideas that I put in this new book include two more stories involving Kid Anarchy and his companions, based on pulpometer / fake pulp story titles:  The Secrets of the Shrieking Forest, and The Thing In the Ice.  I have two Christmas ghost story ideas in there (Two-Fisted Santa, and Zuzu's Petals), an idea for a story about Black Friday (called Black Friday of course), and some very old story ideas that I haven't gotten around to for over a year (examples:  The King Am I, about Kid Calculus deciding he should now be called Emperor Calculus, Wheeling and Dealing, about trying to work out a trade between two supergroups as if they're sports teams, Pharmacopia, about some sort of giant lizardman living in the sewer (think Spiderman's villain the Lizard) named Big Pharmasaurus, who is waging a war against anti-vaxxers or something, and Tyrone the Great, which is a story about cereal mascot Tyrone the Tiger being taken in on charges of sexual assault.  Also there's some story fragments and research notes that I don't know what to do with:  "Cannot Scream" trope references, free mason conspiracies (researched for Truthiness), Stargate extras (from Gate Into Danger), my Heartthrob 6000 bit that I wrote about before.

I probably won't get anything else written this weekend though.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book 9?

How many short stories make a book?  This is an especially vexing problem when you haven't even published your first book, but are trying to figure out what goes into book 8.

I've been assembling my Grandpa Anarchy stories into "books" for a while now.  I collect a group of  stories roughly by when they were written, and put them in a folder with a possible book title.  I still need to go back and finish writing or reworking some stories so that's my excuse for not having published anything -- I think I want to work on that for Camp NaNoWriMo in April.  In any case, Book 6 was a series of related stories that I worked on for Camp NaNo last year, both in April and July.  I have one or two stories in that collection still to write, but for the most part that's all done.  I decided that an unfinished novel called Serial Anarchy would be Book 7, and so when I began publishing on a web blog in August, I created a Book 8 folder, which I eventually titled "High Tech Fisticuffs", partly because of the stories involving F8Wasp and Annie Two.

220:  Just A Story
221:  Teddy's Bear
222:  Write Your Way Out
223:  Epiphany
224:  Presentation
225:  Apocalypse Blues
226:  Rubber Forehead Theory
227:  Code Habanero
228:  Rock On
229:   Truthiness
230:  Graveyard Smash
231:  Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
232:  Buckets of Blood
233:  Bug's Life
234:  Annie Two
235:  New Car
236:  The Unfinished Painting
237:  Return of the Roaring Rangers
238:  A Meeting of the Minds
239:  Until That Day
240;  Rosario's Model
241:  The Mauve Mist
242:  Super Freak
243:  Gate Into Danger
244:  Beside Myself
245:  The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven
246:  Murderbot 150
247:  My Sister, the Computer
248:  If You're In Berlin

As of this morning I have 29 stories written for this folder, so I'm nearing the end of my "book".  These are mostly unrelated stories, although a large number of them involve just a couple of sidekicks.  I haven't decided if there's a theme to bring things to a close, or at what point I should decide to start a new book.  Especially given the fact that I have several stories yet to complete:

The Cephalapod that Befriended the Wind:  This story is largely a look back at Kid Anarchy and one of his companions from the 1920's, Hurricane Hazel.  However, the first scene as written has F8Wasp as Grandpa's sidekick so it would take place before My Sister, The Computer.

Great-Grandmother's Ring:  wherein Grandpa's great granddaughter discovers his wife's magic ring.

The Companions:  A story in which Continuitae and Annie Two co-author a book on Kid Anarchy and the companions he worked with in the 1920's.

The Devil and Miss Elsie:  A story that takes place after the above two stories, when  the full story of who Elsie's great grandmother was has come out.

Glass Canon:  This is a story that takes place after If You're in Berlin, because Grandpa's sidekick is now the Glass Cannon.

The Secrets of the Shrieking Forest
The Thing In the Ice

These are two story titles for stories that involve Kid Anarchy and two of his companions.  One apparently involves Lady Prometheus and Elias Nova, and the other involves Sub-Zero Sadie.  I have no actualy plots for these stories (well, kind of an idea for the second) but I'd kind of like to write at least one story for each of the companions.  I'm not sure if these stories need to happen before The Companions or not.

If I wrote all of the above stories and included them in book 8 that would be 36 stories total.  Although it's possible that The Devil and Miss Elsie is a good closing point for the book.  Something for me to think about.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

That Valentine Story

I published Gate Into Danger on Monday, and that left me with only one story in my queue -- my most recent  story Beside Myself, which I'm not sure is in a publishable state yet.  So I need to write more than one story this week.

I got off to a good start on this goal by finishing The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven today.  It's probably a bit too long but I think I like how it ends.  I'll have to reread it next week and see how I feel about it.  In the meantime, I have two other stories that are partially written -- The Cephalopod That Befriended The Wind and a story currently titled Murderbot 150, which is nearly done but needs a better title.  I also have plans for a follow-up story to The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven entitled My Sister the Computer.  Today I had an epiphany about this particular story -- it will be the last one to feature the sidekick known as F8Wasp.

Then I remembered that I wanted to make a Valentine's story, which I would have to complete this week and publish next Monday.  So I began working on that.

To begin with, I needed to figure out who Lucy Smith was.  Grandpa married her in 1933.  I had the idea that she was the last of his female companions from the 1920's -- all of whom has some sort of special power.  But what was her power?  Had she continued to work as a heroine?  What about their son, Steve Smith, born in 1934?

It seemed very unlikely that Grandpa's son or wife would have been famous heroes and that neither has ever been mentioned in one of my other stories, so I decided that after she got married, Lucy gave up being a heroine, and their son also was never interested in that lifestyle.  I have already established  that Grandpa's granddaughter Claire kind of frowns on his heroic life, and doesn't want her daughter involved in what Great-Grandpa Anarchy does.

It also seemed like Grandpa and his wife were separated or divorced quite a long time ago, before 1950 at least, which is when he first takes on a sidekick.  I considered that maybe she separated from him during World War II when he was gone for several years -- but then, of course, I know that at the end of the war he slept with the Soviet Nova, a heroine from our Soviet allies.  It seemed quite logical that Lucy found out about it and that was the main reason for the separation.  I decided that they never actually got a divorce, but never reunited either.

Suddenly I wanted to tie in Grandpa's descendants to the Nova family.  I have the names of several members of the Nova family -- Doctor Thomas Nova, Elias Nova, Major Tom Nova and his wife Destiny Nova, their daughter Jennie Nova.  They are a space-faring family like you got in science fiction space opera from the 1930's through the 1950's or 1960's.

With a little work, I established that Elias Nova had a sister named Sarah Nova, and Sarah married Grandpa's son Steven Smith in 1969.  Steve was a 35 year old accountant at the time, and Sarah Nova was also trying to live a normal life and ignore her famous heroic parents.  They had two children -- Grandpa's granddaughters Angela and Claire.  Claire's daughter is Elsie, who appeared in my three-part story Return to Amethyst, but Elsie has a cousin named Kelli who is a year older than her.  Angela and her daughter Kelli are also new additions.

This last part I established specifically because I had decided that Lucy's powers were due to a magic ring, and that Elsie -- who would be twelve in 2017 -- would discover her great-grandmother's ring.  I think she and Kelli will discover it together, along with some sort of passkey to a space station built by the Novas.  Elsie and Kelli know that Grandpa Anarchy is their great-grandfather, and they probably also know they're related to the Novas (they are second cousins to Jennie Nova), but they have no idea that their great-grandmother was also a heroine.  Nor do their parents know, I think.

I updated my timeline to reflect all these new additions.  ^_^

All of this, of course, means that I have yet another story on my hand -- maybe more than one, but at the very least I created a story file called Grandmother's Magic Ring.  Right now I'm working out the details for my Valentine's Day story, but I've figured out who Grandpa's wife was -- her full name was Lucy Brandwein, and the ring is something her father bought for her at an open air market somewhere in the Middle East.  He was a very religious Jewish man and had no idea that the ring was demonic in nature.  It allowed Lucy to transform into a sort of powerful half-demon heroine:  Hellfire Lass.

And only Grandpa Anarchy (and possibly Unpossible Man, and Dark Dr. Dark) know that his wife Lucy and Hellfire Lass were the same person.  Until Elsie finds the ring, anyway (along with a journal I think).  ^_^

There's possibly another story about how Lucy's father bought the ring and how she discovered its powers, but I don't know if I can work that into a Grandpa Anarchy story or not.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Grandpa's Valentine?

I'm still trying to finish off several stories.  I'm working on The Ghost and Miss Raven, and the Cephalopod that Befriended the Wind.  I finished a story called Beside Myself last week, but I wasn't sure how well it worked, it may need a rewrite.  And I've also been working on a new Murderbot story, currently titled Murderbot 150 but I'll come up with a better title eventually.  And I have another story idea with a title of My Sister the Computer.

Today I thought that maybe I should do another topical story based on Valentine's Day.  I don't think about romance in the Grandpa Anarchy universe enough, so it seemed like a good idea.  Of course, Grandpa doesn't have a current romantic interest and hasn't for many years, but he was married at least once and had a son, and fathered another son with a Soviet hero at the end of World War II.  But how much do I know about his romantic life?

From my timeline, here's what I have:

1933 Theodore Paul Smith (Kid Anarchy) marries Lucy.
1934 Birth of Theodore Paul Smith's son Steve.
1972 Birth of Clair, daughter of Steve Smith (Grandpa's son).
2005 Birth of Elsie, daughter of Claire Smith (Surname).

Now, I established all this because at the time I was writing Return to Amethyst, and that started with Grandpa's great granddaughter Elsie showing up on his front porch, so I had to figure out if it was possible for him to have a great granddaughter of the right age.  What I didn't bother to do is figure anything out about who his wife Lucy was and who his son Steve was (or still is).  Since his wife isn't mentioned again, there's a very good chance that he was divorced after only a few years.  But who was she?  Was she just some normal girl he met?  Or was she another super?

I've already established that Grandpa worked with several female "companions" in the 1920's, when he was a young man.  All of them had powers of some sort.  Perhaps this Lucy was another companion that he fell in love with?  What happened to her and her son after they divorced?  Given that Grandpa never married again, was this his one and only true love?  When did she die?  Or did she?  What if she was a villain?  Is his son still alive?  He'd be an old man, of course.  Was his son ever a hero?

As you can see, there are things here to explore.  I just need to figure out which way to go and what makes the most interesting story.