Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Camp NaNo Report April 25 2017

For a while there things were rolling along with Camp NaNoWriMo, and then they came to a screeching halt.  But in the last couple of days I think I've managed to put things back in order again.

Before Norwescon I managed to finish three stories -- New League of Two-Fisted Justice, Upgrade, and Ghost Cop (my Deathcop 2000 story).  While at Norwescon I finished Mummy Dearest on Thursday, Brain Salad and Second Law My Metal Ass on Friday, and then Lingua Franca Fractura on Saturday.  Sunday I didn't manage to write much, and I was wiped out by the con and didn't write for most of the following week, but I had three story ideas I was playing with, titled Dues Ex Machina, Grimdark, and Snopes and Larpers.

I managed to finish Dues Ex Machina and Grimdark Fantasy on Sunday the 23rd.  That made me feel better since it was the first thing I'd finished in a week, but they were both short and not very good.  On Monday, I decided that Grimdark Fantasy was so bad that I needed to start completely over and rewrite it.

My original idea for this story was just that Grimdark Oz is pretty pevailent.  I think it was triggered by a comment to that effect that Mike said at Norwescon, but anyway, it's true.  So I figured, I've done a Grandpa / Oz story, but I hadn't done a Grandpa / Grimdark Oz story.  But Grandpa would have a policy of "Not Under Any Circumstances" for Grimdark Fantasy in general and especially Grimdark Oz.

So that was the germ of the idea, but I wasn't sure how to put it into a story.  My first though was just that a bunch of twisted Oz characters show up on Grandpa's doorstep asking for help, and he slams the door on them.  That was the concept in a nutshell, but it didn't seem like I could work it into a funny story.  It was too direct, there was no real surprise.

While I thought about it I also realized that even though Grandpa says his number one rule is "No Grimdark Oz Adventures", in fact Grimdark Wonderland is much worse.  It's always darker and more twisted and more bloody -- and also more common.  So I thought I could work that into the story as well.  But then, you like to do things in threes, so if I'm going from Grimdark Oz to Grimdark Wonderland, what's next?  What's the big surprise?

I thought, you know, Grandpa's probably a huge fan of Windsor McKay's Little Nemo's Adventures in Slumberland.  He grew up in New Jersey around the time that comic was in print.  And nobody does Grimdark Slumberland.  Grandpa would see that as a refuge from the insanity.

My initial story Grimdark Fantasy begins in the middle of a fight in Oz.  Grandpa wakes up from having been knocked unconscious, and is brought up to speed on their adventures in a twisted version of Oz.  Their car had been brought her by a tornado, they'd already landed on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her, and now they were allied with some kind of resistance movement.  Grandpa wants to leave as fast as possible, and his sidekick has this world's equivalent of the silver shoes (ruby slippers), so he grabs the sidekick and has him activate the spell -- click heels together three times, say "I want to go home".  But the shoes fly off (which is something that happens in the book too) and in this case Grandpa and sidekick are tumbled into a twisted Wonderland, which Grandpa declares is even worse.  And then he makes a comment about if you see a walking bed let me know, that's Windsor McKay and nobody does Grimdark Slumberland.

It was... not a very good story.  There was no real punchline, and it tried to cover quite a bit of territory far too quickly to really establish anything.  I felt if I was going to visit twisted Oz and twisted Wonderland, I needed to take the time to explore both of them more.  Also, while I'd borrowed characters from the second Oz book, I hadn't included Jack Pumpkinhead or Tip, and I'd instead included a punk Dorothy with  tattoos, a half-shaved head, and a snarling pitbull Toto.  That image made me laugh, but I didn't like the way I threw some characters from one book together with some characters from another book, with no explanation.

Even more, it seemed to me that if you wanted a really twisted Grimdark Oz, then instead of having the Wizard of Oz or the Wicked Witch of the West as evil ruler, why not have Queen Dorothy of Kansas?  After she defeats the Wicked Witch of the West she has control of the winged monkeys, and if she doesn't set them free, then she can use them to take down the Wizard of Oz and rule the land.

Another thing:  I'd given the Tin Man a gatling gun, and I'd tried to transform the Scarecrow into a kind of Frank 'n' Furter looking character, but that didn't really work too well in my head.  By bringing back Jack Pumpkinhead and Tip, I could make Tip  the one who dresses up like a mini Frank 'n' Furter -- and that made sense in a twisted way, because in the original story Tip turns out to be Princess Ozma, who'd been transformed into a boy as a child.  But my Tip isn't about to let anyone transform him back.  ^_^

Working from the Rocky Horror idea, I began my new story with Grandpa and his sidekick on the side of the road.  Their car has already smashed the Wicked Witch of the East, which infuriated the Munchkins who were loyal servants of the witch.  They've escaped, but now their car has finally died.  I was thinking of moving next to a mysterious castle or house a la Rocky Horror, but Old Mombi's cottage made more sense.

That gave me a chance to have a mirror handy for an escape to Oz.  Here they meet a much darker Alice, based a bit on American McGee's Alice and Alice:  The Madness Returns.  Things turn bad but Grandpa sees his walking bed and jumps on it, escaping into Slumberland, where he's very disappointed to realize that even this place has been hit with the Grimdark stick.

The resulting story is about 3,500 words.  I had fun with it, got to develop the characters and situations a little bit at least, and even managed to borrow some dialog directly from the Marvelous Land of Oz and directly from Alice In Wonderland.  So I think it's more entertaining, with a better ending, although still maybe not quite as good as I'd like.

I called the new version Say No to Grimdark.

I think maybe I'm finally in the right mood to go back and finish up Oz on the Half-Shell now.  Obviously if I want to rewrite World of Hero then that's going to happen after Camp NaNoWriMo is over.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Camp NaNo Report, April 11 2017

Ten days into Camp NaNoWriMo for April 2017, and I'm doing okay -- trying to average 1,000 words a day and I'm close to 10,000 as of Tuesday morning April 11th.  But my original goal of completing Oz On the Half Shell and World of Hero has gone nowhere -- instead I've written six other stories, which is good for my weblog queue I guess.

As for the blog, for the second week in a row I didn't publish a story until Tuesday.   This has less to do with not having stories ready to go, and more with the fact that every Friday I go home with plans to work on at least one story and finish it, and instead I do nothing all weekend, and by Monday I feel a lot of pressure to finish up what I was working on Friday, instead of figuring out which story I want to post to my blog.

So this week on Monday I finished up a story called Breakable, and then worked on another story called Upgrade.  When it came time to figure out what I wanted to put up on my blog, I had a problem.  The next story in the queue is Vigil, but I'm not quite satisfied with that story, I think it needs a complete rewrite.  The next story after that is The Ring of Hanubatum, which is a monster story of 8,300 words, and almost certainly needs a minor rewrite at least.  After that I have Secret Millicent, which is a story set completely in Amethyst and doesn't deal with Grandpa at all.  I'm not sure I even want to publish that one on the blog.

After those three, the next story in line would be Fist to the Face -- which is a good story but I wrote it after I'd already begun two others, Breakable and Deathcop 2000, and I reference both of these other stories as things that have already happened.  That means I really ought to publish those two stories first.  Deathcop 2000 isn't written yet, but having finished Breakable last night, it seemed like the obvious choice.  It's not one of my best stories but I polished it up a bit and published it this morning.  I think that's the second time I've published a story to the blog less than 24 hours after I wrote it.  I usually try to avoid doing that.

Things that I also need to be working on:  Deathcop 2000, obviously, which might be next Monday's blog story.  I also want to finish up:   The Cephalopod that Befriended the Wind, The Companions, and The Devil and Miss Elsie.  These three stories should close out Book 8 -- High Tech Fisticuffs.  I have a habit of trying to place one Christmas Ghost story at the end of each book, and as it happens  this volume already contains The Unfinished Painting and Rosario's Model, both of which fit the bill.  (Techincally I don't have Christmas ghost stories for books 5 and 6 yet -- and book 7 is a hypothetical novel that's only partially written.)

I have at least two stories unwritten from book 6 that I'd like to finish -- X Factor and Meanwhile in Zendeth Sector.

I have three stories unfinished or unwritten from book 5 -- Oz on the Half-Shell, Unpossible, and Patron of the Arts.  The last two are character pieces for Unpossible Man and Nina Ballerina, so I can move those to a different book, which I think I've done before.

Second Class is a long-form story from Book 4 that's not finished.  World of Hero is a long-form story from book 2.  Those are all the things I want to be working on -- but I think Deathcop 2000 is first on the agenda, even though I really don't have a plot figured out for it yet.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Grandpa's Dreamquest

Camp NaNoWriMo began on Saturday, but I didn't get much written.  So my plan for Monday was the same plan I'd had since last week -- to finish a couple of short stories.  One has the working title The Glass Cannon, the other is titled Deathcop 2000.  I managed to finally write the first half of Glass Cannon on Sunday, but then I was having trouble with the second half because I didn't have a very good ending in mind.  By Monday I had a slightly better idea for an ending, but still wasn't sure about it.  Meanwhile I don't really even have a setting for Deathcop 2000 yet, let alone a punchline/ending.

The plan was to finish those, so that I'd have enough stories in my queue for the rest of the month and beyond, and then work on finishing Oz On The Half-Shell.  But I wasn't very inspired.  So instead I started going through my Unfinished Story Ideas folder, which I haven't looked at in maybe two years.  An awful lot of the files in here do not even qualify as story ideas -- some are titles, some are bits of dialog that I thought were interesting at the time.  For example:

Deadly Rainbow -- this file consists of nothing but the title, which I apparently liked at the time.

Computer Is Alive -- consists of the following bits of dialog:

Humans are the only animals foolish enough to ask that kind of question.
Grandpa, that's an amazing insight.
No it ain't.

Arachnope  -- consists of an actual idea and some dialog.  The setup is a villain named King Spider who has arachnophobia and thinks spiders are the most terrifying thing in existence.  This would be the sort of villain who threatens people with tarantulas, and would be too scared to actually use any spiders that are poisonous.

So as you can see it's a mixed bag, and there's a lot of files in there that I just need to delete and forget about.

However I pulled up a file named Dreamquest of Unknown Anarchy, and found that I'd actually written most of a first scene on a story that's obviously a take-off on Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath.  I really liked that scene too, so I spent the rest of the afternoon finishing the scene and working out where to go next with the story.  The idea is to make fun of the original tale, but to not write something as long and boring as the original.  Just a few short scenes  taken from a much longer narrative, but we skip over the boring parts.

I read the plot synopsis of the story found on Wikipedia, then copied it to my file to reread.  But that's light on details.  I need details before I decide which parts of the story are most worth parodying.  I downloaded the full text of the story as well, and saved it to a file -- but I had no plans to read the whole thing.

When I got home Monday I downloaded the four episodes of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast that covered the book.  I listened to them over the next  three days.  Based on my notes in the story, I already had a good idea of what I wanted to do for the next couple of scenes, so by Tuesday I had three scenes written.  Then I had to decide how to wrap things up -- I only wanted maybe two more scenes at most.  But on reflection, it seemed best to just jump to the end and have Grandpa do a quick recap of all the things that had happened in between that didn't actually get written:

"Okay," said Grandpa, "we've started a couple of wars, we've negotiated a couple of treaties, we've been to hell and back -- and I mean that literally, we've been to the underworld kingdoms at least twice now -- we've visited a dozen weird places with weird names populated by weird creatures, and frankly most of those names felt made up -- and we've skipped over all of that because it's boring as heck.  In short, we've spent weeks and months in dreamland doing only the unknown gods know what.  Are we done with our quest yet?"

After listening to the final podcast and thinking about it for a day, I had an idea of how to  wrap up my story.  The actual Lovecraft story has a rather trippy and psychadelic ending, and it isn't at all clear what really happens.  My ending had to be different, and more funny.  I finished it this morning -- 4,050 words.  Combined with the first half of the Glass Cannon story that I worked on Sunday, that's 4,550 words written so far for April.  I'm suppposed to be averaging 5,000 words a day, and it's the 5th, so I'm not too far off my pace.  If I can find a way to finish Glass Cannon today, that will probably get me to 5,000 words.