Monday, December 16, 2019

The Secrets of Gilgamesh

I watched a video lecture about the Epic of Gilgamesh over the weekend, as well as a handful of different other videos over the last few weeks about ancient cultures, certain passages of the Bible, how to build an ark according to the Sumerian story, etc., and I've got all of this stuff in my head, along with the lyrics to The Mesopotamians by They Might Be Giants, which takes four of the more famous names from ancient Mesopotamian cultures -- Sargon, Hammurabi, Asherbanipal, and Gilgamesh -- and places them in some kind of "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees" song about being in a band.

Who are these people?  Completely off the top of my head, Sargon was one of the earliest known Sumerian kings.  Gilgamesh (or Bilgamesh in Sumerian) was also an ancient Sumerian king, who somehow wound up being a hero figure in a lot of mythological poems, culminating in a poet from a different future society weaving many of these stories together into an epic poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which influence later epics such as the Illiad and the Odyssey.  Hammurabi is a famous king from... Akkad or Babylon, I forget, who created a set of laws that later scholars decided were the first such laws ever set down, although subsequently we've realized he was borrowing from kings who came before him.  And Asherbanipal... all I know is he had a library where the clay tablets with the Epic of Gilgamesh were found.  He was an Akkadian or Babylonian king.

I find all of this stuff fascinating.  I find ancient history fascinating.  It's pretty amazing to think that ancient Rome and the time of Christ was 2,000 years ago, an almost unimaginable span of time, and yet recorded history goes back nearly 4,000 years beyond that.  We think our country has existed a long time, but some of these ancient empires lasted hundreds of years, over a thousand years.  We think Shakespeare lived a long time ago and his English is difficult to understand, but stories about Gilgamesh survived in the Middle East for well over a thousand years, through several successive empires.

What fascinates me even more is what we don't know.  Stories were told before the advent of writing.  Stories were written down, then lost.  The stories which we have -- even as popular a story as that of Gilgamesh -- is still fragmentary, assembled from many sources.  We've never deciphered the ancient writing of the Minoan civilization, so we only know about them from excavation and from Mycenean/Greek writers.  The Phoenecians dominated trade in the Mediterranean for hundreds of years, but we know little of their own writing.  What scrolls existed at the library at Alexandria?  We'll never know.  There are hundreds of carbonized scrolls found at the Roman city of Herculaneum which were all but destroyed by mount Vesuvius, and yet we are still trying to figure out how to unroll them and read them.  What heroes existed in myths told for hundreds of years that no modern person knows anything about?

A lot of my fantasies from when I was young until now involve imagining ways such history could have been preserved.  I imagine I'm a part of some ancient alien race, some elf-like beings, shapeshifters or godlike creatures who have dwelt among humans since ancient times and recorded what society was like, what tribes moved where, how people lived, what their music and stories were.  They have some hidden fortress or perhaps a base on another world where all of this information is kept, and if you wish to know what life in a Mayan city was really like, or what tales people told each other 10,000 years ago, you could find out.

I also used to imagine that once you reach heaven, you could learn all of the secrets to the mysteries that you'd read about that were never solved -- like what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste, who was Jack the Ripper really, or what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke Island?  I guess I've always been really big on the idea that somehow we could learn all of the things we want to know, even though the truth is that we not only will never know most of these things, but in many cases the truth is likely much less interesting than the mystery that surrounds it.  Not to mention, there are many more mysteries and histories that are so forgotten that we don't even know to ponder over them.

On the flip side, we know so much more about some of this stuff today than we did even a hundred or two hundred years ago.  Two or three hundred years ago, experts imagined that written history began with the Greeks.  Slowly people learned of forgotten ancient cultures much older -- ancient Egypt, the Hittite Empire, ancient Assyria, Babylon, Sumeria, the Minoans, etc.  In 1853 the Epic of Gilgamesh was first discovered, but translations in English did not appear until much later.  So from one viewpoint I'm living in a pretty amazing time where we know much, much more about the ancient world than we did only a few generations ago.  I have the opportunity to read about things that people of past generations could only dream about.

I'm not sure there's a point to this post, other than all of these things have been bouncing around in my mind over the last few days.  ^_^

The Epic of Gilgamesh poem is framed by a description of the city he ruled.  It begins the poem, and at the end when Gilgamesh returns, having learned that his quest for immortality is in vain, it ends the poem, as if to say everyone dies, but look at the city!  Life goes on.

Climb Uruk's wall and walk back and forth!
Survey its foundations, examine the brickwork!
Were its bricks not fired in an oven?
Did the Seven Sages not lay its foundation?

A square mile is the city, a square mile the date-grove, a square mile is the clay-pit, half a square mile the temple of Ishtar:  three square miles and a half is Uruk's expanse.

See the tablet-box of cedar,
release its clasp of bronze!
Lift the lid of its secret,
pick up the tablet of lapiz lazuli and read out
the travails of Gilgamesh, all that he went through.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Fan vs. Pro Translations

I read a lot of fan translated manga.  While not legal, it's often the only version of a given manga available in English.

For example, although anime exists for Birdy the Mighty, nobody except fans have ever translated the long-running manga (which has more than one incarnation, even in Japan it moved from one publisher to another.  The current version is Tetsuwan Birdy Evolution.)  I could argue that the series gets bogged down in minor details and plot points and never seems to go anywhere... which might be a reason why it hasn't been translated.  But I still like reading it.

Another manga that's internet-popular but unlikely to be worth a professional translation is Only Sense Online.  It's a slice-of-life kind of story that deals with the minutiae of crafting in an online world -- so similarly to Birdy, it gets bogged down in details a lot.  The plot, what little there is, advances very slowly.  It's not earth-shattering stuff, but it's still entertaining to read.

There are a lot of smaller manga that I really like that would never make financial sense to translate:  Tadashi Ore wa Heroine Toshite, Hungry Marie, Cylcia = Code, and Magical Trans! just to name a few.  I don't expect to ever see a professional translation of these, but I've been able to read them because fans translated them.

When it comes to more popular series however, there's usually a professional translation, and you're supposed to support the company doing the translating and buy the volumes they publish.  After all, the only thing that guarantees new stuff will be translated and published is if they make money at what they do.  I feel like I'm increasingly in the minority when it comes to wanting physical books in my hands -- and I admit, my house is crammed full of books, and I don't need more (I'll have to move them all about this time next year), but even though I've more-or-less converted to digital when it comes to music, I resist buying digital books.

(Even when most of my friends who had Amazon lists requested them this year.)

For me, having a physical manga volume is one of the main reasons to buy the professionally-translated book in the first place.  If I bought a digital version then the only difference between that and the fan version is the quality of the translation.

Sometimes, however, that quality makes a big difference.  Fan translations can vary wildly.  In some cases the translator opts for a literal word-for-word translation, either because of principals (not all fans agree with a non-literal interpretation), or because their grasp of both languages is less than perfect.  But the results can be difficult to read.  The meaning of the words is there, but the text hardly flows well in English.  Dialog is stilted, concepts get repeated, the deeper meaning of what is being said is obscured.  It takes a talented translator to not only translate the meaning of the words but also to make sure it flows well in English and that the concepts being discussed are clear.

I've been comparing chapters of That time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime.  The fan translation is by Shurim, who does everything, and eventually stopped translating this after someone complained, and then another translator picked it up.  The professional translation is by Stephen Paul for Kodansha Comics.  I'm not trying to attack Shurim here, just wanted to point out the difference that buying a professionally-translated manga can provide.  This is all from chapter 18, the start of book 4:

Fan Translation:

The existence that brings disaster to the world, Orc Lord
The skill that is in-born when the Orc Lord appears is a skill that effects all his subordinates:  Unique Skill [Starving Ones].

Pro Translation:

A beast descending upon the world, bringing disaster and chaos.  The Orc Lord.
His terrifying innate skill affects all those under his rule.  The Unique Skill, "Starved".


Rumuru:  Suppress the Orc Lord?  That's... asking me to enter this battle?  [What is this big sister talking about]
Dryad:  That's of course, Rimuru Tempest-Sama
Benimaru:  For you to appear out of no where and just start talking, Dryad that's called Layato correct, Why come to this village, There's races that are stronger than the goblins correct
Dryad:  You're right.  If the ogre village did not fall... I might have went to the ogre's village instead.  Mah, even so I couldn't ignore the existence of this master.


Rimuru:  Vanquish the Orc Lord?  Umm... me?  [What is this lady saying?]
Dryad:  That is correct, Lord Rimuru Tempest.
Benimaru:  That's quite a demand, coming from someone who just waltzed in out of nowhere, "Treyni the Dryad" or so you call yourself.  Why have you come here?  There must be other races that would be better suited than the goblins.
Dryad:  It is a good question.  If your ogre village were still standing now, I might have come to you for help instead.  But even if that were the case, I do not think I could ignore the presence of the one who now stands before me.

Rimuru:  But whether the Orc  Lord has been born is still a question...
Dryad:  We dryads are able to gain many information as long as it's inside the Jura Forest.  The Orc Lord?  His already born.
Rimuru:  Layato Please allow me to reply after a few days.

Rimuru:  We had only hypothesized that the Orc Lord was roaming about.
Dryad:  Dryads are always aware of what occurs within the forest.  And there is most certainly an Orc Lord here.
Rimuru:  I must ask you to wait a bit for my final answer, Treyni...

Shuna:  Souei you've went back to our village right?
Souei:  Yes.
Shuna:  From your expression... It musts be not found?
Souei:  Yes... neither the orc's nor our own kind.  There was nothing.
Rimuru:  Nothing?  What are you guys talking about?
Souei:  Corpse.
Benimaru:  No wonder... I was wondering how they were able to feed 200,000 orcs.
Hakuro:  As they do not have any idea in war.
Dryad:  Unique Skill [Starved Ones].  A skill that the Orc Lord gains the moment it's born.  It allows the orcs to eat anything and everything.  This point is similar to your skill [Predator].  Though it's similar to [Predator] but it's success rate is not constant, but if there's many using the skill for consumption at the same time the rate rises.

Shuna:  Did you inspect the ruins of our village, Souei?
Souei:  I did.
Shuna:  And were they empty after all?
Souei:  They were.  I did not find a single one -- of ours or theirs.
Rimuru:  Pardon me, not a single what?
Souei:  Dead body.
Benimaru:  Ah, I see... I was wondering how they were getting enough food to support an army of 200,000.
Hakuro:  Indeed... they have no concept of supply-line logistics.
Dryad:  The Unique Skill:  Starved.  It is a skill that every Orc Lord is born with.  It allows him to absorb the properties of any monster he eats.  In that aspect, it is similar to your "Predator" skill.  Unlike "Predator", there is no guarantee of success in a single attempt, but as his ravenous hunger compels him to devour more and more, the odds will naturally increase.

As you can easily see, the professional translation is likely not quite as literal but feels like natural English, and communicates things clearly.  I think the decision that stands out the most to me is having Hakuro say "they have no concept of supply-line logistics".  That does not sound like a phrase that anyone in a medieval setting would use... but it communicates what he is trying to say much better than "they do not have any idea in war".  Maybe there's a third way to phrase that which doesn't sound as anachronistic, although I have to admit that I probably only focused on it because I was reading the text carefully to note how each translator phrased things.  If I had been reading normally it might not have jumped out at me.

The end result is that I can read the fan translation and understand most of the story, but I enjoy reading the professional translation more.  It feels more alive, the dialog feels more natural and real.  Whether that's worth the cost of a digital version of the comic, I'm not sure... for me, having a physical manga in my hands is still what makes it worth the price to purchase.


Monday, December 2, 2019

NaNoWriMo Wrapup 2019

I wrote 62,234 words for NaNoWriMo.  I didn't write anything after Thanksgiving.

What I accomplished:  For the second time I attempted to finish a "short" fanfiction story called Nerima All-Stars and I wrote more than 50,000 words and am still nowhere near finished.

My original idea was that several gods and one half-god and one demon decide to play a game.  They  transform the Nerima of Ranma 1/2 into a world where heros and villains exist, then they transform some of the main characters into heroes and villains.  I actually had this idea that I might do up to three separate arcs, each with a different villain... but of course the story spun way out of control and the first villain arc alone is still unfinished.

I wrote my original opening scenes for this story in 1999 or 2000, then set them aside for years.  Finally in 2016 I set out to complete the story during NaNoWriMo.  I wandered off on a tangent where Ranma winds up in the world of Lina Inverse (Slayers) in order to learn how to become a sorcerer, and that was a massive chapter that covered one single side plot before the big battle.

This time around I managed to finish up all of the scenes that lead up to the Ranma-in-Slayersville chapter, and then I launched into an Akane-in-heaven chapter.  I'm not sure how successful this was.   It felt like it was long and somewhat pointless, and I added some drama and weirdness that made it even longer, and... I don't know, the whole middle of my story involves two long side stories where characters go to other dimensions for long stretches of time.  By the end, everyone was back together again but I have yet to write the final chapter which figures to be a massive one since it's the final battle with the big bad villain.

I think my plan is to work on this for December.  I was working on some Grandpa Anarchy stories in September and October, and trying to get back to publishing stories on my Grandpa Anarchy blog site, and then in November I completely forgot about doing that.  December I usually try to write a Christmas ghost story for our December writer's night, but almost every year this means dropping whatever I was working on for NaNoWriMo and jumping on something completely different, and I really dislike doing that.  I want to finish this fanfiction story so that I can publish it, so screw the Christmas story, I won't do one this year.

That said, it's December 2nd and I've written virtually nothing in the last five days, just jotted down some half-scenes today.  It'll take at least another 50,000 words to finish this thing, so I need to get working on it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Crimson is a Spell Word: Creating Spells for My Story

Update:  It's November 13th and I've written almost 30,000 words on my chosen project, Nerima All-Stars.  I'm hoping to finish up this story (at least, bring it to a reasonable ending point) and then publish it after November 30th.  My document is over 87,000 words at this point, and that includes some of my research into spell casting text which I write about here, but since I've spent several hours coming up with the right words for my spells, I think the research should count, even if some of it was copying down spells and phrases from other sources.  >.>

So here I am once again, trying to craft a realistic (or at least magik-sounding) spell for the story I'm currently working on.

In my story I have two magical girls, Ukyo Kuonji, and another girl who has been transformed into Ukyo's twin by accident.  Ukyo was not happy about becoming a magical girl, and changed the rules so that she became an okonomiyaki chef-themed magical girl.  Thus, her spells really ought to relate to her status as an okonomiyaki chef, I figured.

Magical girls tend to make bold declarations about love and good vs evil.  They call their attacks.  These aren't spells per se, but they kind of sound like spells at times.  Especially because I want my magical girls to be more defensive and protective in nature, rather than offensive, I figure their abilities ought to sound like spells being cast.

Crafting a good-sounding spell is more art than science, if you ask me.  It just needs to feel right,to feel mystical in some way.  It's not quite a poem, not quite a recipe, not quite a contract, not necessarily archaic speech, but if it includes some of those qualities that may help.  Use of unusual words may help:  anything that does not resemble normal speech or ways of speaking may help.

My first task for them was to dispel an enchantment, where several of their friends had been hypnotized or mind-controlled.  My initial effort was as so:

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan, 
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko, 
Dispel Enchantment:  Hallowed Okonomiyaki Sauce Love Swirl!  Realm of Savory Pancake!

Which... was adequate, so far as that goes.

Next I wanted them to put up some kind of bubble shields to protect their allies.  Following the same pattern, I came up with:

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan, 
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko, 
Protection Spell:  Okonomiyaki Batter, Air Bubbles of Shielding!

However by the time I reached a third spell, I'd decided that these simple efforts were not good enough.  I had to come up with something better.

First, I looked up okonomiyaki and the usual ingredients.  Given that the name basically means "fried as you like it" it's probably no surprise that a list of ingredients for okonomiyaki is a bit like asking for a list of ingredients for a pizza.  but the Kansai or Osaka style is the most popular and there are some ingredients that are common to most versions, including the batter, shredded cabbage, green onions or shallots, the sauce, garnishes like picked ginger, bonito  flakes, and aonori (seaweed).  You can add a lot of other things but most of these are common okonomiyaki ingredients.

Next I wanted to describe these ingredients in a creative manner that would sound good in a spell.  Initially I wrote:

Okonomiyaki sauce, dark golden brown like maple syrup 
mayonnaise, white like the clouds on a summer's day, sheets drying on a clothesline 
batter as thick as syrup, light brown fluffy filled with air 
bonito flakes, yellow-orange, curling in the heat 
diced shallots green and white fresh and crisp 
shredded cabbage, bedrock of the okonomiyaki

None of this was meant to be a final version of anything, I was just tossing ideas out, trying to find something that worked.

I gave up and headed to bed, but a particular phrase got stuck in my head:  crimson like the blood that flows....  This is part of what I remember from Lina Inverse's Dragon Slave spell, and one that I particularly liked I guess because it's been stuck in my head for years.  The full spell reads:

Darkness from twilight, crimson from blood that flows; buried in the flow of time; in Thy great name, I pledge myself to darkness! Those who oppose us shall be destroyed by the power you and I possess! DRAGON SLAVE!!

Which I only just looked up.  I like this spell; it sounds like a real spell.  And, in fact, Lina Inverse appears in my story and may even get the chance to cast Dragon Slave at some point, who knows?  If that happens I'll certainly use the spell the way it appears in the source material.

What I think captured my attention thought was the word crimson.  It's just another word for red, a more specific shade of red I suppose, but it sounds much more magical than just saying red.  It is a good spell word.  With that in mind, I came up with the following list of ingredients for okonomiyaki, described by color using more interesting word choices than red, yellow, green, orange:

crimson as the blood which beats in the heart of the chef,
azure like the sky beneath which the chef cooks,
emerald like the crisp diced shallot which spices the okonomiyaki
golden saffron like the batter which binds the food together
burnished caramel like the sauce which glazes the pancake surface
amber are the bonita flakes which curl and sizzle in the heat
alabaster creme is the color of the mayonnaise which garnishes the top
chartreuse is the color of the shredded cabbage, bedrock of the okonomiyaki
ruby are the buta-dama, the pork belly strips
gather now to me, spirits of love and the flavors of the grill, and grant to me my desire:

I still haven't crafted my spells, but I'm getting closer to what I actually want.

Another step is to take a good look at the spells in Ah!  My Goddess.  I just finished reading books 22 through 48, which is where the series ends (I've been reading both AMG and Ranma 1/2 manga since those are what my story is based on), and there are several examples of the goddesses (and demons) casting spells.  In the AMG universe spells are usually sung, and the words are more lyrical than normal speech, but not quite like poems or songs that rhyme or have rhythm.  Still, they feel like real spells and I like how they're handled, so I wanted to study them a bit more before crafting.

In book 39 Velspar, Mara and Hild cast a demonic spell to open the gate to hell:

Such is the land where all wishes are granted
Such is the land where in chaos light and dark entwine
Such is the land so distant and so near

In book 40, Urd attempts an attack spell:

Rumbling in the heavens,  flashing between the clouds, Ripping heaven and earth asunder, strike divine thunder bolts!

In book 48 we get the final chapter, a wedding ceremony between Belldandy and Keichi.  This is conducted by four goddesses:  Urd, Skuld, Lind, and Peorth, and it has some of the same hallmarks as the phrases of their spellcasting:

Here we celebrate,
From the East arrives Blue Hope,
From the North arrives Black Reason,
From the South arrives Red Passion,
From the West arrives White Silence
In the Center gathers Golden Love
The light showers, the breeze blows
In green flickers, then many colors, the road reaches for the sky
The path shall wind through peaks, in deep vales, on crater rims,
The morning brings rain, and the evening, storms, let us walk together.
Trees of Solace shall be our guideposts, the leaves beckon,
Now we see their blossoms strong against the high winds.
Advance, advance!  A journey never ending,
Follow your arousal, follow the passion of your words...
 Until all flowers shed, until we all part
Flowers, Bird, Wind and Moon gather here, sing here all that wish to celebrate
Give blessing to the bond, and love.

As an aside, the characters in AMG use a lot of magic without voicing spells, and they also sing a lot without voicing words.  Actual spells with words are usually reserved for special occasions, which I feel is the right way to do things.  You don't want to clutter up your text with words to a spell every three paragraphs, or whatever.

It's also worth noting that Kosuke Fujishima worked on AMG for twenty-five years.  Not only did his artwork change and improve dramatically over the life of the manga, his sense of how goddesses worked, what heaven was like, what the rules were and how spells worked and should be vocalized/written grew a lot.

So after this, what have we wound up with?  How shall I recreate my magical girl spells?  My first spell was a break enchantment spell:

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan,
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko,
Dispell Enchantment:  Hallowed Okonomiyaki Sauce Love Swirl!  Realm of Savory Pancake!

Let's see if we can fancy it up a bit.  On a scale of one to super fancy, I judge this spell to only require a moderate fancy approach -- nothing over the top, but something more than what I came up with the first time.

My first instinct was to try and match some aspect of okonomiyaki with the actual results of the spell, but this proved difficult to do and kind of goofy to boot.  I mean, if you're going to create a shield spell, is the shield going to be made of pancake batter?  Okonomiyaki sauce?  Shredded cabbage?  No.  That way madness lies.  Instead, I've decided to just pair a couple lines of sensual or florid description randomly with whatever other lines fit the desired spell.  So:

The scent of savory pancakes sizzle on the grill,
The sweet aroma wafts on the wind,
Arise, spirits of hot steel and the open flame,
Break this enchantment which clouds the vision of my comrades

I like this more than what I had previously (above).  And actually, right after saying I was only pairing two random lines about okonomiyaki with the spell, I managed to actually tie the descriptive food part into the spell itself, so go me!  I like the approach of calling on the spirits of okonomiyaki cooking -- I think I'll stick with that formula for all of their spells.

Also I think I'll dispense with the magical girls calling out their full names every time they do magic.  It fits the genre but it gets annoying.  It might be good to do once only, the first time they cast a spell, then never again.

Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Uchan,
Magical Okonomiyaki Chef Yoiko,
Protection Spell:  Okonomiyaki Batter, Air Bubbles of Shielding!
Let's give this one the moderately fancy spell treatment as well:

Golden amber flows the batter which binds together the okonomiyaki
Sauce like burnished caramel thickly coats the surface
To you I cry, oh spirits of the batter and spirits of the sauce
Provide a protecting shield to shelter my allies

Bingo!  Spells that sound like spells -- at leat to me!  I think I'm satisfied with the results.  ^_^

Sunday, October 27, 2019

What To Do For NaNoWriMo?

I haven't decided what I'm going to work on for NaNoWriMo.  As usual I have too many existing projects to want to start something new.  My choices:

1.  Random Grandpa Anarchy Stories.  I have a lot of them.  This would allow me to finish the arc I'm working on currently before jumping into something else.

2.  Longer Unfinished Grandpa Anarchy Stories.  I have several:

World of Hero (book 2) one of my oldest stories and a take on the cancellation of City of Heroes in 2013

Second Class (book 4) a story about the Black Moon Maidens and about Nina Ballerina leaving the League of Two-Fisted Justice

Oz On The Half Shell (book 5) a nearly finished story about fantasy realms and someone trying to take Grandpa Anarchy's place (who happens to be a version of Grandpa Anarchy)

3.  Grandpa Anarchy:  Serial Anarchy.  This is a planned novel with a cliffhanger ending for every chapter.  I came up with it for one of my NaNo projects several years ago, and never got further than the first three chapters.

4.  Grandpa Anarchy:  The Companions.  This is another old NaNo project that I didn't finish; it is a series of stories about Kid Anarchy in the 1920's and the different companions that he had (one story per companion).  I have several partially-written stories for this project.

5.  Grandpa Anarchy:  Magical Girl Death Match.  This is a plotted idea that I've never written.  It would be a novel-length story involving a deadly magical girl smart phone game run by aliens.  Bonus:  I know a lot more about the aliens now since they've appeared in my most recent series of stories.

6.  Grandpa Anarchy:  Anarchy On Vacation.  Another planned series of stories on a theme, Grandpa Anarchy goes on vacation and others must fill in for him.  Meanwhile, he and Popeye Khan go on a quest to track down a certain demon... so basically he isn't really vacationing.

7.  Girls School (anime fan fiction).  I haven't worked in my sprawling Ranma 1/2 fan fiction story in a few years.  It'll never be finished, but I'd like to at least wrap up the plots I started and am in the middle of.  I forget how much of it has been published.

8.  Nerima All Stars (anime fan fiction).  I wrote on this for one NaNoWriMo, and it's not complete.  I've never published it.  It involves Ranma 1/2, Ah My Goddess, and superheroes.  I'd like to complete it so I can publish it, but I'm not sure even 50,000 words would wrap it up.

9.  A Goddess In Oz (anime  fan fiction).  Well to be honest I'm not going to tackle this one I think, but it would be nice to finish it at last.  It's mostly an Oz/Ah My Goddess crossover, but there are other anime characters that were going to show up later.  I had a good plan for how the story would go.

Like I said, I don't really plan to start anything new, so those are my options.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Writing Update October 25 2019

345a  Dark Magical Interlude 1 934 words
345b  Goodwill Ambassador 2155 words
346a  Just Like Sailor Moon 1347 words
346b  Dark Magical Interlude 2 496 words
347   Motivation 1232 words
348   Dark Kingdom 1197 words
349   Double Trouble 1547 words
350a  Dark Magical Interlude 3 939 words
350b  Vlog Slog 1502 words
351   Purpose 1804 words
352   Out of Phaeton 1538 words
353   Starchild 1980 words
354   Trapped on Titan 1616 words
355   Space Opera 1097 words
355b  Ancient Robot Interlude 1 381 words
356   Here Be Dragons 2204 words
357   Shadow Magic 1029 words
358   Soul of the Matter 1538 words
359   Ring Thing 1397 words
359b Interlude of Terror 483  words
360   Wish Upon A Moon 1528 words
361   Witch Queen of Titan 1750 words
362   Dark Teatime 1189 words
363   Disaster Station 2322 words
364   Realm of Magic 2055 words
365   Money Shot 1219 words
365   Scattered Seeds 1765 words
366   Dark Magic Trap 2206 words
367   Pink Light 1610 words
368   Big-Ass Space Ship (incomplete)
369   Save Your Enemy (incomplete)
370  Tsundere/Dead To Me
371  A Bomb In Heaven
372  Ancient Cosmic Evil

I posted this to Twitter a couple of weeks ago, but I had a dream that helped me figure out exactly how to wrap up all of my stories and tie them together.  I was going to post about it to this blog -- maybe last Friday -- but I never did.  In any case, I've been writing towards this goal ever since, and I still think it can work.

I read Goodwill Ambassador for writer's night on Saturday 10/19.  I think people liked it.  I rewrote it slightly on Monday based on people's comments.

My big accomplishments for this week were to complete Disaster Station and to rewrite Scattered Seeds.  These two stories were kind of holding me up from going any further with my plot, until I'd fixed them.  I also wrote a short Interlude of Terror which is simple but advances some of the plot.

At this point I'm not sure what I want to write next, but I'm pretty clear on what needs to happen for Save Your Enemy and A Bomb In Heaven.  The second of these stories might also include everything I was going to do for two other story ideas, Tsundere and  Dead To Me.  So maybe all three of those are just one story.  The thing I call Big-Ass Space Ship is quite nebulous -- Grandpa Anarchy and other members of the New League of Two-Fisted Justice have been picked up by a massive space ship which supports an interstellar hero team lead by Super Joe, who is kind of a nephew to Grandpa Anarchy in a way.  They're pursuing an international villain who is probably the mother of Tia-An, the three-year-old supergirl that Grandpa and company rescued earlier... and somehow that's all going to tie in to everything else that's going on, but I'm not sure exactly how just yet.

Basically, I have the setting for the story, but not the story.

I've written about 42,000 words between August and October.  On the one hand that's a great deal more than I'd written in the previous year and a half, but on the other hand 15,000 words a month isn't going to cut it for NaNoWriMo.

On the third hand, there's hope that I can wrap up my story arc here before November.  Or at least get pretty close.

I still need to rewrite Vlog Slog and Ancient Robot Interlude, but overall things are going well.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Dark Magical Interludes

I'm probably going to sound like a broken record, but once again I'm  trying to go back and fix my series of magical girl stories.

I watched a video on Youtube.  Actually I watched a lot of videos on Youtube, but this one was about how certain anime shows create and build suspense, while other anime shows that are, on the surface, very similar, fail to build the same level of suspense.  The same things happen, but you don't see them coming, they're not broadcast to the viewer, and therefore you don't have the same dread that something bad is about to happen, it just comes out of left field.

This struck me as exactly the kind of problem I have with my current set of stories.  Villains show up and do things, but the reader doesn't see these things coming or always even know what events are connected to what villains.  No suspense at all, just random villains showing up.

Now, there are a few things driving this.

One, my stories are short and build to some sort of joke or surprise ending, so what I put into each story pretty much has to contribute to that story.  Even though I'm trying to string together a series of stories, each story has to be mostly self-contained.  I can't insert a short scene where this or that villain is revealed to be plotting against the heroes, if it has nothing to do with that particular story.

Two, I did not approach the project with an overall plot in mind, or a plan to build to any particular ending.  This is because I'm not writing a novel per se, but a series of linked stories, and each story is a self-contained joke of sorts.  Which is not to say I shouldn't have an end goal in mind, just that I don't think of these things because my normal approach is to write one story at a time, and whatever funny thing occurs at the end, however outlandish, if that's what makes for a funny story I do that.

Therefore, in one of my normal stories having a random villain show up at the end may prove to be funny, and I'll do that.  I don't have to know what's going to happen next.  In a project like my current one, I absolutely need to know what's going to happen next, so I can't write exactly like I normally do.

Third, I had this idea in the back of my mind that I didn't want to give things away too early, and this led to my current situation of having villains just show up seemingly at random because I haven't warned the reader about them at all.

Now, to my credit (I think), I did kind of figure out partway into the project who my major villains would be, and there were events that happened that were tied to them.  But if you didn't know what they were doing (which the readers did not) then it still probably came off as random, unrelated incidents.

So, this morning I decided to write several "interludes" -- short scenes that established some of what is about to happen, without giving too much away.  I call them interludes because I am not constructing them like my normal stories, with a punchline ending.  Instead they're just scenes.  The first one takes place before the first story in the whole project, and tells the reader that Stella and company have an enemy who wants to corrupt her -- although I deliberately don't reveal that much about said enemy.

I wrote two of these today.  The second one happens right after Queen Sable kidnaps Stella, something that our mysterious demonic enemy was planning to do.  The third happens right after Stella is apparently kidnapped again, and includes foreshadowing for another enemy that's about to show up.  I think I need to do one about Emperor Birol too, who shows up randomly several stories later.  There needs to be a short scene in which he detects Grandpa Anarchy and decides to kill him.

Anyway I wrote the first two and part of the third, and I have at least one more to write.  I *think* these will make the whole story arc flow a lot better, but we'll see.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Did I Write That Or Not?

So I want to write a story in which Black Dahlia and company teleport directly to a demonic Dark Realm.  Now, I have Dark Dr. Dark teleport all over the place, but he's the Supreme Sorcerer of the world.  I've established in previous stories that Black Dahlia does not have the ability to teleport over long distances.  Someone else will need to do the teleporting.

The question is, who can do this?

I have a teleporter in the Daughters of Anarchy, Magical Midriff, but so far as I know she does not do long-distance teleportation.

I do remember a story in which one of the League of Former Side-Kicks, who changed their name to Miss Enigma, joins forces with Dahlia, mostly as a business venture but also they can provide teleportation powers... I think.  Or someone else working with them can.  I don't remember the specifics.

Now, the problem is that I've written over 350 Grandpa Anarchy stories.  I vaguely remember when most of them take place, but I also forget some of them completely.  So I start by looking in Book 9:  My Gun Is Sharp.  This file contains 44 stories that I wrote mostly in 2017 and early 2018.  Most of these were posted to my web site.  There are also three unfinished stories, My Gun Is Sharp, The Tremor of the Earth, and Wings of Liberty.  The latter two are stories I still want to write, about what happened to the Gentleman Brawler and about a woman who requests Black Dahlia cast a spell that gives her wings and talons.  My Gun Is Sharp was largely a story title looking for an actual story, but since it's also the title of the book file, I wanted to write something.  But when I pull it up, there's a plot about Grandpa Anarchy going back in time to convince Mummy Ra to become a hero.  That's a story that I swear I've already written, but I don't remember the actual title.

Anyway I pull up a story called The Dream Ends, and this is one of those stories that I'd completely forgotten about, but it involves Miss Enigma and others leaving the League of Former Sidekicks.  Cool!  We're on the right track!

Except... this is one of the last stories in this "book".  The few that follow it are not the story I'm looking for.

The next folder is Book 10 -- Mahou Shoujo Blues.  These are all of the stories I wrote in March and April 2018 for Magical March.  They're all magical girl stories.

The next folder is Book 11 -- Fist to the Face.   This was the "book" I was working on when I stopped writing back in the spring of 2018.  These are all generic stories, there's no overall theme, but I don't see the story I'm looking for here either.  There are only a dozen stories here, including four "hero lunch" stories, a fairy tale story that was background material for an incomplete story about the Daughters of Anarchy, and a bunch of stories about Eve the Explorer, member of the Society of Intergalactic Space Babes, because I went of on a tangent and wrote a bunch of stories about that one character.

So at this point I have to ask myself, am I even remembering a finished story?  I have a LOT of unfinished stories, some which are only a few lines or an idea, some of which are very long stories that I never managed to complete or make work.  Because this was my "working" folder, I have tons of them contained within.  I have these files:

A Thousand Ninjas
Afro Futurism
Anarchy in a Box
Another Secret Crisis Wars
Bad Trip
Battle Angel Josie
Candy Heart Mech
Cannot Scream
Chief Seattle Speech
Christmas Gorilla
Cisgender Sleuth
Cranium Tyrant
Crystal Hart
Dead Man's Hand
Death Roach Kid
Die Glocke
Dork Side of the Force
Escape Goat
Ex Habitu
Fox Con
Free Mason Conspiracies
Girl Power
Heartthrob 6000 Bit
Heel Turn
Here is a Potato
High Performance Chocolate
High Sis
I Want
I'm Not Saying It's Aliens
Infinity Donnybrook
I've Seen Cosmic Horrors Beyond Man's Power to Bear
Job Qualification
Just Don't Care
Less is More
Library of Dreams
Like Sparks Off a Cat's Back
Meet Cute 2
Meet Cute 3
Meet Cute 4
Mission Briefing
Nazi Hunter
No Politics
Oceans of the Void Black Maiden Fragment
Princess - Sleeping Goblin
Princess of Miramoor
Punch 'Em All
Regifted Heart
Season of Change
Some Ideas
Stargate Extras
That Other Party Idea
The King Am I
The Pomadour'd Pamlemousse
To Punch A Hitler
Top Hats and Bustiers
Two-Fisted Santa
Tyrone the Great
What Makes A Great Villain
Wheeling and Dealing
When You're Dead
Zuzus Petals

Naturally I have other unfinished stories in other folders, so you can see how it might be difficult to find a story that I think is finished, but might not be.  ^_^

I think for NaNoWriMo, I might just reread all of my stories and take notes.  My data file on who exists in the Grandpa Anarchy Universe is largely based on the first 3 books, or about the first 100 stories or so.  It's extremely out of date.

Oh well!  Time to look some more!


So after more searching I located a story called Enigma.  This was the story I was looking for.  It details Miss Enigma joining forces with Black Dahlia to establish a much larger and cheaper gender change clinic (which was a service Black Dahlia provided for many years at a million dollars per transformation).

The part I had forgotten about in this story is that it also includes Hexcoder, an app-based spellcaster who can teleport people across the world.  So that was what I was trying to remember.  The question is, can he teleport people to a demonic realm?

The problem I had is that I have Enigma listed as story 290, and The Dream Ends as story 307.  But the second story takes place before the first, so they're in the wrong order.  I think this is the second time I had trouble finding the story Enigma because of this discrepancy, so it might be a good idea to switch the two.

However, I then read the story Miss Devastation, which is story 296, and this story also deals with Black Dahlia and the Black Moon Maidens, and it involves a demon who wishes to become a super hero joining their group.  One of the things Miss Deva can do is teleport.

It seems much more likely she would be the one to teleport the group into a demonic realm.  That's right up her alley!

I did run into a spot in one of these stories where I said that Dark Dr. Dark couldn't teleport people clear across the world, but I've shown him doing exactly that several times so I just altered the sentence to "only Dark Dr. Dark can..."  But I have another sort-of problem here, in that Miss Devastation and Enigma both deal with teleporters joining the Black Moon Maidens or otherwise becoming partners with Black Dahlia and therefore available, and both stories state or assume that Black Dahlia didn't have access to a teleporter previously.  And I'm not exactly sure which story is meant to take place first.  But I can probably solve this easily enough, since Hexcoder is not actually a member of the team and may not usually be available.

The good news is, all three of these stories are completely written, and they work.  These are the kind of Big Plot stories that change how things work in my universe that I often plot and never manage to actually write.

The bad news is... all three of these DID take time to write after I plotted them... in some cases it was many months later when I managed to finish them.

Because of this, I have a major discrepancy:  in Miss Devastation, I give a very detailed tour of the Black Moon Maidens headquarters, the gothic dress shop Pandora's Closet, and Black Dahlia doing her magic gender transformation thing.  It's very clear that she has not yet made any deal with Hexcoder and Miss Enigma.

In Enigma, I state that Black Dahlia does not have the ability to teleport across the world.  Based on this, Miss Deva is not a member of the team yet.  (Or more likely, I need to explain why she's not available at the moment).

This is the kind of thing that happens when I plot stories that have important future connotations, and then fail to write them in a timely manner.  I still haven't written most of Second Class, where the Black Moon Maidens add a second team of heroes, even though that's a very important fact that affects all future stories.

(In point of fact, I've been writing my current stories on the assumption that Shaman Sally was not a member of any team and had thus joined Blues Summoner Stella's new magical girl group, the American Mahou Shoujo Association of Frosthaven -- but then in Miss Devastation it's stated that she is a member of the Black Moon Maidens second team led by Nina Ballerina.  See?  I didn't remember that because I haven't actually written the story!  Now I need to explain why she left, or is in two groups at once.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Ancient Cosmic Horrors (Writing Update)

Here's what I've managed in the past week or so:

1.  Split Ghost and Shadows into two stories.  The first I titled Shadow Magic, and the second I re-titled Soul of the Matter.

2.  Wrote a new story set much earlier in the timeline called Double Trouble.  It turned out much different than I intended.  This required a bit of a rewrite for Purpose.

3.  Inserted a bit into my first story, Goodwill Ambassador, that establishes that Grandpa Anarchy has been told he will encounter an Ancient Cosmic Horror.  This is meant as a bit of a maguffin, since he and the others encounter multiple things that might apply.  I'm hoping it kind of ties things together a bit.  This involved rewriting most of my stories slightly to include references to this thing.

4.  Did some more rewriting to change dialog for Kin Katy, who says effin' a lot.

5.  Finished my idea for a confrontation which had the working title of Throne Room.  I wrote an entirely new opening for it from the POV of one of the villains, based on what I'd come up with for Double Trouble.  The final story was called Witch Queen of Titan.  I had proposed Witch of Titan as a good title for a story at some point, and it works here, although it was originally meant to refer to Queen Sable and now it refers to someone else.

6.  Almost immediately rewrote Witch Queen of Titan.  My first ending was to incorporate my Villain Emporium plan, in which about five or six different villains all show up at once.  This made the story really long and gave it an ending that was drawn out and had no punch at all.  After some consideration, I decided to go for a more dramatic, explosive ending (literally).  I don't know that it's funny but it has punch.

7.  Rewrote my ending yet again with the idea that it was all supposed to be from the POV of that one villain.  I think it also works better that way.

8.  Based on my new ending, I sketched out several follow-up stories as my cast of characters wind up in three or four different directions.  The first of these was Dark Teatime, which I finished yesterday.

9.  Today I finished Realm of Magic.  This was based on the idea that Candy Valentine can visit the realm from which her magical girl magic comes.  It was created by a wish from a magic ring containing  djinn, and it exists soley for her.  I had some ideas about what it was like, and how she and Katy and others could visit there after a big battle and get healed... but it took me a while to come up with a way to invert the whole idea, to make it more than just a friendly fairytale realm where everything is sugar and spice, because the way it was going up to that point, there would be no big surprise or twist ending, and I'm not sure the story would be interesting otherwise.  But I like what I came up with.

10.  Right now I have story titles that I want to work on, and I have ideas in my head for what should happen next.  Grandpa Anarchy is dead but will be revived.  I'm not sure that's a story in and of itself.  Dark Dr. Dark will retrieve him, so he can go anywhere after that.  Queen Sable and Stella are in Los Angeles with Black Dahlia and Danielle the goth store sales clerk, and several others have just arrived in Los Angeles.  Some people are still on Titan but the palace may have collapsed, or they may be battling a giant robot named Emperor Birol.  They might have teleported somewhere else, or perhaps only Prince Onyx did and the others need to be rescued.  I haven't decided if the girls in the Realm of Magic have to return to Titan also, or if they can choose to reappear on earth somewhere (like, maybe Los Angeles).  At some point Sailor Io visits Black Dahlia's gender change clinic, but I'm not sure yet if that can work as a story by itself.  I had plans for another character to be in this story, but now that won't happen.

I still have the whole Villain Emporium idea that I haven't really done anything with, and I have a lot of bits from several stories that I chopped out but saved possibly for later.  All of the extra bits from Realm of Magic got saved to a file that is currently titled Ancient Cosmic Horror Tea.  I may use some of it on a story about the girls leaving the Realm of Magic.  We'll see.

After some thought on the whole thing, here's what I've come up with.  My next stories are:

363  Disaster Station (working title)  This starts with Grandpa Anarchy and Dark Dr. Dark, and moves back to Titan where a battle ensues, and one of the actors from my Villain Emporium plot appears.

365  Scattered Seeds (working title)  This covers the people in Los Angeles, and possibly a visit from the demon Queen Sapphire.

366  Ancient Cosmic Horror Tea (really bad working title)  This would be the girls returning from the Realm of Magic.  I have some ideas about what needs to happen but I'm not sure where this is ultimately going.  One idea is that they return to Titan and there's no one there and nothing left but rubble.

367  Girls will be Girls  I still need to fit in this bit somewhere, but I don't know if there's a story to build around yet.

345  Goodwill Ambassador
346  Totally Like Sailor Moon
347  Motivation
348  Dark Kingdom
349 Double Trouble
350  Vlog Slog
351  Purpose
352  Out of Phaeton
353  Starchild
354  Trapped on Titan
355  Space Opera
356  Here Be Dragons
357  Shadow Magic
358  Soul of the Matter
359  Ring Thing
360  Wish Upon A Moon
361  Witch Queen of Titan
362  Dark Teatime
363  (Untitled)
364  Realm of Magic

Still working on:

Disaster Station
Scattered Seeds
Ancient Cosmic Horror Tea
Girls With Be Girls
Villain Emporium

Monday, September 16, 2019

September Writing Update

Completed Stories Since August:

345  Goodwill Ambassador
346  Totally Like Sailor Moon
347  Motivation
348  Dark Kingdom
349  Vlog Slog
350  Purpose
351  Out of Phaeton
352  Starchild
353  Trapped on Titan
354  Space Opera
355  Incident on Titan
356  Ghosts and Shadows
357  Ring Thing
358  Wish Upon A Moon

Working Titles:

Probably Something About Shadows (part 1 of Ghosts and Shadows)
Probably Something About Ghosts or Souls (part 2 of Ghosts and Shadows)
Stella's Story
Throne Room
Villain Emporium
Witch of Titan
Girls Will Be Girls
Goodwill Tour Fairyland

It's Monday, Sept 16 2019.  In the first half of September, this is what I've managed:

I came up with an idea that there had been a Grandpa Anarchy musical, and that one of the characters should sing part of it.  I came up with some lyrics, and a title of the musical, and who wrote it.  I stuck it into the beginning of Ghosts and Shadows, and then I had to face the reality that said story was already possibly three stories in one, and I was inserting yet another thing that had nothing to do with any of the plots.  I had:

1.  A confrontation with a shadow creature outside the castle, which I glossed over so quickly that it either didn't need to be there, or I needed to expand it into its own story.

2.  A discussion about whether Girlbot 9000 was a cyborg or not.  This was part of a working title called Ghost In The Machine that I wound up working in to Ghosts and Shadows.

3.  A discussion about whether souls exist or not.  This kind of spun out of #2, but became the central conceit of the story Ghosts and Shadows when I rewrote the ending.

4.  Possibly an entirely new plot about an old Grandpa Anarchy musical?

I have yet to resolve the first three, but I like my new ending for Ghosts and Shadows so what I want to do is rewrite the beginning into another story about a battle with shadow creatures, and then tighten up Ghosts and Shadows to be more centrally about the question of whether people have souls.  As for the whole cyborg vs robot question, I don't know what I'll do with that.  Leave it for a later story I suppose.

In the meantime, I took the bit about a musical and spun that out into its own story, Space Opera.  I also established that there had been two different musicals, one a rock opera that Grandpa Anarchy doesn't like, and that there had also been a Mister Anarchy radio drama in the late 1940's.

I came up with two story ideas that delved into the past of Blues Summoner Stella and Candy Valentine.  I haven't worked on the first, but the second turned into a story called Ring Thing, which fits right after the ending of Ghosts and Shadows.

I wanted to develop the motivations of Queen Sable more, and I didn't like how Trapped On Titan went, so I wrote a new introduction to her called Purpose.  I then rewrote Trapped on Titan, and I like both of these stories much better than what I had previously.  This gives me hope that my plan to rewrite Ghosts and Shadows will work out well too.

Last night I came up with another story that takes place at almost the same time as Ring Thing.  I called it Wish Upon a Moon.  I haven't decided if it really works or not, but that means I finished a story on Sunday to go with the one I finished on Friday, and I've technically written five stories this month -- four new ones, and a completely rewritten Trapped on Titan.

After all of this, I STILL haven't gotten to the confrontation scene in the throne room -- which actually won't be a confrontation scene, but that's what I was writing towards for the last 25 or 30 days....

Recent tweets about my writing:

Aug 30 
And once again I'm thinking about the stories I've been working on this month, and my inability to write actual stories and develop characters in the way that I want.
I did finish Ghost and Shadows, and it's a complete story now but I don't like it. 
Just for one example, there's a character in OPM who is called Steel Bat, because he's kind of a street thug who swings a metal bat.  Really simple character. 
But he has a younger sister that he's very devoted to, and this comes up several times.  It's one of his defining character points.
In my own stories, I wrote up detailed backgrounds on each of the four main characters in my magical girl group.  But it occurred to me that I don't even know if any of them have siblings.  They can't ALL be only children, right?
I'm just really bad at this stuff sometimes.  :P
Another thing I think I'm bad at -- heroes need a chance to shine.  Each hero has their own strengths they bring to a situation.  Too often I don't give you a reason to cheer for the hero.
I mean, I'm mostly trying to write 1,500 word short stories with a funny ending, but I need to be able to include some of that stuff as well.

Sep 3
I didn't write most of the weekend but last night I finally worked on one of the two stories I plotted out on Friday.  This one is currently titled Genie of the Ring, but since that gives away the surprise I'll have to rename it.

Sep 8
So I've written only one story in the first 8 days of September, and I don't even like it.
This weekend I tried to take one of my complete stories and tear it apart and write two new stories from that.  Trying to figure out how many stories I'm actually telling.
But after I cannibalized and sabotaged my story to try and pare it down to what I thought was "essential", I find that I still hate the results, and what I thought would be a good ending isn't.
Then I watch some anime and I'm like, why can't my characters be more dynamic?
I'm trying to get there but I keep missing the target.
Anyway I now have this story called Sense of Purpose that is about half of what the story Trapped On Titan was, but there's no good ending yet, and I don't know how to reconstruct what's left into another story.

Sep 9
Rewrote "Sense of Purpose" and I think I like it now, except for I can't figure out an ending.  Also it doesn't address a lot of points that I want to address but which don't really fit into this story, so... maybe I need to write yet another story after this.

Sep 12
Today I finished a story I titled Purpose.  The ending that I came up with involved Dark Dr. Dark suddenly appearing, and I think I like the results.
This was a story that I split off from Trapped On Titan, because like many of my "short" stories...
...the first draft of that one was going in too many direction at once.
So next I rewrote Trapped On Titan, and I think I managed to make that one work better as well.
So!  Time to go back and rework Ghosts and Shadows, which is what I was doing last week, right?
Well the thing is, I remembered that I wanted to separate the first part and the second part of that story into two separate tales.
They fight a shadow creature, and the fight was short and sweet and not very dramatic because I was working on an idea wrapped around Girlbot 9000, and the fact that Magical Girl Kin Katy doesn't believe in humans having souls.  (Girlbot 9000 is a ghost inhabiting a robot.)
So this by itself is possibly 2 different stories, one about whether Girlbot 9000 qualifies as a robot or a cyborg, or neither, and another about whether people really have souls.
I like the punchline for the second idea and I had leaned more in that direction.
But I had also realized that maybe they were breaking into the castle too easily, and they should have to fight more than one little shadow creature.
And I should make a bigger deal of Sailor Europa being able to destroy said shadow creatures with her light magic.
And I should play up the idea that Grandpa wants to punch them, but he's wearing a space suit and his Gloves of the Void are in a pocket inside the space suit.  So, you know, he should have put them over his gloves after he donned the suit.  This annoys him.
So that's like... possibly 3 stories instead of one.
But then I pulled up the story and I realized that I had ALSO tossed in a bit where Kin Katy sings lines from a Grandpa Anarchy musical.
The problem with this is, it's apropos of nothing in particular and doesn't contribute to this story, and since my story already is possibly three different stories in one, I had no business trying to shove something like this in as well.
BUT!  When I reread this tonight, I remembered!  I had started a story last week called Space Opera, which took place a bit earlier and dealt with the whole Grandpa Anarchy musical thing.
Also, the details got a lot more complicated.
There was a musical called The Grandpa Anarchy Opera:  Fists Against Darkness in 1986.
There was also a musical called Zero Hour Anarchy written in the late 1960's, but thought to be incomplete until the completed manuscript was discovered after the author's death in 74.
The 67/74 musical is pretty bad.  But Grandpa Anarchy likes it, and he hates the 1986 one, partly because the 1986 one is a rock opera.
Tangent to this, there was also a radio show called the Mister Anarchy Radio Show which ran from 1946 to 1950.
All this is stuff I came up with just so I could have someone make a joke about space opera by singing an opera (musical) song while in space, and then Grandpa could explain how the term Space Opera descends from Soap Opera, which described radio dramas that mostly sold soap.
(The Mister Anarchy Radio Show was supported in part by Atomic White Detergent, made by the W.H. Detergent Company in Frosthaven NJ, where Grandpa's from.)
This is the part where I point out that you can create a lot of backstory information and then maybe 2 lines or so make it into your story.  But I did write a cool intro that is the last scene from the last episode of the Mister Anarchy Radio Show.
And then, you know, a week later I'd completely forgotten I'd written any of this stuff, because I never managed to finish it.
The real struggle is between how quickly can I get to my possible ending, vs. how much of all of this backstory detail can I manage to cram in first.
(The answer is:  probably not much, especially not very much of the partial song lyrics I've come up with.)
So in short... I need to finish "Space Opera" so that I can  rewrite Ghosts and Shadows into A) Story about fighting the shadow creatures and B) story about Katy not buying that she has a soul.
And possibly C) story about whether Girlbot 9000 is a robot or what.
I'm not sure that last one is a real story.  At the moment it doesn't seem to drive any overarching plot.  But then, Space Opera probably doesn't either.  :P

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Trying to Find an Ending

It's Aug 27th and for over a week I've been stuck trying to finish a story called (at the moment) Ghosts and Shadows.  I composed this little rundown of my problems with this story as a series of tweets, but then I decided to rewrite it as a journal entry.  I don't do enough journal entries -- I've even tweeted at least a couple of times about my recent writing successes and struggles, but I haven't updated this journal in 18 days.

This is my 10th story of the month, part of a series of connected stories where Grandpa Anarchy sets off on an adventure with a new team of magical girls (well, former magical girls, they're all in their twenties now).  They were supposed to be introduced to other magical girl teams and superhero teams around the world, but the story quickly turned into a rescue mission to the moon of Titan orbiting Saturn, because things happening is more interesting.

Part of what I've done over the last 18 days is to rewrite these stories, add dialog, set up future plots, develop character a bit, change story titles, and even insert one story before several other stories I'd already written.  I tweeted about some of this.  As of now, here's what I have:

345  Goodwill Ambassador
346  Totally Like Sailor Moon
347  Motivation
348  Dark Kingdom
349  Vlog Slog
350  Trapped on Titan
351  Out of Phaeton
352  Starchild
353  Incident on Titan
354  Ghosts and Shadows

proposed stories:

Villain Emporium
Throne Room
Girls Will Be Girls
Goodwill Tour Fairyland

So!  I managed to write nine stories that culminated with them landing on Titan.  None of these stories really has a great punchline, I think, but all of them are passable I guess.  The next step was to detail how they enter the evil queen's castle/lair.

That's what happens next, but that's not necessarily a story itself.  A straightforward break-in and confront the villain doesn't sound like a Grandpa Anarchy story.  So, what's my angle?

I'd also been trying to work on the various characters, and when I'd come to Girlbot 9000, I'd written a long dialog about whether she was a robot or a cyborg.  I called this Ghost in the Machine, because that's literally what she is -- a ghost inhabiting a robot.

The ghost is an old hero named Freem Beam.  He had his body "confiscated" or taken away by aliens, and existed for several years as a disembodied personality.  So he's a ghost or spirit, right?  Isn't that what a ghost or a spirit is?  Well... maybe.  He wasn't a ghost because he'd died -- it was something highly advanced aliens had done to him.  The question is, is she a robot or a cyborg?  And really I don't know.  I'd say she's not a cyborg, there's no physical part of her that is human.  But she's more than just a robot.

For the opposing view, I picked Magical Girl Kin Katy, who I decided did not believe in the existence of souls.  She was a particularly good choice for this point of view because of her own background.  She was created when someone interfaced with an online game that was also an emerging alternate reality -- so she's a mental clone of the person who was playing the game, in a body designed by the game.  She's an MMO avatar come to life.  But the original person still exists.  So, does she have a soul?  How does an MMO game create a soul?  It's not programmed to do that.

In her mind, there's no such thing as a soul.

I wanted to spin this dialog into a story and decided to marry it to the actions of the group breaking into the evil queen's castle on Titan.  I even used Girlbot 9000's unique circumstances to help them get in.  Freem Beam exits the robot body, passes through the walls, and is able to trigger the opening of the airlock.

I liked that, but that itself didn't resolve the argument over man vs. machine or ghost vs. no ghost.  So I came up with a giant stone golem creature for them to fight, and had Freem Beam inhabit that.

And... that wasn't really an ending either, and also didn't seem very suspenseful.

I've been stuck at that point ever since.

I keep trying to imagine what about this would lead to a good ending.  Working from the angle of what they're doing -- breaking into the castle -- I came up with very little.  I could make the confrontation with the golem more interesting and suspenseful, I could have them battle other creatures, but none of that is driving any story narrative.

The central conceit of the story as constructed is the argument is over whether souls exist or not.  I hadn't really resolved the argument -- so, how could I do that in an interesting or funny or surprising way?

One idea I had early on, that I initially dismissed, was to have Magical Girl Kin Katy die.  She's the person who insists she doesn't have a soul, so if she exist as a ghost for a while and STILL refuse to believe she has a soul, that could be funny.  (And to be honest, I think that's the direction I need to go -- just writing this down has convinced me.)

I also had this idea for a random different villain to show up.  In two of the previous stories I'd detailed how Grandpa had raised, or how people he knew had raised, several different "super babies" from destroyed home worlds.  Two or three of them had left earth to become interstellar heroes, so it suddenly occurred to me that, having mentioned these people, I could now have them show up randomly.  Why not?

My idea was to have an interstellar superhero team lead by Super Joe (one of the kids Grandpa sort of raised) show up chasing an interstellar villain, who shows up randomly in the hallway of this castle on the moon of Titan where Grandpa Anarchy is because, why not?  And I imagined it being some kind of Edritch horror from outer space, which lead to me spending a couple of days rereading The Colour Out of Space, which gave me all sorts of ideas for a completely unrelated story that I could write, but didn't really lead to any kind of breakthrough on this particular story I was working on.

I also had dropped a reference in the previous story to an alien robot that Grandpa Anarchy had once fought on a moon around Neptune, with the idea that he'd show up later.  So what if he showed up almost immediately?  This spun off in my head into a series of random villain encounters that could happen one right after the other -- such as the mother of Tia Anne showing up to try and kidnap her daughter (she'd have to be a pretty bad person for them to resist returning a daughter to her mother, of course).  Anyway, all of this I wrote up as a possible separate story because it was far too much to append to the story I was working on.

I considered for a couple of days, trying to think about what funny or surprising thing could happen that would lead to a good ending.  Maybe I needed to scrap most of what I'd written and go back to the point where they're trying to figure out how to get into the castle.  They're stranded on a distant ice moon with no breathable atmosphere, hundreds of millions of miles from earth.  What funny or outrageous thing could happen?

I thought, what if a door to door salesman showed up?  You know, maybe he's a demonic door to door salesman.  Or maybe there's a demonic or inter-dimensional pizza delivery guy.  I like those ideas, they're weird, but they didn't immediately suggest a way to end the story.

Anyway, as I already noted, just writing this out has convinced me of how the story should actually end.  ^_^

Friday, August 9, 2019

Magical Girl Adventures on Titan

No sooner did July end than I actually began to write the stories that I'd planned to write a month ago.

This was intended to be a series of stories involving Grandpa Anarchy and company travelling around the world, being introduced to all of the international heroes and super groups that Grandpa knows.  But as usual things went off the rails almost immediately.  To begin with, since it was a magical girl group that was being introduced to everyone, I thought to reread all of the magical girl stories I wrote for March 2018.

Thanks to this, I decided to set my second story in Denver, CO, where a group of four magical girls who greatly resemble the Sailor Senshi now operate.  And since this was a meeting with them, I decided to have their enemy Queen Sable of Titan intervene.

This led to several stories  where the group flies out into space to the moon Titan, orbiting Saturn.  At this point I think I will be on story seven before the group even gets to the point where they meet a second super group.  >.>

How this all unfolds is a bit convoluted as usual.  My first story, Goodwill Ambassador, was largely written in July, but I managed to finish it in early August.  The second story was titled Just Like Sailor Moon (I'm not too attached to any of these titles though).  In this one I decided they would meet with the Europa Sailor Senshi of Denver.  But what could happen during this meeting, I wondered?  What if their enemy Queen Sable attacked?  What if she kidnapped someone?  That seemed to work and add some drama and a direction to go in, so I went with it.

I penned a third story called Dark Kingdom, which takes place during their fight to Titan about the Anarchy Saucer.  Then I began writing a story about their confrontation with Queen Sable on Titan.  But at this point things were bogging down a bit, and I had to ask myself, why did Queen Sable kidnap this person?  What was her motivation?  And for that matter, isn't that the very question the heroes would ask first?

This led to a bit of backtracking as I wrote a story that takes place immediately after the kidnapping, so that it happens before Dark Kingdom.  It also led to some rewriting of Dark Kingdom, and some new writing on Battle on Titan, my working title for the fourth (now fifth) story.  I've also sketched in a sixth story, and a seventh (where they will actually meet another group).

I have various bits and pieces of other stories that will take place afterwards, but I think the meeting with the second group will also involve several stories and a side quest.  And I want to create an overarching plot that ties everything together, and I have some ideas along those lines but I haven't really written much of that down just yet.

Anyway, for today I've finished a story I titled Motivation, which is story 347.  As of now my new stories look like this:

345  Goodwill Ambassador
346  Just Like Sailor Moon
347  Motivation
348  Dark Kingdom

in progress:

349  Battle on Titan (working title)
350  Girls Will Be Girls (working title)

Goodwill Tour Fairyland Stop
Ghost In The Machine
In Oz

I also came up with a new story idea that is independant of this current arc, which involves Chinese surveillance equipment in the Anarchy mansion being used by a Chinese villain to spy on Grandpa Anarchy.  I titled it Fox Con for now.  It's kind of a nebulous idea but at the same time, I think I can envision how the entire story should go -- I just need to figure out the exact details like who the Chinese villain is.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Another Camp NaNoWriMo, Another Fail

It's August 1st.  Camp NaNoWriMo for July is passed, and once again I failed to meet my goals.

My original goal was to create an international superhero a day, but this morphed into a planned series of short stories in which Grandpa Anarchy traveled around the world meeting with international heroes and super groups that he already knew, and introducing them to the members of a new super group whose stated goal was to aid and support magical girls.  To this end I wrote most of a first story, and a partial scene for another story, and jotted down notes for 2-3 more stories.  But I didn't complete anything and I got bogged down in working on the back stories of my four former magical girls who made up the super group.  The end result is that I did write some stuff, but not nearly the 20,000 words I set out to write.

This is a common theme for me because I once again have outlined a series of stories that might fill a book, so I placed all of these in a folder called "Book 15 - Just One Punch".  The name of the folder was chosen previously as just a name for a new book once I got to that point, so it doesn't really have anything to do with the stories I put in there.  So basically I have another potential book that's not written.  I have a lot of these -- Book 7 - Serial Anarchy is a planned novel with serial chapters with cliffhangers; Book 12 - The Companions is a planned novel with stories of Kid Anarchy in the 1920's and his various super powered companions; Book 13 - Magical Girl Deathmatch is a planned novel involving a magical girl smartphone rpg that kills people (totally stealing the germ of that idea from a series of light novels, but with a Grandpa Anarchy twist of course); and Book 14 - Anarchy on Vacation was what I ultimately planned to do a year ago for Camp NaNoWriMo in July, a story about Grandpa Anarchy taking a vacation, but with a secret goal to investigate the demon behind the ring that his wife used to use and that his grand-niece now uses.

I don't know when I'll manage to write all of this, considering I haven't written much of anything in the last year, but right now I'm still in the headspace for my magical girl/international hero story, and I've been rereading the stories I wrote back in March 2018 when I was writing a magical girl story a day.  They're better than I remembered -- but the problem is that I'd started working on a document that listed each magical girl and described them, and then as the month went along I got sloppy about it, so it was never finished.  Which is a lot like the document about the 30+ international heroes that I was working on last month, or the document detailing the new super group of former magical girls.  :P

For now, I'm going to continue reading my March 2018 stories, my "Book 10 - Mahou Shoujo Blues" collection.  I'm making minor story corrections and I'm working on filling out the document that details each magical girl, so I can reference them easily when I want to use them again.  That was where I ran into this in the first place -- I wanted to use them in my stories where Grandpa goes around introducing this new super group, and I really didn't have a good writeup on everything.

Monday, July 8, 2019

July Camp NaNo Projects

It's been so long since I wrote regularly that it's hard to get back into the habit of writing anything.  I have ideas and sometimes I jot them down but mostly I don't, and they come and go.

A few weeks ago I pulled up a story under the working title of Princess, that dealt with a pocket dimension contained in a broach that I was going to use as the supergroup base for the Daughters of Anarchy.  I'd written quite a bit on the "story" but it was just them explaining what the pocket dimension was, and exploring it, and it was all quite boring because there was no plot.  So I'd stepped back from working on it over a year ago to try and figure out what the plot would be.

Around the same time I conceived of this story, I wrote a sort of companion story called Prince Allwyn and Princess Erin of Arowen, which was a fable about a similar magical amulet.  It helped me encapsulate my ideas about how such a magical device could work, but at the same time, it wasn't the history of the amulet I was trying to write about.  I'd sketched out a history of that amulet though, and had envisioned a possible plot involving it.

Anyway while trying to work out how to rewrite my story, it occurred to me to write another fable about how this particular amulet came into being, because I had some ideas about that already.  For the past few weeks I've been writing and rewriting this story/fable in my head, but I haven't committed much to paper.  It's evolved into a sort of love story between a very old wizard and an immortal fairy, but I'm still not sure if I know how to start it.

So that was going to be my project for July's Camp NaNoWriMo since I was already working on it in my head... but in the meantime, I've come up with some other ideas that may be easier for me to work on and can help get me writing more.

I had an idea to compose a list of international superheroes for the Grandpa Anarchy universe.  I've been reading the My Hero Academia manga, which is about heroes and kids training to become heroes, and they reference the top ranked heroes a lot (strangely, all of the top ranked heroes are in Japan -- they don't specifically say their rankings are confined to Japan, but eh, anyway).  This got me thinking about who are the top heroes in the Grandpa Anarchy universe, and what would be their ranking, and that also got me thinking about how I don't have a lot of international heroes and maybe I should come up with a bunch of them.

Another aspect of this is that, when writing Grandpa Anarchy stories, I don't often start with imagining what powers a hero or villain should have, and consequently I write an awful lot of heroes and villains with fairly straightforward powers.  Either they're strong and tough, or maybe the can throw fire or water about.  Nothing much more esoteric than that, usually.  But the manga I'm reading involves a lot of interesting and exotic powers, and it makes me want to create more characters like that for my own universe.

So for the moment my goal is to create a new hero every day, from someplace other than North America, who has interesting powers.  My first one comes from Nepal and has the power to grow to a height of 40 or 50 feet.  He's half English, gets his powers from an ancient magical artifact, and has the head of a dog.  He's known as K2K9, or the Mountain Dog / Dog Mountain, or the Himalayan Howler.

I think a second part of the challenge might be to write a short scene / story involving each new character, but we'll see if I can manage that much.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2019 - Day One

I haven't posted anything to my writing blog in ages, so here's a quick recap:

In March 2018 I attempted to write a short story a day for Magical Girl March, and I mostly succeeded.  I continued writing into April to finish up my list of 31 stories, and I also completed Camp Nanowrimo for April which meant writing other Grandpa Anarchy stories.  However around this time I picked up the game Pokemon Go, and stopped writing or posting to my Grandpa Anarchy website.  I did not publish the last three magical girl stories, partly because I wanted to rewrite the big showdown story and I never did.

I've written very little since.  I tried to participate in Camp Nanowrimo for July and in regular Nanowrimo for November, but I accomplished nothing.  I continued to jot down story ideas and attempt to work on stories but got nowhere.  I worked on a Christmas ghost story that I'd begun in 2017, but I didn't get very far on it.  I began editing my volume 2 stories this spring and took a real mess of a story called Solar Sister and the Disco Trolls of Doom and tried to break it into two or three stories.  I wrote one new story out of this called Name Game that I didn't like very much, and I ultimately planned to write about four or five disco troll stories to replace the original one -- I imagine them as variations on a theme in the same way most of my Death Medal stories have been -- but I didn't get far on them.

(But I love the story titles:  Disco Inferno, Hot Stuff, Dancing Queen, and Get Down Tonight.)

I've placed a LOT of story ideas into my volume 11 folder (my current "working" stories folder).  I also created a volume 14 folder, "Grandpa Anarchy on Vacation", which was going to be my July 2018 Camp Nanowrimo project, consisting of stories in which Grandpa Anarchy is on vacation with two of his old friends and various former sidekicks take over as substitute Grandpa Anarchys in the meantime.  Even though I got nowhere on that project, the idea that Grandpa Anarchy has been on vacation over the last year that I haven't been writing is even more appealing to me now.

Anyway it's the first day of April 2019, first day of Camp Nanowrimo, and my goal is to simply complete some of the story ideas that I've had over the last year.  Today I'm attempting to tackle one of my more ambitious ideas:  a story in which the Literary Lemur uses a literary device known as Oulipo to craft his clues, and the conceit was that I would write one short confrontation scene five different times in five different styles, which is one possible Oulipo device.  This in itself is likely to be difficult, and to keep the story short even more difficult, but the fact that I'm employing a very verbose villain and also adding in a sidekick known as the Etymological Kid may make it impossible.  We'll see.

Other story ideas that I've created or worked on in 2019 and may complete this month:  Escape Goat, Virus, Punch 'Em All, To Punch A Hitler, I'm Not Saying It's Aliens, Die Glocke, Just Don't Care, When You're Dead, and Mission Briefing.