AROW80 Final Check-In for December 26, 2013

*with apologies to Europe, the band* “It’s the final check-in!!” *guitar riff!*

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Final Thoughts:

I came into AROW80 late in the game, having found out about this writing challenge from Chuck Wendig’s TERRIBLE MINDS blog, so I don’t have any real quarter-long goals to talk about, but I am looking forward to the next round and seeing how well I can do at a longer term writing challenge. I have learned a few things about myself as a writer in the short time I’ve been with this group, mainly that I seem to work better when I have people to report to about what I’m doing.  And that being told that my ideas are interesting is the best ego-boost ever. *lol* I’ve also learned that I can work on more than one project at a time without being completely derailed and ceasing all work for ever and ever on one or the other project.  This pleases me no end, since one of my fears as a writer is that I don’t have the attention span necessary to finish a project. Particularly long and involved projects. I’ve also noticed that I’m drawn to projects that require a lot of world building. I’m not sure if this is subconsciously a way to avoid working on the actual writing of the stories or an attempt to recreate a world as in-depth as some of the fanfic universe I’ve written in. I’ve always had a soft spot for meta-materials – books about story universes, about TV series, things like that.  Possibly, it’s a mix of both.

How I did on my goals this last time ‘round: I got the chance to sleep in today, which is great because for the next few days I will be back to a hectic schedule that is unkind to the sleeping in.  On the plus side, I do have a fridge full of food which will make the schedule considerably less hectic since it makes it easier to find something to eat.

The scene inventory I mentioned in my last Check-In did help in starting a rough draft of Chapter Nine based on old scene. Which is good, though I kind of hate a lot of what I’ve written for it and I’m wondering if maybe it would be better suited to earlier in the book. For the time being, I’m just bulling on through and getting the chapter out so I can move on to the next chapter.

Holidays have been good; I got a Barnes and Noble gift card from the girlfriend’s mom and I’m looking for suggestions on writing books if anybody has some good ones to suggest. I hope everybody had and will have a great holiday season. I wish you and your families all the best in the months and years to come.


Interim Plans:

  • Continue working on Defcon: Fade Out with the ultimate goal being Chapter Ten done by midnight on New Year’s Eve, if not before. Considering my work schedule this week, I’m a bit doubtful that this goal will be achieved, but I am at least taking a stab at it.
  • Work on creating pages for my WIPs. This will be the first time I’ve ever done this – particularly for my own original work — and if folks have suggestions about the kind of stuff that should be on those pages/things they want to see/things that should NEVER go on a WIP page, I would be ever so grateful.  I already know that The Semi-Quasi-Mostly Official Handbook to the Gem City Universe will go on the Gem City page and I have some ideas for the other pages as well.  The ‘verses I’m working on include:
    • Defcon:  a potentially five novel series set in a world where, in 1983, a nuclear war was accidentally sparked by a massive asteroid strike in the Kamchatka Peninsula in the former Soviet Union. The series takes place at various points in time after the nuclear war and follows a group of characters through the slow process of recovery. The idea was to write my own take on the cheesy post-apocalyptic men’s adventure series I read when I was a kid in the 1980s, only with slightly more realistic takes on things like radiation effects and cultural changes.  But also including some weird crazy science because a girl should be able to have a few genetically-engineered ape/human hybrid organisms in her post-nuclear future, right?
    • Butcher’s Bill: Another alternate history where when, in 1755, the physician Gerard van Swieten was sent by the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa to investigate claims of vampires in Moravia (part of the Czech Republic) instead of ultimately finding that vampires were nothing more than “ a vain fear, a superstitious credulity, a dark and eventful imagination, simplicity and ignorance among the people” he discovered that vampires were indeed a real and potentially serious problem. The novel itself takes place in America in the present day and follows the activities of the members of Tomescu Disposal Services, a vampire hunting firm, who work the third shift.  The vampires in this world are based more on the vampires of folklore rather than the fictional vampires like Dracula, Lestat and Edward Cullen.
    • Gem City: a world where more or less all of that ‘comic book stuff’ is real and where William Cartwright is the Shamus Who Knows No Shame.  William works as a private investigator, taking on the sorts of cases that other PIs won’t.  His reason for doing this is that his parents were costumed villains who were murdered by a vigilante superhero after their latest court case was thrown out on a legal technicality. The philosophy behind this story world is the idea that the rules need to apply to everybody and that being the good guy doesn’t mean you get to do whatever you want and that even bad people deserve the protection of the law. It’s also a chance for me to goof around with superhero tropes.
    • Kinstealer: This is the runt of the story-idea litter. About all I know about it is that it features a scruffy space pirate-type guy who helps fight Cthulu-like aliens and who annoys the other space pirates by flaunting one of the basic rules of their society. The world is based, loosely, on the space opera version of our solar system. In a way, it’s an alternate history wherein the point of departure is that this is a universe where the canals on Mars are real and there are swamps on Venus and interplanetary travel is commonplace enough for there to the space pirates. Inspirations include C.L. Moore’s “Northwest Smith” stories, the Starwolf novels by Edmond Hamilton, Heinlein’s juvenile novels, and, in particular, Alan E. Nourse’s Raiders from the Rings. Not sure how Lovecraft will fit in – this idea pretty much literally came to me in a dream and there were some kind of eldritch horror in the dream but the character was more interested in not being found guilty of violating the ethics of his band of space pirates than worrying about them. There’s probably something in that.

Miscellaneous Plans for the Interim:

  • Survive the next week at work, which will amount to eight days of work before my next weekend (next Thursday and Friday).  It’s not the work itself that’s so rough, but the combination of my and the girlfriend’s work schedules conspiring to make sleep a rare and highly prized commodity.
  • Start eating healthier/cooking at home more and getting in some exercise. Which would probably be easier if a bowl of Hershey’s Kisses wasn’t sitting next to me.
  • Go to bed. Night night!

Lessons From A Failure: 5 Tipes To Help You Succeed in Your ROW80 By Shauntelle Hamlett

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life

2013 hasn’t been a good writing year for me.

It started with me failing at the first writing challenge I set for myself:  30 Days of “One Question” interviews.

I accomplished 15.

The streak continued through two sad attempts at ROW80, an incomplete month of “bad poetry” and, last, only because it’s most recent, a half-finished pass at my own version of NANOWRIMO.  I even managed to fail at writing three longhand Morning Pages, a basic journaling challenge for even the most inexperienced writer.

Me and Zig, Cup Half Full Kinda People

So you might be wondering:  “What kind of advice can this woman offer me on succeeding at my ROW80 when she hasn’t even succeeded at her own?”

The answer lies in the words of a brilliant man—Zig Ziglar, the father of Self Help—who once said:

“If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.”

I’m here to…

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AROW80 Check-in for December 22, 2013

This check-in is going to be short because I got to bed waaay late yesterday and am exhausted this morning (I work overnights, so while it’s technically 0607 in the morning here (redundant, I know), it’s almost past time I went to bed if I want to be rested tomorrow).  Sooo, getting on with it!

Writing Goals:  no bullet list tonight, since I only really worked on Defcon: Fade Out,  But, on the plus side, I managed to finish Chapter Eight! Okay, so I was basically editing/adding to an old draft of Chapter Eight but I am calling this a win!

I also created a scene inventory for what I have written for Defcon: Fade Out.  Because I didn’t write the original drafts in any kind of real logical order, I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to type the book up in Scrivner according to the POV character of a particular scene.  So, now I have a bunch of print outs of scenes listed by character and I went through and wrote out the first line or so of each scene on a list so I can now go shopping through the scenes quickly to find ones to use to plug into the huge, gaping, massive, “Dear God, what was I thinking?!” holes in the story.  And, because I figured out that I don’t have a draft of Chapter Nine yet, I was able to do just that and create a very rough outline that I can work from.   When I wake up tomorrow (which is technically later today), I’m going to copy the selected scenes into a Word Document so I can edit them without having to flip between four different physical documents.

I also came up with some plot-type ideas for Butcher’s Bill which I put in my notebook for later re-visiting.

Current Goals: Sleep the sleep of the just and hopefully not toss and turn for 2 hours like I did last night because my brain wouldn’t shut up. Also, to write/create Chapter Nine of Defcon: Fade Out with an ultimate goal of maybe having it and Chapter Ten done by December 31st.  So that way I can do Chapters 11-20 in 2014 and feel all smug and symmetrical. Which is itself not symmetrical…..okay, bed time it is!

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and huge thanks to all of you for your encouragement. Finding this community has been a great experience and I’m very happy to know you all.

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A gift of some code

Here is a bit of code for people who want to be able to share spoilers or triggery topics/words in a way that will let folks who want to avoid such things avoid them. I did not create this code. I found it on a Dreamwidth blog back a few years ago. The original blog post is located here:

If you do use the code, please provide a link back to amadi, giving her credit as the source.

Here’s an example of what it looks like:

Summary/Warning: A story about the movie Titanic that takes place after the end of the movie. Summary contains spoilers, highlight to read. (skip) Contains a boat striking an iceberg, death, and the drowning death of some dude. Also, in Citizen Kane? Rosebud is a sled! Vader is Luke’s father! The dinosaurs were killed by a comet!

AROW80 Check-in for December 18, 2013

First things first, I wanted to share this post I found over at Tumblr for a couple reasons.  For the linkphobic, it’s a scan of a couple comic book pages that depict a group of normal human beings confronting a superpowered baddie.  The group is led by a little old lady, who throws a brick at the baddie and yells “No pasaran!” This is awesome enough in and of itself, because all too often in superhero stories we don’t see the bystanders doing anything but acting as victims and scenery in the stories and in this scene, we see the everyday people standing up to a baddie.  It’s a nice reminder that while a story may focus on the Avengers or Batman or Superman, there are other people who exist in that story universe who are still significant in their own right.

The other awesome thing is that someone, not (to the best of my knowledge) anyone connected to the writing of the comic said “This lady needs a name” and proceeded to not only create a name for the character but also an entire backstory created around the name.  An awesome backstory that takes this background character who little more an extra with a few speaking lines, into a fully developed and realized character.

It’s also an excellent example of how to create a character based off of a few, basic pieces of demographic information and a willingness to stretch one’s imagination and add a bit of flavor to a story.

Writing Goals:

  • Defcon: Fade Out: As I mentioned in another post, Chapter Seven is DONE!  Haven’t started writing/editing Chapter Eight yet, but that is still in the pipeline
  • Gem City: Spent more time doing background worldbuilding type stuff, including figuring out how power levels work — mainly to try and keep things within the realm of the realistic.  Using a list of fictional powers from Wikipedia, I divided them into three very rough categories (physical, mental and metaphysical) and then sorted powers into the different groups.  Metaphysical is the holding area for any and all powers that are practically magic/completely unrealistic.  These are very, very rare in the Gem City ‘verse. In fact, the ratio goes 75% of all powers are physical (enhanced strength, being able to rapidly heal ala Wolverine, etc), 20% mental (telepathy, telekinesis, etc) and 5% metaphysical (able to stretch like rubber, control ice or fire with your mind, teleport, etc).
    • ALSO! I figured out how Will (the Reverse Batman) lost his parents and how their death motivated him. It clicked while I was reading The Law of Superheroes. 
  • I’m still listening to Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  If you’re interested in reading and/or listening to it, do NOT do so while you are hungry.  You will die of starvation.  The only book that’s worse to read when you’re hungry, is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, wherein we learn that 19th century farmers ate an entire Vegas casino buffet for every meal.
  • Started reading Of Mice and Men and while the kid is done reading it for school I think I should be a good girl and read it all myself since it’s a classic and I’ve never read it. (BTW, the kid is taking her exams this week so if y’all could send a few good vibes her way, that would be appreciated!)

Current Goals:

  • Defcon: Fade Out:  Finish Chapter Eight; print out drafts of other chapters so that the work can progress.
  • Gem City: Fine tune work on powers, type up draft of short story, create character backgrounds for the main characters I have so far. Continue researching — mainly The Law of Superheroes and some other books that I have handy, some mine, some library books.
  • Kinstealer: Listening to Dan Carlin’s podcast, Hardcore History as background research. Not sure where it’ll eventually end up, but there’s a vibe going on.
  • Wrap Christmas Presents and bake brownies for the girlfriend to take to work. Also help the kid study for her midterms.

And, for fun of it, here’s a poll!

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Gone But Not Forgotten, 2013 Edition

A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists

21+ Comic-Related Professionals and Things We Said Goodbye to in 2013

carmine-infantino1. Carmine Infantino (b. 1925)
In the words of Wikipedia: “Carmine Michael Infantino was an American comic book artist and editor who was a major force in the Silver Age of Comic Books.” This is somewhat akin to saying Mount Everest is a slightly noticeable speed bump between Tibet and Nepal. Infantino was there at the beginning, providing the pencils for that 1956 issue of Showcase that would re-introduce the Flash to readers and jump-start DC’s second wave of superheroes (and Marvel’s, and every other company that got on the bandwagon). Before that landmark issue, he freelanced for all the major comic companies (and plenty of smaller ones) during the 1940s, co-creating the Black Canary for an issue of DC’s Flash Comics; after that issue, he went on to design the “New Look” Batman in the 1960s, got…

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Chapter Seven is Done!

(To the tune of “Pregnant Women are Smug” and with apologies to Garfunkel and Oats — video is not entirely safe for work due to some bad language):

Chapter Seven is Done!

It’s finally finished

I can’t believe it!

I kept putting it off

Because I’m lazy

and was doing other stuff

But I got it done tonight

And it didn’t take long,

And it’s pretty good.

For a rough draft

I mean really rough draft

There’s some stuff I should fix

And some things that don’t make sense yet

Ok, there’s a lot to fix

But there’s time to do that

when I’m typing it up

After this draft is finished

Because if I go back now

It’ll never get done.

So, Chapter seven is done!

It’s finally done!

It’s really done!

Now for Chapter Eight…



Chapter Eight has begun..

Time to play Candy Crush…

Links! So Many Links!

Links from

10 Genres that Superheroes Have Swallowed Up

10 Essential Elements of a Great Escapist Hero

What superpower would you want to abuse for personal enjoyment?

The 10 Totally Awesome Rules of Evolution in Science Fiction

7 Bad Storytelling Habits That We All Learned from Superhero Comics

We who spoke LOLcat now speak Doge — not superhero related, but much relevant

Why Americans Became Obsessed with Ninjas

Other Links:

Welcome to the Real World By Iain Jackson — Part One: Location, Location, Location, and the High Cost of Heroes (and Villains) and Part Two: Crime and Punishment, Law and Disorder

Superhero Law

AROW80 Check-In for December 15, 2013

Hooboy,I am beat like a rented mule! Mainly because it’s 548 am my time and I just got home from work and I am tiiiired. *whines and flops* But, here’s a quick check-in since tomorrow is going to be a bit hectic.

  • Writing Goals:
    • Defcon: Fade Out: I added a bit more to Chapter Seven; it’s not done yet but should be if I put some effort into it.  The good news is that Chapter Eight is more or less written and just needs to be edited into the current worldview thingy of the book (I mentioned I’m writing this at nearly 6am after work, right? My brain, she is owwie).
      • I came up with a slight alteration of the plot, regarding the motivations/reasons for why some things are going on based off of a chapter in Freakonomics (was listening to the audiobook in the car this week). So, color me happy!
  • Gem City:  No progress on the typing up or editing of any stories, but I did a bit more meta work on power levels, looked up the entymology of the word ‘mook’ and learned some interesting things, wrote a scene snippet that I’m pretty proud of.
    • Speaking of audio books, I’m currently listening to the unabridged version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential as read by the man himself. For some reason, his stories of learning the restaurant business is resonating with me as the voice of a lifelong henchman. It seems to be a combination of Bourdain’s voice and the bad boy, shadowy insular vibe that comes from his stories.  Or maybe it has something to do with this quote about the book from Wikipedia:
    • The commercial kitchen is described as an intense, unpleasant and sometimes hazardous place of work staffed by what he describes as misfits. Bourdain believes it’s no place for hobbyists and all those entering this industry will run away screaming if they lack a masochistic, irrational dedication to cooking.

        • Yeah, that sounds a lot like a henchman’s work environment to me, all right.
  • Other Stuff: 
    • Finally started reading Of Mice and Men — I was surprised to find out it was such a teeny book.
    • Still reading comics but I think I might have to switch to another library because I’ve kind of pumped the one I’m going to dry.  I’m thinking the other branch of this library will have some titles that this one doesn’t have.  Also, there’s the other library system in the city that I need to plumb.
    • Kitchen got cleaned! Because I made a deal with the girlfriend that if she cleaned it, I would go out and get groceries (we have a very, very small kitchen so this was entirely equitable).
  • Current Goals: Pretty much the same as they were on the 11th, except minus the kitchen cleaning and add in wrap presents.

Hope everybody is having a good week; y’all take care.

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group

All writers face problems with insecurity; it’s not easy to spend hours, days, months or years creating something to send out into the world. When you’re in the middle of a project, when you’ve written yourself into a corner, it’s easy to get discouraged and say “Nope, I suck” and give up.  

Having other writers to talk to is a huge help.  Unfortunately, finding a writing group can be difficult.  Fortunately, these days we have the Internet! And on the Internet we have support groups like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. 

And IWSG has a new website, which they’d like to make people aware of — and more importantly, they’d like to let people know about the twin benefits available at the ISWG site:

1 – It’s a database of information, focusing on major links, other databases, and resources for writers. Topics include writing tips; publishers, agents, and queries; self-publishing; marketing; contests; publications; and services. Each page is a wealth of information, leading to some of the top sites for authors, and we also post information to help writers every Monday. 

2 – The IWSG itself – the first Wednesday of every month is the official posting day for those with blogs. Members post their insecurities, frustrations, and concerns, and others stop by to offer encouragement and advice. The kindness and words of wisdom have kept writers going when they were ready to quit. Many have discovered solutions to their problems. Friendships have been forged and critique partners established. 


The IWSG is also running a contest to help them promote their new website. They’re offering a couple great prize packages. You can read more about it by clicking the above link.

AROW80 Check-in for December 11, 2013

Be Warned: This blog post includes a link to! Click on it at your own risk!

Also, Linkytools link up top since this is a lonnnng post:
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 Writing Goals:

 Defcon: Fade Out


 Okay, okay, so I didn’t add a lot more to it, but I added a couple pages and wrapped it up to my satisfaction.  This is mainly a big deal because I’d kind of stalled out on writing Defcon for about a week or so while I focused on other things so I was happy that I got back to it and bulled through Chapter Six and started Chapter Seven.

 Gem City:

 Conversely, I have not typed up the draft of the first Gem City story. I did spend a couple nights at work figuring out some things about how people can get powers in the Gem City ‘verse.  The various methods boil down to a line from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – just substitute ‘greatness’ for ‘powers/abilities.’ (Though, honesty requires me to admit that I didn’t know the line was from Shakespeare until I googled it to make sure I had the phrasing right.)

 I also came up with a scale of power/ability levels from most to least.  The reasoning for doing this is mainly to allow me to rate heroes/villains and set limits on powers and figure how characters will compare to each other.

 I really like doing this sort of thing; I’ve got a thing for creating meta things like this, that are both part of the world building and also a part of the world.  For my Butcher’s Bill universe, I created categories for vampire hunting licenses; for Defcon, I divided up the US into various ecological recovery zones and now, I have power charts and the expanded Twelfth Night list of where powers come from.  World building is probably easily my most favorite part of writing.

 I did get a portfolio for my miscellaneous projects – it’s blue and clear and I’ve put my hard copy Gem City stuff in it – mostly a few hand written things, plus some printouts of research materials, including the list of powers/abilities from Wikipedia, which I use for reference.

 Other Stuff:   Oh my god, did I ever read a lot of comics this week…

I finished the Incorruptible series and up through book 6 of Irredeemable. Both series are a good look at what happens when people try to break out of the boxes society has been put in.

Because of the Necessary Evil documentary I watched, I went looking for any Flash graphic novels that my main library might have, so I could read about Flash’s Rogues – and now I’m a fan of the Rogues. As TVTropes would say, they are Punch Clock Villains who do what they do because they want to make some money.  They don’t want to take over the world, they don’t want to kill superheroes, they just want to get paid. This aspect of the characters was mentioned in the documentary as well, and was the reason I went looking for Flash books to begin with.

It’s also part of what I like so much about the Rogues, especially Captain Cold – whose real name is Leonard Snart, which just…I love that name. I just love it because it is just such a sucky name.  And because, unlike some a lot of DC villains, it has nothing whatsoever to do with his abilities. It’s not a pun, it’s not symbolic, it’s just “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Leonard Snart who grew up to wear a blue Eskimo costume and rob banks with a freeze ray and a gang of other guys with ray-guns and goofy outfits.”

Captain Cold, according to Wikipedia, is driven by three things: money, women, and the desire to beat Barry Allen [aka, The Flash – well, a Flash; they come in six-packs now…].  This makes him a pretty simplistic character, but that simplicity also makes him a lot easier to relate to than some villains. Heck, that some heroes.  There’s a scene in one of the books I checked out where Cold is sitting in a bar, out of uniform and is complaining about the fact that because of some shenanigans that led to him having ice and cold based powers rather than having to rely on his guns, he can no longer drink beers because they freeze up on him.  It’s just a nice bit of humanizing to the character and it’s one of the things I like about the greying of the morality in modern comics.  It not only gives the character some depth, it also gives depth to the universe the characters live in.

Speaking of depth…

I also picked up a copy of DC Universe. Legacies which tells the story of the DC Universe from its historical origins in the 1930s up through the modern day.  The device they use is having a guy who is a former Metropolitan police department officer who came from a rough neighborhood in Metropolis and who saw the beginnings of the costumed heroes and became a fan who followed them the way someone from our universe might follow sports heroes or actors.  He manages to give us a man on the street view of various crucial events from the DC Universe timeline and, along the way, serves as a pretty good introduction to the history of costumed heroes.

Legacies also manages to be a good story in and of itself; it uses the narrative device of this guy is telling us his life story and it doesn’t focus just on the heroes – we see how the character himself has grown and developed and changed over time.   It reminds me a lot of a series that Marvel did called Marvels and written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Alex Ross .  It also reminds me a lot of Busiek and Ross’s Astro City books which uses an original superhero/villain universe to tell stories about different characters, including a lot of ‘everyday citizen in superhero universe’ stories.  Only reason I’m not checking any of these out from the library is because I’ve already read most of the Astro City graphic novels my libraries have.  But they are goo-oood books.

Current Goals:

  • Finish Chapter Seven of Defcon: Fade Out: and (hopefully) get back into the chapter-a-week swing of things.  My overall goal for this book is to have the first complete draft finished by the end of February so I can start typing it up in March/April. And then I get to let people read it and see what they think.  So, sometime in April/May I’ll be beginning work on a protective blanket fort in which to hide.
  • Type up Gem City short story and write bios of main characters. Also, work on draft of second Gem City story which may be from Frankie’s POV.
  • Read More Comics: Found out today (well, Tuesday) that there are three more graphic novels in the Irredeemable world that I haven’t read (which is kind of annoying, since Incorruptible stopped at 7 graphic novels but, yeah) so I need to get those from the library.
  • Clean my kitchen: ‘nuff said.

Miscellaneous Stuff:

I just read on Wikipedia that Captain Cold is a Cubs fan.  That just makes me love him all the more. (I originally grew up in Northwestern Indiana, about 2 hours from Chicago so the Cubs were the closest baseball team that I had any reason to care about.)

Other favorite DC Villains include Solomon Grundy (a zombie before zombies were cool!), Gorilla Grodd (not just a super-intelligent gorilla, but an EVIL super-intelligent gorilla from a society of super-intelligent gorillas) and Bizarro (Oppoisite Day Superman!)

I also like Marvel comics, I’m just currently on a DC kick at the moment. It helps that DC seems to have easier starting off points than Marvel. Either that or the library I’ve been going to has more DC-related books).


A Helping Hand by Dawn Montgomery

Kathy’s Note: Reblogging this so I have a link I can refer back to when I am in the blues. Especially this line: You’re not a failure. You’re human.

Repeating: You’re not a failure. You’re human.

The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have A Life

“Help me” and “I don’t understand” are two of the hardest phrases to say when you feel really passionate about your book and writing career. We have this strange idea that saying these words to other writers will diminish how they see us.

“I’m discouraged” and “I don’t think I can do this” are two others that drag you into the depths of isolation. You shut yourself down and wonder why you decided to do it in the first place.

I wish I understood why we feel the need to shut ourselves away from others, but everyone does it.

Everyone. Does. It.

I’ve been writing for almost a decade now and I can’t tell you how many times I struggled and stared at my computer screen with despair. That inner editor whispered so many times how much of a failure I was. A fraud. Faking my way through the first…

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AROW80 Check-in for December 8, 2013

I got some of Chapter 6 of Defcon: Fade Out written last night! There was a tiny piece that I was writing to insert into an earlier part of the chapter and I finally go the blasted thing done! Now to finish the rest of the chapter.  Though, I am tempted to end the chapter where it is and move on to Chapter 7 — but part of me thinks that’s cheating a bit and there’s some exposition that needs to be put in at this point, so I probably won’t.

I also got a draft of sorts of what will be the first Gem City short story done. Just need to type it up and flesh it out more.

Still need to finish off Human Target and get a copy of Of Mice and Men.  And read more comics. After watching Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics, I put a couple-three Flash graphic novels on hold.  One of the comics people being interviewed talked about how Flash’s Rogue’s Gallery are really just a bunch of blue-collar guys who go out, commit their crimes and then head out to a bar for a beer after ‘work’ and so, I wanted to check that out.

Currently I’m listening to some of Jeffery DeRego’s Union Dues stories that I downloaded from the EscapePod website. EscapePod is a science fiction podcast and has two sister podcasts, PodCastle for fantasy stories and PsuedoPod for horror.  All three podcasts have a good variety of stories, in terms of subject matter and length. And they’re all available for free.

Also, here’s some links:

Legal — The Legal Geeks are two attorneys blogging about all things Geek from a lawyer’s point of view. We’ll cover everything from Dune to Battlestar Galactica to the Rule Against Perpetuities.

Law and the Multiverse If there’s one thing comic book nerds like doing it’s over-thinking the smallest details.  Here we turn our attention to the hypothetical legal ramifications of comic book tropes, characters, and powers.  Just a few examples: Are mutants a protected class?  Who foots the bill when a hero damages property while fighting a villain?  What happens legally when a character comes back from the dead?  You’ll find the answers to all of these questions and more right here!   These folks also published a book called The Law of Superheroes, which I bought back in the day because, dude, overthinking things is my jam!

A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists — Rather than subject the universe to yet another blog from a thirtysomething with too many opinions, I’m using this space to pay homage to those silly little comic book stories that have prolonged my adolescence (and strained the patience of my oh so understanding wife) for many more years than I’d care to admit.  I found this blog while doing a search for ‘comic book cliches’; the author has a wonderful 10-part series about them that begins with Comic Clichés, Part I: Origins and Alter Egos.

Goals for this week:

  • Finish Chapter Six/Start Chapter Seven: Toward this end, I’m going to the library on Tuesday to do some writing while the Girlfriend is at work. I can get about 4 hours of dedicated no-distraction time.
  • Type up first Gem City story: Do revisions/expansions as I go and get a decent draft.
  • Get a plastic document portfolio: to use as storage for research/printouts of non-Defcon ‘verse stories. I have one for Defcon, with pockets dedicated to the POV of different characters. I’d like one for the rest of my stuff too, to help keep myself organized.
  • Remember to post the Linkytools link the first time around on my next check-in post!  Speaking of, here it is:

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I don’t wanna go to work!

Which pretty much means this is a day ending in ‘y’ in which I am scheduled to work.  The snow is still on the ground, but the roads are passable, which is good because I don’t want to get stir crazy.

Just wanted to leave a quick note that I’m really enjoying checking the stats and seeing where people who post/visit this blog come from. Every time a new country pops up, I make a gleeful report to the girlfriend about it.  For someone who’s never been out of the contiguous United States, it’s exciting to me to be able to interact with people from around the world. So, thank you!

Snow Days….

Snow days are a lot less fun as an adult. At least, when you’re an adult who is home alone while her girlfriend is at work.  I’m in one of those contrarian moods that says, “I want to go out and do stuff — despite the fact I’m staying home because I didn’t want to drive into work because it is a white fluffy hell outside.”

(The reason the GF is at work and I am at home is because her work is literally a two minute drive from our house so I was able to drop her off without having to go very far.  And she was nice enough to tell me that I should stay home because well, see the ‘white fluffy hell’ comment.)

It doesn’t help that the graphic novel I was reading is currently stuck in the dang car because I am too lazy to go out and get it.  Also, it is too cold. And there’s snow. Lots of snow. Multiple inches of it! Auugh!   Then again, being home alone might not be the best time to be reading the third Hack/Slash omnibus about the famous slasher slayer Cassie Hack and her buddy Vlad.

I read the 2-4th graphic novels in the Irredeemable/Incorruptible series yesterday at work. The library is, of course, closed today so I cannot get my fix for tonight but hopefully tomorrow I can pick up the rest of both series.  I read the books in alternating order — #1 of Irredeemable followed by #1 of Incorruptible and then #2 of Irredeemable and so forth.

On the plus side, I do still have episodes of Human Target to watch and I stocked up on food last night on the way home from work, just in case the both of us were stuck here tonight.

Otherwise, I’m being lazy tonight, noodling some back-story stuff for Gem City and watching a documentary about DC comics villains (Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics).   They’re talking about Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery of villains at the moment and how characters like Bane and the Riddler came to Gotham City to challenge Batman, to see if he was something that could stand up to them and give them something interesting to do.  Which makes me wonder if a lot of villains aren’t like evil versions of Phineas and Ferb, looking for something to do to keep them occupied during summer vacation.

The other point the documentary has brought up is the idea that the villains are the ones who DO things while the heroes are the ones who react to the things that the villains do. You don’t just see this in villain/hero dichotomies either; in comedy there’s the concept of the Straight Man — i.e. the guy/gal/robotic shrimp who sets up the joke for the Funny Man — think Bud Abbot of Abbot and Costello or Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld.  In the cartoons of my childhood, you had leader characters like Optimus Prime or Duke of GI Joe who were essentially the Straight Man of their team — they existed to be the calm moral center of the team and to allow everybody else to run around and be weird and/or quirky.

Documentary just talked about the idea that ‘everyone is the hero in their own story’ — the idea that, if we looked at the story from the villain’s point of view, they would be the hero and the hero would be the villain.  I can remember being about 12 or 13 and watching the original A-Team on tv and realizing, to my utter amazement, that the guys who we were being shown were the heroes of the piece were really a pack of criminals running from a legitimate agent of the law.   It didn’t stop me from rooting for the A-Team (I had such a crush on Murdock…), but it did add a layer of grey to what was essentially a live action comic book.

Ooog…there are more thinky thoughts coming to me, but I am too tired in the brain to be coherent about them. I think I need to chew on them a bit.

AROW80 Check-in for 12/4/2013 + Gem City snippets!

Because this post is so long, I’m putting the AROW80 linky tools link up here so folks can check in on other folks:

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I got sidetracked from Defcon: Fade Out by Gem City stuff, plus a massive sinus headache on Monday that just kicked my butt.  So, I did what any red-blooded true believer would do and read comic books instead of writing anything Monday night.  Luckily, my local library has a ginormous selection of comics so I was able to go in and grab a stack to take to work. I found a couple great series Irredeemable and Incorruptible that are both about what happens when a person tries to change. Irredeemable is about what happens when the world’s greatest superhero, in this case, the Plutonian, chucks it all in and becomes the world’s greatest supervillain.  Not in the muwahahaha sense but in the “I have the power of a god and you people are all a bunch of ungrateful monkeys and the micro-aggressions and the annoyances and the ingratitude I’m getting from you have just become too much to take so, y’know what? Have a little fire, scarecrow” sense.  As someone who works in customer service, while I don’t exactly condone the wholesale slaughter that the Plutonian (the hero-turned-villain) engages in but there are days that I can understand the impulse.  Personally, the first person I’d go after would be whoever said “the customer is always right” because…yeah…no they’re not.

Incorruptible, on the other hand, follows the opposite course: what if the world’s greatest supervillain tried to go straight?  Incorruptible takes place in the same universe as Irredeemable and the supervillain, Max Damage, has his change of heart after seeing the Plutonian wipe out a city in front of him.  Max escapes being killed and disappears for about a month. When he resurfaces, he turns his old gang in to the cops — except for his sidekick/girlfriend who escapes the police sting Max set up — and proceeds to divest himself of all of his tainted belongings. Including setting fire to 4.5 million dollars of what he calls ‘blood money.’  Max also dumps — or at least tries to cool things off — with his girlfriend Jailbait (she’s sixteen; Max is…considerably older).

I greatly enjoyed these series but I would caution that they are not for everybody. They’re dark, especially Irredeemable and definitely not for younger readers. If they were movies, I’d put them at an R rating — though oddly enough, I’d rate Incorruptible slightly lower than Irredeemable because there’s less violence/adult situations in it.

Tuesday was more or less a bust because we went Xmas shopping and managed to get most of it done. So, yay on that!

Today, we got a late start but I did manage to write up the Semi-Quasi-Mostly Official Handbook to the Gem City Universe.  I’m still working on a couple short stories set in the Gem City ‘verse, neither one of which are close to being finished, but here’s a couple snippets:

Snippet One: 

Who watches the watchmen? I do. I get fifty bucks a day, plus expenses – reasonable or otherwise.  I realize this doesn’t sound like much, especially in today’s economy, but then I don’t do this for the money.  I do this as a labor of love and as a public service.  And because repossessing a hovercar is quite possibly the most fun a guy can have while keeping his pants on.  My reward is the sense of satisfaction that I get from the knowledge of a job well done – and the look on SuperSchmuck’s face in the rearview as I’m flying off in his hovercar.  No better feeling, I’m telling you.

Snippet Two: Couldn’t get the formatting to work the way I wanted, so here it is:

“You are so lucky your parents are dead, Will.” Kylie flopped down on my couch and let out a huge, long-suffering sigh as she flipped the cap off her beer with her thumb. “I mean, seriously, so lucky.”

“Yeah, not so sure I’d go with ‘lucky’ so much as ‘psychologically scarred,’” I said, pulling out my own beer from the fridge. “But, yeah, we can agree to disagree on that, huh?”

I do not argue with Kylie often, for two reasons: first, it’s pointless since she cannot and will not be swayed from a course of action she considers correct and second, she can punch through the engine block of a car.

“Oh, come on! You were like, eight when they died. It’s been over twenty years; you are over it,” Kylie said, waving a dismissive hand at me, shooing away my years of trauma as if they were insignificant. “You have no idea how frustrating living parents can be.”

Admittedly, she did have something of a point – I miss my folks, I miss them terribly but yeah, I don’t exactly feel the need to visit the place where they were shot down every year and leave a rose in remembrance of them. And, on the other hand, I never have to worry about them telling embarrassing stories to girlfriends or pestering me about grandchildren.

Still, it does not pay to let Kylie think you are a pushover. I shrugged and popped the cap off of my beer. “Suppose not,” I said. “I mean, there your dad is, going around killing people right at the height of the party season. Howler’s arrest must be putting a real damper on your social calendar, huh?”

Kylie sat up, her lips pulling back to show her fangs – which are ceramic fakes she had cemented on and not the result of her briefly ‘devolving’ to a more feral form like she tells the papers but they are still sharp and scary as hell. “Pop-Pop did not kill anybody! He wouldn’t!!” Her nostrils flared, then she must’ve caught the skeptical look in my eye. “Okay, okay, so he has killed people before and he would totally kill somebody – but he didn’t murder Titan.”

“I’m sure that’ll hold up in court.” I chugged from my beer. Say what you will about the Voivode Dire’s oppressive and iron-fisted rule of Longeria, but his people know how to brew a fine, quality beer. The threat of death for failure probably helps. “Your honor, ‘Pop-Pop’ would kill and has killed, but not this time!”

“Shut up!” Kylie flopped back on the couch, crossing her arms over her chest and glowering at me. “It’s just not possible that Pop-Pop murdered Titan! They’re blaming him because of who he is and because that lets them close the case that much faster! He’s being framed, Will!”

“And you know this because…” I motioned with my bottle, trying to nudge her toward the point. Kylie, for all her bubble-headed bimbo party-girl posturing is not stupid. Nor is she naïve enough to pretend her dads, even her beloved Pop-Pop, aren’t capable of killing in all its hot, cold and warm-blooded forms.

“Two ‘becauses,’ you jerk.” Kylie held up a finger – and not the middle one, which gave me an idea of just how serious she really was. “One: Pop-Pop was warm for Titan’s form. I know the papers are always speculating that he wants Prodigy and that’s why he’s always giving Titan a hard time but it’s not true.”

“Ok, but your dad has repeatedly tried to remove Smilidon’s head in public and they were all but married,” I reminded her.

“Daddy can heal from that,” Kylie said. “And Pop-Pop knows it. Titan is not as durable as Daddy is. Pop-Pop wouldn’t want to hurt him. It’s kind of sweet, really.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. “Okay, what’s the second reason?”

“The second reason is that you’ve got to remember who we’re talking about here. I mean, yeah, Pop-Pop is a lot more level-headed than Daddy is, but that’s really not saying much. They taught me a lot of things but anger management and impulse control were not among them.”

“True, true,” I said. “I remember sophomore year. But what exactly does that prove?”

Kylie sighed and threw up her hands. “God! Will, think about it! If my Pop-Pop had killed Titan, then he would have had to have been in a rage to do it and if he’d been in a rage where he was mad enough to kill a guy he was schoolgirl crushing on, then they’d still be squeegeeing whatever was left of Titan off the walls of the Crusader’s Mansion.”

# # # # #

As for other goals for this week:

  • Finish Chapter Six of Defcon: Fade Out
  • Finish first Gem City short story — the “serving divorce papers on the Thing’ story.
  • Work on more of the ‘Murder of Titan’ story showcased above. 
  • Read more of Irredeemable and Incorruptible — checked out books 2-5 of Irredeemable out of the library today;
  • Watch first season of Human Target (2010 series) — checked out from the library today, watching the pilot episode right now.  Guerrero, squee!  Also, Chi McBride is just awesome regardless of what he’s in.
  • Read more comics. Thankfully, I have library cards for both the city libraries near me. Mwahahahaha.
  • Get a copy of Of Mice and Men, since I promised the girlfriend’s niece that I would read it along with her.  She’s having to read it for school and I feel kinda bad that I’ve never read it.

The Semi-Quasi-Mostly Official Handbook to the Gem City Universe

April 12, 2018 — As is the case with all superhero universes, there’s been some retconning going on with the Gem City Universe. Some/most of the information below is now out of date and/or subject to change as I revise this post. Watch this space for updates!

# # # # #

This is going to be the master post for information on the people, places and things fo the Gem City universe.  At least until it eventually becomes too big and unwieldy and needs to be chopped up into other posts but even then, this will likely still be the place where all the links are kept in a semblance of order.

12/4/2013:  For the inaugural post, we have a 10 point list to get us started:

11/5/2014: Updates to Snob Hill and added the 247th Precinct.

  • Gem City: Not-exactly Chicago with superheroes, subterranean super-geniuses, transgenic humans and trilobite on a stick. City of Capes!  City on a large, inland lake.  Population of several million.  Neighborhoods include:
    • Snob Hill: wealthy and exclusive suburb located om the northwestern portion of the city near the lake shore. Part of the area known as the Gold Coast.
    • Mook Town: poor area near the industrial section of the town, full of slums, abandoned warehouses and gang headquarters. Ideal recruiting zone for supervillains looking for mooks, henchmen and palookas. Also, conversely, an area where many superheroes and sidekicks have originated from.
    • Timson Heights: a less drastically poor neighborhood where the folks are at least glad that they don’t live in Mook Town.  The city’s port serves as an unofficial neutral zone between these two neighborhoods.
    • 247th Precinct: aka the 24-7 Precinct and The Madhouse. It is unofficially the official Enhanced/Augmented Crimes and relations center not only for Gem City itself but also for much of the surrounding region.  If someone with powers, abilities or augmentations commits a crime, chances are the highly trained (and often highly eccentric) officers of the 24-7 will be brought in to help deal with the situation.
  • Will O. Cartwright: driven to PI work because parents killed by costumed crime fighter during a bank robbery — that they were committing… Currently the owner/lead investigator for Q.C. Investigations.  Son of 1960s supervillains, the Draft Dodger and Flower Child. Funds his work with the money gained from suing their killer, the vigilante known as The Vindicator for their wrongful deaths.  Tells people his name is William Oscar Cartwright but was originally named Willow Tree Cartwright; considers this easily one of the worst crimes his parents ever committed.
  •  Q. C. Investigations: Who Watches The Watchmen? We do. And we serve them with divorce papers and repo their jetcar for fun and profit.  Company Will founded with the proceeds from his successful civil suit against Norman Fort, The Vindicator
  •  Augustus Horridge: Allegedly former criminal turned allegedly reformed accountant. Green skin, descended from a subterranean race of beings known as Deros (see also: Richard Shaver @ RationalWiki). Sadistic and malicious with all the warmth and human feeling of a band saw.  But a very good accountant.  Stands 3’6” tall.  Green-grey skin, solid black eyes, shark-like pointed teeth.
  • Franklin “Frankie” Rourke: Third generation thug from Gem City’s Mook Town who now works for Will. Works as a process server/investigator for Q.C. Investigations.  Has mutant powers of healing and regeneration.
  •  Kylie Arlen-Hollow: Adopted daughter of supervillain Smilidon and anti-hero Howler. Smart-ass party girl and part-time villain. Friend of Will’s since he was in college.
  • Smilidon: Stephen Arlen was a paleontologist who specialized in the megafauna of the Western Hemisphere, with an especial interest in the ancient big cats colloquially known as sabretooth tigers. His interests stemmed, in part, from his shapeshifting powers.  Smilidon turned to a life of crime to help fund his research but soon shifted almost exclusively to criminal acts after finding himself well-suited to the lifestyle. He maintained an off-again/on-again relationship with the anti-hero Howler and the pair adopted a daughter together.
  •  Howler: Not much is known about the enigmatic anti-hero known as Howler. He was born, allegedly, in the 1890s in Honduras, near the Mayan ruins at Copán.  His father was an archaeologist from Harvard University and his mother a local woman of Mayan descent.  Howler’s childhood was, by all reports, happy and uneventful until he reached early puberty.  During this time, his mutant powers came to the forefront and, after a tragic fight, he was forced to escape into the jungles near his home.  Another story holds that he is the incarnation of one of the howler monkey brothers found in Mayan myths. Still another story has it that he is not a mutated human but is, instead, a mutated howler monkey.  Regardless of his origin, Howler is a well-known figure among the heroes of Gem City. He is known for being a gruff loner – who nonetheless has been a member of several hero teams, most currently the Third Coast Crusaders.  His off-again/on-again relationship with Smilidon as well as his flirtations with the heroine Arjean Lesley, formerly known as Prodigy Lass, currently known as the Prodigy, as well as his rivalry with fellow Crusader, Titan for her affections, keep him on the front page of the tabloids.
  •  Third Coast Crusaders: The largest superhero team based out of Gem City. Their headquarters, the Crusaders Campus, located in the ritzy suburban neighborhood known locally as Snob Hill is a popular tourist attraction.  It also houses their training academy, the Dr. Bartholomew Newiss College of Hypergenical Excellence, a world-class private institution of learning aimed at aiding in the development of new generations of heroes and/or metahumans.
  •  The Elementals: A group of science heroes/adventurer made up of a group of college chums who suffered a terrible super science related accident.  As y’do:
    • Bernard Redding, aka the Dapper Don: air and gas-based powers; can control the density of his own body, fly, and transmute into various gaseous elements
    • Able Seaver, aka the Noumenon: rock-like outer structure; has increased strength, increased invulnerability. Still a brilliant mind in his own right.
    • Lily Gale, aka Crystalline:  Former cheerleader for the Gem City College football team (the Whim-Whams). Has water-based powers and can manipulate water in all its forms and states of matter.
    • Ian Gale, aka Backdraft: Former mascot for the Gem City College football team, Wacky Willie Whim-Wham, he’s much less embarrassed to be known these days as Backdraft. Able to control fire and heat and can generate fire.

AROW80 Check-in for December 1, 2013

First things first, did not win Nanowrimo this year.  I got close-ish; last I counted I was at over 33,000 words so I’m happy about that.  I could have worked harder than I did, but since I’m focusing more on writing a complete draft than getting words on paper, I’m kind of glad I didn’t try to bull through to 50K.

My plan is to try and finish at least a chapter a week until I have all of Defcon: Fade Out finished. I’m planning on at least 20 chapters and I’m currently on chapter six, so hopefully by the end of January I’ll have a draft finished (a couple chapters are more or less fully written and need to be integrated into the manuscript).

As for the rest of my goals:

  • Keep track of the plot holes and research questions that have popped up while I’m writing: Need to be working harder on this; ideas will come to me while I’m writing and I need to start writing them down. I’ve made a few sticky notes but I need to be better about writing ideas down since I know that I won’t necessarily remember my ideas a few months from now when I get around to typing up my writing. Heck, I have a hard enough time remembering things from the beginning of a work shift to the end.
  • Put some (more) work into detailing the plots for the first three books, since they have an impact on the events in Defcon: Fade Out.  Not gotten to this one yet either, due to a variety of things, mainly work-related.
  • Put some work into figuring out ideas for the three other projects that have been on the back burner/recently come up thanks to some weird dreams. — toward this end, I’ve gotten myself a composition notebook (a graph paper composition notebook because graph paper is my thing!) so that I can record ideas and snippets.  
    • These ideas include:
      • A book about 3rd shift vampire hunters — henceforth to be known as the Butcher’s Bill ‘verse: No work done on this one.
      • A story about a Reverse Batman-type character — henceforth to be known as the Gem City ‘verse — Oh, wow, have I worked on this idea! Over the weekend, which to my currently addled mind started sometime around Thursday, I made a real start on this world. I’ve named the reverse-Batman character (Will O. Cartwright) and made a stab at creating my own versions of superheroes and villains. More on them on Wednesday.
      • A story about a scruffy space pirate-type guy who helps fight Cthulu-like aliens and who annoys the other space pirates by flaunting one of the basic rules of their society — Nothing concrete on this, though I have an idea about what the basic rule he flaunts is.  And a name for the universe it’s set in: Kinstealer ‘verse.

Goals for this Go-‘Round:

  • Finish Chapter Six of Defcon: Fade Out
  • Finish writing the ‘serving divorce papers to the Thing-Expy’ for Gem City ‘verse
  • Organize/Plan My Research for Butcher’s Bill and Gem City ‘verses.
    • For Butcher’s Bill: I’m reading (well, listening to the audiobook of)  Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. There’s a theory that rabies may be the inspiration for our myths of vampires and werewolves, so that’s the reasoning behind that.
    • For Gem City: mostly reading articles on TVTropes and Wikipedia.   Going to be hitting up the library for some comics for inspiration.  I’m also going to be going through the books I’ve got. Not to mention rewatching some of my animated Marvel and DC videos.  If this is torture, chain me to the wall!

So, that’s the state of the me for today. Hope everybody else is doing well and if you’ve got a favorite superhero/villain, feel free to drop the name/s in the comments. So far, I’ve come up with Gem City versions of the Fantastic Four, Sabretooth, Wolverine, Cyclops, and the Punisher.

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You know you’re a writer when….

You find yourself wondering about the inconsistencies in the backstory presented for a group of animated singing potatoes.

I mean, why would Idaho potatoes have British accents? And what kind of sadistic potato parent names their kid Chip?? Does he have a sister named Julienne? An uncle who is loaded? If he entered a monestary would he be a monk or a friar?

This is what happens when I work so late I’m still up when Disney Jr comes on. Time for sleep!