Oh, where is my Facebook? Oh, where is my Facebook? — No, seriously, where is my Facebook!?

Sing my pain, Larry the Cucumber!

So, if you’ve been on the internet today, you probably know that Facebook is experiencing an outage. I went and made a meme about it because that’s the level of creativity that my brain’s at right now. Which is annoying as hell since…

Because shut up that’s why, Junior Asparagus, you goody-goody little….

*cough* I mean, I *have* been writing. I’ve been working pretty diligently on Storm Warnings and it’s been a bit of a slog. I’m still pretty much at the beginning of the story, much to my annoyance. When I originally came up with this idea, it seemed so damned simple. Like, I knew exactly what I wanted to write and where I wanted to go with it — well, except for the ending. I had no idea how the story was going to end. I’m good at ideas, I’m good at beginnings and I’m decent at middles but endings are my Waterloo.

I might be willing to trade my bellybutton for an ending. Actually, several endings.

Though, in all honesty, my original plan for the story was good but it wasn’t complete. For one thing, I didn’t have any idea why my heroes were getting involved in the story’s main conflict. Or, more accurately, no idea beyond “I, the author, have assembled you in this scene because this is where I want you to be so you can do the things that will get the story running so ok, you’re here, start doing the things!”

And, the characters did do the things. Except that the things they did were just not good. I went through probably half a dozen rewrites of the opening scenes to try and get Storm Warnings to a point where it was something I liked and that felt right. And every time I thought I had it, it would slip away and I’d be back at square one.

I didn’t alter this one because this is pretty much how the plot of Storm Warnings has been treating me. Minus the cute little French accents.

This past week, the whole “Hey, why are the characters actually doing any of this?” thing occurred to me in a big way. So, I set down to try and figure it out.

And I’m kinda happy with what I’ve come up with. It’s a good idea, I think. Or at least a good first-draft fourth-draft idea. It doesn’t just give the characters a reason to be in the scene, it also gives them some actual stakes in the story — which is a good thing, since I want these characters to come across as real people, fighting against the evils of their day, not plaster saints who are above everything and judging others from on high.

So, this is a long, rambling, roundabout way of saying this: writing is hard. Having a plan before you start can serve as a map through unfamiliar territory, but sometimes the map doesn’t mention that the bridge you were expecting to be there was wiped out by a flood.

I knew Storm Warnings was going to be tricky to write for a few reasons:

  1. It’s set in an alternate universe with superpowers and magic and aliens and all the other comic book superhero tropes that show up in Omegas: Cake Walk and the other stories that I’m setting in Universe-46534. — so there’s the need to balance those elements and keep them plausible and believable
  2. I’m introducing not one, not two, but four main heroes as well as an equal number of secondary heroes/characters who will Be Significant In the Future. — Yeahhh, really not sure how I thought I could fit all that in 6,000 words. That was like, wow…yeah.
  3. While this is actually the third story I’ve started in this universe, it’s chronologically the first story to take place in Universe-46534. The characters being introduced will be historical figures in other stories. They’re the original heroes of this world — well, among the original heroes. So…yeah, that’s tricky!
  4. It’s set in the past — specifically, in 1937, so I’m having to check things to make sure that I’m getting details right. On the other hand, the fact that this is an alternate universe, I’ve got some wiggle room for certain things.
  5. The bad guys are literally Nazis. — They’re based on a couple different pro-fascist/pro-Nazi groups that were active in America in the 1930s and 1940s. The trickiest part about them is not turning them into cartoonish mustache-twirling bad guys.
  6. The good guys are from backgrounds that are different from my own — two characters are gay, there’s a few Jewish characters (including some Jewish mobsters who are very happy to get the chance to kick Nazi ass — which is also historically accurate). This, along with the historical setting, adds a couple levels of difficulty.

But, see, I’ve accepted this challenge and I’m going to keep working on it. Because I think this’ll be a good story once it’s finally done. I like the characters, I like the plot I have set up and I like this universe. It’s just sometimes, it’s hard to see the path because it hasn’t been cleared yet. And you’re the one who has to clear it. With an ax. Not a big ax either. A little rinky-dinky ax up against a redwood tree the size of an aircraft carrier or something.

Note: Instagram is also down but I don’t use Instagram so I’m not making VeggieTales themed memes about it.

Other Writing Blather — I am meeting and/or exceeding my goals for the 365 Day Challenge. For the year to date, I’m at 50,000 words! Yay me!

Boilerplate Links:  

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time.Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers. Feel free to join us on Facebook at ROW80 or follow us on Twitter at #ROW80.  Or you can do all of the above!

Visit 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook or visit the lady who started it all, Katharine Grubb and learn more. You can also learn more about the 365 Day Challenge — which is closed for 2019, but you can prepare for 2020!

Because today’s Election Day here in the U.S., have a snippet!

When I first started plotting Omegas: Cake Walk, I settled on April 2007 for reasons that escape me now (honestly, while there is a specific reason for 2007, the reason for April is more “Ehh, this’ll do” than anything else). Specifically, I set the story during the week of April 23-30, 2007 (again, for no better reason than “The events in the story take place over a week, this is a week that’s as good as any other week in which to set my tale”).

Come to find out, once I committed to the time frame, the Democratic Presidential debates occurred during this time frame. While Omegas: Cake Walk doesn’t take place in our reality, it takes place in one that’s similar so I decided to run with the idea. Which led to this exchange about voting and how living in a comic book universe could screw things up:

“I’m just saying: voting’s a waste of time,” Frankie said as he plucked half a dozen oversized strawberries from the tray and stacked them onto a paper plate. “Whoever wins, somebody’s just gonna go back in time and step on the wrong bug and screw everything up. It’s inevitable.”

“That only happened once, back in ’52,” Laney said, smacking the table and causing a small avalanche of plump, green grapes to cascade down from the tray. Frankie scooped them up as well, as she continued. “And once the Sequential Safeguards were able to straighten things out and push through the Eckels-Simpson Act to outlaw political tampering with the time stream.”

Note: Yeah, this a multiple-part reference to “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, in which a character, essentially, steps on the wrong bug and screws everything up. The story was published in 1952 and the character who screws things up is named Eckles.

The law also references the Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror V” — specifically the short “Time and Punishment” in which Homer tries to fix his toaster and ends up destroying multiple timelines.  “Stupid bug, you go squish now!”

Note the second: I agree with Laney, voting isn’t a waste of time. In fact, voting today took a lot less time than I was afraid it would and I was able to get in and out of my polling place in less than fifteen minutes (wasting time between 5 am and 6:30 am on the other hand….that took some doing).

Note the third:  Currently, the plan is for the next Omegas story, Omegas: Long Shot, to involve time travel, Pleistocene Era America, and cheesy syndicated TV shows.



Omegas: Cake Walk in one sentence

My attempt at a one sentence description of Omegas: Cake Walk —

When a desperate phone call from a top scientist’s estranged daughter threatens to derail the highest-level superscience conference, the call goes out to the one team that can rescue the girl and keep her safe from the clutches of the cult she’s trying to flee — after all, when the job’s a cake walk, who can handle it better than the Omegas?


AROW80 Round 2 Check-In for 4/11/18 plus WIPpet Wednesday

I’m working on typing up Chapter Eighteen of Omegas: Cake Walk! In fact, I’ve managed to type up what I’d written and now I’m trying to work on bridging the gap between the end of that and being able to pick up from some earlier stuff that I want to fold into this chapter.

*backing up a moment*

I write mostly by hand, since that’s easiest for me to do at work. Omegas: Cake Walk does already exist as a finished handwritten draft (encompassing three full 3-subject notebooks plus some other smaller note books). The draft I’m working on now is a typed-up version of the handwritten one — and as is the nature of drafts, there have been changes made. So, as I’m going along, I’m having to write new bits to bridge gaps, fix plot holes and generally just be better than what was originally written. That’s where I find myself now.

In a word? Blorp.

The good news is, today I have a lot of time to spend writing since it’s my day off. I’m currently sitting in the children’s section of my favorite branch of one of my local libraries using their computers. Surprisingly enough, the kids’ section can be a lot quieter than the adult section. It also feels more open and inviting. Plus, sometimes you get to hear/see little kids doing cute/adorable things, so that’s a plus.

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WIPpet Wednesday Snippet Math: April 11, 2018. I’m going the easy-peasy route and giving you page 11 of Omegas: Cake Walk, which is the last page of Chapter One.

What You Need to Know: Dr. Sarah Lawrence has gotten Dr. Josephus Zilsch out of the press conference before he behaved *too* badly (though he still managed to say something outrageous to a member of the press) and to a meeting about the upcoming conference. At the meeting, she’s introduced to Felix Valentine, leader of Magnum Team and his teammate, Torque, a genetically engineered enhanced human (known as an ECHO).  Sarah’s been receiving phone calls from an unknown number throughout the chapter and has been ignoring them up until now, when she finally answers with the hopes of telling the person off. Instead, she gets a message she wasn’t expecting which leads to….Page 11:

Sarah stared down at her phone’s screen for a moment, letting out a long, shuddering breath. “That was my daughter,” she said. “She needs my help.”

“That’s going to have to wait, then,” said Dr. Zilsch. “You’ve got more important things to be worrying about this week. Than dancing attendance on that ungrateful brat.”

“Yeah, she’s got an entirely different ungrateful brat to worry about,” Emma said. “What’s happening, Sarah?”

“My daughter is in trouble and she needs my help in getting away from the cult she’s been living in,” Sarah said. “Her father dragged her along with him when he remarried; I didn’t fight him as much as I could have – or even should have because Mackenzie seemed happy with him and – and I was busy with the expedition to Deep Mu, but now? She needs me to help her get away and I’m going to be helping her.”

Sarah looked up, taking in everyone at the table with her eyes blazing before focusing her rage on Zilsch. “I am getting my daughter away from those people or else.”

“Or – Or else what?” sputtered Zilsch.

“Or else you can find someone else to take your abuse,” Sarah said. “Good luck with that. You’re going to need it.”

“You can’t do that!” Zilsch yelped, slamming his fists down on the table. “I won’t let you! Damnit, Richards! Talk sense into this woman! I can’t be without an assistant! Especially not this week of all weeks!”

Dean Richards looked at Sarah with concern. He seemed more genuinely worried – or at least less self-involved than Zilsch. “Dr. Lawrence, I think perhaps we can handle this situation without resorting to such drastic measures, don’t you?”

“You damn well will handle this!” Zilsch said, his eyes rolling wildly. “I will not face this conference without Lawrence! I need her!”

“If I may?” Valentine’s voice was as calm as the surface of a still pond. “I believe my people can handle this. But, could I ask for a bit more information? What, exactly, is the issue at hand with Dr. Lawrence’s daughter?”

“She’s a damned Womackian cultist!” Zilsch said. “You heard the woman! That bratling is a dyed in the wool follower of that wannabe space princess!”

Valentine looked to Sarah, one eyebrow cocked up at a curious angle. “Ma’am?”

Sarah let out a long, shuddering sigh. “He’s right,” she said. “Mackenzie’s father joined the cult shortly after we divorced. She’s been part of it for the last four or five years now.”

“I see,” Valentine said. ‘And she wants out now, I take it?”

“Yes. I don’t know why and I honestly don’t care about why she wants out. I only care about the fact that she’s asking for my help,” Sarah said, clutching her hands into fists. “She’s – we’ve been estranged for a while now. This is the first time she’s called me in months. She just sounded so scared, so small. Mr. Valentine, I don’t know if you have children but well, I haven’t always been the best mother to Mackenzie but I can’t let her suffer like this. Can you help?”

“Ma’am, if it will help keep the conference running smoothly, I’ll be happy to put some of our people on it.” Valentine’s smile was straight out of a toothpaste commercial, all shiny, confident white teeth. “You have my word on it; they’ll get your little girl back. No worries.”

Sarah nodded, swallowing a lump in her throat. “Thank you,” she said. ‘Thank you so much. But I want her back before the opening ceremonies on Thursday. Otherwise, I will handle this myself and you can find another babysitter for Zilsch.”

“Dr. Lawrence,” Valentine said. ‘You have my word on it; she’ll be back safe and sound before you know it.”

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Powered by Linky Tools:  A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers.  Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, join us on Facebook at ROW80

WIPpet Wednesday was begun by  K. L. Schwengel.  and is currently hosted by Emily Wrayburn of Letting the Voices Out and A Keyboard and an Open Mind.  If you want to participate, post a snippet from your WIP, related in some way to the date and link back to here — where you can also read and comment on others’ excerpts. You can also request to join The WIPpeteers on Facebook.

AROW80 Round 2 Check-In for 4/8/18 (posted 4/10/18)

Ok, so this update is coming in a couple days late but it’s still coming in so that’s going to be counted as a win by me. Especially since I’m still getting back into the swing of things here.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on Omegas: Cake Walk (O:CW) Chapter 18 — mainly typing up what I have managed to write this week and hopefully finishing the chapter so I can move on to Chapter 19 and beyond.
  • Work on strategies for getting the most I can out of shorter timeframes within which to write — I used to be able to write during downtime at my job which occasionally meant nice, long stretches of being able to write in a more meandering fashion. Due to my accepting a promotion, my duties have changed at work and, hence, I’ll be having less downtime. So, I’m going to be working on using what time I do have to write effectively. One idea is that instead of writing an entire scene, just writing out a kind of rough outline/bullet point-style list of “What Should Happen” and then using that as a reference from which to type up the next bit on my days off.

Between work and other non-writing aspects of life, I haven’t had the chance to sit down and dedicate a lot of time to Omegas: Cake Walk, but I did have the chance to figure out what I wanted to happen in Chapter 18 and how best to use that to drive the story forward. Since I don’t want to go into a summary of what’s going on quite yet, suffice it to say that I am very happy that I hit upon a way to use a scene that is low on physical action to still convey important plot points and showcase some of the world-building for Omegas: Cake Walk.

Since O:CW and other Gem City stories take place in a world that is based around superhero comics, all kinds of weirdness can occur. There are characters who are genetically engineered super-soldiers, faeries, alchemists, super-scientists, deep-sea dwelling non-humanoid lifeforms that look like a cross between a seal and an octopus (and which are only one of several different underwater dwelling species), human-alien hybrids, and modern-day Neanderthals who are also the first women to play in Major League Baseball, plus all the other accouterments of the diversity that is humanity as we know it.  Needless to say, creating this world has been at one and the same time tremendously fun and tremendously frustrating in terms of “…wait, how would this work? This needs to make sense! Auugh, why don’t we have inter-dimensional Google capabilities?!”

Otherwise, things are going well. Looking forward to spending the day tomorrow typing things up and hopefully getting a goodly chunk of Chapter 18 finished. Will be back tomorrow to share how things go!

To everyone participating in this Round of AROW80, good luck and keep on trucking!

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Powered by Linky Tools:  A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers.  Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list… Or, visit (and join) us on Facebook

AROW80 Round 2 Check In for 4/4/2018 & WIPpet Wednesday

First check of the round! Currently, I’m at my local library, typing up my WIP (Omegas: Cake Walk) and trying to make some headway on the chapter I’m working on (which is Chapter 18).  The major difficulty at the moment is that I’m writing technobabble and trying to make it seem plausible. Also doesn’t help that this is the chapter where Things Get Real and lead to the protagonists Learning The Truth about who the antagonist is, so if things here don’t make sense, what comes next won’t make sense and my ending will be nonsensical in a bad way.

Omegas: Cake Walk is set in a universe where superhero tropes are real. The action is set during a super-scientist convention and involves a group of private security contractors being tasked with rescuing and protecting a super-scientist’s daughter from a group of cultists.  The rescue goes off without a hitch, but keeping the girl safe is much more involved as shenanigans are afoot!

Omegas: Cake Walk is set in the same universe as my Gem City snippets that are available here.  It’s currently the longest and closest to complete work set in this universe (I’m still trying to finish the story that led to the creation of the Gem City universe…) and I’m having a lot of fun with it so far.

Note: if you read the older Gem City stuff that’s posted here, be aware that some of it may be retconned/altered by me in the near future.

Goals: So far, so good! Hoping to get out of the current spot I’m stuck in by the end of today so *fingers crossed* here goes nothing!

Ok, getting back to the writing! See you next update!

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WIPpet Wednesday Math: Today’s the 4th day of the 4th month, and 4 x 4 = 16. And this is the first WIPpet of the year (for me at least), so here are the first 16 paragraphs of Omegas: Cake Walk. I hope it gives a good flavor of the kind of universe we’re dealing with.

“And, based on my findings, it is blatantly obvious to anyone with sense that our universe was created at some point between late fall 1932 and June 1938,” Dr. Josephus Zilsch sounded perfectly sober, except for a slight slurring in ‘sense,’ ‘universe’ and ‘some.’ The sound echoed faintly in the rotunda of Grant Library and was almost lost in the startled murmur from the assembled crowd of reporters here for the opening press conference of the 2007 Centillion Society’s Polymathetics Association Meeting. Zilsch continued speaking as if there had been no reaction.

“The exact date is, of course, hard to pin down. Particularly since ‘beginnings’ in the cosmic scale owe more similarity to making the decision to leave a room rather than actually walking through a door. But, beyond a few fiddling details like that, my calculations are correct and they show without a shadow of a doubt and with a margin of error of only a few weeks’ time here or there that the creation of our universe lies somewhere within that period of time.”

Zilsch stopped speaking and peered at the audience with an owlish confidence. Ordinary speakers would have asked for questions, but Zilsch didn’t. He never did. Either his audience followed his reasoning – and therefore didn’t need to ask questions – or they hadn’t, in which case they wouldn’t know the right questions to ask. Or understand the answers. Better that they simply take Zilsch’s word for whatever he’d said being right since it was, as always, a foregone conclusion.

Dr. Sarah Lawrence stood off to one side of the speaker’s podium that Dr. Zilsch was currently leaning on as if it were his only friend in the universe. Her vantage point allowed her to keep a weather eye on him and on the collected reporters and be close enough to intervene when Zilsch said something truly outrageous, incendiary, or insulting.

Fortunately, for the moment, both sides seemed content to wait for the other side make the first move.

“He’s kidding, right?” Beside her, Katheryn Cleland, one of the university’s security people, nudged Sarah gently as she asked the question. “That’s…that’s not possible….”

“No, he’s not.” Sarah scanned the reporters, trying to judge which one would be the first to break the stalemate and ask a question. Based on her personal experience, she was betting it would be one of the video journalists – those who worked in print could afford to be patient, they could always paint a word-picture that played up the silence for dramatic effect. The video guys on the other hand, couldn’t do much with Zilsch just standing there, staring back at them like a mildly annoyed statue. “He’s as serious as a heart attack.”

“But…that’s impossible!” Katheryn made a distressed noise, as if the illogic of Zilsch’s theory were causing her actual physical pain – which, Sarah realized, it might be.  Zilsch had that kind of an effect on people.  “Isn’t it?”

“Yes, but so are a lot of things in this world, Katheryn.” Sarah turned back as a flurry of hand-waving set off the entire group of reporters. “Didn’t you tell me you’re going to Mars for New Year’s Eve? By any logical assessment, the FTL drive we use to go between planets doesn’t make sense either, but it still works.”

“Yeah, but – well, the FTL drive makes a hell of a lot more sense than what he just said!” Katheryn said.

Sarah was about to answer when Zilsch stabbed a finger at the mob of reporters. “You!” he said with the long-suffering tone of a parent who knows they’re going to be asked, yet again, to explain why the sky is blue.  

A reporter, who may or may not have been the ‘you’ indicated, stood up. He was a lanky man, with the faintly pinkish cast to his skin that indicated possible extraterrestrial ancestry – Sarah guessed from one of the Centauries, probably Proxima. “Garb Boffman, ZBC News,” he said and while Sarah couldn’t see his face, she could sense the plastic artificiality of his smile in the tone of his voice. “Dr. Zilsch, how exactly do you reconcile the creation of the universe in the 1930s with the fact that – well, with the fact that we have recorded history dating back thousands of years. Not to mention geological evidence dating back millions of years before that? The memories and personal experiences of several people in this room alone would seem to refute your theory. Can you explain the discrepancy?”

Dr. Zilsch frowned at the reporter, his lips puffing up into a pout and Sarah could see his irritation building like the pressure in the caldera under Yellowstone. “Time,” Zilsch said, his voice sharp and all trace of his earlier slurring gone for the moment. “Time is an illusion and not a good one either! It’s the sort of performance you have to suffer through when your girlfriend’s kid wants to show off the dime store trick he just learned and you have to make nice if you want a chance in hell of getting into her pants. Like it’s your fault her idiot ex forgot whose weekend it was supposed to be.” His scowl deepened. “Again. Next question! No, not you, idiot! Her! Mona Marks! She’s the only one of you worth my time anyway.”

Mona Marks, the Grand Dame of the Super-Science Adventurer beat and rumored to be about ninety percent of the reason why the Weekly Sun was still a going concern when so many other print newspapers were going under, stood up.  She was dressed in her trademark 1980s-style purple power-suit, complete with shoulder pads broad enough for her to play quarterback with the Shikagou Bruins, and her ruby-red sneakers. She faced Zilsch with the cool calm of a woman who’d faced more dangerous adversaries and still met her deadlines. She didn’t even so much as glance down at her notes as she considered her question.

“All right, I’ll bite,” she said. “How did you arrive at this conclusion, Josephus? And how does it relate to the Crazy Quilt Universe Theory that was announced back in February at the University of Lakota in Porcupine?”

Zilsch sighed at Mona, puffing out his cheeks, all pretenses of paternalism briefly gone. For a moment, he looked like a moody teenager – albeit one who was trapped in the body of a greying, sagging, pudgy-bellied adult. “You’re referring to the “Mosaic Multiverse Theory” not “Crazy Quilt,” he said. “I realize you can’t possibly hope to understand the science behind what I’m talking about, Marks, but is it so much to ask that you at least get the names right while you’re being wrong? The Mosaic Multiverse Theory isn’t even my work; it’s my assistant’s hobbyhorse.”

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Powered by Linky Tools:  A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers.  Click Here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

WIPpet Wednesday was begun by  K. L. Schwengel.  and is currently hosted by Emily Wrayburn of Letting the Voices Out and A Keyboard and an Open Mind.  If you want to participate, post a snippet from your WIP, related in some way to the date and link back to here — where you can also read and comment on others’ excerpts.

AROW80-2018 ROUND 2 Goals Post

It’s been a few years, but I’m ready to give this another go-round!  I’m going to keep my goal short and sweet: finish my current WIP’ s second draft, which is almost done!

One challenge, other than that I’m hitting the “Endings Are Hard!” Wall of Doom, is that I’ve started a new job (internal promotion at my current job), so there’s going to be some adjustments since I’m adapting to changes there. But, I’m confident I can succeed.

Looking forward to a productive round with everybody!

Happy Easter and Happy Passover

Edit to Add:  The project I’m currently working on is called Omegas: Cake Walk. It’s set in the Gem City universe I created a few years ago.  If you click on the Gem City tag, you can see some of my earlier musings on the universe in question — though some of that has/will fall to the forces of Retcon eventually.

Powered by Linky Tools:  A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. If you want to join, you can at any time. Set the goals you want to accomplish and get and give encouragement to fellow ROWers.  Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

AROW80 First Quarter Check-In: 1/7/2015

I’m back for another round! I inadvertently took a posting break last round, though I have still been working on my writing (which I’m pretty proud of, since all too often I have a tendency to get all ramped up and go like gangbusters and then, once the energy fades, I stop working).

This time around, I’m starting off with one simple goal for the month of January: finish a short story. The good news is, I have three or four stories that I’ve started, all set in the same fictional universe. What I need to work on is a) typing up what I’ve got done (since I do most of my writing by hand, my drafts can end up chaotic with sticky notes and extra pages inserted for changes and such), and b) finishing a story completely. From beginning to end.

Of course, it doesn’t help that last night, having determined that today would be the day I would sit down and start typing, I managed to cut up one of my fingertips so now I have one bandaged finger that is somewhat slowing me down — but I think I’ll get used to it with some work (and it sure as heck beats the alternative!).

In the plus column, it helps that I have an idea of how I want the story to turn out — and I like writing in the universe it’s set in.

Goals for February and March are as yet to be determined — and are dependent on me meeting my goal this month.

Other goal for this week is staying warm as the weather outside is frickin’ cold and looks to be staying that way until next week.

Hope you’re all having a good first week of the first round!

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Final Check-In for Round 4 — December 24, 2015

I hope everybody is having a very happy holiday season! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!  And otherwise, just hope y’all are having a good end of the year.

I…have no idea how well I did on Nano this year. I didn’t keep track of how many words I wrote but I did write quite a bit. Mostly in the Gem City ‘verse. I started off with like, parts of two stories and I’m now sitting on parts of four or five stories! Plus, I’ve done some more work on fleshing out the world, which makes me happy.

I’ve also been doing a lot of research/brain stuffing in the form of reading comic books and comics-related science and philosophy books (Science of Superheroes and Science of Supervillains and Spider-Man and Philosophy, among others).   Which has been fun.

Also, for Christmas, the girlfriend and I got the complete 1960s Batman TV series from her mom. Oh, the cheese! The glorious, glorious, glorious cheese! It even came with a little toy Bat-mobile!

I’m going to keep writing during the break — eventually, I want to corral myself into typing up the stuff I have written, why I’m procrastinating about it, I do not know. Plans for next year are still forming in the back of my mind.

Again, hope you guys have a great holiday season and good luck in your endeavors!

PS: Saw Big Hero Six and it was the best movie I’ve seen in a long, long time.  Highly recommend. Made me cry (duh, Pixar movie); jealous of the storytelling.

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AROW80 Update for November 5, 2014 + WIPpet

It is cold and wet and rainy and very much November here. I haven’t been writing as much as I wanted to for the first few days of this month — combination of work and lack of oomph — but I got a bit written last night and I’m planning on working on some more tonight and hoping to get close to a goal of 10,0002 words by tonight.

I’m working on a short story set in my Gem City (aka Reverse Batman) universe. From my original post on the idea:

A story about a Reverse Batman-type character — his parents were supervillains in the 1960 who were killed by a rogue hero and because of this, he now works as a private detective doing things like keeping superheroes accountable and such.  He’s also the guy you call when you want to serve divorce papers on The Thing.

The plot is that Will Cartwright, private investigator and owner of QC Investigations, has been hired by his college friend Kylie (aka Wildheart) to help clear her father, the hero Howler, from a murder charge. This scene is Will arriving at the 247th precinct to talk to the detectives investigating the crime.

Detective Sergeant Luna Bastigan was at her desk when I arrived. She looked at me like I was the first plague rat off the boat. She was a short, stocky woman who looked like a cross between a bulldog and a fireplug. She’d come up through the ranks of the GCPD, making detective almost as soon as she was able. She shook her head and leaned back from her keyboard to study me.


“Should have known you’d be here sooner or later, Cartwright,” she said. “Let me guess, Howler’s girl hired you to clear her Daddy’s name?”


“Close; she calls him Pop-pop,” I said. “She’s pretty convinced that he’s innocent. She’s got a theory and I have to say, it’s got some merit to it.”


Bastigan snorted. “I’m sure it does,” she said. “Problem is, she’s not a witness and she’s got a vested interest in lying through her fake little fangs to protect her-“ she snorted. “Pop-pop. Whereas on the other side, I’ve got at least five witnesses willing to swear that Howler did it, was glad he did it and would have done it again if he could have.”


“And none of them have any vested interests?” I asked. “C’mon, Bastigan, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ remember?”


“Don’t try to school me, Cartwright,” she said. “I know my job. Problem is, the Third Coast Crusaders have a hell of a lot of pull in this town and Tyler Rose is the top of that particular heap. It’s more than just an investigation; it’s a political freaking nightmare.”

There’s more about the Gem City ‘verse here: The Semi-Quasi-Mostly Official Handbook to the Gem City Universe 

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AROW80 update for 10/29/2014 + Nanowrimo Plans and Schemes

I have finished typing up the last of what I’ve got written (so far) for Defcon: Fade Out and the grand total is 145,247 words. Which blows me away but would make me a lot happier if it was one solid cohesive story. Instead, I’m pretty sure what I’m looking at is actually two separate books — or at least two separate stories that are related by a common thread.  Since the inspiration for this series is cheesy men’s adventure novels from the 1980s and those books did sometimes do “doubles” (i.e. two books in one) I might have this book be one of those.  I have to ponder the plan for this a bit more, but I’m fairly confident I can make it work.  Once again, it comes down to a question of figuring out where the gaps are and writing the bits to fill in those gaps.

Nanowrimo Plans:

I’d originally planned to use Nanowrimo to help fill in the gaps. The original plan was to have things typed up and the inventory done by the first of November. This isn’t going to happen, mainly because I don’t want to half-ass the work trying to get it done over the next two days and I want to hit the ground running come November 1st.

And, to be blunt about it, I need a break from Defcon: Fade Out. I’ve been working on it more or less steadily for a few years now and it’s time for a vacation. So, I’m taking the month of November off and working on something else.

Once again, I’m taking the Nanowrimo Rebel approach to the month. In my case, I’m not going to be working on a novel, I’m going to be working on some short stories. So, call it NaShoStoWriMo instead. The idea is still to try and write 50,000 words but instead of them being one novel, I’m hoping to get at least three or four stories out of the endeavor. I’m using the following word count categories from the SFWA as my guidelines:

  • Short story: less than 7.500 words
  • Novelette: at least 7,500 – 17,500 words
  • Novella: 17,500 – 40,000 words

I’m hoping to keep things within the novelette category. The plan is to make myself work on writing shorter pieces with an eye toward improving my writing’s tightness and my writing speed.  Toward that end and in keeping with the whole Nano-Rebel thing, I’ve actually already started working on one story. It’s an expansion on an idea that I posted a snippet of back in December of last year (it’s the second one in this post).

I have three other story ideas that I want to work on. Another one is set in the Gem City superhero universe, one in the Defcon universe and one that takes place in the Butcher’s Bill vampire hunting universe.  Going with the 50,000 total word goal, that gives me an average of about 12,500 words per story but the ultimate word count would be whatever is needed to finish the story.

Part of the reason for this interest in short stories is to work on finishing a complete story and another reason is to work on trying to get some things ready to submit for publication. One of the things I want to work on for 2015 is submitting something for publication. Toward that end, I’ve picked up a copy of the 2015 Writer’s Digest Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market as a way of encouraging/goading myself onward.

Come December, I’m going to start working on turning Defcon: Fade Out into that elusive goal: a finished piece. I’m also going to take another look at my old attempt at writing a Butcher’s Bill novel.

So, fingers crossed and here goes something!

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AROW80 – First Round Goals List:


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Ok, so it’s the first round of 2014! Whoo!  I started with A Round of Words in 80 Days during the last month or so of the last round of 2013.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say that even in the short time I’ve been involved with this group, I’ve gotten some very positive benefits out of it. I’m finding that it is easier to keep a goal if I have to tell other people about it, but since there’s no pressure to reach a set word goal per day, it’s also easier to forgive myself if I don’t meet a particular goal. Being able to ‘talk’ out loud about what I’m working on and get feedback has been very helpful. If this is your first time with AROW80, welcome! For the folks I met last time, howdy again!

This will be my first full round and I’ve come up with a list of goals that I hope to be successful with this time around. Further information on these projects can be found on this post, under my Current Projects Index page.  So, with crossed fingers and a hopeful heart, here goes my list in order by the project’s current priority (the goals are not in any kind of priority order, they’re just what I think needs to be done for that project):

DEFCON: FADE OUT – Top Priority:

  • Finish writing the complete draft of Defcon: Fade Out –  Since November 1st, 2013 I’ve averaged about a chapter every six days. I’m currently on Chapter 11 of a projected twenty so I’m looking at about 56 days if I can maintain the same momentum.
  • Type up the complete draft of Defcon: Fade Out.  Luckily, I type about 90 words a minute so this will be fairly quick. In theory.
  • Give the typed-up draft to people to read.
  • Build a blanket fort in which to hide while draft is being read by friends so I will have a secure place in which to shake like a Chihuahua standing on Jello during an earthquake from nerves.
  • Complete Character Checklists for all of my POV characters and major secondary characters. This is something I should have done a while ago, but I find that characters tend to create themselves while I write. (I’ve got a whole word document full of links various checklists for character creation and worldbuilding to choose from, thankfully).
  • Complete a couple other worldbuilding checklists for things that have an impact on the series as a whole.  Ditto that these should have been done earlier but c’est la vie.
  • Begin plotting out books 1-3 and 5 and figuring out what other sorts of checklists I might need to complete for them.

GEM CITY: — Secondary Priority:

  • Type up drafts of stories currently residing in my thinky thoughts book.
  • Complete Character Checklists for main characters, especially William Cartwright, the Shamus Who Has No Shame.
  • Complete Species and Religion Checklist for the Deros
  • Plot out at least one story set in this ‘verse.

BUTCHERS’ BILL – Tertiary priority; probably going to be held over to Round 2:

  • Print out original drafts and give it a read over, see what can be salvaged and create a scene inventory.
  • Complete Species Creation Checklist for vampires so I can establish the rules for what they can and cannot do in this ‘verse.
  • Complete Character Checklists for main characters (sensing a trend, are we?)
  • Plot out book incorporating some new ideas I’ve had for the plot
  • Look into potential research sources for new plot ideas.

KINSTEALER – Back Burner: This idea still needs to percolate since currently there’s not much to it than a bunch of very nebulous thoughts and concepts.  I’m considering writing this one as a Young Adult novel, but I’m not sure. We’ll see how things go.  As should be expected, a variety of checklists need to be finished for this ‘verse.  


  • Complete individual project pages
  • Read the books on writing that I got for myself
  • Not freeze during the cold snap that’s lasting until Tuesday around here.


  • I joined WANA — anybody else a member?

AROW80 Final Check-In for December 26, 2013

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

Powered by Linky Tools, you can Click here to visit other AROW80 blogs and to add your own link. Posted up top because this post got long.

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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!

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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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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AROW80 Check-in for December 11, 2013

Be Warned: This blog post includes a link to TVTropes.org! 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).


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.