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IWSG – Massive Rewrites Ahead

Published September 2, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Okay, pre-writing this post even more in advance than usual (today is the 21st!), because right now the situation is freshly in my mind and I haven’t been distracted by the other, much smaller rewriting project I’m about to start (and which I will be eyeballs deep in by the time this post goes up).

So, for the past week(ish), I’ve been rereading the series of quasi-Young Adult novels I wrote in 2104, set 17-20 years after the Trojan War, starring the illegitimate daughters of Achilles and Odysseus (both characters I made up) and the (equally illegitimate) son of Aias (who is a genuine mythological character whose actions as an adult have been lost to time but undoubtedly do not resemble my version in any way).  This wasn’t a simple reread, however.  This was a detailed reread, leaving myself a lot of notes using the “Comment” feature on the word processor.  Because I had a look at these already, back in July (or was it June?), and realized that hey, they were actually a lot better than I had remembered them being.  And so I kind of wanted to polish them up for release (for free via LeanPub and itch.io, naturally), which promises to be a much faster endeavor (sort of) than finishing the world-building to polish up that low-fantasy-with-steampunk-elements novel that also needs rewriting and releasing.

Of course, there are a lot of associated works that would also want fixing up.  The whole novel series started out as a spin-off of my Trojan War novel Ilios, which I had temporarily published via LeanPub and then eventually took down because I was quite ashamed of how bad it was.  (I have not at the moment revisited it to see if I want to try to fix it up, because I know that would be even more work.  Plus it is not aimed at the same audience.)  On top of that, there’s a novella called “Patroclos and Achilles” which was also a spin-off of Ilios, and which I directly referenced in the new introduction for Ariadne, the daughter of Odysseus.  I just reread that one this morning, and overall it’s actually pretty good (which is good, since it’s currently floating around the internet already…I think…or was it the other thing about them in the afterlife that’s already up…?) except that the ending makes me cringe, because it got a lot of things flat-out backwards, because there was a lot I didn’t understand about same-sex relationships in ancient Greece before reading The Greeks and Greek Love by James Davidson, and now that I do understand those things (and consequently a lot of ancient Greek culture makes more sense!) I want to fix anything and everything that I’ve written that gets it wrong.  So the novella probably needs to get the first rewrite, before I move on to the Atalanta and Ariadne books.  There will need to be a lot of work done on every reference to same-sex love in those books, naturally.  The mindset I gave the characters was appallingly modern in that for some reason too many people found it funny to think that Achilles had been the boyfriend of his friend and “squire” Patroclos.  There is no reason anyone in classical Greece would have found that funny…though there is the question of if we have any freaking way of guessing what the Greek attitudes towards such relationships would have been in the Late Bronze Age, since we have no written texts from the Mycenaeans other than clerical documents like inventory lists and notes on court cases.  (Though considering some lines of the Iliad have to be aged back to the Mycenaean era in order for the lines to be restored to their proper dactylic hexameter, it does seem possible, if not probable, that enough of the mythic aspects of the culture were unchanged by the end of the Bronze Age that they can be taken to reflect many of the cultural details of the era in which they were set.  Possibly.)

Anyway, the same-sex stuff is pretty minor in the Atalanta and Ariadne books (which really need a series title, but I’m not sure what the heck it would be, considering the early books give no indication just what a massive foe they’re eventually going to go up against, even though at foe’s servants have been targeting them at least since book one, if not from several years before it) compared to a lot of the other things that need fixing.  Matters of clothing for non-Greek peoples at the time (though at least I did learn at some point post-writing them that they would absolutely know what trousers are, so I can dispense with the absurd descriptions of “leg sleeves”) are one of the things that need a thorough fixing, but at least that’s something that will be relatively easily dealt with.

The biggest problem is how to handle the lack of money.

And no, I don’t mean I’m broke.  (Though I do have less of it than I’d like since I lost my job.)  And I don’t mean my heroic trio is broke, either.

I mean the fact that they didn’t have coinage yet in the Late Bronze Age.

I apparently didn’t know that when I was writing these books, especially the first one, which (among other things) has a fairly lengthy and important sequence in a marketplace.

How do you write a marketplace in a barter economy?

I mean, I know they had them.  The Mexica (aka Aztecs) had marketplaces, but in their case it was made simpler because they used cacao beans as a form of proto-currency (which even led to a form of counterfeiting, because some people would hollow out the beans and be trading with empty husks!), but that’s the only case I’m aware of in which there are written records of a non-money-based market.  (The written records being the accounts of the conquistadores seeing said market, so they are not the greatest of records, being essentially tourist accounts written by people of lesser education and not scholarly analyses.)  Based on the Iliad, the main way things seem to have been “valued” was by how many oxen they were worth, but I can’t really have two teenage girls and an early twenties young man carrying oxen about to trade with.  (Though it would be amusing to see them try it!  Goodness knows Atalanta would probably be able to carry a small ox a short distance, as could Eurysakes…maybe.  Ariadne, no.  Just no.  A very small calf, maybe.  A lamb or a kid, definitely.  But I don’t recall measurements of value in sheep and goats, just oxen.  Though I’m ashamed to admit that it’s been years at this point since I last read the Iliad.)

Does anyone know of any books — fiction or non-fiction — about how people might hold a market in a place without money?

I could really use some examples, whether how other people handle it in fiction or how people in reality dealt with things before there was money.  (I mean, realistically, how did food get shared about?  Did the nobles gather up the food from the farmers and then redistribute it to the people, or did the farmers take it to a market to trade it for other things they needed, like clothes, new animals or hired hands?)  Outside of the first book, it’s not going to be a huge issue, since they mostly get what they need in the later books via guest-friendship as they spend a lot of time visiting (and often going on quests for) kings who had fought alongside their fathers at Troy, but wow, is that first book hamstrung until I know how to handle the marketplace!

Additionally, there are various other concerns, mostly around trying to make the books line up better with history/archaeology.  There are a lot of books I read in the two years after writing the books that dealt with the subject of that area in the Late Bronze Age, like The Ahhiyawa Texts, but that was years ago now, and I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, and some of them were gotten out of the university library that I no longer have access to now that I’ve graduated, while others are probably in this house somewhere but I have no freaking idea where because my life is a pigsty.  For two of the books, I’d also need to do a lot of research into what Babylon looked like at the time, and what the court of Ramses II would have looked like, but those shouldn’t be too difficult with non-academic sources…I hope.

Speaking of other things that need fixing up, you may have noticed the word “squire” in quotes up above.  The translation of the Iliad that I’m fond of (it’s prose instead of trying to force the translation into English verse, and it uses the proper Greek names instead of Roman ones) is from like 1913 (give or take a decade), so it does use some awkward things like describing Meriones as “nephew and squire” of Idomeneus, and describing people as “knightly” and so on.  That means those things got into my books, too.  😦  It is so annoying, and decidedly anachronistic, but I have no idea what the period-appropriate term would be.  While I’m sure most readers would probably accept using the anachronistic medieval term “squire” since it’s quite easy for modern people to understand what it means about the person’s professional role, I dislike it for its extreme anachronism.  I should probably have a look at the most recent translation(s) of the Iliad and see how they handled whatever term was being replaced with “squire”.  Mostly, this is only going to impact the prologues (each book has a prologue set during the war) and when they meet certain Trojan War veterans (including the aforementioned Meriones), but it’s something I want to be able to fix on general principles.

A more wide-ranging problem is that I have to figure out how much a sixteen-year-old slave girl in the Late Bronze Age who had somehow kept herself entirely chaste would typically have known about sex.  Because one of the ways I wanted Atalanta and Ariadne to be different from their fathers is that they remain virgins, unlike Atalanta’s father who was quite lusty (the number of his accomplished/potential/desired conquests at Troy seems to grow every time I read a new book on the subject) and unlike Ariadne’s father who slept his way around the Mediterranean for ten years before finally going home to his all-too-faithful wife.  For some reason, when I was first writing these, I decided to accomplish that by having Atalanta nearly kill a man to stop him from raping her, following which Athene erased all her memories of the very concept of sex, and nothing can ever make her remember that sex even exists.

I have no idea why I did something so mind-bogglingly stupid.

My new version is much more simple:  she’s asexual.

I think the reason for the bizarre backstory gymnastics is that I wrote these books about a year and a half before I came to understand that I myself am asexual, so…I don’t know.  As an explanation, it doesn’t entirely make sense, but it’s the best one I can come up with, honestly.

Whatever the reason I originally wrote it, it has to go.  Now, I do want Atalanta to retain a childlike innocence (including on sexual matters), but there’s not going to be anything supernatural or traumatic about it.  She’s just not terribly bright and doesn’t pick up on subtext and subtle details of situations, and the classical Greeks certainly didn’t like to…well, they didn’t like to write about sex, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they didn’t like to talk about it and doesn’t necessarily mean the same was the case about their Late Bronze Age ancestors, but one does tend to fill in the gaps with the historical culture when one is dealing with the Greek Heroic Age.  Anyway, I have to decide just how much she knows, and how much she suspects of what she doesn’t know, and how she would interpret any mentions of things she doesn’t know.  That will have to be figured out before I can start writing, and it will be a lot of work making sure to catch every single absurd instance and replace it with something more simple and believable.  Atalanta spent all seven books sort of traipsing back and forth across the line from “possessing the mind of an absurdly stupid child” to “just a little bit dim and very innocent”, and that’s generally something I need to fix.  I also need to fix Ariadne’s side of their relationship; they’re very co-dependent, in an entirely platonic, non-romantic way on Atalanta’s part, whereas I realized late in the game that Ariadne is actually in love with Atalanta and refusing to admit it even to herself, so I need to work that in and make it more obvious throughout and yet in a way that makes it clear that Ariadne will never be willing to act on her feelings.  (That may be a more subtle task than I’m capable of, but we’ll just have to see what happens in the new drafts!)

I also have various other things I have to decide on, too.  Like, I don’t want to use the Aeneid‘s version of the immediate post-Troy events, but I also have scattered throughout the books various references to the journey of “Aeneas” with his band of Trojan refugees.  So I’m thinking of setting up something halfway between the Iliad‘s version of post-Troy events (in which Poseidon commented that Aineias was to become the new king of Troy after the war) and the Roman version, so that Aineias became King of Troy as planned by the Greek gods, only then Korythos (son of Alexander/Paris by his first wife, the nymph Oenone) drives him out and takes over the kingship, so Aineias still sets off for the future site of Rome.  (And I don’t think the gens Julius completely made up the idea of Roman descent from Aeneas/Aineias; I think they did get that from some of the Greek settlers in Italy, as the ancient Greeks did love to set up mythical ancestors for various people they met (Medes, Perses, etc).)  But I’ll have to decide when that happened, how far they had gotten in rebuilding the walls, how much violence was entailed, why in the world Aineias would have fled rather than stayed and continued to fight (especially against a son of that weakling Alexander!) and so forth.  Some versions of the abduction of Helen do include Aineias having gone with Alexander to Sparta, so maybe this should be a version like that (though there’s no indication of Aineias being there in the one flashback I have to the abduction itself…though given the presence of his mother in the flashback it wouldn’t be hard to believe it) and Korythos makes the demand to the remaining people of Troy that they shouldn’t follow Aineias since he aided and abetted in the arrival of the harlot who ruined the marriage of Korythos’ parents and for whose sake the citadel of Troy was besieged for ten years and then destroyed.  Yeah, that might work, actually.  Korythos wouldn’t even need an army if he turned the majority of the people against Aineias.  Cool, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

Names, on the other hand, are something to worry about.  Specifically, how far do I want to go in using the Greek names?  Like, some of them are easy.  Patroclos > Patroclus, Aias > Ajax, Aineias > Aeneas, Heracles > Hercules, Zeus > Jupiter (like anyone now would use that in a Greek setting, lol), but do I want to go the whole hog?  Do I want to use Achilleus instead of Achilles, Alexandros instead of Alexander, Ganymedes instead of Ganymede, Bellerophontes instead of Bellerophon…stuff like that.  (And yes, all those names do come up in the books.  (BTW, the spellchecker in my browser is insisting that the correct spelling of “Bellerophon” is “Telephoner”.  Like, wow.))  Part of me is annoyed with myself for using any of the Romanized/Anglicized versions, but the rest of me is like “seriously, Achilleus and Ganymedes?” (For some reason I’m much more cool with Bellerophontes than a lot of the other typically-always-Romanized/Anglicized-even-by-scholars names.)

Speaking of names, I’m not even sure what I should be calling the Greek people as a group.  For the historic period, Hellenes would be correct, and I do use it sometimes.  In the Iliad, the names Achaians, Danaans and Argives are used pretty much as direct synonyms, chosen for metrical reasons.  Of course, Argives was right out as a choice in my books because that specifically means people from Argos.  Achaians — while the source of the Hittite name for the Mycenaean Greeks, Ahhiyawa — seems most likely to refer specifically to people from Achaia Phthiotis, the region of Thessaly where Achilles’ father Peleus reigned.  (Unlike the classical Greeks with their city-states, the Mycenaeans seem to have had kingdoms in more of the sense we think of for Medieval Europe.  As far as I can tell.  Which isn’t far.)  Danaan was likewise the source of a foreign name that may have referred to Mycenaean Greeks (Danaja, used by the Egyptians and possibly also the Phoenicians, and which I do have Ramses II use), but as I recall it doesn’t even refer to a particular location in Greece, but rather to a mythical ancestor figure.  I’m not sure if that makes it more likely to have been what the Mycenaeans called themselves (Hellas and Hellene, after all, coming from the mythical figure Hellen) or if it was actually applied to them by mistake by their contemporaries and then the mythical figure was made up to explain it after it had stuck.  (The mythical figure might have even been made up in the classical period to explain the LBA-authentic name Danaan used in Homer, for all I know.  There are, after all, many things in the Iliad that are accurate to the Late Bronze Age but not to the classical era, particularly in the Catalog of Ships, where some of the places were so long gone by the historic period that no one even knew where they had been.)  There’s a lot that the scholarly community doesn’t know about this sort of thing, and even more that I don’t know, since it’s been years since I did the research, and I never got too far into the really detailed and up-to-date research even back then.  What would actually be correct is, of course, of lesser importance in this case than the basic question of which name should I use?  In the original drafts of the books, I primarily used Achaians, with a pretty hefty dose of Hellenes, and the occasional Danaans thrown in there just to be confusing.  😛  At some point after the novels were finished, I wrote an invocation of the Muse-type intro to the series that defined Achaians as people from northern Greece and Danaans as people from the Peloponnese, which is not entirely out of line with scholarly thinking as far as I remember and is entirely in line with how foreign people use the related terms (since the Hittites were more northerly and the Egyptians directly south), but…I dunno.  Among other things, trying to define the peoples by where they live in an invocation to the Muse feels weird in and of itself!  (But on the other hand it would at least give me some consistency, while still allowing the Egyptians to call them Danaja.)

*sigh*

I could probably keep going with this post forever and not run out of issues I’m going to have with these rewrites, but I’ve been at this for like three hours now, so I think I better stop.  Especially since I was supposed to be spending this afternoon sorting through the ghastly build up in my inbox.  😦  Guess that’s being put off yet another day…

Anyway, my biggest worry at the moment is, as I indicated, how in the world to handle a marketplace in a pre-money economy.  I’d like it to be as realistic as possible to what the Late Bronze Age was like, but how in the world does one look up what a Hittite marketplace looked like ca. 1230 BCE?  (It’s the marketplace in the mostly-rebuilt Troy, which was in Hittite territory.)  I’m going to have to do some heavy research before I dive into the rewrites.

But first I’m going to do the rewrite on my fusion of Velvet Goldmine with the 1996 (rather awful) movie adaptation of Emma, which means now I need to dive into rereading the original book and keep my rewrites in pace with my rereading, so I can keep straight things like how long Emma spent using “Mr.” in talking to and about Frank Churchill, when Mrs. Weston had her baby, when the Knightley boys returned to London, etc.  (All things that were completely ignored by said film adaptation, naturally.  I need to watch the new adaptation whenever it makes it onto Netflix or Hulu or whatever.  I missed it in the theatres because its release was cut short by all the theatres closing…but I do want to see a good (or at least better) adaptation, even if its Frank Churchill will never be as hot.)  And that’s precisely why I’m writing this post so far in advance, because otherwise my mind will be filled with Regency England instead of the Mediterranean in the Late Bronze Age .

IWSG – Always Second-Guessing Myself

Published August 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, following July’s Camp NotNaNo, I find I have new problems and complications.

A couple of months back, I posted about my plan to make a video game set in the world of my low-fantasy-with-a-few-steampunk-elements novel series.  (I call it a series, but I’ve only written the first novel, and it’s still in the rewriting phase.  Although the current draft is light years better than the first draft.)  A lot of July was spent working on developing and filling out a template containing all the information I would need for each country.  I only got through the first five…and technically didn’t actually get through any of them, because I added a bunch more questions so late in the month that I never answered any of the new questions.

Thing is, it took me that long to do that much world-building prep for the countries where I didn’t need to do a lot of research first.  Meaning, of course, that the other countries will take even longer to complete.  But that’s only a minor complication, not a problem.

The problem is that my plan was to have 26 countries in this fictional world.  (Although after putting together a really bad attempt at a map, I have been toying with the idea of reducing that to about 23 or 24, because one of the continents turned out much smaller on that map, which made me just stop and think about how hard it would be to create really distinct countries for a continent based on pre-European-contact South America, since most of the cultures we only know about archaeologically, leaving a lot of gaps in what we know, particularly since none of those cultures had writing.  Anyway, whether I end up making 23 countries or 26, if I made the international trade and travel game, that would mean a minimum of 23 cities to visit, yeah?  A bit large for a traditional RPG (I think most of the JRPGs I play tend to max out around 15 towns), but these wouldn’t be full towns for personal exploration, so on the surface that doesn’t sound too bad.

Only it would actually be a lot more than that.  The plan for the game, so far, is that you start out in the Britain-like country, working for an international trading conglomerate, and doing trade runs within the country.  Then after an event involving sky pirates, you end up moving up in the company, and get to do trade runs with the rest of the world.

If the home country has 5-8 towns and all the rest of the world has only one town per country, that’s going to be really lame.  But if all 23-26 countries also have 5-8 towns…!  That’s a minimum of 115 towns and a maximum of 208.

Even 115 towns is way more than I would be able to create, I’m fairly certain.  Not by myself.

I haven’t entirely given up on the idea, because I think it really would make a kick-ass game, but I’ve put it on the back burner, as an “after I’ve finished the novels” type thing.  And fortunately, I don’t have to do as much of the world-building in order to work on the novels.  They won’t be visiting every single country in the world in the novels, so for any country they don’t go to, I don’t need the nitty-gritty details, just the big picture, particularly about how the country relates to the other countries around it.  And some of it is not really relevant even for countries they do go to.  For example, the care of the elderly never came up in the first novel, so if I failed to answer that question on the Britain-equivalent, then that’s all right.  And it isn’t likely to come up in the brief time they’re in the France-like country at the beginning of the second book (they end up leaving pretty quickly, escorting the deposed-queen-in-hiding to her brother, the king of the next country over) either, so if I have proven unable to answer that question there, too, it’s not important.  On the other countries where I don’t know yet what the plot of the book will entail (technically, I don’t even know how many books there will be total or how many countries they’ll end up visiting, though I have definite plans for the ones based on Rome, Greece, Egypt, Japan and the Incan Empire), for the most part as long as I can answer the bigger questions, I can fill in the smaller details later if I realize the novel in question will require it.  But there’s still a massive amount of work to be done, in both research and world-building question-answering, and it’s still feeling quite overwhelming.

Meanwhile, a brief burst of renewed love for ancient Greek mythology had me spend a few days rereading large chunks of my quasi-Young Adult novels about the daughters of Achilles and Odysseus and the son of Aias, and I’m feeling like maybe they’re worth polishing up and releasing (for free via LeanPub and itch.io, of course) after all.  And although when I first realized that I said “no, after the world-building and its related novels,” wouldn’t it make more sense to do the rewrites on a completed novel series first, as that’s a shorter process than all that research and world-building and rewriting and writing?

Or am I just trying to make excuses to get out of so much tedious, low-level research?

Part of me fears it’s just excuses, in all honesty.

Right now, I’m still trying to finish the fanfiction piece I started in the final days of July, but after that…well, I want to start rereading Emma to be able to polish up the fusion piece I wrote based on it (since I kind of promised (well, strongly implied, anyway) I would start posting it in the fall) at the end of this month/beginning of next month, but after I’m done with that….I’m not sure.  I might go back to Atalanta and Ariadne for a while instead of keeping going with this tedious world-building.  Between what I’m working on right now and Emma, I want to keep working on the myths associated with the world-building; there are a lot of myths still to write for pretty much all the cultures I’ve already got myths for (I stupidly forgot to include tales of heroes (outside of the epics) in the ones based on Greece and Rome!), and I haven’t even started the myths inspired by the Scandinavian/Teutonic myths.

Ultimately, I’m feeling really torn about what to do.  Especially because now that I’m unemployed, I want to be spending my time working on something that I could somehow make some money at, which means I absolutely should not be writing, because my writing is garbage and will never get me paid.  (Yeah, I could try to make money off it, self-publishing my novels and asking money in exchange for them, but it’s not like anyone would actually cough up said money.  They’d look at the preview chapters and nope right on out of there.  If it’s free, there’s at least a tiny chance one or two people might think the story sounded interesting enough to put up with my crappy writing to get at it.)  Unfortunately, there’s not really much I can do that people would pay me for.  There are all sorts of roadblocks cropping up in between me and getting paid to proofread others’ works, and there’s nothing else I’m good at.  (Okay, technically, I was pretty okay at my job, but no museums are going to be hiring for a couple of years at the rate things are going, so that’s not really relevant.)

Maybe I should try writing non-fiction.  I did have an idea to get together with a former co-worker and put out a book about a particularly underdocumented doll line, but that would depend on her still having her notes on the subject and on our being able to convince the director of the museum to give us copies of all the photos that were taken a few years back of the museum’s large collection of that kind of doll.  It would also depend on getting photos from other museums and from private collectors.  The private collectors part would probably be a lot easier to accomplish than the museum photos.  Still, I should call her at some point and see if she’s interested.  It would at least be something slightly productive to do…

IWSG – July at Camp NotNaNo

Published July 1, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Ack, I totally forgot the first was a Wednesday!  Normally, I pre-write IWSG posts to go up first thing in the morning, but today… *sigh*  Well, at least I remembered while it was still Wednesday!

Anyway, as NaNo has not (as of yesterday) fixed the brokenness that is its new website, I am not officially doing July CampNaNo, but I am doing one of my unofficial, off-site NaNo things, using the blog to keep tally.  My goal this time is just to put in at least an hour a day on any aspect of the writing process, because I’ve been so overwhelmed by the prospect of the necessary research to finish the worldbuilding on my low-fantasy-with-elements-of-steampunk series that for most of the last month I’ve done very little.  And yet I’ve also made some good progress, and have a lot of directions I know I want to go in.

Earlier this month, amidst the earlier part of the ongoing protests against police brutality and systemic racism, the independent game hub itch.io put up a game bundle called the “Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality”, in which all the products included in the bundle had been digitally donated by their creators, because every cent being paid for the bundle was being split between the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and the Bail Fund.  (This will eventually connect to my earlier topic, I promise.)  Since it was an important and worthy cause, I paid a much higher amount than itch.io was requiring.  (Seriously, $5 split two ways does not do much.  Fortunately, I don’t think I’m the only one who went over the minimum, because they raised over five million dollars.)  A lot of creators donated their creations, to the extent that it takes 59 pages to list everything in the bundle.  (It took me like a week just to sort through it and see what of it I actually wanted.  I also encountered quite a few things I’d either backed on Kickstarter or already purchased via itch.io or on the Switch.)  Anyway, itch.io doesn’t just have video games; they also have light novels, resource packs for making video games, and tabletop RPGS.  Some of these tabletop RPGs really gave me some great ideas about various events that could go in the backstory of that world (like one about being the last librarian in a massive library under siege by an invader), and I ended up downloading a lot of them to use as writing prompts for past events that will likely never actually be mentioned in the novels, but will shape the present.

Also in the bundle were some writer’s guides on worldbuilding.  I’ve now skimmed over one of them, and found it didn’t really suit my needs, for the most part, but in a few places it pointed me in some directions I’d overlooked, and I’ve now got a much more firm idea of the deepest part of the world’s past, which led me directly to reshape my conception of exactly what the MacGuffin is that the leads spend the whole series chasing down pieces of, so that’s a good, promising situation.  (I’m still working on a name for said MacGuffin.  Its old name was no good.)

But the research into all the different cultures upon whom the cultures of that other world are based…that’s a hornet’s nest of “how do I know when it’s enough?” that I’m still a bit dreading wading into.  (And yes, there’s now actually a good reason, in-world, that they’re all so similar to Earth cultures.)  Still, without the CampNaNo “do one hour of work a day” rule hanging over my head, I might not be able to force myself to get moving on it.

I got my hour in this morning, really, really early, because it was so hot in my house that I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t really get back to sleep, leading me to give up and get up at about 6, at which time I got in an hour and twelve minutes (nearly thirteen minutes, in fact) before I got tired and decided to try getting some more sleep.  (Thankfully, I did get another couple hours then.)  Of course, today’s work on writing was much easier than the work will be in a few more days, because right now I’m editing a fanfic so that I can post it, and that’s a lot easier and more simple than diving into the world of online research.  (Given that I’m just trying to get the flavor of the cultures and not present the actual, real-world culture, I’m hoping I won’t have to go much further afield than Wikipedia.)

I’m probably going to have all the time in the world to work on it, because over the past month, the board of directors at the museum where I’ve been working since 2015 (where I volunteered for five years before that) got together and decided that after losing so much revenue to the COVID shutdown (including the revenue from renting out the parking lot for use of people going to the stadium down the street) they needed to let half the staff go, and I was unsurprisingly in the half that suddenly became unemployed.  It’s very frustrating, but…well, I was very upset about it at the time (though I think I managed not to let my now-ex-boss realize I was crying by the time the phone call ended) but now I’m more or less kind of sort of sanguine about it maybe.

*cough*

Anyway, I do have a plan regarding a new job.  I want to find work as a freelance proofreader.  (Don’t let my occasionally sloppy grammar and spelling on the blog fool you; I can be quite meticulous.  I just usually don’t bother with my own work, either due to laziness or for effect.)  I’ve posted a “looking for work” on an itch.io forum in the hopes of getting hired on to proof some visual novels (I’ve been playing one recently that was in the bundle, which was originally written in Spanish, and was not well translated, and that was what gave me the idea, because if the English translation was better the game would be just about perfect), though I have a feeling I won’t get many bites, because independent game developers don’t really have a lot of money to spend on proofreaders.  But I’d like to get some paid jobs as a proofreader under my belt before I try signing up to any of the sites that are more…official.  I do have one in mind, though, because when I ran a simple search about how much a proofreader gets paid, I found a blog post on the subject of how much to charge as a proofreader, which was posted on the blog of a site that connects people for such purposes.  (I didn’t look to see how much the site charges or who it charges, come to think of it.  I’ll need to look into that when the time comes…)  As far as sources of income go, it’s a work in progress type of idea, but at least it’s an idea at all, and one that’s going to have openings a lot sooner than any museums in my area will start looking for new staffers.


Today’s Camp result:  1:12:51.48  (yeah, I used the stopwatch feature on my phone…)

July’s total Camp result to date:  1:12:51.48

Today’s Camp result: 2:14:15.81

July’s total Camp result to date: 2:14:15.81

IWSG: What happened?

Published June 3, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

I can’t believe it’s June already.  So little is happening in my life. 😦

I have at least accomplished one thing during this lockdown, writing-wise, and that’s to have written a 63k Regency-era gay romance.  Uh, okay, calling it a “gay romance” is going too far, especially since it’s only fanfiction.  (And there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on a straight romantic relationship as well as the gay one, though the straight relationship was supposed to be more of a side thing.)  Still, apart from the language starting to modernize towards the end and one reference to the Epic of Gilgamesh, I don’t think I did too much that was anachronistic, so that at least is a win, right?  (I’m going to have to replace the Gilgamesh reference in editing, probably with either the Illiad or the Aeneid, but neither of them fits as perfectly as Gilgamesh, sadly.)

Anyway, I tried to go back to my usual fare (in fact, to something I had left unfinished in order to write the Emma fusion) but it simply has not been working.  I kept dithering and trying to get out of writing the next scene because it was a confrontation with a character I don’t really “get” and thus don’t write well.  But said scene is one of the ones I’ve been planning the longest, and I have some very concrete plans for it, even with a little bit of dialog prepared.  And yet I could not motivate myself to write it.

So, I took that as a sign that I needed to do something else for a while, and decided to do another revision/rewrite on my low-fantasy-with-a-slight-element-of-steampunk.  And I get to the first page, a recruiting poster for an international trading company, and realize that no, before I can properly work on this dang thing, I need to actually finish my worldbuilding, rather than just going blithely along only making up what it feels like I’ll need for this book.  (It’s the first in a series, y’see.)

But the more I’m thinking about it while staring at that first page, the more I’m thinking it feels like a video game’s intro text.  See, a while back, I backed a game on Kickstarter called Silk (now available on Steam and Switch), which is a retro-style game in which you’re a trader on the Silk Road in the later Roman Empire.  (Not super-late, mind you.  But not the early heights, either.)  That was one of the main things I was thinking about in this decision, along with the trading mini-game in my favorite ever RPG series, Suikoden.

So, my current project is not to write fiction, but to write the text of a video game.  There are a number of programs that don’t require too much programming knowledge in order to actually make a game (I’m currently thinking of using RPG Maker, specifically), but I’m going to lay out the basic text and stuff before I even look into the idea of assembling the game itself.  It’s going to force me to do a lot of the stuff that I normally leave for the end or even side-step around, like hammering out names and trying to figure out what the world map looks like.  (Of course, I can’t draw worth a darn, so I’m going to try and use a site that I found ages ago that lets you design maps online.  It’s intended more for the use of DMs of D&D sessions, but it should work fine for my purposes, too.  Naturally, if I end up actually making the game (never a sure thing that I’ll follow through on anything), I’d have to redesign the map in-engine, but at least I’d know what it looked like.  And more importantly, I’ll know what it looks like as I move forward in writing the other books, so I know how possible or impossible it is for my characters to want to go from place A to place B, and how many places need to be in between.)

I put together a list already of the nations of the world of the books/game, starting with just the ones I already had defined or planned, which really forced me to confront just how Eurocentric the original plan was:  it started out with a whopping five countries based on European cultures (though it’s a fantasy world, each culture is inspired by/based on a real one), whereas Africa only had three (of which I had only specified two), and South America only had one.  (North America had four…unless you decide to split off Central America as its own continent.  I can’t help it; I spent several semesters studying the cultures of Mexico pre- and immediately post-European contact, so of course I had to include both the Mexica (aka Aztecs) and the Maya.  And unlike so many other people, I am absolutely not going to combine them.)  So I’ve evened it out now, with five countries on each of the major continents, though I have to research before I can even decide what some of the other cultures I’m being inspired by even are (especially in terms of African cultures, which I am sadly less knowledgeable about than any other continent), and still only the one country on the smaller continent, though depending how big I make it, I may put several “tribes” in that country to allow more varied influence from the Oceanic cultures.  Of course, this kind of research would be a lot easier if the world wasn’t still in COVID lockdown (though my area is starting to reopen, which is not necessarily a good thing, in my opinion, as I think it’s too early and is going to lead to a renewed outbreak, to say nothing of the spiraling descent of this country into a police state) and I could go to the library or even the bookstore.  Though at least bookstores deliver. 😉  (Technically, libraries also have curbside pick-up and stuff in some areas, but realistically for this kind of stuff I’d rather get books from the university library than a regular one anyway, and I don’t think I get to check out books from the university library anymore, given that I graduated some time ago. 😛  )

Overall, it should be fun to work with the nitty-gritty of developing the whole world, advancing various cultures along their relative historical paths until they all match up to the same level of technology (mid- to late 19th century) with various extra factors added to world development and certain other factors removed.  The added factors are primarily the giant animals (the oceans are too dangerous due to the giant sea monsters, so all international travel is by means of animal-powered airships, many pulled/carried by giant birds, bats and even insects, though of course the standard winged horses are also present) and the magic-like effects of various alchemical potions.  It’s the removed factors that make it especially fun, though.  Due to a mystical event (central to the overarching story of the series), one thousand years before the action of the novels, the world was made to forget that war had ever existed.  On top of that, there is no colonialism (in part because everyone is at a common technological level since every nation has access to various flying animals for airships, and in part due to magically-repressed race memory of the entire human species having been forced to serve the fae for many thousands of years) and no religious strife, as no religions ever developed that sought out converts.  However, the effects of the mystical event are beginning to wear off, so while very few people realize that there used to be wars in the distant past, war has been returning over the last century, leading to the novels taking place in such chaotic times that many people were beginning to think they were living in the end times.  (Ack, that reminds me:  I need to figure out what each culture thinks the afterlife is like.)

So, yeah, bottom line is it’s very different from anything I’ve tried to write before (while still being directly related to something I’ve already written) so hopefully it will help to rejuvenate my writing brain.  Or re-energize it, or whatever it is it needs.

IWSG: All in a Daze

Published May 6, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Despite being a natural homebody (at times in the past even bordering on a hikikomori), this prolonged period of isolation is beginning to have its toll on my mental health, especially as the weather is thinking about warming up, triggering several of my health issues without giving me any of the outlets I need to deal with them (acupuncture, water aerobics class, random shopping trips just for a change of scene (not truly retail therapy, since they didn’t always end with me buying anything)).

Needless to say, this is having a negative impact on my ability to write. Physical discomfort breaks my concentration, and I don’t always even manage to summon up any concentration to begin with.

It’s not all bad, of course. I’m almost done with the piece I was just starting last month, and although the tone of this first draft is starting to slip into something less Regency and more contemporary, I think it’s overall turning out pretty well. (And will come in a at about 50k, maybe a bit more.) Still, I’m looking forward to being done with the draft and turning to some low key editing on drafts of simpler things I’ve already edited once or twice before.

Life is on the whole feeling very overwhelming and impossible to overcome right now, as everything gets to feeling like it’s piled on top of me, even though I’ve taken steps to clean up my living space a bit. I also ordered a folding table and chair online which may be delivered later today, and those should give me a truly proper place to write for the first time in ages, which should help in almost every way. So I’m trying to be hopeful.

(Random aside: did you know that during the Regency period they used “any one” and “some one” in a lot of situations where we would use “anyone” and “someone”? One of my major tasks in the second draft will have to be to decide if I want to emulate that, and to clean up all the wrong uses either way! (I’ve been intermittently using them, mostly when I get most drawn into the period, and other times just been using the modern version.) I will also need to reread Emma and take actual notes next time on how, when and why forms of address change between two people, specifically in the case of Frank Churchill.)

IWSG – Everyone’s Talking About It…

Published April 1, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

…and probably for a lot of writers (who don’t have children to deal with) it’s been beneficial, being forced to stay in the house all day, giving so much extra time to write.

I feel like I’m actually spending a lot less time writing since my area went into lockdown.    Partially that’s due to lack of momentum on my current project, but it’s also partially because one of my chief writing times was in the morning before going to work.  I always set my alarm for 6:00, but I don’t have to get ready to go until 8:30, so I have lots of time to wake my brain up, which I usually do by writing.

Only now I don’t have that time, because no way I’m getting up at 6:00 when I don’t have to.  Admittedly, I’m actually one of the lucky ones whose job is considered at least partially essential, so I’m still going in to work a bit; for the first week of the lockdown, I had hours as normal, and this week I’ll be working one day, and next week as well.  Dunno about after that.  (The current lockdown order in my area is until April 22, but there’s no way the COVID threat will have passed by then, so I expect it will be extended.  Or even if it isn’t, that work will not proceed as usual.)

Of course, I could and should spend some of that new free time writing.  But I have a backlog of books to read and video games to play, and my house is in desperate need of a thorough cleaning (and when I say cleaning, I mean junk-clearing, not deep-scrubbing…though it actually needs that, too), and I just suddenly developed this new desperate desire to create a really elaborate boxed room of an artist’s loft, complete with a small walk-out balcony with a small garden box.  I don’t even know why, but it’s practically a mania.  (Seriously, I spent half the afternoon trying to figure the best (and most cost-effective) method of getting two fully poseable 1/12 scale dolls to be the artist and her model.  Even went ahead and ordered them…though I don’t think I’ll end up using both of them for the artist and her model because I ordered two different types of dolls and they’re really, really, really incompatible.  Like, one of them is super-real and the other is anime-style.)  I don’t even have a place to put said box room at the moment, until I clean the house, for crying out loud!

Um…

Sorry, that’s not what I’m supposed to be talking about.  Although I do hope that having ordered the dolls (and their clothes and their wigs) will have satiated the urge enough to put the rest of it on the back burner at least until I can actually, you know, clear up the space where I’d put the dang thing.  Anyway, I’m hoping that my new writing project will energize me back into writing.

I know I mentioned a couple of times in past IWSG posts (which have sadly become almost the entirety of this blog at the moment) that I had written a fusion fan-fiction combining my favorite movie, Velvet Goldmine, with Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film of Henry V, because Christian Bale was in both of them, and I was combining his roles in the fusion.  (Well, more like sticking his Velvet Goldmine character into the life of his Henry V character, but…same diff, right?)  Well, as I might have also mentioned (I’d check, but I spent so long on stupid online shopping for needless toys that it’s now dinner time and I promised myself I wouldn’t have dinner until I got this post written up for tomorrow morning), one of the other fusion ideas I had at the same time was to combine Velvet Goldmine with the 1996 film of Emma, because Ewan McGregor was in both of them.  And, honestly, the character of Frank Churchill combines pretty well with Curt Wild…aside from the one’s extreme heterosexuality and exceptionally privileged upbringing.  They even both sing. 😛

Anyway, because Emma also featured Toni Colette (who played the wife of the fellow rock star Curt Wild was having his passionate love affair with in Velvet Goldmine) as Harriet Smith, I felt I needed to read the book first to really get an understanding of the situation and characters and how to add not just one Velvet Goldmine character, but two.  (The original fusion story was in response to a prompt requesting one of the Velvet Goldmine romances be transferred into another film in one of the two actors’ massive and diverse filmographies.)  Because you can’t have a Jane Austen novel where one of the primary characters is left without a romance, right?  Although technically I could just leave Harriet as Harriet despite her sharing Mandy’s actress, but that would be weird and no fun — but there is absolutely no way Mandy Slade would settle for Robert Martin.  Mandy can only marry Brian Slade.  (The fact that we don’t know Mandy’s maiden name will suit my story well; she’ll just become Amanda Smith.  (I figure the Regency era would probably not be terribly keen on the nickname “Mandy.”))

So, I’ve been reading the book — and quite astonished at just how much the movie left out (no wonder they decided to make a new film adaptation of it!) — and am now almost finished with it.  Scratch that, by the time you’re reading this, I will be finished with it.  And I’ve made a lot of notes about where to add Arthur (Christian Bale’s character) — as the apprentice to Mr. Perry, Highbury’s apothecary — and of course Brian will become Brian, Lord Slade, famous (or infamous) for the poem “Childe Maxwell,” a decision I came to as soon as I realized I was going to add Brian to the mix, because there is no more suitable Regency equivalent for Brian Slade than Lord Byron.  (In fact, Lord Byron is pretty much the perfect comparison for Brian Slade, period.)  Such a poet — who can go anywhere and do whatever he pleases — is easy to insert, especially when the original story already has a flighty, wealthy young man of just the sort who might associate with a Byronic poet.  (Uh, except that Frank Churchill is not really intelligent enough for the real Lord Byron to have wanted to consort with him…)  I came to my decision about Arthur’s role pretty early on the course of reading the book (when I realized just how much of a fixture Mr. Perry would be at the Woodhouse home not necessarily during the action of the book, but in the day-to-day life outside the story), because it would give him good access to important events and characters without his being somewhere he would seem to be inappropriate, and also because it would make him someone so unimportant — insignificant, in fact! — that the characters from the book would pay him no heed, and go right on with their own lives whether he was there or not, because he would be to their mind barely more than a servant, and therefore invisible.  I was glad to see, as the book progressed, that it was going to be a really ideal position for him throughout, with the bonus that this way I could even include the drug addiction plot thread from the movie, because as an apprentice apothecary, Arthur could get laudanum for them without it seeming the least bit suspicious, which would give him some internal conflict as he began to realize that no, they weren’t suffering from terrible headaches, but were taking the opium in order to seek pleasure.

All in all, I’m pretty excited about the project, it should be a lot of fun, and yet I also feel like a total freaking hypocrite.  For two reasons, actually.  The first is pretty simple; quite some time ago, I posted a “free plot idea” on this blog, suggesting an Austen-like romance where it turned out that one or more of the handsome young gallants was secretly gay, and was having to lead a double life as he tried to find a love that would make him happy without exposing himself to the harsh punishments his era would have doled out.  I posted it because I felt there was no way I could write it myself, lacking both the subtlety and understanding of the human mind to write it well, and lacking the time to research it properly.  I haven’t increased dramatically in human understanding (if anything I might have gotten worse), and although I now have time to do research, I’m not likely to actually do so.  And actually I couldn’t really do very good research even if I wanted to, what with all the libraries in the area being closed for the duration.

The second reason I feel like a hypocrite is that sometime after I posted that plot idea, I went looking to see if there already was anything like that out there.  All I found (with a search which was probably not very thorough) was a book where someone had re-written Pride and Prejudice to make it a gay romance.  I didn’t even look very closely to see if they had changed the sexuality of one or more characters, or their sex.  I was too outraged that someone would wreak such changes on one of my favorite books to find out the particulars of how they had done it.  (Alas, if only I had known what someone was going to do to said book so soon after that!  Making it gay is at least a change for a good reason, and happy same-sex romances are always nice to have.)  But here I am, about to mutilate a different one of Jane Austen’s novels to make it gay.  (And while it’s not my favorite, I’m sure it’s someone’s favorite.)  Admittedly, I’m doing it in a weird and round-about way, and technically I’m actually trying to turn the movie gay, not the book, but I’ll be borrowing a lot of events from the book that didn’t make it into the movie, because if I stick to just what’s in the movie, I’ll be limiting myself too much; the book’s events lend themselves to my ideas better.  (Though I will be watching the movie again before I start, to refresh my memory as to just which events were actually in it.  Also to revisit the entirely invented first introduction of Frank Churchill, because that was a freakin’ awesome character introduction.)

Of course, even as excited as I am about the project, it may not kickstart me back into writing properly again.  The weather’s getting warmer again, which means I can’t sit in my nice comfy leather chair for any length of time before the leather starts heating up and I get unbearably uncomfortable and have to sit on the floor, which is bad for my back and not particularly conducive to writing.  (Last summer I eventually got to the point of sitting in a nearby wooden chair with my computer on a folding table, and that worked pretty well.  But ironically it’s not warm enough for that yet, because my legs and especially my feet are as sensitive to cold as my back has become sensitive to the heat of the leather.)  And I might quickly find myself overwhelmed by trying to write for the period and the setting.  I don’t know.  There are so many question marks and uncertainties.

But these days, there are question marks and uncertainties about pretty much everything.

IWSG: A Strange Self-Realization

Published March 4, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, not long ago, someone who had been an intern under my supervision asked me for a letter of recommendation. As I was writing said letter, I came to a sudden and actually somewhat alarming realization about myself and the way I process the world around me.

You know how some people are said to miss the forest for the trees? Well, I realized that I have no trouble seeing the forest or the leaves, but I miss the trees altogether.

I know that sounds nuts, but…it is what it is, you know? I have no trouble with the big, broad, sweeping ideas, but the basics elude me, even as I get bogged down in the minutiae.

And this applies to my fiction writing in all kinds of ways. When I’m approaching a new project, I always have this broad strokes idea of roughly what I want it to be or where I want it to go, and I know little things I want to have happen here and there, but I have a great deal of difficulty scraping together the connecting tissue like the actual events of the plot, and sometimes even the characters.

Unfortunately, as this is a very basic “how my brain works” kind of thing, I’m not sure what, if anything, I can hope to do about it. I mean, it does, at least, give me a clue as to how to approach my problem areas, but…

Amusingly, I’m kind of living it right now. I had this big idea, and some little details, and now I’m floundering with everything else.

I’m going to have to spend a while just trying to think of a way to work around this, I guess.

IWSG: Sort of Stalled?

Published February 5, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I’m in a weird place with my writing, a place which is not easy to define.

Okay, technically, part of where I am is easy to define:  I’m 170ish hours into the throes of “omg, how can I do anything else when I still haven’t scaled every single obstacle in Hyrule looking for Koruks? or, like, you know, defeated Ganon or some junk.”  I may be a couple years late, but having finally gotten a Switch, I have finally gotten to experience the ultimate gaming freedom that is The Legend of Zelda:  Breath of the Wild.  Because it’s hard to put down a game that lets you get from point A to point B in a straight line, even if that means scaling two mountains, a sheer cliff face, and traversing a couple of rivers.  And which has little spirits hiding under almost every rock.  It’s kind of a waste that there’s, you know, a story and stuff.  Takes away from the exploring.

Um, *ahem*, sorry.  That was not what I’m supposed to be posting about.  (In my defense, one of the reasons I started playing it when I did was that I sprained my ankle really badly on New Year’s Eve (I can’t remember, did I mention that in last month’s post?) and so I was facing a very long period of having to just sit around with my foot up trying to let it rest.)

So, my writing.  Although I’m still trying to get some original fiction written (just did another editing pass through the one I actually plan on releasing (for free) via LeanPub, in fact, though it still needs more work), I’m also still enjoying playing around with fanfiction, because why shouldn’t I?  But I’ve hit a point where I feel like…maybe there’s not much point in posting it online.

Oddly, I’m at this point because the last thing I posted was actually well received.  I mean, for me.  For a fandom that’s a bit over twenty years old and was never all that huge to begin with (what with being about ’70s (male) glam rock stars in love with each other).  I think I mentioned it at some point, a story I wrote for the fanfic Yuletide exchange, fusing my fandom with the Branagh Henry V, because Christian Bale was in both of them.  It’s a very unusual story for me in a lot of ways (not just because of the whole Shakespeare thing, though that is of course part of it), and it was largely the product of a momentary burst of inspiration (I guess I should watch more Shakespeare), and I ended up producing something much better than my usual works, which is of course why it was better received.

But I can’t replicate the process that led to the story, because inspiration doesn’t work like that.  Especially since even when you are inspired, it’s not always going to bleed over into the final product.  I tried a couple of times to do a similar fusion for the version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Bale was in ten years later, and it completely didn’t work, to an appalling degree.  (Partially because he was playing one of the least likable characters out of a play that featured quite a bumpercrop of unpleasant people, whereas his character in Velvet Goldmine is a shy sweetie.  Those just don’t mesh well.)

I always have a backlog of unposted fics, because I don’t like having two of my works next to each other on the list when the works are sorted by date edited, and new fics in that fandom don’t go up very often.  But in this case, I could have started posting something right away, because there was something that went up only a few days later.  There have been several more since.  But I haven’t posted anything.

I don’t even know if I want to.

I had thought I’d be different and post the cross-over I wrote with Doctor Who.  Only I was feeling unsure about it, and then the new season started, and unlike last season, it’s been terrible so far.  (I am at least one episode behind, though.  Um, the last one I saw was the one with The Jidoon. That’s where I am.)  So after that, I’m much less tempted to post it, especially since it’s the new Doctor in the fic.  (But with my favorite companion from the original show.  Because reasons.)  I did write a fix-it fic for one of the episodes of the new season that was particularly awful and yet also particularly easy to fix, but I’m reluctant to post that, too, even though it’s a different fandom and so none of the Velvet Goldmine readers are likely to see it.  Which may not even really have anything to do with my hesitation anyway.

I kind of want to post a different one, because I’ve already written its sequel, which crosses over with another favorite movie of mine, Hail, Caesar!, which gets even less fanfiction love (I think the most recent post was in 2018?) even though it’s so much more recent, but…I don’t know.

I don’t know about anything.

It’s not like I’d stop writing them, even if I stop posting them, so…I just sort of have to sit back and figure out if there’s really any point to posting them, and if it’s actually what I want to do or not.

Tragically, not the kind of question that can have an easy answer.

Also, I find myself in a mood lately to write stories where love is rejected (or simply not present), which is not what anyone wants to see with in fiction for this fandom (not even me), but…I dunno.

Serious case of listlessness. That would be part of it.

IWSG: A New Writing Year

Published January 1, 2020 by Iphis of Scyros

Happy New Year, all!

My 2019, from a writing perspective, was all over the map.  I had a lot of struggles getting back into the writing habit after being unable to write for a long time due to the final semesters of my Master’s Degree.  And a lot of my plans just sort of fizzled out and got left on the wayside.  And of course there was the whole surreal issue of not officially taking part in NaNoWriMo for the first time since 2011.

On the other hand, I’ve had some successes with my writing since graduation.  Well, “successes” may be overstating it.  But I’ve written some stuff that I felt was pretty good.  It’s just fanfic, but…hey, writing is writing, right?

Towards the end of November, I wrote a short piece fusing my favorite movie, Velvet Goldmine, with the Branagh version of Henry V, since Christian Bale was in both.  It was a simple piece, just adding in another Velvet Goldmine character as a minstrel-turned-soldier, setting up that they knew each other, and then having him intervene as the French troops are slaughtering the boys with the baggage, allowing a happy(ish) ending for the VG boys, and forcing King Hal to carry a less attractive corpse during Non Nobis.  It was a treat for a fanfic exchange called Yuletide.  (Treat meaning that I wasn’t signed up, and therefore wasn’t assigned a request to write for and didn’t receive a story from someone else, just that I answered someone else’s request just because I felt like it.)  The stories went up on Christmas, and since then this one has gotten the kind of response, numerically, that it would normally take three to six months to get, if it would get that response at all.  Part of that may just be because the stories remain anonymous for a week, so no one knows yet that I wrote it, so anyone who normally avoids my fics because they know my writing sucks wouldn’t know to avoid it.  Or maybe people just decided to read it because they were intrigued to see the bizarre combination of characters from a movie about 1970s glam rock being inserted into the Hundred Year War.

The recipient of the treat left a long gushing comment about how much they loved it, which really drove home something else:  the fact that I not only am not used to receiving compliments/praise, but that it actually makes me deeply uncomfortable.  That may actually be part of the reason I decided a long time ago that I didn’t want to try to publish anything:  no matter what happened, if I published something, I’d lose, because if everyone hated it then I’d be crushed by all the negative comments, but if people loved it I’d be mortified by their praise, too.  There’s not really anything I can do about it, but at least I understand myself a bit better now.

Another thing I understand due to all the stuff I’ve written this past year (but especially in the last six months or so) is that I’m actually really bad at long form fiction, particularly things with a big, epic plot, but I can do pretty well with shorter, less ambitious works.  Unfortunately for me, a lot of the ideas that come to me are for long things with big, epic plots.  About all I can do with that knowledge is to try and come up with smaller ideas in the future, but I don’t really have control over what kind of ideas come to me.

My plans for 2020 are nebulous right now, in part because it’s hard for me to concentrate on anything because I seriously twisted my ankle earlier today.  (Well, yesterday by the time this is posted.  Pre-writing and all.)  Hopefully it’s just a heavy sprain, but if I tore a ligament or something…ugh, I don’t even want to think about it.  I’ll go to a doctor with it on Thursday or Friday if it’s not a bit better by then.  (Though I spent a lot of today with it on ice, and I’ve been keeping it elevated, so hopefully…well, we’ll just see.)

At least at first, I’ll be sticking with the fan fiction, but I’m still hoping to get back to that low fantasy with steampunk elements.  As long as I basically maintain my writing habit, I’ll be content.  On the writing score, anyway.

IWSG – Looking Back on NotNaNo

Published December 4, 2019 by Iphis of Scyros

Obviously, it was surreal not to be officially taking part in NaNoWriMo.  This is the first time since 2011 that I haven’t done it.

And yet I was still doing it, just not officially.  I still wrote 50,000+ words over the course of November.  A lot more than the 55k I counted, in fact, since I was also posting daily to this blog in order to leave an “official” tally.  (Though technically there was one day that had no post and one that had two, because I took so long one particular day that the post didn’t go up until after midnight.)

Of course, I didn’t do things the normal way in any other regard, either.  I didn’t drop what I had been writing to go straight on to my brand new project.  I didn’t get to the new project until almost halfway through the month.   I don’t know if that was why the new project didn’t really work out for me, or if it was just the exceptionally half-baked way I had planned it out.

I think a little of both, probably.

After giving up on it and letting the failure percolate for a while, I think I’ve nailed down why it didn’t work.  It wasn’t just that it didn’t gel with me, or that I didn’t have any idea who the villain was or even what they were trying to do; I’m such a pantser that I tend to proceed more on momentum than anything else, after all.   And I think that’s what killed it.  I was adhering too closely to the plot that I had generated via Querent (see this post for details), and it mentioned that the thing that almost stops the heroes from setting out on their journey has a wish-fulfillment aspect to it.  So I had them escape the destruction of the pub where they met by passing through the space-time fluctuation that was destroying it (long story) and end up in the very distant past, on a rather paradisaical world, so the wish-fulfillment was just going to be them getting to stay there.  The werewolf secondary heroine was going to be protected from her transformation because there aren’t any moons orbiting that planet, and the main heroine was…um…actually, nothing I came up with even seemed like an adequate wish to fulfill, which is (most likely) part of the reason I was getting derailed.  I was planning on having the king there offer her a major court position, which was to take the place of whatever she would have accomplished if she hadn’t dropped out of what amounts to a magical PhD program, but…she hadn’t really been seeking her degree out of a sense of ambition, so it didn’t really hit that wish-fulfillment goal.

More importantly, because they emerged out of a tense situation into one that was blissful and safe, they had no reason to get closer to each other, and instead their differing personalities (to say nothing of the heroine’s anti-social tendencies) drove them apart, making it completely unlikely that they would ever want to set out on a journey together.

I should have had them emerge into a terrible place, and if I wanted to follow the generated plot by having a nobleman try to stop them going on their quest, it should have been by imprisoning them, not by offering them plush jobs at his court.

I plan to return to it eventually and do it right, with them coming out into a terrible place that forces a bond of friendship to grow between them, but I’m not going to bother until I have at least some idea of who the villain is or at least what the villain wants to do and why they want to stop them.

Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep writing whatever floats around in my crazy brain.

For example…

…I went to see a movie today.  Knives Out, which was absolutely fantastic.  (And I don’t like murder mysteries as a genre, so the fact that I completely loved it is really saying something.  Especially considering how likable the victim was, unlike in Murder on the Orient Express, where the victim was an utter monster and you were glad he’d been horribly and repeatedly stabbed.)  I now have two stories I want to write.

The first, obviously, is a murder mystery (though how I’d write one when I don’t like the genre and never read them is beyond me), but also a fanfiction and slightly…not exactly a fusion with Knives Out, but close, in that the reason I want to write it is because Toni Colette was in Knives Out, as well as in the movie that is my obsession, Velvet Goldmine.  So now I want to write a story wherein Mandy Slade remarries and then her new father-in-law is killed at a party in his enormous, isolated manor house filled with his suspicious family.  It’ll require a lot more planning than I usually do (being almost incapable of writing anything that isn’t sheer pants (in the British sense as well as the “writing by the seat of my pants” sense)) but I should be able to write it, even if it may not turn out very good.

The other…I don’t even know how to describe what it would be.  So, there was this trailer for a movie called Antebellum.  For the life of me, I have no idea what the movie is about.  It looked like they were editing together pieces of three different movies.  It’s probably a horror flick, given the creepy little girl.  (Or rather, it looked like they were taking a Civil War/antebellum South movie, a modern drama and an evil-little-girl horror flick and editing them together (with the occasional literal overlap, like a horse-drawn carriage on a modern city street), so that probably means it’s the latter with trappings of the former two.)  But as my brother and I were discussing the trailers on the way home, we were talking about that one and trying to figure out just what the heck it actually is, and he came to the conclusion I just described, about it being a horror movie, but with, like, time travel or something, and I said how it could be something more novel, like it had a Megazone 23-style setting (wait, is it 23 or 32?), so that the whole thing is actually on a space ship or space station or whatever, and the little girl is patching between different zones of it.  We both agreed that would be much more interesting than whatever likely is actually going on.  I went one further by saying how it could look like it was an evil-creepy-child situation, only then it turns out the creepy little girl is actually the heroine, because she’s able to go into these zones and rescue the clueless inhabitants from their Matrix-like imprisonment.  We both agreed that was definitely not what’s going on in that movie…but now I want to write a story where that is what’s going on.  Dunno if I’ll ever get to that one.  It would be dipping into a lot of genres I don’t read or watch (though obviously I would pick a different past era than the antebellum South, picking instead one I actually like and know a bit about) and again I’d have to do a lot of planning first.  Still, I intend to let it percolate around in my broken brain and see if anything useful dribbles out later on down the line.

.

..

Ew, that sounded really gross.

Um, anyway, rather than either of those things, my next writing projects are likely to be two very odd fanfiction pieces I now have ideas for.  Probably my favorite thing I wrote this past month — and certainly the most unexpected thing I wrote — was a fanfiction fusion combining Velvet Goldmine and Henry V.  (A fusion being different from a cross-over in that it’s literally reworking the world so — wait, let me give examples instead.  Mickey’s Christmas Carol, in which Mickey Mouse & co. actually were the characters from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is an example of a fusion, while the comic book stories that have universes collide, people or ships pop across dimensions, etc., would be examples of cross-overs.  (Crossovers are apparently very common in comic books, to hear my brother tell it.  And I’m not talking about two books by the same company happening to converge; I’m talking about things like DC and Marvel cooperating to have their heroes meet each other, or things that let the crew of the Enterprise meet the Doctor.  (And yes, both of those have happened in comic books.  Published, official ones.))

Anyway, I had thought about doing fusions for a few other literary films those actors made (specifically Midsummer Night’s Dream and Emma) only it seemed a bit too complicated.  But I just worked out how to do both of them, so I’m going to see if I can get those done in time to turn in at least one more of them for the Yuletide event.  Emma may be too complex to get done in time, but the other I think there’s a good chance of.

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