Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Reboots, reboots, reboots

In the last few weeks, I’ve heard about attempts to reboot Quantum Leap, Babylon 5, even Jaws.  I understand that the entertainment business is a business, and they know they can safely make money by rebooting a beloved classic.  Even though half the money they make will be from people who only watch it so that they can bitch online about how the original was better, it’s still money.  And while they could make billions if an original project is successful and launches a franchise, it’s more likely an original project will only do okay, or even lose money.  I understand all of that, but it still hurts that there are countless fantastic movies and shows out there that will never be made because the risk on an unknown property is too great.

Having said all that, here are some thoughts I’ve had for a reboot of Star Wars, because you know it will happen someday. 

First things first, this idea is for three trilogies, with the idea that the nine movies would be released over nine years, none of this decades between trilogies crap.  Each trilogy would focus on one character, these being Anakin, Leia, and Ben.  The Force would also be a little different.  Everyone would have midichlorians, but there would be levels.  Like below 500 you’re just an average human.  Between 500-1000 you’re pretty agile and have quick reflexes, so you make a good pilot, or shooter.  Han is like a 900.  But when you have midichlorian levels over 1000, then you can start doing all the cool Jedi stuff.  And in my version the Jedi are monkish, but they do marry and have kids; that’s where the majority of new Jedi come from.

So I haven’t thought much on the Anakin Trilogy, but basically you start with an average Jedi kid who falls under the influence of Palpatine who is staging a decades long coup to take over the Galactic Republic.  Episode III ends with Padmé (also a Jedi) giving birth to Leia and Obi-Wan saying he’ll keep her safe, because they’ve all seen what Anakin is falling into.  Obi-Wan goes off to put her on a shuttle with all the other Jedi kids, but there’s a problem.  Or maybe Yoda stops him because he has seen a glimpse of the future.  But Anakin/Vader shows up at Padmé’s room wanting to see his child, but she tells him she’s fleeing with the other kids.  Anakin/Vader is upset, because Palpatine had him set a bomb on the shuttle.  They have a convenient window to watch the shuttle take off and then explode.  Anger at thinking his child is dead because she didn’t trust him, Vader kills Padmé.

Obi-Wan takes Leia to Bail Organa whose wife has just had a son, Luke, but they announce that she had twins to hide Leia.  Only the Jedi knew that Anakin had betrayed them, so Obi-Wan tells Bail that Anakin died a hero trying to save the children from Vader. 

The Leia Trilogy is set seventeen or so years later.  Luke and Leia are going around the galaxy learning the family business of politics.  But secretly, they are gathering information for the Rebellion.  In this version, the Rebellion is basically the Empire grinding out the last bits wanting to return to the days of the Republic.  And after almost twenty years, there’s not much left.  In their journey they come across Han and Obi-Wan.  Obi-Wan starts teaching Leia and Episode IV ends with her using her new abilities to save a bunch of prisoners on, say, Hoth. 

Episode V will center on how the Hero of Hoth has injected new blood into the Rebellion.  At first, Luke is happy for his sister, but he starts getting annoyed when she keeps overshadowing him.  Also, he’s upset that he doesn’t have the midichlorians to be a Jedi. 

Episode VI starts with the birth of Ben, who is then taken away from the warzone.  The Empire builds a Death Star and use it to destroy several planets in rebellion.  So there’s a big mission to destroy it and kill Palpatine.  Along the way Vader turns back to the Light Side before dying. 

The Ben Trilogy is set fifteen or so years later.  Things haven’t gone all that well.  Leia wants a return to the Republic, but Luke has the idea that a less evil Empire is the way to security, with him as Emperor, of course.  Since she spent so much time fighting a war, Leia never fully went into the Jedi side of her life.  But she wants Ben to be the core of the new Jedi Order that will help keep the New Republic in line.  Which is a lot for a teenager, especially one who just wants to spend time with his girlfriend Rey. 

I’m not sure exactly what happens, but after forty some years of civil war, the younglings of the galaxy want to move on, let the past die, and not be stuck with the dreams of their parents.  Whatever happens, Episode IX ends with the birth of Ben and Rey’s boy, Anakin.  Is the cycle of war and darkness over, or is a new cycle just beginning?


So those are my basic thoughts on the Star Wars reboot.  I know it’s not the real Star Wars, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Writing Newsletter Third Quarter 2021


In the last three months, I’ve republished three of my stories.  They are “The Greater the Risk,” “Good for the Goose,” and “Shake Things Up.”

I also published my … unfinished story “The News.” This is a story that I should have finished in 2005, but it got forgotten about.  And now, it’s too outdated to really work without a major overhaul.  I hated to just throw it away, so I just cut out all the “Add details here” bits and published it.  Someday I may have to look through my dead story folder to see if there are any other unfinished stories that are finished enough to work as a blog post. 

A big thing I started in the last three months are my Free Story Ideas.  I have more ideas that I will ever be able to write, so I’m writing up my outlines and notes for various stories and just posting them to the world.  If someone can make something with these ideas, great. 

Things have been hectic for a while, and I haven’t gotten much real writing done.  Hopefully, things will ease up and I’ll have the time and energy to write more.  We’ll see.

***

Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Free story idea – The Wall

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

The Wall

CB – not his real initials – was a friend of mine from college.  We stayed in touch, but starting a few years ago it was mostly through arguments on Facebook.  Basically, since I didn’t agree with him that capitalism is the bestest thing ever and CANNOT be question, it just meant I was a dirty socialist bent of using the dark arts to resurrect Stalin.  To be honest, he didn’t sound that crazy, but ….  I haven’t talked to him for about two years, but I would not be shocked if I found out he was firmly in the “The government can’t tell me to wear a mask, because … FREEDOM” camp.

Anyway, after some argument – probably over the “socialist plot of climate change to take away people’s guns” – I wanted to write a story on how, if his ideology was actually practiced by the world, things would suck.  Specifically, the idea that only individuals should be able to make decisions on their lives.  If anyone makes decisions for other people, that’s tyranny.  Well, if it’s a government that does it.  In the name of capitalism, corporations can do whatever the fuck they want to anyone.  It was while I was trying to hammer out an idea, that we had our final argument where I think I hurt his feelings by crudely stating a – for him – unpleasant fact and he unfriended me.

Anyway, since then I’ve hammered out a little bit of this story I called CB’s Wall.  The barebones plot could be a short story, but it doesn’t feel like there would be enough meat to be a good story.  Fleshing things out could bulk it up to a novella, but unless you dive deep into several social issues, I don’t think you could get a novel out of this.

The story starts with Person (I had been leaning towards having the main character be a woman, but I hadn’t fully committed to it.) who is four or five.  They live with their father in a log cabin.  It’s very 1800’s, but there may be some odd knickknacks that don’t fit that time.  Their mother died a few ago, possibly while giving birth to a baby sibling, who also died.  Anyway, the week before, there was a storm that ripped a hole in a neighbor’s barn roof.  The man of the house was away on business, so the wife asked Person’s Father to fix it.  He did, but she didn’t have enough money to pay for it all, so she offered a way to make up the difference, which Father accepted.  When the man came back, he knew something was off with the price, and probably got the full story after beating his wife.  So he came and nearly beat Father to death.  He probably only stopped when a crying Person shielded Father’s body.  The man swore that they could both “Go to the Wall,” then stormed out.

For the next week, Person had to tend to Father, and try to keep the farm going.  Once Father was feeling better, Person asked him what the man had meant by “Go to the Wall.” Father sighed, and said it was probably time for Person to find out.

They pack up supplies for a long hike.  They head East through the woods, taking a few wide turns around Plague Villages.  Disease of some sort had hit them decades – or longer – ago, and they were abandoned and nearly taken back by the forest.  They also pass a few Ancient Sites which – the reader will hopefully figure out – are the thousand or so year old decayed ruins of modern cities.  Eventually, they come to a small hill, and when they get to the top they see the Wall on the horizon.  It’s a couple hundred feet tall, smooth, unbroken, and stretches as far as can be seen to the north and south. 

Father explains that there are apparently other Walls in other directions.  Nobody has walked far enough to know if they’re separate Walls, or if there’s one Wall that encloses them.  Nobody knows how the Ancients built it, or why.  Were they walling something out, or them in?  Person wants to know all the answers, but Father tries to discourage them because there’s too much work that needs done – harvesting crops, hunting meat, cutting firewood, etc. – to waste it pondering the unknowable.  “Only worthless drunks wonder why the sun rises in the east.”

If Father doesn’t want Person thinking about the Wall, why did he take them to see it?  I think in this society seeing the Wall is like a rite of passage.  You see it once so you know there’s stuff out there you’ll never understand, so you stay focused on the more important stuff like having food for the winter.  Also, this is the farthest Person has been from the farm, and it was a chance for Father to teach them some forest skills like tracking game and what plants you can eat. 

A few years later, Father is killed, possibly by another outraged husband.  So Person has to learn to support themselves.  This would be a great place to flesh stuff out.  Person is strange – for this society – so they probably don’t fit in well with their peers. 

Person becomes a hunter and trapper who spends months at a time out in the forest, and who frequently goes to the Wall.  They go right up to it, and see that it’s smooth and there’s nothing to climb.  They try digging under it, but the Wall goes down as deep as they can dig.  With a compass, they find that the Wall curves ever so slightly.  With their observations, and possibly the help of a scholarly type – a worthless drunk as Father would say – They work out that the Wall is about a 1,000 miles in diameter.  And the eastern most point, is just a few days walk north of the spot Father showed Them.  If there were any doors, or markings, or anything on the Wall, it’s likely they would be at the four cardinal points. 

So Person sets out, and they almost miss the door.  The only thing that marks it is that there is the tiniest crack and moss is growing in it.  Person manages to pry the door open, and it leads into a tunnel twenty or so feet deep.  Person lights a torch and goes in, but once they’re in, the ceiling of the tunnel “magically” lights up.  Then a strange voice says something.  It sounds like Their language, but the words aren’t right.  Person says something, and then these images appear on the wall of the tunnel.  Some are basic, like “human, dog, tree,” but some show items They don’t know.  The voice starts talking, and slowly it becomes more and more understandable.  Basically, when Person entered the wall, They woke up an AI that had been turned off for a thousand years.  In that time, the language Person speaks has altered from what the AI was programmed with, so it had to relearn the language.

Once they are able to understand each other, the AI tells Person that about a thousand years ago, humanity split into those who wanted to stay unmodified Mark 1 Humans, and those that wanted to evolve.  So the evolved made a reservation for the Mark 1s.  Person is excited and wants to meet these evolved humans, but the AI – after contacting a more advanced, hibernation AI on the outside – says that these evolved humans left Earth centuries ago to explore the universe.  Besides, to these evolved humans, Person would probably just be a primitive being worthy of study, but not interaction.

And that’s it.  The reason I was trying to hammer this story out for CB, was to counter his argument that only he should be able to make decisions about himself.  But the only reason he is where he is, is because of decisions other people made long ago.  And the decisions he makes now “that only affect him,” will change the options for future generations.  It’s like a skill tree in a game.  He could put everything on strength, which could work very well for him, but his kids may be left out in a world that requires speed.  Because, let’s be honest, the playing field onto which we are all born is far from level.

An easier way I could have gone about this would be with a generational starship.  The first generation decides for themselves that they want to go on this journey, but the result is that their kids and grandkids have no choice but to be stuck on a ship they can’t leave.  Person’s ancestors decided they liked things the way they were and didn’t want to evolve.  But now Person – who to be honest wouldn’t have existed if they had decided differently – who is at least curious about this evolving can’t because that’s no longer an option.  Someone else’s decision removed an option from their choices. 

CB’s choice not to care about climate change means future generations won’t have the option to not care.  Probably, using his logic to point out that his choices will have negative effects on other people he’d just dismiss as socialist propaganda.  Which is probably why I stopped working on this story.  The person I was writing it for would refuse to see the point of it.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Unfinished story, “The News”

I probably started this story a few months after 9/11, back when I’d turn on the news the first thing in the morning just in case something had happened in the night.  I started the story, thought it was interesting, but didn’t finish it for one reason or another.  A few years later, I came across it and added in some new details, but I think it was becoming dated, so I didn’t put much work into it because I didn’t think I could do anything with it.  And that’s how things have stood for the past ten-plus years.  But with the recent 9/11 anniversary, I was thinking about this story so I dug it out.  It has become even more dated and I was about to move it to my Dead Story folder, when I realized that was a bit of a waste for a story that’s 90% done.  I could update it, but that would basically be rewriting the whole thing.  So I took five minutes and cut out all the “Add more details here” bits, and ended up with a story that would have been interesting fifteen years ago.

“The News”

Jason Cole stood on the end of a pier watching his coworker Susan Black swimming naked in the ocean.  She had not seen him and he smiled thinking what everyone at the office would say when he told them of her tattoo of a four-leaf clover on her right buttocks.  Then his alarm went off.

With a groan he rolled onto his side while his right arm flopped around until he hit the snooze button.  He stayed on his side and fell back asleep.  When the alarm went off again his right arm shot straight out and hit the snooze.  This time he sat up, and held his head in his hands.  He was still like that when his alarm went off for the third time.  He turned the alarm off and continued to sit on the side of the bed for another minute, yawning, stretching, and scratching his side.  What finally got him to his feet was not the fact that he had to be at work in an hour, but that he had to piss.

Once his bladder was empty, he walked through his living room to the kitchen and filled his stomach with a bowl of corn flakes and a large cup of coffee.  As he ate he mentally reviewed his presentation on the Tanaka account he was to give before the board that afternoon.  It did not require much thought; it was just a rehashing of the last three presentations he had given.  The information boiled down to the statement, “Things are going well, and they will continue going well as long as the board dosen’t screw things up.” It had taken him three days before his first presentation to stretch that to ten minutes and turn it into something that would let him keep his job.  Since then it only took an hour or two to freshen it up a bit. 

He rinsed his bowl out and set it in the sink.  As he was going to the bathroom for his shower, the image of Susan swimming in the ocean brought him to a stop in front of his TV.  His brow furled as he tried to remember the entire dream.  He was walking along the beach, something had happened, and then he saw her swimming.  And she had a tattoo.

This thought had him laughing throughout his shower.  Susan was the most up-tight woman he had ever met.  She would turn red if anyone used a curse worse than ‘heck.’ Once Mike had dropped ‘the F-Bomb’ in front of her and everyone thought she would faint.  But she had taken a deep breath, stood up, said, “Excuse me,” and walked out the door.  She did not come back for ten minutes.  Of course Joyce and Todd thought it was all just an act.  They figured that on weekends Susan dressed up in leather and hung out in biker bars.  He would have to tell them about his dream.  They would get a kick out of the tattoo.

Once dressed in a dark blue Appignani with a lighter blue tie, he grabbed his briefcase and went outside.  When he started his car, Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” blared out of the speakers.  He needed music as he drove, something that had driven Carol insane.  He never listened to the radio because there were too many commercials, too many annoying DJs, and too many crappy songs.  He needed to get into his car, and hear nothing but great music as he drove. 

The streets seemed rather empty for a Thursday.  When he got on the freeway there was very little traffic.  He checked his watch and saw that he was running a few minutes early.  He had noticed that if he left home five minutes late he hit the rush and ended up being twenty minutes late to work.

Not far from the office was a huge church.  As he drove by he noticed the parking lot was packed.  It seemed odd to have a wedding or a funeral that early. 

He didn’t have much time to think of it because he soon pulled into the parking lot at work: it was empty.  He looked at his watch, 7:52.  He had never been this early, but surely someone else should be here. 

Then he heard Carol’s voice in his head, “Someday something big is going to happen, and you’re going to be the last one to know about it.” That conversation had taken place a few weeks after 9/11.  Like everyone, he watched the news constantly those first few days.  He had never been much of a news watcher before, but the weeks after 9/11 burned him out.  Carol would stay up until midnight watching the news, and then wake up around three to watch for another half hour, just in case something happened, then go back to sleep and get up at six to watch for an hour before going to work.

When they drove, she made him turn off his CDs and play the radio, just in case some breaking news happened.  The last time Jason had thought of her was when Pope John Paul II had died.  He had been flipping through the channels when he came to CNN which had a banner saying, “Breaking News: Pope near death.” Jason wasn’t Catholic, he wasn’t religious, but he thought the Pope was a good guy, and felt sorry.  But that did not stop him from watching a movie, going to bed, and not turning on his TV for almost twelve hours.  When he did, and turned to CNN just to see what had happened, their banner still reading, “Breaking News: Pope near death.” The thought hit him, Carol would have watched TV for those twelve hours, waiting for the Pope to die. 

Jason got back into his car and started the engine.  Then he ejected the CD, and searched for a radio station.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Random Writing Tips – Finding a balance

 

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time finding a writing/job/farm/life balance.  Meaning, I had plans for several writing projects this year that I’ve done almost nothing with and I’m behind on critiques for the writing group I’m a part of.  The crappy part-time job I got to pay the bills is … draining.  I live on a small farm and recently it’s been a never-ending job of picking beans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, etc, not to mention getting enough firewood split for the winter.  On top of all of that, I also need to sleep, and it would be nice to get some reading done as well as keep up on the few shows/YouTube channels I follow.  It feels like if I could somehow get an extra ten, twelve hours a day, I might actually get something done.

Now you’re probably expecting me to reveal the secret I found to finding a balance to all of this.  No luck.  Even if I did find some way to balance my life, it probably wouldn’t apply to you.  Besides, I’ve come to the knowledge that balance is fleeting.  If you somehow managed to get to the point of things being perfectly balanced, the only constant in life is change, so that balance won’t last. 

How is this a writing tip?  It’s just a reminder that there is no perfect solution to hectic problems.  I think some writers want to stop and outline the plot forward.  That can work with fiction, but reality is too complex for a simple outline.  We need to accept that “It’s not pretty, but it works, for now,” is better than doing nothing while looking for a perfect balance.

***

Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Free story idea – Elf Cop

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

Elf Cop

This began with Lindsay Ellis’s video essay Bright: The Apotheosis of Lazy Worldbuilding.  It wasn’t she said something and I immediately had an idea, but more she said something I thought was interesting, and over the next couple of days it took five random turns in my brain and became the nucleus of this story.  I’ve rewatched the video, but I can’t remember what point she made which began the rock rolling on this idea.  This has absolutely nothing to do with Bright, although, to be perfectly honest, for the longest time I referred to this project as “Dim.”

I guess this could be a novel, but I see it better as a movie.  Admittedly, a large part of that is a training montage at the beginning, but I’m sure a talented writer could work their way around the issue.

This is set in a fantasy world with humans, centaurs, elves, dwarfs, goblins, etc.  There used to be dragons, but they were hunted to extinction centuries ago.  It’s a completely different world than ours, but it is comparable to the 80’s or 90’s technology wise.  This world is split into various nations.  Some of them are a single species, while others are maybe a mix of two or three.  There are also a few cities where all are welcomed.  The reason these cities exist is mainly for trade.  Centaurs may like goblin coffee, but they don’t want to deal directly with goblins, so they go to dwarf coffee shops to get their goblin coffee.  (Because everything we do in the real world makes perfect sense.)  Odd little quirks like this started in small trading ports, and over the centuries these grew into city states.  The story is set in one of these, which will need some name, but for now we’ll just call it the City.  There is an Elf Kingdom, but they are very closed off.  They do allow ambassadors from the other nations in, but the elves themselves rarely leave.  As a result, in this world elves are almost mythic.

So the movie starts with the camera sweeping over the City late at night.  We see normal cars on the roads, but there are also these van things that are centaur cars.  We go from the “good” part to the “bad” part of town.  Like maybe we see a group of prostitutes, there’s a human, dwarf, and centaur.  The camera ends up in the ally next to a dingy bar – possibly called The Hexed – and we see a portal open.  On the other side of the portal is a day lit forest meadow, and a hooded figure.  The figure looks behind them, then steps through.  The portal closes.  The figure looks around, then starts walking. 

They eventually arrive at a police station.  I was thinking that these police have a motto that’s some variation of “To Protect and Serve.” Whatever that variation is, I was thinking that might be the title of the movie.  Anyway, the figure goes in and the desk sergeant asks what they want.  The figure lifts up the hood revealing an elf woman, who says she wishes to become a police officer.  In this world, elves have a glowing glamour that more or less stuns anyone looking at them for ten seconds or so, especially if you’re attracted to whatever gender the elf is.  So this desk sergeant just stares at her with his mouth open for like ten seconds, and then he does a little shake of his head and asks, “What?”

Then the montage.  It starts with our elf – Shay – in a small room sitting before some mirrors.  She has some things of makeup before her.  She puts foundation for white skin on one cheek, and black skin on the other.  She looks back and forth between them.  We then see that she just mixes the two, which cuts back on the glamour and if you don’t noticed her pointed ears, she’d just look like an extremely attractive human woman.  For her hands she just wears gloves.  She then flips through a book on the laws of the City.  She reads as fast as she flips the pages.  We then see her rapidly filling in answers on a test in a classroom with other cadets.  Then begins physical training.  There’s a track and when the instructor fires off the pistol she goes right around, like she’d easily “On your left” Captain America.  When she gets back to the starting position, she stops and the instructor just looks at her for a second or two before clicking the stopwatch.  The cadets also run to a tower with cargo nets that she goes up in no time.  Then instead of climbing down, she just jumps and does a superhero landing.  She then runs towards the rope to swing over the thirty foot wide stretch of mud, but she just jumps over that.  In hand to hand training, she easily overpowers everyone and we see her casually flipping a centaur.  In gun training, she fires off ten rounds as fast as the gun allows, and the gun doesn’t move.  As she’s bringing the target to her, we see the next trainee – maybe a centaur – is shooting slower because the gun recoils, like in real life.  In Shay’s target, there is only one, perfectly centered hole.  She smiles at the instructor next to her, who looks at her for a few seconds, then makes a mark on a clipboard.  (Also, my idea is that this is the only time in the movie she fires her gun.)  Up to now there’s probably been some fun, montage music, but now it turns mournful as we see Shay getting lunch.  She sits alone and eats, while the other cadets give her occasional glances.

We next meet … someone I’ll just call Partner.  She is a loud mouthed, somewhat crude cop who is not thrilled to learn she is being partnered with the Elf Cop.  She thought Gay Cop was going to be partnered with her, but the LT says Gay Cop thinks he might be bi-curious, and even though Shay is wearing makeup to hide her glamour, they don’t want to partner her with anyone who is attracted to women.  Partner has a lengthy, profanity laced comment to all that.

The next scene I have is them in a car, with Partner driving.  Partner says she finds it odd her name is Shay, because “I thought elves were all named after flowers, or whatever.” Shay says that Shay isn’t her real name.  Partner asks what her real name is, and Shay replies with this long, (not Tolkien) Elvish name which does not contain Shay in any part.  Partner asks how she gets Shay from that, at which Shay replies with an even longer string of Elvish, and then she laughs.  She then explains that it’s an elvish joke that doesn’t really translate.  Partner isn’t sure what to do with that.

Possibly their first call is for some deranged guy with a knife yelling in front of a store.  They show up, and Partner starts talking about how to make sure everyone is at a safe distance, only to turn around and see Shay walking right up to the guy.  She talks with him for a bit, he’s a little stunned by her, but he eventually hands over the knife and she walks him over to the crowd and says something like he just needed his medication. 

They call an ambulance and get the guy some help.  Partner and Shay drive off, and Partner starts by saying, “If you do anything like that again, I promise I will shoot you myself.” Shay raises an eyebrow.  Partner then starts about how there’s a ton of paperwork if your partner is killed.  She can’t imagine how much there’d be if they died on their first day.  “And if it’s the first goddamned elf cop, killed on her first goddamned day, I’ll be filling out paperwork for twenty years after I’m dead!” To which Shay asks, “Will the paperwork be less if you shoot me yourself?” “Don’t tempt me to find out.”

Then you might have a montage of boring, mundane cop stuff to show the passing of a few days or weeks. 

Then there’s an incident which makes the other cops not too fond of Shay.  The end result is she arrests another cop.  Why, is a bit complicated.  The first idea I had was some cop arrested someone and had them handcuffed, but then – while members of the public watched – they punch them a couple of times.  So Shay immediately arrests the cop for assault.  For the department, Shay stopped the PR nightmare of them being lax on police brutality, but for the other cops it rubs them the wrong way that she’s watching over them.  Partner points out that this idiot did it in front of people, so what else could Shay have done?  The reason I’m not fond of that idea is that it might seem too … topical.  The other idea I had was she arrests a cop for stealing evidence, which, just seems somewhat bland.  This is a free idea, but there is some work you’ll have to do if you actually complete this project.

So Partner takes Shay to a bar, where a lot of guys hit on her, but she turns them all down.  Partner asks if there’s an elf waiting for her back home, but Shay doesn’t answer.  We then find out that elves can’t handle their liquor.  Well, one shot leaves Shay plastered for about a minute, until she completely sobers up.  Partner finds this amusing.  At some point she had asked Shay why she wanted to be a cop, but Shay doesn’t answer, and maybe she asks Partner the same question and we get some of her backstory.  But at the bar, Partner gives Shay a second drink and then asks why she wants to be a cop.  To which Shay slurs something about stopping a prophecy.  When she sobers up and sees Partner just starting at her, she says, “Fuck,” which I think is the one time she swears in the movie.

Shay then explains that in this world elves have a thing for prophecy which they don’t let the rest of the world know about.  And prophecy isn’t a certainty that something will happen, instead it’s more like a 98% chance something will happen.  The prophecy that she got was that one of her bloodline would destroy the City.  So she left the Elf Kingdom to come here and hopefully do some good before then.  Also, if she gets killed in the line of duty, that would end her bloodline.  Partner is rather unhappy with all of this.

We then go back to The Hexed the next day, where another portal opens.  This time an elf man steps through.  He sneers at the surroundings, then starts walking.  Partner and Shay get the call for an elf causing trouble, basically just slapping away people trying to get close to him, so they go to the location.  They pull up and as soon as Partner sees him in his full glamour, she’s dumbstruck.  Shay gets out and the two start speaking in Elvish.  In the subtitles, we learn that they were engaged, but she broke it off when she left the Kingdom.  They found out where she went when one of the ambassadors to the Kingdom told them about this elf who became a cop.  He sneers about the human filth and her wearing makeup, and orders her to come back with him.  She says no.  He doesn’t take this well, and she orders him to go back or she’ll arrest him.  He says she’s crazy, but he eventually goes.

Partner asks who that was, and Shay explains how she left him just so she wouldn’t have a bloodline.  Partner offers to marry him instead, but Shay says he would probably rather die than marry a human. 

Some other stuff happens, and then we see the portal open again.  This time an older elf man steps through.  This is Shay’s father.  I’m not sure of the exact steps for this, but her father is so upset at what Shay is doing, that he wants to do some blood magic – requiring him to sacrifice Shay – that would destroy the City.  When Shay realizes that it was her coming to the City to prevent the prophecy that made her father – part of her bloodline – want to destroy the City, she lets out an elvish curse – the one time she yells in the movie – that blows the parked car she’s standing next to back like ten feet and sets it on fire.  Partner sees that, but is like, “I don’t want to know.”

There’s a part where the other cops come to their aid.  They protect and serve, that’s what they do, even if they are still unsure about Shay.  So while the other cops are evacuating people, Shay and Partner try to stop her dad.  Somehow, her father gets a knife to Shay’s throat.  Shay sees Partner and tells her, “Do what you promised to do.” Partner hesitates for a second, but Shay nods.  So Partner draws her gun and shoots Shay. 

But, in this world elves are so badass that they’re bulletproof.  The bullet falls to the floor and her father starts to say something about foolish humans, but that was the distraction Shay needed to disarm her father (perhaps with a move we saw her do in the training montage?).  I don’t want her to kill her father just because, but also it leaves room for him to come back in a sequel.  Perhaps Shay adjusts whatever spell he was using to tie him to the City.  Like, if the City is destroyed he’ll die, or something.  How it all works, I don’t know.  I leave hammering out the finer details to you.

Shay does explain to Partner that the last time humans and elves fought a war was before the invention of guns.  To kill an elf required either an enchanted human blade, or a captured elf blade.  She suspected that she would be bulletproof, but wasn’t sure how to test the theory.  If she wasn’t, then she would die which would have prevented the blood magic from working, thus saving the City.

So that’s my idea for Elf Cop.  A big question is why Shay is different from the other elves.  By being stronger, smarter, faster, etc., they feel they are better.  They’re basically Elf Supremacists.  So why does Shay show compassion to others?  One possibility, is that Shay got this prophecy like ten years ago.  At first she wonders why she should care some city she’s never heard of will be destroyed.  But she’s curious, and starts looking into it.  One idea, since this is like 80’s level technology, is that the elves have a space program, which they might not have told the rest of the world about.  Do they have spy satellites watching the rest of the world?  Are there, think all echoey, Elves … In … Space?  (I don’t know why I found that so funny.)  By taking an interest in the City, did she come to question some of what she had been taught?  I don’t know.  Part of the reason I’m doing these Free Story Ideas is to stop thinking about projects I’ll never do so I can focus on ones I can do.

Anyway, I did have an idea for a sequel.  The idea is that elf blood is like super glamour.  If you put a drop of elf blood in someone’s drink, they become your slave for like a day.  And if you do this every day for a month or so, they just become a mindless zombie.  Perhaps a way for her father to not destroy the City, but cause a lot of havoc.  Something to think about.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Too much data

For those of you who just read Kindle ebooks, you might not know how much data those of us who wrote those ebooks get.  Every month we get a report.  This shows how many of our ebooks were bought, how many we gave away in free promotions, and how many pages were read.  (If you don’t know, if you grab an ebook with Kindle Unlimited but only read part of it, the author still gets paid something based on how much you actually read.  There’s a formula and stuff for it all.)  The report shows this for each market, like the US, UK, India, etc.  These reports can be downloaded as Excel documents, and when I first started publishing my ebooks that’s what I did.  The problem was trying to look at all that information into some coherent organization.

I forget how many ways I tried to organize this data, but the system I ended up using for several years was one big Excel Sheet.  For each book I had sections for each market, which had columns for each type of sale: bought, free, KU.  And each month was a row.  So if someone in France bought one of my books in June, I’d put a “1” in the appropriate spot.  I then added everything up in such a way so that I had the grand total of how many of these books I’d sold in France.

I forget exactly when I first set up this system, but I filled it out to the year 2020.  All I had to do was add in new books whenever I published them, but I don’t publish that often so I had time to set stuff up.  And I usually could just copy everything over from the last book.

Then came 2020.  I knew I had to update it for 2021 and beyond, but it wasn’t until July or August I finally got around to it.  And that’s when I realized my system wasn’t that easy to add on to.  To get my Grand Totals, I just summed up a dozen or so numbers.  Which isn’t so bad.  But when you have a Grand Total of Book A sold in the US, Grand Total of Book A sold in the UK, and so on and so on for every book, for every manner of sale, for every market, just to update my system for 2021 meant going into over a hundred cells to add in a number.  I started working on it, but soon realized it was a massive hassle.  I plugged away at it for a while, but soon decided I needed to redo everything.

My new system – which I set up to go through 2030, and should actually be easy to extend – solves my main issue by doing in two or three steps what I had done in one.  Now instead of one big sheet, I have individual sheets for each book where I enter all the raw data.  Then, instead of adding everything together, I have a Subtotals sheet where I have yearly totals for each book.  Before I could only see that I had sold 6 copies of a book in France, but if I wanted to see when I sold them I had to go look at the raw numbers.  Now I can easily see that I haven’t sold any there in two years.  From the Subtotals sheet, I then add everything up for the Grand Totals, which I show in my Totals sheet. 

I’m sure that all sounds … boring.  So why am I writing this post?  Well, in my old system, I would scroll through the raw data trying to find trends.  Occasionally, I might see something, but that was as far as it went.  Now, even though it’s still all the same data, since I’m not just adding it all together in one go, I have more things to look at and play with.  Which means, that throughout the first half of 2021, I’ve been doing all sorts of odd things.  Like I had wondered if I could see any relationship between how many copies of a book I’d sold, or given away, and how many reviews it had gotten.  Which is something I could have done in my old system, but now I can look at how this changes over the years.

There are other things I’ve looked at, but the reviews is probably the easiest to explain.  And in all of these investigations, the results are … inconclusive.  Because I haven’t sold enough books, or gotten enough reviews for anything to really stand out.  But the reason I keep playing with these numbers is that there’s a feeling that if I can just find the right formula to mine all this old data, I’ll somehow be able to turn that into a way to sell more books.  I haven’t found anything, but I keep looking.  Even though I think the best thing to do would just be to write more.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Free story idea – Wild Powers

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

Wild Powers

I was watching a movie where it was a world much like ours, but there were superheroes.  They had been around for several decades, but the world was still much like ours.  The movie wasn’t that great and my mind was wondering and I started wondering how history would have changed if people with superpowers had been around.  Like, if there had been super strong people who could pick up a rock the size of a bowling ball and throw it a mile that would have changed the course of military tactics.  If the Crusaders had some of these human artillery, could they have kept Jerusalem, altering the history of the Middle East?  Or what if when some European ships arrived at some place to pillage and enslave, a native who could throw fire stepped out and burned their ships to the waterline?  People with superpowers would drastically change history.

So my idea is that around the year 1000, people around the world gained superpowers.  It wasn’t so common like one out of every hundred people, but it wasn’t so rare like one out of every million.  These powers are rather basic: super strength, throwing fire, throwing ice, indestructible skin, and flight.  There may be others, but I haven’t really thought about it.  People only get one, and it usually shows up around puberty. 

At first, people with powers were hunted down and murdered for being demons or dark spirits or whatever.  Some manage to escape and become outlaws.  If they get some followers they may become warlords.  If they are successful warlords, they may carve out their own little kingdom.  And when a powered person becomes king three kingdoms over, you might stop burning yours at the stake so you could have some to defend your kingdom.  Over the centuries, you end up with new kingdoms with powered royalty.  And in Europe – which I know the history of better than other places – Christianity is reworked so that powered people are no longer seen as demons. 

The people at the time don’t understand the genetics of everything, but they quickly find out that if a powered person has a child with an unpowered person, there’s a 50-50 chance the kid will have powers.  But if two powered people have a child, then it’s more like 95%.  And there’s no telling what powers the kid will have: two fliers could have an ice thrower.  So what develops is the powered king has a powered queen so there is a powered heir, but there are also a couple of, usually powered, concubines to give other sons.  All the powered sons get training and equipment and become special forces knights separate from the common, unpowered, foot soldiers.  Powered daughters are married off to form alliances.

So that’s the backstory.  The main story starts in the spring of about 1400 in the middle-south of what would have been France, but is now split up in various new kingdoms.  There is a young woman I’ll call A who I’d prefer to be 18, but would more likely be a historically accurate 15.  She lives on a small farm on the edge of some village.  Her mother died years ago, and her father died over the winter.  She tells the villagers that before he died her father wrote to a cousin four or five villages over to come take over the farm, but he hasn’t shown up yet.

One morning A is going to the field when she finds – what she thinks – is a young man lying in the field who has a long sword cut on his back.  She takes him back to her hut and when she takes his clothes off to clean the wound, she finds that it’s actually a young woman.  This is B, and is about the same age as A.  She wakes up long enough to command A not to tell anyone she is there. 

When B comes to later, she says that since she is powered – she’s a flier – this peasant should just do as she says.  A isn’t thrilled with this, but can’t really do anything.  So they get on each other’s nerves for a couple of days, and then there’s a big storm.  Maybe A finally has enough and goes out, and B follows her.  A tree was blown over, and B sees A just pick it up and toss it.  A is a wild power.  B asks A why she never revealed herself, and A says that her father warned her against being some lord’s broodmare. 

Realizing A isn’t just some peasant, B tells her tale.  She is the princess of some small kingdom.  She was to be married off in some grand alliance, but then her father and brother both became ill and died.  So the crown went to her half-brother from one of her father’s concubines, a guy who had always creeped her out.  We’ll call him D.  D comes to B and says that if they were married, that would secure his position on the throne.  B doesn’t care for this idea, and D flies into a rage, rapes her, and then casually states that he poisoned the king and prince.  So B flees, but D sends other fliers after her.  One attacks her and cuts her, but she managed to stab him in the heart and fly on for another twenty minutes or so.  Her plan is to eventually make it to Sicily, and says that A should come with her.

In this alternate history of Sicily, the warlord who took over the island was a woman.  She was a fire thrower and took part in many battles.  This gave her the idea that men and women – at least powered ones – were more equal than genuinely thought at the time.  Given that the other kingdoms in Italy and around the Mediterranean weren’t too keen on this uppity woman with her radical ideas, Sicily was attacked and invaded several times.  So the Sicilians fortified the island and they really worked on their human artillery to the point any strange ship that got within two miles of the shore would be pelted with fist-sized rocks. 

Over the centuries, a sort of Cold War has settled over Sicily and the nearby kingdoms.  To stay strong, the Sicilians become a big merchant power, with ships trading all sorts of goods all across the Mediterranean.  It has become widely known that any Sicilian ship is bound to take any powered person who asks to Sicily, which has been portrayed as a haven for powered people.

Once B fully heals, she should be able to fly herself and A to the coast, in short hops.  Not knowing exactly where Sicily is, B doesn’t want to fly there, so they’ll have to find a ship.  At first A isn’t all that sure, leaving her home and all that, but B asks what happens when this “cousin” never shows up.  A doesn’t know, and reluctantly agrees to go.

A day or so later, A is in the field and someone comes to the hut.  B says that she’s a cousin come to visit, but isn’t feeling well.  The man says that he’s the tax collector, and B says that she’ll let A know.  But when A comes back, she says that it’s the wrong time for the tax collector to come around, and figures they are looking for B.  They hurriedly pack some stuff, and start walking to the coast. 

But before they get too far, a couple of fliers bring in D (he has impenetrable skin).  He ignores A and starts monologuing to B.  But after he tells her all the horrific things he – and his henchmen – will do to her, A steps up and just snaps the fliers in half.  B then grabs D and flies him straight up half a mile or so, and then drops him.

The struggle of flying rips open B’s wound, so A carries her through the night to get away from the bloody scene.  Unsure if they’ll be followed, they spend the next several days running at night and hiding by day. 

There is a chance that one rainy day, while hiding in a barn maybe, they snuggle together for warmth, and one thing leads to another.  It’s possible that B – basically destined to just be a concubine – had been instructed on how best to please a man.  And probably instructed on how to please herself once the man was asleep.  Not a necessary part of the story, but you can’t go wrong with lesbians.

Anyway, after a long journey they make it to a harbor and find a Sicilian boat.  At some point on the journey, B realizes that she’s pregnant.  You can go wrong with a pregnant, incest, rape victim, but this might be a necessary part of the story.  I only have like the first half of the story, where it actually goes will depend on who finishes it.

So they get to Sicily and A is sent to train.  I have the image of an old, battered ship sitting in a field somewhere and the trainees are a mile or so from it throwing rocks.  They throw ten rocks, then a bunch of young fliers go in to pick them up and bring them back.  I see two teenage fliers with a harness flying these rocks back as practice for when they’ll fly people.  Once A can hit the ship nine times out of ten, they’ll start working on increasing her range and stuff.

The idea I had is that Sicily isn’t as great as it sounds.  There are still some unpowered people there, but they are a second class citizen and they’re being breed out of existence.  A couple of generations ago, the ruler had the idea of instead of just having powered knights and an unpowered army, what if they had a powered army?  So they bring in any powered person they can, and the idea is that in a decade or so they should have enough to storm the Italian mainland and forge a Sicilian Empire.  Maybe there’s a place in this for a bastard, incest, heir to a small French kingdom?

And that’s my idea.  I’m sure I could think of somewhere to go with this, but the point of these Free Story Ideas is to put them aside and work on things I can actually get to.  One last point I will make is on the issue of how convenient it was for B to land in the field of another powered person.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if, it was more 50-50?  What if there were a lot of powered people out in the country that just didn’t want to deal with all the powered crap, so they stay hidden.  Sometimes, powered parents would still have an unpowered child.  For some families they might still find a role for them, but others might just kick them.  They wander around, maybe settle down, and their grandkids end up as wild powers.  Which might mean that the unpowered foot soldiers the Sicilians expect to fight, won’t be as unpowered as they thought.  Something to think about.  And if you have an answer, then congratulations, you have an idea for a novel, or series of novels.  Get writing.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Moon landing sale!

I am a big supporter of returning to the moon; I think it’s our best way of becoming a spacefaring civilization.  And even though it happened before I was born, I love Apollo 11, even thinking that July 20th should be a holiday.  So to mark this year’s anniversary, I’m having a sale on four of my ebooks.  Two of them deal with the moon, but I’m including the other two as a bonus.  So between Sunday July 18th and Thursday July 22nd, you’ll be able to get the following four ebooks for free.

The Moon Before Mars

 


Over the last few years a lot of people have caught Mars fever. It seems a week doesn’t go by without a report of some new group wanting to send people to Mars, or some big name in the industry talking about why we have to go to Mars, or articles talking about the glorious future humanity will have on Mars. All of this worries me. In my opinion, a Mars base is currently not sustainable because there’s no way for it to make money. A few missions may fly doing extraordinary science, but if it’s then cancelled for cost the whole Mars Project may just be seen as an expensive stunt.

Fortunately, there are other places in the solar system besides Mars. While bases on the moon and amongst the asteroids won’t be as inspirational as one on Mars, they will have opportunities for businesses to make goods and services as well as profits, meaning less chance of them being outright cancelled. This will make life better on Earth and secure a firm foothold in space for humanity. The essays in The Moon Before Mars: Why returning to the moon makes more sense than rushing off to Mars allow me to describe my ideas on what can be accomplished on the moon and with the asteroids, and why Mars isn’t the destiny of humanity its cheerleaders make it out to be.

A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea and other stories

 


Hopefully, in the not too distant future humans will return to the moon. We will build bases and colonies, make farms and factories, and live, love and learn. A Cabin Under a Cloudy Sea and other stories contains five short stories that are all set upon the moon. They give the tiniest glimpse of the possibilities awaiting us there.

Lonely Phoenix

 


Partway to a new colony world, board member Geoffrey Ames is woken from hibernation by the caretaking crew of the Lucian. They require him to look into the matter of their fellow crewman Morgan Heller. Morgan’s claims – such as being over 1500 years old – would normally land him in the psychiatric ward, except he can back up some of his other claims.

Brain for Rent and other stories

 


Brain for Rent and other stories is a collection of five of my short scifi stories to give a sampling of my writing. The collection includes: “Brain for Rent” about a ne’re-do-well failed writer with a conceptual implant who discusses his work with a young woman thinking of getting an implant herself. “The Demonstration” is about a different young woman wanting to show off her latest body modification. “Self Imprisonment” offers one solution of safe keeping the backup copy of yourself. “The Best Job Ever” is about a necessary – yet unpleasant – human/alien interaction. And the collection ends with “Why Stay?” which explains why, after years of fighting the humans, the robots just deactivate.