Monday, July 21, 2014

New Book: "Game Over"

First off, I'm still planning to do another segment of my "Masochistic Mondays" videos, but it's delayed a bit thanks to my work schedule. Specifically, yesterday. I was originally scheduled from 1pm to 8:30, but was asked to come in at 11am because one of the other drivers didn't show up for his last couple of shifts. His shift yesterday was 11-6, so I thought, "Cool, I can work almost the same number of hours and get out while it's still daylight."

Then I clocked in and found out that I was actually scheduled 11 to 8:30. Still, it could be worse, right? Just an extra two and a half hours.

Then we got slammed for reasons beyond my comprehension. Business tends to slow down a lot during the summer, but last night made up for the last several weeks of the slow-down. I ended up being stuck there until after 10pm. So...over eleven hours. Without a lunch or any other kind of break. I normally don't get sleepy until 2 or 3 in the morning, but I was out like a light before 1.

And today, aside from running a few errands, I didn't do anything until this evening, when I started working on chapter 8 of the book I'm announcing here.

Annnnnnd...segue. Heh.

The new book (well, it'll probably end up being around ten chapters or so, so it's more of a novelette or short novel) is titled Game Over, and I've just posted the first chapter over at FanStory. I started working on this quite a few months ago, and have been doing some rewriting over the last few days. Originally, it had the rather bland title of Arena, but I decided to try on Game Over and see how it fits. I've used a few one-word titles already, and not only that, but one-word titles are so...Star Trek: Voyager. Meh.

This new book is a different story with a new batch of characters and a completely alien setting, but a few connections to my other novels and Elsewhere crept into it while I was writing. At least a few clues about the space-time rifts in Elsewhere will appear, if not an outright answer to the mystery, before the final chapter of Game Over comes to a close.

Here's a brief excerpt from the first chapter:

"Ow." Dylan Engstrom opened his eyes and found himself on a hard metal surface. "What...?"
The last thing he remembered was sitting at his desk, sipping a cup of coffee, and preparing to join his buddies for a few hours of mayhem in Grand Theft Auto V. At some point after that, everything had simply...faded out.
I'm dreaming. That's gotta be it.
He rolled over, stood, and fought off a wave of dizziness. He rubbed his hands over his face, took a few breaths, and waited for his vision to clear. When it did, he found himself in a chamber the size of a gymnasium, with metal walls, ceiling, and floor. No windows. Several doors at the far end. And filled with...aliens? Or something.
Sure, why the hell not? Since this is a dream, I might as well just roll with it.
He shook his head, turned slowly, and stared at the nearest creatures.
One a few feet to his left looked like a bipedal dragon, easily ten feet tall, with muscular arms and powerful thighs and small but noticeable breasts under a tunic that looked like it was made from the skin of an animal. She glanced around, confusion and fear in her reptilian eyes, and he guessed she had also awakened moments ago.
Past her was what appeared to be an orc, of all things. Also female, dressed in leather and furs, like a barbarian, sporting huge muscles but somehow managing to still look feminine. Her burgundy hair was tied into a long ponytail with a few locks hanging past either side of her face. A pair of fangs as long as his thumbs jutted up from behind her bottom lip. Her dark green skin looked kind of leathery, and her face...well, she certainly wouldn't have won any beauty contests even without the two big, parallel scars running from her forehead down and across her right cheek. And that broad, ridged nose. And those fangs or tusks or whatever the hell they were. And that Neanderthal-looking forehead.
Still, there was something about her--the angles of her cheeks and her wide jaw and chin--that exuded an air of great strength.
But then, he gazed into her yellow eyes as she glanced around, frowning. She appeared to be somewhere in her forties, but there was far more mileage in those eyes than on her face. They were the eyes of someone who had all but given up on life.
He looked away reluctantly; while her face wasn't all that attractive, goddamn, what a body. He ran a hand through his shoulder-length, light brown hair, and decided to check out some of the other life forms. His eyes passed over a large number of creatures he couldn't quite get his brain around--translucent things walking on tentacles, something that resembled a millipede the size of a horse, an eight-foot-tall cross between a pig and an ogre--and locked on to another female.
He almost chuckled at that. Mind always in the gutter, even now. Oh well, what can ya do?
This one was around six feet tall and might be described as somewhere between chubby and burly. Her eyes glowed white in contrast to her obsidian skin, but aside from that and her pointed ears, her face was mostly human. And quite lovely, in fact. A pair of horns curved up from under her wild mane of silver hair, like a ram's horns. She wore a dark blue cloak with a hood hanging over her back, and from what he was able to glimpse, she didn't appear to be wearing anything under it. Each hand had two big fingers and a thumb, just like the orc and the dragon-woman, and her digitigrade legs ended in large hooves.
Okay, a few of her features were weird, but other than that, she was hotter than hell. He guessed her age to be close to his, or maybe a few years older, and the extra weight was perfectly proportioned.
She caught him staring at her and smiled, but it was shaky and faded fast.
He smiled back before she looked away and continued examining the people around him. Over to the right was a trio of bipedal creatures that looked like a cross between horses and cows, wearing some sort of tribal attire. Past them was a quartet of twenty-foot-long snake people with four arms, wearing only skirts made of glowing multicolored beads roughly where the naughty bits on a human would be.
Dylan's eyes, once again, automatically locked onto the lone female in the group. Her skin was dark brown with a red and black diamond pattern running down her back. Her hands, like the orc and the chunky hooved girl and the rest, had three digits, only hers ended in claws. The top of her head swept back into a curving, three-pointed crest. Her bare chest sported two pairs of breasts. Her face was close enough to human, though covered with scales, and she was actually kind of cute.
Hah. I can't dream about a human with four tits, of course. It's got to be some weird creature. Oh well, those are nice enough to look at, anyway.
He glanced around again, trying to find other humans. If any were in this chamber, they weren't close enough for him to pick out of the crowd. But his gaze did pass across something that was pretty close, at least in size and shape.
The robot stood with her arms crossed over her chest, leaning against the wall behind him, about ten feet away. She had apparently been designed to look like an athletic woman, with a face of flexible metal carrying a friendly--albeit confused--expression and softly glowing red optics. Her gunmetal body was covered by a pair of cargo pants, boots, T-shirt, and a long black coat.
Interesting. He wondered if she was anatomically correct.
Before he could check out anyone else, something nudged his shoulder. He turned around and found a nine-foot humanoid wearing armor and a helmet with a blank faceplate. It grasped his shoulder, pointed at one of the doors at the far end of the chamber, and pushed him toward it. He stumbled, regained his balance, and hurried ahead of the whatever-it-was.
In the corner of his eye, another hulking armored figure shoved the orc woman in the same direction. She snarled half-heartedly, but headed for the door. She ended up walking alongside Dylan.
He spotted other nine-footers herding other nearby captives in the same direction.
"I don't suppose you have any idea how we ended up here or what's going on?" He doubted the orc would even understand him.
"Nope. I was hoping someone around here could tell me that." Her accent was an odd mixture of Russian and Scottish.
"You speak English. You've met humans before?"
"A few." She smiled at him, but it was tinged with sadness. "You remind me of one of them, actually. Someone I knew long ago."
"Ah. Decent guy, I hope."
Her smile grew ever so slightly. "The best. I miss him a great deal."
Dylan wondered what happened but assumed it was a sensitive matter and kept it to himself.
When they reached the door, she sighed and motioned at her clothes. "The one time I put on the old outfit instead of what I usually wear, which includes several guns. Though I suppose any weapons would've been taken away before I woke up."
Dylan checked his pockets and his shoulders slumped. His phone, wallet, keys, and all the other crap he kept on him, were gone. Too much to hope for, obviously, but still disappointing. Not that he would've had any use for it in a situation like this.
The nine-foot goons shoved both of them through the door and onto a large platform. He stumbled and the orc reached out to catch him before he fell. He regained his balance and found himself inches away from her face for a moment, gazing into her eyes, until she looked away and steadied herself. Her face turned slightly darker green.
Dylan caught himself blushing, as well, and tugged on his shirt collar. He glanced around and noted the others who'd been separated from the main group--the snake-girl, the three horse-cow people, the hooved BBW, the giant bipedal dragon, the robot chick, and about a dozen others.
Two of them were human. He grinned, but before he could greet them, something else caught his attention.
The goons who'd herded them onto the platform remained behind as the door closed.
Oh, that can't be good.

Want to find out what happens next? Head on over to FanStory.com to read the whole chapter. XD

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ruining a part of my own childhood

Here I go, starting up yet another project. I'll be making a series of videos in which I watch old TV shows I loved as a kid, but which I'll probably recognize as crap now that I'm an adult. I started this afternoon by watching Transformers: The Movie (which was every bit as horrible an experience as many people say the Michael Bay Transformers films are), and the video is my reactions to, and comments about, the weird shit happening on the screen.


I'm planning to continue with the "Generation 1" Transformers from the 1980s. If I manage to make it through the whole series with my sanity intact, I'll move on to the 80s GI Joe (which I tried to watch a few weeks ago, and it was awful). Each new video will be posted on a Monday, so I'm calling the series Masochistic Mondays. XD

Heh. This...might not be the best idea. But what the hell, maybe it'll be fun....


Monday, July 14, 2014

Another "Reactivated" progress report

Just finished another scene, bringing the word count up past 20,000. This one's a training/evaluation simulation to test a civilian character who wants to join the team.

Here's a brief excerpt:

"And here we go." Diamondback gave the panel's innards one last prod, and the gate slid aside.
Monty's helmet cam scanned the area ahead and flagged the fifteen enemy troops in his HUD.
Schofield surged forward with a paintball gun in each hand. She nailed four headshots before the opposing team could snap their guns into position. Each "dead" soldier flinched, grumbled curses, and stretched out on the ground to simulate corpses. Schofield pegged two more of them before the rest could take cover behind nearby tents. She popped off a few more shots to keep their heads down while the rest of her team sprinted over to the nearest tent.
One of them peeked around the corner and Ryoko splattered his visor.
"Well." He sighed, sat down, leaned against the tent wall, and crossed his ankles. "Crapola."
The sharp snap of Belmont's gun made Monty's heart lurch. He spun toward her, found her aiming up and behind him, and whipped around to see what she'd shot at. He caught a glimpse of a bright blue paint splatter dead-center on a woman's vest before she dropped her gun, clutched at her chest, and staggered backward across the top of the metal tent in the near corner of the battlefield. She grunted, groaned, coughed, gagged, spun, flailed, and finally "died" with an exaggerated gurgling scream. She collapsed onto the rail running around the tent's roof, threw her arms over it, and hung there.
"Hurrrk!"
Everyone laughed, including Castillo and Farnsworth.
"Good work, soldier," the general deadpanned. "That's a performance worthy of the average Ed Wood production."
"Time for go to bed," the woman rasped.
Another wave of chuckles rippled around the battlefield.
Then she farted, and everyone nearby howled with laughter.
"I'm surprised that didn't blow you off the roof," Farnsworth said.
"Just trying to give the simulation a level of realism."
"Commendable." Farnsworth maintained a straight face for three more seconds, then he snickered. "C...carry on, everyone."
Diamondback glanced around, grinned at a nearby soldier who hadn't finished laughing, and shot him in the back.
"Ow!" He whirled around, sighed, and toppled over. "Damn it."

And the adventures continue.... XD

Saturday, July 12, 2014

New character profile: Kolya Mason

Last night, I did some more thinking about the character I talked about in the previous post. Inspired by the screenshot below, I came up with the following quick bio in about half an hour.




Kolya Mason

Age 29

Named after mother's best friend, Anastasia Kolya. Originally named Anastasia Mason, wanted her name changed when she was a child because Kolya "sounds cooler."

Part-time mechanic, part-time tech expert, part-time smuggler, part-time pilot, part-time driver, part-time hired gun, part-time archaeologist...part-time whatever the moment requires.

Full-time adventurer.

Former beauty pageant winner and supermodel. Career ended after she was badly burned in an explosion at age 21. Left side of her face is all scarred up, and she's blind in her left eye. After recovering, she adjusted to the disfigurement and set out to start a new life. Thankful to have survived, doesn't hold any anger/resentment/bitterness over accident. Still able-bodied. Sees survival as a second chance at life, and is determined to make the most of it.

Convinced herself that being a model, wearing fancy clothing and being photographed all day/every day, would've been boring. Wanted to live a life of adventure, experience everything life has to offer, explore the galaxy, see things that no one has ever seen. Began hitchhiking on starships, trading whatever services for passage to next destination, eager to learn ship's engines, computer systems, etc. Is on the way to becoming a jack-of-all-trades.

Personality-wise...well-adjusted, good-natured, healthy but sometimes snarky sense of humor. Loves trying new things and traveling to new places. Usually doesn't let setbacks get the better of her. When hurt, usually just walks it off and keeps going. Smart, street-wise, picks new information up quickly. Intuitive, often works things out quickly from little clues here and there. Total badass, but usually doesn't act like one. Sometimes uses her scarred-up face to intimidate people when necessary, having learned that people assume the scars mean she's dangerous or threatening. Doesn't look for fights, but doesn't shy away from them when they happen. Her sense of humor sometimes spills over into fights, and she screws around with opponents just for a quick laugh.

She's more concerned about being blind in one eye than what she looks like. Wants to earn enough money to pay for a cybernetic eye, but given her adventurer lifestyle, she can't get medical companies to insure her. Hasn't decided what kind of eye to get--one that looks natural, or one that's weird or has a funny symbol in place of iris/pupil, such as a smiley face, just because she thinks it's amusing.

Physically...tall, athletic, breasts on the small side. Long, black hair kept in a ponytail most of the time, with two long locks of hair hanging over each side of her forehead, anime-style. Good eye is bright green, damaged eye is white. Scars covering the entire left side of her face, like a thousand miles of bad road. Some scarring on the same side of her neck, shoulder, upper arm, and thigh. Also has other, more minor wounds from injuries, accidents, and fights--including a row of puncture marks on her right ass cheek from a pitchfork.

Has only one regret in life, so far: "Woulda been nice if I'd been standing a little farther away from that blast. Haha."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New characters, new stories, new journeys

Because I don't already have too many things going on all at once, why not add even more?

A conversation on the BioWare fanfiction forum a couple days ago started me thinking about double-standards and what society in general considers attractive. One of the things I thought of was the old ​announcement trailer for Borderlands that had a woman delivering a monologue. Here's a screenshot:


Then she turns toward the "camera" and you see that one side of her face is all scarred and she's got a fucked-up eye. And after being caught by surprise, my next thought was, "Huh. Y'know, she's still beautiful despite all that."

So, yesterday I was thinking a little more about that trailer, and standards of beauty as presented in media like video games, and double-standards. A male character can have a few scars, or even a face that looks like a thousand miles of bad road, and no one gives it a second thought aside from maybe wondering what happened to him. But female characters, generally, tend to look like supermodels unless they're placed in the background to add a little "flavor" to a scene. (Granted, that's not always the case--the recent Tomb Raider reboot, for example, has Lara get pretty battered, bruised, and dirty...but it's not permanent, and she's quite attractive anyway.)

For another example, one thing I noticed about Mass Effect from the very beginning, when customizing Shepard, is that the male version could have more pronounced scars than the female. Now, I don't consider scars on a woman's face to be a deal-breaker...but more to the point, because of this apparent double-standard, the character automatically becomes a little more interesting if she's got some visible mileage on her face, simply because even in 2014, we're still not used to seeing things like that. Visually, characters who aren't perfect, or don't look like supermodels, are just more interesting to look at. And in terms of story/character, it adds another layer to her and makes me want to know what happened and how she deals with it.

Anyway, so, as I was thinking about this yesterday, I had this image from the trailer lodged in my mind:


Aside from just thinking she still looks good despite the obvious damage, my mental gears started turning and coming up with ideas for a new character and possibly a new story or novel. Because working on a half-dozen different writing projects already just isn't enough, apparently.  O_o While taking deliveries yesterday afternoon, there I am sitting in my car on the way to the customers' houses, without anything else to do, so my brain keeps itself occupied by coming up with stuff and putting the pieces together.

First off, I started thinking that whatever happened to her, she's probably a badass. Whatever life threw at her, she survived it, and probably kicked its ass. Was it an explosion? A fire? Acid? Was it an accident? Or combat? Or did some whackjob single her out and do this to her? Did she merely escape and try to put her life back together? Or if someone did this to her deliberately, did she take immediate retribution, or track him/her down later for revenge served cold? I haven't settled on any particular answer yet, but I've come up with a few ideas.

Then I thought over how the event affected her--is she (justifiably) angry and bitter and does she just generally have a chip on her shoulder? I had this idea that, before it happened, she was either a supermodel or was on track to beginning a career as one. After losing that potential future, it'd be perfectly reasonable for her to suffer from depression and be resentful and filled with bitterness...but it's also kind of the obvious way to go.

What's a more interesting way to go with a character like this? Maybe she forces herself to be cheerful, or at least act stoic, to hide how much it gets to her? Or maybe she genuinely shrugs it off, being satisfied with simply having survived it without being completely crippled, and decided that being an adventurer was more challenging and fun than making a career out of wearing fancy clothes and being photographed all the time?

I figured the last one would make a better story. I had this idea of her, when someone asks her about having surgery to fix all those scars, replying, "Actually, I'm more concerned with being blind in one eye. In my line of work, that can get you killed. And given my line of work, I can't get medical insurance, so I keep hoping for a big score so I can get myself a cybernetic eye." I liked the idea of her being much more focused on practical matters than what she looks like.

As for her being a badass...I thought up two possible ways of introducing her. In one, she's in a marketplace, buying a foot-long Sonoran hotdog, when several goons converge on her. Her first reaction is mild annoyance. "Oh, come on, can I at least finish my hotdog first?" When they (not unexpectedly) refuse to wait before assaulting her, she just grumbles, "Goddamn it"--and fights them off while eating her hotdog.

The other idea I had is a bit darker. Similar scenario, but in a bar. The goons pick a fight with her for whatever reason. It escalates until one of them breaks a bottle open on the counter and threatens her with it. Which just makes her roll her eye. "Dumbass. That's not how you do it." She buys a beer, breaks the bottle over the goon's head, and while he's staggering backward, she stabs him in the chest with the jagged remains of the bottle still in her hand. "That's how you do it," she snarls as he collapses and starts to bleed out. Then she turns to the rest of the goons, raises an eyebrow...buys another beer, and just waits for them to make a move.

So, after about 20-30 minutes of mulling this over yesterday, I've got some of the basics of this character down. I'm thinking she deserves to be the main character in her own story or novel, or at least a really major supporting character. I might put her in Freelancers to help flesh her out before using her in an original work (because Freelancers doesn't already have too many characters for me to juggle).

But yeah...why not just pile on even more stuff to keep working on all at the same time? XD

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Progress on "Reactivated"

Life has kept me too busy lately to post regular updates here, but I'm still cranking away on the half-dozen stories and books I'm working on. I'm currently on chapter six of Reactivated, the GI Joe fic for Kindle Worlds that I've mentioned before. It's been pretty action-packed so far, but the scene I just finished is quieter, making for a nice break in the tension.

How about a snippet of dialogue?

"We'll get to the bottom of this, I promise. Too many people have lost friends and family today."
Monty nodded. After the silence stretched out a few more seconds, he glanced up at her. "You lose anybody else?"
"A coworker and very close friend named Marvin. Most of the time, we worked together in the shop under our headquarters. He was our mechanic and I'm the tech expert--mostly computers and other gadgets, software and hardware both. We were a pretty good team."
"I'm sorry. You must really miss him."
"Yeah. He was a nice guy. Great sense of humor." Diamondback laughed softly. "He was always eating this frosted mini-wheat cereal. Loved the stuff. Problem was, it made him fart all the time. I mean, constantly."
Monty snickered.
"I always considered myself lucky because the shop was such a huge, open space. In an enclosed space like this room, we probably wouldn't be able to breathe."
Monty shook his head. "Wow."
"But it kept us laughing all the time." Diamondback shrugged. "Farting is hilarious. Except when I do it. The way my body is designed, my asshole is on my front side, so if I rip ass, it's right under my nose."
Monty burst out laughing.
"If I ate the way Marv did, I would've killed myself with my own flatus. But at least I would've died laughing."
Monty took a cautious breath and grinned. "Thanks. I needed that."
"Heh. So did I." She patted his shoulder. "I'm sorry we didn't meet a long time ago. I think we could've been good friends."
"Well, we still can." He smiled.

As far as word count, it just passed 19,000. Heh, I'm having too much fun with this. XD

Monday, May 19, 2014

And now my computer's dead again

I'm posting this from a shitty netbook I bought about five years ago, which is even slower than the first computer I ever bought, way back in 1996. It takes well over a minute just for a web page to load, and ten to twenty seconds to switch between browser tabs. I also picked up a cheap tablet a couple weeks ago, just so I could have a couple of backups just in case, but I've been having some problems with the tablet's browser, too. So, I'm getting by, but hope to have the desktop fixed within the next day or two.

A few days ago it started its overheating-and-shutting-down thing again, which is exactly what it did last year, right before the power supply exploded and blew out the motherboard along with it. After work last night, I opened it up and blew the dust out, but when I turned it back on, the CPU fan sounded like a buzzsaw. People out in the parking lot could probably hear it. Then the computer shut down again before it even finished booting.

I managed to order a new fan from the tablet, even though I really can't spare the money right now. But while I can get by with the tablet and netbook for basic things like emails and writing, they're no substitute for my PC, which I use for almost everything I do.

Anyway. In the meantime, thanks to Dropbox, I still have access to my books, stories, and whatnot, and plan to keep writing. And, if I manage to finish a chapter before the PC is fixed, I'll see if I can upload it from the tablet or netbook...though I had some problems posting stuff from both of them last night, so who knows if it'll work or not....