Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Today's writing notes:

Okay, so, um, this "short story" may end up being 3 or 4 parts... I regret nothing. Also, looking back at what was originally the short story, it does seem kind of odd to introduce so many characters and then not do anything with them, especially since I teased at the idea of them having entertaining interactions with my usual players. I thought, why not actually write said interactions instead of taking the lazy way out? And then it turned into an actual plotline about Celice getting some good character development, and sort of an all-around follow-up story to "The Spirit of Black Keep" and "Return to Lynwood" a little (because, Connor).

One thing I've had to ponder somewhat in writing about the Meridell region has been the fact that Meridell used to not exist. If you'll recall the old first Meridell plot, Meridell had originally been overrun and destroyed by Draconian forces in the First Meridell War, 300 years before the present day. Whatever happened to the Citadel after that, afterward Meridell was nothing but crumbling ruins (and a time warp). That is, until Year 4, when Lisha and her pals fell through said time warp and were reunited with her brother Jeran, who had similarly time traveled some years previous.

And then the Meridell of 300 years ago just sort of arbitrarily showed up on the world map, causing all sorts of confusion as we were able to freely access the world without any mention of time travel. From what I can gather, the official explanation is that Lisha and co.'s actions (along with the rest of Neopia who somehow also had access to past Meridell now) changed history so that Meridell was never destroyed, and thus the nation lived on until the present.

Buuuuut that presents a big logical hole: if the Meridell plots took place in 300-years-ago Meridell, why is Meridell exactly the same today, down to the same Neopets who presumably are not immortal? Why did the second Meridell war happen as though it had only been a few years since the first war?

Some authors suggest that the Meridell region still exists in a time warp, and every time we go there we are effectively traveling 300 years into the past, but to me that seems a bit convoluted and may raise more issues than it solves. Where is present-day Meridell, and if it's not ruined anymore, why don't we hear from any of the Neopets who now live there? What if our constant traveling to the past alters the future - our present - in unanticipated ways that wreak all sorts of havoc when we return to our own time?

So in my writing, although I have not explicitly stated it (yet), I use what I feel is a simpler solution: when Lisha and her friends saved Meridell, the entire region was, via its own time warp, brought 300 years into the future. For Meridell, the three-odd centuries between Lord Darigan's defeat and the present day simply did not happen, and the nation exists in Neopia's present in all of its medieval charm.

Maybe it's a little arbitrary, but it at least dispenses with all of the tangles of constant time travel, and also brings to light the possibility that perhaps that time warp existed in the first place for a reason--as a failsafe to save Meridell. Once that had happened, the time warp, in order to reconcile the presence of present-day Neopets in the past, simply brought all of Meridell through to the present.

... Actually now I want to write something about that.

Also, the timeline for Isengrim's pack fits in nicely to this turn of events; their fortress was destroyed in March Y4, and thus it can be assumed that they wandered gradually northwest and ended up in the Meridell region by April Y5 (when the First Meridell War ended and past Meridell became a part of present Neopia).

That gives the Werelupes roughly two years to invade Illusen's Glade unsuccessfully, discover the Burrows, and get themselves settled there before Isengrim decides to ally with the Darkest Faerie in November Y7. By Y16, when the events of "Worth Searching For" take place, Isengrim has had time to not only build up the Burrows considerably from what we see in the Darkest Faerie PS2 game, but appropriate a number of Brightvale's more remote villages for himself.

... Yes, I'm like the Tolkien of Neopets over here. (I'd love to work as a content writer for Neopets, actually.)

Monday, November 27, 2017

Concept art for the Giving Day two-parter I'm working on! (Calling a "series" makes it sound Important, but it's really just something that went past the short story word limit.)

Spoiler alert: Due to my incurable habit of rehabilitating villains, Lord Kass is a) alive, b) a good guy now, and c) the new lord of Black Keep. He's been a really fun character to write--a lot like Isengrim at times, but less impulsive and with a more refined demeanor. I've been wanting to sketch him for a while, but my initial attempts didn't turn out so great because I kept forgetting what he looks like--unlike Isengrim, my interpretation of Kass actually looks like canon Kass. So I finally sat down with some reference images and turned out a good portrait of him. I based his avian features a good deal on condors, because I love condors. <3

If you look closely in this sketch, you'll see that he's wearing Pharazon's scarf. Best scarf friends are the best!

More Kass, and a height comparison among the three friends (although Kass should be somewhat taller based on the numbers). My headcanon is that those black patches are actually bare skin, the way a number of real bird species are featherless around their eyes. I think that would give him even more of a somewhat odd, sinister appearance, as befitting a Draconian.

Also, in this story it's firmly established that Celice is a member of the Brightvalian nobility. In a couple of my earlier series, other characters call her by the title of "Lady", but I didn't really think much about it until I was formulating the plot for this story. Just goes to show how sometimes small details that pop up in your writing, and you don't quite know why they're there but you just decide to roll with it, can serve as inspiration in the future. :)

And then we have Connor in his winter wear! When you already have thick fur, and then you pile more fur on top of that, you never get cold. I tried to make his design distinctive from other Werelupes by giving him younger features and having the fur on his head stick up in a constant state of disarray, because he's too busy science-ing to care much about his appearance.

It's been fun writing Connor again, even if he's not nearly as central of a character as he was in his debut. I like the relationship between him and Isengrim, where Isengrim is somewhat fatherly but also regards Connor as a brother, a fellow clansman, and the two have a special bond by virtue of both being Werelupes. Connor's still trying to adjust, but he's much more accepting of his situation and able to embrace the bright side of things than he was at first.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Today's writing notes:

My editor finished "Neoquest: The Shadow of Takeryuu"! She says it looks really good! Like I mentioned before, though, I'll likely wait until after Illusen Day to submit it. At any rate, that will be more realistic because if the Neoquest campaign started in November, waiting a few months will give the campaign time to finish. :) My Neopian Times stories happen in real time, after all! (Or at least as close to real time as I can manage with those longer series.) (Also not counting the stuff that happens in flashbacks and/or ancient Neopia and/or Neoquest campaigns.)

Also, I was just having so much fun writing everybody in this Giving Day short story that, uh, it's not a short story anymore. This always happens! Oh well. I also need more words for that NaNo event, so this is helping, because I'm seriously running low on things to write. I never thought I'd have this problem. Well, after this event I'll likely take a nice break from writing for a bit (especially since I'll hopefully be working on edits to The Voyage of the Kaus Media soon).

Anyway, hopefully this story won't be too depressing, as it's basically about Celice learning how to handle her slightly dysfunctional family better. It's meant to have a message about how even if your family is struggling, you can still take care of yourself and you can get the emotional fulfillment you need from your friends.

But also it is about fun Giving Day festivities, so hopefully that's nice too.

I leave you with this part that I particularly enjoyed:

Isengrim patted her shoulder. “You just focus on having an enjoyable Giving Day for yourself,” he said. “I happen to know from personal experience that Werelupes make excellent distractions.”

Isengrim has mellowed out quite a bit since his first few appearances in my writing... but he's still Isengrim.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Today's writing notes:

I finished my short story for the Neopian Times's Christmas Giving Day issue! (I understand that Neopia, being a fictional world with no real ties to Earth, would not really have a Christmas, but one thing I love about Neopets is how unabashedly British it is sometimes, and Christmas is such a huge part of British holiday tradition that sometimes I do wish Christmas proper was a thing in Neopia too. But at least I can add copious historical cultural references... although "Giving Day pudding" just does not have the same ring to it.)

Anyway, I don't want to give too much away, but like I mentioned before it's a cute little thing that revisits some characters and relationships from "The Spirit of Black Keep" and "Return to Lynwood". There were some characters in both of those stories that I'd really been wanting to write again, and when you can't think of extravagantly long adventures for those characters to go on, you just write about them celebrating a holiday. :) (Personally I like to think their lives involve much more happy fun peaceful times than dramatic save-the-day-type times.)

I almost wish I could have incorporated Lexora's family as well, but for now I am satisfied with the fact that they star in my Grey Day short story (hint: Lexora's daughter Millie is a grey Ogrin).

So now I'm trying to figure out what to work on next. Sometimes I get really into my novels and go on severe writing binges... but I'm making myself hold off on novels until I publish The Voyage of the Kaus Media. (Which I am still super excited for because the characters are adorable and the world is fun and it has some good Life Lessons about sticking up for yourself and going for your dreams and why giant robots are great.)

As far as updates for that, I've got another editor who says she can look at it, but not until December, so I'm going to go with that because she fits in my budget way better than other editors I've looked at (I'm sorry, but I just can't pay $500 to get a manuscript edited when I'm not going to make nearly that much on book sales). So yeah, not gonna meet that goal of publishing it before the end of the year, but you know, at least I finished the first draft, and that's always the hardest part, so go me! Yay!

I've got another editor looking at "The Shadow of Takeryuu" and she's really enjoying it so far, so that's good. :) Again, though, the Neopian Times probably won't see that one until a little later next year--it's 9 parts long, so I think I want to wait until after Illusen Day, so I won't have to ask the editor to pause the series so I can get my Grey Day and Illusen Day stories in.

So yeah, just wanted to give a general update. Maybe I'll work on another "Gourmand's Guide" article... I have a couple more shops that I wanted to spotlight, and doing writeups on Grundos Cafe food will give me a chance to geek out about astronomy in general and the history of spaceflight nutrition in particular. (Which is really a very fascinating topic!)

As a final note, I am turning on general commenting, so you do not have to have a Blogger/Google account to comment. I trust you will all be civil, but if I'm getting too much spam and/or abuse of this option, I'll revert to the previous setting. Have fun!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I got some new Micron pens! Obviously I had to play around with them in my sketchbook.

Jacob from On Borrowed Wings is always fun to draw. He's a scrappy little guy.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Which "The Shadow of Takeryuu" character are you?

(I still don't have any art. I did some doodles in church but they are mostly things like crown-group chordates and a thylacline, nothing too polished. Maybe I'll upload some later I dunno.)

While my awesome beta reader looks over “The Shadow of Takeryuu”, I thought it would be fun to put together a little personality quiz for ya’ll! Pick the answers that match you the best, tally up how much of each letter you get, and the results will tell you who your ancient Shenkuuvian doppelganger is!

As a child, what was your relationship with your siblings like? (If you are an only child, think about your relationship with your cousins.)

A) I was extremely generous and kind to them, always trying to be a peacemaker.
B) We weren’t super close, but I like to think we got along well.
C) We got in a lot of arguments, but they knew I always had their back.
D) I liked to be in charge, whether or not my siblings agreed with the idea.

How did/do you prepare for tests in school?

A) Study diligently, although I’m still super nervous come testing time.
B) I don’t stress too much about it. I’ll be happy if I pass the test; I don’t necessarily have to ace it.
C) Get distracted with other things and forget about the test until the last minute—and then it’s cram time.
D) I study, but not too hard. I’m confident I’ll do well even without studying.

What is your dream car?

A) Something environmentally friendly.
B) A big pickup truck. With a train horn!
C) An SUV with plenty of room for my friends/family.
D) A sleek sports car that oozes prestige.

Are you more of an outdoorsy or indoors person?

A) I like nature, but I also like my creature comforts. So a little of both, I guess?
B) Being outdoors helps me clear my mind. I could probably stay outside indefinitely.
C) I’m a very active person, so I’ll say I prefer the outdoors more.
D) Honestly, the vastness and unpredictability of nature makes me feel powerless, and I don’t like that, so I’m most comfortable indoors where I feel like I have more control over my situation.

How do you think you’d do serving in the military?

A) Horribly. I’m a very peaceful and sweet-natured person, and the military is much too harsh for me.
B) Not well at all—I’m too much of an individual and I hate being told what to do.
C) I’m pretty argumentative, so I’d probably clash with my superior officers a lot, but otherwise I think I’d do well.
D) I would excel; I’m naturally inclined toward that kind of thing anyway.

How outwardly emotional are you?

A) I’m a very private person; I only open up with my emotions to those close to me.
B) While I’m usually rather guarded with my emotions, if something riles me up enough, I make sure everyone knows.
C) I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m not afraid to let everyone know how I feel.
D) I work hard not to display my emotions. People can too easily take advantage of them.

Which member of the Fellowship of the Ring do you most relate to?

A) Aragorn: wise, driven, level-headed, prone to anxiety and self-doubt
B) Gandalf: solitary, sometimes temperamental, world-weary, compassionate
C) Samwise: loyal, stubborn, protective, down-to-earth
D) Boromir: ambitious, accomplished, proud, multilayered

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

A) Actually, I’m more of a bird person.
B) Dog person all the way.
C) Cat person.
D) I like cats, but I’m more into big cats.

On a trip to the mall, where’s the first place you go?

A) Someplace relaxing, like Yankee Candle or Bath & Body Works.
B) The food court, of course.
C) Wherever’s first on my shopping list. I’m practical like that.
D) The most expensive clothes stores. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing last season’s fashions.

What would your job be in the Old West?

A) The resident priest/nun or a Native American medicine man/woman, providing help and guidance to others.
B) Lone cowboy, just doing my own thing out on the range.
C) A sharpshooting sheriff who brings outlaws to justice.
D) The officer in charge of the local military outpost.

Ready to see who you’re most like?

Mostly A’s: You are Eun-ji the faerie Vandagyre! Peaceful, gentle, and kind, you are nonetheless no pushover, as you will fight ferociously for a good cause. Your shy, quiet nature makes it difficult for you to open up to most people, but when you find someone you click with, you are a devoted friend. Really the only thing limiting you is yourself, as you may find it difficult to have enough self-confidence to see what others see in you.

Mostly B’s: You are Ganzorig the Tyrannian Lupe! Life may not have been kind to you, so you’ve put up all sorts of defenses so you don’t get hurt again. Still, when you let people into your life, you are a loving and doting friend who is fiercely protective. Although you may like to give off a certain aura of intimidation so no one tries to mess with you, you are not overly concerned with appearances, and as such are much wiser than you look—and much nicer, too.

Mostly C’s: You are Min the eventide Aisha! You are an unabashed crusader who won’t let go of any cause worth fighting for. You hold your family, your homeland, and any other group you identify with near and dear to your heart, and you would gladly do anything for them. You have strong opinions and are not afraid to voice and debate those opinions with others, and call them out when you feel they’re being stupid. But it’s all because you care.

Mostly D’s: You are Wai Ren the relic Kougra! Power is what’s most important to you, whether that’s feeling in control of a situation or having authority over others. This may be due to deep hurts in your past, however, and at your core you are a rather different person: kindhearted, caring, and sensitive. Either way, you are a formidable foe due to your strategic mind and tenacity.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Today's writing notes:

I started work on a short story about Xandra today! Not that she's a particularly favorite character of mine, but I just had such a fun idea for her backstory, as well as a way to sneak in some headcanon about Neopian history. Muwahaha.

In non-Neopets-related news, I've been tossing around ideas for a novel that takes place in the countryside of late 18th-century England, where a member of the gentry uses the family fortune to design and build clockwork giant robots. It'll be like Pride and Prejudice, but with robots! Hey, if somebody can add zombies to Pride and Prejudice, I see no reason why I can't add robots to Georgian England! Muwahaha again.

But first I think I want to write that novel about reanimated dinosaur fossils in the Midwest and the human subrace that Frankenstein's monster Prometheus and his wife started. And also possibly robots.

(I swear so many things I write come back to robots. Well, I don't think they're being written about enough, is the thing!)

I've got another idea for a novel that takes place in an English seaside resort village, buuuuut I don't know enough about those yet, so clearly my only recourse is to go take a holiday at the seaside. Anybody want to fund that? Also corgis, I need to research corgis by cuddling lots of them. Simple requests, really.

(I know, this blog is called T. Arispe's Art and T. Arispe is not doing a lot of art right now. It comes and goes. I just couldn't resist the alliterative title.)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I finished "The Shadow of Takeryuu"! Whoo! 27,000 words across 9 parts--not too shabby!

To celebrate, I'll reveal the players behind the characters in the Neoquest campaign this story was based on. It's not too much of a spoiler, anyway, because the precursor short story I submitted to the Neopian Times today pretty much gives it away. :)

- Eun-ji is played by Terra, because Terra is really bad at playing characters who are not like herself. (Fun fact: when the real-life Terra plays D&D-type games, she usually plays as a paladin or a monk.)

- Ganzorig is played by Isengrim. I'll bet you never saw that one coming. :) Isengrim has a thing for always playing Lupe characters who either are Werelupes or end up greatly resembling Werelupes. Technically, due to current restrictions for Neopian Times submissions (Neopets cannot be more than one color simultaneously), Ganzorig is a Tyrannian Lupe, albeit a very large and strong one (which, if more recent site artwork for Sabre-X is any indication, may be the norm for Tyrannian Lupes anyway). But I can't help but feel like Isengrim feels that Ganzorig is kind of a Werelupe. I mean, it does sort of make sense if we're following my headcanon that Lupes can turn into Werelupes simply by going feral. Maybe Ganzorig is a Tyrannian Lupe who had started down the path to Werelupedom? Okay, let's go with that.

- Celice plays Min, and you can tell because their personalities are kind of similar. In the short story, it's explained that Celice created a character who is a physical combatant because the Lupe sorceress wanted to try the whole weapons thing for a change.

- Hyren plays Wai Ren... no, I didn't purposely make their names rhyme, but I like it. :) Hyren based the Kougra general heavily on himself, or at least who he used to be as an officer in the Virtupets military. He likes characters he can relate to.

Everyone else is played by Blynn, the Questmaster. Yuezhi is a real ("real") faerie, though--see an earlier blog post for details on that. :)

Today's writing notes:

I'm almost done with "The Shadow of Takeryuu"! Powering my way through the climax right now. Yay crazy epic battle scenes where a bunch of character arcs get resolved at once! That's what climaxes are for, right?

Well, to celebrate nearly finishing, I'll share the origins of the characters' names. Because totally made-up names are all well and good, but when I'm working with a world that's based on something in real life, it just delights me to no end to use culturally authentic names and/or historical homages. (I did this in "Worth Searching For", too.)

- Eun-ji's name is Korean for "kindness and wisdom"--or "kindness and earth" depending on the Chinese character it's spelled with. I picked this name specifically because I loved that both meanings fit her perfectly.

- Master Cheol's name is Korean for "wise" or "sage". I'm not sure if all of the geomancers have Korean names; I haven't put much thought into if/how East Asian cultures correlate to Shenkuuvian geography the way I have with the Haunted Woods. I'm not going to worry about it for now.

- Ganzorig is Mongolian for "steel courage". I picked Mongolian because to Western ears, it sounds much different from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, while still seeming vaguely East Asian-ish. Mongolians were long seen as uncivilized barbarians by China, which fits with Ganzorig being a Tyrannian Lupe. Considering whose player character he is, I could have named him "Tomor" which is Mongolian for "iron", but "Ganzorig" seemed to fit him better, and incorporating a word meaning "steel" into his name is still a reference, I think.

- Min's name is Korean for "jade". This one was too easy. :) Incidentally, the name of her village, Saro, is the first recorded name of the small Korean state that would grow into Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. I blame the East Asian history class I took in college for making me so interested in the subject.

- Wai Ren shares his name with one of the kings of the Shang Dynasty of China--either the tenth or the eleventh (depending on whether you trust Sima Qian's Qin Dynasty work Records of the Grand Historian or more contemporary oracle bone inscriptions). I think the history of Shang Dynasty research is incredible (in a nutshell, everybody thought they were made up until the turn of the 20th century, when someone discovered that ancient bones being ground up for medicine actually had writing on them containing fortunes being told for these supposedly mythical kings), and yes, the Shang kings are not remembered fondly by their successors, but maybe they needed some kind words, a plate of cookies, and to be dragged into a life-changing journey by a group of motley adventurers. Which is exactly what happens to Wai Ren the Kougra in this story. Sans the cookies. (Maybe I'll be nice and throw in some cookies somewhere.)

- Takeryuu's name means "martial dragon" which seems like the kind of name overbearing royal parents would give their son. I was so caught up in using Korean/Mongolian/Chinese names for characters that I forgot I like Japanese history, too, so I had to throw some Japanese references in there. (But I did try to keep it primitive--this is ancient Shenkuu we are dealing with, here, not modern Shenkuu where the Japanese references seem to be taken more from feudal Japan.)

- Yuezhi's name is Chinese for "moon queen". FYI it's approximately pronounced "yueh-zjuh". Chinese is impossible to completely accurately transliterate into the English alphabet, so I recommend learning the ins and outs of pinyin romanization which is what I use (it's also the most used system today, and the official system of mainland China and Taiwan).

- Himiko is named after the illustrious Queen Himiko of the ancient Japanese country Yamataikoku, who ruled during the 2nd-3rd centuries A.D. and had political dealings with the Chinese Kingdom of Wei. I picked this name not only because it has historical significance recognizable to those who are up on their Japanese history, but because she has a Lyman-alpha blob named after her! How nerdily cool is that?! She must be proud.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Today's writing notes:

(Still working on "Shadow of Takeryuu". I just can't stop talking about it because that is what authors do. At any rate I'm nearly to the end and that makes me sad. I'm not sure what to work on after this! Bah, I'll figure something out.)

- This is how terribly pedantic I am in my research: At one point in the story, there is a brief dialogue about how to contain a faerie. My initial thought was that glass hadn't been invented yet at this point in Neopian history, so they couldn't trap faeries in glass bottles. But I wanted to make good and sure that I accurately reflected the state of glassmaking in ancient China, so I did some research. Turns out Zhou Dynasty China did know how to make glass--although I couldn't find anything that says they knew glassblowing, just other methods of making things like beads, plates, and cups (they weren't super big on glass anyhow, they did more with ceramics and metal). (Incidentally, glass bottles have been found in an ancient Elamite site dating from the same period as the Shang Dynasty, so someone knew how to blow glass back then. I'm just not sure the Chinese did at that point, or if they imported any during that period.)

So I just had Wai Ren refer to "magical containment vessels"--because who knows, maybe ancient Shenkuuvians trapped faeries in bronze ding? But the fact remains that none of these characters would be carrying around bronze vessels as part of their travelling gear.

(And yes, I know, this is a lot of nitpicking for something that doesn't even take place in actual ancient east Asia. But the point is that most Neopian lands are enormous pastiches of Earth cultures, and I like to take that theme and run with it by throwing in as many homages to a world's Earth equivalent as I can think of. It's fun!)

- One of the things I've really enjoyed about this story has been the rapport between the four characters. They all have such strongly defined relationships with the other three heroes, they really feel like a cohesive team.

Ganzorig and Eun-ji have a close bond. He feels like she truly understands him and cares about him, and in return he will protect her at any cost.

Wai Ren never really met anyone who would call out his being self-serving until he met Min, but as he teaches her how to be a warrior the two develop a strong respect and concern for each other.

Ganzorig can see right through Wai Ren's deceptions and has no problem being frank and sarcastic with him, and while Wai Ren hates this at first, he ultimately comes to realize that it's making him a better man.

Eun-ji is so nice and diplomatic that she's one of the few people Min doesn't try to argue with, and Min feels it is her duty to assist the diminutive Vandagyre in her quest, for the sake of altruism. Even though they are probably around the same age, Eun-ji sees Min as an inexperienced younger sister who Eun-ji tries to look out for and advise.

Min and Ganzorig argued at first, but it didn't last long because Ganzorig is such a softy, and now he sees himself as her protector just like with Eun-ji.

Eun-ji is perfectly aware of Wai Ren's scheming, but she seeks, through friendship and kindness, to help him heal of his selfish nature and solve everyone's problems at once by becoming the kind of emperor Shenkuu needs. At first, Wai Ren thought she was just an oddball geomancer spouting hokey philosophy, but over the course of the story he comes to see things from her point of view.

I write about the same Neopets cast so often, it's fun sometimes to totally break off from that and write something completely different. (Although, maybe not so completely different, since these characters are actually being played by that cast of regulars!)

- Also: That one time when I seriously bothered to work out how air-mote-powered dirigibles work. Stories aren't fun without arbitrary technical details! :)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Today's writing notes:

(Still working on "Shadow of Takeryuu")

21,000 words, whoo!

Finally, he cleared his throat. “I have to come clean,” he said. “I’ve been deceiving all of you. If this coup were to fail, I was planning on placing the blame on you and making myself look like the hero.” He bowed his head. “I’m sorry. It was a shameful act on my part.”
“Don’t worry,” Ganzorig said. “We knew the whole time. No hard feelings.” 
Wai Ren did a double-take at the Lupe. “Wait—are you serious?” the general asked. “How did you find out?!”
“When we first met you,” Ganzorig said, “you were practically oozing manipulation.” He tilted his head with a bit of a smirk. “Living in the woods doesn’t make me stupid.”
I'm having way too much fun writing Ganzorig as the master of messing with people. (Although he only does it to people who are asking for it. Otherwise he's a really nice guy.)

- Also, this being a prose account of a Neoquest campaign in the "real" Neopia opens this story up to all sorts of ambiguities. For example, Yuezhi's role in the story--was this something Blynn made up, or is it based on a real event that she learned about from Yuezhi at some point? I like to think that after the events of "Worth Searching For", Terra's family stopped in to say hi to Yuezhi whenever they were in Shenkuu, and considering Yuezhi likes stories, she probably had plenty of her own to tell them.

Plus, I really wanted to reconcile Yuezhi's presence in Shenkuu with the recent canon information that Kaia is the only "(known) faerie" from Shenkuu--that wording, straight from the Neopedia, definitely leaves room for unknown faeries from Shenkuu. :)

Maybe it's a bit pedantic of me, but I really enjoy trying to make my Neopian Times writing line up with canon as much as possible--I guess because I like my stories to feel more like things that could actually happen on the website, and less like me skewing the characters and the setting into something that could be original fiction if I just changed the names. When I write fanfic, I like to try to preserve the tone of what I'm writing about (unless I'm purposely being ridiculous, like when I wrote a Star Wars parody of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Emperor Palpatine and a bunch of Sith Force ghosts... good times), and I'm not usually fond of non-parodic works that drastically skew the original tone of something (whether it's fanfic or sequels/spinoffs/shark-jumping extra seasons/etc.), because I feel that it strains the sense of suspension of disbelief that accompanies derivative works. For example, I think My Little Pony: Equestria Girls works well as a spinoff because it doesn't contradict Friendship is Magic canon and stays true to FiM in tone and characterization, so it seems like something that could actually happen within the world of the show.

- Speaking of faeries, in this story I'm alluding to more of my ideas for the ancient history of Neopia. If the Neoquest game is an accurate representation of ancient Neopian history, the total absence of faeries in that game is curious. I've hinted in a previous story about the idea of faeries fighting in wars long ago (i.e. the origin of Terra's family's weapons), so it's possible that in Neopia's distant past, faeries as a whole were much less benevolent than they are now, and warred with each other and with Neopets (and probably different factions of faeries got Neopets to fight for them as well) on-and-off for quite some time. The faeries would burn themselves out in these wars and retreat to the sky to recuperate, which would take a few centuries, during which the rest of Neopia would experience relative calm. At some point after the events of Neoquest, Fyora ascended to power and put an end to her sisters' petty fighting, and began to mend relations between faeries and Neopets, so that nowadays they're on good terms. (Although, maybe learning about the past relationship between the two groups is what started Xandra down her path to villainy... hmmmm...)

This probably isn't something I'll ever write extensively about (lots of faerie war stories have been published in the Times already), but it is fun to speculate about, an underlying historical thread that can be seen in more than one story of mine that gives an added dimension of depth to the world.

... Yes, the lore is a huge part of the reason why I enjoy Neopets so much.