Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Revising "Worth Searching For" for FFN

I really enjoyed writing the part with Terra and Pharazon in the pirate ship's hold; Terra's so nice and unassuming that I think most people underestimate her, but when something like this happens, her immediate response is "challenge accepted", and she pulls out all the stops. She is a dangerous foe when necessary. She also makes a great contrast to Pharazon, whose immediate response is to freak out and try to shirk all responsibility for the situation. In fact, most of the stuff that happens in this story is Pharazon's fault and the other characters are running around trying to clean up after his messes, and it's not until the very end when he finally realizes that he has to be strong too.

A big part of this chapter is illustrating that at this point, Pharazon is Terra's liability. He has multiple opportunities to actually be helpful, but he fails to follow her lead and thus her escape attempts are foiled in order to keep him safe--because she would never put her own safety above his. This comes into play again in the Werelupe Burrows, and once again Pharazon fails to have the emotional maturity to realize the sacrifices his owner is making for him.

Also, making up alternate etymologies for words is way fun. :)

Another thing that's way fun is detailing the differences between regular Draiks and faerie-painted Draiks. I like the idea of certain paint brush colors not just changing a Neopet's appearance, but altering their abilities as well. For example, instead of breathing fire like most Draiks, faerie Draiks breathe magic--faerie Scorchios probably do, too.

Maybe it was a little arbitrary of me to include the Cyodrake's Gaze sailors in the story, but they're such a fun crew that I really wanted to write them. :) Anyway, it beats making up my own crew, which would just be more character development for me to juggle and for readers to have to internalize. I think, in writing fanfiction, cameos like this often work better than trying to introduce new original characters for minor purposes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Revising "Worth Searching For" for

This thing is a behemoth at about 92,000 words, the longest thing I've ever written for the Neopian Times. (The second longest is "Return to Lynwood" at 60,000 words, if you were curious.) I'm really curious as to how many chapters it's going to end up being, since I had to lump it together into 12 parts for the NT. Not sure how long it's going to take me to revise it, especially since I am still working on that kids' book, but I know I can get it done if I just whittle away at it when I can.

Let's play "count the homages"! :) The very beginning of this story is definitely a homage to Merry's and Pippin's fireworks escapade at Bilbo's birthday party. I slip in a lot of homages just because it amuses me.

Also, the reason this story starts off in Shenkuu is because when I wrote it, I'd just finished a wonderful college course on pre-modern East Asian history (up until 1900 or thereabouts), and we spent the bulk of our time studying China. It was the first time I'd really gotten to know Chinese history and I fell in love with it, so I decided to pay tribute to it by playing around in Shenkuu for a while. I think I was able to bring that Neopian world to life better because I now had a more thorough understanding of the history and culture behind Shenkuu's inspiration. And, of course, I was able to throw in a bunch of real-world historical references that history geeks like me could enjoy. :) I'll talk about some of them here!

I deliberately modeled the Shenkuuvian Imperial City after the old Japanese capital of Heian-kyō, which was itself modeled after the Tang Chinese capital of Chang'an. Reference within a reference! It's referenception! *cough* Anyway, I admit I did a bit of canonical fudging here, because the Imperial City is usually thought of as a collection of buildings on karst outcrops, connected by bridges (see: the on-site map of Shenkuu), but in all honesty I just don't think that's logistically feasible for a capital city... and I really, really wanted to write Shenkuu as resembling early-Middle-Ages East Asia and throw in a bunch of fun historical references.

So here's my rationale: maybe what we see on the site map isn't the heart of the city, but the outskirts, allowing the rest of the capital to have a more traditional city layout.The Imperial Palace is notably not pictured on the map, and it seems to be built on a large, flat space, so I think it's reasonable to assume that there may be more of the city clustered around it on that same plateau, Machu Picchu style. Anyway, Naleap Avenue refers to Heian-kyō's Suzaku Avenue and "okashi" (or, more accurately, "okashii") is Japanese for "tasty".

Also, so many prose tweaks. This story was written four years ago, so it's not as bad as, say, "Worth Fighting For", but I seemed to have disregarded the need for dialogue tags a lot.

Pharazon's character arc in this story was really fun to write. It's kind of funny, when I wrote him, I meant for him to be exasperating and an example of how to handle a situation completely the wrong way and why it doesn't work, but apparently some readers ended up sympathizing with and identifying with him. I hope there are also readers out there who identify with Hyren's grit, Terra's compassion, Blynn's positive attitude, and Isengrim's courage.

Everybody's fortunes in the restaurant actually are connected to the rest of the story. Pharazon's is the most obvious, but Blynn's, Hyren's, and Terra's all have to do with things they go through as well. Terra learns that her compassion can have a profound effect on the most unlikely of Neopets with far-reaching positive consequences; Hyren learns that everything he goes through makes him the strong Neopet he strives to be; Blynn's upbeat personality brings a breath of fresh air to a dire situation; and Pharazon steadfastly refuses to learn his lesson until it's very nearly too late. Of course, fortune cookies in real life don't really mean anything, but in Neopia, where magic is abundant, it's best to pay attention to such things. :)

I do feel bad pretty much killing Hyren's feels throughout this entire story... but honestly I think it's a good lesson to be learned, that sometimes our worst fears do happen, and when they do, we've got to be strong enough to hold on and keep going, and never give up hope. Sometimes, we may look back and realize that what we thought was so horrible was really a blessing in disguise. In this case, Hyren dreaded losing his family, but when he did, he ended up not only getting them back, but making a new ally out of an old enemy, and helping save Brightvale and probably all Neopia.

Monday, February 26, 2018

24 Hours

Not to be confused with the TV show. :)

Yep, I had time to spruce up another Neopian Times short story and put it on FFN!

The idea for this one came when I was browsing old NT issues and was reminded of the first ever Mutant Day, when TNT (the Neopets staff) decided to celebrate the occasion by temporarily turning every eligible Neopet on the site into a mutant. :) Responses ranged from amused to horrified (I was in the former camp), and it's not a stunt that has been repeated since, which I think is kind of a shame.

Anyway, I realized that, given the events of "Worth Fighting For", Hyren would have actually been overjoyed at becoming a mutant again, and then have an existential crisis upon realizing it was only temporary. The resulting events would help him remember his priorities, and I think this was the point at which he really came to terms with being a small, stubby blue Grundo. (He still angsts a little about it in "Worth Searching For", but not nearly as badly as here.)

It was also fun to write awkward teenage Terra, who's about 16 in this story, trying to figure her life out and trying and failing to have friends. Thankfully, she's got an awesome family instead. Don't worry, Terra--in ten more years you'll adopt the Werelupe King, who's one of the strangest friends anyone could ask for, but also one of the best. :)

Also, yes, Blynn has a slightly devious side that I remain unapologetic for. She doesn't mean any harm, but she is an incurable prankster and trickster. She's been compared to Pinkie Pie, but I think she also has a good dose of Vanellope von Schweetz in there, too.

The edits to this one were minor, mostly tightening of the prose and clarifying some points at which I feel like things got a little muddled. For example, during Hyren's conversation with the Techo passerby, hopefully it's clearer now that she just thinks all Grundos are dullards, and that there's kind of a lingering stereotype surrounding mutant Grundos in particular that Hyren can't dispel by being intimidating.

The next NT story I want to polish and put on FFN is "Worth Searching For"... this should be fun. :) I've already thought of a specific edit that would make Terra's character arc read much better and be truer to her personality. Sometimes with all this going back and editing old stuff, I worry that I really am turning into the Tolkien of Neopets... but also, if I'm going to put old things on FFN, I want them to be their best selves! It's kind of fun to see how much I've improved in my writing in just a few years, anyway.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Just wanted to give an update on Voyage of the Kaus Media--my editor says she is working on it, so I'm hoping to hear back from her very soon! I'm really excited to keep working on it, and I honestly hope to have it published by the end of this year at the very latest. Finding good editors for a reasonable price is tough, but I'm just glad this editor agreed to do it, so I'll wait as long as she needs me to.

Also, I'm feeling under the weather, so I wrote a cute little story about Terra being sick at the Werelupe Burrows because when I'm feeling down, I like to write cheerful cute things to help me feel better. As a bonus, hopefully it'll help other people too! I know when I'm having a rough day and/or can't get out of bed, immersing myself in feel-good stories helps.

This one was fun to write because I haven't written about the Werelupe Burrows since "Worth Searching For", and it's just been way too long. It was enjoyable to return to it and see how everybody's doing after the events of "Return to Lynwood", and give a bit of a glimpse of what Connor's been up to.

Connor's an interesting character because he means well, but he is a scholar at heart, and has a bad habit of disregarding things like rules and thinking of others when he's trying to satiate his curiosity or obtain results. Also he's an 11-year-old boy, and that isn't really the best combination. Good thing he has a subterranean grotto for a laboratory now, because there are going to be a lot of explosions involved whenever he's around. Also possibly a fair amount of slothic acid.

This story also serves to illustrate that even during times when you don't think you're helping your loved ones, sometimes they're just really grateful for your company. Good family can really make a huge difference when you're going through something tough, and even if they can't magically fix things for you, it's still a huge boon to be able to laugh and have fun with them.

Anyway, considering my tremendous backlog of other things I still need to submit to the Times, I probably will not submit this one until later this year--that's why I wanted to talk about it now as kind of a sneak peek. :)

Speaking of sneak peeks, here's one of my favorite parts:

Terra coughed a little. “Hey, it could be worse,” she said. “At least this time, I’m not cursed by a deranged sorcerer and you guys have to defeat him in order to save me.” Pharazon wrinkled his snout and Terra gave him an impish grin. “Too soon?”

“A little, yeah,” Pharazon said, rolling his eyes. 

Clearly, near-death experiences are things to joke about.

... Yeah, Terra and Isengrim both have humor that can get a little offbeat. I like to think that's why they're such good friends.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Which one of my Neopets characters would make the best friend for you?

Time for another personality quiz! Because they are as fun to write as they are to take, am I right?

Answer these questions and see which of my cast of Neopets OCs would be the best friend fit for you! Keep track of the letters of your answers, and at the end, the letters you got the most of will tell you who you would most enjoy a friendship with! (Choosing more than one answer per question is totally okay--you can be friends with more than one person, after all!)

What is your favorite Neopian world?

A. Roo Island
B. Virtupets Space Station
C. Altador
D. Haunted Woods
E. Brightvale

When faced with danger, you:

A. Strategize.
B. Follow along with someone else who seems to know what they're doing.
C. Face it bravely while looking out for others caught in the situation.
D. Try to find a diplomatic way out of the situation that will help everyone involved.
E. Hide.

Your idea of a perfect day with a friend is:

A. Going to an amusement park and riding all the thrill rides.
B. Going on a hike.
C. Spending all day at the bookstore or the library.
D. Honestly, as long as we're hanging out together I don't care much what we're doing.
E. Clothes shopping!

Which fictional character would you most like to be friends with?

A. Peter Pan. Fun all the time? Never growing up? Yes please!
B. Severus Snape. He's grumpy because he cares.
C. Frodo Baggins. I tend to get along best with sensitive intellectual types.
D. Katara. I really admire her protective nature and firm convictions.
E. Twilight Sparkle. I like her rational approach to life.

Which quality is most important in a friend to you?

A. A sense of humor. I need a friend who can make me laugh.
B. Dependability. I have to know my friend's always got my back.
C. Being a good listener. I like being able to pour out my feelings to somebody who won't judge me.
D. Empathy. Because I'm always looking out for my friends, I expect them to do the same.
E. Class. My friends need to have a sense of decorum and sophistication.

Which quality do you think your friends like most about you?

A. I always laugh at their jokes and I know how to have fun.
B. I'm not pushy or in their face all the time; I know how to give them plenty of space.
C. I'm a strong person they can rely on to lead them.
D. I love them unconditionally and support them unwaveringly.
E. I'm on their level and I don't embarrass them.

What are you usually doing at social events?

A. Seeking out whoever's having the most fun--or creating fun myself!
B. Not being at social events.
C. Helping the wallflowers come out of their shells.
D. Sticking close to my friends, because they're what make social events fun.
E. Chatting with everyone--it's a great networking opportunity!

Which of these is the biggest friendship dealbreaker for you?

A. When someone gets grumpy about everything.
B. Shallowness.
C. Someone who butts heads with me and always wants to be in charge.
D. Sociopathy.
E. Truly weak-willed people who expect others to solve their problems for them.

What is your favorite part about Neopets?

A. The games! Fun for days!
B. The Battledome! I love proving my prowess in battle and showing off my might!
C. The plots! I love solving tricky puzzles and figuring out mysteries!
D. The socializing! I've met so many great friends on the site!
E. Customization! Dressing up my Neopets shows off my sense of style!

Your circle of friends can best be described as:

A. A large number of friends you just enjoy having fun with.
B. Extremely small, comprised only of people I trust.
C. A small group of people who share my interests.
D. A few very close friends who are like family.
E. People I work with.

If you got:

Mostly A's: Your Neopets friend would be Blynn! Her vivid sense of humor and wacky antics always make her the life of the party, and she would have endless fun making you laugh. The two of you would also have a great time pulling pranks and getting into all sorts of trouble. You can count on Blynn to always cheer you up!

Mostly B's: Hyren would be the best friend-fit for you! Responsible and reliable, you know he'd always have your back, even if he's not the most socially vivacious person on the planet. Being an introvert himself, Hyren would understand that you need a lot of space and time to yourself, and would be a very low-key person to hang out with. However, he's also great if you ever want to hear a lot of old war stories.

Mostly C's: You'd get along best with Pharazon! You would probably find a kindred bookworm soul in this faerie Draik, and the two of you would spend hours researching and reading just for the fun of it. You can also trust that he won't try to drag you into any crazy adventures--peace and quiet is the name of his game. Look forward to lots of pleasant afternoons in the library with your new friend!

Mostly D's: Looks like you and Isengrim would get along great! You likely have the empathy and open-mindedness to look past his idiosyncracies and appreciate the Werelupe King's leadership skills and tenacity. In return he would open up to you and provide you with plenty of company, whether it's just the two of you on an adventure or if you're hanging out with his entire pack.

Mostly E's: You and Celice Anfel would get along smashingly! The two of you would always be off on some magical research project, while making sure to look your best in the process. You'd find yourself hobnobbing with Brightvale's intellectual elites, and Celice would have plenty of witty asides to make you chuckle. Her strong will and fierce approach to life will also help bolster your own bravery--she won't let you get away with cowardice.
And why not, here's some older Neopets art that I like too. :)

I drew this for my Neopets user profile back before Photobucket egmsploded and disallowed direct linking. :( Maybe someday I'll try to find another image host. This picture encapsulates everything my Neopian family is about: adventure, hijinks, and magical weapons of questionable origins. (Not pictured: Werelupes.)

(Terra's sword is not actually all that cool compared to her Neopets', but it probably still has at least a few enchantments on it, just to be safe.)

I really like this picture of Isengrim because he looks suitably smug and cocky. Well, when you're the Werelupe King you can afford to ooze confidence.

Concept art for Terra from "Return to Lynwood", which is still one of my favorite things I have written lately. One of the things I really love about Neopia is how there are so many different cultures, and when you adventure as much as Terra's family does, you get to experience all the fun things those cultures have to offer. Terra probably picked up a lot of this garb in Meridell, and it's her go-to outfit for travel in more temperate climes such as the Haunted Woods. Also it just looks epic.

Concept art for Lexora, who went from a one-off character in a short story to a major main character in "Return to Lynwood". Because that's how I roll. The Haunted Woods is usually given a Victorian flair on-site, but I went with a more Edwardian edge for Barrowmere because I like the Edwardian era better, both in terms of society and fashion. (Just say no to corsets!) Sassy Edwardian tiger-ladies are the best.

Celice really rocks mages' robes. Not only does she look awesome in them, but it's actually been established in "The Spirit of Black Keep" that she channels her magic through her robes. Because some sorceresses just have that much style. (This one made it into the Art Gallery!)

More Isengrim looking suitably regal. Maybe he commissioned a Brightvalian artist to draw his portrait? (Or maybe just Terra did it.) I used a bit of a different technique for this one, doing the line art with ink on paper, and then scanning it in it and coloring it digitally. It did make for some lovely line work.

This one's just a random character design... I should not say that I may turn her into a character someday because then I will want to and this is how my insane 12-part series happen. Anyway, I just wanted to try drawing a Grundo Virtupets officer, because my headcanon is that, although mutated Grundos make up a large bulk of Dr. Sloth's military forces, there are still a number of un-mutated Grundos who work for him in various capacities (such as Dothan Reebitz, a former Virtupets communications officer). This gal looks like maybe she's a member of Commander Garoo's void ops strike forces. I write about Virtupets when I feel like pretending I'm a space-military author.

Still really like these portraits of Pharazon and Celice. Pharazon's character arc has been especially fun, as he's one of my more dynamic Neopets characters. He went from someone whose inherent magic was sparkly but ineffective, to someone who realized he could actually do things with his power, and after a few missteps is finally on the path to using his magic the way he feels it was intended to be used. Also, as an aside, note that he usually has his wings folded down his back. Faerie wings, pretty as they are, are also pretty unwieldy if they're constantly sticking out from one's back, so it's my headcanon that most - if not all - faeries and faerie-painted Neopets keep their wings in a resting position most of the time.

And finally, here are some concept sketches for "Worth Fighting For", waaaay back in the day (and by that I mean 2013), because I still love 'em. Dothan is down there in the bottom left--he would later co-star alongside Hyren in "Never Again, Spiced Apple Pie" which is still great. Sophix V is as fun to draw as she is to write. I feel like she just has some ridiculously large 80's hair and it's fabulous. Must be an Alien Aisha thing.

Also, yes, I bothered to design Hyren's and Terra's swords, because swords are an important part of life. If you're curious, on the left is the shortsword that Terra used in that story and Hyren now uses because for his size, it makes a good regular sword. On the right is the claymore he used when he was a 7-foot-tall mutant, and which he later gifted to Isengrim, who, being 8 feet tall, can wield it equally effectively as a mutant Grundo. Both swords are of ancient faerie make and are magically durable and rustproof, so they're treasures in the family, as well as just plain being formidable weapons.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Today's writing notes:

YES I am writing again! I know, it's been way too long, but it was a combination of not really having anything to work on (having finished nearly all of my writing ideas that were ready to be worked on, and not getting too many more new ideas, which happens sometimes), and being busy with other stuff. Now, though, I've decided it's the right time to start another project!

First off, big news: I'm putting together ideas for another Neopian Times story! I'm really excited about this one, and I don't want to give away too much, but it has to do with Terra's Neopian family, Isengrim's connections with Malkus Vile, and the Defenders of Neopia. I've never written about the Defenders before, so this should be fun.

But before that: Pokemon! While playing Ultra Sun I started to get ideas for a fun adventure for my OC Professor Magnolia and a few NPCs, so I've begun work on that! It's going to be my first long-form Pokemon fic, so I'm excited to test those waters!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Paleo doodles! Today I sat next to my sister at church and she told me what to draw.

Plesiosaurus inspecting some crinoids growing on a floating log in the open ocean. There is fossil evidence that large colonies of crinoids covered driftwood, providing the basis for thriving communities at the surface of the water.

Our friend Diadectes was an early Permian amphibian, albeit one with very reptile-like features. It was a squat, round thing that could be roughly 5 to 10 feet long, with some of the doofiest teeth I have ever seen.

I want one.

Finally my sister wanted to see a pterosaur with a monocle, so of course I obliged.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Couple of Sunday ramblings for your enjoyment.

Another study for Iramick, in color this time! Still fiddling with the overall aesthetic for the armor and weapons. At first I had her orc band in a more medieval setting, but I really want the story she and Morh are in to take place in more of a Bronze Age-esque civilization, and I need to do more research on what the state of the art of armorsmithing and weaponsmithing was back then. (Swords then were evidently made of bronze because, Bronze Age.)
It's known that bottlenose dolphins enjoy lifting pieces of coral into the water and watching them float back to the sea floor. Who's to say their prehistoric relatives didn't do the same?