Monday, September 24, 2018

Today's writing notes

Working on: Voyage of the Kaus Media 2nd draft

I'm up to chapter 4, and this manuscript is already at 92,000 words instead of 88,000. I anticipate even more lengthening to come. I'll be honest, I think it'd be fun if it broke 100,000 words, but I certainly won't try to force it.

I'm trying hard in these early chapters to play up the Menketi Noblirim being manipulative jerks. I want to make it clear that they're the kind of people that Angela is used to dealing with back on Earth, so when she ends up with the Falcarians - who actually care about her as a person - the stark contrast wakes her up to how she used to allow herself to be treated, and helps her start on the path to taking better care of herself.

I also hope it comes through well enough that the Noblirim are not a hopelessly antagonistic species; there's just some stuff that they struggle with culturally, just like humans. As Radnama points out later in the book, the Noblirim are naturally great artists with an eye for aesthetics, but they too often ignore that aspect of themselves to focus on a hunger for power and dominion. Radnama is one of the few Noblirim who has not lost himself in endless power plays and scheming. Even if they are mostly antagonistic in this story, I wanted there to still be the idea that they could be great forces for good if they tried, and Radnama is an example of that and an example to his fellow creatures.

Also, I never meant for the Noblirim to come across as ugly. They look like anthropomorphic dinosaur-dragons, which is an awesome combination. :) So when you're reading, please imagine them as epic-looking as possible!

I'm also trying to clarify a lot of Angela's actions and thought processes, especially throughout the first half of the book. Hopefully now it's easier to understand that she struggles with trust issues, which are not helped by how the Menketi Noblirim treat her, which is why it takes her so long to open up to the Falcarians. She doesn't ask too many questions in the beginning of the story, not because she doesn't have questions, but because she's worried they won't be answered (the Menketi certainly were not interested in answering her questions). It's only when she starts to feel more comfortable with the crew of the Kaus Media that she ventures to get a geography lesson from the captain.

This also explains why Angela spends so much time on the Kaus Media reading fiction and playing dolu--she's filling herself up and taking care of herself, which is something she stood in sore need of, so that she can have the strength and better mindset to do things like stand up to the Menketi elders and Janus. Her voyages are healing experiences for her as she learns that she matters as a person, too, and it's okay to have good friends who care about her, and to have things she enjoys doing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Today's writing notes

Working on: Voyage of the Kaus Media 2nd draft

Yep, that's right! :) My editor got back to me with her notes, and we had a good long talk, and she made some great suggestions that I'm going to act on to help improve the manuscript! I'm moving forward, hooray! I was admittedly worried that she would hate the whole thing, but she didn't have any suggestions for some of my favorite parts like the epic dragon swordfights (that would be dragons fighting each other with swords, not other creatures fighting dragons with swords), so I'm pleased about that. :)

Today I'm tackling the task of rewriting the entire first chapter! My editor pointed out that it moves too quickly, and we also noticed that in my excitement to introduce the plot and the world, I neglected to introduce the main character. :) But that's kind of important, especially in this story where a large part of the plot centers around her character arc and personal growth. It's difficult to understand why she reacts the way she does, and appreciate how far she's come, unless you understand where she is coming from and what her situation was before she arrived in Zabetha.

So this new first chapter aims to fix that; rather than throw the reader into the plot right away, we're given a glimpse of who Angela is and what her struggles are. Hopefully this brief character-development detour before the crazy fantasy stuff won't make the beginning of the book less appealing. I'll have to confer with my editor about that.

But I also don't believe the beginnings of books necessarily have to be aggressively attention-grabbing to be compelling. I mean, The Hobbit starts off with a long essay on what exactly a hobbit is before we get to the wizards and dwarfs and dragons, and while that introduction is not exactly edge-of-your-seat suspense, it's fascinating and beautiful and does a wonderful job of whetting one's appetite for Middle-earth.

But like I said, I'll have to see what my editor thinks of this new direction for the first chapter. Hopefully it fixes more problems than it introduces, at the very least, and I'm on some sort of a right track.

Anyway, see, this is what happens when you write the first three chapters of a novel and then leave it alone for years. You get all sorts of disjointedness. :) Lesson learned!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Portrait of Celice that I doodled in church. I want her cloak actually. She's a sorceress and a snazzy dresser!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Currently working on: Revising "The Spirit of Black Keep"

There is so much dramatic irony in this story and I love it muahahaha. The word count has stayed pretty constant for the most part--which makes sense, as I'm doing very few major content edits, mostly just smoothing out prose.

Celice is fun to write because she's got such an entertaining personality. She's very pro-active and no-nonsense, but she has her quirks, like her fear of heights, her tendency to binge on soda, and the fact that she doesn't know how to light a fire any other way than with magically-conjured flame. I think she plays really well against the shyer and more retiring Pharazon, protective and caring Kass, and grouchy but good-natured Jhudora. I feel like this story has a good cast of main characters.

It's also interesting to note that Eyries cannot turn into werepets like Lupes and Kyrii can. Despite Kass becoming quite feral mentally, he never underwent a physical change (Eyries are just massive creatures to begin with). I really enjoyed writing Kass as well. I like to think he's really a decent guy when he's not listening to malevolent spirits. It's implied in this story that when he's at his best, he is driven by a strong desire to protect and help others, and it fulfills him emotionally. And he took the mistakes of his past and used them to forge an iron determination to never go down that path again, which I think is a valuable lesson.

My headcanon for Kass is that after the first Darigan War and Lord Darigan's disappearance, Kass - whose leadership as a general played a large part in the Citadel's victory - took control of the Citadel out of a sincere concern for the well-being of the Draconians. However, his concern rapidly turned into a paranoid dictatorship as he grew determined to eliminate threats to the Citadel wherever he thought he saw them arise--and even before they could arise. Plus, he had a lingering bitterness toward Meridell that allowed the Three to worm their way into his head with promises of revenge.

... But he's all better now! And working to make things better for everyone else, too. Yay for happy endings! :)

Jhudora was also super fun to write. While on-site she's portrayed as kind of... ambiguously malevolent and definitely not a nice person, I've always much preferred NT author vanessa1357924680's portrayal of Jhudy as grumpy and unsociable, but with a good heart deep down. And I like the idea of a not-so-bad dark faerie wanting to stop some definitely bad dark faeries--away with stereotypes!

I also have a headcanon that Jhudora is quite good friends with Fyora and was one of Fyora's greatest supporters and allies during the Faerie Queen's campaign for the throne; many other faeries did not trust Jhudora, who is an extremely powerful dark faerie, but Fyora insisted that Jhudora be allowed to stay in Faerieland.

I also have a headcanon that faeries are always to be properly addressed as "Lady", unless you know them well enough that they allow you to drop the title. Faeries are powerful beings who command the respect of other Neopians, and they expect to be treated as such. Also, I imagine faeries are truly immortal and cannot die--you have to get rid of them by greying them, magically sealing them away, or banishing them to another plane. They are beings made of pure magic and do not work biologically like other Neopian creatures do. (This is discussed briefly in "Ylana Skyfire: Protector of Spring" where Illusen doesn't show up on Ylana's bio-sensors.)

(I'm a huge nerd for having such an extensive Neopets headcanon. I hope other folks are enjoying reading this stuff as much as I enjoy writing it.)

Also headcanon: faeries love striking deals. It seems to be a sort of game for them, and it's how faerie quests arose. Faeries find it quite easy to increase Neopets' power, but understand the consequences of doing so freely, so they make Neopets work for it, and don't allow pets to take on faerie quests whenever they want. I'm not quite sure what dark faeries do with the toys they ask you for. I want to think they secretly give them to needy children. :)

I'm still not entirely sure what to call Pharazon's hands. "Hands" kind of implies human-like appendages, which they aren't. "Paws" brings to mind something more mammalian, and he's a dragon. "Claws" just refers to his fingertips and not his whole hand. I kind of just go with "hands" nowadays because it seems to be the most fitting, even if it's not perfect.

Being a computer geek who writes about magic leads to some interesting magic systems. Jhudora actually uses Pharazon to magically ping the Space Faerie Mushrooms. I wonder if you could use him as a wireless magic router, too? Make him spread his wings just so to transmit the magical signal?

Also I am kind of amused by how much shorter Pharazon is than the other main characters. Pharazon is about three feet tall, while Celice is 5'7"-ish, Kass is maybe like 6'5", and Jhudora is around the same height as him (I imagine faeries are quite tall). Pharazon is the hobbit of the party. It just makes him all the more adorable. (Personality-wise he's quite Frodo-ish as well. Does that make Celice Gandalf? And Jhudora Legolas? Kass is probably Thorin I guess? I could do this all day.)

My headcanon as far as organized magic in Neopia is that joining a magical affiliation like the Order of the Red Erisim or Brightvale University's Magic Academy is strongly encouraged for mages, but not enforced. Lawless magic is a real problem, but there are enough good, heroic magic users in the world combatting the misuse of magic that Fyora and the leaders of the various lands have not had any reason to crack down on magic as a whole.

Plus, there are so many magic users in positions of power around Neopia - Fyora, Princess Roberta, King Jazan, Jerdana, Lisha, and Lord Darigan, to name a few - that restrictive legislation on mages would be met with much political opposition. It's one of those things that seems to be working out best when left to the populace, with leadership only stepping in when necessary.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Revising "The Spirit of Black Keep" for

Okay, first let's address the elephant in the room: I'm expecting to hear back from my editor about The Voyage of the Kaus Media very soon--like, sometime this week. Any day now. Maybe even today. Here's hoping. I'm sorry it's been very quiet on that front, but I'm sure she's been working on the manuscript as fast as she's been able.

Anyway, in the meantime I'll keep myself occupied with fanfiction. :) My next project is to polish up "The Spirit of Black Keep"! Admittedly I don't think there's much there that needs polishing, as it's a fairly recent piece, but it'll be nice to give it another look over to smooth out any bumps... and add dialogue tags! Always dialogue tags.

One fairly major content edit I'm making is to make Celice nicer. I feel she was a bit too snappish in the original, and while I'd still like her to come across as a bossy-older-sister type of friend, I don't want her to come off as harsh or critical--just a bit overbearing and take-charge. :) I want to make it clearer that she's trying to help Pharazon have more confidence in himself, but she's also exasperated by his whiny wishy-washiness.

Also, a small change near the beginning is that in this version, Pharazon travels to Brightvale alone because Hyren had business on the Virtupets Space Station and Terra and Blynn decided to go with him. The original had Terra make Pharazon go by himself to build character, but even though Terra does believe in helping people build character, she would also jump at any excuse to do some traveling. :) So I feel this new explanation holds water better.

I've also been rewriting much of the text that deals with the events of "Worth Searching For", since I changed so much in that story, especially the overall themes and most of the character arcs, that any subsequent references to it written before the revision now need to be updated. Which I'm okay with, because I think the revision works so much better that it makes the subsequent stories read better, too.

Also I'm playing watch-the-word-count again... currently it's at 37,000 words. I'm not expecting it to change much, but we'll see what happens as I add dialogue tags. :)

I hope at least one other person gets the nerdy web code reference about the hex generator. Hmmm maybe my humor is too obscure sometimes.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Petpet doodles!

Despite Neopets canon seeming to imply that all Petpets are smaller than Neopets, in-universe I just feel like it makes much more sense that Petpets, like real-world animals, come in a variety of sizes, with some being large enough to be ridden as mounts by Neopets, such as Bikas and Whinnies. (Although I acknowledge that Whinnies in canon are portrayed as small creatures, in "Worth Searching For" I established a headcanon that there is a breed of Whinny that has purposely been made larger to serve as war mounts for the Meridellian and Brightvalian cavalries.) Also Gwyneth is just so much funnier if she's enormous and doesn't quite realize how large she is.

I decided to go in a bit of a different direction with the Airax and make it more of an anchiornithid, because Tyrannia is for paleontology geekery. :) Also I guess Gruslens are some sort of tusked canid?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Portrait of Terra from "Shadow Play" because I felt like updating my Facebook profile picture. One nice thing about being an artist is that you can make your Facebook profile as ridiculously fantastic as you want. :) (Not pictured: arbitrary dinosaurs and robots.)

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Giving some love to Edaphosaurus, that other sail-backed synapsid. (Sails were apparently very much in vogue during the early Permian.)

Also I kiiiiiind of was not perfectly scientifically accurate with the inclusion of my good buddy Lystrosaurus, which only starts showing up in the fossil record in the mid-Permian, but I am invoking the Signor-Lipps effect clause here. Maybe some edaphosaurs survived until the mid-Permian. Maybe lystrosaurs started showing up in the early Permian. Maybe I just thought it'd be really cute to draw two Permian herbivore pals hanging out.