Friday, March 29, 2019

Draik Expectations, Chapter 1

Time for Neopets stories! :)

Although I don't play the website anymore, I've grown rather attached to these characters I wrote so much about, and I really wanted to give their stories a good home where more folks could enjoy them. Free reading is always great, right? :)

So I'm going to put them on the blog in chronological order of when I wrote them--I feel that this makes the most sense from a creative perspective as one can see my concepts for the characters grow and evolve.

First up is "Draik Expectations", and honestly I don't find it my best work, but I do feel it's important because it was the first "serious" thing I wrote for the Neopian Times. Well, it tried to start out kooky and zany like my previous stuff, but then I realized I wanted to tell a less slapstick story about knowing who your true friends are, and about keeping the balance between knowledge and ethics. It was really my first step toward seeing my Neopets as beings with complex personalities who could go through character arcs and sophisticated adventures. It's also important because it's the story where I introduced Celice Anfel, an original character who would go on to become a major player in future stories, and I wouldn't want to include "Worth Searching For" and "The Spirit of Black Keep" without providing the background on how she and Pharazon got to be friends.

I'm also going to do something I've been wanting to try (and is just as fun as I thought it'd be): illustrations for each chapter! My main rationale behind this is that, while I've been trying to link to official Neopets illustrations throughout the text of my fanfic so non-Neopets players will know what I am talking about, I can't do that for characters I made up, like Celice, Suhel, and Zoltan. And rather than just plunk down some concept art of them, I thought it would be much more enjoyable to give the reader a firm idea of what I see in my mind's eye when I write these stories.

Also, please note that these stories will not look the same as they do in the Neopian Times--I have edited them considerably to bring them up to speed with my current writing skills and make them all-around better stories. I treat these revised versions as canon and I highly recommend them over what got published in the Times.

Anyway, without further ado, please enjoy the first chapter of "Draik Expectations"! I'll put more up when I can!

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4

Chapter 1

“Explain to me again why we’re always on the way somewhere,” Hyren the blue Grundo said as he tromped down a well-worn woodland path, glowering at the faerie Draik beside him.

“We’re not always on the way somewhere,” his brother Pharazon said. “We do get there eventually.” Somewhere up ahead he could hear the gleeful cries of a certain disco Zafara, but he paid them no heed. He was on a most important errand and could not be bothered with his childish older sister’s antics.  “You could have stayed back in Meridell with Terra while she gets over her cold, Mister Grumpy Grundo. Why are you here?”

“Damage control,” Hyren said with a shrug. He glanced up at his taller younger brother. “What I don’t get is why you’re here.”

Pharazon stood up a little straighter and puffed out his chest. “Because,” he said, “today’s the day I’m going to become a Brightvale scholar.”

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sorry there haven't been any posts in a while! Now that Voyage of the Kaus Media is finished, I've been trying to put together plans for my next project, and I've also been very busy with other things. I may attempt a children's picture book or two before tackling another novel that may or may not involve 1890's America and steampunk robots.

I also have not forgotten about my desire to make my Neopets writing available here on the blog, but I've been so super busy that it just has not been something I've been able to devote any time to. I hope to be able to work on something soon, though!

And I know art has been scarce, so I apologize for that too. I just haven't been feeling it lately outside of work. There are just other things I want to focus on right now. Like steampunk robots which are always a good life choice.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Hyren Pet Spotlight entry

Pharazon's Petpet Ganuthor won the Petpet Spotlight a little while back, which was awesome! I also submitted an entry to the Pet Spotlight for Hyren, who definitely had the most interesting backstory of my Neopets, but I never heard back about it. So I figured I might as well share it here!

Also I just really like the idea of holographic newspapers.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Hiccough in Time

First, let me preface by saying that I love the Commonwealth spelling of "hiccup". That is all.

I recognize that I have been putting way more writing than art up lately. Perhaps my blog name was not well-thought-out. Oops.

Here's another short story that I never got the chance to submit to the Neopian Times, but I still love it and I wanted to share it. It's basically my attempt to reconcile the crazy time warp shenanigans going on with Meridell and Brightvale, that were such a huge part of the first Meridell plot and then... kinda got forgotten about. But I didn't forget about them.

I loved developing Hagan's and Seradar's characters and dynamic here, but like I mentioned in my last post, I really feel like I should be using this character development enjoyment and energy in projects that are more worthwhile. Not just in terms of being more profitable, but in being things that are more accessible to humanity in general; I think far more people are going to see my novels on Amazon than are going to find my work in the newsletter of a virtual pet website.

It's a little sad to let my Neopets cast go after I had so much fun with them and had some plans for future stories, but I at least feel like I've reached a point with them where they've gotten some good closure, and I'm grateful for everything I've learned by writing with them.

Also, Dame Socnis's name is a nerdy wordplay. Figure it out for yourself (it's not that hard). :)

(Also Skarl seriously should have had Illusen take a look at the orb in the first place. C'mon, dude.)

You can read more about my thought processes and reasoning/musing in this blog post and this one. There's not much more to say than that, so enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Toymaker

First piece of fanfic posted here, hooray!

But also I'm posting this to announce that I'm no longer playing Neopets, and explain my reasons.

- Neopets is not the website it used to be. Things changed drastically when the old team was fired (something I am still not pleased about). I suspect the website does not have the biggest budget and they're swamped with things that need to be done on the technical end, so I have been cutting them a lot of slack as far as that goes. But what really sealed the deal for me was a creative direction that does not seem to be improving.

The creative aspect of Neopets appealed to me from the beginning. I loved the artwork, the lore, the humor, and the fun characters, stories, and worlds that the creative team kept coming up with. The old Neopets was a truly enchanting place with a certain quirky vibe to it that I found massively appealing.

The new Neopets is just really missing that special creative spark. I hate to say it, but I have just found most of their creative offerings lacking, both in concept and execution. Some of the new paint brush colours and wearable items they've come up with are beautiful, but most of everything else just does not live up to the old Neopets. I find their creative ideas a bit wan, lacking the depth, wit, and writerly sophistication of the old Neopets, and I've also been none too pleased that the art quality has gone way downhill because they fired the old artists and the new ones seem to be putting more into customisation than other parts of the site. The art has gone from this to this... yeah. That does not make my artist self happy.

I think the final straw was probably the Lyra and the Lost Heirloom plot, which I just found to be utterly off-track in both writing and art (see above image link which always gets me repeatedly facepalming). So much so that I actually wrote an email to TNT laying out everything I disliked about the plot, and gently recommending that their writers learn how to write better. I tried so hard to care about the dismal storyline and the abrasive characters, but I finally realized that if I'm approaching a plot with an attitude of "I will cringe through this for the sake of the trophy" rather than "this plot is awesome and I truly am emotionally invested in the characters and their situation", something is wrong. And I have loved nearly all of the old TNT's plots, so I am not just being overly critical.

On top of that, the new, long-awaited Legends & Letters app is... okay, but not really my thing. Also Aurrick is the main character and I just cannot get myself to like him no matter how hard I try. And when I realized I was playing it because I wanted to support Neopets, not because I actually truly enjoyed the game, again I knew something was wrong.

The Neopets staff changed in 2015. I waited patiently for three years for the new TNT to figure out a balance between backend technical fixes and new quality content. While it's great that they've finally begun to generate more creative content, I cannot ignore the decline in quality. The old TNT knew what they were doing. The new TNT is making the world of Neopia into a place that I'm just not as fond of anymore and can't recommend to anybody.

- Here is where I get to sound like a whiny, self-entitled author: my writing for the Neopian Times feels like a one-sided relationship. I have gotten several really nice fan mails over the years, but... that's several. Over the years. Over the literally hundreds of thousands of words I have written for the Times. (Seriously. I counted. All in all, everything I've written for the Times comes out to over 350,000 words.)

Not that I'm expecting to hear back from everybody who ever reads my work - I know most people just don't think to write fan mail - but to work as hard as I do and then get a very minimal response is frustrating. I didn't just submit things to the Neopian Times for fun - although it was quite a bit of fun - I wrote them because I wanted people to have good, uplifting, thoughtful things to read. I wanted my work to help people. Instead it seems like it's just getting ignored. Just watching my trophy count rise is not adequate repayment for how much work and time I put into my writing. "Shadow Play" took me a month to write, and it would have taken me longer if I hadn't been doing a NaNo and working at an insane pace. That's a month of intense work that now no one is looking at, if the lack of fan mail is any indication. I deserve better than that.

So from now on, I'm going to focus on my novels and other projects that will actually compensate me fairly for my efforts. I may still write fanfic here and there, but I am just tired of investing so much time, so much work, and so much creativity into a world and a cast that keep getting ignored. If I'm going to invest this much into something, it might as well be a novel that I can get wider recognition for and get paid for, because Neopian Times trophies don't buy nerdy t-shirts groceries. Fanfiction can be fun, but ultimately it is very limiting. Just think of what the world would have missed out on if, say, Tolkien had decided to make Lord of the Rings fanfiction of something else. (I knowwww the concept of fanfiction was not around back then, but just work with me here.)

- Finally, I realized that I just don't have room in my life for Neopets anymore. Things like participating in site events, feeding my pets, and keeping up with the news were feeling more like chores to get out of the way than relaxing and fun activities. I have a lot of other things I'm doing with my life nowadays, and Neopets just doesn't fit in what with family and work and the many other hobbies I enjoy, some of which are actually productive (I've been really into crocheting lately, for example).

I know Neopets is often a sanctuary for people who need a break from the real world, but, well, I've found things to do to unwind that I actually like and I feel repay me better than Neopets, whether that be in terms of actual productivity, or even just a quality aesthetic experience (like Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which is so well-done creatively).

So Neopets has run its course with me. I'm still very sad to see the old creative team go--honestly I think that if they were still around, I would still be playing. But the lackluster recent content, on top of the throwing away my writing and having difficulty finding the time for the website, means it's time to let this one go. I deserve better things.

That being said, I'm still very proud of what I've written for the Times and I would hate for it to go to waste, so I'm going to start working on putting it up here for folks to read! The going will probably be slow, but it's definitely in my plans. I even have several stories written that either got rejected when I submitted them to the Times, or I never got the chance to submit, so I'll be putting them up here.

I will also include links to pictures of the characters in question (whether my own or canon characters), because when you're writing for an audience who already knows what a Tyrannian Lupe looks like, for example, you don't have to put much description in there, which makes it difficult for people who don't know what a Tyrannian Lupe looks like. :)

And I will start with something I wrote for Christmas (or its Neopian equivalent, Giving Day)! I thought it would be fun to combine Giving Day and the Darigan Citadel, two things that you do not usually think of at the same time. But I'm sure the Draconians celebrate Giving Day, and I wanted to put together a story about having hope for the future, about being your best self and moving forward, and about the things that really matter, including making others' lives better even in seemingly small ways. After all, that's a big part of what Christmas is all about.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Revising On Borrowed Wings

One pretty major alteration I've been making is to give Greg more of a character arc. There were hints of it previously, but I feel like his character development and his relationship with Nimbus were never firmly established enough for my liking, so I'm trying to give him more attention this time around. I want to make it clear that he's just a big engineering nerd who got so caught up in how awesome his job was that he found it too easy to kind of forget about the whole "helping someone take over the world" thing.

Meeting Nimbus and seeing personally how his actions were affecting others, however, helped Greg feel guilty about what he was doing, and when he realized Nimbus needed his help escaping, Greg immediately set about trying to make up for all the damage he had already caused. Although it doesn't make him any less socially awkward, he's brought to realize that people are an important part of life as well, not just work. That ends up helping him not only be a better friend to Nimbus, but then to Jacob when the boy desperately needs friends and good adult figures in his life.

Also, hopefully I didn't make Jacob too depressing! I feel bad for him every time I read this story. He's just a kid who needs good friends.