Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Big, Fun, Scary Goals for 2009

While I was writing more of Bad Company for NaNoFiMo, I got an email from Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo about the 2009 Big, Fun, Scary Challenge. Since I achieved several (though not all) of the Big, Fun, Scary goals for 2008, I got the winner's badge to the left and a winner's certificate in PDF format. I posted my 2009 list of Big, Fun, Scary goals in the BFS goals thread on the NaNoWriMo forum. But I'm posting them again here, to make sure I don't forget them.

So here's the complete text of the post:
Like last year, I'm going to divide my goals into "WriMo" and "Extra" categories. This time I'm going to achieve a greater percentage of my goals than in '08.

WriMo Goals:
1) Finish '07 novel Bad Company and start submitting it to publishers.
2) Finish '06 novel Black Science and get it ready to submit.
3) Rewrite and finish the entire first volume of Spanner and get it ready to draw.
4) Complete all character designs for Spanner.
5) Win JanNo, FebNo, FAWM, EdMo, Script Frenzy, JulNo, AugNo, and the next NaNo and FiMo.
6) Enter NaNoMangO.
7) Post the first issue of Spanner online.

Extra Goals:
1) Exercise regularly.
2) Post on my blogs (project and opinion) regularly.
3) Set up a personal webpage that will be the center of all things Dennis Jernberg, from blogs to webcomics.
4) Create a web course on how to draw comics.
5) Learn at least one of these languages: French, Spanish, German, Japanese.
6) Learn how to play the keyboard, play the guitar, and sing.
7) Start a relationship with my first girlfriend (the really hard one, since I'm notoriously unsociable...).

If, like last year, I find I need to add extra goals, I'll add them in this thread. Only this time I should link to this post.

Here goes...
I call on my friends and fellow Wrimos to help keep me to 'em!

Back to Spanner’s World...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bad Company: NaNoFiMo 2008

I decided not to continue writing this year's NaNoWriMo novel this month. For NaNoFiMo, I decided to pull out my '07 novel, Bad Company. I'm both rewriting previously written scenes and adding new ones to fill plot holes. I'm even adding a new and important story arc, "The Trial of the Dictel 10".

While rewriting a previous scene during my idle Christmas Eve, I realized how much better I write now than I did before BadCo burned me out in August. I've completely rewritten the Intro so that my first preview is now obsolete: the entire prologue which began with this scene is now gone, replaced by something almost completely different. Those who like this scene shouldn't worry, however; the second part of the new prologue, which follows and contradicts the new opening (the Dictel corporate spin), is a news report of just this event, edited to increase the urgency.

Chapter 1 has also undergone some pretty radical changes, too. I thought this opening was cool enough when I wrote it. But now I have Charlie overreacting for one paragraph, after which she drops the melodrama (says Ruby: "Stop it, Charlotte! You're acting like your mother!"). And I realized that the first two chapters should each act as if they were television episodes or (more accurately) issues of a comics series (a prequel to Spanner, to be exact), each a mini-movie with a cliffhanger ending. Each should build up in tension and action till the climactic cliffhanger. So my Chapter 1 preview is obsolete, too.

Both of these radical revisions occurred when I rewrote the Intro and the first two (originally four or so) chapters for NaNoFiMo. That's because, I now realize, I can write so much better now than I did when I originally wrote these two scenes for the second incomplete draft.

I only started writing again on the 23rd, almost two weeks after I last wrote (my first session for FiMo). On Christmas Eve, I managed to write several new scenes (fast) and rewrite several others (much slower). I managed to write the definitive versions of certain previously written scenes. What got me writing again? I was struggling to find some way to put the structure of Bad Company back into place. Then, the night of the 23rd, I read two books: Hooked by Les Edgerton, a book about how to open your novel; and The Triumph of Narrative by Robert Fulford. I read the former first and the latter second. Reading Hooked again after having put it on the bookshelf months ago, I realized I understood the book and its principles better than I did the first time I read it. And so I started writing, and what I wrote was the new opening: part 1 of the Intro (the Dictel propaganda video) and the first parts of chapters 1 and 2. Finally everything fell into place, and now I'm writing (and rewriting) BadCo again.

I'm currently up to 8,900 words, exactly. I have absolute confidence that I'll make FiMo's minimum recommended word target of 30,000 by the end of the year. The more I write BadCo, the more interesting it gets; the more it interests me, the more I write it. For the first time since I started writing Bad Company last November, it looks like I'll actually be able to finish it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Now that I've won NaNoWriMo again...

After an excruciating battle with my archenemy, procrastination, leading up to the most spectacular comeback I've ever pulled off, I won my third consecutive NaNoWriMo victory. In my three years doing NaNo, I've never lost one. I've put too much of my ego into it to allow myself to lose one. The price is that the story I was writing — which I've decided won't be called Points of Authority after all — suffered the complete collapse and fragmentation of its plot. That should teach me not to start NaNo unorganized. But now what?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Now that four months of writer's block has finally come to an end...

I haven't posted here for a full four months. Last time I did, I was just starting AugNoWriMo when I burned out. Since then, I managed to score my third consecutive come-from-behind NaNoWriMo victory with the most spectacular comeback I've ever been able to pull off: 30,000 words in just three days! Now I've started NaNoFiMo (National Novel Finishing Month) for the second time, but this time I'm going to finish a NaNo novel. My 2007 novel, the same one that has both obsessed and stymied me for 13 months now. Bad Company. But...

This time around, I think I can actually finish BadCo! First of all, I now have a new structure for both BadCo and Black Science: an "intro", the body of the novel in three parts, and the "outro". (There is a lot of rock & roll in the Dictel trilogy, hence the terms "intro" and "outro".) In the case of BadCo, the three parts are called "Bad Religion" (meaning Drusilla's cult), "Bad Girls" (Desiree, Charlie, and Drusilla on trial for their lives), and "Bad Company" (the actual corporate invasion of America that fails to keep Barack Obama from becoming US president). I realized that BadCo neatly falls into three parts rather than two when I finished plotting the middle section, the long trial sequence.

Now that Bad Company has a workable structure, I finally get the feeling that I can finish the it! I'm taking the name "National Novel Finishing Month" at face value: I'm not merely going to write the recommended 30,000 words; I intend to finish the first draft of Bad Company, once and for all, period.

Also, I'm going to revise the script for Spanner. I'll keep you posted here on my progress from now on.

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Goals for August. Really.

I didn't do very well in July. Two weeks of writer's block took care of that. Derailed last month, I'm determined to recover from it and do something this month. So here's my story goals for this month:
  1. Finish Part 1 of Bad Company.
  2. Replot Spanner and write the second draft of the script.
  3. Finish my self-instruction in how to draw the head. I'm currently procrastinating working on the most difficult perspectives: the extreme angles and tilted profiles.
  4. Start creating character designs again. Since the Spanner and BadCo casts overlap, some designs will do double duty.
  5. Learn how to write song lyrics (surprisingly tough!) so I can start writing my 50 songs.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bad Company Preview #2: Chapter 1

Last entry, I posted the opening scene of Bad Company as a preview. I hope I opened it with a bang. Now here's the first part of Chapter 1, introducing one of the two main characters: Charlie Thomas (a woman), a troubled pop singer who can no longer sing. The other main character is her sister Desiree, who runs away from their tyrannical mother, cult guru and fascist stage mother Drusilla Becket. Now what does all this have to do with Dictel Corporation? Drusilla herself is the direct connection at first, as she's the youngest of the nine Becket siblings who own the company. She has no role in the actual running of the company — it's the three oldest brothers who actually run the company, and especially the eldest, Colonel Tom Becket — but as a channeller and cult guru, she is the spiritual leader of the clan.

So here's the opening to Chapter 1 of Bad Company, still unfinished in the second draft. (Bad Company excerpt © Dennis Jernberg)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bad Company Preview #1: Prologue

I haven't posted lately because I've suffered a bad case of writer's block for the past 11 days. It's finally broken now, so I'm able to write again, and post on forums and my blogs.

Now down to business. To give something of the flavor of Bad Company, I've decided to post excerpts of the prologue and first chapter. First, here's the novel's opening, in the version from the currently unfinished second draft. If there's a vague resemblance to, say, the 1999 Seattle anti-WTO riots, there's a reason for that which I'll explain later. (Bad Company excerpt © 2008 Dennis Jernberg)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

JulNoWriMo: The Midterm Report

Here's my progress, or lack thereof, this month so far:
  • Bad Company (for JulNoWriMo): 14,014 words written
  • Spanner (second draft): 2 pages rewritten; difficult plotting of first part of opening begun; however, no drawing done yet
  • Songs (for 50 Songs in 90 Days): The first batch of song titles chosen, including the title tracks to my planned albums: Enter the Fist (the Sonic Disruptors) and Mind Virus (the Memetic Terrorists); however, I haven't resumed my guitar lessons yet
Needless to say, I need to pick up the pace again if I want to meet my goals this month:
  1. at least 50,000 words of the BadCo second draft (I now know I'll have to carry it over into AugNoWriMo, delaying Black Science for yet another month)
  2. the second draft of at least the first issue of Spanner
  3. write at least 10 songs

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Problem with Political Thrillers

There's a kind of suspense thriller that focuses on political problems and even protest. It is, of course, the political thriller. But from what I've read about political thrillers, most of them, especially the left-wing ones, share a commmon problem. It's inherent in the structure of the standard thriller:

There's only one hero.

Why is having just one hero (or a few at most) a problem? Well, political problems are collective problems. Thus, the ideal protagonist of a (left-wing) political thriller is the catalyst hero, a hero whose purpose is to call for other people to fight the Evil as to fight the Evil themself. This is Shira in Spanner. She may be effective enough at subverting the power system (e.g., the United State and its state-capitalist corporate raider controllers), but to destroy it she needs to get a critical mass of the people onto her side. So she must act as herald, bringing the "call to adventure" (in this case, revolution) to as many people as possible. She must be a catalyst.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Goals for July 2008

This is my first post in over 3 whole weeks. Last month I put so much effort into the Bad Company synopsis, wrestling that elusive plot into workable shape for the first time, that I neglected everything else. Well, here's my goals for this month:
  1. For JulNoWriMo, at least write 50,000 words of Bad Company. Better yet, finish the second draft!
  2. Edit Spanner and complete the second draft of at least #1.
  3. For 50 Songs in 90 Days (hosted by FAWM), write at least 10 songs this month, including songs for Charlie to sing in BadCo.
  4. Start learning the guitar again.
  5. Learn enough HTML to design a website of my own that's not "plain-Jane".
Unlike last month, I don't have to battle the BadCo plot; I finally fixed it last month. (I have been doing some worldbuilding notes, though.) The only enemy I still have to beat is procrastination.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Political Horror, or Governments as Living Gods and Corporations as Hostile Alien Lifeforms

In the third of my posts on collective villainy, I'll talk about genre. Now, you might read a whole lot of books and articles about political crimes and governmental shenanigans, but no matter how all-powerful they get you've probably never thought of them as literal gods. You might read all the business publications in the world and still never conceive of even the most predatory corporations as hostile alien lifeforms. Is the Federal Government of the United States of America a berserk Titan? Is Enron a collective vampire? Is Nazi Germany the manifestation of one of the dreaded Elder Gods? It may or may not be true in the real world (but see the last two posts), but the answer is a definite yes in the new genre of fiction I'm creating, a hybrid I'm calling political horror.

When I say "political horror", many of you probably think of such dystopian novels as 1984, Brave New World, and Darkness at Noon. They are indeed the forerunners to political horror. But I have something different in mind.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dictel Corporation, the US Government, and Other Collective Vampires

Last time, I wanted to make it clear that Dictel Corporation is the villain of Bad Company and the rest of the Dictel trilogy. However, I'd forgotten one thing: the nature of the beast. I'd written about this subject a lot during NaNoEdMo on the EdMo forums, but I never wrote any entries here in Spanner's World about it in March. So I'm making it clear right now that Dictel is no ordinary institutional menace. Or rather, institutional menaces are more than just institutions. They are collective vampires.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Isn't the Dictel Trilogy Supposed to Have a Villain Called Dictel Corporation?

Tonight I realized that I haven't paid enough attention to Dictel Corporation in the Dictel trilogy. Now, you can't have a good thriller without a strong villain, and Dictel is one of the nastiest collective villains in fiction. We're talking a combination of Blackwater, Halliburton, Enron, a big weapons maker, and the Mafia. Even better, there's an dark occult secret behind the company, and a cult it's promoting as a replacement for a dying Christianity. Cross an anticorporate thriller with something like The Da Vinci Code. And cross George Orwell with H. P. Lovecraft by giving the Dictel brass, led by the powerful Becket brothers, a new kind of Social Darwinist ideology which claims that corporations are the new kind of lifeform destined to replace humanity as the masters of Earth. I neglected all this, and thus my plots for Bad Company and Black Science became weak, turning my manuscripts into complete messes I could not straighten out. Until now.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

My Goals for June 2008

May is finally done. Since I no longer have writer's block to deal with, I think I can actually achieve my goals for June. These are:
  1. Rewrite the Spanner script. This is a Script Frenzy thing, using the old month (June) as the "EdMo". The deadline is June 30. In addition to the script rewrite, I'll do the accompanying page layouts.
  2. Finish the second draft of Bad Company. This is when I'll start fitting the old scenes and plotlines from the first draft back into the rewritten story alongside the new ones.
  3. Complete my self-instruction course on how to draw the human figure, then begin drawing my character designs.
  4. Learn how to play the guitar, learn at least a little about how to play the piano (or keyboard), and learn to read music better. This is for the "50 Songs in 90 Days" thing I'm doing in lieu of FAWM.
  5. Start relearning French, German, or both.
I should have a better chance at pulling this off now that I'm able to write again. The script rewrite should be the easy part.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

MayNoWriMo: The Final Non-Progress Report

So MayNoWriMo is over, and I've hardly written a thing in almost three weeks. Furthermore, I haven't posted an entry here in Spanner's World in almost two weeks. So here's the final word count for the month:
  • Black Science: 7,501 (goal: 50,000)
  • Bad Company: 9,988 (rewrite for second draft)
So what went wrong? I came down with a nasty case of writer's block, that's what. Now it's gone away, but too late to save my MayNo.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Panic Time!

About this time every WriMo, I reach a point where I look at the date on the calendar, then look at my shockingly low word count, and panic. "Gasp! The deadline's only two weeks away!" This is when I stop procrastinating and start writing. In fact, it's usually in the last two weeks that I do most of my writing, period.

A good example is last month. The end of Script Frenzy was only two weeks away, and I had written only 40 pages. As almost always happens, I got off my duff and started writing. My final page count was 171, and I'd finished a amazingly good first draft compared to the absolute messes I usually create during a novel-writing month.

Now consider this: there's two weeks left in MayNoWriMo. The word count for Black Science currently stands at 5,790. Clearly I've been procrastinating. Part of the reason is that I spent too much time working on Bad Company instead: the character dynamics of that novel fascinated me much more than the less complicated stuff in Black Science. I guess there's simply more emotional kick-in-the-gut in Bad Company,. Another reason is that I simply took a week off. I didn't even touch the computer for a week. There's weird reasons for that, which I won't get into. The result is that I'm way behind in writing Black Science.

I know what comes next. I start writing. I write up a storm so that I surpass the margin of victory. I write my butt off at times. Then, after 50,000 words, I put the novel aside and turn to the next project. What do I have scheduled for June? I plan to complete the second draft of Bad Company, and the easier job of writing the second (and probably final) draft of Spanner. But first, I have about 45,000 words of Black Science to write. Here goes...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Black Science: MayNoWriMo Progress Report #1

I'm not getting very far into Black Science yet. I have none of the historical interludes yet. I'm struggling with the opening sequence. I may have to pad the word count with cancelled versions, though I hope not. I've still only written about 4,700 words. Still, I have the idea from last post, which basically boils down to terrorist war between eugenicists and creationists. But once again a book has completely changed a story while I'm writing it. The book this time is Monkey Trials & Gorilla Sermons: Evolution and Christianity from Darwin to Intelligent Design by Peter J. Bowler. It's basically a history of the theory of evolution and its repeated clashes with creationists since the 19th century. Since in it Bowler shows that Darwinism wasn't the dominant theory of evolution in the early 20th century (until the new science of genetics merged with it) and that the "intelligent design" people frequently clash with the hardcore fundamentalist young-earth creationists, the opening to Black Science now looks petty and malinformed. I can no longer add onto the opening, like I normally would in a first draft. I must replace it completely, or Black Science simply cannot be written at all.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Simple Conflict to Complicate: Dragonites vs. Enders

I was reading a book on the Book of Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse of John), called A History of the End of the World, by Jonathan Kirsch. He shows that the last book of the Christian Bible is a rage-fuelled mind bomb so potent that it has all but dominated Western culture at least since Emperor Theodosius turned the Roman Empire into Christendom by decree in 391. But the most important point I'm drawing from it in this entry is the extreme dualism the Apocalypse embodies. From at least the middle of Black Science all the way to the end of Spanner, America is torn apart by an apocalyptic duel between two factions determined to put an end to American democracy and replace it with an apocalyptic theocracy: the Gnostic fundamentalist Dragonites, the ultra-elitist conspiracy of self-described supermen who want to reimpose the old totalitarian caste system based on a cult of blood; and the Christian fundamentalist Enders, that group of militant cults determined to put an end to the world by force. Actually, the Enders don't have to be Christian; the Islamists and the Jewish Messianists are also Enders. Both factions see the world in ultra-stark black-and-white, either-or, with-us-or-against-us terms. If you're not for one faction, they believe, you are by definition part of the other. This is a "Gordian knot" that desperately needs to be cut before it destroys the world. In my dialectical worldview, there must be a third force dedicated to disrupting both forces. This force I call the Spoiler. But the Spoiler's disruptions are useless unless (s)he fights alongside, and for the sake of, the common enemy of both Dragonites and Enders: the people.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Family Feud, 4: Eleanor Richter vs. Drusilla Becket

Perhaps the most titanic battle in the entire Spanner cycle is the recurring magic war between Eleanor Richter, the Richter-Thomas matriarch, a shaman and witch, and Drusilla Becket, channeller and designated guru to the Becket clan and their cult. Their first matchup in the series is during the middle of Bad Company; their battle, occurring in what in Spanner I call "dream reality", is over the souls of Nelly's lost granddaughters and Dru's prodigal daughters, the main characters of the novel, Charlie and Desiree Richter-Thomas. No doubt the two bitter enemies, rival leaders in the New Age movement, at least in the Seattle area, will have several rematches and grudge matches before the cycle ends. Who knows — they might even deserve their own story dedicated entirely to their decades-long war, somewhat in the tradition of the Thing vs. the Hulk in superhero comics.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Family Feud, 3: The Cromwell Beckets, and Why They're Such a Menace

Pitted repeatedly against the radical, and usually at least somewhat populist, Richter-Thomases are the aristocratic, elitist Cromwell Beckets Though they usually don't use the name "Cromwell" in their own names (one exception being John Cromwell Becket, oldest of Colonel Tom Becket's five sons), they trace their ancestry back directly to the 17th-century dictator of Britain, Oliver Cromwell, and use him to claim that they are the true royal family of America, whose right to absolute rule was usurped by none other than the Founding Fathers of the American Republic. So they are absolute monarchists as well. By claiming that they can solve all America's problems by destroying the Republic in order to save the American Empire and make it stronger, they have made themselves — and their family business, the private mercenary army known as Dictel Corporation — the darlings of the American imperial elite, and their court intellectuals known as the neoconservatives.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Family Feud, 2: The Richter-Thomases, and Why They Fight

Two strange families dominate Spanner and the Dictel trilogy. One of the is the aristocratic and authoritarian Beckets, the subject of my next entry. The other is the Richter-Thomases, the source of almost all the heroes of my stories. What is strange about them, at least compared to most Americans, is the culture they've assembled out of various European and American cultural castoffs: some from the more culturally radical elements of Weimar Germany in the 1920s, others from the cultural revolution in the US, especially California, in the 1960s and '70s.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Family Feud: Introduction

One of the major conflicts that structures both Spanner and the Dictel trilogy is a long-running family feud. The two families battling over the fate of America and the world in my novels and comics are the Richter-Thomases, a nominally middle-class family with what turns out to be quite the revolutionary tradition, and the Beckets, a very much aristocratic family that traces its ancestry back to Oliver Cromwell and thus claims to be the true American royal family, cheated of its destined tyranny by none other than the Founding Fathers themselves, with the help of some of the Richter-Thomases' more treacherous ancestors.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sex, Dreams, and Storytelling: My Artistic Philosophy

Before I get to the world building, I first want to state my philosophy of storytelling. The short form:
  1. A story is a collective dream. Likewise, a dream is a personal story.
  2. Storytelling is like sex, including something called a "climax". The lover makes love to (usually) one person, but the storyteller makes love to huge audiences.
  3. Story is conflict. Without conflict, there can be no story.
These three principles are the keys to my understanding of storytelling and my way of writing fiction. (Note: The first version of this entry was incomplete. I have now finished it.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Spanner: Context and World Building

Script Frenzy was, as you'd expect from the name (and the 100-page-in-a-month goal), frenzied. As I focused on writing 170 pages of the Spanner script in the last 2 1/2 weeks (my total page count till then being 1), I didn't put much time or thought into the full context in which Shira and her friends, lovers, and enemies live, love, hate, and otherwise do their thing. Now that Script Frenzy is over, I'm dedicating the next several Spanner-related entries to world building.

What kind of government do they live under and have to deal with? What are the political dynamics of Spanner's world? The class relations? The economy? Are people starving in the streets and rioting for the right to eat, and why (or why not)? What are the pop culture phenomena in Euro-America in 2014? What technologies and Internet crazes are sweeping the world in the next six years? What is the Euro-American Union, how did it come about, and why is it all but permanently at odds with the New Chinese Empire and the New Caliphate? What religions are vying for supremacy, and to what lengths are they willing to go to achieve it? What is the relationship between the two rising phenomena of secularism and fundamentalism?

These are just some of the world-related questions I need to answer in order to put Spanner into its full context. Also, I need to keep in mind that everything has a history, and everything is connected to everything else. I will not allow anything in Spanner to be superfluous or gratuitous. So I'm dedicating the next several entries on Spanner to answering these questions and filling in the story's context. Once I've done that, and after I've fixed up the script for the first 5 issues, I'll start up again on the character notes.

I intend to create the best comics I possibly can. World building is a necessary step.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Script Frenzy Is Over.

It's May 1. Script Frenzy is now over. I didn't just win. I won with 171 pages. Now, you're probably saying that's a lot of pages for a script. To which I reply: not if the script is for a manga. The first draft of the first four issues is almost finished, with just a few new scenes and one scene relocation to do. And yet I'm still not stopping, even though I have 50,000 words of a novel (Black Science) to write for MayNoWriMo (which is being held by NaNoPubYe) and another novel (Bad Company) whose second draft I want to finish this month. I'm not stopping till I have something I can draw. And then there's the rest of Spanner book 1 to finish, and then there's the rest of the series...

What did I learn from the Script Frenzy experience? For one thing, I found out how much better a scripter I am than a prose writer. In prose, I'm better at nonfiction than fiction. In fiction, I write better for visual media than for prose. The visual medium of my preference is, of course, comics.

But the real challenge for me is to actually draw my comics. I still don't have the drawing skills I need to draw my comics, or even do character designs. So, in priority between writing Bad Science and editing Bad Company, I'm setting a goal of drawing for at least 50 hours this month. If I set and keep this goal, I can then make some major progress in my drawing, something I haven't really done in years.

So now I have a script to edit, a novel to write, another novel to edit, and some drawing to do. I might be overloading my schedule this month. If so, I can sacrifice a goal or two. But under no circumstances will I give up on my drawing. After all, I've wanted to draw Spanner since 1992, and I intend to achieve this goal no matter what. And so I intend to get Spanner #1 published online on September 9.

I've got my work cut out for me. So now I'd better start doing it. Now that Script Frenzy has awakened my slumbering Muse so that she is now on a rampage and becoming insatiable, I think I finally have a chance to defeat my old enemy, procrastination, once and for all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

And The Winner Is...

Me! I won Script Frenzy, anyway. I took my Spanner script and story ideas, and wrote well over 100 pages. In fact, I'm well on my way to 150 and beyond by the end of the month! Furthermore, I have a script for Spanner #1 that is in effect the shooting script for the series pilot! Now all I need is to completely reorganize what comes after the end of #1, and improve my drawing skills to an acceptable level by the end of May, and I'll be ready to start actual production work on Spanner for the first time ever, starting during NaNoMangO this June! Now to acquire the champagne and expensive chocolates, and I'm ready to celebrate my victory! Finally, last year's abortive script project, The Jennifer Theory (from my '06 NaNoWriMo novel), is avenged at last!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bad Company: The Terrorist Incubus

Charlie's lovers (her sister Desiree and her ex-girlfriend Yasmin) are stolen away from her. By a man. This man is a terrorist. His name is Ramón Gabriel, and he is a former Colombian right-wing death-squad terrorist turned Dictel corporate mercenary turned Islamic terrorist who answers to Rashid. His MO: he seduces women in such a way that they become his love slaves; then he turns them into what can only be called weapons of mass destruction. This terrorist, you see, happens to be an incubus. A demon lover.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bad Company: Midpoint

In his guest article for Script Frenzy, Blake Snyder, author of the book on screenwriting called Save the Cat! (and its new sequel, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies), writes about the crucial importance in a story of the midpoint. So many screenplays and produced movies, for example, have weak second acts because they neglect the midpoint. But Snyder insists that the midpoint is "the key to cracking any story." He insists two things must occur at midpoint:
  1. The stakes must be raised.
  2. The Ticking Clock must start counting down.
And so the midpoint is where one of the most important events in the story must occur. Snyder writes: "Cracking your midpoint is the key to figuring out not only where your story goes, but what it means."

Bad Company Backstory: Charlie and Desiree at Dad's...

In the backstory to Bad Company and the rest of the Dictel trilogy, Drusilla Becket doesn't let her estranged ex-husband Cedric Thomas to have their two daughters over or even visit them much. However, whenever Charlie and Desiree are allowed to live with their father, they act as if they have just been liberated from a fascist dictatorship. The Richter-Thomases (at least starting with Cedric's generation) have a loose and liberal attitude toward nudity, for instance; and so the first thing the girls do is throw off their clothes and run around like "wild savages", or wild animals newly liberated from their cage. After Desiree seduces Charlie for the first time, the sisters are ardently affectionate around everybody else, and use as much of their private time as they can for making love.

Their father allows this. His own sisters won't have it otherwise.

Actually, in fact, their father — and both their stepmothers (Cedric's first wife Betty Shears and third and current wife Hope Reston [Shira's mother]) — fully accept their decision to commit themselves to each other as lovers. Their aunts (Cedric's sisters) Willa and Reva actually encourage them, since they themselves are longtime lovers themselves, as it turns out. (In fact, in Black Science, when Dr. Julian Blair treacherously leaves Willa for Dictel Corporation, the first person Willa will turn to is Reva.)

This becomes one huge reason for Drusilla to continue trying to keep Charlie and Desiree away from Cedric as much as possible. Dru tries to stop her daughters from doing what Dru considers repulsive. However, when she finds that her punishments only succeed in reinforcing their desire with defiance (they're teenagers, after all, and teenagers rebel), she is stuck with the hard choice between allowing the affair to go on and threaten both Charlie's career and the Becket family reputation, and forcing Charlie and Desiree apart using thos bluntest of all blunt instruments: Dictel and the law.

I'll need to plant this backstory in places throughout the story, not limited to flashbacks. Maybe I should gradually reveal it. The relationship line climax needs to have a strong foundation not only in the actions Charlie and Desiree take within the story, but in their shared past beyond the story as well.

Bad Company: Desiree Takes the Initiative...

I've been reading both the stories and the testimonials at Sisters in Love (warning: adult material!), and many of the yuri manga at (ditto!), and I find myself struck by how often it's the younger sister who strikes up the relationship. And so it comes to me that even though Desiree was too passive and even mopey to be herself when I first started writing Bad Company, still the redhead has a stronger personality than her older sister Charlie. (I'll make it up to Desi when I make her the hero of Points of Authority this next NaNoWriMo by allowing her to dominate it the way she deserves to.) And though it's Charlie whom Drusilla is threatening with the "nuclear option" of child molestation charges, it was Desiree who seduced Charlie to begin with and who dominates the relationship in the long run.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Charlie & Desiree's Crazy Idyllic Plans

Charlie and Desiree have big plans for when they get back together after the Beckets stop picking on them. The scandals surrounding Dictel and the Becket clan in the wake of Colonel Tom Becket's disastrous coup d'état attempt give them enough of a breather to be able to at least attempt to make them a reality. These include:
  1. Getting married, of course, despite the fact that they are sisters.
  2. Adopting their little sister Shira as their own daughter. Their oldest sister, Ruby Shears, suggests they adopt their cousin Jennifer Blair as well, in order to keep her and Shira together so they can become as inseparable as Charlie and Desiree are.
  3. A special "body positive" method of childrearing they long to try out.
  4. And so on...
Nearly everybody who finds out about these plans call them crazy. You probably will too. But they're sticking to them.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spanner: "Shira & Jennifer, 2gether 4ever!"

During the last several years of Project Notebook entries, I had Shira joke that her beautiful, bespectacled blonde cousin (and adopted sister) Jennifer Blair is her "wife". But sometimes your characters take over the writing themselves: Jennifer has determined to make it known, not just to her author but to the other characters, that Shira is in fact not joking at all. She says they have in fact been married, at least in spirit, since she vowed eternal love to Shira at the latter's fourth birthday party; their upcoming wedding, which Jennifer insists must be on Shira's 15th birthday (coming later in the story), will merely formalize what has been the fact for a decade.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forces of Antagonism

Every story needs at least one villain, or at least antagonist. The nature of life is that one has to fight for one's desire in order to get it. It has been said that story is conflict.

Here's a particularly potent example from my fiction. As you now know, Charlie wants Desiree. The problem, of course being that the two just happen to be sisters. The two have to overcome some fearsome obstacles (society, religion, the law, etc.) and fight some really nasty villains (including their own tyrannical mother) if they want to live together, happily ever after. This is the situation in Bad Company, and it's looking to be a major factor in my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, Points of Authority, as well.

In Spanner the antagonism is provoked not because Jennifer loves Shira, but because Shira cannot conform (note to self: I'll have to write an entry on this). Conformity is considered a primary virtue in any society that mows down tall poppies and hammers down all nails that stick out. Such is the "Eurosocialism" of the Euro=American Union, the enemies of which bluntly call it "Stalinism". And so Shira finds herself forced to fight battle after battle against authority, society, and religion just to be able to be herself, and she ends up starting a revolution.

This should be a lesson to me. I have a tendency to write scenes with lots of cool witty dialogue but little real conflict, or write feverishly idyllic little love (or other) scenes not counterbalanced by the characters' need to defend their loves (etc.) against social, religious, and political forces determined to destroy them. I have to put some balance into it, and remember that story itself is conflict. In a story, it's the villains (the "rogues' gallery" in superhero-comics terms) that makes the hero; the more effective the villains, the stronger and more interesting the hero. No conflict, no story; no villains or other antagonistic force, no hero.

The Key Emerges: Mad Love + Revolution

For most of this month, my work on Bad Company has been stalled, and that has interfered with all my other projects this month. I haven't even been writing any of Spanner. However, the key to unblocking Bad Company has finally emerged. It's the answer to the burning question: What could possibly be more controversial than a Blackwater-type corporation like Dictel trying to take over America to force it to intensify the colonial oil wars in the Middle East? How about this: the self-destructive pop singer who is the novel's heroine falls in love with her own sister! The trick, of course, is connecting these two. The connection is the Beckets, the clan of military aristocrats who own Dictel. The youngest of the Becket siblings, right-wing New Age guru and tyrannical stage mother Drusilla Becket (think JZ Knight or Elizabeth Clare Prophet crossed with Lynne Spears or Dina Lohan) is the mother of Charlie and Desiree Thomas. Colonel Tom Becket (the irony of his name is deliberate), the patriarch of the Becket clan and chairman of Dictel, considers his wayward nieces a liability to the clan; when Charlie and Desiree fall in love, he declares that they are blackening the family honor and orders their murder. And so the final confrontation between Charlie and the Colonel becomes inevitable. "Mad love" thus provokes political revolution. I'll explain...

Double the Controversy!

As if an evil Blackwater-type corporation invading America weren't enough — now I've doubled the controversy! The new idea I'm throwing into the mix is "mad love" — obsessive and/or forbidden love that causes personal upheaval and social revolution — something I took from the Surrealists (note: there's no Wikipedia entry on "mad love" or "amour fou", surprisingly enough). I originally planned to use it for the love affair between Spanner's two main female characters, Shira Thomas and Leila Shelley, as early as 1996. But now any old yuri-manga lesbian relationship is no longer enough for the Dictel trilogy. Now:
  1. in Bad Company, Charlie's primary love interest becomes her own sister Desiree;
  2. in Black Science, Willa's husband leaves her for Dictel and is pursued by her own niece (Charlie and Desiree's older half-sister Ruby Shears?), who is in love with her, even as she turns to the older sister with whom she has had more, let us say, intense relations in the past; and
  3. the chaos in Points of Authority may begin with Charlie and Desiree publicly announcing their determination to get married despite the legal obstacles and social stigma.
The inspiration for this is a website I found called Sisters in Love [Update 11/26/2010: That site is now dead] and its testimonials from real-life sisters who are lovers, plus one woman who succeeded in marrying her one true love — her own aunt. Sound crazy? It's certainly not socially acceptable. Which is perfect for what I have in mind for the Dictel trilogy. The challenge I have is connecting/counterpointing this theme with Dictel's corporate villainy.

Next Week Is Mine...

I got little work done on Spanner and Bad Company. You see, most of the last week belonged to my mother and brother. It was too hectic. But the next week is mine. I hope to get some work done. After all, there's only 10 days left in Script Frenzy, and MayNoWriMo is coming up at NaNoPubYe.

I have one sequence left in Spanner #1: the terrorist attack foiled by Shira defusing yet another of the Toymaker's infuriatingly complex bombs, followed by the "rattlesnake flag" prank ("Freiheit oder Tod!"). That's my last fully plotted sequence. After that, I'll have to get some more plotting done if I want to write the full 100 pages of script. Bring out the index cards...

Bad Company has been stalled since last month. Why? It's been refusing to come together. The plot still isn't very coherent. That seems to be coming to an end. I've got some wild new ideas to throw into the mix (and into Black Science as well), which will not only tie the story together but increase the controversy quotient by a factor of at least 4 (rough guesstimation).

Since I've made so little progress on Bad Company so far, I've decided to add another goal to MayNo: not just 50,000 words of Black Science, but also 30 hours of editing to finish the second draft of Bad Company as well. Plus, I still need to complete my drawing self-instruction so I can enter NaNoMangO.

The key idea for Bad Company (and the newest one for Black Science)? Mad love. In other words, obsessive or forbidden love with the potential to provoke an outright revolution. This is one of the major ideas of André Breton, founder of Surrealism. And so some yuri ideas and pairings that have been floating around my brain and the Project Notebook for years (since 1996 and my introduction to yaoi under the full impact of Camille Paglia) now have their perfect justification. And so now Desiree returns to prominence in Bad Company — as the passionate lover of her own sister Charlie. They are famous, so they get into big trouble, and the Becket clan with them. Meanwhile, in Black Science, Willa's husband, one Eric Blair in the past several years of Project Notebooks, is now Dr. Julian Blair (named after a Boris Karloff mad-scientist antihero), the inventor of the brain scanner, who turns against her for the blood money offered him by Dictel and the US government. And the Cuban refugee scientist from the 2006 NaNoWriMo version, who becomes Willa's ally and lover, has been replaced by — Willa's own niece, who is as determined to marry her as her other nieces Charlie and Desiree are to marry each other. I'll have more about this in my next entry. I think I already know what to call it...

So I'm entering the homestretch in Script Frenzy, and I'd better make the most of it. After all, I'm going to have to pull off yet another come-from-behind...

Friday, April 18, 2008

My "How To Draw Comics" Plan...

Since 1999 I've been trying to teach myself how to draw comics. In the years since then, I've built up enough knowledge of one thing, the human figure (specifically female), that I realized I should offer a Web course on how to draw comics. I can do this. In the spirit of "If you can, do; if you can't, teach", I realized that the best way for me to learn how to draw, and keep it learned, is to draw everything I need to create such a course. And so, after several years, I've decided to actually do it. My goal is to put it online by the end of May.

I'll have to make an admission: my own self-instruction has been sporadic. 9 years, and I still haven't completely learned how to draw the human figure, or even the head. I realized that this is what I need to spur me to actually draw, and pretty intensively, so that I can prepare for NaNoMangO, which comes up next in June. This will also spur me to return to writing the script to Spanner, which I've been neglecting this week.

Earlier this week I drew the first set of illustrations for my comics tutorial site, then created the table of contents page. Since I've planned a complete website for all my projects and essays as long as I have the tutorial, I finally decided to organize the complete site hierarchy as well as the tutorial, and edit the site using the best website editor I had in Linux, which turned out to be Quanta Plus. (I also have Dreamweaver MX in Windows, but I'm told it's fairly hard and confusing to use...) When I'm ready to put the site up, I'll have not only the tutorial ready, but the project pages for each of my comics and novel projects: Spanner, The Jennifer Theory, and the Dictel trilogy (Bad Company, Black Science, and this year's NaNoWriMo entry, Points of Authority), plus the first complete essays written.

That's the website plan I've had for almost a decade, though I've never yet acted on it. (I had my own Tripod homepage back in 2000 or so, but I never put anything on it and allowed it to die...) It starts with the comics tutorial.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Script Frenzy Halfway Progress Report...

Here I am, halfway through April, and yet the current page count of my Script Frenzy edition of the Spanner book 1 script is barely past 35. At the pace at which I normally write, I should have had the whole book scripted by now. Still, I got 10 pages and 3 complete scenes written tonight.

The problem is that I've allowed my focus to be broken. This got especially bad Thursday night, when I stayed up all night doing nothing but downloading and installing software in what I call an "Early Download Stage". Also, I told myself that I need to lay out the plot using my index cards before I can even think of scripting. That task was made a lot easier when I salvaged story cards from previous decks I'd used for previous Spanner book 1 scripts.

I'm posting some of my previous drawings. However, I haven't done any of the improved versions I've been planning for some of them, nor have I done any new ones in the last year and a half. I need to get back to drawing if I want to enter NaNoMangO, during which I plan to draw the first chapter/issue.

I may be less than halfway to 100 pages and sure victory, but my writing's back on track. I'll finish the script for chapter 1 soon. I'll need to pick up the pace for a while. And I need to return to drawing very soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Character Profile: Shira Thomas (revised 8/25/2010)

Shira Miranda Thomas, main character of Spanner, was born on September 9, 1999 to Cedric Anthony Thomas III (the legendary rocker Ric Thomas/"Red Mercury") and Hope Maureen Reston. This red-haired, dark-skinned, large-nosed beauty was a wild and mischievous child who attracted all kinds of controversy and scandal to herself. Today (i.e., during the Spanner timeline that starts in late August 2014), Hope Reston is the liberal Populist mayor of Metropolitan Seattle, making Shira a major player in the struggle to keep Seattle and the entire State of Cascadia from falling under the theocratic tyranny of the reconstituted Confederate States of America and still escape the rival tyranny of the United Corporations cartel that rules the EuroAmerican Union under the state-socialist system of Corporatism. As a leading champion of democratic Populism, Shira strives to rally people to her side through music, dance, style, and direct persuasion. But those who try to stop her in the name of Authority will find out that she is a legendary prankster for a reason...

Sketch of Shira from 2002

Friday, April 11, 2008

A little progress to report...

Last night I worried that I wouldn't be making the kind of progress that I hoped in writing Spanner and improving my drawing. Well, I haven't drawn anything since then. But I have done some writing. And then I had to do some more correcting...

My problem is that I haven't been plotting well enough. I've skipped some scenes I intended to write, put the wrong characters in certain scenes (the terrorist fleeing with Shira's older half-sister Talon Reston is not Josh Horton (a new character) but Adam Gabriel, the right-wing assassin from Bad Company, who by the time of Spanner has shifted to the opposite extreme). My solution is to bring out the index cards again so I can fix the plot.

Last night I did manage to write 16 pages of script. That is easy enough for a writer who can write 4,000 words a night during NaNoWriMo, and it takes less time. I wrote nothing but scene synopses on index cards tonight. But doing that, I finalized the plot of the first chapter/issue of Spanner. And I've started on the second.

Tomorrow I'll finish the script for chapter 1 and work to prepare chapter 2 for scripting. Then I'll down a 48-ounce energy drink, play the techno music loud, and start drawing. My next lesson: a review of the oblique views of the head, with a new principle added (horizontal and vertical center lines).

I'll start posting character sketches and quick profiles soon. Also, I'm going to write more about various story ideas. Stay posted...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

(Lack of) Progress Report

The first week of Script Frenzy hasn't been all that productive at all. I've only written 10 pages, and I haven't yet gotten my rusty drawing skills back up to a level at which I can post presentable character designs. I need to pick up the pace, and soon, if I don't want to have to pull yet another exhausting "come from behind" like both my NaNoWriMos. Also, I haven't been posting here as regularly as I want.

Fortunately, I've plotted out the complete first issue of Spanner. My task for tonight: script the remainder of this issue. Tonight, I'll also finish plotting issue 2.

In my drawing self-instruction, I left off last time (the night of the 5th) with a review of the 3/4 views of the head: front and back, horizontal and vertical. My next lesson is also largely a review, involving the oblique views combining the horizontal and vertical 3/4 views.

I was going to say the forums at National Novel Publishing Year were down, but today they came back up (WAAAHOOOOOO!!!!), so I can resume posting my progress there. I'll give my fellow NaNoPubYe'ers a big update on my progress during the time the forums were down. The "Daily Progress" threads have been a very important weapon in my never-ending battle against my archenemy, procrastination. Even so, I'll still post a weekly progress update here, just to keep you posted.

Two things I should start work on: the Spanner site at my still unposted homepage, with its story summaries, character profiles, and image galleries; and a tutorial on how to draw comics the way I've been teaching myself to draw them the last 9 1/2 years. As the saying goes: "If you know, do; if you don't, teach." I figured that one good way to keep myself drawing is to show people how I do it. I'll start on these sites soon.

Will I do these tonight? I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spanner: Plotting the Story

Comics scripts are accepted in this year's Script Frenzy. This gave me the opportunity I needed. Now I'm writing the script to Spanner. So while I'm struggling to improve my drawing skills so that I can at least create decent character designs, I'll post here some of the scenarios most likely to make it into the actual published version.

So far, I'm considering these already composed scenarios for inclusion in the first issue:
  1. The incident on the bus in which, after a pretty blonde asks Shira if she has accepted Jesus, a would-be suicide bomber attempts to blow up the bus from the seat in front of them. A change in the scenario: I originally had Shira kill the terrorist with the "evil eye," a trick she uses earlier in the novel Bad Company. But then I realized that there are some Muslims who believe that cameras steal people's souls. So now Shira will "shoot" this particular Islamist cultist with her cellphone's camera, and direct others to shoot him with their cameras as well.
  2. The "flag incident." At a government function of the Euro-American Union, Shira pulls one of her legendary pranks: she torches the one-star flag behind the platform as the band is playing the instrumental version of the "Ode to Joy" that is Europe's "national" anthem. The flag burns quickly, revealing another flag behind it: a "rattlesnake flag" (or Gadsden flag) from the American Revolution, only with the legend "Liberty or Death" (or is it "Don't Tread on Me"?) replaced with, in German, in the traditional gothic typeface, the words: "Freiheit oder Tod!"
  3. The scene I had once proposed as a prologue: the combined vision of a group of precognitives working for the government. Their precognition of the sequence that follows this is accurate. But then the visions fall into chaos. This is the point in the next sequence where Shira arrives, and the "Flag Incident" follows.
Along with a few new scenes and sequences, I'm building the first issue (the one I'll be drawing in June for NaNoMangO) around these three scenarios. This will make it easier for me to write the story.

I'll post these and other plot ideas here, along with various ideas behind the story. Also, I'll link to any posts in my more political blog that are relevant to the story. And, of course, I'll post my initial character profiles when I get some adequate character designs; some I'll scan from my notebooks (the picture I've posted to the initial story entry is scanned), but most of them I'll draw soon.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Goals for April

I've begun writing the script to Spanner. But getting at least the first 100 pages of script written is just one of my goals for this month. Here's the complete list.
  1. Writing at least 100 pages of the production Spanner script for Script Frenzy.
  2. Continuing to edit Bad Company until I finish the second draft. I intend to finish it this month.
  3. Finalizing the plot for the sequel, Black Science, so I can get back to writing it in May.
  4. Finally learning how to draw the human figure competently, to prepare for NaNoMangO, coming up in June.
  5. Learning how to play my guitar, and learning some music theory, to prepare myself for the upcoming "50 Songs in 90 Days" starting in July. This will make up for my being totally unprepared for FAWM last February. I want to be able to play an instrument and write songs.
  6. Learning more about how to set up and run a blog, and learning HTML and web design so I can create my own sites beyond the blogosphere. Also, I may want to find a host for Spanner once I finish the first few issues, or I may want to put the comics on my own domain.
  7. Exercising more. Obligatory. I need the stamina to be able to handle all my projects.
  8. Learning German, just because.
I'll keep posting updates on my work. Soon, I'll start posting pictures again: I'll start by scanning some of my old sketches, then I'll add some of my new character designs as I finish them. When I put up my homepage (still in the works, since my original one died in 1999 due to lack of interest from me or anybody else; I simply wasn't interesting then), I'll add a gallery of my comics art and a direct link to it here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Work Begins

Script Frenzy has begun. Thus begins the most important phase in my comics career: production. For the first time ever, I'm now writing my comics for publication. I've passed the point of no return. Now the world will soon be able to see my vision. Spanner is about to be unleashed on the world.

In Script Frenzy, you're a winner if you write 100 pages of script (movie, TV, stage play, comics) in April. For the first time, comics scripts are allowed. This is why I took the manga project I've been working on intermittently yet obsessively since 1992, Spanner, and took it out of mothballs after almost 1 1/2 years of writing novels for NaNoWriMo and so on. For once I now stand a chance of getting it published, even if I simply publish it on the Web.

Now that NaNoEdMo is over (I'm a winner, of course, even if the second draft of Bad Company still isn't finished) and I've taken a break of a few days, I'll start writing the script for book 1 of Spanner. But before I can publish it, I need to learn how to draw it. I've already resumed the drawing self-instruction that I've delayed since early last year. My skill hasn't yet reached the point where I can start doing character designs again, so in those entries this week in which I introduce my characters I'll post drawings I did in the first half of this decade. I'll probably be able to get the first preliminary designs done by next week. This week I'm working out all the remaining problems I have drawing the human head this week; next week, I'll turn to the figure, which I've had even more trouble with over the years. By the end of this month I'll have improved my skills to the point where the characters I draw will be good enough to publish. Ultimately, I'm preparing to draw the first episode of Spanner for NaNoMangO, where you pencil 30 pages of comics in order to become a winner, in June or November.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Dictel Trilogy

I won't start writing the actual publication version of Spanner for another few days, as Script Frenzy starts on April 1 [2008]. What I'm focusing on until then is its prequel in prose, the Dictel trilogy consisting of my three NaNoWriMo novels: Bad Company, Black Science, and this year's upcoming entry, Points of Authority.

Bad Company is about a self-destructive pop singer caught in a plot by a sinister government contractor, Dictel Corporation, to take over America by force.

Black Science is about a beautiful neuroscientist's struggle to keep her science from being used by Dictel and the US federal government as a weapon of mind control to be used against an increasingly restive public.

I have Points of Authority [working title] scheduled for this year's NaNoWriMo [2008], so I haven't finalized the plot. But I know it involves the elite's revolt against popular sovereignty and the people's struggle to save themselves from enslavement in a new dark age of feudalism. I also make heavy use of new technology: cellphones, the Internet, virtual reality, and so on. [Note 8/25/2010: The plot never coalesced, so I dropped POA, alas...]

Most of the major characters in Spanner make an appearance in the Dictel trilogy, and in other works in the cycle, including the other half of my 2006 NaNoWriMo project, The Jennifer Theory. In a sense, Spanner is the culmination of the entire cycle in the continuity, even as it's the source of all the stories that come before it.

While I work on Spanner this April, I will continue working on the second draft of Bad Company in the hope of getting it published.

More on this later...

The United State

In 2008, freedom already seems to be on its way out as the world prepares for a class war of cataclysmic proportions. In 2014, the class war is almost here, and the world suffers under a series of brutal dictatorships meant to keep the common people down. The most powerful of these is the Euro-American Union, better known simply as the United State.

Now consider our heroine Shira, a teenage girl who cannot conform. Not because she refuses, but simply because she's incapable of conformity. She is the Random Factor that will prove to threaten the United State's very existence.

The United State tries to destroy her. But she will not go to oblivion quietly. The resulting war is the story of Spanner.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Spanner: The Identification Crisis

Not many people are probably familiar with the classic 1980s independent comic Mister X, in which the mysterious title character is repeatedly identified as someone, except that every time he is, the man he's supposed to be keeps turning up dead. In the fascist future world of Spanner, it seems the title character, identifiable mainly by helmet, flight jacket, hoverboard, and monkeywrench, pops up everywhere. Someone is identified as being Spanner and killed by the secret police, but (s)he keeps popping up. It's not that Spanner has an identity crisis. Rather, the authorities are having an identification crisis.

So what's going on here? The authorities have two theories on the subject. The first is that Spanner is one person who somehow jets around the world under their noses, thumbing his/her nose at them. The other is that Spanner is not a (wo)man but a group. In either case, the authorities consider Spanner a terrorist (or terrorist gang). But then, they consider anyone who disagrees with their absolute power to be a terrorist, by definition. Needless to say, their bureaucratic, absolutist minds are incapable of distinguishing the merely naughty from the absolutely heinous, so they treat the merely naughty as if it were absolutely heinous. Spanner, the consummate practical joker(s), takes advantage of this and uses it against them. This is the secret of his/her effectiveness against them, and his/her maddening elusiveness.

It's banal to just say that Spanner provokes the authorities to terrorist violence. Actually, the authorities need no provocation; they're too paranoid not to. Whenever they call someone a "terrorist", it's really a matter of what Shira calls "don't call me what you are", or what Freud called projection. What Spanner specializes in, and what Shira excels at, is making the authorities anything they want them to do, specifically by manipulating the hierarchical structure of government. They call this reality hacking. It's the Markoff Chaney principle (Chaney is "The Mgt.", i.e. Midget, from Illuminatus!). That's the other reason why the authorities can't catch him/her: the impersonality of their hierarchy makes it easy for him/her (or just Shira) to exploit it, so they're following orders their superiors haven't even given without any way of knowing that their superiors didn't give the orders. That's another reason Spanner is so difficult to catch.

Shira happens to be a master of misdirection, pointing the authorities toward someone else while doing what she wants with pretty much impunity. Some say she is actually a Discordian; meanwhile, some Discordians insist she is the avatar of Eris, goddess of strife and discord, herself.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What -- and Who -- Is Spanner?

character design of Shira Thomas from 2001
(and those balls in her hands are electricity generated by her gloves)

Spanner is the story of a small group of misfits — hackers, taggers, gays, punks, ravers, goths, etc. — forced to fight for their lives against the United State, a government determined to eliminate all nonconformity. And "Spanner" is the handle of their leader, Shira Thomas, a mischievous young tagger, ravepunk, and parkour devotee determined to keep her freedom at all costs -- even if it means the total destruction of the United State and even society itself. Her handle is a pun: it means 1) monkeywrench 2) one who bridges the gap.

I started work on what would become Spanner back in 1992, when I joined a Japanese animation club and hung out with the small group of aspiring manga artists who drew instead of watching the anime. I drew a series of (what are now crude) character designs between 1992 and 1994. But due to a 5-year bout of excruciating artist's block, the story and its characters didn't really begin taking shape until 1999. I amassed a huge number of story notes and character sketches in a series of what are now 14 "Project Notebooks".

Lately, I've been mostly writing a series of prequels in the form of novels, starting with the Dictel trilogy that begins with Bad Company, my winning entry in last year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I recently finished the first draft, and I'm currently in the middle of editing it for this year's National Novel Editing Month (NaNoEdMo). The Dictel trilogy will be the subject of my next post.

Then I found out that NaNoWriMo's sister contest, Script Frenzy ("Screnzy" for short), now accepts comics scripts as entries. At once I realized that my chance to make Spanner a reality had come at last. So now I've begun planning for 100 pages or more of script, and I'm about to begin drawing a new series of character designs better than any I've ever drawn before. I know I finally have a chance to get Spanner drawn and published at last.

Stay tuned...

Friday, March 14, 2008

It Begins...

Spanner's World is my new blog specializing in my fiction. Here I'll write about my novels and comics, and post my character designs.

Right now I'm working on a novel, Bad Company, about a Blackwater-type company's invasion of America, and a manga, Spanner, about a teenage girl who can't conform and the struggle of her and her friends to live free in a future fascist society on the verge of chaos. Bad Company is my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, which I'm editing this month [March 2008] for NaNoEdMo.

I've been working on Spanner in some form or other since 1992, and I have 14 "Project Notebooks" to show for it but not much else. But then I found out that NaNoWriMo's sister contest, Script Frenzy, now allows comics scripts along with the movies and plays, so I brought Spanner out of mothballs and have now begun to work on it seriously for the first time ever, since now I have the chance to publish it.

I'll start posting story ideas and character drawings soon.