Number four! This site’s first two “Behind the Scenes” talked about how I fit writing the first Epsilon serial into my busy teaching schedule. The third such post, from the third Epsilon serial, talked about a rough patch in April (third busiest teaching month of the year).
I won’t really be talking about writing timelines here, but with this being the start of September, and being at roughly the midway point of Epsilon Story Four (when I would normally do a “Paths Not Taken”, which is now integrated into the posts), I figured it was time for another one. To keep you up to date on things. The TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) is at the bottom.
First of all, I’ve finally decided to consolidate my writing on a Facebook Page. My “Epsilon” updates, my “Any QBars” math webcomic updates, and any non-fiction writing I’ve been doing, I’ve been posting up there for the past month. I’m pretty sure Facebook’s algorithm sabotages any attempt to see it in a FB timeline, because I don’t pay, but it’s there, at any rate. That said, twitter (@mathtans) tends to be the first place I post.
Second, I went a bit crazy at ConBravo 2017 this year with commissions. (After not being sure if I would go.) You should have noticed the new pictures for Beam and Kat, featured in recent “Epsilon” updates. I also got art for two characters for “Time Untied”, Sherlock (seen briefly in the Book 5 Teaser) and Peaches (you haven’t met her). I plan to include those images in my ConBravo recap, which will be flagged on the aforementioned FB/Twitter.
Third, I’ve just launched “Any Qs” (my personified math comic) on Tapas. So if you don’t know what that is, and want to follow that storyline along from the beginning, you can check it out here. (Alternatively, binge on my other blog site.)
Finally… where is this site headed?
A LOOK AT 2018
The last couple “Epsilon” have aimed for 16-18 parts, meaning we have 8 or 9 remaining (it will depend on pacing from voting, etc). Continuing every two weeks is extremely likely, because I’ll be back in the classroom for the first time this year, and teaching a new course on top of that.
This takes us to late(?) December 2017, which works out well. It means I can rerun content in January, the second worst month of the whole year. (Seriously, there is zero turnaround between marking exams and second semester, yet report cards still magically have to be completed.) What will I post in January? Well, I’m going to toss that option back at YOU, my readers. There is a poll below. Note we’re not setting anything in stone yet, it’s just to get a sense of what I should be cleaning up over the next couple months.
I am also not certain whether I’ll shift back to weekly posts or not in 2018. It will depend a lot on my mood in four months’ time, along with how well this site (and my writing) is doing generally. At any rate, here are the options.
OPTION 1: ROSE ORIGIN STORY
Rose seems to have become the lesbian darling of the latest “Epsilon”, which is impressive considering she’s less than a year old creatively. She’s part of a 90,000 word novel I wrote in Nov-Dec last year, “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra”, which I re-edited in April. It’s a 31 part story that blends a mathematical fantasy land (and math facts) with Rose’s coming to terms with liking girls during her first year at University. It’s written in first person.
On the up side here, more Rose. On the down side, at 31 parts, I’m probably going to split it. I’d run 16 parts (which could mean 32 weeks, into summer), take a break for another “Epsilon” story, then run the last 15 parts. Well, unless a majority of people think that’s a terrible idea generally. I also suspect it means Rose won’t feature in that middle “Epsilon” story, because yes, she’s a-dork-able, but I don’t want there to be too much of a good thing. (I might bring back Chartreuse instead.)
OPTION 2: VIRGA MYSTERIES
Back in 2003, I created the character Melissa Virga, an upper year University student who is also a witch and who takes on supernatural cases in her spare time. The story is written from the (first person) perspective of James Conway (no relation to Kat), a first year student who ends up rooming off campus with her. So effectively Watson to her Holmes. I wrote three cases, each of which splits into 4 parts, meaning it would run 12 (or 24) weeks.
On the up side, you get to see some new characters – and in fact, there was a SEQUEL, written in 2012, that we could then tackle at some point further down the road. (The sequel is “Rose Origin” levels in length, as it takes place as James graduates, and he has to decide whether to stay with Melissa’s agency or not.) In case it’s incentive, selecting this also means Rose is more likely to return for the next “Epsilon” (even meet Chartreuse). The down side? Well, supernatural might not be your preference, there’s no math, and the writing is less polished than Rose’s story.
OPTION 3: OLD FUSION FANFIC
This option will take some explaining. One of the first stories I ever wrote involved taking the characters from “Sailor Moon” (specifically its second season), the plot of the anime “Marmalade Boy” (and its relationship polygons) and fusing them together. I wrote 13 parts over the span of four years (1996-2000). Then last month, August 2017, I wrote two more parts to complete the series. Meaning “Marmalade Mercury” would run for 16 parts (there’s a backstory entry too).
The good news for you is how it DOES bug me when things are incomplete (I’ll discuss more T&T below), and this would be an interesting window into some REALLY old writing of mine… along with what happens when you revisit a story 20 years later. On the down side, if you’re expecting action and magical girls, sorry – again, I used the plot of a relationship-heavy anime (in fact, “Marmalade Boy” was relicensed this year). Meaning this is more Rose levels of angst, played out with Ami Mizuno and her friends. (Melissa Virga would have been your magical option.)
OPTION 4: OLD PARODY STORIES
Back in University, I used to write for the campus math newsletter (and even edited a few terms). This included the serial “General l’Hopital” (5 entries in 1997, 6 in 2001) a soap opera parody full of every math pun that exists, the serial “Quantum Loop” (6 entries in 1998, 6 in 1999) a parody of “Quantum Leap” which was somewhat more mathematically educational, and “Sine Field” (4 entries, sporadic) a sendup of “Seinfeld”.
This option is the most flexible. We could run all the “QL” for 12 parts, leave for an “Epsilon” story, then come back for “l’Hopital”… or not come back at all. Or do one of each for 12 parts, to see which one you might want more of. Or we stick “Sine” on the end of 12 parts to make 16 parts. Or not. If this is selected, there would likely be a sub-vote to gauge preference (meaning you’ll have some input, even if your top choice wasn’t picked). On the down side, these stories are shorter, and rather silly.
So there are your options. I’ll simply leave this poll open for a while (so if you REALLY can’t pick, come back in a couple weeks and vote for your other preferred choice). In December, I’ll do some sort of runoff vote (of the top two choices?).
As far as “Time Untied” goes, I have a file of key characters, and my work from a couple years ago. I actually submitted “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra” for a critique, which has helped give me a sense of where to take my writing in general. My HOPE is that, by November, I’ll be enough on an even keel with the teaching, and have enough of a buffer in my comic, to start tackling Carrie again in a NaNoWriMo sort of way. But anything can happen in two months.
I am pretty sure “Time Untied” won’t start a blog run until 2019 though. The in-universe timelines for it are… messy, to say the least. Fabulous, but messy.
Also, know that for the last six months, I have been putting “Time & Tied” on the RoyalRoadLegends (RRL) website, daily. It hasn’t changed too much, aside from edits to remove extra exclamation marks, tighten dialogue, and remove instances of ‘mama’ so Carrie doesn’t sound like a Southern Belle.
However, I *did* change the “Woodlands Detour” segment to place it at the end of Book 3, which I think I like better. There were a few changes to make that work. Also, I streamlined Book 4 so that each part didn’t have it’s own title. In case anyone wants to check that out (it has some character polls too). It’s currently on pause after ZERO comments through Book 4. Like, I think people gave up reading entirely.
I’ve put in a timeline for my RRL rankings at the bottom of this post.
And then, of course, there is “Epsilon”. I imagine my habit of banging out a new episode whenever I feel like it from Sun-Fri will need to change, what with the teaching. I do have the new graphic for Story 4 though! It’s usually around the halfway point when enough has happened to crystallize an image in my mind. What do you think?
On the plus side, we see the Epsilon Station for the first time. I had very vague sketches back with Story1 – the reason the main room was called the “Hub” was because the station was circular. I’ve now fleshed it out. There’s a vague “Deep Space Nine” vibe which I noticed after the fact. (Also, Beam’s appearance gives me a Carrie vibe, but wow are they different personalities.) On the not-so-plus side, the ONE guy (Kat) gets centre stage. But I do see him as the link between the lesbians on our left, the ladies to the right, and the problems on the station below.
It’s also occurred to me that I do put a fair bit of thought into the poll options that I create, which might not be obvious to anyone but me. I bring it up here in case anyone might want to try this sort of story themselves. For example: in the previous vote? I mentioned that Rose would be the person who would be deputized by police. Yet I wondered, was it wise to do that, or should I have kept it vague? Because I could just as easily have had it be Kat, or Beam.
I chose to mention Rose, because (as I said earlier) she’s kind of the lesbian darling character, and as such it might sway some people into picking that option, which they wouldn’t have otherwise. By the same token, I needed to match the Rose choice with a consequence (leaving Firestorm behind), so that it wouldn’t be picked out of hand and feel like railroading. A lot of my thinking is trying to create balanced options.
In fact, I probably overthink some of these vote choices. Only the readers can tell me if I’m succeeding in crafting something that makes them pause to think before they click “vote” though.
It wouldn’t be a “Behind the Scenes” post without some mention of statistics. As you can see from the monthly graphic below, August fell short of scraping to 300 views. Because of the less frequent posts, maybe? Well, the last time we had a month below 300 was November 2016, a couple months after I shifted to twice weekly posts. So I really have no idea. Nothing I do seems to have much permanence.
You can see peaks where I guested on other sites though. July 2016 (technically end of June), December 2016 (somewhat coincidental), and May 2017. May is also when I got a boost from Tartra’s review at WFG. (I think that’s it; I peaked. It’s all downhill now.) There was also April 2017 (the April Fool Swap), and February 2017 (guest post on a time travel site)… these apparently helped preserve status quo more than anything.
As far as the “RoyalRoadLegends” site goes, RRL allows overall rankings (max 5 stars), review+ranking, and full ranked reviews in categories (for character, plot, etc). I began posting on February 23rd with Part 1a. At the end of the month (6 days later), February 28th, I was ranked #8430 with no followers or ratings. From there:
–March 2nd: First rating (5 stars) which ranked me #4250.
-March 3rd: First full review (all categories) by someone with “free time on their hands”, which put my average at 4.75 and ranked me #2688.
-March 26th: Over a month in. Third rating, which overall ranked me #2213.
–April 1st: Guest post (Apr Fool) at Fantasia, at a time when I had 7 followers. Also applied to “Order of Phantasmal Architects” (went nowhere).
-April 6th: Having briefly peaked at 12 followers, dropped back to 10. A poll on Part 23b managed 3 votes (one came via Fantasia).
-April 16th: Into T&T Book 2. Still only 3 ratings, rank down to #2275. Only one person commenting semi-regularly. Had never posted much in their forums, soon stopped monitoring altogether.
-April 25th: Two months of daily posts. Rank #2328, no new ratings or favourites for April, average Rating 4.83.
–May 1st: Existing rating was revised higher, jumped to #1942.
-May 2nd: Second full review, jumped to #1230.
-May 15th: Fifth rating, jumped to #1155.
–May 31st: Into T&T Book 3, halfway (three months) produces A SECOND favourite (first was in March), now 17 followers.
-June 9th: A THIRD and FOURTH favourite, rank having slid to #1208.
-June 14th: Sixth rating, jumped to #1004.
-June 15th: Existing rating revised, jumped to #905. 21 followers.
-June 19th: Third full review, jumped to #611.
-June 20th: Eighth rating + review, plus a message, jumped to #511 at four months in. Average Rating 5. It’s downhill from here.
–July 8th: Existing rating revised down, slid to #676.
-July 16th: Into T&T Book 4. Ninth rating, boosted back up to #599.
-July 31st: A FIFTH favourite, now at 25 followers. Five months in, I’d started automating posts by this point. Average Rating 4.94.
–Aug 1st: A SIXTH favourite, 26 followers, rank #613.
-Aug 8th: Tenth rating, rank back to #605.
-Aug 24th: Cannot seem to maintain 30 followers, keeps sliding to 29. Average Rating 4.9, rank #624. Most recent poll (July 12) has only 1 vote. Only 1 comment in the last 30+ posts/days, on an early post; nothing about Book 4. The post from Aug 1st has 36 views.
At that point, with twelve days worth of posts remaining, I stopped posting daily. Then I stopped posting altogether, saying if anyone actually cares to see the edited finish, just leave some kind of comment, anything really. The “mathtans paradox” (term from grishnax, for if a consistent writer is never noticed) may be in effect. I can’t market. The T&T story isn’t normal fare for the RRL site though.
So, I’m kinda depressed! But that’s standard fare for me. Though this site has only been going strong for three years, I think you need ten before anyone’s talking about you? To close things off on a SLIGHTLY brighter note, the song parody I did for the cubic formula is up to 900 views (as of Sept 1) on YouTube, after 14 months, which is unprecedented considering my holiday videos can’t even claw their way to 100. So something I did is getting traction.
Thank you for reading to the end! This post got away from me a bit. O.o
TL;DR: Math comic’s on Tapas, T&T isn’t forgotten, vote for 2018 content, and new “Epsilon” in a week. Spread the word.