Serials

Virga: Behind the Scenes

There’s actually a lot that went on behind the scenes of “Virga Mysteries”, featuring university witch Melissa Virga. Not so much in breadth, but in depth, as far as the writing goes.

So to fully wrap up the Virga Mysteries saga, I thought I’d do one more post about how it all came together. Note: There are spoilers for some plot points. Enjoy!

EARLY CASES

The story started in 2003, when I was getting my teaching degree. I wrote the introduction paragraphs (James arriving at the apartment) in January (later revised in June). At the time, I was actually doing a lot of moving myself, because my degree was from a University out of Kingston (where I stayed in two places, neither of them residence) but my practicum was in Ottawa.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

I had the first story done by May, so after graduation. I’d basically had the idea of an imaginary friend come to life, and wanted an eccentric female detective to deal with it. Sherlock Holmes was likely an influence.

The characters were revisited a year later, in June 2004, when I was in the midst of some confusion surrounding my relationships. That’s why the second story has a romantic undercurrent in it, along with the technological aspect. (The initial note for the story simply states “computer site, evil script”.)

I feel like the writing helped me work through some things. I subsequently changed elements after the first draft, and then modified things even more before putting that second case online here.

I must have been treating the story more seriously then too – I actually had some text files of latin phrases for use in 2004. And a vague third story idea, “Love of a Star”… that never materialized. Instead, the third (and last) case came about in 2008, after a four year gap.

It was my grandmother’s death that prompted me to mess around with what actually became that third story, “Borderline”. I don’t remember if it was a conscious or unconscious decision to bring back Melissa, so that I could work through some personal issues.

I was quite close to my grandmother, and incidentally was pleased she was able to meet my soon-to-be wife before she passed on.

Since this time the afterlife issues were of impact only to me (unlike the second case with relationships) there was less overall editing. In fact, the story was unfinished (lacking concluding paragraphs) until 2010 (when I did the extra edits to that second story). That’s when I decided it would be a trilogy and called it there.

I hadn’t really had any plans to put it online, but I hadn’t had any plans to not do it either. Which could be said of much of my writing.

BALANCING ACT

The characters returned for a JulNoWriMo in 2012. I’d been aware of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) since the mid 2000s, but school is very busy that month, with report cards on top of everything else. So I never participated.

July, by comparison? Relatively quiet. So when I saw the JulNo tag somewhere in June, I decided to try for 50k. But what to write? Well, why not a new Melissa story, incorporating as many weird supernatural things as I could? Including callbacks to the original cases.

Since this was going to be novel-length, I decided it had to be at a pivotal time for the characters, hence James’ graduation years later. I did my own personal tracking (they have websites for this now), reaching 10k on July 6th, 20k on July 17th, 30k on July 21st, and 40k on July 25th.

There were a couple of 0 word days in there (when I NaNo now, I try to avoid this, always having at least something new in the document) including on July 29th. But on the 30th I powered through with almost 4k words to get 50,085. (It wasn’t even the highest day, I had two previously where I exceeded 4k.)

I then wrote the conclusion on July 31st (including Trixie’s “Post Epilogue Thing”) to get 51,382 words in total. This was spread over two files: Events up to the end of Amy’s part, and from Melissa’s parents onwards.

For the record, my writing style tends to be having a particular goal in mind (in this case, Melissa’s ascension) with smaller arcs created along the way. I find I can’t write the goal first, because I’m not sure what the mood or reactions of the characters will be at that time… it will depend on whatever comes before.

So that’s why there was that big time skip after the bit with Melissa’s parents. I realized I was approaching 50k, and so decided I’d fast forwards and wrap up the faction stuff rather than draw things out even longer with cases (which I probably could have done).

I feel like it still made narrative sense, but maybe that’s me?

Once done, I figured the story would need edits… but maybe not too many, since James wouldn’t get to edit this story to match with the plot, right? And Trixie self-described herself as no good at it. 😉

VIRGA ONLINE

I started running the cases here in January of 2018, having previously considered running them once I got through Time & Tied. (Something needed to fill the void.) That’s why I pulled all the files into their own directory in May 2017, and why I had art of Melissa (see above) commissioned at Anime North 2017 later that month.

The initial cases were easy enough to separate into four parts/acts each, as I’d written all cases to be roughly the same length. I mostly did final edits as I went along, usually in the days right before posting.

“Balancing Act”, which began its run on this blog in late January of 2019, required rather more effort.

TRIXIE
Commission from Sen Yomi

I initially split the story into Four Acts (as I had the previous cases). I did edits on Act 1 as posting began. By March 2019, I realized that the second act was going to be 8 parts, more than the initial 6 parts of Act 1.

It had made sense to put the split in when Amy fell asleep, separating by event, rather than by length. But I wasn’t sure I liked that, and suspected similar issues would come up with the remaining two acts.

It was after March Break (with my wife and daughter still in France) that I revised “Balancing Act” to Six Acts. But they still weren’t equal size, the third act was only two parts (splintered off of Act Two) and the fourth was four parts.

Tweaking occurred, putting the last (now sixth) part of Act Two into Act Three as well, giving part lengths of 6-5-3-4-??. By the end of March, I’d even decided to go with 6-5-5-???, splitting Act 3 in the middle of the dinner with Melissa’s parents. Perhaps a bit awkward, but I think it worked?

By early April I had edited things as far as June. I don’t upload right away in such cases, to give me time for a final pass, but that seemed to create a lot of inertia. Act Five took a lot longer to mess around with, editing-wise. I blame parenting, and so forth.

It wasn’t until near the end of JULY that I got Act Five done. Seriously, I look at my edited files and there’s a jump from “Mar 21” (Act 4c) to “Jul 22” (Act 4d, possibly just a renumbering).

In the interim, I got an art of Trixie in May at Anime North 2019, just so that it wouldn’t be Melissa all the time as the image for the posts.

FINAL EDITS

In terms of actual posting, we were at 3C by July 28th, marking what might have been the “end” of an act, given the initial four-act plan. (You might notice a bit of a “finishing” vibe there.) Except it wasn’t, because of how I’d extended Act Three to five parts.

Around this same time, I was completing the equivalent of an entirely new part (to fill in the time skip gap a little better). That’s when I realized the parts could be 6-5-5-5-?? and most of the acts would become five parts.

This new work in late July, by the way, also let me flesh out Trixie’s backstory a little more. A process I’d started earlier, as in the initial writing, she had been interested in bothering Melissa by trying to hook up with James.

I nixed that early on. (Hello past me, we really don’t need two women with a thing for the narrator.) It morphed into more of her annoying Melissa in other ways, and not taking relationships seriously.

So the discussion between Trixie and James (in 4D) after their dinner (and just before the time skip) was all new – originally just a two paragraph summary.

I frankly like Trixie much better this way. The original writing had her drop her interest in James after the illusion spell making her look like Melissa went nowhere (the bit with Zamboni). This now morphed into her questioning her desire for a perfect relationship (as a counterpoint to Zamboni).

I’m still not sure if it works, but it definitely works better than what was there before.

At any rate, to keep the 5-part structure, I decided to put the Wrap-Up of the Zombies in the start of Act Six (as 6a)… and it just so worked out that Trixie’s addendum in Act Six worked well as it’s own part, extending what would otherwise have been another five part pattern.

Meaning an overall structure of six acts, the parts being 6-5-5,5-5-6. Almost like I planned it from the start, or something.

I do like how it kind of foreshadows Trixie’s extra “Post Epilogue”, if you remember that Act One seemed to have that extra part to it.

The entire editing process was done on Tuesday, July 30th. There were some minor updates in October 2019 as I uploaded to the blog, and again in mid to late February 2020. I had toyed with the idea of splitting “Balancing Act” into two (a bit like I did with Time & Tied’s four books), but September 2019 promised to be busy, so I nixed that.

This post was written the week of April 20th, after spending the previous week on the Epsilon Summaries, and there you have it.

Did the process go at all like you thought it did? Do you have any thoughts about the characters, either the three mains (including Trixie) or the individuals? What about bringing back information from the other case files, bad plan? I’d be interested in your thoughts, as always.

If you liked the story, perhaps vote for it at TopWebFiction, so more people see it? (By clicking on that link?) It took a while to clear their queue, and then I never remembered to suggest that link until now. My marketing fu is weak.

Next week, we’ll see how Story 6 of “Epsilon” goes. You still have about a day to vote, if you want input on the genre and characters. Thanks for reading!

Epsilon Project: 1-5

This is a summary for the Epsilon Project serial… complete through to the end of STORY FIVE. For while every story can stand alone, there is a thread running through the parts. I’m hoping this post will help jog everyone’s memory (including mine) and get people more enthused for some upcoming voting. Which is also happening in this post.

First, a reminder about the Epsilon Project itself, paraphrasing from Alice: The station was designed to react to dimensional anomalies. The crew could then make almost zero alterations fixing them (hence Epsilon, a tiny value… it’s not the fifth station). Clarified later by Beam to be handling of rogue anomalies, not individual human error.

Most of their missions were reasonably successful.

MAIN CHARACTERS

I’ll present the character sections in approximate order of appearance and relevance. The first remark is when and why I first created the character. The numbers indicate the end of the story during which the prior information was discovered.

Feel free to vote at the bottom based on the backstory, you don’t have to have seen them in action.

1. Alijda Van Vliet

Originally a role-play character in a play-by-mail RPG, “Powers” (2011-2012). Played by Katja Herbers. Female, in her mid-thirties.

Alijda van Vliet (chibi).
Commissioned from: Shirochya

First met while using the pseudonym Alison van der Land. Has the ability to teleport in a cloud of purple and black smoke, thanks to an incident involving Marshall Biochemical Engineering some time after she turned 24. Needs a visual reference to teleport (which can be a photo). Teleport preserves relative velocity, and she can carry up to 300 pounds.

Grew up in British Columbia; parents moved away after she went to University. She dropped out and checked herself into a psychiatric unit due to issues with depression; that’s where she met Mason and got prescription medication. Has a way with computer software, to the point of hacking alien technology. Is mildly paranoid.

Fled to Seattle after embezzling money from a corrupt company and bought a house. Worked as a secretary for a college professor named Singh. Had romantic feelings for a police officer named David Rose who had also been in the MBE incident, having gained super speed. She tends to nickname people (like “bunny girl” for Para) so she doesn’t get attached. (1)

After the first mission, started writing fiction and putting it online, but after a year she was still getting low readership. Born in the Netherlands, knows some Dutch. Can be impatient and is annoyed by references she doesn’t get. Shrank (temporarily) due to her teleporting in a density suit, until she was doll size. Sees Para as being child-like. (3)

Returned to the station after six months. Wanted to know Kat better. Will challenge Alice’s opinions (to a point). Does trend to black/dark humour, wants to stop hurting more than she wants to die. Had dinner with Kat after the couple days of testing, which followed the Fate mission. (4)

2. Para Bola

PARA
(Commission from Michelle Simpson)

Originally one of my personified math characters (2011-present). Female personified quadratic graph who has bunny ears on a hairband, attuned to her moods. Blonde hair, pink dress with a bow.

Self-conscious about human interaction and once cut herself on the arms. Can fly by spinning her ears. Was a late addition to the first mission (but arrived first). Trusting to the point of blurting out information she possibly shouldn’t. (1)

Returned to the station to set up a square-cube program, and vouched for Alijda to get her programming help. Immune to fairy knockout dust, and doesn’t ‘sleep’ the same way as a human. (3)

Brought to her third mission by Chartreuse, adopting the guise of an educational assistant. Was willing to believe rumours, given how Fractal City had proved to exist in her mathematical network. Used a metronome to calculate when a room would fill with plush animals. (5)

3. Katherine “Kat” Conway

Originally a character in the online RPG “Doorways” via IRC (2011-2013). Male, played by Colin Ferguson. Thirty-something Sergeant in the Canadian military, assigned to the “Doorways” project out of Nevada (that allows travel to alternate worlds, out of Epsilon’s reach).

KAT CONWAY
(Commission from Jakface)

Personal interest in the occult owing to his pyrokinesis. Carries a matchbook. Seeking a girl he knew in high school named Fate, but never goes in depth about why.

Name is because his mom died giving birth to him (not in a hospital), and they thought he’d be a girl. Has an eye for the ladies but doesn’t take relationships seriously. Tends to make jokes when under stress. Tried to better understand Alijda, hoping she wouldn’t give up on herself. Is good with configuring computer hardware (not so much with hacking). Fire control is limited to what might be in a fireplace. (3)

Returned to the station after only a few hours, which helped him recall Chris’ communications spell. In the military because his father was lax and felt like Kat needed more discipline. Recognizes a few occult symbols. Fate was his first serious relationship in high school (after her rejection of him); they went to prom and corresponded while he was at military college (until it suddenly stopped). Was willing to bend rules to get Fate back. Opened up to Alijda. (4)

4. Chartreuse Vermilion

Originally a character in my “Time & Tied” serial (2000-present). Female teenager who says ‘like’ and ‘you know’ after having succumbed to mystic forces. Dyes her hair pink. Bisexual.

CHARTREUSE VERMILION
(Commission by Ruuari)

Required a day to align herself to the cosmic forces of a new world. (Azure showed what happened without that day.) Uses crystals to see into the future (if she has a focus), and can get flashes from people or their auras. Technology can interfere with that.

Dating a girl named Carrie, who can stop time/has time travel abilities. Has a thing for blondes. Her younger sister named Azure (who is more verbally direct) can see into the past, using cards. Their family has worked with the Canadian government in the past. She’s not a great cook. (2)

Returned to the station after two weeks (still her summer). A jade ring artifact (obtained by Beam) was meant to reduce ill effects of dimensional alignment; Chartreuse still got queasy. Later took it off to help receive impressions. Insisted on neon red stockings to go with the drab school uniform disguise.

Used a piece of quartz to divine a hidden panel. Doesn’t think ‘brainwashing crystals’ are a real thing. Got sensory stunned saving Para from a ray gun. (5)

STATION CHARACTERS

5. Alice Vunderlande

ALICE VUNDERLANDE
(Commission from Cherry Z)

Originally a role-play character on the BuffyMUX (2004-2005), full name Alison, female. Prone to making pop culture references (and saying ‘awesome sauce’). Former secretary to Angel Investigations, rescued from a Hell Dimension by the Epsilon Project’s “God” (a female). (1) Possibly that involved an actual Angel. (4)

Claimed she couldn’t leave the station (2); it was later revealed that she used to do solo missions until the station required maintenance (such as for power problems). (4) Had worked with the project less than a year before seeking recruits. Enjoys morning exercise. Has an eidetic memory and analytic mind. Was fired for creating a dimensional rift to help her team, and ended up moving in with Alijda, on her world. (3)

Returned to the station after six months. During that time, made a pin based on Steins;Gate to commemorate her Epsilon time. Can get manic when given alcohol, and overshares bedroom stories with her friends. Not great with social cues. Enjoys music while working, and is good at creating devices. Mentally junked a lot of her hell dimension memories. (4)

Her ability to free associate terms allowed her to defeat a truth serum. Used to do karaoke when first recruited to the station, though is not the best vocalist. Good at recognizing pieces of devices, and dimensionally related items too. (5)

6. Beam

CHIBI BEAM
(Commission from Gen Ishihara)

Originally a character in an online MUX (2009-2011). Female, long blonde hair, early twenties. An autonomous hologram with internal batteries and a charging port in her hairband (her control mechanism, and a weak point, along with her earrings). Mostly light, so has no bones to break when falling and her blood is a simulation. Can run faster than a normal human. Lesbian.

Beam’s first memory is of waking up in an alleyway, knowing only her name and basic programming. Taken in by a non-redheaded woman. Part of her programming is to repay debts to girls who save her life. Has trouble differentiating between girlfriends and girl friends, partly because her world advocates free love regardless of gender. Marriage is for procreation.

Saw her recruitment to Epsilon as being escape (from a place where her rejection of males was peculiar), versus abduction. Her first mission was a tech world with a magic amulet, accomplished by seducing a female archaeologist. Upgraded the station sensors; never knew about Mr Smith.

Can transition to an insubstantial state (and back) using her earrings, though it’s a power drain. Takes items on her person with her automatically, but they cannot be used. Tends to overshare, much like Alice (perhaps due to them mostly working alone).

Classified Rose as her first girl friend, thanks to Kat. Knows kung fu and acrobatic self-defence techniques. Rules oriented, has trouble deviating from protocol. Now works with Alice, under Fate’s command. (4) Injured on a mission with Alice, but got information to hack a high-tech school. Likes all-girl group hugs. (5)

7. Fate Wallace-Wray

Originally a character in Kat’s backstory (same online RPG; no photo). Blonde hair, now long and in a side ponytail. Tends to wear black (like Alijda). Was dimensionally abducted by Compton Sr, but her occult symbols made her immune to his mind scrambler. Decided she was resigned to living out her days on a world where magic was regulated and where her occult symbols worked more tangibly. Adopted the name Destiny and specialized in potions.

Tried to find people with not-quite-right powers, and dimensional weak points. A cyber arm found at one such point she imbued with a desire, lest it phase back to her own world; it was retrieved by Beam. Tortured briefly by Compton Jr, who was trying to resume his father’s illegal dimensional activities. Weird sense of humour.

Defeated Compton Jr (with Rose’s help) and learned Compton Sr had been fed the knowledge of dimensional travel. Accepted command of Epsilon as a transition before a possible return home. (4) Recruited Chartreuse by having the station do some temporal shifting. Seems to be “all business” with reports (possibly Beam’s influence). (5)

MINOR CHARACTERS

8. Rosemary “Rose” Thorne

Originally a character in my “The Girl Who Speaks With Algebra” serial (2016-2017). Red hair with freckles, teenager in university.

ROSEMARY THORNE
(Commission from Lia)

Mistaken as being a math genius by Beam; Rose claims her blonde girlfriend Paige is the math and techno-girl. (Also mentioned Paige had father issues.) Babbles when nervous and resorts to humour to stay calm, like when she was given control of the Station. Avoids social media for those reasons.

Musically inclined, sings alto, can play piano and cook. Wears pun shirts. Tends to say flûte, as a way of feeling closer to her french girlfriend. Used to lie to herself about her sexual preferences. Knows basic self defence. Will second guess herself, doesn’t like being in charge. Learned about both Kat’s and Beam’s first missions’, and tried to teach Beam about boundaries. Had stronger magic potential than Kat.

Gaining tracking magic in her nose briefly made her drunk, and she talked about Angie, a girl she liked in high school – with the opposite problem to Beam, in that Angie pulled away. She envies how open Beam is about being a lesbian. Later considered them being pen pals.

A mystic shockwave gave Rose the power of doubling, which she linked back to multiplying emotions once, under the guise of ‘Algebra’. She used the power to double Compton, who was set to reflect, and hence became copies of herself. She also used it to amplify Fate’s mind scrambling spell. It wouldn’t carry over to her normal reality. (4)

9. Simon Black

Jensen Ackles

Originally a character in my “Last Magical Girl” unfinished serial (2003/2010). Played by Jensen Ackles. In his mid to late twenties. Knows someone named Becky from his reality, had to leave her behind once. Also someone named Keith who does technology; Simon isn’t a fan.

Works as a magician, knows misdirection/slight of hand and basic hypnosis. Is a pretty good cook, partly because his mother died when he was young. Was briefly turned into Simone on the mission. Mild obsession with magical girls, and watches anime. (2) Was sent to the small scale world a year before that third mission. (3)

10. Mason

Morgan Freeman

Originally a character in an online RPG via IRC (2006-2008). Played by Morgan Freeman. Is a time lord who likes to keep his TARDIS in the form of a 1950s London taxicab (the “for hire” sign strobing upon materialization).

Arrived by tracing an inter-spatial call for assistance. Used to go by the name “Chief”, but now considers himself more of an observer.

Uses a device he calls Bardiche which has multiple functions (like a swiss army knife). Was taken aback that pieces of his history existed in a science fiction show for a particular reality/dimension. (1) The fact that his race was copyright of the BBC there meant Alice got a ‘cease and desist’ letter. (4)

SETTING

The worlds change with each mission, but the station is the “hub” for each to them. So here are some notes about the Epsilon Station itself: A self-regulating station, tracking right and wrong, located in neutral territory. A place of projects of deep mystery, for an unspecified number of humans and aliens. A shining beacon in space-time… all alone in the night.

The station’s computer intelligence is female, Alice calls her Ziggy. There is also an independent system in the auxiliary control room named Mr Smith (who is male). While usually somehow out of phase with the worlds of each mission (including the ability to temporally jump), the station can be parked in orbit around a planet.

From Story4, see the station at the bottom.

The station’s in the shape of a wheel. The name for the central control room is the Hub. It’s large enough allow a person to park a car in front of the main view screen, and the room is shaped like a cylinder. Across from the main screen is a large wall of computer banks, while the other compass directions include a meeting place, and a storage area.

A large ring device with lit chevrons (think Stargate), located in the middle of the Hub’s floor, can send people to different dimensional realities. It’s kept irised shut until the ring activates; blackness can be seen before the whirlpool appears. Access to the Hub is from the ceiling, with another irised door; there is a ladder, or more usually gravity can be turned off.

Other rooms include: a fitness room, holography deck, small cafeteria, auxiliary control, artifact containment, override room, and a personal room for the commander (where they can sleep and such). A few places can be shielded from detection by sensors.

Communicators in the form of digital watches can communicate back to Epsilon (not between each other, except via the station with an open channel). They can teleport people onto the station, but prefer to whirlpool them off. They have the technology to synthesize component elements, but limited power. They are able to shore up a planet’s dimensional weak points.

The project only pays people “in adventure, a better life, favours to be named later kind of deal”. The female God Alice has referred to would seemingly veto a male administrator, as their egos are deemed “too fragile”.

PLOTS

Here’s a quick rundown on the various stories that have appeared so far, followed at the bottom by an overall linking element. There are some spoilers, so feel free to click the links and read first!

Plot for Story One: Numbers Game (2014): People with powers learn that someone is messing with clocks. This turns out to be Phillip Denomolos, aka “the Denominator”, a 20-something tech genius. He was being influenced by Lissa Jous, in his dreams. This allowed her to rewrite his reality and dimensionally jump from her own.

Plot for Story Two: Wish Fulfilment (2015): An artifact is granting wishes on a fantasy world. Wanda, apprentice to the wizard Qifarihm, was tired of male beliefs affecting their magic reality. (Females need a focus object to control spells.) With the artifact, she took over his job. Snowball, the white cat, became a pink unicorn, while a (formerly) imaginary elf named Pelinelneth became Wanda’s companion.

Plot for Story Three: Full Scale Invasion (2016): A small scale world is being invaded by large scale objects. The Department of Extradimensional Objects (with Larry Appleson and Bonnie DuChessy) knew of previous smaller anomalous objects, and worked with tech. Meanwhile the Magic Users Club (with Michaela and friends) used fantasy items. Queeny (and City Hall) tried to clamp down on everything, and it took Cure Axiom to learn their answers were with Clyde, former DEO head.

Plot for Story Four: Epsilon Delta (2017): The Epsilon station in the multiverse is in trouble. A cyber arm Beam brought back went rogue, trying to crash the station. A parallel planetary investigation with Firestorm led to tracking a woman named Destiny – even though that became outside the scope of their mission. Dealing with her abduction by Compton (Jr) revealed multiverse issues with his father.

Plot for Story Five: Chanced Erasures (2018): Infiltrating a school that knows about the multiple dimensions. Chartreuse (there to rescue Alice) was mistaken by Sam Depas for being in the ‘work elsewhere in multiverse’ club, aka ‘Clover Club’. Sue Morts (limited invisibility power) and Sir Thred helped investigate. Mind manipulation and ending dimensional travel (to halt immigration) turned out to be involved.

Do you have a favourite story so far? A reminder you can answer simply based on the summaries, you don’t have to have read them all to vote.

The only real thread through stories 1-3 was Alice, who was subsequently fired. In story 4 we see someone still wanted the missions to continue solo, recruiting Beam. The crew then determined that a shadow group was spreading dimensional knowledge to various Earths, their only clue being a clover shape. This led to discovering the existence of “Clover Enterprises” in story 5, a seemingly nomadic organization taking money in exchange for information or favours. Possibly manipulating the progress of worlds.

Where do you think this might be going? Did you want a revisit of any prior worlds?

IN CONCLUSION

We’re going to try for a Story Six to finish off another trilogy. The plan is to post up some options next week, leave the voting open to the start of May, and then begin writing. Much like with the previous story, there would be a week to vote, then a week for me to write a part and post, so the site would maintain it’s schedule of a post every two weeks.

The votes above (in this entry) will give me an idea of whom you might like to see more of. And the usual way I write is to shift point-of-view every chapter, so this way the preferred characters might get more POVs. But of course, I make these stories up on the fly, so we’ll see what works with the narrative as well.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, for plot or otherwise feel free to comment. For instance, I’ve been debating bringing Trixie on board, now that anyone who read my last serial is aware of her. But do I have too many female characters already…?

Until next time, I hope you were able to do some voting here, and please do spread the word… I’ve had 10 days with zero pageviews on this 300+ story entry site so far in April, maybe we can do something about that. Thanks!

Behind the Scenes 5

At the end of “Epsilon 4”, I did a “Paths Not Taken” for some additional notes. Here at the end of “Epsilon 5”, I’m going to do a “Behind the Scenes” post instead, as there’s more here about statistics and, well, behind the scenes stuff. (As opposed to individual poll results.) In particular, I’ll go through the various anagrams I used for the names, so if you want to figure those out on your own, read “Chanced Erasures” first.

Back in July, when “Surveillance Mission” and “Rescue Mission” tied on the initial plot voting (3 votes each), I considered calling the fifth Epsilon story “Search and Rescue”… only to notice that Part 13 of the previous story had been named “Search and Re-Skew”. Also, Part 30 of Time & Tied had used the S&R title.

So, I decided to look up anagrams. Options for those letters included “Cascade Her Runes”, “Arcane Cues Shred” and what I went with, “Chanced Erasures”.

As I said at the time, Chartreuse was always a given to return, and then Para was voted in (only 3 votes total on that poll, no idea why half of people didn’t read that far down). Alice, as the person to rescue, had actually been flagged for either a physical, mental or magical battle right from the start (which was the poll that would end part three), but I hadn’t intended for her to end up with a role as large as the one she got. How did things evolve?

FIRST HALF

Part three, bringing in Sam’s friends, was when the anagram stuff really got pulled together. We had Sue Morts (Sue Storm), Sir Thred (redshirt), and Sam Depas (Sam Spade)… whom I’d already called Sam Simmons in part two, but then retroactively changed. I don’t think anyone noticed.

The statue of the guy who started the school was Fenduro (Founder). I also planned for their trek through the school to trace out “ERECTS”, an anagram of “SECRET”, but starting in the Clover Club with the R (with “E” being in the gym, Sue’s intended starting point, that we never saw).

Part four introduced Shay Milds (Slim Shady) though his last name was only spoken aloud in part twelve, as well as Usa Staling (Assaulting), the head of security. Part five was when I mused about a second interrogation, leading to Marlin in part seven. He’s NOT an anagram, nor is the catgirl Mary-Lynn Emrys (from part eight, named in part thirteen). Both are plays on “Merlin”, from Arthurian lore, since the throwaway line about the burial ground/magic wars was becoming plot relevant.

Part six gave Sue “Storm” her invisibility. Part seven is when the “chanced erasure” title finally connected with the idea of erasing memories (in considering Thred being a victim). And that’s also when I had 30 consecutive days on the blog with fewer than 10 page views, meaning the WordPress scale reverts to decimals. Leading in part to a delay of a whole week in posting the next part, because why am I even.

That was actually the second delay – recall part 3 was delayed by a couple days. (In that case, I was playing with “Time Untied”, to submit it for the Ink & Insights competition. It placed 68 out of 146, so in the top 50%.) What this other delay meant was I only posted once for all October 2018.

SECOND HALF

Parts eight and nine tied up any loose threads that were still out there (or so I think). I don’t recall if I read through the prior parts to do that; I know I did before part six, so I suspect not. I’d made a few notes at that time. I also know I didn’t get a chance to re-read before putting together parts thirteen and fourteen, even though I wanted to. January is the worst month.

November involved work on nine, ten and eleven, even as I did NaNo for “Time Untied” (made it past 25k). By part nine, I wanted the mystery device to use anagrams somehow, what with it being the underlying theme. Part ten included the name “Polsit” for “pistol”, and twelve solidified that I’d need two more parts. The “No Antidote” button in part thirteen was for “Detonation”; an “Oyster D” button (to destroy) was scrapped.

It’s worth mentioning that I’d normally draw a picture at around the halfway mark; in this case, I only did it after the second last part (at the end of 2018). It’s the image above with the star. The delay was partly due to no time in Oct/Nov, and partly because I’d been hoping to start digital drawing – which I also didn’t have time for. Fun fact, after adding the image to the index page, it got automatically added to the tweet pinned at the top of my twitter timeline.

I think the only other thing worth a mention is how some of the current events stuff in the plot (immigration to a dimension, corrupt CEOs) was put in on a whim towards the end. I’d also considered having Alice save the day as an option to end part thirteen, but she’d seemed so popular I worried it’d be an easy win. So I went with Marlin, Sue and Sam instead. As I said in part fourteen, perhaps even that poll was predictable, leading us to the so-called “bad end” of secrecy. I didn’t want any end to be truly “bad” though.

The final character results split Alice and Chartreuse with 1 vote each. Because the last two polls got only two votes total. (Part five also saw only two votes.) Contrast the end of “Epsilon 4” when I was getting 7 votes towards the end, also in a December. Ouch. Was it the story itself? Was it weaker marketing? I don’t know, but let’s delve into that side of things.

STATISTICS

I switched the blog to “every two weeks” in July 2017, during “Epsilon 4”. (See the post, “A Solo Cello“) So 2018 was the first full year for that schedule. I had only 32 posts published, as compared to 73 posts in 2017.

I had only 2,429 page views, as compared to 6,998 in 2017… marginally better than 2015, the first full year the blog existed (2,208 page views). Granted, 2017 had a huge spike from a guest post (a couple actually), but few people are sticking around. Or so it seems.

I’m open to suggestions. Part of the trouble is I don’t have time to market, my seven month old daughter (and family) takes priority, then there’s my teaching job (I was part time, now returning to full time), then there’s the writing, then there’s reading (which is months backlogged right now), then finally at the bottom is promoting. Did I mention some nights I only get five hours sleep?

As far as bright spots go, there is that little bump from July 2018, when I got over 500 page views. Someone did read through Time & Tied that month (silently). The final part of T&T (96b) now has 21 views. (Someone read through a bunch in December too.) And while the last parts of “Epsilon 5” only have 6 views, there were three different people commenting for the duration. I also got a shout-out from Joseph Nebus in the math carnival back in October.

I suppose there’s also how my site has now been protected from 6,276 spam comments. Spammers still have their eye on me? Does that make me important? Anyway. Also, as of today I’ve managed to get an additional quarter, loonie and toonie from 2018. Just for the record.

I think that’s everything I had to say. The plan is to continuously run Melissa’s story through 2019 – it started last week, if you missed it. After that I might return to Epsilon… we’ll see where things are at. Progress on “Time Untied” is slow, but gradually coming together. And if you didn’t know, I have been writing monthly columns for the “Time Travel Nexus” as well. Here’s hoping you stick around to see more of what I’ve been putting out there. As always, thanks for reading.

December 2018

 

Behind the Scenes 4

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.

CHIBI BEAM
Commission from Gen Ishihara

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

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

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?).

CURRENT WRITING

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.

STATISTICS

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.

TTC: Commentary 28

“Time & Tied” PARTS 94-96
1. Original Date Of Completion: SEPTEMBER 12, 2009
2. What I Was Doing: Full Time Contract Teacher in Ottawa
3. Changes of note:
-Chartreuse’s time car talk had been more cryptic (stone skipping)
-Convention of “young Carrie as Buffy, adolescent as Betty, adult as Liz, old as… Eliza?” (totally dropped)
-Laurie and Tim briefly flickered out of existence too
-Carrie thought of gassing the control room, not Glen
-Elizabeth was going to give up sooner, and send the others back
-Buffy’s second appearance with the apple (was recall only)
-Carrie somehow blew up the Miami time car by thought alone
-Buffy’s final battle had her as “Betty” (adolescent)
-Carrie made a case for inevitable victory, being part of her own past
-Elizabeth/Buffy forgiving Glen and Carrie (simply knocked them out)
-Timeline branching! (was cutting the time loop, restoring in present)
-Elder Carrie being temporally frozen (had been in imploding building)
-Chartreuse having a battery (had merely grabbed gun from Tim)
-Lee knocking out guy with dictionary (had been fly bar inside bldg)
-Julie and Corry were at library, Corry getting stabbed
-Chartreuse now in hospital with Carrie (had been Corry)
-Hank Waterson had asked Carrie about his wife/her mom (she initiates now)
-Chartreuse’s work with Beth and “vision plus” (had been all Carrie)
-Carrie’s quip she could appear with a new gun, apple-style (gone)
-Laurie as valedictorian (hadn’t been specified)

4. Additions of note:
-Elizabeth now interacting (briefly) with future resistance people
-Tim and Laurie got middle names!
-All talk of Theresa/Mindy’s fate and her role in things
-All talk of resistance forces (including lockdown references)
-Brief physical fight was added (before Carrie flinging time energy)
-Foreshadowed timeline branching, using wall circuits
-All scenes with middle name people during battle (including Glen knockout)
-New inner dialogue of Elizabeth’s powers pushing back at her
-Chartreuse explaining to Luci & Lee before firing the gun
-Carrie/Chartreuse girlfriend banter was new
-Talk of the alien artifact as being a fixed point

MAY DAYS

This past May became what we would call a ‘statistical anomaly’. The highest month for views that I ever had was July 2016, after the Guest Post over at Jim Zoetewey’s site (“Power Play” aka “Part 48c”, helping to launch Book 3 here). I had 944 page views that month. In May 2017? 1,933 page views, more than double that previous maximum. There’s a couple reasons for that.

Begins May 4th, 2 views. (Comments includes Pingbacks.)

The first, a review written by Tartra for Web Fiction Guide on May 6, 2017. That led to a new max page view count (143 on May 7th) as someone from Hungary binged through the entire archive. Her review also prompted something else – a massive revision on my part. Some of the feedback I get, I can only nod and shrug at (“Carrie’s a bitterly unlikeable protagonist”). Other feedback makes me realize changes are necessary (using ‘mama’ makes Carrie sound like “a Southern Belle from Texas”).

Along with the ‘mama’ issue was fact that there is “no reason why they all sound like they’ve been academically peer-reviewed”. Huh. Yeah, I am bad at synonyms. There truly IS no reason for Laurie to be using a word like “transcript” or Clarke suggesting they “circumvent” things; it doesn’t fit their personalities. Blindingly obvious in retrospect, but it flew under my radar. And once I knew, I couldn’t just let that sit… if it was disrupting Tartra’s reading experience, it was surely doing the same for others.

Starting May 13th, I went back to do a massive overhaul from the beginning. My energy started to peter out late in Book 2, but even so, ALL parts up to 47 have now been revamped, a number of them for the first time since their initial posting. It doesn’t fix everything. Frank gets a free language pass, as he’s supposed to be socially awkward, and so did Julie, trying to be a CEO. Corry and Luci (as their foils) also got latitude, to keep it manageable. Everyone else? Smacked with a thesaurus… in their dialogue, not in narration. Is it any better? We may never know.

The second reason for the viewing spike last month was a Guest Post at Drew Hayes’ site. His “Super Powereds” story is in the top 10 at “Top Web Fiction” with over 150 votes. He posted in the WFG forums about being away in late May, two months in advance, giving me plenty of time to think about what to write. (And I thank him for accepting me, despite how I knew my serial would be winding down.) I considered doing another story prior to “Book 3”, like I’d done with Jim, as well as something after the Epilogue, in the summer. That likely would have involved Carrie doubling up an artifact to prevent some sort of fireworks explosion, and at once point was even tentatively titled “Minute Waltz”.

It never quite gelled. Then, in late April, I had the thought of building to the main characters through some secondary characters. I felt they’d need to still be in high school for that. Azure was the natural choice, and with that, everything else came together within a few days. Using a bank robbery was a bit cliche (Jim did one in his guest post too), but I didn’t want to go with a mugging. Hence, a part in between the hospital scene and the graduation. There was the thought process behind that writing.

The day after my post on Drew’s site, my maximum page views leapt from 143 to 458. The Thursday also saw a count over 250, before things settled down to about 100 in a day (still way above normal). It’s usually trivial to see when one or two people are going through the archive (like it was last December). Now, for the first time, with a number of people in different places, I honestly wasn’t sure how many there were. There were 131 referrals in within a week, and I think at least a half dozen people made it to “Book 2”.

It’s a nice note to go out on. Another thing I now recognize is that my writing is pretty clinical and structured, and likely needs more emotional resonance. Something I’ll need to work on, assuming I’m able to fix it. (I really am very structured in my thinking.) So yeah, I’m still a bit in the “I suck” phase, hopefully the new “Epsilon” shows promise. One last shoutout now, to Rev Fitz, who reviewed the site on May 21; there was a slight bump before Drew’s post, which I’ll credit to him.

And a few final notes before we get into the last of the T&T Analysis:
-I have six 2017 coins, quarters and nickels, and have had them for over a month now. I think part of the reason is it’s Canada’s 150th “birthday”, prompting the earlier rollout, but I’m still sure there was a year I got two current pennies back in February. Anyway, it can happen before summer.
-A few interesting related news articles that I found but never linked to: The idea that the Future Can Affect The Past (related to observational states), how Befriending Your Future Self is good for your health (literally what Carrie does), and Physicists With a Model for a Time Machine (it needs exotic matter).
-“The innumerable possibilities…” line, spoken by Frank to start what is now “Respite II”, is in fact a call back to the SHUFFLE! game OP, which you may recall was music I’d decided might fit in with my “Season One” opening sequence. It all comes full circle. (The next “Shuffle!” theme to use might be “Really? Really!”. “There is one more possibility…”) Carrie’s response to Frank is a much vaguer callback to Steins;Gate.

SPOILER SECTION

Well, this is it.

As far as pacing goes, if we’re talking “3 act structure” (meet in act 1, tear up life in act 2, resolve in act 3), I like to think Book 4 works… except, of course, Carrie isn’t even THERE for most of the “tearing up” part; Chartreuse and the rest have to deal with Theresa being Mindy. (Also, a number of characters entered into act 1 already “broken”.)

Does it work, having the main character GONE for such a large part? And with call-backs to earlier books? I hope so? Certainly the plot as a whole feels like it works for me, temporally. It may help if you envision Future Carrie as being the present, what with Mindylenopia going back sparking the entire rewritten history, and hence why “our Carrie” became “Elizabeth”. Related, I suspect Tim’s new middle name subconsciously came from the “Piers Anthony” books on my shelf, while Amelia is from “Doctor Who” (Amelia “Amy” Pond).

Speaking of characters, let’s switch over to them. To make it interesting, I’ll list the twelve mains in my personal preference from least to greatest. Feel free to speak up in the comments, about my order, or any differences you have on my personal takes.

TIM: He never fully gelled for me. I never even settled on a medical condition. Very underused in Books 1 and 2, because there wasn’t much linguistic going on (the lawyer connection helped keep him involved). His arc in Book 4 basically involves him fitting in without being taken advantage of, knocking out Glen being the cap on that, but that was a late addition.

GLEN: Kind of a slave to the plot, plus has this unhealthy obsession with Carrie, who is all but a confirmed lesbian (something he’d know in the future). I didn’t want him to be an overt villain, but despite sticking to his internal morals, I feel that’s what he was reduced to in the end.

CORRY: The antagonist for Julie, meant to be a decent guy deep down, but we never saw a lot of that. Which itself is fine (and he is a self aware jerk) but when the school plot finished, basically, his plot did too. He became a catalyst for Laurie. We got some insight into his past with Book 4, but that was only because the original writing for him there didn’t work.

CLARKE: The conscience to Julie, and in a way, he suffers the same fate as Corry. We don’t get much of him unless Julie’s involved. His Julie fixating was handled (I hope), in the conversation before their work on the car, but while I felt like the relationship angle did tie up decently? There’s not much more to him, aside from being a nice guy.

MINDY: Another jerk-style character, but with a better conscience than Glen or Corry. Her time as Theresa helped with that, but even Future Mindy displayed some perspective on her role. Possibly the first character I’m truly satisfied with (which holds for the ones below too).

LEE: The satellite member of the group, his arc peaked early, when he willingly became involved to help with the chip. Which Carrie messed with. Still, his immunity kept him relevant, his family is interesting, and despite his penchant for nicknames, he cares for the others and follows through on that with actions.

LUCI: I’m a bit surprised she’s not higher, but the adoption and ties to Frank ended up defining a lot of her character (we never even see her parents). I wish I hadn’t given her the extra sexual trauma, but didn’t know what else to use as I did edits. Still, over the span of the story, she came to terms with her emotions, with failure, and it felt plausible that her Future version managed to keep her life together.

JULIE: She wants to do the right thing. In Book 1, she thinks the right thing is winning her parents at any cost. In Book 2, she thinks vanishing completely is the necessity. In Book 3, she tries to help her friends, the only way she knows how. Now in Book 4, I feel Julie’s finally grappling with her own fate. With not being manipulated, overtly or otherwise, and admitting to Phil about their relationship. And while Future Julie was mean, her actions did come from a place of caring; I put her through a wringer. She makes it into the Top 5.

LAURIE: Laurie, sweetie, you managed to surprise me at every turn. A naive and sobbing counterpoint to everyone in the early drafts, you started to take control with every revision, and ended up literally kicking ass in a new addition. Your babbling became passionate speeches, and somehow, despite the insanity around you, you never compromised your principles. You are truly a Veniti (as well as a valedictorian). I foresee a different, brighter future for you in the new timeline.

FRANK: The only male character to rank highly, I will admit he is a bit of a self insert. So maybe the blinders are on. While most of his arc towards getting along with people was back in the first Books, the biggest setbacks he faced were in Book 4. One could argue he was forced into the hard situations, like mediating between Future Luci and Future Julie, or telling Mindy about her inevitable death, but even if his options were limited, he stepped up to the plate. In some sense, he ended up as the glue holding everyone else together.

Carrie Commission (2014)
By Kai-Shii

CARRIE: For all her flaws and inconsistencies (including apparently being a tsundere), I do like her. In Book 1, she was out for herself, lashing out physically. In Book 2, she accepted she wasn’t the centre of the world – even as events showed she was. In Book 3, she was beaten down, and pushed into a journey of personal (and sexual) discovery. In Book 4, she tried a Julie-style sacrifice, and when her friends wouldn’t let her, she found a better way. Her speech at the end, about coming to terms with mistakes she made and will make, to me, that’s key, and is what this whole story is about.

CHARTREUSE: Like, ohmigawd. She got herself a girlfriend, the hard way, via the hospital. Grappling with temporal theory on the way. So many of the new scenes involved Chartreuse somehow, and even in edits she stepped up to fix plot holes, left, right and centre. All my guest posting incorporated her, and heck, there’s probably a reason I put her into Epsilon even before all of this went online. She’s also the mystic and fantasy entry into a mostly sci-fi world. And she makes me smile. Well done, Chartreuse, you came far from very humble beginnings.

Do you agree with my choices/reasoning?

The plan for “Time Untied” is to keep those last two together, but have Carrie at the University of Ottawa and Chartreuse at Carleton University, in the same city. Because I wanted Chartreuse, but didn’t want her and Carrie too close; their interests are different, plus being forced apart will allow their relationship to grow (or falter) as needed. Also, the only other city with two universities I know well, Waterloo, is more tech-oriented… Frank’s liable to be there, and I do want to pull away from him.

Speaking of the sequel, I mused through a few other titles before settling on “Time Untied”, including “Time Release” and the related “Time Re:Leased”. If you read the bonus post from last Friday, you’ve seen that it will involve the existence of at least one OTHER person who has powers like Carrie. (Hey, it’s a second timeline, after all.) That’s why the whole story needs to be pre-written, later elements are SURE to impact earlier parts (much like Book 1), and it needs to be internally consistent.

At the same time, if you squint, there’s other details that were never really explained. The pocket watch Elaine had, which somehow seemed to synch up with time travel. The relevance of Mr. Veniti doing genetics research in the past. Why Frank only gradually faded from existence in that Timeline Three. All threads that have vague explanations in my mind, which may or may not be pulled on in the sequel as needed. (You’re welcome to hypothesize by commenting here, in advance.)

Anything else? Well, quick shout-out to the guy in the future control room being called “Walter”, a reference to “Stargate SG-1”. Also a shout-out to Mez, since my first revision of Part 96 removed all references to Carrie’s mom, and it was his comment on the earlier part which prompted me to put some of that back in. And a final thanks to Scott Delahunt, John Golden, and Chris Burke, for their support over the years (giving us Principal Dell Hunt, Julie’s psychologist Doc Golden, and the teacher Mr. Burke).

Maybe this universe will be back. Time will tell.

Parts 94/95/96 were originally “Endgame” which became the title of 95a. Remember you can still VOTE for T&T at “Top Web Fiction”, any time, so that others might find the story. Thank you for reading.

Coming This Sunday: “Epsilon Project” continues. The vote in Part 1 is still open!

TTC: Commentary 27

“Time & Tied” PARTS 88-90
1. Original Date Of Completion: AUGUST 27, 2009
2. What I Was Doing: Full Time Contract Teacher in Ottawa
3. Changes of note:
-Originally went to Carrie’s 45th birthday, specified as 2029
-Constant attempts to upgrade Clarke’s “phone” with every edit
-Future Luci is now in medicine, was teaching
-Luci waited in the cafe and at first spoke only with Frank
-Luci used to have tech-tech glasses (Julie gets them later)
-Now in “Timeline Three” (was a technobabble “spiral time loop”)
-Luci gave alien probe backstory in the cafe (not later)
-Laurie only protested helping Mindy after they met future her
-Luci gave Frank and Tim disguises to meet with Mindy

4. Additions of note:
-Laurie’s perspective, with her backup plan in Miami
-Inserted Chartreuse communicating to Carrie via crystal
-All “Frank being dead” reactions (it hadn’t been “Timeline Three”)
-All “prototype temporal gun” references (they’d brought the gun)
-New flashback with Tim, where Chartreuse said she had the gun
-Luci’s explanation of ways Carrie can temporally mess with them
-Luci connecting that explanation to prejudice towards redheads

“Time & Tied” PARTS 91-93
1. Original Date Of Completion: AUGUST 30, 2009
2. What I Was Doing: Full Time Contract Teacher in Ottawa
3. Changes of note:
-They’d met Julie in a limo outside a pizza place, with Luci
-Julie had argued Mindy would die whether she helped or not
-Laurie asked about Corry, prompting Julie’s revelation
-Julie left; Frank never stopped her
-Mindy claimed it was Glen’s idea to create Carrie
-Carrie/Chartreuse scene had been Carrie/Glen & much shorter
-Had been no fireworks to draw attention to Laurie as Mindy
-Frank fired the temporal gun once, to help Mindy
-Activation of Mindy’s time jump was different

4. Additions of note:
-New discussion of predestination among time travel group
-Julie’s remarks about Luci doing genetics work
-Entire Julie/Luci reconciliation scene
-Frank’s talk with Mindy about her destiny
-All Lee scenes (including Megan, Tim & Glinephanis refs)
-All Laurie/Chartreuse talk (including Linford’s son)
-All of the “Redux” bleedthrough, up to Carrie in Miami

FIGHT THE FUTURE

Yeah, LOTS of changes now; see Spoilers below for the details. I want to talk here about how this story got resurrected, leading to those changes.

Back in Commentary 24, I’d mentioned this story existed online with my old “Sympatico” website (in 2006). That index was updated in late August 2009 to list all 44 episodes (45 with the Pilot), along with a link to information about “Seasons 3 to 5” which I’d decided weren’t going to happen. After TEN years, the story was complete. It was then shelved indefinitely. I decided it had no future.

What first fought that future was “Harper Voyager” looking for new book submissions three years later. No agent needed. This story was the closest thing I had to a publishable work.

So, I spent the start of October 2012 pulling together the first 12 entries of then “Time Trippers” into an 80,000 word novel, “Awareness”. In the process of pulling it together, I edited to remove all mention of hard dates (1999, 2029, and so forth), also FINALLY changing the first sentence from “At the back of a rather nondescript two story house, a window rose.” to “A time machine. That would solve everything.” Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Here was my submitted synopsis:

“The mysterious arrival of a time machine into a small town acts as a catalyst for a group of high school students. It brings to the forefront a number of issues, chief among them how Carrie (the girl who discovered it) was affected by the disappearance of her mother, the numerous difficulties involved in the taking of time trips as raised by her unlikely companion Frank, and the disturbingly obsessive actions of her best friend Julie. As the story progresses, centered almost entirely upon a set of teenagers at the school, friends and enemies begin to turn up in the unlikeliest of places, which results in new allegiances and more questions than there are answers.”

Old picture of an older Luci. From “Escalation”, Part 29. No idea why the drastic height change.

Nothing came of that (obviously; I heard back Jan 23, 2013). But it did pull the story back into my conscious mind. In March 2013, I re-sketched all the characters. By February of 2014, I had completed similar edits through the rest of Season One, with a second novel, “Escalation”. (That effort was modified more, in that it started with the characters in Grade 9 before blending in the “Luci Pilot” and chopping it’s size down for use as Chapter 2; see Commentary 13 for more.) Then I started into Season Two edits.

At “Anime North” (May 2014), I commissioned art of many characters (Carrie, Frank, Luci, Chartreuse). In July 2014, I posted Chapter 7 (the “Back to the Future” tribute) to my personal blog. By July 10th, I had completed edits on Book 3, “Destruction”, and by Sept 2nd, on Book 4, “Resolution”. (Which did not have the above edits yet.) In fact, before finishing the Book 4 edits, in the summer of 2014, I’d started work on the sequel, “Season 3” – in part because I’d just given up on my personified math serial (after 3 years of seemingly little interest), and yet I wanted to keep writing.

The epiphany hit a few months after starting this very blog. Time & Tied’s “Season 3”, with Carrie at University, was going to be SO much better than what had come before. And it would make no sense to put that story out FIRST and then these four “prequel” books AFTER. Rather, I needed to build towards “Season 3” aka “Book 5”. Even better, any feedback I got on the old stuff could only help me move forwards.

I began running “Time & Tied” here in April 2015.

It flopped. HARD.

Needless to say, the “Season 3” sequel hasn’t been touched since July 20, 2015.

FINAL STATISTICS

My first major talk of statistics on this site was back in Commentary 11, published at the one-year mark (of the blog, not T&T). The site had seen a bump that April 2015 due to a guest post elsewhere, and again in May 2015 due to a WFG review… and yet, through June, July, August and September, no one read into Part 2. NO ONE. (Until Oct 16, 2015.) I’d never even had anyone COMMENT on the T&T story itself (not including these commentaries) until late August, five months in (on Part 21).

No one wanted to read the story, even with a decent review. And the few who were already reading couldn’t seem to pull anyone else in.

As I said in Commentary 15, “thank goodness I restarted personified math (as a webcomic) in August [2015] … it keeps me going”. (Personified math isn’t working? Try “T&T Season 3”. T&T isn’t working? Guess it’s back to reinventing personified math.) One of these days, I thought… one of these days, I’ll write something that others will enjoy reading and sharing. I stopped T&T here entirely after Book 2, and went back to “Epsilon” for an arc. Seeing voting helped morale.

For current statistics, we’re now well over two years in, and I still have a “zero view” day on my blog – March 12th, 2017. Amusingly enough, that was the same day my “best ever” view day was restored to 113 views from 108. (It’s a WordPress daylight savings time glitch. June 28, 2016 had been knocked down by 5 views, as WP seems to simply slide their timing forward and back, meaning hits between 12am to 1am slide between days.) But we shouldn’t be so granular! Right?


Above, you can see what things look like monthly (April 2017 is highlighted, as it ends today). Note November 2016, two years in, and two months after I started publishing twice a week instead, was all the sadness. So many more posts. So little interest.

But, contrast in December, when Mez and Tartra started reading, giving a massive boost… so if we average those, we do seem to have levelled off at 400 or so views in any one month. Which STILL represents no growth over a full year, despite the increase in volume (implying a decrease in readers) with me never missing a post. (For reference, this is post #225.)

And yet, despite the generally dismal reception, there are occasional bright spots.

The fact that YOU’RE reading this, for one. Heck, the story now has three decent reviews at WFG, and at least some people here I’d call regular commenters. That’s a change. My reposting at RRL has a regular commenter too. (We shall not speak of Wattpad.) And just this past week, I suddenly had two consecutive days with over 40 views, as one person went through the archive. (That hadn’t happened yet in 2017. Meaning I reached 10k views before my birthday, unexpected.)

Perhaps it’s little things like this which explain why, back in Summer 2016, I kept going. Stubbornly editing into Book 4. The new Chartreuse parts at the start (referenced in Commentary 23) were done in August 2016. I even set Personified Math aside to better focus, and completed all of the new work you’re reading now in October 2016. (Right before that month of sadness, AGH. Is fate trying to tell me something?)

In conclusion? Aside from some sketching for this final run, and minor edits for RRL posts, I haven’t done any work on T&T since last year. It’s all reposts. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know I’m just one more cis white guy in a sea out there, and there’s many other individuals and stories which should probably get more attention than this not-very-diverse tale does… and yet. I keep getting pulled back into this story. Am I the only one that deeply into it?

I did at least reread “Season 3” this year. With it’s 12,000+ words, plot info, and character sketch. In it’s 2015 archive. Does that T&T world have a future worth fighting for? I used to think so. Maybe I’ll think so again. If it materializes a year from now, would anyone here still be around? Would anyone new even care to read it? I honestly don’t know. Which I guess is better than being sure the answer is “no”.

SPOILER SECTION

Spoilers for the past are unavoidable, Book 4 pulls in all the plot lines.

I’ve now included “Additions” to my tallies above, because there’s so many things that weren’t mere “Changes”. The original two-parter from 2009 had been four entries, or 8 halves (#42 and #43, roughly 13,000 words). It’s now SIX entries, or 12 halves (roughly 24,000 words) of which we’ve seen five to this point. (I know we’re not at Episode 93 yet, I’ll avoid talking spoilers for that.) There were two reasons for the massive expansion.

The first reason was the “Timeline Three”/“Timeline Four” talk that was placed into earlier parts (in Book 3), which was extended here. I think it works better than random “clouded time loop” technobabble. The second reason is something Frank literally said in Part 91a, to Laurie: “I admit, to this point, I was looking at this whole situation as being a broken timeline for us to fix. But Luci’s made it feel… real. With real people.”

The original 2009 writing was “broken timeline”. This time, I reasoned that Julie should be more than a simple cameo, her dispute with Luci should be more real – and be resolved. And then Chartreuse elbowed me, saying “I must exist here too”, and having her there led to Lee, and even a reference to Glinephanis being in Australia. In a sense, I fell down the rabbit hole. (It’s like I ended up in the Season Four “Agents of SHIELD” Framework, wanting to save the world, even though it wasn’t real.)

One thing that happened in all the newness was Glen getting edited OUT. Carrie had originally been talking to him before her party (not Chartreuse), but it was very unclear as to whether this was the Glen she’d left town with, or a young Glen, from before she sent him back in the first place. And how did that then fit in with the Glen from Miami? So I edited him out of the future completely. When that felt like a plot hole, I tossed him “down under” with Future Tim.

Meanwhile, the addition of Chartreuse to the future let me fix a dangling thread that had always bothered me – that neighbour “Linford” who had tormented Luci, and gotten away. Reincorporating him hadn’t fit with the present timeline. Now? Future timeline. I could have Laurie save Chartreuse from the guy, finally giving that jerk some divine justice, and Laurie a broader character arc. I wrote the scene, read it back over, and thought that Laurie beating up a 70 year old man was kind of pathetic. Subsequently altered to be his SON, who references the fact that Linford got put behind bars. Much better.

Speaking of character arcs, Frank’s come a long way since the Luci/Carrie arguments of old in Book 1 too, managing to be the one to broker a peace between Future Luci/Julie. That felt right. And Tim’s also gaining confidence – he will gain one last little hurrah in the final parts. All new. The Temporal redheads thing, by the way, WAS there in the original writing, though it wasn’t explained to the same extent. (And kudos to Mez for his thoughts on the genetics back in Part 85. Hopefully everything’s held together.) Incidentally, here’s a website noting not all redheads are in Ireland and Scotland.

A couple final things about the original writing. At one point, I’d entertained the thought of Glen being an actual alien, and the group ending up on a spaceship – changed to just having an “alien probe”, both in the original writing and here. Frank had also wondered if he was married to Luci (with him not being dead and all), following her idly referencing “The Time Traveler’s Wife” movie (from 2009, referenced in prior commentaries). And everything since Commentary 26 had been designed as the only two parter since that “Back to the Future” tribute — meaning a “Coming in PART II” clip! For your entertainment, it was:

Coming in Part II:
[in back of a limousine] “By all means,” Julie stated, “let’s have her die right now in her present attempt instead.”
[outside, in the dark] “I’m not about to ditch you,” Mindy said. “But before we reach the building, there is one other thing to discuss.”
[driving a car] “Here,” Carrie hissed, her golden eyes flashing, “Here is a real challenge at last…”

None of those quotes survived. (It ends where we left off with 92b. Granted, it won’t actually ever be made clear now whether Carrie in super-speed mode also includes driving a car or not.) Onwards!

Parts 88/89/90 were originally called “Fight the Future” which became the title of 89a; the previous parts were still revealing that future. The following titles (“Insight the Future”, “Reunite the Future” and “Rewrite the Future”) were riffs on that. Parts 91/92/93 were originally “Fight the Future, Part II”, so I just came up with new things. I’m rather proud of “Veni Vidi Veniti”.

Remember you can VOTE for T&T at “Top Web Fiction” on a weekly basis, and with us nearly being done, this may be the last chance for anyone to lay eyes on this thing. I hold no hope of anyone voting while reading the archive years later. ^_^

Coming This Tuesday: Carrie versus Carrie, but likely not how you think.