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Plot Voting 6

Author (mathtans), as depicted by Errol Elumir

Welcome! I write serials, some of them based on a plot that YOU vote for. Yes, you! And the voting is usually really close, meaning odds are high that you will definitely affect the outcome at some point.

We’re gearing up for our sixth “Epsilon” story here. Each story is stand-alone, but if you want information on the various characters that reappear, see this post from last week. (There are also votes in THAT post, which I’m taking into account going forwards. Already seen that post? You can add to your prior votes since I have a one-week timeout! You’re welcome.)

The first thing we need to decide is what genre I should aim for. I cannot guarantee that we’ll stick there as voting continues, but many prior stories have mixed it up… where should my initial focus be?

The other thing to decide is how key certain characters should be, relative to each other. For instance, Alice Vunderlande is running away with the vote on that prior post I mentioned… in the Epsilon administrators category. If the choice was between her and, say, Para, would she still win?

To clarify how your vote below connects to that prior post, if you vote for the regulars, the winner of the prior vote will be in the story (along with others, most likely). If you vote for the station character below, that prior winner will become part of the mission. And if you vote for the minor character below, it means whomever won that prior category will appear.

In the case of a tie (either place), I’ll likely pick my own preference (same if you vote for a mix). But I will offer at least a cameo to the other choice. Make sense? Vote away!

The plan is to close the polls on May 3rd, in one week. I’ll then need a week to write the first part, and so we go forwards from there with a new part (and vote) every two weeks, the vote closing after the first 7 days.

How long will the story go? I have no idea, tends to be between 12 and 18 parts… did I mention I have no real plan, just a vague idea, and from there it’s all your votes?

One last, thing – a final “Virga Mysteries” post will tide you through the start of May, namely the “Behind the Scenes” explanation of how that story evolved over more than a decade. (For those just joining us, I’ve been running that serial for the past year.) So look forward to that update.

Thanks for reading, thanks for voting… and thanks for spreading the word? (I mean, my birthday is this week too, so it’d be cool to get a few extra votes… just saying.)

Until next week!

Summary of 2019

Hello, my readers! Life has been busy, as you can tell by this site’s wrap-up post for last year (2019) happening in the middle of February 2020. Full time work, and family time including my one year old daughter, are keeping me very busy. (As was being very sick at the end of December.) But I have wanted to take a look back for a while now, as I have a few things to say.

First, Virga’s Mystery’s “Balancing Act” has now been running for over a year; it began at the end of January 2019. I had debated splitting it up partway with another “Epsilon” story, but found myself with very little free time in the summer, and opted to use that time to finalize edits instead.

Yes, there was a bunch of editing that took place for “Balancing Act” from its July 2012 origin. Notably separating it into parts, giving Trixie more personality to do her own thing (rather than tying her to James), and generally explaining more about the world I’d touched on in the early cases (in particular during the big time skip).

However, Melissa Virga’s story will be ending shortly. Meaning something new in April 2020. That will likely be a return to “Epsilon”, as my schedule is gradually easing, but it could still be more runs of old writing. Do you have a preference? If Epsilon, will people will be interested enough to vote?

That said, I am pleased that I’ve maintained the posting schedule of every two weeks, ever since I shifted to it in July 2017 (during “Epsilon 4”). So if you want reliability, I’m here for you. But see more on site statistics below.

TIME UNTIED

HEATHER BRIGHT
Commission from Mouds_art

Secondly, work on my sequel to Time & Tied is still progressing… very slowly. Here’s a picture of Heather Bright, which I commissioned when I somehow made it to Anime North 2019. She’s the new time travel tech for Carrie, now that they’re at University. Many of the characters like her are in my head, even if their words are slow to hit the page.

As a quick reminder, my early writing for “Untied” dates from 2014, before I had even posted up Carrie Waterson’s first stories. I restarted from the top for NaNoWriMo 2017, managing 39,372 words by early December. I did edits for it the summer of 2018, splitting it into four files. November 2018 saw an additional 29,225 words, and by January 2019 we were at 6 files and over 65,000 words.

There wasn’t much writing time beyond that, as I went from part-time back to full time work. Still, November 2019 added another 33,373 words meaning we’re almost at 100k – and we’re almost at what I’d envisioned as the halfway point. So it seems we’re looking at a run of at least 4 “Books” again (as I did with the Time & Tied), assuming it all goes as planned.

A reminder that I can’t release the first part until the second is done, as the time travel aspect means some earlier scenes might need redoing. But that’s fine, as certain secondary characters are finally showing more of themselves, meaning I can give them more personality in those early scenes too.

To be clear, this is my priority as far as fiction writing goes (I’m not including non-fiction efforts for the Time Travel Nexus), which emphasizes how much little time I’ve had in the past year for writing at all. And reading, for that matter. I’m behind on other blogs, and I haven’t done much with Comic Tea Party in over half a year. Thank you for your patience.

As far as coins go for 2019 – read “Time & Tied” if you don’t understand why this is interesting – I got 3 toonies, 1 loonie, 9 quarters, and 4 dimes. That’s a total of 17. (I had 16 until Christmas, when I got an additional quarter driving home.) No nickels, which made me wonder if they minted any, but I got one as change just yesterday, so they’re out there. There were also special D-Day commemorative toonies, but I only got one as change in early January, so it’s not pictured.

I’ll probably keep an eye out for 2020 coins. Inflation is still a thing, meaning they’re still printing more money.

STATISTICS

Finally, as I said above, I maintained a post every two weeks through 2019. That meant 27 new posts (including the extra “Behind the Scenes 5”), for a total of 315 postings to the blog overall. So, how do the statistics look overall?

My pageviews for 2018 totalled 2,429… and we’ve backslid to 1,492 for 2019. Granted, I have barely had time for any promotions. I auto-tweet out the current parts, and post them to my Facebook writing page whenever I remember. I did add “Balancing Act” to the Web Fiction Guide listing, and it came up in mid-May on their front page, but that’s about it.

Granted, that listing did help break up a rather impressive stretch of decimal views, which had been going on for over a month.

Decimal views means less than 10 views (in this case, under 5 views) per day, for 30 days. Because WordPress turns the scale into decimals. It actually happened twice in 2019, once for March through to May, and then again for October through to mid-December. Is that impressive? I mean, it’s likely something others cannot claim to have experienced in the fifth year of their blog being around.

My most popular day for 2019, as far as I can tell, was May 28th. That day saw about 52 page views. Most days had less than 15. Strangely, there’s been 9,249 spam messages blocked for the duration of the blog; I’m not sure why they’re so interested.

How many people have read through all of Virga’s story? Act 2A (from April) has only 16 views, while Act 5A (from November) has only 9. But that 9 is fairly consistent with the page views of posts afterwards. (Granted, last week’s posting has 3 views so far.) As to comments, I had 3 for the whole of 2019 (6 if you count my replies). Thanks to mathhombre (March/Sept) and chaosbeast (Nov).

The posts with the most hits (aside from the indexes) were Virga’s Act 1A (77 views), TT1 “Timely Discovery” (72 views), and Epsilon 3.1 “Data Integrity” (38 views). Those were followed by other Virga entries beyond 1A. Kind of nice that some of my older posts are getting looked at, even if people aren’t continuing to read. Top countries (over 100 views) were the US, Canada, and for some reason, Sweden. Thanks for coming out!

I believe that concludes everything I’d wanted to say. If you’re running your own website, hopefully it’s doing better. At any rate, I’m pleased about my consistency, and given the opportunity I wouldn’t have changed my priorities.

Final questions, would you like to see another “Epsilon”? Are you still interested in hearing about progress on “Time Untied”? And will you miss Melissa’s story at all? Feel free to drop a comment to let me know. Either way, hope you stick around, and thanks for reading.

Plot Voting 5

The last part of the “University Witch”/”Virga Mysteries” cases runs tomorrow, finishing off June. So, as per usual, an “Epsilon” story will fill the void between pre-written stories. In theory, school will finally be out, giving me lots of time to write, but in practice, I now have a baby daughter, so she gets priority… meaning we’ll stick with updates every two weeks.

As far as plot voting, I’m tossing out some pretty generic plots here, because (as usual) the whole story gets made up on the fly, and I don’t have much of a scaffold in mind yet. (Very busy time of year.) Feel free to offer comments on why you picked what you did, in terms of anything you’d hope to see.

 

CHARTREUSE

As far as character voting goes, Chartreuse will return from “Wish Fulfilment”, now that all of “Time & Tied” has been put on the blog. She had the highest votes after first appearing, but I wanted to get her backstory out as a matter of record. This story would then take place after all previous stories involving the mystical bisexual teen, but before “Time Untied”.

Should she appear with someone else? Let me know!

 

Thanks for reading, do consider voting and following along. After almost four years of regular posts, it would be nice to keep more than four people interested. Helps with incentive and all that.

Polls will close at MIDNIGHT after Sunday, July 1st, or that’s the plan for now. Spread the word.

May Day May Day

In May 2017 this blog got 1933 page views from 330 visitors. In May 2018 (last month) this blog got 75 page views from 48 visitors. Literally the highest and lowest monthly statistics we’ve ever seen for my serials.

Welcome to another deconstruction post, with a look at where we’re going. Maybe it will also make you feel better about your own statistics.

STATS + CONTEXT

May 2017 was, as I once said, a statistical anomaly. Tartra wrote me a review on Web Fiction Guide early in the month, Rev Fitz reviewed the site mid-May, and late in the month I had a guest post at Drew Hayes’ site. Since then, we’ve been on a decline.

MONTHLY STATS, June 2016-May 2018

Caveats: There’s been only 35 new posts over the past year, after I shifted to posting every two weeks, following rather disheartening voting results in July 2017. (Viewership also declined when I started posting more frequently though, so who knows.) In addition, the entries haven’t been for “Time & Tied”, as that serial concluded at the end of May 2017. “Epsilon Delta” ran from June to December 2017, then “Virga Mysteries” took us from January 2018 to June.

The weakest performer of “Epsilon Delta” was Part 15, with 15 views. (Others earlier on reached 17 views – some even more than 30.) “Virga Mysteries” has had a cooler reception, only 10 people reaching the end of Case One, and only 4 people starting Case Three last month. And before you say it hasn’t been around as long, the latest views were the day of publishing, and no one’s looked at “Epsilon Delta” in 2018 (the “fave character” poll sits at 4 votes), so time doesn’t seem to be a factor. You either see me the week I publish, or never.

Rev Fitz has reminded me of people who have subscribed, and don’t visit the website. I do have 18 “followers” and 2 “email followers”, whatever that means. (I’m also constantly spammed by @outlook emails claiming someone’s followed my blog. Why do more spammers visit my page than actual people? I get 20 spam comments per week. Oh well.) So there may be something to those invisible readers.

In an attempt to find some silver lining, this HAS restored decimal progress to my two week statistics snapshots. You may recall these appeared back during the climax of “Time & Tied” Book 2, in November 2015. It a funny quirk I’ve been able to track. You can manage 10.0 if you have an 8 or 9 view day; as soon as you get 10, the scale jumps away from decimals.

TWO AND A HALF YEARS LATER…

I almost managed to get a full month of ALL less than 10 views. However, on May 15th, someone gave “Time & Tied” a try right up to Part 7, netting me 12 page views, which was my highest day. Zero view days were May 4, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26 and 31. Across 268+ posts, which include a number of completed serials. (I still tweet out every update and post it to my FB page.)

Now, I should conclude this section by pointing out that I haven’t done much in the way of outside publicity this year. I’ve been pretty busy (see below). I did participate in the WFG “April Fool” swap again (I fear Rev Fitz isn’t building much traffic from me), “Serial Fiction Digest” gave me a feature shoutout at the end of March (before apparently going under), and I still get high referrers (ie- 5 per month) from Top Web Fiction, The Chaos Beast, and Redwood Crossing. So maybe that… kept things from being worse?

WHAT NOW?

As I said, I’ve been pretty busy – me and my wife are expecting our first child later this month. Melissa’s been queued up to run no matter what. My plan is still to return to “Epsilon” after (I’ll be putting my webcomic on hiatus to ensure I have time)… assuming I, you know, get votes for it. If no one cares, well, I don’t know. Look for a post late in the month starting that off.

I also hope to poke around more with “Time Untied” – yes, it really is still a thing, the 40k+ words from November have been revisited a few times since, and I still know what I want to do with it. It’s only that the first big Carrie-Heather scene has kind of blocked me, not to mention the stress of the teaching job constantly pulling me away.

In the meantime, I’ve contributed monthly comic columns to “The Time Travel Nexus” and participate in weekly webcomic chats on Discord, so you can find me there. Oh, and no 2018 coins yet this year. Interesting. I’m guessing I’ll start to see them soon?

As always, I hope you enjoyed the read. Feel free to add your voice below about anything you were wondering about, how much better/worse your site is doing, or just to offer encouragement. I’ll leave you with this AMV of a time travel/pop culture mix that you didn’t know you needed. (It makes more sense if you’ve seen the anime.)

No Update: Hiatus

Sorry everyone. No “Epsilon Project: Epsilon Delta” update today, or for the foreseeable future. After over 3 years of keeping to a schedule, I have finally met my match. I cannot teach a completely new course at school (namely Computer Science, a subject for which my qualifications are 10 years out of date) and hope to have any sort of other life. Which is a problem, because other things *are happening* in said life.

To cope, I started clawing back social events in late September. They’re pretty draining anyway. Then it was extra curricular efforts at school. More recently, earlier this week, I completely dropped social media in the hope that it might give me time to write an entry here. Nope. (Spent time dealing with the damn course.) I can’t keep up. We’ve reached the point of actual panic attacks at work. I’ll be seeing a doctor in the foreseeable future.

I tend to be “off” or “on” – I’m switching to “off”. Serial, off. Math comic, off. Recreational writing, off. Mental health thing. I’ve been here before, just not for this particular brand of misery. (I’m used to being down on myself, not down on my job.)

I don’t know how this will play out. I do know the following:

-If I end up with some sort of stress medical leave, the first thing I “resume” writing will be some reviews for the “Time Travel Nexus”. Because they’ve recently extended a branch, and that’s an incredible opportunity, and something I really want to do. It also gets me back into time travel, hence closer to “Time Untied”. So it’ll be a while for my personal blogs.

-I will post some sort of update here before the end of November. My HOPE is that it’s the next “Epsilon” entry, and if so, I’ll keep voting open for a couple weeks and gear back into it gradually. See, I know WHAT I want write I just have NO TIME. Also, everything’s a misery because of the millstone around my neck. I do really want “Epsilon” to be done before the annual horror that is late January though, so that I can start into pre-written material (blogged about here, voting still open). Again, we’ll see how this plays out.

-Related, if you follow my comic, the plan is to resume there only once “Epsilon” finishes here. Running the both of them at once was crazy, each of them takes me about 6-8 hours to do, effectively an entire Saturday every two weeks. I can’t spend my weekends doing things I enjoy any more. Not feasible.

-If I can, I’ll probably poke a stick at NaNoWriMo next month, using it as a vehicle for coaxing myself out of the deep well of computer-related anxiety I’ve found myself in. I knew last month I’d have no hope of 50k, report cards being a thing. I now wonder if 10k is even feasible. A draft of “Time Untied” probably won’t see the light of day before 2019 at this rate. But again, we’ll see.

-This is key: There’s another EXCELLENT interactive serial out there, “Redwood Crossing”. I’ve actually been able to almost keep up with reading it these past six weeks (to the exclusion of other blogs). Many cute girls. You should check that out in my absence, kaleidofish is good people. Voting’s still open to the end of Sunday.

-The other thing you can do if you like is keep tabs on this Facebook Author page I have for tracking purposes. To know when I’m back. Or find me as “mathtans” most everywhere on the web, since FB doesn’t like to update people on my existence.

 

Thanks for reading. To the four or five people who actually vote, my extra thanks. I hope you’ll be back in a month, or six weeks, or next year, or however long it takes to get joy back into my life. Peace out.

A Solo Cello

Everyone’s changing, I stay the same, I’m…
A solo cello, outside a chorus.
I’ve got a secret, it’s time for me to tell
That you’ve been keeping me warm.

 

History repeats itself.

The short version: I’m going to shift “Epsilon” updates to being every two weeks. The long version is, as usual, rather more complicated. Feel free to read on, or not.

I’ll start by admitting that I’m not sure if this marks the beginning of the end. That’s certainly how it was with my personified math serial. The good news is, after 14 months of deep slumber, that did return from the ashes (as a webcomic). Similarly, “Time Untied” continues to percolate through my mind, and there is liable to be something there eventually. (Whether that story reaches completion is another issue entirely, as is how this site continues in the meantime.)

What kills me about this situation is just how similar it is back with the math serial. Then, Audrey was reading my backlogs just as everything imploded. This time, I’ve got Steve S following regularly, and people commenting, even as the situation seems to force me to scale back. I feel kind of bad about that.

Shouldn’t what little I have be enough? Why isn’t it enough? Maybe on some level I want to sabotage myself?

Thing is, I know my writing is niche. That solo cello, constantly playing its refrain of time travel, mathematics and multiverse insanity… in a fiction world of superheroes, YA romance and RPGs. I didn’t expect to gain an audience overnight. So why am I feeling the weight of it more now?

IN, STALLED

Last week’s vote, mainly. Three votes, all for different options. If that had been the sort of poll where I could have multiple people win, I’d do that. But I can’t, the whole point was I felt a need to split the cast up. If there was an easy tie breaking vote to cast, I might have done that, but there’s two equally enjoyable options for me going forwards. But even if I had picked something, I’d still be feeling this way. As there’s only three votes.

In the previous week, the week of June 25th, there was also a tie (2-2-1) on the Wednesday. (Also overall my lowest week for views so far in 2017.) I tweeted out, anyone want to break that. I got two more votes, resulting in a come-from-behind victory (2-2-3; in a way, that’s another reason I’m hesitant to break the tie myself). Despite that, this week, when I tweeted out the tie (1-1-1)… nothing.

I tossed out a Twitter poll a bit before midnight on Wednesday, asking should I wait a day? A week? (Give up entirely?) I got four responses, with the majority saying wait a day. So here we are, Friday noon, still a three way tie. I fail. Though, of course, there’s a bit more to it when placed in context.

Rewind to a year ago, “Epsilon Story3” routinely got between 3 and 5 votes. This year, we’d started “Epsilon Story4” with 5 to 7 votes. That felt like an improvement. So to drop back to 3 votes? And to stay there, despite me tweeting out “Hey, it’s a tie, yours is the swing vote to personally influence my writing!” and get nothing? That’s, frankly, kind of crushing.

The writing mind wonders. Maybe people went on vacation? Maybe the only three people voting now are the ones who had their choice picked last time? Maybe I can’t hold anyone’s interest week to week. Maybe people hate the characters. Maybe people are only humouring me for this story. Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead. One tries not to listen to certain inner voices but the spiral does go down.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE

It’s never one single thing. I have a day job as a high school teacher, but I took a year off work to clear my head. Meaning for the last 52 Weeks, writing has been my focus. I completed my T&T Book 4 Edits. I wrote a 90,000 word novel during NaNoWriMo (into December) about Rose Thorne. I did a number of guest posts for other blogs; Jim Z’s, Drew’s, Stable’s, the Time2TimeTravel site. Got a review on WFG and Rev Fitz’s blog, expanded to RRL, and participated in online chats.

Despite that, somehow, I’m right back where I started a year ago. On this site, days with over 20 views across all 240+ posts is an oddity, not the norm. (There’s been seven in the last month.) Add to that how I can’t even push past 3 votes on a story which is meant to be based on audience votes. Despite k-fish linking back at me. (From a voting serial story about girl love, Redwood Crossing, check it out in the side links.)

JUNE INTO JULY 2017

And the voting period is longer now than ever before! I picked Thursday morning figuring that gives me Thursday to consolidate and outline in my head, Friday to write (it takes me around 6 hours to crank out 2,000 words), and Saturday to edit. Last week, I pushed the envelope to do it sooner because Saturday was Canada Day, and I also wanted to submit a short story elsewhere by June 30th, and after all that effort…

We’re at the next Friday and I don’t even have the votes. So I’m writing this post instead. I should probably be marketing, but I’ve had 52 Weeks of fail there. Not only with this blog, but Wattpad too, and I just dropped in rank on RRL. My math comic, now in year six, also had two consecutive days of zero views last week.

I’m tired.

I’m teaching a new course in September.

Technically it’s not new, but they’ve redesigned the Ontario curriculum since I last taught Grade 10 computer science. That’s going to suck up more time during the summer, as I haven’t even done any computer programming in 10 years. Meaning I’m being pulled away by my job, and I don’t seem to have the foundation here to keep me from being uprooted.

I don’t know, maybe it’s good that I didn’t get the fourth vote on Thursday. Sending me back towards the thing I get paid for in money, rather than in enjoyment. Because being overlooked in a participation piece isn’t that enjoyable anyway. And I KNOW I’m niche, but to be back here, after a year of making the effort?

Still, as I said at the start, I’m not quitting, only scaling back to every other week. Hell, when I scaled UP in September, posting twice per week instead of once, my overall views WENT DOWN. (So does that mean by posting less often now, my views will go up?) I swear, anyone who says as long as you push out content regularly means you will eventually have an audience find you is a damn liar.

NOW WHAT

I’ll close last week’s vote once there’s something definitive. (The voting does wipe IP memory a week after your last vote, if you’re real keen on your choice. Though I guess if you were that keen, you might’ve logged into second computer to vote. Or maybe that’s already happening and only three people ever read each week…) [UPDATE: 4th vote now in. Poll closed.]

The plan had been to rerun an old story once we’d finished this “Epsilon” story entry, and that’s still the plan, it’ll just take longer to get there. Though that one might go weekly. Maybe I’ll put things to a vote. We’ll see. I really don’t know what September’s going to do to me.

Also, as long as I’m talking the audience (preaching to the choir), I noticed last week that someone’s still voting for T&T at Top Web Fiction. Thanks for that. I still get hits from there, which likely keeps us from plunging to zero views. (The person from Australia reading T&T Book 2 this past week also helped there.) Thanks also for those who have participated in weekly votes, who ReTweet, and for all comments over the past two months. I know I’m not a big part of your life out there, but I’m glad we can share that time together, no matter how brief. It makes me feel like it’s somehow worthwhile. 🙂

With no new fiction, I’ve leave you with this little AMV that Rose might enjoy watching, were Rose to know much of anything about anime.

 

Don’t tell me you have to go…
In the heat of summer sunshine,
I miss you, like nobody else.
In the heat of summer sunshine,
I thank you. I guess we’ll see where this goes.